Day 45 – Leviticus 5-7

Day 45
Leviticus 5-7

The Israelites remained at Base Camp Sinai for a full year. During this time, God’s great concern for His people was that they learn how to worship. Leviticus is difficult reading for us so it warrants a mention that no book in the Bible contains more of the direct words of God than Leviticus. All the regulations related to the various sacrifices were simply God’s way of prescribing for His people how He was to be worshipped.

Chapter 5, verses 1-13, continues the instructions regarding the Sin Offering for unintentional sins. Four types of unintentional sins are listed though the list was not intended to be exhaustive: (1) The failure to appear in court as a witness; (2) Touching a dead animal; (3) Touching human uncleanness; (4) Making a rash oath (5:1-4). Whether or not an Israelite knew that they were sinning at the time of the offense did not alter their guilt. The Sin Offering was a reminder that they were judged, not by their sentience or feelings, but by God’s objective standard of holiness. If someone broke one of God’s commands and didn’t know it, he was still responsible. The normal requirement for the Sin Offering was a female goat or lamb. However, God made also provision for every member of the community to provide an offering for inadvertent sins, whether rich, poor, or impoverished (7-13).

The fifth offering was the Guilt Offering (5:14-19). It’s known by a variety of titles depending on the English translation (i.e. Trespass Offering, Satisfaction Offering). Since the Guilt Offering involved restitution and a financial penalty, it has also been called the Reparation Offering. The Guilt Offering covered two breaches of faith against the Lord. The first was the inadvertent transgression of a commandment (5:14-19). This covered sins committed by anyone against the holy things of the Lord, either by defrauding the Lord (14-16) or disobeying Him (17-19). Something was “amiss” (16), the most common Hebrew word for sin. While there was no malicious intent, the Lord took the transgression personally. The offenders’ ignorance was not a legitimate excuse. When a person discovered that he had defrauded the Lord, he was to offer an atoning sacrifice and pay a 20% fine to the priest. If he inadvertently broke a commandment, he was to sacrifice a ram in his place. The second breach of faith, also reckoned as against the Lord, was a violation against a neighbor (6:1-7). If someone was guilty of deceiving, lying, stealing, oppressing, extorting, or misleading a neighbor (2-3), and the person realized it and admitted their guilt, he must first return the stolen property along with a 20% surcharge as compensation to the owner (4-5). Secondly, he was to sacrifice a ram as an offering to the Lord (6). Because of the shedding of blood, there was forgiveness with God. The impact of all five offerings sent a powerful message about worship throughout the assembly. No one could come into the presence of the Lord without first dealing with their sin.

As it happened, the focus on the five offerings shifted from the responsibility of the worshipper to the obligations of the priests. As for the Burnt Offering, the priests were to dress specifically, maintain the altar’s fire perpetually, and sacrifice a lamb morning and night (in Hebrew the word is Tamid, “regularly”). The Burnt Offering was accompanied by grain and drink offerings that were pleasing to the Lord. The whole Burnt Offering belonged to God so that even its ashes were to be handled properly (8-13). As for the Grain Offering, the memorial portion (fine flour mixed with oil and frankincense) belonged to the Lord and therefore, it was burned on the altar. It was a pledge of devotion to God. The remainder of the flour was baked, without leaven, and eaten by consecrated priests in the courtyard (14-18). There was, by the way, an offering of grain that was not eaten by the priests. For instance, on the day a priest was newly installed, he was to give a cooked grain offering to the Lord (i.e. a Priestly Grain Offering). It was to be broken into pieces and then burned on the altar as a way of expressing his full devotion to God (19-23). As for the Sin Offering, it was to be killed before the Lord since it was a holy thing and eaten by the priests in the courtyard (24-27). If any of the blood was accidentally splattered on a garment of a priest, the garment had to be washed in the courtyard itself. If a clay pot or utensil was used and absorbed some of the blood, it was to be broken. If a bronze pot or utensil was used, it was to be scrubbed, washed, and used again (28-30). As for the Guilt Offering, it was to be offered in the same place as the Burnt Offering (7:1-2a). After directing the priest about what to do with the blood (2b), the fat, kidneys, and liver were to be offered to the Lord as a food offering. The priest could keep the skin or hide of the animal, which he could sell or use for himself. A Grain Offering could be eaten by the priest and shared with other priests (8-10). As for the Peace Offering, it was the only offering of which the worshipper could eat a portion of the sacrificed animal. It was a picture of communion between the individual and God. The Peace Offering was also divided into three types, based on the reason or motive behind offering it: a thanksgiving offering (11-15); a vow offering; or, a freewill offering (16-18). The final two sections of Chapter 7 cover the laws of the Peace Offering. First of all, there was the law regarding the fat and the blood, which belonged to the Lord because they were considered the best (22-27). Secondly, there was the law of the wave offering. The breast with fat was waved before the Lord. The fat was offered on the altar and the breast was eaten by the priest (28-31). The right thigh was also reserved for the priests as a means of their support from generation to generation.

Holy Father, You are a precise God. You directed Your people in ages past to worship You in a precise way. Today, I acknowledge that Jesus fulfilled all that You intended behind these various sacrifices. I also acknowledge that in fulfilling them, the way I am to worship is not any less precise but it is now focused like a laser on the One who gave Himself for me as an atoning sacrifice for every sin I’ve ever committed. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

“If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not…

Day 44 – Leviticus 1-4

Day 44
Leviticus 1-4

Leviticus. The English title is from the Greek word which is based on the Hebrew, torat kohanim, meaning “instruction of or for the priests.” The actual first word of the book is “and” because Leviticus is the sequel to Exodus. It is the continuation of the same story, with the same characters, in the same setting. A sequel is usually not as compelling as the original story. Leviticus may suffer from neglect because it is perceived to lack the drama of Exodus. In its defense, its dogma is the drama. Leviticus impresses upon us the absolute nature of God’s holiness and our need for His forgiveness. Which is to say, if we ignore Leviticus, because it’s not as melodramatic as Exodus, we are in danger of losing the depth and significance of what God expects of us and what Christ has done for us.

