Phenomenal Cosmic Power…Itty-Bitty Living Space (Exodus 40:1-38)

If you ever find a lamp with a Genie in it, better pass on your three wishes. It never works out the way you want.

I’m sure you read about the blonde, the brunette, and the redhead who were marooned on an island when their cruise ship was struck by a rogue wave.

One day, the three of them were walking along the beach and discovered a lamp. They rubbed and rubbed, and sure enough, out popped a Genie.

The Genie said, “Since I can only grant three wishes, you may each have one.”

The brunette said, “I’ve been stuck here for years. I miss my family, my husband, and my life. I wish to go home.”

POOF! The brunette got her wish and was returned to her family.

Then, the redhead said, “I’ve been stuck here for years as well. I miss my family, my husband, and my life. I wish I could go home, too.”

POOF! The redhead got her wish and was returned to her family.

The blonde started crying uncontrollably. “My dear, what’s the matter?” asked the Genie.

The blonde whimpered, “I wish my friends were still here.”

Some of my favorite X-Files episodes were the dark comedies. In one, Mulder encountered a Genie. With his first wish, he asked for peace on earth.

The Genie granted Mulder’s wish by exterminating the entire human population of the earth, except for him.

With his second wish, Mulder undoes his first wish. He then writes down his third wish to be very specific. However, just before making the final wish, Scully helps Mulder realize that the power of a Genie should not be used to force people to be good, and so he ultimately wishes for the Genie to be free.

From Barbara Eden to Robin Williams, the famous line from Disney’s Aladdin rings true: “Phenomenal cosmic power… Itty-bitty living space.”

As we close-out the Book of Exodus, in verse thirty-four we read,

Exo 40:34  Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

The Tabernacle we’ve read so much about was a 15’x45’x15’ tent. It was separated by a thick veil into two rooms – the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. The Holy Place was 15’x30’x15’, while the Holy of Holies was a perfect cube of 15’x15’x15’.

God’s phenomenal glory dwelt in that cube as He accompanied His chosen people on their journey to, and then into, the land He had promised to give them.

God is omnipresent. He wasn’t confined to that tiny space. But it is an amazing truth that His presence was there in a special way – to suggest that on the earth He dwelt among His people, in the Tabernacle.

Where does the omnipresent God dwell on the earth today?

1Co 3:16  Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

In saying, “Jesus Christ is in you,” Paul wasn’t speaking poetically or metaphorically.

He truly meant that Jesus Christ is literally, practically dwelling within each believer individually; and in us corporately as we gather.

Many other verses confirm the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ actually dwells in His believers:

Gal 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…

Eph 3:17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…

Col 1:27  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

How can Jesus dwell within us? By the Holy Spirit Whom He sent after His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into Heaven. In Second Timothy 1:14, Paul says plainly, “the Holy Spirit… dwells in us.”

One thing ought to be obvious: In creating mankind, it was God’s desire to dwell among us.

God physically dwelt in the Tabernacle. He dwells spiritually in us as His Temple. In the future we read, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 God Was Willing To Live In A Tent For You, and #2 God Is Willing To Live In Your ‘Tent’ With You.

#1 – God Was Willing To Live In A Tent For You

Tiny houses are all that right now. Have you seen them? If you haven’t, here is an explanation from Wikipedia:

The tiny house movement (also known as the “small house movement”) is a description for the architectural and social movement that advocates living simply in small homes. There is currently no set definition as to what constitutes a tiny house; however, a residential structure under 500 square feet is generally accepted to be a tiny home. Frequently, the distinction is made between small (between 400 square feet and 1000 square feet, and tiny houses (less than 400 square feet.

The tiny house movement promotes financial prudence, eco-friendly choices, shared community experiences, and a shift in consumer-driven mindsets.

Families with kids are experimenting with living together in a space not much larger than the average den. I will say that some of the tiny houses are super-cute and very creative. My favorites are the transformed two-story shipping containers.

The entire Tabernacle was 675sq.ft., with the Holy of Holies only 225sq.ft. There wasn’t much furniture in the Holy of Holies, either – only the Ark of the Covenant with its lid, the Mercy Seat.

Obviously God’s glory wasn’t only within the Tabernacle, because the pillar of cloud or fire could be seen throughout the camp, hovering above it.

But it communicates, powerfully, that the Creator of the universe, the God of gods, desired to tabernacle with mankind, and He condescended to do it.

We read in Second Chronicles 2:6, “who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him?“ Yet they did build Him the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, and God blessed both of them with His physical presence.

I’m not certain how theologically correct it is to say it, but the visual we get is that God is willing to live in a tent with you in order to have fellowship.

The focus of this final chapter is the Tabernacle being set-up by Moses exactly as specified. And that in itself suggests something great. So often we read the record of Israel’s failures to obey God. But not here; not this day. This was a glorious day in which what was commanded was implemented.

Exo 40:1  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Exo 40:2  “On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.

The Tabernacle and its furnishings were prepared in about six months, and the Tabernacle was set up about six months later; thus approximately one year had passed since the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt.

First we see the placing of the furniture:

Exo 40:3  You shall put in it the ark of the Testimony, and partition off the ark with the veil.
Exo 40:4  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.
Exo 40:5  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.
Exo 40:6  Then you shall set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.
Exo 40:7  And you shall set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water in it.

Every piece of furniture had its exact placement. You’ll remember from our previous studies that they each prefigured Jesus or His ministry. They told a story about redemption.

Today, under the New Covenant, there is no special furniture. Instead we are described as living stones in the earthly Temple – fit together perfectly by God to bring Him glory.

Exo 40:8  You shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen at the court gate.

After the Tabernacle and its furniture, they were to set-up the tent wall that surrounded it – called the Court or the Courtyard.

Exo 40:9  “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.
Exo 40:10  You shall anoint the altar of the burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar. The altar shall be most holy.
Exo 40:11  And you shall anoint the laver and its base, and consecrate it.

Under the Old Covenant, both people and objects were anointed with the specially prepared anointing oil to set them apart as belonging to the Lord. There is no real counterpart to this under the New Covenant. According to one source,

Only four New Testament passages refer to the practice of anointing with oil, and none of them offer an explanation for its use. We [must] draw our conclusions from context.

In Mark 6:13, the disciples anoint the sick and heal them.
In Mark 14:3-9, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet as an act of worship.
In James 5:14, the church elders anoint the sick with oil for healing.
In Hebrews 1:8-9, God says to Christ as He returns triumphantly to heaven, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,” and God anoints Jesus “with the oil of gladness.”

We therefore shy away from anointing material objects with oil; or in declaring objects holy. We certainly do not see relics, for example, as having any intrinsic power.

Think of it this way. In movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Ark of the Covenant itself held mystical powers. The Nazi’s wanted to unleash it on the Allied forces. I love that movie, but I always think it comical that the way Indy saved himself and his companion was by simply keeping their eyes closed while the lid was off the Ark.

The power of the Ark was in the presence of God that attended it. It wasn’t a WMD that could change the course of war.

We occasionally anoint people with oil – sick people, who “call for the elders of the church,” as it says in the Book of James. I see no Scriptural authority for, say, anointing a house with oil, to either bless it, or as some do, to ward-off demonic activity. It’s just not something we can support from the New Testament.

It borders on superstition, and can therefore be dangerous.

Exo 40:12  “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water.
Exo 40:13  You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.
Exo 40:14  And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics.
Exo 40:15  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.”

Nothing new here – except this. Moses acted as Israel’s priest until the priesthood could be established. Moses was a Levite, so he qualified. Add it to his rather substantial spiritual resume.

Exo 40:16  Thus Moses did; according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did.

What a marvelous declaration. He did it, and it was “all,” and exactly, what God commanded him.

It was so stupendous; so monumental; that the next set of verses records each component actually being set in place.

Exo 40:17  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.
Exo 40:18  So Moses raised up the tabernacle, fastened its sockets, set up its boards, put in its bars, and raised up its pillars.
Exo 40:19  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.
Exo 40:20  He took the Testimony [i.e., the tablets of the Ten Commandments] 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.
Exo 40:21  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.
Exo 40:22  He put the table in the tabernacle of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil;
Exo 40:23  and he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Exo 40:24  He put the lampstand in the tabernacle of meeting, across from the table, on the south side of the tabernacle;
Exo 40:25  and he lit the lamps before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Exo 40:26  He put the gold altar in the tabernacle of meeting in front of the veil;
Exo 40:27  and he burned sweet incense on it, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Exo 40:28  He hung up the screen at the door of the tabernacle.
Exo 40:29  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.
Exo 40:30  He set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water there for washing;
Exo 40:31  and Moses, Aaron, and his sons would wash their hands and their feet with water from it.
Exo 40:32  Whenever they went into the tabernacle of meeting, and when they came near the altar, they washed, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Exo 40:33  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.

If you’ve ever put something complicated together, from instructions, you know how difficult it can be. Do you think the folks who write the instructions put the things together? Doesn’t seem like it.

It seems that Moses did all the work of setting-up the structure by himself. The last few verses spoke of Aaron and his sons washing, but there is no mention of them, or anyone else, helping Moses raise the Tabernacle, arrange the furniture, or set-up the linen fence.

Could it really have been a one-man job, this first time? I think so; and I think it was a reward to Moses that he was called to do it by himself.

Exo 40:34  Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Exo 40:35  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.

The moment the last peg was pegged, so to speak, God visited the Tabernacle in a powerful way. He approved it by His presence in it, and upon it. It may have been itty-bitty, a tiny house; but He was willing to dwell there among His people.

It shouldn’t seem strange that Moses couldn’t enter the Tabernacle, for at least two reasons:

For one, God’s glory was so visible that you didn’t need to be in the Holy of Holies to appreciate it.
For a second reason, with the Tabernacle in place, a new economy would begin, in which only the priests could minister in the Tabernacle; and only the High Priest could annually go into the Holy of Holies.

Things were indeed about to change for Israel. They were about to worship God in the new way He had prescribed, in the Tabernacle. And they were also about to embark on their march to the Promised Land.

Exo 40:36  Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys.
Exo 40:37  But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up.
Exo 40:38  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.

Have you ever had to follow someone to get to your destination? It was common in the ancient world – before GPS. Invariably the car you were following would blow through a yellow light, leaving you in the dust with no idea where you were going.

The Israelites followed God, and I’m guessing He gave them time to muster with our leaving them in the dust.

As beautiful, and as precise, as the Tabernacle was, it was just a pile of materials without the presence of God in it, and above it. Outward form, no matter how costly and beautiful, is not enough; inward filling is needed.

#2 – God Is Willing To Live In Your ‘Tent’ With You

The Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was temporary. God had something better in mind as a dwelling place – You.

It’s still a temporary dwelling, however. Your current physical body is likened to a tent. In Second Corinthians, the apostle Paul says, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (5:1).

We will one day be resurrected from the dead in a glorious heavenly body; or be transformed into our heavenly bodies at the rapture. For now, you’re to think of it as a tent.

Here is another passage about His currently indwelling your tent. It has a tie-in with the Tabernacle.

Col 1:26  the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.
Col 1:27  To them [the saints] God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

I like a good mystery – especially one I can’t figure out. I still remember my jaw dropping when it was revealed that Bruce Willis was dead in The Sixth Sense.

In the New Testament a “mystery” is something previously concealed and unknown which is now revealed.  This particular “mystery” was hidden “from ages and from generations:”  

“Ages” refers to the periods of history prior to the first century.

“Generations” refers to all the people who lived in those periods.

The mystery is that non-Jews could be saved apart from the Tabernacle.  From the time of Abraham until the first century if you wanted to know God and have a relationship with Him you had to either be a Jew or convert to Judaism.  Paul was going around preaching Jesus Christ to Gentiles with no requirement that they first convert to becoming Jews.  It was for that message of grace the Jews had him arrested and for which he was in prison in Rome.

What a rich and glorious truth this is!  That you can come to God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ apart from any works of righteousness and certainly apart from any and all religion, rites, and rules.  

With regard to our study in Exodus, you need no Tabernacle with its rites and rituals, because you are the Temple within which God resides.

The Israelites could see God’s glory. In a sense, folks should see God’s glory in us.

1Co 6:19  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
1Co 6:20  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

You were bought. At the Cross, Jesus paid the penalty for your sin, buying you out from slavery.

You are no longer your own, but are now the Temple of God.

Think of it this way: God bought you, and so you belong to Him, and He has let a tenant move in with you – the Holy Spirit.

Therefore you are able to glorify God in your body and spirit.

Since the Holy Spirit is God, we’re not saying He is confined to your physical body. Nevertheless He is present in us, to influence us for God.

As His Temple, I should think of myself as holy. I’m not holy – I still have this body of flesh. But the presence of the Spirit is transforming me day-by-day into the image of Jesus. I should think of myself as God’s holy Temple – set apart for Him.

How do we use our bodies as God’s Temple? By walking in His leading, and according to His Word. When we simply obey God, it brings glory to Him – and it is noticeable by both believers and nonbelievers. They see the goodness of God; the power of God; the love of God.

In other words, they see His phenomenal cosmic power in our itty-bitty lives.

Worship While You Work (Exodus 35-39)

In 1986, Tom Bodett ad-libbed the line, “We’ll leave the light on for you,” while in the recording studio for the first time and the Motel 6 slogan was both an instant and lasting success. The phrase captures a sense of true hospitality for the weary road warrior. Says Bodett, “I think ‘We’ll leave the light on’ works because it is one of those spontaneous and practical things we say to each other all the time.”

In Exodus, God tells the Israelites to leave their lights off.

In 35:3 we read,

Exo 35:3  You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
There was, however, a light that was always kept on:

Lev 24:2  “Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps [of the Menorah] burn continually.
Lev 24:3  Outside the veil of the Testimony, in the tabernacle of meeting, Aaron shall be in charge of it from evening until morning before the LORD continually; it shall be a statute forever in your generations.

Furthermore, God’s presence as a bright pillar of fire by night dwelt within the Holy of Holies, above the Mercy Seat lid on the Ark of the Covenant.

The Israelites weren’t in the dark on the Sabbath. God left the light on for them. It was a special day for a precious people to be reminded Whose they were.

As the Book of Exodus goes from instruction about the Tabernacle to its construction, we want to point out the special, precious relationship God intended for Israel; and that He intends for us.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Instruction For The Tabernacle Reminds You That You Are God’s Workmanship, and #2 The Construction Of The Tabernacle Reminds You That You Are God’s Workfellows.

#1 – The Instruction For The Tabernacle Reminds You That You Are God’s Workmanship (35:1-3 & 30-33)

The next five chapters – 35 through 39 – present a special challenge to Bible teachers and pastors. They describe the building of the Tabernacle, but they are basically a repeat of the material presented in chapters 25-31.

The repetition is thematically necessary, because it shows that the Israelites obeyed God to the letter. It also emphasizes just how important this structure was in the on-going plan of redemption.

But having said that, our commentary would be repeating what we’ve already said. It’s therefore not unheard of to skip over this section. Warren Wiersbe, for example, takes all five chapters at once in his chapter-by-chapter commentary, Through the Word.

I think the best way to approach these chapters is to look at them as a unit, commenting on what we haven’t already commented on in chapters 25 through 31.

Exo 35:1  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:

I said I wanted to focus on the special, precious relationship God intended for the Israelites. This gathering is a good place to start.

God had previously offered Himself in a covenant relationship with Israel. He would be their God, and dwell among them. They would be His people, and obey Him.

In chapters 20 through 23, God laid-out the covenant.

In chapter 24, the Israelites had eagerly agreed to God’s covenant.

From chapter 25 through 31, God instructed Moses on Mount Sinai about the Tabernacle.

Sadly, while God was talking to Moses on Mount Sinai, the Israelites grew impatient, and they demanded that Aaron make them a god. He all too willingly complied, making a Golden Calf from their donated jewelry. As Moses descended Mount Sinai after forty days, the Israelites were fully involved in idol worship in a drunken orgy.

Chapters 32 through 34 chronicle Moses’ intercession for the people, and their repentance. In an emotional meeting, God said He would keep His promises to Israel with regard to conquering the Promised Land, but that He would not accompany them there, or dwell there among them.

Moses, representing Israel, refused to let God withdraw. He set up his own makeshift Tent of Meeting, urging God to manifest Himself. God relented and agreed to go with them; He would indeed dwell among them.

As chapter 35 opens, it’s as if nothing terrible had happened. The story picks-up just as if the incident with the Golden Calf had never occurred.

This opening verse, then, is full of the grace of God. It is an example of, “where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.”

We should never think lightly of sin because we’re promised grace. But when we do sin, that promised grace can overflow us as we confess our sin.

Are you involved in some sin? Maybe it’s still in the planning stages, i.e., in your heart. Confess; repent; let grace lead you back where you ought to be.

Exo 35:2  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.

No, I’m not going to spend tons of our time explaining, yet again, why Gentiles were never, and are not today, obligated to observe the Sabbath day; or Sabbath years; or the Year of Jubilee.

For our purposes today, I will only remind you of one crucial teaching God gave us on the subject:

Exo 31:13  “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…
Exo 31:16  Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.
Exo 31:17  It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever…

The Sabbaths are a special arrangement between God and the nation of Israel. Listen to how this same thing is described by Ezekiel:

Eze 20:10  “Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.
Eze 20:11  And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them.’
Eze 20:12  Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

Who did God lead out of Egypt and into the wilderness? Israel.

