Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lessons From Leviticus (and Life!)


I am a serious rules follower. I hate to get in trouble. I despise the idea of being caught not doing the right thing. I was a child who literally told on myself to avoid being caught....and twelve years after high school, I'm still having that nightmare about having signed up for a class I never showed up to, rendering me unable to graduate. Oh, the anxiety it gives me! I tell you this so that you can understand the incredible irony that I would get a traffic citation. (My husband might beg to differ on grounds that I'm easily distracted, which makes me a bit of a careless driver...but I stay within five miles an hour of the speed limit and I never intentionally break rules.)

Yet, being the obedient driver that I claim to be, I nonetheless found myself this morning with the bright flashing lights in my rear view mirror. My stomach was in knots. 'What did I do?' I began to take inventory...I wasn't speeding...following too closely, no...there were no lights or signs to disregard, I was on the highway. What was it?

The officer came to my window and curtly informed me that I was in an HOV lane which I had mistaken for a toll road. I'm a fairly new Texas driver, and these toll roads are a completely overwhelming thing to learn. After two years, I still use my GPS to get to work. It was a totally innocent mistake. I knew enough about my ignorance with these highways that he was probably right. I just didn't know that what I was doing was wrong.

Emotions swelled inside me. 'Why can't I ever get away with anything?' being the first indignant question I asked myself. 'I didn't do it on purpose. I wasn't deviously trying to get away with anything. Why should I be considered guilty? Shouldn't he just let it pass with a warning? I am such an obedient driver all the time!'

As I drove away with my ticket in hand, I felt worse and worse. I was guilty. An offender. And now I had to pay. How can something we do be counted against us if we aren't even aware that what we're doing is wrong? I wanted to be angry at somebody. I wanted to be angry at the officer, or at my husband who...let's just say isn't as much of a stickler for the rules of the road...but never gets caught. It wasn't fair!

Almost immediately I heard a voice say, "And this is what I mean by weeping and gnashing of teeth."

So I had to go and look that up once I got to my office. This phrase is found several times in the New Testament, and always refers to those people who come to terms with their guilt and need for the Savior only when it's too late. And they find themselves forever separated from God.

Ignorance Does Not Equal Innocence

As I spent the morning ministering to my wounded ego, the Lord brought my thoughts back to the chapters I've been studying in Leviticus in my personal study. The opening chapters are all about the Burnt Offering (or 'olah' in Hebrew), the Grain Offering (or 'minchah') and the Peace Offering (or 'zebah') and the sin offerings (the 'hatt-at'). They were all about how to approach a Holy God, to come near, and how to be cleansed and forgiven when one has unknowingly become unclean due to some infraction or contact with impurity and then is later are made aware of it.

We Christians often talk about 'the curse of the Law' and how the law could not atone for our sin, which is why Christ's sacrifice was needed. That is true. But I don't think we often grasp the full gravity of that or understand what this curse actually is. So let me clarify: the curse of the law is not  the Law itself; it is that there was never a remedy given for intentional sin (sin on purpose). So once you made one error where you had already been taught that it was sinful, you were condemned to eternal separation from God.

Numbers 15:30 says it best:

"But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him."

And let's be honest, most of the sins we commit today, we don't commit in ignorance. We know we're making a selfish choice, but we do it anyway because that sin feels gratifying at the moment. And we have the luxury (which, in my opinion, we abuse) of asking for forgiveness of those sins because Christ became the atonement for unintentional and intentional sin. The people before Christ's death and resurrection did not have this privilege. They didn't have to live perfect lives, but they couldn't commit sins knowing that they were sins and ever expect forgiveness. It just wasn't yet possible. Talk about pressure! (This helps you to understand King David's pleading in Psalm 51)

Furthermore, just like my traffic violation, ignorance does not equal innocence. Read it for yourself.

Leviticus 5:17 
Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment."

Just because you don't know what you're doing is a sin doesn't make you guilt-free. And just because someone doesn't recognize that they are a sinner in general doesn't mean they don't bear any guilt. There is still a separation with God. There is still impurity that must be healed, forgiven and atoned for. And when we do become aware of it - through the Holy Spirit, through God's intervention in our lives, through a sermon, or through reading the Bible - then praise the Lord! We've been granted a great mercy. We can confess it and be forgiven before it's too late!


The Purpose of 'The Law'

What I feel I need to say is that the purpose of God's Law was never to show us salvation. The purpose was - and remains - to show our guilt versus God's standard of holiness, revealing our need for a Savior and salvation. Literally, without Christ's sacrifice, there was no hope. One mistake on purpose, one error after having been made aware, one weak moment, and one was removed from fellowship with God forever. The beauty of the Law is that we can read it to discover what sin is, as God defines it, become aware of our guilt now...and we are suddenly aware of how far He came and how much grace He extended to bring us back to Him. It is an overwhelming feeling to see all that has been forgiven you. Through Christ's sacrifice and the Holy Spirit's work of cleaning us up, we can enter into peace and fellowship with the Father. So we never have to experience that moment of 'weeping and gnashing of teeth.'


Have we spent time reading the Father's definition of holiness and sinfulness? Do we understand His expectations? Reading about it will give you a profound new appreciation for what Christ has done for you, which, in this particular season of remembrance of His great sacrifice, would be most honoring to Him. Don't be caught off guard with regard to what the Father expects of us. Don't wait until it's too late. Let's declare "I'm guilty!" And begin to find peace with our Heavenly Father.

Thank you, YHVH, for teachable moments! (Even through unfortunate, expensive and inconvenient circumstances, You show yourself to be so good and so faithful!)


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