The Well; May
May 1: Leviticus 7,8
Chapter 7 continues with God’s regulations for those priests that administer the guilt offerings. As we have seen before, the guilt offering is similar to the sin offering, but differs in some aspects of the ritual that accompanies it. The main difference is the way the blood is treated, being thrown against the side of the altar rather than burned on top of it.
Verses 11-38 describe the way the priests are to go about facilitating the peace offering. This sacrifice was to be combined with a thanksgiving offering consisting of loaves of unleavened bread mixed with oil to be given to the priest.
It is clear that God was not only interested in providing specific symbolic ways for his sinful people to remain in his presence through atonement for sin. He was also caring for their health. Many of the stipulations, such as forbidding them to eat meat on the third day after being sacrificed, helped minimize Israel’s suffering from the diseases that plagued the ancient world. They were not to touch anything unclean and then eat. They were not to eat the fat, or blood. These restrictions showed how Israel was protected by their covenant keeping God.
Chapter 8 moves from the regulations regarding the offerings to those relating to the priests themselves. If God considered the process and ritual of sacrifice important, even more so did he require those administering them to be set apart and holy unto him.
God told Moses to assemble the people to watch and celebrate the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priest unto the Lord. Moses carefully washed them, clothed them with the robes that had been made, and anointed them with oil. Then he anointed the altar of the Lord, the basin, and the utensils used in the sacrificial process. Last of all he anointed Aaron, consecrating him to the Lord. In many ways this constituted the first “ordination” of men set apart for ministry unto the Lord on behalf of the people.
Once cleansed, anointed and consecrated, Aaron and his sons first offered sacrifices for themselves, and then consecrated the altar. Then came a burnt offering followed by the offering of rams, one of which is called an “ordination offering.”
After the sacrifices were finished, the meat portions were cooked and eaten, along with the bread as a symbolic meal in the presence of God. In all this, the people watched and understood that these rituals were necessary as their means of obedient worship before the holy God who had come to dwell in the midst of his people.
As strange as these rituals and sacrifices may seem, if we take a step back we can see that having God near is a real risk to those who live in sin. Only through the provision that God himself gives can the relationship exist. God provides a means by which sinners can dwell as invited children in the present of God the Father. Their response must be obedience, from the heart, demonstrated in obedience in action.
Prayer: Father, I admit that some of this seems so strange! But then again, it is even
more strange that you, the creator and sustainer of the whole universe, would choose to
adopt me into your family. I don’t deserve it I know, but thank you for sending my substitute, Jesus Christ, to suffer for me so that I might live with you forever, through your grace, Amen.
May 2: Leviticus 9,10
After their consecration, Aaron and his sons were required to remain within the Tabernacle complex for seven days. After this period of ordination, their consecration was complete and they were ready to begin their priestly service.
As before, they first offered sacrifices for themselves in preparation for the “appearance of the Lord.” This was to be a big day for Israel. When the Tabernacle was finished, the Lord had appeared in the cloud (Exodus 40:34). Today his presence would be experienced once again.
After completing the sacrifices for their own sin, the priests began offering sacrifices for the people. Interestingly, the sin offering made for the people included taking the sacrificed animal to be burned outside the camp. This was representative of their sin being not only atoned for, but taken away from them.
In a fitting climax to the day, Aaron lifted his hands and blessed the people. He and Moses entered the tent and as they came out, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. This time the presence of the omnipresent, invisible God was visibly experienced as fire that shot out from “before the Lord” and consumed the meat on the altar. In response to this monumental display of God’s power the people fell on their faces with shouts of praise.
Chapter 10 brings a conclusion to this first section of Leviticus. The offerings have been meticulously described along with the specific regulations both the people and the priests are to follow. Aaron and his sons have been set apart unto God for ministry in the Tabernacle, and the Lord has responded in power, affirming that all they had done was acceptable in his sight. Now it was clear to the people that having their God in their midst was to be for their good.
The story of Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons, is a sobering reminder that what God has commanded must not be countered or forgotten. The details matter to God when they are commanded by him.
These men offered “strange fire” and paid for it with their lives. Once again the fire of the Lord shot out and they were consumed. Despite their standing, their sin was judged swiftly.
It is apparent that the previous consecration rituals, sacrifices, anointing, and ordination to service had no effect on their hearts. This stands as a radical reminder that external religion is never enough. Ritual and other experiencial aspects of worship are only valuable as avenues through which a heart for God can be expressed. They cannot change the heart.
The stern warning against wine and strong drink, and the call to know the difference between clean and unclean seem to indicate the parameters of Nadab and Abihu’s sins. Were they drunk when the took their censers and offered unauthorized incense to God? It may be. But whatever the case, they became a powerful illustration to the priests and
people that God means business in what he demands from sinners who want to live in his presence.
Prayer: Great God, your power is great as is your holiness, and I admit that too often I forget just who you are! Today, Lord, increase my awe of you, and enlarge the capacity of my heart to both fear you rightly and love you fully, and follow your ways in my life, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
The Well: May 5-9 May 5: Psalms 9, 10
Psalm 9 is themed around David’s conviction that the Lord sits enthroned above the nations regardless of how circumstances on earth may suggest otherwise. David can look back and see the wonderful deeds by which his God has delivered the faithful and brought justice on those who opposed them.
There is a strong connection between the presence of the Lord on the throne and his rule of justice seen in vs. 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 16, 19 and 20. This understanding that God will one day right all the wrongs and settle all the accounts is a comfort and refuge for the righteous.
As David writes he is aware that his enemies are all around him. The nations here represent all those who would attempt to oppress the righteous, take undue advantage of the poor, and crush the weak. Yet, in his knowledge of God’s power and justice he can find a stronghold in times of trouble. Vs 10 brings this together: The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, for the Lord does not forsake those who seek him.
In the end David shows his trust in God to bring about the righteous ends that are the desires of the righteous. He alone can subdue the nations, bringing righteous judgment upon them so that they come to know that they are but men.
Psalm 10 presents the perspective of those who are concerned about the seeming injustice of society. Though in the end God will settle all the accounts, it is evident that those who love evil and pursue wickedness are often successful in this life. The wicked are convinced there is no God, and thus, no accountability and no reason to alter their strategy to gain at the expense of others.
The wicked are arrogant, deceitful, cunning, and openly rebellious. They prey on the poor, lie in wait for the helpless and seem to benefit greatly from their sinful way of life. The Psalmist recognizes that this is both unjust, and inconsistent with his understanding that God is on the throne.
