Attitude

If you are poor and cannot afford to bring an animal, you may bring two doves or two pigeons. One of these will be a sacrifice to ask my forgiveness, and the other will be a sacrifice to please me.

Give both birds to the priest, who will offer one as a sacrifice to ask my forgiveness. He will wring its neck without tearing off its head, splatter some of its blood on one side of the bronze altar, and drain out the rest at the foot of the altar. Then he will follow the proper rules for offering the other bird as a sacrifice to please me.

You will be forgiven when the priest offers these sacrifices as the price for your sin.

If you are so poor that you cannot afford doves or pigeons, you may bring two pounds of your finest flour. This is a sacrifice to ask my forgiveness, so don’t sprinkle olive oil or sweet-smelling incense on it. Give the flour to a priest, who will scoop up a handful and send it up in smoke together with the other offerings. This is a reminder that all of the flour belongs to me. By offering this sacrifice, the priest pays the price for any of these sins you may have committed. The priest gets the rest of the flour, just as he does with grain sacrifices. (Leviticus 5:7-13)

God did not want money to stand in the way of people coming to him. The poor were not to be excluded from forgiveness just because they were poor.

Sacrifices of animals in an agrarian society were sacrifices of wealth—the equivalent of taking money out of the bank and setting it on fire. It was not an easy thing for anyone to do—and God understood how hard it was. Therefore, how much a person sacrificed depended upon how much they could afford. The rich offered the most: large animals. The further down the economic scale, the smaller and less valuable the offerings became. At the lowest level, just a little flour would suffice. The poorest of the poor could still manage a handful of flour because God had made it a law that fields could not be harvested completely: enough grain had to be left for the poor to glean (Leviticus 23:22).

Blood was not the key to a good sacrifice. Attitude was. For a person to stay alive, something must die, whether it was the animal that provided the steak dinner, or the wheat plant whose seeds were ground up to make bread. In either case, the picture of the sacrifice is preserved: a death gives life.

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Mercy

The LORD said to Cain:

“What’s wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don’t let it!”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go for a walk.” And when they were out in a field, Cain killed him.

Afterwards the LORD asked Cain, “Where is Abel?”

“How should I know?” he answered. “Am I supposed to look after my brother?”

Then the LORD said:

“Why have you done this terrible thing? You killed your own brother, and his blood flowed onto the ground. Now his blood is calling out for me to punish you. And so, I’ll put you under a curse. Because you killed Abel and made his blood run out on the ground, you will never be able to farm the land again. If you try to farm the land, it won’t produce anything for you. From now on, you’ll be without a home, and you’ll spend the rest of your life wandering from place to place.”

“This punishment is too hard!” Cain said. “You’re making me leave my home and live far from you. I will have to wander about without a home, and just anyone could kill me.”
“No!” the LORD answered. “Anyone who kills you will be punished seven times worse than I am punishing you.” So the LORD put a mark on Cain to warn everyone not to kill him. But Cain had to go far from the LORD and live in the Land of Wandering, which is east of Eden. (Genesis 4:6-16)

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Cain had murdered his brother and he deserved to die. All the ancient law codes, from Egypt to Mesopotamia included death as the sole penalty for murder. After the Great Flood, God ordered capital punishment for murder. The death penalty was part of the covenant God made with Israel in the time of Moses. Nevertheless, over and over, those guilty of the most heinous crime imaginable were granted mercy instead of vengeance. Moses killed an Egyptian overseer, but God did not demand his execution. David murdered Uriah, and he was forgiven. But before all of that, we have the example of Cain who murdered his younger brother.

God had rejected Cain’s offering, but had accepted his brother’s. Why? Not because of the kind of offering that Cain brought to God, but because of the kind of heart he had brought to him. God warned Cain about his anger. Rather than repenting, Cain gave into it and murdered his sibling.

God did not order Cain’s execution. Cain’s punishment was exile from his people and from his chosen profession as a farmer. But God protected Cain from human vengeance. Rather than allowing justice—eye for eye—God granted Cain mercy.

