LEVITICUS 7:28-9:6 | MARK 3:31-4:25 | PSALM 37:12-29 | PROVERBS 10:5
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37 These, then, are the regulations for the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the ordination offering and the fellowship offering, 38 which the LORD gave Moses on Mount Sinai on the day he commanded the Israelites to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the Desert of Sinai. So ends Chapter 7.
It is now time to put into action all of the regulations that have been received and recorded by Moses for the people. And begin he does. Moses attends to the first order of business which is the ordination of the priesthood: Aaron and his sons have been designated to serve as priests of the temple, and they are prepared for this task in the most circumspect manner as dictated by God. There is pomp, there is circumstance, and all of this ritual-making serves to impress upon the people the import of this event.
The priests were to be the conduit to God himself, and therefore this was how they were being consecrated for this purpose, and the people were witness to it. The priests were to attend to the type of offering that the people might bring for one reason or the other, and these priests would ensure that they followed all procedures properly in order to present the living sacrifice to be a pleasing one to the Lord.
Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, and so these blood-offerings were to be made one generation after another—one violation after another—one person after another—in order to serve as the price for redemption and forgiveness. The blood of animals and fowl was the next best thing to the blood of humans, and so that is what was offered. Offering a human being was out of the question because no human being was perfect enough to bear the sins of another—what gall, what audacity to even consider this as an option!
And what an imperfect offering that might be—it wouldn’t have been an acceptable atonement for that person’s own life let alone anothers’! And so the priesthood was established: in order to serve as evaluators and executors of this essential truth: in order to live, one must keep the Law; when the Law is violated, restitution must be made and redemption sought; and redemption was available through the presentation of a sacrificial blood-offering. Which is where the priest stepped in and helped you out.
Are you getting this yet? Is it sinking in slowly? Do you follow the concept at hand? Good. And if you’re feeling weighed down and somewhat dejected by the mere thought that you might have had to spend a lifetime of seeking atonement in aforementioned manner and still not be certain of where you might spend eternity in your afterlife, well then, I’m afraid that you are not alone.
The Law was perfect; it is the people who were not. And never would be. Sin resides deep in each one of us from the moment of our birth; it was planted there and it took root at the time that Adam and Eve, the first two human beings decided they would do things on their own despite God’s bidding. And it was at that separation from God that these two creatures had forever sealed their fate.
Note here that God did not create robotic creatures to do his bidding; he created beings that were filled with reason. To do or not to do as they pleased. To obey or not to obey. To choose or not to choose. God created man to be a companion, and endowed him with the power of choice. Think on that!
For the Creator to endow his creation with such powers meant only one thing: the Creator intended his creation to be on an equal footing with himself. And yet, there was this one small thing that the Creator asked that his creation abstain from. And in this, the beautiful power of choice came into play!
But we know the choice that was made. And in making his choice, man became separated from God. But over time, God in his infinite mercy chose to engage with these human creatures yet again, and in doing so, chose to go a step forward to make a covenant with a man called Abraham, and still furthermore, chose to call these people his own and provide for them. In doing so, God also created the perfect Law—and gave it to the people via the man called Moses—whereby one ought to live and conduct oneself over the course of one’s lifetime.
And yet, the restoration was not a full and complete one. Because, it so happened that the Law was perfection itself, and the people couldn’t keep it. Which meant that God now had to think of a way to address this little problem called ‘breaking the law.’ And so, the atonement offerings were instituted and the priesthood established in order for the wrongs to be made right. At least, temporarily.
And perhaps life would have continued on as is, but even in all of these provisos, life was so cumbersome, so utterly cumbersome, that even God seemed to tire of it. This offering, that offering, this priest, that priest, does it never end?
So utterly oppressive was the scheme of things, that God in his infinite mercy and wisdom, went to Plan D. (Plan B was presenting the Law; Plan C was establishing the provisos for violation of the Law). Plan D entailed the ultimate altogether. God Incarnate: God would become man and come to his own people—in the body of a man named Jesus Christ. But, as we well know, and as we are reading in the Gospel of Mark, the people received him not—meaning they did not accept him as Messiah. Which is where Plan E was set into motion. If his own received him not, then he would pay the ultimate price of offering up his own life as a blood-offering, but this time—and listen well, gentle reader—this time, he would allow everyone, not just the Chosen Ones, i.e., the ones that God had originally made the covenant with—this time, every single person on the face of this earth would be permitted to claim this ultimate atonement for oneself.
This blood-offering that was to be made by God incarnate would now be open and free to one and all. Both Jew and Gentile might benefit from this great sacrifice. We know that without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sins. And so blood would be shed, indeed it would. But what glorious blood it would be! It would be shed for every sin that was ever committed, and there was no priest necessary in order to allow you and me to step forward and claim this as our own personal atonement. No priest necessary, thank you very much!
But even in this Plan E, God in his infinite mercy and wisdom, is gracious in the offering of this great gift. He doesn’t impose it onto anybody. He makes the blood-sacrifice and establishes once and for all the ultimate atonement that transcends person and time. But he makes one thing very clear: each person must step forward willfully to claim this atonement. He is the perfect gentleman, you see. He is not a common peddler selling his wares and enticing you into some kind of suspicious covenant-trap.
He is God Almighty saying to you and to me something along these lines: I have loved you with an everlasting love. I wish to be reunited with you permanently, not temporarily. Therefore, I have given my own life for you and have shed my own blood for you so you need nevermore bring me another sacrifice–ever! And yet, my child, you need only come and partake of this gift by way of your belief. Do you believe I have done this for you? If so, proclaim it, my child, and partake of the everlasting joy of reunion with me–right now, right here, and forever more! I am yours and you are mine. And while you are on this earth in your mortal state, I know that you cannot be perfect, and yet, I am with you to help you every step of the way. Until you are finally reunited with me forever.
Next, we continue with our reading for the day, and find that Mark’s account of Jesus’ work and life continues with this little account of a query that is posed to Jesus about who might be considered his mother, brothers and sisters. And Jesus replies (in the same vein that I mentioned earlier about each of us making a willful choice): Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.
And so Jesus continues to teach and preach in parables everywhere that he goes—to the common people who approach him with endless requests for healing, as well as to the elders in the Temple.
And the ones who choose to believe, believe. And the ones that don’t, don’t. Jesus himself says to his disciples: “…they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!” There is a touch of sarcasm here in Jesus’ words. Imagine the consequence of seeing and perceiving; imagine the consequence of hearing and understanding—why, doing so might actually mean that they would be forgiven and gain life eternal—imagine that!
To drive this point in further, he says this also: If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Could that be any clearer?
David’s Psalm for the day is one of great praise and affirmation in God’s goodness and provision. Despite all odds, David is confident that God is not forgetful to those who love him. The last few verses of the psalm bear repeating:
23 If the LORD delights in a man’s way,
he makes his steps firm;
24 though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
25 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be blessed.
27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
They will be protected forever,
but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;
29 the righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.
Finally, a verse from the Book of Proverbs, in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, speaks to the virtues of prudence:
5 He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.