Bless your heart, Leviticus
by Meredith Snoddy, Green Street Baptist Church
A couple of years ago, I was asked to write this blog post which first appeared here. As some staff members and I were praying, this week, over deep concerns - poor health, suffering, loneliness, tragic situations, financial loss, mental illness, spiritual lostness - this post, or rather these scriptures, came to mind. Did you know that "love your neighbor as yourself" was in Leviticus? Leviticus 19:18b, specifically. The holidays can exemplify negative emotions and hard situations. The Christmas message includes that - Jesus came to get messy, to walk with us through all that life brings, to look us in the eye and know our pain and struggles.
You, being a good neighbor, reaching out to and walking with your neighbor, with the love and hope of the gospel, could make all the difference. If you are struggling yourself - know that Jesus, the Sympathetic High Priest, checks on you again and again and again, whether you "feel" it or not. He wants you to know everlasting hope today.
As we look ahead to the New Year, would you pray towards engaging, lovingly and intentionally, in relationships with those around you? I know we are all busy, but the Creator of time can arrange our time, if we let Him. And, with the great tools of today's technology, we can set alarms to remind us of prayer requests, texting people to check on or encourage them, and much more.
My daily Bible reading emphasizes looking for Jesus and His scarlet thread of redemption throughout every book. When studying the Bible, you not only learn biblical history and the truth of the gospel, but who God is, who we are and what our purpose in life is as disciples of Jesus. To know Him, in relationship, is to love Him and thus be naturally driven toward disciple-making. Knowing from what He saved us and how much He loves us encourages a desire to share His love with others.
We start in Genesis and learn that Jesus was there in the beginning. Going through the Old Testament, we see mankind is a mess. Can you envision Jesus saying a little more than "bless their hearts"? Something instead like, "I'm ready when You want me to go, Father." He looked down and saw such need; He was willing and ready for the rescue. Then we come to Leviticus. Yes, Leviticus. Now before I get into why I love Leviticus, have you considered that God didn't need us? He wasn't lonely. He chose to create us, love us, send His son, Jesus, for us.
In Leviticus, for the good of His people, God gave laws, directions, directives on how to live in the world with one another and with Him. In Leviticus 1, God tells them to lay their hand on the sacrifice, the sacrifice that permitted communion with Him. Think about a child with an animal — once the child touches the animal, there's relationship. Giving up the animal for sacrifice would've indeed been a sacrifice. God is teaching us the appropriate response to Him — who is worthy and worth it. A relationship with Him involves sacrifice and the right response, our love and obedience. Then, we read of the variety of offerings for sin ... even unintentional sin. Stop for a second. God outlined all of this because He desires relationship with us, so He made a way, even sacrifices, for unintentional sin. What love!
What strikes me the deepest is how God told the priest to deal with the leper in Leviticus 13. When someone had leprosy, they were brought to the priest. The priest then loved on them, going back to check on the leper again and again until the leper was healed. Can you see Jesus here, in pursuit and healing of us?
If we are to imitate Christ, share Him and pattern our lives after Him — let's think about Leviticus, the priest and the leper. It's more than looking at a person and thinking "bless your heart." Today, in Christ, we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:1-10). We are to sacrifice our time and spiritual gifts to bring people to the sympathetic great High Priest, Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16). In the priesthood, we continuously check on people again and again as Jesus does for us. We love. We listen. Jesus continued walking with people through the mess and sinfulness. And, through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to invest in people, to make disciples of all nations, to love them (don't miss that Leviticus 19:18b says—“you shall love your neighbor as yourself”). We are liberated to set the captives free and bring the leper (literal or figurative) to the great High Priest who loves them so.