Description / Transcription
O Lord, Your Word is more to be desired than gold, than much fine gold. It is sweeter than honey, than drippings of the honeycomb. By Your statutes we are warned, in keeping them there is great reward. Keep us innocent from hidden fault, protect us from presumptuous sins. Let them not have control over us. Let the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
We come this morning to Leviticus chapter 24. Bittersweet, perhaps, that you can see the end of the finish line, just 27 chapters in Leviticus. Lord willing, we’ll finish it up this month, third book in the Bible, as we’ve been making our way through for several months, and now we come to Leviticus chapter 24.
We don’t often do this, but let’s this morning stand for the reading of God’s Word. Follow along as I read from Leviticus 24.
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly. Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the Lord regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the Lord regularly.”
““You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold[c] before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the Lord. Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the Lord regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the Lord’s food offerings, a perpetual due.””
“Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in custody, till the will of the Lord should be clear to them.”
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”
““Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God.” So Moses spoke to the people of Israel, and they brought out of the camp the one who had cursed and stoned him with stones. Thus the people of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses.”
You may be seated.
This is another one of those chapters that if we’re honest seem to be little more than a haphazard, slip-shod, quickly put together, random collection of laws. If you were here last week from chapter 23 there was a definite theme to chapter 23 as God gives to Moses instructions for the seven different feasts that would undergird the religious and national calendar for Israel, so there was a very definite theme and structure to chapter 23.
If you glance ahead to chapter 25 you see the Sabbath year and the Year of Jubilee, so there’s a very definite theme there. So we have the annual feasts along with the weekly Sabbath in chapter 23, chapter 25 we’re going to hear about this once every 50 years Year of Jubilee, and in the middle, well, it sure looks like Moses just had some spare bits to put in and thought, “We’re coming to the end of Leviticus and I have a few, I got a story to tell, I got a few extra laws, so let’s just put it in here and someday it’ll be chapter 24. So let’s see, the lamp, we got something about the lamp, and the bread, don’t forget about the bread, and then, oh, let me tell you about this one time that this person blasphemed the Name and got put to death, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, all that stuff. Okay, there we go. Chapter 24.”
There are, we admit, a lot of chapters that feel that way, especially in the Pentateuch after you get out of Genesis, a collection of laws or statutes that don’t seem particularly relevant or don’t make a lot of sense to us and seem to just have been put there rather haphazardly.
Yet, I hope that one of the things you’ve learned as we’ve gone throughout Leviticus is that almost now your appetite is ready. You’re saying, “Okay, well, it does look that way, but I bet it’s not like that, is it? I bet there’s something to it. I bet there’s something here for us to learn.” As we go through the book of Leviticus it’s not just that God is teaching us what is in His Word, but He is teaching us how to read His Word, and really to have confidence, 2 Timothy 3:16, that all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. So there is something here.
So if you were going to write true or false this chapter 24 is just a random collection of laws, I hope you would put false, that cannot be the right answer. And it’s not.
In fact, when you step back for a moment and once you have the answer, the answer key in front of you, it seems rather obvious. This chapter is about the need to maintain the sanctity of three things.
So it makes sense as we would go from looking at the feast days and before we move to the Year of Jubilee, we’re talking about certain days and seasons that are set apart as holy and a year that is set apart as holy, that now the Spirit working through Moses, we are going to look at three things in particular in the worship of God that must be set apart.
You can see them right here, three things that must be set apart as holy – the lamp, the bread, and the Name. All three are sacred items in the life of Israel and all three must be attended to, they must be cared for, and above all they must be protected according to God’s command. The lamp, the bread, and the Name.
We’re going to walk through each one and by the time we’re done I think you will understand why we will be ready to come to this table and partake of this bread and drink from this cup.
So first let’s take this first paragraph, verses 1 through 4, the lamps. Must care for, protect, set apart, sanctify the lights that are in the tabernacle.
Now let’s get our bearings and understand what we’re talking about, which we have so many weeks, about the tabernacle. So a mental picture. You have a courtyard, a rectangular courtyard, which is enclosed by this curtains, tent-like structure without a top, 150 feet long, 75 feet wide. It’s almost exactly half the length of a football field and almost exactly, well it is exactly half the length, and almost exactly half the width of a football field. So that means that this would be a quarter of a football field. If you picture an American football field, yes, I know, American football, you hit each other for a few seconds and you take a break, that’s how we do things. The American football field, it’s just a quarter. That’s the courtyard, 150 feet by 75 feet.
