Day 60 – March 1, 2021
Scriptures: Leviticus 24-25, 1 John 4
“Those who love God, must also love one another.” 1 John 4:21
I love Leviticus 25 and the description of the Jubilee. I recently preached on a Sabbath year, from the text Deuteronomy 15. Jubilee is the Sabbath year on steroids. In my various studies of the Jubilee, there is no evidence of the Israelites ever really obeying long enough to actually fulfill this law. They never quite figure it out.
It is up to us, who have the love of God living in us, to carry out this decree. Only, I don’t know how far we would get telling the banks to restore property to their rightful owners! They would likely laugh us out of the building.
But what is set forth in Leviticus 24-25 is an important thing that I believe 1 John 4 exemplifies. The love of God and the love of others. In Lev. 24, we read about, “eye for eye and tooth for tooth.” Again, we are tempted to think this is a harsh treatment of issues. There should be forgiveness! And I agree.
“Eye for Eye” in its context, would have been a radically graceful response to the “enemy.” It created safeguards from heavy-handed and vengeful retributions. It would have been a “life for an eye,” but in God’s great wisdom for his people, “eye for eye” becomes in its way, grace giving.
All of this is laying a groundwork for a Teacher one day to come and teach his followers to “turn the other cheek.”
Forgiveness and mercy will come in a way they never would expect. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:11-12)
Let us go and love one another!
Day 59 – February 28, 2021
Scriptures: Leviticus 22-23, 1 John 3
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:19-20)
In our Leviticus reading, we learn about the various festivals that will make up the holidays of the Israelites. The purpose of each of the festivals is to draw attention to the faithfulness of God. It reminds the Israelites of their past, God’s presence with them now, and His faithful commitments to them in the future. The festivals are reminders of God’s power, presence and provision.
The connection to 1 John 3, that my heart was encouraged by, is the above quote. “our hearts at rest in his presence.”
I needed that today. I suppose it will be of encouragement to you as well.
We belong to the truth. God has set us free. Our hearts are at peace in His presence.
We can join with the Israelites in remembering the faithfulness and love of God.
Have a great Sunday!
Day 58 – February 27, 2021
Scriptures: Leviticus 19-21, 1 John 2
Today picks up where we left off in the book of Leviticus. We see the heavy hand of God in his dealings with Israel’s sin. It is easy for us to view the harsh realities of the consequences of sin, and wonder why such harsh treatment for things like, “If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.” (Leviticus 21:9)
That’s one, among many rebukes that are hard to read, not because they are difficult to comprehend, but we estimate that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.
To make sense of the difficult laws, we must take into consideration what the Israelites context has been for the last 400 plus years. They have been influenced by the gods of Egypt and the gods of Canaan. The religions of the Ancient Near East demand much by means of sacrifice. We’ve had a couple of rebukes to avoid the sacrifice of children to Molek for example.
Daughters of priests are to be guarded against falling into prostitution. I imagine that there was a great deal of temptation for these young women, who have no land to call their own, who’s well-being is entirely resting upon the sacrifice and offerings of others, to find another way to provide.
So yes, when we read this, we think the punishment is terrible. And it is. But how else will God point the Israelites to His grace, mercy and the goodness of His ways?
I hope this illustration helps. In our care for our children, we teach them the severity of wrongdoing. We do our best to teach them of the dangers of crossing the road without looking, the burns that can happen from touching the flame on the hot stove and why it is important to wear their seatbelt. We do this, to keep them safe.
God’s punishments are severe, but consider for a moment how much the gods of the world have normalized the sin that is devastating God’s creation. If they are going to be a witness to the nations, holy and set apart, they need to be set apart from the ways of the surrounding nations. These rules are distinguishing them from the other nations.
That teaches us, that these many things that are warned against, are happening in the world around them. Sin is normal. It was “normal” for children to enter into slavery and prostitution. It was “normal” for sexual immorality to be practiced among the nations. Holiness to God, isn’t “normal.”
