Monday, March 12, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of March 11, 2018

Sermon: “Let It Shine, Let It Shine, Let It Shine”

I am sure you are familiar with the song “This Little Light of Mine.”  Doing a bit of research this week on this song, I came to find out that it was first comes into the public eye in the early part of the 20th century.  It was written by hymn writer Harry Dixon Loes who also wrote the popular hymn Blessed Assurance.  But “This Little Light of Mine” really became popular and imbedded in popular conscience when it was used by many in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. 

I want to let you in on a little secret.  I’m afraid of the dark.  When I was a kid I could only go to sleep if my nightlight was on.  For some reason the light gave me a sense of security and comfort.  But, to be honest, I really haven’t fully grown out of it.  Next to my bed on my nightstand are a flashlight and a camping lantern.  I try to justify it by telling myself that it’s in case of an earthquake and power loss in the middle of the night, which I guess is partially true, but down deep I am still afraid of the dark. 

So far this season of Lent we have talked about the life of faith being one of repentance and the fear of the Lord.  If you missed those, make sure you catch up on the podcasts.  This morning I want to talk about the life and walk of every Christian being one where our light shines in the darkness of our sin filled world. 

I read this just the other day in my Portals of Prayer devotion:

When God said on the first day of the creation “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), the light miraculously appeared out of nothing.  The only source of light was God alone, shining in the darkness.

The apostle Paul used the first day of the creation as a way of describing the miraculous gift of faith that has been given to us in Christ.  The same God who spoke light into the darkness has likewise spoken the miracle of faith into our hearts.  By the power of God’s Word alone, faith comes into the midst of nothing good, for ‘I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh’ (Romans 7:18).

Just as the only source of light on the first day of creation was God alone, shining in the darkness, so also God alone in Christ is the only source of our faith.  Praise be to God!  The Light of Christ now shines with unending brightness for us and within us, giving us His gifts of forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation. 

For some of you the moment that light shined on you and in you, was when the Word of God entered your ears and created faith.  For many that happened when that word was combined with water at the fount as you were claimed as a child of the King. 

Until that day that we are called home to heaven, we will live in the reality that the darkness is real and it is scary.

I’m still afraid of the dark, and so should you.

This season of Lent is a time for us to at least peek at the dark parts of our lives, to do some soul searching of those places we don’t let anyone see.  I want you to take a moment and go there, go to that place, locked in your heart; that place no one knows about.

It is for those places that the light of the world came.  The only source of light that can banish the darkest parts of you has come.  For all that is dark and no good in your life, a light has come. 

Listen to how John says it in the Gospel lesson for today, “This is why people are condemned: The light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil.  People who do what is wrong hate the light and don’t come to the light. They don’t want their actions to be exposed.  But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen.”  (John 3:19-21)

Perhaps it’s true, we all really love the darkness as well.  Our sinful nature longs for it and all too often we given in to it.  But, for you, light has come.  For all those who believe in Jesus, the light of Christ now resides inside you. 

Here at Bethany and indeed in many other churches on the day of your baptism you received a candle and perhaps heard these words or ones similar to them, “Receive this burning light to show that you have received Christ who is the Light of the world. Live always in the light of Christ, and be ever watchful for His coming, that you may meet Him with joy and enter with him into the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which shall have no end.”

Even in your darkness, even as you struggle with sin, you are filled with light and are ready to live always in the light of Christ. 

That darkness you carry around with you, it’s all been forgiven at the cross.  God has paid your debt in Christ; there is nothing you need to do.  Why are you still holding on to it so hard? 

Your sins are forgiven; the light of Christ is in you. 

But the life of faith is also one where that light is to shine for all to see.

That light, deposited in you by the power of God’s Word alone is not meant to be kept hidden or locked up.  It’s meant to be shared. 

Living a life of faith is a call to action, to do the good works that have been set out for you to accomplish by our Lord (See Ephesians 2:10).  But let’s keep this in its proper perspective.

God doesn’t need your good works.  Your good works do not gain you anything special, because you already have it all, grace and mercy on account of Christ. But your neighbor needs your good works.  Our light shines in this dark world when we serve our neighbor. 

Jesus put it this way in Matthew’s Gospel, You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house.  In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Did you catch it?  When we shine that light that is within us for others, they will see your good works, but it’s not you that they give praise. 

Look at what it says again, “Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).

The goal of shining your light is not about you, but so that someone else can praise God.

It Martin Luther who once said, “Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works.”

The goodness of humanity is dependent not on our works but upon God’s mercy declaring us to be good.  Once we have been declared good, the works we do (however imperfect they may be) can be used for the good to point others to Jesus and give glory to God.

So, this season of Lent, contemplate on that light that is already in you and Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.   
 -Pastor Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- March 12th

With Lent in full swing and our calendars filling up quickly, it may be time to reevaluate your reading plan.  About every three months or so it is good to do a little check-up.  Have you been able to keep up with your daily readings?  If not, do you know why?  What can be done to tweak your routine to find time to read?  I settled into a routine a few years ago and it has worked for me.  My weekends are quite busy so I have been doing two readings a day on Monday through Thursday and taking a break Friday through Sunday.  This plan gives me one day of wiggle room in case I really get bogged down with other things.  The important thing is to find a time that works and stick to it.  Soon it will become habit.  Please let me know if I can help out in any way!  On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

As we have said before, the book of Numbers has a general them of grumbling and complaining by the people.  Time and time again God tries to show the people his love but the people don’t seem to get it.  The phrase that God uses over and over to show is Grace is, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.” (Numbers 15:41 NIV).  This is almost the same phrase God uses when he gives the law with the Ten Words (Ten Commandments).  God reminds the people that the relationship he has with them is based on Grace.  That being said, God is still a jealous God, who is Holy (meaning without sin and hating sin), therefore he cannot just turn a blind eye to the grumbling and disobedience of the people.  A few examples to illustrate my point:

Their first complaint resulted in God sending a fire to destroy the people. Moses prayed to God and the fire left. One verse later the people start complaining again! Now they want meat. They were sick of this manna stuff and they longed to be back in Egypt. Moses even gets agitated with the people. But God, in his mercy, gives them meat to eat. So much meat that they get sick of it. Moses then selects 12 men to go into the Promised Land to check it out and when they return, 10 of the men say that Israel should not go in because the people are giants. Only Joshua and Caleb give a true account. They trust in God’s promises. So the people started complaining again. They even wanted to kill Caleb and Joshua. God gets fed up with this group and tells them that none of them will even enter the Promised Land.

Chapter 16 tells the story of the rebellion of Korah. This story serves as a lesson to all those who do not trust God. All those who followed Korah were either killed by fire or swallowed up by the earth. Then God wants to destroy all the people, but God in his mercy hears the cry of his people and spares them. (Do you see a theme here?) Surely this will put an end to the complaining. But as soon as they run out of water they rebel again. But God in his mercy hears the cry of his people and provides for them.

Then Moses gets into trouble by not giving credit to God for providing the water from the rock and he finds out that he will not enter the Promised Land. So the people start complaining again in Chapter 21. So God sends snakes to kill the people. But God in his mercy hears their cries for help. He tells Moses to put a snake on a pole and those who look at it will live. This is a foreshadowing of Christ, because those who look upon Jesus (on a pole a.k.a. the cross) will be saved (“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” –John 3:14). Our readings for this week ended with the people looking for safe passage through some of the lands near Canaan. They get themselves into trouble by trying to fight when God said not to.

Next up is the story of Baalam. This is a story that tells about the power of God. Baalam knows the true God, but Baalam was not always faithful. King Balak wants Baalam to curse the people but Baalam will not because the Lord (Yahweh) is with them. God also shows his power by making Baalam’s donkey talk. God will use any means necessary to get his message across.

