Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 13:1-59; Mark 6:1-29; Psalm 39:1-13; Proverbs 10:10
Today’s passage in Leviticus demonstrates God’s concern for individuals and community.
Today we read about the laws regarding someone who has, or who might have, leprosy. First, the person had to be presented before a priest who would examine the person. In addition to their duties in the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) the priests also acted as doctors and health officials. Pretty much everything in the community revolved around this house of worship. God’s perfect knowledge and wisdom provided instruction for every aspect of the Israelite’s lives. I wonder what our society would be like today if we allowed God to lead and instruct us rather than thinking we could do everything on our own. I’m sure I can’t even imagine how different things would be.
The rules we read about in Leviticus were very practical and were meant to protect society in the case where someone had a very contagious skin disease. Notice that God fully admits that this terrible condition may occur. God is very honest with us. He never tries to hide anything or sneak anything up on us. This earth is not perfect. It is not what God wanted it to be. That is our own fault. As a result of our sin all kinds of bad things entered the world, including diseases. But God is always right there ready and willing to tell us how to deal with these things. Sadly, hardly anyone turns to God anymore for the answers. We mistakenly think we can figure things out for ourselves. In recent years we have seen all kinds of new diseases and afflictions come into existence. At the same time I think we can say that the world has become more sinful and has moved further away from God. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
The person infected with leprosy had to live in isolation outside the main camp (Leviticus 13:46). This is must have been very difficult. Not only would the person suffer physically but also emotionally by being alone. They must also call out “Unclean! Unclean!” anytime anyone approached them so as not to infect that person. That must have been humiliating. These rules were not meant to punish the diseased person. They were meant to protect the rest of society so that the disease did not spread. Here we see God instructing us to sacrifice the rights and comfort of one individual for the sake of community. Not to go all off on society again, but that is not something we are willing to do today. Today we sacrifice society for the sake of individual “freedom”. Everyone can do whatever makes them feel good no matter who else might be hurt by it. That is clearly not the way God designed society.
In a couple of New Testament passages that we have read this year Jesus healed people with leprosy. After doing so He told them to go show themselves to the priest. The reason He said that is right here in Leviticus 13. It was the priest who performed such an examination to determine if the person was cured of the disease.
You’ve probably heard the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”. Well, we see that play out in Mark 6 today. Jesus returns to Nazareth, the town He grew up in, to teach. Nazareth was small town that was not highly regarded in Israel. The people who knew Jesus as a boy and young man are “amazed”. I don’t think this referred to what they thought of His teaching per se. I think they were amazed that it was Jesus who was teaching. Evidently they recalled Him as a youth and “just a carpenter” and wonder how He got so smart all-of-a-sudden.
I think it is very hard to be taken seriously by people who know you well as one thing once you become another. I think people who are always in trouble with the law or who are addicts have a hard time starting a new life because they surround themselves with people who know them as nothing else. These people are enablers – they don’t let the person be someone new. But God does. He is wanting each of us to change and He will enable us to do so. He won’t enable us to stay the same. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that “anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone.” Isn’t that great? At the moment of salvation you are (present tense) a new creation according to God no matter what your old friends and family think. And isn’t what God thinks more important, not to mention more accurate?
Notice that because the people in His home town didn’t believe in Him, Jesus could not perform many miracles (Mark 6:5). Our faith (or lack thereof) influences the work that God will do in our lives. It doesn’t limit God’s power in anyway. But it prevents Him from acting in our life. I think this is because someone who does not believe in God will attribute miracles to some other source like fate, coincidence, or serendipity. So why would God show us a miracle? Ironically, doing so might only lead someone further away from Him. We have the example of the Pharisees who saw Jesus’s miracles with their own eyes yet didn’t believe He was God. Instead they thought He was from Satan. God’s miracles, which should have lead them closer to Him, instead had the opposite affect because they were closed-minded.
Notice that the townspeople of Nazareth were “deeply offended” (Mark 6:3). At what I wonder? Why would they be offended? Notice too that they “refused” to believe in Him. They could have if they wanted to. They chose not to. Not a wise choice.
We previously learned that Jesus had brothers, but here we see them mentioned by name. We also learn that He had sisters (Mark 6:3). Again we see that Mary did not remain a virgin after Jesus’s birth despite what some denominations will tell you. Its right here in the Bible – plain as day – yet they don’t want to teach it for some reason. Its also interesting that Joseph is not mentioned here, or anywhere in the Bible after Jesus’s birth. It is possible he died when Jesus was quite young.
Also In Mark 6:3 (this verse is full of information, isn’t it?) we read that the people referred to Jesus as the “son of Mary”. This was quite a derogatory statement. Back then it was customary to refer to a man as the son of his father, not his mother (even if she was now a widow). Their statement was probably a reference to Jesus being thought of as illegitimate and was certainly meant as an insult.
In Mark 6:14-29 we read the story of how Herod came to behead John the Baptist. The story is self-explanatory. But notice that Herod really didn’t want to kill John the Baptist (Mark 6:20, 26). He made a foolish vow (we’ve learned in Proverbs how foolish it is to promise something you can’t / don’t want to deliver) and was totally unprepared for his daughter’s request. But rather than do the right thing and reject her request, he grants it because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his guests. How many times do we do something we don’t want to do but we do it anyway just to go along with the crowd? Its easy to do. We all do it because we want the approval of our friends. But righteousness is measured by God’s word not by our friend’s opinions.
My life has mimicked Psalm 39:1-3 over the past couple of days. There have been some things going on at work that have frustrated me quite a lot. But I need to remain calm and professional so as to maintain a good witness to my unbelieving coworkers. Even though some of them may not know I am a Christian it is certainly possible to ruin your reputation before the fact, not just after. But when we hold our tongue we can get more frustrated (Psalm 39:3). The answer is to turn to God. He is where our hope should be (Psalm 39:7).
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