Today’s Bible reading: Exodus 29-30:10; Matthew 26:14-46; Psalm 31:19-24; Proverbs 8:14-26
God gives instruction for dedicating Aaron, the high priest and his sons (also priests) to Him today. Notice these men were washed at the entrance to the Tabernacle, in full view of others. This was needless to say humbling, but not humiliating. In a similar fashion we cannot be cleansed from our sins today without being humble. A humble self-recognition of our sinfulness is necessary before God can cleanse us. Notice that, just like Aaron didn’t cleanse himself, it is God who cleanses us – we don’t (nor can we) cleanse ourselves. We cannot “clean up our act” and present ourselves to God as worthy of fellowship with Him (i.e. go to heaven). It doesn’t work that way. We cannot “work” our way to heaven; the work is all done by God. But first God needs to humble us. But note… He will never humiliate us.
There are a few different offerings described in today’s passages. First was the sin offering. This was an offering that was necessary as payment for the sins of the priests. The priests placed their hand on the head of a bull, thereby transferring their sins to the bull. The bull was then killed as a substitute teaching the people that they need a substitute to die for their sins. That substitute would be Jesus.
Next was the burnt offering of a ram who also “received” the sins of the priests. The burnt offering was entirely burned on the offering. As human beings we hold onto a portion of our lives – we don’t live entirely for God. The purpose of the burnt offering was to teach the people that they needed a substitute who would give up all of himself on their behalf. Again, that substitute is Jesus.
Next the blood from a second ram is applied to the ear lobe, thumb, and toe of the priests indicating that they should hear, labor, and walk (behave) differently because of the special position they have as priests.
Finally parts of the second ram are consumed by the priests. This also allowed the priests to receive the life of the ram into themselves.
Our relationship with Jesus is similar to eating. Just like we have to take food into ourselves, we have to take Jesus into our lives. Its not enough to just walk by food and be nourished. Nor is it enough to have a superficial knowledge of Jesus. Eating is active and so must our relationship with Christ be active. Just as eating satisfies a need so does a healthy relationship with Christ. If we eat unhealthy foods we will have an unhealthy body. Likewise we have a spiritual need that can only be satisfied by Jesus – it cannot be satisfied by unhealthy substitutes that the world has to offer. And finally, just as we need to eat every day we need to feed our spirit with God’s word daily (if not more often) as well.
In Exodus 31 God instructs Aaron in the use of incense. He was to burn incense twice a day (morning and evening). Just like incense ascends to upward, so too do our prayers ascend to heaven. Prayer does not atone for our sins – blood does that. Prayer is where we recognize the atonement that has been made on our behalf, specifically the blood that Jesus poured out when He died on the cross.
We read the sad story of Judas in Matthew today. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. The exact motivation behind this move is not recorded. Perhaps Judas had decided that Jesus was not the Messiah and was not going to liberate Israel from Roman occupation which is what the disciples were all expecting. Maybe he just decided to join the authorities who, as we have seen, were plotting to kill Jesus. Perhaps Judas saw the writing on the wall and wanted to save his own skin because he thought that the disciples would be targeted next.
Jesus holds one final meal with His disciples. This is known at the Last Supper. This was the annual Passover meal that God instituted in Exodus to remind the Jews of their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. In a similar way Jesus is our deliverance from the bondage and penalty of sin. Just like a perfect, innocent lamb was killed for the Passover meal Jesus, who lived a perfect life and was guilty of nothing, was sacrificed for us.
Jesus drops a bombshell during the meal – someone sitting right there at the table with Him, a “friend” — will betray Him. Notice the disciples response. None of them suspect anyone else. They each as “Is it I?”. They had come a long way from the early days of following Jesus when they bickered with each other and were fighting amongst themselves.
Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper in verses 26-28. He uses the imagery of broken bread and wine to indicate that His body is to be broken and His blood will be spilled for us. The church I attend performs this ceremony once a month. During it we all take a piece of bread and a small cup of grape juice and eat and drink together. It is very moving and humbling to be in a room of dozens of people reminding ourselves of what Jesus went through to set us free from sin.
Despite knowing the horror that He was going to have to endure in just a few hours Jesus had the frame of mind to “give thanks” to God (verse 27). One of the toughest things to do is to acknowledge God for all He has given while in the midst of trouble. Instead we normally just pray for the situation to be over.
But notice how Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. Despite the fact that He is going to be taken away to be crucified in just a matter of minutes, Jesus is focused on God’s will (Matthew 26:42). Jesus, being in a human body, didn’t want to go to the cross. But nevertheless He is willing to do what God wants because He knows that in the long-term it will be beneficial.
Notice too that Jesus prayed alone. I think it is always important to get away by oneself to pray. Those of us with families have a hard time doing this but it is certainly the best way to go when possible. Our primary relationship is to be with God and therefore we all need “alone” time with Him.
I think what Proverbs tells us today is very cool. In Proverbs 31:19 we read that God had goodness “stored up” for those are His. Isn’t that great? God had so much to give us that He is storing it up. Most of what God has for us will be in heaven where it will last forever. The NLT says that God “lavishes” this goodness. Pretty amazing words to describe our amazing God.
The final verse in our reading of Proverbs today reminds us to press onward despite the troubles we face. Verse 24 starts with “So”. That is, because of all these great things that God has in store for us and all the great things that this passage tells us God does, we should be strong and courageous. We can live strong lives despite difficulty if we keep in our mind a true picture of who God is.
Wisdom continues to speak in Proverbs today. Notice that wisdom is available to all who seek it (Proverbs 8:17). Wisdom is not something we are born with. We have to actively acquire it. The benefits of wisdom are better than monetary wealth (verse 19). Wisdom produces a different kind of wealth (verse 21).