Leviticus 22-24

Greetings!  This reading is Leviticus 22-24.

This section contains further reminders that the sacrifices had to be without defect, which foreshadowed the perfect sacrifice of Jesus.  This reminds me of when King David said:

1 Chronicles 21:24 But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

God specified various seasons and holy days (holidays) for the Israelites.  One purpose was to help them remember all that God had done for them.  He was quite serious about having them all observe the holidays. 

Leviticus 23:29 Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people.

The offerings were to be the firstfruits (the first part of their crops).  We should always give our first and best to God, not what is left over (if anything).  

They were also to leave food for the poor to pick up:

Leviticus 23:22 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.’”

God was also quite serious about not using his name improperly. 

Leviticus 24:15-16 Say to the Israelites: ‘If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.’

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

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Leviticus 19-21

Greetings!  This reading is Leviticus 19-21.

The chapter heading for Leviticus 19 in my Bible says, “Various laws,” and that describes it well.  There is a mix of laws from the 10 Commandments, some other moral laws and some ceremonial laws.  There is a lot here, so please read the verses closely.

Verse 1 says a lot of about what God wants from us: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am Holy.”  That sets the bar rather high. 

Verses 9-10 show how the Israelites were to help the poor by letting them pick up leftovers from the harvest.   This is much different from welfare, where able-bodied people can do nothing and still get money. 

God loves justice and does not want “partiality given to the poor or favoritism to the great.”  Everyone is to be judged fairly.

Note how verse 18 says, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  I used to think that was just from the New Testament.  I was surprised to find it in Leviticus.

Verse 28 says not to get tattoos.  This may be a ceremonial law, but I still think that wisdom and discernment should go into any decisions to permanently alter one’s appearance. 

We are not to mistreat aliens (though that doesn’t mean we have to have open borders). 

Chapter 20 addresses punishments for sin.  Some people like to use these passages to discredit other moral teachings in the Bible (usually 18:22 – “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”)  Their arguments are along the lines of, “Do you put your kids to death for disobeying you?  Of course not.  So these other laws don’t apply either.” (They are referring to v. 9 which says not to curse your parents).  They also point out that breaking the Sabbath could be punishable by death, as if to discount the severity of that sin for the Israelites.

These people are missing the point.  The punishments were specifically for the Israelites, who were living under a theocracy (God was their King).  In other governments the punishments are set up differently.  But that doesn’t mean that the underlying morals don’t still apply. 

There were various sins that could yield the death penalty for the Israelites.  The issue isn’t whether or not those penalties still apply (they don’t) but whether God considered those sins to be very serious (He does).  People want to downplay the sin of homosexual behavior by mocking the punishment for cursing your parents or breaking the Sabbath, implying that those sins aren’t so bad so neither is homosexual behavior.  But that gets it backwards.  You judge how seriously God considered a sin by how severe the punishment was.  And capital punishment was as serious as it could get.

Chapter 21 contains additional rules for priests.  Note that just as the animals to be sacrificed could not have defects, the priests could not have defects, either.  God wasn’t discriminating unjustly.  He was pointing to the perfection to be found in Jesus.

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

Leviticus 16-18

Greetings!  This reading is Leviticus 16-18.

Chapter 16 deals with the Day of Atonement (aka Yom Kippur), where the sanctuary and the people are symbolically cleansed from the pollution of Israel’s sins.  The Israelites had many feast days throughout the year, but this was a day of fasting.  While sins were dealt with throughout the year, their seriousness required an annual day to address them as well.

This is where the concept of a scapegoat comes from:

Leviticus 16:20-22 “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.

Chapter 17 warns against drinking blood, among other things, because the life of a creature is in its blood.

Chapter 18 is an important and often controversial chapter because of verse 22: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”  That seems like a pretty straightforward condemnation of homosexual behavior.  Some people try to say it is just a ceremonial law that only applied to Israelites and their worship, but if you review the context carefully you’ll see that it is not the case.

The book of Leviticus does contain many ceremonial laws that were just for the Israelites. God wanted to set them apart from other peoples, so He gave them some special laws regarding clothes, food, worship, etc. But here’s why calling verse 22 a ceremonial law is incorrect.  When you read the passages surrounding Leviticus 18:22 it is obvious that it is not a ceremonial law. One of the most important guidelines to understanding the Bible is to read verses in context (What is the nature of the whole passage? Who is writing? To whom are they writing?)

Leviticus 18 contains many moral laws, and they are sandwiched by strong statements that the Israelites are not to behave like the pagan Canaanites did (the Israelites are about to displace them and take over the land). God did not expect the Canaanites and other nations to follow the ceremonial laws, but He did expect them to follow the moral laws written on our hearts. The Canaanites had committed the offenses noted in Leviticus 18 for hundreds of years, so God was judging them. Here is the beginning of chapter 18:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.

And here is the end of chapter 18:

“‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. “‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.’”

