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That’s How Gratitude Works

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February 2013
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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 1-3:17; Mark 1:29-2:12; Psalm 35:17-28; Proverbs 9:13-18

We move on from Exodus to Leviticus in our Old Testament reading today. The title of the book in English refers to the ceremonies that were ordered by God to be performed by the priests of Israel. The priests were from the tribe of Levi, hence Leviticus. Although the tribe itself is only mentioned once in the book, Aaron and his sons were from the tribe of Levi as we read in Exodus.

Even though this book contains the details of ceremonial sacrifices the sacrifices themselves did not start in the desert. Adam, Cain, Noah, and Abraham were familiar with these sacrifices as we’ve already seen in our reading up to this point. But up until now there was no single place where these sacrifices could be performed so it was difficult to keep to the rules of the sacrifices. Now that the Tabernacle has been completed the Israelites have a location for the sacrifices. So God now has Moses write down all the procedures so that the sacrifices can be made consistently.

The first sacrifice mentioned is the burnt offering. This sacrifice was to atone for a person’s sins. The person making the sacrifice was to place his hand on the animal’s head as a way to transfer the sins of that person to the animal. The animal was to be cut up and burned entirely. Notice that the animal had to be “from your herd”. No one could go out and take a wild animal or use an animal that belonged to someone else (i.e. stolen). Notice also that the animal had to be without defect. Someone couldn’t offer an animal that was lame or of no use to them. The point of the sacrifice was that it would cost something – there is a price that has to be paid to atone for sins.

This sacrificial offering helped to teach the people that they were sinful and needed something (someone) to cleanse them of their sins. That something (someone) had to be perfect (without defect) and it had to die to make atonement. Sound familiar? This is clearly pointing to Jesus Christ who was perfect in every way (being God) and who died in the place of sinners. Jesus’s death atoned for the sins of those who believed in Him and who intentionally transfered their sins to him just like the Israelite who “transfered” his sins to the animal by placing his hand on the animal’s head.  No animal could ever permanently pay for the sins of a human being which is why these sacrifices had to be made over and over. The real permanent sacrifice was going to be made by God at a future time when He sent His own son to the cross to pay for our sins.

A goat or sheep were accepted in place of bulls. And God even allowed a bird to be offered. This was to provide a way for middle class and poorer people to make their sacrifices. God isn’t interested in the exact animal sacrificed as long as the sacrifice was made (i.e. the person realized his need to be forgiven) and it was proportionate to one’s wealth. This is one area of the Bible where God clearly recognizes that some people will have more wealth than others. Riches are never condemned in the Bible – only the way a person deals with his wealth is ever condemned by God.

The grain offering mentioned in Leviticus 2 was made as a thanksgiving offering (it did not atone for sins). Notice that this offering was prepared at home and then brought to the Tabernacle (later the Temple) where some of it would be burned and the rest given to the priests. Yeast was not allowed because it “puffed up” the bread just like pride puffs people up. Yeast (or lack thereof) was a reminder of sin.

God was giving these instructions so that each time they were carried out the people would be reminded of their sins. Let’s face it — we forget easily. We need to be reminded of who we are and who God is. When you think about it this is all pretty cool. Although I could never see myself slaughtering an animal (I get squeamish if I get a paper cut) I can see just how much God loves us by instituting these reminders. Sadly, we have no such reminders in our society today. People just run around fixated on their own pleasure never giving thought to their standing before God. Instead they follow the way of the world by chasing after things that won’t last and mean nothing. They are in for a very rude awakening when they die and come face to face with Jesus. I am not trying to be condemning by saying that. I honestly feel for these people and it makes me want to share the truth with them even more.

In Mark 1:30-31 Jesus’s heal’s the mother-in-law of Peter (then known as Simon). Notice a few things. First, earlier that same day Jesus had performed miracles in front of a large crowd, but now He performs one in a private home. Jesus was not about doing things to get attention. He cared about individuals. Second, once she was healed she got up and made a meal for Jesus – she served Him out of gratitude. Jesus didn’t heal her because He was hungry and was too lazy to fix Himself a sandwich. He healed her because He truly cared for her. She responded by doing something for Him in return. That is how gratitude works. Finally, notice that Peter was married. Peter was most likely the only one of the disciples that wasn’t a teenager. We saw some evidence of that in Matthew and we’ll see more as we read the rest of the Gospel accounts.

Every sentence in the Bible is jam-packed with information. As an example take a look at Mark 1:35. “Before daybreak” Jesus got up. It is easy to imagine that He was up late the night before healing all the people who were coming to Him. The Bible never records one place where He ever turned anyone away and He most certainly did not that night. Yet rather than sleeping in late He gets up early. Why? To pray. The fact that Jesus was a very busy and popular man did not stop him from praying. In fact, the more busy we are the more of a need we have for prayer. This is the example Jesus gives us right here. Also notice that Jesus went to an “isolated place” to pray. He got away from the distractions because as important as it was for Him to help people, it was more important for Him to commune with God, which is what prayer is. I find that my time with God is much more intimate and uplifting in the morning than at any other time of day.

All that from just one sentence. Pretty cool ‘eh?

In Mark 2:2 we see that Jesus had no home of His own. Apparently He stayed with local people as he traveled around. I’m sure there was much competition to have Jesus stay at one’s home, not to mention some bragging rights.

In Mark 2:6-7 Jesus once again states that He is God by declaring that a man’s sins are forgiven. Of course He knew that only God could forgive sins. He also knew that He was God. But those pesky religious teachers condemn Jesus for blasphemy rather than believing that He was God (shouldn’t all those miracles have been proof enough?).

How many times does it seem like God is doing nothing when we pray to Him? From reading Psalm 35 today we can see that we are not the first ones to think like this. God moves at His own pace. It is not our pace. He knows what He is doing. But we are impatient. We often don’t wait and instead try to “correct” things on our own rather than waiting for God to do it. I can say from experience that doing so is never a good idea. God can solve a problem much better than we can. I know as well as anyone that it is not easy but I also know that it is always worth the wait.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post


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