Sunday, November 4, 2012

Are you "dedicated to God"?

     Don't answer too quickly....I hesitated to write this post, because I was concerned (and still am to some extent) that I was getting into deep water, into a language and theological concepts that are "too wonderful for me" (Ps. 139:6).  So by way of disclaimer, please be gentle and take these words from an uneducated, unfaithful man as a dim glimpse of the fullness of God's truth.
     The language is, of course, Hebrew, and the daunting and deep concept in Lev. 27 is (cue the suspenseful music!)... dedication, the action of setting a person or object aside solely for the Lord's use, and how that something/one could be redeemed (literally "to buy back").  This probably seems a bit anticlimactic:  even today, we have people (mostly elders/pastors), websites, radio stations and last but not least, huge buildings reserved for religious use, so it's not particularly shocking to read about the technical restrictions on redeeming something/one already dedicated to God.  So the kicker is in these verses:
Death from above?
"But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the LORD, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the LORD.  No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death." (Lev. 27:28-29)
     So here we move from the wading pool to the diving board:  in ancient Israel, there were 2 purposes for persons/objects dedicated to God.  The first is well-publicized:  for worship, in a special ceremony or daily use.  But the 2nd is the shocker, offensive right from the first syllable:  God desired and commanded that His people mark out special objects and certain people for the sole, express purpose of destroying them.  No other use was permitted for these "holy" things (meaning "separated unto God and His declared use"), so no redemption was possible for these spoken-for items.
     A specific proof text is in order:  famously, the first king of Israel, Saul, is commanded to "go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." (I Sam 15:3)  Saul obeys partially, but in classic reassignment contrary to God's law, Saul decides that some of the livestock would be better dedicated to God through sacrifice (15:15;  notice Saul doesn't even try to justify keeping Agag the king alive!).  The same word in our text in Lev. is found again in vss. 21-22 ('cherem' with that Yiddish "ch" deep in the throat!): 
But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.  And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams."
No, the other barbarian!
     So as grotesque and barbaric as it may seem, to be consistent, we have to submit to God's right to do what He wants with what's His (Rom 9:21).  But how do we apply this for today... surely that's just in the Old Testament, right? Just for those bloodthirsty, violent Semites who butchered animals (and people) left and right?  The good news is Christians are not given license to slit throats for God's glory;  but the same brutal, violent language is found in the New Testament... with a different target:
"For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.... Put to death therefore what is earthly in you..." (Rom 8:13, Col 3:5)
     In a vivid analogy, the physical in the O.T. teaches us the spiritual reality:  while the specific people in the O.T. really did deserve what they got, the most important thing we can learn is not how bad they were, but how bad we are, and what our attitude toward sin (our sin first!) must be if we are to have the mind of Christ.  So to curb any latent self-righteousness, let's close with a favorite movie reference: 

Clint Eastwood: “It’s a helluva thing, killing a man.  You take away all he’s got, and all he’ll ever have.”    

Forgotten Extra:  “Well, at least he had it comin’.”   

Clint:  “Kid, we all got it comin.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments worthy of the calling with which Christ calls us!