The second half of the Psalm is a call on God to arise and take action to protect the poor and oppressed by judging the wicked. This is the still the cry of the faithful today. We want the Lord to move on our behalf, to deal justly with wickedness and those who love it, and in so doing, to vindicate both himself and those of us who have committed our way to him in faith and obedience.
In vs. 14 the Psalmist recognizes that God does see, and does keep account of all things. God is faithful to his people and to his promises, and will support justice. Yet, though the Lord is king, and does superintend all of human history, his timing is determined by his own sovereign will. While he does support and surround his people, he also allows suffering for his own purposes, to demonstrate his glory in our lives.
But, our great hope is that one day, Jesus Christ the King will return. Then, all the world will be judged in righteousness, faith will be vindicated, and wickedness eternally punished and put away.
Prayer: Great Father and Almighty God, I understand the Psalmist’s heart for I too wonder at the way the wicked seem to prosper while the poor, and weak, and faithful suffer. Father, be a refuge to me today, and to all who walk through suffering and challenge, so that we may understand your love, and walk faithfully for you to shine the light of your grace and glory, through Jesus Christ, Amen.
May 6: Psalms 11, 12
Psalm 11 describes an imaginary conversation between King David and someone who is in a panic state. Vs. 1-3 present the suggestion that the King should flee to the mountains for the wicked are at the door, and they are mighty. Their presence suggests that the “foundations” of goodness have been destroyed leaving the righteous little option but to flee.
But David understands the bigger picture. The Lord is in his holy temple. He is on his throne in heaven. His eyes are open to all that is happening, and nothing takes him by surprise or operates outside his divine plan to bring all history to an end that champions his glory.
Perhaps the situation is another way that God is testing the righteous. It cannot be that the wicked have overcome for the Lord hates the wicked one of violence, and will punish their sins in his own best time.
What is called for? Only that the upright should trust in the Lord, and understand that their perseverance is a powerful witness of God’s grace before a watching world.
Psalm 12 is David’s lament that the godly ones among society seem to be growing less and less in number. He looks around at his society to see that deceit has become commonplace. Lies and flattery have become the norm as more and more people seek to gain through arrogant boasting and perverted speech. David’s fear is that the righteous are being pulled into this way of living. He is concerned about compromise.
Once again we see the content of David’s faith. He has seen it before, and believes that it will happen again. God will arise. He will surround his people with safety, giving them pure words like silver refined over and over. The faithful must not be drawn into the compromised ways of society. Rather, they must see the words of the Lord as their refuge, guarding them from the growing evils of godless society.
David’s hope is steadfast, and focused on what he knows to be true of the covenant- keeping God. The Father’s promise is never that he will take us out of harm’s way, but that he will walk with us through the storm. He will keep us, and guard us, by his grace and for his glory, for his name’s sake. Our job is to remain faithful to him, even as we swim upstream against the current of our culture.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, all around me I do see the ways our culture is moving further and further away from what you love and ask of us. Lord, help me to understand that my role as your child is to provide a conspicuous contrast rather than condemnation before them. Let me show them a life that works, that honors you, and in that, finds a joy and satisfaction that only you can give, through Jesus my Savior, Amen.
May 7: 1 Timothy 1,2
Paul the great missionary had spent 18 months in the city of Ephesus (Acts 19) and a church had been formed. Timothy, a young man and ministry partner with Paul was left in Ephesus to set thing in order in the fledgling church.
This letter, known as one of the Pastoral Epistles, was occasioned by the trouble some false teachers were causing among the church family. Contrary to this error which gave rise to speculation and confusion, Timothy was to teach the truth of God so as to bring about love from pure hearts, informed consciences, and a sincere understanding of the faith.
Paul reminds Timothy that their commissioning from the Lord means that their mission and leadership position brings with it great accountability. Unlike the false teachers, they were set apart by God for the ministry of teaching and leading the church. Their conduct was to be exemplary, and their commitment to the truth of Scripture unfaltering.
The “charge” in vs. 18 sums up Paul’s exhortation to Timothy. He must enter the battle for truth while holding fast to the faith with a good conscience, unlike others who had so abandoned the truth that their spiritual lives were now like a shipwreck.
Chapter 2 begins the specific instructions Paul gives concerning various elements in church life. He exhorts Timothy concerning the way men and women can best live out their commitment to Christ.
Primary to the men is prayer. While they were undoubtedly subjected to societal persecution and isolation, they were to pray even for those responsible for such action. Those in authority, including kings and other governmental authorities were not outside the reach of God’s saving grace. Paul is clear: God’s intention to save extends to all kinds of men, even those who are our enemies. Thus, prayer must be offered up for their benefit for by so doing our hearts are softened to the prospect that God may choose to draw them to salvation through the Gospel.
For the women Paul’s instructions take a different direction. Their commitment to Christ will first be seen in the way they fulfill their role as godly women. Their respect for righteousness will be demonstrated in the way they dress, preferring to be known more for their good works than their fashion choices.
Verses 11-15 rank as some of the more controversial verses in the New Testament, but their intention is actually very clear and in line with the whole of biblical instruction. Paul gives two commands, and each one has its own stated reason. The commands and reasons are found in a chiastic construction, with the command in vs. 11 linked with the reason in vs 14, and the command in vs 12 linked with the reason in vs. 13.
Simply put, Timothy is to intentional in teaching the women because Eve was deceived, and God wants the women to be informed so as to be able to ward off the Devil’s deceit. But women are not to be in positions in the church where they will be seen as the authoritative proclaimers and defenders of apostolic doctrine. This is based, not on any inferiority in women, but solely on the fact of the created order. Adam was first created,
and Eve was created to be his helper. This order, and pattern forms God’s structure in the church and in the family.
Prayer: Father, like the Ephesians, I often don’t think to pray for those in authority over me, especially if I don’t respect their actions or decision. Forgive me Lord, and let me see them through your eyes, as those who need your love and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ, Amen.
May 8: 1 Timothy 3,4
Every church will stand or fall on the strength of its leadership. The church of the New Testament era needed structure, and in this chapter Paul adopts some of the traditions of the synagogue, expanding on them under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The church has only two offices: Elder and Deacon. The Elders, always in plurality in the New Testament, are the mechanism through which Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, exercises his guidance and rule. Here we find Paul giving clear qualifications for those who would hold this important office.
