Man On A Mission

Numbers 1-4, Mark 1-3

The beginning of the Good News of Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of God:
It is written in the prophet Yesha‘yahu,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare the way before you.”
“The voice of someone crying out:
‘In the desert prepare the way for Adonai!
Make straight paths for him!’”

So it was that Yochanan the Immerser appeared in the desert, proclaiming an immersion involving turning to God from sin in order to be forgiven. People went out to him from all over Y’hudah, as did all the inhabitants of Yerushalayim. Confessing their sins, they were immersed by him in the Yarden River. Yochanan wore clothes of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed: “After me is coming someone who is more powerful than I — I’m not worthy even to bend down and untie his sandals. I have immersed you in water, but he will immerse you in the Ruach HaKodesh.

Shortly thereafter, Yeshua came from Natzeret in the Galil and was immersed in the Yarden by Yochanan. Immediately upon coming up out of the water, he saw heaven torn open and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; then a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased with you.”

Immediately the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by the Adversary. He was with the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.

After Yochanan had been arrested,Yeshua came into the Galil proclaiming the Good News from God:
“The time has come,
God’s Kingdom is near!
Turn to God from your sins
and believe the Good News!

As he walked beside Lake Kinneret, he saw Shim‘on and Andrew, Shim‘on’s brother, casting a net into the lake; for they were fishermen. Yeshua said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you into fishers for men!” At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on a little farther, he saw Ya‘akov Ben-Zavdai and Yochanan, his brother, in their boat, repairing their nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zavdai in the boat with the hired men and went after Yeshua.

They entered K’far-Nachum, and on Shabbat Yeshua went into the synagogue and began teaching. They were amazed at the way he taught, for he did not instruct them like the Torah-teachers but as one who had authority himself.

In their synagogue just then was a man with an unclean spirit in him, who shouted, “What do you want with us, Yeshua from Natzeret? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!” But Yeshua rebuked the unclean spirit, “Be quiet and come out of him!” Throwing the man into a convulsion, it gave a loud shriek and came out of him. They were all so astounded that they began asking each other, “What is this? A new teaching, one with authority behind it! He gives orders even to the unclean spirits, and they obey him!” And the news about him spread quickly through the whole region of the Galil.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Yeshua got up, left, went away to a lonely spot and stayed there prayingBut Shim‘on and those with him went after him; and when they found him, they said, “Everybody is looking for you.” He answered, “Let’s go somewhere else — to the other villages around here. I have to proclaim the message there too — in fact this is why I came out.” So he traveled all through the Galil, preaching in their synagogues and expelling demons.

A man afflicted with tzara‘at came to Yeshua and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Yeshua reached out his hand, touched him and said to him, “I am willing! Be cleansed! Instantly the tzara‘at left him, and he was cleansed. Yeshua sent him away with this stern warning: “See to it that you tell no one; instead, as a testimony to the people, go and let the cohen examine you, and offer for your cleansing what Moshe commanded.” But he went out and began spreading the news, talking freely about it; so that Yeshua could no longer enter a town openly but stayed out in the country, where people continued coming to him from all around.
Mark 1:1-28 & 35-45

After a while, Yeshua returned to K’far-Nachum. The word spread that he was back, and so many people gathered around the house that there was no longer any room, not even in front of the door. While he was preaching the message to them, four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. They could not get near Yeshua because of the crowd, so they stripped the roof over the place where he was, made an opening, and lowered the stretcher with the paralytic lying on it. Seeing their trust, Yeshua said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Some Torah-teachers sitting there thought to themselves, “How can this fellow say such a thing? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins except God?” But immediately Yeshua, perceiving in his spirit what they were thinking, said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier to say to the paralyzed man? ‘Your sins are forgiven’? or ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk’? But look! I will prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He then said to the paralytic, “I say to you: get up, pick up your stretcher and go home!” In front of everyone the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and left. They were all utterly amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Yeshua went out again by the lake. All the crowd came to him, and he began teaching them. As he passed on from there, he saw Levi Ben-Halfai sitting in his tax-collection booth and said to him, “Follow me!” And he got up and followed him.

As Yeshua was in Levi’s house eating, many tax-collectors and sinners were sitting with Yeshua and his talmidim, for there were many of them among his followers. When the Torah-teachers and the P’rushim saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his talmidim, “Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?” But, hearing the question, Yeshua answered them, “The ones who need a doctor aren’t the healthy but the sick. I didn’t come to call the ‘righteous’ but sinners!”
Mark 2:1-17

Then he entered a house; and once more, such a crowd came together that they couldn’t even eat. When his family heard about this, they set out to take charge of him; for they said, “He’s out of his mind!”

Then his mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” He replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking at those seated in a circle around him, he said, “See! Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does what God wants is my brother, sister and mother!
Mark 3:20-21 & 31-35

I’m finally back on track with my bible reading plan after taking a few extended detours in Exodus and Leviticus. It’s been a while since I read through the book of Mark. The shortest of the four gospels, it presents Jesus as the “Suffering Servant.” It is also extremely fast paced and lacks a lot of the intricate details that we find in the other three. However, after reading through the detail oriented writings of Moses in Exodus and Leviticus, and now moving into Numbers, I find it kind of a refreshing tempo.

Mark quickly moves into action, no lists or genealogies, no retelling of the divine and humble birth of our Savior, no pointing to the prophecies that He fulfilled in His coming. Instead, Mark gets straight to the point, identifying Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God right off the bat in chapter one with Jesus’ baptism. From there he quickly relays Jesus’ tempting in the wilderness and then jumps into presenting Jesus on mission; proclaiming the Good News, calling out His followers, teaching with undeniable authority, rebuking and correcting the religious errors of the scribes and Pharisees, and healing the sick and casting out demons.

Mark moves so quickly from one event to the next that it’s easy to miss some of the details he does include: The immediate responses from Peter, James and John when He calls them to follow Him; the amazement and astonishment of the people upon hearing His teaching and healing the sick; the way He was moved with pity and struck by the faith of a paralyzed man’s friends; how he stole away early in the morning to pray to His Father; the fact that His own family thought He was crazy.

This urgent and sober-minded portrait that Mark paints of Jesus, to me, makes me realize how intentional He was with every second of His time. He knew why He was here, He knew what His mission was, and every day of His ministry was spent advancing God’s Kingdom and moving toward His ultimate purpose – to die for the sins of the world so that through faith in Him me could be reconciled to God. Jesus knew God…He and the Father were one. So there was no greater purpose not deeper passion in His life than working to fulfill His mission and purpose, because He knew that we were meant to be with God too and that it was only through Him that the broken relationship could be restored.

Though I will never be able to achieve the deep passion and drive that kept Jesus intentionally on mission all the time, it does remind me to refocus my mind on Christ, and the things that are above, the things that are eternal. In my short time on earth what will I look back on as having made an impact for God’s Kingdom? How can I be a player in what God is doing to restore others to a right relationship with Him? That needs to be what motivates me every day. Whether it’s simply the way a speak to my daughter and husband inside our home, to how I shine His light in the relationships and community He has placed me in, that is my goal – to proclaim the Good News that Christ has come to die for sinners such as me so that we can live with God forever!

LORD, help me to focus on what my true mission is – to proclaim Your goodness to the world! Lead me to opportunities where I can shine Your light each and every day, and to live with the purpose and passion for this mission that Your Son demonstrated during His earthly ministry. AMEN!

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God Will Remember His Covenant

Leviticus 21-27

“‘If you live by my regulations, observe my mitzvot and obey them; then I will provide the rain you need in its season, the land will yield its produce, and the trees in the field will yield their fruit. Your threshing time will extend until the grape harvest, and your grape harvesting will extend until the time for sowing seed. You will eat as much food as you want and live securely in your land.

“‘I will give shalom in the land — you will lie down to sleep unafraid of anyone. I will rid the land of wild animals. The sword will not go through your land. You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall before your sword. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand — your enemies will fall before your sword.

“‘I will turn toward you, make you productive, increase your numbers and uphold my covenant with you. You will eat all you want from last year’s harvest and throw out what remains of the old to make room for the new. I will put my tabernacle among you, and I will not reject you, but I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my peopleI am Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, so that you would not be their slaves. I have broken the bars of your yoke, so that you can walk upright.

