Lectionary thoughts for July 22 – 2 Samuel 7:1-15

What is intrinsically good, and what is viewed as being for God’s glory, is not necessarily God’s will

English: Nathan advises King David

English: Nathan advises King David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This statement is one of the harder ones for us to believe and appreciate in our lives.  That is intrinsically good – how could that NOT be God’s will.  Doesn’t He want all things that are good?  And how could it be that something that is being done for God’s glory AND which is good –  how could that not be God’s will.

That is one of the messages we find as we look at the passage from 2 Samuel 7.  David started out as a shepherd boy.  Then Samuel the prophet chose David to be the replacement for Saul.  David was both small and young. He wasn’t the obvious choice, but he was God’s choice.

Eventually David was placed on the throne in Jerusalem and God gave David victory over all of his enemies.  Second Samuel 8, shows all the nations that surrounded Israel were defeated by David. God gave him victory, God established his kingdom, and now in chapter 7, verse 1 David was sitting in his house, in peace after all the battles and labors and he’s thinking about what he’ll do next.

In this passage, David is sitting in his palace, thinking with zeal in his heart for God about how to glorify God. He has glorified God through his victories on the battlefield and now he wants to glorify God in a different way so he turns to the prophet Nathan and says: ‘I’ve a desire in my heart to glorify God. I live in a palace made with cedar, but the ark of God is sitting outside in a tent, uncovered by a ceiling of cedar. Why should I live in my house and the ark God be out in the open?‘. Nathan tells him: ‘You do whatever is in your heart. The desire that you find within your soul, you carry it out‘, and then Nathan goes away and God’s still small voice speaks to him and tells him, ‘No! David is not to build the temple. Go back to David and tell him that he is not to build the temple‘. You can just imagine how David felt when Nathan told him: ‘You’re not the man, you’re not to do it and it’s not to happen now in your day‘. But then God tells David: ‘I’m going to do something greater. You think you are going to build my house – no, I’m going to build you a house‘.

Let’s look at what we can learn from this passage.  First, look at the heart of David in verses 1 and 2.  David has a zealous heart. And even though what he wants to do is intrinsically good, (protecting the ark, building a temple for God, etc.) and he is planning on this for God’s glory, this is not necessarily God’s will. David has a zealous heart.  He’s finished all his labors, he’s sitting in his palace, and he” and his battles, and he’s thinking about God and how he can glorify God. How often do you spend your leisure time thinking about God and how often do you spend your time thinking about yourself.  Someone once said you can tell if you are in love when you spend more time thinking about the one you love than yourself.  David loved God.

Notice also the company David kept when he was relaxing, God’s prophet, Nathan.  We are molded by our friends and the company we keep. David was molded by Nathan. David’s ambition wasn’t selfish, it was righteous. David’s desire was good and holy.  He wanted to protect the ark of the covenant which signified the presence of God and glorify God.  David, at the age of 40, wanted to bring a great name to his God.

He had his palace and now he wanted a temple for God. Many folks go into the Christian life or work and build a palace for  themselves but nothing for God. We all face the temptation to build empires for our name and reputation and the worship and praise and respect and reverence of God is missing.  This wasn’t the case for David. David had been blessed.  He was sitting in a palace, his enemies had been defeated,  and he’s rich. But this success didn’t spoil his his walk with God. While we don’t like to believe it, blessings more often then adversity, make us forget God.

So how did David make a wrong decision? There are several rules to help us know the will of God in our life: First is the word of God, second the counsel of wise believers, third the witness of the Holy Spirit, fourth circumstances and fifth, reason. That being said, we still cannot put God in a box and say this is proof of what God’s will is.  David had all of these, but he still made a wrong decision.

In Deuteronomy 12:10-11 it says, ‘ But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.  Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name —there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord.‘ This may well have been what David had in mind as he rested and meditated on the word of God.  God had said, once in the promised land, after all the enemies were defeated, He would make a place for His name to dwell’.  This is the word of God.

In 1 Chronicles 16 shows that David had appointed certain people to minister before the ark of God.  This temple service, until the destruction of Herod’s temple in 70AD, was established by David. Now he was waiting for a place where the name of God would be, and he was actively creating the circumstances around him to facilitate that goal.

In 1 Chronicles 23:2-5, you find 24,000 Levites, 6000 officials and judges, 4000 gatekeepers, and 4000 musicians.  All of these would have needed housing and many of them a building to work in and to carry out their sacrifices.  David probably looked at the word of God, looked at the circumstances around him of the need that there was, and said to himself: ‘It must be time for God to create a house for Himself!’.  Scripture, circumstances, the witness in his own heart, reason and even Godly counsel all said he was going the right direction.  He had desire to see God dwell in a permanent house and not in a tent.  He thought, “God doesn’t have a house but I do!” A. W. Pink notes in his book, “The Life of David” that ‘Thousands of professing Christians think more about the welfare of their pet dogs than they do in seeing the need, and spend more time in the upkeep of their motor cars than they do in support of the work of the Lord‘.  But not David.

