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God's Rules Have Reasons

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

When we read through the book of Leviticus, we see God mandating what is necessary to do in the various sacrifices and offerings that are brought to Him. He is exact in the method of sacrifice, who is to do it, etc. He not only discusses these things but also talks about what was to be done with the entrails, skin, dung, and other aspects of the animals that people tend to forget when reading about sacrifices. As we noted in an earlier study, since we have fewer people familiar with what it takes to process an animal so that the meat is suitable for eating, fewer think about what happens to the parts of the animals that are not eaten!

            God in His wisdom made provisions for every part of these animals. When we read such passages as Leviticus 4:11-12, 8:17, 9:11, and 16:27-28, we see God commanding the priests to take the skin, the entrails, the dung, and remove them outside of the city to be burned. This is repeated in Numbers 19:1-10 and other places.

            Why was this important to God to specify that the bull’s head, the skin, the entrails, dung, etc., was to be taken and burned? Indeed, we can comment upon a spiritual truth. No doubt, these actions foreshadowed the time described by the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 13:11-13. Just as the sacrifice was taken outside the city walls, so also Jesus was taken, and killed outside the walls of Jerusalem (Mk. 15:20-24; Jn. 19:17-18)!

            Might I suggest that this command also helped them in a physical way? Remember that these people did not know about communicable diseases, microbes, viruses, and other things we are aware of today. They had no understanding about how diseases might be spread! For centuries, many who had been wounded in war died excruciating deaths, not from their wounds, but from the gangrene, blood poisoning and other problems that crept up from the lack of hygiene in the surgery tents on the battlefields and in the hospitals.

            Have we ever considered the fact that God was providing a way by which men might be safe from disease? This came not only in the destruction of the animal’s parts that carried disease but also in the various washings (Ex. 29:17, 30:20-21, 40:12; Lev. 11:25-40; Lev. 13-15; Num. 19:7-10)? What about the statement that, in some instances, men are “unclean” for a day? With certain skin diseases, they were considered unclean for a week, etc. This form of “quarantine” allowed the sick time to bathe and time to change clothes. If the disease demanded a longer quarantine time, then this permitted the person to recover and not expose family members, the tribe, etc., to the same illness!

            Consider the fact that God forbade the people from drinking water that had first touched a dead carcass (Lev. 11:36). Might we venture a guess as to why God said don’t drink that water? Yes, I believe they (and we) could make a spiritual application to this, but might there also have been a physical, bodily reason why God wouldn’t want people drinking water that had first touched a dead thing?

            In Leviticus 13:44-55, we see laws concerning the leprous people. Notice that they had to cry “Unclean” as people approached them. Why? Again, notice God expected them to cover their upper lips. Why cover the lips? Is it not for the same reason we teach our children to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze? God went so far in this text as to say if the leprosy was on their clothes, then burn their clothes! Why do this? I think we understand now what God was doing.

            God’s rules are not arbitrary. Though men might not always understand the purpose when it is spoken, there is reason and logic for God saying what He has said. These few examples bear this out. In a time when men thought nothing of diseases and spread them to others, God knew about them and caused His people to make provisions so that they might be healthy in spirit and also in body!

            Once we understand this truth, look into the New Testament and think about the various rules concerning marriage (Matt. 19:4-6; Heb. 13:4), drinking (I Pet. 4:3-4), obedience to parents (Eph. 6:1-4), and numerous other statements of God. In light of what we have learned, we can know that God’s commands, His rules, are not just random thoughts. They have true meaning and purpose that allows us to not only prepare for the life to come but also allows us to enjoy life now!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

"Leaven"

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Throughout Scripture, God overwhelmingly equates leaven with something sinful and spiritually deadly. In my observation, leaven is considered as a “foreign” substance that was added to an otherwise pure offering or pure sacrifice. Thus, God said no less than 18 times in Scripture to stay away from it. There are only two exceptions to this rule in the Bible, to my knowledge. Only two passages speak positively of leaven. One passage is Leviticus 23:17, and the other is Matthew 13:33 (parallel passage: Lk. 13:20-21). When you read those passages in context, you can see why God made the exception in those cases.

