Leviticus continues to be an interesting hodge-podge of laws and regulations. If you could imagine mixing Federal and State laws, the Tax Codes of the Several States, and the Baptist Faith and Message, you can picture what Leviticus is. Of course, life was perhaps a bit simpler 3500 years ago, allowing for a shorter collection of items.
Leviticus 19 (link) is a good example. First, we have a combination food safety/religious worship law. Then we have welfare/unemployment regulations, followed by interpersonal relationship guidelines, immigration law, judicial regulations, and child welfare regulations. If that does not give you some weirdness, I do not know what will!
Taking the first one: food safety/religious worship. Have you ever considered these two things together? Many people have not. I actually have. Honestly, ever considered the church potluck and whether you would eat a restaurant that set up like that? Anyway…
The opening verses of the chapter are actually straightforward. These are nearly restatements of the Ten Commandments: reverence mother and father, keep the sabbath, no idols.
It’s what you get starting in verse 5 that I find interesting. That section has a reference to the peace offerings that are prescribed earlier in the book (Leviticus 3) and those offerings included the fire-cooking of a meal. This chapter commands that any portion of that meal not eaten the first day could be eaten the second, but none could be eaten the third.
In short: you can have leftovers the next day, but not the day after that. Why would God give a command like that?
It fits, as many of God’s commands do, with a two-fold purpose.
First it is immensely practical: we are talking about grilled meat here. Grilled meat that will not be refrigerated between meals and that is breaking down as it sits there, gathering bacteria and other issues. So, should it be eaten on the third day? Not bloomin’ likely. Really.
Gather this: God cares about your health and well-being. None of His commands support a pointless destruction of your life: He may command that you stand firm and face the anger of the world, and surrender your life. He may command that in spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth, you eat questionable foods. But not pointlessly, not in a manner that does not draw people forward to Him.
Second, though, the law is illustrative of the ways of God. This takes a stretch, but consider this: how many days does today’s listening to God hold you for? If tomorrow is really crazy, it might carry you through tomorrow, but by the next day you need to take at least a half-second and reconnect. (probably more, honestly) Why? Because the stale leftovers of last Sunday’s religion will not feed your soul or nourish your spirit. Instead, they begin to get dangerous: dangerous if they are not well-preserved; dangerous if they are not well-reheated. And boring, if there is nothing to add with them.
Consider this: God speaks clearly through the Word every day. Why take the old reruns when you can have the fresh Word each time?
Now, skipping ahead a bit: we have the law governing gleaning. Essentially, it is a command of God to the wealthy to not be so stingy they leave nothing for others. It is a command of God to those in need that they take an active hand in providing for their own needs. We have no idea how well it was actually obeyed by the people. What we can know is this: we cannot ignore the needs of others, nor can we force one to work so another does not have to.
Examine this: God is clear that we should joyfully help those in need, yet the text never connects willful idleness with “need.” What, then, is our best response?
The remainder of the chapter, coupled with these three little highlights comes back to the second verse:
You shall be holy, for I Yahweh your God am holy.
Holiness encompasses every aspect of life.
Today’s Nerd note: Don’t overlook the end of the chapter: Leviticus 19:31-34 have four great commands in a row: stay away from false spiritualists, honor the old, be nice to immigrants, and and really, be nice to immigrants.
Scripture makes a hard distinction between invaders and those who want to come in and learn the ways of God’s people.