Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19: Leviticus 7:28 – 9-6; Psalm 37:12-29; Proverbs 10:5; Mark 3:31-4:25



Overview

            Leviticus: A peace offering includes the animal’s breast that the person waves before the Lord. The breast is not burned but belongs to the priest. The right thigh is also given to the priest. This is the last of the instructions about the different offerings.
            The consecration of Aaron and his sons as priest is recounted. It details all that Moses did to dress Aaron including placing the Urim and Thummim in the breastplate. He used the anointing oil to anoint the tabernacle, the altar, utensils, and Aaron’s head. He dresses Aaron sons.
            Aaron and his sons brought the bull of the sin offering and laid their hands on its head. Moses sprinkled the blood as prescribed, burned the prescribed parts, and took the rest outside the camp and burned it. Then they did the same with the first ram. The second ram was a bit different with Moses putting blood on Aaron’s and his sons’ right ear lobes, right thumbs, and right big toes. The right thigh of the animal is also burned with the other specified parts. A loaf of the unleavened bread is anointed and placed on the right thigh. Before being burned the thigh and bread are waved by Aaron and his sons.
            Moses sprinkles the anointing oil and blood on Aaron, his garments, and his sons. Aaron and his sons are then to eat at the entrance to the tent of meeting what is left of the bread and meat that is boiled. What they don’t eat is to be burned. They are not to leave the tabernacle area for seven days.
            On the eighth day, Moses tells Aaron and his sons to bring a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He tells the people to take a male goat for a sin offering, a calf and a lamb for a burnt offering, an ox and a ram for a peace offering along with the grain offering. He says that the Lord will appear to them. So they brought everything.
            Psalm: There is a contrast drawn between the righteous and the wicked. The wicked plot against and seek to harm the righteous, but the Lord laughs at their attempts. He thwarts their plans and they ultimately perish. On the other hand, the Lord takes care of the righteous, even when they have little. They will inherit the earth. The ways of the righteous and wicked are also contrasted. The advice is to turn from evil and do good because the Lord loves justice.
            Proverbs: If we don’t work but sleep the day away, we bring shame to ourselves and our parents.
            Mark: Previously, Jesus’ mother and brothers thought he was crazy and now they appear where he is teaching. They want to take him away. But he simply says that those who were learning from him were his brothers, sisters, and mother.
            When teaching by the sea, Jesus had to use the boat that he had previously asked his disciples to make available. He sat in the boat and taught those on the shore. He taught in parables. He taught the parable of the sower where grain fell on different kinds of soil and produced nothing or much depending on the soil. The disciples asked about the parables. He explained that the kingdom of heaven was revealed to them in the parables but those outside would not understand. He explained the meaning of the parable in that the seed was the word of God. The seed that fell on soils that did not produce represented people where the word didn’t produce results for one reason or another.
            In another parable he said that hidden things are like a light that isn’t kept under a basket but put on a stand. Everything come to light. So pay attention and what you learn will increase and if you don’t understand, even the little that is understood will be taken away.

What Stood Out

            Leviticus: “And he placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim” (Lev 8:8).
            Psalm: “But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming” (Ps 37:13).
            Proverbs: “He who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (Prov 10:5).
            Mark: “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables” (Mark 4:11).

