Archive for July, 2016

Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 3)

The Levites Dedicated

 

Have you ever really thought about what abortion really is? It is sacrificing a human being for the sins of another. Sure, there are those who say that we should allow abortions because there those who are victims of rape or incest. Such pregnancies arrived at in such a manner account for 1% of all abortions according to an October 1989 article in the New York Times. This issue is an ethical one for Christians for this one percent of cases. How do you justify being against abortion in such cases? First, it begs the assumption that all of these “1% women” are going to unanimously want abortions.  For example, it is commonly assumed that rape victims who become pregnant would naturally want abortions. But in the only major study of pregnant rape victims ever done, Dr. Sandra Mahkorn found that 75 to 85 percent chose against abortion (Mahkorn, “Pregnancy and Sexual Assault,” The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, eds. Mall & Watts, (Washington, D.C., University Publications of America, 1979) 55-69.) This evidence alone should cause people to pause and reflect on the presumption that abortion is wanted or even best for sexual assault victims. According to David Rearden, Ph.D.’s article “Rape, Incest & Abortion: Searching Beyond the Myths”, he says the following:

 

Several reasons are given for not aborting. First, approximately 70 percent of all women believe abortion is immoral, even though many also feel it should be a legal choice for others. Approximately the same percentage of pregnant rape victims believe abortion would be just another act of violence perpetrated against their bodies and their children.

 

Second, some believe that their child’s life may have some intrinsic meaning or purpose which they do not yet understand. This child was brought into their lives by a horrible, repulsive act. But perhaps God, or fate, will use the child for some greater purpose. Good can come from evil.

 

Third, victims of assault often become introspective. Their sense of the value of life and respect for others is heightened. They have been victimized, and the thought that they in turn might victimize their own innocent child through abortion is repulsive.

 

Fourth, at least at a subconscious level, the victim may sense that if she can get through the pregnancy, she will have conquered the rape. By giving birth, she can reclaim some of her lost self-esteem. Giving birth, especially when conception was not desired, is a totally selfless act, a generous act, a display of courage, strength and honor. It is proof that she is better than the rapist. While he was selfish, she can be generous. While he was destroying, she can be nurturing.

 

So, in justifying the immorality of 99% of abortions, we use the 1%’ers to make them OK. However, the overwhelming majority of abortions are simply to cover up sexual immorality and to avoid the responsibility that often goes along with sexual intercourse. It is making a child pay for the sexual promiscuity of two people (the woman AND the man involved). This is not just a woman thing. It has to do with both sexual partners who typically have had sex outside the marriage covenant and do not want the responsibilities that come with sex. The child of such episodes of unrestrained sex is sacrificed on the altar of sexual freedom. The child is offered up as a victim to release us from the real problem in our society of the devaluation of sex to physical exercise rather than the joy of a man and woman inside the marriage covenant. And, this writer, is not some bitter old Christian man who is against sexual promiscuity because I wish I could have had all that fun. Although I have never been involved in abortion or ever involved in a pregnancy outside of marriage, it is only by the grace of God that I didn’t. I am a statistic of the sexual promiscuity of our age. It is only through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit where I progressively am convicted of each of the sins that previously justified and must repent of them. As Christ followers, the Holy Spirit battles with our flesh to reveal to us the sins that we did not realize were sins or battle with our flesh to convince us that we must give up our pet sins – those stubborn sins that we refuse to see as sins initially and those that we doggedly hold on to. It is only through the Holy Spirit that I now see my sexual past as shameful and not as a point of pride as to the number of notches on my belt.

 

So, abortion is an optional form of birth control in our society when all of our other forms of birth control did not work. We sacrifice life for a life. We sacrifice a child with growing and multiplying cells because men and women desire sex without restraint. An innocent child is sacrificed for our sexual desire for sex with no consequences. We are offering up beating hearts of unborn children for our sexual sins. When I look at my first grandchild and see the amazing miracle that is life as it expressed in a young baby and knowing that she was once life inside my daughter’s belly, how grieved is God each time a life of a baby is snuffed out through abortion. I thank God for the beautiful innocence of my grandchild who was conceived by a husband and wife inside the marriage covenant. I thank God for that innocent little life. She already has personality at 6 days old. She is a unique child of God that will bring gifts and talents to the world that God deems necessary. Even after only 6 days, it pains me to think of that life not being lived.

 

We may look back on the Old Testament sacrificial system and see it as the brutal killing of animals for the sins of the people of Israel and see it in in other ancient societies as an archaic practice to appease imagined but unreal gods. However, in the name of sexual sin, are we not doing the same thing today and calling it the right to choose. What right are we choosing? Are we not offering up innocent lives for our sins?

 

For some reason today, the Holy Spirit lead me to think about how in an immoral way we are offering up innocent lives to cover up sexual sin in abortion. However, that can be contrasted with God’s prescribed way for us to publicly recognize or sin in the sin offerings of the Old Testament. Abortion is a sacrifice of innocent life to cover up sin whereas the sin offerings were a public way to admit sin and repent of it. Abortion allows us to continue sinning whereas the sin offering was the way to repentance before the Lord and turn away from sin. The sin offerings were a prelude to the innocent life that was sacrificed for our sin in the once and final sacrifice on the cross by Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on vv. 8-9 for today after we have read through it:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

It is the sin offering that the Isrealites offered up to the Lord as us realizing that we committed a sin. We recognize our sin and we want the Lord to know that we know it and that we are condemned by it. The sin offerings were God’s allowed way for us to make ourselves right with him. A life of an innocent animal was offered up in our place. The Israelite knew that it should be he that should have been punished not the innocent animal. There was humility that came with that realization. Humility was also in the fact that I publicly recognized my sin before God and before the nation of Israel. I admitted that I sinned against God and against the fabric of Israelite society. It was a prelude to the once and final sacrifice at the cross of Jesus Christ that ended and concluded the Old Testament sacrificial system.

 

In Jesus Christ, we have a life that was sacrificed before God to atone for our sins. It was not a one person for one sin sacrifice. He was the Son of God who took on the wrath of a perfect and just God for the sins of all mankind for all time. All we have to do is express to God with our mouths that we are sinners who are destined for our deserved fate in hell in the absence of Jesus Christ. All we have to do is believe and express that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that we are made right through Him, the Son of God. His sacrifice for our eternal lives. His sacrificial death gives us life. We must admit that we have sinned and stand before all those will hear and say I am a sinner and it is only through Jesus’ sacrificial death that I have life. Jesus’ death is the last sacrifice. No more sacrificial death for atonement and to give new life is necessary. He finished it forever.

