Sacrifice and saltiness….

27 02 2011

DAY FIFTY-EIGHT : Leviticus 1 v. 1 – 3 v. 17; Mark 9 v. 33 – 10 v. 12; Psalm 27 v. 1 – 6

Leviticus, here we go!
Where Exodus ends focussing on where to worship God (the Tabernacle), Leviticus is about how to worship. Some sections relate exclusively to the Levites (from where the book gets its name) – the priests – but most of the book relates to every person, every worshipper, and is about sacrifices, cleanness and holiness.
So, the first seven chapters are about SACRIFICE, and I found this note helpful :

“These chapters are called the Manual of Offerings. The specificity of the instructions and their attention to apparently minor details strikes modern, western sensibilities as strange. But these matters underline an important point : atonement is only possible because God offers it. He, therefore, determines its conditions. The heart which is so stubborn as to refuse to meet His conditions is hardly the repentant one necessary to receive God’s forgiveness…” (Wesley Study Bible)

LEVITICUS
Burnt Offerings – God’s first act, once the Tent of Meeting is complete, is to outline the worship to be offered. A male animal, without defect, is to be offered. The ‘atonement’ is offered as a person lays his / her hands upon the animal’s head. The individual slaughters the animal and the priests sprinkle the blood on the altar sides. The individual skins the animal, and cut it in pieces. The priests wash the inner parts of the animal (and the legs) and it is all offered on the altar as a burnt offering, “an aroma pleasing to the Lord.” Similar for bulls, sheep or goats, slightly different for doves / pigeons (where people were unable to afford to give an animal, and it’s the priests who deal with the birds…)

I noted, again, the requirement of an animal without blemish – God requiring the very best – a perfect sacrifice :
“You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1 v. 19)
“Christ has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” (Ephesians 5 v. 2)

Grain Offerings – the finest flour is to be offered, and whether it is brought in raw form (mixed with oil and along with incense), or ready cooked (with salt (which represented the covenant promise that God would ‘preserve’ Israel forever), but without yeast), there is a portion of it which the priests burn on the altar, and the rest is kept by the priests (belonging to Aaron and his sons);

Fellowship Offerings – unlike the burnt offering (which offers the whole animal on the altar), the fellowship (or peace) offering surrendered parts of the animal to be burnt, and the rest to be eaten (some by the giver, some by the priests, as we shall see in ch.7). This offering may have been to thank God for His presence / fellowship, and to pray it would continue.

MARK
Who is the Greatest – back in Capernaum (for a stop-off, en route), Jesus tackles the argument which had been brewing as they had journeyed, about which disciples was the greatest / best (!!). His teaching is that the very best is the one who sees himself as last, as servant of all. Then Jesus uses a small child to illustrate the kingdom – welcoming a small child equates to welcoming Jesus, even God.

Whoever Is Not Against Us Is For Us – more teaching to tackle the disciples’ misunderstanding. John tells Jesus that they had stopped someone (a person unknown to the disciples), who was driving out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus points out that no-one can perform miracles in His name and speak ill of Him, that whoever is not against us is for us – not shutting things down, seeking to control, but to get alongside, and even to accept refreshment from others (who will get their reward).

Causing to Sin – ‘don’t hinder other people’s walk with the Lord (causing them to sin), and ruthlessly eliminate sin from your own life’, says Jesus. Better to lose a limb (hand, foot, eye), which is causing you to sin, than to be thrown into hell. The reference to ‘salt’ (which links to the Leviticus readings today – the ‘salt of the covenant’), is a reminder that we are to have impact in the world, flavouring, preserving, healing.
“Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other”



Divorce
– I conducted a wedding, yesterday, and uttered the words, “What God has joined together, let no-one separate”, pronouncing a blessing on the couple. Of course, intentions in making those vows in marriage are that they are for life, and our prayers are for all marriages. The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus again with their question, but Jesus reaffirms the Moses law about writing a certificate (outlining reasons, rather than merely telling the woman to leave), and that it had been needed to restrain the hardness of hearts.
On the issue of divorce and adultery, see my post on January 27th (relating to Matthew 19).

PSALM
“The Lord is my light and salvation – whom shall I fear?
 The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom whall I be afraid?”
“One thing I ask of the Lord – this is what I seek –
 that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
 to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.”
“at His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
 I will sing and make music to the Lord.”

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