Unintentional Sin and Guilt (Leviticus 4:1-5:13)

The highway and overpass road construction continues near my home, now in its third year. Since I drive through it daily, I know it changes depending on which section the crews are working on. However, other drivers who aren’t as familiar are unsure which lanes on the overpass are open and they jog to the left or right around the work. So I try to be cautious. Then, when I am past that area, I relax. Lately though, I’ve been cut off by drivers on other roads at an alarming frequency. It got to the point last week that I asked the Lord to show me if there was something I was doing that was confusing those drivers. Maybe it was me and not them because I was too relaxed. Unintentional mistakes, sin, and guilt are all very real. After I prayed and examined my driving, to know if I was the problem, either I somehow corrected my driving or I became more cautious; I haven’t had that experience as much. Unintentional sin is still sin and carries actual guilt, even if we don’t realize its presence. And, “sin’s defiling effects [make] an impact not only on the sinner, but also on those associated with the sinner. In this way, sin [is] like dishonour. For example, when children do wrong, they bring dishonour on themselves, as well as on their family, especially their parents. In a similar way, Israelites who committed certain wrongs brought a defiling dishonour on themselves, their nation (their covenant family) and especially on their covenant Lord. This dishonour clung to the Lord’s ‘home’, the tent of meeting, just as the dishonour of a child’s wrong can cling to the parent’s home.” (1) In Leviticus 4 and 5, we see how God provided the sacrificial system to relieve His people from the corruption and guilt of their unintentional sins, reinstate His relationship with them, and cleanse the tabernacle and community. One takeaway is to be willing to admit and confess our real guilt about unintentional sins, knowing that they negatively impact our relationships with the Lord, each other, and our communities. I am sure that studying our Leviticus passage resulted in my self-examination about my driving. Hopefully, it will extend to all areas of our lives.

All God’s People Were Guilty

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord‘s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the Lord for a sin offering…If the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they do any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and they realize their guilt…When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish…If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed.(Leviticus 4:1-3, 13, 22-23, 27-28) “One question to ask with respect to the offering in Leviticus 4 is what to call it…the purpose of this offering was to deal with sin but also to remove defilement in a more general sense. So possibly it’s best to refer to this sacrifice as the purification offering. The fourth chapter of Leviticus describes the procedure for the purification offering for four groups of people—‘the anointed priest’ (or high priest), ‘the whole community,’ ‘a leader’ of the people, and ‘any of the common people’…Sin is not stagnant; it’s powerful and destructive. When we sin, it affects other people; if we’re in a position of leadership, what we do affects more people. When somebody has a contagious infection, he shouldn’t be around others, because the more people he touches or breathes on, the more people he’ll infect. A person in a position of leadership touches a lot of people, and if the leader is infected with sin, his or her sin will affect many. One message of the purification offering is that sin is serious; it’s serious for the congregation as a whole, it’s serious for each individual, and it’s serious for people in positions of leadership.” (2) But the Lord didn’t leave his people in their guilt. He provided the sacrificial system to relieve them from the defilement of their unintentional sins. God wanted an unhindered relationship with His people through the cleansing of their community and the tabernacle. God is immutable; he wants us to continue, through Christ, to influence each other and our communities for his glory. But we don’t always know what we’ve done or even considered doing that offends the Lord, so he offers us the opportunity to ask for illumination, to question our motives, intentions, desires, and choices.

Unintentional Sins

In Israel’s case, “[They] might not realize that they were ritually impure, and eat fellowship offering meat. A modern parallel would be ‘overlooking signs and so unwittingly driving the wrong way down a one-way street.” (3) “The word ‘unintentional’ refers to a sin of error. It comes from a verb that means to stray’. An unintentional sin is not premeditated or planned; it’s a sin we just wander into—because of either ignorance or negligence. We unthinkingly stray into trouble, like a sheep (Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.”)…Just because we commit unintentional sins out of ignorance or negligence doesn’t mean that we don’t experience consequences because of these sins. We’re defiled by all sin, so God provided a sacrifice to atone for unintentional sins.” (4) Those times when we realize that we may be experiencing the consequences of neglect or ignorance are the best times to ask the Lord or others to help us see whether we have unknowingly sinned against God and others. We experience consequences for a reason. A biblical worldview sees circumstances through God’s eyes, which are superior to ours and his view should encourage and delight us for our sanctification.

Help for Leaders and Common People

“When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish…If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord‘s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. (Lev. 4:22-23, 27-28)

“The phrase, ‘his God’, is here added, and is not used neither of the anointed priest, nor of the congregation, nor of one of the common people; only of the prince, to show, that though he is above others, God is above him, and he is accountable to him; he is his God, of whom he is, and by whom he rules; wherefore if he breaks any of his commandments, though ignorantly, he must bring a sacrifice for it…no man is free from sin; all sorts of persons, of all ranks and degrees, high and low, rich and poor, men in office, civil or ecclesiastical, or in whatsoever state of life, are liable to sin, and do sin continually, either ignorantly or willingly; and Christ is a sacrifice for all sins and for all sorts of sinners.” (5) “This section underscores the fact that the sin of those in authority is viewed as more serious than that of those they lead . This is no surprise: leaders have the greatest potential to lead others astray and to bring dishonor on the Lord’s name. Moreover, since leaders have been entrusted with much, much more is required of them…because the Lord knows that sheep follow the shepherd, he continually emphasizes the need for shepherds to be ‘examples to the flock’ (1 Tim. 3:1–13). Even more than its emphasis on a leader’s responsibility, however, this section underscores both the purity and the mercy of the Lord….Because of the Lord’s great purity, he could not permit such defilement to exist in the midst of his holy camp. But because of his great mercy, he could not help but provide a way for his people to deal with this defilement: the purification offering. With this offering, the animal’s lifeblood served to ransom sinners from the Lord’s just punishment, as well as to cleanse the defilement of their sin. Such mercy is seen in even greater depth in the New Testament, which speaks of Jesus’ death as the ultimate purification offering, one that was powerful enough to cleanse all our sins. Indeed, it is by means of Jesus’ lifeblood that the Lord can ‘forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (Heb. 10:10, 12).’” (6)

Taking Remains and Guilt Outside the Camp

Israel was instructed to take the remains of the sacrificial animal “outside the camp.” “He shall carry the bull outside the camp and burn it up as he burned the first bull; it is the sin offering for the assembly.” (Leviticus 4:12, 21) “The Jewish writers interpret it without the three camps, the camp of the tabernacle, the camp of the Levites, and the camp of the Israelites; when the temple was built, such sacrifices were carried and burnt without the city of Jerusalem…this was typical of Christ being led out of the city of Jerusalem, and suffering without the gates of it.” (6) “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.” (Hebrews 13:11-12) When God provided the sacrificial system to relieve His people from the corruption and guilt of their unintentional sins, it was complete, and reinstated His relationship with them. Not only was God’s dwelling place, the tabernacle cleaned, but the entire community within the camp was purified by removing anything leftover from the sacrifice to outside Israel’s encampment. When we sincerely confess our sin to the Lord, there is no reason for any guilt to remain. Only doubt in God’s mercy and arrogance holds onto guilt over confessed sin. The Lord has provided forgiveness for confessed sins that should no longer hinder our relationship with him, each other, and our community. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:11-13) “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) What more encouragement do we need to rid ourselves of unintentional sins against the Lord and others?

Related Scripture: Leviticus 15:31; Numbers 17:22-26; Joshua 7:19; 1 Kgs 12:25–33; 14:16; Psalm 19:12-13; Ezra 10:1-5; Romans 8:3-4; 1 Tim. 3:1–13; 4:12; James 3:1; Hebrews 9:23-28; 10:12-14; 13:11-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 John 1:9-10.


1. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Leviticus 4:1-5:13, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

2. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, Leviticus 4:1-5:13, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

3. Sklar, Ibid.

4. Mosley, Ibid.

5. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/leviticus-4.html.

6. Sklar, Ibid.

7. Sklar, Ibid.

8. Gill, Ibid.

March 9, 2023

The Peace Offerings—Our Peace in Christ (Leviticus 3)

On one furlough during my missionary days, I was hosted at the home of a family in England whom I didn’t know but supported our work. My luggage had been lost in Amsterdam, and I was moving around England, visiting different groups each day, chasing my suitcases by phone. So I was tired and somewhat frazzled when dinner was served on the day I arrived at the home of the lovely people who welcomed me very warmly. They served a pork roast with all the fat lovingly basted and preserved as a special treat. My portion had a large strip of fat, which I would typically remove before eating the lean meat. However, seeing that others were enjoying it, I took my fork and knife to it, trying not to think about what it was doing to my arteries. I ate it for the sake of my relationship with my new friends, who offered it for my encouragement. My hosts had a Old Testament biblical viewpoint, unlike those who now eat pork belly for gastronomy. Their concern for a missionary having the best possible part of the animal was similar to the peace offerings described in Leviticus. Israel was instructed to seek peace with God through fellowship offerings, which symbolized a shared meal between the offerer, priest, and the Lord, for God’s help and thanksgiving. They were to offer the Lord the most honorable parts of the animals—especially the fat. We, who are joined to Christ, have found eternal peace with God. We are called to meet with him often, offering him our deepest, best, and even most vulnerable needs—something exceedingly more valuable than animal fat, which symbolized this.

