..........Myspace Codes An Extraordinary Life: August 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Leviticus 23-27 ~ Let's Party!

This last section in Leviticus looks at the different feasts celebrated by the Israelites such as the Passover (a reminder of the plague in Egypt to rebuke Pharaoh), Feast of Unleavened Bread (to remember the hasty escape from Egypt), Feast of Firstfruits (how God has rescued them to the land of plenty), Feast of Weeks (another agricultural gratitude for the first harvest), Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Booths (an appreciation of God's rescuing them out of Egypt).

Colossians 2:16-17 tells us to let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath for these are a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Ultimately, Jesus is the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).

But what about the Sabbath? Do we still need to observe it? While Colossians 2:16-17 has made it clear that it is not to be made legalistic, Deuteronomy 5:15 informs us that the Sabbath day serves to remind us of God's rescue work while Exodus 20:10-11 and Exodus 23:12 encourage us to be like God, in taking rest that we may be refreshed.

Feasts and festivals aside, some of the Levitical rules mentioned are still noteworthy. For instance, the act of blaspheming contravenes the Lord's prayer opening line of "hallowed be Your name". The "eye for an eye" rule was in place to minimize retribution and revenge but not a strict order to retaliate. Instead, Matthew 5:38-42 teaches us not to exact revenge but to do good. Leviticus also goes on to teach us to deal kindly with the poor in Leviticus 25:23-28 and Leviticus 25:35-37.

Blessings for obedience are also discussed in Leviticus 26. It is an encouragement in light that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). On the other hand, disobedience deserves punishment. That said, such disciplining serves for our own good that we may share in His holiness as portrayed in Hebrews 12:7-11.

We are also commanded to keep the vows we make, especially those with God, in Leviticus 27. Matthew 5:33-37 discourages us from swearing falsely or even taking an oath at all but simply let our 'yes' be a 'yes' and likewise, a 'no' a 'no'.

At the end of the day, we still have much cause to rejoice in His holiness and in what Christ has accomplished on the cross. Praise the Lord indeed for His goodness!

Ps. Heartiest congratulations go out too to a dear brother David and a dear sister Mandy who exchanged wedding vows today and graciously invited me to share in the joy of witnessing their union before God... ^_^

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Leviticus 17-22 ~ Be Holy For I Am Holy

Leviticus 19:2 spells out the main theme for this section of this book: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. It is this theme that gives us the big picture motivation for our living: translating our faith in God's salvation in Jesus into love, which fulfills all laws. Essentially in principle, there is no need for us to follow the laws that have explicitly been claimed as outdated by the apostles e.g. food laws, priests and sacrifices, etc. but we should still follow those that are still repeatedly instructed by the apostles in the New Testament. Some of the Levitical laws mentioned in chapters 17 to 22 cover the following grounds:
  • Worshiping other gods: To safeguard the Israelites from sacrificing to the demons, they were instructed to present their offering to the priest instead. Today, we're still instructed to flee from idolatry.
  • Eating blood: Blood symbolizes life and the atonement for our sin, hence, why the act of eating blood was forbidden.
  • Forbidden sexual and marriage relations: Having relations with close relatives, committing adultery and practising homosexuality are improper acts for God's holy people.
  • Parents and children: Children are instructed to honour their parents and not curse them. Parents, on the other hand, are not to offer their child up for prostitution or child sacrifice, and neither are they to exasperate their children.
  • Love thy neighbour: Love after orphans and widows. Do not withhold wages of hired hands or oppress the disabled nor do injustice in court.
  • Mixing two kinds: This reinforces the idea of keeping things distinct. 1 Peter 3:3-4 tells us that it's not the outward clothing (e.g. two different types of fibres) but the inner beauty that matters more.
  • Tattoos etc.: These were prohibited as narratives such as 1 Kings 18:27-28 tell us that these are paganistic rituals performed to gain Baal's protection.
  • Priest's marriage partner, children and food: Church leaders are to marry women of respect and be able to manage God's church (how can they do so if they can't even manage their own household?). 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 also explains that those who preach the gospel should receive living from the gospel.
  • Freewill offering: We are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) and to offer a sacrifice of praise as we do good and share with others (Hebrews 13:11-16)
It is through these Levitical laws that we are reminded to be distinctive and not to mix the holy with the unholy. The call for holiness is not to be compartmentalized (e.g. restricted to just Friday Bible studies or Sunday services) but should be one we heed to all of life. We need to live as how He calls us to live, because He is our God, and not because of anyone else. So brothers and sisters, let us be holy for He is holy...

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Thanks to Contagious Network, I've had the privilege to watch an exclusive preview screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World recently with Xin Hui. We had a lovely Spanish tapas dinner complete with full-bodied sangria and churros dessert to make it a fun night out. The movie itself was great fun in terms of the cool video games effect - that aside, both Xin and I rated the movie as average, though adding a little more depth to the movie might have made it better. If you have a free night and just want to catch a movie that doesn't cause you to rack your brains out too much like Inception, then SPVTW might just be the one for you if you're into comedies directed by the same director of Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead. Curious? Here's a trailer as a sneak preview:

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Leviticus 16 ~ Total Cleansing

Leviticus 16 paints a shadow of what the day of atonement signifies. Aaron was instructed not to enter the Holy Place whenever he pleased so that he may not die as God will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat (verse 2). And only he, the high priest, had the authority to perform the sacrifice. This sacrifice was performed so as to make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins (verse 16).

Such a violent death and blood spill are necessary for full atonement: the goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness (verse 22), for on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you (verse 30), that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins (verse 34). And indeed, in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year (Hebrews 10:3).

