Monday, January 25, 2016

"Today the LORD will appear to you!"

Day #26

Scripture Reading:  Leviticus 7 - 9 ...

Leviticus 9:23-24 is one of the few places in the Old Testament where the LORD appeared to the people of Israel and their response was not fear!  "Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting (the tabernacle).  When they came out they blessed the people and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.  Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar.  And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown."

You could understand why the people would fall facedown before the LORD, but why the joy?  And if they were truly joyful, why did they fall facedown?  After such detailed explanations about the various offerings God called the people to bring, a few things stand out that are responsible for the joy the people of Israel were experiencing.  First, the offerings revealed God's willingness to allow the people to approach Him.  Each offering reminded the people that it was God who was inviting them to come to worship.  God said that when the priest offered the blood of the offerings he was "making atonement" with them (7:7).  God was allowing the people to "make a payment" for sin, trusting in the shedding of blood which pointed ahead to the sacrifice the Messiah would make once for all.

Think of the joy those who believe in Jesus Christ have today when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, pointing to the one sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, to the shedding of HIS blood that made “atonement” for our sins.  When I was growing up we “observed” the Lord’s Supper.  To me that always felt like we were going through the motions of a religious ritual.  Perhaps that is what the bringing of offerings was for many who brought their offerings to the tabernacle.  But for those who believe God’s promise of forgiveness there is great joy!!  Our debt is paid, once for all, and the writer of Hebrews declares, “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus!” (Hebrews 10:19).

As the priests were ordained in Chapter 8, "Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them" (8:10).  To "consecrate" means "to set apart as holy."  As God told Moses to consecrate the tabernacle and everything in it, and as the priests were ordained and set apart for service at the tabernacle, the people were also consecrated and set apart as the special people of God.  No other people, no other nation on the face of the earth had been chosen by God to be HIS people.  God had made His promises to Abraham, then to Isaac and then to Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel.  This nation belonged to God ... and as a people, they still do today.  God’s promises have not been forgotten.  While today God fulfills another promise, to bless some from all nations through the “Seed” of Abraham (Genesis 12:3), He says that the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are still “loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28-29).  Even today we see God gathering the physical descendants of Abraham to the land He promised to them and in the coming days every promise will be fulfilled, just as God said it would.  They have been “consecrated,” set apart as holy for God’s purposes, to glorify Himself.

When was the last time you thought of being "consecrated" to the LORD?  When the people "shouted for joy and fell facedown" (9:24), they were at that moment realizing, some perhaps for the first time, that God was present with them.  He was there ... and He had accepted their offering as they came in faith, believing His promise to forgive their sins through the blood of the lamb (pointing to Jesus and the cross).  Moses and Aaron came out of the Tent of Meeting and blessed the people, and then the glory of the LORD appeared to them.  What must that experience have been like?  FIRE came out from the glory of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering.  The sight and sound and smell combined to provide a memory that the whole assembly would not soon forget.

All of this points to believers today, to those of us who by God’s grace have been chosen and consecrated, set apart by God Himself.  We exist for Him.  We have been consecrated, not by the blood of offerings that we bring, but by the offering that GOD brings!  When God told Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, and Abraham obeyed God, God stopped him and said, "I will provide the offering" (Genesis 22:14).  God provided the offering when He sent His Son to offer His blood as the perfect sacrifice for sin on the cross.  Through Jesus God appears to us daily through His creation, through His Word and in every detail of our lives.  God is real and He is with us.

People without the Spirit of God cannot SEE God.  God appears to His people as we live by faith.  The Spirit gives believers spiritual eyes and wisdom to hear God's Word and to understand that through Jesus we have access to the very throne of God.  By His grace we approach God without fear, with great joy.  The people of Israel bowed facedown out of reverence and awe.  We, too, come in humility before His throne, yet by faith we can look up to heaven, knowing that we can come to Him through Jesus.

All those who believe in Jesus Christ today have been chosen by God, redeemed by Christ and born again by His Spirit.  Think of this:  every day, we have the privilege of drawing near to God with great joy and bowing down in worship before Him.  Every day God appears to us as we recognize His hand at work in our lives and in our world ... and one day, with joy beyond description, we will behold the fullness of His glory and join the angels is worship.  Until then, set your mind and your heart on things above, where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  Seek Him today and know He is always near!!  Live to give Him glory with these words from Jude as a reminder: 

“To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 24-25).

"Our Father in heaven, it is with humility and great joy that we who believe bow before Your majesty in adoration and worship.  Thank You, Father, for the offering of Your own Son, that we may have life through Him.  Consecrate me, LORD, to serve You.  Open my eyes to behold Your glory every day through the eyes of faith.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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