Priesthood

After instructing Moses about Aaron and his sons, God concludes with the following:

“Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water.  You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.  And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics.  You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.”

Thus Moses did; according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did, Exodus 40:12-16.

There’s a great deal more about Moses and Aaron in Exodus than these few verses, but they are a concise account of Aaron and his sons being consecrated as and beginning their responsibilities as priests.  I’m not so much interested in this priesthood, though I have a few thoughts, as I am about the priesthood to which it pointed and that succeeded it:  the priesthood of the Lord Jesus.

One thing that has struck me in view of the importance of these men all throughout the Old Testament is the fact that there is no “office” of priest listed for the New Testament church.  Pastors and deacons, yes and only; “priests”, not at all.  Historically, the idea has come from those religious organizations who have attempted to mold the New Testament church using Old Testament patterns.  Hence, we have world-wide organizations with a “headquarters” in some earthly city, hierarchies of officials over and above a local pastor, fancy buildings, Bible colleges and seminaries, and all sorts of “programs.” The local church, the local assembly, is all but irrelevant, except to pay the salary of the hierarchy and for all the other stuff.

Yes, they protest, but we need all these things!

The early church did alright without them.

God intended the local church to be all that believers needed for fellowship and teaching, 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:2, 24.

You might answer, “You went to Bible college!”

Yes, I did.

And I’m thankful for it, as I’ve said elsewhere.  The thing is, and only God knows, what could the godly pastor of the church where the Lord Jesus brought me to Himself have taught an ignorant and wayward young man?  And Claude Young, to keep at least the memory of his name alive, was a godly old man.  What blessing could I have been to that church, to which I never returned except a couple to times to visit?  What mutual blessing could there have been?  As I said, only God knows.

But churches lose their young people – their future – to some far-away place, and it’s thought this is ok.

On the other side of this, we knew a pastor in one of these organizations, a good man, a godly man, who loved his people and they loved him.  The organization to which he belonged decided he would be more useful translating the works of some obscure scholar of theirs whom no one had ever heard of.  Never mind what his people or he thought about it or might want.  He must leave his church.  His people were heartbroken and so was he.

In answer to all this, the New Testament knows nothing of anything beyond or over a local assembly, free to associate with other assemblies, but also free from their interference and control.  it’s true that the church at Jerusalem was the “important” church in its time, but it seems to have been replaced, as it were, by the church at Antioch, which itself is long gone.  In any event, there is no Scriptural authority for the man-made organizations which have sprung up throughout church history which obscure and minimize the local assembly.

Having said all this about the New Testament, it’s not that I think the Old Testament isn’t important.  Those of you who’ve followed this blog for any time as it enters its seventh year – thank you, Lord Jesus – know that I do.  It’s just that we’re to be guided by the New Testament, – without ever forgetting the lessons of the Old.  Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-11.

The Old Testament priest was the intermediary between the ordinary Israelite and God.  Even he, though, was limited in this.  He couldn’t just go into the tabernacle when he felt like it.  The ordinary Israelite dare not!

The Old Testament priest had continually to offer animal sacrifices because, in the words of Hebrews 10:11, these sacrifices could never take away sins.

The office of Old Testament priest was hereditary, strictly limited to the family and descendants of Aaron.

The office of Old Testament priest, therefore, was “off-limits” to the average Israelite.  Even a king could get into trouble for interfering, and did, 2 Chronicles 26:16-20.

The OT priest could not forgive sin nor do anything to correct the nature of the one bringing the sacrifice.

There’s only ever been One about whom it can truthfully be said that He forgives sin:  “That you may know that the Son of Man has power [authority] on earth to forgive sin,” – then [Jesus] said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed and go to your house.”   Matthew 9:5, 6.  This incident is also recorded in Mark 2:10 and Luke 5:24.

The religious authorities of His time thought the Lord Jesus committed blasphemy because He dared to forgive sin, Matthew 9:3.  We recorded part of our Lord’s response to that in the paragraph above, but in the verses before that, we read, knowing their thoughts, [He] said to them, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you.’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?” emphasis added.  One is as easy to say as the other, but only the Lord Jesus has the power and authority actually to doactually to forgive sin.

