December 2016


In the series, we have explored quite a number of areas of the Old Testament

1. The Fall Feast (Part 1)
2. Pauls Explanation Of Col 2 (Part 2)
3. Day Of Atonement (Part 3)
4. Feast Of The Tabernacles (Part 4)
5. Clean And Unclean Meat (Part 5 , Part 6)
6. Burning Of Incense (Part 7, Part 8)
7. Lighting Of Lamp (Part 9)

As we are talking about the lighting of Lamp, the Jewish festival of Hanukkah is round the corner. One of the typical celebration of Hanukah is to light up the Menorah to commemorate the dedication of the altar. Some may confuse this with the lighting of lamp in Part 9.  For this section I would like to side track from the issue of lighting the lamp to discuss Hanukkah.

Year 2016 is special as it is one of the rare time where the festival is very close to Christmas. Therefore there are religious teachers who are advocating and encouraging the keeping of Hanukah. One of the biggest proponent is Mr Nehemia Gordon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BrNaj16_WU

He advocates that Christians ought to keep Hanukkah because of what it stood for. Though he did not say that that had something to do with Salvation. His lectures debunked many of the traditions i have heard about the festival. Lets take a quick look at the Festival.

Hanukah Festival Basics

Basically  Hanukah or the “Feast of the Dedication” (Jn 10:22) is a Jewish national holiday that is not founded in the Mosaic Covenant. The root of this feast began after the death of Alexander the great  before the arrival of the Romans in Judea. In those days, the land of Judea is ruled by the Seleucids.  One of the Seleucid king known as Antiochus IV started a policy to stamp out Jewish practices and religion

A group of priest known as the Maccabees rebelled against the King. They managed to defeat the Greeks against all odds, they recaptured the temple and Jerusalem. They rededicated the Altar in the temple as the Greeks had defiled it.

There were a myth regarding this that was added by Rabbis later. 
There was a miraculous story of a single vial of oil that burnt for 7 days to purify the temple. The Jews burnt the oil on the 7 branch lampstand (Menorah) and the fire purified the temple. That is why many Jews today burn candles for 8 days to remember this event. But this story is not a fact. It was added in around the second century CE after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem 

Mr Gordon’s Lectures had talked about this extensively and I would not waste my time to repeat it here.

Christians and Hanukah

Basically this is what I think

1. Hanukkah is a Jewish national holiday, there is no link between the festival and salvation  

While the events regarding this is prophesied in Daniel and recorded in the book of Maccabees, there is no instructions from God to keep the festival . There is no necessity for Christians to follow this. 

2. Jesus did attend the feast of Dedication in Jn 10 but he did it because he was Jewish

Jesus did not instruct his disciples to keep this festival. He had given other instructions regarding salvation that we ought to follow. That is why it really doesn’t matter if we keep the festival or not. Basically my stand over the matter is the same as Pauls

“One person esteems one
  day above another; another
  esteems every day alike. Let
  each be fully convinced in his
  own mind. He who observes the
  day, observes it to the Lord;
 
and he who does not observe the day, 
  to the Lord he does not observe it.” – Paul (Rom 14:5-6)

3. It is ok to have traditions, but be mindful of its risk.

There is no need for us to add to what is taught by Christ and the apostles. We may think that creating a tradition can help strengthen our faith. But Pharisees and the Talmud were not created overnight. Every little tradition created had a potential to be misunderstood and abused. Worst still when others follow it and were not moved in the same way as the creator of this tradition.

Let us not start the process of creating our own Talmud by creating unnecessary instruction beyond what is instructed in the bible

Understanding  Dedication

As we read the myth about Hanukah, let us be clear about what is written in the law of Moses. The lighting of the lamp by the priest is meant as a statute before God. The lamps are not related to the Altar in anyway. (Ex 27:20-21).

The law of Moses did not specifically talk about how he dedicate the altar. But Num 7 tell us that just the dedication offering required 12days (Num7:10-84)

The Jews most likely took the example of Solomon and the instruction of Ezekiel to dedicate the altar for 8 days (2 Chron 7:9,Eze 43:26-27) . They would have followed the instruction of God to Moses as well (Ex 40:9-10).

Understanding  Purification

During the lecture there was a mentioned of Purification rite. IT is a known fact that in the law of Moses anyone who is unclean will remain unclean for 7 days. In the law of Moses, there were a few records of purification. Let us take a look at what is said.

Under the law of Moses a person can be made unclean when he encounter Childbirth, Have discharge, Leprosy or encounter death. God requires offering to be made to him for all the above except for death.  If one encounters death, he will need to be washed with the blood ashes of the Red Heifer . We will discuss the significance of the Red heifer later on in this series.

All these purification here are different from the purification of the altar as mentioned in Hanukah We need to differentiate between them

 

Paul And His Purification Rite

During the lecture Mr Gordon briefly mentioned about the fact that Paul perform the a purification rite. This was Recorded in the book of Acts 23. Interestingly, the dedication mentioned there had no relations with the dedication of Hanukah in any way,

The disciples in Jerusalem advice Paul to perform the rite. For there had been Rumours about him among the Jews in the Roman world.

“You see, brother, how many
  myriads of Jews there are who
  have believed, and they are all
  zealous for the law; 
  but they have been informed
  about you that you teach all the
  Jews who are among the Gentiles
  to forsake Moses, saying that they
  ought not to circumcise their children
  nor to walk according to the customs” – Disciples (Acts 21:20-21)

Therefore to debunk their rumours, they advise Paul to take part in the purification ritual the next day. This purification ritual is not related to Hanukah. For these men had taken a vow. They have to shave their heads and Paul had to pay for their expenses. (Acts 21:24)

What is this vow? It is likely that these men were Nazirites. (Ref Num 6:9-12). If a Nazirite encounter death near him, he will be declared unclean for 7 days. After that they were to shave their heads, and make sacrifices to the Lord before they can resume their vow as Nazirites. Whenever a Nazirite completes his period of vow, he is to shave his head and make sacrifices as well.  That practice was still practiced among the Jews during the time of Paul.

