Thursday, March 4, 2021

March 4 - Leviticus 9, James 4

 Key verse: Leviticus 9:7

Big idea: The priest must be holy to sacrifice. 

One of the most interesting things to me in Leviticus is how orderly it all is. Nothing is left to chance or the whims of a particular priest. There are certain tasks to be performed in a certain order if we are going to worship a holy God, and He is very specific about it. I think there are many implications for us, maybe the most obvious being the admonition Brother John Raines loves to share from 1 Corinthians 14:40: "Let all things be done decently and in order." Too many of us play at our worship, worship our work, and work at our play. God expects something more.

But if that is true of us, how much more for the priests! Those who would bring sacrifices to God could not just waltz into the Temple. God had specific standards for what they needed to do to purify themselves before they could offer the sacrifices to purify others. A key example of this comes from Leviticus 9: before Aaron and his sons could make the sacrifice for the sins of the people, they first needed to bring a sacrifice for themselves. Before they could bring sacrifices for others, they needed to be cleansed themselves. 

This raises a question: why could they offer a sacrifice for themselves when they were unclean, but not a sacrifice for others? I think it is plain that there is something else going on in the background, a hidden Mediator who brings the people to God but does not need to make any sacrifice to prepare Himself. Of course, that Mediator is none other than Jesus: "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore." 

The Son of God is the one who has never sinned, not made a priest through the weakness of the Law, but the unfading promise of God. As the perfect priest, He was willing and able to make the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. While the flawed priests needed to make sacrifices day after day, ever unable to get to the heart of the problem because of their own weakness, Jesus died once and for all: the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice.

Discussion idea: If human sacrifices could never get to the heart of the problem, what was God teaching by requiring them?

Prayer focus: Lord, thank you for the perfect intercessor. I do not need another human being to get to You, I do not need to become perfect myself, I already have the perfect advocate who knows the pain of temptation and also knows how to overcome it. Help me to lean on Him and Him alone.

Key verse: James 4:6
Big idea: A heart that is wise will also be humble. 

Why do we have conflicts with other people? James says that it is ultimately because of conflict within ourselves. The greed and lust in our hearts make us discontent with what God has given us, so we take it out on others. Why do we not have those things? James says it is because we do not humble ourselves enough to simply ask God - or when we do ask God, it is with impure motives, expecting a holy God to support our lives of sin. As long as we want to lift ourselves up, whether with a thin veneer of spirituality or not, we will find God resisting our efforts, trying to give us the wake-up call that we need. When we humble ourselves, God gives us more than we deserve and draws us closer to Himself.

It is one of the big paradoxes of the Christian life that the tighter we hold onto ourselves, the quicker we lose ourselves, and as soon as we give ourselves away, we find that God gives us more than we ever could have imagined. This means that being wise sometimes goes against "common sense." During the black plague, it meant that Christians cared for their infected neighbors when their own families turned them out on the streets to die. When believers gave their lives for their testimony, it meant knowing that their blood spoke louder than their mouths. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the hero of the story stopped to help someone laying on the side of the road, knowing that on that street people often pretended to be hurt while gangs of thieves hid, ready to ambush. True wisdom is a life in tune with God, and the desire to humbly let Him show us the way. 

To live a wise life is to realize that our pleasure is too small a thing to live for. Tomorrow is not promised, and all boasting about what we will accomplish is simply evil. The wise life is a life not lived for itself, but for God and others. When we are not trying to secure blessings for ourselves, we are certain to find them.

Discussion Idea: What does humility mean to you? How is it different than low self-esteem? How does humility prepare us for God's use?
Prayer Focus: Pray that God would help us to see how desperately we need Him.

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