Monday, November 30, 2009

The cost of sin.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

Leviticus 17:11

tabernacle from above

Someone or something had to die when sin entered the world. Human beings lost a lot in that transgression. God made it clear to the Israelites that they needed to remember the cost of sin with the regular sacrifice at the altar. And this also affected certain dietary restrictions. To remember the cost of sin meant not eating the blood of any animal ever. It meant practicing a form of slaughter that drained as much blood from the animal as possible. All this was meant to show a regular appreciation for the atonement that took place at the altar. A calloused view of blood meant a disregard for relationship with God.

This prohibition was important enough that it was the one thing about the Old Testament Law that the early church felt compelled to remind Gentiles. All people should respect that blood is offered in atonement of sin (Acts 15:20). That regular reminder in the Jewish diet was really a form of regular worship. It acknowledged that sinners needed a sacrifice.

I see the wisdom in that reminder, and it is one reason why the New Testament church should at least regularly observe the Lord’s Table. It is in the symbols of the bread and the wine that we remember the cost of our sin, the sacrifice of our Savior, and the blood that was shed for the remission of sin. My sin is a costly mess. It literally cost God the ultimate sacrifice. Regularly remembering that is healthy for my soul.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Atonement Day

“And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins." And Moses did as the LORD commanded him.

Leviticus 16:34

goat head The regulations for the Day of Atonement were strict and demanding. You can quickly see that the priests worked hard, and the high priest was tasked with huge responsibility to make sure that God’s requirements for this vital yearly sacrifice were kept fully. At issue was the spiritual health and forgiveness of the entire nation. Obedience to this was crucial for God’s blessing and for spiritual progress to develop. God could continue His relationship with the struggling nation if they would offer the sacrifices for atonement of all their sins for that year.

But the levitical system was limited. A sacrifice for this event was made every year. In addition to that untold sacrifices for sin and guilt offerings were made day after day throughout the year. The altar was a bloody place that was constantly busy with the work of repentance, confession, sacrifice, and commitment.

This one day of the year all that halted for one special set of sacrifices that was meant to atone for all the sins of all the people. It was a day to celebrate fellowship with God through His willingness to forgive. As such, it became the high point of the Jewish Year, the start of a new year for the nation with God. Our atonement gives us a fresh start as well, only the affect is for a lifetime and not just the next twelve months. For that I am truly thankful.

Lord Jesus,

I thank You for being the final, complete, last sacrifice for sin. I can do nothing or offer nothing beyond what You have done. I trust in Your forgiveness and I experience it. Of all the things that I have right now for which to be thankful, this is the most significant.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009


"Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst."

Leviticus 15:31

hands over eyes This is not a chapter that I think will ever find its way into a Sunday morning scripture reading. It is not good sermon fodder either. The content of the chapter is more fitting for a health class than anything else. It has to do with bodily discharges for both men and women. That was already too much information. But this chapter goes into detail.

There are details about the types of discharge that lead to making one ceremonially impure and details about the types of offerings made for cleansing the condition. Why did God care about this? Because He wanted His people to take seriously their relationship with Him at all levels. Nothing was trivial when it came to approaching Him in worship. Hence these regulations were meant to pull their thoughts toward God.

The point was that worshiping God was a holy business. And these bodily regulations kept the focus squarely on God and the worship of Him in reverent holiness. This kept them from defiling the place where His presence would dwell among them. If I remove my tendency to see the “gross-out” factor in this chapter, and view the requirement as a call to holy thinking, I see the point. God is to be reverently worshiped. That is the point of this unusual chapter.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twice cleaned

washed hands And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

Leviticus 14:20

The Law provided detailed help for the priests in determining the impact of the spread of a wide range of infectious conditions. There were a variety of skin diseases thrown into the leprosy category. There were also mold conditions within a dwelling that would render it unlivable and unclean. The priests were trained in the proper diagnosis of these conditions. And they did not offer any healing. They did offer a response if God should chose to heal the individual.

In the case of the leper, he was supposed to show himself to the priest who would then begin the process of determining if the leprosy had indeed stopped its progress. Jesus referred lepers that He had completely healed to this procedure. It restored a condition of ceremonial cleanness to the leper so that participation in the life of worship and the society of God’s people could continue. Jesus advocated this practice when He completely healed lepers (Matthew 8:4). It was the way in which the society knew beyond any doubt that God had worked.