So Paul is not exactly bowing down to the Talmud, but he was in fact doing what was prescribed in the law of Moses. Paul had to do it to show the Jews that he has not forsake Moses and he kept the law of Moses.

Interestingly, the disciples repeated their decision made about the Gentiles in Acts 15

“But concerning the Gentiles
  who believe, we have written
  and decided that they should
  observe no such thing,  except
   that they should keep themselves
   from things offered to idols, from
  blood, from things strangled, and
  from sexual immorality.” – Disciples (Acts 21:25)

They have reiterated their stand about the gentiles needing to observe the law of Moses. Sadly when Paul follow their advice, the move backfired and he was arrested at the temple (Act 21:26-29)

It seems that Gods plan is for Paul to be captured so that he will eventually go to Rome. But that story is out of the discussion today.

Jesus And The Feast Of The Dedication

During the lecture Mr Gordon mentioned that even Jesus celebrated Hanukah. He is not wrong to say that, but Christians need to differentiate between requirements of the Mosaic Covenant, the custom and tradition of the Jews and the content of the New Covenant with Christ.

When Jesus is on earth, he is born as a Jewish man, and he kept some of the traditions of the Jews in his days. For example, he only came into the temple at the age of 12 (Bar Mitzvah). (Lk 2:41-42), that is a tradition of the Jews.

Jesus was circumcised on the eight day and his parent made offering of turtledoves(Lk 2:22-24), that is a requirement of the Law Of Moses.

Just because Jesus did those things, it does not mean that Christians ought to follow the tradition to do Bar Mitzvah for our own children, nor do we forbid them from coming to church until 12.  In the new testament, Circumcision in the flesh is not necessary, but the heart must be circumcise to obey God. That is why just because Jesus attended the feast of dedication it does not mean Christians ought to do it.

If there is one thing we need to remember, Jesus declared himself to be God on that day. He said “I and My Father are one.” (Jn 10:30) By declaring this so, Jesus is telling the world that he is the God whom the Jews worship. As the result, the Jews wanted to kill him for blasphemy.

Instead of mindlessly keeping tradition Hanukah, we ought to remember that Jesus is LORD and especially this that he had spoken

“I told you, and you do not believe.
  The works that I do in My Father’s name,
  they bear witness of Me.  But you do
  not believe, because you are not of
  My sheep, as I said to you.
 
My sheep hear My voice, and I know 
  them, and they follow Me. And I give
  them eternal life, and they shall never
  perish; neither shall anyone snatch
  them out of My hand  “ – Jesus (Jn 10:25-29)

According to Mr Gordon experience of reading the Old testament in 16:17 in the lecture he said

“But Kingdom of heaven is an ancient concept. When John the Baptist travelled through the land of Israel speaking about the kingdom of heaven. People wouldn’t say that "We do not know what that is.  We are Jews and we do not know about the kingdom of heaven"

No, when they heard about the Kingdom of heaven they said “We are looking forward to that when Yehovah comes down to earth and rules as the King of the World. Zechariah talks about him standing with one leg on either side of the mount of Olives and the Mount of Olives splitting in the middle. and he is going to be King on that day over the entire Earth”

What does the other half of the prophecy says? Says on that day he will be one, his name will be one”

Nehemia Gordon as a Karite understood that when the Messiah is Yehovah coming on earth and ruling as the King of the earth. In his case, he did not think that Jesus is the Messiah, therefore it is not surprising that he would prefer to call on the name of Yehovah. 

But Christians understood that the messiah had already come. That Messiah is Yeshua (Jesus) . We know form the gospel that before his birth , he instructed Mary to name him Yeshua (Jesus) . Right here on the feast of Dedication, he declared that he and the father are one. He is telling us that he is indeed YHWH who came to dwell in the flesh.

In another location he said “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (Jn 8:58)

John tell us that the kingdom of God is at hand. When Jesus come he preach the same as well. He promised the disciples that the some of them will see the Kingdom of God present with power. He also promised his disciples that some will not taste death till the see the Kingdom of God. (Mk 9:1, Lk 9:27) . He himself tell us that his kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36), that kingdom is within us (Lk 17:20). This kingdom is establish by God when the Holy Spirit first came on Pentecost

While many like to say that Christians had no Jewish roots, they have forgotten the fact that the first group of Christians are all Torah believing Christians. They may not be a Hebrew Scholar like Mr Gordon. But they are well aware of all the prophecies about the Kingdom of God.

These people can read the scriptures, but but they are able to see that the Messiah is Yeshua (Jesus) and they started to call on his name and not YHWH.

Had the scriptures changed? Why is it that those Jews are so willing to accept it? They read the same prophecies mentioned by Mr Gordon, but they are able to see Jesus in the scriptures. They even have the gall to make this declaration before the Chief priest.

“Nor is there salvation in any other,
  for there is no other name under
  heaven given among men by
  which we must be saved.”

That is because they understood that the Messiah is God himself dwelling among them. That is why they have no fear to call on his name and keep the new covenant establish by him. When they saw God allowing the gentiles who do not keep the Law receiving  the Spirit of God just like them. They made the Jerusalem decree that the gentiles do not need to keep the Law of Moses or be circumcised.

Jesus declared himself as YHWH during the feast of Hanukah. He also told them that he had seen Abraham. Today Karites like Mr Gordon, are unable to accept it. They are still waiting for the Messiah.  Even they understood that the Messiah is God himself coming in the flesh. Their only issue is that they refuse to accept Jesus as the Messiah.

But what about us today? Are we willing to accept that the Messiah is Jesus? Do we know that the Kingdom of the Messiah is already established? Can we accept that he is the one true God who had dwelt in the flesh? 

Conclusion

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival, it had special significance to the Jewish people. This article is not here to condemn Hanukah or downplay its significance to the Jews. In fact I want to take the chance to wish Jews a happy Hanukkah

As an Ethnic Chinese, we have our fair share of traditions about national struggle. Whenever we eat dumplings or row the dragon boat, we remember the Chinese Poet / Statesmen Qu Yuan. Whenever we eat moon cakes, we remember how the Chinese rebels use the moon cakes as a form of communication to stage an uprising against the Mongolian Empire. 

