Have you ever compete in a race before? Wouldn’t it be great that at the end of the race, you arrive at the finishing point, as one of the top competitors of that race? Today, I would like to share with you what the Bible talks about concerning the race of our life time.
The Race of Faith
In Hebrews 12:1 – 2, the Bible says:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Therefore according to the Bible, our journey of faith in God is liken to a race and it is the race of our life time. Paul who wrote this book, Hebrews, wanted to encourage us to run this race with endurance, like Jesus who endured the cross and finished what He had set out to accomplish according to the plan of God.
Now according to the dictionary, endurance could mean:
1. the fact or power of enduring or bearing pain, hardships, etc.
2. the ability or strength to continue or last, esp. despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina
Now according the Bible, we can expect hardships and trials in life. And we are expected to endure the hardships and trials in our lives. How many of you are going through trials right now? We all know what they are.. trials come and go through our life time. Why is it so important for us to learn to endure and not giving up? Through endurance, our faith in God grow. God uses our sufferings to shape our lives, to make us more like Jesus.
What is faith? In Hebrews 11:1, the Bible says:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Why do we hope in things we can see? In order to see the evidence of what we believe and hope for, we need to endure through the end. And that hope keeps us going. What if Jesus were to give up.. what would become of us? Therefore He has led us by His example. He chose to submit to His Father in Heaven. We need to do likewise. One great encouragement for us is knowing that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Our journey of faith begins with Jesus and ends with Him as well. We do not need to worry because it is clear that we will not be alone. Jesus will be with us from the start to the end as long as we run this race with Him. Isn’t it awesome to know this truth?
May you be truly blessed today as you take the step to run this race of your life time with Jesus knowing that He is the Author and the Finisher of your faith.
As I was pondering on what I should write about for my next blog, I felt the need to go in depth into understanding why the death of Jesus on the Cross was necessary. Since the celebration of Easter for 2010 is fast approaching, all the more reason to have a better understanding of this truth. So, I started digging into the Book of Leviticus, the 3rd book of the Old Testament in the Bible. In this blog, I would like to bring in the various offerings mentioned in the Old Testament where the Jewish community at that time had to observe. With the understanding of all the various types of offerings that had to be practiced, we would then have a better appreciation of what we have now in Christ Jesus if indeed we have chosen to follow Him. At the same time, recognize the sovereignty of God over His decision to do what He did through Jesus Christ, His Son. As for those who are still seeking to know more, this blog will hopefully help you gain more understanding on Christianity and the foundation of our belief.
5 different kinds of offerings were mentioned in depth in Leviticus. I presume that the Jewish community are presently still keeping these practices to this day since they do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Now, the first type of offering mentioned was the Burnt Offering. The burnt offerings could either come from their herds, flocks or birds. If the offering chosen came from their herds, it could be a young male bull, but without defect. If the offering came from their flocks, it could be a male sheep or goat, but without defect. If the offering came from their birds, it could be a dove or a young pigeon. In all of these specific types of offerings, they had to carried out with very specific instructions. For example, the person who brought the offering had to present his offering at the entrance to the tent of Meeting, he was to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, he had to slaughter the young animal before the Lord, the priest would then bring the blood and sprinkle it against the alter on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The person offering his animal had to skin and cut the burnt offering into pieces. The priest on the other hand had to prepare the wood and set up the fire. The priest then arranged the pieces including the head and the fat on the burning wood that was on the alter . He then had to wash the inner parts and the legs with water while the priest had to burn all of it on the alter. When these instructions were met, these offerings were then considered acceptable unto the Lord. And God would be pleased. Interestingly, these instructions came from God Himself to Moses at that time. If you are interested to know more, please refer to Leviticus 1:1 – 17.
The next type of offering mentioned was the Grain Offering.
Every grain offerings brought to the Lord were to be of fine flour and without yeast, mixed or spread with oil regardless of how they were prepared. The offerings would be burnt on the alter. The grain offering of first fruits was specially mentioned with an instruction not to be burnt on the alter rather the priests would offer the crushed heads of new grain roasted in the fire, put oil and incense on it. The priest would burn the memorial portion of the crushed grain and the oil, together with all the incense, as an offering made to the Lord by fire. Salt was required to be added to all the grain offerings. When these instructions were met, only then would these offerings be acceptable to the Lord. Interestingly, grain offering was considered a most holy part of the offerings made to the Lord by fire. Greater details can be studied through Leviticus 2:1 – 16.
Next followed was the Fellowship Offering. The fellowship offerings were to be offered in a similar manner as the burnt offerings except on 2 key important differences. The offered animals could come from either their herds or flocks, but no mention of the birds. The 2 key differences were that these animal offerings could be either a male or female without defect. Interestingly, for fellowship offerings to be acceptable to the Lord, the portions of possible fat had to be removed and the priests were to burn them on the alter together with the burnt offerings. So, in this case, only the fat portions were burnt and offered to the Lord. (Leviticus 3:1 – 17)
The 4th type of offering was the Sin Offering. Interestingly, the very first group mentioned concerning sin offering was for the priests. If an anointed priest sinned, even unintentionally, putting guilt on the people, he had to offer a young bullwithout defect as a sin offering for the sin he committed. He had to present the bull at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the Lord. Then he had lay his hand on its head and slaughter it before the Lord. Some of the bull’s blood would be carried into the Tent of Meeting and the priest had to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the Lord, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary. He then put some of the blood on the horns of the alter of fragrant incense that was before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting. The rest of the bull’s blood he would have to pour them out at the base of the alter of burnt offering at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He would then remove all the fat portions in manner similar to an animal sacrificed as fellowship offering to be burnt on the alter of burnt offering. The rest of the bull, would be taken outside the camp to a ceremonially clean place where the ashes were thrown, and burnt in a wood fire on the ash heap.
