Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Learning from Leviticus:

I have a confession. The third book of the Old Testament drives me crazy. I get bored. It has been on of the reasons why I have failed to follow through with One-Year-Through-the-Bible reading plans. 
The problem isn’t that I feel a lack of usefulness or constructiveness in the book because I know (and I hope that you - if anyone actually will read this - do too) that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness... I have just gotten bogged down with how intricately demanding the book can seem. Let’s face it... I’m admitting here and now: I get bored with Leviticus.
I find myself smack in middle of it now and every day that I pick up to read, I get this sense of walking through a stinking, sweaty bog (think Dagobah all you Star Wars fans) trying to carry around a backpack full of bricks and sand that would take Arnold in his prime to lift. It’s just too much. The temptation would be to leave the backpack and hop the nearest X-wing out of there. But today was different.
Today, I started reading some of the requirements for people in the priesthood. Priests were to be utterly blameless, set apart for God’s work - to the point of not being in an acceptable state of “set apartness” to fulfill their priestly tasks if they had a wet dream the night before duty! As I am reading this today, I initially started shaking my head and thinking: “Who could have ever lived up to this standard?”
It was then that it occurred to me that the reason why we have this confoundedly frustrating book is to show us a glimpse of the measure of God’s holiness. It shows us today how much of our world has been tainted with sin from the earliest days. Even though some of the requirements and regulations held within the book have nothing to do with things that are sinful, God’s purity, set apartness, holiness - whatever you want to call it - demands nothing but the best. And the terrible truth is that none of us will ever measure up to that standard. Which led me to my next question:
“Did God set them (and in turn, us) up for failure?”
If the story stopped there all evidence would point toward the affirmative. This book tells me that I don’t have what it takes to walk before this God without fear and that any form of righteousness I make on my own is worthless. I believe that this word is still relevant today because God is still a holy God and His holiness hasn’t, doesn’t, won’t ever diminish. That means that even as a pastor, I’m in trouble. I WILL fail because I can’t measure up to the demands of that kind of holiness on my own.
It’s a good thing that I don’t have to.
Don’t get me wrong, you and I are still accountable to God. There are no loopholes. We will all have to stand (if we can even do that) before Him and give an account of how we lived. All secrets will be laid bare and everything done in darkness exposed. But the beauty of this moment is this: If you are a follower of Jesus, you won’t be standing alone. It may seem like God has set us up, but He’s also give us a way to make up.
Hebrews tells us that in Christ, our High Priest is from a different Order than that of Aaron in Leviticus. Where Aaron’s priesthood had to cleanse themselves before performing their duties, Christ is already pure and purifies us by proxy of our closeness to Him. As we draw nearer and nearer, He strips away those layers of sin and the things that we don’t intentionally do that harm others while replacing them with traits like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control as well as all kinds of personal disciplines. 
While Aaron’s priesthood continued to offer sacrifice after sacrifice to purify themselves and their people, Christ offered once and for all. And Christ’s sacrifice makes up all of the difference of where we fall short of this weighty law. It’s this fantastic thing called grace. So, do we just do whatever we please then? Well, that’s a different discussion and a different book of the Bible. Read Romans if you’re curious.
I say all of this to simply relay what I learned from Leviticus today.

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