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March 1, Day #61 – Can You Drink from That Cup?

Today we come to Leviticus 4-5. As I reflect on the meaning and applications of today’s readings, I recall my thoughts and feelings from teaching the book of Leviticus in the past. I remember interacting personally and negatively with the reality of all the distasteful blood sacrifices that God required for the sins of His people. Messy? Yes - unbelievably! Repetitious? Yes - over and over again! A waste of time and resources? Seems like it –consuming days spent at the altar and depleting flocks of animals – watching everything only go up in smoke - literally! I remember thinking that, if God still required Levitical sacrifices for my sins today, you would find me standing in an endlessly long line of sinners waiting for my turn at the altar, only to fall back again in line the next day for the same rebellious infractions. Indeed, blood sacrifices are messy, repetitious, and expensive because sin is the ultimate expression of “messy, repetitious, and expensive.” In Leviticus, God wants us to know what our sins cost Him - the precious blood of His Son. Chapter four reflects Mark’s gospel and speaks of Psalm 22, and it reveals to us the sin offering. This offering related to intentional and unintentional sin, and depending on the nature of the sin – whether individual or corporate - it required the sacrifice of a young bull, a goat, or a lamb – all without defects. The priest had to follow the procedure for this offering carefully; he was to pour out the blood, apply some of it to the horns of the altar, and sprinkle the blood “before the LORD seven times” (verse 17). This offering would secure atonement (i.e., a covering) for the sinner, who would be forgiven (verse 26). Chapter 5 identifies several types of sin and presents the guilt offering (also called the trespass offering). This offering relates to Matthew’s gospel and speaks of the content of Psalm 69. The guilt offering required the sinner to pay restitution for “what he has failed to do, for doing something forbidden, or just for wrongdoing” (cf., verses 14-19).

In the second half of Psalm 27 (verses 7-14), we see David’s call to the LORD to “hear his voice, to be merciful to him, and to answer him” (verse 7). We saw yesterday that this Psalm includes the first of five “one thing” statements in Scripture. As such, this Psalm addresses our priorities – the things we believe are important. For David, it was a priority to know God by “dwelling with Him” (verse 4); “gazing upon His beauty” (verse 4); praising and “making music to the LORD” (verse 6); and “learning the ways of God” (verse 11). David said, “Do not hide your face from me” (verse 9). How could David request this when God told Moses “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (cf., Exodus 33:20)? How do we see God’s “face?” God reveals Himself fully in the Person and work of Jesus Christ Who is the living Word of God. Thus, David’s desire – “to gaze upon His beauty and see His ‘face’” is bound up in the Scriptures – where we truly “see” God. The living Word of God and the written Word of God are completely congruous and consistent with each other, and they testify to each other.

In Mark 10:32-45, we see – with some variations - Mark’s account of the events from Matthew 20:17-34, (Day #31) – Christ’s prediction of His death, the special request of James and John (sons of Zebedee), to sit at the Lord’s right and left hands in His kingdom, and restoration to sight of blind Bartimaeus. Here, we are reminded again of how little we actually know with certainty. Even our knowledge is dependent upon faith – we must believe something to be true before we can know it to be true. Jesus asks the brothers, “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” Their answer - “We can,” - seems rather smug to me (verses 38-39). Do they really know if they can drink that cup? If so, how do they know this? Do they even know what it is? Jesus assures them that they “will” certainly “drink” His cup, but I seriously doubt they had any idea what He was referring to or talking about. We need to be careful about the things we think we know – we need to make sure that we know them certainly before we begin to assert them. Of course, the other ten disciples “became indignant with James and John” (verse 41). Jesus found a teachable moment in all this; He taught a contrast/comparison lesson here. First, he compared them to “the rulers of the Gentiles, who lord it over them, … but not so with you. Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (verses 41-43). And the contrast? “The Son of Man came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (verse 45). Were they willing to drink from that cup?

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