It is really hard for me to break the habits that were formed over decades of schooling. Somewhere in late elementary school I was taught to read to help me do well on tests. I was taught to read the reading comprehension questions before I read a passage so that I would recognize the answers when I came across them. Then as I was reading the text that was assigned I would stop whenever I came across the answer and fill it in. This practice lead to correct answers, and a shorter completion time, but I rarely was lost in the passage thinking my own thoughts about it and making my own connections, and I don't think I ever came away feeling like I really enjoyed what I was reading. When I study the Bible, I am afraid I have had the same tendency.
I think that this habit had made my Bible reading a little shallow. I look to see what questions are going to be asked and then skim the passage to find the answers. I am seeing the text through the eyes of the Bible study author and really just coming away with the answers they have led me to. I am making a quick strike to pull out the correct answers, write them down, and get on with my day. It makes it so much easier for me to turn studying my Bible into a quick task to be checked off my to-do list, and I'm afraid that it has led to a feeling of drudgery around Bible study some days instead of enjoyment.
As I study through the Bible, this time I want it to be different.
Each time I begin a new book of the Bible, the first thing I am going to do is to begin praying that God will really teach me and help me to know Him better through this book of the Bible. I would like to be more interested in what God is showing us about Himself than what an author thinks about the passage. I would also like to always be on the look out for what God is showing us about Himself, and how God is revealing his plan of redemption through Jesus in each book. I'm not sure that there is evidence of God's redemptive plan in each book, but I want to be watching for it.
Next, I am going to read through the entire book in one sitting (or two if it is a really long book) without stopping to read the footnotes, cross references, or to look anything up in a commentary or reference book. I just want to get a feel for the whole book. I'm not sure what translation I will do this in, I might try reading through The Message translation for my first read through.
If I come across something I have questions about I'm going to make a note to come back and look more closely, but not stop to try and find the answer on this first go through. At then end of this I will write down any impressions I have about what I read, as well as what I would like to know more about and use it as a guide for learning.
Here is what I came away with after reading through the book of Leviticus.
Impressions of Leviticus:
- In the book of Leviticus, the word "holy" is repeated again and again. It tells us that God is holy, and that his people should be holy.
- The law are given directly from God. From the beginning of the book of Leviticus we are told that, "The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting saying...."
- There are 6 main sections
- Cleanness and Uncleanness
- Holy Times- Feasts and observances
- Blessings and Curses
- Laws About Vows
- Some of the laws feel very applicable today, and are still observed. Others seem almost silly or arbitrary to me.
- I don't understand why God created women to have a time each month in which they are "unclean". It is His design and creation and I believe that He wants to be in relationship will all his people and yet he designs times in which they couldn't be in his presence.
- I know that this is how God was able to be in relationship with his people, and I think this was revolutionary in comparison to the worship of gods in cultures around the Israelites, and yet it seems distant, angry, and impersonal by today's standards. Where is my understanding lacking?
- Worshiping God involved all the senses. There were noises both joyful during worship and what seems to me to be brutal during sacrificial offerings. There were smells, the fragrance of burnt offerings, and of the blood of the sacrifice. There were images that helped the Israelites understand better their relationship with God and the requirements of relationship with Him- putting their hands on the head of the animal sacrificed in atonement and smoke rising like their prayers are two. Worship was active. They used their hands to bring their sacrifice. Put their hands to the animal's head. It was tangible. There were even tastes that went along with worship when the offering was one that involved a shared meal with God.
- God designed His own worship to involve all areas of their life. He chose both circumstances and observances schedule through seasons and stages of life to lead His people to Him.
Questions I would like to consider:
- What do these regulations and practices teach us about God; his character, his requirements, what He likes and dislikes, what He values?
- Was God correcting something in the life of his people through these laws? What was it? What do I need to know about the Egyptian they were leaving and the Canaanite culture they would enter to know how God was correcting their beliefs and practices and how he was protecting them?
- What did the tabernacle and camp actually look like? How frequent were sacrifices? I would like to know more details so I can try to picture what life was like at this time for the Israelites.
- What are the roles of priests? High priests? How were they chosen? How was God providing for the needs of his people? How was this different from the cultures around them, and how was it similar?
- How do we think about Jesus as our High Priest?
- How did Jesus interact with those who had the conditions or circumstances spoken of in Leviticus? What conditions or circumstances do we not see spoken about or to in the life of Christ?
- How does the life of Jesus look different from the law as given to the Israelites in Leviticus? How is it as expected?
- Which laws are continued in the life of the early church, and which are not? When does the church stop holding to the laws that they say no longer apply?
- How should we, as modern Christians think about the laws that we should keep and the ones that we can say no longer apply?
- How do we see temple worship through the Old Testament?
- Do we see ways that the laws were applied correctly? Those that were neglected?
- What did God's people do when they realized they had broken the law?
- Do we ever see God refine His laws, or change them?
- How do we continue to see God's laws protect?
- What were the festivals and feasts? What did they teach the Israelites? How do they point toward Christ?
- How should modern Christians think about festivals and feasts?