The qualifications do not demand perfection. If that were so no man would qualify. But those who lead the church are to have character that can be understood as blameless and above reproach. That is, nothing in their lives would prevent those under their care from trusting their motives and actions.
It is clear that a man’s home life matters to God. Being a husband and father is the first place a man’s leadership is displayed. He must be a faithful man to his wife, and a good manager of his household. These demonstrate the true character of his heart and are an essential qualification for leadership in the church.
It is also necessary for the man’s character to show evidences of having been formed and matured by God. Being a leader means first being a mature Christ-follower whose life has been on display long before he is set apart for leadership.
It is also clear that Elders are to have an expertise in knowing and declaring the truth of God’s Word (see: Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 3:15). The point here is that a man who would lead the church must first show that he knows the Word, and has a life shaped by obedience to it.
Paul also adds a second office. While the synagogue was led by elders, the office of deacon seems to be an added office in the church. It is noteworthy to see that none of the qualifications for deacon include leading or teaching. Consequently, a woman serving as a deaconess would not be in violation of the material in chapter 2.
Just what do deacons do, if theirs is not a leading or teaching position? The truth is that the Bible does not specify any tasks for them. What is seen is that they are to be men and women of character and faithfulness to whom a task can be assigned with every confidence that it will be done, and done well. Churches with a strong group of deacons are greatly blessed by God!
Chapter 4 shows why leadership is necessary. Trying times are coming for the church, and false teachers will attempt to undermine the faith of many. But Timothy is exhorted to be strong in his own discipline, and in his commitment to teach and model the truth. Paul ends with a strong charge: Keep a close watch on yourself, and your teaching! Doing so is the best way to assure God’s blessing on yourself, and on those who are following you.
Prayer: Father, give strength to those men who lead our church, who lead and guard the flock of God through the ministry of truth and love. Give them strength for their tasks, and joy in doing them, through the Spirit of God, Amen.
May 9: 1 Timothy 5,6
Chapter 5 finds Paul giving several specific instructions. Timothy is to recognize that his youth will mean he must honor those older than him, even though he is leading. Paul also spends a great deal of time setting the guidelines for dealing with widows in the church.
In that day it was common for wives to outlive their husbands. Consequently, the church would often have many widows, many of whom would be dependent upon others for their livelihood. Paul gives very clear instructions so that the church could adequately recognize and help those who were widows, while still encouraging their families to assist in their care.
Paul addresses the elders as well in this chapter. They are to be honored, and those who labor in teaching and preaching are to be considered as worthy of double honor, that is, payment of some kind.
Elders are also charged here with the responsibility of policing themselves, and being careful not to bring on another elder until he was clearly qualified.
Chapter 6 includes instructions to slaves and masters. It is clear that following Christ changed the way both were to act and relate to others.
Paul ends the letter with another strong warning against the false teachers and the problems they create for the church. Timothy was to teach the truth, urging his hearers to walk in it and not be pulled aside by error. Timothy is to avoid the pride being exhibited by the false teachers, especially their desire to gain monetarily through religion. The love of money lies at the heart of so many forms of wickedness, and those who lead the church must keep themselves from such motivation.
Godliness can be a means of great gain, but it will not primarily be made up of the things this world pursues. Rather, true godliness will bring contentment with what God provides.
In the end Timothy is charged with pursuing righteousness while fleeing from the temptations the world holds out. He is to keep the commandments of God “unstained” from the sins of life.
Paul, almost as an after thought, tells Timothy to make sure that those who are wealthy don’t find their security or significance in their money. Rather, they are to be rich in good works, for these are the investments that will pay off in eternity.
Prayer: Gracious Father, thank you for men like Timothy who give their lives to lead and feed your church. Help me Lord, to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to be a faithful and fruitful partner with you in the mission of the church to a world lost in sin, for Jesus’ sake, Amen
May 12: 1 Corinthians 1,2
Paul writes to the Corinthian church while in Ephesus. He has grave concerns about many things the church is facing including sexual immorality, abuses of freedom, spiritual gifts, and even the meaning of the Resurrection. All of these and more have created division in the church which is the reason for the letter.
Paul, while thankful for the Corinthian’s faith, recognizes the danger of the divisions that are threatening the church. Many are choosing to align themselves with human teachers rather than realize that their unity is based on the person, work, and message of Jesus.
Paul spends most of the chapter championing the Gospel. He describes it as God’s simplicity which confounds the wisdom of the world. The Jews were thirsting for signs and wonders. They believed that those who came from God would demonstrate their power through miraculous displays. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were wowed by “wisdom”, that spell-binding rhetoric of their great oratories. When Paul came to town, they demanded these of him. Yet, in order to demonstrate the power of God, he gave everyone what nobody wanted! He preached the simple message of Christ’s death and resurrection. And to those whom God was calling to himself, the message was the miraculous power of God, and the great wisdom of God.
In chapter 2 Paul begins defending his message and manner. Perhaps some were finding fault with the way he presented himself when he visited Corinth. He strongly argues that his intent was never to dress the Gospel in the dress of lofty or manipulative speech. Rather, he gave them the message of Christ crucified from a human platform of humility, and even weakness. This was purposeful, for he intended that any transformation of their lives would be seen as God’s work and not his.
This by no means meant that the message of the Gospel is simplistic. Rather, it contains things that only God can bring to those who love him. He alludes to Isaiah 64:4 to remind his readers that the blessedness of life in Christ can only be truly understood by those who are indwelt with God the Spirit.
Paul insists that his teaching can only be appreciated by those in whom the Spirit has taken up residence. Apart from his illuminating presence, the “natural” person cannot truly understand and appreciate the things of God. This is a bold statement. Yet, it is a constant theme in Paul’s writing as we will see (see: 2 Corinthians 4:1-7). It is surely autobiographical for the Apostle. Before he met Christ on the road to Damascus, he believed he “saw” everything clearly. Jesus could not be God as the Christians believed. In fact, they were enemies of God and needed to be rounded up and imprisoned or worse. But God had plans for Paul. In order to show him his spiritual blindness, Christ struck him blind, and it was only as the scales fell from his physical eyes that he was able, through the Spirit, to see and understand the greatness of the Gospel of Christ.
