Blog — February 27

The Lord established the process of repentance and restoration for the children of Israel and underscored its importance. This special day occurred once a year to atone for sin for the next year. This day the high priest performed elaborate rituals to atone for his own sin and then the sins of the people. (Note:  Aaron could only enter the Most Holy Place on this day [Leviticus 16:2]).

As the high priest, Aaron was required to sacrifice a bull for his own sins.  Further, the annual sacrifice required two goats—one representing the uncleanness and rebellion of the people and the other to serve as a scapegoat.  The huge sacrifice emphasized cleansing starting with the leader Aaron and continuing to include the rest of Israel. This sacrifice was done in Israel every year and it was very serious.

Jesus, a sinless man, was offered on the cross of Calvary. He did not need to clean himself up first in order to be worthy of making others clean. He was offered once and for all for any who believe in Him. On the cross He declared, “It is finished,” meaning the offering was sufficient and complete—no repetition is needed [John. 19:30; Hebrews 10:1-12]!

The blood of Christ is the propitiation and expiation for our sins. At the cross, Christ appeased God’s wrath against sin, taking the wrath upon himself [Romans 5:9]. By His blood our sins are gone forever, to be remembered no more [Psalm 103:12; Hebrews 8:12, 10:17]. Jesus is our perfect sacrifice, who did not sin, yet died for the sins of the world; His sacrifice is sufficient and complete, so no more animal offering is required.  Now, we must believe in Jesus Christ to be saved from our sins.

Blog — February 26

Wow!  Nadab and Abihu were burned alive for offering the wrong fire—seems a little excessive.  Or was it?  What were they supposed to offer?  When offering fire and incense, the fire was specifically to be taken from the Brazen Altar.  When mixed with the special incense, it was to be offered before the LORD in the Golden Altar of Incense located in the Holy Place.  They just took any old fire and mixed the incense in.  God’s words after He killed Nadab and Abihu were, “….By those who come near Me, I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored” (Leviticus 3:3).  Nadab and Abihu decided that any fire was good enough, but it was not for them to decide.  They were not only in the priestly line but they had the privilege to be in the High Priestly line. If they were not prepared to do everything God’s way, they should have stepped aside.

We don’t decide how to approach God, He decides.  We don’t make up our own way to heaven, God decided.  God is holy and as Jesus told us, “They that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  He decides what is truth, not us.  Hebrews 4 tells us that through Jesus, we can come boldly before the Throne of Grace to obtain mercy and grace.  We must come God’s way, not our own way.

Eleazar and Ithamar found no problem following God’s plan to the letter.  They both enjoyed long lives of service and fellowship with their God.  We too can enjoy the same when we follow His Word.

Blog — February 25

Perhaps today, in response to the readings in Leviticus 1 (Procedures for the Burnt Offering) & 8 (Ordination of the Priests), we can let Scripture speak in response:

 

“The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.

But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,

“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings.
But you have given me a body to offer.
You were not pleased with burnt offerings
or other offerings for sin.
Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God—
as is written about me in the Scriptures.’”

First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says,

“This is the new covenant I will make
with my people on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he says,

“I will never again remember
their sins and lawless deeds.”

And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:1-22).

 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

 

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

 

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…” (Hebrews 2:10-14).

Blog — February 24

The tasks that had to be done by the Israelites were both specific and not open for negotiation.  Just take a moment and look over the list found at the end of Chapter 39.  We all know that the presence of God would not manifest (as we see in Exodus 40:34) without the correct location and handling of the Ark.  But, in this list the menial, minute details are given just as much type space as the obvious big ones.  It appears that in God’s eyes, obedience to the small areas of detail, as well as large areas, is what ushers in the presence of the Lord.

With simple observation we can see that the anointing oil and even the curtains, ropes and tent pegs are just as important as the Ark, the Table and the Bread of the Presence, the Gold Lampstand and Altar.  It makes me think about my own life.  I know that the big areas are taken care of.  By the grace of God I am free from adultery, stealing, murder, lying and envy, but how are the smaller, less focal areas of my walk.  Is there love—even toward my enemies?  How about generosity?  How is my attitude toward service, spiritual correction and authority?

