The Apple Of God's Eye

September 28, 2009

The Day of Atonement and Your Future

Scene one: A young woman walks through a semitropical garden filled with beautiful trees loaded with luscious fruit. Everything looks so good — so right.  But is it?

Suddenly she is confronted by a talking serpent who asks about God’s commands. Subtly, the serpent reasons with her until she decides to eat the fruit forbidden her by her Creator. Her husband then follows her example of disobedience.

From that time forward, mankind continues to be subject to Satan’s influence. Consequently, all humans sin and fall short of God’s glory.

Scene two: A young man, once strong and virile, is nailed to a stake. Blood oozes from deep, gaping lacerations in His body, wounds inflicted by a savage beating. Tormentors surround Him, arrogantly jeering, “He can save others, but not Himself!”

But the man’s mind is not on revenge; it is on the ultimate purpose of His suffering, which is to provide the sacrifice necessary for mankind’s salvation.

Finally, after many hours of suffering, death comes suddenly. Three days later He is resurrected. He rejoins His Father, where He serves as High Priest and soon-coming King for all humanity.

Scene three: The earth has been devastated. Plant and aquatic life are almost nonexistent. The human population has been reduced to a small fraction of its former size by the terrifying events of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

Everywhere there is destruction, but there is also hope. Jesus Christ has intervened in world affairs. One obstacle remains — the presence of Satan the devil, mankind’s enemy for 6,000 years.

To eliminate this threat to global peace, an angel is sent to bind Satan. Satan is taken to a place of restraint where he is prohibited from influencing mankind for a thousand years.

Is there a relationship between these scenes? The answer is yes. There is a profound relationship that can be understood by studying the meaning of one of God’s annual festivals — the Day of Atonement.

This Day is commanded

Most professing Christians don’t even know that this Festival of God exists. Many who have heard of it think that it is no longer to be kept. But what does God say?

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God…. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings’ ” (Lev. 23:26-28, 31).

This year the Day of Atonement falls on September 28. Some will reason that this command ceased to be in force after Christ’s crucifixion. Such reasoning is false! Jesus Christ did not come to nail God’s annual Holy Days to the cross (Matt. 5:17-18) .

The fact is that God’s festivals have only begun to be fulfilled. These days picture aspects of God’s plan of salvation (Col. 2:16-17), and must be observed by true Christians.

But what about the ritualistic laws that the Old Testament commanded with festival observance? Are they to be kept, or have they been fulfilled?

The purpose of the physical rituals God gave to ancient Israel was to remind the people of the need for the payment of their sins. The various sacrifices pointed ahead to the sacrifice of One who would come later in history as Savior of all mankind.

So the ritualistic laws were fulfilled by the events leading to and including Christ’s own sacrificial death. Therefore they need not be kept today, nor can they be, as there is no Aaronic priesthood to perform these physical duties (Heb. 9:8-10, 10:1-4, 9-12).

The ritualistic laws are no longer performed, but their various aspects still have symbolic meaning. For each festival, we seek to understand all the festival’s meanings, as revealed in the Bible, and as they relate to salvation.

The Tabernacle and the priesthood

Before we proceed with a study of these rituals and symbols, it is necessary for us to understand some things about the Tabernacle and the priesthood.

After making the covenant agreement with Israel, God told the nation to build a Tabernacle, which is a physical type of God’s habitation in heaven (Ex. 25-27, 30, Heb. 9:23-24). The Tabernacle consisted of an enclosed courtyard, containing an altar for animal sacrifices and a tent.

The tent was divided into two sections by a veil. The section behind the veil was called the “Most Holy” place or “Holiest of All.” The other section was the “holy place” (Ex. 26:33, Heb. 9:3). The most holy place represented God’s throne. Located here was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments and other items (Deut. 10:2, 31:26, Ex. 16:33-34, Num. 17:1-10). The lid of the Ark was called the mercy seat; this was where God manifested Himself (Ex. 25:22).

