- The ecclesia of Israel failed miserably in this. They did
spiritual works externally, but within they lacked that deeper spirituality
which is so vital for acceptable sacrifice. They honoured with their
lips, but their heart was far from God; they kept His commandments,
but they frustrated their intention by not letting them influence
their essential selves (Mk. 7:6-9). They fiercely guarded the pronunciation
of His Covenant Name; but in reality, they forgot that Name (Jer.
23:27). And so with the temple; they so loved it, it was the apple
of their eye; but in real principle, they desecrated all that it
stood for. The Gentile destruction and desecration of it was only
a material reflection of what they in principle had done; and the
invasions were doubtless intended to teach Israel this. Stephen
pointed out, by the inflection which he gave to his OT quotations,
that Israel's service of God was meaningless because at the same
time they worshipped their idols: " O ye house of Israel, have
ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of
forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of
Moloch" as well as Yahweh's (Acts 7:43). This was a rhetorical
question. They offered the sacrifices, but actually they didn't.
And what is the difference between " slain beasts" and
" sacrifices" ? Aren't sacrifices only slain beasts? The
point is that the animals they gave were only slain beasts; nothing
more, not real offerings, not real, acceptable sacrifice. "
They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat
it; but the Lord accepteth it not" (Hos. 8:13). And likewise
we can dress up our devotions with the appearance of real sacrifice
when there is nothing there at all. Like Peter, we can seem to desire
to enter deep into the meaning of the cross (Jn. 13:36 'where are
you going?'), when actually we do nothing of the sort (Jn. 16:5
'none of you ask me where I'm going'). We can ‘sacrifice’ only in
ways which happen to reinforce our own personality type. The Jews
in Babylon were like this: “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth
and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast
unto me…? And when ye did eat and when ye did drink [in sacrifice]
did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?” (Zech.
7:5,6). I cannot help but make the point that there has been such
a huge emphasis on 'coming to the meetings' and 'attending the breaking
of bread' in themselves, that the new Israel are in danger
of going where the old Israel went: to an external observance of
ritual, a concentration on the surface level rather than on the
essence. There are many who find it hard to mix with their brethren,
and yet intensely believe and express their spirituality in more
private ways. Their attendance at public functions may be minimal.
But let's not write these off as spiritually inferior to those who,
perhaps for social reasons, if the truth was known, revel in the
social ambience of a Christian gathering.
- And let us all be especially careful of our attitude
to the memorial meeting. The Corinthians went through the motions
of the breaking of bread; but they were told that in spiritual reality,
they weren't doing it at all: " When ye come together therefore
into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper"
(1 Cor. 11:20)- although externally, that was what they were doing.
They drunk the cup of the Lord and also that of idols (10;21)- but
in reality, they didn’t drink the Lord’s exclusive cup of grace.
Israel kept their Passovers throughout the wilderness years, one
would assume- but they never remembered the day that God brought
them out of Egypt (Ps. 78:42)- although notice how although Israel
didn't remember God, yet He remembered them in His grace (Ps. 106:7,
45). We can read of the cross, speak of it; and yet totally fail
to realize the powerful imperatives which abound in its’ message.
Andrew and John heard John the Baptist call Jesus the “lamb of God”,
and followed Him, in apparent acceptance that He was the Messianic
sacrifice. And yet in reality, they could not at that time accept
the saying that Jesus was to die at Jerusalem in sacrifice, and
that they were to shoulder His cross and follow Him there.
- Paul exhorted the Corinthians to give money to the Jerusalem
Poor Fund, “as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness” (2
Cor. 9:5). We can give money generously, apparently, but do so from
a motive of covetousness- the very opposite of true generosity
and acceptable sacrifice. We can covet respect, admiration from
our brethren...and not give as a pure and private reflection of
the endless grace we have received.
- In a Levitical family, any male child was dedicated to the Lord
from birth. But Hannah vowed that if God would “give unto thine
handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord” (1 Sam.
1:11). She was saying: ‘I’ll really do it, I won’t just
offer my children to You on a surface level’.
- The sensation of working for the Lord can be so self-deceptive.
He draws the difference between doing many wonderful works in His
name, saying “Lord, Lord”; and really doing the will of
the Father (Mt. 7:21,22). The parallel Lk. 6:46 has that men will
say “Lord, Lord” but not really hear His words. To hear them is
to do the will of the Father. Putting all this together, it is perfectly
possible to bear His Name, call Him Lord, work hard for Him- and
yet never really hear His words, and thereby never really know the
will of our Father.
- One can appear to be zealous for their Lord, risking life even. And
yet this may not necessarily be truly motivated, self-sacrificial zeal.
At times one can’t tell their courage from their desperation, their
faith from their deep inner fears which motivate bold and unusual actions.
- Israel were not to grow some crops, or raise some animals, just for
God, and others for themselves. They were not to make this difference.
They were to give Him e.g. lambs "out of their flock"; and
"let the fullness of the fruit be consecrated" (Dt. 22:9 RVmg.),
the idea being that they were to consecrate their personal fruit to
God, not enforcing a difference between that which is for God and that
which is for ourselves. In other words, they were not to make a difference
between spiritual and personal life; it is us, our daily lives and situations,
which God wishes to be part of.