February 23, 2009

Seeing God - Year Bible #08

As we study through the Bible we come to Leviticus, which deals mostly with the issue of holiness. Many will begin fasting for 40 days for Lent beginning February 25th in a desire for more holiness. What exactly is holiness and what is its purpose? Jesus took the lid off the holiness in His first publicly recorded sermon. He said “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5.8) Firstly, Jesus revealed that holiness is a way to blessedness, which basically means happiness. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Secondly, He revealed that holiness has more to do with a clean heart than clean hands, an important point as we begin Leviticus. And thirdly, He revealed that holiness leads to seeing God. People who have seen God working greatly in their lives seem to have understood this.

The Apostle Paul saw God work mightily in his life. He said “…we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” (Ephesians 1.4) William Wilberforce, who was an instrument God used to end slavery in England, plus many other things, said “There is no shortcut to holiness; it must be the business of our whole lives.” Charles Spurgeon, who also saw God working greatly in his life, said "If I had my choice of all the blessings I can conceive of I would choose perfect conformity to the Lord Jesus, or, in one word, holiness."

Holiness, as an end in itself, can lead to legalism, but our holiness is actually one of the main goals of God for us! "God chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we might be holy and blameless before him in love." (Eph 1.4) In Paul's Epistle to Timothy we see a practical reason for holiness in this life. I Timothy 2.21 says “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” The Hebrew word for “holy” is “qodesh” and it means dedicated or “set apart” for a special purpose. I should stress the difference between salvation and sanctification. On the one hand, scriptures say all our good deeds and "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Is 64.6) as compared to God's standard or holiness. Thus we need His righteousness by faith (Rom 3.22), that is, the free gift of salvation, justification by faith (Eph 2.8). On the other hand, we are called to pursue holiness and sanctification in our Christian lives. Hebrews 12.4 states "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Though we may call it "pursuing holiness," sanctification is ultimately His work of grace in us and it is based on His faithfulness to us: "May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who called you is faithful, and he will do it."(I Thess 5.23-24)

Our teamwork with God doesn't nullify grace. "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain but I worked harder than any of them. Nevertheless it was not I but the grace of God which is with me." (I Cor 15.10). Running the race of the Christian life is not an easy thing, but it can be done with joy and confidence as we realize it is God who laid out the "race that is set before us." (Psa 19.5, Heb 12.1). The main work for us is to surrender our lives to God, this is the most difficult thing. (Rom 12.1-2) Surrender is based on trust and so ultimately, the main work for us is simply to believe! (Jn 6.29)

The name Leviticus is from the name Levite. God ordained Aaron, from the tribe of Levi, as the first priest and his sons became a family of priests. This book was written firstly to outline the duties and requirements of these priests but also to show how Jesus would fulfill all these requirements as our “Great High Priest” (Heb 4.14). And so we literally “see God” revealed in Leviticus as we see Jesus revealed and predicted in the scriptures. Hebrews 9.23, for example, shows that the rituals of Leviticus are “patterns of things in the heavens” and the sacrifices point to “better sacrifices than these.”

God in the Details

As we look at Leviticus, we will see God in the details; we’ll see the advanced medical techniques He gave to Moses. Leviticus 12.3 requires circumcision on the eighth day. How did Moses know that was the day blood clotting was maximized in an infant? Leviticus 13-15 talks about the principles of quarantine. How did they know about the spread of germs? Leviticus 15:19-33 speaks of bacterial contamination and how to avoid it. This was long before the microscope was invented. Compare this with an Egyptian medical book called the Papyrus Ebers of the same era: "To prevent hair from turning gray, anoint it with the blood of a black calf which has been boiled in oil, or with the fat of a rattlesnake." When hair falls out, one remedy is to apply a mixture of six fats, namely those of the horse, the hippopotamus, the crocodile, the cat, the snake and the Ibex." And just in case you have a really bad case of hair loss, there is a special addion to make it extra strong..."To strengthen it, anoint with the tooth of a donkey crushed in honey...to remove embedded splinters apply worms blood and asses’ dung."- Of course, that will bring infection - not healing. The contrast between the Israelites and the Egyptians of the same time period is amazing.

