The Fire of Mercy

“Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.” Leviticus‬ ‭6:13‬ ‭ESV

The more I read the book of Leviticus the more I gain an appreciation for it. It’s easy to get lost in the myriad of sacrifices and laws but what helps is taking a step back and looking at what’s behind all of it.

The sacrifices described in this book are a result of two things. Number one, humanity’s brokenness and rebellion. And number two, God’s desire to show mercy.

The verse from chapter six is one good indication that God loves to show mercy. He gave Israel a way to be forgiven of all of their sin over and over again. Verse thirteen shows that God was fully aware that the people of Israel would need to be forgiven over and over. The fire of the altar of burnt offerings would always be lit so that the people could always come for mercy.

God knows we’re guilty. Every single one of us. Every day we think, say, or do something that makes that true. We no longer have an altar, be we have something far greater. We no longer need to bring an animal sacrifice because God already provided a greater sacrifice for us. The fires of God’s mercy is always lit in the sacrifice of Jesus our Messiah. In Him, we all have a continual source of grace, because God loves to show mercy.

Rejoice brothers and sisters in our God’s amazing grace!

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The Sacrifice of a Son

This is just the third post in the series on how God revealed our Messiah. We’re barely scratching the surface but today’s post will wrap up our time in the book of Genesis. Enjoy.

God is mysterious. No doubt about that. But when it comes to His plan to redeem a fallen creation, He’s made it pretty unmistakable. It would take God himself to pay the price we owe. Even in the moments following the sin of Adam and Eve, God sacrificed animals in the garden to cover their nakedness and shame.

“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Genesis‬ ‭3:21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The animal that provided the garment for humanity was innocent. But sin equals death. And it takes life to restore life. The animal from the garden certainly didn’t remove the sin of man, nor restore them to life, but it pointed to a greater sacrifice that would. But this image in Genesis chapter three isn’t the only one that would point to the role of the Messiah. Another great foreshadowing appears in chapter 22 of the same book.

God calls on Abraham to take his son to a mountain, three days journey away, and offer him up. I know. That’s hard to swallow. But it becomes obvious that God had no intention of allowing Abraham’s son to be sacrificed because God would once again provide the sacrifice Himself.

“Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.””

Genesis‬ ‭22:5-14‬ ‭ESV

So much in this story points ahead to the Messiah. First, the picture of a son being given. Isaac wasn’t the sacrifice, only an illustration of the Son to come.

“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Messiah would have to be ‘of God’ like a son. But not like a son in the human sense. Far closer. When the Bible talks about Yeshua as the Son of God, it is saying that He is from the bosom of Yahweh. He is connected in such a way that they are inseparable. But Jesus became the physical manifestation of the invisible God. And that physical manifestation would be offered in our place.

The second picture in the story of Genesis 22 is that of the ram caught in the thicket. Another title of the Messiah is the Lamb of God. The lamb to be the provision of sacrifice provided by God Himself. In the first chapter of John, baptisms were being done by a man named John the Baptist, to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. Upon seeing Jesus John says,

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

John‬ ‭1:29‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Messiah is the Son and He is the Lamb. In both roles, He would be the sacrifice of God to save a sinful broken world. And the Lord did provide. Just as the prophecy foretold in Genesis 22. And if that’s not amazing evidence by itself, the mountain that the story takes place on is the same one on which Yeshua the Messiah would lay down His life. Nearly 2000 years later. And the wood for the altar would not be for fire but in the shape of a cross. A cross that our Messiah was nailed to. For us. For love.

Peace brothers and sisters

Lessons About Jesus From Star Wars

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I was watching Star Wars: the Force Awakens about a week ago and the Holy Spirit rocked my world. You read that right…I had a Holy Spirit encounter while watching Star Wars. It goes to show that His reach is without limits right? The scene: Han Solo encounters his son, Kylo Ren, on the surface of the StarKiller Base created by the First Order. If you’re not a Star Wars fan then I may have lost you. Just know this…Kylo Ren has been taken by the dark side of the force, and Han Solo (his father) has never given up hope that he can become good once again. This scene is one of the most powerful in the entire movie.  At the beginning of this scene, Han Solo has a choice to make, escape the planet unharmed, or risk his life to confront his son. Han’s love for his son made that no real choice at all. It drew him out onto the breezeway where Han called to his son, and he immediately stopped and turned around. Han walked out to him until they were face to face. Here is the dialogue that ensues:

Han Solo: Ben!

Kylo Ren: Han Solo. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.

Han Solo: Take off that mask. You don’t need it.

Kylo Ren: What do you think you’ll see if I do?

Han Solo: The face of my son.

Kylo Ren: Your son is gone. He was weak and foolish like his father, so I destroyed him.

Han Solo: That’s what Snoke wants you to believe, but it’s not true. My son is alive.

Kylo Ren: No. The Supreme Leader is wise.

Han Solo: Snoke is using you for your power. When he gets what he wants, he’ll crush you. You know it’s true.

Kylo Ren: It’s too late.

Han Solo: No, it’s not. Leave here with me. Come home. We miss you.

Kylo Ren: I’m being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain. I know what I have to do but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it. Will you help me?

Han Solo: Yes. Anything.

The moment that comes next was heartbreaking! Kylo Ren kills his own father with his lightsaber. The moment that shook me came next and it’s pictured in the image at the beginning of this post. In his last seconds of life, Han Solo reaches up and caresses his son’s face while gazing endearingly into his eyes. It was as if Han Solo’s only thought at that moment was that he got to see his son one last time, look into his eyes, and touch his face. The look on Han’s face showed no sign that he was focused on his own eminent death.  Kylo’s cruel act could do nothing to destroy his father’s love for him.

So how do I see Jesus in all of this? The love of Christ is so great that it is unshakable, even when our sin was killing Him nearly 2000 years ago. When He created us, knowing our fallibility, knowing His blood was needed to cover our mistakes, Jesus loved us. Even as the crowds stood in the courts and yelled for His blood, Jesus must have been overwhelmed with His love for them, for us, for me. With each stroke of the lashes that tore the skin on His back, the love of Jesus held true. When the nails were driven into His body, securing Him to the cross, the love of Jesus was prevailing. When the voices shouted out in mocking fashion while He hung on the cross, His heart was moved with compassion for them. If it were possible, I’m sure Jesus would have embraced all of His executioners.

We so greatly underestimate the love of Christ. We acknowledge His great sacrifice, but rarely do we allow His motivation of love to break and reshape our hearts.  I believe that Jesus would have extended His hands to each of those Roman soldiers and hate-filled Pharisees, had His arms not been fastened to the tree.  If you haven’t, try to think of it this way and see if it doesn’t move you to tears. Even if it were you that drove the nails into His body, He’d still love you. Even if it were you that whipped Him, mocked Him, or forced a crown of thorns on His head, He’d still love you. The reality is, that you and me did do all of those things. Our sin necessitated His suffering. But in the midst of His blood splattered face were eyes, filled with love, gazing back at His betrayers…His murderers…at us…wanting to make us sons and daughters. And while it must have physically pained Him more than I can imagine, He did it with joy.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

The choice is laid out for all of humanity. We can continue in the life of darkness, disregarding this incomprehensible sacrifice and love, or we can allow His love to prevail in our hearts.  His love never gives up on us. His love sees no limits. His love makes it possible for anyone to be saved. Why anyone would walk away from a love like this, i’ll never know. Jesus has proven that He’d do anything to save humanity…to save you and me. Be encouraged my brothers and sisters. We are so fiercely loved!

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8 (ESV)