A Place of Refuge

Then Moses set apart three cities in the east beyond the Jordan, that the manslayer might flee there, anyone who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without being at enmity with him in time past; he may flee to one of these cities and save his life: Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland for the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.

This is the law that Moses set before the people of Israel. These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the rules, which Moses spoke to the people of Israel when they came out of Egypt, beyond the Jordan in the valley opposite Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon, whom Moses and the people of Israel defeated when they came out of Egypt. And they took possession of his land and the land of Og, the king of Bashan, the two kings of the Amorites, who lived to the east beyond the Jordan; from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, as far as Mount Sirion (that is, Hermon), together with all the Arabah on the east side of the Jordan as far as the Sea of the Arabah, under the slopes of Pisgah. – Deuteronomy 4:41-49 ESV

Moses wrapped up his history lesson regarding God’s faithfulness and Israel’s unfaithfulness with a final word of challenge:

“Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” – Deuteronomy 4:40 ESV

While Moses would not be leading the  people into the land of Canaan, he still desired that they fulfill the will of God and enjoy all the blessings God had in store for them as part of the promise He made to Abraham.

The conquering of the region east of the Jordan River, sometimes referred to as the Transjordan, was complete. The two tribes of Gad and Reuben, along with half the tribe of Mannasah, were already beginning to make themselves at home in the towns and villages they had taken as plunder from the Amorites. Moses had allowed these three tribes to settle east of the Jordan because they had vowed to fight alongside the rest of the tribes until the land of Canaan was conquered and fully settled.

Almost as if he was trying to remind the three tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Mannasah of their unbroken relationship with Israel, Moses designates three cities of refuge within their territory. The creation of these cities was an essential part of God’s plan for the Israelites. We know from the book of Numbers, that God had a specific purpose for these cities. They would be part locatedon either side of the Jordan, and would be occupied by the tribe of Levi. God had set apart the Levites and given them the responsibility to care for and transport the tabernacle. They would be allotted no land in Canaan, but were to receive 48 cities, located within the boundaries of the other tribes. Six of these were to be cities of refuge.

“Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge, where a person who has accidentally killed someone can flee for safety. In addition, give them forty-two other towns. In all, forty-eight towns with the surrounding pastureland will be given to the Levites. These towns will come from the property of the people of Israel. The larger tribes will give more towns to the Levites, while the smaller tribes will give fewer. Each tribe will give property in proportion to the size of its land.” – Numbers 35:6-8 NLT

God knows His creation well. He was fully aware of what was going to happen when the people of Israel settled in the land. While He had set them apart as His own, He knew they were incapable of living holy lives. Which is why He had given them the sacrificial system. It was a gracious and undeserved gift from God that provided a means for having their inevitable sins forgiven and their relationship with Him restored. They were going to sin. The Law, given by God, provided a non-negotiable code of conduct meant to express His expectations and expose any violators of those expectations as guilty.

One of the ten commandments God had given to the people of Israel was a prohibition against murder. This was a clear reference to premeditated murder, the taking of someone else’s life out of anger or revenge. But what about those cases in which a life was taken accidentally? God had a plan for that, and it involved the cities of refuge.

“Anyone who assaults and kills another person must be put to death. But if it was simply an accident permitted by God, I will appoint a place of refuge where the slayer can run for safety.” – Exodus 21:12-13 NLT

But if anyone committed premeditated murder, the penalty was to be death.

However, if someone deliberately kills another person, then the slayer must be dragged even from my altar and be put to death.” – Exodus 21:14 NLT

So, God provided a plan for protecting the innocent and to prevent the unnecessary taking of life. He knew that the natural response of someone whose loved one had been murdered, either willingly or accidentally, would be to seek revenge. But, in order to prevent the avenger from killing an innocent individual, God provided these six cities as places as places where the murderer could seek asylum.

“…designate cities of refuge to which people can flee if they have killed someone accidentally. These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community. Designate six cities of refuge for yourselves, three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan. These cities are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety.” – Numbers 35:11-15 NLT

God was in no way minimizing the taking a human life. Even in the cases of accidental, un-premeditated murder, there was still a consequence associated with the act. The guilty party was to remain in the city of refuse for the rest of their life, or until the death of the high priest, in which case they were to be released as a free man. As long as they remained within the walls of the city, they were protected from the avenger. But if they ever ventured outside, their assylum was waived and they became fair game for anyone seeking vengeance.

