Monday, November 26, 2018

The Mercy Seat

The Tabernacle 10

Note: Today's post brings this series to an end. I shall now take my usual holiday break, and return with a new series in January. Have a happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas.

I want to end this short series on the Tabernacle today by bringing to your attention three distinct aspects of what took place within this room, the Holy of Holies. I will briefly explain all three in their setting of the Tabernacle, and then show you how they directly and wonderfully point to Jesus Christ. To do this, I am going to briefly explain what happened inside this room once a year.

Leviticus 16.5 And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.
6 And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.
7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.
9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.
10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness
11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:
12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:
13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:
14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.
15 ¶ Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:
16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.
17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.
18 And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about.
19 And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the following series of events would take place. The High Priest would dress carefully, kill and offer a bullock on the Brazen Altar, and retain some of the blood. He would then combine in a censer some coals from the Brazen Altar and some incense from the Altar of Incense, and carrying that in one hand with the blood from the bullock in the other hand, he would enter the Most Holy Place. Once inside, he would sprinkle the blood of the bullock seven times on the lid of the Ark, the Mercy Seat, in order to cover his own personal sins. This allowed him to safely enter the presence of God.

This Mercy Seat was the ornate, gold-covered top or crownmercy-seat to the wooden chest that was the Ark of the Covenant. Two massive carved cherubims, covered in gold, stood with wings unfurled over the Mercy Seat. And somehow, floating above the Mercy Seat, was the Shekinah glory, the cloud that represented God’s very presence dwelling or tabernacling in the Most Holy Place.

Aaron would then return back outside, and cast lots on two goats. One goat was then killed, and its blood reserved. Aaron would then bring the blood of the sacrificed goat back within the Veil, and sprinkle it – this time for the people – around and on the Mercy Seat. He would then leave the Most Holy Place, return to the still living goat, and give it to someone who would lead it out into the wild and allow it to go free. This goat, called the scapegoat, symbolically bore the sin of Israel far away when it left. This term – scapegoat – has thus in English come to mean someone who receives the blame for something someone else did.

In this, there are three distinct pictures of the Messiah’s work, the one whom we know as Jesus Christ.

Jewish-High-PriestFirst, Jesus is our High Priest. It was the High Priest’s job to be the mediator between the people and God, satisfying God’s wrath at their sin on the Day of Atonement by sprinkling the blood on the Mercy Seat. In essence, then, he pled before God for forgiveness on behalf of the people. Exactly so, Jesus is our High Priest.
Hebrews 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Hebrews 6. 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Hebrews 7. 22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:
24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

Not only is Jesus our High Priest, He is also our sacrifice, shedding His own blood to atone for our sins. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten from the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. (Revelation 1.5)

All of the blood shed in the Old Testament, with its millions of sacrifices, was simply meant to point toward this blood, the Messiah’s blood, shed for us and applied for us, covering our sin. Yes, He was the High Priest, but as High Priest a resurrected Jesus carried His own blood into the Holy of Holies in Heaven’s Temple and there sprinkled it on the one Mercy Seat that matters. And my sin was covered and so was yours.
Agnus Dei by Francisco de Zurbaran c.1640
We see, finally then, that Jesus Christ is thus in a sense the Mercy Seat for our sin. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. (Romans 3.24-25) Do you know what “mercy seat” means in the original language? Propitiation, which in turn means - appeasement. A holy God is justifiably filled with anger at us because of our sin. We need something that will appease Him. Since the wages of sin is death what will appease Him is death, as represented by a sacrifice’s blood. But we have to find someone who’s shed blood would not be needed for their own sin. The only someone like that? The only to ever keep the Law perfectly, Jesus Christ.

Thus it is that when He, acting in His capacity as High Priest, sprinkled His own blood on Heaven’s Mercy Seat, it bought us mercy, appeasing a justifiably angry God. And mercy rejoices against judgment since God’s wrath has been appeased by the propitiatory sprinkling of the shed blood of Christ on the Mercy Seat.

I leave you finally with this passage from Hebrews for I cannot say it better than this.

Hebrews 9.2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.
7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:
8 ¶ The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

What is the Tabernacle about?

Him. Who He is and what He did for us.

‘Tis glorious.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Ark

The Tabernacle 9

The word “ark” immediately brings two things to mind: Theark Ark of the Covenant and the big boat that saved humanity from the Flood during Noah’s day. Our post obviously concerns the former. The reason the two items share the same word though they are so distinct is simply because an ark is just a chest or container that holds something. Moses’ Ark held three items, which we will discuss in a moment. Noah’s Ark held every breathing animal on Earth.
Moses tells us how Bezaleel built this last and final piece of Tabernacle furniture.

