Friday, May 30, 2008


13. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by Lewis


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Armies of Yahweh

I have mentioned briefly in a couple of my recent sermons that it is striking that in the book of Exodus only Yahweh has armies. We usually think of the story of the Exodus and think of the Egyptian armies chasing down the rag-tag nation of Hebrews scrambling out of Egypt. But this is not at all how God tells the story. There are "armies" in the book of Exodus, but Pharaoh does not have any. Pharaoh has "strength" and "might" and "chariots" and "fortresses," but strictly speaking, he has no "armies." Pharaoh has no "hosts." Only the Lord God has hosts. Israel is the army of Yahweh (Ex. 6:26, 7:4, 12:17, 12:41, 12:51). And these armies of Yahweh are not at all pictured as retreating or scrambling in any sense. In fact, they are the conquering army of God; they plunder the Egyptians as they leave the land. Israel is the victorious army of Yahweh fresh out of battle, marching home with the spoils of their enemies. The Israelites themselves do not realize this as they see Pharaoh's men riding after them, but the story remembers them this way.

This becomes important later in Ex. 30 where God strongly discourages the act of taking a census of all the fighting men. He discourages it with a tax on every eligible fighting male counted in a census. If this tax is not paid as a ransom-price for the census, a plague will fall on the people. Of course this is exactly what happens in 2 Samuel 24 with David's sinful census of the armies of Israel.

The word for army/armies is TZAVA/TZAVAOT, and it only shows up one more time in the book of Exodus in chapter 38. There the verse is translated in the New King James: "He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting" (38:8). The "serving women" are actually "hosts" who "wage war" at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. This is a wonderful conclusion to the story of the Exodus. The Bride-People of God are the armies of Yahweh while living in Goshen, heeding the voice of Moses, keeping the Passover, and so forth. These armies march out of the decimated lands of Egypt as conquering armies. While the Passover makes the point most clearly, we know from the beginning of the story that it is the prayers/cries of Israel that have come up to Yahweh and cause him to destroy the enemies of Israel and deliver them from bondage. Finally, the Passover is a feast, an act of worship and devotion to Yahweh God which brings about the final blow to the land of Egypt and Pharaoh as the Angel of Death passes through the land. Thus, it is worship which is the warfare of the Bride-Hosts of Yahweh in the beginning, and it is through worship at the tabernacle of meeting that the Women-Hosts "wage war" at the end of the story.

We cannot state this too strongly in the modern context: As far as God is concerned, only the Christian Church has armies. The U.S. may have fortresses, North Korea may have nukes, and the Afghans may have suicide bombers, but we are the armies of Yahweh. We are the hosts of God. There are no other armies on the field of battle.


In Order of Cuteness

Tovia continues to eat, sleep, and grow like a normal newborn baby. We're so thankful for the first signs of what my dad calls "hockey thighs." We have every expectation that she will soon be a certified pudge thanks to mom's good milk and her hearty appetite.
This was nap time. And I assure you it only lasted for a few minutes like this.
Felicity continues to take her big sister duties very seriously.
Somehow, a week or so ago, I managed to graduate from seminary, and my son was fairly pleased with my uniform for the occasion.
The family in front of the Due West ARP Church's cemetary. The cemetary has a number of Confederate Army soldiers and veterans buried there.
From the Left: Luke Brodine, Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, me, and (now) Dr. Terry Johnson.
Me and the kids.


Eucharist for the World

You may know that there is an old custom in the Roman Catholic Church of saying Masses for the dead. It is believed and taught that because the Mass is a re-offering of the sacrifice of Jesus that it is in effect like the sacrifices of the OT that had to be offered over and over again for the forgiveness of sins. And since the Roman theology allows that people may be continue to be cleansed and forgiven even after death, they have taught that this meal (what they call the Mass) may be offered as a sacrifice for certain people who are not yet cleansed of all their sins. But this gets the Eucharist all wrong. This Lord’s Supper is a victory feast which shows forth the Lord’s death until he comes. This feast proclaims the death of death, it proclaims the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s body and blood, and it declares that this was accomplished some 2000 years ago. At the same time, as is the case with much distorted theology, there is an element of truth in what the Roman Church teaches. We do worship here on behalf of the world. What we do here is for the life of the world. In Revelation, John sees the worship of the saints and the angels accomplishing the judgments of God in the world. And therefore, when we worship here at this table, as we eat and drink and rejoice before the Lord, we do so for the cocaine addicts, for the prostitutes, for the homosexuals, for the abortion doctors, for the Muslim terrorists, and for all those who are lost, hopeless, and without the grace of God in their lives. We celebrate this meal as the great memorial of the only Atonement that does avail with God. And just as Moses saw the great sin of Israel and ascended to make atonement for the sins of Israel, so too we come out of the world each week, ascend into the presence of God and offer here the memorial of that Great Atoning work of Jesus for the sins of the world. We proclaim here the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness not only of our sins but for the sins of the world. We plead with God here to remember Jesus and save the world.


