The Lord ordered Moses for all the Israelites to celebrate the Passover.

Day 47 (Feb. 16): Levites dedicated, Second Passover, rules for burnt, grain and peace offerings

Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Numbers 8
Leviticus 1-3
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 8:5-26): Can you remind us of which of Jacob’s sons the Levites came from and any significance that has on them becoming the ones to work with the priests?  So, there were thousands of Levites that had to be purified?  I think you told us earlier that the Levites had to disperse among the other tribes.  What were there duties?

A. Actually, the term Levites tells us which son they were from: Jacob’s third son Levi.  Levi was one of the sons who got Jacob into trouble with the whole “wait until our enemies are circumcised and then kill them” bit from Genesis 34 (fun times).  Part of Jacob’s “blessing” for Levi was that his descendants would be dispersed among the other tribes, and here we see that played out.

Regarding their duties, that is, actually, what some portions of Leviticus are about, so let’s hang on to that one and see if we come to a sufficient answer.

Q. The Passover is just celebrated today by the Jewish community, right?  The new law of the New Testament makes us no longer under Passover requirements.  Is it still a good idea to practice them?

A. We should distinguish being required to celebrate Passover, as religious Jews are, and recalling/celebrating the way that God has acted in the past as Christians do to this day.  As we’ve mentioned, the sacrament of Communion was “born” at the satyr or Passover meal, so Jesus certainly desired us to know and understand both what had happened in Exodus, but also the ways that He was doing something new to forever change our status with God.

Q. (Leviticus 1:9) Do you know of any reason why God required that the legs and internal organs be singled out to be from the rest of the body to be washed before sacrificing?

A. I can’t find a particular reference to why those particular portions were required to be washed, no.

Q. (Leviticus 2:10-11,13) Why is the grain the most holy of all of the offerings?  Why no yeast?  To remind them of their deliverance from Egypt?  And, why no honey?

A. I’m not completely sure about why this was considered to be the most holy of offerings (that were burned), but part of the instruction to the priests were that grain offerings were to be eaten AT the altar, rather than taken home to their families.

Regarding yeast and honey: the yeast (as we’ve examined) was to remain out partly because of the reminder of Passover, but also because it is a cultivated product (i.e. human effort), where as the bread without yeast is purely a reminder of God’s provision and effort in Exodus.  There are a few guesses why honey was excluded, which include its use in brewing beer, but also possibly because it was part of the ritual sacrifice of the Canaanite tribes in the Promised Land.  The lack of honey in the religious ritual would have therefore set the tribe apart from its surrounding neighbors, a recurring theme in Leviticus.

Q. (2:13):  Why would salt remind the Isrealites of God’s eternal covenant?

A. There’s few references to salt in this capacity (see Numbers 18:19 for one), but the reason for this inclusion is not specifically given.  The best guess I came across is that when establishing a covenant in the ancient Middle East, there was frequently a meal served as part of the ritual, and salting the meat of sacrificed animals was a part of it.

Q. (2:15,16): I can’t believe I missed asking the significance of olive oil?  How about frankincense?

A. Olive oil would have been just about the only oil available in those days, but there does not appear to be anything special about it as far as I can tell.  The use of incense —frankincense being one example — was certainly a part of the rituals of the priesthood: incense was burned day and night, mixed in the showbread, and used here.  It would have been crucial in helping to deal with the overpowering smell of the animal sacrifices.

Q. (3:1-17): This sounds anything but peaceful!  I know I have spoken my ill feelings about sacrifices.  I know the times were very different.  It’s just that from the way we were brought up, this activity would be viewed as cult-like.  Also, what I view as violent coming from God in the OT seems opposite of the gentle love he shows in the NT.  I understand that sacrificing was for the people to give their best to the Lord.  But, why all the cutting up and talk of different organs and fat?