So inside of that is the tabernacle itself, which sits length-wise at the back of the courtyard. When you would enter the courtyard there would be a bronze altar, that’s where all these sacrifices are taking place, and then there would be a bronze basin for other purification rituals, and then you would come to the tabernacle itself. The tabernacle was 15 feet high, so basketball hoop is 10 feet, I can reach 8 feet, so about twice this height. The tabernacle was 15 feet high and 15 feet wide and 45 feet long. 15 high, 15 wide, 45 feet long. The tabernacle was divided into two sections, the holy place, which was 30 feet long. Now do your math, 45 minus 30, so the most holy place, the holy of holies, was 15 feet. As you’ve heard me say many times over the years, the holy of holies was a cube. It was 15 feet high, 15 feet long, 15 feet wide, and when you to come to Revelation, the dimensions which are symbolic, the symbolic dimensions of the new heavens and the new earth are given as a perfect cube – same height, width, and length. There’s only one other cubic dimension in the Bible and that’s the holy of holies. Because Revelation is telling us that when the new heavens and the new earth comes down, it has the cubic dimension because it will be as if we are living for all eternity in that holy of holies.
So when you enter the 30 feet long, 15 feet high, 15 feet wide holy place, that’s what we’re talking about in chapter 24.
In the most holy place, there was one item. I want you to think about that. We’re not going to take a quiz. Think about what that one item is. It’s helpful that Indiana Jones found it once upon a time. It’s the ark of the covenant, that’s the one thing that is in the most holy place. There are three things in the holy place and we hear about two of them in this chapter.
So if you were to enter, of course only the priest would, enter into the holy place, there would be on the north side of the tent the table for the bread of the presence, and on the south side of the tent there would be the menorah, the golden lampstand on the south side, and then in the middle right by the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place there would be an altar of incense.
So what we’re talking about here, you’ve got the courtyard, you’ve got the tabernacle, most holy place, holy place. This is in the holy place, the first part of the tabernacle, these two items. So on the north side then you have the table, we’ll come back to that, and on the south part you have this lamp.
Now notice the lamp in the tabernacle is always to be lit. In fact, you may have heard and noticed several times in this passage the word “regularly.” It’s there in verse 2, in verse 3, in verse 4, it appears one more time in the instructions for the bread, “regularly,” or some translations have it “continually.”
The priests were the ones who attend to the lamp. That makes sense because the priests have to attend, they’re the holy people who tend to the holy things in the holy place.
But the people need to bring the oil. Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, you know that song. You’ve got to bring your oil for the lamps, the pressed olive oil. This was their fuel, this was their gasoline, this was their kerosene, this is what they brought to keep the lamps lit.
So the priest needed to tend to the wicks daily. You see there in verse 3, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning. So this is to go all through the night, evening to morning, this lamp is to be lit. The Lord is the giver of light, 1 John 1, the Lord is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. So even when the sun goes down on God’s people, and they are in the darkness of night, that illumination from the tabernacle would tell them God’s power has not been extinguished.
Remember earlier in Leviticus, the altar. So this is the altar in the courtyard where the sacrifices would take place. The priest also had to tend to the coals all throughout the night so that the altar would continually be lit. Why? Because the altar never being extinguished was to remind the people of their enduring need for an atonement. We are sinners in need of a Savior.
The lampstand was to be kept burning at all times in the holy place, indicating God’s enduring presence and power.
So the altar is there to remind us we are sinners in need of a substitute, in need of a Savior. We need atonement. Then the light in the tabernacle, never to be extinguished, indicating God’s enduring presence and power.
Think about it very tangibly. There were perhaps 2 million people and so it wasn’t that you could always be within shouting distance or seeing distance of the center of the camp, but the camp was arranged very literally with the tabernacle in the center and then three tribes north, south, east, and west, so it wasn’t too difficult that you might come and in the midst of darkness, when all else might have been pitch black, at say 3 in the morning, you could just squint and look far enough you could see a flicker of light coming from behind the other side of the tabernacle wall. It would have reminded you, even in the darkness of night, God is with u, we are His covenant people. You see the light there in the midst of the darkness, He will not leave us nor forsake us. All may be dark, but there’s light.
