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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

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

thor

My family and I saw the new film, “Thor Ragnarock” over the weekend.  I am not a diehard superhero fan, but I have to admit that Thor has always been my favorite comic book personality.  I mean, what more could you want?  He’s virtuous, selfless, committed to righteousness, and he’s a courageous, powerful warrior.  The parallels between he and Our True Savior are many.  At the end of the day, Thor often ends up looking a whole lot like a type of Christ.

There were three main elements in this third movie in the series that Christians today would do well to recognize.

Firstly, Thor will stop at nothing on his quest to save his people.  No matter how difficult the odds are, no matter how personally dangerous or costly his journey and fight become, Thor is ever and always running toward battle and reaching to save and serve his people.  My favorite line in the movie is when he finds himself in a seemingly hopeless situation and he is speaking to a girl who has all but forsaken her own call, her values, and her fight out of defeat.  She has spent the past number of years drowning her sorrows and just trying to forget her pain.  Thor calls her back to the fight for justice and righteousness as she adamantly resists.  Finally he tells her, “I choose to run toward my problems, not away from them.  Because that’s what heroes do.”

She ultimately follows him and fights valiantly, and, this time, victoriously.

If there is one thing we must take away from this movie, America, it is this.  Our country is operating on the false premise that if one simply ignores, avoids, tolerates, and pretends not to see well enough, problems that must be dealt with will simply go away on their own.  This is nothing short of cowardice.  Failure to stand for and defend truth as we passively keep false peace out of fear and self-preservation is going to be the ruin of us all.  People of God must make peace, and, more often than not, doing so is mutually exclusive with this coward’s practice of keeping peace.  Christ did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  Little wonder why we are told to count the cost.

Therefore, this widespread practice of passivity, complacency, and indifference when problems arise is not only cowardice, but it is the polar opposite of what the Bible teaches us to do in the midst of adversity, disagreement, and falsehood.  No matter how personally dangerous and daunting, we must run to the battle as David did!  Real warriors for Christ face their fears head on and do all they can to reconcile what is amiss in their own lives and the lives of everyone around them, and this, for the ultimate good of all.  (**See the list of scriptures at the end of this article which point to us all to this end.)

Secondly, the movie is built around a framework that comes together in the end wherein the father instructs the son about his duty to save.  He reminds Thor that he is not saving a place, but a people.  The prophecy in which Thor becomes the main actor, is for bringing salvation.  As he ultimately learns, the whole plan was never intended to save his planet.  It was intended to save only his people.  The Asgardians learn that they are connected to no specific place, rather, Asgard itself indicates only a people group. Wherever they are is home.

Christians, note this.  The church is not and never has been a place.  It is a people.  The church has never, ever been a place.  It has always been a people.  If you have fellowship, scriptural truth, worship, and prayer with others, you have the Holy Spirit presiding over your people, that is, your church.  The church is not a place; it is a people.

Finally, Thor’s selfless, sacrificial fight for the good of others – unlike his complacent, indifferent, self-serving brother, Loki, and his tyrannical, ambitious, evil, self-loving sister, Hela, shines through and proves him the loving, righteous Savior of his people.  He protects and defends his people from evil, corruption, and death for no reason other than to serve the people he loves and obey and make proud the father he esteems.

Thor is picture of Christ in many ways.  He will always be my personal favorite.  Bravo!

**It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and Christ will ultimately judge, but that fact does not suggest that His people do not have a role as a means to his end -which is to convict, bring ppl to godly repentance, and save them. We are part of his means. The entire bible points to this fact. 

Love and admonition are not mutually exclusive. Rebuke, correction, exhortation, and admonition are all part of one anothering in the New Testament church.  Loving people well is not relegated to only praising, encouraging, and approving of their actions at all times, or, when we do see sin just not saying anything about it.  That’s not what the Bible calls or teaches in the least.  Loving others well includes both encouragement and rebuke as needed, all the time.  It always helps me to think about how biological sisters and brothers are called to interact according to the Bible.  If we love someone, we tell them the truth when they are doing well and when they are messing up.  It’s because we love them.  Here’s some scripture to consider when thinking on these matters:

2 Corinthians 7:8-12 – Here, Paul talks about how he wrote an entire letter of rebuke to an entire church (1Corinthians) and how he wasn’t sorry about it even if it made them upset.  It was for their good.

Hebrews 3:12-13 – We are called to exhort one another daily – every. single. day. and the reason given here is so that none of us will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Proverbs 27:17 – iron sharpens iron.  We have to interact and be honest even when it is difficult because one anothering is one of the very means God has prescribed in order to mold and shape us into his spotless bride.

Galatians 6:1-2 – Here, we are called to go to anyone who is sinning and try to restore them to repentance.

Matthew 18:15-17 – Here, again, we find a call to go to one who has offended him and seek reconciliation with the goal of repentance.

James 5:16 – Here we are called to confess our sins to each other (not just to God) and pray for and with each other.

James 5:19-20 – Here, again, we are called to go to anyone who has strayed off course away from truth.  

Ephesians 4:25 – Here, we are called to tell the truth to one another  – not just when the truth is easy, but at all times.

Colossians 3:16 – Here we are called to admonish one another.

Colossians 4:17 – Here, Paul called a whole church to admonish their own leader and hold him accountable.  

Luke 17:3 – Here we are called to rebuke brothers in the faith when they sin.

Proverbs 24:24 – Here we are promised a good blessing if we rebuke wicked men/wicked deeds.

1 Corinthians 5:1-13 – Here, Paul speaks very harshly to a church who passively allowed sin to remain and did not correct or rebuke those who were practicing it without remorse or repentance.

Ezekiel 33:7 – Here the prophet Ezekiel is dubbed a watchman over God’s people and instructed to warn them of coming judgment if they’d not repent.  

The entire Old Testament is full of God calling prophets to speak hard truth to His people in hopes that they’d repent and avoid judgment.  The entire New Testament is full of God calling the entire church to a community of one-anothering honesty, encouragement, accountability, and even rebuke if needed.  God uses people as a means to accomplish his purposes. Just as he uses pastors to shepherd others, he calls each one of us to be keepers of one another.  Exhorting and holding one another accountable is not the same as passing judgement.  Making judgements about all things at all times is what Christians are called to do – is this right or is it wrong? That’s making a judgement.  If it is deemed wrong according to our authority, the Word of God, we must act to reconcile that person or our wrong perception back to the truth.  

Passing judgement is entirely different.  Passing judgement is when a person makes a judgement about an action and then proceeds to attribute their wrong action to a particular motivation (which they could not know) and then begins to treat that person in an unloving or condescending way.  The truth is, we all sin and therefore we all need correction sometimes. Correction is loving.  Passing judgement and condescending someone in a personal and unloving way is not our call ever.