There is nothing here to criticize David for in this passage.  But even though the Word of God, godly counsel, the witness of the Spirit, circumstances and reason told him that he was right –  he was wrong. Nathan, who was meant to guide him in the right direction failed him in one way. Nathan said to the king: ‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you‘. You can find an account of this situation also in 2 Chronicles 6:8 and here you find that God said this to David: ‘Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart.’ David wanted to build a temple, Nathan told him go ahead, and  God, later on said ‘You did well to have this in your heart’. So what was wrong? Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked – who can know it? What David wanted was good, it was to the glory of God, it seemed to be a needed, but at that moment in time it was not the will of God. David had a heart after good at that moment, but he didn’t have a heart after God.

Neither Nathan nor David consulted God. How many good, sincere Christians are busy doing good for God without consulting God about He wants? At that moment in time, for David to build the temple was not God’s will. Get godly guidance, check the Scriptures, use your reason – but make sure you go to God as well!

In verses 4-7, God redirects David.  In these verses, God asked him two questions. First he asked the question,  ‘David, are you the one to build that house?’ and then He asked, ‘Why have I never asked another leader in Israel to build a house, if I wanted a house?’. What God was saying to David was ‘Not you!’ and ‘Not now!’. This is a hard thing to hear from God when you want to do something for the glory of God: ‘No! It’s not you and it’s not now!’.  ‘Not you!’ is the message that John the Baptist had to agree to when he said these words: ‘He must increase and I must decrease’.

What would you do if God spoke to you that you worth in the eyes of men would decrease and that someone else was going to come along and take your place.  If that was God’s will for you, could you accept it? It’s hard to turn from ‘I am the one‘ to ‘I am not the one‘.

How do we react when God says ‘No’ to us in illness, or sorrow, or singleness, or wealth, or ministry.  It’s hard to take ‘No’ and ‘Not now’ – for are impatient. We want everything now and the hardest thing to do is to wait on God when He says ‘Wait’ because it means we can’t do anything. We can’t pray, we can’t work, because God told us to wait on Him, to be still and to know that He is God.

But David’s disappointment was God’s great appointment. David wanted to build a temple for God, and God said to David, ‘No! You’re not going to build Me a house, I’m going to build you a house!’. What do you do when God says ‘No’? Sulk? Doubt? Turn your back on God? Run back into the world? Everything depends on your reaction to God when God says ‘No’.   Look at how David reacted in verse 18.  He went in and sat before the LORD in the tent.  It was there he remembered all that God had done for him.  And God would also remind us: ‘Do you remember where you came from? Do you remember your sin? Do you remember where I brought you from and where I’ve taken you? Do you remember all the blessings that I have blessed you with? Even though I am saying ‘No’ to you today, I want to reassure you that I’ve something greater for you!’.  Maybe what David was thinking was this: ‘I’m going to die and I’ll never see the temple!’. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘Will I die and never see my son saved, my daughter come to Christ?’ – what does it matter, if God does save them?

Look at David’s 1 Chronicles 29:2-3.  From that moment on he began with all his might to gather together materials for the temple. God told him, ‘No, you can’t do it’. So he said, ‘Who’s going to do it?’, and God said, ‘Your son’, so David thinks, ‘Then I’ll help him with all my might’. That’s some spirit. David didn’t know why God said ‘No’ – and maybe you don’t! – but several years later God brought David in and told him why. ‘You were to fight for Me David, but your son will build for Me. You have blood on your hands but this temple is to be a place of peace and rest, so you can’t build it’. And David believed the word of God.   There will come a day, whether you’re here on earth at the time or whether you’re gone, when it’ll all be made plain.

There is a story of E. M. Bounds, author of ‘Power Through Prayer’. E.M. Bounds had two sons, one of his sons was a believer and the other was not. E. M. Bounds died at the age of 90 – and his son that was not saved, lived to the age of 90 and didn’t get saved until he was 90! But Bounds had prayed, God had promised and God provided. Trust God with the desires of your heart and believe!

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Tickets bought

English: An Air China Boeing 747 taking off fr...

English: An Air China Boeing 747 taking off from Beijing Capital Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until money has exchanged hands, most things are still up in the air.

I guess it’s official then.  We’ve bought tickets and put down money.  We will be leaving LAX on Air China on August 31 around 1:30 in the afternoon.  We will arrive in Wunan about 17 hours later at 9 pm local time or 8 am Missouri time.

There will be someone at the airport holding a sign with our name.  It will take about 1.4 hours to get to our apartment.

There is so much to do but regardless, we will be in China 42 days from today.

Categories: Getting Started | Leave a comment

James 1:9 Does God love me if I’m poor?

But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man  is to glory  in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. (James 1:9-11 NASB)

The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door

The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man’s Door (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you respond to your circumstances?  Are you looking at the outside of the cup to determine if what is inside is any good?  In this passage, James speaks to two groups of believers on the need to keep the right perspective on lfe and life’s circumstances.1.  Woe is me – God doesn’t love me because I’m poor!Are their “true”, “faithful”, “spiritual” believers who are living in poverty? Yes.  Both in the New Testament times and today there were true believers who were “in humble circumstances”, that is, were poor people. They were godly. They loved the Lord Jesus Christ. They obeyed God, but they were poor

Why were they poor?  Maybe it was famine which had destroyed all their crops and all their reserves. Some had lost everything because of their walk with the Lord Jesus. Some were Jewish Christians who were the casualties of cruel persecution. They had become homeless refugees. They had lost everything for the sake of the Messiah, and were uncertain where their next meal was coming from. Some had incurable diseases and were in the last years of their lives, while others had weak personalities, the victims of abuse, cripplingly withdrawn.

