Exodus 27-30

God conveyed the mysterious and detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and its contents, every item had precise measurements and details from the bowls used for sacrifice to the Ark of the Covenant that would hold the Ten Commandments. All these details would have seemed completely different and somewhat strange from the Israelites experiences in Egypt. But think of the provision God supplied: the Israelites learned to weave, make perfume and incense; they became skilled carpenters, metal workers and gold smiths while they were slaves in Egypt. Now they will use those skills to worship the LORD according to His plans, they will approach the Mercy Seat in the prescribed way or risk certain death.

The Tabernacle would be the worship center for the Israelites for 500 years, from Moses to David. The Temple was not built until David’s son Solomon was King. The Tabernacle will be a witness of God’s presence in Israel, his dwelling and ruling of the Israelites; His ever present leading in everyday life and in the great battles to come.

Next God gives Moses the plans for the courtyard tent that surrounded the Tabernacle and contained the altar for burnt offerings and the basin for washing. The altar was 7”6” square with horn on all four corners, it was 4’6” high; it was made of acacia wood overlaid with bronze all made according God’s plans. The horns of the altar were indispensable, fugitives could cling to them for safety, blood of the sacrifice was put on them and the priests would grab the horns when making intercessory prayer. The bronze altar was placed in front of the entrance to the Tabernacle; indicating that the only way to approach the Tabernacle, God’s dwelling place, was through confession of sins and the sacrifice. It was around the altar that the Israelites gathered to make their sacrifices for forgiveness and atonement. The person bringing the sacrifice would place their hands on the animal’s head and confess their sins, their sins transferred to the animal, the animal was killed and its blood place on the horn and around the base of the altar. “For the life of every living thing is in the blood. So I myself have assigned it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life.” The sin question must be dealt with in the courtyard, where sinners stand. There must be a substitute, a sacrifice, before one can enter into the Holy Place. As every Israelite had to come by way of the bronze altar, so today the cross is the only way to heaven. (JOY notes)

We see how perfectly Jesus fulfills this sacrifice for us, once for all. He presented himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He took upon himself all of our sins, transferring our sins to the Lamb of God; he died for us, erasing our sins so that we can stand with confidence before the throne of God knowing we have been cleansed from all our unrighteousness by His sacrificial death.

The Tabernacle with the Bronze altar is surrounded by fencing made of twisted linen 150’ long, 75’ wide and 7’6” high. The entrance to the courtyard always faced east towards the sunrise, an elaborate curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn twisted with linen and decorated with embroidered art marked the entrance to the courtyard of the LORD. The application is easy; there was only one way in and only one way to make yourself right with the LORD, through the sacrifice on the altar. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The instructions for the last two items are given, an altar for burning incense and the bronze basin for washing. The altar of incense will go in the holy place, the waiting room of God and will burn continually with a sweet smell. The basin is place outside the tabernacle for the cleansing of the hands and feet before entering into the tabernacle. Recipes were given for perfumed oil and incense; these were set apart as holy, never used for common practices only for the Tabernacle and the anointing of priests.

Aaron and his four sons are appointed by God to be the priests for the Israelites, they would maintain the Tabernacle and its furnishings, they would perform the sacrificial rituals and they would remind the people of Israel of their covenant obligations. God gave Moses specific instructions for Aaron and his sons’ clothing; all were holy garments, for glory and beauty. The High Priest wore a blue robe over a fitted tunic with a turban on his head; the bottom of the robe was decorated with pomegranates and gold bells. Hanging on his chest was the Ephod, a cloth vest that hung from his shoulder by straps. The Ephod had a pouch in front that contained two stones called the Urim and Thummin; they were used for decision making. On the shoulder straps were onyx stones set in gold with the names of the twelve tribes engraved on the stones; on the front of the Ephod – the Breastpiece were four rows of three precious stones across engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel. These are the Stones of Remembrance; the High Priest would carry the names of the sons of Israel over his heart as he did his duties in the Tabernacle and the people would listen for the bells on his robe that indicated his progress. Finally, on the High Priests head was a plate of gold engrave with a seal saying “Holiness to the LORD”; Aaron carried the heavy responsibility to do everything exactly as God instructed, he was set apart for that holy purpose.

