FRESH OIL, YEAR OF JUBILEE and RICH, YOUNG RULER
Congratulations! Today we begin our third month of reading through the Bible together. We are one-sixth of the way through our spectacular tour of God’s redemptive history with 66 different outlook points prepared by 40 different authors over 1500 years. As we read through the story of the people of Israel, we are picking up the “vocabulary of redemption” which the Holy Spirit will use to speak to us for the rest of our days!
We are currently beholding a multifaceted jewel in the Book of Leviticus which reflects what Jesus described as “worship in spirit and truth”, that is, worshipping on God’s terms, not our own. The Holy Spirit wants to be sure that our understanding of what is unveiled in the New Testament is informed by what He has introduced in the Old Testament. The gospel reality is that after the resurrection and ascension, Jesus Christ entered a “greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation” in order to obtain for us “eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12).
In Leviticus 24, we learn more about what is required in the Holy Place. In the Old Covenant, only one tribe of the twelve had access to the middle sanctuary. Only Aaron and his sons, of the priestly tribe of Levi, were given permission to minister in the middle sanctuary.
What about the others? How were they able to experience being in the presence of God? They were represented in the Holy Place in two ways: First, they were represented in the twelve stones upon the breastplate over the heart of the Great High Priest. Secondly, they were present before the High Priest, represented by the twelve loaves of bread placed in two stacks upon the Table of Showbread with the obvious fragrance of frankincense upon them ensuring that He would be ever-mindful of all the tribes on whose behalf He would be interceding.
Nothing could be visibly manifested in the Holy Place apart from the light of the Lamp stand. This represents the Holy Spirit’s illuminating power (Leviticus 24:1). The priests are to regularly furnish pure oil to keep the lamp stand burning in the Lord’s presence throughout the night to ensure that they can minister in the light. This reminds us that apart from the Spirit of God we cannot know the things that God has prepared for us (1 Corinthians 2:6-16).
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (NASB) 9 but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.
As the priest would enter the tent known as “The Holy Place”, he would be facing the altar of incense and the veil that shields from view the inner sanctuary behind it known as the Holiest of All which housed the Ark of the Covenant . The golden lamp stand would be on his left and the table of Showbread would be on his right. This is where intercession would be made before the High Priest went beyond the veil to sprinkle the blood of the substitutionary sacrifice upon the mercyseat over the Ark on the Great Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).
Leviticus 24:1-2 (NASB) 1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the sons of Israel that they bring to you clear oil from beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually.
I remember visiting the Garden of Gethsemane outside Jerusalem where Jesus prayed His High Priestly prayer before being arrested and delivered to those who would crucify Him (John 17 and Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-44). Ancient olive trees are there to this day.
It is fitting that the Garden is called ‘Gethsemane’ as ‘Gethsemane’ literally means ‘olive press’. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus, the Light of the World, experienced great spiritual pressure and resistance when He offered His great priestly prayers in Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46; John 17). He was feeling the olive press, the agony, in the garden. “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death” (Matt 26:38). The outer man was broken that the inner oil would come out. Out of His intercession would come pure oil. Jesus’ path to the cross would be illuminated with the fresh oil from the olive press, the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, all He could face would be the dark night of the soul as he suffered betrayal.
He prayed three times, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt 26:39). By the third time, the Spirit’s light is blazing with certainty and Jesus declares: “Behold the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Then He says with resolve, “Get up, let us be going; behold the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
Leviticus 24:8 (NASB) 8 “Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before the LORD continually; it is an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel.
We also hear Jesus’ illuminated High Priestly intercession as if He were at the Table of incense before the veil, as He prays: “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You.” (John 17:1-5). He then prays for his own in the world (John 17:6-26).
The High Priest is prompted to pray for the covenant people of God when He sees the twelve loaves on the Table of Showbread. Leviticus 24 describes the Table upon which twelve loaves are placed, in two rows (or stacks) of six, representing the people of God (12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples). These loaves had a small container of frankincense upon the two stacks that gave them a strong fragrance that could not be ignored. It is comforting to know that our Intercessor cannot and will not forget us!
EXAMPLE OF JUST PUNISHMENT
The laws of God are backed up by His authority. The consequences of breaking His laws are that, with God’s disciplinary reinforcement, the transgressor becomes broken. Break the law and the Law breaks you. The Lord disciplined those who did not take the Law seriously with the just punishment as prescribed by the law. Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, suffered the consequences of disregarding the Laws of the Tabernacle. They brought strange fire to the altar of incense, an unauthorized form of worship, and consequently were killed (Leviticus 10:1-3). This example during the first days of tabernacle worship brought a healthy fear of the Lord to the church in the wilderness, as much as did the disciplining of Achan in the first days of the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 7), and Ananias and Sapphira in the first days of the early church (Acts 5).
