There are a lot of details stipulated in the law in Leviticus 19. For example, in verse 19 (NIV), it says, “Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” How can we understand what this means? Each time we read a portion of scripture, we have a person lead the discussion by sharing some thoughts about the chapter and asking questions that they may have. Then we all engage in discussion.
The question raised by the woman who was leading our Bible Study was that she often talks to her atheist friends and they argued with her saying that: “The accounts in the Old Testament are really behind the times, you see, the hybrid wheat has saved a lot of people’s lives. But the Bible wrote that you cannot cross two different seeds. It’s really outdated.”
How can we come to an understanding of this situation? Imagine if the Lord Jesus was here today and faced with this question. How would He answer? Another woman asked the question, “Should we use genetic modification?” We may not know exactly how the Lord would answer, but we do know that when the Pharisees, teachers of the law, elders, and chief priests challenged Jesus’ behavior in eating with tax collectors and prostitutes that the same principles can apply.
Based on the principle described in Leviticus 19, let’s take a look. Jesus is a Jew. The Jews should not have dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus is also a man, and a man should not talk with a Samaritan woman, but He had done this. When He did this, not only did his disciples express surprise, but even the Samaritan woman was shocked. She said, “Are you not a Jew? Why did you ask a Samaritan woman for a drink?” This clearly reveals that the Jews didn’t speak with the Samaritans at that time. In addition, the analogy in the parable of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus is also a great breakthrough in the Jewish idea. Perhaps, the person who was attacked by robbers is unclean, and if the Levite and the priest touch Him, they may become unclean, affecting their observance of Sabbath rules and rituals.
Why did the Jews think so? This is the application of the principle. The Jews are God’s chosen people, and God does not allow them to intermarry with Gentiles or mix with the sinners, thereby tarnishing them. So when Jesus and the tax collectors who are dining together, or the sinful woman kissing His feet there, the teachers of the law, the priests, the elders, and the Pharisees felt that Jesus violated this commandment. But we know that Jesus has His own reason for doing this.
Why did the teachers of the law, the priests, the elders, and the Pharisees think that Jesus had violated the rules? Who is in the wrong here? The teachers of the law are doing what they are doing in accordance with the rules of Jehovah in the Old Testament. So in the literal sense, there is nothing wrong with it. Of course, the Lord Jesus is God, and He certainly can’t be wrong. But how do we discern the difference between the two?
A theological teacher at the United Theological Seminary in the United States tells a new version of the Parable of the Good Samaritan and may help us understand this difference more deeply.
This story goes like this. A beggar is asking for food at the intersection. A pastor who’s driving a BMW has comes to the intersection stopping for the red light. The beggar comes to the car and asks for food. The pastor pretended not to see him. When the light turned green, he drove away. The second person drove up, and the beggar again asks for food. This time, it was a Christian mother. She looked around her car and found a chocolate bar for the beggar. Then, when the traffic light was green, she also drove away. The third person to drive through was a homosexual. The beggar asked for food again and the gay man stopped the car. He let the beggar get in his car, took the beggar to a restaurant to eat, and gave the beggar shelter so that he could rest. My teacher then asked us: “So, which one is the good neighbor and which one is the Good Samaritan here?”
The Good Samaritan in this story is homosexual. In the United States where the author lives, the issue of homosexuality can be said to be a very controversial issue. Many Christians oppose homosexuality not only because the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin, but more because homosexuality has become a “vocal minority” in the United States. They actively participate in social activities and politics, and thus, largely determine public opinion. Christians, who account for the majority of the population in the United States, are at a disadvantage. The level of hatred by most Christians towards homosexuality is similar to the degree of hatred of the Jews towards the Samaritans during the time of Jesus. If we only use the story of the Samaritans in the Bible times, we may not understand the deeper meaning, because the words “Good Samaritan” are deeply rooted in the hearts of the people today as something to be esteemed. It represents something good, but for the Jews at that time, the Samaritans would compare to homosexuality in a Christian nation. Christians are very uncomfortable with this lifestyle.
Why should the Israelites comply with the provisions of the law, whereas the Lord Jesus doesn’t need to obey/follow them? Where are the limitations of the law? Paul, in the New Testament tells us very clearly that the law was our guardian because the Israelites were held in custody under the law when they were still young. If we understand this, we will be enlightened.
