Remember

Exodus 28-29

Exodus 29 42b NIV

I’ve been a pastor for 35 years.  I’ve pastored local congregations.  I’ve served on the mission field in a different country.  I’ve served as a hospice chaplain with people who have been diagnosed with life ending diseases and as a hospital chaplain with people who are very sick, or having surgery, or recovering from surgery or recovering from pneumonia, or have attempted suicide or are struggling with mental health issues and need extra support.  I preach each week to people in the nursing home and those who are suffering from Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.  I’ve stood at the bedside and prayed with families whose loved one is about to die or who has already died.  I’ve prayed blessings over newborn babies and people over 100 and everywhere in between.

The one common need I find over and over again is the need of the person going through crisis to know that God is with them.  Everyone goes through challenges and difficulties, losses and pains in life.  It’s not a question of, “Will bad things happen?”  or even, “Why do bad things happen?”, it’s more a case of, “When bad things happen what resources do you have to draw from to help you get through it?”

As God’s people, Israel was being transformed from slaves to the people of God who were to be a light to all nations, they were going to face many challenges on that journey of transformation.  They had a desert to cross.  They had numerous enemies to face who all wanted to prevent them from reaching the promised land, and once they arrived in the land, there were enemies who wanted to take the land away from them and turn their hearts away from undivided loyalty to God.

To get through these challenges Israel needed regular assurance that God knew them and that God was with them.  If you’ve been a Christian for most of your life, it is likely that you know these things already.  You know that God knows you by name, that before He formed you in your mother’s womb he knew you.  You know Jesus’ promise that he will be with you always, to the end of the age, right?  There’s no way you would ever forget that God knows you and that Jesus is with you, right?  (More about that in a minute).

The people of Israel were spiritual babies.  They were just starting to learn about who this God is and to get used to the idea that God would stay with them and not abandon them.  They needed a lot of reminders.  So, in addition to having a tent of meeting constructed in their midst (see yesterday’s devotion) they needed to know that they had representatives who would go before God regularly on their behalf.  So God set aside a group of men who would serve as priests.  They had a special calling and were set apart or consecrated to do the work of a priest.

Today’s reading describes the various pieces of clothing that the priests wore and the purpose of each item- ephod, breast piece, robe, tunic, turban, urim and thummin, gold plate, sashes etc…  of all of these descriptions in Exodus 28 one in particular stands out: “Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord. (11-12).  So when the priest went before God, he went bearing the names of the sons or tribes of Israel.  This was a reminder that they were there on behalf of the entire people of God.  The message for the people was that the priests would bear on their bodies a constant reminder to God of His beloved people.

We might ask the question,” if God is perfect and all knowing, why would he need such a reminder? ” I would say that the reminder wasn’t for God as much as it was for the people to have the assurance that they were being constantly brought before God.  Prayer works the same way for us.  When someone prays to God  on our behalf, they aren’t exactly bringing new information to God’s attention.  God knows our needs before we ask.  One of the benefits of intercessory prayer is to remind us that we are not alone in the midst of our needs.  When I was first diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery and radiation lots of people were praying for me.  It brought me great comfort and encouragement to be reminded regularly that people were remembering me before God’s throne.

In Exodus 29 it provides a description of the rituals that were used to consecrate or set apart the priests for their duties of bringing the people before God.  Notice how the consecration involved sacrifices and blood.  In order for the priests to go before God on behalf of the people, their sin and guilt had to be covered over by blood.  In fact, every day, morning and night, a lamb was to be sacrificed to God. “For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you;  there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory.” (42-43)

This served as a constant reminder that God was holy and sinless, and that human beings are sinful and needed to be cleansed and forgiven of their guilt in order to come near to God’s presence.  As a result: “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.  They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” (45-46)  These daily sacrifices served as a constant assurance to God’s people that He was their God and that He was with them.

