Monday, February 27, 2017

February 27: Leviticus 20:22 – 22:16; Psalm 43; Proverbs 10:18; Mark 9:1-9:29



Overview

            Leviticus: The Lord repeats the reasons for the statutes. The people are to be holy because he is holy. The nations in the land he is giving them did all these things and it was detestable to him. He also repeats for the third time warning against occult involvement. Holy behavior for the priests is prescribed in mourning the dead, marriage, and dress. The chief priest is even more restricted in his mourning for dead relatives and marriage. No priest who enters the sanctuary may be diseased, deformed, or even have a blemish.
            The priests who are unclean for any reason may not come near the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the Lord. They must go through the cleansing ceremony before they can officiate again. A layperson may not eat of any of the holy portions belonging to the priests unless he is a slave living in the house of a priest. A priest’s daughter who marries a layperson may not eat of the holy things unless she returns to her father’s house without having a child. Anyone who eats of a holy thing must make restitution and add a fifth of the value.
            Psalm: David asks God to vindicate him against ungodly people. He took refuge in God and then asks why he is still depressed about these people. He asks for God’s light and truth so he can worship with joy and praise. He again asks why he is so depressed and tells himself to hope in God, and again praise him for his salvation.
            Proverbs: Concealing hate for a person is nothing but lying. Slandering another person is foolish.
            Mark: Jesus tells his disciples that some with him will not die before they see the kingdom of God come with power. He then took Peter, James, and John to a mountaintop where he is transfigured in intensely white clothes. Moses and Elijah appear with him and talk with him. Peter wants to make a tent for each but a cloud comes over them and a voice tells them Jesus is his son and listen to him. Then everything returns to normal. On the way down, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about it until he is raised. They don’t understand.
            In the meantime, a crowd gathered around his other disciples because they couldn’t cast a demon out of a boy. Jesus rebukes them for their unbelief. He asks about the situation then says that all things are possible for those who believe. The boy’s father asks for help in his unbelief. Jesus casts out the demon. The disciples ask why they couldn’t cast out the demon and Jesus answers, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29).

What Stood Out

            Leviticus: “A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall surely be put to death” (Lev 20:27).
            Psalm: “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me” (Ps 43:3).
            Proverbs: “Whoever utters slander is a fool” (Prov 10:18).
            Mark: “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean” (Mark 9:10).

