Stop Following Old Laws

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 20.22-14
22 “ ‘Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. 24 But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations. 

Psalm 25.12-15
12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? 
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. 
13 They will spend their days in prosperity, 
and their descendants will inherit the land. 
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him; 
he makes his covenant known to them. 
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord, 
for only he will release my feet from the snare. 

Reflection: Stop Following Old Laws
By John Tillman

God does not desire for people to perish but to flourish. His prohibitions are not designed to cause denial or suffering but to bring out fulfillment and pleasure. 

Godly wrath, punishment, and judgment come from love for victims. There is no such thing as victimless crime. Yet, even the harshest earthly penalties, cannot truly compensate victims for their sufferings. They are still only tokens, looking forward to the true justice that would be wrought by the sacrifice of Jesus. 

God desires the best for all people, even perpetrators. Victims are not the only ones harmed by sin. Perpetrators of violence, promiscuity, and greed harm themselves, in addition to their victims. God’s prohibitions are flashing red warning lights that say, “I love you. Don’t do this.” Every stroke of a pen in the Law is an arrow pointing away from harm and toward blessing for ourselves and others.

However, when we are convinced of our own righteousness, we argue against the righteousness of God. The surest way Satan tempts us to sin, perhaps the only way he ever has tempted us to sin, is to convince us that God is unjust.

These laws also were intended to shape God’s people into something new. All nations and empires were (and are) sinful and unjust. Israel was to be different. All humans victimized others. They were to be different. All humans considered sexuality as just another tool of manipulation and control. They were to be different. All peoples considered themselves better than all others. They were to be different.

We think of laws from the Bible as “old” and irrelevant. But the cultural laws we follow today were old before God’s law came:

“The strong will survive.”
“Eat, drink, and be merry.”
“Get it while you can.”
“Do what is best for you.”

Our culture is still following these “old laws” of dominance, indulgence, impermanence, and selfishness. These old laws are irrelevant in God’s kingdom. God’s laws given to Israel are the new laws:

“Take care of the weak.”
“Leave extra for others.”
“Live for eternity, not the moment.”
“Do what is best for others.”

These are the new laws of justice, equity, eternality, and sacrifice that Jesus came to fulfill. May we live out this law today. When we do, we will find our feet freed from the snare of sin and we will make visible a glimpse of the coming kingdom of God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Why should I be afraid in evil days, when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,
The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods, and boast of their great riches?
We can never ransom ourselves, or deliver to God the price of our life;
For the ransom of our life is so great, that we should never have enough to pay it, — Psalm 49.6-10

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 20 (Listen – 4:18)
Psalms 25– (Listen – 2:18)

This Weekend’s Readings
Leviticus 21 (Listen – 3:08), Psalms 26-27 (Listen – 3:13)
Leviticus 22 (Listen – 4:41), Psalms 28-29– (Listen – 3:41)

Read more about Two Lamechs, One Jesus
Lamech multiplies all of Cain’s sins….violence and oppression…“marrying” two wives…

Read more about Uprooting and Replanting
In the flood, we see uprooting and replanting. The thorny brambles of Cain and Lamech filled the world with violence and bloodshed.

Loving God by Loving Others — Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 19.2

2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. 

Reflection: Loving God by Loving Others — Guided Prayer 

By John Tillman

The Ten Commandments have often been summarized (based on Jesus’ answer about the greatest commandment) to mean “Love God and Love Others.” There are echoes of the Ten Commandments throughout the scriptures. In today’s passage the repetition is focused strongly on the “love others” half. How we are to treat others and enact justice is spelled out in many ways.

Many of these commands end with some version of “I am the Lord your God.” This implies that it is on behalf of God that we love others. When we act in God’s name to show love to others, we are also loving God by bringing glory to his name.

Today, we will pray based on the others-focused commands in today’s reading of Leviticus 19.

Loving God by Loving Others

Oh God who gives us harvests, teach us to leave margins for the marginalized.

