Posts Tagged ‘perfection’

Numbers 4:1-20

Duties of the Kohathite Clan

Have you ever noticed that some parents want to be their children’s friend rather than be a true parent to their children? Some parents are afraid that they will lose their “friendship” with their children if they take a hard line on disciplining their children. They are afraid that their children will hate them or cause their home to be a difficult one to live in if they discipline their children. They want to be buddies with the kid. As a result, such parents end up having unruly children and end up hating their parents anyway. As parents, we were not put on this earth to be, contrary to 21st century sensibilities, our children’s friend or buddies or pals. We were put on this earth to raise them up to be responsible adults. We were put on this earth to teach them the ways of the world so that they can survive in it and even flourish in it as adults. We were put on this earth to teach them right from wrong. We were put on this earth to teach them about actions and consequences. We were put on this earth to teach them about hard work and rewards and about the lack of rewards for laziness. We were put on this earth to, yes, love and protect and provide for them but never at the expense showing them the way to adulthood. Being buddies with your child never produces the intended results. Being the cool parents to your kids will often lead to children who grow up thinking that they are entitled to a certain kind of lifestyle without having to put forth any effort. It can lead to disastrous results. You can end up with a child in their twenties that lives in your basement and doesn’t see the need to “get a life” of their own among other unintended results of being buddies with your kids.

 

I know that with my father and mother, I knew that they loved me. They sacrificed greatly so that my brother and I could have what we needed to survive. Some of the best times that I had growing up was with my family. Some of my most unique and funny memories are things that I did with my mom and with my dad. One of my favorite memories was when I was about 10 years old and my dad and I were traveling back from Columbia to our home, at the time, in Anderson, SC. We stopped to get a soft drink after getting outside of Columbia and from that point forward until our soft drinks were gone, we had a burping contest. The contest was to see who could have the longest burp or who could say the most syllables of a word or words while burping. It was a priceless father-son moment. However, I respected my dad beyond belief. That was what made the fun moments most fun was because I knew who the boss was. Dad was not a tyrannical father but he was the authority in our house. I knew what the boundaries of behavior were and I knew there would be consequences for bad behavior. He never wavered in our consequences. If he said this is your punishment, that would be your punishment. There was no negotiating our way out of the consequences of bad behavior. I hated his consistency and his willingness to stay the course at the time, but looking back I am glad he did. I knew that my parents loved me. Without question, I knew this! They showed us love with hugs and kisses and hanging out together and playing sports with us. However, I knew my place as child and their place as parents. There was an understanding that I was not equal to them. The roles were properly defined. There was no blurring of the lines between being a parent to me and being a friend.

 

It was that proper relationship between a parent and a child that was the thought that came to mind when I read through today’s passage. It might seem odd to think of that in a passage about the duties and responsibilities of the Kohathite clan within the tribe of Levi at the tabernacle. As you know, the tribe of Levi was assigned responsibility for the Tabernacle and as we open Chapter 4 of Numbers, we see that God gave specific assignments to each clan within the Levite tribe for the care of the Tabernacle. After you read it, you may wonder how I came to this thought of proper relationships but I will, I promise, tie it together when we finish reading the passage:

 

4 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “Take a census of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. 3 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.

 

4 “This is the work of the Kohathites at the tent of meeting: the care of the most holy things. 5 When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and put it over the ark of the covenant law. 6 Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather,[a] spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place.

 

7 “Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it. 8 They are to spread a scarlet cloth over them, cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place.

 

9 “They are to take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand that is for light, together with its lamps, its wick trimmers and trays, and all its jars for the olive oil used to supply it. 10 Then they are to wrap it and all its accessories in a covering of the durable leather and put it on a carrying frame.

 

11 “Over the gold altar they are to spread a blue cloth and cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place.

 

12 “They are to take all the articles used for ministering in the sanctuary, wrap them in a blue cloth, cover that with the durable leather and put them on a carrying frame.

 

13 “They are to remove the ashes from the bronze altar and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 Then they are to place on it all the utensils used for ministering at the altar, including the firepans, meat forks, shovels and sprinkling bowls. Over it they are to spread a covering of the durable leather and put the poles in place.

 

15 “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, only then are the Kohathites to come and do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the tent of meeting.

 

16 “Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, is to have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering and the anointing oil. He is to be in charge of the entire tabernacle and everything in it, including its holy furnishings and articles.”

 

17 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 18 “See that the Kohathite tribal clans are not destroyed from among the Levites. 19 So that they may live and not die when they come near the most holy things, do this for them: Aaron and his sons are to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is to carry. 20 But the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.”

