It’s interesting to look at (compare & contrast) the responses of the action’s / reactions between Jesus, the disciples, and the Pharisees. I’d say that by this time many of the Pharisees are getting a little fed up with Jesus. So they decide that they are going to respond to Him by testing Him. They ask Jesus for a sign that He is who He says He is. Of course you know that Jesus is not going to just make things easy for them. He already knows what’s in their hearts, so He criticizes them for not seeing (or ignoring) the signs that are there right in front of them.
So Jesus, understanding the Pharisees, turns around later and tells His disciples to beware of the leaven (teachings) of the Pharisees. They don’t get it at first, but after some prompting, they catch on. So Jesus finally comes to them and asks them about their response to who He is. Peter is the only one who seems to give a real and solid response. He tells Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus response is high praise of Peter.
So now, because of the response He is given, Christ begins to put a little more depth / meat into His teachings. He foretells His death and explains the cost of following Him. Of course we know how the (hi)story goes, but they didn’t at that time.
I wanted to touch on Peter’s “good’ confession here as it has some very interesting facets. I love the play on words that Jesus does here. Peter says to Jesus, “You are the Christ (Kristos) the Son of the Living God.” Jesus responds that this is not something that Peter discovered, but rather something that was revealed to him by the Father. It’s what Jesus says that is so interesting: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” The name Peter is the Greek word “petros”. It means a small stone. The picture that i get here is of a rock that you would use to skip on a pond. The word “rock” in this verse is “Petra” which means a very large rock, a bedrock, or a foundational stone. So we have Jesus telling Peter, “You are a small stone, and on this huge froundational stone I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will on overtake it.
So if the foundational stone is not Peter, then what is it? It is this truth; “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is such an amazing picture, because out of the small stone, the pebble if you will, comes the bedrock of truth. The pebble speaks forth the mountain. Isn’t that an amazing picture?! The pebble is not the foundation / mountain, but out of the small stone / pebble comes that which is the foundation / mountain. It is an amazing picture!
As time goes on, Christ continues ministering. It doesn’t matter where He is, or what He is doing, He keeps ministering. However, as you will see, the people’s response to Him contrasts greatly. A paralytic is brought to Him. He tells him that his sins are forgiven, and not long after that, to get up and walk. The scribes (educated folk) criticize him for the first thing, and the people were awestruck and praise YHWH for both. Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees criticize Him for mingling with the rabble. Meanwhile, the tax collectors and sinners come to repentance. John (the Baptist)’s disciples critically question him about why they and even the Pharisees disciples fast, but Jesus’ don’t. Jesus replies that now is not the right time. If you expect too much from someone or something at the wrong time, you can destroy the work that needs to be done.
Day by day, people keep coming to Him, in spite of the scribes and Pharisees criticisms. We actually begin to see deep contrasts in who and how people come to Him. A synagogue official (public VIP figure) comes boldly to Him pleading with Him to heal and revive his dead daughter. Meanwhile an unclean woman with an issue of blood comes to Him secretly hoping to get a scrap from the master’s table. She wants to be healed. While she comes in secret, He heals her publicly. While the leader calls to Him publicly, Jesus heals his daughter in secret.
As He goes on and casts out demons, the religious leaders follow along with the gentile beliefs and decide that the only way for a demon to be cast out is if you send in a stronger, tougher demon to kick the first one out. But then you end up with a different, stronger, demon to deal with.
Yet none of this matters to Jesus. He feels compassion for the people for they are like sheep without a shepherd. So, what’s His response? That answer is in chapter 10.
“May your light never go out” – a blessing
YHWH gave a command to Aaron and Israel. Never allow His light to go out in the tabernacle. It was the priest’s job to keep the lamp in the tabernacle lit at all times. His light is to shine in the darkness, never consumed or put out. His light is to shine at all times and for all times. It is a beacon of hope to the world. It is holy to the LORD.
In the same way, the priest is to take fine flour and bake 12 loaves of bread and place them on the pure (gold) table in the presence of YHWH. These 12 loaves are to be continually before him, to be eaten by Aaron and his descendants and then replenished every Sabbath. They are holy to the LORD.
More than that, the Name of the LORD is holy. When a man blasphemes the Name of the LORD, there are consequences. It becomes a death sentence. To dishonor the Name of the LORD is to dishonor the LORD. That cannnot be allowed in the camp and presence of God. YHWH is not going to strike down every person who says something negative about Him, but He does expect His people to respond appropriately. He is the LORD, and His name is Holy.
Do we treat YHWH and His name as holy. Are we a light that never goes out, or are we on and off and on and off. Do we point to the bread of life, or only to ourselves?
This chapter is a very controversial chapter and tends to bring up all kinds of questions and debate. In it YHWH deals with defilement (primarily sexual defilement); what defiles the people and what defiles the land. In this chapter YHWH gives instruction for the people not to uncover their relative’s nakedness (or have sexual relations with them). Incest is forbidden including incestual relations between a man and his mother, a father and his daughter-in-law, a man and both a woman and her daughter, and other relations.
