The Queen of Sheba and Jesus

1 Kings 10-11 & 2 Chronicles 9

2 Chronicles 9 23 NIV

Who is the wisest person to ever live?
Let me tell you why you’re wrong. (Just kidding!)
Most of us answer Solomon, right? We are told that many times in Sunday School, and our teachers weren’t wrong. He was wise… to a point. We look at what he did at the beginning of his life and we see a man who was so dedicated to God that he asked for wisdom instead of riches, power, wealth or fame. For that, God gave him all wisdom and all the other things as well. Solomon was “wise enough to know that we are not wise enough on our own.” But, is Solomon the wisest person to ever live?
I believe our reading today disabuses of that notion quickly. Solomon starts off great, but in the end, his rule falls apart. His wisdom allowed his fame to increase. But as his fame increased, his wealth increased; as his wealth increased, his political connections, in the form of marriages, increased; as his number of marriages increased, the amount of gods he worshipped increased. And there’s our problem, but it doesn’t start there. Solomon, for all his wisdom, lost sight of the end goal. Wisdom is not meant for wealth. Wisdom is not meant for fame.
Wisdom is meant for godliness.
If we want to find the wisest person to ever live, we should look to the man who knew and had insight into the hearts of men and women, the one who even knew “all things.” Jesus, of course, is the wisest man to ever live. He unpacks the wisdom of God found in the Torah Law and applies it in a way that changes more than just behavior, but changes the heart. Jesus knew how to perfectly interpret scripture in wisdom. Most importantly, Jesus lived a life of wisdom by being Godly, doing what God wanted, all day, every day.
When we read about the Queen of Sheba and the wisdom of Solomon in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9, we need to remember that her praise was not only directed at Solomon. 1 Kings 10:9 reads “Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” The Queen of Sheba was wowed at the power of YHWH to give wisdom to people. The wisdom that Solomon imparted was that God was the giver of wisdom and that God was the blesser of his people; this, sadly, was a lesson Solomon forgot. It should be no surprise that Jesus said “The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42, Luke 11:31) Jesus knew that if the Queen of the South, the Queen of Sheba, were alive in his day, she would travel from the ends of the earth to hear the message of wisdom that he preached, because his teaching, his power, his wisdom far exceeds all that Solomon had.
May we my brothers and sisters, stand on the day of judgement found in the wisdom of Jesus, the wisdom that leads to godliness. May we recognize the wisdom of Christ over the wisdom of this world, and choose Christ every time. May you be blessed because you choose to trust and to live your days in the saving grace of the wisest person who ever lived.
Jacob (Jake) Ballard
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Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church. You can hear more of his thoughts and worship along with the TBC Family on Facebook, live streaming every Sunday at 10am. Reach out to Jake on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Tomorrow’s reading will be the end of the Proverbs (30-31) as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Your Life is Not Meaningless

But it is Fleeting – so Live Wisely!