Jesus spoke of a Christian called Lazarus. All he had was a little begging corner at which he asked people for money. Too ill to work, with no-one to support him, he was covered in sores which dogs licked.There are today, brothers and sisters in Kenya whose families have been destroyed by AIDS and with very little but a patch of land they are trying to educate, clothe and feed a dozen children. Visit a Christian orphanage in Uganda, or watch some of the redeemed street children of Manila and you are confronted with a Christian poverty of staggering dimensions.

There are many potential dangers facing poor people. Poverty is not a safe place to be. There are no automatic benefits from being poor. Poverty can embitter. It can make a Christian discontented, complaining, and self-pitying. Fear, worry, envy, and self-righteousness can spoil a poor Christian. Children of poor Christian parents can bring special pains in the heart.  “All the other kids are going on the field trip. Why can’t I go?” “I can’t wear that,” a teenager will say, about perfectly good clothes, because those colours, that design is out of date. Those athletic shoes are good enough to last another couple of years, and were very expensive last year, but this year they are out of style. They are the wrong make, and the wrong design. It is not easy for Christians in humble circumstances.

What does the Bible say to a Christian who is broke and suffering? Listen to the two things James says:


Think of Lazarus’s position: his home was a pavement: he was in constant pain. But what was his true position? Do you measure it by his possessions, and his outward circumstances, and his bodily comforts alone?

He was loved by God from the foundation of the earth. In eternity he was given by God the Father to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved and kept by him. God then called Lazarus into fellowship with Christ. He had given Lazarus a new heart, made him a new creature, gave him the gift of faith, pardoned all his sins. Lazarus was a forgiven man. God had adopted Lazarus into his family and made him a son of God, a joint heir with Christ. He had ended sin’s reign over Lazarus and liberated him. Though he were a beggar he was free. The rich man in his house was a slave to his sins – with all his millions. Lazarus was joined to Jesus Christ. The Son of God lived in him, and he in the Son of God

This poor man was actually a glorified man. Paul put it this way in Romans 8:30, “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”(Romans 8:30 NASB).

The hope of glory has actually become a present reality because glorification is as certain as anything else that God does. So the Scripture does not say “will glorify” but “the Christian IS glorified” – it’s done. In Christ, Lazarus is seated at the right hand of God. That is his high position. This phrase, “high position” is used in the New Testament to describe the heavenly realms to which Christ has ascended. It describes the place from which the Holy Spirit descends. It is the place from which we await the appearing of the Lord Jesus who will then transform a sore-covered body licked by dogs into a body of glory. This place of glory was Lazarus’s home. Think of the elite addresses in the world.  What high position does Lazarus live in? The right hand of God! The heavenly places in Christ Jesus! That is really where he lives.

Think of the knowledge that Lazarus has.  He knew who God is and knew who man is. He knew that this is a God-designed and a God-created and a God-sustained world.  It was made as part of the beauty of the world to show the grandeur of its Creator.  Lazarus could see the flowers that grew in the dust around him and the stars in their loveliness. “I can understand why they are made,” he could say. Jesus tells us that it’s God who clothes the grass of the field. The heavens declare the glories of my Lord and Saviour. In the biggest things of life the poor man in Christ has a greater knowledge that Einstein.

There are biologists who know much about a flower but they don’t know why it is.  Because they don’t know God, they don’t know themselves and they don’t know the flower. But a humble believer in her garden actually knows the Creator of those living things and can talk to him and thank him for all he has made. That is something to rejoice in.

The poor man also knew the God of providence. He knew that God is working all things together for his good, that this God so loved him that every hair of his head was numbered. There were things that had happened to Lazarus that had brought him to the dreadful poverty in which he found himself. Maybe his parents had died when he was child. Things had been tough for him and he did not know all the reasons why, but he knew that one day God would make it plain.Lazarus could trust the Lord. This Shepherd would supply all his needs. Nothing would separate him from God’s love. Whatever forces came into his life he wouldn’t just conquer them, he’d be more than conqueror. This poor man could talk to the Lord, and he would hear and answer.That is the high position which every Christian of humble circumstances enjoys?

James goes on to the second thing. He says


Take pride in your high position.” “Glory in his high position.”

James tells the poor man, “you are in a high position and when you’ve realised this you’ll show it by delighting in it. “You ought to take pride in it,” he says. “You ought to feel so good about it.” All these truths about our status in Christ build up our morale, they make us encouraged. James is thinking of the poor believers and he wants them to be renewed daily. He wants what they know to make them happy. Barnabas was not a great preacher or evangelist or theologian, but he had this reputation of being a son of encouragement. He lifted people up wherever he went. People felt strong whenever he visited their church. They felt they could cope with their trials; they could stand in an evil day; they could overcome. James was acting like Barnabas here.James says, “Take pride in your high position.” Boast about it. Glory in God’s love for you, Christ dying for you, the Holy Spirit indwelling you. God wants that.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, in the opening verses, spoke to his disciples, and he said to them, “YOU are the light of the world. YOU are the salt of the earth.” Those 11 men were deeply flawed. They had no qualifications. They had not proved themselves. They had not preached any sermons. They had not suffered much for Christ. Yet he says to them, “You are the salt of the earth.” That was their high position.