I hope you can see that our God is a God of mercy.  He showed that mercy ultimately in the person of his son Jesus Christ who was the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. 

The New Testament

We finished up Mark’s Gospel and it was a quick journey. It is believed that Mark was the first account of Jesus that was written. And it ends just as it begins, with action. In quick succession we have the Last Supper, the time in the garden, the trial, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and Mark’s version of the Great Commission. Like Matthew, Mark mentions the Temple curtain being torn in two. This was very significant. Remember from our readings in the Old Testament that there was a curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place and that only the high priest could enter it and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. When that curtain tore, it showed that we no longer need a human person to go to God for us. Jesus has restored our relationship with the father and now we can approach him because of Christ. The book of Hebrews really drives this point home. It is also interesting that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say that it tore from top to bottom. Thus signifying this was from God.  There is an interesting bit of text at the beginning and end of the book that serve as bookends for Mark.  In Chapter 1 he writes, “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.  Then in Chapter 15 verse 39 we read this that came from the mouth of the Roman centurion, “Surely this man was the Son of God”.  Everything in between these two verses tells us all about the ministry of Jesus.  Now of course the resurrection was coming but that was just more proof as to who Jesus is.  One other textual note, I am sure that you noticed that at the end of Marks Gospel there was some note saying something like “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20”.  That is not to say that they are not Biblical.  The translators want the reader to know that there are some textual problems with these verses.  For the most part the problems do not go so far as to place a great deal of doubt in these verses but theologians do not generally use these verses as proof texts for doctrine. 

As we begin the book of Luke I want you to notice the different style that Luke uses as compared to Mark.  Luke seems to take more time in the story telling and uses “songs” to show some of the emotion behind the stories.  Many have said that Mark is the Gospel for guys and Luke is for the ladies.  I know that is stereotyping but I hope that helps you see the difference in the books. 

Have a great week!!

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of March 4, 2018

Sermon: “A Very Good Place to Start”
Text: Proverbs 1

The Fellowship of the Rings big opening scene is the 111th birthday party of Bilbo Baggins.  As the party goers enjoy themselves there is a grand fireworks display courtesy of Gandalf.  One of his rockets bursts into a dragon that swoops down upon the party.  Those in attendance flee and hide and scream, “AAHHHHHH.” 

Suddenly the dragon soars into the night sky and explodes into the grandest of finales imaginable; and the terrified party goers break into a sigh of delight, “AAAWE!”   Terror and Wonder on display.
The opening scene in the book of Proverbs is the declaration that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”   The fear of the Lord includes Holy Terror and Holy Wonder alike.  Last week we talked about that terror (listen to the last podcast sermon or check out last week’s bullet for that information).  The hymn reminds us that, “grace, such fear (Holy Terror) relieves.”  Yet at the same time the hymn declares that grace has also taught our hearts to fear (Holy Wonder.)

F Face down BEFORE the Lord.
EEngaging the world WITH the Lord.
AAwestruck OVER the Lord.
RRooting ourselves IN the Lord.

Wisdom from such fear finds us:
Face down BEFORE the LORD.  Realizing our whole life is lived before the face of God, and thus in humbleness we bow before His undeserved glorious presence.  

Such wisdom finds us:
Engaging the world WITH the Lord.  Think of how the angles greeted all the met in Scripture, “Fear not!” was their address.  Wisdom doesn’t seek to scare others into the kingdom, but to share what the Lord has done for us in Jesus.

This wisdom leads one to be:
Awestruck OVER the Lord.  The father of the author of this proverb himself wrote, “What is man that you are mindful of Him?”  That the God of the universe, the Alpha and Omega wants to personally connect to us is mind blowing!  