Ecclesiastes 12 13 NIV sgl

Ecclesiastes 7-12

In Ecclesiastes 7-12 the author, the Teacher, continues to discuss things that are “havel”, vain, futile, fleeting and temporary. (If you haven’t yet, go ahead and read yesterday’s devotion on Ecclesiastes 1-6 for a deeper understanding of “havel”.)
The author accepts that death is the end of every person and it is important to accept that fate and live with one’s face toward death. Much of the last half of this book is the reality righteous and wise people suffer the same fate as those who are wicked and foolish. However, we must not let this reality change how we read the entire book of Ecclesiastes. The author writes in 8:12-13 “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.” While it is TRUE that the wicked and the righteous both end their lives in death, the author holds that there is good for a righteous person. Still, seek righteousness and wisdom because even a little foolishness can ruin one’s life. (10:1)
For you younger readers, the author commends that you seek out wisdom and that you remember God today! At this point in your life (12:1) There will be days of difficulty as life goes on, but in our days of joy, remember God. God is the one who gives comfort, joy, happiness, and strength on the days when the world is dark, the clouds are gray, and the pains of life are crowding in. Because the childhood and the prime of life are fleeting, temporary and transitory, enjoy them now. (11:10)
We are nearing the end of the book. We have been asking the question : “what lasts? What do people REALLY gain for all they do?” The last two verses of the book tell us what lasts : How we have lived, whether we kept the commands of God and feared him. All this in our life will be judged. Of course, this has been hinted before; now it is explicitly and clearly stated. If we believe, as some have, that the Teacher is a cynical, morose, or even godless man, then the last two verses are a radical departure. However, if this is a man who loves God and understands the futility, vanity, temporariness, FLEETING nature of life, then the final verses in Ecclesiastes are an understandable conclusion.
This of course effects how we read many passages. The author says “eat, drink, enjoy your labor, be merry!” (5:18, 8:15, 9:7) These passage show us that our labor, what we do, are not meaningless, but they are precious because of their very fleeting nature. The teacher says in 9:9, “Enjoy life with the woman you love all the days of your fleeting life…” You know you are precious to God. Your life is not meaningless, but it is havel, transitory, temporary. What we have in this life is not meaningless drudgery of existence, but the temporary good things are to be enjoyed, and to seek the eternal good things, doing the will of God and fearing him.
In the short time of our discussion we missed many interesting passages, some that are difficult (about death and sorrow) and some that are encouraging (about enjoying pleasure on the earth). But, my friends, remember : The entire duty for all people is to do the commands of God. We know that since Christ has come into the world “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (1 John 3:23) As you continue to believe in the name of Jesus, may you love one another as you seek how to live wisely today!
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+7-12&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 10-11 and 2 Chronicles 9 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Ecclesiastes gets a bad wrap. 

Ecclesiastes 1 3 NIV sgl
It shouldn’t but it does. Most people think it is a depressed Old Man Solomon sitting down at the end of his life saying “EVERYTHING IS MEANINGLESS.” Therefore, most of the book is about how everything is meaningless, life is not valuable, and it would be better to be dead.
But that’s a bad interpretation.
First, let’s look at 1:2. This is the key phrase of the book. Everything hinges on understanding this phrase correctly. And most of our translations do a poor job. That may seem arrogant, but let’s look at the word in Hebrew. The word, (transliterated) is “havel” or “habel”. Literally, it means “mist” or “vapor.” Very rarely is it used in this sense. Many more times it is used of idols, which are “mists” as opposed to God’s “concreteness.”  In its more poetic context, which the passage warrants, it means “temporary”, “fleeting”, “transitory”. The author is declaring “Passing! Fleeting! Un-lasting! Everything changes and nothing remains!” See how VASTLY different that sounds from the usual “eVeRyThInG iS mEaNiNgLeSs!” we normally read?
We need to understand that the central call of the book is about how nothing lasts because it makes the question in 1:3 make SO MUCH MORE SENSE! The author (Qohelet, the teacher, most likely meant to be Solomon, but not for sure) is not simply lamenting that work is hard and not much can be gained. Instead, the author is asking a very pointed question : “In everything I do, WHAT DO I HAVE THAT LASTS? What remains? What is not ‘havel’, not a temporary, fleeting, striving after the wind?”
Now THAT is a question we want an answer to!
This isn’t a depressed teacher moaning about how everything is terrible and nothing matters and that all the stuff we do is unimportant. He is asking (and implicitly promising to answer), “What will be the thing that will last when all the other futilities of life fade?”
He goes on in these first 6 chapters and tells us that it’s not wisdom (1:12-18)[though it is better than folly (2:12-17)], it’s not pleasure (2:1-3) or possessions (2:4-11), it’s not labor (2:18-23) [though labor is a good thing (2:24-26, 3:12-15)]. The justice and oppression of men is havel, those who seek after money will realize it is havel.
Look at what the author says in 3:14 “I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it.” The eternal, so far as we know now, the thing that is not havel, temporary, fleeting or futile, is the work of God.
We leave this section of Ecclesiastes without the answer. There are some depressing things the author says, but once we have the answer for “what does a man gain? what LASTS?” we can reevaluate those passages in light of the answer.
Jake Ballard
Tomorrow we will finish the book of Ecclesiastes to find yet another wise answer to the questions of life on our walk through God’s powerful word – 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Counterintuitive Wisdom

