Jesus again was clearly a change in the entire groundwork of how humanity related to God. Here in Hebrews 9, the author speaks about how the blood of Christ is much better than the blood of any sacrificial animal.
Heb 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
Heb 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
Heb 9:13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
Heb 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
This is definitely significant then. God established the Old Testament sacrifice system as we see in Leviticus. It did serve for covering over the sins of the people. It is not as if God made a false system that was leading people down the wrong path. Rather, when Jesus came, the entire system was being overhauled.
There still needed to be a way for a people to reconcile with God, but Jesus covered it all once and for all. That is certainly a difference. Redemption was complete forever.
Thinking about this in the light of our lives then, it should inspire a type of gratefulness. Jesus did not have to die. God did not have to care about us. Even the sacrificial system laid out in the Old Testament was not necessary. There would be no way for people to be reconciled to God before or after Jesus, but God did not need to provide any of this. However, because He desired a relationship with each and every one of us and invites us to spend an eternity with Him if we choose, He made this possible for us. He didn’t have to, but we should be thankful He did.
I was at a small group last night, and we were talking about how hard it is for some people to want to surrender control of their lives to Jesus Christ. We kind of have some type of innate selfishness that motivates us to want to do things our way.
In Matthew 26, Jesus Christ, the most powerful person in the universe, showed His willingness to follow through with the will of God. Even though He had prayed twice that if it was possible, He would like the cup to pass from Him, it was clear that these events needed to happen.
Mat 26:52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
Mat 26:53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
Mat 26:54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
If you recall, this took place immediately after one of the disciples sliced off the ear of one of the people who was arresting Jesus.
He makes a great point. He could have been pulled out of the situation, but this was how it had to be. He simply understood that as difficult as this entire experience was going to be for Him, He was the perfect sacrifice. Way back in the Garden of Eden, it was prophesied that one was coming who would crush the head of the serpent.
I think that if Jesus Christ was willing to follow the will of God all the way to the cross, it should not be that difficult for me to give that control away as well. It should not be that difficult, but it is. I think that we can learn a lot from the example of Jesus here. He was willing to lay down His power because He knew it was more important to follow the will of the Father.
Ezekiel 18 is a very telling chapter. We are told to exactly how people end up becoming separated from God.
Eze 18:1 The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,
Eze 18:2 What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?
Eze 18:3 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.
Eze 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
This chapter takes on two very important problems here. On one hand, people are saying that parents or children were responsible for each other’s sins. That is rejected later in this chapter. God affirms that each person is responsible for his or her own actions.
However, more interestingly in my opinion is that this chapter does provide a way for someone to get into heaven. Notice in verse four. If a person sins, he or she will die. That does imply that if you live a perfect life, you are worthy for heaven based on your own merit.
Verses five through nine reaffirm this idea that if you do everything that aligns with the will of God, you will live.
The problem with that is that it doesn’t apply to me. I doubt it applies to you either. I have yet to come across anyone who is perfect. Some people might think they are, and we certainly might try to put on a front that we are without fault, but at the most basic level, I have never found anyone who has done everything exactly right.
That puts us in a bit of a predicament. We are souls that sin. Therefore, we are dead in our sins. Dead people can’t do anything to alter their condition of death.
How amazing is it then that we have Jesus Christ? How amazing is that we have a God who was willing to send His one and only Son to provide the sacrifice that we could not do anything about ourselves? As dead people, we could not improve our situation, but God brought new life to us.
It is worth reflecting on how lost we are without God and how great His love was and still is for us.
Old Testament worship was obviously different than worship today, and Psalms 122 talks about the important role that Jerusalem and specifically the Temple had in the Old Testament world.
Psa 122:8 For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.
Psa 122:9 Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.
For a little bit more context, we are reading a prayer for peace in Jerusalem. Verse nine tells us why Jerusalem was so important. We are seeking good for Jerusalem because of the house of God. The Temple was very important.
It was important because it was the center of all worship. As we read about in the Bible, there were times of the year where the Jewish population all traveled to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple. They came from all over the country to present their sacrifices. This was a big deal in the Old Testament system.
However, then you have Jesus coming onto the scene. The whole system was overhauled. We still believe in the importance of corporate worship, and church is still an important piece of the puzzle. However, the entire sacrificial system was no longer necessary because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.
He died by crucifixion after living a perfect life. Through His death, we can be forgiven once and for all. We don’t need to offer a new lamb every year or anything like that because Jesus covered it all. The debt that we never could have paid ourselves has been paid.
By looking at the Old Testament system, you can certainly see why this Psalm was written. Obviously, Jesus had not died yet, so this was a very important piece of life for the Jewish people. I think that we sometimes can forget the significance that it had for them.
Psalms 69 has a pretty eye-opening thought packed in the middle of it. Christianity is not lived in a bubble. We not only have brothers and sisters in Christ, but we also have a world out there that is watching was sometimes not so friendly eyes.