Wasn’t there the danger of their pride in their position becoming pride in themselves? Yes but, it exists in all of biblical Christianity. Because salvation is by grace alone there is the danger of us saying, “Let’s sin more and more to give grace plenty of scope.”  There are dangers, but the Lord still said to them, “You are the light of the world.” And James says very carefully to this poor man, “Take pride in your high position.” God doesn’t mind us taking pride about what Christ has done for us. He doesn’t mind us glorying in the cross. Jesus said to these men, “I call you my friends. You really matter to me” Paul praises the congregations he writes to for their labor and love and patience and hope. They are Christian graces. They are created by the Holy Spirit. And he tells them how much he’s thrilled by their steadfastness. “We are being steadfast? That’s the first we heard of it.” Now that is not going to fill them with arrogance because it’s only because of God they produce steadfastness.

James is writing to this man who is nothing in the eyes of the world – they believe he is a crank,  but he matters to God and he matters to the people of God. And James wants all these people to take pride in God’s love for them and all he has done.This is not the teaching of the self-esteem movement. James is not saying, “Poor man you are great in yourself. Love yourself. Feel good about yourself.” He is lifting this man up to the heavenlies. He is reminding Lazarus of his status in Christ. This man can only boast in the Lord, and take pride in what God has done for him. “I the chief of sinners am but Jesus died for me.”

The poet Shelley’s wrote about a traveller who had been to an antique land and there in its vast sands he had come across the ruins of a huge monument – “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert.” That’s all that’s left of what was once a huge imposing statue. The legs of someone. It’s a ruin. Then the traveller looked and saw there was an inscription. It said these words, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.” Even the man’s name has been forgotten. “Ozymandias”? “King of kings “? He’s nothing. He’s nobody. He is utterly insignificant, forgotten by history. That’s the real message of the statue. This man once boasted in himself, and was proud of himself and everything he had done. He actually esteemed himself so highly that he had this statue erected. Now what remains of this man? Shelley says, “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Don’t merely accept yourself as a man. That’s the message of humanism. That’s what Ozymandias did. God says, “Let not the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD” (Jer.9:23). Accept yourself in Christ, James says, and take pride in this. “He loved me and gave himself for me.” Boast in that. Look at verse 5 in the next chapter. James says, “Listen my dear brothers. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him” (James 2:5)

Only one life, ’twill soon be past;

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Original message by GEOFF THOMAS August 2 1998http://www.alfredplacechurch.org.uk/Sermons/james4.htm

Edited by standrewscumberland

Categories: Bible Study, James | 1 Comment

Coming to God on God’s Terms – Leviticus 1

English: High priest offering a sacrifice of a...

English: High priest offering a sacrifice of a goat, as on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; from Henry Davenport Northrop, “Treasures of the Bible,” published 1894 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leviticus is a book that is seldom studied – yet it contains the second greatest command according to Jesus.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Leviticus 19:18.  This is going to be an attempt to put up some reasonable commentary about a book that truly is difficult to understand.  Original material from Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III and edited by standrewscumberland – link to original at bottom.

Leviticus and the second half of Exodus are linked together.  The second half of Exodus deals with the tabernacle.  Then, at the end of the book (the tabernacle, sitting right in the middle of the camp) is filled with the glory of God.  Exodus 40:34-35 says, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” This tabernacle was sitting right in the middle of Irael and the. Awesome glory of the Lord was filling it.  It was so great that even Moses was unable to enter it.  And if Moses was unable to enter the tabernacle, the the questin that needed to be answered is this: “How is ny other person supposed to relate to this God in the middle of the camp.  That is what the book of Leviticus is all about.

The book of Leviticus can be divided into 2 sections.

  • Chapters 1-16: Teaching on 4 subjects:
  • Chapters 17-27: The holiness code for Israel.

Chapters 1-16

  • Chapters 1-7 discusses regulations about the five great sacrifices.  These are gone over twice; first in chapters 1-5 and a second time in chapters 6-7.The first time, they are described based upon what’s needed for the one who wants to offer a sacrifice (the one who needs to be atoned for, the one who wants to come into fellowship with God, or the one who wants to thank God.)The second time, it describes what are the requirements of the priest who is handling the offering or sacrifice.  This way you not only get a different perspective, but also a fuller understanding of what’s going on.These sacrifices are individual and they were voluntary.  “When any man of you brings a sacrifice….”  This is a personal sacrifice that takes place when a person feels the need.
  • In chapters 8-10, there is the formal initiation of the Aaronic priesthood.
  • In chapters 11-15 there is teaching on what is clean and unclean.
  • In chapter 16, there are the rituals of the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur.
6 functions of the ceremonial system.  
  • 1) Help people experience the presence of God.  Three times in chapter 1, it says that God was pleased with the soothing aroma of the sacrifice, and that the believer was found acceptable and was able to draw near to Him. The sacrificial system was designed to allow people to draw near and experience the presence of the Lord.  The purpose of the tabernacle being in the middle of camp was so that the people of Israel would always remember that God was present.

When God was about to destroy the people after the golden calf incident and then relented after Moses’ prayer, he said, “OK, I won’t destroy them, but I won’t go up with them—I’ll clear the way before them, but I won’t go up with them.”  Moses then prayed, “Lord, if You’re not going to go up with us, if You’re not going to be right in our midst, then just kill us here.” (paraphrase).  The tabernacle was the visible proof that God was there and the ceremonial system was the way people could experience that presence.  By doing sacrifices, you got to draw near to the tabernacle, which was near the Holy of Holies, the focal point of the presence of God.