Proverbs 27-29

Proverbs 27 6 NIV sgl

The Proverbs are, in many cases, fairly self explanatory. Don’t be lazy, don’t be a wicked ruler, don’t be foolish but be wise, be a righteous ruler, be diligent in your work. Each Proverb has it’s own meaning but they go along those lines. But some are not so self explanatory. They are counterintuitive.
A short example is found in 28:27. If you want to be prosperous and blessed, to never be in want, then we give our money to the poor. The world, our own sinful heads, and many economists believe that the way to grow our wealth and not be in want is to hoard our money. But that’s not the way God works. It is only in generosity and giving that we will be blessed. This comes from the fact that God will bless and many times he blesses us through the care of others in our time of struggle and hardship.
Also, 27:5-6 doesn’t seem to be true in the moment. I don’t like to be rebuked. I don’t like it when a friend calls me out on the garbage way I am acting. But the Proverb teaches us that we should delight when a friend rebukes us because their correction comes form a place of love and they want our life to be one of wisdom and righteousness. This is especially true for  our brothers and sisters in our local church. Many times, we may feel judged by the people of our church, but more often than not, they are wanting the BEST for us. The “wounds” they give are better than any kisses of those who tell us we have nothing wrong with us. There could be people who act like a friend and hurt you in terrible ways, but here we mean TRUE friendship, TRUE companionship, TRUE love from a brother or sister in Christ. That true love is shown in forgiveness and compassion, especially in our moments of weakness and humility. Many times, when we are sinning and are fearing the rebuke of those people, we hide our sin away, like 28:13 says. But counterintuitively, by hiding our sins, we only hurt ourselves more when they are brought to light in some other way. We need to confess our sins and turn away from them. When we do, compassion and forgiveness are waiting for us from the people of God and from God himself.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverbs+27-29&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Ecclesiastes 1-6 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

To Answer a Fool – or Not?

Disagree – Wisely

Proverbs 26 4 5 NIV

Proverbs 25 & 26
Proverbs is hard to write ONE devotion about. From chapter 10 forward, nearly the entire book is a collection of pithy quick sayings that were meant to produce wisdom in those who learned them. (Only chapter 31 is different, but that will be for another author to work through!) Today, for chapters 25 and 26, I want to focus on just one set of verses.
There are two authors to every word of the Bible. The first is the human author, a person who lived in a specific place and time, thought and wrote in a specific language and who was fallible and failing just like the rest of humanity. Also, Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God. This means that God directed the author so that the words, ideas, and stories are those by which God wanted people to live and that everything in the Bible is true. Short and simple, the Bible is not full of lies and misinformation, and it doesn’t contradict itself. (1)
That seems like a hard standard to hold when we read Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5.
26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes.
DO NOT X & DO X. That is a pretty clear contradiction, right?
Well, yes and no; let me explain. It is clearly contradiction if we believe that all the Proverbs must be followed all the time, like the laws of the Torah. But this is not how the Proverbs were intended to be used.
Proverbs were meant to make people wise, and therefore were to build wisdom AND BE USED WITH WISDOM. Every Proverb doesn’t always give what must be done in every situation always, but instead tells you a general way of living that should guide you in the moment to make a wise decision.
The question we are hard-wired to ask is : Is it right or wrong to answer a fool? But,  THAT’S A BAD QUESTION! Instead we should be asking : Is it wise or foolish to answer this fool right now? Sometimes you debate with a person in private who will never change his or her mind, and you have to throw up your hands and say, “Not worth it” or you could be dragged into the mud and muck of folly and error. Sometimes, you need to correct someone for the foolish thing he or she has said or done, or they go on being foolish forever. Either approach could be wise or foolish; it is the wisdom of God that will sort out which way we should go.
Thus, God’s word is kept from our bad interpretation and we recognize that there is no contradiction!
Jake Ballard
(1) Rarely, if ever, is something truly “short and simple.” There are lots of implications and theological, historical and scientific questions that come up, but sadly, we don’t have time for that at the moment.
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 27-29 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Throne and the Temple

