“For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). For many years my practice has been to read the Bible through every year. I start in January with Genesis. I love all of God’s Word, but I must admit I have a few “least favorite” books. Leviticus is one of them. Sometimes I “speed read” the sections having to do with the various laws and regulations about mold, leprosy, and priestly sacrifices. However, this year I prayed about my attitude and asked the Lord to help me read Leviticus with more reverence and appreciation. What a difference! I am going more slowly through Leviticus and finding many things I can apply to my life. Just from the one verse above (Leviticus 11:45), I receive several important insights. First, the Lord wants us to understand who He is. “I am the Lord” is repeated often in Leviticus and reminds us that everything He says is based on His character. He has the right to command us because He is the creator and Lord of the universe. We must never forget that He is Lord, and we are His people. We also discover that the Lord doesn’t want us to think of Him as some type of cruel tyrant but as our Savior. He is the One who delivered Israel from slavery. In my travels, I have seen churches that have “deliverance” as part of their name. I can understand why. We don’t just use “will power” and choose to break away from sin. We must be delivered! It takes the power of God to break the chains that bind us. The Lord continually reminded the Israelites of His grace and power in setting them free to follow Him. God’s people back then and God’s people now rejoice in the Lord who loves us and sets us free from sin and its deadly consequences. Finally, I understand from Leviticus 11:45 that my deliverance from sin is just the beginning. It makes no sense to be freed from sin—only to go back into bondage. God challenges us by declaring, “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Holiness enables us to discover the joyful life of responding to God’s character. Because He is holy, my heart wants to be like Him. The holiness I enjoy is not something I have achieved but what I have received in our Lord Jesus Christ. I trust in Him, and He makes me clean and able to enjoy right standing in His presence. From this place of right standing in Christ, I get to walk each day shunning evil and pursuing what is holy and right. So, when it comes to Leviticus, I encourage you to slow down as you read this amazing book! Many gems are waiting for you to discover!
How could this have happened? God provided for them. They saw miracles. They witnessed answers to prayer. But, in a day, they ditched everything and tried to replace God with an idol! As I read the story about the Israelites from Exodus 32, I kept asking myself, “How could they have abandoned the Lord so quickly?” After the parting of the Red Sea, they danced and praised God. At Mount Horeb they heard the thunder of God’s voice and trembled in awe before Him. And yet, Moses is gone a little longer than anticipated, and they fall apart. They want a god they can touch and see, so they go to Aaron (Moses’ brother) and ask him to satisfy their feelings. “And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (Exodus 32:4, 6). After reading this distressing event, I became more aware of the deceptive power of the sinful nature. How easily we tend to serve God based on our emotions…rather than on our devotion. I’ve seen it too many times. People I know who at one time fervently sought the Lord but now have forgotten Him. It seems the world won their hearts because it offered more thrills and feelings. If we’re not careful, emotions can rule us. We can end up trading intimacy with God for intensity with the world. Please don’t get me wrong. Emotions are not evil. As Christians, our goal is not to stoically try to eradicate our emotions. We are to love God with our emotions as well. However, emotions make dangerous drivers when we put them behind the wheel! It’s devotion to God that steers us through the journey. When you study the life of Moses, you see someone who sought the presence of God. He humbled himself and continually devoted himself to the Lord and His Word. At times his emotions screamed to give up, but Moses sought the Lord and received strength to overcome his negative feelings. He stayed faithful to the end because his love for God was grounded in devotion. A growing Christian is one who makes decisions based on lifetime devotion—not fleeting feelings. May we be like the early Christians who understood the importance of devotion. Acts 2:42 declares, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayer.” Mature love for the Lord always deepens into devotional love…not just emotional love.
Have you noticed in your life that God sometimes leads you to do something that seems impossible? You may find yourself faced with a challenge that brings you to the end of all imaginable resources. But then, God reminds you of who He is! This is exactly what happened to Moses at the burning bush. The Lord came to Moses with a special task. At this time in Moses’ life, he had been living in the far-off land of Midian for forty years as a shepherd. His relatives, the Hebrews, were slaves in Egypt. For Moses, Egypt seemed like a lifetime away. His current work of watching sheep in Midian was routine and predictable…until the call came: “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). The first words out of Moses’ lips were, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (verse 11). Moses was right, but he was also wrong. For sure Moses was powerless in himself to do anything to help his people in Egypt. He was just one person. He had no army and no resources. But God proclaimed to Moses, “I will be with you…” (verse 12). As the dialogue continues, God tries to get Moses to trust and look to Him as his source. Moses, however, is stuck. All he sees is his own lack and continues to excuse himself by confessing, “I can’t do this!” Finally, God graciously provides Aaron (the brother of Moses) to come alongside Moses. Faith and hope arise in Moses, and he begins the journey. When you read the rest of the story, you discover that Moses’ obedience brought both adventure and trials. But, in the end, God provided supernatural victory. The Hebrews left the slavery of Egypt and headed for the Promised Land! We learn something important here from Moses. God has a way of “upsetting” our predictable routines. At times He brings us face to face with challenges that we can’t accomplish on our own. In these times, we must push beyond our excuses of “why I can’t do this.” Our faith is not in ourselves but in the One who called us and who promised, “I will be with you.” May the eyes of our heart be fixed on the Lord Jesus, knowing that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. Enjoy the journey!
I will never forget my encounter with a man in Center City. As I presented the gospel to him, he shared with me how alcohol had destroyed his life for the past 20 years. The more he shared, the more he became angry….at God! He viewed his alcoholism as a disease he “caught,” and that God was unwilling to heal him. Not once did he take personal responsibility! In his eyes, his present misery was everyone else’s fault—except his own. As I read the Bible, I understand the deceptive power of human nature. As the first sin against God unfolds in Genesis 3, God seeks out the guilty pair. Although He knows what happened, the Lord approaches Adam with questions, hoping to draw out his confession and repentance. Instead of taking personal responsibility, Adam immediately deflects guilt to Eve. “The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it’” (Genesis 3:12). God then addresses Eve, who immediately blames the serpent. The story is sad but almost funny when you realize there are only two adults in the world, and neither of them claim to be at fault! As I consider this, I think of the condition of our world right now. How easy it is to blame all our problems on society or political leaders. During this challenging time of Covid, I have heard accounts of believers who have drifted away from God and try to blame “the church.” The Bible is clear. If I am to walk with God and make progress in spiritual growth, I must start by making it personal. My spiritual health (or lack of it) is not someone else’s fault. As 2022 unfolds, may we courageously take responsibility for our choices. The Lord is willing to give us the grace we need to choose wisely. As people of truth, we need to admit the great freedom God has given us to choose…and take personal responsibility to lead ourselves to Him.