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The Purpose-Driven Sheep
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Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wendy Wippel

Have you read Psalm 100 lately? It's a great psalm and an exuberant expression of praise and worship! In fact, it's worth reading again:

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness.

Come before him, singing with joy.  Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.  We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving:  go into his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good.   His unfailing love continues forever,

and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

What a great and awesome God we serve!

But did you really read it? Did you catch the sobering message hidden behind the bright phrasing?

This psalm tells us that we are the sheep of His pasture and commands us to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.

What's the problem? A sheep coming into the Temple has only one calling. They’re entering the Temple gates to be sacrificed.  Sheep were only brought into the Temple for that one purpose, entering the Temple Mount area through the Tadi gate on the north wall and crossing both  the Outer Court and Women’s Court before reaching the Priest’s Court where the  sacrifice was finally offered. 

Yet we are commanded to enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. This seeming contradiction is repeated in Romans. Paul urges his readers to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices” in a spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1) How can we do this willingly, even eagerly, with thanksgiving and  songs of praise? 

For one thing, we have to check our English luggage at the door. Webster defines sacrifice as something lost, destroyed or surrendered.  The Hebrew term for sacrifice, however, Korban, means to approach, or come near, and is used exclusively in Scripture within the context of a man’s relationship to God. 

Christ’s sacrifice as the Lamb of God was the only means through which we could come near to God, and our worship of God through yielding to him—a sacrifice of our own thoughts or desires-- is our spiritual act of worship.  And through this act we lose nothing of value, but gain all the riches and promises of Christ.

 And there’s our motivation!

We can enter His gates—even as a sacrifice-- with genuine joy and praise,  because by this we draw closer to Him.  Paul drives the point home in Romans, saying that when we offer our bodies and lives as a sacrifice in worship, God can transform us by renewing our minds—showing us “how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” (Romans 12:2) As we come to know God (the God of grace, mercy, and perfect, pleasant will) intimately, seeing his sovereign faithfulness in our lives, then we can really offer up our lives with joy.  And then--and only then--is  one day in his courts is truly better than thousands elsewhere. (Psalm 84:1)  Even as a sheep!

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: DNA and the Aaronic Priesthood

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