Archive for the ‘Exodus’ Category

If You Build It…

Posted: February 28, 2019 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 35-40, “If You Build It…”

The foundational line from the old Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams was, “If you build it, he will come.” I’ve actually never watched it (so it’s not an endorsement!), but the line was so iconic that you didn’t have to watch the movie to know what it was about. If the farmer played by Costner plowed over his corn to build a baseball field, then baseball players from the past would come and play.

Sketchy theology aside (much less ideas of the ghosts of baseball-past!), the line itself could be used of ancient Israel, Moses, and the construction of the tabernacle. The people had been given the instruction from God on what His dwelling place among them needed to be – the only thing left to do was to build it and use it. If they built it, HE would come. God had promised them a dwelling place; He would deliver.

Although the play-by-play narration of the tabernacle construction initially seems to be a bit dry, it is bathed in immense grace. This is the culmination of the entire book! To see it, we need to back up to the build-up throughout the book of Exodus to see what led to this point. 

Though the family of Israel initially went to Egypt willingly, in response to the miracle of God with one of their own serving as the prime minister of the most powerful nation in the world, things changed after Joseph died and new pharaohs arose. The Hebrews went from being honored guests to oppressed slaves, and things remained that way for 400 years. This had been prophesied by God as far back as Abraham, but it was still hard. The people cried out for a deliverer, and when the time was right, God sent one in Moses. Moses, along with his brother Aaron, served as God’s spokesman to Pharaoh, and delivered nine devastating plagues to Egypt, demonstrating God’s infinite power over the false gods of Egypt as well as the hardness of Pharaoh’s own heart. Finally with the 10th (and most terrible) plague of the Passover, Pharaoh released Israel to freedom, God having purchased (redeemed) His people for Himself.

Israel was led by God into the wilderness to worship God, and God repeatedly demonstrated His power and glory. There was the final defeat of Egypt at the parting of the Red Sea (Yom Suph; Sea of Reeds) – there was the power of God to bring forth water from the rocks – there was the provision of God to bring forth bread in the desert. Though the people wavered in their faith, being a complaining people, God was gracious to care for them according to His promise.

Finally the group of 1 million+ Hebrews (and mixed multitude of God-fearing Egyptians) arrived at Mount Sinai. Although they had seen glimpses of God’s glory in the past (the pillar of cloud and fire), it barely prepared them for what they experienced at the mountain! God descended upon Sinai in a massive show of power, speaking audibly the 10 Commandments outlining His covenant with the people…and they feared! They begged Moses to be their mediator, and Moses agreed.

With further details of the covenant given, and the people agreeing to obey, the nation and their God agreed in a holy oath, sacrifice, and fellowship meal. Moses then ascended Sinai alone, receiving the detailed plans of the tabernacle: the place where God promised to dwell among His people – an act of amazing grace! Sadly, the people below grew tired of waiting, and descended into idolatry – breaking the covenant before they had a chance to walk in it. Moses quickly interceded for his people once again, and God agreed in His grace. The covenant was renewed, and the Israelites once again received the instruction of God through Moses, beholding His glory.

So where does that leave the Exodus story? At this point, God was not yet dwelling among His people, only giving instruction to Moses at the tent of meeting outside the camp. That wasn’t the plan or the promise; that was the discipline of God to His rebellious people. Yet with the covenant renewed, plans could continue for God to come inside the camp, and that required the tabernacle to be built. Only then would He truly dwell among His people leading them to the Promised Land, fulfilling the promises He gave to Abraham centuries in the past.

Despite the sin of the people, God still instituted His covenant relationship with Israel. He still gave them the promise of His abiding presence, and more than that, He fulfilled it. God wants His redeemed people to know Him, be with Him, and worship Him. That was true for the ancient Hebrews, and it is true for New Testament Christians. In the past, God came among His people at the tabernacle and they were to do everything they could in response to dwell with Him. Today, God came among us in the person of Jesus Christ – we too, are to do everything in response as we dwell with Him. 

Don’t let anything hold you back from Jesus! He’s come to us; you give yourself to Him!

Exodus 35 – Preparations to build

  • Covenant sign renewed (1-3)

1 Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, “These are the words which the LORD has commanded you to do: 2 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”

  1. Renewal of the Sabbath was the renewal of the covenant sign (31:12-17). Since Chapter 34 saw the covenant itself renewed, the sign was reiterated. This was the external demonstration of how Israel was set apart to worship the God of heaven and earth: they trusted Him to provide for their every need, including their food. Whereas every other nation labored 7 days a week to eat, Israel labored only 6 – trusting God to provide the rest.
  2. And it was serious! It was violated under penalty of death. Why so serious? Because a lack of trust is a lack of faith. Because a lack of faith in God’s provision in this area points to a lack of faith in all other areas. Because the Sabbath rest is a picture of the rest that Jesus provides us at the cross. We do not labor for our salvation; we trust Jesus to provide it – we rest in Him. A lack of faith in Christ = a death sentence for all eternity. This is serious, indeed!
  3. BTW – Why was fire singled out? Likely to settle any debate as to whether kindling a fire was considered work. Even if it didn’t take blood, sweat, and tears to start a fire, the only reason to start it would be to use it in some other form of labor (such as cooking). This was a guard to prevent the Hebrews from breaking the Sabbath in other ways.
    1. This has grown into massive legalism over the centuries, to the point that ultra-orthodox Jews don’t even flip a light-switch on the Sabbath, or push an elevator button. Any spark in their mind is “kindling a fire.”
    2. Be careful not to push the law to legalism! The law is supposed to take us to Jesus, and leave us there.
  • Offering commanded (4-9)

4 And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the LORD commanded, saying: 5 ‘Take from among you an offering to the LORD. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the LORD: gold, silver, and bronze; 6 blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; 7 ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; 8 oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; 9 onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.

  1. A specific offering was sought from the people. God didn’t just say, “Bring Me whatever;” God commanded very specific items. This was everything that was needed for the tabernacle construction, from the gold to the thread. Where did it all originate? Egypt! 
  2. Note: the offering was commanded; not compelled. Moses was commanded to go to the Israelites and give them the opportunity to give, but no one was absolutely forced to give. This was an offering; not a tax. This was an opportunity for God’s people to show their thankfulness to God through their valuables and possessions. Those who gave were to have “a willing heart.” “Willing” = inclined, generous, noble. Generosity is noble! It is a reflection of God’s own character. After all, who gives more than God? He has given all!
    1. Although this particular offering is not a reflection of the tithe (which was indeed a compulsory gift in Israel, funding the priests & Levites), it does reflect the New Testament model of giving. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul says that God loves a “cheerful giver,” (2 Cor 9:7) – that is a person who is joyfully willing to give of his/her best to the Lord.
    2. What is the best thing to give to God? Yourself! Before God gets your money, be sure to give Him your heart! 
  • Construction commanded (10-19)

10 ‘All who are gifted artisans among you shall come and make all that the LORD has commanded: 11 the tabernacle, its tent, its covering, its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets; 12 the ark and its poles, with the mercy seat, and the veil of the covering; 13 the table and its poles, all its utensils, and the showbread; 14 also the lampstand for the light, its utensils, its lamps, and the oil for the light; 15 the incense altar, its poles, the anointing oil, the sweet incense, and the screen for the door at the entrance of the tabernacle; 16 the altar of burnt offering with its bronze grating, its poles, all its utensils, and the laver and its base; 17 the hangings of the court, its pillars, their sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 the pegs of the tabernacle, the pegs of the court, and their cords; 19 the garments of ministry, for ministering in the holy place—the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests.’ ”

  1. The call didn’t just go out for an offering of materials; it went out for people: “all who are gifted artisans.” Literally, “wise/skilled” artisans. There was an opportunity for anyone and everyone within Israel to participate in the tabernacle to some extent (i.e., the offering), but when it some to the physical labor and service in construction, skilled/gifted artisans were needed. This was the role given to them by God, and they were the ones needed to step forward.
  2. That said, the call to the artisans was not restricted, apart from skill. ALL the artisans who were available were needed. There was much to do, so much help was required. — Likewise in the body of Christ. All of us are needed, and thus all of us need to serve using the gifts God has given us. (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12)
  3. There is a blessing in service. Consider it: the artisans got to handle all of the items of the tabernacle before the priests ever used them. (And the opportunity would never come around again.)
    1. What blessings we miss when we refuse to serve! When God gives you an opportunity, gifting, and calling, use them!
  • Offering commences (20-29)

20 And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments.

  1. Stirred” comes from the same Hebrew word for “lifted.” Those who gave had lifted hearts & inspired spirits. This was a worshipful offering! It was heartfelt – not done out of grudging obligation or guilt, but out of gratitude and joy.
  2. This ought to be our attitude in giving and service! Consider what Jesus has done for us – why on earth would we hold back doing anything for Him? Let your heart be lifted by the work of Christ – let your soul be moved by the grace poured out on you by the Holy Spirit. Let God be your motivation in all you do!

22 They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the LORD. 23 And every man, with whom was found blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, goats’ hair, red skins of rams, and badger skins, brought them. 24 Everyone who offered an offering of silver or bronze brought the LORD’s offering. And everyone with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it. 25 All the women who were gifted artisans spun yarn with their hands, and brought what they had spun, of blue, purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. 26 And all the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats’ hair. 27 The rulers brought onyx stones, and the stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate, 28 and spices and oil for the light, for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense. 29 The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the LORD, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the LORD, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done.

  1. Notice who participated: everyone! Men, women, rulers – all classes, all economics, all people, period. Everyone had the same opportunity, and representatives from every group gave what they had. And note: they brought what they had; no one was pressured to bring what they did not
    1. Too much of church giving is motivated by guilt. Call it what it is: antibiblical!
  2. The point was participation. The priests and the artisans already had an opportunity to be a part; this was the opportunity for the rest of the nation. This was their chance to serve, and they weren’t about to pass it up. They were ready, willing, and able. (For all that Israel had done wrong up to this point, they did much right!)
  3. BTW – Notice the source of the gold: jewelry, earrings, etc. Everything that had been earlier given for the golden calf…these were the things supposed to be used for the Lord.
  • Artisans called (35:30 – 36:1)

30 And Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, 32 to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship. 34 “And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver—those who do every work and those who design artistic works. 36:1 “And Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whom the LORD has put wisdom and understanding, to know how to do all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, shall do according to all that the LORD has commanded.”

  1. Bezalel (“in the shadow/protection of God”) was filled & empowered by the Spirit for the work ahead of him. No doubt he was already skilled; he was also supernaturally skilled for this particular task. He had much to do, and God didn’t expect him to do it on his own power.
    1. God never does! What He calls us to, He equips us for, through the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is ask.
  2. Bezalel was also empowered to teach. What the Spirit gave him was not just for him; it was for him to pass on to others (like Aholiab). Where did all the other skilled artisans learn how to make the tabernacle items? From the careful instruction of Bezalel and Aholiab.
    1. Where will the next generation of Christians learn to serve with their gifts? From the men and women who have gone before them! This is part of discipleship, and it’s something in which all of us should be engaged.
  3. Don’t miss the grace that is on display in all of this. God knows us by name, and He knows how He wants to use us. 
  • Offering completed (2-7)

2 Then Moses called Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whose heart the LORD had put wisdom, everyone whose heart was stirred, to come and do the work. 3 And they received from Moses all the offering which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of making the sanctuary. So they continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. 4 Then all the craftsmen who were doing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work he was doing, 5 and they spoke to Moses, saying, “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the LORD commanded us to do.” 6 So Moses gave a commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, “Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.” And the people were restrained from bringing, 7 for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done—indeed too much.

  1. It’s one thing to be called & moved; it’s another thing to act. Bezalel and Aholiab had been empowered – the artisans had been called – the people had been commanded to give…now it all needed to be done. — Too often, we hear what is needed & know that God has equipped us to do what is needed, but we stop short of obedience. We need to follow through!
  2. Every morning” implies multiple mornings. It took a long time to receive the offering. After all, there were over 1 million men, women, and children among the nation at the time. Practically speaking, it couldn’t be done in a single afternoon! Even so, it was still done decently & in order.
  3. Eventually the giving had to be restrained. 

—-

At this point, the bulk of Exodus 36-39 are a record of the fulfillment of Exodus 25-30. The items come in a different order, but each one is built virtually word-for-word according to the instructions given to Moses by God on the mountain.

  • 36:8-38 – Construction of the tabernacle “proper”: the tent curtains, boards, veil, and screen.
  • 37:1-29 – Construction of the items to be placed within the tabernacle: the ark, mercy seat, table of showbread, lampstand, altar of incense, anointing oil and incense.
  • 38:1-20 – Construction of the items outside the tabernacle structure: the altar of burnt offering, the bronze laver, the courtyard “fencing.”
  • 39:1-41 – Manufacture of the priestly garments: the ephod, breastplate, robe, tunic, and crown.

  • Follow up: Inventory of the offering (38:21-31)

38:21 This is the inventory of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the Testimony, which was counted according to the commandment of Moses, for the service of the Levites, by the hand of Ithamar, son of Aaron the priest. 22 Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD had commanded Moses. 23 And with him was Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver and designer, a weaver of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and of fine linen.

  1. With the tabernacle completed, a summary of the materials could be given. Think of it like a biblical packing invoice. Why was it recorded for all time? So that people could understand that it was done, and that it was done above-reproach with full accountability. Even the leaders who participated in the counting were named. 

24 All the gold that was used in all the work of the holy place, that is, the gold of the offering, was twenty-nine talents and seven hundred and thirty shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary.

  1. 1948 pounds of gold = $35+ million.

25 And the silver from those who were numbered of the congregation was one hundred talents and one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary: 26 a bekah for each man (that is, half a shekel, according to the shekel of the sanctuary), for everyone included in the numbering from twenty years old and above, for six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty men.

  1. 6903 pounds of silver = $1.5 million.
  2. The silver had a specific purpose: it was the ransom offering. (36:11-16) Every single man paid a ransom, all used in the construction of the tabernacle…

27 And from the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary and the bases of the veil: one hundred sockets from the hundred talents, one talent for each socket. 28 Then from the one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels he made hooks for the pillars, overlaid their capitals, and made bands for them.

  1. Consider the symbolism: every time the Israelite saw silver at the tabernacle, he could remember the fact that he was bought at a price.

29 The offering of bronze was seventy talents and two thousand four hundred shekels. 30 And with it he made the sockets for the door of the tabernacle of meeting, the bronze altar, the bronze grating for it, and all the utensils for the altar, 31 the sockets for the court all around, the bases for the court gate, all the pegs for the tabernacle, and all the pegs for the court all around.

  1. 4720 pounds of bronze – enough for the altar, all the utensils, pegs, etc.
  2. In fact, there was far more than enough! God provided all that was necessary.
  • Summary of the work (39:32-43)

39:32 Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished. And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did. 33 And they brought the tabernacle to Moses, the tent and all its furnishings: its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets; 34 the covering of ram skins dyed red, the covering of badger skins, and the veil of the covering; 35 the ark of the Testimony with its poles, and the mercy seat; 36 the table, all its utensils, and the showbread; 37 the pure gold lampstand with its lamps (the lamps set in order), all its utensils, and the oil for light; 38 the gold altar, the anointing oil, and the sweet incense; the screen for the tabernacle door; 39 the bronze altar, its grate of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils; the laver with its base; 40 the hangings of the court, its pillars and its sockets, the screen for the court gate, its cords, and its pegs; all the utensils for the service of the tabernacle, for the tent of meeting; 41 and the garments of ministry, to minister in the holy place: the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and his sons’ garments, to minister as priests.

  1. The construction was finished! Israel had been faithful to follow-through.
  2. The work of construction was done, but the tabernacle was still not yet functional. Everything was made; now it needed to be used. The furnishings and equipment alone did not equal worship.

42 According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work. 43 Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, just so they had done it. And Moses blessed them.

  1. Moses inspected the work. Did he trust Bezalel and Aholiab to do it correctly? Certainly – but Moses would have been negligent not to look over it. 
  2. Moses “blessed” Israel. This seems minor & easy to overlook, but don’t forget that much of Exodus records Moses chastising the children of Israel for their disobedience. It wasn’t too many chapters ago that Moses smashed the tablets of the 10 Commandments in response to how Israel had faithlessly broken the covenant. Moses was even forced to command the Levites to strike down their brothers with the sword. One might think that Israel’s relationship with God and Moses was irreparable – that they had done the unforgiveable. Yet here they are, obedient to God, flush with His mercies…and Moses blesses them. There is grace that is given to the repentant! 

Exodus 40 – Assembly & completion

  • Command for assembly & consecration (1-15)

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 3 You shall put in it the ark of the Testimony, and partition off the ark with the veil. 4 You shall bring in the table and arrange the things that are to be set in order on it; and you shall bring in the lampstand and light its lamps. 5 You shall also set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the Testimony, and put up the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 6 Then you shall set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 7 And you shall set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 8 You shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen at the court gate.

  1. Everything was arranged according to God’s design and command. Everything was set in order. (It wasn’t left up to Moses’ imagination or preference.) 

9 “And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy. 10 You shall anoint the altar of the burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar. The altar shall be most holy. 11 And you shall anoint the laver and its base, and consecrate it.

