Tag Archives: life

Righteous Sacrifice

Meditations on the Psalms

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. (Psalm 4:5 ESV)

Jesus speaks in the first person to those people who dishonor His name and who love vain words, lifting themselves up above God. They do not stand before God with awe, refusing to ponder their own actions and motivations. He told them to contemplate their position before God and to silence themselves and their self-centered thinking. Jesus does not ask them to do anything. He commands them, with an expectation of obedience.

He tells them to offer the sacrifices of righteousness, not just a right sacrifice. Offer and sacrifice are words so closely related they mean almost the same thing. Offer means to kill or slaughter. Sacrificemeans the thing being killed or slaughtered. Slaughter your sacrifice. Commit your sacrifice completely and wholly to God so that it can never be taken back.

We think of form and function when we say right. We want to be correct in what we do and how we act, according to our policy and procedure manuals. This is not what He means by a right sacrifice. Yes, God gave them detailed instructions about what kind of sacrifice, when and where to offer it, and how they were to honor Him with their sacrifices. God told them why they were to offer sacrifices. But He also told them the thinking of their hearts affected their sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted because he was angry. He tried to buy God’s favor, to control God, with a sacrifice, as those who give superstitious offering to an idol. “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7 ESV). Speaking through Isaiah, God is blunt about what He thinks of the offerings of a people who hate Him.

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings. … When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:11-13,15-17 ESV)

When did an offering become a sacrifice? When Abel and Cain brought their offerings, they were gifts to God. Sacrifices are required. God uses both words in the Pentateuch when giving instructions on worshiping Him. Sacrifices are obligatory, while offerings are gifts. Every person offering a sacrifice does so under compunction of the law, caused by sin and circumstance, while the one giving an offering does so out of the gratitude of the thinking of the heart toward God.

There was only one righteous sacrifice slaughtered for God. All other offerings and sacrifices point to the One Sacrifice, when Jesus offered Himself as the propitiation, the covering, for the sin of all. Jesus tells those who would follow Him the cost of discipleship. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 ESV). Those who follow Jesus, who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, abandon themselves to Him in complete devotion and offering. The identity of the Christian, those chosen by God, is complete. In God’s eyes, what He does the Christian does. The word appeal means to call or summon for encouragement or instruction.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

We know what we do is not always true to God as we live out our lives in the world. It is not what we do but what Christ has done for us.

Martha didn’t understand what Jesus could do yet still declared she believed Jesus was loved and known by God and that God would give Him whatever He asked. However, she did not believe He could bring life back to a dead body. Her brother Lazarus died. Jesus told her Lazarus would rise again. Martha’s response was “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24 ESV). Jesus’ response to her is game changing.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)

 Our lives are His. His life is given for us. Our identity is in Him. We slaughter ourselves as a righteous sacrifice to Him because He was slaughtered as a righteous sacrifice for us. Dying physically means nothing in the eternal scheme of things. Losing anything the world has to offer is of no consequence when we gain life in eternity.

You are the righteous sacrifice.

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Heritage and Possession

Meditations on the Psalms

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:8 ESV)

God has set His Son on the throne, decreeing He is sovereign of all creation. He brought His Son into His creation as one made in the image of God yet without the sin which corrupts the nature of all other people. His name is Jesus Christ and God promises Him all creation is His. Jesus, the man, exercises dominion over creation the way Adam and Eve were assigned dominion over the earth. Yet, His dominion extends beyond the physical control of the world to governing and giving purpose to those in the world. To rebel against the Son is to rebel against God.

Ask means to inquire, to beg, to seek. Jesus uses a Greek word, which means the same as the Hebrew ask, when He tells His disciples to ask God to give them what they need to live in this world. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8 ESV).  Make means bestow and is translated give. God will give these things to His Son, the King of kings, because Jesus seeks God with every ounce of His being.

What does God give His Son? He gives the nations and the ends of the earth. Nations is translated heathen and includes all people, not just the chosen of God. Everyone belongs to Him. Ends of the earth is everything on the earth. Jesus is given dominion over the earth and government over the people of the earth.

John, in the opening statements of his gospel, describes who Jesus is and that He came for a specific reason.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13 ESV)

All people includes the Gentiles, disdained by the Jews at that time as unworthy of receiving the salvation of God. Simply being a descendant of Abraham does not guarantee a place in eternity with God, the Giver of Life.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. (Romans 9:6-8 ESV)

All people have the image of God and are worth His Son’s sacrifice. During His ministry, Jesus did not specifically try to draw attention to Himself but to God the Father, whom He served. He actively tried to discourage people from holding Him up as the answer to all their worldly problems. Instead, He focused His attention on their relationship with God, that the relationship could be reestablished and wholesome. He is confrontational but also compassionate. He is the benevolent King whose purpose is to bring those who are His into a righteous relationship with God.

