Today, a friend and I discussed the difference in serving God out of obligation and out of love. A religious spirit can make you get everything perfect on the outside, but your works will not be with any heart. It’s more like an arranged marriage. But a spirit of love will gently push you to uphold God’s law because you desire to bless and please the One who has been so good to you.
In today’s Infinite Supply, Chip Brogden speaks about the loving Spirit who created the law…
The Spirit of the Law
“Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
Legally they were on solid ground. But to her accusers, Jesus replied, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And when they all left, being convicted by their own conscience, He said to the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more” (John 8:12). We must conclude that however good the Law was, it did not represent God’s highest, or God’s best.
Jesus represents the holiness and purity of the Law but emphasized the part that had been too long overlooked: grace and humility. He came to address the deeper issues of the heart, and in so doing, showed us what God really intended from the beginning. He did not destroy the Law, He superseded the Law! Thus He fulfilled the spirit of the Law – even if it sometimes appeared as if He did not follow the letter of the Law.
Source: The Irresistible Kingdom by Chip Brogden
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Of course, the One who created the law would most certainly know best His purposes behind it. As the author says, He supersedes the law. It’s our interpretations and perspectives on it that cause it to be grievous and chaotic. But the Spirit behind the law will lead us in keeping the spirit of the law as He intended–as a clear dividing line between unholy and holy.
Romans 2:29 (NKJV) adds some clarity to the thought…
But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
When we keep the spirit God input into the law by His Holy Spirit, we will seek to please Him instead of men’s ideas of holiness and perfection. We will desire to be holy (separated from sin) because we love God too much to want to be unholy (separated from God). He wants to draw near to us, so He gave us laws to help us learn how to make room in our lives for His presence.
Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, we let Him down and make it hard for Him to find a place for His presence, so He pours out His mercy through the blood of Yeshua. That’s the dividing line now. We choose either outside of His mercy or under His blood because His blood is what makes us holy so He can dwell with us. So The Holy Spirit of The Law is greater than the letter of the law because mercy through the blood of Christ is more powerful than all the works we can do in and of ourselves.
Because peril is a serious subject, let me start out with some lighter fare. The image above is from a Flickr group called Stick Figures in Peril. People post images of warning signs, and then group members comment on them. For example, on the above image, someone wrote, “Skipping like a girl will get you shot.” It’s a fun group since some of the warning signs are not exactly evident, especially if they’re in languages other than English. Plus, many of the stick figure warnings look less like people, so they will not have gender or age issues, and the comments often make fun of the figures themselves. For example, many will say something like, “Don’t do this, or you’ll end up with a detached head and no hands.” The older images have more comments of course.
As for the serious subject, we have this warning in 2 Timothy 3:1 (KJV): “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” In other Bible versions, the words used instead of perilous include hard, grievous, terrible, distressing, difficult, terrifying, dangerous and trying. Some versions are more detailed and give other descriptions. They say there will be times of stress, much trouble, times of difficulty, and violent periods of time. In The Living Bible (TLB), Paul speaks to Timothy this way…
You may as well know this too, Timothy, that in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian.
And so it will be, and so it is, but what kinds of peril do we most often hear reported or complained about these days? Stepping away from what the Bible calls “perilous” for a moment, let’s think about some troublesome times I’ve heard about just in my lifetime. My grandfather worked three part-time jobs before he came into a career. It was difficult to find full-time work, and even with all the jobs he put in, it was hard for him to feed his family. His family of five shared a small travel trailer on a lot, and their most frequent meal was pinto beans and fried potatoes. (Those years did teach my grandma how to make the best beans and potatoes though, hence my strong desire for those foods now.)
Anyway, those were truly difficult times, but my grandparents persevered until they were able to buy a home. Once they both has jobs, times got much easier for them. They went from a hand-dug pool to a professional pool, and eventually they got a retirement home with riverfront property. But even when times were better, they were frugal and thrifty about most things, like only using the pot belly stove for heat while everyone was awake. I lived with them for some of those days, and only using upstairs heat meant my downstairs bedroom was really cold, but it also meant a few more times out to eat too.
When people complain about being poor in today’s society, it usually means they can’t afford a smart phone with an unlimited plan, a flat screen television, and premium cable. They feel left out if they don’t have a computer and high-speed Internet. Oh, and don’t even think of telling them to be satisfied if they don’t have steak for dinner and a refrigerator full of 2-liters. Where my mom and her siblings would’ve been grateful for hot dogs to go with their beans and potatoes, people are selling their food stamps for cigarettes and then griping if they run out of soda. I’m telling the truth here. And I’m not saying everyone should have to deal with eating from food banks where you get mostly canned mixed vegetables (I still think Veg-All is disgusting) and off-brand mac and cheese. I’m just saying that people complain when they could have it much worse. They could have to work for a living and still struggle for beans and potatoes.
Now, though, let me tell you what the Bible calls perilous times. I’ll share 2 Timothy 3:1-5 from The Message Bible…
Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.
The KJV Bible lists the last of verse 4 and first of verse 5 like this…
“…lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”
And doesn’t that explain perfectly why we are where we are in the last days? The real power of God can change everything. Religion is a form of godliness and only changes some things. Ethereal power (angels, miracles, etc.) have their place, but that’s still not the power people deny. The power too many of us are missing now is truth and balance; trusting that God is on His throne, in control, and absolutely knows best even when we don’t understand. We put too many things in our own thoughts and understanding, so we end up with statistics like those shown in a recent article where 63% of active Christians think sex outside of marriage is fine. The article calls them “sexual atheists” and makes very good points.
Yes, perilous times are here in so many ways, but if you know Yahveh as your Lord and Savior, you know from His word that none of this comes as a surprise to Him. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and is just as able to deliver us from these end times as He was to deliver Israel from her enemies of old. He can and will govern our lives and minds if we let Him. We have the power of His Holy Spirit to carry us through. His wisdom from Proverbs 3:5-6 (Amplified Bible) gives us a perfect promise…
Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.
Are you the type that likes to make a list of items to pack before you get ready to travel somewhere? I know I make a list because there are too many things I’m just afraid I can’t live without if I forget them. But even with the best lists, I still showed up for one of my writer’s conferences without certain essentials, and boy was I glad that Wal-Mart sold Fruit of the Loom products. 🙂
The song in the video above says…
I am on my way to that New Jerusalem Where the sun will never go down. Every day I’m making preparation Packing, getting ready, getting ready to go, I’m packing up getting ready to go.
In today’s reading from Numbers 4:1 through Numbers 4:20, we come to the end of the “In the Desert” portion, and it’s time for the Levites to pack up the tabernacle and get ready to go where God leads them. That may not seem like a big deal, but remember that there are parts and pieces to God’s tabernacle that are especially holy. Packing them takes a bit more finesse to keep from exposing them to anything or anyone not meant to interact with them.
To start, God has Moses take a new census of the Levites from the clan of K’hat (sons of Kohath aka Kohathites) that are between the ages of thirty and fifty. They will help get the tabernacle, and especially the articles of The Holy Place ready to travel. God gives an exact list of the items, how to disassemble them, how to wrap them, and how to pack them. Most of the items will be covered with cloth and fine leather (or possibly porpoise or dolphin skins). The cloth will be blue, purple, or scarlet, depending on the item to be wrapped.
Because the Levites that are doing this work are not all priests, if they look on the things of God, they risk being killed–or at the very least being separated from the community. To prevent this, God instructs Moses what to do for those in the clan of K’hat to avoid the risk. Aaron and his sons will be the ones to move and touch the holy items and wrap them to prepare them for packing.
