Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 21 Feb 18:
1. Leviticus 12 – The purification instructions in Leviticus 12 have symbolic purposes as well as practical medical benefits which modern medicine continues to discover thousands of years later (many yet to be realized). For example, concerning circumcision on the eighth day, “a newborn baby has peculiar susceptibility to bleeding between the 2nd and 5th days of life. Hemorrhages at this time can be critical and may even produce serious damage to internal organs, especially to the brain, and cause death from shock and exsanguination. An important bloodclotting element, vitamin K, is not formed in the normal amount until the 5th to the 7th day. The first safe day to perform circumcision would be the 8th day. A second element which is also necessary for the normal clotting of blood is prothrombin which is minimal in the first few days of the baby’s life, but skyrockets to 110% of normal on the 8th day and then levels off to 100%. An 8-day-old baby has more available prothrombin than on any other day of its entire life…. Also, with a child, the sensation of pain begins with the head, and gradually moves down the body. By the eighth day, the pain sensation has not yet gone as far down as the genital area. So, really it is a painless operation for the child on the eighth day, any longer and it would be painful, and the blood will coagulate on the eighth day, so, it was the ideal day for circumcision.” As for the quarantine rules related to childbirth, one can research the many medical benefits. As for the increased time for the birth of female babies, a cynic might suggest that this is some sort of biased penalty. However, not only do women face different post-partum hormonal imbalances after the birth of a female child, survivability likely increased for female babies who benefited from increased isolation, and female babies promised future reproduction, arguably making their survival even more important. All this having been said, the key takeaway is that we cannot limit God’s word to our very limited understanding.
2. Leviticus 12:8 – “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.” God has a heart for the poor.
3. Leviticus 13 – Leprosy is a lot like sin: It seems to come from nowhere, is painless at first, grows slowly, sometimes seems to come and go, produces a numbness to its spreading, causes death to the affected areas, makes a person unclean and disgusting, and potentially spreads to others. Like leprosy, those with untreated sin are like walking dead. Like leprosy, sin leads to isolation and broken relationships. Unlike others, Jesus engaged the lepers, those with apparently no hope and shunned by others. Jesus loved them and healed them when other religious ‘leaders’ avoided them and ostracized them. In OT times, it was left to the priests to determine how to treat the leper. The Bible says that we are priests, able to discern the needs of those plagued with sin, and the Holy Spirit uses us to bring healing to others.
4. Proverbs 21:1 – “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” God uses national leaders to bless or punish the people of a nation. The best way for a nation to ensure great leaders is to repent.
5. Proverbs 21:2 – “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” Only the Holy Spirit can reveal to you how you are deceiving yourself. Popular psychology recognizes the importance of being self-aware or introspective, but secular social sciences fail to solve social problems because only the Holy Spirit can expose and change the heart.
6. Proverbs 21:3 – “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Make your act of worship obedience to the Lord. Don’t try to make up for disobedience by doing some act that God never asked you to do in the first place. Just obey in the circumstances God puts before you, one day at a time.
7. Proverbs 21:9, 19 – “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife….. It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.” A quarrelsome and fretful person, whether it be a wife, husband, relative, close friend, or a business partner, can make your life miserable. Understand that your attitudes, words, and actions can have a dramatic impact on others. Someone said that people are like elevators, either bringing you up or bringing you down. What sort of elevator person are you? Some people are great at lifting up people outside of their homes while tearing down people within their homes – they treat friends better than family. However, the Bible says that if you don’t take care of your family, you are denying the faith. Do your friends like being with you more than your family does?
8. Proverbs 21:11 – “When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.” Do you require punishment or merely instruction to do what God commands? Someone once said that wisdom is understanding what you have never experienced. Wise people learn from God’s word and from watching the truth of God’s word play out in the lives of others. For example, God’s word says, “Don’t commit adultery.” You can trust and obey God’s word, you can observe and see the destructive impact of adultery in the lives of others, or you can commit adultery and experience destruction for yourself. God gives you the ability and the freedom to choose. You own the responsibility, but God owns the accountability.
9. Proverbs 21:13 – “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” God often treats you the way you treat others. If you are praying to received something from God that you are not willing to give to others, God sees through that, and you should not expect to receive that for which you are asking.
10. Proverbs 21:16 – “One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead.” People wander into death by paying attention to something other than the Good Shepherd.
11. Proverbs 21:17 – “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” Americans have cable, cell phones, nice cars, etc, but also have more debt than assets, less than a 2% savings rate, and they no longer tithe. Over half of US consumer debt is owned by China. What does God think about that?