“‘But if you will not listen to me and obey all these mitzvotif you loathe my regulations and reject my rulings, in order not to obey all my mitzvot but cancel my covenant; then I, for my part, will do this to you: I will bring terror upon you — wasting disease and chronic fever to dim your sight and sap your strength. You will sow your seed for nothing, because your enemies will eat the crops. I will set my face against you — your enemies will defeat you, those who hate you will hound you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you.

If these things don’t make you listen to me, then I will discipline you seven times over for your sins. I will break the pride you have in your own power. I will make your sky like iron, your soil like bronze — you will spend your strength in vain, because the land will not yield its produce or the trees in the field their fruit.

“‘Yes, if you go against me and don’t listen to me, I will increase your calamities sevenfold, according to your sins. I will send wild animals among you; they will rob you of your children, destroy your livestock and reduce your numbers, until your roads are deserted.

“‘If, in spite of all this, you refuse my correction and still go against me; then I too will go against you; and I, yes I, will strike you seven times over for your sins. I will bring a sword against you which will execute the vengeance of the covenant. You will be huddled inside your cities, I will send sickness among you, and you will be handed over to the power of the enemy. I will cut off your supply of bread, so that ten women will bake your bread in one oven and dole out your bread by weight, and you will eat but not be satisfied.

“‘And if, for all this, you still will not listen to me, but go against me; then I will go against you furiously, and I also will chastise you yet seven times more for your sins. You will eat the flesh of your own sons, you will eat the flesh of your own daughters. I will destroy your high places, cut down your pillars for sun-worship, and throw your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols; and I will detest you. I will lay waste to your cities and make your sanctuaries desolate, so as not to smell your fragrant aromas. I will desolate the land, so that your enemies living in it will be astounded by it. You I will disperse among the nations, and I will draw out the sword in pursuit after you; your land will be a desolation and your cities a wasteland. Then, at last, the land will be paid its Shabbats. As long as it lies desolate and you are in the lands of your enemies, the land will rest and be repaid its Shabbats. Yes, as long as it lies desolate it will have rest, the rest it did not have during your Shabbats, when you lived thereAs for those of you who are left, I will fill their hearts with anxiety in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf will frighten them, so that they will flee as one flees from the sword and fall when no one is pursuing. Yes, with no one pursuing they will stumble over each other as if fleeing the sword — you will have no power to stand before your enemies. And among the nations you will perish; the land of your enemies will devour you.

Those of you who remain will pine away in the lands of your enemies from guilt over your misdeeds and those of your ancestors. Then they will confess their misdeeds and those of their ancestors which they committed against me in their rebellion; they will admit that they went against me. At that time I will be going against them, bringing them into the lands of their enemies. But if their uncircumcised hearts will grow humble, and they are paid the punishment for their misdeeds; then I will remember my covenant with Ya‘akov, also my covenant with Yitz’chak and my covenant with Avraham; and I will remember the land. For the land will lie abandoned without them, and it will be paid its Shabbats while it lies desolate without them; and they will be paid the punishment for their misdeeds, because they rejected my rulings and loathed my regulations. Yet, in spite of all that, I will not reject them when they are in the lands of their enemies, nor will I loathe them to the point of utterly destroying them and thus break my covenant with them, because I am Adonai their God. Rather, for their sakes, I will remember the covenant of their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt — with the nations watching — so that I might be their God; I am Adonai.’”
Leviticus 26:3-45

I finished up the book of Leviticus, which ends with a series of blessings and cursings. God promises great abundance and peace, that He will place He Tabernacle among them and dwell with them if they hold to His covenant. However, if they choose to reject Him and His covenant great disaster will come upon them.

We have the advantage of history to be able to look back and see how these words of the LORD have come to pass. We know that throughout its history, Israel has rejected God time and time again. They have been defeated, captured, and driven from the Land. The people of Israel have been dispersed among the nations just as God promise. The Land itself was laid desolate for hundreds of years. The Ottoman Turks occupied the Promised Land, renamed Palestine, for a period of 400 years. During that time the Land was laid waste. If you research, you can find multiple descriptions from historians and travelers dating back to the late 1500s, describing just how badly the Land had disintegrated under the Ottomans. Some of the most vivid commentary comes from Mark Twain, who upon visiting Palestine in 1867 wrote the following in his book, Innocents Abroad:

“Stirring scenes … occur in the valley [Jezreel] no more. There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent-not for thirty miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings.”

To find “…the sort of solitude to make one dreary,” one must, Twain wrote dramatically,
“Come to Galilee for that… these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness, that never, never do shake the glare from their harsh outlines, and fade and faint into vague perspective; that melancholy ruin of Capernaum: this stupid village of Tiberias, slumbering under its six funereal palms…We reached Tabor safely…We never saw a human being on the whole route.”

“Nazareth is forlorn …. Jericho the accursed lies a moldering ruin today, even as Joshua’s miracle left it more than three thousand years ago: Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Savior’s presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their flocks by night, and where the angels sang, “Peace on earth, good will to men,” is untenanted by any living creature… Bethsaida and Chorzin have vanished from the earth, and the “desert places” round about them, where thousands of men once listened to the Savior’s voice and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.”

“Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes…desolate and unlovely…”

Twain’s description closely mirrors the punishment that God warned would happen to the Land after the people had been dispersed among the nations.

But then history began to change. All the way back to the late 1800s, the Zionist movement began as Jews from around the globe began to seek to reestablish the Holy Land. Then after two world wars, the nation of Israel was established in a day, on May 14, 1948. Immediately following that, they were attacked by neighboring superpowers, yet they prevailed. Since then, they have continued to be hated, scorned, and threatened by their Muslim neighbors and have become a cup of trembling to the rest of the world.

And now that God’s intended inhabitants are back in the Land, and continuing to be regathered to the nation of Israel, the Land is flourishing. “With the nations watching,” God is remembering His promise, His covenant with His people. He has not rejected them, though they have certainly endured His punishment, but now He is making good on His promises, watching to perform His word, and restoring the Land to the people, the people to the Land, and allowing the Land itself to flourish.

It’s amazing to see prophecy being fulfilled before our eyes in the Land of Israel and among God’s chosen people. Many of them are having the scales removed and recognizing Jesus as the Messiah they have long been waiting for. And there continues to be a growing movement in the Gentile Church, as more believers are beginning to see Jesus as a Jewish Messiah, and recognizing the shared roots of our saving faith with our Jewish brothers and sisters. It’s exciting to be alive during this time in history as we continue to see God working towards building us into one body, one building, one new man through Jesus Christ!

Called to Holiness

Leviticus 16-20

Adonai said to Moshe, “Speak to the people of Isra’el; tell them, ‘I am Adonai your God. You are not to engage in the activities found in the land of Egypt, where you used to live; and you are not to engage in the activities found in the land of Kena‘an, where I am bringing you; nor are you to live by their lawsYou are to obey my rulings and laws and live accordingly; I am Adonai your God. You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am Adonai.

“‘Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, because all the nations which I am expelling ahead of you are defiled with themThe land has become unclean, and this is why I am punishing it — the land itself will vomit out its inhabitants. But you are to keep my laws and rulings and not engage in any of these disgusting practices, neither the citizen nor the foreigner living with you; for the people of the land have committed all these abominations, and the land is now defiledIf you make the land unclean, it will vomit you out too, just as it is vomiting out the nation that was there before you. For those who engage in any of these disgusting practices, whoever they may be, will be cut off from their people. So keep my charge not to follow any of these abominable customs that others before you have followed and thus defile yourselves by doing them. I am Adonai your God.’”
Leviticus 18:1-5 & 24-30

Adonai said to Moshe, “Speak to the entire community of Isra’el; tell them, You people are to be holy because I, Adonai your God, am holy.

“‘Do not hate your brother in your heart, but rebuke your neighbor frankly, so that you won’t carry sin because of him. Don’t take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am Adonai.
Leviticus 19:1-2 & 17-18

Therefore consecrate yourselves — you people must be holy, because I am Adonai your GodObserve my regulations, and obey them; I am Adonai, who sets you apart to be holy.

