Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt. 6:12 ESV).
Several years ago my wife gave me a Bible. You might think that between two pastors our home would have plenty of Bibles, and you’d be right. But this Bible is different. It is organized in such a way to allow a reading of the entire Bible, all sixty-six books, in 90 days. Twelve pages every day for ninety days and you’ve done it. The whole Bible.
I ploughed into my “90 Day Bible” with enthusiasm and did fairly well for a little over a week. Then I came to Leviticus.
I won’t waste time with excuses – but Leviticus is indeed a Biblical ‘brick wall’ for all well- intentioned Bible readers. While I readily confess my own struggles with it, Leviticus does get a bad rap as the quicksand of the biblical canon. Perhaps we give up on it too easily.
Sin is Real, God is Holy
You may not be able to do this right now, but when you get a chance pick up a Bible and look through Leviticus. I’m not asking you to read it all. Read a chapter or two, beginning almost anywhere, and you’ll notice a couple of things before you’ve read very far.
First, you’ll probably notice the detail with which sacrifices were offered. That’s part of why we find the book challenging. The text describes the process of sacrificial rituals with excruciating care. You’ll read about what parts of the bull were to be burned and where the blood was to be sprinkled. You’ll find detailed information about scabs and bodily discharges, about what made a person unclean and all that they had to do to become clean again. No doubt you’ve heard the phrase “TMI.” Too much information. Such could easily be said of Leviticus.
But before you close the book, in either impatience or confusion (or both), notice this: In Leviticus sin is very real and God is very holy.
The two are integrally connected. If God is a big celestial Grand-daddy, then sin isn’t a very big deal. But when God is holy – truly holy – then our sin is seen as a real problem. We know something isn’t right. Something is keeping us from being able to come before God. God’s perfections are glorious. Our imperfections are glaring.
How do glaringly imperfect people approach a gloriously perfect God?
That’s the drama of Leviticus. In Leviticus people are working hard to come before God. They bring offerings and slaughter bulls and splatter blood here and there and stay outside the camp until the expiration date on their uncleanness rolls around.
God is holy and sin is real, and bridging the gap is hard work. ‘Gotta get it right.’
In Jesus we get another way of coming before a holy, glorious God. We ask for forgiveness. That’s what Jesus taught us to do. He gave us the words. “Forgive us.” All we do is ask. No more bulls, no more excruciating rituals. Just ask.
And there’s more. Jesus went to the cross. He bled there. A perfect sacrifice, a onetime death. And because of what happened on that cross you and I can know with certainty that the asking is enough. You can stand before God forgiven. You can live this day in his presence forgiven.
Have you ever found yourself working hard to make up for your failures? Did that hard work ever really leave you knowing that you were truly forgiven?
Why not try praying what Jesus taught us to pray? “Forgive us.”
It’s there for the asking. Thanks be to God.
We do not utter these words, O God, like an incantation. We do not say the words to get what we want. When we ask for your forgiveness, we do so because of the sacrifice made on the cross – and because we love your Son and want to be like him. So forgive us, we pray, and form the life of Jesus in us. We ask in his name. Amen.
One thought on “There for the Asking”
Outstanding, Mark. Leviticus 23 — the Feasts — though is fabulously interesting and prophetic. PQ