Most of you recognize that at least in this country, it seems as if we live in increasingly un-Christian, and indeed often hostile to Christian times. We live in an era in which there is great moral confusion, revulsion, where things that are vices are celebrated as virtues and virtues are condemned as vices. Now it’s one thing to notice the un-Christian times in which we live, but people of God, we must always face these times resolutely as Christian people. That means as much as we may want to curse the darkness, we understand it is even more important that we illumine the light. And that we realize in the midst of darkness that not all is dark. It is easy, it is easy to follow through the news on your phone, on cable TV, to listen to it. If you want a steady stream of bad news, there are lots of people ready to give you bad news, because they know that bad news sells more than good news.
If you just broadcast, your daily news program is another marriage makes it another year, [sound effect]. Another church is faithful… Who cares. What sells is when things go bad and there are problems, when there’s perversion, and even when, let’s just say, quote/unquote, conservative outlets want to give you news, they understand that you’re drawn, we are, like the clickbait that it is, to bad news and you understand what it starts to do, to gnaw away at you, and it can feel like there’s only darkness around.
Well, perhaps the Israelites felt that at times. They were, in fact, just one small people surrounded by a pagan world. Yet never to be extinguished was God’s power and God’s presence. Part of what you can do, perhaps, in your home, in the public square, certainly we are committed from this pulpit is to make sure that even if you see darkness around you, the light of God’s presence and God’s Word is not extinguished because God has not left us, God is not done building His Church, it’s the only institution on the face of the earth that Jesus Himself promised to build. He didn’t promise to build any nation, any university, any seminary, any other organization except the Church and He said the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. So whenever it seems dark, there is in the midst of the camp light.
That’s why the lamp was lit. That’s why the people had to bring the oil so that priest could tend to the wicks, that the light of God’s presence and power would not be extinguished.
Then we come to the bread. The bread for the tabernacle on the table. 12 loaves of bread, stacked 6 high into 2 piles. So this is not, if you think of our kind of loaf of Wonder bread or a loaf of French bread, you think how are you stacking that? No, think of maybe a matzah bread. This was likely unleavened bread, which is one of the reasons why you could keep it out for a week and the priest would still eat it a week later. You can make unleavened bread like this, and especially in a dry climate, yeah, you can still eat it a week later.
So you think of some flat bread, stacked. Not too dissimilarly if you imagine these communion trays where flat, round loaves of bread and you would have 12 of them. Why 12? Well, of course, because there are 12 tribes of Israel. It was a reminder with these 12 loaves of bread that God’s people were forever in His presence.
Notice the language of covenant in verse 8. Every Sabbath day Aaron, the high priest here, shall arrange it before the Lord regularly. It is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. So these 12 loaves of bread from the people of Israel, the tribes couldn’t go in there, it was for the priest to attend in the holy place, and even if you could, it wasn’t like you could fit 2 million people in there. You didn’t get tickets, you didn’t get field trips, and you didn’t bring the kids in there. How do we know? Well, you have 12 loaves of bread. You have a representation of each one of the tribes. Yes, the covenant that we have with our God is ever before Him, ever before His face.
The provision of oil was probably a daily task. Somebody had to come and bring the oil because the priest had to tend to the lamps every day. This was a weekly task, because once a week on the Sabbath the priest would rearrange and then they were able to eat as a memorial portion, the priest could eat the bread and then they’d get new loaves, fresh bread, and they’d put them there in the tabernacle.
So we’ve come from chapter 23, which is all about these big annual feasts, pilgrimages, celebration, sacrifices, trumpets, great parties. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we go from the big annual festivals to the daily, weekly tasks.
Perhaps it’s fair to draw some application here. Some Christians only know how to get up for the big things. There are people, you’ve heard the term before, and I hope you don’t represent this, Christmas and Easter Christians. You might say, well, it’s better than not coming to church at all. I suppose so. But Christmas and Easter, we know, big party, big celebration, fun days here we come, let’s get everybody.
Well, that’s one thing. They had seven bedrock feasts a year. But what about the daily tasks? What about the weekly tasks? What about the ordinary faithfulness? Often unknown, overlooked, needed expressions of mundane faithfulness?
It’s one thing to say, “Who’s going to be the party planning committee for the Feast of Booths? It’s going to be exciting.” It’s another thing to say, “All right, who’s bringing the bread this week? Which one of the families is bringing the oil today? Who signed up for the nursery?”
I think I heard, when Amy was making her announcement last week, someone emailed during the service, so I commend you for your enthusiasm. Maybe you could wait ’til after the service to sign up.
Who will bring a meal to the hurting family or the new parents? Who will care for those who have aging parents or have the privilege of caring for those with disabilities? Who will show up? Who will vote? Who will read the minutes? Who will do the little things?