“‘You are to observe all my regulations and rulings and act on them, so that the land to which I am bringing you will not vomit you out. Do not live by the regulations of the nation which I am expelling ahead of you; because they did all these things, which is why I detested them. But to you I have said, “You will inherit their land; I will give it to you as a possession, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am Adonai your God, who has set you apart from other peoplesTherefore you are to distinguish between clean and unclean animals and between clean and unclean birds; do not make yourselves detestable with an animal, bird or reptile that I have set apart for you to regard as unclean. Rather, you people are to be holy for me; because I, Adonai, am holy; and I have set you apart from the other peoples, so that you can belong to me.
Leviticus 20:7-8 & 22-26

The Israelites have entered into covenant with God, He has laid out the terms of the covenant, and the blood sacrifices have been made. God continues to instruct His called out people as He reveals more of Himself to them. God calls them to holiness, to set apartness, that is unlike the peoples and nations around them. He calls them out of their former way of life when they were slaves in Egypt, but then He commands them that they are not to participate in the pagan cultures in the land where He is bringing them. The Israelites were free from their former way of life, bound in slavery, but God was instructing them to live as people who are set apart so that they could belong to Him.

The same is true for us who have put our faith in Christ. He has freed us from our bondage to sin, He has made us free. This is reflected in what Paul writes in Galatians 5, “For, brothers, you were called to be free. Only do not let that freedom become an excuse for allowing your old nature to have its way.” And also what Peter writes in 1 Peter 2, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

We are free, but our freedom is not a license to indulge in sin.

Leviticus 19-20 represents my Torah “birth portion,” the section of the Torah that was read during the week of my birth. Rabbis believe that were are to “live within the times” and that understanding our personal birth portion can add meaning and significance to our lives. I don’t know how true this is, but I did find my portion very interesting. Three times within this passage God commands His people to be holy because He is holy. The word “holy” – kadosh (קדוש) in Hebrew – is a word that has stuck with me for the past year. I even have a necklace that I wear almost every day which says kadosh. So find it so amazing that my birth portion coincides with these verses about holiness. Kadosh simply means “set apart for a specific purpose.” Peter reveals to us what our God-given purpose is in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, the King’s cohanim, a holy nation  a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” We are set apart, chosen, so that God may posses us as His own and so that we might declare to the darkened world the praises of the One Who called us out of such darkness. Peter goes on to say after this, “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and temporary residents not to give in to the desires of your old nature, which keep warring against you; but to live such good lives among the pagans that even though they now speak against you as evil-doers, they will, as a result of seeing your good actions, give glory to God on the Day of his coming
For it is a grace when someone, because he is mindful of God, bears up under the pain of undeserved punishment. For what credit is there in bearing up under a beating you deserve for doing something wrong? But if you bear up under punishment, even though you have done what is right, God looks on it with favor. Indeed, this is what you were called to; because the Messiah too suffered, on your behalf, leaving an example so that you should follow in his steps.
“He committed no sin,
nor was any deceit found on his lips.”
When he was insulted, he didn’t retaliate with insults; when he suffered, he didn’t threaten, but handed them over to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the stake, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness — by his wounds you were healed. For you used to be like sheep gone astray, but now you have turned to the Shepherd, who watches over you.”

Like Oil On Aaron’s Beard

Leviticus 8-15

Adonai said to Moshe, “Take Aharon and his sons with him, the garments, the anointing oil, the bull for the sin offering, the two rams and the basket of matzahand assemble the entire community at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” Moshe did as Adonai ordered him, and the community was assembled at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Moshe said to the community, “This is what Adonai has ordered to be done.”

Moshe brought Aharon and his sons, washed them with water, put the tunic on him, wrapped the sash around him, clothed him with the robe, put the ritual vest on him, wrapped around him the decorated belt and fastened the vest to him with it. He put the breastplate on him, and on the breastplate he put the urim and tumimHe set the turban on his head, and on the front of the turban he affixed the gold plate, the holy ornament, as Adonai had ordered Moshe.

Then Moshe took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, thus consecrating them. He sprinkled some on the altar seven times, anointing the altar with all its utensils and the basin with its base, to consecrate them. He poured some of the anointing oil on Aharon’s head and anointed him, to consecrate him.

You are not to go out from the entrance to the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your consecration are over; since Adonai will be consecrating you for seven days. He ordered done what has been done today, in order to make atonement for you. You are to remain at the entrance to the tent of meeting day and night for seven days, thereby obeying what Adonai ordered done, so that you may not die. For this is what I was ordered.” Aharon and his sons did all the things which Adonai ordered through Moshe.
Leviticus 8:1-12 & 33-36

On the eighth day, Moshe called Aharon, his sons and the leaders of Isra’el, and said to Aharon, “Take a male calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without defect, and offer them before AdonaiThen tell the people of Isra’el, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering and a calf and a lamb, both a year old and without defect, for a burnt offeringand an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before Adonai; also a grain offering mixed with olive oil — because today Adonai is going to appear to you.’” They brought what Moshe had ordered before the tent of meeting, and the whole community approached and stood before Adonai.

Moshe said, “This is what Adonai has ordered you to do, so that the glory of Adonai will appear to you.” Moshe told Aharon, “Approach the altar, offer your sin offering and burnt offering, and make atonement for yourself and the people. Then present the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as Adonai ordered.” So Aharon approached the altar and slaughtered the calf of the sin offering which was for himself. The sons of Aharon presented the blood to him; and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar; then he poured out the blood at the base of the altar. But the fat, the kidneys and the covering of the liver of the sin offering he made go up in smoke on the altar, as Adonai had ordered Moshe. The meat and the skin were burned up completely outside the camp.

Next he slaughtered the burnt offering; Aharon’s sons brought him the blood, and he splashed it against all sides of the altar. They brought him the burnt offering, piece by piece, and the head; and he made them go up in smoke on the altar. He washed the inner organs and the lower parts of the legs and made them go up in smoke on top of the burnt offering on the altar.

Then the people’s offering was presented. He took the goat of the sin offering which was for the people, slaughtered it and offered it for sin, like the earlier sin offering. The burnt offering was presented, and he offered it in the prescribed manner. The grain offering was presented; he took a handful of it and made it go up in smoke on the altar, in addition to the morning’s burnt offering. He slaughtered the ox and the ram, the people’s sacrifice as peace offerings; Aharon’s sons brought him the blood, which he splashed against all sides of the altar, and the fat of the ox and of the ram — the fat tail, the fat which covers the inner organs, the kidneys and the covering of the liver. They put the fat on the breasts, and he made the fat go up in smoke on the altar. The breasts and right thigh Aharon waved as a wave offering before Adonai, as Moshe had ordered.

Aharon raised his hands toward the people, blessed them and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering and the peace offerings. Moshe and Aharon entered the tent of meeting, came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of Adonai appeared to all the peopleFire came forth from the presence of Adonai, consuming the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
Leviticus 9:1-24

Everything had been prepared for the Tabernacle. Moses and the Israelites had carefully and completely followed all of the LORD’s instructions on how to construct it, how to ordain the priesthood, and how to offer sacrifices. And now the time had come for them to instate the sacrificial system. Aaron and his sons are dressed in their priestly garments and brought before the entire community to begin making sacrifices to the LORD for the first time in the Tabernacle.

As I read through this momentous event, I can’t help but see how so much of it mirrors Christ. Aaron, the High Priest, is presented before the community and anointed with holy oil. Aaron was being identified and anointed by God before the assembly as the High Priest. In the scriptures, oil often symbolizes the Holy Spirt, which makes me think of Christ – our High Priest – being baptized by His cousin John, as the Holy Spirit, live a dove, descends upon Him and the LORD announces, “This is my Son with Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, Luke 3:22) It also reminds me of Jesus being anointed with oil prior to His triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem.

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Before any sacrifices were made, Aaron and his sons were told to not to go out beyond the entrance to the tent of meeting for 7 days so that the LORD could consecrate them. The time between Jesus entering Jerusalem until the third day after His burial, is seven days. Seven days where the LORD was consecrating Him, preparing Him to make atonement for the people.