  • 2) Provide a way to give thanks to God.  A thankful heart is a contented heart, and a thankful heart helps people endure times in which things are not going our way.  The people of Israel would need this to endure the many difficult times ahead. One of the quickest ways to ruin your experience of blessing is to not thank God in a tangible way.  The ceremonial system in  one of the five sacrifices, was designed to cultivate thankfulness.
  • 3) Renew fellowship with God.  There was a sacrifice in the first five sacrifices that was specifically designed to allow the believer to renew fellowship with God.
  • 4) Deepen the believer’s prayer life. 
  • 5) Show the need for forgiveness.  As Christians, we see that the ceremonial system also pointed to the way that those sins would be forgiven.
  • 6) Bring the whole congregation into contact with the tabernacle.  This would happen not only during  during the festivals but also at different times during the ordinary course of life. It was an invitation from God: “Draw near to Me, my people, and bring to Me these sacrifices.”
The Tabernacle, Camp, & c.

The Tabernacle, Camp, & c. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now to Chapter 1.

1 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 anyone among you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.

“‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you. You are to slaughter the young bullbefore the Lord, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting. You are to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

10 “‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, from either the sheep or the goats, you are to offer a male without defect. 11 You are to slaughter it at the north side of the altar before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall splash its blood against the sides of the altar. 12 You are to cut it into pieces, and the priest shall arrange them, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. 13 You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to bring all of them and burn them on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

14 “‘If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon. 15 The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off the head and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar.16 He is to remove the crop and the feathers and throw them down east of the altar where the ashes are. 17 He shall tear it open by the wings, not dividing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is burning on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

Verses 1 and 2 is an introduction to the whole book and especially chapters 1-7.  The people of God are still at Sinai having previously worshiped another god but now having experienced God coming into the tabernacle. God is now speaking to Moses and giving him instructions for how the people and priests are to draw near to Him.

Verses 3-9 are the start of instructions about burnt offerings.  The burnt offerings are also called the holocaust offering because the whole thing goes up in smoke before the Lord.

We have four sections:

  • The introduction (1 and 2).
  • Instruction about the burnt offering of the herd (verses 3-9);
  • Instructions about the burnt offering that comes from the flock (verses 10-13);
  • Instructions about the burnt offering of birds (verses 14-17).

These are all the same offering.  There are different types of burnt offerings which are acceptable from the people of God because of economic status.  Some were rich and could offer a burnt offering from the herd and some were poor and all they could offer is the burnt offering of birds. So God made provision so that everyone in Israel, from richest to poorest, was able to make a burnt offering if they desired.

Now notice again, in verse 1 we read:

“Then the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying,  “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock.”

Verses 10-17: 2 lessons

God cares how we worship Him.

The voluntary, personal, and spontaneous nature of these sacrifices speaks of heart motivation to worship God.  This book, just like in the second half of the book of Exodus—was concerned to teach that God cares how we worship Him.  Notice the detail in this first chapter.  God told them where to slaughter the animal; where to put its blood; how to divide it or not to divide it; He went into minute detail because He cares how we worship Him.

The book of Hebrews says that this ceremonial ritual has now been transcended in Jesus Christ, but the principle is still there.  David Peterson, the Anglican Bible scholar defines worship from his study of Hebrews this way:  “Worship is engaging with God on the terms that He proposes, and by the means which only He can provide.”

You could use that definition for Leviticus.  The principle is the same: we come near to God on his terms.  We don’t come in any way we choose.  We come on the basis of the term that He proposes, and through the means which He alone makes possible.  ‘Come to me and I will receive you,” He says, ‘if you come with this burnt offering, with this atoning sacrifice which is to be lifted up to Me.’

We learn here that God cares about how we worship.  That’s not just an Old Testament principle, that’s a New Testament principle.  You can’t say,  “I want to be a friend of God, but you know, I’m just a little iffy about Jesus.  Jesus is a wonderful man, great moral prophet, but I can’t believe that He’s the sinless Son of God and Savior of sinners.  I’ll come to God some other way.”  Worship is engaging with God on the terms that He proposes, and by the means which He alone makes possible.  No man comes to the Father but by the Son, and it is Jesus’ very fulfillment of this sacrificial system that establishes that truth beyond all question of recall.

So there’s the first thing:  God cares about how we worship Him.

The Lord accepts and communes with those who come into His presence through the death of an atoning sacrifice.

Let’s look in some detail at verses 3-9.  Notice three or four things about this passage.

First of all, this burnt offering is sometimes called the holocaust, coming from the Hebrew olah, to refer to this burning, and the smoke going up to the Lord of this sacrifice.  It all goes up in smoke.

This is the only one of the five great sacrifices that is wholly given over to the Lord.  The other sacrifices have parts of those sacrifices that are held back for the priests, or even shared in by the one offering the sacrifice. This sacrifice is wholly given to the Lord.  It is wholly consumed before the Lord, and it is clear that this sacrifice indicates that no one can approach  or be  acceptable to the Lord, without a substitutionary sacrifice.

