Friday, July 29, 2016

Jesus as the Mercy Seat Part XII

We are exploring Jesus in the Old Testament. I posted in an earlier blog that Jesus' presence is found in the Ark of Covenant.  I would like to explore this idea a bit further. Specifically, I would like to look at the covering or lid of the Ark.  In Exodus 26:34, we read: "Then put the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—on top of the Ark of the Covenant inside the Most Holy Place."

The Ark of the Covenant is really two pieces of furniture: the box itself and the lid. It was behind a curtain. There was no light in the Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place, where it stood. The lampstand that provided the light was outside of the curtain. Thus, only God Himself and His glory would provide the light in the Holy of Holies.

Jesus constantly referred to Himself as the Light. Interesting.

The cover of the Ark was pure gold, and was to be the very dwelling place where God met His people. Remember what was in the Ark? Manna, Aaron's rod and the Ten Commandments. Yet, all are covered by this gold lid. You might expect to see them displayed to the people or set alongside the bread and the lampstand. But they are covered. Why?

Without Jesus, none of this makes sense.  But if He is the Light, then expect illumination!

You would want to proudly display the Ten Commandments, written by the very finger of God upon stone. This permanent material shows the everlasting nature of this covenant. The Law provides the very basis of your existence, and thereby grants you an identity: you are the chosen ones, living in a convenantal relationship with the Almighty King of the Universe. You would want it proudly visible, reminding you and everyone else of this special relationship.

You would want to display Aaron's rod, with its bud, to show that Aaron's priesthood is superior to all others. It budded miraculously, and has stayed budded. The staff he carried was not a dead piece of wood. It budded as if it were still wedded to the tree. Why wouldn't you want everyone to see how your priest is chosen and his staff is a sign of that favor?

You would want that manna out where everyone could see it. Remember how any extra gathered manna would rot? You weren't allowed to store it and yet, look at that! It sits in a jar, perpetually fresh. You could point to the jar and comment how God fed you and your people with bread from His very own hand.

Yet, into a box they go, and they have a lid over them. Out of sight. Nothing to brag on or point out. Covered. Now, admittedly, the gold cover is beautiful, with its cherubim adorning the top. But the ark is behind a curtain, and only one person, once a year, could go in. He sprinkled blood over the cover or Mercy Seat on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, for himself and for the people.

The Ark was not a show piece, nor its contents.

Did that bother the people? Did they desire to show something off, akin to the ostentatious displays of the Egyptians?

What if you dared to look into the Ark? 1 Samuel 6:19 shows us: "But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them."

So, how does Jesus illuminate the Ark and its rather odd (humanly speaking) treatment of its contents?

The contents under the lid had to be covered. Why? Without a covering, the contents are powerless in and of themselves. The blood, sprinkled over the lid once a year, illustrates the need for cleansing the people from sin. That is first and foremost.

But, those objects within the ark speak of a time to come when The Blood will bring life to the contents contained within. How so?

Hebrews 10:1-4 says, "The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."

So, the annual covering of blood upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark was pointing to the One to come, Who would impart life through His own blood.

Let's start with the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

Without the Law having a covering of blood, it stands starkly, condemning all we do.

Paul says of the Law in Romans 7:21-23: 21, "I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me."

What is the answer to the Law with its standard of righteousness and our sinful nature? 

Paul says in Romans 7:24-5 and into 8:1-4: "Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin....So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit."

The Law needed the covering of the blood, for people had to be cleansed each year. But that very blood points to Jesus.

Now, within us (like the contents being kept inside the box) this Law is transformed into a new law: the Law of the Spirit. This law doesn't negate the older Law. Our sinful nature, made into a new nature with the blood of the Lamb, now wants to do righteous things that God asks of us.

How about the budded rod? How does something dead, like a severed branch, have life in it? It needs sap to reanimate it. It is subject to the covering of blood on the Mercy Seat each year, and yet it points to The Blood to come. This Blood becomes our very life, as Jesus says in John 15:5: "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."

We produce buds and then fruit: "But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father." (John 15:7 & 8)

Aaron and his priesthood needed a covering in order to conduct their appointed office. But a greater Priest will come and be the covering itself.

Then there's the manna. It provided life to those in the desert. The manna tells of His very life in John 6:53-8: "So Jesus said again, 'I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.'"

