Our Exodus chapter (17) gives us further details of all the things the nation being formed in the wilderness, had to make for use in the tabernacle – it was to be the centre of their lives: they were to be camped all around it. The “sacrifices” at the bronze altar, outside the Tabernacle, would be constantly visible, the centre of their attention. Sadly, because of their lack of faith in going up to conquer the land they “wandered” for 40 years.
Our reading of Psalm 81 relates to their failure in the wilderness. We read the challenging declaration, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt … But my people did not listen to my voice … So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts…” [v.10-12] Moses was the mouthpiece for God, but, although they heard his words, they did not take them into their hearts.
Today we can read God’s word – and hear it read, but how well do we take what we read and hear into our hearts – with the result – its meaning motivates our thinking and resultant actions!? A question we must answer!
Our reading in Mark ch. 12 details the answer Jesus gave when a scribe came and “asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ ” [v.28] Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ ” [v.29,30]
The scribe agrees, “”You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one … And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” [v.32,33]
The altar they made in the wilderness failed in its’ purpose – they could not ‘see‘ and therefore failed to love their God – the sacrifices they made on it did not ‘move’ their hearts. But this scribe is an example of one who did ‘see’ and “when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” [v.34] Are we thinking “wisely”? It depends on the way we read the Scriptures – and absorb them.
The writer to the Hebrews addressed the Jews who had become believers in Christ. Wonderfully they now “have an altar from which those who serve the tent (i.e. tabernacle)have no right to eat.” [see 13 v.10] Jesus had become their altar. There are times when believers come to him in the spirit David showed after his sin, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” [Psa. 51 v.17]
May we come to our “altar” in the spirit the scribe revealed – a total spirit of “love” which ” is much more than all … sacrifices“, then we will feel our Master saying to us “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”