Friday, March 12, 2021

March 12 - Leviticus 23, Luke 4

Key verse: Leviticus 23:2

Big idea: Both times and places can be holy.

As we have read about Leviticus, we have seen a lot of emphasis placed on holy spaces. The holy of holies, like the ground where Moses stood, was a special place where God dwelt, distinguished from all the other places on the Earth. Ultimately, the hope of God's people was that the whole Earth would be filled with His glory. But it was not only spaces that would be set apart as holy, but also time. Leviticus 23 reveals a series of holy days that ranged from the annual day of atonement to the weekly sabbath. These days built a rhythm of rest and worship into their society, where every place was given a taste of the sanctity of the Temple.

Consider the descent of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, where the New Heaven and New Earth collide in harmony. Revelation 22:1-5 shows the aftermath: "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever." 

This is the promise of where holy space and holy time are fused. The special moment of the Sabbath, a day of rest and worship, will become the truth of every day. All of space and all of time will become the holy moment we spend with God, forever and ever.

Discussion idea: What is it about being human where we need routines to remind ourselves of the truth?

Prayer focus: Lord, help me to build the rhythms that point to You, from daily time with You, to church attendance, or whatever else points me toward the day of rest.

Key Verse: Luke 4:4

Big Idea: When He was tempted, the Son of Man responded with the Word of God. 

In some sense, Jesus' public ministry began when He was baptized at about 30 years old. Yet the first thing He did was to retreat from the public view to spend 40 days alone in the desert with God. This is strongly reminiscent of the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert after being "baptized" in the Red Sea, where they were tempted to trust God for bread, kingdom, and leadership, but failed. During this time, Jesus fasted, the traditional method of reminding yourself that you are hungry for God, beyond what anything physical can satisfy. It was at this point of physical weakness that Jesus was tempted. The three temptations He faced were representative of the temptations that we all face: the desire for physical comfort, the need for prestige, and the pull of power (the Bible calls these the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life in 1 John 2:16). Each time Jesus responded to these tests, He used the same method: He simply quoted the book of Deuteronomy. 

Rather than resisting the temptation directly, Jesus chose to focus on the truth instead. It has been said that Secret Service agents learning to detect counterfeit bills spend much more time studying real bills than they do the counterfeit ones. It is easy to recognize the false when you know the real thing. Incredibly, although Jesus is entirely God, He resisted every temptation using the same resources available to you and to me, the Scriptures. The Devil quoted Scripture back at Him for the third temptation, suggesting that if Jesus is really the Son of God, He should prove it by jumping into a valley and letting God rescue Him. He misquoted the Scripture slightly, removing the words "in all your ways" and removed it from the context, where Psalm 91:1 restricted the promise to the one who dwells in intimacy with God. This half-truth was a whole lie. Jesus responds by quoting another Scripture: Don't put God to the test. It is one thing to walk closely with God and know that He protects us wherever we go, but it is quite a different scenario to put ourselves into a bad situation and trust that God will bail us out. 

After Jesus had faced these temptations, the Devil left Him for a while, and He continued His ministry, announcing the good news that God's reign had come, healing the sick and casting out demons. Perhaps most significantly, He began by going to the synagogue and once again using the Bible to show whom He had come to be. The boy who had learned in the Temple was still about His Father's business.

Discussion Idea: When you are tempted, how do you resist? What happens when you try to resist a temptation head-on, versus substituting it for something good?

Prayer Focus: Thank God that in Jesus, we have the power to resist temptation. Identify a specific area of temptation in your life and ask God to help you find a corresponding truth to replace it with. 

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