“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord.  He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.” (verse 3)

The main function of this sacrifice was to render atonement or render propitiation or to quit the righteous wrath of God. Yahweh is a God that you cannot commune with in your sin and defilement.  But He made provision through this  sacrifice so one who desired to come into the presence of the Lord and commune with Him could.

 What about the blood of the sacrifice?  The blood is the life force of us and it is the life force of the animal.  Draining the blood assured the death of the animal.

It is significant that there was always two parts to every sacrifice of an animal, the blood and the body.

Jesus on the night in which He was given up said: “This is My body, which is given for you.  This is My blood of the covenant, which was poured out for you.”  Jesus was speaking of Himself and about His death in the terms of the two parts of the Old Testament levitical sacrifice of the burnt offering.  Jesus was explaining His death and the significance of it to His disciples in terms which were unmistakable.  We lay our hands upon that sacrifice as we enter into the tent of meeting, and when we do so, we own that that animal is our property, and that that animal symbolizes us.  It is our symbolic substitute. And that we are offering ourselves symbolically through that animal.

Paul’s wrote in Romans 12:1-2:  “Render yourself as a living sacrifice, acceptable to God….”  Paul is drawing on this very language, out of the book of Leviticus and the Old Covenant sacrificial system.

One final question: Why were there different kinds of offerings?  We have them from the herd, from the flock, and from birds. Two reasons:  one, so that everyone in Israel, rich or poor, could offer; secondly, and just as importantly, because the principle is established in the sacrificial system that no one should come to God with a sacrifice that costs him nothing.  And so, the beginning of the teaching of God of the costliness of the ultimate sacrifice begins here.

May we always be willing to offer God that which cost us!

You can read the original, unedited versin of ths sermon here:


Categories: Bible Study | Leave a comment

Still in Matthew

English: Folio 9 from the codex; beginning of ...

English: Folio 9 from the codex; beginning of the Gospel of Matthew (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week we visited our old church – the one we attended 8+ years ago.  The pastor did a great job preaching out of Matthew.  The interesting thing was that he was preaching through the book of Matthew when we left.  At the time, he said that he intended on preaching on this book the rest of his ministry.

When I asked some friends who still go there, I found out that this was a continuation of the series from more than 8 years ago!

It is really amazing all the spiritual nourishment you can get when you read deeply and study even one book in the Bible!

Categories: Visiting Church | Leave a comment

Our future apartment

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OK, it’s not a 5 star hotel – that’s what the university said.  But still, it looks pretty comfortable to me.  This is where we will be living in less then 2 months.  I’m pretty excited about it.

Categories: Getting Started | Leave a comment

We have an offer

Saturday, I woke up and went out to Star Bucks to drink coffee.  I wasn’t really expecting anything – but I decided to check my email.

WOW.  We have an offer to teach now in China.  Our contact sent a copy of the contract and we printed it out.  The rest of the day Saturday we spent going over the contract and discussing it with a good friend who is a professor.  After being reassured that everything looked OK, we sent off our replies on Monday afternoon.

Today I got another email back.  We will begin our first class on September 10, 2012!!!!!

English: huanggang 中文: 黄冈

English: huanggang 中文: 黄冈 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is exciting!  We have some pictures of the apartment.  It is in an 8 story building where they house teachers.  It is about 15 minutes walk to the new campus and they have a free bus if we need to teach at the old campus.

In approximately 2 weeks, the visa work will be finished and on the way here.

Huanggang Normal University is the name of where we will be teaching.

Categories: Getting Started | Leave a comment

Storm Damage July 7, 2012

The storms came and the tree did not stand

This afternoon, a storm came through town.  After several very hot and very calm days,  suddenly the skies opened up and rain pour down.  Not only rain came with the storms, wind did also.  The radio said they weren’t tornadoes, they were micro-bursts.  Whatever they were, they tore up quite a few trees.

A neighbor down the street often has signs in his yard proclaiming Bible verses.  One of them says, Gal. 6:7.  “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

It could not withstand the storm

A lot of people are deceived.  They think they are prepared for the storms of life.  They have deep roots and strong branches.  They are strong and healthy.  But then the storm hits.  The storm will come to every man in its own way.  When that happens, will you stand strong or will your inner weakness be revealed?

Think about your life.  Are you ready for storms to hit?  It may be it won’t be a complete uprooting of your life.  It may be only a few branches will blow off, a few leaves will be lost.

Just a small loss

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Shave and a Haircut – go to hel…

The Real Meaning of Leviticus 19:27-28

I believe that all scripture is inspired by God.  However, many passages ARE difficult to understand and can be misconstrued.  Paul wrote to study to show yourself approved unto God – rightly dividing or understanding the word of God.  Because this passage is used to discredit the Scriptures, it is important for believers to have a proper understanding of just what it is saying.

One of the most disgusting tactics used by those intent on destroying belief in the Scriptures is the taking of passages out of context, without proper study, and flinging them in other’s faces.  As an example, “You must not believe the Bible because Jesus says that if your eye causes you to sin – pluck it out.  You’ve already looked at pretty women – why haven’t you pulled your eye out?  Don’t you believe the Bible?”  This kind of infantile behavior is all too common and you probably cannot say anything to such a person.  The Bible warns against casting pearls before swine meaning, “If someone is intent on distorting your words and meaning, don’t argue.  It’s worthless.  Their mind is closed and facts won’t make any difference.”

Enjoy the study.

