Chronological Bible 7: The Tabernacle

This week’s readings were Exodus 35-40, Numbers 7-9, and Leviticus 1-8. All of these passages involve the construction, setup, and proper use of the tabernacle, which was the “tent of meeting” that God ordained to represent his presence among the Israelites. Exodus finishes out with God providing Moses the description of the tabernacle and then Moses collecting the materials and overseeing the construction and setup. God was very specific about the materials and specifications for the tabernacle. In Exodus 25:40, God says,

See that you make [the elements of the tabernacle] after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.

Also, in Exodus 26:30, God said,

Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain.

Exodus 35-40

  • Sabbath Regulations
  • Contributions for the Tabernacle
  • Construction of the Tabernacle
  • Making the Ark
  • Making the Table
  • Making the Lampstand
  • Making the Altar of Incense
  • Making the Altar of Burnt Offering
  • Making the Bronze Basin
  • Making the Court
  • Materials for the Tabernacle
  • Making the Priestly Garments
  • The Tabernacle Erected
  • The Glory of the Lord

Numbers 7-9

  • Offerings at the Tabernacle’s Consecration
  • The Seven Lamps
  • Cleansing of the Levites
  • Retirement of the Levites
  • The Passover Celebrated
  • The Cloud Covering the Tabernacle

Leviticus 1-8

  • Laws for Burnt Offerings
  • Laws for Grain Offerings
  • Laws for Peace Offerings
  • The Priests and the Offerings
  • Consecration of Aaron and His Sons

I want to take a look at all the prescribed elements of the tabernacle, starting with the perimeter curtains and moving inward. Images below are from the teaching materials of the Lifeway Bible Study curriculum The Gospel Project.

taberrnacle layout

The tabernacle includes all of the elements shown in the picture above. It was designed to be portable, and the descendants of Levi were designated as the people who cared for, assembled/disassembled, carried, and used the various elements as priests for the nation. (Specifically, Aaron’s descendants were designated as the priests). If you recall from last week, the Israelites were instructed to dedicate all their firstborn children to God. The Levites were designated as the substitutes for all the firstborn’s of the rest of the nation. In Numbers 8:17-18, God says

“For all the firstborn among the people of Israel are mine, both of man and of beast. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I consecrated them for myself, and I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel.”

The tabernacle had an outer courtyard which was rectangular in shape. A person would approach on the east side, where the entrance curtain was located, signifying that there is only one appropriate way to approach and fellowship with God, and also signifying a turning away from the rising sun, which is often associated in pagan worship practices. A person would be met by the priests at the gate where the person could offer the gifts and sacrifices he/she has brought.

Inside the courtyard, the priests would offer the various offerings brought by the people. The first element located between the entrance and the tent of meeting was the bronze altar, used for burnt offerings. I’ll discuss the specific sacrificial system next week. The significance of encountering the altar first was to represent the fact that one must be cleansed and forgiven of sins through the substitutionary blood sacrifice of an unblemished animal.

The next item encountered upon approach to the tent was the basin, which held water for cleansing of the priests as they approached God’s house. This served as a reminder of the necessity of cleansing and washing away filth in the presence of God.

tent

Only the priests could enter the actual tent structure, located near the west end of the tabernacle complex. The above diagram shows a cutaway view of the tent. The lampstand (menorah) had seven branches to it and was designed to provide light to the space in front of it. It was to be placed on the south interior side of the tent to provide light for the work of the priests.

The bread table was to be placed on the north interior side of the tent. It was to continually hold bread offerings, representing fellowship with God.

The altar of incense was placed at the west end of the tent, before the curtain (discussed next). The incense to be burned was a specific formula used only for worship of God. It the smoke and fragrance were to represent the prayers of God’s people.

