Cleansing Lepers

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The entire system of Judaism was the gospel veiled.”

Stephen Haskell (The Cross and It’s Shadow)

We’ve moved into the third book of the bible on our journey to see how the entire Old Testament revealed the Messiah. The book of Leviticus is jam-packed with laws and regulations. This leads many people to avoid it all together. I admit, I was one of those people for many years. It wasn’t until I started to spend a lot of time studying the significance of the unfamiliar Old Testament passages that I began to appreciate all the little details.

One of the most incredible images of sin in the bible is seen in the leper. There is something about this disease, and the frequent alluding to it in the bible, that stands out. A leper was often treated with contempt and judgement, especially in the time of Jesus. They were separated from society and considered unclean. Their uncleanness made them social, and quite possibly, spiritual outcasts. Occasionally, people were struck with leprosy due to their rebellion against God. Like in the case of Miriam (Moses’ sister) for her actions against Moses. Or when King Uzziah was got it after doing what he was forbidden to do in the temple. But that is not the main point behind this disease. Many people got it, and many still do today. And it did make people unclean, but in a ceremonial sense, not in a moral sense. However, leprosy is a good outward picture of humanity’s inward sickness.

The nation of Israel had to experience cases of leprosy regularly, which I believe is why God created a method of cleansing them. In Leviticus chapter 14, God lays out specific steps for the leper to go through to be reinstated as ceremonially clean. That’s extremely important so that the individual can return to certain methods of worship that they would have to abstain from while unclean. I would suggest reading through all of Leviticus 14 on your own because I am going to be selecting only about 10 of the verses for this post. The verses I have picked all show some aspect of the Messiah’s purpose (verses 5-14), as well as the impact that He has on His followers’ lives (verses 15-18). Here we go…

#1- Birds and Pots

And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. (v.5)

The earthenware vessel of this ceremony is a picture of Christ’s dwelling in a human body which would eventually be used in the sacrifice. The bird being slain over flowing water alludes to the Messiah’s ever-flowing and ever-cleansing efficacy of His blood in the redeeming process.

#2- More birds, wood, hyssop, and blood

He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. (v.6)

The cedarwood tree represents the cross on which the Messiah hung and a small reed of hyssop supported the sponge that was dipped in vinegar wine and given to Him to quench His thirst as He hung there. The blood and the water were reflected by the blood and water that flowed from the side of Yeshua when the spear was jammed into His side (John 19). The live bird in this scene gained it’s freedom only after it was dipped in the blood of the slain bird. The Messiah, being that slain bird, who’s blood paid for our release.

#3- One last mention of birds

And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. (v. 7)

Seven is the number of completion in the bible. The blood being sprinkled seven times shows the completeness of the Messiah’s sacrifice in cleansing the leper, the sinner, you and me. We are said to have been sprinkled clean by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1).

#4- The blood of the Lamb

“And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil.And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the Lord.And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. (v.10-14)

A lamb without blemish, just like in the Passover celebration, is the image of the sinless one who was the Messiah. The blood was placed on the ear, thumb, and toe of the leper covering his body to signify he was wholly clean. Once the leper was deemed clean through the process described, he was then anointed for service.

Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the LordAnd some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering.And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord. (v.15-18)

After the sprinkling of blood, the newly cleansed person’s hands and feet were anointed with oil for service. His head was then anointed with oil which was often used in the method of commissioning people for service (like King David being anointed by Solomon). This is exactly what the effect of the Messiah would have on those who believe in Him. To accept His cleansing sacrifice is to also accept His anointing on our lives.

The leper was cleansed from a loathsome living death. He must have felt so thankful to God for the freedom and healing that he would have consecrated his life to the service of the Lord. His worship would have been amplified. His heart would have been open. No doubt, grace would have filled his life like never before. Another story of leprosy in the bible brings this to life even more.

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 (ESV)

Jesus cleanses ten lepers but only makes one well. The reaction of the one is the response of the truly humble. All ten received physical healing. The leprosy was gone. But when it says that the one was made well, it uses the same word (sozo in greek) that means saved from perishing. Wow! And the response of the one who was saved was humility, thankfulness, and straight up falling at the feet of Jesus. That was a man who recognized how desperate his situation was and how miraculous his encounter with Jesus was. That reminds me of yet another story in the bible.

