What a bloody, awful mess

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Are you impressed by God? Silly question, perhaps, but worth asking, I believe. We have tamed Him, explained away His majesty, and made ourselves so familiar with Him that we often lack the proper reverence that brings us to our knees and silences our complaints.

I am reading in Leviticus at present, a challenging book in the Bible for a modern mind, to be sure. It is full of ritual commands about what sacrifice to offer for what occasion. The details are, to our sensibilities, gross, involving slaughter, blood, and guts. Beyond the sacrificial details, there are specific commands about human behavior, what is right, what should be punished. It is often harsh, downright brutal, to our understanding.

What’s the point of it all? The book is about being HOLY. In every line, the message is that God is not a familiar Big Guy, that He is not like the fickle gods worshipped by other nations. God reminded His people, in rich symbolism, that He was present among them. However, He was not to be trivialized, marginalized, or approached with a casual or flippant attitude. The bloody, awful sacrifices were an object lesson in the cost of sin, demanding ‘life for life.’

In our sophistication we may wish to avert our eyes from the Cross, but the truth remains that we, too, are reconciled to our Holy God by sacrifice; the atoning sacrifice of His Son.  The writer of Hebrews is clear about how we become acceptable to God, our Creator – “When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:11-14, NIV)

This theme of holiness extends to our era, to us as His people, too. In the New Testament, Peter refers to Leviticus 19:2 where we read: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2, NIV) He amplifies the call – “As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16, The Message)

We belong to Him, are called to offer ourselves as ‘living sacrifices.’  Our words, our choices, should reflect an awareness that He is present, powerful, and seeking our devotion. Does that mean we are people without humor, that we must never find pleasure in the simpler things of life? Not at all. That caricature of ‘holiness’ creeps into the Church and becomes a new “Law,” robbing us of the joy of the Lord. Genuine holiness grows out of our intimate knowledge of the Holy One. We love Him and choose to do nothing that we know would be displeasing in His sight.

Yes, He is a Holy God, but we do not cower before Him, nor do we run from His Presence. We come before Him boldly, yet in reverence, because Jesus has removed our guilt and given us the gift of being the children of God.  Read the opening chapters of Leviticus! Let the ‘otherness’ of God be impressed on you. Then, give thanks for the Perfect Sacrifice that makes you God’s own possession. Take up that high calling to serve a holy God.

The word from the Word says “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” (1 Peter 2:9-11, NLT)

Abba, I am so grateful for Your declaration of my identity in Christ.
Today, may I be that kind of person who reverences You in Your holiness,
yet loves You intimately because of Your love.
As a priest, may I connect Heaven’s grace with the needs of earth.
As part of Your holy nation may ever choice reveal the beauty of Your reign.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

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