The Cross

The Altar

In Numbers chapter 7, the dedication of the altar is described.

Noah had built an altar and offered sacrifices on it upon exiting the ark.

Abraham had taken Isaac to bind him and sacrifice him at an altar. God had provided another sacrifice- a ram caught in the thicket by its horns.

These are just two examples.

And now, at this point in history, in Numbers 7- God has given instructions on the building of the tabernacle, including the altar. The people of Israel  have followed His directions and it is time to dedicate the altar.

A place of death. of blood.

From the first entrance of sin, God shows us this picture of blood: how sin causes death, the spilling of blood (the Truth) and how that blood would be payment for sin (the Grace). Bittersweet and Glorious. Humbling and Majestic.

Adam and Eve, covered in leaves, and God making the first sacrifice to cover them with skins… this is a picture of the gravity of sin and the gracious love of God. Satan had tried to steal their dignity. They took the bait. God took the bait away and gave them truth and grace, wrapping them up… His very self… He did it. He sacrificed the animal and covered them.

And isn’t that the point of ALL of Scripture?

His will, not mine.

His truth. His grace. His work, not mine.

All leading up to HIS BLOOD.

So, in Numbers… we are still at this point in history before His blood… let’s look together.

(My paraphrase): For twelve days, one tribe of Israel would bring an offering for the dedication of the altar. The offerings included items for use in the tabernacle, such as gold and silver plates and sprinkling bowls, incense, flour, and oils. The offering also included animals for sacrifice at the anointed altar.

Starting in verse 87 The total number of animals for the burnt offering came to twelve young bulls, twelve rams, and twelve male lambs a year old, together with their grain offering. Twelve male goats were used for the sin offering. The total number of animals of the fellowship offering came to twenty four oxen, sixty rams, sixty male goats, and sixty male lambs a year old. These were the offerings for the dedication of the temple.

Lots of blood equaling Loads of Truth and Grace.

Repentance here painted in this picture from history

preparing repentance for us here and now-

 We, who live After Jesus, After His blood spilled.

Not as much blood at Calvary’s Cross, but the most precious, most valuable.

The ONLY blood that could fulfill the penalty for good.

The innocent animals killed could only give us a glimpse into the weightiness of sin, the cost.

The innocent JESUS killed.

That.

Where Love Stopped Drawing the Picture and WAS IN the Picture in the Most Profound Way:

In Pain.

For, you, Dear Reader, and for me.

The greatest compassion we can give each other is the Gospel.

The Gospel of Repentance, the only Good News there is.

Giving each other the Gospel means pointing each other over and over and over again to the covenant of blood, the covering of Jesus: His life in exchange for mine.

My sin payed by my greatest love for the purpose of reconciling me to my Heavenly Father and giving me life… my spirit married to His.

If He would bear our sin and spill His blood, is there anything He would NOT give of Himself for us? Is there any problem TOO great for Him? Let’s meditate on Him and stir up the faith in our spirits.

Jesus gives me:

His strength……………………………………………………….for my weakness

His peace………………………………………………………………for my anxiety

His purity………………………………………………………………..for my shame

His truth……………………………………………………………for my confusions

His grace…………………………………………………………..for my judgement

His purposes………………………………………………………….for my striving

His love………………………………………………..for my selfish, needy heart

Paul, all consumed with wanting more and more of Christ, gives us this urging in Romans 12:1

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Another altar… without a specific location… for us… anytime, anywhere because Jesus tore the curtain making us: the people after the Cross- AFTER THE CROSS historically and AFTER THE CROSS as in that is what we are after… Taking up our cross daily… leaving all our sicknesses, manipulations, our striving to be good on it… CRUCIFIED…and instead resting in His goodness… which leaves us free to BE. to laugh. to be human and make mistakes. to walk blamelessly, to confess our sin quickly, to boldness because fear of man hangs from that cross as well. Free to let other people be… loving without strings attached… because our insecurity is being crucified there on that cross, too.

Bless you with the Cross today. Bless you, Dear Believer, with resting in the finished work done for you there. And bless you with being you all wrapped up in Jesus today.

And you. Who may not believe? Bless you. If you read this far, you did so for some reason. Bless you with the peace of the cross, the privilege of laying down all your burdens and being cleansed by Jesus.

In Christ Alone,

Diana

And…I am giving away this book:

photogive

Because it is such a clear representation of the Gospel and salvation. The kids and I loved it and I want to share it.  So… if you would like a copy, become an e-mail follower of the blog… that way I can communicate with you about where to send the book. If you already follow, comment on this post. I’ll send two books out, so we’ll see… I’ll draw if I need to.  Bless you!

The Feelings on Our Shoulders in a Wand Worshiping World

“Why won’t He take it away?”

Probably words cried by every person who has tried their hand at prayer, at believing in a power greater than themselves in the midst of an unwanted situation, struggle, heart break. Even all the atheists have prayed for relief, a fix, a cure. We’ve all  tried our hand at bargaining with God and agreeing to believe, to do better if He would just wave a wand over our heads.

