I am part of a twitter online bible study called #la187. We are committed to finishing the Old Testament in 187 days by reading five chapters daily.
Between yesterday the 19th of March and today the 20th we have covered Exodus chapter 23 through to chapter 30. From Genesis through to Exodus chapter 23, it has been for me, one interesting story or the other about the early creation of the world down to the lives of the Patriarchs of the bible, leading to the astonishing miracles that brought them out of Egypt and into the start of Israel’s 40 years wilderness journey to the promised land. To be candid, if you are like me, compared to the previous chapters, I have found the last seven chapters quite tedious and unexciting. Like our modern constitution, God set aside 40 days and 40 nights to give the biblical Moses the comprehensive constitution, if you like, of the nation Israel. It consisted of a longwinded litany of divine prescriptions of worship on one hand and divine descriptions of worship paraphernalia on the other hand; of how certain holy matters and ceremonies are to be handled. Trust me, if you were like me, you would find it painfully boring and would want to rush through the passage as fast as your mind can read.But then it hit me that it was no coincidence that the #la187 group plan is covering the chapters of the Old Testament atonement proceedings right at the period we are celebrating what we call ‘Good Friday’ in Christendom. I have been a Christian all my life but not until I was reading these few cumbersome verses did it finally hit me about the true meaning of Easter and the in-depth meaning of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
For the purpose of this discussion, let me try and sketch, hopefully without boring you out, just a few of the somewhat rigid patterns that God gave Israel about their daily to yearly worship of His divine person.
THE OLD COVENANT (THE OLD TESTAMENT) WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
First they had what you would call a covenant ceremony with strict ordinances on how to sacrifice burnt offerings and sacrifice bulls as fellowship offerings. Then came separate instructions for building the Lord’s tabernacle which consisted of gold, silver, bronze, not just any wood but a certain type of wood called acacia wood, ram skins dyed red, manatee skins (don’t even know what that means), and all kinds of gemstone species. In fact I counted up to twelve different types of gemstones and gave up (you’re talking carnelian, topaz, emerald, turquoise, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx, and jasper) please if you know anymore just send to me at my twitter handle because I am somehow fascinated by gemstones. I haven’t even begun to mention the type of sacred incense(s) that were used with strict adherence to a particular formula for making it and with the threat of expulsion from the land of Israel if anyone else other than the priesthood were to use it for any function other than at the meeting place of the tabernacle of God! Whew! I think the most difficult for me was trying to understand all the measurement plans that went into the building of the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat, where which cherubim would face, and how they would face themselves over and above the mercy seat. There was a measurement and carpentry design for the craftwork of each of the items that would be used for any offering down to the utensils. There was a special specification for the priestly garments like the ephod, the turban, the breastplate, the sashes, the waistband, etc
Don’t forget that for every sacrifice, animal blood would either be sprinkled on the Israeli people or on Aaron the priest and his children. That meant they always smelt of animal blood not just on their clothes but also on their bodies. And we all know that the smell of blood, no matter how holy, wouldn’t be a pleasant experience. Not forgetting that certain animals were deemed holy or unholy to God and certain lambs had to be offered when they were two years old! Are you beginning to understand the almost impossible task of being holy as an Israelite of the Old Testament? Hope I haven’t bored you yet because you’ve still got to hold on till I’m finished with explaining some of the activities of what Israel had to do for their atonement. But what was even more exasperating is that, in spite of all the work and effort, time and sacrifices and psychological preparedness for the activities of atonement, it had to be repeated year in and year out because the blood of sheep, goats, bulls, doves etc were simply not good enough to offer a one off offering of a lifetime. It was a continuous but tedious process year in year out. The fire within the ark could never go out all through the year and everyday a two year old lamb must be offered. You could almost hear me chuckle here because I wondered whether a diary was always in hand to write down the births of all the lambs so as to determine if they were old enough or too old for a sacrifice. And yet each sin you committed had its commensurate sacrifice of atonement that is if you were not stoned to death or God did not strike you down for mistakenly touching the ark.
Now that I have succeeded in giving you merely a brief description of the rigid rules that were the norm during the Old Testament period, are you beginning to understand what Easter means, not just to me alone but practicing Christians all over the world?
Enter the New Testament and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross. God realized that it was necessary to have a plan B in place for the atonement of the sins of humans – there was need for a human sacrifice that could speak better than the blood of sheep and goats and that had to be done just once! The question now was: Who was worthy and holy enough to undertake such an auspicious eternal plan for man’s deliverance. Only one person was and His name is JESUS! He was the only begotten son of God who agreed that in order to put an end to all these ritualistic WORKS of men, something had to be done. Jesus, a divine son, came down from heaven, lived for 33 years and was sacrificed on the cross of calvary at Golgotha.
THE NEW COVENANT (THE NEW TESTAMENT) WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
In Leviticus 17:11 it is said “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”
That single sacrifice that was preceded by betrayal by his own Jewish people and inhuman torture in the hands of the Roman soldiers, was the sacrifice deemed acceptable by God. “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me…this cup is the new covenant in My Blood which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20 – introducing the taking of the Holy Communion). His body was the bread that replaced the physical bread of the altar and his blood was the price that paid all my sinful debts. For without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins so the blood of Jesus was shed that I and You, might be redeemed from the works of the law into the abundant, extravagance grace of our LORD Jesus Christ. What that means is that Jesus offered himself as the permanent offering for our sins and that makes him our high priest that stands before God (like Aaron of the old Testament) to make propitiation by His Blood for our sins. (Romans 3:25) Jesus broke down the middle wall separating us from the Holy father above having abolished the law of commandments contained in ordinances, thus creating peace and reconciling us with God. Christ has effectively redeemed us from the curse of the law!
Easter reminds me of the price Jesus paid on the cross in order for me to have access to the father – me who was once referred to as ‘a gentile’ now have a new identity in Christ. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) I am so proud of my identity as a Christ-like follower of God (a Christian) and I am thankful for the opportunities that being part of the new covenant gives me. Of course I do sin from time to time, as long as I am still in this body but I don’t have to go looking for a two year old lamb and then go through a long procedure to make atonement for my sins. No! Now, since I have direct access to the Holy Father – God Almighty – through Jesus, I speak directly to God wherever I am from my heart and He forgives me instantly. Just like that – I am forgiven. No wahala, meaning, ‘no big and longwinded protocol;’ just the Blood, the Word and the name of Jesus – it is a three-in-one package – an indescribable gift! Halleluyah!
Chalya Princess Miri-Gazhi
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