Priests: Indifferent People
There were a group of people who lived and talked just like Zacharias and Elisabeth. They lived in the same towns; they worked the same hours—and even attended the same synagogue. They knew the Bible backwards and forward. They were close to God in every way—but the heart!
The lesson for us this Christmas--beware of getting so close in every way--but your heart, to Christ. Beware of being acquainted with Christ but never knowing Him.
How close can you get to Jesus and still be too far away? That is what the religious leaders of Christ's day demonstrate to us this Christmas. So close they were, and yet so far away they remained. It is possible to be as close as them, and yet miss all that Christ and Christmas have to offer. Today in Matthew 2 we will examine the chief priests and scribes.
Matthew 2:1-6 "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.' " NKJV
They lived in the presence of God. Old Testament Worship centered around the Tabernacle and then the Temple. Divinely designed liturgy was carried on for 1,500 nearly unbroken years in the way Moses was told by God to do it on Mt. Sinai.
They saw all day long the symbols and pictures of salvation. The epicenter of that worship was the Holy Place. In the front half of it stood the Altar of Incense, Golden Lamp stand and Table of Showbread. The room was divided by a curtain. This curtain was actually a finely woven rug 4 inches thick, 60 feet high and 40 feet wide. Massive and towering and declaring one clear message STAY OUT. No natural light ever penetrated its dark depths. Even the light of the ever burning lamp stand never reached behind the veil.
They held the Holy revelation of God's Word. Most people could not afford a personal copy of God's Word—but these men were surrounded by mountains of scrolls. They were read, they were discussed, they were copied, and they were stored everywhere around them.
They sang each day from the Psalms. Each day the Temple rituals included public readings, Levitical singing and chanting of God's Word. Most of these men would have head these regular portions so often that they would know long passages and even many chapters by memory.
The priests wore the clothing that reminded them in every way of God. The white robes and special sashes as prescribed by Moses were carefully changed into daily at the Temple. Those who were involved in the sacrifices actually would have had blood splashed upon them every day. They would have gone through the entire drama of salvation each day. An innocent and spotless animal brought, the offerer placed his hands on the head of that animal confessing his sins and those of his family. The priest then took the animal, killed it, caught its blood and poured it around the altar and burned the sacrifice. A complete picture of the sinless Lamb of God, who spotlessly offered Himself for the sin of the world. He poured out His blood and died on a cross becoming our sin.
What was wrong with all this? They only held God's Word in their hands - not in their hearts. God was only near in their mouths - and not in their hearts.
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