I think traditions by themselves are harmless and they serve as a good reminder of the stories of the past and the lessons learnt. But we need to be careful when it comes linking such tradition to our faith. We may choose to begin little traditions to build up our own faith. But when this tradition is passed down to the next generation. They will become mere ritual for these traditions may not move them in the same way as they have moved us.

Eventually when  everyone starts adding their own traditions, we create our very own version of Mishnah and Talmud. We end up creating countless of traditions that does not bring anyone closer to God.

Instead of fighting to create traditions, let us  choose to keep only the instructions of God and the commandments of God. Let us not add or subtract from it. Let us keep what God had entrusted to us purely and commit them to our next generation

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In the series, we have explored quite a number of areas of the Old Testament

1. The Fall Feast (Part 1)
2. Pauls Explanation Of Col 2 (Part 2)
3. Day Of Atonement (Part 3)
4. Feast Of The Tabernacles (Part 4)
5. Clean And Unclean Meat (Part 5 , Part 6)
6. Burning Of Incense (Part 7, Part 8)

Introduction

The Priest Of the old testament are given 3 duties by God as part of the Mosaic Covenant. They are to perform these duties on a daily basis. Let us take a look at these duties, they are

1. To offer incense every morning and evening
2. To light the lamp before the Lord
3. To offer daily sacrifice every morning and evening.

In Part 7 & Part 8we have looked into the burning of incense. Let us look at the second duty of the priest. That is to light a lamp before the Lord.

“He put the lampstand in the
  tabernacle of meeting, across
  from the table, on the south
  side of the tabernacle; 
  and he lit the lamps before
  the Lord, as the Lord had
  commanded Moses.” – Moses (Ex 40:24-25)

God told the priest to light the lamb before the Lord. the purpose of that lamp is to light up the sanctuary. It is to allow the tabernacle to be the light in the midst of the darkness. 

Jesus once tells us about this

“You are the light of the world.
  A city that is set on a hill cannot
  be hidden. Nor do they light a
  lamp and put it under a basket,
  but on a lampstand, and it gives
  light to all who are in the house.
 
Let your light so shine before men,
  that they may see your good works
  and glorify your Father in heaven.”-Jesus (Ex 40:24-25)

Jesus talks about a city in the hill cannot be hidden.  It is something that people could see from afar. They can walk towards it in the dark. When the sun had set, there will be darkness everyone. Those who are outdoors cannot determine the right way to go home.

That is why families will light the lamp as long as one of the family is away from home. they did it so that they could find their way home. That is why Jesus tell us that the lighted lamp is not meant to be put under the basket. It is used to light up the entire house, so that those who had not return can find their way home.

If all the lights in Jerusalem are out, it will be pitch dark and no one can find it in the dark. They will be lost in darkness, but the temple will always be lit up.

Pt 1: The Priest Ensure The Lamp Is Burning Continually

“And you shall command the
  children of Israel that they
  bring you pure oil of pressed
  olives for the light, to cause
  the lamp to burn continually.

  In the tabernacle of meeting,
  outside the veil which is before
  the Testimony, Aaron and his
  sons shall tend it from evening
  until morning before the Lord.
  It shall be a statute forever to
  their generations on behalf of
  the children of Israel.””"-YHWH (Ex 27:20-21)

God had instructed the priest to keep the fire burning at night. The lamp must remain lit from night to morning. The lamp in the tabernacle is a oil lamp, as the lamp is burning, the oil will be burnt out. The light will be put out if the oil runs out. Therefore the priest had to pour oil into the lamp throughout the night.  The priest had to stay awake at night even as the others slept. Their work is to prevent the lamp from burning out.  So that the temple will remain lit. That would be the light that can guide others in the darkness.

In the same way Christians are called the light of the world. It is duty to illuminate the way. We need to be a light to our families and friends who cannot find God. For there are many who need to return to the house of the Lord. It is our duty to give light to them and bring them back

For there are many who used to believe but are no longer zealous to God. We need to lead them back to God as well. We need to use our action to move them, to bring glory to God. Our actions are meant to be the light for others to see. That is what Jesus meant by letting our light shine before men so that they will see you and give glory to God

Our actions are meant to be a form of light, so that others can see and glorify God. Perhaps they may know us in the past as bad, proud, selfish or easily angered. Perhaps we use to create problems and clause grief to those around us. But if they can see us change after we believe in Christ, that will come as a shock to others. They will know that it is the power of God that changed them. They may not believe in God immediately, but they will praise God when they see you.

On the contrary, if people do not see good conducts in us, we will bring shame to God. They will question, “What is so good about believing in Jesus?”. That is why Peter once encourage wives to be submissive to their husband even if they are unbelievers. For their husband may see their good conduct and they might be won over to Christ.

Christians are suppose to be the light of the world, they are meant as ambassadors of Christ to those who do not believe. ‘Paul remind us to be light in this dark era, (Php 2:14-16). We need to shine forth as light so that others could see the benefit of the gospel. So they will follow God.

Our world is a dark world, only Christians could light up this dark era. That is why we need to remain burning. For the night is long. As spiritual priest, let us not fall asleep but instead add oil to our lamp. Let us allow the light to continue shining and not be extinguished.

Pt 2: To Light Up The Temple And Not Ourselves

There is another note about lighting of lamps in the tabernacle that we must take note. The purpose of the light is to illuminate the sanctuary and not ourselves.  That is the spirit of the Psalms

“Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
  Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
  Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
  Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” – David (Ps 29:1-2)

“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
  But to Your name give glory,
  Because of Your mercy,
  Because of Your truth.” – Psalmist (PS 115:1)

The Psalmist often remind themselves to give glory to God and not to themselves. They will even repeat to themselves “Not unto us, not unto us”We often need to be reminded to give glory onto God and not to ourselves. For many who appears to be giving glory to God are in fact glorifying themselves

The Example Of John The Baptist

Jesus gave us an example to follow, and his name is John the Baptist.

“He was the burning and shining lamp,
  and you were willing for a time to
  rejoice in his light.” – Jesus (Jn 5:35)

John the Baptist gave glory to God and not himself, he serve Christ and not himself. Once his disciples came to him and told him that Jesus is baptising people and all are going to him. John simply said

“A man can receive nothing unless
  it has been given to him from heaven.