Prayer: Father, I understand just how blind I was before you found me, and drew me to your heart though the Gospel. And now I pray that you would continually open my eyes to your truth in the Word, to your beauty in my live, and to your mission in this world, that I might shine for you, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
May 13: 1 Corinthians 3,4
Paul has reminded the Corinthian readers that it is only through the power of the indwelling Spirit that they can grow in their understanding of the Word, and obedience to Christ. Now he confronts them with the fact that, while they should be maturing, they are still infants in the faith. The presence of jealousy and division demonstrates their immaturity, and this immaturity is only exacerbating the problems the church is experiencing.
The overall argument of this chapter is that their insistence on dividing into cliques, with favorite teachers as their masters is threatening the unity of the church. It appears that confusion about baptism plays a part in their disagreements. They were assuming that being baptized by one man was better than by another. Paul takes this head on.
He carefully reminds them that it is Christ, not any man, who is their Lord and Savior. He and Apollos and any other leaders are simply God’s fellow workers. The church is God’s field, God’s building, not theirs.
Paul’s part was to lay the foundation for God’s building. And the only foundation that can be laid is the message of truth concerning Christ Jesus. Those who come now to build the church must build on this foundation. Any attempt to lay a different one, or to build on Christ with error or pride will ultimately end in ruin. Yet, some who lead poorly are themselves indwelt by the Spirit of God. Their work may prove ineffective, but they themselves will not be cast away.
Paul insistence that the Corinthian Christ-followers are the “temple” of God is instructive. With the coming of Christ, God no longer is said to inhabit a building, but a body. And with the ascension of Jesus back to heaven, the “body” of Christ is now the church, and the church is now the visible expression of the people of God. They are the ‘temple’ and care must be taken not to destroy or divide or in any way corrupt the temple.
Chapter 4 finds Paul further explaining his ministry, and the overall position of the Apostles. It is apparent that some have brought charges against Paul. Yet, he is clear. He is merely a servant of Christ. Against the idea that he is trying to dominate them he reminds them that they have grown and prospered without him. Yet, he appeals to them, not as a dictator, but as a spiritual father who is greatly concerned about the waywardness of some of his children. Paul intends to teach them, but also will follow up the letter with a personal visit. The only question is this: when he comes, will he be able to praise them, or will discipline be in order?
Prayer: Gracious Father, you are Almighty God, and I am so thankful that your power and love have captured my heart. My world is crazy Lord, and yet I find rest and refuge in the truth of your Word, and the privilege of prayer. As I walk through life today, remind me often that you are all I need, but that you have given me a role to play in this great adventure called the mission of Christ. Help me play my part with joy, through your Spirit who dwells in me, Amen.
May 14: 1 Corinthians 5,6
In chapter 5 Paul begins instructions directed at a number of problems in the church. The Corinthian church is in trouble. They have become embroiled in areas of sin and confusion. God’s answer is Paul’s concise teaching which finds its source in the mind of God himself. Paul is writing God’s Word to the church.
Paul first speaks to the widespread acceptance by the church of sexual immorality. They have failed to recognize that immorality has no place in the lives of Christ- followers. Apparently, they have even come to the place where they are boasting about their tolerance. This is yet another sign of their spiritual immaturity and lack of biblical understanding.
The instructions are clear. While Christ-followers are not to separate themselves from unbelievers who are acting in unbelief, they are to disassociate from those who insist on claiming Christ while living immorally. They are no longer to extend family benefits to those who believe they can live immoral lives. The prohibition against “eating with them” is simply an example of the joys of being in the family that must now be denied. Their relationship with the intentionally disobedient is not reduced to a single dimension: the call for them to repent of their sin and turn to Christ in humble obedience.
The church is also being diminished as a result of some taking their differences to the public courts. This undermines the truth that one day, Christ-followers will rule with Christ here on earth. If this life is meant to prepare us for that privilege, then we must handle our differences differently than those who do not know Jesus.
In chapter 6 Paul reverts to the rabbinic teaching method of asking questions. In so doing he forces his readers to reflect, analyze their situation, measure it by what they know of Christ, and come to their own righteous conclusions. The hope is that they will see their own lives in the light of truth and turn from their selfish ways.
What Paul stresses is that our actions as individuals can have harmful effects on the church. The unbelieving world is watching, and when we wander from the paths of righteousness, they see us as no different from them. This undermines the message of the Gospel, and further darkens their understanding of their need for Christ. Our lives matter.
Paul ends the chapter with a strongly worded reminder sexual immorality is destructive both personally and for the church. He has reminded them that many in the church were once mired in sin and its destructive ways. They were thieves, greedy, immoral, idolatrous, even involved in homosexuality and adultery. Yet, in Christ, they were cleansed, and set apart for God, having been justified in his sight because of Jesus. Their bodies are no longer for the purpose of sinful pleasure but for bringing glory to God.
Prayer: Father, thank you for this reminder that once I was on the outside, living according to my own pleasures, blindly walking the path to destruction. Thank you for opening my eyes to your love. Father, forgive me for any spiritual pride that has grown in me, and let me see the world around me as you do. There are only two kinds of
people here: those who love you, and those who need to! Use me today, through the power of the Spirit you have made to dwell in me, Amen.
May 15: 1 Corinthians 7,8
Paul is following a logical sequence in this book. Having just reminded his readers that sexual immorality is a self-destructive act, he moves on to present godly principles for marriage. God, who created sexual pleasure, also created marriage as its only venue.
Paul says very clearly that marital intimacy is God’s intention, and it should not be interrupted except by mutual consent. And for those who can live profitably as single men or women, Paul says he is one of them.
In vs. 10 Paul speaks to those who are married to believers. This is clear from the fact that he addresses “the rest” in vs. 12, and describes them as married to unbelievers.
To those married to believers Paul gives clear instructions. They must not leave the marriage. If a woman desires to leave her believing husband she is to remained unmarried or be reconciled to him.
In vs. 12 Paul speaks those married to unbelievers. They must not leave their spouses simply because they are not Christ-followers. If the unbeliever consents to live in the marriage, they should stay. Yet, if the unbeliever wants to leave the marriage, the believer can let them go, and is not under any constraint to fight for the marriage. It is noteworthy that here Paul adds to the list of allowable reasons for divorce. Jesus stated that immorality alone broke the marriage covenant but Paul adds desertion. The conflict is solved when we realize that Jesus was speaking about the conjugal area only, while Paul was speaking to the fact that the marriage covenant also encompasses areas of companionship, both physical and emotional.
To the unmarried Paul gives the advice that, given all the complications marriage can bring, there is merit in remaining single. Yet, this is not for everyone, and only those who are gifted by God for singleness should follow that path.
