Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lenten Bible Study: Sacrificial Smoke

As promised, a taste of the Bible study I'm working on. To get the most out of it, read what God has to say before you take a look at what I have to say. Use the questions to help yourself to focus on some of the themes in the readings. Then take a look at my comments.

I aim to make these as accessible as possible, so your comments will help me to refine these studies. Enjoy!


Ps 38, 65, 150; Romans 12:9-21; Deuteronomy 31:9-13

Discussion & Study

  1. How do Paul’s specific injunctions in the last half of chapter 12 fit with the command in 12: 1 & 2?
  2. Why do you think it would be important for the Law to be read aloud to Israel regularly? (Deut. 31:9-13)
  3. David’s dedication of Ps 38 specifies that it is to be sung during the Memorial Offering (Lev. 2). What imagery does he use in the Psalm that helps the worshipper identify with the offering?


The grain has been crushed beyond recognition. It’s powder. The altar shimmers with the heat of its internal fire. The priest thrusts his hand into the sack and, flour and salt in one hand, frankincense in the other, flings them all on the snapping altar. The flour goes up in a flash of glory. The frankincense glows and sizzles into perfumed curls of smoke that swirl up and up. “Remember!” whispers the priest.

Like the rainbow (Gen. 9:12 – 17), the grain offering is a memorial to God’s mercy. God in His mercy, does not allow the crushing and the fire we encounter in life to destroy us. Instead, we become glorious; we ascend to commune with Him in prayer and, ultimately, in person.

David describes himself as crushed by his sin and his enemies. He dreads the gleeful fire of his enemies’ gloating. He acknowledges that the only way he will escape is through God’s mercy. Like flour thrown above the altar, he will never languish in those flames. God will make haste to save him, to snatch him up gloriously into His company.

Paul gives us a sort of slow-motion view of the sacrifice. What does it look like to become a “living sacrifice”? Bless your persecutors. Love your enemies. Live in harmony. Pray. Hope. Rejoice. All of these are painful in a fallen world. But, contrary to our expectations, they will not destroy us; instead, by God’s mercy they will make us glorious. We will ascend into mysterious fellowship with Him even while we walk this earth. This is not intuitively obvious to the fallen mind.

As Moses prepared to die, he wanted God’s people to have the keys to the mysteries of God’s working. So he instructed that the Law, including the detailed descriptions of the sacrifices and their purposes be read aloud to the congregated people on a regular basis, so that they could remember.

These images will comfort and sustain us, too, when we feel the crushing of life, smell the smoke of destruction and sense the scorn of encircling enemies. Because of these God-given clues, we can face these fears with dignity, even with triumph, for as we pass through the fire, we will rise to His embrace, singing with David, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails