Posts Tagged with “sacrifice”

Prayer, Action, and Broken Plates

Last night Christina and I were talking in the back of the house while our two children were finishing supper in the dining room. Our conversation centered around goals that we desired to meet and our frustration in not being able to meet them. After the discussion, we prayed together, asking the Lord to help us meet our desires and expectations. As we prayed, my wife jokingly said, “Lord, don’t let Samuel (our 20 month old) throw his plate from the high chair and break it while we’re back here.” I thought to myself, “I should get up and go get that from him.” As we continued to pray, I heard his fork hit the floor. I thought, “At the very least I should shout out to him not to throw his plate down.” About thirty seconds later, I heard the plate shatter.

The Holy Spirit immediately brought to mind that this was an example of how I often pray. I ask God to help me accomplish a certain goal, then wait in hopes that it will come to pass. The Spirit prompts me to act, but I remain still. I knew exactly how to stop that plate from being broken the moment we realized that it was a possibility, but I was too distracted and comfortable to get up and take action.

Distraction and comfort. These are the enemies of the Believer. Whether it be other desires, less important but higher prioritized, or the simple pull of relaxation, our prayers will be for naught if we refuse to take action when the Spirit commands. Peter knocked at the door while the supplicants inside ignored the summons and continued to pray. Likewise, the Spirit often calls us to act on our own holy desires and we instead continue to ask, hoping some other force will act for us.

Put aside spiritual laziness and temporal comfort. Act when the Spirit answers!

Manna from Heaven

Ever wonder about the spiritual significance of manna?

And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.”
Exodus 16:14-15

After feeding the five thousand, Christ compares himself to the manna of the Old Testament. “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven… I am the bread of life.”1

Manna only lasted for one day, two if the next day was the Sabbath. Each person was to have one omer, about 3 pints – no more. If a person gathered manna in excess it became noxious and wormy. As such it pictures the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, wherein the necessary sacrifices were required daily. In both the manna and the Levitical sacrifices we see an imperfect and temporary provision that required constant renewal. However, there was one bowl of manna that lasted more than two days – in fact, much longer. In Exodus 16:33-34, Moses is commanded to store an omer of manna as a testimony. We learn in Hebrews 9:4 that it was kept in the ark of the covenant along with Aaron’s rod that budded and the matching tablets of the ten commandments. The ark itself is a picture of Jesus Christ, its gold covered wood a symbol of his full deity and humanity. In him and only in him is the bread everlasting. Indeed, the body of Christ lay in the tomb more than two days, yet unlike the manna he emerged uncorrupted.

The gathered manna not only spoiled quickly, it also lacked in sustenance. It not only had to be gathered daily, it had to be eaten daily. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.”2 It could not grant lasting life. But the Lord Jesus said of himself, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, and the bread that I give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”3

The people who followed Christ across the Sea of Galilee wanted more miraculously provided bread – manna from heaven. But the Savior had a better bread in mind: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”4

  1. John 6:32, 35 []
  2. John 6:49 []
  3. John 6:51 []
  4. John 6:35 []

Last Words of Murdered Men

There are two surprisingly similar yet startlingly different passages in the Bible that involve the stoning of God’s messengers. The first involves the prophet Zechariah:

Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He also has forsaken you.'” So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD. Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, “The LORD look on, and repay!”1

The second involves another prophet of God, Stephen:

You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth… Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him… Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”2

Both men addressed the leadership. Both men spoke with conviction from God. Both induced a violent reaction. Both had something to say before they expired. But what they had to say is the startling difference. Zechariah said,  “look on and repay.” Stephen said, “do not charge them with this sin.” What happened to create such a dichotomy of response? Zechariah operated under the dispensation of the law. His example was Moses, communicating the Law of Jehovah God. “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death… you shall give life for life.”3 Stephen operated under the dispensation of grace.  His example was Jesus Christ, communicating the Love of Jehovah God. “And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him… Then said Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.'”4 Praise God for his Son, whose substitutionary sacrifice both fulfilled the demands of the law and became the archetype of love. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”5  Because of his sacrifice, we too can pray for our enemies, recognizing with pity their blindness even as they seek to injure us.

  1. 2 Chronicles 24:20-22 []
  2. Acts 7:51-60 []
  3. Exodus 21:12, 23 []
  4. Luk 23:33-34 []
  5. Romans 5:8 []

A Drunken Sailor and a Sinner

During a stop at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico I  was assigned shore duty. The night before the ship was to get underway I went to the sailor center on base to tell my shipmates to head back to the ship. One sailor was missing, however. This sailor’s alcohol issues had caused trouble for me in the past. During a stay at my home he damaged the interior walls and during a drunken fit he kicked a hole in an acoustic guitar that I had let another sailor borrow. Based on this, I guessed alcohol was involved his disappearance. Sure enough, I found him semi-conscious in a bathroom stall. He had vomited and urinated on himself and the smells of bile and urine combined with the smell of alcohol to make a terrible odor.

I tried to walk him the 3/4 of a mile or so back to the ship, but quickly realized I’d have to hoist him, putting one arm over my shoulder and one hand on his belt. During the long trip back to the ship he would occasionally gain enough lucidity to curse at me for a few moments before lapsing back into a semi-conscious state. When I finally got him to the ship and the BMC took him down to his bunk, I was happy to be rid of him.

Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:3, 6-7

When I carried this sailor back to the ship, I saved him from the wrath of the chain of command. I didn’t bear his punishment for him, I merely moved him from a position of danger to one of relative safety. When I finished, I didn’t want to see him again. I liked him less then than I ever had before. All I wanted to do was change clothes and take a shower. But when Christ died on the cross, he satisfied the just requirements of the holiness of God toward the sins of the world – every sin – past, present, and future.1 Understand this: The sin of mankind is far more horrendous and obnoxious to God than any physical filthiness that has ever existed on human skin. Jesus Christ was not merely exposed to this sin, he became our sin.2  God the Father was required by his very nature to smite his Son with all the wrath that mankind has ever deserved. This is why we who believe are free from sin: Christ died for us. When we identify with him, we receive the benefits of the crucifixion – The removal of “the body of sin.” We are dead to it.

Now that’s a good deal in itself, far better than we ever could have hoped for. But it gets better.

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.  Romans 6:4-5,8

The sacrificial death of Christ freed us from the power of sin. Even better, he was resurrected by the Glory of God to new life. Again, in identifying with him, we also receive new life. I never wanted to see that drunken sailor again and even after he was sober and clean smelling I avoided him as much as possible. God the Son does the opposite. He pursues us, he woos us, he wants us to live with him. Not only that, he compares our relationship to a marriage relationship3 – the most intimate relationship mankind can boast of, a relationship which functions on the closest thing to unconditional love humans can muster. He didn’t just save us from sin, he brought us into his family – to be treated as a bride, a kinsman, as sons and daughters.

I’m glad that God’s ways aren’t my ways, and his thoughts aren’t my thoughts. I’m glad that Jesus Christ, God the Son, wants me to be identified with him. I’m glad that when God the Father looks at me, he sees Jesus Christ, his Son. In him I have died to sin, and in him I live a resurrected life.

  1. 1 John 2:2 – And he himself is the propitiation [satisfying sacrifice] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. []
  2. 2 Corinthians 5:21 – For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. []
  3. Romans 7:4 – Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead… []