Day 57: The Judge & The Healer

Numbers 15-17; Mark 6:30-56

Key Verses

Numbers 15:37-41
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”

The people needed a reminder… a daily, visual cue – to obey the Lord. Their hearts were prone to wander – to lust after lesser gods. We see it in Numbers 16-17 – how the people didn’t trust Moses, how the people rose up against the priesthood – how they wanted to be their own god.

God didn’t care much for the rebels. They died in a public display of power as the earth swallowed them whole. They obviously didn’t remember to regard their tassels that day! ;)

The tradition of wearing tassels continued into Jesus’ day. We read in Mark 6…

And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well (Mark 6:56).

The Greek word for fringe is the equivalent of the Hebrew word for tassel. Jesus wears the tassels – but instead of being a reminder to obey, they were a source of healing.

God is both the Holy Judge and the Tender Healer. So, Come… Bow to touch the fringe of his garment and rest in the arms of your Savior.

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Day 51: The Precision of God

Numbers 3-4; Mark 3:22-35

Key Verses

Numbers 3:9-10
And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood.

Mark 3:35
“For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Numbers 3 & 4 concentrate on numbering the Levites.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine” (Numbers 3:12).

The ESV Study Bible explains: “In the last plague, every firstborn male Egyptian and every firstborn of their cattle died, but the Israelite boys and cattle were spared. So after this, all Israelite firstborn boys and cattle were dedicated to God. That meant the cattle were sacrificed and the boys should have served God in the sanctuary Ex. 11:4–13:15. But after the golden calf incident, the Levites took the place of the firstborn boys Ex. 32:25–29. The census showed there were 273 fewer Levites than first-born males in the other tribes. To redeem those 273 Israelites who had no Levite to take their place, five shekels (Num. 3:47) per person had to be paid. This is the tariff prescribed in Lev. 27:6 for boys under five. Five shekels would have been about a year’s pay for a herdsman.”

Do you notice the precision of God? Nothing was overlooked. Every detail was considered and described. God is a God of order, not chaos :)

Mark 3 contains a difficult saying of Jesus that is found in all 3 of the synoptic gospels…

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29).

It is helpful to consider the precise nature of God’s character when interpreting this verse. Jesus was not being elusive. His speech was plain and precise. But what did he mean… exactly?

To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to persistently reject his saving work in your life. The Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that Jesus is Lord. The Holy Spirit softens and humbles our hearts to ask for salvation and forgiveness. To reject the work of the Spirit is, in essence, forfeiting the chance for forgiveness. If you have been saved by the work of the Spirit, then this “eternal sin” is impossible for you to commit. Only those who refuse to be saved remain “unforgivable.”

God is clear. God is precise. There is one true God and one way to salvation….only through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. There is no sin we can commit that can trump the power of His sacrifice – except to reject Him. That would be a very sad, “eternal” mistake.

Day 48: Made clean

Leviticus 24-25; Mark 1:21-45

Key Verses

Leviticus 25:18
“Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely.”

Mark 1:27
And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Leviticus continues today with more laws illustrating God’s holiness and justice. Remember the purpose of these laws as you read… God was forming a nation that would be set apart from the other nations. They were to deal compassionately with the poor (25:23-55). Laws were established to protect the land (25:1-7) and also give each generation a chance to earn a living in an agricultural society (25:8-17). Judges were to give fair sentences that equaled the severity of the crimes (24:17-23).

Imagine the peace and prosperity that would come to the people if they obeyed all that the Lord commanded! His plans have always been and remain… good.

But for those of us who find it difficult to see God’s goodness in the law… He sent his Son to demonstrate his love in human form. Let’s look at one scene from today’s reading in Mark…

And a leper came to [Jesus], imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, [Jesus] stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean (Mark 1:40-42).

This passage should have deeper meaning after reading through Leviticus… The leper was ceremonially unclean (Lev. 13). According to the law, if Jesus touched him, he would also be made unclean. But Jesus chose to touch him. Why? Jesus’ love and compassion were so powerful that instead of making Jesus unclean, his touch made the leper clean.* Doesn’t Jesus do the same for us?? That’s the gospel! And that’s good news :)

*This observation came from the study notes of the ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles

Day 46: The Great Reversal

Leviticus 21-22; Matthew 28

Key Verses

Leviticus 22:21
And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it.

Matthew 28:5-7
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.

Leviticus 21-22 are difficult passages for me. Taken alone, they could portray God as uncompassionate and harsh. Especially difficult are the passages referring to “without blemish.” No priest or animal could have a blemish. That meant no blind priests in the tabernacle. Hunchbacks were not tolerated. Even if your hand was injured, you were not allowed. This seems like a different God than the one who made the blind see and the lame walk.