Insight

            Leviticus: The Lord detested occult behavior so much that he has mentioned different activities several times in the Bible. Astrology and anything else that attempts to discern or affect the future by spells or charms is an affront to the Lord. He ties these sins together when he reprimanded Saul for making sacrifices instead of waiting for Samuel. He said, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols (1 Sam 15:23 NLT). All these forms of sorcery are rebelling against God by looking for answers from demonic forces. Let’s face it. There is only one God and when someone gets information about the future or affects the future by some other means, that information can only come from someone who is rebelling against God. Since we don’t have the ability within ourselves to do it, the ones providing this help must be in the spiritual realm. The angels do God’s bidding, always and without exception. So that leaves demons. Worshiping idols is nothing more than worshiping the demons that hide behind them (1 Cor 10:20).
            As I pointed out yesterday, many of the prohibitions were based on eliminating the occult practices of the nations. Our culture is more obsessed with this behavior than most of us imagine. Almost every newspaper has astrology readings. Type “astrology predictions” into Google and see that the world is ready to lead you into this dark realm. If that were not enough, evolution has convinced most people that life started on some other planet. They believe that aliens exist and have either visited or will visit this planet. Where do you think these “aliens” originate? It is nothing more than another form of occult worship.
            Remember what the Lord did to those cultures that participated in these activities as well as all the other sins he prohibited. The priests of those cultures were the worst but God called the priest of Israel to be far better than anyone else in Israel. But now, we are priest of God (1 Peter 2:9) and we should be living holy lives that are examples to the world. That would mean making sure we have nothing to do with the occult.
            Psalm: This appears to be a continuation of Psalm 42. David is depressed and in turmoil because of the oppression of his enemies. I wonder sometimes just what kinds of enemies I have that would cause this kind of depression. I think about the spiritual warfare that goes around us every day and we don’t even realize it. Is it those enemies? That’s one possibility, but that’s not what normally causes our pain and depression. Personal relationships are probably more often the cause. If you’ve ever had a person at work or even in your family that has caused you grief, it is extremely hard to face that person every day. I’ve experienced both. What is the solution to overcoming depression that happens? It is in asking God for his light and truth. They will bring us out of the shadows into his holy dwelling (Ps 43:3). Assuming that we’ve done everything possible to live in peace with the person (Rom 12:18) then the only thing left is to hope in God and let him take care of it (Rom 12:19).
            Proverbs: Is it really so bad to conceal hatred for another person? Consider this, Jesus said hatred in your heart is the same as murder (Matt 5:21-22). Keeping it concealed is only lying to God. This means that concealing it just keeps the sin going rather than confessing it and repenting. This doesn’t mean that we should tell people when we hate them, we should remove the hate.
            Slander always seems to catch up with a person. It is foolish to slander because you’ll only suffer for it when it is eventually discovered.
            Mark: Jesus’ transfiguration and conversation with Moses and Elijah is obviously a glorious and wonderful event in the life of Jesus. But, we don’t know what the three said to each other. We don’t know the purpose of the transfiguration. Some speculate that this is what Jesus was talking about when he said some would see the kingdom come in power before they died. I really don’t know. But I do know that the power of the kingdom came not necessarily on that day but the day when the Holy Spirit come on the day of Pentecost. From that day on, the kingdom of God advanced with the power of the Holy Spirit.
            I also know from this appearance that those who precede us in death have some form of a recognizable body. These were Old Testament saints. They weren’t unconscious and were most likely aware of what was happening on the earth, at least regarding Jesus. I also know this was another affirmation of the deity of Jesus. It also sparked the disciples question about Elijah coming first.
            It also points out that even though Peter had declared that Jesus is the Messiah, they still didn’t understand that Jesus must die and be raised again. While they had a lot of faith it was still not enough. And that was demonstrated with Jesus’ interaction with the remaining disciples and the crowd.
            Just when we think we have all the answers about demons, healing, and other miraculous events. Mark throws in this event with the demon-possessed son. We don’t know how old he is now, but the demon has been there a long time, since childhood. This may eliminate the concept that a person can only be demon-possessed if he opens himself up to the occult. Certainly, that is most often the case, but not the rule. Then Jesus tells them that all they need to do is believe and all things are possible. But he later tells the disciples that prayer can only drive out this kind of demon. Since there is no evidence that Jesus prayed, it means that this is how we must do it, but this only applies to this kind of demon. I think praying in the first place would be a good idea.

Application

            I can’t do anything without being connected to Jesus (John 15:4-5). Prayer is a huge part of that connection and so is studying the Word. I need to work on both. I need his light and truth.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 26: Leviticus 19 – 20:21; Psalm 42; Proverbs 10:17; Mark 8:11-8:38



Overview

            Leviticus: The Lord is holy and so the people shall be holy. They are to keep the commandments regarding the Lord, their parents, and make proper sacrifices. Violators are to be cut off from the people.
            They are also to obey the commandment regarding each other. The spirit of these commands are described in ways to treat others such as leaving grain and fruit rather than harvesting every last piece. Each admonition ends with “I am the Lord.”
            Other statues are also listed, mainly prohibitions and punishments for violation. Do not cross breed animals. Punishment is described for having sex with a female slave promised to another. Regulations are given for planting and harvesting new trees. There shall not be any occult activity, cutting or tattooing your body. Do not make your daughters prostitutes, keep the Sabbaths, honor the aged. Treat strangers and foreigner equitably, judge correctly, and be honest in measurements.
            The punishment for making child sacrifices is death. Punishment for engaging in occult behavior is being cut off from the people. Punishment for cursing mother or father is death. Depending on the sin, sexual sins are punished by death, cut off from the people, or becoming childless.
            Psalm: David expresses his deep desire to know and be in God’s presence. He is down in the pits of depression again as he is taunted because God has apparently abandoned him. He asks why he is so depressed because he knows he will again praise God. But he remembers the Lord. The depression persists seemingly to the point of death. He knows that God’s love is with him during the day and night. But he still wonders why God has forsaken him because of the oppression of his enemies. He reminds himself one more time that his hope is in God.
            Proverbs: We have two choices, heed instruction, or reject it. Heeding leads to life but rejection leads others or self astray.
            Mark: This episode in the Gospel starts with the Pharisees asking Jesus for a sign to test him. Jesus tells them they will not see a sign. He gets in the boat and again crosses the Sea of Galilee. On the way, he warns the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees. The disciples don’t understand and argue about not bring bread along. Jesus reminds them of the loaves that he multiplied for the 5,000 and the 4,000.
            He arrives at Bethsaida and heals a blind man. He continues north to Caesarea Philippi. While there, he asks his disciples who people say he is, then who they say he is. Peter responds saying Jesus is the Christ. Jesus tells them not to tell others.
            He then explains that he will suffer, be rejected and killed by the chief priests, elders, and scribes but he will rise again. Peter rebukes Jesus but Jesus tells him that he isn’t setting his mind on what God wants.
            Jesus then calls the crowd and disciples and explains the cost of following him. If anyone wants to save his life, he must give it for Jesus. If anyone is ashamed of Jesus in this life, Jesus will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory.

