Today’s Bible readings are from Leviticus 1, John 20, Proverbs 17 and Philippians 4.
Some see Leviticus as the high point, or mid point, of the Pentateuch
Others see a chiastic structure, with Leviticus at the center, the most important spot in a chiasm.
Pastor Dave Online
And as for the structure of Leviticus itself, some see a chiastic structure.
My Digital Seminary
Here is Chuck Swindoll’s book chart for Leviticus
Juan Sanchez gives us Five Reasons to Preach through Leviticus. Those five reasons are…
- Leviticus reminds us of the grace of our God and the cost of our sin (1–7).
- Leviticus exposes God’s grace in providing a mediator (8–10).
- Leviticus explains what God requires of those who approach him in worship (11–15).
- Leviticus foreshadows forgiveness of sin in the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (16–17).
- Leviticus outlines how God’s people are to be holy as God is holy (18–27).
The story of Leviticus picks up where Exodus left off. Israel is still camped out at the base of Mount Sinai, and they will remain there all through the Book of Leviticus. (David Guzik)
In the covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, there were three major facets. The covenant included the law Israel had to obey, sacrifice to provide for breaking the law, and the choice of blessing or curse that would become the script for Israel’s history.
The sacrificial system was an essential element of the Mosaic covenant, because it was impossible to live up to the requirements of the law. Sin was dealt with through sacrifice. This was not the beginning of God’s sacrificial system. Adam knew of sacrifice (Genesis 3:21), as did Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:3-4), Noah (Genesis 8:20-21) and Abraham (Genesis 22:9-13). The idea of sacrifice to the gods was not unique to Israel. Other nations and cultures practiced sacrifice, often ultimately involving human sacrifice.
Leviticus 1 begins with general instructions for offering offerings (1:1-2), then gives instructions for the burnt offerings (1:3-17).
In summary, the burnt offering was an act of worship in which the Israelite offered to God a whole animal. The fire on the altar completely consumed it (the offered animal) as a “substitute” for the offerer, and as a symbol of his total personal self-sacrifice to God. These sacrifices were voluntary on the Israelite’s part, as is “self-sacrifice” for the Christian (Rom. 6:12-13; 12:1-2; cf. Matt. 22:37; 1 Cor. 6:19).
Gordon Wenham notes:
“The burnt offering was the commonest of all the OT sacrifices. Its main function was to atone for man’s sin by propitiating God’s wrath. In the immolation [burning] of the animal, most commonly a lamb, God’s judgment against human sin was symbolized and the animal suffered in man’s place. The worshiper acknowledged his guilt and responsibility for his sins by pressing his hand on the animal’s head and confessing his sin. The lamb was accepted as the ransom price for the guilty man [cf. Mark 10:45; Eph. 2:5; Heb. 7:27; 1 Pet. 1:18-19]. The daily use of the sacrifice in the worship of the temple and tabernacle was a constant reminder of man’s sinfulness and God’s holiness. So were its occasional usages after sickness, childbirth, and vows. In bringing a sacrifice a man acknowledged his sinfulness and guilt. He also publicly confessed his faith in the Lord, his thankfulness for past blessing, and his resolve to live according to God’s holy will all the days of his life” (Leviticus, p. 63).
We who are Christians, too, need to remember our need for daily forgiveness, confess our sins, and purpose to walk in God’s ways (cf. 1 John 1:7-9).
Jesus was crucified on Friday (or on Thursday by some accounts). After His entombment, the tomb was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers (Matt. 26:62-66). On Sunday, “the first day of the week” Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to complete the burial work begun by Joseph and Nicodemus.
The Garden tomb, favored location by pilgrims but a discredited location by archaeologists. Where Jesus was buried would have been a tomb like this.
When Mary saw the empty tomb, it is likely she first thought the grave had been robbed. She observed enough to assume that had taken Jesus’ body away, then went and told Peter and John. They ran to the tomb.
“Keep the Feast of the Resurrection. Be a Peter or a John; hasten to the Sepulchre, running together, running against one another, vying in the noble race (cf. Jn. 20:3-4). And even if you be beaten in speed, win the victory of zeal; not looking into the tomb, but going in.” (Saint Gregory the Theologian)
Amazingly, verse 9 says that the disciples “as yet did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead” even though verse 8 reported that John believed. Apparently John believed based upon what he had seen (his experience), but later (cf. Luke 24) they would have additional reasons to believe, based upon the Scriptures and Jesus’ statements.
