Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lenten Feasting - Exodus & Leviticus

This Lent I am feasting instead of fasting.  I am feasting on the Word of God.  I have chosen to read through the Bible cover to cover.  I’m following a reading plan suggested by Margaret Feinberg and hope to blog occasionally about what I am learning through the process. 

I won't do this for all 66 books, I assure you.  But these first three have really spoken to me.  I knew I would see broad themes.  I didn't think they would be so rich.  Maybe it's the newness of the exercise.  I tend to jump out of the gate a little too fast.  Or the chunkiness of the books.  There are plenty of chapters for these themes to rise to the surface.  Regardless, feel compelled to share what God is revealing.  

This book of leaving is, surprising, a book of arrival.  God’s arrival.  His hearing the groans of his people, seeing their misery and suffering, remembering his covenant, and  rescuing them from bondage.  He arrives, signs and wonders in tow, proving that there is no other god like him (9:14)  Pharaoh has trouble hearing and, later, the Israelites have trouble remembering.  But the Lord draws closer, revealing his awesome glory on a mountaintop, hovering like a devouring fire (24:17).  There he reveals his plan to not only visit his people, but to settle among them, to build a sacred residence where he will dwell – the tabernacle (25:8).  From there we get bogged down in cubits and shekels, but the book ends with God’s glorious presence filling this earthen tabernacle (40:34-35).

In all this I am reminded of God’s longing for intimacy.  He will not stand aloof in the pearly halls of paradise.  Instead he will enter into my squalor, a tabernacle in the gritty wilderness of my sordid soul.  His awesome glory will settle in this less than glorious bundle of inches and ounces.

Atonement - for skin disease, for contaminated houses, for bodily discharge, for the altar, for the most holy place.  But most often atonement for the people, for sin, for guilt.  Atonement is an expression of peaceful union – at-one-ment – an unhindered fellowship.  True intimacy.  The set for this intimacy was constructed in Exodus with God’s arrival.  Leviticus is God writing the script.

The Isrealites are to be different from the people of Egypt and Canaan (18:2-3), where they came from and where they are going.  This distinctness is expressed in terms of holiness.  There is to be a distinction between what is common and what is set apart, what is pure and what is alloyed, what is clean and what is unclean. 

It is impossible to walk this tightrope.  We’re too wobbly.  Over and over, I step in a pile of it.  I am repeatedly at odds with and need to be made at one with.  So atonement comes, again and again, through sacrifice.  Sacrifice that is holy (no physical defect, no yeast) and lifted up to the Lord.  God is pleased and we are forgiven, cleansed, restored, holy, and at one with God.  It is but a short step from the sacrafices of Leviticus to the Sacrafice of Calvary.  The forty days of Lent are leading us there.  Good Friday and Easter are on the horizon.

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