Much Given, Much Expected

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 10.1, 19-20
1 …they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

Reflection: Much Given, Much Expected
By John Tillman

The deaths of Nadab and Abihu are twisted by some to condemn actions they want to condemn. 

For example, some use it to critique any innovation or change in modern liturgies or worship, some point to 10.9 to try to make this a passage supporting teetotalism, etc. But this passage is not here for us to use to condemn our pet peeves or support our moral preferences.

In scripture, the simplest answer is usually the best, and the simplest explanation of what happened to them is not some secret hinted-at sin, but simply willful disobedience by those who should know better.

They go before the Lord, together, when only one is supposed to enter. They go before the Lord in place of Aaron, their father. In place of fire from the altar, they use fire from another source. Scripture emphasizes this “strange” or “unauthorized” fire as the main reason for their deaths. They do all this knowingly and willfully.

They had just been through (and we have just read) an extraordinarily long and complex ritual training which included warnings that this exact thing could happen. (Exodus 19.22)  Nevertheless, they ignored all they had just learned, and did things in an unauthorized way.

All sin falls under the same spiritual punishment, but not all sins bring the same severity of consequences in our earthly lives. Willful, purposeful sin is treated differently in scripture than just “being sinful” or committing “unknowing” sins. Anytime we know what is right and then, knowingly, purposefully do something else, we are exponentially multiplying our commitment to sin and our rebellion against God.

The severity of the penalty Abihu and Nadab suffer is related to the level of knowledge and revelation they had and the level of position and responsibility they were given. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (John 9.41) To whom much is given, much is expected. (Luke 12.47-48) 

If Abihu and Nadab were given much, how much more have we been given?
We serve a greater High Priest, who offered greater sacrifice, for a greater temple, so we bear a greater responsibility.

We, as priests under Jesus Christ, have been given more than they. 
May we knowingly obey rather than knowingly rebel.
May we minister in ways that honor all that we have been given in Jesus. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Blessed is the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my prayer. — Psalm 28.7

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 10 (Listen – 3:25)
Psalms 11-12 (Listen – 1:59)

Read more about Much Demanded
God judges those with little lightly and those with much heavily. This should be sobering to us who are greatly privileged.

Read more about Unprecedented
They have taken for granted the immense privilege and wealth they have as people chosen by God.

Intimidating, Liberating Glory

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 9.4, 22-24
4 …For today the Lord will appear to you.’ ” 

22 Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down. 
23 Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. 

Reflection: Intimidating, Liberating Glory
By John Tillman

God’s glory can be intimidating.

The people had been too frightened to approach the God who appeared in glorious clouds on Sinai. They asked that this glorious God speak to them through Moses, not directly. Aaron had been too frightened to approach Moses when his face glowed after meeting with the Lord. God gave Moses only a glimpse of his glory, saying that Moses could not survive seeing God’s fully glorious face. But now at the dedication of the Tabernacle, came a unique and enlightening promise to all the people: “…the Lord will appear to you…”

After all of the liturgy, after all of the sacrifices, after all of the ceremony, after all of the rituals, after all the sacred foods, and the waiting, and the singing, and the performing of the actions prescribed…the people now can see the glory of the Lord.

If Moses saw only a glimpse, we can be sure that this “glory of God” which appeared to all the people was also just a portion of God’s full glorious presence. Even so, a shout burst from their lips. Even so, they fell on their faces in worship.

How much more so should we shout than they? 
How much more so should we prostrate ourselves than they? 

They beheld glory in a tabernacle built by their own human hands.  They beheld a formless, glorious presence they still could not touch or speak with. John says, The Word “tabernacled” with us and we beheld his glory. (John 1.14) We have the accounts of those who touched with their hands and saw with their eyes the tender, loving, human tabernacle of Jesus.

If those, like John, “beheld his glory,” so may we. Blessed are we who have not seen with our eyes but believe in our hearts. We see the glory of God when we gaze in the face of Jesus. We begin this gaze in prayer. We focus on the details of his features in scripture. We follow where his actions lead by obedience. 

Shouting for joy and falling facedown is the emotional posture of seeing the glory of the Lord. When we know the forgiveness of Jesus, God’s glory goes from intimidating to liberating, from terrifying to electrifying. When we fall at his feet, he will bid us rise. When we turn to him, he will send us to feed his sheep and be a light to the world.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — Psalm 67.1

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 9 (Listen – 3:18)
Psalms 10 (Listen – 2:13)

Read more about A Temple for Exiles
God is measuring out a temple of living stones which rest upon the chief cornerstone of Christ.

