February 19: Ancient Words, Future Hope
Leviticus 4:1–6:30; John 7:14–44, Song of Solomon 5:13–16
Atonement is appealing because we all have relationships we wish we could reconcile. The 12-step program involves forgiving and forging renewed relationships when possible. But the story with God is different. There’s an acute awareness that we can’t fix things with our Creator; we need someone or something else to do it for us.
Jesus is described as the atonement, the sacrifice, and the perfect offering. But what do these terms actually mean? In Leviticus 5:14–6:30, we learn what it means for Jesus to be a guilt offering: He takes the guilt of the people, incurred through their sinful acts, and takes it upon Himself. He becomes the “ram without defect from the flock” (Lev 6:6).
Jesus takes the stage as the Suffering Servant in Isa 52:13–53:12, fulfilling the events it prophesies. Isaiah 53:10 reads, “If she places [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days. And the will of Yahweh is in his hand, it will succeed” (my translation).
When He is arrested, Jesus understands that He is on His way to die at the hands of His own people (the “she” in Isaiah is “Jerusalem” or “Zion”). Matthew notes, “But all this has happened in order that the scriptures of the prophets would be fulfilled” (Matt 26:56). Jesus acknowledges it by saying, “the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners!” (Matt 26:45). This echoes Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with sickness, and like one from whom others hide their faces, he was despised, and we did not hold him in high regard.”
Leviticus seems archaic until it is put into this perspective. The oddities of this ancient book give us a connection to Jesus. He is the fulfillment of all Israel hoped for. Isn’t this the same in our lives? At first it might seem like the events are somehow disconnected or distant from God and His works. But upon a second glance—in retrospect—we see they’re a foundation for hope.
In what areas of your life do you need to connect with God’s work? What does the interaction between ancient law, prophecy, and Jesus’ life teach you about God and His work in our lives?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Moreover, the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any shall sin through ignorance, in any of the commandments of the Lord, (which ought not to be done) but shall do contrary to any of them, If the Priest that is anointed do sin (according to the sin of the people) then shall he offer, for his sin which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering, And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation before the Lord, and shall put his hand pon the bullock’s head, and kill the bullock before the Lord. And the Priest that is anointed, shall take of the bullock’s blood, and bring it into the Tabernacle of the Congregation. Then the Priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the Sanctuary. … But no sin offering, whose blood is brought into the Tabernacle of the Congregation, to make reconciliation in the holy place, shall be eaten, but shall be burnt with fire. (Leviticus 4:1-6:30)
- For there is no man that doeth anything secretly, and he himself seeketh to be famous. If thou doest these things, show thyself to the world. For as yet his brethren believed not in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you: but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. God ye up unto this feast: I will not go up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet fulfilled. These things he said unto them, and abode still in Galilee. But as soon as his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were privily. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And much murmuring was there of him among the people. Some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay: but he deceiveth the people. Hobeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews. Now when half the feast was done, Jesus went up into the Temple, and taught. And the Jews marveled, saying, How knoweth this man the Scriptures, seeing that he never learned! Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether it speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you a Law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered, and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered, and siad, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered, and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision, (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers) and ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the Sabbath receive circumcision, that the Law of Moses should not be broken, be ye angry with me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day? Judge not according tothe appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he whom they go about to kill? And behold, he speaketh openly, and they say nothing to him: do the rulers know indeed that this is indeed that Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when that Christ cometh, no man shall know whence he is. Then cried Jesus in the Temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and know whence I am: yet am I not come of myself, but he that sent me, is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am of him, and he hath sent me. Then they sought to take him, but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. Now many of the people believed on him, and said, When that Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than this man hath done? Then said Jesus unto them, Yet am I a little while with you, and then go I unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me, and where I am, can ye not come. Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? Will he go unto them that are dispersed among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What saying is this that he said, ye shall seek me, and shall not find me? and where I am, can ye not come? Now in the last and great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth in me, as saith the Scripture, out of his belly shall flow rivers of water of life. (This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed in him, should receive: for the holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) So many of the people, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is that Prophet: Others said, This is that Christ: and some said, But shall that Christ come out of Galilee? Saith not the Scripture that that Christ shall come of the seed of David, and out of the townof Bethlehem, where David was? So was there discussion among the people for him. And some of them would have taken him, but no man laid hands on him. John 7:14-44
- His cheeks are as a bed of spices, and as sweet flowers, and his lips like lilies dropping down pure myrrh. His hands as rings of gold set with the chrysolite, his belly like white ivory covered with sapphites. His legs are as pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance as Lebanon, excellent as cedars. His mouth is as sweet things, and he is wholly delectable: this is my well-beloved, and this is my lover, O daughters of Jerusalem. (Song of Solomon 5:13-16)