12 June 2008

unacceptable sacrifices

At the church where I am pastor we have embarked on a campaign to read through the Bible in 90 Days, which has materials published by Zondervan.  The reasons for doing something like this are many and shouldn't have to be stated.  The novelty of the 90 days helps overcome many of the hurdles which make it too difficult for most people to ever read through Scripture (or even venture into certain areas of their Bible at all!).  So it comes as no surprise that many of my thoughts right now are centered upon Leviticus and Numbers, the primary part of my reading this week.

Although many people consciously look for reasons why the Torah has no connection to the church and thus seek for excuses to abandon these texts as applicable to Christianity, I continue to find that we are not as far removed from their spirituality as we would sometimes like to believe.  I believe I have found one such example. . .

Throughout the listings of proper modes of worship within the Torah, one can also find special emphasis given to those sacrifices which will be considered unacceptable to Yhwh.  Although churchianity would like to oversimplify this concept and suggest that all those 'unacceptable' sacrifices were linked together by improper attitudes/postures on the part of the giver, I believe that the text actually makes the specific actions of worship the key part.  (This does not assume that the attitudes and postures of the worshiper are not an issue, but a challenge to the notion that it all hinges on such.)

A case in point for this: Leviticus 10 and the death of Nadah and Abihu.  These were two of the sons of Aaron and were summoned to the priestly work of the tabernacle, specifically to present the appointed offerings before Yhwh.  What happens is that they come to the meeting place with "unauthorized fire before Yhwh" (v. 1).  In response to this, Yhwh authorizes his own fire to destroy them in the tabernacle (v. 2).  Certainly, the stakes here are much higher than their attitudes of worship, for it appears that they come with the best intentions to honor Yhwh but do so without first considering Yhwh's instructions - like father, like sons (see Exodus 32, same issue).  

It becomes clear that Yhwh has given a specific means by which we are to celebrate him, approach him, and minister on his behalf.  These means always have pointed reasons to them, many of which are worked out through the remainder of Israel's narrative.  And contrary to the failed belief of many churches, these continue to be worked out in the life of the church.  But the issue which connects *us* to *them* is that the church has fallen into this mode of 'whatever-is-done-as-an-act-of-god-directed-spirituality-is-good' and forget that most of our inherent behavior as humanity is despicable before Yhwh.  That is why he summons us to something greater; he calls us into his presence and outside of ours.  I am afraid to say that the church has come before Yhwh with a mentality of 'this is how we will worship' and the hell with whatever comes from Word and Spirit.

In our little congregation, so many of the traditional aspects of a church remain intact even though there is little to commend this group of true spirituality.  For we have decided that we will dictate to God what our worship and service should be rather than coming before him as a community devoted to Scripture and prayer and kingdom.  Thus our Bible in 90 Days campaign is more than a novel way to fill a summer; it is a decisive maneuver in a spiritual battle to keep the drought of Yhwh's word from overtaking us (cf. Amos 8:11-14).  I hope I do not stand alone.

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