A Fellowship Meal with the Lord

Depending on which Bible translation you use, Leviticus calls this third category of offerings (after the burnt and grain offerings) either peace or fellowship offerings. But the intention of the sacrifices is the same. “The burnt-offerings had regard to God as in himself the best of beings, most perfect and excellent; they were purely expressive of adoration, and therefore were wholly burnt. But the peace-offerings had regard to God as a benefactor to his creatures, and the giver of all good things to us; and therefore these were divided between the altar, the priest, and the owner. Peace signifies reconciliation, concord, and communion. And so these were called peace-offerings, because in them God and his people did, as it were, feast together, in token of friendship. The priest, who was ordained for men in things pertaining to God, gave part of this peace-offering to God…burning it upon God’s altar; part he gave to the offerer, to be eaten by him with his family and friends; and part he took to himself…it was a symbol of friendship and fellowship between God and man, and a confirmation of the covenant of peace.” (1) “If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar. And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the Lord, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. Then Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” (Leviticus 3:1-5) “The burnt offering was entirely consumed on the altar, whereas the fellowship offering was not. Instead, only the fat of the fellowship offering–the very best part of the meat–was burned on the altar. The rest of the animal was divided…[a] fellowship offering consumed by three parties: the Lord, the priest and the offeror…expressing covenant fellowship between the offerers and the Lord…The fellowship offering meal was a way for Israelites to honor the Lord by giving him the very best of the meat, as well as to reaffirm and celebrate the covenant relationship they enjoyed with him and with one another…As a celebration, the offering underscored for Israelites that their covenant partner was none other than the Lord, their redeeming God, who had rescued them from Egypt and was now dwelling in their very midst. This type of worship is the natural reflex of all those who understand the Lord’s character. The concept of the covenant meal was not just for ancient Israel; it is the very concept Jesus employs when he establishes the Lord’s Supper for members of the new covenant. Like the fellowship offering, the Lord’s Supper serves as a time for believers to celebrate the redemption the Lord has won for them, in this instance through the sacrificial death of Jesus. And, like the fellowship offering, such remembrance propels believers to reaffirm their commitment to their covenant Lord and to their fellow covenant brothers and sisters. Remembering the Lord’s redemption is the spring from which a life of wholehearted faithfulness gratefully flows.” (2)

Finding Peace With God

“The Bible says that we’re not automatically at peace with God. In fact, outside of our faith and His salvation, all humans are at enmity with Him. Romans 5 [v. 10] says before people come to Christ they’re ‘enemies’ of God. Colossians 1:21 says, ‘You were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions.’ Many people are not ready to admit their sin and alienation from God. Pride wars against such an admission. People often want to think of themselves as just fine the way they are…The Bible’s pronouncement that we’re alienated from God, hostile in mind, and engaged in evil deeds does sound harsh. But it’s terribly true. And it’s true of all people, regardless of rank or breeding…God is holy—so holy that no sin is allowed in His presence. God is just; He always punishes sin. The penalty God has ordained for sin is death. People are sinners, so in our sinful state we’re not allowed into God’s presence, and our sin will lead to death…How did the one true God who is holy, just, gracious, loving, and faithful respond to sinful human beings? He responded by establishing a system of sacrifices through which sinful people could be reconciled to Him and worship Him. (3) Israel was instructed to seek peace with God through peace (fellowship) offerings, which symbolized a shared meal between the offerer, priest, and the Lord, for God’s help and thanksgiving. They were to offer the Lord the most honorable parts of the animals. We, who have Christ and are joined to him, have found eternal peace with God. So, we are called to meet with him often, offering him our deepest, best, and our most vulnerable needs. “Christ is our peace, our peace-offering; for through him alone it is that we can expect to obtain mercy, and an answer of peace to our prayers; and in him an upright prayer shall be acceptable and successful, though we bring not a peace-offering…And we must offer to God the sacrifice of praise continually, by Christ our peace; and then this shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock.…[which] must be killed; and, although this might be done in any part of the court, yet it is said to be at the door of the tabernacle, because the mercies received or expected were acknowledged to come from God, and the prayers or praises were directed to him, and both, as it were, through that door. Our Lord Jesus has said, I am the door, for he is indeed the door of the tabernacle. (4)

“All fat is the Lord’s.”

So says verse 16, and the instructions for the peace offerings conclude with: “It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood” (v. 17). “Here is a general rule laid down, that all the fat is the Lord’s, and a law made thereupon, that they should eat neither fat nor blood, no, not in their private houses. As for the fat, it is not meant of that which is interlarded with the meat, but the fat of the inwards, the suet, which was always God’s part out of the sacrificed beasts; and therefore they must not eat of it, no, not out of the beasts that they killed for their common use…The blood was universally forbidden likewise, for the same reason that the fat was, because it was God’s part of every sacrifice. The heathen drank the blood of their sacrifices; hence we read of their drink-offerings of blood (Psalms 16:4). But God would not permit the blood, that made atonement, to be used as a common thing (Hebrews 10:29), nor will he allow us, though we have the comfort of the atonement made, to assume to ourselves any share in the honour of making it.” (5) “The fellowship offering was the one offering from which the offeror ate, the chapter ends by underscoring the two parts of the animal that the offeror must never eat, namely, the fat and the blood…the blood represented the animal’s life and thus belonged to the Lord, the Creator of all life. Israelites were thus prohibited from eating an animal’s blood –that is, its life–as though it belonged to them instead of to the Lord. Stated positively, by abstaining from the blood, they were acknowledging that the Lord is sovereign over every life…the prohibition against eating fat or blood applied not only to meals eaten at the tabernacle, but also to meals eaten at home (and thus presumably to the fat and blood of any edible animal, whether sacrificial or not). As a result, whenever Israelites ate meat, they would be reminded that the Lord was most worthy of honour (by refusing to eat the fat as though they deserved honour), and that he was sovereign over every life (by refusing to consume the blood as though it belonged to them).” (6)

The Unique Peace of God

My furlough experience in 2006 was unique—I visited with about twenty different groups, stayed in the homes of several new supporters, and received my luggage on my last day in England before departing for the US. I admit that peace eluded me at times during those five days, but whenever I prayed for the Lord’s peace, I found it because of his gracious, omnipotent Holy Spirit. And you can be sure that I not only ate pork fat, but blood sausage, a staple of England. Now we have Christ, our true offering of peace. “Ephesians 2:14 says of Jesus, ‘He is our peace,’ and Ephesians 6:15 calls Jesus’ gospel ‘the gospel of peace.’ Romans 5:1 says it plainly: ‘We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’…We can look for peace from other sources, but they’re like applying a Band-Aid to cure cancer. If we look to possessions, power, or passion to bring peace we’ll live and die as fools and suffer eternally without God. That’s not peace, and it’s certainly not peace with God. Through Jesus we have peace with God, and through Jesus we have the peace of God. Jesus said, ‘My peace I give to you’ (John 14:27).” (7) Are you seeking peace in fellowship with the world or the Lord? Let us turn to him for his unique, eternal soul peace.

Related Scripture: Genesis 9:4-5; 24:31; 26:28-31; 45:17-18; Exodus 29:22-25; Leviticus 7:23-32; 9:18-24; 17:10-14; 24:9; Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Judges 19:16-21; 1 Samuel 2:12-17; Psalm 96:7-9; Ezekiel 44:6-8; Luke 22:19-20; Romans 5:1; Acts 15:20, 29; 1 Corinthians 10:14-22; Ephesians 2:14; 6:15; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:11-15.


1. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Leviticus 3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhm/leviticus-3.html.

2. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Leviticus 3, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

3. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, Leviticus 3, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

4. Henry, Ibid.

5. Henry, Ibid.

6. Sklar, Ibid.

7. Mosley, Ibid.

February 23, 2023

The Grain Offerings of Leviticus 2 and Christ, the Bread of Life

I love good bread. One unexpected benefit of living in Africa was the availability of delicious bread. I will never forget the olive loaf from the French bakery that I munched on during my intense two-hour drive home during lunchtime. The brioche from the Indian grocery store in Ghana and the flatbread in Liberia were also favorites. For the first few years back in the US, I tried to find bread that could equal what I had in Africa but failed—I couldn’t even find a bakery that sold bread. I used to bake bread using the best flour I could find, but none of it compared to the African bakers’ loaves. And certainly, even those didn’t compare to God’s “bread from heaven.” When the Israelites left Egypt to journey through the wilderness to Canaan, God instructed them to make bread without yeast, which we now call Matzo. Then God provided them with daily manna, the substance of life, intended to prepare God’s people for the true Bread of Heaven, Jesus. “Jesus then said to [his disciples], “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33) Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to remember that God provides everything necessary for both physical and spiritual life. Giving thanks was to be a vital aspect of Israel’s life, along with atonement for sin, praise, and prayer.

Bread in the Sacrifices and the Bread of Life

God gave Himself so fully to the Israelites, providing daily manna for them, and in return, he wanted a grain sacrifice for thanksgiving. When he came in the flesh, Jesus offered his people himself, the Bread of Life—and in return, he wants our faithful devotion. The bread sacrifice represents the law in the Old Testament, and the Bread of Christ represents the power of Christ’s gospel to save from the Law. As we embark on Leviticus 2, we ask, “What does the description of the grain offering [in Leviticus 2] teach us about our relationship with God and our worship of Him? The Hebrew word for grain offering is minchah. Elsewhere in the Old Testament minchah is used to refer to gifts people gave to a king. Hence, the meaning of minchah included the act of a servant nation offering a gift to an overlord nation…the Israelites gave grain offerings to God not merely because He was a superior overlord, but because He is God. They offered Him not only service and allegiance; they offered Him the worship that is due only to God…God’s people worship Him as the One who provides all good things (James 1:17). He is the Lord, the King, and in bringing Him their gifts, His people were expressing their allegiance to Him. As they brought the sacrifice, they were thanking God for His provision, dedicating their harvest to Him, and symbolizing their dedication to Him… That’s what God’s people do in worship today…We know that what we have received, so [we worship] thanking and praising God for His gift of daily bread [especially in the Lord’s Prayer].” (1) God provided everything for Israel, his chosen people, and explicitly instructed them to bring their best gifts to the tabernacle in worship to express their gratitude. We are also called to demonstrate our gratitude to Christ, our faithful, most excellent sacrifice, by giving him our highest offerings—our best, most loving devotion, thoughts, conduct, and worship.

Purpose of Grain Offerings—Leviticus 2

“After the exodus, God spoke to Moses and gave him His law for His people. God knew His people would transgress His law, but instead of giving up on His people, He provided a means of atonement for their sin so they could come into His presence. The sacrificial system was that means of atonement. The first chapter of Leviticus describes the first type of sacrifice—the burnt offering. The second chapter describes the grain offering. The burnt offering and the grain offering were similar…Both the burnt offering and the grain offering had to be of the best quality, both were offered by fire, and both resulted in a pleasing aroma to the Lord, meaning that the Lord was pleased with the offering.” (2) But, “it has never been the offering itself that has pleased God; it has always been what the offering has represented. If the offering is an expression of penitence for sin, a desire for God’s forgiveness, and dedication to God in the heart of the worshiper, then God is pleased…God meant His people to offer sacrifices mindful of the atonement He was providing and would provide, and mindful of their dedication to the God they were worshiping…Paul wrote about dedicating our bodies (ourselves) to God, and he used the language of presenting an offering to God (Rom 6:13).” (3) When we consider the importance of daily bread to the Israelites, who had no way to plant new crops in the wilderness or purchase anything, their sacrifices of fine flour, oil, frankincense, and salt take on a new meaning. “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priest. And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” (Leviticus 2:1-2) God provided everything for Israel, his chosen people, and explicitly instructed them to bring their best gifts to the tabernacle in worship to express their gratitude. We have Christ, our faithful, most excellent sacrifice, and are called to give him our best offerings— our first, most loving devotion, thoughts, conduct, and worship.

Excluding Leaven

God instructed his people to bring him only unleavened flour or bread. “When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil…No grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the Lord.” (Lev. 2:4, 11) “The process of leavening involves fermentation, which is a form of decay and therefore is related to death. In Leviticus the realm of holiness, or cleanness, is the realm of life; and the realm of the profane, or uncleanness, is the realm of death. God’s people were to stay in the realm of holiness, or life; and they were to stay away from the realm of the profane, or death. Certainly they were to stay away from the realm of death in worship. Paradoxically, sacrificial animals were killed in worship, but the slaying of the animal was for the purpose of demonstrating that sin leads to death. As for yeast, it was associated with decay or death, so it was to be kept away from worship. Yeast is associated with corruption throughout the Bible. In Luke 12:1 Jesus said to keep away from ‘the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’ In 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 Paul mentioned sexual immorality, malice, and evil; and he referred to all of that as yeast. He said to get the yeast out of the church, because a little yeast permeates the whole lump of dough. When we come to worship, we exclude corruption. Scores of statements in the Bible emphasize that God’s people cannot offer acceptable worship to God if the way we’re living is not acceptable to God. Sinful living or thinking is yeast; it’s corruption.” (4)

The Memorial Portion, the Most Holy Part, and Salt of the Covenant

Some of the ingredients for bread were offered to God as a “memorial portion” The rest was meant to feed the priests who served in the tabernacle, and was called the “most holy part,” possibly to remind them of their calling of holy service to God. “And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the Lord’s food offerings” (vs. 9-10). “What exactly was the function of the memorial portion? It was not only to serve as a token of the offering itself, but also, as its name implies, to bring the offeror to the Lord’s ‘remembrance…to be ‘remembered’ before the Lord was to experience his favour. The grain offering’s memorial portion was therefore burned on the altar…serving as the offeror’s request to be remembered with favour when presenting praise or petition.” (5) Salt is not mentioned at the beginning of Leviticus 2 because it is assumed that Israel knew the importance of including salt in all their offerings. It is spelled out in verse 13: “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” “In covenantal contexts, salt underscored the covenant’s permanence. The covenant in mind here is that which the Israelites had just entered into with the Lord in Exodus (Exodus 20–24)…By requiring the Israelites to add salt to their offerings, the Lord provided a way for them constantly to affirm their covenant relationship with him. This affirmation would have greatly encouraged the people, by reminding them of the Lord’s steadfast commitment to be their covenant King. They especially needed this encouragement as they prepared to enter the Promised Land and establish God’s kingdom there. Only the presence of their covenant King in their midst could give them confidence in the success of their mission…The salt of the covenant [also] served to remind the Israelites of their covenant obligations. The Lord had chosen them to be ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ and the covenant laws he had given them had to be followed in order to show to the nations the Lord’s wisdom, righteousness and holiness.” (6) “They were symbolizing the continuation of their covenant relationship with God. That’s what we do in worship. We have a covenant relationship with God—the new covenant through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. When Jesus shared His Last Supper with His apostles, He said, ‘This cup is the new covenant established by My blood’ (1 Cor 11:25). When we come to worship, we remember the covenant we have with the Lord through the blood of Jesus, and in worship we affirm that covenant.” (7)

Jesus wants to be our Bread of Life, depending on him rather than a good roll or loaf from the bakery, or anything else in this world for our spiritual wellbeing.Will I demonstrate my gratitude to Christ, our faithful, most excellent sacrifice, by giving him my best offerings— most passionate devotion, thoughts, conduct, and worship? We pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread,” who is Christ. (Matthew 6:10-11) “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:56-58)

Related Scripture: Exodus 29:1-9; Leviticus 21:6; 24:5-9; Numbers 18:19; 1 Chronicles 23:15-30; 2 Chronicles 13:5; Matthew 16:12; Acts 10:1-4; 1 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 4:18; Colossians 4:6.


