“This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come.'”
A heifer is a cow. One that is entirely red in color would be extremely rare, and as a result quite valuable. As part of Israel’s purification process they were to take a red heifer and offer it outside the city. Once it’s blood was symbolically sprinkled on behalf of the people, the priests were to wash with water and stay away from things that would defile them, making them unfit for service. Anyone who became defiled would need to go through a purification process that required both cleansing and a period of time. It is not difficult to see the symbolism here, or to relate this to the work of Christ and the walk of the believer.
Jesus is the represented by the red heifer, sacrificed outside the city. His blood was shed as a means of providing cleansing for sin. Once we receive Christ, we need a regular washing with water, which comes through the daily reading of God’s Word. If we desire to remain pure and useful for ministry, we need to avoid things that will make us unclean. If we happen to stumble into an area of sin, the solution is to go back to the cross where we confess our guilt, and get into the Word where we are strengthened to overcome sin. Take whatever time is necessary to be restored that we might once again become effective in ministering to others.
“You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God.”
Every generation likes to think of themselves as advanced beyond the previous generations. We look back on ancient civilizations and think of them as backward, and of ourselves as having progressed far beyond them in every way. This is particularly true of idolatry. We, in the western world, do not think of ourselves as idol worshippers, particularly, because we do not have carved images which we carry in our pockets or bow down to in prayer. The absence of an image is not, however, the only evidence of the lack of idolatry. An idol can be anything that takes the place of God in our lives. For many, even dedicated believers, it is common to put someone or something above the Lord and to pursue it more than God.
One area in particular where Christians seem to be prone to setting up idols is in ministry. Over the years, I have observed many Christians who sense that God is calling them to serve in one way or another, but instead of sitting back and waiting on the Lord to open the right doors and to sanctify them for the tasks, they run on ahead of the Lord. They attempt to accomplish, in the arm of the flesh, what God wants to do through His Spirit. One of the great advantages of waiting on the Lord is, when He works things out, it is clear He was in fact “in it.” If we put the ministry above the Lord and strive to make things happen, we will forever wonder if it was truly God calling us or just us desiring something for ourselves.
I remember when my wife and I were preparing to move across the country for ministry, a good friend suggested that we ask our pastor if he would be willing to support us for a period of time. While I knew there might not be anything wrong with asking, I also knew we wanted to have every opportunity to see if this venture was actually of the Lord. We felt to ask for outside support did not give God the opportunity to prove if He was really calling us. I treasure that decision, because while there were many events over the next few years that caused us to question our calling, we can now see how God had been faithfully and miraculously providing for us, as a testimony of His calling.
If you are sensing the call of God on your life, be careful not to place the call above the Lord. Remember, ministry is designed not just to get things done, but to draw the minister closer to the Lord and accomplish a deeper work of sanctification in his life.
“Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them.”
This chapter contains one of only two narrative passages in the book of Leviticus and tells the story of two men who were fighting. One man, the son of Shelomith allowed his anger to lead to sin and he blasphemed the name of the Lord. Under the old covenant this was a crime punishable by death. Because of the seriousness of his actions, he was placed in custody while the leaders took the necessary time to seek the mind of the Lord. Two important principles stand out to me.
First, before making a big decision, Moses and his leadership team took the necessary time to seek the Lord. They realized that God was interested in their lives and had a plan for their current situation. Years later Paul wrote that God has for-ordained good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). That means that He has a wonderful plan for our lives and if we seek Him, He will provide direction that will allow us to make good decisions and remain upon the narrow path that leads to abundant life.
Second, it is important to notice where they went to hear from the Lord. They did not look to past experience, or to the culture around them. They did not gather the people together for a popular vote or allow their emotions to guide them by “following their heart.” Instead they got alone with the Lord and looked into His written word. Their situation was a difficult one and the answer they received from the Word was hard, but they followed it nonetheless.
When we are seeking to make decisions, it would be a good idea to follow the pattern set here. We need to realize that God has a plan for us, but we also need to realize the details for that plan are found in Scripture. The life guided by the light of the Word of God is the life which will be led into the way everlasting.
Psalms 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
“Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”
Consecration is an important part of Christianity. A person who desires to walk with God, must set himself apart from the world and to the Lord. We cannot successfully follow the Lord when only a portion of our lives is given to Him. Jesus said it is impossible to serve two masters because we will be loyal to one at the expense of another (Matthew 6:24). It is also impossible to serve the Lord when we continue to bring things into our lives that distract or defile us.