No man-made priest or any earthly religious organization has that power or that authority  – no matter what they claim.

The reason that there is no “office” of priest in the New Testament church is that it isn’t necessary.  Believers themselves are considered “priests” in the New Testament.

1 Peter 2:5, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (emphases added)

Through the Holy Spirit, every believer has access to the presence of God.  We don’t need a priest, the church, Mary, saints…. The list goes on and on.

For through Him we both [that is, Jew or Gentile] have access by one Spirit to the Father, Ephesians 2:18.

Nor do we need for them to pray for us – at the hour of our death or any other time.

There’s only One to whom we need turn – in death or in life:  the Lord Jesus Christ, Hebrews 3:1.  He, and He alone, is our “High Priest.”  We need no other.

He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them, Hebrews 7:25.

 

“Wash Up!”

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing.  You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar.  And you shall put water in it, for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it.  When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the LORD, they shall wash with water, lest they die.  So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die.  And it shall be a statue forever to them – to him and his descendants throughout their generations,”  Exodus 30:17-21.  (NKJV)

He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, Exodus 38:8.

“And you shall set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water in it,” Exodus 40:7.

He set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water there for washing; and Moses, Aaron, and his sons would wash their hands and their feet with water from it.  Whenever they went into the tabernacle of meeting, and when they came near the altar, they washed, as the LORD commanded Moses, Exodus 40:30-32.

The laver was set between the bronze altar at the entrance of the courtyard and the entrance to the tabernacle itself.  It’s an interesting article of furniture.  For one thing, it’s the only article for which no measurements are given.  No height, no width, no telling how many gallons of water it held – nothing.  Further, in all their travels and the instructions for covering and moving the furniture of the tabernacle, the laver is never mentioned.

Its use, however, is emphasized.  In the ten short verses describing the laver, the fact that Aaron and his sons were to wash their hands and their feet whenever they approached the tent or the altar is mentioned five times, with the added warning if they didn’t bother to wash:  lest they die, Exodus 30:20.  This might seem extreme to us.  After all, the priests were probably back and forth all day.  There must have been dozens of sacrifices every day.  There were no floors anywhere and they wore sandals.  Then there was the difficulty with the water:  they were in a wilderness with no running water.  They had to fetch it from somewhere.  With the continual use of the laver, there must have been many trips back and forth.

But it was that or die!

And why is it considered separately from the rest of the articles of the tabernacle?  There is only the single verse in Exodus 38:8 which tells us the laver came from bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. The other verses in Exodus 38 tell us the origin of the bronze for the rest of the tabernacle in the “ransom money” from the men.

Who were these “serving women”?  Why did they assemble at the door of the tabernacle?  And how did their mirrors come into the picture?

Though there are no “official” instructions about these women and their role, there are a couple of other references to them in Scripture.

The first one is in 2 Samuel 2 and introduces the prophet Samuel to us when he was only a child.  He was an answer to prayer and had been dedicated to the LORD by his mother.  The priest at the time, Eli, had three very wicked sons who were also priests.  Their sins included that they would take advantage of the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, 2:22.  Again, there is nothing said as to why these women were there.

The New Testament  gives us the other reference.  In Luke 2:37, we read of one Anna, who was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. She turned out to be the first witness for the Lord Jesus because she was there when Joseph and Mary presented the infant Jesus at the Temple to fulfill requirements of the Law and [she] spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem, Luke 2:38.

As for the laver itself, it was for the cleansing of the priests in their daily service.

