Thursday, February 8, 2024

         It can be easy to race past a book of the Bible like Leviticus.  We are tempted and even inclined to think that this book, heavy on divine laws and standards, might not necessarily connect with us today with where we are in life and faith in the twenty-first century.  But if we think that way, we would be tragically mistaken.  All Scripture is inspired and given to us for understanding, edification, and faith building.  Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  So, with the apostle’s words in mind, let’s not be too quick to dash past Leviticus.  Let’s spend some time learning what this fascinating book has to say to us in our days and times.  One theme that emerges from Leviticus is how we are to approach God?  In our sinfulness and humanity, how do we approach the Lord today?  The sacrifices and offerings that we read about in Leviticus were foreshadowing events that point to the ultimate Sacrifice—Jesus at the cross.  The different sacrifices and offerings that we discover in Leviticus were descriptive of what God would one day accomplish in Christ and His passion. 
            In Leviticus 3, we read “If your offering is a fellowship offering, and you offer an animal from the herd, whether male or female, you are to present before the Lord an animal without defect” (Leviticus 3:1).  A bit later, we read, “If you offer an animal from the flock as a fellowship offering to the Lord, you are to offer a male or female without defect” (Leviticus 3:6).  The two key common phrases that we read are “without defect.”  We are to bring our best to God—not the leftovers or the things we believe we can manage to live without possessing.  God is first.  Our gifts and allegiance to Him must be of the first and greatest order.  We are not to approach the Maker and Giver of all things with what we can spare, what we can muster together and what we think might just be “good enough.”  God deserves the best of all things—time, worship, faith, trust and devotion.  A synonym for the expression “without defect” is unblemished.  Peter, you may recall, referred to Jesus and His sacrifice in a similar way, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19).  Christ was the perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice of a holy and righteous God.
            The standard for what we bring to the Lord is found in the humility, surrender and sacrifice of Christ who perfectly offered Himself to accomplish the will and plans of the Father.  Leviticus speaks of acceptable and pleasing sacrifices being a “pleasing aroma” before the Lord.  We want our lives to be an aroma of worship, service, discipleship and devotion.  We want to live and serve the Lord in ways that bring glory to Him and make much of His greatness and majesty.  Remember the words of John the Baptist when speaking about Jesus, “He must increase, while I must decrease” (John 3:30).  A similar  standard remains as ours today.  We want Christ to shine in us and through us while there is less and less of us shining through.  We are vessels that carry His light to the world.  May the scent and sight of our lives be the same pleasing aroma to the Lord that the sacrifices and offerings of Leviticus were many years ago.
            Apparently, in Leviticus 16, Moses’ brother Aaron had become a bit casual and careless in his approach to the Lord and the Most Holy Place.  The Lord called Aaron out for how he had behaved.  We read, “The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord. The Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die’” (Leviticus 16:2).  We are not to assume that we can casually and nonchalantly approach God as we might wish or will on a whim.  God sets the terms and standards by which He will receive the approach or worship of His people.  We might want to remember this truth when we are tempted to toss God a few minutes of time, attention and devotion here or there as we think we can or whenever it is convenient and no trouble to us. 
            One grave temptation that believers face today is a sense that we keep the calendar for God and we schedule Him whenever there are open moments and places.  God becomes a divine DoorDash that responds to our beckoning and summoning.  We learn from Leviticus that such thinking is foolish at best and sinful at worst.  We have subtly traded places with God where He responds to our initiative.  Perhaps today there is some clutter that you would like to remove from your life.  This clutter could keep you from coming to the Lord on His times and in His ways.  Years ago, in the twentieth-century, J.B. Phillips wrote a book Your God Is Too Small.  He concluded that we suffer from an increasingly diminished and inadequate view of God.  The Lord is shrinking in how we see and respond to Him.  That stark and startling conclusion is even more true today.  But Leviticus helps to correct that problem.  This third book of the Bible shows us a great and awesome God who set Israel free, buckled Pharaoh’s fighting force, parted the waters of the Red Sea and went before Israel into the land that He had chosen for them to possess.  May we increase our vision of the Lord too.  Join us on Sunday for Bible study and worship.  Our communal lunch is after worship this Sunday so bring a dish or two to share.  Have a great day!

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