Here in Leviticus we have some key insight into a practical way of consecrating ourselves to the Lord. We are told to keep His statutes and perform them, because God will sanctify us.
Statutes is a word that speaks of governing principles, set down by the authorities that rule over us. Every nation, state, organization, community group, and family have statutes that govern the behaviors of those who belong to them. Without these statutes, we could not have a healthy and safe environment where civilization can grow. In the same way, the Word of God is designed to govern the life of the believer. When we are faced with a decision, trial, or any situation, for that matter, we should look to the Word for guidance. When we apply the teaching of the Bible to our current circumstances God uses His word to sanctify us and make us more useful for His kingdom.
The other day I was speaking with a young lady who is single. She expressed her desire to find someone, but stated she wanted to be sure to find the right guy. Immediately, we went to Matthew’s gospel, where he records Jesus saying, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Not only is this a great promise, it is a statute designed to govern our goals, ambitions and the way we approach fulfilling them. If we use this verse as a guiding principle in our lives, we will be sure to find ourselves being set apart from the world and unto the Lord.
“Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he consecrated Aaron, his garments, his sons, and the garments of his sons with him.”
The priests wore garments designed by God and put together by the finest craftsmen in the land. These garments included a tunic, sash, robe, ephod, breastplate and even a turban. When the priest was fully dressed, all eyes would be upon his attire. That is why this verse is so striking. Once clothed, the priest would approach the altar, sacrifice a ram and sprinkle its blood upon his clothing. Instead of seeing the glory of the garments, all eyes would be fixed upon the stain left by the blood.
Too often we are fixated upon our own works. When we are doing well, we allow our accomplishments to make us feel as though we are better than those who are not serving as much or in the same ministries. When we are failing, we think God is disappointed with us, and sometimes this will push us farther and farther away from the Lord. I think it is time we realize that our eyes are not to be fixed upon the garments of our actions, but upon the blood that makes us right with God. Just as the ram was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the priest, so Christ shed His blood to wash us from all sin and set us apart to God.
Revelation 12:11 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
When facing great temptation, trial, or difficulty, we will always find success when our eyes are fixed upon the work Christ accomplished for us on the cross. It was not, is not and never will be, our great accomplishments that make us right with God. It is the shed blood of Jesus alone that we look to as the means of making us and keeping us righteous.
“And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar.”
The opening chapters of Leviticus speak of 5 different sacrifices that were presented to the Lord. These sacrifices met different requirements for the people’s worship of the Lord, but had many things in common. One such commonality was the laying on of hands before making the sacrifice. This was done to show culpability on behalf of the one making the sacrifice. Instead of bringing an excuse list as to why they had sinned or blaming their past, present, or surroundings, the offerer was to take responsibility for his or her actions, confess they had sinned and were in need of pardon.
This is a very important part of a successful walk with God. When we let our circumstances justify our actions we miss out on the work God is trying to accomplish in our lives. Our focus becomes our surroundings instead of the Lord, and we spend all our energies trying to change our situation, rather than allowing God to use them as tools to make us more like Christ.
Benjamin Franklin said, “A man who is good at excuses is rarely good at anything else.”
Instead of excusing sin because of all the ways you have been mistreated in life, try taking responsibility for your actions and asking God to use your circumstances to conform you into the image of His Son.
“No grain offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire.”
Leaven is a substance (such as yeast) that makes dough rise and become light before it is baked. Because it is a small ingredient in the dough and has the tendency to spread through the whole lump, it is used in Scripture to illustrate sin. Sin always starts small, but never stays that way. When a person falls into a “big sin,” it is because they started out making little compromises. As a result, it was a forbidden component in the grain offered to the Lord.
The New Testament declares that because of the work of Christ, we no longer are required to bring offerings to an altar and make sacrifices to God. Instead, we are to become a living sacrifice. Our whole life is to be devoted to the Lord. We should give our private life, family life, public life and church life as a sacrifice to God, and look for ways to honor and serve Him. If this living sacrifice is to be a sweet aroma to the Lord, we need to remove the leaven. In other words, we need to deal with sin as God reveals it. The New Testaments model for dealing with sin is that God reveals it through His word, we confess it in prayer, and He empowers us by His Spirit, to have victory over it in our lives.
If you are struggling in an area of sin, it is important that you address it before it spreads and becomes so large that it begins to destroy your relationship with God and others. The way to address it is to confess it to the Lord and to a trustworthy brother or sister in Christ. James spoke of the value of confessing our sin to one another, so we can pray for one another.
Don’t let sin reign in your life. Take it to the cross and be forgiven and set free.