Remember the day you left home? For some of us, that day was when we took off for college. For others, it was to take a job. We all had reasons, and we were gone.
When you left home, some things immediately changed. No longer did you have to be home at a certain time each night. If you wanted pizza ten times a week, you had it. Freedoms increased.
(Photo by John Eckert via oomf)
But there were also some things that didn’t change.
- The speed limit was still 55 mph.
- You still had to brush your teeth.
- Right and wrong was still right and wrong.
It’s interesting that in all the changes we experienced, neither our parents nor we had changed. Only the situation changed.
In a similar way, God has managed the world differently at different times. Some things never change with God.
But some do.
Most people live for dreams. It’s a quest, really.
Clinging to ideals of how life could and “should” be, they chase those dreams like a carrot on a stick. Always within reach, but never gotten.
I guess we’re all wired to pursue the ideal. The world calls it following “your heart,” and we Christians refer to it as “the will of God.”
But in truth, we generally settle for nothing less than our version of how life ought to be.
Any search for the ideal needs only to look at the Garden of Eden to see the futility of that pursuit.
God points us a different direction.
Other rivers have more beauty. Many are longer. Most are cleaner.
But none has garnered as much affection as the Jordan River.
It wasn’t the beauty of the Jordan River that inspired centuries of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to include it in their verses.
Its significance began as a simple geographic barrier, which—practically speaking—represented a border (Joshua 22:18-25). In fact, the serpentine river still represents a border between Israel and the nation of Jordan.
In Scripture, however, the river’s presence on Israel’s eastern edge stood as an enduring metaphor of transitions.
Significant transitions, in fact.
Finger pointing is hard-wired into our hearts.
In fact, it started early in human history. Like, really early.
(Painting by Domenichino. Public domain)
In the Garden of Eden, God confronted Adam and Eve after they sinned, and their reaction set the course for an entire race of blame-shifters.
We’re still shifting the blame (and getting blamed).
The solution is the same today as it was then.
We can only approach God’s presence God’s way. But are there multiple ways?
The New Testament clearly reveals that only through Jesus can anyone come to God the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:23).
But what about in the Old Testament?
After King David conquered Jerusalem and secured it as his capital, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-Jearim into his new City of David. But in his passion to have God’s presence, David neglected to follow God’s principles. That negligence of improperly transporting the Ark cost a man his life (2 Samuel 6).
Three months later, David correctly transported the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a tent he pitched for its keeping.
In this experience, David gained a profound respect for God’s holiness.
This principle directly relates to the question: did the Old Testament offer only one way to God?
Good Friday wasn’t so good for Judas.
The guilt-ridden betrayer of Jesus hung himself and then fell headlong, spilling his innards. Hence, the residents later named the place where it happened, “Akeldema,” or “Field of Blood” (Acts 1:18-19).
Judas may have chosen this place to die for a specific reason.
Today, the peaceful Monastery of St. Onuphrius at Akeldema offers no clue to the fact that Judas killed himself at that site—nor does it reveal the Hinnom Valley’s sordid history.
- Horrific atrocities occurred in the Hinnom Valley during the days of Judah’s kings (2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31).
- In Jesus’ day, the city dump lay in this gorge. Some suggest that fires continually burned the trash, and so Jesus used the smoldering landfill of Gehenna as an illustration of hell’s eternal flames (Mark 9:43).
Because Jesus compared the Hinnom Valley to hell, one has to wonder if this is the reason Judas’s desperate regret led him to end his life in this ravine.
Like Judas, you have failed. But Judas’ shame doesn’t have to be yours.
Good Friday gives your shame a choice.
Peter shows us why.
God told the Hebrews when to observe the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. At first, to be honest, the command seems random.
The feasts were to occur at the appointed time of Abib, or Aviv (Exodus 23:15)—a Hebrew word that refers to the time in spring when the grain begins to ripen. The first Passover occurred on the fifteenth day of Nisan, which became the first month of the Jewish calendar.
This timing occurred for good reason.
The Lord gave His people a plain explanation why the celebration should coincide with spring:
For [then] you came out of Egypt. —Exodus 23:15
God linked the Passover celebration with their redemption.
But why the springtime? There was a problem with the calendar that had to get fixed. Its fix offers a lasting lesson.
Even for Christians.
For most Christians, the book of Leviticus is as untraveled as the wilderness in which Moses wrote it.
It’s not hard to understand why. I mean, who cares about sacrifices no longer needed or diet codes no longer in effect? Can they teach us anything today?
In a word: plenty.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable.” —2 Timothy 3:16
Here’s a brief summary of the five offerings in Leviticus—what they were and why they mattered. I’ve also included a free chart you can download and a short list of resources to help you make sense of Leviticus.
Very few people are drawn to God by intimidation.
Instead, the Lord urges us to come to Him by revealing the kindness of His mercy.
Once we comprehend the depth of our imperfections, and the futility of our own efforts to remove them, we are in a position to respond to God’s kindness.
Jesus revealed this simple truth one day in Jerusalem with an act of mercy at the Pools of Bethesda.
Sometimes good news seems just too good to be true.
The leper Naaman initially felt insulted that all he must do to be healed was dip in the Jordan River. God’s grace often comes off as offensive to unbelievers.
Gehazi, on the other hand, felt shocked that his master Elisha took no money from Naaman for his healing. So Gehazi took some money in secret and thus later suffered discipline.
God’s grace has problems, as it were—offensive to unbelievers and abused by believers.
But it’s our only hope.
2 Kings 5
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