So a leper was twice cleaned when God healed him. He was cleansed of the ravages of a disease, and He was purified for worship of the Lord. This required God’s work, his cooperation, and the work of the priest. But in the end, his physical and his spiritual life were no longer those of a misfit or outcast. The physical disease was symbolic of a greater spiritual problem. Both of those issues were met by the Law. And the result was that the holiness of God was magnified. No physician could take credit for the healing when ultimately the priest would determine the man’s readiness to be united to God through the worship at His altar. God got the glory through the physical healing and the spiritual restoration. Sadly, until Jesus, we do not see many Old Testament accounts of this happening. There is the story of Moses’ sister Miriam being struck with leprosy and eventually being healed (Numbers 12:15). There is the story of Naaman (2 Kings 5). It took Jesus to truly make lepers whole.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, unclean.' He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

Leviticus 13:45-46


Outside the camp

I am unclean…

rotting corpse of dead sin

still clinging to me.

What I am

is in need of cleansing;

Who You are is the One Who dares to touch me.

I am unclean

and You are the Holy One;

if I am to be clean

then I have to accept Your healing touch…

for You will make me clean again.

And then… I can go home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The poor can’t be kept from God.


And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.

Leviticus 12:8

The provisions in this short chapter of Leviticus have to do with the restoring of a woman to the covenant community after the birth of a child. Much of the ritual purity practice had to do with blood, and since blood was shed in the birth of a child, a period of ceremonial uncleanness resulted from that birth. The woman needed to fulfill the law in that regard. Then, after the “days of her purification” were complete, she could go to the priest and offer a sacrifice that was meant to restore her to full community with God and His people.

The poorest of the poor might have trouble offering a lamb (which was the required offering). God freely allows that this is a hard sacrifice for the poor and allows them to substitute two turtledoves or pigeons instead. This is exactly the situation that the parents of Jesus found themselves in (Luke 2:22-24). Jesus entered the poorest of Judean homes. When the time came for Jesus to be presented at the temple, his humble parents brought the sacrifice of the poorest of the poor.

It moves me when I consider that when God gave this command to Moses so long ago, He knew that He would send His own Son into a home that would be directed by its provisions for the poor. God could have come into a more well-to-do Jewish home. He could have been born into better circumstances. But he came to nearly the lowest economic position. Simple peasants welcomed the King of Kings into this world.

God provides for the needs of the poor. The law is full of provisions out of concern that Israel not create a society that trampled those in poverty. But God also made those provisions such that the poor had something to offer to Him. He expected them to sacrifice. He made provisions in the agricultural dictates that allowed the poor to work and glean grain. He provided a means for the poor to find dignity, respect, work, and respect as human beings, even in their poverty. There were no handouts, just the offer of understanding, hard work, and the means to have basic needs provided for by caring neighbors.

In worship, the poor were invited to join in the celebration. They were given the chance to offer what they could, to praise the God of the covenant, and to equally participate in its observance. They were brought into worship because God wanted them there just as much as anyone else. He desires that all men worship Him, great and small, rich and poor, because His glory is worth celebrating.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

the standard for holiness.

For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

Leviticus 11:45

animal_phylum_chart As a gentile, most of what I read in Leviticus 11 reads strangely to me. All the laws about what is clean or unclean to eat must have been overwhelming at first when Moses began explaining them to the people of Israel. The detail is excruciating. But the standard is not arbitrary. It ain’t all about about types of fish or tasty animals! The reason that Israel was asked to follow dietary laws was rooted in the character and holiness of God. By doing so, they were worshiping God. They were committing to being uniquely holy because God is uniquely holy.

When God is the standard for holiness, anything He asks of us to be like Him is not arbitrary. It finds a clear focus in Him. The goal of the dietary law was not health or nutrition. It was relationship with God. Everything in the law was meant to draw the people into a deeper relationship with Yahweh. The call is to “be holy, for I am holy”.

