Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Believers are priests, chosen by God to serve Him ..."

Day #254:  Daily Bible Reading Play - September 8th

Scripture Reading   Numbers 17 - 20 ...

What could God's appointing of Aaron and his sons to serve Him at the tabernacle possibly have to do with you ... as you live in the 21st century, more than 3,000 years later?  More than you could possibly imagine!  There is an unbroken connection from Aaron to Jesus to you and me and all who believe in Jesus Christ.  What God points out here applies to the lives of believers throughout all generations  To understand it, we go to the last book of the Bible ... to Revelation, chapter 1, verses 5-6:  "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father - to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen"

We who believe in Jesus Christ are called to serve Him, as priests served Him at the tabernacle and later the temple.  But to do that we need to learn some things from our reading today.  First is this:  How was it determined that Aaron and his sons would serve God at the tabernacle?  God chose them.  When the people of Israel grumbled against the leadership of Moses and Aaron, God made it clear through the budding of Aaron's staff that Aaron and his sons and his father's family were chosen BY GOD to bring the offerings of the people before God in the sanctuary.  God said, "No one else may come near where you are" (18:4).  In fact, God told Aaron, "You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that wrath will not fall on the Israelites again" (18:5).

" ... the wrath of God ..."  That phrase is not popular in today's religious climate, but God has not changed and what He says about entering His presence in the days of Moses and Aaron is still true today.  "Only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain" (18:7).  Why such strict rules?  Because God is holy and nothing unholy can enter His presence.  I wish people understood that.  I wish  all people, including those who claim to know God but who have not confessed Jesus Christ as their Savior and their Lord ... I wish they understood this one simple fact:  God is holy!!  The human mind cannot grasp the perfection of God.  People just don't realize that the very character of God makes it impossible for sinners to enter into His presence.

That's why God sent Jesus, the WORD of God, God's Son ... That's why God the Son entered this world and took upon Himself human flesh, becoming true man and true God at the same time.  We needed someone to go into the very presence of God in heaven for us, and while Aaron and his sons and their descendants were allowed by God to go into the tabernacle and the temple, they could not possibly enter in the Most Holy Place in heaven.  That's what Jesus did as He hung on the cross.  The blood of bulls and goats was offered to God by Aaron and the rest of the priests, but Jesus offered His own blood as the perfect sacrifice for sin.

God instructed Aaron and his sons and the Levites to "present the best part" (18:30) to the LORD.  "By presenting the best part of it you will not be guilty in this matter; then you will not defile the holy offerings of the Israelites, and you will not die" (18:32).  Do you understand that we are talking about life and death when we talk about the cross and Jesus offering His blood in our place?  The Old Testament sacrifices were pictures of what needed to happen, but as the writer of Hebrews says, "Those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (10:4).  And then those amazingly marvelous verses ... Hebrews 10:19-20:  "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is His body ..."

Every time I read those verses I thank God for His amazing grace to me, to you, to all who believe.  Through the blood of Jesus we have access to the throne of God!!  The people of Israel witnessed the power of God in ways that many of us might like to have seen, but their hearts were hard.  They were spiritually dead.  They needed a Savior.  God was showing them every time they brought a sacrifice to the tabernacle that they needed a Savior, they needed cleansing from their sin in order to approach God.  But their stubborn and foolish grumbling and rebellion is second only to that of millions today who attempt to approach God with their own meagre offerings of religious acts.  They are no more effective than were the offerings of the people in our readings who in the end rejected God's offer of forgiveness.  As Paul writes it to the Galatians, "By the works of the law no one will be justified" (declared innocent before God - 2:16).

God paints another picture in Chapter 19, as he speaks about touching a dead body.  Again, it may be difficult to see what this has to do with you and me, but the truth is, we are around spiritually dead people every day and a world that is corrupted by mankind's sin.  Creation itself groans and needs to be purified.  So the cleansing water itself may point to Jesus as the living water and to being baptized by His Spirit - washed clean through the work of His Spirit within us.  " ... because of His mercy, He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior ..."  (Titus 3:5).  Whether or not this is a picture of baptism, it was through the "sprinkling" of the "water of cleansing" that those who were "unclean" would become ceremonially clean and be allowed inside the camp.  "But if a person who is unclean does not purify himself, he must be cut off from the community because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD" (19:20).

All of this points to Christ and to God choosing us to be a "kingdom and priests to serve" God in His sanctuary - forever!!  Finally, as the people grumbled again because they had no water, Moses and Aaron were instructed to strike a rock and God would give the people water.  In their frustration, they took credit for getting water for Israel and God said, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I gave them" (20:12).  This may seem like a harsh punishment for the two men God had used to bring His people out of slavery in Egypt and who had put up with so much already, but Moses and Aaron were about to enter a much better "promised land."  God needed to let the people know that no one, not even Moses and Aaron, no one was without sin.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 10:4 that the "rock" the people drank from was CHRIST!  He was there ... leading and guiding Moses and Aaron, and through them the people.  But these things happened and were written down for US, on whom the fulfillment of all these things has come (I Corinthians 10:11).  We need to learn from their mistakes and then understand that we who believe are priests, called to serve the living God!!  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are cleansed and renewed so that we will place our faith in Jesus and then offer ourselves as "living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God" (Romans 12:1).  Aaron was about to die, and Moses would soon follow, but God continued to show the people their need for a Savior.

As Edom refused to let the people of Israel pass through their land, believers will face opposition so long as we are in this world, but nothing will keep us from reaching our destination.  GOD has made a way, as He made a way for Israel.  We ARE "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" that we may "proclaim the praises of Him who called" us "out of darkness into His wonderful light" (I Peter 2:9).  As we saw earlier, in Revelation, chapter 1, verses 5-6:  "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father - to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen"  Take seriously all God shows us in these chapters and then live out the life HE has given you to live FOR HIM!!

"O LORD, my God, You are holy, righteous, perfect in all Your ways.  As you revealed the sin of the people in ages past, so Your Spirit convicts me of my own sin and of my need for a Savior.  I believe that through the shedding of the blood of Your Son, Jesus, I have been forgiven and I now draw near in confidence to serve You, my God.  May my life be a testimony pointing to You, my God, for You have washed me and made me clean and I am Yours!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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