Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

God Is Working! Are You Becoming?

“God’s will has far more to do with who you are becoming than it has to do with what you do for God.” –Afshin Ziafat

At my church this weekend, we continued our study of the Crimson Thread through the Old Testament by discussing the Passover story in Exodus 12. While there are many clear parallels between what happened at Passover, the Passover seder held by practicing Jews, and the death of Jesus Christ, one thing stuck out to me as I was reading, and the original language of the text bore an awesome discovery.

Exodus 12:5 (NASB) says thus: “Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.” Now the easy way to read this is to point to the “unblemished male” and parallel it to Christ that way, because Christ is “the Lamb, unblemished and spotless.” (1 Peter 1:19) Only a man without any blemishes (i.e. sin) could be the sacrifice needed to bear the sins of man. This makes perfect sense.

However, what I found goes a step further, and I hope it makes sense to you, the reader, as well. The Hebrew word for “unblemished” is tamiym, which means “complete, whole, entire, sound.” This hit me as rather striking, given Christ’s final words on the cross, “It is finished.” (emphasis mine) Christ had made His purpose and sacrifice complete, the same way the Passover sacrifice was to be complete.

I pointed this out to WIFE, and she took it one step further by pointing out Philippians 1:6 — “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine) This same completion, this unblemishing that was true of both the Passover lamb in Exodus and of Jesus Christ as He became the sacrifice for all mankind, is being worked out in us! What an awesome picture of both the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and the ultimate glorification we will see upon passing from this life into eternity. We are being made “unblemished” and “complete.” How can you say anything but “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” to that kind of awesome promise?

So when we are seeking out God’s will for our lives, let’s take to heart both the quote above and the promise that follows. We should make it our aim to focus less on doing and more on becoming, so that God’s sanctifying work is evident in us.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” — Ephesians 3:20-21

Advertisements

Back When I Was Your Age…

“Let them sacrifice thank offerings,
and tell of his works with songs of joy.”

Psalm 107:22 (NIV)

One of my previous endeavors in study was to touch a little bit on hermeneutics. Those of you who have studied hermeneutics know that one of the key things in this type of study is context; this meaning that if you want to understand the meaning of a verse, you have to look at the whole passage around it to get what the writer is trying to communicate. Sometimes this extends through multiple chapters to understand the key point of the message.

Since I’ve done this previously, I find myself often looking past one single verse to interpret the whole meaning. In this case, I was doing some work for the Bible study “One True God” by Paul Washer, and he referenced this verse. In reading this verse, I got so much from it that for this post it doesn’t warrant going any further.

The first line says to “sacrifice thank offerings.” Having read through the books of the Law earlier this year, I understand somewhat the significance of the different types of offerings, so seeing “thank offerings” here makes sense to me. But in present day, thanks to the New Covenant, we don’t sacrifice offerings anymore. So how does this apply?

To me, this phrase carries two-fold significance. The first involves offering thanks, which is a vital part of prayer. As much as prayer should be asking Him for guidance, it should also be to thank Him for the blessings that are evident in our lives. And importantly, there should be a balance between the two. While I sometimes fall into this trap, I think realistically that you can’t petition without recognition. Thanksgiving and praise come before requests.

The second part is sacrifice. That part should be somewhat self-explanatory. After understanding His greatness, we can’t help but submit ourselves to His will. Still, as easy as this may be to see, it’s a lot harder to do, and we all know that. It doesn’t mean that we can’t give back of ourselves from what He’s given us. Ultimately, to submit to His will and power is the least we could do.

The other phrase in this verse is of no less importance. It says to “tell of His works” with “songs of joy.” Worship is a huge part of why we were created. Praise and thanksgiving can and should be included in worship of our Lord. However, when I first read this, it hit a little deeper than that to me.

