Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why the altar to God cannot be made of cut stones

In the old testament, people built makeshift altars or pillars to the Lord at places that God has shown kindness to them. Sacrifices are made at the altar to God as a worship to Him. The altar also serves to mark the place where God has shown kindness to them. Because God is faithful, altars mark a permanent place where God will always remember His kindness to men, and respond to them there. In Genesis 28 and 35, you can read about the pillar Jacob built for the Lord in Bethel, and how the Lord remember the place where He has shown kindness to Jacob, and continue to show him kindness there. Noah, Abraham, Isaac all made altars to the Lord in this manner.

Actually the Lord gave instructions in the bible on how the altar to Him is to be built. It is found in Exodus 20. This shall be our anchor chapter in this writing:
24You shall make an altar of earth for me, and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I record my name I will come to you and I will bless you. 25If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of cut stones; for if you lift up your tool on it, you have polluted it. 26Neither shall you go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed to it.' (Exodus, 20:24-26, WEB)
Before verse 24 in Exodus 20, God gave the 10 commandments and the people were very afraid. And God immediately taught the people through Moses in verse 24 about building the altar and how sacrifices to Him can be made on it. The animal sacrifices speak of Jesus' work at the cross. I believe God know men will fail and the only way out is Jesus' coming to die for men's sins at the cross. This is how Exodus 20 ends. In Exodus 21, God immediately speaks about the slave in the master's house, which is a picture of Jesus being sent to be nailed at the cross because our Lord loves His Master (God) and His wife (the church, who is the bride of Christ) and chose to be pierced and remain as our High Priest in human form forever. 

So we see that God's heart is in redemption through His Son. But do you know that Jesus is hidden in verse 25 as well? In verse 25, God says that if an altar of stone is to be made (this is different from the altar of earth mentioned in verse 24), it shall not be made from stones cut by hand, because once we cut the stone, we would have polluted or defiled it. The word "polluted" means "pierced" in Hebrew. It is the same word used in the messianic verse of Isaiah 53:5:
5But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53, WEB)
The stones in Exodus 20:25 that are used to make the altar to God represents Jesus our Rock. He can only be pierced by God, and certainly not by us. That's why for the altar we use stones that are naturally cut (by God). When Elijah built the altar to God at Mount Carmel (1Kings 18) against the prophets of Baal, he built a stone altar to the Lord using twelve stones, one for each tribe of Israel. When God answered his prayer with fire from the heavens, all the stones were consumed. Both the stones and the animal sacrifices speak about Jesus' work at the cross.  

Wow. When I learnt this about the stone altar for God, it educated me about the way we should come to God. My standing before God is in Christ. And God wanted me to bring Jesus to Him when I worship Him. I do not stand before God on my own. In verse 26 it says we should not go up to the altar by steps. This means there is no level of attainment when it comes to getting closer to God. We are all the same. No one can say that he is on a high level with God using steps that he has cut (achieved) for himself. As believers we come to God on level ground and we all get to bring Jesus to God to remind Him of the perfection of His Son's work. And thus be blessed and accepted by Almighty God our Father. Only His Son's work can satisfy His heart and His righteous requirements. 

Beloved, knowing this, 
16Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for help in time of need.

Praise the Lord! Shalom. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

With Him, God freely give us all things.

Recently what I read all points to Jesus being in the center of things. My Pastor is huge on that. But reading about it yourself in the bible and seeing that it is true is really an awesome feeling. It also helps to ground us in his Word. It started with this verse:
He who didn't spare (past-middle tense) his own Son, but delivered (past-active) him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give (future-middle tense) us all things? (Romans 8:32, WEB)
I show in brackets the English meaning of the Greek tense for 3 verbs. Now the active voice means a person is doing an action that may have an effect on someone else. An example will be "John throws the ball". The middle voice means your action affects yourself. An example would be "John slaps himself". 

