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Rich Owen ministers here (check out his sermons!).  He has previously blogged in this series here and here.

Read Exodus 29 - The Consecration of the Priests

Whenever I read these chapters, I am utterly gripped by the intricacy and the ‘in your face’ way in which Israel were being taught through all these ordinances.  The artistry and precision over the worship of Israel must have been fascinating to witness and highly instructive.

So lets stand on the outside of the tabernacle screening and look in. What do I observe as a faithful Israelite? What do I see? What is required? Who is present in this?

First we must remember the purpose of it all. The goal of all of this ceremony and religion is fellowship with the Lord – verse 43 to 45 and this fellowship with the Lord brings personal knowledge verse 46 of the One they serve. They are brought into relationship by what occurred.

As Dr Robert Reymond says, the goal of redemption is our adoption as sons. The goal of all the visual theology here in these chapters is fellowship with the Lord and adoption into his family.

So as I contemplate fellowship with the Lord and look in to the tabernacle courtyard, the most obvious thing I observe is that I can do nothing to gain this fellowship. It is a task which falls only to one man, the High Priest. He will meet with the Living God on my behalf. He represents Israel. He represents me, but he must first be prepared for worship.

This is a chapter about the preparation this High Priest needs. Firstly then, purity is required (v1). The blood sacrifice required must be spotless and without defect and this High Priest is to be washed in water (v4).

He then has the anointing oil poured over him (v7). The oil is poured over his head and over that wonderful golden plate inscribed with the words HOLY TO THE LORD, it runs down his face and over his beard (Ps 133) and runs down onto the ground. The High Priest is given the anointing that the King would later receive. The High Priest is the anointed one, covered with the anointing such that it overflows from him.

The glorious robes, the glint of the precious stones and the golden sheen of pure olive oil must have been a sight to behold! However, all these wonderful garments and adornments are nothing with blood.

The bull is now presented and killed (vs10-11). The horns of the altar are wiped with blood and the rest (the majority – a decent bull will contain about 40 pints of blood) is poured out onto the ground around the base of the altar (v12). This is the sin offering. A vast sea of blood is needed for sin, it is a great price.

The rams are now presented and killed (vs15++).

Again, the blood is sprayed everywhere – all over the altar (v16). The first ram is then cut up and burned up, all to satisfy the Lord’s pleasure (V18). The second ram is for the ordination of the High Priest. It’s blood is poured onto the right ear, the right thumb and the right big toe (v20) of the high priest. He is covered, head to food in blood.

The High Priest having shone with glorious splendour has now descended and become a terrifying blood soaked monstrosity. He looks awful. He is then sprayed with blood and oil again (v21) – all over those fabulous robes. His hair greasy and his beard straggled as the oil on his face mingles with blood.

Here oh Israel, is your High Priest, now he is ready for his work.

The pieces of this ram are waved and I know that a portion of this sacrifice is kept by the high priest. This ram was not just for ordination but the people of Israel. By his keeping a share, I am joined to the anointed one, the blood soaked High Priest because this sacrifice, breast and thigh, represent me and guarantee that I will gain fellowship as I look on (verse 28).

I watch as Aaron eats the ram for ordination along with the bread and wine and I rejoice! A man of Israel, an Adam is eating and drinking with the Lord!

I look closer and I see that the high priest is not alone (vs27-28 & vs 31-34). His fellowship with the Lord is enjoyed with his offspring. His own sons are present with him enjoying the fellowship with the Lord. Oh to be a son of the High Priest!

The promise is made here too (vs29-20), that these glorious garments now consecrated, made holy by blood and by the anointing oil – these robes are to be given to all the descendants of the High Priest. Anyone born of the one anointed and bloody man who alone makes sacrifice will be given the holy robes of righteousness, justices and purity, so that they too can fellowship with God Most High.

So I am left to contemplate once more.

This is not adequate. Can a ram or a bull really atone? Can they really satisfy the Lord? The obvious answer is no. This is repeated, again and again and again. Is an animal sufficient to cover a man? Again, obviously no – Adam and Eve received animal covering but were still removed from that direct fellowship with the Lord which they previously enjoyed.

We need a true sacrifice. We need a man to provide a covering for man, a pure man, without defect or blemish, one which will satisfy, one which will be enough so that there is no need to repeat it year after year. We need a High Priest who doesn’t have to atone for his own sins, who enters in his own right, with his own blood, once for all.

I need to be born of the High Priest, I need to be his son to share those robes of fellowship, to wear the blood and the oil of consecration.

All this visual hope! All this graphic theology! Am I to divorce this from all that has gone before?

Surely the Seed, the promised One is such a Man.

What a day of teaching the watching Israelite has had! What amazing instruction which leads him to faith in the Promised Messiah, to a knowledge of the way Messiah would die for sin.

I have been told that my reading is anachronistic on a number of occasions.

I point to Hebrews 9 verse 8 which states that the Holy Spirit was teaching those watching people of Israel that the way into the real Most Holy Place, not the earthly copy, required something more. Here is the way, but it is not yet open. A greater and more perfect sacrifice was needed.

Here scripture affirms that the people were being taught – this is so important. This was the Holy Spirit teaching and leading the ancient church to faith in Christ – which is what He always does. They looked forward with Spirit lead visual words. I look back with Spirit lead written words.

Dave continues his excellent blogging from here.