The manna needed a covering year after year--it was food that would only temporarily satisfy a person. But One was coming whose very flesh would satisfy forever our deepest hunger.

Jesus Himself provided the blood and is Himself the Mercy Seat--the ultimate covering--for He covers us, makes us righteousness, provides us with His own life within us and nourishes us: "For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus." (Romans 3:25-27)

Jesus accomplished this as our High Priest:  "Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant."  (Hebrews 9:13-15)

Hebrews 1:3 proclaims: "The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven."

No need to be a raider of the lost Ark. It disappeared for a reason. Its job was done. It pointed the way to the One to come.

Jesus became The Mercy Seat for us to encounter God. Now that the curtain is torn, and with His light flooding in, we can "come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." (Hebrews 4:16-17).

Now it all makes sense.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Jesus in the Old Testament: Isaiah Part XI

     As we look for Jesus in the Old Testament, by searching those verses where His name, Yeshua ("salvation") is used, we come to a greater understanding of Who He is.
     We are currently looking through Isaiah.  We looked at Isaiah 12:3 in an earlier blog, and now we will examine Isaiah 25:6-9: 
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
He will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation (yeshua).”

     Wow.  Jesus' name is woven into the last verse, but His presence is felt throughout the other verses.
     Let's set the scene.  We are invited to a banquet to celebrate a victory.  The previous verses tell of God vanquishing His enemies (the enemies of His people) and "the song of the ruthless is stilled" (verse 5).  Although Israel's enemies have been destroyed, the banquet itself is "for all peoples," not just His chosen.
     Do you detect the gentle perfume of the Messiah at this banquet?  The Messiah, emerging from Israel's powerful legacy, would be for all peoples.  So, this banquet, held with Him in attendance, would have an expansive guest list.
     The purpose of the feast is stated next.  On the very same mountain where the banquet is held, He destroys the "shroud" and the "sheet" that all people face: death itself.  Even the most decorated soldiers will someday die.  Even the most beautiful of celebrations always has an uninvited but undeterred guest:  death.
     But not this banquet.  Death will not lurk around His peoples' victory.  They will dine with no other enemy in sight, including death.  So, because of death's defeat, our God will walk up to each and every guest, and wipe away their tears.  He will point to death's defeat and each of His guest will have no reason to ever cry again.  
     What else is banished from the feast?  "Disgrace" is taken away.  Death is the future and disgrace is in the present, because of the past.  Our heart rejoices in death being gone, but we have to live now, remembering what we have done.
     That, too, is now gone.  
     Realizing all of this, that victory, death and disgrace are gone and we sit before His bounty in utter peace, we too will exclaim that only our God can do this!  We only task is to trust Him, and He saved us. Rejoicing and gladness is our only response to His yeshua, to His salvation.  
     Salvation is of God and from God, and we, sitting in His presence, must rejoice.  
     What kind of meal, what kind of gathering, could make any of this even possible?
     Where could we go where death is banished forever and our disgrace is taken away?  In Matthew 26:26-29, we read:

   While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it          to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

   Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all        of you. This is my blood of the covenant,which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of              sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink        it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

     Do you see it?  At this banquet long ago, this Passover feast, Jesus fulfilled the promises of Isaiah's vision:  His death and resurrection vanquished death and His blood cleanses our consciences, removing our disgrace (Heb. 10:22).   
     Paul echoes Isaiah's banquet with its divine purpose and its fulfillment in Yeshua:    

     But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.            For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.                For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits;        then, when he comes, those who belong to him.  Then the end will come, when he hands over the        kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must        reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For          he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under            him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he        has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so        that God may be all in all.

     So, let us once again listen to the guests in Isaiah's vision give praise to God, and blessed are we to see the fulfillment in Yeshua, Who made it all possible:  
Isaiah: “Surely this is our God..."
Colossians 2:9: "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form..."

Isaiah: "We trusted in him, and he saved us..."
Romans 10:9:  "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Isaiah: "This is the Lord, we trusted in him..."
John 14:1: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me."

Isaiah: "Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation (yeshua).”
Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"

Blessings on you today.  Draw near to God.  He is waiting to draw near to you.

Isaiah 49:6-8
And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of theLord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.
Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages…

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Moses on Mountain, Jesus on the Mountain Part X

We are exploring Jesus in the Old Testament.  I want you to consider how Jesus, like Moses, brings the Law from the mountain.  This is the New Covenant, one of forgiveness of sin and the cleansing of our conscience.  