  You yourselves bear me witness,
  that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but,
  ‘I have been sent before Him.’

  He who has the bride is the bridegroom;
  but the friend of the bridegroom, who
  stands and hears him, rejoices greatly
  because of the bridegroom’s voice.
  Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.

  He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John The Baptist (Jn 3:27-30)

John is a man who did not give glory to himself, but gave glory to Christ. When many of his disciples went to Jesus, people ridiculed John by saying that most will rather follow Christ. They have abandoned him. But John simply said “ He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John is indeed a lamp that illuminate Christ and not himself

In the same way Moses instructed Priest to light the lamp before God. The lamp is meant to give glory to God and not to themselves. This is something we often forget 

The Youth And The Shining Face Of Moses

There was a church camp and there were many youth praying. These youth will often fast, pray and spiritual nurture and the camp changed them. They are filled with joy, they felt powerful. So they testified with their peers saying

“Look at us, we are different, can you see the light on our face, and our joy?”

When the preacher heard it, he was not to happy, so he took the youth aside and spoke to them. He begin by asking “Have you heard of how the face of Moses shone after he met with God? Was Moses aware that his faith is shining?”

Moses only knew it when everyone was looking at him strangely. They were the one who saw the face of Moses, Moses was unaware of it. When he knew instead showing it to the whole world, he took a cloth to cover his face. This is a puzzling thing

Isn’t this the glory of God? Isn’t it a good testimony? why hid it as if it is shameful?

Moses did not hide his face because it is shameful. He understood what God had taught him. All glory should be given to God and not to us. The shining face of Moses will fade eventually, but the glory of God is forever. Moses wanted everyone to remember the glory of God and not his shining face.

That is why we need to remember the glory of God, not the glory of men. We must give all glory to God and not ourselves. That is very important, for if our lamps are only shining for ourselves, how long can it remain burning?  If we shine only for ourselves, we are  not lighting our lamps before the Lord. We are merely burning for ourselves.

Pt 3: The Need For Continuous  Supply Of Oil

For the lamp to burn continually, it need a constant supply of oil for the lamp. Jesus once talk about the parable of ten virgins. It is recorded in Matt 25:1-4. Jesus tell us that the kingdom of God is like 10 virgins waiting for the bridegroom, in those days, their lamps had to be lighted as the virgins waited to meet the bridegroom.

If the lamp is extinguished, they cannot welcome the bridegroom.

“Give us some of your oil, 
  for our lamps are going 
  out.”- Foolish Virgin (Matt 25 : 8)

The foolish virgins tried to ask the wise virgins to spare time some oil. That is because their lamps are about to be extinguished and they are out of oil. If their lamp was out, they cannot receive the bridegroom, that is why they are afraid.  At the beginning there was no anxiousness for they thought the bridegroom will come on time. They were confident that the oil in their lamp is enough for the wait.

However the bridegroom was delayed, they fell asleep. Suddenly, the announcement was made, and they realise that their oil was running out, it was too late. Now why does the wise virgin refuse to help them?  It is not that they did not have love, but they had the need to keep their lamps burning. That is why they said that it would not be enough for the both of them. The foolish virgins have to go and buy oil, but the door was shut

“Afterward the other virgins came
  also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’
 
But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly,
  I say to you, I do not know you.’”-Jesus (Matt 5:11-12 )

They pleaded with the Lord, but let us look the response of the Lord. It is just that they ran out of oil and ran out light. Why did the Lord says that he did not know them? Is running out of oil a big problem? Why is the Lord without love and judge them?

This seem like a fair argument, but the Lord had already told them to prepare oil in their lamp. the Lord had instructed them to keep their light burning, without the lamp, we are unable  to receive him. It is not that we are ignorant, but we did not follow  his instructors.

Will we become the 5 smart virgins or the 5 who thinks that they have enough? Very often Christianity regarded the oil of the lamp as the Holy spirit. It is interesting to note that the 5 foolish virgins had oil, but it is just that their oil run out.

How do we add oil into our lamp? It is about our heart. A heart that does not reply on the Holy spirit will eventually become weak. Just like those who follow God faithfully in the beginning, but they stop being zealous over time.

What Does It Mean To Be Filled With The Spirit?

Christian in such a stage will eventually be unable to pray and we would stop talking to Jesus. Finally their lamps will be extinguished. They will no longer rely or submit to God. That is when they grieve the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit will continue to move them, but they will no longer rely or submit to it.

Eventually the Holy Spirit will give up and leave, and the light is extinguished. That is why Christians ought to examine their faith to check if their fire is still burning. They need to continue to light their lamps, be watchful and pray.

What does it really mean to pray in Spirit? Is it a mere speaking of tongues? Speaking of tongues is the evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit, but just because one could speak in tongues does not mean that they are praying n the spirit.

A person may be able to speak in tongues, but he may be going against the word of God daily. While everyone thinks that the spirit of God is fill him, in fact he is grieving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is grieved or God know our hearts and our thinking. He knew that we have went against him and we have treated something wrong as right. When other tried to correct us, we remain stubborn and refuse to listen.

Misunderstanding God Grace As Free Pass

What is worst is that we think of ourselves like Samson. Samson remain strong even though he did many things that are sin before God. While everyone is saying that he is not pleasing before God. He continue to defeat his enemies again and again. He thought his strength as a proof that God is with him and God forgive him. When the actual fact i that God had not judge him, God allowed his power to be in him. That was a grace from God, God wanted him to change.

Samson did not consider that as grace but he viewed it as a guilt free pass given to him by God. He thinks that he will always have the strength to escape and defeat the enemies. But God had to judge him eventually.  The book of judges recorded the final moment of Samson like this

“And she said, “The Philistines
  are upon you, Samson!” So he
  awoke from his sleep, and said,
  “I will go out as before, at other
    times, and shake myself free!”
  But he did not know that the Lord 
  had departed from him.” – Author of Judges (Judg 16:20)

He though he had the strength to escape, but he did not know God left him. Eventually he was captured, his eyes gorged out, and he ended up in a sorry state. The bible talk of many of such stories.

