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Archive for November, 2017

basin

In Exodus 30:17-21, God instructs Moses on building a basin made out of bronze for the priests to wash in.  This sink-type item was to be placed between the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and the altar which was in the outer court.

The purpose of the bronze basin was for the men whom God had chosen to act on behalf of the people to wash their hands and feet before ministering or coming near the altar.  Although they were already physically clean, this mandate was how God chose to point them to their need to place their own purity always, always, always before any work they would do in ministry.  It was to remind them constantly of their own dire need to confess, repent, and be wholly pure before the Lord in thought, word, and deed before any taking any action on behalf of others in prayer, intercession, and offering sacrifice to God.  If they would not be diligent about their own purity and cleanness before serving the Lord and being in His presence, the consequence was death.  (Exodus 30:21)

Death!

Likewise, men who answer God’s call to ministry and fail to constantly and diligently bow before the Lord prior to offering ministry to others or offerings to the Lord today will ultimately die spiritually due to their own pride and self-sufficient presumption.  If men who minister to others do not understand their own desperate need for God’s help, for his mercy and forgiveness, and for their own purity, they will not be able to stand in adversity or with any confidence or assurance before the Lord or before men.

Therefore, men who seek to lead others toward God must have clean hands and a pure heart.  Without that, they will be wholly ineffective in any kingdom work they attempt regardless of the size of their church or the title in front of their name.  Yet those who would daily recognize their own need, be daily cleansed, and be clean before carrying out ministry will be blessed forever by the faithful promise of God.  (Exodus 30:21)

In God’s book, personal purity always comes before pastoral ministry.

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tax

In Exodus 30, Moses is instructed by God to impose a tax on God’s people.  Moses was commanded to take a census of every person twenty years and older.  Each person, regardless of wealth or poverty had to pay the same amount.  The cost was half a shekel, which compared today would have been about $10.

The reason God gave for this imposition is found in Exodus 30:12.

“When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.”

The reason the people had to pay was that they needed redeemed.  This fee was  ransom they gave for their own lives.  The idea was to remind them of their need to be bought back and “counted” worthy.

This tax came with a warning.  Those who would not pay were in danger of being plagued.  Doubtless the illustration is the fact that we are plagued by sin when we’ll not acknowledge our need for redemption and obey God in all that he commands.

This small fee could never truly redeem them, but it pointed them to their need.  It pointed them back to Passover to the God who redeemed the from slavery and it pointed them forward to a Savior who would truly redeem them from sin.

Again, every one of God’s people – rich or poor – paid the same amount.   This makes it clear that all souls stand on level ground.  We all stand in need and the cost is uniform.

The atonement money collected was to be used to defray the expenses of God’s tabernacle and its operations.

When we take a step back and look at the big picture here, it is clear that, as all of these things were being done for God and his glory, they were simultaneously being done for God’s people and their good.  The tabernacle was built for God.  The tabernacle was built for God’s people.  The altar was built for God.  The altar was built for God’s people.  The Arc of the Covenant was built for God.  The Arc of the Covenant was built for God’s people.  The golden lamps were built for God.  The golden lamps were built for God’s people.  The priests were consecrated to serve God.  The priests were consecrated to serve God’s people.  The incense, the showbread, the tax, the veil, the oil – everything was for God, and everything was for God’s people.  God instructed all these things to show his people who he was.  God instructed all these things to show his people who they were. Amazing.

 

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altar

In Exodus 30, God instructs Moses on building the Altar of Incense.

The Altar of Incense was to be made of wood and gold and it was where the priests were to burn incense every morning and every evening when the lamps were tended to.  It sat in front of the veil which divided the Holy of holies where the Arc of the Covenant and God’s presence was from the sanctuary.

