Monday, December 06, 2010

Jude Carnahan

“And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy – everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.” (Is. 3:3-5)

Pastor Leithart has already described how God is coming to strip away all the pseudo-priestly ornaments and costumes of idolatrous Israel, and the result is that they will be restored to holiness, washed clean, sprinkled with blood, and the Spirit will hover over them in the cloud and the fire. This is all priestly language: the sons of Aaron were set apart as holy to God, they were washed in water and blood was placed on their ears, thumbs, and big toes, and they were anointed with oil that made them glow like the fire of the Spirit. In other words, God is planning to judge Israel, and in the judgment He will restore them, He will remake them and re-establish them as a true priesthood.

And we see that this is exactly what happens at Pentecost. At Pentecost the Spirit is poured out on the apostles who have been washed in baptism and cleansed by faith in the blood of Christ, and then flames of fire appear over them. They become priests, anointed by the oil of the Spirit, living sacrifices for the world. And this is described in short hand by Peter when the crowds ask, ‘What shall we do?’ And Peter says, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). What Isaiah promised began to occur at Pentecost, and it continues to happen at every baptism.

It’s no accident that in the early church, baptisms were frequently performed with the person stripping completely naked before being sprinkled with water. Just as Isaiah foretold, God strips us bare and then invites us to be washed and cleansed and purged and then anoints us with His Spirit, and His Spirit is our covering. But this should also remind us of the Garden of Eden. When God strips us bare and calls us holy and cleanses us and covers us with the glory of His Spirit, this means that we are being ushered back into the Garden of Eden. We are laid bare before God, and we are unashamed because His Glory-Spirit is our covering. The righteousness of Christ is our clothing.

But we quickly over-spiritualize this frequently, and we forget Christ’s very concrete commands about trusting God to provide for all of our needs. Being a priest in the Old Covenant meant that you had no inheritance in the Promised Land. The tabernacle and the worship of God was the provision of the Levites, it was their inheritance. In the Garden of Eden, it was the same: to be under the covering of the Glory-Spirit is for God to be our Husband, the one who provides our food and clothing. To be anointed as priests in the New Covenant is to be married to God, who promises to cover us, to provide for all our needs, He promises to be our inheritance.

Today, Jude is being ordained into this priesthood. He is being stripped bare of all the accoutrements of the world, all the ways in which Mammon seeks to provide for us, like a sleazy man trying to woo us away from our husband. Today, Jude is joined to the Bride and married to Christ, and this means that God promises to cover Jude with His Glory-Spirit. God promises to provide for Jude and protect Him. But this provision and protection is not a bare minimum. God does not promise to get Jude by. He promises a rich inheritance, the inheritance of Eden, the inheritance of a thousand Promised Lands, all the riches of the world and more. But if this is true, then Jude and every baptized Christian is called to live generously and frivolously. Your Father in heaven owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He will never run out.

So Ben and Abra as you raise your son, teach him not to worry about what he will eat or wear. Teach him instead that he is a priest, an Adam in a garden full of food and the Spirit is His clothing, His covering. Teach him and model for him how to live like this is true: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, befriend the lonely, give yourselves away to one another and to those around you, and teach him to do the same because he has an inheritance that will never run out, grace that will never dry up.

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