1 Kings 9 and 2 Chronicles 8

1 Kings 9 3 NIV sgl

In today’s passage, the temple in Jerusalem has been built along with the palace and throne of Solomon. David wanted to build the temple for God, but he was a man of war and bloodshed. Therefore God used David’s son, Solomon. In the passage from 1 Kings 9, we read God making a covenant with Solomon. We know about the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants, but here we have the Solomonic covenant. There are lots of warnings in it, but there are two main verses I want to focus on. Each hold promises that I want to focus on today; two things that should interest us in this Older Testament text after the revelation of Jesus Christ.
First, in 1 Kings 9:5, God promises that, according to verse 4, if Solomon is righteous, then “you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.” Though the children of Solomon did turn away and not follow God with their hearts, we can see that God stays true to the promise he made to David and Solomon. Christ, the son of Solomon (Matthew 1:6-7), will rule on the throne of David and Solomon. He will sit on the throne of the New Jerusalem over the Kingdom of God on the earth. What a glorious day that will be. We can trust and hope that during these uncertain times, we have the certainty of Christ reigning among his people in the future. God has declared it, he has promised. If He speaks it, He will fulfill it. (Numbers 23:19)
Secondly, a metaphor for Christ is the “chief cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:4-8). It’s a building term; it was the most important stone in the entire project. The whole building was measured off the cornerstone. If the cornerstone was strong and level, the whole house would stand. If it was crooked or wrong, it would fall. Christ is the cornerstone, and we are stones in this holy building that God is building. And this building is not just any building! In both 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:21, it is clear that the people of God collectively are the NEW TEMPLE OF GOD. God promises in 1 Kings 9:3 that he consecrated a house where he will dwell, that he put his name there forever, and His eyes and His heart will be there perpetually. But the house where God dwells now is not a building in Jerusalem, but in the community of the redeemed. When the people who have been saved gather together, God’s eyes are there, God’s heart is there, and His name is put into us forever.
Praise be to God that through Christ our Lord we have been given a savior who will rule on the throne of David and Solomon, a savior who builds his people into the temple where God dwells.
Jake Ballard
Tomorrow’s passage will be Proverbs 25 & 26 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Called to Worship

