It’s hard to say what my favorite book of the Bible is, but it’s easy to say the least: Leviticus. A whole lotta rules and regulations, and even worse, detailed instructions on how to slaughter animals. Instructions that I find gruesome and very hard to stomach. It raises two questions: 1) What about the poor Levite priest who didn’t have the constitution for slitting throats, wringing off heads, cutting up animals, touching blood, etc.? and 2) When they finally build the third temple in Jerusalem, how will they get anything done without PETA and every other animal right’s group fighting them tooth and nail? Silly questions, I suppose, but you have to wonder.
I’ve made it through this book once before so I can do it again. Just remember that everything in the Bible points to Christ and maybe it will make more sense. Right?
The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When any of you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.” (Lev 1:1-2)
Okay, what do I see here? I can gather two things: 1) WHEN you bring an offering, not IF you bring an offering. People were expected to do it, then, although nothing written in stone as to how often. (?) That raises another question — why? Maybe that will be more clear later on. 2) Bring an animal from the herd or flock. That means no wild animals, but something that belongs to you. Your sacrifice is going to cost you something. We saw this already in Exodus 12 where the Israelites were to take a lamb into their home and care for it for four days before slaughtering it for the Passover. That sacrifice obviously cost them emotionally; it would be like slaughtering a puppy.
…He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD. He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He is to slaughter the young bull before the LORD, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar… (Lev 1:3-4)
So the person bringing the sacrifice has to slaughter the animal himself, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Then the priests get to work, sprinkling blood on the altar. It sounds to me like the person offering still has work to do once the animal is dead. It has the priests sprinkle the blood, then He (the offerer?) skins the animal and cuts it into pieces. Then the priests arrange the fire and place the meat on the fire. Then He (the offerer?) washes the inner parts and legs with water, then the priest burns all of it on the altar.
It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. (Lev 1:9)
I know I’m missing a lot here, but I do get that the laying of hands on the animal represents our sin being transferred to an innocent being whose death will atone for our sins. That’s pretty easy symbolism of Christ and his work on the cross.
“An aroma pleasing to the LORD.” Well, what smells better than a steak on the grill? I can’t think of anything. But I don’t think this is referring to God enjoying a good barbecue. Ephesians 5:2 says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” So Paul is saying here that what was pleasing to God was the love Jesus had, a love that died for others. God wants us to be like Jesus and to reflect His amazing, all-encompassing, self-sacrificing love.
I imagine that if I was alive in Jesus’ day and had seen the sacrifices going on in the temple, and had made some of them myself, then I would better understand the implications of Jesus’ death on the cross, not only from a legal standpoint but also from a human one. I don’t know how anybody can see the light go out of the eyes of a dying creature and not be moved by it. How much more an animal of my own, that is dying because of MY wickedness. And how much more so the Son of God, paying the ultimate price for me.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. – Romans 10:9-13
My Bible in a year plan is going great so far. I’m current with the New Testament readings, and only a book and a half behind in the Old Testament. I struggle with the first five books, although when I actually sit down and read them I always find something interesting.
Today I read Exodus chapter 21. This is the chapter right after God hands down the Ten Commandments. Now he’s getting down to specific situations. Chapter 21 deals with servants (and goring bulls but this isn’t about that part).
This passage has bothered me before, and started to trip me up again, then I had a big light bulb over the head moment as I realized, like I’ve done so many times, that I’ve been seeing things inside out and backwards for years. Here’s what went through my head.
I read: “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year he shall go free, without paying anything.” (Exodus 21:2)
THEN . . .
“If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.” (Exodus 21:7-11)
!!! EGREGIOUS !!!
I was outraged by this “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do” rubbish. Why the double standard? Why can’t a woman go free? Is God sexist, treating women like chattel the way most macho cultures throughout history have done?
…Oh, wait, hold on a sec…
I did some Googling and found this issue addressed again later: “If a fellow Hebrew, a man or woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.” (Deuteronomy 15:12-15)
Then I remembered what I’ve heard Bible teachers say over and over again: CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!
