We have been fighting through Leviticus for quite some time now, and the end is a few weeks away. I want to take a minor break from picking and choosing various laws and attempting to explain them and apply them in a New Covenant context. As we look in Leviticus 20 (link) today, I want to point you to an important reality of Bible interpretation.
Take a look at the last verse of the chapter, Leviticus 20:27. The commandment here regards putting to death mediums and spiritists. Without getting into the overall question of whether or not one should put to death anyone over religious beliefs in this day, which we’ll hit at the end of the post, look at the first group to be put to death in Ancient Israel: Mediums.
Mediums. Not smalls, not larges, but mediums. Right? Oh, wait, not mediums. Mediums.
We have to be cautious when we look at words in Scripture and be certain that these words mean what we think they mean. If the word is medium how do we know if we are talking about size or spirituality?
A good dictionary helps, but context is the key. In no sense do we see the Bible ever condemning anyone based on size. One might, perhaps, see that Eglon in Judges 3 had a problem due to size, but his evil brought his condemnation. His size provided the opportunity.
Instead, we know from studying the whole of Scripture that the command here relates to those who attempt to be intermediaries between the dead and the living. That is a behavior not permissible in the Kingdom of God—shirt sizes are not on the list.
This is, certainly, one of the sillier examples. This supports what we need to be careful about, though, as we read the text of Scripture: be certain that the word means what you think it means. This is true whether your are super-Bible-Woman and are working off the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic words or if you’re like me and just reading the English translations.
Be aware of the shifts of meanings in words. Be aware of cultural contexts and theological words. Be aware of the progressive nature of God’s revelation and the varied ways by which God worked across the centuries through to the time of Christ.
One reality to recognize in this manner is the shift in the concept of the Kingdom of God. For the Old Testament, the Kingdom is understood by most as the nation of Israel—theocratic, ruled through judges, prophets, and kings by Yahweh Himself as the ruler. In this view of the Kingdom, it is fully appropriate to execute traitors and defeat enemies in battle. The execute the offender for this, stone the offender for that, and cut off the offender for the other fits well in that concept.
Yet under the fulfillment of the Kingdom, the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King in Jesus, we see a shift in the understanding. No longer do we see people put to death for their beliefs: instead, we seek to draw all people to Christ, that they may die to themselves and yet live through Him. Galatians 2:20 speaks well to this: we all die for our sins: some are crucified with Christ and He lives within us; others die in their sins and carry that weight into eternity.
So, the shift is apparent, and those who miss it do great harm to the cause of the Kingdom in these days. Rather than expand the awareness of the King who lives forevermore, they act like God is weak. Which Leviticus 20:1-5 makes clear for us: if we do not bring the discipline of God, He will do it.
This is a promise that we can rest in these days: God will judge sin. The Cross, though, stands between mankind and judgment. God alone has the right and ability to determine who will leave their judgment there and who will carry it forward. That is not for us to determine. Our place is to take the Cross and proclaim Him who died for us.
Today’s Nerd Note: I really think we cannot get past the concept of “Do not be like the nations before you” that echoes throughout the Law. I know that the New Testament Believer lives by the Spirit, but there is something to the idea that we are supposed to live according to the holiness of God and that this should be different from the world around us. Either the world that has gone before us or the world that rejects the Gospel around us now.
It is high time that we realize that when the world insists on acting contrary to God’s law, that this increases our opportunities to testify to His greatness and His holiness. Not for us to throw increasing fits or bigger pity parties, but to show forth what it means to live in the community of faith. This is the example of history in many cases and the testimony of Scripture: the people of God, living like the people of God, results in people wanting to know God.
If we want the world to see Jesus, then He has to look like Himself.