Psa 69:5 O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.
Psa 69:6 Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.
Psa 69:7 Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.
Psa 69:8 I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.
God knows that we all make mistakes, and we see that in verse five. However, verse six is just as true. We acknowledge that we sin, but the world expects us as Christians to never really mess up. We are held to a higher standard, and I wish that we always lived up to it. We are still humans though, and I am afraid that we (speaking generally about Christians here) occasionally drive people farther away from Jesus.
If you want even more good news, let me lay it on you here. When you are Christian, people sometimes go to great lengths to try to create shame. For example, yesterday was Sanctity of Life Sunday. Many Christians get accused of hating women because we take a stand for the rights of unborn life. It is certainly not true that Christians hate women, but it is certainly an embarrassing thing to be charged with. Sometimes, all you need is a perception to stick whether it is true or not, and you have created that potential shame. Some people might fade away because, “I don’t want to be associated with that lot that hates women.” Even though it is entirely untrue, people try to make Christians be ashamed for being Christian and for holding certain values.
Before I leave you, let me give you one more piece of good news. Christianity certainly has the potential to isolate us from the world. We are called to be in the world but not of the world. Jesus Himself said that we would be hated by the world because we do not belong to the world anymore. There are definitely some differences between choices we make as Christians. The people you are close to might not understand why you believe what you believe or do what you do. That can be tough.
So, I have painted a pretty happy picture for you. We might still make mistakes and be judged for it, people might try to humiliate or embarrass us for our beliefs and the people who matter the most to us might not understand why we’re different.
I guess you might be wondering why Christianity is even worth it. It seems to have a lot of issues and side effects.
I was listening to a lecture today by Greg Kokul, the author of Tactics (which I reviewed here), and he made a very interesting point. For Christians, everything after our time here on earth is only going to get better whereas for non-Christians, this is the best it is ever going to get. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet a person who has a perfect life. People are very through plenty of difficult things here on earth, and for Christians, we have hope. We have hope in a bright future, and we have hope in an eternity spent with God. No matter what trials may face us here on earth, we know that our future is in the best hands possible.
Merry Christmas to all of you out there! I hope that you have a wonderful holiday and enjoy time with friends, family or whoever else you might be spending the day with. As you can obviously tell, we are not taking a holiday from reading a chapter per day, so today we are in Psalms 43.
We do not know the author, but in my opinion, it sounds a lot like what David had written in previous Psalms. The interesting part about this one is that he (or I guess possibly she) makes a very appropriate request considering today is Christmas.
Psa 43:3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
Psa 43:4 Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.
The author is asking for the light and truth to come from God, and after that has happened, the author will be able to approach the altar of God.
How perfect is that?
Let’s talk about light and truth. Jesus was indeed both of those things for the world.
Joh 1:7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
Joh 1:8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
Joh 1:9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
As most of you probably already know, these verses are speaking about John the Baptist’s mission to tell people about Jesus. Jesus is indeed the true Light.
Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Jesus being the Truth brings quite a few implications along with it. It implies absolute honesty, and it also implies omniscience. If Jesus is truth by nature, then it seems to me that He must be able to provide the true answer in every situation. The only way to do that is to be omniscient and understand all things about every situation.
Now, with these two characteristics, we then read about approaching the altar of God. In the Old Testament, you had to be a priest if you wanted to do that. As I understand it, the altar was generally the territory of the priests as they needed to handle sacrificing and other things.
Notice then that because of this Light and Truth, this author is going to be able to approach the altar. Perhaps the author was a priest, but we don’t know that for sure. If the author was not a priest, then we are talking about a game changer. We are talking about someone who is capable of giving all people direct access to the God of the universe. It sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?
Jesus came, lived, died and rose again. He provided the perfect sacrifice that covers over the sins of anyone who will receive that forgiveness. That is really the most miraculous part of Christmas. It was the first step in a process that provided salvation for you and me. It is the best gift you could ever receive.
Psalms 31 is interesting because it continues on the general theme of trusting in God but it takes it to another level. We often times trust God to give us what we want, but listen to how David words it.
Psa 31:14 But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God.
Psa 31:15 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.
Psa 31:16 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies’ sake.
I know it is pretty obvious that David wants God to save him from his enemies. That was definitely the preferred outcome, and I would be the same way. However, before he even says what he wants, he says that his times are in God’s hands.
He began in the right place. He certainly knew what he wanted, but he also knew that God was ultimately in the driver’s seat. I think that is what we need to learn from this chapter.
It is okay to have preferences, and it is okay to ask God for a certain outcome. However, within all of that, we need to remember that God will act in the way that He sees fit. We don’t always understand what God is doing, but we can be confident that He is doing His will.
Let me give you another picture of this in practical terms.
Paul really wanted to visit the church in Rome. He wrote a letter to them, and here is what he said right near the end.
