Here’s an investment deal for you. Give a regular amount, say $500 a month. You will never see anything or hear anything regarding what you give, but you are guaranteed to be substantially rewarded. Does that sound good to you? Sounds like a bad hedge fund or a scam?
In Leviticus 24, the instructions given to Israel delve into some private matters. Let’s call them secret securities. The candlestick and the table of shewbread in the Tabernacle required a steady provision of pure olive oil and flour. The Israelites were expected to give to those needs. However, no Israelite except the priests would ever see the candles lit or the shewbread eaten. It took place in the Tabernacle. A few chapters earlier you read of the elaborate and generous gifts given for the Tabernacle construction. People who gave may have been able to see what came of their gifts, but not when it came to the oil and flour. They gave and never saw its usefulness.
This puts into perspective Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (6:3-4). Actually, Christ repeats that last phrase two more times in the chapter. Have you ever read a passage like, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? Have you ever wondered, “If I can’t even know my own heart, how do I know the things I’ve done for God were purely motivated?” Maybe you then turn to read verses like Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 139:23-24, and 1 Corinthians 4:5 and all the good you ever have done is shrouded in mystery.
The secret security is the key to solving this mystery. Can you do something for God without leaving your fingerprint? Can you do anything for God without the need for recognition? The true test is to do God’s work in secret. Scripture tells us, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). God will “bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). Give without a trace and know that the secret is between you and God. He knows the intent of your heart, and He loves to reward secret securities in grand fashion one day.
Have you heard the response, “Same difference”? Growing up, this was a common response. The technical definition of this paradoxical statement is after you gave an answer you were then corrected. By saying, “same difference,” you are saying, “OK, there is a difference, but I still don’t care.” In other words, “Whatever!”
A good practice in Bible study is to keep an eye on patterns and repetition. This is such an enlightening method, almost like the lighthouse’s rhythmic strobe. Repetition systematically guides your study to help you avoid the rocks. A keyword suddenly and intensely appears in Leviticus 21-22. It is the word “profane” which is used sixteen times in Leviticus. The Hebrew word means “pollute, defile, desecrate.” The beauty of picturing this word though does come to us from the Latin. “Profane” is a latin word meaning “before the temple.” All the people, but especially the priests, were urged to live distinct in all areas of their lives so that they would not profane the name of the Lord. There was an imaginary line drawn around the Tabernacle and everything within that perimeter must be holy. Otherwise, sudden death would occur. Holy living within that Tabernacle would be service out of fear alone. The true test of one’s devotion to God is how one lives outside the perimeter of the sacred.
In other words, living holy outside of the Tabernacle meant your service to God was more than just duty. Your service had blossomed into devotion. There is a difference between the sacred sphere and the secular sphere only when one is bound by duty and never matures to devotion. The distinction only exists for those who are content to do their duty but desire personal space from God. They need a time-out from God.
Most worshipers would never dream of allowing the profane into their churches, but what about their personal lives? Why should there be a distinction between the sacred and secular? If our lives, our bodies, are the temple of the Holy Ghost, then no such distinction truly exists. It is a figment of our design in order to keep God out of our personal space. In Ezekiel, God takes the prophet on a tour of the Temple. What he sees is horrific! Within the Temple stand idols and the people are worshiping the sun and animals. The profane was no longer outside of the Temple. It was now within the Temple! All of a sudden, there was no distinction between the sacred and the secular but in the wrong way.
Will your life’s response be, “Same difference”? Are you living with an imaginary distinction between what is sacred and what is secular? The command for holiness has no limitation or boundary.
This past weekend a mesmerizing flurry of media coverage swarmed around a thing known as the Oscars. It is one of the most narcissistic events on the American calendar. What other groups of experts or elites demand the world’s attention while they congratulate themselves? They are so absorbed in themselves and believe that their self-proclaimed importance demands people attention.
What you see in public is often the reflection in private. Our western culture’s infatuation with self-aggrandizement communicates the message, “This is all about me!” The signs of this mentality are ever present in our local communities and, yes, even in our own lives. It is dangerous, however, when this idealization of ourselves appears in our worship.
An important phrase suddenly thuds through Leviticus 18-20 like the beat of the drum. It actually is repeated over forty times throughout the entire book! Remember, the message of Leviticus teaches God’s holiness is powerfully good. No one can come to God on their own terms. They risk a lethal reaction when God’s holiness encounters man’s uncleanness. Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, attempted to entertain God’s presence but failed to observe the proper prescription. They were struck dead by God’s holy power.
Leviticus is never really about men. Clear, y all the instructions are given to people, but it is a book about the distinction of the Lord your God. There’s the phrase: “I am the Lord.” The repitition beats into the heads of the Isrealites, “This is not about you.” It is about God. It’s more about God’s desire to be with His creation than man’s desire to be with His Creator for the Bible correctly chronicles, “There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11). The first mention of “I am the Lord” in Leviticus helps tune our hearts to God’s point. “I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy…For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45).
Modern-day believers sadly have perverted this original truth. Paul asks the question for us, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1)? Of course we should not! It’s not about you. He is the Lord that saved you from that sin. Why should you yield your members as servants of sin? Our churches need to restore the distinction intrinsic in our worship. Followers of Christ need to shed the tired excuses for their promiscuity and gluttenous indulgence. Why? This isn’t about you. Paul gives us a powerful reminder in his letter to the Thessalonians:
As ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more…For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour…For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 3-4, 7)