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Christ in the offerings – notes on the Levitical offerings from Mixed Week 2013. PART 4

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The Sin Offering (Leviticus 4, 6:25-30).

What caused the offerer to bring it?

Unintentional sin in the case of

  • the High Priest (the representative of the people to God, 4:1-12)
  • the People as a whole (4:13-21)
  • a leader in Israel (4:22-26)
  • a common person (4:27-31)

The text stresses that provision is for unintentional sin – there is no provision for highhanded, wilful sin against God here.

 

How might it relate to us experientially?

An awareness of our shortcomings before a holy God – we are sinners by nature. We should seek to always keep a short account with God in terms of sin in our lives – claiming the promise of 1 John1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

What was the unique characteristic?

An elaborate blood ritual was involved in the case of the sin offering. Blood is the key feature, applied in special ways to different pieces of Tablernacle furniture in the cases of the different offerers (High Priest, all the People, leader, common person). In the case of the High Priest and all the People, the blood went into the Holy Place (sprinkled in front of the veil of the sanctuary, or Most Holy Place), and the ashes were carried outside the camp to a clean place.

 

What does that indicate that God valued about it?

The shedding of blood and what it spoke of to Him – that one day the precious blood of His Son would be shed to put away sin forever.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21. This could also be translated, He made Him to be sin offering.

Leviticus 6:25 stresses that the sacrifice was holy. This is an important point regarding the Lord Jesus – He bore our sin, but He was always holy. He was never ‘contaminated’ with sin, just as the sin offering was ‘most holy’.

 

How might we try to emulate Christ in this?

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24.

Peter also reminds us that God has said: Be holy, for I am holy.

 

How was it conducted at the Tabernacle?

Hebrews teaches that the tabernacle that God dwelled in among the People of Israel was a copy of what is in heaven – the true, eternal, Holy Place where God dwells. The context of Hebrews is that the sin offering that Jesus made (the offering of Himself on the cross) was collective (see comparisons of the collective offerings in Leviticus 4:1-21, with Hebrews 13:11-12) – that of the People of God (i.e. Hebrews speaks of the blood going into the Holy Place, and Christ going outside the gate to suffer. The ‘clean place’ for the ashes can be seen in the laying of His body in a new tomb. What a precious line of study this is!). He has ‘sanctified the people through his own blood’ (Hebrews 13: 12).

The risen Christ has entered that heavenly Holy Place with His own blood (Hebrews 9 and 10), there to serve as our High Priest always in the presence of the Father.

 

Application to worship at the Remembrance?

The sin offering is what brings us to the Holy Place (heavenly) in our worship in churches of God. How precious! We follow our Great High Priest in to the presence of His God and Father to offer thanksgivings as a worshipping people whose sins have been atoned for – put away forever because of Calvary. That’s how we can stand in God’s presence, and His work in accomplishing that is what fills our minds and hearts.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5.

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Christ in the offerings – notes on the Levitical offerings (from Mixed Week 2013). PART 3

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The Peace (Fellowship) Offering (Leviticus 3, 7:11-38).

 

What caused the offerer to bring it?

An expression of thankfulness for peace and wellbeing between the offerer and God.

 

How might it relate to us experientially?

Thankful recognition in our lives of peace and wellbeing between us, those with whom we serve, and God – because of Christ and His work.

 

What was the unique characteristic?

It was split 3 ways – God got His portion first (the fat, inward, portion), but the offerer and priests partook in the offering as well (they enjoyed it as a meal). As such, there was 3-way fellowship being enjoyed.

 

What does that indicate that God valued about it?

God’s portion was the fat and the inward parts – including a good healthy liver and fat tail of the sheep (in which its energy reserves were stored). All the fat is the LORD’S (3:16). Perhaps it speaks of God’s appreciation of His Son’s life – a rich life well lived, with deep reserves of energy stored up for what He would endure on the cross for us.

 

How might we try to emulate Christ in this?

Lives well lived for God, being able to endure difficult times because we have stored up His Word in our hearts.