Aaron and all his sons are to remove the sheet that separates the Especially Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant is stored. Aaron’s son Eleazar is in charge of all the oils. He will prepare and wrap the oils for the menorah, the anointing oils, the holy incense, and all that is used for the daily offerings. After the priests cover the holy items and bring them out, the other Levites will be able to pack them up without looking at or touching the holy parts and risking their own deaths.
If you’ve ever packed up for more than a trip, like packed up a house to move, you know that all things are not packed with the same level of care. Books, CDs, DVDs, and the last remaining VHS tapes can be packed as much as you can stuff in a box and still be able to carry. Clothing can be folded, or if you’re in a hurry, stuffed in a bunch of suitcases. (I know I’m not the only one who’s ever done this. LOL) Oh, but your fine china, and the blown glass that was passed down to you from Grandma, will be treated with extreme care and caution.
God wanted his house packed up carefully and with the utmost respect. He did not want to risk any holy items being treated as if they were just some old plastic-ware from the kitchen. His items were a part of Him, and they represented Him to the whole community of Israel. So what does that say about us now? We are God’s current tabernacle. We are what God has poured His Holy Spirit into as fine vessels made holy by His presence. There will come a day when we will move to the New Jerusalem. Now, it’s time for us to live like we’re on our way and get packed up and ready to meet Christ when He calls us home. Let us remember our value to Him and pack carefully.
If I were to ask you if you honor the Lord with holiness, you would likely begin to look at the works you do for Him to decide how to answer. But I believe holiness has everything to do with our hearts, and only has to do with our works insomuch as they follow the thoughts of our hearts. Holiness begins in our hearts and with a commitment to give to God that which He should have because He is worthy. Holiness is the change of heart that makes us see God as worthy of our belief, our obedience, our trust, and our praise.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 21:16 through Leviticus 22:16, we start with Yahveh telling Moses to tell Aaron the following: “None of your descendants who has a defect may approach to offer the bread of his God.” And then the teaching goes on to explain all the types of defects that would prevent a descendant of Aaron from working in the priesthood. I would not be able to bring offerings into the holy place because I have stunted growth. My husband could not bring offerings into the holy place because he has a cataract. We could both eat the bread of God, both the holy and the especially holy, but we could not offer it to God with our defects because that would profane God and His place of holiness.
Moses tells these things to Aaron and to all of Israel, and then he goes to Aaron to deepen the lesson. He tells him to have his sons keep themselves separate from the holy things of God, so they will not take a chance of defiling them by approaching them in an unholy state. If they do, God will cut them off from their people. For us, this means that we should not try to come into “the church” by doing all the right stuff without first repenting and being covered with the holy blood of Christ to make us clean. Like the verse above says, our salvation is a gift from God, and that alone should be enough to bring us to our knees before we strap on the apron of good works.
The teaching goes on to explain more ways in which a descendant from Aaron (member of the tribe of Levi) can make himself or herself unclean, and that uncleanness can prevent both doing the work of the tabernacle and partaking of the holy food. Even a daughter who has married outside of the tribe is no longer able to partake of the food, but a widow or divorcee with no child that comes back to live with her father may share in the food. Also, while an employee or tenant may not partake of the holy foods, a slave that lives in the home of a Levite may eat them.
I see all of this teaching as a simple commandment to not put the cart before the horse. We don’t do the works of God with unholy hearts that are not committed to Him. That means we don’t get brownie points for going to church on Sundays and hoping it will erase the demerits we earned during the rest of the week. We don’t get a pat on the back from God because we donate to good causes or give ourselves to service if we are doing those things in the sin of pride and arrogance instead of with a holy love for our Creator.
Holiness is a changed state of heart and mind that will have us proclaiming the glory of God in wondrous new ways. Here are just some of the verses from King David’s song in Psalm 96 in which I can see his holy heart…
1Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
3 Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
4 For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised…
6 Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
I especially like that last verse because I see holiness as something beautiful and wonderful. It is an acknowledgement that God’s holiness is so majestic that all we can do is tremble in His holy presence. Hallelu-Yah!
I once received a request from someone who wanted to be apart (sic) of a writing project I was putting together. My first reaction was to wonder how much editing I would have to do based on that incorrect request, but after some of the “I know better than this” mistakes I’ve made on Facebook posts, I realized it was an easy mistake that spell-check would never catch. I sent a reply that I would like her to be “a part” of the project and hoped she didn’t really want to be “apart from” it.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:23 through Leviticus 20:27 (the end of the chapter), God tells Israel to make sure they do not live by the laws of the land’s former inhabitants. He reminds them that the reason He detested those who lived in the land before He chose to give it to Israel is because they were doing all the things He’s been commanding Israel to avoid. And then He reminds them that He is their God, and He has set them apart from all other people groups.
He wants Israel to be a people that knows the difference in good and bad, clean and unclean, obedient and unruly. He does not want them to be ignorant about what sets them apart for Him or what makes them holy to Him. He is a Holy God who has set apart a people to be holy to Him, so they can belong to Him.
As a Christian, I have been offered many opportunities to go along with the crowd and participate in a variety of behaviors that I felt were not something God would have me do. The ones doing the offering were always quick to explain how the activities would not hurt anyone, so they couldn’t really be wrong. I came up with a little chorus along the line of the country song “On The Other Hand” where the man says he won’t cheat on his wife because of the ring on the other hand. My chorus basically said something like…
On one hand, I could go out and party all night long, And maybe grace could justify all your wild and wooly plans. But even if our fun would not be all that bad or wrong, The reason I can’t sin, is in Jesus’ nail-scarred hands.
I can’t remember the actual words I wrote back then, and I don’t remember if I even had verses, but I’m sure you get the idea. If we try to fit in with the ways of the world by looking to justify the “minor” sins, how are we treating the price that was paid for our salvation? It doesn’t matter if a sin seems to be a little thing, or if it seems to be innocuous in that it would not really hurt anyone, if our purpose in committing it is to be a part of the world instead of being set apart for Christ, then we need to examine our hearts. Because we serve a holy God, our hearts should desire holiness.
Think of it this way; just as we don’t want someone marching across our freshly washed floor with muddy boots (or paws if we’re talking about fur-babies), God doesn’t want a parade of unclean things in His presence. With His blood, God has set us apart and welcomed us to be a part of a wonderful eternity. And until then, He wants us to be a part of the intimate relationship He created for a set apart people. It should be our pleasure, and our gift back to Him for choosing us, to live in a way that seeks to be separated from all things God Himself would not want in His holy presence.
Now isn’t that title just a mouthful? Of course, I love words, and I have a thing for words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. They call them homophones, and the list includes many words that often get misspelled like there, their, and they’re; hear and here; to, too, and two, your and you’re; etc. I have challenged myself many times through the years to see how big a list of these I can make. I currently have over 400 sets and well over 800 words total, especially since so many of them have three to a set.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:1 through Leviticus 16:17, we begin a new portion for a new week, Parashah 29: Hebrew Acharei Mot meaning “After the Death.” This portion focuses on the requirements of Aaron before he is able to enter the Holy of Holies to meet with the presence of God. It begins by focusing on what not to do that got the sons of Aaron killed, and it explains that the rules apply because God’s presence is actually there in the Holy Place.
