Wednesday, January 28, 2015

out of the movies and into the gallery

The Word for today:
Leviticus 1
Leviticus is famous as the book where people stopped reading the Bible! Armed, at the start of a new year, with their resolutions and their “Bible in a Year” bookmarks, they zoom right through Genesis:
Serpent, sin, and banishment;
Cain and Abel;
Noah’s ark;
The tower of Babel;
Abraham and Sarah and the Son of Promise;
Sodom and Gomorrah;
Jacob and Rachel and a stairway to the stars;
Joseph and his brothers.
They fly through Exodus:
Mortar, bricks, and taskmasters;
Baby Moses in the bulrushes;
The backside of the desert;
The burning bush and the of Name God;
Aaron’s rod and the magicians of Egypt;
The plagues;
The Passover;
The parting of the Red Sea;
Wilderness and manna;
Sinai and the Ten Commandments;
The golden calf;
The Tabernacle.
Then, with excitement and anticipation they turn the page, only to be met by--a burnt offering?
Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock--of the herd and of the flock. 'If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He shall kill the bull before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. And he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire. (Leviticus 1:1-7)
Well, there were some slow sections in Exodus, too. So the reader keeps on going. He makes it all the way through the grain offering in chapter two, then the peace offering in chapter 3.
But by chapter 5 he starts to peek ahead to see if anything ever happens in Leviticus. Skimming the pages, he comes across some laws about leprosy, some cleansing rituals, and some dietary regulations. Then there’s something about feasts and the garments of the priests…
It can make the reader wonder whether the Holy Spirit, who got off to such an intriguing start in Genesis and Exodus, forgot how to tell the Story. And right there in the midst of Leviticus their Bible in a Year bookmarks get stuck, never to move again.
But do not fret, dear reader. Whenever the well-intentioned believer has gotten lost in Leviticus, it’s because he’s lost sight of Jesus.
He lost sight of Jesus because the straightforward narrative (plot and character) presentation of Genesis and Exodus shifts abruptly to the symbolic abstractions of Leviticus.
Whereas Genesis and Exodus are stories—in fact, movies—the reader, as he turns the page to Leviticus, enters a gallery of perpetually modern art.
The Symbolist paintings are here, and the Abstract Expressionists are there, the sculpture is over there, the Impressionists are down there, and further down the hall are the Cubists.
The pictures aren’t physically moving, like they are in Genesis and Exodus, but once the Bible student aesthetically enters into this gallery and stops expecting theater, then these portraits of Jesus can be as dramatic and as emotionally moving as any to be found in scripture.
So we invite you inside Leviticus, where the very first thing you will notice, of course, is a highly stylized abstraction of a cross.
This effect is achieved in part by the metaphorical usage of fire (1). Placed beneath the grates on the altar of sacrifice, the flames are representative of God, who is, both literally and allegorically, a consuming fire…
(1) see Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29; and Leviticus 1:7 (above)

No comments:

Post a Comment