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Archive for March, 2009

“Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there.” Numbers 20:26

Several years ago I discovered the writings of Art Katz, which have been transformational for me.   I had never been a great fan of Leviticus, dreading only the genealogies more.  But Art Katz brought out some wonderful nuances of this book.  In particular, the consecration of Aaron and his sons for the priesthood was a striking passage.  (Leviticus 8).  As part of the ceremony, Moses took them to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, gathered all the congregation around, and then stripped and washed them before putting the priestly garments on them.  Although the priesthood was the highest calling, it involved the most humiliating initiation.

I have seen artists’ renditions of the high priestly garments and they are beautifully ornate.  Of a certainty, they drew attention.  It must have been quite an experience to wear those robes, that breastplate, the holy crown.

However, as the time drew near for Aaron’s death, Moses took Aaron up the mountain and he left the priesthood the same way he entered it – stripped before the watching world.

Just like Aaron, none of us enter into this priesthood of believers without being stripped of our own righteousness and broken over our sin.  It is a humiliating experience to have your utter sinfulness revealed and all pretense of our own goodness stripped away.  Oh, the tears and groanings and soul wrenching pain of repentance.  But after the humiliation, we are washed with His Word and clothed with His righteousness.  And although we entered this world through birth, it is only through this second birth that we truly begin to live.

But there will come a day, the day appointed for our departing from this world, when death will have its moment.   Taken by strangers, we will be prepared for death as our lifeless bodies will be stripped and washed and put into the ground.

Humiliation and nakedness – in the beginning and the end.  But what about the stuff between?  That time between entrance into the priesthood and exiting this world….

For somewhere around 40 years Aaron was high priest.  And while it wasn’t always pleasant, his position did give him a unique position in relation to God and the people.  40 years to be faithful or unfaithful.  40 years to be a blessing or a hindrance.  40 years to more fully learn the ways and nature of this God or to become insulated from him by religion.

What are we doing with these few years between life and death?  This is the question we must ask ourselves.  When that second stripping comes, will we be able to face it with joy, knowing that we have run this race well?

It is my prayer that we will.  May God help us to be faithful to do all and be all to the glory of His name.

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Delivered

“So the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.”  Exodus 14:30

I recently read this verse and stopped to think about it for a few moments.  I’ve never seen a dead body other than at a funeral when they’ve been prepared to be seen.  Death made presentable.

But these Egyptians were recently dead, crushed by crashing walls of water.  And now their dead bodies littered the shore of the Red Sea, in plain sight of Israel.  I wonder what it was like to see this and realize this was the cost of your deliverance.

Only a short time before they had been required to kill a lamb for the purpose of putting its blood on their doorposts that they might be delivered from the destroyer sent to kill the firstborn in each family.  The death of the lamb was the cost of their deliverance.

And only a short time later they camped at Mt. Sinai where they received from God the law and the system of sacrifice which provided covering of their sins.  Every day animals were killed, sacrifices were offered and blood was sprinkled.  An abundance of blood and death.  This was the cost of their deliverance.

Death and deliverance, hand in hand.  A pattern repeated year after year.

Into this system the Messiah is born.  As Jesus gained prominence in Israel through the working of miracles and His teaching, great hope was stirred up in Israel.  Was this the long awaited One who would bring deliverance?

The answer was a resounding Yes!  But the deliverance He would bring would be much more than mere freedom from Roman oppression.  It would be freedom from sin and its penalty.  His was a death that would bring a complete and perfect deliverance.

“Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” 2 Corinthians 1:9-10

In Jesus, God did deliver us, does deliver us and will deliver us.  AMEN!!

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Give us men who will speak Your truth no matter the consequences.

Give us men who prefer to speak the truth of Your word to a few rather than to speak the fluff of this world to a multitude.  Men who have no agenda other than Christ and no need for celebrity status.

Lord give us men who cry out to You in prayer before they ever step into the pulpit. 

Lord give us men whose voices thunder with a word from heaven; whose souls are aflame with a heavenly vision of a glorious Saviour.

Oh give us men who will not water down Your truth because it seems too hard, too difficult for us to accept and obey, but who will tell us with all the unction that Your spirit presses upon them what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Give us men who will fly in the face of societal norms without fear when the faithful preaching of the gospel requires it.

Lord, we do not need 10 steps to improve ourselves. We need to know how to die that Christ might be formed in us.  Give us preachers who not only teach this truth, but live it before us.

Teach us, O man of God, the whole counsel of God.  The things that bring us comfort and those things that wring our souls with conviction and require something of us.

Oh God, give us preachers!

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By Jonathan Edwards

Jesus Christ has true excellency, and so great an excellency,
that when you come to truly see him, you look no further,
but your mind rests there.

There is a transcendent glory and an
ineffable sweetness in Christ.

You see that you had been pursuing shadows,
but now you have found the substance.