We’ve read the laws in previous portions but to summarize, there will need to be gifts from the community of Israel who will provide a bull, a ram, and two goats. Aaron will put on the priestly vestments, and then he will give a sin offering and a burnt offering, and he will cast lots over the goats to determine which will be for The Lord, and which will be for Az’azel. (Note: KJV translates this word as “scapegoat” but many are unsure what the word actually means.) After the blood sacrifices, Aaron will perform the other cleansing and praise rituals with the incense and the sprinkling of blood.
The important things in these behaviors are in Aaron doing whatever it takes to gain atonement for himself, for his household, and for the community of Israel, before he enters into the presence of God. The incense is to create a cloud over the Ark of the Covenant because God’s presence dwells there, and the smoke will keep Aaron from dying. Even though we now have the blood of Christ for our atonement, so we can come boldly before the throne of grace and mercy, I think heartfelt and sincere praise as we enter into the holy Presence of Yahveh Almighty is a valuable offering. I guess it’s like greeting someone you love with a kiss before you start making demands on them. 🙂
The verse that stood out to me today is verse 16 which reads…
He will make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleannesses of the people of Isra’el and because of their transgressions — all their sins; and he is to do the same for the tent of meeting which is there with them right in the middle of their uncleannesses.
Mostly, I noticed the fact that the tabernacle, which represents God and His presence, was right in the middle of the sins and unclean behaviors of God’s people. It makes me think of Psalm 40:2 (CEB)…
He lifted me out of the pit of death,
out of the mud and filth,
and set my feet on solid rock.
He steadied my legs.
I know God’s presence can stand right in the middle of sins and uncleanness now just as it did then. Because the blood of Christ covers our sin, even those in sin can now come boldly before the throne of grace. When we come into His presence bearing presents (fruits of repentance), God will reach into the pit of miry clay and pull us to safety. I’m watching Him perform a miracle right now in the life of my nephew that overdosed three weeks ago, and I’m believing that He will pull him out of that pit and raise him to new and clean places in His holy presence. And that’s worth any thank-you gift (any presents) I can give to Him.
Proverbs 16:17 in the Amplified Bible (AMP) says, “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; he who guards his way preserves his life.” With all we are seeing as consequences for the use of drugs, and all I have been learning from the doctors, the idea of doing things God’s way to preserve our lives is making more and more literal sense. We have a relative that completely looks past what our nephew did to bring on the consequences, and she refuses to acknowledge her own part in it or to repent of her continuing sins. Yet, she continues to claim that there will be a miraculous healing just because she is claiming it in Jesus’ name. But is there communion between holy and unholy just because the unholy uses a holy name?
Today’s reading from Leviticus 9:24 through Leviticus 10:11 shows that God is picky about the purity of what is offered to Him and whether or not our offerings are given with a spirit of obedience. After the offerings and blessings that brought forth the presence of Yahveh, we see His Spirit consume the offerings with fire. The people shout and fall on their faces in His holy presence.
But the next thing you know, two of Aaron’s sons (apparently he had four sons who were becoming priests based on this reading), march up all big in their britches and try to put on a show. They take unauthorized incense in their censers and try to light it from the holy altar of God. Not smart! As the fire of God’s presence comes down upon the altar, it consumes these boys who gave an offering other than what God had commanded to give. (Some versions use the term strange fire.)
Oh, but shouldn’t God be merciful just because they were offering something to Him? After all, they were called by God to be priests, right? In today’s theology, it would seem that anything done in Jesus’ name (or by a person who calls himself or herself a pastor or a prophet) is supposed to win God’s favor. Yes, we are made holy by the blood of Christ, but we still have to be led by the Spirit if we want to be free from the curse of the law. It’s all about our hearts, and if our lips are simply declaring the word of God while our hearts are far from Him, then we are an evil tree that cannot bring forth truly good fruit. But if we are sincerely following God, we will walk on His “high above sin” way, and we will bear good fruit.
As the reading continues, God declares that He will be glorified before all the people, and Aaron keeps silent, Then Moses calls Aaron’s other two sons and tells them not to perform any of the rituals of mourning, so that God will not be angry. He tells them to let the community of Israel mourn for them instead. And then he tells them to stay by the entrance to the Tent of Meeting because if they go out while God’s anointing oil is on them, they will die. They are also given a warning to never enter God’s presence having consumed wine or other intoxicating liquor because they must be able to know the difference between clean and unclean, holy and unholy.
The last statement makes me wonder if the first two of Aaron’s sons were intoxicated, and that’s why they couldn’t tell the difference in which incense to offer. If not, I’m guessing they just had disobedient spirits. We don’t get to see a lot of information about them, but we know they had been anointed and consecrated as priests for God, we know they were dressed in holy garments, and we know they had been in the presence of Yahveh. But none of those things compared to the moment they decided to follow after their own ideas instead of being led by God’s Holy Spirit. Living God’s way is about abandoning our own thoughts and ways because we love and trust God, and because we know that His thoughts are above our thoughts, and His ways are above our ways. His way really is the high way.
A seed doesn’t grow just because you plant it. It must be planted in ready soil. And, if the seed is to grow to maturity, the soil must be maintained for growth. Maintenance may come in the form of watering, weeding, and/or nutrients, but rarely does something left to itself grow to the best it can be. This is only part of the law of the harvest, and since we are made from earth, it’s important that we understand the part the harvest plays in us.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 9:17 through Leviticus 9:23, we continue the events of the eighth day from the beginning of the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests for Yahveh. They offer a grain offering, and a portion of it goes up in smoke on the altar. Then they bring peace offerings and wave offerings as Moses directs them. And then Aaron comes down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, and he blesses the people. After he blesses the people, Moses and Aaron go back into the Tent of Meeting, come out again, and bless the people once more. AND THEN (my emphasis), God’s glory appeared to all the people.
If God planned to show His glory to the people anyway, why didn’t He just meet them as soon as they had all gathered? If it was because of sin, then why didn’t He meet them as soon as the offerings were completed? I believe this all comes back to the law of the harvest. Just because soil looks ready, doesn’t mean it is. Only those who work with soil for a living would know if it is actually ready for the specific seed to be planted. God knew the order of things that would make His people ready to receive His glory. He knew which offerings should be completed, and which blessings should be spoken over the people, to prepare them for God’s holy presence.
These days, we have preachers who just bless people because that’s what the people want to hear. There are many who never go into a holy place with God to consult Him before dishing out blessings, and they don’t give the blessings for the purpose of God’s presence as much as for the thanks of the people. In what way does telling someone that God is about to bless them with a big house and a new car prepare them to commune with God? I imagine what they called blessings in these Scriptures were something more along the lines of, “The sacrifice has been accepted, and you are purified to receive God.” And after Moses and Aaron came out from meeting with God, they might have said something like, “God has looked upon your hearts and sees your desires for Him, so now He will meet with you.” I mean, truly, can you think of a better blessing than that?
Even under the blood of Christ, there is a plan and a pattern. If there was not one, then we would not even need the written word beyond the story of crucifixion and redemption. The blood of Our Savior is the sin offering, but where are we in the other offerings and sacrifices? I believe WE are to give ourselves as an offering to God to allow Him to prepare us for His presence. We bring sacrifices of confession, humility, repentance, and accountability. We may offer a sacrifice of praise as our wave offering. And in all the sacrifices and praise we give, and in all the blessings we receive, we should strive for those that are holy and acceptable to Yahveh, and for those that prepare us for God’s holy presence in every moment of our lives.