When the verse says “tell of His works,” the first thing that came to mind was sharing what he’s done. Now of course we can share with each other what God is doing and has done, but how much more important is us to pass down God’s work to future generations. I know that things tend to hit me more powerfully when they happen to people I know, so I can only imagine that our children and grandchildren would be more affected if we were to tell specifically of the works God has done in our own lives than if they were to read the Biblical accounts. That’s not to undermine the importance of what is written in the Bible; but for personal application, if we’re not passing along testimony about what God has done in our own lives, we’re missing out on a huge opportunity to really affect the personal relationships the next generation of men and women will be having with the living God.

Perhaps this is why songs are so powerful. There’s an old saying that if you put someone in a song, they are immortalized forever. We still listen to songs created by the previous generation; they were handed down to us by our parents and by friends we have who were around when they were present day. If a Beatles song can have such staying power, how much greater can the songs telling of the great wonders and works of our Lord endure?

As a musician, this speaks power to me. I’ve written some worship songs in the past, but I guess I never realized until now how important worship songs were to pass along to my daughter. It makes me grateful that every day WIFE has our daughter watching Praise Baby DVDs, so someday when she hears the words and asks me what they mean, I might be able to tell her of some of the great works God has done for me personally. And that’s something worth offering thanks for.

Jesus — Of Judah

I had a weird mental pathway today to my topic. I was thinking about looking for a commentary on Judges to see if anyone else had some interesting takes on the man Jephthah was, which led me back to my blog yesterday. I remembered Rahab and wondered if any other women would be worth mentioning in this group. Certainly some might say Ruth or Esther could be included, perhaps Hannah or Sarah or even Bathsheba. However, one crossed my mind that little is known about: Tamar. Would Tamar be worthy of such an honor? We know she was Judah’s niece and tricked him into sleeping with her to conceive a child that would be his heir, since her husband and husband’s brother were both killed by the Lord.

That put another question in my mind. Judah slept with his niece, who was masquerading as a prostitute. And yet it is this man from whom Jesus chose to be a descendant. Looking at the tribes of Israel and the men from which they came, one would suspect that Jesus would come from the line of Joseph, or perhaps Levi, since He is described in Hebrews as “High Priest,” and the Levites were the priests. But no, Jesus is the “lion of the tribe of Judah.” Why did He choose (and it most definitely was a choice; I have no desire to debate the sovereignty of God in this post) the lineage of Judah?

It got me thinking about what we really know about Judah. For starters, his name lends more to the future Messiah as one of his descendants. The name Judah is derived from the Hebrew word for praise. Joseph comes from the Hebrew for may he add, while Levi comes from the Hebrew for attached.

After Judah’s birth, we don’t hear about him again until his incident with Tamar. Genesis 38 tells this story, but at the end, it is noteworthy that Judah keeps the promise he made to Tamar in attempting to bring her a goat and honoring the cord and seal he gave to her as his sign, even though he says, “She is more righteous than I.”

However, Judah’s greatest contribution to the book of Genesis comes in chapters 43-44. Due to the famine, Jacob sends his sons (minus Benjamin) to Egypt to buy grain, and when they come to their brother Joseph (not recognizing him), they are sent back with orders to bring Benjamin with them, and Simeon is imprisoned until they come back. Judah at this point emerges as the leader and asks that Benjamin be entrusted to his care. You would think this would be the request of the firstborn, but no, Judah was 4th in line. Judah takes on the responsibility of caring for the young and inexperienced Benjamin.

As the story continues, when the brothers return Joseph secretly plants a silver cup in Benjamin’s grain sack to force Benjamin to stay in Egypt. Judah then does something that up to this point has not been done in the book of Genesis: he sacrifices himself for the good of his younger, inexperienced brother. He pleads with Joseph to let him be the one imprisoned, since Benjamin is entrusted to his care. Joseph can no longer contain himself, reveals himself to his brothers, and they lived happily ever after (er, mostly; those living in the time of Moses might disagree with the move to Egypt).

So what qualities does Judah show in his short time in Genesis? (1) He honors a covenant that he made, (2) he emerges as leader of his “people,” (3) he takes responsibility for the weak and inexperienced, and (4) he offers himself as a sacrifice for the weak, so that the weak won’t be separated from his father forever.

