Breathing deeply, I place my hands on the cool patch of earth. I recall my youthful joy the day that I planted these seeds two decades ago, my heart filled with longing.
Returning to this plot of land is painful; the sting of unrealized dreams runs deep.
I pick up the small watering can and watch the slow streams of water soak into the parched dust – a steady mix of fresh water and my salty tears. As the can empties, I sit up. Resting on my knees, a smile spreads across my face as I see the shadow of my old friend drawing near.
Hope has returned.
* * * * *
As I prayed and dreamed about 2018, the word “purpose” continually came to mind. I wanted this year to be an extension of the dreams and prayers I had for 2017, whose theme was “commitment and creativity”. Naturally, the verse that came to mind was Romans 8:28:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
Because I wanted this verse to be central to my year, I thought it would be beneficial to do a exegetical word study for “purpose”; what I discovered was so simple, yet so profound that I felt compelled to share.
The word “purpose” translates from the Greek word “prothesis”, which means, “a setting forth; specifically, the Shewbread (Showbread/Bread of the Presence) in the Temple as exposed before God. This stopped me in my tracks, as I realized that I needed to change my approach to the word before going any further. This verse is often used by believers to make sense of tragedy that occurs or to encourage when faced with obstacles in the pursuit of calling/dreams. However, in context, this word has nothing to do with calling, and everything to do with the Bread of the Presence that God directed Aaron, and the high priests to follow, to make and set before Him every Sabbath day (see Leviticus 24:5-9). It was a continual offering to the Lord, meant to be a memorial food offering, that was also the provision for high priest and his family to consume, as their inheritance was the Temple and their work was to continuously minister before the Lord on behalf of the people; basically, they did not have any means of making money or producing food, so they were set aside portions from offerings provided by the Israelites.
Excitement stirred in my heart as I recalled the passage that I read weeks before in Exodus 29, titled “Consecration of the Priests”. In this chapter, God is instructing Moses in the procedures for consecrating (setting apart for service) the priests. He tells Moses of the specific animal offerings that need to occur over the course of seven days, the blood that was to cover the high priest’s garments from the sacrifice, and the meal in which the priests would eat the “meat” of the offerings and the bread of the Presence. I then turned a few pages further in anticipation, and read Exodus 40 in which the priests washed with water, put on their priestly garments, and approached the altar for the first time.
Reading this over, I went back to the four Gospel accounts of the “Last Supper”, and felt my heart rest in a new understanding. This is why Jesus washed the disciples’ feet before the meal. This is why the breaking of bread and consumption of wine, the declaration of it being His body and blood, was so profound. This is why the consumption of the wine – rather than just an outward covering of their clothes – is so groundbreaking. The disciples would have understood the holiness and sanctity of this moment, of Jesus walking them through the priestly ordination and consecration meal as the close of what the Church refers to as “Holy Week” (beginning with Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem and ending with Easter Sunday) was approaching. This is why Peter calls believers in 1 Peter 2:9 “a royal priesthood”. Jesus, the Bread of Life and Bread of Presence, was the offering; He brought Himself before God as the final sacrifice so that we didn’t have to strive for His Presence any longer. He showed them their true purpose on earth.
As we go into this new year, praying and dreaming about what we want 2018 to hold, remember this. Remember that the purpose of God is Jesus; as simple as that sounds, it will change your approach to this year if you allow that truth to sink in. The purpose of God, the calling that each of us have on our lives, is Jesus. Our purpose, motivation, destiny, anchor is Jesus – it is relationship, not achievement. This truth empowers us to dream big, because we can walk in the confidence of knowing that no matter the outcome of our pursuits, our purpose has already been met and cannot be taken from us. When we can walk in confidence knowing that our actions (or lack thereof) do not keep us from living out our purpose, we are free.
Dream again. Create again. Hope again. Do something beyond what your natural ability would allow, because you are secure in the Purpose of God.
“Waves of Purpose are crashing upon the flame of fear, and I will dance on the ashes that remain.”