Leviticus 18:1-30; Mark 8:11-26; Psalms 42:1-8; Proverbs 13:24-25
OT: “The Lord spoke to Moses: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: I am the Lord your God. Do not follow the practices of the land of Egypt, where you used to live, or follow the practices of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. You must not follow their customs. You are to practice my ordinances and you are to keep my statutes by following them; I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and ordinances; a person will live if he does them. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18:1-5 CSB)
See the heart of Father God in this passage. He had rescued the fledgling nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and was in the process of leading them into the land that He had set aside for them. He didn’t want them to identify with their past, nor did He want them to identify with the Godless people in the land where they were going. He wanted them to have their own identity as people of God. He wanted them to be set apart and holy, just as God is holy. He wanted them to be His representatives in the earth – His people – His family. He wanted them to be blessed with His life, so that they could be a blessing to the rest of the world and lead the rest of the world away from the grips of evil into His loving hands. In order for them to be holy, they must abstain from the unholy practices of the Egypt where they were rescued from and the Canaan where they were going. To be clear, God then listed out the specific practices that He was talking about. In that list is incest, inter-familial sex, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality. Those weren’t uncommon practices. If anything, they were very common. There were probably Israelites involved in those practices – but they were not practices that were birthed from the heart of God. They were practices that came from mankind’s drive to satiate their desires, and the evil one’s desire to distance man from God. One thing to note is this: God didn’t require the Israelites to jettison those practices first as a condition of rescue. No – He rescued them and made them His people first. Then, after they were His, He let them know what continued life in His family would require. Lists like this tend to make people angry, especially if the lists name something they enjoy or are driven to. But lists like this aren’t there to condemn as much as they are there to lead people to life.
NT: “The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, demanding of him a sign from heaven to test him. Sighing deeply in his spirit, he said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Then he left them, got back into the boat, and went to the other side. The disciples had forgotten to take bread and had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then he gave them strict orders: “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”” (Mark 8:11-15 CSB)
Leaven is often symbolic of evil or false teaching. Jesus strictly warned His disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. The Pharisees were hypocritical. They were all about saying and not doing. They judged others and gave themselves a pass. They belittled and oppressed people in order to maintain their lofty status. Herod was all about embracing carnality and accepting Rome’s way of life and culture. It was the “when in Rome do as the Romans do” philosophy. Neither of those ways of life were from the heart of the Father and could not be allowed to infest those who followed Jesus. They are attitude that we must guard against everyday. They are attitudes that the Holy Spirit will point out in us, just as Jesus pointed them out to His disciples, in order to clean us and keep us Holy. We just have to remain humble and submitted to the Holy Spirit and not get angry, offended, or defensive when He brings them to light.
Psalms: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, “Where is your God?” I remember this as I pour out my heart: how I walked with many, leading the festive procession to the house of God, with joyful and thankful shouts. Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your billows have swept over me. The Lord will send his faithful love by day; his song will be with me in the night — a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalms 42:1-8 CSB)
This psalm is attributed to the sons of Korah. Korah is known infamously for leading a rebellion against Moses and being swallowed up by the earth to his death. These sons (or descendants) of Korah don’t identify with their father, but instead identify with the redemption they received from God. Korahites became doorkeepers to the temple, and some even became talented musicians that led Israel in worship. This psalm is written as one or some of the sons of Korah were feeling distant from God. These talented worship leaders who had led processions to the temple were now feeling distant from the God they loved. Instead of denying their feelings and outwardly faking it, they were honest with their feelings before God. Feelings are real and are signals of something that is going on. They shouldn’t be denied. But feelings don’t always tell the truth. Instead of trusting our feelings, we honestly bring our feelings to God and ask God, “why am I having these feelings? What do You say in response to these feelings?” Then God, by His Holy Spirit can give us His right perspective and can lead us from our feelings into life. The same goes for fleshy desires or penchants toward sinful practices – instead of ignoring them and trying to suppress them in our own strength and sweep them under the rug, we honestly bring them before God and ask Him about them. And He, as he hears the deep longings of our heart, will answer from the immeasurable depths of His love and mercy, and wash over us with wave after wave of grace. That is how we, as children of God walk in the newness of God’s life and remain holy as He is holy.