This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:17-21 ESV; see Isaiah 42:1-4)

Jesus created all things for Himself. By His word, all things are sustained. God established His authority over all things. This is not some future event but that which is done and completed in eternity, though we still await its completion in space-time history. To rebel against Jesus ultimately brings failure to those who rebel, for He cannot fail and will not abdicate His authority to another.

After Surgery

Rub some dirt on it.

That was my immediate second thought. From where did that thought come?

I am not an athlete. This term has been used by athletes for a long time, but no one knows who first said it. It may be a medical term used to encourage those with injuries to not allow the injury to stop them. I had never heard the saying until my son used it after watching one of the recent Navy SEAL movies. Sustaining non-life-threatening injuries in battle, the soldiers still had to finish their mission. Minor injuries did not matter. Rub some dirt on it to stop the bleeding and let’s go.

We have First World problems in this country. Problems like matching our clothes or having to drive a long way to shop because we do not like the stores near us. Problems like what movie do I want to see or what should I eat tonight?  Where should we go for vacation? How long should I microwave this? You get the idea.

It is Christmastime. Stop thinking about the shopping you “have” to do. Think about Jesus. Born in a stable. His parents were the poorest of the poor. Yet babies and infants do not know they are poor. Babies know their mothers and fathers. Their needs are few. Love. Feed. Changed. Held. Sleep. Again.

Nowhere in Scripture do we see Joseph and Mary complaining about their circumstances. They lived for their son. Why do we teach our children to complain because they did not get what they wanted on Christmas?  Isn’t a gift free and given out of love?   From the moment Jesus was conceived, He freely gave Himself.

I have been hurt by a surgery and given a life because of it by God. Let me think on Jesus and not on myself.

Dirt

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19 ESV)

God told the man that when he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. Adam ate the fruit from the tree but he did not immediately, physically die. God’s command states that when he dies (physically) he will die (spiritually) (“you will die die” Genesis 2:17).

Now God tells Adam that he will live his physical life by hard, frustrating work, and that when it is his time to die he will become dust, or dirt. The very ground he works to grow food to live will claim him and he will become indistinguishable from it as his body deteriorates back to dirt. “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). God used dirt to make the man and to dirt the man will return when his body dies.

What happened to Adam happens to all who follow him. Had he obeyed God then those who followed would have received God’s blessing. That he disobeyed God, rebelling against Him, means he was sentenced to separation from God and the earth was cursed. We are not going to speculate about the probability of whether people would have individually rebelled against God if Adam had not. We do not know and cannot know the answer to that question. We do know sin infected all of humanity because of Adam’s rebellion. We do know all people die and their bodies become dirt after a time. Once the body is dead it cannot be made alive again by natural means.

Scripture does not use the term “federal headship.” Yet, Scripture is filled with historical examples of the children and citizens bearing the consequences of the actions of their fathers or leaders. “Federal” is a system of government where the leaders speak for the people. It is not a democracy where each has an equal voice but a system where the leaders are charged with the responsibility of implementing the will of those they represent. It is not fair but it is just.

Adam died. His body, after his life was no longer sustained, returned to the earth from which he was made and over which he was to have control, or dominion. He kept dominion as part of the image of God but lost the ability to exercise dominion. Before the fall, he was God’s representative over the earth. After the fall, the war began between those who hate God, even as they were created to know Him intimately, and everything pointing to God.

God makes it clear to Adam, and to all who follow him, that though they work and fulfill their responsibilities, they are still wholly dependent upon Him for their lives. Yes, people have to work and their work is both painful and stressful. God, after the rebellion of the first man, calls people to turn either toward Him or allows them to run away from Him. Those who turn away from God will work in their own effort and accomplish only what lasts a short, unfulfilling time. Those who turn toward God, acknowledge their inability to accomplish anything without God’s direct intervention. Physical death becomes the great equalizer among all people. Either there is a truthful and honest admission of separation from God because of sin or there is an attitude of not needing God, which is rebellion.

True Freedom

Studies in Genesis 2

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV)

God’s first recorded words to Adam were not those of a friend or acquaintance. Nor were they the words of a father to a child. His words were of a God, who owns all He has created, to a created being to whom He has giving authority over part of His creation. “Command” means to give a charge, or a commission, an assignment, a boundary. God spoke to “the man” (adam) setting the wide parameters of what he could eat, not where he could go or what he could do. Adam’s natural inclination is to work, taking care of the creation under his God ordained authority. Part of his work is to grow more fruit-bearing trees. He couldn’t possibly eat all of the food growing on these trees. Adam could eat anything he wanted from any tree except one tree.

God does not treat Adam like all of the other creatures He has created. He speaks to him face to face. “Saying”, in its various forms, means to speak one’s heart, to show intention and promise, to be told, to answer. This is not casual conversation. Yet, God’s words are not mysterious to Adam either. God spoke clearly. Adam understood completely.

God makes a promise in His command. We think of God’s promises as positive, yet He recognizes the propensity of the negative in those created in His image. His intent is to train those who are His to restrain and control the negative they will encounter in themselves, not to suppress the negative. Ultimately, He wants those who have an intimate relationship with Him to know the difference between good and evil and have the freedom to always choose the good. This is true freedom.

