Leviticus 21

I have advice for young christians.  Don’t ever read Leviticus.  Just don’t bother.

Its not that I don’t get it on some level, this chapter is about priests super duper perfection rules.  Its an attempt to create eden, the pre-fall world, in the fallen world.

So it reads like outrageous discrimination against disabilities, no imperfections in priests – it literally is against short people.

So it reads callous: they are to not show mourning or have anything to do with the dead (some exceptions for family).

But it’s meaning the priests to be like adam, not knowing death, not knowing the curse of creation broken.

Its impossible. Why bother? is the question clamouring at me.  OK, its teaching us that we are fallen, that god is holy.  But why a system designed to fail?

The old testament is profoundly depressing.  It is impossible to read it and not conclude you are less holy than god, indeed you are not holy at all.  The story of it is told repeatedly in excruciating detail.

Humanity is corrupt.  We fail corporately, born into sin, its really not our fault, we don’t stand a chance.

Also, each individual is damned without grace. We personally fall short of God’s plan for us and deserve his wrath.  Sinners, all, through and through, every which way.

 

Leviticus 17

This chapter explains a lot, its a bit of a key to the whole book.

First sacrifices were happening anyway. People were sacrificing or dedicating the animals they killed to eat off in the fields and in their far flung homes to goat demons etc.  The superstitions were there.  We saw how easily they fell into worshipping the bull they made. So the temple system viewed in that context centralises and focuses existing practices on the true god, who is present at that location. How often does God revealed 2.0 upgrade the existing spirituality of people?  Christians could learn from this… meet them where they are, channel the shared instincts towards the spiritual.

Second, respect for blood.  Its a form of respecting God’s creation of life. Last chapter I called sacrifice pagan like and ghastly.  But I eat meat, animals die for my plate, and these people faced the reality of killing the animals for their plate in a way I am shielded from.

By respecting the blood, and giving it to God, they are respecting that it is a life a god created life they are taking for their dinner.  Vegetarians can argue whether god intended us to be carnivores, but he did at least make some animals need to eat others.  Its the way of some things.  But within that, there is still a respect for life.  To eat an animal that is not drained of its blood is called bloodshed… it is true killing of the beast.  God wants the blood returned to him, either at the altar or into the dirt.  Modern buzzword would call this mindful meat eating.

Again, it is an upgrade of existing practises, our creator meeting people where they are guiding a people in how to acknowledge him and what is important to him.

I really like the no barriers way of looking at spirituality – christianity is the true path, but God acknowledges the urges in all spirituality.

 

Leviticus 7

I think we may have reached the end of the offerings. I started to think I was going batty, because it seemed to be saying the same thing over and over, but it’s actually outlined six different offerings: burnt, grain, sin, guilt, fellowship, and ordination. 

Burnt is where the whole thing is burned up, nothing left to eat. Chillingly it is the origin of the word “holocaust”. 

Sin is for Israel’s corporate sin, 

guilt for specific individual crimes, 

grain is non meat, and was a gift, a freewill offering to God (if you were well off… It was also an option for other purposes of you were poor) 

fellowship is for celebrating good things that happen, to acknowledge that God provides, 

ordination is dedication of new priests.

All have different rules about the animal, the nature of the royal etc. 

I was struck by the metaphor of cleaning. There is a lot of ritual cleansing and rules about unclean things contaminating the clean. It actually has a reasondable amount of practical science behind it, but it is a powerful metaphor for god’s holiness, one that is hard to reconcile with how loved and close to God Christians are promised to be.

Strange that the no blood thing carries on as kosher rules for Jewish people, though the sacrificial system has passed on. 

Leviticus 5

This is the Law right here. The one Jesus said brings death. 

You hear something unfair and don’t speak out, death. Blood must be shed. You come to realise you accidentally touched the wrong thing, death. Etc etc. Death death and death.
God has provided elaborate rituals, understanding the way we comprehend religion. He’s given them something that contemporary nations would recognise as religion, but morphed into teaching about the nature of God. 

So what is he saying?

It’s not a sin to be poor, for one thing. If all you can afford is a dove or even just a cup of flour, rather than a perfect male ram or whatever, its power to absolve sin is just as great. Modern Christianity forgets that one often still. It’s so profoundly sad watching church leaders faun on the rich and successful.

Also, God is not a man-made object. Aslan is not a tame lion.  The tent doesn’t have an object that is god at its core, it has his words. It’s where they meet God, he comes to it as a cloud from wherever he is. He can’t be looked at. We still fall victim to molding God of our own concept of what God should be like

And he is very holy. That implies him creating in us the capacity to be unholy. Still a hard concept. Our rebellion requires pain, it cuts us off from him, demands death.

God laid out these messages in simple concrete terms the people could not fail to understand.  Or could they? 

Still haven’t. Still haven’t!

Exodus 38

The sacrificial altar and paraphenalia, of bronze, where animals will die as offering to acknowledge that all things come from God, and to take away sin.

The curtains that define the courtyard, where the people will come. Sure there is a holy of holies, a layer within the layers, where almost no one can go. But it’s still a bit mind blowing that the people can get as close to God as they do. 

They’ve wandered a long way from home on a second hand experience of god’s presence (well they do have the magical food, and the cloud/fire guidance system.

Even more mind blowing is the Christian evolution of this theology, that our body is a temple where God dwells.

Moses has them record all the materials from which the work was done. The logistics of their situation are daunting, almost impossible to imagine. 

600000 people. And while they had become slaves, in Egypt they didn’t do that bad. They have a prodigious amount of gold, bronze, cloth, wood etc they have bought with them. And herds of animals. And they’ve made this very big fancy tent the will now continue to drag through the desert for decades. 