English: Group of Kohanim studying the Halacho...

English: Group of Kohanim studying the Halachot of Tumah and Taharah in anticipation of the coming of Moshiach. עברית: צוות כהנים עוסקים בלימוד הלכות טומאה וטהרה בצפייה לקראת ביאת המשיח. החל בכיוון השעון: פרץ הכהן, עמיחי הכהן, יעקב הכהן, יוסף הכהן, דוד הכהן, ויונתן הכהן (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Taken from http://www.karaite-korner.org/shaving.shtml – edited by standrewscumberland

Leviticus 19:27-28 says:

“(27) You shall not round the edge of your head, nor shall you destroy the edge of your beard. (28) And you shall not make a cutting for the dead in your flesh, nor shall you make a written tattoo upon you; I am YHWH.”

In these two verses we are forbidden to make four types of “cuttings”:

  • 1) Cutting the head or hair
  • 2) Cutting the face or beard
  • 3) Cutting the flesh
  • 4) Inscribing writing on the flesh

But what exactly is forbidden by these four commandments?  Are we really required to grow long Elvis-style side locks?  To understand these four commandments we must consider the meaning of the words in their immediate context as well as the broader context of the entire Old Testament and the ancient world in which the Bible was given.

The first commandment – rounding the side of one’s head.

This doesn’t mean that you cut your head but rather to cut your hair on your head. Specifically we are forbidden from rounding the “Pe’ah” of the head.

Pe’ah is often translated as corner or side-lock, but it actually has the meaning of “side” or “edge”. This is always the meaning of the word Pe’ah in hundreds of passages throughout the Scriptures such as “and for the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side (Pe’ah), twenty boards.” (Ex 26:20) and again” And the west side (Pe’ah) shall be the Great Sea, from the border as far as over against the entrance of Hamath. This is the west side (Pe’ah).” (Ezekiel 47:20).

To “round the edge of your head” means to cut off the hair around the sides of the head. Many folks think that this is talking about the pagan “bowl-cut”. A bowl-cut was an ancient hair-cut with pagan significance that was created by placing a round bowl on the head and cutting all the exposed hair.

However, when this command is repeated in Deuteronomy 14:1-2 we read: “…you shall not cut yourselves nor shall you place baldness between your eyes, for the dead.

Since most people don’t have hair “between the eyes” this phrase is usually understood as the hair on the front of the head above the eyes.  From this we learn two things from Deuteronomy 14.  First, we learn that the prohibition is not necessarily a bowl-cut, but making any baldness around the edges of the head. Second, we see that the prohibition is specifically dealing with mourning. That is, one is prohibited to make baldness in the head as an act of mourning “for the dead”. In ancient times, when someone died the surviving relatives were so distraught that they cut their skin until they bled and shaved bald spots on their head.

While cutting one’s hair may sound like a strange act of mourning to the modern reader, this was a common practice in the ancient world. In fact, the Scriptures even permits non-Israelites to perform this despised mourning practice in certain situations.  We read regarding the captive Gentile woman: “and she shall shave her head… and she shall cry over her mother and her father for a month of days” (Deuteronomy 21:12-14).  As an act of mercy, the Torah allows t

he heathen women to shave her head while she mourns her recently killed father and mother (cf. Deuteronomy 20:13-14).

That making bald spots on the head was a mourning practice is also mentioned by the prophets.  Amos 8:10 writes, “And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning for an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day.”  Micah 1:16 says, “Make yourself bald, and shear yourself for the children of thy delight; enlarge your baldness as the vulture; for they are gone into captivity from thee.

In ancient times, making bald spots on the head was an act of mourning along with lamentation, rending of clothes and donning of sackcloth. Thus when we are forbidden in Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 14 to “round the side of your head” and “place baldness between your eyes… for the dead” the meaning is that we may not shave our head or any part thereof as an act of mourning or sadness. There is no implication in the commandment in Leviticus 19 that we must grow side locks or pony tails. The only thing prohibited in Leviticus 19:27a is to shave the side of the head as an act of mourning. Were one to shave their head for stylistic reasons their would be no prohibition whatsoever.

We have seen thus far that the Israelite is forbidden to make cuts in his flesh and shave parts of his head as acts of mourning “for the dead”. In Leviticus 21 there is a similar prohibition that specifically applies to the Kohanim (descendants of Aaron). In Leviticus 21 the Kohanim are forbidden from becoming ritually impure from the dead with the exception of their immediate relatives. After listing the relatives that the Kohen may become impure from, we read:

“(4) A man shall not become impurified by his people to defile him. (5) They shall not make bald a baldness in their head nor shall they shave the edge of their beard and in their flesh they shall not cut a cut.” (Leviticus 21:4-5)

The context of the passage is explicitly defiling oneself for the dead. In this case the Kohanim are forbidden from various mourning practices. Not only are they forbidden from coming in contact with the dead bodies of their deceased friends but they are also forbidden from defiling themselves by making bald spots on their heads, by shaving their beards, and by cutting their skin. We see here that three of the prohibitions found in Leviticus 19 and Dt 14 are repeated in Leviticus 21. In all three passages both the implicit and explicit contexts are that of mourning practices. Every ancient person knew that one cut one’s skin or shaved one’s head as an act of mourning and it was these acts of mourning that are being prohibited in Leviticus 19. While the idea of mourning by cutting flesh and shaving may not be obvious today, we have seen that the Bible takes it as a given that cutting one’s flesh and shaving one’s head are common ways of mourning along with crying and wearing sackcloth.

