God’s Dwelling Place, part 3

Posted: February 7, 2019 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 29-31, “God’s Dwelling Place, part 3”

Consider for a moment the difference between a privilege and a right. A right is something we are owed, i.e. something that is “rightfully” ours. It is something that is supposed to be given to us, for no other reason than we are who we are. US citizens have the right to free speech, to the free exercise of religion, to bear arms, to vote, and more. These actions are not given to us when we travel to other nations, nor are they automatically extended to foreigners who are temporarily travelling to our nation. They are rights recognized as belonging to citizens of the United States of America, whenever we are on American soil. When those rights are denied, even by our government, we can sue and oftentimes win.

Privileges, on the other hand, are different. Privileges are mercies extended to us because of the goodness of another. Again, if we were to travel to another country, we might be granted the privilege of living there for a while, but we wouldn’t have the right to stay as long as we wanted – that would be up to the local government to decide. How many times have we told our children and teenagers something similar? Movies, entertainment, and times with friends – all of it may be good, but those things are privileges; not rights. Any (and all) of those things can be taken away by the parent. When the child gets to experience those things, it’s only due to the mercy extended by the mom or dad.

Now put it in terms of our relationship with God. People sometimes get the idea that because all men and women are made in the image of God, we all have the right to worship God however we want to worship Him. Not so! Perhaps from the point of view of humans, we have the right to do as we want, but from the point of view of God, worship is not a right; it’s a privilege. Worship is certainly commanded of us, and God is owed the worship of every human being on the planet, but the ability and invitation to worship is a privilege extended by the mercy of God. We cannot worship Him nor serve Him without Him granting us permission to do so, nor without Him empowering us to do so. Any attempt to serve or worship God apart from His merciful invitation is an exercise in futility, due to the vastness of our sins against Him.

Yet this is the good news of Jesus! When we come to faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, crucified for our sins & risen from the dead, then we have that invitation & privilege! This was what Peter was getting at in his 1st epistle: 1 Peter 2:9–10, “(9) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (10) who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” As Gentiles, pagans, and general sinners, we earlier had no access to God. But through Jesus, we not only have access, we have the privilege of being priests! We are granted the privilege of praising Him and proclaiming His name, His mercies, and His gospel to all the world.

Question: Is this something brand-new to the New Testament? Did this privilege arise out of nowhere? Not at all. This is exactly what was on display at the earliest beginnings of the formal nation of Israel when Moses was instructed by God about the tabernacle. God’s people (the ones He had purchased through the blood of the Passover, and through the parting of the Red Sea – the ones whom were the fulfillment of promises He had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) – God’s people were given the privilege of worshipping God as the holy nation of God. God declared that He would dwell among them – something which would seem impossible. After all, how can the Infinite Almighty God dwell among man? Yet He did so, at the tabernacle (and did more fully in the person of Jesus!). There, God would meet with His people and they would worship Him. They would have to come in His way, on His terms, but they were granted the privilege of worshipping and serving Him.

What did it all look like? 

  • Ark & Mercy seat: The ark was the box/chest designated for holding the physical copy of the 10 Commandments. It was topped by the mercy seat (seat of atonement), symbolizing the throne of God, receiving the blood of sacrifice.
  • Table of showbread/bread of presence: The bread always sat in the presence of God, showing God’s fellowship with His people, and prefiguring Jesus as the Bread of Life.
  • Lampstand: The only light in the darkness (being covered by so many layers on top of the tent). Jesus is the only light of the world.
  • Multi-covered tent: Practical, beautiful, and symbolic. Gold overlaid everything, but it was easily disassembled & reassembled wherever the nation went in the wilderness. It was covered by four layers: one for beauty, one for sacrifice, and two for insulation and weatherproofing.
  • Veil: This separated the holy place from the Holy of holies, the only thing preventing the priests from death in the holy presence of God…something torn away in Christ.
  • Screen: The entry to the tent – this was the place people knew to look, as only the priests could enter on their behalf.
  • Bronze altar: The first item described outside the main tent, this had a heavenly design shown to Moses, and was intended for the burnt offerings.
  • Tabernacle courtyard: Practically, it was meant to set apart the tent of God from every other tent in Israel. Symbolically, it showed the pure righteousness of God (white linen) through which all sacrifice and praise would be brought.
  • Ephod: The 1st garment described of the high priest, it was made of the same threads as the tabernacle veil & screens, demonstrating the heavenly work of the priest.
  • Breastplate: Comprised of 12 unique precious stones, it was worn on the front to always bear the 12 tribes of Israel before God.
  • Robe: Also reminiscent of the veil, but with pomegranate bells for sound as the priest served within the tabernacle during his duties.
  • Crown & turban: Practically, it covered the priest’s head, but theologically, it always proclaimed the holiness of God. Everything about the priest spoke of God’s holiness & reminded others that they were made holy by the grace of God.