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Luke 7:36-50 (ESV)

Throughout the bible the condition of humanity is made very clear. We are all spiritually dead and separated from God because of our sin. God created a means, a process by which we can be in His presence. All of the old testament ceremonies were foreshadowings of what the Messiah would ultimately do once and for all. The Messiah’s mission was to heal the common leprosy that all of humanity suffers from. Yeshua did that for you and me. And His sacrifice comes with a calling. The oil of anointing is an emblem of the Holy Spirit, which is often symbolized by oil, preparing the follower of Christ for service. The Holy Spirit enables us to live the new life of freedom that Christ’s sacrifice made possible.

Here in a book written 1400 years before the Messiah would make His appearance and give His life to cleanse the world, God was giving us a picture of what to look for. The relationship between sacrifice and service was inextricably linked. To be cleansed means to be called.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

Be at peace my fellow cleansed and called ones!

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A Story About Impact No Matter Our Age

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus.

Revelation 1:9

“They have burned our possessions, but they cannot burn Jesus from our hearts.”

I read the following story from the Voice of the Martyrs. It’s an amazing organization that helps the persecuted believers around the world.

Origen was not the typical eighteen-year-old. He was a teacher in second-century Egypt. As the church of his day suffered severe persecution, Origen did not spend his time chasing girls or trying to impress his peers. Instead of running from the horror that had killed even his own father, Origen chose to become a companion with the persecuted church.

Origen spent his time encouraging Christians who had been brought before the court. When they were led to death, he walked up to kiss them. He even visited the prisons to comfort the believers. But Origen soon found himself in grave danger for his compassion toward the condemned believers. Soon soldiers were posted around his house because of his influence on the church. He had many enemies, and the anger towards him grew hotter each day. He was eventually forced to leave the city. He moved from house to house because of the many threats against his life. But spurred on by the examples of faith in Hebrews, he continued being a companion to those who were persecuted. He even employed several people to handwrite additional copies of the Scriptures.

Eventually, his amazing attitude drew some of his enemies to Christ. However, he was eventually imprisoned, tortured, and killed for this same attitude.

When I read this story I couldn’t help but to think about both my children and my own childhood. I seriously doubt that I would have been like Origen at 8 years old. It takes a special person to join a cause that risks their own life at such a young age. Origen’s father must have been a great example for him. Will my children be empowered and passionate about the things of God? Am I teaching them the values of a Biblical lifestyle and what it means to be committed to the cause of Christ? When I go home to be with Jesus and leave them behind, will they take their place in the kingdom mission? Am I displaying a life of surrender to the greater calling on my life? This was such a challenge for me!

We have to be a legacy for our next generation. Every child is passionate. We have to guide their passion in the use of the gospel. Anyone can inspire. Anyone can encourage. Anyone can display the love of Christ. Age is no barrier.

One of the songs that’s spoken to me a lot on this topic is Only Jesus by Casting Crowns. Take a look at the lyrics:

Make it count, leave a mark, build a name for yourself
Dream your dreams, chase your heart, above all else
Make a name the world remembers
But all an empty world can sell is empty dreams
I got lost in the light when it was up to me
To make a name the world remembers
But Jesus is the only name to remember

CHORUS
And I, I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
Only Jesus
And I, I’ve only got one life to live
I’ll let every second point to Him
Only Jesus

All the kingdoms built, all the trophies won
Will crumble into dust when it’s said and done
But all that really matters
Did I live the truth to the ones I love
Was my life the proof that there is only One
Whose name will last forever.

When it all comes to an end, it shouldn’t matter to us whether our loved ones cherish our memory, but the memory of a life lived for Jesus. Origen must have seen the life of Jesus displayed in someone close to him. No doubt, those in his life saw Jesus displayed in him.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

1 Timothy‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Stop Dogging on Millenials

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Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

It seems like a constant message portrayed about Millennials is that they are lazy, disrespectful, and morally corrupt. Ever hear that? Every generation has had its highs and lows. Every generation has contributed to the next. Every generation is to blame and to praise for where we are as a nation today. Plus I would venture to say that most people who refer to Millennials are doing so incorrectly.

I am a high school teacher. If you’ve been following this blog for long you probably already knew that. I’m in my 13th year of teaching which means I’ve now seen kids from two generations which happen to be the two that followed after mine. Having parents and grandparents from two previous generations and being pretty well versed in US History, I feel like I have a fairly grounded knowledge about many of the generations in this nation. With that said let’s see how they stack up shall we?