Many times in my life, when I start feeling dry spiritually, as if I am not living in the presence of my Savior, I take a deep look at the minor stuff, the out of the way areas that are hidden in my life.  I ask myself a simple question, “Are you living in complete obedience?”  Upon reflection I remind myself that the presence of my Lord is a byproduct of my obedience.

Feb. 22 sermon recording and handout

Click here to listen or download the message from Rev. David Paul Smith.

Click here to view or print the handout.

Blog — February 23

Dr. Theodor Christlieb, who lived from 1833-1889, was a well-known German Protestant Missiologist.  You have probably heard a variation of one of his famous sayings, “You are the only Bible that someone might read.”  It could be called a truism, something obviously and blandly evident, but it’s not.  The phrase is bright and it calls to us for introspection.  

 

Consider this; Moses’ relationship with God was so dynamic that it temporarily changed his appearance.  They spoke as friends, but Moses never forgot his place.  At Moses’ request, the Lord worked a deal so that he could see a portion of His glory.  God divulged His plans and made promises to Moses.  The Lord even guaranteed that Moses would always have His presence.  How could this sort of connection with the Almighty not result in an obvious alteration in one’s appearance?  It did for Moses, and in words like Dr. Christlieb’s, Moses must have made for an interesting read.  

 

What about us?  Moses wore a veil so that the people would not see his radiant appearance fade.  We have no veil and yet God made the same opportunity available to us but without the fade.  2 Corinthians 3:18 references this possibility for you and me, “…we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  And this is what makes the Christian, the only Bible someone might read – worth reading.  

Blog — February 20

1. Aaron and his sons wore special garments to set them apart. The holy garments signified that the priests were set apart from the rest of the nation. They were special in that they could minister to God as priests [Exodus 28:4]. We are not made holy by what we wear on the outside but by Who lives in us on the inside. The Holy Spirit who lives within you makes you holy.

2. The priests could not approach God in a half-hearted way. Even the clothes they wore had to be specially made by gifted artisans to be considered worthy to enter in God’s presence. Today we do not approach God based upon our own goodness but based upon what Jesus has done for us. Hebrews 4:16 says based upon the high priestly work of Jesus we can come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find help in time of need.

3. The priestly garments placed the name of the tribes of Israel near the heart of the priests. This represents God’s love and care of the people of Israel at that time, and it represents the love and care God has for you today. Your name is close to the heart of God. He cares for you and he cares about what happens to you. You matter to God, and what is important to you matters to him as well.

 

Application

1. Approach the throne of God with boldness today. Bring your needs and concerns to him not out of pride but based upon what Jesus did for you.

2. Make your practice match your position. God has made you holy through the sacrifice of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Be who God made you to be! The penalty and power of sin has been broken; you are free! Allow God to complete his work in you; live your life in holiness and honor.

3. If you are in pain today, take comfort that your name is near the heart of God. In Isaiah it says your name is carved in the palm of his hand. What matters to you matters to God. He is concerned about your broken marriage, rebellious child, unsaved loved one, and sick friend. He is present with you right now. Take your needs to Him, take comfort in his love and care for you.

Blog — February 19

Back around 1450 B.C. God gave Moses specific instructions on how to build His house. Having just been freed from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites needed a place to worship and talk with God. So, He told Moses to build a tent to house the Ark of the Covenant and to be a place where the Hebrews could come to have their sins atoned. The Levites were given this responsibility, so they built the portable Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle. It housed the holiness of God’s presence; only the high priest could enter it and only once yearly.

The tabernacle’s construction and materials symbolized a lot of what the Messiah would build during His earthly lifetime. The biggest difference is that the atonement for sin was through the blood of animals rather than the blood of the Messiah, and the presence of God wasn’t available to the Israelites except through the high priest.

In 2015, who is the priest in your family? Who comes to God through the Messiah with words of contrition for your sins? The blood has already been shed on Calvary, so your sacrifice isn’t necessary. Messiah Jesus has done it for you.