Exodus 37.1 And Bezaleel made the ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half was the length of it, and a cubit and a half the breadth of it, and a cubit and a half the height of it:
2 And he overlaid it with pure gold within and without, and made a crown of gold to it round about.
3 And he cast for it four rings of gold, to be set by the four corners of it; even two rings upon the one side of it, and two rings upon the other side of it.
4 And he made staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with gold.
5 And he put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, to bear the ark.

This Ark, like the Altar of Incense, was basically an empty wooden chest, two and half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. It was covered on both the outside and the inside with beaten gold, and was marked by an edge or crown along the top made out of gold. That edge held the Mercy Seat in place, a similarly constructed yet separate ornamental lid. We will talk more about the Mercy Seat next week.

I have mentioned Bezaleel several times throughout this series but he really comes into view here. A highly talented individual, he was largely responsible for the construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings. Some of that surely was in a supervisory capacity but Exodus 37 tells us he personally constructed the Ark, naturally enough since it was the most important piece of furniture in the Tabernacle.

This Ark, by the way, was the only original item of furniture from the Tabernacle to take its place in Solomon’s Temple. It stayed in Solomon’s Temple until the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. The Ark was either lost or hidden then, giving rise to numerous real life and fictional quests. It is my opinion that it will be found in the Millennium, and placed inside the Third Temple in Jerusalem. Imagine that. Bezaleel built a piece of furniture that played an integral role in the world for nearly a thousand years and may yet again.

A moment ago, I mentioned this Ark contained three things. They were not there accidentally. Remember, everything in the Tabernacle somehow points toward Christ, and this applies as well to these three items. What were they?

Hebrews 9.2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;

The first item it contained was the second set of stone tablets 1hewn out by Moses upon which God’s finger had written the Ten Commandments. Why the second set? Because Moses destroyed the first set when after descending from Mount Sinai he found Israel worshipping the golden calf. He broke the tablets in pieces, ground them into powder, mixed them with water, and forced Israel to drink them down. He then went back up to Mount Sinai for a second set.

Thus we see that the Law itself was immediately broken, physically, a representation of how humanity would continue to break it morally for millennia to come. However, the second set of tablets was placed unbroken inside the chest that was the Ark. The symbolism is plain: the Messiah would be the only one who would keep the Law perfectly unbroken.

Six months before His death He stood before a crowd of people who hated him, a crowd filled with people who had already made attempts on His life, would make another one before the day was over, and would continue to do so until they killed Him, and asked, Which of you convinceth me of sin? (John 8.46) I promise you, if vitriolic spite could have found someway to prove Him guilty of so much as an unacceptable sneeze they would have. But they could not. He fulfilled the Law in every respect.

The second item the Ark contained was an uncorrupted pot of manna. Manna, you will recall, was gathered once a day,THR_26 six days a week, by the Jews throughout their long weary decades in the Wilderness. Along with water from the Rock and the occasional quail, manna was what kept them alive. This manna could only be kept for one day (two days on the day prior to the Sabbath) before it bred worms and stank. Yet somehow, an entire pot of it was preserved in perfect condition inside a wooden box in a Mediterranean climate for at least a thousand years.

So where does manna come into the story of Christ? After feeding the 5,000 Jesus and His Apostles crossed the Sea of Galilee only to find that the crowd had followed them along the shore. When that crowd met Him, they demanded that if He really wanted to be accepted as their messiah He should this time not just miraculously make bread, but actual manna. As always, Jesus sought to turn them from their pre-occupation with material things and miraculous events to see that He Himself was what they needed; He was their spiritual sustenance, not some magically produced Wilderness food. I am the bread of life. (John 6.48)

Thus, this manna, kept unspoiled in the Ark for centuries, pointed Israel toward the fact that their Messiah would meet the daily spiritual needs of His people. All by Himself. He would be their Bread of Life.

The third item inside the Ark was Aaron’s rod that budded. In Numbers 16 we find the story of a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Envious of Aaron, the rebels wanted a piece of his divinely ordained priesthood. God’s answer to that unseemly demand was to ask each tribe to send in the staff of their prince, and the staff – a long-dead tree branch, basically – that burst forth into new life, producing branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit would indicate which tribe God had chosen to stand before Him in ministry.

imageGuess who’s staff burst into bloom? And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds. (Numbers 17.8)

To me, the symbolism of this clear. The Messiah, though to all intents and purposes was dead, would return to life, and by that return to life would prove that He was the divinely appointed High Priest, with all the rights and privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereto.

