Getting to the Good Part
It’s February. Which means if you, like me, are attempting to read through the Bible, cover to cover, in 2023, we’re now in the thick of Leviticus and Numbers. It feels so fitting that in what I consider the longest, coldest, arguably lamest month of the year (the only bright spot being my birthday), I’m reading through what I consider to be the longest, hardest, most difficult books of the Bible.
These books, full of specifications for the various types of ritual sacrifice, rules for cleanliness, laws for living together in a civilized society, and the literal counting of the Israelites can be truly tedious to trudge through. On the heels of the sweeping creation story and soap opera-esque family dramas in Genesis followed by the epic deliverance of the Isaerlite's from Egypt in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers can feel dry and absolutely void of application or relevance for those of us living in the 21st century.
In addition to committing to reading through the Bible this year, I’m also committing to lean into curiosity and away from judgement. I’m an answers person by nature - and I’m typically able to arrive at an answer pretty quickly and decisively. In college, I was the one who made everyone else nervous when I finished a 100 question test in 20 minutes. I can also be fairly judgmental and quick to presume I understand the situations and motivations of those around me. But this year, I’m slowing down and wading into curiosity instead.
So as I wrapped up my time in Exodus and began trying to prepare my heart and brain for the trudge through Leviticus and Numbers, rather than assume it was irrelevant, I found myself asking questions not from a stance of judgement, but of true curiosity. Questions like, “Why are these detailed building specifications for the tabernacle included in your ‘living and active word’? Why do I need to read this? What can anyone other than the literal builders who lived thousands of years ago do with this information? Why include this list of who contributed? What do these 251 laws laid out in Leviticus mean for me today?”
And as I prioritized this posture of humility, I wasn’t necessarily expecting answers to my questions, and I certainly wasn’t actively seeking them out. I was just allowing myself to sit in the confusion, the discomfort, and the tediousness of this section of scripture rather than race through or even skip it altogether.
But in his ever faithful fashion, the Lord opened my eyes to something I hadn’t noticed before. Exodus 38, the final chapter in the book, ends with a section about the glory of God - the way God’s presence settled over the tabernacle as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I’ve always known that God’s presence led the Israelites out of Egypt in this fashion, but I don’t think I’ve ever realized that throughout this section of the Bible, the one full of laws and regulations and so much structure, the presence of God remains a tangible entity.
And then I saw it. Our God longs to draw near to his people. Over and over again we see him repeat the refrain, “So I will be their God and they will be my people.” In the garden, he had perfect and complete community with his people. In the earliest days of history, he visited Abraham in his tent; he met Hagar in the wilderness; he wrestled with Jacob on his journey home; and he appeared to Moses in the burning bush. He cannot keep himself away from his people. He is always drawing near and capturing hearts with his goodness.
And at its core, that’s really all the law is. An avenue to allow God to draw near to his people. To bridge the divide sin created. To protect us from ourselves. To show over and over again that “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.” (Numbers 14:17)
So here I am. Mid-February. Mid-Numbers. Seeing not only lists and laws but longing and most of all love. That’s where my curiosity led me. To the heart of a God who wants relationship with his people. With me. And somehow my willingness to wade through the hard parts of the Old Testament brought me here, to the good part. The unending, jealous love of a God who delivers his people every time.
Sam Martin is our newest member of our blogging team. Please feel to reach out to her at email@example.com. You can also find her on the Gram at @sam_anneleise or at @hopemommiesdallas.