Add Love to the Sabbath

Matthew 12

January 12

Jesus is at it again. Back in Matthew 5 we discussed how Jesus didn’t abolish the Old Testament but he breathed new life into the old laws with his teachings. The most important thing wasn’t following the letter of the law but having the heart of Jesus – adding love. Here in Matthew 12 the Pharisees are upset that Jesus’ disciples picked some heads of grain to eat when they were hungry on the Sabbath. Picking some grains is a lot like harvesting and harvesting is work and work is not allowed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees loved nit-picking the law, making it really hard for anyone to succeed in following the law, thus finding fault in everyone else, which they thought made themselves look better. Their microscopic vision into the smallest detail of the law took the focus off of the big picture – how are you doing at being God’s people. The law had been given by God to create a healthy, righteous people devoted to God and kind to others. But this extreme fascination with catching everyone’s slightest mistake was not healthy, righteous, kind, or pleasing to God. Instead of the law being used to make a holy people for God, it was being used to divide and tear down and pull people further from their love for God. The law was good. Their use of it was not. It wasn’t time to throw away the law. It was time to add love.

The purpose of the Sabbath was to put time (a whole day) aside to stop busyness and focus on rest, worship and loving God. It was given as a gift by a gracious and loving God who knew what people would do if they didn’t take time to rest and refocus. He knew all healthy relationships take time and this was the perfect opportunity to add a date day with God on the calendar – every week. A mini-vacation with God and family every 7th day. It’s a great way to create a spiritually, mentally, physically healthy people for God. But the benefits dwindled when the Pharisees turned it into a legalistic checklist of don’t do this and don’t do that.

Jesus wisely gave the Old-Testament-loving Pharisees two examples from the Scriptures of cases where the Sabbath regulations were broken by Godly people doing Godly things, and God didn’t strike them down dead. In fact, He seemed to approve of the exceptions to the rule. Likewise, Jesus is confident God also approved of him healing, doing good and helping others on the Sabbath.

In calling himself the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus wasn’t saying he was the Lord of something that ought to be thrown out because it had outlived its usefulness. No. He recognized the worth of the Sabbath AND the good that could be done during a day devoted to God. It wasn’t about a checklist and Sabbath day spies making sure you aren’t breaking the law. It is about a day to focus on God, your relationship with Him and the good that He wants you to do for Him. It is a day devoted to loving God and loving others to help us refocus and build our spiritual muscles to take us through the next 6 days doing His will in love.

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Does your week generally include a Sabbath day of rest and devotion to God? If so, what does it usually look like? What do you appreciate most about it? Do you do it more for what you gain from it, or to please God? (either answer is legitimate). If you don’t normally include a Sabbath rest on your calendar, do you see value in trying a Sabbath rest? How might it look different from your typical day? What would be challenging about making this change? What benefits might you expect to see?
  2. Re-read Matthew 12:33-37. This week have you been producing good fruit or bad fruit? How so? What about your words? Why do you think your words are so important – at least one of the things you will be judged by? Do you find it easier to say the right thing or do the right thing? Were there any words you said recently that you wouldn’t want Jesus to repeat to you on judgment day? How can we stop careless words which will get us into trouble?
  3. Jesus welcomes us as a part of his family, if we do what? (Matthew 12:50) On a scale of 1-10 how are you doing in this area? What could you do today to boost your score? What benefits are there for those who are in Jesus’ family?

