Wednesday, February 29, 2012


"They came together against Moses and Aaron and told them, 'You have gone too far! Everyone in the entire community is holy, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the Lord's assembly?' " (Numbers 16:3 HCSB)

God has established authority. In eternity, before the earth was formed, all authority rested in Him, from the dawn of human history until its consummation, all authority resides with Him, and to eternity when the old creation gives rise to the new creation, all authority will remain by Him. Paul said it this way, "Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be abolished is death. For God has put everything under His feet. But when it says "everything" is put under Him, it is obvious that He who puts everything under Him is the exception. And when everything is subject to Christ, then the Son Himself will also be subject to the One who subjected everything to Him, so that God may be all in all." (1 Corinthians 15:24-28 HCSB)

God established authority, but man chose autonomy. When the serpent beguiled Eve, he seduced her with the desire to be like God--and she swallowed the appealing lie. Not only so, but she offered the forbidden fruit to Adam. He, rather than exercise his role as spiritual leader in the home, to lovingly correct his wife, became complicit with her. Adam chose to reject God's authority.

This desire for autonomy--this sinful rebellion against God-ordained authority--is woven into the fabric of Adam's race. Children do not have to be taught to defy authority. It comes naturally. This rebellion is the essence of sin. It is why our world is under a curse. Authority has been established for our protection and benefit--designed by the hands of One who has absolute wisdom and perfect love.

Yet, we never seem to learn.

One of the many manifestations of our stubborn, sinful hearts is how we react to our spiritual leaders. An example of this is found in Korah's rebellion detailed in Numbers Sixteen.

This was nothing new. It was just the latest outbreak of the contagion which was dormant in the hearts of the Israelites and if unchecked would become epidemic. Whenever a problem arose, God's people would turn on their leaders. He would be maligned, misrepresented and misunderstood. They couldn't attack God, so they assailed His representative. But, this is what makes this so evil--it is really an assault on God. The Lord reminded a sometimes downcast, sometimes infuriated, Moses not to take it personally, for they were really rebelling against Him. God takes that seriously.

Moses was not on an ego-trip. He was a humble servant of God. Moses wasn't after fortune. He rejected the luxury of being in Pharaoh's palace to wander with ex-slaves in the wilderness. Moses wasn't self-serving, but sought to serve God by serving God's people. He never sought the position, but God sought Him. Moses didn't campaign for a popular vote, but was called by a Sovereign voice.

This same God has set spiritual leaders in the church today. Even the best of them have their flaws. Moses certainly did. But, if a man is serving under God's authority, we had better be subject to that authority, lest we find ourselves in rebellion against God--and that is a dangerous thing. Do not think that God cannot deal with His servant who gets out of line. The leader himself is accountable to God's authority. All of us are under God's authority--even pastors. I need to remember that. You need to remember God has ordained pastors to lead the flock.

I understand that this teaching has been abused--used by pompous preachers who rule God's flock like tyrants. Arrogance which leads these shepherds to rebel against the spirit of the Great Shepherd is no less rebellion than when a congregation rejects a godly leader, as Israel did to Moses. But, there is a remedy for confronting and correcting elders prescribed in the New Testament.

Some spiritual leaders are wolves in sheep's clothing. The church needs to be vigilant against those. You will detect them by their fruit--and if there is doctrinal deviation or moral deviance then the other elders of the church cannot allow it.

Most pastors I have met are not that way. They seek to feed the flock, lead the flock and are willing to bleed for the flock. Some days they do it more effectively than others. Everybody--even a Moses--has a bad day! But, if their ministry is in alignment with God's Word, let us not be quick to criticize, be negative nit-pickers, and be a Korah in the congregation. That is a dangerous thing. It can be deadly.

I will answer to God for how I treat His sheep, bought with Christ's blood. You will answer to Him for how you treat His shepherds, called to church leadership.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


"Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, 'We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!' But the men who had gone up with him responded, 'We can't go up against the people because they are stronger than we are!' " (Numbers 13:30, 31 HCSB)

"I can't" is a little sentence with large implications. As my Mama used to say, "Can't never could!" If you think you can't do something, you won't even attempt it. That guarantees failure.

It is one of the most acceptable sins on earth that is most abhorred in eternity. It is unbelief wrapped in a shell of an excuse.

Of course, the facts are that there are things I can't do. Humans have their limitations. I can't walk on water--but I know One who can. If He summons me to walk on water, I can. Peter did. The promise is, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27 HCSB) That's what Jesus said.

When God says, "You can," we must, for if we say, "We can't" then we essentially call God a liar. Framed that way, this becomes a bigger issue than we tend to think.

One symptom that is consistent in diagnosing the deadly disease of unbelief is what is on our tongue. When I had my physical last week, my doctor told me to, "Open your mouth, stick out your tongue and say, 'Ah' " as he looked into my mouth. A good doctor can often detect the presence of illness by what is in our throat and on our tongue. This is not only a physical fact, but a spiritual reality, as well. Jesus told us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. It reveals the health of the soul.

Repeatedly, we find the children of Israel grumbling and griping. They started in Egypt when God sent Moses to bring them out and Pharaoh increased their burdens. God had given a promise of deliverance and sent His servant to tell them, but they refused to believe. Still, God graciously intervened and brought judgment on their oppressors. They witnessed His powerful acts, but as soon as they ran into the roadblock of the Red Sea--Egyptian charioteers breathing down their necks--they forgot all about God's power and begin to whine. We know what God did. He kept His promise.

But, the pattern persisted. Challenging circumstances stirred unbelieving hearts that gave rise to negative thoughts expressed with complaining words and ultimately wore down the patience of God. God said, "You can do it with me" and they said, "We can't" and they kept on saying it, until God finally said, "Have it your way." Can't never could.

Just within the brief chapters of Numbers 11-14, we see four examples of such stinking thinking.

The people of God first complained about DIFFICULTY: "Now the people began complaining openly before the Lord about hardship. When the Lord heard, His anger burned, and fire from the Lord blazed among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp." (Numbers 11:1 HCSB) God promised to get us home, but never said the road would be easy. We want an interstate highway, but to follow Christ is the way of the cross--yet, the way of the cross leads home.

Israel next griped about DIET: "Contemptible people among them had a strong craving [for other food]. The Israelites cried again and said, 'Who will feed us meat? We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now our appetite is gone; there's nothing to look at but this manna!' " (Numbers 11:4-6 HCSB) God promised to feed us daily bread, but we demand a buffet!

Next, we find grumbling about DIRECTION: "Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because of the Cushite woman he married (for he had married a Cushite woman). They said, 'Does the Lord speak only through Moses? Does He not also speak through us?' And the Lord heard [it]." (Numbers 12:1, 2 HCSB) God appointed a leader, but his brother and sister thought they could do a better job. The questioned his decisions and coveted his position. Underlying this was an assault on the wisdom of God in selecting Moses. Lord willing, we will explore this subject of rejecting spiritual leadership in more depth tomorrow.

The last straw was Israel's unbelief in facing DANGER. One of the most important warnings about this is given in Numbers 13-14, and is repeatedly erected in Scripture as a caution sign of imminent danger as we speed along the highway of life. God brought them out of Egypt with a promise to bring them into Canaan. But, when they heard of the giant foes and great fortresses they forgot about the good fruit and their glorious future assured by God. Their fearful reaction to the risk involved was to say the repeated refrain, "It would be better to die in the desert!" So, that is what God would do--He would give them what they wanted. They wanted meat and He gave it to them until they choked on it. They wanted to die of old age in the wilderness rather than risk life and limb fighting for Canaan and so their bones would be picked clean by the vultures as they died under a burning sun in a barren land.

Be careful what you ask for--God might just give it to you--and when He does, you might be sorry He did. If you think you can't, you won't. If God wants you to do something, He will enable you. To reject the promise is to attack the character of God. That is serious.

Can't never could.

Monday, February 27, 2012


"The Lord instructed Moses: 'Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When a man or woman makes a special vow, a Nazirite vow, to consecrate himself to the Lord...' " (Numbers 6:1, 2 HCSB)
"In this way you are to separate the Levites from the rest of the Israelites so that the Levites will belong to Me. After that the Levites may come to serve [at] the tent of meeting, once you have ceremonially cleansed them and presented them as a presentation offering. For they have been exclusively assigned to Me from the Israelites. I have taken them for Myself in place of all who come first from the womb, every Israelite firstborn." (Numbers 8:14-16 HCSB)

Since we have such an extraordinary Deity, should we be content with ordinary devotion? Being the possession of God ought to bring us to an obsession with God. This kind of commitment is modeled by the Levite and the Nazirite in Numbers 6-9.

