Sacrifice 

Numbers 19:2
“This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come.'”

A heifer is a cow. One that is entirely red in color would be extremely rare, and as a result quite valuable. As part of Israel’s purification process they were to take a red heifer and offer it outside the city. Once it’s blood was symbolically sprinkled on behalf of the people, the priests were to wash with water and stay away from things that would defile them, making them unfit for service. Anyone who became defiled would need to go through a purification process that required both cleansing and a period of time. It is not difficult to see the symbolism here, or to relate this to the work of Christ and the walk of the believer.

Jesus is the represented by the red heifer, sacrificed outside the city. His blood was shed as a means of providing cleansing for sin. Once we receive Christ, we need a regular washing with water, which comes through the daily reading of God’s Word. If we desire to remain pure and useful for ministry, we need to avoid things that will make us unclean. If we happen to stumble into an area of sin, the solution is to go back to the cross where we confess our guilt, and get into the Word where we are strengthened to overcome sin. Take whatever time is necessary to be restored that we might once again become effective in ministering to others.

Pastor Jim

 

Cleansing 

Numbers 8:6
“Take the Levites from among the children of Israel and cleanse them ceremonially.”

There are times in life when there is nothing so refreshing as a shower. Standing under the flow seems to refresh and invigorate, and at times, helps me even to forget whatever things are pressing in upon me. Sometimes the only reason I step away is the hot water has run cold. As refreshing as that might be, it cannot compare to how refreshing it is to stand under the flow where our sins are being cleansed. David wrote about how blessed the man is whose transgressions are forgiven and whose sin has been covered (Psalm 32:1).

When we go to the cross and allow the cleansing blood of Jesus to wash over us, we will find that the weight of sin and the plague of guilt are washed from us and we are made clean. What an amazing time it must have been for the priest to stand before the people and be cleansed of all that made them unworthy to stand before the Lord. Instead of carrying the weight of sin and guilt, why not go through the cross to the throne of grace and allow the mercy of God to give you pardon and refresh your soul.

Pastor Jim

 

Stained Garment 

Exodus 29:20-21
“Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.”

The Lord went to great detail to explain the garments that the High Priest would wear. He referred to them as holy garments, designed for glory and for beauty. In other words, they were designed to both look beautiful and to reveal some aspect of the Lord’s glory. These garments included a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. The most highly skilled artisans in all Israel were commissioned to create them. Once the day of consecration arrived, Aaron and his sons were dressed in the most beautiful and highly technical attire the world had ever seen, but as they approached the altar, something quite striking took place. An innocent ram was killed, it’s flesh offered upon the altar, it’s blood mixed with anointing oil, and this mixture placed upon the Priest. Imagine how shocking to see the High Priest all dressed up, then have blood splattered upon his garments. No longer would our attention be drawn to his beautiful turban, breastplate or sash, now all we would notice was the stain.

God wanted the people, then and now, to understand that access to God is never based on what we try to do to earn it. All the skilled artisans on the planet could not create attire clean enough to grant access to God. Access to God is only granted when sin is covered by the blood of the innocent. This was symbolized by the blood stained garments of the Priests, and pointed to the time when Christ would make a way for all to have access to God.

Hebrews 9:12 “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

The blood was also placed upon the ear, toe and thumb of the Priest. This was symbolic of a cleansing of all that he had done, and preparation for where he would go. How often have we laid our head on our pillows at night only to be consumed with guilt, for the things we have heard, seen or touched. We live in a fallen world, and sin is always around us. It is so comforting to know there is cleansing available to free us from sin and guilt.

Pastor Jim

Clean Me

Jeremiah 48:11
“Moab has been at ease from his youth; He has settled on his dregs, And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, Nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, And his scent has not changed.”

Jeremiah is describing the judgment that will fall upon Moab. He explains, in vivid fashion, that one of the chief causes of their wickedness was the fact that they were like a vessel which had never been cleaned. Their failure to allow the difficulties of life to purify their actions, ultimately lead to their judgment and destruction.

Trials are not the most pleasurable experiences in life. Whenever we face difficulty that is beyond our ability to endure, we wonder if there is a God, and if so, why He is allowing such hardship to come our way. One reason for the difficult seasons of life, is that they are designed to stir things up in our lives, in order to purify us.

Like taking a dirty cup, filling it with hot soapy water, and shaking it back and forth to release the dregs, hardship is designed as a means of getting things out of our lives that will ultimately bring the judgment of God. Instead of questioning the love of God, we should allow difficulty to serve its purpose, and examine whether or not we are living in a way that pleases God. Had Moab turned from their wicked ways, they would not have been facing heaven’s wrath.

What about you? Are you practicing things that are unacceptable to God? I am not talking about wanting to live for God and slipping along the way, instead, I am referring to a person who is looking at the Word of God and saying, “I don’t care what it says, I am going to do what I want.” Be careful, that kind of living will lead you face-to-face with the judgment of God.

Pastor Jim

 

The Verdict 

Ezra 3:2
“Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.”

Central to returning to the Lord, was the Altar. With it, sacrifices could be offered in accordance with the Law of God. Without it, man would still be striving on his own, attempting to build his way to God. The altar, tragically, involved the sacrifice of the innocent in place of the guilty. This method of atonement was offensive to some; not because of the death of the innocent, but because of the declaration that those offering the sacrifice are guilty.

