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.

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