Archive for the “Priesthood of Believers” Category

Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, is the holiest, most reverent day of the year for Jews. Leviticus 16 records God’s institution of this holy day. It is the only day of the year in which the High Priest went past the veil inside the Tabernacle (and later the temple) and entered into the Holy of Holies – the place where the presence of God dwelt. It was this veil that was torn in two from top to bottom when Jesus breathed His last breath on the cross (Luke 23:45). In the Old Testament, only the High Priest was permitted to enter the presence of God. Under the New Covenant, we are all welcomed to come boldly to God’s throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:16) Hallelujah! Only God could tear the heavy veil from top to bottom. Only God could remove the separation of His presence from His people.

On the Day of Atonement the priests wore only simple linen clothing instead of the more decorative, richly embroidered tunic and sashes and gold medallion (or plate) they typically wore. One writer interpreted this as a picture of Christ who laid aside His glory to be born as a child who would one day be crucified for our sins (Philippians 2:7).

The Day of Atonement also introduces the scape goat. Two goats are presented to the Lord. One is slaughtered as a sin offering for the people of Israel. The other is presented to the Lord alive.

20“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. 22The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.
Leviticus 16:20-22

The High Priest lays both hands on the goat representing that he is placing the fullness of their sins on the goat. The following passage is a prophecy about Jesus:

5    But he was pierced for our transgressions,
      he was crushed for our iniquities;
      the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
      and by his wounds we are healed.

6    We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
      each of us has turned to his own way;
      and the LORD has laid on him
      the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 55:5-6

Just as the sin of Israel was laid on the scape goat, our sin, in its totality, was laid on Jesus. He has carried our sin away from us just as the scape goat carried the sins of the Jews away from their camp.

The symbolism and imagery in the Day of Atonement ceremony clearly point to Christ. The book of Hebrews was written to Jews who knew and followed the Law. Read this passage in light of Leviticus 16 and what we’ve learned about the Day of Atonement:

19When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Hebrews 9:19-28

The copies of the heavenly things are the manmade tabernacle and everything used in it. They were required to be purified with the earthly sacrifices. The heavenly things required better sacrifices – the sacrifice of Christ, who died for our sins and appears before God on our behalf. The High Priests had to offer sacrifices on the Day of Atonement every year, but Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to take away the sins once for all. Hallelujah! Do you see the cohesiveness of the whole Bible? The New Testament becomes so much richer when we understand more of its background. That background isn’t necessary for us to understand that Christ died for our sins, but it helps us understand the awesomeness of God as He unveils the mystery of His plan from beginning to end. The rituals of the Day of Atonement were repeated year after year – for over a thousand years. Then Christ came to earth and the ritual was fulfilled and a New Covenant was introduced. Again…Hallelujah!

Speaking of awesomeness – here’s a cool fact I learned. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known as the High Holy Days or Yammim Nora’im. Yammim Nora’im means “Days of Awe.” God reveals to us some of the mysteries of His presence and we are awed. Awed.

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In Chapters 8 through 10, we see the priests – Aaron and his sons – separated unto God. They were anointed and set apart from the people. They made sacrifices in the temple for the first time and the Glory of the Lord went out and burned the offering on the altar. What an awesome show of acceptance by God. Scripture describes the scene:

the glorious presence of the LORD appeared to the whole community. 24Fire blazed forth from the LORD’S presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw all this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground.
Leviticus 9:23b-24

Wow! Joy and humility characterized the people’s response. How will you respond when you experience the Lord’s presence in such a manifest way? How do you respond when you experience Him? I’ve not experienced the literal fire of the Lord, but I’ve experienced times when the presence of the Lord was so strong I felt like I would literally touch Him if I reached out my hand. True awe best expresses my reaction.

Waiting
Before the Lord’s presence awed the Israelites, there was a time of anointing, preparation and sacrifice as Aaron and his sons were appointed as priests.

Remembering that we are part of the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), I found the process for ordaining Aaron and his sons into the priesthood interesting. There were two things that particularly spoke to me:

  • Their anointing accomplished two things – it made them holy and acceptable in God’s eyes, and it empowered them to bless God’s people. Any blessing God gives to us He wants us to pass on.
  • The process set them apart for God’s use – both in their eyes and in the eyes of the Israelites. This was particularly evident in the requirement for Aaron and his sons to stay at the entrance of the tabernacle for eight days. During that time, as the Israelites went about their daily life they would have seen Aaron and his sons and recognized that these men were called by God to represent them before God. Likewise, the weight of their responsibility would have settled on Aaron and his sons as they watched the people living their lives.