1. Moseley, Allen, “Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series,” Leviticus 2, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

2. Mosley, Ibid.

3. Mosley, Ibid.

4. Mosley, Ibid.

5. Sklar, Jay, “Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary,” Leviticus 2, Tndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014

6. Sklar, Ibid.

7. Mosley, Ibid.

February 9, 2023

Christ, Our Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1)

I’ve been watching two competition reality shows—The Ultimate Cowboy Showdown and The Great British Menu. Both challenge the contestants to perform in their area of expertise according to very high standards, with a specific goal in mind. In the first one, the team members have to complete a particular task in a trial, usually to finish in the least time. In the second, the chef has to choose the best menu item for each of four courses to meet the specific banquet “brief” for the season, with excellent gastronomy that will please both the veteran competition evaluator and four judges at the end of the week. In both cases, the more experience each person has in the competition, as the week goes on, the higher their marks, with increasing chances of success in winning. Those who focus on their own ideas of what is required or will be acceptable don’t win for lack of focus on the clearly stated brief. In the Christian life, the longer our experience with Christ, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, with a focus on God, the more we can appreciate and apply the benefits of our atonement. The more we live by God’s precepts and reflect his holiness. The more we are living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as he created us to be. God has given us his Word to instruct, guide, and correct our understanding, to serve as our brief or goal for life. We need to be accountable to his Word to refocus on his priorities, which he has clearly set before us. We win when we are fully prepared for eternity, and others notice that we are not living for ourselves and want to taste what God has “cooked” in us. God’s cowboys aren’t prideful, prejudiced, or passive—we go after the blessings of Christ with bold enthusiasm. But instead of proving ourselves with physical endurance, speed, or strength, we prove our spiritual growth with greater understanding, appreciation, and application of Christ’s atonement as taught in the Old and New Testaments.

Why study Leviticus?

“It is important to try to understand the rituals in Leviticus for two reasons. First, rituals enshrine, express, and teach those values and ideas that a society holds most dear. By analyzing the ceremonies described in Leviticus, we can learn about what was most important to the OT Israelites. Second, these same ideas are foundational for the NT writers. The concepts of holiness, cleanness and uncleanness found in Leviticus shed important light on how NT writers interpret the death of Christ…Certain themes are especially prominent in Leviticus. First, God is present with His people, a direct result of the tabernacle having been constructed. Second, because God is holy, His people must also be holy (11:45). Third, since people are sinful and ritually unclean, they cannot expect to come close to or dwell near the holy God. Contact between a sinner and divine holiness will result in death. Hence, atonement for sin through the offering of sacrifice is of paramount importance.” (1) In Leviticus Chapter 1, we find these ideas stressed: burnt offerings made to the Lord, a pleasing aroma to him, and the sprinkling of blood—all for the atonement of God’s people. God commanded Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord.” (Leviticus 1:2-3) “The word translated ‘bring’ in verse 2 is the causative form of the verb that means ‘draw near.’ God was telling His people to draw near to Him and to bring offerings to Him. Even when we turn our backs on God and break His laws, He loves us and pursues us to reconcile us to Himself. That’s the way the book of Leviticus opens. God provides guidelines for sinful people to come into His holy presence. The sacrificial system is God’s invitation for people to meet with Him. The one true and holy God is an inviting God.” (2) The Lord gave his chosen people, called Israel, God’s own son, specific instructions for bringing burnt offerings of atonement to the priest at the tabernacle. Do we highly esteem Christ’s offering of himself for atonement? How do we demonstrate our regard for Christ? Will we die to ourselves to live for him and his goals for us—to enjoy and glorify him forever?

God’s Brief For His People

“He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting…And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” (Leviticus 1:4-9) “‘Make atonement’ is of fundamental importance for what the ritual achieves by the shedding of blood, burning of the flesh, etc. While some take this Hebrew term as referring to expiation (the removal of sin) as opposed to propitiation (the appeasement of wrath), both realities seem to be involved. On the one hand, sin calls forth God’s wrath and results in the offerer’s needing to be ransomed so that the Lord’s wrath is appeased (propitiation). In this way, the sacrificial animal dies instead of the offerer. On the other hand, sin is also defiling and must be removed (expiation). The offerings that ‘make atonement’ are the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering, but not the grain offering or the peace offering.” (3) “When the NT writers sought to expound the significance of Golgotha, they most often did so in sacrificial terms derived from Leviticus and related priestly material…Whereas those animal offerings’ could not perfect the conscience of the worshipper’ (Heb. 9:9), Christ entered the heavenly sanctuary through His own blood ‘thus securing an eternal redemption’ (Heb. 9:12). (Indeed, it is only by depicting our Lord as both sacrifice and sacrificing high priest that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews can take account of the full implications of His death.)” (4) [The Lord] gives covenant laws to his covenant people so that they can be faithful members of his covenant kingdom. These laws helped them to manifest faithfulness in two ways. First, they let the Israelites know how to maintain covenant fellowship with the King now dwelling in their midst…Second, they let the Israelites know how to reflect the holiness of their covenant King, so that they could fulfill their covenant mission: being ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ to ‘all the earth’ (Exodus 19:4–6). In both instances, the goal was relational: to guide the Israelites in their relationship with their covenant King, as well as with those who live in his world. As Jesus would later affirm, the Lord’s laws always have this dual goal in mind (Matthew 22:37-40).” (5)

Jesus—Utterly Devoted and Consumed by God’s Wrath

Moses writes, “And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord…And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” (Lev. 1:9, 13) “The burnt offering was the most costly sacrifice: it had to be burned up completely on the altar. Unlike grain, purification and reparation offerings (of which the priests ate), and unlike fellowship offerings (of which the priest and the offeror ate), no one ate any of the burnt offering: it was all given to the Lord. The reason becomes clear once we understand the burnt offering’s purposes. At least two may be identified. The first is atonement…By giving the whole animal to the Lord, offenders acknowledged that their sinfulness before a holy God was so great that only a full and costly ransom payment would suffice. This in fact explains why the death of Jesus on behalf of sinners is described with the language of the burnt offering. Jesus is the ultimate burnt offering that ransoms guilty sinners (Heb. 10:1–10). (6) In his commentary, John Gill comments on how the burnt offerings specifically point to Christ. “Offer a male; and not a female, pointing at the Messiah’s sex, and his strength and excellency…the Son to be given…without blemish…denoting the perfection of Christ as man, being in all things made like unto his brethren, and his having not the least stain or blemish of sin upon him…The flaying of the burnt offering may denote the very great sufferings of Christ, when he was stripped of his clothes, and his back was given to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; and the skin of the sacrifice, which belonged to the priest, may be an emblem of the righteousness of Christ…… that robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation, which all that are made kings and priests to God are clothed with.” (7)

Our Living Sacrifice

“The burnt offering’s second purpose was to underscore the offenders’ prayers, a type of exclamation point to what they were saying. In either case – whether petition or praise – the burnt offering served as an exclamation point. Paul picks up on this idea in the context of praise when he exhorts Christians: ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship’ (Rom. 12:1).” (8) “We were buried therefore with [Christ] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) “‘Living’ means that [we] will not be put to death as OT animal sacrifices were, for Christ has fulfilled what was predicted by those sacrifices. Whereas OT worship focused on offering animal sacrifices in the temple, Paul says that spiritual worship in a broad sense now includes offering one’s whole life to God.” (9) The Lord gave Israel specific instructions for bringing burnt offerings of atonement for sin to the priest at the tabernacle because they belonged to God. We who belong to Christ are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. It’s our ‘brief’ from him, not just for a day or a week, but from now until eternity. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Related Scripture: Genesis 8:21-22; Exodus 12:5; Numbers 15:22-26; Leviticus 4:26;5:15; 6:12; 9:22-24; 17:11; 2 Chronicles 29:23-24; Isaiah 56:6-7; Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 2:22-24; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 5:1; 10:19-22; 12:18-24; 13:15-16; 1 Peter 1:2


1. The Reformation Study Bible, Introduction to Leviticus, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.

2. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

3. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Leviticus 1:3, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.Zondervan, Intro to Leviticus

4. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, The Offerings, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

5. Sklar, Ibid.

6. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 1:2-17, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/leviticus-1.html.

7. Sklar, Ibid.

8. ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid, Romans 12:1-2.

January 26, 2023

Moses, the Lord’s Friend

Is there someone in your life that you wonder how you managed to become friends with, someone in authority over you who is more of a friend than a boss, or someone very different from you, and you wonder how you are so close? Where I have lived for six years, some of the staff have become my friends because I can talk with them about almost everything. I especially appreciate meeting with them, my neighbors, and church friends face-to-face. It’s great to communicate and connect with many friends and family by phone, FaceTime, text, and email. But talking face-to-face is still the most intimate way to connect with those we care about. One day we who are Christ’s will be able to speak with him face-to-face—won’t that be wonderful? Now we depend upon the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to speak inaudibly yet perceptively to our minds and hearts. We are thankful for this, but we rely on him to help us discern his voice so as not to confuse it with the devil’s, the world’s, or even our own rebellious voices. However, there was no confusion about who was speaking when God spoke to Moses.