In chapter 8 Paul begins a two-chapter exhortation concerning a divisive social issue of that day. Some believed that eating food previously offered to idols was sinful. Others considered that nothing about eating meat conveyed spiritual benefit or consequence. It is clear here that Paul understands the conscience as either “weak” or “strong”. Vs. 7 shows that the “weak” conscience is the uninformed, untaught conscience. Those who stumble over issues like this one have not been properly taught. While we must bow to them initially, the greater good is found in informing them so that their consciences can be strong. It is also not to be missed that the “offense” here is not merely an offense to the person’s belief, but something that causes them to go against their conscience and thereby, sin. In this case, those with weak consciences would be led to eat meat they believed was wrong to eat, and in so doing, would fall into sin. The goal would be to keep them from sinning, first by joining them in refusing, but then to inform their conscience with the truth so they would no longer be susceptible. The food was fine to eat!
Prayer: Father, thank you for your truth! Help me to strengthen my conscience so that I am no longer offended by those things that are not actually sinful. Grow my
understanding of you so that I might be a more profitable servant of the Kingdom, through the Spirit and the Word, Amen.
May 16: 1 Corinthians 9,10
Chapter 9 finishes Paul’s exhortation concerning what many call Christian liberty. He is speaking about things that are not sinful, but have gained a position as such in the minds of those whose consciences are ill informed. In every generation there are those who consider certain things off limits for Christ-followers which, when judged by the Bible, are found to be morally neutral. In most cases, it is the abuse of things, rather than the things themselves, that are forbidden by God.
Paul speaks to the ongoing division and animosity that is mounting in the Corinthian church. They are dividing over things that should not bring division. The remedy is for each to put aside their rights to be right, and embrace one another as brothers and sisters. Paul speaks clearly. He has rights, but often he makes no use of them in order to preserve peace and harmony. He is free from all men. He is free from all legalism. Yet, at times he defers to those for whom legalistic rules are binding ropes in order to remain at peace with them. What is understood, however, is that this must not be the long-term solution. What is needed is for all to measure social issues and pleasures against Scripture, and come to see that too often we audit others according to our own list of preferences. The best result is for all to live righteously according to the Word, and grant one another the liberty to do the same.
In chapter 10 Paul takes on the topic of idolatry. He begins with a reminder that Israel, though chosen and provided for by God himself, nevertheless fell into ruin through the practice of idolatry.
Paul uses idolatry to cover all those attachments of the heart that take precedence over our devotion to God and his Word. Israel’s demise is written down for our instruction so that we can understand the grave consequences of pushing God to the margins of our lives, and filling up with the things this world offers as replacement.
It seems that the Lord’s Supper was illustrative of Paul’s concern for his readers. Apparently they were taking liberties with the cup and the bread. Paul relates their misuse to Israel’s corruption of the sacrificial system, and warns them that the course they are on will similarly lead to destruction. He states it clearly: you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
These are harsh words, and we do not know the exact circumstances of their error. But it is clear that it is never good to get creative with the commanded ordinances of God. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are specifically commanded by Christ for his church, along with other functions such as prayer, preaching, mutual love and care, benevolence, and evangelism. While different cultures and ages may call for different forms, these functions must not be tampered with.
In the end, the only “rule” Paul gives is simple: Do everything in a way that brings God glory. Put pride and division aside, and eat, drink and everything else in his name, by his grace, and for his glory.
Prayer: Father, draw me to your Word that my conscience may be informed, my heart’s capacity to worship enlarged, and my delight in your gospel mission increased, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
The Well: May 19-23
May 19: 1 Corinthians 11,12
In chapter 11 Paul takes us two issues that were causing confusion in the Corinthian church. It was a cultural distinctive of that time for women to cover themselves when out in public. This was a traditional way of demonstrating that they were not “available” to any man other than their husband. This was a longstanding tradition, as seen in the fact that Rebecca only veiled herself after meeting Isaac (Gen. 24;65). This was usually done by means of a head covering that also covered the face.
It seems that some women in the church were going without their veils, and this was causing a stir. Paul asks them to continue the tradition simply because in that culture it signified that the women were willingly accepting the role assigned to them by God in marriage. They were to be recognizes as under the authority of their husbands. This subordinate role did not equate to essential inferiority, as the illustration of Christ being under God demonstrates. Rather, they were taking on the role assigned them, and demonstrating it by wearing the traditional symbol to show that they were married, and in submission to their husbands.
Of greater significance was the church’s understanding and practice of the Lord’s Supper. They had taken an observance meant to signify their unity and turned it into a time of division. It is probable that what is being discussed was the “agape meal” to which the Lord’s Supper was being added. Apparently some were gathering to eat as families or small groups and separating themselves from others in the church family. As a result, the rich had food while the poor did not. This made a mockery of the Lord’s Supper. Paul’s exhortation first reminds them of the importance of taking the Supper in a worthy manner, and not as a hypocritical show of a unity they were not actually enjoying.
Chapter 12 opens up still another confusing issue in Corinth. Paul will spend 3 chapters on spiritual gifts and it must not be missed that he has to do so because the Corinthian church is abusing them. He begins with a general presentation of the gifts. He points out that they all are given by the one spirit, but that there is a great diversity in the gifts, and each gift may have diverse ways of being used, and finally that each use may bring diverse results. In so doing Paul shows that there can be no simple classification of gifts, nor should the area of gifts be used as a measurement of spirituality. Every part of the church family is needed, regardless of how they may be measured on a human scale. All have a spiritual area of giftedness, and the call is to use whatever opportunities we have to enhance the ministry of Christ through the church to the world.
Prayer: Father, as I read about Corinth it is apparent that this was a church that was confused, and being corrupted by error and division. I know that this must grieve your fatherly heart! Lord, help me to be a Christ-follower who strives to know the truth, and
also strives to maintain the unity of your church in the bond of peace. Help me to love you and love your people, with a love that overwhelms division, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
May 20: 1 Corinthians 13,14
As Paul addresses the confusion in Corinth over spiritual gifts he exhorts the readers to recognize that love is more important, more useful, and more necessary than any gift. Love is the “more excellent way” mentioned at the close of chapter 12.
This chapter has taken on iconic standing in church history. Yet, it has been greatly misunderstood. Paul is not talking about the general characteristic of love as it may be understood today. It is not a general lack of discernment or critique. It does not speak to the idea of unquestioning acceptance. The love Paul describes is patterned after God’s love for those who are in his family, in Christ.