  1. The Lost Generation (born 1890-1910)- They fought and won World War One and led the way through the progressive movement. On the other hand, they drove the nation through one of the worst moral declines with organized crime, underground criminal networks and loose and crude behaviors like the nation had not seen on a grand scale before.
  2. The Greatest Generation (born 1910-1930)- The name speaks pretty boldly and for good reason. It weathered the Great Depression and fought in World War Two. But it also saw a stark rise in racism and violence towards ethnic minorities exceeding that of previous generations. It created the battleground in large part that the next generation would fight on.
  3. The Baby Boomers (1945-1964)- By far the largest generation in US History, it fought vigorously for civil rights for both women and minorities. It also led a religious revival that the nation was desperate for and had been sparked by the previous generation. On the downside, the rebellious nature of this generation led to a counterculture steeped in drug use and moral deprivation.
  4. Gen X (1965-1985)- They were the products of their parents but they did try to right the ship. This generation brought a climactic end to the Cold War and sought to right a lot of the wrongs done by our nation. They’ve stepped up to fight the war on terrorism as well. They brought healing and unity to a nation divided and some of the highest levels of economic success in US History. However, this was the punk rock generation that saw a spike in gun violence and suicide rates. They also picked up the nasty habit of overspending and use of credit which skyrocketed personal debt in the US.
  5. Gen Y/Millennials (1986-1994)- This generation has created and innovated more than any generation before it. Technology and medical advancements are rapidly evolving and impacting our day to day life and much of that is thanks to this generation. They are also far more empathetic and compassionate as a whole than any previous generation. On the other hand, this group’s accepting nature has contributed to an immoral eruption in our nation that doesn’t seem to be slowing. It had moved further away from moral certainty and is embracing moral relativism, which had devastating effects.
  6. Gen Z (1995-2012)- This group is perhaps the most interconnected generation in history. They are still a little young to have a huge impact but they resemble baby boomers in a lot of ways. They are passionate and outspoken about injustice. They are incredibly bright as well. On the flip side, this young generation has inherited the problems of the technology revolution. The internet and social media are crippling our youth as much as it’s helping. And unlike any generation before them, they both love those who are different from them but also promote morally questionable behaviors.

Let’s face it, every generation has had its set of problems, mostly inherited by contributions, either directly or indirectly, of the previous generations. But God has always had a remnant in every generation, including the youth of today. That’s our hope for this country. Not the pros and cons of each new age group, but that fact that a small group of people, in every generation, is walking with God.

No generation is like the one before it. Thank God! That’s because no generation has ever been worth emulating. No generation has ever modeled, in whole, what it means to be upright and just. No generation has ever displayed the character of Christ like we’re meant to. No generation has loved sincerely and upheld truth and honor as we are called to by the one who made us. That’s because no generation is the goal of what it means to be a complete godly human being. The goal is Christ. The goal is to be changed into the full meaning of what it means to be made in the image of God.

My kids are part of the new generation, Gen Alpha. My hope is not that they will overcome the struggles of Gen Z or Gen Y, but that they will surrender their hearts to Jesus. Gen Alpha will screw things up just like every generation that ever came before them. They will also contribute great things to society, like every generation before them. But my hope is not that they will be counted among those who give to society, but that they will be people of great faith and of great love. My job as their dad is to lead them and model for them what it means to follow Jesus. That has been the role for every parent in this nation’s history. It’s when we don’t step into that role that we leave our next generation crippled.

What we need is fewer naysayers, quick to point out the faults of our youth. How is that going to call them into the life they’re supposed to lead. Criticism tares down. Truth and love build up. Anyone who wraps on the youth is all too quick to forget the faults of their own generation. We need to be a part of raising that God-fearing, love-driven, truth-centered remnant of the next generation and that starts in the home.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)

Rock Solid

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And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Exodus 17:5-6 (ESV)

A quick reading of this passage may not give the reader any indication that it’s a picture of the role that the Messiah would play for future generations. But the rock gave up water. A ROCK gave up WATER! That doesn’t happen short of a miracle. A miracle of provision. They were roaming through a dry and weary desert. The people were thirsty. And what did God do? He provided for their deepest needs. God rescued them in a desperate hour. That’s exactly what the Messiah would do. Not necessarily in a physical sense, but for a far greater need.