It doesn’t make it much easier to read, but it at least provides a wider lens as we read through texts like Leviticus 19-21 and we may still question the severity of the punishments for sin. But at least we get a sense that God is leading His people to holy living, to a better way, filled with peace.
As we read difficult texts, it ought to swell our appreciation for the grace of God, revealed in Jesus Christ. I return to the opening encouragement of chapter 2, in 1 John:
1 John 2:1–2 (TNIV) — 1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Sin has severe consequences.
Jesus offers us forgiveness.
Praise God for His faithfulness, mercy, and love given us in Jesus Christ.
Day 57- February 26
Scriptures: Leviticus 16-18, 1 John 1
Now Leviticus gets a little exciting. These three chapters are some of the most important and relevant scriptures to our modern context and culture.
Why do Christians believe abortion is wrong? Well, there are bunch of reasons, but here in Leviticus 18:21, “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.”
Molech was a Canaanite deity, whom children were burned in sacrifice. Leviticus forbids this practice, and praise God for it!
A question arises out of the book of Leviticus. Here in chapters 16-18, we run into a variety of laws, some that we still adhere to today, some that we advocate for, and some others that are fulfilled and no longer obeyed.
The atonement practices of the Levitical priesthood have been fulfilled in Christ’s sacrifice. The book of Hebrews is a helpful place to go to understand this more fully. The restriction of eating blood and the restrictions on inappropriate sexual relationships, outside of marriage, are explicitly forbidden. And we adhere to that still. We see that as an important safeguard. It is illegal to marry your sister! While sexual ethics is waning culturally, in the church, many still advocate that homosexuality is a sin, and that comes from this chapter, among others.
We need to follow the ABC’s in the law. And what I mean by that is, “A” laws are for ALL Times, always. The “B” laws are Boundary specific and “C” laws are Context specific.
Always laws are like the Ten Commandments. Boundary laws are pretty specific to a people who were within a specific region of the world, for example laws about harvesting. And Context laws, were something like the garments that they wore. Context might also be those that involve the sacrifice of animals for the forgiveness of sins or other rules surrounding the offering. When the Israelites were traveling in the wilderness, the Tabernacle went with them, and those laws were context specific. When you are here, do this! That’s a context law.
Is Leviticus 18 and the sexual ethics laws an “A” law, “B” law or a “C” law? I would argue that it is an “A.” and in good measure, a “C” law. It’s for all time. And it does hold to a certain context as well, “when you are in the land of Canaan, don’t do as they have done!”
As we come to these texts, why do we uphold some and drop the others? Why aren’t we more consistent?
I argue that we are consistent. We are pro-life, because God is pro-life. The restricted nature of the sexual immorality laid out in Leviticus 18 is about protecting human life. And restricting the eating of blood (17), well that is also revealing a pro-life stance. The life is in the blood!
This is not a condemnation on those who eat their steaks “rare.” The way in which animals are slaughtered, actually involves the draining of all of the blood out of the animal. What we see as red juice, isn’t blood, but something else called “weep.” It has to do with the freezing process. You can Google it.
I’ve digressed some, but it is to say that our culture is deeply influenced by these three chapters of Leviticus.
Leviticus 16 is all about the atonement. There is the scapegoat that is sent out of the village, bearing the sins of the people. It is Christ, in His atoning sacrifice, sent outside of the village. He takes our sins. He sets us free! That’s one connection to 1 John 1.
Leviticus 17, it is the lifeblood of Christ, that is poured out for us. His blood, is our life! The blood of Jesus is our life, another connection to 1 John 1!
Leviticus 18, comes as this strong rebuke on a world that was filled with sexual immorality. God longs for the very best for His people. And sexual immorality, sexual relations with kinsfolk, well it stands to destroy life. God will vomit them out of the land.
We tend to transpose these verses onto the nation we reside. Understandably so. We know the brokenness and hurt that comes to families with sexual immorality, broken homes, child sacrifice and more.
John’s words are what we truly need hear and offer another strong connection for us.
