sacrifice

God makes personal sacrifices.

God makes personal sacrifices.

Nehemiah 11

Once the temple and the walls had been rebuilt, Jerusalem was in need of a population. But it seems like there weren’t too many people eager to live there. The beginning of chapter 11 tells us how the city was settled: "Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem." (vs 1-2)

Everything In-between {ex29:19-20}

exodus-devotion-everything-in-between-poem.png

In the end,
what You will have of me is
all
or
nothing.

There is no in-between.

Either I will be consecrated
head to toe,
my entire being
holy ground,
or
I will be a vast, open
wasteland—
a demonic haunt.

There is no in-between.

For You
(the indwelling universe-God)
will not be relegated to
a shelf
a building or
a weekly (better-not-be-longer-than-an-hour) visit.

You will either dwell
in the midst
or
You will be completely
banished from the land.

There is no in-between.

You are uninterested
in negotiation
or compromise.

Come, then,
and take no prisoners—
except me, that is.
Captivate me
head to toe
and all that's
in-between.

Come, Divine Intruder:
Make me
holy ground.

 

God puts His heart into His work.

God puts His heart into His work.

2 Chronicles 31

Today’s blog will center around the last verse of this chapter: "In everything that [Hezekiah] undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered." (vs 21) This is the key to prosperity and success in God’s universe—working for God with your whole heart, no matter what you do. This is what God does.

God cares more about attitudes than rules.

God cares more about attitudes than rules.

2 Chronicles 30

After Hezekiah repaired the temple, he called the Israelites together to celebrate the Passover—something that hadn’t been done for a long, long time. It was a grand celebration—with music and feasting and thousands of sacrifices. The people were having such a great time that, at the end of the prescribed seven days, they decided to extend the celebration for another seven days. There was one slight problem, however: "Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, 'May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.' And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people." (vs 18-20)

God is a song.

God is a song.

2 Chronicles 29

As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but notice the emphasis on music. Particularly this verse: "Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel." (vs 27)

Dinner Guest {ex24:11}

Photo © CreationSwap/CreationSwap

Photo © CreationSwap/CreationSwap

What kind of God is this,
who issues an invitation
to a personal dinner,
an intimate feast?
Just a little get-together
for seventy of His
(I-hope-you'll-choose-to-be-My)
closest friends.

Indeed, one gets closer
as the courses proceed.
For this mountaintop banquet
was just the amuse-bouche on God's menu
of spiritual nourishment revelation.

None of those seventy elders
could have imagined
the truth about the God
who stood on the veranda of
brilliant blue lapis lazuli,

that His invitation
to feast with Him
would eventually become 
an invitation
to feast on Him,
that His offer of dinner
would soon be
an offering of Himself.

His body and blood,
our bread, our wine,
our life.

Has it not always been so?

 

The Association of Light with Darkness {ex20:21}

Photo © Unsplash/Sidney Severin

Photo © Unsplash/Sidney Severin

Mighty God,
Great Dispeller of Night,
Awesome Disbander of Murkiness,
Glorious Dismisser of Shadows,
we prefer to hail You
as the One
who banishes darkness.
We prefer hymns which extol
the world-illuminating power
of Your light.

We never sing songs
about Your darkness-dwelling tendencies.
We don't lift our voices
to praise Your presence in the shadows,
but to question Your delay in dissipating them.
And we are careful
to keep our distance from dark clouds,
though we seem to find them just the same.
   /or, rather, they methodically
    hunt down and engulf us/

Mighty God,
Strong Dismantler of Gloom,
when the inky blackness swirls around me,
may I choose to praise You,
the ever-present Holy Squatter
in Earth's rundown tenement.

As long as evil persists in this place,
draw my heart out
and steel it to brave
the onslaught of the whirlwind,
emboldening me
to seek You where You are,
willing to share and shoulder
some of the sorrow and suffering
that lives in Your own heart
for this forlorn and much-loved race.

 

Delegation Abdication? {ex18}

Photo © Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

Photo © Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

Exodus 18 has been
the jumping-off point
for many a sermon on delegating.
But I wonder if delegating
was what Moses was supposed to do.

He listened to his father-in-law,
but it doesn't say
whether he consulted God
on the newly-proposed
hierarchy.

On one hand,
Jethro's idea took a heavy burden
from Moses' shoulders
and broke it up into smaller
more easily-managed pieces.

On the other hand,
maybe God had intended
Moses to carry
the Israelite Cross.

On one hand,
the people could
get their disputes resolved
without having to practice
so much patience.

On the other hand,
the
plan
added
yet
another
layer
of
bureaucracy
between
the
people
and
the
God
who
had
longed
to
speak
with
them
face
to
face
as
a
man
speaks
to
his
friend.

Perhaps Moses did
the right thing.

But if he had been on
the sure path to
burnout,
why didn't the God
who was in the habit
of speaking with him every day
tell him so
Himself?

 

God is a servant.

God is a servant.

2 SAMUEL 5

So, finally David is inaugurated as the new king of Israel. And something very short and simple in this chapter stuck out to me: "All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, 'We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, "You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler."'" (vs 1-2)

God prefers right to rite.