As Christians, we are not required to sacrifice a lamb day and night in order to be assured that God is with us.  Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  He, as the high priest and the sacrificial lamb, went into the most holy place with his own blood and offered a sacrifice that covers over all of our sins once and for all. (Once you read the book of Exodus, the book of Hebrews in the New Testament is much easier to understand… check it out).  When Jesus was first prophesied in Isaiah 7 it was said that he would be a sign that God is with us (Immanuel means God is with us).  In the name of Jesus we can be assured that God is with us – not because we are perfect or sinless, we are no more sinless than the nation of Israel was, but we have been made holy by the blood of Jesus.

Earlier I asked the question: “There’s no way you would ever forget that God knows you and that Jesus is with you, right?”  That fact is, we all have times when we forget that God knows us and that Jesus is with us.  This is a danger when everything is going well in our lives- when we are busy enjoying the blessings that God gives us and are on a roll, we can get so caught up in enjoying the gifts that we forget to worship the one who gives them to us, God.  It is also a danger when things are tough and we are hurting and feel all alone or worry that God isn’t answering our prayers.  When we go through spiritual depression or the dark night of the soul we can forget that the Lord promised never to leave us.  We need constant reminders, in the good times and the bad times.  That’s why we need to gather regularly with other believers to find encouragement and strength, so we don’t forget.  That’s why we need to regularly break bread and drink the cup at communion, to help us remember.  You and I need ongoing reminders that God is with us, that God remembers us.  We need to know others are bringing our names before God in difficult times, and we need to remember to bring others before God during their difficult times.  We may not have to wear ephods and robes and rub lamb’s blood on us, but as Christians we are all priests and we all need to go before God regularly on behalf of each other and behalf of people in the world, in the name of Jesus.  Don’t forget to remember, God is with us and God will never forget you.

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+28-29&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Exodus 30-32 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)

Seek Grow Love

(We had a name change last night!   What was formerly FUEL Bible Reading Blog – Grow16BibleReading has changed to a simpler SeekGrowLove.com.  Here you will still find daily devotions from various writers, all based upon God’s unchanging Word, encouraging and instructing us on how to Seek His Kingdom, Grow in Our Faith, and Love God & Others.  SeekGrowLove.  In the New Year we will begin a Chronological Bible Reading Plan – but more on that tomorrow.  Now for today’s devotion from Bethany!)  

Hebrews 4_14

Have you ever met someone and felt an immediate and unexplained kinship with them? The connection between you and your new friend provides the opportunity to relate in unique ways. 


About a decade ago, I was attending a fairly large church and looking for a small group Bible study to become involved with. The church had an online catalog of all the small groups that met and I chose to visit one that coincided with my demographics – single and thirty-something. 


Within minutes of meeting the existing members of the Bible study group, it felt as if we had known each other for years. We talked about ourselves and eventually our conversation turned to where we had grown up and gone to school. We discovered that two of us had attended the same high school – I was just a few years younger. While we didn’t know each other back in the day, we realized that we had a few mutual friends. Our instant familiarity now made sense. 


There’s something special about the people that you grow up with – even if you don’t know them at the time. You share common experiences, mutual friends, and a general understanding of the community that helped shaped you as an individual. 


For my friends and I, we were able to share more deeply, quickly and our friendships are still some of the most important more than 10 years later. 


Hebrews 4:16 starts off with “Let us THEN approach the throne of grace with confidence…” What allows us to do this? What’s the THEN there for? We need to back up and read verses 14 and 15 to be clued in. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence, because the one who sits on the throne is able to sympathize with weaknesses because He had been tempted in every way, as we are, yet was without sin. 


Jesus is familiar with what it’s like to live on this earth with all of its guts and glory because He’s done it Himself. Jesus is not a high priest who is oblivious to our situations. Our confidence comes from knowing that He can relate to us. The mercy and grace that we are offered is because Jesus first walked in our shoes. He knows what we need, when we need it, how we need it and why it’s needed. 


What an incredible gift this is to us! To know that our Savior is approachable because He can relate to our needs is such a comfort. 


So let this be your reminder that there is nothing too big or too small for you to bring before the Son of God. You will find all that you need to sustain you. Have confidence in this Good News.

