Archive for the ‘Leviticus 14’ Category

Atonement and the Sovereignty of God   1 comment

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist

Above:  Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Leviticus 16:1-34

Psalm 69

Matthew 14:1-12

Hebrews 9:1-28

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O God, you know my folly;

the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

–Psalm 69:5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The contents of Leviticus 16 might seem odd to a Gentile, especially one who is a Christian.  Part of a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) explains it well:

The preceding chs have established that sins and bodily impurities contaminate the Tabernacle.  Regular atonement for unintentional sin and the routine eradication of impurity eliminate as much of both types of defilement as possible.  Yet, since not all unintentional wrongs are discovered and not everyone is diligent about atonement, a certain amount of defilement remains.  In particular, deliberate crimes, which contaminate the inner sanctum where the divine Presence is said to dwell, are not expurgated by the regular atonement rituals.  This ch thus provides the instructions for purging the inner sanctum along with the rest of the Tabernacle once a year, so that defilement does not accumulate.  It logically follows the laws of purification (chs 12-15), as they conclude with the statement that only by preventing the spread of impurity can the Israelites ensure God’s continual presence among them (15:31).  The annual purification ritual, briefly alluded to in Ex. 30:10, is to be performed on the tenth day of the seventh month (v. 29).  Elsewhere (23:27, 28; 25:9) this day is referred to as “yom hakippurim”–often translated as “Day of Atonement.”

–Page 231

When we turn to the Letter to the Hebrews we read an extended contrast between the annual rites for Yom Kippur and the one-time sacrifice of Jesus.  We also read a multi-chapter contrast between human priests and Jesus, who is simultaneously the priest and the victim.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God.

–Hebrews 9:14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. John the Baptist, of whose death we read in Matthew 14:1-12, was the forerunner of Jesus.  Not only did John point to Jesus and baptize him, but he also preceded him in violent death.  The shedding of the blood of St. John the Baptist on the orders of Herod Antipas was a political and face-saving act.  Antipas had, after all, imprisoned John for political reasons.  The alleged crime of St. John the Baptist was to challenge authority with his words, which was one reason for the crucifixion of Jesus also.

Part of the grace evident in martyrdom (such as that of St. John the Baptist) and of the crucifixion of Jesus was that those perfidious deeds glorified not those who ordered and perpetrated them but God.  We honor St. John the Baptist, not Herod Antipas, and thank God for John’s faithful witness.  We honor Jesus of Nazareth and give thanks–for his resurrection; we do not sing the praises of the decision-making of Pontius Pilate on that fateful day.  Another part of the grace of the crucifixion of Jesus is that, although it was indeed a perfidious act, it constituted a portion of the process of atonement for sins–once and for all.

Certain powerful people, who found Jesus to be not only inconvenient but dangerous, thought they had gotten rid of him.  They could not have been more mistaken.  They had the power to kill him, but God resurrected him, thereby defeating their evil purposes.  God also used their perfidy to affect something positive for countless generations to come.  That was certainly a fine demonstration of the Sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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Inclusion and Exclusion, Part IV   1 comment

Moses Prays for Miriam To Be Healed

Above:   Moses Prays for the Healing of Miriam

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation.

Keep us safe from all that may hurt us,

that, whole and well in body and spirit,

we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us to do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 14:33-53 (Thursday)

Numbers 4:34-5:4 (Friday)

Psalm 111 (Both Days)

2 Timothy 1:13-18 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 2:1-7 (Friday)

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Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

–Psalm 111:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The word “leprosy,” in the Bible, has a broad definition, applying to a variety of diseases of the skin.  Such conditions also fall under the heading of ritual impurity (consult Numbers 5:2a) and require a time of isolation before one returns to one’s community and to a state of ritual purity (consult Leviticus 13).

In Numbers 12 Miriam spoke negatively of Moses.  Her punishment was a bad case of snow-white scales, which usually would have caused her to go away for two weeks.  It became seven days, however, due to the intercession of her esteemed brother.  The rabbinical name for her condition was metzora, from motzi’ shem ra’, or “uttering an evil name.”  Her sin was slander, but the object of that offense pleaded to God on her behalf.  A time of removal from the community was inevitable, but the goal of the leadership of that community was always restoration.

In Luke 5 Jesus healed a man with some kind of skin disease.  It was not leprosy, in the narrow, clinical definition of that term, but it was enough to render the man ritually impure and to isolate him from his community.  Then Jesus commanded him to obey the requirements of Leviticus 14 and not to tell anyone (other than the priest, per Leviticus 14).  Perhaps the man went to the priest, but he certainly spread the word, causing crowds to deny Jesus as much solitude as he needed.

Salvation was Christ’s primary task on the Earth; healing was something he did.  Did crowds come to him mostly to hear the words of salvation or to seek healing?  Quite often they flocked to him for the latter purpose.  There was nothing wrong with seeking wholeness and restoration, of course, but there was much more to Christ’s mission than individual wholeness and restoration.  There was, for example, collective wholeness and restoration.