Paul’s point is that the church in Corinth is divided and confused because they have failed to love one another as God in Christ has loved them. They have failed to recognize their standing as children in the same family. They have allowed selfishness to overwhelm love and they are suffering the consequences.
Chapter 14 takes on the very serious challenges the church finds in understanding the so-called “sign gifts.” Here Paul gives correction as to the nature and usefulness of tongues and prophecy.
Paul first points out that those who speak in tongues do not benefit the church unless they bring some knowledge or teaching. He stresses that these “tongues” are actual languages, and each language of the world can be useful for the church as long as there is someone there to interpret it. Without interpretation, the gift of tongues is unfruitful. Consequently, even Paul admits that it is prophecy that is the most beneficial.
Prophecy here is the authoritative proclamation of God’s truth, received directly from God. In that day, before the New Testament was completed, God spoke to men directly, and they would then speak to the church. After they spoke, other church leaders would question them, clarifying what they had said to make sure that the Word of God was preserved and taught correctly. In this process, only men were to be involved since it was the teaching ministry of the church.
Today God still speaks, but through the written Word, the Bible. Fortunately, we are not left to wonder when and what he speaks, for we have the sure and sufficient word of God, breathed out and preserved by him so that we can know his truth and walk in his ways.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your Word, and for the Spirit who dwells in us, enlightening our minds to understand your truth. Give me a passion for your word, and help me to understand what I should believe, how I should think, and the ways I should live. Then, Lord, after you show me what I should do, give me the courage to obey your commands
that I might be a bright light for you in this dark world, through the power of the Spirit, Amen.
May 21: 1 Corinthians 15,16
One of the many false teachings that was plaguing Corinth seems to be that the resurrection of Jesus never happened. In response, Paul gives the most thorough and comprehensive explanation of the theological importance of the resurrection in all the Bible.
He begins by reminding them that his teaching on the resurrection was not something he invented, but a message he received. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus stand at the very core of the Gospel, and there are several verifiable witnesses to the resurrection as well.
Apparently some were teaching that the resurrection was myth. Paul concisely shows that, without the resurrection, the Christian worldview collapses completely. His basic premise is that, if Christ is still dead, then his death was not redemptive, and sin still reigns over us all. But, Christ has been raised and death no longer has power over those in Christ.
Paul goes on to speak about Christ’s resurrection as the guarantee of our own. He speaks directly to the necessity of death since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. While death is a horrible robber when seen against the backdrop of human life, it actually is the doorway through which we must go in order to be freed from the sinful restraints of flesh and blood. For those in Christ, the body that dies will be replaced by a new, immortal body capable of living eternally with God. This is the great hope that we have in Christ.
Paul closes his letter with a reminder that he will be coming to Corinth to gather the money they are to collect to help the persecuted Jewish church. In 2 Corinthians he will speak more about this act of Christian charity that will actually be a picture of the unity Jews and Gentiles can now have in Christ.
At the end of this letter that has been filled with correction, Paul leaves the readers with a simple set of instructions. Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong, and do everything you do with love.
These continue to be great words for our lives today. The issues may change but it will always be the case that standing for God and the truth of Jesus will often bring questions in the church. Our answer must always be a return to the truth of Scripture, a commitment to prayer-filled, obedient lives, and a radical preference for love over division in the church.
Prayer: Gracious God and heavenly Father, you are so good and patient with us your children. Lord, we so need you, and the guidance of the Spirit, as we try to live
conspicuously for you in this broken world. Help me today not to worry, but to wait on you. Not to compromise, but to be strengthened by your promise that I am yours, and your love is always mine in abundance, because of Jesus, Amen.
May 22: Ruth 1,2
The story of Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges, and is meant to show that, even in the midst of horrible wickedness, God’s plan to bring about Messiah is never derailed.
The story begins with an Israelite man and his family leaving Canaan for Moab. This was a strong sign of distrust in God. Despite the famine, the right action for Elimelech would have been to stay with his people, work hard to bring the nation back to God, and trust in his faithful provision.
While in Moab, the man died, along with his two sons leaving his wife Naomi with two daughters-in-law. Naomi chose to return to Israel, and one daughter-in-law – Ruth – accompanied her. But Naomi is no longer the woman she was when she left. Now she is bitter, angry at God who she believes has punished her for leaving the land. She insists that he name now be Mara to symbolize the bitterness of her soul.
The story continues during the time of harvest in Judah. The fields outside Bethlehem are the setting for a wonderful love story.
Being single women, neither Naomi nor Ruth are able to work the land and provide for themselves. They are destitute and without much hope. Understanding the situation, Ruth determines to become a gleaner in the fields, carefully catching up the heads of grain that fall from the stalks as the reapers harvest the rows. She is a hard worker, and this is noticed by the owner of the field, a man named Boaz.
Boaz recognizes Ruth as the Moabite woman who has returned with Naomi. In an unusual display of charity, he welcomes this foreigner into his crew and treats her as a daughter. She is to eat of their food, drink of their water, and even benefit from his orders to leave some grain for her on purpose.
Boaz has heard about Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi. In a verse that sets the theme for the book (2:12) he tells her that it is not his generosity that she feels, but the Lord’s. The Lord will repay her decision to leave her home, and her nation’s gods, to find refuge under the wings of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Boaz also makes sure Ruth is protected from those who would take unfair advantage of her situation. Gleaners, being poor and often foreigners, were preyed upon by those who wanted grain without doing the work. By telling his young men to take care of Ruth he was providing refuge for her under his own wings.
It is in this chapter that we see Boaz begin to take on the role of a husband whose provision, protection and refuge is actually the means by which the blessing of God can
be extended to a wife. It is this theme that will be further described and illustrated in the remaining parts of the story.
Prayer: Father, I see in Boaz a picture of the provision, protection, and love you have given to me. Help me Lord, to rest fully in the refuge you are for me, through the love and forgiveness that is mine in Jesus Christ, my savior. Amen
May 23: Ruth 3,4
As the story of Ruth continues it comes to light that Boaz is one of Naomi’s closest relatives. This means he may be able to “redeem” the land that Elimelech owned. In all probability, the land was “sold” before the family left for Moab. But, by law the land could be bought back by a member of the family. This law was enacted to make sure that all the clans and families would be able to provide for themselves, and no one clan or family could amass all the land for themselves.