The little things. Bring the oil, bring the bread.
It’s the bread of the presence. That’s not the word used here, but in Exodus 25:30 it’s called the bread of the presence, or literally you could translate “the bread of the face.” Because the 12 loaves of bread represented the 12 tribes of Israel forever before the face of God, in the presence of God.
Notice who eats the bread. Well, the priests do, once a week. God doesn’t eat the bread. God is not like the pagan gods of the Canaanites. He doesn’t need food. He’s not hungry. That’s the whole way that the pagan system worked. You needed to provide food because the gods and goddesses, for however powerful they were, there was one thing that they couldn’t do, they needed food. So you had to bring them food and if you had sex in front of them then that would help the gods and goddesses to have sex, which meant fertility and rain and all the rest. There’s certain things you had to do for the gods that they would do favors for you.
There’s nothing like this in Israel. God doesn’t eat this bread. It’s not about feeding Him because He’s hungry. It’s a symbolic reminder in the holy place, refreshed every Sabbath, that God’s people are in God’s presence. It is a covenant forever. God’s people are fed and God is always mindful of His covenant with them.
Put these two things together. The lampstand in the south part of the holy place, an on the north the table with the 12 loaves of bread. Just think about what bread on the table and a lamp that is lit, what these simple instructions were meant to communicate to God’s people.
You know when you’re selling your house, you go and you walk through someone else’s house you might purchase, there’s certain things that you’re supposed to do to help your house sell. Generally, if I’m not mistaken, it’s thought to be better if you can try to sell your house before you’ve moved entirely out because you go in and it’s hard to sort of picture what this would be like a home when there’s just empty rooms, and yet they’ll tell you you don’t want all the pictures up of your family staring down at everyone because then people think, oh, this isn’t really where I live, this is somebody else’s home, so you don’t want that but you want your stuff in there, you want a bed, you want a table, you want people to be able to walk through and they know somebody lives here.
You know if you, and I know perhaps not everyone does this, there’s different approaches to the Halloween season, but if you do trick or treating with your kids or your grandkids, knock on a door and get candy, you walk throughout the neighborhood, what does it mean if you see a house that is all dark? Well, it means either we didn’t bother to get any candy, so go away, or it means nobody’s here. So you walk up and down the neighborhood and you look for the house with the lights on.
So think about this tabernacle. If you walk by, the tabernacle is where God dwells, you’ve got 2 million Israelites in their house, this is where God symbolically dwells, and as you walk by the Lord’s house, what does it mean if you see the lights are on, there’s some frankincense on the table, we read that as well, so there’s a Yankee Candle burning, a southern Yankee Candle. So you’ve got a Yankee Candle going, you’ve got the lights on, and if you could enter in there, you’d see the dinner table has food. What does that tell you? Without even having to think about it or do any elaborate deduction, it tells you somebody’s home. Someone lives here. They’re not gone on a trip, they’re not moving out, the lights are on, a candle is burning, the table is set, prepared for guests and a meal.
It was meant to tell the Israelites, day by day, night by night, in the middle of the camp, someone’s home. God is home. God lives here. God is not absent.
Sometimes even today in the Church we think about our gathering as just remembering the absence of God. We’re going to come to the table later and celebrate the real presence, not a transubstantiation, but a real spiritual presence of God. One of the reasons why it’s so important that you come to a physical place for church, unless your providentially hindered and we’re grateful if there are people who are watching this by streaming because they’re caring for sick ones, they’re too infirm to come, you’re providentially hindered, but if that’s not your situation, you need to be here with physical beings in a physical place because there is something unique that is happening when we gather.
You say, “Well, isn’t God everywhere?” Yes, He is omnipresent, yet the presence of God… See, in the Old Testament, God was still omnipresent in a metaphysical sense, and yet they understood He dwelt in the midst of the people in the tabernacle. The Church, Paul tells us in Ephesians, is the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. So, yes, the fullness, and yet if you want the fullest fullness you can have of the fullness, it’s in the Church.
Psalm 22 tells us God is enthroned on the praises of His people. You could trace throughout the Old and the New Testament God is present wherever His Word is present. So when we gather Sunday by Sunday with His Word spoken and this morning His Word visibly represented, we have the very presence of God. We don’t have to cajole Him, we don’t have to twist His arm, we don’t have to plead with Him, God is in our midst. The lights are one, the candle’s lit, the table’s set, because God is home and He is with us.