The Holy King of Israel’s Voice

Leviticus opens with this statement: “The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting…” “by an articulate voice, though it may be it was a still small one…out of the tabernacle of the congregation; from off the mercy seat, between the cherubim over the ark, where the glory of the Lord, or the divine Shechinah and Majesty took up its residence, and from whence the Lord promised to commune with Moses.” (1) The Lord spoke from the temple, from the place he designed for himself, and had Moses and his people build. God, holy beyond any human comprehension, designed the tabernacle with the Most Holy Place, the “Holy of Holies.” Here the Lord would meet with the high priest or speak from this holy ground to Moses. “Leviticus begins with the Lord summoning Moses to the tabernacle, much as a king would summon a servant to his palace. Indeed, many factors indicate that the tabernacle is not simply a tent, but the palace-tent of the heavenly King, dwelling in the midst of his people. The Israelites bring their tribute, just as a people would bring tribute to a king’s palace. They come and ‘stand before’ the Lord, just as one ‘stands before’ a ruler or person in authority. The tabernacle’s furniture and tapestries are incredibly ornate and unlike those of any other tent in Israel…The tent has a throne room – the Most Holy Place – in which the Ark of the Covenant is the Lord’s royal ‘footstool’, and the carved cherubim on top of it, his royal ‘throne’…The Lord’s holiness…does not depend on anyone else. It is completely independent. The Lord is set apart as distinct because of his very nature…Unlike anyone or anything else, the Lord is holy by virtue of who he is.” (2) How is it possible that Moses, a typical sinful human, could hear the divine voice of God? How is it that we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us? Only because of God’s grace and mercy and his loving liberation from our selfishness can we hear his voice accurately. The same voice that spoke creation into existence speaks his will into our hearts and minds. “And the Lord said…and it was so” (Genesis 1). “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim).” (Deuteronomy 30:14; Romans 10:8) God will speak to us through Leviticus, and the Holy Spirit is more than willing to give us the insight we need to apply its lessons to our regenerated minds and hearts.

Leviticus in the New Testament

In the “Commentary of the New Testament Usage of the Old Testament,” I found 275 direct and indirect references to Leviticus in the New Testament. Beale and Carson write, “Many…instances confirm Leviticus’s importance, serving as the background for Christ’s teaching and atoning work. Leviticus also emphasizes our holy God’s covenantal relationship with believers. By studying its original intention for Israel and its theological principles, we can better appreciate God’s holiness and covenantal relationship with us.” (3) Since all Scripture is “breathed out by God,” it behooves us to study the content of every book of the Bible from a gospel perspective—the reality in which we now live. “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.'” (2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Leviticus 26:12) As we move through Leviticus, we will discover just how vital its record was to Jesus and the apostles who wrote through the Spirit’s direction. The Lord spoke to his people through Moses in Leviticus; today, he also speaks to us through it, with added insight because we have the mind of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit.

Moses, God’s Prophet

Every time God had instructions for Israel in the wilderness, he used Moses as his prophet to deliver his message. In Leviticus, there are thirty-five instances where we read, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying…” A few include God’s high priest, Aaron, but most are exclusively for Moses. In the New Testament, we see clearly that the Lord chooses who will belong to Christ. Jesus prayed, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” (John 17:6) In the Old Testament we are told that God chose Israel to be his chosen people, forerunners of elect believers. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6) Just so, God chose all the prophets and leaders in a particular way to bring about his purposes through his grace, the pre-incarnate Christ, and Holy Spirit. Our holy, trinitarian God specifically called Moses to be his holy representative to Israel so that his word was followed in the wilderness. In the book of Numbers, we read of a time when Miriam and Aaron were jealous of Moses and questioned God’s sovereign choice of his prophet. They sought to hear the voice of the Lord, but when he spoke, it was of judgment for their rebelliousness (Numbers 12:1-8). “Christian readers may see in this description of Moses’ unique mediating role a foreshadowing of Christ, the prophet greater than Moses. [“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.”] (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37). This sets Moses apart from the ordinary prophets, who receive their revelations in vision and dreams. By contrast, God speaks to Moses mouth to mouth…like the trusted manager of a man’s household…someone with whom the owner speaks directly and explicitly, not in riddles (Num. 12:8)…Moses was allowed to see what most ordinary believers must wait for their death to see (Ps. 17:15).” (4) “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) As God speaks to us through Leviticus, let’s not only meditate on his truths there for holy living but embrace the wisdom of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the greatest, most faithful, loving, holy, and excellent friend we will ever have. God calls us to listen to his voice. “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:15-18)

Related Scripture:Exodus 28:1; 30:1-10; Leviticus 1:48; 2:1; 3:1, 5, 11, 14, 44; 11:44–45 Numbers 4:1, 17, 21; 5:1, 11; 6:1, 22; 7:89; 8:1, 5, 23; 9:1, 9; 10:1; 11:25; 16:40; Mark 9:7-8’ John 1:1-3, 14.


1. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 1:1, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/leviticus.html

2. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Page 37, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

3. Beale and Carson, Commentary of the New Testament Usage of the Old Testament, Digital version, Baker Academic, 2007.

4. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Numbers 12:4-8, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

January 12, 2023

The Gospel in Leviticus

It’s 2023–now what? Will we continue our routines, work, family activities, church attendance, and service as if nothing has changed? Well, that makes sense since we should always e making good changes in our lives, not only when the year ends. But, there’s something about taking a break at the new year for a fresh examination of our lives, which sometimes results in new activities, goals, or priorities. Such is the case for my annual meditations, independent of any Bible studies I may teach participate in during the year. Whenever or however we study, God’s Word steadies us as we move through our lives, especially in circumstances that might otherwise unnerve us. This year I will be studying and writing about the New Testament view of two often quoted books from the Old Testament—Leviticus and Deuteronomy. How did I choose this study? It’s a bit of a mystery. I came across many passages from Deuteronomy toward the end of last year, pointing me in that direction. When I asked one of my pastors for a recommendation for a commentary on Deuteronomy, he mentioned that he had an excellent one on Leviticus. My pastors have always had, and I pray, always will have a powerful influence on my thinking and plans. So, with great trepidation and much confessional prayer regarding my reluctance to study Leviticus, I realized that it is where I should begin. I’m unsure now if or where Deuteronomy fits in. One compelling reason I want to focus on the Book of Leviticus is its importance as the theological background for the substitutionary, atoning work of Christ and our holy God’s covenantal relationship with believers. My prayer for this study is that we will significantly appreciate God’s holiness and sovereign unfolding of his covenantal relationship with his chosen people in Christ. Leviticus demonstrates this through his divinely ordered sacrificial system for Israel. As a former Jew, I am particularly interested in how the Lord will deepen my understanding of Christ’s loving sacrifice for us.

Preface—Knowing What to Expect

God gave his people specific instructions for that night when the angel of death passed over Egypt in judgment for Pharaoh’s unbelief and refusal to liberate the Israelites. Moses told the people to gather together, kill a precious specimen of a Lamb, spread its blood on their door frames, and eat it. The Lord brought them to their freedom through the Lamb’s blood, with unrisen bread and what they could carry to journey to Canaan. But when God delivered his people from Egypt to enter the wilderness for forty years, he did not tell them what to expect during their wanderings journey. Instead, he gave them principles of faith and obedience to follow (which they failed to obey). With this in mind, I thought you might like some idea of what to expect this year from this study, although I can only share what I know now, which, frankly, isn’t very much. I pray that I will yield to the Lord as he would have me write the insights we will need as we journey together through Old Testament Law and Doctrine. Given the subject and content of this study in Leviticus (and perhaps, Deuteronomy), I will post devotions only twice a month in 2023–usually on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. But since you may be expecting a devotion today, I thought I would offer this introduction to the study. As most of you know, I am not a theologian but a Bible teacher. I am not a preacher but a believer and a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. I am not a Bible scholar, but a former Jew who practiced all the Jewish traditions for the first 17 years of my life. I do not know Hebrew, Greek, or any other original Bible language, but I trust our faithful Christian theologians who translated Scripture into English. All that said, I will continue to quote from Bible commentators rather extensively to illustrate, explain, or expand on the focus of each passage as we study. But, unlike my past series, this one will be exegetical; I will write about a chapter or similar passage for each devotion, in the order they are recorded. What the Lord will do is yet a divine, lovely mystery to me, which I anticipate will bring us all conviction as to God’s sovereign, excellent plan of salvation in Christ.

