Friday, February 24, 2017

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


            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).


            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.


            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.

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