What Stood Out

            Leviticus: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2).
            Psalm: “My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you” (Ps 42:6).
            Proverbs: “He who rejects reproof leads others astray” (Prov 10:17).
            Mark: “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29).

Insight

            Leviticus: The bottom line of all these rules and regulations are the same. We are to be holy because God is holy. Many people argue that we don’t have to obey the commands of the Old Testament because Jesus has set us free from them. That is true. We don’t have to obey them. But we are now the people of God, we are to be holy and when God says some things make us unholy then we should take a close look at those things and acknowledge that doing them displeases the Lord. We should obey these things because we want to be holy in our actions just as Jesus has made us holy in our spirit.
            If we look over today’s reading, there are only a couple of things that we may wonder why they were prescribed. One is cross breeding (Lev 19:19). We constantly cross breed cattle to develop healthier and stronger animals that produce better than their ancestors. What’s wrong with that? Different translations may offer the reason. The word for cattle is also used as beasts. The prohibition is breeding with one of a different kind. That would mean crossing a cow and a horse, not necessarily different breeds of the same kind of animal or even similar kinds like horses and donkeys. The prohibition of cross sowing fields or wearing wool and linen (Deut 22:11) may have been because the countries where they were going did these for magical purposes.[1] Any of the occult practices are prohibited so it would be quite logical to prohibit these specifically.
            What is worrisome about our current culture is the process of genetic manipulation. I tend to believe that there is nothing wrong in modifying plants for health, nutrition, resilience, and other things as long as those modifications do not cause problems when consumed by us or animals. I’m not going to argue with people who are 100% opposed to GMO foods. I am simply stating my believe that unless a GMO is proven harmful, it should be OK for food.
            However plants and animals are different things. Animal modifications have done nothing but encourage human modifications. Currently, attempts are being made to grow human organs in other species, specifically human organs in pigs.[2] This is just one more step in the horrific abominations allowed by believing we are no more than animals based on the theory of evolution. If God said we shouldn’t mess with animal kinds, how can we in any way think that human genetic modification should be allowed?
            Psalm: Getting rid of depression isn’t always as easy as quoting a verse or recounting God’s goodness. This Psalm demonstrates that these wave can come crashing back even after the first wave has dissipated. Some general points of dealing with depression are found in this Psalm. The first is to have a real desire to know and be with the Lord. David’s desire is related to his very existence. Just like a deer must have water to exist, so we must recognize that our being requires a living relationship with God. Without that, the rest of this is useless. The second point is to acknowledge the external reasons for depression. David’s reason was the oppression of his enemies. But we must remember that these are external. He didn’t have control over these, but often we may have control over such thing as diet or sleep. However, these external things are all temporary. They may be painful today, but they will pass into oblivion when we are with God in eternity. These sources of depression may also be our sins. In a sense, David sinned by letting the taunts of people become more important than pleasing God. When the externals become too important for us, we have an idol before our eyes. The third thing to remember is God’s goodness and his past blessings. This may be going back to salvation and realizing that without God, we would be nothing and have an eternity of suffering. The last thing is to remember that our hope is in God. He is our salvation. We know that God is omnipresent and that means he is always with us. This life may deal us many blows but when our ultimate hope is in him, we can be joyful.
            Proverbs: We often focus on making sure we listen and respond correctly to instruction so that our lives will be right with the Lord. But the negative contrast in this Proverb doesn’t focus on what happens to us when we reject reproof. It tells us that it causes others to go astray (ESV, NIV). Other translations say it causes us to stray. Either way the result is not good because the Lord is not pleased with those who lead others astray. Just look at what Jesus had to say to the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes. Blind men leading blind men all fall into the same pit (Matt 15:14).
            Mark: Jesus makes it clear that those who seek signs from heaven to prove that he is the Christ won’t get any. He already gave them many signs, healings, casting out demons, and multiplying loaves. They didn’t believe those so they won’t get any others. The same is true for us. If we don’t believe what is written in the Bible, then we won’t get another sign.
            So Jesus asks his disciples who he is. The people have their opinions and at this point in his ministry, they don’t believe he is the Messiah. However, Peter does conclude that Jesus is the Messiah. On the heels of such a confession, Peter then rebukes Jesus for saying he is going to do exactly what the Scriptures say he must do. He must be rejected, die, and be raised on the third day. I wonder how many times we’ve told God he got it wrong when something doesn’t go the way we want or expect. Jesus’ response clearly identifies that anything that goes against Scripture is Satan’s plan. That is why he didn’t want the disciples telling others he is the Messiah. If they knew they would come and try to make him king before the right time (John 6:15).
            Then Jesus lays out exactly what it will take to become a disciple of Jesus. We must deny ourselves and give our lives to Jesus. There isn’t any other way. The cost of discipleship is everything. We surrender our rights, our ambitions, everything we are must be given to Jesus. This certainly isn’t the popular easy believism that allows us to do whatever we want. However, it isn’t always as hard as it sounds either. When we are like David whose deepest desire was to be with God, then our deepest desire is to be with Jesus. We get what we want and it is the best that can happen to us. Yes, it may cost us our physical lives in this world but we must firmly believe that the next will more than make up for it.

