Most gracious and kind Heavenly Father, I come to you as humbly as I know how. My heart is heavy. I cannot get the image of my dad, looking helpless and hopeless, on the hospital bed, out of my mind. I pray you will come in and take over my mind and his. I pray right now that your will be done, but if I might be selfish just for a moment I’ll ask that you will first please forgive me for all of my sins. I pray that nothing I have said, done or even thought would prevent this petition from reaching you. Please create in me a clean heart. Remove from me those qualities and characteristics that make me displeasing to you. Then Father if I may be so bold, I have to ask you to do something special for my Dad. Please comfort him, keep him, hold him in the palm of your hand. Father I pray that you will strengthen and heal him. Use him to your glory. Father I know you can perform miracles and I am humbly asking that you do so with my dad. Please Father allow him to be with us for just a little while longer. Father we still need him. We still need him. Please build him up again. I pray that you continue to guide the doctors and nurses who are taking care of him, and be with my mom, sister and I as we try to help him make adjustments to keep him healthy when he gets out of the hospital. I now pray and ask that you will guide me as I move forward in the Word, and that you will not allow me to misinterpret a single word. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN, and thank you God.
If I am not mistaken, we are at Chapter 16 in the book of Leviticus. Recall, if you will, that the Israelites are spiritual babes who have come out of Egypt, a polytheistic, pagan nation. God has to give them very specific instructions on how they are to live, worship and serve him (with particular emphasis on the priests, in terms of service).
Chapter 16 begins by reminding us that Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, were wiped out after offering unauthorized incense to the Lord. God is back to business, and Aaron’s other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, are quickly appointed their replacements. God has instructions for Aaron. Through Moses, God says that Aaron is not allowed to enter the Most Holy Place whenever he wants, and when he does enter on the Day of Atonement preparation must occur first (by way of washing, putting on specific garments, and sacrifices, of course).
According to the Word, this Day of Atonement occurred on the tenth day of the seventh month. It was when Aaron (or the High Priest of the following generations) made sacrificial atonement for the sins of the entire nation so as to make reconciliation among the people and the Lord. Aaron was to purify the Most Holy Place, the meeting tent, and the altar. After the offerings were presented, a live goat was sent out to “Azazel”.
Who is Azazel?
In the process of atoning for the sins of the nation, Aaron was to procure two goats from the congregation of Israel. The two goats were to be brought before the Lord and lots were cast for them. One of the goats was slaughtered for purification purposes. Aaron was to take the other live goat, lay his hands on the goat’s head and confess all of the nation’s sins. After that, this goat was released into the wilderness. “Azazel” means “scapegoat”, and this goat was highly symbolic in that he took on the sins of the people and removed them (sound a bit like Jesus??). The Day of Atonement is a day of strict rest. No one, native-born Israelite, traveler or foreigner, is to do any work that day.
In Chapter 17 we see the beginning of some rules for daily living. The Israelites are permitted to kill animals (the ones that have been rendered clean, that is–this passage discusses bulls, lambs and goats) so that they may eat their meat, but they have to offer a portion of it to the Lord and they are forbidden from eating blood. God says that life is in the blood, and only he can give life, so humans should not consume it. Anyone who eats blood is to be cut off from their people. Israelites are not to eat the meat of an animal that has died naturally or one that has been killed by other animals.
Chapter 18 gives us a glimpse into the ungodly lifestyles of two nations–the nation from which they had been delivered (Egypt) and the nation they would eventually occupy (Canaan). The Lord reminds the Israelites numerous times in the next several chapters that “I am the Lord” and “I am the Lord your God”. It is my humble opinion that this repetitiveness was required because God knew the Israelites were highly susceptible to indulging in pagan practices that these other nations were involved in. He was constantly reminding them of who he is and what he has done for them. I won’t go into specifics, but chapter 18 discusses forbidden sexual practices. Basically, Israelites were not to engage in sexual conduct with relatives. The Lord also forbids sex during a woman’s period, as she is unclean during that time. Israelites are not to have sex with their neighbor’s wife. I will post verse 21, because there have been people who cherry-picked certain parts of the Bible and decided that God condoned child sacrifice:
“You must not give any of your children through the fire to Molech. If you do this, you will show that you don’t respect the name of your God. I am the Lord”.
Does that sound like God approves of child sacrifice to you? Maybe it’s just me, but here it seems as though he is expressly forbidding it. As we shall soon see, God goes a step further in chapter 20 and says that anyone who sacrifices a child to Molech shall be put to death. So those who think God says child sacrifice is okay needs to tighten up on their reading comprehension or take their blinders off.
Molech was worshipped in Canaan as well as other nations. Molech-worship consisted of sexual rituals and, believe it or not, the very child sacrificial ritual that God forbade above–passing them through the fire. It is believed that statues of Molech depicted him as having a man’s body and a bull’s head. The thing looks super scary and I have no idea why ANYONE would want any part of worshiping something that looks like this:
Verse 22 is one that illustrates God’s contempt for homosexuality. It is a brief Scripture, but I believe it is rather straight-forward:
Per the Easy Reader Version:
“Men, you must not have sexual relations with another man as with a woman. That is a terrible sin!”