The curtain was intended to separate the outer chamber from the inner (holy of holies) chamber. It represents the complete holiness of God and the fact that He cannot have fellowship with anything less holy than He. Only the high priest could enter through the curtain into the holy of holies, and only on a specified day of Atonement (which I’ll discuss next week). Significantly, this curtain (as found in the 1st century temple) was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross, signifying that the necessary separation of God from humans was over because of the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus.

ark

The only object found in the holy of holies was the ark of the covenant. It was a box with a gold lid called the mercy seat. The solid gold lid had two cherubims on it, facing down with their wings stretched across the top and touching. Moses would hear the voice of God coming from the space below the wings, which represented the throne room of God. Inside the box were placed the two tablets of the ten commandments, a jar of manna to remind the Israelites of God’s provision, and a section of Aaron’s staff (budded, as we’ll read about later in Numbers.

The big takeaway that I want to emphasize from these passages is that God is to be approached on his terms, not ours. We don’t get to pick and choose which of God’s requirements we want to listen to and which we’ll ignore. We are not saved from our sins by the things we do in terms of following the law, because we are unable to do that completely. Yet it is still God’s expectation of his people to be holy as He is holy.

Next week we’ll be looking at Leviticus 9-26, so I’ll discuss all the Leviticus passages then.

For Further Investigation

Almost done!

The realtor photographer just left. Our house will go on the market sometime next week. Here are the “non-professional” (e.g. cell phone) photos of the house as staged for the photographer.

Of course, there’s the garage and the room that we haven’t gotten to yet. We’ll work on that in advance of it going on market next week.

God has been good through this process. We had some wonderful workers doing the kitchen, baths, laundry room floor and door installations. Thank you Leland, Gabriel, Aaron, and Daniel!

We also loaded a dumpster with lots of debris!

More to come next week!

Chronological Bible 6: The Sinai Covenant

This weeks readings came from Exodus 13-34. The following provides a summary of the contents of these passages.

  • Consecration of the Firstborn – Following last week’s introduction to the Israelites of the Passover, further details are outlined here. All firstborn male children and livestock are to be set apart for God. The children are to be redeemed with additional livestock.
  • Feast of Unleavened Bread – Celebration of the Passover meal initiates the beginning of this week-long feast in which no yeast is to be found among the people.
  • Pillars of Cloud and Fire – As the Israelites head across the desert, God led them by day with a cloud and by night with a pillar of fire.
  • Crossing the Red Sea – When they arrived at the shores of the Red Sea, the Egyptian army threatened to overtake and destroy them.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. (Exodus 14:13-14)

God parted the sea, the Israelites walked through on dry ground, and when the Egyptian army followed, God released the waters onto them, destroying them.

  • Bitter Water Made Sweet – The nation encountered a spring with bad water. God showed Moses a piece of wood that he was to throw in the water and the water became clean and drinkable.
  • Bread from Heaven – The people complained of hunger, so God caused manna to collect on the ground each morning. It was a flaky substance which could be baked or boiled and tasted like honey wafers. The manna continued to supply the people each day until they reached the promised land 40 years later.
  • Water from the Rock – Another time the people complained about lack of water, so God instructed Moses to strike a certain rock with his staff and water flowed from it
  • Israel Defeats Amalek – The Amalekites attacked the nation. Moses stood on a hill overlooking the battleground. As Moses lifted his hands up, the Israelites prevailed, but if he dropped them, the Amalekites would win. Aaron (Moses’ brother) and another man held Moses’ hands up for him when he tired, and the Israelites defeated the Amalekites.
  • Jethro’s Advice – Moses’ father-in-law met the Israelites in the desert and observed Moses overworking himself answering all the people’s questions. He advised Moses to delegate responsibilities to other leaders as well.
  • Israel at Mount Sinai – Israel arrived at Mt. Sinai, later known as the mountain of God. This is the same place where Moses encountered God in the burning bush.
  • The Ten Commandments – God called the people to the foot of the mountain and spoke in all their hearing the ten commandments.
  • Laws about altars, slaves, restitution, social justice, Sabbath and festivals – God gave Moses various instructions on societal and worship behaviors. These tie in to the two main “themes” in the ten commandments, summed up by Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Exodus 24-31 contains instructions for the construction and financing of the tabernacle. I’ll discuss some of the elements of the tabernacle in next week’s blog, since that set of reading involves the actual construction and use of the tabernacle.