  1. Everything outside the tabernacle-proper was anointed/made holy. Why not the inside? It was already holy because of the placement. Those items were already “set apart” from the rest, being inside the holy place & the holy of holies. The outside items were the things that were in full view of the others, and they needed to be visibly set apart for service.
  2. Note: The altar was the holiest piece outside the tabernacle-proper. (קֹ֥דֶשׁ קָֽדָשִֽׁים) It makes sense – after all, this was the place where the sacrifices would be made. This was the place blood would be shed on behalf of the people. As important as the bronze laver & other instruments were, they paled in comparison with the altar of sacrifice.

12 “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water. 13 You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. 14 And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics. 15 You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.”

  1. Consecration ceremony reviewed (29:1-37). It’s only summarized at this point, as the text looks ahead to Leviticus 8 for the fulfillment. BTW – When was the one time the “everlasting priesthood” of Aaron and his sons changed? When Jesus became our Great High Priest, according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:6).
  • Moses’ obedience (16-33)

16 Thus Moses did; according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did. 17 And it came to pass in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up.

  1. Moses was fully obedient. It’s not that Moses expected obedience from everyone else, but not for himself; obedience was expected from everyone. Moses set an example of a lifetime of faithful obedience, failing only once in his long career of service (though that one failure was severe enough to keep him from entering the Promised Land).
  2. Finally! One year after the Passover & Red Sea, everything was fully assembled & arranged per the command in 40:1-10, as the text goes on to show.

18 So Moses raised up the tabernacle, fastened its sockets, set up its boards, put in its bars, and raised up its pillars. 19 And he spread out the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent on top of it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 20 He took the Testimony and put it into the ark, inserted the poles through the rings of the ark, and put the mercy seat on top of the ark. 21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, hung up the veil of the covering, and partitioned off the ark of the Testimony, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 22 He put the table in the tabernacle of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil; 23 and he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 24 He put the lampstand in the tabernacle of meeting, across from the table, on the south side of the tabernacle; 25 and he lit the lamps before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 26 He put the gold altar in the tabernacle of meeting in front of the veil; 27 and he burned sweet incense on it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 28 He hung up the screen at the door of the tabernacle. 29 And he put the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 30 He set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water there for washing; 31 and Moses, Aaron, and his sons would wash their hands and their feet with water from it. 32 Whenever they went into the tabernacle of meeting, and when they came near the altar, they washed, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 33 And he raised up the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the screen of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.

  1. Apparently, Moses personally oversaw the set-up. He didn’t just provide the instruction; Moses got involved. Again, Moses never exempted himself from anything commanded of others. Leadership was not “better” than the laity; they simply had a different role. 
  • Consummation: God’s glory descends (34-38)

34 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

  1. Finally! The cloud of glory came down. This was the moment that the tabernacle became God’s dwelling place – this was the moment it changed from a mere tent (though an opulent one) to the most holy tabernacle of God, His dwelling on earth among His people. What grace – what power! It’s amazing that as glorious as this was, so few words were written about it at this point. More is described in Leviticus 9-10 when the sacrifices are first given and Nadab & Abihu offer their strange, profane fire before the Lord.
  2. What good is a building, without the presence and glory of God? What good is a church without the presence of Jesus and filling of the Holy Spirit? These things are mere structures and gatherings without God. HE is what makes them special! He is the Glorious One!

36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

  1. A bit of preview of Numbers, as Israel was led directly by God through the wilderness. God kept His promise to be with them and guide them as their Covenant King.

Conclusion:

They built it, and God came! God kept all His promises to Israel! He promised to free them from slavery, and He did. He promised to give them a covenant, and He did. Best yet, He promised to dwell among His people – and despite all of their sin, faithlessness, and rebellion…He still did. He gave them the tabernacle, they were faithful to build it, and God came according to His word. As rebellious as the Hebrews were, they were still the people God had redeemed, and He wanted them to be with Him & worship Him. This was His outreach of mercy and grace, and thankfully, they responded in obedience. And because they did, the glory of God descended among them!

That’s great for ancient Israel, but what does it mean today for the Church? God still wants His redeemed people to be with Him and worship Him. How do we do it? It’s all through Jesus!

If the tabernacle is a preview of Jesus’ abiding presence among us, His sacrifice for us, and His priestly work on our behalf, then we need to ensure that we get involved with the Tabernacle! We don’t want to let anything get in the way of us worshipping God through God’s appointed means (i.e. Jesus!).

  • We give ourselves to Jesus. (Preparation and offerings)
  • We see Jesus as He is. (Construction)
  • We go to Jesus & experience Jesus. (Assembly & consummation)

Our life, walk, and fellowship with God is far more than going to a building, participating in rituals, or doing religious things out of habit. When we have faith in Jesus, then we have faith in the Living God – and He lives, moves, and acts among His people today. That means we dwell with Him – we live with Him day-in and day-out. It means that worship is more than an event on the calendar; it’s a way of life.

Is this what your faith looks like? Do you dwell with the Living God? Do you experience Him on a daily basis, giving Him your life? That’s what God desires for us; the only thing that stops us from experiencing it is ourselves.

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The Importance of Presence

Posted: February 21, 2019 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 33-34, “The Importance of Presence”

Have you ever been here, but not here? It’s like when you sit with someone for a conversation, but just “zone out” for a minute? You may be physically present, but mentally absent. Guaranteed, the person sitting across from you knows the difference, and probably isn’t pleased! Real presence makes all the difference.

We can say the same thing about spiritual matters. What makes heaven, heaven? The presence of Jesus. If Jesus isn’t there, who would want to go? What is the purpose of eternal life, if we don’t get to spend it in the presence of God? Without the presence of the Lord, we’d be eternally bored, not having any purpose other than mere existence. What makes it good is God, in that being with Him, we’re able to live as the beings that God has created us to be.

Likewise, when it comes to the church. What good is a building filled with people, if the people are not filled with the Holy Spirit? What good is a congregation, if Christ is not among them? A church without the presence of God is nothing more than a club; it certainly is not a church. The presence of God makes all the difference.

This was the problem facing Moses and Israel in Exodus 33-34. Although previously, they had received wonderful promises of the presence of God among them (remember, that was the whole purpose of the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God!), everything had changed in light of the golden calf. While Moses had been on Mount Sinai receiving these wonderful instructions, down below, Israel lost faith and demanded that Aaron forge them a god that they could see, touch, and control. In their hearts, they went back to the false gods of Egypt, trying to imagine their own God in a way that was familiar to them; rather than having faith in how God had revealed Himself. Over & over again, God had shown Himself to Israel (through the plagues, the Passover, the Red Sea, the manna, the water from the rock, and finally the manifestation of His glory on Mt. Sinai), yet Israel rejected all of those things for carnal worldliness.

Righteously angry, God was prepared to destroy the nation & begin again with Moses, but Moses interceded for the people (just as God wanted him to do), and God granted His mercy. Instead of destruction, Moses himself went down and administered the righteous anger of God, with 3000 Hebrews falling by the swords of the Levites. Even so, Moses continued to plead for the people to God, and God heard his prayer.

The question now became: how to proceed? Israel had not yet left the mountain of God, and had already egregiously violated their covenant with God. Though they had promised to obey God and be His people, they had rebelled – now their relationship with God had a serious problem. God could send them on, but His presence would not be among them.

That’s when Moses intercedes once again – because even the promised land without God’s presence isn’t worth it. It is the presence of God that makes all the difference – for Israel, and for us.A real relationship with Jesus has the real presence of God; seek Him, and seek Him alone! Settle for nothing less.

Exodus 33: Consequences: God’s promises without God’s presence.

  • Punishment announced (33:1-6)

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2 And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

  1. God’s promise of the land was not revoked, despite their rebellion. Why not? Because God had sworn to “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Their descendants may have sinned in terrible ways, but their sin could not change the promises that God had made in the past. When God speaks, He does not lie. What He says, He does. (Num 23:19)
  2. Even so, God’s presence was removed. The people were to leave, but God would not be among them. Theologically speaking, God would always be there – after all, He is omnipresent. There is no place we can be where God is not. Relationally speaking, however, He would be removed. “I will not go up in your midst.” Their rebellion caused a break in their relationship with God. Prior to their sin, they had fellowship; now it was gone. God would have as little to do with the people as possible. Besides, what would happen if God didn’t remove His presence? The people would be destroyed! “Lest I consume you on the way.” God knew that the sinfulness of the people would not change. They had deserved His wrath after the golden calf – surely there would be more rebellion in the future. If the holy presence of God remained among the people, it would only endanger the people. They required His daily grace, or they would have no hope.
    1. So do we! Thankfully, we receive that daily grace through Jesus!
  3. Objection: What about the presence of the angel? Wasn’t that a sign of God’s presence among them? That is a sign of the bare minimum. By all indications (despite the assumption of the NKJV translators), this is not the Angel of the Lord, which is often an appearance of the preincarnate Jesus. The Hebrew text is clear on this point, which is why other versions (NASB, ESV, HCSB, NIV, etc.) all translate this “I will send an angel,” rather than “My Angel.” Back in Exodus 23:23, God specifically promised to send “My Angel,” with the Hebrew using the possessive form of the word, referring to the Angel of YHWH. Here, there is no possessive; it is simply “an angel.” The bottom line? God would send His people to the land He promised to send them (for God doesn’t break His word), but He would send them impersonally/remotely. Although His desire was to dwell among His people, the rebellion of Israel changed everything.
    1. Sin breaks our fellowship with God. As born-again Christians, although we do not automatically lose our relationship with God in our sin, we can lose our close fellowship with Him. Unconfessed unrepentant sin breaks the intimacy we have with Christ. How to fix it? Confession & repentance!

4 And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you. Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.’ ” 6 So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb.

  1. Why did the people mourn? Apparently, for the wrong reasons. Verse 5 tells us that they mourned because God called out their sin; not because they had sinned or because God would not dwell among them.
  2. Question: Did God truly not know how to handle Israel? God did not have a lack of information or conviction – He is never at a loss for a plan. Instead, this was God speaking to the people in a way in which they could relate: as a parent to a child. This was God opening the door. He gave them the opportunity to repent. He gave Moses the chance to intercede for them. 
  • Intercessor at work (33:7-23)

7 Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. 8 So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. 9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. 10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door.

  1. Moses made a temporary tabernacle, far less than what God had originally intended or commanded. This “tabernacle of meeting” was “outside the camp, far from the camp,” rather than being in the very center of camp. Again, this was part of their punishment. Israel lost out on close fellowship with their God. To be sure, there is mercy in the fact that any tabernacle was available, but there definitely was a break in their relationship.
  2. Amazingly, God used this lesser tent. He actually met Moses there, allowing the cloud of His glory to come upon it in a visible way. Here too, was another demonstration of mercy! 
  3. The tent had a purpose besides being a meeting place of God and Moses: it served as a witness to the people of Israel. They saw (1) God’s favor upon Moses, (2) Moses’ devotion to God. It showed what Israel could have, if they followed the Lord God in true worship, fear, and love.
  4. And the witness worked. How so? The people worshipped! When they saw Moses enter the tent outside the camp, and knew that Moses was accepted on their behalf, then they worshipped inside the camp at their own tents. At this point, it’s difficult to say that the hearts of Israel were truly restored, but it was at least a wonderful start!
    1. Again here, we see a picture of Jesus. How is it that we are able to worship? Because we know that Jesus is accepted by God as our Mediator. Because Jesus is received, we have the freedom and invitation to worship God. (Only through Jesus!)

11 So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.

  1. How glorious is this? God saw Moses as a “friend.” Was Moses a servant? Yes. Was he a prophet? Yes. Was Moses still sinful, in need of the grace of God? Of course. Even so, God saw and treated Moses like a true friend. Just like Abraham was a friend of God (Jas 2:23) because of his speaking with God (Gen 18), so was Moses a friend of God because he spoke openly with Him. God allowed Moses this privilege, and Moses wisely used it often!
    1. Guess what? We have the same privilege! Jesus called His disciples His friends (John 15:15) – that is something in which we are included. Don’t waste it; use it! Speak with God, and speak with Him often!
  2. Notice that Joshua didn’t leave the tent of meeting. Does it show his devotion? Does it show a greater devotion than Moses? No. Moses had a duty to go back to the people with the word of the Lord; Joshua had the freedom to remain in the tent. (He also perhaps stayed to warn curious uninvited Jews away, for their own protection.) Whatever the reason, it was a blessing! Not only did it prepare Joshua for his own later ministry, but most importantly, Joshua was able to continually bask in the presence of God.

12 Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”

  1. Moses wanted confirmation of God’s grace, not just to him, but to all the people. There is perhaps a hint back to 32:7, reminding God that these people were His If Moses was truly received as a mediator and intercessor, then the grace given to Moses should be extended to the people.
  2. Moses wanted confirmation of being led by God Himself; not some other indirect messenger. “Show me now Your way, that I may know You.” Moses wasn’t talking about directions on the road to Canaan; he wanted to know the ways of God because Moses wanted to better know God. That could only come from God Himself. Moses knew the promises of God, but he wanted to better know the person of God, and that came from being in the presence of God. All these things go together.
    1. Think of it in terms of our own Christian walk. You can memorize Bible verses without knowing Jesus. (Even the devil can quote Scripture!) You can know facts about Jesus without knowing Him personally. (Again, even the demons believe, and tremble.) A relationship with God is more than intellectual assent, checking off the boxes of a catechism/statement of faith; a real relationship with God is knowing you have been in His presence, interacting with His person, and individually partaking of His promises. It’s the difference between someone who has a church membership and someone who’s a member of The Church. It’s the difference between someone who shows up & someone who knows the Savior. If Jesus is the living resurrected Son of God (which He is!), then He can be known – just like we know other people around us. Those who know Jesus have been in His presence, they’ve interacted with His person, they’ve personally received His promises. Those who know Jesus have God the Holy Spirit living inside The presence of God makes all the difference!
  3. That’s what Moses wanted for himself, and that’s what he wanted for his people. This is why he interceded and prayed on their behalf.

14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” 17 So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”

  1. Better to have no promise than no presence. Moses didn’t want to leave the mountain if God wasn’t going with them. What good would the land of Canaan be (even flowing with milk and honey) if God wasn’t there? The only way Israel would be different from the nations of the earth was if God was among Israel. That was what made the promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob so good: it wasn’t the land; it was the relationship with God! That’s what Moses desired, and he would settle for nothing less.
  2. And this sort of faith pleases God! God agreed, and promised to be with His people, leading & guiding them. This is truly amazing, wonderful grace!
  3. BTW: Why did God do it? It wasn’t because Israel was so good and deserving (far from it!); it was because God had a special relationship with Moses as the mediator. — God has a special relationship with us, too, all because of Jesus. Jesus is our Mediator, and a far better one than Moses. Israel received grace because Moses found grace in God’s sight & was known by Him. We not only receive grace because of Jesus, but God also knows us by name! God sees us in Jesus, and we receive the same blessings as Jesus. Again: amazing, wonderful grace!

18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

  1. Bold request! We might take this for granted, but consider how audacious it is, to ask to see the infinite glory of Almighty God.
  2. Necessary request! How else could Moses communicate God’s glory to the people, unless he experienced it for himself?

19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

  1. This was God’s preparation for Moses. What Moses requested was truly bold & audacious, but God graciously granted it to be done. Even so, Moses needed to know what was on the way, and how dangerous it would be. God’s “name” is good & glorious, but encountering that much glory at one time could easily wipe Moses from the face of the earth! That’s why God promised to protect Moses, by hiding him in the rock with God’s own hand. In a sense, the hand of God would serve the same purpose as the veil in the tabernacle: it was the only thing shielding Moses from the unrestrained fulness of God’s glorious holiness.
  2. Objection: If God spoke with Moses “face to face” (33:11), why did God warn Moses about not seeing His face? Is this a contradiction? This is simply the difference between symbolic & literal language. The idea of “face to face” is one of open discussion & full-on friendship. To literally see the face of God would be to face one’s own destruction.
    1. What Moses had veiled, we have revealed in Jesus! John 1:14,18, “(14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. … (18) No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
  3. Question: Did Moses see less of God’s glory by seeing only God’s back parts (or “afterglow”)? Did Moses get gypped? God specifically promised that Moses would see the glory of God, being in the presence of all the goodness of God. It’s just that God knew what Moses could withstand as a created (and sinfully fallen) human being. Parents love their children, graciously lavishing all kinds of gifts upon them – but we give different gifts to different ages. Babies get fed liquified food and are given large toys easy to grasp; teenagers get pizza and music. Both are loved equally; they are just given what they are capable to receive at the time. God gave Moses what he was able to receive, and it was God’s glory to the fullest extent allowable.

Exodus 34: Consequences removed: God’s glory revealed

  • God shows His glory to Moses (34:1-9)

1 And the LORD said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. 2 So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. 3 And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.”

