December 16 – Importance of the Old Testament – The Price of Sin

Read Leviticus 4:1-35 and Hebrews 9:16-28

I sat across the table from my mother-in-law at an Olive Garden in Sebring, Florida during a recent visit to my wife’s hometown. I try to make it a point to spend some one-on-one time with Momma Patty whenever I can because…well…she’s just that awesome. Momma Patty didn’t have it easy. She was a single mother who raised 4 kids on her own while working full time. How she made ends meet and provided for all 4 of her kids, I will never know. In many regards, I look up to Momma Patty, not only because she shares my love of action movies, but because of her strength and “do what you gotta do” attitude. As I stuffed my face with that incredible Olive Garden salad, I asked her simply, “How did you do it?”

“Jesus”

There are many things that Kelly and I do in parenting that was influenced by Momma Patty. Many lessons Kelly has learned from her mom that we are beginning to teach Mattie.

One of the main things that Momma Patty taught Kelly and her siblings was that there are consequences for your actions. If you chose to do something, you will have to live with the consequences from getting tattoos to getting involved in the wrong crowds.

This same consequence mindset is part of what makes the Old Testament so important. In it, we begin to understand the price (or consequence) of sin.

As you read (or skimmed) through our Leviticus reading today, you began to see just what consequences there were for sin back then. The Israelites definitely came to understand the price for sin as it was never something that God could just “forget and move on from”.

Sin was something that had to be dealt with completely.

For many, many years, Leviticus 4 was the solution.

Everything changed when Jesus came.

Hebrews 9 talks about how Jesus came once and for all to take away the sin of the world. When Jesus was on the cross, He bore the sin of the world and was the recipient of the wrath of God that was the punishment for sin.

What often goes unnoticed in Genesis 3 is the thread of promising redemption. Literally a verse after cursing the serpent (Satan), God reveals His plan for redemption. Sin would ravage the world and would make life so incredibly difficult but, in the end, salvation would come through the eventual offspring of the woman and the ultimate consequences of sin would be done away with.

This theme of redemption is a common thread throughout the Bible. We are introduced to the price of sin right away and, throughout the Bible, we read about how God’s plan of redemption unfolds.

How thankful are you that, regardless of the price of your sin, Jesus paid for it by dying on the cross in your place? Will you take a moment to thank Him for that and commit to live for and glorify Him?

Jake Lawson

July 6 – United: Country – Leviticus 19

Read Leviticus 19:11-18

The word ‘neighbor’ took on a whole new meaning when I started college my freshmen year at The University of Tampa. Growing up in Wooster, OH, “neighbor” to me meant the families that lived on the other side of our fence who by all societal accounts looked, acted, and believed a lot of the same things I did. I realized quickly the same would not be the case at college, especially at a school that was made up of students primarily from out of state. In fact, my roommate was from Venezuela! Talk about a completely different perspective and outlook on life. Maybe you have the same outlook on “neighbor” as I did? If so, you aren’t alone.

All too often we can get caught up in believing that our neighbors are only the people we want to classify by that name. Much like how we afford someone the title of friend, culture has made it acceptable for us to make the same pronouncement on those we ‘see’ as neighbors. For instance, we might be inclined to say, “Oh yeah, that’s my neighbor” when talking about someone we like versus “oh yeah…that crazy family who lives up the street” when describing to the contrary. It has become all too easy for us to only heed the words of Scripture to treat your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31) when ‘neighbor’ applies to people that might look, act, and believe like we do or, at the very least, folks we feel comfortable around.

While we may have a subjective view of what the word “neighbor” means, the Lord provides us with a much more objective definition in our passage today. He calls us to think differently and live differently. Our challenge isn’t to make our neighbors more like us; rather, He challenges us to treat our neighbors differently. In a world that pulls us apart and with an enemy that only seeks to divide- we are to be fair and treat all people equally (v. 15). We are to be champions of justice, standing up for those who are persecuted, and not exclusively those who share our same ideology or beliefs (v. 15). We are to be truth-tellers, positive speakers, and honest with our finances (v. 11, 16, 13). We are to be slow to anger and quick to show grace (v. 18). Frankly, this verse gives us a picture of how to be love in a broken world and how we are to treat fellow broken people.

Our world is broken. Our world is hurting. People are longing for justice, security, and, above all, love. Instead of contributing to the pain, the division, and the disunity, let us today choose to follow in the footsteps of the greatest unifier of all time, Jesus Christ, and point our neighbors to love. Love is the heartbeat of the gospel. Is your heart beating for love?

How might Jesus be tugging on your heartstrings today to be a better, more loving neighbor?