1 John 1:5–10 – “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
We are ready to declare all who aren’t as righteous as us as sinners and condemn them because of what we read in Leviticus 17 and 18. We see those who profane the name of God, promote child sacrifice, and explore the wildest of sexuality and we find our footing to judge and cast them to hell.
John calls us to remember, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
I am unfaithful. I am just as much as sinner as the next person. I deceive myself if I claim to be without sin.
But as we confess our sins, as we confess that we have fallen short, Jesus remains faithful. The faithfulness of Jesus purifies all of us. He is the scapegoat. He purifies us through the life in his blood. We have fellowship together and are brought together, through Jesus.
We can beat the drum of sin, the brokenness of the world around us and fall into the culture wars once more. But if that is your heart, it can be mine, certainly. We then must read, and reread 1 John 1, over and over again.
“If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
I cheated, that’s from chapter 2. But the divisions are all made up anyways.
I know I opened probably a can of worms with this one. If you want to dig in deeper, I’d love to talk it through!
Day 56 – February 25, 2021
Scriptures: Leviticus 14-15, 2 Corinthians 13
Well, that was awkward.
Whenever someone asks what your favorite Bible passage is, it’s a fun game to mess with someone and say Leviticus 15. Hah! My friend Naomi reached out to me and said, "When playing sword drills (a race to find and read a passage in the Bible) don't use Leviticus 15 for your son!"
I know, somethings wrong with me that this sort of thing cracks me up. Anyways. To today's connections.
My friend Renee Long wrote me this morning, commenting on yesterday’s reading. I see it as a strong connection to today’s reading as well. Particularly with Leviticus 14 and the cleansing of a home. Renee shares:
Dealing with contagious skin diseases was important because, left unchecked, they could spread throughout the community. Paul lists behaviors in the Corinthian church that he may have to deal with, quarreling, jealousy etc. Such behaviors are also contagious and could spread throughout the church, damaging the body.
Thank you Renee!
Priests were tasked with rooting out mold in homes. They were the original home inspectors!
If mold was found, they went through great lengths to eradicate it from the home.
Hear Paul’s encouragement to the church:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Let’s examine ourselves, take a close look at our hearts. Let’s have the great priest, Jesus, search us, clean us, and bring us together.
Paul encourages us so well, a message that we need to hear:
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings. 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:11–14)
God be with you, in you, cleansing you, giving you His peace,
Day 55 – February 24, 2021
Scriptures: Leviticus 12-13, 2 Corinthians 12
Uncleanliness and Impurity
We have a tendency to think that the long list of things that are deemed as “unclean” are sinful. Certainly, as we walk through the Leviticus text, with a little common sense, we can know that a woman has done nothing morally wrong in having her period. Ceremonially, though, she is unclean.
Cleanliness is another way in which God is marking off the Levitical priests for the special tasks set before them as the priesthood of God. Their purpose, to plead before God for their forgiveness, is in light of their sinfulness, not their lack of cleanliness.
I say this, because it is important as we read through the text that we don’t get caught up in wrong thinking in regard to the laws around the unclean and clean. It’s not the difference between wrong and right, bad and good. It’s about the seasons and circumstances in which the people undergo and must maintain distinguishing marks of holiness. If there were no distinctions, no laws marking what was clean and unclean, then the whole position of the priesthood loses its uniqueness and distinctiveness.
As we turn to the work of Paul, he wants to boast, but he doesn’t. What he tells us is that he has a thorn in the flesh.
We don’t know what the thorn is, we aren’t given any really obvious clues.
But what I would suggest is something important here to drive home my point from a different direction.
What maintained the uniqueness of the priesthood, the clean and unclean laws, have now dropped away. There is one who is now fit for the service and glory of God, despite what might be perceived as an open and bleeding wound. Whatever this thorn in the flesh was, it does not keep him from service and glory in Christ.
Hey, just an idea.
But the truth of the whole thing comes down to, Paul is miraculously used by God, for the glory of Christ.
God can use you too. You’ve been made clean by the blood of Christ. You have a place in His kingdom.