In other words, it depends on who you are and how deep your spiritual maturity is. For example, Jehovah clearly stipulated that the Jews could not marry foreign women. There was a Jew who married a Gentile woman, and God sent a plague against them. The plague didn’t stop until the Israelites got angry and killed the man and Gentile woman. Then we have Moses, who married the Cush woman. Aaron (the brother of Moses) and Miriam (the sister of Moses) harshly criticize and accuse him of seemingly defending the law that they believe Moses violated. Jehovah angrily summoned them and afflicted Miriam with leprosy.
A Christian man in our Bible study suggested that perhaps Moses’ relationship with God was very intimate so that his marriage to a Cush woman would not influence him to turn from God and worship idols. Joseph also married a Gentile woman. Perhaps God didn’t have a problem with it based on the nature of their relationship. The average Israeli however was not like Moses, who knew God’s principles. They are limited to knowing and understanding only the acts of God. If they mix marriages with the Gentiles, they might be influenced by their idolatrous customs and as a result, pulled away from the Lord. God established this law to protect the Israelites in their childhood keeping them from the influences of the Gentiles who were committing idolatry. The purpose is not to eliminate the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles. If this is the case, why did God say (by the mouth of the prophet) that one day, the Gentiles will have a part in the Kingdom of God?
But the Israelites confuse the temporary means with the eternal goal. God does not allow them to intermarry with the Gentiles. The purpose is to temporarily protect them from the attack of the idols, but the Israelites misunderstood and regarded this as God wanting this to be their purpose and ultimate goal.
The mistake made by the Israelites is worthy of our careful attention. This error points out a principle that we may continue to make the same mistake today. Will we do what God calls us to do and make it perpetual as God’s eternal goal or God’s continuous calling for us? After God’s call goes forward or is changed, we are tied up by the lessons from the past. This leads to our hesitation to move forward. I used to hear people say that one mistake that a denomination or a Christian ministry often makes is to take the work that God has entrusted to us as His central work or His only work. Although it is true that sometimes, the entrustment is given to us by God, we must not neglect that God has other work to do. There is no doubt that what God has entrusted to us is important, but this is not necessarily His central work or only work.
When I was at the meeting, I mentioned with our members the story of a charismatic American woman that I’ve heard. This woman has the gift of prophecy and healing. Many people in the United States are obsessed with pornographic videos. One study shows 70% of the Christians that were interviewed even admitted to watching pornographic videos. In order to help these Americans who were obsessed with pornographic videos, she led a ministry team to some Porn Conference in the United States. They set up their own booths at these conferences through the means of Christian dream interpretation and using the gifts of the prophets and the gifts of healing to minister to those at this Porn Conference. They prayed and ministered healing to a lot of participants; they also helped a lot of people to get rid of their obsession with pornography through deliverance ministries. This story is thought-provoking. If we based it on the general principles of law mentioned above, Christians are not allowed to participate in such activities, especially if they cannot overcome their sexual temptation in this kind of conference.
Doesn’t it stand to reason that a Christian participating in a porn conference opens themselves to temptation?
This Christian woman minister is not tempted by pornography. She participates in these conferences because of her love for these people and the desire to see them set free. The power of God is with her as she ministers, and the results are not bad.
There is one more example. There is an American prophet who has the gift of dream interpretation. He was criticized by some traditional Christians as a person who is possessed by demons because God called him to explain the meaning of tattoos to people with tattoos through prophecies and tattoo interpretation. He said God told him, “Look for these people who have tattoos. When you talk to them, I’ll tell you their initial thoughts on why they chose a certain tattoo. That way, they will be amazed, and they’ll know that God is with you. At the same time, they will be open to you, and you can then preach the gospel to them.
Leviticus also explicitly mentioned in this chapter that people are not allowed to have tattoos. This American prophet said that since he had tattoos, originally, some groups in the Bible belt who had invited him to speak, no longer invited him. This prophet argued that Jesus also had a tattoo. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords (New International Version, Revelation 19:16) and God’s name was engraved on the one who is victorious. He also said that Leviticus had also recorded that you shouldn’t eat pork, but many people still eat pork.
Of course, whether his debate is correct or not is not the center of my discussion. The problem is that there are so many people who have tattoos in the United States. God calls this prophet to love them and care for them. Using their tattoos is his way to share God’s love with them. It is not wrong for him to obey God’s leading and pay the price in doing so, because this becomes a role model for others to minister to the outcasts.
