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Not the End (Leviticus 26-27)

Today is “Black Saturday”. There are no amazing sales, no cyber specials nor door busting finds. Black Saturday is a day remembered on the historical church calendar as a quiet, somber day—the day in which Jesus was in the tomb. His earliest followers knew only of Jesus’ death. They were frightened and so they hid. Sure Jesus had spoken of this moment, but the way the Gospel’s tell the story, it doesn’t seem as though the first followers of Jesus understood what the master was saying. Black Saturday represents the weight of wrath and judgement—death.

In Leviticus 26 God presented His people with a choice— either to be faithful to God and His covenant or to be unfaithful to God and His covenant. God also said that the choice we make will have consequences— either we will be blessed by being faithful to God or we will suffer by being unfaithful to God. Our choice has to do with the way we think, but also with the way we act. Those choices have consequences.

God called His people to faithfulness. He said that if they were faithful He would bless them, but if they were unfaithful He would judge them. Over and over again they were unfaithful, so God judged them with increasing severity until finally He threw them out of the Promised Land and scattered them among the nations.

At that point, it appears that the people of Israel have reached their end. However, just when it seems that Israel is shut out, God opens a door. Just when we expect the curtain to fall, God says His mercy is not finished.

By our own choices we are sinners. By our very nature we are sinners. We are guilty sinners and deserve the wrath of God, but Jesus took our sin and its curse on Himself when He died in our place on the cross. When we put our faith in Jesus, He takes away our sin and its penalty.

This Saturday is a dark, historical reminder. We remember the consequence of sin—judgement, wrath and death. But there is so much more to come. Sunday is coming. Welcome to the resurrection—welcome to new life!



Having and Having Not (Leviticus 25)

A life coach, psychologists and a theologian stumble into a blog and…

I know this sounds like the opening of a joke, but seriously, these experts come from three differing sets of beliefs and practices.  Yet, there is a greater truth that connects the three. Read the following quotes and then we’ll jump into Leviticus 25.

  • “At the end of the day, your relationships with the people in your life will be greater assets than any material things. Take time. Be present. You’ll thank yourself for it later.”― Vironika Tugaleva, author of The Love Mindset
  • “The pursuit of material-external things as if they can provide deep and lasting happiness is contributing to a dwindling of real meaning and is a factor contributing to an increase in mental health problems. It just isn’t possible to fill the hole inside us by piling up the things outside us.” ― Dr. Stephen McKenzie and Dr. Craig Hassed, authors of Mindfulness for Life
  • “Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”  ― John Wesley, founder of Methodism, a branch of Protestant Christian thinking

The American Dream has long been about the “pursuit of happiness”. In contemporary times, that has been reduced to having stuff. Personal gain, whether in profit or popularity, drives the American conscience. Among the world’s elite powers, Americans take less time off and plan fewer vacations. American workers would rather cash in vacation days for bonus pay rather than rest. The drive to pursue stuff and to consume what we own is very much a part of the regular American day-to-day experience. And for what end?

According to Fortune.com, depression, loneliness and dissatisfaction with life are rising trends among America’s working class. The research goes on to postulate that the newest generation of American workers may be the least stable generation on record. (http://fortune.com/2016/04/28/young-workers-anxiety-depression/)

The pursuit of happiness has become the pursuit of possessions. Possessions that break, fade and expire. What happiness is there in this?

Leviticus 25 orders the heart rightly toward possession, property and propriety. Here are six truths from Leviticus 25 that center the soul rightly when it comes to material gain:

