Ezra 6:20 The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were all ceremonially clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their brothers the priests and for themselves.
This might seem like an inconsequential detail in the story, but it is actually quite significant. What it says to me is that they had learned their lesson quite thoroughly, and were not about to skip over any of the regulations laid out in the Pentateuch. The only problem with that was that a tendency to legalism was generated that resulted in Jesus’ day in the Pharisees, who followed all the rules but their hearts were far from God. Today we have small pockets of legalism, but most Christians seem to play pretty loosely with what the Bible lays out. The particular regulations referenced here were in relation to personal purity, and that is actively denied in much of society today. A few years ago Mike Pence was ridiculed for abiding by the “Billy Graham Rule” of not being alone in a room with a woman other than his wife. That hardly seems foolish on his part when so many leaders have been brought down by sexual issues. The priests and Levites here were taking Passover as seriously as it deserves, and were submitting to abstinence and rituals in order to give it, and the God who instituted it, proper honor. Most Christians today don’t even keep the Sabbath! I have heard Dennis Prager, who is a devout Jew, explain how he keeps the Sabbath, and it makes a lot of sense. Some Christians look down on Jews even to the point of antisemitism, but that certainly contradicts the Bible. It is quite true that they need to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah for salvation, but they represent our spiritual roots. We must never forget that Jesus and all His disciples were Jewish! Failing to honor our spiritual heritage is failing to honor God.
I’ve never had a problem with honoring the Jews, but in my personal life I have all too often failed to honor God. I have an innate resistance to legalism, but I must not let that keep me from simple obedience to what God has said. My own keeping of the Sabbath has been spotty at best, but then Jesus Himself pointed out that priests “break the Sabbath” because of their duties. Rather than specific rules and regulations, I need to be careful that my heart is submitted to God. As Peter put it, I need to “set apart Christ as Lord” in my heart. (1 Peter 3:15) We don’t often think of “setting apart,” but that is an expression meaning acknowledging something as special, as holy. I am very grateful to have a fairly intimate relationship with my Lord, but I must never take that for granted and dishonor Him by being flippant or taking things lightly.
Father, You are a far better judge of me than I am! I ask You to show me the various ways in which I need to keep growing, drawing closer to You, so that my life may indeed give You the honor and praise that You alone deserve. Thank You. Praise God!