This altar, along with its daily requirements, was a symbol to point us to prayer and intercession.  The lamps symbolized the Word.  These together, tended every morning and every night, show us a great example of diligence and duty in our relationship with God.  Luke 1:10 sites an example of the people of God praying at the time of burning incense on this golden altar. Matthew Henry says it this way:

“When the priest was burning incense, the people were praying, to signify that prayer is the true incense.  This incense was offered daily, it was a perpetual incense; for we must pray always, that is, we must keep up stated times for prayer every day, morning and evening, at least, and never omit it, but thus pray without ceasing.  The lamps were dressed or lighted at the same time that the incense was burnt, to teach us that the reading of the scriptures (which are our light and lamp) is a part of our daily work, and should ordinarily accompany our prayers and praises.” 

The priest was to make atonement on this altar once a year only and nothing unauthorized was to be offered on it.  The Brazen Altar was where the daily animal sacrifices were to be made.  It symbolized Christ, the lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world by dying in our place.  The Golden Altar of Incense was where the pleasing aroma was to be offered to God.  It symbolized Christ’s sufficient work on the cross and the pleasure of His Father.

“As by the offerings on the brazen altar satisfaction was made for what had been done displeasing to God, so, by the offering on this, what they did well was, as it were, recommended to the divine acceptance; for our two great concerns with God are to be acquitted from guilt and accepted as righteous in his sight.” Matthew Henry

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meeting

Exodus 29:38-46 indicates important parallels to our daily needs and duties.  Let’s consider these verses carefully.

Once the priests were ordained and consecrated, they were to begin making daily animal sacrifices on the altar for God’s people.

 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.” ~Exodus 29:38-39

A one year-old lamb in the morning and a one year-old lam in the evening…every…single…day.  The offerings were given with bread and wine and made at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.  I don’t know about you, but when I read this I thought, “Wow.  That’s a lot of work every day.”  Not to mention how messy it must have been.  And these were only the bare minimum requirements as far as sacrifices went for each day.  Many other offerings and sacrifices often had to be made in addition to these.  Nevertheless, if Israel were faithful to do this, God promised to meet them there and dwell among them.

This is a great passage to consider.  Clearly, the duty to continually offer these daily sacrifices point to our duty to offer daily prayer and devotions to God.  This is our meat; our daily bread.  To meet with God faithfully and offer our prayers, praise, and worship assures and confirms to us God’s faithfulness to meet us there and dwell with us.  If we will not obey him in offering daily devotion, we will not know rightly his great faithfulness and concern for us.  Great assurance comes with consistent obedience to God’s instruction.

On the contrary, if we’ll not commit ourselves daily to his commands and our Christian duties and devotions, we’ll not know his faithfulness, his guidance, his direction, or his heart for us.  God is always faithful, but we only know and understand the reality of his commitment and love toward us when we commit to and show love toward him; when we continually meet with and obey him in time spent with him personally.

Remember, these daily offerings were required.  They were not mere suggestions for God’s people.  They were costly, bloody, and a great amount of real work.  Such is daily prayer and devotion to God.  Yet, we ought never treat these things as if they are optional.  These things are required for a healthy spiritual life.  Communion with our Lord is paramount every single day of our lives.

“God will not fail to give those the meeting who diligently and conscientiously attend upon him in the ordinances of his own appointment.” Matthew Henry

In other words, if we are faithful to consistently and seriously do that which God has instructed us, he will not fail to meet with and encourage us. God personally meets with those who honor and obey him.

 

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chosen
Moses had been on Mt. Sinai for some time now.  He had been instructed on the laws of God as they pertain to personal conduct, altars, slaves, restitution, social justice, sabbaths and festivals, the future sanctuary, and furniture therein, the tabernacle the people were going to build, and the priests and their holy garments.  In Exodus 29, God instructs Moses on how to prepare, or, “consecrate,” the priests who were to serve His people in His temple.

Moses was told to consecrate the priests.  To do so, he had to wash them, dress them, and make offerings for them.

First, Moses was told to make a sin offering for the priestly candidates.  He was told to bring them to the entrance of the tent and wash them with water.  Then, he was to clothe them with the priestly garments, anoint them with oil, and “ordain” them.