It is worth noting that the Nazir made a vow not to shave his head (Numbers 6:5). At the end of the period of abstention, the Nazir would shave his entire head: “And the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the door of the tent of meeting, and shall take the hair of his consecrated head, and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of peace-offerings.” The reason the Nazir can  shave his entire head is because he’s not doing it as an act of mourning. In 2 Samuel 14:26 we read that Absalom, the son of King David, used to grow his hair long and then shave his head every year. Again, this was not an act of mourning and therefore it was permissible to shave the head.

The second commandment – shaving your beard.

Was shaving the beard was also a forbidden mourning rite? In other words, is the prohibition to shave the beard a general prohibition for all occasions or is it exclusively prohibited as an acts of mourning or sadness.

Perhaps the first clue regarding shaving one’s beard is the ritual purification of the “leper”. Leviticus 14:9 says: “And it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off; and he shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.” A person is required to shave his beard in certain situations and this is even an act of purification. Likewise, we read about the consecration of the Levites in Numbers 8:7: “And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification upon them, and let them cause a razor to pass over all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and cleanse themselves.”  Again we see that shaving the beard and indeed all the hair is not only permissible but can be an act of purification. In contrast, the prohibition of Leviticus 19 is to shave the head or beard as an act of mourning!

There are many biblical passages that make it clear  that shaving the beard was an act of mourning in ancient times. In Jeremiah 41:5, we read about a group of pilgrims mourning the destruction of the Temple: “There came certain men from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, eighty men, having their beards shaven and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with meal-offerings and frankincense in their hand to bring them to the house of YHWH.”  We see that these pilgrims were mourning and therefore tore their clothes, cut their skin, and shaved their beards.

The fact that shaving was an act of mourning may shed light on a passage that has often defied explanation. In 2 Samuel 9:1-4 we read that David sent emissaries to Hanun king of Amon to comfort him over the death of his father. For some reason Hanun became convinced that David’s emissaries had not come to comfort him but to spy out the land. In a strange act of retribution he decided to cut off half their beards and send them humiliated back to Israel. Thus we read:

“(2) …And David’s servants came into the land of the children of Amon. (3) But the princes of the children of Amon said unto Hanun their lord: ‘Do you think that David does honour your father, that he hath sent comforters to you? has not David sent his servants to thee to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?’ (4) So Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away.

It always seemed strange that Hanun and his advisors would suspect David’s emissaries of being spies without any seeming justification. Even stranger was his reaction to discovering spies be that he cut off their beards. Bearing in mind that ancient peoples shaved off their beards as an act of mourning “for the dead”, it becomes clear why Hanun’s advisors doubted that David’s men  had come to pay condolences. Probably Hanun and his cronies sat in the royal court with torn clothes, cut skin, and shaven beards. When David’s men arrived with full beards Hanun’s advisors assumed they were not coming to mourn the dead king but to spy out the land. For were they really coming to mourn the king they would have shaven their beards. To teach them respect of the dead and humiliate them at the same time, Hanun ordered that half their beards be cut off!

In summation, Leviticus 19:27-28, Leviticus 21:4-5, Deuteronomy 14:1-2 prohibit 4 different acts of mourning. These are:

1) Making a bald spot on the head as an act of mourning

2) Shaving the beard as an act of mourning

3) Cutting the skin as an act of mourning

4) Writing on the skin as an act of mourning

Interestingly, the making of tattoos as an act of mourning is the most elusive in the list. It is only mentioned once in Leviticus 19:28 and then never alluded to again in the Bible. Reference is made to writing on the flesh as an act of dedication to YHWH (Isaiah 44:5), but never as an act of mourning. Yet the practice of inscribing the name of the dead loved one in a tattoo still exists to this very day. Recently this practice has come to the attention of the public when it was reported that New York firemen and policemen were inscribing tattoos on their flesh in memory of their deceased comrades.

English: Dead Man Incorporated tattoo.

English: Dead Man Incorporated tattoo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope you enjoyed the study.

Categories: Controvery | Leave a comment

Maybe a University

English: The Jiuwanxi Bridge in Zigui County, ...

English: The Jiuwanxi Bridge in Zigui County, Hubei, China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Continuing the saga.  It looks more and more like we might be teaching in a University.  We have a school that is waiting for our documentation.  Today, we will pick up the doctor reports (basically a form that says we are in good health), we will go to Kinko’s and scan our passports and our diplomas. We will attach our letters of recommendation.

And then – the big moment!

We will email this across to the continent of Asia.  If all of this is acceptable – we might start teaching conversational English by September 1.

We have  prayed that God would make his way plain and this may be it.  This is the only place to that has responded to us at all.

Again – we feel like Abraham.  Will this work out?  God knows!  We can only act on faith.

English: The Jingzhou Bridge, Hubei, China

English: The Jingzhou Bridge, Hubei, China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Snake Hill (Sheshan) of Wuhan (Hubei, Chin...

The Snake Hill (Sheshan) of Wuhan (Hubei, China), topped by the Yellow Crane Tower, seen from the west (from the eastern end of the First Bridge). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Categories: Getting Started | Leave a comment

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