Thomas Constable provides a chart outlining the general chronological progression of the remaining post-resurrection appearances…
Jesus’ Post-resurrection Appearances
|to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:10-18)|
|to other women (Matt. 28:9-10)|
|to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5)|
|to two disciples on the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13-32)|
|to about 12 disciples excluding Thomas (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23)|
|The following Sunday|
|to 11 disciples including Thomas (John 20:26-28)|
|The following 32 days|
|to seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23)|
|to 500 people including the Eleven at a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16-20; 1 Cor. 15:6)|
|to His half-brother James (1 Cor. 15:7)|
|to His disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8; 1 Cor. 15:7)|
|to His disciples on Mount Olivet (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12)|
Edwin Blum notes…
“The fact that He appeared to Mary rather than to Pilate or Caiaphas or to one of His disciples is significant. That a woman would be the first to see Him is an evidence of Jesus’ electing love as well as a mark of the narrative’s historicity. No Jewish author in the ancient world would have invented a story with a woman as the first witness to this most important event. Furthermore, Jesus may have introduced Himself to Mary first because she had so earnestly sought Him. She was at the cross while He was dying (John 19:25), and she went to His tomb early on Sunday morning (20:1).”
In verse 16 Mary recognizes Jesus when He calls her by name. There is something special and endearing about that.
The best explanation for Jesus’ admonition to Mary “”Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” seems to be that Mary was holding onto Jesus as though she would never let Him go (cf. Matt. 28:9). As Barrett put it, “. . . she is trying to recapture the past.” Jesus either told her to stop doing that or, if He knew she was about to do it, He was telling her not to do it. He was almost ready to disappear permanently. The reason she should release Him was that He had not yet ascended to the Father. He had other work to do first. Only in heaven would it be possible for loving believers such as Mary to maintain contact with Jesus forever.
This view makes good sense of the text and harmonizes with Jesus’ invitation to Thomas (v. 27). Thomas needed to touch Jesus to strengthen his faith. Mary needed to release Him because she had no reason to fear losing Him. This view is very similar to view four above. (Thomas Constable)
For Thomas’ doubt and interaction with Jesus, read Sherri Gragg’s article Jesus Can Handle Your Doubt.
Now Thomas believed as his fellow disciples had come to believe (cf. v. 25). His confession is a model that John presented for all future disciples. It is the high point of this Gospel (cf. 1:1, 14, 18).
Proverbs 17 continues wisdom maxims from Solomon. Tom Constable entitles this chapter “peacemakers and trouble-makers.”
One of my favorites in this chapter is 17:9…
9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
The NLT says it like this:
9 Overlook an offense and bond a friendship;
fasten on to a slight and—good-bye, friend!
To repeat an offense may refer to gossip, but it could also refer to harping on something. We can cover over some offenses, others we need to forgive. If it is something we can excuse to a person’s human limitations or understanding, or if we can see ourselves as capable of the same, we may be able to “overlook” it. But if it is a deep wound that continues to hound our thoughts, we cannot merely overlook, we must work to forgive.
The next verse speaks to addressing that issue with the offending party (17:10):
A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.
Another good verse related to conflicted relationships is Proverbs 17:14:
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
A trickle is much easier to stop than a surging flood, so work to resolve a quarrel soon before it gets out of hand.
Philippians 4 begins with an exhortation to “stand firm in the Lord” (4:1-9) and then Paul discusses his own financial circumstances in light of the fact that the Philippians wanted to send him a gift (4:10-20).
Standing firm (cf. Eph. 6:13) involves living in harmony with one another (vv. 2-3), rejoicing on all occasions (vv. 4-7), and developing the quality of sweet reasonableness (vv. 8-9).
The context of these first nine verses seem to deal with a conflict between two women, Euodia and Synteche (whom I’ve nicknamed “You’re Odious” and “Soon Touchy”). Notice that Paul deals with each individually. No matter what “side” they were on, they each had a responsibility to deal with this conflict in a healthy way.
Whatever was the conflict between them, they are urged to “agree in the Lord.” While unanimity is not always possible, unity is. What they shared in common, they needed to stand in.
That they might need help is indicated by verse 3 where some person, possibly the pastor, was called to “help these women.” Apparently they had been quite involved in serving the Lord along with others and it would be a shame to see them destroy their usefulness through conflict.