To ordain literally means, “to fill the hand.”  Anyone who is called into ministry will have their hands full, so to speak.  We must! If we have nothing to give, we’ve no use in God’s house.  We must be busy about God’s business when he has us involved in serving his people and his house.  We have no time to slack or sloth as some who wear the titles in the church are so infamously known to do.  We must ourselves continually receive from God in order to properly give nurture, console, comfort, correction, and instruction to His people.  Therefore, our hands must first be filled.  Our hands will be full if we would work for God.

These men were brought to the entrance, or, the doorway of the Tent of Meeting.  This act symbolized their mediation and their standing between God and man.

After they were ordained, the offerings were to be made.  One was a sin offering for the sins of these soon to be priests (Exodus 29:10-14.)  One was a burnt offering wherein these me dedicated themselves to God (Exodus 29:15-18.)  And one was to be a peace offering for the fellowship between God and man (Exodus 29:19-28.)  Part of the blood from these offerings was put upon these men and sprinkled on their robes.  This was to point us all to the necessity of Christ’s sacrificial blood covering us.  They had to wear these blood-stained garments and make sacrifices for seven days in order for ordination to be complete.  Not only that, but once they began to serve in the temple they had to make animal sacrifices daily.  I imagine it was a pretty dirty job for someone wearing such elaborate clothing.  One who faithfully serves God’s people is bound to get their hands, and robes, desperately dirty in doing so.

Only the priestly candidates could eat of the ram of ordination.  Anything that touched the altar where these sacrifices were made became holy.

All of these preparations were done to magnify the seriousness and sacredness of the office.  It was so they, and we, might understand the weight of the call of God when we hear it, and that those who are seeking position and influence in God’s house out of human ambition rather than a true call might not assume such things upon themselves.  Many a man wreaks havoc, brings great judgement upon himself, and harms many within God’s church by putting himself forward for ministry out of greed and self-interest.  Woe to him!

The whole seven day ceremony was meant to point they, their people, and we, to the gospel.  Jesus is our high priest.  He is our one mediator between we and the Father.  If we are going to serve him, we must first be washed clean of sin and clothed with his sacrificial blood.  We must understand the seriousness of our call, and we must prepare accordingly.

We live in a culture full of people who treat the offices of leadership within the church as day jobs and personality contests; power pulls and position pandering.  Many lack respect and reverence in their knowledge, their attitudes, and even their dress.  These things are evidenced clearly by their utter and complete unpreparedness.  These things should not be so!  If you would not preach the gospel and tend to God’s house for the joy of doing so and free of charge, you should not ever think yourself fit to do those things in exchange for a paycheck!  The priesthood, the pastorate, and the leadership within the church are not day jobs!  They are not popularity contests, power plays, or positions to covet!  These are to be taken on only by the direct and decided call of God after much preparation and sobriety of thought over their consideration.  Anyone who believes he is called to ministry should consider Exodus 29 carefully.

Caring for God’s people is the hardest job in the world, hands down.  Caring for God’s people is the best job in the world, hands down.  Amen.

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priestly garb

The last portion of the priestly garments to be elaborated upon by God were the robe of ephod, the turban with engraved golden plate, a coat, a sash, and undergarments.

The robe of ephod went overtop of the ephod and underneath the breastpiece.  It had pomegranates stitched into it for beauty and bells attached for safety.  Doubtless the fruit was a reminder of life and fruitful ministry and the bells were to remind everyone of the necessity to revere God as holy.  The bells were worn to identify and protect the priest when he went into God’s holy and sacred presence.  The text says the priest had to wear bells so he did not die!  The reason is that sacred places require authorization.  God is to be respected.

The next item described was the turban.  It was to be made of fine linen and worn on the priest’s head.  It was to have a gold plate fastened to the front which read, “Holy to the Lord.”  This identified the high priest and he was to bear any guilt from the offering of the people.  Matthew Henry says this:

“Through him what is good is accepted; our persons, our performances, are pleasing to God upon the account of Christ’s intercession, and not otherwise.”