God knew that sin would be inevitable and unavoidable for the people of Israel. And the Law was designed to expose all that God considered to be a sin. Any violation of His Law was sin. Any failure to live up to His holy standards was sin. And every one of the people of Israel would be guilty of sin. But they could find refuge in God. The individual who accidentally took the life of another had a place where he could find rescue and relief for his crime. The man or woman who sinned against God could find forgivness and cleansing through the sacrificial system.

God was never surprised by the sinfulness of mankind. In fact, He had planned for mankind’s redemption long before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the garden. He had formulated His plan for providing refuge from the guilt of sin even before He created the universe into which sin came. Paul points this out in his letter to the Ephesians.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. – Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT

And the apostle Peter tells us that God had planned for Jesus, His Son, to become our refuge long before the world was ever made. Before sin ever entered the scene, God had prepared for His Son to become a city of refuge for sinful mankind.

God chose him as your ransom long before the world began… – 1 Peter1:20 NLT

The Israelites had not yet entered the land of promise. The three tribes had not fully taken possession of the land east of the Jordan. But God was making preparations for the sins of His people by providing cities of refuge.

God was not light on sin. The sacrificial system revealed just how seriously He took any transgressions of His Law. Death was required. Blood had to be spilled. The innocent had to die in the place of the guilty. As the author of Hebrews states, “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 NLT). And just prior to that statement, we read, “according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood” (Hebrews 9:22 NLT).

So, as Moses prepares to review God’s Law to the people of Israel, it will serve as a sobering reminder that their inevitable breaking of the Law was going to require the shedding of blood. Their transgressions would demand an atoning sacrifice. Holiness was going to be difficult, but it was also going to be costly. Failure to obey God’s Law was going to come with a stiff penalty: Death. And escape from that penalty was going to require that someone satisfy the just demands of a holy God. But God provided a means for the guilty to find refuge. They could find help and hope in the mercy of God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

 

Advertisements

Woe, Woe, Woe.

The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.

12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.

13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” Revelation 8:8-13 ESV

It is impossible for us to know exactly how the events in these chapter will unfold. We were not there to see what John saw. His descriptions of the events transpiring before his eyes are fantastic and otherworldly. They are difficult for our senses to comprehend and, as each successive trumpet is blown, the accompanying judgment will be increasingly more intense and devastating. With the sounding of the second trumpet, John sees that “something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea” (Revelation 8:8 ESV). Notice his use of the word, “something.” John is doing the best he can to use well-known, recognizable imagery in an attempt to describe the indescribable and never-before-seen. We cannot be certain of what John saw, but there is no doubt that what transpired before his eyes was shocking and disturbing. When dealing with these judgments of God, the easy route to take is to write them off as nothing more than symbolism. Thus, the mountain becomes nothing more than a physical or natural representation of something more significant. Many have speculated that the mountain symbolizes a government or kingdom. But, other than the unbelievable nature of John’s description, there seems to be no reason for us to allegorize what John is seeing. It is obviously not a mountain but, as John said, something like a mountain. Whatever it was, it came down from heaven, indicating the divine nature of its origin. God had sent it. And this blazing mountain-like object plunged into the sea, turning all the water to blood. Once again, our natural inclination is to write off the literal nature of this description, and simply relegate it to allegory or symbolism. And while there is much symbolism in the book of Revelation, the context in this chapter does not seem to justify taking these fantastic sights as anything less than literal.

God brings judgment on the oceans of the world, turning a third of them to blood, and resulting in the deaths of a third of the creatures living in them. Once again, this is reminiscent of the plagues brought by God upon the land of Egypt. Through Moses His servant, God turned the waters of the Nile into blood. This devastating miracle lasted for a full seven days, turning the Nile, the source of all life for the Egyptians, into a stinking, river of death. So, it should not surprise us that God brings a similar, equally impactful judgment on the nations of the world during the last days. This phenomena will also result in the destruction of a third of the world’s ocean-going vessels. One can only imagine the impact this will have on global commerce. And it doesn’t require much imagination to understand that the death of a third of the sea creatures and the destruction of a third of the ships that sail the seas, is going to have dire consequences on the quality of human life. One of the major food sources for mankind will become a third-less reliable, and the means for transporting goods around the world will be  dramatically reduced.

With the blowing of the third trumpet, John mentions that “a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch” (Revelation 8:10 ESV). As before, John struggles to describe what he is seeing and he finds himself relegated to using human words to help us understand the supernatural events taking place. He describes seeing a star falling from heaven. Was it a comet, a literal star, or simply a symbol for something natural and explainable? It seems best to take John at his word and view this as some kind of literal extraterrestrial object that falls from the sky, another indication that this judgment is from the very throne room of God. It turns a third of the waters of the world bitter, causing great sickness to the earth’s population, and leaving many dead as a result.