 

That is the thing that makes the OT sacrificial system that ended at the cross with Jesus different. It was a death for the purpose of our repentance. It is a line in the sand that we accept and turn away from our sins. We are made perfect in Christ’s covering for our sins and thus allows the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and convict us of our fleshly sins and desires and to make us holy and righteous as time progresses toward that day we are perfected in heaven.

 

Abortion though is the opposite of that. It is covering up sin. It takes away the consequences of sin but there is no conviction. It allows us to continue our sinning. It is the sacrifice of an innocent life so that we can continue sinning. The OT sacrifices that ended with Jesus was God’s avenue for us to recognize that we are indeed sinners and that we are destined for punishment and consequences not only in this life but in the life eternal. We must recognize our sins to take advantage of the sacrifice of Christ. We must say we are sinners to be covered by this sacrifice.

 

In saying that I am against abortion, though does not mean that I bomb abortion clinics or protest outside them. It means that I praise God for the woman who goes through with her pregnancy and brings new life into this world and I help her in any way that I can. It means that I pray for those who have had abortions and are dealing with the devastating emotional consequences of said abortions to come to our fellowship of believers and lead her to the cross where she will find grace just as we all have. Let us love those who have unwanted pregnancies and those who have aborted them. God has grace for them through Jesus Christ. They can bring their sins to the cross and find repentance and joy in Jesus Christ there.

 

I pity those whose eyes have not been opened and pray for them too. May the eyes of those who see abortion as a birth control choice be opened to the truth that they are sacrificing children at the altar of sexual freedom and justifying it as revolutionary freedom for women. May their eyes be opened to their sacrifices at the wrong altar.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 2)

The Levites Dedicated

It was August 15, 2010, a Sunday. The second Sunday after Elena and I had moved back to South Carolina from our time in California. But before I talk about that day, a little background is in order.

I had been out there for 2 ½ years, Elena for one. During the time that we were in California together, we had become part of a wonderful church, Livermore Alive Community Church in Livermore, CA. It was at this church that I actually started to grow from a spiritual baby into something more than a spoon-fed, what-can-you-do-for-me baby. I grew into a spiritual toddler, so to speak, and maybe even a spiritual teenager while there. It was there that Elena accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord. While I had been a spiritual baby for a long time (since my salvation in December 2001), Elena grew up quickly. She devoured being a child of the One True King. It was there that we were nurtured by our pastor, Luke Brower, and his wife, Felisha. They were our mentors even though they were about 10 years younger than us. Luke and Felisha were classic California. Laid back. Low key. Satirically funny. Luke’s sermons were excellent but low key and cerebral almost. He made you think about Scripture in the deepest of ways. He preached through books of the Bible rather than being topically oriented. That was a change for me. My dad and most ministers I have been under preached topically. So, Luke’s sermons were deep into a book of a Bible. He was like this low-key, but awesomely interesting college professor. His sermons were like lectures but they were so captivating. Learning as well as being moved by his word pictures. Alas, though, after 2 ½ years getting the accounting function at my job cleaned up and operating smoothly, it was time to move the accounting function to South Carolina so that all accounting for Fujikura’s North America businesses would have their accounting done all in one centralized administrative center in the Greenville-Spartanburg, SC area. It was a bittersweet day when we had to move back to South Carolina. We had such an amazing time in that one year in Livermore that we did not want to leave it and the dear, dear friends that we had made there. But yet at the same time, we loved the fact that we would be back home close to our girls and our families.

 

So, we get back to South Carolina and move into the home that we still live in today. We move in on Friday, August 6, 2010. That next Sunday we were desperate to find our “Livermore Alive” in South Carolina. The first church we attended on Sunday, August 8, 2010, which shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, just was NOT it! We were used to modern worship and well-thought out sermons and a casual style. Although it was the kind of location we were used to. This church met in a meeting room of the local YMCA just down the road from our house. Livermore Alive met in a school gymnasium. So, it was similar in the whole set-up/breakdown mobile sound system with folding chairs kind of church. But man the music was like mountain gospel with banjos and such and the musicians had a talent level much below what we had grown accustomed to in California with Jesse Craig and Luke Brower and the amazingly talented musicians that were in Livermore Alive. And, oh my, the pastor’s sermon was a yawner and lacked Luke’s passionate delivery. Scratch that one off the list. We’ve got to find a church home. I need that. Elena needed that. We needed that.

 

By God’s design (we are still there 6 years later), we ended up at LifeSong Church in nearby Lyman, SC that next Sunday. LifeSong was an amazing church with an amazing founding pastor, Jeff Hickman, and amazing musicians. It just felt like home. However, the first Sunday there, if my wife had her way, we would not have come back. You ask why? Well, Elena was a new baby Christian at that time and had spent most of her life outside the church. Although she grew up Catholic, after about age 8, there family quit attending mass altogether. So, her first exposure to Protestant church was Livermore Alive when we were in California. Remember, I said Luke, our pastor there, was low-key. His sermons were like conversations at the dinner table. However, Elena though growing up in the South had not been exposed to Southern church, particularly Baptist church in the South. Jeff Hickman is as passionate a preacher as they come. He delivers the Word with skill and passion. He is an amazing speaker. On that first Sunday, though, LifeSong Church was at a crossroad. Continue with five, yes five, services every weekend or build a new building. The church was busting at the seams. So, the first Sunday, we were there, it was the beginning of a sermon series and a capital campaign called “Radical”. Combine passionate preacher and a sermon series called Radical, being radical in our giving and our service to Christ, you see what’s coming. On the way home, I asked Elena what she thought and whether she thought we should go back or keep searching. My wife, of laid back sermon delivery in California and no exposure to passionate Southern preachers, said, “All he talked about was money AND he YELLED at us!” The Holy Spirit guided my conversations with her to get us back there and we have been there ever since – a journey under the leadership of senior pastor Jeff Hickman that has led us closer still to the Lord and into leadership. Jeff pulls no punches when it comes to God’s Word and he will passionately lay the Word out there even if it makes you uncomfortable. No watered down gospel here. And I thank God for his leadership.