The New Testament picks up on the standard behind the levitical code. It calls Christians to that same clear standard. So the principle behind the law compels me to build my relationship with the Lord in a proper way. There are clear appeals to the wording in this verse in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:7). If God is the standard, than what He calls us to do is important. The New Testament makes it clear that the call to holiness is not external obedience only, but internal change. Peter calls us to follow new passions, and Paul explains that holiness shows itself in the avoidance of immorality. But the internal and the external components of the call to live to God’s standard of holiness are important to understand. They constitute a compelling and challenging call.

Technorati Tags: ,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dramatic Judgment


Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

Leviticus 10:1-2

This could not be any more dramatic. This episode occurs right after God has accepted the consecrated work of Aaron and his sons as priests.This incident was a painful variation from normal pattern of obedience that had been Israel’s story up to this point. At the end of chapter nine fire comes out from God to consume the sacrifice (showing His approval). The very next set of verses in chapter ten show fire coming out from God to consume the priests! I think God was not happy!

Why? What had Nadab and Abihu done that warranted such extreme and immediate judgment? There are three possible explanations for their actions which are simply called “unauthorized”. They were offering incense before the Lord. They may have used coals that were not from the prescribed source. They may have offered the incense at the wrong time of day. It is clear that this was not unintentional, but a deliberate violation, which has led some scholars to suggest that the command in Leviticus 10:9 that the priests avoid wine or strong drink points to the fact that they came before the Lord in a drunken state, making a mockery of their priestly duties. Again, all three show a deliberate disregard for the holiness of God, and dramatic judgment is the result.

God will be taken seriously. That is the point of the text. And if He is not, human beings who disregard Him will have to deal with the consequences. To obey Him brings blessing and awesome power at display among His people. To disobey Him brings judgment and awesome power is displayed then as well. Either way God gets glorified. He is glorified in both reward for obedience, and judgment for sin.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

a cycle of relationship

Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

Leviticus 9:22-24

There is a cyclic pattern to the book of Leviticus that is seen in its completion in this passage. It looks something like this:

The cycle in Leviticus

First, God issues a series of commands. In this case, it was all the detailed description of sacrifices at the altar along with the consecration of the priests. Then there is an opportunity for accompanying obedience where Israel follows the commands. The text is detailed in both the command stage and the obedience stage to carefully show how Israel followed the Lord. This pattern actually began at the end of the book of Exodus with the tabernacle construction. Thirdly, God blesses the obedience of the nation. He makes Himself known in some great way. We see this at the end of Exodus as well, when God’s glory fills the tabernacle. Here, fire from the Lord consumes the sacrifices made by Aaron and his sons. The final piece of the cycle comes together with Israel worshiping God for who He is.

I believe the general principles still remain for us today in terms of relationship with God, We obey God’s commands as He clearly shows them in scripture. The teaching of the Word of God is vital to this process. When we obey, God blesses us, not necessarily in terms of physical prosperity, but with a clear demonstration of His person and His power (I have personally seen this at Mill Creek through the Greater Impact campaign… we have already seen tremendous work in hearts and lives with our steps of obedience as a church. It will only continue.) And the result is that God is worshiped. He is worshiped in understanding His commands, in obeying them, in His blessing to us, and as we offer praise back to Him. This is a beautiful thing.

What still remains to seen is exactly where God is going to take Mill Creek over the next three years. The details may be dynamic, but His sustaining hand and mighty power are going to be the constant experience. Do we need anything else? We will continue to sacrifice. He will continue to bless that obedience. And lives will be changed. Our worship becomes very real and very visible… just as it was for Israel.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


image And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him.

Leviticus 8:12

You choose to use me

a man who by nature is unholy

set apart now for Your glory

and certainly I am unworthy


But You choose to set apart

my life, my hands, my heart

so that I can do my part

to proclaim how great You are


Israel saw the oil drip down

from Aaron’s beard to the ground

and understood how profound

divine consecration turned a life around


No oil drips from my head

Your Spirit saturates my soul instead

and as I yield to what You have said

You seal and sanctify what You have led


Undeniably this is always a mystery

in a heavenly, daily, real life calling to be holy

set apart to live the gospel story

of redemption, salvation, and Your glory


Monday, November 9, 2009

The doctrine of the atonement is Most Holy.

bound lamb 3 This is the law of the guilt offering. It is most holy.

