February 21, 2015

“Me first” is a good thing when it comes to purity . . .

Leviticus 9–11
John 7:53–8:11
Song of Solomon 6:6–10

Most days my prayer is in sections. I work for a little while, pray for a little while, offering the burdens and praises in my heart up to God. Some of the requests are repeats. Some are from family or friends who ask for prayer. Occasionally I pray “flash” prayers, such as when an ambulance or fire truck goes by. Tonight, we were at Games Night at our church. While setting up chairs, I prayed, “Lord, we need one more couple here tonight.” In a few minutes, one more couple walked in the door. We laughed in delight at this quick an answer to prayer.

In many ways, prayer is a mystery. Why does God answer some quickly and others seem to bounce off the ceiling? Why did I even think to pray for “one more couple”? Did God put it into my mind so we could rejoice in Him?

One of the important truths about prayer came up in the first reading: before I intercede for others, I need to deal with my own sin. God wants me to have a pure heart — when I pray for others, I must first pray for myself.

So Aaron drew near to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself . . . . Then he presented the people’s offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one. (Leviticus 9:8, 15)

Before Aaron made a sacrifice for the sin of the people, he made a sacrifice for himself. Before I speak to God about the needs of others, particularly their need for redemption and forgiveness, I must confess my own sin, keeping ‘short accounts’ with the God who forgives sin.

After the sacrifices were made, “Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” (Leviticus 9:23–24) Obviously, God was pleased when Aaron followed His direction concerning his role as a priest.

However, his sons were not so wise. Leviticus 10:1-2 tells how “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” (Leviticus 10:1–2)

Interceding for others is a serious business. So is purity. While the fact of Jesus Christ makes a difference in that the sacrifices are no longer necessary, the Lord still demands purity in my heart before I assume anything, including the task of praying for others.

God demands purity in all areas of my, including what I do with my body. Both Old and New Testaments are filled with exhortation for purity. Although the NT reading for today is a scribal addition not in the earliest manuscripts, it has been included in most bibles because it does depict the heart of Jesus. He wanted purity for this woman, but also pure hearts in those who used her to test Him . . .

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:3–11)

Adultery might be the easier sin to spot, to point fingers at, but the Pharisees were forgetting that pointing an accusatory finger at her meant three more fingers were pointing back at themselves. They were not innocent. They had no grounds to accuse her, at least not until they dealt with their own sin first. If a godly person must first make a sacrifice for himself when interceding for someone else before God, how much more should they do the same before trying to accuse someone else before God?

In Solomon’s love poem, the Groom describes His bride. From other passages, it seems that this is how Jesus wants to describe those who belong to Him . . .  

My dove, my perfect one, is the only one, the only one of her mother, pure to her who bore her. The young women saw her and called her blessed; the queens and concubines also, and they praised her. “Who is this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners?” (Song of Solomon 6:9–10)

I’m so thankful that when I confess my sin, He is faithful and just to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness, so I can pray for others.

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