Like the pot of manna, the Messiah is the Bread of Life. Like the unbroken tablets, the Messiah kept the Law perfect. Like Aaron’s rod that budded, after death He burst forth into life.

Indiana Jones did not find that Ark. The Ethiopians do not have behind a rusty iron fence in Addis Ababa. It does not sit in a hollowed out cavern underneath Golgotha. I suspect it is in some yet undiscovered cave on the shores of the Dead Sea. But wherever it is, when it is finally found, and opened, three things will be found – an unspoiled pot of manna, two tables of stone written on by God, and a staff full of flowers and almonds, all miraculously preserved. Why? Because He is still the Bread of Life, He still keeps the Law perfectly, and He is alive now and forevermore.

Israel’s Messiah. My Saviour.

He is beautiful.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Veil

The Tabernacle 8

blood_curtainThe Tabernacle was divided into two rooms. The front room, containing the Table of Shewbread, the Menorah, and the Altar of Incense, was called the Holy Place. The second room is referred to in Scripture as the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, or the Holiest. It contained one item of furniture, the Ark of the Covenant on top of which was placed the Mercy Seat over which the outstretched wings of the cherubims hovered.

In between those two rooms hung a veil. Moses does not give us any dimensions of the veil, though he does describe it.

Exodus 26.31 And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made:
32 And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver.
33 And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.

In Herod the Great’s reconstruction of Ezra’s Temple, the Temple Jesus knew, Josephus gives us more detail on this particular Veil. It was forty cubits long, twenty cubits high, and composed of seventy two panels sewn together. Four inches thick, it was tremendously heavy, and when it was replaced every year it required 300 priests to muscle it into place.

This veil was designed to section off the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. The latter was accessed at least twice a day by numbers of different priests on rotation, but the former was only entered once a year on the Day of Atonement and then only by the High Priest.

Like everything else in the Tabernacle the Veil shows us something about Jesus. In this case, the Bible is clear that it represented the human body that the Messiah would inhabit.

Hebrews 10.19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
21 And having an high priest over the house of God;
22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

This understanding is only strengthened when we see what took place at the Crucifixion. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. (Matthew 27.50) Theeb61f-templeveil moment Jesus breathed His last breath that enormous, four inch thick, heavy veil described by Josephus was supernaturally torn in two, beginning at the top, was ripped right through to the bottom.

I have spent over a thousand hours studying the life of Jesus Christ. One of the things that such study has deeply impressed upon me is His sheer humanity. I do not mean to take away from His divinity, but He was not just God. He was the God Man, the man Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 2.5) We forget that. His muscles were sore at the end of the day. When He grew weary His eyes closed in a necessary sleep. He experienced hunger pangs and the cotton mouthed feeling that comes when it has been too long since you drank. His eyes stung with sweat as He worked. He was human.

Implicit in this is the necessity that He be born as a baby, grow up as a child, and embrace all that such growing up means, short of yielding to temptation. Knowing this humanizes Him, so to speak. It helps us to enter into what it must have been like to be Him, and helps us realize that He well knew what He was asking when He required of us various things. He walked where we walk, felt what we feel, saw what we see, and tasted what we taste. He knows what it is like to be human with all the frailty that goes with it, and that comforts me sometimes.

But the fact that He clothed Himself in human flesh, what is referred to doctrinally as the incarnation, is more than that. He endured more than just what it means to live human; He endured what it means to die human. It means He walked through the same valley of the shadow of death that I will. Not just walked, hurled Himself. It means He knows what it is like to suffer, to writhe in agony as His nerves shot messages of pain up His spine and into His brain, to refuse a mind-numbing medicine so that His thinking would be clear, so that He could taste every bitter moment of Calvary, so He could drink it to the dregs. The Veil did not unravel one trailing thread at a time; it was viciously shredded.

Rending of the Veil
by William Bell Scott, c 1869
For me.

And when it was thus torn, ripped, disfigured so much it was hard to see the human visage under the hanging strips of flesh and blood, that torn Veil allows me access to God and to the atonement available on the Mercy Seat.

Wounded for me, wounded for me,
There on the cross He was wounded for me;
Gone my transgressions, and now I am free,
All because Jesus was wounded for me.
-W. G. Ovens

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Altar of Incense

The Tabernacle 7

For the last two weeks we have examined the Holy Place, first the Table of Shewbread and then the Golden Candlestick. Today, we will be looking at the third and final piece of furniture in the Tabernacle’s first room, the Altar of Incense.