Then on the eight day, Aaron and his sons began to offer sacrifices – sin offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings, and peace offerings. Afterward, Moses and Aaron enter the tent of meeting, come out and bless the people. And then – the glory of Adonai appeared to all the people!” This too makes me think of Jesus, Who the author of Hebrews says, “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” And it is Paul who writes in 2 Corinthians 4, “For it is the God who once said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has made his light shine in our hearts, the light of the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of the Messiah Yeshua.” Jesus too, approached the Altar, the cross, where He sacrificed Himself as the blameless Lamb of God. Our sins were transferred to Him and His blood is the evidence that the penalty of our sin has been paid once and for all. He became our burnt offering, our grain offering, and our peace offering as well, opening up the way for us to walk in fellowship with God through service, communion and unity. He too entered the heavenly tent of meeting, the REAL Tabernacle, and on the eighth day, came out of the grave and blessed the people by offering forgiveness and eternal life, while revealing the glory of God manifest in Himself.

Aaron and his sons were fallible priests, sinful and imperfect, needing atonement themselves. The author of Hebrews expands on this in chapter 7: “Moreover, the present cohanim are many in number, because they are prevented by death from continuing in office. But because he lives forever, his position as cohen does not pass on to someone else; and consequently, he is totally able to deliver those who approach God through him; since he is alive forever and thus forever able to intercede on their behalf.

This is the kind of cohen gadol that meets our need — holy, without evil, without stain, set apart from sinners and raised higher than the heavens; one who does not have the daily necessity, like the other cohanim g’dolim, of offering up sacrifices first for their own sins and only then for those of the people; because he offered one sacrifice, once and for all, by offering up himself. For the Torah appoints as cohanim g’dolim men who have weakness; but the text which speaks about the swearing of the oath, a text written later than the Torah, appoints a Son who has been brought to the goal forever.”

As I read about Aaron’s anointing, it also made me think of a verse in the psalms which has always been a bit peculiar to me. In Psalm 133 it says,
“Oh, how good, how pleasant it is
for brothers to live together in harmony.
It is like fragrant oil on the head
that runs down over the beard,
over the beard of Aharon,
and flows down on the collar of his robes.”

“Oil on Aaron’s beard” never really carried any significance to me, but now I can see the parallel that David is trying to draw. When brothers and sisters, when the family of God dwells together in harmony, in peace, in unity, we are this beautiful picture of anointing oil being poured out on the High Priest. That oil, representing the Holy Spirt, living in us and working through us, as we reflect our ultimate High Priest, Jesus our Messiah. Truly that is a beautiful thing to behold!

 

 

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Leviticus 1-7, Matthew 27-28

As they were leaving, they met a man from Cyrene named Shim‘on; and they forced him to carry Yeshua’s execution-stake. When they arrived at a place called Gulgolta (which means “place of a skull”), they gave him wine mixed with bitter gall to drink; but after tasting it, he would not drink it. After they had nailed him to the stake, they divided his clothes among them by throwing dice. Then they sat down to keep watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written notice stating the charge against him,

THIS IS YESHUA
THE KING OF THE JEWS

Then two robbers were placed on execution-stakes with him, one on the right and one on the left. People passing by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So you can destroy the Temple, can you, and rebuild it in three days? Save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the stake!” Likewise, the head cohanim jeered at him, along with the Torah-teachers and elders, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself!” “So he’s King of Isra’el, is he? Let him come down now from the stake! Then we’ll believe him!” “He trusted God? So, let him rescue him if he wants him! After all, he did say, ‘I’m the Son of God’!” Even the robbers nailed up with him insulted him in the same way.

From noon until three o’clock in the afternoon, all the Land was covered with darkness. At about three, Yeshua uttered a loud cry, “Eli! Eli! L’mah sh’vaktani? (My God! My God! Why have you deserted me?)” On hearing this, some of the bystanders said, “He’s calling for Eliyahu.” Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, soaked it in vinegar, put it on a stick and gave it to him to drink. The rest said, “Wait! Let’s see if Eliyahu comes and rescues him.” But Yeshua, again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit.

At that moment the parokhet in the Temple was ripped in two from top to bottom; and there was an earthquake, with rocks splitting apart. Also the graves were opened, and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life; and after Yeshua rose, they came out of the graves and went into the holy city, where many people saw them. When the Roman officer and those with him who were keeping watch over Yeshua saw the earthquake and what was happening, they were awestruck and said, “He really was a son of God.
Matthew 27:32-54

Last year, I journaled about the 5 types of sacrifices described in the early chapters of Leviticus. Each one had a specific purpose that showed the people how they were to approach God. As I have been continuing to read along with The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread, Dr. Booker describes how each sacrifice represents a specific aspect of our salvation through the blood of Christ and our walk with Him.

It was back in 2014 when I read Leviticus for the first time…the first time when I wasn’t just skimming through it to check off the box of having “read through the entire bible.” That year was also the year I started really getting into Hebraic roots and realizing that Jesus was in fact the Jewish Messiah. Even back then as I read through rituals and detailed descriptions of the sacrificial system, I began to see Jesus in the scriptures, recognizing that all of these things were pointing to a greater more sufficient means of forgiveness.

One of the things that has really blown my mind is the fact that faith in a blood sacrifice was always God’s means of forgiveness. Dr. Booker goes back to the Fall, when Adam and Eve, after eating the forbidden fruit, tried to cover their shame – their sin – with fig leaves and they ran and hid from God. This was their way of covering their sins. But then God gives them a glimpse of His ultimate plan to restore the relationship that now had been broken. God had told them that disobedience, eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, would result in death. Now Adam and Eve, who had never seen death, would understand the cost of their sin. But God in His grace does not demand that they pay the price themselves. Instead, before their eyes, He kills an innocent animal and allows them to accept it as their sin substitute. Now when God saw them, covered in the skin of a slain animal, He saw the evidence that the price had been paid. Something died so that they could live.

It’s evident that Adam and Eve passed on these spiritual facts of life to their two sons Cain and Abel as we see them bring an offering to God in Genesis 4. Abel, who was a shepherd, brought lambs from His flock, while his brother Cain, a farmer, brought produce from his crops. Abel’s offering was pleasing and acceptable to God, and Cain’s was rejected. I’ll be honest that I never really understood why until now. I used to kind of feel sorry for Cain…that is until he went into a bitter rage and killed his brother; but I used to think that Cain was just bringing an offering from his livelihood, just like his brother had done. But here is where Dr. Booker points out the difference:

“Abel brought the best lambs from his flock. God approved of Abel’s offering because this was the way He established for sinful man to approach Him. Therefore, Abel was acceptable to God, not by his own goodness, but based on the innocent blood sacrifice…When God looked down on Abel’s offering, He saw the blood of an innocent sacrifice. The blood was evidence that the penalty for sin had been paid. 

Contrary to his younger brother, Cain rejected God’s way. He rejected the blood covenant. Instead of bringing an innocent sacrifice, he brought the fruit of his own labor. Cain probably brought his very best, but it represented his own good works. But even Cain’s goodness could not measure up to a perfect, absolute holy God.”

God’s way has always been through the innocent, substitutionary sacrifice for the covering of sin.

So when we get to Leviticus we are introduced to the elaborate sacrificial system. Each sacrifice revealed an aspect of the ultimate sacrifice that would come through Jesus. Through the sacrificial system, God made it clear to His called out people that man can only approach Him through an innocent blood sacrifice.

With all the imagery of sacrifices, it might be easy to see God as a blood thirsty deity, however, Booker makes a good point: “As a reminder, God does not require all this blood; sin requires it. Because God is holy and we are not; our sin separates us from Him. Because God loves us, He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him.”

So, looking at each of the 5 sacrifices, we can see how they find their fulfillment in the blood of Christ. The sin offering was given to deal with sin itself. We are all sinners, inheriting are nature from Adam, so we all need atonement for our sins. The trespass offering represents our specific sins – past, present, and future. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and we are free claim the forgiveness of those sins and remove the burden of shame through confession and repentance.

The other three offerings are all voluntary, associated with our worship of God, not our sin. These three offerings represent the abundant life that is available to those who have put their faith in the blood sacrifice of Jesus. The burnt offering represents us yielding ourselves to the lordship of Christ, offering ourselves as a living sacrifice, just as Paul writes in Romans 12: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.” Our relationship toward God should reflect one of Master and servant as we allow Him to take over our lives so that we can reflect Him more brightly. The grain offering represents our communion and fellowship with God. We have “eaten of His flesh and drank of His blood,” accepting His Spirit into our hearts and choosing to walk by the Spirit and not by our deceitful flesh. Finally the peace offering represents the peace that God provides as we walk in fellowship with Him and with others. Before we were without peace, hopeless and far from God; but the blood of Christ has brought us near so that we can enjoy the true shalom that can only come from the Father.

