Sunday, March 9, 2014

Leviticus 19

Today's reading in our daily plan is Leviticus 19. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • In the first verse of this chapter God again reiterates the reason we are to obey his laws, because he is holy.
  • What follows is a list of laws. Some are very reminiscent of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:1-17), while many others are not found in the Ten Commandments.
  • Some of the laws were intended to set apart the Israelite nation from other nations. For instance, the four acts prohibited in verses 27-28 (do not: cut the hair at the sides of your head, clip the edges off your beard, cut your bodies, or put tattoo marks on yourself) were all common "pagan" practices back then used for mourning the dead. (In fact, when see the prohibition against cutting one's hair repeated in Deuteronomy 14:1-2, it specifically says "for the dead.") So it would seem that these practices weren't evil in and of themselves, but instead that they were practices associated at the time with ungodly worship, and thus to be avoided, to avoid the association.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • If you've been reading along with our plan, you've seen that in the New Testament, much of the laws in Leviticus are overturned. But today's chapter presents a good opportunity for us to think about which kinds of laws are overturned, and which are not. 
    • In the Old Testament we find what many call God's "moral law". These laws are an expression of God's character, and they are unchanging. They teach us how to love God and love people. In fact, Jesus said they all "hang" on loving God and loving people (see Matthew 22:34-40). In the New Testament, we do not see this "moral law" being overturned. In fact, we see Jesus raising the standard for living a life of love according to the law. For instance, in the Old Testament we're taught not to murder, but in the New Testament Jesus says we should not even hate. In the Old Testament we're taught not to commit adultery, in the New Testament Jesus says we should not even lust after someone we're not married to. (See Matthew 5.)
    • In the Old Testament we also find what many call the "ceremonial law," or we could perhaps call the "religious" law. The ceremonial law was added because people did not keep the moral law. If the moral law had been kept, the ceremonial law would have been unnecessary. The ceremonial law consisted of ceremonies and sacrifices people were ordered to do to remove their guilt from their failure to keep the moral law, and to reconcile their relationship with God. In the New Testament we do see this "ceremonial law" being overturned. In fact, it's one of the major themes of the New Testament - especially in books like Romans and Galatians and Colossians and Hebrews. Why was the ceremonial law overturned? Because God provided a new way for guilt to be removed and people to be reconciled to God, and that new way is through faith in the (once-and-for-all) sacrifice of Jesus. (See, for instance, Hebrews 10:1-18).

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Read Matthew 5:21-48, where we see Jesus elevating the standard for the morality we're to live by as his followers (typically by taking it from merely the actions we take to our hearts). Of the topics Jesus covers (anger, lust, making promises we don't keep, loving your enemies, etc.) which do you struggle with the most? Ask God to help you to live out his "moral law" in this area of your life. What could you do to partner with God in seeing real growth in that area?