Moses describes for us what it looked like:

Exodus 37.25 And he made the incense altar of shittim wood: the length of it was a cubit, and the breadth of it a cubit; it was foursquare; and two cubits was the height of it; the horns thereof were of the same.
26 And he overlaid it with pure gold, both the top of it, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns of it: also he made unto it a crown of gold round about.
27 And he made two rings of gold for it under the crown thereof, by the two corners of it, upon the two sides thereof, to be places for the staves to bear it withal.
28 And he made the staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with gold.
29 And he made the holy anointing oil, and the pure incense of sweet spices, according to the work of the apothecary.

Basically a wooden box, one cubit square and two cubits tall, it was covered in gold and decorated with a horn on each corner similar to the Brazen Altar. Like other Tabernacle furniture, it had attached rings designed to hold the staves used to carry it with.

This altar had one use, as a receptacle for the burning of a fragrant incense each morning and evening perpetually.

Exodus 30.7 And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
8 And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.

Incense in the Word of God was used to represent praise or worship, a sweet fragrance given in honor of someone. It could be literal incense as that offered by Mary to Jesus. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. (John 12.3) It could also be the praise you offered God via prayer as the psalmist describes. Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141.2) Here David is asking God to view his praise of Him with the same delight he felt on beholding the morning and evening offering of incense on the Altar in the Holy Place.

It is in this latter sense that we see it in the actual Temple in Heaven, as the connection between incense and our prayers of praise. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. (Revelation 8.3-4)

I have stepped into salvation, and am now surrounded by a perfect righteousness that is supported by redemption. The atoning death that is necessary for this is seen, as is the cleansing which flows from it. This salvation comes via the Messiah and is available to me no matter where in the world I am from. I am now in Him and He in me, secure world without end.

What is my reaction to all of this? What else can it be but tears of joy and shouts of praise? Praise to God for a Messiah who saved me, redeemed me, made me righteous, died for me, cleansed me, and brought me securely to Himself no matter who I am.

…and as I kneel in humble adoration my Heavenly Father inhales the sweetest of fragrances, a sinner’s praise for the Saviour who made all the difference.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Golden Candlestick

The Tabernacle 6

The Tabernacle proper was divided into two rooms between which hung a decorative veil. The front room, called the Holy Place, contained three items of furniture visible as you walked in. On the right was the Table of Shewbread. We discussed this last week. In front of you was the Altar of Incense. We will discuss this next week. The purpose of today’s post is the item on the left, the Golden Candlestick.

Moses draws the picture for us in his Old Testament way.
The_Golden_Menorah_replica_in_Jerusalem (1)
The Temple Institute's Menorah
prepared for the Third Temple
on display in Jerusalem.

Exodus 37:17 And he made the candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work made he the candlestick; his shaft, and his branch, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, were of the same:
18 And six branches going out of the sides thereof; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side thereof, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side thereof:
19 Three bowls made after the fashion of almonds in one branch, a knop and a flower; and three bowls made like almonds in another branch, a knop and a flower: so throughout the six branches going out of the candlestick.
20 And in the candlestick were four bowls made like almonds, his knops, and his flowers:
21 And a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches going out of it.
22 Their knops and their branches were of the same: all of it was one beaten work of pure gold.
23 And he made his seven lamps, and his snuffers, and his snuffdishes, of pure gold.
24 Of a talent of pure gold made he it, and all the vessels thereof.

You will notice that although no specific dimensions are given it was designed to look like an almond bush with branches, buds, flowers, and fruit, and from the tip of each of the seven branches the stem burst forth into light.

Allow me to drag you in haste through the corridors of time forward nearly 1,500 years. About six months before Jesus’ death had come to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Tabernacles. This harvest feast commemorated the period the Jews spent wandering in the Wilderness. Temporary shacks or booths were erected out of branches for this purpose, and the Jews spent some time living in these booths during the eight days of the feast. As the years progressed, the Jews of Palestine added some other elaborate events, such as the ritual drawing of the water from the Pool of Siloam as a memorial of the water that flowed from the Rock in Horeb. It was during that ceremony that Jesus stood and shouted through the solemn hush, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. (John 7.37)

All through the Feast there had been a vigorous national discussion over the place of Jesus. He had been fussed at from all sides, and that was even before He ruined the closing ceremonies with His dramatic announcement. After that bold declaration the Sanhedrin met, reprimanded the Temple police for failing to stop Him, and then argued themselves horse over Who He was and what He represented.

The next day, an unbowed Jesus Christ marches right back into the Temple, and proceeds to spend the entire day teaching. This Temple was not the one built by Solomon, of course, for that one had burned six centuries before. At its heart it was Ezra’s Temple built during the Return but now ‘twas hardly recognizable as such. Herod the Great, now long dead, had launched a massive renovation of it that at this point had been going on for nigh on four decades.

