Leviticus 23:23-44

The passage outlines rules for how we are to enjoy ourselves.  In taking time off of work, we are refreshed – rejuvenated.  God’s rules are meant to bring us life.  They are guidelines which enliven us by telling us how our lives should be lived.

However, the McHenry Police reminded me this morning how a strict observance of rules shows us the bitterness that comes with goodness.  I wouldn’t consider myself a libertine.  However, even though I thought I had stopped at the intersection two blocks from my house the policeman that came to the junction at the same time informed me that I had not.  The policeman took my insurance card and informed me that it had expired at the end of last month.  I told him that the new one was on the desk two blocks away.  For my crime he took my I.D. and informed me that I have to miss a day of work in two weeks time to attend court.  I will probably have to take two tests (CDL and regular) when my license is renewed.  This is the law.  When the policeman wrote me two tickets the policeman was not being bad – he was being good.  He was enforcing the letter of the law without grace or mercy.  To my entitled mind it seemed petty and vindictive.  However, having studied Leviticus a powerful thought hit me:  a perfect and good lawgiver who lived with us would not be a source of joy.  Just as the police had the right to take my I.D. and order me to court for inching over the line, God is well within his rights to kill us horribly for inching over his lines.  Without mercy and grace the world is a cold and dangerous place.  The good can leave us hating their righteousness.  God did not smile at our misfortune and utter an infuriating, “Have a nice day.”  He saw my predicament, issued the tickets, and then he payed them.

This is why many people hate the Old Testament and love the New.  They do not see that, unlike the McHenry Police force, God has provided mercy and grace in the light of his excruciating goodness and the laws that flow from them.  Just as I feel more alienated from the police the longer I live in McHenry, IL. , so we would be driven into the darkness to escape the searing holiness of a good God.

Leviticus 23:23-44

 The LORD said to Moses, 24 “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. 25 Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.’ ”

 26 The LORD said to Moses, 27 “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, [d] and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. 28 Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. 29 Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. 30 I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. 31 You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. 32 It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.”

 33 The LORD said to Moses, 34 “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. 35 The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. 36 For seven days present offerings made to the LORD by fire, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work.

 37 (” ‘These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing offerings made to the LORD by fire—the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day. 38 These offerings are in addition to those for the LORD’s Sabbaths and [e] in addition to your gifts and whatever you have vowed and all the freewill offerings you give to the LORD.)

 39 ” ‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. 40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41 Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ “

 44 So Moses announced to the Israelites the appointed feasts of the LORD.


  1. What instrument signals the festival on the first day of the seventh month?
  2. What is the punishment for anyone who breaks God’s law and goes to work?
  3. How often have you broken God’s laws and worked seven days a week?
  4. What do you deserve for breaking a ‘trivial’ law like stopping to work and having a rest?
  5. How did people become so incredulous about the God of the Old Testament

Post Script:  The interaction with the McHenry police was at 5:30 a.m.  At 7:45 I was stationary and a Pathfinder reversed into my Mini and smashed the front.  The front started smoking and the brakes ceased working leaving it undrivable.  The other driver was issued a ticket for backing into me.  He was told by the police officer that it would benefit him to go to court and have the ticket thrown out as long as I didn’t contest anything.  I told him that I would not be there.  I wanted to go beyond the righteous goodness that I had received earlier that day.  I desperately wanted to see some mercy.

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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