The job of high priest was given to Aaron; his sons served as priests. As time passed, other of his descendants held these positions. As priests, they performed various animal sacrifices and ceremonies on behalf of Israel.

Rituals for Aaron

On the Day of Atonement, special animal sacrifices and ceremonies were conducted. These are explained in Leviticus 16.

This was the only day when Aaron was allowed to enter the most holy place. Before doing this, he had to bathe and dress himself in his priestly garments (Lev. 16:4). Then he had to offer on the altar a bullock as a sin offering for himself.

Once this was completed, he took a censer, a vessel that held burning coals, from the altar and entered the most holy place. He then took incense, an aromatic compound, and placed it on the burning coals. Next he sprinkled blood from the bullock on the mercy seat, which represented God’s throne (verses 11-14).

Why did Aaron do these things? What did they picture? Aaron had to first make atonement for himself as a sinning human before God. The word atonement means “to make at one with.”

Washing himself pictured having his conscience changed to accept God’s standard of righteousness (Heb. 10:22). His linen coat symbolized living a righteous life (Rev. 19:8). The incense pictured prayers ascending to God (Ps. 141:2, Rev. 5:8). The blood represented the way sins are forgiven (Heb. 9:13-14, Rom. 3:25).

Aaron, the high priest, was a type of Jesus Christ, who is now our High Priest (Heb. 3:1). By living a sinless life, Jesus qualified to offer Himself as a sin sacrifice for all humanity through His crucifixion.

After Jesus’ death, the veil in the Temple (the Temple had replaced the Tabernacle) was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:50-51). The torn veil represented the fact that we are now allowed direct contact with God the Father through prayer (Heb. 10:19-22, John 16:23).

This contact is something that those living before Christ’s resurrection did not have; their access was limited to the Word of God, the God of the Old Testament who became Jesus Christ.

The two goats

Now that Aaron had completed sacrifices for himself, what happened next?

“The two goats he must place in front of the Eternal at the entrance to the Trysting tent [Tabernacle]; Aaron shall cast lots over the goats, one lot for the Eternal and the other for Azazel the demon; the goat that falls by lot to the Eternal shall be brought forward and offered as a sin-offering, but the goat that falls by lot to Azazel shall be set free in presence of the Eternal, that Aaron may perform expiatory rites over it and send it away for Azazel into the desert” (Lev. 16:7-10, Moffatt).

Whom did this slain goat, whose blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat and the altar for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:15-19), represent? The answer is Christ, who was slain and whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins (Heb. 9:12, 22-26).

But Christ’s death has not completed the job of making atonement for the sins of humanity. Why? Because Satan, the god of this world, has blinded the minds of most people. Consequently, mankind rejects the true Gospel, which includes accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and living a righteous life (II Cor. 4:3-4, Rev. 12:9).

So how will the job of atonement be completed? How will mankind be made at one with God?

The answer is revealed through the symbolism of the live goat — the azazel, in Hebrew.

Says The Comprehensive Commentary: “[According to] the oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Christians … Azazel is the name of the Devil … the word signified the goat which went away.” The Azazel was the goat that was sent into the wilderness.

This Azazel is sometimes referred to as the “escape goat” or “scapegoat.” But these terms make the meaning unclear. Scapegoat has come to mean “one who bears blame or guilt for others.” This is not the case with Satan. He is guilty of influencing mankind into disobeying God (Eph. 2:2). And he will be punished for it — Satan will bear his own guilt! He will not be allowed to escape.

Symbolism,

The live goat was brought before Aaron, who, as we have seen, is a type of Jesus Christ, our High Priest. Aaron laid hands on this goat, confessing upon it the people’s sins. Then it was led by another individual into the wilderness where it was released (Lev. 16:20-22).

How is this symbolism going to be fulfilled? Jesus is coming to this earth again, this time to rule. He will order Satan bound and taken to a place of restraint for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).