Naomi recognizes the possibility that, through Boaz, she and Ruth could escape poverty and once again live comfortably. But, there is an additional detail that may not be easy to work out. The man who “redeems” the land must also take Ruth as a wife and have a son with her to carry on Elimelech’s line. The land would eventually belong to the son and the redeemer would have lost his investment.
Naomi instructs Ruth to bathe, dress well, and go up to the threshing floor at night knowing that Boaz would be sleeping alongside his grain to protect it from robbers. In a demonstration of great submission and courage, Ruth lies down at the feet of Boaz as he is sleeping. In the night he is startled, awakes, and finds the young woman at his feet. Ruth takes a great risk and proposes that Boaz take her as his wife. The imagery of “spreading your wings over me” constituted a proposal in that day, and is also a reflection on Boaz’s mention of the wings of the Almighty (2:12).
Just when the story seems to be moving along to a wonderful conclusion, Boaz tells Ruth that, while he is willing to take her as his wife, another relative actually has the right of first refusal in the matter of the land. But, he assures her, he will not rest until the matter is settled.
In a fitting conclusion to the story Boaz finds the other relative and explains the opportunity he has to buy the land. The man recognizes the benefit to him and agrees to redeem it. But then Boaz springs the trap. The man will also have to take Ruth as a wife, and raise up a son with her. This changes everything. The man is already married, and cannot risk some of his money on land that will not go to his own son. He politely defers, and Boaz moves to exercise his right as a kinsman who now can redeem the land.
The story ends with Boaz and Ruth having a son who turns out to be in the line of David, the King. While the time of the Judges was filled with treachery and idolatry, God’s plan to raise up a godly king, from whom Messiah would come, was never in jeopardy.
God’s plan is never derailed either by the opposition of his enemies or the disobedience of his own people. If we ever doubt this, just read the story of Ruth.
Prayer: Great God of grace, you are so faithful! I can trust you with my life for you hold all time and history in your hands. Thank you for drawing me under you wings, to find hope and purpose in this world. Help me today, Lord, to live as a confident, conspicuous child of your love, all because of Jesus, Amen.
The Well: May 26-30 May 26: Leviticus 11,12
Leviticus 11-15 present a second set of laws for Israel. These are known as the purity or cleanliness laws and they are meant to protect Israel from a bad diet, dangerous vermin, and communicable diseases. Laws like these are largely unknown in the societies that surrounded Israel in that day. These laws seem to be God’s way of demonstrating, both physically and spiritually, that his people were to be separate, and clean before him. In a very practical sense, they also supported Israelite health and well-being in a day long before better health laws were developed.
Chapter 11 speaks first to Israel’s diet. The distinction between clean and unclean food dates back to the days of Noah who was told to bring seven of the clean animals into the ark. Now that Israel was a nation, laws concerning this distinction seem necessary.
Clean animals are distinguished as both chewing the cud and having split hooves. Modern science has discovered that many of these animals, due to their diet, harbor hazardous organisms. Hares, for example, are known to carry tularemia.
It is interesting that fish with fins and scales are usually free of parasites since they swim freely and are not bottom feeders. The forbidden birds are those that eat carrion and fish that are not eaten today as well. And it seems that the locusts were a delicacy in that day!
The rest of the chapter centers on the hazard of contact with unclean animals, especially those that have died.
Chapter 12 speaks about the need for purification after giving birth. After childbirth the mother would be isolated from the group for a number of days. This would have given her time with her child, and offered an extended period for recovery. It would have also helped prevent the spread of childbed fever, a condition that took so many lives in the past.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, once again I am reminded that you care for your people. Like a loving Father, you care about my physical well-being, as well as my spiritual strength. Help me today to live for you, keeping my thoughts and ambitions pure, and my heart clean before you, for the sake of the Gospel, Amen.
May 27: Leviticus 13,14
In these chapters God gives detailed instructions to Israel concerning one of the most deadly and contagious diseases of the day, leprosy. In many ways, leprosy symbolized sin in that it was pervasive, took life slowly, and of necessity separated the person from society. In the New Testament we find Jesus healing many, but when it came to lepers, he “cleansed” them. The disease makes the person “unclean” as well as unhealthy.
Leprosy was highly contagious, and extreme care had to be taken to prevent widespread outbreaks should infection be found. Any suspicious skin or scalp irritation was to be taken very seriously. The priests were to judge the severity of situation and make the correct judgment. Chapter 13 gives explicit instructions concerning many different presenting situations by which leprosy could enter the camp.
Those found to be leprous were pronounced unclean and made to dwell outside the camp. To be “outside the camp” was to be considered unworthy of association with the people. The designation applied to that which was unclean, and came to depict that which was worthy of great shame. Many of the animal parts left over from sacrifice were to be burned “outside the camp.” It is interesting then, that the writer of Hebrews, in speaking about Israel’s treatment of Jesus the Messiah, calls upon the followers of Christ to go “outside the camp” to identify with our suffering Savior.
Chapter 14 takes up the process for bringing those healed of leprosy back into the status as “clean”, and back into the camp. A lengthy and technical procedure of sacrifice and washing, followed by the removal of all the person’s body hair would end with the person declared clean.
But, in addition to the physical cleansing, the healed person was to recognize the spiritual aspects of their isolation. A specific process of offerings for sin and guilt was proscribed through which the connection between being unclean physically and spiritually was to be recognized, and the cleansing, forgiving grace of God appreciated in humility and love.
In addition to the person, the house and clothing of the leper were to be cleansed to prevent any spread of the disease, accompanied by the necessary sacrificial offerings.
In the end it is clear that leprosy posed a great risk to the people. It isolates as well as destroys, and is a poignant symbol of sin. But, even this dread and terminal disease can be healed, and this reminds us that sin as well can be cleansed through the grace of God available to the humble in Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Lord, leprosy must have been such a horrible condition for those who contracted it. And I can see how, like leprosy, sin has infected the souls of humanity isolating them from God and destroying their lives. Thank you for sending Jesus, the Great Physician, through whom I have been cleansed, and restored to fellowship with you, my loving Father. Help me to live as you child today, through the power of the Spirit, Amen.
May 28: Leviticus 15,16
The final section on cleanliness deals with things we usually don’t like to talk about in our day. But, in the ancient world, bodily discharges of all kinds posed a serious health threat. It is unclear just what “bodily discharge” refers to, but it would include any secretion of fluid from the body including semen, saliva, and blood. Most prevalent would be diarrhea or other emission that was potentially dangerous to the health of the group if not disposed of correctly.