Moses dedicated Aaron and sons for their ministry, but before they could do this they needed to cleanse themselves from their sins. They offered a young bull, two rams and bread made with fine wheat flour for sacrifice; first they wash with water at the entrance to the tent of meeting, then Moses dressed them and anointed them with oil. They confess their sins on the head of the animals, the bull’s blood is sprinkled on the horns and base of the altar, its internal organs are burned on the altar and the remaining is burned outside of the camp. The first ram is killed, blood sprinkled and is completely burned on the altar; this is also called a whole offering because everything is burned. The second ram is treated differently, it is killed and the blood is sprinkled on Aaron and sons’ right ear, right thumb and right big toe and on their garments and on the altar; portions of this animal is saved for cooking the remaining is burned on the altar. The meat from the ram and bread from the wave offering become a communion sacrifice, a shared meal with God indicating that they are at peace with God. This consecration ceremony was repeated for seven days, everything was purified by sacrifice and confession; the priests, their clothing and all the items made for worship.

Finally, Moses is instructed to take a census, He was to count the Israelites and each man is to pay a ransom for his life to the LORD. Each man twenty years old and older is to pay a half shekel; this became the sanctuary offering for the upkeep of the Tabernacle. Lastly recorded forever are the names of the artisans that God filled with the Spirit of God in skill, in understanding, in knowledge and in all kinds of craftsmanship to make everything needed for the Tabernacle. Here is a lasting lesson: God makes clear His requirements but He also fills us with the abilities and Spirit to accomplish what He requires. No task is too menial and none too great but that God will supply what it takes to execute it to His glory. (JOY notes)

Exodus 25-26

The Covenant has been read and confirmed, the Israelites agreed that they will do as God commands and declare that they will obey God’s Laws. Now God gives specific instructions for His dwelling place, where He will live and rule from among the Israelites. God will live with them, directing their movement to new camps in the wilderness. But God is not limited by space, nor is He restricted to the Sinai wilderness; He will go with them, ahead of them conquering their enemies and preparing the way to the Promised Land.

The Lord spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites to take an offering for me; from every person motivated by a willing heart you are to receive my offering”. Moses collected gold, silver, bronze, fine linen, goat’s hair, ram skins dyed red, fine leather, acacia wood, and oil for the lamps; spices for the anointing oil and for fragrant incense, onyx stones and other gems. With these offerings, willingly given to their LORD and King they will make a sanctuary according to the exact pattern that God gives Moses. Then God would come and live among them; dwell with them.

Remember that Moses instructed the Israelites to ask for gold, silver, clothing and whatever they needed from the Egyptians; when the Israelites left through the Red Sea they came out with the wealth of the Egyptians. What follows in chapter 25 and 26 are very exact and complicated instructions for the building of God’s Tabernacle. Our temptation is to skip over these verses as unimportant to our situation today, but Hebrews 8 relays why these details are important, the Tabernacle was a “sketch and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary”. These plans, given to Moses are based on the layout of the Heavenly Sanctuary; all the complex details teach us about God, how He is to be approached and how He is to be worshiped.

First piece of furniture to be made is the Ark of the Covenant; it is a small box, overlaid with pure gold inside and out. Attached to the four feet are four rings so that the poles of Acacia wood, covered with gold would remain attached to the Ark at all times. A lid for the box is made of pure gold, with two cherubim on top, their wings are spreading upward and their faces are looking downward to the Atonement lid. The Ark and the Atonement cover together become the “Mercy Seat of God”, God’s throne in the Tabernacle with the angels, cherubim, guarding the Throne of the LORD. This precious box would hold the testimony, the Ten Commandments that God will give Moses the record of their covenant agreement with God. Later God will instruct the Israelites to add some other items, an urn of manna and Aaron’s rod to the Ark.