Of all the tribes of Israel, the Levites were particularly set apart for God. Israel was a chosen people and God made the descendants of Levi chosen among the chosen--the cream of the crop, you might say. They were the tribe of priests who were to serve in the worship, work and witness of the house of God. God hand-picked them.

Have you ever been in a position where you were not picked? I remember in PE at our elementary school, we would be on the playground and start dividing up for kickball. The captains were usually the star athletes and they would pick the fastest and strongest--and kids like me would be passed over, until nobody remained but those of us who were the human dregs. Occasionally, the dreaded square dance was called for by the teacher during recess. The popular boys and pretty girls quickly paired up, and all you were left with was the pimpled face guys and greasy haired girls, which was torture. I know because that was my group. It is no fun to want to stand out in the crowd for popularity but instead have to stand up to ridicule. It's like you have a big tattoo on your forehead that says, "Loser!"

But, just because the Levites were chosen by God, did not mean that everyone else had to miss having such devotion to God. You could be a Nazirite if you wanted. God had taken possession of the Levites so they would have an obsession with Him. The Nazirite had an obsession with God and so became the possession of God! You might not have been privileged to be a priest in your designation, but you could be priestly in your dedication! If you were not drafted into God's service as a Levite, you could volunteer as a Nazirite.
We find three parallels in the Levites and Nazirites. Each were to be different in their affections, appearance and associations.

They were different in their affections. Neither were to partake of the produce of the vineyard during their service (compare Leviticus 10:9 and Numbers 6:3-4). Their heads were to be unclouded by alcohol. The fruit of the vine represented the pleasure of this world. These were extraordinary in their source of joy; they were intoxicated with God!

Further, they were different in their appearance. Both the High Priest and the Nazirite wore a special crown on their heads marking them as set apart for God. The High Priest wore a turban with a crown and engraved on it were the words, "Holiness to the LORD" (Read Exodus 28:36-38; 29:6). The Nazirite would have a head crowned with long hair advertising his separation unto God (Numbers 6:5). The same Hebrew word is used to describe both their crown and their hair. They were thus reminded not to seek the popularity of the world, but bear the peculiarity of holiness. These were to stand out because they were to stand up for God. Their hearts were to be undivided in seeking God's glory and not their own--extraordinarily so!

Also, they were to be different in their associations. The one serving as High Priest and the one under a Nazirite vow were not to touch a dead body--not even to bury a parent! You can read about this is Leviticus 21:11 and Numbers 6:6-12. Death was a result of sin's curse and the one serving the Lord had to be free of such contamination. Their hands were to be undefiled by the corruption around them in an extraordinary manner. We are in the world, but not to be of the world. Even the dearest of human associations dare not lead one away from heavenly affections. Jesus said, "The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:37 HCSB)

The root meaning of the word, Nazarite means to be set apart. The vow they took was from a Hebrew word meaning "extraordinary." They had an extraordinary devotion to God. He was their magnificent obsession and they were His special possession. Why would we be content with a thimbleful of God, when we can have a truckload? You experience Him in His fullness, when He has you in your fullness. This is the magnificent obsession!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


"The Lord spoke to Moses: 'Bring the tribe of Levi near and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. They are to perform duties for him and the entire community before the tent of meeting by attending to the service of the tabernacle.' " (Numbers 3:5-7 HCSB)

Every Christian has spiritual gifts and is called to ministry. Every Christian is a priest and has no need of any mediator other then Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man. This is the clear teaching of the New Testament.

Having said that, we recognize that among us are those called to the ministry of the Word--whose assignment and giftedness are to lead the church to worship God. I am one of those. It isn't that I am any better than anyone else, more favored by God, or have an inside track to heaven--no, it's just that I and others of similar calling, have a different role and responsibility. As I write these words and know that tomorrow I will stand before the people with an open Bible and seek to bring the church into an encounter with the Eternal One, the gravity of my task presses upon me, as what the prophets called, "the burden of the Lord." I am never really away from it. A minister of the Word is what I am; the ministry of the Lord is what I do.

It is an imperative. Paul said, "For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because an obligation is placed on me. And woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16 HCSB) He thrust this compulsion on young Timothy, "I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom: Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:1-5 HCSB) Now, those truths are engraved in my soul and as a shepherd of God's flock, I feel continually that accountability.

There are numerous ways that the Old Testament priesthood illustrates these ministry imperatives, as we read in Numbers 3-5. An entire tribe--the Levites--were "numbered" and designated for the duties of the tabernacle. All the other tribes were numbered in terms of men available for military duty. It was their assignment to lead in warfare. The Levites were given ministry duty. It was their assignment to lead in worship.

It is imperative that God has called a person into vocational ministry. The Levites didn't campaign for this job. They were chosen by God. It wasn't man's selection, but God's sovereignty that appointed them. They did not serve out of human wishes, but heaven's will. The first imperative of ministry is to have one! You aren't pursuing this as a personal choice, but are under a powerful compulsion. I enjoy what I do (most of the time) and am thankful for my calling (much of the time) but irrespective of that, I have only one choice--discharging duty or defying Deity!

It is imperative that one recognize the gravity of their responsibility. It was the special privilege of the Levites to be around holy things. The priest could enter the tabernacle. The high priest could enter the Holy of Holies. Moses and Aaron set up camp outside the door of the place where God's glory dwelled. What a privilege! But with that, there was a higher level of accountability. Scripture consistently tells us that to whom much is given, much is required, and that the more light we have, the more scrutiny we are under. To casually and carelessly approach the holy things of God brought judgment then--and still does! We must be holy, to do holy work!

It is imperative to serve in our place and not covet the calling of another. As you read in Numbers, each clan had different duties--some to transport the furnishings, some to dismantle and assemble the tent, some in charge of the the sacrifices and anointing oil--even emptying the ashes from the burnt offerings! I believe that every man of God has an assigned place of service. There is more than a general call--there is a specific charge. If God places a man in the pulpit of Possum Trot Baptist Church, he ought not covet the pulpit of Dallas First Baptist Church. I assure you, there will be times that big-city preacher will long for the intimacy of a smaller congregation! God makes those assignments and it is imperative that we do what He has gifted us to do, where He has placed us.

It is imperative that others serve alongside us. Moses was a great man, but couldn't do it all (review Exodus 18). Aaron was a chosen leader, but couldn't be everywhere. Somebody had to carry the tent pegs. Somebody had to wind up the ropes and tote them. It took a lot of people to carry out the ministry. The success of our ministry depends on the work of our staff--paid and volunteer. If we experience the glory of God in our worship, and lives are transformed by that, it is because of people who prepare the auditorium, keep the nursery, teach the lessons, visit the widows, greet the people, receive the offerings, direct the music, play the instruments, operate the sound, turn on the lights, print the worship folder--and on and on we could go. Furthermore, the ministry was supported by the giving of the people. The priests could not concentrate on their spiritual duties, if distracted by secular responsibilities. I know that I could not bear this burden, unless others carried it with me.

Let me close with a special request in this regard. I am so thankful for those who respond to the imperative of intercession for me! Weigh these words of the Apostle Paul, "Now I appeal to you, brothers, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to join with me in fervent prayers to God on my behalf." (Romans 15:30 HCSB).

It was exactly a week ago, that one of my most faithful prayer warriors, Margaret Stamey, went home to be with the Lord. She consistently prayed for me and let me know it. That was so encouraging! I will miss her. I still need prayer. Who will fill her shoes? Someone needs to step up! Several someones should! What about you?

May these words be more than music, but a mandate:

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses' sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around. (George Atkins)

Friday, February 24, 2012


"I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people." (Leviticus 26:12 HCSB)

God has created us with the inexpressible privilege of walking with Him. Of all God's creation, only men and women, created in His image, can have such a relationship. We were made for it. Adam and Eve enjoyed it--until their disobedience disrupted that communion. If you walk with God, you must go in the same direction. They turned to their own way--off the path of obedience--and instead of walking with God, ran from Him and hid.

God's love would not let them go. He reached out to them, made a way for them to return to Him and be restored to that relationship.

We see Him establishing a covenant people, Israel. They would be His people--the object of His affection and the means by which He would reach out to wandering humanity. To them and through them, the call would come to return to His path and walk with God again. Have you responded to that gracious invitation?

When we walk with the Lord there are THE BLESSINGS WE EXPERIENCE. Read Leviticus 26:1-13. God promises His people that if they will walk with Him, He will lead them into abundant life.

