Bible

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

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.

The Round Table Discussion: The Whys Behind Advocacy (Faith)

I’m continuing in the Round Table series today. We’ve looked at the two opposing views, Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, and the foundation of worldview which establishes the scope and drives the passion behind them. (See Life and the Verbal Volley if you missed it.) I’m writing about all of this in light of the hideous Planned Parenthood “business practices” that hit the media spotlight, but this actually translates to nearly any topic simply because our worldview affects everything we process to understand.

Today I’d like to discuss some of the advocate voices seated at the Round Table. If you’re following along, you know there are two groups in the realm of abortion advocacy: those who have been directly affected by the decision to abort a pre-born life, and those who have not. The haves deserve special attention, so I’m going to focus on the have nots for now. The passion is equally extreme, regardless. Did you ever wonder why? (I did, so I started asking questions and having conversations.)

Four Whys That Motivate
Not an exhaustive list by any means, my conversations proved a few general, deeply-held beliefs and core values galvanized an advocate’s position. What do you think of these four?

Faith

Family

Freedom

Financial

The whys are rooted in answers to key questions advocates answer for themselves: What is good? What is right? How does this impact the ability to make decisions freely? What’s in it for me…or others? Each of us answers all these questions for ourselves and others, really. (Selfish or selfless motives are always up for debate.) Depending on how our worldview was formed and informed, the four whys above play out differently. I plan to tackle one of these at a time.

Faith
Each of us has a faith of some kind. We place trust in something or various things. The seen and unseen, the known and unknown, are constructed and ordered in our worldview based on where we place trust. How we make sense of the things we cannot see or don’t know is rooted in faith.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Each of us attempts to make sense of the invisible or the unknown; we are generally wired that way internally. Faith includes God, the universe, and everything; and how our faith is informed matters. Believe it or not, it’s possible to find people advocating both positions (Pro-life and Pro-choice) out of their faith. (Believing in the one God, many gods, or no God at all is huge.)

The 1973 Supreme Court decision Doe v. Bolton states that “the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.” 1 Whether it is stress, pressure from family, or a simple case of morning sickness, all of these are considered legitimate grounds for an abortion under current U.S. law. Essentially, a woman can have an abortion at any time, for any stated reason, and somehow it can be related to “health.” Studentsforlife.org

The Pro-choice advocate, admittedly, holds a difficult position. Close analysis of the argument leans toward an exchange: a tiny unseen life is sacrificed for short-term emotional comfort or convenience. How do we not land in the realm of life vs. lifestyle under these circumstances? I don’t think we can ignore this reality anymore. While the argument for abortion under the circumstances regarding “health of the mother” and “rape or incest” has been part of the laws for quite some time, that is such a small percentage of scenarios, we can’t ignore the overwhelming majority of “lifestyle” choices being made. I won’t minimize the need for procedures related to life endangerment and honest healthcare situations; they exist. But let’s confuse the two starkly contrasting cases. The have nots go on the offensive on behalf of the haves in hopes of defending abortion under these types of situations. Can we rightly discern what’s happening here? It’s definitely something to think about.

Christians, I’m talking to you now. How is it possible to assume a Pro-choice or neutral position on abortion as it relates to the predominantly lifestyle-based choice? Our worldview is to be informed by the Scriptures, period. I have no evidence supporting a choice to kill children, or worse, a “non-position” when it comes to this. God permitted the choice between life and death, but he gave his people very specific commands (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19). How we work out our faith and salvation isn’t a small thing here. Perhaps your worldview is informed otherwise? Does something else trump your faith in this area? Is there a need to examine and reform your worldview? A little introspection may not be a bad thing here.

How we communicate with others—that’s also a big deal! Can we do it with truth and in love, with gentleness and respect? If we hope to sit at the Round Table for more than a nanosecond before everyone walks away hurt or angry, we’ve got to consider the conversation very carefully. Jesus would have this conversation, and it would be unique to the audience in the moment, but his character is described in “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:3). Jesus was gentle. There are precious conversations that are had quietly and gently. This is one, depending on who your audience is. Planned Parenthood “business practice” folks and politically motivated advocates will never be the same as a have (I’ll get to that later). Think about this.

I hope to take this part of the discussion in smaller bites. The reason for that is simple: there is nothing more precious to me than the discussion we could have surrounding this topic. Are you willing to jump in and wrestle with it together? Let’s try interacting in comments here or at the Fragrant Grace Facebook page. What do you think about the topic of abortion and Faith? (I’ll get into the other three Whys as we go.)

What do you think?

Thanks for reading along. You bless me when you do.

~Jennifer

Questions to Think About

Have you noticed deeply held beliefs coloring this area of debate?

What do you think about the Four Whys listed above? Do any of those motivate you or other people you know? Are there whys you think are missing?

How do you see Faith motivating people? How does it influence the culture? A friend? How does it influence you?

Are there any key points you would add to the Faith discussion?


Scripture sourced from biblestudytools.com.
Other sources:
http://studentsforlife.org
Cross and Mother images sourced from morguefile.com.
Punishment meme graphic sourced from Abortionquotes.com.