New King James version:
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.”
Bestiality is also forbidden.
I have said it before and I will say it again–there is nothing new under the sun. God would not have to have given the Israelites these instructions if these sinful practices were not already taking place. God confirms that these sins (among others) are being committed by the people in the land that Israel will come to inhabit, and for that, they will be vomited up out of the land. Israel is not exempt from the same punishment–if they partake in those forbidden sins, they too can be removed from the land in the same manner as the pagan nations before them (and unfortunately, from my study of the prophets, this ends up happening, as Israel mistakenly believes that the presence of the Temple enabled them to live a worldly lifestyle). God informs the people that anyone who is found to have committed any of these sins must be removed from their people.
That brings us to Chapter 19. For the first few verses it reminds me of the Ten Commandments: The Lord reminds the people that he is the Lord their God, that they are to honor their parents, abide by the Sabbath days of rest, and to abstain from idol worship. Then there are a bunch of seemingly random rules and restrictions. Fellowship offerings are not to be eaten after the second day, or else they will not be accepted and the offending Israelite is to be cut off from his people. Those who harvest crops or own vineyards are not to cut all the way to the corners of their fields or pick all the grapes–they are to leave some behind for the poor and the travelers. (Now that’s hospitality). We see an example of this gleaning in the story of Ruth, who gleaned in Boaz’s fields to provide for herself and her mother-in-law, Naomi (one of my favorite Biblical stories). The Israelites are not to steal, cheat, lie, use the name of the Lord in vain, rob neighbors, withhold an employee’s salary overnight, curse someone who is deaf or be a stumbling block for someone who is blind.
That last one gets me because of how it can be applied to how some of us as Christians live our lives today. For those who are unbelievers and are blind to the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord, some times our conduct as Christians can be what keeps them from turning their lives over to Christ and accepting His gift of salvation.This is something I definitely intend on confronting in my writing, and is one of the major themes of the novel I am planning to publish. Israel was supposed to be a set apart people, and as such were not expected to engage in the things of the world. Those of us who claim to be Christians are not to engage in the things of the world. If an unbeliever sees a professed Christian out committing adultery, gambling, smoking, drinking, etc., are they going to be willing to receive the Gospel message? Nope. Living a worldly lifestyle waters down even the most powerful testimony. Christians have to walk the walk more than talk the talk. Anyone can spout off a few Scriptures or even sing in a choir or stand on the door as an usher Sunday morning. The true measure of a Christian is how he or she lives those other six days of the week.
In summary, Christians shouldn’t be stumbling blocks to the blind (unbelievers). And now I digress.
People are expected to be fair and impartial. While they are not to show favoritism to the poor because of their circumstances, a rich person is not to be treated any better either. They are not to spread false stories about each other…
Whoa. Imagine that.
In later parts of the Bible (the New Testament, actually) the power of the tongue is discussed. It is amazing what something as simple as words can do to people. What is that little childhood saying? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” That’s not true. Words can damage a person. They can break a person’s resolve and self-esteem and destroy someone’s image and reputation. Christians have to choose their words carefully. Our words should always uplift and encourage. This world is a mean place. People need to see our light. They can’t see our light if filthy words and gossip are flowing from our lips. And we definitely have no business tearing down a brother or sister in Christ with harsh words and negativity. Simply put, we are to use our words to build, not destroy.
Moving on, the Lord instructs the people to be careful not to do anything that would put their neighbor’s life in danger, and to refrain from secretly hating a neighbor. Instead, if there is a conflict, people are to be up front and explain to an offender what he or she has done wrong. The goal in Christian life (and I assume Israelite life) is to always be ready for reconciliation. Of course people are going to rub us the wrong way sometimes, but God lays out a plan for dealing with it–explain what bothered you to your neighbor (or whoever the offender is, if we apply this broadly), forget about the wrongs committed against you by other people, and let the Lord deal with them–don’t try to get revenge. What good has holding a grudge ever done for anyone?
Side bar: I love the ID channel, and am fascinated by the program “Fear Thy Neighbor”. It AMAZES me that neighbors could end up killing each other, but that is what happens on this program, which depicts real-life altercations between neighbors that often end in murder. In my opinion it is just another indicator of how far our society has fallen. Years ago, it was okay for us to lean on one another, to go next door and ask for sugar or flour, or to ask our neighbor to watch our house if we were going to be gone for a few days. People used to look out for all of the kids in the neighborhood, not just their own. I remember my fun-filled, carefree childhood in Ann Arbor. Sometimes I would hurt myself while I was outside and not even bother to go home. Any number of neighborhood moms and dads would offer me a Band-Aid and some disinfectant so I could be on my way. The first time I got stung by a bee a neighbor named Rich removed the stinger and took care of the stung area. I was back on my bike within minutes.
Now, people are like this:
(I LOVE THIS CAT!!!!)
It is unfortunate. Why is it so bad to NEED other people??
