Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Living Lessons From Leviticus 12

When I made a commitment to study all the chapter 12's in Scripture for 2012- I knew the likelihood of finding an obscure chapter was part of the plan. But I also believe that ALL Scripture is given for us and equally important in its ability to teach, correct, train, edify, etc.

So here I am, fighting a miserable head cold, and probing the meaning of 8 verses in the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 12. And the topic? Childbirth, menstruation, circumcision, and rules for burnt offerings.

But the principles even here are startling and life changing. The opportunity to hear from the Holy Spirit in these times is an incredible opportunity.

In fact, there is so much here, that I won't be able to write on it- and will likely take a number of posts to explore the implications of this passage.

Over the next few blog posts- I hope to explore the purpose of the Law, the picture of Christ, the beauty of His Sacrifice, the compassion of the Father, and the daily awareness of our life and choices in our fellowship with Christ.

It is this last one that I want to start with, because it has been the newest discovery as I read and prayed through the Word.

We first need to explore the concept of 'clean' and 'unclean' as it pertains to much of the Levitical code. The meaning here is primarily related to a ritual purification or a ceremonial state when it comes to participating in the rituals set up by God in the Law.

Though it has a symbolic attachement to holiness or unholiness- it is not necessarily a designation of sin as we tend to apply these concepts. Again- there is an entire context of sin and holiness that is often missed in out modern day teaching. Yes, Holiness is without impurity- but there is also an equally important definition of HOLY as being SET APART or ALIEN.

In other words- the THRICE HOLY God is without sin- but He is also SET APART- His ways are not our ways. When He declares something HOLY- not only is HE washing it of all impurity, but He is setting it apart for HIS use.

Now, the complexity of this is very important- and we will press into this at a later point about the PURPOSE OF THE LAW- but for now, let us take a journey back into the ancient world and gain a greater appreciation for what God is doing in the moral, civil, and ceremonial law of His chosen people.

#1- God Presents Himself to the Ancient Israelites in Close Proximity to the Customs of Ancient Cultures for the Ultimate Purpose of Defeating False Worship and Idolatry.

When I read the first 5 books of the Bible I constantly remind myself that our God is revealing Himself to Moses and telling Him how He has been doing this very thing since the beginning of human history. The narrative gives context and uses the context of all the people experienced in Egypt, the education, the subtle slide away from truth, and the human default mode to create idols.

But here is the beauty! As God gets close to paralleling the customs of those who do not know the TRUE GOD- he bucks the system and, in the end, pulls down false worship, problem beliefs, and knocks down the prison of false idols.

A great example is of this is Abraham and Isaac- child sacrifice was well known- Abraham's past culture and many of the current cultures practiced going to the top of a mountain and slaying a first born child to the God of Thunder and fire-BAAL.

And as Abraham is about to do the same- God interrupts him in a dramatic fashion! "No Abraham, I am a different God- I will provide the Lamb! Remember my covenant? I alone walked through the split animals. The curse of this covenant will be paid by ME!"

#2 - Some of God's Mysterious Ways are to Point Us Daily to Him, Promote Our Dependence on Him, and Gradually Teach Us About His True Nature.

  Again, there are a myriad of reasons for how and why God does things- and some of those are a purposeful mystery (Deut. 29:29).And unfortunately, we make a lot of assumptions in these areas (including this blogger!). Why does God declare a woman who has given birth ceremonially unclean? Why does He declare a menstruating woman ritualistically impure? Why is there a distinction between the birth of a girl and boy? If we are honest we say- " I don't know" but trust God's declaration here.

But consider how trustworthy and caring God is here. Do you watch doctors or paramedics when blood is present? What do they do? Why? The protective gloves and eyewear is proof that human blood contains all kinds of contaminants.

Now, I don't think the whole Ceremonial Law is a community hygiene campaign- but improperly cooked food, some types of animals, and some of the stranger laws in Leviticus do help ancient people to stay healthier.

As I write this- I just measured a 100.4 F temperature. I took me some ibuprofen and if I don't improve in a day or so I will go to a doctor. How fortunate we are!

It wasn't uncommon in days even up to the late 19th century that I could very well be looking at a death sentence. Most people did not see children make it past 1 year old! Ceremonial washing does provide some protection.

What does Leviticus teach me about God? He is orderly, He is specific, He is serious, He teaches us methodically AND He is going to provide a cleansing at the Cross that will wash all of this away except the important Moral Law.

#3 It Would Benefit Us to Think in Terms of Our Daily Life and Daily Choices as Areas of Clean and Unclean.

My relationship with Christ is secure. I cannot lose my salvation. The day I put my faith in Christ as the only hope of my Salvation, I was saved.

But, because of sin, I do find myself separated from Him in unconfessed sin. I can grow cold toward Him. I can grow hardened in patterns of sin. And He disciplines me, because He loves me. (see Hebrews 12)

That is why I need to draw close to Him daily. Yes, daily quiet times can become routine- daily prayers can become seemingly meaningless rituals- but these are beautiful reminders of our daily need of Christ.

I John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.".

In fact, the entire first part of I John covers it in a beautiful and balanced way.

What did David say?

For when I kept silent (about my sin), my nbones wasted away
through my ogroaning all day long.For day and night your phand was heavy upon me;my strength was dried up2 as by the heat of summer. qacknowledged my sin to you,and I did not cover my iniquity;I said, “I rwill confess my transgressions to the Lord,”and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is sgodlyoffer prayer to you at a time when you tmay be found;                                                        Psalm 32 ESV

What are some daily things I do that make me, in a sense, ceremonially unclean? A TV show I watch? A joke I laughed at? A witnessing opportunity that I turned down? Over-eating? Over-sleeping?

The key point is that I can't find salvation by keeping these rules- but I can find a richer relationship with my Savior who died for my failure.

This is not a self improvement plan to brag- it is not a system to oppress others- this is a journey.

My greatest shame is that I have spent almost 30 years of walking with Christ, not seeing how Holy I can live, but how worldly I can stay and still keep a decent conscience as I pray.


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