To whom did God give His statutes and judgments? Israel.

To who, then, did God give His Sabbaths to observe? Israel.

No one on the earth was observing the Sabbath until God made it a sign between Himself and Israel. God never intended anyone else other than Israel to be observing them.

And you know what? That was something special to communicate to Israel how precious they were to their God. They alone in the world, among all peoples, were given rest by their gracious and merciful God.

As we pointed out, the weekly Sabbath wasn’t the only Sabbath. Every year after seven years was a Sabbath year, when fields were to lie fallow, and no planting or harvesting was done. And every fiftieth year was a Jubilee year when debts were forgiven and properties reverted back to their original owners.

Imagine what a beautiful testimony that all could have been, as Gentiles came into contact with Israel. It would communicate His care, and faithfulness. They could trust their God to care for them not just once a week, but for a year every seven; and every fiftieth. There was nothing like it. It screamed, “Theocracy,” to the governors and governments of the Gentile world.

Jesus had this in mind when He commented, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” It was meant to be a blessing – not the burden the Jews would turn it into with all their prohibitions. It was meant to emphasize how much God loved His people.

Exo 35:3  You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”

Jews to this day still disagree on the scope of this prohibition. I’m suggesting that in context, it’s much more positive – intended to call attention to God’s presence among them.

We’re going to skip over verses 4 through 29, not because they are a repeat, but because we already commented on them in a previous study. We jumped ahead. In them, the Israelites were told that all who had willing hearts should contribute to the items needed for the building of the Tabernacle.

They do so – over-abundantly. They had to be asked to stop giving. We took the time to discuss our own giving to the work of the Lord in His current ‘building’ on earth – the church. According to the New Covenant we are under, your giving ought to be Willing… Regular… Cheerful… And Sacrificial.

Exo 35:30  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;
Exo 35:31  and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship,
Exo 35:32  to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze,
Exo 35:33  in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.

We’ve talked about Bezalel before – his calling, his filling with the Spirit of God, and his gifting. What strikes you about him is that the workman is simultaneously God’s workmanship:

God sees a saved man and “calls” him to specific service. It may or may not be something he or she has any familiarity with.

God fills that man or woman with His Spirit. The Spirit equips with whatever is needed; in the case of Bezalel, it was wisdom and understanding and the knowledge listed in these verses.

That man, that woman, is therefore God’s workmanship. Here God is said to “fill” that person. In another place God is compared to a potter, molding and shaping that person. Whatever the metaphor, we are God’s workmanship.

In fact, that’s in a verse in Ephesians:

Eph 2:10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…

Anytime this verse is mentioned, you’re obligated to point out that the word rendered “workmanship” is the word from which we get our English word, poem. That’s true, but it can refer to any creative work of art. It is only used twice in the Bible – here and in Romans 1:20 where it refers to God’s work of creating the universe.

When you are saved by grace through faith, you become an entirely new “creat[ion] in Christ Jesus.”

You are God’s newly created work of art; His poem, His painting, His song, His sculpture. He begins the work at salvation and continues it, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, until you are completed.

What comes to mind when you think of poetry? A sonnet, or a limerick, or a haiku?

When it comes to you – be thinking epic poem that incorporates all styles, being written by the same Person Who spoke into existence the universe.

Then realize you are His greatest, most loved, creation, who He has made a new creature in Christ, and who He has promised to complete.

#2 – The Construction Of The Tabernacle Reminds You That You Are God’s Workfellows (35:34-35 & 39:32-43)

The workmanship verse, Ephesians 2:10, goes on to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Once saved, you walk a new course – one “prepared beforehand” by God. God has made ready, even before you were saved, a path for you to follow.

What is the path? It is to perform “good works” by depending upon His power. Salvation does not involve any works on your part. It is all from God’s love, expressed by His mercy and grace, apprehended by faith. After you are saved, however, “good works” should characterize your daily life.

In another verse, the apostle Paul said, “For we are God’s fellow workers…” (First Corinthians 3:9). It can be translated co-laborers, or (as I have) workfellows.

There is some ongoing debate and disagreement among language scholars as to whether or not we are individually co-laborers with God, or corporately co-laborers for God. They’re split on it, about 50/50.

It seems a case could be made for both:

Since I am to be yielded to the Spirit Who indwells me, I’m a co-laborer with God.

Since I am a member of the household of faith, I’m a co-laborer with others for God.

Bezalel had co-laborers in his work for God; one in particular is named.

Exo 35:34  “And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.

Aholiab was right up there with Bezalel. He was like-gifted and like-minded. It’s a blessing to have others who are shoulder-to-shoulder with you serving the Lord. Men and women who, as we like to say, are wings, not weights.

A big part of their work was to teach others the things the Lord had taught them. We recognize in this what we like to call discipleship.

The first Christians were told to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them, and then to go out to make disciples of all men. It doesn’t seem like much; but the math is staggering.

Supposing each of us led two people to Jesus in one year, and they each led two people to Jesus per year. After two years, there would be six converts.

After ten years, there would be 2,046 new believers ready to lead others to Jesus.

In the 20th year, there would be 1,048,576 new believers. The numbers get awe inspiring after that.

If the glass seems half-empty; if it seems we are falling short; think of it this way. After Jesus ascended into Heaven, He had eleven apostles who were included in the 120 gathered in the Upper Room waiting for the promise of the Spirit.

There may have been more than 120 believers; probably were. But let’s stick with that small number as a basis. How many multiplied millions of believers have resulted from those original disciples?

The system works.

Exo 35:35  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.

Coming out of Egypt, after an ancestry of slavery, the Israelites had the skill to make bricks. That’s about it. Any other skills they may have had would have been rudimentary.

I’m sure they were really, really good at brick-making; but the Tabernacle would not require even one brick.

God entrusted a fortune in precious stones, metals, and materials, to be fashioned into the most beautiful Tabernacle ever built – to brickmakers and housewives.

God takes risks. In his book, The Case for Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote,

The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will – that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings, then we may take it it is worth it.

God takes risks; you’re one of them. He’s entrusted the Gospel to you. Somehow, lame as we are, He uses us to share about His Son.

What else has God entrusted to you? Who else? It’s His risky business to have you participate. You’ll need Him to give you the skill you need to work according to His Word and His will.

You should feel inadequate. Think of all the workers God called in the Bible and most of them testified of their inadequacies.

Jeremiah is one. At his calling, he said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth” (1:6).

Moses himself expressed several concerns about his calling at the burning bush:

Exo 3:11  But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
Exo 4:1  Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’ ”
Exo 4:10  Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
Exo 4:13  But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.”

Poster child for feeling inadequate. Not the guy you’d want to entrust with the next major event in redemption history. Yet he as God’s pick. He was God’s co-laborer.

Exactly how God fills you with skill is His business. With Moses, part of it was in his personal history.
Bible teachers like to point out that his 40 years in Egypt, followed by 40 years herding sheep in the wilderness, suited him perfectly for leading God’s flock out of Egypt and into the wilderness.

Jeremiah had no such preparation. God simply empowered him with Holy Spirit boldness.

The apostle Paul seemed the most likely, the most qualified, individual to send to the Jews. He said of himself, “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6).

Instead he was the apostle to the Gentiles – who would care about none of those things.

Think of all the young men that God used – who because of their age we would automatically pass-over:

We’ve already mentioned Jeremiah.

David was but a youth when he faced Goliath.

Daniel and his three friends were mid-teen aged when God began using them.

Joseph was young when he had to avoid the temptations of Potiphar’s wife.

God doesn’t just think outside the box. He sees inside the heart. If He has tapped you for work you feel inadequate for, trust Him.

If you feel adequate – better get over it.

Exo 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.
Exo 39:33  And they brought the tabernacle to Moses, the tent and all its furnishings: its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets;
Exo 39:34  the covering of ram skins dyed red, the covering of badger skins, and the veil of the covering;
Exo 39:35  the ark of the Testimony with its poles, and the mercy seat;
Exo 39:36  the table, all its utensils, and the showbread;
Exo 39:37  the pure gold lampstand with its lamps (the lamps set in order), all its utensils, and the oil for light;
Exo 39:38  the gold altar, the anointing oil, and the sweet incense; the screen for the tabernacle door;
Exo 39:39  the bronze altar, its grate of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils; the laver with its base;
Exo 39:40  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;
Exo 39:41  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.
Exo 39:42  According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work.

They’d come a long way in a short time. From unremarkable slaves in Egypt to a nation ruled by God unique on the face of the earth. Transformation is a word that comes to mind. They were transformed, and being transformed, by the grace of God.

Exo 39:43  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.

Final inspections are always a tense time. They passed with flying colors, and earned a blessing for it.

God leaves the light on. His current dwelling place on earth is the church, and we are described in the book of the Revelation as His lampstand in the world.

The Shining (Exodus 34:1-35)

America’s favorite dad, Homer Simpson, is the safety officer for the Springfield nuclear plant owned by Mr. Burns. It affords the writers lots of comic material. In one episode, Homer is standing behind an X-ray machine, and his insides are glowing green. The doctor tells Marge, “What you are seeing here is the radioactive dye flowing through your husbands circulatory system.” Then the nurse comes into screen with a large needle and says, “But doctor, I haven’t injected the dye yet.”

You may not glow green, but certain medical procedures will make you radioactive. My oldest brother is being treated for prostate cancer by having radioactive “seeds” placed directly in the prostate.
He told me that the doctor gave him a card to show at airports and other venues because he will emit enough radiation from the treatment to set-off alarms.

A lot of people are radioactive enough to trigger alarms for “dirty bombs.” One source said,

Nearly 60,000 people a day in the United States undergo treatment or tests that leave tiny amounts of radioactive material in their bodies, according to the Society of Nuclear Medicine. It is not enough to hurt them or anyone else, but it is enough to trigger radiation alarms for up to three months.

Not enough to hurt anyone else? That’s not always true. According to a study of patients treated with things radioactive,

About 7% of outpatients said they had gone directly to a hotel after their treatment, most of them with their doctors’ knowledge. Hotel stays are a particular concern, since the patient can expose other guests and service workers. In 2007, an Illinois hotel was contaminated after linens from a patient’s room were washed together with other bedding. The incident would probably have gone unreported but for nuclear plant workers who later stayed in the same hotel and set off radiation alarms when they reported to work.

Our story in Exodus took place before radiation alarms, but Moses does glow, and his ‘shining’ is at first quite alarming to the Israelites:

Exo 34:29  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.
Exo 34:30  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.

Centuries later, the apostle Paul would refer to this ‘shining’ to illustrate the superior blessings we enjoy in the church compared to Israel under the Old Covenant:

2Co 3:7  But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away,
2Co 3:8  how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?

I’ll organize my comments about this around two points: #1 Under The Old Covenant You Experienced An Afterglow Of God’s Glory, and #2 Under The New Covenant, You Experience The Always-Glow Of God’s Glory.

#1 – Under The Old Covenant You Experienced An Afterglow Of God’s Glory (v1-28)

For $99 you can get a Radioactive Glow-in-the-Dark figure of Homer Simpson on Hurry – only three left in stock.

I couldn’t find a Moses figure – but there is a Jesus figure with glow-in-the-dark hands. It comes with five loaves and two fishes so you can replicate the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.

Growing up sort of Catholic, I had a crucifix in my bedroom, with a glow-in-the-dark Jesus. It bothered me that Jesus’ glow so quickly faded once the lights were off. I mean, shouldn’t He glow all the time?

Let’s see Moses get his glow on.

Exo 34:1  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.
Exo 34:2  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.
Exo 34:3  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.”

The original tablets of the Ten Commandments had been thrown-down and broken by Moses as he returned to the camp of Israel and found them worshipping a Golden Calf in a drunken orgy. After Moses interceded for them, and the Israelites repented, God determined to renew His covenant with them.

In Lamentations we read,

Lam 3:22  Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.
Lam 3:23  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

Jeremiah wrote those words, and evidently he thought that we deserved to be “consumed… every morning.” But God is merciful, compassionate, and faithful. It isn’t low self-esteem to agree; it’s high God-esteem.

Exo 34:4  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.

No mention of Joshua accompanying Moses part way; not this time. The entire area was declared Off Limits to man and beast. That’s because this trip, God was going to reveal His glory to Moses.

Exo 34:5  Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

The “cloud” was the way God had been manifesting Himself to Israel – a pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night. In the last chapter, Moses had requested to see God’s glory – to see something more than just the cloud. God would accommodate Moses as much as He could during this visit.

Exo 34:6  And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,
Exo 34:7  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.”

Last chapter God explained to Moses that he could not see His full glory and live. God said He would put Moses in the cleft of a rock, and cover his eyes as He passed by. Moses could get a glimpse of God’s “back,” and we said that the word for “back” means afterward or afterglow.

God is “merciful,” not giving us what we deserve. He is “gracious,” giving us what we don’t deserve. His “longsuffering” is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to eternal life.

“Abounding in goodness and truth” reminds me of His promise that all things will work together for the good.

“Keeping mercy for thousands” means for thousands of generations. God makes Himself available to all, and at all times.

“Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty,” should be read as one thought. “Clearing the guilty” can be translated, “and no person is innocent by or of himself before” God. In other words, God takes the initiative to save, and He does it through grace, “forgiving” sinners on the basis of His own atoning sacrifice.

Don’t let “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” throw you. We read this before in Exodus, and when we did it ended, “of those who hate Him” (20:5). If you hate Him, i.e., disobey Him, this will affect the generations that follow.

Exo 34:8  So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.
Exo 34:9  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.”
Exo 34:10  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.

The folks over at the MCU – the Marvel Cinematic Universe – claim that Captain Marvel is going to be by far their most ‘super’ super-hero. God is the original doer of “marvels,” and He did and does them for Israel.

I submit that the entire history of the Jewish people is an on-going marvel of history that nothing but the miraculous intervention of God can account for.

Exo 34:11  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.
Exo 34:12  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.
Exo 34:13  But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images
Exo 34:14  (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),
Exo 34:15  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,
Exo 34:16  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.

With the pagan religious objects removed, there would be less temptation to “worship any other god.” Making a treaty with idolaters would lead to involvement in their sacrificial communal meals. It would encourage intermarrying with their daughters – many of whom were spiritual and/or physical prostitutes to their gods.

Exo 34:17  “You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.

I’ve been pointing out in our studies that there were genuine demonic entities at work. The “molded” idols represented real principalities, powers and authorities – the rulers of the darkness of this world.

God next gave Moses Israel’s annual calendar.

Exo 34:18  “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.
Exo 34:19  “All that open the womb are Mine, and every male firstborn among your livestock, whether ox or sheep.
Exo 34:20  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.
Exo 34:21  “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.
Exo 34:22  “And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end.
Exo 34:23  “Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel.
Exo 34:24  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.
Exo 34:25  “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.
Exo 34:26  “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.”

If you’re new to our studies in Exodus, you’re going to feel a little disappointed by our lack of commentary today on these verses. We’ve already discussed these feasts; and especially the Sabbath and why we as Gentiles are not, and never were, obligated to keep it.

I will pause to comment on the young goat in its mother’s milk – but only to say that NO ONE knows why God required this. Every answer is pure speculation. Keep in mind that some requirements were to give Israelite an opportunity to appear separate, and to be able to share with others the ways of the Lord.

Exo 34:27  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.”
Exo 34:28  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.

Don’t we read elsewhere it was God’s finger that wrote the Ten Commandments? Is this a contradiction?

No. God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments. The words that God instructed Moses to write were “these words,” which He spoke in the preceding verses. Remember, God gave Moses lots of information, e.g., the plans for the Tabernacle and its service. The rewriting of the Ten Commandments on the newly prepared slabs was done by God’s own hand.

A forty-day fast is possible – but not “without water.” This was miraculous, for Moses to say, “man does not live by bread and water alone.”

Exo 34:29  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.

It was the first recorded afterglow. “Afterglow” is the name commonly given to a time after the regular church service ends, when believers stick-around to get ‘deeper’ into worship. In Charismatic and Pentecostal churches, it is a time when the exercise of certain gifts of the Spirit is encouraged.

We’ve done that; but right now we’re doing something more like a mid-glow, as we encourage prayer and prophecy mid-service on Wednesday night.

Get that out of your mind for now, because Moses’ afterglow was nothing like that. What we mean to emphasize here is that the giving of the Law, and what we know as the Old Covenant, was so glorious that it left him glowing.

Yes, we will see in a moment that our New Covenant, in the church age, is superior in every way. But if you were back in the day, you’d be blessed beyond measure to participate in the Tabernacle, the Feasts, and the Sabbath.

Israel was a privileged people indeed. The apostle Paul said of Israel,

Rom 9:4  … to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
Rom 9:5  of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

We so often think of them only as failing, and falling short, that forget their blessings.

You know who else falls short, and fails? Read almost any New Testament letter and you’ll see it is correcting some error. The letters Jesus dictated to the seven churches in the Revelation are largely corrective.