Eight Days…and Three Suggestions
This eight days at the entrance of the tabernacle also speaks to me of waiting upon the Lord. The tabernacle was where the presence of the Lord dwelt. Aaron and his sons waited…and waited…and waited…in the glow of the presence of the Lord. Can you imagine it? Knowing that the presence of the Lord was just feet, perhaps inches, away but not being able to enter. I can imagine that it built up a hunger for God, an expectation of experiencing His presence, and an anticipation for serving Him. I imagine it also created some frustration and thus taught patience and obedience. We also need to set ourselves apart for God’s use. Here are three ideas about how to do that:

  • Observe a Sabbath or Lord’s Day each week. You’ll find a series of three blogs I wrote about keeping the Sabbath identified here.
  • Schedule times away with God. I had a friend who worked for a large church. Everyone on staff was given four paid hours each month during which they could participate in any activity that would draw them nearer to God. What a great idea! Now you may not have anyone paying you to seek the Lord, but make time for it anyway.
  • Observe holidays as holy-days. The Old Testament is full of festivals that were observed by the Israelites. Make changes to how you anticipate and celebrate Easter and Christmas so that they truly are holy-days, reminding you and your family that you are a people set apart for God’s use.

Knowing that we have been set apart for good works, for worship and for fellowship with God can radically change our outlook and our behavior. Learn to anticipate Him by building times of being in His presence into your life.

Don’t Mourn
There’s one incident in these three chapters that has always bothered me. Two of Aaron’s sons are killed by the fire of the Lord when they offer a sacrifice inappropriately. Moses tells Aaron and his two remaining sons “not to mourn by letting your hair hang loose or by tearing your clothes…” That always seemed so callous to me and totally impractical. How could a man not mourn the death of his sons or his brothers? I never understood until this reading that Moses isn’t telling them not to mourn – not to experience the emotion of grieving. He’s telling them not to go through the actions that were normal in their culture to indicate that you were in mourning. They might not be the actions we would take today – letting our hair hang loose or tearing our clothes – but it was the normal actions in their culture. Such recognition of your grief is a way of honoring the life of the one who has died. To honor the life of one whom God has just most severely punished was inappropriate for the newly installed priests. It would have been as if they were saying that God was wrong to punish them. Aaron and his living sons would have been honoring the men (who dishonored God) above God.

Serving God is Serious Business
Aaron and his sons didn’t just walk into the temple one day and begin serving God. Similarly, we ought to prepare ourselves every day to serve God, and we would do well to take special times throughout the year to remind ourselves (and allow God to remind us) that we have been set apart to serve Him.

And the wonderful, very cool thing is that such times are so refreshing and enjoyable…even when they involve waiting. When are you going to fit your next time with God into your calendar?

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Is the Book of Leviticus Relevant Today?

After reading the excitement of the books of Genesis and Exodus, we come to a book of regulations and instructions – the change in drama is significant. Leviticus seems boring compared to the two books that precede it. It is, however, part of a natural progression of the same story.

  • In Exodus we read about how God had chosen the Israelites as His “treasured possession” and a “nation of priests” (Exodus 19:5-6). The book of Leviticus establishes regulations for the priesthood. .
  • In Exodus, the design for the tabernacle was given, it was built and the Lord’s glory filled it. In Leviticus God teaches the Israelites how to minister in the tabernacle.
  • In the final chapter of Exodus, the glory of the Lord – His very presence – filled the temple. The book of Leviticus begins with God calling out to Moses from the tabernacle. What follows are instructions to the Israelites about how to live a holy life in and with the presence of God.

Do the instructions, regulations and lessons of Leviticus have relevance for us today? Yes. As I wrote in my previous blog, even when we can’t find or see the relevance of a passage, we believe that it is profitable for study because Scripture says it is. Beyond that, however, looking at the three bulleted points above, a New Testament Scripture comes to mind:

5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… 9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:5,9 (NIV)

Believers today are a part of the “treasured possession” and “nation of priests” that God called out in Exodus. We gain a much deeper and richer understanding of that role and its responsibilities by understanding its history.

Finally, in response to the question “Is the book of Leviticus relevant for believers today?” let me say that I was surprised to learn that it is quoted at least forty times by New Testament writers! That alone makes me think there’s more to this book than I was getting as I began reading it this week. And there is! Let’s take a deep breath and dive into the first seven chapters.