 

But, I still think of that first Sunday and my wife’s humorous statement. He talked about money and he yelled at us. Jeff is a passionate Southern preacher. Don’t think of some old guy with a suit on that is pudgy and has to loosen his tie and wipe his brow with a handkerchief kind of old school Southern. Think hip dude with jeans and a t-shirt (though seminary educated) kind of Southern preacher. His volume increases with his passion about a point he’s making. And that first Sunday was about being radical compared to this day and age of selfish desires to keep our money to ourselves and see how many toys we can get. He wanted us to be radical in being obedient to the Lord. He wanted us to think about what’s going to last – our toys or our investments in the eternity of our fellow man. He wanted us to be radical compared to our world where we simply think of ourselves and not of others. The Bible calls us to give sacrificially to the Lord and trust that the Lord will use it to reach more and more souls in the name of Jesus Christ. Being obedient to the Lord with our money is a radical thing in this time of me-me-me in which we live. So, yes, maybe in his delivery to a first timer exposure to passionate Southern preachers, he did yell at us. And, yes, he did talk about money. It was radical to Elena and challenging to me. The question was, are you being radical in your obedience to the Lord when it comes to giving of your time, your talent, and especially, your resources.

 

That first Sunday at LifeSong and exactly what these grain offerings and sin offerings and wave offerings were was what came to mind as I read through this passage once again this morning. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on vv. 8-9 for today after we have read through it:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

Since we live in the time since the completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system (it was completed at the cross with the once and final sacrifice for all time in Jesus’ death on the cross), we may as modern men and women have a difficult time understanding the offerings that are noted in this passage. There is a grain offering, a sin offering, and a wave offering. It is hard for us to understand and some of it may even seem distasteful to us. For today, let us concentrate on the grain offering.

 

According to www.gotquestions.com, it says,

 

A grain offering is a type of sacrifice described in the Old Testament (Leviticus 2) that the Israelites offered to God. A grain offering would have most likely been one of wheat or barley, depending on what was available. While other sacrifices had very specific instructions from God as to how they were to be offered, the rules governing grain offerings had some flexibility.

 

A grain offering could be given to God either uncooked or cooked in an oven or pan (Leviticus 2:1; 4—5). The requirements for the grain offering were that it had to be finely ground and have oil and salt in it (Leviticus 2:1, 4, 13). It could not have any yeast (also called leaven) or honey in it (Leviticus 2:11). When a person brought a grain offering to the priests, a small portion of it was offered to God, with some frankincense, on the altar. The rest of the grain offering went to the priests (Leviticus 2:10). No specific amount of grain was required for an offering; people were free to give what they had.

 

It’s interesting to note that during the Israelites’ forty years of wilderness wandering grain would have been quite scarce. This made grain offerings more costly and precious for the people to offer to God. Giving a grain offering in those circumstances represented the Israelites’ complete dependence on God to provide for their needs each day. Jesus fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17), and we no longer have to do sacrifices as they did in the Old Testament. But, if the grain offering is similar to our offering of worship, it’s interesting to consider: how much does our worship today cost us?

 

That brings us back to that first Sunday at LifeSong Church those six years ago now. It was Radical Sunday. It was the beginning of a church of people being asked to look in their heart and make sacrifices of scarce resources. How much do we care about the Lord? Do we worship Him as long as it does not force us to make sacrifices? Do we really love the Lord enough to decide that it is better to make tithing and making offerings above the tithe a number one priority? Do we really trust the Lord with our finances? Do we trust that He will make provision for us when we are obedient in our giving? Are we willing to make that radical sacrifice? Are we bold enough to begin now to quit chasing after things in this life and invest in things of eternity?

 

As we begin closing in on time to start our budgeting process for budget year 2017 at LifeSong, it is a question that we must consider as this local body of the general body of Christ known as His church. On an annual basis, we average about 750 attendees on any given weekend. We have though only 450 or so giving units/families in our church. What if all of our attendees gave to the church? What if all of our attendees gave sacrificially (the tithe and more) to the church? We are known in our community as a church that does things for the community, that cares about the community? Imagine if we all, who claim LifeSong as their home, gave radically. What if we trusted the Lord enough to let go of more than the $20 bill that we happen to have in our wallets on Sundays? What if we all were radically sacrificial in our giving? Imagine what we could do in our community and our region. Imagine the love that we could share with those who do not know Christ as their Savior. Imagine the lives we could touch with the gospel in our community, in our nation, in our world. Imagine our pastors not having to struggle to make ends meet. Imagine them not having to worry about sending their kids to college. Imagine a church where meeting payroll and paying the bills each week was simply done and not sweated over. Imagine the things that we want to do to spread the gospel that we don’t do know. What a radical thought that is?

 

Can you and I be radical? Can we arrange our lives where we quit pursuing stuff so much and trusting the Lord with the first 10% or MORE of what we make and living off the rest? Can we be a people that does not try to theoretically create an argument for not giving the tithe just so we can justify trading cars every two or three years, so we can justify the buying the house that is above our means, so we can justify our jet skis and boats and summer vacations? Can we be that radical? Can we be like the Israelites in the wilderness of the Sinai desert where grain was like gold giving grain offerings to the Lord? Radical indeed. How much do we really trust the Lord? How much grain are we willing to part with? How obedient can we be? Radically obedient! Are you radical? Am I?

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 1)

The Levites Dedicated

Sprinkling, Shaving, Washing. We Americans are obsessed with cleanliness. Products related to personal hygiene are a multi-billion dollar industry. We want to be clean. We may sweat during our workouts and while doing labor outdoors, but we hit the shower as soon as we can because we want to be clean. Because of our obsession with cleanliness from our water, to our homes, to our bodies, to our food, it is often difficult for us to travel to third world countries where the water is often not clean, the food not pure, and personal hygiene is often lacking. Disease can fester and spread quickly in places like these. We, Americans, when we travel to such places often have to be extremely careful about what we eat and what we touch and how we cleanse our bodies as our bodies are often not able to handle the raw nature of the environments of third world countries. We have become prima donas almost in that we have to be so careful when we travel to such places.

