Sacrifice and Light
Lord, You are the Great I Am, the first and the last, the Good Shepherd. I rejoice in being Your child.
Read Exodus 27:1-21
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“When he came there was no light, but when he left there was no darkness.” (Epitaph of a missionary who brought the gospel to a tribe in the New Hebrides.)
The altar was central to the religious life of the new, liberated community. There they brought their deepest needs to a God who promised to listen. There they expressed their gratitude, the ascending smoke of their offering “an aroma pleasing to the Lord.” There they could dare to seek God’s forgiveness for breaking the covenant; there the priest would sacrifice their offering; there the priest would “cover” their sin; there they would be forgiven (Lev. 4:31, 35; 5:16). Access to God did not depend on wealth or status: those who couldn’t afford a lamb could offer two birds and if even that was difficult, a scant handful of flour (Lev. 5:7, 11). We no longer offer these sacrifices—their time passed away with the all-encompassing sacrifice of Jesus—but our need to make our offering to God remains. We are a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1), like Paul who not only saw his life as a sacrifice, but also his death (2 Tim. 4:6). All we can offer may seem a mere handful of flour, but by God’s measure we should never feel that the more talented or wealthy can make offerings more acceptable to God than ours.
Light was offered to God in the dark hours. The tabernacle was never darkened, never invisible. Anyone wakeful at night could look to its glow and know that God was present. Keeping the light continually burning required the cooperation of people (20) and priests (21). It is human work which provides the light. Today, God’s presence should never be rendered invisible in our communities, either. As Jesus said, we are in danger of hiding it (Matt. 5:15). The evidence of God’s presence in the life of our churches still requires daily effort and the cooperation both of lay people and leaders.
How well does your church reveal God’s presence to your community? Is its witness sometimes less effective because of tensions between people and their leaders?
Lord, I acknowledge I often sing words way beyond my devotion to You. May my love for You be genuine, transparent and obvious to everyone.
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