It’s a fitting symbol for the Word of God, for by it our Lord sanctifies and cleanses His church, that is, true believers, with the washing of water by the word, Ephesians 5:26.  Now this has nothing to do with the ordinance of baptism, which was designed to be a picture of our identification as believers with the Lord Jesus in His burial and resurrection.  It has nothing to do with “being saved,” as in the beliefs of some or, in the case of infants, including them in the “household of faith.” In the Old Testament, “circumcision” of an infant, said to be the OT forerunner of infant baptism, didn’t make him a member of the nation; it signified that he was already a member of the nation.  Baptism was meant to be the “profession of faith” of a new believer, not walking an aisle or some other physical movement substituted by human wisdom.  In New Testament times, and in a large part of the world today, to be publicly baptized was, and is, likely to be signing your own death certificate.

Why the laver was singled out as to the source of its bronze, since mirrors have to do with us checking our physical appearance, is perhaps God telling us that inward character is more important than physical beauty or handsomeness.   After all, beauty fades, hair turns gray, wrinkles appear, and age spots.  What might once have been gorgeous or handsome – after a while, not so much.  With this in mind, 1 Peter 3:3, 4 says to the ladies, Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel, – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible [imperishable] beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

Earlier in the same book, Peter wrote, All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.  The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 1 Peter 1:24.

Like our physical appearance, whether male or female, the grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever, Isaiah 40:8.

James has a word for us men, too:  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he is, James 1:22-24.

The Word is designed to teach us what we are, not give us a reason to pat ourselves on the back.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, we are all lost and undone, facing only the judgment and wrath of God and an eternity of suffering.

When the priest was getting ready to enter the tabernacle or approach the altar, he didn’t have to bathe all over.  He just had to wash his hands and feet.

Our Lord had something to teach His disciples about this.  At the Last Supper, He was about to wash the feet of His disciples.  Peter, being himself and not understanding at all what was going on, said to Him,

Lord, are You washing my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”  John 13:8-10.

Later that same evening, He told the eleven disciples, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you,” John 15:3.

Scripture tells us, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5.

Paul wrote Titus that regeneration “washes” us, makes us clean.  That only happens once.  The idea that it can happen more than once is unScriptural.  Therefore, even though there’s no need, indeed, no possibility, of daily “getting saved;” there is a need for daily cleansing from the defilement and pollution of this world.  By the grace of God, if we’ve been saved, we’re “clean;” we just need to “wash our hands and feet.”  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9.

God’s Altar

“You shall make an altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide – the altar shall be square – and its height shall be three cubits.  You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it.  And you shall overlay it with bronze.  And you shall make its pans to receive its ashes, and its shovels and its basins and its forks and its firepans; you shall make all its utensils of bronze. You shall make a grate for it, a network of bronze; and on the network you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners.  You shall put it under the rim of the altar beneath, that the network may be midway up the altar.  And you shall make poles for the altar, poles pf acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze.  The poles shall be put in the rings,and the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar to bear it.  You shall make it hollow with boards; as it was shown you on the mountain so shall they make it, Exodus 27:1-8 (NKJV).

He made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood; five cubits was its length and five cubits its width – it was square – and its height was three cubits.  He made its horns on its four corners; the horns were of one piece with it.  And he overlaid it with bronze.  He made all the utensils for the altar: the pans, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the firepans; all its utensils he made of bronze.  And he made a grate of bronze network for the altar, under its rim, midway from the bottom.  He cast four rings for the four corners of the bronze grating, as holders for the poles.  And he made the poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with bronze.  Then he put the poles into the rings on the sides of the altar, with which to bear it.  He made the altar hollow with boards, Exodus 38:1-7.

My early days as a believer were spent among fundamentalists.  The word has a bad connotation today because of its association with people who blow things up and murder other people, but it originally just meant those who believed the basic truths of Christianity as opposed to the “modernists” who denied them.  The practice at the end of the Sunday service with these folks was to urge people to “come forward to the altar” for salvation or any number of things.  Someone just the other day posted a picture of a group of people praying at such an altar.  It is still used by many groups. 

And there are some “fundamental” truths in Christianity.  If those truths aren’t there, then it’s not really Christianity no matter what it’s called.

The thing is, God has only ever had one altar and it wasn’t at the front of a building.  It was on a hill outside Jerusalem where the Lamb of God was sacrificed for the sins of the world.  It seems to me to say that there is another altar is to disrespect or even to disregard that one.