 

The Kohathites along with the other two clans to be mentioned in this chapter were family clans within the Levite tribe who assigned special tasks for the maintenance and care of the Tabernacle and in Israel’s worship of God within it. They were expected to carry out their duties in exacting detail as described here. Failure to do so would result in death. This contrasted greatly with the culture from which they were enslaved, the Egyptian culture. There, worshipers of the Egyptian gods could purchase amulets and potions related to their gods. The idols of their gods could be touched and handled and thus reduced to common everyday elements. This is because their gods were not real. Man makes up his own rules when he creates gods of his own making. However, our God is a holy God. He is separate and distinct from His Creation. Therefore, Israel was being taught proper respect for being in the presence of a perfect and holy God. Since He was and is far greater and far better and more awesome than anything in His creation, He is teaching the Israelites how to take great care so as not to be consumed and die in His presence because we are imperfect and He is perfect and He must make sure that we take care when we have the opportunity on this side of heaven to come into His presence. Since He is the Almighty God who is perfection itself, we would be consumed, burned up, would die in His presence because of being imperfect. I don’t quite think that we grasp that, but it is really a thing. Imperfection cannot exist in the presence of perfection without being burnt up. Think of iron ore being smelted. Imperfections are consumed and burned up in the smelting process. It’s kind of like that.

 

Too often in our 21st century sensibilities, and this is where we tie this though of parent-child relationships into what we have read about the special care of the objects in the Tabernacle, we try to make God our friend. We even sometimes say we are co-pilots with him. In the 21st century, we like to think of ourselves as in control of our world and of our own destiny. Therefore, we have elevated ourselves and demystified our God. We want to be buddies with Him. We want to be pals with Him. Even in my own Bible from which has footnotes to help explain the passages and in other biblical materials nowadays, we have made subtle changes to the relationship. Hardly ever (and I one of the few that still does) do you see pronouns referencing God capitalized anymore (instead of He, Him, Himself, and so on, we now use he, him, himself and so on). We want to be buddies with God. He is our pal. We even pray to Him like he is our buddy. We do not take time to properly prepare for prayer. We just talk to him as we are doing other things. We do not prostrate ourselves in prayer. We do not have alone time for prayer. I dare say that most of us do not have a quiet, special place where we go to have quiet prayer time with the Lord. We do not honor Him the way He should be honored. I am not saying that we should not talk to Him throughout the course of the day. We should! However, we do need those times where we approach Him in humble reverence. We need to treat God like He is God.

 

He is not our buddy. He is God of the Universe. He is the Creator of all Things. He is Almighty. He is Perfection. He is God of Strength. He is God of Infinite Wisdom. He is God of All Knowledge. He is Holy. He is Mighty. He is Perfect. He is Everything. We are, by contrast, like a grand of sand in His Presence. We have forgotten how holy God is. We have forgotten the reverence with which we should treat Him. He is All and we are nothing. He is not our buddy. He is our Father. He is a good, good Father. We should know, yes, that He loves us with unbounding love. He loves us so much that He gave us away to exist in His presence even with our imperfections through the perfection of Jesus Christ. So, yes, He loves us intimately and pursues us relentlessly. But He is God. Let us remember our place in this relationship. We are the sons and daughters of God. We are not His equal. He has no equal. He is God. We are His children. Let us always remember to approach Him with the reverence and awe that He deserves. He is not our buddy.

 

Amen and Amen.

Luke 20:27-40 — Ever wonder what heaven will be like? Man, through the ages, has developed ideas of what it will be like. Other religions have created their images. Muslims with their 70 virgins given you for endless sexual pleasure. Buddhism with its becoming part of the fabric of the universe. Even as individuals have created our own scenarios. At men’s group one time, I heard a guy describe it as a place where he had a tractor and 40 acres on the back side of heaven. A Clemson Tiger fan, such as myself, might see it as a place where you get to live at Death Valley and Clemson wins the national championship every year. Some might see it as place where they get to relive all the best memories of their lives, those bright shining moments in time. Somehow we see it as a continuation of this life only in a place not bound by the physical laws of time and space.

After the Pharisees and the supporters of Herod had failed to trap Jesus, the Sadducees smugly step in to try. They did not believe in the resurrection because they held that only the first five books of Scripture were valid as they were given directly by God to Moses. Since the first five books (Genesis-Deuteronomy) do not have any direct references to the resurrection, they refused to believe in resurrection. The Pharisees, the writers of interpretations of God’s law, could never find an argument to shut down the Sadducees. So, they figured they could trip up Jesus on this issue. The Sadducees asked Jesus what marriage would be like in heaven with an outlandish scenario of taking the custom established by Deuteronomy 25:5-6 to the extreme. As Jesus skillfully and perfectly answered all the trick questions of this day at the temple previously, He answers this one perfectly as well.

First, he addresses the issue of what marriage will be like in heaven. Jesus tells us by his answer that it was more important to understand God’s power than it is to know specifically what heaven will be like. In every generation and culture, ideas of eternal life tend to be based on our images and experiences from this life. Jesus answered that these faulty ideas are caused by ignorance of God’s Word. We must not make up our own ideas of what it will be like and what God is like in human terms. We should not think of heaven as a continuation of what we can see, feel, touch and hear on this side of eternity. Is that what we really want. More of this. A new and improved this. More of the same only just perfected. Heaven we cannot even imagine what it will be like. John can only use the word “like” in Revelation. It is like this. It is like that. Most assuredly John’s mind was blown in His revelation from Jesus Christ. He could only describe it using the language references of the Greek of his day. It would be like a person from the 18th century trying to describe life in the 21st century without words to describe things that had not yet been invented yet. They would have no words for cars and cell phones. They would have to describe it in the vocabulary of their day with frames of reference that they knew. Heaven is beyond our wildest dreams or anything that we can even describe or conceptualize. There will be no continuation of what see here. It will be far and away superior to anything that we know. It will be beyond the highest amount of knowledge mankind has here on this side of heaven. It is the place of perfection. It is the place of perfect knowledge, peace, and understanding. All will be made clear. All will be at peace. We will understand praise. We will understand humility. We will understand being in the presence of the Almighty. It is different and far better than anything that we know here on this side of eternity. It has to better than anything we can imagine or describe. It is the residence of God. He is beyond our understanding so His dwelling place is also. Instead of creating ideas about what our own heaven will be like, we should then concentrate on our relationship with Jesus Christ so that we can get all these ideas about heaven answered when we arrive there.

Jesus answers the Sadducees about resurrection by using a reference from the only five books of the Bible they believed in. He references Exodus 3:6 when questions them, why would God have said that I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when God was talking to Moses if there was no resurrection. From God’s perspective, they are alive. They are resurrected and dwelling with Him. He uses the present tense of “they are alive”. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive to Jesus. He knows them. They are with Him in heaven enjoying the resurrected life that we believers all enjoy in Him. For there not to be a heaven into which we are resurrected would make this life seem even more harsh, even less hopeful, even more random. There is a resurrection for us. It will be far beyond our ability to image and understand with the limitations of our temporal minds and bodies on this side of it. Thank God that heaven is beyond description and beyond my comprehension. I am thankful that, although I love Clemson football, that I will not be living at Death Valley in a newly upgraded version of this life where the things that were not perfect here, is, there. I thank God that I am incapable of comprehending the sense of joy that I cannot describe now will be my commonplace emotion there. I thank God that the knowledge that I think I have here will pale in comparison to the knowledge I have there. But most of all I thank God that I will be there through my salvation in Jesus Christ.

Heaven is for real. Hell is too. Are you pondering the afterlife? Are you willing to bet your soul that there is not one? Think about it. All cultures of all time have believed in an afterlife. We are wired that way by our Creator because there is reality to it. The afterlife is for real. Are you willing to be that all roads lead to heaven or are you willing to consider that Jesus as He said of Himself, no one comes to the Father, the afterlife, except through me. Is He a liar? How bout you take time to consider Jesus’ claim. Test it out. Drive it around. You will find that Jesus is the Son of God and through Him you will find salvation and your keys to the gates of heaven. Call on him now. There is an afterlife. Heaven is for real. Where will you spend eternity?

Luke 1:26-36 — “But how can this happen? I am a virgin!” A simple statement but, oh, such a complex one. It is at the core of our faith. Many of us think of the conception of Jesus as the part of the cute stuff of which Nativity Scenes are made of. However, it’s not just cute. It is the cornerstone on which our faith is built. It is as necessary as it is cute.

Most assuredly, if you were trying to build a man-made religion, you certainly could have come up with a better way to bring your central character into the world. But this is how God chose to intervene into human history. This entry into the world in this way is so utterly important that we often miss its significance. Mary was a virgin. It means that her, as they say on a favorite movie of mine, mysterious lady parts were pure and untouched. They had not been defiled by the entry of a man into her body. No semen had ever been deposited inside her by a man. She was pure and undefiled by man. Therefore, it had not been touched by anything with a sin nature. Into this environment, Jesus was conceived. The perfection of God gestating a perfect and untouched environment. Jesus, who had no sin in Him, was not touched by sin as He was developing in Mary’s virgin womb. Sin cannot exist in God’s presence. Therefore, for God’s Son, to enter into the world in this way, Mary HAD to be a virgin. Some believe that she stayed a virgin (so that she could be elevated to high status) but based on what I see in Scripture, Mary became a wife and bore Joseph other children. Debates can swirl around that and you can decide as to whether it is a hill to die on or not. However, the fact that Mary was a virgin at the time she conceived her first child is, indeed, a hill to die on. She had to be pure and chaste because the Perfect One was to develop inside her.

