In His Presence

Leviticus 25-27 and Psalm 31-32

We have learned so much as we finish the book of Leviticus. Chapter 26 begins with a warning from the LORD. The Israelites are told not to make any object to became an object of worship. We can look at the Israelites throughout their history and become very critical. They succumb many times to the worship of idols. Every generation had to make the choice to follow the LORD God or to worship the false gods that the Israelites had allowed into their culture. Even future Kings would face this choice and unfortunately many choose to devote their lives to idols.  But I also have to wonder if we are not making that same choice today? Are there false gods in our lives? For example, we don’t create our own electronic devices and bow down to them, but perhaps we spend hours surfing, checking out what is on social media, texting, gaming, … When something is receiving our focus and taking our attention away from God, we should consider it a negative. We are allowing something to get in the way of our relationship with God. Anything or any person that negatively affects our connection with God is a modern-day idol.  In Colossians we are told that sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed are idolatry. (Col. 3:5) It states that we should put these actions to death. But it is not enough just to remove the idols, we need for God to change our hearts.  When our hearts are filled with love for God, our actions start to align with what God wants us to do.

As God explained to the Israelites, they needed to observe His Sabbaths, show reverence for His sanctuary, follow His decrees and obey His commands to receive amazing blessings. Then He would walk among them, He would be their God and they would be His people. How incredible is that?! We are presented with a choice to make today as well. We can enter into a loving relationship with God. We can ask Him to make our love for Him and others strong. We can invite God to be the center of our lives. We can place our focus on His Son Jesus Christ. We can live in His presence by the power of His spirit. God is still reaching out to us, His people. He offers us blessings and the greatest one is to be in His presence.

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:13

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 25-27 and Psalm 31-32

Make Today a Festival

Leviticus 23-24 and Psalm 29-30 

Just 37 days until Easter. We get to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sunday, April 4 this year. Our church is already planning a special weekend that includes a prayer walk and a special outdoor worship service. I love religious holidays. We have time to think about the true meaning of the celebration. This Christmas we sang, read Bible stories, and celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ for several weeks. We had multiple Services including a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. We also have special services for Thanksgiving which allow us the opportunity to express how truly grateful we are.   

In Leviticus 23 the Lord’s appointed festivals are given to the people. The sabbath was observed each week with rest from regular work and a sacred assembly. The Israelites were to hold festivals, sacred assemblies and offerings at appointed times annually. Each had special meaning. These festivals were reminders of what God had done, to thank Him for what He was still doing and also provided an occasion for interaction with the LORD through worship and offerings. An opportunity to break from the everyday routine and focus on the LORD. The (1)Sabbath, (2)Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread, (3) Offering the Firstfruits, (4)Festival of Weeks, (5)Festival of Trumpets, (6)Day of Atonement and (7)Festival of Tabernacles began.

As Christians, we daily set aside time to spend with the LORD and we regularly assemble with other Christians to join in Worship and Praise through our Lord Christ Jesus. We daily walk with God and follow the example of Christ. How blessed are we to live in a time when we can openly celebrate the major holidays, and we can also celebrate every day because our God lives in us by His Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:11) We can praise Him for every good thing we experience every day.  He is available to us at all times through our mediator Christ Jesus. The book of Hebrews explains that through Jesus, we can continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.  The passage also reminds us that we should not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16) So let’s dedicate every day to the LORD. 

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 23-24 and Psalm 29-30

Be Holy

Leviticus 19-20

God’s message to the entire assembly of Israel was “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy”. (Lev. 19:1) As we move through Leviticus, we are seeing that God is giving very specific instructions to show the people and priests how to be ceremonially clean. He is setting them apart from the other nations. He is forbidding horrendous behavior (like child sacrifice) and presenting them with the idea of being holy. As followers of Christ, we are asked to be holy as well. As 1 Peter 1:15 states, “just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do”. And Paul’s writings state that God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

When we think about God’s holiness, we might feel overwhelmed because He is so awesome. But let’s consider how God is Holy. God’s supreme Holiness sets Him apart from His creation. He is unique. He is the Only True God (Jn. 17:3). He is perfect in every way. He is the Creator and Giver of all that is good, He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving, just, God is Love…

So how could the Israelites become holy? The LORD tells them to consecrate themselves-turn their lives over to the LORD. He states that they should keep and follow His decrees. Most important He said that He is the LORD who makes them holy. (Lev. 20:7-8) This was true for the Israelites, and it is true for us today. He is the LORD who can make us holy.