All of that is a lot, but the description of the tabernacle is not yet done. A few more items remain that demonstrate the privilege of what it is to worship and serve the Living God. And it is a privilege we can never afford to forget!

Life and other distractions cause us to take worship for granted, but Jesus empowers us to serve & to worship! What does it look like for us to be a royal priesthood & a holy nation, enjoying this marvelour privilege? It looks like the life and dedication of the priests and nation of Israel, as God envisioned and described to Moses. Serve the Lord…exactly as He desires and empowers you to do!

Exodus 29

  • God’s consecration of the priests (29:1-46). The initial ritual (1-37)

1 “And this is what you shall do to them to hallow them for ministering to Me as priests: Take one young bull and two rams without blemish, 2 and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil (you shall make them of wheat flour). 3 You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, with the bull and the two rams. 4 “And Aaron and his sons you shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and you shall wash them with water. 5 Then you shall take the garments, put the tunic on Aaron, and the robe of the ephod, the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the intricately woven band of the ephod. 6 You shall put the turban on his head, and put the holy crown on the turban. 7 And you shall take the anointing oil, pour it on his head, and anoint him. 8 Then you shall bring his sons and put tunics on them. 9 And you shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and put the hats on them. The priesthood shall be theirs for a perpetual statute. So you shall consecrate Aaron and his sons.

  1. Priest could only be “hallowed” through sacrifice/offering. The idea is to make them holy, to sanctify or consecrate them to the ministry. How would it take place? Through the shedding of blood – something that would be graphically described in a moment. (How are we made holy? Only through the shed blood of Christ.)
  2. The priesthood was restricted. It wasn’t open to anyone; just Aaron and his sons. The priesthood was perpetually theirs, throughout their generations. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for priest is “cohen,” (כֹּהֵן). Theoretically, anyone with a last name of “Cohen” has some apparent ancestry to the priestly line. Of course, the idea is that someone from a different family couldn’t grow up and join the priesthood; it was restricted only for one family and one family alone, as designated by God.
    1. How do we become a royal priesthood & holy nation? By being born into it through faith in Jesus!
  3. They were to be washed & dressed in the priestly garments earlier described. The washing was a symbolic cleansing, and the dressing looked to the role that Aaron would assume as high priest. He no longer represented himself; he represented the God-given office. (Just as we are ambassadors of Christ, no longer proclaiming ourselves but Christ the Lord.)
  4. He was also anointed with oil, which looks forward to the later instruction about the anointing oil itself. The anointing itself was no small thing. Typically, we anoint with a dab; the Hebrews anointed by pouring. Psalm 133:2 speaks of the oil running off of Aaron’s beard, so much was poured upon him.
    1. Quite often in the Scriptures, oil (as with water) is a picture of the Holy Spirit. How much of the Spirit do we need? More than a dab! We need His overflowing presence & power – we need rivers & torrents of living water. John 7:37–38, “(37) On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. (38) He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”” How much of the Spirit do we need? As much as God Almighty is willing to give!
  5. All of this was preface. At this point, God is assuming that the tabernacle is going to be built properly (and it was), but once it was built with all of the furnishings and priestly garments, how was the priesthood to begin? God had a specific ritual of consecration in mind…

10 “You shall also have the bull brought before the tabernacle of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the bull. 11 Then you shall kill the bull before the LORD, by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 12 You shall take some of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour all the blood beside the base of the altar. 13 And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But the flesh of the bull, with its skin and its offal, you shall burn with fire outside the camp. It is a sin offering.