I’m going to keep this short because it has been a difficult day in our family. While I study God’s word and try to learn more about what He would have me to be and to do for Him, and where He would have me to go for Him, there are those who are certain their own ways will yield them something far greater than God’s way. My nephew is one of those, and we spent today in the emergency room with him having overdosed on a mix of serious drugs. He has a three-year-old daughter that may or may not ever know her daddy again. Physically, he should pull through, but we won’t know until tomorrow if he will have any brain damage from the time he was gone before they revived him.
So now, in today’s reading from Leviticus 8:22 through Leviticus 8:29, we read about the ram of consecration, This offering required that Moses anoint Aaron and his sons with blood from the ram by putting it on their right ears, the tips of their right thumbs, and the tips of their right toes. After that, the blood was splashed on all sides of the altar. After these things, when the animal was burnt up, it was one that was a sweet smelling offering to God.
I see the places the blood was applied as representing what the priests would listen to, what they would do (with their hands), and where they would go (with their feet). As a member of God’s royal priesthood, I believe that being consecrated to God means listening to Him, do what He would have me to do, and going where He would have me to go. It may not always be easy, but it is always simple. And even when it’s hard, it’s a lot easier than ending up in the hospital or the graveyard.
Thy will be done IN earth as it is in Heaven. Depending on the translation, you might see on earth, but in the original, it is in earth, and I love that because it’s asking God to have His perfect will IN me. I believe that “sin” means going against God’s perfect plan for me, my life, life on earth, etc. I pray for more and more of His will (He must increase), and less of the will of mankind (we must decrease) that goes against it.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 8:14 through Leviticus 8:21, we see Moses performing the rituals of the sin offering and the burnt offering. It’s interesting to read the two paragraphs and compare the two offerings. The sin offering is a bull, and the burnt offering is a ram. The sin offering must be atoned for, while the burnt offering is accepted as is. The sin offering has parts that must be burnt outside the camp, and the burnt offering is accepted fully on the altar of God.
It is the part about atonement and burning some of the sin offering outside the camp that really stuck with me. The greater part of the bull, plus its insides, its hide, and its dung, were taken off the altar and burned outside the camp, and nothing says that any part of this offering was pleasant to The Lord. As a matter of fact, I don’t think God even likes the sin offering, but He instituted it because of necessity–nothing unholy can dwell in His holy presence. No one that goes outside His boundaries (trespasses against Him) can be where He wants them; with Him in holy places.
I think putting our sins on the altar and making atonement is not supposed to be a pleasant experience for us either. Repentance can be very painful, and true repentance doesn’t end at the altar but often requires a painful disconnection from those things that drag us to unholy places. We must willingly separate ourselves from sinful behaviors after we have walked away from an altar of repentance. And even though that separation can hurt, we know the price of our atonement was more painful to Our Savior who exchanged His throne for suffering here on earth and offered His life for it.
After the sin offering, when the ram was offered completely on the altar, it went up as a sweet aroma to God. This sacrifice is pleasant to The Lord, and I believe it represents our lives and the sacrifices we make after we have repented and turned away from sin. When our transgressions (going against God’s will for us) are under the blood of Christ, it pierces the veil of sin that separated us from God. When we are walking in His will, our works and praise become more beautiful and pure to God. He can see us as delivered from evil and brought into that kingdom, and glory, and honor that is His forever and ever.
The script has been given, read, studied, read again, spoken, rehearsed, and memorized. It’s time for the actual filming of the the actual movie. In today’s movie, directed by Yahveh Almighty, and set in the Sinai desert in front of the Tent of Meeting, we have many stars, including Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s two sons. Oh, and the stand-ins include the entire camp of Israel.
Our reading for today’s portion comes from Leviticus 8:1 through Leviticus 8:13, and is similar to what we have read twice before. This time, however, it is no longer a script reading or a rehearsal. This time, the real action begins. God tells Moses to gather Israel at the front of the tent of meeting because today is the day when he will anoint Aaron and his sons as the high priest and priests of Israel.
Moses brings Aaron and his sons to the tent of meeting, washes them, clothes them in the priestly garments, and then begins the anointing process. The anointing includes the men and all parts of the tabernacle to consecrate all that will be used in service for The Lord. No person or garment or article that will be used is left untouched because the work that is done for God must be done with dedication and decision.
And these parts about consecration really got me thinking about the often-heard question: Is nothing sacred anymore? For something to be consecrated, it means it is set aside for sacred use. If something is anointed, the meaning is similar. We say we want to be anointed for God. We talk of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?), but do we really want to be as set apart for God and His work as Jesus was? He gave up Heaven for us, but we struggle to give up Hell on earth for Him. We can hear the word from a preacher–and even from God Himself, and we can even memorize His directions like a script. But if we really want to be set apart (holy and acceptable) to Him in our works, there is nothing like the times when we finally take action.
What does it mean to be broken? And why are there so many biblical references about brokenness? I’m going to start with a familiar New Testament reference from 1 Corinthians 11:23b-24, New King James’ Version…
…the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Why did His body have to be broken by death and by being convicted of that for which He was not guilty? I think we can find part of the answer in today’s reading from Leviticus 6:12 (19) through Leviticus 7:10 where we learn more about the sin, guilt, and grain offerings, and about the differences when those offerings are made by and for the priests. In the first part of this portion, it talks about the grain offering on the day when a priest receives an anointing. The bread is to be mixed with oil and cooked on a griddle, and then it is to be broken, and THEN it is to be offered up in smoke with no one eating any of it.
When I think of broken bread, I think of the body of Messiah as in the Scripture at the top of this post. Like the grain given on the day of the priest’s anointing, Yahshua, though filled with the oil of God’s Spirit, endured things that would normally harden a person: rejection, abandonment, loss of a friend, betrayal, unfairness, false accusations, homelessness, hunger, thirst, etc. But if there was any hardness in Him at all, it was only so He could become broken for us. He knew He was the offering to become anointed as our High Priest.
The next part of this portion focuses on the sin offering. Unlike the grain offering for anointing, this one is to be eaten by the priests. Before it can be eaten, the activities such as sprinkling the blood must be done to make the offering holy. The holiness surrounding the sin offering is so important that if any of its blood touches a brass bowl, the bowl must be scoured. And if any of it touches a clay pot, the pot must be broken. There’s the brokenness again. And since clay often represents humanity, I see this offering as focusing on us and our need to be broken.
I believe brokenness is a necessity because it is evidence of repentance. Even though Yahshua had no reason to repent, He set an example by becoming the first one to be broken. (Just like He set the example of being washed in baptism even though He had no sins to wash away.) And while the grain offering for anointing was not normally eaten, I believe He wanted us to eat His broken body to connect it to the sin offering since He is both our High Priest and our Sacrificial Lamb.
In brokenness, we imitate Christ. We lay our sins on the altar, and we allow God to break the sin of our flesh away from us, and to scour our hearts clean. We must be cleansed, so we can adhere to the last part of the command for the sin offering; that it must be eaten in a holy place. Brokenness cleanses us to make us a holy place, so we can be an acceptable offering to God. After we have broken the flesh and have been cleansed, we are His royal priesthood, and we are that holy place (temple) for God’s Spirit to dwell. At times, we may become hardened again by life and by sin, but under God’s anointing, we can find an altar and be broken again, and we can offer ourselves up in holy praise that rises to Him as a sweet-smelling aroma.
Sometime back, while I was looking up the definition of anointing for the purpose of one of my earlier blog posts, I happened upon an article that really gave me a wake up call about the biblical meaning of anointing. If you are interested, you can read the article yourself at http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/housechu/anoint.htm since it goes into some deep study. The main thing I took away from it was that anointing is not the same thing as power.
