Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – Spare Us from Your Wrath, O Lord! (Numbers 17:12-18:5)

And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, shall die. Are we all to perish?” So, the LORD said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear iniquity connected with your priesthood. And with you bring your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. They shall join you and keep guard over the tent of meeting for all the service of the tent, and no outsider shall come near you. And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel.”

Numbers 17:12-18:5

Because of their blatant rebellion against God, the people wonder if they are to perish (17:12-13). So, the Lord sets Aaron and the priesthood to “keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel” (18:5). This is exactly what Jesus is doing in His ascension. Why did Jesus “leave” us and ascend? He’s not on vacation; He’s there interceding for us. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself up as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Whereas Aaron and the priests entered the earthly tent and sanctuary of the Tabernacle, Jesus has entered the heavenly tent and sanctuary in His ascension:

But when Christ appeared as a High Priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing and eternal redemption… For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf… And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.

Hebrews 9:11-12, 24; 10:11-12

In His death, Christ suffered the wrath of God you and I deserve. In His resurrection, Christ rose victorious over the death you deserve. And in His ascension, Christ continues to make intercession for you. He reconciles you to God in the forgiveness of sins, which He distributes to you through means: the Word and Sacraments. Your pastor, as a called and ordained servant of Christ, forgives you your sins by the efficacy of His Word in Holy Absolution. In Holy Baptism, the Lord washes all your sins away by the efficacy of His Word. And in the Lord’s Supper, the efficacy of His Word turns simple bread and wine into His body and blood to give you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. The same Word that spoke and created all things is the same Word who was crucified, is risen, and is ascended for you, who continues to speak His Word in preaching and the sacraments to give you life everlasting.

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