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)
Our calendar is littered with national days. There’s national donut day and national pirate day and other nonsensical observations throughout the year. Most of these national days are worthless. Not to further clutter the calendar, but maybe there should be one more national day suggested.
You have reached the peak of Leviticus once you read chapter sixteen. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is the most significant day of the Jewish calendar. Two words stand out in the study of this Hebrew practice. Atonement is the first noted word which simply means “ransom.” You more than likely associate the word with the bad guys issuing the ransom note for the kidnapped loved one. The ransom is a paid substitute in exchange. The sin of the Israelites demanded death, but the priest would spill the life, the blood, of the innocent animal as the ransom. The second goat was the scapegoat which pictured God’s desire to forever remove the sins of man, never to be brought against them again. Jesus was the one who blotted “out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14). He was the Lamb who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He gave His “life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Man’s nature is so corrupted that God not only prescribes the action but also the attitude. It is natural for us to grow desensitized regarding our sin. As the preacher speaks, as you read the Scripture, or as a friend admonishes you, you are inclined to harden your heart. God tells Israel, “Afflict your souls” (Leviticus 16:29, 31). This is a vigorous response to this gruesome ritual. This word vividly reminds Israel of their affliction, pain, and humiliation in Egypt! This same distress forced them to appeal to God, their only hope. Now, once a year a national day of affliction demonstrates the internal severity of repentance.
Repentance is almost lost entirely among Christians, yet it’s the most needful response in order to maintain fellowship with God. Without it, you will grow calloused toward your sin and distant from your one Hope. The most healthy thing you can do is daily remind yourself of your sin, repent of your sin, and rejoice in your Savior. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:8-10).
So how about a new National Day of Repentance? How about observing this day every day of your life in order to protect your fellowship with God?
Reminding ourselves of the gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish.
— C. J. Mahaney
If you delight in God’s creation, then possibly you have enjoyed watching birds dunk, dive, and flutter in a bird bath. The next time you watch such a frantic display of cleansing, think of Leviticus 14-15. The curious rituals and regulations in this second section of Leviticus highlight the natural distinction between man and God. Much of the discussion revolves around circumstances beyond a person’s control. These unclean scenarios were not necessarily sinful but natural. They were innate to any who simply draw breath upon this earth.
Leviticus actively presents both extremes in man. We are unclean because we are sinners, and we are unclean because we sin. It is clear from Scripture, we sin because we are naturally sinners since sin entered the world through one man (Romans 5:12). In these chapters in Leviticus, you read of the restoration and even the renewal ceremony for those who were at one time unclean. The symbolism involves taking two birds one of which was killed over a vessel with pure water mingling its blood in the water. The water pictures purity and cleansing and the blood represents life. The second bird which is yet alive was ceremonially dipped in the vessel and released to live anew.
In Zechariah 13, this imagery is obvious as God intends to renew Israel. A fountain will be opened for sin and uncleanness (13:1). Later in the chapter, the people ask a mysterious figure, “What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends…Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (13:6-7). This is a clear prophecy illuminating the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus Christ’s death became the fountain filled with blood!
As a sinner receives Christ as their Savior, they are redeemed. Ceremonially, he is taken to the baptismal waters where he is “buried with him by baptism into death…so [he] also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Spiritually, we have experienced the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). It’s a blood bath that supplies new life. The character of this new life is explained in Romans 6. How shall we continue in sin if we are dead to it? We now possess the reality, the hope of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
— William Cowper
Former President Barak Obama ran a campaign hinged on the word “change.” If you have an ounce of initiative, you more than likely have a desire to make a difference as well. You want to change the world for the better.
In Leviticus 7-8, we see the weighty responsibility placed on Aaron’s shoulders. He was the mediator between God and the people, but he also represented God’s ideal for the entire nation of Israel. A few chapters earlier, God told the people that He desired them to be a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6). They were to draw the world to God by their devotion. They were to teach the world the ways of God. They were to mirror His holiness. How they did this is hinted in the challenge to Aaron, “Keep the charge of the Lord” (Leviticus 8:35). The nation was given this same responsibility.
Deuteronomy 11 begins and ends with the same Hebrew word used for “charge.” The people are told to keep the charge and they had better or else (Deuteronomy 11:1, 32). What was the charge? Check out Deuteronomy 10:12: “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul…” This enormous responsibility is repeated in Micah 6:8 where the prophet urges the people to repent from their failure to keep the charge. Christ said, “Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28). The the rest of Luke 11 he criticizes the Pharisees because they think they are pleasing God by trying to change the world their way. They forgot to keep the charge!
If the past four millennia demonstrates that people forget to keep the charge, is it not possible, even probably, people in the twenty-first century have failed to keep the charge?
Paul warns Timothy to keep the charge. He explains that followers of Christ have obtained mercy (they have been saved) so you can display Christ to the worlds in order that others might believe on Him to life everlasting (1 Timothy 1:16-19). You are now the one commanded to keep the charge. Some have neglected the charge, and all their shipwrecked life is good for is a warning.
After, President Obama won the election, a crop of bumper stickers retorted, “Keep the Change.” You can use the reminder as well. You will not truly change the world for the better. God alone can bring change. Keep the Charge!
We shall everyone of us have a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, one generation to serve.
— Matthew Henry
You’ve heard about living on the right side of the law. Have you thought about living on the right side of death?
Warren Wiersbe, a preacher and commentator, wrote in his book Be Holy a very helpful outline of the sacrifices we read about in these first few chapters of Leviticus. The burnt offering symbolized commitment, the peace offering communion, and the sin/trespass offering to cleanse. These communicate the message, “I’m sorry,” to God. It was a constant visual reminder of the death and separation sin causes. The writer of Hebrews explains, “In those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year” (Hebrews 10:3). But the blood fo bulls and goats could not take away sins. Why didn’t they just stop this pointless ritual? “Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins” (Hebrews 10:2).
Jesus Christ offered himself once for all and perfected for ever them that are sanctified (10:14). So does that mean we no longer need a reminder of sin? It is much like the question Paul asked, “Shall we continue in sin since grace abounds?” There are two answers to the questions.
First, those who are sanctified now have the Spirit of God who enhances our natural conscience with divine sensitivity. “The Holy Ghost also is a witness to us” (Hebrews 10:15). The continual reminder of sacrifices was external for the Israelites. The same pain is inflicted internally when we grieve the Holy Spirit. Our reminder is internal.
Second, we are a new creature. At the point of salvation, old things are passed away. We are the temple of the Holy Ghost. Our flagrant sin is akin to Hophni and Phineas, Levites who were supposedly consecrated for service yet indulged in open immorality. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:16)?
You have risen with Christ. Live on the right side of death.