            As we noted, leaven is condemned by God more often than not. In studying about leaven, we find God telling His people to make sure literal leaven was not in specific offerings (Ex. 12:15, 19, 13:7, 34:25; Lev. 2:11, 6:17, 10:12). In the New Testament, leaven was symbolic of false doctrine (Matt. 16:6-12; Mk. 8:15; Lk. 12:1) and sinful behavior (I Cor. 5:6-8). We are reminded on two occasions, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (I Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9). This means that sin has no natural stopping place! If we allow a little sin to creep into our lives, or into the church, or into a nation for that matter (Prov. 14:34), it will not be long until this brings great ruin to that person, church, or nation. Remember, sin brings death every time (Jas. 1:15)!

            When we read Leviticus 2:11, we see God telling Moses that when the people offer their grain (meal, KJV) offering, they need to make sure there is no leaven in it. Why is God this exacting? Perhaps understanding the spiritual side of this subject helps us to understand why. God did not want anything in the offering that would permeate or influence its environment the way leavening agents do with grain or flour offerings, just as He did not want the “leavening” influences of pagan or idolatrous worship in the people’s practices!

            A little later, we will read about God forbidding the people to marry the Canaanite people (Deut. 7). Why say this? It was because He knew such an arrangement would cause those people “to turn away … from following me” (Deut. 7:4). Yes, “a little leaven” can do much damage! Is there any wonder why there are continued warnings about adding to or taking from God’s word in the Scripture (Deut. 4:2, 12:32; Josh. 1:7; Prov. 30:6; Matt. 15:8-9;  I Pet. 4:11; Rev. 22:18-19)? Even minor changes can do significant damage to God’s revelation! If you are not sure about this, just ask Eve about what happens when someone adds a “not” to God’s word (Gen. 3:4-6)!

            God was very exact in what He wanted in the offerings. This was an object lesson to the people to show He is also precise in His teachings and what He expects us to say to others! Let us then learn the lesson about leaven and make sure that the words we say are true words, and not mingled with anything that would corrupt God’s pure message (I Pet. 4:11)!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

"Is There No Balm In Gilead?"

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

            One of the saddest verses, next to Jeremiah 8:20, is the three questions asked in Jeremiah 8:22. The Lord asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” I struggled with what was being asked until I came to understand that these were rhetorical questions. Interestingly, Jeremiah 8:22 is written entirely differently in the NET. There, we read, “There is still medicinal ointment available in Gilead! There is still a physician there! Why then have my dear people not been restored to health?” These translators chose to forego the ambiguity of the rhetorical questions and simply state the facts. Whether or not we agree with such actions is a discussion for another time. The point is that God was emphasizing to the people (yet again) that their transgressions could be healed if they would be willing to change. This was done by pointing out a physical truth to make a spiritual point.

            Using physical examples to make a spiritual point was how Jesus taught the majority of His time on earth (Matt. 13:34-35). His teachings are called “parables,” but in Jeremiah, this was not a parable but instead a rhetorical question to open the eyes of the people. Is there no balm in Gilead? “Balm” was used for medicinal purposes, and Gilead, and this region, was known for having an abundant supply. “Is there no physician there?” Again, in Gilead, there would be doctors in abundance ready to apply the balm to the hurting. Since a lack of balm and a lack of doctors is not the problem, then why are His people not recovered?

          The reason they had not been recovered is the same reason someone might not recover physically even if there is “balm in Gilead.” What is this reason? In order to be healed physically, those people needed to apply the balm to the affected area! If one refuses the medicine, do not be surprised if this person does not recover from the illness! In like manner, if Israel (and us by application) refuses to listen and apply God’s teaching, then they will never recover from the harm of sin and will die in that condition! Remember, they have already told Jeremiah “no” in 6:16, and it does not look like they will change anytime soon. Therefore, when Babylon comes to conquer, when multitudes die, when people are enslaved, and when the land is ravaged, it is not because the people did not have “balm.” It is not that they had no one to heal (physician), it is because they refused to accept God’s “medicine”!