Read more about Bread and Oil
We are each a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are all priests serving under Jesus, our high priest.

Anointed Servants

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 8.6-9
6 Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water. 7 He put the tunic on Aaron, tied the sash around him, clothed him with the robe and put the ephod on him. He also fastened the ephod with a decorative waistband, which he tied around him. 8 He placed the breastpiece on him and put the Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece. 9 Then he placed the turban on Aaron’s head and set the gold plate, the sacred emblem, on the front of it, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Reflection: Anointed Servants
By John Tillman

It is not so much that “leaders serve” as that “servants lead.”

The Bible shows us not just moments of God-ordained goodness but of ruin, failure, and rebellion. Because of this, we cannot look at any leader’s actions in the Bible, other than Jesus, as a foolproof behavioral template. We cannot simply cut and paste “biblical” actions into our lives.

All mortals in scripture have moral skeletons in their closets. Moses has a literal skeleton, a victim of his rage, buried in the Egyptian sand. (Exodus 2.11-15) The miracle of the gospel is that murderers like Moses, and sinners like us, can be transformed into leaders that show what Jesus is like.

In the desert, God told Moses that he would make him like God to Pharaoh and Aaron would be his prophet. (Exodus 7.1) Here in the ceremony initiating Aaron’s priesthood, we see pictures of the entire Trinity, the disciples, and the church universal. The washing, the sacrificial meal, and the covenant of blood, stand as pre-visualizations of Jesus’ actions in the final days leading to the crucifixion.
Moses’s ceremonial actions show God initiating the work of sanctification out of love for the children he desired to call his own. Aaron shows us Jesus, our high priest, willingly stepping into the gap to open up a way for the children to return to God, their rightful father. In the fire, the oil, the incense, and the blood, we see the Holy Spirit, pervading our lives to make us holy. 

If the rituals required for the priests to pass through the closed curtain of the Tent of Meeting and minister before the Lord seem long and elaborate, we should remember the greater ritual which opened that same curtain for good. Jesus’ 33-year incarnation was a long, elaborate ritual which tore open the curtain of the Temple, allowing us to enter God’s presence.

Sometimes when we think of sacrifices, and especially of the cross, we think of God demanding to be “satisfied.” This is an incorrect/incomplete picture. God is not sitting back, vengeful and angry, hoping the Son suffers enough to calm his out-of-control temper. God initiates mercy—he doesn’t settle for it.

It is God who applies the sacrifice of the Lamb of God to our ears that we may hear God’s Word. God anoints our hands that they may serve as his own. God touches our feet that they may go where he wills.

God anoints us as servants in Christ. Servants lead.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 8 (Listen – 5:06)
Psalms 9 (Listen – 2:21)

Read more about Priests of Life and Peace
As Christians and priests, may we maintain the new “covenant of life and peace” in Christ’s blood.

Read more about The Righteous Judge :: A Guided Prayer
May our highest, most prized right, be to stand before you.

Jesus, Our Restorer — Good Friday

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 5.15-16
15 “When anyone is unfaithful to the Lord by sinning unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things, they are to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. k It is a guilt offering. 16 They must make restitution for what they have failed to do in regard to the holy things, pay an additional penalty of a fifth of its value and give it all to the priest. The priest will make atonement for them with the ram as a guilt offering, and they will be forgiven. 

Leviticus 6.2-7
2 “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord by deceiving a neighbor about something entrusted to them or left in their care or about something stolen, or if they cheat their neighbor, 3 or if they find lost property and lie about it, or if they swear falsely about any such sin that people may commit—4 when they sin in any of these ways and realize their guilt, they must return what they have stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to them, or the lost property they found, 5 or whatever it was they swore falsely about. They must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day they present their guilt offering. 6 And as a penalty they must bring to the priest, that is, to the Lord, their guilt offering, a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. 7 In this way the priest will make atonement for them before the Lord, and they will be forgiven for any of the things they did that made them guilty.” 

Reflection: Jesus, our Restorer — Good Friday
By John Tillman

In the Levitical code, peace with God came through atoning for sin toward God, but many offerings also required restorative justice.

