The Altar-- As we continue our discussion on the Tabernacle of God and now begin to move into the Tabernacle, the first thing we face as we enter that courtyard is of course the altar. And the altar is a place where Israel could experience forgiveness from God for their sin. And therefore the altar was a place of freedom and liberation. But (as we will see) it is also a place of death. In order for freedom to be experienced, something must be placed upon that altar, be killed, and offered up to God. The cost of freedom is high.
Avoiding Bloodshed-- Now in our day and age we don’t like to talk about bloodshed. And even in our Churches, we have tapered back a lot on talking about the shedding of the blood of Christ. We emphasize the life He brings and maybe His resurrection. But linger too long on the blood of Christ, and people often times get uncomfortable. Even some of the hymns my Church (Renton Park Chapel) sings would (in some Churches) seem a little out of date. One of my personal favorites is There Is A Fountain. But if you listen to the words, it gets pretty graphic. “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.” Or think of the hymn Are You Washed In The Blood. Washed in His blood? Why so much emphasis on the blood of Jesus? Well it all ties back to the Biblical understanding of our need of a sacrifice and our need for atonement, which is a fancy word which really means at-one-ment in that it prepares the way for us to become one again with God. But atonement always comes through sacrifice.
A Visual Reminder-- And God integrated the practice of sacrifice into Israelite life and culture in such a powerful and visual way (particularly in the the practices revolving around the Tabernacle and later the Temple). When you think of how much sacrifice was a part of Israelite life; how normal it was to see animals laid on the altar and put to death, it can be quite unnerving. But it was a visual reminder to the Israelites of the cost of sin. Now though those sacrifices did not in themselves pay for their sins, they were a temporary act of obedience that served as a visual way for the Israelites to accept and receive a salvation being offered to them through a future Messiah. And so they would sprinkle the blood on the altar. It would flow. The animal gave its blood. And that blood of those sacrificial animals that were slain pointed people towards One who would come to pay for all sins past present and future.
Christ’s Bleeding-- And I find it interesting that modern scholarship and medicine has determined that what Jesus ultimately died from on the cross was loss of blood; through the beatings, the scourgings, the piercings, He had lost so much blood that (although His heart was pumping) there was no more blood left to pump and therefore He began to go into cardiac arrest. And what Jesus was doing was He was picturing and fulfilling every sacrifice that had ever been offered; every lamb that had ever been offered whose blood had been poured out. In His sacrifice that blood became the means by which atonement was made between us and God. That is why the veil in the temple tore at his crucifixion; because it was a divine sign that at-one-ment had been made between God and man. And it was made in and through the blood of Jesus Christ. So why must good Christian theology always be soaked in blood? Robert Lowry sums it up best in his famous hymn:
NOTHING BUT THE BLOOD OF JESUS by Robert Lowry (1826-1899)
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again?Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Oh! precious is the flow That makes me white as snow; No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus. For my cleansing this I see— Nothing but the blood of Jesus! For my pardon this my plea— Nothing but the blood of Jesus! Nothing can my sin erase; Nothing but the blood of Jesus! Naught of works, ’tis all of grace— Nothing but the blood of Jesus! This is all my hope and peace— Nothing but the blood of Jesus! This is all my righteousness— Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
If you want freedom, you must have blood; you must have sacrifice. And when you think about it, this principle seems to be true everywhere. In order for us to have any kind of freedom, blood has to be shed. Even in our own nation’s history, we have found this to be the case.
The Signers of The Declaration of Independence-- You know, it’s interesting. I read something not long ago that said this: Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. Their conviction resulted in untold sufferings for themselves and their families. Of the 56 men, five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army. Another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in poverty. At the battle of Yorktown, the British General Cornwallis had taken over Thomas Nelson's home for his headquarters. Nelson quietly ordered General George Washington to open fire on the Nelson home. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt. John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and mill were destroyed. For over a year, he lived in forests and caves, returning home only to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion.
Freedom is Sacred-- These were men who fought and died for freedom. And in a very deep and profound way, they shed their blood not only for themselves and their own freedom, but for us and our freedom. And that is why we have to remember that this gift of freedom that we have been given is sacred; it is more than mere license to do what we want (because that makes it about us); rather it is about something bigger than us. It is about aligning ourselves with a higher principle and power. And our founding fathers understood that principle to be Jesus Christ and Him alone.
Noah Webster-- Noah Webster; Revolutionary Soldier; Judge; Legislator; Educator; “Schoolmaster to America” said this: The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles… This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government. The moral principles and precepts found in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the… evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.
Dr. Benjamin Rush-- Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Surgeon General of the Continental Army said, “I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as satisfied that it is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament."
Intimately Tied-- That is how closely and intimately our founding fathers saw the principle of American Freedom being tied to Christ and His sacrifice. You cannot have one without the other. And if you wish to experience freedom in your own life (true freedom from sinful habits that destroy; from bad patterns of thought that lead you astray; from the darkness that might creep into the corners of your life (if it doesn’t outright rule it), you must be washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. You must receive His free gift of forgiveness. And receiving that gift is not complicated.
Houdini’s Unpickable Lock— Those of you who know me will know that I am a bit of an illusionist. It is a skill I started developing very early in life and now use to share the Gospel. And so having that in my background, I find some of the stories that circulate about famous magicians very fascinating. And in one of these stories Harry Houdini, the famed escape artist issued a challenge wherever he went. He could be locked in any jail cell in the country, he claimed, and set himself free quickly and easily. Always he kept his promise, but one time something went wrong. Houdini entered the jail in his street clothes; the heavy, metal doors clanged shut behind him. He took from his belt a concealed piece of metal, strong and flexible. He set to work immediately, but something seemed to be unusual about this lock. For 30 minutes he worked and got nowhere. An hour passed, and still he had not opened the door. By now he was bathed in sweat and panting in exasperation, but he still could not pick the lock. Finally, after laboring for 2 hours, Harry Houdini collapsed in frustration and failure against the door he could not unlock. But when he fell against the door, it swung open! It had never been locked at all! But in his mind it was locked and that was all it took to keep him from opening the door and walking out of the jail cell.
Striving in Works-- Many times we view the doors of heaven the same way. In Jesus’ time there were many people who were trying to get into heaven through false means. They thought they could do it by their own works; if they were good enough. But they ended up being shamed by the righteousness of Christ. He set the standard of righteousness in his own life; and that standard was impossible for them to reach. Nobody can get into heaven by works. It is only by the Grace of God in and through Jesus Christ. We can try to pick the door to heaven all we want; yet we will be unsuccessful. But all we have to do is knock and the door will be opened. Jesus says in…
Matthew 7:7 (KJV)— 7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
The Door— And that door is Jesus Christ. Have you gone through that open door? Have you received that free gift of forgiveness from Him? If not, invite Him today to do so. And He will not only forgive you; He will fill you with His life and transform you into become all you were meant to be. Receive that from Him today. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.