  1. Promised to replace the tablets of the 10 Commandments, which had previously been destroyed by Moses. (For righteous reasons!)
  2. Moses was to come alone. Others warned away from the area, with even the livestock kept off, being potential temptations to approach the mountain. Why Moses alone? He was the one mediator.
    1. We have one Mediator! (1 Tim 2:5)

4 So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone. 5 Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

  1. Moses obeyed first thing in the morning…we can imagine his excitement! And his excitement was rewarded as God did exactly as He promised to do. God came in all His glory, descending in the cloud & proclaiming His name.
  2. What is in the name of YHWH?
    1. YHWH is good: In every way imaginable, God is good! He is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,” kind to generations, forgiving to the highest extents. God is incredibly good. 
    2. YHWH is just: He does not clear the guilty / leave them unpunished. This is true, even in terms of our forgiveness in Christ. After all, although we have been forgiven, the wrath of God was still poured out for our sin. It was just poured out on Jesus instead of us. Jesus became our guilt!
      1. The fact that God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus for sin ought to be a wake-up for those who have not yet received of Jesus’ sacrifice. After all, if God did not spare His Son, why would anyone else be spared?
    3. YHWH has an everlasting righteousness. Just like God is merciful to thousands, so is He just towards generation after generation. That isn’t to say that God’s grace is not available to future generations; but those individual people need to turn in repentance. Otherwise, rebellious habits get passed on from one generation to the next.
  3. Put it together: God is good, all the time & all the time, God is good! His goodness is seen in both His love and His justice. After all, a good judge is a just judge, and God is the best Judge of all. He sees through eyes of compassion and righteousness.

8 So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. 9 Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.”

  1. Moses quickly bowed in worship, and then repeats his request for God’s presence. Why? Did Moses question God’s earlier answer? Not at all. He simply understood the need for confirmation. In light of God’s glorious character, it becomes painfully obvious how the rest of us don’t match up! It’s not as if Israel would only sin the one time; they were continuously sinful & rebellious! They would always be in need of God’s grace.
    1. Just like us! How do we deal with our own ongoing sin? In the same way as Moses did with Israel. Be honest in confession, and fall upon the mercies of Jesus.
  • God’s glory revealed in the covenant – i.e., mercy & grace! (34:10-28)

10 And He said: “Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

  1. The covenant that had been broken was now renewed. The mercies just spoken of by God would be poured out on the nation of Israel, and God would do “an awesome thing” with them.
    1. God does awesome things! For Israel, He chose to dwell among them and grant them a home. For us, He chooses to dwell within us, make us His children, and give us an eternal home with Jesus. It doesn’t get more awesome than that!

11 Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 12 Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. 13 But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.

  1. God was destroying the current inhabitants of the land. Israel should not pick up where the others left off. They weren’t to join those whom God judged.
  2. Whether intentional or accidental, idolatry is adultery. … And adultery breeds jealousy. God is “Jealous!” Hebrew = jealous/zealous.
    1. Just like we are to be zealous for the Lord in the way we love Him wholeheartedly, having Him as our one priority, God is zealous for us. He is jealous for our attention and worship.
  3. What was to be included in the covenant between Israel and the true God? That is what is contained in the instruction that follows. Although much of this had been mentioned in earlier chapters (Exodus 20-23), with the renewal of the covenant, it needed to be reiterated.

17 “You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.

  1. Timely, in light of recent events of Exodus 32!

18 “The Feast of Unleavened Bread you shall keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, in the appointed time of the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt. 19 “All that open the womb are Mine, and every male firstborn among your livestock, whether ox or sheep. 20 But the firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb. And if you will not redeem him, then you shall break his neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. “And none shall appear before Me empty-handed.

  1. Reminder of how God redeemed Israel from slavery. They had been bought with a price, and every generation of Israelite was to be perpetually reminded of what God had done to make them His own. Why the specific mention of the donkey? Simply emphasizes nothing was exempt. There was a cost to their relationship with God. For Israel, it cost the life of the firstborn.
    1. For us, it cost the life of the Firstborn – the only begotten Son of God!

21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. 22 “And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. 23 “Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel. 24 For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

  1. Reminder of how God was Israel’s provider. Unleavened Bread was the feast accompanying the Passover; the other two feasts were the spring and harvest festivals. Along with the weekly Sabbath, they acknowledged that all Israel’s provision came from the Lord. The people were dependent upon Him not only for their past freedom, but also their continued existence. 
  2. Note: God both provided the land and protected it (emphasizing the fact that it was His). Should there be any worry that foreigners would invade and conquer their homes during feast times, God promised His supernatural protection. Interestingly, there is no historical note that Israel was ever attacked during a feast. God kept His word!

25 “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leaven, nor shall the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover be left until morning. 26 “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

  1. Reminder of God’s holiness. Sacrifice was not to be taken for granted, nor were offerings to be dealt with as the pagans. 

27 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

  1. How the 1st visit should have ended! Originally, Moses’ visit was cut short due to the sin of Israel. This time, there was opportunity for Moses to record everything, and God ratified the covenant by His word & promise.
  2. All in all, it took 40 days, during which Moses had a supernatural fast. 
  • God’s glory seen through Moses (34:29-35)

29 Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.

  1. Moses radiated the glory of God…literally!
  2. The people understandably feared, and it took some coaxing for them to return to Moses and hear him. Even Aaron was afraid to approach him! Sadly, this was something Aaron could have experienced for himself, if he hadn’t been caught up in the sin of Israel.

33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. 35 And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.

  1. Moses was veiled for his daily life with Israel, but unveiled (1) when he spoke with God, and (2) when he spoke forth the words of God to the people. When it came time for Israel to hear God’s commands, they had to receive it knowing God’s glory.
  2. Yet what the people denied for themselves, Moses repeatedly experienced. Every time he went to speak with the Lord, he came back literally glowing. There was evidence of time spent with God. (Time spent with Jesus is evident!)
  3. It’s a sad commentary that although Moses had to be shielded from seeing God’s glory directly, the people wanted to be shielded from even the indirect reflection of God’s glory through Moses. What stopped them from experiencing God’s glory for themselves? Nothing…only their sin. They blinded themselves to the testimony of God’s glory.
    1. This is true for Jewish people today. 2 Corinthians 3:13–15, “(13) unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. (14) But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. (15) But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.”
    2. This is true for anyone who rejects Jesus! Jesus removes the veil! 2 Corinthians 3:16–18, “(16) Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (17) Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (18) But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Where is the Spirit of the Lord? In the presence of the Lord…in true faith in Jesus.

Conclusion:

What began with punishment and consequences led to grace and glory! Israel’s sin had excluded them from fellowship with God, and they lost the privilege of having God’s presence among them. That’s when Moses interceded for them, pleading for the grace and presence of God…and God granted it! God promised to be among His people, renew the covenant, and even let them experience a taste of His glory. Truly, their relationship with God was restored! In their sin, they lost the privilege of His presence; because of grace, God’s presence was experienced once more.

Don’t misunderstand – we aren’t to look for some mystical experience in seeking the presence of God. We don’t have to go climb a tower somewhere, engage in some ancient ritual, or empty our minds of all thought (per eastern meditation), etc. What we need is something real, and that is exactly what is offered to us in Jesus! When we truly know Jesus – when we spend time with Him in prayer & read His word – when we actively asked to be filled with God the Holy Spirit – that is when we will truly experience the presence of God. That is when we will know His person, and knowingly receive of His promises. That’s when we’ll experience the fullness of a relationship with Him.

Don’t go through the motions – don’t just play church; engage in something real by living out a real relationship with the Living God. When sin gets in the way (which it will!) confess it, repent of it, and be done with it. When pride gets in the way, humble yourself. Whatever it is that gets in the way, get rid of it, so that you can seek Jesus!

Saving Us from our Screw-ups

Posted: February 14, 2019 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 32, “Saving Us from our Screw-ups”

Sometimes we screw up – other times we screw up royally! Let’s be honest: there aren’t too many days when we do everything right, but there are a whole bunch of days that we do everything wrong. That’s just life – it’s our human nature, despite our tendencies to deny it. That isn’t to offer ourselves any excuses; it simply the way that it is. The things we do wrong are our own fault, so we may as well take responsibility for them.

The good news? Jesus died for screw-ups like us! Jesus shed His blood on the cross, giving His life as a substitution for our own lives, and died in our place to take upon Himself the wrath of God. Then He rose from the dead, offering us forgiveness, eternal life, and fellowship with the Living God. Jesus offers true amazing grace to any who would respond to Him in faith & believe. That is good news!

How could we sum it up? Sin earns the wrath of God, but the substitution and mercy of Jesus turns it away.

What we proclaim through the gospel is illustrated in the pages of the Old Testament and in the history of Israel. Camping at the base of Mount Sinai, Israel screwed up royally, and earned for themselves the fullness of the wrath of God. Thankfully, they had someone who interceded on their behalf, offering himself as a substitute (as much as he could) – and God showed His mercy and grace. Their rebellion earned the wrath of God, but grace turned it away. It was good news for the Hebrews, and good news for us!

To get an idea of how badly the Hebrews screwed up, we need to backtrack a bit in the book of Exodus. After freeing the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery, and personally leading them through the Red Sea & wilderness, YHWH God made His covenant with the people at Mount Sinai. They swore they would obey Him fully, worshipping Him along, and sealed that promise through sacrifice and a covenantal meal. Afterwards, God invited Moses further up the mountain to receive detailed instructions about the tabernacle: God’s dwelling place among the Hebrews, where they would come to worship, offer sacrifices for sin, give offerings for worship, and to pray. God even promised to empower people bedside Moses to do the work of building, because all of the Israelites were part of this glorious covenant relationship with God – that covenant being expressed through the sign of the weekly Sabbath rest in God’s promises and provision.

Considering this took several chapters in the book of Exodus to record, consider how much time it took for Moses to witness on the mountain. It took time…too much time, in the eyes of the Hebrews. They became impatient, and their impatience led to doubt, which led to rebellion, idolatry, and sin. They screwed up royally, and were in desperate need of a mediator – someone who would intercede on their behalf for God’s mercy.

We so often do the same thing as the Hebrews: we screw up. We rebel, often even wanting to worship a god of our own understanding rather than the God who saved us and called us to Himself. What do we need at that point? A Mediator – an Intercessor…and we have one in Jesus! Although our rebellion earns for us the wrath of God, the intercession of Jesus turns it away.

We don’t want to rebel in the first place – but when we do, praise God that we have an Intercessor in Jesus!

Exodus 32

  • Sin: denying and rebelling against God (1-6)

1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

  1. What was the problem? From Moses’ perspective, nothing. From the people’s perspective, Moses “delayed” in his return. They didn’t understand what was going on, and instead of relying upon what they knew and personally experienced, they assumed the worst. Literally, the idea of delay is “caused shame in delay.” Not that Moses was shamed, but the people felt shame – as if they were embarrassed for waiting at the foot of the mountain. There they were, in the process of receiving one of the most glorious privileges imaginable (having God personally dwell among them), and they were ashamed at the idea that it took some time.
  2. Ultimately, the problem was that they remembered Moses, but they didn’t remember YHWH. Who was it that brought them out of Egypt? Moses was the prophet used by God, but God was the one who did the work. God brought the plagues – God sent His Angel on Passover – God parted the Red Sea – God gave manna in the wilderness – God brought water from the rock, etc. God did it all. God even demonstrated His glory to the people is such a violent visible & audible way (by descending on Mt. Sinai in smoke, fire, and with earthquakes) that the people begged Moses to talk to God alone on their behalf. Yet for all that, they forgot Him.
    1. How quickly we forget! How quickly we move away from the incredible work of Jesus on our behalf & His glorious intervention in our lives, to look solely at ourselves, our desires, and our temptations. We forget the God who saved us, all because of our selfish impatience.
  3. In this case, impatience led to idolatry, as they specifically asked Aaron to “make us gods that shall go before us.” Although the presence of God had gone before them (the pillar of cloud & fire), the people wanted gods of their own making. They wanted gods they could see & ultimately control, because this so-called “gods” would be fashioned by human hands.
    1. Any god made in the image of man is not God at all! By definition, the true God is beyond us, because He created us. Anytime we start relying upon our imaginations and our preferences to form our image of God, we are creating a false god. The true God has already revealed Himself to us, in the person of Jesus and in the pages of Scripture. It is there we look for His revelation, and nowhere else!

2 And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.

  1. Incredibly, Aaron agreed, asking the people to give him the gold needed to overlay a wooded statue that would be formed into the idol. Question: what was the origin of the gold? God gave it to them as plunder from the Egyptians the night of their departure. In other words, the very fact that these former slaves had any gold at all was evidence of the work of the true God among them. Yet they use the gifts and blessings given them by God to undermine Him & rebel against Him. The true shame was not Moses’ delay; it was the people’s rush to rebellion.
    1. Be careful not to point too many fingers – it’s easy for us to do the same. How often do we take the blessings of God & use them for our sin? The sin of Israel was not unique; it was just written down. 
  2. What possible reason could Aaron have had to agree to do this?! Some have suggested that Aaron asked for the gold as a delay tactic, which backfired. The text doesn’t say, so we cannot know. What we do know is that Aaron failed to stand strong for the Living God. Of all people, the brother of Moses, the man who served as the mouthpiece to Pharaoh, the one called (but not yet ordained) by God to be high priest of Israel – Aaron should have known better! He should have steadfastly refused, risking the consequences of the people, knowing that they were nothing compared to the fear of the Lord. Yet he didn’t. Aaron failed monumentally, and it almost caused the people to be fully consumed in God’s wrath. Were it not for the pleading prayer of Moses, all 1 million+ people would have been destroyed…with Aaron being almost solely responsible. Aaron’s lack of conviction was extraordinarily dangerous.
    1. For all of that, don’t forget that Aaron still served God and Israel as high priest. God still graciously used Aaron for His own glory, and instead of Aaron bringing great sin upon the people, he later offered sacrifices for the sin of the people. Aaron screwed up in a major way, but God gave Him major grace. 

4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

  1. Aaron gave them a “god” they recognized, but what he gave was blasphemous: “a molded calf.” “Calf” might be too young a picture – the word simply refers to a young bull. That sort of imagery would make logical sense, as it was fresh in their minds from Egyptian slavery. Among the pantheon of the Egyptians was Apis, a god in the form of a young bull, often revered in the region of Memphis. Aaron’s logic seemingly went something like this: the people of Israel did not remember the glory of God among them (or didn’t want to remember it), so he gave them an image to which they could relate. This was how their previous culture viewed their gods, so perhaps Israel could see God in the same way. 
  2. The people took it and ran with it, attributing God’s act of salvation to the idol. “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Can you imagine? Consider taking someone to the hospital at a time they were in desperate pain. You load them in your car, speak words of kindness to them, and get them the help they need. And then once the person is out of danger, he picks up a miniature doll and thanks it for getting them to the hospital. It’s absurd – it’s insulting…and that was exactly the way Israel treated the true God.
    1. It’s also the way many people (including many Christians) treat the true God today. Unbelievers routinely praise the creation but never their Creator, speaking of the marvels of science without looking to the God who set science in motion. Other times, Christians credit ourselves for our achievements, without giving glory to God (although He is the one who gives every good gift). It is just as foolish and just as insulting. (Which makes it even more amazing that God still chose to give Jesus for us!)

5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.”

  1. Notice that Aaron not only formed the image, but “he built an altar before it.” He may not have personally worshipped the idol, but his actions condoned it and made the false worship possible. Drawing an arbitrary line at worship did not absolve Aaron of his own sin. He made the idolatry of the rest of the nation possible.
  2. Some might object, saying that at least Aaron tried to use the idol to point people to YHWH. Yes, it was a graven image used for worship, but perhaps Aaron could use it temporarily to redirect the people back to true worship. In fact, that seems to be the case, as Aaron proclaimed a feast to YHWH for the next day. Perhaps the golden calf could be thought of a “jump-start” back to true worship (like jumper cables). Problem: It didn’t change the fact that all of it was false. No matter how Aaron tried to justify the action, it didn’t make it anything less than sin and rebellion. As the saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Aaron’s desired end did not justify the means. We cannot offer God true worship through idolatrous means. If we start with a wrong image of God, we worship the wrong
    1. Start with the right image! Jesus told us exactly how: through Himself! (John 14:6)
  3. What was the result of all of this? The preamble and the first two of the 10 Commandments were broken. Exodus 20:2–5a, “(2) “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. (3) “You shall have no other gods before Me. (4) “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; (5) you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” Keep in mind this was the foundation of the covenant agreement they had with YHWH God – and they were violating it before even receiving it in their hands!
    1. The point? This was no minor sin! This was a major problem. This wasn’t a case of “You worship God however you want to worship God, and I’ll do the same, no big deal.” This was a case of abandoning and rebelling against the God they had agreed to serve. This was treason.

6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

  1. There was a huge celebration among the people, as they gave to the idol that which belonged to God. The worship that took place with the “burnt offerings and…peace offerings” were the same offerings that were brought to the true God when Israel first affirmed the covenant. (Exo 24:5) This was direct spiritual adultery!
  2. BTW: What did it mean that the people “rose up to play.” Some have theorized that this included some kind of drunken sexual orgy – which is possible, but not necessarily implied by the text. The Hebrew refers to laughing, with the word as the same root as the name of Isaac (צָחַק). Later, the text tells us that the people were “unrestrained” (vs. 25), so possibly the idea was that the people were totally unruly, raucous, and wild. It wasn’t at all how the worship of God was supposed to be done. God is a God of order; not the author of confusion. (1 Cor 14:33)
  • Anger: the wrath of God (7-14)

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.

