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.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Courtyard

The Tabernacle 2

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.

Any study of the Tabernacle will, almost by default, involve an examination of much Scripture. After all, we are attempting to discover what different aspects of it referenced regarding the work of Christ and we do not want to do that with opinion. Of necessity, then, this short blog series will involve more scripture selections than I normally use in writing. I cannot bring myself to apologize for it and I am sure you would not desire me to do so.
CourtLet us begin with the instructions Moses received regarding the exterior of the Tabernacle. I have chosen to call this the courtyard.

Exodus 27:9–18
9 And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side:
10 And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.
11 And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.
12 And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and their sockets ten.
13 And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits.
14 The hangings of one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
15 And on the other side shall be hangings fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
16 And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four.
17 All the pillars round about the court shall be filleted with silver; their hooks shall be of silver, and their sockets of brass.
18 The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass.

I believe the entrance itself was designed by Jehovah to represent the salvation that is in Christ. Jesus would later assert, I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10.9) The gate faced east so that those who entered for the morning sacrifice did so in the light. The gate was the only way of access; there was no other way in at all. Thus, the gate was designed for everybody – rich, poor, priest, Levite, Jew, proselyte – all had to come in the same way. Included in this “whosever” gate especially were those who were sinners. They did not have to clean up first. They came through that gate in order to be cleansed. And it only took one step to get inside. It was not a process; it was instantaneous.

Let us turn our attention now to the linen material that formed the fence around the courtyard. The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass. (Exodus 27.18) This purified white linen, marred by no imperfection or flaw or stain, represented the righteousness that is to be found in Christ. At His transfiguration we are told, And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. (Mark 9.3) That moment of glory pulled back the curtain of Jesus’ flesh and revealed to those around His essential moral purity, His absolute holiness. This is in direct contrast to the Biblical illustration of filthy garments as representative of sin. But we all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64.6) To the contrary, when the wind blew Tabernacle-model-and-courtyard,-tb030807082-bibleplacesaround the Tabernacle those billowing walls of pure white were securely anchored in place. Step inside the gate – salvation – and you immediately find yourself surrounded by the white linen of righteousness.

We find this illustration from one end of Scripture to the other, but especially in Revelation.

3.4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

6.9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

7.13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

19.8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

19.14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

Without a doubt, these linen walls represented righteousness, and the only way into that righteousness was via salvation. Once we come to Christ to solve our sin problem we will find ourselves completely enclosed in the perfect righteousness of that Saviour. What precious thoughts!

In addition to the gate and the linen fence we see a third metaphor of Christ in the courtyard, namely the purified silver metal that gleamed here and there in between the linen. Anchored to wooden supports, it supported those linen walls. I believe this silver represents the redemption from sin that Christ would bring.

Exodus 36:24–26
24 And forty sockets of silver he made under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons.
25 And for the other side of the tabernacle, which is toward the north corner, he made twenty boards,
26 And their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.

I do not want to press this illustration too hard, but the context of what silver was used for in Moses’ day is interesting. A massive slave horde exited Egypt in a tremendous hurry on the day after Passover, and they had experienced precious little peace and quiet since. The pause at Mt. Sinai was not just for religious reasons; it was also for organizational reasons. A society, albeit a mobile one, needed to be standardized out of the chaos of the exodus. To that end, God instructed Moses to count and tax each adult male. This tax was to be paid at the Tabernacle and was called “atonement money”. Every adult male paid the exact same amount, a half shekel.

smallExodus 30:11–16
11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
12 When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.
13 This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
16 And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.

Much more would be said by Moses soon regarding this thing of atonement, but for the moment let us note that it was paid to the Tabernacle, and paid in silver. And it was these same silver half-shekels that were melted down and used to form the socket supports for the boards that held up the linen walls of the Tabernacle courtyard.

Exodus 38:25–27 (KJV 1900)
25 And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary:
26 A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.
27 And of the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary, and the sockets of the vail; an hundred sockets of the hundred talents, a talent for a socket.

This head tax, for lack of a better phrase, continued to be required on an on-going basis as the family’s oldest boy reached his maturity. Initially, Jehovah required the service of the eldest son in each family and when He later shifted that service requirement to the Levites as a class the oldest son in each family in Israel was required to pay this tax as a sign he was opted out of service. Later, we find it labeled “redemption money.”

Numbers 3:46–51
46 And for those that are to be redeemed of the two hundred and threescore and thirteen of the firstborn of the children of Israel, which are more than the Levites;
47 Thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them: (the shekel is twenty gerahs:)
48 And thou shalt give the money, wherewith the odd number of them is to be redeemed, unto Aaron and to his sons.
49 And Moses took the redemption money of them that were over and above them that were redeemed by the Levites:
50 Of the firstborn of the children of Israel took he the money; a thousand three hundred and threescore and five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary:
51 And Moses gave the money of them that were redeemed unto Aaron and to his sons, according to the word of the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.

In such a context it is not hard to understand why I have redeemedlabeled silver as a symbol of our purchased redemption. There was no exception to this price. This was the only price. Nothing different was accepted. Nothing beyond this was needed. 

In summary, as you step into the Tabernacle courtyard you come through the gate, which represents the salvation that is only available in Christ. You are then enveloped in the beautifully white linen of righteousness, Christ’s righteousness not your own. This righteousness was based on or supported by the silver sockets of your redemption through Christ’s death, a death that atoned for your sin. Now if that is not a pretty picture of Jesus Christ and what He does for the transgressor I do not know what is.

