Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday - Exodus 29 - Sanctification & Sacrifice

Sometimes we oversimplify the rituals of worship and service. It wasn't exactly simple stuff. It was specific, demanding and (in some cases) shocking. I dare say that the sprinkling of blood on the priests conjured some very sober reflections concerning the purpose for the constant shedding of blood in the Tabernacle.

The chapter can be roughly divided into two sections. 1. the inauguration of the priesthood and 2. section describes some of the continuation of it.

Verses 1 - 37 express the arrangements for the consecration and commencement of priestly service. Some of what happened initially would continue until the coming of Shiloh (Genesis 49:10). However, it looks as if most of it was primarily an initial exercise, not a continual one.

Verses 38 - 46 lay down a daily routine of sacrifice that was to occur every morning and evening on a regular and continuing basis in Israel for generations to come (Exodus 29:42). Now, THAT had to have been an astounding reminder of God's hatred for sin, of their sinful condition and of the need for an ultimate substitute. Every lamb that had a condemning hand laid on it was there to cause the people to pause and to meditate upon the reason behind the impending death of that innocent yearling.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday - Exodus 28 - The Priestly Wardrobe

Aaron was to be the first Levite to serve as Israel's high priest unto God. His four sons were also to be priests of God and were to represent the people before Jehovah. Because they were set apart to do a very special, sacred and unique job, they were to be issued special uniforms. The high priest specifically had a rather elaborate and highly symbolic garb that he was required of God to wear as he ministered to the Lord (Exodus 28:4).

The garments were to be made by spirit filled tailors (Exodus 28:3). God literally blessed some of the Israelite people with acute abilities as clothing craftsmen so that when He needed someone to make these special garments, they would be available to do it. This should encourage all of us greatly. God blesses every believer with some particular ability which He can use in the advancement of His kingdom. These talents are not bestowed upon us for our own benefit, though we do benefit... they are imparted so that we might be useful to our Master and so that we can be used by Him to be a blessing to others.

Think about this. The ability to sew well was and is as much of a product of God's special blessing as the ability to sing well, give abundantly, witness effectively, lead, organize or any other talent that might get more attention and respect than sewing. God will judge us according to our abilities and His expectations, not according to someone else's abilities and expectations (II Corinthians 8:12). Every good gift and every perfect gift is a gift from God - be it ever so large or small... it is to be used for Him.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thursday - Exodus 27 - The Court & The Christ

This chapter is full of typology (Hebrews 9:1-28). The actual items described herein are as follows: 1. The brazen altar for burnt offerings, 2. The white linen outer walls of the court surrounding the tabernacle and 3. The gate of the sacred complex.

Notice that the altar and all of the implements of service there were made of brass, not of gold. Brass was God's choice material for the furniture on the outside of the Holy Place. The courtyard was where the work of animal sacrifice was undertaken. Apparently the brass symbolized judgment and the necessity for propitiation. Gold (representing His deity) had to be used to construct the furniture on the inside, because that was the place of exalted worship. Blood would be taken into the Holy Place as a reminder of the price of entry, but the sacrifices were going to be made on the outside.  This reminds me that Jesus was sacrificed on the cross on the outside of Jerusalem. The cross of Christ was the final "once and for all" fruition of the sacrifices that had been made continually on the brazen altar.

Concerning the gate of entrance (on the eastern side the complex), notice first of all that the gate (singular) was 30 feet long and would have had 3 sections in it (divided by the support pillars). Our minds should be drawn immediately to the One God who is three persons (I John 5:7) who declares Himself to be the gate of the sheepfold (Luke 13:24}. Not only that - blue, purple and red were the colors that were used to make the gate. Blue represented spiritual heaven, red represented material blood and purple represented a royal combination of the two... a phenomenon only to be found in the incarnate Son of God (I Timothy 3:16), who was and is the only way into sanctuary of God (John 10:9).

Finally, there was an injunction given for the priests to keep the lamp of the tabernacle constantly lit. They tended it in the darkness and kept it burning by maintaining the supply of pure oil brought by the people. Truly, The Light of the world (by the Spirit which He has given to His children) stands to keep spiritual worship alive in this dark world (Hebrews 7:25 & Romans 8:9).

There is one marked difference in the activities of the old tabernacle and what we have today. Exodus 27:21 points out conspicuously that all of this went on "without the veil" - that is on the outside of the Holy of Holies where God's presence resided. We have a better arrangement (Hebrews 4:16 & 7:22). We have direct access through our perfect High priest. The barrier is gone (Mark 15:38 & Hebrews 6:19).

