Last November, Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed a state dinner at the White House, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and…ahem…President Barak Obama.
White House security was aghast at the breach. Imagine: two people common people—wealthy, but still common—slithered their way past some of the tightest security detail in the world and cozied up with the most powerful person in the world!
If you’ve seen the photos, Michaele smiles with a look like she’s the cat that swallowed the mouse.
I know virtually nothing about the Salahis, but I must admit that I admire their resourcefulness.
You can breach security too—of an even greater power than the President of the United States. In fact, you probably already have.
Please join me in today’s reading.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Leviticus 15. The discharges described in verses 1-18 probably refer to male gonorrhea. Apparently, the existence of this sexually transmitted disease wasn’t nearly as intense as the present variety. Verses 16-18 refer to sexual intercourse or a nocturnal emission.
I was especially surprised by verse 18: “When a man lies with a woman and there is an emission of semen, both must bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening.”
This means sexual intercourse defiled both the man and woman until the next evening. While this might sound strange, it prevented people from participating in fertility cults, where men would have sex with temple prostitutes in order to gain their god’s blessing. In the same way, prostitutes would be perpetually unclean and unable to participate in the daily life of the community. This was a significant departure from the surrounding countries at that time.
Leviticus 16:1-28. The Day of Atonement was a very solemn occasion because it was the only day of the year that the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to seek forgiveness on behalf of Israel. We covered this in greater depth on February 12.
Mark 7:1-23. In verse 3, Mark explains the process of ritual cleansing because his audience is composed of Gentiles who wouldn’t understand.
Jesus told the Pharisees and teachers of the law—the religious leaders of his day—in verse 8, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” I wonder how often I fall into this same trap. We’re such creatures of habit that we can easily allow our traditions to violate Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves. On the surface, I can think of issues where this applies: style of music, style of dress, reaching out people outside the Christian camp, change dynamics. I have some scars from these battles—as I’m sure I’ve scarred others.
Also, consider this. In verses 21-23, Jesus lists what makes people unclean: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. You know what? We’re all unclean!
Psalm 40:17. This verse is an appropriate response to the statement above: “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer.”
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
At the beginning of Leviticus 16, we read that Aaron was told “not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place…or else he will die.” God permitted Aaron to enter the Holy of Holies on behalf of Israel only once a year. That’s it. The rest of the year, Aaron and the rest of Israel hoped Israel was doing the right thing. They hoped their relationship with God was right.
But Jesus changed all of this. The writer of Hebrews tells us,
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Once a year the high priest entered the throne of grace—in fear and trembling. In fact, on the Day of Atonement, a rope was tied around the high priest’s foot, just in case he was struck dead in God’s presence and his assistants needed to pull him out.
But we can enter God’s presence—the throne of grace—with confidence. With confidence!
So what does it mean to approach the throne of grace?
Through prayer, you can approach God and receive forgiveness without fear of him using it against you. Anytime, anywhere, you can engage God in conversation without feeling like you’re interrupting his busy schedule. You have access to God 24/7/365. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Growing up, my father owned a business in the oil and gas industry. Before the market fell apart in the mid-1980s, his office was located in a skyscraper in downtown Denver. It was pretty cool.
But what was really cool was when he brought me with him to work for the day. Because I was the owner’s son, I could go anywhere in the main office. I could run photocopies of various and sundry parts of my body. I could look over the shoulders of my dad’s employees. I could even flirt with the women who were working.
In fact, my dad instructed his receptionist, “It doesn’t matter who’s in my private office, if my son wants to come in, let him in. He doesn’t even need to knock.”
Nothing made me feel more important than knowing I had unlimited access into my father’s private office. So occasionally, just to see if my dad really meant it, I walked past the people waiting in line to meet with my dad, and enter his office.
THAT’S WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US!
You have privileges that far surpass Moses and Aaron!
So take every advantage of your opportunity.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What causes people to value traditions over God’s commands? Can you name any examples you’ve seen? Are you brave enough to share a time when you’ve been an equal opportunity offender?
- What prevents you from believing that you have access to God 24/7/365?
- Describe a time when you entered the throne of grace with confidence? How did it affect you?
- What does it look like for you to approach the throne of grace? What does this tell us about Jesus and his heavenly Father?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.