Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Year: Lev 1-3 for Jan 29

What about the sacrificial system, people ask, can we gather for today? Read Leviticus and see!

Here in our chapters, there's the heading, Lev 1:1. It's there if you want it to be there, and it's there if you don't want it to be there. The question is worth asking, "how can God Himself, the creator of the zillions of stars and galaxies, specify the treatment of animals in a sacrificial system?" ESPECIALLY since Hollywood constantly is telling us that no animals have been harmed during the making of our movies....

The first answer is, that certainly this question cannot be considered a "modern question," by any means, as if no one could possibly think of it. Gen 14:19-20 sticks it in our face, that the One who has heaven and earth as a possession calls one man from Ur of the Chaldees, ziggurat-land, and blesses him. Interest in the sacrificial system of those whom He has promised descendants to is not as far-fetched as that. So if we squirm at Lev 1-3, we're trying to strain gnats while swallowing camels. Which sounds like it would hurt the camels, too, to me.

There are some questions that Lev 1-3 answers that, if you think about it, might have nagged us from previous chapters. Is God predisposed toward animal, against grain sacrifice, and could that be the reason He rejects Cain's sacrifice in Gen 4? No, and no. Grain sacrifices in Leviticus 2 are perfectly fine sacrifices, and even have that "soothing aroma" attribute that skeptics laugh at (2:9,12).

Another question that might nag us, is, are the Israelites performing copy-cat, culturally learned ritual a la the nations around them, and wouldn't that kind of explanation of the sacrificial system be ipso facto more believable than God's dictation of it?

Again, I want to say "no, and no." Even if we find another culture's contemporary xyz document that says everything in Lev 1:9 except "to the LORD," still "no." The readers of Leviticus are not stupid, and they would not be impressed with attempts to make them stupid, so that the skeptic may seem smart! Namely, it is no less a fact that sticks out, that God specifies these sacrifices, to them, than it is a fact that sticks out, to us. For the opposite reason however: among our contemporaries, we are wont to be blase about God, but furious about animals. They were not sensitive about animals, and completely dumbfounded by the acts of God! That is why this is a fact that sticks out to them!

We should have been complaining, anyhow, back in Exodus, where in 27:8, the altar was specified to be made "as it was shown to you in the mountain." The altar, and everything else: based on a pattern revealed privately by God to Moses on top of Mt. Sinai! We should stop swallowing camels in our attempt to look smart. The Hebrews were copying something else, and it wasn't their neighboring cultures. Hebrews 8:5-6 is sensitive to this.

A few more plugs for the intelligence of the reader of Exodus and Leviticus. It is just as obvious to the early readers, probably more so, since a question would be coming from their own children more quickly and urgently than to ours: 1) why does the bread they use have to be unleavened, daddy (2:11)? 2) what is "the salt of the covenant of your God" in 2:13? Is God particularly specifying some significance to the salt? 3) Why is blood sprinkled, in one scenario (3:8), and completely offered up in another, along with fat, to the Lord, i.e. never eaten (3:17)? This should be thought of as T.B.D. -- to be determined. The readers hear this, and hear that the complete explanation is not given, and know that the text itself is leaving this to us as a question to be pondered.

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