  1. Up on the mountain, God knew what was going on! Although Moses was out of sight of the people, no person is hidden from Almighty God. He immediately knew their action and rebellion.
  2. And He knew the result: corruption. Sin corrupts us, always. It ruins us, souring our relationship with God, and spoiling the purity He desires for us. There’s a reason the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23): sin corrodes, corrupts, and defiles. It isn’t something to toy with; it is something to be avoided at all costs. (And immediately confessed when committed!)
  3. Once God knew, God acted. There would soon be physical discipline, but the worst part was the immediate dis-ownership. Whose people did God say that these were? Moses’ people; not His own. “Your people whom you” At this point, God agreed with the sinful people below. They hadn’t remembered the gracious work of God on their behalf, so God chose not to remember them either. God was ready to give them up & give them over to their sin (a truly dangerous place to be!).

8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!

  1. God knew their actions. He knew all that they had said & done. Again, nothing was hidden from Him.
  2. God knew their hearts. The corruption had already taken place: they were “a stiff-necked people.” They were stubborn beyond stubbornness – they were virtually immovable from their sin and pride.
    1. Don’t be proud; be humble! Humble people can be shaped by God; proud people must be broken by Him.

10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

  1. Quite the threat! God was fully ready to “consume” the Hebrews in His wrath. The writer of Hebrews says that God is an all-consuming fire, and that it is a fearful thing to fall into His hands. (Heb 12:29, 10:31) Just like God had the right to judge and destroy the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, etc., God had the right to do it with the Israelites. He had the right, and He had the power to do so. A threat from the Almighty God is not an empty one! This was incredibly serious.
  2. Quite the offer! God basically said that He would make Moses a new Abraham. As terrible as it would have been for the Israelites, imagine the honor it was for Moses to be the new father of God’s chosen people. Yet there was something better God had in mind for Moses: to be not the father, but the intercessor.
  3. Objection: God wanted Moses to intercede?! Yes! Look at what God said: “Let Me alone, that” The threat was real, but it was conditional. God had something in mind for Moses in the midst of all of this, and Moses followed through immediately!
    1. So what? So in the midst of the danger of immediate judgment, there was already the hint of mercy and grace!

11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

  1. Moses pleaded.” He prayed fervently! Like a subject might beg the favor of his king, so did Moses beg the favor of the Sovereign God.
  2. Moses pleaded, by reminding the Lord of three things. Reminder #1: The Hebrews were God’s people; not Moses’. What God had said, Moses turned around. Moses had not saved the people; God had. They were His, and God had called them by His name. God had already acted mercifully towards them, surely He would continue to do so.

12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.

  1. Reminder #2: God’s reputation was at stake. God’s mercy wasn’t deserved by the people, but God could glorify Himself in showing it. The Egyptians had already witnessed the power of God against their own nation, in favor of the Hebrews. What would it say if God destroyed the Hebrews in the desert to a worse extent than what the plagues had done to Egypt? The mercy of God would benefit His witness and reputation.

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”

  1. Reminder #3: God had made promises to be kept. Each one of the patriarchs had been promised that their descendants would inherit the promised land. Although technically that promise would continue if God started over again through Moses (since Moses was also a child of Abraham), the intent of it would be drastically changed if God did so.
    1. BTW: Notice how Moses refers to “Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,” rather than “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Granted, they are the same person, but it is a subtle reminder that God promised to show mercy not just upon one man, but upon the nation.
  2. Question: What was the purpose of all the reminders? Is God forgetful to the point that He needs reminding? Not at all. Moses prayed through these reminders because these were all things based in the promises and person of God Himself. Israel was not worthy of God giving grace, but God Himself is. When Moses prayed, he based his prayer on God’s goodness; not his own or Israel’s.
    1. One of the best things we can do in prayer is pray back the promises of God. Pray through God’s word, quoting Scripture back to Him. It’s not that He needs the reminder – it’s that He is glorified through His word. We will never be more sure of praying the will of God than when we pray the word of God.

14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

  1. Verse 14 has caused all kinds of heartache for some. The KJV says that God “repented of the evil,” and the NASB says that “the LORD changed His mind.” How can that be true of God, when the Bible expressly say He doesn’t do these things? Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” [Balaam, re: the blessings God pronounced on Israel.] Is this a contradiction in our Bibles? We need to think it through based on the text and the known character of God. The word “harm” (רָעָה) has a variety of possible translations, all depending on the context: evil, misery, distress, injury (BDB). If the same words were used of us, we might say that we repented from our evil; when they are used of God, the context drastically changes. For Him, He relents from the distress – He turns from the misery that would be brought. Think of it this way: God comforts the afflicted – He pities the people of the harm that might have come. What makes the difference? The goodness and righteousness of the character of God.
  2. God is not fickle, like we are. God has emotion, but He is not subject to its whims. We get caught up in our anger and do foolish things; God does not. We get caught up in pity and act rashly; God does not. He is purposeful and measured in all He does, even as He exemplifies mercy and grace to extreme measures. 
  3. Question: In this situation, did God change His mind? Earlier, He said He would consume the Hebrews, and here He chose not to do it. No – this is the sovereign power of God on display. God was indeed fully prepared to destroy the Hebrews, but He also wanted Moses to intercede for the Hebrews. Moses did, so God acted according to His predetermined plan to show mercy. Think about it: God could have withheld His judgment right from the start, but Moses would not have had a need to pray. God wanted Moses to act as the mediator, and He wanted to show mercy to His people. Both were accomplished, all to God’s glory.
  • Justice: the righteous judgment of God (15-29)

15 And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. 16 Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.

  1. Chapter 31 ended by describing the tablets given to Moses by God – a reminder is given here. Basically, these were the covenant – they had the foundational covenant rules (the 10 Commandments) written upon them. Everything that the people were violating below, were specified in Moses’ hands written by the finger of God.

17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said: “It is not the noise of the shout of victory, Nor the noise of the cry of defeat, But the sound of singing I hear.”

  1. How raucous was the false worship of the people? Loud enough to carry up the mountain as Moses and Joshua descended! The truly tragic part? All of that excitement should have been given to God! If they had but waited for Moses to come down, they could have rejoiced in righteousness. Even without Moses among them, they could have worshipped God with the knowledge that they had, having already seen His glory and heard His voice. They could have given the true God all their passionate worship, but instead, they wasted it on empty idols.

19 So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it.

  1. Considering that God had already told Moses what was happening, was this over-the-top? Did Moses overreact? Not at all. Once seeing it with his own eyes, he understood the righteous wrath of God toward the people. By smashing the precious tablets from God, Moses broke what had already been broken by the Hebrews. They had already broken the covenant – why give them the tablets with the covenant written upon it?
  2. Moses didn’t stop there. He went on to give a powerful, tangible lesson by destroying the idol, grinding it to powder & forcing the Hebrews to drink it. Not only did it defile the idol (passing through their collective digestive systems), but it demonstrated its emptiness. Can the true God be destroyed & burned? Absolutely not! It showed the extent to how Israel traded the truth for a lie. 

21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”

  1. Good question! What could have possibly caused Aaron to do this? Who forced Aaron to allow such evil? Answer: no one.

22 So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”

  1. Aaron blamed the people – they were the ones “set on evil;” not him. Perhaps Aaron did fear for his life from the hands of a mob, but the earlier text in the chapter doesn’t say. Even so, Aaron did not have to follow through. He could have trusted the Lord to defend him or avenge him.
  2. Aaron quoted the scene accurately, but he totally absolved himself of any responsibility. Yes, he took the gold & yes, he threw it into the fire…but how this calf popped out, he had no idea!
    1. When you sin, own it! Confess it, take responsibility for it, and fall upon the mercies of God through Jesus Christ. Denying it doesn’t do yourself any favors.

25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the LORD’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.

  1. All this time, even after Moses’ angry destruction of the tablets and interview with Aaron, some of the people were still running wild. Amazing! That’s the extent to how caught up the people were in their debauchery.
  2. That’s when Moses called out a good question: Who is on God’s side? It was obvious who was against the Lord, but were there any Hebrews left who were for Him? Were there any who would deny themselves and follow God?
    1. What about us? We so often want God to be on our side, but how much better it is when we are on His side! Do we choose to deny ourselves and follow Christ? Do we go against the flow of our culture, choosing to publicly give ourselves to God? Those are the ones whom God seeks!

27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’ ”

  1. Severe punishment was pronounced in the form of mass execution. The Levites would have to do the hardest thing they were ever called to do: slay their fellow Israelites. Question: Was this too harsh? Not at all – not in terms of a broken covenant between a King and His people. At the end of the day, false worship is treason.
  2. When we make the choice to follow Jesus, it might mean leaving family behind, leaving friends behind. Obviously, we do not administer God’s discipline upon them, but we might have to make a choice between Jesus and others. Jesus is worth the choice.

28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”

  1. How the Levites received the priesthood.
  • Mercy: appealing to the goodness of God (30-35)

30 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

  1. Moses offered to intercede for them again.
  2. This time, the people would know what became of Moses! (vs. 1)

31 Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! 32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”

  1. Moses made a full confession on behalf of the people. Did not sugarcoat their sin at all.
  2. Moses offered himself as a substitute.

33 And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

  1. God’s promise to Moses is that Moses would not be punished for the sin of the people. Individuals would suffer for their individual sin.
  2. This is a key difference between Moses and Jesus. After all, Moses can’t serve as an acceptable substitute. Why? He had sins of his own. Only Jesus can be a true substitute for sin.
  3. Question: Can someone be blotted out of the Lord’s book, the Book of Life? Apparently so. Jesus uses the same imagery with the church in Sardis, although in that case, it was the promise not to blot out names from the Book of Life (Rev 3:5).
    1. Keep in mind that this is not the same thing as someone losing his/her salvation in Christ. Our eternal security is only secure when we are in Jesus; that is not necessarily the picture in either Exodus or Revelation. Those who don’t believe in Jesus have no security in Jesus.

34 Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”

  1. God promises mercy. God declared He would not abandon His people. His “Angel” would still lead them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. His covenant would be kept, and His people would remain His people. It wasn’t what they deserved, but it was what God’s character would provide. He is a merciful God!
  2. God promises discipline. There would be a time for “punishment,” and those who earned it would receive it. 
  3. One does not contradict the other! God is merciful, and God is righteous. Often, we have a difficult time reconciling these things, but God does not. We see it perfectly displayed at the cross.

35 So the LORD plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.

  1. Was there an additional plague? It would seem so. It’s possible that the plague referenced here was the execution of 3000 people by the Levites, but it seems more likely that God sent a supernatural plague among those who were the worst offenders in the idolatrous rebellion. This was a personal action by God – perhaps the fulfillment of God’s promise of “punishment” in verse 34.
  2. Even so, God was still merciful. How so? The people of Israel still existed! There was a plague & a punishment, but the people as a whole were not consumed. Moses had interceded on their behalf, and God honored that intercession with His mercy and grace.

Conclusion:

It’s hard to imagine the Hebrews messing up on a larger scale than what they did. At the very moment that God was concluding His visions and instructions to Moses about a dwelling place for God among His own people, because He was their covenant ruler and King – that was when the people below broke the covenant, falling into gross idolatry. Worse yet, they were aided by the one person who ought to have known better: their soon-to-be high priest, Aaron!

It was a capital offense, fully deserving of capital punishment: the unfiltered wrath of God. What was the only thing that stood in the way? A mediator – an intercessor in Moses. He pleaded for the mercy of God, and God graciously gave it – administering His just discipline, but never casting His people away.

We have a far better Mediator: Jesus! Jesus not only pleads to God on our behalf, but He actually satisfies the wrath of God that is owed for our sin. We have screwed up no less than Israel. Our sins are equally rebellious, spitting in the face of the God who saved us, bought us, and brought us into His own family. Even as born-again believers in Jesus, we have engaged in spiritual treason and adultery any time we try to force God into our image or insert our own will above His own. There ought to be no doubt that we deserve His wrath. Praise God we do not receive it! Jesus already did, and He lives today as proof that the price has been paid in full!

So what do we do now? Obviously we still fall into sin & rebellion – even though we mentally know to avoid it at all costs. When we do, follow the example of Moses: confess it honestly & fully, not hiding anything or denying our responsibility (like Aaron) – and then fall upon the mercies of God, fully shown to us in the substitution of Jesus on our behalf. We cannot pay the price for own sin; Jesus already did, all to the glory of God! Now we confess it & be cleansed (1 Jn 1:9), and we rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life. We make no excuses; we simply throw ourselves upon the mercies and grace of Jesus.

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…)

Conclusion:

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.

Exodus 27-28, “God’s Dwelling Place, Part 2”

It’s been said that there is a time and a place for everything…we just need to find the appropriate time and place for whatever it is. Want to wear a swimsuit in public? The appropriate time and place is either at the pool or at the beach; not when you’re sitting for jury duty. Want to eat some pizza and watch a game? Do it at home; not on your phone during a funeral. The appropriate location makes all the difference in the world!

Likewise when it comes to worship. Thankfully as New Testament Christians, we can (and should!) worship God any time and anywhere. Jesus made this point clear when speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. At the time (and still to this day, as a matter of fact), the Samaritans differed with the Jews on the appropriate mountain to worship God. For Jews, it is Mount Zion in Jerusalem; for the Samaritan, it is Mount Gerizim in Samaria (modern-day Nablus in the West Bank). After the northern tribes of Israel were conquered by the Assyrians and bred away from their Hebrew roots, the remaining peoples eventually built a temple on the mount, competing with Jerusalem to be the “official” place to worship God. That was why the Samaritan woman asked Jesus about it, wanting His opinion on the proper place where Almighty God was to be worshipped. John 4:21–24, “(21) Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. (22) You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. (23) But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. (24) God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”” Jesus made two basic points to the woman: (1) the Samaritans were wrong, as they were the ones who had distorted the Scripture, and (2) soon, location wouldn’t matter at all. The true worship of God is spiritual, and it is done through sincere faith in Jesus Himself as the Son of God.

So yes, we can worship God at any time and in any location…but we cannot worship Him however we choose. We cannot decide to bark like dogs & claim it is praise – we cannot pretend to get “high” on the Holy Spirit, believing it to be honoring to His name. Nor can we choose to worship whatever idea of God that comes to mind, simply because that is what feels best to us. The only way we can truly worship God is to worship God in God’s ways, according to the way God has revealed Himself to us.

And how has He done it? Through Jesus! Jesus is the revelation of God to all the world. If we have seen Him, we have seen the Father (Jn 14:9). He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (Jn 14:6). Jesus came to dwell among men and women, so that we would see the glory of God, and see Him as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14).

What does this have to do with the tabernacle? Everything.

Jesus is God in the flesh, dwelling among His people showcasing the glory of God, and the only way we can experience God’s glory and grace is through Christ. This was exactly the purpose of the tabernacle among the ancient Hebrews. The tabernacle was God’s dwelling place among His people, both demonstrating the glory of God & providing the only way for people to experience the glory and grace of God. If someone wanted to worship God, they had to come God’s way in God’s place – it was the appropriate time and place.

Because the instructions for the tabernacle take up such a large portion of the book of Exodus, we need to backtrack a bit to see it within its context & remind ourselves what we’ve already studied. After all, when Moses first received these instructions from God (and later passed them on to Israel), Moses didn’t receive them a couple of chapters at a time…he got them all at once, for the big picture.

It all came after God laid out the basics of His covenant relationship with Israel through the 10 Commandments, all based on His holy character. Between the Commandments and the following case-law, the people were instructed to act according to the character of God, living as His people. The nation agreed, and affirmed this covenant relationship through oath and blood sacrifice (underscoring its importance and weight). Moses, Aaron, and other representative leaders of Israel went part-way up Mount Sinai to have fellowship with God, confirming this covenant, but Moses alone was invited to go up further (being the one mediator for Israel). On the mountain, God began to show Moses how He would dwell among His people, laying out plans for this travelling tent of worship (“tabernacle” = “dwelling place”), and it was there that God’s presence would be among God’s people. 

At the first, God gave plans for the most holy furnishings within the tent structure, and then instructions for the tent itself. All of it symbolized the holy righteousness of God, being the earthly version of the heavenly throne room of God – something explicitly told us in the New Testament by the writer of Hebrews: Hebrews 8:4–5, “(4) For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; (5) who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”” Thus, all the items on earth were symbolic of things in heaven – they all had a greater purpose of pointing God’s people to His holy character, and ultimately, to His holy Son. 

  • Ark: This was the box/chest designated for holding the physical copy of the 10 Commandments. God’s most holy law, written by His own finger, was contained within.
  • Mercy seat: Topped with two cherubim statuettes, this served as the covering for the Ark, and symbolized the very throne of God. It was this that the blood of sacrifice was placed, with only Jesus’ blood providing the sufficient sacrifice for our sin.
  • 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/menorah: The 7-stemmed lamp served as the only light in the otherwise dark tabernacle, looking forward to Jesus as the light of the world and the light of the glory of God.
  • Multi-covered tent: The structure itself was designed not only beautifully, but practically. 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. (Where is our covering found? In Christ alone!)
  • 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: Barely a step down from the veil, it served as the entry to the tent – this was the place people knew to look, as only the priests could enter on their behalf. (Just like we have to go through the Door, our Lord Jesus.)

