Lev 4-5; Romans 11; Psalm 78 vs 32-end
One of the great themes of Paul’s teaching is against boasting. Insofar as he boasts, he boasts in his humiliations – those things which make him nothing. In his correspondence with the Corinthians, he berates them for their boasting over Spiritual gifts.
Central to his thinking is that boasting is inappropriate, for all is by grace, not works. In other words,we have what we have purely by God’s unmerited goodness – and that very often if not always that Grace is mediated through the giants on whose shoulders we stand – that we have not lifted ourselves us – rather we have been lifted up.
As Mary reminds us in the Maginificat, he has exalted the humble and meek – but he has scattered the proud in the vain imaginings of their hearts.
Throughout the story of the people of God as told in the Old Testament, in worship they are continuously reminded of that dependence on Grace – the sacrificial system, at the heart of their worship is meant in large part to act a s reminder of their utter dependence on Grace, and that it is only through the death of another, that they have life. [We in Western technological societies, have little sense of the care of the shepherd for sheep in such cultures as that described to us in Leviticus – the sheep was not a unit of industrial production, it was a living being – created according to our deep story on the same day as the human]
And so as we shall see later, as the people approach the promised land, they are warned against the boastfulness that says, ‘by the strength of my right hand I gained all this’. In many ways our ‘advanced’ civilisation has this refrain written through it. Our educational systems all are geared towards the myth of the self made person, to the point often of effectively removing all responsibility for ‘growth’ from the birth family. We are as it were being taught to be greedy and boastful, although of course we would never call it that.
Our ancestors in faith, for all their failings took these deep sins – the deadly sins – Pride, Anger, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Avarice and Sloth – seriously – that they were DEADLY. Generally we live in a culture that ignores history, that we stand on the shoulders of others, that our lives are lived at the expense of others, and we find the idea of blood sacrifice ‘uncultured’ or ‘primitive’.
It is only those who are utterly unaware of themselves who can think this way – and also only those who are utterly unaware of themselves that can actually not even begin to comprehend the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.
Paul, and the Levitical law have one purpose – to remind us that our Election is to humility.
Hard as we may find it to believe – this is Election to Life – for it is Election to humiliation, in the way of Christ, who made himself nothing.
It is through his humiliation, that we find life. Boasting is excluded, for it separates us from Christ, as so many of the Israelites were, though elect – their election became the source of their falling away.
Let us not ignore the Fullness of the reality of the Life to which we have been called.