Hello, everyone. 🙂
In my last post, I talked to you all about the Bible. While the Bible provides comfort, strength, and inspiration in those times when we need it most, it can also be very difficult to read. Sometimes it is scary, depressing, or just plain horrible. Sometimes it refers to things that make us uncomfortable. And other times, it is just…boring.
Yes, boring. Right now, I have been working on a “Through the Bible in a Year” plan, that breaks down the entire Bible into three hundred sixty-five tiny sections. The idea is that you read one of those sections each day (it takes about fifteen minutes out of my day, and believe it or not, sometimes I’m too busy to manage that. Hmm…that sounds like another good post: to take care of our more earthly matters, like homework and activities, or to always put God first? But that’s a story for another time). I just recently finished the book of Leviticus, which is the third book in the Bible. And, I’m going to be honest – it wasn’t a lot of fun.
The books of Exodus and Leviticus address the years the Israelites spent in the desert, after God freed them from Pharaoh’s harsh rule and led them out of Egypt. But God didn’t free the Israelites to let them go free and do just whatever they wanted. The trade was this: God freed the Israelites from Pharaoh, but that meant that they had to then dedicate their lives to following God and his commands. Which seems pretty reasonable, right? I mean, God was the one who freed them from Egypt, where they slaved under the rule of the cruel and unforgiving Pharaoh. When God led the Israelites safely across the Red Sea and washed away Pharaoh’s army, the Israelites praised the Lord, singing and dancing in His name. There was feasting and celebration for many days afterwards. They were free at last. (Exodus 14-15)
But then the initial excitement wore off, and their humanly instincts started to kick in. The Israelites started to forget that they had ever been slaves in Egypt, and began to do whatever they wanted. Sometimes what they did wasn’t acceptable in God’s sight. But those Israelites weren’t thinking about God. They were thinking, We’re free, right? That means we can do whatever we want.
Uh, not exactly.
God led the Israelites to freedom so they could follow Him as His chosen people, not run amok causing all kinds of trouble as they pleased. God needed to set those Israelites straight. So He gave them rules to follow to make them into the kind of people He wanted them to be.
But not just a few. A lot. Like, a whole lot of rules. In fact, the entire books of Exodus and Leviticus are filled with the rules God gave to the Israelites.
God ordered a tabernacle to be made, with an altar, and a lamp, a basin for washing, a courtyard, and curtains embroidered with a certain type of material and cherubim on them. He gave specific rules for sacrifices – atonement offerings, guilt offerings, memorial offerings, wave offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings…all kinds of different offerings. (Who knew there was more than one type of offering?) There were many, many rules for how the priests were to carry out these different offerings, and many, many rules and items to be made concerning the priests themselves. There were loads of rules concerning cleanliness, and rules about how the people were supposed to behave to each other, and that’s not even half of them.
Whew! That’s a lot of rules!
To be totally honest with you, it was very hard for me to get through Exodus and Leviticus. It was difficult, sitting there reading page after page after page (after page after page) of rules that God gave to Moses to pass on to the Israelites. It was difficult and tiring to keep my mind from wandering, to stay focused, to not get frustrated with the seemingly thousands of rules that just…kept…coming.
We tend, I think, to feel that way even in today’s world. At school, there are loads of rules, guidelines, deadlines and expectations that we must meet. They’re not always fun. In fact, they’re usually not. I often find myself tired of all these rules and strict expectations that come with being a member of society. Gosh, it would be so much easier, so much more fun, if there were just no rules at all! Just think! We could do whatever we wanted – eat dessert before dinner, skip school whenever we felt like it, sleep in till noon every day…
Wait a second. If we ate our dessert before dinner, we would be too full of sweets to get the nutrition we really need. If we skipped school, we wouldn’t learn the techniques and skills necessary to navigate today’s increasingly demanding business world. If we slept in till noon – well, there would be less time in the day to get things done! The truth is that rules are very important in order to keep our lives from falling into utter chaos and to turn us into the kind of intelligent, disciplined people that we need to be in order to be successful contributors to the modern society. Plus, rules help to shape us into the kind of people with the kind of lives that we want to have.
God knew that all those rules were going to make the Israelites into the people that He wanted them to be. He wanted them to be strong, smart, morally good people who trusted in Him so that they would lead good lives worthy of Him. (After all, they were His chosen people!) Sometimes rules aren’t easy to follow. As humans, the imperfect beings that we are, we are easily swayed by others to go down a different path than the path that God wants for us. I believe that God knows that too – since He created us! He knows all about temptation (just read Luke 4!). And the Israelites were no exception. Plenty of people lost their faith in God and began to do all sorts of things that they shouldn’t have been doing (for example, see Exodus 32, Leviticus 24:10-23).
Sometimes we grow tired of all these rules and responsibilities thrust upon us. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that. It is simply part of being human, to want to do things for ourselves rather than be told what to do. But when we start to think like this, we need to turn to God and ask forgiveness for choosing our own way over His, and ask for help obeying His commands. It is true that rules are not always fun, and we don’t always want to follow them. But we need to trust that God knows what is best for His children and that His way is always best. I’m not going to pretend that I know everything, because I certainly don’t, but I believe this to be true. Everything that God commands, even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense or isn’t a lot of fun, is for the best – because He and only He knows what is truly best for us. Same out in today’s modern world. For all the rules and guidelines we are given, we must carry them out obediently and with a patient heart.
Your friend, Olivia