The current view of “an altar” at the front of an auditorium has only come into prominence over the last 150 years or so as a result of the shift in focus from the Scriptural understanding that God’s regenerating power is necessary before a sinner is even able to believe on the Lord Jesus, to the unScriptural idea now that the sinner can believe on his own, maybe with some help from the Holy Spirit, who “woos” him but can be rejected, and then, as a result of his faith, the sinner is regenerated, or “born again.”

In John 3, the Lord teaches the former viewpoint.

As the Israelite came to the entrance to the tabernacle courtyard, the altar was the first thing he saw, the first thing on the way in.  He couldn’t avoid it.  If he wanted access to God, he had to use it.  He couldn’t just admire its beauty or its architecture.  He had to bring a sacrifice.  Even though we quoted from Exodus at the beginning of this post, Leviticus is the book of instruction for the sacrifices to be made on the bronze altar.  In that book, there are nearly 60 references just to burnt offerings, to say nothing of the other sacrifices.

Some people are offended by what they call “a bloody religion.”  It may be, but the idea of sacrifice wasn’t introduced at Calvary.  It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, where God rejected the fig leaves with which the guilty couple had tried to cover their nakedness and gave them coats of skin for a covering.  Doing this, He taught them the only reason they lived was because an innocent substitute had died. Every single sacrifice after that taught that same truth – substitution and sacrifice – every single one.  Later, after the Flood the first thing Noah did was to build an altar, Genesis 8:20.  Job, who probably lived before the time of Moses, knew about altars and burnt offerings, Job 1:5. Abraham knew that “God would provide Himself a sacrifice,” Genesis 22:8-13, which He did for Abraham in the ram caught by its horns, and then, once and for all, in the death of the Lord Jesus.  The first murder, Cain killing his brother Abel, was ultimately over what was the right kind of sacrifice, Genesis 4:1-8.

The idea of sacrifice was nothing new to Moses here in the wilderness.

This altar served only one purpose:  to meet and satisfy the claims of God against guilty sinners, in this case the Israelites.  The thing is, it couldn’t.  It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins, Hebrews 10:4.  Hebrews 10:3 tells us that the continual offering of these sacrifices served as a reminder, an object lesson.  The sin, though “forgiven,” wasn’t really “taken away;” it was only “covered:” the meaning of “kaphar,” the word translated “atone,” “atonement.”  It awaited the coming of the One who could take away sin.

The altar was made of acacia wood, a wood common to the area.  Likewise, our Lord didn’t come to this earth in His pre-incarnate form as the Word, or as an angel, but, as Hebrews 10:5 tells us, as a human being, in a body specifically designed and prepared for Him.  This brings us to the necessity of the virgin birth, because anyone conceived and born in the usual way would be a sinner, unable to atone for sin.  And He wasn’t born to privilege and rank.  He spent His life among ordinary folks, what some today would call, “the little people.”  He worked for a living.  Even after dying a criminal’s death, He was buried in a borrowed tomb.  But He didn’t stay there.

This one is the “altar” before which we must bow.  There is no “advancing” without it.  There is no salvation, no life, without it.  It’s for this reason that Peter preached on that long-ago day, “nor is there any other, for there is no other name under given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12.   What name is that?  The name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” Acts 4:10.  See also vs. 7, 17, 18 and 30.

It mustn’t be assumed that the mere “saying” of the name of Jesus as some sort of “abracadabra” is all that’s meant in these verses.  As Peter and the others were facing the Sanhedrin, Peter accused these leaders of crucifying the Lord Jesus, “whom God raised up,” v. 10.  The Jesus who saves is the Jesus of Scripture, God incarnate in the flesh, who went about doing good, who was crucified, but rose from the dead, and who, one day, will return to this world to claim it as His own

Our Lord died because we couldn’t.

If we want access to God, or heaven, we have to come by way of His sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is no other way.

The Way In

The width of the court on the east side shall be fifty cubits.  The hanging on one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets.  And on the other side shall be hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three  sockets.

