Bible Study

The Fabric of a Person and God’s Promises

I like to think I can begin a fresh, new day with several good hours of peace and calm, and I can be a great example of serenity to my family for a while—that I only seem to fall apart after the pressure cooker has been heating for a while. Truth is, I can’t say that too often, and definitely not every day. If I’m gut-level honest, I have a deep-seated tendency toward wanting things just the way I want them. And it can cause me to behave impatiently, unkindly, or be filled with ugly greed. Some of the threads of my “fabric” can be a little undesirable. Am I the only one? Probably not.

Bear with me as I move to today’s passage. They are connected—I promise.

The journey into more fully appreciating God’s incredible grace led me to explore more of the “pleasing aroma” we read about in Scripture. Yesterday I spent time with the lambs sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem, morning and evening, every day. But there are earlier references. Leviticus 4 spells out the offerings in the Law, the covenant with Israel through Moses.

Here is what I’d like to explore today:

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:20-22

Noah’s story is often familiar, so I won’t retell it here (Genesis 6-8). I’m taking a close look at the verses above because they speak of grace to me. Let me know if they speak similarly to you (or even if they don’t at all); I welcome the dialogue.

Noah’s first order of business after releasing the animals in 8:19 (I can only wish my household moved in so orderly a fashion!) is to build an altar to the LORD and sacrifice burnt offerings (8:20). Then we see the expected response “The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma” (8:21a).

What follows is the very thing that loudly cries out, GRACE! The LORD “said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of this heart is evil from childhood'”(21b).

Get the flow. Noah, remembering the LORD spared him and his family alone and gifted the whole earth to them, offers burnt sacrifices. He humbly responds to this beautiful, significant event and marks the moment in time with an appropriately honoring sacrifice to the LORD.

The LORD smells the pleasing aroma. (Admittedly, I can’t grasp the scent part, the “pleasing aroma.” I’d love to understand this.)

A promise follows! The LORD’s response to Noah’s sacrifice on the altar is a promise, a covenant that’s often called the “Noahic Covenant.” Some want to boil it down to a promise not to flood the earth, but I have a little trouble with oversimplifying things. Verses 21 and 22 are magnified to me as I read them.

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (21,22)

Promises are wrapped up in “‘Never again will I'” and “‘As long as the earth endures,'” but not without calling man’s condition like it is: evil.

When I think I will have several hours of serenity in my days, I have an explanation for why that might not happen. Not only is life’s pressure cooker not like that, my heart isn’t like that, really. The “inclination” is not toward godly choices in my “natural fabric.” One thing is certain, God doesn’t wink at our unholy moments. He calls them “evil from childhood.” Our general tendency doesn’t lean toward goodness and holiness.

So, why explore this? As believers today we live under the New Covenant with Christ. My undesirable “pressure cooker moments” will not lead me to buy a farm to raise lambs, goats, and bulls. Honestly, studying these Old Testament sacrifice passages may not make any sense to some. What makes sense to me is taking a look at the foundation upon which God was building. He established the practice of sacrifice in Israel for a purpose. May I humbly suggest that the regular practice satisfied the requirements of the relationship between the people and their God, and that it laid the perfect foundation for what was to come?

In any case, I see something new to me. God’s response to the “fragrant aroma” wafting from Noah’s altar was a faithful promise, in spite of what he knew about man’s fabric, that evil inclination.

I’d love to read what your thoughts are.

Thanks for reading!

~Jennifer

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The Pleasing Aroma

Choosing to share an oldie, but a goodie one more time!

 

The other lamb you are to offer at dusk; do with it as with the morning grain and drink offerings – it will be a pleasing aroma, an offering made to ADONAI by fire. Exodus 29:41 CJB

As I begin my journey in this place, I’m starting with the beginning. It appears in the Torah, an instruction to Israel. I choose to begin with this verse because of its significance as a command, the framework it gives for the fragrant offering that is pleasing to the LORD, and its probable connection to Good Friday. You’ll see what I mean.