They serve as a warning to Christians to be watchful and pray, not to grieve the Holy Spirit. If we continually quench the spirit again and again, God will be grieved and the Holy Spirit will leave you.  Just like a friend who tried to advice you in vain, giving up and leaving. He left not because he is hard hearted, but because we refuse to listen.

It is not that God had limits when it come to loving, but God is also the righteous judge. He had to execute his judgement for he is a just God. Today he had given us the opportunity to repent, if we remain unrepentant, his judgement will come upon us and that is when it is too late for regrets.

PT 4 : The High Priest Had The Ultimate Responsibility On the Lamp

“Outside the veil of the Testimony,
  in the tabernacle of meeting, Aaron
  shall be in charge of it from evening
  until morning before the Lord continually;
  it shall be a statute forever in your generations.
 
He shall be in charge of the lamps on the
  pure gold lampstand before the Lord
   continually.”-YHWH (Lev 24:3-4)

God says that Aaron must take of the lamp and be in charge. Even though there are priest who serve in the temple and light the lamp. Aaron is the overall in charge of the entire temple. Even though the priest is the ones who keep the lamp burning. It is Aaron Job to ensure that they are working and they did not fall asleep.

Therefore the high priest must check and wake up any priest who fall asleep so that the lamp will be lighted.

The workers are important but the overseer is just as important. Aaron is a human and he too may fall asleep in his duty. That is why Hebrews tell us of the high priest in heaven. He is Jesus and he never sleep. He is without weakness, he will not die, he is living forever and he had became our high priest. He intercedes for us, he is in charge of the lamps within the church. This is an important teaching.

In Rev 1:17-20 : John saw the appearance of the Lord, the God who is alive and is watching over us. Today the people we trust may leave us. We will all die one day. But if we rely on the Lord, he lives forever. He is the God who holds the keys of hades and of death.

Many thought that hades and death are in control of the devil. But here God tell us that he holds the key of Hades and death. That is why we need not be afraid to die for Christ. For Christ had save us from death and had given us internal life.

What we must take note is Rev 1:20.  There were 7 stars, 7 lampstands and 7 angels. the 7 lampstands are the 7 churches. We need to know that God takes care of all his churches.

The Church Is The Responsibility of Christ

Today, if we focus only on the church leader we will be disappointed. For even if we elect a new leader, he may do things that sadden us. But we need to see that God is in charge of all the 7 churches. If we focus on him, we will be filled with hope and glory. We will stop looking at the darkness and focus on the light.

It is true that throughout history, dark forces had been trying to destroy the church. They persecute the church and wanted to destroy. There were leaders and strong Christians who became weak, some of them betrayed the Lord. they choose to leave the church and refuse to believe in God anymore. There are also those deceived, and those who love the world.

On the surface, it look as though the church is weak, full of internal problems and external threats. There are times she look like a bruised reed and smoking flax. It appear not to give up light, and give only a small amber of flame

Sometimes we feel sad when looking at it, and we wonder why the church is like this. But the churches in the book of revelations also look like a bruised reed and a smoking flax. It makes other feel sad and depress when seeing it. They doubt if this is the church of God.

But God told John to write down the details of the church and their corruption, and also write down the fact that there are 7 lampstands and 7 stars in the hand of God. He wanted us to know that he is in charge, he knows what is happening. He had already told us through prophet Isaiah. 

“A bruised reed He will not break,
  And smoking flax He will not quench;
  He will bring forth justice for truth.
  He will not fail nor be discouraged,
  Till He has established justice in the earth;
  And the coastlands shall wait for His law.”- Isaiah (Is 4:3-4)

The church is established by Jesus through his blood and the Holy Spirit. It can overcome hell and hades not because the living stones are strong. But it remain steadfast for his house is build upon the cornerstone that is Jesus. He is steadfast and unmovable.

Jesus is the high priest that will look after the church and help the church.  He is the head of the church and he will take care of it. He is the high priest that tend the lamp in the tabernacle.  He will never allow the lamp to go out.

He will wake up the priest so that they will continue to keep the lamp burning. If we understand this we will not be disappointed. Even if our friends and family depart from the church we will not leave. For we can see the Lord in his church and we will choose to follow him

Concluding Thoughts

If we build out faith on man, we will leave the church. But if faith is establish in the Lord, we will continue to stay. For we know that he rules over the church. We need to continue to keep our faith in Christ. We need to have the hope and endure to the end.  As long as we keep ourselves in his grace, we will never go wrong.

Others may choose to leave, it is their choice and we cannot stop them. But we can influence ourselves and follow Christ. WE can choose to listen to him and follow him.

if we do so we would have lighted the lamp before the Lord. It can illuminate us as well as the church. May God help us so that we will be good lamps.

In the series, we have explored quite a number of areas of the Old Testament

1. The Fall Feast (Part 1)
2. Pauls Explanation Of Col 2 (Part 2)
3. Day Of Atonement (Part 3)
4. Feast Of The Tabernacles (Part 4)
5. Clean And Unclean Meat (Part 5 , Part 6)
6. Burning Of Incense (Part 7)

Introduction

Let us continue the discussion about burning Incense. In the time past, God instructed his priest to burn incense every morning and evening. Burning of incense is often linked to prayer. Here is another example of it.

In Lk 1:8-10 : As the priest was burning incense in the temple, the people were praying outside the temple. This is why we often link burning of incense with prayer.  Under the Mosaic Covenant, there are 2 rules governing incense.

The first rule is regarding the 4 components to be be mixed into the incense in equal proportion.
The second rule is that salt must be added onto incense

We have looked into these in the previous part

Beside the rules, there are 2 warnings associated with burning incense. They contain valuable lessons that we ought to know as Christians. Even though Christians do not need to burn incense, Christians are priest serving in the spiritual temple of the messiah. Let us look at these warning closely.

Warning 1: The Incense Is Holy Unto The Lord

The first warning is recorded here

“But as for the incense which you
  shall make, you shall not make
  any for yourselves, according to
  its composition. It shall be to you
  holy for the Lord. “-YHWH (Ex 30:37)

God told the Israelites not to make incense for themselves. Incense only be burnt for the Lord. No man is suppose to make incense for themselves.  Priest are to make sure that incense are only used in the temple and not elsewhere. Incense must never be lighted for personal pleasure and use.