Leviticus 7:1

This is one of thirteen times in the book of Leviticus where the phrase “most holy” has described a practice for the priests and the nation. God wants to get the point across that certain attitudes must accompany the worship the nation offers to Him. When it came to the sacrificial system, the guilt offering was of highest priority. It was this offering that was meant to recognize and atone for guilt before a holy God.

Holiness is serious business. It is not something we should take lightly. It really is not a thing to joke about. We are dealing with the reason that death entered into the world. Humanity chose to sin, and with sin came death. That pretty much settles the question of “why” an awareness of the “most holy” nature of the guilt offering was needed. This was the most important need in any person’s life: to be made right before God.

It was this awareness of the extreme holiness of the guilt offering that became a point of comparison in the New Testament book of Hebrews. There the work of Jesus is contrasted with the work of the priests. And it is in chapter six of Hebrews that we are reminded of the ramifications and judgment of not taking the work of Jesus seriously. It is because what Jesus did is “most holy” that we cannot treat it with contempt (Hebrews 6:6). It is impossible to have contempt for the atonement on the cross and be a Christian. That is why we need to pray for the souls of those who would deny Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice or want to make the basis of our justification anything other than the cross of Christ. Even if they call themselves theologians. To declare what is “most holy” as evil, barbaric, or divine child abuse, is to have contempt for what is “most holy”.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Repentance and Restitution

AMCULT-JUSTICE GAVEL …if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt. And he shall bring to the priest as his compensation to the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering.

Leviticus 6:4-6

This passage deals with ways in which human beings have sinned against other human beings. It focuses on property and transactions. The passage explains that the following kinds of things are serious sins among people: deceiving for financial gain, robbery, oppression of the poor or needy, claiming a valuable lost item for yourself without due process, or in any other way hurting someone and gaining personally from it.

The principles for dealing with these issues involved first of all a willingness to repent of the wrong done, secondly, a readiness to make restitution (20% was the suggested interest value to add to the restoration), and finally offering a significant guilt offering before the Lord to make atonement for the sin. This recognized the personal, societal, and spiritual impact of these crimes and dealt with them accordingly.

When we sin against others there are impacts. We are weakened as people. The sinner is made worse by his sin, which is why repentance is a good start and restitution a good act. It makes an effort at confronting fallen natures and stirring them toward something good. The hurt that is done to the other person can never fully be taken away. We cannot eliminate it. But a fair and uniform system of compensation (120% value is a great start for tort reform!) can go a long way toward society being impacted by restoration and restitution to the victim. Of course, the biggest need is spiritual. The reason the pain or the oppression or the loss occurred in the first place was because a sinner acted on sinful impulses and sinned like sinners do. To find forgiveness with God as well as restitution with society helps set the person on a new ground of forgiveness. He cannot make restitution to God, only to man. But God can grant forgiveness, and that grace changes hearts.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Responsibility: the down side

If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD's commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity.

Leviticus 5:17

going down Perhaps one of the reasons the book of Leviticus suffers from a lack of reading is that it constantly reminds us of the down side of being human. It shows us the tremendous drag on holiness that sin can be. We see just how much we are unable to live as God intended for us to live. Verses such as this one tend to bring us down. Any sin, even one that is initially unintentional leaves us bearing guilt before God and responsible before Him for our sin that separates us from Him.

But there is an up side to this down side. It is the realistic understanding that as sinners we are in NEED of God to do something for and with us. We have to deal with sin in our hearts with practical understanding. Sin drives us to an awareness of the greatness of God and when He offers forgiveness, we marvel at the wideness and depth of His mercy and sustaining grace.

We live in sin and with the consequences of sin every day. We cannot get away from it. It is the water in which we swim. It is the air which fills our lungs. Sin is environmental. But God is bigger. In Leviticus there were always clear instructions for the sacrifice. God always had a way to deal with the down side. So for every moment where we are sinned against, we see He grace. For every moment where we blow it, there is an offer for mercy and forgiveness. For every disobedience, God is ready to receive our repentance and obedience. There is responsibility before Him. We are responsible for accepting our offense. We are responsible for coming to Him. And God brings grace.