A. The term “peace offering” comes from the Hebrew word Shalom, and would have represented peace between God and His people, without, unfortunately, much consideration for the animals that were used.  It certainly was a different time, and honestly the consideration of animal slaughter would not have been a big deal to these people: they had to use and kill animals constantly to survive.  Don’t forget: these rituals  — which certainly can be called cult-like — were all about keeping the people in right relationship with God, i.e. to keep peace between God and men.  Animal sacrifice is, at this point, THE ONLY WAY to satisfy God’s requirements for atonement of sin.  We see it quite differently in light of Christ, but that was their reality.

One thought that might help: the ritual of animal sacrifice can be seen as a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ, which is how most church Fathers viewed it in ancient times.  So if we harness our disgust at the brutal nature of the whole matter of sacrificing animals, we can then imagine the significance and magnitude of a human being, Jesus, WILLINGLY laying down His own life for His people to forever give peace between God and people.  Yes it was, and is, brutal, but such is the cost of sin.

For further study: Who are the Levites? https://www.google.com/search?sca_esv=215339b64560bbc8&sca_upv=1&tbm=vid&q=who+were+the+Levites%3F&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjz9pWL3eSDAxX1mbAFHcZCDNQQ8ccDegQIRRAI&biw=1204&bih=840&dpr=2.5#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:28bd3714,vid:-sBPxKPOgzY,st:0

Shop: Check out apparel at Livin’ Light so you can show God’s Word to everyone around you.  You may get some second looks! https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading: Leviticus 4-6

 

Jacob wrestles with the Angel of the Lord all night. The Angel blesses him and names him Israel.

Day 12 (Jan. 12): Jacob returns home, faces Esau, wrestles God, becomes “Israel”, peace with Esau, revenge at Shechem, Rachel and Isaac die, 12 sons

Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Genesis 32-35:27
(1906 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (32:22, 30): Why did God and Jacob wrestle?  How did he know the man was God?

A. The story tells us that Jacob has been struggling against God and men his entire life (his father, his brother, his uncle, etc.) but in the end he conquered each of them.  The timing of the event is crucial to recognize: Jacob is leaving his confrontations with Laban, and about to confront Esau, but it is at this moment that the person who Jacob has struggled most with appears: God Himself.  (There are some who think that Jacob is wresting with an angel of God, though as we established the angel would have basically been seen as the same thing as God Himself).  God wanted more than Jacob’s worship and acknowledgement, He wanted Jacob’s heart, and this is the way that He wins it.

While it is not directly stated that the man is God (or an angel), verses 28 and 30 point to this reality.  In case it is not directly stated by the text (some translations do), the word Israel (the name for the entire nation in the Old Testament) means “wrestles with God.”  We shall indeed see what an appropriate title this is.

O. (33: 4): The differences between siblings can be night and day to where they want to be worlds away from one another.  Yet, when they have been apart for some time, their differences go by the wayside and their love for one another takes over.  This happened between my sister and I when she went away to college.  She purposely did things to annoy me … I’m sure for good reasons.  But, once she left for college and I had my own space, we became much closer.  Can anyone relate to the Jacob and Esau reunion?  Or, have you had a different experience?

O. (33:10): This reminds me of when we go out to eat with the family: It’s always a race to pay the bill.

Q. (33:16): Why did Jacob not follow Esau to Seir?

A. Honestly, my suspicion is that he still didn’t trust his brother, and therefore wanted to put a little distance between himself and Esau.

Q. (34:15):  This is an intense scene.  I am glad that Jacob stood up for his daughter.  It was quite a trick to have them agree to be circumcised, then when they are still healing from the procedure, Jacob’s family attacked.  If this hadn’t been a trick, God would not have supported the agreement, right?  Doesn’t God have to be the one who chooses the people to bear the sign of His chosen?

A. Circumcision was one of the most important rules of the Law.  And indeed, there are sections of the Law that describe the procedures for admitting alien people (usually slaves, an entirely different topic) into the “house” of Israel.  The simplest rule: if you weren’t circumcised, you weren’t part of the tribe.  Actually, marriage, the reason for this little event, was the major way that people could join the tribe of Israel (think of people like Ruth).  There were particular rules about which other tribes were not to be admitted (we will see these later), but generally, there were some routes for a people of various other tribes to “join up” in certain circumstances.