A community cannot be at its best when people who should be part of it are not.  Such people might be outsiders by their choice or the decisions of others.  Many people are outsiders because self-identified insiders exclude them, often wrongly.  Frequently we human beings define ourselves negatively–according to who or what we are not.  This practice harms us and those we exclude improperly.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson says, one message in the Gospel of Mark is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  And, as Edmond Browning, a former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, writes, in Christ there are no outsiders.

May we who follow God (or at least attempt to do so) identify as children of God who bear the divine image and respect the image of God in our fellow human beings.  Theological and personality differences will persist, of course, but we need not seek to define ourselves negatively and, by extension, others in the same way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-23-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Of Ritual Purity and Impurity   1 comment

Tabernacle

Above:   The Tabernacle

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation.

Keep us safe from all that may hurt us,

that, whole and well in body and spirit,

we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us to do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 14:33-53 (Thursday)

Numbers 4:34-5:4 (Friday)

Psalm 111 (Both Days)

2 Timothy 1:13-18 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 2:1-7 (Friday)

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Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

–Psalm 111:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Merely approaching the place of worship is impossible for some people in Numbers 5.  The precincts of the Tabernacle are to be ritually pure, excluding

anyone with an eruption or a discharge and anyone defiled by a corpse.

–Verse 2a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This rule reflects the fear of ritual impurity as a contagion, albeit a temporary one.  A build up of ritual impurity would, the prevailing voice of Numbers 5:2a feared, endangered the Presence of God in the community.  That contagion even spread to walls affected by mildew or rot (Leviticus 14:33-53).  In Numbers 5, however, the carriers of ritual impurity were those with skin diseases, sexual discharges, and those defiled by a corpse.

When I consider healing stories in the Bible, especially those involving Jesus, the first criterion of ritual impurity is frequently germane; the second criterion is relevant at least once.  The healing of the afflicted person is in part a restoration of him or her to wholeness, community, and centers of worship.

I, as a Gentile, seldom think about ritual purity or purity in general, except in negative terms.  The self-proclaimed theologically pure seem always to define people of my perspective as impure, after all.  And, when I think deeply about ritual purity, I find that the concept offends me.  Why, for example, should a gynecological or dermatological condition render one ritually impure?  I know that the purpose of the ritual purity system in the Torah is to separate human matters of sex and death from the experience of encountering God.  To restate that, the purpose of the Biblical ritual purity system is to heighten one’s God-like state temporarily, therefore making one temporarily eligible to enter the Presence of God in the designated place of worship.  Yet what about the spiritual anguish of the good people among the ritually impure?

As much as I approve of the practice of approaching God with full reverence (including in one’s attire at worship) and therefore appreciate the sense of awe with which the Law of Moses treats the Tabernacle, I also detect an exclusionary tone.  That bothers me, for the grounds for exclusion seem to be biological and medical, not moral.  They seem immoral to me, therefore.  I have none of the conditions which might render me ritually impure, but I am nevertheless always ineligible to enter the Presence of God in worship, except by grace.  I, as a Christian, understand this grace to have much to do with Jesus of Nazareth.  That is a sound teaching.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-23-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Blessings All Around   1 comment

Christ Cleansing a Leper

Above:  Christ Cleansing a Leper, by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 13:1-17 (Thursday)

Leviticus 14:1-20 (Friday)

Leviticus 14:21-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 30 (All Days)

Hebrews 12:7-13 (Thursday)

Acts 19:11-20 (Friday)

Matthew 26:6-13 (Saturday)

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Hear me, LORD, and be kind to me,

be my helper, LORD.

–Psalm 30:11, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers, Harry Mowvley (1989)

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Ritual impurity and purity were major concerns in the Law of Moses.  Among the major forms of ritual impurity were those which tzara’at, or the leakage of life, caused.  In people it manifested as a range of skin conditions, which were not leprosy, technically Hanson’s Disease.  In fabrics (Leviticus 13:47-59) it consisted of damage which mold or mildew caused.  And in building materials (14:33-47) people saw evidence of it via mildew or rot in walls.

Dermatological impurity received more fear and attention, however.  Some even argued that it constituted divine punishment for sin.  The combination of shunning and guilt must have been a terrible burden to bear.  Hence restoration to wholeness and community must have been all the more wonderful.

May we refrain from laying burdens atop people.  Rather, may we function as instruments of divine healing and reconciliation.  May God work through us to restore others to wholeness and community.  May God bless others through us.  We will receive our blessings as part of that process.  There will be blessings all around.  Is that not wonderful?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Moses, Faithfulness, and Unbelief   1 comment

Above:  Moses

Image Source = Billy Hathorn

Moses, Faithfulness, and Unbelief

JANUARY 13, 2011

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 3:1-19 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.  He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in God’s house.  Yet Jesus has been counted worthy as much more glory than Moses as builder of the house has more honor than the house.  (For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God. )  Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son.  And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

Today, when you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

and said, ‘they always go astray in their hearts;

they have not known my ways.’

