The Presence of God 4- His Holiness
Tim opens up a discussion on how we can as a sinful people have a close relationship with a Holy God.
or below to listen to him
What other words come to mind when we think of the word Holy?
Peter Garratt and I have spent some time together talking about this idea of a Holy God and this week
and a question to ask you all out of those discussions is
Is God Holy?
Are you Holy?
Well we all feel very comfortable with the idea that God is Holy; although we may not be so sure about our own position and we will explore that a little more in a moment.
Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
In Romans 1:20 Paul is making the case that we have no excuse in understanding who God is and what He is like the evidence is there for us to see.
Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images
Certainly God’s moral condition is one of holiness and it was clear from the beginning that he intended for there to be a Holy world, one in which there is no sin.
Whatever the intention- the reality is that we do not live in a morally pure world.
What we see as a result of that unholy world is that God cannot dwell or inhabit a place that is unholy, he cannot be where there is impurity.
How the law provided a way.
We see this from the first accounts of God sending Adam and Eve away and on from there in his search for a Holy people- All the way to the point where we arrive at today’s scripture where we see God providing man with a way to create a holy space that could allow that dialogue that relationship with God to be developed.
Law of Atonement
1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of the Lord and died. 2 The Lord said to Moses:
"Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3 Aaron shall enter the holy place with this:with a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and the linen undergarments shall be next to his body, and he shall be girded with the linen sash and attired with the linen turban (these are holy garments). Then he shall bathe his body in water and put them on. 5 He shall take from the congregation of the sons of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. 6 Then Aaron shall offer the bull for the sin offering which is for himself, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household. 7 He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 8 Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the Lord fell, and make it a sin offering. 10 But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.
11 "Then Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself and make atonement for himself and for his household, and he shall slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself. 12 He shall take a firepan full of coals of fire from upon the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil. 13 He shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony, otherwise he will die. 14 Moreover, he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.
15 "Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 He shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the impurities of the sons of Israel and because of their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and thus he shall do for the tent of meeting which abides with them in the midst of their impurities. 17 When he goes in to make atonement in the holy place, no one shall be in the tent of meeting until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household and for all the assembly of Israel. 18 Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat and put it on the horns of the altar on all sides. 19 With his finger he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it seven times and cleanse it, and from the impurities of the sons of Israel consecrate it.
20 "When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. 21 Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.
This is quite a complicated passage and not one we would often dwell upon but it is critical in helping us to understand how it is that we can today enter the presence of a Holy pure and spotless God.
What we see to start with is a bit of a back story.
Two of Aaron’s sons had tried to enter the presence of God, without any understanding of the danger of doing so- They died. We are not certain about what the nature of their sin was they were possibly drunk. (Look in Lev 10 for that story)
So what God is doing here is giving Moses and Aaron the priest a way of enabling the priests to come into the presence of God and also a way of making it possible for the people too to draw closer to God’s presence.
The method was full of symbolism helping the people to understand something very important.
First that yes God was very Holy and that you cannot enter his presence whilst you have ANY sin in your life- that sin has first got to be dealt with. The penalty for sin is death.
The method used was through the sacrifice of animals.
God took something the people would understand from the nations around the idea of blood sacrifice.
Blood was seen as life and the animal was killed in your place.
Some Jewish scholars also speak of the specific choice of animal to remind them of their sins.
For Aaron it was a a Bull to remind him and his family of their specific guilt over leading the people in worship of the Golden Calf.
For the tribes of Israel it was a goat to remind them of the brothers selling of Joseph and putting the blood of a goat on his coat to deceive their father.
Peter was also telling me of the 12 stones the priest wore on their garbmets 12 one for each tribe close to his heart identifying himself with the tribes and also 12 stones on his shoulder to represent carrying the responsibility for Israel into the presence of God.
But we see something else don’t we, this idea of a scapegoat one of those words that has got
transferred into common use without many people understanding where it comes from.
Aaron placed his hands on the head of the goat that was not sacrificed and in doing so symbolically passed the sins of Israel on to the goat; which was then driven far awy into the wilderness never to be seen again.
And this primitive sounding ritual had to be carried out each year every year and was being done in the time of Jesus.
This is all done out of the longing the people had to be at peace with God to be restored in their relationship with him to be reconciled in their friendship.
It will come as no surprise that God longs for that too
But what Leviticus 16 and the whole thrust of the Bible shows us is that
A Holy God and a sinful humanity cannot co-exist
Sin is Sin and God is God
There is a very common danger and it is not just a modern problem, that sin is not all the same, that some of it is worse than other and therefore some of it is not so bad.
In the Bible we see that God is not in the slightest bit interested in the idea of classes of sin. It is entirely a human invention that led to the sale of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church and the doctrine of Purgatory and other similar rubbish all leading to modern day corruptions such as the idea of a white lie or similar notions.
I am not speaking as an innocent man I was as guilty as we all are and still find myself sinning just as you do.
But let us not fool ourselves by suggesting that somehow in God’s eyes rape or paedopphilia or international fraud are more sinful than my choice to watch a ‘saucy’ film or indulge in a bit of innocent gossip. Similarly Homosexual sin and heterosexual sin are both just that sin.
Sin is the great leveler and hell is just that too.
Kings and paupers
Priests and prostitutes
Atheists and Christians and Satanists
We all like Sheep have gone astray Isaiah
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Fallen short is a great expression it reminds me of that image of the Coyote in Road runner who sees the roadrunner leap or cross a great chasm somehow and he makes the leap with no way he is going to make it but convinced right until he doesn’t that he will.
But we are not animations that will come back to life for the next episode, we cannot make the jump we have fallen short.
Please turn to 1 John 1:10
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
So we have a holy God and a sinful humanity. But God
lets look at the next verses in 1 John
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense –Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
There is that word atonement again- The ransoming the reconciliation the restoring
Now lets look at a very helpful set of verses that bring clarity to our understanding of Leviticus 16 and how Jesus is the atonement for us.
Hebrews Chapter 10.
1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, 'Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll –
I have come to do your will, O God. '"
Let me pause there and remind you what I said about the priests who carried those twelve stones by their hearts and on their shoulders. Jesus in the same way carries us and our sins to the cross, both as the priest and as the sacrifice.
8 First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
This is an amazing truth. All that we read in Leviticus was a pale copy of the atonement of Christ.
But be careful cos we can still get this so wrong and think that we have got to earn this. That is the lie of the enemy again. If I do enough
We cannot ever do what Praivate Ryan was asked to do. 'Earn this'.
We could never earn this -nothing we can ever do can earn this gift its free. But don’t get that wrong way roundness bind you up in knots it is so easy.
Instead and this may be the most important thing I say this morning rejoice in the new restored relationship you have with God You are a friend of God and if you are a true friend demonstrate the truth of that friendship in your love of Him
You cannot pretend he knows If it is genuine
1 Corinthians 13 talks about how insincere love is just like a booming gong or clanging cymbal.
We have been loved so much
forgiven so much and reconciled to God.