Insight

            Leviticus: Two things included in Aaron’s breastplate were the Urim and Thummim. They knew what they were or they would have been explained. However, now, no one knows exactly what these two objects were. The Hebrew words translate to lights and perfection. Various theories have been proposed over the years, such as some kind of stones that were used like a lottery, stones that would glow or become dark, or stones or gold engraved with God’s name and attributes of light and perfection used for meditation.[1] However it worked, every time the high priest came before the Lord he bore “the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly” (Ex 28:30). The purpose is described in other passages to give the high priest an answer from God according to the guilt or innocence of a person (1 Sam 14:41) or other decisions that only the Lord could provide (Ezra 2:63).
            At some point in history, they were lost and no one seems to know when or where. However, it may have been even before they were lost that Israel stopped using them. Even in Ezra and Nehemiah it appears that they may have had them but didn’t have a priest to use them (Ezra 2:63, Neh 7:65). Their use also seems to have diminished as the Lord spoke directly to prophets.
            It is obvious that hearing from God or learning of his decisions by use of these devices is no longer in God’s plan. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb 1:1-2). Jesus said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). When we have Jesus’ word in our hearts, not just over our hearts like the Urim and Thummim, we have life eternal. Aaron bore the judgment of Israel before the Lord, but Jesus bore our sins taking away the judgment of God for punishment and replacing it with the judgment of righteousness in Jesus. When we want to know God’s will we only have to go his word, the Bible. If we need decisions, we can ask God for wisdom and he will give it as long as we aren’t double minded and looking only for confirmation of our own evil desires (James 1:5-15).
            Psalm: There is very little in the Bible that describes God as one who laughs. Jesus talks about his joy and that we will have a fullness of his joy (John 15:11). But only a few places speak of God laughing. They are found in Psalm 2:4, 37:15, 59:8, and Proverbs 1:26. In each case, God laughs at, not with, those who think they can oppose God, overcome the righteous, think God will not notice their evil, or are fools who ignore his wisdom. This isn’t the laughter of joy and merriment. We experience this laughter when we see someone do something so unbelievably stupid that it surprises us. While nothing surprises God, he still has that same laughter regarding these people. The only thing I can say about this is that we don’t want to hear God laughing at us. If we do, then we are in big trouble. When we think we can sin because God doesn’t see us or the he will never punish our sin, then we are in trouble. When we ignore God’s counsel in the Bible and rush headlong into bad decisions resulting in calamity, God laughs at us (Pr 1:26).
            Thankfully, we can repent and his laughter will be turned to joy.
            Proverbs: I remember growing up on a farm and I didn’t like bring in the hay. It wasn’t that the job was hard, I just wanted to do other things. Being lazy and avoiding work, whether to sleep or pursue other leisure is simply shameful in God’s eyes.
            Mark: Previously, I said that the Bible is an open book for everyone to read. Christianity isn’t some kind of secret religion where only the elite understand. This passage about the parables seems to say the opposite. Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 to explain that the parables are a way of teaching so that only those who really want to seek God will be able to understand. The problem is not that Christianity contains some esoteric rules and regulation that only the elite can understand. The problem is that some people’s hearts are hardened against God. They can listen to a parable and understand that it was said to reveal their sin (Mark 12:12). The problem is that they don’t want to repent. If they did, then they would be forgiven, but since their desire is to continue in their sin, they won’t be forgiven.
            Even the disciples were slow to understand the parable. If Jesus hadn’t explained the sower and the seeds, I’m quite sure we would not understand it either. In fact, that parable is still debated. No one questions the part where Satan steals the seed. Those people are not Christians. Neither is there debate about those that bear fruit. They are Christians. But I’ve witnessed the debates about the others. Some say that only those who produce fruit are really Christians. Others say that even the ones that sprang up a short time are Christians because they can’t lose their salvation if they believed. Then there is debate about fruit. Some say if we aren’t winning others to Christ, then we aren’t producing fruit. Others say the fruit is the same as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
            Jesus said we will know a tree by its fruit in the same as we know a good person by what he produces out of his heart (Luke 6:43-45). If a person never produces any good things, then the implication is that person isn’t a Christian. The parable of the light under a basket underscores one thing. Everything will be exposed and come to light. Secret things will be made known. The problem is that we may not know in this lifetime the true heart of a person. And we will be judged by the measure by which we judge others. So if we believe that a person is a Christian when they exhibit the qualities of a Christian then we have no excuse for doing less.

Application

            I don’t want God to laugh at me. I don’t want to be a person who has no understanding of God’s word or live a life that some can look at and question my faith in Jesus. Therefore, I need to be one who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, demonstrates the qualities of a Christian.


