Read His Words Before Ours!
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
At the moment of choosing self over God in the Garden of Eden, mankind’s sweet and intimate communion with God was shredded to tatters. Rebellious thought became disobedient action, and instantly, horrifyingly, a gulf of sin yawned eternity-wide between Father and children.
In His unbroken love and unending mercy, He designed a way to remain in relationship with His children, a system that left His justice undefiled.
The sins of the people required payment, and so He established the priesthood, a lineage set apart to approach a holy God on behalf of a sin-riddled nation.
Descendants of Aaron (Moses’ brother) would dedicate themselves to upholding meticulously stringent rules for offering countless sacrifices to cover countless sins.
Aside from sin offerings, priests would oversee
and fellowship offerings, to name a few.
The people of Israel would now relate to their God at a distance, through ritual.
Sin would separate their spirits.
The tabernacle, maintained by the tribe of Levi, would separate their physical presences. The people would remain outside, while God’s presence resided within the Holy of Holies, the tabernacle’s innermost sanctuary. Only the high priest, after strenuous cleansing rituals and offerings to cover every possible sin, was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies as a shadowed, hollow mediator between God and man.
“You must distinguish between the holy and the common,” God directed the priests, “and the clean and the unclean, and teach the Israelites all the statues that the Lord has given to them through Moses”. (Leviticus 10:10-11)
But the priests were not immune to mankind’s legacy of sin, and almost immediately, they became corrupt, continuing in their sinful nature of grubbing around in darkness rather than living holy before the Lord God.
Leadership roles, including that of high priest, were sold to the highest bidder or, later, appointed at the whim of foreign political leaders. Priests either taught from their own wisdom or put their authority up for sale (Micah 3:11), leading the people astray and violating their covenant work. (Malachi 2:8)
Finally, even before the dust of Egypt could fall from their shoes, Aaron commanded the Israelites to fashion and worship a golden calf as their one, true God. Again and again, priests sanctioned the casting of idols and the worship of false and foreign gods over the One True God. (2 Kings 17:16-17)
The cycle was unbroken, endless, despairing. No sacrifice made by man could provide permanent absolution; no spilled blood of an animal could transform the people’s sinful nature. (Hebrews 10:4)
God’s judgement was unequivocal, His words condemning their sin as a tragic echo of His commission:
“Her priests do violence to my instructions and profane my holy things. They make no distinction between the holy and the common, and they do not explain the difference between the clean and the unclean. They close their eyes to my Sabbath, and I am profaned among them.” (Ezekiel 22:26)
Moved to action by a generation of priests who stole offerings meant for the Lord, threatened violence against the people they were meant to lead, and sexually abused women who served in the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22), God called a young boy to serve as His voice to Israel.
Thus began the age of prophets in Israel’s history, men and women who were called to approach a sin-riddled nation on behalf of a holy God. Some were people of incredible faithfulness, honor, and endurance, whose own words foreshadowed the Word made flesh.
In fact, much of the Old Testament has been dedicated to prophets’ exhortations.
But even prophets were not immune to the gnarled fingers of sin curling around their spirits.
Like the Israelites all the way back to Adam and Eve,
like the priests before and alongside them,
like every single human after them, some began to choose self over God.
What “prophetic” message would garner the most political favor?
What message would bring financial gain, or community stature?
What message would bring physical satisfaction, pleasure, or ease?
Then surely, that message was intended for God’s children . . . regardless of whether it bore any resemblance to His words.
As with the priests, God spoke out against false prophets:
“Because you have disheartened the righteous person with lies (when I intended no distress), and because you have supported the wicked person so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life, therefore you will no longer see false visions or practice divination. I will rescue my people from your hands. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 13:22-23)
. . . and eventually, the true prophets fell silent. For hundreds of years, Israel heard nothing from God. Never before had He seemed so distant, so separate.
No man, hopelessly bound in the sticky, spidery web of sin and death could free himself, save his people, and stand blameless before God (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Not judges, or kings, or elders.
Not you, or me.
Where, then, does our hope lie? What sacrifice, what true High Priest, could be enough to break, once and for all, sin’s death-grip on our spirits?
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!