The holy wonder of the fear of the Lord ultimately ends as we: 
Root ourselves IN God.  Rooting one’s self IN God means making Him, His Word, His Love, His character, His Son your foundation.  It’s a scary thing if your foundation is your health (at some point it might fail), your wealth (one bad investment or market downturn), the promises of others (after all they are so easily broken), your brilliance (dementia is rather indiscriminant) – only one thing is a solid foundation to root your life in – HIM!

The One whose perfect love drives out all fear – with the exception of that which leads to wisdom that finds us:

V  Face down BEFORE Him
V  Engaging the world WITH Him
V  Awestruck OVER Him  and
V  Rooted IN Him.
 -Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, March 05, 2018

The One Year Bible- March 5th

So far, so good! We have already read three of the big five books of Moses in the Old Testament and we are almost halfway through the Gospels and it is only March! (Not to mention almost 50 Psalms and 10 chapters of Proverbs) Yes, we have a long way to go, but we have already come so far. I am glad to be out of Leviticus. That is some tough reading. There will be more like it. When we get into Isaiah and Jeremiah (as well as some of the other prophets) the readings will be a bit tedious, but remember that the Bible has one story and that is about Christ. I hope this time in the word will help you as we continue our Lenten journey to the cross.

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We finished up Leviticus with a few more regulations. One of the more interesting is the idea of jubilee. Every 50 years all debts were cancelled and the land rested. This was not only good for the land it was good for the society. This limited social stratification that can be divisive within society. The value of land and servants etc was all based on how many years until the next jubilee. This might not be such a bad thing to consider as God’s people today. Anything that can be done to meet the needs of the people must at least be thought of.  Right at the end of the book there is this great word of grace from God, “I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.”  (Leviticus 26:11-13 NIV)  Some of this sounds like the beginning of “The Ten Words” and indeed Yahweh is reminding the people of his continued love for the people. This will be important when we get into all the grumbling and complaining in Numbers.  The book of numbers is so named because it starts out will a bunch of numbers.  Don’t get too caught up in all the details here, you may just want to skim some of these parts when you get to them.  In Numbers 6 we see the requirements of one who would be called a Nazirite.  The one Nazirite we will see later will be Sampson.  If you remember his story some of these requirements will make sense to you.  Nazirites dedicated themselves to the service of the Lord for a period of time.  Most of the Lord’s work was done by the Levites but if you were not a Levite you could still serve the Lord as a Nazirite.  Also in chapter 6 is the Aaronic blessing, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26 NIV).  This is familiar to must of us but the next verse I thought was quite interesting, “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them” (v. 27).  Kinda sounds like baptism to me.  I have not done a deep study on this passage but I just wanted to throw it out there for you.

The New Testament
In our readings in Mark this past week we had a few great stories and a few that have confounded scholars for generations. In ch. 11 we have the story of Palm Sunday and the triumphant entry of Jesus. This story shows a glimpse of the divinity of Jesus as well as point to his role as our King. This story also solidifies him as the promised Messiah. The story of the fig tree is a strange one. Mark divides up the story into two parts. The first part happens right before the clearing of the temple and many scholars believe that Jesus used it as an object lesson. Here was a tree that should have had some fruit on it. Most fig trees begin growing fruit at the same time they begin to grow leaves. If there are leaves on the tree then one should find fruit. Not finding any fruit Jesus curses the tree. The lesson here is that the Jews are the fig tree but they are not producing any fruit. They are just content to grow leaves. But leaves are of no value. It is the fruit that is beneficial. This leads right into the clearing of the temple. Jesus “prunes” the temple so it can bear fruit. The withered fig tree is like those who do not listen to the teaching of Jesus. They will dry up. Jesus uses similar analogies when he talks about the vine and the branches and the idea of good people bear good fruit. Another great teaching is what some scholars call “The Great Commandment”. Jesus sums up all the commandments in two sentences. “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind and with all of your strength.” This is a summary of the first three commandments. “Love your neighbor as your self.” This summarizes the other commandments.

