Leviticus 19-20; Psalm 36
So far in Leviticus we've read through the intricate guide to ritual sacrifices, covering Burnt, Grain, Peace, and Sin Offerings. Each type serves a distinct role, from voluntary commitment to dealing with unintentional sins.
We then read about the ordination of priests. They were marked by cleansing, dressing, and anointing, underscoring their sacred duty. However, Aaron's sons ignored God's commands and did their own thing. This led to their death.
The focus then shifted to ritual purity. We read through dietary laws and practices around childbirth, skin diseases, and mould. These rules are less about health and more about maintaining spiritual and physical cleanliness before God.
After that, we read about The Day of Atonement. This introduced a comprehensive annual sacrifice to cover all unintentional sins. The high priest cleansed himself, the sanctuary, and the people using the blood of a goat. He then took all the sins of the people and placed them on a second goat. This second goat, loaded up with the toxic waste of a nation's sins, is then sent into the chaotic wilderness.
We then transitioned into strict guidelines on sexual relations. These laws aim to preserve family structures, crucial for the Israelites' identity and growth as a nation. These rules were a warning not to live in the same way that Egypt or Canaan do, but to live in a way that leads to their flourishing.
This passage is sometimes known as the Holiness code. We can see this because it starts and ends with a call from God to be holy because he is holy. In between, we get a list of rules and instructions, most of which we’ve seen before.
The lesson to be learnt is in order to be holy, to share in God’s presence, we need to be obedient to what he says. This is separate, but also deeply linked with being clean and pure before God.
As Christians we can be made clean and pure because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, but if we continue to choose to be disobedient, we will never enjoy God’s presence.
Spread within these rules that God lists through again are the Ten Commandments. Jesus summed up these into two parts: “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ... love your neighbour as yourself. (Matthew 22:37, 39).
We see this idea already coming through here. We start with a block of rules concerning our relationship with God, followed by a block of rules concerning our relationships with others.
After that we read God saying “you shall keep my statutes” followed by a whole collection of different rules. These range from how to treat your cattle and your fruit-bearing trees, to avoiding fortune tellers, mediums and necromancers, to respecting the elderly and the foreigner, just to name a few.
Most of these are repeats of what we have seen already. This time, the focus is on obedience to be holy, as well as to be clean.
In Leviticus 20, we get another long section on child sacrifice and sexual immorality. This is very similar to Leviticus 18, and the reasons are the same. To maintain and to grow the family. The fact that they are given another big section here shows how important it is to keep sex in its right place.
In the New Testament, Paul says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18). The message God wants to drill into his people is sex is powerful and dangerous and needs to be treated with respect and used properly.
Then, as mentioned, God rounds it off with another call to be holy. If you obey my laws, if you refuse to live like everyone else but stick with my ways, if you keep yourself clean, then you will be holy like me. Then you can enjoy my presence.
This psalm is attributed to king David and is often placed in the category of lament, but this is loose and tentative. It is based on Psalm 36:11, where the psalmist finally makes a request for protection. This would suggest that they are going through struggles, but that’s the extent that this psalm reflects a lament psalm.
As we’ll see, this psalm is a wisdom psalm blended with a prayer psalm. It speaks of the wisdom of God’s order and then invites that order down to earth.
a) Psalm 36:1-4 - The folly of the wicked
b) Psalm 36:5-9 - The steadfast love of God
b) Psalm 36:10 - Let your steadfast love continue
a) Psalm 36:11-12 - Let the wicked fall
The first section looks like a wisdom psalm, teaching on the foolishness of the wicked. They fear God and have no integrity. They flatter, but speak deceitfully. They have stopped choosing wisdom and instead have set themselves down a path where they no longer reject evil.
Typically, a wisdom psalm would contrast this first section with a section on those who are righteous. But instead of focusing on humans who are righteous, the psalmist compares the wicked with God’s righteousness and steadfast love.
God’s faithfulness and love are never ending. They are precious, protecting God’s people from wicked and sustaining them. God is the source of all life..
It’s at this point the psalm switches into a prayer psalm. Motivate by the wisdom of God’s love, the psalmist asks for more of God’s love. May it continue.
Then, motivated by the folly of the wicked, the psalmist asks that God deal with them. May their wickedness fail, and they lay fallen, defeated by God.
In this psalm, we see that the foolishness of the wicked comes from their rejection of God’s faithfulness and love. God’s love is sustaining. We also see how wisdom (in our case, theology) isn’t meant to be just head knowledge, but it to lead us to prayer.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.