This tell us that prayer is not done for the sake of fulfilling our own desires. Prayer must be used as a direct and simple communication with the Lord.  Elder James once talks about unanswered prayers.

“You ask and do not receive, 
  because you ask amiss, that
  you may spend it on your
  pleasures. “ – James (Jas 4:3)

This is an concept that parents are very familiar with. For parents sometime reject the request of their children. They do so even though they  had the capability to provide the children with what they desire.  They withheld from their children not because they were stingy, but because they knew that it is a waste of resources and it does not benefit them.

The same thing happens when God hears our prayer. However, Christians often do not examine themselves and their request. they murmur and complain why God did not grant their request. But James tell us plainly, for we have asked amiss, because we want to spend it on our own pleasure. We often fail to examine our own motive behind our request. Let us look at 2 example from the scriptures.

The Request Of James And John

Once James and John came before the Lord with an request

“Grant us that we may sit,
  one on Your right hand and
  the other on Your left, in
  Your glory.”- James And John (Mk 10:37)

“You do not know what you
  ask. Are you able to drink
  the cup that I drink, and be
  baptized with the baptism
  that I am baptized with?” – Jesus (Mk 10:38)

The bible records of another occasion when James and John spoke to Christ This time they were in Samaria, and the people refuse to receive Jesus.

“Lord, do You want us to
  command fire to come
  down from heaven and
  consume them, just as
  Elijah did?”- James And John (Lk 9:54)

This time James and John looks as though they were making this request on behalf of Christ Furthermore their request is biblical, it was base on the story of Elijah in 2 King 1. But how did Jesus react to that?

“You do not know what
  manner of spirit you are of.
 
For the Son of Man did not
  come to destroy men’s lives
  but to save them.”- Jesus (Lk 9:55-56)

The truth is that their prayer is not according to the will of God, but it is according to their desire and to vent their frustration and anger. They made these request to satisfy their own desire.  That is why they are rebuke by Jesus.

A priest must burn incense before the Lord. That is why they need to examine themselves to see if they are burning it for themselves or for God.

What Should One Pray For?

Of course it doesn’t mean that Christians should not pray for themselves. Jesus wanted us to pray for them, but he want us to pray for the things of God before praying for ourselves. Most Christians recite the Lord prayer. But have we consider what the Lord prayer teaches us?

“Hallowed be your name”. In the Lords prayer, we wanted everyone to hallow the name of God. For many in the world do not know the name of Jesus. That is why we need to pray so that others will know. At the same time we need to consider, if our actions bring glory or shame to God? When we pray did we pray for the name of God to be hallowed?

“Your kingdom come”. This kingdom is the church, for there are many places which have not have the church yet. Have we bothered to pray for the church? Perhaps we may not be able to start churches in pioneering are, but we can choose to pray for the church. As we burn our incense, did we burn it for the Lord? 

“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. The third thing to pray for is for the will of God to be done. This is important, we know that the will of God is always done in heaven. All the angels in heaven submits to him. But men on earth sometimes go against the will of God. That is why we need to pray for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” “Forgive Our Debts as we forgive our debtors” “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” This is the time we can pray for our daily bread, for forgiveness and for deliverance from evil.

That is how one ought to burn incense before the Lord. We must not burn it for ourselves but burn it for God.

Warning 2: One Should Not Burn For The Sake Of Smelling

The second warning is recorded in Ex 30:38

”Whoever makes any like it,
  to smell it, he shall be cut off
  from his people.”- YHWH (Ex 30:38)

No one is allowed to burn the incense for the sake of smelling  it. This rule sounds odd for if the priest were to burn incense, is it possible for them not to smell it? So what does it mean?

IT means one cannot deliberately  burn incense for the sake of smelling. Whoever who burn incense to smell it, he will be cut off from his people. That is why one should never burn incense and smell it for themselves.

In todays context, what does it mean to burn incense for the sake of smelling? Jesus provided us with an example to illustrate this,

The Prayer and Fasting  Of The Pharisees

“God, I thank You that I
  am not like other men—
  extortioners, unjust,
  adulterers, or even as
  this tax collector.”- Pharisee (Lk 18:10)

The Pharisee is burning incense for the sake of smelling the Aroma. Jesus describes his prayer as “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself”. The Pharisee was praying with himself. Those were the things he loved to hear, and God is not pleased with his prayer. It is full of his self righteousness, he is only able to smell his own aroma.

That is why Jesus tells us on the sermon of the mount.

“And when you pray, you shall
  not be like the hypocrites. For
  they love to pray standing in the 
  synagogues and on the corners
  of the streets, that they may be
  seen by men. Assuredly, I say to
  you, they have their reward.”-Jesus (Matt 6:5)

“Moreover, when you fast, do not
  be like the hypocrites, with a sad
  countenance. For they disfigure
  their faces that they may appear
  to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I
  say to you, they have their reward”-Jesus (Matt 6:16)

Prayer and fasting are suppose to be the manifestation of our reverence to God. They are similar to the burning of incense in the old testament. All these are suppose to be actions that were acceptable before God. But it is a pity that many Christians do this for the sake of smelling their own fragrance.

That is why Jesus called their prayer and fasting hypocritical . For they do it for the purpose of being seen by others and to receive praise from others. These Pharisees burnt incense for the sake of smelling the fragrance for themselves. Therefore whenever we offer incense before the Lord. Let us not burn incense for the sake of smelling.

The 2 Incidents Regarding Incense

Besides the 2 warning, the bible tell us of 2 incidents about incense. In those incidents, the priest were punished for burning incense. Burning incense is suppose to be blessings, how could it lead to judgement?

That is why we need to look into these two incidents and learn from them.

Incident 1 : Nadab And Abihu

The first incident of death is recorded in Lev 10:1-2

“Then Nadab and Abihu, the
  sons of Aaron, each took his
  censer and put fire in it, put
  incense on it, and offered profane
  fire before the Lord, which
  He had not commanded them.
 
