First Things First

Had a great conversation yesterday morning. Talked about Jesus’ exclusive claim that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). That, throughout God’s word, the way into the presence of God has always been an exclusive way. And that, far from being a different way than revealed to Moses and the prophets, Jesus is the embodiment of that exclusive, narrow path foretold and foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets,” says the Word who became flesh, “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). Everything revealed concerning how sinful men and women might come into communion with a holy God finds it’s ultimate fulfillment in Christ. Thus Paul could write, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him” (2Cor. 1:20).

That conversation floating around in my head provided fertile soil for the seed that was planted this morning as I was reading in Ezra 3. Background: Cyrus king of Persia, his heart stirred by the Spirit of God, issues an edict. The proclamation is to those of the house of Israel who have been in captivity for the past 70 years since Judah was conquered, and Jerusalem was razed, by the Babylonians. Cyrus proclaims that for “everyone whose spirit God had stirred,” they were to be granted permission to return to Jerusalem, with the blessing and resources of the king of Persia, in order to rebuild the temple of God . . . in order to reestablish the house of the Lord (Ezra 1).

And as I’m reading this morning, the observation that captures my attention is what the people build first as they begin their restoration project.

When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.    (Ezra 3:1-2 ESV)

What’s the first thing they rebuild as they start to rebuild the place where the glory of God is to reside? The altar . . . the place of sacrifice. Why? Because the first thing they needed to do was to offer burnt offerings. They needed blood shed to atone for their sin. They needed to offer a substitute as payment for the wages they owed a holy God because of their transgressions. For these freed captives, the way into the presence of God . . . the means for inviting the presence of God among them . . . was first through an offering for sin. So, they built the altar. First things first.

And it hits me anew. That’s why Jesus’ claim is so exclusive. That’s why He is the only way. It’s not just because of His ideology (though He is the truth), but because He is the life. The wages of sin is death, but Jesus through His death on the cross paid the price in full. He was the once for all offering upon the altar that made open the way into the holy of holies and into the very presence of God.

Who else or what else has claimed to be the final offering to satisfy the wrath of a just and holy God? Who else has claimed their blood shed as the final atonement for our iniquity? Who else has shown themselves to be the eternal Son of God come as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world? Who else has been raised from the dead indicating God’s concurrence that truly He is the life and that surely “It is finished?”

Jesus is the fulfillment of first things first. The altar has always come before the access. The need for sacrifice always required before entrance into the sanctuary. The blood shed has always been required as the prerequisite for God’s blessing shown.

Jesus IS the way. To Him be all praise and adoration!

All because of God’s grace . . . all for God’s glory.

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