In Leviticus 24 the son of Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan blasphemed the Name of the Lord with a curse. He was a half-Israelite; whose father was an Egyptian. He was held in custody until all details came to light. Then, according to the law, just punishment was administered. The severity of the judgment needs to be seen in the light of a holy God breaking into a world of sinners. Through the law and its reinforcement “the unspeakable sinfulness of sin” is “plainly shown” (Romans 7:13, Weymouth).
Leviticus 24:17-23 restates that there should be just retribution for crimes. These laws were very compassionate for its time. Other nations often exacted punishment that was disproportionate to the crime committed or injury suffered. If a person caused another to suffer the loss of an arm, they would often be put to death. But the Law of Moses counteracted the lawlessness of the age by limiting punishment to that which was proportionate to the crime.
Leviticus 24:19-20 (NASB) ‘If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.
Jesus, as the New Torah, reveals not only the compassion of God in executing justice but in extending mercy.
Matthew 5:38-40 (NASB) 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.”
THE YEAR OF JUBILEE- THE FIFTIETH YEAR AFTER THEY ENTER THE LAND
Yesterday we learned about the Sabbath law of rest for the people (Lev 23:3) and the Sabbatical year of rest for the land (25:1-7).
The cessation of labor in the Sabbatical Year provided an opportunity for a special emphasis to be given to the study of the Word of God, especially during the times of the Festivals.
Deuteronomy 31:10-13 10 Then Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”
In Leviticus 25 verse 8, we learn that a Year of Jubilee is to be held on the fiftieth year, the year after the seventh sabbatical year (the 49th year). This was an extraordinary law that involves the land lying fallow for an additional year (the 49th and 50th) and the cancelling of debts, the restoration of lost possessions, and the liberation of slaves. If a person had sold the family inheritance due to a debt incurred in a time of hardship, that inheritance could equitably be restored. God promised that if they would trust Him for this that He would provide a bumper crop on the sixth year before the seventh sabbath that would provide enough food for three years!
The ram’s horn (shofar) was blown on the Day of Atonement to “proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants” (Lev. 25:10).
There is no record that Israel ever experienced this blessing.
But the significance of the Jubilee year and its laws are essential in the vocabulary of redemption.
Isaiah 61:1-7 (NASB) 1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; 2 to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD…
When Jesus commences His ministry, He goes to his local synagogue in Nazareth and opens the scroll to read this passage. After reading it, he closes the scroll and sat down.
Luke 4:20b-21 (NASB) and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus was announcing the terms of Jubilee coming to fruition through His ministry, the ministry of the Messiah. He was proclaiming the favorable year of the Lord, one in which good news is brought to those afflicted by debt, broken-hearted due to their loss of inheritance, and their captivity as indentured servants.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: MARK 10:13-31
JESUS BLESSES THE CHILDREN
Children are aware of their needs. They rarely boast that they don’t need any help. They are happy to be blessed by others. Jesus welcomed little children to Himself and used them as examples of the humility that is found in “saving faith”. The kingdom of God is not something we can work for or deserve. Yet it is something we desperately need. Children are humble enough to admit they can’t save themselves. They are also happy about receiving gifts. Would that all were happy and humble and ready to receive the gift of the kingdom of God that Jesus offers.
In contrast to the happy, humble and hungry child, next on the scene in the Gospel of Mark is the self-confident, rich, young ruler. He had what everyone today wants. He had money, success, youth, and most likely, good looks (people with money usually give some investment in their appearance). And yet he knew that he was lacking something at the core. He needed eternal life.
Notice his approach. It was so different from the little children. He says, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He was looking to do something to inherit something, not realizing that you need to be born into the kingdom to inherit it. How blinded we are by our own competencies! Our riches, our youth, our success, talents, knowledge, good looks and worldly influence cannot buy us the kingdom. No philanthropy or sacrificial service could merit eternal life. Eternal life is only available by a miracle of grace.
Jesus would make this clear to his disciples after the rich young ruler leaves. He told them it was as hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle! How hard is that? It is impossible! Most likely the expression was a cultural equivalent to “not having the chance of a snowball in hell”!
Notice how Jesus lovingly engaged the man rather than rebuking him for what must have seemed to him as a ridiculous thought that he could DO something to enter the kingdom. First, He questioned the man’s standards.
“Why do you call me good? There is none good but God.” (Mark 10:18)
He is saying that the standard of goodness is God Himself. If Jesus is perceived as being good, it is because He is reflecting the nature of God. This standard of moral perfection is one that the rich young ruler could not possibly attain. It was too late. He was already a covetous sinner. And Jesus proves it to him. He says:
“You know the commandments: You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.”
