Bible reading for April 3 -- Leviticus 6; Psalms 5-6.
"...he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt." (Leviticus 6:5)
The principle of restitution (Lev 6:1-7). Reconciliation with God does not remove the necessity of reconciliation with other people. The principle of restitution is taught here, with an added 20% (verse 5). In the NT Zacchaeus becomes an example of a beautiful and bountiful conversion to Christ when he offers -- on that very day -- to repay not 20% but four-fold to those whom he cheated (Lu 19:8). This attitude should apply to prompt payment of all our debts: "Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law" (Rom 13:7-8).
The priest's share of food (Lev 6:8-30). Regarding part of the sin and guilt offerings, God said, "I have given it as their portion of my food offerings. It is a thing most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering" (6:17). The priests serving in the temple were supported by portions of these offerings from the Israelites. The Apostle Paul refers to this practice as justification for Christian ministers (pastors, missionaries, etc.), especially those who labor full-time, to receive financial support from God's people for their service (1 Cor 9:13-14). And we should remember, now that so many are in quarantine, to find ways to continue our financial support for ministers and missionaries. Online giving is one way!
Perpetual fire on the altar (Lev 6:13). "Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out." God's ethical standards for holiness and righteousness do not change. Christ, being divine, took the fire of judgment fully on our behalf. His sacrifice has eternal and infinite value for all who take refuge in him (Heb 9-10). But Jesus also spoke of an ever-burning, unquenchable fire to be poured out in judgment upon those who do not repent (Mark 9:48; cf Lu 3:17).
"Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me." (Psalm 5:8)
The next two psalms are examples of lament psalms. Typical lament psalms begin with a complaint brought before God (such as illness or oppression by enemies) and conclude with a statement of confidence in the Lord. Such psalms will often include petition, description of circumstances, truths about God (which are being appealed to), and at the end, vows of future praise. Of course, they are written in Hebrew poetic form with its couplets (parallel statements), contrasts, images, and other figures of speech.
Righteousness. In both of these Psalms we should recognize that David's concern is for the advancement of God's righteousness in his kingdom. David does not merely pray these psalms as a grieved individual. The enemies he faces ("my foes") are those who oppose the righteous rule of God in Israel ("workers of evil", Ps 6:8), both within and without. In his own community there were contenders to, and opponents of, the throne that God had given him. And beyond the borders there were idolatrous nations who would happily destroy Israel as a nation if they could. So David's concerns were not with his personal trials but rather in fulfilling his role as the "shepherd" (protective ruler) of Israel (Ps 78:72). In this, as fallible as he was, King David foreshadows his greater descendant, the Son of David, our Lord Jesus (Ezek 37:24; John 10:1-15).
Retribution. In the sense just mentioned David's prayer for the destruction of his enemies is not an example of personal spite or vindictiveness on his part. He prays as the King over God's people for them to be preserved in righteousness, and that God's enemies would be destroyed. This reflects what we read already in Psalm 2: "You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Ps 2:9). Jesus himself said, "I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!" (Lu 12:49)
How long, O Lord? (Ps 6:3) David says, "My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD - how long?" From here all the way to Revelation (Rev 6:10) this will be a recurring prayer of God's people. God's timing is not our timing (2 Pet 3:8). But I believe that the Lord does not spurn our prayers when we say, "How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked prevail? How long will the pain continue? How long will injustice remain? How long must we bear loss and sorrow and humiliation and barrenness and death? "How long, O Lord?" The book of Psalms helps us sanctify our emotions. We are not detached, unfeeling observers of the story of redemption. We are part of that big Story! There is a time to laugh, but also a time to weep.
No remembrance in Sheol? (Ps 6:5). This may be a bit confusing at first: "For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?" Some believe that this means when we depart this life we remain unconscious, our souls being asleep until the resurrection. "Remembrance" here, given the second part of the verse, must refer to remembering-out-loud, as in recounting the great acts of God. Scripture gives abundant evidence that the souls of the departed are indeed conscious (see for example, Lu 16:19-31; 23:43; Rev 6:9-11). At this point in God's progressive revelation, David and his fellow Israelites knew little about what lay beyond the grave. For them, the place to be -- where the action was, so to speak -- was in live worship at Jerusalem. This was the world stage at that point in history. Far preferable to being dead was to be alive and verbally giving praise to God in the presence of people on earth. And really, it is no different today -- our living worship has a vital role to play in the big Story. You and I -- and 5 billion other people -- are center stage in God's unfolding drama of redemption. Right here, right now.
Image credit: photo by Bill Oxford 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.
The NET Bible is a free online resource of Bible.org.