God also revealed many useful and practical guides to health and diet and you may choose to follow them. On the other hand, you have to be careful about being legalistic. Keep in mind that the New Covenant was predicted in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 31.33. This prophecy shows that our right standing with God would be made possible through knowing God through Messiah. And so the New Covenant is more about relationship than rules. In Acts 15 certain men from Judaea told the Christian Gentiles – “you must be circumcised!” according to the law. But Paul, Barnabas, and Peter said “no!” Why put “a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15.10). A yoke is simply a device for joining cattle together in order to work together, in case you didn’t know. Jesus showed that we are to be “Yoked” to him, not the law. He said “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.” (Mat 11.30) And so clearly, we’re not under the Mosaic Law, were under grace. And so as you study Leviticus, may the Lord lead you and show you if there are specific practices that he would have you follow.

Jesus in the Offerings (Leviticus 1-7)

There are five types of offerings mentioned. They all reveal unique aspects of Jesus Christ, painting a picture of Jesus as the ultimate offering.
(1) Burnt offering (Jesus our sacrifice) Through Christ's finished work we can enter with boldness into fellowship with God. (Heb 10.12-22)
(2) “Meat” offering - Offerings made from meal and plants of the earth. There were three types:
a) Fine flour (Jesus our example) - Grain is ground and sifted even as Jesus our example “…humbled himself, and became obedient unto death…” (Phil 2.5-8).
b) Frankincense (Jesus our scent) – His grace is sweet. We become the “savor of Christ,” of life to believers, of death to non-believers (II Cor 2.15-16)
c) Baked loaves (Jesus our sustenance) Jesus satisfies the deepest needs of the spirit with his pure “Bread of Life.” He said “He that cometh to me shall never hunger.” (Jn 6.35)
(3) Peace offering (Jesus our peace) Inward parts of animal waved were before the Lord. (Lev 3.1, 7.34) Through Christ we have inner peace “…having made peace through the blood of His cross by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself.” (Col. 1.20)(4) Sin offering (Jesus our redemption). “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (I Jn 1.7)

Ordained for Intimacy (Leviticus 8-10)

Aaron and his sons are consecrated and ordained to draw near as priests before the Lord. This is an example for us as “a royal priesthood” (I Pet 2.9) according to the New Covenant. We are ordained first and foremost simply to know fellowship with the Lord, we are ordained for intimacy. (Phil 3.8-10)

The priests were to be consecrated unto God, set apart for Him, dedicated to Him, as we are to be: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Ro 12.1) as being dedicated to God, they became instruments for God. Romans 12.2 continues “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

They were to “abide at the door of the tabernacle” day and night (Lev 8.35) even as Jesus said “Abide in me and I in you.” (Jn 15.4)

After this consecration Moses said “…and the glory of the Lord shall appear unto you.” (Lev 9.6) Likewise Jesus said “…the pure in heart…shall see God.” (Mat 5.8) It is God’s desire to have close fellowship with us but sin breaks this sense of intimacy. Psalms 66.18 states “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” We need to be honest with God and He will help us overcome.

Food for Thought (Leviticus 11)

Chapter 11 outlines the first kosher menue. Verse three says to only eat animals that have a divided hoof and chew cud. Pork, the other white meat, was off the menue, pigs don't chew cud. (V7) Not long ago, science learned that eating undercooked pork causes an infection of parasites called trichinosis (трихиноз). The Bible forbade them from eating pork more than 3,000 years before we learned how to cook pork safely.

Leviticus 11:9-12 says to avoid those sea creatures which do not have fins or scales. Bottom-feeders, those with no scales or fins, tend to consume waste and are likely to carry disease. Shell fish act like filters and often have heavy metals inside, such as mercury - not Freddie Mercury by the way; he wasn’t heavy metal - He and Queen were “glam rock.” Freddie died at 45 yrs from AIDS complication basically because he was a promiscuous homosexual. This isn’t too much off the subject as we’ll see how Leviticus 18.22 forbids homosexuality. Back to the diet regime…The Bible warns against eating birds of prey (Leviticus 11:13-19). Scientists now recognize that those birds often spread disease because of the rotting flesh they eat.
Leviticus 11.27 says whatever has “paws” is verboten. In 2003, 800 people died in China from eating civet [siv-it] cats. The civets were host animals of the SARS disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Though they are called cats, they are really from the mongoose family. They look like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and apparently taste like wild venison. In 2006 Chinese found the genetic proof that the civet cat’s transferred the disease. The WHO confirmed this.