Taylor Bennington 

 

July 29: Sticky Fingers

Read Leviticus 19:11-13

When you read the eighth commandment of “thou shall not steal” it seems all too easy to think, “Well, this one doesn’t apply to me!” While you might not have a case of the sticky fingers per se, I think you will find this week that stealing comes in more than one form. Whether you struggle with thievery or not, my prayer is that we all find a challenge from this week’s devotional series.

Our passage today in Leviticus addresses the idea of physical stealing. These verses outline the most obvious form of theft- don’t take what isn’t yours! What a novel idea, right? If I see something that is not mine, but I want it, the appropriate response is to ask for it or purchase it, not simply swipe it!

My freshmen year of college I studied at The University of Tampa. The residence hall I stayed in had a communal laundry room on the first floor of the building. One Sunday afternoon I was doing some laundry as per usual, and had left my hamper behind so I could take a nice walk around campus. As I came back from my stroll and started to make my way back to the laundry room, I was baffled. Walking right past me was a resident assistant (RA) carrying my laundry hamper! Surely it couldn’t have been mine; surely it was just a look alike. Nope! I went back to the laundry room and searched for my hamper and was met with no avail. I had been robbed.

While robbed might be a strong word to describe the theft of a $5 laundry hamper, it wasn’t the loss of the item that made me upset; it was the principle of it. Someone I trusted, and someone who was in a leadership role had taken something that did not belong to them. Throughout the week we will take an in depth look into how we steal in many areas of life, but there is one common idea that ties all of them together- don’t take what isn’t yours.

No matter how valuable or lack there of something might be, taking something without consent or purchase is stealing. Next time you are tempted to take something because “they will never notice” or because ” that means nothing to them,” remember the words we read today in Leviticus, “do not steal.” Do not steal, period.

-TAB

January 16: Jesus and the Feast of Tabernacles

Read Leviticus 23:33-36; Leviticus 23:40-43; and Amos 9:11

For the Feast of Tabernacles, all Israelites were to travel to Jerusalem and live in temporary shelters for seven days.  As they arrived for the feast, they were to construct tabernacles or booths. These booths commemorate the pilgrimage of Israel in the wilderness.

When God instructed the Children of Israel to build the original tabernacle as they wandered in the wilderness, He did so to show them that He desired to live and dwell with them.  The booths that Moses instructed the Israelites to create also pointed forward to the Booth that gives every other booth meaning.  In Amos 9:11 God promised to send the Messiah, (David’s fallen tent), as the True Booth.  The True Booth is Jesus Christ.  He is the personified Tabernacle of the Feast of Tabernacles.  John writes in John 1:14:  “And the word became flesh and dwelt [lit. tabernacled] among us.”

The booths also speak of our present experience.  Our time on Earth is a temporary pilgrimage. We are dwelling in the tents of our sinful bodies (2 Cor 5:1), waiting for the transformation and glorification that is to come.

Revelation 21:3 says,

“The tabernacle of God is with men.  And He shall tabernacle with them and they shall be His people and God Himself shall be with them.”

The original tabernacle and the temple that later followed it contained an inner room called the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place.  The room was a perfect cube, 15 feet long, deep, and high and it contained the Ark of the Covenant.  The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a thick veil.  This veil separated God and man since no one could enter this place (except the high priest on selected occasions) or they would die.  When Jesus died on the cross, the Bible records that the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom symbolizing the restoration of the ability for man to be with God.

It cannot be overlooked that in Revelation 21 we get a detailed description of heaven including its dimensions.  The bible records that it will be as wide and long as it is high.  A perfect cube!  God gave us the Holy of Holies as a picture of heaven, the place where we will actually dwell with God forever.

God gave Israel the Feast of Tabernacles to remind them how He dwelt with them in the wilderness, but it is also given for all believers to look forward with expectation to the day when God will tabernacle with us once more forever.

ejt  (Written by Ed Tirakis)

January 15: Jesus and the Day of Atonement

Read Leviticus 23:26-32

Leviticus chapter 16 specifies the tenth day of the seventh month as the date on which the high priest would conduct a special ceremony to purge sin from the temple and from the people.  The heart of this ceremony involved the sacrifice of a bull and an offering of two goats by the high priest.  The bull was sacrificed to purge the temple from any defilement caused by misdeeds of the priest himself and of his household.

