February 17

Exodus 28:35-37 (NIV) 35Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die. 36"Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. 37Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban.

Once a year the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies with the blood of the Atonement Lamb. There he would sprinkle the blood before the Lord. Around the bottom of his robe were bells that sounded as he walked so that he would be identified by God as the priest that brought the atonement blood. A tradition says that the other priests would tie a rope around his ankle in case they had to drag out his dead body. If the priest was not right with God or did not function according to God's command, he might be struck dead!

On the turban and over the priest's forehead was a gold plate that read 'Holy to the LORD'. As the priest entered, he would be in the presence of the glowing ball of light, the Shekinah Glory, that hovered over the ark. It was a visible manifestation of the invisible God.

The great curtain that the priest went through to enter this place was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died. We now have free access to God. We do not need to fear sudden death because of our sin in the presence of a Holy God, for the atonement blood of Jesus is over us. That blood is the blood all the other sacrifices looked forward to. Our minds are dedicated to God as His instruments, and so, God sees the same golden sign over our foreheads, 'Holy to the LORD'. We are made priests unto God (2 Peter 2:5).

Meditation: God has made a way for you to come into His presence through Jesus. Enter in!

February 17

Matthew 9:11-13 (NIV) 11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" 12On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Jesus sure broke the mold of how a rabbi should act. When Jesus called Matthew to follow him, Matthew invited all his friends to a feast. It was his chance to tell his world that he was leaving all to follow Jesus. The religious leaders saw what was going on. They despised the tax collectors because they were Jewish but worked for their oppressors, the Romans. Seeing Jesus feast with this hated segment of society, the Pharisees asked the disciples why Jesus associated with the sinners of the world. That is a subtle way of telling the disciples that they are following the wrong man.

Jesus overheard the question. His response was that the sick were the ones that needed a doctor. If you have something that will help sinners, where do you go? The Pharisees had nothing to share but head knowledge, so they stuck together. They did not realize that they were just as needy as those tax collectors. We tend to gloss over our own sins and amplify the sins of others. Jesus had a word of instruction from the prophet Hosea for them to chew on. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." (Hosea 6:6) Hosea had expressed God's heart that desires us to show one another mercy. That is more important to God than doing little sacrificial things in which we deny ourselves.

Jesus ended that conversation with a word that had to stick in their minds. "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." The Pharisees considered themselves righteous, but they knew the Scripture that says, "There is none righteous, no not one." (Psalm 14:1-3) They had to realize their real condition before they could receive His ministry.

Consider: Do we think of ourselves more highly than we should? We need the Great Physician every day. Are we making friends only with those who are like us? How will the needy ever hear the Gospel if we do not associate with them?