Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 23 April 2022:
Leviticus 21:5-8 – “They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body. They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy. They shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband, for the priest is holy to his God. You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.
As you consider the standards set forth for priests in Leviticus, consider their implications to you as a priest, which is what you are as Christ’s ambassador –
- 1 Peter 2:4-6 — As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
- 1 Peter 2:9-10 — But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
As a new creation in Christ, you are called out to a new standard of holiness (God’s standard of holiness) because you “offer the LORD’s food offerings, the bread of their God,” which is Jesus Christ and His sacred teachings –
- Ephesians 1:4 — …even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love.
- 1 Peter 1:15, 16 — …but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
- John 6:33, 35 – “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world….” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
John 6:48, 51 – “I am the bread of life…. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Christians are called to keep their bodies pure, undefiled by sin, and physically healthy, and they don’t put markings on their bodies to make personal statements because their bodies are temples of the Lord (not their own property) –
- 1 Corinthians 3:16 — Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
- 1 Corinthians 6:19 — Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own….
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 — So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- Jude 1:8 — Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.
Christians don’t divorce or marry into divorce because God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), and because marriage represents Christ’s love for the church (Ephesians 5:22-32) – “I will not leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5), and Jesus was very specific – “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32)
We are clearly saved by grace through faith and Jesus Christ and no longer under the Old Covenant laws, but having been saved by faith, we are called to live Godly lives as new creations empowered by the Holy Spirit and motivated by genuine love. Perhaps you bear the marks of your former sins (a scarred body and/or broken relationships), but put those former ways behind you and dedicate yourself wholly as a priest of God for His glory, not as a way of earning His merit but as a way of demonstrating your love for Him and for others.
- Ephesians 4:17-24 — Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Leviticus 21:17-22 — “‘If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death…. whoever kills a man must be put to death. You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.’”
Many opposed to the death penalty will site the Sixth Commandment in King James English, “Thou shalt not kill” as their reasoning (See Exodus 20). However, they fail to notice the penalty of death which comes with breaking this commandment. A better translation of the Sixth Commandment is “You shall not murder.” The authority for the death penalty was given by God and applied equally to all – “I am the Lord your God.” In fact murder wasn’t the only crime which warranted the death penalty in the Old Testament; so did other sins such as rape, homosexuality and blasphemy. It is interesting and timely that our OT readings describe the conditions required and the process for stoning, while the NT readings describe the stoning of Paul (as mentioned previously, the only other stoning in the NT was when Paul held the coats for Stephen’s stoning). The command in Leviticus was, “All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him (Leviticus 24:13)” – placing a burden of responsibility on the witnesses for the death of the guilty party. Notice that it doesn’t appear that anyone placed hands on Paul who, of course, wasn’t truly guilty. In the case where Jesus saved the alleged adulterer from getting stoned, you may have noticed that then too, the accusers were guilty of not following the Levitical law for stoning (no guilty man present, no evidence, etc). To follow God’s Laws we must know God’s Laws.
- Matthew 22:29 — Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
Psalm 46:10, 11 — “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Relax. God is God, and He is with you and will protect you. Be still and be stable, immovable in your confidence in the Lord – “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
“Perseverance is more than endurance. It is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen. Perseverance means more than just hanging on, which may be only exposing our fear of letting go and falling. Perseverance is our supreme effort of refusing to believe that our hero is going to be conquered. Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated. Also, our fear is that the very things our Lord stood for— love, justice, forgiveness, and kindness among men— will not win out in the end and will represent an unattainable goal for us. Then there is the call to spiritual perseverance. A call not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately, knowing with certainty that God will never be defeated.” (Oswald Chambers)
If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified. Every hope or dream of the human mind will be fulfilled if it is noble and of God. But one of the greatest stresses in life is the stress of waiting for God. He brings fulfillment, “because you have kept My command to persevere…” (Revelation 3:10).
Continue to persevere spiritually.
Proverbs 23:7 — “…he is like one who is inwardly calculating.”
There is no merit in good deeds done for self-interest, self-glory, or personal gain, regardless of how we sell it or put a sacrificial cloak on it. Beware of the WIIFM – “What’s in it for me.” The gift that is worth giving is the one that is most valuable and costly to you. Truly loving and virtuous giving is done purely sacrificially, with no credit given to the giver and with no benefit such as bragging rights – it is costly, uncomfortable, and risky. Consider some of the things Jesus taught about giving and the giving demonstrated by His disciples:
- Matthew 6:1-4 — Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
- Mark 12:41-44 — And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
- 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15 — We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. …
- John 3:16-17 — For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
The unacceptable works of the flesh have both an obviously negative side (overt sin), and a less obvious, deceptively positive side (good deeds done out of self-righteousness), which is merely vanity disguised as virtue, acts of charity done by actors. God is not impressed with our self-righteous, self-edifying good deeds – “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6) A right thing done in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons is not “right”-eous before the Lord. While our outward acts of charity might gain us favor with humanity, they are wood, hay, and straw in the fire of God’s holiness. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) Jesus was clear – “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:3) Our most basic form of lust is “approbation lust” – the desire to be recognized, to promote oneself. Approbation lust goes down two paths – the path of ascetism (self-denial leading to self-righteousness) and/or lasciviousness (self-gratification leading to licentiousness). Both paths lead to death. The path of life is to die of self, pick up our cross daily, and follow Jesus. Give ALL glory to God and God alone. Might this make you irrelevant? Not in God’s sight — Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)
Proverbs 23:10, 11 — “Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.”
Jesus protects the weak. When people work against the weak, they are challenging Jesus.
Proverbs 23:13, 14 — “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”
God disciplines you to keep you from destruction. Be grateful for His discipline.
Proverbs 23:13, 14 – “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”
Yes, the Bible promotes spanking your children, but not in emotional anger, rather in love to save them from future pain. Sometimes words simply aren’t enough for a rebellious child.
Proverbs 23:17 – “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.”
Obey and follow God; don’t just do what is popular.
Proverbs 23:20, 21 – “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”
How many churches who are adamant about not drinking have an obesity problem within their congregation? Excessive eating and drinking are both sinful and point to our need of a Savior and the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the spiritual gift of self-control.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 April 22: Resolve not to get worried about news, politics, and the craziness of life around you. Rather, “be still,” and trust God. When others start talking about politics and politicians, talk about Jesus and the Ways of God. Proclaim the truth in love and remain calm. Remind people that only Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the only true hope for peace and unity. (Psalm 46)