Thursday, February 27, 2014

Numbers: Human sacrifices - in a good way

When you hear the phrase "human sacrifice" it brings up images of people dressed in black robes around some cultist fire with drums beating in the background. But in Numbers 8, the priests were presented to God as human sacrifices in exactly the same way that certain portions of meat from consecrated offerings were presented.  These men were truly offered as human sacrifices.

When I read Romans telling me to present my body as a human sacrifice, I typically have visions of lying lifeless upon a big altar. Yet, this imagery is radically different. After being presented as a sacrifice, the priests did not die but lived the rest of their lives as servants to God and his people. By holding on to the wrong image, we rob the command of its strength. It is not a reference to only turning my life over to the Father but more precisely it is turning my life over to the Father in order to spend the rest of my days serving his people.

By holding the wrong image in an individualistic society, we lop off the most obvious implications for how our lives are to be transformed. We let ourselves off the hook. Its a lot easier to serve an unseen God than it is a seen person. Its a lot less stressful to think I'm pleasing an invisible Father than to know I'm at odds with a visible friend. Its a lot less work to have a devotional than to be devoted to serve an ungrateful person.

So what does it mean today to live out being totally offered to the Father in service to my sister or brother?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Leviticus: God's diet

Leviticus occasionally uses the phrase "food of your God." Perhaps it is only saying "food that is offered in sacrifice to God" and should simply be taken at face value. Yet, maybe there is another way of understanding it.

If the sacrifices given to God were considered his food, then shouldn't we raise the question about what we are sacrificing to him today? If food keeps us alive, then what am I doing to keep my God alive? I'm not implying that his existence depends upon me. I am implying that the relationship between us thrives or withers based upon my attentiveness. He can be alive or dead "to me" based upon my involvement in the relationship.

Do I offer a constant, reliable diet of sacrifice to my Father that nourishes the relationship? Do I provide a care and attention to the relationship by sacrificing important things like time and energy? Or does my God just get leftovers? When there is a spare moment or convenient time, I give a little of it to him. Is that enough for a healthy relationship to grow? If that is how I treat other relationships, what would happen to them?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Leviticus: rules or heart?

In Leviticus 10, there are two stories about ignoring God’s commands – one results in death and the other is blessed.

Nadab and Abihu took unauthorized incense into the sanctuary. The result was “fire came out from the Lord and consumed them”. The same fire that just consumed sacrifices in approval, consumed priests in disapproval. Then Aaron refused to eat consecrated meat but Moses – and God - accepted his actions.

We don’t know what was in the heart of Nadab and Abihu. Why did they disobey the commands? Was it from neglect, arrogance or something else? We will never know. Yet with Aaron, it was on purpose. He refused to obey the command because of his grief. The sacrificial meat was to be eaten in celebration but his heart could not rejoice after losing his sons. Thus he ignored the commands because his heart could not fulfill the command to rejoice. In these stories I find the balance of law and grace. When God’s law is violated without reason – or for poor reasons – there are consequences. When the spirit of God’s law is honored – even though the superficial action might actually be a violation – there is grace. 

Our God is an eternal Father. He knows his children and takes into account the heart behind the action. The question is do I? Or do I get so caught up in rule keeping that I only judge by actions? Would I have condemned Aaron that day? He disobeyed and he did it on purpose. How would I have responded? More importantly, how will I respond to the next Aaron in my life?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Exodus: picky stuff.

I think its about the time we hit the instructions for the tabernacle that all hope of reading through the Bible in a year grind to a halt. There are details about yarn color, how many clasps to use on the curtains, what to make pegs out of, how many posts to use, etc. It is an amazing amount of details. In fact, it just feels downright picky and trivial.

At least we can all agree that when God wants to give details, he knows how to do it. This is not a vague revelation with a lot of guesswork on the part of Moses and the people. This is an amazing amount of minutiae. If something is critical to him, he
can get the point across.

So when did we shift to making mountains from molehills? I have been raised to answer vague questions by taking potential references and developing them into doctrines. In some cases, two verses suffice for church division and hurt feelings. Yet, if God is good enough at details to give pages of information on curtains and pegs, then I imagine he would give more than two verses of information if something was important to him. So if the details are not there, maybe the doctrine was never supposed to be there either.