Psalm 134 & 146-150

Psalm 150 2 NIV sgl

What’s your favorite song? Not the one that makes you sound sophisticated to your friends or the one that is just a current fling, but the one that is your favoriteWhat’s the song that makes you wanna roll down your windows and sing out as you drive along? (It’s hard to narrow down, I know. There are many “emo” bands from the mid-‘00s that are contenders for me.) For many of you, it’s probably a song that is ‘happier”: they probably have upbeat lyrics, a fun melody, a catchy tune. (For you music nerds, probably a major key, rather than minor key.) The reason those kinds of songs may be your favorite is because music reaches into a deep part of what makes us human; joyful songs uplift our souls.
Joyful songs uplifting humans has been true across time. As we have been reading the psalms, we are of course reading the songbook(s) of the Jewish people. These were not just words on the page, but were a collection of songs that the people would sing. These songs, these Psalms we are reading today are songs of JOY, songs of SHOUTING, SONGS OF JUBILATION! Each one of them are the happy, joyful, exuberant songs that, were they sung today, would make you want to tilt your head back and let loose a “joyful noise” with everyone around you. I wish we could hear exactly as they sounded when they were sung as the people worshipped in the temple or on their way up to the temple mount.
The first and last psalms (134, 150) are short, but even the longest psalm (147) is written in a nearly breathless ecstasy. They are read quickly, at a pace that rushes along. This is because in all of them, there is a repetition of phrases. Search all the Psalms together in NASB on Bible Gateway. The effect of the repetition is quite striking and intentional by the author. In our minds, we may think that the author should have used different word or phrases to be interesting. Remember, when something is repeated, that is something the author wants us to remember. These songs are making use of something akin to a “chorus”. They wanted people to easily remember the song as they walked up the mount and sang.
Moreover, these psalms show us that the cacophonous world we inhabit is not just a torrent of noises, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Instead, Psalm 150 invites the praise of the instruments of the people. Trumpet and lyre and timbrel and cymbal, (and drums and guitar and piano and voice); ALL are called to give glory to God our maker and creator. Even more is the section of Psalm 148:7-12 where the psalmist asks the inhabitants of the earth to praise the Lord. But what is called to praise? Sea monsters, hail, and fruit trees, along with mountains and cattle. The list shows us that it is more than humans that are called to worship; we are to be the forefront of creation, but creation will praise its creator, and we have a choice to make in who or what we praise!
Today is Sunday. Today, above all days, is the day when we think about God who made us, who raised his Son from the dead, and who rules over us all. Find the song that allows you to worship him, crank it up in your headphones, in your speakers, in your car, and sing to the glory of the Lord. (To get “Jesus turnt” try : Amazing Grace by Phil Wickam, Glorious Day by Passion, or Church Clap by KB.)
Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord!
Praise the LORD!
Jake Ballard
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 9 and 2 Chronicles 8 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making a Different People : Blessings and Curses

Leviticus 26-27

Leviticus 26 12 NIV
Chapters 26 and 27 of Leviticus makes it seem like the book ends twice. While the valuations of 27 help us understand tithes and how giving to the Lord means more than money, indeed EVERYTHING we have, it seems like 26 was the “original” ending. The author, editors, and priests who God inspired to write and work in this text ended, first, with a powerful section on blessing and curses.(See note below)
The narrative of the Exodus, that is, God crushing the Egyptians and their gods, leading his people out to worship him, and then bringing them into the promised land, is the climax of the Torah, and arguably the CENTRAL NARRATIVE of the Old Testament. That is why God has repeated something over and over and over again. I hope you caught it, as I noted that when something is repeated, God wants you to pay attention. Here it is in 26:13 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” Think about how many times you have heard something like this in the commands of Leviticus. God keeps grounding his commands in the beautiful reality that he has brought this people, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, out of the land of Egypt. He has redeemed them from slavery. Because he has done that, he wants them to walk in a way that is different and better than the nations around them. If they don’t walk that way but turn away, then he will allow the trouble of this world to overtake them, in order that they might cry out to him. However, if they do obey, then he will give them unending blessings and he promises, “I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” (26:12)
I hope you see the parallel to our lives as we follow Christ. The CENTRAL NARRATIVE of creation is the Exodus led by Jesus, who broke us all out of the bondage and slavery to sin and has set us free. As Jesus brings us into the Canaan of the Kingdom of God, not just the future Kingdom on the Earth, but the present rule and reign of God, he looks to us and says, “there is a better way to live.” He gives us a holy way of life, grounded in his love and his sacrifice. But, better than before, we are able to become changed from the inside out because of the power of God flowing through us. No longer must we simply keep outward laws and regulations, but our hearts can become pure. God can change our desires and our destiny.  We are able to become children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and heirs according to the promise of God. If we follow the way of God, through the power of the Spirit of God, all the while redeemed through the Son of God, then one day we will see God. The metaphor of Leviticus, God saying “I will also walk among you” will become reality. We will be in the full, unmitigated glorious presence of God, in the Land of Promise, His Kingdom.
May you, my brothers and sisters, become a different people.
May the principles and practices of Leviticus shape you into a holy people.
May the mercy and justice of God be made evident to you in all of scripture, and especially in Leviticus.
May the blood of Jesus, a perfect lamb, without spot or blemish, cover you, redeem you, cleanse you of all sins.
May God, my brothers and sisters, bless you!
Jake Ballard
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Note : To be fair, this is a hunch, not a statement of fact or even a solid belief. If you disagree and believe that Moses, or whoever authored this book, wrote it this way on purpose as directed by God, then that is certainly an acceptable view. I just want to point out the fun, interesting quirks of books. This is similar to how John 20:30-31 is a good ending to the book, as well as John 21:24-25. Just some fun food for thought, but not the focus of the devotion. Keep reading above.
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(Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church in South Bend, IN. He lives in the Michiana Area with his wife, daughter, and in the summer, two more little ones. If you’d like to say hi you can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336  You can also hear more teachings at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs_awyI1LyPZ4QEZVN7HqKQ  If you want to have an interesting conversation with him, just say “I don’t like the ninth guy in a blue police box.” God bless!)
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+26-27&version=NIV
We made it through the book of Leviticus and learned about God on the way.
Keep reading!  Tomorrow we begin the book of Numbers (chapters 1 & 2) as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making a Differing People : Lex Talionis and the God of Justice.