Check out what God said to Moses when He was giving him instruction. God said, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb.” God was in their midst. God was on the rock. In fact, God was pictured in the rock itself because that rock was a picture of the Christ. 

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,and all ate the same spiritual food,and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (ESV)

The rock from this passage is the same rock from the book of Exodus. If you were thinking that I was stretching it by claiming that a rock pictured the Christ, scripture itself states it. It’s actually a beautiful picture. A rock that gives forth water to a people desperate for it. Have you ever been dreadfully thirsty, like to the point of going crazy and feeling like your mouth is full of sand? That first drink of water is one of the most refreshing and life-giving experiences. That’s a great way to think about the Messiah. His mission is to give life and to refresh the soul. That’s why the Rock of Horeb is such a powerful image of the Messiah. That’s why Jesus Christ is called the Rock that Israel drank from in the desert.

This prophecy is about more than just the rock. It’s about the flowing water. The imagery of water is used repeatedly throughout the Bible to describe the Messiah and a relationship between Him and His followers. Jesus showed this in His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. During the course of Jesus’ discussion with her, He pointed out her need for what He came into the world to offer. He did that by helping her to see that where she was looking for meaning was a dead end. Because they were at a well, Jesus used it as a powerful illustration of His purpose and mission.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:13-14 (ESV) [my emphasis/addition]

Physical water can only sustain a person for so long, just like the waters from the rock in the wilderness. But that water pointed to a greater water that satisfies an eternal and spiritual thirst. Not only does it satisfy the believer, but it also changes the way they interact in life.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

John 7:38 (ESV)

The Messiah is an oasis in a dry and wasted land. He is the source of a miracle, the provision we all need. And that’s exactly the climate that Yeshua stepped into. Most of the world was controlled by despotic regimes. Persecution was rampant. True religion had been distorted by human constructs. Corruption was a commonality among all people groups. The world was arid and thirsty for living water. Sounds like our world today doesn’t it?

Many people don’t even realize what they’re thirsty for. We all have an inclination that something is missing. We all have a basic awareness of a need but we are quite sure how to meet it. Just like the woman from the well that we talked about earlier. She looked for it in the opposite sex. Failed relationship after failed relationship couldn’t quench her thirst. It wasn’t until Jesus met her and led her into the discovery of the underlying problem. We need the life-giving water from the Rock. This world is a desert, with nothing to offer for our deepest needs. The Messiah appears in our desert to offer springs of living water, as a gift of God’s grace.

God stood on the Rock of Horeb as a symbol that He was the source and the life-giver. It wasn’t until the rock was struck that the water poured forth for the people to drink. Yeshua, our Rock in the desert, was also struck as He hung upon a cross. It was blood and water that poured out of His body. That death is what provided the spiritual life we all need. The Messiah was God’s gift our the desert. Come and drink!

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Revelation 21:6 (ESV)

Broken Over Brokenness

A few days ago I was driving home, like any other day, and spotted a man up ahead. As I got closer I noticed that he was begging for assistance. His sign said, “Anything Helps”. His clothes were haggard, equally matched by his warn, wrinkled, and sun-scorched skin. His appearance told a story and it must have been far from a fairytale. It was hard to tell the man’s age but I’m sure it was well past mine. Life plays tricks on a person’s age. Our experiences can make us look beyond or behind of our actual age. For this man, I have no doubt it was the first.

I’ve had a high level of empathy for the downtrodden for most of my adult life, especially since developing a deeper relationship with Jesus. But for some reason, this particular occasion made me want to burst into tears. This man appeared broken by life. I know, I know, some readers may be thinking that we can rise above life’s circumstances and don’t have to allow them to break us. I would agree that we always have a choice on how we react to everything in life. But I also believe that we don’t all have the same resources to help in the time of need. I’ve been very fortunate to have the life that I’ve had. I had a good home life with two parents who were present in my life. I’ve always had a handful of friends. I have a great church family now. My wife and kids are amazing. Life, while difficult at times, is pretty easy to make my way through because I’m surrounded by so many great people.  That’s not the case for many people in this world. I’ve never known poverty, except for when I was in college. But that wasn’t actually poverty as most of the world experiences it. Yes, I’ve faced some of the worst things that life can deal a person, but I’ve always had those loving people help walk with me. I’m guessing, for this man, that was not the case.

