Moses instructs Israelites what they can eat — clean animals — and what they can't eat — unclean animals.

Day 75 (March 16): Idolatry warning, clean/unclean animals, tithes, treatment of debtors, slaves, firstborn male animal sacrifices, Passover, Festivals

Credit: 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
Deuteronomy 13-16:17
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (13:1-18): In this passage, God speaks out against those who lure others into idolatry and those who are lured.  That was then, I’m sure we will learn in our NT reading — when we get there much later this year — what God or Jesus says about dealing with others pushing idolatry.  I certainly don’t think the OT will say, “stone them.”  And, we certainly don’t do that today.  We are more of a “coexist” society today.  I wonder what God thinks of that?  I can only imagine that He’s not too happy with it.

A. One big difference between then and now is that God is establishing a pure nation set apart from Him, and a big part of what He was trying to do was keep the Israelites from worshipping other gods.  Today, these boundaries (between Jew and Gentile, between Christian and Muslim) make it very difficult to keep any such society “pure” in the sense that was being described in the text.  The NT in particular will talk about being at peace with those around you, especially those who do not share your God.

Q. (Deuteronomy 13:1-18): At first, I read this and thought that God purposely luring us to other gods or idols to test us just sounds sneaky.  But then, I thought, I guess he does need to test them to find out their heart.  Someone could get easily lost in the crowd, grow up with followers of God, but not really have felt the love in their heart for God or been tested of their faith.  So, tempting them is one way to weed out the unbelievers.  And, it doubles in getting rid of all of those who do the tempting, for they also fail to have God in their heart.  Is this an accurate assessment of this lesson?

A. I can certainly see some wisdom in your description, and I think you’ve hit upon part of it.  I also think it is worth mentioning that people change over time, and the call to remain faithful to God is part of what this is about.  God is calling the people to be ever vigilant against the corrupting forces of false religions and idols.

Q. This may seem like a dumb question, but there are no dumb questions, right?  Anyway, I have always used the names God and Lord interchangeably.  But, do the two words have different meanings, in reference to our God?

A. No.  They are two different names given to God, where many names are used.  The most reverent name in scripture (to Jews anyway) is the true name of God: Yahweh, represented by the four letters YHWH (called the Tetragrammaton), printed Hebrew does not have vowels.  Whenever you see the use of LORD in all caps, it is a translation of YHWH, which in our version for this study is just rendered God.  But there are other words for God as well, and when Jews refer to God, since Yahweh is such a reverent name, they used the name Elohim or AdonaiElohim is usually how you see the word God presented, and Adonai means “lord,” so when you see only the first “L” capitalized (Lord, not LORD), the translation is referring to Adonai.  So the differences are actually harder to see in the NLT, but are fairly clear in some other Bibles.  Hope that helps.  If not, check this out: http://www.gotquestions.org/LORD-GOD-Lord-God.html

Q. (14:3-4): I thought the ceremonially clean/unclean requirement was lifted?

A. Nope.  Observant Jews keep the dietary laws (kosher) to this day.  What we were looking at yesterday, which is what I think you are referring to, is the idea that people could consume their own herd animals or certain animals that they caught, such as deer and gazelle.  But the rules about what animals they could eat did not change.

O. (14:22-23): I finally got it and won’t ask about sacrificing (here tithing) again.  It’s not about gruesome slaughtering, it’s about giving their best to the Creator.  It serves two purposes: sacrificing their best stuff or giving it up and honoring God.

Q. (16:10): This is the first time I have seen the request to bring “a voluntary offering in proportion to the blessings you have received from him.”  Most of the time, God has been very specific about what he wants to be offered or sacrificed.  Also, I know I have commented on the amount of offerings, gifts, sacrifices to the Lord and what a heap of stuff it must be.  Rob, I don’t think you had a definite answer of what happens to all of the gifts?

A. The implication of these verses is that they were shared among the people, including the Levites and the poor in the various community centers where sacrifices were to be brought.  The sacrifices at the Tabernacle, brought to make atonement for sin or other purposes, were either consumed by the priests or burned completely.

For further reading: More explanation of the Festivals, https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2022/02/jewish-feasts-and-festivals-2/

Shop: Jesus makes offers more concise laws and was a role model for living the out perfectly! https://livinlight.org/product/teacher-t-shirt/

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

Atonement. God gave Moses specific instructions for Aaron on practices for the Day of Atonement.

Day 52 (Feb. 21): Contaminated houses, Ceremonially unclean rules, Day of Atonement a.k.a. Yom Kippur

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
Leviticus 14:33-16:34
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Leviticus 14:33): Can you tell us why God would purposely contaminate the houses with mildew (leprosy)?

A. (See my answer yesterday to the question of the English word choice for translating mildew/leprosy).  I am honestly not sure, but much of the area that will be settled in the Promised Land would be near the coast, so there could certainly be problems with moisture brought in from the Mediterranean.

