Ezra, chapters 6-10

“Now make confession to Jehovah the God of your forefathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from these foreign wives.”
~Ezra 10:11

Does the Jews sending their wives away violate the Bible viewpoint of marriage?
After all, this action directly contradicts Jesus’ words: “What God has yoked together, let no man put apart,” (Matt. 19:6).
But we need to keep in mind that Mosaic Law, written well over a thousand years before Jesus was even born, allowed for divorce, providing anything “indecent” be found in the wife (Deut. 24:1).
In Jewish culture, the husband who wished to divorce his wife had to provide a divorce certificate that legally freed her up to marry again.
Man and wife were originally united as “one flesh.”
That principle was instituted “from the beginning,” (Matt. 19:3-5).
But Jesus himself explains that the divorce provision was due to the hard-heartedness characteristic of men in his own culture.
Therefore, we cannot judge the actions of the pre-Christian men, who were tasked with reestablishing their religious customs, by modern day Christian standards.
The Jews had the express mission of reinstating pure worship so that the Messiah could be born to them, as had been promised to Abraham, Jacob, and King David (Gen. 22:18; 28:14; Isa. 9:7).
That was, in part, why the Mede and Persian rulers had supported their efforts to rebuild Jerusalem (Ez. 6:3,12; 7:21).
Their associations in the surrounding pagan nations distracted them.
They were in danger of adopting their foreign wives’ idolatrous practices and once again garnering God’s disaproval.
It was under these circumstances and three months of litigating on a case by case basis that the foreign wives were eventually sent away with full custody of the children they had borne (Ez. 10:16,17,44).
Christians, on the other hand, were to be composed of all nations, not just of Israeli descent, and are not to divorce unless one is the innocent victim of a marital affair (Matt. 19:9; 28:19; 1 Pet. 3:1,7).
So while it was imperative to the survival of the Jewish religion to send away the pagan wives, Christians cannot use their stand as a precedent to excuse themselves from their marriage dues.

2 Kings, chapters 1-4

“At this the boy’s mother said: ‘As surely as Jehovah is living and as you yourself are living, I will not leave you.’ So he got up and went with her.”
~2 Kings 4:30

The Shunammite woman is worthy of noting because of the fine example of faith, respect and hospitality that she displayed.
She displayed hospitality toward the prophet Elisha by offering him meals and a room to stay in, without expecting anything in return (2 Ki. 4:8-10, 13, 14).
She displayed respect toward her husband’s position as head of the household by consulting him before carrying out important decisions, despite being a “prominent woman,” (2 Ki. 4:8-10, 22, 23).
And she displayed faith in God because when her only son died, she ran and then clung to the prophet until he resolved to go see him (2 Ki. 4:19-21, 27-31).
Years earlier, when the prophet had promised her a son, she had replied, “Do not tell lies to your servant,” (2 Ki. 4:16).
Now, under these tragic circumstances, she firmly told her husband, “Everything is all right,” because she knew Elisha’s predecessor had resurrected a boy under similar circumstances (1 Ki. 17:20-22; 2 Ki. 4:23).
The Shunammite woman’s faith and behavior were compensated when her son’s life was restored to him (2 Ki. 4:35-37).
It is as Jesus stated, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will get a prophet’s reward,” (Matt. 10:41).
Therefor we should hold fast to our faith in the resurrection and demonstrate our faith with actions.

Deuteronomy, chapters 19-22

“If someone is found slain in a field of the land that Jehovah your God is giving you to possess and it is not known who killed him, […] the elders of that city should lead the young cow down to a valley running with water where no tilling or sowing of seed has been done, and they should break the neck of the young cow there in the valley.”

~Deuteronomy 21:1, 4

To be honest, this passage shook my faith.

Why did the young cow have to suffer punishment if it had nothing to do with the murder?

Under the law, if the community did nothing about the murder, the elders of that community could be held accountable by God as having blood on their hands (De. 21:8; De. 22:8).

The ceremony with the heifer provided a concrete way of demonstrating to everyone in the surrounding areas that the murder had been officially investigated and remained unsolved.

The passage explains:

“Then all the elders of the city who are nearest to the dead body should wash their hands over the young cow whose neck was broken in the valley, and they should declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. “‘Do not hold this against your people Israel, whom you redeemed, O Jehovah, and do not let guilt for innocent blood remain among your people Israel.'”Then the bloodguilt will not be held against them.”In this way you will remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst by doing what is right in Jehovah’s eyes.”(De. 21:6-9)

If the murderer was later identified, he (or she) would still have to die on account of his (or her) actions (Nu. 35:30-33).

After discussing this bygone law with a brother in my congregation, he reminded me that sacrifices under Mosaic Law foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice: that of Christ (Heb. 10:5-10).

And like the innocent heifer whose life was taken as a result of human-spun injustice, so was Christ’s life taken as a result of humanity’s wrongdoings (Heb. 9:12-14).

The principle involved in this law is that human life is precious and its loss needs to be atoned.

We see the modern-day application of this principle when a congregation forms a committee to investigate the cause of death that was a result of one of its member’s actions.

For example, if the death was a result of a traffic accident, was the congregation member speeding? Was he (or she) distracted?

In such a case, the body of elders holds a judicial case in which they may decide to limit the member’s privilege to participate in certain activities (Matt. 18:15, 16; Gal. 6:7; 1 Pet. 3:16; 5:3).

Leviticus, chapters 17-20

If a foreigner resides with you in your land, you must not mistreat him. The foreigner who resides with you should become to you like a native among you; and you must love him as yourself […]
~Leviticus 19:33

The commandment here given stands in stark contrast to the violence going on in and around present-day Israel.

History books and modern politics would lead us to believe religion and war go hand in hand.

