If you’ve paid any kind of attention to the news in the last week, you’ve probably felt the same as me. Shocked. Sickened. Helpless. Fearful. Heavy.
People are dying horrific deaths. Children are starving and worse. Warfare has broken out and disease has taken over. Things seem to be crumbling.
The helplessness I feel is maddening…and then there’s the outrageous cost of school supplies.
Isn’t it ironic?
Children are being martyred for their faith because they and their families won’t deny Christ, and I grumble about glue sticks.
But what can I do? What can we do?
Helplessness often seems to like to manifest itself as apathy, at least in my life. If I can’t do something that seems substantial, I won’t do anything at all.
Instead I’ll just think about the most cost effective way to buy those glue sticks. There’s a value pack, after all.
So that’s good news.
I was thinking this week about the foolishness of my teen-hood. There was plenty of it, to be sure, but in particular I was reflecting on one Sunday morning years ago when my pastor introduced that his sermon would be about prayer.
I wish I didn’t, but I almost remember rolling my eyes.
I don’t need this, I thought. It has nothing to do with me.
So I proceeded instead to meditate on something my teenage mind deemed more valuable, most likely boys or lunch.
So, yes, you are correct if you’re thinking the following about me:
I was a flipping moron.
(As seen here at about that age:)
Or more accurately, here:
There’s more than one place in scripture that I’ve never understood, especially in the Old Testament. So I tend to skip over those spots. It’s just easier, really.
(Note: I am still a moron.)
This week, because of an incredibly amazing Bible study I am a part of, one of those tricky passages came shouting at me loud and clear, demanding that I hear it for what it is.
And, oh man, is it good.
Because, friends, it basically says: WE ARE NEVER HELPLESS HERE.
In the book of Exodus, Nadab and Abihu were nephews of Moses and part of the priesthood that served in the tabernacle of Lord.
Serving as priests was serious business, as evidenced in the specific instructions and measurements for its creation and the creation of every item in it, which, incidentally, is the like the Bermuda Triangle of the Bible. Many a plan to read through the entire Word has sunk in Exodus and Leviticus. Those instructions are just so…intense.
And their ramifications were intense.
We don’t know a lot about these guys, but we do know this: Nadab and Abihu “…offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” (Lev. 10:1b-2)
So, yeah, that’s one of those places you skip, ‘cause, seriously, God, that seems a little hasty, doesn’t it?
(Here’s the part where I attempt to explain that it’s not hasty, by trying to tell you in 200 words what I’ve been learning over six weeks. Hang with me though.)
There were two altars the priests tended to. This was the bulk of their job.
They conducted animal sacrifices on one altar as restitution for their sins and the sins of the people. On the second altar, they burned incense, which, we are told, represents the prayers of the saints.
God had commanded that the Altar of Incense was to only be lit by fire that had originated from under the Altar of Sacrifice. Nadab and Abihu’s fatal mistake came from using fire from some other source to light the Alter of Incense.
But why was this a big deal?
For the incense to be pleasing to the Lord, it had to come from a place first bathed in the blood of the sacrifice.
Translation: For the prayers of the saints (that’s us New Testament Christians!) to be pleasing to and heard by God, they must first be bathed in the blood of the Sacrifice. (That’s Jesus!)
Coming before God in prayer and praise is an incredible privilege and serious business.
How could it not be?
It required the death of his son, the perfect once-for-all sacrifice, for us to be able to even approach him without being immediately consumed by his holy fire.
Without Jesus, we got nuthin’ before God.
With him, we’ve got everything.
Not to be taken lightly, is it?
So whether our prayers be about Syria or whether they be about school supplies, Father God takes them seriously.
He hears. He acts. He gives us hope.
We are never helpless here.
So pray, friends. Pray.
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
(I owe the bulk of what I’ve shared here to Beth Moore and her study, A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place. Do this study if you haven’t already!)