Thursday, 6 February 2014

(38) February 7: Leviticus 1-3 & Matthew 24:23-51

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

Read Leviticus 1-3 & Matthew 24:23-51

To discover:­­
As you read consider the attitudes with which the Israelite would have brought the offerings.

To ponder:
Leviticus begins where Exodus leaves off. God speaks to Moses from his tent within the tabernacle. The book is titled “Leviticus” because it focuses on the regulations of the priests, who were from the tribe of Levi. It sets out how Israel are to be set-apart as holy. Throughout it should convict us of how much is necessary for sinners to even come close to God, and how gloriously Christ has brought us near. The early chapters deal with offerings assumed to be already known, and some of which had been offered by the patriarchs. But the instructions are more specific. This is necessary with God now present with Israel.
            As with our response to Christ, these offerings are voluntary, being brought by the worshipper themselves, whenever inclined to. They therefore particularly reflect faith and devotion. This is probably why we read they are “an aroma pleasing to the LORD.” Because of the attitude with which they are given, they give him joy as they come up before him.
The burnt offerings atone for sin. Whether bulls from the herd or sheep or goats from the flock, they are owned animals, representing and costing their owner. Birds could be offered by the poor, showing God was concerned not with the material value of the offering but the attitude with which it was offered. As is only fitting for God, each is to be dealt with carefully, with those from the herd and flock being the best - “without defect,” and unspoiled - “washed.” As previously, the laying of hands on their head reflects the transference of sin. The animal will “be accepted” on the sinners’ “behalf.” In other words their death is substituted for the sinners’, putting them at one with God.
            The grain offering was a “memorial” – perhaps reminding God of his commitment to provide. The incense and oil may have reflected the joy of the event before God. Part was to be offered to God and part given to the priests as God’s provision for them. Most think yeast and honey were forbidden as they cause fermentation – suggesting corruption or imperfection. Salt could not be destroyed in the ancient world. So it seems to be a reminder that the offering comes in the context of God’s everlasting covenant (2v13).
            Fellowship offerings were to be from the herd or flock and without defect. Hands were to be laid on the animal which was to be burnt on-top of the burnt offering. This suggests the offering probably symbolised the fellowship with God Israel enjoyed through atonement. The fat and blood is burned and the rest prepared and eaten by the priests. Of course God doesn’t actually eat (Ps 50v12-13). Nevertheless, the idea of food for a meal symbolised fellowship with him (3v16). Israelites were not to eat blood to stress the sacredness of life (Gen 9v4), nor the fat, perhaps because it was considered the best part and so for God.
We see the attitudes of the Christian life displayed here. We willingly come to Christ as our sacrifice of atonement, achieving fellowship with God that will one day be marked by a banquet. And in response to all he so generously provides, we give back to him and to his service. As Paul would say of the Philippians’ gifts to his ministry, they are “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Phil 4v18). Do we readily give of our time, energy and money recognising this?
Praying it home:
Praise God for making fellowship with him possible. Prayerfully consider your giving, and ask God to enable you to give more, with a heart of thankfulness and devotion.

Thinking further:
Read the NIV Study Bible introduction to Leviticus by clicking here.

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