We need to offer ourselves to Him as living sacrifices (Rom.12:1) and accept God’s ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:10b and 10:14) 

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 19-20 and Psalm 25-26

Boundaries for the Sheep

Leviticus 17-18 and Psalm 23-24

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” These words are so well known that most Christians immediately recognize this first line of Psalm 23. But there are so many truths that we can begin to understand from this simple phrase.

 The LORD is called MY shepherd.

The sheep has accepted the shepherd and as a result the sheep “lack nothing.”  The Psalm goes on to explain the ways that the LORD provides, cares for, and guides His sheep, but all of this is possible because He is Our Shepherd. There has to be a relationship.

We have to have trust in the shepherd and we need to stay in the Shepherd’s boundaries. From Leviticus 18 we are learning that God is establishing decrees and laws to govern the Israelites’ behavior including sexual relations. If we truly accept our relationship with God as the director of our lives and the overseer of our well-being, we can trust Him with all areas of our lives including our sexuality. We can trust that His commands on sexuality are right. We can personally follow them. For instance, he placed restrictions on certain sexual activity like incest. No sexual relations between relatives. This makes perfect sense.  God has designed the marriage relationship as the place where sex is one expression of love. Other family relationships need to be cultivated in nonsexual ways. We love through acceptance, encouragement, kindness, patience, …and so many other actions. This creates a safe, nurturing and sound family atmosphere.

God’s commands are given to keep us healthy physically and whole relationally while He nourishes us to produce spiritual fruit.  So as we read through Leviticus, we are learning that God’s commands are life-giving boundaries for us-His sheep. Our shepherd guides us so we are nourished, safe and loved.  

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 17-18 and Psalm 23-24

The Scriptures Are for All Generations

Leviticus 15-16 and Psalm 21-22

One huge benefit of living in our day and time is having an extensive body of God’s scriptures available to us. We can see scriptures that clearly confirm God’s plan has been actively unfolding throughout all ages and to each generation. Leviticus 16 explains the event that we refer to as the Day of Atonement.

The High Priest would follow the ordinances on one special day once a year to cleanse all the members of the community from their sins. The people would observe a Sabbath rest because on that day atonement would be made for them, to cleanse them. “Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.” (Lev. 16:30)

Of course, as Christians we can see that these offerings were pointing to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We know that he is our great high priest (Heb. 4:14) who offers us the opportunity to be forgiven of sin.  He sacrificed his own blood for our forgiveness. He wanted us to be cleansed from all of our sins and to be reconciled to God.

That was carried out through his sacrificial death on the cross and amazingly Psalm 22 reveals what this experience was like for Jesus Christ.  David may be writing about personal experiences and yet he miraculously described the crucifixion. He wrote this event about 1,000 years before it occurred. This Psalm begins with the words spoken by Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet the Psalm ends in praise to God. It states that all future generations will serve Him and be told about the Lord. “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! (Psalm 22:31)

We have the benefit of seeing the results and rewards that Christ accomplished for himself and for all his followers. Praise God that we have the scriptures that explain this to us. Scriptures that were written through many centuries and passed on to the next generations. We have a bird’s eye view of how beautifully God works through His faithful followers. Be faithful to share the scriptures with others because all that God has spoken through them will be accomplished.

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 15-16 and Psalm 21-22

Be Different

Leviticus 11-12

According to Leviticus 11, there are plenty of animals that are forbidden for God’s people to eat: pigs, rabbits, and bats are all in this list (who would want to eat a bat anyways?), along with plenty of other animals. However, if you are like me, you enjoy a side a bacon with your eggs in the morning, or enjoy a nice, grilled pork chop for dinner. For those of you who are concerned about breaking God’s food laws today, I will encourage you to look at Mark 7:19 and Acts 10, where these commands are no longer applicable for God’s people (Christians).

However, beneath the surface of these food laws is an important concept that does still apply to us today. The reason God gave these laws for His people is put simply in Leviticus 11:44: “For I am YHWH your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” The whole point of these food laws, and others in Leviticus, is to be holy for God. The word “holy” simply means “separate” or “different”, as God wanted His people to look, live, and behave differently than the rest of the sinful world that they found themselves in. Of course, this obligation to “be holy” still applies to Christians today (see Matthew 5:48).

What does it mean for Christians to be “holy” in 2021? At a simple level, it means that we follow God’s commands that were given through Jesus Christ, even when nobody else does. Specifically, it means that we do not pursue the sinful decisions and pride that we find all around us. Christians cannot sinfully enjoy the same things that the non-believing world does, like pornography, homosexuality, sex before marriage, drunkenness, drug abuse, gluttony, or any other form of behavior that goes against the commands in the Bible. Put simply, Christians must look, live, and behave differently than the rest of the sinful world that we find ourselves in. Although there is forgiveness when we fail in any sinful area, we cannot ignore the fact that it is sinful; we must seek repentance. You may face verbal or physical abuse, lose friends, or other forms of persecution for living differently, but our obligation is to please God and Jesus Christ above all else; that is the only thing that matters to Christians.

