I’m trying to read the Bible in a year. Its not going to happen, but I figure if I can create a habit of reading the Bible everyday and at least make it through the Old Testament, I, and God, will be happy. Why won’t I make it through the whole Bible? In a word, Leviticus.
That’s right, folks. Its the third month of the year and I’m only on the third book of the Bible. But it is a doozy. There are so many different sacrifices and rules and guidelines. No romance, no mystery, no suspense. Just rule after rule after rule. I’m not going to lie, its pretty boring.
In past attempts to read the Bible, I usually give up towards the end of Exodus. At that point, the Israelites have made their harrowing escape from Egypt and are in the desert. Moses goes on and on about all the specifications for the tabernacle not once, but twice. Reading this in a regular Bible was tedious and my flightly brain just gave up. But this time, I got smart. I got an awesome Apologetics Study Bible that actually explains why the exact size of every curtain in the sanctuary is important information. This Bible takes chunks of verses and puts them in historical context and explains their cultural, historical and theological significance. It’s not only helping me understand parts of the Bible I never understood before, it’s also shedding new light on stories I’ve heard a million times. It was really interesting to read through Genesis and gain a better understanding of what life was like for the Patriarchs. By understanding the cultural and historical context, I was better able to understand the theological impacts of their actions then and how that relates to me now.
Okay, back to Leviticus. Despite the fact that it is taking me a long time (I can’t pay attention for longer than 2 chapters at a time) I’m really enjoying the book. All the rules about sacrifices, rituals and purification aren’t things God just made up for fun. He called the Israelites to be a holy people, seperated from the pagan and worldly cultures around them. The rituals where a physical symbol of what their spiritual lives should look like.
Here’s an example. There are lots of rules related to the purity of men and women and their sex lives. Leviticus 15 goes through them in detail, but the basic gist is that after a man and woman have intercourse, they must bathe in water and are unclean until evening. hat sounds a little odd, right? When I first read that I felt the Bible was condemning sex by labeling it as a dirty deed. However, in this case, being unclean did not mean being in sin. No sacrifice was needed to make them clean, all they had to do was wash and wait until night. Their uncleanliness simply met they could not go to the sanctuary until they were clean. The ooint of this was to keep sex as far away from the place of worship as possible. Many neighbor socieities used sexual intercourse as an act of worship to fertifility gods, and the God of Israel did not want that taking place. Therefore, He instituted a rule that would ensure sexual intercourse stayed in the tent and never came near the Sanctuary. Again, it goes back to being holy and set apart. God had to establish his dwelling, the sanctuary, as a pure and holy place that demonstrated his purity and holiness. Only then could He demand such purity and set apartedness from His people.
In regards to the purity laws, one commentary in my Bible states this:
In the NT, Mark 5:25-34 reveals Jesus’ general attitude concerning the uncleanness regulations; His focus was on faith for healing the condition, rather than upon the ritual pollution of the afflicted person. HJesus pointed beyond the letter of the OT regulations to the moral principles that informed them, within God’s greater purpose of revealing His kingdom.
As a Christian, I don’t believe that I have to follow all of the rituals laid out in the Old Testament. I do believe, however, that I must adhere to the moral principles that informed them. Just as the Israelites were called to be holy and set apart, so am I. So what does that mean for young woman in the 21st century? I think it means limited, or ideally completely getting rid of, the crap that goes into my soul. The Isrealites could not eat pork or blood, I think as Christians we should not listen to inappropriate music watch videos with sex and cussing in them. The Israelites had to go through many ritual cleansings before offering a sacrifice. I think as modern day Christians, we should purify our hearts and minds before going into Church. For me, this means listening to Christian music on the way to church instead of pop. It means seeking and giving forgiveness and working throuh any bitterness or hatred in my heart. The Isrealites were called to be set apart from neighboring communities. As modern day Christians, we are called to do things differently than the culture in which we live, to stand apart from the crowd and to cause people to ask “what makes them different?”
I will get through Leviticus before the month is over. And I will pick up the pace because I still have 36 more books left and only nine months…o boy…