Second Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 32

Moses was up on the mountain for forty days and nights (24:18), and apparently the people got a little restless. This fall comes at the close of the “creation week” (ch. 25-31), and therefore we see that Israel, the son of Yahweh, the new Adam, is still much like his first father.

Literally, the people see that Moses “delayed with shame.” This seems to indicate that they were beginning to be embarrassed with how long it was taking him up there. They’re feeling insecure. Think about Saul and the sacrifice (1 Sam. 13:8ff). Israel puts distance between itself and Moses by referring to him as “this man,” and they say that they don’t know what happened to him (32:1).

This great apostasy that Israel commits is much like Adam’s in that it expressly breaks the covenant that God has made with Israel. The most obvious points of the breach are the first and second commandments against having any other gods before Yahweh and making carved images to bow down to and serve (cf. 20:2-4ff). We know that Aaron is a major player in this incident, but there are others involved as well: “They say, ‘This is your god, O Israel…” (32:4). Here the first commandment is breached, the carved image has an altar in front of it for worship and service (32:5), but this is clearly also a great sin against the name of Yahweh (third commandment) which God has repeatedly emphasized as being significant to the action of the Exodus (Ex. 6:3-6, 7:5, 10:1-2ff, 12:12, 15:3ff). Remember, it was Pharaoh who originally said that he did not know this “Yahweh God,” but the entire narrative is set up to show us who this God is and what his name means. Finally, the fact that a feast is declared is a breach of the fourth commandment. The Sabbath is the weekly feast to Yahweh who gives his people rest and joy. This pseudo-Sabbath is a feast to the gold calf and the gods he represents. Yahweh does not miss any of this (32:7-9). Literally, he says, “now let me have rest, that my wrath may burn hot against them…” (32:10). He wants to take a Sabbath and make an end them (32:10) which is sort of what he did when he finished creating (Gen. 2:1, Ex. 20:11). Yahweh has just finished speaking the instructions for the creation of a new world (ch. 25-31), but now because of Israel’s sin, he wants to make an end of it in a different way.

Moses “pleads” with Yahweh (32:11), but the word here is often used for being “weak or ill” (e.g. Gen. 48:1, Jdg. 16:7). It also has the same consonants as the word for the “cakes” of bread offered with many of the sacrifices (e.g. Ex. 29:2, 29, Lev. 2:4, 7:13). Moses’ prayer is “sacrificial” in so far as it is mediation of God’s fierce fiery-wrath. Moses’ prayer is almost entirely an appeal to Yahweh’s reputation (32:12-13). Moses appeals to what he has done, what the Egyptians will think, and his promises to the patriarchs. The fact that the camp is full of the noise of “singing” is striking since this is something that has not been explicitly mentioned since the Exodus. The word literally means “answer/respond,” but it is the same verb used here as describes Miriam singing their song of victory (15:21). Remember that Israel is picture throughout the Exodus narrative as the “armies” of Yahweh, and thus instead of fighting the battles of Yahweh, they have turned away and are singing the praises of this new god who brought Israel out of Egypt. Notice that Moses is able to plead with God on behalf of Israel and still burn with anger against them (32:10-11, 19).

Moses recognizes that Aaron is largely responsible for this great fall, and yet Aaron (like Adam) blames the bride (32:22-24). Aaron did not guard and restrain the people just as Adam failed to guard and restrain his wife in the garden (32:25). As Yahweh placed cherubim at the entrance of the garden with a flaming sword so too, Moses calls the faithful Levites to himself at the entrance of the camp with their swords, and they cut down about 3,000 of the people (32:26-28). The Levites are the new angelic guards of the sanctuary.

Moses calls the people to consecrate themselves because there has been a great battle between fathers, sons, and brothers (32:29). The judgment of the Levites is surely part of this, but the implication seems to be that the “great sin” of Israel is not merely against God but against their neighbors and families. There is also more going on because Moses calls upon them to literally “fill their hands” to the Lord (32:29). Remember that “filling the hands” was an integral part of the ordination rite of the priests (29:24), but literally the command to “ordain/consecrate” Aaron and his sons is to “fill their hands” (28:41, 29:9, 29, 33, 35). The ESV makes the connection most explicit by saying “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord…” This draws attention to the rest of the “hands” in this passage: the gold in the hands of Israel (32:4), the mighty hand of Yahweh (32:11), and the stone tablets cast out of the hands of Moses (32:19).

The next day, Moses declares that Israel has committed a great sin, but he will go up to Yahweh and seek to make atonement for them (32:30). He returns to the Lord and confesses their sins and offers to take their punishment for their sin (32:31-32). The Lord seems to reject this offer, relenting slightly, but nevertheless promising punishment for their sin (32:33-34). The final statement may be a summary of the judgment of the Levites or God may have actually struck them with a plague (32:35).