12. Proverbs 21:24 — “’Scoffer’ is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.” The Bible uses the word “scoffer” 19 times. The word is mentioned in Proverbs 13 times. 2 Peter 3:3 says that “scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.” Scoffers are those who are too proud to humbly obey God. The Bible says that those people will increase.
13. Proverbs 21:26 – “All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.” Christians overcome the cravings that destroy others by, in part, focusing on giving to others.
14. Acts 10:1, 2 — “There was a man named Cornelius.., a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” One of the primary character traits of a true disciple is generous giving to the poor and needy (‘alms’ are gifts to the poor, above the tithe). Remember, just yesterday we read that Tabatha “was full of good works and acts of charity.” (Acts 9:36) Charity is the evidence of righteousness used for both Job and the Proverbs 31 woman. It is the mark of genuine worship and love for God, and it separates the true disciple from the hypocrite (actor). The generous giver is blessed by God. Twice today, Cornelius’ giving is praised — “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God…. Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.” (Acts 10:4, Acts 10:31) The kind of giving the Bible talks about is radical, shocking giving (see verses below), hands “wide” open. The Christian sees the need and then meets the need. Cornelius was known by both God and the community as a generous giver. Are you? Is charity one of the primary character traits others would use to describe you? Do you give like Job? Challenge: give to the poor today in a way that is felt by you as a true sacrifice.
– Matthew 19:21 — Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
– Deuteronomy 15:7-11 — “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
– Job 31:16-23 — “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow), if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty.
– Proverbs 19:17 — Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
– Proverbs 22:9 — Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.
– Proverbs 28:27 — Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
– Proverbs 31:20 — She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
– Ezekiel 16:49 — Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
– Deuteronomy 15:10-11 — You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
– Isaiah 58:10 — If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
– James 1:27 — Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
– 1 John 3:17 — But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
– Isaiah 25:4 — For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,
– Galatians 2:10 — Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
– Proverbs 14:21 — Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
– 2 Corinthians 9:7 — Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
– Luke 14:33 — So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
– Matthew 5:42 — Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
– Leviticus 25:35 — “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.
– Luke 3:11 — And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
– James 2:16-17 — And one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
15. Acts 10:2 – “…a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” In addition to his radical giving, Cornelius’ devoutness was evidenced by his continual prayer. Is that what you are known for? Both Cornelius’ uncommon charity and his prayer life were favored by God (v4), rendering Cornelius especially usable by God. How is your prayer life?
16. Acts 10:9-6 – Peter’s special vision of revelation was received during his time of prayer.
17. Acts 10:15 — “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Peter’s vision pertained to God’s acceptance of Gentiles, using dietary laws in a symbolic way. Peter’s vision may not have had direct implication to dietary laws.
18. Acts 10:25-29 – “When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him…. And he said to them, ‘You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.’” I don’t think our generation can fully appreciate the shocking significance of the events that occur in Acts 10: A Roman Centurion kneeling in reverence before a devout Messianic Jew who had agreed to enter his home despite Jewish law, all to mark the commencement of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. A Jew visiting a Centurion, and a Centurion bowing down to a Jew would have created a shocking, unthinkable scene in that day, challenging the deep-rooted beliefs and customs of all involved. However, the god-fearing men put God’s commands above all else and obeyed without hesitation, despite complete understanding. The power of God destroys all barriers. God does not celebrate diversity; He provides unity in Christ. God created the ‘universe’ – the combination of two words, unity and diversity. God brings different things and people in perfect order when He is as the center. This is not a “Coexist” moment where Cornelius and Peter make a public political statement of social tolerance or say, “I’m ok, and you’re ok.” No, this is two servants of God surrendering to the will of God for the glory of God. The message is “none of us are ok, apart from Christ;” however, “everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43).” Race, ethnicity, gender, social status, etc are not virtues. But nothing of man is virtuous – no man can boast. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
– 1 Corinthians 3:21 — So let no one boast in men.
19. Acts 10:34, 35 — “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” God shows no partiality; do you? In God’s economy, there are only two classes of people – saved and unsaved. Christians should reject all other social classifications or stratifications.
20. Acts 10:43 – “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” This is the Gospel we are called to preach. There is no other name by which a person may be saved but the name of Jesus.
21. Acts 10:47, 48 – “’Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.” Baptism was immediate, and the church put no obstacles in the way of immediate baptism.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 21 Feb: Make today a special day of charity and prayer. Make your charity and prayer especially noteworthy today. (Acts 10)