Saturday, April 27, 2013

What does it take to be perfect? Lev 1-7

Perfection only through the sacrificial offering of Christ
Do you know anyone who seems impossible to please. Their perfectionist personality drives you up the wall because it seems like you can never measure up. As broken people it seems almost unrealistic to expect anyone to be perfect.

Then why does God expect us to be perfect? He made us and knows everything about our makeup, if there is anyone who is able to understand the extent of our frailty it should be God.  This perfect expectation from God is what I initially see when I begin reading the third book of the Bible in Leviticus. I see a display of God's holiness through his fellowship offering expectations and it causes me to shrink back with inadequacy. But what is God really trying to reveal about Himself to His people Israel and to us today in our text of Leviticus 1-7?

The book of Leviticus is named after the tribe of Levi. The priests were chosen by God to lead Israel in applying all religious and civil instructions which God had given. They were the ones who helped the people make atonement (make right) for their sins so that they will be able to approach God in worship.
As we start reading the first chapters of Leviticus, we see that God's rules about the fellowship offerings, reveal how Israel were meant to approach Him in intimacy as well as what should be done in case of disobedience. After you read the first seven chapters we see a set of complicated offering requirements which God required from His people to build on the relationship they already had. it was not enough for God to live with His people, he wanted to be in a close relationship with His people Israel and consequently with us today. But through the sacrifices of bulls and lambs and turtle doves? what is all that about?

*Offering Purpose What was offered
Burnt Offering (lev 1)  Atonement for sin, complete dedication to God  Perfect looking-bull, sheep, goat, turtle dove or pigeon
Grain Offering (Lev 2) Thanksgiving to God
Fine flour mixed with olive oil and frankincense, cakes made of fine flour and baked in oven or green heads of roasted grain mixed with olive oil and frakincense
Peace Offering (Lev 3) Fellowship between the worshipper and God. Thank, votive & Freewill offering all expressed gratitude to God According to wealth, perfect looking- herd, flock or goat.

Sin Ofering
(Lev 4)

To pay (atonement) for sins done unknowingly
According to wealth-Perfect looking bull, goat or lamb, trutle doves, pigeons, grain
Trespass Offering (Lev 5-7)
To pay (atonement) for sins commited unknowingly expecially where restitution
can be made
Perfect looking lamb or ram

Well let us review and maybe we can come to an understanding about all these sacrifices. In Exodus God had given Israel laws and had come to live with His people in the tabernacle. Now He provides specific ritual sacrifices which will cover sin in order to allow Him to express even more fully Himself to Israel.  The sacrifices offered the means for a Holy God to be in close relationship with an unholy people (Isa 64:6). These rituals were not given to Israel to help them be in relationship with God, they already were God's chosen people. These rituals were given to allowIsrael to be counted as Holy, as perfect before God, hence giving room for intimacy with their God Yahweh.  So although we have no right to demand perfection from any man, God has a right to demand perfection from us because He is perfect, and so He cannot deny Himself.

Leviticus 1-7 shows us the extent of God's perfection, it displays the weight of a Holy God living with less than perfect men. We see through the pages of Leviticus that it takes so much trouble to keep a broken, imperfect people to maintain perfection. How is God going to sustain this way of worship though the ages? Will his people Israel meet His perfect standard of Holiness? What does it take for us today, to be right with God? Why aren't we or Israel for that matter, offering sacrifices of lambs and goats to maintain a relationship with God? These are all questions which will be revealed more clearly as we continue reading the Bible, but I will attempt to answer this only briefly here today. 