In Leviticus, the people of Israel were still at Sinai. In a theophanic cloud, the glory of God hovers over the Tabernacle. The cloud is the visible manifestation of God’s presence right in the middle of His people. The system of sacrifices and the code of ceremonies found in Leviticus, represents God’s prescribed means for His people to enjoy His presence. So, unlike the ending to Exodus, Moses was now permitted to enter the tent and meet with God. Aaron, the High Priest, and the other installed priests, are fulfilling their sacred duties. The first seven chapters describe a series of five offerings from two different viewpoints. In Chapters 1-5, the offerings are viewed from the perspective of the worshipper. In Chapters 6-7, the very same offerings are viewed from the perspective of the priests.

As it happened, the first three offerings were a voluntary and personal expression of worship. The first offering, and the most common, was the burnt offering (3-17). It was brought from either the herd, the flock, or birds. The different animals were based on God’s provision for every Israelite, whether rich or poor, to afford a burnt offering. A burnt offering cost everyone something. Whether the offering was from cattle, sheep, or fowl, it was acceptable to the Lord. If the offering was from the herd (i.e. bull or ox), or from the flock (i.e. sheep or goat), it had to be an unblemished male. A deformed animal was an offense to Him. The worshipper would lay his hand on the head of the offering, symbolizing his identification with the animal. The animal also became his formal substitute in order to make atonement for sin. In addition, the burnt offering belonged entirely to the Lord, except for the skin (cf. 7:8). It was fully consumed on the altar. The Hebrew word olah or “burning” refers to the offering going up in smoke and becoming a pleasing aroma to the Lord, indicating His approval and acceptance (9, 13, 17). The second voluntary offering was the grain offering or offering of thanksgiving (2:1-16). If it was unbaked flour, the priest would take a portion of the flour, enhanced with oil and frankincense, and burn “the memorial portion” to the Lord. The rest of the offering would be for the priest as a stipend for his service. If the flour was cooked, according to the worshipper’s preference (no frankincense required for the poor), the priest would burn a portion on the altar while the rest would be kept for the priest. The grain offering was to be without leaven and from the firstfruits of the worshipper’s harvest. The primary ingredient in the grain offering was salt (11-13), both for flavor and as a reminder of the permanency of the Lord’s covenant with His people. The third voluntary offering was the peace offering or an expression of praise for deliverance from a specific incident (3:1-17). It was the only offering that both the worshipper and the priest ate. It was a food offering to the Lord and a shared meal. The worshipper could choose an animal from the herd or flock. The worshipper was actively involved in slaying the animal, removing the kidney, liver and fat which were burned to the Lord as a food offering. The priest would sprinkle the blood on the altar as a sign of atonement being made. The rest of the animal was eaten as an expression of fellowship with the Lord in a communal meal.

A fourth offering, unlike the first three which were voluntary, was the required Sin Offering or the Purification Offering (4:1-35). This offering was given, “if anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them” (2, 13,22,27). God has an entire section for unintentional or inadvertent sins (i.e. the “I didn’t mean to do that or say that” kind of sin!). They were unpremeditated acts which required purification when the offense was discovered. There was an offering for the priest who sinned unintentionally (3-13). There was the offering for the whole assembly when they had sinned against the Lord (13-21). And finally, there was the sin offering for the individual worshiper (27-35). These sacrifices were bloody but after the blood was shed and atonement was made forgiveness was granted.

Our Lord God, we never outgrow the need for forgiveness. We run to Jesus for the full and free forgiveness of every sin we’ve committed. We also know that the presence of sin affects genuine fellowship with You. Forgive us today on the basis of Christ’s shed blood for sins both intentional and unintentional. Forgive us for things that we dismiss as no big deal, knowing that Jesus gave His life for every sin, so that we might be right with You. In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.

Laws for Burnt Offerings – The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them,…

Day 43 – Exodus 39-40

Day 43
Exodus 39-40

The big day has finally arrived. From the enslavement of the people of Israel in Egypt, the powerful and terrifying plagues that struck Egypt, the night of Passover and the exodus, to the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, everything has been building to this grand climax.

As it happened, there were a few more steps that required completion from the crafting of the High Priest’s garments to the assemblage of the Tabernacle. There was a wonderful, visual coordination between the Tabernacle and the garments of the High Priest. The same colored yarns (i.e. blue, purple, and scarlet) which were used to adorn the veil that hung before The Most Holy Place were also used to embroider the garments of the High Priest (39:1). The purpose of the Tabernacle and the role of the High Priest were inseparable. The one pointed to the other. There were four essential pieces in the closet of the High Priest: the ephod, the breastpiece, the robe, and the turban. The first three pieces, the ephod, the breastpiece, and the robe were all connected. The High Priest wore the shoulder-born ephod with the names of the twelve tribes engraved in two onyx stones, six in each (2-7). Attached to the ephod by golden chains was the breastpiece. It was bedecked with the name of each tribe, also engraved in twelve stones, respectively (8-21). As the chief representative of the nation before God, the High Priest bore their weight on his shoulders and their names over his heart. The third piece was the High Priest’s blue robe (22-26). It was worn immediately under the ephod and hung a little below the knee. It had no sleeves with slits in the sides for the arms to pass through. Its fringe had a remarkable trimming of blue, purple, and scarlet pomegranates with a golden bell set between each one. Completing the High Priest’s wardrobe was the turban (27-31). Attached to the turban was a golden plate with an inscription that proclaimed, “Holy to the Lord.” Thus, the construction of the tabernacle and the crafting of the High Priests garments were completed. Seven-times it was announced that every piece was crafted just “as the Lord commanded Moses.” Every section of the Tabernacle from its tent to its poles, its pillars and bases, its curtains and veil, from the Ark of the Covenant to the Bronze Altar, its utensils and the priest’s garments, was presented to Moses for his inspection and approval (33-41). The text invites us to imagine Moses’ close examination of every part in order to ensure that its quality and accuracy equaled God’s specifications. As the divinely appointed overseer, Moses reviewed all the work that they had done and whole-heartedly endorsed it (43).