What is interesting is Matthew, under the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit, sensed the parallel between Moses and Jesus.  The difference is, when Moses came down from the mountain, his face aglow, with God's decrees, the people were not allowed to go up the mountain.  Jesus went up the mountain and brought God down to us, allowing us to commune with the Lord Almighty.  

But He would have one more mountain to ascend, and that mountain, Calvary, would forever change our standing with God:  We now can, through the blood of the Son, come boldly to the throne of grace.  

So, enjoy the interplay between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, as I juxtapose Exodus 19 and 20 with Matthew 5 & 8.  (I will add in my thoughts as well.) 

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.”

Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, ‘Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.’”

The Lord replied, “Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them.”

So Moses went down to the people and told them.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  
(The new Moses goes up to bring God down.  But He is not enclosed in fire and smoke.  He is sitting right in front of them.)

And God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
(Recognize the great things God has done for you and know, that although you wander in life's desert, you are children of the Almighty.  Rely not on yourself, but only on Him.  That is true worship.) 

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  
(Life will astound you at times.  You will tempted to reach for what you can see for comfort.  But if you bow to the Unseen, with a sincere heart, your children will see you and will remember the faith of the one who called only on the name of the Lord.  Faith begets faith, but idolatry begets idolatry. God's love is fierce and we need to demonstrate that with loyalty to Him.) 

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
(Meekness is not weakness--it is grace under pressure.  How do we sustain that grace?  Only by calling on His name in love and commitment to Him, not shouting His name out as a curse or hiding behind it with no faith in Who He is.)

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
(Jesus is our Rest.  He has accomplished all His Father requested that He do and now He sits at the right hand of the Father.  We, too, need to enter that rest.  By sitting at the banquet table of His love and provision, only then can we satisfy our hunger and slake our thirst.  He alone is our Bread and Living Water.  Suddenly, our desert has hope and we are strengthened to bring that hope to others.) 

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  
(Honor extends to all our relationships, and upholds the dignity of another.  Our parents, as we come to realize, are all-too-human, and need mercy and grace, just as we do.  We cannot then engage in such anger and unforgiveness in our hearts that we "murder" them.  Hatred begets hatred.  Mercy is the antidote for the poison of a bruised childhood or the suffering of terrible wrongs.  If we extend mercy, we are then given mercy from the hands of the One Who bears the scars.)

You shall not commit adultery.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  
(Love is utter devotion to the beloved.  Love sees what the person is:  a child of God.  It also sees what the person can be:  the hands and feet of Christ.  So, lusting after others is a way of saying, "You are not good enough, nor ever will be."  Lusting after the things of this world is saying to God, "You are not good enough, nor ever will be."  When we love with Christ's love, we see others as He sees them.  When we love God with Christ's love, we desire only Him.  Soon, we see only Him.) 

You shall not steal.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  
(There are many thieves in this world whose sole purpose is to kill, lie and destroy.  The greatest theft of all by the roaring lion, the prince of this world, is our peace:  peace within ourselves, between us and God, and between us and others.  When we enter into the ministry of reconciliation, we are modelling the reconciliation that we have already experienced between us and God because of Christ.  Stolen peace is restored when His children walk in His love.  His children reflect Him the best when they bring peace to a world agonizing under chaos and sin.)

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 
(Lies, pure and simple, destroy.  Why?  Because they ignite anger and self-righteousness, and dehumanize the object--the accused--of wrath.  Jesus suffered under accusations of all sorts.  We will not walk without lies being thrown our way.  We are only to speak and act in truth laden with love. Let the world see only Jesus in us and if it then hurls lies at us, so be it. Our crown of thorns will be replaced by a crown of gold in His kingdom.)

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Our reward is not the goodies of this world.  Our reward comes from being a good and faithful servant.  We need not desire the world's offerings, for the world giveth and the world taketh away. We should desire only eternal possessions: a forgiven heart, a right standing with God, and the peace that passes all understanding.  Prophets spoke what God told them to.  Jesus only spoke and did what His Father told Him to do.  We can do no less, but we will gain all the more!)  

When Jesus left the mountain, He walked among the people, full of grace and truth.  As He lives His life in us, we should no less.  Blessings on you today!

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