It all starts here in this pristine womb. If Jesus was to be the sinless man, he must start in an environment untouched by man with his sinful nature passed down from generation to generation from Adam, the first man. God had to bypass the normal way into which humans are born. It was a tainted system and it still is. Although when a husband and wife make love and create a child, it is a beautiful, wonderful thing. A child is created. But each one of us are sinners. Thus, we pass our sin nature onto our children and they pass it on to their children. It is the curse of Adam’s original disobedience to the Lord. In order for God’s theology of Jesus being the sinless sacrifice, the culmination of the Old Testament sacrificial system, that takes our place for our sin and makes us cleansed from our sins, He had to be sinless in every way. That includes the manner in which He was conceived and where He was to develop into a viable child. Jesus’ sacrificial death is based in the OT sacrificial system which was to teach us about Christ. In the OT sacrificial system, animals (as perfect as could be found in a world fallen because of sin) were sacrificed to act as temporary atonement for sins. Since the animals were not quite complete perfection, they could not be the permanent atonement for sins. Jesus was the answer. The OT system pointed to and foreshadowed Jesus’ once and for all final sacrifice. He was perfection. He was sinless in his life. And, equally, as important, He was not even touched by sin in the way He was born and developed as a child in the womb. Without a virgin womb, Jesus would have been touched by sin. If Mary had been sexually active, it would have made her womb tainted by the entry of man who is by nature sinful. Without Mary being a virgin, our faith then comes unraveled from the start. She MUST be a virgin. For Jesus to be our sinless, atoning, substitutionary sacrifice for our sin, He must be sinless and must not have been touched by sin. God thinks of every angle does He not. It all makes sense why she had to be virgin now. It’s not just some cute story. It is essential to our faith. You know in presidential election years, we take a couple of years before that to weed out the candidates and find their fatal flaws. In most years, we do find those fatal flaws and eliminate candidates from the race as a result. If you are looking for a trace of sin in Jesus, here would be the place to look. But there is no sin here. Mary was a virgin. Her womb had not been touched by man.

Mary also had to be impregnated by the Holy Spirit and not by a man for the very same reason. It is essential to our faith. Jesus could not be conceived from the seed of sinful man. It would have meant that He would have been born with a sin nature. Therefore, He then could not become the perfect once and for all final sacrifice for sin if He had a sin nature. God had to bypass the regular system of human reproduction involving fertilization of the female egg by the male seed. He was conceived by a perfect and sinless God. God created a child from nothing in Mary’s womb just as He spoke the universe into being. He is the Creator. For God, as the angel of the Lord said, in this passage, “nothing is impossible with God.” This means that Jesus is of God not of man. He is human in the sense that Mary became pregnant and Jesus gestated inside her and she gave birth to Him in the normal human way. Conceived by God born in the normal way. Jesus both fully of God and fully of man. He is sinless and died as a substitute for our sins. He walked the earth as a man so that He knows our condition and the things that we go through. He knows of our limitations first hand by experiencing life in a human body. None of this would have mattered if He was not born of God. He would have come from bad seed, from our bad seed, the sinful seed. Mary had to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and not by man. We depend on Him being sinless. It had to be this way.

The womb had to be pure. Mary had to conceive by the Holy Spirit and not by man. It all sounds fantastic and cute. It adds to the cuteness of our modern day Christmases. It nice warm story isn’t it. But its not just a nice a warm story. It is essential to our faith. Perfection and sinlessness are the hallmarks of why Jesus is our substitute for sin. He had to have a sinless life, yes, and He did. He is the only one to ever accomplish that feet of anyone who occupied a human body. That in of itself is essential to our faith – that He was able to live a sinless life. But He also had to have no taint of sin in his conception and in the womb in which He gestated. There is no smoking gun that makes God’s theology fall apart here. Jesus was sinless from conception. Jesus was not touched by sin even in the womb in which he developed. He was perfect and sinless from the beginning of time as part of the Trinity. He was perfect and sinless at the moment of conception. He was perfect and sinless as he developed in a womb not touched by man’s sinful nature or his sinful seed. He was perfect and sinless in His life on earth. He was perfect and sinless during his death. He was perfect and sinless in His resurrection. He is perfect and sinless now and forever. He is free of sin so that He can always will be the sacrifice for our sin that reconciles us to God.

It’s not just a cute story. It is necessary oh so necessary to our faith. The next time you pass a nativity scene really take that in. That scene and all that goes with the nativity story is bedrock to our faith. See its gravity and feel its weight. It will mean so much more to you. Not just cute. Essential. God covering all the bases as He always does. Essential.