Let’s therefore make a couple of observations from our verses:

First, we said that Israel was to completely avoid the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites, and to not intermarry with them. In their own way, they were to be in the world, but not of the world. So are we. We are to be in the world to affect it for Jesus. Are we instead being affected by it – detrimentally? Each of us must answer that for ourselves. But we first have to ask it of ourselves.

If you intend to ask it of yourself, this quote from A.W. Tozer might help:

The Christian is called to separation from the world, but we must be sure we know what we mean (or more important, what God means) by the world. We are likely to make it mean something external only and thus miss its real meaning. The theater, cards, liquor, gambling: these are not the world; they are merely an external manifestation of the world. Our warfare is not against mere worldly ways, but against the spirit of the world.

Second, even though it is Old Covenant, it’s hard to improve on God’s proclamation of His characteristics: “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 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.”

Is that how you experience God? Is there one or more of those that you cannot reconcile to your circumstances? Then seek Him.

#2 – Under The New Covenant You Experience The Always-Glow Of God’s Glory (v29-35)

I made-up a word: “Always-glow.” Moses’ face faded over time – like my Jesus crucifix. But Paul says we grow in glow as we walk with the Lord.

Exo 34:29  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.

This was a very different descent than the first one. The tablets were intact; the Israelites had waited patiently; and all would be rewarded by a reminder of the glory of God.

Exo 34:30  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.

The verb for “shone” is related to the noun for “horn.” The Latin Vulgate translation of Exodus confused these two, which thus led to the representation in European medieval art of Moses having two horns.

We sometimes joke about people glowing who have been exposed to radiation. But if you ever saw a person actually glowing – I think it would freak you out.

Exo 34:31  Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them.

Seeing Moses glowing, they skedaddled out of there. It was only when Moses called out to them that they started to realize this was a God-thing.

Exo 34:32  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.

Moses gave them a debriefing, bringing them up to speed on the plans to build the Tabernacle and such.

Exo 34:33  And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.
Exo 34:34  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.
Exo 34:35  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.

Whenever Moses spoke with God, he took the veil off and kept it off until he had finished telling the people what God had said. When Moses finished speaking to the Israelites, he put a veil over his face.

This odd procedure was an illustration whose meaning would not be revealed until centuries later. As I indicated at the beginning of our study, the apostle Paul wrote,

2Co 3:13  … Moses… put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away.
2Co 3:14  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.
2Co 3:15  But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.
2Co 3:16  Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

The veil told the Israelites that, glorious as it was, the covenant God made with them would fade, giving way to the New Covenant.

As glorious as the Old Covenant was for Israel, it was only temporary. It would give way to the New Covenant when Jesus came to give His life as the final sacrificial Lamb.

We’ve seen in previous studies how the Tabernacle, and its furnishings, and its sacrifices, all prefigure Jesus. It was temporary; He is permanent. It was a shadow; He is the Substance.

Instead of God’s Laws being written merely on stones, they would be written on the hearts of believers who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Paul then makes this remarkable statement:

2Co 3:18  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.

As a believer who is in Christ looks into the mirror of God’s word, he or she sees “the glory of the Lord” Jesus as it is revealed there. The indwelling “Spirit of the Lord” utilizes the Word to transform us day-by-day to be more like Jesus. Instead of a fading glory, ours is a growing in glory.

I had a ‘face’ experience one time. It was soon after I had gotten saved. I was exiting a building – St. Bernardine’s Hospital in San Bernardino, I think – when an acquaintance, Rick Lazar, was entering.
We stopped, shared a few pleasantries, then Rick said I looked different – happier somehow. I was able to share the Lord with him.

That glory has faded, apparently, because now people tell me I always look angry. But it showed me it’s still possible to glow for God.

Theologically speaking, we are no longer people who experience the fading afterglow. We experience the always-glow as He Who began His good work in us has promised to complete it.

We experience it by “beholding” Jesus in the “mirror.” We become like the image we see in the mirror. Thus it is essential we see Jesus as He truly is – “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 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.”

Let’s keep glowing.

I’ll See Back (Exodus 33:1-23)

Who would be your pick for the greatest romance in history – real or fictional?

I did a Google search for the greatest romance in history. Most of the lists had the usuals: Romeo & Juliet; Antony & Cleopatra; Napoleon & Josephine; Lancelot & Guinevere; Paris & Helen of Troy.

I think some of the best recent romances come from Pixar. Carl & Ellie, from Up, ought to be on that list; along with Wall-E & Eva, and Mike Wazowski & Celia. (Honorarable mentions to Woody & Bo Peep, and Lightning McQueen & Sally).

What about Solomon & the Shulamite? Or Boaz & Ruth? Or Isaac & Rebekah?

None of the lists had these, or any other, biblical romances.

We rarely think of romance when we read the Bible – even though there are many amazing romances.

Jacob & Rachel. Jacob was sent by his father Isaac to find a wife from a relative‘s family. He met Rachel at the well and it was love at first sight. As recorded in Genesis 29:10-11, “When Jacob saw Rachel, daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.”

Laban, agreed to their marriage if Jacob would work for him as a shepherd for seven years. Jacob agreed, and the seven years “seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (29:20).

At the end of the seven years, Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah. To marry Rachel, Jacob would have to work an additional seven years – which he did gladly.

It’s more than the fact there are great love stories like that in the Bible. The Bible IS a great love story. That’s why “for God so loved the world…” is the most well-known of any verse in the Bible.

God is incredibly romantic:

In the Old Testament God the Father speaks of the nation of Israel as His wife, and of Himself as her loving and faithful Husband (Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 2:19).

In the New Testament the Church is called the bride of Jesus Christ (Second Corinthians 11:2), and we are told that husbands ought to love their wives “as Christ loves the church.”

Commentators, largely male, are not so romantic. They overlook the romantic elements on the pages of the Bible. It’s up to each of us, therefore, to be looking for romance as we read God’s Word.

We need to put on our romance-glasses to see what is going on in Exodus thirty-two. If I can say this respectfully, God is jilted, then God acts hard-to-get, while Moses examples for us a passionate love for God that pursues His presence.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Are You Passionate About Pursuing God?, and #2 Are You Proving The Presence Of God?

#1 – Are You Passionate About Pursuing God? (v1-17)

The drama in this section is that God tells Moses He has decided to not accompany the Israelites to, or into, the Promised Land. He will instead send a mighty angel who will drive out their enemies.

The incident with the Golden Calf made the difference. The Israelites worshipped it instead of Him – which is often described in the Bible as spiritual adultery.

God wanted to accompany them. His desire was to dwell among them. He had previously said,

Exo 25:8  And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.

Exo 29:45  I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God.
Exo 29:46  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.

God desired to “dwell” with them. For their part, the Israelites had quickly turned away from God to worship a Golden Calf as their god.

I don’t think it’s going too far to say that God was jilted by Israel. He was literally ‘left at the altar,’ when the first sacrificed to Him, but then partied with the idol. So God said He’d withdraw from them.

Yet in verse fourteen of chapter thirty-three the Lord will relent, saying, “”My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

What happened in-between to cause Him to relent? Moses pursued Him, and wouldn’t take His absence for an answer.

Exo 33:1  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.’
Exo 33:2  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.

If you’re reading Exodus as a history book, this isn’t really much of a big deal. God was going to withdraw, but He would send a powerful representative, and the result would be the same: Conquest of the Promised Land.

But you’re not reading Exodus as a history book; not primarily. It is part of the story of the redemption of the human race. Some have accurately called the Bible the Romance of Redemption.

From a romantic standpoint, God’s refusal to accompany them, and to dwell among them, was devastating. It was paramount to a legal separation.

Another way of approaching this is to see that God was offering the gift, but they’d no longer enjoy Him as the Giver. One commentator wrote:

This was a challenge to Moses and the nation as a whole. God told them they could have the Promised Land, but He would not remain with them in a close, personal way. If they were satisfied with that arrangement, it would prove they only loved God’s blessings and not God Himself. If they challenged God – pleading with Him for His presence, not only His blessings – it would show a genuine heart for God Himself.

Exo 33:3  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.”

A “land flowing with milk and honey” is a way of announcing the fertility of the Promised Land.

I learned something interesting about “honey.” According to a Jewish author, “Honey here (and elsewhere in the Scriptures) is generally understood to be a reference to fruit nectar, specifically date honey – not bees’ honey.”

If you consider what had recently transpired, maybe this was a good idea. Israel had quickly sinned, bringing upon themselves the sword and a plague. This new arrangement would insure that they were less likely to be consumed, but would arrive at their destination and claim their destiny.

It’s only a good idea if you’re settling for the things of the world; if you are a person dominated by your own fleshly appetites. If you love God – this was simply awful.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,

“To be given every other blessing is of no value if God is not with you. What is the value of Canaan? What is the value of milk and honey? What is the value of having possessions, if God was not with them? They saw that the realization of the presence of God, having this fellowship and company, was infinitely more important than everything else.”

Exo 33:4  And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments.
Exo 33:5  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.’ ”
Exo 33:6  So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb.

Even if He didn’t accompany them, God might still “come up into [their] midst in one moment and consume” them. They were thus instructed to take off all ornamentation as a sign of genuine repentance.

Matthew Henry writes of this, saying,

“God bade them lay aside their ornaments, and they did so, both to show, in general, their deep mourning, and, in particular, to take a holy revenge upon themselves for giving their ear-rings to make the Golden Calf. Those that would part with their ornaments for the maintenance of their sin could do no less than lay aside their ornaments in token of their sorrow and shame for it.”

It all seemed so desperate, so final. God was leaving them. But Moses wouldn’t let Him – not without pursuing Him.

Exo 33:7  Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting…

Moses had been on Mount Sinai receiving plans for the Tabernacle within which God would dwell among His people. It had not been built. This is Moses’ own tent. He has no instruction or command to do this; it is his own spontaneous response to this devastating news.

Whenever I pass new construction, I’m curious as to what is being built. I love it when they put up a sign, telling you it’s the future home of a new Burger King (or some such place).

Moses goes “outside the camp,” far from where Israel had sinned. Everyone – including God – must have been wondering what he was doing. Then the sign went up – “Tabernacle of Meeting.”

Moses put up his own Tabernacle of Meeting, letting God and everyone else know he planned to wait there until God met with him.

He was pursuing God – spontaneously, romantically.

Exo 33:7  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.

Mind you – there had been no invitation to meet with God. But all those “who sought the Lord,” meaning those who desired His presence – the Giver, not just His gifts – pursued Him.

Exo 33:8  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.

We’re not privy to how many days Moses “went out to the Tabernacle,” only to return to the camp without having met with God. But each time he did, those who sought the Lord “stood” at their own tent doors in solidarity with him.

Exo 33:9  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.

One day it happened! God manifested Himself to Moses. He “talked with Moses.”
This would not have occurred if Moses had simply taken God at His Word that He was withdrawing. He seemed to intuit that there was more going on in the heart of God. He seemed to understand a jilted God wanted to be pursued.

Exo 33:10  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.

They broke into spontaneous worship. We’ve calculated before that there were several million Israelites encamped. This must have been some praise time. I like to think that someone started a spiritual song, and that the rest joined in – all with the correct harmonies. Maybe they sung the Song of Moses, or the Song of Miriam, from earlier in the Exodus.

Whatever it was like – it was an incredible offering rising like incense to God.

Exo 33:11  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.

“Face to face” doesn’t mean God appeared in a body. We just saw that He manifested Himself as “the pillar of cloud.” Face to face means something like “in His presence.” It means God was genuinely present – but in a form that was non-fatal to humans.

Once again, Joshua gets suddenly dropped into the story. We saw last time that he was half-way up Mount Sinai, waiting for Moses to return. Now we see him taking up residence in this makeshift Tabernacle of Meeting.
We’re not told why Joshua remained, so we shouldn’t speculate. I will say that he is who I’d want to be in this story.

Do you ever do that – ask yourself who you’d want to be in the passage of the Bible you’re reading? It’s a good spiritual exercise.

Exo 33:12  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.’

This is getting interesting. Notwithstanding Israel’s sin, Moses reminds God of their personal intimacy. God had said some amazing things to Moses – that He “knew [him] by name,” and that Moses had “found grace in [God’s] sight.”

Moses acted slighted! Without consulting him, God had decided to send an angel instead of going Himself, and Moses didn’t know if it was Michael or Gabriel, or some other such dignitary. The man God knew by name, and who found grace in His sight, had been kept in the dark about a major decision.

Exo 33:13  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.”

Moses makes a plea. Since he had found grace in God’s sight, he demanded God personally show him the “way,” not some subordinate.

Moses’ motives were not material; he didn’t simply want to get safely to the Promised Land and receive his and Israel’s inheritance. He wanted to “find grace in [God’s] sight.”

Wait – hadn’t he already “found grace?” He had – but he understood this to be a growing in grace. It’s an Old Testament way of expressing that God begins a good work in your heart and then brings it to completion.

Moses wanted God – not His gifts.

Then he adds, “consider that this nation is Your people.” In other words, it was God Who had separated them from the Gentiles, and Who had led them out from slavery. Should He not complete what He had begun in them as well?

Exo 33:14  And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

God never changes His mind, but He can, and does, relent in order to act according to His nature.

I’m strongly suggesting that it was Moses’ pursuit of God that led to God relenting. If Moses had done nothing to pursue God, the history of Israel would have been very different.

Exo 33:15  Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.
Exo 33:16  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.”

Moses understood that everything is about God restoring the relationship with mankind that was lost in the Garden of Eden. It wasn’t about land, not directly. It was about love. “God so loved the world” of lost humans that right in the Garden He promised to send His Son to resolve the issue of sin in order that God and mankind might once again dwell together.

That’s where the bigger story ends, does it not? In eternity, with us face-to-face with God – in perfect eternal bodies that cannot sin?

Exo 33:17  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.”

“I’ll go with you, go with them,” says the Lord. He would continue to dwell among them. They would continue to fall short, to fail, to snatch defeat from the hands of victory. But, for now, those who “sought the Lord,” those who pursued Him, could enjoy a spiritual rest in Him.

There is a passage of Scripture, addressed to us, in which Jesus indicates that for our lapses of love for Him, He may withdraw from us. It is His letter to the church in Ephesus, in the Book of the Revelation. He tells us it is possible for us to leave our first love for Him. It’s so serious that Jesus says if we continue in that state, He will remove our “lampstand” from its place.

He wasn’t saying anything about individual salvation, because He was addressing the church corporately. The churches on the earth are lampstands; they are the only spiritual light in the darkness of a realm whose ruler is “the god of this world,” Satan.

He was warning that the church at Ephesus would cease to have a testimony about the Lord.

A couple of strung-together quotes by A.W. Tozer might better bring out what I’m saying:

“We have been snared in the coils of spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him… To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.”

The apostle Paul pursued God:

Php 3:12  Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Php 3:13  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
Php 3:14  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

What’s the take-away? It’s to realize that a big part of your relationship with God is a romance, and to therefore ask yourself, “Am I passionate about pursuing God?”

You might start by listing what it is you are passionate about, and see where Jesus is on that list.

#2 – Are You Proving The Presence Of God? (v18-23)

In Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, Rocket gives Yandu a space suit and a jet pack – one of each. Yandu uses the suit to save Quill as they launch into the fatal environment of space. With no suit, Yandu dies of exposure.

Certain environments require specialized clothing. Heaven is one such place; it requires a glorified human body.

The presence of God is such a place, also; that is, the immediate, full presence of God in all His glory. Without some protection, a person would be consumed.

God had appeared to Moses in a bush that was burning. He appeared as a pillar of fire by day, and of cloud by night. These manifestations left Moses wanting more.

Exo 33:18  And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

Moses knew that man was created in the image of God. He knew that Adam and Eve met with God in the Garden of Eden. He wanted to see God the way they did – not just as a bush or a pillar.

Exo 33:19  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.”

God was going to manifest Himself in a physical way, for sure. But the greater revelation was in the things He would proclaim.

Seeing God’s glory involved God making a proclamation of His “name,” meaning His character. The particular proclamation was about Him being gracious and compassionate.

This is insightful for at least two reasons:

First, His proclamations themselves reveal His glory. We could put it this way: God’s Word, the Bible, reveals His glory. We don’t need the Lord to manifest Himself in some appearance. We don’t need miracles – although we believe He can, and does, still perform them. We only need to proclaim His Word – through lives lived for Him, and by sharing the Word itself, in all its counsel.

Second, He desires to show His glory – to show Himself – to all Adam’s descendants. When God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion,” there is no hint of Him limiting those traits to a few chosen people. Quite the opposite. He is able to look upon the world of men and, even though all are born in trespasses and sin, spiritually dead, condemned, He has chosen to offer salvation by grace – as a free gift to “whosoever” – seeing He is actively compassionate.

Exo 33:20  But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”

There are many times in the Old Testament that God appears in human form. We call these either Theophanies, or Christophanies. They are pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus – not of God the Father.

In our current state, we cannot be in the full presence of God. His holiness would incinerate us in our current human bodies. We need, and will receive, resurrection bodies which will be fit for eternity.

If Moses was to “see” God, he would need protection.

Exo 33:21  And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock.
Exo 33:22  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.
Exo 33:23  Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

What did Moses see? It’s complicated. Just when you think he saw some-sort of human-like figure, a scholar points out that the word for “back” is never used for anatomy.