 

Application to worship at the Remembrance?

When the offerer offered out of thanksgiving, he had to eat his portion on the day of his offering. That speaks to us of freshness in our enjoyment of Christ – we should be searching the scriptures for new things to enjoy of Him as we prepare to offer thanksgiving to God the Father for Him on a Sunday morning – keep it fresh.

The offering, as a Fellowship Offering, speaks of shared enjoyment of Christ in collective worship (holy priesthood service) – we have fellowship with God Himself, and with those with whom we serve, in our enjoyment of His Son. We sometimes sing:

O God, what perfect rest is thine,

Thy rest is in Thy Son,

‘Tis all unspeakable, divine,

Thy rest and our are one!

Inside the circle of Thy love,

Joined to His life are we above.

How sweet with Thee, O God to share

The joy which is Thy portion there.

 

In our worship, we have fellowship with God in His rest and His portion – the wonderful person of His Son.

Christ in the offerings – notes on the Levitical offerings (from Mixed Week 2013) PART 2

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The Grain Offering (Leviticus 2, 6:14 – 23)

 What caused the offerer to bring it?

As yesterday, this offering was voluntary, expressing thanks-giving in the heart of the offerer toward God – perhaps for meeting a family’s daily needs. It often accompanied the burnt offering.

 How might it relate to us experientially?

Gratitude to God for daily enjoyment of Christ in our lives.

What was the unique characteristic?

The offering did not forfeit the life of an animal – it did not involve the shedding of blood.

What does that indicate that God valued about it?

The life of Christ was pleasing to God (a bloodless offering).

This may also be seen in the different ingredients that go into the grain offering:

Fine flour speaks of evenness and purity of the character of the Lord Jesus – no lumps to be ground out of this flour. No resistance to the will of the Father in the life of Christ.

Oil tends to speak of the presence and work of the Spirit in scripture – mixed with the flour, the character of the Lord Jesus. His life and personality were saturated with the Spirit of God.

No leaven – in scripture, leaven speaks of sin (for example, 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul speaks of sin in a local church needing to be dealt with). No sin at all in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Where leaven was included as an offering of firstfruits (see Leviticus 2:12) it was not permitted to go on the altar (again speaking of the perfect life of the Lord, sacrificed to His Father).

Fire can speak of suffering in scripture (in this context referring to suffering in the life of the Lord). Salt is often associated with covenants, because of its ability to endure fire – the Lord Jesus endured through all his suffering in carrying out the will of God.

Honey perhaps speaks of seeking one’s own glory (see Proverbs 25:27) – honey was absent from the grain offering, just a self-seeking was absent from the life of Christ. He came to glorify His God and Father – not Himself.

How might we try to emulate Christ in this?

As the elements of the grain offering speak of His character, we seek to be like Him – pure and even in character, life saturated with the Spirit of God, separate from sin in our lives (though how far we fall short), enduring suffering for His name when necessary, seeking the glorification of God in our lives.

How was it conducted at the Tabernacle?

A handful was offered to God, while the rest was food for the priests serving in God’s house. Perhaps it speaks of our enjoyment of the life of Christ as we serve as priests – we get so much out of the service of the house of God as we give to Him.

Application to worship at the Remembrance?

As yesterday, effort should go into the preparation of our offerings of thanksgiving to God (Hebrews 13:15). The handful going to God perhaps speaks of us giving what we have grasped of the person of Christ back to God in worship – our memorial portion (Leviticus 2:2), as we remember Him in the breaking of bread and pouring out of wine.

Christ in the offerings – notes on the Levitical offerings (from NI Mixed Week 2013)

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As intimated on the SotL facebook page, we spent last week in bible study at a NI Churches of God camp (with bible teacher Brian Johnston), looking into the Levitical offerings and how they speak of Christ’s sacrifice and God the Father’s appreciation of the Son’s life and sacrificial death.