The world will then become free of Satan’s influence and responsive to God’s way of life; man’s sins will be laid to Satan’s charge. The change will be remarkable. Humanity as a whole will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and live according to God’s law (Isa. 11:9). Finally, there will be universal peace, joy and happiness (Jer. 31:12-14).

What about fasting?

In addition to the symbolism of the sacrifices, there is another aspect of this Festival that we must consider. Notice Leviticus 16:29:

“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who sojourns among you.”

What does it mean “afflict your soul”? The word afflict (Hebrew anah) is translated “humble” in Psalm 35:13, where David said, “I humbled myself with fasting.” So afflicting oneself means to fast.

Biblical examples show that fasting means to go without food and water (Deut. 9:9, 18, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:8-9). This is the only day when we are commanded to fast. It is so important that in the New Testament we see this Festival referred to as “the Fast” (Acts 27:9).

The purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves, to see our insignificance and realize our need for and utter dependence on God (Jas. 4:9-10). God does not hold us guiltless for the sins that Satan influences us to commit. We bear a responsibility for yielding to Satan’s temptations.

God wants you to examine yourself so you will recognize your shortcomings and overcome them. These are the conditions of a proper fast that will cause God to intervene on your behalf.

Keep this Festival

The Day of Atonement, then, is a solemn, serious occasion, and yet, because of what it pictures, this Festival is a tremendously positive and encouraging day.

Besides revealing vital understanding about God’s plan of salvation, the Day of Atonement can bring you much closer to God, if you obey God’s command to observe this day.

Don’t deny yourself this relationship with God. Decide now to keep the Day of Atonement!

Source: The Good News, August 1983

August 2, 2009

Does God Hate The Rich?

You’ve heard of “God’s poor.” You’ve heard that “money is the root of all evil,” and that God hates the rich man, making it harder for him to get into God’s kingdom than for a camel to go thru a needle’s eye. But here’s what you probably have not heard!

EVERY big city has its Skid Row. Uncounted thousands of derelicts pass away lonesome, hopeless days and years in these districts of beaten men, where a 60c per night six by four cubicle covered with chicken wire is a luxury, with privilege to sleep on a soiled, knotty mattress, perhaps damp, and without sheets or suitable covers.

Every city has its slums and its blighted district adjoining or surrounding the downtown business center.

“The poor,” Jesus said, “you always have with you.  Why?

Does God Hate the Prosperous, and Love Only the Poor?

There are a lot of false ideas in circulation. One is that God is angry at the man who becomes successful and prosperous, and wants all people to be poor. The common assumption about this thing we call “sin” is that “sin” is the forbidden fruit which is the sweetest and most desirable of all, but which an unjust God forbids us to enjoy.

But in reality, all the world’s ills, all suffering, all inequality and injustice has come from transgressing the law of God. Sin is the transgression of the Law (I John 3:4). In other words, to transgress the ways that lead to prosperity, health, peace, happiness and joy, is SIN! To sin, then, is to cause suffering, unhappiness, and death.

God Prospers Those Who Serve Him

Does God hate the successful and the prosperous?  “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health,” says God thru John.

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the council of the ungodly, . . . but his delight is in the law of the Eternal; . . . whatsoever be does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3).

“And the Eternal was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; … the Eternal made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” (Gen. 39:2, 3). Joseph served God! (verse 4).

“For the Eternal God is a sun and shield: the Eternal will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walketh uprightly. O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.” (Ps. 84:11, 12).

“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” (Ps. 92:12).

But God warns, thru David, when we are prospered, against setting our hearts on the prosperity. If all men would put their lives under the government of God and live by God’s laws, all men would soon be prosperous! Conversely, then, poverty is the result, directly or indirectly, of transgressing God’s laws.

