Leviticus 10

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD …” (v1).  When Aaron’s priestly sons decided to offer “strange” incense before God, using their own ideas about worship rather than His instructions, God’s “fire” blazed out, and they died.  God’s holy presence, like the power of the Sun, was life-giving when approached correctly but dangerous when misjudged or treated lightly.

“You are to distinguish between the holy and the common …” (v10).  Our made-up ideas about the supernatural are small compared to reality. God’s holiness is far more powerful, far brighter and more beautiful than we can imagine.

Leviticus 9

“And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (v24).  The rituals that the priests went through weren’t just a religious show; the goal was to be in God’s presence.  God Himself instructed them in how to sacrifice and worship, and when the people obeyed with sincere hearts, God responded by sending holy fire.  

“The glory of the Lord appeared to all the people” (v23).  God’s glory, His special presence, didn’t appear in a secret place with the priests; He delighted to make Himself known to all the people.

Leviticus 8

“For it will take seven days to ordain you” (v33). The Israelite priests had no special holiness in themselves; they weren’t more righteous or closer to God.  In order to lead the people in worship, they had to be ritually anointed, consecrated, and finally ordained as priests (8:12), and later they made regular sacrifices to cleanse themselves from sin.  This enabled the priests to approach God on behalf of the people.  If they ignored these practices and arrogantly entered the Holy Place, they risked their very lives (v35).

“Aaron and his sons shall eat it” (v31).  Like the priests who ate the sacred offerings, we are made holy through Jesus, so that we can break bread with our Creator.

Leviticus 7

“This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD's food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD” (v35).  When the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, the priests were not given any large inheritance of land for themselves.  In an agricultural society, this meant that they were “poor,” completely dependent on the offerings brought into the Temple.  The sacrificed, cooked meat and grain offerings were the “perpetual due” of the priests, sustaining them while they directed Temple worship (v34).

“It is most holy” (v1).  The priests represented God’s ultimate desire for everyone: to live in fellowship with Him, worshipping Him freely, trusting Him for our daily needs. 

Luke 14:7-35

“Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame” (v21).  Jesus told a shocking parable about a man who invited his friends and acquaintances to a lavish banquet, but they “made excuses” about why they were too busy to come (v18).  So he told his servants to invite strangers – the poor, the crippled, and people off the street, anyone willing (v21-23).  Jesus explained that those who wanted to follow him must desire it above all else (v33). 

“That my house may be filled” (v23).  God’s invitation to reconciliation through His Son is open to everyone who will eagerly accept Him by faith.

Luke 14:1-6

"Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?" (v3). On the Sabbath, Jesus was dining at the house of “a ruler of the Pharisees,” the religious group who were extremely careful to avoid breaking Sabbath rules.  These religiously correct people were watching Jesus carefully to see what he would do about the man who was sick (v2).  Jesus pointed out that they would all rescue an animal on the Sabbath (a work-like action), implying therefore that it was ridiculous to ignore the pain of a human being.

“He took him and healed him” (v4).  It’s not enough to avoid doing wrong; Jesus calls us to join Him in extending mercy, compassion, and help to those in need

Psalm 20

“May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!” (v1).  One of the privileges of being part of a believing community is lifting one another up to God.  When friends are in trouble or burdened by doubt or fear, we can testify to God’s goodness: “He will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand” (v6). We can also enter into the hopes and dreams of our fellow believers: “May God grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!” (v4). 

In difficult times, we remind each other that false and ungodly sources of support “collapse and fall,” but when we trust in God, “we rise and stand upright” (v7-8).

Leviticus 6:1-7

He “has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression” (v4).  Most crimes or sins are double offenses; we harm other people at the same time as we offend God.  Therefore, the Israelites were told to “restore” what they had stolen/broken/harmed, and “add a fifth to it” (v5), as a way of compensating the victim.  They were taught to heal the broken human relationship as well as to ask for God’s forgiveness.

The Israelites were instructed to reconcile with each other on the very day they “realized their guilt” (v5).  We can’t ignore human relationships and pretend to love God.  He desires us to work for peace with one another. 

Leviticus 5

“If anyone sins … he realizes his guilt … and confesses the sin” (v1-5).  The Israelites were instructed that if they suddenly realized that they had sinned (by refusing to be a witness, or by making a rash promise, or by touching something dead, etc), the right thing to do was to immediately confess the sin and then go make an offering for atonement.  The breaking of the law itself could not permanently destroy their relationship with God unless they hid their sin and pretended to be innocent.

“If anyone sins …” (v17).  God is not surprised by our sins.  He calls us to take responsibility, tell the truth, and reach out for His forgiveness (v17-18).

Leviticus 3-4

“If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD's commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them ….” (4:2). Priests and leaders as well as the “whole community” of Israel were ordinary humans, and therefore prone to mistakes (v3,13,22), such as accidentally breaking ritual laws or forgetting their obligations.  Moses instructed them that even these “small things” would create a barrier between them and the Holy God who wanted to live among them, and so they offered sacrifices.