For women, the menstrual discharge was considered to render them unclean for seven days. Again, this was to contain whatever risks of infection were connected with blood. Any bedding or clothing soiled by either a male or female discharge was to be considered unclean until thoroughly washed.
These chapters on cleanliness are unique among ancient cultures. But God wanted his people to understand that purity matters. This not only protected them against disease. It also served to illustrate the necessity of moral purity before a holy God.
Chapter 16 details the annual sin offering on the Day of Atonement. On this day each year the high priest would take a bull, two goats, and a ram to complete the process of making atonement for the sin of the people. The process included many steps including the ceremonial consecration of the high priest himself.
First, the bull was sacrificed as a sin offering for the high priest and his household. Then the two goats would be separated by lot. One would be sacrificed as a sin offering for the people while the other was kept alive. The high priest would take the live goat and lay his hands on its head, symbolically confessing over it the sins of the people. Then the goat, now seen as bearing the sins of Israel, would be led outside the camp and set free. In this way the people came to understand that, through the blood of sacrifice, their sins were removed from them. Finally, after using some of the blood for purposes of consecration, the high priest would sacrifice the ram as a burnt offering for the people, and make atonement for them. In all of this we can see the work of Christ previewed. Through his blood our sins have been removed from us and we have been consecrated to him, once for all!
Prayer: Father, understanding the Day of Atonement reminds me that I sin, and continue to harbor sin in my life. And knowing that the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin, I am overjoyed and thankful that you sent your son – the Lamb of God – to die in my place and for my benefit. In Jesus I am cleansed and holy. Help me to live up to my standing before you today, through the power of Christ in me, Amen.
May 29: Leviticus 17,18
Chapter 17 details the necessity of sacrifice being done in the proper place, at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Sacrifice, as an essential part of godly worship, was to be done according to God’s prescribed process. Worship was not to be done according to personal preference or convenience. Rather, it was a means of obeying what God had commanded regarding relationship with him.
Today too often “worship” has become synonymous with “singing.” But as originally constituted by God it had everything to do with obedient response to God, and it came in many forms. Worship is engagement with God, and he has determined that this engagement must happen in ways that demonstrate the sincerity of our hearts through acts of obedience. In Israel this meant adhering carefully to the commanded way of offering sacrifice.
We also read about the prohibition on eating blood. The fact that it stands for life, and plays a major part in the whole sacrificial system gave it a special sanctity in God’s eyes. In addition, God was protecting his people’s health by forbidding the eating of blood.
Chapter 18 gives God’s laws concerning sexual activity using the phrase “uncover the nakedness” as a euphemistic way of speaking about it. The detail here is specific.
Incest is forbidden in all of its possible forms. Specific areas of forbidden relationship are given and include even far-reaching relatives such as step-sisters. The point is that sexuality is important to God, and is to be found only within a proper marriage.
The rest of the chapter speaks to other areas of sexual purity. The restriction against uncovering the nakedness of a menstruating woman was to protect her dignity against the approach of an insensitive husband. Prohibitions against adultery and child sacrifice also find their way into this set of commands.
Of special interest in our day is the strict prohibition against homosexuality and bestiality.
The chapter ends with a reminder that God intends to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan in part because they have polluted the land with the very wickedness God is now forbidding to his people. This is important as we will see. When Israel degenerates into a people whose sin is as heinous as the Canannites sin, then we will see that the holiness and justice of God will drive his own people out of the land as well.
Prayer: Father, you are holy, holy, holy. I recognize that you hate sin, and cannot abide its presence. At the same time I know that I am unholy, prone to selfishness and sin. Yet, because of your love and the fact that I am “in Christ” you see me, not as sinful, but as your own beloved child ... all because my Savior has taken my sin and wrapped me in righteousness. Thank you Father, for your unchanging, unconditional love, freely flowing over me, because of Jesus, in whose name I pray, Amen.
May 30: Leviticus 19,20
In chapter 19 God stresses that he is a holy God, and demands that his people be holy. Vs. 2 is used by Peter to teach the same principle to his generation (see: 1 Peter 1:16).
Holiness is often erroneously thought to merely be separation from sin. Yet, its truest meaning is to be wholly devoted to God. We are to be “holy unto God.” God’s holiness primarily means that he is devoted to his own glory. The result of a holy focus is an aversion to sin but that is not its primary meaning. Those who are holy to God are focused on him, dedicated to his glory, and as result, turned away from sin (see: 20:26).
God reminds his people that holy living means honoring parents, keeping Sabbath, and turning away from idols. It is also seen in loving those with whom you are in community, not stealing, not bearing a false witness, or acting unjustly toward anyone.
Holiness is further demonstrated by the way we keep ourselves from those things that would shift our attention from God to self. The chapter lists sundry examples of distractions that can turn us from being wholly devoted to God. The idea of an “unmixed” focus is symbolized in the prohibition concerning breeding livestock and wearing cloth that is a blend of fabrics. While these may seem mundane, God has a purpose in each of his statutes. He cares that we see his truth in the smallest parts of life so that we can live lives that are “for” him.
Previously God has stated that sexual immorality and child sacrifice were never to be found about his people. These were characteristic of the Canaanites and must never become part of Israelite culture. In large part these practices were the fruit of idolatry among the people of Canaan. Their religious practices condoned elicit sexuality while demanding that they offer their children to the gods.
We see in chapter 20 God’s strong feelings about these wicked practices demonstrated in the severe punishments they deserve. Those who sacrificed their children, turned to witchcraft and the occult or engaged in aberrant sexuality were to be put to death.
It is especially important to recognize God’s prohibition against homosexuality. Vs. 13 puts the matter very clearly. Those who “lie with a male as with a woman” are guilty before God and deserving of death. The Apostle Paul, using the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), forms a word from the phrase in quotes above, and uses it in 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10 to describe homosexuality. This means that Paul, writing to New Testament believers, considers the Leviticus prohibition against same-gender sexuality to be against God’s law. Those who would consign such prohibition to the Old Testament period only must see their error here.
Prayer: Holy Father, in reading what you asked of Israel it is clear that you demand both purity and holiness. Lord, cleanse my thoughts and ambitions from impurity so that I may be wholly focused on you, and your mission to the world through Jesus Christ. Make me a humble yet courageous beacon of love and truth, by your grace and for you glory, Amen.