So how did God say to build your tabernacle? What are its materials and dimensions? He said to come to Him in spirit and truth humbling yourself before His throne. Your Father is just a prayer away and He listens through the petitions you have presented to Him through the blood of Jesus.

As God told the Hebrews, seek Him and you will find Him when you seek Him with all of your heart.

Blog — February 18 (additional)

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4

Only a few months ago the Israelites had been slaves to Egypt.  God is now reminding them of how he brought them out of the bondage of slavery. “You yourselves have seen…”  Throughout Exodus God is constantly reminding Israel how he delivered them from their oppressors. It’s easy to look at what God has done in other’s lives, but have you seen what God has done in your life?  You were once lost, a slave and without hope.  God, in his mercy and grace, has set you free, given you direction and an eternal hope.  I challenge you to take a few moments today and remember what God has done in your life.  As we reflect on our past, our vision often becomes a little foggy.  We forget just how much the Lord has done for us.  You’re a new creation!  You’re no longer a prisoner to your Egypt!  What’s even more remarkable is that the grace extended to you was not of your own doing.  He carried you and brought you to Himself.  It may not have felt like you were being carried on eagles’ wings.  Like the Israelites, your journey may have been filled with pain and heartache.  No doubt the scars were still visible from the beatings the Israelites received at the hands of the cruel Egyptian taskmasters.  Nevertheless, they are now free and so are you!  I’m reminded of the song by Lindell Cooley, “Look what the Lord has done. He healed my body. He touched my mind. He saved me just in time. I’m gonna praise His name. Each day is just the same. Come on and praise Him. Look what the Lord has done.”  Have you seen what the Lord has done in your life?

Blog – February 18

Notice in today’s text how the Lord lovingly reminded the Israelites how they were to be His “own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth.“  He continues, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians.  You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (19:3-6).  He is encouraging His people – you are Mine, I will carry you – only believe in the promise I made to your ancestors – remember My covenant with Abraham (Abram).  And what was that covenant?  That the land of Canaan was already Israel’s, that Jehovah had already provided.  And what were the terms of that covenant?  God would do all the work, God would fulfill His covenant [cf. Genesis 15:8-20], God’s people must only believe and obey.

Instead of rejoicing in God’s gracious promise (a la 1 Chronicles 16:8-36), “All the people responded together, ‘We will do everything the Lord has commanded.’”  How bold and how presumptuous.  How foolish! [cf. Ecclesiastes 5].  The Israelites had neither the capacity nor the competency to “do everything” the Perfect and Holy One might command.  Had this not been proven by their short history so far?!  Will this not be the way it plays out as the story unfolds!?  Already, there must have been among this rabble of “God’s children” those who were devising the worship of a golden calf.

And so the mood of our scriptures change and there are “thick clouds” and “boundaries” marked.  Violent shaking, consecration, warnings, thunder and lightning – distance… and then comes the law.  A law that man’s vow (be it Israelite, yours, or mine) will never keep… could never keep.

Oh, dear friends, are you not thrilled that the eternal care of your soul is not entrusted to the reckless vows and vain promises of sinful, careless humanity but to the Faithful and Perfect Lamb of God!  Christ has taken all our foolish vows and broken promises and retired them once for all through the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood.  Thank you, Jesus, for being the fulfillment of the law! Praise His glorious and gracious Name!

“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:10-14).

 

*As a sidenote, let me state that I (again) somewhat differ with our WayFinding commentary on this chapter of Israel’s history, which states,

“In the big story, God’s law provided the details not just for holy living but for thriving in this world” (p. 106, in the blue band across the top of the page).

I would rather suggest, in the big story, God’s law provides the mirror by which we might see how we are utterly incapable of holy living and how inadequate we are for thriving in this world. 

We have no chance – nada – zero – zip – zilch – of doing everything that the Lord commands.  The law does not show us how to live holy nor how to thrive; but with absolute precision it reveals to us our failure at both.  It is the Lord Jesus Christ, in grace and truth, who shows us how to live holy and how to thrive in this world [cf. John 1:17].