As I swore in my wrath,

“They shall never enter my rest.”

Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end, while it is said,

Today, when you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

Who were they that heard and yet were rebellious?  Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses?  And with whom was he provoked forty years?  Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did he swear that they should never enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock

Image Source = UpstateNYer

Psalm 95:6-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

Harden not your hearts,

as your forebears did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

They put me to the test,

though they had seen my works.

10 Forty years long I detested that generation and said,

“This people are wayward in their hearts;

they do not know my ways.”

11 So I swore in my wrath,

“They shall not enter into my rest.”

Mark 1:40-45 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him,

If you will, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I will; be clean.

And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him,

See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.

But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Consider the following:

And all the congregation of the children of Israel traveled from the wilderness of Sin on their travels by YHWH’s word, and they camped in Rephidim.  And there was no water for the people to drink.  And the people quarreled with Moses.  And they said, “Give us water, and let us drink.”

And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you test YHWH?”

And the people thirsted for water there, and the people complained at Moses and said, “Why is this that you brought us up from Egypt, to kill me, and my children and my cattle with thirst?!”

And Moses called to YHWH, saying, “What shall I do with this people?  A little more and they’ll stone me!”

And YHWH said to Moses, “Pass in front of the people and take some of Israel’s elders with you, and take your staff with which you struck the Nile in your hand, and you’ll go.  Here, I’ll be standing in front of you there on a rock at Horeb.  And you’ll strike the rock, and water will come out of it, and the people will drink.”  And Moses did so before the eyes of Israel’s elders.  And he called the place’s name Massah and Meribah becaus of the quarrel of the children of Israel and the because of their testing YHWH, saying, “Is YHWH among us or not?”

Exodus 17:1-7 (Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text, 2001)

And, in Numbers 20, Moses was supposed to speak to the rock, but he struck with his staff instead.  For this lack of faithfulness God forbade him to enter the Promised Land, as the narrative indicates.

Testing and Quarreling.  Those terms, English translations of Massah and Meribah, summarize much of the biblical story of the wandering in the desert following the Exodus.  Moses was flawed, but faithful most of the time.  For that his name is one of honor in the Bible.

The miracle of the Exodus was the liberation of the Hebrews.  The biblical text attempts a sort of scientific explanation for the parting of waters; Exodus 14:21 mentions a “strong east wind” (Richard Elliott Friedman’s translation).  The Everett Fox translation refers to a “fierce east wind.”  In the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula God continued to provide enough for the former slaves.  Water was available, as was a sufficient food supply.  Yet people grumbled and waxed nostalgically about Egyptian table scraps.  Ingratitude prevailed, and it came with consequences.

The conjunction of the three passages of scripture on the Canadian Anglican lectionary this day makes clear that there is a continuity from Moses to Jesus.  God is the builder of the household of faith, which consists of those who trust in and follow God.  Moses was a faithful servant in this household, and thus received due respect.  But Jesus is the Son, and therefore he is greater than Moses (no disrespect to Moses).

Leviticus 14 contains detailed instructions about what to do when presenting oneself to a priest as cleansed of leprosy, a generic term for several skin diseases which rendered one ritually impure and a social outcast.  The process included animal sacrifices, animal blood, and the shaving of the leper’s head.  For full details, read Leviticus 14.  These are the motions Jesus commands the healed leper to go through in Mark.  His order is to follow the Law of Moses, indicating a continuity from Moses to Jesus.  Yet the healed leper chose the understandable action–he told everyone he could about what Jesus had done for him.  So Jesus had to hide out in the wilderness for a while.  He was, in the Markan narrative, still keeping his Messianic Secret.

There is a time to tell what God has done for one, and a time to follow rituals and keep quiet.  Knowing which is which constitutes part of wisdom.

So does recognizing what God has done and being grateful for it.  The trap of nostalgia is at least two-fold.  First, the “good old days” were not as good as they look through our rose-colored glasses.  Furthermore, we are not looking at current blessings closely enough when living in the past.  God is the God of present blessings; we need to focus on these.  Do we have enough for today?  Let us give thanks for this. Many problems arise from mistaking desires for necessities.  Money, material possessions, and other potential idols can never fill the God-shaped hole in each of us.  By themselves, these are not idols.  Yet many of us transform them into such.

May we lay aside all our idols, whatever they are.  If we have turned anything good into an idol, may we reverse that process and enjoy this good thing as what it can be, at its best.  And may we live in full awareness of how good God is today, and act accordingly.  This God is the God of Moses and Jesus, of mercy and judgment.  This is the God who cares deeply and passionately about us.  May we reciprocate, as best we can, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJOLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE MACDONALD, POET AND NOVELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

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Posted December 31, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 14, Exodus 17, Hebrews 3, Leviticus 14, Mark 1, Numbers 20, Psalm 95

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