In Jesus’s day, the Bible was the Old Testament—it was Jesus’s Scripture and that of the apostles and his disciples. If Leviticus and the other books of the Old Testament were important to them, shouldn’t they be important to us? “Leviticus describes the entire religious system of ancient Israel. If we hope to understand how religion worked in Israel, we must understand the book of Leviticus. Leviticus provides the theological foundation for the atoning work of Christ. The idea of a substitutionary sacrifice receives its fullest explanation in the book of Leviticus. Leviticus demonstrates how important holiness is to God. Holiness is the main theme of Leviticus—God’s holiness and the holiness God expects from His people…Leviticus is a record of the words of God in direct speech with His servant Moses…The book states 38 times that the Lord spoke to Moses and/or Aaron. Also, 18 times the book records that the Lord’ commanded’ Moses, Aaron, and the people. Leviticus is important because it contains the very words of God in direct speech. The New Testament frequently alludes to the contents of Leviticus. At numerous points New Testament writers seem to have assumed knowledge of Leviticus, and readers of the New Testament need this knowledge to understand what the writer was describing.” (*) I hope you’ll pray about and look forward to studying Leviticus with me. “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 22:31-33)

* Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

January 5, 2023

Oh, and thanks to all of you who encourage me with your comments! Unfortunately, I don’t have time to reply to many of them, but know that it means a lot to me that you take time to let me know how these devotions encourage you.

The Blessing of God’s Presence in Our Future

ow do you celebrate the New Year? Do you think of putting aside the past year and all its challenges? The only way we can truly set aside the past without regrets is by learning from it or at least reconciling ourselves to the events that led to heartbreak, grief, conflicts, or disappointments. We don’t have to do anything about the blessings and celebrations of the past since they warm our hearts and minds whenever we remember them. Despite possible new challenges in 2023, God’s word instructs us to approach it optimistically. I love the African tradition of praying in the New Year with others overnight. Whenever I participated in the prayer vigil, I was reminded that we are Christ’s people, who have the promise of his presence, power, love, grace, mercy, and righteousness with us. Others who begin the new year as if they must conquer the world, succeed in competition with others, and achieve goals have little compared to us. As I close out this year of devotions on the blessings of God, I pray that we will more fully enjoy, appreciate, and eagerly obey God’s blessed commands, looking forward to our glorious future. Christ has liberated us from enslavement to our circumstances and the power of sin, Satan, and the world over us.

The Blessing of God’s Commands

When the Lord gave Israel his law in the form of the Ten Commandments, he prefaced it with a statement about his care for them. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2). God liberated his people from their enslavement to forced hard labor and religious persecution. The Israelites were under Pharaoh’s labor program to construct his buildings by hand while their children were murdered (Exodus 1). The Lord delivered his people through the blood of the lambs when the angel of death passed over Egypt. He kept them in his care through the wilderness and then in the land of Canaan. Unfortunately, instead of viewing God’s commands as a gift, revealing his character and desires for them to live holy lives, Israel—as a nation—disobeyed him. But God’s desire had always been to bless Israel with his presence and sacred statutes. In Leviticus, we read, “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” (Leviticus 26:11-13) God provided everything necessary for “the good life” with him. I am especially thankful and blessed today to have discovered the wisdom in Leviticus and Alexander MacLaren’s commentary on it, from which I will quote primarily. “May we not apply that same thought of the unbroken continuity of God’s gifts to the higher region of our spiritual experience? His supplies of wisdom, love, joy, peace, power, to our souls are always enough and more than enough for our wants. If ever men complain of languishing vitality in their religious emotions, or of a stinted supply of food for their truest self, it is their own fault, not His…So far as He is concerned the flow is uninterrupted, and if it come to us in jets and spurts as from an intermittent well, it is because our own fault has put some obstacle to choke the channel and dam out His Spirit from our spirits…He who gives is ever pouring forth His own self for us to take, and there is no limit to our reception but our capacity and our desire; nor any reason for a moment’s break in our possession of love, righteousness, peace, but our withdrawal of our souls from beneath the Niagara of His grace. As long as we keep our poor vessels below that constant downpour they will be full.” (1) In 2023, will we more fully enjoy, obey, and appreciate God’s commands, looking forward to our glorious future?

Christ’s People Don’t Fear Change God’s Changes

“It is [God’s] to substitute the new for the old. It is ours gladly to accept the exchange, a task not always easy or pleasant. No doubt there is a natural love of change deep in us all, but that is held in check by its opposite, and all poetry and human life itself are full of the sadness born of mutation. Our Lord laid bare a deep tendency, when He said, ‘No man having tasted old wine, straightway desireth new; because he saith the old is better.’ We cling to what is familiar, in the very furniture of our houses; and yet we are ever being forced to accept what is strange and new, and, like some fresh article in a room, is out of harmony with the well-worn things that we have seen standing in their corners for years. It takes some time for the raw look to wear off, and for us to ‘get used to it,’ as we say…Accept cheerfully the law of constant change under which God’s love has set us. Do not let the pleasant bonds of habit tie down your hearts so tightly to the familiar possessions that you shrink from the introduction of fresh elements…for they all come from Him whose love is older than your oldest blessings, and whose mercies, new every morning, express themselves afresh through every change. Welcome the new, treasure the old, and in both see the purpose of that loving Father who, Himself unchanged, changes all things…The great central truths of God in Christ are to be kept for ever; but we shall come to grasp them in their fullness only by joyfully welcoming every fresh access of clearer light which falls upon them.” (2)

Freedom From Enslavement to Oppressive Duty and Circumstances

“Jesus gives freedom from a slavish relation to God…Sullen obedience becomes glad choice, and it is the inmost desire, and the deepest delight, of the loving child to do always the things that please the loving Father. ‘I ought’ and ‘I will’ coalesce, and so there is no slavery, but perfect freedom, in recognizing and bowing to the great ‘I must’ which sweetly rules the life…Christ [also] gives us freedom from the power of circumstances. Most men are made by these. We need not here enter on questions of the influence of their environment on all men’s development…So Christians are ‘free’ in all senses of the word.” (3) God called Israel to enjoy, obey, and appreciate his commands after he liberated them from enslavement. Jesus calls us to enjoy, obey, and appreciate his call to righteous living, liberated from enslavement to our circumstances and the power of sin, Satan, and the world over us. Sometimes our Bible study and devotions are limited by our comfort with Scripture. However, we are called to change—to allow Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to stimulate us and confront our fear of exposure. In this regard, I hope you won’t be disappointed or odious when you open my blog in 2023 to find devotions on how God’s commands in Leviticus and Deuteronomy call us to gospel faith.

Our Future Blessedness With God

As we transition to a new year, one day will not make any radical changes in us and will mark no change in God. But God spoke through Ezekiel to his people, Israel. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27) One day, we will experience God’s presence fully, visually, and directly. “All effects of former trouble shall be done away. They have often been in tears, by reason of sin, of affliction, of the calamities of the church; but no signs, no remembrance of former sorrows shall remain. Christ makes all things new. If we are willing and desirous that the gracious Redeemer should make all things new in our hearts and nature, he will make all things new in respect of our situation, till he has brought us to enjoy complete happiness.” (4) “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (Romans 16:25-27)

Related Scripture: Exodus 6:6-7; 20:45-46; Jeremiah 7:23; 24:7; 30:22; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 14:11; 37:27-28; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 5:1; Revelation 21:3-7.


1. MacLaren, Alexander, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Leviticus 26:10, Baker Publishing Group, 1988.

2. MacLaren, Ibid, Leviticus 26:13.

3. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Revelation 21:1-8, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhn/revelation-21.html.

December 29, 2022

The Blessing of Christ’s Friendship

A few days ago, a neighbor of mine died, losing her fight with pneumonia. Some of us feel she was physically weakened after her husband died about six months ago. Then, a few weeks ago, her daughter rehomed her beloved elderly dachshund because she couldn’t walk the dog, given her need for continuous oxygen. Maybe she gave up, which is understandable because she knew exactly where she was going—to be with the Lord Jesus Christ. And, unfortunately, a few weeks ago, my friend lost her grown son suddenly in an unusual construction accident that took four lives. Deaths around Christmas are brutal. But if they lead us to consider Christ’s death—the reason for his incarnation—we can redeem our sadness and grief. Jesus, whose death was our hope and life, didn’t die for everyone but only those he calls his friends. “Jesus did not have to die. That is not true of us. We are mortal. We must die. But Jesus was immortal and therefore did not have to die. Indeed, he was life itself; for he said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6)…when the Lord Jesus gave his life for us, strictly speaking we were not exactly his friends. True, he calls us friends. It is also true that we become his friends. But we become friends because of his act, because of his electing grace toward us manifesting itself in the atonement and in the ministry of his Spirit by which our natural rebellion against God is overcome and our hearts are drawn to love and serve Jesus…When we see ourselves as God sees us, then the surpassing worth of the love of Christ becomes evident…we have advanced man’s depravity…sought human autonomy…sinned…and hate[d]. Yet, in spite of our depravity, Christ came to be our friend and prove his friendship by dying for us. As Paul states, ‘At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:6–8).” (1) Jesus calls us friends; we are those he has chosen, for whom he laid down his life and demonstrated the Father’s love. As we celebrate Jesus’s incarnation, we rejoice in his love which led him to lay down his life for us, revealing his Father’s plan of redemption.