The priests’ garments (Ex 29, 32)

Clothes and priesthood

Why do we wear clothes?

It’s a question worth thinking about. Ritual works mainly at the level of the level of subconscious association, so to understand the rituals of the OT we have to ask basic questions we wouldn’t usually bother thinking about.

I think most, if not all, our answers to the question could be broken down into one of two categories:

1. To hide ourselves from cold and shame of nakedness.

2. To project ourselves by expressing our identity

Priests also had a dual role which correspond to this. As mediators they represented God to Israel and Israel to God.

Representing Israel to God - clothes to hide behind

The priests wore linen undergarments to cover their nakedness, particularly when ascending the alter (28:42; cf. 29:26). But that was just the first layer of clothing, in addition there was “a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash” (v.4). In any culture that is a lot of clothes, many providing layers between the body and God. These clothes acted as a barrier between God and humanity similar to the curtains of the Tabernacle. The sinful priest was hidden behind layer upon layer of clothing, as the Israelite camp was protected from God‘s direct presence by the curtains of the Tabernacle.

It is no light thing to enter God’s presence, as Nadab and Abihu found later (Lev 10). In Exodus 28 YHWH is clear that if the priests did not wear the specified clothing then they “bear guilt and die” (v.43, c.f. v.35). In a sense the priests’ clothing was their armour shielding them from God’s presence, and it is striking that the ephod had an opening for the head “like a coat of mail” (v.32, ESV footnote).

The breastpiece was the most important piece of this armour. Soldiers wore breastplates to protect their vital organs in battle, and against the wrath of God the priests relied on their breastplate. But, of course, material layers would never protect you against the consuming fire of God’s wrath against sin so the breastpiece of the priests was set with twelve stones engraved with “the names of the sons of Israel… to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD” (v.29).

When God remembers in the OT there is usually a twofold action. He turns back from judgement, and he turns towards blessing. He encourages Noah that when the clouds of his wrath gather the rainbow will appear he will see it, “remember” his covenant and so restrain from sending another “flood to destroy all flesh” (Gen 9:14-16). Similarly when God’s wrath against the sin of Israel and the priest burns, he will see the names engraved on the breastpiece and remember his covenant with Israel. His anger will be deflected and the priest will live.

But if the priests of Israel were sons of Israel by birth, why did God need reminding of their identity as individuals and as representatives of the nation? Sadly, because despite all its gifts, Israel often acted just like all the other nations. Saved by YHWH out of Egypt, Israel had been adopted by God and should reflect their Father’s character. “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44) was the central command Israel had been called to obey, and their identity was indissolubly tied to this. Sin and death had no place in the life of a servant in God’s house. But by worshipping other gods Israel traded its identity as God’s chosen priestly nation set apart for God’s service for the false-security that the allegiance of other gods and nations offered.

Israel needed to be clothed with Israel in order to be able to stand in the presence of God. What Paul said to the Romans, applied as much to Israel in the wilderness who had already scorned their identity several times, “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Rom 9:8). To enjoy God’s presence the priests had to be counted as Abraham’s offspring “who is Christ” (Gal 3:16). The OT priests put on the promise of Christ when they dressed in the breastpiece and the shoulder pieces with faith.

To be clothed with the true Israel is to be clothed with holiness. For the Levitical priest’s sacrifice to be acceptable he wore a “plate of pure gold” fastened to the front of his turban engraved with the words “Holy to the LORD” (28:37). The tribe of Levi (like Israel as a whole) did not choose to set themselves aside for YHWH’s service, but were chosen by God who sanctified them for the task (Lev 21:6-8). Only by wearing reminders of God’s election of Israel in the “Holy One of God”, Jesus Christ (Mark 1:24), could the Levitical priests be confident that YHWH would accept the offerings of the people (28:38).

We may worship in a different Tabernacle, but we are also God’s priests seeking to “offer to God acceptable worship“ before our God who is “a consuming fire” (Heb 12:28-29). Instead of the breastpiece, ephod etc, we put on Christ by being baptised into his death when we are counted as “Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29). In this way we can “draw near to the throne of grace” with confidence (4:15-16) secure in our identity with Christ, the only holy son of Israel.

Representing God to Israel, clothes to express our identity

As well as representing Israel to God in the Tabernacle the priests represented God to Israel outside the sanctuary. Their many duties included teaching the law, answering questions with the Urim and Thummim they were equipped with, and judging uncleanness in particular (Deut 33:10; Ex 28:30, Num 27:21; Lev 10:8-11, Deut 17:9). Appropriately their clothing reflected this office.

The priests’ garments were made of “blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen” just like the Tabernacle curtains (26:1-36; 28:5). The square breastpiece worn by the priests suggested the Holy of Holies where YHWH dwelt. The priest in his many layers of rich clothing walked around in a mini-Tabernacle, because he was as God to the people.

The purpose of the priests’ garments as a whole was “for glory and for beauty” (28:2, 40) and “evoked the majesty of God himself” (p. 77, Wenham, 2003). They certainly had that effect on the 2nd century BC author of the Letter of Aristeas who on seeing a priest was “greatly astonished… at the mode of his dress, and the majesty of his appearance … as to make one feel that one had come into the presence of a man who belonged to a different world” (96-99). The majesty of God was never displayed in Brutalist or Fascist art. God’s art didn’t just communicate power or wealth, but also creative beauty and life.

