Last week I started a tough chapter. One God brought up in my time with Him the other morning. I was just going to gloss over the death penalty in Leviticus as I and so many Christians have done in the past. It feels bad, wrong even, but this is God, and so we move on and in a while forget about it. So I mentioned it and was going to do the same again, until Ruach said he didn’t want me to. He wanted me to deal with it.
“What? Really?” And I felt worse.
The next morning He said, “Do you think that is what I wanted?”
And it was amazing how all the bad feelings melted away. I knew that was not what He wanted–ever. Death has no part of Him, Them, or the kingdom They created and will preside over forever. It can’t even exist in Their presence.
It’s why Jesus couldn’t go to Mary and Martha even though he wanted to. Lazarus wouldn’t have died, and God needed him to, so Jesus could raise him from the dead as Jesus crowning proof he was their Messiah (the sign of Jonah promised the Pharisees.) It was hard on Mary and Martha, but he knew them, and knew he could trust them to get through it without breaking faith.
So why did He set it up as a boundary in Israel? Why so harsh? Why so drastic?
He gave me several reasons: His perspective, the times, prevailing customs, and most importantly containment.
God’s Perspective on Death
If you read the Bible carefully, you find references to death that treat it as a sleep. Jesus confirmed this on at least two occasions: Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter. He raised them back to life, but they died again. Lazarus, not too long after that.
John the Baptist, on the other hand, died at Herod’s hand; the Baptist’s and Jesus’ disciples wondered why Jesus didn’t rescue him and never knew why. I wondered too. Then one day my husband and I were reading the story and I voiced my question again. He told me that he believed John was one of the ones who came out of the grave when Jesus died and went back to heaven with him (Matthew 28:52-53) as the “first fruits” we spoke of in the last chapter. Immediately I espoused that belief! I love it!
And it helped me with God’s perspective on death which for years I had begun to see was different from ours. To us death leaves such a hole in our lives it is traumatic. And if the death was violent it’s so much worse. But even other deaths we hear of are painful when we hear of other people suffering. To us death has such a finality, even if we believe we will see them again in the resurrection. It may be years, and what do we do with the emptiness, love and longing for years?
To God, death is nothing but a moment. Our life span is but a moment. He lives outside of time. And They know hearts. They know who will be resurrected and live forever. Jesus said, “…Even the dead are alive in God’s mind.” So if God “accidentally” kills Nadab and Abihu because of their rash action of coming into Adonai’s presence unfitly, He knows if they will be in heaven.
Death here and forgiveness have nothing to do with each other. God might allow you to die to take you out of painful circumstances, knowing He will see you soon, as he did with John the Baptist and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They have been a great encouragement to other’s in similar situations. The dead are no different from the living to God.
I’m sure the deaths of those who reject Them are painful to God. There are no more chances. But once again, they read hearts. They know who is really Theirs, and forgiveness is easily extended to those who are honest in heart. This takes us to looking at God as King.
Civil Responsibility of Governments
How does God act as the government? He was the top for Israel. He was their king. until they begged for one. They didn’t want to be a different (holy) nation! They wanted to be like everyone else. It’s so sad how our insecurity makes us want to fit in.
God as king had to have civil laws, and perhaps that scared them because of Sinai. But if they had known God—had their own personal relationships with Him, as Moses did–and known Adonai’s sweet love and tenderness, they would have known He reads hearts and they could trust His judgment as king. Judgment most broadly means discernment.
But since this is too long already, here ends the excerpt from Love’s Playbook, episode 6.