In today’s reading from Exodus 40:1 through Exodus 40:38 (the end of the chapter and the end of the Book of Exodus), God instructs Moses on how to set up the tabernacle for the very first time. He explains how to arrange the furnishings and the coverings for the courtyard, and then God tells Moses to prepare the tabernacle for use by anointing everything.
Now, if anointing were equal to power, the items used for God’s service would be where the power was at rather than the power existing with God and God alone. Just as with our Messiah, with the word Meshiach and Christ meaning “The Anointed One,” we know that what set Yahshua apart from other men was not His power, but it was His consecration to the work of God. Power could have struck all His accusers and crucifiers down, but consecration helped Him to say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The anointing on the articles in the tabernacle was to consecrate them for God’s service.
After all the furnishings and utensils were anointed with the special oil based on God’s direction (not just any old oil or grease would work), God told Moses to bring Aaron and his sons to the tent of meeting, put them in their vestments, and then anoint all of them for the work of the priesthood. This anointing consecrated them to do the work that God was calling them to do. The consecration to the work of the Lord carried a heavy responsibility, and we will see in the next Bible book the results of some of that responsibility and what happens when it is taken too lightly.
When you seek an anointing from God, remember to seek it for the right reasons, and remember the responsibilities that go with it. It is not a light thing, but it is a great blessing to see even a small work of obedience yield great results for The Lord.
As I was looking for pictures of square pegs, it suddenly occurred to me that the only way to get a square peg into a round hole is to make the square smaller. Maybe that’s why people who consider themselves to be “fitter-inners” are often found belittling those they consider to be squares. But if you have to become less of what you are to fit in with someone else’s idea of success, I say, be happy to be a square peg.
In today’s very short reading from Exodus 33:12 through Exodus 33:16, we follow up with God telling Moses that He will no longer travel with the people of Israel because their stiff-necked behaviors might make Him destroy them. Now remember, Moses talks to God face to face as a man talks to a friend, so while most of us would not dare to speak to God the way He is doing, Moses has proven his respect to God and his love for Him, so he gets away with it.
So, in my own paraphrase, here is Moses’ conversation with God…
Moses: You tell me to move on with these people, but you haven’t told me who is going with me as a support system since You aren’t going with us. But then again, You told me that You know my name, and that I have found favor in Your sight, so here’s my suggestion. First of all, if what You say about how You see me is true, then show me Your ways of righteousness and truth. Grant me an understanding of You, so I can continue to find favor in Your sight. And, above all else, I ask You to please keep seeing Israel as Your people.
Yahveh: Don’t worry yourself, Moses. I have decided to go with you after all.
Moses (as if he hasn’t heard what God just said to him): Because if You don’t go with us, I don’t even want to move on. I mean, how else will people know I have favor in Your sight? How else will they know You favor Israel? There is no way unless You go with us. Your presence–that’s the thing that sets us (me and Israel) apart from all the other people on earth.
So, what if the whole world decides that Israel is nothing but a bunch of square pegs with a bunch of square traditions? That’s what’s coming in their future. Is it their adherence to law that sets them apart? No, it’s not. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. Rather, it was always God’s presence that made them the people they were. That’s what was proven while Moses and the elders were up on the mountain. God’s presence was up there on the mountain, and the people were just people then. And their humanness led them into sinful behavior, even though they had a leader in Aaron (albeit one who was slacking in his duties), and they had the history with God as their deliverer. They needed God’s presence right there with them to be a truly set apart people in all their ways. And as the people of God go, that has never changed.
The world around us is filled with creativity. Most of it is God’s direct action on molecular structure, but because He made man in His own image, He has also passed on some of His creative genes. In return, we have the pleasure of filling our worlds with the crafts and creations of others. Whether the person doing the creating is the one who comes up with the idea or the one who adds the final touches, they are given the gift of creation by The Master Creator.
In today’s (slightly lengthy) reading from Exodus 30:11 through Exodus 31:17, we are beginning a new portion on the give and take that provides for the crafts used in tabernacle service. The Hebrew name for this parashah is Ki Tissa, and it means “When you take.” It begins with God’s order of a census of the people and a charge for their atonement to be collected at the same time. God explains that the price of atonement will be the same for everyone ( half a shekel), and it will be used to fund the operating costs of the tabernacle.
A new piece of furniture is presented today–the bronze laver, or wash basin. Not many are certain of its original design, but I like the image I saw with spigots in the bottom to fill a trough for washing feet. The priests could also wash their hands in the flowing water before it filled the bottom trough. As I mentioned in the “Altar Ego” post where I talked of the brazen altar, no minister could come up to these bronze-coated furnishings and not see himself in it. I think it’s especially important to take a look at yourself when you are getting ready to wash. That works spiritually as much as it does physically.
The last part of Chapter 30 talks of the aromatic spices, oils, and extracts that are to be used to create the anointing oil and the incense for the altar of incense. The oil, which is used to anoint all the furnishings and instruments of the tabernacle, is not the same oil as is used for putting on people–such as anointing to heal the sick. God is specific about its ingredients, and He says no other ingredients should be used for this particular anointing oil, and this oil is not to be used for any other purpose. It is so holy that making it without God’s instruction, or using it contrary to His purpose, will cause a person to be cut off from his people. In like manner, God gives specific instructions for creating the incense, and He says that anyone who makes it to use as perfume will be cut off from his people.
So, in the last two days, we’ve learned much about being holy to Yahveh. He wants us to do our ministries to Him with complete dedication to Him and Him only. We don’t offer praise just to look good to others, and we don’t minister just to be uplifted by others. I am sad to say that we have a strong apostate spirit in this generation, and there are those who dub themselves prophet, prophetess, reverend, etc., for unholy purposes. I won’t give names, but if you want to read some “tell it like it is” revelations about those who use God’s holy things–like anointing and praise–in ways other than God has designed them, have a look at some articles by my friend and fellow Christian writer, Brenda, who writes the blog, Redeemed Hippies Place. Do not even visit, though, unless you are one who can take hard truth with no fluff. And if you are interested in some more strong reading about being holy and separated for service to Our Creator, be sure to pick up the book called “Holy to Yahveh” by Terrye Goldblum Seedman. You can find her articles and information at http://yahveh.com/, and her book is under the store label.
Please take time to read the Scriptures I post for yourself. I have created all links to open in new windows/tabs, so you will not lose your place here. The remaining part for today’s reading covers some specific artisans, and it deals with the requirements for keeping Shabbats/Sabbaths. I have covered that some, and I will cover more of it later, but for now, I just encourage you to go read these things for yourself. I’ve given links with plenty to read this time, so I’ll close for now. And please leave me comments on your thoughts about the Scriptures, and about the readings at the other links I’ve provided. Many blessings on your week.
I grew up hearing the statement “Pretty is as pretty does.” It was a good lesson for teaching me to look beyond outward beauty, and it may be the reason I rarely thought of celebrities as any more valuable than non-famous people. Of course, even pretty behavior doesn’t guarantee a pretty heart, but the self-control required to maintain things like courtesy and respect can at least slow a person down to a point of being more reachable. In a culture that now seems to value wild unruliness over dignity and chivalry, it would be nice to see the quietness that would come from pulling people back to a place of more controlled character and virtue.
