Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 20:22-22:16; Mark 9:1-29; Psalm 43:1-5; Proverbs 10:18
The people who lived in the land God was giving to Israel were performing all the detestable practices that we read about yesterday. As a result God detested them (Leviticus 20:23). Likewise, if Israel disobeyed God they would be driven from the land as well (Leviticus 20:22). Sadly, this is exactly what happened. We’ll read all about it later this year. But eventually God sent Assyria and later Babylon to conquer Israel. The country ceased to exist until 1948 when God brought it back into existence.
What can we say about the United States, then? Surely we were a much blessed country in 1776. We formed our laws according to God’s word. Our schools taught the Bible (did you know Harvard started as a school to educate clergy?). Until as recently as 1950, presidents openly praised God in their speeches. But over the past 50 years all that has changed. We not only commit the sins discussed yesterday on a grand scale, but in many cases (such as homosexuality and abortion) we celebrate them and encourage others to participate. How much longer before God allows our enemies to conquer us? I believe 9/11 was a warning by God. We haven’t changed since then. In fact, we have become even more brazenly arrogant in our defiance of God. Therefore I believe that someday (soon) God will allow us to be conquered.
In Leviticus 20:26 we read why God wanted Israel to be holy (separate from the world). It was because God claimed Israel for Himself. They were His people. What an awesome privilege they had. And they blew it. They chased after mindless goals instead of resting in the peace that God provided. The grass may seem greener on the other side of the fence. But it never is.
Leviticus 21 gives instructions specifically to the priests who would serve in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. As leaders of sinful people the priests had to ensure that they were maintaining the highest level of purity. Today’s church leaders must do likewise. No one, not even a pastor of a church will be perfect. But due to the importance of their calling to lead God’s people they must not let sin entrap them.
If a priest does become unclean his career wasn’t over. He needed to bathe to symbolize being washed clean. Then at sundown he could resume his normal responsibilities. Remember that the Jewish day began at sundown (and still does) so what God is saying here is that as a new day began the uncleaness from the day before was gone. That is something we can apply to our lives as believers. Every day is a new day. Yesterday’s sins are gone. Too often I beat myself up over mistakes I made not only yesterday but weeks, months, or even years in the past. That is my own doing. God has forgotten them. I need to awake each morning knowing that I have a clean slate with God.
Notice that in Leviticus 22:11 God implies that a “slave” was to receive the same respect that a family member would. As I wrote about earlier this month, a person could become a slave of another under certain conditions (although such a life could not be forced upon another person) mainly having to do with not being able to pay debts. The Biblical understanding of slavery is nothing like the slavery that happened in America.
In Mark 9 we read again of the transfiguration of Jesus. This was not a miracle. This was the temporary cessation of a miracle – the miracle was that Jesus came from heaven and clothed Himself in a human body concealing His glory. On the mountaintop in today’s reading Jesus temporarily shed His human container to reveal who He really was. What an amazingly cool experience for Peter, James, and John.
Both Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. Moses representing the law and Elijah representing the prophets of the Old Testament. Also Moses represented those who die and go to heaven while Elijah represents those who don’t die but are taken to heaven alive at the Rapture. (As we’ll read about later this year, Elijah never died but went straight to heaven).
Peter decides to speak even though he is terrified. Sometimes it is better not to say anything. Here Peter equates Jesus with Moses and Elijah. He fails to see that Jesus is greater. So God, in the form of a cloud, speaks and declares that Jesus is the greater of the three. Jesus wasn’t just another Old Testament prophet. He was God.
We also read (Mark 9:10) that the three disciples didn’t understand what Jesus meant by “rising from the dead”. After all, no one had ever risen from the dead before and they had no reason to think it would ever happen. Notice that the Bible says they “often” asked each other what that phrase meant. Evidentially they tried to figure it out for a while. It wasn’t until Jesus actually rose from the dead that they understood.
A man brings his demon possessed son to Jesus in Mark 9:17. The man seems to have some faith in Jesus, but still has some doubts (Mark 9:24). Perhaps he doubted Jesus could help. Maybe he doubted that Jesus would help. But in any case, the fact that this man had questions didn’t stop Jesus from helping. The same is true today. God will welcome anyone’s questions. We don’t have to have 100% understanding before giving ourselves to Christ. Sadly, though, many people think that they have to know everything about Christ before trusting Him. That isn’t true. Very few people know how an airplane works but they get on one. They trust it to takeoff, fly, and land safely without ever understanding how it happens. Similarly, one does not have to have all one’s questions about Jesus answered before being born-again. I didn’t. I went into Christianity kicking and screaming after being an atheist. I came to the point where I knew what I believed was wrong. I certainly didn’t have a complete understanding of God right then. But I started to learn and continue to learn 21 years later.
Psalm 43 has some interesting imagery. David knows that God is his only safe place. Yet sometimes when we are in distress it can seem that God is not with us (verse 2). We need to get back to God in that case but interestingly we can only return to God with God’s help (verse 3). God will always show us the way to Him. After all, with Him is where He wants us to be. He will never leave us in the dark if we truly seek Him out.
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