  1. Trust God to provide—Leviticus 25:1-7 opens by describing a year of rest for the land. Six years of good work and one year of complete “land rest”. Could you imagine living in a farming economy and being told not to farm? Regardless of what kind of work you are in, God is the one who provides for you. He may not be signing your check, but he has given you the ability, talent and drive to work. God spoke to Moses, “You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 8:18 God provides, trust him.
  2. Don’t make stuff or pursuing stuff as then number one thing—In Leviticus 25:2, God says, “Observe a Sabbath to the Lord”. God wasn’t telling the people how to relate to the land. The land’s rest was about how to relate to God. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24 You cannot put your desire into two places—only one master can rule your heart—you, stuff, someone other person, or God. God says our life is full when we pursue him with our whole desire. (Matthew 6:33)
  3. Take care of the earth—When God made the universe and everything in it, people were given a special mandate: “Fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). In Genesis 2, when Adam was given the Garden of Eden, God told him “to work it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15). Leviticus 25 echoes the care of the earth. Greed should not push our development. Replenishing and sustaining the land are significant for the human condition. There is something deeply fulfilling to caring for the earth. That fulfillment begins with God’s instruction and continues through our action.
  4. Help the less fortunate—For the working class it is difficult to understand how a person falls into poverty. It is hard to grasp homelessness. Yet, the American condition, with its invitation to pursue life, liberty and happiness is not without struggle. The impulse to grab power and subjugate people is part of our fallen nature. Also, racism supports slavery, and followers of Jesus should be active in aggressively fighting racism as a virulent evil. Leviticus 25:35-55 affirms what can be seen throughout the Bible. We can clearly see love and compassion in God’s words about relating to the poor. God told the people who had enough resources to share with the people who did not have enough. God calls His people to be generous to the poor.
  5. Manage what you have well—“Mine” is such a terrible word in the human vernacular. Yet, it is this same word that hinders so much human goodness that God uses to describe the earth. Leviticus 25:23 affirms God’s ownership over the Promised Land. Psalm 89:11 expands that thought, “The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.” Everything belongs to the Lord. If God owns everything and we own nothing, what do we do with the stuff we have? How do we relate to it? The stuff is not ours; it belongs to God. He allows us to use it for a while, and He tells us to use it for His glory.
  6. The best is yet to come—There is no evidence that Israel ever observed the laws commanded in Leviticus 25. In fact, history would lean towards Israel neglecting God’s command regarding the land and the poor. We don’t know a season of Sabbath or Jubilee. Yet, Jesus taught that the best was yet to come. God has a future without suffering in store for His redeemed people. Just as God kept His promise to give His people the land of Canaan, He will keep His promise to give us a land in heaven. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” John 14:2-3 The best is yet to come. The possessions we enjoy here are limited and temporary. Life with Jesus is eternal.


Jesus, the Tabernacle and You (Lev 24)

Leviticus 24 opens with descriptions of two unique items found in the Tabernacle. Remember, the Tabernacle was the place where the people of Israel met with God before they entered into the Promised Land.

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, “I have not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but fulfill.” Jesus completes every command and every prophecy. He is the fulfillment of God’s word. The gospel writer John calls Jesus “the Word made flesh”.

The Tabernacle and its items help us see Jesus even more clearly.
 
  • The Tabernacle was where God dwelt among the people. John 1:14 tells us that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. The Greek describes the Tabernacle with the same verb—in direct correlation, Jesus is the “tent of meeting”—where ever Jesus is, God dwells. In similar fashion, believers in Jesus are God’s temple according to 1 Corinthians 3:16. God dwells with us through the Holy Spirit.
  •  The Tabernacle’s lamps where to always shine. By the command of Leviticus 24:1-4, the lamps in the Tabernacle where to burn without end. The light was to shine regularly as a symbol of God’s regular presence among the people. Jesus declares that he is the “light of the world” (John 8:12). This declaration comes during the Festival of Lights (Hanukah). Similarly, Jesus tells his followers that they will be the light of the world in Matthew 5:14. Jesus goes on to tell his followers to “shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
  •  The Tabernacle bread was always present on the table. Leviticus 24:5-7 describes the bread. This bread of the Presence was 1) made of fine flour, 2) baked in 12 loaves, 3) arranged in two piles of six loaves each on a table of pure gold, 4) covered with frankincense, and 5) served as a memorial food offering to the Lord. The bread could only be eaten by Aaron and his sons in a holy place and was set out every Sabbath day (Leviticus 24:8–9). In John 6:35, Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus is the holy one who provides the soul with sustenance and is ever present. 1st Corinthians 10:17 says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” In the world in which we live, Jesus’ followers represent God’s presence in the world today.
The temple of God. The light that shows God’s glory. The bread of God’s presence. Each of these descriptions from the Tabernacle are fulfilled in Jesus and passed onto and into his followers today. Our lives today, much like the Tabernacle in the ancient world, are to help connect people far from Jesus with his love, grace, mercy and truth.