First Sunday in Lent, February 18

Scripture: Exodus 12:1-5

12 While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat. The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.

Hebrews 9:13-15

13 Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. 14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. 15 That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.

I Peter 1:18-20

18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.

Some thoughts:  

     When God instituted the sacrificial system, in his conversation with Moses, he was very specific about every detail. Have you ever wondered why? Elsewhere in the book of Hebrews the writer tells us that the earthly Tabernacle and worship is a copy, a shadow of the more perfect heavenly worship. If our time on earth is but a faint hint of heavenly reality, then every part of what we do and offer carries significance.

     The sacrificial offering of a perfect lamb is of greater importance because the lamb represents more than just the lamb. The animal is a placeholder for individual human beings until the ultimate Sacrifice is made. Abel understood this when heoffered his best lamb from the flock to God in worship; his brother, Cain, who gave “some of his crops” played more loosely with God’s directive to his own demise (Gen 4:3). His casual offering reflected his heart attitude toward God.

     Worshiping a holy, perfect God, it would seem, would require the most perfect offering humans could make, hence the perfect lamb without defect. Even though the flawless lamb was a valued placeholder, the sacrifice had to be repeated again and again because the sacrifice was “coming from a fallen world” in an offering to a holy God in heaven. The perfect sacrifice on behalf of humanity would have to originate from heaven, and at the same time, have a very earthly, human connection. There is but one Perfect Lamb, the Lamb of God. This sacrifice was perfectly efficacious, and because it was so, it need never be repeated. The price for human sin, and the sin of the whole world for all of time, has been paid in full. God has accepted the perfect sacrifice of his Son as evidenced by the torn veil in the Temple and the glorious resurrection. Glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Music: “Rejoice Greatly” from Messiah, Sylvia McNair

Prayer: Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.               —Jude 24 (Jesus’ earthly brother.)