Bible reading for March 19: Exodus 30; John 9.
"And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations." (Exodus 30:7-8)
The altar of incense (Ex 30:1-10). Exodus 30 continues the Mosaic teaching on the ministry of the OT priests. As we saw earlier, Jesus prayed as our High Priest in John 17, and continues to intercede for us always (Heb 7:25). We as followers of Christ also pray and intercede for others. The incense itself (30:34-38) becomes a symbol for prayer that pleases God (Ps 141:2; Rev 5:8; 8:3-4). For us, "authorized" incense (cf 30:9) is prayer and worship offered in the way God directs. We pray "in Jesus' name", meaning, we approach God based upon Christ's atoning work and for the sake of his kingdom. We pray in faith (in Christ, not ourselves), and we seek to pray according to his will (1 Jn 5:4, 14).
For me, the image of the golden bowls of incense in Revelation have impressed upon me how God (and the angels) view our prayers. These prayers are precious, pleasing, and they matter in the affairs of heaven and earth. Our prayer life -- yours and mine -- are a vital part of the drama of redemption history. God views the nations of the world and their leaders as a "drop in the bucket" (Isa 40:15) but he views the prayer of his people as sweet-smelling incense offered before him in golden bowls. How this should motivate us to pray!
Instructions on the census and support for the tabernacle (30:11-16) and the bronze basin (or laver, 30:17-21) follow. How relevant... three and a half millennia later, we still realize the value of washing our hands! (Cf 30:21) The anointing oil (30:22-33) is used to set apart God's mediators, here the priests. It will also be used for the kings of Israel, and later the prophets were considered "anointed", not by oil but by the Holy Spirit. All three of these roles (or "offices") were never combined in one person, but as the Bible story continues, we will see that there are promises of One to come, who would combine all three anointed roles. He would be the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King. This is the one referred to as the Messiah (Hebrew term) or the Christ (Greek term). Stay tuned to see who that is, if you don't already know!
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
Light of the world. In John chapter eight, Jesus states that he is the light of the world (Cf Jn 1:9; 3:19; 11:9; 12:46). And now in chapter nine he gives sight to a man who was blind from birth, thus giving a miraculous sign and proof of his "I am" claim. The statement that Jesus gave, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am" (8:58) is one of the strongest claims to his Deity in the gospels. The response of the Jews in 8:59, preparing to stone him for blasphemy, shows that they understood him clearly.
"Before Abraham was, I am." In the contemporary language of The Message (NavPress, 2014), Eugene Peterson translates this verse, “Believe Me,” said Jesus, “I am who I am long before Abraham was anything” (Jn 8:58). God's name Yahweh, usually written as LORD in modern translations, means "He is", or "the One who is", which comes from God's statement, "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14). It means that he is the only, true and living God. He is personal, eternal, independent, free, unfettered, and all-sufficient. And this name Jesus applies to himself. The Son of God, being of the same nature as God, shares the essence and character of his Father: "Before Abraham was, I am."
This truth is related to the "I am" statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Not only is he the One who is, but he is what his people need him to be. Here are the seven main "I am" statements of Jesus:
“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35).
“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
“I am the door” (John 10:7).
“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11).
“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
“I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
“I am the true vine” (John 15:1).
Three of these "I ams" -- the bread, the light, and the resurrection -- are combined with three of the signs, namely, the feeding of the 5000, the healing of the man blind from birth, and the raising of Lazarus, respectively. The point is, the Lord Jesus, like his Father in heaven, exists as God, and his existence is eternal blessing to all who trust him.
What do you need today? Do you need to be sustained, fed, strengthened? He is the bread of life. Do you need wisdom, insight, understanding? He is the light of the world. Do you need to be cared for, guided, protected? He is our good Shepherd. Child of God, the Lord Jesus is what you truly need him to be even now.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.