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday - Exodus 26 - The Blueprint

The design for God's tabernacle came from God Himself. It was definitely a colorful scheme - blue, purple, red, gold... goats' hair, badgers' skin, rams' skin... it wasn't just any old tent. Surely it must have been particularly beautiful compared to the wilderness in which the people lived at the time of its construction. It was a precursor to the temple of Solomon (which was to come centuries later). And, most importantly, it was the place where God placed His name and His presence.

We might do well to establish a few definitions in our minds for future reference as we progress in our reading.  Here are some of the more obscure terms: Cubit - about 18 inches, Tache - a hook, Knop - a decorative capital or chapter at the top of a column or pillar (from the last chapter), Tenon - a joint, peg, projection, connector or handle, Shittim - a kind of wood that was supposedly not subject to decay... relatively speaking, I'm sure, and Selvedge - edge or end.  Perhaps the reading will make a little more sense with those clarifications.

Look for numeric patterns in these passages. God is the chief mathematician... He always has some reason for His numeric choices. On a more practical note, it appears to me that the open tabernacle court would fit on half of a football field while the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (together) would be more like the size of a small single wide trailer (45 x 15 ft.). Remember, it had to be portable. Size is very important if you have to pack it up and take it with you.

I think we should all get out a blank piece of paper and try to draw a picture of the things that God described to Moses in this chapter. I can't think of any exercise that would be more profitable in this context.

Monday - Exodus 25 - The Tabernacle

Ever since the connection that God had with man was severed in The Garden, God has been making advances toward full restoration. Bethel, Sinai, Shiloh, Jerusalem; the tabernacles, the temples, the incarnation of His Son... all point to the same thing. God desires to grace us with His presence. He knows that we need Him... and He wants us.

God's plan commenced with a freewill love offering.  The people had been given extravagant valuables as they had exited Egypt only a few months before this. Why? Just so they could be rich? No (Jeremiah 7:10 & Ephesians 4:28). God gave them precious possessions so that they could worship Him with them. He wanted them to give voluntarily and joyfully, not out of fear or coercion (II Corinthians 9:37).

The items that were to be crafted from these gifts were these: the ephod (a transliterated word for the garment to be worn by the high priest), the breastplate of the high priest, the sanctuary (tabernacle), the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat, the cherubim, the showbread table, the sacred dishes, the seven candle candlestick and its implements.

Why? Why all of the details and demands? That's easy... Exodus 25:8 & 22 declare the reason behind all of this.  God was coming to live with the nation.  He was coming to meet them and to commune with them. Being their Creator, Redeemer, King and God... He had a right to design the setting. And, He had a desire to design a setting that would help them to understand the gravity and grandeur of the occasion.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Saturday - Exodus 24 - Afar Off

This is about worship proximity. There were a series of imaginary circles around Mount Sinai. God was the only one on the inside of the center circle; Father, Son and Holy Ghost... alone and sufficient in the middle of the ring. Outside of that, all of humanity stood afar off, not close enough to see whatever manifestation of God's presence was there. But, not everybody stood the same distance from their God. Moses was closest. Joshua was inside of a little larger ring. Aaron, Nadab & Abihu and 70 national elders were a little ways further off. Then came the nation, cowering in respectful fear ... some tribes no doubt closer than others. And, last of all, the rest of the world at that time, all Gentiles, remained outside of the largest circle... oblivious to the Divine revelation which was in progress (Ephesians 2:17 & 14-22).

There is one really interesting matter that is brought up in this text: seeing God. What did the 74 people actually see? Whatever they saw, it had no form (Deuteronomy 4:15 & 14-19). Yet, they definitely saw something (Exodus 24:10-11).  I don’t think I’m qualified to delve into the comparison of this account with claims like the ones in John 1:18, I Timothy 6:16 & I John 4:12.   But, we have no choice but to believe both, yet how they are to be reconciled is a mystery.

What I do notice though is the consistency in this encounter with other similar accounts of a couple of other Bible authors. In this passage it is recorder that "there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in His clearness." Ezekiel and John both had comparable impressions when viewing the place where God was (Ezekiel 1:26 & 28:14 and Revelation 4:6 & 15:2). Whatever it was like, it was obviously something very different than anything we have ever seen. And, why not?  One would expect God's throne room to be rather exquisite and unique.  Of course, it looked quite different from a distance (Exodus 24:17).

One final comment here: for the first time I noticed that the people actually received the laws of God prior to the issuing of the tablets of stone. The Ten Commandments were known before they were miraculously written in stone.  That is very important to know.