Next, the Bible says the high priest was to cast lots on the two goats.  One lot was for the Lord, and the other lot was for Azazel which means goat of departure and it is from this word that we get the word scapegoat.  (Azazel is also believed by many scholars to be the name of a demon.)  The high priest took the two lots, one marked for the Lord and the other marked for the scapegoat, and placed one upon the head of each animal, sealing its fate.  The goat, on which the lot for the Lord fell, was taken and sacrificed for the sins of the people.  Its blood was taken behind the veil, into the holy of holies, and put on the mercy seat atop the ark.  Finally, the priest confessed all of the sins of the people onto second goat and it was sent away into the wilderness to physically remove the sins of the people from their midst.

The Day of Atonement symbolizes the reconciliation of God and all humanity.  All people suffer the tragic consequences of sin.  But sin doesn’t happen without a cause, and God makes this cause clear in the symbolism associated with the Day of Atonement.  The Day of Atonement involves not only the forgiveness of sin; it pictures the removal of the primary cause of sin-Satan and his demons. Until God removes the original instigator of sin, mankind will simply continue to fall back into disobedience and suffering.  The Day of Atonement looks forward to the time when Satan’s deception will be removed and he will no longer be free to influence and deceive mankind.

On the Day of Atonement, we remember the annual restoration of the relationship between God and mankind by the high priest and we are to look forward with expectation to the permanent restoration of this relationship by the removal of Satan from the world.  God divinely placed the Day of Atonement before the Feast of Tabernacles, which is called “The Season of Our Joy.”  The children of Israel and all believers in the Lord Jesus can only rejoice once they have been redeemed and their sins forgiven.  So the Day of Atonement serves as a vital preparatory step in anticipation of the next and final milestone in God’s plan, beautifully depicted by the Feast of Tabernacles.

ejt  (Written by Ed Tirakis)

January 14: Jesus and the Feast of Trumpets

Read Leviticus 23:24-25 and Matthew 24:32-36

We have seen over the last few days that the four spring feasts were fulfilled by Jesus on the actual feast day in connection with His first coming, so it is theorized by some that the second coming of the Messiah will be in conjunction with the three fall feasts.

A special season known as Teshuvah which in Hebrew means “to return or repent”, begins on the first day of the sixth month of the Jewish liturgical calendar and continues forty days, ending with Yom Kippur.  Thirty days into Teshuvah, comes Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of Trumpets.   Rosh Hashanah begins a final ten-day period ending on Yom Kippur.  These last ten days are known as the High Holy Days or the Awesome Days.  The Sabbath that falls within this ten-day period is called ‘Shabbat Shuvah’ (Sabbath of Return).  Each morning during the 30 days of the month, a trumpet is blown to warn the people to repent and return to God.

Rosh Hashanah is also referred to as ‘Yom Teruah’, the Day of the Sounding of the Trumpet, or the Day of the Awakening Blast.  Yom Teruah began when two witnesses saw the new moon and attested to it before the Sanhedrin in the Temple.  This could happen on either of two days, depending on when the witnesses first saw the new moon and the weather.  Since no one knew exactly when this would occur, no one knew exactly when the Feast of Trumpets would begin.  The message seems to be that we know the season, but not the day or the hour. Therefore, we have to repent, be on the alert, and watch.  Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 24:32-36 that when they see the signs he told them about that the end will be near but no one knows the day or the hour that it will actually occur.

Teruah can also be translated “shout.”  Not surprisingly, there are verses that associate the second return of Christ with a shout (Zec 9:9; 1 Thess 4:16-17).  Another name for Rosh Hashanah is ‘Yom Hadin’, the Day of Judgment.  The Jewish people believe that the gates of Heaven are opened on Rosh Hashanah and closed on Yom Kippur.  Because the gates of Heaven are understood to be open on Rosh Hashanah, some wonder if it is evidence that the rapture of the believers in Christ will take place on Rosh Hashanah. (Isa 26:2; Psa 118:19-20).

The Feast of Trumpets is given to us by God to remember our sin, but also to look expectantly for the return of Jesus!

ejt (Written by Ed Tirakis)

January 13: Jesus and the Feast of Weeks

Read Leviticus 23:15-22 and Acts 2:1-41

Seven weeks after the Feast of First Fruits is Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks).  Greek translators of the Torah called it Pentecost.  It was designated as the time to present an offering of new grain from the summer wheat harvest to the Lord and give an opportunity to show joy and thankfulness for the Lord’s blessing of the harvest.  The Jews also remember this as the anniversary of the day Moses descended from Mt Sinai with the ten Commandments, the Law written in stone, exactly 7 weeks after crossing the Red Sea.  Because of this, the Jews often call this day Matan Torah  (which means – giving of the law).