As it happened, God directed Moses to assemble the Tabernacle, “on the first day of the first month” (40:1-2). The date was intentional, celebrating as it did, the one year anniversary of Israel’s escape from Egypt. What a year! God told Moses to put every section of the Tabernacle together himself. Fourteen times (counting “Moses” plus the personal pronoun “you”) God told Moses exactly what He wanted him to do (1-17) and thirteen times (counting “Moses” plus the pronoun “he”) we were told Moses did exactly what the Lord told him to do. Methodically and deliberately, God told him to start from then inside out. He put everything together and placed everything exactly where God told him to put it. Verse 33 hailed his extraordinary achievement announcing, “So Moses finished the work.” Moses, Bezalel, Oholiab, the skilled craftsmen, and the people have all done what they could do to build God’s dwelling place on earth. Only God could do what happened next.

As it happened, the cloud of God’s presence covered the Tent of Meeting, “and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (34). The same cloud that represented God’s presence, and had guided them since their departure from Egypt, now settled on this tent in the wilderness. This inaugural filling of God’s presence was so powerful that not even Moses could enter the Tabernacle (35). The fact that even Moses was denied entrance was a sobering reminder that he, along with Aaron, the priests, and the people were in need of atonement. It is no accident that Exodus leads to Leviticus and the necessity of a blood sacrifice.

As for now, the Tabernacle was pulsating with the glow of God’s glory. The incident with the golden-calf almost jeopardized God’s continuing presence with the Israelites. This was the ultimate and culminating reality. The glory of God hovering over the Tabernacle, in the midst of the twelve tribes. The glory of God resting upon His people is one of the great themes of the Old Testament. The departure of God’s glory from Solomon’s Temple would be its lowest point. The climax of Exodus is the glory of God filling the Tabernacle. But that glory pales in comparison to an even greater glory when the Apostle John announced that when God sent His Son, “the Word became flesh and dwelt [literally, tabernacled] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

Holy Father, thank You for the glory of Your Son who tabernacled among us. Through Him we have received two of the greatest gifts of all, truth and grace. We praise you for the redemption that Jesus has provided and the abundant life we have received through Him. In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.

Making the Priestly Garments – From the blue and purple and scarlet yarns they made finely woven garments, for ministering in the Holy Place. They…

Day 42 – Exodus 36-38

Day 42
Exodus 36-38

“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The word “cheerful” is from the Greek word hilaros. It means joyous. It also has the sense of readiness. It is being ready to act at a moment’s notice; to be prepared. Giving is not a payment for services rendered. It is not a bribe offering to keep God appeased. Giving is more than a duty. It is an act of worship, cultivated and readied by an internal sense of delight. Money has a powerful hold over our lives. We become anxious about it. We wonder if we’ll ever have enough of it. The best way to defeat the money monster’s hold over our lives is to save it wisely, spend it carefully, and share it freely. After all, it is not our money. It all belongs to God.

As construction of the Tabernacle was set to begin, the Israelites responded generously. For days, they kept bringing metals and materials to Moses (36:3). Their giving was so euphoric that the craftsmen had plenty to complete the project. They had to tell Moses, “Tell the people to stop! We have more than enough” (5,7). Their spontaneous giving had built a surplus. It had become a movement–a giving movement. The people gave so liberally that they brought more than a ton of gold, three tons of silver, and two tons of bronze (38:21-31).

The Tabernacle would define the history of Israel for the next 500 years. It would be the focal point of the nation because it represented the earthly dwelling place of God. What took place at the Tabernacle, both inside and out, was so important that approximately 50 chapters of the Bible are devoted to its fabricating and function. The plans were in place for the construction of the Tabernacle. The materials collected were more than sufficient. The builders had been appointed. Additional craftsmen were also recruited. Everything was to be built according to God’s exact specifications. The ten finely fashioned curtains joined by golden clasps, which formed the three inner curtains, marked off the most important rooms on earth (8-13). God was enthroned above the sacred chest located inside The Most Holy Place. These curtains were elaborately crafted and embroidered with cherubim. The Tabernacle had a roof (made with the tough hide of sea cows) to shield the furnishings from the elements (14-19). Its framing was solid and sturdy and overlaid with gold (20-34). The veil of the Tabernacle was a blue, purple and scarlet curtain that covered its entrance (37-38).

There were four important pieces of furniture inside the Tabernacle: The Ark of the Covenant, The Table for Bread, The Golden Lampstand, and The Altar of Incense. Each piece was built according to the specifications God showed Moses. The first piece mentioned was the Ark (37:1-9). It was a mobile chest, measuring approximately four feet long, two feet high, and two feet wide. Later, we are told what went inside the Ark. But the most important part of the Ark was its top: the mercy seat. It was made as a single piece, with cherubim located at opposite ends, their wings outstretched their faces positioned toward the mercy seat. God was enthroned between the cherubim. It was the place where God showed mercy to His people when the High Priest sprinkled blood annually from the atoning sacrifice on the mercy seat. God’s mercy and forgiveness were symbolized in the shedding of blood. The Table for Bread displayed twelve loaves of baked bread representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel (10-16). The bread symbolized God’s provision. The Tabernacle was illuminated by The Golden Lampstand (17-22). Its continuous flame, replenished with oil daily by the priests, symbolized the perfect and perpetual light of God. The last interior piece was The Altar of Incense (25-29). This is where a unique formula of incense, prepared by a perfumer, was burned morning and night symbolizing the prayers of God’s people.