But I have an idea… What if God is painting a picture of his original design? What if he is pointing back to what should have been – before sin entered the world… Sin corrupted everything… even our physical bodies. Disability, sickness, and death were not part of God’s original plan. There was no “blemish” before sin.

But the resurrection of Christ undoes the effects of sin. It is the resurrection which begins the great reversal. What did C.S. Lewis write in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe?

Though the witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. But if she could have looked a little further back… she would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.

Yes! Death is working backward. We live in the time after the resurrection… when God takes our blemishes and redeems them – and he transforms them – and then he makes them into something…good.

Day 45: The Deep, Deep Love of God

Leviticus 18-20; Matthew 27:32-66

Key Verses

Leviticus 20:26
You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

Matthew 27:50
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

I see God’s character ringing loudly through these chapters. I see the goal of restoring the world to its original creation design. I see compassion for the poor, reasonable dealings with others, jealousy for the worship of His people, a passion for purity and the grand plan to distinguish a people for His glory. And then we see the ultimate sacrifice… As God, himself dies to redeem his oh-so-lost-children.

And to think that I’ve doubted His goodness. And I’ve dared to doubt His love. Oh Lord, forgive me.

Day 43: The Story of All Stories

Leviticus 16; Matthew 26:57-75

Key Verses

Leviticus 16:34
“And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.”

Matthew 26:65-66
Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He, [Jesus,] has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

Leviticus 16 describes the Day of Atonement. It was this day, only once a year, that the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place and make atonement for himself and for the people. The sins of the people were ceremonially transferred to a goat, the scapegoat, and it carried the iniquity of the people away to the wilderness.

The temple, the ceremonies, the High Priest… all of it pointed forward to the Messiah. But the people didn’t expect the Messiah, their Savior, to be a suffering servant. Even Peter, compelled by fear and crushed by the grief of unmet expectations, denied knowing Jesus in the end. And ironically, it is the High Priest, the appointed mediator between God and the people, that sentences the Messiah to death. Christ is left alone to accomplish what He alone could do.

John Bloom writes from the September 18, 2010 entry of the Desiring God blog: “Jesus turned out to be far more than the Messiah had been expected to be. He was the consummate temple, Passover lamb, sacrificed goat, scapegoat, high priest, prophet and the King of kings.”

God can write a story! God is the ultimate author, originating all literary techniques such as irony, foreshadowing, symbolism. And to think… we are actually characters in His story. Amazing…

But when Christ came as the high priest of the good things we now have, he entered the greater and more perfect tent. It is not made by humans and does not belong to this world. Christ entered the Most Holy Place only once—and for all time. He did not take with him the blood of goats and calves. His sacrifice was his own blood, and by it he set us free from sin forever. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a cow are sprinkled on the people who are unclean, and this makes their bodies clean again. How much more is done by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:11-14. NCV).

Day 41: The Priesthood

Leviticus 8-10; Matthew 26:26-56

Key Verses

Leviticus 9:7
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the Lord has commanded.”

Matthew 26:27-28
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

As first instructed back in Exodus 29, Leviticus 8 records the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. It is a glorious time – a monumental event in the history of the Israelite people! The priesthood has been established! God has provided a way for a sinful people to draw near to a holy God!

Leviticus 9 records Aaron’s first priestly duties. It sets forth a model of worship that remains relevant to the believer today…

  • He begins by offering a sin offering first for himself and then for the people. Having atoned for the sins of the congregation,
  • He offers a burnt offering as a sign of total devotion and thanksgiving to the Lord.
  • Finally, Aaron offers a peace offering as a symbol that God and the people have been reconciled through the blood of the offerings.

God was pleased with Aaron, and the offerings were accepted! Aaron and the priesthood would now act as the mediator between God and the people.

Leviticus 10 is a severe reminder that worship is not just a list of duties to be performed, but must come from an undivided heart. All four of Aaron’s sons failed to keep a portion of the priestly duties. Aaron’s oldest sons were killed for offering “unauthorized fire.” The implication was that they were cavalier in their duties. God does not tolerate flippant pride. Aaron’s younger two sons did not eat the sin offering as commanded. But they were spared because their motivation was out of fear for the holiness of God. God has always been more concerned with the heart than with outward actions.