Q. Was being “unclean” shameful?

A. In the absence of basic sanitation and knowledge about how disease is spread, it was very likely that being unclean would have been seen as God’s punishment, so it very likely was perceived as being shameful, but as we discussed yesterday, most of the time the being unclean was only temporary.

Q. (15:28): What sin has a woman committed through menstruating that she would have to make a sin offering?

A. The sin offering was being made in this case to restore the woman to full “clean” status in the community; she didn’t sin by having her period.

Q. With all due respect, the talk of all these offerings is wearing me out.  I can’t imagine all of these offerings and inspections.  I don’t understand why God made all of this so complicated.  …  Now that I’ve had a second to think about it, I recall that it’s preparing the way for the brutality of Christ’s sacrifice.  The saying, “Look to the cross,” answers so many questions!

A. The system is complicated because life is complicated.  God is making a way for His people to be in close relationship with Him on a daily basis, but they must be ceremonially clean in order for that relationship to take place.  You can probably see why this text is among the most baffling and least read of the OT: It can seem like it is just easier to skip it.  In some regards, it does get better: there are other sections of Leviticus that we will get to — I’m thinking of chapter 19 in particular — that relate to care for the poor and loving one’s neighbor that seem a lot more “relevant” to us.  But there is some important stuff here: we will see a lot of atonement imagery in the crucifixion — as you pointed to — that relates to what we read about the Day of Atonement.  So while it can feel like something that needs to be “waded” through, there will be important principles that will be laid out here that will resonate throughout Scripture.

Q. (16:1-2): God is telling Moses to tell his brother Aaron not to make the same mistake that Moses’ nephews made?  I feel like he is pushing Aaron away because of the mistakes his sons made.  Can you say what God’s reason is for warning Aaron that he will die if he doesn’t fulfill protocol before entering the Most Holy Place?  I always imagine God wanting to get closer to His people, but here, it seems he wants a distance.

A. God’s warning is not about the same thing that got his sons killed.  Verse 1 is only a placeholder for the time: it tells us that these instructions came after his son’s death.  God’s instructions to Aaron were for a different set of rules: for entering the Most Holy Place behind the inner certain in the tent — the resting place of the Ark.  Aaron and his descendants were not allowed to enter the MHP anytime they liked, they were only able to do so one time of year, and after very specific procedures were followed.  But this was probably the most important act of the High Priest the entire year: making atonement for any unconfessed sin for the ENTIRE NATION!

Q. (16:18-22): I see a lot of similarity between the sacrifice of the goat and the release of the “scapegoat” with Christ’s crucifixion.  I’m understanding that the animals will eventually be replaced by Christ.  He takes the reasons of both animals.  He dies for us, purifying us and takes our sins away, making us feel a lot less weighted down.  Yeah!  Thank you Jesus and God!!!!  How about “a man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness.” Can we pin that character on anybody in the crucifixion story?

A. I guess you could say that person is Pilate, the man who ordered Jesus to be crucified — under pressure from the Jewish leadership — but I think that’s a step too far.

Q. (16:25): We talked about the fat of the sacrifices belonging to God, but I don’t think I’ve asked about the symbolism of the altar.  Does the altar represent God or just a place where we can offer him things?  I have never given much thought to it other than a platform to burn things.  But now, I’m getting a vibe that it’s more than that.  It’s a place where God embraces the gifts.  He does come in the form of fire a lot.  If you all have already made this realization, please forgive me, there’s a lot to think about in this Holy Book and sometimes I have mommy brain.

A. The altar is everything you have stated above, but I think in addition to these other things, it is a symbol of God’s righteous judgment and wrath.  Don’t miss the imagery of burning and consumption — the imagery used with Hell — in considering the role of the altar: it was a place where the sins of the people were burned away from the people, and I think the people would have been quite clear about the importance of the altar where they could make sacrifices to hold the wrath of God at bay.

Q. (16:29): Does anyone still observe this day: “On the tenth day of the appointed month in early autumn?”

A. Yes.  Yom Kippur, Hebrew for Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the entire year for Jews even today.  It does indeed take place on the 10th day of the month that Jews call Tishrei.  This month always falls in autumn — but is based upon a lunar, rather than solar calendar — the Gregorian equivalent is September or October.  So, for example, the 2013 date of Yom Kippur will be Sept. 13, though note that Jewish holy days begin at sundown of what we would call the day “before,” if that makes sense, on a lunar calendar, and in 2014 it will fall in October.  Check it out for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_kippur

For further reading: Apply the Bible to today! In Bible times, priests were the mold inspectors: https://www.toolmanmold.com/post/the-bible-the-world-s-oldest-mold-remediation-guide

Tomorrow’s reading: Leviticus 17-19

Priestly conduct Because of their carelessness, two of Aaron's sons who were priests, Nadab and Abihu, died after burning incense in a way that God had not instructed.

Day 50 (Feb. 19): Priests start work, Aaron’s sons sin, priest conduct explained, ceremonially clean, unclean animals

The Jewish Museum / A gift of the heirs of Jacob Schiff

Woohoo!  Day 50, can you believe it? We have read about 14 percent of the Bible and have learned so much.

