February 25 Esight, 2009

Then he will set the two goats before GOD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and cast lots over the two goats, one lot for GOD and the other lot for Azazel. He will offer the goat on which the lot to GOD falls as an Absolution-Offering. The goat on which the lot for Azazel falls will be sent out into the wilderness to Azazel to make atonement.— Leviticus 16.7-10, The MessageStop for a moment and think this week about the imagery of the Old Testament’s Day of Atonement ceremony. (If you are not familiar with it, take some time this week to read all of Leviticus 16.) It is truly beautiful. Think of it against the backdrop of knowing that our sin, humanity’s rebellion, is not an “honest” rebellion. We have been deceived about who God really is and what He is like. We are truly rebelling against what we think He is, rather than what He really is. This is why integral to Jesus ministry was His deep passion for simply portraying to us the truth of what God’s character truly is. (See John 8:32: “. . . you will know the truth and the truth will make you free . . .”)

The Day of Atonement is about all of Israel’s acts of rebellion, their transgressions, taking them out of the sanctuary—God’s place of dwelling, i.e. God Himself—and placing them on the head of the scapegoat—i.e., He who truly is to blame for them.

Think about it for a second. How many today would still rebel if they could just see God for who He really is? If they could just see His heart? Is it really that we are rebelling; or is it that someone has deceived us about what He is, and we are simply rebelling against the wrong picture?

The Day of Atonement brought Israel into oneness with their God through the shed blood of a sacrifice that symbolized God Himself. This was done by a cultic rich symbolism. But what were the symbols really revealing? That the day was coming when God would sacrifice Himself for us. And through that self-abandonment, we could begin to see God for what He truly is, and our rebellion would be directed away from God; God would cease to be the one our rebellion is aimed at, and He would cease to be the “one to blame,” so to speak. Instead it would be placed on someone else. We would begin to see: God is not the enemy. God is not the one we’ve needed to be saved from. God is not the one we should fear or against whom we should rebel. For as we begin to look around, through eyes anointed with all that Calvary shows us, we begin to see . . . “An enemy has done this.”

I long for a Day of Atonement to take place today in our hearts, dear Reader, in each of us. I long for the shed blood of God Himself to open the eyes of our hearts, win our affection and love, and make us one with Him and each other once again, in a relational restoration. Would you like that too? Then let’s begin this week by simply pausing and asking God to show us more deeply who He truly is. Ask Him to show us a fuller revelation of His love, His glory, His character. May we truly experience our rebellion being directed away from Him and placed where it belongs—today.

February 18 Esight, 2009

“This is what you are to offer on the Altar: two year-old lambs each and every day, one lamb in the morning and the second lamb at evening. With the sacrifice of the first lamb offer two quarts of fine flour with a quart of virgin olive oil, plus a quart of wine for a Drink-Offering. The sacrifice of the second lamb, the one at evening, is also to be accompanied by the same Grain-Offering and Drink-Offering of the morning sacrifice to give a pleasing fragrance, a gift to GOD.” Exodus 29.38-41I remember the day I had the sudden leap in understanding in that each sacrifice in the Old Testament (and, no; I’m not ignoring animal rights issues. I just don’t understand that yet.) was truly a revelation of the humble, self-sacrificing, self-abandonment of God Himself for us. This is specifically important when applied to the morning and evening sacrifices that were part of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary services. God’s love, the depth of His love, was to be ever kept before the minds and hearts of Israel. Not that they always perceived it, nor that it really made sense to them at that time, but the thought was that each day was to begin and end with a fixed gaze on God’s great other-centeredness. The purpose stands out clear. Only by love is love awakened. Only in the hopes of our hearts’ understanding can conversion from our self-centered instincts to the image of God’s other-centered love be possible.

Isaiah 6.10:

Render the hearts of this people insensitive,

      Their ears dull,

      And their eyes dim,

      Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

      Hear with their ears,

      Understand with their hearts,

      And return and be healed.

John 12.40:

HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.

Everything in the sanctuary and its services were to have the focus of God’s other-centered complete and entire self-sacrificial love:

“This is to be your regular, daily Whole-Burnt-Offering before GOD, generation after generation, sacrificed at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. That’s where I’ll meet you; that’s where I’ll speak with you; that’s where I’ll meet the Israelites, at the place made holy by my Glory. I’ll make the Tent of Meeting and the Altar holy. I’ll make Aaron and his sons holy in order to serve me as priests. I’ll move in and live with the Israelites. I’ll be their God. They’ll realize that I am their GOD who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live with them. I am GOD, your God. (Exodus 29.42-45) May a fixed gaze on His love and sacrifice for us be where He still meets us and lives with us today.

I wish you God’s best this week.

February 3 Esight, 2009

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5.10)I want you to ponder for a moment the Bible’s use of the word “reconciled.” This word is not used in the accounting sense but rather in the relational sense. Paul uses this concept again in his letter to the Corinthians:

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . . Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2Corinthians 5.18-20)

This verse is quite revealing. First and foremost this week, I want you to notice that God is appealing to us to be reconciled. Throughout the centuries, we Christians have been guilty of presenting to the world a God who, through the death of His son, was reconciled to us. But “God so loved this world [already] that He gave His only begotten son . . .” (John 3.16) Could it be that we have had it backwards? At the very least, could we have had our emphasis on the purpose of the cross wrong? God is not harboring ill feelings toward us and needing to see blood in order to be reconciled! God is the one giving the gift to us; God is the one making the appeals to us; God is begging us to be reconciled!

Ponder it again in this passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossian believers:

“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death . . .” (Colossians 1.21- 22)

We were the alienated ones, standing at a distance, unfriendly, unsympathetic, hostile toward God and all the other-centeredness He stands for.

But Calvary changed this for the Colossians, and it can to do it for you too! Calvary is God’s conciliatory act toward us! (Conciliatory: intended to gain the goodwill or favor of someone, tending to win over from a state of hostility or distrust.)

Dear reader, would you like to truly experience something beyond your deepest hopes in intimacy with God? Then this week, get on your knees, open your Bibles to the simple story of the cross, pray to have your heart understand it, and may the God who loves you open your heart through His own self-abandonment for you revealed through His death for you on Calvary. May you see Him as you never have before, and may you realize how truly precious you are to Him! Finally, may it awaken in you a heart deeply reconciled!

I wish you God’s best this week!