In fact, Jeremiah prophesied that there would be a new covenant and it would be written on the heart.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel… I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jesus is the mediator of this new covenant – the covenant of grace. He institutes “the Lord’s supper” as he eats his last meal with the disciples recorded in Matthew 26. Jesus says that this is the “blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). We celebrate this new covenant each time we take communion. It is a meal that points forward to a day when we will eat and drink with Jesus face to face…

“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

Until that day, we are called to worship our God with all of our heart…

  • Because of Jesus’ perfect sin offering, we can draw near to God.
  • We make our burnt offering as we devote our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord (Rom 12:1),
  • And we make our peace offering as we confess the gospel of reconciliation to the world.

According to Peter, we are now the priesthood! And we are to offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5).

Day 39: Our Compassionate God

Leviticus 4-6:7; Matthew 25:31-46

Key Verses

Leviticus 5:17-18
“If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven.

Matthew 25:34
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'”

The parable of the sheep and the goats has always scared me. I’m just not “sheep” material. I don’t visit prisons or volunteer in soup kitchens. I’m totally a goat… Right?

Thankfully, Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 can’t be interpreted in a vacuum. We know from New Testament teaching that salvation can not be earned. You could be the most altruistic person on the planet – but you would still far short of admittance to heaven. The standard is perfection. None of us can reach it.

So we know that the sheep are those made righteous by faith alone. But Matthew 25 does reveal what the definitive characteristic of a Christian should be… Compassion.

Why compassion? Because the Lord is compassionate.

What motivated God to set apart the Israelite people, to give them rituals and laws? Why did He deal with their grumbling and stubbornness? Compassion.

Today’s reading in Leviticus is a bright, full-colored picture of His compassion toward His people. First, we see that sin is serious. It can’t be overlooked. It provokes the wrath of our holy God, and his wrath must be appeased. But God, knowing that we are by nature, sinful, provides a way to deal with sin. The sin and guilt offerings are pictures of making atonement for the sin – and ultimately they point forward to the Savior, who will offer the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin.

God is holy; therefore, His wrath is justified. God is holy; therefore, His compassion is sufficient. Compassion for others comes from a correct view of oneself: I am tainted by sin. Therefore, I am in desperate need of compassion! And having received the abundant, flowing compassion from God, I should be compelled to let that compassion overflow into others’ lives. That is the mark of a “sheep.” That is the mark of Christ!

Day 36: The Tabernacle

Exodus 37-38; Matthew 23:1-39

Key Verses

Exodus 38:21
These are the records of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were recorded at the commandment of Moses, the responsibility of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.

Matthew 23:17
You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?

The Law was born on the glory of the mountain, written on stone tablets by the finger of God and encased in the ark. The ark was made of pure gold and it alone was found behind the veil – in the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies. It was behind the veil where the presence of the Lord came down and His glory shone above the mercy seat of the Ark.

Just on the other side of the veil, in the Holy Place, stood the Altar of Incense – which would continually burn the holy Incense, pleasing to the Lord. Inside the Holy Place were also the  Table for the Bread of the Presence and the Golden Lampstand – both pointing forward to Jesus, the Bread of Life and the Light of the World.

The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place comprised the tabernacle which was made of the finest linen with blue, purple and scarlet yarns. The Tabernacle was surrounded by the court. The Bronze Basin, used for ceremonial washings, stood between the Bronze Altar and the entrance to the Tabernacle. After offering a sacrifice on the altar, the priest would then wash in the basin before entering the Holy Tabernacle.

Each act – every priestly duty – was ordained by God to daily remind the people of their sin and His holiness.

Time marched forward and God’s word was diluted. The priests and religious leaders of Jesus’ day distorted God’s holy law to exalt themselves and to line their pockets with the people’s guilt offerings. Jesus was disgusted. The holy tabernacle was defiled by pride.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in  (Matthew 23:13).

Jesus, who perfectly fulfills every requirement of the law… Jesus who would become the final Passover Lamb… Jesus, the God of the Covenant laments over His people.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:37-38).

The word “house” was an expression for “temple.” The temple, the dwelling place of God, is desolate. And Jesus weeps.

Day 35: Who is This God?

Exodus 34-36

Key Verses

Exodus 34:6-7
“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…”

Who is this God we worship? He is merciful. He is gracious. He is slow to anger. He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. But he will not let the guilty go free.

Who is this God we worship? That Moses’ face shone with glory after speaking with Him on the mountain?

Who is this God we worship? That he sovereignly placed skilled craftsmen among the Israelites so that His tabernacle could be built perfectly.

Who is this God we worship? He is the God who condescended to us. He made us His people by the sacrificial work of His Son. We are His people, and He. Is. Our. God.