At the end of today’s Leviticus reading, Moses reprimands Aaron’s remaining sons, the priests, for offering sacrifices incorrectly. Aaron is also concerned because, as a priest, he is to eat the sin offerings. If they were not offered correctly, they would not have been ritually clean, thus, he would not have been either. If he had then entered God’s presence, he would have died. Not because God is mean, but because he is holy. Holiness and uncleanness cannot mix.
- 1-2 – We’ve read in previous readings this year that the Lord does not desire sacrifice but mercy. Clearly God desires for us to follow his instructions exactly.
- 16-20 – Moses does his best to assure that the priests follow God’s instructions perfectly.
- 30-32 – The mustard seed does not form the largest tree, but it does grow extremely quickly and in wild fashion.
- 39-41 – Jesus, through his actions and words is consistently having to remind the disciples of his power and ability.
- 12-13 – Interesting that Jesus allows a demonic spirit to influence his decision.
Admittedly, our Old Testament readings have been full of tons of details recently. It’s important to recognize that these were specific details written for specific people. We no longer sacrifice animals or present grain offerings. This doesn’t mean we should discount what is written. God still cares about details and still deserves the respect and reverence required to put that much time and energy into following his instructions.
- 34 – The breast and right thigh were set aside by God as the Israelites’ payment to the priests.
- Based on the detail of all the sacrifice instructions and the intricacy of the ordination ceremony of the priests, clearly ceremony was integral to this ancient culture. We don’t tend to be a ceremonial culture. Ceremony sometimes feels rote, but it indicates reverence.
- 31-35 – Many people read this as a slight towards Jesus’ mother and siblings. The more important aspect is that Jesus is equating faithfulness to God with being a part of the same family.
- The parable of the 4 soils is explained by Jesus as the way various people react when having heard the word of God. For many, it will not take root.
- 21 – The inspiration for the song “This Little Light of Mine.”
- People often try to get away with things and think they’re being sneaky with their evil, but the Lord sees and we often sabotage ourselves.
Leviticus and Revelation are probably the two most feared books of the Bible. Leviticus is full of scary sounding practices and pages and pages of laborious details.
The practices and details were carefully spelled out in order to protect God’s people. Just like we’re willing to go to 8 hours of school for 12 years because we know it’s for our good, the ancient Israelites understood the importance of ritual cleansings and animal sacrifices. True, we no longer need to offer a grain offering for this and a sin offering for that, but we do need to know the specificity with which God will go to ensure he can be in relationship with us.
Also in our reading this week, you’ll go from the super specific to the super cryptic. This week, in Mark, Jesus will dive into a number of parables. Parables are stories that relate something of God to something familiar. Most of the parables were agricultural in nature, which isn’t very familiar to us but was to the ancient Jews. What if, instead of a mustard seed, Jesus described the kingdom of God like compounding interest or an artificial intelligence robot? It’s something that starts small but grows quickly. It’s something we can relate to and it’s an opportunity to see God’s truths in a new light.
So whether super specific or cryptic, this week’s reading will guide you closer to the truths of who God is and how much he wants to be in relationship with us.
Today’s psalm is simply beautiful. Read verse 4 a couple of times. It’s worth it. Can you imagine if you had one and only one focus – and that focus was to be in the presence of God? How different would your life look?
- 24 – Just 3 days after God parted the Red Sea to protect the Israelites, they complain because of a lack of drinkable water
- 26 – God often offers us rules and limits to protect us. It is our job to decide if we will accept and follow or not.
- 3-21 – God provides food through quails and manna. He asks them to only take enough for a day. Many still don’t trust and take more to assure they’ll have some for the next day.
- 29 – God offers people a Sabbath. The 10 Commandments, which have 1 commandment about the Sabbath have not been written yet.
- 32 – Remembering things from generation to generation was frequent.
- Be sure to read the footnotes. They can be helpful.
- 1-14 – a parable explaining the peoples’ contempt for and rejection of Jesus’ message. The person at the end without the wedding garment represents the judgment of those who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah.
- 17-22 – Caesar’s image was on the coin. It belongs to Caesar. God’s image is on all of us. We belong to God.
- 29-33 – The Sadducees try to stump Jesus but he explains that there question is irrelevant because terms need to be redefined in light of the resurrection.
- 1 – One of the most comforting verses in all of Scripture.
- 4 – 1 thing – singular focus is seeking God
- 21-22 referring back to Deuteronomy 6
- This proverb offers encouragement to put in the time before you’re tested to know, trust, and believe God’s commandments will pay off
If you want a picture of God’s faithfulness, that’s it. Yep, Charlton Heston with arms spread. Ok, not exactly, but close. God rescuing the Israelites from slavery through plagues and the parting of the Red Sea is, by far, the most referenced example of God’s faithfulness to humanity in Scripture. If you find something better, take it up with Charlton.
- The dramatic story of God rescuing the Israelites through the parted Red Sea is the event most referenced to remind people of God’s enduring faithfulness throughout Scripture.
- 17-18 – God directed them away from the Philistines, an enemy of Israel to avoid fear and danger. He knows how to protect us before we know we need protecting.
- 21-22 – Pillar of cloud and pillar of fire represent God’s provision through the impossible.
- 11-12 – The Israelites had seen God’s power through the plagues and provision through the pillars and yet they’re terrified when they see the Egyptians approaching.
- 14 – we could all stand to hear this over and over
- 22 – Once again, God provides a way through the impossible – Red Sea parting
- 15:1 – people often sang songs to God based on what He had done for them
- 23-27 – Jesus often answered a question with a question
- 28-32 – obedience parable – who actually loves God? Those who’ve messed up but are seeking to be more and more faithful or the person who continually talks about their faith but doesn’t live it?
