So here goes....
Hebrews 12:16 (KJV)
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
Some translations render "profane" as "godless".
However, the same Greek word, bebeôlos, is rendered "profane" in 1 Timothy 1:9 in most translations:
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
The NIV avoids the use of the word "profane" in most circumstances, perhaps because we associate it so fully with modern usage which limits it to foul language, as in "profanity". The word profane means much more than that.
What is "profane" ?
Holman's Bible Dictionary says profane means "to treat that which is holy as common". This is brought out in this passage in Ezekiel 22:26 "Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common", although interestingly enough, the KJV says "the holy and the profane" instead of "holy and the common".
Webster's defines profane as "serving to debase or defile what is holy" and to "treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence or contempt". This is best illustrated in Psalm 89, which says "thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground."
Esau was profane?
Hebrews 12:6 explains it: "who for one morsel sold his birthright". Perhaps you have heard of the "inheritance of the first-born" (double-portion). Easu was profane because he treated this inheritance with contempt and traded it for a measly meal.
What are the consequences of treating the holy as common?
1 Chronicles 13:6-10
And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is, to Kirjathjearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up thence the ark of God the LORD, that dwelleth between the cherubims, whose name is called on it. And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart. And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.
Leviticus 10:1 (KJV)
1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange (unauthorized- NIV) fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
These two stories lead us to conclude that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
In both of these cases there was disrespect for the ways and ordinances of God, but more significantly a decided lack of understanding of the reality of the presence of Holy God. Both instances show us trappings of religion- where outward appearances and ceremony mean more than knowing God.
The Cain Problem
Similar to the story of Nadab and Abihu, is the story of Cain.
Genesis 4 (NIV)
1Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” 2Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” 8Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
At first glance it appears that God was simply more pleased with the offering of Abel, after all Abel brought him the "fat portions" of the "firstborn". The fat portions represent the best - the most flavor, the most energy. This seems far better than "some of the fruits of the soil".
But that was not the case. God was pleased with the sacrifice of Abel, because Abel's heart was right. Hebrews 11:4 tells us "By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings."
The author of Hebrews knew what verse 7 said. We can miss the point, just as Cain did. The Lord said "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?". On the other hand, the Lord saw into Cain's heart and saw sin. And lo and behold, the next verse tells us Cain killed his brother.
It is the HEART, not the GIFT that matters to God.
For I delight in mercy (loyalty) rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
And make no mistake, God KNOWS the HEART!
Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.
And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God".
will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
Things have changed a lot since then. We not longer offer incense, grain or animal sacrifices at the altar. But we are not off the hook. Far from it.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do we profane the altar today?
- Treat the holy as common
value ceremony / liturgy / order of service more than a move of God
(yes, Charismatics have their own religious trappings)
- bring glory to our own works
- live a double life / secret sins
- reject Jesus' provision for us (trampling underfoot the Son of God)
- seek our own advancement (ambition)
- minister to others while not dealing with the same stuff in our lives
Twice I have mentioned the "knowledge of God" as the key. In discussing the sons of Aaron, and with Uzza, I stated " Both instances show us trappings of religion- where outward appearances and ceremony mean more than knowing God." And I quoted Hosea 6:6, which says "For I delight in mercy (loyalty) rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
Psalm 51:16 elaborates:
"You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings."
If we are aware of God, can sense his presence, understand his all-knowing ways, and recognize that our hearts are bare before him, we can offer sacrifices on his altar with a pure heart.
If we were judged by our works, we would never measure up. What seems to be important is the idea that we must never presume that we can put aside certain issues and pretend before God that they don't exist. We must come before God honestly - and then he will accept us.
The Psalmist understood this when he wrote:
sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 17)
Again Hosea 6:6 says.. And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." knowledge of God is the key. How clear this is in the scriptures
- that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
- so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
- seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
- but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding
Note that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom - the goal is knowledge of the Holy One.
When we know Him, we will not "treat that which is Holy as common."