What I did not know until this weekend’s teaching at my church was that Israel, particularly in Jerusalem at the Temple, sacrificed two lambs each day, every day (Exodus 29:38). Can you imagine that?

Daily. Morning and evening. A trumpet would sound. A bleating lamb. A bleeding lamb.

Silence.

Crackling flames consuming the sacrifice.

A pleasing aroma is confusing for me in this moment. Maybe it is to you, too. I want to say, “But, LORD, the smell of the sacrifice—how can that be pleasing to you?” I live so many generations and ages and cultures away from this; I have no understanding of the sacrifice, the scents and sounds, or why an innocent lamb had to die. So many innocent lambs, God…

The simplified answer is that sin against a holy God must be paid for, atoned for (Leviticus 4). In God’s grace, during every generation, he provided a way to satisfy the requirement for the offense. For many generations young, perfect animals were slaughtered for the altar of sacrifice. It was the Covenant of the Law made in Moses’ day. I’ve come to understand only so much. Hebrews 9:22 says,

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. NIV

God has chosen the payment for offenses. The offender does not choose his penalty. A holy, perfectly just God set the penalty (Romans 6:23). Death is what we deserve for our myriad of sins against him. Through the shedding of blood every offensive thing is reconciled.

I could sit with that, but I mentioned there is a connection between the introductory verse and Good Friday. I’d hate to leave that part out!

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? “”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34 NIV

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30 NIV

Jesus died at the ninth hour, which would be 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Sources indicate priests sacrificed second lamb at that time each day, every day.

The trumpet sounded. A bleating lamb. The bleeding Lamb. Death.

Fragrant grace, pleasing to God.

*In all fairness, this information was new to me, and was shared through teaching I received. Click here for the link. My own “leg work” was required for this post to a limited extent.

Time Marches…Even in the Waiting

A speaker once suggested a lovely, brain-teasing thought:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. ~ Heracletus

An unknown author posits, “Time does not pass, it continues.” Is it that simple? Short of think tank theorists, I don’t suppose any of us debate time’s monotonous march or swift stride forward. We measure progress by change and evaluate quality by experience (positive or negative). Tension, when it exists, is often sparked by expectations and limitations. Notice the common denominator is personal: the “self.” No, the progression of time isn’t questioned; the experience of it becomes the thing.

Disappointment.
Isn’t that when we struggle?

“I had three days. Three days!”  The treatment worked surprisingly well, but the results are intermittent.

“I know there must be a child out there for us! How will I know where?”  Heartbreaking news wreaked havoc in the adoption plans that seemed straight forward.

“I’m in transition.”  The belongings that crowded the desk were packed up in boxes. Three months ago.

What we know…
Time is the one-way path disappearing into the expanse beyond. We like to think we can see so many steps ahead, but if we’re honest, the path is obscured just in front of the footprints we fill. We’d prefer to know every twist, turn, and “happily ever after” that simply has to trail behind each circumstance, wouldn’t we? But we don’t. And we can’t.

7 Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?
Ecclesiastes 8:7 NIV 

It’s impossible to know what’s next. Reading the present is hard enough (and that has real potential to be misread). What can we do to infuse time’s progress with biblical truth or find the grace, regardless of how we experience its speed?

…always fear the Lord. 18 For then you will have a future, and your hope will never fade. 19 Listen, my son, and be wise; keep your mind on the right course. Proverbs 23:17b-19 CSB

There is a future here and hereafter. We have no idea what it is. Hope for what we have yet to experience takes root in reverence and trust in the One who does.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29 NIV

5 Lord, You are my portion and my cup [of blessing]; You hold my future. Psalm 16 CSB

 Something for me to think about when I’m challenged to remain in the present while my eyes range the horizon searching for clues to my future…

Do you find yourself struggling with this, too?

~Jennifer


Heracletus quote: www.brainy quote.com
Scripture sourced from www.biblestudytools.com
Bible translations referenced: New International Version (NIV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB), and the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB).