Originally published March 30, 2012… and just as true today as we’re once again listening through the book that Jon Acuff calls the “read through the Bible in one year widow maker.” He’s a smart and funny boy…
Alright, let’s put it right out there… When reading your way through the Bible, there are some parts you just aren’t looking forward to. It’s ok – you can say it. I did, and no lightning ensued. No chasm opened up, swallowing me, Edward G. Robinson, or any golden cow. Nor did Charlton Heston lob any stone tablets my way.
The word “begat” can instantly make us want to check our email. Major prophets can leave us in a minor fog. Revelation sometimes isn’t revealing.
Sorry for that last one. I’m feeling a little punny this morning.
And then there’s the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Old Testament. There’s action, drama, brave deeds, inexplicable redemption…
And Leviticus. Not to mention Numbers.
Now as you may know, or as you may not know, since obviously the doings of my little life are scarcely worth a blip on the radar of the grand scheme of all things considered in the world as a whole, um… where was I?
I listen to the Daily Audio Bible each day. It keeps me centered in the Word, it makes me mindful of God’s place in my day, and at the very least, it keeps me obedient to show up every day. Listening for me works better than trying to navigate and read the word, since I can keep my hands busy (with crochet or loom knitting) which keeps my head engaged.
Except… for… Leviticus. (And, not to mention, Numbers.)
Now, for anyone who lives an orthodox faith life that includes following the laws and commands in Leviticus, please don’t interpret anything I might say in any way slamming, insulting, disparaging or otherwise casting nastiness on the things written therein. The foundation of my own faith life comes from there, and the whole Bible is God’s word to me.
That being said, I repeat:
It’s taking some major effort to stay engaged. Or to not fast forward to the New Testament reading. I mean, we’re in Mark. I can get a handle on Mark. I can engage with Mark. The depth of the wisdom of Jesus eludes my thick head, but still – I can engage with it. But when phrases like “This is the law for he who has a sore or rash of the skin” come up, I want to run screaming from the room.
And don’t even get me started about when the word “emission” comes around. *shudder*
Thankfully, Brian Hardin has been taking some level of pity on us, reading from translations that at least give us some modern language to wade through. I can’t imagine listening through this in the King James Version.
Not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with the KJV. Just to be clear. Really. I mean that. Look – the KJV is one of the translations in my PocketBible App. Look – right there. See?
(did I cover enough of my hiney on that one?)
Today, I think the Lord had mercy upon me, when He prompted Steve the Mental Hamster to spin up a little something that I can wrap the ol’ noodle around to help me put some of what I’m listening to in perspective. Thanks Steve – as always, you fling and I’ll catch.
There are exceptions to that rule, by the way.
Anyway, what I’m finally getting out of Leviticus is just how much I take God for granted. How much I try to reduce Him or try to pare Him down to fit into my little world. The way I try to take my walk as a follower of Jesus, and turn it into a stroll, a shuffle, a meander, a wander – anything but a walk. To make every day Casual Friday, or spin off a new movement – Casual Christianity. (I’m certain someone already thought of that…) In other words –
To make God into “my Big Buddy upstairs.”
And that He should never be. Not in word, not in thought, and certainly not by my deeds. And if there was any doubt about that, a trip through Leviticus will clear it up.
God is holy. His people approach a holy God, and in order to come to Him, they must be clean. Nothing unclean can come to Him, and to try and approach Him thus leads to death. Trying to come to Him directly is impossible – it requires the consecrated priests to go between us and offer the sacrifices. The sacrifices must be without flaws or blemishes, or He will not accept them. His festivals and sacrifices must be observed. His sabbath must be obeyed.
All because He gets great entertainment seeing just how many hoops He can make people jump through just to contact Him, right? To get His kicks seeing just what lengths these flawed human beans will go to so some guilt will be lifted off their backs?
Because He’s so detached from all creation that He can’t relate to us at all unless we perform all sorts of snitty little things to even have Him notice us at all, let alone hear us or, dare we imagine it, respond to us?
Um, no. Nope. Nada.
Get this into your basic view of everything around you: The world is broken. We are fallen, broken creatures in need of redemption. Sad, but there it is. No matter how much optimism we try and pour into it, regardless of how much we’d “like to teach the world to sing,” or how we’re encouraged to “coexist,” it’s like putting a bandaid over an amputation. There’s a deeper, severe issue at the root of it – it’s all broken.
That’s not pessimism, that’s not bein’ an old poop, and that’s not refusing to make lemonade when the world hands me lemons – it’s the basic premise that in my little limited world forms the key to trying to understand any of the chaos.
So how does one approach a perfect, holy God when one is a flawed, broken creature in need of redemption?
Livin’ La Vida Leviticus.
Now, forward on to my time and my A.D. world… The Lamb of God was sacrificed to redeem this broken creature. And all broken creatures. But is the one sacrifice any less than all the countless ones that went before? Or is it so much greater than everything before or after that the ordinances and rules and forms of Leviticus seem simple in comparison?
And how should I respond to such mercy and grace? If the Hebrews couldn’t come near to God without the intervention of the priests, how can I just roll out a hearty “OMG!” with nary a guilty twinge? If the implements of service in the Tabernacle were so holy that they required a whole list of rules to just get them from place to place, how do I act and interact at our church?
Just because God’s gift in Jesus is free, we can’t ever see it as “cheap.”
One final observation, lest the ship get so overbalanced in one direction that we capsize… We live under grace, not the Law. Christ came to grant true and absolute freedom, and I am thankful for that. Believe me, saddlepals, in my second life and new physique, I understand a bit more of overwhelming grace than I ever have.
But the attitude of my heart, and the actions that spring from it, needs to reflect the weight of that mercy and grace. Not to bear it, since I can’t; Not to add to it or take away from it, since my puny humanity could never accomplish such a thing; and not to discount or cheapen it by my attitude or behavior. To strive for and hopefully achieve the balance between amazing intimacy with Jesus, and proper awe and reverence for the Father. To worship the Triune God both as a fallen creature in need of redemption, and as an adopted son redeemed by faith in Christ Jesus.
And to remember the lesson of Leviticus – God’s gift of life is free, but it is never ever cheap.