Saturday, August 28, 2010

Through the Looking glass. . .

Reading today in Exodus for my daily devotions. Exodus is the book of the Bible where the Hebrew people, led by Moses, depart from Egypt. The leaving of Egypt was a physical occurrence. It was a historical event, but as many things in the Bible there was a heavily symbolic meaning to the historical event.

Egypt is a metaphor of and symbol for the non-religious world. The 40 year journey of the Hebrews from Egypt through the wilderness of Sin and finally to the promised land, is a journey from the world of sin and fleshly appetites into the presence of God.

After receiving the commandments of God for a second time, Moses comes back to the people and tells them everything which God has given him. Moses received the Law and the Commandments, and he also received a very detailed plan from God, for the temple the Hebrews were to use to worship and minister to God while they journeyed through the wilderness.

It was very detailed, mind numbingly so. For verse after verse. . .chapter after chapter we read very detailed instructions on the construction of the tabernacle, the priests clothing, the instruments and stations of the tabernacle. For me it is difficult to maintain my attention in these verses because I cannot really understand the construction of the items and have no mental image of what all the things described are, so I have to restrain myself from just skipping and skimming over the verses.

All this was given for a concrete physical reason to the ancient believers and there is a wealth of spiritual symbolism for the believers of today. In the midst of this mind numbing detail, is a very interesting verse:

Exodus 38:8 And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Amongst the very detailed instructions for the articles of clothing, the walls of the tabernacle, the altar, the candlestick, table for the show bread, is this stark statement: and he made the laver of brass and the foot of it of brass. . .

The laver is an essential part of the temple, it is the place where the priests cleansed themselves before working in the temple:

Exodus 30:17-21 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 18) Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. (19 For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: (20 When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD: (21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.

Aaron and his sons had to be clean before coming before the Lord. For them to be before the Lord without first cleansing themselves, was to risk death. The physical washing of the Old Testament has given way to the symbolic washing of the New Testament. Jesus was clear, it is not physical uncleanness which is important:

Matthew 15:20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

It is also clear that there is no special class of priests today. We, who love God and follow His footsteps. . .we who call ourselves Christians. . .we who wish to be Christ-like are all priests when we come to God:

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Revelation 1:5-6 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

We the believers and followers of Christ are the priests of the New Covenant and as such we must wash before entering into the Holy of Holies. Our cleansing is accomplished by baptism:

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

We are washed and made clean, we are sanctified and made holy, we are justified and made free from our bondage by the name which is above every other name. . .the name of Jesus and by the Spirit of God:

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

We are cleansed and made holy by obeying the word of God, the commandment to be washed by baptism and thereby be a totally cleaned and pure bride of Christ:

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

We are cleansed by nothing that we can do of ourselves. We must be regenerated. . .We must be reborn. . . born of the water of baptism and born of the spirit of God:

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

All of this washing and cleansing is only possible by the opening of the door of death. We placed ourselves under death’s dominion by Adam and Eve’s following the words of Satan rather than the Word of God. God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree. They disregarded Him. Now all men must pay this price and deserve to die for the sins which we have committed, but through the death on the cross of one man who committed no sin, and yet paid the price of sin, we are able by the means of His blood to be freed from our sentence of death. Jesus paid the price for sin which He did not commit. Because of the price He paid, we are redeemed from our sins and death no longer has any hold over us. The mystery of God, is that the staining red blood can wash whiter than snow:

Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood

Now to return to the verse, which started me on this study:

Exodus 38:8 And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

As translated in the KJV and every other version I consulted, the Hebrew women gave up their brass lookingglasses. . . they specifically gave up their brass hand mirrors in order to construct the wash basin which the priests would use cleanse themselves before entering the Holy of Holies. . .

A woman’s appearance is very important to her. She desires to make herself as beautiful as possible. To give up her mirror was a very very great sacrifice. The Hebrews were wandering in the desert. The mining, smelting, casting and forming of metals is difficult or impossible to a nomadic people. Undoubtedly these mirrors had come from the spoils which were brought out of Egypt. These women gave up something irreplaceable, that the priests might be able to cleanse themselves and not fear death.

This brings a wonderful image to my mine, one full of symbolism on which to ponder and meditate, but let us look at the word rendered as “lookingglass”. The Hebrew word is: מַרְאָה (mar'ah)

It is found 12 times in the Old Testament. 11 times it is translated as ‘vision’ or ‘visions’. Only once is it translated as ‘lookingglass’. Here are the verses where ‘marah’ is found:

Genesis 46:2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.

Exodus 38:8 And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the
lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Numbers 12:6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a
vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.

1 Samuel 3:15 And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the

Ezekiel 1:1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw
visions of God.

Ezekiel 8:3 And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the
visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy.

Ezekiel 40:2 In the
visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain, by which was as the frame of a city on the south.

Ezekiel 43:3 And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the
vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face.

Daniel 10:7 And I Daniel alone saw the
vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.

Daniel 10:8 Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great
vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.

Daniel 10:16 And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the
vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength.

As important, as symbolic as the Hebrew women giving up their hand mirrors would have been, would it not also have been so very beautiful if the following were the case:

Exodus 38:8 And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the [vision] of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

I am surely no expert of the Hebrew language. This Hebrew word is ‘marah’, 11 times translated as 'vision' or 'visions'. In only one instance is this word translated as ‘lookingglass’. In any respect, those ancient Hebrew women saw something. . .they had a vision of the station of washing, being so extremely important that they were willing to sacrifice something of huge importance to them. The wanted to be. . .they hungered to be the instrument by which the laver was created. . . .I weep. . .I weep. . .A vision of mine, a vision of these Hebrew woman that no one could come to the holy of holies without first being cleansed. . . .A vision of the physical cleansing required by the priests of the tabernacle. . . A vision of the required spiritual cleansing made possible only by the terrible sacrifice of Mary’s Son upon the cross. . .