Conclusions and Applications
This is an enormous apostasy on the part of Israel. They have blatantly and flagrantly broken the covenant, but notice Moses’ response. He pleads for mercy and offers to take their place. This is the greatest kind of love, Jesus says, when a man lays his life down for his friends (Jn. 15:13). God has bestowed this kind of love upon us in the face of our blatant and flagrant sins, and we are called upon to offer the same sacrificial love.

Confessing sins is an ongoing duty for all of us when we blow it big and in the little things. Men, you are called upon to name your sins and confess them. And as covenant heads, learn to confess the sins of your households (e.g. Job 1:5), but as the priests and kings of our communities, we confess the sins of our people as well.

Lastly, the call to repentance is always a call to “ordination.” Your ordination was accomplished in your baptism, and we renew that ordination in worship. Here, we renew our cleansing with confession, we renew our faith and commitment in the Word, and we renew our communion in the Eucharist, and hands are placed upon us in the benediction.

What is in your hands? What are you filling your hands with?

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Almighty and Gracious Lord, we give you thanks and praise that you have given us your Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, to consecrate our lives to you, and to empower us to serve in your kingdom. We ask that you would make us like the sons of Levi, that we would follow Jesus in his warfare against all sin and wickedness and at the same time, teach us to intercede for the wicked, for the erring, and for the lost. We ask that you would make us living sacrifices.


Allegiance in the Wallet

This year our federal government is issuing checks to most of the citizens of this country as an effort to stimulate the economy. Quite apart from questions of whether this is wise, or a real solution to any supposed challenges the economy may have, as Christians, we need to think about this in a Christian way. And in doing so, we must assert at least three things: First and foremost, we must insist that our full and complete allegiance is to King Jesus. We look to the Lord Jesus for our ultimate strength, for our ultimate stability, for our ultimate security, and for our ultimate prosperity. All attempts of the President, Congress, and the United States Federal Reserve to fill that calling are utterly idolatrous, and we repudiate such arrogance. Secondly, it must not escape our attention that there are repeated warnings regarding money and riches throughout Scripture. Money is the root of all kinds of evil. Modern American Evangelicals are in the stranglehold of greed and mammon. We must guard against any and all monetary idolatry, particularly when we are beset on all sides by bills and financial demands that seem overwhelming and sometimes impossible. The Triune God is our Savior, and we will not be cowed into groveling before the shrine of Mammon in any way. Money is never a real solution to real problems; in the hands of a wise man it is a tool and a means of blessing, but in the clutches of fools, it is a hangman’s noose and an aggressive cancer. But this leads to the last point: we are not Gnostics and there is nothing evil about money in itself. We are called to submit to our ruling authorities, and we are to do so with all thankfulness and gratitude. And this means that as the checks come in, we can and ought to say thank you, but we ought to do so with wisdom and discernment and as the citizens of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus. You cannot serve two masters; you cannot serve God and mammon. Jesus is the Lord of your bank account and your checkbook and your debit cards; therefore, show your allegiance to him there.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Lord who makes Lords

This meal is called the “Lord’s Supper” in 1 Corinthians 11, and that word “Lord’s” is only used one other time in the New Testament, and that’s in the phrase “Lord’s Day” when John was in the Spirit and saw the visions of Revelation. The word for “Lord’s” is just a possessive adjective like “your, my, his, her,” but in these cases it’s fairly unique. The Lord’s Supper, most literally, was the Last Supper. That was his meal that he gave to his disciples to celebrate. Likewise, the Lord’s Day, most literally, is the day of Resurrection, the day on which the new world erupted in time, the time in which a new day began. When Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper and gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, we are being invited to join into those original acts: the Last Supper as a new Passover Feast, a victory celebration of the Exodus, and a new first day of Creation, a new separation of light and darkness, a new Light to be Called Day, since Jesus came back from the nothingness of the grave alive. We enter into the victory feast on the victory day, and yet these are events and accomplishments that belong to the Lord. They are his. The victory belongs to the Lord. But this is the glory of being invited here. When the Lord invites us to his feast and to celebrate his day, he calls upon us to join him in them. In other words, Jesus invites us to be lords with him. This table is the Lord’s Supper and therefore it is for lords. This day is the Lord’s Day and therefore it is a day for lords. To be invited to share in the victory of the Lord is to be invited to be a lord with the Lord. This is the Lord’s feast on the Lord’s victory day, and it is spread for all the lords of the land. So come: eat, drink, and rejoice.


Trinity Sunday: Exodus 30-31

Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank you for creating us in your image to be the lords of this world. Almighty God, we thank you for Jesus who has come that we might have your image renewed and transfigured in us. Grant that through us, you might remake the world around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Today we finish the section of instructions for creating the new world of God in the tabernacle (Ex. 25-31). This section finishes the “creation week,” and it reminds us that worship is all about remaking the world.