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So when Jesus died on the cross, something amazing happened. The veil, the dividing curtain that separated people from the divine presence of God within the holy of holies, was completely ripped in two – torn from top to bottom. God was signaling that the ultimate sacrifice had been made, that His people no longer had to rely on the temporary substitutionary blood of animals, because the blood of His Son, God incarnate, had been shed once and for all for all who would choose to accept His death in place of their own. Our perfect High Priest has gone behind the veil, becoming the spiritual reality of what all of these sacrifices pointed to. He did not abolish the need for sacrifice, instead He became the complete offering that would satisfy God’s justice as He sees the evidence that the penalty for sin had been paid. When we put our faith in Christ’s sacrifice, God looks on us as He did Abel, accepting us as we are clothed in righteousness not our own, but of His Son. But if we instead, like Cain, choose to rely on our own goodness and righteousness, which God says is like filthy rags, God will reject our efforts as we have rejected not only His way but His loving provision. Dr. Booker puts it quite grimly, but so truthfully: “The greatest horror story in the history of the world is when a person chooses to pay for his own sins by rejecting Jesus as his sacrifice.”

LORD, I am in awe of how You have revealed Yourself to the world and how You have loved us so much as to pay the ultimate price to become sin on our behalf so that we could be found righteous and forgiven through the blood of Your Son. Thank You for the precious gift of salvation and may I never take lightly the cost that was paid and the freedom that I have in knowing that You have paid it eternally. AMEN!

It Has To Happen This Way

Matthew 26

When Yeshua had finished speaking, he said to his talmidim, “As you know, Pesach is two days away, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be nailed to the execution-stake.”

The Son of Man will die just as the Tanakh says he will
; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for him had he never been born!”

While they were eating, Yeshua took a piece of matzah, made the b’rakhah, broke it, gave it to the talmidim and said, “Take! Eat! This is my body!”
 Also he took a cup of wine, made the b’rakhah, and gave it to them, saying, “All of you, drink from it! For this is my blood, which ratifies the New Covenant, my blood shed on behalf of many, so that they may have their sins forgiven. I tell you, I will not drink this ‘fruit of the vine’ again until the day I drink new wine with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

After singing the Hallel, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Yeshua then said to them, “Tonight you will all lose faith in me, as the Tanakh says, ‘I will strike the shepherd dead, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you into the Galil.”  “I will never lose faith in you,” Kefa answered, “even if everyone else does.” Yeshua said to him, “Yes! I tell you that tonight before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” “Even if I must die with you,” Kefa replied, “I will never disown you!” And all the talmidim said the same thing.

Then Yeshua went with his talmidim to a place called Gat-Sh’manim and said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Kefa and Zavdai’s two sons. Grief and anguish came over him, and he said to them, “My heart is so filled with sadness that I could die! Remain here and stay awake with me.” Going on a little farther, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me! Yet — not what I want, but what you want!” He returned to the talmidim and found them sleeping. He said to Kefa, “Were you so weak that you couldn’t stay awake with me for even an hour? Stay awake, and pray that you will not be put to the test — the spirit indeed is eager, but human nature is weak.”

A second time he went off and prayed. “My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink it, let what you want be done.” Again he returned and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy.

Leaving them again, he went off and prayed a third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the talmidim and said, “For now, go on sleeping, take your rest. . . . Look! The time has come for the Son of Man to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s go! Here comes my betrayer!”

While Yeshua was still speaking, Y’hudah (one of the Twelve!) came, and with him a large crowd carrying swords and clubs, from the head cohanim and elders of the people. The betrayer had arranged to give them a signal: “The man I kiss is the one you want — grab him!” He went straight up to Yeshua, said, “Shalom, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Yeshua said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they moved forward, laid hold of Yeshua and arrested him.

At that, one of the men with Yeshua reached for his sword, drew it out and struck at the servant of the cohen hagadol, cutting off his ear. Yeshua said to him, “Put your sword back where it belongs, for everyone who uses the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you know that I can ask my Father, and he will instantly provide more than a dozen armies of angels to help me? But if I did that, how could the passages in the Tanakh be fulfilled that say it has to happen this way?”

Then Yeshua addressed the crowd: “So you came out to take me with swords and clubs, the way you would the leader of a rebellion? Every day I sat in the Temple court, teaching; and you didn’t seize me then. But all this has happened so that what the prophets wrote may be fulfilled.” Then the talmidim all deserted him and ran away.
Matthew 26:1-2, 24, & 26-56

There is no other way for us to be reconciled to God except through the innocent blood of Christ. As I’ve been reading The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread, I love seeing how the Old Testament shadows and types in the forms of covenants and sacrifices all point to Jesus. As Dr. Booker puts it, “Jesus claim[s] that the Old Testament is more than just meaningless rituals, customs, and unrelated events. On the contrary, it is an orderly, progressive, unfolding revelation from God, of the sacred blood covenant God has entered into with mankind through Jesus, our Savior and Lord…The Old Covenant information describes the covenant God gave in the shadow form. The New Covenant writing explains how Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Old and how we relate to Him in the New.”

Jesus had to die so that through His blood, He could usher in this “New Covenant.” However, the New Covenant does not make obsolete or cancel out the Old. Instead it builds upon, or as Jesus says, ratifies the covenant. The word ratify can also be interpreted as confirm, seal, affirm, uphold, and validate. And the word for “new” in the Greek, kainos, can mean “superior to what it succeeds.” Throughout the Old Testament we see the progressive revelation of God’s covenant with man which all culminates with the death and resurrection of Christ.

In the beginning, in the Garden, God reveals that He will send a Redeemer to restore the relationship that was lost and to crush the enemy. We also see that sin can be covered as Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden, covered by the skins of an animal that God killed on their behalf.

With Noah, we see that sin breaks the heart of God, yet sin can be washed away and we can enter into new life as God promises that He will not deal with sin through a worldwide flood ever again. In the sky He places a bow, pointing heavenward, signifying that the next time He removes sin His wrath will be poured out, not on mankind, but on His own Son.

With Abraham we see how God calls us out of the world to be His own chosen people, that He blesses us so that we can bless others with the light of Christ and that God promises us an inheritance.

With Moses we see God gift His people with the Torah, since after 400 years of slavery they had forgotten the ways of God. His Torah, His instructions, show us the best way to live before God and man in this life. He teaches them a system of approaching Himself through sacrifices and a priesthood, to demonstrate the we can only approach God on His terms not our own – not through works or religion – but through faith in the blood sacrifice that forgives our sins and makes us righteous before God.

With David we learn of an everlasting Kingdom, where one day and Eternal, Righteous King will rule the earth and restore all things and conquer the enemy of sin.

And finally we come to Jesus – Yeshua – through Whom all these covenant promises find their ultimate fulfillment. As the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament looked forward to the full manifestation of God’s covenant promises, we look back on them, while still looking forward to the final fulfillment when Christ comes to reign and God brings about a new heaven and a new earth.

It all had to happen this way. Just as God had always planned it. There was no plan B, just plan A which always involved Jesus Christ, the Lam slain before the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)

The Time Is Near, Right At The Door

Matthew 24-25

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the talmidim came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that you are coming, and that the ‘olam hazeh is ending?

Yeshua replied: “Watch out! Don’t let anyone fool you! For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. You will hear the noise of wars nearby and the news of wars far off; see to it that you don’t become frightened. Such things must happen, but the end is yet to come. For peoples will fight each other, nations will fight each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various parts of the world; all this is but the beginning of the ‘birth-pains.’ At that time you will be arrested and handed over to be punished and put to death, and all peoples will hate you because of me. At that time many will be trapped into betraying and hating each other, many false prophets will appear and fool many people; and many people’s love will grow cold because of increased distance from Torah. But whoever holds out till the end will be delivered. And this Good News about the Kingdom will be announced throughout the whole world as a witness to all the Goyim. It is then that the end will come.

For there will be trouble then worse than there has ever been from the beginning of the world until now, and there will be nothing like it again! Indeed, if the length of this time had not been limited, no one would survive; but for the sake of those who have been chosen, its length will be limited.