Leviticus 1-7: It’s All About the Sacrifices

Chapters one through seven are all about sacrifices (but then you knew that if you’ve been following along with our Resting at the River’s Edge readings). It’s easy to get lost in the details of the five different types of offerings identified in these chapters, so we’re going to take them one at a time and look at what they teach us that is relevant to us today.

Burnt Offering: The word used to describe the burnt offering is olah. It comes from a root verb (alah) that means “to ascend.” The burnt offering ascends to God, going before the priests as a way of purifying the path so to speak.

He [the priest] is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.
Leviticus 1:4 (NIV)

Laying his hand on the head of the animal to be sacrificed shows his identification with the animal. The action reminds the priest that it is for his sins that the animal is being slaughtered and the burnt offering goes before him making him acceptable in God’s sight. It also a “complete” offering – the entire offering is burned, which reminds us that we are to surrender not just a portion but all we are and have to the Lord.

Grain Offering: This offering was made of flour, oil and incense. A portion of it is burned before the Lord and the remainder given to the priests for food. The burned portion and the burnt animal offering seem to me to be a complete “plant and animal” offering – a picture that God is redeeming to Himself all that He has made. The portion of the grain offering that is given to the priests for food foreshadows the One who would become the “Bread of Life” and who would give eternal life to those who trust in Him. Interestingly, honey is forbidden to be used in the preparation of this sacrifice. No reason is given, but one writer made note that honey “does not smell very nice but frankincense [the incense that was commonly used] receives its highest degree of fragrance after it had been burned.” (http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/levitic.html)

Peace Offering: Unlike the burnt and grain offerings, everyone shares in the peace offering – the one giving the offering, the Lord and the priests and their families. It is truly an offering of reconciliation – between the one making the offering and the Lord, and all those involved.

Christ has given us – delegated to us – this ministry of reconciliation:

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us” We are that peace offering. A portion is to be burned to rise to the Lord atoning for our sins and the sins of those we represent, and the rest is to be shared with others. Wow!

Sin Offering: The first three offerings were made as burnt offerings on the altar in the Tabernacle. The sin offering, on the other hand, was burnt on the bare earth outside the camp. The writer of the book of Hebrews references the sin offering and tells us that Jesus’ death outside of Jerusalem is an atonement for our sins:

11The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
Hebrews 13:11-12 (NIV)

Guilt Offering: The sin offering and guilt offering are very similar. It is also burned outside the camp. Christ’s crucifixion outside Jerusalem takes away not only our sin, but also our guilt. He sets us free, indeed! The guilt offering includes financial compensation to parties who have been wronged, introducing the principle of restitution. Christ frees us from our sin and guilt before God, but we have a responsibility to be reconciled with others and that often requires restitution.

Interestingly, this offering is the only one which is not described as a soothing aroma. Perhaps I am stretching an analogy too thin, but I can’t help but remember that guilt is never pleasing to God. He brings condemnation and desires/requires repentance. But ongoing guilt is simply a malodorous burden from the enemy.

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.
Romans 8:1-3 (NIV)

We were guilty, but Christ’s offering removed that guilt from us. Hallelujah!

Final Thoughts about Offerings

The word for “offering” in Hebrew is corban. It comes from a root word meaning “to bring near.” The offerings described in Leviticus brought the Israelites nearer to the Lord and to the holiness that the Lord required. The offering itself brought them near to God – it went before them to make them acceptable to Him. The act of bringing the offering demonstrated their obedience and that obedience was a precursor to holiness. The offerings we bring today do the same – they bring us near to God and develop an obedience in us that moves us closer to the holy standard God requires. I am not, of course, saying that we become God or we earn a righteousness by our actions. We are righteous only when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice as the atonement for our sins – when we believe that He paid the price we owe and we live our life according to His plans and purposes.

Is the Book of Leviticus Relevant for Today?

You bet it is! When Jesus represented Himself to be baptized, John the Baptist proclaimed:

“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29b (NKJV)

John the Baptist recognized that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system – that Jesus’ death met all the requirements and did so forever. Hallelujah!

Many thanks to the following blogs for their help in writing this blog:
http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/levitic.html

http://bible.org/seriespage/learning-love-leviticus#P89_4464

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1In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom—2in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
Daniel 9:1-3

Daniel understood the times and knew that it was time for God to move – but he didn’t just sit back and wait for it – he prayed into it. In doing so, he provides an interesting and insightful example for us.

