We welcome Rev Martin Pakula to the HBC Blog. Martin has recently been called to be the Interim Paster of Hills Bible Church and will be a regular contributor to this blog. Martin’s first post is part one of a four-part series on the privilege of prayer. To learn more about Martin, click here.
Martin encourages readers to comment, so please – don’t be shy.
What do prayer and Leviticus have in common? Many things perhaps, but one that comes to mind is that both are difficult! And yet Leviticus 16, a chapter about the Day of Atonement, has much to teach us about prayer.
As a pastor, Christians often confide in me their difficulties in praying. If only there was a ‘tip’ or ‘trick’ to prayer that could be learned! What is a technique or piece of advice I can give them to help them with their prayers? What’s the thing, the trick, that will help them? Leviticus 16, I think, offers us a great key in understanding prayer.
Stay tuned as we consider Leviticus 16. We’ll get to prayer in the end!
The book of Leviticus as a whole teaches us that God is holy. We are called to be holy as God is holy (Lev 11:45). However we are not holy. We are sinful and unholy. Sinful and unholy people cannot approach a holy God and live. Moses was told that no one could see God’s face and live (Ex 33:20). The penalty for sin is death, and those who approach God in their sins bear their guilt and die.
I think many folk who aren’t Christian must assume that they can rock up before God whenever they like. Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee, when asked about God, said: “Me and God, we’re mates!” It reminds me also of an advertisement that used to be on television that said: “When you get to heaven whaddya think you’ll say? I think I’ll say, ‘G’day’!” We Aussies are so laid back, you see, that our God is too. He’s my mate, and I can rock up before him and say “G’day”! It’s a comforting thought, but a false one. In the Bible when people ‘rock up’ before God, they fall down before him as if dead. Isaiah lamented that he had come face to face with God in his sin: Isaiah 6:5 “And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ”
The first high priest of Israel, Moses’ brother Aaron, had four sons. They were priests together with their father. In Leviticus 10:1-2 two of Aaron’s four sons approached God. They went behind the curtain in the Temple into the Most Holy Place, where God dwells. They ‘rocked up’ before God. And they died. Sinful and unholy people cannot approach a holy God and live. Not even if you were a priest in Israel.
God therefore set up a special system by which he could be with his people. God does want to be with us and be in relationship with us. But if we approach God in our sin we will die. Therefore God put up a screen, a curtain, a barrier, that separated him from us so that we would not see him and die. In the Tabernacle, God is present with his people, but behind the barrier of the screen. That was for the protection of the Israelites. The curtain reminds us graphically that we can’t just approach God whenever we like, or we would die in our sin.
The Day of Atonement is the solution to this problem – the problem of how a holy God can remain dwelling with his unholy people.
Rev Martin Pakula, Pastor of Hills Bible Church, writes a four-part post on the
“Privilege of Prayer”.
In his next post he writes, “The Day of Atonement, in a nutshell, is a spring cleaning ceremony!”
Read Martin’s upcoming post to see what Martin means by this.