Our starting verse was Ephesians 5:2:

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The language used by Paul here suggests to us that there is worth in looking into the offerings to see what it was that God was looking for from His Old Testament People, and how that speaks to us of His appreciation of the cross.

Each day I intend to post something short summarising what we looked at in the different offerings. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive exposition, but will hopefully act as a launch pad for your own investigation into these great things.

 

The Burnt offering (Leviticus 1, 6:8-13)

What caused the offerer to bring it?

It was a free will / voluntary offering, brought to reflect the gratitude toward God in the heart of the offerer. Think of Noah’s gratitude after leaving the ark – the first thing he did was offering burnt offerings.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma… (Genesis 8:20-21).

It was an act of worship, pleasing to God.

 

How might it relate to us experientially?

Whole-heartedness, voluntarily offering ourselves to God. A desire to please God with all we have. Personal investment / cost in serving Him.

 

What was the unique characteristic?

All of it was burnt on the altar (apart from the skin) – it was all for God.

 

What does that indicate that God valued about it?

The whole-heartedness of Christ in serving His God and Father – He gave His all for God. Zeal for God’s house consumed Him, He was totally devoted to the Father – not my will, but yours be done.

We sometimes sing a hymn that says, He was for Thee an offering devoted to Thy will, He gave Thee boundless pleasure, He Thee delighteth still. That is Christ in the burnt offering – God’s appreciation of His Son. Christ offered Himself to the Father and was perfectly acceptable – spotless and pure, even in the inward parts (washed with water in the offering).

 

How might we try to emulate Christ in this?

We should strive to reflect the 100% commitment of Christ to God’s purposes.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1.

 

How was it conducted at the Tabernacle?

With care and respect, reflecting the fact that standards are required in the service of God’s house. There is no casualness in its preparation and offering.

 

Application to worship at the Remembrance?

Just as there were different levels of offering (a bull from the herd, a sheep or goat from the flock, a turtledove or pigeon), we all have different levels of appreciation of Christ. We shouldn’t rob God as we offering thanksgiving for the work of His Son – our thanksgivings should reflect the depth of our appreciation of the work of Christ. To whom much is given, much is required.

Occupying the Land (2)

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Now let’s move to Psalm 126 – one of the most beautiful passages in scripture.

 

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy;

then they said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us;

we are glad.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

like streams in the Negeb!

Those who sow in tears

shall reap with shouts of joy!

He who goes out weeping,

bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy,

bringing his sheaves with him.

 

 

In these exquisite words we have the appreciation of the Psalmist to God for bringing  back the People from Babylonian exile to the land, and specifically to Zion and all that that meant for the collective worship of the people of God. The writer is looking back to that time of physical restoration to the land. He says, we were like those who dream – laughter, shouts of joy and a recognition that the LORD has done great things for us. Oh, to live in a time like that! Wonderful days.

And now he is asking that the LORD would restore their fortunes again (older translations say turn again their captivity) – we don’t have time to explore all that that might mean here. But something is missing now – the People (or at least most of them) are physically in the land, but elements of captivity are still weighing them down. The blessing is not there. The dream has faltered, the laughter is not there, and perhaps the appreciation of the great things that the LORD has done is gone from among the people. But the Psalmist knows that there can be blessing again – that the LORD can restore the fortunes of His people as He has done before.

In both passages that we have looked at, for Israel the critical aspect of occupying the land was not just about being physically present there. God’s presence among them was essential. It was the requirement for blessing. Moses knew it – don’t send us up if you are not going with us. The Psalmist knew it – restore our fortunes. It is God’s presence and blessing that brings the stream in the Negeb – He is speaking about God’s presence that brings greenness and freshness and life to the dry places.