Application

            My desire for God isn’t nearly what it should be or could be. At times, I feel the same way as David in wanting to be near the Lord and other times I don’t. One thing I know, Jesus is the way and I’ll follow him. Only, Lord, with your help can I do that.


[1] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments, (Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006), Lev 19:19, Electronic database.
[2] Susan Scutti, "Human-pig embryos made, destroyed," CNN, January 20, 2017, accessed February 26, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/26/health/human-pig-embryo/.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 25: Leviticus 16:29 – 18; Psalm 41; Proverbs 10:15-16; Mark 7:24-8:10



Overview

            Leviticus: The Day of Atonement is to be kept on the tenth of the seventh month. The people shall afflict (deny) themselves and not do any work on that day. The day shall be observed forever by having the priesthood passed from father to son.
            No one may sacrifice an animal any place other than at the tabernacle. If they do, they shall be cut off from Israel. They are not to sacrifice to demons either.
            The life of an animal is in its blood. The Lord has given the blood to us as an atonement by the life that is in it. That is why the Lord prohibits anyone from eating blood. If someone kills an animal for food, then they must drain the blood and cover it over with earth. If anyone eats blood, he is to be cut off from Israel. If anyone eats an animal that has died by itself or killed by other animals, he is unclean and must wash his cloths, himself, and be unclean until evening. If he doesn’t he will bear his iniquity.
            The Lord told Moses the regulations prohibiting sexual relationships between relatives. He said that in Egypt and Canaan, these things were done and the people must not do as they did. If they follow God’s statutes, they will live. Various forms of incest were prohibited as well as sex during a woman’s menstrual period.
            Additional prohibitions include offering children as sacrifices because that profanes the name of God. Homosexuality is prohibited and labeled an abomination. Bestiality is prohibited and labeled a perversion.
            The Lord said all the nations were doing these things causing the land to become unclean. That is why he is removed them from the land. If Israel starts doing these abominations, the Lord promises that the land will vomit them out from it. Every person who does these abominations is will be cut off from Israel. So make sure no one does these abominations.
            Psalm: David extols the blessings of a person who takes care of the poor. The Lord takes care of him when he is ill. But David is ill and asks for help. He considers this may be because of his sins. His enemies and even his close friends are no help in this illness. Some are waiting for him to die and others are spreading gossip about him. But David knows that the Lord cares for him and will uphold him. He asserts his integrity and praises the God of Israel.
            Proverbs: There is a contrast between what a rich man trusts and the ruin of a poor man. A righteous person gains life while the wicked gain sin.
            Mark: Jesus goes way out of town to the primarily Gentile area of Tyre and Sidon. While staying in a house a Gentile woman whose daughter is demon-possessed asks him to heal the daughter. He says he isn’t there to do things for dogs (Gentiles) but for Israel. She asks for some crumbs dropped from the Israelites and then Jesus heals the girl.
            He moves back southeast to the Decapolis region where he heals a deaf-mute man. He tells them not to tell anyone but the more he tells them, the more they proclaim what Jesus did.
            From there, Jesus goes to a desolate area where a huge crowd gathers. They have nothing to eat so he asks the disciples to feed them. They don’t know how, so Jesus ask for their loaves and fish. He feeds the crowd of 4,000 people with seven loaves and a few fish. They pick up seven baskets of leftovers. Jesus and the disciples get in a boat and go to Dalmanutha.

