Got Questions? Look to God’s Grace

     I admit that reading through the book of Leviticus is a bit like walking through a time that long since has passed. Many of the 613 laws identified appear to no longer apply for living in the twenty-first century. For example, the prohibition to eat a steak cooked any less than medium well seems a bit too circumspect (Leviticus 17:10), let alone that the person who defies this law is to be cut off from the rest of society. On the other hand, treating and loving an immigrant who lives within the borders of one’s land as a citizen is a matter that is quite pertinent to life today (Leviticus 19:34).
     While one of these laws appears outdated, the other seems rather apropos. Yet, amidst these Levitical laws is this decree: “You must keep all my rules and all my regulations, and do them so that the land I am bringing you to…will not vomit you out” (Leviticus 20:22, CEB). This singular mandate would lead one to conclude that whether antiquated or not, every law must staunchly be observed.
     However, I have learned that when interpreting the Scriptures every instruction should be vetted through a singular question. Is this passage a description of the day and time or is it a prescription to be obeyed for all time? For example, Moses insisted the Israelites keep all rules and regulations as they entered the Promised Land. The reason for this edict was to ensure that the Israelites would act differently from the pagans who previously had occupied the Promised Land. Moses wanted Israel to be a holy people, meaning a people who were set apart and distinct from the others around them.
     Such things having been said, interpreting the Bible is not for the faint of heart and mind. We continually must wrestle with the how a particular passage should be understood by discerning whether the text is describing the context of its day and time or if the text is to be conformed to at all times. Prohibiting a priest from shaving his head bald is a contextual matter (Leviticus 21:5), whereas Jesus’ admonition to love one another (John 15:12) is a command to be obeyed in every matter.
     Some of the greatest conflicts facing the church today deal with how we interpret the Bible. John Wesley faced a similar challenge in his day. His counsel to the church was to use the resources of human reason, experience, and tradition as means of elucidating the Scriptures. Additionally, Wesley encouraged Christians to leverage the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to illuminate difficult passages.
     Unfortunately, there is no simple solution when it comes to biblical interpretation. For this reason, we must each approach the Scriptures with humility and a willingness to admit when we are not certain. In such instances we should turn always to God for grace.
Grace & Peace,
Pastor David