God tells Moses, I will meet you there, above the atonement lid, between the two cherubim that are over the Ark of the Testimony; I will speak with you about all that I will command you for the Israelites. The Mercy Seat of God is also where once a year the High Priest would offer a sacrifice to cover the sins of the people by sprinkling blood on the atonement cover; the place where the ransom was delivered by means of a substitute the perfect unblemished sacrifice. The High Priest went through an extensive cleansing ritual before he could stand before the Throne of God; what a great privilege that we can approach God’s throne with confidence not by the rituals or works we have done but by the perfect covering of Christ sacrifice.

The next item made is a small table of acacia wood, overlaid with pure gold with a border surrounding it. Again four rings are attached to the four legs so that gold covered poles of acacia wood can stay in place to carry the table. Additionally they make plates, pitchers and bowl of pure gold for the Tabernacle. The table will hold the “Bread of the Presence”; each Sabbath twelve loafs of fine bread are made and placed on the table. Jesus identifies Himself as the true bread of heaven who came down from Heaven from God to give life to the world. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life… I am the living bread that came down from heaven; the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”

What follows next are the instructions for making a lampstand of pure gold with 75 lbs of gold; Menorah in Hebrew. It was to be made all in one piece: base, shaft and cups, decorated with almond flowers and buds. The Lampstand is to be placed outside the Holy of Holies, to burn continually; Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, the one who follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life”.

Then God gives the instructions for the Tabernacle itself, the curtains that form the walls and dividing into two rooms the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. They were to woven of fine linen, joined together with loops and golden clasps to make one long wall. The designers will weave into the curtains cherubim and include extra fabric so that the tabernacle is completely covered. It would have been a very dark and mysterious place. The tent is covered with ram skins dyed red, then over that another covering of fine leather. The frames of the tent are made out of acacia wood covered with gold, with silver bases. A special curtain is made of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine twisted linen with Cherubim worked into it, it will hang from gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood covered in gold – behind the special curtain will be the Ark of the Testimony – this will be the Holy of Holies. Finally, instructions are given to make a curtain for the entrance to the Tabernacle; this is made of fine twisted linen of blue, purple and scarlet with fine embroidery for decoration.

All these intricate instructions cause me to think how we approach worship today. The Israelites would never approached the dwelling place of God with casualness, they approached with reverence and awe; with an attitude of gratefulness knowing how amazing it was that the LORD dwelt among them. It seems to me that the American church has become casual with our approach to God. Do we forget the majesty and power of the Creator of the universe? Do we minimize the extraordinary reality that God descended from heaven to make His home with us – first in Tabernacle and now in our hearts? Do we neglect all these details in our pursuit to make our worship experience user friendly?

Exodus 20-24

With the completed delivery of God’s Ten Words Exodus 20 finishes with another description of the mountain of God with thunder, lightning and fire and the Israelites trembling with fear. They plead with Moses to be their mediator, “you speak to God and we will listen to you”. Moses reassures them that God has come to test the Israelites, God will come down, and they will “see” God. Will they do what they have promised? Will they obey the words of the LORD?

This next section is commonly called the Book of the Covenant; it expands and explains how the Israelites were to live out the covenant they made with the LORD. God’s Law can be easily divided into three categories: the civil, the ceremonial and the moral laws.

The Moral Law is the Ten Commandments, God’s ten words to us on how to worship the LORD and to live with each other in His kingdom. These Laws continue to apply today even when we live in a culture that preaches opposing views. We live in a world that teaches moral relativism, the belief that we are free to make up our own rules, based on our own personal preferences. Sadly our preferences usually conflict with God’s laws. By substituting our ideas for God’s we break the covenant with the LORD; we put our own ideas and practices above the commands of the Creator.

