Finding the Time: Lattes and Roasted Goats



Have you ever thought about sitting around the table with God? About what it would be like to slide into the chair across from Him and tell and hear each other’s stories? Not a rushed meeting with an agenda or a checklist…more like a leisurely meal where the conversation meanders its way through both familiar and new stories and you walk away with a sense of calm because you’ve been to a deep place with someone who really matters to you.

It makes me feel more grounded as I grasp how integral God’s story is to our stories. His bigger story of grace and love and presence is the story that holds our stories. Our narratives are scenes that are woven into His continual revealing of Himself and His connection to us. Immersing myself in His story unwraps the context for my story. And one of the ways I have been doing that lately is by uncovering the stories behind God’s names. It is an exercise that plunges me into a more intimate knowledge of who He is and I have to say that I am falling more deeply in love with Him. It is a reassuring kind of knowing. A deep contentment and rest that reaches to my core even though the world around me never seems to stop racing along in a million directions.

Here’s the thing.

For too long I think I had God on the wrong list. His name had a little box next to it. I remember being admonished when I was young to make sure that God had the first part of my day:

“Read the Bible first thing in the morning.”
“How can you feed your physical self before you feed your spiritual self?”

I thought I had to get my 20 minutes of Bible reading done so that I could check it off first thing - even though I was starving for a banana with peanut butter or a bowl of cereal with a handful of blueberries. Don’t get me wrong – I am all for spiritual disciplines. I LOVE discovering God’s story and seeing the connections to life around me. It is a habit that shapes me. But for too long God was on the “Stuff to Get Done” list. I could put a check in the box when I got my daily “quiet time” done. Even after I came to terms with eating breakfast and changing babies first, reading the Bible sometimes remained on the same list as scheduling dentist appointments and buying fabric softener.

My other “list” – walking with Connie on Wednesday mornings after the kids are at school, meeting my husband for lunch near the university where he teaches, hanging out with Julia at Starbucks – has an entirely different feel. As a matter of fact, sometimes it isn’t an actual written down list at all. I can remember the fun stuff I’m doing in my head. When I do mark these appointments on my calendar I choose to write them in my favorite colored markers. They are the moments that give me life, the conversations that nourish me and shape me and keep me focused on what really matters. I don’t schedule time with these people out of a sense of obligation. None of them have boxes next to their names. The goal is not to be efficient so that I can move on to the next thing. I want to linger with these people, walk home the long way, get one more refill of our Diet Cokes, sip my latte a little more slowly. I am better for being with these people.

I am learning to give God space on the second list.

I had been studying the Old Testament sacrifices when I recognized that God belonged on my lunch calendar instead of my fabric softener list.

Imbedded in the Jewish sacrificial system there is a beautiful picture of God’s desire to spend the afternoon with us, lingering over a meal. Instructions surrounding Israel’s required sacrifices and offerings are outlined in the first chapters of Leviticus. It is extremely detailed and the Levites and priests responsible for carrying out the specifics of these instructions must have had amazing memories – what to sprinkle where and when to eat what…. On a quick read, it seems a little overwhelming. But the order and the detail of those offerings set up the pattern for how God wants to do life with us.

The Old Testament ritual of sacrifices is a picture of how atonement invites us to worship and then to dinner.

The book of Leviticus opens with the Israelites still camped at Mount Sinai. The tabernacle, sometimes called the tent of meeting, had been completed and God called Moses from the tent of meeting to give him instructions for the sacrifices and offerings.

The Burnt Offering is first. I think it has to be. The first thing you saw upon entering the tabernacle was the altar for Burnt Offerings. It was the place where atonement for sin was made. The rules for the sacrifices were very specific: The bearer was required to bring a domesticated animal from his own flock or heard. A wild animal found roaming the neighborhood wouldn't do. You couldn’t bring road kill. The idea was that the offering had to cost something. Atonement isn’t free. Additionally, it had to be a male without defect. Not second best.

For Israel, the prerequisite for worship and thanksgiving and fellowship was always atonement. Sin had to be taken care of before someone could enter into a relationship with God. Except for the hide, the entire animal of the burnt offering was consumed before God on the altar. The fire for the burnt offering at the entrance of the tabernacle was never extinguished. God said “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out” (
Lev. 6:13). Because the altar of burnt offering was right inside of the entrance to the tabernacle, the smoke that rose up from the altar could be seen both from inside and outside of the tabernacle curtains and served as a constant reminder to Israel of a God who wanted to provide a means of atonement for sin. Atonement was a big deal to God. Atonement paved the way for Israel to enter into worship and to fellowship with God.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word that is often translated “offering” is qorban (
Strong’s H7133). The root word for qorban is qarab (Strong’s H7126), which means, “to come near, approach, or draw near.” Jewish rabbis taught that the purpose of this ancient sacrificial system was to provide a way for God and humanity to come near to each other. I love that! God’s desire is to live in relationship with us… And all along He has been making a way for us to come near.