He would bless them with fruitfulness. "If you follow My statutes and faithfully observe My commands, I will give you rain at the right time, and the land will yield its produce, and the trees of the field will bear their fruit." (Leviticus 26:3, 4 HCSB)

He would bless them with fearlessness. "I will give peace to the land, and you will lie down with nothing to frighten [you]. I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword will pass through your land." (Leviticus 26:6 HCSB)

He would bless them with fellowship. "I will place My residence among you, and I will not reject you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people." (Leviticus 26:11, 12 HCSB)

He would bless them with freedom. "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, so that you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to live in freedom." (Leviticus 26:13 HCSB)

The song writer expressed it this way,
"When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey."

When we walk with the Lord, there are not only the blessings we experience, but THE BURDENS WE ESCAPE. Ponder Leviticus 26:14-39. God warns us that if we wander away from the Shepherd, we will suffer the consequences. The fence of His will that He has placed around us is to keep us in fertile pastures, but also to offer protection. To stray outside of that is to our peril.

There is the burden of disease. "But if you do not obey Me and observe all these commands- if you reject My statutes and despise My ordinances, and do not observe all My commands-and break My covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring terror on you-wasting disease and fever that will cause your eyes to fail and your life to ebb away. You will sow your seed in vain because your enemies will eat it." (Leviticus 26:14-16 HCSB)

There is the burden of defeat. "I will turn against you, so that you will be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even though no one is pursuing you." (Leviticus 26:17 HCSB)

There is the burden of discipline. "But if after these things you will not obey Me, I will proceed to discipline you seven times for your sins." (Leviticus 26:18 HCSB)

There is the burden of desolation. "But I will scatter you among the nations, and I will draw a sword [to chase] after you. So your land will become desolate, and your cities will become ruins." (Leviticus 26:33 HCSB)

Will we not learn that God wants us to escape such burdens by walking in His will? But, even when His sheep wander outside His course, they are never outside His care! He reaches out to us. Even His rod and staff are meant to bring us the comfort of His correction. The discipline is done in love, that we might seek Him. God told Israel that though they forsook Him, He would not forget them. Consider this as you read Leviticus 26:40-46.

The place where confession could be made and communion would be restored was the altar. Forgiveness would bring back God's favor and fellowship. In ancient Israel, the place where that would happen was the tabernacle. Its ministry was provided by the priests. That ministry was to be supported by the giving of the people. You can read about that in Leviticus 27.

When we walk with the Lord, there are the blessings we experience and the burdens we escape. But, there are also THE BATTLES WE ENTER. Reflect on Numbers 1-2. The book takes its title from the numbering of the men who were eligible to serve in the army. We transition in our study from a book--Leviticus--dealing with our worship of God, to Numbers and our warfare for God. This should not surprise us, for the Lord is leading us into battle to seize what is ours that is now occupied by the enemy. Every inch of ground will be contested. Satan does not want you to know the abundant life God has for you, so expect a battle.

We read of the organizing of the military in Numbers chapter one. God commanded Moses, "You and Aaron are to register those who are 20 years old or more by their military divisions-everyone who can serve in Israel's army." (Numbers 1:3 HCSB)

We read of the ordering of the march in Numbers chapter two. "The Israelites did everything the Lord commanded Moses; they camped by their banners in this way and moved out the same way, each man by his clan and by his ancestral house." (Numbers 2:34 HCSB)

This world is not a playground--it's a battleground! But, when God leads us it is victory. The end result is glorious!

"Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet,
Or we'll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do,
Where He sends we will go,
Never fear, only trust and obey."

This is what is promised when we walk with the Lord!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


"If he is not redeemed in any of these [ways], he and his children are to be released at the Year of Jubilee. For the Israelites are My slaves. They are My slaves that I brought out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 25:54, 55 HCSB)

Bob Dylan was right.

"You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody."

The question is not whether you will serve, but whom you will serve--but serve you will.

Neither can you serve two masters at the same time. Jesus said, "No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money." (Matthew 6:24 HCSB)

You have to choose.

But, we have the privilege of making that choice. We are slaves, yet free! That is the message of redemption. It is what was pictured in the Year of Jubilee.

"The land is not to be permanently sold because it is Mine, and you are only foreigners and temporary residents on My land. You are to allow the redemption of any land you occupy. If your brother becomes destitute and sells part of his property, his nearest relative may come and redeem what his brother has sold. If a man has no family redeemer, but he prospers and obtains enough to redeem his land, he may calculate the years since its sale, repay the balance to the man he sold it to, and return to his property. But if he cannot obtain enough to repay him, what he sold will remain in the possession of its purchaser until the Year of Jubilee. It is to be released at the Jubilee, so that he may return to his property." (Leviticus 25:23-28 HCSB)

There was no welfare system run by the government in ancient Israel--no social "safety net" as we are fond to speak of in America. If financial hardship came, you might have to sell your property to pay your debts. You might even become desperate enough to have to sell yourself to serve another. You became a slave to survive. It sure beat starvation.

"If your brother among you becomes destitute and sells himself to you, you must not force him to do slave labor. Let him stay with you as a hired hand or temporary resident; he may work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then he and his children are to be released from you, and he may return to his clan and his ancestral property. They are not to be sold as slaves, because they are My slaves that I brought out of the land of Egypt. You are not to rule over them harshly but fear your God." (Leviticus 25:39-43 HCSB)

Spiritually, we are bankrupt. We owe a debt which is beyond our ability to settle. We are all sinners (Rom.3:23) and the debt to be paid is eternal death in the lake of fire (Rom.6:23). We need someone to redeem us.

This is the message of the Year of Jubilee. It was THE PROVISION THAT DELIVERS REDEMPTION.

There were several sabbaths that Israel was to observe. There was the weekly sabbath with which we are most familiar. Then, every seventh year was to be a sabbath where the land was unplowed and given rest. Counting off seven of these sabbath years led to the fiftieth year--Jubilee--and that meant redemption.

The land would be restored and liberty would be resumed.

Jesus is our Jubilee. He has paid the debt to give us paradise. It was taken from us because of our sin. It is given back to us because of the Savior. A place in heaven is ours, purchased by our Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ!

But, let's also be clear about THE PURPOSE THAT DRIVES REDEMPTION. It isn't freedom to serve our whims, but freedom to serve God's will. Israel would always be enslaved--free from the Egyptians, but fettered to God! "For the Israelites are My slaves. They are My slaves that I brought out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 25:55 HCSB)

You see, as Bob Dylan declared in his award winning song, "Gotta Serve Somebody" this is the only option open. The lyrics underscore the Biblical reality:

You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Jesus Christ has paid the debt of our sin. We are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. He is our Jubilee! Why? We are purchased to be His slaves.

Joshua would later call for a decision, "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15 NKJV)

What is your choice?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


"You must not profane My holy name; I must be treated as holy among the Israelites. I am the Lord who sets you apart, the One who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord." (Leviticus 22:32, 33 HCSB)

God and His people are bound together. He has chosen us in sovereign grace. We are set apart to love Him wholly--a holy people. We have responded to His call and chosen Him to be our God, and He loves us wholly--this holy One.

The Lord told Israel that He brought them out of bondage, in order to bond them to Himself. No more would they be in a relationship of iron fetters, but in a romance of loving commitment.

God is holy. He is set apart from everything else--all that has been created--and that is everything but Himself. There is none like Him.

We are to be holy--set apart for Him--unlike any other people in this world. That is how special the nation of Israel was. They were the chosen people. God entered into a covenant relationship with them.

Similar terminology is now used of the church. We also are people of the covenant--the New Covenant. Those who have received Christ are in that love relationship with God.

I am His and He is mine!

That message is woven into the fabric of Leviticus. We read some of the myriad of laws and nod our head in agreement--yes, I see why the Israelis were expected to live that way--to do this and not to do that--things like not committing sexual sin. Other regulations we read--the seeming maze of God's intricate expectations--and shake our head with confusion, musing, as to why couldn't they wear clothes fashioned from two different materials.

Some commands we read and say, "That's a big deal!" Others we read and wonder, "What's the big deal?"

Here's the big deal--in every case: I am His and He is mine. We must never forget it. God was saying to His people, I have set you apart. You are not to behave like the Egyptians where you once lived. You are not to be like the Canaanites where you are going to live. There is not one dimension of life that will not be touched by this truth. In the field, in the house, on the job, at the altar, whatever you put into your body, wear on your body, do with your body--never forget that you are set apart.