If the repentant had harmed another person or defiled something holy, they brought a typical sacrificial animal to God and, on the same day, paid restitution to the victim that was 120 percent of the value of the loss.

God is not solely concerned with our forgiveness and restoration of relationship with him. He is also concerned with us seeking forgiveness and restoration with our neighbors. As we ponder Christ’s sacrifice on this Good Friday, let us see how he treated those harmed by his followers. 

As Jesus hangs on the cross dying for sin, somewhere walking around with two ears instead of one, is Malchus. In the garden, Peter had struck him and cut off his ear. Jesus not only rebuked Peter, telling him to put his sword back in its place, he put Malchus’s ear back in its place, healing him with a touch. (Luke 22.50-51; John 18.10-11)

Later, lurking near Jesus’ trial, Peter is confronted by a relative of Malchus, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” (John 18.26-27) We don’t know for sure, but this question could sound a bit like, “Didn’t you attack my relative with a sword?” Peter responds with louder and viler curses and anger at these accusations, until the cock crows and he runs, weeping, into the night.

Even in the intensity of his own suffering, Christ healed those Peter attacked and forgave those Peter cursed at.

Who have we harmed, swinging our swords, wild to defend our Lord Jesus? (Who needs no defense from us.)
Who have we been afraid to face because of what we have done?
Who have we cursed in our anger and fear?

The Levitical code spends significant time discussing sins done in ignorance. What sins are we a part of, yet ignorant of? Sins of systemic lust? Systemic greed? Systemic racism?

Who have we allowed to suffer because they are “sinners”?
Who have we refused to help because they opposed us politically or economically?
Whose suffering and torment have we ignored, glazed over, minimized, or contributed to?

May we weep like Peter. But may we also remember that Jesus will come to us to restore us.

Do we love Jesus?
May we put down our swords and feed his lambs.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. — Psalm 70.1

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 5 (Listen – 3:35) 
Psalms 3-4 (Listen – 1:56)

This Weekend’s Readings
Leviticus 6 (Listen – 4:17), Psalms 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)
Leviticus 7 (Listen – 5:13), Psalms 7-8 (Listen – 2:58)

Read more about The Sword Versus The Cross
Some have been like brash, foolish Peter, swinging away with a sword of vengeance—we must put it away.

Read more about The Commission of Truth
The first verse in Leviticus chapter five, identifies a unique kind of sin—the sin of not testifying to the truth when it is called for.

Jesus, Our Blessed One — A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Psalm 1.1-3
1 Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Reflection: Jesus, Our Blessed One — A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Psalm 1 can be prayed as a framework for the working of the gospel in our lives. It is less an aspirational claim that we can strive for righteousness, but a recognition that only in Christ, grafted into his stream-planted trunk, can we yield fruit.

Blessed is the One
May we be among those who bless your name, Lord.
May we walk with you through the cheering crowds
Guiding a humble donkey that carries our king,
And also through the narrow streets of suffering, 
Carrying our cross, stepping in your bloody footprints of sacrifice.

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord

Lord, guide our walk, day to day 
Shape our steps, words, and actions
Differentiate our gait of faith from that of the world.
May our steps follow your grace.
May our words tell of your love.
May our actions emulate your servanthood and sacrifice.

Watch over our way, Lord, but we know that we stumble…

The Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction…
They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand

We are not blameless. We are not righteous.
When we honestly and humbly look in our hearts we find wickedness there.
Burn up our chaff with your breath
Separate us from sin so that we will not be separated from your presence.

Blessed is the one
    whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

We aspire, Lord, to fulfill this psalmist’s prayer.
We aspire to delight in your law.
We aspire to meditate day and night.

But we rely, Lord, not on our striving, but on Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Blessed One, who delights in your law.
Jesus is the Blessed One, whose leaf does not wither.
We are merely grafted in branches, partaking of his righteousness.
Our fruit, our flourishing, and our faith are drawn up from his roots.
It is he who makes us prosper, and spreads the seed of his gospel over the earth.

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 4 (Listen – 5:17) 
Psalms 1-2 (Listen – 3:05)

Read more about Praise from a Stump :: A Guided Prayer
We, in Christ, can see ourselves in both the unworthy and shamed stump, and in the new supernatural growth.

Read more about Family Tree
We can be grafted in to the family tree of Christ and bear the same fruit that he wants to bring about in our lives.

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