OT: Leviticus 7:28-9:6
"The longest way around is the shortest way home." (C.S. Lewis)
That, to me, is one of the theme's of today's reading.
Before I read I prayed, "God, please show me something here about the sacrifices. I just don't get them. I mean, I understand the concept of them, but I just don't get how You seem so different here than You do in the NT." One thing that occurred to me after I prayed and even before I started reading is that the Bible describes one relationship: the relationship between God and man. It is a long evolution, but it is all the same relationship, the same fulfillment of the divine purpose. And, as we have noted before, God's plans tend to take the long way. He doesn't reveal all knowledge to us at once. In fact, He is very content to draw the process out. We will see some of this in three of our four passages today. We have also seen it in the way He allowed the Israelites to be in bondage for 430 years. I mean, c'mon! Don't you think He could have made His point with a hundred or less? But God is in no hurry. He sees time differently than we do.
Which is why He is content to have His people spend months stationary in the desert, while a human tactician would see them as crazy for not actively looking for a home. God's plan, see, is not to bring them to a home, but to have a relationship with them. The home is just part of the larger goal. And as such, they must come to a knowledge of Him, which is what they are doing now in the middle of the desert.
Another theme of today is: mystery. We'll see it in Mark in a big way, but we also see it here in the ordination scene how God is a God of mystery. He finds that element necessary in His relationship with man, which I find interesting. He is clearly cultivating mystery on Sinai, with His intimidating cloud-coverings, His stern laws, His keeping of the people at arm's length. You also see it in these complex ceremonies. I picture these ceremonies as confusing and somewhat scary, with the elaborate robing scenes, the slaughter and dismemberment of animals, and the liberal sprinkling of blood everywhere. There is definitely an element of mystery there, and it seems to serve to keep the people at a fearful distance (spiritually speaking) from God.
Like I said, however, this is all part of one relationship between God and man that still continues today. In God's wisdom, the relationship has evolved to a level of intimacy of which the Israelites had no concept. But first, a little more mystery....
NT: Mark 3:31-4:25
After reading the OT, what strikes me about the NT is the way that Jesus Himself embraced mystery. I have learned a lot of reasons that Jesus tells parables: simple pictures help people understand deep concepts; He had to obscure His message from those in power until it was His time to die; etc. But in Mark, you see that Jesus is hiding His message from almost everyone. He explains it only to the twelve because, as He says, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!"
Considering that the disciples didn't understand the parable, it would seem that the whole crowd was on the "outside." And yet, considering Jesus' incredulous reaction to the disciples' ignorance, it would also seem that He assumed that there were people in the crowd that could have gotten it. Regardless, Jesus is cultivating mystery around God. He is purposefully not revealing God's truth to everyone. And yet, in His death, resurrection, and foundation of the church, He will go on to reveal that mystery in a big way.
My thought is, has "mystery" passed? Does God still use "mystery" to draw people to Him today? Today, we talk about how God is all around us and desires a relationship with each of us. We talk about how He gives us His message clearly in the Bible, and how we can see Him everywhere. We talk about how we can have an intimacy with Him that cries out "Abba, Father!" And yet, is there no mystery to Him? No distance? Has He abandoned that M.O?
I don't think so, and that brings us to...
Psalm 37: 12-29
As close as we get to God, His ways are still not our ways. As the psalmist observes, He allows the wicked to run rampant on the earth, "to bring down the needy, to slay those whose ways are upright." To me, this decision is both an example of God's mystery and of "the long way." We are currently surrounded by a world that God could "fix" right now if He wanted. And because He chooses not to, children get horribly abused, women get raped, men get tortured, and so on (and you can exchange those nouns anyway you want b/c all those people can experience all those different things). Like the 430 year Israelite slavery, this pain-filled world seems like the mysterious "long way" to me. I can just go ahead and tell you that I will never understand it. I can have an arsenal of weak cognitive answers, but my strongest answers will only appeal to the need for faith. And yet, I am "good" with it. Why? Because I have read the story up to this point. I see that God has a wonderful plan for His people, and I have been impressed with the plot development so far from Genesis to the Gospels. Seeing the story from such an aerial view helps you to understand that things never make total sense from on the ground. On the ground in Leviticus, you have a crazy man splattering blood everywhere. On the ground in Mark, you have a crazy Man spouting esoteric farming stories. Only with a longer view can you see how this mysterious "long way" has been marching purposefully this whole time to one conclusion: the reconciliation of man and God.
Well, this was short and sweet, and as much as I would love to tie it in to the "long way" and "mystery" themes, it's just not happening.
Instead, all I can say is that working hard is good, and it reflects well on our parents.