A SOUL CUT OFF
"... Whosoever he be ... that goeth unto the holy things... having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from My presence: I am the Lord." Leviticus, chapter 22, verse 3.
THIS important book in the Pentateuch deals, not so much with history, but with worship. This is the highest occupation of a mortal being. By it character is fashioned and eternal issues determined. It requires very great care and solemnity, far greater care and solemnity indeed, than we give to it. Of all the matters to which we give ourselves in life this is supreme. Professing Christians who stroll into a church when they think they will, evidently have no sense of its importance. It is safe to say that no person will naturally offer the worship God requires and that all those who determine matters Godwards by what they think, ought to be warned of the grave peril in which they place their souls. It is the inescapable duty of every earnest Christian to search the Scriptures diligently. And as in the presence of God, to discern the worship God requires and henceforth to see that of all the engagements he keeps in life, he never fails to offer to God the worship God has revealed to him.
It is indeed remarkable how this fact has been obscured. Cain offered to God the worship he thought was proper. Abel offered the worship God had revealed. In one was born the spirit of hatred and murder against the one in whom was born by a true spirit of worship, a meek and quiet spirit. So it has ever been! Therefore the new convert should be impressed with the important fact that immediately he is to give himself to this supreme duty of worship. He should learn what are the commandments of God concerning worship, and to see to it, as he values his soul, that worship alone before God and in the company of fellow believers is the enterprise of life, stamped with eternal supremacy and significance. The text, therefore brings us face to face with an aspect of worship and the judgment it pronounces should be sufficiently serious to secure our consideration.
The wilderness tabernacle was divided into three parts. First, the place of the congregation, where the worshippers gathered. Then the holy place wherein was the altar of incense. Into this the priests entered for continual ministrations. Finally, there was the most holy place, separated from the holy place by the veil. Into this the high priest went once a year, not without blood for the sins of the people and for himself. The writer to the Hebrews declares the earthly tabernacle did not spring out of the inventive genius of Moses, but was in some strange way a figure of the true place of worship in heaven. It was a projection in the visible and the temporal of a reality within the heavenly and the eternal. On His ascension our Lord passed through the heavens within the veil, bringing within the holiest in heaven, for the first time, His human body glorified. There as a Man, embracing absolute Deity and sinless humanity, He ever liveth to make intercession for us. No man cometh unto the Father but by Him. Others may or may not be helpful to us, but He and He Alone is the Absolute Essential! Beside Him any other mortal who has ever walked this earth is utterly insignificant. The teaching is that when the believer solemnly, seriously, obediently and in faith invokes this ALL-ESSENTIAL NAME, he too, in spirit, passes within the veil of the heavenly realm, the one and only place wherein true worship can be offered. That is the place consecrated of God for worship!
THE COMMON ROUND
The considerations in this chapter, therefore, have relevance. The believer has duties and responsibilities within the camp. It is his duty to live uprightly, to deal fairly, to act justly and honourably in the sight of God and of all his fellows. His word is to be his bond, he undertakes nothing he cannot reasonably expect to fulfil. Whether as an employer or an employee he will be faithful to his fellows, not an extortioner and not a man always bent on giving as little as possible for as much as he can get. All this is provided for in the Sinaitic covenant. Likewise, he is to be even more concerned with his duties to God. If by grace we are saved, born again, partakers of the Divine nature, then we have a spiritual status before God which is all important. We may choose to think of God within the veil while we ourselves prefer a religious life in the public place without. A decision of that kind, which many Christians almost glibly take, is fraught with the gravest peril
There are others whose minds are serious and sincere, but unenlightened. They have mixed up worship with attendance at a Chapel or Church and judge their Christianity by the business of it all. These, indeed, will neglect the worship of God in order to be doing something for God. These find their direct and spiritual contacts with God less and less and imagine that their contacts with their fellows is a right and proper expression of their contact with God. There are comparatively few who need no urging, no argument; for they see so clearly that it is the life within the veil that is life indeed. They hunger for it, they seek it every day by themselves, they long to share the experience with the people of God. Their supreme joy is to be face to face with God, to be the subjects of His transforming power and. to experience the expansive recreative ministry of the Enthroned Lord of Glory. This book of Leviticus teaches us that the entire economy of Israel found its spring in the ministry of the High Priest within the veil. From that all else of blessing and destiny proceeded. To that conviction the Holy Spirit seeks to bring every believer. Our particular concern in the text is that all these things may be understood in measure and the blessings indicated may be sought and yet lost because of
There are indicated in the chapter various forms of uncleanness. It is the uncleanness inescapable from the conditions attending the daily life of the camp. There is a daily defilement that may be overlooked and even tolerated in the engagements of the camp, but which are intolerable in our dealings with God. The teaching is clear. It is impossible to step from the common life of the camp to the exalted life of worship within the veil without the ministry of the Great High Priest. He, as the Living Word divides between soul and spirit, and this means that as we stand on the threshold of heavenly things in faith we are bound to see moral and spiritual distinctions of which the camp is ignorant. We are not to suppose that we are righteous overmuch, but we are to recognise that the diagnosis of our moral and spiritual nature before the Throne of the Lord is true, accurate and eternal. Only so may we know the communion of Spirit with the human spirit, the essential in every true communion with the Living Lord. So that at the moment that the child of God may enter into the most exalted privileges of a human being he also stands in deadly peril of
A DlVINE EXCOMMUNICATION.