Golden Altar of Incense (finishing Day 1)
The altar of incense is golden which means that it is associated with the Most Holy Place (30:3). It is place in the Holy Place directly in front of the veil of the Most Holy Place (30:6). And it is Most Holy just like the bronze altar (30:10 cf. 29:37). Nothing else goes on this altar except for “sweet incense” every morning (30:7) and once a year on the day of Atonement blood is smeared on its horns “to make atonement for it” (30:10). Chapters 25-30:10 are “day one” of this new creation. The tabernacle is the light of the new world; the tabernacle is what separates the Day of Israel from the Night of the nations.

Census and Atonement (Day 2)
“Day two” is the provision for the people to protect them from the plague when a census is taken (30:12). The obvious implication is that if they took a census without this “atonement offering” they would be struck by a plague. This word means “plague,” but it is the noun form a word that generally means “strike.” It is used to describe the plague of frogs and the plague of the firstborn, and later generally to the whole Exodus story. Remember that the story of the Exodus as a great battle between the “hosts” of Israel (Ex. 6:26, 7:4, 12:17, 41, 51) and the fortress-strength of Pharaoh (14:4, 9, 17, 24, 28). There, at the Passover, blood covered the armies of Israel. This ransom payment is the same for all males over 20, and therefore it is a matter of life. But this whole provision seems to have something to do with trusting the God of armies and not one’s armies. Remember David’s sinful census of the armies of Israel (2 Sam. 24). Remember that the second day of creation concerned the firmament that separated the waters above from the waters below, it has to do with how heaven and earth are joined and relate (cf. 2 Kgs. 6:8-17ff).

Laver of Cleansing (Day 3)
“Day three” of the original creation week was the gathering the waters together into one place to create dry ground and the seas. Here in the new world of the tabernacle we have the waters gathered into a miniature sea that stands between the altar and the tent (30:18). In the temple it is actually called the “sea” (e.g. 1 Kgs. 7:23). The priests are required to wash their hands and feet before going into the tent and before offering the sacrifices on the altar (30:20). This washing is required on pain of death (30:20-21). Perhaps this gives new significance to Jesus’ foot washing at the last supper. Jesus is preparing his disciples for sanctuary-service, and he commands them to go and do likewise (Jn. 13:3-17).

Oil of Anointing (Day 4)
On “day four” God made the great lights and placed them in the firmament. These great lights are rulers, and they are meant to symbolize God’s own glory and rule. Likewise, oil is associated with rule, and oil makes a man’s face bright and shine like the lights of heaven. This oil is used to anoint the tabernacle and all of its utensils and furniture (30:25-28). This is also the oil used to anoint Aaron and his sons (30:30). This oil is considered holy and may not be used for common purposes in Israel, and if anyone does so, he shall be “cut off from his people” (30:33).

Incense (Day 5)
“Day five” describes the incense that God requires the priests to offer before him. It is “most holy,” and this is related to the fact that it is offered “before the Testimony” (30:36). Like the oil, it is holy and may not be used for ordinary purposes in Israel. He who treats Yahweh’s incense as common will be “cut off from his people” (30:38). Throughout Scripture, incense is associated with prayer (e.g. Ps. 141:2); prayer ought to fill and permeate our lives. It ought to stick to us and in our clothes like a scent that is hard to shake. Throughout Scripture we see the presence of God surrounded by smoke and incense, and John sees incense rising to the throne of God with the prayers of the saints (e.g. Rev. 5:8, Rev. 8:3-4). This is why it has been common in the historic Christian church to use incense in worship both to beautify and to remind.

The Spirit and the Artisans (Day 6)
Just as God breathed the breath of life into man on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 2:7), so too, the Spirit is given to Bezalel and Aholiab (31:4). This is the same Spirit of God that hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation (Gen. 1:1). The image of God in man includes the power and drive to create by the inspiration of the Spirit. This Spirit of creation is wisdom in their hearts (31:6).And this Spirit and the wisdom given to these artisans is for following the commands of Yahweh (31:6, 11, cf. Gal. 5:16ff). This is what true creativity is: it takes the pattern-commands of God and implements them in beautiful ways in the world.

Sabbath Reminder (Day 7)
As the first creation week ended with Sabbath, so too, God reminds Moses/Israel that this new world must include the original creation pattern. The Sabbath is a sign to Israel that they might know that it is Yahweh who sanctifies them (31:13). Israel is to guard this time just like they guard the other holy things of God, and the one who treats it commonly will be put to death and “cut off from his people” (31:14). The Sabbath observance is the covenant between God and his people (31:16). We rest as the Creator rests (31:17). The Sabbath is a call to live like God does. Create like God does but rest and rejoice in our labors like God does. God was “refreshed” when he rested, and he calls us to the same (31:17). To be refreshed is to be given the breath of life (cf. Gen. 2:7).

Conclusions & Applications
We labor in the world for the kingdom of God. We sell merchandise for the King. We raise and teach children for the King. We run businesses, wash dishes, take out garbage, and crunch numbers for the King. We need to think intentionally and strategically about this. And there are at least two possible errors to avoid: Because God is renewing and refashioning this world, it takes wisdom to understand which things stay and which things go. This is like cleaning out the basement: depending on your personality, you are probably tempted to throw everything out or save everything. But neither one will do.

