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“Death, you shall die”

“O death, I will be your plagues.” (Hosea 13:14)

Disease brings death. The grave destroys. But here God promises a radical reversal. Death will be diseased and the grave will be destroyed. Israel’s enemies will themselves be defeated and Israel will be released.

Paul borrows this language and the principle behind it to anticipate the ultimate victory of the Christian over death: “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?’ (1 Cor. 15:54-55)

This great climactic victory will be seen in all its glory on the day of the general resurrection of God’s people. As the Lord Jesus comes to claim the precious dust of His saints and to transform them into His glorious body, He shouts, “O death, I will be your plagues; I grave, I will be your destruction.”

But we need not wait until then to see foreshadows of this victory. Every time a Christian defeats the fear of death and its soul-paralyzing power by trusting in Christ to save his body and soul from death, the victory shout is heard, “O death, I will be your plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction.”

Every time a Christian faces terminal illness and death with faith and confidence in Christ, death is plagued and the grave’s power is destroyed.

Every time a persecuted Christian faces the firing squad and looks heavenward with peace and confidence, all heaven celebrates the victory, “O death, I will be your plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction.”

As you face your own end in this world, may this great divine ‘I will’ make death and the grave weaken and wither before you. May you look forward to the day of full and final victory when “we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Cor. 15:51-52).”

That should be me

Baruch was meditating on Abraham’s willingness to offer Isaac to God. Convicted by his own half-heartedness, he dedicated himself anew to Jehovah and promised to be more whole-hearted in his faith and life.

The Volunteer (Lev. 1:3)
In token of this promise, and to seal it to his own conscience, he decided to bring a burnt-offering to the Tabernacle that day. He rose from his knees, went through the tent door, and started walking towards a small pen containing livestock. Every step was full of cheerful willingness. There was no reluctance nor compulsion, no formalism nor hypocrisy – simply the eager happy service of a believer who desired a closer walk with Jehovah. He went to “offer it of his own voluntary will.”

The Value (Lev. 1:3, 10)
Standing by the fence, he surveyed the few animals he possessed. What would he offer to express his devotion and surrender to God? His eyes passed over the handful of doves. “Too little,” he thought. He looked at his one bull. The flesh started lusting against the spirit, suggesting many reasons why he should not offer it this time. “Yes,” he reasoned, “I will reserve my bull for another day.” So, it had to be a sheep or a goat. Again, temptation started getting the better of him. “Remember that old, weak-looking sheep which has not been gaining weight?” suggested an inner voice. “No,” Baruch replied out loud. “If I want this to be a real turning-point in my spiritual life, I will offer my best lamb.” Looking at the possible options, the choice was clear.

The Transfer (Lev. 1:4)
Approaching the door of the Tabernacle, he paused. Turning to the lamb, he placed his hand on its head and confessed, “O Jehovah, I deeply regret my lukewarmness and half-heartedness in your service…I want to be wholly and completely yours…” As his tears began to flow, and his passion for God overflowed, his hand pressed ever heavier on the lamb’s head.

The Killing (Lev. 1:5)
Baruch dreaded this part of the ritual. He looked into the eyes of the lamb he had helped deliver into this world, the lamb he had fed and cared for, the lamb he treasured above all the others. “Must you die for me?” he whispered. As he took the knife and began to cut, he cried out with deep longing, “Oh, for the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world…and the need for all these sacrifices?”

The Sprinkling (Lev. 1:5)
Life drained from the lamb, the priest gathered the blood in a basin and sprinkled it on the altar, as Baruch repeated again and again, “Precious blood, precious blood, precious blood…”

The Flaying (Lev. 1:6, 9)
As Baruch dissected the carcass of the lamb and washed the various parts, his trained eye could see the value of each and every part more clearly. He wondered how the value of the ultimate sacrifice for sin would be measured and publicly displayed.

The Burning (Lev. 1:9)
The moment was always awesome and solemn. The priest used long forks to maneuver the body parts into the flames, stoking the fire higher and hotter.  Baruch watched entranced as the life of the lamb was turned to ashes in the fierce heat. “That should be me…that should be me…” he whispered.

The Blessing
As he left the Tabernacle, the image of the lamb consumed by the flames was burned into Baruch’s mind. That evening, he not only prayed for the Final Perfect Sacrifice, but also for what the sacrifice symbolized: whole-person devotion to God, “Lord, make me burn for you. Take all I am and have and use it for your glory” (Rom. 12:1).

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