Wednesday, February 23, 2011

That Which is Unclean

Up until now I have really enjoyed my reading through the Old Testament.  So many details that I have not noticed before have come to life.  It has been a wonderful time.

But I must admit, I am finding Leviticus to be a bit difficult to get through.

The details still surprise me.  But the details are so..detailed! 

Details about sacrifices, sin offerings, peace offerings, burnt offerings. 
I find it overwhelming.

Then I read this:
Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. Lev. 9:22-23

Moses and Aaron did as the Lord had commanded.  They offered the sacrifices, just as they were instructed; to make themselves clean.  Clean so they might enjoy the presence of God.  When they were done, the Lord made himself known. 

The Israelites sure did get it.  They shouted, and fell right on their faces!  When is the last time you were so overcome with the presence of God that you actually fell on your face?

Pretty impressive stuff.

God was basically saying, "Follow my directions, and I will make myself known to you."

Not missing a beat, Aaron's sons decided to join in on the fun.

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
         'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
         And before all the people I will be honored.'"
         So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

Moses said to Aaron, "Why are you so surprised?  This IS what God said!
Gotta love Moses.  For someone who was so timid in the beginning, he knew just what to say, didn't he?
God was letting the Israelites know, as clear as He could be,
If you do not follow instructions, you will not live.

God even instructed Aaron and his family how they were to react to his sons' death...

Moses called also to Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron's uncle Uzziel, and said to them, "Come forward, carry your relatives away from the front of the sanctuary to the outside of the camp." So they came forward and carried them still in their tunics to the outside of the camp, as Moses had said. Then Moses said to Aaron and to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, so that you will not die and that He will not become wrathful against all the congregation. But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the LORD has brought about. You shall not even go out from the doorway of the tent of meeting, or you will die; for the LORD'S anointing oil is upon you." So they did according to the word of Moses.
Lev. 10:4-7

God was serious.  He needed Moses and Aaron to demonstrate how serious HE was.  They needed to follow His instructions, completely, in order for the Israelites to understand that they needed to thoroughly follow those instructions, as well.

Details, details details.  Chapter after chapter of...details.

Here is another detail I found to be a bit much:

 Speak to the sons of Israel, saying,  These are the creatures which you may eat from all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these, among those which chew the cud, or among those which divide the hoof: the camel, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you. Likewise, the shaphan, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; the rabbit also, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.
 These you may eat, whatever is in the water: all that have fins and scales, those in the water, in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you, and they shall be abhorrent to you; you may not eat of their flesh, and their carcasses you shall detest. Whatever in the water does not have fins and scales is abhorrent to you.  Lev. 11: 2-13
My eyes started to glaze over after "Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs..."
I cannot help but wonder if the Israelites started daydreaming during this part.  Or maybe, after all that manna, they were a bit put out?   Did they eat camel back then?  I can imagine a rabbit, but a camel?  Was that something they indulged in before, or was it something they would not even DREAM of eating?  Were they rolling their eyes and groaning, like my twelve year old does when she is told no, or did all of this make sense to them? 
Is God concerned today about our eating habits?  If we were to adopt Levitical dietary restrictions today, would our health would dramatically improve?  Is His concern for shaphan (rock badger) well founded?  Will eating them clog up our arteries?
I keep thinking about a phrase I find myself saying to my kids quite a bit,  "We do not make these rules in order to torture you or make your life miserable.  We keep these rules because we love you, and want you to be healthy and safe." 
Is this what God was thinking?  Was He trying to keep his people healthy and safe?
It all seems to revolve around holiness.  He wanted to be sure the Israelites knew what was clean, and unclean.  He insisted on cleanliness, because He wanted to have a relationship with them. 
He wanted to maintain His presence.
And if they ventured into uncleanliness, there were rules about how to deal with it.  
What did Moses say after the death of Aaron's sons?

"It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
         'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
         And before all the people I will be honored.'"

Maybe Leviticus is not so pointless and overwhelming as I thought.

It's all in the details....

We should follow God's instructions. 
We should treat Him as holy. 
We should honor him before all the people. 

And if we do...
We will experience His presence. 

Promises from Psalm 37: 3-6

Trust in the LORD and do good;
 Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

 Delight yourself in the LORD;
 And He will give you the desires of your heart. 
 Commit your way to the LORD,
 Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
 And your judgment as the noonday

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