Long ago, the Cross replaced the altar as the means by which man could access God. The method changed, but the statement it makes remains the same. Man is guilty before God and sacrifice must be made on his behalf. Jesus, Himself, became the sacrifice for us. His blood was shed on our behalf so every guilty sinner might have access to God through Him. Rather than being offended by the fact that you are called a sinner, why not accept the pardon He provides. After all, if you don’t think you are a sinner, you are the only one who believes that.

Pastor Jim

 

Believing God 

Romans 4:3
“For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'”

A right standing before God is not received by the good works that we do, but by faith in the finished work of the Cross. This is illustrated in the life of both Abraham and David. These are two of the three greatest heroes of the Jewish people, the third being Moses.

Abraham was justified, not by the good works he accomplished, but by trusting in the promises of God. In fact, when he was first chosen he was an uncircumcised idol worshipper.

Likewise, David was not justified by his works. The Psalm referred to was written after David had sinned with Bathsheba and attempted to hide his rebellion from God. The great release from the burden of sin was found when, in faith he confessed it to the Lord, and forgiveness and righteousness was imputed to him (Psalm 32:1-2).

The same is true for us today. Our standing before God is never based upon our good works. We were loved and chosen before the foundation of the earth. We were separated, called from the womb, pursued and prayed for before we ever responded to Christ. We are made right with God when we trust in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. We have access to Him every day, not because of how good we have been the day before, but because of the efficacy of the Cross. If you are avoiding the Throne of Grace, thinking you are not worthy because of something you looked at, said, thought, or did, you need to understand trusting in Christ results in your sins being placed on Him, and His righteousness imputed to you.

In Romans 3 Paul asked, “Where is the boasting then?” Clearly, the answer is in Christ. I do not stand before men and brag of my great accomplishments, self-righteousness, or unwavering faith. I bow before God, rejoicing in His marvelous grace. I stand before men, declaring that all who come to God through Christ, can have their sins forgiven and His righteousness imputed to them. I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist who declared,

“Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand” Psalm 149:6

Instead of justifying our sin, or allowing failure to keep us from God, let’s join David in praising God, and Abraham in continuing to pursue the promises of God.

Pastor Jim

 

It Happened One Evening

2 Samuel 11:2
“Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.”

David is one of the most famous men in history. He was a gifted singer, song writer and musician. By today’s standards, he would be considered a superstar. He was also a war hero, who led armies to great victory. No doubt, in that era, David would experience the same treatment as our most famous athletes. His popularity spread throughout the nation, so much so, that songs were being written about him. After reading of a lifetime of successes, we come to a striking passage where we read,

“. . . it happened one evening. . .”

One evening forever changed the life of David. What a different testimony he would have had if only the events of that evening had gone differently. Had he closed the blinds, stayed off the balcony, heeded the warning signs, or even admitted his mistakes, the rest of his life would have been drastically different. It seems to me, David made certain compromises along the way, making it next to impossible for him to resist the temptation of the bathing Bathsheba.

First, although David was a married man, he allowed the culture to define his married life, rather than the Word of God. In our world, when a person succeeds, it is common to get a new car, house, or some bling. In David’s day, when the oriental kings succeeded, they would add wives. The more wives, the greater your success. However, multiplying wives violated the Word of God.

Second, it seems David had learned to compartmentalize his life. As wives and concubines increased, he still worshipped, offered sacrifices, planned for a Temple, and ruled the nation. He truly loved God, but he struggled with his flesh. It was not until he came in contact with Bathsheba, that his subtly sown seeds of disobedience caught up with him, and he fell into adultery. David ultimately faced a temptation so great that he could not resist.

The same is true for each of us. Those careless glances and long stares will build a fire that will one day burn us. The battle for our holiness, purity, and even our marriages, is won long before the temptation is faced. It is daily living that will give the victory. A marathon is won at the alarm clock, the breakfast table, the donut shop, as much as it is won on the track and field. If we hope to win the battle for holiness, we must win the battle at the computer terminal, the magazine rack ,and the TV screen.

Third, once David fell, he spent his time with a cover up. He learned the art of private browsing and how to delete his search history. This cover up had a devastating effect upon his life. The man who was once filled with such mercy that he spared the life of Saul, is the same man who is ready to kill a man for stealing a lamb. Sin had so hardened David, he began to change. He was no longer recognizable as the “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). Guilt is like that. It has the ability to harden, the heart like tempered steel, so we are changed into someone we never wanted to become.

Fortunately, this is not the end of the story. David repented. A marriage that began in a bad way, was redeemed by God. A woman who once seduced the king, found her way in the genealogy of Christ. it is important to remember, no matter how badly we have fallen, His grace is greater than all our sin. It has been said that He is a bigger Savior than I am a sinner.

No matter how you have fallen, Jesus wants to restore you, and redeem what has been destroyed. He can redeem a broken life, a shattered marriage, and a destroyed witness, if you will let Him. It is time to make David’s prayer the cry of your heart.

Psalms 51:10
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Pastor Jim