Bits and Pieces

Matthew was written for the Jews, Mark for the common man and was most likely Peter’s story. Luke is for those who are scholars and was most likely influenced by the viewpoint of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Luke was a companion of Paul and spent years interviewing eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ. He probably spent time with Matthew and with Mark which explains why many things are repeated in Luke. Luke was a physician who had gone to school for many years. He was fluent in Greek, and the Greek of Luke is some of the most polished (and hard to translate) in all the New Testament. Here are the Vital Stats on the Book:

Purpose: To affirm Theophilus in the Gospel of Jesus, which he learned from others.
Author: Luke—a doctor (Colossians 4:14), a Greek and Gentile Christian. He is the only known Gentile author in the New Testament. Luke was a close friend and companion of Paul. He also wrote Acts, and the two books go together.
To Whom Written: Theophilus (“one who loves God”), Gentiles, and people everywhere
Date Written: About A.D. 60
Setting: Luke wrote from Rome or possible from Caesarea
Key Verses: “Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost’” (19:9-10)
Key People: Jesus, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Mary, the disciples, Herod the Great, Pilate, Mary Magdalene
Key Places: Bethlehem, Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem
Law Themes: the lost; the mighty brought low; destruction of the temple; repentance; call to prayer
Gospel Themes: The found; the humble exalted; God’s presence at the temple; work of the Spirit; promises fulfilled; fellowship meals; call of Gentiles.
Special Features: This is the most comprehensive Gospel. The general vocabulary and diction show that the author was educated. He makes frequent references to illnesses and diagnoses. Luke stresses Jesus’ relationship with people; emphasizes prayer, miracles, and angels; records inspired hymns of praise; and gives a prominent place to women. Most of 9:51 to 18:35 is not found in any other Gospel.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of February 25, 2018

Sermon: “TURN”

I can’t recall where I experienced this, but I’ll always remember a Call to Worship at a chapel in my past.  It was during Lent and the worship leader divided the sanctuary into a pair of chanting sides: one crying, “It’s Lent, it’s Lent, it’s Lent people Repent.”  While the other answered, “Repent, repent, repent people it’s Lent.” 

Lent and Repentance go hand in hand, and yet, Repentance is not confined to a single season but it is to be the daily action of the people of God.  In fact, Martin Luther said in the 1st of his 95 theses, “That when our Lord and Master said ‘repent’ He willed that the entire life of the Christian be one of repentance.”

It is fair to call repentance an action for the very word in the original indicates a change of direction, a turn if you will.  Thus colloquially we speak of repenting as meaning ‘turning from sin and turning toward God.’

This TURNing from sin includes Terror, Upheaval, Regret and a “Nod” and it also includes Trust, Unwavering, Remembering and Newness.

Terror – Repentance includes terror over our sins. Its offense and consequences, is part and parcel to the TURN.   Let me be clear, such terror is not about seeing the error of our ways; for real repentance must rest on the realization of Whom we have ultimately offended.  You can never just sin against the neighbor who lives next door to you, the classmate who sits at the table next to you, the coworker in the cubical across from you, or the dude parked on the 405 next to you. Sin, all of it, is always also against God; terrifying indeed. 
Upheaval – Such terror ought to lead us into a great spiritual upheaval.  When we come to know that God demands holiness from us, holiness equal to His own; and when we then realize that we are unable to merit God’s company, earn a place in His presence, and work our way into His good pleasure (and that not even our repentance is reason for Him to grant us such)  there is upheaval. 
Regret – An upheaval filled with real regret. Now, the Reformer said regret was, “the little black dog of repentance, it doesn’t stop barking and biting the conscience, even though you know that your sins are forgiven.” In this usage regret means sorrow over the injury that sin has caused to self, spouse, sibling, society yet ultimately the “injury” it has caused the Lord.  Repentant regret is shame over having offended God and what it cost Him to cover.  
Nod – such repentance clearly includes acknowledgement of our sins and sincere sorry for them.  The evangelist wrote, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive us from all unrighteousness.”  This “nod” so to speak is not a simple a religious “what’s up” affirmation, but a heartfelt sorrow and honest admission of our guilt. 