First context: Exodus 21:7-11 seems to be referring to women purchased as wives or concubines, not regular servants. Deuteronomy 15:12-15 seems to be referring to women who were indeed regular servants. How they are to be dealt with is different in each scenario.
Second context: What do I know about the world of Moses’ time? These were times where women had few rights, especially among the poor. I grew up in America in the 20th century, where women have the right to vote, to receive equal pay for equal work, and the opportunity to forge their own way in the world. It’s pretty rare in world history. In many parts of the world today, and definitely in the world that Moses knew, women were little more than chattel. If a servant girl was just cut loose because a man didn’t like her, what were her chances of survival? Well, how would a young woman today like to be air dropped into a Taliban or ISIS camp? She’d almost certainly be raped, then either killed or kept as a slave or forced into marriage. She would have little chance of survival, let alone freedom, if left on her own.
God wasn’t treating women like they were inferior. He knew the times, he knew the culture, and he was protecting them. A man couldn’t use a woman and then just dump her. He couldn’t just get rid of her if he decided he didn’t like her. If something went wrong she A) had the right to be redeemed – protecting her reputation, her social standing, as well as her material needs. B) If she was purchased for a son, she had the rights of a DAUGHTER. C) If he wouldn’t provide her with food, clothing, and conjugal rights, then he had to let her go free without payment (that is, without her having to purchase her freedom). D) If things didn’t go well between her and her master, it doesn’t sound like she had to tough out the entire six years first like men had to do.
In fact, when you really look at it, the women are given more rights and protection than the men. If she’s a household servant then she is treated just like a man. If she is taken as a wife or concubine, then she can’t be misused and tossed aside. She has rights, and if they are violated she is free to leave.
Of course that raises a big question: What if she doesn’t want to be sold as a wife or concubine in the first place? Well, just like in cultures with arranged marriages today, she may not have had much say in that matter. Is that the way God wanted it to be for women? I don’t think so. But knowing the sinful, fallen world we live in, he shows his love in how tenderly he cares for everyone. Slaves as well as queens.
Remember Hagar, the Egyptian maid and mother of Ishmael, whom Sarah coerced Abraham into casting out (Genesis 21). The Bible doesn’t say they were sent with any great provisions. Enough food and water for a couple days, maybe? But God heard her cry, comforted her, and not only saved her and Ishmael but made him into a great nation that has been a thorn in the side of Israel to this very day.
I’m sure I missed a lot in this passage. Everything in scripture ultimately points to Christ, and a little more digging would bring that to light (such as the Redeemer reference). But for today I am very happy to see a troubling passage in a new light, and to gain a little more understanding of the caring and father-providing-for-his-children love that God has for all of us.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:9-13
Okay, not really. Not at all, actually. But as I’ve read through Matthew I came to Chapter 24, the scary beginning of the Olivet Discourse, and it has a lot to say about the end of the world as we know it. It’s the chapter where the disciples ask Jesus, after he tells them about the temple being destroyed, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
This chapter confuses me to no end and always has. I’ve never really understood it, and after re-reading it many times over the years and several more times this past week, I still don’t.
It starts off easily enough. Jesus warns them not to be deceived. “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4-5) Since we are living in the age of news being replaced by propaganda, I would say we are living in a time of great deception.
At the same time, however, there have been false Christs throughout history. Some notable ones in my own lifetime were Jim Jones of the Jonestown Kool-Aid drinking cult, David Koresh of Waco, Texas, and Reverend Sun Myung Moon of Korea. Things didn’t go well for the followers of Jones or Koresh. I’m not sure whatever happened with the Moonies, but if they thought he was Jesus they would have been pretty disappointed when he died in 2012 and never came back.
So I’m not sure how that warning is specifically a sign for the last days when we’ve had crackpots like these guys throughout history.
Next Jesus says, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars . . . nation will rise against nation . . . there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginnings of birth pains.” (24:6-8).