In today’s reading from Exodus 29:19 through Exodus 29:37, we read a number of duties and details for becoming holy. Just being selected as a generation of priests, or even for the position of high priest, did not make Aaron, his sons, or any part of Israel automatically holy. Just being washed, redressed, and anointed didn’t even do the job. And as if offering sin offerings, atonement offerings, and sacrifice offerings was not enough, today will add the “wave offering.” Yet, even all of these things together did not create any kind of guaranteed position of holiness.
As I read through the required works, including the seven days required for sanctification, two things caught my attention. First, I noticed that from days ago, none of these works are random. They are all prepared for in advance. The bread the men will eat today was put in a basket before the washing had ever begun. The clothing was created in advance. Because of the stringent requirements of perfection on the part of the animal sacrifices, there couldn’t just be a noisy stampede by the door while the priests grabbed the first critters they could get their hands on. Being holy is not just something to be, it requires becoming; constantly renewing those things that don’t fall into line the same way a lady would do in guarding her every step and word to fall in line with the behaviors of a true debutante.
Planning ahead takes planning ahead. I have never been very good at that. If I was, it wouldn’t have taken me years after starting my blog to become regular at posting on it. Still, if I had not already started it, that may have become an excuse for not moving forward, so I’m glad I had a place already prepared. I’m trying to learn to do better at planning ahead for my Sabbaths. There is even a word in speaking of biblical Sabbaths that means “Sabbath preparation day” rather than actual Sabbath, and that is the word used when they said they had to hurry up and get Yahshua crucified because “the preparation day” is coming. Unlike most of us Christians who run rampant getting ready for services on Sunday mornings, most Hebrews spent a full day preparing for their day of rest, so everything would already be taken care of ahead of time. Of course, this is also why I’m fairly certain that Yahshua was crucified on a Thursday, but that would be another whole blog post in itself.
The other thing I noticed was the last line that “whatever touches the altar will become holy.” I’m certain this relates to the first thing in that nothing was even allowed near the altar until it was prepared. The priests had to be washed, dressed, and anointed before approaching the altar. The animals had to be chosen, washed, and cut into whatever pieces were required for specific rituals before the remains were put on the altar. Even Our “Sacrificial Lamb” spent 33 years being human, and enduring human things like weakness and hunger, before He came to the altar of sacrifice. He had to learn obedience to parents before being considered mature, and He had to learn the value of manual labor before He graduated to miracles. He even had to go toe to toe with His enemy after 40 days of suffering in the wilderness before He was even ready to get baptized.
As I said above, we live in a world of wild abandon, and too many just want to throw themselves on an altar and become instantly holy. Maybe that’s why so many fall to their knees in moments of emotion but run back to their old and familiar ways when the going gets rough for them. If I could teach anyone anything of true value it would be that Yahveh Almighty is worth the preparations and sacrifices required to be holy to Him. Feeling His presence and love surround you and separate you from the distractions and clamor of your worldly needs and desires is more valuable than any reward the world has to offer. As the song of the same title says, “I keep falling in love with Him over and over, and over and over again,” and that love makes me want to do holy as much as I want to be holy for Him.
P.S. Just in case you’d like to hear that song, here’s a link for it at YouTube…
There’s just something about a uniform that evokes more trust than everyday clothing. For me, working for a company that gave me a uniform, even if it was just a vest to wear over my own clothes, made me feel like I was a part of something important. The first picture I ever saw of my husband was of him in a uniform. It didn’t have to be his dress uniform for me to know he was a soldier, and I felt a sense of pride in that even before meeting him. After getting to know him, I noticed that the uniform didn’t only affect me, but it affected his behavior as well. He knew when he was dressed in uniform that he represented more than just himself, and he cared that others saw that representation as perfectly as possible.
In today’s reading from Exodus 29:1 through Exodus 29:18, we step into the dressing room of Aaron and his sons. I’m going to try my best to compare the steps that prepared these first priests with the steps today’s servants of God should be taking. After all, we are called “A Kingdom of Priests” and “A Royal Priesthood.” See Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9-10, and Revelation 1:6. I hope I can bring it all together, and I hope each of my readers will feel dressed for success after reading about this wonderful calling to walk before Yahveh as servants and friends.
In yesterday’s reading, we were told that Aaron and his sons were to be anointed, inaugurated, and consecrated to serve in the office of priest. I looked up the definitions of those three words and found the following: anoint = ceremonially confer divine or holy office by smearing with oil, and nominate or choose; inaugurate = begin, admit formally, or mark the beginning of office; and consecrate = dedicate formally for divine service, ordain or devote to service. Based on the definitions, I believe that lines up with the Scripture in Revelation 17:14 that says those who will minister on the side of Christ in the final war are His called, chosen, and faithful.
For Aaron and his sons to take their chosen offices, and for us to take our positions in service to God, I believe the steps are similar. They start with things that happen at the door of the tabernacle before anyone even approaches the Holy Place or The Holy of Holies. The first thing done to Aaron and his sons were that they were washed. They could not put on the ministry uniforms until they were cleansed. We usually hear our call to serve God outside the church as well. Maybe we see a good example, maybe we have a dream, or maybe someone ministers to us. Maybe we hear Christ knocking a number of times before we choose to open the door and walk through. Once we walk through, we often choose to get baptized to represent that we are washing away our old lifestyle, so we can be consecrated to God’s service.
After Aaron and his sons were washed, then they were dressed in the ritual vestments. Those uniforms, as I pointed out previously, covered them from head to toe. These new priests were completely washed and completely covered in a new image. When we make a decision to walk according to God’s will, we are told (in Romans 13:14) “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” We are also reminded in Galatians 3:27 that if we have been baptized (washed) into Christ, we have put on Christ. Since the word baptism means “immersion” that means we have been dressed or uniformed–head to toe–in Christ, just as the priests were dressed in their vestments.
The last thing done to Aaron and his sons to prepare them for service was to have the anoiting oil poured over their heads. It was only after these new priests were washed, redressed, and anointed that the sacrifices could be offered in atonement for their sins. They placed their hands on the head of the sacrifice to be offered. I believe that gave them a connection to it. It wasn’t just some light message of an errand boy running up saying it was done. They were a part of the sacrifice as it was slaughtered. Once we have committed ourselves to Christ, and after we have been washed and dressed, it is time for us to become connected to Yahshua. When we have a relationship with Him, His atonement for our sins will mean that much more to us.
Let me break here by giving a quick example of how much more something means after a connection has been established. When I read Eli by Bill Myers, the crucifixion scene was done quite differently since it was shown in the 1970s instead of 33AD. I have never seen a live crucifixion, and other than biblical stories, I haven’t even seen them on television. But I have seen fights, and I have seen televised fights that included people being kicked when they were down. So when the author describes Jesus being kicked in the ribs with pointy-toed cowboy boots, I felt it to my core. I cried as much or more than I did when I watched the beating scene in The Passion.
After the initial offering of the bull, the remains were given as a burnt offering, and then the whole ram was also given as a burnt offering. I believe that last offering is the one that represents us burning up our old ideas and our old ways because it was only after the washing, the consecration, the new image, the anointing, and the first blood sacrifice that the second offering became a sweet-smelling aroma to Yahveh. It is after we have begun our dedicated service to God that the sacrifices we make in the form of good works, or things we give up for Him, are seen by Him as acceptable.