           I hope that the application to Jeremiah 8:22 is apparent to us (Rom. 15:4). Though Babylon is not coming to destroy, we still face something greater than a physical threat, for we are facing a judgment day (Heb. 9:27; Acts 17:30-31; II Cor. 5:10; Ecc. 12:13-14). Sadly, there is a real possibility of people dying in their sins (Jn. 8:24; Jas. 1:14-15; II Thess. 1:6-9). If we die in our sins, who can we blame for this besides ourselves (Ezek. 18:20; Col. 3:25)? Is there no “balm,” the gospel, that tells us what to do to be saved from our sins (Rom. 1:16; II Tim. 3:6-17)? Is there not a physician, a “great Physician” who is ready to heal our spiritual ills (Matt. 9:12, 11:28-30)? Then why is there a world of people not yet saved? I think I know at least part of the reason is that those who are aware of the Physician’s prescription (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38) do not want to accept it! I say again, if we are sick and refuse to accept the medicine the doctor prescribes, then do not be surprised if you do not recover from the illness! While I know people can cite dozens of cases where people “wore out” their physical sickness with time and determination, there is no one who will “wear out” the spiritual sickness called “sin”! There is only one cure for it, and if you refuse the cure, nothing else will cure you!

            In the long ago, God, through Jeremiah, called out to his people to tell them that there is a way to be healed if they would accept, and they said “no”! These people are dead and gone and have died with their decisions. You and I are still alive, though! What will you do? What will be your response to the Lord and His plan for healing (saving) you from your spiritual ills? Choose wisely (Heb. 3:7-8; II Cor. 6:2)!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

"Peace. Peace"

Friday, November 05, 2021

            “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). God had to deal with false teachers in this time, trying to assure the people of “peace and safety” when no such thing was coming. Not in the immediate future, anyway! Jeremiah would face the false teacher, Hananiah, in Jeremiah 28, who claimed God would return the people from Babylon in “two full years” rather than the actual 70 years God had said (Jer. 25:11-12, 29:10; Dan. 9:2)! Again, here is a man trying to proclaim “Peace” and “Everything will be all right” (NET) when that wasn’t the case at all.

            Why might men like Hananiah and others want to tell people such falsehoods as “peace peace”? Could it be they thought men might pay them more to hear the pleasant message? Maybe they thought they would be more popular with the people? We know a message of victory and winning is much more popular than a message saying that we will lose! Jeremiah had the unenviable task of telling Judah that the best thing for them to do is give up and accept the punishment and be patient for 70 years (Jer. 27:1-11)! Who wants to have that job?

            Jeremiah had an unpopular job, but it was for the best. His message was from God (Jer. 28:9, 15-17); the others’ messages were not. In like manner, we face an uphill battle because “Peace, peace” is the more popular message! Just as in Jeremiah’s day, Paul warned of people who would “not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables” (II Tim. 4:3-4). Does this sound like the attitude we see among people today? Yes, it is alive well today, just as it was in days gone by!

            We must make a choice. Will we listen to those who call and cry for “peace” when there is no peace? Yes, we ought to strive for peace with God and peace among others (Matt. 5:9). Yet, remember that Christ said His kingdom would bring a “sword” among the closest of family (Matt. 10:21-22, 34-39). There is no “peace” to be had between God and Satan. They are diametrically opposed, as are their teachings (II Cor. 6:14-17). Let us stop trying to be a friend of God and a friend of the world when this is impossible (Jas. 4:4). It is high time we spoke the message of the Lord, that will hurt some, but bring healing to all in the end, as Paul did on the ship (Acts 27:10). At Ephesus, Paul said he spent three years preaching “all the counsel of God” and warning people, “night and day with tears” (Acts 20:27, 31). I wonder why Paul was crying? I wonder if he made those listening cry sometimes? What if it was a little of both? Why would Paul preach a message that caused people to “cry,” that made people “tremble” (Acts 24:25), and that caused some to run him out of town (Acts 17:10-15)? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to tell people, “peace, peace”? We could ask Jeremiah the same question. Isn’t it easier to just say, “peace, peace”?