Cultivate Sabbath living. An important part of making/re-making the world is through rest. Give the “breath of life” to your family on the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day should not be weighed down with too many activities, too many rules, and don’t treat it like it’s just another government holiday. The Sabbath is like your first day in a brand new world. What would you do?

You are lords of this world made new in Christ. In the OC God gave numerous explicit instructions for ruling the earth, but in the NC, you have been granted authority in Christ. This means that God gives you this world and cares what you think. How do you think it should go? What should Greenville look like in 20 years? 40 years? 500 years? You are the priests and kings of this city therefore live, pray, and rejoice in this fact.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Almighty God, we thank you that the blood of Jesus was poured out to purchase all the nations of the earth. We thank you that this includes Greer and Greenville, South Carolina. We ask that you would teach us diligence and wisdom as we seek to rule wisely in this land that you are giving to your Son, King Jesus. Give us true Trinitarian wisdom.


Trinitarian Words

Bound up in the being of the Triune God is a God who speaks. John says in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And it was through this Word that the worlds sprang into existence. Because we are made in the image and likeness of the Trinity we cannot help but imitate this. We speak words, and our words either create worlds of beauty, joy, and order, or else they are words the create worlds of heartache, confusion, and shame. Of course this is true of everyone to a degree, but in the Christian family, the Father sits in a unique place to create the world of his home. The words of a Father make and unmake the world of his family.

Often there are two extremes the men fall into and both are essentially Unitarian heresies; both deny the Trinity. There are the Deist Unitarians. Because God has not spoken, because there is no Word, no Trinity, their adherents cannot speak. These Unitarians find themselves distantly related to a world but refuse to speak, refuse to undertake the challenging work of creating a world of life and light and joy in their homes. They know it’s going to be hard, they might face opposition, and maybe they’ve been burned in the past. But not speaking, refusing to create is selfish, cowardly, and unfaithful to God’s commands.

Then there are the Muslim Unitarians. This Unitarian god has no Word, has no Trinity, and is mad about the whole deal. Husbands who act like Allah cannot incarnate their word, they cannot love with their words, they can only bark commands, make demands, and insist that their wills be carried out to perfection. But this is no less selfish, no less cowardly; this god refuses to love, this god cannot love. He refuses to risk his very life for the world. But we serve the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Fathers/Husbands, you are called upon to imitate this glorious community. Incarnate your words, live them, and let your words be words of love. Send your words into the world of your family and send them so that they can die for the life of your family. Send your words into the world so that they can save, heal, and resurrect. Because Jesus is the Word made flesh who dwelt among us, and God sent his Word into the World that we might have life in the Spirit.


Saturday, May 17, 2008



Monday, May 12, 2008

The Court Burst Open

“Then Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that is in the basket by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. They shall eat those things with which the atonement was made, to consecrate and sanctify them; but an outsider shall not eat them, because they are holy.” (Ex. 29:32-33)

One of the common phrases used in the history of the church to refer to this sacrament is “Holy food for holy people.” And this can be a helpful phrase in several respects. First, it reinforces the idea of vocation. You are called here to eat this meal for a particular purpose, toward a particular end. To be holy is to be separated, distinguished, called out for a particular task. To have a vocation is to have a calling. Some of you have been called to be students right now, some of you have been called to be teachers, some of you are called to be accountants, some of you are mothers and fathers, some of you are children, some of you run businesses, and others of you work skillfully with your hands. These are not just things you do to make money. These are not menial tasks in the sight of God. In fact, when you were baptized, and every time you come to this table, you are set apart and sanctified and called again to those tasks. You have been anointed and ordained to be a father, to be a mother, to be a brick layer, to be a barista, to be a carpenter, to be a supervisor, to be a student, to be a teacher. These are holy callings, and this meal is part of your calling. The court of the tabernacle has been burst open; wherever you work and whatever God has called you to do, it is done in the court of the house of God. Here you eat at the house of God or better as the house of God, as the tabernacle of God. But you are all priests in this house. You are all servants and members of the holy family of the new priesthood. You and your sons, you and your daughters are all the royal priesthood of the Lord Jesus. You have an anointing from the Holy One of God; you have been given the Holy Spirit who calls you to your tasks, to your labors as holy tasks, holy callings, holy vocations in the court of the King. Therefore eat, drink, and rejoice, for He who calls you to these holy tasks gives you the strength to perform them in holiness in order to display the glory of the Lord.


Eighth Sunday in Easter: Pentecost: Exodus 29

Opening Prayer: Almighty and Gracious God, we are your holy people, gathered in your holy name, to feast upon your holy word and gifts. Pour out your life giving and illuminating Spirit upon us now as we consider your holy word. Grant this for Jesus’ sake, Amen!

Today is Pentecost, the high feast of the Christian year when we celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit by the Lord Jesus Christ. Today we worship the Holy Spirit together with the Father and the Son as the one who has anointed us, filled us, and empowers us for service.