Day 54 – February 23, 2021
Scriptures: Leviticus 11, 2 Corinthians 11, Psalm 56
“In God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere human beings do to me? 12 I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you. 13 For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”
2 Corinthians 11:24–25
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea…”
“I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.”
It is important as Christians that we understand the purpose of the clean and unclean animals in Leviticus. They served a specific purpose as a distinguishing marker of identity for the Israelites. They would be set apart as a holy people by observing the clean and unclean animal laws. The purpose of the laws of God are to distinguish the Israelites as a separate and holy people from the world.
I can’t find a strong connection between the three separate chapters today. For two of them, I see a great connection. Psalm 56 is a declaration of trust and not being afraid of humankind. Psalm 56 is a vow to trust in the Lord and to not be afraid of anything other than God! And in 2 Corinthians, Paul makes a note to tell of all that he has gone through for the sake of the Gospel. He’s been tried, beaten and shipwrecked for his faith. David’s words in Psalm 56 are practically Paul’s testimony of his trust in God after all he had been through.
Upon further reflection, the connection to the three chapters is perhaps, the distinguishing marks of faithfulness. At times it might be simply refraining from something that God calls unclean. And at other times it might mean enduring something for the sake of God.
Both enduring for the sake of the Gospel, and abstaining for the sake of separation from the world, distinguishes us as God’s people.
There are consequences to trusting in God and facing the realities of a broken world. But for Paul, and David, and the Israelites, it is completely worth the trials, to be known as a child of God.
The connection is that in all things we can point to the glory and praise to God.
Be holy as the Lord himself is holy.
Day 53 – February 22, 2021
Scriptures: Leviticus 8-10, 2 Corinthians 10
The Work God has for you.
We see in Leviticus that Aaron, his children and Moses go to work for the people of God.
Paul says, “We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you.” (2 Cor. 10:13)
He goes on to say that we all have a place in sharing the work that God has given us. We are called to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Leviticus and 2 Corinthians have been, admittedly, difficult to find thematic connections. And here, I’m probably making a bit of a stretch. But it is important to see that Paul views his place in this as a part of the ongoing story of what God is doing to reconcile the world back to God. Leviticus is concerned with the forgiveness and reconciliation of the Israelites. Paul here, with the Gospel in His heart and mind, knows himself to be an Ambassador of Christ and a minister of reconciliation. His heart is to see the world come to Christ.
This is the work that he boasts in, this is the work of his life, to bring all people to God.
We are the ambassadors of Christ, we are a part of this new creation, we are a part of those who minister, just like Aaron and Moses, drawing people closer to God.
Help others come closer to Jesus today!
Day 52 – February 21, 2021
Scriptures: Leviticus 6-7, 2 Corinthians 9
God is careful in His plans to meet the needs of the Levites. The priests will be cared for in God’s economy. Something is set aside for them. There are rules to it, lots of rules! And as always, its pretty easy to miss a lot of what is being communicated. But what is clear throughout it is that God is caring for the priests of Israel, as they care for the people of God.
And this finds a lot of commonality with Paul’s words of encouragement for the Corinthian church. He celebrates their generosity, and he is grateful for it.
He reminds all of us that those who sow sparingly, reap sparingly. Those who sow much, have a great harvest.
As we think about giving and caring for others, let us sow much love and harvest richly!
Day 51 – February 20, 2021
Scriptures: Leviticus 4-5, 2 Corinthians 8
Giving our best
Today’s a good day to encourage one another to give our very best. Paul commends the Macedonians for their incredible gift of generosity, despite their poverty. In today’s reading from the book of Leviticus we read of the demands of atonement sacrifices.
My brief but important connection is to the spirit of the giver. Accommodations are made for the well off and those are or poor. Accommodations to give and trust int the Lord are made in Leviticus. And we see the important connection to how Paul viewed the gift of grace. He saw their generous hearts and celebrates it.
We are encouraged to give God our very best, no matter what we have. Our best is a cheerful and generous heart.
Be a blessing today, live with grace!
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.