The Civil Law are the guidelines that govern Israel as a nation under God; sometimes these are referred to as case law which illustrates how the principles of the Ten Commandments are applied in ancient Israel. I have heard many an argument that cites a law from this category as reason why the Ten Commandments no longer apply; therefore we can follow our own preferences. For example: Exodus 21:15 “Whoever strikes his father or his mother must surely be put to death”. The argument follows since we no longer put a person to death who hits his father or mother therefore God’s Law must no longer be in effect. We are no longer under the punishments of judges of ancient Israel, the civil law, but we are still under the command to Honor your Father and Mother and all that that command means. This reverse reasoning doesn’t mesh with the Holy Almighty LORD who does not change or with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:18, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place”.

The Ceremonial Law was the regulations that governed ancient Israel for the various religious festivals and the rules for priests, offerings and sacrifices. All of these regulations pointed forward to Jesus Christ, as He offered himself once-for-all for our sins therefore no further sacrifices are needed. Hebrews 10:10 “By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”.

Next the Israelites were given detailed instructions on how to build their altars and offer sacrifices; this expands on the second Commandment. We are to worship only the LORD and we are to worship Him as he revealed himself and not create for ourselves rituals, images and ideas that distract us from His revealed Truth. The law is further explained and applied to murder, manslaughter, personal injury rulings, property damage, self-defense, oppression of the poor, widows and orphans, false witness, corruption and land use. All these laws were to teach and mold the Israelites into a people who lived and worshiped differently than the nations they were about to encounter. They were to be God’s holy people, His treasured possession. God assures Israel that He will be with them as they travel, He will drive out the nations before them and protect them; they were to obey the commandments and trust God to do what He has promised. Finally, the Covenant is ratified at the foot of the mountain; they offered sacrifices sealing the covenant with blood and reading the Book of the Covenant – the stipulations of the agreement. The people of Israel promise to do everything the LORD has said; saying “we will obey”. This is followed by a fellowship feast then Moses heads up the mountain for forty days and forty nights receiving instructions from God for the building of the tabernacle and its furnishings.

Ten Commandments

There seems to be great interest today in spiritual things; many seek God but at the same time are not very interested or willing to do what God requires. Respect for God demands a respect for God’s law; God revealed His character to us in His Ten Words with great power.

We are blessed to have both God’s Law and Jesus’ teaching to help us understand the full breath of God’s holiness and His great love for us. Every command must be understood in the context of the entire bible. By this we learn that the commands are both internal and external, it is not sufficient that we keep the letter of the law while continuing to break God’s commands in our hearts. Also we understand that the Law has both a positive and a negative side to each command; not only is the sin forbidden but a corresponding command to do good is required. Additionally we learn that each commandment stands for a whole category of sins; the command is against the sin listed and direction of our lives that lead us to commit the offense. Finally, we understand that even though it appears that our offense might be against our neighbor in reality we sin against our neighbor and our God; the entire world is His creation these ten words list what the LORD declares as evil.

You shall have no other gods before me and the corresponding you shall give your total and complete worship to God Alone who is the Truth. Human history is full of false gods, ranks of gods that have control over weather, crops, fertility and the stars. Today we continue to create these minor gods by elevating the things of this world to be God’s equal or superior. It is easy to make the very best good things in our life into gods and to think we need to pay homage to the creations of mankind over reveal Truth of the LORD.

The second command is instruction on how God is to be worshipped; “You shall not make images or likeness and bow down or serve them”. The corresponding command is: you shall worship God in the way He prescribes – He is God and you are not! In each generation we have done this and continue to do this today as we “re-make” the LORD into a user friendly god which distracts from the true God who reveals Himself to us. The Almighty is not a God to be manipulated nor does He change because we want to emphasize one aspect of His character over and above another. We need to seek to know God in all His glory, the loving and merciful God and the earth rattling, thundering, and fierce God who will settle accounts and bring His justice upon the earth.