What Stood Out

            Leviticus: “For by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Lev 18:24-25).
            Psalm: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen” (Ps 41:13).
            Proverbs: “A rich man's wealth is his strong city” (Prov 10:15).
            Mark: “But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it” (Mark 7:36).

Insight

            Leviticus: Life is in the blood. This is a very important concept from a theological viewpoint as well as a scientific fact. When blood stops moving, death occurs. From a spiritual standpoint, God has used this to demonstrate that sin is serious. When sin is committed, we are separated from God (Isa 59:2) and that is spiritual death. Atonement is the means by which the death of an animal takes the place of the spiritual death of a person. That is symbolically done by spreading that blood on the altar and the mercy seat. This cleansing from sin by blood applies to almost everything (Heb 9:22).
            Fortunately, those times have passed and it is by Jesus’ blood we have eternal life. His blood contains life for all of us since his atonement is for all time and he never had any sin. Not only does his blood atone for our sins but it cleans our consciences from guilt (Heb 9:14).
            However, this doesn’t negate the fact that the Lord provided some very specific rules about sexual relationships. We have found that these rules against incest are very practical to prevent genetic problems. However, up until this time, brothers and sisters often married as in the case of Abraham and Sarah. Isaac and Rebekah were first cousins once removed or more precisely, Rebekah was Isaac’s cousin-niece. Jacob married sisters. Now, God says enough of that. Don’t do it. I’m sure there are many more reasons than simply protection from genetic problems. Certainly, there are untold emotional problems that occur when incest occurs in families.
            If there is any doubt about what God thinks of homosexual relationships, this is the clearest and strongest denunciation in the Bible. We don’t need to go to other verses to understand that God puts this in the category of abomination. He labels all these perversions as abominations repeating the word five times in Leviticus 18:22-30. The scary part of this is that God drove out the inhabitants of the land because of these sins. He promises that if Israel does them, they will be driven out as well. The tribe of Benjamin was almost extinguished because of this (Judges 19 – 21). If God was so adamant about this in the past, what make us think we will escape the same judgment today?
            Psalm: What do we do in times of illness? We often wonder if the illness is a result of sin. We even have some friends who will be quick to tell us that our illness, especially long term debilitating illnesses are a result of our sins. They are like Job’s friends who tell him to confess and God will heal him. When we are ill, we don’t always think right either. We are susceptible to thinking the worst. David remembered he was kind to the poor and that God would deliver him before all these bad thoughts came crashing in on him. However, he remembered that he was walking in integrity and that God delighted in him. Even when we sin, if we confess our sins, God delights in us. We will never be out of his presences. We can praise God along with David even before we see the deliverance from our illness.
            Proverbs: Rich people generally trust in their wealth. They believe it will sustain them in this life. That is why there are so many suicides whenever there is a market crash. They find out that wealth is fleeting and ultimately, it is out of their control. Jesus said it was hard for a rich man to be saved (Luke 18:24) and this is one reason. On the other hand, a poor person is not always doing better. Poverty can destroy a person just as easily if he is envious of the rich. He doesn’t realize that the riches are just another prison.
            The solution to both problems is to seek God’s kingdom (Matt 6:33), live a good life and avoid the pitfalls of both.
            Mark: Jesus didn’t do anything by accident. His encounter with the Gentile woman was hardly a chance crossing of paths. I looked at a map to see where Tyre and Sidon are. They are on the coast of the Mediterranean north of the Sea of Galilee. This is Gentile territory. The last mention of Jesus’ location was Genneserat on the shore of the Sea. Matthew and Mark record no other activity in this area except the encounter with this Gentile woman. Afterwards, he goes back to the region of the Decapolis, which is on the opposite side of the Sea.
            It seems logical that Jesus went to this Gentile area just to meet this woman, have this conversation, and free her child from a demon. Yet, everything in the conversation would make it seem like he was oblivious to the Gentiles and wasn’t going to help them. That goes against other instances when Jesus healed a Samaritan leper (Luke 17:15-16), a Roman’s servant (Matt 8:13), and spoke with a Samaritan woman at a well (John 4:7). Rather, this was an important teaching tool for us and for his disciples.
            The disciples’ first reaction was to send her away (Matt 15:23). Jesus calls her a dog, probably not the worst thing anyone could be called but still a significantly degrading term. It totally disrespects her. Yet her comeback demonstrated the truth that Jesus wants us and everyone else to know. The crumbs of God are more than sufficient for the needs of mankind, Jew or Gentile.
            We are all dogs if we look at our spiritual condition before coming to Christ. We were dead in our sins; our spiritual selves were rotting corpses (Eph 2:1). Surely, Jesus came to the lost of Israel first, but he took this journey to show that we are also important. The leftovers from Israel are so abundantly powerful that we are freed from sin just as the woman’s daughter was freed from the demon. Instead of dogs, we are now sons and daughters in the family of God when we trust Jesus for our salvation.
            Based on what the deaf-mute man did after he was healed, Jesus should tell us not to tell anyone about what he’s done for us. Because, “The more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it” (Mark 7:36).