 

It used to not be that way for me. When I was a kid, I was all boy. The dirtier I got the better. It did not matter to me whether I took a bath or not. I had holes to dig. Trees to climb. Things to do outside. Bikes to ride. Hills to climb. Wars to win in the woods. Bugs to grab and look at and examine. All those things that kids in the 70s would do. Life was a dirty adventure for us boys. The dirtier the better. It you stayed clean all the time, it meant to us boys that you weren’t really living. There were always those boys here and there that had overbearing moms that wouldn’t let their sons get dirty. To us, that was not living – being in fear of getting dirty meant that were so many boy things that you could not do. You missed out on life if you could not get dirty. The old saying that “God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt” was the mantra of most of us boys. Life outside the house was dirty and if you were gonna live the life of a boy, you were gonna get dirty. It was a badge of honor to come home from a day of playing with your clothes so filthy that your mother wondered how one boy could get so dirty and for us to not even care. Even filthy, dirty, we did not think we needed to take baths. We certainly didn’t do it voluntarily. Our moms and dads would have to threaten a “belt whoopin’”, as we would say in the South, for us to even entertain the idea of an evening bath. It just seemed so unnecessary and unnatural. Boys dreamed of being on an island where baths only happened as you swam in the ocean. On the islands of our dreams, there was no pre-set baths to be taken, no routine of brushing teeth, and washing our hair. But, I imagine if we had not been forced to take baths, we would eventually not wanted to sleep in dirty beds. We would have begun to stink. And the greatest fear of a Southern mom in the 70’s, “you can’t go to church looking like that!”

 

We always had to be clean when we went to church. Those Saturday night baths before church the next day had to be extra special. Those baths would have to be supervised by mom or dad. They made sure we got in the tub. They made sure we washed our hair and everything else. They made sure we brushed our teeth. They made sure we clipped our fingernails and toenails. It all seemed so pretentious to us as young boys. But there was honor in that. Making sure that we were clean as possible made us ready to enter the house of the Lord and not some dirty, filthy ragamuffin that I would have been if were not for nightly baths but particularly the Saturday night ones.

 

Later in life though as we grow older, we discover girls and how intoxicatingly clean and pretty they are and out the windows go all the uncaring things of boyhood. We may still not mind getting dirty but before we go meet that girl, we voluntarily get clean. We want the girls to think the best of us and cleanliness was what girls liked. As we grow even older, we play less outdoors and become obsessed with staying clean and keeping healthy through cleanliness. Gone is the little boy from the 70’s that would rather ride his bike through a big mud puddle of dirty red-clay water than ride around it. To us now, dirty just means that we are gonna have to get cleaned up again. Clean sheets. Clean towels. Sterilized toothbrushes. Clean water. Clean floors. Clean tables. Clean cooking surfaces. Clean food. The 4 year old me would look at 54 year old me and ask me to come play in the mud puddle with him and I would probably refuse 8 times out of 10. As we mature, cleanliness becomes important in a way that 4 year old me could not even fathom.

 

It was that idea of what I used to be like as a little boy compared to grown-up me where cleanliness is a premium is the first thing that popped into my mind as I studied this new passage that we have moved to today. When I read through this passage, I found that there are going to be multiple blogs coming from this passage (in part because it is a long passage) because there are some key points that come out of reading it. The first being the cleanliness issue that we will talk about today. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on vv. 5-7 for today after we have read through it:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

The process of cleanliness was important when it came to being in the presence of the Lord our God in the Tabernacle. The process involved three steps. There was the sprinkling of the water of purification on their bodies. There was the shaving of their body hair and trimming of beards (as anyone who shaves knows that in order to shave there must be lots of water and soapy material). Finally, there was the washing of clothes. The sprinkling of pure holy water was symbolic of imputing God’s holiness upon us through Jesus Christ. The shaving of the body hair was to ensure that the hidden dirt that our hair retains is washed away and is symbolic of our purposeful repentance of our sins. And the washing of clothes is again to remove the dirt and dust that our garments collect from the world outside that must be purified before entering the presence of the Lord. It is symbolic of the rags of the world that we bring before God at salvation and the robes of riches that He bestows upon us through our salvation in Jesus Christ.

 

Yes, we live in dirty world, both literally and figuratively. Does that mean that we cannot be in the presence of the Lord? No, but we have been cleansed first. Just as my mother would have never took me to church immediately after riding my bike repeatedly through a dirty mud puddle, we must be cleansed somehow. For us it begins with realizing that we are dirty. We must realize that we have the dirt of sin all over us. We must say to the Lord, I realize that I am dirty and that I need your mercy. He then, while yet still dirty, sprinkles us with holiness through our salvation in Jesus Christ. Once we admit that we are dirty and come humbly before the Lord to ask for His imputation of holiness upon us through Jesus Christ, we must shave, in a sense. It is through the action of the Holy Spirit that we are sanctified and we realize that we have more dirt on us that we had originally though. We have our hair follicles of sin. We have this hidden dirt in the hairs of our body and head. We have those sins that we enjoy and don’t even realize that are sins. We have those sins that we know are sins but that we bury in the hair of our soul. It is through the Holy Spirit that we realize that these sins are keeping us impure and prevent us from being truly holy and from being fully intimate with God. We must go through the process of shaving our sins and removing them from our bodies. It can be painful at times. Some of these sins are deep rooted follicles and the shaving of them causes cuts and pain. It is to through the Holy Spirit that we realize that the clothes that we have on are dirty. We have our world trappings that keep us from being holy whether its friends, obsessions, habits, desires, worldly thinking. In salvation and sanctification, the trapping of this life that once seemed wonderful to us are revealed as nothing but rags to us. What we once thought was cool and OK to participate in that grieves the heart of God is revealed to us as needing cleaning and washing. We put on the new clean clothes of the righteous through Jesus Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit in our souls. We are clean and now we can get close. We can truly be in the presence of God through salvation and sanctification. Salvation assures us that we can be in the presence of the Lord eternally, the sprinkling of the holy waters of Jesus Christ upon us. Sanctification allows us to draw closer and closer to Him and go deeper in our relationship with Him. As we mature in Christ we draw closer and closer to Him, the shaving and the washing.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 8:1-4

Preparing the Lampstands

When most of us were little kids, we had night lights in our rooms. Why? Because we were afraid of the dark. There were hysterical fears of monsters in our rooms. When I was a little kids, I would not sleep facing the wall because the monsters that I feared the most would be on the wall. In my mind, if I looked at that wall, those monsters would no longer be the two-dimensional figures on that wall. They would come off that wall and become three-dimensional live monsters who would terrorize me or even kill me. Never laid in the bed facing the left toward the wall. Always sleeping facing the open part of the room to the right. It just so happened, too, that the night light in my and my brother’s room was to right of my bed. In those days, we shared a room (didn’t get my own room til I was 10 years old when we moved to Elgin, SC). At night though, I might as well have been alone. In the dark, we all feel alone and afraid, particularly as a child. But the night light in the electrical outlet right beside my bed gave me comfort. It illuminated a small area of the room. It helped allay my fears of the dark to the point of being able to go to sleep comfortably, but not enough for me to sleep facing that wall, the monster wall. It was not until I grew older that the need for a night light in my room was necessary. When you think about night lights in your bedroom now as an adult, you think, “how childish I was! Why did I think I needed a night light? What was I so afraid of?” Back then, though, those fears were real to us, palpable to us. We could work ourselves into a frenzy over the things that we could not see. We would create dangers where there was none. It was real to us, for sure. The night light was assurance. The night light was comfort that at least in the area that it illuminated that there was nothing to fear, nothing that would attack us.

