Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"The New Jerusalem ... nothing impure will ever enter it!"

Day #27

Scripture Reading:  Leviticus 10 - 12 ...

Looking at the title of today's reading you may think you read the wrong Scripture for today.  What does the New Jerusalem, the eternal city in the new heaven and earth where God lives with His people forever ... what does this have to do with God's strict regulations concerning clean and unclean things? Why did God give such specific instructions to Moses and the people of Israel as they brought offerings to God at the tabernacle?

In Revelation 21 the Apostle John receives a vision of the new heaven and the new earth.  The city descends from heaven and John describes its beauty in verses 11-21.  He then writes the following:

"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.  The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Revelation 21:22-27).

While some consider John's detailed description of the New Jerusalem to be merely symbolic, they fail to understand God's purpose in sending Jesus, in saving some through the blood of Christ to be His people throughout all eternity, and in creating a new heaven and a new earth where God will literally live in our midst in a perfect world that is not affected by sin.  It is in this setting that those who have been chosen by God will love, worship, praise and serve God, our Creator, forever ... time without end.  Few, it seems, understand the final goal of all that God has planned and is carrying out in our world today.  Only when you believe God's Word and understand where all of this is heading do the strict details of God's laws in Leviticus make sense as they reveal God's holiness and the only way to enter into His presence.

Some basic truths are revealed in these chapters that apply to us today.  Chapter 10 begins with the tragic deaths of Aaron's two sons, Nadab and Abihu.  Apparently they thought, like many today, that sinful people can approach a holy God any way we choose.  They believed God would receive their worship whether it was offered with a pure heart in the way God had commanded or in some other way.  But because they did not follow God's strict commands in approaching Him in the Holy Place of the tabernacle they died by the fire of the LORD. Moses explained that the LORD had spoken:  "Among those who approach Me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored" (10:3).  Some would foolishly ask, "What's the big deal?"  That is because the concept of God’s holiness, His utter and complete PERFECTION, is ignored or rejected by most in our culture and other cultures around the world.

People today believe you can approach God in any way you choose ... or even not at all, and in the end, you will still go to a place called "heaven" when you die.  "Don't worry about it; it will be all right."  That's not the picture God presents here in Leviticus.  Moses warned Aaron and the rest of the priests to be careful to obey God's commands or they, too, would die.  He said to them, "You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses" (10:10-11).  Those who preach and teach God's Word today should realize no less than Aaron and his descendants that to allow people to approach God in any other way than He has given will lead to certain death ... eternal death!  Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me!” (John 14:6).  John writes, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (I John 5:12).  Anyone who teaches that you can come to God except through faith in Jesus Christ, trusting in His work on the cross, is a false teacher and is leading those who believe him to face God’s judgment.

All the instructions concerning what is clean or unclean point to the fact that it is GOD who determines what is clean in His sight and what is not.  There is a deeper truth being taught here than that some things were edible and others were not.  This is more than God simply giving them a healthy diet.  God was saying, "I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. ... I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy" (11:44-45).  Even in the birth of a child God reveals that sin affects us from the moment of our birth.  We need to be cleansed, purified ... and that requires a payment, an offering, an atonement.

We are used to thinking only in terms of physical things and so we look at these regulations as though they refer only to outward, visible things.  God is Spirit and approaching God requires spiritual “cleanness!”  How can anyone be spiritually pure, clean, holy?  How can anyone approach God?  All of this points us to the Gospel, where God provides mankind the only way to draw near to Him, through faith in Jesus Christ.  Perfection is required and through faith we receive the perfect righteousness of Christ!

Nothing impure will enter God's holy city, where God promises to dwell in all of His glory.  God was telling Moses and the Israelites that anything that He does not make clean is unclean and therefore unable to enter His presence.  Only if we are "consecrated," set apart for God's holy purpose, is there a future in the new Jerusalem ... in the perfect world that lies ahead.  As you look at the world around you, can you imagine what it will be like?  No pain, suffering, trials, sin, death ... ETERNAL LIFE!!  Have you been made clean by the blood of the Lamb of God?

"O Lord my God, You alone are holy.  I confess my sin, yet come with thanksgiving before You through faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  By Your grace alone I stand in Your presence without fear, trusting in the blood of Jesus who atoned for my sin, making me pure in Your sight.  I praise You, O LORD, and offer my life to You as a sacrifice of thanksgiving!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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