 

Bethany Ligon

Gifts

wise men

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

 
‘Tis the season to be giving gifts. Like the Wise Men from long ago, we present our loved ones with gifts each Christmas. The gifts that were brought before the young Messiah, held great significance. The gold was representative of Jesus’ kingship. The incense points to Jesus’ priesthood. And the myrrh was an indication of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All three were costly. All three were given as an act of worship.
But what about the gifts that we bring to the Messiah? What is it that you and I have that can be presented to the Prince of Peace? I can think of another trio of gifts that would be pleasing:
Acts of service
Acts of devotion
Acts of faith
I may not have gold to give, but I can serve. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love people. How we choose to do that on a daily basis are acts of service. When we put ourselves in a position of lifting others up, we are making an offering that is pleasing in God’s sight.
I may not have incense to give, but I can be devoted. We are instructed to love God with ALL of our heart, and with ALL of our soul, and with ALL of our mind, and with ALL of our strength. When we stop holding back and finally submit to our Lord all that we are, the good, the bad, and the ugly, we position ourselves to be forgiven by the great High Priest.
I may not have myrrh, but I can be faithful. When circumstances don’t make sense; when we are in a season of loss; when we have given every last effort, when we don’t know what else to do, we can still be faithful and trust in the One who gave himself for each one of us.
Friends, whether today is a day that you can be surrounded by those you love or you’re in a place where your heart is hurting (maybe it’s a combination of the two), know this: whatever you have, your joys and your sorrows, out of your wealth and your poverty, in your health and in your illness, the gifts you bring will be treasured beyond measure.
Bethany Ligon

No Longer a Slave to Fear

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 22a NIV

How often have you wanted to run away or turn away from God?  Perhaps it was shame, guilt, or maybe despair that was making you unable to even look at your own self in the mirror, let alone approach God.  Those feelings of regret, shame, fear, and a guilty conscience often make us want to crawl in a hole and hide. Fear is a powerful emotion and pushes us away from God.  But the words of Paul tell us that we no longer have to feel that way.  We no longer have any reason to run away or turn away from God.  We no longer have to hide in shame and disgust.  We no longer have to be fearful of who we are, or what we think we are.  Instead of running away from God, we can run to Him, and fall into His loving arms.  When we run to God into His loving arms we are entering the most holy place.  Paul calls it such in Hebrews 10:19.  That should take your breath away.  Just think about it.  No matter who you think you are, or what you are, you can enter the holy place, into the very presence of God Himself.  But Paul says one more thing that is almost too good to be true.  He does not say that we have to crawl into that holy place, hide behind someone else, or that we have to enter wearing sack cloth and ashes.  We don’t even have to sneak in the back door so no one sees us.  No, he says we can come into that holy place in God’s presence with CONFIDENCE.  Wow!  How often do we enter a classroom about to take a test, and go in feeling confident? But Paul says we can enter the presence of God feeling confident!

How is that possible?  Is this all just a dream or make believe?

No, it is real.  Very real.

Let Paul explain.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22a)

We no longer have any excuse for running away from God, turning away from God, or hiding in shame or despair.  Instead we can approach God and enter His presence without fear but rather with confidence.   Paul even tells us to come up close, draw near, maybe so close that we feel as if we are sitting in His lap just as we would sit comfortably in our dad’s lap as a child. Paul tells us in Romans 8:15  “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!”   We are no longer a slave to fear.  Instead, we have been adopted by God, and we are His children.  We call Him Father! We are surrounded by the arms of God our Father.    And all of this is possible because of the blood of Jesus.

Paul calls this a new and living way (Hebrews 10:20). Instead of fear and guilt we’ve been liberated from our bondage and shown a new way of living.  Our sin is washed away with pure water, and our guilty conscience is wiped clean (Hebrews 10:22).  That guilty conscience, which we often lug around in our heart, has been wiped clean.    The chains are broken, we’ve been redeemed.  I know, it is almost too hard to imagine or fathom.  We can hardly understand something so great and wonderful.  But it is real.   Now, without fear or guilt, we can fall into His loving arms because Jesus has opened the door for us.  His blood became the pathway into God’s presence!  No more sin and guilt!  We have been set free!

