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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Stuck in Leviticus?

   This year one of my resolutions is to read through the whole Bible.  I found a reading plan that takes you through the Scriptures in chronological order, which is different than the way they are ordered in most Bibles.  I am now in Leviticus, a place where many readers get stuck.  After compelling narratives, this books seems rather dry and uninteresting.
   However if we have an understanding of its purpose or “form,” a text like Leviticus becomes easier to read.  We will no longer expect a story line but see God’s wisdom in the various commands and requirements given to his people.
   Here are a few nuggets I thought would be worthy to share:
  • Leviticus 12:8 tells about the offering for purification after childbirth: “If she cannot afford a lamb, she [the mother who has given birth] is to bring two doves or two young pigeons.”  From this we can see that since Mary brought the latter offering after the birth of Jesus, she and Joseph were poor.  There is no shame in that.
  • Leviticus 19:18 says “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  Jesus, of course, quoted this centuries later and it has become well known as the “Golden Rule.”
  • Leviticus 13-15 deal with infectious diseases and regulations about keeping the community and its members “clean” and healthy.  It might not dawn on us that these prescriptions were way ahead of their time.  Isolating an ill person was not practiced until church fathers in Vienna turned to the Old Testament in the mid 1300's for a practical solution to the bubonic plague/Black Death that was decimating the population.  They set up quarantine compounds outside the city and expedited burials outside the city to stop the plague.  It worked and become a public health model elsewhere.[1]
   As we approach the Bible, putting the knowledge into a meaningful context can make what initially seems dry and uninteresting into something of value.  As a teacher, it is my challenge to draw out those nuggets inherent in any area of study since the entire world belongs to God.

[1] As explained in The Signature of God by Grant R. Jeffrey, 1998, pages 145-6

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