February 15, 2015

Leviticus 26-27 - Don’t make idols for yourselves; don’t set up an image or a sacred pillar for yourselves, and don’t place a carved stone in your land that you can bow down to in worship. I am God, your God.  Keep my Sabbaths; treat my Sanctuary with reverence. I am God.

If you live by my decrees and obediently keep my commandments, I will:
- send the rains in their seasons, the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit...you’ll have more than enough to eat and will live safe and secure in your land.
-    make the country a place of peace—you’ll be able to go to sleep at night without fear; 
-    get rid of the wild beasts;
-    eliminate war. You’ll chase out your enemies and defeat them: Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand and do away with them.  
-    give you my full attention: I’ll 
-    make sure you prosper, make sure you grow in numbers, and keep my covenant with you in good working order....
-    set up my residence in your neighborhood; I won’t avoid or shun you; ... 
-    be your God; you’ll be my people. 

I am God, your personal God who rescued you from Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians. I ripped off the harness of your slavery so that you can move about freely.

But if you refuse to obey me and won’t observe my commandments, despising my decrees and holding my laws in contempt by your disobedience, making a shambles of my covenant, I will:
-    step in and pour on the trouble: debilitating disease, high fevers, blindness, your life leaking out bit by bit. You’ll plant seed but your enemies will eat the crops.
-    turn my back on you and stand by while your enemies defeat you. People who hate you will govern you. You’ll run scared even when there’s no one chasing you.  And if none of this works in getting your attention, 
-    discipline you seven times over for your sins. 
-    break your strong pride: 
-    make the skies above you like a sheet of tin and the ground under you like cast iron. No matter how hard you work, nothing will come of it: No crops out of the ground, no fruit off the trees.

If you defy me and refuse to listen, your punishment will be seven times more than your sins: I will set wild animals on you; they’ll rob you of your children, kill your cattle, and decimate your numbers until you’ll think you are living in a ghost town.

And if even this doesn’t work and you refuse my discipline and continue your defiance, then it will be my turn to defy you. I, yes I will:
- punish you for your sins seven times over: 
-    let war loose on you, avenging your breaking of the covenant; when you huddle in your cities for protection, 
-    send a deadly epidemic on you and you’ll be helpless before your enemies; 
-    cut off your bread supply, ten women will bake bread in one oven and ration it out. You’ll eat, but barely—no one will get enough.

And if this—even this!—doesn’t work and you still won’t listen, still defy me, I will
-    have had enough and in hot anger will defy you, punishing you for your sins seven times over: 
-    famine will be so severe that you’ll end up cooking and eating your sons in stews and your daughters in barbecues; 
-    smash your sex-and-religion shrines and all the paraphernalia that goes with them, and then stack your corpses and the idol-corpses in the same piles—
-    abhor you; I’ll turn your cities into rubble; 
-    clean out your sanctuaries; 
-    hold my nose at the “pleasing aroma” of your sacrifices. 
-    turn your land into a lifeless moonscape—your enemies who come in to take over will be shocked at what they see.
-    scatter you all over the world and keep after you with the point of my sword in your backs. There’ll be nothing left in your land, nothing going on in your cities. With you gone and dispersed in the countries of your enemies, the land, empty of you, will finally get a break and enjoy its Sabbath years. All the time it’s left there empty, the land will get rest, the Sabbaths it never got when you lived there.

As for those among you still alive, I’ll give them over to fearful timidity.. You won’t stand a chance against an enemy... Any who are left will slowly rot away in the enemy lands. Rot. And all because of their sins, their sins compounded by their ancestors’ sins.

On the other hand, if they confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors,...if by some chance they soften their hard hearts and make amends for their sin, I’ll remember my covenant with Jacob, I’ll remember my covenant with Isaac, and, yes, I’ll remember my covenant with Abraham. And I’ll remember the land.

The land will be empty of them and enjoy its Sabbaths while they’re gone....But in spite of their behavior, while they are among their enemies I won’t reject or abhor or destroy them completely. I won’t break my covenant with them: I am God, their God. For their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I, with all the nations watching, brought out of Egypt in order to be their God. I am God.”

These are the decrees, laws, and instructions that God established between himself and the People of Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai.

God spoke to Moses: He said, “Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them, If anyone wants to vow the value of a person to the service of God, set the value of:
-    a man between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, 
-    a woman the valuation is thirty shekels., set the value at 
-    twenty shekels for a male and ten shekels for a female If the person is between the ages of five and twenty. 
-    five shekels of silver for a boy and three shekels of silver for a girl younger than 5., set the
-    fifteen shekels for a man and ten shekels for a woman If the person is over sixty. 
If anyone is too poor to pay the stated amount, he is to present the person to the priest, who will then set the value for him according to what the person making the vow can afford...

If a man dedicates his house to God, into the possession of the Sanctuary, the priest assesses its value, setting it either high or low. Whatever value the priest sets, that’s what it is. If the man wants to buy it back, he must add twenty percent to its price and then it’s his again.

If a man dedicates to God part of his family land, its value is to be set according to the amount of seed that is needed for it at the rate of fifty shekels of silver to six bushels of barley seed... 

If a man dedicates to God a field he has bought, a field which is not part of the family land, the priest will compute its proportionate value in relation to the next year of Jubilee.... 

No one is allowed to dedicate the firstborn of an animal; the firstborn, as firstborn, already belongs to God. No matter if it’s cattle or sheep, it already belongs to God.

A tenth of the land’s produce, whether grain from the ground or fruit from the trees, is God’s. It is holy to God. If a man buys back any of the tenth he has given, he must add twenty percent to it. A tenth of the entire herd and flock, every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod, is holy to God. He is not permitted to pick out the good from the bad or make a substitution. If he dishonestly makes a substitution, both animals, the original and the substitute, become the possession of the Sanctuary and cannot be redeemed.”

These are the commandments that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai for the People of Israel.

Hebrews 12 - Do you see what this means - all these pioneers who  blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?  It means we’d better get on with it.  

Strip down, start running --and never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed--that exhilarating finish in and with God --he could put up with anything along the way...

When you find yourself flagging in your faith, go over the story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through.  That will shoot adrenaline into your souls...

God is educating you; that is why you must never drop out...God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best.  At the time, discipline isn’t much fun.  It always feels like it is going against the grain.  Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it  is the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.  

So don’t sit around on your hands!  No more dragging your feet...help each other out...work at getting along with each other and with God.  Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God.  

Make sure no one is left out of God’s generosity.  Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent.  A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.  Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite.

Unlike your ancestors, you didn’t come to Mount Sinai...to hear God speak....they were afraid to move.  Even Moses was terrified.  No.  that’s not your experience at all...you’ve come to Jesus, who presents us with a new covenant, a fresh charter from God.  He is the Mediator of this covenant.  

The murder of Jesus, like Abel’s --a homicide that cried out for vengeance--became a proclamation of grace.  

So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words... before “one last shaking”, from top to bottom, stern to stern.”  The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.  

Do you see what we’ve got?  And do you see how thankful we must be?  Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God.  Fot God is not an indifferent bystander.  He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleaned.  God himself is Fire!