The Greatest Love for Friends

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:13-16a) “There is something charming about the word ‘friend’ or ‘friendship.’ It is due partly to our desire for a close friend or friends and partly, too, to our remembrance of them. We look to our past and can almost mark the major periods of our lives by friends we have had…When Jesus says, ‘You are my friends,’ it is evident that he is speaking to us on the human level in terms we can clearly understand. And he is doing so—we cannot fail to see it—so that we might contrast his friendship, which is great and perfect, to even the best of the other friendships we have known.” (2) What is your criteria for friendship? Are you friends with those who agree with you politically? Are your friends honest with you when you do something hurtful or harmful to someone? Are your friends those whom you have known the longest, based on a common experience years ago? In the context of John 15, “‘I have called you friends’ speaks of a custom which came from the courts of the Roman Emperors & the Eastern kings. (William Barclay)…At these courts there was a very select group of men who were called ‘The friends of the king, or the friends of the Emperor.’ At all times they had access to the king. They even had the right to come into his bedchamber at the beginning of the day. These friends of the king were those who had the closest & the most intimate connection with him, & who had the right to come to him at any time.” Look how Jesus let these [disciples] into His life. Sharing his future secrets w/them. Sharing His own struggles, pains, & emotion with them.” (3) We are his friends! He has chosen, laid down his life for us, and demonstrated the Father’s love in unmistakable ways. This blessing is worth celebrating, not only at Christmas but throughout the year.

The Finality of His Incarnation

In a few days we will celebrate the beginning of Jesus’s ministry during his first incarnation. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Advent not only instructs and inspires us to celebrate Jesus’s first coming. When Isaac Watts wrote his poem, later put to music, “Joy to the World,” he had Christ’s second incarnation in mind rather than his first. “Although it clearly depicts the Second Coming of Christ, it doesn’t have any trivial connection with the Christmas story. However, contrary to popular opinion, there lies a correlation – a ‘Second Coming’ cannot be manifested without a ‘First Coming.’ The piece is all about fulfillment, depicting the notions of a supernatural phenomenon, of what could be achieved from its impact. Similarly, Christmas does not only dwell in the past attainments but also looks forward to the grace that was achieved subsequently. The song proclaims the ultimate joy that is yet to be revealed, establishing a strong connection with the festive period.” (4) We look back and then forward to Christ’s glorious end goal at his second incarnation. In between, he laid down his life for us. We have many reasons to be awed, singing alleluias. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14) “The character of ‘friends’, is applied to the disciples of Christ; and belongs, not only to his apostles, but to all that love him, believe in him, and obey him; to whom he has showed himself friendly, by laying down his life for them…whereby he has made them friends, and who appear to be so by their cheerful obedience to him.” (5) The Bible repeatedly calls us to praise the Lord. We are Christ’s friends when we do so. My neighbor and friend’s son’s life were taken by God rather than being voluntarily laid down (although elderly folks or those who are in great discomfort may wish to die). But their deaths should remind us of the sin that causes death—the reason why Christ died—to conquer death and sin. His life, atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming remind us how much our best Friend loves us! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:3-10) Happy Christmas!

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:6-8; 10:15; 14:2; Exodus 33:11; Isaiah 44:1; Matthew 12:46-50; Luke 15:2; 19:7-10; John 10:11; Romans 5:7-8; Ephesians 5:2; James 2:23; 1 Peter 2:9.


1. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, John 15:12-18, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

2. Boice, Ibid.

3. Bell, Brian, Bell’s Commentary on the Bible, John 15:12-18, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/john-15.html.

4. The Story behind the Christmas Carol, “Joy to the World,’ https://galaxymusicnotes.com/pages/learn-the-story-behind-joy-to-the-world

5. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, John 15:14, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/john-15.html.

December 22, 2022

The Blessing of Christ’s First Incarnation

This morning I was glancing at a TV show about a zoo as I prepared my coffee, fed the dog, and ate my cereal. I’m not usually interested in reptiles, but one clip caught my attention—a shot of a infant snake emerging from its egg. Given my general disinterest in snakes—unless they are near me—I never thought about how snakes mate and have babies. They are hatched in eggs, what a revelation to me. There are some things in life that we neglect or take for granted. The same thing can happen when we read the “Christmas” passages from Scripture, particularity Luke 1-2 every year, being unaffected much by the revelation of Christ’s incarnation as an infant. I’m glad our pastors chose John 1 for our consideration this year, to help us meditate more actively on the wonder of Christ’s coming in the flesh. But there is one passage in Luke 2 that draws me back every year—the account of Simeon and Anna at the temple when Jesus was brought for his circumcision, at the age of eight days. Perhaps these two individuals have captured my attention because I am of Jewish descent. Simeon and Anna were God-fearing Jewish believers who rejoiced in Christ’s incarnation while he was still yet an infant, with amazing faith. I pray that we will also rejoice in Christ’s first coming in the flesh. They praised God with relief that they were finally witnessing the promised salvation of Jews and Gentiles now. We look back on Christ’s perfect life as the God-Man who was willing to humble himself for the salvation of believers, past, present, and future, coming as an infant from his heavenly abode. Shall we not wonder in awe and joy, praising him?

Simeon’s Faith and Relief

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.’” (Luke 2:25-32) “That same Spirit that had revealed unto [Simeon] that he should not die till he saw the Messiah with his bodily eyes…made known unto him that that child which Joseph and Mary then brought into the temple to present to the Lord, was the Messiah; wherefore, in a rapture of joy, he took him out of their arms into his own, embracing him with all affection and respect imaginable…and blessed God; praised him, and gave glory to him, for his great goodness, in sending the promised Messiah, and long wished for Saviour; for his grace and favour, in indulging him with a sight of him; and for his truth and faithfulness in making good his promise to him…[And] what he requests of the Lord is that he might depart in peace; signifying his hearty desire to die, and with what cheerfulness he should meet death, having obtained all that he could wish for and desire, in seeing and embracing the Saviour…but now being come, he could take his leave of the world, and his entrance into eternity, with the greatest calmness and tranquillity of mind, having nothing to disturb him, nor more to desire…For mine eyes have seen thy salvation…a sight which many kings and prophets had desired, but were not favoured with; and also with the eyes of his understanding, with the spiritual eye of faith, as his Saviour and Redeemer…fills the soul with love to Christ, and a high esteem of him, and with joy unspeakable, and full of glory; it transforms a soul, and makes it like to Christ; gives it inexpressible pleasure and satisfaction…as the Creator of mankind, he is that light which lightens every man with the light of nature and reason; and as the Messiah, he is come a light into the world: the light of the Gospel, in the clear shine of it, is from him…he is also of the light of glory and happiness, in the world to come.” (1) “As Simeon saw the Christ-child, he burst into song under the influence of the Holy Spirit, singing one of the earliest of all Christian hymns: Do you see what is behind the song? ‘O Lord, I don’t have to watch this child grow up, I don’t have to watch him talk with the doctors in the temple as a lad of twelve years old; I don’t have to watch him multiply the fishes and the loaves to feed five thousand people to be convinced. I don’t have to watch him walk on the water or turn the water into wine. I don’t have to be on the Mount of Transfiguration. I don’t have to be an eye-witness of the resurrection, or his ascension into heaven. I have seen all I need to see. Now, let me die in peace.’ One glimpse of the Christ-child, and Simeon was ready to go home to God.” (2) This God-fearing Jewish believer rejoiced in Christ’s incarnation while he was still yet an infant, with faith and relief that he was witnessing the salvation of Jews and Gentiles. Let’s join him in wonder with adoration this Christmas.