Application

            I need to keep my eyes on Jesus. I don’t always understand what he’s doing. When I trust him, I know that whether it is illness or any other situation in life, I’m in good hands. I need to tell others about what he has done for me.

Friday, February 24, 2017

February 24: Leviticus 15 – 16:28; Psalm 40:11-17; Proverbs 10:13-14; Mark 7:1-23



Overview

            Leviticus: The subject of Leviticus 15 is bodily discharges and what to do when a person has had one. The person who has the discharge is unclean and just about anything he or she sits on or anyone who touches these things becomes unclean. The person who has the discharge will remain unclean seven days after the discharge has stopped. On the seventh day, the person must wash his or her clothes and bathe. On the eight day, the person must take two turtledoves or pigeons for a sin offering and a burnt offering. A person touching these articles or person that is unclean will be unclean until evening and must wash his clothes and bathe. Semenal and menstrual discharges are treated slightly different without the required offering unless the menstrual discharge doesn’t stop when it should.
            The specifications for the Day of Atonement are provided. Aaron (the high priest) must enter the Holy Place with the           blood of a bull for a sin offering and the blood of a ram for a burnt offering. He must bathe and be dressed properly. He must take incense behind the veil so that the cloud covers the mercy seat. He first offers sacrifices for himself and his family. Then he makes atonement for the people.
            Part of the ritual is to have two male goats. Aaron cast lots for the one that will be sacrificed and the one that will become the scapegoat. After the atonement, Aaron bathes and then confesses the sins of the people over the scapegoat and a designated person takes it into the wilderness and sets it free.
            Psalm: After David’s jubilation in his deliverance in the first half of the Psalm, David affirms God’s faithfulness as he admits his multiple sins. He asks again for deliverance and asks for those who seek his life to be ashamed and dishonored. He asks for those who seek God to rejoice and praise the Lord. He again admits his need and that the Lord takes care of him.
            Proverbs: While a wise person is looking for understanding and knowledge, fools are beaten and ruin is near.
            Mark: The Pharisees complain about Jesus because his disciples eat with ceremonially unclean hands. Some of the traditional washings are described. They ask Jesus why the disciples are breaking the tradition of the elders.
            Jesus points out that the Pharisees only give lip service to God by putting their traditions above God’s commands. He provides one example when they don’t honor their fathers and mothers by promising resources to God and not using them to take care of their parents.
            He then tells everyone that nothing on the outside defiles a person but only what comes out of him. The disciples don’t understand and ask his clarification. He explains that food goes in to the stomach and is expelled but doesn’t affect the heart. All the evil that a person does comes from their heart.