So fire went out from the Lord
  and devoured them, and they
  died before the Lord.”-Moses (Lev 10:1-2)

Nadab and Abihu burnt incense to the Lord. But they did so not in accordance to the commandment of the Lord. For God instructed Aaron that the fire used to burn the incense must be the fire from the altar.

Incident 2 : The Rebellion Of Korah

Lev 16:12-13. Here God instructed that if Aaron were to burn incense in the tabernacle, he suppose to take his censer to the altar and take fire from the altar. Then he is to add incense into the fire before the Lord and burn it.

“Take a censer and put fire in
  it from the altar, put incense
  on it, and take it quickly to the
  congregation and make atonement
  for them; for wrath has gone
  out from the Lord.
  The plague has begun.”- Moses (Num 16:46)

At that point of time, God was judging the Israelites because of the rebellion of Korah.  Num 16:35 tell u that the fire from the Lord came and devoured 250 leaders who were part of the rebellion of Korah . They were killed for God wanted to punish Israel for their disobedience. As a result a plague come and killed the Israelites.

But when Moses was giving instruction to Aaron to burn incense , he reminded him to use fire from the altar. He is suppose to offer incense and pray for the people, for the anger of God is upon them and the plagues had already started.

Yet in the midst of of these emergency. Moses did not forget the commands of the Lord. That is why Aaron must take the coal from the altar and put fire on it.

Pt 1: Only Fire From The Altar Can Be Used

These two example tell us the importance of using the fire from the altar to burn incense. Nadab and Abihu did not offer according to the commandment of the Lord. They took profane fire, that is fire not from the altar of sacrifice. The result of their incense burning lead to them being judged and punished before the Lord.  This punishment shocked the people, for the fire from the Lord came and killed them before Israel

Some may ask  “Why did God punish them so severely, is this such a great sin?”  These men offered incense, it is just that they have used the wrong fire. Why is this so serious? God gave the reason why he judged them,

“By those who come near Me
  I must be regarded as holy;
  And before all the people
  I must be glorified.’” – YHWH (Lev 10:3)

How would we response? Are we able to accept this reason? Will we remain silent like Aaron?

Many would regard profane fire as a minor issue, but we need to appreciate the word of God. If we  understand the word of God, we will remain silent just like Aaron. For his two sons had replace the will of God with the will of man. God told them to use fire from the altar to burn incense. But these priest claims it is alright to use profane fire.

Are we to follow man or follow God? If we truly regard God as Holy, we will choose to follow his instruction. We will never dare to replace the will of God with our own will.

That is why Aaron remained silent. He could made up excuses for his children, he can defend them saying that they are new to the Job and they just forget. They may be mesmerise by the glory of God and committed the mistake in a moment of folly. But Aaron remain silent for his conscience had already spoken. His sons had went against God and changed the will of God. God killed them as it was meant to be a warning.

Pt 2 : Do not replace Gods will with the instruction of man

If we fear God we must obey his will. For the word of man can never replace the instruction of God.  For Jesus once asked

“But why do you call Me
  ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do
  the things which I say?”- Jesus

Today we have many Christians like Nadab and Abihu, They do not follow the instruction of God and they offer profane fire to him. They said to themselves,  “It is not necessary to use fire from the altar to burn incense. They claims that it is more important to burn incense with faith and love. They believe that since God is full of love, he will not mind if they have forgotten to use the fire from the altar. As long as God can see their faith and love, he will accept their offering. 

That is why they believe that as long as they have faith, God will accept their offering. For if incense using the fire from the altar without faith, will the offering be acceptable before God? From here they conclude that as long as we have faith, it doesn’t matter which fire we use as long as the offering is made with faith.

This is in fact a wrong attitude, for having faith and love does not entitle you a free pass to ignore the instruction of the Lord. True faith and love will make us obey the instruction of God willingly. Those with such faith will never dare to change or subtract the instruction of the Lord.

“If you abide in My word,
  you are My disciples indeed.”-Jesus (Jn 8:31)

If you obey the word of the Lord, you are his disciples indeed. Perhaps we used to obey his word, but do we still obey him today? Have we begin doubting his words? Have we began changing the command of the Lord? If we disobey him, can we be counted as his disciples?

A true disciple will obey all the command of the Lord. He will keep his words all the days in his live. Those who change and disobey the word of God, those who selective keep some and ignore his command. Then we are no longer a disciple of Christ.

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep
  My word; and My Father will love
  him, and We will come to him and
  make Our home with him.”-Jesus (Jn 14:23)

Perhaps one may come up with many examples to prove their love for God. Perhaps they may be able to point out how he sacrificed and suffer for God. There are many Christians who are full of love, they are able to perform great acts of kindness that move and touch us greatly. But sadly, they do not follow the word of God completely, they add and subtract from the word of God. Can we count them as true disciples?

“My sheep hear My voice,
  and I know them, and
  they follow Me.” –Jesus (Jn 10:27)

If you love God and have faith in him, you will keep all his words completely.

What is So Special About The Fire From The Altar?

Perhaps some may wonder, what is so special about the fire from the altar? The fire from the altar is no ordinary fire. It came from the Lord

“And Moses and Aaron went into
  the tabernacle of meeting, and
  came out and blessed the people.
  Then the glory of the Lord appeared
  to all the people,

  and fire came out from before the
  Lord and consumed the burnt offering
  and the fat on the altar. When all the
  people saw it, they shouted and fell
  on their faces.”- Moses (Lev 9:23-24)

After Aaron offered the sacrifice, fire came from the Lord and burn up the offering on the altar. Everyone was cheering and they and they fell prostrate to the ground. This fire is a prove that God had accepted the offering of atonement on the altar.

Burning the incense using coals from the altar had a significance. For that fire connects the incense to the offering on the altar. This link is important as incense is the prayer of the people, the altar represent the salvation of God. In order for man to each to the Lord. It must be link to the salvation of God.

Salvation is only made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus. That is why Jesus said that no one goes to the father except through me. In order for our prayer to reach God it must have the grace of Jesus with us.