While no repentance is truly ever deep enough, repentance is begun when we acknowledge our sins and are sorry for them and it is completed when we trust the mercy of God in Christ is sufficient and it and it alone grants us forgiveness and restores us to God. 

This TURNing to God includes Trust, Unwavering, Remember, and Newness of Life

TRUST – As we TURN from sin to God we do NOT place confidence in our contrition but solely in God’s action. Forgiveness is not given or received because of our sorrow over sin but because of God’s graciousness in Christ.  In grace God regards us favorably on account of Jesus.  Faith trusts that God, in Jesus, has removed our sins of the penitent and reconciled them to Himself. 

UNWAVERING – this trust is an unwavering thing. Luther said that, “It leads one to sake their life on it a thousand times over.” Such faith is fixed on the promises of the Lord, the certainty of His Word, Christ’s agony on the cross and vict’ry ore the grave. 

REMEMBER – thus the penitent, even as they are confronted with the guilt and sin, recall God’s declaration over them.  Remembering His covenant secured in baptism the child of God can flee to Him in repentance and faith.    

NEWNESS Thus turning from sin and turning toward God includes a directional move forward as well.  In a Maundy Thursday sermon on 1 Corinthians 11, Luther noted that, “Repentance doesn’t merely probe and ponder how bad we have been, it ponders and probes how good we desire to become.” Thus in repentance we don’t simply peek backward, we peer forward. 

Since we, the saints of the Lord, are at the same time sinners by nature the “turn” is as repetitive of a chapel chant you can’t forget.  One might think therefore that Christian would get dizzier than a competitor at the Winter Olympics; but this is actually how we keep our bearings and get our true orientation. “For our Lord Jesus when He said ‘repent’ willed our entire life” to be one that…TURN’s. 

