Today’s readings contain common threads of human sin and our need to find a way to deal with it. The Levitical laws instructed the Jews how to be in right relationship with God, and what to do with sin. David expressed an almost-New Testament understanding of his need for God’s forgiveness and the power of his cleansing in Psalm 32. The ultimate remedy for human estrangement from God – the death of Christ – is also recounted in our passage from the gospel of Mark.
Contained within these threads is the reality of God’s holiness. God’s purity both illuminates our impurity and provides the way to holiness for humanity. Within the Leviticus passage, there is a phrase that grabs me: “the Name” (24:16).
The people of God were not to blaspheme (curse or insult) the holy name of God. The name of God is representative of who he is, and we are to fear (to have a deep respect for) him. To use his name in a blasphemous way denigrates who he is, his character.
Conversely, we can bless God and others through using “the Name” in an appropriate way. My favourite blessing in the scriptures is Numbers 6, verses 24-26:
“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”
The Lord instructed Moses to tell Aaron and his sons (who were priests) to pronounce this blessing upon the people. That the face of God would shine upon someone – how marvellous! Verse 27, which comes after, ties into our concept: “So they (Aaron and his sons) will put My Name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
In the Incarnation, God put on a human face and turned it towards a desperately needy human race. The Name of our incarnated God was Immanuel, God with us. Now we as followers of Christ bear his Name. May we never forget this, and carefully bear, and use, his name with wisdom and respect. Oh, I don’t want to forget: May “the Lord bless you and keep you. . .” and all you love today; his Name is upon you!
Community Chaplain and happy wife of Brian