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Posts Tagged ‘Leviticus’

jubilee2Just try to figure out how that actually worked back in Old Testament times. If you think scholarship over the New Testament issues is hot and contested, check out the controversies over this Levitical proclamation in chapters 26 and 27. At first, it seems relatively clear cut, but apparently, a closer examination reveals a number of issues.

Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property. [Leviticus 26:8-13, NIV]

Entire articles are written on whether the Year of Jubilee is indeed the 50th year in addition to the 49th year which would make it a Sabbath Year times two (really? two years with no planting?). Others argue over the start date, when is year one? And then still others question the intricacies of all of these transfers of property and slaves in the same year throughout the land. Havoc.

Honestly, I’m not that interested in the intricacies of implementing this law. But I do find the concept fascinating. In essence, ownership of land or slaves had an original possessor (in this case, based on the tribes and families who entered the promised land upon leaving Egypt). And as a result, anything and everything after that, was a lease, a rental, a borrowing contract. Nothing outside of the original grant was permanent.

native americansThis idea reminds me of some of the historical documents that reveal a basic misunderstanding between the Native Americans and the white interlopers from Europe. While the pilgrims and pioneers thought they were buying the lands, the Native Americans always considered these agreements to be temporary and somewhat silly. How could they sell to the whites what they did not own. The land belonged to nature, to God, to Spirit.

How different things would be if we understood today that our lands as well as our wealth and buildings, out cities and our systems are merely leased for a season. God can take them all back in a moment. Nature can easily supersede our so-called ownership and if left fallow, even for a short time, man-made things are engulfed and buried, if necessary, to start anew.

I don’t know when year one is in God’s eyes either. But there is some evidence that our lives and our world do run in cycles. I seriously doubt I could figure out that cycle, but in the spirit of Jubilee, I could proclaim it. I could choose a year of Jubilee, a year of letting go, a year of freedom, a year of rest, a year of renewal. What would I do in a year like that? A true sabbatical.

ResetI don’t really honor the cycle of seven days, resting on the seventh (as in Sunday). Every day is full of activity and obligations, shoulds and musts. Nor have I considered the seven year cycle, re-evaluating my world each seventh year. It’s not required anymore, I know that, but there might be something in this idea of rest and renewal, stopping and starting, taking a deep breath and releasing the past.

In October of 2014, I will reach the 9th set of sabbatical years. I would like to mark the following year as a Jubilee. I’m not sure what that will be exactly, but I’m putting it out there now. To ponder, to think, to imagine, to plan, to reset.

What would you do in a year of Jubilee?

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freedomInteresting. In today’s world, how often does a person use as their defense, “I didn’t know” or “Nobody told me.” And as a result, they believe this lack of knowledge absolves them of the crime. You’d think we’d get over it. After all, the “I didn’t see the stop sign” defense does not work in court, nor does “I didn’t know the speed limit” prevent an officer from giving us a ticket. And yet, we still say it and claim it and believe it.

 If anyone commits a sin by violating the directives I have given you—even if he was unaware of it—once he realizes it, he bears the guilt and must still accept the consequences. [Leviticus 5:17, The Voice]

The law works differently than grace. The law is immutable and enduring. The law has not gone away because of grace, it still exists; it is only our relationship to the breaking of law that has changed through Christ. For this reason, “. . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23] Sin still exists. Intentional or unintentional, blatant or secret, repeated or isolated, sin happens. Mistakes happen.

mercy on meInitially, I wasn’t fond of the centuries old Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” because I didn’t see myself as a sinner. I saw myself as foolish perhaps or selfish, but honestly, it wasn’t like I had killed anyone. (Why killing seems to be norm for being a sinner, I don’t know, but most people who say this phrase, use that act as the litmus test.)

During Jesus’s ministry, he called his disciples to the highest plateau of faith by telling us to walk the paradox line: love enemies, go the second mile, enter through the narrow gate, turn the other cheek, and so forth. And then, he tops these off with the ultimate impossibility: “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect!” [Matthew 5:48] What? Absurd. That’s inaccessible. No one can do that. No one can be even close to the perfection of God. And I can just imagine Jesus smiling: “Yep. That’s the point.” And apparently, anything less than perfect is sin.

Sin is part of life. But how do we respond to it? Do we yield to sin and its backlash (as they say, “Karma is a bitch”) or do we call on the power of the Cross of Christ to stand between? It is the point.

sacrificePeter writes, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” [I Peter 4:8] But Christ’s love covers ALL sins. We are encouraged to model our behaviors after Christ and practice love so that we can learn to be more generous of heart to one another. But there is only One who covers them all, from small to large.

Own up to the sin. But even better, own up to the sacrifice of blood that protects us all from the kismet of life’s choices.

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There are two insights here: one, the implication here is that mediums and such have power otherwise, it wouldn’t matter and two, looking for direction from them is a type of spiritual adultery.

Leviticus 19:31
‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.

