Bible reading for April 15 -- Leviticus 19; Psalms 23-24.
"You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18)
Set apart for the Lord. "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy" (Lev 19:2). This is a continuing theme, that God's people are to be separate, distinct, and set apart for the Lord and his purposes. "I am the Lord" is repeated often. That is, the people belong to the Lord and are expected to love and exemplify his character. In the new covenant a desire for holiness begins with God's work in our hearts, to change what we love, and desire, and value. Holiness is not a separate add-on to the Christian life, nor is it something that we in ourselves are expected to achieve. The work of the Holy Spirit empowers us to bear good fruit (Gal 5; Rom 8). The good works are ready for us to walk in: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). We have confidence in the grace of our Lord Jesus; we yield to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, by faith; and we seek to live a life pleasing to our Father in heaven. He is Lord, but more, he is our Father and we are his sons and daughters. This is the power and motivation for the NT believer.
A plate glass window. Sometimes we observe that the commands of the Law of Moses are all jumbled up, or maybe better to say, intertwined. There are ordinances regarding diet and ceremony next to civil laws, next to ethical commands. For the Jew under the old covenant the Law was like a plate glass window. It was regarded as a whole and to break any part of it was to break it as a unit (see James 2:10-11). Like the crack in your auto windshield that won't pass inspection, not because it is a giant crack, but it has damaged the integrity of the entire windshield. Not only has the believer in Jesus died to sin (Rom 6) but he has died to the Law, meaning the burden and condemnation that came from being under the Mosaic economy. To see what God's will for us is, as followers of Christ, we must examine what principles are re-affirmed by the Lord Jesus and the Apostles in the New Testament (cf. 1 Cor 9:20-21).
More than a personal moral code. Leviticus 19 teaches us that holiness is more than just having personal standards of holiness. Holiness in God's sight involves how we love and treat our neighbor. Jesus quotes from this chapter (verse 18) in answering the question, what is the greatest commandment in the Law (that is, foremost and encompassing all the others; Matt 22:36-40). He answers with two, Deuteronomy 6 (loving God) and Leviticus 19 (loving neighbor). Lest we think that "our neighbor" means only those in our social circle (those who are like us), he also says we are to love "the stranger" (the resident alien) as ourselves: "You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God" (19:34). And the love described in this chapter is very practical: to allow gleaning for the poor, giving justice, having fair business practices, abstaining from all forms of slander, and dealing with the resentful attitudes in our hearts toward others.
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul." (Psalm 23:1-3a)
The Shepherd Psalm. This is perhaps one of the best loved and most recited passages in all of Scripture. Scholars have noted that this psalm of the Lord's pastoral care for David (and for us) comes between the Suffering Servant of Psalm 22 and the return of the King of glory in Psalm 24. So perhaps these three psalms may be viewed as a) Christ's suffering for us at his first coming; b) Christ's relationship to us now; and c) Christ's triumphal return in the future. Past, present, and future views of our Lord Jesus.
Not a psalm for dying. Though people may read this psalm to those who are dying, or to those who have lost loved ones, this really is a psalm about living. In it we are told that the Lord, our Shepherd (our Good Shepherd, John 10) feeds us (23:1-2), then leads us in righteous ways (23:3), then protects us (23:4), and finally, provides loving care (23:5-6). He leads, guides, protects, and cares for us. This is a great passage to memorize and meditate upon during times you may feel anxious or fearful.
Pastoring is shepherding. I used this psalm as a model for pastoral ministry to others. And I have encouraged any leader in ministry, as well as husbands to wives, parents to children, older believers to younger, to use this psalm as model for ministry: 1) Am I feeding those in my care? That is, am I leading them to the pastures and streams of God's word, that their souls might be restored? (23:1-3a). 2) Am I guiding them in paths of righteousness for the Lord's sake? That is, am I giving them the knowledge of God's character and will, and helping them make right decisions, not primarily for success in life, but rather to the glory of God? (23:3b). 3) Am I protecting them, as much as possible, from the lies of the devil and worldly thinking? That is, am I giving encouragement, and helping them to know truth and to resist false teaching? (23:4). And 4) Am I caring for them in loving and generous ways? That is, am I treating them with grace as beloved family members in the household of our Lord? (23:5-6).
Image credits: Photo at top is by Sam Carter on Unsplash. Photo at bottom is from Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash -- detail from the painting "Driving Home The Flock" (1812), by Robert Hills.
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.