“He shall be forgiven” (v35).  God’s desire is for fellowship with us, without distance, and so He always provides a means of reconciliation.

Luke 13:10-35

“What is the kingdom of God like?” (v20).  Jesus was constantly overturning people’s ideas about what God’s kingdom was like and what kind of attitudes and behaviors reflected that kingdom.  He rebuked the religious leaders who were so concerned about protecting the Sabbath that they forgot about mercy (v16).  He said that the kingdom can’t be imposed from the outside, but instead grows organically like a mustard seed, or leaven, from very small to powerfully extensive (v19-20).  

“Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last" (v30).  Our goal isn’t to be “first” or righteous in the eyes of people, but to truly know and love our Savior (v24-29).

Luke 13:1-9

"Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?” (v2).  A group of Galileans had been targeted and killed by Pilate (v1), and people wondered if the violent event proved that these individuals were “worse sinners” than others.  Many ancient cultures taught that suffering (sickness, disaster) was a person’s own fault (v4), but Jesus corrected them and pointed out humans’ universal need for forgiveness.  “No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (v5).

Rather than analyzing other people’s sinful choices, Jesus calls us to consider the state of our own hearts and seek to honor God in all we do (v9).

Psalm 19

“Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words … their voice goes out through all the earth” (v2-4).  The psalmist said that although they don’t use human speech, the “voices” of the sun, moon, and stars proclaim God’s greatness. Just as the beauty of the skies lifts our hearts, we the wisdom of God’s ways also fills us with delight.  They are more valuable than gold and sweeter than honey (v10), because they produce a peaceful, joyful life. 

“The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart” (v8).  Just like the stars, we were created to fit into God’s beautiful universe and to reflect His goodness.

Proverbs 5

“The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray” (v22-23). The proverbs are warnings, bold sign posts reminding us that sin looks appealing, but it leads to “utter ruin” (v14).  At the moment of temptation, adultery or any other ungodly behavior seems like it will lead to pleasure, freedom, and comfort, but instead we find bitterness and the sharp sword of regret (v3-4).

We don’t have to “die for lack of discipline” (v23).  We can be attentive to God’s voice and follow Him into abundant life (v1).

Leviticus 2

"When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil” (v4).  The Mosaic Law made room for all kinds of offerings, including grain baked in an oven, on a griddle, or ground into “fine flour.”  These were mixed with oil and/or costly frankincense and burnt as a “pleasing aroma” to the Lord, and they included salt as a symbol of permanency (v4). 

We can now approach God without these offerings, because we are made “holy and acceptable” by trusting in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.  Instead we give ourselves as “living sacrifices,” dedicating our whole selves to Him. 

Leviticus 1

“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD” (v3).  The Israelites were nomadic shepherds in the desert, taking their herds and flocks with them from camp to camp as they slowly made their way to the Promised Land.  Giving up an animal for worship was a significant cost, especially one “without blemish.”   But this gesture of faith and trust allowed the worshipper to be “accepted before the Lord.”

The sacrifices were a “pleasing aroma” to the Lord (v9), because they allowed sinful men and women to draw close to His holy presence.

Exodus 40

“So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (v33-34). Moses and the people did what God commanded, creating and setting up the tabernacle and all its elements.  While beautiful and symbolic, it was still just another religious structure until God’s own glory filled it.  “For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys” (v38).

Religious structures, rituals, or identities, by themselves, are empty.  Jesus came so that we can know God and live in daily fellowship with His Spirit.

Exodus 39

“From the blue and purple and scarlet yarns they made finely woven garments, for ministering in the Holy Place. They made the holy garments for Aaron, as the LORD had commanded Moses” (v1).  Aaron, as the high priest, wore a highly decorated, colorful robe embroidered with gold thread, and he wore a breastplate covered “twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel” (v14).  The high priest’s brilliant clothing symbolized his important role: representing the Israelites to God in worship.

Aaron’s role was a shadow and foretaste of Jesus, the “High Priest of our confession” (Heb 3).  When we trust in Him, He forgives us and takes us into the Father’s presence (Heb 4).

Luke 12:13-59

“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (v51).  Jesus’ words seem harsh, especially because we know that He does bring peace (Luke 2:14; John 14:27).  However, He offers the peace that comes not through avoiding our sins, or pretending we are fine, but through repenting and receiving forgiveness in Him.  Whether or not we put our trust in Jesus is the great question that divides humanity. 

When we become God’s children through faith in Jesus, we trade our restless anxieties for real peace: “Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v32). 

Luke 12:1-12

“Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (v3).  Jesus told his disciples to “beware” of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who thought they could hide their ungodly attitudes, words, or actions behind closed doors, while looking righteous in public.  Jesus said that instead of fearing being caught by the authorities or religious leaders, we should realize that we will have to answer to God Himself (v5).

“Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (v7).  Nothing can be hidden from God, but if our hearts are open and repentant, we receive His attention as grace.