1 Peter reminds us that we have been made “a royal priesthood” for the same horizontal purpose to the rest of humanity as the Levitical priesthood, that we “may proclaim the excellencies of him who called” us (2:9). The appropriate clothing for us is to clothe ourselves with humility and good works which will shine as a light before men and win them to Christ (3:1-5, 5:5; c.f. Matt 5:16). This adornment is our beauty and our glory.

But like the priests’ garments it is God’s clothing we are walking around in. And as the garments for priests before God were the same as the garments for priests before Israel, so our garments before the world are the same garments as those we wear before God. We put on Christ as humans standing before God, but we also put on Christ as God’s ambassadors to the world. It is his character, worked by him in our lives by his Holy Spirit, that we want to put on. A “new self…created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24).

In Christ, we are holy, God-like people who speak the truth, labour, share, build up and forgive others. That is who we are so we shouldn’t hide that light, but take it out of the wardrobe and wear it so that the world will “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).


Dave's blog is one of my absolute favourites and I'm really pleased he's doing today's and tomorrow's posts.

Bezalel and Oholiab

A great commission

After YHWH had given Moses his design brief for the Tabernacle he also instructed him that he wanted two craftsmen named Bezalel and Oholiab to do the work.

The Tabernacle was not just to be a functional space, but also a work of great beauty and artistry. The God who created the beauty of a stunning sunset was going to dwell with his people in a place which would reflect that same creativity and craftsmanship. For Bezalel and Oholiab this was the greatest commission they had ever received and they must have felt immensely privileged by the opportunity to exercise their gifts to such a great purpose.

But this was also an honour for all the people of Israel. Bezalel of Judah and Oholiab of Dan were representatives of what would be most Southern and Northern tribes in the promised land. They led a team of craftsmen who were no doubt drawn from all the tribes (35:34), and relied on the materials which were contributed by the whole people (36:3-7).

God had graciously spoken his covenantal word and the people would now respond.

... but how could Israel ever provide an appropriate response to the grace they had received? How could a nomadic group of runaway slaves construct the dwelling place of the Lord of the universe?

God's work

YHWH's grace is overflowing. He not only graciously spoke and acted to save, but he also graciously provided the response demanded. The people were so moved to make great gifts of precious metals, textiles and wood to build the sanctuary that they had to be held back from giving more than was required (36:6), but all that they gave was what they had been given by God. He had worked wonders in Egypt so that they had left Egypt wealthy rather than not empty handed (3:21-22; 11:2-3). Bezalel and Oholiab were filled with the Spirit of God so that they also had the skills and knowledge to complete their task, and everyone involved in the work received the ability that they had as a gift from YHWH (31:3-6; 35:30-35).

Exodus can frustrate us with the almost exact repetition of God's instructions (25-31) in the account of the construction (35-40). God said "You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. But this repetition hammers home the obedience of the people, and the creative power of God’s word. He said “let there be a Tabernacle” and there was a Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle was the obedient work of Bezalel, Oholiab and all of Israel to their glory, but it was God’s work too.

God’s starter home

But even with God’s enabling there is no getting away from the fact that this was a mere tent. As King David later recognised, it was incongruous that the kings of the ancient world lived in houses of cedar when the “ark of God dwells in a tent” (2 Sam 7:2). So soon enough another Judahite would be leading the construction of a dwelling place for YHWH, massively exceeding the first in grandeur and beauty.

However, even this was not sufficient for YHWH. When Solomon’s great temple had been destroyed, God looked forward to his dream home whose glory was “greater than the former” (Haggai 2:9). Each sanctuary of God may have extended its boundaries further and further but still we must wonder what kind of house could humans ever build for God (Isaiah 66:1; Acts 17:24)?

God’s master plan

Indeed, God’s dream home had never been a tent. He had looked forward a day when the whole cosmos would be filled with his presence. The first tabernacle/temple was the Garden of Eden, the bounds of which Adam and Eve were to extend until they filled the whole earth (Gen 1:28) and the symbolism of much of the Tabernacle and Temple looked back to this garden. It’s not coincidental that in the tabernacle instructions to Moses are structured around 7 occurrences of “YHWH said” (25:1, 30:11, 17, 22, 34, 31:1, 12), where the sixth introduces instructions about personnel and the seventh introduces the Sabbath. A garden full of fruitful life which was worked and kept by humanity was God’s dream home (Gen 2:15; the Heb for ‘work‘ and ‘keep‘ normally referring to priestly activity in the OT).

But as well as looking back the Tabernacle looked forward. The old creation was now lost and just a residual memory of all temple-builders in the world, but entering the Tabernacle people could also see the future New Creation. Isaiah 66 admits that humanity could never build a house sufficient for him (v.1), but looks forward to a day when all the world will come to the house of YHWH (2:2; 66:20) and the only way all these people will fit is if the temple/Jerusalem/Zion is actually a “new heavens and the new earth” which only God can make (v.22). And that is exactly what John sees in Revelation 21 when he is given a vision of a city shaped as a cube, like the Holy of Holies, corresponding to the new heavens and new earth which comes from God. A sanctuary where everyone, including Gentiles, will be priests and worship in the presence of God.