All of that took care of the tabernacle-proper, the tent (although one piece of inside furniture is yet to be described: the altar of incense). At this point, God’s instructions to Moses turn toward the outside furnishings in the courtyard and the priestly clothing of those who would use them. What does it all emphasize? Simply this: We cannot come to God on our own; we must go through His Priest in His way. Jesus is our entry to worship, our righteousness for worship, and our High Priest through whom we can worship. Go through Jesus!

Exodus 27 – Outside furnishings

  • Bronze altar (27:1-8) 

1 “You shall make an altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide—the altar shall be square—and its height shall be three cubits. 2 You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay it with bronze. 3 Also you shall make its pans to receive its ashes, and its shovels and its basins and its forks and its firepans; you shall make all its utensils of bronze. 4 You shall make a grate for it, a network of bronze; and on the network you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. 5 You shall put it under the rim of the altar beneath, that the network may be midway up the altar. 6 And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. 7 The poles shall be put in the rings, and the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar to bear it. 8 You shall make it hollow with boards; as it was shown you on the mountain, so shall they make it.

  1. An altar for sacrifice, outside the tent. The altar was square (though not a cube): 7½ x 7½ x 4½ feet. Horns were to be fashioned for each of the corners, and various sundry items such as pans, shovels, and forks were all to be made of bronze. Likewise the grate was to be made of bronze, designed to be placed “midway up the altar.”
    1. Provides an interesting contrast to all of the gold that was used inside the tabernacle. Bronze was primarily used on the outside.
  2. As with the design of the cherubim and other artistic elements, the altar also had a component of heavenly design in that it was to be “hollow with boards,” and Moses was told to make it “as it was shown you on the mountain.” — It’s interesting that it is a very specific design. So specific, in fact, that it was shown to Moses in a vision on the mountain. Why was this? Perhaps it was because all the previous altars for godly sacrifice had been made out of uncut stone. In fact, this was specifically commanded by God, Who told the people that if they used their tools on the stone to fashion the altar, they had profaned it (Exo 20:25). This is the first altar, not only made from metal, but also made with tools. For that, it had to be exact.
    1. It’s a reminder that God sets the terms for worship. He is the One being worshipped; He gets to say how He is to be worshipped. Without His gracious invitation, none of us could come before Him, so He sets the terms. Imagine inviting someone over to dinner, and having them demand what they want to be served (apart from dietary restrictions), who gets to sit where, how everyone is to be dressed, and what the topic of dinner conversation is going to be. We’d think it incredibly rude! [We’ve had family members actually do this!] If it’s rude to us, consider it from God’s perspective. He’s the one who invites us to worship Him, and without His grace being extended to us, we’d have no ability to worship at all. Yet too often, we want to come to God our way on our terms, telling God what we will & won’t do. It doesn’t work that way. Beggars can’t be choosers, and in our sin, we’re all beggars! God gives us His grace, so we go to Him in His way!
  • Courtyard (27:9-19) 

9 “You shall also make the court of the tabernacle. For the south side there shall be hangings for the court made of fine woven linen, one hundred cubits long for one side. 10 And its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets shall be bronze. The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver. 11 Likewise along the length of the north side there shall be hangings one hundred cubits long, with its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of bronze, and the hooks of the pillars and their bands of silver. 12 “And along the width of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits, with their ten pillars and their ten sockets. 13 The width of the court on the east side shall be fifty cubits. 14 The hangings on one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets. 15 And on the other side shall be hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets.

  1. Serving as the border to the tabernacle premises was a type of cloth fence for the courtyard. It was to be made of fine linen hung twenty bronze pillars, for a total dimension of 150 x 75 x 7½ feet. Like the curtains inside the tabernacle structure, the linen was to be placed upon hooks attached to the pillars, though the precious metal differed from inside the temple. For the courtyard, the hooks were to be silver, and the sockets bronze. As to these differences in material (bronze and silver for the outside, versus silver and gold for the inside), one commentator observes that this shows the “distinction between the holiness of the courtyard and the tabernacle.” (Alexander)
  2. Why a courtyard? To set the tabernacle apart from the rest of the camp. The tent of God was not just “another” tent among the millions of tents in the Hebrew nation. Even though it sat at the center of the camp, it was still set apart, and this white linen courtyard would have stood out dramatically to anyone looking in. BTW – It was cloth/linen fencing (as opposed to the gold-lined boards of the tent), but it was still valuable. This was likely very expensive linen used by royalty in Egypt, bright & shiny white, seen by the Hebrews as symbolizing the holy righteousness of God.
  3. Reminder: the whole courtyard had a cultural parallel with war tents in Egypt. Rameses II used such a tent to fight the Hittites at the Battle of Qedesh. “Both structures have rectilinear courtyards orientated to the East, and they are twice as long as they are wide, with the entrance in the center of the eastern short wall. In the camp’s middle is the entrance to a 3:1 long-room tent, composed of a 2:1 reception tent leading to a square throne tent, alternatively labeled Pharaoh’s Chamber or the Holy of Holies for the Tabernacle.” (Homan) Just like Pharaoh sat among his army in his tent, so did the Sovereign of Israel sit among His own people. Israel would look to the courtyard and know that the Almighty presence of God was with them, among them, fighting for them & showcasing His glory.

16 “For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver. It shall have four pillars and four sockets. 17 All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze. 18 The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits, the width fifty throughout, and the height five cubits, made of fine woven linen and its sockets of bronze. 19 All the utensils of the tabernacle for all its service, all its pegs, and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze.

  1. The entrance to the courtyard was located on the east, and instead of the fine linen hangings, the opening was covered by a screen made of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, reminiscent of the design elsewhere in the tabernacle. The length of the screen was 30 feet, with its height matching the rest of the fine linen. As for the pillars upon which all the cloth was hung, they were to have hooks and bands of silver, but set upon bases of bronze.
  2. As to the rest of the utensils used outside, all was made of bronze. Again, gold was used inside the tabernacle tent; bronze was used in the courtyard.
  • Priestly care of the lamp (27:20-21). 

20 “And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. 21 In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.

  1. Back inside the tabernacle itself, God commanded the lamp to be always lit. There would never be a time that the menorah went dark, apart from the time of transport. As long as the tabernacle stood assembled, light shone within it. (The light of Jesus always shines, and our light is to always shine to the rest of the world!)
  2. Considering that the lampstand had already been mentioned in Chapter 25, this seems a bit random & out of order. It actually serves is a bit of transition, in that it speaks not so much of furniture design, but furniture function. Who is it that fills the lamp with oil? The priests, and they are addressed next…

Exodus 28 – Priestly garments

  • Introduction (28:1-4)

1 “Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 2 And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. 3 So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. 4 And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest.

  1. Before God commands how the priests were to dress, God first calls the men to be priests. Notice who is included: “Aaron and Aaron’s sons,” including the two elder sons who would die the day the first sacrifice in the tabernacle was offered. [Nadab’s & Abihu’s strange fire, Lev 10:1-2] Yet this was no surprise to God. God called to the priestly ministry even the sons of Aaron He knew would sin. Why? Grace! God did not punish Nadab and Abihu for sins not yet committed – God did not withhold the opportunity for these men to serve God in their zeal. Even knowing how they would sin, God still loved them enough to give them the free invitation to serve Him.
    1. How much does He do this with us? He called us as His own, even knowing how much we would screw up in the meantime! God gives grace upon grace upon grace.
  2. The priests weren’t the only ones called by God. There were also artisans gifted by God the Holy Spirit (some who will be mentioned by name in Chapter 31). The worship of God takes more than one type of person; all sorts of giftings are used in the worship and glory of God. 
  3. Summary & overview of the garments to come. Even the clothing is “holy” – even the clothing points to the holiness & righteousness of God & the priestly ministry of Christ. As the ultimate High Priest, everything Aaron wore showed some aspect of what Jesus does for all of us. (And to a lesser extent, what we do in our service to God as a royal priesthood, 1 Pet 2:9)
  • Ephod (28:5-14) 

5 “They shall take the gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and the fine linen, 6 and they shall make the ephod of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, artistically worked. 7 It shall have two shoulder straps joined at its two edges, and so it shall be joined together. 8 And the intricately woven band of the ephod, which is on it, shall be of the same workmanship, made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. 9 “Then you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel: 10 six of their names on one stone and six names on the other stone, in order of their birth. 11 With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, you shall engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall set them in settings of gold. 12 And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial. 13 You shall also make settings of gold, 14 and you shall make two chains of pure gold like braided cords, and fasten the braided chains to the settings.

  1. This is the first of the priestly garments, being a kind of vest or apron the priest wore over his tunic and robe. Once again, threads of blue, purple, and scarlet were to be woven together, this time also with gold and fine linen. No specific measurements are given for the ephod; it can be assumed that this is one more design that was made clear to Moses via his vision on Mount Sinai. The instruction for the ephod does include a notable detail regarding two onyx stones that were to be set on the shoulder straps of the garment. The names of the tribes of Israel were to be engraved on each one: six on one stone; six on the other. The reasoning for this decoration is explicit: “So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial.” As Alexander notes, “They were a reminder that Aaron served God as high priest, not on his own behalf, but on behalf of all the Israelites.”
    1. Priests are servants. Even Jesus, as our High Priest, did not come to be served, but to serve & to give His life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28). That doesn’t just apply to Old Testament priests (there are no NT priests apart from Christ!); it applies to all ministers of the gospel. The very word “minister” means “servant,” and ministry (in whatever level) is never to be lorded over anyone else. 
  2. A couple of other notes: Why were the stones in settings of gold? Because God’s people are precious to Him! Why did God command braids when braids have no function? Because God cares about beauty! Although we don’t want to make worship all about emotion, there is an emotional aspect to worship…and it’s not just from our perspective. Even God is passionate about worship, because He is passionate about us! He loves us & rejoices over us (with singing & shouts of joy, Zeph 3:17)
    1. We absolutely need to worship God with our mind, but there’s a problem when all we know of God is intellectual. Likewise, there’s a problem when all we know of God is emotional. The Great Commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength…love Him with everything!
  • Breastplate (28:15-30)

15 “You shall make the breastplate of judgment. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, you shall make it. 16 It shall be doubled into a square: a span shall be its length, and a span shall be its width. 17 And you shall put settings of stones in it, four rows of stones: The first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald; this shall be the first row; 18 the second row shall be a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond; 19 the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; 20 and the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold settings. 21 And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes.

22 “You shall make chains for the breastplate at the end, like braided cords of pure gold. 23 And you shall make two rings of gold for the breastplate, and put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate. 24 Then you shall put the two braided chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate; 25 and the other two ends of the two braided chains you shall fasten to the two settings, and put them on the shoulder straps of the ephod in the front.

26 “You shall make two rings of gold, and put them on the two ends of the breastplate, on the edge of it, which is on the inner side of the ephod. 27 And two other rings of gold you shall make, and put them on the two shoulder straps, underneath the ephod toward its front, right at the seam above the intricately woven band of the ephod. 28 They shall bind the breastplate by means of its rings to the rings of the ephod, using a blue cord, so that it is above the intricately woven band of the ephod, and so that the breastplate does not come loose from the ephod.

29 “So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before the LORD continually. 30 And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD. So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.

  1. The idea of memorial representation carried over to the next set of instructions with the breastplate. Like the ephod, it was to be made of “gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen.” It was fashioned into a square, the length and width of “a span,” defined by some as approx. 9 inches / 22 centimeters (NIV Archaeological Study Bible).
  2. In the center of this breastplate were four rows of three stones, totaling twelve, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Each stone was a different kind of gem, and each was to have a different tribe of Israel engraved upon it. One scholar “points out that these are the same precious stones mentioned in Ezek 28:13 that were to be found in Eden, the garden of God. So the priest, when making atonement, was to wear the precious gems that were there and symbolized the garden of Eden when man was free from sin.” (Cassuto, via NET Bible.) The stones were placed in gold settings, and the breastplate itself was attached by golden chains “like braided cords” to the ephod. It was always worn with the ephod, because the priestly ministry could not be separated from the service of the people. The priest never ministered only for himself. Though he would have to offer sacrifices for his own sin (unlike Jesus!), it was always so he could offer sacrifices on behalf of others.
    1. BTW – All of the stones were precious stones, and all of the stones were unique. Just like all the tribes were precious and unique to God. God cares about all of His people; not a certain class or type of them.
  3. The breastplate also served as a kind of storage pocket for the famed Urim and Thummim, two priestly stones (or sticks) of unknown function. Scholars disagree what they were used for. Some suggest that these items were a means via which the priest could seek heavenly revelation (Hannah), whereas others argue that they were only symbolic of that revelation, rather than the means itself (Kaiser). Ultimately, the biblical text is silent on the matter, and no conclusion can be definitive.
  4. Interestingly, the official name of the breastplate is the “breastplate of judgment” (28:15). How does it relate to judgment? Look again verse 30: “So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.” NIV gives a bit of interpretation in its translation: “Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites…” In the context of the Urim & Thummim, this makes sense, if indeed the items served as a means of decision-making judgment. Otherwise, it might be best to look at the whole breastplate as symbolic of the priestly role of taking the judgments of God back to the people, teaching them God’s word & commands.
    1. Again, this is what Jesus does for us! He teaches us the truth, and enlightens us to the Scripture through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Robe (28:31-35)

31 “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. 32 There shall be an opening for his head in the middle of it; it shall have a woven binding all around its opening, like the opening in a coat of mail, so that it does not tear. 33 And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: 34 a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around. 35 And it shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the LORD and when he comes out, that he may not die.

  1. The robe was worn between the priestly tunic and the ephod. It was made of blue cloth, and basically seamless and sleeveless. Unlike the ephod, which was bound around the priest, the robe was to be worn by the priest inserting his head through the opening. Although the bulk of the garment was blue, its hem was to be decorated with “pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet.” Additionally, bells were to be placed between the woven pomegranates, creating a sound for the priest as he moved in his tabernacle ministry. Specifically, these bells were necessary for the life of the priest, and the text is explicit on this point. “Its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the LORD and when he comes out, that he may not die.”
  2. Question: How can bells be life-saving? As long as they make noise, then others outside can know that the priest is still alive! If for some reason, the priest was struck because of some sin (or even some illness), the ringing of the bells would stop, and he could be dragged out of the tabernacle.
    1. It might also speak to the fact that God likes music! Just like the light of the lamp shone in the tabernacle, the ringing of the bells sounded continually as long as a priest was there. Between the light, the ringing, and the smell of the burning incense, all of the senses were engaged in worship and praise.
  • Headgear (28:36-38)

36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE LORD 37 And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it may be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban. 38 So it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.

  1. The crown: it was to be made from a plate of pure gold, engraved with the words “Holiness to the LORD.” The engraved plate was to be placed on a blue cord, and set in the front of the priest’s turban. The crown was an essential piece of the priestly uniform, showing not only that the priest bore the sin of the people, but represented the people as they hallowed the Lord.
  2. Although most translations render the Hebrew text as “Holy / Holiness to the LORD/YHWH,” (קֹ֖דֶשׁ לַֽיהוָֽה) technically the preposition translated “to” could be rendered “for,” “by,” or even “according to,” depending on the original intent. Any translation works. God is holy – God makes us holy – God is owed our holiness.
  3. How essential was the crown? Without it, God would not accept the gifts of Israel. Was there something mystical about it? No…it was just a piece of gold. What made it essential was the command of God. God wanted His people to always remember His holiness, just like the command to love Him with all their heart was to be written on their foreheads, being placed in front of their eyes (Dt 6:8). Every time the priest was dressed, he was reminded that God is holy – every time he walked in front of the other priests, they saw that God is holy – every time he passed in front of the people, they saw that God is holy. Everything about Him is holy, something which we can never forget nor take for granted! (Jesus gives us access to this Holy God!)

39 “You shall skillfully weave the tunic of fine linen thread, you shall make the turban of fine linen, and you shall make the sash of woven work.

  1. Wraps up various sundry items of the high priest, while transitioning to the other priests.
  • Garments for other priests (28:40-43)

40 “For Aaron’s sons you shall make tunics, and you shall make sashes for them. And you shall make hats for them, for glory and beauty. 41 So you shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him. You shall anoint them, consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister to Me as priests. 42 And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs. 43 They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they come into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place, that they do not incur iniquity and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and his descendants after him.

  1. The tunic and trousers were to be made of fine woven linen, and these were worn by all the priests, not being specific to the high priest alone. The trousers were given to ensure that the nakedness of the priests was covered, and they were to reach from the waist to the thighs. Guards against accidental profanity (and resulting death!)
  2. The sashes and hats were given to all but the high priest (he had the robe and ephod). No specific instruction is provided for them in Exodus 28, only that they had the purpose of “glory and beauty.
  3. Three-fold process for ministry: anointing, consecration, sanctification. The anointing symbolized the empowerment of the Spirit – the consecration literally spoke of their hands being filled, meaning being given/ordained to the role of the priest – the sanctification was their being set apart from the rest & declared as holy. Life for these men was to be different than before; they were set apart to serve the Most Holy God.
    1. How does it work with us? As a royal priesthood, we are anointed by (filled with, empowered by) the Holy Spirit, named/ordained as sons and daughters of God, set apart by Him to serve Him for His glory. We are anointed, consecrated, and sanctified by the grace of God!