Conclusion

So far we have studied the issue of burning incense in details

We have covered the composition of the incense. We explored the the need for using salt when burning incense. We have explored the 2 rule and 2 incident regarding the usage of incense

May we learn from them and be good priest before the Lord.

Introduction

In Part 1 and Part 2, we have talked about the first and second mistake of Aaron. He did not rebuke the Israelites when they wanted to build the golden calf. He had also built the golden calf for them.
We have also drawn lessons from his mistakes and talks about the potential golden calves that we have in our modern world.

Now let us consider his second mistakes

3rd Mistake  : He built an Altar And Declare A Feast To An Idol

“So when Aaron saw it, he built
  an altar before it. And Aaron
  made a proclamation and said,
  “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.”

  Then they rose early on the next
  day, offered burnt offerings, and
  brought peace offerings; and the
  people sat down to eat and drink, 
  and rose up to play.” – Moses (Ex 32:5-6)

Aaron built and altar and declared a feast. By doing so he had corrupted his service before the Lord. This corruption can be viewed from many aspect.

1. Aaron was the high priest of God, now he became a high priest of the calf
2. While God is creating priestly garment for him, he is busy building the calf
3. He lowered to Almighty God into a image of a calf

All these tell us his foolishness and his erroneous attitude. He was suppose to teach the truth of God but now he is teaching an impure truth. How can you equate the worshipping of the calf as keeping a feast to the Lord. He had went against God personally by declaring this feast.

He knelt down before a calf, and yet he think he is being zealous for God. He even went ahead and called the calf, the Lord who brought them out of Egypt. He is corrupt in his service and he is unaware of it. This is the worst form of corruption for one to be in.

For if Aaron is aware of his mistake he will have a chance to repent and turn back. But the worst form of corruption is when we are unaware of our mistake. That will turn us from bad to worst.  By building the altar and declaring the feast to the Lord. He had turn his  unintentional sin into a sinning wilfully against the Lord

Aaron did not initiate the work to build the golden calf, it was the children of Israel who wanted it. Aaron created the calf out of compulsion and in a moment of weakness. But by legalising the worship Aaron had sin against God directly.

There is a chinese Idiom that illustrate this perfectly.

(gū xī yǎng jiān)

There was a man who was born in the year of the rat. As the result he likes rat. So he instructed his family not to kill the rats in the house at the same time he forbid them to drive the pest out of the house. As the result the rats started to do as they please, they stole rice and other food from the kitchen.

When the man saw it, he was worried that the rat had nothing to eat. So he deliberately left food all around the house. So more and more rats appeared in the neighbourhood. As the result everyone is affected by it. 

Aaron had allowed evil to continue and he had allowed it to grow even stronger.

4th Mistake : He Denies Responsibility, Refuses To Confess 

Aaron 3rd mistake is recorded in Ex 32:21-24

Moses: “What did this people do to you
                 that you have brought so great 
                 a sin upon them?”

Aaron  : “Do not let the anger of my lord 
                  become hot. You know the people,
                  that they are set on evil. 
                  For they said to me, ‘Make us gods 
                  that shall go before us; as for this
                  Moses, the man who brought us out
                 of the land of Egypt, we do not know
                 what has become of him.’

When Moses confronted Aaron, he denied the responsibility of his mistake. He refuse to admit his wrong and this could be seen clearly in this dialog. Aaron blame it on the people, and he pointed out the fact that they are evil. This is something Moses knew.

Moses had experienced many of their attack and their comment. But that doesn’t justify the creation of the calf. Aaron is trying to say that he is afraid of going against those who are bent on sinning. He is afraid that they might attack him so he did it to protect himself.

It appears as if Aaron was force to commit the sin out of fear. Moses rebuke him for he is a leader who lack the moral principle. He is just like a police officer who refuse to help the weak when they are bullied. He just stood in the corner and lament “There’s nothing I can do, he is evil, allow it to continue, better you get hurt instead of me”

Nipping Sin In The Bud

Isn’t it their work to maintain order in society? Isn’t it their duty to protect the citizens, uphold the law and preserve the peace? That is why Moses rebuked him. Aaron fault lies in the fact that he is the leader who did not correct the mistake of the people. Instead of stopping them, he took part in the sin and brought even more sin upon them.

When the people demanded the calf, that sin was in the mind and has not became a reality. This is just like us having the urge to punch someone and we will not get arrested for it. For we had not taken action to assault the other party. There is still chance to change our mind and correct our thinking.

In the same way, if Aaron were to correct the thinking of the people, and rebuke them, the sin would have stopped. But instead he turn their thinking into reality. If he would have stop them the story would have changed greatly.

But instead, Aaron did not, he was afraid of offending them. As the result he choose to offend God, that makes him an unfaithful servant.

Turning Sin Into A Miracle

Aaron went one step ahead to defend himself that is illogical and funny . Let us compare 2 verses side by side

Actual Account Aaron Narrative
And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.(Ex 32:2) And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ “

So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.  (Ex 32:3) So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire,
And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. (Ex 32:4) and this calf came out. 
(Ex 32:24)

Aaron made the creation of the calf sound miraculous. He told them to take off their earrings, he threw it into the fire and the calf just miraculously appear.  How could gold rings burn into a golden calf?

If we compared the truth from Aarons narrative we will know that the calf did not appear miraculously. He need to cut a mould, pour the molten gold into it, to provide the basic shape, and then they will have to engrave it, polish it and make it shiny and pretty.

Aaron had taken part in the construction of the calf. He mystify the event to make it look like a miracle from God. This brought his sin further. For he had now pushed the blame onto God. Saying that it is Gods will for the calf to appear. The fact that the calf so miraculously appear tell us the will of God is working . It becomes a sign that God had allowed it.

He may be able to lawyer his way out before Moses. But he cannot escape from that sin before God.

Conclusion So Far

We have look at the 3rd mistake of Aaron. How he brought sin upon himself by declaring the feast to the Lord and calling the calf the Lord. We learnt that Aaron ought to have stood up against Israel and prevented them from sinning.

The 4th mistake is a warning not to mystify our sins to justify it. Aaron turn the construction of the calf into a miraculous event. By doing so he had indicated that God had a had in allowing it to happen.