As with the priests, being anointed for ministry to God is only one step in our service to Him. It’s the step that says He has called us to do what He has already prepared us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are of God’s making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do.” (Red letter emphasis is mine.) After we are anointed and washed, we can dress for success in the uniform that is Christ. When we’re wearing that uniform, we walk as if we are consecrated, or “set apart,” for our anointing and calling. As we walk in that calling, we will have opportunities to fail, but like Aaron for his sons, our High Priest, Yahshua, is always making atonement for us, so we can continue to walk. Micah 6:6-8 puts it most simply, and here it is from The New Living Translation…
New Living Translation (NLT)
6 What can we bring to the Lord?
What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God
with offerings of yearling calves?
7 Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?
8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
I was looking for something with a picture of bells when I came across the above image from a challenge I had while in a digital kaleidoscope creation group back in 2008. I was torn between using an image and a song title, so in my search, I also discovered that there are a lot of songs out there with lyrics or titles about bells. So, just for fun I thought I’d ask, how many songs can you name that are about bells or have bells in the title? Here are some to get you started…
- Jingle Bells
- You can Ring My Bell
- If I Had a Hammer (verse 3: If I had a bell to ring)
- I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
- Ding Dong, Ding Dong, Christmas Bells Are Ringing
- Let ‘Em In (Somebody’s knocking on the door, somebody’s ringin’ the bell)
- Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead
- Silver Bells
- When They Ring Those Golden Bells
And the last one I’ve listed is the perfect segue into today’s reading from Exodus 28:31 through Exodus 28:43, the end of the chapter. The details for adorning the priest are now up to the blue robe that the priest will wear under the ritual vest. On the hem of the robe, the artisans are instructed to add blue, purple, and scarlet pomegranates with golden bells between each of them. The bells will ring continually while the priest walks around and ministers in the Holy Place, so the people will know He has not gone into the presence of Yahveh with a sinful heart and collapsed in death.
So now my mind is all over the map with trying to figure out if the bells signified anything else besides the evidence of life. I know from a tour of The Tabernacle Experience when it was in Louisville that on the highest holy day, Yom Kippur, the people knew the importance of their sins being pushed forward a year, so they waited quietly, listening for the priests bells to make sure nothing interrupted this important part of his ministry. But, I also wonder if the bells were a type of music to God. Did He long for the sound of the bells that said one of His priests was about to enter His presence? Did He rejoice with the music of the bells as the priest went out to announce to the people the good news that their sins were forgiven for another year? Interesting things to think about, huh?
In addition to the adorned robe and vest, the priest is to wear a linen turban that includes a golden seal engraved with the words, “Set Apart for Adonai.” This reminder is needed because the high priest, Aaron at the time, goes in bearing the guilt of the people who have erred from God’s commands. It is both a blessing and a grave thing to be set apart for the Lord. It is a blessing because to be set apart means to be holy in God’s eyes. And it is a grave thing because, for the high priest, it meant he carried a very heavy burden until it was hoisted upon the altar. For our final High Priest, Yahshua our Messiah, it was a blessing to come to this earth holy enough to bear the weight of our sins permanently, but it was also said to be a curse to die upon a cross as He had to do to free of from our sin.
The priests were also to wear woven tunics and colorful belts to hold everything in place. And while I haven’t checked it piece by piece yet, I think there’s a connection to all these priestly vestments and the whole armor of God. Be my guest and see what you can come up with, and add your notes to the comments section.
Finally, the last paragraph talks about what I think is the very first pair of underwear. With both pomegranates and underwear in the same story, I momentarily thought of using the title “Fruit of the Loom,” but I decided against it because of the holiness that all the priests vestments represent. In this case, God tells Moses that the men are to wear linen shorts that they will not be found guilty in His presence, and so they will not die.
I am amazed at how God covered, literally, every part of the human form that our humanity and sin could be covered to allow for ministry and sacrifice. He desired to be connected to us so much that when these artistic coverings and the blood of bulls and goats were still not enough, He created a priest’s garment made of flesh and robed His Spirit head to toe to give us His life in our place. While He was still walking in that flesh, He stated that there was no greater love than that of one who would lay down his life for a friend. His word tells us that we are not just His flock as the people were like flocks for Aaron and other priests, but we were also Christ’s friends. Truly, there never has been, and never will be, a greater love.
While I do not believe in what is known as “replacement theology,” I do believe that the Ekklesia (Greek word for the “church body” or “body of Christ”) is a flock just as Israel was, and the lawfulness of our hearts should be based on the laws God gave Israel to be a thriving community. We are no longer under the curse of the law, but that does not mean that law itself has no place in our lives. For example, the blood of Christ does not mean we are free to commit murder. God has always been drawn to people with governable hearts, just as He was to Abraham long before there was a Jewish people. We may be a new flock whose Shepherd is also our Messiah, but we have wonderful promises when our government rests on His shoulders.
In today’s reading from Exodus 22:27(28) through Exodus 23:5, the first instruction to God’s people is not to curse God and not to curse a leader of the people. If we love God, we have no desire to curse Him, so that ruling is pretty easy. The next though? A nephew listening to us read tonight was certain the Scripture had to be misinterpreted if it expected us to respect the current leadership of the U.S. It can be hard to draw the line between honoring the law of the land and honoring a person who makes laws against God. Many people point to Romans 13 regarding obedience to leaders, but since that reading also says that doing good will always win the approval of the leaders. it’s obviously not talking about some of the leadership we face now; leadership that would have a Christian businessman pay for an employee’s right to murder her unborn child regardless of the businessman’s own morals. Whatever we do or stand for should honor God above all else.
The next rulings include those concerning not delaying our offerings of things that would spoil, the importance of the firstborn to God, and the advice to not eat roadkill. It’s all sensible advice based on what we know now about bacteria and its contribution to deadly illness.
And then we have the ruling that lead me to choose the image above: Do not repeat false rumors. I almost looked for a video from Hee Haw of the girls singing, “We’re not ones to go around spreading rumors, so you better be sure and listen close the first time,” but I decided against it. Though when I looked for an image to go with the word rumor, I couldn’t find anything suitable, so I did the search for urban legend and found the one above that represents the oft-spread rumor of alligators and crocodiles in the sewers of New York. Cute one huh? 🙂
As we continue in the reading, we learn that God even watches over the courts and laws of our lands. He tells men not to perjure themselves by offering false testimony, not to allow popular culture to sway them toward offering testimony that would pervert justice, and not to favor a lawsuit just because a litigant is poor. All of that is summed up in God’s direction to not follow the crowd in doing wrong. Oh that these things could be read and obeyed by our current lawyers and juries.
Finally, the people are advised to return a wandering animal to its rightful owner, even if the owner is their enemy, and not to pass by an overburdened animal even if the owner hates them. This can be summed up in the reminder to be governed by God rather than by the emotions and offenses of our flesh. Really, all of these rulings can be summed up with Romans 13:10 which says (in CJB), “Love does not do harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fullness of Torah.”
The second verse of the song, Amazing Grace, says…
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.
In today’s reading from Exodus 20:15 through Exodus 20:23 (verses 18-26 in translations other than CJB), we see the people trembling at God’s presence on Mt. Sinai. The people are so afraid, they ask Moses to go talk to God alone and leave them out of it. But Moses tells them not to fear and explains that God only brings them fear to make them afraid to sin.
I guess we could compare this to all the dramatic stories parents tell their kids to keep them in line. You don’t really want the child to think there’s a scary snake in your closet that will attack and bite if the child opens the door; you just don’t want the child to peek in and see his Christmas presents before he unwraps them. The difference with God is that He can teach fear with truth instead of making up scary stories, but His purpose is still the same.