Included in this project were vast courtyards where tens of thousands of Jews could gather. How to light these courtyards at night? Why not use that world-wide symbol of Judaism, the menorah? There was one inside the Holy Place but there was another, even larger one, gracing the exact courtyard where Jesus tangled with the Pharisees that night. Twice as tall as an interstate street light, its ornate branches fairly burst forth with brilliance, lighting up the Treasury in the Court of the Women hundreds of feet in every direction.

The world's tallest menorah, sixty-two feet high
Manado, Indonesia
Picture the scene in all of its grandeur. Tens of thousands of Jews are gathered, debating, discussing, enjoying the Temple grounds following the Feast of Tabernacles. Evening has fallen. Herod’s great menorah, so huge its likeness can still be seen on the Arch of Titus in Rome, lofted fire seventy five feet into the air in all directions. The Sanhedrin and the Pharisees have been after Him all week. Yesterday, He ruined the parade coming from the Pool of Siloam and stole the High Priest’s thunder. Today, He teaches all day and brings such conviction to the Pharisees simply by writing on the ground that they are still running. Tonight, then, what will He do tonight?

Standing in the blaze of glory He shouts, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8.12)

It is not difficult at all to see what the Menorah in Moses’ Tabernacle represented about the Messiah. He told us Himself a millennia and a half later. To this both the Apostle John and John the Baptist agreed, saying,

John 1. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 ¶ And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

What is so interesting here is not just the time and place of Jesus’ stark announcement, but the last phrase of that announcement. I am the light of the world. Jesus did not come just to be the Jewish Messiah, nor even just the Jewish Redeemer. He came for the whole world.

This was referenced all the way back at His birth when Simeon prophesied
he was A light to lighten the Gentiles. (Luke 2.32) That penultimate Jewish prophet, Isaiah, said the same thing, boldly declaring that the Messiah would save not just Jews, but everyone else as well. It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49.6)
Not only was this prophesied in the Old Testament and referenced at His birth, it was also understood this way by the Early Church. When Paul sought to explain why he routinely left synagogues and turned to reaching Gentiles in the cities in which he ministered he said, For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. (Acts 13.47)

Over three thousand years ago Moses instructed Bezaleel and company to make an ornate candlestick in the form of an almond tree. It was then lovingly placed in the Holy Place and carefully tended, filled with oil, the wicks trimmed and burning warmly. Two thousand years ago my Saviour announced that Menorah referred to Himself, and that He came to bring salvation to the entire world. Today, I sit overlooking a quiet hillside down by the Mississippi River, an ocean, a continent, and a world away from the Palestine of Jesus’ day and the Wilderness of Moses’ day. And I am glad. For that light has reached all the way to me.


The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin,
The light of the world is Jesus!
Like sunshine at noonday, His glory shone in;
The light of the world is Jesus!
-P. P. Bliss

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Table of Shewbread

The Tabernacle 5

Note: These kinds of studies, types and figures, et al, often find one man slightly disagreeing with another. If you disagree with my conclusions in this series and your disagreement is an educated one I welcome hearing it. Perhaps you may help me. Hopefully, along the way, I will help you too.

We have discussed the importance of studying the Tabernacle, and we have examined the courtyard and the furnishings in it, the Brazen Altar and the Laver . Today we are going to turn our attention to the structure itself, and what was inside of it.

The Tabernacle proper was composed of just two rooms. The first or front room is generally called the Holy Place and contained three items of furniture. As you walked in on your left was the Candlestick, on your right was the Table of Shewbread, and straight ahead of you was the Altar of Incense. In this post we are going to discuss one of the more confusing (to me, anyway, I puzzled long over this) pieces, the Table of Shewbread.

Timna_Tabernacle_Table_of_ShowbreadThe Table of Shewbread was a two cubits long, one cubit wide, and one and a half cubits high. Along the edge of the table was a border or a raised edge made of gold. This produced a table that was like a very large tray, basically. For mobility, it contained rings in the legs that were threaded through with staves when it was time to move it. I believe the Table of Shewbread represents our union with Christ, that identification with Him which comes to us at our salvation.

Exodus 37. 10 And he made the table of shittim wood: two cubits was the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof:
11 And he overlaid it with pure gold, and made thereunto a crown of gold round about.
12 Also he made thereunto a border of an handbreadth round about; and made a crown of gold for the border thereof round about.
13 And he cast for it four rings of gold, and put the rings upon the four corners that were in the four feet thereof.
14 Over against the border were the rings, the places for the staves to bear the table.
15 And he made the staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with gold, to bear the table.
16 And he made the vessels which were upon the table, his dishes, and his spoons, and his bowls, and his covers to cover withal, of pure gold.