Q. (35:1) Bethel is where Jacob spent the first night on his journey to Laban’s, right?  Bethel means House of God.  Does this place have long-term significance or importance in the future?

A. That’s the one, where Jacob saw the ladder.  Bethel does not appear to play a major role in the future of the nation of Israel.  The town is mentioned throughout the territorial sections (land distribution in the book of Joshua after the land is conquered) and Bethel is given to one of Joseph’s sons named Ephraim.  It did gain one infamous role: it became the center of cult worship in the Northern Kingdom (this is way in the “future” of the story, if you will) after the death of King Solomon.  So in the era of 1 and 2 Kings, it would have been known, but not in a good way.

Q. (35:5): Any idea what the terror was?  It would be so awesome to see God’s power like that.  Do you think it happens today, like in earthquakes, floods, etc.?

A. It would be tough to guess what God exactly did to make the people afraid.  Usually if it is a natural disaster, the text will say so, so this might have been something more psychological.  Whether one sees the power of God displayed in earthquakes and floods is one of the toughest questions a Christian can ask.  I leave that up to the readers to decide.

Q. (35:8): Can you tell us anything about servants of those days.  The master’s family obviously cared about them as we see in this passage as they name the tree where a nurse was buried “weeping tree.”  How did one become a servant versus a master?  How were they revered?

A. Part of the implication of Jacob’s wealth (which would have been assumed by the audience) was that he would have servants, including slaves, who came to work for him seasonably (think migrant workers today) or other servants who were hired to keep the flocks or crops, supervise workers (like field managers), cook and prepare meals, work closely with the children (like the nurse in question), or keep the tents and other dwellings clean.

While we tend to think of slavery and servanthood as racially motivated, it was mostly the result of financial considerations in the ancient world.  Servants could be hired and align themselves with masters (which would likely use the covenant ceremony we discussed last week) for protection and even have families of their own.  We must be very careful about not applying Western American notions of slavery and service to the ancient world that thought very differently about people’s value.  There would have been none of this “all men are created equal” business (actually Jesus is the person single handedly most responsible for that concept, so that gives you the timeframe- more than a thousand years in the future), they would have understood masters as being superior to servants.  People would have worked for masters, be bought and sold as slaves (sometimes to pay off debt, sometimes as a result of being taken prisoner during war), and depended upon the wealthy to survive.

Even in such a harsh world, it is not hard to see how certain servants (head servants or nurses for example) would have come to be revered by the family due to their years of service.

Q. (35:20):  Can the monument be seen today?

A. When the writer says, “the monument can be seen today”, we do not know exactly when “today” is, and there are a number of theories about that.  But if you mean, can you still see the original site, well, that depends on who you ask.  For many of the important landmarks of this story (including events that take place in the New Testament, so you’re talking about literally thousands of years later), there are usually what are called “traditional” sites of an event or marker.  (You can read about the traditional site for Rachel’s tomb here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel’s_Tomb).  If you read the article, it notes that there are several sites that claim to be the “correct” one, but that generally we can only guess about the accuracy of the assessment.  The same is actually true for the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial (there are TWO traditional burial sites for Christ).  The biggest problem for a lot of these sites is that for Rachel’s tomb as example, we are talking about a place that was marked more than 3000 years ago.  With all of the war, destruction, new construction, and endless movement and death of people, it is sometimes surprising that we know so much about this era at all.

Q. (35:27): If I remember right, Abraham and Isaac lived in Hebron as foreigners because this was the land God had promised to them and their descendants.

A. Most of the areas described in these stories (notably around the Jordan river) will ALL be taken over by Jacob/Israel’s descendants in about 400 years.