  1. First was the sacrifice of a bull as a sin offering. The specific definition of the various offerings are not given until the book of Leviticus, but God tells Moses what these things are, that he might recognize them later.
  2. Why was a sin offering prior to ordination? Because even the priest had sin! The sins of Aaron had to be first addressed before he could offer sacrifices on behalf of others.
    1. Not so with Jesus our High Priest! He had no sin; He became sin on our account. He was the sin offering provided for us. (2 Cor 5:21)
  3. Most of the blood poured upon the ground around the altar, with the fat burned on the altar, and the other parts of the carcass burned away from the altar. Why the difference? Again, it is a sin offering. This was symbolic of the wrath of God in punishment; it could not be offered in praise.
    1. Before anyone praises, their sins must first be atoned. God does not hear the praise of pagans in the same way He hears it from His children. This is why we have to come through Jesus!

15 “You shall also take one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram; 16 and you shall kill the ram, and you shall take its blood and sprinkle it all around on the altar. 17 Then you shall cut the ram in pieces, wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and with its head. 18 And you shall burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.

  1. Sacrifice of the 1st ram: burnt offering, with everything consumed.
  2. This is what our praise of God ought to be: fully giving ourselves over to God through Jesus!

19 “You shall also take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram. 20 Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. 21 And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

  1. Sacrifice of the 2nd ram: consecration. With the initial sacrifices dealing with sin and dedicated worship addressed, finally a sacrifice could be made for consecration/ordination.
    1. First we have to have our sins addressed by Jesus, then it is possible to worship through Jesus, and finally we are able to serve Jesus. The good news for us is that all of this is possible through one sacrifice; not many!
  2. As for the ancient Hebrews, it was terribly graphic and gruesome. There was blood on Aaron – blood on the ground – blood on the clothing. Modern Christianity is often sanitized, but we need to remember that our salvation comes at a bloody, gory price: the blood of the Son of God. The Hebrews saw it, and the priest was literally involved with it; we can only remember (which we do through Communion).
  3. Between the blood and the oil, this was what hallowed the men and their garments – this was what consecrated them to God. Until that act, they were just men dressed in fancy clothes; afterward, they were priests set apart unto God.
    1. Symbolic of the Son and the Spirit! Without them, we are nothing; with them we have everything!

22 “Also you shall take the fat of the ram, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, the two kidneys and the fat on them, the right thigh (for it is a ram of consecration), 23 one loaf of bread, one cake made with oil, and one wafer from the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the LORD; 24 and you shall put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons, and you shall wave them as a wave offering before the LORD. 25 You shall receive them back from their hands and burn them on the altar as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma before the LORD. It is an offering made by fire to the LORD.

  1. Aaron and his sons had to physically hold the fat, the organs, and other things normally burned upon the altar. Anything that was representative of their ministry was placed in their hands and waved before the Lord, before burned in sacrificial fire.
  2. They had to get their hands bloody & dirty…

26 “Then you shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s consecration and wave it as a wave offering before the LORD; and it shall be your portion. 27 And from the ram of the consecration you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering which is waved, and the thigh of the heave offering which is raised, of that which is for Aaron and of that which is for his sons. 28 It shall be from the children of Israel for Aaron and his sons by a statute forever. For it is a heave offering; it shall be a heave offering from the children of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, that is, their heave offering to the LORD.

  1. Wave offering (forward & back). Heave offering (up & down). Everything in all directions given unto God.
  2. This is what it is to be dedicated to the Lord! Consider the Great Commandment: Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” What does it look like in picture form? It looks a lot like the wave & heave offerings of the priests!

29 “And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons’ after him, to be anointed in them and to be consecrated in them. 30 That son who becomes priest in his place shall put them on for seven days, when he enters the tabernacle of meeting to minister in the holy place.

  1. Priestly garments passed through the generations. Although repairs would surely need to be made from time to time, the vestments of the priest were not kept & retired when the priest retired or died; it was passed on to future generations. The priesthood did not belong to a single man; it was an office that pointed to someone greater: Christ!