Jesus, however, put the matter in its true relationship when he commanded us to seek first the Kingdom of God —  that is, to submit our lives to the government of God — to obey His commandments! — to live the kind of life He directs in His Word — and He promised that when we have first done this, the material prosperity shall be added.

Finding True Riches

What we behold in the world now, both in fields of labor and capital, as now organized, is organized competition and greed. This has produced only friction. It has impeded progress, and robbed both employer and employee of much material gain, as well as the real spiritual happiness they have vainly sought.

What’s wrong?  Men are governed by human passions, and not by God!

Happiness is something one cannot reach out and take! It is something you have only by giving. It comes only by finding God’s basic inexorable spiritual law — the way of love — of giving — of serving — of doing good.  The true basis of happiness is spiritual, not material.

Seek ye first the “Kingdom of God”  — the government of God — government in your life by the great spiritual law of God! If you do this, you will have to actually LIVE by every Word of God —  by the Bible!

If you do this, you’ll be filled with a dynamic power from without — the very Spirit of God — the Spirit of LOVE, and of understanding and wisdom —  of faith — of patience — of power for self-mastery! Your life will be energized, successful, full and complete —  HAPPY!

You will STUDY, and USE YOUR GOD-GIVEN MIND — studying first, to show yourself approved unto God — to find the true way of life! You will devote yourself, secondarily, to your job or work or profession. What you set your hand to do, as God commands, you’ll DO WITH YOUR MIGHT! You’ll be industrious. If you work for a man, you’ll serve him to the very best of your ability. If men work for you, you’ll be as interested in their welfare as your own. You’ll free your mind from all anxious concern and worry and fears  — for you’ll have the Spirit of FAITH  — relying upon the guidance and help of God. You’ll do your best, and TRUST GOD WITH THE RESULT, — and you’ll find real PEACE, and HAPPINESS and JOY first of all — and to this will be added MATERIAL PROSPERITY within God’s reasonable due time!

That’s the recipe for success, usefulness, prosperity, and REAL AND LASTING HAPPINESS!

Getting the Cart Before the Horse

Very few people follow Jesus’ formula. Nearly everyone seeks first the material prosperity. And people become so engrossed in the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches — IF they succeed in acquiring them — they never seem able to find much time for seeking the Kingdom of God — to be governed by God’s laws.

Most ministers who profess to be ministers of Jesus Christ preach exactly the opposite of the Kingdom, or government, of God. They teach that God’s laws are done away. They teach there are NO WORKS to Christianity. They pervert God’s truth.

And most people, consequently are in ignorance of the true formula for success, accomplishment, prosperity —  and the happy, joyous life!

Most people seem to believe that HAPPINESS is something that comes from material possessions. Their chief concern in life, therefore, is to earn a better living — to seek dollars — to find happiness by GETTING material things.

In this chase for the elusive dollar, the large majority find the pursuit so difficult they become overcharged with the CARES of earning a living, trying to make ends meet, and this over- whelming majority never realize their goal They remain either poor or in the worried middle-class, and the happiness they seek becomes as elusive as the dollars. They slave away their lives  — empty, worried, unhappy lives.

But a FEW of these who seek first the material riches of this world — -and only a very few — do have the talents and qualities for material success and the accumulation of money. They pay the price, usually. They generally have ability, and they are the ones who study, prepare themselves, exercise vision, industry, perseverance, determination, and pay a heavy price for the material success they acquire.

Those who are prospered by God, because they sought first the Kingdom of God — that is, to diligently live under the laws of God’s government — are not the only ones who prosper materially. The few successful ones who seek first and (usually only) the material riches also prosper in the world.

There are two kinds of material prosperity — that acquired by those who seek first and only material assets — and those who seek first God’s Way of life. David noticed this, and became envious — until God chastened him and caused him to see his error  (Ps. 73).

And thus David repented of his envy of the evil rich, and came to see their miserable end.

Stop This Envying the Rich!

In this world, a common pastime of the poor is to envy the rich — to grumble and complain, and hate the rich. What does God say about this?

“Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way . . . cease from anger, and forsake evil,” commands God (Ps. 37:7-8). “For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Eternal shall inherit the earth” — (not heaven) — “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be.”

Yes, what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? That kind of riches is false, soul-harming and soon left behind.

But some of these worldly rich have been unjust — they and their big corporations have taken advantage of their position, and paid their laborers too little. Ought not the laboring man, then, to organize and FIGHT BACK?

No, and even tho the tactics of labor unionism have gained higher wages, employers have simply raised prices, so that today’s highest wages of all time actually purchase little more than the lower wages of the pre-unionism era.

WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT THIS?

“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted … Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields (or factories), which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped (worked for you) are entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. … BE PATIENT, THEREFORE, BRETHREN, UNTO THE COMING OF THE LORD.”Jas.5:1-7).

God’s instruction is not to organize in labor unions, which in themselves have brought on additional evils — but to BE PATIENT — and wait until God restores justice!

Source of Economic Ills

By seeking first only material acquisitions, the majority have failed to acquire them and worn away their lives in the vain pursuit, while the FEW have, even at cost of hard work, study, application, and perseverance, succeeded — and neither have found happiness, because material wealth is NOT THE SOURCE OF HAPPINESS!

But God has set laws in motion — laws of success, economically, which even the material-minded, if they apply them, gain wealth by practicing. The only difficulty is, they have defeated the very purpose they sought by setting their hearts solely on material gain, instead of seeking first GOD’S WAYS, finding the true SOURCE of happiness first, and then becoming materially prosperous in a manner that would INCREASE a happiness already found.

But what has happened, economically, in America?

A few leaders, by practicing these laws of material prosperity, built large industries which employed large numbers of men. True, it was their determined PURPOSE — their study, industry, vision, planning, determination, perseverance, fighting their way to the top in spite of all obstacles, which finally put them on top of the economic heap.

True, it was their industry and enterprise which created jobs for their employees. But, by the same token, this very fact put them in position to take advantage of their laborers. Granted that they were entitled to a far greater financial reward from the enterprise than those men who were willing to do only what they were told. BUT TOO MANY OF THESE WORLDLY SUCCESSFUL TOOK FOR THEMSELVES FAR MORE THAN THEIR FAIR SHARE OF THE PROCEEDS OF THEIR BUSINESS.

Result — as mass production developed in America, labor was held in meek submission, underpaid and underprivileged. Thus employers themselves created the fertile field for labor leaders  — leaders who have preached to laborers the gospel of laying down on the job, giving less work and demanding more pay, creating friction between employer and employee — who OUGHT to be partners!

Those tycoons of big business who have thus taken selfish and unfair advantage of their position have injured themselves, as well as their employees and their country. They have brought down on their own heads the evils of a labor unionism which preaches and practices friction instead of happy co-operation, thus reducing production and profits for all.

Worse, they have limited and reduced the market for their own mass production. Since mass production is production for the masses, the vast employed class form the big part of the mass market. By holding down real wages, they have limited the ability of wage-earners to buy.

In the World Tomorrow

Now look at the changed picture when all men seek first the kingdom —  the way of life — of God.

Employers living God’s way will love their employees as themselves — will be as zealous for employees’ welfare, prosperity, working conditions, as their own. Workers will put their hearts into their work, and find a new joy in producing perhaps twice as much as now.

Production will mount, prosperity will increase for all, the masses will have the money to supply a ready market for a greatly expanded mass production.

Both employer and employee will enjoy greatly increased incomes. Society as a whole will be benefited beyond belief.

But, most important, we shall have found that inner happiness, and joy, which will supply the dynamic spark that will produce this material abundance. And economic plenty and security will add to a joyful, abundant happiness, already found.

You can start traveling that road now. It’s the only way to the happiness all desire.

Source: The Plain Truth, October 1951

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