“For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver.  It shall have four pillars and four sockets.  All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze, Exodus 27:13-17.

“The hangings of one side of the gate were fifteen cubits long, with their three pillars and their three sockets, and the same for the other side of the court gate; and this side and that were hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets.

The screen for the gate of the court was woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and of fine woven linen.  The length was twenty cubits, and the height along its width was five cubits, corresponding to the hangings of the court.  And there were four pillars with their sockets of bronze; their hooks were of silver, and the overlay of their capitals and their bands was silver, Exodus 38:14-15, 18-19.

Our last post was about the fact that there was only one entrance into the tabernacle courtyard, which foreshadowed the teaching of our Lord that He is the entrance into heaven and the presence of God.  This is in stark contrast to the current idea that there are many roads into heaven; that we all serve the same god in our own way.  There was only one entrance into the tabernacle; there is only one entrance into the presence of God.  And we serve God His way or not at all.

Our Israelite has approached the tabernacle grounds, but the linen fence is in his way.  He has to go around to the east side, to the gate, to the entrance.

Though we’re not given a detailed description of the gate, I believe it was beautiful.  It was thirty feet long, of fine white linen embroidered with blue and purple and scarlet thread.  I don’t know that I’ve ever really thought about it before, and we’re not given a lot of information, but I don’t believe the embroidery was mere outline figures.  I believe the gate was a rich tapestry, as befitting its role as the way into the presence of God.

We are given some instructions about the curtains which make up the tabernacle itself.  In Exodus 26:1, God instructed Moses,

“Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them.”

Exodus 26:21, “You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine white linen.  It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim.”

Perhaps the same motif was used on the entrance screen.  Cherubim are associated with the presence of God, who in several places in Scripture is said to dwell between the cherubim, 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chronicles 13:6; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 99:1; Isaiah 37:16.  These extensive references show how ingrained the idea was of the presence of God with these creatures.

The first reference to cherubim is found in Genesis 3:24, where God placed cherubim at the east end of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Here they are associated with God’s judgment against Adam and Eve.  Some have thought that the cherubim were there to keep the way open, but it seems to me that they were there to make sure the way to the tree of life was closed, v, 22, and, therefore, no longer accessible.  This prevented the guilty couple from eating of the tree and confirming themselves in their fallen and lost state forever.  It was perhaps as much an act of mercy as it was an act of judgment.

As a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus, what does the gate tell us?

There were four elements which made up the gate:  the white linen itself and the three colors of thread used to decorate it.

The linen was the foundation for the whole thing.  We’ve already seen that white linen is a symbol of righteousness, Revelation 19:8.  The linen speaks to the fact that Christ is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, Hebrews 7:26.  He is without blemish, a strict requirement, mentioned numerous times in Leviticus, for the animal sacrifices which prefigured His sacrifice.

The color always mentioned first is blue.  Blue is the color of the sky, and speaks to our Lord’s heavenly and divine origin. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, John 1:1.  According to 1 Corinthians 15:47, He is the Lord from heaven. Before His birth, the angel announced to His mother, Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God,”  Luke 1:36.  “Son” by nature and character, not just by relationship.

The next color, for we take it out of order, is scarlet, or red.  Red speaks of the earth.  The soil in Israel is red, or so I’ve read.  I’ve not had the privilege of visiting there.  This represents the true humanity of our Lord.  That which was born of the virgin Mary was human, truly human, fully human – apart from sin.  Sin has nothing to do with being human, though now, because of Adam and Eve, it is a sad part of us.

Our Lord as God was in the beginning with God from eternity, but at a point in time, determined by the Father, the fulness of time, Galatians 4:4, He became flesh, John 1:14.  Notice the distinction:  He was God; He became flesh.  Nowhere does Scripture ever say that He became God, as some cults will try to tell you.

The last color is purple.  Purple is a result of combining blue and red, and speaks to the dual nature of our Lord.  He is truly God, but He is also and just as much truly Man.  He is the God-Man! Theologians, skeptics and cultists may discuss and dispute and argue about this, but the Scripture is clear.  He is God.  He is man.