These are also things that have gone on since the beginning of history. The Old Testament is full of wars and nation against nation. Did Christians in Italy think the end was coming when Pompeii was obliterated by Vesuvius in AD 79? Because if any event ever looked like the apocalypse, that had to be it. Pompeii’s destruction happened just nine years after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Meanwhile Christians were being fed to the lions and used as human torches in Nero’s courtyard. Surely many believers then must have been certain they were in the end of days. (The Christians in Thessalonika seemed to think so.) And here we are, two thousand years later, still wondering after every big earthquake or skirmish in the Middle East if this is finally it.
Jesus then goes on to warn his disciples that “you will be persecuted and put to death…and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” Is he talking to the Church here, or to the Jews, or to both? Jewish people have been relentlessly persecuted since they were first a people. Christians have also been persecuted throughout the centuries, and in many parts of the world are brutally persecuted today. We are seeing the early stages of it here in America.
Then Jesus says, “At that time men will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands to the end will be saved.” (24:10-13). That sounds like the world today. Deception, wickedness, coldness—that’s the world around us, all right. But I remember that several false or twisted versions of Christianity came into being in the 19th century, namely Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and Seventh Day Adventists. That’s a lot of twisted theology to come out in a fairly short span of time. Bible readers in those days must have wondered if they were in the last days.
All this raises a big question: Why did Jesus bring up these things as signs of the end when they have been going on forever? I think I do have the answer for that — I have heard Bible teachers say that because Jesus described this as the beginning of birth pains, then just like real birth pains these events will increase in frequency and intensity as we get closer to the end. But where are we on that timeline? Are we “ooh, honey, I think I just had a contraction” or are we “GET THIS M***** F***** OUT OF ME!!!!!” or somewhere in the middle?
Things do seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity today. The global COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in world history in how it shut down nearly every country on the entire planet, at least for awhile, making us all prisoners and destroying countless livelihoods. COVID has greatly aided the push for a one-world socialist government, monetary system, and tracking of every person in the world. We are seeing violent earthquakes, severe weather, and famines on what seems to be an increasing scale. I was astonished last year to learn of massive armies of locusts plaguing parts of the world like something straight out of Exodus. Weird stuff is going on in the Middle East, with Israel making peace agreements with Muslim countries on the one hand, and Iran allegedly being extremely close to a nuclear bomb on the other.
I just don’t think we can use any of those things as a measuring stick to figure out when Jesus is coming back. It’s all just too vague. One day we may look back in hindsight and say, “Ah, okay, now I get it! It all makes perfect sense.” But that day isn’t today.
But Jesus is just getting warmed up. Next he gets really specific, warning about the desecration of the temple as spoken of through the prophet Daniel, and telling people when that day comes they need to drop whatever they are doing and run, run, run for their lives. Some people think this happened in AD 70 but I don’t think so. The temple in AD 70 wasn’t desecrated by the abomination that causes desolation. It caught on fire, and all the gold covering the walls and ceilings melted down. The Romans dismantled the temple, stone by stone, to get every last speck of gold they could, little imagining they were fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that no stone would stand upon another.
So that means that Jesus must be talking about the desecration of a future temple. Here he seems to be talking about the events of the Great Tribulation, or the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). Then he gives one more warning about not being deceived by false prophets and false Christs. “See, I have told you ahead of time!” (24:25).
Okay, so that’s another thing I do know for sure: Jesus bothered to warn us about not being deceived more than once, so he wants us to pay attention and not be deceived! That’s not as easy as it sounds in today’s environment, where lies are literally everywhere and we don’t know who we can trust. But if we are diligent and know what is in God’s word, then the lies will be obvious and not able to deceive us.
Next, Jesus describes His Second Coming and how the whole earth will see him coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (24:31)
…From one end of THE HEAVENS to the other?
He then goes on to say, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (24:32-34).
This is more straightforward than some other passages, at least partly. If the fig tree represents Israel, as most scholars agree on, then it blossomed in 1948 when the modern state of Israel was born. Which would mean that today we are standing right at the edge of the Great Apocalyptic Sh** Show. That is, IF a “generation” literally means one generation. Assuming our lifespan is about 80 years, then Jesus better move fast or this “generation” is going to die out in the next decade or so. However, my NIV notes say that “generation” may mean “race,” as in the human race. In which case we are back to not knowing for sure.