“At that time, if someone says to you, ‘Look! Here’s the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ don’t believe him. For there will appear false Messiahs and false prophets performing great miracles — amazing things! — so as to fool even the chosen, if possible. There! I have told you in advance! So if people say to you, ‘Listen! He’s out in the desert!’ don’t go; or, ‘Look! He’s hidden away in a secret room!’ don’t believe it. For when the Son of Man does come, it will be like lightning that flashes out of the east and fills the sky to the western horizon. Wherever there’s a dead body, that’s where you find the vultures.

“But immediately following the trouble of those times,
the sun will grow dark,
the moon will stop shining,
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the powers in heaven will be shaken.

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, all the tribes of the Land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with tremendous power and glory. He will send out his angels with a great shofar; and they will gather together his chosen people from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

“Now let the fig tree teach you its lesson: when its branches begin to sprout and leaves appear, you know that summer is approaching. In the same way, when you see all these things, you are to know that the time is near, right at the door. Yes! I tell you that this people will certainly not pass away before all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

“But when that day and hour will come, no one knows — not the angels in heaven, not the Son, only the Father. For the Son of Man’s coming will be just as it was in the days of Noach. Back then, before the Flood, people went on eating and drinking, taking wives and becoming wives, right up till the day Noach entered the ark; and they didn’t know what was happening until the Flood came and swept them all away. It will be just like that when the Son of Man comesThen there will be two men in a field — one will be taken and the other left behind. There will be two women grinding flour at the mill — one will be taken and the other left behind. So stay alert, because you don’t know on what day your Lord will come. But you do know this: had the owner of the house known when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you too must always be ready, for the Son of Man will come when you are not expecting him.

“Who is the faithful and sensible servant whose master puts him in charge of the household staff, to give them their food at the proper time? It will go well with that servant if he is found doing his job when his master comes. Yes, I tell you that he will put him in charge of all he owns. But if that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is taking his time’; and he starts beating up his fellow servants and spends his time eating and drinking with drunkards; then his master will come on a day the servant does not expect, at a time he doesn’t knowand he will cut him in two and put him with the hypocrites, where people will wail and grind their teeth!
Matthew 24:3-14 & 21-51

“The Kingdom of Heaven at that time will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible. The foolish ones took lamps with them but no oil, whereas the others took flasks of oil with their lamps. Now the bridegroom was late, so they all went to sleep. It was the middle of the night when the cry rang out, ‘The bridegroom is here! Go out to meet him!’ The girls all woke up and prepared their lamps for lighting. The foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both you and us. Go to the oil dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ But as they were going off to buy, the bridegroom came. Those who were ready went with him to the wedding feast, and the door was shut. Later, the other bridesmaids came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they cried, ‘Let us in!’ But he answered, ‘Indeed! I tell you, I don’t know you!’ So stay alert, because you know neither the day nor the hour.

“For it will be like a man about to leave home for awhile, who entrusted his possessions to his servants. To one he gave five talents [equivalent to a hundred years’ wages]; to another, two talents; and to another, one talent — to each according to his ability. Then he left. The one who had received five talents immediately went out, invested it and earned another five. Similarly, the one given two earned another two. But the one given one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned to settle accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the other five and said, ‘Sir, you gave me five talents; here, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Excellent! You are a good and trustworthy servant. You have been faithful with a small amount, so I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and join in your master’s happiness! Also the one who had received two came forward and said, ‘Sir, you gave me two talents; here, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Excellent! you are a good and trustworthy servant. You have been faithful with a small amount, so I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and join in your master’s happiness!

“Now the one who had received one talent came forward and said, ‘I knew you were a hard man. You harvest where you didn’t plant and gather where you didn’t sow seed. I was afraid, so I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here! Take what belongs to you!’ ‘You wicked, lazy servant!’ said his master, ‘So you knew, did you, that I harvest where I haven’t planted? and that I gather where I didn’t sow seed? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, so that when I returned, I would at least have gotten back interest with my capital! Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For everyone who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he does have will be taken away. As for this worthless servant, throw him out in the dark, where people will wail and grind their teeth!’

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, accompanied by all the angels, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The ‘sheep’ he will place at his right hand and the ‘goats’ at his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the worldFor I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your guest, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the people who have done what God wants will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them? When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ The King will say to them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!’

“Then he will also speak to those on his left, saying, ‘Get away from me, you who are cursed! Go off into the fire prepared for the Adversary and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, a stranger and you did not welcome me, needing clothes and you did not give them to me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they too will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothes, sick or in prison, and not take care of you?’ And he will answer them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you refused to do it for the least important of these people, you refused to do it for me!’ They will go off to eternal punishment, but those who have done what God wants will go to eternal life.”
Matthew 25:1-46

In these days that we live in, it’s easy for me to become world-weary, so ready for the return of Christ. I believe in a post-tribulation rapture, that Christ’s Second Coming and the rapture of believers will occur at the same time at the end of the Tribulation. However, regardless of whether the rapture is pre, mid, or post, one thing is clear, that Christ wants His followers to always be ready – to stay awake and alert.

While we are here – awaiting the return of our Master, our Bridegroom, our King – we are to be about the Kingdom. Keeping our lamps lit, investing in God’s Kingdom, doing the tasks God has given us to do. What does this look like? I think Jesus describes the kind of work He expects of His disciples: Providing for the needs of the poor, welcoming strangers, taking care of the sick, and loving the outcasts. Pouring out our lives for the sake of the Gospel. That is what He expects.

So in a world where the signs of Christ’s Return seem more prevalent day by day, we can know, as Jesus said, the signs of the times. And because He has given us signs to be watchful of, we must be diligent to persevere, to stay alert, and to be about His business. AMEN! 

Come And Take Part In The Work

Exodus 34-37

He said, “Here, I am making a covenant; in front of all your people I will do wonders such as have not been created anywhere on earth or in any nation. All the people around you will see the work of Adonai. What I am going to do through you will be awesome! Observe what I am ordering you to do today. Here! I am driving out ahead of you the Emori, Kena‘ani, Hitti, P’rizi, Hivi and Y’vusi. Be careful not to make a covenant with the people living in the land where you are going, so that they won’t become a snare within your own borders. Rather, you are to demolish their altars, smash their standing-stones and cut down their sacred poles; because you are not to bow down to any other god; since Adonai— whose very name is Jealous — is a jealous God. Do not make a covenant with the people living in the land. It will cause you to go astray after their gods and sacrifice to their gods. Then they will invite you to join them in eating their sacrifices, and you will take their daughters as wives for your sons. Their daughters will prostitute themselves to their own gods and make your sons do the same!
Exodus 34:10-16

Moshe said to the whole community of the people of Isra’el, “Here is what Adonai has ordered: ‘Take up a collection for Adonai from among yourselves — anyone whose heart makes him willing is to bring the offering for Adonai: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn; fine linen, goat’s hair, tanned ram skins and fine leather; acacia-wood; oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ritual vest and the breastplate.

Then the whole community of the people of Isra’el withdrew from Moshe’s presence; and they came, everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit made him willing, and brought Adonai’s offering for the work on the tent of meeting, for the service in it and for the holy garments. Both men and women came, as many as had willing hearts; they brought nose-rings, earrings, signet-rings, belts, all kinds of gold jewelry — everyone bringing an offering of gold to AdonaiEveryone who had blue, purple or scarlet yarn; fine linen; tanned ram skins or fine leather brought them. Everyone contributing silver or bronze brought his offering for Adonai, and everyone who had acacia-wood suitable for any of the work brought it. All the women who were skilled at spinning got to work and brought what they had spun, the blue, purple and scarlet yarn and the fine linen. Likewise the women whose heart stirred them to use their skill spun the goat’s hair. The leaders brought the onyx stones and the stones to be set, for the ritual vest and the breasplate; the spices; and the oil for the light, for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense. Thus every man and woman of the people of Isra’el whose heart impelled him to contribute to any of the work Adonai had ordered through Moshe brought it to Adonai as a voluntary offering.
Exodus 35:4-9 & 20-29

Moshe summoned B’tzal’el, Oholi’av and every craftsman to whom Adonai had given wisdom, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come and take part in the workThey received from Moshe all the offering which the people of Isra’el had brought for the work of building the sanctuary. But they still kept bringing voluntary offerings every morning, until all the craftsmen doing the work for the sanctuary left the work they were involved with to tell Moshe, “The people are bringing far more than is needed to do the work Adonai has ordered done.” So Moshe gave an order which was proclaimed throughout the camp: “Neither men nor women are to make any further efforts for the sanctuary offering.” In this way, the people were restrained from making additional contributions. For what they had already was not only sufficient for doing all the work, but too much!
Exodus 36:2-7

Exodus 34 is one of my favorite chapters, where Moses, in chapter 33, cries out to the LORD, “Show me Your glory!” and the LORD passes before him and pronounces the name Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey! But seeing as how I’ve already journaled about this specific passage, I wanted to focus in on the chapters following this encounter.

