Michael’s Reflections on Leviticus

Teaching Leviticus has both been a huge challenge and privilege. I imagine that anyone who has read this book can understand the challenge of trying to teach this book, but I should give some context as to why it was also a privilege. In many ways, Leviticus was one of the books I studied on my SBS that, through a combination of great teaching and the use of the inductive method, went from being irrelevant to very relevant for me. As I prepared to teach this book, I felt a certain degree of pressure to do the same for the amazing group of students I get to teach. Simply put, this was the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far as staff on SBS.

Now that my teaching is done, I have time to stop and reflect. I was telling a student that even though I have finished teaching the book, I still don’t fully understand all of the details of the laws in Leviticus. All I can say for sure is what I see in the big picture of the book as I try to understand how it would have affected the original audience. Ultimately, I think that in attempting to keep all the laws prescribed by God in this book, the Israelites would see that God is holy. In contrast, they would also see just how stained with sin all of creation was – how stained with sin they were. God demanded dedication to holiness so that His holy presence could remain in the midst of a sinful people. Much of the focus was on remaining pure on the outside so as to resemble the purity of God in worship.

How does one apply this information to the church age following Jesus’ atoning sacrifice? One way is in seeing just how great a gift we have as worshipers of God: Jesus. The New Testament speaks over and over again about the fact that we cannot only boldly approach God because we are in Christ, but that the Spirit of God dwells inside of us in the same way that the presence of God dwelt in the Holy of Holies for the Israelites. What I have been wrestling with even more is the picture of dedication in the ceremonial laws. Jesus teaches in the gospels that God is not really interested in how clean we are on the outside, but how undefiled we are in our inner person. My question has been that if the Israelites had to be so dedicated to being outwardly clean, are we now to be as dedicated to keep the inner person pure? The way the inner person is truly cleansed is by faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus, but does that some how give us a free pass to reject the kind of dedication God called Israel to? I don’t think so. God is not any less holy now then He was then and as such, He still deserves a people who are holy. My challenge has been to consider the state of my heart as I enter times of worship; this truth has also challenged me to truly think about the words I sing. My hope is that I can come even mildly close to the level of dedication to God that He deserves.

If you are reading through the Bible with Helen, the next two books are Numbers and Deuteronomy. Reading both will take approximately five to six hours.

Genesis & Exodus

If you have never read Genesis and Exodus, I would highly recommend that you read these books; I would say that Exodus in particular is the foundation of the Old Testament, and if you read and understand Exodus, even the New Testament will become more alive to you. Before Christ, the Passover – God’s wrath passing over His people as He rescues them out of Egypt – was the redemptive event of history. The blood of the lambs killed at Passover by the Hebrews in Egypt was their “salvation,” as God saw this blood and “passed over” His people, instead striking the Egyptians (who did not believe in Him) with His wrath. This should sound familiar to us; in Christ, God sees the blood of His Son when He looks at us, and His wrath passes over us, so that we are not subjected to the judgement we deserve as sinners, but are awarded eternity with Christ!

Our next post will be on Leviticus, and will be a summary of Michael’s thoughts on this book. It takes less than two hours to read, but it is quite repetitive – some may even say “boring.” When you make it through Leviticus, I would highly recommend reading through Hebrews (which takes less than an hour). Hebrews shows the New Testament fulfillment of Leviticus, and it will really help you to make sense of all the laws and commandments God gives His people as they journey towards the Promised Land.


Genesis

Main Idea: God creates the universe and fulfills His promise to Abraham, making him the father of a people.

Reason Written: Written to explain the origin of creation and God’s people.

Timeless Truth: God is faithful (Genesis 1:1-50:26).


Exodus

Main Idea: God frees His people from slavery, tells them how to live and worship as a people of God through the promise of the covenant and the giving of the law.

Reason Written: Moses writes to show how the people of God were saved out of Egypt, how they received the law, and how the tabernacle was built.

Timeless Truth: God’s people are called to remember what He has done for them, knowing that He will continue to provide and protect His people (Exodus 12:14-20).

Revelation – A Message of Comfort For Believers

I don’t know about you, but I have not heard a lot of teaching on Revelation. In my experience, churches tend to either avoid it entirely, or succeed in freaking people out about the “end times.” (I’m sure there are churches out there who do a solid job of interpreting Revelation, but this is just my experience). As I studied Revelation, two things really stood out to me. First, there are probably more theories on the interpretation of this book than there are theories on the meaning of any other book in the Bible. Do I know which theory is right? No, but I have come to an understanding that makes the most sense to me. Second, this book is meant to COMFORT BELIEVERS. No matter what theory you adopt as you look at this book, the primary theme of this book is that JESUS WINS AND SO DO WE (we being believers)! This is not meant to be a frightening book, it is meant to comfort those who await the coming of Jesus – believers.

Below, I have come up with a few thoughts and a few guidelines for those who have read or want to read Revelation. I recognize that not everyone will agree with these thoughts and ideas, but whatever you believe about the end times, please remember that the primary message of Revelation is comfort for those who know Jesus. If you’re reading the Bible along with me, the next books I’ll be looking at are Genesis and Exodus. These are biggies – they’ll take about 3 to 3-1/2 hours each, so allot yourself about seven hours over the next few weeks for these books. Half an hour a day for two weeks should get you through it!

1. As you read Revelation, don’t alter the gospel in an effort to make all the pieces fit together! I believe (and most scholars believe) that the author of Revelation is the author of the Gospel of John (John the apostle). He is not suggesting anything different from what he writes in his gospel. Your interpretation of Revelation should not mean that you have to “change” the gospel in any way. We use the gospel to interpret Revelation, not the other way around.

2. Many people would say differently, but I would humbly suggest that the events listed in this book are types of events, not specific events in history. I would also suggest that the events in this book are happening simultaneously, not chronologically. If this book were chronological and literal in nature, Jesus would be coming back multiple times. I would also suggest that many of the events in this book are not future events, but events that have happened, are happening, and continue to happen. Earthquakes, inflation, and disease (often referred to in the first four seals and trumpets), have been happening for thousands of years. This does not reduce their significance – they are warnings for unbelievers to repent, and these warnings have been going on for a long time. There is the temptation to think of all of these events as future events, especially because in the last years, there has been little persecution in the North American church. As a result of this time of relative peace, the idea of tribulation as a “future event” has emerged. This is an extremely new idea, developed by people who have grown accustomed to the comfort we have experienced in the last century or so; this is the idea that tribulation won’t happen until after believers have been raptured so that we won’t have to have any part in it. I would suggest that believers have been experiencing “tribulation” since Jesus died on the cross. Just because we don’t experience much of it in North America today doesn’t mean that believers in other areas of the world aren’t experiencing it daily, and it doesn’t mean that we will never experience it, whether Jesus comes back in our life time or not.

3. Despite my belief that we are already in an age of tribulation, I strongly believe that above all else, Revelation is a message of comfort. This does not mean we will not experience persecution, but it means that we will not be subjected to the judgement that leads to the second death. A lot of people worry and focus on the “mark of the beast,” but if you read Revelation thoroughly, you will notice more is said of the mark of God on believers than the mark of the beast on non-believers. Believers are sealed with the mark of God and are to be comforted by the fact that Jesus is coming back, and that we get to live with Him, worshiping Him for eternity. Continue reading