[1] Merrill Frederick Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Urim and Thummim,” (Chicago: Moody, 1988), Biblesoft.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February 18: Leviticus 6 – 7:27; Psalm 37:1-11; Proverbs 10:3-5; Mark 3:7-30



Overview

            Leviticus: Now we are getting to sins against the Lord by doing wrong to another person. The wrong must be righted and a fifth added to the value of things taken. In addition, the person must take a ram without blemish or its equivalent to the priest for a guilt offering.
            More regulations for the priests: they are to keep the fire burning on the altar continually. They are to remove the ashes each morning, change clothes, and take the ashes outside. When they eat the grain offering, they must do it in the court of the tent of meeting. Only males may eat it.
            When a priest is anointed, he must make a grain offering.
            The sin offering is to be killed in the same place as the burnt offering. The priest are to eat their portion in the court of the tent of meeting. If blood is splashed on an object, it must be washed in a holy place (in the court of the tent of meeting) because whatever the meat touches becomes holy. The meat the priest eats must be boiled. If in an earthenware pot, it must be broken afterwards, if in a bronze pot then it must be scoured. However if the blood of a sin offering is taken inside the holy place to make atonement, then the sin offering may not be eaten but burned in the fire.
            Rules for the guilt offering are repeated and some additions provided; it is the same as the sin offering. The priest that offers it may keep the skin of the animal. If it is a grain offering then he shares the remaining grain with all the other sons of Aaron.
            More nuances for the peace offering are provided. No meat may be left until morning. If it is a vow or freewill offering it may be kept one more day but not a third day. Anyone who eats it on the third day has sinned.
            If any of the flesh of an offering touches something unclean, it because unclean and may not be eaten. If an unclean person eats the offering, he will be cut off from his people. No one may eat the fat of an animal or the blood. If they do, they must be cut off from his people. They may use the fat of an animal not used as an offering for anything but food.
            Psalm: David tells us that we don’t need to fret about evil people or get upset when we see them doing wrong. Their end will come soon enough. While they are doing evil, we must delight in the Lord and commit our ways to him. He will take care of us and our righteousness will be as bright as the noonday sun. So we are not to get angry or envy them, they will be no more but the righteous will inherit the land.
            Proverbs: The Lord takes care of the righteous so they don’t go hungry but wicked people don’t get what they crave. Examples are lazy people versus workers.
            Mark: More and more people come to Jesus from Tyre and Sidon. They crush in on him so that he told the disciples to get a boat ready for him. People pressed in to be healed and demons cried out that he is the Son of God. He silenced them.
            He then went up on a mountain and called disciples to him as he desired. He chose twelve of the disciples to be apostles who would be with him, to teach, and cast out demons.
            Then he went home where crowds came so that he couldn’t eat. His family went to take him away because they thought he was crazy.
            The scribes said he was possessed by Beelzebub. So Jesus told a parable asking how Satan could cast out himself. It would mean there was no one in charge and his kingdom would not stand. He concludes that all sins can be forgiven except blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

What Stood Out

            Leviticus: “If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the Lord by deceiving his neighbor …” (Lev 6:2).
            Psalm: “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!” (Ps 37:1).
            Proverbs: “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Prov 10:4).
            Mark: “And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him” (Mark 3:9).

