Sauntering into the Sanctuary

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After expressing his displeasure at improperly brought worship ( see Nadab and Abihu – Lev 10 ), God commanded that the following steps be followed in meeting Him on the Day of Atonement.

  1. Locate a young bull
  2. Locate a ram
  3. Bathe thoroughly
  4. Put on the linen tunic
  5. Put on the linen undergarments
  6. Tie the linen sash around waist
  7. Put on the linen turban
  8. Locate two goats without blemish
  9. Locate another ram
  10. Sacrifice the bull for the atonement of the priest and his household
  11. Light a censer get two handfuls of incense
  12. Take these implements behind the curtain
  13. Put the incense in the censer to create fragrant smoke, protecting the priest from direct sight of the Ark and the presence of the Lord
  14. Sprinkle the bull’s blood seven times
  15. Bring the goats to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting
  16. Cast lots to determine which goat will be the scapegoat
  17. Sacrifice the goat whose lot fell to the Lord
  18. Repeat steps 11 to 14 with the goat’s blood
  19. The priest will go to the Altar
  20. Sprinkle blood of both the bull and goat on the Horns of the altar seven times
  21. Bring the scapegoat out
  22. Lay both hands on the goat’s head, assigning all of the sin of the nation to the goat
  23. Another man will take the goat and shoo it away into the desert
  24. The priest will return to the Tent of Meeting
  25. Remove the linen garments
  26. The priest will bathe and dress in his regular clothes
  27. Sacrifice the burnt offering for himself
  28. Sacrifice the burnt offering for the people
  29. Burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar
  30. The man who released the goat will bathe and wash his close before returning to camp
  31. The remains of the bull and goat must be taken outside of the camp and burned
  32. The man who burns the remains must bathe and wash his clothes before returning to camp

The meticulous and precise nature of these worship instructions should cause us to pause and consider the way in which we will enter God’s presence this Sunday. Do we toddle in with no more thought than if we were buying a gallon of milk?

There is great privilege in being the children of God, but also great responsibility.

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 108 ~ Awaken the Dawn

imageMy heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.

Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.

For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Psalm 108:1-4)

In a short cry for physical aid, the psalmist calls us centuries later to consider the urgency of our spiritual motivation. Are we driven to rise in the darkness, to awaken the dawn in fervent worship? Do we linger in the comfort of our bed, seeking additional moments of slumber, delaying our appointment with God until a more convenient moment? Many are the nights in which the Lord beckons us awake, seeking our company and wanting to share a moment of communion with us. How will we respond?

Grace and peace in the Spirit of the Lord to you.

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Learning to Kneel–Two

imageDoes the grace, mercy and love of God preserve us from suffering the same fate as that visited upon Nadab and Abihu? Do we no longer heed the words of Moses paraphrasing his experience?

Among those who approach me I will show myself holy;

in the sight of all the people I will be honored. (Lev 10:3)

Worshippers read this passage and cannot help but  wonder why God would refuse to be worshipped. The young priests added incense to their censers, lit them and swung them back and forth, spreading the pleasing aroma heavenward.

Only to have it received by Yahweh as the stench of death.

So offensive was the smell to God that he sent fire down the same path that the smoke travelled, instantly killing the priests as one might remove an annoying gnat. So rapid was the response to the impropriety of worship that Aaron, the mouthpiece of Moses, is struck silent.

In our modern worship mindset we ask, why would God be offended at their worship? Why would God be offended at any worship? The passage is silent about God’s reasons, nor are we in a position to demand explanation. God alone sets the standards for worship. We can speculate as to the details of the breach. Perhaps they entered the sanctuary unprepared to worship or came at an inappropriate hour. The fire that lit the censers may have been improperly sourced or unholy. The incense might have been similarly profane.

We don’t know the reasons for God’s offense in the case of the priests, but the encounter must cause us to reflect upon our own worship. Are we equally impious?

The words of Moses are a warning to communities stretching into our own day. We must learn to worship properly so that we may worship properly. 

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 105–Don’t Know Much About History

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Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all his wonderful acts. (Psalm 105:1-2)

The awe of the sovereign God of the universe is sufficient inspiration to invite the totality of our worship. He is the God of all creation, the giver of life and the sustainer of souls. Worship-worth/ship-should be the natural relationship between created and Creator.

Then the mind gets in the way…

The brain tells the heart to justify the worship. Give me a reason, it says. The psalmist knows this tendency well. To call Israel to worship he rehearses the glory of Yahweh’s interactions with His people.. Glory in his holy name…Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.

He remembers his covenant forever..He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree

They wandered from nation to nation…He allowed no one to oppress them

Have you spent the time allowing God to remind you of your history together? The wonders that He has worked in your life, the trials he has sustained you through, the love He blankets you with. The act of rehearsing your history may be a personal motivation that deepens your worship to depths you have yet to experience.

Praise the Lord. (v45)

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Psalm 100–We Are His

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The verses of this psalm strike a note of familiarity with the reader and the reason for this is twofold. The themes of praise for God, membership in His flock and the ultimate truth of His enduring love are all present. Because the truths present are all encompassing, the words of the psalm have made their way into countless hymns, choruses and prayers.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

Placed in the cultural context of Israel, there are also theological lessons that take root in the subconscious. The Lord is God, not one among many, not capricious and prone to tantrum as the imaginary gods of those surrounding Israel. Knowing this truth and the truths about God make worship and the joy inherent second nature. Unlike the way in which one might approach an idol—hoping but never knowing—approaching the gates of the Shepherd comes with assurance.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Assurance despite any temporary travail or circumstance comes through knowing God. The psalmist doesn’t speak from book knowledge here, he writes from the heart of one who has searched both his personal history and that of the people of Israel, knowing the peaks and valleys. Knowledge brings level to these ups and downs. Knowledge reminds us that time belongs to God and that the contours may only soften over time. Knowledge reminds us that we can still be joyful in this truth.

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 65 – Praise Awaits You, O God

imagePraise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.

O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. (vv 1-2)

When we reach the 65th psalm, the psalter takes a sudden turn to effusive praise and leaves behind the psalms of lament temporarily. God has been praised by the psalmist over and over without hesitation thus far, despite the threatening clouds that seemed to shadow each entry in the book. Here there is no lament; it is either cured or forgotten in favor of pure praise for the goodness of God toward those who love him.

When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.

Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! (vv 3-4)

Though we should worship God simply because He is who He is, we most often associate our relationship to Him via his remarkable grace toward us sinners. We who were separated from Him by the chasm of our unholiness are given the opportunity to rejoin the community of belief through His grace. Washing us clean, God provides the way for us to move closer and kneel in the courts of praise.

Our response to the grace we are extended is praise for His righteous acts:

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,

who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.

Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. (vv 5-8)

Our Father is not content to merely forgive us for our transgressions, he installs us in paradise in a lesser, but still overwhelming, expression of His love for us:

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. (v 9)

Look around you, find a reason and praise Him today.

 

 

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