Some scholars solve this by saying it was a Theophany – that it was Jesus before He was the God-man. If that’s true, how did Jesus “cover [Moses] with [His] hand” as He walked by?

In the end, we can’t know for sure exactly how God manifested Himself.

The word for “back” can be translated after, or afterwards. If we assume this appearance included brightness, then we could translate the word as after-effects or afterglow.

I want to reduce this to a devotional insight. I asked the question, “Are you proving the presence of God?” One of the definitions of the word “prove” is to give demonstration of by action.

God sets Moses on a rock that is near to Him, tells him to stand there, and proclaims His glory, leaving Moses in an afterglow.

Your “rock” is Jesus Christ. Your told to take your “stand” upon Him, e.g., in Ephesians 6:13 & 14.
Whatever your circumstances – whether they be blessings or buffetings – you have the proclamation of His glory in His Word to keep you.

You can ‘prove’ the presence of God to those looking on by trusting in His proclamations, thereby revealing Him.

As marvelous as this experience was for Moses, it still cannot compare to the revelation of God given to us in Jesus Christ:

Joh 1:14  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.

Joh 1:18  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Pursue God… Prove His Presence. We are part of the greatest romance in history – and it’s fact, not fiction.

Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend Moses? (Exodus 32:1-35)

It’s the universal complaint of all haters of Disneyland: They don’t like the long waits.

How long are the waits? Believe it or not, Disneyland has unashamedly posted the ten longest wait times of the last decade:

#10 The Matterhorn Bobsleds – 150 minutes June 19, 2017. Don’t be surprised; it’s an iconic ride – dating to 1959, just four years after Disneyland opened. I have, in my office, a piece of the Matterhorn – from its most recent renovation.

#9 Stars Tours – 150 minutes December 11, 2015.

#8 Indiana Jones Adventure – 175 minutes December 29, 2016.

Numbers 7 & 6 both occurred on May 20th of 2017. It was the hottest day in May in Anaheim. It was only 95⁰︎, but that’s considered unbearable by the thin-skinned residents of Southern California. Can you guess which rides posted wait times of 180 minutes? Both Splash Mountain and the Grizzly River Run.

#5 Space Mountain – 190 minutes January 3, 2017.

#4 Goofy’s Sky School – 200 minutes October 13, 2015.
All I can say is, everything else must have been closed. It’s fun – but not 200 minutes-in-line fun.

#3 Soarin’ Around the World – 210 minutes May 21, 2017.

#2 Radiator Springs Racers – 240 minutes January 28, 2017.

The #1 longest wait time of the last decade: Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout – 300 minutes (5 hours) May 29, 2017.

For the record – We don’t wait in lines that are much longer than 30 minutes. We FastPass, or just hit it later; you can track live wait times right from your phone.

Newer rides – hey, it may take you several visits before you can find a manageable line. I think it was fully three years after its opening that we first went on Finding Nemo.

You can’t simply show-up on a packed weekend during their peak summer season and think you’re gonna walk-on rides. You need to have a strategy to manage waiting – otherwise of course you’re going to get frustrated and simply quit going to the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

I’m talking about waiting strategies because, in our text, the children of Israel grew impatient waiting for Moses to return from Mount Sinai:

Exo 32:1  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.”

These are people who definitely would not do well at Disneyland.

We are called upon to wait:

If you are in Christ, you are waiting for His imminent return to resurrect the dead in Christ, and to rapture living believers.

While you are waiting for Him to come for you, you’re probably waiting for some answers to prayer. You might be waiting through an acute or chronic suffering.

The impatience of the Israelites can teach us a lot about waiting patiently. We want the “Lord [to] direct [our] hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ” (Second Thessalonians 3:5).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Waiting Provokes You To Be Readier, and #2 Waiting Presents God As Being A Relenter.

#1 – Waiting Provokes You To Be Readier (v1-6)

The first Christians were excited about waiting. You might say that they couldn’t wait to wait.

The apostle Paul wrote, “… knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed” (Romans 13:11). If you don’t see Paul’s excitement in that, you’re reading it wrong.

The apostle Peter confronted scoffers head-on – those who mocked the promise of Jesus’ imminent return. Then Peter said,

2Pe 3:11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
2Pe 3:12  looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
2Pe 3:13  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2Pe 3:14  Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;

Peter was waiting, looking forward, with extreme joy. These guys were world-class wait-ers. Waiting encouraged them to personal holiness, and to tireless ministry. Each new day was lived as if it would be THE day that Jesus would come. In that light, they stayed ready by serving the Lord with all their heart, mind, and strength.

The Israelites example for us the very opposite perspective.

Exo 32:1  Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain…

Let’s reduce this to simpler terms so we can see ourselves being described:

Moses was Israel’s deliverer and mediator.

He had gone up Mount Sinai to be with God.

In his absence, the Israelites were to wait in holiness with the expectation Moses would return, to lead them to their inheritance in the Promised Land.

Sounds just like us:

Jesus is our Deliverer and Mediator.

He has ascended into Heaven, where He is seated at the right hand of the Father.

In His absence, the church on earth is to wait in holiness with the expectation Jesus will return, to take us to the place He is preparing for us in Heaven.

We can wait like Paul and Peter; or we can wait like the Israelites.

Exo 32:1  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.”

It had been close to forty days. Even if you concede that forty days is a long time (it isn’t), their reaction to waiting was extreme.

Impatience caused the Israelites to seek other ‘gods.’ As we’ve pointed out before, these gods were demonic entities – principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world. They were represented by idols of wood and stone, but they were real.

In Egypt, you’ll recall, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to perform mighty works that were, for a time, equal to those of Moses. The source was demonic.

The religions of the world – they are all “the doctrines of demons.” In a very real sense, their devotees worship demons as they are being deceived to a Christ-less eternity.

Exo 32:2  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.”

Some commentators suggest that he asked for their personal adornments thinking they were too vain to give them up. If so, Aaron was wrong.

(In passing I note without comment that their “sons” wore golden earrings. Do with that what you will).

Exo 32:3  So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.
Exo 32:4  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!”

Commentators suggest this was gold overlay on a wood carving. No telling how large or how small this was.

Exo 32:5  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.”

Demons don’t mind if you worship God – so long as you add to your worship things that are false and fleshly. We need to constantly guard against bringing the world into the church.

Exo 32:6  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.

“Rose up to play” means they had a drunken orgy. They went through the motions of genuine worship in the Spirit, then turned immediately to the satisfying of their flesh. Today we call this hypocrisy. We might describe someone as a Sunday Christian.

Maybe you’ve waited 40 days for God to act; or maybe you’ve waited 40 months, or 40 years. What seems a long time really isn’t. We’re promised in the Bible that “our light affliction is but for a moment” (Second Corinthians 4:17).

How can decades, or a lifetime, of suffering be considered a “moment?” It’s so hard to accept that with the Lord a thousand years is like one day, and one day is like a thousand years.

How was it men like Paul and Peter couldn’t wait to wait? What gave them courage and perseverance? One thing we can note about their waiting – they looked beyond this life to eternal life. Paul, for example, freely admitted he had a “desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

In that same passage he would exclaim, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain“ (v21). It was no death wish. Heaven is our home, so we ought to be homesick.

Peter said, “we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells“ (Second Peter 3:13).

In the Book of Hebrews we read of the saints, especially those who suffered much on the earth, that “they desire[d] a better, that is, a heavenly country” (11:16).

Of Abraham it is said, “he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God“ (11:12).

People wait in line for 300 minutes because, for them, Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout, is worth it in the end. How very, very much more is Heaven worth the wait.

In the mean time, having a desire to depart and be with Jesus is just the motivation you need to adopt the spiritual philosophy, “to live is Christ.”

#2 – Waiting Presents God As Being A Relenter (v7-35)

God never changes His mind, but He does relent. Rather than define the word, I can illustrate it.
The classic example of God relenting is the ancient city of Nineveh. God sent Jonah there to announce, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Hearing the message, “the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.” They reasoned thus:

Jon 3:9  Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

The result:

Jon 3:10  Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

In only two of the thirty-eight instances in the Old Testament is this word “relent” used of men repenting. God’s “relenting” is a description of God in human terms that aims at showing us that He can and does change in His actions and emotions towards men when given proper grounds for doing so, and thereby He does not change in His basic integrity or character.

Exo 32:7  And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.
Exo 32:8  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!’ ”
Exo 32:9  And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!
Exo 32:10  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.”

Apparently God could keep His unconditional promises to Abraham even if He killed-off Israel and started over, so to speak, with Moses. This tells us that God’s absolute sovereignty over His creation takes into account mankind’s free-will without violating either. Just because I cannot fully explain the relationship of sovereignty to free-will doesn’t mean one of them isn’t real.

Exo 32:11  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?
Exo 32:12  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.
Exo 32:13  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.’ ”

Regarding Nineveh, God relented despite Jonah’s objections. Regarding Israel, God relented on account of Moses’ intercession. God always relents when men repent. In the Bible, our intercession is also highlighted as a factor in men repenting. Not always; prayer isn’t a magic spell that violates someone else’s free will. But we pray nevertheless.

Exo 32:14  So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

This is an Old Testament way of saying that God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish. Eventually, those who continue in rebellion despite His longsuffering must be judged; they must perish eternally. But along the way, God works through His people to reach sinners.

Exo 32:15  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.
Exo 32:16  Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.

While Moses was receiving the Law, Israel was busy breaking it.

Exo 32:17  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.”
Exo 32:18  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.”

Whoa! We forgot about Joshua. He had accompanied Moses part way up the mountain. He camped there, for forty days, with neither human nor divine contact. It was like an episode of Alone.

Did he build a shelter? Did he hunt for food, or did he fast?

If any Israelite had cause to complain, it would have been him. Not that we need it, but Joshua proves that the Israelites could easily have waited.
What was Joshua’s secret? Joshua was Moses’ servant. If he was told to wait – he waited. We ought to rejoice in the simplicity of serving God by waiting in His will.

Exo 32:19  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.

No mystery as to the symbolism. The first edition Ten Commandments were broken – physically and spiritually.

Exo 32:20  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.

I’m not up on my internal medicine, but I’m guessing that drinking ground-up gold and burnt wood isn’t very healthy. It shows the harmfulness of sin. We say we’re not affected by it, but we are, and so are all those around us. Sin is like a poison.

Just think of how many substances that are poison when abused are destroying lives. So are the religions and the philosophies of this present evil world system. They promise paradise, but deliver poison.

Exo 32:21  And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”
Exo 32:22  So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil.
Exo 32:23  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.’
Exo 32:24  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.”

It’s sad that Aaron shifted the blame. Man-up and admit what you’ve done. Aaron’s excuse about the calf sounds stupid, but it is one that is repeated all the time. Often if a person is caught in sin, they will describe it as a natural progression, rather than a transgression. And they’ll suggest it just happened, and that they don’t know how.

Exo 32:25  Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies),
Exo 32:26  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.

“Among their enemies” means surrounding nations and tribes would be negatively affected by their poor testimony. Like it or not, your life is a testimony – one way or the other.

Some of the Israelites carried-on sinning after the symbolism of the broken tablets, and after being made to drink of their sin. Moses must deal with them.

Exo 32:27  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.’ ”

Those who kept on carrying on had broken the Law and deserved the death penalty. Brother, companion, neighbor – this was no small ask.

You know, you might be called upon to break fellowship with a family member, a friend, a neighbor, who won’t repent. It’s hard, but you can be thankful you don’t have to kill them.

Exo 32:28  So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.
Exo 32:29  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.”

From this day forward, the tribe of Levi was assigned a special place in the care of the Tabernacle. They were blessed by their obedience to be the ones to handle the things of the Lord.

Exo 32:30  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.”

God had offered to make Moses a new Abraham. That’s heady stuff. Not only did Moses refuse, he stood in the gap for these stiff-necked people.

Ministry always involves stiff-necked people at some point. It’s not a reason to quit for some easier situation.

Exo 32:31  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!
Exo 32:32  Yet now, if You will forgive their sin – but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”

This “book” could be the Book of Life later described in the Bible. Most likely it was the census that we read about in a previous chapter.

Moses identified with the sinners when he asked to be numbered among them. The meditation here is that he was acting Christ-like. We read of our Savior, “He was numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). That’s us.

Exo 32:33  And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

Does this mean they were lost for eternity? No. Those who had sinned could be forgiven; but they would, as a consequence, die a premature death. They would not be on the census roll when the Israelites entered the Promised Land.

This, in fact, came true when these same individuals refused to enter the Promised Land. All those above twenty years of age fell in the wilderness during a forty year wait.

Apparently not everyone was involved in the worship of the Golden Calf with its ensuing party. I can name one person who wasn’t involved: Caleb. From everything we read of him later on in the Bible, it’s pretty clear he remained faithful. I can only wonder if they had to maybe subdue him so he wouldn’t start killing sinners on his own.

Exo 32:34  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.”
Exo 32:35  So the LORD plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.

Seems that God sent a plague killing a token number in order to emphasize that all of them would fall short of the goal. It’s an encouragement to us to finish well. Too many of us are, in our Christian old-age, falling back into old habits, old sins, and making shipwreck of our walk and our ministries.

You sometimes hear criticism of the so-called “God of the Old Testament.” It’s unfounded. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is presented as a relenter – not desiring or taking any pleasure in the death of the wicked, but working constantly to save them.

I’ll close with a poem to encourage us as we wait:

So dear to my heart is the promise of God,
A home with the pure and blest;
Where earth weary pilgrims, strangers here below,
Will find their eternal rest.

I’m homesick for Heaven, seems I cannot wait,
Yearning to enter Zion’s pearly gate;
There, never a heartache, never a care,
I long for my home over there.

How The Rest Was Won (Exodus 31:1-18)

How much rest does your body really need?

Type that question into Google and you’ll descend into a rabbit hole of research and advice about how many hours you should sleep; or about how many days you should wait between workouts.

What about mental rest? Experts are now saying that “it’s important to schedule more downtime for your brain.”

What about spiritual rest? That depends on who you ask.

A sabbatarian is a person who sets aside one day a week as a day of rest in which they “do no work.” Some of them would tell you it is not only important for your spiritual health, but that you might not be going to Heaven if you don’t set aside the Sabbath.

Is setting aside 24hrs a week really our spiritual rest? No, it’s not:

First of all, people who try to “keep” the Sabbath have to work really hard at doing so. There are so many issues, so many restrictions, and they are always fretting and falling short.

But second, and most important of all, our spiritual rest is, well, spiritual. It can’t be a certain day of the week, because it is found in a Person – in Jesus.

Our work and our rest are the topic of Exodus 31. We’ll discover something that you might find surprising: We are to both work AND rest simultaneously, without ceasing.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Have The Power To Constantly Work For The Lord, and #2 You Have The Promise Of Constantly Resting In The Lord.

#1 – You Have The Power To Constantly Work For The Lord (v1-11)

About once a week, someone asks on FaceBook for a recommendation for a contractor to do a project in their home. There are always multiple suggestions on who to use. The most fun is reading about who not to use.

God was giving Moses the plans for the Tabernacle. All of it was going to require not just a lot of labor, but incredibly skilled craftsmanship.

I mean, if you’ve been here for any of the studies when we discussed the furniture in the Tabernacle, you understand that each piece was going to be a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

The garments of the high priest were like nothing the most accomplished seamstress had ever produced. And the rest of the fabric work, for the tent itself and the fence around it, was no easy task.

Think of all that, and then remember this: The Israelites were camped in the wilderness, far from the nearest Orchard Supply Hardware store.

But there was an even bigger issue. The Israelites had been career slaves in Egypt. The men were skilled at making bricks. They weren’t wood workers or metal workers or jewelers or tailors. The women weren’t expert seamstresses. There had been no Jewelry District, or Garment District, in Goshen, where Israelites could set-up shops.

How were they supposed to take a pile of donated jewelry, metal, wood, and fabric, and build this beautiful Tabernacle? Let’s see.

Exo 31:1  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Exo 31:2  “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.

It always starts with a man, or a woman. God “calls” a person to the task at hand. God chooses someone; He appoints them.

His call rarely makes sense to us. We could list character after character in the Bible who we definitely would not have called, but whom God chose and appointed.
If you think Bezalel was an incredibly gifted artisan, you’re missing the point. God doesn’t choose on the basis of skill; we do that – often to our detriment. He looks upon the heart, then builds out from there.

If you are in Christ; if you are saved; God calls you in all the situations in which you find yourself. Guys, if you’re married with children for example, you are called to be a husband and a father. Some of you may have been fortunate enough to have a good role model in your own dad; but most of you did not.

Either way, you find yourself called to something you are terribly unqualified and untrained to accomplish:

You’re called to “love your wife as Christ loves the church.” That doesn’t happen by establishing a weekly date night that usually gets cancelled.

You’re called to raise your kids in the Lord, without provoking them, in a world that is under the dominion of the god of this world, Satan, and his malevolent rulers of the darkness of this world. To say that your task is difficult is an understatement.

You have Christian callings at work, and everywhere else. Yet you’re nothing more than a former slave who spent most of your time making bricks building for the god of the kingdom of this world. You have none of the skills necessary for your Christian calling.