God’s new Tabernacle creator

Humanity (pre-fall) could have completed God’s creation mandate (Gen 1:28) to extend the bounds of the garden-temple to encompass the whole world, but they cannot re-create the cosmos. And re-creation is what is required. It would not be enough for Christians to pick up the creation mandate again because the raw-material has been corrupted. So while we can reduce poverty, we need another to make poverty history. “God’s inability to dwell in any structure on earth not only refers to the Creator’s transcendence but plausibly includes reference to the necessity for purification and re-creation” (p.138, Beale, The Temple and the Church‘s Mission). The whole creation needs to be devoted to destruction, before being brought back to life again. Only then would it be a fit Tabernacle/temple for God to dwell in.

Only God could do this and yet the task was rightly humanity’s.

The good news is that the Tabernacle has been destroyed and rebuilt, by man.

The Word of God through whom all things were made, came to complete the commission given to Adam. The Word who spoke light into being and the Tabernacle into existence, became what he had created. The Holy Spirit empowered this man, as he had empowered Bezalel and Oholiab, to do what no man could ever do (John 1:32). Again God had not only given the command, but provided the response - and this time to the uttermost.

This man built the new tabernacle, the New Creation, by becoming the old, corrupted tabernacle due for demolition; he “tabernacled among us” (lit. 1:14). His body was the temple (2:21), and humanity who had been in the business of demolition since Adam, destroyed it just as he predicted they would from the very beginning of his ministry (2:19).

Instructed by the Father and for the love of his creation, he lay down his life, knowing that by the power of the Spirit he would take it up again (John 20:17-18; Rom 8:11). The temple of his body was destroyed but he raised it up in three days (John 2:19-23). The New Creation came into being on Easter Sunday 2000 years ago, as the firstfruits of Christ’s body was lifted from the grave (1 Cor 15; 2 Cor 5:2).

God’s co-workers

This New Creation is breaking into the lives of people, as they become part of Christ’s body, the temple of the Holy Spirit (e.g. 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 2:21-22; 4:12). The work has been completed and our great commission is to proclaim that to the ends of the earth, encouraging people to participate in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 28:18-20). In this way we will build up the temple of God in our generation, accompanied by Christ and empowered by his Spirit as God’s co-workers.

It may not always be pretty. The first Christian martyr Stephen was stoned for preaching this message. He taught that the old temple was to be destroyed (Acts 6:14) and this angered the Jews. They were wedded to this creation and the sin it was mired in, but Stephen saw the Tabernacle and Temple as pointing to something greater. He reminded them “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:48) and he paid for it with his life. But as he died he saw the future New Creation hidden in heaven. As Moses had seen the heavenly pattern from which to build the first Tabernacle (Acts 7:44; Heb 8:5) when Stephen died he saw “the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).

That is the vision we need to see in the glorious Tabernacle built by Bezalel and Oholiab so we can follow their example of intelligent, skilled and creative obedience to our Great Commission.


My friend Paul Hawkins has written a cracker on the altar of incense.  Enjoy!

Read Exodus 30:1-10, 34-38

I wonder how many of us are in something like a prayer triplet, getting together with say two other Christians to pray together?


Exodus 30 is a great chapter on prayer.  We’re in the middle of the tabernacle, this massive multimedia picture of heaven and earth.  And inside the tabernacle were three pieces of furniture described back in Exodus 25.  The ark, symbolising the throne of God the Father. The table of the Presence, symbolising God the Son, present with us.  And the lamp-stand, a picture of God the Holy Spirit, shining to the world.

But there was one other piece of furniture in the tabernacle, only one, which was the altar of incense.  In verses 1-3 we see it was quite small, it was made of wood covered with gold and if we look on to verse 6, Moses is told

“Put the altar in front of the curtain that is before the ark of the Testimony—before the atonement cover that is over the Testimony—where I will meet with you.”

That means it would have stood right in the middle of those other three things, symbolically in the middle of Father, Son and Spirit.

So what’s this altar, and this incense, all about – what’s it a picture of?  Well we’re told in a number of places and one of them is Revelation chapter 8 verse 3, which says an angel

came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.”

The prayers of all the saints.  That’s us!  It’s as if the Father the Son and the Spirit are at three corners of a triangle and we and our prayers are right in the middle.  Here’s the original prayer triplet, God himself, and the glorious reality is that if we’re Christians we are surrounded by him.


I don’t know what sort of terms you’re on with Her Majesty the Queen.  If I gave her a call I think I might just struggle to get put through.  But with prayer, it’s not just that we can get through to God if we call him up – if we sort-of throw up a few prayers.  No, we’re in the centre of his life, we’re family, it’s like we’re with the Queen in her living room, and she’s saying, how’s it going – what’s on your mind?

And prayer is how we live out this family life caught up in God.  Look down at verses 7 and 8 – Aaron burned incense (so think: prayers of the saints) every morning and evening, regularly before the Lord.  Verse 9, he didn’t come with a sacrifice or another offering or anything, no just incense, prayer.  Prayer is our expression of the divine life.


So how is it that we can share in God’s life – how come we’re caught up in this divine prayer triplet? Well verse 10 talks about atonement being made with the blood of the atoning sin offering, it says it’s most holy to the Lord.  Isn’t that the heart of the message of the cross, where the Lord God himself, gave his own blood to make us holy.  His passion gives us his life.

And do we see how that means we are very welcome as he brings us into the throne-room of God?  Very welcome.


So what does God think of our prayers?  Well what’s this incense like?  Looking on to verse 34 we see – it’s fragrant!