Finally — this is the part that really confuses me — Jesus goes on to talk about what SURE SOUNDS like the rapture, “No one knows the day or the hour,” “one will be taken and the other left,” except it also seems to be a continuation of what he was just talking about, which was the tribulation and second coming, not the rapture. I’ve heard several teachers, mostly Calvary Chapel pastors, insisting that Chapter 24 is all for the Jews and not for the church. I have heard other teachers say that is nonsense.
If “no one knows the day or the hour” is referring to his second coming instead of the rapture, how can that statement be true? We might not know today but people in that time will know the EXACT day that Jesus is coming back. Daniel 9:27 talks about the desecration of the temple, and that it takes place in the middle of the final seven years. That means from that awful day, there will be exactly 1,260 days (based on a Jewish 360-day calendar) until the return of Christ. 1,260 days of hell on earth and horrors that make all of Stephen King’s novels look like Blueberries for Sal by comparison.
So I find all of this very confusing. However, I do know one more thing for certain: Whatever happens is going to happen, whenever it happens, and however it happens. We may indeed be very close to the end. It sure feels that way right now. But God may give this wicked world a reprieve like he did with Nineveh so long ago. We don’t know for sure.
Maybe someone reading this understands this chapter perfectly. Please comment with your thoughts if you do! I doubt that I will until I’m looking back at it from the other side of eternity. That’s okay by me. I think the main point to take from it is actually in Chapter 25, where Jesus tells us to be ready at all times. Whenever he does come, we want to be good and faithful servants, ready and excited to be with Him forever.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your might.
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Learn about Jesus from Bible study and spending time with Him in prayer.
Live a godly life and share the gospel with everyone that you can.
As the apostle John said, “And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28).
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. – Romans 10:9-13
The last time I decided to read the Bible from cover to cover it took me three years. I spent six months just going through the Book of Psalms. Thought I was going to die slogging my way through Leviticus – Deuteronomy. Got more than my fill of bloodshed, perverts, and idiots reading through Judges. Ruth was like an oasis in the desert. Fell in love with Isaiah. Couldn’t keep the minor prophets straight. Devoured the gospels, so hungry to see Jesus in person again after just getting hints of him in the OT. Still a little afraid of Paul. Not as freaked as I used to be by Revelation because we’ve seen so much of the imagery already in the Old Testament.
This year I’ve decided to burn through the whole Bible again, cover to cover, in just 12 months. I’m using the Bible-in-a-year guide from a calendar I got for Christmas. It has you read so many OT and NT passages each day. I’m cheating, though; I’m ahead of it in the Old Testament and way behind in the New Testament.
What really hit home with me after reading the entire Bible — I’d only ever read books and/or passages here and there before, never the whole thing — is how it really is a story. It has all the elements of great literature: Introduction / Crisis / Building Action / Climax / Falling Action / Resolution. Themes. Foreshadowing. Character development – of a nation, not just individuals. And a happy ending. The happiest of all happy endings.
Assuming that not one word of scripture is wasted, and assuming that everything points toward Christ, some passages make me scratch my head. For example, at the very end of Genesis, we have a detailed chapter about Jacob blessing the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh.
Jacob tells Joseph, “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.” (Gen 48:5)
Then Jacob is going to bless the two boys and a big deal is made of the fact that Jacob is going to bless Ephraim, the younger, over Manasseh, the older. Joseph tries to get Jacob to switch but Jacob is adamant. “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” (Gen 48:19)
Chapter 48 deals almost entirely with Ephraim and Manasseh. So it is important and we need to remember this episode. I missed this significance the first time through. I still can’t quite understand why the 12 tribes of Israel are reckoned with Joseph being the two half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh instead of just being called the Tribe of Joseph. I haven’t done any serious study in this before but there must be volumes written about it. Maybe I’ll dig into it more later. Maybe just reading through the book, something will leap out at me and make more sense to me this time. Scripture interprets scripture, as they say.
Now on to Exodus. I wonder how disappointed I’ll be when I get to heaven and discover that Moses doesn’t actually look like Charlton Heston.