Purple is also the color of royalty.  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  There is much discussion about what this means.  One day, there will be no doubt.

One final thought.  Red is also the color of blood.  This speaks to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Without His death, His birth has no meaning, no reason.  He came to die.  At the beginning of His ministry, He was called the Lamb of God, John 1:29, 36.  Easter is just a few days away.  We celebrate His resurrection.  But His resurrection says that He died first.

He died in order that folks like us might live.  The perfect Man died for imperfect sinners.  Paul put it like this in 2 Corinthians 5:21, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

He became what He was not, in order that we might be made what we are not.

There is one final thought.  Twice in His instructions, God referred to the linen in the gate as made by a weaver.  Since we’ve been looking at these things for spiritual instruction, what does this mean?

Our Lord was God incarnate, God-in-the-flesh.  As such, as we’ve seen above, He was holy, harmless, undefiled….  He lived a perfect, sinless life for about 33 years.  He kept every precept of the Law and never once failed in word, thought or deed.  By doing this, as someone has put it, He obtained a righteousness that He didn’t need; He was already righteous.  It was a “made” righteousness, as it were, and became available for others.  The Lord never needed it; we certainly do.  Those who come to Him by faith and receive Him as Savior become the righteousness of God in Him. People look to the “merits” of the saints in order to get them into Heaven.  My friend, all such hope is false; there’s only ever been One who had any “merit” to begin with, let alone have any “left over” for others.

That is why, in the words of Isaiah 45:22, Christ says, “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is other.”  (emphasis added)

Jellyfish Christianity

The time has come “when they will not endure sound doctrine.”

Already Not Yet

thequint-fit_2018-08_261fa99a-fc02-4082-93b5-8e4f6ae2a52d_bd801f8f_8034_4d04_9fd1_167a5453d37aJ.C. Ryle:

One plague of our age is this widespread dislike to distinct biblical doctrine. In the place of it, the idol of the day is a kind of jellyfish Christianity – a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew, without any distinct teaching about the atonement or the work of the Spirit, or justification, or the way of peace with God – a vague, foggy, misty Christianity, of which the only watchwords seem to be, “You must be liberal and kind. You must condemn no man’s doctrinal views. You must consider everybody is right and nobody is wrong.”

And this creedless kind of religion, we are told, is to give us peace of conscience! And not to be satisfied with it in a sorrowful, dying world, is a proof that you are very narrow-minded! Satisfied, indeed! Such a religion might possibly do for unfallen angels! But to tell…

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Journeys and Destinations

“For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, made by a weaver.  It shall have four pillars and four sockets, Exodus 27:16. (NKJV and throughout)
The hangings for one side of the gate were fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets, and the same for the other side of the court gate; on this side and that were hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets. … The screen of the gate of the court was woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and of fine woven linen.  The length was twenty cubits, and the height along its width was five cubits, corresponding to the hangings of the court.  And there were four pillars with their four sockets of bronze; their hooks were silver, and the overlay of their capitals and their bands was silver,  Exodus 38:14, 15, 18, 19.

Our last posts dealt with the fact that there was a barrier between the Israelite and his God as symbolized by the tabernacle:  a fence of pure white linen, supported by bronze posts which sat in bronze sockets.  On one side only, Exodus 38:13-15, 18, 19, was there an entrance into the court of the tabernacle.  Five verses cover its description.

This post will be sort of a tangent, not directly about the gate itself, but about travel and access.  The Israelite had to “travel,” so to speak, from his tent to the entrance.  Our Lord had a lot to say about such things Himself, although His concern wasn’t so much about getting from here to there geographically.  The tabernacle was a place of access to God.  Jesus’ emphasis was on that:  how do we get to God?

He answers in Matthew 7:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” vs. 13, 14.

Then He warned,

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My father in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ vs. 21-23.

Then He concluded:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:  and the rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who build his house on the sand:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell.  And great was its fall,” vs. 24-27.

