Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Principles of Leviticus

I’ve always approached the study of the book of Leviticus with a certain amount of trepidation. All those sacrifices, and I’m a vegetarian! It’s not the first book of the Bible I turn to for inspiration. However, my studies have been greatly enhanced of late by watching some Youtube presentations by the late Pastor Chuck Smith, who has a study series on every book of the Bible online. I don’t agree with all his views, particularly in the area of capital punishment, but the series has provided some solid theological background and is a useful resource.
The following are some of my own insights from reading and studying Leviticus from a Christian perspective.

God is magnificent in His holiness. He alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is worthy of honour and praise for who He is.

The ultimate purpose of our lives should be to bring honour and glory to Him because He is worthy of it. We do this by offering our lives to Him. The whole principle of offerings should be because we want to honour God. So often the Christian life and wishy-washy preaching centres around what God can do for us, when the reverse should be the case.

God created mankind for fellowship and relationship with Him. He created the first humans, Adam and Eve, to live in close fellowship with Him, but created them with free choice, to be obedient to Him or to disobey Him. They were tempted by Satan and chose to disobey, invoking God’s punishment which would be to all mankind- separation from God, sin and death.

By the time we reach the book of Leviticus in Biblical history, Adam and Eve’s descendents are still struggling with this separation from God. They are aware of their sinfulness and want to get right with Him. This awareness of sinfulness and sorrow and regret for it  is called repentance.

God has already given Moses the Ten Commandments, the ten great principles of godly living. Now through Moses, the Israelites are given further instructions on living in a way pleasing to God. They are to make distinctions between what is clean and unclean, or acceptable or unacceptable. God’s instructions cover a range of areas including what to eat and drink, hygiene practices, sexual relations, not consulting mediums or spiritualists, and hospitality to strangers. The treatment of the poor is covered, including the institution of the principle of Jubilee, the forgiving of debts. The principle of tithing is instituted.

Sacrificing animals or foodstuffs was, therefore a way of honouring God by giving Him a gift and a way of making atonement to God for sin – paying a price. It was a way of saying, “I deserve to die for my sins, but instead, You, God, will accept the death of an animal in my stead as payment.  Leviticus contains instructions for a number of different sacrifices, some to atone for personal sins and some for sins of the whole community. As well as personal offerings, at specific times throughout the year the Israelites were to observe festivals where sacrifices were made, God honoured and celebrated and the need for atonement reflected upon.

What was given to God? The first. The best. The result of hard work and effort.

We already see obvious parallels to what was to come. Throughout the ensuing books of the Old Testament, the Israelites were unable to stop sinning and keep God’s laws. Despite the call back to faith and holiness by God’s prophets, the people of God disobeyed and neglected Him, bringing destruction upon themselves.

Finally, God’s love and mercy was so great that he sent Jesus, who honoured and obeyed His Father as none of us ever could. Jesus became the offering to atone for the sins of mankind once and for all time. There can be no other.

Today we still struggle with the awareness of sin and the need for a Saviour. Whether acknowledged or not, each person is sinful,  mortal and needs hope for a future beyond this life, a relationship with God who created them. Without God individuals and communities face breakdown and despair, death and God's judgement.

In the book of Leviticus the priest was to be the intermediary between man and God. Now Jesus completely fills that role. We can come to God directly through Christ. There is still a role for a priest/pastor/ vicar or similar personage to teach and minister to the body of Christ, but we have a high priest in Jesus Christ and can “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16). A prayer of repentance and faith in God sets one’s feet on a completely different journey through life.

In Christ we receive God’s forgiveness, love and grace. We are to honour God by acknowledging his Holiness and His love in sending Jesus to be our redeeming Saviour.  We are to live lives worthy of His calling, by reflecting His holiness, by living as best we are able in accordance with his principles. In Christ this is not an onerous burden or an arduous ritual, but a life-enhancing joy.

As Christmas approaches, the reading of the book of Leviticus reminds us of why God sent His Son into this world. During this Christmas season, maybe we can honour God by adopting some of the principles. Can we :
 Honour God and serve Him this Christmas?
Take time out for prayer and worship?
Offer something to the poor?
Extend hospitality to a stranger?
Cancel a debt?
Create something with our hands for someone?

Reading the book may provide other ideas.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Grace and Peace

All of New Testament epistles of Paul begin with greetings to the particular church being addressed and the bestowing of “grace and peace” to the reader. In the case of his letters to Timothy, Paul sends “grace, mercy and peace”.

These two blessings are coupled together for a reason. We can’t know the real peace of God without knowing His grace- the favour that He gives to the undeserving. The Bible tells us we’re born sinners, unable to save ourselves. The only way to God is through His Son, Jesus Christ. We receive the mercy of God because Christ has already paid the price. Without Christ, the human heart is restlessly searching for what will bring peace of mind, comfort and love.

Only through Christ’s atoning death and resurrection do we have hope and the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)


“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
So wrote the author William Faulkner. The past can steal your peace like nothing else. Memories can keep you reliving situations and events that can destroy today and all of your tomorrows.
But then there’s grace.
The unwarranted bestowing of forgiveness, whether sought for or not, can set the hurting heart free. When we decide to forgive, we kill the past. We free ourselves to live in the present without pain. In essence, we give what we cannot reclaim, control or fix to God, for Him to handle for us. By bestowing grace, we receive abundant grace from God.
Grace and peace.

Grace and peace to you.

View from the Bluff, Victor Harbour, South Australia.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


Somewhere the prettiness left
And a pool of dark grey-brown determined sludge
Enveloped my mind
Contaminating all with its heaviness
Strangling my feet
Marooned, I foundered
Before my hands were drowned, I reached
For seeds of hope
That in the depths of mud and slime
Seeds grow
Struggling to reach the sun but still
Determined seeds
Nurtured with tenderness
Tenacious shoots
Clinging to life
They formed a mat of verdant green
For me to set my feet upon.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Sexual Purity

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him [Jesus]. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
(Matthew 19:3-12)

From these words of Jesus we gain an understanding God created man and woman to be in partnership and that sex is to be between a man and his wife, therefore following marriage. In addition, it allows for divorce only in the case of sexual immorality, which we take to be adultery – engaging in sexual relations with another person outside of the marriage.

For Christians sexual relations outside of marriage are therefore forbidden, according to the words of Jesus. The word “fornication” is one which is not in common use these days, but basically it refers to sexual relations outside of marriage. In the Bible we are told to

"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

Those who honour God’s precepts will be blessed.
We live in a time where many different kinds of relationships are sanctioned, even by people who attend churches, yet those who ignore God’s rules can’t expect to be in right relationship with Him.

Sadly, I’ve seen Christian friends who know God’s principles turn away from them for the sake of human relationships. There’s often a falling away from church life that follows because we cannot walk with God and follow popular culture at the same time when it encourages us to shift from His principles. We’re here to serve and obey Him and we’re fooling ourselves if we think He sanctions sin.

We live in a culture which has turned sex into an idol of enormous proportions, and the internet has made pornography available on an unprecedented scale. Sexual “freedom” has resulted in a rocketing divorce rate, broken lives and scarred children.  It’s also a great stumbling block in witnessing to non-Christians if conversion to Christianity is going to challenge their living arrangements with partners outside of marriage.

Chastity and celibacy are two more words which are seldom used these days, but maybe it’s time to remind our young people, and older singles too, that they are viable options. Jesus affirms this in the above passage from Matthew. Whenever we make a choice of sacrifice for the sake of obedience to His word, we are blessed in our walk with Him and often blessed in the area of our lives that we have been willing to give up.

May God bless those to whom these words have given a new direction in thought.