I don’t know the man’s story. I wish I would have had a chance to talk to him. Caught in the wave of fast-moving traffic in a crazy busy thoroughfare, I had no opportunity to pull over. I only wish that he had been in different part of town. He’s been on my mind ever since that day and I’m hoping that I get another chance to run into him. I can’t help but think of the fact that he has to have a mom and dad somewhere. If not now, then at some point he did. Who knows if that too isn’t a sad story. Being a father of two little girls, I can’t help but think of them being in this man’s shoes. How could any father allow his child to grow up and become homeless? What has gone wrong in this man’s relationships? Does he have anyone who loves him? Does anyone know that his life has come to this? Have people tried to help him but at no avail? I was heartbroken.

Many people look at the homeless and see nothing but dirty clothes and a begar who will probably waste their money on alcohol. Sadly, I think that’s how most people see them. Coming from someone who has spent a lot of time with homeless people over the last six years, I can tell you that they are so much more than that. They are the culmination of a sad tale. I am fully aware that many of them choose to remain where they are but a lot plays into that. Things like fear, rejections, not knowing a way out, being surrounded by apathy, accepting a view of themselves that many portray to them, and being caught in a downward cycle. I’ve seen some come out of it, but sadly, most do not.

A few months ago at one of the local parks, I spotted a new sign that read, “don’t help the homeless”. It’s part of a new city campaign aimed at stopping individuals from giving handouts to homeless people. I understand the motive. They want people to push them to go to assistance organizations rather than depend on aid at the micro level. That sounds great, except, it won’t work, and in essence, it’s absolutely heartless. These are broken people…very broken people. They need help now. Immediate, short-term, and long-term help. Ever hear the slogan, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime”? Well, to teach a man to fish, you have to buy him a fishing pole, tackle, bait, and invest the time in their life to help them learn. Most people I know want to pass the buck along to someone else. They want to complain about “those people loitering in the park” yet they won’t go out of their way to show them some love. If there’s one thing that broken people need, it’s love. Judgment never helped anyone break free from anything.

I will be quick to admit that most of the time the homeless reek of booze and tobacco. They can also be very crude. Some of the people I meet with today, I’ve been hanging out with in parks for the last six years. But they are created in God’s image just the same as I am. For that reason alone, they deserve the same love as anyone else. They don’t deserve to be overlooked and cast aside. They’ve probably been treated that way most of their lives. We can either be one more voice of love and truth, or we can add to the resounding negativity and hate that gets thrown at them day after day.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

I want to be more broken for the broken in this world. Homeless or not, there are so many people around me that need my love and compassion. I don’t want the people in my life to have the same story as the man on the side of the road in the busy intersection. I want to do everything I can to speak life and hope into the lives of my family, my friends, my students, and my community. I don’t know what happened in this man’s story but I do know the stories of well over a hundred homeless people I’ve met over the last six years, and they are not filled with life and hope. If a third of the world claims to be followers of Jesus, how could that be? How can there be so many desperate hurting people filling our parks and intersections with cardboard signs? Lord, forgive us for all the times we’ve scowled and turned our heads. Lord, forgive us for ever thinking we were better than them. Lord, forgive us for not acting out the love we say is inside us. I count myself among the multitudes who need to do more, love more, and give more because my King gave everything.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (The Message)

To be Among Us

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The book of Exodus is so rich in Messianic prophecy. Already we looked at the identity of the Messiah through the title of the “I Am” and an ancient celebration that God established to be a picture of the purpose and power of the Messiah. I feel like we’ve only skimmed the surface. So much more is left to discover, even with the topics already covered.

A couple posts ago I shared my experience during the Feast of Tabernacles this year while sitting in my backyard. It was an awakening of sorts…a major redirect…because it was an encounter with the very Messiah we’ve been studying in this series. The Feast of Tabernacles is one of seven High Holy Feasts that are laden with prophetic meaning about our Messiah. I’ll cover more about it when we get to the book of Leviticus in the next month or so. For now, I want to talk simply about the Tabernacle itself.