Fellow Christians, we need to stand out as a light in this world (Matthew 5:14), being different than everybody else. We can do this by pursuing holiness and purity, serving the poorest in our communities, and sharing the gospel message with those we love. We have our instructions: we need to be faithful to God and Jesus Christ in everything that we do. Let’s be holy; let’s be different.

-Talon Paul

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 11-12 and Psalm 18

Contrary to His Command

Leviticus 9-10

After all the instructions that God gave to the priests, and after all the preparations were in place, now the priests at the Tabernacle can finally begin their work of atoning for Israel’s sins! Chapters 9 and 10 of Leviticus are monumental and we should not miss this; this is where the rubber meets the road as the priests are finally going to act on their instructions… and it doesn’t go well from the start. Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, carelessly neglected to follow all the specific commands of God and were punished with death. It is an obscure and confusing passage, but overall, the story carries the same meaning: punishment comes from not following God’s clear instruction.

If we can say anything about Leviticus, it is detail-oriented; there was no room for the priests to make up their own minds about how to perform sacrifices. God was very specific and very clear about what He wanted to be done. The same is true for us: God is not a god of confusion, but of clarity and precise direction (1 Corinthians 14:33). He has specifically told us what He wants us to do as Christians in the New Testament through Jesus Christ; to stray away from His command brings relational and spiritual death, where we suffer to recover from our mistakes (Romans 6:22-23).

There are two challenges for all of us in the New Testament, and they are quite clear and precise. The first is to read Jesus’ words daily; you cannot possibly follow his commands if you don’t know what they are. The second challenge is to put his teaching into practice; it does us no good to simply know something, but instead, we must act upon it (James 2:14-17). Jesus tells us specifically that if we do not listen and act upon his teachings, then we are building our lives on sand instead of solid ground, giving us no foundation or stability (Matthew 7:24-27).

Let’s do better than Nadab and Abihu. Let’s follow God’s clear commands, revealed through Jesus Christ, and see the difference that it can make in our lives and the lives of others. It is not complicated; God is specific about what we are supposed to do.

-Talon Paul

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 9-10 and Psalm 15-17

Fellow Priests of God

Leviticus 7-8

If you have been following along with the reading through Leviticus so far, things are getting pretty intense, as we learn descriptions about the specific ways that animals are butchered, what to do with their blood, and their fat being burned up; hopefully you’ve had a strong stomach for this section. Although most of us have probably breezed through this section in order to move forward from the apparent horror scene that has been painted, there is a relevant message for us in the midst of it all, and it deals with the priests. All of chapter eight is dedicated to preparing the priests for their work of service in the Tabernacle, getting them ready to minister to God and on behalf of God’s people.

If you have ever had a job or career before, you understand that there is a period of preparation that you must go through. When I worked at Burger King in college, we had one week of video training modules that we had to complete before we even touched a food preparation station. If even Burger King requires this period of preparation for the job, how much more for those who are going to act as priests and mediators for God and God’s people? Relating this back to today, how much more do those who are leading God’s people in churches need to spend time in preparation? Just as Aaron and his sons had to spend time in ritual planning and preparation, so too must Christians who are serving in various ways in individual churches.

1 Peter 2:9 states that Christians are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s own possession.” This is a passage that sparked the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s, as the late Martin Luther began teaching that all Christians are entrusted with God’s Holy Spirit, God’s message for humanity, and God’s grace, not just the officials of the church. If we are called “priests” now, that means that we have work to do in preparing ourselves for service to God also. We are not called to just accept God’s forgiveness and sit around; we are called to use the gift of God’s Spirit to bring about real change in other people’s lives (see 1 Corinthians 12).

Fellow Christian, the challenge for us today is three-fold. We must first understand what Jesus has done for us in his death and resurrection, truly having faith in his work. Secondly, we need to figure out how God has blessed us to serve others with His Spirit; you must have a solid grasp of what gifts God has given you. Finally, we need to do the necessary preparation work to be fully useful to our God, by getting trained in the ways God has called us. Whether you are pastoring a church, singing worship music on Sundays, evangelizing in the streets, serving food in the homeless shelter, or any other form of service to God, we all must prepare ourselves for that service. Fellow priests of God, let us prepare ourselves today and thank God for the opportunity.