- 33-46 – the Israelites and religious leaders rejected multiple prophets trying to get them to straighten up and then they rejected Jesus
- 2-3 – Would I feel comfortable asking God to test my heart, mind, and faithfulness?
- Avoid these things at all cost
The Passover is brutal. First borns of every creature die and you save your own family from this destruction by slaughtering a flawless lamb and wiping its blood above your door. But Passover is an expression of mercy and justice still celebrated today. The Passover and final plague bring the story of the enslaved Israelites in Egypt full circle. In Exodus chapter 1 we read of the Pharaoh exterminating every male Israelite born. At The Passover, the Egyptians felt the consequences of their sins.
- God continues to call Moses to enact the plagues, “lift your hand, etc.” God does not need us but calls us and uses us for his purposes
- 24 – Pharaoh sends Moses away but God doesn’t seem to be convinced he will actually let him go
- 11:7 – God makes it clear that Israel, not Egypt, is his chosen nation
- 11 – Eating normally happened in a relaxed, reclined position – fast food was not a thing
- 1-13 – The Passover becomes an annual celebration – it is the festival Jesus was celebrating when he was arrested and crucified – he became the sacrificial lamb like each household needed. This is why some people say phrases like “covered by the blood of the lamb”
- A parable aimed at those who have been faithful over time and those who come to faith in the last hour – both receive salvation – do we begrudge those who came to faith at the last hour and receive the same reward?
- Jesus predicted his death multiple times but no one believed him
- 26-28 – we want status and acknowledgement, Jesus calls us to humble ourselves instead
- Continue to work for the things that are important. When you stop doing those things, you’ll be left behind.
Why did God choose the Israelites as his people and not the Egyptians or the Ammonites or the Philistines or any of the other people groups we’ve read about? I ask this question because this week, in our Exodus readings, we will see the stark contrast between the Israelites and the Egyptians. God continually makes it clear who his people are and who his people are not.
In general, this seems to be the way we ask questions about Scripture: why did God do it this way? Why didn’t God do it that why? Why does the Bible say this?
What if we spun our thoughts on Scripture to see a good, loving, and all-powerful God who actually knows more than we do? Instead of asking, “why did God send down the plagues on the Egyptians”, could we say, “wow, it’s incredible the lengths to which God went to save the Israelites from the Egyptians.”
Yes, some stories are more complicated than that, but what if our questions and comments sought to find the ways God redeemed, blessed, and protected his people? It would greatly alter our readings.
And make a note of this Biblical theme:
In Matthew’s parable on January 30th, a theme of righteous, purposeful inequality will continue. It’s one to think about and check ourselves on. Frequently, when those who have remained righteous see grace offered to someone who has failed or fallen short, they’re outraged. It’s not fair! I’ve been faithful and they haven’t! If we were truly righteous, wouldn’t we be rejoicing with God over the repentant sinner?
Well, actually, today’s Proverb would disagree with this line of thinking. Today’s Proverb instructs us not to share – our spouse that is. Today’s Proverb teaches us not to share spouses. This sounds like a pretty obvious point, but clearly it’s been a problem since at least Solomon’s days – heck, at least Abraham’s. Remember in Genesis when he lied and said Sarah was his sister?
- 1-9 – God performs a few smaller miracles to prove to Moses his power and that he was with him.
- 10-17. Moses continues to balk at the idea of confronting the Pharaoh. God rebuts his excuse of not being eloquent by explaining that God made his mouth and can make it do whatever he wants. Moses continues to make excuses so God allows Aaron, his brother, to accompany Moses.
- 21-23 – These verses are a quick summary of what is about to go down through the plagues, hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and Passover.
- 24-26 – Though a confusing and disturbing story, it seems that Moses had not fulfilled the Lord’s command that all Israelite males be circumcised. In positions of leadership, we are held to a higher standard of faithfulness and Moses wasn’t meeting the minimum. Zipporah’s quick thinking resolves the issue and ends the conflict.
- 29-31 – Moses and Aaron had to first get the Israelites on board before they confronted the Egyptians.
- 1-21 – Moses and Aaron’s initial presence and request is actually detrimental to the Israelites as Pharaoh, in his anger, makes their work even harder on them.
- 1-6 – Jesus, once again, flips culture on its head. It is not a great ruler or the most faithful disciple who Jesus calls the greatest. It is a weak, vulnerable child. Jesus explains that causing a child to sin is an error deserving death. We must responsibly care for those with whom we’ve been entrusted.
- 7-9 – Temptations are unavoidable because there is evil in the world. This makes it clear how detestable it is to tempt someone else and possibly cause them to sin. And it explains the lengths to which we should go, though somewhat hyperbolic, if something causes us to sin.
- 10-14 – This is similar to the parable of the Prodigal Son. When a sinner returns it should be the case that both God and the righteous rejoice. Instead, we often wonder why we, the faithful, don’t get more celebration. This reminds us that we’re all sinners.
- 15-17 – This is the proper way to call out a believer for sins. All should be done in love.
- 21-22 – Peter comes to Jesus looking for a limit. Jesus explains that grace should be limitless.
- This portion of the psalm shows how our lives should work: God gives us a variety of blessings and we praise him. David is a great example to us of how to be faithful in praise as we receive God’s continual blessings.
- Key point – be faithful to your spouse and what you’ve been given. It sounds like it’s teaching people not to share, but this is one area where that’s legitimate advice.