As we are closing up on the end of the book of Leviticus, God / YHWH paints a picture of what the rest of the Old Testament / Covenant will look like. It is a peek into the future of Israelite people, and a picture of both the good and the bad. I just wish that it wasn’t SO bad. Ultimately though, we begin to see the picture of the peoples relationship to God. We get a feel for just how much the people will turn away, and how that turning away will affect their relationship with YHWH and their own futures.
YHWH starts off with a command. “‘You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or… You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the LORD (YHWH).” It’s simple really. Don’t worship idols / false gods, and keep His Sabbaths and reverence His sanctuary. How difficult can that be. Apparently that can be very difficult because it does not take long (a single generation after Joshua) for all of it to begin to fall apart.
Are we any different? Have we changed any from this in the thousands of years since it was written, or are we still going from generation to generation following the ways and directions of our culture over what God’s word says? This is the picture of the Old Testament, the entire 49 books. Yet, this is also the picture of today. Instead of pursuing God / YHWH, we are pursuing education and technology and financial stability and comfortable homes. Instead of keeping His Sabbaths and revering His sanctuary, we are keeping ourselves as busy as we possibly can with all of our “responsibilities”. We are too busy trying to stay busy, that we push away the very purpose of our lives. In the end, what does that bring us? …exhaustion, sickness, loss, anger, frustration, being overwhelmed, seeing the work that we have built coming to nothing?
Our pursuit needs to be not a pursuit of what’s the best, brightest, and shiniest. It needs to be a pursuit of YHWH first and foremost. We need to not make the same old mistakes that the Old Testament Israelites made. We must pursue YHWH.
John J. Camiolo Jr.
Whenever YHWH sets a leader over His people, He sets up some pretty high expectations. There are things that the people can do that the leaders must stay away from. Those who act as priests, prophets, and kings are expected to live at a higher standard than those who do not have a direct connection and responsibility to YHWH.
In this chapter those of the priestly line and especially the priests who serve the LORD are instructed that they may not defile themselves by a corpse unless it is a direct family member. Even then, the high priest may not even do that. They may not marry a woman who has been widowed or divorced, or who has slept with any other man at any time in her life. She must be a virgin or he may not marry her. Nor may a priest tear his clothes in mourning or uncover his head. If his daughter profanes herself in harlotry, it rests on him as well. Then finally, if there is any physical defect in a man, He may not serve as priest before the LORD. YHWH even goes so far as to say that if a man has a broken hand or foot, he may not serve the LORD.
Do we take our responsibility in representing the LORD seriously? Do we set ourselves apart from the world, or do we do what everyone else is doing? As people who pursue God and seek His work and will in our lives, we should be living examples of God and His work and will. We should be truly pursuing Him in all holiness.
“Then God (Elohim) spoke all these words, saying,
‘I am the LORD your God (YHWH Elohim), who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God (YHWH Elohim), am a jealous God (Elohim),’” Exodus 20:1-5a
Leviticus 17 expands on and deals with the particulars of this passage a little bit more. There are two connected issues here. First, no one may slaughter an ox, lamb, or goat within or outside of camp without bringing the body to the tabernacle to offer it as an offering to the LORD. This is to ensure that there is no other worship except the worship of YHWH in the Israelite camp. If a man or a woman sacrificed an animal to another god, that would have brought defilement upon the camp and people of Israel.
Reading that you could not slaughter an ox, sheep, or goat without offering it as a sacrifice to YHWH, i wonder how the Israelites could harvest their flocks and herds. If sheep, goats and oxen were the primary means of meat for the Israelites, and they could only be slaughtered to sacrifice them to God, where do they get the meat needed to live on? I don’t have the answer to that one, but knowing me, i’m probably just missing something simple.
The second part of this chapter deals with the command not to consume blood. Blood is the life of the creature. That’s been backed up by research for centuries. The essence of the creature, it’s life and support system, comes from the blood. As such, God requires that we do not consume of it. In fact, when we hunt or kill an animal, we are instructed to let the blood drain out and cover it with dirt.
Do we take Exodus 20:1-5a seriously? Have we made for ourselves gods other than YHWH? Obviously we don’t make idols. However, we have a tendency to worship, pursue, and trust in many things other than YHWH. Some worship the god of money, others the god of family, others the god of education, others of technology. Most American’s worship and bow down to the god of self. When we place any of these things before YHWH, we are making them gods in our eyes. What will it have to take to change our view and for us to start truly worshiping YHWH, the one true God, once again?
