For the week of February 12, 2011 / 8 Adar 5771
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 27:20 - 30:10
Haftarah: Ezekiel 43:10-27
You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, "Holy to the LORD." And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron's forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. (Shemot / Exodus 28:36-38; ESV)
Years ago I was talking to a business colleague, who made reference to his way of dealing with people, by saying "no MSG". He wasn't referring to the infamous flavor enhancer, but rather to "manipulation, shame, or guilt". I don't know about you, but in my growing up years. "MSG" (not the flavor enhancer) was a staple and it didn't enhance anything! One of the reasons this kind of MSG is so common is that it works. It may not work with you, but where I come from, it worked big time.
Some people claim that shame and guilt are illusionary, nothing more than a state of mind, a psychological condition concocted by the power brokers of society. There might be some truth in that when we address false guilt and shame. There are all sorts of people who, for all sorts of reasons, unnecessarily suffer from the burden of guilt and shame, but that doesn't mean that real guilt and shame don't exist.
The Hebrew word for "guilt" in the verses I quoted is "av-on'" and is often translated "iniquity." It comes from the idea of being twisted. In the context of these verses, guilt was experienced by the people for not properly fulfilling their obligations before God. As a result they were in a twisted condition as far as their relationship with God was concerned. A better way to express it in contemporary terms would be "being out of sorts."
Real guilt, then, is a relational condition, not a psychological one. Real guilt may be accompanied by feelings of guilt or not. For example if you commit a traffic violation, and the authorities determine you are in the wrong, whether or not they are correct, you are guilty and must satisfy the penalty of guilt before your relationship to the authorities can be fully restored. How you feel about the situation is beside the point.
Unlike the imperfect determinations of human institutions, God's determinations are perfect. If he determines we are guilty, then we are guilty. But just like my traffic violation example, while God's determination of guilt may or may not provoke guilty feelings, if we are guilty before God, then we are out of sorts with him and the evidence to that fact will manifest itself in a variety of ways.
The story of ancient Israel was designed by God to reveal reality and truth to the world. Through the sacrificial system we see God's desire to have an intimate relationship with his beloved human creatures, but at the same time we see that mankind is out of sorts with God and not able on our own to be in right relationship with him. And so God appointed priests (Hebrew: cohanim) to bear the people's guilt before him. The priestly role enabled the temple service to function even though it never fully resolved the problem of guilt. That would have to wait until the coming of the Messiah.
Before we can truly experience the freedom from guilt that is available to us in Yeshua, we need to acknowledge the reality of guilt in our lives. Don't confuse this with MSG. We should not be manipulated by a false sense of shame and guilt. We shouldn't be manipulated by real shame and guilt either for that matter. Having to face reality is not being manipulated. While facing guilt is not comfortable, it is the first step to true freedom in life. But we cannot be free from guilt until we can admit that we are out of sorts with God is so many ways. Freedom from MSG is possible, but only as we cooperate with God in acknowledging our guilt and accepting his provision for it in the Messiah.
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