No wonder those who heard Him were astonished at His teaching, v. 28.  No mere scribe would have dreamed of asserting his own authority like our Lord did.

That’s not the only time our Lord asserted His authority.

In John 14, our Lord is preparing His disciples for His eventual departure in order to get a place ready where they will never be separated again.  He also told them they knew how to get there, vs. 2-4.  Thomas basically replied, “No, we don’t,” v. 5.  Thomas sometimes gets a bad rap, but we have some precious truths because of him.  Here, in our Lord’s reply, is one of them.  He said,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me,” v. 6.

Common views in our day are that “all roads lead to heaven.”  “It doesn’t matter what you believe.”  “We all serve the same God.”  We’re all about “inclusiveness” and “diversity,” but the more we’re “for,” the less we seem to have of it.  I’m very afraid that those who believe these common views will discover when it is too late that the road for them is not one they want.  They have denied or rejected the road that would take them where they want to go, and are traveling the road that will lead them to destruction.  They reject the Lord Jesus, who, according to the original text, said,

“Ego eimi ho hodos….”

We printed the text (in English!) to make a point.

“Ego” is “I.”  “Eimi” is “I am.”  “ho hodos” is “the way.”

He could simply have said, “Eimi ho hodos,” and He would still have said, “I am the way.”

So why did He say it the way He did.

He was making a point.

Ha was emphasizing a truth few want to accept in this day;  there’s only one way into heaven.  He also said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Not through Mary.  Not through “the saints.”  Not through the church or baptism or communion or a hundred other things.  There are not many road leading the heaven; Jesus said, “I am the way.”

This is why He prophesied, “There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth,” Matthew 8:12. The phrase, “gnashing of teeth,” occurs five times in Matthew.  The “wailing” perhaps will be those who have listed to false messages; the “gnashing of teeth” perhaps those who have delivered them.  Not everything in “church” is of God.

Oh, listen!  When you, and I, stand before God, will we hear, “Well done,” or will we hear, “Depart from Me,” Matthew 7:23.

It’s an eternally serious question too few people even think about.

There’s only One who can bring us into heaven:  the Lord Jesus.

Do you know Him, or, more importantly, does He know you?

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,”

Righteous

“And its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets shall be bronze.  The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver,” Exodus 27:10.
“All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze, Exodus 27:17.  (NKJV)

In our last post, we considered the linen fence that enclosed the tabernacle courtyard.  The items in these two verses were the things which held the fence together and kept it from falling over.

At the foot of all this were the foundations, the sockets of bronze.  Together these three items made a sturdy and cohesive unit.  Remember, the children of Israel weren’t just out for a Sunday stroll.  They were traveling through rugged wilderness, where there were probably fierce winds as part of the weather out in the middle of nowhere.  The tabernacle, though entirely portable, had to be able to withstand all that, as well as to stand firmly in one place when put together.

The bronze footings were the foundations for the fence.  Buried in the sand, they provided a firm basis for the posts.  Without this footing, the posts and the linen would have sagged miserably and probably fallen in a heap.

As we look at the symbolism of this foundation, the bronze reminds us of the justice of God.  We’re so used to hearing of the love of God or the grace of God that we forget that it is really His justice that is the basis for who He is.

The Scriptures are filled with reference to God’s justice, to His being just.  On Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses is filled with praise to the God of Israel,

“He is the Rock; His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,

A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.”

In Job 32:23, after listening to Job’s three friends pretty well miss the boat as they try to diagnose the whys and wherefores of Job’s suffering, his younger friend Elihu bursts in.  Part of his defense of God is this,

“As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him;
He is excellent in power,

In judgment and abundant justice;
He does not oppress.”

Lest anyone say, “Well, that’s just the stern God of the Old Testament.  The God of the New Testament is a God of love,” Paul has an answer in Romans 3:23-26:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God sent forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His  forebearance He had passed over the sins previously committed [that is, in the Old Testament], to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This is Paul’s answer:  God is just, as well as the One who declares those who believe in Jesus to be righteous themselves.  Not just innocent, as if they’d never done anything wrong, not just “not guilty,” as if there’s no or not enough evidence to establish guilt, but righteous, as if they’d always done everything right!  That, to my way of thinking, is something far greater.  And this not because of ourselves, but because of the Lord Jesus.

