NOTE: I had a lot to say on these readings. Just an FYI.
Leviticus 19: This chapter focuses on laws that all people are to follow. There are many of them and I kinda want to list some of them. It seems like most rules are followed with the statement “I am the Lord your God” or some variation. I’ll come back to my thoughts in a minute:
- Revere your mother and father and keep the sabbaths (verse 3)
- Don’t create idols or cast images of yourself (4)
- When to eat a sacrifice of well-being (can eat that day and next, but not third day) (5-7)
- Don’t reap the edges of your harvest (9)
- Don’t strip a vineyard bare or gather fallen grapes-leave them for the poor and the alien (10)
- Don’t steal and don’t lie (11)
- Don’t profane God’s name (12)
- Don’t defraud your neighbor (don’t steal and don’t hold a person’s wages) (13)
- Don’t insult or mistreat the deaf and blind (14)
- Judge your neighbor (and others) with justice (15)
- Don’t slander and don’t profit by the blood of your neighbor (16)
- Don’t hate your kin (17)
- Reprimand your neighbor when necessary or you will incur guilt (17)
- Don’t bear a grudge or take vengeance on anyone, “love your neighbor as yourself” (18)
- Keep statues of God (19)
- Don’t let animals breed with a different kind (19)
- Don’t plant two types of seeds in the same field (19)
- Don’t wear a garment made of two different materials (19)
- A man can’t have sex with a slave who is designated for another man, but still not free – the man will have to bring a guilt offering (20-22)
- Don’t eat fruit from new trees within the first three years, set apart fruit in the fourth year for God, and eat it in the fifth year (23-25)
- Don’t eat anything with its blood (26)
- Don’t “practice augury or witchcraft” (26)
- “Don’t round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard” (27)
- Don’t make any marks on your body including tattoos (28)
- Don’t turn your daughter into a prostitute (29)
- Keep the sabbaths (30)
- Don’t rely on psychics or magicians (31)
- Wake up before the aged and defer to the old (32)
- DON’T OPPRESS AN ALIEN IN YOUR LAND, TREAT THEM LIKE A CITIZEN (33-34)
- Don’t cheat when it comes to measurements in length, weight, or quantity (remain honest) (35-36)
There are a lot of rules here for people to follow. And many of them aren’t followed anymore. Now I see why when people say that the Bible says homosexuality is bad, many people respond that the Bible also says don’t cast image of yourself (#2), don’t steal and lie (#6), don’t hate your kin (#12), don’t bear a grudge or take vengeance (#14), don’t wear a garment made of two different materials (#18), don’t have tattoos (#24), etc. This goes with the argument of why one shouldn’t just pick and choose what parts of the Bible are followed.
Many of the above rules can be applied to current problems in society, but I want to focus on the following rule: DON’T OPPRESS AN ALIEN IN YOUR LAND, TREAT THEM LIKE A CITIZEN (33-34). I was just talking with someone and I know I’ve mentioned this in an earlier reflection, but God (and Jesus) call on us in many places throughout the Bible to not oppress “aliens” in our land. Yet, this happens all the time. It has always been there, but it is really front and center right now because of the Trump administration and the push for a wall or to restrict the entrance of people from a specific country (all majority Muslim countries). It’s tragic that this continues to be a problem in society. Especially with the fact that whether people like it or not, we are a global economy. We rely on others. The world does.
As I write this I realize that one could easily argue that since I just said that we shouldn’t pick and choose what parts of the Bible are followed then why should we focus on how we treat refugees. I don’t necessarily have a response to that at the moment. Perhaps if I’m ever able to have conversations with others about my thoughts, then I can come up with a response.
Leviticus 20: This chapter shares the penalties for violating the laws from chapters 18 and 19. The penalty for violating many of the laws is death. People are put to death if they sacrifice their offspring (this also includes the people who turn a blind eye to this action); curse their parents; commits adultery (but not with a slave, just a free woman); sleeps with a parent, daughter-in-law, person of same sex, a mother/daughter pair, and an animal; or if someone is a psychic or wizard/witch. Violating other laws is punishable too, but not by death. Strange set of rules.
Leviticus 21: This chapter is about rules and restrictions for priests. One that I thought was interesting is this: “He shall marry only a woman who is a virgin” (Lev. 21.13). So…priests can marry? I already knew this, but it’s interesting that this is here considering the rules of the Catholic church. Another part that stood out was the part about how having blemishes or physical disabilities pretty much prohibited you to be a priest, or at least one to get near the altar. That helps explain why people with physical disabilities have been so mistreated by some people of faith.
Acts 8: We start to see the spread of the gospel to places other than Jerusalem in this chapter. The church is growing more and more into non-Jewish regions. It’s pretty interesting that this happened considering the fact that Saul was on a mission to imprison or destroy all believers. Yet, more and more people started to believe in God because of the miracles performed by the deacons and the apostles. One of the deacons, Philip, did some miraculous things in this chapter. He was in Samaria doing this. What makes this interesting is this little tidbit from the notes: “Samaria, between Galilee to the north and Judea to the south, was inhabited by remnants of the northern tribes who worshiped the Lord God and used the Pentateuch. Jews despised them” (p. 1935).
Upon hearing this, Peter and John went to Samaria to bring the Holy Spirit to all the people. Apparently the Deacons can only baptize people, not fill them with the holy spirit. We see another instance of greed emerge here. A former magician, Simon, who was baptized, wanted this power from Peter and John and was willing to pay. They refused and told him to repent because of his greed.
Philip, the deacon, is told by an angel to head south to Gaza. On the road he meets an Ethiopian eunuch and after talking with him and explaining the meaning of something from the book of Isaiah, the eunuch becomes a believer and is baptized. Philip was taken away from the “Spirit of the Lord” and he continued to spread the word of God.
More thoughts: It’s interesting to read this around this time frame. These people were facing imprisonment or even death because of what they believed. Yet, they continued to move forward and preach the word of God. Just as a reminder for if I ever look at these notes again, Charlottesville, VA was the site of a large protest by white supremacists, the KKK, and neo-Nazis. Watching all of it unfold on TV and social media was very disturbing. The fact that so much hate has emerged due to the election of Donald Trump is truly terrifying. It makes me worry for my children. It makes me worry for my friends who are minorities. It makes me worry for all minorities. To see that extreme hate march through my former town really bothered me. Through all that hate, something amazing did emerge. Several UVA students stood their ground. They did not know what they were going to face and yet they protected Thomas Jefferson’s statue on grounds. These protesters were holding tiki torches and some used them as weapons. Yet, these brave students did an incredible thing. Something else that has emerged through all of this is the amount of counter-protesters. Racism and discrimination are more visible now than they have been in a while. White supremacists feel emboldened by the election of Donald Trump and they are now presenting themselves. It’s important for those of us to stand up for what’s right.