Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 24-25:46; Mark 10:13-31; Psalm 44:9-26; Proverbs 10:20-21
There was only one source of light inside the tented Tabernacle. That was the lampstand (Leviticus 24:1-4). Similarly, there is only one source of light in the universe – Jesus, the Light of the World. It is pretty cool to read the Bible and notice all the symbolism. Yesterday we saw the symbolism in the seven annual festivals God gave to Israel. The original intent, I believe, of all creation is to point, via symbols and metaphors, to Christ. Isn’t God clever and cool?
In the New Testament, Jesus calls His believers the light of the world (Matthew 5). The Old Testament pointed forward to Jesus. After Jesus left this earth He passed the torch, so to speak, to His followers. God’s ultimate plan for Christians is to become like Him. We’ll read more about that later this year. Of course, while on this earth that can only be partially attained. We should all be growing in Christ although we’ll never get 100% of the way there in this life. But just like the lampstand needed oil to continue giving light, we need the Holy Spirit to fill us continually to be light on this earth while we are alive. Those without the Holy Spirit (i.e. those who have not been born-again) cannot truly shine.
In Leviticus 24:10-23 shows just how seriously God takes sin, especially the sin of corrupting God’s character. God certainly is not offended when someone slanders Him. He doesn’t seek revenge on anyone either. So why did this blasphemer have to be put to death? I think it was because when someone spreads false information about God that information can lead others away from God. God is interested in your eternal future. And if there is someone who was going to jeopardize that, that person would be put to death not as punishment, but as a way of protecting everyone else. That’s how much God cares about what you believe. If you believe the wrong thing you will end up separated from God for all eternity. And God doesn’t want that.
The way God commands Israel to handle the land in Leviticus 25 has several practical reasons. First, it gave the land a rest every 7 years. That is good stewardship. It allowed the land to regenerate. Second, it required Israel to have faith in God that He would provide for them. Third, it gave Israel a year-long rest during which they could spend time doing other things like studying God’s word. And fourth, it reminded Israel that the land did not belong to them. It belonged to God.
As an aside, I’ve always felt that we should shut down each of our National Parks for a year every once in a while to allow them to recuperate from the massive crowds that trample on them every day.
In Leviticus 25:35 God tell us to support those who cannot support themselves. While it is very altruistic of the government to want to help the poor, they are ill-equipped to do it and they do a terrible job of it. God gave that responsibility to His people. In our modern-day world that means that churches should be helping those in need in their own neighborhood. If churches did that, and if the government let churches do that, we would see and end to poverty in no time.
In Mark 10:13-16 Jesus again turns Jewish society on its head. Back then children were not considered valuable at all. But Jesus (who was God) states just how valuable they are. Jesus was always challenging society to reconsider what it believed. He is doing the same thing today.
We read the story of the rich young man in Mark 10:17-31. Notice that the man asks Jesus “what must I do” to have eternal life? The man thought that heaven was achieved by “doing” certain things (and not doing other things). He had it all wrong. Eternal life is not granted based on what we do. It is granted based on our relationship with God. So Jesus asks him some questions so that the man can get a good sense of where his heart is. Jesus is not condemning this man. He is trying to teach him. So many of us surround ourselves with people who do not challenge us but instead who think just like we do. It makes us feel better to know that others think like we do, even if what we are all thinking is wrong.
When I was an atheist this described me. Thankfully God sent some people into my life who did not think like me and who challenged me to reflect on what I believed. I realized that I had no basis for believing what I believed. My “conclusions” were all driven by my ego and self-love. If you do not have someone in your life who is challenging you then you need to find someone who will.
Through a series of questions we learn that this man has much wealth that he loves more than God. The man claims that he has kept all the commandments (even though he obviously hadn’t). In his head he was “good enough” to get to heaven. But good enough never is. The only way to heaven is to follow Jesus (Mark 10:21). But the man was unwilling to do that. He wanted to rely on himself and his money.
Riches can certainly be helpful in this life. But they lose all their value when measured against eternity. The problem for many wealthy people is that money provides so much security on earth that they learn to think that it will, as a measure of “success”, secure entry into heaven. But that is not the case. They need someone in their life who will challenge that belief. Otherwise they will end up apart from Jesus after they die. And that won’t be good.
God will reward those who give up earthly comforts and possessions for Him (Mark 10:29-30). That is a great comfort. After all, everything is really temporary anyway. Who needs any of it?
Jesus sums it all up in Mark 10:31. Those that the world places “first” (i.e. most important) are really “last” in God’s view. The movie stars. The world leaders. The high-paid athletes. They are all “last” in God’s eyes. When you cheer for someone who scores a touchdown, or hits a home run, or wins an award you are cheering for a loser.
Psalm 44 reminds us that sometimes things go wrong for no apparent reason. Even though Israel had not forgotten or deserted God (Psalm 44:17-18) they were experiencing a terrible defeat that they could not explain. Nevertheless they continue to call out to God as their only source of hope. Sometimes life is not explainable. The believer knows this and doesn’t look for answers to all of life’s problems. The world thinks completely differently. They try to find answers to every problem under the sun except for one – the problem of sin and its consequences. Sadly, some day hundreds of years from now, these people will regret being so focused on problems that were always temporary while they ignored the problem that was permanent. Satan throws a lot of red-herrings our way. Don’t fall for them.
I really like Proverbs 10:21 today. If you are a follower of God then you can encourage others. You have the words that someone needs to hear right now.
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