Terms and conditions

Read: Leviticus 1-3, Matthew 24:23-51

If you’re reading along in your Bible, you will have started Leviticus today. It’s a slog. Unless you’re really into the macabre, there isn’t much exciting about the first three chapters of the book. There’s a lot of killing of animals and gore. And some baking at the end. Don’t forget the salt.

We, having been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, have no need to make animal sacrifices in order to atone for our transgressions. So what is there for us in a book like Leviticus?

Let me explain.

Say you have an item of great value for sale. You’ve done your research and have had it appraised. You set a fair price and the item goes on the market. Someone approaches you and offers you an insulting price. They want to pay you half of what it’s worth. You immediately decline. But this person argues. They really, really need the item you have. You’re not convinced. The person making the offer becomes upset. Who are you to tell them what they can and cannot pay for an item they require? It’s not fair! It’s unjust! You shake your head. It’s your item, after all, and you have every right to decide it’s price based on fair market value. Heck, you can even decide to charge double fair market value if you want. It’s yours! The buyer continues to argue and you try to walk away. They chase after you trying one argument after another. The more they argue, the firmer you are in your decision not to sell to this person even if they ever decided to pay the price you set.

It all sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? When you’ve set the price on something you own, you are under no obligation whatsoever to accept anything but that price.

So why would we ever think that God should be required to accept anything less than what He’s required for the payment of our sin?

The book of Leviticus is God’s terms and conditions. They apply. Since He is the one who offers forgiveness, He is the one who gets to set the price. For those under the old covenant, some very specific sacrifices had to be offered in very specific ways. For those of us under the new covenant, it’s Jesus and Jesus alone who can (and already has) made the sacrifice for us.

John 14:6

There is only one term: Jesus. One condition: our acceptance of him. Anything else would be like the buyer offering half value. Since God is the one in possession of what we need, He is completely within His right to set the price and, if we truly want what He has to offer, we must accept His terms and conditions.

No more. No less.

Read: Exodus 29-30, Matthew 22:1-22

As humans, we want to put a price on everything. On everyone. You may have heard it said that everyone has a price. Whether intentionally or not, we put labels on people. We value them based on their station in life, their skills, education, and sadly, skin colour or nationality—some or all of these to a greater or lesser degree than another.

Some jobs pay more based on experience or expertise while others pay next to nothing, devaluing the person working it. We raise some people higher than others simply because they were born to the “right” parents and we debase some for the very same reason.

God has also put a price on all of our heads. But it is the same price for everyone.

God delivered His chosen people out of slavery so that He could dwell among them and be their God (Exodus 29:45-46). So that they would belong to Him, there was a price that had to be paid.

When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.

Exodus 30:12 (NIV)

In order to be kept in the count, each man over the age of twenty had to pay a price. The same price.

Exodus 30:15

No matter what tribe a person came from or what their station was, all lives were of equal value when it came to the price required to pay their ransom.

RANSOM: A transaction involving the release of an item (or person) in exchange for some type of payment.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

Atonement cannot be made without payment. The price we must pay is no longer a half shekel, but a blood sacrifice. Jesus’ blood. And it his blood and his alone that can complete the transaction. No more. No less. That price is the same for everyone.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”

Acts 10:34-35 (NIV)

In the eyes of God, we are all valued exactly the same. There is only one price to be paid and only method of payment. The price has already been paid, we need only to accept it. And, once accepted, that price puts us all on equal footing in the kingdom of God. No one is worth more. No one is worth less. But we are all of great value. Great enough that only another life could purchase ours.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NIV)

The price of wisdom

How much would you pay for wisdom? 10% of your paycheque? An entire paycheque? What about an entire year’s worth of paydays?

It’s all fine and good if you’re willing to pay for wisdom, but it can’t be bought.

Wisdom is far more valuable than gold and crystal. It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold. Coral and valuable rock crystals are worthless in trying to get it. The price of wisdom is far above pearls.

Job 28:17-18 (NLT)

Before we get too far into how much it is worth, what exactly is wisdom anyway and why should we be trying to get our hands on something that is seemingly unattainable?

WISDOM: The right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable ends, and of the best means to accomplish them. Profitable words or doctrine.

Let’s be clear—wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing. A person can be a walking encyclopedia and still be lacking in wisdom. Having all the knowledge in the world doesn’t mean that a person knows how to use it. In short, wisdom is the proper application of knowledge.

If having knowledge doesn’t mean you’re automatically wise, where does wisdom come from?

And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’

Job 28:28 (NLT)

Until God enters the picture, all you can ever have is knowledge. What use is knowledge if you don’t know how to use it properly? Wisdom is a byproduct of a healthy relationship with God. It is not something we can purchase or come across by any other means other than to walk with the One from whom wisdom flows.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

James 1:5 (NLT)

There you have it. Ask God. It’s the only way to attain the otherwise unattainable. The price tag on wisdom is your humility.

Daily Bible reading: Job 26-28, Acts 11

Great Value

As soon as I typed the words Great Value, I’m almost embarrassed to say that my first thought was Walmart. For those in countries where Walmart exists, you’ll know that Great Value is their house brand. But I don’t want to talk about Walmart today. I want to talk about great value. Something valuable.

VAL’UABLE, adjective. Having value or worth; having some good qualities which are useful and esteemed; precious.

While Walmart’s house brand might be useful, I’d hardly go so far as to call it precious.

Jesus points to a gift of great value in Mark’s Gospel.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poo as she is, has given everything she has to live on.

Mark 12:43-44 (NLT)

I know what that widow felt like. I’ve dug through my wallet and dropped literally every last penny (well, nickel, since we in Canada no longer have pennies) into the offering bucket.

From a monetary perspective, the widow gave the least, but from a perspective of need that widow gave the most.

Too often, we withhold a gift because we don’t believe it is valuable enough. We’re ashamed at how little we have to offer. But the true value isn’t in the price of the gift, it’s in what it costs us to give it.

In Mark, those who gave much could have given much more. They didn’t need what they put in the offering. The widow, on the other hand, could have used those last two pennies to buy her next meal. Instead, she gave all she had on faith.

God isn’t looking for us to wait to give until the monetary value is what we think it should be. He just wants us to give. Period. I know of people on welfare who keep a pocket full of gift cards just in case they come across someone who may be in greater need than they.

To God, great value isn’t in the price tag, it’s in the attitude of the heart.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 8-10, Mark 12:28-44

Contrite

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering,
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17 (ESV)

So many people – believers and unbelievers alike – have it in their heads that God is looking for works of the flesh. That, when we do something against His Word, He requires us to do something to abase ourselves so that He can forgive us.

God does not require anything of us, but our humility and our contrition. Jesus already paid the price of the flesh. Why would we try to  do anything more? We can’t do anything more.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 50-52; Acts 27:1-25