Bible reading for April 4-5 weekend -- Leviticus 7-8; Psalms 7-9.
"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:3-4)
My wife and I once attended a Shakespearean play presented on a summer evening on the grounds of the Barboursville ruins. This mansion [pictured below] was designed by Thomas Jefferson for Governor James Barbour, and was built in 1814, but destroyed by fire in 1884. It was an enjoyable evening and the ruins themselves had a haunting beauty. Something of its original glory could be seen. I've always been fascinated by old ruins and abandoned buildings, places which once were magnificent but now lay in quiet decay. The Bible teaches that our human condition is very much like that, a "glorious ruin."
A little lower than angels. Psalm 8 is a hymn exalting the majesty of God in creating mankind. Being human is a gift from God. Our dominion over earth comes about not by our will to power but as a stewardship given by God. Our Lord Jesus cited this psalm (8:2), regarding the children who cried out "Hosanna to the Son of David" at Christ's triumphal entry (Matt 21:15-16). When we look at ourselves -- if we're really honest -- we see that we are hybrid Jekyll-and-Hyde creatures. Sometimes we accomplish amazing, thoughtful, creative, intelligent, and altruistic things. And sometimes we're just plain beastly, selfish, uncaring, and self-destructive. The Bible teaches both the dignity and the depravity of human nature ever since the fall of Adam. We are indeed glorious ruins, as Francis Schaeffer wrote, “We are glorious because we were created by God for the noble purpose of being His image bearers; yet we are ruins because sin has marred the divine image we were designed to display, at times seemingly beyond recognition.” This is an apt description of human nature. Psalm 8 focuses on the glory of man created in the image of God. For a little while we are lower than angels, but yet will be crowned with glory and honor. The fulfillment of this psalm is seen in our Lord Jesus, who restores the image of God upon man, and who is himself the image of God (Jn 1:18; 14:9; 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:17; Heb 1:3). And we who believe are being transformed into his likeness (2 Cor 3:18; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). By God's grace, that which is ruined will be rebuilt!
Overview of Psalms 7 & 9. In Psalm 7 David appeals to God for protection and for vindication before an opponent. He states plainly that if he himself had been at fault toward this particular person -- the superscription names Cush the Benjaminite -- then David is willing to bear the full weight of judgment against himself. David's desire is for righteousness, but not for a self-justifying righteousness. And Psalm 9 is a thanksgiving psalm (or, declarative praise) wherein David praises God for his righteous judgment over all the nations: "But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness" (Psalm 9:7-8).
In Leviticus 7 we finish the instructions on the sin and guilt offerings, and in chapter 8 Aaron and his sons are ordained to the priestly ministry. The is the first of the three "anointed" offices in the OT -- the king and the prophet being the other two. The priest served as a mediator between God and man, presenting the person and his offerings to the Lord in a way that would be acceptable to God who is holy. The priest represented people to God, whereas the prophet represented God to people, and the king ruled people on behalf of God. This OT priesthood prefigures the ministry of our Lord Jesus, who himself is both priest and sacrifice (Heb 2:17; cf Heb ch 5-10), bringing us into God's holy presence.
To be "cut off" from the people of Israel (Lev 7:20-21; cf Exodus 12:15 et al) was to be excluded from the blessings of the covenant community, especially the privilege of coming to God in worship. This might involve excommunication, or even death. Death might come about as a judgment from God, or perhaps childlessness, that is, having one's name drop out of Israel's history. To be part of God's kingdom was an inestimable privilege, and how the Lord's people approached him in worship was a serious matter. God cares how he is worshiped, then and now. It is not only ethical matters that God judges but also how we come to him in worship, and upon what basis and manner we call upon him.
I did it my way. Through the years, as I have invited people to join in Christian worship, people have said to me, "Thank you, but I worship God in my own way." That may be sincere, but it is sincerely misguided and ultimately selfish. We do not get to choose our terms, or "my own way," when it comes to who God is and what he wants. We come to God -- come to know him, trust him, worship him, believe his promises, and obey him -- in the ways he has chosen and revealed in his word. OT scholar Bruce Waltke wrote, “Playing fast and loose with God’s prescribed practices is to show disrespect for God’s honor and dignity” (Old Testament Theology, p. 466) And further, as Calvin said, "All who, wishing to honor God, set up religions of their own devising, are merely worshiping their own fantasies."
What's with the fat and the blood? As to diet the Israelites were to completely abstain from eating blood, or eating meat without the blood drained out, which was a command given to Noah long before the Mosaic covenant (Gen 9:4; Lev 3:17; Acts 15:19-20). Blood was bound up with the life of the creature, and its use was defiling unless it was from a sacrificial animal whose blood was sprinkled upon the one who was approaching God. The outward cleansing represented an inner cleansing which we all need. So when Jesus spoke of drinking his blood (John 6) many were offended because they thought he was talking literally rather than figuratively of his sacrifice on our behalf. His atoning blood must in that sense be sprinkled upon our very hearts for cleansing (Heb 10:22). On the other hand, fat was considered the best part of the meat, and Abel brought the best from his flock, being the firstborn and the fat portions to sacrifice to God (Gen 4:4). Tom Constable explains, "The Israelites were not to eat the fat of this sacrifice but to offer it to God on the altar. This may have symbolized that God was worthy of the best since the ancients regarded the fat of an animal as its best part. Another explanation is that since the Old Testament used the kidneys and entrails to represent the seat of human emotions (cf. Job 19:27; Ps. 16:7; Jer. 4:14; 12:2), these parts represented the worshiper’s best and deepest emotions." (On Lev 3, NETBible)
Image credit: at top, photo by Keenan Barber on Unsplash. At bottom, the Barboursville ruins.
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.