 

As adult empty-nesters, my wife and I do not require night lights in our bedroom because we are adults, ya know. That would be childish to have a night light IN your room. However, we do leave the small stovetop light that is part of our overhead microwave oven/overhead vent apparatus over the stove. It lights up, softly, a small area of the kitchen. It is NOT a night light, right! We don’t need a night light. We justify it as not being a night light because we say we leave it on so that we will not trip, fall, run into things, and hurt ourselves if we have to get up in the middle of the night. There is a lot of truth to that I will say. A few weeks ago, as we had finished dinner and had settled down in front of the television set for some mindless entertainment for that couple of hours before bedtime, the power just all of sudden went out in our entire neighborhood. We occasionally will have a flicker of a power outage and the power will come right back on. However, on this night, the power went out and stayed out for four hours or so. It was pitch black in the house and our entire neighborhood. You couldn’t see anything in our house. As I was trying to make my way to our laundry/utility room where we stored our high powered flash lights. You know the ones with the big light that screw off to get to the big batteries with the spring loaded contacts on the top them and they have that membrane type on/off switch on the top of them. Yeah that kind. We have two of them in our cabinet in the utility room for just such an occurrence as a power outage. Being familiar with my house, I navigated from the living room past the bar/counter area that separates the kitchen from the rest of the open space that is our first floor. You have to turn to the left to go toward the laundry room in this mini-hallway that has our downstairs half-bath to the left, our coat closet to the left, the door to our master bedroom suite to the right and the door to the laundry room straight ahead. Well, I misjudged, in the pitch blackness of our house without illumination, how many steps I had taken before I made the turn. When I turned left, I took a few steps and caught my forehead on the edge of the beginning of that mini-hallway. Oh man, did that hurt! So, there is truth to the stove light being left on to keep us from hurting ourselves when we have to get up in the middle of the night! For real! I can attest to that truth.

 

In a sense, though, there is comfort in that light being left on at night. Though I am not scared of what’s under my bed or on my walls anymore, it is nice to know in the night if I wake up in the middle of the night and even if I do not get out of bed, I can raise up and see things lightly illuminated in the kitchen and that small hallway. The light not only keeps me from getting hurt if I get up but it also gives me comfort and security. That was the thing that struck me about the passage for today, Numbers 8:1-4, about how God instructed Aaron to fit the lampstands so that the light would shine forward. God is always providing us light in the Bible. Dangers and evil lie in the dark whereas God represents light that exposes the darkness and gives us comfort in His light. Let’s read the passage:

 

8 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand.’”

 

3 Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the Lord commanded Moses. 4 This is how the lampstand was made: It was made of hammered gold—from its base to its blossoms. The lampstand was made exactly like the pattern the Lord had shown Moses.

 

The lampstands and their candles provided light for the priests so that they could perform their duties within the darkened tent that was the Tabernacle. The light was made to shine forward so that the light would be brightest forward and no light would be wasted on that which was behind the lampstands. The lamps provided guidance to the priests so that they would not run into things like I did that night in the total darkness of my house and neighborhood without power. We need light to see in the darkness. Psalm 119:105 tells us that God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. God is always associated with light because we know that light is good. We can see where we are and where we are going in the light which we cannot do in the darkness. In the midst of darkness we need light to see where we are and where we are going. Without light we are lost and blind. And that is why sin is considered darkness. In the darkness of sin we are lost and blind.

 

In the darkness of sin, we cannot see the ugliness of our sin. In the darkness we think our sins are beautiful. Just think about the sins we commit, we justify them as beautiful and right. We think that the Bible is wrong about our sins, the ones that we lie to ourselves about as being right and just. It is only through the light of the Holy Spirit that we can see and illuminate our sins for the ugliness that they are. The light of God illuminates where we are. It shows us the ugliness of our sin. It shows how “off path” we are when we have the light expose where we are. The darkness caused me not to see how “off path” I was on my arduous trek from my couch to the laundry room and I got a bump on the head for it. The light exposes our sins for what they really are through the light of the Holy Spirit. In the dark of our active sins, we think they are beautiful and right and OK.

 

The light of God also shows of the way we should go forward. It illumines our path forward. The light of God for us is His Word and the active work of the Holy Spirit in our souls. When we do not listen to God we fall into darkness. When we do not study His Word we do not have the light to the path forward. When do not pray, we do not have the light to the path forward. When we do not have Christ as our Savior and Lord, we do not have the light and cannot see the path forward. We mope around in the darkness and bump into things that hurt us. We need the light so that we can see the cliffs that we are headed for. We need the light to realize where we are and where we are headed. We need God’s light to show us where to go from here. Come into the light of the lampstand of God. He will show you where you are and where you are to go.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 7:89

The Cherubim Above the Ark

Have you ever noticed as a parent that you can pick out your child’s voice, your child’s cries among many voices? When you child is a baby and is in their crib in another room in another part of the house, maybe even on a different floor of your house and you wake up instantly when that child begins to cry in the night? We as parents know our children so acutely that we can pick out their cries among a din of voices or from a distance. We are in tune with our flesh and blood. We know our children intimately. We spend a great deal of time with them. We know the difference between tones of their voices when they need us. As they grow older, we know from their tone of voice as to whether they are telling the truth or lying. We know from how they look as to whether they are happy or sad, sick or healthy, hungry or full. It starts when they are babies. As you learn your child, you know which cries are hungry cries and which cries are just fighting sleep cries. We know which cries are bad dream cries. We learn our children. I was discussing with my wife the other day that when my girls need something from me, they put multiple a’s in the word, daddy. So, it becomes daaaaaady. It is a matter of tone as to knowing whether it’s a “daddy I need money” daaaaady or whether it’s a “please fix this for me” daaaaady. As my oldest child went through a grueling 18 hour labor from Sunday afternoon into Monday morning this week, there were the “please fix this for me” daaady cries. I know the difference. By their voices, I know when my daughters are happy, sad, in need, angry, and so on.