Regardless, you’re God’s choice to accomplish all these things. How are you going to do it?

Exo 31:3  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God…

They didn’t send Bezalel back to Egypt, to trade school, where he could become a master craftsman.

Neither was this a mere boost to his natural abilities. This was God supernaturally enabling him.

God’s call always includes His enabling. You absolutely can be the husband, the wife, the father, the mother, the employer or the employee, that God has called you to be. He wouldn’t leave you without the power to do what He’s commanded.

We don’t need to pause to get a theology of the filling of the Holy Spirit. That’s off-point here. What is on-point is to receive, by faith, that God’s calling comes with His enabling; that you can do all things through Christ Who strengthens you.

Exo 31:3  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
Exo 31:4  to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze,
Exo 31:5  in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.

Let’s revisit whether or not Bezalel was a master artisan prior to his being called. If he was, then he was a desert DiVinci – an artist, a metallurgist, a jeweler, a master carpenter; “all manner of workmanship” was his forte.

As I indicated earlier – Where would he have learned any of that, or practiced it, while a brick maker in Egypt?

But even more importantly, if Bezalel was that skilled… Who would get the glory for building the Tabernacle? God, or Bezalel?

Here’s another angle by which we arrive at the same conclusion. The Spirit God gave Bezalel is described as gifting him “wisdom,” and “understanding,” and “knowledge,” and “workmanship.”

The first three – wisdom, knowledge, and understanding – clearly are supernatural empowerings that Bezalel did not previously possess:

“Wisdom” could be something like what the New Testament calls the gift of the word of wisdom, which is an unprepared word from the Lord that clarifies or resolves some situation.

“Understanding” could be something like what the New Testament calls the discernment of spirits, which is the recognition of what is really happening in a situation.

Likewise, “knowledge” could be the word of knowledge – God telling you something you could not otherwise have known.

If all those are supernatural, why not “workmanship?” Do we not think God could so gift Bezalel – or that He could only enhance his already incredible talent?

So why don’t we see this today? In one way, we do see it today. But before I can explain what I mean, we need to read the next few verses.

Exo 31:6  “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:
Exo 31:7  the tabernacle of meeting, the ark of the Testimony and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furniture of the tabernacle –
Exo 31:8  the table and its utensils, the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, the altar of incense,
Exo 31:9  the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base –
Exo 31:10  the garments of ministry, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests,
Exo 31:11  and the anointing oil and sweet incense for the holy place. According to all that I have commanded you they shall do.”

Aholiab and others went to work under Bezalel, to build the Tabernacle on the earth. The mention of “wisdom,” and of their being “gifted,” tells me they, too, were filled with the Spirit.

We have the blessing of the full revelation of God’s Word. We know what is happening today, so that when we look back, we can see types and pictures.

Today Jesus is building His church on the earth. It’s not a building made with hands, like the Tabernacle. No, it’s described like this:

Eph 2:19. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
Eph 2:20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
Eph 2:21  in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
Eph 2:22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The Tabernacle was built on the earth to be the dwelling place of God. Today, the church on earth is the dwelling place of God.

Jesus is our Bezalel; we are His Aholiabs. And it’s all the supernatural work of God’s Spirit enabling us to work for Him.

This is why, in our case, we can say that we have the power to constantly work for the Lord.

To paraphrase Dori, “Just keep working… Just keep working… Just keep working… Working, working.”

Constantly working for Jesus puts you in good company:

Once when accused of working on the Sabbath, Jesus explained, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17).

The apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians, “For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God” (First Thessalonians 2:9).

In Colossians 1:29, he said, “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.”

Labor, striving, night and day, in the power of God’s Spirit – that is the emphasis of the New Testament, illustrated for us here in the Old Testament.

I don’t know what that means for you. I’m not 100% on what it means for me. You will have to determine for yourself what it means for you to constantly work for the Lord.

Just know you’ll be in good company; and that you have every resource in heavenly places to accomplish your calling.

One of those resources is rest.

#2 – You Have The Promise Of Constantly Resting In The Lord (v12-18)

To all those who would burden us with the strict keeping of the Sabbath, I say, “Give it a rest!” (Get it??)

Before we read these verses, let me pick-out a crucial teaching we find in them:

Verse 13, “for [the Sabbath] is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations…”
Verse 16, “the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations…”
Verse 17, “It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever…”

Unless “Israel” is code for “God’s people anywhere at anytime,” then the Sabbath was never intended for the Gentiles before Israel; nor was it intended for the church. Israel is not the church; the church is not Israel. We are two separate groups in God’s prophetic plan.

Our first introduction to the seventh day is in Genesis 2:1-3, when God rested from His labors of creation. He rested, but it is never given as a sign or ordinance to any people except Israel under the Law of Moses:

In the Garden of Eden, we are not told that God required anything from Adam and Eve except to refrain from eating the Forbidden Fruit. They and their descendants were not told to observe the Sabbath after being banished.
In Genesis 9, God established a covenant with Noah after the Flood. The sign given of that covenant is the sign of the rainbow (Genesis 9:13-17). There is no mention of Sabbath-keeping there, either.

In our era, in the church age, we read in Colossians 2:16-17, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

The weekly Sabbath Israel observed has found its fulfillment in Jesus. It was typical, pointing to Him. The Sabbath is no longer a day of the week; it is a Person.

And that’s why we can say Jesus is our rest, and it is constant.

Let’s read our verses.

Exo 31:12  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
Exo 31:13  “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.

Notice that it is “Sabbaths,” plural. We tend to forget that there was a lot more to the Sabbath than the weekly observance:

Every seventh year was a Sabbath year. The Sabbath day was a rest every week, and this rest was applied to farmland once every seven years. The Israelites were to let the land rest – not planting or pruning their crops.

Every year after seven cycles of seven years (after every 49 years) was a special Sabbath year known as Jubilee. All prisoners and captives were set free, all slaves were released, all debts were forgiven, and all property was returned to its original owners. In addition, all labor was to cease for one year, and those bound by labor contracts were released from them.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think any Gentile sabbatarian congregation is observing these other Sabbaths. Some experts say 2017-2018 is Jubilee on the Jewish calendar. Are any local sabbatarians celebrating it?

Exo 31:14  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.
Exo 31:15  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.

It’s comical, really, to read the history of sabbatarians trying to pin down exactly what is meant by “work.” As I said earlier, it’s hard work to try to figure out what constitutes work.

Many Christian denominations argue that Sunday is the Christian’s Sabbath. Nope. Sundown Friday til sundown Saturday – that’s the Sabbath. We typically meet for worship on Sunday because we see the early church doing so in the Bible – not because it is the new Sabbath.

Here is something else I don’t think I’ve highlighted before: How is attending a worship service considered “rest?” It’s actually a lot of work. Nowhere in the Sabbath verses does it suggest it was a day for corporate worship.

Exo 31:16  Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.
Exo 31:17  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.’ ”

It’s for Israel, as a sign they are God’s chosen people. The fact that God mentions the seventh day of creation doesn’t grandfather in everyone else. In fact, if God intended for everyone in human history to observe the Sabbath, He wouldn’t have to talk this much about it in Exodus, because it would have already been a thing since the Garden of Eden. It’s clear that Israel was not sabbatarian until the Law was given.

He mentions the creation week as an example of how Israel should approach observing the Sabbath – as a time of resting and being refreshed.

Even though the Sabbath was physical, an Israelite could have seen more in it. He was not to work, but to rest:

Externally, that meant ceasing from his ordinary tasks in order to meet with God.
Internally, it involved ceasing from all self-sufficiency in order to rest in God’s grace.

How is our rest continuous? The New Testament Book of Hebrews has a long section on rest. One passage reads:

Heb 4:9  There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
Heb 4:10  For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
Heb 4:11  Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

These verses describe at least two types of rest:

Jesus is the “He who has entered His rest” (v10). He rested when, on the Cross, He declared, “It is finished!” Salvation was available. Now whosoever believes in Him is saved. There is no work involved – only grace and faith.

The writer is addressing the “people of God.” He’s addressing those who already enjoy the “rest” of salvation. He indicates there is another rest beyond salvation that they must be “diligent” to possess. It’s not Heaven; it’s something we are to experience right now, on earth (v9&11).

What is this rest? It is our diligence in cooperating with Jesus and with the Holy Spirit in the daily process of becoming more like Jesus. It requires diligence on our part, but because the Lord is the one doing all the heavy lifting, it is rest.

It is summarized by Jesus when He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Simply put: You rest in the power of the Spirit-filled life. Obeying the Lord is not work. The apostle Paul put it negatively when he asked rhetorically, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).

I came across the following story that illustrates what I’m trying to say better than I can explain it.

A man is swept out to sea on a homemade raft. Under pressure of wind and wave, it gives every indication of instant dissolution. The man on board struggles desperately just to keep the raft afloat. His paddle, used repeatedly against the pounding waves, does nothing to bring him any nearer the shore.

He looks up from his labors and sees a ship has come alongside. The crew throws him a line and invites him to come on board. He at once abandoned his own efforts to save himself and accept the salvation now offered him. He is saved!

He paces the deck of the great ship with solid planking beneath his feet and massive engines driving that vessel on its way. His standing is now secure.

He is taken to the captain who says, “Welcome aboard, friend.” After some conversation, the captain continues, “And now we would like your help. We are shorthanded. The cook could sure use some help in the galley. Would you be willing to help?”

That has to do with his state. His salvation is sure. Nobody is going to pitch him back overboard if he refuses to help. But his gratitude is such that he is only too willing to help get the necessary work done.
Helping out on board has nothing to do with his salvation. He can rest in that even though a hundred tasks beckon to him now that he is saved.

If you are saved, you have the Lord’s promise of continuous rest in His salvation, but also that He is changing you. He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. It’s not dependent upon your efforts; you can rest in His promise that you will in Heaven awake in His likeness.

Exo 31:18  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.

The “tablets of the Testimony” were the Ten Commandments. We’re told elsewhere they were written on both sides, front and back.

In chapter thirty-two, Moses will descend Mount Sinai to find the Israelites worshipping the Golden Calf in a drunken orgy: “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” (v19).

Super-symbolic in that they were breaking the Law.

In chapter thirty-four, God writes the Ten Commandments with His finger a second time.

I discovered something interesting about the fact that God’s finger is said to have written the Ten Commandments twice. It has to do with a well-known story in the New Testament.

In the Gospel of John, a woman who was caught in the act of adultery is brought to Jesus. The Jews say that the Law of Moses demands she be stoned to death. They challenge Jesus to agree or disagree.

Here is the account:

Joh 8:6  This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
Joh 8:7  So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
Joh 8:8  And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Joh 8:9  Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
Joh 8:10  When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
Joh 8:11  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

How many times did Jesus “write on the ground with His finger?” That’s right – twice.

Could it be that He wrote the Ten Commandments, twice, just as He did in Exodus? Could it be He was demonstrating to the angry crowd He was the Lawgiver?

Every small detail in the Bible points to Jesus. It’s worth reading Exodus just for this! I wonder how much we miss?

Continuous work… Continuous rest. It seems contradictory, but it’s not. Our Bezalel fills us with the Spirit to work, while doing most of the heavy lifting as our yokefellow.

You are His workmanship, and though it may not seem like it now to yourself or others – you are His masterpiece.

Census & Incense-ability (Exodus 30:11-16 & 22-38)

I’ve had people tell me in the aftermath of an operation that their surgeon was a butcher.

Maybe their surgeon was a barber. Until the 1800’s, barbers were also dentists and surgeons.

It made sense. Barbers had a set of knives that they kept sharp and clean, and they had a great deal of practice with them.

They began by checking the mouth for infections and cavities and eventually came to pull teeth and lance infected gums. Since barbers doubled as manicurists, they became adept had digging out hangnails and ingrown nails and hair. They also lanced boils and minor skin irritants.

Minor surgeries were no problem. Neither were amputations. According to Wikipedia, barbers also gave enemas. You might say that they wore many hats.

In certain cities across the country, Public Safety Officers wear many hats. They are cross-trained to be police officers, firefighters, and EMT’s all at once. I found out yesterday that the City of Visalia once experimented with Public Safety Officers.

You know who else wore many hats? Moses. We’ve seen him as a noble in Egypt… A vigilante… A fugitive from justice… A shepherd… A deliverer of slaves… A river guide … A judge… A law-giver… And a General Contractor.

In our verses today, his resume takes on two additional professions:

In verses eleven through sixteen, the Lord appoints Moses as a Census Taker.

In verses twenty-two through thirty-eight, the Lord appoints him as a perfumer.

As we comment on Moses’ job performance, we will also note a correlation between his two new professions and things that we are called upon to consider as those being “in Christ.”

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Consider The Accounting You Will Give, and #2 Conduct Yourself As An Apothecary.

(I should mention why we are skipping verses one through ten, and verses seventeen through twenty-one. They describe the Altar of Incense and the Bronze Wash Basin, respectively. We looked at them already, when we discussed the seven articles that furnished the Tabernacle).

#1 – Consider The Accounting You Will Give (v11-16)

Numbers seem important to churches. I found an article titled, How Healthy is Your Church? These 18 Numbers Will Tell You. The top five were:

Number of first time guests.
Percentage of returning guests.
Percentage of guests who stick.
Number of first-time decisions for Christ.
Number of baptisms.

By number 18 I realized they were trying to sell me Church Evaluation Software.

We tend to shy away from numbers. Not just because we think them mechanical rather than spiritual. We shy away from numbers because they can be dangerous.

The census in Exodus is a case in point. God warned Moses that unless he took certain precautions, taking the census might result in Him calling down a plague upon the people.

Exo 30:11  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Exo 30:12  “When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number…”

This initial census was commissioned by God. It was His idea.
Best-guess as to why was that the people would be preparing the military campaign to take the Promised Land. Men over age twenty were being identified as the army of Israel.

But therein lies the danger:

If the number is huge, it tends to foster over-confidence.
If the number is small, there can be a foreboding of defeat before a sword is ever unsheathed.

Either way, the numbers distort your reliance on the Lord; and they are especially dangerous if large because they foster a fleshly pride.

An anecdote is told of Thomas Aquinas that upon entering the presence of Innocent II, before whom a large sum of money was spread out, the Pope observed, “You see Thomas, the church is no longer in that Age in which she said, “Silver and gold have I none.” “True,” he replied, “And neither can she say to the lame, ‘Rise up and walk.’ ”

Exo 30:11  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Exo 30:12  “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.

The wrong motive for numbering would bring a plague. The money acted as a “ransom,” guaranteeing protection from plagues. Paying it was an act of faith, declaring that whatever the final number, their trust was in the Lord.

We don’t think that certain church metrics will incite a measles outbreak; but trusting in the arm of the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit is a terrible plague of sorts.

In the New Testament, the married couple, Ananias and Saphira found out about numbers and plagues. They lied about the size of their one-time property donation to the church and, one-by-one, God struck them dead for lying to the Holy Spirit.

Exo 30:13  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.
Exo 30:14  Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the LORD.

“You got change for a gerah?” Foreign currency always confuses me. Ten US dollars is over five-hundred Philippine pesos.

Exo 30:15  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.

This “atonement” was not to cover sin. Blood was required for that. No, this was a prescribed amount of money to symbolize that each individual was being counted without any regard to how rich or how poor they were. In other words, it was not about establishing might or power – it was a humble counting devoid of ulterior motives.

Exo 30:16  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.”

This initial collection of the half-shekel would later be used to justify the annual collection of a Temple tax – for sure during the Second Temple, and at some point in the First.

Back in January of 2017, the Sanhedrin in Israel reinstated the Temple tax. It is voluntary, but significant in light of the Bible predicting the building of a Third Temple that will be standing in the future seven-year Great Tribulation.

Moses was told to count the Israelites prior to them entering the Promised Land. In the New Testament, there are a few nods to numbers of saved individuals:

On the Day of Pentecost, we’re told 3000 were added to their number. It appears that number included men, women and kids.

Later in Acts 4:4, we are told about five thousand believers, and it is clear that they are counting men only, so the number of people was likely greater. Some claim there were now at least eight thousand believers, others put the total at five thousand.

Someday there will be a final number, then the Lord will return to resurrect the dead in Christ, and rapture living believers. The number is referred to as “the fullness of the Gentiles,” which we take to be a reference to the last member of the church being saved prior to our removal (Romans 11:25).

While the Lord adds to the church, we should look ahead to a different kind of counting – an accounting of our works, to be given to the Lord when we see Him face-to-face:
2Co 5:9  Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
2Co 5:10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

1Co 3:12  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
1Co 3:13  each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
1Co 3:14  If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
1Co 3:15  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

It’s not a judgment regarding your salvation; it’s regarding your works while saved. Rather than go into a long exhortation, let’s just take to heart Paul’s counsel when he said, “make it [your] aim to be well pleasing to [the Lord].”

Do that and the “gold, silver, precious stones” works will follow.

#2 – Conduct Yourself As An Apothecary (v22-38)

Certain professions or hobbies have rather odd names:

A philatelist is a person interested in, and probably a collector of, postage stamps.
A spelunker is a person who explores caves.
An esculerie is a dishwasher – usually in one of those fancy Top Chef sort of restaurants.
The “perfumer” mentioned in our verses is also known as an apothecary.