I have always held a healthy respect for people who are gifted with other-worldly capabilities and communications. Of course, there are charlatans as well, but I do believe there are legitimate seers and mediums. To throw the baby out with the bathwater and say they don’t exist is foolish. There is a spirit realm and it’s not just populated with angels and cupids. There are forces outside our 3-D world and they are referenced in the Bible a great deal [See Ephesians 6:12].

The point is that we are discouraged from using these people to communicate with that world. I don’t know why, really. This is a trust issue. I think of it as the same warnings that parents give to children, to stay away from the burners of the stove. It’s a force we may not understand fully and it’s better to stay away.

I was thinking that part of the problem might be the limitations of the message. Perhaps a medium would give direction based on circumstances in that moment and the listener takes it to heart and makes decisions and plans based on that advice. We may move in this one direction based on the revelations of a spiritist, but then miss out on a more creative plan that God may have.

It’s a matter of settling in and trusting the Holy Spirit to direct our lives. That is rarely on our time schedule. And so often, we become discouraged or impatient (like Saul and the witch of Endor – see I Samuel 28) and look for the easy answers, the quick result.

Lastly, is the issue of spiritual adultery. God promises to take care of us. It’s a covenant relationship just like marriage. If we seek direction from other sources, we are showing our distrust and we are breaking our vow to remain faithful to the One God.

I’m not so rigid to believe that reading books about fantasy or fairy tales are dangerous. I think that’s going overboard. I also don’t believe lighthearted play with a ouija board or tarot cards is going to mar a person for life. The danger is in the authority we give to these people and practices. As soon as we seriously engage in them, we are, indeed, playing with fire.

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Clearly, if we must be told, as a people, to “not” hold grudges or seek revenge, it must be a norm or tendency. My kids call it “paybacks.” Instead, we are to love our neighbor and why? Because the Lord God says so.

Leviticus 19:18
‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Of all the things I struggle with, I don’t believe seeking revenge is that high on my list. Grudge-keeping on the hand, is pretty good sport in my head. It’s just one more list. I keep lots of lists and the grudge list, whether I want to admit it or not, is hanging out there waiting for additions at a moment’s notice. It’s amazing how quickly I can drag up the list once I’m wronged again. Not good.

The solution, based on this scripture, is to love that neighbor. And not just love them in general, but with the same care that we love ourselves.

There’s a trend out there to turn this command into a kind of self-serving mandate: I must learn to love myself first. I think that’s self-help myth. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all love ourselves enough to keep eating, sleeping, and entertaining ourselves. That’s not to say we don’t abuse our bodies, use terrible self-talk, and procrastinate. My guess is that the best way to stop self-bashing is to stop bashing others. In the meantime, if I could just give the courtesy of basic acceptance, like food, shelter, clothing, and remember that everyone is working the human thing. We all make mistakes.

I think it’s time to erase the grudge lists. Delete, delete.

Anyway, there’s good reason to do so. God says so.

There is no grudge, no revenge, no mistake, no betrayal that is bigger than God. If I can’t figure it out, if I can’t muster up the reasons to let these things go, then I may have to drop back to the common denominator: God says so.

As a parent, how many times have I finally used this reason. Sometimes, it’s just too complicated, too time-consuming, too frustrating to explain the ins and outs of why a particular decision must be made. Kids don’t get it. And so, I drop back and punt: Because I said so. Apparently, in this case, God feels the same way. Stop with the lists and planning for evil and love instead. It doesn’t have to be Valentines Day with hearts and flowers and chocolates, just the basics, just simple courtesy and respect for the core of the other person, the sacred core created by God.

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I did a quick study of “drink offering” and two things stand out: the drink offering is always given along with something else (usually the meal offering); it is wine and represents the blood. It is often followed by oil which symbolizes the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 2:17-18
But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

He is saying that his death is poured out over their “sacrifice and service” and as such, will be additionally blessed. And later, Paul asks that his followers rejoice in this, rejoice in his offering, rejoice in the implications of their offerings, both his and theirs. It will be followed by the Holy Spirit who will give back life to their planted seeds. The seed must “die” to bring forth a plant [John 12:24].

But what is in this for me? I am not in the drink offering business. At least, not yet.

Perhaps I need to be aware of the sacrifices that others have made for me though. Do I appreciate the pouring out of my mother, let’s say, who gave everything for her children, even her emigration to the United States for our sakes, to have a better chance. She worked, she saved, she spent, she did the best she could with the resources she had.

I think about David in II Samuel 23:16, when three mighty warriors broke through Philistine lines just to get him a “drink of water” from the well near Bethlehem. Some find it odd that once the warriors brought the water, he would not drink it, but poured it out on the ground. In essence, I believe he was acknowledging it as a type of drink offering. It was holy and symbolized sacrifice for the cause.

To what have I sacrificed? Where is my drink offering? This offering is unlike the offerings described in the early chapters of Leviticus. I believe this offering is not mandated, it’s extra, it’s a choice.

Oh Lord, give me courage and desire to identify and pour out my offering when the time comes.

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