The courtyard of the Tabernacle was a rectangular enclosure that surrounded the Tabernacle proper. Its fence was made of linen fabric and linked piece by piece (38:9-17). The courtyard contained two sacred pieces: The Altar of Burnt Offering and The Bronze Basin. The Altar of Burnt Offering. The Altar of Burnt Offering was a mobile altar, approximately eight feet wide and almost five feet tall, where the sacrifices were offered. Its fire was always burning because sacrifices were always being offered. The Altar represented the place where atonement for sin was made. The second piece in the courtyard was The Bronze Basin for washing (8). This was where the priests were ceremonially washed to serve (symbolizing their sin being washed away) and physically washed with water, since offering sacrifices was a messy business. Women also ministered at the Basin. Evidently, many of them left Egypt with bronze mirrors. As a part of the freewill offering, they brought their mirrors which were melted down and used to construct the basin. After it was built, they remained at the basin to serve as needed.

As it happened, the materials supplied represented an extraordinary contribution by the people of God (21-31). In addition to the precious metals, all that they gave was counted and recorded by the Levites, under the supervision of Aaron’s son, Ithamar. It was an act of joyful giving, freely expressed, by hundreds of thousands of people. It was an amazing project, enthusiastically supported by the people, and skillfully built by its inspired craftsmen. A home is not home, however, until its Occupant inhabits it. It’s almost moving day.

Lord God, it should be a joy to give to You. Forgive me when it becomes merely a chore or duty. Help me to give out of the fullness of all that You have given to me. You are the greatest Giver. I can never out-give You. You gave everything for me by giving me Your Son. Thank you! In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

“Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the LORD has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall…

Day 41 – Exodus 33-35

Day 41
Exodus 33-35

The greatest pursuit in life is to know God. It is to know Him truthfully. It is to know Him personally. It is to live with Him relationally. Far too many of us know about God but we do not know Him. Knowing God is a priceless reality.

The golden-calf fiasco ended in tragedy. Many were killed for their disobedience. In addition, a plague swept through the Israelite camp (33:35). It also ended in uncertainty. As it happened, God seemed to have had enough with those obstinate Israelites. He told Moses to set out for the land He had promised and take those mulish people with him. His special angel would go before them but for their own safety, He wouldn’t be making the trip (33:1-4). The people became disheartened but Moses contended with God. Moses had no interest in going anywhere without God. As was his custom, he retreated to the Tent of Meeting, (a temporary structure before the Tabernacle was built) and he spoke to God face to face, in a personal way (7-11). Moses possessed an extraordinary passion to know God and His presence: “If I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.” Almost as an afterthought he added, “Remember that this nation is your people” (13). Satisfied by God’s promise of His presence, Moses became emboldened. The desire of his heart was to know God in the depth of his soul. If his first petition was fundamental, his next request was downright audacious. He boldly asks God, “Please show me your glory” (18). As it happened, it was the most daring entreaty a person ever made to God. God gave Moses the confirmation he sought: “And I will make all my goodness pass before you and I will proclaim before you my name “The Lord” (19). The Lord added, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (20). The Lord promised to make Himself known to Moses up to the limits of what Moses could bear. God would show him His back.

In the meantime, God told Moses that He would write His law on new tablets of stone, to replace the ones Moses shattered at the foot of the mountain (34:1). In the morning, Moses ascended the mountain of God, a solitary man with two stone tablets in his hand. Hiding in the cleft of a rock, the Lord passed before him. God displayed the depth of His Name to Moses (6-7). Moses bowed in worship. He humbly pleads for the necessity of God’s presence and His graciousness to pardon His people. Then God renewed the Book of the Covenant with Israel and promised display His marvelous works and drive out the Canaanites in the land they would inherit (34:10-26). Moses remained in the presence of the Lord for another forty days, fasting and writing the words of the Covenant.

When Moses descended down the mountain, bearing the tablets, the radiance of the glory of God was reflected in his face (29). Aaron and the Israelites were afraid to go near him. They knew it wasn’t Moses’ glory but God’s. When Moses spoke to God, he removed the veil. When he spoke to the people, he again spoke with an unveiled face. Invoking this passage, the Apostle Paul contrasted the ministry of the law with the ministry of the Spirit. He asked, “Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:7-8). The Commandments, the Tabernacle, and the priestly garments were stamped with glory. The glory of the Tabernacle was linked to the glory of the law. The glory that shone in the face of Moses was linked to his experience of the presence of God. We know that none of the Tabernacle furnishings designed by God and skillfully crafted by Bezalel could hold a candle to the radiance of God’s glory reflected in the face of Moses. It is no accident that Moses on Mount Sinai is the same Moses appearing with Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration. We are told that Jesus’ “face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Mt 17:1-3). Who better than Moses to witness the glory of the presence of God in the face of Jesus Christ?

As it happened, the construction of the Tabernacle was set to begin. The project was launched with the freewill offering first mentioned in Chapter 25. The people of Israel were stirred in their spirits to bring all the materials required from valuable metals, dyed fabrics, precious stones, animal skins, spices and oil (35:4-10). Everyone who had something to contribute participated. Skilled craftsmen offered their time and ability. Spinsters weaved the curtains from yarn, linen, and goat’s hair. Leaders brought stones and gems for the ephod and breastpiece, along with oil and incense. It was a rare and wonderful moment as the people of Israel brought everything that was needed. Let the building begin!

Holy Father, You have revealed to us Your Name. You are a gracious God, abounding in mercy, and willing to pardon. We praise You that Your character never changes. You are the greatest constant in the universe. Thank you that Your glory has been revealed to us in the face of Jesus, whose radiance is our light and whose life is our hope. In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.

