Bible reading for April 11-12 -- Leviticus 15-16; Psalms 18-19.
"For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins." (Leviticus 16:30)
Good Friday, 2020. How I wish we could be [actually, rather than virtually] with family and friends in celebration this weekend of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter). The current pandemic has forced most of us into quarantine, and even introverts like me get tired of the isolation! For Christians, this is not merely a social event on our part. Christians did not invent Easter as a way to have cantatas and chocolate eggs. The church did not create Good Friday and Easter, but on the contrary, Good Friday and Easter created the church. What Christ did upon the cross, sealed by his resurrection, birthed a new community called the church. As imperfect as it is (as we are), yet the family of God is not a natural phenomenon, but a supernatural one. At the center of this community is not race, social class, ethnicity, wealth, culture, education, or any natural affinity, but rather it is Christ our King who draws us together. Crucified for our sins, risen for our justification, ascended and ruling, and soon-coming King...he is at the center of our community. And I miss being with his people at times like this.
Day of Atonement. Leviticus chapter 15 continues the laws on ceremonial cleansing, and chapter 16 introduces us to the Day of Atonement, also known as Yom Kippur. There will be more on the national observance of this day in chapter 23, but here we learn about the offering itself. The blood would be sprinkled on the mercy seat, the lid of the ark of the covenant, symbolizing that justice was satisfied. This once-a-year sacrifice was performed in the hope of forgiveness for the nation, for cleansing from sin, and for reconciliation with God. This ceremony pointed ahead to the work of Christ upon which we are meditating this Good Friday (Heb 9:12-25). So, just as the bodies of the animal sacrifices were burned up outside of the camp (Lev 16:27), so Jesus suffered outside the gate of Jerusalem (Heb 13:11-12). The sacrifices of the OT were shadows, whereas Jesus is the reality and substance (Col 2:17). He is both eternal high priest and his death accomplishes atonement for us. It is real, not shadow. And it is actual, not virtual.
Seven words from the cross. With some other men today I studied the seven last sayings of Jesus before his death upon the cross. These words reveal the heart of our Lord in praying for others, extending forgiveness, caring for his mother, granting assurance of salvation, and so on. Only toward the end does he speak of his own thirst and receive a drink. After the travail of his soul, his work is completed (It is finished! Tetelestai!), and he commits his spirit into the loving hands of his Father. Christ as he hung upon the cross was not raging, angry, fearful, bitter, or despairing. Though his sentences were uttered in painful shortness of breath, yet this is the same Jesus that is portrayed in his three years of ministry before the cross. "Father, forgive them..." (Luke 23:34). J. C. Ryle, Anglican bishop of Liverpool years ago, wrote of Jesus' words from the cross: “While the blood of the greatest sacrifice started to flow, the greatest of all high priests started to intercede” (J. C. Ryle).
"The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation..." (Psalm 18:46)
"I will call upon the Lord." As a young Christian in the 1970s I sang this chorus joyfully with many other new believers in what has become known as the "Jesus Movement". Psalm 18 deserves to be sung! It is a victory psalm written by David, who gives glory to God for deliverance from all his enemies. God is his Rock, and the One who gives him strength: "This God - his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? -- the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless" (18:30-32).
The Lord lives! What a happy day when the stone was rolled away and the tomb was found empty! The Old Testament Scriptures said this would happen (Ps 16). Jesus said this would happen. The apostles said this did happen (and the women were the first witnesses!). The Holy Spirit and the church through the ages also testify to this truth. My hope of salvation is not only that Christ died for me, but that as proof of God's acceptance, Christ rose on the third day to launch a new creation. My salvation, when I consider my heart, motives, intentions, and behavior, surely seems as impossible as raising the dead, but that is what happened. Martin Luther wrote, "When I look at myself, I don't see how I can be saved. But when I look at Christ, I don't see how I can be lost." Amen and amen to that.
This one day. Lastly, here's a poem from the 17th century...
I Got me flowers to straw Thy way,
I got me boughs off many a tree;
But Thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st Thy sweets along with Thee.
The sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’ East perfume,
If they should offer to contest
With Thy arising, they presume.
Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.
--George Herbert, 1593-1633
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.
The NET Bible is a recommended, free online resource, being a ministry of Bible.org.