There’s one other item, the lamps, the bread, and the Name. If you’ve been here throughout this series in Leviticus, perhaps it occurred to you when reading this a few moments ago, this is only the second narrative section. There’s only two narrative sections in the whole book of Leviticus. The rest are laws, stipulations, instructions, do this, sacrifices, all the rest. Remember the only other narrative section in Leviticus was in chapter 10, which was the sin of Nadab and Abihu offering strange fire, unauthorized sacrifice, and they were put to death. Surely it is not a coincidence, the only two stories we might say, in the book of Leviticus both have to do with dishonoring the name of God.
In both cases the punishment is death. One, Nadab and Abihu immediately God punishes them. Here it’s through the execution of His justice through the people of God that they’re put to death. The only two narrative sections in the Bible and they both deal with dishonoring the Lord and they both end in the punishment of death.
Both are followed by further instructions for how we have to deal, or how they had to deal, with this treachery.
This story is told here in some detail, not only because of the seriousness of the sin and the severity of the punishment, but undoubtedly it’s here because this was a good bit of case law for a situation that they would have faced and they didn’t know the immediate answer to.
Notice in verse 13, “bring out of the camp the one who cursed.” This is after verse 12, they put him in custody. There are very few times, there’s no jails really so to speak. That’s not how they punished people. It wasn’t feasible, they didn’t have a police force. They didn’t have a Department of Justice. So they didn’t put people in custody except here on a very temporary basis because Moses and the leaders were not sure what to do.
Now what was the confusion? Well, the confusion was what do we do with this man, read in verse 10, “an Israelite woman’s son whose father was an Egyptian.” So does the law still apply to this person who has a father who’s an Egyptian and a mother who’s an Israelite? The answer is yes, it applies equally to everyone in the land. That’s why verse 22 comes at us with the conclusion, “you shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native.”
So for the, you might say the citizen, for the resident alien, for the green card, for the person traveling through on vacation, that’s why this story is highlighted because Moses was saying, “Okay, now what do we do with this situation?” The word comes from the Lord it’s the same rule for everyone.
Lex talionis is the Latin phrase. It means “law of retaliation.” In Exodus, in Leviticus, and in Deuteronomy we have this familiar refrain “eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” As you’ve heard me say many times, though this sounds barbaric to us, in its context it was actually a restraining judicial system. It was certainly aphoristic, there’s no example literally in the Old Testament of someone’s eye for eye or tooth for tooth. What it means is that justice must be applied equally to all. You don’t get special treatment if you’re rich, you don’t get special outs if you’re poor, you don’t get special treatment based upon the way you look or your ethnicity or who your parents were, justice is equal treatment for all under the law, and it must be restrained. You can’t wipe out a whole village for somebody’s eye. No, it’s an eye for an eye, it’s a tooth for a tooth.
You see the difference the Bible makes between an animal, if you take an animal, verse 18, you shall make it good, meaning there’s some sort of restitution, but if anyone injures his neighbor, well, then, it shall be done to him.
Again in verse 21, whoever kills an animal shall make it good, maybe pay some sort of fine. Whoever kills a person, however, shall be put to death.
Capital punishment in the Old Testament law is chiefly, not entirely, but chiefly for two things. Capital punishment was chiefly for two things – homicide against the name of God and homicide against the image-bearers of God. That’s what we see here. They can’t really murder God’s name, but in a way of speaking, capital punishment is here because you have murdered, you’ve committed homicide and treason against the name of God and His name is so precious, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.
Capital punishment in the Old Testament for murder because those made in the image of God are so precious, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.
Now lest we think that capital punishment here just fell upon an 8-year-old who accidently said, “OMG,” now teach your kids not to say that, but that’s not what is meant here by blaspheming the Name or cursing the Name. No, this was more than a slip-up, this was more than even using the Lord’s name as a curse word, as bad as that is. No, this was a specific, egregious violation of the third commandment. Not simply using the Lord’s name flippantly, which we shouldn’t do, it was rather a deliberate attempt to curse and blaspheme the Name.
Think about an example from the Old Testament of cursing. Maybe some of you have read it before. There’s a man named Shimei who curses King David. So you have a man who in the scheme of things looks to be a nothing and then you have the great King David in 2 Samuel 16. He curses David. What does he do there, this Shimei? Well, he throws stones at David and he says, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man, your evil is upon you, you are a man of blood.” There’s an example of a man cursing another man and interesting that he throws stones at him. Shimei thought that David was the problem.