After the priests were washed (29:4), Aaron was vested in his garments (29:5-6) and anointed to sanctify him (29:7), his sons are vested (29:8-9), and then a series of sacrifices and rituals commenced. There were three animals to be offered: a bull and two rams (29:1). Aaron and his sons lean their hands on each of the animals before they are slaughtered (29:10, 15, 19). As with the individual worshipper, the animal represents those who lay their hands upon it (cf. Lev. 1:4). It is not an accident that this same ritual of ordination is still a central part of ordination in the new covenant (cf. Acts 6:6, 1 Tim. 4:14). Ordination is a call to substitutionary death through sacrificial ministry.

The Sacrifices
The sacrifices are a sin offering (29:14), an ascension offering (29:18), and a peace offering (29:28, 32). Since these represent the priests, they suggest different aspects of priestly service: they are to be a ministry of atonement/forgiveness (sin offering), they are a ministry of reconciliation and reunion (ascension offering), and they are a ministry of peace and rejuvenation (peace offering). This is the same order that the cleansing ritual of the Nazirite follows (Num. 6:16-17). This suggests both that the Nazirite was a kind of temporary priest, but also that priests are Nazirite-like warriors of Yahweh. The blood of the ram of consecration is put on the extremities of the Aaron and his sons (29:20), and blood and oil together is sprinkled upon them (29:21). A very similar action is also prescribed for the cleansing of lepers (Lev. 14:14-18). Notice the priest gets at the beginning what both Nazirites and lepers get at the end. For Nazirites and lepers, their separation was temporary and unusual, for priests, they are separated permanently and vocationally. It is their calling to be separated as holy to the Lord.

Walking Altars
The action of “filling the hands of Aaron” is integral to the ordination ceremony (29:24, Lev. 8:27, cf. Num. 6:19). The meat of the peace offering and the bread of the wave offering are to be eaten in the holy place: it is holy food for holy people (29:33-34). The priestly ordination in some way appears to make Aaron and his sons the equivalent of the altar: just as the priest is cleansed and anointed to consecrate him (29:1, 7-9, and his garments 29:21, 29), so too must the altar be cleansed and anointed to consecrate it (29:36). As blood is put on the extremities of the altar (29:12), so too, blood is put on the extremities of Aaron and his sons (29:20). The conclusion is that the altar is “most holy” (like the Most Holy Place), and therefore whoever touches it must be “holy” (29:37). Presumably, the altar is considered “most holy” because it carries the sacrifices directly into the presence of God; likewise priests are walking altars in so far as they carry the blood of the sacrifices directly into the presence of God in the tabernacle. Just as the sacrifices are placed upon the altar, they are placed upon the palms of Aaron and his sons. Priests are walking altars.

Worship for Glory for Evangelism
The final verses of this chapter outline the daily worship that the priests are to offer in order that God’s glory might sanctify the children of Israel (29:43-46). The glory of God dwells with Israel in order that they may know and remember the Exodus-gospel. The glory of God appears in order that God might be known. It is this reality that actually occurs in the closing verses of Exodus (40:34-38). When the glory of the Lord comes down into the tabernacle, Moses is not able to enter the presence of the Lord (40:35), and the glory of the Lord appears as a great cloud and fire “in the sight of all the house of Israel” (40:38). The tabernacle is the house of God, and with one great fire over top of it, it is a portable altar: when it moves, Israel follows (40:36-38).

Pentecost and Today
What we see in Exodus 40 is precisely what occurred in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit was poured out. There, a rushing, mighty wind came and “filled the whole house where they were sitting,” but instead of one, centralized fire over the house, “there appeared divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:3-4). The new house of God is the Church which is made up of all the people who have been anointed and sanctified by this Spirit-presence of God.

If the priests of the old covenant were called to minister as sacrificial substitutes for the rest of Israel, and if they were called upon to be ‘walking altars’ for the nation of Israel, it cannot be more plain that this is what all Christians are called to in the new covenant. The reason that fire comes down upon each of the believers at Pentecost is because they have all been turned into altars. They have all been consecrated, made holy, anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Therefore you are called to that sacrificial ministry of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. The worship that you enact here is meant to bring the glory of God to the world in order that they might know God. Live out your liturgy in the power of the Spirit.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Gracious Father, we ask you for a double portion of your Spirit now. Even as Elisha was granted a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, we ask for the Holy Spirit of your servant Jesus to be poured out upon us with greater power. We ask this that we might be your faithful ministers in our families, in our communities, in our work place, and in here in your Church, that we might be means of grace and peace.