"Once I was lost in sin's degradation,
Jesus came down to bring me salvation,
Lifted me up from sorrow and shame,
Now I belong to Him;

Now I belong to Jesus,
Jesus belongs to me,
Not for the years of time alone,
But for eternity." (Norman J. Clayton)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


"Atonement will be made for you on this day to cleanse you, and you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord." (Leviticus 16:30 HCSB)

Atonement--it is not a word we use in everyday conversation, but it is a word we should know, for it describes an experience we must have. Look at the word, and break it down this way: at-one-ment--to be put into the state of being at one with God, received by Him and reconciled to Him.

We need that, for we are not naturally in that state. Rather, we are unclean and unwelcome. To underscore our problem, the word "unclean" or "uncleanness" is used 35 times in only 33 verses in the preceding chapter. The consequences of being unclean are to be unwelcome--until the unclean person is washed they are excluded from the worship of God and excommunicated from the people of God. This is what sin does. It contaminates all it touches and spreads defilement abroad.

But God wants us to be at one with Him. He loves us and provided for our cleansing. That is what the Day of Atonement meant for ancient Israel.

Atonement literally means "to cover." It conveys the thought of having our sins blotted out. The ritual of Yom Kippur--the Day of Atonement--portrayed the removal of sin--expiation. That which defiles is sent away and gone forever.

This is graphically symbolized in the scapegoat. The exact translation of the Hebrew word is disputed. It is used only four times in Scripture--all in this chapter. Because the translation is murky, the HCSB scholars chose to transliterate it and render it "azazel." While the precise translation may be debated, the symbolism is beyond dispute. Thus, we will refer to this act as the scapegoat, which has come into our language as a term for one who bears the guilt and pays the penalty another deserves. That is what is pictured here.

The scapegoat is brought before the people, and the High Priest lays his hands on it, symbolically transferring the sins of Israel upon it. "Aaron will lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the Israelites' wrongdoings and rebellious acts-all their sins. He is to put them on the goat's head and send [it] away into the wilderness by the man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on it all their wrongdoings into a desolate land, and he will release it there." (Leviticus 16:21, 22 HCSB)

Imagine as this appointed man leads the chosen goat out into the wilderness. They walk some distance, and the man turns back--he still sees the camp--and so treks farther. Again, he turns, and gazing intently, he can just see the tents dimly on the edge of the horizon, so he walks on and on. Finally, there is nothing behind him but his tracks. Securing the goat, he walks away retracing his steps. The goat watches him diminish until he vanishes from vision. The goat is alone. The desert sun beats down upon it. There is no water to quench its thirst. There is no one to hear its mournful bleating. Only the vultures are there, circling ever lower, soon to feast. The goat dies--all alone.

All this was fulfilled on the day that Jesus died. What the Day of Atonement prefigured was realized on Good Friday. He was chosen and brought before the nation of Israel. Our sins were thrust upon Him. The prophet spoke of this, "Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all....He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate? For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of my people's rebellion." (Isaiah 53:4-6, 8 HCSB)

We hear His pitiful cry, from cracked lips, swollen tongue, and parched throat, "I thirst!" (John 19:28) In an isolation greater than physical--an exclusion from the presence of God--we hear Christ's despairing plea, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46) As our Scapegoat, He has carried our sins away, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12 HCSB)

Christ was excluded that we might be included. He was stripped bare that we might be covered. He was forsaken that we might be forgiven. He died so we could live. He experienced hell that we could enter heaven. Jesus is our Scapegoat--glory to His name!

Monday, February 20, 2012


"For I am the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy." (Leviticus 11:45 HCSB)

There are two primary reasons for why God gave Israel such meticulous laws concerning diet, defilement, disease and decay: health and holiness. If they observed these regulations they would help contain the spread of disease, so there were physical benefits. The promise was, "The Lord will remove all sickness from you; He will not put on you all the terrible diseases of Egypt that you know about, but He will inflict them on all who hate you." (Deuteronomy 7:15 HCSB) But, more importantly, obedience in these laws would help restrain the spread of moral defilement, meaning there were spiritual blessings. The latter was the most important, but that doesn't make hygiene unimportant.

We are not Gnostics. Without digressing into a discussion of all that is involved, Gnosticism was a heresy that invaded the first-century church. The underlying assumption was that whatever was material was evil and only the spiritual was good. This led them to deny the incarnation of Christ, that the Son of God became the Son of Man--fully God, yet fully human. Many passages in the New Testament are in response to this false teaching that undermines the person and work of Christ. While, we may reject such blatant false doctrine, there is a subtler form of Gnosticism which has crept into our thinking--that our physical state doesn't matter that much--but it does!

The body of a Christian is sacred--it is devoted to God for His use. It is His temple, for we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is His tool, for it is our tongues that speak of Him, our hands that labor for Him, our feet that go for Him. We will give an account one day for the deeds done in the body. We will not be disembodied ghosts floating around in eternity, but be bodily resurrected in glorified form, as Christ was. Everything which sin has corrupted will be redeemed from the curse--even the body! The payment for that redemption was steep--the blood of Christ--thus, it is written, "for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:20 HCSB) So, let us not think our health and hygiene trivial. If I maintain this body in peak condition, I am keeping myself useful for God's purposes in the world. No, we are not Gnostics!

Having said that, we must know that health was secondary; holiness was primary. Israel was to avoid the spiritual contamination that would come from intimate association with pagans. If they had to exercise such cautions about what they touched and what they tasted, they could not share life with the heathen. To do that was to become infected with the same spiritual disease of sin--the malignancy of idolatry, the infection of immorality, the virus of sorcery---which would become a plague to consume the people of God. God knew best. Israel's history shows they failed to heed the warning and did not attain the blessings God desired for them. Rather, they experienced the curses God warned them about. They ingested the spirit of the Canaanites and became immersed in their practices--assimilated into their false beliefs and filthy behaviors. That is a danger to us!

To be sure, we cannot maintain our missionary mandate without being conversant with our culture. How can we make connections with sinners if we cut ourselves completely off from them? Jesus didn't do that--and was condemned by the self-righteous for it. But, He also was without sin--conversant with the culture, yet not corrupted by it. So, Christians are in the world, but not of the world.

Build bridges to sinners to bring them into the kingdom. Just remember that a bridge goes both ways and don't be drawn into the world. Put up gates of conviction--know where there are moral weaknesses in your spiritual immune system and don't expose yourself needlessly.

Wash with water--often! Why do you think these Levitical laws demanded washing? Why do you think a physician--who is always around sick people--washes his hands repeatedly? He or she wants to stop the spread of infection--and doesn't want to contract the illness either! We must frequently wash our hands--I mean spiritually. Paul spoke of, "the washing of water by the word" (Ephesians 5:26). The psalmist underscored this when he wrote, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. I have sought You with all my heart; don't let me wander from Your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You." (Psalm 119:9-11 HCSB)

Be holy. God demands it. You cannot make a difference in this world unless you are different from the world.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


"The Lord spoke to Moses: 'Take Aaron, his sons with him, the garments, the anointing oil, the bull of the sin offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread, and assemble the whole community at the entrance to the tent of meeting.' " (Leviticus 8:1-3 HCSB)

I awoke this morning to the news that the Pope had appointed twenty two new members to the College of Cardinals. Here's part of the report from the CNN Wire:

The College of Cardinals was established in 1150. Its main role is to advise the current pope and pick his successor.
"This is the most exclusive club in the Catholic Church," said John Allen, CNN's Vatican analyst. "In many cases, you also become, at least informally, a candidate to be the next pope, because the next pope will almost certainly come from the roughly 120 cardinals under the age of 80."
Once a cardinal reaches 80, he is no longer able to participate in the election of the pope or enter the secret conclave where cardinals gather when the time comes to select the next pope, typically upon the prior pope's death.
The new cardinals each professed their faith and swore an oath of obedience to Pope Benedict and his successors during Saturday's ceremony, called the Consistory, at the Vatican.
They will then walked one by one to the pontiff, knelt in front of him and received the traditional red hat, a gold ring, and a document with the name of the cardinal's titular church in Rome. The pope and newly-created cardinal then embraced.

All of this is without Biblical support at best and is a perversion of true faith at worst. It is an attempt to impose a hierarchy within Christianity--and reinforce an elaborate system of ritual that does not move the church forward, but takes it backward.

When I read of the service setting apart these new Cardinals, I could not help but think of our text today in Leviticus. There we read of Aaron and his sons ordination as priests--the public ceremony consecrating them, replete with special robes and a turban placed on their heads.