The Scripture tells us that Jesus is the Bread of Life. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth his life unto the world. (John 6.32-33) But I think it is too simplistic simply to say the Table represents Christ as the Bread of Life, primarily because there were twelve loaves on it. I think that number is significant, and leads us on to a deeper meaning.

Each of these twelve loaves must have been quite large for each loaf used twelve cups of flour. (Leviticus 24.5) Compare that with a regular loaf of bread that uses a bit more than three or so. They were placed on the Table hot on the Sabbath day while the stale ones, having sat there for a week, were taken away.

The twelve loaves on the Table were there as physical representations of the twelve tribes of Israel. I draw this from other similar uses in the Word of God. For example, when Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan River he built an altar in the middle of it as a memorial of that crossing. Each tribe brought a stone thus creating an altar of twelve stones, each stone representing a tribe.

Paul tells us in the New Testament that there is a connection between the Church and Israel, namely that the Church participates in the spiritual promises given to God’s Old Testament people.

Galatians 3. 6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

As children of God by faith we are placed in Christ. This union with Him is mentioned often and variously described in Scripture. We are crucified with Christ. (Galatians 2.20) We are buried with him. (Romans 6.4) We are risen with Christ. (Colossians 3.1) We are in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2.6)

The best way I know to describe the meaning of the phrase “in Christ” is that what happened or happens to Him happens to me. For example, if eat an apple and then walk to the store the apple goes to the store too. Why? Because it is in me. If I place a bookmark into a book and then drop the book into the lake the bookmark goes into the lake too. Why? Because it is in the book.

You and I are in Christ. We are placed in Him, and what happens to Him happens to me. There is a union there, a joining there. Indeed, Paul goes so far as to use the word “communion” in this sense in I Corinthians 10.16-17 in reference to the New Testament table, the Lord’s Supper. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ. The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life. We are in Christ. Just as those twelve loaves represented the twelve tribes and their connection to the Bread of Life so in our dispensation they reveal our connection with Him, our union with Him, our communion with Him.

4268d-6060316_4066480_lz-1There is security here, of the eternal kind. I cannot become unsaved again. My life is hid with Christ in God. There is blessing here, numerous and rich. Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. (Ephesians 1.3) The Father has given everything to the Son, and since I am in Him I share in all of that. (Romans 8.16-17) There is peace and unity with other’s of God’s children here. Since I am in Christ and you are in Christ we are close to each other. (Ephesians 2.11-19, Galatians 3.26-28) I could go on and on and on.

I do not deserve to be on that Old Testament Table, pure, presented to Jehovah. I do not deserve to partake of that New Testament table, pure, celebrating my (comm)union with Christ, the Bread of Life. But I am and I do. And I sure am glad.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Laver

The Tabernacle 4

Note: These kinds of studies, types and figures, et al, often find one man slightly disagreeing with another. If you disagree with my conclusions in this series and your disagreement is an educated one I welcome hearing it. Perhaps you may help me. Hopefully, along the way, I will help you too.

Exodus 40:30–32
30 And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal.
31 And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat:
32 When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the LORD commanded Moses.

bronze-laver-priestOffering sacrifices is a bloody business. Practically speaking, having a source of water near at hand helps tremendously in cleaning up. As the old saying goes, cleanliness is next to godliness, and that was never more true than it was for the Jewish people. Leviticus, the priestly manual of operations, emphasizes the necessity of moral and physical and ceremonial cleanliness constantly. This emphasis found a ready heart in the Jewish religion of the Old Testament, and in this culture a laver – a wash basin set on a pedestal – makes perfect sense. What was it for? The answer is simple: cleanliness.

There is here, however, more than meets the eye, for the Laver was used by the priests two ways. First, it was used by them on their commissioning to wash themselves in entirety. (Exodus 40.11-16) Second, it was used by them on a daily basis to wash their hands and feet only. (Exodus 30.19-20)

I find clear parallels to these two uses in the New Testament. First, we are to be washed entire, cleansed of our sin, upon salvation. Paul calls this in Titus 3.5 the washing of regeneration and in Corinthians 6.11 says the same: And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God. Both of these clearly liken salvation to be cleansed wholly via water.
There is also, however, a second illustration repeated in the New Testament in relation to washing. In this case it was not for the entire body, but only for the feet. The practical reason for foot washing was that the dusty roads of Palestine combined with the open-toed sandals of the day made for a grimy result. But that regular custom of hospitality was clearly used by our Saviour in a spiritual way at the Last Supper.