He understood from studying Scripture that the seventy years prophecied by Jeremiah as the length of “the desolation of Jerusalem” was nearly ended. How exciting it must have been when Daniel realized this! From his own description, it’s clear that he hadn’t been counting down the years since his abduction from his homeland and entrance into Nebuchadnezzar’s service. It wasn’t until many, many years later, during the reign of King Darius, that God opened Daniel’s eyes to the Scriptures that pointed to the end of the Jerusalem’s captivity.

Have you ever studied Scripture and suddenly a passage makes sense in a way it never has before? I love it when that happens! In this case, Daniel’s eyes were opened to a message that impacted not just him and his relationship with God, but an entire nation. I would think he’d be tempted to shout it from the rooftops! At the very least I would expect Daniel to be dancing in celebration!

We saw in chapter 1, however, that Daniel was quite humble. He didn’t rush out to boast to everyone what he had learned in Bible study that morning and he didn’t begin to celebrate his impending freedom. Instead, he turned to prayer. Daniel knew that God’s promises are meant to lead us into prayer, not make our prayers unnecessary. We’re not to sit back and wait for blessings to roll in, but rather to contend for them in the spiritual world through prayer. It is prayer that moves the hand of God.

So Daniel turned to prayer, and not only to prayer, but also to confession. Let’s take a look:

4I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:
     “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
     7“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
Daniel 9: 4-11

You know, I’m guessing that Daniel didn’t personally sin to the extent that it would appear from reading his prayer. Today we would call what Daniel was doing “identificational repentance.” Identificational repentance describes what happens when someone chooses to identify with the sins of their family, city, nation, people group or other organization, and confesses that sin. It often involves not only making confession to God but to offended parties as a way of bringing healing between people groups. For example, a white Christian might identify with the sin of slavery in our country’s history even though they or their ancestors personally had no connection with slavery. Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit we recognize that the sins of some people group we’re associated with have the same roots as sin we see in ourselves – a desire for power, greed, selfishness, or rebellion, for example – and we confess the sin and ask forgiveness. Identificational repentance is powerful because it brings into the open sins that may have been denied and were never dealt with. Those sins are confessed before God and where possible people who were offended by the sin. Such confession brings reconciliation with God and moves toward reconciliation between people groups. Often times it is the first time the offended party has ever been apologized to for wrongs they have experienced. Again, that can be a powerful thing.

Identificational Repentance is what every priest in the Old Testament did – confess the sins of the people before God. Under the New Covenant, Christ has made every believer a part of the “royal priesthood” described in 1 Peter 2:9. When we participate in identificational repentance we take on a priestly role. What an honor! Remember, an important element is that we identify with the sin – we’re not confessing sins “they” did, but identifying with “their” actions and confessing the sin as our own. It’s what Daniel was doing when he prayed “O Lord…we have sinned against you.”

Daniel continued in his prayer, confessing the sins of his people, rehearsing God’s history with the Israelites, and ending in intercession asking God to step in and change history not because they deserve it but because God is merciful:

17“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
Daniel 9:17-19

Daniel’s prayer is an outstanding example of humility and intercession. As you pray for your community and state, confess the sins you see, not as sins others have committed, but as a priest representing those who have sinned.

 

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While reading about the making of the Tabernacle this week, I began to wonder what it would have been like to actually be making the curtains, the frames, the bronze clasps, gold lampstand or any other element. How much care would I have taken? How many do-overs would be required – stitches pulled out, clasps thrown back into the fire to begin again – before I finished something to God’s exact specifications and worthy of His dwelling place? I thought about the holiness – the hushed awe, the uniqueness – that would embody the acts of creating the elements of the Tabernacle.

I imagined women sitting together sewing “curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them” (Exodus 26:1). The room is filled with holy reverence because this curtain – THIS curtain – would surround the Most Holy God – the great and wonderful I AM. I imagined hammering pure gold to create the atonement cover and the cherubim that were to hover over it. What image was God giving them as they hammered out the faces on the cheribum?

Whether performing the delicate work of embroidery, the movements of controlled strength required to hammer the gold, or the hard physical work necessary for framing the Tabernacle, I imagined the expressions of the workers to be intent – intent on getting it just right, intent on the purpose for which their elements would be used. Often, when I am intently concentrating on something, others tell me that my expression looks stern, almost angry. I don’t imagine that the expressions of these workers would be so stern or angry. Rather, they would be so full of awe that it would shine through and even the most detailed or demanding task would not mar the holiness of their countenance.

