Saturday, February 19, 2011

Incense Rising

This morning's Bible reading took me on a rabbit trail--in spite of numerous interruptions. 
I sat down to read the book of Leviticus and finished chapter 1.  Made pancakes and sausage.  Came back to my computer and Bible, picked out a repeated phrase. Thought about it while stuffing and sealing envelopes with our 9-year-old daughter, Laura, for Good News Club. Checked email and was reminded of dear friends on the mission field whose lives have turned upside down due to physical illness.  The choices they are facing breathe depth into this chapter of Leviticus.

‘When any of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock…. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD….And the priest shall offer all of it, and offer it up in smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD….And the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the wood which is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.'

No, it's not a typo and no, I didn't hit the "copy" "paste" buttons too many times, that phrase is repeated that many times in the first chapter.  It peaked my curiosity.
Here were my simple thoughts (there is room to disagree, I'm still thinking about this): 
1)  Each person brought an offering and it was freely given
2) The priest was the one who prepared and presented the offering
3) The smoke demonstrated a transformation of the offering from man's purposes to God's purposes
4) The part that pleased God was not the final product, but the process (the aroma, not the ashes).

So, following proper biblical interpretation, these are other passages that paralleled my observations:
1) In Romans 12, Paul urges believers to offer themselves as an offering based on the mercy of God.  Many of us have done that and would agree that this is part of the Christian life that begins sanctification (being supernaturally changed into the image of Jesus Christ).
2) Jesus Christ is the one who prepared the way for a right relationship with God.  He is the One who presents us to the Father (John 14:6, Hebrews 7:23-27).  And He is the ultimate sacrifice upon which our comparably small gift is made (Colossians 1:18-20).
Jesus' sacrifice and love for us was a pleasing aroma to God.  He is our mediator and example (Ephesians 5:1-2).
3) The prayers of the saints rise like incense before the Father and He takes great pleasure in them (Revelation 5:8).
4) So it is my prayers, my dependence on the Father to complete His work in and through me, that rise like smoke from the sacrifice of my life which is being transformed from its worldly worth to God's eternal purposes.  It is not the final product that is my concern, but the constant turning over of my desires and circumstances to His working that brings Him glory.

And that, dear friends, is the rabbit trail I have been following in my thoughts today.  It is not my efforts, my self-denial, or my ministry that blesses the heart of the Father.  It is my frailty, my weakness, my dependence, my trust that wafts before His heavenly throne and brings Him pleasure.  He has it all.  He is in it all.  He is over all.  And my simple acknowledgement and submission, though humanly impossible, reflects His glory.  What a wondrous privilege!

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