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Abimelech and Abraham

And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar. Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.”

But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she, even she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.”

And God said to him in a dream, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Now therefore, restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
So Abimelech rose early in the morning, called all his servants, and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were very much afraid. (Genesis 20:1-8)

Abraham lied to Abimelech. Oh sure, Sarah was his half sister, but what mattered in their relationship was the fact that Sarah was his wife. But Abraham was afraid—which of course is the motivation for all lying. He imagined the worst of Abimelech and the other people of his land, assuming that they were so wicked that they would kill him so that they could steal what mattered most to him: his beautiful wife. He didn’t trust them, and he didn’t trust God.

Despite Abraham’s lies, however, God protected Abimelech from doing something that Abimelech had never had any intention of doing in the first place. He didn’t want to take another man’s wife and was appalled by Abraham’s actions. But God showed them mercy, and more importantly, he showed Abraham mercy. He protected his wife, despite Abraham’s poor choices. And he protected Abraham. Abimelech didn’t kill him or even curse him. Instead, Abimelech paid him a thousand shekels of silver—about 25 pounds—and gave him cattle, sheep, and slaves. Abraham lied, put a king and his people in jeopardy from God and put his wife into the arms of another man—and wound up richer because of it.

Abraham was spared from what he deserved and got instead what he didn’t deserve. Abimelech was spared as well. The story of Abraham and Abimelech is an odd illustration of mercy and grace.

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Forgiveness

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

“I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. (Exodus 32:7-14)

Moses left the Israelites in his brother Aaron’s hands while he went to get God’s Ten Commandments up on a mountain. He was gone a long time. The people grew restless, and so Aaron helped them build idols that they worshipped in place of God. He even told them that the idols represented the gods that had rescued them from Egypt. Then they had a wild party.

God was furious. He felt the same pain, the same anger that a spouse feels when the other spouse has an affair. In fact, later prophets would use adultery as a picture of idolatry. God’s first response was to dump the Israelites and replace them with Moses. It’s hard to forgive because it means you have to give up on getting justice.

But Moses begged God to forgive the people of Israel, without disputing that they deserved punishment. Instead, he reminded God of how important the Israelites were to him. So God forgave them. The relationship meant more to God than getting even.

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A Kingdom Divided

Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the LORD had commanded.

So the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.” (1 Kings 11:9-13)

Solomon was an idolater. He had built temples to the gods of his wives and offered sacrifices to them. And yet Solomon had known God, had worshiped God, had been given the gift of wisdom by God. He is noted as the wisest man who ever lived.

But despite his relationship with God, despite his wisdom, he still went far astray. Solomon illustrates what Paul said: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:21-23)

But God’s judgment on Solomon was not as harsh as we might imagine it should have been. God did not strike Solomon with illness or strip him of his position. Instead, he stripped Solomon’s future from him. After his death, his son would oversee the loss of Solomon’s wealthy kingdom. Ten of the twelve tribes would break away to form a new nation, with a king not descended from Solomon to rule over them.

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Balaam

But Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, “Although Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God, to do less or more. You remain here, as the others did, so that I may learn what more the LORD may say to me.” That night God came to Balaam and said to him, “If the men have come to summon you, get up and go with them; but do only what I tell you to do.” So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab.

God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. The donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck it again. (Numbers 22:18-25)

Just because God lets you do it, it doesn’t mean you should. God had told Balaam not to do what Balak, king of the Moabites, had asked. But like a child who continues pleading with his parent long after the parent has said no, so Balaam, because money was being dangled before him, kept begging God. Balaam knew what God wanted but chose his own way instead.

Angry that Balaam insisted on going, God sent an angel to block his path. The donkey Balaam was riding saw the angel and tried to avoid him. Balaam reacted by beating his donkey. But despite whatever pain Balaam gave him, the donkey refused to go anywhere he wasn’t supposed to.