Christ Washing the Disciples Feet by Tintorreto
c 1580
John 13:4–10
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.

Jesus is not using this as an illustration of salvation. The Apostles were already washed in that sense – he that is washed – but yet they still needed some additional, or I should say, regular cleansing – needeth not save to wash his feet. Spiritually speaking, their feet got dirty and needed cleansed.

The Psalmist uses a curious turn of phrase in Psalm 49.5, the iniquity of my heels. What is the iniquity of my heels? I am saved, cleansed entirely of my sin by the washing of regeneration. I am thus justified. But as I journey through life (as I walk the dusty roads of Palestine in the process of living my daily life) I inevitably find myself with some sin or other clinging to me. If I let it continue unchecked I will be the like the boy who grew turnips in his ears because he refused to take a bath. I will be miserably unhappy. I will be out of fellowship with God’s people. God will not hear my prayers. I will be living apart from Him rather than abiding in Him. I must needs take a spiritual bath every time I sin. Why? To cleanse the iniquity of my heels, to restore fellowship, to grow deeper into my intimacy with Christ. Without this I, like Peter, have no part with Him.

John said it this way in the epistle he wrote about sixty years after Jesus washed his feet at the Last Supper: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1.9) From time to time in my Christian journey I have met those who insist that this passage does not teach anything like regular confession of daily sin. They assert that instead it represents salvation and that is all. They could not be more mistaken. Why? Simply put, because the epistle of I John is plainly directed toward those who are already Christians.

John addresses his readers as my little children. (2.1) He calls them brethren. (2.7) He tells us he is writing to those who already know the truth. (2.21) John tells them to continue in the Son. (2.24) He explicitly says his readers are already now the sons of God. (3.2) He says his readers already love God. (4.19) He says that God hath given to us eternal life. (5.11) He closes with the assumption that we are in him that is true. (5.20) There can be no doubt whatsoever. The epistle of I John is not directed toward the unsaved in an effort to get them saved; it is directed toward those who are already the children of God that their fellowship with God and with each other might be improved.

The danger of rejecting this interpretation and application is two-fold. First, I have hamstrung my prayer life. If I am living in known sin I do not jeopardize my salvation but I do jeopardize my hearing before God. (Psalm 66.18) Second, I have deceived myself and instead of walking in the light I am walking in darkness. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (I John 1.8). If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (I John 1.10) John is talking about the man who is already a Christian. If that man denies the necessity of confession in order to obtain fellowship he is simply deceiving himself.

In this John lines with all kinds of scriptural precept and illustration. In addition to the Laver illustration in the Old Testament and our Saviour at the Last Supper, Paul, in Ephesians, says that a Christian has both a standing and a state before God. In standing he is entirely sanctified; in state he is somewhere in the process of sanctification that comes between being birthed into the new life and being formed fully into the image of Christ. God views me right now as though I were already in Heaven fully possessed of the righteousness of Christ; that is my standing. But my actual state at the moment is not nearly as holy as my standing.

John writes I John so that, amongst other reasons, my actual condition or state in this life progresses in holiness. He writes so that I sin less. My little children, these write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (I John 2.1) What tool is necessary to accomplish this? The tool of daily confession of sin, of bowing my heart before His throne and telling God I am sorry for the sin that has accumulated in life.

jesus_washing_feet02God and I cannot partner together if I allow unconfessed sin to pile up in my life. I have already washed, but the iniquity of my heels is the problem. I still need to wash my feet on a regular basis as I serve Him. It is the only way I can have a part with Him.

You long ago used the laver of salvation. Get alone somewhere today and use the laver of confession. Without it, you are not fit to serve Him.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Brazen Altar

The Tabernacle 3

Note: These kinds of studies, types and figures, et al, often find one man slightly disagreeing with another. If you disagree with my conclusions in this series and your disagreement is an educated one I welcome hearing it. Perhaps you may help me. Hopefully, along the way, I will help you too.

Exodus 38:1–7 310px-High_Priest_Offering_Sacrifice_of_a_Goat
1 And he made the altar of burnt offering of shittim wood: five cubits was the length thereof, and five cubits the breadth thereof; it was foursquare; and three cubits the height thereof.
2 And he made the horns thereof on the four corners of it; the horns thereof were of the same: and he overlaid it with brass.
3 And he made all the vessels of the altar, the pots, and the shovels, and the basons, and the fleshhooks, and the firepans: all the vessels thereof made he of brass.
4 And he made for the altar a brasen grate of network under the compass thereof beneath unto the midst of it.
5 And he cast four rings for the four ends of the grate of brass, to be places for the staves.
6 And he made the staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with brass.
7 And he put the staves into the rings on the sides of the altar, to bear it withal; he made the altar hollow with boards.

