Day 149: Prophet, Priest, & King

2 Kings 4-5; John 8:21-36

Key Verses

2 Kings 4:42-44
And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.'” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

John 8:34, 36
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. …So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

In the Old Testament, God used prophets to communicate His truth and demonstrate His power.

Today we read of Elisha continuing the ministry of Elijah. God worked through Elisha to heal, give provision and bring life from death. Elisha was God’s mouthpiece as he persistently demonstrated that God, alone, was God of Israel.

In the New Testament, God sent His Son to fulfill the role of Prophet, Priest, and King.

As we read through the Pentateuch, we saw how Jesus perfectly fulfilled every point of the Law and the Sacrificial System. He is our High Priest – opening the way to the Father.

In the gospels, we see that Jesus is the ultimate Prophet, communicating truth and demonstrating God’s power. In today’s reading, Jesus continues to speak the words of the Father to the people, and through His words, he reveals that He is also the King.

Only a King has the authority to free slaves, and Jesus has this authority. But once again, as He is speaking, the people misunderstand Him. They interpret him literally and argue that they are not enslaved.

But they were enslaved. Everyone is a slave, spiritually. We are slaves to sin. And we need the King, not just of this world, but the King of Heaven and Earth to set us free from the bondage of sin.

Jesus, our Prophet, Priest, and King, gives us freedom. And we are free indeed!

Keeping up with the Kings
Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat)
Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (Joram)

Day 97: Proper worship

Judges 17-18; Luke 10:25-42

Key Verses

Judges 17:6
Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Luke 10:36-37
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

As the time of the Judges comes to an end, somehow, God managed to preserve his people in spite of their apostasy. Yet, this nation was full of people who had no clue how to worship God according to the Mosaic law.

The rest of the book of Judges switches its focus from the threat of foreign invaders to its own inward chaos. The author is persuading the reader that Israel desperately needs the leadership of a godly king. The story recorded in Judges 17-18 is so preposterous that it seems cartoonish!

And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods…

And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest” (Judges 17:5; 12-13).

Since when did people start having their own personal priests?? And this priest doesn’t have an altar or a tabernacle, no, he has Micah’s shrine and carved images to facilitate proper worship. It’s ludicrous!

Fast forward to today’s reading in Luke. At this point in history, the Jews were so absorbed with proper worship – that they had added many extra laws which made the old laws seem permissive. This concern with observing the Mosaic law is obvious from the details in Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan. There was a distinction between the Priest and the Levite. Not just any Levite could be a Priest. Only a descendant of Aaron could be a Priest. I’m sure this detail was overlooked by Micah, our character from Judges ;)

But it is interesting that Jesus takes all of these religious regulations and turns them upside down. The story of the good Samaritan illustrates that it is not the “law-abiding” Priest and Levite that meet the standard of the Law – but rather it was the hated “half-breed” Samaritan who did what was acceptable – that is to sacrificially love his enemy.

Isn’t Jesus wonderful??!! He wants so much more for His people than mere religion!! The rules only teach us we’re not good enough! Then we can look to Jesus with a desperate need to be rescued. This is proper worship! Humble, reliance on the Savior.

Mary understood. She knew that nothing was as important as sitting at the feet of her Lord. All of life could wait – Jesus was in her house! What could be more important than that?!

Day 58: The Real Life

Numbers 18-19; Mark 7:1-23

Key Verses

Numbers 19:20
“If the man who is unclean does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. Because the water for impurity has not been thrown on him, he is unclean.”

Mark 7:14-15
And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

These two passages seem to be in stark contrast to one another. Numbers restates and adds to the cleanliness laws – while in Mark, Jesus chides the Pharisees for their hypocritical observance of the cleanliness laws. Who was right? Well, both of them were…

Remember… God was establishing a people with a law that was a physical representation of His future spiritual kingdom. Cleanliness was a HUGE deal to God. The people were taught through the word pictures presented in the law that uncleanliness was connected with death – whereas cleanliness was associated with life. This is why a person was deemed “unclean” when touching any animal or person that was dead.