The next group mentioned was the community of the Israelite as a whole. When they committed sin against God (did what was forbidden in any of God’s commands) even unintentionally, they were found guilty. When they became aware of their sin committed as a whole, the entire community had to present a young bull as a sin offering before the Tent of Meeting. The elders had to lay their hands on the head of the bull and slaughtered it before the Lord. The anointed priest would make atonement on their behalf, in the same manner he offered his sin offering before God as mentioned above. The community would then be forgiven.
The next group mentioned was for the leaders. A leader when he committed a sin before the Lord, would be guilty even when it was unintentional. In this case, when he was made aware of his sin, he would have to offer a male goat
without defect. In the same manner, he would have to lay his hand on the goat’s head and slaughtered it at the burnt offering place before the Lord. The priest would in the same manner make atonement on his behalf and he would then be forgiven. When a member of the community sinned, and was found guilty even unintentional, and made aware of his sin, he had to offer a femalegoat or lamb without defect. He would lay his hand on his sin offering and slaughter it at the burnt offering place before the Lord. The priest would make atonement on his behalf and he would be forgiven.
Ways in which one might find himself guilty and needed to offer a sin offering to the Lord. Interestingly, these are some examples of what would consider a sin before God. When one would not testify regarding something he had seen or learned about in cases of wrong doing, or when one touched something unclean, humanly (contaminating uncleanness) or ceremonially (unclean animals), swearing thoughtlessly. One had to first confess in what way he had sinned, and as a penalty for the sin he had committed, he had to bring to the Lord a sin offering of a female lamb or goat from his flock and the priest would make atonement on his behalf before he would be forgiven. For somebody who was poor and could not afford a lamb or a goat, he could bring 2 doves or 2 young pigeons to the Lord as a penalty for his sin, one for a sin offering, and one for a burnt offering. And if he could not afford the birds, he could bring a tenth of an ephah of fine flour with no oil or incense allowed on it, as his sin offering to the priest who would take a handful of it as a memorial portion and burn it on the altar on top of the offerings made to the Lord by fire. In this manner, the priest would have make atonement on his behalf and he would be forgiven of his sins. (Leviticus 4:1 – 35, 5:1 – 13)
The final mention of the 5th type of offerings was the Guilt Offering. According to Leviticus 5:14 – 16,
When one commits a violation and sins unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things, he is to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering.
He must make restitution for what he has failed to do in regard to the holy things, add a fifth of the value to that and give it all to the priest, who will make atonement for him with the ram as a guilt offering, and he will be forgiven.
Now, looking through all these 5 specific offerings and you are wondering what is the point for bringing them up? Where are we going with all these knowledge? Well, through reading about these facts, you may first of all, have a better knowledge of what sin is. An offense committed against God and His commands. Secondly, if you notice some of the key words in bold highlight, you may notice one phrase that kept appearing on this blog which is, without defect. God’s acceptable offering has to be without defect. What does that mean? It means no deformity, perfect. The offered animal to God has to be perfect. And if you notice further, the blood of the animal which was perfect, that was offered to the Lord, played an important role in the offerings. It was the blood of a perfect sacrifice that was offered to God. And it was precisely that, that pleased God. Now, if that was what God required and that which pleased Him in that time, then He would require nothing less even for now. Do you know why God would have nothing less than perfect? It is because He is Holy and perfect Himself. If God requires of your sacrifice, would you think you would pass? If you look honestly into your heart of heart, you would have to honestly say no, you would not have passed. The Bible says in Roman 3:23,
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
That is the truth. No one on this earth would have passed His requirement. Except for one man whose name is Jesus. He is the Son of God. He was born from the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin Jewish woman named Mary. You see, it was God who sent His Son to be born as a human being so that salvation is made possible for all men through that plan. Throughout Jesus’ life on earth, He never once sinned. He was the one perfect man ever walked on earth. Jesus was God’s plan to save us from our sins because sins offend God and separate us from Him. Sin was never tolerable for God. We could tolerate sins, but never to God. We were created for God but sins separate us from Him. The only way to save us, He provided the solution and that was to sacrifice His one and only Son Jesus Christ. How? you may ask.. Well, By allowing Jesus who is perfect, to die on the Cross, just like the burnt offering in the old Testament time. It is through the blood of the perfect sacrifice that cleanses us of our sins and makes us acceptable and righteous before God. Now, can you see it? The sacrifice had been turned around that instead of man offering his imperfect gift, He offered us salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. Does God love you? Yes, that is how much He loves you that He offered His only Son as a sacrificial lamb to save you and me. He knew that was the only way that man could be saved and He made that sacrifice for us. How amazing is that? Jesus’ death on the Cross made all the various offerings unnecessary. Now, through Jesus, we can communicate with God directly. There is no need for all the rituals and ceremonies any more. In a way, we are set free through the death of Jesus Christ. When we talk about the gift of life as free gift, it was not free. It was paid in full by the blood of our Lord Jesus, in exchange for yours and mine. God poured out His Grace upon us. GRACE which simply means God’s Riches At Christ Expense. Knowing all that, would you give your life to Jesus who gave His life in exchange for you and me on the Cross?
In light of this Easter, I hope you remember this. Jesus sacrificed His life to save you and me. But, wait! He did not remain dead. The Bible also says that 3 days after He was buried, He rose again and was later ascended into Heaven to prepare a place in Heaven for you and me. And He gave us a helper and counsel, the Holy Spirit to help us walk close to God daily. If you have given your life over to Jesus, I encourage you read the Book of John in the New Testament. And be a member of a Bible based church and serve God in that congregation. May you be truly blessed this day!