Moses is very clear. The attempt to ignore any known uncleanness, to regard such defilement of no importance would surely mean excommunication. In other passages where the penalty of being "cut off " is declared, it is followed by the words "from my people," but here it is "from My presence." It is not an excommunication determined by the company of the Lord's believing people according to the Scriptures, but a penalty inflicated from heaven upon the presumptuous who ignore the gulf between the holiness of God and the persisting sin of the worshipper. Few people take these penalties seriously. The Romanist who supposes that his religious life is nourished by the physical appropriation of what he thinks to be the actual Body of Christ is held in terror by the thought of being excommunicated from the service of the Mass. The real and actual spiritual penalties are, however, more serious; for they cannot be lifted except by the grace of God. Therefore, in seeking
ADMISSION WITHIN THE VEIL
let us recognise first that we must be serious and concerned. There is to be an attitude of body indicative of the attitude of mind and, heart and will as God knows us. The thought life must be disciplined and every other concern in life must be dismissed from our attention as being, in comparison with our worship, a thing of vanity and utter inconsequence. Anything less than this will grieve the Lord. Then we are to make confession of every known sin, renouncing it from the heart, and in a penitent spirit ask for the miracle of Divine forgiveness to be extended to us. If we do not utterly confess and renounce the sin we know the Holy Spirit will not cleanse us from the defilement of which we are unaware. Every approach to God demands the unequivocal repentance and renunciation of each and all known sin, otherwise there can be no effectual cleansing such as is needed in our approach to worship. If in spite of this we treat possible uncleanness as a thing of little matter we shall be guilty before the Lord and excommunication will follow. How it will be manifested will be known in experience. First we shall find that
COMMUNION WITH GOD IS SEVERED.
None ever passes within the veil in sin and lives! We do not know enough about the heavenly realm to be able to judge the consequences of a sinful spirit breaking through into heaven itself. Satan, we know, has defiled the heavens. They have been cleansed by the ministry of our Lord in the virtue and vitality of His blood. It is part of His wondrous work of preparing the many mansions for us. We know, however, something of its results and that God cannot look upon sin or upon the human being who thrusts himself into the Divine presence indifferent to the gulf between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of the sinner. Certainly, the soul that prefers its sin, holds to it while seeking or presuming to seek the face of the Eternal in the heavenly mystery of worship will be excommunicated. If this were indelibly fixed upon the mind and heart there would be a holy awe as we took our places for worship. There would be a deep seriousness in our minds and with an earnestness which engages our whole being we should seek the audience of the Almighty within the veil. No doubt there are many reasons why a service may be dull. The minister may be out of accord with the Lord, the hymns may be unsuitable, the message dead and unattractive, but before the worshipper reaches such conclusions let him be sure he is not, in fact, excommunicated by God on account of his sin! This will be indicated to us further because:-
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
will lose its significance. When that happens sin does not seem to be so serious. We get broadminded, seeing much more good in the world than we did. We begin to find that friends out in the world have an attraction that friends within the company of the redeemed have not. We may continue in religion, but it stirs no enthusiasm, and the Bible, the Lord's day, the Lord's people, become of decreasing value, while it can even be that the mention of the precious blood may be objectionable to us. Life in the camp becomes tolerable, if not definitely pleasant. We fraternise with the world, we never speak of Christ in the company of the perishing, God gets the least we can give Him, and He gets that least with a grudge. The things of God become deadly dull and we do not know the Divine excommunication has gone out against us. What has thus been registered in terms of death in our hearts will bear its fruit in eternal significance in the day that truth is seen in all its terrible grandeur and magnificence. Then
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GRIEVED.
The Spirit is given us by our Lord to make us holy. He designs to illuminate our minds on holiness, to stir up our affections for it, to energise our wills and so to fashion our personalities after the pattern of the Eternal Man. So it follows that as the Father has withdrawn Himself and our Saviour Priest withholds the ministry of the blood, in like manner the Indwelling Spirit is grieved. That means that all interest in heaven, except as, possibly, a vast convalescent home, vanishes. Earth issues dominate the mind. We may be terribly worried about the "H" bomb, but heaven and hell and the issues of Christ are incapable of stirring us in the least degree. We are impassive Godwards, we have no burden about the lost, and we have no fellowship in His sufferings and no longings after holiness. It becomes a sober fact that we are more willing to be separated from God than we are to be separated from our sin. Not that we would tell anybody such a terrible fact, but there it is. And all the time we do not know that we are cut off! The Levitical economy made provision for those who were thus cut off. There were sacrifices that could avail if there was true repentance. Let us be thankful there is:-
HOPE FOR US
Only when we enter upon a serious confession shall we know how painful is the way back, but let us be encouraged as the priest was. We can quietly and sincerely make confession that we nave sinned inasmuch as we have not put worship first and foremost in our lives. That will mean a bitter repentance for past neglect and a stern discipline for the future as we begin to seek God and His people in worship. We shall have to make confession that we have not been concerned about sin in our lives, as we should have been. It requires a work of God to bring any one of us to renounce the sin that our old nature loves, to repudiate it, to plead for its forgiveness, the breaking of our affections for it and the destruction of our love for it. God will do it, however if we trust the ministry of our Great High Priest in heaven. Finally with shame, we shall have to acknowledge that we have ignored the sovereign gift of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Loving Lord in heaven to dwell within us and to seal us in all the bonds of immortality. Nevertheless as this we do God will show us His mercy. He will restore unto us the joy of our salvation, and we shall then have a new commission and indeed a new power to teach transgressors His ways and they shall be converted unto God as we are the channels of the life and power within the veil.
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