 

When I read this final verse of the passage/chapter of Numbers 7 again this morning, I was about to move on to the next passage, Numbers 8:1-4, but something struck me about this final verse of this passage that I had to circle back to and write about. The idea of Moses hearing the audible voice of God was what struck me. Just as I know by the sound of my children’s voices what was and is going on with them, Moses actually heard the voice of God on frequent occasions. What was that like? Was it an actual, audible voice that could be heard through Moses’ ears that could possibly have been heard by others if they were standing beside or near where Moses was?  Or was it something that Moses perceived as audible in his mind but was not an auditory sensation through his ears? Either way Moses got to hear the voice of God. That is a privilege accorded only a few in the Bible. Let’s read again what this verse says:

 

89 When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.

 

To hear the actual voice of God! Wow, what an honor that must have been! To hear God speak words! To hear Him say words where there was no mistaking what He meant. No trying to figure out what God is telling us. No discerning what His message is to us. Just plain out hearing and understanding. How awesome would that be! That got me to thinking though. Why is it that you and I do not hear the actual voice of God? Was Moses actually that much better of a person than we are? What’s the deal here?

 

Imagine hearing the very voice of God. Moses must have trembled at the sound. But why do you and I not hear an audible voice of God like Moses. Do we not have the voice of God available to us? Yes, we do, in fact. We have the Word of God recorded for us in the Bible and we should have no less reverence and awe for it as Moses would have had for the audible words going forth from God. He sometimes spoke directly to His people to tell them how to live. The Bible records these conversations to give us insights into God’s character. How tragic it is when we take God’s Word lightly. Like Moses, we have the privilege of talking to God, but God answers us differently – through his Written Word and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. To seek God’s voice and to understand God’s Word in ways that give us answers to our life questions, we must seek to know God intimately so that we can discern his voice through the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives just as Moses did.

 

According to gotquestions.com, it says, on this issue:

 

To hear God’s voice we must belong to God. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Those who hear God’s voice are those who belong to Him—those who have been saved by His grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. These are the sheep who hear and recognize His voice, because they know Him as their Shepherd. If we are to recognize God’s voice, we must belong to Him.

 

We hear His voice when we spend time in Bible study and quiet contemplation of His Word. The more time we spend intimately with God and His Word, the easier it is to recognize His voice and His leading in our lives. Employees at a bank are trained to recognize counterfeits by studying genuine money so closely that it is easy to spot a fake. We should be so familiar with God’s Word that when someone speaks error to us, it is clear that it is not of God.

 

Just as we know our children’s voices and know what each and every inflection of their voices mean (because we spend so much time with our children over the years). Just as we know how they different inflections of using the very same word means different things, we know this. We know this because we know our children on an intimate level. We know our children better than anyone in the world with, maybe, the exception of our spouses. When you live with a child for all those years as they grow up, you know them almost on a molecular level. You know them intimately in a way that you do not know other people who live outside your home.

 

We can know God intimately through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. It is only through that act and Jesus sending us the Holy Spirit that we can truly begin to understand God. It is through His Holy Spirit that we can discern God’s Word that once seem folly to us. It is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we can begin to apply the truths of the Bible to our lives. We have God’s Word and we have the Holy Spirit. These are the materials for an intimate relationship with God.

 

I am not saying that God cannot or will not speak audibly to us or someone else now or in the future. He is God. He can reveal Himself to us the way that He wants. However, He has given us His Word and He sends us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. These are the tools that He gives us. We must become intimate with the Holy Spirit by listening to that voice that tells that which is right and wrong and guides us toward God’s will. We must. We must study the Word of God, not just read it. We must become so immersed in the Bible that we devour it. We must study it daily. We see it as essential to our lives. We must also spend time with the Lord in prayer. Being intimate with Him where you focus is totally on Him. There are so many things that we put in the way of spending time in His Word or in specified prayer time. We do not think it is important and then we wonder why it is difficult for us to discern God’s will.

 

What if you did not spend time with your kids? What if you did not spend countless hours with them over the course of their home years? The only way we know our kids is the intimate time, the intimate years that we spend with them. It is the same way with God. We learn everything about him through making Him our Lord, studying not just reading His Word, and spending specific times of prayer with Him. We learn his traits and his characteristics this way and thus learn to better discern His will. Maybe one day we will be so in tune with Him that we will actually hear His voice like Moses did, but that will only come if we focus on and be intentional about being intimate with God. Then and only then will we recognize His voice in the same way that we can hear the small voice of our baby in a crib in a different part of the house as if the baby were right in our ear.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 7:1-89

Offerings of Dedication

Yesterday, I joined an exclusive club, the grandfather club. I am now the proud grandfather (hopefully to be called Poppy or G-pa or something cool like that – instead of granddad) of my first grandchild, Ralyn Ahna Greer. My oldest daughter, Meghan, gave birth to her after 18 hours of labor. My little girl had a rough time of it. They finally had to do a C-section because Ralyn was beginning to be in distress with each contraction. I sit here thankful that both my daughter and my granddaughter are in good health. Miss Ralyn is such a sweet child. Of course, she slept a lot yesterday but the only time she seemed to cry was when the nurses were messing with her (doing the stuff they have to do when a baby is first born) or when she had to have her diaper changed. So, life has changed for the Bowling household. We are no longer parents of three grown daughters. We are now parents of three grown daughters and a granddaughter. When there is family milestone such as the birth of a first grandchild is reached, we take stock of who we are as a family. It makes you realize that we must dedicate ourselves anew. We must pray for my daughter, Meghan, and her husband, Curtis, to have the Holy Spirit rest of them as they raise this child. May they raise this child up in the ways of the Lord so that she will never depart from it. We must pray that they will love this child unconditionally. Praise her when she needs praising. Discipline her when she needs disciplining. We pray that they will not tear her down but give her great self-confidence so that she will grow to be a woman who is unafraid and one who is able to take on the world on her own terms.