Conclusion:

So many instructions, for such good reason! We cannot decide to worship God on our terms; we must go through His! God wants people to worship Him, not desiring that any would perish, but that all would come to repentance (2 Pt 3:9) – He desires that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). So He has graciously given us a way, just like He gave the ancient Hebrews a way.

The Hebrews had sacrifice at the altar, a holy righteous location set apart for worship, and holy priests consecrated to minister on their behalf. We have Jesus. Jesus is our sacrifice, making the way for us to worship. Jesus is our righteousness, clothing us in His grace & setting us apart from the world as belonging to God. Jesus is our High Priest, interceding for us constantly at the throne of God.

What is the right way to worship? Only through sincere faith in Jesus as Lord!

Christian: Don’t take this for granted! We have what others long for! So many people want to know that God hears their prayers, but they have no assurance – they have no certainty that they even know God, and no invitation to even be heard by God. They can…in the same way that we do, through the Lord Jesus. But because we do know, use it! Worship God in spirit & truth – be clothed continually in His righteousness – and thank God for our High Priest! Worship God…in His way, according to His commands, and in His holiness.

Exodus 25-26, “God’s Dwelling Place, part 1”

Some churches (including CC Tyler) like to say “Come as you are,” and with good reason! Certain places have made it seem that unless you can afford to dress yourself according to a certain dress code, you’re not welcome – or, unless your life is perfect, don’t bother walking through the door. Such attitudes are elitist & legalistic, and have no place among the churches of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus walked among the rich & poor alike in Judea, offering the gospel of salvation to anyone who would repent of their sin and believe. They could come as they were; they just weren’t going to stay as they were. Their lives were radically changed by Jesus!

That being said, the idea of “come as you are” can possibly go a little too far. All we need to do is take a late-night trip to WalMart & see it in action! There’s casual, and then there’s casual! We are invited to come as we are, but at a certain point we still need to be wearing clothes! There is at least a little decorum in every circumstance.

Regarding our salvation and the worship of God, it isn’t matter of the way we dress; it’s a matter of the way we think – it’s a matter of our hearts and attitudes. Never do we go to God on our terms, demanding that our Creator bend His will to our own & compromise His own holiness to fit us. Perish the thought! No – we always go to God on His terms, being grateful that we are invited to go unto Him at all.

And we are invited! God wants us to be with Him – God wants us to dwell with Him, and He gives us a very specific way of doing so: through the Lord Jesus Christ. John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” HE is the way (the road, the path) to God – HE is the truth revealed by God – He is the life given by God & the One who gives life to us. It is Jesus alone. To attempt to dwell with God any other way is an attempt of futility. God has to be the one to come and dwell among us, inviting us to dwell with Him – and the way He does it is through Jesus.

What does any of this have to do with Exodus 25, 26, and following? Everything! Almost the entire remainder of the book of Exodus (all the way through Chapter 40) describes both the instructions for, and construction of, the tabernacle of God. A tabernacle is literally a “dwelling place,” – in this case, a portable tent that was taken with the children of Israel everywhere they wandered through the wilderness until they inherited the Promised Land. Even after Joshua conquered the Canaanites, Amorites, etc., the Israelites were supposed to worship God at the tabernacle all up till the day the temple was built by Solomon. (Not that the Hebrews were perfectly obedient in this, but that was the intent.) The tabernacle was where God came to, and dwelt among His people. Although the heavens cannot contain God, God allowed His special presence to be with the Hebrews in His earthly tent, the tabernacle.

The point? The Hebrews couldn’t go to God anywhere else or in any other way. God graciously chose to dwell among them, and if they wanted to worship Him, they had to go to Him on His terms in His way. His way was the tabernacle. This is where the holiness of God was graphically showcased to the people, and when they approached it, they knew they were approaching their Holy Covenant-Keeping God, and they were to worship and fear Him rightly. (So are we, and we do so through Jesus!)

Before we get into the details, there are a couple of things we need to know up front. First, it’s of interest to know that the structure was unique, but not unfamiliar. The idea of a war tent for a sovereign king was not unknown in the Ancient Near East. “The closest parallel to the form and function of the Tabernacle stems from pictorial evidence of a military tent camp that Rameses II used to fight the Hittites in the Battle of Qedesh. This battle was so important to Ramesses II that it is described in hieroglyphics in 10 different places throughout ancient Egypt, and scenes of the battle were depicted artistically in five locations.” (Prof Michael Homan, Torah.com) Although Rameses II likely came later than Moses (although this is a matter of debate), the concept was certainly there. Remember that the Hebrews had just come out of 400 years of Egyptian slavery, so the idea that God chose a variation of an Egyptian form as His own tent makes sense. This was something that would have been understood by the Hebrews, so God chose something relatively familiar in order to do extraordinary things among them. (Not unlike how God came to us in a familiar human form, in order to dwell among us in extraordinary ways.)

Second, the tabernacle isn’t simply a full-furnished tent of worship – it isn’t only a sanctuary. It is very clearly a picture of heavenly things, pointing us to a heavenly purpose. Writing of our better High Priest, the Lord Jesus who now lives in heaven, the author of the book of Hebrews says: Hebrews 8:4–5, “(4) For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; (5) who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”” The key point: the earthly tabernacle was a “copy and shadow” of heavenly things. The things on earth were intended to point to things in heaven – the most important of which is the Lord Jesus.

That said, we need to be careful not to take this too far. Some look at the tabernacle and its furnishings, and come up with all kinds of fanciful interpretations. Some have argued that there is a parallel between the instruction & construction of the tabernacle with the creation week in Genesis (Kline) – others have suggested tiny details such as the bells on the priestly robes speak of the Holy Spirit who “set the gospel bells of testimony ringing,” (Unger). With respect to those scholars, Christians need to be careful not to abandon basic fundamentals of Biblical interpretation. We don’t need to invent symbols just to have symbols; we simply need to let the Biblical text speak for itself.

What we find is that it does speak of Jesus. There is too much symbolism shown in the tabernacle & later picked up in the New Testament to not see Jesus in it. The tabernacle is all about the dwelling place of God, and who else is Christ than God come to dwell among us? Of course the tent will point to Christ…it cannot do otherwise!

How did it all come about? Remember that once the children of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai, God personally showed His glory to them and spoke the 10 Commandments in their hearing. The people were overwhelmed by God’s majestic power & feared, but the proper fear of the Lord helped them commit even further to His covenant (which God further explained to Moses as their intermediary). They agreed to obey all that the Lord said to do, and Moses showed the covenant sealed with the blood of sacrifice. Moses and the elders of Israel fellowshipped with God in a covenant meal on the mountain, but Moses alone was called up further. When Exodus 24 left off, Moses was seen walking into the midst of the cloud of glory on Mount Sinai, with the top of the mountain consumed in God’s holy fire. 

What was it Moses heard and saw during those 40 days and 40 nights? Simply put, all that follows from Chapters 25-31. God gave to Moses all of the instructions for the tabernacle, the priestly garments, the priestly ordination, and more. He showed Moses everything the children of Israel required to build place where God could (and would) dwell among them.

How amazing it is that God desires to dwell among His people! He approaches us, in order that we can approach Him. Approach God in God’s way, that we might dwell with Him through Jesus!

Exodus 25

  • Offerings for the tabernacle (25:1-9)

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering. 3 And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; 4 blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; 5 ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; 6 oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; 7 onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.

  1. Before any instructions are given for the tabernacle itself, instructions are first given for an offering. It makes sense – after all, if these things are going to be built, the materials to build them would first be required. God listed off all kinds of things, including much riches & precious metals of “gold, silver, and bronze.” Considering the Hebrews were former slaves wandering in the wilderness, where would they get this wealth? They already had it! Remember that before they left Egypt after the night of the Passover, God had told the Hebrews to ask for these items from their Egyptian neighbors…and incredibly, they gave it! The Hebrews received 400 years’ worth of back-pay in a single night, which enabled them to have more than enough gold & other wealth to use for the tabernacle construction.
  2. With the command, we see a couple of principles regarding received offerings:
    1. Offerings are to be willing/voluntary; not forced. The Israelites were to give “willingly with [their] hearts.” The opportunity would be presented to them to give, but it was to be a gift. Their offerings were offerings of worship. This wasn’t a forced tax – it wasn’t manipulated out of guilt. In the New Testament, Paul instructed the church to give from a cheerful heart (2 Cor 9:7); the Old Testament standard was no different. God loves cheerful givers!
    2. Offerings are to be appropriate; not random. The people were invited to give, but they weren’t invited to give their leftovers. Specific needs were to be met, and the offerings were to reflect that. Thus the giving was to be done with forethought & intention; it wasn’t to be haphazard & random. Likewise, our normal giving ought to be planned; not left to random chance if we just happened to remember. Nor should we give what is of no value to us; we give to God what God wants (as opposed to what we don’t want any longer).

8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

  1. Of all things to remember about the tabernacle, this is the key. The holy place is God’s dwelling (מִשְׁכָּן) It wasn’t the gold and the furnishings that made the tabernacle special. It wasn’t the ark (nor was there reason to “raid” it!). It was God. God’s presence is what made everything else amazing. Without God, a tent is just a tent – a temple is just a temple (as the Jews learned when God’s glory departed it as seen by Ezekiel). These things are just buildings & structures. Likewise with church buildings! A building is just a building, whether it has spires and stained glass, or if it’s a business complex with an aluminum awning outside. What makes it special is whether or not God is there. And when is God ever present in a church building? Only when the church is gathered in it! Today, we are the dwelling place of God! God the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us, and presence of Jesus is real every time Christians get together. So whether it’s a campground under the open sky, or a beautifully built architectural wonder, it’s all just empty space without God. But with God, it is His dwelling place!

That was just the introduction. Lengthy descriptions of the various furnishings and structures come next. Due to the detail, we’ll take large chunks of Scripture and summarize the dimensions and specifics after reading.

  • The ark and mercy seat (25:10-22)

10 “And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side. 13 And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. 15 The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.

  1. Interestingly, the first item described about the tabernacle is not the tent itself, but the ark to be contained within it. The central importance of the ark becomes clear in 25:16 when Moses is instructed to place the future tablets of the 10 Commandments within it. As for the ark itself (using a standard of 18 inches for a cubit), it is 3¾ feet long; 2¼ feet wide; and 2¼ feet high. In essence, it is an open-topped box, which is exactly what the Hebrew word (אֲרוֹן) implies: a chest of some sort, perhaps used for money storage, or a sarcophagus, or something as sacred as the written law covenant of God. Interestingly, the word translated “ark” is different than the earlier word used for Noah’s ark and the ark of Moses as a baby (תֵּבָה). That word seems to be limited to the accounts of Genesis 7-9 and Exodus 2. As to the ark of the testimony, like many of the other furnishings of the tabernacle, it was fashioned from acacia wood, and overlaid with pure gold. Rings were located on the side of the ark, in which poles were to be inserted for the purpose of transportation. Due to its contents and importance, it was not to be touched. This hard lesson was later learned by Uzzah, when he placed his hand on the ark to steady it, during a time when it was being improperly transported. He was immediately struck dead.
  2. Summary: a golden box meant to carry; not to be carried. It was too holy to touch. What made it so holy? “The Testimony which I will give you.” IOW, the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are YHWH’s witness/testimony to Israel. This was His revelation of His perfect character to them, and the basis of their relationship with Him. The tablets themselves were written upon by the very finger of God…there could hardly be a holier piece of material other than the cross of Christ!
    1. The point? Respect the holiness of God! It is amazing that we are invited into a relationship with the God of the Universe – especially considering how gravely we sinned against Him in the past. Jesus has called us His friends & made us His co-heirs. We have a wonderfully intimate relationship with God as our Heavenly Father (or Abba). Even so, this is not something to be treated casually – to be taken for granted or treated with disrespect. No matter how close we are to Jesus (and we are invited to come wonderfully close!), God is still God; we’re not. Reverence Him! Respect Him!

17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 22 And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.

  1. The ark was without a top, so the mercy seat served as its lid. Thus, its dimensions matched the ark upon which it sat: 3¾ feet long; 2¼ feet wide. The commonly known term “mercy seat” was given by Tyndale, but the Hebrew word (כַּפֹּרֶת) describes atonement. The mercy seat would play a central role in the atonement of the sins of Israel, for that was where the blood of the sacrifice was to be placed, and it served as the throne seat of God. To Moses, God said that it was from the mercy seat that “I will meet with you.” More than a practical lid, the mercy seat was also highly decorated, portraying “two cherubim of gold; of hammered work.” The creatures were to face one another on the mercy seat, with their wings stretched out. Beyond this, no description of the cherubim is given within the biblical text. Their imagery would have been fashioned according to the description given by Moses, based on the vision he received from God (Exo 25:9). Scholars differ on what the cherubim looked like. Some prefer imagery based on Egyptian mythology (lion-like bodies, wings, human faces); others prefer the later description given by Ezekiel, with human faces, four wings, and various different animal parts. In the end, Moses doesn’t record it for us here, so there’s no way to definitively know.
  2. Question: Do these statuettes of cherubim violate the 2nd Commandment? Are not these graven images? First of all, the commandment cannot be broken when God gives an explicit command to make the figures. Secondly, the purpose of these images needs to be kept in mind: these cherubim are not meant to be worshipped; they picture the heavenly beings that worship God. The 2nd Commandment does not prohibit art; it prohibits idolatry. When art becomes idolatry, that’s when it becomes a problem. [Bronze serpent, Num 21:9 & 2 Kings 18:4]
  3. The whole idea of the ark/mercy seat combination is that this was representative of the throne room of God. This was where God would speak with Moses, and this was where God would receive the blood of sacrifice for sin. It was a most holy purpose, which is why it would be set in the Most Holy place.
  • The table for showbread (25:23-30)

23 “You shall also make a table of acacia wood; two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height. 24 And you shall overlay it with pure gold, and make a molding of gold all around. 25 You shall make for it a frame of a handbreadth all around, and you shall make a gold molding for the frame all around. 26 And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs. 27 The rings shall be close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table. 28 And you shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be carried with them. 29 You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring. You shall make them of pure gold. 30 And you shall set the showbread on the table before Me always.

  1. Although this might seem strange to modern ears, even the table was holy. This was something designed by God with a specific purpose. (If God can make a table holy, just think about what He does with you & me!)
  2. As the name suggests, this was the table placed within the tabernacle structure that held the loaves of bread often referred to as “showbread.” Its dimensions were 3 feet long, 1½ feet wide, 2¼ feet high. Like the ark, it was to be fashioned from acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It, too, was to have attached rings for poles that were used in transport, also made of acacia wood and gold. Along with the table, Moses was instructed to have the various dishes and other apparatuses for the table made out of pure gold. As to its purpose, Kaiser writes, “The table with its bread presented two sides of the same truth: a godward side and a human side. First, it stood before God, reminding Israel that they were ever open to the all-seeing eye and protection of God. Next, it was the place where the priests served and found their bread.” The word translated “showbread” (KJV, NKJV) is rendered “bread of the presence” in other translations (NASB, ESV, NIV, HCSB). The Hebrew idea expressed is bread that is before the face of God. This bread was to be always set before God, a continuing reminder of His presence among Israel.
  3. Here, we start seeing the symbolism of Jesus come alive. Who is Jesus? The Bread of Life (Jn 6:48). What is it we eat in the Lord’s Supper? The bread, symbolizing the body of Christ (Mt 26:26). How do we have fellowship with God – how do we stand in His presence? Only by partaking of the Bread of Christ! The glorious golden table? It was nothing compared to the bread that sat upon it!
  • The menorah/lampstand (25:31-40)

31 “You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece. 32 And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side. 33 Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower—and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand. 34 On the lampstand itself four bowls shall be made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental knob and flower. 35 And there shall be a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same, according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand. 36 Their knobs and their branches shall be of one piece; all of it shall be one hammered piece of pure gold. 37 You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it. 38 And its wick-trimmers and their trays shall be of pure gold. 39 It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils. 40 And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.

  1. What is called the “lampstand” in English is the familiar Hebrew word “menorah,” (מְנוֹרָה), often associated with Hanukah celebrations. For this particular menorah, no precise measurements given as to its size, although the text is clear that the number of lamps totals seven (rather than the nine of Hanukah). The piece is described as beautiful, being made of pure gold, hammered into the resemblance of almond branches with every lamp on the stand. Alexander suggests, “There is no explanation why the lampstand should resemble a tree. [I.e. an almond tree, TWB.] Possibly it was to be reminiscent of the tree of life in Gn. 3:22, symbolizing the life-giving power of God.” In addition to the lamp’s beauty, was its cost. The lamp, along with all its utensils, was to be made out of one piece of pure gold weighing a full talent (75 pounds). (According to today’s gold prices, this alone would be worth well over $1.5 million!)
  2. The lamp was practical and Considering that the tabernacle itself was covered with four heavy layers of various fabrics, the inside would have been extremely dark. The light from seven candles on the menorah would have gone a long way! But beyond the practical nature was the beauty. God cares about beauty & art! Want proof? Look at a clear sunset – gaze upon a range of mountains – look into the Milky Way…these things are all beautiful, and each was created by God. The only reason we can appreciate beauty is because God instilled it within us – after all, we are made in His image.
    1. Beware of thinking of God as cold, calculating, and legalistic. He is righteous, yes, but He is anything but cold! Our God is a wondrous God & He loves to create things of wonder and beauty.
  3. Don’t miss the symbolism of Jesus in the menorah. After all, Jesus Himself said that He is the Light of the world! (Jn 9:5) He gives light to us to help us worship God – He brings us from the darkness of sin to the light of life – He puts His light within us that we might be the light to the rest of the world. Praise God that Jesus is the light!