There are other issues at work in this chapter as well. For instance there is the command not to uncover a woman’s nakedness during her menstrual period, not to sleep with a neighbor’s wife, and not to sacrifice your child to Molech (this doesn’t happen anymore… does it?). Each of these issues is very important and significant and should in no way be minimized.
However, the most controversial verse in this chapter (according to the current cultural view) is verse 22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” You can see where a big part of the controversy begins here. There are many that say that this passage does not apply anymore due to Christ having fulfilled the law. That since Christ came and died and was raised again, and the curtain to the most holies was torn, we are no longer bound by the law. We do not have to fulfill the sacrificial rules and regulations because Christ became the perfect sacrifice. Since this passage is part of the legal instructions given to the Israelite people, it is completed and fulfilled and no longer applicable to us.
To some extent, that is an accurate (albeit flawed) understanding of Christ’s fulfillment of the law. This entire chapter holds a different kind of sway than most of the rest of the law. It is true to some extent that the law was for the nation of Israel, but this chapter is about what supersedes that law. Verses 24-25 explain this a little bit better:
“Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.”
It doesn’t take an exegetical genius to understand that the commands in this chapter aren’t limited to the people of the Israelite nation. These are laws that defy nature itself. They are not limited to the people of Israel. They apply to all people and all time. It is because of these kinds of sins that the Israelites have the right, and the responsibility to not only conquer the land of Canaan, but to destroy its inhabitants as well. The land itself has judged the Canaanites and is spewing them out because of the sins listed in this chapter. The Israelites are simply tools to the fulfillment of that justice.
So how should we respond to those caught up in these kinds of sins? Are we to judge and condemn them? Is that our “right”? I don’t believe so. God says, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” In that passage He is referring to not judging those of the world. That judgment is His, not ours to dole out. However, in I Corinthians 5 we are instructed to judge those within the body that are sinning against the body, and the sin refereed to there is a sin directly related to this chapter. It was a sin being accepted and even praised within the church that should have been condemned. That is a pattern we would be wise to heed. The leaders of the church are responsible for understanding and responding appropriately to sin within the body. In NO WAY should the church be lifting up and encouraging within the body what YHWH has condemned. We are to be the light of hope to the troubled and struggling, not following in the defilement of the world.
The second half of Leviticus 14 continues with the same theme only in a different direction. While the first half responds to cleansing for a person who has leprosy, the second half deals with “leprosy” (mold) in a house. In order to keep people healthy, and keep people in a healthy relationship with YHWH, the priest is responsible for responding to unclean environments. So when a home becomes unclean, or as YHWH says, “I put a mark of leprosy on a house in the land of your possession…” It is the priest’s responsibility for responding to the situation and getting to the bottom of the problem.
It’s amazing just how much the priest is responsible for. The priest acts as a priest, offering sacrifice to the LORD for the people. The priest’s job is also to teach the people the laws and precepts. He also acts as a physician diagnosing and treating some medical problems. They also deal with culinary questions. What is clean? What is healthy to eat? What is downright forbidden? And, now we see them diagnosing problems with a house and acting as an inspector and contractor who is responsible to get the appropriate people on the job to get the right work done. With all of this work to do; where does the priest’s job end? Being the man who is responsible for the relationship between men and YHWH, he has a whole lot more to do to cleanse the lives of the people than we give them credit for sometimes.
Everything has finally settled down. The masses have found a semblance of peace and are ready to handle themselves while Moses goes up the mountain again. God calls Moses, and he responds. He returns to Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights again where he brings two new stone tablets for the LORD to write on.
This is the same type of incident as before, but things have changed. There are definitely some key and significant differences. One of the beautiful things that happens here is that Moses relationship and connection with YHWH appear to have made some definite improvements. He is there for the same role and the same purpose as he was before, but Moses seems to have more responsibility as well as more depth in relationship with YHWH. The connection is much more direct and face to face. So much so that when Moses comes down this time, his face is shining so brightly that the people can’t even look at him. Their response is to fear him, and it is only after covering his face with a veil that he is able to come before the people. This covering of God’s glory, outpouring through Moses, continues each time he meets with YHWH. The veil becomes a constant reminder of Moses connection and response to God.
During this time on the mountain, YHWH decides to make note of the people’s tendency towards idolatry, He makes it clear to them that they are to destroy ALL evidence of the nations that exist in the land of Canaan, and to tear down anything that represents their false gods. This is more than just a command. This is a mandate. This is the direction that the people must take, even though God already knows that they are not going to. It is a notice that must be made and a direction that must be followed.
So YHWH finishes giving the people His first set of instructions. They have heard His Decalogue and His various other commands, so now we get to see their response to this sampling of the laws. God starts out by telling Moses and the leaders of Israel to come up to worship Him, but before that happens Moses wants to make sure that the people understand what is expected of them. He doesn’t want them rebelling as soon as Moses and the leaders go up the mountain or anything.
