We were talking in Sunday school yesterday about how cool it is that for several weeks in a row now, the lesson we've had in class has mirrored the sermon. Nonbelievers would say, "Yeah, that's quite a coincidence." We say, "God must really be trying to get our attention by orchestrating it this way." I LOVE when He does that.
A similar "mirroring" incident caught my attention between another message at church yesterday and our RTBIAY readings. A quote from the elder's meditation resonated with me: "God wants our whole heart and our obedience." Ah, yes. An excellent message for 21st century folks like ourselves, right?
But check out how closely that actually reflects, or mirrors, what we've been reading in Leviticus. In the first chapter alone we read three different times about the sacrificial offerings that were "a whole burnt offering made by the fire, very pleasing to the Lord." Many more references in the following chapters indicate how pleasing it was to God when the Israelites offered their numerous sacrifices, obediently adhering to a strict set of procedures. A few things strike me about this.
First, the offerings (at least those in Chapter one) were WHOLE. Complete. The whole she-bang and kit-n-kaboodle. Application? We are to hold nothing back. Nada. Not grudges or anger, not hurt feelings or pride, not arrogance or ignorance. We are to give it all to Him, offering our WHOLE selves as living sacrifices.
Second, these were BURNT offerings made by the fire. Been burnt lately? Felt the heat and panicked because the flames were nipping at your heels? Have you felt consumed? In faith, trust that your Lord is preparing you for whatever your next step is. In fact, He's probably happily singing over you (Zeph. 3:17), knuckle-deep in forming you to the perfect shape. Lev. 9:28 says, "...It was an offering given to the Lord by fire, very pleasing to the Lord." Imagine the aroma of your sacrifice, the smoke resulting from your fire, rising to God and Him inhaling deeply and contentedly because you recognize his Lordship.
The third thing that strikes me about Leviticus so far is just the imposing detail in correctly executing the procedures. (Praise God for the New Covenant, Amen?) But we see how serious God was about His people following his directions to the letter when Aaron's sons take a short-cut and are struck dead (Ch. 10). So the key? Careful, meticulous obedience. Chapter 16 concludes by noting, "Moses followed ALL these instructions that the Lord had given to him."
It has also been neat that these OT readings are now paired up with readings from John. The initial Tabernacle blueprints are striking when juxtaposed with Jesus' claim to "Destroy this temple and in three days I'll raise it up." The ritual of the sacrifices are an interesting contrast to the sacrifice of wholly believing. Incredulous Nichodemus is told that belief in Jesus will be his salvation and that there's no judgment awaiting those who trust (Jn. 3).
What was law for the people of Moses' era is freedom for us today, sitting in our pews under the new covenant, and hearing the message, "God wants our WHOLE heart and our obedience." That's what is pleasing to the Lord. (Thanks, Darren!)