The Tabernacle is also referred to as the Tent of Meeting. The instructions for this building project were given by God, to Moses, during the period they met on the mountaintop after crossing the Red Sea. These instructions were among many that Moses received during the Exilic phase of Israel. Many people just read over these chapters in Exodus because they don’t understand them or see the importance. I admit a blueprint isn’t the most invigorating read. But we can’t disregard the fact that six full chapters are devoted to the layout of this building. SIX. That’s more than the 10 commandments which would’ve been given at the same time. I’m not saying that the Tabernacle is more important than the 10 commandments, but they should not be tossed aside as unimportant either. They tell us as much about who God is and who the Messiah is as any of the 10 commandments and any of the other laws given by God. Exodus 25-31 are not just a blueprint for a building, they are a blueprint for the Gospel.

We could easily spend a year studying the significance of the tabernacle in God’s redemptive plan but my hope is that today’s post gives you a desire to dig in more on your own. For now, I want to show you seven features about the tabernacle and what they mean for identifying who the Messiah is and what his role would be in God’s grand story. Keep in mind, as we go through these seven things, that the objective of the tabernacle was for the people to be in God’s presence.

  1. You had to approach the tabernacle through the tribe of Judah. Back in a Genesis post, we looked at how the lineage of the Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah. The entrance to the outer courtyard of the tabernacle was in the east. Each tribe was laid out in specific places when Israel stopped and encamped. Judah’s place was in the east. To get to God, you had to go through Judah. To get to God, you have to go through the Messiah and the Messiah is from the tribe of Judah. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
  2. There was only one entrance to the tabernacle. There was one door to access both the outer courtyard, the holy place, and the holy of holies. The theme of one point to the one way to access God…the Messiah. This feature builds on the last. Jesus told the crowds that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. The Messiah, Jesus, is the door, the only door, to access God.
  3. You enter by the way of sacrifice. The first thing you’d see when you entered the outer gate would be the altar of sacrifice. This is where all the animal sacrifices were made to atone for the sins of the people. Sacrifice was necessary for sinful people to enter a Holy God’s presence. This meant that the Messiah would have to be sacrificed to clear the path for us to access God. Romans 5 talks about how the blood of Jesus justifies us and makes a way for us to escape God’s wrath. Ephesians 1 reinforces that concept by talking about how we’ve been redeemed and forgiven because of the sacrifice of Jesus.
  4. The never-ending light. Once in the holy place, you would see several objects. One of them was the lampstand that would be tended to by the priests and would never be allowed to go out. It would light the holy place. That light would allow the priests to worship the Lord correctly and serve in their priestly duties. The Messiah’s role would be to light the way to the Lord and allow us to worship God in the way we were created to. In John 8 Jesus announced that He is the Light of the World. In John 1 Jesus is called the Light of Life. The only way to see our way to God and to worship correctly is to do so through Yeshua the Messiah.
  5. The Bread of Life. Another element of worship in the holy place was the table of the showbread. The bread was used in the worship process to symbolize the sustenance provided by God to all His people. It reflected the manna that was given in the Exodus journey so that Israel would not go hungry. In John 6 Jesus tells the people that he is the Bread of Life…the greater bread than that of the manna. He is the bread from heaven given to satisfy our deepest hunger.
  6. Aroma of Prayer. Right before the vail, which divided the Holy and Most Holy place, stood the altar of incense. This is where incense burned day and night as a symbol of prayers going up before the Lord on behalf of the people. One of the roles of the Messiah is to make intercession on our behalf, for our sins before a Holy God. Romans 8 says that Yeshua lives forever to make intercession on our behalf. He is the prayer that never goes out.
  7. The Mercy Seat. There are so many more items and unique qualities about the tabernacle that we could link to the Messiah but, in my opinion, there’s no better way to wrap it up than with the symbol of God’s deep desire to show us grace. The mercy seat was located in the heart of the Holy of Holies. In a way, it was the symbol of God’s heart…and it represented mercy. The Messiah was the greatest reflection of God’s mercy. Someone who would step into our place, die on our behalf, and remove our sin, so that we could be with God. The most well-known verse in the whole of the bible is John 3:16. It’s that verse that puts into words God’s love for His creation. The next verse states the motive.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:17 (NIV)

Take heart brothers and sisters. God’s desire for you has always been to save you because He loves you with an endless love. And through the Messiah, Yeshua, He has made a way for us all.

Peace in Christ