It's fruit bearing season

“When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit.” Matthew 21:34

Fruit. It is the accomplishment of long patience, the proof of a lively root, and the crowning jewel upon the year. The leaves sing gold and the harvesters rejoice.

What is the fruit that God expects of his people? To receive him! “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). Is this not the “fruit” in the parable, to respect and receive the Son of the Master? In a parallel parable (ch. 22), to “bear fruit” is to accept the wedding feast invitation. This is the fruit that God loves, and that which produces all other fruit in the Christian life. Truly, his burdens are light.

Looks like meat's back on the menu boys

“When the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you crave meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire.” Deuteronomy 12:20

“I will eat meat because I want to eat meat” is the general run of it. What freedoms the people enjoyed! God’s bounty, rich and free, reaching even the every day matters of food and drink. It is not perhaps so difficult to do to God’s glory when the choices of holy doings are so pleasant. Our first parents enjoyed the same: “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely.”

So eat meat to God’s glory. But in your feasting remember that true meat is set upon the table of his dearly beloved. Is not our Lord the True Food? Do we not have certain liberty to feast at this table whenever we wish? The truths of God are so many strengthening portions; take them as you please. Pick a doctrine, a Scripture, because you want to, and chew it by meditation. Draw forth its savory delight and heavenly virtue by prayerful contemplation. And know that when you say, “I will behold Christ,” because you want to behold Christ, that you may behold Christ whenever you desire.

God's man on fire

“So I took hold of the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes.” Deuteronomy 9:17

Moses didn’t stroll down the Mount with both tablets tucked under his arm like a football. He held one in each hand. This is God’s prophet with God’s law in dual-wield kimbo, weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left.

The people broke faith, shattering the commandments in a swoop. Moses, after the fashion of a prophet, makes a physical display for them. The law they transgressed is cast to the ground and dashed to bits. He threw his soul into the performance too. He had just begged God to stay his anger but, once he saw what they did with his own eyes, he’s a man on fire.

What then is God’s anger against sin? What sinner can stand before him? Only the greater Moses who stood between God and man and absorbed the fury of divine wrath.

Of duty and due

“it is for him a most holy portion out of the Lord’s food offerings, a perpetual due” Leviticus 24:9

Aaron and his sons ate of the Bread of the Presence and were not guilty. In fact, it was not merely allowed them to eat, it was their right to do so. The words are strong: that they eat is law. These were privileged men indeed.

I wonder if we understand the privilege of our high position in Jesus Christ? Hid in him, we have God’s smiling presence not merely as our grant—it is that, grace upon marvelous grace—but as our due. The tokens of his love and favor cluster around us, chasing us down the pathways of our lives, his very justice driving them onward to bless us.

Nowhere can a Christian go to escape his favor; we are accepted in his beloved Son, and every good and spiritual thing is our due because of him. If he died for me, then I live in him, and live abundantly. His was the duty, mine is the due. Can it really be? Even so, and an exquisitely right and delightful thing it is to my God.

Away then with your silly pretenses of honoring God’s righteousness by walking on eggshells before your Father. His grace is a Pierian spring of which you must drink deeply, or not at all. Receive everything, or receive nothing.

The greatest right of all is ours in Christ: the right to God. Reader, do you question the truth of the interpretation? Have you never read?

“We have an alter from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.” Hebrews 12:10

Of garbage and guilt

Sometimes needs take the form of negations rather than additions. Sometimes what we need most is not to get something, but to get rid of something. Garbage is an example of this, and a plague upon God’s fallen world. I’m no greenie, but I do know the daily bother of taking out the trash, and the weekly imperative to have the cans ready curbside for the truck!

Our guilt before God is cosmic garbage, and it must be removed. Who will take it away? In ancient Israel, the famous scapegoat was a symbol of this. The goat bore the sins of the people far distant into the barren wasteland, well away from their dwellings. To put a crude mark upon such a lofty institution of God, the goat was the Mosaic garbage man. Once a year it facilitated the atonement by taking away sin.

The Son of God is our cosmic scapegoat. Did he not die outside the camp, bearing our cosmic crimes far away? Did he not remove them as far from us as the east is from the west? He suffered in the wilderness of God’s wrath alone, for us.. The place of Gehenna was his dwelling, the very filth of hell. Our guilt and filth being removed by this mighty Champion, we now breath the fresh air of freedom in God’s glorious courts.

Sinner, carrying the weight of your guilt, you will find rest in Jesus Christ and him alone. Go to him now!

Of skin and sin

“And the priest shall look, and if the eruption has spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a leprous disease.” Leviticus 13:8

The Christian recognizes the goodness of God in all created things, even in one’s own body (Psalm 139:13-16). Our bodies are his workmanship. From darkest melanin to lightest shade, from smooth to hairy, even unto the wrinkled years of mature wisdom, our skin is the handiwork of the Master.

The poor leper faced a most shameful trial. He wore disease on his sleeve. His very appearance announced his miserable person, as if to say, I have not contracted uncleanness; I am uncleanness itself. The leper could not be comfortable in his skin.

But it is more shameful to be a sinner than to be a leper. Sin lies upon our very persons; our personalities are spotted and stained with its hideous presence. It appears in what we think, in what we say, in what we do. Its hideousness must be covered by the regal clothing of Christ, its borders driven back by the transformation of the Spirit.

Let us, the children of God, treat one another with grace, overlooking trespasses and showing honor one to another, just as God has honored us lepers in Christ. The weakest believer on earth will stand forth in the blinding radiance of victorious perfection. For soon our loving Lord “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:21).

