|Volume 18 Number 8 August 20165||
Maxie B. Boren
The insights shared with the reader in this article are not to be construed as criticism of anybody, but hopefully received as kind suggestions to all brothers in Christ everywhere who are called on to serve at the Lord’s Table. [Editor’s Note: At the risk of hurting someone’s feelings, it is more important to amend where needed this aspect of Christian worship. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
Throughout the brotherhood, I sincerely believe there is a great need for more thoughtful and meaningful expressions of thanks as assemblies of worship are being led in prayer before partaking of the emblems representing the body and blood of Jesus. It is spiritually deflating if such prayers are not scriptural and meaningful, and if they do not convey depth of understanding as to the significance of the great sacrifice Jesus made for us.
To illustrate, a brother once prayed: “Thank you, God, for this bread and bless it to the nourishment of our bodies.” Obviously, either he was nervous and did not even realize what he was saying, or else he knew nothing of what the Lord’s Supper is all about. Either way, it detracted a great deal from the spiritual mood of the moment.
Prayers are frequently offered that never thank God for that for which we should be thankful as we partake of the Lord’s Supper. Some brothers, in their prayers at the Lord’s Table, thank God for most everything imaginable while never even making reference to the sacrifice of Christ. This is deeply regretful and lays bare a very real problem in so many places. How can we improve in this very important part of worship?
First of all, brethren should read the accounts directly pertaining to the memorial feast of Christ that is to be observed on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), and spend some quiet time in prayerful reflection upon them (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Secondly, other related passages should be considered with equal care, such as: Romans 5:6-11; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24; 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Galatians 1:3-4; 2:20; 6:14; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:4-9; Philippians 3:7-12; Colossians 1:12-23; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 1:8b-10; Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7; Hebrews 2:9-18; 7:26-27; 9:11-28; 10:10-12; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:21-25; 1 John 4:9-10; and Revelation 7:9, 14. In addition, it would be good to read and think about the message of such songs as, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Oh the Depths and the Riches,” and “Nailed to the Cross.”
Having read and pondered the above-mentioned Scriptures and songs, a brother with the responsibility of leading a prayer at the Lord’s Table should then give careful thought as to what would be an appropriately-worded prayer. The prayer should be prayed sincerely and earnestly, from the deep recesses of one’s heart, expressing profound gratitude for God’s love and mercy as manifested in Jesus Christ and His willingness to give Himself on the cross in our stead.
Please consider three last observations: (1) Often, prayers are worded, thanking God for the “bread” and the “fruit of the vine” without even mentioning the body and blood of Jesus. Brethren, it is not the literal bread, per se, nor the literal grape juice, per se, for which we are primarily thankful, but rather the body and blood of Jesus! Only in a secondary sense are we thankful for the emblems themselves, but it is what the emblems represent for which we should be thankful! Why not word our prayers with the emphasis where it belongs? (2) Every public prayer should be worded loudly enough and distinctly enough so people can hear and understand. Brethren should never “mutter through” a public prayer.
(3) Lastly, please brethren, remember, it is God the Father to whom we are praying, and it was Jesus, His beloved Son who died on the cross. It is fallacious to thank the Father for His body given and His blood shed. God is a spirit (John 4:23-24) and a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). It was Jesus, the only begotten Son of God who became incarnate (John 1:1-4, 14; 3:16-17) and endured the suffering of the cross for us (Philippians 2:5-11). It was, therefore, the body and blood of Jesus that was sacrificed at Calvary. Although the Godhead is “one,” yet the Bible makes a very clear distinction between the Father in heaven and the Son that came to earth as Savior, and we need to be very careful to note that truth. To do otherwise is to err, and to misteach others, even as we pray.
[Editor’s Note: Despite each of the three persons of the Godhead equally possessing the essence or quality of Deity or being God (Philippians 2:6), each of those Divine Persons has a different role. In spite of the fact that in some things the Godhead participated together (e.g., creation, Genesis 1:26), nevertheless, there exist other areas in which the members of the Godhead operated (e.g., vicarious, sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross) or operate distinctly from the other two – because of differing roles. It is the role of the Father to receive the prayers of the saints (Matthew 6:6-9), and it is the role of Jesus Christ to facilitate those prayers coming before the Heavenly Father (John 15:16; 16:23; Hebrews 10:19; 1 John 2:1). It is still good form and biblically correct for Christians to pray to the Father through Jesus Christ! ~ Louis Rushmore Editor]
Jack W. Carter
He is only mentioned in one chapter (Leviticus 16), but I regard him as one of the most significant considerations of the Bible. This may seem especially strange since he is a goat. The word “Azazel” is attached to this goat either as a name or in reference to his destination.
More commonly and specifically, he is referred to as the “scapegoat,” and he played his role on the Day of Atonement. On this day, two goats were selected, one as a sacrifice and the other as “the goat of removal.” They were chosen by casting lots. After the first goat had been sacrificed, Aaron (the High Priest) placed his hands on the head of the second goat and confessed all of the sins of the entire congregation of Israel. This goat was then led into the wilderness and released. The one who led him there was required to wash and change garments when he returned.
The significance of this becomes immediately clear; it is God’s way of demonstrating how completely He removes our sins from us. I always associate this with a passage in the Book of Psalms: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12).
It is absolutely wrong to think of God as one who nurses grudges. I imagine we think of Him this way because holding grudges is our inclination. When God forgives our sins, that’s the end of it. Another passage helps me to understand this: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19).
Whenever I am inclined to dwell on the sins that have piled up in my life, I try to recall these passages. Then I drum up my own “Azazel” or “goat of removal,” and I send my personal sins into the wilderness where God wants them to be and where I need them to be. Then I get on with my life.
[Editor’s Note: Not to excuse my personal sins, nevertheless, this brief article was of great encouragement to me. Like every other human who knows the difference between right and wrong, sin from to time creeps into my life, which subsequently must be expunged. What a relief it is to know that God is willing to forgive sins and that He does not remember forgiven sins against penitent Christians. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]