Leviticus 24-25

Leviticus 25 55 NIV
Depending on your source, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. both believed that “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
While we know from our reading and devotions that Jesus completes the laws of the Old Testament, and specifically changes the interaction of Lex Talionis, or the Law of Retribution, in Matthew 5:38-42, we must also not pass over the laws given in Leviticus 24 and 25 too quickly.
For example, the year of jubilee is fascinating, not least because we don’t have any concrete evidence ANYONE EVER practiced it! The idea was that the poor who sold themselves into slavery should be freed. I want to be very clear : SLAVERY IS WRONG. Morally, it is repugnant, and praise God it is outlawed around the world and being fought against by many organizations. However, in the time of the Israelites, slavery was practiced, especially as a way to pay off massive debts owed for any and all reasons. While we should be rightfully repulsed, in Leviticus 25, God drags humanity forward in the midst of their issues by giving some fascinating commands : If your countryman becomes so poor and has to sell himself, treat him as a hired man. (25:39-40) And no matter what is sold or bought, it all goes back in the year of Jubilee, (25:13) so you may all be equal, and in that year the slave must be set free. (25:54)

 

God takes a terrible institution, and begins to create boundaries around it. Remember, if this law had not been given, ALL slavery would be morally justifiable and ALL treatment of slaves would be unimpeded. But starting in Leviticus, God begins to prune this terrible human sin, begins to eradicate it among his people. God is taking barbarous humanity and forcing it to be graceful and merciful, to a degree.
Add to that the law of ‘an eye for an eye’ and we begin to see where God directly challenges the law codes of other nations.
In Leviticus 24:19-20, we read, “If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted upon him.” Of course, Christ changes this law, but in the day it was given this was REVOLUTIONARY.
First, God is trying to stop something: exactly what happens in the life of Samson, specifically in chapter 15. Samson wants to go to his wife, but her father gave her to another man. Samson, in a rage, ties 300 foxes together in pairs, puts torches on their tails, and they burn the crops. Then the Philistines learn who Samson’s family is and burn his family. And then he slaughters the Philistines… OK, so God wasn’t trying to stop EXACTLY that scenario, but trying to stop the PRINCIPLE of that scenario. In our world, before the Law of God or without Law, violence is cyclical and escalating. Samson gets ticked off, so he burns crops, so the Philistines burn his wife, so he slaughters Philistines. It’s not pretty but it is the pattern of humanity. You attack my tribe and kill one person, we attack back and kill five people and you attack back… until we are all dead. Among the Israelites, God was saying, “when someone harms you, you only get to harm them back to a certain degree; namely, the way in which they harmed you.” This is a massive leap forward in our cultural and social interactions.
Of course, other national law codes were doing this at the time of the Jews, such as the ancient Babylonians (and possibly the Ancient Egyptians). But, while they may have grasped a portion of God’s truth, the Babylonians specifically missed a small but crucial detail. Leviticus 24:22 says, “there shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native.” In the Babylonian Law code, punishment was meted out based on the different classes of people involved. Men who owned land were above free men who were above slaves. If a man who owned land harmed a slave, financial compensation may have been owed, but if a slave harmed a landed man, then the slave could lose his hands or his life.
Not so with the people of God. Men were respected across socio-economic lines or boundaries. If a priest killed a peasant, the priest would die. In a law about punishment, God actually gives one of the strongest cases for the equality of all men (and women!) in Old Testament scripture. Whether or not the law was followed perfectly is quite beside the point; in principle, all people were equal.