They were all to “rejoice in the Lord” (v. 4), but this is especially important when in conflict with someone. Paul emphasizes this and it should be our “one thing” that we do–to find our joy in Jesus Christ. Notice that “rejoice” is an action. We rejoice with our mouths so that our hearts might increase in joy.
Verse 5 applies to this conflict by encouraging them to show “reasonableness” or “meekness” to one another. The word has the idea of, while being in the right, not pressing that right.
I find that in a time of disagreement, we need to consider two things: (1) how important is the issue, to us, and (2) how important is the relationship to us?
Sometimes the issue is highly important and we might even have to sacrifice the relationship for the sake of the issue (the truth). But sometimes the relationship is more important, or just as important (as in marriage, for example). We can’t just sacrifice that relationship.
When the relationship is more important than the issue, it is easy to yield. Paul is here encouraging us to yield (except I would say when the issue if very, very important). Even then, we can show a respect and give in on any other issues that are less important.
Paul then encourages them to turn their worries into prayers. When we are having conflict with someone, we will typically have a problem with (1) rejoicing, (2) showing gentleness, and (3) worrying. We are to “cast those cares” on Jesus.
Phil Moser has an article explaining these three circles, borrowed from Dr. Nicholas Ellen.
Howard Hendricks called verses 2-6:
“. . . a five-part recipe for conflict resolution: (1) ‘Rejoice in the Lord,’ that is, get beyond yourselves and look to the Lord. (2) ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all.’ In other words speak with kindness to each other. (3) ‘Do not be anxious.’ Relax, and give it all to God. (4) ‘Be thankful.’ The simple act of expressing gratitude for our blessings takes the heat out of infection. (5) Present your requests to God. Prayer realigns us and restores peace . . .”
Paul stresses that we can take everything to God in prayer.
As it has been beautifully put: “There is nothing too great for God’s power; and nothing too small for his fatherly care.” We can bring our prayers, our supplications and our requests to God; we can pray for ourselves. We can pray for forgiveness for the past, for the things we need in the present, and for help and guidance for the future. We can take our own past and present and future into the presence of God. We can pray for others. We can commend to God’s care those near and far who are within our memories and our hearts.
And every prayer must surely include thanks for the great privilege of prayer itself. Paul insists that we must give thanks in everything, in sorrows and in joys alike. That implies two things. It implies gratitude and also perfect submission to the will of God. It is only when we are fully convinced that God is working all things together for good that we can really feel to him the perfect gratitude which believing prayer demands.
One other thing, and that is that during conflict we must focus our minds on the right things. This is what Paul says in vv. 8-9
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
“True” (alethe) means valid, honest, and reliable (cf. Rom. 3:4).
- “Honorable” or “noble” (semna) means worthy of respect (cf. Prov. 8:6; 1 Tim. 3:8, 11; Titus 2:2).
- “Right” (dikaia) refers to what is just and upright.
- “Pure” (hagna) denotes cleanness and connotes moral purity.
- “Lovely” (prosphile) means what is amiable, agreeable, or pleasing.
- “Of good repute” or “admirable” (euphema) refers to what is praiseworthy because it measures up to the highest standards.
- “Excellent” (aretē), a term denoting consummate “excellence” or “merit” within a social context. Here, “uncommon character worthy of praise, excellence of character, exceptional civic virtue.”
- “Praiseworthy” (epainos), refers first to the act of praise, then to “a thing worthy of praise.”
What Paul describes here is a practical way to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. “This [verse] has been called the briefest biography of Christ.” (J. Vernon McGee)
9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
As a housewarming gift, we were given this:
The remainder of Philippians 4 speaks of Paul’s acknowledgement and appreciation of the Philippians’ desire to support him financially, but also that he has “learned the secret of contentment.” That is what God strengthens us to do (v. 13), is to be content with what we have. Contentment is not resignation, it is not grudging acceptance of what God has given us, but joyful celebration of what God has given us–whether plenty or little.
About verse 19 Spurgeon thought that this verse was a great illustration of that wonderful miracle in 2 Kings 4:1-7, where Elisha told the widow to gather empty vessels, set them out and pour forth the oil from the one small vessel of oil she had into the empty vessels. She filled and filled and miraculously filled until every empty vessel was full.
- All our need is like the empty vessels.
- God is the one who fills the empty vessels.
- According to His riches in glory describes the style in which God fills the empty vessels – the oil keeps flowing until every available vessel is filled.
- By Christ Jesus describes the how God meets our needs – our empty vessels are filled with Jesus in all His glory.
And remember that Jesus is what we need most.