Exo 30:22  Moreover the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Exo 30:23  “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,
Exo 30:24  five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil.
Exo 30:25  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.

Anointing, or you might say “pouring,” oil on a person was both an ordinary and an official practice among the Israelites. There are several references to it in the Bible, as an expected refreshment to guests, for example.

As an official practice, it was a rite of inauguration into each of the three offices of Prophets, Priests, and Kings.

Certain objects were anointed with oil to signify they had been set apart for a particular religious purpose and were not for ordinary use.

Moses receives the ingredients and, we suppose, the formula for the anointing oil that was to be used in the Tabernacle.

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

Quick story: In our first year as a church, we hosted a New Year’s Eve dinner where we presented a Prophecy Update. We rented another church’s Fellowship Hall. We wanted to serve communion, but we didn’t have any trays or supplies. We asked if we could borrow the trays and supplies of the church we were renting. The answer was “No,” because (we were informed) only the elders of that church were allowed to touch the trays.

Same church – only some years later we were in their Sanctuary performing a wedding. On their stage were an American flag and the Christian flag. Nothing wrong with that – but not great as a background for your wedding photos. The wedding coordinator at the church told the photographer only the elders could move the flags.

I figured I was equivalent to an elder and moved them.

Then there was the time I put on a robe we found while rehearsing for a wedding at the Episcopal Church.

Obviously we think that investing objects with that kind of anointing is not really a New Testament practice. The Tabernacle and its priests and paraphernalia were anointed, true; but today, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, not our building or any of its furnishings.

Exo 30:30  And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.
I pointed out last time that this anointing involved pouring over their heads a large quantity of this oil – enough to run through Aaron’s beard and onto his beautiful garments.

I joked about the paltry amount of oil normally used today to anoint someone. If you’re going to cite the Old Testament for doing something, then do it the way it was done. Pour oil – don’t just think “a little dab’l do ya.”

Exo 30:31  “And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations.
Exo 30:32  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.

That phrase, “man’s flesh,” always reminds me of that scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where one of the Orc’s talks about eating “man flesh.” Here is means anyone who is not a priest.

Exo 30:33  Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.’ ”

You couldn’t go on Etsy or eBay and buy the oil “as used in the Tabernacle.” It was exclusive.

The apothecaries among the Israelites were not to duplicate and distribute this oil under penalty of banishment.

Exo 30:34  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.
Exo 30:35  You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy.
Exo 30:36  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.

The priests were charged with burning the correct incense as prescribed.

Exo 30:37  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.
Exo 30:38  Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”

Same disclaimer as with the oil. Don’t mess around with a copycat.

You’ve probably noticed that we are not burning incense; nor are we pouring oil over your heads upon arrival. I’ve already indicated that we – our bodies, and our collective ‘body’ – are the Temple of God on the earth.

With regard to anointing, we first take note that Jesus was anointed. It was not by oil, but by the Holy Spirit.

In the Old Testament a Deliverer is promised under the title of Messiah, which translates to Anointed One (Psalm 2:2, Daniel 9:25&26). The nature of his anointing is described to be spiritual, with the Holy Spirit. In Isaiah 61:1, we read,

Isa 61:1  “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

In the New Testament Jesus of Nazareth is shown to be the Messiah, the Anointed One of the Old Testament. Jesus applied Isaiah 61 to Himself.

Being “in Christ,” as believers, we, too, experience this spiritual anointing:

2Co 1:21  Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,

1Jn 2:27  But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

After Jesus left the earth, He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit. In that sense, all Christians are anointed.

Nonetheless we often refer to the anointing of the Holy Spirit as if it were an add-on that certain more spiritual Christians have. We use the term “Spirit-filled Christian” to describe them.

Commenting on that, noted Pentecostal scholar Gordon Fee writes,

For [the first Christians], is was not merely a matter of getting saved, forgiven, prepared for Heaven. It was above all else to receive the Spirit, to walk into the New Age with power. They simply would not have understood our Pentecostal terminology — “Spirit-filled Christian.” That would be like saying “Scandinavian Swede.” They simply did not think of Christian initiation as a two-stage process. For them, to be Christian meant to have the Spirit, to be a “Spirit person.” To be “spiritual,” therefore, did not mean to be some kind of special Christian, a Christian elitist. For them, to be spiritual meant to be a Christian – not over against a nominal (or carnal) Christian, but over against a non- Christian, one who does not have the Spirit.

Fee goes on to argue, “that nowhere does the New Testament say, “Get saved, and then be filled with the Spirit.” To them, getting saved, which included repentance and forgiveness obviously, meant especially to be filled with the Spirit. That all believers in Christ are Spirit-filled is the presupposition of the New Testament writers. Thus the imperative is, “Keep on being full of the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Why do some believers seem Spirit-filled while others do not? It’s largely because the church in its subsequent history moved away from teaching about the Spirit’s “empowerment for life, with openness to gifts and the miraculous.”

One final quote from Gordon Fee: “The result was the unfortunate omission of this valid, biblical dimension of Christian life from the life of most Christians in the subsequent history of the church.”

We see this today. Most of the guys you listen to on the radio (the non-Calvary guys, that is) are what we would call cessationists. They proclaim that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit have ceased, along with the miraculous, because we now have the completed canon of the Bible. They thus downplay the role of the Spirit in the Christian life.

In a bit of sarcasm, some say that these cessationists believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible.

What often happens is a person who is in that cessationist tradition comes, either through study or circumstances, to long for the empowering of the Spirit, and when they receive it by faith, it seems as if it is a “second blessing.” Their subsequent experience is valid, but the norm is to understand the Spirit’s empowering from day one.

The apostle Pauls’ exhortation to “go on being filled with the Spirit” assumes it is normal to begin the Christian life empowered and gifted. In another place he asks, “having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). In other words, the norm is to be empowered by the Spirit, but as we walk with the Lord it is all too common to begin to rely more on the flesh.

Don’t talk your way out of being filled with the Spirit on account of your favorite Bible teacher telling you there’s no such thing anymore, or that it is simply a matter of reading you Bible more. Read you Bible more and discover the dynamic power available to you.

What about the incense? One clear parallel with us would be the apostle Paul’s teaching that our very lives give off a heavenly aroma.

2Co 2:15  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
2Co 2:16  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

The imagery isn’t from the incense in the Tabernacle; it’s from Rome. If a commander won a complete victory over the enemy on foreign soil, and if he killed at least 5000 enemy soldiers and gained new territory for the Emperor, then that commander was entitled to a Roman Triumph. The processional would include the
commander riding in a golden chariot, surrounded by his officers. The parade would also include a display of the spoils of battle, as well as the captive enemy soldiers. The Roman priests would also be in the parade, carrying burning incense to pay tribute to the victorious army.

The procession would follow a special route through the city and
would end at the Circus Maximus where the helpless captives would entertain the people by fighting wild beasts.

Jesus Christ, your great Commander, came to foreign soil (this earth) and completely defeated the enemy (Satan). Instead of killing 5000, as we’ve said, He gave life for more than 5000 to be saved. Jesus Christ claimed the spoils – lost souls who had been in bondage to sin and Satan.

As I mentioned, the priests followed the victorious general and burned incense. The fragrance of that incense diffused throughout the crowds. If you were a citizen of Rome, the fragrance was a sweet fragrance of victory. But if you were a prisoner, it was the awful aroma of your coming death.

Your testimony of Jesus, and your sharing of the Gospel, “diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” Wherever Christians go with the fragrance of Jesus, some receive the Lord and are saved, while some reject the Lord and remain lost in their sins:

To those who reject the Lord, the Gospel is an aroma that should warn them of their second death – their eternal separation from God in their sins.
To those who receive the Lord, the Gospel is an aroma that fills them with new life as it provides the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Among the many hats you wear, you are an apothecary who will one day give your accounting to the Lord.

Stick to the original formula of being Spirit-filled. If that seems foreign to you, meditate on these words of Jesus – spoken to believers already in Christ:

Luk 11:9  “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Luk 11:10  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Luk 11:11  If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?
Luk 11:12  Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
Luk 11:13  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Go on being filled.

It’s Not Easy Being Clean (Exodus 29:1-46)

SyFy writers are obsessed with enhancing humans to produce a ‘super’ version of man.

It’s a plot-point that figures prominently in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with characters like Captain America, the Red Skull, and the Winter Soldier.

Star Trek fans regard Khan Noonien Singh as one of the great villains in their universe. He was a genetically enhanced human who gave Kirk and Spock trouble in the original television series and in two feature films.

Super-humans are not just SyFy characters anymore. Russian strongman Vladimir Putin not too long ago warned of future super-human soldiers more ‘destructive than nuclear bombs’ who feel no fear or pain.

Back in 2015, Popular Mechanics published a story titled, Russia and China’s “Enhanced Human Operations” Terrify the Pentagon. One US official was quoted, saying, “We’re going to have to have a big, big decision on whether we’re comfortable going that way.”

Who remembers the Six Million Dollar Man? Steve Austin – a man barely alive. Then the eerie narrator said:

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the worlds first bionic man… Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.

We look at a human and want to make him or her better, stronger, faster – mostly to be able to kill other weaker, slower humans.

What would a ‘better’ human being really look like? I think we see one in our text. He’s the High Priest of Israel.

He’s not better in the usual, SyFy, sense, but in a spiritual sense. He’s better because he is brought into fellowship with God.

He is a picture for us of what God intends to do for every fallen man or woman who believes in Him.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You See A Man Brought Into Fellowship With God and #2 You See A Man Bringing Others Into Fellowship With God.

#1 – You See A Man Brought Into Fellowship With God (v1-37)

Over three-hundred thousand books are published annually in the United States. We are #2 on that list. Any guess as to which country publishes the most books?

It’s China. After that, the top five is finished out by the UK, Japan, and Russia.

On the bottom of the list, at #127, is Oman. Seven books per year.

With so much to read, the first thing I do when someone asks me to read a book is find out where it’s going to take me. I research the author, then the subject. If it’s not fiction, I want to know its conclusions before I begin.

The Bible, written by inspiration, has solid authorship. Each of its books ought to be read and re-read. But it can still be a good idea to understand where a passage is taking you; to see the conclusion from the beginning. It keeps you from reaching your own conclusions, and thereby missing the point.

Look at the last three verses of chapter twenty-nine:

Exo 29:44  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.
Exo 29:45  I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God.
Exo 29:46  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.

Whatever commentators make of this chapter, God intended us to understand that it was about Him being able to dwell among men.

We phrase that a little differently. Looking at it from our perspective, we say that our purpose as humans is to have fellowship with God.

When we look at Aaron, who was being installed as High Priest, we are looking at God bringing fallen humans back into fellowship with Him. He represents us all.

Exo 29:1  “And this is what you shall do to them to hallow them for ministering to Me as priests…

The word “hallow,” or your Bible may read “consecrate,” means to make holy, to make fit, to dedicate or set apart for a special purpose.

The special purpose is to be brought into fellowship. Since we are, by nature, unholy and out of fellowship, God had to act to bring us back. He began to bring us back immediately after our parents sinned in Eden; and the Bible, from Genesis through the Revelation, reveals the success of God’s efforts. In the Revelation, we read, “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face…” (22:3-4).

Exo 29:1  “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,
Exo 29:2  and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil (you shall make them of wheat flour).
Exo 29:3  You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, with the bull and the two rams.
Exo 29:4  “And Aaron and his sons you shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and you shall wash them with water.

These verses describe the one-time ordination of Aaron as High Priest; and his sons as the regular priests. There was a lot of ceremony and sacrifice before they could serve in the Tabernacle. Everything has symbolism, or is a picture to us of some spiritual truth.

We’ll see three major things God did for them in the first nine verses in order to bring them into fellowship with Him. One commentator who likes alliteration pointed out that Aaron was Absolved… then he was Arrayed… and then he was Anointed.

For our purposes today, to be absolved means your sin is forgiven, along with its guilt and penalty. Washing Aaron and his sons with water is what God wants to do for every human.

He doesn’t want to give us a bath; it’s a picture. Jesus interpreted this washing for us on the night before He was crucified. At one point during His final evening with the disciples before He died, He stooped to wash their feet. In an exchange with Peter, Jesus said, “a person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.”

He was using physical bathing and subsequent washings to make a spiritual point. One commentator explained it like this:

Jesus is saying, “When you first come to me, you are bathed; you are clean all over.” This is what the Bible calls justification by faith. It is a washing away of all the guilt and sin of the entire life – past, present, and future. But as you walk through life, Jesus knows your feet will be defiled during your walk, and that needs to be washed away. Thus He teaches us that not only do we need that initial, never-to-be-repeated cleansing, but we also need the many-times-repeated experience of forgiveness, of coming to Christ for the cleansing away of the defilement of our walk.

Notice Aaron did not bathe himself; he was bathed by others. We cannot cleanse ourselves from sin; as sinners, we can only be declared righteous, and we are the moment we believe in Jesus.

We say that God justifies believing sinners on the basis of their faith in what Jesus has done for them.

Exo 29:5  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.
Exo 29:6  You shall put the turban on his head, and put the holy crown on the turban.

We described in some detail the beautiful and unique garments of the High Priest, and of the regular priests. What we are seeing here is that once washed, i.e., saved, God clothes you; you are arrayed with a robe.

Now I don’t want to belabor the point because we talked about it last week, but your salvation is depicted in the Bible as God giving you a white, fine linen robe – sometimes referred to as a wedding garment. It can’t be earned or purchased; it’s a gift for those who believe in Jesus.

With it you can enter Heaven.
Without it, you stand before God in your own filthy rags, and will ultimately be cast into the Lake of Fire to suffer eternal conscious torment.

The person God brings into fellowship is absolved, arrayed in fine linen – then he or she is anointed.

Exo 29:7  And you shall take the anointing oil, pour it on his head, and anoint him.
Exo 29:8  Then you shall bring his sons and put tunics on them.
Exo 29:9  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.

Part of this ordination ceremony was the pouring of oil over their heads. This wasn’t a tiny transfer of oil from a wet finger to the forehead. In the Psalms we read, “It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments” (133:2).

Jesus interpreted this for us when He quoted from Isaiah 61:1, applying it to Himself, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound…”
After being cleansed and clothed, Aaron would be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

We’ll return to this in a moment. First let’s briefly discuss the following verses and see the ceremony unfold.

Exo 29:10  “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.
Exo 29:11  Then you shall kill the bull before the LORD, by the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
Exo 29:12  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.
Exo 29:13  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.
Exo 29:14  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.

The history of God allowing a substitute as a sacrifice began in the Garden of Eden with the slaying of animals to provide covering for Adam and Eve after they sinned. Every subsequent animal sacrificed was like a place holder pointing to the coming of the promised Savior to once-for-all be our Substitute and sacrifice.

Laying their hands on the animal’s head symbolized the transfer of their sin onto the sacrifice. The animal, as a substitute, would take the “punishment” for their sin, and Aaron and his sons would be temporarily ceremonially cleared to worship and serve the Lord in the Tabernacle.

Exo 29:15  “You shall also take one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram;
Exo 29:16  and you shall kill the ram, and you shall take its blood and sprinkle it all around on the altar.
Exo 29:17  Then you shall cut the ram in pieces, wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and with its head.
Exo 29:18  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.

This time, the “whole” animal was burned on the altar. It pictured total dedication on the part of the priests. And God noted that their total dedication would be pleasing to Him – like a sweet aroma.

Exo 29:19  “You shall also take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram.
Exo 29:20  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.
Exo 29:21  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.

Nothing hard to see in this picture:

The priests needed ears consecrated to hear God’s voice.
They needed hands consecrated to serve Him.
They needed feet consecrated to walk in His will.
If you remember how beautiful the garments were, it’s kind of shocking that they would be sprinkled with blood mixed with oil. As we continue, we’ll see there was blood everywhere – not just at the ordination, but every day. Lots and lots of it.

As a point of interest, we might wonder how they dealt with all the blood from the numerous sacrifices. We know in the future Temple, there was a drainage system that channeled the blood out into the Kidron Valley. Not sure if they dug temporary canals each time the Tabernacle was set up.

I couldn’t find anything about the laundering of the garments of the High Priest – except that if they became stained beyond cleaning, they would be hidden away and replaced.

Exo 29:22  “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),
Exo 29:23  one loaf of bread, one cake made with oil, and one wafer from the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the LORD;
Exo 29:24  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.
Exo 29:25  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.
Exo 29:26  “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.

Exo 29:27  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.
Exo 29:28  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.

There had been no central place of worship for the Israelites – not ever. Now there would be. God would dwell among them in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. These and many other offerings would become regular daily occurrences.

Exo 29:29  “And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons’ after him, to be anointed in them and to be consecrated in them.
Exo 29:30  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.

You couldn’t keep the High Priest’s garments after you were through; they were passed down to the next High Priest.

He was unique, but the High Priest also pictured what God intended for every Israelite. Back in Exodus 19:6 God stated His desire that Israel be “a kingdom of priests.”

Jesus was unique, but He also pictured what God intends for every believer. He promises to make us like Jesus; we are predestined to be conformed into His image (Romans 8:29).