Exodus 26

  • The coverings (26:1-14)

1 “Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen, and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them. 2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits. And every one of the curtains shall have the same measurements. 3 Five curtains shall be coupled to one another, and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another. 4 And you shall make loops of blue yarn on the edge of the curtain on the selvedge of one set, and likewise you shall do on the outer edge of the other curtain of the second set. 5 Fifty loops you shall make in the one curtain, and fifty loops you shall make on the edge of the curtain that is on the end of the second set, that the loops may be clasped to one another. 6 And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains together with the clasps, so that it may be one tabernacle.

  1. Next are the ten curtains of the tabernacle, serving as its covering and making it a proper “tent.” Four distinct layers are described, staring from the innermost covering and proceeding outward. Closest to, and covering the tabernacle itself was a layer of finely woven linen, using blue, purple, and scarlet thread. Although the purpose for these colors is left open to interpretation, not being expressly stated in the biblical text, it should be noted that “blue, purple, and scarlet were royal colors.” Likewise, the fine linen likely refers to a special type of cloth used by Egyptian royalty. Woven into the linen were more designs of cherubim as decoration and symbolism. Each curtain was 42 feet long, 4½ feet wide. The ten curtains were to be made as five paired sets, to be joined together with fifty golden clasps through pre-cut loops in the fabric. 
  2. Considering this was the innermost covering, it’s fitting that it was also the most artistic. The same colors and designs that a priest would see elsewhere in the tabernacle, he would also see on the ceiling as he looked up. It would have seemed as if he looked up into the heavens and saw the cherubim continually surrounding God’s throne.

7 “You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair, to be a tent over the tabernacle. You shall make eleven curtains. 8 The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; and the eleven curtains shall all have the same measurements. 9 And you shall couple five curtains by themselves and six curtains by themselves, and you shall double over the sixth curtain at the forefront of the tent. 10 You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain of the second set. 11 And you shall make fifty bronze clasps, put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one. 12 The remnant that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. 13 And a cubit on one side and a cubit on the other side, of what remains of the length of the curtains of the tent, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and on that side, to cover it.

  1. The second layer was to be made of goats’ hair, eleven total curtains, a little longer than the one underneath: 45 feet long, 4½ feet wide. Hannah notes of the goats’ hair that it is “a black weather-resistant material still used today by bedouins in tent-making.” As with the linen covering, the goats’ hair curtains were to be joined in paired sets with fifty loops, this time joined together by bronze clasps. The extra length of the eleventh curtain would hang over the rear of the tabernacle structure.
  2. Was there symbolism? The goats’ hair would obviously speak of sacrifice – but the main purpose was likely practical. This would provide insulation for the tent, and be the first real covering as the innermost covering was more decorative than anything. 

14 “You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that.

  1. Two additional coverings are listed in Exodus 25:14, though no sizing dimensions are given. The first (third in the series) is a covering made of ram’s skins dyed red, and the final uppermost covering is another leather fabric. The identification of this final covering is unknown. The Hebrew is taḫaš (תַּ֫חַשׁ), and is described as only “a kind of leather or skin, and perhaps the animal yielding it.” Different English versions use different translations: NIV = “sea cows,”; NASB = “porpoise,”; HCSB = “manatee skins.” Kaiser suggests that the leather of the taḫaš “came from the East African sea cows (“porpoise” or “dolphin”), found in the Red Sea.” Whereas this is a possibility, as it could have been included in what the Israelites receive from Egypt (being that the Hebrews were not a seafaring people), the biblical text doesn’t tell us where it came from.
  2. Bottom line: the outermost coverings were extremely practical. Water resistant leather helped the ministry within the tabernacle continue despite poor weather conditions.
  • The structure (26:15-30) 

15 “And for the tabernacle you shall make the boards of acacia wood, standing upright. 16 Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the width of each board. 17 Two tenons shall be in each board for binding one to another. Thus you shall make for all the boards of the tabernacle. 18 And you shall make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards for the south side. 19 You shall make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards: two sockets under each of the boards for its two tenons. 20 And for the second side of the tabernacle, the north side, there shall be twenty boards 21 and their forty sockets of silver: two sockets under each of the boards. 22 For the far side of the tabernacle, westward, you shall make six boards. 23 And you shall also make two boards for the two back corners of the tabernacle. 24 They shall be coupled together at the bottom and they shall be coupled together at the top by one ring. Thus it shall be for both of them. They shall be for the two corners. 25 So there shall be eight boards with their sockets of silver—sixteen sockets—two sockets under each of the boards. 26 “And you shall make bars of acacia wood: five for the boards on one side of the tabernacle, 27 five bars for the boards on the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle, for the far side westward. 28 The middle bar shall pass through the midst of the boards from end to end. 29 You shall overlay the boards with gold, make their rings of gold as holders for the bars, and overlay the bars with gold. 30 And you shall raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain.

  1. As to the structure of the building itself, this is described through the assembly of forty-eight boards of acacia wood overlaid with gold, each being 15 feet long, 2¼ feet wide. The boards were bound together, not by nails (as this would prevent disassembly and reassembly), but through “tenons” (NKJV, NASB) or “projections (NIV). Literally, the Hebrew refers to “hands,” inferring that the boards were cut to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The north and south sides of the tabernacle were comprised of twenty boards each, and the westward end was made of six boards. The remaining two boards were reserved for the rear corners. The boards were not to rest directly on the ground, but were fit into “forty sockets of silver: two sockets under each of the boards.” The total structure measured 45 feet in length, 15 feet in height, and 13½ feet in width.
  2. In addition to the tenons binding the boards together, God instructed Moses to make bars of acacia wood overlaid with gold, which would provide stability to the structure. No precise measurements given for the bars, but detailed instruction is given as to their use. Five bars were required for each of the three enclosed sides of the tabernacle, two bars running through rings toward the top, and two bars running through rings toward the bottom. As for the middle bar, it was to “pass through the midst of the boards from end to end.” One must admire the practicality of such a design, particularly for a building that would be assembled and reassembled hundreds of times over the course of decades.
  3. Specific size – specific assembly. Even the framework was shown to Moses by God on the mountain. Nothing was left to chance! When it comes to how we approach God in worship, for Him dwelling among us, nothing is left to chance. Jesus did not come at a random point in history – His arrival was not unannounced nor unexpected. Scripture prophesied all of these things. What He did, what He said, what He accomplished – all of it had a purpose and was fulfillment of prophecy. There was no more important work than that of Jesus…nothing was left for random chaos. (Why should our worship of God be any less?)
  • The veil & screen (26:31-37) 

31 “You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim. 32 You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy. 34 You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy. 35 You shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand across from the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and you shall put the table on the north side.

  1. The next item described is the first of two hanging curtains (as opposed to the curtains on the roof), this one serving as a divider between what was known as “the holy place and the Most Holy,” or Holy of Holies (קֹ֥דֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִֽׁים). In the Most Holy place, the ark of the testimony with its mercy seat was to be placed, and there it would remain, alone. The other items of furniture (the lampstand, table of showbread, and altar of incense) would be in the outer holy place. Like the first layer of covering for the tabernacle, this veil was also to be made of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, with images of cherubim woven throughout. The veil was to be hung by golden hooks upon four upright pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. The hooks would proceed through four sockets of silver. The veil in front would look much like the covering overhead, again symbolizing the throne room of God.
  2. Although it is not mentioned here, the veil is what separated the priests from the Most Holy place where the unveiled glory of God resided. In that place, only the high priest would go only one time per year, and only after much blood was sacrificed for his own sin. What happened in the New Testament with the temple equivalent of this veil? It was torn in two at the death of Jesus! (Mt 27:51) Jesus has given us full and free access to God through the cross!

36 “You shall make a screen for the door of the tabernacle, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver. 37 And you shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold; their hooks shall be gold, and you shall cast five sockets of bronze for them.

  1. The second of the hanging curtains served as the entrance to the tabernacle structure itself. As with the veil, the screed was also made of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, though no artistic designs of cherubim were prescribed. The screen was to be hung upon five pillars (instead of four, per the internal veil), also made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Again, the screen would be attached with golden hooks, though for this curtain the sockets for the curtain were to be made out of bronze.
  2. This is the first piece of linen made with the blue, purple, and scarlet thread that is not embroidered with images of cherubim. And it makes sense: this is the outer “door” to the tabernacle structure. They are only entering the very front area…things get more & more holier as the priest continues closer to the throne room of God.

Conclusion:

Much has been seen, but much more is still to come! In a display of sheer grace, Almighty God desired to dwell among His people. And the way He did showcases His incomprehensible holiness in wonderfully beautiful ways! Because God is holy, His people were to always remember His holiness, and fear Him in their approach.

That does not change for the church. If anything, it is magnified! How much more of the presence of God do we experience by having Jesus approach humanity & dwell among us? And beyond that (if it is possible), the actual presence of God the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within each of us as born-again believers. Incredible! Of all people, we ought to be continually impressed with the holiness of God and the magnitude of grace on display in His invitation for us to approach Him.

But we do it God’s way. It’s not our way – it’s not “come however we feel like coming”; it is coming to God on His terms in His way through Jesus Christ.

The Ten Commandments

Posted: December 20, 2018 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 20, “The Ten Commandments”

Of all of the law codes in the world, there is not a code more important or influential than the Ten Commandments. The Code of Hammurabi dates back to 1754BC, having the first known instance of “an eye for an eye,” (lex talionis) – the Islamic Sharia law (more recently developed in the 6th century AD) is harshly enforced in many countries around the world today – though perhaps not a law code in the formal sense, the US Constitution is the foundation of all of the laws that affect every American citizen today. All of these are incredibly influential, but the Ten Commandments is beyond them all. Though written after Hammurabi, it is even older than Hammurabi, as they are founded in the character and nature of the Creator God. The Ten Commandments encapsulate God’s moral expectations for His people, and it is impossible to understate their importance or their impact upon the world as we know it.

Today, the Ten Commandments are known for controversy – or at least, the display of them has been controversial. Atheists see the Ten Commandments as a display recognizing the existence and supremacy of the God of the Bible…and in that aspect, they’re right. Rather than debating the display of granite monuments, people (Christians and non-Christians alike) would be better served reading & abiding by the words written on those monuments. After all, it isn’t a monument that changes lives; it is God’s word that does.

How did it all come about? Remember that God had freed the Hebrews from Egypt to be His own people. This had been the culmination of promises He made to Abraham centuries in the past, now in full fruition. Though the Israelites whined and complained about their supposed inconveniences along the way, God personally led, protected, and provided for the people throughout their wilderness journey. When they lacked drinkable water, God gave it (once, from a rock) – when they lacked bread, God let it rain from heaven as manna every day. Even when Moses lacked wisdom, God gave it, providing what was needed to lead a nation of 2 million+ people. Soon, Israel arrived at the base of Mt Sinai, where God prepared them to receive His presence in a whole new way. Although they had seen the pillar of cloud & fire (in addition to all the outpourings of miracles in Egypt, the Red Sea, and beyond), they hadn’t seen anything like what they were about to see on the mountain. God’s presence was manifested in such a glorious way among them that it caused thunderings, lightnings, earthquakes, fire, smoke, and the sounding of an ever-louder trumpet…and the people feared. No wonder! The glory of God was made known among them, and His holiness was emphasized in a way they never before imagined.

What now? Now they were to receive the law of God. When arriving at the mountain, they committed themselves to obeying God, serving Him in a covenant relationship with Him as their God & King. They were going to be treasured by God as His own – they were being made into a kingdom of priests & a holy nation (Exo 19:5-6). What would it look like? It would look like the Ten Commandments. Other specific regulations would be given in the future, but the basis of what it looks like to serve the Holy God in holiness is found in the Ten Commandments (or “Ten Words,” as the Hebrews call it).

Of course, there’s a problem in this: we can’t do it! No one can – not the general Hebrews, not the prophets, not Moses, not anyone. The Ten Commandments lay out the perfect holiness of God, but only God is perfectly holy. If the only way to be the people of God is to abide by His law, we would have to be perfect – exactly as Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect,” (Mt 5:48). What then, does the law of God show us? It shows us our imperfections, and thus our need for a Forgiving Savior. The perfect law of God shows us our need for the perfect Jesus.

This is why we cherish the Ten Commandments today! It not only gives us a glimpse into God’s holiness, instructing us how to worship Him in holiness, but it underscores and highlights our utter dependence upon Christ. Yes, we worship God in holiness, but it’s only possible as we worship Him through Jesus. Let the law drive you to Christ! That is exactly its purpose.

Exodus 20

  • Decalogue / The Ten Words (20:1-17)
  • Preface (1-2)

1 And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

  1. Scholars have often noted that much of the 10 Commandments appears to be put into a literary genre that would have been familiar to the Israelites: a covenant treaty, which establishes the relationship between a sovereign king and his people. In the treaties, the king was introduced, his actions on behalf of the people were stated, the commands upon the people were detailed, and blessings and/or curses were listed at the end for enforcement. The entire book of Deuteronomy is written in this format, and some argue that the 10 Commandments contains a miniaturized form. At the very least, God is still identified and His work made known.
  2. God is identified. Although it might seem obvious to us, this was an important first step for a people who had lived under centuries of slavery in a polytheistic land. It wasn’t Ra, Isis, or even Pharaoh that was the God of the Israelites; it was YHWH, the I AM everlasting God. It was the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. That God was their God: YHWH alone.
  3. YHWH’s actions remembered. This was what He did for Israel to make them His people. He “brought” them out of Egypt – He bought them with the blood of the Passover sacrifice. YHWH God was the One who gave them life & freedom. Everything they now had, they owed to His gracious provision.
  4. We neither worship a generic “god,” nor a god who has done nothing for us. Our God has a name (YHWH), revealing Himself specifically in the Person of Christ Jesus. And our God has acted wonderfully on our behalf, not only giving us life & sustenance, but by sending Jesus to the cross for us in order that we would be brought out of bondage & slavery to sin & death.
  5. One other thing: notice that all of this is said before the commands are given. Obedience to the law was never intended as the way to make Israel the people of God; it was what they were to do as the people of God. God already purchased them through the Passover – He already brought them into life through the Red Sea. Regarding national salvation, the work was already done. The point of the law for Israel was how they were to act now, being freed from slavery. Their freedom was a gift of God’s grace – it always is!
    1. Remember that it is only possible to serve God and worship Him as His people once we are saved by Christ Jesus. We don’t keep the law to earn God’s favor – Jesus has already done that on our behalf. We live lives of obedience now, in thankfulness to God & out of a desire to honor Him. (And even that, through the power & grace of God the Holy Spirit!)
  • 1st Table: Holiness toward God (3-11)

3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

  1. Exclusive worship. God alone had saved Israel, and God alone was to be worshipped by Israel. Question: Does God acknowledge the actual existence of other gods/deities? No; He acknowledges the reality that people worship other gods, but not that those gods exist. There’s no question that people all over the world worship various other gods (Allah, Vishnu, the Great Architect of the Universe, etc.), but these so-called “gods” do not actually exist. Sometimes, people interact with demons pretending to be these things, but there is only one true God: the Creator God, YHWH I AM, the Creator of heaven & earth (revealed in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
  2. If God alone exists, why is it necessary to command Israel to worship only Him? Because they would be tempted to do otherwise. When God says “you shall have no other gods before Me,” literally the term “before Me” could be translated “beside/over/in-front-of My face.” It is the idea of personal presence. In Israel’s worship, they were not to put other gods in front of the True God. Their eyes were to be fixed on the face of the I AM; not to shove other false gods in front of Him. God is to have 1st place, with zero competition for attention.
    1. How might Christians fall victim to this sin? We might not have the gods of Egypt claiming our attention, but we have the “gods” of other passions and desires. For some, their career is their god – for some, their family is their god as they are willing to sacrifice anything and everything for it. Sometimes it comes in a more casual way, when we’re willing to shove Jesus to the back so we can gaze at something else with the desire that should belong only to Him. Is that not what we do when we dive into temptations, enjoying the seasons of lusts (of whatever sort)? We worship the item right in front of us, rather than the God who bought us. Worship God exclusively!

