Leviticus and how God wants you (yes, you) near

This learning curve is steep.

New job, all new terminology, volumes of unfamiliar acronyms and unfamiliar operating systems are a tad overwhelming.

I could chalk it up to a lot of things— age, background, disposition—but it is now a moot point. In the last three weeks I have learned more than I ever thought I would about Georgia motor vehicle laws, chain of custody for a vehicle, weight classifications for truck tractors and straight trucks, millage rates, replacement titles, property taxes and insurance lapses. 

When I try to sleep, the DOS based software I am fumbling through flashes behind my closed eyes.

It is as if I am lost in a scene from The Matrix. The screen is blinking with numbers and codes and to someone insightful they mean so much more. There is so much detail and every inch of it has a meaning whether I fully grasp it or not.

It is as if I am in a foreign land and do not speak the language. I just nod and smile and ask for help over and over again. I plow forward hoping that at some point this will suddenly click and what is now foreign will feel familiar and ways I feel I’m failing and a hindrance will transform into some type of success and helpfulness.

When JP began the current series on the Pentateuch, I loved the overviews of Genesis and Exodus and took ravenous notes reminding myself of the beautiful details of so many stories I have known since childhood. They are a reassuring continuum of God showing his faithfulness to an unfaithful people.

As he turned last week to Leviticus, the foreign feeling I have been grappling with at work came flooding in. So many times I have attempted to trudge through the readings of entrails being washed with water, hands placed on an animals as they are killed, the blood thrown on the sides of the altar and the processes for ritual purity.

The feasts, the sacrifices, the blood shed. Burnt offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and scape goats—Nadab and Abihu consumed by fire for unauthorized fire. It can overwhelm the mind and, not unlike a code you’ve never seen and are trying to learn, seem like it makes no sense.

This moment in history is yet one more beautiful reminder of the God we desire to know, the God who has called us to love. He chose the people. He chose their leader. He answered their cry while laboring under oppression and slavery. He called them to himself time and again while they chose to turn away.

At the beginning of their relationship, God called to Moses from the burning bush. At the beginning of Leviticus, God called to Moses from within the tent, the tabernacle, He had instructed them to build. Once constructed, however, no one was able to go in.

They could not bear to be in His very Presence.

It is the great divide in need of bridging for every person on the planet. How do sinful people draw near a Holy God? 

The details required and contained within Leviticus seem so foreign and strange, and at times barbaric. But like JP explained, they truly become the most amazing component of it all. In the middle of the details, there is the one detail that matters. The one that amazes.

This is what it takes to have sinful people draw near. 

And this Holy God, He wants them near.

He wants us near to Him.

He wants you near.

Author, Creator, Finisher, Perfector is seeking you. He is seeking a relationship that will change and shape and remake.

Whatever it means to let us into this dwelling place with God, He will prescribe a way. There is a standard, a code, that brings order and ultimately a solution to the sin problem.

If the steps to get there in Leviticus seem monumental and daunting, they are. To approach God, who is like no other in heaven above or the earth below, offers a way to approach, it is no wonder it boggles the mind. It is essential, it is the least that could be done for someone to approach and still survive.

Laws are in place to protect people There are codes that provide order and keep people surviving.

Like a renewal on your car’s registration, however, this type of solution must be repeated. If someone takes ownership of a vehicle, a tax is due. It is the cost of having an ordered society where people can come and go on safe streets and with protection in place.

The sacrifice required to approach, to find relationship is astonishing. It is the cost of a people who continue to choose sin as long as they are bound in earthly flesh. Year after year, day after day, sacrifice and rescue are imperative to continue the relationship. 

But much like dreading going to a job day after day with details I don’t yet fully comprehend and certainly have not mastered, the day in and out of offering sacrifices was wearisome. It was a system that was only foreshadowing a more perfect solution. The One Perfect Solution.

Hebrews brings Leviticus into focus through the lens and person of Jesus.

Leviticus was straining to see the glory of what was to come and Hebrews reflects the beauty of what He accomplished. The context unlocks that mysterious code and ritual:

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him….

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ2 had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:8-14

Like the flashing numbers that are so foreign, and the rituals of blood and sacrifice. There is meaning in every detail. The rituals of sacrifice foreshadowed the One Sacrifice that would put it all in place. His One perfect offering brought an end to all others and relationship is granted, established. 

Here we find rest in a finished work as we move towards greater understanding.