Since that word, “predestined,” can be confusing, let me say this. A person is not predestined – they are not ‘predetermined’ – to either be saved or to perish.

The Holy Spirit by God’s grace frees a person’s will to believe Christ. Those that do believe and are saved person are then destined to become like Jesus. The good work of salvation God begins in you, He will bring to completion.

Exo 29:31  “And you shall take the ram of the consecration and boil its flesh in the holy place.
Exo 29:32  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.
Exo 29:33  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.
Exo 29:34  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.

This meal could only be eaten by a select few – Aaron and his sons. Even so, it pictured what God wanted for every Israelite – to share fellowship with them.

Jesus ate with a select few disciples. It pictured what He promised all future disciples – to share fellowship with us.

Exo 29:35  “Thus you shall do to Aaron and his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Seven days you shall consecrate them.
Exo 29:36  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.
Exo 29:37  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.
“It’s not easy being clean.” This meticulous set of initial rituals emphasized that mankind was separated from God by sin.

But it also preached that God was working tirelessly to redeem mankind from sin and to restore men and women to fellowship with Him – both on earth and in eternity.

Take another spiritual look at the ground we’ve just covered:

The blood of substituted sacrifices was the necessary prerequisite for being restored to fellowship with God. All animal sacrifices from the original one in the Garden of Eden forward were a temporary fix until Jesus died on Passover as the final Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world.
Jesus’ sacrifice enables God the Father to justify believing sinners – in effect, cleansing them once-for-all from the penalty of past, present, and future sins
Jesus took upon Himself mankind’s sin – our filthy garments – and now offers the fine white linen robe a person must have as the wedding garment in order to enter Heaven.
God the Holy Spirit is given to believers, to indwell us and to empower us.

The saved man – He is the ‘better man.’ The man (or woman) who is saved once-for-all; who is being sanctified day-by-day; whose body is the Temple of God on earth; who will one day inherit eternity in a glorified physical body incapable of sin.
It’s hard to say how much of this an Israelite would have seen in the picture language of the Tabernacle. Even if most of it was a mystery to them, God told them outright it was all so He could “dwell among them” – and that is something precious.

We see it more clearly, having the benefit of God’s complete revelation, through both the written and the living Word of God.

#2 – You See A Man Bringing Others Into Fellowship With God (v38-46)

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes on Sunday morning in order for us to be ready for services:

There is a procedure that needs to be followed to power-up the sound systems all over campus; and to enable the slides; and to broadcast on the InterWeb.
Meanwhile we have guys on a rotation who show-up to open the facility.
Cafe crew needs to prep everything.
Usher and Security teams need to be in place.

It all results in us being ‘Open for God’s Business.’

The Old Testament Tabernacle had morning and evening procedures. Until it was done, no worshipper could bring his or her sacrifice, and no ministry could take place.

Exo 29:38  “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs of the first year, day by day continually.
Exo 29:39  One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.
Exo 29:40  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.
Exo 29:41  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.

After this week of ordination was finished, Aaron and sons would get down to the daily God business. Every day, twice a day, they would offer this burnt offering.

Exo 29:42  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.
Exo 29:43  And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory.

The faithfulness of the priests in this matter translated into the Israelites being able to come to the Tabernacle and worship.

They thus were bringing others to God. They were making it possible for other Israelites to approach God.

Likewise, as we follow the leading of the Spirit, we are promoting fellowship with God – either through the evangelism of nonbelievers, or through the edification of believers.

Exo 29:44  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.

Exo 29:45  I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God.
Exo 29:46  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.

God took the initiative. The Tabernacle was His idea. The priesthood was His idea.

Everything He demanded for the consecration of both the Tabernacle and the priesthood communicated that although God is perfect in holiness, He can nevertheless restore sinners to fellowship with Himself.

He would “dwell among them.” It was His great desire, and their great joy.

The better man isn’t a faster, stronger super-soldier. He is a believer. He is “in Christ.”

I’ll close with a quote from A.W. Tozer:

If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict. In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness; not by force but by sacrifice. Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win; He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by allowing death to conquer Him.

The Chosen People’s Court (Exodus 27:1-19 & 30:17-21)

Keith Moon, the late drummer for The Who, made a sarcastic remark when he heard Jimmy Page had formed a band after the demise of the Yardbirds. Moon said it would “sink like a lead balloon.” Inspired by Moon, Page and company dropped the ‘a’ in “lead” in order to avoid confusion with the pronunciation, and switched “balloon” for “zeppelin” – probably because it had a more exotic sound to it. Hence, Led Zeppelin.

It was the bad guy who named the heroes in the recent Marvel Studios film, when Ronin the Accuser sarcastically said, “Behold your Guardians of the Galaxy.” The name stuck.

Do you realize that the first Christians did not name themselves, but were named by others? We’re told in the New Testament Book of Acts, “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch“ (11:26).

Renowned Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest says that the name was given to them by the nonbelieving citizens of Antioch, to ridicule the believers for refusing to acknowledge Caesar as Lord.

There’s nothing wrong with the term “Christian,” regardless its source. It means “Christ-like,” and that’s a good thing to be.

However, the word “Christian” occurs only three times in the New Testament – used twice by nonbelievers, and once by the apostle Peter.

The apostle Paul never used it. He preferred another expression that occurs 164 times in his inspired writings. It is the expression “in Christ” (or “in the Lord” or “in Him”).

I find it an awkward expression. It almost sounds mystical, though I know it is not.

I think a Jew, hearing Paul or reading him, would not find it awkward at all. They were used to being “in” the Court of the Tabernacle (and, later, the Temple). Since the Tabernacle was intended to picture the Person and work of Jesus, just maybe it perfectly illustrates the idea of being “in Christ.”

Along those lines, I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Court Of The Tabernacle Illustrates What It Means To Be “In Christ,” and #2 The Altar And The Laver Illustrate How You Get To Be “In Christ.”

(We’re going to first look at the Court of the Tabernacle, then look at the two articles of furniture that were in the Court of the Tabernacle – the Altar of Sacrifice, and the Laver. It makes for a more logical order for us).

#1 – The Court Of The Tabernacle Illustrates What It Means To Be “In Christ” (27:9-19)

If you read or listen to a lot of contemporary Christian teachers, you’ve probably noticed that it is considered cool to refer to believers not as “Christians,” but as “Christ followers.”

I guess I get it; after all, Jesus did say, “Follow Me.” If that’s your argument, it would seem more biblical to call believers, “Follow Me-ers.” Definitely not cool, however.

“In Christ” is perhaps the most biblical name for us. It’ll never catch on, but it’s solid. Here are three prominent examples:

2Co 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Col 3:3  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Php 1:1  Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi…

What does it mean, to be “in Christ?” I’m sure there are many good definitions. But there is no better illustration than the Old Testament Court of the Tabernacle.

We’re in the section of Exodus where God was giving Moses the plans for the Tabernacle. We’ve seen that the Tabernacle was a 15’x45’ tent, 15’ high. It was entered through a veil, and the first chamber, the Holy Place, 15’x30’, was furnished with the Table of Showbread, the Menorah, and the Altar of Incense.

Through a second veil was the Holy of Holies, 15’x15’x15’. In it was the Ark of the Covenant that would contain the tablets of the Ten Commandments, covered by a lid called the Mercy Seat. God manifested His presence behind that second veil, in the Holy of Holies, above the Ark of the Covenant.

The Jewish priests daily entered the Holy Place to perform various functions. The High Priest entered the Holy of Holies annually on the Day of Atonement.

This relatively small Tabernacle was surrounded by a structure of linen fence, forming within it the Court of the Tabernacle. It’s called a “court,” but think of it as a courtyard created by a fence surrounding the Tabernacle.

Let’s read its description in 29:9-19.

Exo 27:9  “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.
Exo 27:10  And its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets shall be bronze. The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver.
Exo 27:11  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.
Exo 27:12  “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.
Exo 27:13  The width of the court on the east side shall be fifty cubits.
Exo 27:14  The hangings on one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets.
Exo 27:15  And on the other side shall be hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets.
Exo 27:16  “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.
Exo 27:17  All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze.
Exo 27:18  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.
Exo 27:19  All the utensils of the tabernacle for all its service, all its pegs, and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze.

The Tabernacle was surrounded by curtains which were about 8’ high and 150’ long on the north and south sides.
They were 75’ long on the west, but only 45’ long on the east, leaving room for a 30’ gate. The curtains were woven from fine white linen and suspended from pillars that were staked to the ground.

It was an enclosure of white linen, with only one entrance, within which you could approach and worship the one, true God in His earthly Tabernacle.

Let’s talk about the curtains themselves. Fine white linen in the Bible is often an illustration of the righteousness of God that is a free gift when a sinner trusts Jesus for salvation.

To help us understand our need for salvation, God describes us in terms of clothing. In our natural state, born in trespasses and sin, the Bible, in Isaiah 64:6, describes us as wearing “filthy rags.”

Why is that a problem? Think of it this way: Heaven has a dress code, and folks in filthy rags are turned away.

We need a new spiritual wardrobe. Specifically, we need a robe of righteousness. In Isaiah 61:10 we read,

Isa 61:10  I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah says we need “garments of salvation,” introduces the “robe of righteousness,” then immediately compares it to wedding garments. We need to be decked out like a bride.

We get a glimpse at the bride in the last book of the Bible. In the Revelation, at the Second Coming of Jesus, believers of the church age are coming back with Him. Listen to our description:

Rev 19:7  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
Rev 19:8  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

This “fine linen” robe, the garment we need to enter Heaven, is “granted.” It is a gift. It can’t be earned or deserved. It’s available to everyone; but like any gift, you must receive it.

To illustrate that it is a free gift you must receive, Jesus told a story about a Jewish wedding. The part we’re interested involves a guest without the proper wedding robe:

Mat 22:2  “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son…
Mat 22:11  “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.
Mat 22:12  So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
Mat 22:13  Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Mat 22:14  “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

In that culture, the wedding garment was provided for you. It wasn’t that this guest could not afford one; or that they ran out.

No, he refused to receive it, and in his regular clothes, he was not fit to celebrate the wedding feast.

You are dressed in filthy rags. God has invited you to the wedding of His Son – to eternal life – and He has provided a fine linen robe for you. You can either reject it and be “cast… into outer darkness,” or you can receive it and celebrate for eternity in Heaven.

In the Court of the Tabernacle, you were surrounded by fine, white linen. True, it wasn’t a robe, per se. But it symbolized the spiritual ‘robing’ that protected the entire nation.

When you were “in” the Court of the Tabernacle, you were surrounded by the righteousness of God, symbolized by the fine white linen fence. When God saw you, He saw you in a place He had graciously provided for your salvation.

And since the Tabernacle and its courtyard all prefigure Jesus, being “in” the Court of the Tabernacle was like being “in” Jesus.

In a sense, when God sees you, He sees Jesus. And that’s at least some of what it means to be “in Christ.”

Although it was a fence made of fabric, it was a stronghold – a spiritual stronghold. That fabric, representing God’s righteousness being provided as a gift for your salvation, was stronger than adamantium; stronger than vibranium. No power, no principality, no ruler of the darkness of this world, could touch you.

So, too, with us. Once you’ve been declared righteous by God, you are kept by His power unto the day of your final salvation.

The linen fence is not the only thing described in the verses about the Court of the Tabernacle. There was also an entrance, and there were two things especially notable about it.

The first thing we note is that it was an exclusive entrance. There were not any other ways in. We might therefore say there were not many ways to God, but only one way.

Who remembers the “One Way!” craze? When I was first a believer, in the 1970’s, Christian bumper stickers and posters and literature often featured a hand with the forefinger pointing straight up, with the words, “One Way!” It was the WWJD of its time.

The one way into the Court of the Tabernacle is, of course, telling us that Jesus is the exclusive means for salvation. There is power in His name, and in no other. He is “the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to salvation except through Him (John 14:6).

It bothers some people that Jesus is the only way to God. They think there should be multiple ways. What they really mean is that they want to be able to work their way to Heaven; to contribute their good works to get there.

Jesus is the exclusive means of grace. He is God’s free gift. Everything else is a religion of works that ignores the depth of the problem. Only Jesus can overcome your sin by dying in your stead and offering you eternal life.

The second thing we note is that the gate was inviting and it was plenty big:

The fence was white linen; the gate was multicolored. There was no mistaking it.

It was 30’ wide. It wasn’t like the queue for the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland. It’s width was an invitation to all to enter in.

A Christian is a person who has been granted a fine linen garment of salvation. At the Cross, Jesus took your filthy rags upon Himself, and He gave you the robe. You’re dressed for Heaven, and that is how God now sees you “in Christ.”

#2 – The Altar And The Laver Illustrate How You Get To Be “In Christ” (27:1-8 & 30:17-21)

You’ve heard it said that while salvation in Jesus is free, it is costly. It cost Jesus His life, exchanged on the Cross for ours.

That exchange is represented in the Court of the Tabernacle by the sacrifices that took place at the Altar.

Return to verse one of chapter twenty-seven.

Exo 27:1  “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.
Exo 27:2  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.
Exo 27:3  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.
Exo 27:4  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.
Exo 27:5  You shall put it under the rim of the altar beneath, that the network may be midway up the altar.
Exo 27:6  And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze.
Exo 27:7  The poles shall be put in the rings, and the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar to bear it.
Exo 27:8  You shall make it hollow with boards; as it was shown you on the mountain, so shall they make it.

When you entered through the wide gate to the Court of the Tabernacle, you brought with you an animal to sacrifice. The common animals were a bull, a goat, a sheep, or a dove.

You’d approach the Altar and there would be a priest standing by it, to assist you. He would inspect your animal for blemishes and disabilities; it had to be a valuable sacrifice.

It your bull, lets say, passed inspection, the priest would tie it down on the horns of the altar. Then you – not the priest – would slit the lamb’s throat and butcher it.

Lev 1:2  “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of the livestock – of the herd and of the flock.
Lev 1:3  ‘If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.
Lev 1:4  Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.
Lev 1:5  He shall kill the bull before the LORD; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
Lev 1:6  And he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces.

The righteousness surrounding them by the grace of God was made possible by the shedding of blood. God explained to Adam and Eve that their sin would bring death. Someone had to die. If it wasn’t them, it would have to be a suitable substitute.

No mere human could be that substitute. So God began to explain that He must come in a body – as the Person He called the “Seed of the woman” – to die in our place to once-for-all to pay the penalty mankind owed.

In the mean time, He would accept the sacrifice of innocent animal substitutes in His place. You placed your hand on the sacrifice symbolizing that the innocent animal was taking upon it your sin.

Animal sacrifices were never intended to solve the sin problem, but rather to keep you focused on the fact that one day God was coming in human flesh as the final sacrifice that would solve sin and restore all things.

Can you imagine the amount of blood spilled over the centuries? Let’s zero in on just one Passover feast.
A passage from Josephus says that at least 256,500 lambs were killed in the Temple for a Passover in one year between 66-70AD (Jewish Wars 6.9.3).

Is that even possible? One source said this:

Assuming that the only requirement for ritually killing a lamb for Passover was to… slice through the lamb’s throat with a ritually clean knife and collect a small amount of blood to be thrown on the high altar… then 144 priests [overseeing the] killing [of] six lambs a minute (10 seconds per lamb, assuming the men were lined up in a moving line holding their lamb) would have taken only about 5 hours to kill 256,500 lambs.

Assuming that the ritual killing started at 1pm, then everything would have been finished by 6pm, well before sunset. So, the number of lambs killed for Passover recorded by Josephus is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Millions of animals, literally, were sacrificed on that Altar. There was an almost constant flow of blood. Yet all of it combined could not take away sin. It could only prefigure the One God had promised to send.

John the Baptist was tasked with introducing Jesus at the start of the Lord’s ministry on earth. Do you know how many names or titles there are for Jesus in the Bible? I found one list of over 100 names; I’m sure there are more.

John settled on one, exclaiming to the crowds, “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

If you were a Jew familiar with the constant animal sacrifices, you’d know that John was identifying Jesus as the One promised in the Garden of Eden as our Substitute.

In the book who’s very title indicates it is meant to reveal Jesus, the Revelation, over thirty names describe Him; but the one used most, some twenty-eight at least, is the “Lamb.”

Rev 5:12  … “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

Your fine linen robe of righteousness was washed in His blood. You get to be “in Christ” by the shedding of His blood for the sins of the world.

There was one other piece of furniture in the Court of the Tabernacle. It was a wash basin called the Laver. Jump ahead to verse seventeen of chapter thirty.

Exo 30:17  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Exo 30:18  “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,
Exo 30:19  for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it.
Exo 30:20  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.
Exo 30:21  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.”
Dirt floor; lots and lots of blood. The priests – who went barefoot, BTW – got plenty dirty. Think about how often during the day they’d have to wash their hands and feet.

They were surrounded by the righteousness of God; but even in that courtyard, serving the Lord, they picked-up defilement and needed constant washing.

That sounds a great deal like something Jesus explained to His disciples at their final Passover, on the night before He was crucified. You remember what happened. None of the disciples would stoop to being the servant who washed the other’s feet before the meal. Then something dramatic occurred.