Let us not be so efficient that we spend every cent in our own interest. (Leviticus 19.9)

For when we collect all the profit to ourselves we are stealing by keeping what you instructed us to leave for the poor. (Leviticus 19.9-10)

When we say, “We can’t afford to help” we are often being deceptive, for the truth is we have spent the portion you intended us to give as aid to others. (Leviticus 19.10-13)

Teach us to honor workers, for you ask us to pray for workers in the vineyard and not to spare expense in paying them. Let us not be stingy, but generous that all will go well with our nation. (Leviticus 19.13)

Teach us to help those in need without partiality or favoritism. Teach us to remove barriers to success and allow all to be treated equitably. (Leviticus 19.14-15)

Teach us not to value our own freedoms over our neighbor’s life and to treat foreigners with the same love we treat our own family. (Leviticus 19.33)

Teach us to root out corruption and dishonesty. 
Let not the poor be defrauded by corrupt business…
Let not the minority be dominated by the majority…
Let not the weak be preyed upon by the powerful…
Help us make the scales of commerce, scales of political representation, and scales of justice fair. (Leviticus 19.36)

In all these things, may we bring glory to God by loving others.

May we love you, Lord, by loving others.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons

My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me. — Psalm 101.6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 19 (Listen – 4:39)
Psalms 23-24– (Listen – 2:03)

Read more about Joy and Justice
Some eschatology, or “theology of last things,” forsakes our responsibility to work and be concerned for the Earth of today.

Read more about Keeping The Greatest Commandments
Jesus tells us…the two guideposts on which hang the entire law—Love God and love others.

Beyond Consent

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 18.3-5, 24-28
3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. 

24 “ ‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. 

Reflection: Beyond Consent
By John Tillman

In an old stand-up comedy routine that was a favorite of ours in college, a comic (whose name I can’t remember) told a story about a sign in a hospital containing an injunction against having sex in the delivery room of the obstetrics ward. 

When you think about things you might want to ban in a delivery room, that’s not one that jumps immediately to mind. “No smoking” probably. “No foul language” maybe. But no one would make a sign like that for no reason. The comic quipped, “Somebody had to do that.” 

Many of the sexual prohibitions listed in Leviticus and other forbidden practices were also things that no one would ban for no reason. The Egyptians were doing it. The Cannanites were doing it. Even brutal Ammonites were doing it. But God was clear that his people were not to follow along.

These common practices were uncommonly dangerous and damaging. The nations that practiced these things were enslaving women, sacrificing children, destroying their God-given bodies and families, yet they sneered at the prohibitions. Immersed in their culture, they couldn’t see the damage.

Our culture is no different. We think we are so sensitive and self-aware, but we are numb and calloused to the damage of the non-existent sexual ethic of our culture. When the only sexual ethic that exists is “consent” a lot of evil, manipulation, deception, and abuse gets a free pass. 

The very first step of abuse is to groom victims until they consent to abuse. Our culture has groomed many of us to accept the idea that the “freedom” of unlimited sexual experiences is harmless to us and others. We often believe this despite the evidence of rising mental health issues among the most sexually promiscuous members of the population.

Today we view sexuality as the ultimate freedom, the ultimate expression of our identity. Any hint of restriction or restraint, no matter how commonsense, is viewed as unnecessary at best and a form of self-hatred at worst.

Every person, regardless of sexual behavior or sexual feelings, is an image-bearer of God and is called by God to live in purity. This means living in ways that do not damage themselves or others. 

May each of us submit every part of our identities, including our sexuality, to God’s calling in our lives.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and helps them.
The Lord preserves all those who love him; but he destroys all the wicked. — Psalm 145.19-21

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 18 (Listen – 3:46)
Psalms 22 (Listen – 3:49)

Read more about It’s In The Bible
Polygamy was never in the Bible because God approved of it. It was there because the culture approved of it.

Read more about Resisting Cultural Pressure
Culture wants us to think we are primarily identified by our race or sexuality or gender or political party.

Life in the Blood

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 17.10-12
10 “ ‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. g 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.” 

Genesis 4.10-12

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 

Genesis 9.4-5

4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. 

Reflection: Life in the Blood

By John Tillman

It is often the case that a biological fact reveals spiritual truth. Our life really is in our blood. 

We measure life based on brain activity more than any other system of the body. For example, the rapper, DMX, recently died after life support was removed following a coma/vegetative state. However, many of the brain’s commands are carried out by the hormones, proteins, and other chemical signals that travel through the blood.

Everything that makes us alive is circulating in our blood. Life “moves” within us even when we are at rest. When blood stops moving, or is spilled out, life ends. 

The most important and revealing reason for the prohibitions regarding blood was spiritual not physical. Blood is life given for atonement. Since the blood of the first animal, killed by God in the garden to clothe Adam and Eve, animals have given their lives for human sin and creation has groaned for the blood spilled. (Genesis 3.21; Genesis 4.10-12; Romans 8.20-23)

All spilled blood, God says, is precious and holy, not only on its own, but because it points to the blood of Jesus. Christ’s blood is the most precious blood in history, but every drop of blood shed draws precious meaning from his. 