The Command to Leave Sinai – The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt,…

Day 40 – Exodus 30-32

Day 40
Exodus 30-32

Everybody worships someone or something. There is no such thing as a non-worshipper. The only question is, who or what are we going to worship? A.W. Tozer once said, “We are born to worship and, if we are not worshipping God in the beauty of holiness, we have missed the reason for being born.”

As it happened, while God was revealing to Moses His pattern and structure for the worship of Israel, ironically and inexcusably, Israel began worshiping a golden calf. In light of their shameless blunder, the importance of God’s instructions could not be overstated. Since Chapter 25, the pace of Exodus slowed as God told Moses exactly what to make and how everything was to be made. From the Tabernacle with its special inner rooms, to the Ark of the Testimony, the Table for Bread, the Golden Lampstand, the Bronze Altar, the priestly garments, and finally, the Altar of Incense (30:1-10) and the Basin for Washing (30:17-21), worshiping Him properly has been His primary concern. He was the Architect and focus of Israel’s worship. Therefore, He created the plans and selected the materials to be used. Once God had finished revealing all of this to Moses, he must have wondered, “Who is going to build all of this?” God told him that he had appointed Bezalel, along with his assistant, Oholiab, who would build everything according to His exact specifications (31:3-5). They were called and gifted to be artisans for the glory of God. Now all that was left was to do was to reinforce the gift of the Sabbath, a day of rest designed to promote the knowledge of God (31:12,13), and deliver to Moses the two tablets of stone, inscribed by His own finger.

The contrast between Chapters 31 and 32 is nothing less than shocking. Moses had been gone for forty days. To the querulous Israelites it felt like forever. They became restless. They complained and sneered, “As for this fellow Moses … we don’t know what has happened to him” (32:1) The longer they waited, the more they whined. Before Moses had a chance to deliver the tablets and to make known God’s arrangement for worship, (God would be worshiped God’s way)they scurried to create a god of their own to worship. They clustered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us’” (32:1). They had left Egypt but Egypt still huddled in their souls. Disappointingly, Aaron, the man appointed by God to be Israel’s High Priest, was a spineless coward and an even worse theologian. He blasphemed the name of the Lord, while he manufactured a golden calf (32:4-5). He indulged in an insane form syncretism by building an altar to the Lord in front of the calf. By the time Moses came down from the mountain, the Israelites had gone hog wild. An intriguing dialogue took place between the Lord and Moses that went back and forth. First, it was the Lord who was angry. Then, Moses was hot with anger. God was so enraged that He was prepared to annihilate the Israelites and create a new nation starting with Moses. Israel’s most shameless hour, proved to be Moses’ finest. He interceded for the nation. As he prayed, he didn’t pretend that Israel was better than their behavior. He knew that they deserved whatever judgment God decreed. His prayer was thoroughly God-centered. He argued that God’s reputation was on the line, including the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob).

When Moses saw the idolatrous calf and the people dancing like pagans, he took the two tablets of stone and hurled them against the foot of the mountain. He burned the calf, ground it to power, mixed it with water, and made the Israelites drink the murky blend. Moses confronted Aaron. How ironic that the man who would wear the ephod with the two stones bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel pinned the blame on the donkeys. The garments of the High Priest were designed to symbolize the presence of God as he made atonement for the people. But the man who wore the garments showed that he needed atonement too. Aaron’s weakness and the people’s disobedience, placed the entire nation in jeopardy.

When Moses witnessed their rebellion, he called the people to a crisis of decision: “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me” (32:26). The tribe of Levi stood with him. He gave them the necessary but dreadful task of bearing the sword of the Lord. At the end of that tragic day, three thousand people were killed (32:28). Then in a moment that will shine as long as history endures, Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (32:31-32). In spite of their inexcusable rebellion, Moses so identified with his people, that he would rather suffer along with them than move on without them. God was ready to wipe them off the face of the earth and start from scratch with just Moses. Moses pleaded for their forgiveness and offered to lay his own life down. Moses modeled for all time the kind of leader God uses. As it happened, God got the last word. He said to Moses, “Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you” (32:34). It remained to be seen whether God would make the trip.

Almighty God, You made me to worship You and You alone. Forgive me, when like the Israelites, I quickly turn to idols that never satisfy. Wean from my heart every trace of idolatry and make me wholly Yours today. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

The Altar of Incense – “You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its…

Day 39 – Exodus 28-29

Day 39
Exodus 28-29

Everything related to the design of the Tabernacle, including the positioning of its furnishings, pointed to its sacred function. These chapters refer to the installation of the priests of Israel who serve God and represent the people of Israel before God in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle, priestly, and sacrificial structure all functioned together as a complete system. The responsibility of the priesthood was holy and heavy, so that every priest served only by God’s appointment (cf. 1 Samuel 2:28). As it happened, to be consecrated and ordained, priests were washed with water, robed in sacred garments, anointed with oil, and sprinkled with blood.

While still on the mountain, God gave Moses precise instructions regarding the attire of the High Priest. The first High Priest of Israel was Aaron, Moses’ brother. His priestly garments were made by Spirit-filled craftsmen and were both colorful and mysterious (28:2-5). The colors of his ceremonial robes, which imparted dignity and honor to his office, were identical to the colors of the Tabernacle, showing the inseparable relationship between the two.