 

As grandparents, Elena and I must be sure that we give Meghan and Curtis room to parent this child. We must though play our role of grandparents well. We must dedicate ourselves to being there when we are needed. As we have been adults with adult children, we have made other things important in our lives with our empty nest. Let us dedicate ourselves to making Ralyn a top priority in our lives. If we cannot run our expanded “house” (our expanded family) well, how can God trust us with bigger things in our roles among God’s faithful people. We must raise Ralyn to know that her grandparents place such great importance on her that we will MAKE time for her – for her kindergarten musicals, for her PTA meetings, for recitals, for dance exhibitions, for her firsts in life, for her prom nights, for whatever that is important to her. We must be willing to say that I cannot do this or that on that night because we have a “Ralyn event” to attend. We must open our home to her on a moment’s notice when Meghan and Curtis need us to do so. We must dedicate ourselves to just being there for Ralyn and helping her when she needs help, loving her whenever she needs that uncommon acceptance of a grandparent. Let us not treat her like an experiment for making up for all the mistakes we made as parents. Let us just enjoy her. Let us teach her in ways that parents cannot but let us simply enjoy this new life. We can teach but we can also have fun. Let us play peep-eye as much as we show her flash cards of words and letters. Let us dress up for her tea parties as much as we teach her English and Spanish. Let us run around and chase as she giggles because we can’t seem to catch her as much as we read to her as she falls asleep in our laps. Let us listen as much as we talk. Let us love her for being Ralyn as much as we have high expectations of her becoming a self-sufficient young women not dependent on anyone. This is the dedication. This is the consecration. This is the promise to be made. We must dedicate ourselves to our new task in life, our new role. May we be up to the task. It is certainly the easier of the roles of being a parent vs. being a grandparent, but it is no less in important to the well-rounded nature of our granddaughter. This is the dedication of ourselves to our new roles and let us see where this ride will take us.

 

When I read through what seemed a very repetitive and long passage/chapter of Numbers today, Numbers 7:1-89, it was that idea of dedication and offering up to the Lord our best as we read through how every tribe came to the Tabernacle and gave the same offerings so that the Tabernacle would be well-stocked, had the materials and animals that it needed to do its job among the people

 

 

7 When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the altar and all its utensils. 2 Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of families who were the tribal leaders in charge of those who were counted, made offerings. 3 They brought as their gifts before the Lord six covered carts and twelve oxen—an ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle.

 

4 The Lord said to Moses, 5 “Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the tent of meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires.”

 

6 So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites. 7 He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their work required, 8 and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. 9 But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible.

 

10 When the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication and presented them before the altar. 11 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Each day one leader is to bring his offering for the dedication of the altar.”

 

12 The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah.

 

13 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels[a] and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels,[b] both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 14 one gold dish weighing ten shekels,[c] filled with incense; 15 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 16 one male goat for a sin offering[d]; 17 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nahshon son of Amminadab.

 

18 On the second day Nethanel son of Zuar, the leader of Issachar, brought his offering.

 

19 The offering he brought was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 20 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 21 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 22 one male goat for a sin offering; 23 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nethanel son of Zuar.

 

24 On the third day, Eliab son of Helon, the leader of the people of Zebulun, brought his offering.

 

25 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 26 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 27 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 28 one male goat for a sin offering; 29 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Eliab son of Helon.

 

30 On the fourth day Elizur son of Shedeur, the leader of the people of Reuben, brought his offering.

 

31 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 32 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 33 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 34 one male goat for a sin offering; 35 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Elizur son of Shedeur.

 

36 On the fifth day Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai, the leader of the people of Simeon, brought his offering.

 

37 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 38 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 39 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 40 one male goat for a sin offering; 41 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai.

 

42 On the sixth day Eliasaph son of Deuel, the leader of the people of Gad, brought his offering.

 

43 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 44 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 45 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 46 one male goat for a sin offering; 47 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Eliasaph son of Deuel.

 

48 On the seventh day Elishama son of Ammihud, the leader of the people of Ephraim, brought his offering.

 

49 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 50 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 51 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 52 one male goat for a sin offering; 53 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Elishama son of Ammihud.

 

54 On the eighth day Gamaliel son of Pedahzur, the leader of the people of Manasseh, brought his offering.

 

55 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 56 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 57 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 58 one male goat for a sin offering; 59 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Gamaliel son of Pedahzur.

 

60 On the ninth day Abidan son of Gideoni, the leader of the people of Benjamin, brought his offering.

 

61 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 62 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 63 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 64 one male goat for a sin offering; 65 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Abidan son of Gideoni.

 

66 On the tenth day Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai, the leader of the people of Dan, brought his offering.

 

67 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 68 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 69 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 70 one male goat for a sin offering; 71 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai.

 

72 On the eleventh day Pagiel son of Okran, the leader of the people of Asher, brought his offering.

 

73 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 74 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 75 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 76 one male goat for a sin offering; 77 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Pagiel son of Okran.

 

78 On the twelfth day Ahira son of Enan, the leader of the people of Naphtali, brought his offering.

 

79 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 80 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 81 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 82 one male goat for a sin offering; 83 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Ahira son of Enan.

 

84 These were the offerings of the Israelite leaders for the dedication of the altar when it was anointed: twelve silver plates, twelve silver sprinkling bowls and twelve gold dishes. 85 Each silver plate weighed a hundred and thirty shekels, and each sprinkling bowl seventy shekels. Altogether, the silver dishes weighed two thousand four hundred shekels,[e] according to the sanctuary shekel. 86 The twelve gold dishes filled with incense weighed ten shekels each, according to the sanctuary shekel. Altogether, the gold dishes weighed a hundred and twenty shekels.[f] 87 The total number of animals for the burnt offering came to twelve young bulls, twelve rams and twelve male lambs a year old, together with their grain offering. Twelve male goats were used for the sin offering. 88 The total number of animals for the sacrifice of the fellowship offering came to twenty-four oxen, sixty rams, sixty male goats and sixty male lambs a year old. These were the offerings for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed.

 

89 When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.

 

It struck me too that although to us, the readers of this passage, we see the 12 times the same act is repeated but to each of the individual tribes that participated in the offerings of dedication, it was the first time and the only time for them. To them it was not the 11th or 12th repetition when the 11th or 12th tribe appeared at the Tabernacle. It was their time and their only time to dedicate what they had brought before the Lord. Although God had seen each dedication multiple times after the first tribe, he made them no less important. Each tribe’s dedication is given equal press in this passage. It may seem repetitious to us but it shows how God, through the repetitions in this passage, is saying that each tribe is important to Him. There is a lesson in that for us in that God teaches us that we are all are important to Him. He could have inspired Moses to summarize quickly the dedications of Tribes 2-12 after describing Tribe 1’s dedication in detail. No, each tribe’s dedication was described in detail. Each tribe is important to God.