I will move ahead and trust that The Perfect Sacrifice offered in my place will take my fumbling and failings and use them. There is a purpose and He has already accomplished it.

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love letters

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  1 Peter 1:8-9

When I was in college, I fell in love.

The man I would eventually marry was a student at the University of Connecticut. I was a student at Texas A&M. The semesters we spent apart seemed long because the love of my life was 1,786 miles away.

No one was emailing, much less text messaging. There were phone calls, but they were expensive, 15 cents a minute is a lot for poor college kids. What we had instead were actual love letters. These letters on a page spelled out words that relayed a story of love—literal love letters. He took the time to consider me, my feelings, to relay his own. He let me know his plans and his thoughts about the future, our future.

Checking my university mail box was an essential part of my day. It informed how my day went. If it was a letter day, if I heard that I was loved and thought of and cared for, things were oh-so -good.

If it was not a letter day, I would survive but I would also wonder if he had thought of me that day. I wonder how much he cares, if it meant anything that he’d skipped a day on letters. The distance hurt more when our communication lagged.

We had letters. We had plans. Now we’ve had 22 years of marriage, five kids, 12 homes. We now can look one another in the face and speak the words we want to say and when we are apart there is texting and emailing and cheaper phone calls. Our relationship is more than enhanced by our communication. It is dependent upon it. Our words to one another keep our relationship alive. The events of my life are not fully lived until they have been shared with my husband. They seem fictional until he knows about it. The reality of making choices, moving ahead only happens when he has spoken and responded.

I am thankful to have this kind of relationship. As deep as it is, it is only a distant second to the life-sustaining relationship with the God of creation. He has spoken to me, before that, he spoke me into existence. And His word, written and alive, is the one that holds me together.

The incomprehensible, life-giving word of God, the word that has the power to bring the dead back to life cannot be contained. As a writer, the very idea of attempting to capture it—in words no less—is daunting, an impossible task. There is no capturing, no taming of this power, this power that holds all of creation together.

Hebrews 1 makes the power clear:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

He upholds the world and all of life by the word of His power. My existence is at His mercy, is only possible because of His word. Consequently the only thing I can do is work within this realm where He has made me, designed me, and given me the words I write to attempt to honor that same Word of life that gives me my own.

God’s greatness is unsearchable in a world where everything is searchable.

Because God is God, when He speaks there is a physical response. Creation has no option but to respond when the Creator is speaking to it. The Word is life. The Word sustains life. The Word came to restore life.

God spoke, we were created. God speaks, we are redeemed. God’s Word alive is a person, the Person. John 1 tells us plainly:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

It is no coincidence that John chooses to call Jesus the Word of God. These letters arranged spell out words that reveal the Word, the living Word whose name is Love. Just as Jesus is our life, our resurrection, the written word of God is our life, our directive. It is our direct connection to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

It is our love letter.

The days I wrestle and thrash and doubt the most are likely ones when I have not checked that mailbox, looked inside to find He wrote to me. I survive, but I miss what He has written to me. Doubts are allayed. He reveals His thoughts, His desires, His plans for my future—our future together.

It is relevant in this very moment. Hebrews 4:12-13 “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

On its face, these verses have always struck a certain fear within me. This does not sound like a love letter I think. A piercing sword sounds painful. Naked and exposed are not things I’d like to be. I have heard these verses so many times in so many ways. Yet, I look again.

They are talking about, describing the written word of God. And then there are pronouns for the word of God: His, Him. This written word of God is alive, but how can that be? When God speaks, there is a response in creation. It must be this way. God’s written word is no less powerful. Jesus is the Word of God. Here we find Him. In this verse, on this page, on every page. If we will just look.

He is our love letter.

These verses though, still sound scary. Because of this living Word we do not have to fear. We will survive the piercing of the sword because He was pierced. We can be laid bare before Him because He was naked and exposed for us. This Word discerns our thoughts and intents because He made us, He knows us.

We still feel the sting of separation, the fear of exposure. As exiles waiting to be rescued, we look for encouragement.

So we keep reading.

“Since them we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

There is the encouragement for the moment, the promise for our future together. He has gone ahead. He has made a way.

Though we feel far and long for that face-to-face relationship, we can hold fast to this love letter.

Our lives are made real when we speak with, commune with the Word of God. We gain life, real relationship when we let the Word of God speak His truth and graciously encourage and change us.

We find a life-altering, eternal relationship with the Word of God, in the word of God.

1 Peter 1:23-25. “Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God for All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”