God tells Moses to address the people and have them bring forth a collection, an offering, of all the supplies needed to construct the Tabernacle. Six times in chapters 35-36, it talks about how the people gave of their treasures and talents because of willing hearts. I’ve read that when things are repeated in the Bible, it is to emphasize the importance of the point that is being made. Here we see clearly that the people willingly gave of their time, talents, and treasure to the point where they had to be told, “Okay, guys, that’s enough!” They were not coerced, they were not forced. They gave willingly, not begrudgingly, from their hearts. It makes me think of what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9, “Each should give according to what he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

There is often a negative connotation of church offerings or tithes. I’ve heard many reasons why people refuse to give to their local church, from the money should be used elsewhere or if the money is really necessary, God will provide it without it affecting my wallet. And it’s true. Money can always be used for all kinds of good – feeding the poor, sending out missionaries, digging wells. And yes, God is more than able to provide the means for churches to grow and expand their influence without our help. But there’s a phrase that really stuck out as I read this passage: “Come and take part in the work.

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God can do anything He wants, by any means necessary. He could have just said the word and dropped the most majestic and beautiful Tabernacle down right there in the desert. But instead He invites His people to come and be a part of what He’s doing. When God created Adam, He didn’t just plant him in the Garden and tell him to sit down and watch me do everything. No, He gave Adam a job, He gave him responsibilities. He allowed Adam to partner with Himself to be a part of His work in creation.

God has gifted each of us with unique gifts, talents, and possessions that we can use to be a part of His work in the world. They should not just be kept to ourselves, but have the ability to be used for His Kingdom. It’s hard to imagine today a church asking its congregation for money to fund a new children’s building or perhaps a bigger sanctuary to make room for more people, and then having to make the announcement, “Hey, guys! You can stop giving! We have more than enough!” We are so quick (and I’m speaking to myself!!!) to hold back on giving up our time, talents, and treasure. We think that if we give generously, will there be anything left for us. But I look at this example of the Israelites. Everyone whose heart made them willing gave generously with reckless abandon. Why? Perhaps it was because they finally saw God for Who He was. The God of the universe, Who rescued them from the darkness of Egypt, Who redeemed them from a life of slavery. The God Who parted waters and led them through the dry desert, providing both food and water. The God Who is merciful and compassionate, full of grace and abounding in love, forgiving all of their offenses. This is the God they recognized, the God Who desired to enter into an unbreakable covenant with them to bless them and prosper them. It’s no wonder that they then in turn gave so generously to the God Who had provided them everything.

LORD, what an amazing example in Your Word of what it looks like to give openhandedly of our treasure, time, and talents for Your purposes. Give me a willing heart that desires to be a part of the work, to be used by You to take part in what You are doing to build Your Kingdom. Help me to identify time, treasure, and talent that can be used for Your glory. AMEN!

The Path To Righteousness

Exodus 31-33, Matthew 21-22

He went into the Temple area; and as he was teaching, the head cohanim and the elders of the people approached him and demanded, “What s’mikhah do you have that authorizes you to do these things? And who gave you this s’mikhah?” Yeshua answered, “I too will ask you a question. If you answer it, then I will tell you by what s’mikhah I do these things. The immersion of Yochanan — where did it come from? From Heaven or from a human source?” They discussed it among themselves: “If we say, ‘From Heaven,’ he will say, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From a human source,’ we are afraid of the people, for they all regard Yochanan as a prophet.” So they answered Yeshua, “We don’t know.” And he replied, “Then I won’t tell you by what s’mikhah I do these things.

“But give me your opinion: a man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ He answered, ‘I don’t want to’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to his other son and said the same thing. This one answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he didn’t go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they replied. “That’s right!” Yeshua said to them. “I tell you that the tax-collectors and prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God ahead of you! For Yochanan came to you showing the path to righteousness, and you wouldn’t trust him. The tax-collectors and prostitutes trusted him; but you, even after you saw this, didn’t change your minds later and trust him.

“Now listen to another parable. There was a farmer who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower; then he rented it to tenants and left. When harvest-time came, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the crop. But the tenants seized his servants — this one they beat up, that one they killed, another they stoned. So he sent some other servants, more than the first group, and they did the same to them. Finally, he sent them his son, saying, ‘My son they will respect.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance!’ So they grabbed him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They answered him, “He will viciously destroy those vicious men and rent out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him his share of the crop when it’s due.” Yeshua said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Tanakh,
‘The very rock which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone!
This has come from Adonai,
and in our eyes it is amazing’?

Therefore, I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to the kind of people that will produce its fruit!” Whoever falls on this stone will be broken in pieces; but if it falls on him, he will be crushed to powder!

As the head cohanim and the P’rushim listened to his stories, they saw that he was speaking about them. But when they set about to arrest him, they were afraid of the crowds; because the crowds considered him a prophet.
Matthew 21:23-46

Yeshua again used parables in speaking to them: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son, but when he sent his slaves to summon the invited guests to the wedding, they refused to come. So he sent some more slaves, instructing them to tell the guests, ‘Look, I’ve prepared my banquet, I’ve slaughtered my bulls and my fattened cattle, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’ But they weren’t interested and went off, one to his farm, another to his business; and the rest grabbed his slaves, mistreated them and killed them. The king was furious and sent his soldiers, who killed those murderers and burned down their city.

“Then he said to his slaves, ‘Well, the wedding feast is ready; but the ones who were invited didn’t deserve it. So go out to the street-corners and invite to the banquet as many as you find.’ The slaves went out into the streets, gathered all the people they could find, the bad along with the good; and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Now when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who wasn’t dressed for a wedding; so he asked him, Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him outside in the dark!’ In that place people will wail and grind their teeth, for many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:1-14

These three parables about the Kingdom of God are very intriguing. I’ve heard these parable used to justify and support replacement theology – the idea that all of God’s promises have been transferred from the Jews to the Church. At the surface level, it can seem that Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of Heaven is going to be taken away from the Jews and given to the Gentiles. While I believe Jesus is certainly alluding to the salvation that will be offered to the Gentiles (in addition to the Jews), to think that God is completely disqualifying His covenant people from His eternal promises would make God out to be a covenant-breaking liar.

When Jesus is speaking to the priests and Torah teachers about John the Baptist, He tells the parable of two sons; one who said he would not do what his father wanted, but later changed his mind, and the other who said he would do what his father wanted, but didn’t. The obedient son was the one who did what the father wanted, not the one who feigned obedience with his words. He accuses them of ignoring the teaching of John, who showed them the path to righteousness and that it was the “sinners,” the tax-collectors and prostitutes who trusted his teaching and would enter into the Kingdom of God.

So what is the path to righteousness?

I Matthew 3 we see what John’s message was:
“It was during those days that Yochanan the Immerser arrived in the desert of Y’hudah and began proclaiming the message, ‘Turn from your sins to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!‘”

If you have really tur
ned from your sins to God, produce fruit that will prove it! And don’t suppose you can comfort yourselves by saying, ‘Avraham is our father’! For I tell you that God can raise up for Avraham sons from these stones! Already the axe is at the root of the trees, ready to strike; every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown in the fire! It’s true that I am immersing you in water so that you might turn from sin to God; but the one coming after me is more powerful than I — I’m not worthy even to carry his sandals — and he will immerse you in the Ruach HaKodesh and in fire. He has with him his winnowing fork; and he will clear out his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn but burning up the straw with unquenchable fire!”

