Tag Archives: Ritual

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 5

5. Can You Look?

Cross and Crowd

For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me. (Psalm 22:16-17)

For dogs have surrounded me. The meanings behind the word dog are quite potent. Besides the actual animal, it can refer to base and contemptuous men, pagan sacrifices, and male prostitutes. Here it has to do with base and contemptuous men. Paul associates other types of men with dogs: Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision. (Phil 3:2) Who are those of the false circumcision? That would be the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were so wrapped up in their ritual and their status, they not only missed Messiah, but they put Him to death. Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:36) Now, when you think of the crowd that surrounded the cross of our Savior, and many of them were from the religious community, let us be mindful that it is not a difficult thing to be so distracted with rules, or with minutiae, or with self and our own righteousness, we can lose sight of the Savior, and our lives and expectations become base and contemptuous.

They pierced my hands and my feet. Whereas this was a prayer and song of David, and many of these circumstances took place within his own life, there is no doubt that he is looking through the lens of divine revelation when he speaks of his hands and feet being pierced. For indeed, he speaks not of himself, but of the suffering Christ.

They look, they stare at me. We return to the crowd that surrounded our Lord. Can you identify with any of them?

Are you like Mary whose eyes were filled with tears, whose body was wracked with sorrow, making it nearly impossible to see her Son clearly?

Are you like the disciples who could not look up, because they were overwhelmed by their shame?

Do you turn away in abhorrence and disgust, unable to look upon One so tortured, so maimed, so disfigured, that you are physically and emotionally ill?

Maybe you’re a crowd watcher. You’re consumed by the surrounding drama and distracted from what is really going on. Did you miss the point?

Or are you like the religious folk, observers who watched from a distance, who stared, who gazed, who nodded in approval, and looked to one another; who inspect and gave close attention to each “deserved” laceration and wound, the flow of blood, the thorns and the nails that pierced Him?

Are you willing to look upon the sorrow, the pain, the suffering and anguish of the Savior? Can you look past the brokenness and wounds, torture and ruin, and gaze a little deeper to see the disfigurement and deformity caused by the sins laid upon Him? Your sins and the sins of the world?

Finally, what can you do to get those around you, to look at the Savior? That they may see their guilt and sin He took upon Himself so they might be saved? And then to look a bit further and see the love that held Him there, the love that would not let Him stay in the grave, and the love which purchased your forgiveness and salvation. Will you look? Do you understand? Will you help others see?

Save

Singing with the King (41) – A Lock on Religion

He has revealed his words to Jacob, His decrees and regulations to Israel. He has not done this for any other nation; they do not know his regulations. (Psalm 147:19-20)

lock and keyIt’s easy to understand why the Pharisees we so comfortable with their religion—they believed they had a lock on access to the One True God. The also believed they had a lock on the location: For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. (2 Chronicles 7:16)

In fact, they believed all nations would only come to His mountain (Jerusalem) to worship: Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.  And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways  and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:22-3)

And: All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name. (Psalm 86:9)

And they were right…

But then something wondrous happened: Jesus came. And in a rather significant conversation with someone He shouldn’t have had a conversation with (a Samaritan woman), Christ changes all that exclusivity talk: Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24)

lock and key 2We see, as Christ said, that salvation comes through the Jews, it starts with the Jews. But it’s no longer about the Mosaic ritual; rather it’s about worshiping in spirit and truth, for God is spirit. Those who will worship in spirit and truth Lord may do so from any where. This was great news for the Samaritans (see John 4:39-42) and for us Gentiles. This then gives a different interpretation to the above passage from Psalm 86. We can now come and worship before You, O Lord, any where and at any time. This is what Christ has accomplished for us. Why not worship Him now?

Singing with the King (39) – I Was Glad

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” (Psalm 122:1)

Church Worship4This Psalm was written by David, and it is one of 15 “Songs of Ascents”. And although there is no way to know the actual meaning of this term, many believe these were the Psalms the priests and pilgrims sang as they made their way through Jerusalem up to the Temple.

When David composed this, there was no Temple, just the Tabernacle. But don’t you hear his enthusiasm in this verse? I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” Here is David with his family, friends, advisers, officers, etc., etc., and for a time, the intrigue, the infighting, the jockeying for position, the plans for peace, the plans for war—all have been put on hold because they are on their way to come before the LORD; and the worship begins when they start singing these Psalms. I believe David gave his whole heart when he went to the house of the LORD. That kind of example is infectious.

Are you glad to go to the house of the LORD? Are you excited to worship and exalt the Lord together with other believers? Or has it become Ritual? Habitual? All the joy and gladness has been squeezed out and replaced by the ordinary and routine.

Find the joy and gladness again. Understand that this enthusiasm which David exhibited and proclaimed was not about singing, or sacrifices, or service. It was about meeting with the Most High.

Unlike the people of the Old Testament, You have God’s Spirit within you. The Everlasting, Almighty, All-Knowing and Infinite God lives within you. He has given you eternal and abundant life. If all these limitless and unending characteristics and graces have touched you, are all around you, and abide in you, how can you be bored (or boring)?

May you be ignited by His glory and His presence.  May others see you are glad to go to the house of the LORD.