Leviticus 23:17 refers to a sacrifice of two loaves of bread.  Note that this is leavened bread, in contrast to the unleavened bread of earlier feasts.  Christ’s sacrifice was without yeast (sin), a perfect, unblemished offering.  But these loaves of bread were made by human hands, and even though they are made with fine flour (vs. 17), they are still corrupted with the leaven of sin and cannot be acceptable to God by themselves.  But according to vs. 19-20, these two loaves are waved together with two lambs!  Even our best offering is only made acceptable on the basis of the Lamb of God!

I mentioned earlier that the Greeks referred to the Feast of Weeks as Pentecost.  Interestingly, there are several parallels between the first Pentecost at Sinai and the Upper Room experience of Acts 2.

  • Just as at the original Pentecost which occurred at the foot of Mt. Sinai, God organized His people, historical Israel by giving them the law. So in the later Pentecost He re-organized His people, into the Christian church.
  • At Mt. Sinai, on the first Pentecost there was an earthquake, fire, and a mighty wind, so also at the latter Pentecost, the house shook, there was the sound of rushing wind, and tongues of fire descended on the waiting disciples (Acts 2:1-4)
  • Finally, if you remember when Moses came down off of Mt Sinai, the Israelites had worshiped a golden calf that they created. Moses saw the lawlessness of the Israelites and told the Levites to run through the camp killing people indiscriminately. The Bible records that 3,000 people were slain that day.  Because the Feast of Weeks is a pilgrimage holiday, all the Jewish males had to come to Jerusalem, so on the Shavuot following the crucifixion tens of thousands of Jews from many lands were in Jerusalem. It was to these thousands Peter spoke in Acts 2.  Bible records that miraculously 3,000 people were saved that day.

ejt (Written by Ed Tirakis)

January 12: Jesus and the Feast of First Fruits

Read Leviticus 23:9-14 and John 12:23-24

The third of the Jewish Feast days is the Feast of First Fruits.  On this day, the priest offered the first ripe sheaf of barley (the first crop to ripen) as an act of dedicating the harvest to God.  On Passover, the marked sheaf of grain was bundled and left standing in the field.  On the next day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the sheaf was cut and prepared for the offering on the third day.

On Yom Habikkurim (Feast of First Fruits) the priest waved the bundle before the Lord.  Counting the days then began the next day and continued until the 7th Sabbath, the fiftieth day, which is the Feast of Weeks.  Along with the sheaf, the priest was to offer a lamb, flour mixed with oil, and wine as a sacrifice.  The idea of the Feast of First Fruits was that we offer to God the first fruit of the harvest in faith that the rest of the harvest will follow.

Jesus predicted His own death in John 12:23-24 and in doing so referred to himself as a kernel of wheat.  He was saying, “ I will fall to the ground and die, but after my death I will spring to life and produce many more seeds.” Interestingly Jesus also used the terms lamb, bread, and wine to describe His sacrifice to His followers, the same symbols used by the priest for the sacrifice on the Feast of First Fruits.  This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:20 “but now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.”  If you haven’t already figured it out – The Feast of First Fruits fell on the same day as Easter!

Jesus, in effect, represents the first fruits of the entire body of believers who one day will be resurrected from the dead and stand before the Lord with their Savior. That is why the resurrection of Messiah took place on the Feast of First Fruits.  Jesus’s sacrifice was the first fruit of God’s harvest and represents the promise that you will later be resurrected as part of God’s harvest!

Other things that happened on the Feast of First Fruits:

  1. The manna from heaven, which God provided to the Israelites while they wandered in the wilderness, stopped on this day when they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land.
  2. Noah’s flood ended.
  3. Queen Esther risked her life so save the Jewish people from annihilation.
  4. Jesus was raised from the dead.

ejt (Written by Ed Tirakis)

January 11: Jesus and the Feast of Unleavened Bread

Read Leviticus 23: 6-8John 6:31-35

The Hebrew word for feasts (moadim) can be translated “appointed times.”  God carefully planned the timing and sequence of each of the seven feasts detailed in Leviticus 23 to reveal to us a special story.   These seven annual feasts were spread over seven months of the Jewish calendar, at set times appointed by God. All of the feasts are still celebrated by observant Jews today, but for those who have placed their faith in Jesus, these special days also illustrate the work of redemption through God’s Son.

The first four of the seven feasts occur during the springtime (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Weeks) and they all were fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament.

The Feast of Unleavened bread lasts for 7 days and begins at Passover.  This feast was established by God to remind the Jewish people of their escape from Egypt immediately following the first Passover when the Israelites hurriedly grabbed their bread bowls and left before the bread had time to rise.  It was also to commemorate how God provided bread from the earth for the Israelites during their time in the desert in the form of manna.