John’s message was of repentance – turning from sin to God. True repentance produces fruit – the kind of fruit that is acceptable to God. God is after our hearts, and repentance demonstrates our recognition of our need for a Savior, our need for forgiveness, our need to be made right with the LORD.

The religious leaders missed this because through their self-righteousness and their religious piety they believed that they were worthy of God’s salvation – not through faith, but through works.

In the parable of the Wedding Feast, we see how the original invitees refuse to come. Not because they couldn’t, but because they wouldn’t. They found other things more pressing than coming to the wedding feast of the King. So the invitation goes out to all who would accept it, good and bad. Just like the free gift of salvation, anyone can accept it, no matter what our status or sinfulness would deserve. However, after the feast begins, the King notices a man who is not dressed in the wedding garments and he is immediately thrown out. This man represents those who would try to enter the Kingdom through their own means – works & self-righteousness. But clearly, this does not fly. The only way to enter the Kingdom is through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. Our wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ. Just like in the blood covenant, we exchange our robes – Jesus took on our sin when He died on the cross, and we are clothed in His righteousness when we put our trust in Him.

The commentary on gotquestions.org states, “When the religions of the world are stripped down to their basic tenets, we either find man working his way toward God, or we find the cross of Christ. The cross is the only way to salvation…
To summarize the point of the Parable of the Wedding Feast, God sent His Son into the world, and the very people who should have celebrated His coming rejected Him, bringing judgment upon themselves. As a result, the kingdom of heaven was opened up to anyone who will set aside his own righteousness and by faith accept the righteousness God provides in Christ. Those who spurn the gift of salvation and cling instead to their own “good” works will spend eternity in hell.”

Jesus ends this parable with the statement that many are called but few are chosen. The message of salvation has gone out to the world, but only those who, as Jesus says in Matthew 13, hear the message and understand it will bear fruit – the fruit of repentance that comes from trust in Christ.

 

God’s Desire To Dwell With His People

Exodus 25-30

They are to make me a sanctuary, so that I may live among themYou are to make it according to everything I show you — the design of the tabernacle and the design of its furnishings. This is how you are to make it.
Exodus 25:8-9

Then I will live with the people of Isra’el and be their Godthey will know that I am Adonai their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt in order to live with them. I am Adonai their God.
Exodus 29:45-46

I’ve been reading about the instructions for the Tabernacle the last few days, alongside some of my previous journal entries (Precious Metals & Incense Before the LORD) as well as the book, The Miracle of the Scarlett Thread. Dr. Booker does such an amazing job of describing the blood covenant, the faith of Abraham, and the construction of the Tabernacle. Every part of the Tabernacle symbolized and represented a greater reality. Dr. Booker really stresses the idea that it is blood, not works, that atone for a person. Even if we are to follow the laws and commands of God to near perfection, we cannot escape the sin of our nature. We will always fall short of perfection, therefore we will always need the atoning blood of a sacrifice.

There are so many great sections in the chapter on the Tabernacle that I want to put here to be able to reference back to:
“You see, God never intended the Hebrews to approach Him by trying to keep the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments can’t offer the blood evidence of a life given. God intended the Hebrews to approach Him the way He had always intended…through a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. That’s His provision. That’s His only provision.”

“Therefore God established a Tabernacle, a sacrifice system and a priesthood as the way for the Hebrew to approach Him. The Hebrew was not to approach God by the Ten Commandments but through the sacrifices administered by the priest at the Tabernacle….
Christian ministers usually teach that, in the Old Testament, the Jews were saved by the Law but that has been replaced by grace and mercy in the New Testament. This is just not true. Everyone who has ever approached God had to do so in faith in the grace and mercy of God provided by the blood of the innocent substitutionary sacrifice for their sins.”

“The Tabernacle was the place where the Hebrews would bring their sacrifices for sin and sacrifices of praise. They could only do this at the Tabernacle. They couldn’t make sacrifices out in the hills or just anywhere they wanted. They had to approach God this one way through the Tabernacle. The Hebrew had to come to the Tabernacle to get to God. He couldn’t approach God his own way.”

The Tabernacle is a picture of Christ, of the salvation and atonement He provides and abundant life of service we are called to as a kingdom of priests. There is one gate through which one can enter into the courtyard of the Tabernacle, just as Jesus says He is the only way – the door. This gate is at the eastern side of the camp, where the tribe of Judah would encamp. Upon entering the courtyard there is a bronze altar where the sacrifices were made. The blood of an innocent life is what is required for the forgiveness of sin.

After sin was atoned for, the priests would cleanse themselves with the water in the bronze laver. This represents cleansing and sanctification through the Holy Spirit, and also through the Word of God. Bronze was used for mirrors and the scripture tells us that the women donated all of their bronze mirrors to be used to make the basin. This reminds me of what it says in James 1: “Don’t deceive yourselves by only hearing what the Word says, but do it! For whoever hears the Word but doesn’t do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, who looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does.” Because of Christ’s sacrifice our sin is forgiven, past, present, and future, once and for all; however, we still need the daily cleansing that comes through confession and repentance which is stirred in our hearts by the Holy Spirit as we look into the mirror of God’s perfect Word and see our sinfulness.

Once our sin has been forgiven, and once we have been cleansed, we enter into the Holy Place. There we see the table of showbread, the menorah, and the altar of incense. The table of showbread represents our communion with God. Once two parties entered into a blood covenant they would share a meal representing “I in you and you in me.” The golden menorah represents Christ, the Light of the World, as well as our calling to be the Light of Christ to the world. The pure oil of the Holy Spirit fills us and allows us to shine brightly as a kingdom of priests. Before the veil stands the incense altar. The priest would sprinkle blood from the sacrifice upon the hot coals of the altar which would come up before the LORD as a pleasing aroma, as the blood would be a sign that sin had been atoned for. The incense represents our prayers which come before the LORD which are accepted because of the blood of Christ Who is worthy to petition the Father on our behalf.

Behind the altar of incense is the veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The veil is ornately woven with two cherubim, guarding the presence of God – much like the warrior angels that guard the entrance to the Garden. Once a year the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the entire nation. He would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice upon the Arc of the Covenant representing the throne of God. Placed inside the arc was the Aaron’s budded staff, a jar of manna, and the stone tablets. As God looked down from heaven He would be reminded of the people’s rejection of Him through Aaron’s leadership as High Priest, their rejection of His earthly provision, and their failure and inability to keep His laws. But when He saw the blood, God’s throne of judgement became a seat of mercy. Jesus, our High Priest, entered into the Holy of Holies on our behalf, thus opening forever the way to God. Because of Him, we can boldly approach God’s throne because sin has been forgiven and we have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ. AMEN!

We are now the Tabernacle, or Temple of God, where His Spirit dwells among us. Our sin has been dealt with in the courtyard of God’s judgment – atoned for by the blood of Christ and washed clean by His Spirit. Now we can come into into the presence of God, to be about His work through worship and service. The further we go into the Tabernacle, the closer we come to God, the more we experience His divine presence in our lives. God made a way for us to draw near to Him when there was no way because of our brokenness and sin. The Tabernacle is a beautiful picture of the mercy and grace that we have in Christ, the Lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8)!

But there’s one last bit of beauty to derive from the Tabernacle. The word Tabernacle in Hebrew is mishkan (מִשְׁכָּן). If we look at the letters we can further derive the meaning of this word: “The source of Living Water and God’s firey, passionate love as His manifest glory covers the people faithful to Him.” The word mishkan comes from the root word, shakan, which means “abide, continue, dwell, establish, inhabit, nest, remain, rest, settle down, stay.” These words conjure the idea of God wanting us to enter enter His presence to rest, not with striving and failed attempts at perfection. Jesus said in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you restTake my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus, God in flesh, is referencing back the the Word of God in Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask about the ancient paths, ‘Which one is the good way?’ Take it, and you will find rest for your souls.” God’s ways are for our good, they are not a burden. God desires that we find rest in Him, not strive to get to Him – and THAT is why He sent His Son to make a way for us to find our way back to fellowship with Him.

LORD, thank You for Your beautiful Word and the revelation of Your Son that is found throughout the Scriptures. And thank You that You desire to dwell with us, IN US, through Your Holy Spirit and that we can find rest for our souls only in You. Continue to cleanse me and sanctify me to be fit for service and worship before Your presence! AMEN!