Now knowing this, let's take a look at Romans 8:32 again. It says that God did not spare his own Son. The word "spare" is in the middle voice, because our Lord Jesus has always been with His Father and Jesus and God is One God. When God did not spare Jesus at the cross two thousand years ago, God did not spare Himself as well. This means giving Jesus to die for our sins costs God. The verse then says God delivered Jesus for all of us. This word "delivered" is in the active voice.  Since God is delivering Jesus to us, it makes sense. What is amazing is the last verb. The verse goes on to say God will, with Jesus, freely give us all things. This word "give" is in the middle voice. It should have been in the active voice like the verb "delivered". Why is this "give" different? This is because once Jesus is given to us, and we receive Him as our Lord and Savior, God puts us in Christ. And since Jesus is now seated in heaven at the Father's right hand, in Christ, we are also seated at the Father's right hand together with Jesus. Now "with him", when God gives to us, it is like He is giving to Himself! Isn't that amazing! This verse is another proof that with Christ, we having been placed in God's family, hallelujah! And in God's house, God freely gives us ALL things. No wonder in the prodigal son story the father (representing God) told the eldest son (representing a son in God's household) that 
'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours..." (Luke 15:31, WEB)
and in the book of Philippians its says:
My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19, WEB) 
My Pastor always preaches that God does not take a part of what belongs to Jesus and give it to us. God gives to us according to His entire riches.

Notice Romans 8:32 would read about the same if we remove the two word "with him". Yet, that is what makes everything work. Many believers go to the Father in prayer but they forgot that our standing before God is in Christ. For prayers to be effective, for us to be able to come to God and receive from Him, it is important to acknowledge the key in Romans 8:32 - that because we are WITH JESUS, God gives freely to us. We do not come to our God in prayer, thinking about how worthy or unworthy we are. We don't stand on our own. Our prayers are answered because we have Jesus as our Lord and Savior. That is our accepted standing before God. 

Beloved, ponder over this. And don't forget about the key to getting our prayers answered. 


Friday, November 1, 2013

The priests could not continue their service

I was reading the part where Solomon was bringing in the ark and dedicating the temple he built for the Lord. The priests could not continue their service to the Lord when God's presence filled the temple. See below
It came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of Yahweh, so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of Yahweh filled the house of Yahweh. (1 Kings 8:10-11, WEB)
The priests could not stand to minister to the Lord. Once God's presence manifested, the priests service to Him ceased. This means that before God, there is no place for the work of man. What an interesting picture. It isn't a picture of God appearing and men ministering to Him. It is a picture of all working ceasing before Him when He appears. God does not want men's efforts before Him. This is because our God is the source of our blessing. He wants us to rest before Him.

We see a beautiful picture of rest in Psalms 23. What does God do if He is our Shepherd? He provides for us that we have no lack, and He leads us to rest :

Yahweh is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul..... (Psalms 23:1-3, WEB)
Another beautiful picture of rest is found in the feeding of the 5000. When Jesus was going to create the miracle of food multiplication through His hands to feed the people, He made the people sit down. Another picture of rest before God:
And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. (Mark 6:38-40)
When Jesus visited Mary and Martha at their home, Martha went to occupy herself with busy serving. Mary, however, went against the norm of her days and instead of helping her sister, sat at Jesus' feet. Unlike Martha, Mary probably had the revelation that the man, Jesus, is God. And Mary's work ceased before her Lord, and she sat down before Him. And received from Him. Later Jesus would defend Mary's actions before Martha, telling Martha that Mary had chosen the good part, which is the one thing needed from us, that shall not be taken away her. 
It happened as they went on their way, he entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to him, and said, "Lord, don't you care that my sister left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me." Jesus answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42, WEB)
Thus today, if we want God to manifest Himself and be our miracle working God, it is important to adopt a position rest before Him once we have prayed. God's blessings do not have our work in it. It is all from Him. Something for us to ponder.