Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Finishing Exodus and Beginning Leviticus

I've got to get better about posting over the weekends.  Oh well.  Exodus ends with the building of the Tabernacle, the Ark, and the priestly vestments.  Exodus ends with chapter after chapter of all the minute details the artisans followed in crafting the Tabernacle, Ark, and vestments.  I can imagine some reader thinking to him or her self, "Well, that's interesting, but who cares?"  Or maybe, "What's the point of telling all the details?"  Here's the point: the artisans did exactly what God asked them to do.

If we think back to Genesis there's another story that contains line after line of minutia, and that is the Noah and the Ark story.  Noah is given pages of details about how he should go about building his boat.  He's told specific dimensions.  He's told what specific wood to use, what to seal that wood with, where to place a door and a window...and guess what.  Noah does exactly what he's told to do.  Now some might read the Noah and the ark story and think God must just love being knit-picky, but that misses the point.  The point is that Noah is a righteous man, which is shown in his willingness to do what God tells him to, to the best of his ability.  The same goes for the end of Exodus.  The point isn't that God requires 50 loops of blue cloth on the outside of each 28 cubit curtain, as if 49 or 51 are death-worthy numbers.  The point is that Moses and the Israelites were getting a handle on what it means to be a righteous people, shown by the fact that they did as God asked.  They were learning obedience and trust and humility.  That's the point behind chapter after chapter of needless detail.  The end of Exodus says more about who the Israelites are becoming then it does about who God is.

So what about Leviticus?  Leviticus is the Bible reader killer.  When I was a teen I would read through the Bible.  I read every book, except Leviticus.  Leviticus is tedious, at least in my opinion.  I've known of a few Leviticus lovers, but I'm not one of them and I haven't known many that are.  But beginning our journey into Leviticus, there's one important thing to remember.  Leviticus was for the Levites.  Leviticus is part of the Priestly Code.  What that means is that all Israelites weren't required to follow it.  What tends to happen in Christian circles is Leviticus is read and then the reader is amazed that the nation of Israel had to follow so many rules or that Judaism was a religion all about rules.  Well, they didn't, and it wasn't.  The tribe of Levi did, although they still didn't think their religion was all about rules.  I'll go into more detail about why I think that is later, but for now, as we begin Leviticus, just remember that the book was only intended to be followed by one of the twelve tribes.

Stopping point: Leviticus 4

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