The kept fire

“Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.” Leviticus 6:13

Throughout all the generations of the Mosaic priesthood, the altar was lit. Day and night it never ceased. A perpetual fire was maintained upon its bronze structure; living flame ever flickered before the living God.

The fire of this altar was never extinguished because there was always another sacrifice to make. We have detailed accounts— exhausting accounts—of sacrifices and offerings of many kinds on divine record. If you find the reading of Leviticus a weary task, imagine living it. Men must devote their lives to the business, because the business of sacrifice never stopped. Lebanon itself was not enough to burn.

All this changed when Jesus was nailed to the tree. When the true spotless Lamb carried our sins through the fires of God’s wrath against us, the flame of divine fury went out. No animal sacrifice ever atoned for a single sin; they prefigured the real sin sacrifice to come. All who trust in Jesus have passed out of judgment.

Because we are free, our lives are now living sacrifices to God. Do not our hearts burn within us when we consider the sweeping majesty of the sufferings and subsequent glories of our Lord Jesus Christ? Fire of a different sort, of thanksgiving and zeal, is now maintained before him. This fire of God is to be kept burning on the altars of our hearts continually; it shall not go out. We will enliven the farthest reaches of eternity with its stirring influence.

Smeared in the Spirit

“unleavened wafers smeared with oil” Exodus 29:2

Jesus is his name, but his title is Christ, or Messiah. Jesus is who he is; Christ is what he is. He is many things: Prophet, Priest, and King. There have been many prophets, many priests, and many kings, but he is all these and more in one. He is the Christ.

The word Christos is the Greek New Testament version of the Hebrew Old Testament Meshiach. It means anointed. Of all the things that Jesus is, he is above all, and encapsulating all, and pervading all, the Anointed One. Ok so that’s what the word means, but what does it mean? It means he’s the One who is anointed with the Spirit of God, that which the old anointing oil signified.

He is the pleasing One, the chosen One, the promised One, the sent One, the equipped One, the saving One, the victorious One, the coming One. He is the Father’s delight and the Father’s delight rests upon him in the form of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Spiritual man.

In him we are also spiritual, anointed with the Spirit of God. He is our true sacrifice, but in him we are living sacrifices of thanksgiving to the living God. With great joy in Christ, may our hearts be as the wave offerings of unleavened wafer, smeared with the Spirit of God. For that is what this word smeared is in the Hebrew—anointed.

The art of dropping science

“He made the veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twisted linen; with cherubim skillfully worked into it he made it.” Exodus 36:35

Bezalel oversaw the craftsmanship of God’s tabernacle. This was a matter of science and art. His intelligence of material—whether it be precious metal or fine fabric—was the foundation of his creative skill—whether it be shaping furniture or hammering gold. Or weaving fantastic creatures into the veil, as we have here.

Passing over the mind-expanding symbolism of cherubim guarding the way to God’s presence, we must pause on these emphatic words: “skillfully worked into it”. Here was excellence. Here was wisdom. And here was hard work.

Do you suppose it mattered to the priests what these cherubim looked like? Before this veil they ministered day and night. They spent their lives in this physical revelation of God and his ways. Were the tabernacle thrown together haphazardly, there would be a confusion of signals. Was God worthy of all excellence, or (since God is spirit), were outward matters of no importance? Certainly excellence was important, because God gave Bezalel gifts to make it so. The likeness of these heavenly creatures woven upon the veil would have been majestic, and would have served the faith of the priests.

This principle of excellence translates very well to our technological age. There is something in it to be used for God’s glory. We have the truth; let us present it as best we can, with skill. Our social media, websites, and all that may advance the cause of Christ in a digital age, is to be done with craftsmanship. Our books should bear skillfully designed covers that entice readers to wonder at the awesome theme and peak within. Is this manipulation? No, this is casting truth in its proper light.

This principle applies even to the invisible aspects of life. Take, for instance, the matter of speech. How we form our words matters, for “sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness” (Proverbs 16:21). This sweetness of speech is more art than science. In fact, the art of sweetness (think, perhaps, of what we call charm) serves the science of truth, for it increases its effect, and clears the way for its reception. We do not rely on the skill of sweetness to persuade people—the skill presents the truth in clearer light, allowing it to work by its own merit more freely. What could shroud the good news more than harshness of speech?

So whether we are weaving cherubim like Bezalel, or designing websites, or talking doctrine, may God’s people do so with skill and excellence, and with art, that God may be praised through his truth.

Skills to make the frills

“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you…” Exodus 31:2-6

The LORD directed Moses to arrange the tabernacle; he gifted these men to build it. Their gifts matched their calling. There exists no calling without a gift to match. Many have felt called to marry a certain someone—and may have even told them quite plainly so!—but have not been gifted to win the elusive heart. Alas! the pain and misery of missing our true callings for our own ideas of what they should be.

Well, there was no question about what these men were supposed to be doing. They were good at it. Mark the source of their skill: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God” (v. 3). These were spiritual gifts, not natural abilities. Whatever natural ability they possessed was not only improved, but lifted, and transformed, by the Spirit of God.

No wonder, when we consider their great task. They have to build God’s tent! With what skill must the gold be hammered, the curtains woven, the breastplate ornamented! Every detail has divine meaning; all must be executed with divine enablement. God was with them, and with their skill. Their tools taught them marvelous things! And piece by glorious piece the tabernacle was built.

Is it not the same for you and I? Are we not all of us building God’s temple, stone by living stone? Have we not received spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ? What has God made you good at? Ask the believers in your life how you have been used to bless them, and what area of service or teaching God has filled you with skill for. Above all things, seek the building up of the church, and know that the Spirit of God is with us and with our skills for the name of Jesus Christ and the glory of God.