The next offering is the Grain offering. It is from the best flour. Always mixed with olive oil and seasoned with salt. The prepared Grain offering was offered as an act of worship and thanksgiving, acknowledging God as the ultimate provider. The grain or bread, depending on how it was prepared, was presented to the priests who offered the first portion to God on the altar. The remaining portion was for the High priest and his sons. It was part of God’s provision of sustenance for the High priest and his family.

The “sweet-smelling aroma” of the grain offering was pleasing to God. According to David Guzik’s commentary on Leviticus, “God allowed and received this bloodless sacrifice as an expression of thanksgiving, not as atonement for sin. In an agrarian society this was a fitting symbol of thanks for God’s faithful provision.“
(Guzik, David. "Study Guide for Leviticus 2." Enduring Word. Blue Letter Bible. 7 Jul 2006. 2010. 26 Apr 2010.)
)

I will never forget an early morning call I received several years ago. A friend of mine had been reading about the sacrifices and she didn’t want to wait until after work to ask me this, “Don’t you think it is incredible that we serve a God who loves the smell of fresh-baked bread?” It is one of those ideas that still makes me laugh out loud - my heart laughs – thinking that God’s senses are stirred in response to our worship and thanksgiving.

The third offering outlined in Leviticus is the Fellowship offering, also called the Peace offering. Integral to this offering is the communal meal in which the bearer of the sacrifice is allotted a portion to eat. As a matter of fact, the fellowship offering is the ONLY one where the one who brings the offering is given back a portion to eat. A fellowship offering actually involved sitting down to eat the animal that was sacrificed – and you couldn’t save it for later in the week. It had to be eaten either that same day or the day after, depending on the purpose for the offering.

I wonder how much time that took?
How long do you suppose it takes to roast a lamb or a goat on an open fire?

I tried googling that question. Apparently there aren’t many recipes for altar roasting these days, although, it is possible to get some great recipes for roasting a goat or a lamb over an open fire on a spit. When I first wrote this I was living in Nevada and the whole idea seemed completely foreign to me. Except for the hilarious scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I didn’t think people roasted whole lambs on spits anymore. A couple of years ago, we moved from Nevada to New Jersey. At the end of last summer I was at Costco and there were whole lambs hanging in the freezer case right next to the chicken nuggets and the Eggos. I think people around here must roast whole lambs – I really hope I meet someone who can tell me about it. From what I found online, it can take anywhere from a couple of hours to several hours on a rotisserie, depending on the size of the animal. I am guessing that for Israel, it took the better portion of a day.

I wonder if bringing a fellowship offering was kind of like having dinner with God? As if He was saying, “Your sin has been atoned for, I have taken delight in your worship and honor of me. Why don’t you stay for a while? Have something to eat, linger with me.”

I love how commentator David Guzik describes it: “The meat portion was to be shared, with a part given to the priests and part given to the one who brought the offering who ate it as part of a fellowship meal with God. This was not an offering to make peace with God… but an offering to enjoy peace with God. The whole reason Jesus made peace between the Father and the believer is so that the peace could be enjoyed.” (
Guzik, David. "Study Guide for Leviticus 3." Enduring Word. Blue Letter Bible. 7 Jul 2006. 2010.20Apr2010. )

God longs to be known as a God who lives among and interacts with his creation. It is what set Him apart from other gods. He knows our stories and He wants us to know His. He knows our names and He wants us to know His. When Jesus became our forever-atoning sacrifice it opened the way for us to enter directly into worship and fellowship. A sacrifice for atonement is not up to us like it was for Israel; Jesus took care of that for all time on the cross. As believers our response to His atoning sacrifice ought to be to worship and then to enter into fellowship - to get to know God on a very personal level. We are learning to bring our best to worship. The church today cultivates an atmosphere that leads to thankfulness and adoration. But do we slow down enough to linger? Do we look forward to our time around the table with God in the same way that we anticipate meeting a friend for coffee? I am learning to sit down with God and dwell in His presence and know Him like I know my best friend.

Lately I have gotten into the habit of taking my Bible and a laptop and a Ziploc bag full of colored pencils to Starbucks or the library or someplace quiet with big windows…to linger with God. Sometimes we get together by lamplight at my desk before I go to bed. When the weather gets nice I think I’ll pack a lunch and find a place to spread out a picnic blanket. It isn’t rushed. I sip slowly. I honestly find myself hoping that we have time to “read one more chapter,” or “sit together for just a few more minutes.” I am reluctant to turn the light off. These are becoming the moments that give me life, the conversations that nourish me and shape me and keep me focused on what really matters.

How is it for you? Which list is God on?

I am praying as we plunge into this study about the stories behind the names of God that He does not end up on your fabric softener list - or have a box next to His name. Instead, I hope that you carve out unhurried chunks of time to linger with Him – to know Him more fully and be nourished in His presence, and that in the process you fall more deeply in love with this God who longs to be known.

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How are you carving out time to linger with God?

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