So the key here is love. If you love someone, love and mercy should triumph over judgment. It’s true that the law is important, but don’t forget that “Christ is the culmination of the law” (Romans 10:4).
It doesn’t mean that we only need love and don’t need the law anymore. That’s not the case.
Jesus said: “I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill them. Not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law.” (New International Version, Matthew 5:17-18). The two greatest commandments are: love the Lord, your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus pointed out to the expert in the law that these two are the greatest commandments in the law. Jesus is the ultimate manifestation of God’s love. He came, and he turned the sinners into the sons of God, exalted them, and let them sit on the throne with Him.
He came and is willing to associate with people of low position and let them feel exalted. Jesus and the Israelites are not the same. The Israeli teachers of the law, elders, priests, and Pharisees treated tax collectors, sinners, and the Gentiles that way because it would help them maintain a higher status. Perhaps they could trample these sinners, tax collectors, and Gentiles under their feet in order to exhibit their nobility. But Jesus is different. Jesus is God and a great person. A great person is never shy about sharing his greatness with others because he is great. A person who is not so great will have difficulties in sharing the greatness he has with others because he is not that great.
I’ll share a personal experience in order to further discuss this truth. The Christians who have experience in the Chinese American Church discovered that in a lot of aspects, there’s a difference between a man who comes from mainland China or from Taiwan. One difference that surprised us is that we saw that some Taiwanese brothers don’t need to cook; it’s the wife who’s busy doing all the cooking. I have witnessed such a situation with my own eyes. Of course, for the brothers who are from the mainland, they feel surprised and envious. My wife and I talked about these things.
Chinese men still have that “macho male” persona to a certain extent, but because of the liberation of women in modern China, that macho persona has been suppressed to some extent. I’ve experienced this in my own marriage and the Lord has helped me continue to die to self and let go of my own ego. He showed me that I lacked love and the power to love.
I went to Oregon to attend a special meeting in 2016. I brought a few books about Hebrew text back. The title of the book is God’s Secrets only Hebrew can reveal and the author is Dr. Danny Ben-Gigi. I didn’t read them because I was busy, but my wife looked at them. One day, when we talked about the problem of me lacking the power to love, my wife shared her experience in reading this Hebrew writing. She said: “Did you know how the Hebrews understand the famous prayer written in Numbers, the three stages of priestly blessing?” She then shared the things that inspired her in these Hebrew texts.
Numbers 6 NIV
6:24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
6:25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
6:26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
The teaching that we received is that the first stage of blessing is the Father’s blessing to you. The second stage is the grace of Lord Jesus Christ has blessed you; Jesus Christ is the human face of God. The third stage refers to the Holy Spirit.
I later found out this might refer to the different stages of our relationship with God. I even tried to explain this by using a camera as an example. I often do videography, so I got my inspiration from videotaping. You see a person far away from the lens of a camera and only see the outline of a person. It is like the blessing of the first stage; we know God from a far-away distance. Then when you zoom in the lens to a medium shot, you can see the face of this person; in this stage you know God more. But when you zoom in to a close-up, you will see the wrinkles and expressions of the anchor’s face, which is like the blessing of the third stage. In this stage, we know God more personally. This is the feeling of continuous progress with God.
However, what my wife learned from this book is that the first stage seems to be a father standing tall who’s laying his hands and praying for his smaller child for blessings and protection; the second stage is like a relationship between husband and wife. We are the bride of Christ, so we are on the same level. We can see God’s face and His glory; on the third stage, God lifts us up. That Hebrew textbook is accompanied by a picture of a father lifting up his little son. The father lifted up his countenance at his little son, which is the meaning of the lift up mentioned in the book. When God saved us from our sin and even lifts us up over His head, God will turn His face toward us.
My wife continued to share that when this book mentioned the word “marry,” is when a Hebrew groom marries his wife, which is what the phrase “turned one’s face” means in Hebrew. The New American Standard Bible and many other versions translate this as “The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’”
The Jews had also a ritual when they get married. They let the groom lift the wife. This shows that God’s will is for the husband to love his wife through lifting her up, and not trampling her underfoot. With this said, I feel really ashamed sometimes.
This level is like the level of the teachers of the law, elders, priests, and Pharisees; they held themselves aloof from politics and material pursuits and were not willing to reveal their real motives on why they didn’t want to be in touch with the Samaritans and the tax collectors. It’s not necessarily because they want to keep the law of God, their true intention may be out of selfishness.
