Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lessons From Leviticus: Beaten, Not Crushed

I was so sad last week to turn the page from the end of Leviticus to the book of Numbers in my study. It has been a profoundly perspective-altering couple of months delving in to God's expectation for His holy priesthood and beginning to understand the spiritual parallels for us today. I know I haven’t blogged through the entire book with you, but here are a few nuggets of wisdom I picked up from our wonderful and wise King. I pray they bless, encourage and inspire you in your own study.

Last week I found myself in a difficult situation. A mistake I had made was brought to my attention - and in front of several people whom I happen to respect.

Ugh! It's always hard to be wrong and to discover that you made an error, and so naturally my pride and ego were bruised. I had been riding high, on a peak of success and minimal confrontation for a long while, and I had even begun to feel a new confidence, not to mention a little pride.

So now suddenly I had a choice to make: I could argue and retaliate, deflect the fault away from myself - or I could be humble and apologize. I felt defensive, and frustrated at being reminded that I am fallible, and I knew to argue was not the right choice, but to not state my case left me with such a sense of defeat.

Then in my study of Leviticus 24, I came across a verse that caught my attention:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Command the sons of Israel that they bring to you clear oil from beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. Outside the veil of testimony in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations. He shall keep the lamps in order on the pure gold lamp stand before the Lord continually.

The oil being called for here is the oil for the golden lamp stand within the holy part of the tabernacle. It's not in the Holy of Holies, but in the Holy Place right outside of it, along with the table of show bread and the incense altar. Interestingly, it was burned from dusk until dawn - in the hours of darkness.

A few things stood out to me here. First of all, I don't know much about making olive oil, but what's with beating the olives?  What did the olives do to deserve such treatment? And how in the world would that yield a better oil? I looked into this and discovered that it's in the actual harvesting process that the branches of the olive trees were beaten, so often olives fell to the ground and were bruised. This does, apparently, make for a better oil. There are still some olive orchards that use this ancient method.

But even if that were not the case, is that why God wanted the oil is His menorah to have come from beaten olives? Why in the world would God want the fuel in his gorgeously ornate, solid gold candelabra to be associated with beaten, bruised olives? Let's think about that for a moment. If the olives were not prepared in just the right way, they could not light in the way God had intended for them to. So now we see God's divine plan involving light through something being beaten, bruised and crushed. Isn't it interesting that the Light of the World, Yeshua (or Jesus to us western believers) also would be beaten and ultimately killed in order that the world could experience His light - salvation. Ah, now it begins to make sense!

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

Were it not for his obedience to experience a short-lived time of physical and emotional discomfort, the world would never know true enlightenment through a relationship with YHWH, our God. So, even from the early portions of the Bible, God was revealing that His Messiah, and the servants of that Messiah, would be long-term and kingdom-minded thinkers, sacrificial givers, and that they would have to allow for some crushing, some bruising, and some defeat in this world. But it did not end there for Christ. Just like with the olives, their death made way for light-giving oil that pierced through the darkness. His death gave way to victory. And in modeling my Savior's light to the world, I knew that there was a victory ahead for me in this moment of decision.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

In the end, after prayerful and tearful consideration, I apologized, asked forgiveness, and shared my heart with the person who felt wronged. I let my ego take that beating. Though leading up to that confession and admission was so very difficult, the moment after it was done an overwhelming peace came over me. I was affirmed by the Holy Spirit through the joy I experienced because I knew that though I had felt hurt, I had chosen to let my ego be bruised and my pride be burned up to radiate His light. For all the selfish, careless things I do, in that moment the world got a little brighter - and He let me know it.

Application: Every day we have a choice - It's hard to choose forgiveness and empathy instead of anger, kindness instead of resentment, compliments instead of venomous gossip - but it's the right thing to do. Let's be light-bearers, you and me. What do you say? I pray that in the days to come you are challenged to choose light and love and holiness in these difficult situations.


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