Everyone is unclean at some point in their lives. Some of us just more so than others. So what do you do when you have an unclean people and a holy God who can not stand uncleanness in His presence? You don’t want their uncleanness to cause their destruction. So how do you separate their uncleanness from YHWH’s tabernacle?
Well, the simplest and easiest way would be to set down some ground rules. Set up some basic rules and expectations of ways to keep the uncleanness away from the presence of the one whose holiness would consume the one with the uncleanness. Once that uncleanness is dealt with and accounted for, that should allow life to go on as needed.
Do we recognize our need to separate our sin from His holiness? Do we attempt to pursue Him while still being consumed by our sins, or do we come to Him with a repentant heart? Do we acknowledge our uncleanness emitted through our actions as sins, and do we come to Him for forgiveness; or do we just excuse them as “flaws” that give us character and personality? What is our attitude about our uncleanness and the “emissions” in our lives?
The seven days of anointing are over. Aaron, his sons, and the tabernacle have all been purified, anointed, and set apart for the work of service. So now the eighth day has come and Moses gathers the people. It is time to come before the LORD and for YHWH to reveal His presence upon that place.
Aaron and his sons offer the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offering, and the grain offering. All that needs to be done to prepare for this moment has been done. It’s so much hard work to do all of this. It requires so much dedication and effort to see the work to it’s end. In the end though, when YHWH shows up, nothing else matters. Nothing! “Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD (YHWH) appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD (YHWH) and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”
Do we pursue YHWH? I mean really pursue Him? Do we seek Him, and look for Him, and desire Him? Are we willing to put our whole heart into that pursuit, or do we just kind of look for him and hope that He shows up? We need to be willing to put the work and effort into pursuing God. If we are not willing to anoint, purify, and set ourselves and our situation apart for YHWH, we will find that we do not find God’s presence. And, we NEED to find His presence… His glory!
I am not a Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew expert. I wish that i was, and someday i may become those, but today is not one of them. The nice thing is though that i have studied under people who are, and i have learned a great deal as a result.
One of the principles that i have learned from and really grasped into my life is a better understanding of this concept of “You shall”: “You shall have no other gods before me.” “You shall not make for yourself an idol…” “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God (YHWH-Elohim) in vain.” When you read those words, “You shall”, what does it mean to you? Chances are, if you are like most people, you see “You shall” as a command. It begins the 10 commandments and it is God telling us that we have to do something. While that is not incorrect, neither is that an accurate understanding.
This is one of those easily misunderstood things that once you have a grasp of it, can change your whole outlook on something. The words “You shall have” here is יהיה (hâyâh). Strong’s concordance says, “…to exist, that is, be or become, come to pass…”. So what does that mean for us? It means that this is not simply a command; it is a promise. This WILL come to pass! It is something that we are to do, but when we pursue and surrender to God, this is also a promise to/for us. So this promise is not just “Don’t have any other god’s before me!” It’s also, “Don’t worry, you won’t have any other gods before me.”
Isn’t that beautiful! It’s not only the 10 commands, but it’s also the 10 promises! That’s what our relationship is like with God. Yes, He gives us commands to follow! Yes, we have rules we have to obey; but as time goes by and we pursue Him, these are things that He promises us will no longer be rules and regulations, they will also be a part of who we are. They go from external instruction to internal drives and motivation. We have a promise! …that this is who we are to become! …and i love it!
There are still many times that i struggle and sin. There are still times that i mess up, screw up, and fail. I have struggled with the concept of repentance, and i need God’s help to get to that place. Part of these big 10 promises is learning to accept and acknowledge that we fail and we sin. Understand, i am not some expert in this. I am just as messed up and flawed in this as so many others. I need to repent of my sins and stand on these promises as who i am in the process of becoming. I need the prayer and help.
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.
What is the difference between happiness and joy? How about between mourning and dismay? What keeps trials from becoming desperation, and sadness from depression? There is one word; one concept or idea that divides these from each other. That is hope. Hope creates joy (long-term & deeply rooted) rather than happiness (short-term & fleeting). Hope separates mourning (the natural response to loss) from dismay (fear of facing the future resulting from loss). This almost undefinable, nugget of life we call hope is a key and defining ingredient that separates sadness from depression.
Jacob is dead; he has died of old age. The time of mourning is here, and Joseph and his brothers work to fulfill their responsibility to bury him in the cave of his fathers resting place. There is a huge procession of Israelites and Egyptians that carries the body of Jacob to the burial mound. All that is expected and more has been done.