I talked about how male chauvinism is deeply etched in Chinese men earlier. In my own life taking an equal or humble position in my marriage is like losing face. That higher sense of self seems very important but can end up trampling my wife.
But as a good Samaritan, the Lord exalted the person who was wounded and robbed; He eats with the tax collectors and prostitutes in order to exalt the humble, and lift his children in the heavenly love of the Father, or letting a Christian groom lift his bride up. When God does this, it does not degrade His identity; it shows more of His exceeding greatness.
So returning to the theme of our article, which of the two is more in line with the Lord’s will and disposition? Is it the Israelites who strictly abide by the law of not mixing two kinds of human seeds (meaning not to be mixed with Gentiles and sinners), or when Jesus came, and He lifted up the sinners and the Gentiles?
Which of the following reflects more the essence/true meaning of the law? When Jesus exalted the sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and brings salvation to the Gentiles, the Israelites become jealous and envious? Or the examples mentioned before, the woman who is committed to helping those who were addicted to pornographic videos and the prophet who cares about people with tattoos? Let’s repeat it again. Jesus said that loving the Lord, your God, and loving your neighbors as yourself are the two greatest commandments in the law.
In addition to discussing this issue, another woman asked, “How can we understand Leviticus 19:5-8 (NIV)?”
19:5 When you sacrifice a fellowship offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf.
19:6 It shall be eaten on the day you sacrifice it or on the next day; anything left over until the third day must be burned up.
19:7 If any of it is eaten on the third day, it is impure and will not be accepted.
19:8 Whoever eats it will be held responsible because they have desecrated what is holy to the Lord; they must be cut off from their people.
Why is it when you eat the flesh of the peace offerings on the third day, it’s profaning the holy thing of the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from his people? Is the Lord too cruel here?
My answer is that this is about our wrong mentality. We are too concerned about punishment. God’s words are from the perspective of love, but because of Adam’s sin, we have been entangled in the orphan spirit and are too worried about punishment. Apostle John said: “Perfect love drives out fear, and there is no fear in love.” (New International Version, 1 John 4:18). If we can live in accordance with our love of God, others, and ourselves, then there will be no fear. Because we are so afraid, we focus on the punishments imposed on us when we profane sacred objects. The core message here is God’s desire for us to offer our sacrifices – our love and devotion to Him and for us to spend time having daily fellowship with Him. All of these are our sacrifices to God and please Him.
It’s wrong to think that you can skip your morning prayer and fellowship with God because you attended Bible study the previous evening. Fellowship and prayer need to be done daily; we can’t store it up for the next day. God won’t cut us off, but He delights in our daily sacrifice of prayer and fellowship, which is similar to the peace offerings that were dedicated to God. They offered food, and we offer the sacrifice of praise, prayer, and fellowship. God is our spiritual food and the sacrifices we offer him can be likened to our food to Him. The peace offerings were dedicated to God, but the priests could also enjoy them. Jesus is the bread that comes from heaven, and God Himself is our food. When Abraham and Noah offered sacrifices to the Lord, the aroma pleased Him. This satisfaction is the joy of the Lord. You can eat leftovers, but God isn’t as happy with leftovers. That is why He is saying he doesn’t like your leftover foods or yesterday’s love and sacrifice. He is simply saying, “get up early every day and talk with me. I really love it. If you don’t do that, I won’t be happy.” This is God’s way to woo us but not punish us.
God created everyone differently, just as every snowflake is unique. Although there are countless people who praise Him, your praise is irreplaceable by others. The unique happiness you bring to God is irreplaceable by others. Imagine a father who has ten sons, nine sons gave him gifts, and one didn’t. This doesn’t mean when his nine sons gave him gifts, he won’t want the gift from his tenth son. The joy that this tenth son brings is something that the other nine sons can never do. So, you can understand now why Jesus can leave the ninety-nine sheep and search for the lost one until he finds it.
We must break free from our fears and our orphan mindset in order to avoid cognitive bias when we look at the Bible from the perspective of God’s love. Once we know the love of God perfectly, we will no longer bound by the letter of the law. We can grow up in everything unto the Lordship of Jesus Christ so that we can be His true manifestation on earth. We cannot afford to have today’s Pharisees, and we cannot afford to misinterpret the law by missing His love.