With weak prayers and little faith,
with a broken and divided heart,
I draw near to you,
knowing that you, though gentle and kind,
will not suffer sin to persist
in your presence.
God gave Moses specific instructions regarding sacrifices, priests, relationships, rest, and a number of other subjects, and his instructions are recorded in the book of Leviticus. As you read through the book, you begin to realize something: the Lord requires the best, not merely the comfortable or the convenient.
Take sacrifices, for example. Only specific types of animals are accepted, and acceptable animals often must be without blemish and of a certain age. The people couldn’t simply give God the wounded or small of the flock, the weak or the unwanted; they had to give their best. The same goes for the priesthood. The holiness of the role of priest seems to be illustrated in the high standards God set forth for those who could hold such a role. God’s servants couldn’t behave any way they chose; they were to be, in a way, the best of the people, the model of obedience and holiness.
God’s standards haven’t changed. He still requires the best of us. “You therefore must be perfect,” Jesus said, “as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He wills our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and he remains “the LORD who sanctifies you” (Leviticus 22:32).
Such sanctification is not always convenient or comfortable. Paul chose his words well when he called us to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). We heed the call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow him (Luke 9:23), a worthy yet difficult calling. Discipline and correction factor regularly into the process (Hebrews 12), as does grace for our failures (1 John 2:1-2). He refines us, molds us, and purifies us, and the process is often painful. He requires the fullness of our hearts, minds, and spirits. He requires the best of us.
It’s encouraging, then, to remember that God not only requires the best from us, but he also does what is best for us. He causes all things to work together for good, holding us in his unfailing love (Romans 8). He knows us intimately (Psalm 139), cares for us deeply (1 Peter 5:7), and gives wisdom for the journey (James 1:5-8). He doesn’t merely do what is convenient or comfortable in our lives. Indeed, his work may feel at times like a wound (consider Paul’s wrestling with the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12). But because the Lord is good, we can trust him in all circumstances, all seasons, all stations of life. He will always do what is best. Indeed, he has already done what is best for us by giving us the perfect, spotless lamb to save us, meeting our greatest need and ensuring he will not fail us in our lesser needs (Romans 8, James 1).
So let us offer our best to the Lord, withholding nothing as we learn to love and serve him better. Let us understand that he is worthy of our best, worthy of our very lives. And let us rest in the truth that God loves us and will always do what is best, trusting that “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.Proverbs 3:5-8
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:14-16
Unmatched, unmarred by sin, unshaken, God
Maintains the utmost glory. ‘Fore his face
E’en angels hide their faces. In that place
Corruption is not suffered, cannot trod
The ground made holy by his presence. Hide
Your eyes; gain clarity. Be still and know
That he is LORD o’er all, above, below.
Fear fills us, fear fulfills us: terrified
In tenderness. Unknown yet known; most high;
E’er near; eternally enthroned above
All enemies, all not-gods, perfect love
Perfectly conquers all, never runs dry.
The sun is but a shadow of his light.
No darkness can present a worthy fight.
Huge thanks to Brett Dickson for his invaluable insight and encouragement during the writing of this poem.
You save us from idolatry
The call to bear the killing tree
Is healing ointment.
“Take up your cross and follow me” –
We do not know the depths of sin
Within our being.
We fight against but cannot win;
But you, all seeing,
Stepped into time to work for men
From forces that devise the fall
Of your creation.
Depravity common to all
Met its damnation.
Now hear, all broken hearts, his call:
In you, we hope. For you, we wait.
You are provider.
You know our weakness, our estate;
Your grace is wider.
You bear our sin and fix our fate,
Thank you for road blocks,
For cold stops,
For forced glances at clocks,
For sin is crouching at the door;
Sin – such as I adore;
Sin – donning such masks as
Joy and peace and
Satisfaction. Finally, though, they fall off.
Every mask falls off.
And what is left exposed? Only this:
The bitter taste of counterfeit bliss,
The savory stench of a stolen kiss
Placed upon the lips of death.
That road is always a dead end,
And there is always, in the ignorant mind,
Time to turn back.
So thank you for forced glances
At the minute hand as it dances,
For cold stops on cold nights,
For road blocks that open up the way
To the true Road.