Monday, February 24, 2014

Can Leviticus Actually Be Good News?

It was said of Willie Mays that his glove was the place where triples went to die. I suppose it could be said that Leviticus is the place where Bible reading plans go to die.

Many a person has begun a Bible reading plan at the start of a new year with high hopes and the best of intentions. Things generally begin well. The stories found in Genesis keep things moving along and the mighty acts of God in Exodus usually keep the reader on track. 

Then something happens. That something is Leviticus. With all of its detail and minutiae regarding ceremonial law, many a reader simply loses interest. What, after all, does all of it have to do with the Gospel?

Against the backdrop of this reality comes a new commentary on Leviticus  by Dr. Jay Sklar from IVP's Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series. Jay is Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, where I took two semesters of Hebrew from him. As unbelievable as it may seem, each class period could truly be classified as a devotional experience. If a man can turn the study of Hebrew into a devotional experience, he can no doubt show us how the Gospel sings in Leviticus. That, after all, is what it is intended to do. 

He begins by pointing us to a vital, though often overlooked fact: Leviticus can only be properly understood in light of the story that immediately precedes it.
The story immediately before Leviticus is one in which the Lord redeems the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and enters into covenant relationship with them. They are to be his ‘treasured possession’ who are to fulfill a special role: being a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’, and in this way spreading the Lord’s kingdom of justice, mercy, goodness and love in all the earth. What is more, they are to do this with the Lord himself dwelling in their midst in the tent of meeting. If you were an Israelite, all of this would lead to some burning questions: How in the world can the holy and pure King of the universe dwell among his sinful and impure people? How can he live here, in our very midst, without his holiness melting us in our sin and impurity? And how can we live as his people in such a way that we really do extend his holy kingdom throughout the earth?
Leviticus answers these questions.
But that’s not all Leviticus does.
(I)t also casts a vision that takes the Israelites back to the Lord’s intent for humanity from the beginning of the world: to walk in rich fellowship with their covenant King, enjoying his care and blessing, and extending throughout all the earth his kingdom of justice, mercy, kindness, righteousness, holiness and love.
And all the while Jay reminds us, “If what we see in the Old Testament  is an acorn, what we see in Jesus is a magnificent oak. This is especially true for the themes of Leviticus.”

I am very thankful to have this commentary on my bookshelf and I highly recommend that you do the same.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Frozen, Freedom and the Gospel

If you (like me) have a pre-teen daughter, you have perhaps seen the Disney movie Frozen. Almost certainly you have heard your daughter sing the movie's hit song, Let It Go (performed above by Idina Menzel).

Trevin Wax offered some great thoughts on the movie and the song in a post today at his Kingdom People blog. He points out:
Thousands of little girls across the country are singing this song – a manifesto of sorts, a call to cast off restraint, rebel against unrealistic expectations and instead be true to whatever you feel most deeply inside. What’s ironic is that the movie’s storyline goes against the message of this song. When the princess decides to “let it go,” she brings terrible evil into the world. The fallout from her actions is devastating. “No right, no wrong, no rules for me” is the sin that isolates the princess and freezes her kingdom.
He goes on...
 A popular idea in our culture is that there are only two ways to live:
  1. Through authenticity, expressed in rebellion against cultural constraints
  2. Through an ordered life, expressed in rule-keeping
Neither of these paths are the way to true fulfillment though.Wax concludes,
Christianity teaches explicitly what Frozen only hints at: salvation comes not through self-discovery or self-restraint, but through self-sacrifice.

All across the country, little girls are singing about self-discovery. Let’s make sure that after they see the film, they are given songs about self-sacrifice.
 Read the whole post here.