What is our part? To receive it, and to urge people to enter into it. The psalmist said, For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psalm 84.10) As I understand it, the doorkeeper was not there primarily to keep the undeserving out. After all, every one who entered was undeserving. No, I believe the doorkeeper was there at the gate to urge people to come in, to welcome them to take that step, to cross the threshold of salvation and enter into the spotless righteousness obtained by redemption’s price. What a grand thing to be a doorkeeper!

…and this is just the fence that creates the courtyard around the structure.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Why We Should Study the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle 1

Three thousand four hundred years ago the Jews built a tent Stiftshuette_Modell_Timnapark (1)in the middle of nowhere, anchoring it into the dry blowing sand that is the Sinai Peninsula. That tent, known in Scripture as the Tabernacle, was the center of their worship of God. I am not a Jew. I do not follow the Old Testament system of worship. Hebrews clearly and repeatedly tells us that what we have as the Church is better. So why should I care about the Tabernacle?

First of all, I should pay attention to the Tabernacle in order to help me to better understand the stories that take place in the Old Testament. As the Temple would be later, the Tabernacle was what everything else revolved around for the devout Jew of the day. It was of primary importance in the biblical stories that take place between Exodus and Deuteronomy and figures prominently in many books of the Bible after that. If I want to learn from those Old Testament stories I must understand them, and if I am to understand them well I must grasp the day and time in which they lived. It is easier to enter into their lives, to view them as real people if I have immersed myself in their world. If I do that, it is easier to understand their choices, good or bad, and it is easier to understand what those choices represented. It is easier to understand just how and why exactly God responded to those choices the way He did. In short, paying attention to the Tabernacle will help me to learn more from those Exodus era stories.

Second, I should pay attention to the Tabernacle so that I may better understand salvation, not just in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament.

The writer of Hebrews tells me that the Tabernacle was a picture, a living three-dimensional image, of the Temple in Heaven, and that its worship was an earthly representation of heavenly truth.

Hebrews 8:1–5
1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

thThe New Testament is birthed out of the Old Testament. As Christians, birthed in the New Testament, we must realize that we have Old Testament DNA in our genetic code. Specifically, the Tabernacle is referenced more than 300 times in the Bible, and in the New Testament is used again and again to illustrate some aspect of salvation. If you do not have a decently studied understanding of the Tabernacle most of these illustrations and understandings and their corresponding appreciation will be lost on you. As has been long said, in the Old Testament the New lies hid, and in the New Testament the Old lies open.

Third, I should pay attention to the Tabernacle because there is truth there. Paul tells us that all Scripture is… profitable. (II Timothy 3.16) Surely, that includes the many chapters that discuss the Tabernacle in exquisite detail. More to the point, he pointedly told the Church age that they needed to pay attention to the Old Testament and what it contained. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15.4)

The Bible is the revelation of God to man. In other words, every part of the Word of God tells me something about God and about God’s expectations of me. For me to skip major parts of it because I think it is old, or I think it no longer applies in our day is shortsighted and unscriptural. No, I do not build my doctrinal concept of the Church out of the Old Testament because the Church is a New Testament institution. But I do take the Old Testament to be just as much the inspired, preserved Word of God as I do the New Testament. And even the finer points of that Old Testament revelation are worthy of examination for they reveal God to me.

Last, and most importantly, I should pay attention to the Tabernacle because I love Jesus, and I want to know everything about Him that I can.

In the nineteenth century the British navy civilized the globe. In Arthur Herman’s 1975 work, “To Rule the Waves: How 971931the British Navy Shaped the Modern World”, he discusses at some length the technology that went into making that Royal Navy function. Who knew that they seasoned pine trees underwater in Scotland for years before turning them into masts? In the process of discussing this he discussed rope. The Royal Navy used miles and miles of it, an almost endless amount being necessary to properly rig everything from a schooner to a three-decked ship of the line during the era of sail power. Rope was also necessary for England’s vast merchant marine, and furthermore, was relatively easy to steal. How to tell if the rope sitting on some barque sailing to the Azores with tea had been lifted from the Royal Navy’s dockyard? Cut it. Anywhere. Why? Because the navy’s rope had a scarlet thread bound through it, every inch on every ship, for precisely that purpose. A rope with a scarlet thread in it belonged to the Royal Navy, period.

In the Scripture there is a scarlet thread of redemption woven from one end to the other. Open the Bible anywhere, cut into it at any place, yea even the Old Testament, and you will almost immediately see Jesus. In Genesis, He is the seed of the woman. In Exodus, He is the Passover lamb. In Leviticus, He is the high priest. In Numbers, He is the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. In Deuteronomy, He is the prophet like unto Moses. In Joshua, He is the captain of our salvation. In Ruth, he is the kinsman redeemer. In Job, He is the daysman. In Psalms, He is our shepherd. In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, He is our wisdom. In Isaiah, He is the prince of peace. In Jeremiah, He is the righteous branch. In Daniel, He is the fourth man in the fiery furnace. In Hosea, He is the faithful husband. In Malachi, He is the sun of righteousness risen with healing on his wings. And I could go on and on and on.

It is my settled belief, and one I hope you share with me by the time this short blog series is done, that one of the primary reasons for the Tabernacle and the reason it was structured with such explicit direction was to point Israel to her Messiah, Jesus. We will see Jesus all through the Tabernacle. We will see Him in its structure, in its furniture, and in its materials. We will see how each of these represent some wonderful aspect of what Israel’s then coming Redeemer would be and do.

image_8Boiled down to its simplicity, we pay attention to the Tabernacle in order to know Jesus better. And He is beautiful. Which makes the Tabernacle beautiful. So join me for the next few weeks, and together let us take a stroll through that ancient, dusty tent erected for the first time in the middle of the wastes of the Sinai wilderness. It is a beautiful thing.