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Monday, February 22, 2016

God and Community

Who am I? What thinking person has not asked that question?

You are who you are based on your relationship with others. Your family, birth order, gender, ethnic group, etc., all form your identity. You are whose you are. Relationships shape personal identity. The people group with whom we lived in Africa, the AmaNdebele, say, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.” This statement means that a person is a person because of the people. 

“I am the LORD,” “ I am the LORD your God,” declares the Lord more than fifteen times as He instructs His people on how to live in community with one another (Leviticus 19). Their identity with one another--as wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, employers, employees, poor, rich, etc.--all depends on their relationship with the LORD. That relationship is the core of Israel’s identity personally and communally. 
Only after Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden tree do they separate themselves from each other, fear exposure, and cover themselves with leaves. Sin affects their relationship with God and with one another; it changes community. 
Sin enslaves the heart to “self” so that in every relationship man faces, he asks, “How does this relationship build me up? Satisfy me? Affirm me? Hurt me? Diminish me? Define me?” The epicenter of all sin-based relationships is “me.” Self-focused people break down community while God-focused people build community. 
These instructions reveal a number of truths about community, including:
  • Self-focused people abuse relationships and break down community.
  • God-focused people honor relationships and build community.
  • Self-focused people act out of bitterness and revenge.
  • God-focused people respond in love and righteousness.
It is no wonder, then, that when Jesus identified the two great commandments, He drew from this passage in Leviticus to declare, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). 

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"Do not practice divination or sorcery. Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:26,31; 20:6)

Tucked away in these regulations are a series of commands that may seem strange to modern secular Americans. These verses deal with consulting mediums, seeking guidance from the dead, following divination, or being involved in sorcery. They seem strange to us because our secular way of life discounts any supernatural activity, but to much of our world today, as to Israel of old, the spiritual world is a real and frightening place.

Africans, Asians, and many S. Americans live in a world where the ancestors speak and quide their lives. Divination - using mechanical means to discern direction, such as read tea leaves, palms or casting bones guides them through the maze of day to day life. Mediums and spiritists are humans who employ familiar spirits to get in touch with the dead and offer direction for the living.

Fascination with mediums is growing as people conduct seances and call psychic hotlines. What is wrong with these practices? The real danger behind these practices is not, as the secularists might think, that they don't work; the real danger is that they do. In many cases many do get in touch with the spirit world. The Bible is clear that two things happen in this involvement:
  1. They will not hear from the true God.
  2. They actually communicate with demons.
Thus they get false counsel from the one Jesus called "the father of lies."

These verses warn us that the choice is clear. Opening ourselves to the spirit world defiles us (19:31) and causes us to prostitute ourselves to false gods (20:6). We receive counsel then from the father of lies who has come to kill, steal, and destroy. On the other hand if we choose to listen to the true God and His Word His counsel always leads to life and peace.

The wisest choice for the child of God is to flee from encounters with the spirit world and to learn to live in the Word and receive God's counsel.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Leviticus 19:1-21:24
  • How does holiness manifest itself in someone's life?
  • What do these regulations teach you about man? About God?
  • What does keeping God's commandments communicate about God to other nations?
  • What are some ways that people in the U.S. flirt with or outright engage evil spirits?
  • How does God differentiate between the priests and the other men of Israel?
  • What does this differentiation tell you about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you where you are opening yourself up to the spirit world.