The beauty of their sacrifice. . .
I weep. . .
I weep. . .

Thank you my God. . .
Thank you my Lord for your sacrifice. . .
Thank you my God for the vision and for the sacrifice of these women. . .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Bible’s Biker

Matthew 3:1-6 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

What comes into your mind upon hearing the word, “biker”? Someone a bit unconventional?. . .someone who doesn’t fit into the cultural norm? A free spirit? Someone not overly concerned with the opinions of others? Not a polished person. . .not a person of gentle flavors and hues, but a bold flavor-filled, pungent, strongly independent minded. . .a radically free spirit. . .

Enter John the Baptist upon the scene. Not caring for the safe way. He entered unexpectedly upon the scene as a prophesied prerequisite for the arrival of the Messiah. His purpose to make straight the way of the Lord, to knock off the rough edges, to hew a theological path based upon relationships and love from the rigid ungodly unforgiving structure of rules which had become the religious order of the day.

Isaiah 40:3-5 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

His message was convicting to all. “God is coming. Stop doing bad things. Turn away from evil.” The religious had become so very comfortable in their ability to follow the Law, that their way of life had become an unthinking routine. Their rules became more important than righteousness. Their rules became more important then relationships with either their fellow man or with God.

John came to turn everything on its head. The low were to be lifted up. The high were to be brought down. The unrighteous were to be made righteous. The coarse were to be refined. . .This was hands-on work. The sweaty work of rippling muscles, hog wrestling a jack hammer. This was not a work of delicacy and subtlety.

John came of a form and of a lifestyle not be be desired by the established. Wearing 1st century leathers, with bug crumbs in his teeth and on his breath. . .the very caricature of a biker. . .minus the bike. . .a free spirit. . .a man from the wilderness. . .A man on the periphery, he came preaching a message that was central and bold and could not be ignored.

He did not fit what the leaders of the temple saw as a proper model for a prophet. . .The same myopia that caused them not to recognize the Messiah, made them blind to the significance of John. And indeed the same fate awaited both John and Jesus.

In their eyes, John’s lack of a $500 robe and his not having sat at the foot of an esteemed Rabbi stripped any significance from him. How could his message have meaning and influence if it did not come wrapped in the trappings which the world finds so important. Thereby their own prejudice blinded them to John and to Jesus.

What if Jesus returns today riding a motor cycle rather than a burro. Would your mental image of what He should be cause you to ignore Him? Would you listen to Him? The Pharisees were looking for a king dressed in purple robes. The humbleness of Jesus was blinding to them.

God has always taken delight in confounding our expectations. In every respect, indistinguishable from a true son of Pharaoh, Moses led the children of Israel, against Pharaoh's wishes, out of Egypt and to the very doorstep of the promised land. The chief persecutor and prosecutor of Christians and an inherent disbeliever of Jesus, Paul became God’s chief voice for spreading God’s new covenant with man. The wild man, John the Baptist, known for eating bugs, living in wild places, and dressing in animal skins is the herald God used to announce His coming arrival on Earth. . . and on and on and on we might go

How do you decide whom you listen to? Do you base your respect upon the finery of the messenger. Would you have listened to John? In eight verses it is recorded Jesus saying: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Many then had no ears for a carpenter’s son from Galilee. Many died then and will die today for their spiritual deafness. . .

One of the great teachers of my life was an rheumy ancient and wizened one-legged black man I met in Chicago’s Union Station when I was 16 years old. My Dad, as a railroad worker, had a rail pass and I could travel to Chicago for free. I would go to the Loop, to Old Town, to the museums, and spend the day roaming the streets of Chicago.

Our eyes met. Not quickly enough to run and hide within myself, I was snared like a stunned rabbit by a hawk’s talons. He caught me. Our eyes were now frozen and locked together. No escape was possible without pain and obvious cruelty. . .He called to me, “Hey boy. Where you going?” I know nothing of what he saw in me. Maybe the seizing and holding my eyes was a rare open door to share fellowship. Of all his needs and hungers, maybe the ache for human companionship was deepest within him.

He had lost his leg in WWI. He had cancer and he was going home to to die. He spoke of home reverently, his personal promised land, St. Louis, Missouri. He was going home for the first time in decades. Monetarily he was poor beyond poor. His clothing, tattered rags. He smelled of disease and infection. His breath was a wheezing humid wind of acrid decay. I bought him a coffee and we talked for an hour or so while waiting for our trains. I had trouble understanding. His voice was as of another land. His land was as of another world from mine. He talked of his life. He talked of the war and of losing much more than a leg. He spoke of life and love. . .He spoke of death and hope.

We parted. He in his wrenching precarious gait, one leg, one worn and misfit home made wooden crutch, lurching down the platform between the tracks. I back to my own war, my battles of adolescence. . .my own war of independence if you will. Now diminished with a new vision of larger battles than curfews and grades. . . My sole gift to him a coffee with lots of sugar. . .It was difficult for me to carry the abundance of gifts which he bestowed upon me. . .40 years later I carry his memory. I carry some of his gifts to this very day. Others unseen, have been carried so long they are now become a part of me. . .

He that hath ears to hear. . .let him hear. . .
He that hath ears to hear. . .let him hear. . .
He that hath ears to hear. . .let him hear. . .

I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .

Dave Stokely