Making A Different People : Repeated, Enhanced, and Focused

Leviticus 19-21

Leviticus 19 18 NIV
Today, let’s start with a quick rundown of the laws of each section and chapter, and then go back and focus on some important points.
Leviticus 19 has a lot of different laws covering many topics. You may notice some repetition between Leviticus and Exodus (and even other parts of Leviticus). Leviticus 19:3 is very similar in the command about honoring mothers and fathers in Exodus 20:12, for example. Moreover, certain laws are enhanced, like how the peace offering of Leviticus 3 is to be eaten. Leviticus 19 goes through topics like lying, going to psychics and mediums, and being honorable and above board in business.
Leviticus  20 contains laws that are about being faithful : being faithful to God over other Gods, being faithful to God over mediums, being faithful to your spouse over adultery, and being faithful to family over sexual gratification. God warns that being faithful is a prerequisite to possessing the promised land, and if the Jews act unfaithfully, the land will “spew you out!”
Leviticus 21 enhances all the laws so far and talks about how a priest must act and what priesthood requires. The life of a priest was a holy and blessed honor, but not everyone could be a priest, only a select group of people.
I know it’s a lot. But let’s break it down to three key elements:
Repeated : When God repeats something, he wants you to pay attention. For example, he gave us four gospels. Obviously, the story of Jesus was important enough to get four testimonies. So, when we see a law get repeated, we need to take inventory of that law. As noted above, some of the laws in this section are repeated from Exodus in the twelve commandments, some are repeated from Leviticus 18, and some will be repeated again in Deuteronomy. Look for repetition and see if you should follow that command in practice (how to be pure sexually) or if you should follow it in principle (how to sacrifice well).
Enhanced : Be careful that you are paying attention to commands and to whom they are addressed. When we look at the commands of Leviticus 21, we can see that there are additional regulations put on priests, not just any old Tom, Dick or Harry… or even Theophilus, Dan or Hananiah. Today, because of Christ, all believers comprise a royal priesthood.(1 Peter 2:9) But, even in that royal priesthood, those who are leaders, teachers, pastors, elders and deacons are held to stricter standards, and must be above reproach in their leadership. (For more on these requirements, see James 3:1(teacher); 1 Timothy 3(qualifications for overseer and deacon); Titus 1 (qualifications for elders) ; 1 Peter 5:1-4 (elder=pastor=overseer[all words refer to the same office]).)
Focused : Jesus gave many commands, but when asked what is the greatest commandment, he did something both completely expected and completely unexpected. First, he quotes the Shema, the ultimate Creed of Judaism : “Hear O Israel, YHWH is our God! YHWH Alone!” And he follows this quote up with the command that follows, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” This comes out of Deuteronomy 6:4ff. BUT, then he does something completely not expected. He FOCUSES in on a second answer, a commandment that was so important to Jesus it was LIKE “Love God with everything you have.” That command is found in Leviticus 19:18b: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus took a small phrase in the middle of Leviticus and said “according to God, this is the second most important commandment in all scripture!” According to Jesus, “Love God, Love People” summarized the whole law and the prophets (Matthew 22:40), which is another way to say the entire Old Testament. Quite a lot of focus given to something in the middle of a bunch of laws, related to not bearing a grudge!
If you ever wonder WHY reading Leviticus is important, remember, Jesus used Leviticus 19:18b to give us the SECOND GREATEST COMMANDMENT. That’s pretty important.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+19-21&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s passage will be Leviticus 22-23 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making A Different People: Food, Leprosy, And Caring for our Bodies

Leviticus 11-13

Leviticus 11 45 NIV

So far in the book of Leviticus, we have been reading laws that are about sacrifices and how to remove guilt, show thanksgiving, or just sacrifice to sacrifice. These laws and the story of forgiveness have been weird but good. (You were thinking the Bible was weird, I’m giving you permission to say it. Still, God’s word is good.)
In chapters 11-13, we move into different kinds of laws. As John said in his recent posts, Christ has covered these laws. We don’t have to think about sacrifices or food laws or laws of uncleanness. Why worry about them? I will always remember what Bob Jones shared with me at the Bible College: the Old Testament shows us what God likes. By giving these law, God was making a different people, a people who would do what he liked. We are not required to keep the laws, but something in them, in principle or practice, is a thing God wanted his people to know at the time. When we read these texts, the principles and practices we see should effect our own walk today. So let’s see if a principle can lead us to a practice today.
The Principle : Our bodies are important and we MUST CARE for them.
In Leviticus 11, we see what constitutes clean versus unclean food. There are many theories as to why God labelled some food clean or unclean. Many point to the potential serious food borne illnesses that could be found in uncooked pork, or how vultures and lobsters (both prohibited animals) are scavengers and may become infected through infected food they eat. But I think more importantly, God wanted to make a population of people who understood that their bodies were important and not everything should go in it. They don’t eat just any kind of food, they don’t drink just any kind of drink, they don’t allow just anything to enter their bodies. Connect this to the discussion to disease in Leviticus 13, and we begin to see the principle emerge: we are given one body, and it is serious enough that to protect the most bodies, some may have to be put outside the camp. Though we could talk about the heartbreaking situation it is to have a serious skin disease and to become unclean, it is also true that the bodies we are given are not replaceable. These bodies are IMPORTANT and we MUST care for them. We must make sure our diseases are treated. We must make sure what goes in them is thoughtfully considered. Anything less is missing the fact that we are only given one body.
The Practice : Take Care of yourself in food and health
Though today you can eat shrimp, crab, and lobster (and boy are they good), the question we must ask is, “Is this going into my body to help me?” We are allowed to eat shrimp scampi; is it wise to consume a diet rich in fatty foods? We are allowed to drink soda; is sugar water the best way to care for our own body? This is not a condemnation of any, and far be it from me to fat shame. In America, we are over-blessed, and that means we have TOO much food, TOO many good things. In our diets we need to ask, “Is this food caring for my body?” Beyond food, this is true of alcohol. Whether you believe any alcohol is acceptable or not (and there are good arguments for and against consumption), over consumption is always wrong. Illicit drugs are always detrimental to our health. Ignoring the signs of illness and avoiding the doctor based on some misplaced pride also avoids caring for the body in which you have been placed.
God was and is teaching his people that our bodies are important and we must care for them. In doing so, God was and is creating a different kind of people; a people who stand out in the world.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+11-13&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Leviticus 14-15 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan
%d bloggers like this: