Today’s readings.. (Exodus 7,8), (Psalms 60,61), (Romans 12)

In Genesis we are reading of Moses’ encounters with Pharaoh and today we saw Moses’ demand “We must go three days journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as he tells us” [Ch.8 v.27] Over the next few days we will read of the drama of the plagues: we pondered the example of Pharaoh’s tactic of first agreeing and then denying Moses’ requests, so Moses says, “let not Pharaoh cheat again …” [v.29]
Egypt had come to depend, we conclude, on the enslaved Israelites as a really significant factor in their economic well-being: this compares with today as a most important factor in decision making processes of Governments; but it rarely leads to the wisest decisions, especially in this godless world.  .
As we read through Exodus we learn about the whole system of worship which God gave to the people starting with the ten commandments.  With the “mountain smoking” and  thunder and lightning “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear (awe) of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” [8 v.18,20]
A system of sacrifice and offerings for sin is then instituted. This largely revolved around the sacrifice of animals, however in most cases these then became food for the priests and the people. Sadly, as the years passed their spiritual perception and service to their God and of his wondrous deliverance of them from slavery faded: sacrifice became more and more a ritual.
In the New Testament we have the ultimate sacrifice – that of God’s Son – our Lord.  The first converts on the day of Pentecost “were cut to the heart” [Acts 2 v.37] But did that “sacrifice” of heart last?  Our chapter today in Romans (12) sees Paul making an impassioned plea about this.  The chapter starts, “I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God …”
All that those trying to be genuine believers – do, say and even think – needs to arise from an earnest desire to be such a sacrifice.  Notice how Paul puts it; to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God” [v.2].  We must not fall into the trap of creating rituals to keep and follow similar to the pattern that later developed in the wilderness; rather, as we read in Hebrews 9 v.14, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” and make us into “a living sacrifice” having an active purified conscience.

* Click verse text to see cross references.
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