Naaman, who wanted a wave of a hand- a wand, was a commander of the army of the king of Aram. The king of Aram worshipped a god named Rimmon. We know Naaman accompanied him to the temple of Rimmon for he tells us so later in the story.

Certainly he had most likely, desperately asked Rimmon to take his leprosy. Yes, Naaman had leprosy. Although life had seemingly been good to Naaman, he had this skin disease- a terrible skin disease called leprosy.

You see Naaman was successful. He was honored by the king and his men. He had position and power and respect. He also had a little slave girl, who was an Israelite, who had big faith. And he had a big enough problem to listen to her.

The slave girl suggested to Naaman’s wife that  Naaman should go to Elisha, who was a prophet of the One True God, and that he could cure Naaman’s leprosy.

With leprosy, Naaman’s future was looking dim.

Desperateness makes us listen to people we normally wouldn’t listen to.

It also makes us go to places we normally wouldn’t go.

So, desperate, leprous Naaman listens to a little, foreign slave girl.

The feelings upon his shoulders become evident when Naaman first approaches Elisha and he is met by Elisha’s servant. He wanted to meet with the prophet himself, not with the servant.

So, when Elisha’s servant sends the message to wash in the Jordon seven times, he is angry.

And so his self dialogue may have gone something like this:

Slave girls, messengers… after all I’ve done. I’ve pleaded and tried the latest medicines. I’ve wished it away and petitioned Rimmon. I have power, position, and respect. I have commanded an army in battle and been victorious. And here! I have traveled to a foreign land and a foreign people with a foreign God. I’ve humbled myself and asked for help and this!  This is how I’m treated. I can’t do this. I won’t. This is a hoax. It won’t work.

Here is what the Scripture records Naaman actually saying, “I thought he (Elisha) would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy“. He then names two rivers that are even better than the Jordan in Damascus and questions why he couldn’t wash in them.

Then he goes off in a rage.

His feelings were revealed. He wasn’t as humble as he thought. Naaman had been what is humanly possible though rare: He had been humble in the sight of man.

He had yet to be humble in the sight of the One True God.

He wanted a cure not a God. He hadn’t come to Israel to meet and surrender to the One True God. He had come for a wand, for a story of magic, to meet with the famous prophet and be fixed.

Instead He would be broken and repentant and humble himself to the very words of God: the instructions from the servant of the prophet of God.

And when we read in Scripture that his men reasoned with him, did they know they spoke words of eternal life to Him? They pegged him saying, “… if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then when he tells you to be washed and cleansed”. They basically told him to get his feelings off his shoulders.

He probably looked down at the leprosy and weighed it up against his anger and his pride, his pain, fear, and confusion. This God had given an instruction and it was time to listen or never know if His word was weighty or hogwash.

So Naaman did. He believed enough to lay down the feelings on His shoulders and pick up the will of God.  It was credited to him as righteousness, just like for all those who believe and get up under His mighty hand because we cannot deny the leprosy of our sin soaked souls and the fact that we have no solution for it apart from Him.

He wanted it badly enough that he listened. He chose to quit chasing wands and bend to a King, who was enabling Him with His unwavering, heart- piercing instructions.

He learned that a wand would have fixed the leprosy, but a wand would never have dealt with his heart.

And Elisha comes out to meet him.

Naaman, whose flesh was restored, professes faith in God and offers Elisha a gift.

Elisha declines and ministers God’s peace to him as he heads back into Rimmon- worshiping territory.

And here is the story for our generation, dear reader, for you and for me and for all those around us:

He will not wave wands over our heads, but He will deal with our hearts and cleanse us and give us Jesus, the great protector of the hearts He cleans. He is ours to lay our sin upon just like they did with the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament.

When a person wanted to approach God, they would:

1. Bring an animal for a burnt offering to the brazen altar.

2. Place their hands on the head of the animal admitting that the animal would die in their place because of their sin.

3. Kill it.

Jesus is the lamb who was taken to slaughter. So look. He is the One we can place our leprous hands on- at the cross- the place where He paid the penalty for our sin. We can lay our leprous selves down and come up cleansed trusting that He took our punishment and look in His eyes and let Him minister peace to us as we travel this wand-worshiping world.

We can have peace with the One who is Peace.

or

We can curse that He hasn’t come out to wave a wand over us and has commanded us instead to be washed by blood- and like Naaman can scream all our failed expectations and go off in a rage.

But dear reader, may I be your servant in place of Naaman’s and say, “If God had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more when He tells you to be washed and cleansed?”

Now, go, weigh the cost. Get your feelings off your shoulders and go for the first time. Or go back because walking with Him doesn’t change the instructions. We go to Him over and over and over and over again because feelings have a tendency of climbing on our shoulders and because we need Him to teach us to be truly humble… no wands , but rather moment by moment  receiving His correction, His love, His words, His peace, His life. Then we tell others about this King who offers us the truth.

O Reader, If He asks us to do some great thing wouldn’t we do it? How much more when He tells us to be washed and cleansed?

Bless you with the cleansing only He can give and faith on fire in a wand-worshiping world… until you see Him face to face.

Naaman’s story is found in 2 Kings chapter 5.

Photo by B.Jehle