The blood is still life and it should matter to us when blood is spilled. It is the life of our brothers and sisters of every race. It is the life of the unborn. It is the life of those dying of Covid. It is the life of both Christians and non-Christians murdered for their faith. It is the life of those killed in every kind of violence whether in war or on public streets, whether in mass shootings or lone suicides.

So both the life of a police officer given stopping a mass shooting in Colorado and the life of a Black citizen, crushed out of him by a police officer’s knee are united in that their lives point to and plea for Christ’s blood. One is lost in self-sacrifice and one cries out from the ground in a plea for justice.

May we revive a holy respect for blood, no matter where, how, or by whom it is shed. May we not casually “eat” blood by profiting from violence, supporting bloodshed, or indifferently shrugging off bloodshed that doesn’t affect us.

God will require an account. (Genesis 9.5; Isaiah 5.7) When he does, we must plead the blood of Jesus to cover all of our bloodshed. Only in his blood will we find true life. (John 6.53-57)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons

I will bear witness that the Lord is righteous; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. — Psalm 7.18

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 17 (Listen – 2:39)
Psalms20-21 (Listen – 2:37)

Read more about  Two Lamechs, One Jesus
There are those who multiply and escalate violence, trusting in and glorying in their strength.

Read more about Peter’s Unfinished Work
Ending racism was a Christian idea from the beginning and we are possessed of the only ideology that can do it—the gospel.

Spiritual Instruments

Scripture Focus: Psalm 19.1-4
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; 
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; 
night after night they reveal knowledge. 
3 They have no speech, they use no words; 
no sound is heard from them. 
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, 
their words to the ends of the world.

From John: The day before this devotional publishes, Sunday, April 11th, is the scheduled first flight of the Mars helicopter. May we continue to allow wonder at our universe to inspire humility and thankfulness to its creator.

Reflection: Spiritual Instruments
By John Tillman

Whatever scientific instruments we use, whether looking at evidence of black holes, at video from a helicopter on Mars, or deep within our own DNA, we find the fingerprints of God.

In Psalm 19, David tells us that the fingerprints of God are on the stars. Speech about God pours forth from the heavens in an unhearable voice that echoes through the Earth and to the “end of the world.” 

David wasn’t writing about the realities of physics but about spiritual realities. However, there are subatomic vibrations, unhearable to human ears, that do seem to testify to the creator. In an April interview with Steven Colbert, physicist, Michio Kaku, said while explaining string theory, “The mind of god is cosmic music resonating through hyperspace.” (Interview, Part One; Interview, Part Two

Kaku is not a devotee of any religion and the “god” he describes is an impersonal “god of order” not the God we know. However, the complexity and interconnectedness of what he can see, tells him that there is more to see. What he can know, tells him that there is more to know. 

Wonder about our universe is returning. With wonder comes seemingly contradictory truths about our humble state and our eternal destiny. We seem to be insignificant specks in the universe, yet the maker of that universe considers us not meaningless or trivial, but glorious and of eternal worth.

This week, or whenever you look to the heavens, pray this prayer from 2019, reflecting on Psalm 19.

Humbled by the Heavens
God, we stand in awe on our tiny planet.

You have placed us here among deserts, seas, and mountains that seem incredibly vast, yet they are just imperceptible ridges on the tiny ball of our planet.

And, in the vast darkness of space, our tiny blue dot of light seems so insignificant compared to the other great lights of the sky that you have created.

Thank you for heavens that humble us, Lord.

Without words, let us hear your glory, see your law, experience your touch and your love.

Yet you gave us more than wordless wonder, Lord. You send your Word, your Son, Jesus, to clarify your commands and enlighten our understanding.

The commands of the Lord are radiant,
   giving light to the eyes.

Give our eyes your light, our actions, your love, our words, your persuasive persistence. 

Make us spiritual instruments through which the world can detect your magnificent presence.

Image: The image in today’s devotional is of Sirenum fossae, a geological feature of Mars.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O God, you have taught me since I was young, and to this day I tell of your wonderful works. — Psalm 71.17

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 16 (Listen – 5:36)
Psalms 19 (Listen – 1:52)

Read more about Humbled by the Heavens
David’s ancient psalm tells us where to learn about our “unobservable” God—in the heavens.

Read more about The Materialist Cosmos
If the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. — GK Chesterton

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