With the fourth trumpet, God brings judgment on the world by reducing the intensity of the light produced by the sun, moon and stars by one-third. In other words, the world and all those who live on it, will experience a reduction in light, but also global temperatures. The subsequent results will be dramatic and devastating. And there will be no one who does not witness this particular judgment. All will see the sun, moon and stars decrease in intensity, clearly indicating that this judgment is from the hand of God. The very things mankind takes for granted: Food from the sea, the ability to transport goods across the oceans, fresh water and light, will feel the hand of God upon them. In the end times, these gifts, given to mankind by God, will become unreliable and even harmful. Creation will turn on man. The things we take for granted will be taken from us by God, all in an attempt to remind fallen mankind that God alone is sovereign and worthy to be worshiped.

And as is all this was not enough, John describes seeing an eagle flying through the sky and crying out, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” (Revelation 8:13 ESV). In other words, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And the truth is, it’s not going to get better at all. There are three more trumpets to be sounded and three more judgments to fall on the world. And the cumulative effect of these judgments will be devastating. Jesus Himself predicted that the judgment of God will be so great that, if He does bring them to an end, the entire world will be destroyed.

And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. – Matthew 24:22 ESV

The prophet, Joel, provides us with a vivid description of these days.

1 Blow a trumpet in Zion;
    sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
    for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
    a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
    a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
    nor will be again after them
    through the years of all generations. – Joel 2:1-2 ESV

The day is coming when the sinfulness of mankind will be dealt with once and for all. God will bring His judgment on the world. He will no longer put up with man’s open rebellion against His leadership. He will no longer tolerate their rejection of His Son and their refusal to accept His gracious gift of salvation. And the visions of John provide us with a powerful and sobering reminder that our God is in control and will one day right all wrongs. The words of John are difficult to read. The images of death and destruction he describes are hard for us to fathom. They even seem to contradict our understanding of the loving nature of our God. But we must never forget that our God is holy, righteous, and just. He has patiently put up with man’s stubborn rebellion against His authority for centuries. But the day is coming when He will put up with it no longer. Justice will reign. Righteousness will be meted out by the hand of our holy God. He will restore the world He created to its original perfection. He will punish the wicked and reward the righteous. He will end the dominion of death and Satan once for all.

 

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

The God of the Impossible.

1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.

The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.Revelation 8:1-7 ESV

SSc_4.jpgbe9d4c41-5f5a-4b83-95fc-c032346dee0cLargeAs we stated earlier, chapter seven appears to act as a parenthesis between the opening of the sixth and seventh seal. John was introduced to the 144,000 Jews on earth and the countless number of martyred saints in heaven, the victims of persecution and death at the hands of the Antichrist. Now, John’s attention, and ours, is returned to the seals. There is yet one final seal to be opened by the Lamb, and this one will be unique. While it will bring yet more judgments upon the earth, they will come with an intensity as yet unseen. And they will come in the form of seven bowls of judgment that will be poured out in rapid succession on the earth and its inhabitants.

As Jesus opens the seventh seal, John notes that there is silence in the throne room for a 30-minute period. While this may not sound like a very long time, it is essential that we remember all the references to sounds and singing that John has recorded up to this point. His vision of heaven has been replete with sounds of all kinds. He had heard God Himself speaking.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8 ESV

John had also heard a loud voice that sounded like a trumpet, saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11 ESV). John had also had the distinct privilege and responsibility of writing down the words of Jesus, spoken to the seven churches. 

Chapter four introduced even more sounds to John’s ears as he heard “rumblings and peals of thunder” (Revelation 4:5 ESV), and the voices of the four creatures around the throne of God as they shouted, ““Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8 ESV). John made note that these creatures, whoever they are, never cease shouting their praise, day or night. It is non-ending and never-ceasing. And it is accompanied by the 24 elders who throw their crowns before the throne of God, shouting:

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.” – Revelation 4:11 ESV

In chapter five, John recorded hearing the four creatures and the 24 elders singing a “new song.” And they were joined with “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” of angels and “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea” as they sang praises to God and the Lamb who was slain.

So what’s the point? It’s that the 30-minutes of complete silence would have been deafening to John’s ears. It would have been like a football stadium filled with excited fans before the start of a game, who are asked to pause for 15 seconds of silence. The difference in the noise level would be shocking to the senses. And that is how this must have impacted John. The opening of the seventh seal was going to be a game-changer and everyone in the throne room of heaven seemed to recognize that this was the beginning of the end. It is the proverbial silence before the storm. The prophet Zephaniah spoke of this coming day.