So what am I getting at? Our inheritance here and now, in occupying the land, is not simply a matter of logistics. Practicalities and logistics are important, but they are not enough if we are to be blessed in all the ways God means us to be. So, being physically present at all the meetings of the church is important, but it’s not enough. And likewise, on a different scale, the structure of the churches of God being organized in the correct way in districts under a united oversight is very important but it’s not enough. Because the thing that defines the people of God as they occupy the land in blessing is that God dwells among His people. And if we are to be blessed in all of the ways that He wants us to be in our service for Him in the land, then we don’t want to go forward without Him. We would lose our distinctiveness, our identity, who we are and what we could be with God in the midst of us. And a holy God requires a holy People to dwell among – set apart for service for Him. That was the issue, of course, in Exodus 33. Now, in one sense that setting apart has been done for us through the work of the Lord Jesus. We are fitted for service by Him in a way that Israel never was. But it is our job to set ourselves apart for Him too, day by day – submitting to Him as individuals, inviting Him into every aspect of our lives, so that He is dwelling with us as individuals, that we might see His blessing as a people. Let God dwell with you.

I believe that, like the Psalmist, we should be bold in our prayers. I wrote about the prayer of Jabez some time ago – enlarge our borders. The prayer of the Psalmist was restore our fortunes. Is that our prayer as we occupy the land today? I am convinced that the streams in the Negeb, the water that gushes to the dry places to bring vitality, the blessing and freshness that comes from God Himself, will come in the secret place – when we are alone with God and meditating, delighting in His Word. Let us do that, and be glad that the LORD can restore the fortunes of His people. Let’s go forward in service with Him dwelling in our midst, dwelling with us – part of every aspect of our lives.

 

Occupying the Land (1)

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This week I want to say something about occupying the land, and in particular one essential element of what that meant for the people of Israel.

As you know, the land then, and now, is to do with the inheritance that God has for a people who are obedient and willing to serve Him. The land is a place (physical then, spiritual now) where people serve, a place where people are obedient, a place where there are laws of the Kingdom to be obeyed. It is a pleasant place and a place of rest, scripture says, but it’s also a place where there is work to be done. We know that when the people of Israel entered into the physical promised land, they had to do a lot of work to possess it, to make it theirs. But, and this is the thrust of what I want to say this morning – the presence, or literally, the face of God was with them, and it was His desire to give them rest as they occupied the land (of course, that was a rest they did not fully lay hold off because of unbelief, but that goes beyond what I want to write about this week).

The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people”… Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

Exodus 33:1-3, 12-16.

 

We have just had extreme disobedience from Israel in the previous chapter – behaviour completely offensive and hurtful to the God who had reached out in love to redeem them. But God is faithful. He remembers the promise given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and He intends that this people – stiff-necked, stubborn in their sin and idolatry – this people will occupy that promised land. And He says that He will send an angel before them to drive out their enemies from the land that would be flowing with milk and honey. So they would not have to fight for the land, and its provisions would be freely available to them. It sounds perfect. And what is the catch here? Because they are a stiff-necked people, God says, I will not go up among you… if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. What is at stake here is God dwelling among His people. Maybe some would have taken the offer – taking the inheritance without the one who gave it (an echo of the story of the prodigal perhaps?), enjoying the land without God telling them what to do in it.

Thankfully it says when the people heard the word from God through Moses, they mourned. I think they understood at least something of what was at stake. And Moses understood more then his fellows about God’s character and the lengths that He had gone to to redeem them and fulfil His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Moses says, If your presence does not go with me, do not bring us up from here. Well done Moses!  He knew that there was no point in occupying the land, no point in all the milk and honey, no point in the fatness and sweetness of the land, without God dwelling in their midst. Without God dwelling in their midst, they lose their distinctiveness, they lose their identity, they lose altogether who they are and what they could be with God in the midst of them. Moses understood that, and it says he found favour in God’s sight.

We’ll look at another passage that will add to this later in the week – and think about why it is relevant for us today.

 

Build Up | Building Up | Built Up (2)

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Moving on from our look at the Old Testament to the New:

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
1 Corinthians 14:12

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
1 Corinthians 14:26

It was that first phrase that got me thinking about this subject – ‘strive to excel in building up the church.’ It’s not that we are just told to build up the church, but we are to strive to excel in doing it. The context of the chapter is about spiritual gifts but several times we are told of the greater context and mature responsibility that ‘all things are to be done for building up.’ In other words it’s not something that’s only for a few who have special gift in it or who feel that they want to do it. Actually, you could say, it should be a sign of every mature believer.