God commands that we shall not take the Name of the LORD in vain; which corresponds with we shall honor, respect God’s Name, which reflects every aspect of His being. To treat casually or irreverently the nature of God is to dishonor or mock the Creator of the Universe. This irreverent and casual speaking has become the norm today we have even gone so far as to falsely use His name to endorse our plans and thoughts; or rename Him to suit our own sensibilities and we coupled vile and evil words with the name of the LORD.

With the fourth command, God gives us lifestyle that reflects how God himself works and rests. We are to “Remember the Sabbath day to set it apart as holy”; the corresponding command is that we are to work because God continues to work. We are to recall how God worked six days to create the world then rested on the seventh; with His example we are called to this pattern of living – working and resting. We are not to spend all our hours working and striving; we are to set time aside each week time to rest in the LORD, to worship the one who made us and blesses us. This is further explained with the understanding that we no longer need to strive in our works in vain attempt to save ourselves; instead we are to rest in the work of Jesus who suffered and died for us so that we can stand in confidence before the throne of the LORD.

The command to Honor your Father and Mother begins the list about how we are to live righteously with our neighbors. To honor one’s parents is to give them recognition and respect for the God-given authority has placed on them to teach and raise up the next generation to know and love the LORD. This command is not just for children, it is for all of us; the corresponding command is against dishonoring the people God has put in authority position in our lives, parents, church leaders and national leaders. In our current caustic culture, we violate this command quite often; to honor does not mean we are never to disagree with our parents or leaders, but it does bring with it the command to disagree with respect and honor.

The sixth command is the command against premeditated murder, you shall not kill unlawfully. God has sovereignty over human life and death because He alone is the life giver; to take a life unlawfully is to violate God’s sovereignty. The corresponding command is that God’s people are to protect the life of the innocent. We have a culture that doesn’t value life, we throw away our lives with reckless choices that lead to death and throw away friends over minor disputes. When God forbids murder He is teaching us that He hates the root of murder, all those things that lead up to murder hate, envy, anger and revenge. “Speaking recklessly is like the thrusts of a sword, but the words of the wise bring healing”. Proverbs 12:18.

The seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery”, forbids any sexual activity that violates the covenant of marriage. Not because sex is bad, but because it is designed to be such a powerful force for good. The corresponding command is that husbands and wives shall nurture their love for on another, emotionally and spiritually as well as sexually. We remember that God refers to the chasing after false gods as adultery; the marriage covenant reflects and reminds us of our relationship to the LORD, both should be wholly devoted and exclusive in mind, heart and body.

The eighth command “You shall not steal” or you shall not take something that doesn’t belong to you. The corresponding command is that since everything we have comes from God, we are to be good stewards of God’s gracious gifts. Stealing denies that God will provide for all our needs and it is a failure to trust God. “Every time I give, I declare that money does not control me. Perpetual generosity is a perpetual De-deification of money” Kent Hughes

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor is the ninth command. The corresponding command is that we must tell the truth, we are called to be the truth telling people of God who is Himself the Truth. We can use our words to praise God and bless others or we can lie and damage others, this includes speaking up and defending people when they are unfairly attacked by false witnesses. We know that lying is wrong, but we have become so accustomed to massaging the truth for personal advantage that we have trouble discerning the lies and holding the line against the false witness. We are called to speak the truth in love, sometimes this is very hard, but when we do we reflect You as the author of Truth who proclaims the truth and keeps His promises.

The final command is against coveting, “You shall not covet your neighbor, his wife or any of his things”. The corresponding command is to be content with who you are and what you have. This command starts on the inside and governs our thoughts and desires; to covet means to crave, to yearn for something that belongs to someone else. The tenth command makes explicit what the other commands only imply namely that God requires inward as well as outward obedience. God judges the heart of a man; we may look righteous on the outside, beautiful to others, but God knows our hearts and every thought. Here is Paul’s advice to the Corinthians, “We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ”.