The High Priest wore six pieces of clothing. The first piece of clothing was the ephod of the High Priest (28:6-8). Made of fine linen and colorful threads, the ephod consisted of two shoulder pieces with two onyx stones, ornamentally set in gold on each shoulder. The names of the Twelve Tribes were engraved on the two stones, six names on each stone, in order of their birth. Attached to the ephod, was a gem-encrusted breastpiece of judgment (15-21). Set within this sleeveless vest, nine inches square when folded, were twelve stones. The stones were arranged in four rows of three stones each, representing the people of God. Many of these stones were found in the Garden of Eden (cf. Ezekiel 28:13) and decorate the foundations of the heavenly City of God (cf. Revelation 21:19-20). As a result, the High Priest carried the names of the Twelves Tribes on his shoulders and over his heart when he entered the Most Holy Place (29-30). Inside the folded pouch of the breastpiece, which was fastened to the ephod, was the mysterious Urim and Thummim (“light” and “perfection”). Some think that inside the pouch were two stones, one white and one black. It’s plausible that the two stones were used by the High Priest for divine guidance on important matters. How the Urim and Thummim actually functioned, no one knows for sure.

The third piece of clothing was a turban, worn only by the High Priest (28:36-38). On the front of the turban was a golden plate, engraved with the words, “Holy to the Lord.” The fourth piece of clothing was the sacred robe (28:31-35). This seamless blue robe hung down to the knees. It was same color as the curtain and veil that covered the entrance into the Most Holy Place. The hem of the robe was fringed with bells and pomegranates which hung heavy. The bells also rang whenever the priest moved. The duty of the High Priest was dangerous. The fifth and sixth pieces were a sash around the waist and a tunic that hung to the ground (39-41).

God also instructed Moses that the High Priest and other priests participate in a public act of consecration. This service of ordination was an important and detailed process. First of all, God instructed Moses to gather all the animals and materials for the offerings as needed (29:1-3). Secondly, Aaron and the others were escorted to the doorway of the Tabernacle and were washed (4) and dressed (5-6). Finally, the High Priest was set apart for his service by being anointed with oil (7). The other priests were clothed and given tunics and headbands. Sashes were also tied around them (8-9). Three sacrifices were then offered over the span of seven days. First of all, the priests gathered around a bull and placed their hands on its head, transferring their sins onto the bull. The bull was sacrificed in the courtyard in order to make atonement for sin (10-14). This is the first reference to a sin offering in the Bible. The blood of the bull was then sprinkled on the horns of the altar. The bull died as a substitute in their place. Secondly, one ram was sacrificed and its blood was sprinkled on the sides of the altar (15-18). The whole animal was offered as a burnt offering. This was a sacrifice of total dedication, for both the ram and the priests. Thirdly, a second ram was also sacrificed (19-21), known as the ram of filling or ordination. The blood was then smeared on the bodies of the priests (i.e. ears, thumbs, big toes) and sprinkled on their garments. By the end of the service of ordination, blood was everywhere (22-25). Moses was to take the breast of the ram and wave it before the Lord (26). The priests then sat down an enjoyed a sacred meal in the presence of God.

It took one week to ordain the priests with a fresh bull being sacrificed every day for seven days (35-37). Immediately after they were ordained, the priests began their duties (38-42). Sacrifices were offered every day. A lamb was offered every morning and evening, combined with grain, oil and wine. The morning and evening sacrifice belonged to the Lord and He would know delight by dwelling among His people.

Dear Lord and God, every part of the Tabernacle system pointed to You. Even the ceremonial robes worn by the priests showed how holy, glorious, and beautiful You are. Even Aaron as High Priest, foreshadowed Jesus, our great High Priest, who willingly gave Himself for us. Thank you that Jesus, even now, lives to make intercession for us. In His mighty and powerful name, we pray, Amen.

The Priests’ Garments – “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and…

Day 38 – Exodus 25-27

Day 38
Exodus 25-27

God desired an earthly home. He did not need one. No home or building could contain the Almighty. If the universe cannot contain Him, no mere tent ever could. But God promised to dwell with His people. In order to make His presence known, God directed Moses to build an elaborate tent. He called it by two names here: a sanctuary (miqdash) or literally, a separate place; and a tabernacle (mishkan), or literally, a dwelling place. Elsewhere, it was called the, “Tent of Meeting” (cf. Exodus 35:21) and the “Tent of Testimony” (cf. Numbers 9:15). The Tabernacle was the only earthly structure completely designed by God and constructed according to His plan (25:9). God was the Architect, who drew up its design. He was also the Supervisor, who oversaw its construction.

Moses was meeting with the Almighty on Mount Sinai. During this mountain summit, God showed him the Tabernacle in heaven (the prototype) and instructed him to build an earthly replica. The writer to the Hebrews picks up on this point stating that the earthly Tabernacle was, “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (cf. Hebrews 8:5). The Tabernacle was not an arbitrary design. It reflected a heavenly reality. Like the Law, the Tabernacle would communicate essential truths about God and His character. As a result, God took great care in communicating every word and detail to Moses–for six and a half chapters (25:1 – 31:17). God’s instructions regarding the Tabernacle and its accoutrements were over 6,200 words long (25:1-31:17). As it happened, it was the longest direct address made by God in the Bible, almost three times longer than His speech to Job (cf. Job 38-41). Since the Tabernacle was the most important dwelling ever made, Moses was to ensure that this mobile home for God was built exactly according to code.

God gave the Israelites the opportunity to make a voluntary contribution for its construction. It would be funded and the materials supplied by those “whose heart moves” him to contribute (25:2). Their giving was first, the result of an internal stirring that then prompted an outward act. It was an offering, God said twice, that was “for me” (25:2). When giving is from the heart there is no pressure before or regret afterwards. God gave Moses a lengthy list of items from which the people could contribute, from the richest to the poorest. They brought precious metals and splendid gems. They also brought the hardwood of the acacia tree, the skins of goats, and olive oil for the lamp.

The Tabernacle wasn’t necessarily glorious, though its Occupant was. Nor, was it large. The entire Tabernacle complex was just over 10,000 square feet–a little larger than a baseball diamond and surrounded by a fence. The main tent was less than 1,000 square feet. It consisted of two interior rooms– the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Most Israelites were never allowed to step inside the Tabernacle. They were kept outside. Only the priests were allowed to enter the Holy Place and only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place, once a year.