 -Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, February 26, 2018

The One Year Bible- February 26th

Congratulations on almost two months of reading the Bible! This is a big accomplishment and you should be proud. We are in a tough stretch right now with our readings from Leviticus but hang in there. I hope you have settled into a routine and that spending time in the Word is becoming a habit. Before we get into the meat of the study I want to touch on one of the Psalms we read this week. Psalm 40 has had a special place in my heart for a long time. It wasn’t that it spoke to me in a time of trouble; it wasn’t that I heard a great sermon about it; it wasn’t even the fact that it was written by David. The reason this Psalm is one of my favorite is because the rock band U2 has a song called “40” that uses the same words. If you are not familiar with U2 you might have heard of their lead singer who goes by the name Bono. When they started out as young musicians in Ireland in the late 70’s, their music was influenced by their faith. You can still hear the message of faith in many of their songs today. The best way to share this song with you is for you to hear it. Thanks to good old YouTube here is a link to the video:
Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
I want to spend some time talking about one of the most important days in the life of the Jewish people. The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is the holiest of days in the worship life of God’s chosen people. This was the day that the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies (the inner part) in the Temple and offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of the people. We read about its regulations this week. Let me put it into some easier terms for you. God had set up a system of blood sacrifice that was to be done for the forgiveness of sins. Originally it was to be the one who committed the offence, but God in his mercy and grace said that he would take a substitute in the place of the person (most of the time this means a lamb or bull without anything wrong with it). The people were to come to the temple at least once a year to make a blood sacrifice for the atonement of their own sins, and then once a year a special sacrifice was to be made for all the people. On Yom Kippur, all the people were to fast and the High Priest was then to enter behind the curtain in the presence of the Ark and the other sacred objects including the mercy seat, which was the covering of the ark. This is where the blood was to be poured to cover the sins. This whole event is ripe with symbolism and New Testament parallels. A few interesting things about the actual event: the High Priest was the one who represented all the people. His sacrifice was sufficient for everyone in Israel. He was the only one allowed to enter the presence of God and as soon as he went in he had to make a sacrifice for himself first. Jewish tradition says that the High Priest would tie a rope around his midsection and another priest would hold the other end. The High Priest would also have bells tied to his robes. In the event that he did something wrong, or he angered God and was struck down, the other priests could pull him out without endangering themselves by going into the Holy of Holies. This act of sacrifice could only be done at the temple and was the only way of forgiveness. Let’s bring the forward to Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This was a physical symbol that the Day of Atonement was no longer necessary. Jesus, who called himself a temple, became the High Priest and offered a sacrifice for the forgiveness of all people for all time. The New Testament speaks of this as the fulfillment of the Old Testament requirements. Paul, in Ephesians speaks of Jesus dividing the barrier of hostility, a possible image of the temple. The book of Hebrews speaks of Jesus being the High Priest and that this sacrifice meets the requirements of the Law and that at the Temple (Jesus) atonement has been made. Theologians call this Vicarious Atonement, meaning that we are now at one with God because Jesus was our substitute sacrifice.
One last thing, we have seen a lot of blood in Leviticus and we have talked about this before but to a Jew blood = life. In fact the Hebrew word for blood can also mean life. That makes some neat comparisons to Jesus. We have life because of the blood (life) of Jesus. We drink his blood in communion and that gives us life. Once again, we see that understanding the Old Testament really brings the things in the New Testament to life (no pun intended). Here is a picture and map of the temple that may help you get a visual of its structure:
The New Testament
In our readings in Mark we see more miracles and stories of Jesus. In Mark 7, Jesus makes reference to some of the washings we have been reading about in Leviticus. Jesus makes some people angry when he says it’s not all about keeping the laws and traditions. In fact, there is much more to it. We need to not only be clean on the outside, we must be cleaned on the inside as well. It is not what comes from inside that makes us unclean, but what comes out of our heart. Just a small aside here; the heart was seen by a Jew as the center of not only the emotions but also the entire soul, including the intellect. When Jesus says these things come from our heart, he is saying that our entire being is full of wickedness. This is something we all need to hear. We are all sinful and unclean. There is not one who does good. And we all fall short of the glory of God. We are in need of a Savior. Jesus has some words for the disciples about being a servant. The disciples were fighting about who was the greatest and once again Jesus turns conventional wisdom on its ear. He tells them that they must be a servant of everyone else. They must put the needs of others before their own. This was a radical way of thinking. We sometimes forget how radical Jesus’ words were.
Bits and Pieces
We will finish up the book of Leviticus this week and start with the book of Numbers. The book of Numbers continues the story of the people from Mt. Sinai on to the Promised Land. Here are the vital stats for Numbers:
Purpose: To describe how the LORD preserves Israel despite the obstacles from Sinai to Canaan
Author: Moses
To Whom Written: The People of Israel
Date Written: 1450-1410 B.C.
Setting: The vast desert of the Sinai region, as well as the lands just south and east of Canaan
Key Verses: “Not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” Numbers 14:22-23
Law Themes: Duties; uncleanness; punishment for complaining; rebellion; cursing.
Gospel Themes: Redemption, “I am the LORD your God”; consecration; purification; atonement; blessing.
Numbers records the story of Israel’s unbelief and should serve as a dramatic lesson for all God’s people. God loves us and wants the very best for us. He can and should be trusted. Numbers also gives a clear portrayal of God’s patience. Again and again he withholds judgment and preserves the people. But his patience must not be taken for granted. His judgment will come. One of the recurring themes in Numbers is that of complaining. It is complaining that gets the people into trouble. Complaining and grumbling become very destructive for the people. Many of them even wanted to go back to Egypt. They had already forgotten that in Egypt they were slaves!!
Have a great week and let me know if you have any questions!!

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