What’s your favourite smell?  I was thinking mine might be fresh raspberries – gorgeous.  Well these spices here have sweet and powerful aromas and as they rise to the Lord they’re verse 37 holy to him, verse 38 they’re enjoyable – no-one’s allowed to copy them for their own enjoyment, no they’re for the Lord’s enjoyment.  So when we pray, God thinks, “… what’s that lovely smell?  Ah, the incense, the prayers of my saints, how wonderful!”

Isn’t that amazing? … Not that there’s anything in us that makes our prayers smell nice – no, it’s because we’re caught up in this sweet fragrant life of God himself – God the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts and prays, for us (Romans 8), he takes our feeble prayers and wraps them up in Jesus.


So what do you find hard about prayer?  I mean, we all do, don’t we?  I think for me I too often spend my time worrying, thinking, “how am I gonna cope?” instead of bringing everything to the Lord.  Maybe someone is reading and thinking “my prayers are just so rubbish” or “I’m too bad, surely God can’t accept my prayers.”

No, if we’re in Christ, the wonderful news to grasp is that God the Father is delighted with our prayers.  Next time we smell a lovely fragrant aroma, let’s think to ourselves – “that’s how God thinks of my prayers”.

So let’s pray – how often is prayer the last thing we think of, not the first thing we do – maybe it’s time to join a prayer triplet, let’s take every opportunity to pray.  We’re locked into the life of God, and the immeasurable resources of the Godhead are ready and waiting.

What a friend we have in Jesus.  What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.


When studying the Lord's prayer it's common to think about the character of God that's assumed in the prayer: i.e. Father, in heaven, holy, etc, etc.

What about the character of the one praying it?

Here are some thoughts:

  • Childlike
  • Reverent
  • Expectant
  • Guileless
  • Obedient
  • No agenda of our own
  • Desperate
  • Dependent for all things
  • Confident of mercy
  • Acknowledging sin
  • Repentant
  • Merciful
  • Having a deep appreciation of grace
  • A follower
  • Hating sin and temptation
  • At war with the evil one
  • Sheltering in the Lord's deliverance

Three thoughts:

1) I want to be this person.

2) Jesus has made me this person (John 16:23-27)  The Father regards me as this very person, clothed in my Advocate. I not only pray in and through Jesus but with Him.

3) As I pray, resting in the intercession of Jesus, I am increasingly living up to what I've already attained in Him.


Read Exodus 25-27

The goal of the LORD Jesus' redemption was serving God on the mountain (Ex 3:12).  But when the people get to the mountain, they don't go up (Ex 19:13b).  Instead priests go up a certain distance (Ex 19:22) and Moses alone goes all the way to the top.  But he goes on the people's behalf (Deut 5:27).  In this he is like the Prophet-to-come (Deut 18:15ff).

But now that the people have arrived at the mountain, what are they to do?  Camp out at the mountain?  Well, no, there's a promised land to inherit.  So instead, the mountain camps out with them.

The tabernacle is given to the Israelites as a kind of portable Sinai.  It has the Glory cloud at its heart (pinnacle).  It is stratified with places for the people, for the priests and for the high priest.  And salvation is pictured as the progression (ascension) from estrangement to the most holy place through sacrifice.

The mountain and heaven are very closely identified in Scripture (Gen 2:10; Deut 4:36; Psalm 15:1; 24:3; Isaiah 14:13; 2 Pet 1:18) and so on the mountain Moses receives the heavenly blueprint for the tabernacle.  It is expressly a copy of the heavenly perspective (Ex 25:9,40; 26:30; 27:8) - and so it stands at the heart of the old covenant, a picture of heavenly things, not the reality itself.  The shadowy nature of it was very clearly taught in the OT itself.

This is the layout:

Let’s think about the furniture first:  The NIV headings are quite helpful.  You’ll see from 25:10 that the first thing Moses was to build was the ark of the covenant (orange box on left).  Then (25:23) the table of the bread of the presence (orange box on right) and then (25:31) the seven-fold lampstand (to the south of the table).

Before anything else was – there was the Three.  Then, 26:1 – according to the pattern on the mountain, Moses is to make the tabernacle.

If time permits we may look at the materials in another post, but after these are described we read in 26:31 that a curtain is to be made which cordons off one section of the tabernacle from another.  And this curtain is inlaid with cherubim.

The last place we saw cherubim was at the end of Genesis 3, blocking humanity off from re-entering the presence of God.  Here this curtain cordons off the ark of the covenant.  And so 26:33; this divides the tabernacle into the Most Holy Place and the Holy Place.

Now, what do these things mean?  Well perhaps we should start with the Table of the Bread of the Presence.

Jesus is known as God’s Presence among the people (see Ex 33:14; Deut 4:37; Isaiah 63:9) and He is the Bread of life (John 6).  He is represented by the Table.

The seven-fold lampstand is equated with the Holy Spirit in Zechariah and Revelation. (See for e.g. Zech 4:1-6; Rev 1:4).

So we have, Christ, we have the Spirit – what about the ark – placed in the Most Holy Place?

Well Hebrews 9 (v24) tells us that the Most Holy Place represents the throne-room of heaven so we can safely assume that the ark of the covenant represents the Father - or at least His throne.

The curtain of the temple is the division that has occurred between God and humanity through the fall.