31 “And you shall take the ram of the consecration and boil its flesh in the holy place. 32 Then Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that is in the basket, by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 33 They shall eat those things with which the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them; but an outsider shall not eat them, because they are holy. 34 And if any of the flesh of the consecration offerings, or of the bread, remains until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy.

  1. Offering was to be eaten. Although the burnt offering was consumed by fire, given totally unto the Lord, many of the other offerings were meant to be eaten – including the offering of consecration. It symbolized the fellowship that the priests had with God, and the blessings they were given by God.
  2. And it was to be eaten by the priests only. No other Hebrew could eat what the priests were commanded to eat. That’s not to say they were cut off from fellowship – there would be other sacrifices of which they would partake in a holy meal with God (i.e. the peace offering), but when it came to certain sacrifices (particularly this one), only the priests would eat.
  3. Much of this is reflected in communion. It is a memorial meal that we share with Jesus, being in fellowship with God – and it is a meal of which only born-again Christians may partake, being that we are God’s children and God’s chosen priesthood.

35 “Thus you shall do to Aaron and his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Seven days you shall consecrate them. 36 And you shall offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement. You shall cleanse the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to sanctify it. 37 Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and sanctify it. And the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar must be holy.

  1. The whole ceremony took 7 days. The initial offerings were only done once, but the other sacrifices took place the rest of the week. The length of time served to underscore the importance and solemnity of what happened.
  2. Don’t miss the latter part of verse 37: once the altar was fully sanctified (made “most holy” ~ קֹ֣דֶשׁ קָֽדָשִׁ֔ים), whatever touched it must also be holy (יִקְדָּֽשׁ). Holiness was absolutely required (as Uzzah later learned regarding the ark!). (Thus, we come through Jesus because only Jesus makes us holy!)
  • The daily sacrifices (38-46)

38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs of the first year, day by day continually. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40 With the one lamb shall be one-tenth of an ephah of flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine as a drink offering. 41 And the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and you shall offer with it the grain offering and the drink offering, as in the morning, for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD. 42 This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet you to speak with you.

  1. Every day, blood was shed and reminders were made that God was their Provider. With these reminders, God would personally meet with His people…

43 And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory. 44 So I will consecrate the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. I will also consecrate both Aaron and his sons to minister to Me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

  1. Note how it was the tabernacle was actually sanctified and consecrated: by the presence of the glory of God. God did the work of setting these things apart & dedicating them to Himself. The sacrifices were merely symbols that pointed to the supernatural work of God.
  2. Why did God go through all this? That His people would know Him! God wants us to know Him.
    1. Don’t lose sight of the broader context of this passage. God was revealing Himself to His people even while the Hebrews were at the base of Mount Sinai soon to make a false idol of Him.
  3. God wants us to know Him and to dwell with Him! And He even reveals Himself to us through Jesus knowing how badly we’re going to screw up along the way. This is grace!

Exodus 30

  • Tabernacle furnishings, continued: the golden altar (30:1-10) 

1 “You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width—it shall be square—and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around. 4 Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both its sides. You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you.

  1. Discussion has already been provided regarding one altar: the bronze altar for burnt offerings located within the tabernacle courtyard. A second altar was located inside the tabernacle structure itself: a golden altar used for burning incense unto God. Like the bronze altar, it was also to be square in its dimensions, though smaller in overall size and proportion: 1½ x 1½ x 3 feet. As with the other pieces of furniture within the tabernacle structure, the incense altar was to be fashioned from acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It was to have four horns (one on each corner), and rings on its side in order that it might be transported via poles of acacia wood overlaid with gold.

7 “Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. 8 And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it. 10 And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”

