6–12 March 2016.
Back when we were children in Australia, we used to watch American TV shows and would see how some actors would have these really complicated handshakes. They would meet each other and do some special moves with their hands – and as kids we used to think that was so cool! Sharing this kind of complicated handshake was like having a secret code, and it made you feel special. So we would try the same thing with our school friends, but it never really worked. It was just too hard to remember all the moves. It looked good on TV, but in real life it was all just too much effort.
Wanting to be special is a very human emotion. We don’t want to be ordinary, so by surrounding ourselves with complicated things we make ourselves feel special, exclusive, like we’re better than everyone else.
This was one of the great problems with the Jewish religious system. Leviticus lists the regulations for ancient worship, and today’s passage describes just one part of the incredibly complicated system of sacrifices. But like some super secret handshake, the sacrifices are so complicated that not even Aaron and his sons can figure them all out, and it all ends in disaster. So in Lev 10:16–20, Aaron and Moses argue about what went wrong.
It’s so human to make things more complicated than they need to be – even more complicated than God wants them to be! Remember how in 2 Kings 5, Naaman wanted to be healed of his leprosy but was so offended when Elisha told him just to wash in the river. Naaman wanted something complicated and magical, not something simple!
In the Jewish worship practices outlined in Leviticus, we also see this desire for all kinds of complicated and even violent sacrifices. But through the prophets – especially Amos (5:21–22), Isaiah (66:3), Hosea (6:6, 8:13) and Micah (6:6–8) – God tells Israel how much he hates and despises those sacrifices! In Hosea 6:6 God tells us that he wants simple love, not complicated sacrifices.
Today we often fall into the same trap. We think we need difficult and complicated ways to serve God, when what God really wants from us is so simple. As Jesus tells us: love God, and love others. It’s that simple!
Pastor Stephen Lakkis