God does not sustain this sacrificial system of making his chosen people Israel perfect, and God's people do not perfectly keep this system of worship anyway. This sacrificial system in Leviticus was temporal, it was a foreshadow to the one perfect sacrifice which will be offered once and for all. A perfect Lamb placed on the altar of God, making provision not only for Israel but for all of mankind to be perfect before God. As a reflection on this animal sacrifice system Hebrews 10  says,
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.(Heb10:1-2)… 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time (Heb 10:10).
Jesus Christ was that perfect sacrificed lamb, who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He satisfied the perfect Holiness of God which allows all who will believe to be in right relationship with God and to enjoy even further an intimacy with Him. 
"Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory" (Rom 5:1-2)
I know the fulness of this plan has not yet been revealed at this point in our story, but we use our reading today to see why Israel and all Christians today have no need for animal sacrifices and how privileged we are that a perfect lamb took our place and all God requires from us is to believe on the Lamb of God who took away all sin, past, present and future sins. We have no need to haul up lambs and goats to some temple and look for some priest to accept our sacrifice each time we do something wrong against God. We an imperfect people can be made perfect through the Cross of Christ once and for all, now this is comfort for the soul. I leave you with this 7minutes clip by Tim Chaddick, that goes into the full implication of this sacrificial system for us today.....Until next time read, share and be comforted. 
The Sacrificial System by Tim Chaddick click here for slower internet connection

*Summary of Sacrificial offering table taken from Earl D Radmacher, Ron B. Allen, H. Wayne House, The Nelson NKJV Study Bible, (Nashville:Thomas Nelson, 1997), 197

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"You are All Powerful"-Summary of Exodus

Why is Story telling so powerful? Why do our hearts ignite as we listen to a Story unravel? Why do we see our creative, imaginative self fly outside of us and into Stories told? Maybe it is because God decided to reveal Himself to us in Story and in the process allows us to come to an understanding of who we are through the medium of HiStory.

God reveals Himself to mankind, not just in any Story, but in a love Story because love stories most profoundly spark our hearts. A beautiful God pursues His beautiful bride so that He may enjoy her forever (Rev 21). That is the story of the Bible, that is HIStory which we are privileged to be a part.
Larry Crabb in his book 66 Love Letters says,
Until we hear God's message wrapped up in the stories of real people, we won't trust that God's power could enter our Story. And until we remember what it was like to begin life in the desert by hearing God lay down laws nobody could keep, we won't feel the crushing weight of God's Holiness. But we must feel that weight to understand all that is involved in letting unholy people get close to God. 
Yes we must feel the weight and the beauty of all what it takes to make His bride beautiful again. So we stop today to close the second book of the Bible, looking back through Exodus, at how God reveals Himself to His people Israel and to us today.

*Exodus is laid out in two parts. The first section burst out with the story of God as Savior and Provider of His people (1-18). As God delivers Israel from Egypt with provision in their hand (12:36), and brings them into the wilderness , He continues to provide for them. He turns bitter waters sweet (15:22-27), gives manna from heaven (16) and brings water from a rock (17:1-7). Even in all this Israel grumbled against God and were disobedient on several occasions (15:24).

In spit of their lack of faith, the Lord kept pursuing His bride Israel as we enter the second part of this Exodus story full of laws and instructions (19-40). God lays down the law to reveal His Holiness, and makes Israel understand that He is the only One true God, perfectly Holy and all powerful. Because of who He is, he can be approached only in the way He prescribes.

As the book closes, we see how God Himself comes to live among His people Israel after the building of the tabernacle (36-40).
So God has saved His people, provided for them, made a treaty with them and taught them how to live. Then He finally comes to live with them. We will see this theme repeated all through our study of the entire Bible and also in the way God has revealed and continues to reveal Himself to us today.

He loves you and desires to save you (John 3:16), to provide for you all you need to live a full life (John 10:10). He has provided laws that would titillate our relationship with Him, renew the way we think (Rom 12:1-2) and the way we treat one another (1 john 3:16). As He teaches us to live the life we were created to live, even in this imperfect world, He promises to come again and make our world new...make us new....and live with us forever (Rev 21:1-7). Now this powerful Story found in Exodus, is true comfort for the soul!...Until next time as we enter the book of Leviticus...Read...Share...and be comforted.