God’s word says the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom (see Psalm 111:10). His laws can bring fear but only because of the price of breaking them. Even if we resist doing God’s will because we want things our own way, we fear disobeying because we don’t want to pay the cost. But God is okay with that because our fear protects us from living with the wages of sin. If we are afraid to rob a bank, we won’t have to risk the price of being shot in the act–or caught and imprisoned. That’s why 1 John 5:3 says (in paraphrase) that loving God means keeping His commandments, but keeping His commandments is not grievous or burdensome.
In the final paragraph of this week’s portion, God has Moses remind the people that because they have seen how He can come down and speak with them from Heaven, they have no need to create gods of silver and gold and worship them as if they are Yahveh. He tells them that if they wish to build an altar to Him, they should create it out of the earth. He does not want it created with tools because that would defile it by changing it from its natural state. And He does not want them to build steps to go up to it because it would make the people indecently uncovered.
Yahveh does not want the people (or us) building things and lifting them up as if they have power. That’s what they learned from those who worship false gods. Our God is personal and does not need a statue or cathedral to represent His majesty. And when it comes to earth, which I believe represents people, God wants our hearts as His altar. And I don’t believe He wants any of us to use some “cookie cutter” tools on ourselves in an effort to look like a better sacrifice. He wants us to yield whoever we are to His laws and His will to avoid the penalties of sin, but He knew even as He spoke to these people that The Perfect Sacrifice was on its way and would keep us from paying the ultimate price for sin–that being eternal death. The grace of God’s law creates fear that sets us free from having to fear death.
So your child is playing at the side of the street, and the ball bounces out of his reach. As “Little Johnny” turns and starts to run after the ball, you see a car speeding down the road in his direction. You holler “STOP!” Now, what do you want Johnny to do? Stop right then, or keep running for a bit while he thinks about whether or not you know what you’re shouting about? After all, you’ve told him things before and then changed your mind, right? Didn’t you promise just last night that if he didn’t quit playing with his food, he would go to bed without supper? But then you felt bad when he said he was hungry, so you went ahead and reheated his dinner in the microwave.
Of course, this scenario plays out in millions of households day after day because love covers a multitude of sins, and we want our children to be happy. But if we are teaching them to not take our word seriously, then what will be our cost when it really matters, like when a car is headed right to part of the street where the ball bounced?
In today’s reading from Exodus 19:20 through Exodus 20:14, we see God laying down a way of life for this new people of His; this treasure He loves and wants to protect. He sees the future, and He knows that they must see Him as one who means and keeps His word if He wants them to listen when it matters the most. As God talks to Moses from the top of Mount Sinai, God tells him to warn the people to not force their way up the mountain to see Him. Even the priests, He says, must remain holy and must not force their way through.
In Chapter 20, it says, “Then God said all these words,” as it begins the count of what is typically known as The Ten Commandments. I used “suggestions” in the title because many people, even those who claim to love God, live as if they are just that. But unlike human parents, God does not make suggestions because that would make Him wishy-washy. On the other hand, even though He is strong on the rules, He is even stronger in His mercy. In the first commandment, as He states that people should have no other gods before Him, He says He is a jealous God who will punish those who hate Him up to the 4th generation, but He will show grace to the thousandth generation of those that love Him and keep His commandments.
The best analogy I ever heard for comparing God’s rulings to His grace is that of the criminal who ends up in court in front of a judge who was also his best friend. The friend thought he had it made when he saw who was on the bench, but he was greatly surprised at the turn of events. The judge, as a judge, issued the harshest sentence available for the crime. But, just as his friend stood watching in utter astonishment, the judge stood up, removed his robe, walked down from the bench, and–as a friend–paid the fine.
Most of us know the commandments, so I will end this by simply paraphrasing the remainder of them…
2. Don’t create any images you would call a god and bow down and worship them as you would Yahveh.
3. Don’t think of God’s Name as just another word in your vocabulary. Value it as you value Him.
4. Remember the seventh (Shabbat is Hebrew for “seventh”) day to keep it holy. God rested on that day and set it aside from the beginning of creation. (It was Sabbath before there were Jews, so it is not just a Jewish thing.) Bless it as God did by remembering to do what Yahveh did and resting from your human works as He did from His creative works. In other words, WWYD?
5. Honor your parents to live long in the promised land from God.
6. Do not murder. (Just a simple reminder to value life as something God made.)
7. Do not commit adultery. (A couple together represents God’s unity. If we bring others into the relationship, it defiles that unity. Even liberal physicians will tell you that you keep cells from former partners for years after. Purity is truly freedom.)
8. Do not steal. (If it doesn’t belong to you, don’t take it. Just like you don’t want someone taking from you something that does not belong to them. Simple.)
9. Do not lie against your neighbor. (Just like you wouldn’t want your neighbor to lie against you.)
10. Do not covet. (Wouldn’t you rather other rejoice with you over your blessings than curse you because you have them and they don’t?)
All of these commandments really bring about a simpler life. If we live by them, we will be living by the golden rule without even trying. Why should people want things to be any different than common care and love for fellow human beings? Me, I prefer the simple life of living in the light of God/Love in all things, so as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord.
If a person who has been known to be mean for years suddenly starts turning nicer with age, many will say they know their time is short and they’re trying to get ready to meet their Maker. And then there’s the old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. Somehow, whether it’s age, illness, or some other reason that brings a person closer to thinking about his or her own mortality, when people think they are near death, they often start thinking about being prepared to meet God.
In today’s reading from Exodus 19:7 through Exodus 19:19, God tells Moses that, in three days, He is coming down to talk to Israel and Moses is to get them ready to meet Him. Of course, this is following God’s recent words to them (through Moses) that they are His special treasure and chosen people, so I imagine the thought of meeting Him wasn’t nearly as frightening as it would be for someone who has always lived life as if God didn’t exist.
For Israel to be ready, God wanted them to wash their clothes and make their way to the base of the mountain. They were told to be careful to stay at the foot of the mountain, not to touch the mountain, to refrain from touching any women, and to wait for the sound of the shofar (ram’s horn that sounds like a trumpet) before coming up onto the mountain. If they violated these things before the third day when God said He would descend in a cloud, they were told they would die.
On the morning of the third day, there was thunder and lightning as a thick cloud descended on the mountain. When the shofar blasted, it was so loud that it made all the camp of Israel tremble. God came down upon the mountain in fire, and the smoke ascended up from the mountain like smoke from a furnace. Between the smoke and the shofar which blasted louder and louder, the whole mountain shook violently. And then Moses spoke, and God answered him, and the people were able to hear them as God promised they would. He planned this, so the people could trust in Moses from then on.
As I read this passage, I thought about the term God of Thunder, so I looked it up. It has been used for song titles, video games, and numerous gods throughout history. I’m certain I’m not the only one who has heard that thunder was either God or the angels going bowling. But the thing that sets Yahveh apart from all the other power-wielding gods is that, while they are gods of thunder (and other ethereal phenomena), Yahveh is the God over all of it. He created the thunder and the lightning, and He controls the thunder and the lightning. It is His idea that the lightning also brings nitrogen to help things grow and adds ozone to protect us from harmful rays of the sun. He is THE TRUE GOD OF THUNDER both now and forevermore.
And all of this made me think of the verses from Matthew 8:24-27, while Yahshua was out on the boat with His disciples…
24 Then, without warning, a furious storm arose on the lake, so that waves were sweeping over the boat. But Yeshua was sleeping. 25 So they came and roused him, saying, “Sir! Help! We’re about to die!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a dead calm.27 The men were astounded. They asked, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”
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