Regulations; November 15, 2021

Leviticus 7:17 Any meat of the sacrifice left over till the third day must be burned up.

To be honest, Leviticus is probably my least favorite book of the Bible, and I happen to know it was for my mother as well. The endless lists of regulations quickly become mind-numbing, and even soul-numbing. However, each of the regulations had multiple purposes that we may or may not perceive. This one, for example, had the very practical purpose of avoiding foot poisoning, since they had no refrigeration in those days. However, the regulations regarding offerings as a whole had the overall purpose of teaching the people not to take the things of God lightly. Today in the US, things have gotten so casual that some pastors preach in jeans. It is not at all that our clothing can sanctify us, but all sorts of things can reflect our attitude toward the One we say we serve. Legalism for the sake of control is certainly destructive, but anti-legalism for the sake of license is at least as destructive. When King Hezekiah invited people from the Northern tribes to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, most of them had not been following the customs in order to be ritually clean. Hezekiah prayed for them and they were acceptable. (2 Chronicles 30:18-20) The point was that Hezekiah didn’t say it didn’t matter, he took it to the Lord and asked for His grace and mercy, and it was granted. We are indeed freed from the myriad of regulations laid down in Leviticus, but if that causes us to take God lightly, we are in trouble. The early Church dealt with this issue a lot, and it nearly derailed things a couple of times. The essential point is that God wants our hearts in unreserved commitment. Physical things can sometimes contribute to that, but they are never to be a substitute for it.

I have had a distaste for legalism for as long as I can remember, but I have also tripped up at times over the very real issue of familiarity breeding contempt. I too need to remember that it is the Creator of the Universe I worship! In His incredible grace and mercy He has called me as His child, so I call Him Father, even Daddy, but I must not let that degrade into flippancy. I had the huge advantage of a physical father who was both loving and worthy of great respect, so my starting point for relating to God was miles ahead of what some people experience. As a pastor in Japan, I have the heavy responsibility of leading and teaching people who for the most part have no Christian tradition in their background. I need God’s wisdom to lead them into reverence but not legalism, intimacy but not flippancy, so that their faith may grow strong on the foundation of a genuine relationship with their Savior, and not be an empty shell of traditions and regulations.

Father, this is a big issue. Thank You for my bi-cultural perspective, making it easier to see what is human tradition and what is of You. Help me indeed not lean on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6) but rather seek You out on every issue, so that Your will may be done in and through me. That is especially acute as we enter the Christmas season, which is so tradition-encrusted as to be idolatrous at times. Help us celebrate the miracle of You sending Your Son in ways that will open people’s hearts and draw them to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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