The Spirit of Loyalty

We serve the Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that means that at the center of our faith is the virtue of love. When we say that God is love: we mean that the Father, Son, and Spirit always and forever give themselves to one another in love and loyalty. Paul says that the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. This means that the love of God in an important sense, is the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. The Holy Spirit is the bond of love that unites the Father and the Son in loving loyalty, and therefore the Holy Spirit has been given to us to unite us to one another and to the Father and the Son. So who are your people? Who are the people that God has given you to love, to serve, to cling to? What is the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life? Who are the people that you are loving now more than ever? Who are the people that you are more loyal to now than you were five or ten years ago. When God saves you, he saves you into his family, into his kingdom, into his city, and it is here in the Church that he promises to bless you as you give yourself away. And this is the key: it will not do to say that you will start being loyal to that guy over there as soon as he starts being loyal to me. It will not do to say that you will start being loyal to them as soon as they start showing some concern for me. That is a false gospel. That is not the way God has been with you. The Trinity is bound up in loving loyalty that is based upon self-giving, self-sacrifice. The call to loyalty means opening your eyes and looking around you. That’s what the Spirit does. The Spirit hovers at Creation, the Spirit inspires artisans, the Spirit empowers judges, the Spirit gives boldness to apostles. Look to your children, look to your spouse, look to your neighbors, and look to those people in your rows and behind you and in front of you. These are your people. Your people are the people of God. You belong to one another because you have been united by the one Holy Spirit who unites us in the harmony of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us; therefore live in the power of this Spirit. Cultivate loyalty.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Tovia Home


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Tovia in May

Just wanted to give another update on our daughter Tovia: The little woman is eating and growing like a champ. She's broken 3lbs 13oz. as of this evening, and she's definitely looking like she's got a little more flesh on those bones. We're thankful that she has continued to show no signs of bowel issues, and her preemie eye doctor was rather impressed with how "remarkably" good her eyes looked. The doctor has told us that she is definitely on track to be coming home in the next week or so. So we're praying that she might be able to come home sometime this week. Mother's Day would certainly be sweet with our daughter finally home.

Thank you for the many prayers that you have offered for our daughter and our family. We know that our faithful Father has answered many prayers, and continues to show his kindness to us. The Lord be with you!

(I'll try to get a new picture or two up in the next day or so.)


Sitting in the Most Holy Place

In the Ascension we celebrate the fact that our King has sat down at the right hand of God the Father. This is enthronement and rule, but this is also a radical statement about the peace we have with God. There is a son of man, a son of Adam sitting in the presence of God. Remember in the tabernacle, only a few people could drawn near and even then they were always on their feet. The missing piece of furniture in the tabernacle is a chair, a bed, something to sit down and rest on. Of course the ark was sort of a throne for God, but Aaron and his sons were not welcome to rest in the presence of God. They only fought, they only sprinkled blood, they only worked, and then left. But Jesus, the great Moses and the greater Aaron has gone into the Holy of Holies and sat down with God. This is like Moses going into the Most Holy Place and taking a seat above the cherubim. And yet this is precisely what God the Father invited his faithful Son to do. For Aaron and his sons and certainly the rest of Israel getting too close to the presence of God meant certain death. Drawing near was frightening and uncertain. But we now have a High Priest sitting in the presence of God. We can draw near because he is there for us. And even more than that, he invites us to come in and sit down with him. Paul says that he has seated us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. He has made us Kings and Priests to our God. And therefore as we come to this meal, we do so reclining, sitting, at peace and at rest with God and one another. We sit as the royalty, the nobility of God, the brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the King. Here you eat as nobility. You are crowned with glory and honor. You are his staff, his armies, his closest associates, his bodyguards, his advisors, his friends. So come eat and drink and rejoice with the King. Your sins are forgiven, Jesus is King, and you are most welcome.


Ascension Sunday: Exodus 27-28

Opening Prayer: Gracious God and Father, we thank you that our King has been enthroned in heaven. We thank you that he rules over the nations and kings and rulers of the earth. We ask now that you would pour out upon us his Spirit that we may be made mighty to serve in your kingdom. Through Christ our King, Amen!

Today is Ascension Sunday, and while we will continue considering Exodus this morning and the building of the tabernacle. There are several themes that we find in our text today that are types and shadows pointing to the enthronement of our King Jesus.

Courtyard of the King
We said last week that the tabernacle is the royal palace of Yahweh, the King of Israel, and it is according to the pattern of the mountain (25:40). The inside of this palace-tent is covered in gold; it shines and glimmers with glory like the top of Mt. Sinai. It is symbolically guarded by the cherubim stationed above the ark and woven into the curtains and veils of the tent. Now we move out into the courtyard of the King: here everything is made of bronze and silver (27:3-4, 10-11, 17-19). The primary object in the courtyard is the great bronze altar (27:1ff, 40:6), but we know from directions in the following chapters that there is also a bronze laver in the courtyard (30:17-21, 40:7). Notice that everything inside the tent is gold, and everything in the courtyard is bronze. The tabernacle is color-coded. The courtyard was about 75ft wide by 150ft long, and the wall was almost 8 feet tall (27:18). The chapter ends with a brief description of the oil for the lampstand inside the tabernacle; perhaps this is mentioned here because it is an activity that took place in the courtyard. The court is considered a holy place, and it is where the priests were to eat their portions (Lev. 6:9, 19). Throughout the Old Testament the word “KHAZER” often means “village” – a smaller enclosed town (e.g. Gen. 25:16, Josh. 13, 15, 19), what the middle ages might have called a castle. The courtyard corresponds to the bottom of Mt. Sinai; it is where Israel must go to offer her offerings (Lev. 1:3, 5). The courts are what many of the Psalms rejoice in (Ps. 84:2, 96:8, 100:4).

