I’ve started out 2021 by reading through the Bible chronologically (very enlightening) and it’s given me a chance to visit some long ignored wrestles when it comes to relating to God through Old Testament eyes.
First to strike me in this week’s readings was a passage tucked into the end of Exodus.
Have I ever even seen these verses before? Pretty sure that I missed the part about the lost or distressed animals belonging to an ENEMY. Besides the fact that I love donkeys (I’d really like to have a couple of miniature donkeys some day) … I don’t think I like these instructions very much.
These verses are telling me to ultimately help someone who has hurt me or who actively seeks to do me harm. Someone who HATES me.
Sadly, I can think of a couple of people over my lifetime, especially in my years of working in full-time ministry, who have not liked me very much … and to be honest, I didn’t care them all that much either. We’d do the dance of ignoring each other and stay out of each other’s circles. Of course, in these situations, I’ve always felt that the other person was unjust in their hatred of me 😏, but there seemed nothing I could do about it but just go on with my life and ignore them as much as possible.
But God doesn’t make it that easy. If my perceived enemy has a need, I’m to help … I can’t just walk by.
I think He does and His point is that just because someone may not like me, I can’t let others suffer as a result. If it is in my knowledge and ability to help, I’m to help, even if it means the risk of having to be in my enemy’s bubble. Particularly, it is wrong to let the problems I have with one person roll over onto others who may need my help … to not help those in need because of their connection to someone I have problems with.
Of course, there is the possibility that I may win over that enemy … but even if not, God has instructed us not let others suffer no matter the situations … or mean people … involved. And of course, Jesus drives the point even further in Matthew’s account of the Lord’s teachings:
I can think of a situation a few years ago when I felt heavily pressed (you know, that you’ll-feel-like-a-skunk-if-you-don’t-do-it feeling) to take a gift to someone whom I didn’t get along well with and whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. I really did NOT want to do it and expected to have the door slammed in my face. It was an awkward situation for sure, but the gift was received … and while I wouldn’t say it was an instant turn around in our relationship, there was a thawing, an open door for some further healing somewhere down the road.
This all brings me to other thoughts my Bible reading has stirred this week. At first I didn’t think they were related, but maybe there is a bridge between the thoughts after all. I’m now in the book of Leviticus and am wrestling with how uncomfortable so many of the Old Testament laws make me, especially when it comes to all the different kinds of sin sacrifices and all the animals that died as a result.
These passages make me think I’m so glad I live in a New Testament world where I don’t have to jump through all those ‘legalistic’ hoops just to be purified and forgiven … to feel close to God. AND I’m really glad I didn’t have to witness those animal sacrifices.
It occurs to me suddenly that I may be missing the point … which I believe is that sin is costly.
Sin always leads to death. Whether a physical death, death of a relationship, death of conscious, death of innocence, and so much more … sin always kills something in our lives and hearts.
Back to the animal sacrifices … I think that the point that comes home for me is that the people of the days written about in Leviticus paid for their sins at the cost of their own possessions … of the things that were valuable to them. If they didn’t have the livestock to offer for their wrongdoings, they had to give what was valuable to them … money … to purchase them. Their sins cost them one way or another.
God painted a huge metaphorical picture for us … sin kills living things. Sin sucks life out of LIFE.
The metaphor grows bigger in that God prepared us through the Old Testament to see that His LOVE for His creation is so GREAT that He would Himself pay for sins by offering His Son … and Jesus agreed. He’d pay it all.
I think that the danger for myself as a New Testament believer is that without the ritual sacrifices of living things in front of me, I grow numb to the fact of just how costly my selfish decisions, my pride, my shortcuts to God’s blessings, my hard heart is.
Could this be why the Lord instructed us to take up our cross daily? (Luke 9:23)
I have a simple prayer today … open my eyes to see how my sin affects others … how devastating it is. And Lord, help me be willing to serve others who I feel have wronged me or who just plain are difficult to be around. Help me trust that Your ways are so much better than mine.