Luke Elwell

Are You Eagerly Waiting?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9 15

I asked you a question yesterday as we considered some passages in Hebrew 8.  That question was for you to decide what kind of heart you have.  The reason that is important is because the kind of heart that you have determines what other people see in you.  Do they see a person who loves God?  Do they see a person with a heart for serving Jesus and others?  Do people see a person who trusts God no matter what might happen in your life?  Or, are you like the Israelites?  Do people see a person overcome by sin?  A person impatient with God, who wants things right now?  Do they see a person who is willing to give up everything for all the wrong reasons?  What we learned was that God’s laws and commandments don’t change us unless we allow God to write them in our minds and write them on our hearts.

But allowing God to write on our hearts and in our minds is not easy.  Taking out our old heart of stone and replacing it with one of flesh, required a blood sacrifice.  It always had, but now we know that no more blood is required.  In the past the blood of goats and calves was used to obtain purification and forgiveness for people.  But this ritual had to be repeated regularly and often.  That is, until Christ.  Christ was the perfect sacrifice; He was the only sacrifice without blemish.  His sacrifice was able to totally purify our conscience (minds and hearts) from dead works in order to serve the living God!

Because of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, He was able to enter heaven itself in the presence of God Himself.  There, Christ, our high priest, continually intercedes on our behalf, to put away our sin.

End of story.  Right?

No.  Not the end of the story.  There is much more good news for us.

Take your Bible out.  Take your pen or highlighter and mark this verse: “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with (your) sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.”  (Hebrews 9:28)

Today’s question:  Are you eagerly waiting for Him?

Luke Elwell

 

No Daily Patch Needed

Hebrews 7

Hebrews 7 24 25 NIV

So often when we pray for ourselves or for others, we are concerned about certain specific things that are happening in the present moment of our life or their life.  This is okay, because sometimes we feel so overwhelmed by a situation or weakness in our life, that we want immediate help.  We fall on our faces or knees and plead for help in this particular situation or with this particular weakness, but never see the whole picture.  That’s because we are human, after all.  We often can’t see past the present moment. We want to put patches on what is torn or broken. We feel the pain right now, we experience the embarrassment of a sin and hope no one else notices, or we share in part with another in their present experience.  All of that is well and good as we plead for ourselves and intercede for others.  But then a new day comes, laced with all the same trials, tribulations, and temptations of life all over again and we look for another patch.

That was the life of a priest before the time of Christ.  Before a priest could do his job of offering up sacrifices for the sins of others, he first had to take care of his own personal business—his own sins, his own cares, his own violations.  So, each day, as he lit the fire to begin his godly work, he took inventory of the sins of his people and his own sins (Hebrews 7: 27).  Day after day, moment by moment, his mind raced with all these shortcomings.  His job was difficult and exhausting.

Then Christ came and became the high priest, and He holds this position permanently and forever (Hebrews 7:24).  He was after-all, “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7: 26).  Not only that but “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27).   The daily grind of fire building, killing a sacrifice, inner-searching, and finally offering up prayers ended.  Jesus paid it all.

That does not mean we do not pray for others or ourselves.  Indeed Peter says that we are to be “a royal priesthood” (I Pet 2:9), meaning we are to pray for others.  But unless and until we accept without question and wholly the atonement of Jesus in our lives, the daily grind of being a priest will continue for us. We will never get out of that cycle of embarrassment, regret, remorse and the need to pray for that “daily patch” to cover our sins along with the sins of those for whom we pray.

Jesus lives to make intersession for us (Hebrews 7:25), He prays for us continually.  It is because of His intercession that we can do our work of intercession for others.  It is all possible because Jesus has saved us to the uttermost.  No daily patch needed.  Jesus saves us totally and at all times.  Once we believe this as a little child of God, and we draw near to God through Him, He is able to save us to the uttermost! (Hebrews 7: 25).  Then, with full assurance of our own atonement, we can put our full energy into praying for others which is our greatest work.

Luke Elwell