            We know what is easier to say, but it does not mean it is a better message. The best message is the message that comes from the Lord (Jn. 17:17). The best message is the one that has not been diluted by men’s thoughts and feelings (Gal. 1:6-10). The best message is the message that tells us what to do to be saved and then encourages us to continue to be faithful to God (Acts 2:37-38; I Cor. 15:58; Matt. 7:13-14)!

            “Peace, peace” is, in our vernacular, sugar-coating the truth! As a friend of mine says, if you want sugar-coating, eat a doughnut! If you want the truth, listen to the Lord’s words (I Pet. 4:11; Jn. 17:17), and be ready to repent and to obey (Jas. 1:22-25)! Jeremiah preached the truth, but people didn’t want to hear this and were destroyed. You and I have a chance to listen to God’s word and obey (Ecc. 12:13). What will you do? Now is the time to decide!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

"Walking After Things That Do Not Profit"

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Jeremiah chapter two is a chapter where God demands that Jeremiah call His people to repentance. When we read Jeremiah 2, we see that God reminds them where they came from (v. 1-3) and where they are now (v. 5-8). Despite the fact God had blessed them, brought them into Canaan, and given them anything they wanted in this place, they still rejected God and turned from “the fountain of living waters” to a broken cistern (v. 13). These people were nothing like their forefathers had been when they first came into the land! Sadly, this happens to people too often! As a society, we digress and get worse (morally, spiritually) through the years rather than getting better. We are seeing that in this country, just as God saw it with the Jews so long ago.

Is there a cause for this? Is it possible that the sins that tripped up the nation of Israel also trip us up? When we read Jeremiah two, we see that God listed the specific problems those people had. For example, the people rejected Him because they refused to ask, “where is the Lord?” (v. 6, 8). In other words, the priests, those responsible for expounding the law to the people, were not asking whether or not God sanctioned what they were doing. Can you see a problem with how the priests were behaving?

Jeremiah 2:8 continues by noting that those who handled the law did not know God. Can we imagine such a thing happening? Those whose profession it was to handle the law of God (teachers) did not even acknowledge God! To refuse to acknowledge meant these people refused to comprehend, consider, discern, perceive, or have respect for God!

God said that “the pastors” (KJV) or “rulers” (NET) (i.e., civil authorities) transgressed against God. These were people expected to set the proper example before the people, and commanded to have God’s will read to them every day (Deut. 17:18-20). In this case, those who were the kings, princes, governors, and others did not respect the things God revealed and did not rule in a godly manner.

Finally, the prophets, the supposed mouthpieces for God, were speaking to the people through Baal! Prophesying “by Baal” means by his authority and not God’s authority. After saying something like this, is there any wonder why God would be so upset with these people?

After a casual reading of Jeremiah 2, do any of these things sound familiar to us? Friend, consider these following questions well. Are there not people who have little or no regard at all for what God says today? Are there not those whose profession is to expound the will of God, and yet they do not acknowledge Him? How about our civil leaders? Are there not civil authorities who have absolutely no regard for God? Even many laws passed today are laws that conflict with God’s laws! Finally, are there not those calling themselves preachers of God’s word who are actually speaking their opinions, the opinions of their creed book, synod, what is popular or “P.C.,” etc.?

As we see this occurring today, we must understand that we are in the same boat as the people were in Jeremiah’s day! We are doing that which does not profit. It is in vain (Ex: Matthew 15:8-9)! Let us make this chapter “personal.” What are we following? Who are we following? Are we walking after things that do not profit? The answer to this question is seen in how we treat God’s word today!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

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