Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 21 January 2020

But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. Philippians 2:17. (EHV).

What is a drink offering?  You’ll have to open your Old Testament for that one (and that’s a good thing to do, since everything in the Old Testament points to and explains Jesus and the world He came into).  From  “The first recorded occurrence of a drink offering was that given by Jacob in Genesis 35:14, right after God changed his name to Israel. Drink offerings were also included with burnt and grain offerings in God-ordained sacrifices, including the morning and evening sacrifices of Exodus 29:40. One-quarter hin, about one quart, of wine was poured out into the altar fire for each lamb sacrificed (Numbers 15:4-5). A ram sacrifice required one third of a hin (Numbers 15:6), and a bull required one half (Numbers 15:10).”

That’s a lot of wine.  What’s more, the drink offerings were given only to God, only done in worship and over sacrifices offered on an altar.   It was symbolic of life, worship, Sabbath, victory, and devotion.  I’m betting a Bible scholar could tell you more and better about all this; I’m no Bible scholar.   I simply know what I read and what others have taught me. Now, consider that the wine (and the amount of it) really didn’t matter.   It wasn’t for the booze that God commanded Israel to do these things.   It wasn’t for the ceremony of it, or seeing if the Israelites would follow instructions, and it wasn’t because God wanted His people to jump through a bunch of hoops.

It’s about that pouring out.   Then as now (as in Holy Communion), wine symbolized blood.   And, then as now, blood meant life.  In a drink offering, God commanded his people to cover their atoning sacrifices in symbolic blood, pouring themselves out, in turn, while doing so.  He wanted them to empty themselves so He could fill them.  God commanded the Israelites to do what was necessary to cling to Him, to remain devoted to Him.   It was for their good, not His.

God didn’t force them; He didn’t compel them.   He asked His people – us – to give everything from a willing heart.  He asks that we devote ourselves to Him and not hold back.   He asks us to dig deep in our psyches, digging deep into our souls and turn over what means most to Him.   These days, He doesn’t ask for sacrifices or poured wine over them, but he still asks us to pour ourselves out to Him…because He poured Himself out fully for us.   On the cross.

For further reading:  Genesis 35:14, Exodus 29:40, Numbers 15:4-6, 10, Romans 15:16, 2 Corinthians 12:15, 2 Timothy, 4:6, Philippians 2:18

Lord Jesus, YOU are the ultimate drink offering, covering Your own sacrifice in Your perfect blood.   Teach me to pour out my heart to You and You alone always.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 29 January 2019

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.  1 Timothy 5:23 (NIV).

Paul now moves from advice on dealing with elders to a bit of homeopathic medical advice.   It should be noted that the Bible doesn’t condemn drinking alcohol; Verse 23 gives support to that.   What the Bible does condemn is overuse and drunkenness, and it should.   Nothing good comes out of being drunk.   Yes, I’ve done it many times, and I agree with that statement.  Scripture repeatedly condemns drunkenness; it gives examples of bad things that result from drunkenness.   Think Noah and his sons, Lot’s daughters, and repeated exhortations throughout both Testaments as to the negative effects of drinking too much.

Here endeth the ‘preachiness’ of the sermon.   I’d rather focus on the positive aspect of this verse because, once again, it talks about personal responsibility.   It’s as if Paul is saying “you’re a grown man.   Be responsible about this.”

In most parts of the world in the first century, good sanitation didn’t exist.   As long as a well wasn’t tainted, it was generally safe to use, and people knew how to boil water, even how to filter it to make it clean.   Yet modern water filtration didn’t exist for another two thousand years.   You could get sick and die from bad water; you still can.  Alcohol was safer.   It’s simply history, not advocacy.

Mind you, if someone prefers to avoid alcohol because of the negative connotations associated with it, they’re doing a Godly thing.   If churches prefer grape juice to alcohol for Holy Communion, they’re doing a Godly thing.   They’re removing an obstacle to the Lord’s Supper for people who can’t or won’t drink wine.  And if someone insists that they simply don’t like wine, well, there’s nothing wrong with that.

About communion:  it’s significant that Jesus used wine at the first Lord’s Supper.  There’s good debate about whether that was true wine or simply strong grape juice.   Yet most versions of the Bible say “wine” so I take it that it was wine He used to give His blood to us.   It matters that the Son of God used wine constructively.   So should we.

Finally, wine can have good effects on the body.  A small amount of alcohol does calm nerves, settle a stomach, and builds immunity against the common cold.   Periodic small drinks of alcohol can lower one’s risk for both diabetes and heart disease.   But to be honest, so do many other things that don’t involve booze.

Whatever your position, live it out responsibly and to the glory of God.

For further reading: Genesis 9:18-29, Genesis 19:31-32, Proverbs 20:1, Isaiah 28:7, Romans 13:13, Mark 14:23, Proverbs 31:7, 1 Timothy 5:24.

Lord, praise to You for wine and Spirits.  Forgive our misuse of them, thank You for giving them, and help us to always use them to Your benefit.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 3 February

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. Mark 14, verses 12-16.

If you don’t know the story of the Last Supper, then my prayer for this is that you learn something about it.   I’m not yet going to dive into the deep spiritual meaning that Jesus’ Spirit imbues in each of us through His real presence in the elements of bread and wine; relax, peeps, we’ll get there.   Instead, let’s just focus a bit on the history of it.

You know what I think about coincidences (in case you’ve forgotten, it’s ‘there aren’t any’). It’s no coincidence that Jesus would use the ceremony of the Passover seder to give His gift of the Holy Supper. The rich symbolism of Passover was ancient even in Jesus’ day; to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “this is deep, old magic.” BEFORE freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, while they were watching the Egyptians suffer through the ten plagues (that were designed to inspire Pharaoh free God’s chosen people), God came to Moses and commanded him to paint lamb’s blood on the lintels and doorposts of every Hebrew home.   The Hebrews were to stay inside their homes and eat a meal of lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs while God’s angel of death passed over each home where it saw the entryway blood.

Read that again and let it sink in, then consider the story with these words.

While they were still in their sins, God personally came to sinner slaves and, through the blood of an innocent lamb on the entrance to their hearts, purposefully forgot to kill those inside.   To commemorate this, the sinners followed God’s command to eat a meal that would remember this action of God’s holy grace. Lamb signifying the death of an innocent; unleavened bread to remember freeing them in haste from their sins; bitter herbs to remember the unsatisfying taste of their slavery to sin. Blood that God would see and remember their sins no more. The meal became a milestone in every believer’s life.

Sound familiar?

The first Passover happened over a thousand years before the life of Christ.   And every year since they had been delivered, even when in captivity in Babylon then dispersed in the diaspora, the Jewish descendants of those Hebrew slaves had eaten this meal in remembrance.   Jesus the man was a descendant of Israelites; so were His disciples.   So, on that Maundy Thursday, the night before He was murdered on Good Friday, Jesus used the ecclesiastical, spiritual, historical and personally emotional significance of the Passover meal to institute what we Christians know as Holy Communion. It’s not a coincidence.

Noodle that today, then give thanks and glory to God.

Lord Jesus, thank You for using the beauty of Passover for Your Last Supper and Your Holy Communion.

Read Mark 14, verses 12-26.