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.
The book of Leviticus catches you off guard. In most books, there is an introduction which warms you up to the content, but not here. Before you even get to celebrate the accomplishment of the Tabernacle, you are in the middle what seems to be a butcher shop. It really makes the sanitized, germaphobic, 99.99% bacteria free society we live in uneasy.
However, the point is clearly stated at the beginning, and we will learn that Leviticus is a bridge. The key is following Moses’ location before God. Exodus 40:35 says, “Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation,” so the Lord calls out to Moses from inside the Tabernacle. The instructions that God gives Moses while separated by the Tabernacle curtains are a list of rituals and rules which symbolically function to siphon the evil from the Israelites existence so they could come near to God.
As you read through Leviticus, you will be struck with the thought, “Could it be any more difficult to come to God?” It is extremely complicated. There were certain sacrifices, diets, duties, holidays, and restrictions which forced the seed of Abraham to live differently than the rest of the world.
Here is the point: Access to God is hard to get.
Some people are hard to get because they are too important. They do not have time for the little people. Obviously, this is not God’s angle otherwise He wouldn’t have had the Tabernacle built in the first place. Somethings are hard to get because they are valuable. In Leviticus 2, you read four times about the oil frankincense (2:1, 2, 15, 16). This precious oil is mentioned more times in this book than any other book of the Bible. Why would a priceless oil be central to a proper offering?
Access to God is hard to get because He is unique; there is no one else like Him.
Access to God is hard to get because he is so pure and holy nothing can compare to Him.
Yet, he made a way, albeit a difficult way, but He still made a way for people to have access to Him. The degree of difficulty should magnify the value of knowing God. If you felt God was worth it, then you would do anything to know Him.
Do you wonder if the “easy-believe-ism” trend has cheapened the access we have to God through Jesus Christ? Romans 12:1 is still in the Bible: “Present your bodies a living sacrifice…” As complicated as those Levitical sacrifices were, living for God demands more devotion. Instead of bringing an offering, you are the offering.
“As the Lord commanded Moses.”
This phrase appears a lot. Sometimes the redundancy is almost like the refrain in a chorus. Actually, this phrase appears 57 times in the Bible. It’s most concentrated uses are in Exodus 39-40 and through the book of Numbers. They built the Tabernacle as the Lord commanded Moses. They sacrificed as the Lord commanded Moses. Everything they did in order to approach God had to be done as the Lord commanded Moses. Moses showed them the way, and as long as they did it as the Lord commanded Moses, they would be blessed.
They saw the connection between obedience and blessing through the instructions from God through Moses. If they wanted to eat, they needed to collect manna on the right day. If they wanted God’s favor then they needed to be right with Him through sacrifice. They needed to live as the Lord commanded them. A great illustration of their daily obedience is seen in their walk with God through the wilderness. As long as the aura of God’s presence remained on the Tabernacle, they abode in their tents. As soon as the cloud was removed from the Tabernacle, they knew it was time to move. It didn’t matter if it was night or day, whether they were healthy or sick, or if they felt like it or not; they were to respond as the Lord commanded.
If an Israelite, in the desert, had taken it into his head to make some movement independent of Jehovah; if he took it upon him to move when the crowd was at rest, or to halt while the crowd was moving, we can easily see what the result would have been. And so it will ever be with us. If we move when we ought to rest, or rest when we ought to move, we shall not have the divine presence with us. – C.H.M.
Do you live your life as the Lord commanded? Do you devote your life to the work of God as the Lord commanded? Do you parent as the Lord commanded?Do you love your spouse as the Lord commanded? Do you invest your time, talents, and treasures as the Lord commanded?
If you don’t walk with God on a daily basis you might wander ahead or be left behind. Either way, you are living without His presence.
“Stop giving! I mean it. I’ll have to put a restraining order on you. We have more than we need for the Lord’s work.” Said no pastor ever.
Nestled in this obtuse section of Exodus in chapters 35-36, Moses makes such an edict. The laborers were diligently working on the Tabernacle. They began to notice the same people, a lot of people, coming every morning with more offerings to give to the work. It became too much! Their willing offering was too much of a good thing! The craftsmen seek out Moses and tell him the good news, “The people are giving! Now tell them to stop!”
What motivated the people so? There is one word that springs from these chapters fourteen times—”heart.” There are three heart conditions which drove the people’s giving to a rarely seen devotion.
First, a willing heart (35:5, 22, 29). This work was an open invitation from God. There was not a directive or a mandate, but rather a request for all those willing to contribute to God’s work. God is a gentleman. Whosoever will let him come (Revelation 22:17). Behold I stand at the door and knock (Revelation 3:20). He is not splintering your door down and strongarming you into service. It’s an open invitation. Are you willing?
The second heart condition is the stirred heart (35:21, 26; 36:2). The work is great and noble. It’s a privilege to serve the God of all the earth. Today, the love of Christ constrains us to serve Him faithfully. To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). As soon as the people heard of the work, they responded to the invitation and their hearts were stirred. The word “stir” has the idea of lifting one up to a new purpose which defines an action.
The third heart condition is the wise heart (35:10, 25, 34-35; 36:1-2). You may object, “But I don’t know of anything I could do for God!” God will provide the wisdom to the willing heart. He showed them what they could do. Some only gave. Some with wise hearts spun or assisted the artisans. A few were given divine skill.
Most people come to God on their terms. “I’ll do what I know,” they say. If you only do what you know, it will lake the stirring of God. Others say, “I’ll go when my heart is stirred.” The stirring comes to those who are first willing.
Has your soul burst into song lately? Have you recently soared to undiscovered heights during your walk with God? Have you so craved His presence, such as Joshua, you refuse to leave the location you met with God?
Exodus 32-34 captures the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. In one portrait, we blush to imagine the lewdness of God’s people. It was so onerous they were shaming themselves before the world (32:35). The darkness of the hour grows worse when 3,000 men refuse to repent from their ways and return unto the Lord. Their refusal to affirm their alliance on the Lord’s side resulted in death at the hands of the sons of Levi. Just when this night of experience couldn’t be worse, things shade darker as God sends them away without His presence. He would fulfill His promise. Oh, yes, they would inherit the Promised Land, but that would be like owning your home void of life, family, and memories. It might as well be a prisoner’s cell without the presence of God. The people mourned the threat of lacking God’s presence, but do they understand? God’s presence had been on the mount. God’s presence had spoken directly with them and they could not bear the ominous display of His majesty.
Thankfully, there was one man who desired the presence of God more than anything. “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not hence…shew me thy glory” (33:15, 18). Jacob may have wrestled with God physically, but Moses wrestled from His soul. After the tears of the night, joy came in the morning. The darker the night, the more the brilliance of God sprang from the mount. What a morning it must have been to stand in the cleft of the rock and see the Lord proclaimed in all His holiness. Moses basked in the beauty of his holiness. What you must crave more than anything else in life is to see God.
To speak face to face with God as a man speaks to his friend, what rapture for your soul! Then to leave that presence so you can communicate the nature of God indelibly absorbed in you. As you do life, your face may shine with His radiance undiluted. It is true what one has written, “Here is the world’s need today: Men who have seen their Lord.”