My purpose is not to critique Roman Catholicism, but to show that to move in the direction of Old Testament ritual and sacrifice is folly! There was a time and place for it, but that time has passed. God paved the way with the former sacrificial system for something infinitely better! The New Testament is crystal clear about that! An attempt to compromise and mingle law and grace--which like oil and water cannot be done--brought forth the most scathing denunciation by Paul in Galatians. The superior nature of the work of Christ in establishing the New Covenant with His blood to the temporary nature of the Old Covenant sacrifices, which are now superseded and set aside, is the theme of the book of Hebrews.

There was a time, I ravenously consumed baby food--a now disgusting goo of vegetables without seasoning, having every appearance of being pre-chewed. But, in my toothless state of immaturity, it was nourishing and served its purpose.

Now, I have tasted steak, grilled over mesquite smoke, potatoes lathered in butter and sour cream, with a side salad where garlic croutons, shredded cheese, bacon bits and blue cheese blanketed that bed of lettuce, and all washed down with syrupy sweet tea--followed by warm pecan pie, topped with vanilla bean ice cream, accompanied by freshly ground coffee! Do you think I want to go back to baby food? I have tasted something infinitely better!

Four things are mentioned in Leviticus 8:1-3 which have now given way to something infinitely better: the service, sanctification, sacrifice and sanctuary. These were important for the spiritual infancy of God's people, teaching the need for a mediator, the importance of consecration to God, the requirement of shedding blood to gain forgiveness and having a meeting place with God. But, what they promised, they could never deliver in themselves. The priests were sinners themselves needing forgiveness (read Leviticus 10). The anointing oil that set the priests apart was merely symbolic, which would be washed away the next time they scrubbed their face. The sacrifices were offered over and over, century after century, to underscore that the blood of animals could never cover sin. The tabernacle was a temporary tent, where only one man, the High Priest, could enter one day a year into the Holy of Holies, on behalf of all the people, but where the people themselves could never go. All of this was meant to nourish their infantile understanding of God, to feed their faith and grow them up to see the need and nature of Christ and His atonement. It is vital to study Leviticus for it helps open our understanding of Christ's redemptive work.

The Old Covenant ritual properly done was good--and for that time commended by God. His seal of approval was dramatically given,

"Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them. He came down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the fellowship offering. Moses and Aaron then entered the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell facedown [on the ground]." (Leviticus 9:22-24 HCSB)

The Old Covenant was good.

The New Covenant is infinitely better! The Levitical system was a shadow of what was to come, but Christ is the substance of what was promised, fulfilling what was foreshadowed.

Christ's service is infinitely better. Here are just a few verses,

"So Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant.

Now many have become [Levitical] priests, since they are prevented by death from remaining in office. But because He remains forever, He holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore, He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them.

For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He doesn't need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do-first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all when He offered Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, [appoints] a Son, who has been perfected forever." (Hebrews 7:22-28 HCSB)

Christ's sanctification is infinitely better. Consider this, "You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; this is why God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy
rather than Your companions." (Hebrews 1:9 HCSB) The oil that anointed the Aaronic priests for ministry was symbolic of the Holy Spirit setting them apart for ministry. But, Jesus was literally anointed by the Holy Spirit, sanctified for his ministry, "After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him. And there came a voice from heaven: 'This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!' " (Matthew 3:16, 17 HCSB)

Christ's sacrifice is infinitely better. A sampling from many verses in Hebrews says,

"Since the law has [only] a shadow of the good things to come, and not the actual form of those realities, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year. Otherwise, wouldn't they have stopped being offered, since the worshipers, once purified, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, as He was coming into the world, He said:
You did not want sacrifice and offering,
but You prepared a body for Me.
You did not delight
in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings.

Then I said, 'See-
it is written about Me
in the volume of the scroll-
I have come to do Your will, God!'

After He says above, You did not want or delight in sacrifices and offerings, whole burnt offerings and sin offerings (which are offered according to the law), He then says, See, I have come to do Your will. He takes away the first to establish the second. By this will [of God], we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.

Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. He is now waiting until His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. For after He says:

This is the covenant I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws on their hearts
and write them on their minds,

[He adds]:
I will never again remember
their sins and their lawless acts.

Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin." (Hebrews 10:1-18 HCSB)

Christ's sanctuary is infinitely better. We read,

"But the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?

Therefore, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions [committed] under the first covenant. According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be purified with these [sacrifices], but the heavenly things themselves [to be purified] with better sacrifices than these. For the Messiah did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that He might now appear in the presence of God for us." (Hebrews 9:11-15, 22-24 HCSB)

So, let the redbirds nest in the Vatican, I will look to One infinitely better, seated in heaven!

Friday, February 17, 2012


"In this way the priest will make atonement on his behalf before the Lord, and he will be forgiven for anything he may have done to incur guilt." (Leviticus 6:7 HCSB)

Forgiven! How precious is that word to a man who owes a debt he cannot pay!

Forgiven! How wondrous is that sound to a man who is condemned to die for his crimes!

Forgiven! How gracious is the term to a man who has been unfaithful and is estranged from someone he loves!

Forgiveness is a costly thing. It requires the action of the one offended. All the guilty can do is to confess their failure and humbly beg for mercy. Everything rests on the offended party to grant it.

But, this is what God has done for us!

We owe a debt of sin, yet are bankrupt of righteousness. It is impossible to pay. But, someone has to pay. God alone can--and did pay! Jesus paid the debt in full on Calvary. He did that, and more--He deposited His inexhaustible righteousness in our account, to draw on.

We are condemned to die for crimes against heaven. This death will be more than physical, for our sins extend beyond the mortal realm, into the spiritual dimension, as well--so the sentence of the second death in the lake of fire is pronounced. Someone has to pay for these crimes. God alone can--and did pay! Jesus died in our place, enduring our hell that we might enter His heaven. He did that, and more--He implanted His eternal life in our soul, to live on after this one ends.

We are separated from our Lover, for we have went whoring with the world. He has every right to divorce us. We cannot undo what we have done. God alone can make reconciliation--and He did! Jesus stretched out His hands on the cross and with one took the holy hand of God and with the other the soiled hand of sinners and brought them together. He did that, and more--He put His love in us, to transform us into His image--a love that is infinite.

God wants us to always remember these truths. He has written them from the opening pages of Genesis--where He seeks the sinners, sheds the blood and covers them--to the last pages in Revelation--where the forgiven sinners stand as saints in glory and sing of the Lamb of God who paid the price of their admission--and do so as the endless ages roll on.

God taught His people in their spiritual infancy by means of object lessons. Leviticus is filled with them. If we view it as only ancient history it may be just a monotonous recounting of archaic ritual to plow through and check off in our daily Bible reading.

God forbid!

These are verses written in letters of crimson! It is the story of Jesus and His love! In every lamb slaughtered, in every dove offered, in the consuming fire and shed blood, there is found the promise of peace, the pledge of forgiveness, the provision of hope!

All those sacrifices pointed to a Savior that was needed. Israel could only wait and in faith look ahead to that Lamb.

We can look back at a Savior that was provided. We can now worship and in faith rest on the sacrifice He fully accomplished.

Read these sacrifices through the lens of Calvary, and once more remember the price He paid and be amazed. Come to the altar--no longer to bring a blood sacrifice, but to bow in gratitude for blood already shed.


Thursday, February 16, 2012


"Then the priest will burn all of it on the altar as a burnt offering, a fire offering of a pleasing aroma to the Lord." (Leviticus 1:9b HCSB)

In only four chapters, the phrase, "a pleasing aroma to the Lord" is repeated nine times. This underscores the aroma of acceptable worship.

Worship is so significant that it is woven into the fabric of all the Scripture--from the offering of righteous Abel in Genesis to the occupation of heaven's throngs in Revelation--a constant reminder of the primacy of worship. God desires it, deserves it and delights in it. It is the believer's priority on earth and will be our preoccupation for eternity.

In Genesis, we see RUIN. Sin has marred everything. The paradise God has designed is now pervaded with death--the contamination of corruption and corresponding condemnation of the curse. The drumbeat of doom echoes through the corridors of those fifty chapters. Adam and Eve defy God and are driven from God's garden. The first murder occurs when Cain slaughters his own brother and Cain is driven from the Lord's presence. The earth becomes so vile and violent that God washes it clean by sending a flood which destroys all life, but the seed of future generations of man and beast is secured on the ark. That new beginning is soon spoiled, as the race builds a tower and seeks an empire--the arrogance of egotism--and God brings confusion, driving them apart, scattering the populace to the ends of the earth. Need we speak of Sodom--so perverse that it is incinerated by God's wrath? Even in the best of men, we see at times the worst of behavior. Noah gets drunk, Abraham lies, Isaac repeats it, Jacob cheats, his sons are cruel and lustful. Yet, where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. God is calling out a people and extending His covenant promise to them. In the midst of sin's cesspool grows the fragrant flower of hope.