My subject is Build Up  |  Building Up  |  Built Up and there’s a need for all three isn’t there?

1. Build Up

We need to be reminded and encouraged and exhorted and, even, commanded to build up; otherwise we might tend to just consider ourselves, or assume others are ok:

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself…
Romans 15:1,2a, ESV

2. Building Up

There’s an on-going need for this isn’t there? It’s not a one-off act then we can relax, feeling we’ve down our bit. Instead it’s perhaps an attitude – always looking for an opportunity to build each other up, not in a superficial or a shallow way, but as a natural expression of a deep-rooted and genuine fellowship and mutual care.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
1 Corinthians 8:1, ESV

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Romans 14:19, ESV

3. Built Up – so what should be the outcome of being built up? Let’s look at three more scriptures:

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5, ESV

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Colossians 2:6-7, ESV

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Acts 9:31, ESV

Can you see a progression in these passages?

Firstly, God wants us to serve together in His house, and we should seek to grasp the truth and the meaning of that(!), and the ‘fellowship’ of being together in His service is, I believe, an intended consequence and blessing from God for us all. Our fellowship shouldn’t be limited to attending formal meetings together. How can we build each other up if we neglect to spend time together in fellowship (and how could we build each other up if we don’t attend the meetings at our Church!?)?

Secondly, our walk is to be in Christ Jesus the Lord, and we are to be rooted in Him and built up in Him. In the Greek, ‘rooted’ is in the past tense – it’s unconditional as a result of the work of the Christ Jesus, but the effect of being ‘built up’ is present and conditional. It should be a consequence of our personal walk of faith yes, but also I suggest in the teaching and encouragement from others – our fellow saints. That we will all abound in thanksgiving is a great result of our mutual upbuilding.

Thirdly, the church had peace and was being built up – encouragement is so often linked to peace and harmony. I believe that you can’t really have one without the other. In the same way, the absence of harmony can lead to discouragement and that’s tragic for us and for our service. But that’s not the example we see in Acts and so we should be doing our utmost to avoid disharmony – the church walked together in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit – and they multiplied – another great result made more likely through mutual upbuilding.

I want to finish this consideration by looking and commenting briefly on more two short passages:

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-14, ESV

Here’s encouragement and upbuilding linked together with peace again, and we can see the important role that our ‘overseers’ (or elders) have in this – a role that often requires admonishment as well as encouragement. There’s also practical advice there isn’t there, in the different ways that we can each build each other up – tailored to each person’s physical and spiritual condition.

Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:9-14, ESV

The key words for me in this passage are – rejoice, comfort, agree, peace, grace, love & fellowship.

‘Greet’… ‘all the saints greet’ – the two uses of ‘greet’ here show the local and worldwide unity of the church and the churches. We should treat every saint the same whether they are in our assembly or another. Greeting isn’t just a mere formality or a superficial hello, and here’s why:

We’re to greet each other with a ‘Holy kiss’ – of course we don’t do that so much now, but then it was culturally significant because it was used typically for special family gatherings or reunions. It signified the mutual acceptance of the saints as a family, with all that implies in terms of patience and unconditional love  (Click here for another post that talks about this too).

Lastly, the last verse is Paul’s only Trinitarian benediction (I understand) and it’s no coincidence that Paul concludes this look at building up and indeed the whole letter with the perfect example of unity, harmony and mutual love that we see in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Build Up  |  Building Up  |  Built Up – we’re commanded to do it; we should be striving to excel at it constantly; we should know the effects of being built up, and others should be able to see it too. So, let’s ask our God, who is the builder of all things, to give us encouragement and sensitivity so that we can say ‘let us rise up and build’ and ‘strive to excel at building up the church.’