You realize that you had been seeking happiness in the stream,
but now you have found the ocean.

The excellency of Christ is an object adequate to the natural
cravings of the soul, and is sufficient to fill its capacity.

Christ has an infinite excellency, such as the mind desires,
in which it can find no bounds; and the more the mind
contemplates Him, the more excellent does He appear.

Each new discovery of Christ makes His beauty appear more
ravishing, and the mind can see no end to His excellency.
There is room enough for the mind to go deeper and deeper,
and never come to the bottom.

Christ’s excellency is always fresh and new, and will as much
delight us, after we have beheld Him a thousand, or ten thousand
years, as when we have seen him the first moment.

The soul is exceedingly ravished when
it first looks on the beauty of Christ.
It is never weary of Him.

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Agony

“And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly” – Luke 22:44

I love how in every aspect of the life of Jesus, we see a model of how to do things right.  As Jesus faces the ultimate conclusion of His time here on earth, He retreats into the garden of Gethsemane for some time in prayer.   How can we even imagine the intensity of what He felt in those moments?  And as the intensity of His agony increased, so did the intensity of His prayer.

I face some intense moments.  We all do.  Although they pale in comparison to what Jesus faced, they are still difficult.  Agony comes in a variety of flavors.

If I were to rewrite this verse to refer to myself, it would read something like this:

“and being in great agony, she raised her voice and complained.”
“and being in great agony, she became frustrated and hopeless.”
“and being in great agony, she felt distant from God and didn’t pray.”
“and being in great agony, she felt exceedingly sorry for herself.”
“and being in great agony, she pouted and felt that life had treated her very unfairly.”

I know that in my most difficult moments that I should run to God immediately, but often I don’t do that. 

A few moments to wallow in self-pity, a few moments to garner the sympathy of others, a few moments to determine how I’m going to fix things.  And the agony only increases and I am no closer to God.

How true are the words of this famous hymn:

O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer

Lord, in the various agonies of life, help me to immediately draw near to You.

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“All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin.”  Numbers 6:4

Under the old covenant, a person could take the vow of a Nazarite and separate themselves to God for a period of time.  There were some people that were Nazirites from birth.  Samson and John the Baptist are examples.  But it seems for the most part to be a vow that was taken voluntarily.

Numbers 6:2 gives us the purpose for this vow – “to separate themselves unto the Lord.”

Separation – this is a word that fascinates me.  My attention has been intensely riveted on this concept for many months.  It is clearly a Biblical concept, demonstrated in the Old Testament by God choosing Israel as His own people from among the nations and then in the New Testament by Christ calling His own people from out of the world.  In neither case was there a physical separation from the world, but there was a clear expectation that there would be such a profound difference in the manner of life, that a distinction would be noticeable.

This separation of belonging to Christ is to be radical and all encompassing.  Just as the Nazarite ate no part of the grape, from seed to skin, we are to be radically separated from the world.  Our interests, our priorities, our conversations – these should not follow the pattern of those who do not name Christ.  From the innermost hidden recesses of our hearts to the outer person we present to the world, we should be different.  From seed to skin. 

But God forbid that we should merely take on the external forms of religion.  How does God receive any glory from one who separates himself only to becomes a Pharisee, glorying in his separation, too holy to associate with “lesser beings”??  We do not turn away from the pleasures this world has to offer to follow a system of rules.  But we have discovered what Thomas Chalmers calls “the expulsive power of a new affection”.  We are not only separated from, but we are separated to.  Separated to this Christ, this Saviour who has so mercifully redeemed us.  All else pales in comparison and the world’s entertainments and amusements seem dull and lifeless after a glimpse of the glory of the eternal Lord.

I will close with these words from Mr. Chalmers

The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself? The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world, by a simple act of resignation. But may not the heart be prevailed upon to admit into its preference another, who shall subordinate the world, and bring it down from its wonted ascendancy? If the throne which is placed there must have an occupier, and the tyrant that now reigns has occupied it wrongfully, he may not leave a bosom which would rather detain him than be left in desolation. But may he not give way to the lawful sovereign, appearing with every charm that can secure His willing admittance, and taking unto himself His great power to subdue the moral nature of man, and to reign over it? In a word, if the way to disengage the heart from the positive love of one great and ascendant object, is to fasten it in positive love to another, then it is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing to the mental eye the worth and excellence of the latter, that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new.

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“What has stripped the seeming beauty from these idols of the earth? Not the sense of right or duty, but the sight of Nobler Birth.
Not the crushing of those idols, with its bitter pain and smart,
but the beaming of His Beauty, the unveiling of His Heart.
‘Tis the look that melted Peter, ‘tis the face that Stephen saw,
‘tis the heart that wept with Mary, can alone from idols draw.
Draw, and win, and fill completely till the cup o’erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols, who have companied with Him?”

(author unknown)

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