So, we come to Exodus and find REDEMPTION. There is a way out of slavery. It is by the blood of a lamb. A price is paid to redeem the people of God. They are set free by God's power, and not their own. We learn that God knows our pitiful condition. He cares and brings us out. Slaves of sin--that is what we are. We dwell in Egypt--symbolic of this wicked world. The death sentence hangs over us. But, that is why Jesus came, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. As God opened the Red Sea for Israel and brought them out of Egypt and into new life, so we who have applied the blood of Christ, by faith, have new life in Him.

Now, our travels through the text take us to Leviticus and we observe RESPONSE. Worship is the only appropriate action in view of a people who have been redeemed at such a price, from such a condition.

Leviticus is about the worship of God. It is foundational to the life that pleases God. If we are not careful, we will become bogged down in the ritual recorded and miss the point. As we say, we cannot see the forest for the trees. Sadly, this may be the place where many well-intentioned Christians who planned to read their Bible through, start to struggle. The jaw-dropping soap opera that Genesis can be and the thrill a minute roller coaster of Exodus ends with a discussion of the tabernacle and its furnishings, and we find ourselves suddenly surrounded by entrails and blood, in the company of priests, looking at water to wash in and an altar of burning meat. The guidelines given seem monotonous. What's up with that? Can't we skip this part?

It is tempting. But I want to remind you that gold and gems are not found scattered on the surface of the soil, rather, they are buried deeply and must be mined by digging beneath the surface. Thus, it is with the treasure of truth. It is so rewarding to those who labor for it!

It is all about a life that pleases God. It is about the fragrance of acceptable worship that brings a whiff of heaven's atmosphere which overrides the sinful stench of earth's environment, and one which promises the sweet perfume that pervades eternity. I want that!

Jesus is the theme. In the sacrifices we see Him. The Lamb of God, without blemish, exuded an aroma which brought perfect pleasure to Holy God: in the gracious words that He spoke, flowing from a heart of complete devotion; in the loving works that he showed, moved by a mind consumed with compassion; in the ultimate worship that He shared, fulfilling his mission of redemption in dying on the cross! Total surrender! So, we hear, "And there came a voice from heaven: 'This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!' " (Matthew 3:17 HCSB) It was repeated on the Mount of Transfiguration--and I suspect for a third time, when Jesus ascended back to glory and walked in triumph down the streets of gold!

Now, it is our privilege to express our delight in Him, by offering ourselves and all we are in worship of the worthy One! Paul underscores this theme, as the Apostle presents his systematic doctrine of salvation in Romans, taking us from RUIN in chapters 1-3, as we find the indictment from our sin, to REDEMPTION in chapters 4-11, as we see the intervention of our Savior, to RESPONSE in chapters 12-16, as we note the implications for our service. Those implications begin with these words, "Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship." (Romans 12:1 HCSB)

My sacrifice is a fragrant response to Christ's sacrifice. It is that kind of offering which Paul commended the Philippians for giving, "But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided-a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God." (Philippians 4:18 HCSB)

There is something about the aroma of steaks sizzling on a grill that gets me to salivating. The aroma of those Levitical burnt offerings would not only ascend into the sky and bring pleasure to God, but would waft through the camp and captivate the people.

Of course, not everyone responds with favor to the smell of meat cooking--some react with fury! You have heard of PETA, I'm sure--people fanatically opposed to killing animals.

Similarly, the aroma of a life offered to God will produce a strong reaction--a hunger for God among some and a hatred among others. "But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this?" (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 HCSB)

May God enable us to smell the fragrance of Christ, rising from the sacrifices we study in Leviticus, and may that stir us to offer ourselves in worship of Him. Such a life will make a difference in the world--and will bring delight to God!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


"The Lord spoke to Moses: 'You are to set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month'....Moses did everything just as the Lord had commanded him. ...The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." (Exodus 40:1, 2, 16, 34 HCSB)

Moses was told by God to build a tabernacle. There at the mercy seat, in the most holy place, God's glory would dwell--the meeting place of God and man.

Yet, that tabernacle was only an elaborate tent. Never meant to be permanent--neither it, nor its furnishings exist any longer. God has raised up a superior tabernacle--Jesus Christ--the ultimate, enduring meeting place of God and man! John wrote of Him, "The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14 HCSB) The Greek word rendered "took up residence" is literally, "tabernacled"! All that was foreshadowed in that former tabernacle is fulfilled in Christ's fleshly tabernacle--in a surpassingly superior manner.

The tabernacle in the wilderness was a temporary structure. Likewise, Christ was only on earth for around thirty three years. But, though Christ's earthly ministry ended when He ascended to heaven, that tabernacle was not terminated, but had been transformed! Jesus is resurrected, glorified humanity! It was the same Jesus who appeared to His disciples after He rose. Why, Thomas even felt the wounds of the crucifixion that remained! Think of it--the glorified Son of Man and Son of God, ever-living to be the meeting place of God and man! Paul stated it this way, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human..." (1 Timothy 2:5 HCSB).

The rich symbolism of the Mosaic tabernacle can fill a book and so is beyond the scope of these devotional thoughts. But, what we can say is that all which the tabernacle represented, is seen in Christ, but in His tabernacle, infinitely greater.

To underscore that, a final thought concerning access into the Holy of Holies. Under the Old Covenant, only one man, the High Priest, could enter behind the veil, and that with fear and trembling that he might die, only by means of a sacrifice, and only once each year. But, when the flesh of Christ's tabernacle was torn on Calvary, God reached down and tore the veil from top to bottom, having opened the way, once for all into His glorious presence! Now, any who come through Christ--not one, not a few, all who will--can approach God--not once a year, not a few times, but any time--not just in one sacred spot, but anywhere--not with terror, but in confidence--needing no sacrifice, for the Lamb has been sacrificed and never will be offered again, and need not be!

So, the writer of Hebrews stresses, "Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time." (Hebrews 4:16 HCSB) Jesus is the meeting place of God and man!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


"No one is to appear before Me empty-handed." (Exodus 34:20b HCSB)

There is a direct connection between what is in our hand and what is in our heart. Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12:34 HCSB). A heart that overflows in love for God moves the hands to express that love in living out our seconds unto Him, giving of our substance to Him and striving in our service for Him.

It is Valentine's Day, as I type these words. This is a day devoted to lovers. While that is all well and good--a box of chocolate, a bouquet of flowers and a card are only potent when underpinned with a life that shows we love our spouse. My wife wants me to enjoy being with her, to do helpful things for her, and then to spend on her is important too--and not just one day a year! If I don't, then all the romantic notions printed on a Valentine's card are empty words, that come from an empty heart glaring from a billboard of daily life. That writing overshadows the other.

God wanted Israel to love Him. He certainly loved them. Their heart for Him would be seen in the sharing of their time, treasure and talent. When they came before God, there would always need to be something in their hand. There would be something for them to give because God had given to them.

The Lord gave them each day as a gift. Understanding this, they were to devote one day in seven for God and God alone. "For six days work is to be done, but on the seventh day you are to have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the Lord." (Exodus 35:2a HCSB)

God wants us to be stewards of our TIME. Every second we have is a precious thing. We have a limited number of days allocated to us by the Lord's decree. We don't know how many, but even a long life span will race by. We are to exchange the currency of our time for eternal reward by devoting our days to God. How do you spell love? T-I-M-E!

The Lord not only blessed Israel with the dawn of each new day, but with the wealth which they owned. The gold and garments and gems--all this had been given to them by the Egyptians, through the intervention of God in liberating them. If their pockets were full, it was because God did it. Hearts full of gratitude fill hands with generosity. So, God's people were challenged, "Take up an offering among you for the Lord. Let everyone whose heart is willing bring this as the Lord's offering: gold, silver, and bronze" (Exodus 35:5 HCSB).

God wants us to be stewards of our TREASURE. God isn't broke, but we are bankrupt without Him. He doesn't need our money, but we need what He gives. Why we would not have a crust--not a crumb--of bread did not the Lord so graciously provide it! Even in these challenging economic times we are a privileged people.

