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/.

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