Anybody see the parallels between Judah and Jesus? While Judah was not perfect, he was the best example of what Jesus came to fulfill. Simeon was chosen to be imprisoned first, but he and Levi both stained their father’s name by attacking the town of the man who raped their sister. Reuben, when Joseph was sold by his brothers, merely protested but did not step in himself. No, Judah was the man who showed the character that was later made even more perfect by Jesus Christ. It is only fitting that God chose to personify Himself in the lineage of such a man who, not blameless by any stretch of the imagination, did what needed to be done to protect and bring honor to his own.

Hall of Faith – Jephthah???

Most people who either actively read their Bible or attend church on a regular basis have probably heard a reference to the “Hall of Faith.” For those who may not know, this points to Hebrews 11, where the author of Hebrews calls out by name some of the Old Testament believers who exemplified great faith, and in some cases specifically where this faith showed its nature.

I recall recently talking about Samson and how he continually let Delilah and the Philistines attempt to take him down, and how he never learned. A friend made a comment in the vein of, “Yeah, and yet he’s mentioned in the Hall of Faith. Strange, isn’t it?” So I went back to the Hall of Faith chapter to see what exactly it was that earned Samson a place of recognition among the greats. Unfortunately, he is just listed in a series of names, so there is no exact specification for his inclusion, but it was the name after his that got me thinking. Jephthah?!

For starters, WIFE and I just finished the book of Judges in our attempt to read through the entire Bible in a year. After actually reading through the whole book, it’s evident to me that Judges is a book filled with chaos. People attacking people and not listening to people and breaking promises and making promises they don’t really intend to keep. Indeed, the common phrase running through many of the verses of Judges is, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Which brings me to Jephthah. We find this man in the midst of all of the chaos of Judges, yet like Samson he is included in the Hall of Faith. Why? A little background on Jephthah might help.

Jephthah was born the son of a prostitute (which isn’t terrible; after all, Rahab –called out by the author of Hebrews as a prostitute– is also mentioned in the Hall of Faith), and his brothers basically ostracized him from the family, saying he was not one of the real brothers. After the people of Gilead (Jephthah’s father) were attacked by the Ammonites, they called on Jephthah (referred to first as “a mighty warrior”) to lead them.

After scorning them for their treatment of him and making sure he would be their leader if he helped, he sent a message to the leader of the Ammonites, asking why they were attacking and after a couple of back-and-forths, is basically ignored by the Ammonite king. So Jephthah leads his men and defeats the Ammonites.

Here’s where it gets interesting, and may be the reason for his name in the Hall of Faith. Jephthah made a vow to God that if God would grant him the victory, He would sacrifice (as a burnt offering; Judges 11:31) the first thing that came out of his house when he returned in triumph. As luck would have it, the first thing out of the house was his only daughter. Jephthah, as any father would be, is distraught and tears his clothes. However, here’s the test of the man–he informs his daughter of the vow, she understands and agrees and after two months to spend with her friends, he goes through with the sacrifice!!!

Wow. As a new father, I know that if I made such a vow, I would probably say, “Um, OK Lord, what else can I give you instead, because You’re not getting my daughter.” Even Abraham, when told to sacrifice Isaac, didn’t actually have to go through with it. How strong a man of faith was Jephthah, not only in trusting the Lord to deliver the Ammonites into his hand but following through on a vow that cost him the life of his only daughter.

I’m sure Jephthah is rejoicing with his daughter in heaven now, but it is such faith that people today should strive to achieve. That no matter what happens, what we promise to the Lord is sacred, and we need to treat it as such, because He knows better than we do why He gives us the things he does, be it possessions, wealth, suffering or anything else.

Jephthah might not have been the smartest cookie in the jar, but he without a doubt was one of the most faithful and God-honoring, so I not only support but now understand why his name is mentioned in Hebrews. No doubt the recipients of the original letter of Hebrews did also. Hopefully modern-day recipients will observe and take note.