Yet, we can't take it with us. There will be no U-Haul attached to the hearse. We can send it on ahead, however, by exchanging the coin of the material realm for the riches of the eternal. Jesus said, "Don't collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don't break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21 HCSB). How do you spell love? G-I-V-E!

The Lord blessed Israel with each sunrise, with their substance, but also the skills that they possessed--natural abilities they had worked into them by the Creator, spiritual capabilities wrought in them by the Spirit.

"Let all the skilled craftsmen among you come and make everything that the Lord has commanded... Moses then said to the Israelites: 'Look, the Lord has appointed by name Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. He has filled him with God's Spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and ability in every kind of craft to design artistic works in gold, silver, and bronze, to cut gemstones for mounting, and to carve wood for work in every kind of artistic craft. He has also given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, [the ability] to teach [others]. He has filled them with skill to do all the work of a gem cutter; a designer; an embroiderer in blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen; and a weaver. They can do every kind of craft and design artistic designs.' " (Exodus 35:10, 30-35 HCSB)

God wants us to be stewards of our TALENT. What can you do with your hands? Those hands--and the abilities latent in them--are blessed by God not to be clutched tightly and used only for our own self-centered cravings, but are to be opened and extended to serve the Lord by serving people created in His image. We can build something on earth akin to a sandcastle which the tides of time will wash away or we can do a work for Christ that constructs an eternal legacy.

Jesus told this story:

"For it is just like a man going on a journey. He called his own slaves and turned over his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one-to each according to his own ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more. In the same way the man with two earned two more. But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master's money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, 'Master, you gave me five talents. Look, I've earned five more talents.'

His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master's joy!'

Then the man with two talents also approached. He said, 'Master, you gave me two talents. Look, I've earned two more talents.'

His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master's joy!'

Then the man who had received one talent also approached and said, 'Master, I know you. You're a difficult man, reaping where you haven't sown and gathering where you haven't scattered seed. So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.'

But his master replied to him, 'You evil, lazy slave! If you knew that I reap where I haven't sown and gather where I haven't scattered, then you should have deposited my money with the bankers. And when I returned I would have received my money back with interest.

So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has 10 talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. And throw this good-for-nothing slave into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "(Matthew 25:14-30 HCSB)

The sobering thought is, that if all I crave are the things of the world and care nothing for eternity, that I may have a heart devoid of grace and will spend the endless ages craving what I can never have--a thirst without a drop of water on a gnawed tongue of anguish.

Do you truly love God? How do you spell love? W-O-R-K!

Don't show up before the Lord one day empty-handed.

Monday, February 13, 2012


"The Lord also said to Moses: 'I have seen this people, and they are indeed a stiff-necked people.' " (Exodus 32:9 HCSB)

It is hard to argue with the diagnosis. The test was complete; the symptoms were obvious. The Physician of impeccable credentials has told Moses that Israel has a disease that is a terminal one--sin.

We read the incident of the golden calf and wonder, "How could they do such a thing?"

God had delivered them with a mighty hand. Just days before, they had been hopeless slaves in Egypt. Then, they saw how God brought judgment after judgment on their oppressors. They had witnessed the Red Sea open before them--a highway for their escape--and seen it close on Pharaoh's charioteers--a graveyard for their enemy. Each night, as they camped, a pillar of fire gave them light and warmth. Each day, as they travelled, a pillar of cloud led them and gave them shade. When they were hungry, God rained down bread from heaven. When they were thirsty, God gave them water from the rock. When they were attacked by the Amalekites, God gave them victory.

How quickly they forgot! How rapidly they fell! How completely they turned!

Moses is on the mountain. He has been there forty days, so they come to Aaron and say, "Make us a god we can worship--a golden calf. Moses is gone. We haven't seen this God he talks to. We need a god. We want a god. How about one like the sacred cows of Egypt?" They willingly donated their jewelry for the raw material.

Moses is meeting with the God who made man, and his people are making a god with their hands. While God is engraving a command on a stone tablet, demanding exclusive worship and forbidding idolatry, the Israelites are dancing in a perverse ritual around an idol!
"He took [the gold] from their hands, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf. Then they said, "Israel, this is your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!' " (Exodus 32:4 HCSB)

Such is the stubbornness of sinfulness. They were out of Egypt, but not much of Egypt was out of them.

We are shocked! How could they do such a thing?

Think about this, how can one sing, "Oh, How I Love Jesus," on Sunday, and show love for the world on Monday? How can one bless God in worship at eleven o' clock and curse a waitress at noon? How can I bow my head in prayer in the church house and then fail to speak with God the rest of the week? How can I profess faith in Christ to fellow saints, who know Him, on the Lord's Day and never speak of Him to sinners, who need to know Him, that I see daily?

Supremely, how can I open my Bible and read of Christ's sacrifice for me, my eyes become misty as I contemplate the price He paid for my salvation, pledge my faithfulness to Him--then walk out the door, and into the arms of the world's whoredom--seduced by sin?

We have. We do. We are sinful still. It is a stubborn thing.

God would not be unjust to destroy us all. If we were to be cast into hell, how could we protest what we so demonstrably deserve?

But for one thing.

There was the covenant promise.

God had given His word. Moses, as the mediator lifts up the promise--willing to be blotted out of God's Book, if only Israel would not be--the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their seed would be God's sons. It was a covenant of grace.

That grace cannot be used as a license to sin with impunity--no, no! That doesn't mean there may not be grave consequences. There was severe suffering in the camp as a sentence on stubborn sinfulness. But, it wasn't for the destruction of the nation to cast them into hell. It was for the discipline of the nation to cleanse them for heaven.

God does that still. He disciplines His disobedient children--but, He never disowns them!

We have a better Mediator than Moses. There is a Lamb superior to the lambs offered as a sin offering in Israel. Whereas, Moses couldn't suffer judgment in their stead, there is One who came and received God's wrath as our Substitute--not only willing as Moses was, but qualified--as Moses was not. It is an unbreakable, unalterable covenant ratified forever in the blood of Jesus Christ!

Sin is a stubborn thing.

God's grace is--may we say--even more stubborn!

"The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more." (Romans 5:20 HCSB). Mount Calvary supersedes Mount Sinai!

The tests reveal our sin sickness is terminal--if left untreated. There is only one cure. Jesus Christ, the Great Physician has prescribed it in His cross!

It is echoed in a stanza of the precious hymn, "My Faith Has Found a Resting Place":

"My great Physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea;
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me." (Lidie H. Edmunds)

Saturday, February 11, 2012


"They are to make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8 HCSB)

God demands and deserves our worship. Being a God so immense, that not even the heavens can contain Him, it is impossible that a church building can. He transcends all things, fills all things--He is all in all. There is nowhere you can go, that He is not there. This is the Being we worship.

But, we are finite creatures, locked into time and space. While God is everywhere, we must be somewhere, so that I need a meeting place with God--a sacred space where I can worship the Infinite One.

Can I not worship God anywhere? Can I not encounter Him in the fields and woods, by the lake or the ocean, since He is just as much there as anywhere. You could, you should, but would you? We are easily distracted. Do we associate the stream with praising God or catching fish? Will we look to the heavens while sitting in a beach chair or observe a child chasing a beach ball across the sand?

Please, don't misunderstand what I am saying. I recognize that wherever we go and whatever we may experience, there is an occasion for our hearts to be directed toward the Lord and draw near to Him in seasons of intimacy with the Creator.

Yet, worship is also not confined to the individual, but is done in the context of community. We are to gather together in corporate celebration of who God is and what He has done. That requires a meeting place.

Thus, God directed Israel to construct a sanctuary--in this case an elaborate tent. When they moved, the tent would be taken down and taken with them. When they stopped to camp, it was to be set up in the middle, for worship was to be central in the national life.

Is worship at the core of your life journey? How often do you find yourself in the company of fellow believers expressing gratitude to God? When you are physically attending, are you fully present--your mind and heart engaged on the truth? Do you mindlessly mouth the stanzas of the song or do they come gushing from the heart? When someone leads in prayer, do you pray or zone out? As the Word of God is proclaimed do you consume it with a ravenous appetite or do you look quickly from the text to your wrist watch, wondering, "What's for lunch?"

Worship is important to God. That ought to make it important to you. It will be the order of eternity. We should get used to it now. Let us gather tomorrow, praying that the Lord will rend the heavens and come down in power and glory. I am desperate for that! God willing, I will be there to meet God in the sanctuary. I don't want to miss it! Don't you dare!

