Friday, November 7, 2014

Relishing Special Places

Scriptural Reading: Ezekiel 43:13-21
Devotional Reading: Psalm 130-131:3

Early in the morning the newscaster highlights a child in need of adoption. They will broadcast everything the child appreciates, his/her desire, and maybe a slight shortcoming. Their purpose is to find the child a forever special home, a special place to call their own to treasure in their hearts.

A Very Special Place, Inc. is an organization which provides a comprehensive network of programs to intellectually and developmentally challenged individuals. There is love in this special place for the care of all who come. Not only are they equipped with immediate needs, but they are granted careers. We are blessed to have special places such as this.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; LORD hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” (Ps 130:1-2 NKJV) In Psalm 130 we see the Psalmist’s desire toward God and His repentance. He is crying out from the depth of despair. This is described as a depth applicable to sorrow or affliction, weighty consciousness due to sin, mental trouble, low spirit, etc. When the Psalmist cries out with a sincere heart while he is in the depths of despair he is met with the mercy and love of God. It is our duty and in our best interest to cry unto God, for that is the way to keep from sinking lower in the quick sand and to recover from our horrible pit and miry clay. (Ps 40:1-2) There is only one solution to the sin question today. God has provided a sacrifice – Christ, through whom there is redemption for all. Our transgressions will not be acted upon if we remain in the family of Christ, a very special place, since He has borne the penalty for us. We come to that altar of sacrifice and leave our burdens there. It is not necessary to be in the church house to find the altar of sacrifice. We can go into our prayer closets to gain access to God through the sacrificial workings of the Savior. For that we are blessed.

This quarter of study is entitled “Sustaining Hope”. We are in Unit III – “Visions of Grandeur” of the three units of the quarter. This is the second of a five-lesson study. The book of Ezekiel focuses on God’s glory as seen through the visions he received. In our lesson today you will find the regulations for building the altar given by God in a vision for the ancient Israelites and for sanctifying it before sacrificing the animal sin offerings.

Israel had two altars: the altar of sacrifice and the altar of incense. The altar of sacrifice was made of bronze and was used to burn sacrificial animals. Served by priests, its offerings symbolized atonement for sins (Ex 27:1-8; 38:1-7) The specifications given by God to Ezekiel in his vision are recorded at Ez 43:13-17, “These are the measurements of the altar in cubits (the cubit is one cubit and a handbreadth): the base one cubit high and one cubit wide, with a rim all around its edge of one span. This is the height of the altar: from the base on the ground to the lower ledge, two cubits; the width of the ledge, one cubit; from the smaller ledge to the larger ledge, four cubits; and the width of the ledge, one cubit. The altar hearth is four cubits high, with four horns extending upward from the hearth. The altar hearth is twelve cubits long, twelve wide, square at its four corners; the ledge, fourteen cubits long and fourteen wide on its four sides, with a rim of half a cubit around it; its base, one cubit all around; and its steps face toward the east” (NKJV) This writer shall not state I understand what the architectural design is for the altar. I am not a carpenter, bricklayer, mason, etc. I do believe that “all things (must) be done decently and in order.”(1 Cor 14:40 NKJV) There must be order in God’s world. If there was no order, there would be chaos. Obedience to order is crucial and it must be done decently. Do not underestimate the virtue of building this altar to exact specification. You would miss a significant point of the prophet’s vision. The design and very presence of the temple and the altar were symbolic of God’s dwelling in the midst of the people. It gave the ancient Israelites hope of deliverance. The surface of the altar was to have four horns extending upward from the hearth. An unusual feature of this altar is the fact that it has steps leading up to it; this was banned in the previous temple. This one will be so high that it will need a way to mount up to the top.

God now gives Ezekiel the ordinances and rules of the altar for its sanctification before He will accept the people and forgive their sins. Ez 43:18b-21 indicates the strong demand of The Almighty, “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: These will be the regulations for sacrificing burnt offerings and splashing blood against the altar when it is built: You are to give a young bull as a sin offering to the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who come near to minister before me, declares the Sovereign LORD. You are to take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the upper ledge and all around the rim, and so purify the altar and make atonement for it. You are to take the bull for the sin offering and burn it in the designated part of the temple area outside the sanctuary.” (NKJV) As did Moses, Ezekiel was to sanctify and cleanse the altar. Just as operating rooms must be sterilized of all impurities, the altar had to be consecrated and purified before it was used. Although the prophet sterilized the altar, it was the priest who slaughtered the young bull, and when the altar was ready, he offered the burnt offering on it. Ezekiel gave the young bull to descendants of the Levitical priest Zadok. Zadok had been faithful to King David when Absalom took over his kingdom. For that his descendants found favor with God in the service of His temple. They were the only ones allowed to offer these sacrifices. The ritual in consecrating the altar by blood takes seven days and can be seen in Ex 29:37, Lev 8:11, 15, 19, 33; 1 Kings 8:62-65; and 2 Chron 7:4-10. After all these rites, on the eighth day, the regular offerings will begin. The altar of sacrifice was a special and central place in the religious life of Israel because it was where the divine grace met human sin.

Christ is our altar of sacrifice. Although he had no sin or pollution to be cleansed from, he sanctified himself. “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:19 NKJV) He always leads by example. When we consecrate the altars of our hearts to God, we must see that they be purified and cleansed from the love of the world and lusts of the flesh.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

No comments: