Sunday, September 12, 2010

Church Bells: Reminders of Holiness

"Among those who approach me I will show myself holy." Leviticus 10:3
In today's parable from Chapter 4 of Meeting God in Quiet Places: The Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith, he equates the ringing of bells to holiness. I looked at info about church bells and church towers in England. There are around 160,000 bell towers in England. In fact, most villages have bells in the church tower to tell the villagers that something important has happened. Births, deaths, weddings, and times of peace after a war are all cause for ringing the bells.

Some of the bells are over 10 feet in diameter and very heavy, weighing tons. And in England, there must be bell ringers who have practiced the art of "change-ringing." This style of ringing dates back at least 3 centuries. {The series All Creatures Great and Small had some episodes of a group meeting to practice their change-ringing.} The bell ringers are proud to pull the ropes of the bells perfectly.
But what has this to do with holiness? LaGard tells us that bells are mentioned only twice in the Bible. The garments of Aaron the high priest were sacred and included a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a tunic, a turban, and a sash. Instructions for making the robe say that it shall be made of blue cloth with pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn around the bottom of the robe with gold bells alternating between them. Aaron wore it when he ministered as a priest before God in the Holy Place. The explanation for the bells is: "Their sound will be heard when the priest enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die." DIE???!!! The tiny golden bells were a matter of life and death!

How could this be? Because the high priest was the only mortal man who went into the presence of the God of all creation. Anyone else entering would die. It seems the bells were to announce the coming of the priest before the Lord--the unholy one before the Holy One.

It was 1,000 years later when Zechariah prophecied about the day the Savior of the world would revolutionize the nature of worship before God. Zechariah says: "On that day, 'Holy to the Lord' will be inscribed on the bells of horses, and the cooking pots in the Lord's house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar." What a dramatic change from tiny golden bells on a robe to bells on horses! How could there be such a shift in attitude with the enormous
"holiness gap."

We don't understand all the underlying meanings, but the message for us is clear. If you have ever felt that you aren't worthy of being loved by God, or felt at such a distance from Him that He doesn't even care you exist, or that your guilt is too great for Him to cover, then read on.

I quote LaGard: "The good news is that, with the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, we are no longer kept at arm's length from God." Christ has himself completed the work of the high priest, bringing our guilt and unworthiness before God. He offered himself as the sacrifice, and while we are unworthy, He is worthy for us. Where we are unholy, He is the holy Lamb of God. This means that Jesus has given you and me unlimited access to God. You can reach out and touch God. AND...because of the cross... God has reached out and touched you!

The moment of Jesus' death, "the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." This "curtain of separation" is no longer between you and God. Through Jesus, you can now approach the throne of heaven--an act that could not happen when Aaron was high priest.

LaGard says: Jesus is our announcement, like the bells announced the priest. In one single hour of history, His crucifixion became the greatest moment of mourning, celebration and peace ever witnessed by humankind.
Jesus' death was the loudest anthem of bell-ringing the world has ever heard!
Please take these words into your heart and change your life for the better.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

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