The Ark of the Covenant (25:10-22). The first three pieces described in these chapters were to be placed inside the Tabernacle. The most important piece of furniture was the Ark of the Covenant. The ark represented the throne of God and therefore, the presence of God. The two stone tablets engraved with the Ten Words were to be placed inside the ark. On the outside of the ark, on it top, rested the Mercy Seat. The golden cherubim above the mercy seat represented the attendants of God who guard His glory. God spoke in the region above the Mercy Seat and between the overarching cherubim. The ark was also made with permanent rings through which poles were inserted for the ease of carrying.

The Table for Bread (25:23-30). This was a small table, overlaid with gold, and placed just outside the Holy of Holies. Twelve loaves of bread (or, Showbread) were placed on the table. The bread represented God’s faithful provision for His people. It was built like the ark except its poles were removable.

The Golden Lampstand (25:31-40). The ornate lampstand, that stood in the form of a tree, provided the interior lighting for the Tabernacle so that the work of the priests could be illuminated. When lit, the lampstand indicated that the Lord was in residence there. God was home. In addition, the golden lampstand also represented the life and light God gives to His people.

The Bronze Altar (27:1-8). The altar was placed outside, in the center of the eastern courtyard. The altar had four horns at each corner, which were smeared with blood during sacrifices. It was the first object the worshiper would see upon entering the courtyard, serving as a continual reminder of the necessity of the atonement.

The Court of the Tabernacle (27:9-19). The courtyard was the open space surrounded by approximately an 8-foot fence consisting of sixty pillars, each one set in a base, and white linen curtains. There was only one entrance into the courtyard and it was made with the same cloth that adorned the interior of the Tabernacle.

The Oil for the Lamp (27:20-21). Clear oil of lightly pressed olives was used to light the lamps. When the oil was pressed but not crushed, it provided a clearly lit, smoke-free environment.

Our Lord and God, everything associated with the Tabernacle matters because it all points to You. We are humbled that You would choose to dwell on earth in a tent. The heavens cannot contain You and yet, You chose to dwell in a humble home instead of an ornate palace. But even more, Your earthly home points us to Jesus, who in humility, was willing to come earth and tabernacle among us. Thank You for pitching Your tent in our world. May we follow Your example and pitch our own tents where the need for the gospel is the greatest. In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.

Contributions for the Sanctuary – The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart…

Day 37 – Exodus 22-24

Day 37

Exodus 22-24

Laws are basic to human civilization. The earliest and most numerous of all ancient writings were legal codes that prescribed rules for a functional community. In a similar way, the Ten Commandments were God’s gift to Israel to ensure its flourishing as a nation under God. While the Ten Commandments were clear and concise, they could not possibly cover all the legal questions that might arise. As it happened, this section of Exodus is known as, The Book of the Covenant (20:18-23:33). This section strikes the reader as a random collection of rules. Its overall purpose, however, was to show the application of the Ten Commandments to specific life-situations, as organized in the following list:

• The 1st and 2nd commandments regarding false worship (22:18-20).
• The 3rd commandment regarding oaths taken in God’s name (22:11).
• The 4th commandment regarding a weekly Sabbath (23:10-13).
• The 5th commandment regarding those who fail to honor parental authority (cf. Exodus 21:15, 17).
• The 6th commandment with a clear distinction between first-degree murder and unintentional manslaughter (cf. Exodus 21:12-14).
• They 7th commandment as it relates to other sexual sins beyond adultery (22:16-17, 19).
• The 8th eighth commandment regarding theft, negligence, or the destruction of property (21:16; 22:1-15).
• The 9th commandment and the consequences of giving false testimony (23:1-9).
• The 10th commandment regarding covetous runs throughout this entire section (cf. Exodus 21:13-14).

As it happened, the Law revealed the Lawgiver. Every statute God gave reflected His righteousness. It said something about Him. It revealed His character and expectations. It also exposed the sinful bent in every person and therefore, the need to regulate human behavior. While the Book of the Covenant was specific for Israel, God’s Laws contained principles that can still guide the civic life of any nation. For instance, it revealed God’s attitude in several areas:

• The primacy of justice (Exodus 21:23-25). The famous and much maligned lex talonis (i.e. law of retaliation–an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth, etc.) was not a way for getting even but for the application of any punishment to fit the actual crime.
• Respect for personal property (22:1-15).
• Deterring crime.
• Restitution to the victim. Restitution was viewed as a preservation of justice.
• Impartiality. In most cultures, preferential treatment toward the influential or wealthy is still common.
• Mediation and adjudication. In cases where there were conflicting claims, the claims were to be brought before a judge, who was charged with discerning who was telling the truth or whether a neighbor was a thief.
• Capital offenses. Exodus 22:18-20 mentions sorcery, bestiality, and idolatrous sacrifices which were all are present in Canaanite culture.

The Book of the Covenant also revealed God’s heart for the protection of the disadvantaged and defenseless (22:21-22); care for the sojourner or alien (22:21); provision for the widow and the orphan (22:22-24); and compassion toward the poor (22:25-27). The Book of the Covenant also required the observance of three annual feasts for all Hebrew males. First of all, the springtime Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorating the exodus out of Egypt (23:15). Secondly, the early summer Feast of Harvest or Firstfruits (23:16). Another full harvest feast would come seven weeks later (i.e. Feast of Weeks). Thirdly, the Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles/Booths (23:16b).