If someone thinks verse 22 is a ceremonial law, do they think the verse before or the verse after are ceremonial laws? (Leviticus 18:21 says, “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.” and Leviticus 18:23 says, “Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.”)

Read Leviticus 18 yourself and ask if Leviticus 18:22 sounds like a ceremonial law (such as what food to eat and what clothes to wear) or a moral law.  And consider the context of who God is talking about.  He would not have expected the Canaanites to follow his ceremonial laws, but He is judging them harshly for violating the laws set forth in chapter 18. 

If you want to know more about how to respond to pro-gay theology, the best reference on this debate I have seen is Responding to Pro-Gay Theology by Joe Dallas. I highly recommend it.

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

Leviticus 13-15

Greetings!  This reading is Leviticus 13-15.

Today’s reading covers some topics you might not expect to find in the Bible: Infectious skin diseases, discharges and mildew.  These were real problems the Israelites faced and they were also excellent metaphors for sin (i.e., they can spread and do great damage). 

Interestingly, these chapters have the fewest study notes per page in my Bible (sometimes zero), so I may not elaborate much myself.

The infectious skin disease was what we refer to as leprosy, a contagious disease greatly feared in Bible times.  when Jesus healed lepers that was a huge deal for them, because it meant they could be a part of the community again.     

This section helps put the story of the woman with the bleeding problem in Luke 8 into context.  Because she had been bleeding for 12 years she couldn’t fully participate in worship services.

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

Leviticus 10-12

Greetings!  This reading is Leviticus 10-12.

This section gets off to a sobering beginning:

Leviticus 10:1-3 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’” Aaron remained silent.

It is not specified exactly what made the fire unauthorized, but it was obviously something serious.  

Trivia fact: The only recorded instance of God speaking directly to Aaron is in verses 8-11.  The priests were not to drink any alcohol.  This appears to be able to help them distinguish between what is and isn’t holy.

Leviticus 10:8-11 Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.”

Chapter 11 covers clean and unclean foods.  This is a good example of how God made ceremonial laws just for the Israelites to set them apart from other nations.  God communicates that these laws have been fulfilled through Christ in Acts 10.

Chapter 12 is a short section on purification after childbirth.  I am not sure (and neither were two study Bibles I consulted) why the the woman had to wait longer after having a female than with a male.  One did point out that while God is obviously pro-children, the rules for worship kept sex out of it (unlike many fertility cults and other false religions). 

Note that in Luke 2:22-24 Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford a lamb, so they offered a pair of birds.

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

Men wrote the Bible, so it must have mistakes?

A common objection to the assertion that God inspired the writings of the Bible is that men wrote it, so it must have mistakes.  Sadly, I have often heard this from committed Christians.

The argument usually goes like this:

Premise 1: Men wrote the Bible.

Premise 2: Men make mistakes.

Conclusion: God didn’t write the Bible.

But note that premise 1 is just another way of stating the conclusion.  If you are trying to determine who wrote the Bible, your first premise can’t be that men were the sole authors.  So this “argument” doesn’t prove that God didn’t write the Bible, it assumes it. 

Here is another syllogism you may have heard:

Premise 1: Men wrote the Bible.

Premise 2: Men make mistakes.

Conclusion: The Bible has mistakes.

This one has a major problem as well.  It assumes that just because people sometimes make mistakes that they will always make mistakes.  But lots of things get done without mistakes – perfect scores on tests, 300 games in bowling, diseases cured, etc.  If God was the author then an error-free Bible would be expected. 

Of course, this doesn’t prove that God did inspire the Biblical writings, just that these are bad arguments to use against the inspiration of the Bible.  We have separate, robust reasoning for why we can trust that it is God’s Word.  More on that another day.

P.S. Keep in mind that claims of inerrancy relate to the original writings, not to copies or translations.  If making a copy error invalidated the inerrancy claim, then any atheist could make a deliberate “mistake” and claim that it disproved the Bible. 

Hat tip: Stand to Reason

Leviticus 7-9

Greetings!  This reading is Leviticus 7-9.

Fellowship offerings included thanksgiving offerings.  I heard a good rule of thumb this week about prayer: We should spend as much time thanking God for all his blessings as we do asking for him for things.

Note that in 7:28 the one making a thank-offering should do so “With his own hands.” 

All these rituals had meaning from God.  Yet it is easy to get caught up in rituals and forget the original purpose.  It is a challenge to keep worship fresh yet stay focused Biblically. 

Verse 8:8 mentions the “Urim and Thummim.”  Not much is known about them, but they were probably some type of stones or objects God used to guide some decisions.  Whatever they were, we are not to use methods like this to discern God’s will today.  (Believe it or not, I use the name of Uma Thurman to remember these words, even though she has nothing to do with this.)

When Aaron (Moses’ brother) and his sons were ordained in chapter 8, blood from the sacrifice was applied to their right ear, thumb and big toe.  I assume this was symbolic for covering them in the blood of the sacrifice from head to toe.  

Notice the miracle in 9:24, after they had followed God’s instructions:

Leviticus 9:24 Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.