God prefers right to rite.

1 SAMUEL 15

I decided to go with the "softer" title for this blog. My first choice was God doesn’t care about your "good deeds." This was what Saul learned in 1 Samuel 15. He expressly disobeyed God’s command when he went into battle with the Amalekites. Nobody was to be taken alive, and everything that belonged to the Amalekites was to be destroyed.

A Change of Heart {gn44:33-34}

Photo © Unsplash/Fadi Xd

Photo © Unsplash/Fadi Xd

as the years had come and gone
since selling Joseph like a pawn
Judah'd had a lot of time
to contemplate his clever crime

but watching how his father grieved
had been much worse than he'd conceived
it wore him down, right to the bone
he reaped much more than he had sown

until at last, a broken man,
he lived a different master plan:
a willingness to be the slave
to sacrifice, and thus to save

redemption needn't seem so strange
even dirty hearts can change

 

On Dying in Childbirth {gn35:16-18}

genesis-sacrifice-on-dying-in-childbirth-poem.png

Rachel is a cautionary tale
for every woman
who dreams of having
a baby.

Rachel is a reminder—
just the first in a long, tragic history of reminders—
that choosing to have a child
is dangerous business.

Having a child can kill you.

.                 .                 .

No, having a child will kill you.

The day you give birth
may not be the last day you draw breath,
but you will, at the very least,
wish you were dead
four hundred times
in the first three months alone.

And though you may not realize it immediately,
the woman you were
before that first peculiar cry cleaved the air
is dead and gone—
she will not be seen again.

The woman who emerges in her place
will have a different sort of heart,
one that is permanently divided—
half of it still inside,
half of it rolling, then crawling, then walking around on two legs,
forever on the outside.

She will have a different sort of heart,
one that can be irreparably ruptured by the beautiful moments
     as well as the ugly ones,
one that is no longer impervious to indifference or animus,
one that is no longer her own.

Choosing to have a child is dangerous business.

To make a child in your own image
is to relinquish control of your heart to another being
who may or may not
cherish it.

To make a child in your own image
is to abandon personal rights
for the hope of relationship.

To make a child in your own image
is the genesis of unending sacrifice.

Just ask Rachel.

.                 .                 .

Or God.

 

God wants us to be happy.

God wants us to be happy.

NUMBERS 29

There’s an interesting observation to be made in Numbers 29. Here, we find instructions for three religious festivals that the Israelites were to observe in the seventh month. Actually, this was a very practical thing, because this was the time of year between harvest and seed-time, so it was the perfect opportunity for the people to slow down and attend to worship.

God cannot be manipulated.

God cannot be manipulated.

NUMBERS 23

I love this! Right on the heels of yesterday’s blog, God is not a manipulator, comes today’s message: Neither can He be manipulated by others! Both of these are important, right? We don’t want God to be someone who pulls puppet strings and manipulates us. But neither do we want Him to be someone that we can push around.

The Voice That Asked for Sacrifice {gn22}

Photo © Wikimedia Commons/Laurent de La Hyre

Photo © Wikimedia Commons/Laurent de La Hyre

It has been said
that Abraham was crazy,
that the voice he heard
asking him to sacrifice Isaac
was not God's,

that God would never ask a father
to sacrifice his son—
even to prove a point.

I don't buy it.

Not because I'm so convinced
God would use such a method
to make such a point,

but because I'm pretty sure
that any man who obeyed the voice
which asked him to cut off the tip of his
— you know what —
would recognize that voice
if it ever spoke to him again.

 

God's boundaries draw us in.

God's boundaries draw us in.

LEVITICUS 15

I must admit that, as I began to read Leviticus 15, it all seemed a bit ridiculous to me. I mean, really, if the rule is that "when a man has an emission of semen... he will be unclean till evening" (vs 16), an Israelite man must not have spent many days being "clean." Furthermore, in addition to the rule for men was the law that said menstruating women were also unclean. After this type of ceremonial uncleanness, the men and women were required to bring a sacrifice to the sanctuary in order to "make atonement before the Lord." (vs 15)

God's presence brings joy.

God's presence brings joy.

LEVITICUS 9

I think it’s hard for us to relate to the Israelites and what was going on in the wilderness. We don’t live out in the desert, exposed to the harsh elements, wondering where our next meal is coming from. We live very cultivated lives in sanitized conditions. You have a computer connected to the internet — that’s how you’re reading this blog right now!

God sacrifices.

God sacrifices.

LEVITICUS 8

So now we come to the point where all the sacrifices God has described in preceding chapters begin to take place. And, as Leviticus 8 describes one sacrifice after another offered during the ordination of Aaron and his sons, this was my thought: The sanctuary system was devised so that the Israelites would know that dealing with sin involves sacrifice.

God takes care of the little things.

God takes care of the little things.

LEVITICUS 7

In this chapter, I was struck with the provisions God made for the priests in the sanctuary system. For each of the offerings and sacrifices mentioned, there was a portion which was specifically reserved for the priests. This means that, as the Israelites brought meat and grain into the sanctuary and offered it to God, the priests would be sustained in their work.