Insight

            Leviticus: At the beginning of this passage, the Lord clearly teaches that sins against people are first and foremost sins against him. This is one of the most overlooked concepts in the world. When someone does something to us, we focus on the fact that we are a victim. We have been wronged. We must have justice. However, this one phrase, “If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the Lord by deceiving his neighbor …” (Lev 6:2), clearly reveals that God is offended first. The verse lists several other offences so it isn’t like it is a comprehensive list either. Look at what the Lord said to David after he committed adultery and murder, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?” (2 Sam 12:9). When confronted, David understood that his sin was first against God (2 Sam 12:13).
            Our problem is that we think too much of ourselves and too little of God or our neighbor. When we see ourselves as the focal point of offences instead of God, we do all sorts of crazy things. We want vengeance, we want to punish the person, we don’t want to forgive. When we recognize that God has been offended, we can approach our hurts from the perspective that it is his job to take care of the offenders (Prov 20:22, Rom 12:19). Don’t get me wrong, we also have a responsibility in society to report crimes, confront others when they sin against us (Matt 18:15-17), but when we recognize who has been harmed the most (Jesus on the cross), then we can approach all these things without the horrible pitfalls of bitterness and human anger.
            Psalm: This Psalm fits right in with what I said about Leviticus. When we are delighting in the Lord and committing our way to him, we can see the sins of the world through God’s eyes. Their time on earth is short and their eternity is nothing but anguish forever. How should we view them in light of this? Rather than becoming angry or fretting over what they are doing, we need to first focus on God. When we are doing what he wants, then we will be a contrast to their evil. Hopefully, we will be able to witness to them and help them see that they need to get right with Jesus. If they don’t, they will be no more.
            Proverbs: There are several verses about the righteous never going hungry (Ps 34:9, Ps 37:25). This proverb adds two verses after it that shows that the righteous are not going hungry because they are industrious. They work. It doesn’t mean that disasters won’t happen. They happen to everyone, good and bad alike. But the opposite is true of wicked people. Whatever they crave, they can never get enough. “They have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Eph 4:19 NIV, 1984). Think about that for a while. God thwarts their cravings but they always lust for more.
            Mark: The region of Tyre and Sidon’s population is primarily Gentiles. People heard about him and so many people came that he had to have a boat ready to escape. We often wonder why Jesus told people not to tell about being healed or why he silenced the demons that tried to proclaim him as the Messiah. This is one example of why he did this. The people were coming for the wrong reasons. They wanted to be healed. They wanted a prosperity Messiah, one who would take care of their needs. The result was making it almost impossible for Jesus to teach.
            The demons may have had another agenda. They wanted the religious leaders to understand that he is the Messiah long before his time comes. If they could get Jesus killed at the wrong time, it would nullify Scripture and prove God is not in control. They also could have wanted more people coming for the wrong reasons and that would hamper his ministry.
            But Jesus is in control. At this point in his ministry, he selects those that he wants to follow him. He may have selected more than the twelve Apostles, but the emphasis is on the twelve. These are the ones that are going to be his inner circle. He will soon withdraw from public ministry and focus on the disciples he has called.
            Jesus called us all to make disciples. We should be pouring our lives into a few people. This should start within our own family, our spouses, and children. Depending on our calling, we may expand this to a few more. But one thing is certain, we can’t minister to everyone. We do have to pick and choose.

Application

            I need to be careful about being a victim. It is easy to be offended by someone and take it personally, especially when witnessing. The lesson to focus on God and his kingdom helps me realize that there are a lot of wicked people out there who are hurting. They don’t get what they want and sin to get it but are never satisfied. I don’t want to add to the problem by getting mad at them. I want to give them grace to see Jesus.

Friday, February 17, 2017

February 17: Leviticus 4 – 5; Psalm 36; Proverbs 10:1-2; Mark 2:13-3:6



Overview

            Leviticus: The sin offering if for anyone who unintentionally commits a sin. If it is a priest, then his sin brings guilt on the whole community. The offering is a bull. The person lays his hand on the bull’s head then kills it. The priest must sprinkle some of the blood seven times in front of the veil to the sanctuary. He dips his finger in the blood to do it. He also puts some on the horn of the altar of incense. The same parts are burned as the peace offering. The rest is carried outside the camp and burned on the ash heap.
            If the whole congregation sins unintentionally, then the elders bring a bull and lay their hands on its head. If a leader sins unintentionally, then he shall bring a goat and do the same thing. If it is a lamb, it must be a female without blemish. The process is similar to the other sin offerings. The priest makes atonement for the leader.
            Regulations for identifying certain sins are described: failing to testify when a witness, touching unclean things, rash oaths. The sinner must bring a female lamb or goat. If he is poor, he must bring two turtledoves or two pigeons. If he is even too poor for that, he must bring a tenth of an ephah of fine flour. The priest offers the sacrifice as specified previously.
            Unintentional breach of faith concerning the holy things requires compensation of a ram of proper value without blemish. He must also make restitution and add a fifth of the value. If a person does something forbidden even if he doesn’t know it, he must bring a ram of proper value without blemish when it is discovered.
            Psalm: David starts with the fact that wicked people deceive themselves by thinking God doesn’t see or punish them. He then speaks of God’s unfailing love and righteousness. He expresses the benefits of living in the shadow of God’s wings delighting in him. He ends by asking for love to continue for the righteous and protection to keep evil people from turning him away from God. He looks back on evil people and sees them as being crushed.
            Proverbs: These are two seemingly unrelated proverbs. There is the contrast of a wise and a foolish son and their relationship with parents. The second verse contrasts God’s dealing with a righteous person and a wicked one.
            Mark: Jesus continues to teach in open areas as people come to him. When he passes Levi the tax collector, Jesus calls him to follow him. He goes to Levi’s house to eat with other tax collectors and sinner. The scribes and Pharisees ask why he is eating with sinners. Jesus answers that he came to call sinners, not the righteous.
            John’s disciples asked why Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast. Jesus’ reply they can’t fast when they are with the bridegroom. When the bridegroom is taken away, they will fast. He also says you can’t patch a garment with new cloth or it will tear; you can’t put new wine in old wineskins or it will burst.
            When his disciples eat grain they plucked while walking through a field, the Pharisees point out it is unlawful on the Sabbath. Jesus uses the Old Testament example of David eating the bread of the Presence, which was also unlawful. So he says the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Son of Man is lord over the Sabbath.
            On the Sabbath, Jesus entered a synagogue where there was a man with a withered hand. He asked if it was legal to do good or bad, save a life or to kill on the Sabbath. He becomes angry when they don’t reply. He heals the man’s hand and the Pharisees go out to plot with the Herodians how to kill Jesus.

What Stood Out

            Leviticus: “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the Lord,  he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued in silver shekels” (Lev 5:15).
            Psalm: “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds” (Ps 36:5).
            Proverbs: “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,  but righteousness delivers from death” (Prov 10:2).
            Mark: “I came not to call the righteous,  but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

Insight

            Leviticus: The list of laws, sins, and regulation for what to do starts to get overwhelming. Today’s reading is addressing unintentional sins. Some are against the holy things. To determine what this means requires a look at the Law and finding out what the Lord called holy. Some of these are redeeming the first-born, not offering firstfruits or tithes. When the person realizes what he forgot to do, he has to make it up by offering a sacrifice of equal value and then adding a fifth. It would probably be easy to bring some firstfruits and not realize it was not enough. Procedures for intentional sins will be discussed tomorrow.
            The modern day equivalent would be unintentional mistakes on taxes. Once discovered, we have to make it up and if it is significant, pay a penalty. There is a big difference between unintentional sins and intentional ones. Just ask the IRS when a person purposely cheated. They are usually lenient if the person confesses and comes to them. However, it the IRS finds out and prosecutes, the consequences are quite different.
            The way God deals with sin in the sacrifices is a foreshadow of our own judicial system. But we must remember that these laws had a greater purpose. They were to show that we couldn’t possibly keep them all perfectly (Gal 2:16, James 2:10). God is gracious in providing a way to have atonement through the law, but it was a foreshadow of what Jesus would do for all sins for all time (Heb 10:1).
            Psalm: The first four verses of the Psalm simply tell the depth of wickedness there is in the hearts of those who don’t know God. They think they are OK and they aren’t satisfied unless they are plotting evil. It is a very good description of the world. They either deny the existence of God or don’t believe that God will find out or do anything about it. We should never underestimate the ability and desire of unsaved people to do or plan what is against God.
            But God’s love and righteousness are unlimited. They stretch to the heavens. As far as we can see and beyond is a picture of how infinite they are. This love is not for the aforementioned wicked people, it is for those take refuge in God. The rivers of his delight expresses how abundant are our lives, not in wealth, but in righteousness and joy because we are in his presence. We can only partake of that when we are walking in his light giving us light to see.
            David’s prayer not to be driven away from God by the wicked is something we should all pray. It is easy to look at the world and be tempted by its delights. The bottom line, though is that their end is to be crushed flat instead of eternity with Jesus.
            Proverbs: It’s too bad that many fathers in this world want to push their sons into many things but neglect what is important. We should be more pleased with a son who is walking in integrity and wisdom even if he doesn’t excel in sports or scholastics over a son who excels in these things but is foolish. Mothers probably do the same, but they also have a keen sense of sorrow when their children are wayward.
            Mark: I wonder what the Pharisees thought after Jesus said he came to call sinners, not the righteous. The way we act today, I suspect they did the same. They probably thought for a few minutes that it was very appropriate. He was associating with the sinners. Since he isn’t having dinner with me, that means I’m righteous and in no need of salvation. It’s the old “I’m better than the sinner” complex. We can see the sins of those around us, especially those who are often “down and out.” But, we can’t see our own sins.
            Even John’s disciples were having a problem with Jesus’ new way of relating with people and even with God. They had spent much time with John, who fasted and even denied himself physical pleasures in his ascetic lifestyle. He went so far as to eat only locust and honey. So here is Jesus and his disciples eating well, dining with tax collectors who could afford the good food. Jesus assures them that things will be different after he is gone, but the important thing is to realize that Jesus brought something new. He brought the kingdom of God. Trying to stuff the kingdom of God into the framework of the Pharisees or even John’s austere lifestyle is not going to work.
            We run into the same problem with traditional churches. “We’ve always done it this way,” they claim when people want to make changes. They look around and see that out of one hundred people, eighty-five are retired and only twenty-five are younger; only a few of those still have children at home. But they don’t want to change because they are afraid that their wineskins will break. Indeed, some do break when their songs are not the “good old hymns.” They complain and gripe. But the real problem isn’t that the new is bad, the problem is that they put traditions and comfort before the moving of the Holy Spirit. The result is a slow death for those who are unwilling to march to the Lord’s tune.