The point that God is holy, that man is sinful, and that sacrifice is needed for atonement shows us that the sacrifices in the Old Testament is an ineffectual shadow that points towards reality in the true sacrifice, for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). And this true sacrifice is none other than the real cleansing provided by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for our sins - we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10). Hebrews 10:19-22 goes on to tell us that we have confidence by the new and living way paved by the great priest, Christ Himself, who is the reason for our full assurance that we are now clean.

Thank you, Lord, for cleansing us from our sins, once for all...

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Leviticus 8-15 ~ Unclean Before God

This second talk in the Leviticus series discusses some of the ways Israelites could make themselves unclean: by eating unclean animals or food (Leviticus 11), in childbirth (Leviticus 12), with leprosy or skin disease (Leviticus 13 and 14), or with bodily discharges such as semen, menses or ongoing bleeding (Leviticus 15). What is the significance of such uncleanness? Leviticus 11:44 tells us that God is holy. He dwells within the sanctuary, in the middle of the tent. If one is unclean, he or she is to abstain from coming into the sanctuary (Leviticus 12:4) and dwell outside the camp (Leviticus 13:46). Also, Leviticus 15 illustrates the idea of spread and contamination (both first and second degree). It then falls onto the priests to be the ones to pronounce one as "clean" or "unclean" (Leviticus 13), and performing sacrifices on behalf of the "unclean" (Leviticus 14). Clothed in special garments and performing special ceremonies (Leviticus 8), priests were consecrated (considered holier than others), represented God's people to God, and acted as mediators.

Mark 1:40-44 records Jesus cleansing a leper. It demonstrates that cleanliness is about being able to be in relationship with God. Another healing account is also recorded in Mark 5:24-34 where a woman with a blood flow of 12 years was healed when she touched Jesus' garments. Instead of making Jesus unclean, the reverse happened. This illustrates the faith that Jesus can make one clean to approach God.

Mark 7 goes on to show that all foods are clean. All the rules in Old Testament do not matter anymore much less the extra ones created by the Pharisees and Jews. The rules outlined in Leviticus are there to teach us about God's holiness and that an unclean person cannot come before God. Jesus taught in Mark 7 that it is not the external material (e.g. food) that makes one unclean but what comes out of a person is what defiles him (Mark 7:20). The following two verses in Mark 7:21-22 list all the anti-social characteristics originating from our heart that may defile us.

These are sins that go beyond that of Aaron and his sons (the Old Testament priests). Even Nadab and Abihu (two of Aaron's sons) have failed when they offered unauthorized fire in Leviticus 10. Leviticus 9:7 shows that Aaron was not exempt from having to make atonement for himself either - he was not the perfect priest.

That said, we now have the perfect priest in Jesus Christ. Because He lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood and He is also able to save completely (Hebrews 7:23-28). How He has cleansed us that we may no longer be unclean before God!

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Leviticus 1-7 ~ Sweet Smell of Sacrifice

Last Sunday saw the start of Pastor Josh's series on Leviticus. The sin offering, Jewish sacrifices of the Old Testament, were always performed in the same location (i.e. the Tent of Meeting) and involved everyone (including the priest, the whole congregation, and the average Israelite) as a means of atonement for sin, whether unintentionally (e.g. touching an unclean thing in Leviticus 5:2) or intentionally (e.g. deceiving / oppressing neighbour or finding a lost item and lying about it in Leviticus 6:1-3). Such sins have the effect of making one unclean and subsequently defiling the Tent of Meeting, hence, why the sacrifices were performed in the Tent of Meeting. Josh gave the analogy of someone stepping on dog poo (making oneself unclean) and getting into the car following that, subsequently making the car unclean (defiling the Tent of Meeting when the sinner enters it).

The book of Leviticus records many different types of offering including the grain offering (a reminder of the covenant with God with the need of adding salt), peace offering (restoring fellowship and relationship, especially with God), and guilt offering (as reparation for the damage in our relationship with God, caused by our sin). Essentially, all these different types of offering have one common purpose: atonement. Leviticus 16:16 tells us that it deals with out uncleanliness and sin, which separates man from God. Sacrifices make us clean again so that we can come to God as it gives us forgiveness.

There are 4 main elements of sacrifice:
  1. It is costly (e.g. from one's own flock or herd in Leviticus 1:2).
  2. It has to be unblemished (i.e. no fault).
  3. It has to be a sacrifice that identifies with you (e.g. the sacrificer has to lay his hand on the head of the animal before the sacrifice i.e. the sacrifice becomes our representative or association).
  4. It involves a violent, brutal and bloody death (because our sin deserves death).
Leviticus is actually just the "visual aid" for the "real thing": the sacrifice of Jesus. He is an unblemished sacrifice who is "clean" (i.e. no sin or faultless). Ephesians 5:2 tells us that Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. The phrase "for us" emphasizes that Jesus became our substitute and representative and died on our behalf in our place so that God can be pleased to forgive and accept us. 2 Timothy 3:15 goes on to say how from infancy you have known the holy Scripture, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus - this Scripture tells us that God is holy, that man is sinful and unclean, and that the sacrifice is necessary that we may come back to Him. Compared to the offerings of pagan or Asian religions, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is different as this sacrifice is given to us by God, as God doesn't need the food / offering (unlike how some of us Asians may attempt to offer something that we believe our dead ancestors need), and as God is not an unpredictable God. This last point is further evidenced by Romans 3:25 that tells us that God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance, he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.

Thank you, Jesus, for being the perfect sacrifice for our sins...

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