Priest as Warrior
The following chapter outlines the garments of the priests who are to serve in the King’s Palace. The priests are the royal attendants, the bodyguards and servants of the King of Israel. And Yahweh cares what they look like (28:2-3). Notice that when the Spirit comes upon people it sometimes makes them create beautiful and glorious things. The priestly uniform is the uniform of a warrior. He wears an ephod which is some sort of vest which attaches to two stones on his shoulders the names of the sons of Israel as a memorial (28:9-12). He then wears a breastplate over the ephod, and it is covered in precious stones again engraved with the names of the sons of Israel as a memorial (28:17-21). The breastplate is attached with gold chains to the shoulder straps of the ephod (28:22-28). Aaron is to have the Urim and the Thummim over his heart whenever he goes in before the Lord in order to bear the judgment of Israel over his heart (28:30). He wears a robe over this armor which opens “like a coat of mail” (28:31-32). He wears bells along the bottom of his robes that make him sound like a soldier geared for battle (28:33-35). The priest is to wear a turban with a gold plate across the front of it with the military insignia “holiness to Yahweh” (28:36-37). They are given sashes and special pants for their service as well (28:39-42). This armor is for “glory and for beauty” (28:2, 40), and all of it prepares Aaron and his sons to do battle with sin and iniquity and guilt (28:38). And they bear the names of their countrymen into battle before the Lord like insignias (28:11, 21). And they carry out this battle with the offerings of the sons of Israel (28:38).

Conclusion & Applications
The court is where Israelites bring their offerings (Lev. 1:3); it is where the bodyguards of Yahweh do their battle, where lambs and birds and cows were slaughtered and cut up into pieces. Pieces were burned on bronze altar, blood was taken into the tabernacle and sprinkled on various items, and once a year, blood was taken in and sprinkled on the ransom lid of the ark. Arguably, the central character of the book of Revelation is the lamb (Rev. 5:6, 8, 12-13, 6:1, 16, 7:9-10, etc.). The whole point of the tabernacle is trying to get Israel into the presence of God. The blood of their lambs was taken in, their names and their judgments were carried in on the priests. And now there’s a lamb in the presence of God. Jesus is our High Priest who has offered his own blood and has sat down at the right hand of God until his enemies are his footstool (Heb. 10:11ff). Jesus has not merely gone in on our behalf, he has taken us up with him. He doesn’t just take our names in with him, he takes us. And this means that God calls us to a full assurance of faith, a clean conscience, hold fast his promises, and consider one another to stir one another up to love and good works – all as we assemble together regularly (Heb. 10:19-25).

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Gracious Lord, we thank you that Jesus has been raised from the dead and that he now sits at your right hand in glory. We thank you that when he was raised up, you offered him all the nations of the earth as his possession and inheritance, and that he is reigning until all of his enemies have become his footstool. Give us faith that is assured of these promises and that lives them out with joy and love.


The Polling Is Over

Today is Ascension Sunday. Today we celebrate with the Church throughout the world the enthronement of Jesus Christ at the right hand of God the Father. This is a message that many non-Christians do not want to hear. This is a message that many Christians do not want to hear. When we say that Jesus is Lord; we do not mean that Jesus is willing to give you happy feelings. When we say that Jesus is the Christ; we do not mean that you can ask him into your heart if you want to. When Kings are enthroned, when Emperors sit upon their daises, when Presidents are inaugurated, the newspapers do not then begin to take polls and see if anyone is willing to vote for them. All the polling is over. It doesn’t matter what the parliaments and supreme courts and nations and rulers of the world think. It doesn’t matter if they accept Jesus or not. It’s not up to them. 2000 years ago, a man came back from the dead, pushed over the stone that was blocking his tomb and announced that a new world was beginning to a small band of frightened Roman Soldiers. Forty days later that same man ascended into heaven and was given power and dominion and rule over all of the nations of the earth. He was granted authority in heaven and on earth, and he was given a kingdom and empire that cannot be stopped, that cannot deterred, and that will not cease to grow and expand until it covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. The powers of this world are not happy with this, and they are doing their best to ignore it and minimize it. But the nations of this world, its kings and presidents owe their allegiance to Jesus. When we say that Jesus is Lord we mean that Caesar is not. When we say that Jesus is the Christ, we mean that Jesus is the King. He is the anointed High Priest and the King of all Kings over the earth. This has been true for 2000 years, and no amount of scientific evidence, historical research, political maneuvering, or polling or market research will change this fact. Jesus is King of this world. We are his loyal subjects, and we utterly refuse to forget it.