Even before I had thought through all of this, God reminded me that I am His dwelling place.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I was challenged afresh by these thoughts in two ways:

To view my life as the dwelling place of God – to live always aware that the Spirit of God lives in me. God’s temple is sacred and I am that temple.

To view all the various circumstances in my life from the perspective of the Lord’s temple being built in me. In other words, some element of the Lord’s Tabernacle, His dwelling place is being created in me – I am being shaped, sewn, fired, hammered, etc., into the perfect element of the Tabernacle that God determined and designed me to be. As I imagined the act of creating the various elements of the Old Testament Tabernacle to be embodied with holiness – can my life be any different? God is creating me as one of the elements in His New Testament Tabernacle – the Church, and the whole process has an indwelling holiness. This is described in 1 Peter 2:

As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5

When I don’t see this in my circumstances, I am simply being blind to it. As such, I am challenged to treat the circumstances in my life (especially the difficult circumstances) as holy moments – moments when I can work with the Almighty Builder/Transformer, to create the Tabernacle where He will dwell. How awesome is that?

Lord, fill my spirit with awe and wonder as I meet each circumstance this week, this month and this year. Help me to always remember that we are building Your dwelling place.

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I don’t usually offer such lengthy portions of Scripture in my blogs, but it is worth it. I am truly being blown away by these two passages as I read them slowly this morning. I pray that you will be as well.

The New Testament passage is informed by the Old Testament, and yet goes so much beyond it. Hebrews can be a difficult book to grasp sometimes. As I read our Resting at the River’s Edge passage for yesterday, Moses’ introduction and sealing of the Old Testament Covenant brought to mind the passage in Hebrews in which the writer explains the introduction and sealing of our New Testament Covenant. I will let the passages provide their own lesson. I have added some clarifications in [brackets].

Exodus 24:
3bHe [Moses] got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. 5Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. 6Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. 7Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.”

8Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Hebrews 9:
19When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things [that is, the man-made tabernacle] to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then [if that were the case] Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hebrews 10:
1The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year [as was required in the Old Testament Covenant], make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;

6
with burnt offerings and sin offerings

you were not pleased.

7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, O God.’

8First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). 9Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”

17Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

18And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [with the blood of Jesus] to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hallelujah!

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3Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
Exodus 19: 3-6

9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10

Nuff said.

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And I said to these priests, “You and these treasures have been set apart as holy to the LORD. This silver and gold is a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of our ancestors. Guard these treasures well until you present them, without an ounce lost, to the leading priests, the Levites, and the leaders of Israel at the storerooms of the LORD’S Temple in Jerusalem.” So the priests and the Levites accepted the task of transporting these treasures to the Temple of our God in Jerusalem.
                Ezra 8:28-30, NLT

As I read this, I was struck by the way that Ezra spoke to the priests – reminding them that they were set apart as holy to the Lord and the treasure they were carrying was holy to the Lord. I couldn’t help but be awed by the honorable responsibility given to them and to be challenged that God has given me this same responsibility. Because I know Him, because I have a relationship with Him, He’s given me His awesome Holy Spirit to live within me. I don’t know how that happens, but I know that everywhere I go, He goes. In a sense, I am transporting or carrying God into every place and every situation I find myself today, tomorrow, the next day and the next day, until He calls me to be with Him. He is the treasure in the earthly vessel of my body. Let me paraphrase Ezra – this is how I heard it in my spirit as I read the passage:

“You have been set apart as holy to the Lord. He has given you a free will offering – His Son for your salvation and the Holy Spirit within You to help you become more like Him. These gifts are more precious than silver and gold offerings. Guard them well as you walk through life, until one day you present yourself to God and hear Him say ‘well done.'”

Am I taking liberty with Ezra 8:28-30? Absolutely! But I am also being true to Scripture. Christ has come to live within each of us who follow His leadership – who give Him lordship of our lives.

This is my “Thursday” Christmas blog this week – I’m delivering it on Tuesday – so that you can begin to pray about and see the awesome task you have before you this week – to carry Christ into every situation you find yourself. For many of you, that will mean those difficult Christmas gatherings where Aunt Betty will do nothing but criticize you and Uncle Bart will be obnoxious and boorish.

Enjoy yourself! Christ lives in you and wants to bring joy in the midst of criticism and boorishness. He wants to bring it to you and those who seem unlikely candidates for it!

Have a wonderful, Christ-centered (at least in your heart) Christmas!

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