Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 23: Leviticus 14; Psalm 40:1-10; Proverbs 10:11-12; Mark 6:30-56


            Leviticus: When a person who has a leprous disease is healed, he must go through a very precise cleansing ritual. The priest goes outside the camp to examine the person. Then some unnamed people are to bring two live clean birds, cedarwood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop. The priest has them kill one bird over an earthenware pot filled with fresh water. The live bird and other things are dipped in the water. The priest sprinkles some of the bloody water on the man to be cleansed and lets the live bird free.
            The leper then has to wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and bathe. He can come into the camp but live outside his tent for seven days. On the eighth day he must make offerings of two male lambs, a ewe, grain offering, and a log of oil. These are for a guilt, wave, and burnt offerings. The procedure for the priest is very specific about putting blood on the person’s right earlobe, thumb, and toe. The priest must put the oil in his left hand and use his right finger to put the oil on the person’s right earlobe, thumb, and toe. The oil in his left hand is put on the person’s head. If the person is too poor, he may offer one male lamb and two turtledoves or pigeons.
            Houses that have green or reddish growths must also be cleansed. The priest comes and inspects the spot after everything has been removed from the house. If the spot appears to be deeper than the surface, he closes the house for seven days and inspects the spot again. If the spot has spread, then they take the affected stones and toss them outside the city. The interior of the house is completely scraped of all plaster and also tossed. Then it is all repaired.
            If the spots reappear, then the whole house is torn down. Otherwise, the priest then goes though a cleansing ceremony with two birds, cedarwood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop in the same way as a person is cleansed.
            Psalm: David is expressing his thankfulness for his spiritual restoration. He sings about it so that others will hear. He exalts in what the Lord has done and he will tell others. He realizes that God wants more than sacrifices; he wants people who will do his will. He provides a messianic glimpse of Jesus doing the Father’s will as it is written about him. David has not hidden what God has done for him from the congregation.
            Proverbs: What comes out of our mouths, good or bad, depends on who we are on the inside. Hatred and strife go together but love can heal it all.
            Mark: After the twelve return from their field exercise, they tell Jesus all about it. But many people were coming and interrupting so they couldn’t even eat. Jesus takes them by boat to a desolate place. People recognized him and ran ahead so that there was a huge crowd waiting for him. Out of compassion, he taught them. When it became late, the disciples said they should send the people away to get something to eat. Jesus replied that the disciples should feed them. They balked because it would cost a lot. Jesus asks them to find out how much food they have and then fed the crowd of 5,000 men with five loaves and two fish.
            He puts the disciples back in the boat and dismisses the crowd. He then goes on a mountain to pray while the disciples try to cross the sea. Later, Jesus walks past them on the water during the night. They are afraid and cry out so Jesus gets in the boat and calms the wind. The miracle of the loaves hadn’t enlightened them.
            They end up at Gennesaret where people recognize him and bring all the ill people to him. He heals even those that touch the fringe of his garment.

What Stood Out

            Leviticus: “When … I put a case of leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession” (Lev 14:34).
            Psalm: “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” (Ps 40:4).
            Proverbs: “Love covers all offenses” (Prov 10:12).
            Mark: “He meant to pass by them” (Mark 6:48).


            Leviticus: The ceremony for cleansing a person who had leprosy is similar to the anointing of the priests with the blood on the ear, thumb, and toe. This process doesn’t appear in any other rituals. The leper had to be outside the camp while he was diseased. Because of that, he was unable to bring sacrifices or participate in any of the festivals. The anointing appears to be the process of bringing him back before the Lord in the same way the priests were presented before the Lord. But, the priest is still the one who makes atonement for him.
            Fortunately, we don’t have to go through this process when we have been away from the Lord. Since Jesus provided the way by his own blood, all we need to do is repent of the sins that separate us from him and we are immediately cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We don’t have to shave our bodies, wait seven days outside our houses or go through any other delays.
            God makes another very important statement in the process of determining if a house has a leprous infection. He states that he is the one who puts it there (Lev 14:34). When bad stuff happens to what we call our property, we must remember that God owns it all. He gave the houses to the Israelites. While we often consider all that we have as our own, the truth is that God owns us and he lets us use it. Whether our roof leaks and causes problems or a sinkhole opens under our house and the whole thing goes down, we must remember that God is in control and he has the right to give or take away.
            Psalm: Psalm 40 is a glorious testimony of what a renewed spirit is like. David’s wait is over and now he is praising God and expressing this to everyone. The whole congregation, which was the whole nation at that time, is hearing about how great God is. I wonder how often we turn from sin or disappointment in God and repent to the extent that we sing. How often do we tell others what God has done for us? When he pulls us out of depression or self-pity, do we hide it or do we tell others? When we have overcome an addiction by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, do we just go on our way? Or are we like the leper who was healed and came back to Jesus to give thanks (Luke 17:15-19)? Do we proclaim it to others so that crowds come to Jesus? Remember, David’s congregation was the whole country, not just those in his little church.
            Proverbs: We really need to get to the heart issue rather than just try to be good people. People who appear good on the outside can actually have concealed violence. They may have it under control, but the way Jesus looked at it, they were still in trouble because they may have anger in their hearts (Matt 5:22). True love covers over the offences so that anger doesn’t live there.
            Mark: Mark relates Jesus’ walking on water from a different viewpoint than Matthew or John. He is the only one that includes Jesus’ intention of passing by them. It was dark, the wind was blowing, and the waves were probably high enough so that Jesus could have passed them at a distance and remained unseen. However, he passed close enough for them to see him. While his intention was to pass by, it was not his intention escape notice.
            This must have been a test, and all three Gospels say they were frightened when they saw him. They failed the test. Matthew and Mark both say they thought he was a ghost. When he got into the boat, Matthew says they worshiped him (Matt 14:33). John says they were glad (John 6:21). While Mark records that they were “utterly astounded” (Mark 6:51), he also records the reason (Mark 6:52). They didn’t understand about the loaves and their hearts were hardened.
            The disciples still believed in ghosts and feared them. They were still superstitious and had no insight into what Jesus had done just a few hours earlier. If they were really trusting God, they would not have been frightened at the appearance of someone walking on the water. They would have realized that Jesus was the only one who could do this because they had already seen his control over physical elements by multiplying the loaves. They would have called out to Jesus to help them get to shore instead of being afraid. They would have exhibited a God-centric worldview instead of a man-centric one.
            I’m not trying to be hard on the disciples, Mark does a fine job of that with his analysis. But this is the way we are more often than not. We look at the circumstances and react rather than stop to put the pieces together from a Christian worldview. When trials of various kinds come, we may be quick to yell for help, but we seldom consider that there is a greater purpose in them than simply praising God when he intervenes. We don’t look at Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4 to see that there is a greater purpose in trials; God wants us to mature into strong Christians. We don’t look at 1 Corinthians 10:13 to see that there is always a way out if we are willing to take his way. We don’t need to be frightened the next time we think Jesus is passing by us. He knows what he’s doing.


            I can be like David and tell others what God has done or I can be like the disciples in the boat and become frightened when I don’t understand what God is doing. I’d like to do more to explain what God is doing in the good and the bad times when someone asks for the reason for the hope I have (1 Peter 3:15-16) or even when they don’t ask.

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