Following the giving of the ten commandments by God, the people urged Moses to ask God not to speak directly to them, as they were terrified. Moses then spent 40 days and nights with God on Mt. Sinai receiving the tabernacle instructions and the tablets on which God had written the ten commandments (per customary Hebrew covenant process). When Moses returned to camp, he found the people had already broken their covenant with God and were worshipping golden calves instead. In anger, Moses broke the tablets with the ten commandments and interceded for the nation before God. God instructed Moses to carve out replacement tablets and then God would re-write the covenant law on them.

Final Thoughts

The ten commandments are the focal point of this set of passages. This marks the beginning of the time the people spent in the desert before taking possession of the promised land. The ten commandments appear again in Deuteronomy, near the conclusion of the 40 year wanderings in the desert. As we’ll see over the coming weeks, the ten commandments frame this period of wandering in the desert and represent the fact that the Israelites are unable to fulfill the requirements of the Law themselves. It points to the future incarnation of Jesus, the ONLY person to completely fulfill and complete the requirements of the law. Jesus himself said,

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)

Next week we’ll look at Exodus 35-40, Numbers 7-9, and Leviticus 1-8.

For Further Investigation

Chronological Bible 5: Moses Confronts Pharaoh

This week’s readings came from Job 35-42 and Exodus 1-12 (with a few genealogical verses from 1 Chronicles 6). The book of Job concluded with Elihu’s speech and then God confronting Job, but I discussed those last week. This week I want to concentrate on the first part of Exodus, which tells the story of the eventual release of the Israelite nation from the bonds of slavery to Egypt.

The text begins with a listing of the descendants of Jacob who are now residing in Egypt, and then has the statement (1:8), “Now there arose a new king of Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” As you recall, Joseph had been placed as second in command over all Egypt under the pharaoh of his day, but after Joseph died, the people began to fear the Israelites because they had become so numerous. You must understand that between the end of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus, approximately 350 years have passed, so it’s not like the people became fearful overnight. The Israelites have grown by this time to be a nation of over a million people. The current king of Egypt issues an order that all the male children being born to Israel must die. One of the Israeli women gave birth to a son whom she hid in a floating basket and placed it in the waters at the edge of the Nile. The boy’s sister observed that Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby and adopted it as her own, naming him Moses.

Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s house but eventually recognized the brutality with which his people were being treated and ended up killing an Egyptian over it. This forced Moses to flee to the desert for safety. While there, he encountered God speaking from a bush which burned but was not consumed. Again, you have to be conscious of time when you read this and realize that Moses is approaching the age of 80 by now. His life, as described in the narrative, is broken up into 3 40-year segments: his life in Pharaoh’s house for the first 40 years, his exile in the desert for the next 40, and then his leadership of the Israelite nation to lead it out of Egypt during the final 40 years.

From the burning bush, God calls Moses to return to Egypt and demand the Israelites be released. God also tells him that Pharaoh will refuse until God has sent a series of 10 signs (plagues) upon the Egyptians, concluding with the death of their first born children. This death sentence ultimately led to the Israelites being released, and to the institution of the celebration/remembrance of Passover, when God’s judgment “passed over” all those who listened to him and obeyed him by covering their doors (symbolic of lives) with the blood of the Passover lamb.

The Plagues

As Moses was confronting Pharaoh about letting the Israelites go, God performed a series of ten miracles/plagues against the Egyptian people. The plagues were

  • Nile turning to blood
  • Frog infestation
  • Dust turning to gnat infestations
  • Fly infestation
  • Large-scale deaths of livestock
  • Boils on humans and animals
  • Devastating Hail
  • Locust devastation
  • Three days of darkness
  • Death of the firstborns (people and cattle)

Scholars have pointed out that many of these plagues represent God’s power over elements worshipped by the Egyptians. I specifically want to point out two things about them.

