Bible reading for April 10 -- Leviticus 14; Psalm 17.
"Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field." (Leviticus 14:7)
A curious ceremony. We read about the diagnosis of leprosy in the previous chapter, but here we see how a person is cleansed and rejoined to God's community as the Lord might give healing. Two birds were involved. One is killed over a clay pot of water. The other is bound by a scarlet cord to a piece of wood and dipped into the water which contained drops of blood from the first bird. The second bird is then released into the wild. This water is then sprinkled on the leper. We cannot possibly miss the illustrations here of death, substitution, cleansing, life, and freedom! So, some 1500 years before Jesus would shed his blood (scarlet cord) and die upon a cross (of wood), the Israelite priests are ceremonially portraying how the substitutionary death of Christ would cleanse us from sin and give life and freedom to us. This OT ceremony has always amazed me!
Boring? At times you may find reading the text of Leviticus a bit tedious. All of Scripture is equally inspired, but the direct relevance of each writing varies to its place in God's progressive revelation. The Gospel of John, and Paul's letter to the Romans, for example, are more directly relevant to us and vital to our understanding, because their purpose was to explain fully the identity and work of God's Son, who has come into the world for our salvation. With its many details Leviticus was more directly relevant to the Jews who observed it for 1500 years, as its purpose was to guide Israelite worship until the fullness of time would arrive. Yet, it prepared them (and us) for the revelation of God's Son and his the atoning sacrifice on our behalf. So keep reading, and you will discover these beautiful gems foreshadowing Christ in the Old Testament, even in the book of Leviticus!
"...hide me in the shadow of your wings..." (Psalm 17:8)
Speaking of birds. We love watching and hearing the songbirds who have made our house and yard their home. Currently, a mother Carolina wren is sitting on a nest of eggs in our carport. (We have to tip-toe about or else she will scold us.) And I've just filled the birdbath on our deck in preparation for the popular summer pool parties there. (Nobody likes it, however, when the Blue jays show up.) Surely, God delights in his creation (Psalm 104) and he is attentive even to the small sparrows (Matt 10:29-31).
Under his wings. The Psalms speak often of being in the shadow of the Lord's wings (Psalms 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4). This means that the Lord himself is a place of protection, security, care, and joy. He is a place of refuge. Ruth's conversion, for example, when she came to trust and rely upon the God of Israel, is described this way: "The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!" (Ruth 2:12) Our Lord Jesus uses this image, as well: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Luke 13:34)
Jonathan Edwards, America's greatest theologian, was not only a student of Scripture but also an observer of nature and the many images that God placed in the world to reveal God's glory to us. He wrote,
"There are many things between the young birds in a nest and the mother, resembling what is between Christ and his saints. The bird shelters them; so Christ shelters his saints, as a bird does her young under her wings. They are brought forth and hatched by the brooding of the mother; so the soul is brought forth by the warmth and heat and brooding of Christ, by the Heavenly Dove, the Holy Spirit. They dwell in a nest of the bird's providing, on high out of the reach of harm, in some place of safety; so are the saints in the church. They are feeble and helpless, can neither fly nor go, which represents the infant state of the saints in this world. The manner of the mother's feeding the young, giving every one his portion represents the manner of Christ's feeding his saints. When the bird visits the nest, all open their mouths wide together with a cry, and that is all that they can do. So should the saints do, especially at times when Christ makes special visits to his church by his Spirit. So God says, 'Open thy mouth wide and I will fill' [Psalms 81:10]. The birds grow by this nourishment till they fly away into heaven to sing in the Firmament. So the saints are nourished up to glory." -- Jonathan Edwards, Typological Writings (WJE Online Vol. 11; Para. 125; pp. 96-97. Slight editing to modernize language.)
Have you taken refuge in the Lord? Have you come under the shelter of his wings? Do so today!
Image credit: photo by Benjamin LECOMTE on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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