Wednesday, 12 February 2014

(44) February 13: Leviticus 15-17 & Matthew 27:1-31

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider the reasons God gives for the various regulations.

To ponder:
There are reasons to everything God requires. The suggestion is that all the “discharges” mentioned stem from the male and female sexual organs. And they make people particularly unclean, contaminating much they touch. Although this may be because of the link between sex and the transmission of sin to each generation, this does not suggest the discharges themselves are somehow wrong. Rather, they are unfitting or unacceptable in the context of worship. Indeed, it is explicitly stated that these regulations are to protect the people so they “will not die” for “defiling” God’s “dwelling place” (15v31). In other words, if unclean people were to come to the tabernacle to offer sacrifices they would be destroyed. The holy perfection of God’s presence and the imperfections of this world just cannot co-exist.
            All this stresses the need for the day of atonement in which the nation were purified and forgiven their sin from the previous year. Because of God’s presence over the atonement cover to the ark, this was the only time the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place (16v2), and even then needed incense to conceal the cover (16v13). He must first dress, wash, make a sin offering for himself and his household, and then kill a goat as a sin offering for the people. With both offerings he then cleanses the Most Holy Place, Tabernacle and altar from being contaminated by his and Israel’s sin. This would enable the LORD to remain amongst them without destroying them (16v16-20). The High Priest is then to lay hands on a second goat, confessing Israel’s sins over it, before sending it into the desert, testifying that Israel’s sins have been dealt with and removed. After undressing and washing again, the High Priest must then offer a burnt offering for himself and the people. Because of their contamination, whatever remained is to be burned outside the camp, and the man dealing with them wash himself before returning.
The whole day is marked out as a Sabbath. On it, the people are “cleansed” so that “before the LORD” they “will be clean from all” their sins (16v30). In other words they are purified and forgiven so that they can worship God and survive his presence amongst them. However, the whole drama actually showed that Israel (and even the other priests) were not able to come truly close to God, as they couldn’t enter the Most Holy Place. Moreover, this meant that the Old Testament sacrifices never fully dealt with sin so that the worshipper’s conscience had no fear before God’s holiness. The way to all this was yet to be disclosed (Heb 9v6-10).
            Chapter 17 provides a transition. On pain of death it forbids offering sacrifices anywhere but the tabernacle because of Israel’s tendency to idolatry (17v7).The serious penalty is therefore to protect Israel against unfaithfulness which would bring destruction on a much larger scale. There is wisdom here on our keeping clear of temptation.
            As mentioned previously, eating blood is forbidden to underline that God has given it to “make atonement” because “the life of the creature is in the blood” (17v11). Since Genesis 2 death has been the penalty for sin. So the life of the animal is taken in the place of the sinful Israelite, so they can remain before God. This explains the New Testament focus on Christ’s blood.
Praying it home:
Praise God for that we have access to his Most Holy Place in heaven through our great High Priest. Pray for God’s help to keep you well away from any temptations you are facing at the moment.

Thinking further:
None today.

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