 

That is my takeaway and my tie-in today as we write this blog. Babies are born every day in every city and in every town in every county and in every state and in every nation on earth. Elena and I were not unique yesterday. According to United Nations statistics, 353,000 babies, on average, are born into this world each day. So, during the twenty-four hours of yesterday, July 25, 2016 (little Miss Ralyn’s birthday), we joined a fraternity of 1.4 Million people (assuming 2 sets of 2 grands per child born) who became grandparents yesterday. This group of people on planet Earth that became grandparents yesterday, many of us for the very first time, probably this morning on the day after the birth of their grandchild are sitting somewhere reflecting on what it means to be a grandparent and discussing it with God and dedicating themselves to being the best grandparent that they can be – just like I did above at the beginning of my blog. There are 1.4 Million dedications going up to the Lord this morning from us who became grandparents on July 25th. It is mind boggling to think that these same prayers are going up all over the world this morning as we the freshly-minted grandparents (or grandparents again) offer up our prayers for our grandchildren. They are unique to us individually. They are important to us individually. God gives them all equal air time though. Each grandparent’s prayer for the future of their grandchild is important to Him. Each grandchild is important to Him. He hears our prayers for our grandchild and hears each one individually.

 

It is through the miracles of God that we are now grandparents this morning reflecting on the birth of our grandchild yesterday. The true miracle is that God cares about Ralyn as the unique soul that she is and will be. She is not just one of 353,000 children born yesterday on planet Earth. She is a unique child of God that He will care about individually and that He will love individually just like He will with all 353,000 babies born yesterday, and today and tomorrow and tomorrow after that. Ralyn is loved by God with the greatest of intensity just as much as He loves me with great intensity. We all get equal press in the heart of God. He loved us all so much that He sent His Son to die on a cross for our sins so that we could be reconciled to Him. Each of us. Each one of us is that important to Him.

 

So when you read through the repetitiveness of some of the passages in Numbers such as this one. Remember, each tribe was of utmost important to Him. So much so that he influenced Moses to write the same thing 12 times about the same things. All are important. There is no one unimportant to God. My granddaughter is a child of God. My granddaughter is unique to Him. My granddaughter is of utmost importance to Him. He heard my dedication as a grandparent this morning. It was as important to Him as the 1.4 Million other grandparents’ dedications this morning. We are all important to God. Each and every one of us.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 6:22-27 (Part 8)

The Priestly Blessing

As we conclude our look at The Priestly Blessing today, we are reminded of the conclusion of World War II. At that time, the country of Germany lied in ruins. Hitler’s determination to fight to the bitter end left his country in shambles. The Allies had destroyed everything. Infrastructure of the country was almost non-existent. Many buildings were destroyed. It was a hopeless situation for most Germans. Sure, Germany had been the cause of two world wars at this point. Why not just leave the country in tatters and go home? It had been a long six year war. Millions of people had died over Hitler’s psychopathic desire to rule the world. Let German lie in ruins. They deserve that. However, it was the fact that we left Germany in ruins after World War I that led directly to the rise of Hitler and subsequently to World War II. It was the decision of the Allies, and particularly, America, to rebuild all of Europe including Germany. It was better to spend the money to rebuild than to leave Germany destroyed and allow another nationalistic demagogue to rise up from the ashes and start the whole cycle of war over again. It was better to make Germany upright again. It was better for us to stay in Europe and supervise the installation of infrastructure and the installation of a democracy in Germany (at least in western Germany anyway). If we have made any wise decisions in spending American tax dollars during the past two centuries, this decision will go down as one of the best. With great poverty and destruction that would have been Germany after World War II, we would have civil war there and that would likely have led to another dictator to rise up and rule the country. The end of World War II brought the end of the old world order over which centuries of wars had been fought to maintain. It was time to do something different. Rebuilding an enemy rather than leaving him in ruins. What a novel concept that was. To restore a nation, to make it whole again, was so different. We drew the line in the sand and said no more. No more wars of a global nature. Here, this is it. This is the end of that world. Sure, it was a power play by the United States to establish ourselves as the world’s most dominant nation. However, there was wisdom in making Germany whole again. Although Germany did not deserve to be made whole again, it was best to restore them to a productive neighbor rather than leaving them as you would a rabid dog.

 

Post-war Europe after World War II reminded me of the peace of which we will talk about today. Peace only comes when we are made whole. It is not simply the end of war where there are the conquerors and the vanquished. Peace is when all parties are complete and have what they need. Let us read through today’s passage and think of what “peace” really means here. Here, again, we read Numbers 6:22-27 once again for today:

 

22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

 

24

“‘“The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

25

the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

26

the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace.”’

 

27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

 

When we hear the word peace we usually associate this to mean an absence of war or strife. However, the Hebrew word שלום (shalom, Strong’s #7965) has a very different meaning. The root of this word is שלם (shalam, Strong’s #7999) and is usually used in the context of making restitution. When a person has caused another to become deficient in some way, such as a loss of livestock, it is the responsibility of the person who created the deficiency to restore what has been taken, lost or stolen. The verb shalam literally means to make whole or complete. The noun shalom has the more literal meaning of being in a state of wholeness, or being without deficiency.

 

Shalom, then is more than just the absence of wars or the rumors of wars. Yesterday, we talked about how God grants us, gives us peace. It is that completeness, that wholeness that is in Him but not in us. We have no peace because of our sin nature. We only find peace through the one who can grant it. We cannot create it because we do not have it. It is only in Him that there is peace. Shalom is to make whole, to give what is lacking. In God, we find that He did not have to grant us shalom but He makes us whole anyway through Jesus Christ. He loves us that much. He could just write us off and allow us to tear ourselves apart and condemn us to hell. But He rebuilds us and makes us whole and complete through Jesus. Shalom is a grant to us. The noun, shalom, and the verb, shalam, speak of completeness. There is a sense of contentment and the end of rage that goes along with this word, shalom. It is a state of being. It is the state of contentment. It is granted to us through Jesus Christ. There is no contentment in the absence of Jesus Christ.

 

In the absence of Jesus Christ, we seek to fill the hole in our soul (that God created in us that is to be filled by Him through Jesus) with other things. Money, fame, power, sex, drugs, man-made religions. All of it comes up empty. We seek and yet we never find. These things that are not of God are nice while they last but they do not bring us everlasting contentment. True peace, true contentment only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ that puts God first in our lives. The thing is…is that we do not deserve the peace granted by God. We have waged war on Him since the Garden of Eden. We don’t deserve for Him to make us whole. He rebuilds us though we do not deserve it. He makes repairs to our soul, our infrastructure, though we do not deserve it. We deserve to be left in ruins. But, He loves us so He makes us whole. He offers us a way to be restored to His favor. No longer warring against Him, restored by Him, He rebuilds us and gives us completeness. He gives us wholeness. He gives us shalom!

 

Amen and Amen.