Be silent before the Lord God!
    For the day of the Lord is near;
the Lord has prepared a sacrifice
    and consecrated his guests.
And on the day of the Lord‘s sacrifice—
“I will punish the officials and the king’s sons
    and all who array themselves in foreign attire. – Zephaniah 18:7-8 ESV

After the 30 minutes of silence, seven angels are given seven trumpets, and an eighth angel was given “a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne” (Revelation 8:3 ESV). We are not told who these angels are, but they obviously have authority given to them by God. They are created beings God has designated to play significant roles in His sovereign plan for the judgment of the world. The eighth angel appears to fulfill the role of a priest, offering holy incense before the altar of God. He holds a censer full of burning coals, to which he adds incense and the prayers of the saints. This would appear to be a reference to the prayers of all those on earth who had come to faith in Christ, but who were suffering at the hands of the Antichrist. They are praying for God’s protection and deliverance, much like the saints underneath the alter in chapter six had done.

“O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” – Revelation 6:10 ESV

The persecuted saints back on earth are crying out for justice to be done. They are out to God to redeem and rescue them. And the smoke and aroma from these prayers mixed with incense, rose up before God. Then the angel took the coals from the altar, placed them in his golden censer and cast them down to earth. These coals symbolize the judgment of God and that judgment has a reason behind it: The persecution of the saints. Their prayers and pleas, mixed with tears, are mingled with the fiery coals, and cast down on the earth and its inhabitants. And John records that ,immediately, “there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:5 ESV). What a contrast to the 30 minutes of silence that opened up this chapter. The storm was coming. The judgment of God was falling in all its holy intensity.

Once again, John records a moment of tension-filled anticipation as the seven angels, holding the seven trumpets, prepare to blow them. All throughout the Scriptures, trumpets are used as instruments to proclaim coming judgment or as a call to worship. They were blown to assemble troops for battle. They were loud and distinct, impossible to ignore, and unmistakable in their purpose. This scene in Revelation is very similar to that found in the book of Exodus when God appeared before the people of Israel from Mount Sinai.

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. – Exodus 19:16 ESV

John, as a Jew, was very familiar with the trumpet call and he would have anticipated that something highly significant was about to happen. And, one at a time, the angels begin to blow their trumpets, each representing a distinct aspect of God’s judgment on the earth. John records that as soon as the angel blew his trumpet, “hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth” (Revelation 8:7 ESV). With the opening of the seventh seal, a whole new wave of judgments began. The intensity of God’s wrath was increasing exponentially. We know from Ezekiel 5:2 and Zechariah 13:8-9, that this event is going to have devastating consequences. John reports that “a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up” (Revelation 8:7 ESV). While this appears to be a judgment on the planet itself, the effects of this kind of destruction of nature will have dire consequences on those living at that time. It will devastate agricultural production and completely destroy forests on the earth. The fires that result from this judgment will most likely spread, taking human life with them.

As we will see with the unfolding of the rest of the trumpet judgments, there are going to be a great many similarities between these plagues and those that fell on the nation of Egypt, as recorded in the Old Testament. God is going to bring hail, turn water into blood, darken the sun and moon, unleash pestilence and cause the death of many. It will be far greater than anything the world has ever seen or endured. And the supernatural description of these events let us know that they are from God. While we can spend time trying to apply natural explanations to these events, it seems clear that they are intended to display the sovereign power of God. He has authority over nature and is able to do signs and wonders that defy explanation and stretch the limits of human reason. We are not intended to understand all that John describes. We will never be able to fully explain how these seemingly impossible judgments happen. But for a God who created the entire universe in a literal six-day span of time, none of this will too difficult for Him to do. We need to recall the words of Jesus, spoken about His heavenly Father:

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26 ESV

And it’s at moments like this, when faced with what appears to be the impossible, that we need to recall the comforting words spoken by God to Abraham, concerning His ability to keep His promise to give Abraham a son in his old age:

“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” – Genesis 18:14 ESV

 

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Numbers 29-30, John 6

The Bread of Life.