  1. A “sweet incense” was to be burned on it every morning and every twilight, ensuring a perpetual burning of incense. An explicit prohibition was also given (something unique among all the furnishings of the tabernacle) that no other offering could ever be burnt or poured out on the altar, but only the incense that the Lord Himself instructed. The reason for the prohibition is not specifically revealed at this time, but it can be assumed that it is associated with the following command to “make atonement” for the altar once per year, because it was “most holy to the LORD.”
  2. What’s the difference between the golden altar & the bronze altar? The bronze altar was outside & used for sacrifice; the golden altar was inside and used for praise.
    1. Question: Why wasn’t the golden altar described earlier, when God first gave the description of all of the other interior pieces of tabernacle furniture? Why was it given after the description of the bronze altar? Scripture does not say, so we cannot be absolute, but perhaps it comes down to the order in which things could be offered. The items dealing with blood atonement needed to be given first, before items dealing with prayer. Prayer is only possible after sacrifice and forgiveness.
  3. Imagine how it all worked out: there was the light from the lampstand/menorah, the sound of the bells on the robe of the priest, the taste of the showbread, the touch of the blood of sacrifice, and the smell of the rising incense. All the senses were involved in the priestly ministry.
  • God’s ransom of the people (30:11-16)

11 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 12 “When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. 13 This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the LORD. 14 Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the LORD. 15 The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves. 16 And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves.”

  1. Preview of the census to be taken in the book of Numbers.
  2. The actual ransom amount wasn’t much (a little under 3 bucks), but it was necessary. All people needed to pay, and all people needed to pay the same amount.
    1. We’re all saved (and need to be saved) by the same sacrifice: the life of Jesus.
  • Tabernacle furnishings, concluded: the bronze laver, oil, and incense (30:17-38). Laver (17-21)

17 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 18 “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, 19 for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. 20 When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the LORD, they shall wash with water, lest they die. 21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them—to him and his descendants throughout their generations.”

  1. The final piece of tabernacle furniture is described: a washing station, often known as the bronze laver. Interestingly, no precise measurements or design is given for the laver; only the instruction of where the laver was to be placed: “between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar.” The priests were instructed to use the laver for washing any time they entered the tabernacle, or engaged in any work near the bronze altar, under penalty of death. As to the reason for the laver, it was practical & also symbolic. There was real cleansing that took place (something necessary considering the amount of blood that was shed), but also symbolic of ongoing cleansing given by God.
  2. The bottom line: All the priests needed to always be clean. How can ministry be offered in light of unrepentant sin?
  • Anointing oil (22-33).

22 Moreover the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Also take for yourself quality spices—five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet-smelling cane, 24 five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil.

  1. The final two items included in the initial instructions of the tabernacle are not furniture or garments, but items to be used in conjunction with the various furnishings. First, the anointing oil is described to Moses, who is told to make it “according to the art of the perfumer.” The various spices to be used were myrrh, cinnamon, sweet-smelling cane, and cassia, all mixed in olive oil. And a lot of it was used! Then again, it was used to scent a lot of oil. 1 hin is approx. = to 1 gallon.
  2. All of the various pieces of tabernacle furniture was to be anointed with this oil, as well as Aaron and the rest of the priests, all in consecration unto God. 

26 With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; 27 the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; 28 the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base. 29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy. 30 And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.

  1. All the articles of the tabernacle were to be anointed, as well as the priests themselves. In fact, there was to be no priestly ministry take place until everything/everyone was anointed. (“…that they may minister to Me as priests.”) This was the final step necessary in order for the men to be able to be priests unto God.
  2. How so? It was the oil that signified the items & priests as being holy to God. Again, this was a picture of the Holy Spirit. Unless the Spirit undergirds the work of ministry, what’s the point? If we serve God in our own strength, we’ll fail. At best, whatever we do will be temporary. Yet when we follow God the Holy Spirit, working in His power under the instruction of His word, then what God does through us will last!

31 “And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.’ ”

  1. Oil to be unique; not commonplace nor taken for granted, all under penalty of excommunication. This makes sense, when we think of the oil as being a picture of the Holy Spirit! He is unlike any other – He is certainly never common – and without Him being granted to us by Jesus, we are all cut off from God.
  • Incense (34-38).

34 And the LORD said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35 You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. 37 But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the LORD. 38 Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”

  1. As to the makeup of the incense, it was to be composed of stacte (translated by the NIV as “gum resin”), “onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense,” ground, mixed with salt, all “according to the art of the perfumer.” As to the identity of the first three spices, most of these are unknown to modern scholars. A similar injunction was given regarding the tabernacle incense as that of the anointing oil, saying that any duplication of the incense for any other use would result in national excommunication.
  2. Prayer is holy! It’s not to be trite nor mindless. It is a privilege to pray!