So Moses starts out by recounting to the people what YHWH expects of them. YHWH told them once, now Moses tells them again. The people respond that they will listen, and they will obey. Great! Now Moses and the people sacrifice to the LORD, and Moses sets up 12 pillars to represent the 12 tribes. Then for good measure, he takes the evening / night to write down the covenant and instructions that God has given to him and the people. Then, to MAKE SURE that the people know and are aware of YHWH’s instructions, he reads the book of the covenant to the people!
Don’t you think that that’s a little overkill! I mean come on! They heard it from God Himself, then Moses reminds them of what they have already heard and agreed to, so they confirmed it to him again. Then after worshiping and sacrificing to the LORD…THEIR GOD, Moses wrote it all down and read it back to them the very next day! I mean come on Moses, didn’t they already agree to this TWICE! I mean honestly, what do you think is going to happen here? Do you think you will go up the mountain with the leaders and the people will forget everything that has happened and everything that they have sworn to do!?! Give it a rest already!
So now Moses and the leaders go up. The leaders actually see YHWH, the God of Israel! Wow! I mean, WOW! To see the LORD in all His glory! Now that is a life changing experience! Isn’t it!?! No man can see that and ever rebel or fall away… can he?
How many of us desire to see God? How many of us think that if we just see Him perform a miracle or see just a part of His glory it will change who we are and how we live the rest of our lives? He is The Living God after all. Is that enough?
What would you do if God spoke to you on a personal level? How would you respond if God came to you, speaking to you through a burning bush that was never consumed? MercyMe in their song I can Only Imagine poses these questions;
Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence,
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Halelluja,
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine!
So what does Moses do in this situation? Well, he says, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?…” In spite of seeing the Glory of God and coming into His presence, Moses doubts and makes excuses! Here he is speaking to God, and all he can do is give reasons why he can’t do what God is telling him he will do! Moses says, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent… for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” God’s response? “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
So God comes to Moses in a piece of His glory, and all Moses can do is make excuses? I’m not surprised that God’s anger burned against him! I think mine would too.
It’s easy to turn around and be shocked and confused by how Moses could act this way. It’s easy to blame Moses for his reaction, but don’t we do the same thing? Doesn’t God come to us day after day? Don’t we have the ability to meet and talk with God as a man talks with his friend? Doesn’t God talk to us daily through His Word, the Bible, and His Holy Spirit? And how do we respond? “Oh, those commands don’t apply to me.” “That’s old testament law and doesn’t apply today.” “That’s just my imagination / conscience and not God trying to tell me something.” “If i go and talk to that person about God, they will just think that i’m a Bible thumper.” “Oh, I’ll let someone else do that.” “I know God wants me to love everyone, and tell them that He loves them, but i just don’t like them and i need to show them God’s love before i can tell them. So i need to wait until his Holy Spirit works in my heart and changes how i feel about them and towards them before i go and talk to them.”
So what are your excuses? I’ve already told you some of mine. What excuses and idols are you putting before God as “reasons” why you can’t do what He calls you to do?
I’m finding, as i do this project, that things that i have previously learned and assumed don’t always work out the way i expected them to. For instance, over the previous chapters we have been looking at the life and times of Abram. Now i know this story well, and i know that Abram becomes Abraham. I have heard and read it since i was a child. However, in spite of the fact that the transition occurred yesterday (Chapter 17), i am having a very difficult time making that transition in my mind and writing. I have gone to write Abraham, and i keep writing Abram. It’s very annoying. It’s just after having spent so much time writing Abram, it’s difficult to make the transition even though i have been prepping myself for it since i uncomfortably started writing Abram instead of Abraham.
That having been said, i was also very perplexed in part of this chapter. In Chapter 17 God tells Abram, to be called Abraham, that he will have a son through Sarai, now to be called Sarah. He tells Abram that this will occur in the same season in the next year. Now, God tells Abraham that within a year Sarah will be holding her baby, and Sarah laughs? She already knows that this is supposed to happen. Hence she has been being called Sarah instead of Sarai. So why is she surprised by the idea that she could/will be holding her new baby within a year?
Finally, i was trying to process the relationship between Abraham and God. Abraham is bold enough to question God and His decisions. He is confident enough to stand in the face of God and say, “You’re THE Judge. You aren’t actually thinking of destroying Sodom if there are 50 righteous people in the city. That would just be unjust and wrong!” Then God turns, actually takes the comment seriously, and makes clear his plans.
To me, it’s interesting the ways that God’s people respond to the things He says to and about them. How do we respond when God speaks to and about us? Do we laugh and doubt Him? Do we confront Him and seek / demand clarification? Do we even hear or acknowledge that He is speaking to us? Do we even recognize the freedom we have in our relationship with God?