What Stood Out

            Leviticus: “[He must} put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die” (Lev 16:13).
            Psalm: “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me” (Ps 40:17).
            Proverbs: “The wise lay up knowledge” (Prov 10:14).
            Mark: “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8).

Insight

            Leviticus: The process of atoning for the people starts with Aaron or the high priests after his death, first making atonement for himself. There is a problem in that the priest is sinful and is coming before the Lord who dwells above the mercy seat. The resolution is for him to take a censer with coals from the altar and incense so that the burning incense produces a cloud of smoke obscuring the area above the mercy seat. He can then sprinkle the blood without fear of seeing God and being killed.
            There was a long period between the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians and the rebuilding of the temple. During that time, there were no sacrifices. Again, there has been and even longer time between the destruction of the second temple in AD 70 and today. The Day of Atonement cannot be fully observed as long as there is no altar, tabernacle, and mercy seat. That means there is no way for atonement for our sins to occur if you depend on observing the Law.
            However, we now know that Jesus is our high priest. He didn’t have any sins yet he bore all the sins of the world when he sacrificed himself on the cross (1 John 2:2). Jesus didn’t come with a physical cloud of incense but he came with his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Incense is described as the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8). He also didn’t have to offer a sacrifice for himself because he is sinless (Heb 7:26-27). His sacrifice doesn’t have to be repeated because it was a perfect sacrifice (Heb 9:25-26). There is no longer any need for the sacrifices, temple and mercy seat. This also negates the whole concept of the Catholic Mass, which declares that Jesus is sacrificed every time the priest consecrates the bread and wine then breaks the bread thereby killing Jesus again. We can rejoice that our sins are forgiven and that there is no more sacrifice required when we have trusted Jesus to be our Lord and Savior.
            Psalm: Sometimes we are on a seesaw of emotion and when we think about our sins and God’s mercy and forgiveness. David appears to do this in this Psalm. I think his ending is quite appropriate. Regardless of what God does with evil people or those who love him, David admits that he is poor and needy. That is the humility that the Lord finds pleasing. When we admit we often have the wrong thoughts and attitudes, we recognize that we are in great need of God’s grace and forgiveness. It is then that God can work in our hearts.
            Proverbs: We shouldn’t focus too much on the fact that the Bible teaches corporal punishment for fools. Today’s worldly wisdom has denounced that so much that we can’t go there without offending those who have such great worldly understanding of human nature. Of course, their wisdom often ends up in ruin. So, who is the wise one and who is the fool?
            Mark: The traditions of man are great things to help us get what we want and to avoid doing the things God wants. For a long time, people in churches wouldn’t let women wear makeup or had to cover their heads in church. People couldn’t go to movies or dance. Some couldn’t use certain types of musical instruments in worship. All were traditions. At some point in their history, they had a good reason to impose these restrictions. However, these traditions focused on the outward behavior of a person rather on the heart change that God is interested in making. Take just one of these things; restricting worship isn’t only about using specific interments but it is also about using specific hymns or songs. People complain that the old songs are not used or the new ones are not used. Both neglect what Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The command to worship God in spirit is broken by those who want to worship only in traditional ways whether those traditions are new or old.
            It is abundantly clear that some of the fad diets and ascetic approaches to life are just outward attempts to control what is going on in our hearts. Paul says that physical training is only of “some value” (1 Tim 4:8). What we really need to do to overcome the evil that comes out of our hearts is identify and remove the idols in our hearts, not work on the outward appearances. If we don’t work on these roots of sin, the desires that drag us away and entice us to sin, then the fruit, the evils that Jesus mentioned, will continue to be fed by those roots.

Application

            I’m needy. I need to recognize and confess the sins that I have and not focus on other people’s sins. Whether they are the evil people in the world or the saints who fail on occasion, they are not my problem. Even small sins need to be rooted out or evil can come out of my heart.