In contrast, despite everything that God told him, Balaam was going to go his own way, regardless. He pronounced a blessing rather than a curse upon Israel, but he figured out a way—or so he thought—to get around God’s constraint. He told Balak to send women to seduce the Israelites and lead them into idolatry. Balaam might not be able to curse the Israelites, but he thought he could get God to curse them anyhow. That way, Balak would still pay him. But it didn’t work out quite as either he or Balak hoped. Instead, it cost both of them their lives (see Joshua 13:22).

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Apollo 13

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.

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Told You So

All this time, Peter was sitting out in the courtyard. One servant girl came up to him and said, “You were with Jesus the Galilean.”

In front of everybody there, he denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

As he moved over toward the gate, someone else said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.”

Again he denied it, salting his denial with an oath: “I swear, I never laid eyes on the man.”

Shortly after that, some bystanders approached Peter. “You’ve got to be one of them. Your accent gives you away.”

Then he got really nervous and swore. “I don’t know the man!”

Just then a rooster crowed. Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” He went out and cried and cried and cried. (Matthew 26:69–75)

Jesus warned Peter ahead of time what was going to happen. But the warning didn’t stop Peter or alter his behavior in any way.

With Jesus’ arrest, with the disciples scattered, Peter suffered the loss of everything he had believed in, everything that he had hoped would happen. During the whole night as he skirted about, his mind would likely have been filled with the disappointment over how things had turned out and over his own failure to act. Perhaps he wondered if there might not be something he could do to change the circumstances, to fix the problem. But with each choice he made, he merely solidified the outcome and fulfilled the very words that Jesus had told him, words that he didn’t want to believe, that he couldn’t believe were true—until the moment the rooster crowed and all his hopes came to nothing.

Over the course of our lives, we have doubtless received good advice that we ignored. And likewise, we have given good advice that we saw ignored. We have heard people tell us, “told you so” and probably have said it ourselves, or perhaps on some occasions, resisted that temptation. . Peter learned and came out fine on the other side of his mistakes. His misery, his suffering, did not have to be what it was. The night could have gone a different way for him had he understood what Jesus had been trying to tell him. God won’t abandon us just because we don’t always understand or follow his good advice, though he might tell us, “told you so.”

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God’s Will, Human Choice

While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.”

Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”

At that time Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled. (Matthew 26:47–56)

Jesus’ knew that his death on the cross was inevitable. And he knew that Judas would sell him out for a bag of silver.

But until the moment Judas made his decision to betray Jesus, Judas had no clue. He had been a follower, convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. But one day, maybe all at once, maybe gradually, something changed for him and so he had changed, too. Even though Judas was foreordained to be Jesus’ betrayer, he made his choices freely. God did not force him, twist his arm, or talk him into something that he didn’t want to do.

Although God has absolute power and authority, he has chosen to give people their freedom. Somehow, God accomplishes his will through the choices we make, whether they’re good or bad. Judas made an appalling choice, but by it he accomplished God’s will.

Judas demonstrates that we have the freedom to make whatever choices we decide we want to make. We might want to be careful, therefore, how we exercise the freedom God has granted us.

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Human Weakness

He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.

Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.

“Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matthew 26:37–46)

Jesus told his Father just how unhappy he was about his circumstances. He also told his disciples about how he was feeling. Even so, we sometimes wonder how we are supposed to feel about our problems. We become concerned that there’s a right way to feel and we’re afraid that how we really feel isn’t it.

A pastor once went to comfort parents who had just lost their only daughter in a car accident. Rather grieving, they were pretending to smile. They told him that as Christians, they believed they shouldn’t “mourn as the heathen do.” He gently suggested that the passage did not teach against mourning, but rather, that when we mourn, we should feel neither hopeless and nor helpless about it, because we know God is with us and we know the resurrection is coming.

Jesus knew who he was the Son of God. He knew he would rise from the dead. But he still mourned his circumstances. He still wished for some other way. But he was also willing to face God’s will.
What gives us strength in disaster is not pretending that we’re not in pain. Our strength comes from understand that God is with us and that he will stay with us until the end.

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