Before God explained the blessings or curses of the covenant (if kept, or broken, respectively), He told Moses about a fascinating angel who would go before the Israelites into the Promised Land. This angel (23:20) is so identified with God that He said, “My name is in Him” (23:21) and even called Him, “My angel” (23). Many Bible students believe this angel to be the Second Person of the Trinity. He, that is, God would drive out all of Israel’s enemies (27, 28). While divine intervention was promised, God was also careful to communicate that Israel’s conquest of the land would be “little by little” (30) until they came into full possession of Canaan with clear borders (31).

Before the Book of the Covenant was confirmed, Moses took a company of men (Aaron, Aaron’s sons, and the 70 elders) and together, they climbed up the mountain of God. On this occasion, God revealed Himself to the elders. Two times we’re told what they saw: “They saw the God of Israel” (24:10) and “They beheld God” (11). Indeed, what the elders saw was qualitatively removed from seeing God personally. What they saw was like “a pavement of sapphire stone” under His feet (24:10). Afterwards, the covenant was confirmed among the people with a blood sacrifice. Moses took some of the blood and also sprinkled it on the people (24:4-6). In unison, they committed themselves to the stipulations that Moses carefully wrote out: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (24:7). As it happened, God then called Moses back to the mountain alone. For forty days, he descended deep into the mountain, while the glory of the Lord was visibly displayed to the Israelites encamped below (24:15-18). Moses was gone so long that the Israelites became restless.

Holy God, Your Law is holy and good. Your commandments are righteous and good for following them leads to human flourishing. Your Law is also good because it reveals my sinful heart and my continual need for Christ. Help me to delight in Your Law so that I may delight in Christ who kept the Law on my behalf. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I…

Day 36 – Exodus 19-21

Day 36
Exodus 19-21

There has never been anything quite like it, before or after. Three months following their retreat into the wilderness, the Israelites stood at the foot of Mount Sinai. The deliverance of the infant Moses, the the ophany of the burning bush, the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea–all of it had been mere prologue to this moment. When God first called Moses, He promised him, “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain” (cf. Exodus 3:12). God is true to His Word, one-hundred percent. As it happened, what took place here convened a new phase in God’s covenant with His people. God wanted Israel to know what Moses had experienced. God had seized Moses’ attention with a burning bush. He seized Israel’s attention with a smoking mountain. God told Moses to take off his sandals because he stood on holy ground. God told Israel not to touch the mountain, lest they die. It was a holy and terrifying experience: “Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire…Moses spoke, and the Lord answered him in thunder” (19:18-19). God was about to give His Law to His people.

God’s advent at Sinai was portrayed like a powerful monarch establishing a treaty or covenant with his people. The treaty began with a preamble or formal introduction, in which God spoke (19:3). The preamble is followed by a historical prologue that cited the relationship between the two parties (4). It recounted how God in His grace, bore them on eagle’s wings and brought them to Him. Then God revealed the basic terms of His covenant, which are accompanied with a promise of blessing. God was entering into a binding relationship with His people. God did not give His Law so that by keeping it they could become His people. God gave His Law to them because they were already His treasured possession among all peoples (5). They were to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to Him (6). Moses instructed them to get ready for God to speak. They bathed, changed their clothing, and abstained from normal relations. They declared their intent to obey all that God commanded (8). Their commitment was commendable, even though their obedience would falter, time and again.

As it happened, God commanded their undivided attention. He got it. “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings (both words are plural) a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast so that all the people in the camp trembled” (16). God’s Law would not be a set of rules or moralistic platitudes for simply keeping His people in check. God’s Law was a holy expression of His holy character for a holy people. This momentous day was witnessed by hundreds of thousands of angels hovering over Sinai (cf. Deuteronomy 33:2). Moses then led the Israelites from their tents to the foot of the mountain. The sky was steeped in darkness. The ground quaked beneath their feet. Moses climbed to the top of the mountain to meet God.

God’s opening words revealed the gracious nature of His speech: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (20:1). He was not only their Lord but their Redeemer. For this reason, He gave them His “Ten Words:”

I. “You shall have no other gods before Me” (3). This is God’s absolute priority. Nothing was to come before Him.
II. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness” (4-6). No idolatrous substitute for God.
III. “You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain” (7). Not just verbal respect but also relational reverence.
IV. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (8-10). A pause in their efforts one day in seven to rest in their Maker and Redeemer.
V. “Honor your father and mother” (12). Submit to all authority.
VI. “You shall not murder” (13). Human life was to be protected.
VII. “You shall not commit adultery” (14). Faithfulness in marriage was required.
VIII. “You shall not steal” (15). Respect for another’s property was assured.
IX. “You shall not bear false witness” (16). Speak honestly and lovingly.
X. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house” (17). Be content with what you have.

God’s Law was a binding treaty spoken and signed by His own hand. When the people saw the thunder and lightning, heard the trumpet blasts, and saw the mountain smoking, they begged for Moses to mediate between them and God (18-19). God’s giving of His Law to Israel was unique in human history. The gods of their surrounding nations were fickle and unpredictable. It was impossible to know what they wanted. The God of Israel was making His expectations known.

Immediately after the giving of the Decalogue, comes The Book of the Covenant (Exodus 24:7). While the Ten Words revealed God’s expectations for His people, The Book of the Covenant revealed how God’s Law applied to Israel in many of the social realities and needs of their day. This part of God’s Law was not engraved in stone but written on parchment (24:4). As the Book of the Covenant began, it included the application of God’s Law regarding altars (20:22-26), slaves (21:1-32), and restitution (33-36). And, this is just the beginning.

Our Lord and God, You are holy. You are worthy. Your Law reveals Your worthy character and holiness. Like the people of Israel, the Law exposes our sin and ultimately, the need for a Mediator. Since we are all lawbreakers, thank You for Jesus, who today, is the sole Mediator between God and man. Thank You for Jesus who perfectly obeyed the Law for us and paid the penalty for our transgression of the Law so that we might be saved through Him. In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.

Israel at Mount Sinai – On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.…