The Law of Love
The heart of God expressed through Leviticus.
I wonder if you, like me, have ever struggled to reconcile the obvious grace and openness of the gospel, with the weight and requirements of the Law. Maybe you're from a generation where doing what you're told is expected, but I'm not. Sometimes I wish that I was more content to follow the rules... but... nah! Compared to the Law and the Prophets, I've never had a problem seeing the gospel as really good news. But, a few years ago, a good friend challenged me on my attitudes towards the Law, which started me on a quest to reconcile these two realities. I know tomes have been written on this subject, and so I won't attempt a detailed theological treatise here, but permit me to share one small discovery that I have made in the last few months.
My rudimentary understanding of the Law of Moses was, that in order for Israel to convince God to come close to them, they had to jump through a number of very difficult hoops. They had to kill various specific animals, offering up blood and other prescribed organs (but not the wrong ones!) and be very very strict with their personal disciplines. All this they did in order to make themselves worthy of God, so that He might come tolerably close to them, because that served some kind of benefit... perhaps war victories. Ironically, much of the time, God killed people because of their sin... so having God so close must have been something of a mixed blessing. We know God is good and God is love... blah blah blah... so obviously we should want Him close by and this is what they had to do to make that happen. The law. FUN. TIMES.
You can see, perhaps, why my theologically minded friend prodded me to go deeper.
"Neatly packaged within the pages of the Law, is the story of God as loving Father, who longs to enjoy the close company of his children."
On my most recent reading of the Pentateuch, Moses's books, I found the Holy Spirit opening my eyes to something profoundly different, and it was in Leviticus (that old favourite of my youth) where this reality slammed home. Neatly packaged within the pages of the Law, is the story of God as loving Father, who longs to enjoy the close company of His children. A Father who so desperately wants to be close to us that He will create the means to allow that.
My wife and I have 3 small children; two boys and a baby girl, aged 5, 4 and 18 months respectively. Bed times feel a bit like the Ironman triathlon and leave us utterly exhausted. Sometimes the boys come and sleep in our bed, but most of the time, I need to climb awkwardly down into a toddler-sized Thomas The Tank Engine bed, or worse yet, into a baby crib. I'm not made for a place like that, so I have to rearrange and realign myself to fit into that space. And not only me, but so do my kids. To fit my outsized form into their tiny space, my kids have to contort and arrange themselves in a way that accommodates me, that accommodates who I am, and how big I am. That accommodates my awesomeness.
This is far from a perfect analogy, but it happens to be a true story, and it in some way encapsulates the story arc I can now see so clearly weaved from Genesis to Leviticus. God cannot change His nature, He is who He is. He designed us perfectly capable of communing with Him directly, with no intermediary needed or religious ceremony required. And it was good! But we messed it up, and inadvertently became people who would be destroyed by His unadulterated closeness. So He had to give us some space, for our own sake. But His desire to be close to us has never wavered. God makes an offer to the family of a man named Israel that no other deity has offered... I will come and dwell amongst you.
You see, back on Days 3 and 5 of Creation, God had pre-prepared everything that would be necessary to accommodate His outsized frame within our tiny earthly space. More than just insuring against the downside risk of creating humanity, God had designed every grain, every plant, every animal to be welcoming to His presence, and to be useful in accommodating His nature in our world. More than just food for us to eat, or adornment for this planet, creation itself had an intricate purpose of reconciliation.
See Daddy God designing wheat, designing the grain, the germ, the bran, knowing that when it was bruised and crushed open, it would welcome Him in a certain way. Knowing the effect that cooking it would have. Knowing the pathways that would be opened in the spiritual realm.
See Him designing the cow and the bull, each organ, each part of it's body, knowing that when this part was cooked, it would release an aroma that would realign the heavens in a way that allowed God's God-ness to enter into our human-ness without destroying us.
"This is the story of a Father willing to contort Himself into far more than an awkward toddler-sized bed, just to be close to His children."
See your Father designing the sheep and lamb, intricately knitting each part of its body together, knowing that the blood flowing through its veins would prove oh-so-important to us for the ministry of reconciliation.
This story is powerful. This is the story of a Father willing to contort Himself into far more than an awkward toddler-sized bed, just to be close to His children. And while they may have to contort themselves somewhat to make room for Him, He's thought of everything necessary and laid it all out in crystal-clear detail in a book called Leviticus. A book that allowed for a people to receive what their hearts need most: the close tender presence of a Father.
For my own part, I eventually got sick of this contortion act, and so I bought my kids bigger beds, and upgraded our own bed from a Double to a King.
Which in hindsight makes me wonder if this analogy is better than I first thought...