Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What's This Have to Do with Me?

I recently saw a billboard that read,

"If you're an educated person, you have read the Bible"

Do you agree? Is that a classic on the must-list for literature?

Right now I'm walking through the Bible in a year with some of my friends. This week we're in the book of Leviticus.

Leviticus is not one of the easier books to read or apply for someone who is simply curious about the Bible, about Christianity, or newer to understanding Judaism.

Along those lines, this week's blogs may be a little different from some of the others. They'll include some background information before we get to the application (see the "What's This Have to Do With Me?" section at the bottom).

There are several things that make Leviticus seem foreign to us. One of the major difficulties is the idea of sacrifice.

The first 7 chapters of this book all have to do with sacrifices or offerings.

Offerings were common among many different religions during this period. However, several ideas the Hebrews had about sacrifices distinguished their ritual from those of other religions.

One such idea was that for some religions, the purpose of sacrificing food to the gods was to provide the gods with sustenance. If your god was hungry, he needed you to bring a sacrifice so he could eat.

Hebrews didn't believe this. (Do we really think the One we worship, the One who created world and all that is in it, needs food from us to feed Him? See Psalm 50:12-13)

What was the purpose of the offerings? Each offering had a different purpose:

BURNT OFFERING - serves as a means to make a request to God. Mercy, victory, forgiveness, purification, or any number of other things the worshiper was getting ready to ask for, would be preceded by the Burnt Offering. If you're getting ready to ask for something, this would be an offering you'd include.

GRAIN OFFERING - "The rabbis considered this to be a substitute of the Burnt Offering for poor people" says one source. It was a "gift" or "tribute" where respect or honor are intended. If you're simply wanting to acknowledge the exceeding nature of God, you're overwhelmed with gratitude, this would be appropriate.

FELLOWSHIP OFFERING - this would often go hand in hand with the Burnt Offering. The Fellowship Offering was primarily to indicate or underscore the covenant, the relationship the worshiper and God are in.
Promises have been made. Allegiances have been sworn. This sacrifice is the worshipers pointing to the covenant and saying, "I remember this. You are my God. I am your person."

This offering also comes with a NO FAT clause: "All the fat is the LORD's" (This offering also prohibits the worshiper from consuming meat with blood still in it).

PURIFICATION or SIN OFFERING - Interesting to note that this section begins with "When anyone sins unintentionally..." (in 4:2, as well as vv 13, 22, 27). This offering restores the relationship between the worshiper and God (and other people, when they have been offended as well.)

GUILT or REPARATION OFFERING - This sacrifice is "designed to address particular categories of offense: breach of faith and sacrilege (desecration of sacred areas or objects)."

(The IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament)

What's This Have to Do With Me?

1. Our Hebrew parents remind us that coming to worship is not something we do nonchalantly or thoughtlessly. It involves preparation and intention.

Do I enter into worship with a sense of planning and preparation or haphazardly and at the last minute? Does God deserve my intentionality or does He simply receive whatever is leftover of my mental, emotional, or social resources?

2. Worship is costly for the Hebrews because more often than not, something has to die, blood has to be spilled. (And even in the Grain Offering, something of value is given away.)

Do you treat worship as something that costs you time and energy and finances and priorities? Or do you try to find a way to worship that doesn't cost anything?

May Leviticus challenge you to examine the way that you worship.

Grace & peace.

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