Application

            I’m prone to the same problem as the Pharisees and John’s disciples. I can see how things were done in the old days and think that was the best. This may be anything from the way an altar call is made for salvation or the way someone should witness. The real thing I need to do is be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 16: Leviticus 1 – 3; Psalm 35:17-28; Proverbs 9:13-18; Mark 1:29-2:12



Overview

            Leviticus: These three chapters specify the laws for burnt offerings, grain offerings, and peace offerings. The burnt offering may be from the herd (cattle), flock (sheep or goat), or a bird. When a person brings an animal, it must be a male and must be without blemish. The person lays his hands on its head to make atonement for the person. He must then kill and butcher the animal. The priests collect the blood and throw it on the altar. The priests take care of the fire and washing the legs and entrails before putting them on the altar. If the animal is a bird, the priest wrings its neck, removes the crop, and throws it in the ashes on the east side of the altar. The blood is drained on the altar then it is torn open before it is burnt.
            The grain offering may be flour, baked bread, ears, already roasted, or crushed new grain. It must all be unleavened and no honey may be burned. The flour will only be a handful and the priest will pour oil and frankincense on it. It is to be seasoned with salt. The baked bread will be broken and a portion burned. The remaining portions are given to the priest as their allotment.
            The peace offering is almost the same as the burnt offering. It may be a female or male animal. It is not an atonement. Only the fat covering the entrails, kidneys, and long lobe of the liver is burned. Depending on the animal, some other fat parts are also included. The blood is thrown on the side of the altar. All the fat is the Lords. No one is to eat blood or fat.
            Psalm: David continues in this Psalm crying out for God to vindicate him. He wonders how long God is going to put up with all the crud his enemies are exhibiting toward him. He recounts some more things they have done. He almost gets accusative when he asks God to awaken and rouse himself (Ps 35:23). But then it’s as if he thinks about that and realize any vindication must be done according to God’s righteousness (Ps 35:24). He praises God in the end but it is for taking care of him.
            Proverbs: Folly is personified in almost the same way as wisdom. The end of folly is the depths of Sheol.
            Mark: Continuing in rapid narration, Mark tells of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law and all who came in the evening from the whole city. In the morning, Jesus goes out to pray in a desolate place. The disciples find him and tell him everyone is looking for him. Rather than going to the people, he leaves and goes from town to town.
            Jesus heals a leper and commands him to tell no one but the priests and make the offering for his cleansing. But the leper told everyone and so many people came to him that he stayed in desolate places.
            Jesus returned to Capernaum and many people came to his home so that no more could enter. Four men brought a paralytic, dug through the roof, and lowered the man down in front of Jesus. Jesus told the man his sins were forgiven and the scribes thought he was blaspheming because only God can forgive sins. Jesus knew their thoughts and healed the man telling them that it was proof he had authority to forgive sins. Everyone was amazed and glorified God.

What Stood Out

            Leviticus: “Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord, … Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces” (Lev 1:5-6).
            Psalm: “Vindicate me, O Lord, my God, according to your righteousness, and let them not rejoice over me!” (Ps 35:24).
            Proverbs: “‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ And to him who lacks sense she says …” (Prov 9:16).
            Mark: “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10).

