What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, July 8, 2022):
• Leviticus 9-15
• Jeremiah 33-39
• Acts 10-16
• Psalms 99-105
Notes on Leviticus
Once again, when everything for the tabernacle worship had been completed by the Israelites exactly as God had commanded, with reverent and worshipful hearts, God showed up in an extraordinary way (see 9.23-24). If we completely obeyed God as a body today, could we expect to see such a manifestation?
It sure didn’t take very long after the priests were consecrated for ministry for them to make a major mess-up. Two of Aaron’s sons were struck down by God for deliberately changing the rules almost immediately after they began their ministry (10.1-2). The Levites are the “pastoral” tribe for the rest of the Israelites. Aaron and his sons and all of his male descendants (who are of course all Levites) will be the priests of Israel. So though the Levites will serve the other tribes in pastorly fashion, it is the priests who will actually serve at the Temple itself, performing the sacrifices and all of the other facets of Temple worship throughout the history of Israel. See, for example, Luke 1.5. In 10.10 we first read of the need to distinguish between the holy and the common, where “common” will be used as its opposite—not “unholy”.
And then in 10.16-20, Aaron was so upset about his sons’ deaths (who wouldn’t be?), that instead of eating the meat of the goat sacrificed for the sin offering (which the priests were directed to do), he simply burned it all up. An allowance was made for this grieving father. Jews are notorious for not being allowed to eat pork (how in the world do you live without bacon?). But there are many other animals on their “do not eat” list, which we find in chapter 11. If I were Jewish, when I get to heaven I would like to ask God why he made a world for me where it was okay to eat grasshoppers and crickets, but not bacon or lobster. We see the process of purification for mothers following childbirth (chapter 12) played out in Mary’s life following the birth of Jesus in Luke 2. Though Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day, she and Joseph did not go to the Temple until day 40 (see Leviticus 12.3-4). We know that Mary and Joseph were poor, because instead of bringing a lamb (12.6), she brought two doves (12.8, Luke 2.22-24). In chapters 13-15, we have delightful reading about skin diseases, rashes, discharges and blood. You would wonder why there is so much detail here.
It is interesting that the Lord made our bodies with such propensity for such unclean things. He has made our bodies in a way that reflects our souls. We have spiritual uncleanliness that needs to be addressed and remedied as well. The way the physical ailments and their evaluation are described gives us a picture of God’s holiness, and how we cannot approach him covered with stains. You have to feel bad for those who had to be separated from the general population, and call out “Unclean, unclean,” wherever they went (13.45-46). Of course, their condition could be contagious, or at least dangerous enough to spread germs and bacteria everywhere they go.
Tradition added that others must remain “four cubits” away from lepers. (In The Chosen, in one episode with a leper in the area, you hear the disciples repeat the words, “Four cubits, four cubits!”). Four cubits is six feet. And the lepers had to wear masks. Some things never change. Notes on Jeremiah
Another great verse to memorize: 33.3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
To see just how wicked the leadership of Judah had become, we read the account of how King Jehoiakim, as God’s warning to him is read from a scroll prepared by Jeremiah and his faithful scribe Baruch, cut it off piece by piece as it was read to him, and threw it in the fire until the entire document was destroyed. (36.1-23).
Some days, it’s hard being a prophet. And then, on the other days, it’s REALLY hard. Jeremiah had little positive to say to his people, but that is because their sin had reached the sky, and judgement was already on its way. So Jeremiah was accused of being negative and discouraging everybody (38.4).
He was therefore thrown into a cistern, nothing more than a dark, dank, and deep hole in the ground that held water for part of the year, but was just a mud pit at this time of year. He nearly died.
The Babylonians invade in chapter 39. The end is upon them.
Notes on Acts
Notice the spiritual hunger that was manifesting among the Gentiles. Paul and the apostles would find them in synagogues wherever they went, a place where any non-Jew most likely was not very welcome, but were tolerated anyway. See 13.14, 26, and 43. Great spiritual hunger drove them to push through all of this resistance in their desperate search for the Living God.
In 13.16, we read, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” This is the sixth time we find Jesus saying this (in all four gospels, Acts 1, and here). There is no other command or message from the mouth of Jesus that we see reiterated that often in all of the Bible.
Those who opposed the apostles in Acts (see 4.6) are the same ones who opposed Jesus at his trial. It is sad to think of all of those involved here who spent their entire lives searching the Scriptures, specifically to understand the Messiah. But when he appeared, they completely missed him (13.27). Yet those who walked with him (31) “got it.” May we, as we read the Bible every day, not miss the revelation deep in our hearts and spirits of just who Jesus is. At this point in our narrative, the leaders in the church had finally figured out that the gospel was indeed universal, available freely to all—it was not just for the Jews. And that truth, they finally acknowledged, had been blaring out of the Old Testament Scriptures all along (13.47). The church had to deal with the thought of forcing believing Gentiles into the Jewish customs and practices. Wisely, they decided there was no value in making it more difficult for others to enter the kingdom of God (15.19). I also feel some sort of comfort in the words “… it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” Not being absolutely certain I hear specific words from the heavens doesn’t nullify my ability to hear God, if that were the experience of these giants of the faith (28). You may wonder why Paul was irritated by the girl who was shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (16.17). This may seem to have been some great free advertising. However, there are a few things to consider. First, the tone. She may have said this in a sarcastic, demeaning, or ridiculing voice. Even if not, we see that demons several times announced Jesus as Messiah, but were rebuked and barred by him from doing so again.
The reason for this is very simple. We do not want or need the testimony of demons for any reason. Those evil spirits may be saying the right thing now, but you can count on the fact that they will change their tune later. Any credibility we give them will carry over, always to our disadvantage.
Notes on Psalms
If you grew up in the church and attended a contemporary church during the 80’s, it’s pretty hard to read too many psalms in this part of the book before you find yourself singing along with many parts of the text. For many of us growing up in the church, Psalm 100 is one of the first chapters we memorized. If you haven’t done it before (or long since forgotten it), it’s a good time to memorize it (again).
In Psalm 101, we find a great verse to meditate on and cherish in our internet age: “I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. I will not look with approval on anything that is vile” (2b-3). There is plenty of vileness out there to not look at. Psalm 103 is one of the best to memorize in its entirety. The people were only aware of the deeds of the Lord; but Moses knew his ways (verse 7). This chapter captures so much of God’s nature and his ministry toward us: redemption, healing, blessing, Father love, compassion, forgiveness.
The awesomeness of God is laid out in 104.2-3: “The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.”