His words are not a threat but a statement of fact. This is not a covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two where the greater blesses the lesser, guaranteeing a promised outcome when certain criteria is met. God promises an outcome for disobedience but not for obedience. God’s expectation is for obedience from Adam, not disobedience. He did not create Adam for disobedience but for relationship. God’s omniscience gives Him the foreknowledge that Adam will disobey but this does not mean God created Adam for disobedience.

Adam, like everyone, must grow in his intimate knowledge and intellectual understanding of God. But he had an advantage we cannot ignore. He saw God. Before the fall, Adam was sinless and able to come into, or be in, God’s complete presence. God spoke to Adam face to face. God enjoyed His creation and was intimate with Adam, who was created in His image for relationship and intimacy. Adam enjoyed God. Growing and maturing is not limited to his natural surroundings but to the spiritual realm in which God dwelt. Adam could see there was more than the physical world every time he was in God’s presence. Thus to “eat, eat” shows more than physical food and nourishment just as “die, die” implies more than physical death. There is a spiritual second death just as there is a spiritual food, and by implication, life. Eating from the tree of life brought a second life just as eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as an act of outright rebellion brought spiritual death. God was training Adam to live.

More Than Food

Studies in Genesis 2

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV)

There is a tree of life. There is not a tree of death. Nor is there a tree of decision. God gave Adam the freedom to choose and permission to eat from any tree in the garden but one. God commanded Adam to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He did not say to Adam stay away from the tree. He didn’t say to Adam that he didn’t have to take care of the tree. The Garden was Adam’s home and he was responsible for everything in his home. His total responsibilities were given him by God. Adam was first and foremost responsible to God and under His authority.

God uses the word “eat” four times in these two verses. Most translations will show only three times. Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat (eat). But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou may not eat of it. For in the day that you eat you surely die (die)” (Gen 2:16-17 Authorized edited by gfw). To “eat” means to consume or devour for food, to cause to eat. God is telling Adam the fruit of every tree in the garden may be eaten or devoured to sustain his life. The trees are God’s, given to Adam to take care of and use for their intended purpose.

If we view “die die” as both natural death and then execution, or a second death, so we should view “eat, eat” as both natural consumption of necessary food and a second eating. God gave Adam food to consume beyond the physical. There is a second food for him to eat, implying there is life beyond the physical, just as there is a death beyond the physical.

Adam was supposed to eventually eat from the tree of life. He is already alive and he eats from the fruit of the trees to keep living. Just as there is a second death, a death other than physical, so there is life beyond physical life. Since every tree of the garden was beautiful to look at and good for food, I believe, without having absolute verifiable evidence, God would eventually give Adam permission to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If every tree is good for food, sustaining the body then there would come a time, at God’s discretion and according to His purpose, when Adam would be ready for such knowledge.

There was only good in the Garden. This does not mean there was no evil in creation. Creation is more than the earth in the physical universe. Adam needed preparation and training to face evil when it was time. His training begins with obedience to the command of God. Don’t eat was not a request.

Life and Death

Studies in Genesis 2

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV)

God uses the word “die” twice in this verse. Many have translated the verse “you shall surely die.” But God actually says “die die.” What does He mean?

“Die” means to have someone killed or executed, to intentionally take the life of another. But, it also means to simply die, or to cease living, because of natural causes. The former is a deliberate act of one person against another while the latter is a natural consequence of mortality. Thus, the phrase probably means that first is physical death followed by execution by God for rebellion. How can anyone die more than once?

From the study of the word “day” in Genesis 1 I have drawn the conclusion a “day” is not a 24 hour period of time. A “day” is a period of time determined by God with a specific beginning and ending time. God accomplishes specific acts of creation on each of the first six days. I also believe God, who exists outside of time, created life mortal, with a beginning and an ending. Birth is the beginning and death is the ending of physical life. He set in motion life according to specific and well defined laws. He is intentionally involved in creation and all created things exist according to His determination. He knows the beginnings and endings of every created thing.

Because the beginning of time suggests an end of time, so the beginning of life, physical life, suggests there is death, or an end of life. Plants, fish, birds and all land animals live, reproduce and die. There is no indication in Genesis 1 that either flora or fauna were created to live without dying.

There are two immediate implications to this line of thinking. First, Adam would know about death. Dying would not be foreign or unexpected but something he had seen firsthand. Death would not have startled him. Secondly, Adam knew he would eventually physically die. His body would live as long as God determined and then he would cease to physically live. He was not afraid of death because he knew death was not final but the beginning of a different life. How did he know this?

Of the uncounted trees in the Garden there were two trees named by God. Adam had permission to eat from every tree but one. Adam had the freedom to eat from the tree of life at any time. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was prohibited. Disobedience to the single prohibition would bring, not physical death, because he will already die physically, but a different kind of death, an execution where God deliberately caused his further death.

There is a second death.