*Exodus summary helps taken from, Earl D Radmacher, Ron B. Allen, H. Wayne House, The Nelson NKJV Study Bible, (Nashville:Thomas Nelson, 1997), 97-98.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"God with Us" (Exo 39-40)

 39:32Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished. And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses; so they did...40:1Then the Lord spoke to Moses, shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. You shall put in it the ark of the Testimony, and partition off the ark with the veil...40:16Thus Moses did; according to all that the Lord had commanded him, so he did...34Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle... 36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys...38 For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
Replica of the Tabernacle in Israel today, as prescribed by God in Exodus 39-40
In the summer of 2012 I had the most amazing opportunity ever, a true gift from God, most unexpected and greater than I could have imagined. I spent three weeks in the land of Israel. A group of 40 of us landed in Tel Aviv and on to Jerusalem on May 14th 2012. We had the privilege of studying first hand the History and Geography of the land of the Bible-Israel, from the Northerns parts of Galilee, to the mid regions of Bethlehem, down to the Jordan valley all the way south to the Negev. On one occasion, we camped out for a few hours in the Wildreness of Paran (Gen 21:21, Numb 12:16), which is the context of our story today.
Altar of burnt Offering & Laver of bronze
Golden Lamp stand
Many people have asked me, "what was the highlight of your trip", as hard as that question is, I always seem to come back to my desert experience in the Wildreness of Paran. It was not because of the time when all 40 of us were scattered across the desert, sitting alone on a hill of our choosing as we contemplated how it must have been for Israel. It was hot, there were ants, flies, the ground was true desert fashion. But rather it was after that, when we had a chance to visit a replica of the Tabernacle (tent) made just like God had instructed Israel (Exo 36-39). 
In the desert all I saw to draw my attention was the Tabernacle of God, which represented God's presence. The tent itself is not flattering but its symbols caused me to tear up uncontrollably.

Taking pictures of every item of the Tabernacle, I walked into the The Outer Court, where the altar of burnt offering stood with the Laver of bronze used for Priest cleansing (27:1-8, 30:17-21).

Then strolling into the holy place where only the priest were allowed in....seeing and touching the articles inside: The Gold Lampstand (25:1-40)
The Table of showbread (25:23-30)
The Altar of Incense (30:1-10)
All along admiring the curtains that stood like walls on both sides as they gleamed with colors prescribed by God (26:1-37)
The Tent Curtains
Then I took a deep breath, stopped and then went in....yes we went into the Holy of Holies...where no one was ever permitted to enter except the High Priest and only once a year and not without blood, making atonement (reconciliation-making right with God) for Himself and the nation. All 40 of us from different nations were permitted to enter this most holy place because of the eternal high priest Jesus Christ who had gone before us and died to reconcile us to our most Holy God, tearing the veil of separation between God and us, offering a bridge for all who will come into the tent of fellowship (Heb 5:10, 7:26-28, 9:7, 11, 24-26).
Show bread
In our text today we see how God comes to dwell with His people Israel. In a tent symbolized by the cloud radiating His glory. Separated from Israel because of their sin, but ever present and ever involved. The great "God with us" in the Old Testament is displayed as a shadow to the real and everlasting promise found in the New testament. Where "God with us" Jesus Christ, comes in the tent of flesh and dwells among us and we see His glory (John 1:14). 

He comes to break the wall of separation (sin) between Israel and Himself and not only Israel but all mankind who will receive Him as their God and savior.
Manna and Aaron's Staff that budded
Manna in The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant

The two tents in view (Old & New)
As I touched "The Ark of the Covenant" with shaky hands and opened it and saw Aaron's budded rod, manna in a bowl and the tablets of the 10 Commandments...I could hardly contain myself. I took my pictures and dashed out, ran up to a nearby hill and looked at the reality of then and now and I cried tremendously out of gratitude. Because of Jesus I am free to worship and come into God's presence, even boldly and talk to Him, and sometimes shout to Him in my frustration. I looked at the tent of Old and I looked at my present tent, where God Himself lives in the person of The Holy Spirit and I could not imagine that God cared that much, that He will go through so much trouble to rescue me...even me. I looked at the old tent in the Wilderness of Paran and saw my current reality, not only "God with us" but saw "God in us", "God in me". I looked at the tabernacle of old and I am obliged to look to the future tabernacle where God will not only be inside of me, but He will dwell on earth with man, the fullness of heaven's abode will be finally on earth with man (Rev 21:1-3).