Insight

            Leviticus: I had not seen before that the person bringing the burnt offering to the priests had to kill the animal and to butcher it. I always thought this was the priest job. However, it appears that the process changed over time as other places describe the priest doing this work (2 Chron 29:34). The burnt offering was an atonement for sin. When the person laid his hands on the animal’s head, he was symbolically transferring his sin to the animal so that its blood was shed instead of his own. Having to kill the animal was probably not as hard for them as it would be for us. They were an agrarian society and killing animals for food was part of life. However, it served to show how serious it was to commit sin. Imagine having done something wrong and then having to take one of your bulls or rams to the priest for a sacrifice.
            First, it would have been costly, this is your animal, not something you picked up at the butcher shop on the way to the temple. Your herd, flock, or chicken house now has one less animal in it. If you continue to sin, you will become poorer. Second, everyone knows why you are there. You’ve sinned. They may not know what it was, but they know you are a sinner. This would be a very humiliating thing to do.
            Today, this would be totally politically incorrect. If Israel ever gets to have a temple and offer sacrifices in our lifetime, I’ll bet the outcry will be universal. The animal rights people will scream the loudest. Those who believe in being tolerant will be shocked that anyone would admit their guilt in this way.
            The picture for us is the costliness of sin. It has current consequences but to have the eternal penalty removed from us is very costly. It takes the blood of Jesus to purify us. We don’t have to come before a priest for everyone to see when we are washed in the blood. But we must come in humility before our God.
            Psalm: We need to be very careful before praying to God like David did. I wouldn’t advise this in any way for anyone. It is very easy to become bitter, especially if God doesn’t answer the prayer in the way we want. It makes presumptions on why God would do something, except for doing it for his righteousness. I think many Christians in our country have this kind of attitude toward those who are hostile toward us for whatever reasons they have, and there are many. What did Jesus prescribe for us to do? He really turned the Old Testament thinking on matters like this upside down. He said, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt 5:39). All Scripture is for our instruction (Rom 15:4) but the instruction I get from Psalm 35 is to not have this kind of attitude towards my enemies or even Jesus’ enemies.
            Proverbs: It is remarkable that the author of these proverbs on wisdom and folly use almost the exact same words to describe them calling out to people to come in and partake of their bread (Prov 9:4, 16). The bread of wisdom is to leave the foolish ways. The bread of folly is purported to be wise because it is secret. But it ends in death. Many cults and deceptive societies hold out this secret knowledge sucking a person deeper into its clutches until it is too late and the victim can’t discern the truth. The Bible is wide open for all who come. However, it is still hidden from fools (1 Cor 2:7-8), those who do not fear God and don’t want to do his bidding.
            Mark: Jesus continues to show that he is the Son of God by healing many people. The leper is an interesting case because Jesus wanted him to be a witness to the priests. Instead, he told everyone about his cleansing. The result was a flood of people coming to him for healing. It caused him to avoid towns but people found him and came to him anyway. It is apparent that people were coming mainly because he was healing people and casting out demons. Unfortunately, there are many people in the U.S. today who only come to Jesus to find health and wealth. The prosperity gospel is still their motivation.
            However, Jesus shifted gears when he went back to his home in Capernaum. The crowds came, but he revealed that he came to forgive sins as well as have compassion on the ill and injured. Announcing that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven was a big shock to the religiously educated scribes. They rightly presumed that only God could forgive sins, but they wrongly understood Jesus to be only a man. Jesus declared his divinity clearly and without question when he said the man’s sins were forgiven.
            The problem with the prosperity gospel is that it seldom deals with sin. It isn’t confronted and that means that there is no salvation because salvation doesn’t occurs without repentance. Jesus’ Gospel includes both repentance and belief. The prosperity gospel focuses on belief. However, Jesus’ healing of the paralytic was only the outward manifestation of what he wants to do in our lives on the inside. He wants transformation and that starts with repentance.

Application

            The sacrifices of the Old Testament and Jesus healing the paralytic reminds me of the seriousness of my sin. I need to take it seriously and repent when I sin. It is too easy to blame other or ignore my sin.