During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jewish people were to search through their house and remove all leaven (yeast).  In scripture, yeast is often used as a symbol for sin.  Once the yeast has been removed, the Jewish people were to make and eat only bread without yeast for 7 days.  The search for yeast in one’s house therefore is symbolic of searching out and removing all sin and hypocrisy from one’s life.

Jesus used the symbol of bread repeatedly throughout his ministry.  In John 6, Jesus told the disciples that God offers them true bread.  When the disciples asked Jesus to give them the bread He was speaking about, Jesus responded “I am the bread of life”.  Later on the night before He was crucified Jesus took bread and broke it and told his disciples “Take and eat, this is my body.”  Jesus drew a connection between the matzo of Passover (unleavened bread) and his own body which he was about to offer as the sacrifice for our sin.  Of course it was during the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread that Jesus was in the grave paying the price for our sin and was physically in the process of removing our sin from us.  When Jesus rose on Easter, our sin was forgiven and was nowhere to be found.

God used the Feast of Unleavened Bread to remind the Children of Israel what he did for them in the wilderness, but He also meant it for them to look forward with expectation to the time when God would send the True Bread in the form of Jesus to remove the curse of sin from our lives.

ejt (Written by Ed Tirakis)

January 10: Jesus in Leviticus

Read Leviticus 23:5 and Exodus 12:21-27

If you think about the holiday season what comes to your mind?  I have memories of Christmases from my childhood that include presents and family.

I grew up in my grandparent’s house and my grandmother always worked very hard to make the holidays special.  Presents, food, family…tradition.  Naturally, one thing I wanted for my children was to have those memories just like I had because those traditions create fond memories.  Traditions also create a sense of expectation.

It is my belief that as we look at the Jewish feasts of the Old Testament, God wanted his children to celebrate, He wanted them to remember what He had done for them, BUT He also wanted them to look forward with a sense of expectation…expectation for the Messiah.

The feast of Passover usually occurs in March or April (in 2015 it begins Friday, April 3).  The feast commemorates the night God directed the Children of Israel to kill a lamb and place its blood on the doorpost of their house.  The Lord went throughout Egypt  killing all of the first born in, but when the Lord saw the blood on the door frame of the Israelite homes he spared the first born in that house.

Jewish historians record that in the time of Jesus the lambs were brought from the fields of Bethlehem in the south up to Jerusalem and through the Northeast gate of the city by the pool of Bethesda, called the “Sheep Gate”.

Sheep Gate in Jerusalem

Sheep Gate in Jerusalem

In order that the families could comply with the instructions in Exodus 12, the lambs were chosen the afternoon of the 9th day of the first month, so that they would be with the family from the 10th (which began at sundown) through the 14th. One reason for this, it is thought, was so that the lamb would spend time with the family, so that when it fulfilled its purpose, it would take the sins of the family with it.

The year of Jesus’ death, He and his disciples began the trip into Jerusalem on a donkey at Bethphage.  Bethphage is to the east of Jerusalem, and the road travels over the Mount of Olives down to the Sheep Gate. There they were met by a crowd of people waving palm branches.  The palm branch was a symbol which some scholars believe was not allowed within the city of Jerusalem, because it was associated with the zealots who wanted to overthrow Rome. The war cry of the zealots was “(God) Save Us!” chanted over and over again. In Hebrew, this would be pronounced “Ho-sha-NAH”, which we pronounce today Hosanna.

Therefore, Jesus entered Jerusalem on lamb selection day as the Lamb of God.  The people did not understand the significance of this, since they greeted Him with palm branches and hailed Him as King, they were not looking for a spiritual Savior, but a political one.  Jesus’ reaction was to weep, since He realized that they did not understand the Messiah’s purpose in coming.

Good Friday was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. For the previous 1,200 years, the priest would blow the shophar (ram’s horn) at 3:00 p.m. – the moment the lamb was sacrificed, and all the people would pause to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people of Israel.

On Good Friday at 3:00, when Jesus was being crucified, He said, “It is finished” at the same moment that the Passover lamb was sacrificed and the shophar was blown from the Temple. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God was fulfilled at the hour that the symbolic animal sacrifice took place.  At the same time, the veil of the Temple (a three-inch thick, several story high cloth that separated the Holy of Holies) tore from top to bottom – representing a removal of the separation between God and man.

The feast of Passover was not just for God’s people to remember their deliverance in Egypt.  God wanted them to look forward with expectation to the coming Messiah who would be the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

ejt