21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.-(Rev 21:1-3)

As I write I am fueled with great emotions of comfort and I burst out in praise to our God...Maranatha!...You are good, You are faithful, You are provider and You are Deliverer. This emotional story of God's plan to live with man, is unfolding. It closes this very long book of Exodus with great anticipation for what comes next. 

Until next time where we will summarize the book of Exodus and move on to our next book Leviticus.  Read, share and be comforted.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"I know Your Name" (Exo 31-33)

He knows me and sees me
He knows my name and sees me indeed
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.
 “And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you:

Even in the crowds you know my name
As I prepared to write this issue I searched for "What's in a name? and came up with an interesting site which claims to know your personality if you type in your name. Of course I tried it and what it gave me was shocking! In a weird sort of way, most of what it said about my personality was not too far from the truth...You can try it for yourself clicking here.

Why is ones name so important and personal?... I think because calling someone by name says that I care about you, I know you or want to know you better. When someone calls your name you feel special, at home with them or valued by them.

So when I read our bible text today, I could not help noticing the beauty of what God tells Moses. The context of our passage lies in the beginning of a construction project. God has given his Law to Israel and now He wants to create a tent (Tabernacle) where He can live among His people. This tabernacle was to be made exactly according to God's direction because it was to look like God's other dwelling place in heaven (Heb 8:24a). Before the construction begins he calls out by name two men, Bezalel (whose name means "in the shadow of God") and his assistant Aholiab (whose name means "The Father's tent").

Before they were born, God gifted them with abilities to handle the unique task of making a dwelling place for Him on earth. He did not ask Moses to take on this project but He had already appointed men who will be able to carry it out with great ability and wisdom and also who will have the ability to teach others to do the same. *There are many instances in the Bible where God makes a big deal about peoples' Names, the word itself shows up about 1012 times. Maybe He is whispering to us that our Name is important and we certainly cannot disagree with that. I guess that is why some African cultures do not say out loud the name of their new born, until they have celebrated it in what is called, "Naming Ceremony".
God cares about every detail concerning your life
This story encourages me to know that the God of the universe knows not only the names of Bazalel, Ohaliab or Moses but He knows my name and He knows yours as well (Ps 139). He knows and cares about each one of us uniquely, and has gifted each of us to do a unique work on earth (1 Cor 12:7-11). Because there is no other you that has ever lived, be comforted that there is something special and unique that only you can do. In a world seeking for authenticity there is no more authentic You than You in the arms of God..."So be You" (2 Cor 3:18). 

This simple statement "Be You" takes a lot of courage to apply, because the world loves to tell us who we are, and they are often wrong. You face the increasing challenge to rise up and get the definition of your name from the one true God who created you. Just like Bezalel (in the shadow of God), your name lies in the very shadow of God Himself. He loves you and desires to have a personal relationship with you. So shine under the tent of God as you celebrate your Name and employ your unique gifts for the goodness of your world and the glory of your creator God (Eph 2:10). 

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold-(Prov 22:1)

If you desire to know more about your Spiritual gifts, strengths and unique personality try using these three resources out of many you can find for free online
Be comforted by Ps 139, knowing that you are unique and highly regarded by the God of the universe who knows your Name.Until next time, Read, Share and be comforted.

Ps 139

O Lord, you have examined my heart 
and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel
 and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
 even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me
 and the light around me to become night
 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
 and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; 
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!

O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
Get out of my life, you murderers! They blaspheme you;
    your enemies misuse your name. O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
    Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you? Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for your enemies are my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life
*Several passages in the bible that show that God"Knows your Name" (Isa 43:1-2, 49:1-26, Jhn 10:14-15, 10:3, Ps 9:14...) for a more complete list click here

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