And not otherwise.  We could never, ever be accepted by God on our own merit or well-doing.  Without an intercessor to cover our sin and failure, we will not be accepted at all.

Finally, Moses was instructed that the priests should wear coats, sashes, and caps.  All of this was for the glory and beauty of God to be seen in them: Imago Dei. Moses was to dress, anoint, ordain, and consecrate his brother, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons to the priesthood.

This is quite the ensemble.  Let us remember their dress and know that all of God’s ministers are called to be set apart, prepared, and dressed in the full armor of God.

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remember

After God instructs Moses on who will be the priests and the high priest, he describes in detail what they were to wear.  Let us consider these things and their significance.

First, the ephod is elaborated upon.  the ephod was a sleeveless linen garment which had fine thread, and, in the case of the high priest, had even gold woven into it.  It covered the chest to the hips and had two shoulder straps with an onyx stone on each side.  The stones were to have the names of all the sons of Israel engraved upon them.  Six tribes were to be written on one stone; six on the other.  These were called the “stones of remembrance.”  The settings were to be made of gold attached by corded golden chains.

Over the top of the ephod, a breastpiece was to be worn.  It was a folded piece of fabric which contained twelve precious stones – one for each tribe’s name.  Also, the urim and thummim – which were some type of spiritual help for decision making – were to be placed inside.  The high priest was to fasten this garment overtop of his ephod by way of golden cords, golden rings, and golden settings that he might have always the names of God’s people upon his heart.  Exodus 28:30 says this:

“And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.”

In all of these instructions, one beautiful theme shines through: God remembering his people; God taking great pains to insure that his people know and understand their worth and importance to him; God writing their names on the heart of their intercessor – the high priest; God preparing his people to be the honored guests in his house.

This is such a beautiful illustration and example of God’s love and mercy for his people.  When we study this passage, and recognize the magnitude of God’s love and mercy toward us, it makes what we know about those he was choosing all the more tragic.  When the reality of this passage hit me, it literally broke my heart for God.  Here’s why:

Here, while God is instructing his prophet about the honor and beauty and glory he is about to bestow on his chosen ones, writing their names on his very heart and taking special and great pains to remember them and make sure they know how loved and remembered they are, they themselves are forgetting him.  It was during this very time that Aaron – the high priest God chose – was leading the people in the worship of an idol: the golden calf.  While Moses is receiving this instruction about how much God longs to remember his people, Aaron is forgetting Him.  Aaron is assuming and presuming that God has forgotten them.

Consider that.  Consider that God was fitting to give Aaron not only the priesthood and make him the high priest – a place of great honor, God was also preparing to give him much gold to wear in honor of Him.  Aaron chose to worship a gift (gold) that God was planning to give him particularly in abundance in place of worshiping the God who was giving it.  In other words, God is up there giving these instructions to bless and honor these men with Aaron as the most honored and they are building an idol out of the very material that God wishes to use to honor them.  Aaron – the would-be high priest is leading the charge.

God had planned to write their names on the most precious stones known to man – to have the intercessor hold them on his very heart and they thought he had forgotten them.  They were in direct rebellion to God as he planned to honor and extend mercy to them.  This is the kind of God we serve.  This is the kind of people we are.  It is heartbreaking when we recognize how good and loving Our Father is as opposed to how foolish and disobedient we are.

Herein we realize how important it is to have an intercessor.  God said that Aaron would bear the judgement of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.  This is the job of every minister who would intercede for God’s people.  Judgement is bore on our hearts because when the judgement of another is placed upon your heart, you are not vindictive and smug about the discipline needed, rather, you are broken and sorrowful -just as the Father is – when discipline for others is necessary.  By bearing judgement on our hearts, we feel the pain of their disobedience and mourn for their repentance rather than happily, vengefully attesting to the fact that they will get what they deserve.

Aaron was our first high priest; Christ is our last.  Never, ever think he has forgotten you.  Your name is written on his hands and his heart.

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