Jesus teaches that it is not the physical things that make a person unclean – but rather it is the sinful actions of the heart that defile a person. Our hearts are unclean… which means they are associated with death – spiritual death.

How do we reverse the spiritual death in our hearts? Our hearts must be made clean! …But how? We know that the blood of animals is insufficient to cleanse the heart! But listen to the writer of Hebrews…

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:13-14)

Jesus’ once-and-for-all-sacrifice makes life possible – not just the physical representation of life – No! His sacrifice opens the way for us to have true, spiritual life. The real life – the forever kind of life! I don’t know about you, but I want some of that life!! I find it in Jesus…

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Day 51: The Precision of God

Numbers 3-4; Mark 3:22-35

Key Verses

Numbers 3:9-10
And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood.

Mark 3:35
“For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Numbers 3 & 4 concentrate on numbering the Levites.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine” (Numbers 3:12).

The ESV Study Bible explains: “In the last plague, every firstborn male Egyptian and every firstborn of their cattle died, but the Israelite boys and cattle were spared. So after this, all Israelite firstborn boys and cattle were dedicated to God. That meant the cattle were sacrificed and the boys should have served God in the sanctuary Ex. 11:4–13:15. But after the golden calf incident, the Levites took the place of the firstborn boys Ex. 32:25–29. The census showed there were 273 fewer Levites than first-born males in the other tribes. To redeem those 273 Israelites who had no Levite to take their place, five shekels (Num. 3:47) per person had to be paid. This is the tariff prescribed in Lev. 27:6 for boys under five. Five shekels would have been about a year’s pay for a herdsman.”

Do you notice the precision of God? Nothing was overlooked. Every detail was considered and described. God is a God of order, not chaos :)

Mark 3 contains a difficult saying of Jesus that is found in all 3 of the synoptic gospels…

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29).

It is helpful to consider the precise nature of God’s character when interpreting this verse. Jesus was not being elusive. His speech was plain and precise. But what did he mean… exactly?

To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to persistently reject his saving work in your life. The Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that Jesus is Lord. The Holy Spirit softens and humbles our hearts to ask for salvation and forgiveness. To reject the work of the Spirit is, in essence, forfeiting the chance for forgiveness. If you have been saved by the work of the Spirit, then this “eternal sin” is impossible for you to commit. Only those who refuse to be saved remain “unforgivable.”

God is clear. God is precise. There is one true God and one way to salvation….only through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. There is no sin we can commit that can trump the power of His sacrifice – except to reject Him. That would be a very sad, “eternal” mistake.

Day 50: Encamped Around the Presence of God

Numbers 1-2; Mark 3:1-21

Key Verses

Numbers 2:1-2
The
Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
“The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side.”

Mark 3:9-10
And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.

We begin the book of Numbers today! Numbers chronicles Israel’s time in the desert and begins with the people making preparations to go to war. If they wanted to take the land, they had to prepare to fight…

From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company (Numbers 1:3).

Numbers 2 goes on to detail exactly how the people were to camp and march. The Tabernacle would be guarded by the Levites and remained in the center of the people when they camped and when they marched. Remember, the tabernacle was God’s house. God dwelled there. The people were to camp around the presence of God. Numbers vividly portrays God’s presence dwelling with the Israelite people!

Both of today’s passages contain imagery of great numbers surrounding the presence of God. The account in Numbers is ordered and precise. Everyone had a place – so much so that it would be very obvious if a family or clan went missing. There would be an empty spot around the tabernacle! This was a model of community. This is a model for the church*!

By contrast, the scenes in Mark seem frantic. The crowds pressing in on Jesus were desperate. This is also a picture of community. Our churches are made up of hurt and broken people, desperate for the healing touch of the Savior.

Both passages teach valuable lessons about community and church life. The church needs each of us. If we go missing, there will be a noticeable gap that goes unfilled. But we also need the church. For that’s where God’s presence is found!!! If you don’t believe me, read Ephesians…

…you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

The dwelling place of God is in the midst of a community of believers… being built together into a holy temple.

