Have you been hurt, rejected, or persecuted for your faith? How should a believer respond to such treatment? Check out today’s New Testament reading and see how keeping an eternal perspective makes all the difference.
Leviticus 23 & 24
Leviticus 23 & 24:
Does He really “occupy” your life?
Chapter 23 gives instructions concerning the feasts that Israel was to celebrate. These feasts acknowledged and helped them remember God’s sovereign work in their lives, just as Easter and Christmas should do for us. That’s part of the tragedy with the commercialization of those holidays. Easter has become more about bunnies and eggs and less about Christ’s resurrection. Christmas is more about “what will I get” than remembering that the Creator of the Universe humbled Himself to be born in a stable as a little baby with dirty diapers, to grow to be a boy who respected and obeyed His parents, and finally, to be a man who was willing to be beaten, stripped and crucified for me and you!
Notice that the feasts and the sacrifices involved food: meat and grain, oil and wine, things used in the preparation of a meal. Remember that God repeatedly told His people He desired to dwell with them. In Revelation 3.20 Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” 1 Corinthians 6.19 says that we are the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” And in John 1.14 it says that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us.”
That word “dwelt” comes from a root word meaning “to tent or encamp, to occupy (as a mansion) or to reside as God did in the Tabernacle of old. His dwelling with us speaks of protection and communion.
Does He really “occupy” your life? Or does He have to stay in the back room most of the time? Maybe He’s only with you on Sundays? Or maybe you say “no, He’s here all the time! I’m always talking about God and church!”
Then the question becomes, how are you doing at living your life in a way that makes Him pleased to be there? Are you going places, watching things, reading things, listening to things or saying things that grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in your “temple”? In other words, does your temple reflect the One who lives there?
Chapter 24 talks about punishment for crimes. In certain cases, it was the death penalty. Verse 20 says “eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” This had to do with the punishment for crimes, not personal retaliation. When it came to civil and legal matters, the punishment was to fit the crime. But in Matthew 5, in the context of personal relationships, Jesus quoted that verse and then said, “whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” In other words, be willing to forgive, even though it carries the risk of being sinned against again.
Vengeance belongs to the Lord
David prayed that God would deal with those who do evil. He recognized that ultimately dealing with evil men was God’s job. In Romans 12.19-21, Paul said, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Foolish or wise
“He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray. Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.” The fool disregards correction, spreads slander and is deceitful, but a wise man is teachable.
Keeping an eternal perspective
Verse 4 says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Maybe you’ve experienced this first hand.
Maybe you got saved and excited about the things of God. Then God began to work in your life. You started growing and experiencing His blessings. Maybe you began to share with your friends and family members because you wanted them to experience what you have. Instead of being excited, those you care most about often become critical, even angry. Now they call you “self-righteous” or “goody-two-shoes.” Take heart, you’re in good company!
1 Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
4 But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” 5 Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.
Eventually, many who rejected Him as Messiah called for His death. But as He hung on that cross, He said, “Father, forgive them …” That should be our attitude as well.
Paul said, “2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col. 3.2-4).
Knowing that our lives are hidden in Christ and we’ll spend eternity with Him, we can forgive those who persecute us. We can choose to overcome evil with good and turn the other cheek when offended. We can pray that those who hurt us may come out of the snare of the devil who has held them captive (2 Tim. 2.26). Let’s keep an eternal perspective. Their eternity may hang in the balance.