It must have been a crazy hard life. It went on for 40 years, none of the generation who left Egypt would see the promised land, only their kids I think. 

Mind you, modern scholarship has found almost no corroborative evidence for any of exodus. The most compelling history is the book itself which was written much later from a bunch of sources, that presumably came from somewhere. Historians’ explanations of how and why the story came to be are about as threadbare as the evidence of any of it happening. 

Personally I don’t care much about that sort of thing. Once you’ve bought that a creator God made everything, why not? And for me the alternative, no God, no meaning, has never seemed remotely plausible. 

And I’m with the overwhelming flow of humanity there. I don’t see atheism as the natural state of any people.  They tend towards the theory, the experience, of a God.

There is the atheism of youth, a sort of indifference to God because just being alive and discovering the joys of the physical world is so compelling and seemingly consequence free. The sort of atheism that evaporates in a hospital room, or just with the passing of years as mortality becomes more evident in your body. 

I think this attitude also exists among believers too. 20 year olds basically feel immortal and invincible. They are the doers of most of the great things of humanity, and a fair share of its worst.

Then there is the bitter, hurt atheism, which I see as an acting out of rebellion against God. That has mostly been fringe in human culture.  

As for other religions, they are a matter for God I think. This one has always rung very true to me, and I am grateful for it.

Praise God!

Exodus 25

“I’m Christian but I’m not religious” Belief good, religion bad. It’s a common attitude. But as an exercise in practical psychology, i think it is an unachievable standard, a recipe for madness.

Here, in the longest direct communication by God so far I’m the Bible, speaking directly to Moses on a mountain, God designs the bits and pieces of a religion. 

Ark, table and lampstand.

He’s still at it. Jesus turned passover into Easter, and the supper into communion, commanding us to eat the bread and drink the wine when we meet together. Johns gospel is structured around Jesus’ transformation of a series of religious festivals.

I was fascinated in this chapter by the detail of god’s design brief. I mean, he’s the creator so you should expect him to be creative. 

And he uses natural forms. Well of course, that’s his style. The lamp stand is to be one piece like an elegant tree, sweeping from base up to flower branches and buds.
And the artisans did their best and got their best gold and made it all as good as they could and as close to god’s instructions as they could. To God perhaps it looked like kiddie art, about as accurate, fine and utterly loveable as a child’s drawings​ of their parents for mother’s day.

And they got the message that God is important, holy, worth our best, interested in us, enjoys our labour. 

And they got structures for expressing their love for him, something tangible to return to after the crushing failure of their sinful greedy natures. 

Life is a spiritual journey, our battles are spiritual. Religion gives us a symbolic landscape in which to journey and fight. 

Exodus 20

The ten commandments. They are said by God directly to all the people. They freak them out and they tell Moses to go further up into the mountain and hear more. 

I was stuck by the first… It’s more a final summary of what God has been telling them since the burning bush. There are no other god’s but him. It’s the first four really, they flow as a logical consequence of what has just happened.

And i was stuck by covetousness. I mean murder, adultery, dishonour of parents. They happen.

But coveting. It’s casual and constant in a way that the others aren’t. We treat it less like sin. whole economies and societies, even theologies and careers, are built on coveting.

The easy enemy of coveting is contentment. It’s a powerful, releasing word to just say to yourself sometimes in my opinion.

Exodus 19

We enter a long part of exodus, about 12 chapters (I peaked ahead)… Where Moses gets the 10 commandments. What you don’t remember is that he also gets a gazillion more, setting up the whole Israelite religion. 

It’s tempting to do an entry “exodus 19 – 32, God is very very holy” but I’m not in a hurry. Let’s actually read it and see what is there to learn about God.

It amazing really how vague their religion must have been til then. There is a string of divine interactions, promises, blessings that have created the nation from the original 12 sons of Jacob. 

Thats peachy for the leaders, but as an nation they have had not a lot of outward means of showing their relationship with God. 

Today centers on mount Sinai, which is a physical location for God. Moses is called to an appointment there, a bit like the people who are called by aliens to go to the mountain in “close encounters of the third kind”. 

It’s very very holy. There is a list of things to show that. They have a 3 day feast to prepare. They wash. Abstain from sex. Must not touch the mountain. Thunder and lightning, cloud, you name it.

A stage is well and truly set. And held. For 12 chapters.

If it sounds like I’m not connecting at the moment, that right. I’m sort of numb, everything feels bland at the moment. It’s not a dramatic feeling, but I’m in a low.

But i do trust God to lead me, as he has led the Israelites to this point in exodus. A desert and a mountain they must not touch. So let’s see where we go with this. 

Exodus 12

The passover and departure of the Israelites. 

It’s all about the nature of God. He’s above all other god’s. The plagues have systematically shown his power over the gods of Egypt.

He’s a God of judgement. He decides the time of our death. So the Egyptians lost the first of their families and livestock.

He’s a god who chooses. The Israelites are separated by passover and by circumscision.

He’s a god who rescues, setting an enslaved people free.

The God of the Messiah, the one I pray to every day.

Exodus 6

Everyone is doubting God, but God tells Moses he is revealing more to him than the great patriarchs, Abraham, Jacob and all. They had the promise, the covenant. Moses will see the promise fulfilled by this great saving act, and know more of the law of God. 

The people remain negative. They have adopted the local gods and their life has only got worse for Moses’ meddling. Moses remains deeply unsure.

They run though his genealogy. Their Israelite pedigree. They are god’s Pele the right ones for the job.

This chapter is about god’s plans and power being bigger than all out weakness. 

It’s plague time!