With the passing of their father, Joseph’s older brothers begin to lose that hope. Their past sin that has continued to haunt them their entire lives now comes to a head. What will Joseph do to them? What will he do to their families and children? Will he enslave them as they did to him? Will he treat them with cruelty and contempt? Will he have Pharaoh and the Egyptians do it for him? So many troubles caused by one choice. They fear because of the seeds sown by their own actions so long ago.
What does Joseph do? He relieves them of those full grown weeds; the result of those seeds planted so long ago. He gives them hope. He tells them that all that they did was part of the plan meant not for the destruction of his life, but for life for the Egyptians and themselves. They have no need to fear. They have no need to be troubled. God has a plan bigger than they are, and all this trouble and fear is simply wasted life.
How about us? Do we have a hope, or are we buried in our mourning and fear? Does mourning turn to dismay and sadness become depression? It’s time to let all of that go, and to seek the hope that has been freely offered and given. The one who has created us has a plan. He has a purpose that includes you and me. We need to pursue Him… to find He who has been pursuing us. Are you ready?
Rev. John Camiolo
It seems like God’s blessing of His people more often than not leads to contention rather than pursuit. Isaac goes and lives in the land of the Philistines due to a famine in the land of Canaan. He and all his household. While he is there God blesses him. His crops grow a hundredfold. God continues to bless him in many other ways as well.
You would think that with God blessing Isaac as he does, Abimelech the king of the Philistines would pursue Isaac and the God of Isaac. You would think that they would want to be connected to the God and man of God who blesses in such ways. Instead they fear him. Instead, they send him away.
This leads to contention between Abimelech and Isaac’s herdsmen. Trouble that could lead to war between the two, what Abimelech feared. But, Isaac was not interested in stirring up trouble. He was a peacekeeper who turned away from the conflict. As a result Abimelech did pursue Isaac, but not for the right reasons. He pursued a peace covenant with Isaac, not to know more the God that blessed his people so. As a result, he got his peace treaty / covenant, but it will come at the cost of the nation later on.
It’s also interesting to note that Isaac pursued as well. He went in pursuit of more wives. He got what he was pursuing, but at the cost of peace for himself and his household.
This is a chapter of foundations. After the flood, as each generation led the way to the next, there came a desire to protect and define each family. Cities and nations were built. Sons became fathers who had sons who became fathers who had sons… Some of these lines, families, and names were significant. Others were not. There were people who are defined by nothing more than a name. Others had legends and legacies that they left behind.
Many of the names i had to struggle to pronounce, but there were some that i knew well. It’s funny because as i was going through these lists of name and legacies and as i picked out those i recognized i began to realize something. Every name that i recognized, i recognized for the bad or evil that they did. I saw the Canaanites who lost their land to the Israelites because they were vomited out due to their own corruption and sins. The Philistines were enemies of the sons of Abraham for generation after generation. Nineveh was the capitol of the Assyrian empire which would eventually come through and destroy Israel. And of course Sodom and Gomorrah would be two cities destroyed by God in Abraham’s time due to their sin and corruption. They were so corrupt that we get the word sodomy from the name of the city of Sodom.
While there are many names and many people who started out on the right path with the right intentions and purposes, instead of holding to the true God that saved them in the flood, they pursued their own courses instead of God’s and they were overcome by their sins.
So that poses a question to think about. What prevents us, our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, and on and on from the same fate? How do we insure that we don’t become the next Nineveh? Can we? Is it even possible to do?
In all honesty (to be brutally honest) i don’t know as that we can. I thing that the only things we can do are 1) to pursue God and 2) to lay the right foundation. Even then, there is no real guarantee that our children will pursue Him as well. Look at the lives of Samuel and David. Samuel found favor in God’s sight. He did what God called of him even when his mentor / adoptive father’s own children would not follow God. King David had the same problem. Even Solomon turned away from God and the nation was torn apart in the time of Solomon’s son (David’s grandson).
Does that mean that there is no hope and that what we do doesn’t matter? Of course not! Just look at Boaz (Ruth). He was a righteous man who did what was right in God’s sight. He became the great-grandfather of King David. It was from the line of David that Christ was born. Paul took in Timothy and trained him.
We must do two things. We must pursue God, and we MUST lay the foundation necessary for future generations. We cannot guarantee that our children and grandchildren will make the right choices, but we MUST give them a foundation that will encourage them to pursue God… not on their own terms, but on His.