Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lev. 1-10

Leviticus is often panned as one of the most boring books of the Bible. Rightfully so, because it establishes a pretty strict moral code for a culture we are completely out of tune with and a strict operational procedures to accompany said moral code. However, when we step outside of the Bible and stop trying to pick out key pieces of theology directly in the text, we can start to see part of how Leviticus makes sense as a written document.

Among other things, the Bible is a collection of writings belonging to a particular people who testify to experiencing their God in similar ways. Moving forward, what can Leviticus reveal to us about how these people experienced their God? Well, what is Leviticus? It's a moral code for God's people. What does this mean? Well, it likely means that their understanding of God included moral ethics. Their God cared about their "ordinary" lifestyles (notice that proper procedure for burnt offerings would not be "ordinary" in this culture, but like all things that are done repetitively it might have been routine after a while). Not only did their God care about their daily activities, it seems that God cares about their daily activities more than other things. Faith? Trust? Proper conduct reveals the truth of both.

One reveals one's faith and love for God by acting properly according to God's commands. But remember what I said above that proper conduct might have been routine for the Israelites? Think of some routines in your own life. Have you ever felt exhilarated by doing the same routine every. Single. Time? The first day of reading for the Shema Summer it was intriguing, exciting even, but now that we're halfway through the next week the excitement is starting to wear off. True, it could have something to do with the dryness of Leviticus compared to Genesis but it's also that the reading has become routine.

But is that bad?

I have heard it said best like this: just because you don't feel the mushy-gushy feelings toward someone when you say "I love you" doesn't mean that you don't mean what you're saying (I did learn something in Biblical Worldview). It just means that it has become a habit. After the luster wears off, you still say it. In contemporary Christianity we have tricked ourselves into thinking that we need to feel "on fire" for God at all moments in our lives. What does it feel like to be "on fire?" Well, you should feel God's presence in all that you do, especially worship. What happens if you don't feel God moving in you during worship?

Do I believe enough?
Am I really "on fire" for God?
Or am I just a hypocrite after all?

My point here is that while offering sacrifices to God in a really meticulous way might have become routine for the Israelites (I'm sure it's much like the practice of praying five times a day in Islam), it doesn't mean that their faith wavered. Notice how it is when they break proper conduct that they incur God's anger (Lev. 10:1-3). I wonder if Nadab and Abihu felt like they were "on fire" for God when they offered unholy fire (no pun intended).

I want to challenge us to consider what our faith looks like in the scope of our entire lives. Is it true that we should feel an emotional pull toward God in order to really be faithful or does proper conduct matter more? If we are truly offering our entire lives, wouldn't that mean the parts we don't care about too? The parts we don't feel for? If we're so concerned about putting God in a box then why do we limit faithfulness to God to one part of our life, the emotional discharge of our life?

For further reflection: Should contemporary Christianity continue practicing the commands of God in Leviticus? What does it mean that we desire a return to the primitive church in Acts but do not desire to return to the roots of our faith in Leviticus? Is the desire for the Acts church consistent with not desiring the conduct of holiness according to Leviticus?

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