Steadfast Day 5 The Essential Truth
1 Corinthians 15:12-19
Desert sand stung my eyes.
Squinting, I raised my hand as I looked eastward to catch glimpses of the tented rectangle unfurling. Eight years old, my hair braided up tight and eyes still squinting, I was utterly captivated every time the Lord’s Cloud settled, signaling we were to pause our travels and set up the mishkân. (Exodus 40:35-38) By far, my favorite part was watching Yahweh’s Glory fill the tent space; the scene stole my breath. Moses said Yahweh desired to dwell with us. Us, the rebellious. Us, the doubters. Us, the ones whose sins required the blood of sheep and goats. I glanced at the sheep in Abba’s pen, knowing it would be slain in the morning for our family’s sins. Suddenly, something within me ached deeply with a longing I couldn’t identify. If only we weren’t a sinful people. If only death…could die, and we’d never need to kill another innocent animal to take our place for our sin. A hush rippled across the expanse and my insides responded, knowing it was time. The Cloud moved and the indwelling began. I held my breath, watching, waiting….
“Anat! Anat!” My mother’s insistent voice called me back from chasing crickets with Elisheva down the dusty side street within Jerusalem’s safe, strong walls. Hundreds of years prior, our ancestors had been nomads in the desert, but today, Elisheva and I could wander busy streets, stirring up adventure. The call for evening sacrifice mingled with the constant din of bleating sheep, goats, and bulls, pocked by the chittering of doves that would soon be sacrificed for sin. The descending sun’s rays glinted from Solomon’s golden, temple, making us both squint in the dust, squirming crickets in our little girl hands. “Do you ever think about Isaiah’s words, Anat?” Little Elisheva’s dark eyes suddenly grew fearful as she looked up into my 11 year-old-ones. Though I knew she was a deep thinker for being only six, she’d caught me by surprise. Most people ignored the old prophet, discounting his half-crazed words about coming destruction. “Sometimes I hear his words in my dreams,” she whispered. “The city of chaos is shattered…all joy grows dark.” (Isaiah 24:10-11) I could barely hear her haunting voice, but I knew the words by heart. Though I hadn’t meant to memorize them, Isaiah’s voice melded with his words, knitting them into my soul. “Only desolation remains in the city, its gate has collapsed in ruins.” (Isaiah 24:12) “Anat!!!” I glanced quickly toward the sound, then turned back to Elisheva. Wiping her dusty cheek, I grinned to calm her soul and mine, “Shalom, peace be with you. Now go home. Run!” As I hurried back, I couldn’t stifle the ache inside. Had Judah pushed our rebellion too far? Would God actually destroy His holy city, His temple? What would happen to the sacrifices if we were exiled? I shivered despite the evening’s warm air. Was our sin so bad that sheep and goats could not atone for it? Approaching our door, the familiar scent of blood stung my nostrils. The evening sacrifice had come. Freshly slaughtered animals were taking our place. Death was the constant in Jerusalem.
Mockery. Raucous laughter. Clinking coins. Blood. So much blood. Weeping women, gaping eyes. Horrified onlookers who would never be able to un-see the gruesome sight before them of shredded human skin, exposed bones, and fileted muscles baking under a Jerusalem sun. Three men hung on crosses. The scent of warm blood permeates the hill where soldiers guard the ghastly visages barely recognizable as human. In the distance, sheep and goats are shepherded toward the priest. The time for evening sacrifice draws near, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni” (Matthew 27:46), and the Christ draws His final breath while the temple curtain tears from top to bottom, breaking the divide between sinful humanity and Divine Holiness. The Lamb has been slaughtered. (John 1:29) The Temple destroyed. (John 2:19)
John wrote of the Christ who “tabernacled” among us. (John 1:1) Flesh and blood enveloping the Divine. Whispers of the past flooded the present, “mishkân” fulfilled. Isaiah’s prophecy rang in my ears as if I had walked those ancient streets of Jerusalem, “On this mountain He (the Christ) will swallow up the burial shroud, the shroud over all the peoples.” (Isaiah 25:7) Threads of thoughts spun together as I sat under an olive tree in Corinth with fellow Christ-followers. Aquila read the scrolled words from beloved Pastor Paul. I glanced toward Priscilla as Aquila’s voice tangled with emotion, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17) I thought of my Jewish friends, still slaughtering sheep, goats, and bulls to pay for sin. “Still in your sins. Still in your sins.” The phrase incessantly hummed in my ears as I struggled to make sense of it. Suddenly, I froze as the pieces linked together with surging clarity. Christ, the long-prophesied Messiah, the same God who had led Israel in the Wilderness, the same God who instituted the sacrificial system, the same God who brought punishment for rebellion, sacrificed Himself for His people. HE was the Lamb of God, and if He did not defeat Death, all of it was meaningless. If LIFE itself, God Divine, died that day and remained in the grave, every prophecy was empty and meaningless. “If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.” (1 Corinthians 15:19) But Christ Rose and Death Died. Tears streamed Priscilla’s cheeks and I kissed them, joyfully weeping with her. Our victory is sure and certain. Our debt was paid.
“When He [Christ] has swallowed up death once and for all,
the Lord God will wipe away the tears
from every face
and remove His people’s disgrace
from the whole earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
On that day it will be said,
“Look, this is our God;
we have waited for Him, and He has saved us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for Him.
Let’s rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
Steadfast Day 5
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