In this way, even in the worst of our human experiences and actions, God is glorified. We find our life changed for the better. We find forgiveness. It is all what He has totally provided. We just accepted and followed. God gets the glory in His grace. Amen!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


priests at the altar

And the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed, and he shall be forgiven.
Leviticus 4:35b

You cannot escape the fact that holiness is a major theme of the book of Leviticus. The entire sacrificial system was set up by God to create a means of fellowship and a way for sin to be dealt with in Israel. God is holy. We are not. Something has to happen to provide a means to relationship with Him. Chapters 4 and the first half of chapter 5 describe the details for what is called the “sin offering”. The conditions for this sacrifice had to do with the nature of the sin. It was “unintentional” – a natural outworking of human fallen depravity. Sometimes we just sin because we are sinners. It is what we do. We are naturally skilled at it. But that sin puts us at odds with a holy God.

The second condition for offering the sin offering was that the individual becomes aware of his or her guilt in the unintentional sin. Either the offended party makes them aware, or they eventually see the disastrous results of personal depravity for what they are. The guilt checks them from really moving forward with God. They need forgiveness.

Another interesting observation was that societal status changed the requirements for this sin offering. At the top of the list was the unintentional sin of a high priest. There the sacrificial animal was an expensive bull. But there were different requirements for the nation as a whole, or for individuals who had sinned unintentionally. Lesser expenses were involved by the type of livestock offered. There were also different requirements based on the type of unintentional sin. The point was that God was not harsh and unrelenting, but understanding in the way He dealt with people who by nature sin so much they don’t always know they did it. God’s grace covers the “oops” factor.

For me, as I read this, the important thing that keeps coming out in every detailed episode of the type of sin and accompanying sacrifice was that GOD FORGAVE THE REPENTANT HEART. These simple five words are profound: “…and he shall be forgiven”. God will completely forgive. He offers a way back. He reaches out to the one who will return. He knows we are dust. He forgives. He provides a way for relationship with us despite our very natures. That is love that abounds to sinners. And that love is here in the harsh little book of Leviticus. Even as the blood of the sacrificed animal drips from the altar in each episode, the love of God forgives the sinner. How much more do I know this in Christ, Who gave Himself for me so that I might be a forgiven sinner as well? The phrase “…and he shall be forgiven” applies to my heart as well. It is the promise that truly brings me peace, perspective, and joy. It comforts and strengthens my heart… daily.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Communion with God is messy.

And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron's sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar.

Leviticus 3:2

sacrifical lamb Chapter three of Leviticus is all about the peace offering. The ESV Study Bible gives a great summary of what this peace offering was all about: “This offering achieves and expresses peace or fellowship between an offerer and the Lord. The ritual as a whole symbolizes a communion meal that is held between the offerer, the officiating priest, and the Lord. In OT times such meals were a means of affirming a covenant relationship (Gen. 26:28–30). Generally speaking, then, this offering was a time to remember and reaffirm the covenant relationship between the Lord and Israel (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16–18; 11:23–26). As with the burnt offering, there are various specific motives for offering a peace offering, ranging from petition to praise. In this chapter, though, the entire emphasis is on the procedure for the offering, with a special focus on the burning of the fat.”

The peace offering was one in which the person giving the animal in sacrifice was allowed to eat of the sacrifice. There were prohibitions (Leviticus 3:14-16) and God was given the best part since “the fat” does not mean just fat, but also the meat around it, which any gourmet is going to know is the most succulent portion. But this offering symbolized a shared communion with God by the worshipper. As such it was a unique offering.

But even this fellowship had reminders of sacrifice. The priest would lay his hand on the head of the offering before killing it. And the blood of this animal was sprinkled against the sides of the altar. Even in fellowship, there is a reminder of our need for atonement. Blood is shed on the altar. Just yesterday, in observance of the Lord’s Table, I spent time with my church family celebrating communion. And looking into the cup, I was reminded of my Savior’s sacrifice that brought me peace and fellowship with God.

Peace with God must come with sacrifice. Sinners are loved by God, but atonement and forgiveness come with a certain messiness. In the Old Testament, the slaughterhouse of the levitical worship system reminded Israel of their redemption for fellowship with God. At certain seasons, the channel of blood running out of the temple was flowing with this sacrificial stream like a small crimson river. And the dying Lamb of God is always recognized by believers today when the common cup and loaf are shared.

Technorati Tags: ,,