Exodus 31

  • God empowers the artisans (31:1-11).

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, 5 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship. 6 “And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tabernacle of meeting, the ark of the Testimony and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furniture of the tabernacle—8 the table and its utensils, the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base—10 the garments of ministry, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and sweet incense for the holy place. According to all that I have commanded you they shall do.”

  1. More than the priests were called by name! Lest we think that God desired only a certain privilege few to serve Him, God knew all of His people, and He had a role for all of them to play. (God knows more than just pastors & missionaries; He knows you!)
  2. Just like the priests were anointed by the Spirit for ministry, the artisans were empowered by the Holy Spirit for their own service. God gave them the wisdom and the skill for the work to be done. What God called them to do, God equipped them for. (It’s no different with us!)
  3. Moses led the work, but he wasn’t responsible for doing all the work. More people were needed, and God provided them. (This is how the body of Christ is supposed to work!)

At this, the basic instructions for the tabernacle are completed, and God transitions to instructions for the Sabbath. Why? Is this random? Not at all. This hearkens back to Chapter 24, when the covenant between God and the nation of Israel was affirmed. The people agreed to be in covenant with God, God fellowshipped with the elders of Israel on the mountain, celebrating that covenant. Then God met with Moses, instructing him how the people could worship Him according to that covenant. Now God gives the individual sign of that covenant – something which could be seen in the life of every Hebrew, male and female alike (as opposed to circumcision). 

  • God seals the nation (31:12-18).

12 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ”

  1. The Sabbath was necessary for life. To work on the Sabbath (Saturday) was to be guilty of a capital crime. Look again at verse 15: “Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.” To modern ears, this can sound inappropriately harsh! What was the big deal? The Sabbath was a sign of the covenant that God made with His people. It was a witness to the nations that the Israelites trusted in the provision of YHWH for them…
  2. Not only that, the Sabbath was to be a “perpetual covenant” among “the children of Israel.” Notice how specific that is to the particular nation. There is no indication that the later church was supposed to be a replacement for Israel, and thus obligated to keep the physical 7th day Sabbath until the end of time. If that were the case, it would have been commanded somewhere in the New Testament – particularly in the Jerusalem decree of Acts 15. Yet the New Testament is virtually silent regarding the Sabbath for Gentile Christians. Why? Because it was given to the nation of Israel as a sign of their covenant with God; not ours.
  3. If the Sabbath was the outward sign and seal of God’s work upon the nation of Israel to the rest of the world around them (as well as to themselves), what is the relative equivalent among the church? It is Christ Jesus, and the seal He provides to us through the Holy Spirit! Israel’s rest in God’s promises set them apart from the Gentile nations surrounding them; our rest in Jesus’ sacrifice sets us apart from every other religion. Without keeping the Sabbath, the Hebrews were cut off from God; without faith in Christ, we are cut off from God. For the church, the Sabbath has nothing to do with worshipping God on a certain day of the week; it has everything to do with our salvation in Christ!

18 And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

  1. Moses’ time on the mountain concludes with a marvelous gift: the 10 Commandments “written with the finger of God.
  2. The covenant was affirmed, demonstrated in the tabernacle, signified in the Sabbath, and now handed to Moses in written form. Finally, the children of Israel had everything they needed to get started in their relationship with God. Sadly, they were already forgetting everything down at the base of the mountain! (As is seen in Chapter 32…)


God has made it possible for His people to serve Him!

  • The priests were consecrated
  • The people were ransomed
  • The artisans were empowered
  • The nation was sealed

This was a nation set apart to serve and to worship the Living God! God had called them His own, gave them a way to worship Him, and equipped them to do it. All that was left was the follow-through.

Think of what Jesus has already done for us to make our worship and service possible. His one sacrifice was sufficient to provide atonement for all our sins, to pave the way for our worship, and to set us apart for God’s service. His gift of the Holy Spirit empowers and anoints us for all that God calls us to do. Jesus has already paid our ransom, and the Spirit is available to renew and fill us every single day, in addition to sealing us for all eternity. God has done it all: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

All that is left is the follow-through. Serve the Lord! Be set apart to Him, fully consecrated to God through the sacrifice of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit.


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