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
Leviticus 9-11
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Leviticus 9:23, 24): Looks like the sacrifices offer another benefit: God coming down to show His glory and power.  The fire of God would also be like a victory appearance for the Israelites: seeing that God is powerful, listening, watching … in control.  The words “gratification” and “reassurance” also come to mind.  Did I read this correctly?

A. Yes, that’s the idea.  God is reminding the people of His power, and it won’t be the last time He uses fire to consume an offering.

Q. (10:1-3): I guess this is a way of saying “pay attention.”  We have to give God the benefit of the doubt that they were not taking God seriously and didn’t just make an honest mistake?  I noticed Aaron was silent.  This must have been very hard for him!  Just a comment in 10:6, I can’t imagine being told not to mourn the death of two children!

A. As far as I can tell, it goes a bit further than “pay attention”: Aaron’s sons were careless with the incense of God, and were struck dead for their carelessness.  It is an important thought for us to remember as well: though we are in good relationship with God through the work of Christ, we should be very careful about trivializing the things of God.

Q. (10:19): So Aaron’s apology to Moses served as repentance, which spared the lives of Aaron’s remaining two sons and possibly Aaron himself?

A. I don’t think Aaron is apologizing for his actions: he says specifically in this verse that he is mourning his son’s deaths by fasting, which is why he didn’t eat the meat.  He is explaining to Moses why he did not fulfill his duties, especially since Moses is right: they cannot leave the Tabernacle until their work is done.  I think God was clear on Aaron’s reasons, which is why it appears that Aaron wasn’t in danger, but this verse is about explaining Aaron’s actions to Moses and the audience.

Q. (11:1-44): Can you tell us why all of these rules about what they can and can’t eat?  Why are split hooves and chewing the cud important?  God says many of these animals that he says are ceremonially unclean are detestable, but he created them.  Can you explain that?

A. There is not a lot of rhyme or reason to the list.  There are some people who think that some animals were on the “unclean” list for health reasons (cows, which are permitted, are generally cleaner animals than pigs, for example) but this is difficult to substantiate or find any consistent logic in.  Basically, what we should take away from the list is that this particular list should be seen as separating the people from all of the other nations around them, which very likely didn’t have any dietary restrictions or perhaps had different ones.  The guidelines allowed the people to be set apart for the work of God, so don’t get to worried about the particular habits — chewing the cud — or animal types — birds — that were permissible to eat.

Q. Can you tell us something about why the Jewish community still follows these laws?  And Christians don’t because we are under a new law.  But, like other things in the OT, many laws are covered by the New Covenant and thus are still practiced.  So, would God be more pleased with us if we would follow these consumption laws or do we just trust God that Jesus sacrifice made these “ceremonially clean” laws null and void?

A. As we’ve discussed, the line between the Old (Jewish) and New (Christian) Covenants is one of legalism (old) verses freedom (new).  Under the New Covenant, we are not required to keep the Law for the purposes of salvation.  The Old covenant is the epitome of legalism: Jews must rely on their own actions — and the actions of the priests — in order to assure their good standing with God (though Judaism has its faith elements as well).  But with Christianity, we have moved beyond the old system into the new, which says that we are free to keep the rules of the OT where they benefit us, but we do not HAVE to.  Since we are not under that system, no amount of keeping the kosher laws or other restrictions makes us “better” or “loved more” in God’s sight: we are loved outside of our actions, and saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) alone.  So if we as a community see value in keeping some of the rules — say the 10 Commandments— we can follow them, but we are not obligated to.

One of the things Jesus talked about in His earthly ministry is that to sum up the Law, you should love God, and love your neighbor (Luke 10:26-28).  So that should be the lens with which we approach the Law as Christians: does following a command to not eat pork adversely affect my walk with God?  (And for some people, the answer is probably “yes”)  If so, then I should not do it.  If not, then it is probably okay, but we should still seek the Spirit’s guidance in “gray areas”.  How about loving neighbor?  Does committing adultery destroy not just my marriage, but likely other families as well?  If the answer is yes, then again, I should not do it, out of love for my neighbor, not to mention my spouse.  While we know that certain things are clearly off limits — murder, lying, etc. — the new way does have the drawback of giving us a lot more “gray” than black and white, so to speak.  So in the New Covenant, we have the freedom to do as we please, with the understanding that we must be discerning — which frankly can be harder than simply having rules — in what actions we take and how they will be seen by others (see 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 for Paul’s discussion of Christian freedom and discerning choices).

(From Leigh An: Wanting a little more background to this last passage that Rob mentioned, I read all of 1 Corinthians 10 and enjoyed the whole message.  I can’t wait for the NT!)

For further understanding: What does clean and unclean animals mean? https://www.spokengospel.com/devotionals/leviticus-11#video

Shop: Wear your faith comfortably!  Shop for Christian apparel at Livin’ Light. https://livinlight.org/product-category/t-shirts/unisex/comfort-colors-unisex/

Tommorow’s reading: Leviticus 12-14:32