You have sinned. You took a blood oath, a covenant oath, to observe to do all that Moses said God commanded, but you failed. You wanted to obey. You tried. You love and fear Jehovah, and in gratitude to Him for rescuing you and your family from Egypt you want more than anything to please Him. But still you failed. You violated His commandments. And you feel rotten about it.

Stepping out of your tent into the rising sun of dawn you hope this day will be different, that you will get your act together and keep it together. But doubt gnaws at you. In your heart of hearts you know that today you will sin too. It seems unstoppable, no matter your good intentions and best efforts. Disconsolately, you kick the sand. You wander aimlessly around the encampment. Should you talk to an elder? Should you buck up and soldier on? Should you forget it all, stop worrying about it? Impossible. It eats at Whale_Shark_in_Shallow_Wateryou, this sin of yours, shredding your piece of mind like you feared those sharks you saw in the walls of water around you would shred you as you walked the floor of the Red Sea.

What’s that? Someone is calling your name? Looking up you see the Doorkeeper. Standing in front of the ornate curtained entrance to the Tabernacle he is asking you if you would like to come inside, make an offering perhaps. Should you? Dare you? Won’t Moses find out? Won’t Aaron be angry with you? Won’t the priests on duty take one look at you and turn away in disgust?

You stop. Pause is a better word, debating whether this is a tragic mistake or a good idea. Undecided, you feel the warmness in the Doorkeeper’s invitation seep around the edges of your cold fear. Turning, you take a step toward the entrance. But will it do any good? Will this change anything?

This is it. You have reached the entrance. What will you do? Screwing your courage to the sticking point you step over the thresh hold. Into salvation, redemption, and righteousness. And right before you eyes you see it, the Brazen Altar. Five cubits square and three high, how 350px-Book_of_Exodus_Chapter_28-2_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)could you possibly miss it? Gleaming a soft bronze color in the early light, smoke still curling up from the morning sacrifice held in place by the horned corners, it draws you like a lodestone.

As a Jew, you know your history. It has been drilled into you on the green banks of the Nile. Father Abraham walking Isaac up to Mount Moriah only to find Jehovah replacing his son with a ram. Jacob at Bethel. Pondering, you recalled what you had recently heard Moses say. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth it shall die. The soul that sinneth it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. (Exodus 18.4, 20) Where there is sin there must be death, and nothing said “death” like the enormous altar in front of you.

…and that, to my understanding, was exactly the point of the Brazen Altar. Gory, burning, stinging the eyes with its smoke, it screamed the death that was necessary to cover sin. If the whole idea of a sacrifice was to cause God to overlook a person’s sin then that sacrifice had to involve death. This is seen not only in the Jews earliest history, but in humanity’s history, which the Jews were obviously familiar with. Adam and Eve sinned. To cover them with skins required death.

The Jewish religion was such a bloody religion precisely because it was designed to point to this aspect of their future Messiah – His death. It was absolutely critical that they understand this so God gave them a process that declared it to them again and again and again. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Hebrews 9.22)

Ask me what is the saddest thing about the Jewish people and I will tell you this: in spite of their zeal and knowledge in the things of Jehovah they have totally missed the point of their own Messiah. As a result, they rebelliously refused to accept Him when He arrived. They wanted an earthly deliverer, someone who would subdue Rome and raise them to the pinnacle of the world. Their Messiah wanted to deliver them from their sins, and raise them to the pinnacle of Heaven. But under no condition should they have missed this. Jesus said exactly this to Nicodemus, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? (John 3.10)

In addition to the impossible-to-miss illustration of the Brazen Altar, the necessary death of the Messiah for the people’s sins was explicitly stated by the greatest preacher of the Old Testament.

Isaiah 53:1–9
1 Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, And as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; And when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: And we hid as it were our faces from him; He was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, And carried our sorrows: Yet we did esteem him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: The chastisement of our peace was upon him; And with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; And the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, Yet he opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: And who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: For the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, And with the rich in his death; Because he had done no violence, Neither was any deceit in his mouth.

2018-05-31 14.38.30This is why it is good for us to keep the cross front and center in our Christianity. That sacrificial death was absolutely necessary, for them and for us. No wonder the Tabernacle was structured in such a way as to remind the Jews of that – every single day.

Where there is sin there must be death. Mine or His. The Brazen Altar proves it.