Bible reading for April 23.
"These are the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai." (27:34)
Congratulations on completing the book of Leviticus!
Redeeming service. In Israel people might dedicate themselves for a time or give possessions in support of the Lord's service in the temple. See, for example, the story of Hannah, who pledged her son Samuel to assist in the temple ministry (1 Samuel 1:11). Vows toward God were taken seriously. If people wanted to rescind their vow, they would need to pay a redemption price as fair exchange for the value of their labor or property. Adjustments were made for gender (sex) and age.
Why was the value of a woman less than a man ? The valuation here was the relative value of labor within that society. Men and women were both created in the image of God, and capital punishment was the penalty for any person who murdered a man, woman, or child, regardless of the age. In this chapter the valuation is not the measure of human worth before God, but the value of human labor within that society. And so, a man between the ages of 20 and 60, who could do more heavy lifting and stand armed guard, would have to pay a higher price to buy himself out the service he had vowed.
Our Lord Jesus and the NT apostles greatly uplifted the value and role of women within the community. Salvation, the Holy Spirit, growth in discipleship, and ministry in the church is open to all believers regardless of sex or age (Joel 2:28-29; Gal 3:28). However, gender distinctions and roles given in creation still apply (Eph 5:22-23; 1 Tim 2:12-15). There is equality of human worth before God, but there are different callings within the body of Christ even today. This is called the complementarian view and you can learn more about it at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at cbmw.org.
"Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!" (34:9)
The fear of the Lord. What do you fear most? What do you tend to worry about? What anxious thoughts keep returning, often in the middle of the night? This psalm speaks about the "fear of the Lord" (vv 7, 9, 11) as being a good thing. Many today can't think how it is possible to both love and fear someone. But "fear" in the Bible has a wider range of use than today. We primarily think of fear as being frightened of some danger, and the biblical authors used it in that sense, too. But as we see here it is also used in a positive sense of feeling awe toward someone of great power or worth. Supremely, that is the Lord himself (Ps 33:8). It is to treat him and approach him with reverence and respect.
Fear and trembling. Moses told the people that they were not to be afraid, and at the same time to fear him (Ex 20:20), which may seem contradictory. Fearing God is related to obedience, service, and loyalty (Deut 13:4). This is a principle in the New Testament, as well (Acts 9:31; 2 Cor 7:1; Rev 15:4). The phrase fear and trembling may sound like being frightened, but in Phil 2:12-13 it is related to working out a salvation (already given) with the awareness of God working in us.
At the altar. For me a helpful picture is that of a wedding service. I have my own to draw upon, as well as, the many other weddings over which I presided. What most of us grooms felt at the time was a rush of intertwined feelings: love, joy, nervousness, seriousness, weak knees, and trying to remember to breathe. It was a profound awareness of the importance of it all. I believe our relationship with the Lord is a similar mix of joy, security, loving and being loved, and yet with the utmost seriousness of it all. Though there is tremendous joy in the Christian life, faith in the Lord Jesus is not about high-fiving him as our homeboy. It is about giving him the honor and obedience and service that is due him. In grace. In reverence. In fear and trembling.
Driving out lesser fears. As you read this psalm, ask what things might David have feared (v 4)? What things do I fear? And ask, what does this Psalm tell me about the benefits of fearing the Lord (vv 7, 9, etc.)? One of the takeaways for me is that the greater (and better) fear of God tends to drive out the lesser fears we may face. Oswald Chambers wrote, “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”
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.