The Lord moves on by telling the people that they must obey his laws. They are not to mate two different kinds of animals or have a field with two different kinds of seeds. They are also forbidden from wearing clothing made of two different kinds of material. Admittedly, I am confused as to what difference the clothing makes, and haven’t really found too many explanations that made much sense to me. I can understand why God wouldn’t want us to breed a cat with a dog and get a cat-dog, or have some weird hybrid fruits or vegetables, but the clothing seems a bit extra. I will have to look more closely into this.
Then God jumps to sex between a man and the female slave of another man. If this happens, there will be punishment because the woman is not free, but no death sentence. After this, we jump to planting trees in the Promised Land. Once the people enter the Land, they are to plant trees and leave them alone for three years. In the fourth year, the fruit from those trees belongs to the Lord, and after that, the people can eat of those trees in the fifth year. God again reminds the people not to eat anything with blood in it, forbids them from practicing magic, and moves on to another passage of Scripture that interests me greatly. It deals with personal grooming:
“You must not round off the hair that grows on the side of your face. You must not cut your beard that grows on the side of your face. You must not cut your body as a way to remember the dead. You must not make any tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord” (verses 27-28).
Some of the research I have done suggests that God was again setting up his people to be set apart from the pagan nations, who may have adopted grooming practices that blurred the lines between the sexes and/or were done in the process of worshiping an idol god. It is interesting to note that many of the men in the Bible have beards, and it is discussed in a couple instances that it is shameful to cut them. Some pagan practices involved cutting or tattooing one’s skin, and this may explain why God forbade those practices.
Christians are not under the law but that does not mean we should not follow acceptable grooming practices and treat our bodies like temples that can be fully inhabited by the Lord and used for His glory. Will a modern man who does not have a beard or has several tattoos lose his salvation? Absolutely not.
God then tells the Israelites not to prostitute their daughters, work on the days of rest, consult with mediums or wizards, or treat foreigners badly. They are to honor their elderly (imagine that) and be fair in their dealings. They are not to use inaccurate weights, baskets, balances or jars.
Finally, God concludes this chapter with an interesting statement: He tells the people that not only are they to remember all of the laws he has given them, but also obey them. This Scripture is interesting to me because that verse apparently went in one collective ear and out the other. All throughout their ensuing history, particularly during study of the Major and Minor Prophecy books, we see that Israel grows complacent and completely wrapped up in sin, leading to their downfall, because although they know the law, they decide they don’t have to obey. It was a dangerous mindset then and is a dangerous mindset now. In the prophecy books, we see the Israelites engaging in empty worship, going through the motions God has prescribed for them but only to appease him (as if God is not aware of the condition of their black hearts). They never thought God would actually punish them. It reminds me of America. We keep sinning and pushing God further and further away, thinking our wealth, innovation, military prowess, whatever will keep us safe. It reminds me of the church, where people go and fall out after hearing the Word of God preached powerfully on Sunday morning and go home and spend the rest of the day drunk on their couch. Basically, God is NOT to be played with!
Here we are at Chapter 20, and as I mentioned above, God forbids child sacrifice to Molech here. No matter if a person is a native-born Israelite, foreigner, etc., if they sacrifice a child to Molech they are to be stoned to death. The people are also forbidden from consulting mediums and wizards. Doing so will result in the offender being removed from the people. These practices open people up to demonic influences and are to be avoided completely. God reminds the people to be special, as they are his special people, and he is the Lord their God, and tells them again to remember and obey his laws. Anyone who curses his mother or father is to be put to death (boy, if this was in effect today, there’d be THOUSANDS of kids who would have been wiped out).
Punishments for sexual sins are given. Previously, God discussed what kinds of sexual practices were forbidden (relatives, neighbors, homosexuality, bestiality, etc). Here, God tells the people that the punishment for adultery among a man and his neighbor’s wife; a man and his father’s wife; a man and his daughter-in-law; a man with another man; a man with a woman and that woman’s mother; and a man or woman with an animal is death. For a brother and his sister or half-sister, the punishment for sexual involvement is public punishment and separation from the people. If a man and woman have sex while she is menstruating, they both have to be removed from the people. A man cannot have sex with his aunt or his uncle’s wife and is not to take his brother’s wife.
Again, God explains that these things were what the people in Canaan, the land that Israel was to inhabit, were involved in, and God hated those sins. He reminds them that they are to be mindful of clean vs. unclean animals and birds. He reminds them that “I have separated you from other nations to be my special people. So you must be holy because I am the Lord, and I am holy” (v. 26).
Chapter 20 concludes with the punishment for mediums or wizards: Death by stoning.
Can you imagine a society where these laws were still prevalent? How do you think that society would look? Perhaps people would be happier, healthier, and more unified. Every now and then as I read the Bible I remember that the Earth as it is now was not supposed to be this way. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, we would have lived in incorruptible bodies free of disease and decay and an incorruptible Earth. The laws God gives Israel seem to reflect his attempt to set up the society he had initially planned for us–one of holiness. Too bad Adam and Eve screwed that up. Ah well… for those of us who are saved, we know something better awaits us.
I have run out of steam. The conclusion of Leviticus will be forthcoming soon.