Since the problem is our estrangement from God, no wonder that the very next thing on the tabernacle-building agenda is the altar (ch27:1).  Only through sacrifice is the way back to the Father opened up. (See Mark 15:38).

One final piece of furniture to note - chapter 30:1 - the altar of incense (the yellow box).  This was placed before the curtain into the Most Holy Place and between the Table and the Lampstand.  In the bible this represents the praying saints (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8).  More on this in a future post.

So what do we have modelled here?  Here is the way back up the holy hill for sinners.  Naturally it's a route that takes you through fiery, piercing judgement (Gen 3:24).  And it's a route that only the consecrated and anointed Priest can make - but He does so on the people's behalf, carrying them on His heart into the Presence of God Most High.

This multimedia presentation of the gospel was at the very centre of the law.  It  was very centre of Israelite life.  The heart of the law is a gospel presentation proclaiming the way to heaven.  When the law was seen as a way of us ascending into the Most Holy Place then we are dashed to pieces on it.  It brings only wrath and curse.  But when the OT Israelites saw the shadows as shadows cast by the great Light, they were led to the End of the law - Christ - and found mercy, righteousness and peace in Him.

Read Exodus 24

Here we see the book of the covenant, the blood of the covenant and the banquet of the covenant.  And they go together.

The book is read to the people, the blood is sprinkled on them, the banquet is held out to them.

The covenant is declared, cut and enjoyed.  As Christians we can tend to focus on one of the three, or perhaps two of them - but the three belong together.

What is the covenant?  Back in Genesis 15 we saw a vision of the covenant that would see the Israelites freed from Egypt (Gen 15:9ff).  The smoking firepot and blazing torch passed through the pieces of the sacrificial animals - the LORD was pledging to uphold both sides of the covenant on pain of death (cf. Jer 34:18f).

In its most basic form the covenant is the LORD's wedding vows to His bride:  "I will be your God, you will be my people."  Abraham gets to see the most fundamental truth - the LORD is a Groom who even makes vows on behalf of His bride!   Abraham is not asked to make any vows.  In effect he simply hears the LORD say, "I will be your God and you will be my people."  That's the bottom line - the LORD will take responsibility both for the offer and the receipt of the covenant.

But there will be a genuine human response - the terms of the covenant demand it.

Here under Moses we see the human response fleshed out.  The God of Abraham has redeemed the seed of Abraham and led them to the mountain in cloud and fire.  Here they pledge to take on the role of the human counterpart in the covenant.

"We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey."  (v7)

Will they?

In one sense, No - the blood, the tabernacle, the sacrificial system show how profoundly unable they are to be the LORD's bride.

But then again - that same blood and sacrificial system speaks of One who can deal with their failures and bring them to the feast.

The Seed of Abraham will indeed do everything the LORD has said.  The Son of God will become Seed of Abraham, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those born under law that they might receive the full rights of sons (Gal 3 and 4, esp v4ff).

There will be a genuinely human response to the Father's covenant love.  And in a sense, it begins here at the mountain.  This vow from the Israelites would be taken up by Christ and made good.  He will endure the curses for disobedience, shedding His own blood, and then rise to a vindicated, blessed humanity - the True Israel.

And then - the banquet.

Here we see the pinnacle of God's salvation - table fellowship with the LORD Jesus Himself (cf Ex 33:20; John 1:18):

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.  (v9-11)

Face to face, friendship and feasting.  The law and the sacrifices (the book and the blood) all lead to the banquet.


After some very feeble posts by myself (sorry I've had no time recently!), Jacky brings things back to the boil.  This is really great stuff - enjoy!

Read Exodus 23:10-32

The Israelite Calendar

We approach the three significant appointed times of the year according to the Israelite ecclesiastical calender:

(i)  Feast of Unleavened Bread: also known as the ‘Passover‘ (Pesach) in the first month (15th to 21st day), the month Nisan/Abib (v.15); the Paschal Lamb killed on the 14th, and the Paschal feast from 15th to 21st

(ii)  Feast of Harvest: 6th day of Siwan/Sivan, the third month of the ecclesiastical calender (this is also known as Shavuot/the Pentecost/Firstfruits of Wheat Harvest)

(iii)  Feast of Ingathering:  known as Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles (firstfruits of wine and oil) occuring from 15th to 21st of the month Tishri, the seventh ecclesiastical month

These are the three memorable days where all the males appear before God.  Unsurprisingly, these three festivals mark important dates in Scripture: the year opens with the reminder of Jesus’ death on the cross; followed by the Pentecost in the middle of the year, reminding us of the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit given to all men (Acts 2) which also occured on the Shavuot.  This being in the sixth month, on the sixth day, is the mark of man equipped and blessed by the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel, and also to be sanctified (as day six represents that of the creation of man and woman, just as the Spirit is given to all men and women.  For six days shall man labour; and so for six days shall we labour with the Holy Spirit for God’s Holy Work of salvation.  This is closely followed by the seventh month, symbolising a time of reaping of rewards, the firstfruits of wine and oil, and unlike the Feast of Weeks, this is similar to the Passover, a seven-day celebration.