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

  1. Proper worship. The commandment is against idolatry, but that’s the negative prohibition. What would be the positive command? Worship God properly – worship God as He has revealed Himself to be. God is not opposed to artwork (as some might suppose from the 2nd commandment). The book of Exodus does not close before God commands the construction of the Tabernacle & all its furnishings, including: sculptures of cherubim on the mercy seat of the ark, hammered gold work on the menorah to look like almond buds, embroidered cherubim on the veil, and more. Artful images are not the problem; substitutions of God are. It’s when images are used to misrepresent God or replace God – that is the issue with idolatry, and that was the prohibition.
    1. 21st century American Evangelicals tend to think that idolatry is either limited to past times or foreign cultures. After all, it doesn’t take much travel through India to see that idolatry is alive and well around the world. At the same time, it is alive here, too. Anytime we invent an image of God in our own mind, other than how God portrays Himself, it is idolatry. Anytime we say “My God wouldn’t do ____,” if it doesn’t match with the Bible, it’s idolatry.
    2. Keep in mind that we don’t have to imagine or guess what God would/wouldn’t do, or how He should/shouldn’t appear. We have a revelation of God: the Lord Jesus! Jesus said that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father (Jn 14:9) – Paul wrote that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). If you want to know what God is like, look to Jesus!
  2. God is righteously jealous. Typically, we think of jealousy as a bad thing (and when applied to us, it can be), but in this case God calls Himselfa jealous God.” Is God admitting some sort of fault? When the word applies to God, it can be thought of as “a desire for exclusivity,” (DBL). He doesn’t want His people distracted and pulled away from Him by lesser things. God is jealous for our benefit; not our bondage. As a father, I am jealous for the righteous treatment of my daughter. I don’t want her mistreated by some boy that doesn’t have what is best for her in mind, nor do I want her seeking fatherly affection from anyone besides me. That is a righteous jealousy, and that’s the same kind of jealousy God has for us as His children (though to an infinite extent!).
  3. God is perfectly just. When God says that He visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me,” it is confusing for some, causing them to wonder if God imparts a kind of “generational curse” upon those who hate Him. That isn’t what this is talking about at all. The idea here is one of patterns. Those who hate God typically raise their children to hate God. Those who engage in habitual sin often teach their children to engage in the same habitual sin. This is why alcoholic fathers and mothers often have alcoholic children, why abusers raise abusers, etc. These sins frequently get passed from generation to generation. It isn’t God doing it to them; it is their refusal to surrender to God that perpetuates it.
    1. How can someone break the cycle of sin? By being born again by the grace of God through Jesus! We are not doomed to repeated terrible family histories…these things can change when we are made new creations in Christ. Praise God for His transformation!
  4. God is overwhelmingly merciful. If there is any doubt how God transforms lives, just look at the contrast to the 3-4 generations of those who hate God: the thousands of generations to those whom God shows covenantal love and mercy, when they love Him! Once we are in a relationship with God through Christ (once we have experienced the chesed “mercy” spoken of to the Hebrews), everything changes to the uttermost. We don’t have to leave a legacy of sin; we can leave a legacy pointing to the gospel of grace!
  5. It all begins with the first two commandments. When we worship God alone, and when we worship Him as He has revealed Himself, our lives change. That’s the point we are in the relationship with God that He has always desired for us.

7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

  1. Sincere worship. Another possible translation of the command is “Do not lift up (carry) the name of YHWH your God in emptiness.” To take God’s name in vain is to treat His name as empty, being nothing, having no value, as being inconsequential. Can anything be less true of the God of the universe? God values His name, because it represents His person. His name represents His character, His authority, and His work. To treat His name as nothing is to treat God as if He is nothing – to treat God as if He is inconsequential. It’s no wonder God sees it as a vile sin, with the person doing it bearing guilt (though thankfully, guilt that can be forgiven in Christ).
  2. Sadly, this is a command that Christians break far too often. We do so not only through casual blasphemy (“OMG,” or using Jesus’ name as curse word), but anytime we treat the worship of our God with indifference or disrespect. When we pray “in Jesus’ name,” do we mean in the name of Jesus the Son of God? Do we even think about the One to whom we pray when we pray, or do we just go through the motions uttering mere words? We dare not treat our Almighty God, the One who loves us and saves us, the One who destines us for Himself in eternal heaven – we dare not treat Him with such casual disrespect. Our worship ought to be sincere & heartfelt; not “nothing.”

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

  1. Faith-filled worship. When we think about it, what is the bottom line of the Sabbath? It is resting in God, trusting in God’s provision. Here, God commanded that no one among the Hebrews should work on the 7th day (Saturday), regardless if they were a circumcised Hebrew or not. If they lived in the nation of Israel, then they were to rest on the Sabbath day following the example of the Lord God Himself who did the same thing on the original 7th day of creation week. God was sufficient to create everything in 6 days (6 literal days, according to this text!), and nothing more needed to be done on the 7th so He rested. If God was sufficient for that, then He is sufficient to provide for the needs of the Hebrews on the 7th They could (and must) rest in Him, trusting God alone.
  2. The 4th Commandment is very controversial among Christians today, with people wondering how we should keep the Sabbath if we strive to live by the 10 Commandments. There are several things we need to remember.
    1. The Sabbath is a specific part of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Exodus 31:13,16, “(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. … (16) Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.” Like the sign of circumcision, the Sabbath was a sign of the national covenant of Israel with God, making it different from all the other commandments in the 10 Commandments.
    2. The Sabbath is the seventh day, never changing from Saturday to Sunday. Although Reformed churches commonly teach that Sunday worship is the proper observance of Sabbath worship, this is nowhere taught in the New Testament. The New Testament consistently refers to the Sabbath as Saturday, sometimes referring to Sunday as “the Lord’s Day,” (Rev 1:10). The book of Acts does show that the church started gathering for worship on Sunday (Acts 20:7), likely in celebration of the fact that Jesus rose from the grave on Sunday (Mt 28:1). But the 1st day worship is never shown as a replacement for 7th day worship. Gentile Christians had no reason to gather on Saturday, because they weren’t Jewish. Jewish Christians likely gathered both days.
    3. The Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ. If the Sabbath is all about resting from work and trusting the provision of God, then what more could we rest from than our striving to earn our salvation? The writer of Hebrews makes this exact point, acknowledging that neither the seventh day nor the land of promise granted the Hebrews the true rest of God that God promised them. Hebrews 4:8–10, “(8) For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. (9) There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (10) For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” If neither the 7th day nor the land of Israel gave the true rest of God, where is His rest found? In Christ! Jesus did all the work for us when He died on the cross for our sins. “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30) Nothing can be added to Jesus’ work, and no more rest can be given than what He gives.
  3. The bottom line: How do we obey the 4th Commandment today? By placing our faith & trust in Christ! We cannot earn the grace of God; we must rest in Jesus & He gives it to us.
  • 2nd Table: Holiness toward others (12-17)

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

  1. Value family (value authority). The 5th Commandment serves as a transition between the 1st and 2nd tables, in that the family unit represented a miniature version of the relationship between God and Israel. Children were to honor their parents the way Israel honored God. (Same root word used for “honor” as “glory.”) By valuing one’s parents, the Israelite showed that he/she valued the authority structure set up by God, ultimately leading back to God Himself.
  2. The general idea is to give the right weight to your parents – give them honor, not because they deserve it through their actions, but because God ordained them to be your parents. Honor them because God deserves it. This is much harder for some, than others. Some people came from abusive homes – some came from abandoned & broken homes. How do they honor their parents? As an act of worship unto God. It doesn’t mean that we pretend the past doesn’t exist, but it does mean we treat them with the love, mercy, and respect that we would want for ourselves. Again, not because they deserve it, but because God does.
  3. Interestingly, this is (as Paul writes) the first command with a promise (Eph 6:2). If the children of Israel honored the parents of Israel, they would be physically blessed with long life. In other words, if they blessed their parents, they would themselves be blessed. For the covenant people of Israel living in their covenant land, this ought to have been a good motivation! Instead, some turned it into a loophole. Jesus chastised the Pharisees for what they did with their traditions, superseding the word of God, in one particular case using the command to honor one’s parents to let them go hungry while claiming the son’s money was devoted to God (Mk 7:10-12).
    1. For us, do we have the promise of long life? Not necessarily – but we do have the promise of blessing as we live lives honoring to God.

13 “You shall not murder.

  1. Value life. Although the KJV translates this as “Thou shalt not kill,” the idea really is that of “murder.” The Bible does not forbid warfare nor does it reject capital punishment (though the merits of either could be argued on different grounds). But regarding personal vengeance or outright murder, God absolutely forbids it. He is the author of life, so we have no right to take life.
    1. It also means that we do not hate. Jesus said that if we are angry with our brother without a cause, we are danger of judgment (Mt 5:22). John wrote that whoever hates his brother is a murderer (1 Jn 3:15). We ought to be very careful of what is our hearts, that it not cross over to hatred!
  2. On the contrary, we ought to promote life whenever possible. For example, we not only stand against abortion, but we stand for adoption. Valuing life means that we cherish it in all its forms, be it in the womb, with lack of chromosomes, when it is elderly and disabled, and when it is weak and unable to provide for itself. We have compassion upon others because they are men and women made in the image of God.
    1. This is also part of our motivation for sharing the gospel. How better to express our value of life than to tell others of eternal life?

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

  1. Value marriage. Marriage was instituted by God before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, and it is cherished by Him. In marriage, God takes two physical people (male and female), and make them spiritually one. Husband and wife have entered into a covenant relationship with one another (supervised by the Lord God) that ought not be broken. Just as it is abhorrent to think that God might break His covenant of salvation with us, so we ought to look at the covenant of marriage the same way. It is to be cherished, protected, and upheld.
  2. Adultery is a direct assault on that covenant. It destroys trust, and breaks what God declared should not be separated. And it happens far more often than what appears in divorce courts! According to Jesus, anytime someone looks at another person with lust, he/she has committed adultery in his/her heart (Mt 5:28). As with Job, we need to make covenants with our eyes never to look upon a person other than our spouses (Job 31:1), and truly cherish & value our marriages.

15 “You shall not steal.

  1. Value ownership. It’s not that property has so much value in the eyes of the Lord (stuff is just stuff), but ownership does. After all, God owns us. He bought us with the blood of Christ, just like He bought Israel with the blood of the Passover sacrifice. When we steal from others, we do not respect the ownership our neighbor has – we don’t respect his/her individual rights – ultimately, we don’t respect his/her person. After all, if one guy steals from another, it means the first guy didn’t think the other person mattered enough not to do it.
  2. We do not steal because God does not steal; God gives. God gives us life, breath, food, clothing, grace, personal value – He gives us everything we need and everything we are. We dare not take that away from someone else. Instead, we show grace by giving – we show respect by valuing the other person and the things God has given him/her.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  1. Value truth. Although the wording is most appropriate to a courtroom testimony, the overall principle is that of truth. God’s people do not represent God by lying or through deceit or through misdirection. God speaks the truth, God’s word is truth, and Jesus is the truth. There is nothing about God that is false, and as His people, we ought to be the same way.
  2. Beyond outright lying, we can also engage in false witness through gossip (spreading rumors which we may not know are true). We can do it through false reporting (passing on news stories that are unverified). We can do it through attributing false motives to people (when we cannot know what is truly in their hearts). Be careful! As men and women dedicated to the truth of God, we need to be sure that we also speak the truth about others.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

  1. Value contentment. Out of all of the commands in the 2nd table, this is the first that directly deals with an issue of the heart. Granted, there’s no way someone murders someone or commits adultery, etc., that doesn’t have sin in his/her heart already, but those other things still imply some sort of action. Covetousness does not. When someone covets (gets greedy), all of the warfare takes place in the heart & mind. This is where ungodly jealousy breeds and where pride originates. When we want what we don’t have (or can’t have), it starts down the road to all other kinds of sin. In fact, we might argue that murder, adultery, and theft all start with the sin of coveting (if not the entire list of the 10 Commandments). Thus God forbids it in all its forms, giving a long list (though not comprehensive) and including a catch-all at the end. There ought be no confusion or loopholes here: don’t covet anything.
  2. What should we do? Be content. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6). When we trust God to provide for us, then we don’t have to be jealous of what someone else has. We know that God gives us what we need, and He hasn’t given it to us (or hasn’t given us the ability to go out and earn it), then we don’t need it. Why do we need so much stuff, anyway? Food, clothing, and relationships are enough! Be content, and be at peace!
  3. FYI: There is a difference between Catholic & Protestant listing of the 10 Commandments at this point. Catholics combine the 1st and 2nd commandments together & split the 10th into two commands: not coveting your neighbor’s house & not coveting anything else. The wording of all the Scripture is the same; only the organization and numbering taught is different.
    1. FYI again. Traditional Jewish listing has one other difference in numbering: They combine our 1st and 2nd Commandments together, while taking the preface as their 1st If it is argued that the commandments begin as soon as God begins speaking, then it is better to include the preface with the 1st Commandment (“I am the LORD your God…you shall have no other gods before Me”) than to combine the 1st two commandments together as they speak of different, though overlapping, ideas.
    2. The importance isn’t so much how the commandments are numbered (God did not personally number them, after all); it’s that they are read and obeyed.
  • The nation’s response (20:18-21)

18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

  1. Understandable response! Can you imagine how you might feel if you witnessed the same thing? Earthquakes, fire, smoke, lightning storms, an ever-blowing shofar trumpet…and if that wasn’t enough, the booming voice of Almighty God. We would tremble, too! We would run & stand “afar off,” pleading with God not to be killed. That’s a totally natural reaction.
  2. What would be the only remedy? To get a Mediator. As for Israel, that’s what they quickly realized. Moses had served as their mediator in the past, and they wanted him to do it again. They had often heard the word of God, but always through the words of Moses. Once they heard and saw God for themselves, they realized they weren’t able to handle it. Without Moses as a mediator, they would perish.
    1. What do we need? A Mediator. What do we have in Christ? A Mediator! He is the only mediator between God & Man – He is the only one sufficient to stand in our place, and bring us into the presence of Almighty God. Without Jesus, we would be left in a place of terror, but with/in Christ we are brought into a place of grace!

20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”

  1. Sounds contradictory: “Don’t fear, but fear!” Moses isn’t being inconsistent; he’s being instructive. The children of Israel didn’t need to run in terror, but they did need to fear God. They needed to fear Him in the right way. The righteous reverent fear of God doesn’t cause us to flee from God; it causes us to run to Him for mercy and grace. In the book of Revelation, those who refuse to repent from their sin recognize the day of the Lord’s wrath & they want to run & hide (Rev 6:15-17). They fear, but not rightly. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet had his vision of heaven & feared, but understood he needed grace (Isa 6:5-7). That was the right
  2. The right fear of God could be used by God. That sort of fear was for the people’s proving/refining. A righteous perspective of God keeps us wary of sin. After all, what sin do you habitually commit that you would fear to do so if you were to look into the all-consuming fire of God’s holiness? Not a one! Things that we treat so casually today would be cast aside as if it were poisonous. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, partly because the fear of the Lord keeps us from sin.

21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

  1. Why the difference between Moses & the people? Only Moses had the invitation to draw near. (19:24)
  • Initial instructions for worship (20:22-26)

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.

  1. Although this might seem somewhat random in light of the 10 Commandments, it goes hand-in-hand with the nation’s fearful response to God. They didn’t know how to worship God in light of all of His glory & in light of all of what He just revealed to them in His law. So God tells them. They needed some kind of immediate response in worship, and God graciously grants it to them.
  2. The new experience with the Lord at Mount Sinai ought to have changed everything for Israel. By this point, they should know that gold or silver could not represent the Almighty God. They knew better (though they would soon forget when they forged the golden calf!). At the same time, all of this presented a problem for the people. For the past 400 years, the only official way they witnessed people worshipping their false gods was through all the idolatry of Egypt. God had commanded them to worship Him, but how should they do it? Verse 24…

24 An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. 25 And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. 26 Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’

  1. A natural altar for the supernatural God. The Creator God was to be worshipped by using tools of His unaltered creation.
  2. Also, He was also to be worshipped in reverence. Nothing casual or profane was to be allowed. Thus priests were to wear pants under their cloaks/tunics (something which was later reflected in the priestly uniform).
  3. Interestingly, the commands of vss. 24-25 were only temporary. This soon changed with the instructions surrounding the tabernacle. At that point, there would be an altar made out of bronze, specifically & artistically forged by human hands. But that was then; not now. In the present, until God told them the rest, this was what they were to do. Bottom line? Worship God according to God’s instructions.

Conclusion:

We have a holy God, and He is to be worshipped in holiness! For Israel, they were confronted with the reality of this holy God in a new, awesomely dramatic way, and they feared. The problem was that they didn’t fear in the right way, and they did not fear God nearly enough. Not only did they initially want to run & hide, they were not consistently faithful in their obedience. They couldn’t even keep the first commandment…and it was upon it that all the others rested.

We strive for holiness, but we cannot earn it. We seek to obey the commandments of God, but we realize it can never be done. There is none righteous, no not one (Rom 3:10) – and that is exactly why we need Jesus! Remember that we don’t obey God to gain grace; we obey God because we have been given grace. We are utterly dependent upon Jesus, having no hope without Him – and it is because we are, that now we strive to live in God-honoring obedience.

Worship God in holiness! Worship Him according to His instruction & revelation. Love what He loves, and value what He values. When we do, our very lives will be witnesses to all the world about the glories of our God!