Today’s reading includes Leviticus 16:29-18:30, Mark 7:24-8:10, Psalm 41:1-13, Proverbs 10:15-16.
As I studied several sources for the meaning of Leviticus 17, it was pointed out that before the tabernacle, each man could be his own priest. He could sacrifice whatever animal he wanted on whatever altar he created. And this “freedom” had led to much idolatry, as highlighted when the people created a golden calf. Many of the people unknowingly sacrificed to evil false gods and demonic influences. There needed to be order and accountability. That is why God was so detailed in His instructions. Every detail is listed and every detail was expected to be carried out—from the type, color, and texture of the clothing, to the type of animal and the process of sacrifice. This is because every detail had significance. Every detail pointed to a story God was writing and would one day “publish” to the world, through His Son, Jesus.
Look at what Psalm 96 says:
Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
2 Sing to the Lord; praise his name.
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
3 Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
4 Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
He is to be feared above all gods.
5 The gods of other nations are mere idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
As a book publisher and author, I can understand the process that one must go through to publish a book. There are so many details that go into such a product–idea concept, writing, editing, re-writing, graphic design, type-setting, print quotes, printing, release plans, marketing plans, and finally the book is published. It is ready, it is complete, it is readable. Customers can get the book and hold it and smell it and read it and enjoy it. But it still has to be marketed. The world will not know about the published book, if no one says anything about it. In my mind, this is a loose (maybe very loose) analogy of what it was like for God to “publish” His story of salvation through Jesus. Of course, He required no re-write nor editing—His salvation plan was perfect from the beginning. But it was not time yet. Until it was time, God chose to write the preview to the story through all the details we have been reading in the Old Testament. Know that perfect story has been completed. And because it is the best story we have ever had the privilege of knowing, we are now the publishers and marketers of this story, and we should publish our own accounts of how His story changed our story. Each day we should proclaim the good news that He saves. Each day we should publish His glorious deeds among the nations. Why? Because the gods of other nations, other sources, other imaginations, other outlets are mere idols. We can’t concoct our own version of God’s story. It is what it is. Only this story–found throughout the scriptures–and all its wonderful, intricate details is authored by the One who made the heavens.
In the same way, the people of ancient time could not write this story differently than God planned. They must do it exactly as God intended, for each detail was important. Each detail was a preview of the main attraction to come through Jesus.
This is what Matthew Henry had to say about Leviticus 17:
The reasons why God thus strictly ordered all their sacrifices to be offered at one place were, [1.] For the preventing of idolatry and superstition. That sacrifices might be offered to God, and according to the rule, and without innovations, they must always be offered by the hands of the priests, who were servants in God’s house, and under the eye of the high priest, who was ruler of the house, and took care to see every thing done according to God’s ordinance. [2.] For the securing of the honour of God’s temple and altar, the peculiar dignity of which would be endangered if they might offer their sacrifices any where else as well as there. [3.] For the preserving of unity and brotherly love among the Israelites, that meeting all at one altar, as all the children of the family meet daily at one table, they might live and love as brethren, and be as one man, of one mind in the Lord.III. How this law was observed.
As I continued through today’s reading I came across a very special verse which caused me to stop and reflect on its truth in my own life. It is found in Leviticus 18:1-4.
Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the Lord your God. 3 So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. 4 You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God.
Don’t take your cues for action from the places you have been in the past, nor the place you are now. Don’t act like the world. Don’t let the world around you influence your thinking, your speaking, your actions. Let your mind be renewed by the Word each day. That is your guide. And it is not for the sake of denying blessing from you, it is for the sake of attaining blessing for you. His way is not meant to deprive you, but to give you abundant life. Verse 5 goes on to say this:
5 If you obey my decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord.
This is the third time in this passage that God declares “For I am the Lord.” That is a good enough reason to obey Him. He is the Lord of Heaven and earth. And that is true whether we follow Him or not. But for believers, as the ones who have read the story and embraced it for themselves, there is the added phrase found in the first two instances of “for I am the Lord”. That added phrase is “your God”. He is the Lord of heaven and earth. And at His name, one day every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord, whether they follow Him or not. But for us, He is the Lord our God. He is ours—our deeply personal, intimate, Savior, Redeemer and Friend. And for Him we will choose to act differently than we have in our past. We will act differently than what we see around us in our present. We will act differently than the rest of the world because He is the Lord our God. May His sweet Spirit equip us with all we need for a life of godliness.