Sunday, 27 February 2011

Thoughts on the Levitical Laws

We'll be looking more at the Day of Atonement (ch16) and Israel's Festival Year (ch23) at the Biblical Thinking Forum Sessions in March and April respectively, so will not repeat myself here.

We must be wary not to fall into the trap of thinking that all these laws are drawn up by God for Israel on the basis that they are the best or most efficient way to do life. This often true, but not always. There's nothing wrong with eating pork, and it's no worse/better for you than lamb (so long as you cook it properly).

The point of these laws was that God wanted to keep before the eyes of his people 1) their calling to be his treasured possession and to be separate and distinct from all the other nations on the earth. and 2) to show them what Messiah would do when he came to redeem the whole creation.

Here are some thoughts on the Levitical Laws (mostly from James Jordan) for you to have a chew on:

The Laws regarding cleanness and uncleanness are best understood when connected back to the judgments of God in Genesis 3:
  1. God cursed the ground, so now only certain animals are allowed on the Israelite menu as a reminder of this. They can only eat the animals that "wear shoes" (split hooves) i.e. not touched by the cursed ground (idea of separation) and chew the cud i.e. distinction by pondering and performing the ways of God. 
  2. Leprosy is connected to the "sweat of the brow" declared over Adam in Gen 3. Just as sweat "breaks out" over the whole body when having to do painful labour, so too leprosy would break out over the body, symbolic of the judgement of God on the human race.
  3. A man and woman's sexual uncleanness here is particularly connected to the experience of conception/birth. For the woman, there would be the shedding of blood in both menstruation and childbirth, which was symbolic of death. The man now produced "corrupted seed" bringing forth a "man of dust" so a defiling that came from seminal emissions needed to be dealt with.
  4. Death - the ultimate expression of defilement - returning to the cursed dust requires much ceremonial cleansing.  
The laws regarding mildew on the house are both practical and prophetic. The diseased stones were to be removed, and if the mildew returned, the whole house was to be condemned. This was played out in Jesus' cleansing of the his own house - the Temple. He throws out the corrupted money changers and sellers, but they corrosively return so he sends in the Romans to flatten the house of his old covenant in AD 70. In himself and through his body, the church, he would build a new and incorruptible house.

No disabled person could serve as a priest, not because God wants to airbrush these people out of the picture and pretend they are not there, but because it was eschatological - symbolic of how he would win for himself a righteous and wholly restored people, lacking nothing, pure and undefiled, free from any blemish or accusation.

The forbidding of the charging of interest for loans was only in the context of lending to the poor and destitute. Charging interest on loans for capital investment, was fair game.

I now also have a better take on the theology of beards but will leave that for another time. :-)

All of life is Jesus-and-the-Gospel-of-the-Triune-God shaped. :-)

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