First, these plagues were pre-planned by God when he initially called Moses to go to Pharaoh.

And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’ If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.” (Exodus 4:21-23)

God instructed Moses to perform all the miracles first, which would ultimately culminate with the deaths of the firstborns. The plagues were not an impulsive act of an angry God. Rather, they were a just act of judgment against a people who rejected him.

Second, ultimately the purpose of the plagues was to teach about and bring glory to God, both in the eyes of the Egyptians and in the eyes of the Israelites.

“The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 7:5) …. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10:1-2)

The Gospel of the Exodus

There are two big ways in which the gospel story of Jesus are reflected in these passages. The first one is in the broad story line of the Exodus itself. We’ll be looking at more detail about individual elements as we continue our journey through the Bible, but for now, consider the overarching story of the Exodus.

God’s people were in slavery. God chose to send a great prophet (Moses) to confront the source of their slavery (Pharaoh and Egypt) and facilitate their release. Once their captor was defeated, God’s people were led out of slavery, but spent some time in the “in-between” world of the wilderness, sometimes falling back into the mindset of slavery, but still journeying toward and anticipating that time would God would ultimately settle them in their promised land.

This is a picture of God’s work through Jesus. All of humanity is in slavery to sin. God sent his son (Jesus) to confront the slaveowner (Satan) and to defeat him by dying and then resurrecting from the grave in victory over the power of death. He then offers us the ability to follow him in that victory and leave behind the enslaving power of sin. When we follow him, though, we still battle against the influences and temptations of sin as we continue our life’s journey. Ultimately, though, Jesus will deliver those who have trusted him and followed him into the final promised “land” of heaven to live with him.

The Gospel of the Passover

The particulars of the Passover meal specified in Exodus 12 are

  • Sacrificial lamb without blemish
  • Male
  • Killed at twilight
  • None of the lamb’s bones could be broken
  • Blood had to cover the doorway to the house
  • All of the sacrifice had to be roasted and consumed, with no leftovers
  • It had to be consumed with anticipation of the exodus (e.g. in a hurry, ready to leave)
  • The accompanying bread must be unleavened (representing quick preparation and not “polluted”)
  • This would distinguish God’s people from those who aren’t. Foreigners who were not Jews had to become Jewish (e.g. be circumcised) to participate.
  • The actual Passover event (death of Egypt’s firstborns) occurred only once, but the Passover celebration was to continue in perpetuity.

When Jesus died on the cross, he fulfilled the elements and picture of the Passover himself, providing the second, and eternal, “Passover” victory over death.

Next week’s readings will be from Exodus 13-34.

For Further Investigation

Downsizing update

Just a quick update on our efforts to get on the road…

All the carpet covering the hardwood floors has been removed. The underlining had disintegrated significantly, leaving behind a fine red dirt! The last bedroom has been mostly cleaned out, the broken closet door replaced, and a couple of twin beds set up for staging. The final section of the house (downstairs) is coming along, with new tile in the laundry room and lower bathroom.

We’ve made about 7 trips to the donation center so far, and have many things packed for moving and placed in a storage unit. The plan is to get the house on the market as close to February 15 as possible so we can close on the house near the middle or end of March. Our youngest son is getting married on March 24, and we hope to hit the road on our RV adventure as soon after that as possible!

Monthly Musings: January 2018

Something else I’ve been thinking about implementing this year is a monthly list of media I’ve “consumed” over the past month. I read a number of blogs, books, articles, cereal boxes, etc. as well as watch video content. I thought I’d just make some observations about some of my favorites from the past month, listed by category. If you find something you’re interested in, don’t just read my comments. Click the links for the full post or more information about the resource!

