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.

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