Saturday, November 17, 2007

A High Priest

WARNING - this is not my typical blog post, but after spending a few day sin Hebrews, I am compelled to write about it. Hebrews is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Why? Quite simply, because it so clearly outlines what I consider two of the most amazing things in the world;
1) We, mere mortals, human beings, 'created beings,' have direct access and a personal relationship with GOD - the uncreated one, the Holy one, the same God of the OT where merely to come into His presence meant certain death.
2) Jesus, God in human flesh, sits at the right hand of God mediating on our behalf.

me·di·a·tor (md-tr)n.
1. One that mediates, especially one that reconciles differences between disputants.

How it used to be (click here): STOP - if you just skipped over that link, go back to it and read the passage it takes you to. The "old order" meant no relationship with God. It required that you go through a priest who, in effect was a "mediator" between you and God. The only time that anyone could be close to God was once a year, and that was only for the high priest. And even then, he had to enter with blood which was offered for his sins, and the sins of the people. As we read later in verse 22, "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." In order to understand how great the gift it, we must first understand how it used to be. Again, we read here - did you catch that? The blood of animals did NOT cleanse the guilty of their sins - it simply served as a reminder of sins. "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."

We were lost, broken, trapped with a law that merely pointed out our sins, trapped with a ritual system that merely reminded us of that sin, having to go through a priest to get to God. Yes, God was there, but He simply dwealt with us, not IN us.

The new order (read here): Enter Jesus. God in flesh, "Immanuel" ("the 'with us' God"), the "Prince of Peace," the "Lamb that was Slain before the Foundation of the World," the "Holy One." No, the blood of animals cannot cleanse us...if so, there would have been no need to continue the sacrifices. So what is the solution? The blood of Jesus. Read it here - read it again, here. Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, would die for me?

The new order - we still have to go through a priest, but that priest is Jesus. He now resides in that "inner sanctuary" and has become our high priest forever (here). Not only that, but through His Spirit, He also lives IN us (see here), and furthermore, he now sits at the right hand of God, mediating for us (here, here and here). Here's another one: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time." (I Timothy 5:6-7). And again: "So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into "the Holy Place." Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The "curtain" into God's presence is his body." (Heb 10:19-21, Message).

So what's the point of all this? First, this kind of "mediator," this kind of "Savior," this kind of "gift" DEMANDS a response from us. That response becomes worship. Not worship as in singing songs, but...

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1)

It is a high calling and not an easy road, but let us never be shaken - "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." (Eph 2:4-5).

Friday, November 16, 2007

He meets us in our need

Tonight I am tired...and greatly encouraged by a story found in I Kings 18-19. For those of you who grew up in the church, the first part of the story will be familiar. We find Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal and gaining an amazing victory for God. If you're not familiar with the story, you can read it here. I want to focus on what happens next, but to do that we need a little context...

Elijah has just won an amazing victory. He has, with God's help, defeated and killed the prophet of Baal with a miracle - God reigns fire down from heaven, consuming an altar that had been soaked with water. It's an amazing story, filled with Elijah "talking trash," so filled with faith was he. But as we keep reading you may be startled by what happens next;

Elijah, after hearing a threat from Jezebel, flees in fear. In chapter 19:4, he even says "I have had enough, Lord...Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." What happens next? "All at once an angel touched him and said, 'Get up and eat.' He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again." This happened second time as well - the food and water strengthening him and rejuvenating him.

What stopped me was this - Elijah had just been used in an amazing way by God, and he was tired. What did God do? He met Elijah's physical needs - sleep, food and water. There was no condemnation, no "how can you give up and die after what I just did?" If I were God I probably would have been tempted to blast Elijah for so quickly losing heart, losing faith, and forgetting the miracles that had just been done. Instead, we read none of that - God, through His great mercy, met Elijah in his place of need. He sends an angel who brings food and water, and Elijah sleeps.

Sometimes, in our need to try and be the perfect Christian, what we need to do most is rest; sleep, eat, drink, listen, and allow God to pour Himself into you to prepare you for what comes next. When you're in that place, the best thing to do is just what He asked you to