-Talon Paul

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 7-8 and Psalm 12-14

Rich and Poor

Leviticus 5-6

One thing that absolutely amazes me about God is that He desires that everyone would turn to Him and be saved (Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:4-5). Although we know that not everyone will make this decision, this is a description of God’s heart; He earnestly wants all of us to join Him in the Kingdom of God! Since we know this to be true, it makes sense that God would provide a way for anyone to come and have their sins wiped clean, regardless of their circumstances. Within the descriptions of the sacrifices in Leviticus 5-6, we find that God does not only look out for the rich, but also for those who are poor and are struggling. God does not favor those who make more money, but provides for everybody, regardless of their wealth.

In describing the guilt offering in Leviticus 5, God commands that a lamb or goat be offered to Him to cover whatever sin that the person is guilty of (Leviticus 5:6). However, the next few verses are revealing of God’s nature and heart; if they cannot afford a lamb or goat (which were expensive in their time), there are other ways of offering the sacrifice to be forgiven. Even the poorest individual, who can only afford a small amount of flour (Leviticus 5:11) has the opportunity to be forgiven and come into God’s presence to be cleansed.

There are two revealing truths within these chapters of Leviticus. The first is that God does not favor the rich, but looks out for the poor as well. This truth is continued in the New Testament, even declaring that it is the poor who will inherit the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3; James 2:5). Those who do not have much to offer are still able to come before the throne of God, through the sacrifices back then and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ now. In fact, Jesus teaches that those who sacrifice when they have little are giving more than those who have much, but choose to give little (Luke 21:1-4).

The second lesson is for those who are rich; you are expected to sacrifice more. Jesus stated that “everyone who has been given much, much will be required…” (Luke 12:48) God has entrusted you with more resources, but not just for your own benefit. You are expected to sacrifice more for God, which means giving more to those who are in need today (Matthew 25:31-40; Ephesians 4:28). You must also not think more highly of yourself, simply because you have more money than others. God does not look at financial well-being as a sign of blessing, since the poor will inherit the Kingdom of God (James 2:5), but is simply a means for you to test your faith. What are you doing with your vast resources?

Every believer is expected to sacrifice something, whether great or small. What are you willing to sacrifice to follow Jesus Christ fully, and what is holding you back?

-Talon Paul

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 5-6 and Psalm 10-11

Confessing & Confronting

Leviticus 3-4

Yesterday, we looked at the seriousness of sin and the reason why the Israelites were expected to offer sacrifices for those sins. Before we continue on, I want to offer some helpful advice for reading the first few chapters of this book, so that you don’t become overwhelmed. There are only five sacrifices listed here: the burnt offering (ch. 1), the grain/cereal offering (ch. 2), the peace/fellowship offering (ch. 3), the sin offering (ch. 4-5), and the guilt offering (ch. 5-6). Each of these sacrifices are included for different purposes, not always for sin, and all of them have their own process of being offered. Usually a good study Bible will point this out, but just in case you don’t have one, I wanted to offer this to help you along the way.

Have you ever considered how your sins have affected someone else, whether in your family or in your church? When you act out in a sinful way, you are not only affecting yourself, but are infecting the entire community that you are involved in. Leviticus is very strong in chapter 4 on this point, and calls out the leaders and the congregation in the same breath. For those leading churches, homes, or any other area of life, you are responsible for those whom God has put under your care, and when you sin, you are affecting everyone. In Leviticus 4:3, it states that when the anointed priest (i.e. the leader) sins, he brings guilt on the entire congregation. What a responsibility! Maybe that is why the New Testament is so strong on the moral qualifications of those who want to be leaders in the church (see 1 Timothy 3).

It is not just the leader who affects the whole congregation, but the people that are being led also. Leviticus 4:13-21 discusses how the whole congregation is responsible for the sin that takes place within their midst. This truth still carries on today; whatever you do in sin affects those within your community. From “minor” sins like lying and gossipping, to “major” sins like being sexually immoral; these all have results and those results are deadly. The whole congregation of people has an obligation to confront the sin in their midst (in a loving way) and remove that practice from their group (see 1 Corinthians 5).

Church, we need to do better about both confessing sin and confronting it within our midst. When we allow sin to continue unchecked in our churches and homes, we are allowing a deadly cancer to affect everyone within. Leaders, you are responsible for making sure that the people you are leading are taken care of and being as holy as possible for God’s presence. Those of you who are being led, you have a responsibility for keeping your leaders accountable and for doing everything you can to personally confess and deal with your sin. We can all improve in this area, as difficult and awkward as it can be to admit to our faults. However, there is much peace and healing that comes from confessing and confronting the sins in our lives (James 5:16).

-Talon Paul

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 3-4 and Psalm 7-9