Joh 13:4  [Jesus] rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.
Joh 13:5  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
Joh 13:6  Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”
Joh 13:7  Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”
Joh 13:8  Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
Joh 13:9  Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
Joh 13:10  Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”

Evangelical commentators almost universally agree that Jesus was explaining that when you get saved, it’s like being “bathed” all over. It is a one-time event as God declares you righteous and clothes you for Heaven with Christ’s robe.

But as we continue to live in this world, we tend to pick up defilement. For that, we need a constant cleansing, which we get from Jesus as we let His Word wash over us.

Here is how the apostle Paul explained it:

Eph 5:25  … Christ… loved the church and gave Himself for her,
Eph 5:26  that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
Eph 5:27  that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

I’ll let William MacDonald explain it:

Positionally the church is already [saved]; practically she is being set apart day by day. She is going through a process of moral and spiritual preparation… The process, [called] sanctification, is carried on by the washing of water by the word. In simple terms this means that the lives of believers are cleansed as they hear the words of Christ and obey them… Just as the blood of Christ cleanses once-for-all from the guilt and penalty of sin, so the Word of God cleanses continually from the defilement and pollution of sin. This passage teaches that the church is being bathed at the present time, not with literal water, but with the cleansing agent of the word of God.

Whether you identify as a Christian… Or as a Christ follower… Or as a Follow Me-er… If you’re saved, you are “in Christ.”

I’ll leave you with one more of the apostle Paul’s 164 “in Christ” statements:

2Ti 1:9  who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.

All Veil The King (Exodus 26:1-37)

Shark Week just celebrated its 30th season. There’s just something about watching other people interact with sharks that makes me wonder why I ever went in the ocean.

Jaws pretty much ended my beach days. I didn’t need Megalodon to convince me that people are food, not friends.

Not only did I swim off the beaches of Southern California, I was a SCUBA diver. We took diving excursions to the back side of Catalina Island; I do miss that. Being underwater for an extended period of time was an amazing experience.

SCUBA stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. When using SCUBA gear you are temporarily able to enter a place which would otherwise be impossible to access.

What does SCUBA diving have to do with the Old Testament Tabernacle? It’s not a perfect illustration, but see if this makes sense. We know from the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament that there is a true Temple in Heaven, and that the Tabernacle on earth was a copy.

Heaven is an environment that is off-limits to us in our natural state. Although a few Bible characters have been transported there and lived to tell of it, it’s clear that Heaven’s holiness would simply overwhelm us. We need glorified, resurrection bodies in order to enjoy the extended stay of eternity.

Desiring to meet with us, God designed the gear we needed in order to access Heaven on earth. The Tabernacle, consisting of its two chambers, was the place man could experience the Presence of God and not be overwhelmed by His holiness. It was the only place on earth where a man could, in a manner of speaking, breathe the rarified air of Heaven. It was momentary, but it was wonderful.

Chapter twenty-six describes the curtains that comprised the covering enclosing the Tabernacle, and the veils that served as entry into both of its chambers.

Those curtains, and those veils, were precisely described by God to Moses. Their description was intended to communicate God’s ultimate intention – to restore what was lost through sin in Eden and have face-to-face time with mankind.

Keeping that in mind, I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Curtains Told You That Tabernacling Among Men Is God’s Desire, and #2 The Veils Told You That Tabernacling Among Men Is God’s Doing.

#1 – The Curtains Told You That Tabernacling Among Men Is God’s Desire (v1-30)

They say colors can affect your mood and behavior. There’s even a name for it: Color Psychology. For example: Red’s and yellow’s can increase a person’s appetite. Think about fast food restaurants like McDonald’s or KFC. They incorporate the color yellow and red. They deliberately chose that color scheme because they want people to get hungry.

You should think about color when you’re dieting. Another researcher claims white is a color to avoid in your kitchen. Darker colors will not stimulate your appetite as much.

Those of you on the Paleo diet might want to paint your kitchen rock-gray, and then add cave drawings of yourself taking down a chicken with a spear.

As we read about the curtains of the Tabernacle, their colors and texture and any embroidery will be our focus. Commentators tend to see seemingly endless types and figures in every minute detail of the Tabernacle. They might be right; everything was intended to prefigure Jesus. But I want to concentrate on the things that are obvious and biblical – and that means color, texture, and embroidery.

God’s plans for the Tabernacle and its service take up more entire chapters in the Bible than any other subject. If it was that important in redemption history, we can’t skip over it. Bear with me as I read the first thirty verses:

Exo 26:1 “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.
Exo 26:2 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.
Exo 26:3 Five curtains shall be coupled to one another, and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another.
Exo 26:4 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.
Exo 26:5 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. Exo 26:6 And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains together with the clasps, so that it may be one tabernacle.
Exo 26:7 “You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair, to be a tent over the tabernacle. You shall make eleven curtains.
Exo 26:8 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.
Exo 26:9 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.
Exo 26:10 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.
Exo 26:11 And you shall make fifty bronze clasps, put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one. Exo 26:12 The remnant that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle.
Exo 26:13 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.
Exo 26:14 “You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that.
Exo 26:15 “And for the tabernacle you shall make the boards of acacia wood, standing upright.
Exo 26:16 Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the width of each board.
Exo 26:17 Two tenons shall be in each board for binding one to another. Thus you shall make for all the boards of the tabernacle. Exo 26:18 And you shall make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards for the south side.
Exo 26:19 You shall make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards: two sockets under each of the boards for its two tenons. Exo 26:20 And for the second side of the tabernacle, the north side, there shall be twenty boards
Exo 26:21 and their forty sockets of silver: two sockets under each of the boards.
Exo 26:22 For the far side of the tabernacle, westward, you shall make six boards.
Exo 26:23 And you shall also make two boards for the two back corners of the tabernacle.
Exo 26:24 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.
Exo 26:25 So there shall be eight boards with their sockets of silver – sixteen sockets – two sockets under each of the boards. Exo 26:26 “And you shall make bars of acacia wood: five for the boards on one side of the tabernacle,
Exo 26:27 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.
Exo 26:28 The middle bar shall pass through the midst of the boards from end to end.
Exo 26:29 You shall overlay the boards with gold, make their rings of gold as holders for the bars, and overlay the bars with gold.
Exo 26:30 And you shall raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain.

The Tabernacle was a moveable tent that measured about 15’ wide, 45’ long, and 15’ high. The framework was formed by boards of acacia wood – 20 on either side, and 8 at the back. They were held together by five horizontal bars, and stood in sockets of silver which were sunk in the ground.

Over this three-sided framework, three sets of curtains were hung, which made the ceiling and drooped over the boards:

1. The first set of curtains were visible only to the eye of the priests who served inside the Tabernacle. They were made of fine linen, white, with cords of blue, purple and scarlet. Figures of Cherubim were woven into them.
2. The second set of curtains were of goat’s hair. They were longer and wider than the first set, completely covering them.
3. The third set of curtains were made from the skins of seals (or maybe porpoises), and were lined with rams’ skins dyed red.

The entrance into the Tabernacle was through a veil. Once inside, you were in the Holy Place. It was 15’ wide by 30’ long and 15’ high. It contained three articles of furniture: The Table of Showbread, the Menorah, and the Altar of Incense.

Another veil separated the Holy Place from the innermost chamber, the Holy of Holies. It was a perfect cube – 15’x15’x15’. In that room was the Ark of the Covenant as a chest to hold the Ten Commandments, with its lid called the Mercy Seat. God’s Presence manifested itself above the Mercy Seat.

Priests had daily duties to perform in the Holy Place; the High Priest had an annual duty to perform in the Holy of Holies.

On the most basic level, the Tabernacle was a visible token of God’s desire to dwell – or as we are saying, to “tabernacle” – among men. In Exodus 25:8 God said, “And let them make Me a [tabernacle], that I may dwell among them.”

As millions of Israelites pitched their tents in the wilderness, so did God pitch His tent among them; in the very center of them, in fact.

It must never begin to bore you that God desires to have fellowship with you. He made man in His image, in order to have a relationship with us. The man He made in His image, and the woman He made from the man, sinned by disobeying God’s one simple command. The result was that the incredible face-to-face time our first parents enjoyed was lost, attested to by the fact that they hid from God when He called out to them.

In that very moment, God preached the first Gospel message when He promised to send the Seed of the woman to crush Satan. It’s doubtful Adam and Eve understood it entirely, but God was promising to come to earth as a man – as fully God and fully man – to resolve the issue of sin, and to restore fellowship with mankind.

Because the penalty for sin is death, God killed animals to temporarily cover Adam and Eve. He thereby set in motion the teaching that an innocent, sinless Substitute was needed to take our place in death.

God was coming to die. Only by dying in our place and thereby paying the penalty for sin, could we be restored.
The Bible is the progressive revelation of exactly how and when God came. Each chapter got mankind closer to the incarnation of Jesus Christ – God in human flesh – and His substitutionary death on the Cross to satisfy the penalty for sin and provide for us new life.

When Jesus came, the apostle John exclaimed, “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” (John 1:14).

“Dwelt” is the word tabernacled. A spiritually-minded first century Jew would immediately understand that Jesus was the fulfillment of the first Gospel preaching; and that the Tabernacle and later the permanent Temple, were merely steps along the way to His coming.

God, Who had tabernacled among them in the Tabernacle, was now tabernacling among them as a man in the Person of Jesus.

I say this with reverence: Although nothing is impossible for God, it ain’t easy for His holiness to be satisfied in a way that restores the fellowship that was lost through sin. It took all the centuries we read about in Scripture.

There, in the Holy Place, redemption history took a giant leap forward. A thoughtful priest could for a few moments each day breathe Heaven’s rarified air.

The priest stood beneath the white linen curtain with its cords of blue, purple, and scarlet. I can’t say how much of the symbolism the Jewish priest would have understood; but we, with the complete Word of God, can see in substance what he was looking at in symbol.

Blue is the color associated with Heaven. In Exodus 24:10, looking up, the Israelites got a glimpse of Heaven, and they mentioned it was “sapphire” in color (24:10). Sapphire “is most commonly found in a range of blue shades.

In First Corinthians 15:47 we read of Jesus that He is “the Lord from Heaven.” The blue was for the promise in Genesis of the coming Seed of the woman, who would be God come from Heaven to earth.

Purple is, in the Bible, emblematic of royalty. When the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus before His crucifixion, hailing Him as a king, they put on Him a purple robe. Do you have any doubt that Jesus is, in fact, King? The Lord from Heaven would be the King. Scarlet, or red, is the color of blood.

Here is an incredible insight from A.W. Pink’s Gleanings in Exodus. He points out that in Psalm 22:6, which prophetically describes the crucifixion of Jesus some 400 years before it happened, the sufferer exclaims, “I am a worm.” If you consult Strong’s Concordance, you’ll learn that the word for “worm” is a crimson or scarlet grub that was used to dye clothing red.

Red strongly suggested that the Lord from Heaven, the King of the earth, would suffer and die. Did Jesus not sweat great drops of blood? Did He not shed His blood, taking my place; taking your place?

Woven into the linen ceiling directly over the priest were the Cherubim. We first see these angelic creatures when Paradise was lost. Adam and Eve were driven from the Presence of God, and the way to the Garden of God was guarded by Cherubim.

Put it together. Mankind had lost face-to-face time with God. The way to Heaven was closed and guarded. God Himself was coming from Heaven to suffer and die, but in so doing He would restore all things and reign as King.
There were two additional curtains. The next was goat’s skin. The goat was associated with sin offerings. Especially on the annual Day of Atonement, when one goat was slain, and the other sent away into the wilderness as the scapegoat.

In Second Corinthians 5:21 we’re told that Jesus, Who knew no sin, was made sin for us. The goatskin represented substitutionary sacrifice.

The outer curtain was of seal or porpoise skin with a lining of ram’s skin died red. I’ll give you a moment to get over your horror that Flipper’s skin was used.

Looking from the outside, the Tabernacle was plain. There was nothing beautiful about it. That type of covering didn’t suggest the beauty that was being concealed.

That’s so like Jesus in His incarnation. The prophets emphasized He was plain, having nothing unusual about Him. People wondered how He could do the things He did, and say the things He said, on account of His humble origins. The apostle Paul said Jesus “made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7).

The ram’s skin dyed red might be a nod to the famous episode where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, Isaac. God stopped him and, in Isaac’s stead, provided a ram.

The One Who “made Himself of no reputation” humbled Himself to die on the Cross. In His case, the Father did sacrifice His only Son. He prepared a body for Him – a body like ours – in order for Jesus to be the once-for-all sacrifice for the sin of the world.

Regardless how much, or how little, of the symbolism and shadow the Jews understood, we see it. We’re told, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (First Corinthians 10:11).

At the minimum, the Holy Place was an incredible advancement in mankind having fellowship with God. It brought men in to His presence, and proclaimed that even closer fellowship was on its way.

#2 – The Veils Told You That Tabernacling Among Men Is God’s Doing (v31-37)

The most important thing you’re taught when getting certified in SCUBA is to always breathe naturally. Don’t hold your breath – especially on your way back to the surface.

Depending on how long you stay underwater, you may need to stop during your ascent to the surface to decompress. There are also decompression chambers certain divers must use.

If you don’t allow for decompression, terrible things can happen to you; like death.

It was likewise possible to die if you entered the Holy of Holies incorrectly:

Lev 16:2 and the LORD said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the [Holy of Holies] inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.

Only priests could enter the Holy Place daily to serve; only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies annually to offer sacrifice for the nation.

It may seem harsh; but remember, God was making it possible for men to get close to Him. Any access was amazing.

Exo 26:31 “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.
Exo 26:32 You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver.
Exo 26:33 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.
Exo 26:34 You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy.
Exo 26:35 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. Exo 26:36 “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.
Exo 26:37 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.

The priests daily entered the Holy Place through a veil. Annually, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest entered the Holy Place through that veil, then into the Holy of Holies through another veil.

The veil to the Holy of Holies also served to cover the Ark of the Covenant when Israel was on the move (Numbers 4:5).

Every little thing about these veils was symbolic. Let’s take a big- picture approach to the veils – and especially the veil that only the High Priest could go through.

As wonderful as this fellowship with God was, veils suggest barriers. Wouldn’t it be great if those veils, those barriers, could be removed?

Imagine every priest having immediate access into the Holy of Holies at all times. Then imagine every Israelite being a priest – so that everyone had that same access.

Something like that happened in the first century. It happened as Jesus was ending His suffering on the Cross:

Mat 27:50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
Mat 27:51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom…

There are two things about this tearing that are unmistakeable.

The first, and the most obvious, is that the tearing was God’s doing. He reached down and tore it from top to bottom.

When you talk about the Temple that replaced the Tabernacle, the First Temple was built by Solomon. It was destroyed by the Babylonians. When the Persians allowed the Jews to rebuild their Temple, that Temple was the Second Temple. It is sometimes called Zerubbabel’s Temple after the governor of Judah at that time. In the time of Jesus, King Herod was remodeling the Second Temple; so it’s sometimes called Herod’s Temple.

Herod had increased the height of the Temple from 20 cubits to 40 cubits, according to the writings of Josephus. The veil was thus somewhere near 60’ high. An early Jewish tradition says that the veil was about four inches thick, but the Bible does not confirm that measurement.

It’s size and it’s thickness tell us this tearing was not done by man, but by God.

It was His doing; and because of it, we have the closest fellowship with God possible apart from being absent from our bodies and present with Him in Heaven.

The barrier between God and man was removed forever by God’s own doing. There would be no more need for spiritual decompression in the chambers of the Temple. It had served its earthly purpose. The way to God was opened.

The second thing about the tearing of the veil is something that is revealed to us by the inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews:

Heb 10:19 Therefore, brethren, [we have] boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
Heb 10:20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
Heb 10:21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,

It compares Jesus’ torn flesh to the torn veil as if they were one. As the veil was torn, Jesus’ flesh was torn for each one of us. We, through His substitutionary death and shed blood, can receive salvation and have direct access to God.

When it says we have “boldness to enter the Holiest,” it’s not talking about approaching God in an earthly Temple. God was through with that Temple and its religious system, and the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by the Romans in 70AD, just as Jesus prophesied (Luke 13:35).

We are His Temple – indwelt by His Holy Spirit at the moment of our salvation.

At any moment, we could be in the very Presence of the Lord. Through death, or by the rapture, we will, the apostle Paul promises, “see Him face-to-face” (First Corinthians 13:12).

The apostle John says, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (First John 3:2).
We could quote the Psalmist here and say, “This was the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23).

God’s promise in Genesis to restore fellowship is almost complete. Any moment, Jesus will return in the clouds to resurrect the dead of the church age, and to rapture living believers.

That event will be followed by the seven-year Great Tribulation on earth… Which will be followed by the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth… Which will be followed by the Millennial Kingdom on the earth, ruled by Jesus from Jerusalem… Followed by the Great White Throne judgment in which all nonbelievers from all history will be consigned to eternal conscious torment in the Lake of Fire.

Followed by the creation of new heavens and a new earth, in which there is no need of a Temple because believers in our glorified resurrection bodies will finally enjoy face-to-face time fellowship with God.
Until then we, by faith,

Turn [our] eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.