Now David was a sinner and so David acknowledged and actually was gracious to this man, because David did have sins. But cursing there was not just a flippant word. It was, as Shimei threw stones at David, I want you dead, David. You are the problem. You are worthless.
So that’s what this man who curses and blasphemes the name of God does in verse 11. It is a serious sin.
Later in the Old Testament Naboth, though they bear false witness against him and Ahab and Jezebel scheme, he’s put to death because he seemed to have cursed God.
Why was Jesus put to death? Sometimes people say, “Well, Jesus was put to death because He just loved everybody so much.” Well, His love could be scandalous, but absolutely that is not the reason the gospels give why Jesus was put to death. That’s a modern or a post-modern reinvention, that Jesus was so tolerant and loving they killed Him. No, they explicitly put Him to death because they believed Him to be a blasphemer. Matthew 26:65 and 66, the high priest brings Him before the Sanhedrin and they say, based on false witnesses, He uttered blasphemy, what is your judgment? And the council says, “He deserves death.”
Now whether they were actually convinced Jesus had done this or simply out of jealousy and their own anger, they knew that they were saying lies, yet they had convinced themselves we know the Old Testament law, surely the punishment for blasphemy is death. He’s a blasphemer. Put Him to death.
That’s why they killed Jesus. Blasphemy is treated in the Old and the New Testament with the utmost seriousness.
Though we don’t have capital punishment for blasphemy, we would exercise Church discipline, I trust.
Perhaps the danger for us is not so much that we would be tempted to throw stones at God and say these outrageous, blasphemous things like this man did in chapter 24. Now if that’s your temptation, then you ought to pray that the Lord save you from such an egregious, grave sin. For most of us, I have to imagine, you know what the greater danger is? Not that we say those things, but that we’re not at all bothered by those who do.
You think of the psalmist who said my eyes shed streams of tears because people disobey Your law.
I promise not to ride this hobby horse for very long right here, but it amazes me the things that people watch, and it’s not just, you can’t say, well, it’s just the kids these days. No, it’s everybody. The sex that they watch, the language… I understand there’s some Christian liberty and I understand to see sin isn’t the same thing as committing sin, but listen, if we can be entertained by nonstop blasphemy of the name of God, something has gone very amiss in our hearts. We are a far cry from the psalmist who was shed streams of tears because people disobeyed God’s law.
Think about it. If you were in a group of people, men, and someone started just hurling epithets at your wife, she’s a piece of you know what, and they started throwing all these names at her. Or they said it, parents, about your kids, or your grandkids. Or perhaps said it about your country, the way that might rightfully be upset when someone dishonors the flag. Why is it that we feel this righteous indignation rising in us if someone dishonors our spouse or our kids or our country, and yet the name of God no big deal.
To berate the Name, the Creator, the One who made us, sustains us, who sent His Son to die for us, seems to be nothing. There is something wrong in our hearts.
This passage is to honor three things – the lamp, the bread, and the Name.
I hope as we close here and move to this table that you can easily see the connection between these three things and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus who said, “I am the light of the world.” The Lord Jesus who said, “I am the bread of life.” The Lord Jesus who when He taught His disciples to pray said the very first and preeminent petition you are to make. You know it – hallowed be Thy name. Let no one blaspheme the Name. Let no one dishonor the Name.
Everywhere in Scripture the name of the Lord, because it represents His character, His nature, His essence, His person, is exalted in the highest possible terms. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth.
Psalm 29 – Give glory due His name.
Psalm 138:2 – He is exalted above all things. His Name and His Word.
What did the apostles say about Jesus Christ but that there was no other name given among men whereby we must be saved. Paul assured the Romans everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. You know from Philippians the climatic event, the culminating event in all of history, in all of creation, is that at the name of Jesus, the name of Jesus, every knee would bow, every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
So this Leviticus 24 has everything to do with Jesus. It has everything to do with our salvation. It has everything to do with the very purpose under heaven whereby we have been made, that we might with our lives and our lips now and for eternity give glory to the Name.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, as we come to this table, a richer table than the one that was provided in the tabernacle, a better table, a more nourishing table, we come mindful of our sin. We confess before You, almighty and merciful God, that we have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things we ought to have done and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. There is no health in us. O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those, O God, who confess their faults, restore those who are penitent, according to Your promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus, our Lord, and grant, O merciful Father, for His sake that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous and sober life to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.