Are you desperate for the Savior?? Oh, I hope so. Now… go to church :) …And encamp together around the presence of God!

*I am indebted to author and teacher, Susan Hunt, for the application of Numbers 2 to church life.

Day 46: The Great Reversal

Leviticus 21-22; Matthew 28

Key Verses

Leviticus 22:21
And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it.

Matthew 28:5-7
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.

Leviticus 21-22 are difficult passages for me. Taken alone, they could portray God as uncompassionate and harsh. Especially difficult are the passages referring to “without blemish.” No priest or animal could have a blemish. That meant no blind priests in the tabernacle. Hunchbacks were not tolerated. Even if your hand was injured, you were not allowed. This seems like a different God than the one who made the blind see and the lame walk.

But I have an idea… What if God is painting a picture of his original design? What if he is pointing back to what should have been – before sin entered the world… Sin corrupted everything… even our physical bodies. Disability, sickness, and death were not part of God’s original plan. There was no “blemish” before sin.

But the resurrection of Christ undoes the effects of sin. It is the resurrection which begins the great reversal. What did C.S. Lewis write in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe?

Though the witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. But if she could have looked a little further back… she would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.

Yes! Death is working backward. We live in the time after the resurrection… when God takes our blemishes and redeems them – and he transforms them – and then he makes them into something…good.

Day 43: The Story of All Stories

Leviticus 16; Matthew 26:57-75

Key Verses

Leviticus 16:34
“And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.”

Matthew 26:65-66
Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He, [Jesus,] has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

Leviticus 16 describes the Day of Atonement. It was this day, only once a year, that the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place and make atonement for himself and for the people. The sins of the people were ceremonially transferred to a goat, the scapegoat, and it carried the iniquity of the people away to the wilderness.

The temple, the ceremonies, the High Priest… all of it pointed forward to the Messiah. But the people didn’t expect the Messiah, their Savior, to be a suffering servant. Even Peter, compelled by fear and crushed by the grief of unmet expectations, denied knowing Jesus in the end. And ironically, it is the High Priest, the appointed mediator between God and the people, that sentences the Messiah to death. Christ is left alone to accomplish what He alone could do.

John Bloom writes from the September 18, 2010 entry of the Desiring God blog: “Jesus turned out to be far more than the Messiah had been expected to be. He was the consummate temple, Passover lamb, sacrificed goat, scapegoat, high priest, prophet and the King of kings.”

God can write a story! God is the ultimate author, originating all literary techniques such as irony, foreshadowing, symbolism. And to think… we are actually characters in His story. Amazing…

But when Christ came as the high priest of the good things we now have, he entered the greater and more perfect tent. It is not made by humans and does not belong to this world. Christ entered the Most Holy Place only once—and for all time. He did not take with him the blood of goats and calves. His sacrifice was his own blood, and by it he set us free from sin forever. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a cow are sprinkled on the people who are unclean, and this makes their bodies clean again. How much more is done by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:11-14. NCV).

Day 42: Cleanliness Laws

Leviticus 11-15

Key Verses

Acts 10:28
And [Peter] said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.”

A brief word about this section of Leviticus as the reading is long. It is important to understand the meaning of clean vs. unclean. It was not a hygienic term, nor did it refer to moral standing. It simply referred to a ritual state. The ESV Study Bible compares ritual cleanness to being registered to vote. If you’re registered, you can vote. Similarly, if you are ritually clean, you are permitted in the camp – or community. If you are ritually unclean, you must stay outside the camp until which time you are made ritually clean.

This concept is foreign to us because the cleanliness laws have been made obsolete by the new covenant. The purpose of these laws was to set Israel apart as a holy nation, different than the surrounding nations. Now that the new covenant has made the gospel available to all nations, the need for laws that make the Israelite nation unique is no longer needed. (For a New Testament example, see Acts 10, the story of Peter and Cornelius.)

So, enjoy today’s reading ;)

Day 41: The Priesthood

Leviticus 8-10; Matthew 26:26-56

Key Verses

Leviticus 9:7
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the Lord has commanded.”

