Day 4 – All or nothing faith
Our youth Sunday School class decided to do something different this year. We wanted to open our Bibles, and to some extent our hearts, a little wider than might feel comfortable. It started out all fun. We laid our Bibles on our laps and I had the youth holler out words that stuck out to them in Scripture, as they flipped through the pages. I asked them to look for big words, exciting words, sad words, confusing words, hard words, and encouraging words. Sometimes I think we take for granted the words of the Bible because they have become commonplace to us. As a believer of many years and an avid reader of Scripture, I’m constantly looking for Law and Gospel, guilt and grace, sin and salvation. When I was young, I had no idea what to look for. Goodness, half the time now, that’s still true. I might read a passage about ransom, but have no idea what the word itself means.
Likewise, our study here is designed so that we glean something new from something we otherwise would have skipped over. Sometimes those things are desperately encouraging. Other times, I feel overwhelmed and perplexed by God’s language and thoughts. And that’s ok.
The Word was meant to be opened, whether comfortable or uncomfortable, understood or perplexing. God will always show us something. He is the Light.
Would we rather remain in darkness?
And still…Pandora’s Box. Sometimes that’s what we get when we open the Bible. Questions, questions, and more questions come pouring out.
Today’s study deals again with a difficult topic, from the Levitical law of the Old Testament. But we would be remiss to skip over it. I believe that God has something to reveal to us, even if only in part and confusing at face value. That said, let’s dive in. Please read Leviticus 27:28-29:
“But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the Lord, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord. No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.
This passage tells us that there are things that are not to be ransomed, not to be saved from destruction, because why? Because they are God’s.
In the Old Testament God devoted some things to destruction. Some things were absolutely not meant to be redeemed. This conversation is related to concerns we probably have all had about Old Testament warfare, namely, that there is so much of it! Goodness, but they fought a lot back in the day. It is a culture we are so removed from, it’s hard to wrap our heads around. To begin to understand it all we need to understand the Hebrew concept brought up in Leviticus- charam or cherem – “that which is to be given over to the Lord by destruction.”*
Let it sink in and flash forward to your own life to grasp the concept.
Sometimes we need a little cherem in our own lives. Sometimes there are jobs or material possessions or even relationships with others that should be utterly destroyed, that is to say removed from us, sent away, put on the trash heap- in order to honor the Lord. The scene from the movie Fireproof comes to mind. The main character struggled to overcome his pornography addiction. He dealt with it in a pretty cavalier manner until his eyes were opened and he recognized that it was destroying everything he held dear. On that day, in the film, he carries his computer out into the driveway and smashes it to bits with a baseball bat. A perfectly good computer, but better off as cherem devoted to destruction for the Lord.
In the Old Testament, things that were “devoted to destruction” were absolutely not to be ransomed. This was God’s command. Cut and dry. But that computer just seems so darn useful, you see…
The Israelites also felt the same. Instead of heeding God’s command, they often saved treasures, and sometimes people, that God did not intend to survive. You can see how it would be complicated. Just as in yesterday’s study we talked about the sacrifice of the Egyptian army, likewise, the Israelites would go to battle with real people, people with families and homes.
However, the cherem was created in the Old Testament to keep the Israelites set apart. The people that came against them in war, or those God sent them against, were slowly destroying them. They introduced them to idols, led them to all manners of adultery, utterly destroying children and families in one swoop or over time. At the very least these nations created complacency in their faith, and at worst turned them from the Triune God.
Here’s the deal: God values us enough to demand better.
The book of Isaiah can gives us some answers and some peace. Turn to Isaiah 43:11-13:
I, I am the Lord,
and besides me there is no savior.
12 I declared and saved and proclaimed,
when there was no strange god among you;
and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.
13 Also henceforth I am he;
there is none who can deliver from my hand;
I work, and who can turn it back?”
My Study Bible notation states, “As in the past, so also in the future, God’s plans will be unstoppable.”
God gets to be God and we don’t get to steal that from Him.
In the fullness of time, our God sent his own cherem. A redeemer, a ransom – Christ Jesus, our Lord.
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)
Jesus came and offered Himself for total destruction. It was confusing and hard for the disciples and the people who had to watch it. It invigorates and warms our hearts with grace, this sacrifice. But complacency, it does not create. God has set us apart with His ransom. Jesus has given His life, for our salvation, and now we live in a New Covenant. We can offer grace and forgiveness at times when we could not see it without Him. There are definitely still times we need to send some stuff, that which leaves us complacent, to the trash heap – things and relationships that lead us away from Him – but we see it with a new mind. The mind of Christ.
And so we keep studying, we keep opening the Word to understand, when it feels dark and confusing. This new covenant calls us to go and Live. Read John 17:15-17:
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,that they also may be sanctified in truth.
We are different than the Israelites. We are called to go fully and unabashedly into the world and to do it with Bibles open. We give Jesus our all, because He gave us every single bit of Himself.
All in, girls. Lift high the Ransom for all people. Share the message that destruction may last for a night, but resurrection comes in a sweet, sweet Savior.
Let’s converse freely. This is a difficult topic. Please share any questions or thoughts you have about today’s study.
*The Lutheran Study Bible, Concordia Publishing House