Numbers 29-30, John 6

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” – John 6:35 ESV

Beginning in Numbers 28 and continuing through chapter 29, we are given a synopsis of the various public sacrifices that the people of Israel were required to make. There was a daily sacrifice of two lambs, as well as a sacrifice of two additional lambs each Sabbath day. One the first day of each month they were to sacrifice two bulls, one ram, seven lambs and one goat. Then, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a seven-day long festival, they were to sacrifice two bulls, one ram, seven lambs and one goat each day. During Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, they were to offer the same number of sacrifices. On the first day of the seventh month, they were to offer one bull, one ram, seven lambs and one goat. On the Day of Atonement, they were to offer the same thing. Then during the Feast of Booths, for eight straight days they were to offer their largest number of sacrifices:

Day 1– 13 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 2 – 12 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 3 – 11 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 4 – 10 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 5 – 9 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 6 – 8 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 7 – 7 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 8 – 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs, 1 goat

And each and everyone of the sacrifices were to make “to the Lord.” They were to be a pleasing aroma to the Lord. They were to be offered to God as an atonement for their sins and in order to maintain a right relationship with Him in the days to come. There were many sacrifices because the sins of the people were many. There was never an end to the need for the making of sacrifices and the atoning for sins. It was to be a perpetual requirement on the people. UNTIL God instituted a better plan. There was a day coming when God would send His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He would provide a permanent solution to man’s sin problem.

What does this passage reveal about God?

In John 6, we read the words of Jesus stating, “It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33 ESV). It is interesting to note that in the sacrificial system established by God for the people of Israel under the leadership of Moses, the sacrificial animals had to be provided by the people. They had to provide unblemished animals and offer them to God on their own behalf. But in the scenario that Jesus paints, He describes Himself as a sacrifice given by God for the people. Jesus uses some very strange language that confused His disciples. He spoke of Himself as the bread of life and said, “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:50-51 ESV).

The language Jesus used was shocking to His hearers. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52 ESV). And rather than clarify His message, Jesus responds with more of the same: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:53-54 ESV). Of course, Jesus was not speaking of the literal consumption of His flesh and blood. He was referring to trust and belief in the coming sacrifice of His life on the cross for the sins of mankind. Just as we take in food, trusting that it will sustain us and supply us with life, so Jesus says that men will be required to “take in” His death on the cross, believing that it alone can provide them with forgiveness of their sins and eternal life. But it is interesting that this particular sacrifice was provided by God for us. God was going to do what only He could do. In the book of Hebrews we read, “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Until God sent His Son as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, the people of God were caught in a cycle of sin and sacrifice, sin and sacrifice. Their best efforts at remaining in a right relationship with God were temporary and incomplete. They had to bring their best animals and sacrifice them to God in order to stay off their own execution for their sins. But in the New Testament we read of God sacrificing His best in order to atone for the sins of mankind. Paul tells us, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). God provided the singular and all-sufficient sacrifice of His Son – for us. In essence, the sacrifice of Jesus should be a “pleasing aroma” to us. This sacrifice was made for our benefit and for our consumption. And not only do we receive forgiveness from sin, we gain life – eternal life! Jesus told His listeners, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40 ESV). Jesus was offering a permanent solution to the problem of sin, through His shed blood and crucified body. And yet, the people of His day were more concerned with literal bread and their own sad, temporary lives. They had come to Jesus seeking more food because He had miraculously fed them the evening before. He had filled their stomachs with bread and fish, and they craved more. When Jesus spoke of bread from heaven that gives life to the world, they responded, “Sire, give us this bread always” (John 6:34 ESV). But they wanted real bread, not the metaphorical or spiritual kind. They were stuck on a temporal, earthly plane, and failed to see that God was providing for them an offering that would do for them what they could never do for themselves.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It amazes me to think that God made a sacrifice on my behalf. He sent His Son to die for me. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the people had to provide their own sacrifice, and it could only forestall or delay the inevitable reality of death. It could prolong life on this planet, but not provide life in eternity. Their sacrifices were temporal and eventually, ineffective at sustaining life. But God’s offering of His Son’s body and blood provides life eternal. Jesus said, “Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:58 ESV). All I have to do is receive God’s offering and believe that it is sufficient to pay for my sins and provide life more abundantly, both now and for eternity. Just as I eat bread and rely on it to sustain me, I must consume the sacrifice of God’s Son and allow Him to provide me with life everlasting. God has made a sacrifice on my behalf. He has sent His Son to die in my place. No more lambs, goats, bulls or rams. Jesus offered Himself to God as a pleasing aroma, an acceptable sacrifice. And God offered His Son for me as a permanent solution to my ongoing sin problem. I live because He died. The sacrifice of Jesus by God was done for me, but not because of me. I didn’t deserve it. I had not earned that kind of gift. It was while I was in the depth of my own sin and hopelessness that God sent His Son as an offering on my behalf. The Son of God became the Bread of Life so that I might have eternal life. “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10 ESV).

Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son. Thank You for the offering of the Bread of Life so that I might have eternal life. You gave what was of most value to You in order that I might be restored to a right relationship with You. May I never take Your offering for granted. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org