Friday, February 10, 2012


"The Lord said to Moses, 'Come up to Me on the mountain and stay there so that I may give you the stone tablets with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.' When Moses went up the mountain, the cloud covered it. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day He called to Moses from the cloud. The appearance of the Lord's glory to the Israelites was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop." (Exodus 24:12, 15-17 HCSB)

I'll never forget a phone call I received four years ago. One of our church members had two tickets to the ACC Basketball Tournament in Charlotte and wondered if I could work it out to go! Are you kidding me? Does a cat have a tail? It was awesome! I saw my favorite team--the Tar Heels--win that championship, led by the great Tyler Hansbrough! Unforgettable!

Have you ever been invited to go to such a big-time event?

The invitation Moses received, surpasses such by an incomparable measure. He was summoned to come be God's guest on His holy mountain. Moses was invited into the glory--the fiery cloud that rested atop Mt. Sinai--to be taught by the LORD! Incredible! Indescribable!

For forty days and nights, that man of God, would be immersed in wondrous glory. It was transformational! For a period of time, his skin literally shone, basking in the light of that experience. But, the rest of the Jews could only speculate. They weren't invited. In fact, to approach the holy mountain was a fearful thing and to touch it was to meet a horrible death.

But, that was the other side of Calvary!

On this side, we are now invited to come into the glory--not just the preacher, not merely a select few, like Peter, James and John on the Mountain of Transfiguration--but every child of God! We do not come with trembling knees, as a servant to a tyrant, but are invited to come confidently, "Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time." (Hebrews 4:16 HCSB). We are summoned as sons to the Father!

You see that first mountain was full of frightening thunder and lightning--a mountain quaking in God's majestic presence. That was Sinai--and it represents the Old Covenant of the Law--which can only condemn us as sinners.

But, all that has changed because of another Mountain called Calvary! It was there the perfect Man absorbed the lightning bolts of God's wrath, as that mountain shook. He was excluded, that we might be included. He experienced the fierceness of judgment that we who place our faith in Him can experience the freedom of justification!

We are summoned to enter the glory!
Already, it is transforming us. That glory which changed Moses did not last. It began to diminish. Yet, the glory we can gaze upon grows daily. Paul saw that brilliance when He met Jesus, and consistently looked unto Him, becoming an even more radiant Christian. It is something every believer should experience and the Apostle wrote of it:

"Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stones, came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to look directly at Moses' face because of the glory from his face-a fading [glory]- how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness overflows with even more glory. In fact, what had been glorious is not glorious now by comparison because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was fading away was glorious, what endures will be even more glorious.

Therefore, having such a hope, we use great boldness. [We are] not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites could not stare at the the end of what was fading away, but their minds were closed. For to this day, at the reading of the old covenant, the same veil remains; it is not lifted, because it is set aside [only] in Christ. Even to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts, but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:7-18 HCSB)

So, the glory grows until one golden daybreak we are summoned into the fullest glory of eternity!

"When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me." (Charles Gabriel)


Thursday, February 09, 2012


" 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to Me. Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine," (Exodus 19:4, 5 HCSB)

The baby eagle is born to soar. It is the work of the parent to prepare the little one. It was time for Israel to spread her wings. God’s people—like the eagle are born to soar!

In chapter nineteen of Exodus, we find God calling His children to rise to fulfill their potential. He has some choice lessons to teach them—to get them out of the nest, as it were. He instructs them concerning reward, conveying responsibility and commanding reverence.

Here is a word concerning REWARD--We are a special treasure (v.1-5).

“In the third month, on the same day [of the month] that the Israelites had left the land of Egypt, they entered the Wilderness of Sinai. After they departed from Rephidim, they entered the Wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness, and Israel camped there in front of the mountain.
Moses went up [the mountain] to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain: ‘This is what you must say to the house of Jacob, and explain to the Israelites: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to Me. Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine…” (Exodus 19:1-5 HCSB)

God’s reward to His people was His grace. He delivered them from bondage and birthed them into new life. So, He has done for us, in saving us from sin and bringing us into new life in Christ.

God’s reward from His people is our growth. God has the rewarding experience of seeing us learn to fly! All parents know the joy of seeing our children learn new things and watching them grow up. We treasure those moments! So, our Heavenly Father is delighted when we begin to flap our wings—even feebly, at first—for we are growing into the potential for which He has chosen us.

But, these words Moses was to share with the fledgling nation were not just about reward. There is a word conveying RESPONSIBILITY—We have a sacred task (v.6-9).

“and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.” These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.’
After Moses came back, he summoned the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. Then all the people responded together, ‘We will do all that the Lord has spoken.’ So Moses brought the people's words back to the Lord.
The Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear when I speak with you and will always believe you.’ Then Moses reported the people's words to the Lord.” (Exodus 19:6-9 HCSB)

We teach children responsibility. It is an indispensable lesson. As they develop, they will bear more and more responsibility. This is true in spiritual maturity, as well.

God’s people have a great responsibility to represent God to others. We are His priests. God did not choose Israel to convey a smug self-righteousness as though they were better than the other nations. He set them apart as a holy nation, so that His light would shine as a beacon from them.

When people see us, they need to see the God whom we represent. A newborn eagle looks very little like the majestic bird it will become, but as it matures it begins to look like the eagle that birthed it. So, as we grow up, the Christian is more and more like Christ. Others should see Jesus in us.

God’s people have a grave responsibility to reach others for God. This is what a priest does. He is an advocate—a mediator. Israel was to call the nations to repentance and reconciliation with God. Sadly, they didn’t grow up—always childishly, selfishly squawking for God to care for them, wholly unconcerned about others. If we grow and soar to our potential, we recognize that we have been chosen to be instruments of inclusion. We are God’s special people because we have been given a sacred task—the Great Commission.

So, Israel would soar if they heeded God’s call concerning reward and conveying responsibility. Furthermore, there is a word commanding REVERENCE—We need a sanctifying trust (v.10-25).

“And the Lord told Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. They must wash their clothes and be prepared by the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put boundaries for the people all around the [mountain] and say: Be careful that you don't go up on the mountain or touch its base. Anyone who touches the mountain will be put to death. No hand may touch him; instead he will be stoned or shot [with arrows]. No animal or man will live. When the ram's horn sounds a long blast, they may go up the mountain.’
Then Moses came down from the mountain to the people and consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. He said to the people, ‘Be prepared by the third day. Do not have sexual relations with women.’
On the third day, when morning came, there was thunder and lightning, a thick cloud on the mountain, and a loud trumpet sound, so that all the people in the camp shuddered. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke because the Lord came down on it in fire. Its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him in the thunder.
The Lord came down on Mount Sinai at the top of the mountain. Then the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and he went up. The Lord directed Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people not to break through to see the Lord; otherwise many of them will die. Even the priests who come near the Lord must purify themselves or the Lord will break out [in anger] against them.’
But Moses responded to the Lord, ‘The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, since You warned us: Put a boundary around the mountain and consider it holy.’ And the Lord replied to him, ‘Go down and come back with Aaron. But the priests and the people must not break through to come up to the Lord, or He will break out [in anger] against them.’ So Moses went down to the people and told them.” (Exodus 19:10-25 HCSB)

Could you imagine an eaglet attacking a mature eagle? Would you imagine that it would foul its nest? So, Israel was to respect the holiness of God. They were to be clean when they approached Him. It is wonderful that we have such a loving relationship with God, but we must never make this an excuse for a lack of respect. He remains God—and we are not.

I am an adult now. But, God still expects me to honor my father. That is commanded. If we are to show such respect to a fallen human being, what ought we to do concerning our Holy, Heavenly Father?

Perhaps you have heard the Grecian mythical story of Icarus.

Along with his father, Daedalus, the two were imprisoned on Crete. Daedalus devised two pairs of wings that they might escape. The father warned his son, however, to follow his line of flight—to fly neither too high toward the sun, lest the wax which held the feathers in place would melt, nor too low near the sea, lest the moisture dampen the wings and make them too heavy to fly.

He didn’t listen to his father. The thrill of flying overcame him, and he rose higher and higher, throwing caution to the wind that lifted him. Too late, he realized he had climbed too high, the wax melted, the feathers fell off and he plummeted into the sea and drowned.

In our desire to soar—let us be sure we respect the flight pattern God has established for us. We arrogantly ignore it to our own peril. Lucifer was not content to soar where God had placed the lofty angel. He wanted a higher throne—God’s—and thus he fell and became Satan.
Do you want to soar? We were born for that purpose. Learn these lessons and you may!