Rejoicing in God’s Authority and timing

“There’s another little detail in this song that is unusual. In the opening line, the word for ‘Lord’ is not the one usually used in the New Testament (kyrios). Instead it is a very unusual word, one used only infrequently for God: despoteis. This is the word from which we get the English word despot. It means one who has absolute power over someone. The word has a very negative connotation to us in the English language: a despot is one who rules by brute force and who exercises tyranny over people. That’s not the point here in the New Testament. God is seen as having absolute authority over his servant, Simeon, and Simeon addresses God as his despoteis, indicating his total allegiance and total submission to the authority of God.” (3) Anna also enjoyed God’s timing and sovereign plan as she came into the temple “at that very hour,” into the area where Mary and Joseph presented Jesus. She had lived to an old age, at least eighty-four years, if not longer. “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38) “Just as Simeon was embracing him in his arms, and blessing God for him, and saying the things concerning him he had done; and who also came at that juncture, as he did, under the impulse, and by the direction of the Spirit of God; gave thanks likewise unto the Lord: praised him, as he had done, that he had sent the promised, and long looked for Messiah and Saviour; and that she had lived to see his blessed face, and this happy day; and that she should be directed to come in at this instant, and be favoured with this singular mercy of seeing the new born Saviour, and his honoured parents.” (4)

Two God-fearing Jewish believers rejoiced in Christ’s incarnation while he was still yet an infant, with faith and relief that they were witnessing the salvation of Jews and Gentiles. If they believed at the sight of the eight-day-old Christ child, how can we doubt him after his 33 years of sin-free, miracle-working living? How can we not wonder at his authoritative teaching and timing? Snakes emerging from eggs is an act of nature; Christ becoming flesh to live and die for our salvation is a supernatural act of God. “In [Christ] there is what is always matter and ground of consolation…being the mighty God, and so able to save to the uttermost; in his blood, which speaks peace and pardon, and cleanses from all sin; in his righteousness, which is pure and perfect, and justifies from all iniquity; in his sacrifice, which expiates all the transgressions of his people; in his fulness, which is sufficient to supply all their wants; and in his power, by which he is able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before God.” (5) “Let the example of the venerable saints, Simeon and Anna, give courage to those whose hoary heads are, like theirs, a crown of glory, being found in the way of righteousness. The lips soon to be silent in the grave, should be showing forth the praises of the Redeemer.” (6) “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.” (Isaiah 49:13)

Related Scripture: Genesis 49:18; Psalm 98:2-4; Isaiah 25:9; 42:6; 49:6; 57:8; 60:3; 61:1-4; Matthew 21:44; Mark 15:43; Luke 1:5-6, 68, 78-79; 3:5-6; 19:9-10; 23:50-51; 24:45-47; John 1:4-5; 8:12; 9:39; Acts 13:47; 2 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Timothy 5:4-5; 1 Peter 2:8-9.


1. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Luke 2:25-32, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/luke-2.html

2. Sproul, R. C., A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 2:29-35, Electronic Book, 2016.

3. Sproul, Ibid.

4. Gill, Ibid, Luke 2:36-38.

5. Gill, Ibid, Luke 2:25-35.

6. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Luke 2:36-40, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhn/luke-2.html

December 15, 2022

The Blessing of Advent

Are you celebrating advent this year at your church or home? Our church lights candles with readings on the four Sundays of advent, and this year our celebration is making a more profound impression on me; the longer I live through the “holiday season,” the more I appreciate the liturgy of advent and its focus on Jesus. Who doesn’t need and appreciate medications on his hope, love, joy, and peace? Christians dependent upon Christ for these eternal blessings enjoy the break from materialism to focus on Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a particular view for us to consider: “‘The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.” (1) We say, with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25) “The church, during advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people…Scripture readings move from passages about Christ’s return in judgment to Old Testament passages about the expectation of the coming Messiah to New Testament passages about the announcements of Christ’s arrival.” (1b) We celebrate the advent season to remember God’s gift of Christ, our eternal hope, love, joy, and peace in him to some extent now and fully when he returns.

The Blessing of True Hope

Not all churches or denominations follow the same order for the readings during advent; I will use the order of my church. On November 27, we celebrated our hope in Christ, proved through his first incarnation, as we wait for his second coming. “Christ…who may be called the ‘light’, because he is the author and giver of all light, even of nature, grace, and glory; and a ‘great one, because he is the sun, the greatest light, the sun of righteousness, the light of the world, both of Jews and Gentiles; he is the true light, in distinction from all typical ones, and in opposition to all false ones.” (2) “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:2-7) “A gift of divine grace to sinners…[Christ] is the invincible figure striding across the world stage, taking gracious command…A ‘counselor’ is one who is able to make wise plans. He is a ruler whose wisdom is beyond merely human capabilities…Mighty God and…Everlasting Father. Jesus is viewed as our…benevolent protector..and Prince of Peace.” (3) We celebrate the blessing of hope that Christ alone offers for our existence here and the eternal security that will vindicate our hope in him upon his return.

The Blessing of Pure Love

Last Sunday, love was our focus, and I can’t think of a better passage to remind us of God’s precious love than John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” One of the blessings of being alive during Christmas is our opportunity to worship Christ and celebrate his incarnation over two thousand years ago. “Here is the most famous summary of the gospel in the entire Bible…God’s love for ‘the world’ made it possible for whoever’ believes in Christ, not Jews alone, to have eternal life. God’s love for the world was not mere sentiment but led to a specific action: he gave his only Son, which John elsewhere explains as sending him to earth as a man to suffer and die and thereby to bear the penalty for sins…The purpose of giving his Son was to make God’s great gift of eternal life available to anyone–to whoever believes in him, that is, whoever personally trusts in him.” (4) As we consider our Father’s gift of Christ to us over the advent season, our enjoyment of his love rightly leads us to worship him more fully and lovingly through the fruit of his love in us.

The Blessing of Spiritual Joy

God’s people were exiled for their adulterous affections for false gods, having turned their backs on the one true God who ransomed their ancestors from Egyptian enslavement. They lived in foreign countries with strange languages and customs for seventy years. Many eventually adjusted to their new nations and stayed there. But a remnant was called back to the Promised Land of their forefathers to worship God with transformed hearts. Isaiah prophesied this truth to them in exile. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10; 51:11) As a former Jew transformed by Christ, I am particularity aware that our world has turned its back on God and there is little to encourage our faith. But, one day, like my Jewish remnant, we will have uninterrupted, complete joy with our brothers and sisters in a life of glory with our Lord. As we look forward to that day when he will return with a new heaven and earth, we have the Holy Spirit’s joy within us. We hear “the joyful sound of the Gospel itself…in immediate happiness with Christ; and in the resurrection shall return from their dusty beds, and shall appear before God in Zion above; and ‘with songs’ to Father, Son, and Spirit, for what each have done for them, in election, redemption, and conversion; and for persevering grace, and for being safely brought over Jordan’s river, and from the grave…it will be ‘everlasting joy’ indeed.” (5) Next week, we will celebrate the gift of gospel joy that we have only because of Christ and know that one day there will be nothing but joy in every aspect of life.

The Blessing of Global Peace

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9) “The wild and tame creatures shall agree together…figuratively of men, comparable to wild creatures, who through the power of divine grace, accompanying the word preached, shall become tame, mild, meek, and humble; such who have been as ravenous wolves, have worried Christ’s sheep, made havoc of them, breathing out slaughter and threatenings against them, as did Saul, through converting grace, become as gentle and harmless as lambs, and take up their residence in Christ’s fold, and dwell with, yea, some of them even feed, Christ’s lambs and sheep, as the above mentioned person: and a little child shall lead them; become through the grace of God so tractable, that they shall be led, guided, and governed by the ministers of the Gospel, Christ’s babes and sucklings, to whom he reveals the great things of his Gospel, and out of whose mouths he ordains praise… ‘for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea’: full of the Gospel, the means of conveying the knowledge of Christ, and of God in Christ, of his person and office, of his grace and righteousness, of peace, pardon, life, and salvation by him…the full accomplishment of it is yet to come…and the earth shall be lightened with his glory.” (6) We celebrate the advent season to remember God’s gift of Christ, our eternal, blessed hope, love, joy, and peace.

“While advent is certainly a time of celebration and anticipation of Christ’s birth, it is more than that. It is only in the shadow of advent that the miracle of Christmas can be fully understood and appreciated, and it is only in the light of Christmas that the Christian life makes any sense. It is between the fulfilled promise of Christ’s first coming and the yet-to-be-fulfilled promise of his second coming that Karl Barth penned these words: ‘Unfulfilled and fulfilled promise are related to each other…it is precisely in the light of the coming of Christ that faith has become Advent faith, the expectation of future revelation. But faith knows for whom and for what it is waiting. It is fulfilled faith because it lays hold on the fulfilled promise.’…The Lord has come to earth and will arrive again. This is the essence of advent.” (7) Take heart! “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

Related Scripture: Job 29:16; Psalm 2:6-9; Isaiah 22:21; 42:4; 49:6-7; Jeremiah 32:18-19; Micah 5:1-4; Habakkuk 2:14; Luke 1:32; Acts 5:31; 13:23-24; Ephesians 2:14-17; Philippians 2:7.


1. Christianity.com, What is Advent? https://www.christianity.com/wiki/holidays/what-is-advent.html

2. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Isaiah 9:2-3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/isaiah-9.html.

3. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Isaiah 9:6, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

4. ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid, John 3:16-17.

5. Gill, Ibid, Isaiah 35:10, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/isaiah-35.html.

6. Gill, Ibid, Isaiah 11:6-9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/isaiah-11.html

7. Christianity.com, Ibid.

December 8, 2022