Interestingly, following the Feast of Ingathering there is approximately 5 months before the next Passover… and this contributes to the seasonal cycle of Scripture – through death, comes life, and returns to death again, comes life again.  This is no Buddhist samsaric realm – rather, this is an observation of our life on earth, a shadow of the great event of Christ being thrown into the pit, rising as a new creation and ascending as our present Intercessor before the Heavenly Father.  Just as we are made from dust, we are given the firstfruits of new life by the Spirit; then we return to dust.  But we will rise again, breaking away from all seasons in new creation, and will eternally live in the Feast of Tabernacles where there is eternal wine and oil of gladness, where there is the eternal Tabernacling of the Lamb with us in New Jerusalem.

Perhaps there is something more I’d like to note:  Three times the male appears.  Why?

The first festival relates to CHRIST, in memory of the death of the firstborn.

The second festival relates to the SPIRIT, in memory of the giving of the Spirit to all who stand in the Son.

The third festival… relates to the FATHER – whom we will no longer conceive as invisible, but visible when we are given new bodies:

Job 19:25-27  For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  (26)  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,  (27)  whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

And thus, the three periods of the year bear witness to the Triunity of the God in becoming, the cyclical nature of His outpouring love for us taking us from Christ, in the Spirit, to the Father from the victorious opening of the year to the even more glorious close of the greater hope in seeing the Father in our new creation bodies, in the new heaven and earth.

Conquest of Canaan in the Name of the Angel

From the great establishment of the yearly reminder of the Triune glory, we move on to vv.20-21 which speak of the divine archangel which Philo considered to be God the Father’s chief messenger, and no doubt, Jesus is the Father’s chief and foremost messenger.  The Angel of the LORD, who has the name of GOD himself, has the power of pardoning one’s transgressions.  The Father tells Moses to relay to the Israelites that this Angel must not be disobeyed (v.22).

Vv.23-24 then relate to the essence of Christian proclamation – v.24: “you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces”.  Indeed, Christ, the Angel, is the one who brings the victory – God the Father is the one who blots them out (v.23), but WE are the ones who invoke the Angel’s Name to destroy the idols according to the victory won by the Redeemer.  Such is the stuff of the Christian faith, when we are brought into the warm embrace of the Triune love!  Glen has written another great post on faith here.

And that fight of faith, by the victory of the cross and by the power of the Spirit (explained by the festivals), shall result in the symbolic treasures of Canaan.  The land will be enlarged, the people will no longer be barren… but v.33 ends on an important caution: “They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”  Yet, the irony is the prophetic nature behind this statement – STRAIGHT after Moses speaks to the Father, Israel is already serving their self-made calf.  Will the Israelites ever inherit such blessings, with their terrible track-record of being dissatisfied with the symbolic quail, manna and living water?  It is so laughable that we, like the Israelites, would however always promise God – “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do” (chapter 24v.3).

Clearly, the answer is found in the victorious Angel.  The answer is found in the annual reminder of the three-fold festivities.  The answer is found in the perfect fulfillment of the law.  What is the meaning of the law?  It is to bear witness to the Christ Who can do these things.  What is the meaning of the law?  It is to bear witness to the Seed, the God-man, who is the Redeemer of the ancient Christians.  What is the meaning of the law?  To display how utterly fallen we are, and our utter incapability of fulfilling it by ourselves, except in the eternal Mediator alone.  Through Him, we will see the Father, and inherit the blessings of New Jerusalem in true Canaan (v.23-32).


Read Exodus 22:1-23:9

Some random thoughts:

Crimes receive their just recompense (Heb 2:2)

Restitution is a wonderful idea - the word is taken from the root of "shalom"!

Restoring shalom is costly

Some crimes are worse than others

This is contra the popular belief that everything's the same in God's eyes.

It's true that no sin is so slight it doesn't demand the blood of God and no sin is so great it's not covered by the blood of God - but within that range there's quite a lot of difference.

There's restitution or there's death.  There's no prison.

Sins are dealt with in community.  If someone's not fit to be dealt with in community they're not fit to live.  There's no limbo state of prison.  (Implications for the 'naughty step' in disciplining children?)

Protection of the weak is woven very deeply into the fabric of Israelite life. Virgins (v16), Aliens (v21, 23:9), Widows (v22), Orphans (v22), the Needy (v25), the Poor (23:6).

This is not sentimental favouritism - 23:3 - justice and mercy are held together.

Love for enemies is actually legislated!  (23:4-5)

This grace is grounded in the very identity of the people - this is not the law of a dominant super-power.  This is the law of a weak, rescued people. (23:9)


Please do add your own...

Read Exodus 20

God's Sent One has brought the people to the mountain to serve the Unseen LORD (Ex 3:12; 19:5-6).  But the people lose their nerve at the trumpet call (19:13, cf 19:19).  They remain distant.  Only Moses goes into the fiery cloud (20:18-22).  But he does so on the people's behalf.

Moses' mediation was a shadow testifying to the future ministry of the Sent One, when He would become the Prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15ff).

On the mountain, Moses will receive words (e.g. Ten Commandments - lit. "Ten Words") and a pattern/copy/construction (i.e. the tabernacle, Ex 25:9,40).

The two should be understood together.  Both are given to Moses as heavenly blueprints for a people-in-waiting.  The Law (which inextricably involves the tabernacle and sacrificial system) lays out a wholistic discipleship programme for the priestly nation.  It shows the world what forward-looking faith in the LORD Jesus looks like. (Deut 4:6ff)

Let's think about the Ten Words.