The Bible and Faith

Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to You? – Another article from The Gospel Coalition which offers some thoughts on the popular bible verse, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This is not a verse to be taken out of context, as many in the prosperity gospel camp tend to do. It does not say “If you just follow your heart, God will bless you”. This verse, in it’s biblical context, is written to a people heading into exile from the things they thought God should be doing for them. But God had a different plan for them, and he has a plan for us as well. Your plans may evaporate. Your dreams may be crushed. Your life may be snuffed out. But the God who raised Jesus from the dead will raise you up with him, if you have entrusted your life to him.

Apologetics is Secondary to the Gospel – This is a blog post from Stand to Reason. I appreciate the comment the author made that “Many times … people don’t accept Christ and express doubts, objections, or concerns with Christianity. That’s when apologetics comes in. The purpose at that point is to listen carefully to the person’s concern and ask God to help you clarify the truth. Apologetics, therefore, is about removing obstacles people have to the Gospel.” The gospel is the Christian’s primary message, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:3 – “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, …” But Peter also admonished us with, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect …” (1 Peter 3:15)

The Case for Christ – This is a book that I’ve read (and taught from) several times, but I just re-read it to refresh my memory of it. I sometimes give this book as a gift to people who have doubts about the gospel. There was a recent movie depicting the path of discovery that Lee Strobel went through as he tried to debunk the foundational belief of Christianity, that Jesus physically rose from the dead. If you haven’t read it, or at least seen the movie, then I strongly encourage you to do so.

The Lost World of Genesis 1 – This is another book I read this month. It offers an interesting (and I believe valid) perspective on the interpretation of Genesis 1 regarding God’s activity during creation. No matter your view on the subject, it encourages one to carefully consider the original audience (the new Israelite nation) and the cultural views and influences they had (c. 1500 B.C. Mesopotamia).

This is How You Find the Right Church – This blogger wrote an good reminder of the importance of considering the doctrines and beliefs of a church with which you choose to affiliate.

Over Our Dead Bodies – Charles Spurgeon said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” This challenging article reminds us of how precarious a position people have who refuse to acknowledge and submit to God.

Science and Faith

The Human Genome: ENCODED for Design – This is a video of a 20 minute talk that Fazale Rana of Reasons to Believe gave at a conference. I found it to be an interesting reminder of the intricacies of the human genome, and he addresses the so-called “junk” portions of our DNA, which are not junk at all!

Did Neanderthals Self-Medicate? – Fazale (Fuz) also wrote an interesting blog post about some recent discoveries of the dietary practices of Neanderthals. I always appreciate reading Fuz’s observations. The RTB creation model (with which I largely agree), continues to emphasize the special creation of humans and not as an evolved species.

Marriage and Relationships

Why God is So Thrilled When You and Your Husband (Wife) Make Love – Julie Siebert is one of the marriage bloggers that I regularly read. You can find links to all the marriage blogs I follow on my Marriage and Relationships page.

The 3-Second Phrase Every Marriage Needs Regarding Sex – Julie has been a prolific blogger so far in 2018, posting a new article every day. This one is a good reminder of the importance of following biblical principals in our marriages.

RV Living

2017 Travels – RVing the West and Flying to Thailand & Cambodia – I follow a lot of RV blogs and YouTube channels. Check out the page where I list some of my favorites. I found this summary entry from Roads Less Traveled interesting. I especially like the way they have their site organized!

How Much Does It Cost to Full-Time RV? – Tom and Cait Morton put together a very interesting analysis of their full-time RV budget, along with a YouTube video on the subject.

Keep Your Daydream January newsletter – KYD is also one of my favorites. In this newsletter, I thought they had a great idea of doing a “homebound” postcard program. This is a very interesting ministry idea.

6 Ways I’ve Made Money Since Leaving Corporate America – People who live full-time in their RVs often look for ways to supplement their income. I thought this article had some pretty good ideas.