Saturday, 15 February 2014

(47) February 16: Leviticus 22-23 & Mark 1:1-22

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

To discover:­­
As you read consider what the Lord is wanting Israel to remember by her festivals.

To ponder:
Respect by the priests for the offerings and cleanliness laws is critical. Disrespecting the former “profanes” God’s name by suggesting he is unholy, presumably by suggesting he doesn’t need atonement to draw near to the people. Ignoring the latter means the priest will be “cut off” from God’s presence, dying not because of something innate within the idea of being clean or unclean, but because of the sinful attitude of treating God’s requirements “with contempt” (22v9).
As for the requirements: If a priest is made unclean he cannot eat the part of the offerings that are his until made clean. And none outside his household should ever eat of it. If someone does by accident, they must make restitution. Moreover, God instructs all Israel that only sacrifices without defect should be offered, with the exception of 22v23 and according to the instructions of 22v28-33.
By this means God’s name is not profaned, but he is acknowledged as holy and the one who redeemed Israel to be his holy people. In other words, the whole point to the regulations we’ve been studying is to bring home God’s utter perfection, purity, orderliness and otherness, and so the great privilege and wonder that he would dwell amongst Israel, and the need for Israel herself to therefore be holy. Interestingly, the very elaborate nature of the sacrificial system would therefore affirm how utterly important obedience to God’s law in totality is. For us too, it should bring home these same things, but also the greatness of Christ’s achievement in purifying us. Indeed, every Christian is a member of God’s royal priesthood, yet none are excluded from his presence by sin, being made unclean, or by disability.
Chapter 23 relates the feasts at which Israel were to assemble (23v2). We are not commanded to keep festivals (Rom 15v5-6), but these have their parallels. First is the weekly Sabbath (remembering God as creator and redeemer). In part, our assembling on Sundays reflects this. Second is the key feast of Passover, followed immediately by the seven days of the feast of Unleavened Bread (remembering the Exodus). Good Friday falls on the Passover, followed by the seven days of what Christians call Easter Week. Third is the feast of Firstfruits included within the previous feast, and marking the beginning of harvest (offering God the firstfuits in acknowledgement of his provision). Paul speaks of Christ’s resurrection as the firstfruits of the great spiritual harvest, which we remember on Easter Day. Fourth, is the feast of Weeks or Pentecost, joyfully marking the end of the grain harvest seven weeks later (acknowledging God’s provision), with a reminder that the poor are to be left some of what is gathered. Christians celebrate Pentecost as a reminder of the spiritual harvest God is gathering. Fifth is the feast of Trumpets, marking the ingathering of grapes and olives at the end of harvest time. This was an autumn festival, held with the following two around the time Christians celebrate harvest. Sixth is the day of atonement ten days later, reminding the people that their enjoyment of the land seen in the harvest is linked to their sin being dealt with before God. The people were to “deny themselves,” presumably by abstaining from things. And those who didn’t were to be “cut off,” ie. destroyed by God (23v29-30 - confirming our previous understanding of this phrase). Seventh is the feast of Tabernacles or Booths, five days later, in which the people were to celebrate God’s provision for seven days, whilst making and living in booths to remind them of their reliance on God in the wilderness.

Praying it home:
Thank God for his great acts of redemption and provision in Christ the OT feasts look forward to. Pray that we would remember these things not just at key times, but continually.

Thinking further:
None today.

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