Thursday, March 24, 2011
Of all the books of the Bible, Leviticus was the one I was looking forward to the least... ok honestly I was DREADING it... But once I started to wade into it, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was actually not dreading it.
Basically the whole book of Leviticus can be summed up with God saying (19:2) "Be Holy, for I am holy."
When I actually stopped to think about why God was giving His people these laws, I found two reasons dominated:
First, God wanted to set His people apart from those that lived in the land he had set apart for them, and from the people from where they came (18:2). He didn't want them adopting the same practices as those that occupied the land or continuing the same practices of the Egyptians he had just freed them from.
Second, Common sense. God wanted His people to be healthy and strong. Commandments on how to treat and quarantine people with symptoms of skin disease, or sexually transmitted diseases, kept them from spreading. Time limits of how long they could eat meat after it had been killed, and not eating meat from dead animals they happened upon, or not eating meat from animals that carried parasites that could be harmful to them (pigs), were all set in place to keep them from getting sick and week.
Included in Leviticus is a lot of direction for the ceremonies, offerings, and festivals as well. The festivals were set and required to be observed by all the people, every year, as a reminder to the people of how good God was and is to them.
So whats this mean to me today???? I know that through Jesus's sacrifice I have been freed from a lot of this old testament, Levitical law... but how much? Obviously I am not expected to go out and sacrifice the first born goat,, bring it to the temple and splatter its blood on all sides of the alter when I commit a sin, but what of this should I still observe?
I mean, God still wants his people of today to be set apart, to be in the world but not of the world. Because I love Jesus, it should show up in my life, in the decisions I make every day, how I treat my fellow humans, how I use what God has entrusted to me. I believe that God wants us to observe the laws that set us apart, but maybe not exactly how he told the Levites...instead in a way that applies to the world I live in today.
What I interpret as the second reason for Leviticus, common sense, obviously applies to me today. I know that if I cook dinner and there are still left overs, I don't want to eat them after 3 days, the thought just makes me sick! This is the same guidelines He gave his people, and they didn't have the genius invention of refrigerators or the (not so genius/healthy) invention of preservatives. Also, during college we looked at studies where pig meat was tagged with radioactive labels then tracked to see how the human body used the meat/proteins. They found that if the meat had been taken from the pigs shoulder, the human body put those proteins in the human shoulder... (that is the simplest way to paraphrase this much more complex phenomenon). Totally grossed me out! Also we know that quarantining those with infectious diseases, or abstain from sex with those with STDs, the diseases don't spread. All of these were part of what God had commanded in Leviticus.
Having read Leviticus, it will be interesting to read the references later in the Bible to many of the laws and ceremonies and the symbolism with Jesus.
Learned? While Leviticus was chock full of what seems to be very ancient, out of date rules, procedures, and laws, I am amazed at how much of it really applies to me today.