Again, I want to point out that we are not bound by these dietary laws. Peter was hanging out on his rooftop in Joppa (Yaffa) Israel when God showed him that the New Covenant allowed for the eating of “…all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.” (Acts 10.12) Peter was rocked out of his kosher socks, but he got the picture. We are free to choose.
No Coincidence

Leviticus 12.3 commanded the circumcision of newborn males on the eighth day. Medical science has discovered that the blood clotting chemical prothrombin (протромбин) peaks in a newborn on the eighth day. (see chart) Dr. S.I. McMillen pointed out that choosing the eight day was not a result of centuries of trial and error, it was ordained by God, affirming that the scriptures are inspired by God (II Tim 3.16) (None of These Diseases, 1984, p. 93).

Studies have shown at least 3 medical benefits to circumcision: 1) An article in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that none of the over 1,600 persons studied with penal cancer had been circumcised in infancy. In fact, researchers Cochen and McCurdy have stated there are “essentially zero” cases of such among the circumcised. 2) Urinary tract infections are 10-to-39 times less likely in circumcised boys than in uncircumcised boys. 3) Research at Johns Hopkins University Medical School has shown that circumcised men are six to eight times less likely to become infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. (Reuters, March 25, 2004). More info is at this link.

Wholeness in Christ (Leviticus 13-14)

There were many laws specifically related to leprosy, today called Hansen’s disease. Leprosy is a good example of sin. It eats away at your life leaving gaping holes. It makes you ugly as a person and brings destruction and death. Leviticus 13.3 shows how leprosy gets deep under your skin, so similar to the nature of sin. 14.2 shows that an offering must be made if a person is healed from leprosy. In Mark 1.40 a leper comes to Jesus asking for healing. Jesus heals him and then says “go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." (Mark 1.44) This was definitely a testimony! Probably the first time in history a person had been healed from leprosy and required this offering! No matter how deep or ugly your sins are there is a total cure in Jesus Christ. Holiness is wholeness. To walk in holiness is to walk in wholeness.

As I mentioned earlier, homosexuality is forbidden in Leviticus 18. AIDS was originally called GRID an acronym form Gay-Related Immunity Deficiency, because most of the victims were male gays. But because of political opposition and political correctness, the name was changed. In 2006, however, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center launched a campaign proclaiming “AIDS is a gay disease. Own it. End it.” There was another campaign with the same idea last year. The truth is coming out of the closet. And just because I agree the homosexual lifestyle is destructive, it does not mean I’m a gay basher. I believe we are to show God’s love to those trapped in this lifestyle and and pray for their deliverance. It is possible to hate the sin and love the sinner.

Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Mat 5.8) Sin tends to warp our understanding, while holiness gives us clarity to see things as they really are. Unfortunately, sin is highly rated in society while holiness is underrated and not very popular. You don’t have to wait till you're old to seek God’s way of holiness and happiness. Psalm 119.9 states “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” This is t he way of true happiness.


To seek holiness doesn't mean we must be sad, somber or serious. Quite the opposite, we can be joyful. We can celebrate God’s wisdom, that the scriptures have been tested by science and found to be ahead of their time. We can celebrate the fact that we have the law as a guide but we are not in bondage to it. We can also celebrate the fact that we are being confirmed into the image of Christ, not so much by our effort, but by His grace. Philippians 1.6 says “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” May we accept the trials in our lives understanding that it is all for God’s glory as He uses trials to refine us. (I Pet 1.7)

John Wesley once asked an audience of preachers “Why are we not more holy?” Then he answered “Chiefly because we are enthusiasts, looking for the end without the means.”

In what ways have you sought holiness in your life? Did you have more joy as a result? Are there any examples of how you saw more of God in your life as you persued holiness?

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