For further study: Get the lowdown on each of Jacob’s sons: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/why-did-god-choose-the-12-sons-of-jacob.html

Shop: This shirt is reminiscent of Jacob because he camped out — and wrestled — with God.  The night sky reminds us of God’s covenant with Abraham — that his descendants, Jacob included, would be as numerous as the stars in the sky: https://livinlight.org/product/campout/

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 36:1-19; 1 Chronicles 1:35-37; Genesis 36:20-30; 1 Chronicles 1:38-42; Genesis 36:31-43; 1 Chronicles 1:43-2:2

Greatest Love of All!

Admittedly, I have read the Bible frivolously. I have breezed through verses, taken It for granted, and to my great loss, not realized the depth of God’s message. I have skimmed Scripture where he describes the enormity of His love for humanity. I always knew He loved deeply, but I have not let the words come alive, digesting and absorbing them into my soul and really letting myself feel the vastness of His love. With the help of the Holy Spirit and some ladies at a Bible study, I have slowed down my reading to where individual words pop off the page making each one more powerful. Now I can better grasp the depth of His love and never cease being amazed at His care for us!  

A Passage that has hit me most recently is Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT): And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Read that again, but slower. Take in every word.  

Absolute love

I know that God loves me, but honestly, sometimes I think or say “yada yada yada” because I have heard those verses over and over, much like John 3:16. But now, I read that His love is so amazingly wide, deep and high that we can never fully grasp its size. However, by trying to realize the magnitude of His love, we are gratified and delighted. I think of a universe-size love — totally immeasurable! Try to imagine it and recognize just how much you are fulfilled. It’s a refreshing, peaceful feeling beyond description!

In Romans 8:38 (ESV), God details more specific, absolute parameters of His love, even death. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. NOTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION.  Try to grasp that!

Symbol of love

God’s symbol of how much He loves us is in His only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was persecuted, severely beaten, hung on the cross, mocked and died as payment for our wrongdoings. He took our punishment so we could be considered holy, clean from sin and worthy of God’s love. That’s how much God and Jesus love us … so much that they made the ultimate sacrifice to give us a way to go to heaven. Romans 5:8 (NLT): But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Because Jesus arose from the dead after three days, we know that even death cannot get in the way of God’s abilities and love. He has the power to bring us back to life, like He did with Jesus. He gives us life! A life rich in love, understanding and amazement. He tells us in Scripture that He understands our struggle with sin and knows we cannot be perfect. He is merciful! Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Jesus came to show us love. And, John 3:17 NIV: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Why does God love us? He is the creator of everything, including love. 1 John 4:19 (NET): We love because he loved us first. Moreover, He IS love. That’s one to think about. 1 John 4:16b (NLT): God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 

Love like Jesus

Jesus is our role model and we should reciprocate His love for us by loving others. John 13:34 (NLT): So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. And just how much should we love others? Matthew 22:39b (NLT): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

By loving others, we put aside our selfishness and make others a priority. In a recent Bible class, my pastor summed up loving others like this: If you don’t tell others about being saved, you must not like them very much because their afterlife may not be desirable, to say the least. That is something I need to work on! 1 Corinthians 10:33b NLT: I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

Loving others is so freeing, especially when they reciprocate. As Christians, we know that with deep love, comes understanding and forgiveness. So, when I apologize after I say something hurtful to a fellow Christian, he or she knows I am sincerely sorry and they forgive me just as Jesus did. There is peace. Ephesians 4:32 (ESV): Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV): Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

What does love look like?

Love conquers all! Listen to this next passage where God describes what love looks like. Feel your mind and body relax in its assurance. Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV): Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

God is with us, always

God’s love goes beyond giving us a way to Him through Jesus Christ. He gives us Himself, the Holy Spirit, who is a gift for all of those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son. Because it’s nearly impossible to memorize the whole Bible, God gifts us the Holy Spirit to guide us. John 14:26 NASB: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you. Ezekiel 36:26 NLT: And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

The Holy Spirit, God Himself, directs us to righteousness. His voice is distinctive. It’s the one that tells you to do the right thing. Romans 8:6 (NLT): So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. And, luckily, God tells us that He is greater than anything, so with Him, we are fortified, protected, well. 1 John (4:4) NIV: You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.