Which commandments did Jesus omit? The Ten Commandments should convict us all of sin. But the young man replies:
“Teacher, I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young” (Mark 10:20).
Jesus as a creative teacher, deliberately omitted the command, “You must not covet” as if to prompt the rich young ruler to recognize something was lacking in his record of assumed righteousness. Covetousness causes us to put things or people in the place of God. “Covetousness is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
Mark 10:21 (NASB) 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
So, Jesus says, “there is still one thing you lack. There is one thing you haven’t done.”
What was that thing? It was to repent. The rich young ruler was still thinking there was something he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus was not saying that this man could be saved if he gave away his goods. He was saying that he needed to repent of his sin of covetousness and self-righteousness and follow Him to the cross to discover the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Him.
READING FROM THE PSALMS: PSALM 44:9-26
This second portion of the Psalm is a plea for vindication. The people of God have suffered defeat at the hands of their enemies. In the light of God’s covenant relationship with His people and their past supernatural deliverances, their current sufferings do not make sense to them. The writer feels that he and the nation of Israel have been unfairly victimized for identification with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They feel abandoned. They feel that somehow God has gone to sleep. The cry of the Psalmist is for God to wake up and demonstrate His love.
The Apostle Paul quotes Psalm 44:11 in Romans 8:36 but with a New Testament perspective.
Romans 8:36 (NASB) 36 Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”
To suffer in this world is not to conclude that God does not love us.
Romans 8:37 (NASB) 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
Paul is able to endure the onslaughts of injustice and persecution knowing that He has been made one with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Marvel not if the world hates you.
Even today God’s people suffer for their identification with Christ.
Colossians 1:24 (NASB) 24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
Jesus’ sufferings were not lacking in their redemptive value. His suffering on the cross provided full atonement. What does Paul mean when he speaks of “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions?” Jesus endured in His physical body only the hatred of those living in His part of the world in His generation where He lived at the time. We as members of His corporate body will suffer in our generation the reproach that fell upon Him. Why? Because we are identified with Him. The world in which we live is subject to the rule of darkness and hates the light. But be of good cheer. Light dispels darkness. He has overcome the world!
READING FROM PROVERBS: A REMINDER TO THINK AND COMMUNICATE REDEMPTIVELY!
Proverbs 10:20-21 20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.
This Proverb gives a distinct contrast between believers and non-believers. How is it with your tongue? Is your communication redemptive? (Silver is a symbol speaking of redemption). How is it with your heart? Is it regarded as precious? How is it with your lips? Do you nourish others with your speech? What is your understanding of God, His character, His purposes and His plans?
Today we are praying for Bangladesh.
Pages 132-136 of “Operation World” list many prayer requests, including:
Answer to Prayer
Progress in the fight against poverty has been made. The thousands of NGOs operating contributed immeasurably to this. Bangladesh is now the furthest along of all South Asian nations toward meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals for 2015 (focused on poverty reduction, education, etc.). Micro-credit has been the flagship strategy for this progress.
Challenge for Prayer
The cycle of poverty will perpetuate itself until fundamental changes occur. Pray for long-term, penetrating transformation in the following areas of desperate need:
- a) The economy is sorely underdeveloped. Bangladesh has little infrastructure, very few natural resources, and therefore affords few ways of making an income. Most people work in agriculture or textiles for scandalously low wages. The majority of Bangladeshis live in gripping poverty, with a very small wealthy minority.
- b) A solid social foundation for progress is lacking. Education levels are low (but improving), and overpopulation creates problems in a nation already wanting in land, resources and employment opportunities. Women have been the backbone of micro-credit success (80% of households participate in benefits from micro-credit), yet often suffer undignified and inequitable treatment.
- c) A frightening vulnerability to changes in climate and economy. With such widespread poverty, a large proportion of income is spent on food. Significant rises in food prices have a devastating effect, but not as devastating as the effect of flooding from swollen rivers and monsoons. With alarming regularity, the nation is made to endure tragic loss of life and property.
PRAYER: Father, we are reminded as we read Your Word that we are dependent upon the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit to see what You have furnished for us in the finished work of Christ. We humbly ask that You speak to us and teach us through Your Word and enable us to walk in the light as You are in the light. Thank You for the fellowship we share with You and Your people through Your Word and Your Holy Spirit. We renounce any vestige of self-justification. Forgive us of self-righteous attitudes or claims that betray our utter need for what You provide for us in Christ. Help us to recognize Your love, forsake our self-centered, self-seeking ways, and follow You whole-heartedly. In Jesus’ Name. Amen
So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. (Colossians 1:28, J.B. Phillips paraphrase)
New Life Community Church, Concord, MA 10742 www.newlife.org