Both political and religious leaders have used God’s word as a disguise to dress themselves “in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves,” (Matt. 7:15).

Jesus applied the aforementioned law in his parable of the good Samaritan.

He made the parable more remarkable using irony in that it was the foreigner who was kind toward the Jew, and not his own religious leaders as one would expect (Luke 10:30-37).

Jesus was essentially restating Leviticus 19:18 when he instituted the following principle as the basis of conduct for his new followers: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them. This, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean,” (Matt. 7:12).

Acknowledging the hypocritical breach of integrity characteristic of many leaders, Jesus also instructed his followers: “[…] All the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but they do not practice what they say,” (Matt. 23:3).

It is important, then, to not blame God’s Word for religious or political conflict, because unlike men, God does not contradict himself.


Leviticus chapter 19 holds many interesting points relating to what it means to be a just person.
If you would like to build character, I invite you to meditate on the following:

Showing compassion toward the less materially fortunate- Lev. 19:9,10
Avoiding white collar crimes- Lev.19:11-13
Avoiding cruelty toward the disabled- Lev. 19:14
Keeping the criminal justice system fair- Lev. 19:15
Avoiding gossip- Lev. 19:16
Cultivate forgiveness- Lev. 19:18
Organic is better- Lev. 19:19
People who do not have equal rights should not be held equally accountable for their actions- Lev. 19:20
Superstitious behavior is unholy- Lev. 19:26
God’s view on self-harm/self-mutilation- Lev. 19:28
Pimping women is an abuse of power- Lev. 19:29
Honor the elderly- Lev. 19:32
Keep commercial transactions honest- Lev. 19:35,36

Leviticus, chapters 6-9

Last week’s reading covered many details on several types of offerings.

These are:

  • Burnt offerings
  • Communion offerings
  • Sin offerings
  • Guilt offerings
  • Grain offerings
  • Wave offerings
  • Sacred portions
  • Installation sacrifice

I will focus on communion offerings, otherwise known as peace offerings.

Communion offerings could be voluntarily offered at any time as “an expression of thanksgiving,” to praise God or to concert a vow (Lev. 7:12, 16).

The consumption of the offering was shared between the person presenting it, the priests and Jehovah.

The person presenting the offering would offer unleavened bread along with the ceremonial sacrifice of a healthy animal.

Neither the animal’s blood nor fat were for human consumption; the blood was sprinkled around the altar and the fat was burnt, Jehovah symbolically consuming the aroma (Lev. 3:2-5; 7:25-27).

The person presenting the offering could bring leavened bread, but this was not to be presented on the altar, as leaven represents sin and corruption (Lev. 2:11; 7:13).

The leavened bread was for the people’s enjoyment, not God’s.

Tradition states that the person presenting the offering ate the meal in the courtyard of the tabernacle (Insight, vol. II, “Offerings,” par. 9).

The flesh of the animal sacrificed had to be eaten on the same day it was slaughtered (Lev. 7:15).

Otherwise the flesh would begin to corrupt and the people who partook in the communion meal would then be ceremonially unclean, a sin punishable by death (Lev. 7:20).

Today we do not have these types of ceremonies in which we can ‘share a meal’ with Jehovah.

It must have been a very spiritual experience.

We can, however, thank and praise God any day, any time, through words and actions that reflect our faith in the ultimate sacrifice of Christ Jesus, which can be likened to an aroma that is pleasing to God.

 

 

 

Leviticus, chapters 1-5

Every grain offering you make is to be seasoned with salt; and you must not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be missing from your grain offering. Along with every offering of yours, you will present salt.
~Leviticus 2:13

What does salt symbolize?

It has often been used as a preservative and an antiseptic.

Therefor it can symbolize permanence and cleanliness.

As Christians, we put into practice Christ’s words, “You are the salt of the earth,” when we share his message of ever-lasting life (Matt. 5:13).

We also have a “preserving” effect when we positively influence others through uncorrupted moral behavior.

Jesus also said, “Have salt in yourselves, and keep peace between one another,” (Mark 9:50).

In effect, today we do not make food offerings, but rather, we “offer to God […] the fruit of our lips,” (Heb. 13:15).

How do we add “salt” to our praise?

God’s word tells us the answer: Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one,” (Col. 4:6).

In other words, we ought to think before we speak and say things in a considerate manner.

“For God is well-pleased with such sacrifices,” (Heb. 13:16).

Genesis, chapters 47-50

Genesis 49:9,10~

Judah is a lion cub. From the prey, my son, you will certainly go up. He has crouched down and stretched himself out like a lion, and like a lion, who dares rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shi′loh comes [meaning: He Whose It Is; He to Whom It Belongs], and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.

On his deathbed, Jacob passed down the birthright of preserving the Messiah’s lineage to the eldest of his sons who did not sin against him.

The lion and the scepter represent the right to rule as king, and Shi’loh refers to the then unborn Messiah.

This is a noteworthy prophecy because as we now know, King David proceeded from the tribe of Judah and Jesus’ ancestry was traceable to David on both his parents’ sides (2 Sam. 2:4; 2 Sam. 7:16,17; Matt. 1:1-16; 3:23-33).

Of Jesus, it was said: “This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom,” (Luke 1:32,33).

Jesus asked us to pray for that kingdom to come: Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also on earth.” (Matt. 6:9,10).

After his death, Jesus’ followers expected him to one day begin ruling from heaven:

God resurrected this Jesus, and of this we are all witnesses […] For David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet,”’ (Acts 2:32-35).

This in turn makes reference to Jesus’ first act as king: to do God’s will in heaven, that is, to throw out God’s enemies from it (Rev. 12:7-12).

Then the prophecy refers to us, saying: “the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing that he has a short period of time.”

It might take thousands of years for God’s prophecies to come to full light, but they are always fulfilled unfailingly.