Verses 1 and 2:

And God spoke all these words:  2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Here we see that God’s commandments flow out of God’s salvation. They do not lead to God’s salvation.  The law is given to a people who have already been made His people by the redemption of the Divine Angel.  The LORD does not say, "If you want to be my people, this is how you should act."  He says, "You are already my people, and here is an authoritative description of what it looks like to be the LORD’s people, waiting for the Messiah in the promised land."

This is a foundational point: the Law is never presented as a way of salvation.  Instead it is a gift to the saved people of the LORD.

Let’s read what these commandments are, from v3:

3 "You shall have no other gods before me (lit. My Presence).

The Ten Commandments are the words of the Unseen LORD (cf Deut 5:26) - the Father.  It's natural therefore that His first command is to have no other gods before His Presence.  It has been the Presence (the LORD Jesus) who has saved the people out of Egypt (Deut 4:37; Jude 5).  So of course the Father's first command is to have no other gods but Jesus.

It's often said, and rightly so, that transgressing the first commandment is the heart of all other transgressions.  This is true - the first and foundational sin is rejecting the Son (John 3:36; 16:9).

Let's keep reading:

4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,  6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Here we see that the law is a reflection of the character of the LORD.

The LORD gives us reasons within Himself for why He gives us the commands He does.  He doesn’t give us arbitrary hoops to jump through to prove we are obedient in some abstract sense.  In giving us the Law, the LORD is expressing His holiness, His righteous character.

If you read through Leviticus you’ll come across scores of commands but nestled in among them is the repeated phrase ‘I am the LORD.’  He tells us ‘I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.’ (Lev 11:44-45). So the Law reflects the LORD’s character.

Let’s read on from v7:

7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.  8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Here we see that the Law witnesses to underlying gospel truth.

Not only are there reasons in the LORD’s character for why the commands are as they are, there are underlying theological and historical gospel truths that are being witnessed to and upheld by the Law.

Let’s read on from verse 12 (the fifth commandment):

12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Here we see, the Law is expressly given in the context of the promised land.

As you read Exodus and Leviticus and especially Deuteronomy you cannot escape the truth given again and again that the Law is to be carried out in the land.  Deuteronomy – an extended teaching of the law by Moses – uses the word ‘land’ over 200 times.

So, just as verse 2 gave us a specific audience for the Law – the Israelites – so v12 (and countless verses like it) give us a specific place for the Law – the promised land.

We haven't got time here to talk about how the shadow of these mountain-top words/tabernacle are filled out in the incarnate work of Christ.  Obviously Paul is able to apply the fifth commandment to the Ephesians (6:2-3).  But he does so in the same sense as calling the Corinthians to 'keep the feast' (1 Cor 5:8), or as Hebrews tells us to go to the altar (Heb 13:10).

Taking these five bolded points together, we get a picture of Law that looks something like this:

The Law is given to a people who are already saved by the LORD Jesus and brought to the Father to hear words that are an expression of His character and Gospel.  Supremely they are a call for the saved people of God to put His Son first in all things.

Let’s read the last five commandments from v13:

13 "You shall not murder.  14 "You shall not commit adultery.  15 "You shall not steal.  16 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.  17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Let's ask a basic hermeneutical question here - one for all the linguists out there: In what mood are the commandments given here?

It’s not imperative.  There is an imperative mood in Hebrew.  The Father could have said ‘You must not murder.’  But instead He says ‘You will not murder.’

Of course that carries with it a powerful imperative force doesn’t it?  If the LORD God says you will not do something, then by golly you’d better not do it.  But it carries with it other nuances as well.  Can we not see in these words aspects of promise?  ‘You won’t murder, you won’t commit adultery, you won’t steal?’

Imagine the phrase ‘There will be peace in this house.’  Now that phrase can mean different things in different contexts.  If a mother says this to two rowdy boys it is most definitely a command isn’t it?  ‘There will be peace in this house.’  But if a prince says it to his kingdom, it’s a promise isn’t it: ‘There will be peace in this house.’  And what about if there was a person whose name was Peace, who embodied Peace itself – what would those words mean then: ‘There will be Peace in this house’?  I think there are shades of all those meanings when we look at the Law

So the Law carries not only a sense of command but also of promise.

The Law not only commands the Israelites, it also points beyond itself to a Kingdom and to a King where perfect righteousness exists.  Christ is the LORD whose character soaks through every jot and tittle of the law.  So when He is born of a woman, born under Law, He summarizes the Law as ‘Love God and love neighbour’.  As He does so, He's not just summarizing the Law, He is summarizing Himself.  He is the One who supremely loves God with all His heart, soul, mind and strength.  And He is the One who supremely loves His neighbour as Himself.

This is so vital: Christ is the Answer to the commanding Father.  Not me. Certainly not in the first instance anyway.

So when I look at the Law I don’t see an arbitrary list of commands to simply cut and paste from Sinai into my life.  Instead I see the most rich and complex gospel presentation.  Here are mountain-top words and structures given as shadows to Moses for the Israelites and filled full in the LORD Jesus (Matt 5:17).

As I read this description of righteousness I'm forced to say: ‘That Law does not describe me.  Not even my best efforts bring me close to being the Person described in that Law.  But, I know a Person who it does describe.  It describes the LORD Jesus.'

I acknowledge that the Law is good.  But I am not.  I do not and cannot answer the Father's words here with faith, worship and obedience.  But I know a Man who does.

When we're in Him by faith, He puts His law in us by the Spirit and it bubbles out for all the nations to see.


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