Psalm 48; Leviticus 7:22-8:17; Mark 2:13-28

Psalm 48  Another song of worshipful praise following a military victory.  “Great is the LORD and highly praised in our God’s town, His holy mountain.” (1) “God’s town” would be Jerusalem atop Mount Zion.  It is “the great King’s [David?] city” and “God in its bastions is famed as a fortress.”

So great a God-inhabited fortress that “the [enemy] kings have conspired,  passed onward one and all. It is they who have seen and so been astounded,   were panicked, dismayed. Shuddering seized them there, pangs like a woman in labor.” (4,5,6)  Given all the psalms of supplication where all the conspiring enemies seem far larger and more threatening to David, this psalm certainly delivers a victor’s satisfaction.

The last line of this psalm reminds us that God is outside time and that “this is God, our God, forevermore. He will lead us forever.”  This is the eternal reliability of God in whom we place our trust.  Would that I could be as reliable in return.

Leviticus 7:22-8:17  While the priests are responsible for executing the various sacrifices before the altar, there is one exception: “‘He who brings forward his communion sacrifice to the LORD shall  bring his offering to the LORD from his communion sacrifice. His own hands shall bring the fire offerings of the LORD,” (7:29-30).  For me this statement has two significant implications.  First, an act of communion is between God and the communicant.  The priests assists (7:31), but does not come between God and the person making the offering.  Second, even today we echo the act of coming forward for communion.  Not to the altar of sacrifice, but to the presence of Jesus Christ, who saved us.  (And why coming forward is far more meaningful for me than passing it around in the pews as we did in the church where I grew up.)

In chapter 8 we see the roots of ordination.  Beginning with ritual washing (8:6) –a literal baptism–and then the act of clothing Aaron, item by item, ending with the turban, and “at the front the golden diadem, the holy crown, as the LORD had charged Moses.” (8:13)  Aaron is then anointed with oil and a bull is sacrificed.  Aaron’s ordination notwithstanding, I also see why the author of Hebrews makes such a point about Jesus Christ being of the order of Melchizedek.  Because while Jesus has been ordained our Great High Priest, it is he himself who was sacrificed. The shedding of Jesus’ own blood eliminates once and for all the requirement for the endless ritual sacrifices we read here in Leviticus.

Mark 2:13-28  Jesus makes the same offer to Levi (Matthew) as to the other disciples: “follow me.”  While Peter et al were middle class fishermen, Levi was doubtless quite wealthy, and his act of following meant substantial monetary sacrifice. An interesting contrast to the rich young ruler.  And a party follows…

About which the religious leaders highly disapprove. Just like many religious leaders today.  I’ve always wondered about evangelicals who seem to disapprove of so many things, do with this passage.  Probably skip right over it.

Mark’s theme here and then more directly in Jesus’ answer to the question about fasting make it abundantly clear that Jesus came not to become yet another religious leader, but to go directly to the people, “those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”  Given the Jews long history of the priest as the official intercessor before God, it’s understandable why Jesus going directly to the people may have seemed so revolutionary to the religious leaders.  Not to mention that they were  being cut out of the process.  (Then again, they may have forgotten about the communion sacrifice which allowed a common person to come directly before the altar.)

Jesus is focused only on the end: saving the lost; healing those who need healing.  The Pharisees were focused on the means–the process–which had become the end in itself.  Something to remember when I complain about liturgy or the order of worship or the music, when the singular purpose of worship is to praise God and commune with his Son, who saved us.


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