Rom 15:30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;
Rom 15:31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
Rom 15:32 That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.
He had a list of things that he wanted to happen, but he made sure that he ended it by saying that all of this would happen by the will of God. If God had other plans for him, he would be ready to respond. He knew that if God called, his own plans needed to go out the window.
I hope we can live like this. I am a planner, and if you want to know my general life plan, I could tell you a pretty solid outline (I won’t bore you with that here, but take my word for it). Personally, this passage speaks to me because I need to learn to let up on the reins. The plan is fine, but I need to always be aware that God might have a different plan, and I need to be ready to move with that. That is a tough one for me as a strong Type A personality.
Psalms 24 begins with David’s main premise.
Psa 24:1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
Psa 24:2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
Basically, God is in control of the world, and He is in that position because He created all of it. The Creator has a right to own His creation.
Then, with this in mind, we move on to the main question at the chapter.
Psa 24:3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
When you climb that hill, you are going to get closer to God. You are going to end up in a better place than you are right now, but how do you go about climbing that mountain?
Psa 24:4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
Psa 24:5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Psa 24:6 This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.
Here is the answer to that question. Do you see the salvation message here? We need to have clean hands and our hearts need to be right with God. In other words, we need forgiveness and grace. Even though David was writing in the Old Testament, it is kind of interesting that you can see foreshadowing of New Testament events.
It is also significant because think about the Old Testament sacrifice system. It would not remove your sins in the sense that Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice did, but you did perform them often to help cover over your sins. In other words, you did clean your hands. It didn’t change the inside, but it did change the surface.
On top of that, your heart needs to be pure and have good motives just like we need to today. You could perform all the sacrifices in the world in David’s day, but they did not mean much if you did not have that desire to love God. It is kind of like that today. Anybody can say a simple salvation prayer, but your heart really needs to be in the right place where you actually desire a relationship with God rather than some kind of divine insurance policy.
I know that David was writing in the Old Testament, so he was obviously writing about what he knew in the Old Testament system. However, I think that we can take what he wrote and apply it forward to our lives today. Certainly, Jesus was a game changer in how we relate to God, but we still need to accept His salvation for the ultimate cleansing of our hands and do it with a pure heart.
Welcome to one of the most interesting creature stories in the Bible! In Job 41, we meet leviathan, and there has certainly been a lot of conversation of what this creature was or is. For some people, it was a whale, and others say it was a crocodile.
Some people have equated it with Satan or some kind of lesser demon, and some have said that it was a dinosaur that literally existed.
I guess that we could break down each and every one of those possibilities, but I want to focus on an important characteristic of leviathan.
Job 41:9 Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?
Job 41:10 None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?
Whatever leviathan is or was, it was frightening to people. I think that if it is any of those possibilities I listed above, we might have some right to be afraid of them.
However, if we are too afraid to mess with a part of God’s creation, how can we possibly then be prepared to stand before God?
The creation cannot be greater than the Creator, and if that is true, God is undoubtedly greater than leviathan no matter what it really is.
How many times do we end up in a situation like this? We get all afraid of something in the world and somehow fail to remember that God is above all of it. Let me give you an example.
I have always been an overachiever. I put a lot of effort into whatever I do. I think that we have an obligation certainly to use the gifts that we have been given, but there is also a point where all of the human effort in the world doesn’t cut it. Sometimes, we need to simply trust that God has some kind of plan in place, and, rather than attempt to work everything out ourselves, we need to let God be in control.
That is a hard one, but it does tie into what I wrote yesterday. It involves surrender, and it involves sacrificing ourselves and our own agendas. It is not easy.
Job 14 made me think of the generally-assumed concept of sin nature. Basically, this doctrine teaches that we are all born with sin and are separated from God as a result of that sin. The only way for us to bridge that gap is to accept salvation and forgiveness which is the direct consequence of Jesus sacrificing Himself as a propitiation for all sins.
Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.
I bring this up because it makes me think about how amazing salvation really is. If we all born into this circumstance where we ultimately cannot help ourselves as Job points out, then we are talking about billions of people who have the opportunity to receive this gift. Obviously, not everyone makes that decision, but it is not as if there was some kind of limit to the amount of people that could be forgiven through this act.
If everyone was to all of a sudden come to God today, then Jesus’ sacrifice would be enough. That is one thing that is so remarkable. In my mind, I tend to think of things that have definition. They have some kind of limit, and there is always some kind of boundary.
There are no restrictions on the number of people who can fit in heaven. I think that that should put us in a rather mission-oriented mindset.
If we know what I pointed out earlier that no human is capable of making the unclean clean, then wouldn’t it make sense that we want to tell people about where they can find that forgiveness? Shouldn’t we want people to know what we know?
I think that the answer is self-evident. If we face the fact that all of us need forgiveness, we need to also be committed to helping people find their way towards its source. It won’t come from humanity.