Matthew 26:27-28
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

As first instructed back in Exodus 29, Leviticus 8 records the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. It is a glorious time – a monumental event in the history of the Israelite people! The priesthood has been established! God has provided a way for a sinful people to draw near to a holy God!

Leviticus 9 records Aaron’s first priestly duties. It sets forth a model of worship that remains relevant to the believer today…

  • He begins by offering a sin offering first for himself and then for the people. Having atoned for the sins of the congregation,
  • He offers a burnt offering as a sign of total devotion and thanksgiving to the Lord.
  • Finally, Aaron offers a peace offering as a symbol that God and the people have been reconciled through the blood of the offerings.

God was pleased with Aaron, and the offerings were accepted! Aaron and the priesthood would now act as the mediator between God and the people.

Leviticus 10 is a severe reminder that worship is not just a list of duties to be performed, but must come from an undivided heart. All four of Aaron’s sons failed to keep a portion of the priestly duties. Aaron’s oldest sons were killed for offering “unauthorized fire.” The implication was that they were cavalier in their duties. God does not tolerate flippant pride. Aaron’s younger two sons did not eat the sin offering as commanded. But they were spared because their motivation was out of fear for the holiness of God. God has always been more concerned with the heart than with outward actions.

In fact, Jeremiah prophesied that there would be a new covenant and it would be written on the heart.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel… I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jesus is the mediator of this new covenant – the covenant of grace. He institutes “the Lord’s supper” as he eats his last meal with the disciples recorded in Matthew 26. Jesus says that this is the “blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). We celebrate this new covenant each time we take communion. It is a meal that points forward to a day when we will eat and drink with Jesus face to face…

“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

Until that day, we are called to worship our God with all of our heart…

  • Because of Jesus’ perfect sin offering, we can draw near to God.
  • We make our burnt offering as we devote our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord (Rom 12:1),
  • And we make our peace offering as we confess the gospel of reconciliation to the world.

According to Peter, we are now the priesthood! And we are to offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5).

Day 40: Extravagant Love

Leviticus 6:8-7:38; Matthew 26:1-25

Key Verses

Leviticus 7:35-36
“This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the Lord’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the Lord. The Lord commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

Matthew 26:13
“Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

These verses in Leviticus recount the previous five offerings from a different perspective. This time, they focus on the priests’ responsibilities and portions of the offerings. One interesting side-note (that is not immediately obvious from the text) is the meaning of the word “fat.” The “fat” of the animal was considered the finest portion – the “filet mignon” type portion. All the “fat” of the animal was given to God as a food offering, so the Lord got the best part of the animal. Reserving a lesser part of the offering for the priest ensured the welfare of him and his family.

But let’s transition to today’s New Testament reading. Matthew made a literary choice to sandwich Mary’s anointing  (that occurred earlier in the week) between two scenes of shocking betrayal. Contrasting Mary’s sacrificial act to Judas’ and the Priests’ self-serving hatred only highlights Mary’s enormous love for Jesus.

We know from John 12, that this is Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’ and Martha’s sister. Her devotion to Jesus is unmatched. Jesus’ disciples, his closest companions, are still refusing to believe that he will actually die, but Mary mysteriously gets it. She’s willing to sacrifice a year’s wages to show her love for Jesus, her Lord. She breaks her precious alabaster jar over Jesus’ head (Mark 14). She bends and wipes the oil from Jesus’ feet with her hair. She has prepared him for burial. Jesus says it is a beautiful thing.

Sweet Mary. Just as the priests were commanded to offer the “fat” of the animal – the best part – as an offering to the Lord, so did Mary offer the best of all she had. Her love was extravagant.

Are we giving God the best of what we possess? Do we love Him extravagantly or are we shackled by social norms and cultural expectations? Do we love our reputation, status, wealth, security, possessions, family, comfort, pleasure or a sense of control more than we love our Lord? Jesus demands our all  – but not out of priestly duty… No! He wants our extravagant Love!