If the bronze represents God’s justice, then what do the silver rods represent?  (The silver was also used for footings for the tabernacle itself.)

This is easy.

The silver rods represent His grace.

In Exodus 30:11-16, God told Moses to count the children of Israel, and while he was doing that, each man of military age was to give a ransom for himself, a half-shekel, or about 30 cents,  roughly speaking.  It was called “ransom” money, though Moses gave no reason why he called it that, perhaps to remind Israel of their origins, namely, they had been a slave people in Egypt.  God had redeemed them for Himself at no cost to themselves.  I think it might also remind them that they were nothing “special;” God hadn’t chosen them because they were extraordinary.  Quite the contrary, as Moses tells them:

Deuteronomy 4:7, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.”

In Deuteronomy 9:4-6, referring to the Canaanites who were in the land Israel was about to inhabit, Moses says,

“Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you.  It is not because of your righteousness or of  the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

It wasn’t because of their greater numbers or their superior righteousness that God was giving them the land.  He mentions this latter three times in three verses.  When they left Egypt, they’d been only a handful of people, and their record during the wilderness journey was one of nothing but complaint and rebellion.  There was absolutely nothing in them for the reason God chose them.  In fact, there was plenty of reason for Him to reject them!  It was His own good pleasure to be gracious to them.

It is His own good pleasure for us, as well, Ephesians 1:3-14.

We’ve already mentioned that Moses used the word “ransom” in describing this offering, but he also calls it “atonement money” in v. 16.  This brings us back to Romans 3.  Paul explains that Jews are as guilty of sin as Gentiles in that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, v. 23.  God gave the law so that men might see their spiritual state, and their sin clearly, and not just the fuzzy generalizations the Gentiles might have had through their vague understandings of right and wrong, as in Romans 2:14-16.

So, the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike, is guilty in the sight of God, Romans 3:19.

How then can God be just, yet declare men to be righteous who in themselves are anything but that?  How can anyone escape the judgment due their sin?

Now it is true, there was a righteousness available through the Law, Deuteronomy 6:25.  In exhorting a new generation of Israelites to obey the commands God gave him on Sinai, Moses said, “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”

Earlier, in Leviticus 18, God admonished Moses,

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.  You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them:  I am the LORD your God.  You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them:  I am the LORD,” vs. 1-5.

The rest of Leviticus 18 gives us an idea of “the doings of the land of Canaan.”  Folks are always so worried about “the poor Canaanites,” but they were a terrible, wicked people.

The trouble is, Israel never kept God’s statues and judgments.  They weren’t really any better than the people they dispossessed.  They never attained any kind of righteousness on their own, except maybe that external and superficial righteousness of the Pharisees our Lord encountered and rejected, Matthew 5:20.  They never obeyed.

Neither do we.

Paul gives us the remedy:  God declares righteous the one who has faith in Jesus, Romans 3:28.

What does that mean?  Elsewhere, Paul explains.  In 2 Corinthians 5:21, he wrote, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

In the cross, the Lord Jesus didn’t die just so we could have pretty jewelry to wear or as ornaments for our house.  He didn’t die by mistake, or as a martyr, or as an example.

He died because we couldn’t.

Our deaths could never pay for even one of our sins, let alone the many, many of which we are guilty.  Our sufferings, our church membership, our good works, our time in purgatory, if there were such a thing, could never provide even one stitch in that robe of righteousness God gives His people because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Indeed, as Spurgeon once remarked, “If there is one stitch in the robe of righteousness we’re required to put in, then we are lost.”

The Jew can never be saved by “keeping the Law.”  Neither can the Gentile.  Nor, for that matter, can a church member.  Only in the Lord Jesus Christ and the ransom paid by His blood on the behalf of sinners is salvation to be had.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”