This is why taking our time with the texts of Leviticus is so important. As you have seen this week, instead of getting stuck in “boring” and “confusing” laws, we are seeing God create a different people, a better people, a holy people. Praise God that we don’t have to follow all the Old Testament codes, but praise God even more that in these laws, he began to create a people who were BETTER, who were more CIVILIZED, more mature, more conscious of their place before each other and before God.
In Leviticus, God creates a people who are differentequal and free. As all people should be.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+24-25&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be the final two chapters of the book of Leviticus as we progress through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making A Different People: A Male Lamb, Without Defect

Leviticus 22-23

Leviticus 22 19 NIV
Today in our readings, we have many opportunities open to us to discuss. I would encourage you to go back and think through the significance of each of the festivals in Leviticus 23. Many we can see celebrated by Jesus in his life (Sukkot/Booths/Tabernacles in John 7) or were key to his death (Passover). It’s an interesting connection to see how the festivals of God played a role in the life of Christ.
But, I want to direct your attention to some words repeated again and again. The sacrifices that the Jews were to give were, from 22:17-25, a male without defect. This is interesting. Why specifically this requirement. There are a number of reasons.
First, this was a costly requirement. A sacrifice of a male without defect was costly because you wanted to keep those males. Strong male goats, sheep and cows produced good babies. If an animal doesn’t have a flaw but is a physically perfect specimen, you want to make sure those genes are passed along. You don’t have to know all about genetics to know this. In the ancient world, the better the bull, the better the calf. And God was demanding that these great bulls, billies and rams be given in sacrifice to show our allegiance to him, to prove that we are willing to both give our best and trust him to provide.
Second, the words in Hebrew are interesting. “Without defect” is from the Hebrew word “tamim” (tah-meem). The word for “defect” is from the Hebrew “mum” (moom). Both of these words are interesting because they DO mean, many times, physical perfection. The Law specifies no scabs, oozing sores, broken bones, engorged or crushed parts of the animal. Tamim notes completeness and wholeness of an animal in this way; mum denotes physical imperfection. HOWEVER, both of these words also were figuratively extended to speak about the way a person acted and lived. To live a tamim life was to live a life of integrity and innocence (in Psalm 18, the psalmist calls God’s ways blameless 5 times). However, when someone lives a mum life, they are not able to look to God for help because they are morally imperfect (Zophar believes Job has a MORAL defect in Job 11:15, NASB especially).
This leads to the third reason God would command male without defect : he was preparing the way for the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. God was preparing the world for the Messiah. God chose to give the world his Son, and to redeem us from our sins “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”(1 Peter 1:19). When God sacrificed Jesus as the “male lamb without defect”, he was purchasing us with the most costly gift, spilling out his own blood, the blood of his one and only Son, as Paul says in Acts 20:28.
The perfect Messiah, blameless, sinless, complete, and whole, was sacrificed and died to pay for our redemption. Praise God that we stand in him redeemed.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+22-23&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Leviticus 24-25 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan