Finished

Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished….

According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work.  Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, just so they had done it.  And Moses blessed them, Exodus 39:32a, 42-43 (NKJV).

At last.

The work was done.  Everything was inspected and found to be as it was supposed to be.  Moses may very well have breathed a sigh of relief.  I don’t know that for sure, of course, but considering the headaches the children of Israel gave him during the wilderness wanderings, it’s certainly possible.

The work was done.  Nothing more needed to be done.  There was nothing to add to it.

It was finished.

This is a foreshadowing of another time when the cry went out, “It is finished!”

There’s a lot of discussion about the Cross and what the Lord Jesus did there when He died.  Generally speaking, it’s taught that He didn’t really save anyone by His death; we have to “accept” Him in order to be saved.

That is true insofar as the fact the the Scripture teaches that salvation is only by faith in His finished work.  We do have to receive Him in order to be saved, John 1:12, 13.

At the same time, though, as for what Christ did on the Cross, Ephesians 3:11 tells us of the eternal purpose which [God] accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, emphasis added.  The Cross wasn’t just some hit-or-miss throw of the dice in the mind of God.  The plan of redemption was not “a colossal failure,” as one writer years ago put it.  Or the result of an “emergency session called by the divine council,” as another put it.  He didn’t just put it out there, so to speak, and hope that someone would receive His Son.  How can a professed believer even think such things?  But then, for the last century or so, we’ve so minimized the Lord God in the “Christian” culture of our churches, to the point where He can’t do very much without our “permission”.  We have to “let” Him do things – in His own creation!  He’s pretty much been reduced to a humble supplicant at the throne of the human will.

I hate even to write such things.

Christ accomplished on the Cross the purpose God had for Him in dying – not just to make salvation “possible,” though from our side that is certainly now true.  Without the Lord Jesus, there is no hope of salvation, no hope of heaven, only a certain prospect of judgment because of our sins. That’s the human side, but on the divine side, He actually secured the salvation of all for whom He died.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit – to apply the benefits of that death and to bring sinners to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.

The Tabernacle was finished; redemption has been completed.  The price has been paid.  Justice has been satisfied.

Has it begun in your life?  Have you repented of your sins and turned to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and salvation?  If not, o, that today, it might happen!  If so, then rejoice, the work was completed.  Sin has been forgiven.  Eternal life is yours through the Lord Jesus.

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

May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

The Cherubim

“…And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the ends of the mercy seat.  Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat.  And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat, Exodus 25:17-20 NKJV.

We wrote about the mercy seat in our last post, but these cherubim were part of it.  We left them for a separate post because of the place cherubim have in other Scriptures.  Most of the time they are associated with various buildings Israel made:  the Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, the Temple Ezekiel envisions in his book, Ezekiel 41.  But there are other places in the Old Testament where they appear.

In Genesis 3:24, we read that God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden because of their sin, and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Someone once wrote that the cherubim were placed there to keep the way to the tree of life open, but it seems to me that they were placed there to keep the way shut that led to the tree, to prevent access to it.  The Scripture tells us about what happened as a result of Adam’s sin:  Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.  And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” – therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.  So He drove out the man: and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life, Genesis 3:22-24 (NKJV).

These are unutterably solemn words.

This was an act of inexpressible justice, but it was also an act of incredible grace.  IF Adam had eaten of the tree of life after he sinned, he would have indeed lived forever, God Himself said that – but he would have lived forever a fallen sinner, condemned and under the judgment of God.  There would have been no redemption, no grace, no mercy, nothing but a live forever in the heartache and misery of sin.  It would have truly been the “hell on earth” foolish men sometimes talk about.

They have no idea….

But that’s not the end of the story.

Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin, their nakedness, with fig leaves.  Sometimes they are pictured in art like this.  But there is no “covering,” no little something we can do to hide what we are in ourselves or what we do in life.  There is nothing “good” in anything we do that can cover sin, can take it away.  Satan has told us otherwise, so there are all kinds of religions and “good works,” and charities and things, but Scripture says that even the plowing of the wicked is sin, Proverbs 21:4.  The things we do merely to provide the necessities of life are sin in the eyes of God.

But someone might say, “Yes, but that talks about ‘the wicked’.”

I’m thankful that there is “good,” humanly speaking.  This world would truly be a terrible place if that were not true.  I’m sure that even Hitler did “good” in some areas of his life, but that’s only “humanly speaking.”  In God’s sight, There is none who does good, no, not one, Psalm 14:1, 3; 53:1, 3, Romans 3:12.  According to His standards, which are infinitely higher than our own, and apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re all “wicked”.

“Fig leaves” will never get the job done, never cover our sin, never open the way to the tree of life.

God took away Adam and Eve’s flimsy, ineffective covering and gave them tunics, or coats, of animal skin.  We’ve mentioned this before, but God acted this way to show them, and us, that we can only live because of the sacrifice of an innocent substitute.

In a few weeks, it will be Christmas.  TV shows, advertisers, retail stores – all are gearing up for this busiest of all seasons.  Churches will have their Christmas pageants, and there will be a lot of talk about “the Christmas story.”  It will be a time of rejoicing, of family get-togethers, of “the twelve days…”.

Very little of this will have anything to do with the events they’re supposed to represent.  God provided coats of skin for our guilty first parents; He provided an innocent Substitute for us.

I’ve often thought that a true picture of Bethlehem would show a little infant in a crib or a bed or whatever Mary might have had to put the infant Jesus in, but falling across this idyllic picture would be the shadow of a cross.  Jesus was born in order that He might die.

“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins,” Acts 10:43.

As Abraham told Isaac all those centuries ago, Genesis 22:8, God provided for Himself a lamb.

The Mercy Seat

“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width.  And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat.  Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat.  And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat.  You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you.  And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel,” Exodus 25:17-22 NKJV.

He also made the mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits was its length and a cubit and a half its width.  He made two cherubim of beaten gold; he made them of one piece at the two ends of the mercy seat:  one cherub on one end on this side, and the other cherub at the other end on that side.  He made the cherubim at the two ends of one piece with the mercy seat.  The cherubim spread out their wings above, and covered the mercy seat with their wings.  They faced one another; the faces of the cherubim were toward the mercy seat, Exodus 37:6-9 NKJV.

If the Ark of the Covenant symbolized Israel’s relationship with God, then the Mercy Seat symbolizes God’s relationship with Israel.

It’s not called “the Justice Seat,” because God’s justice by itself would send us all to hell, Israel included.  That’s all we deserve, contrary to those who seem to believe that God somehow owes us entrance into “a better place” or that it’s just automatic:  everyone, regardless, will go there. And it’s not called “the Steadfast Love seat,” in spite of those who use that translation in place of the word “mercy.”

The word “mercy” is the translation of the Hebrew word, “kippoor”.  We know it from the day in the Jewish calendar called, “Yom Kippur:” “The Day of Atonement.”  The word itself means “to cover, make atonement, propitiate,” (Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, p. 273).  It is used 26 times in the Old Testament, always in reference to the article of furniture, never to an attitude or emotion.  For a further study of this word and the others translated “mercy,” see Wilson.

Leviticus 26 describes the sacrifices that Aaron and his sons were to offer on the Day of Atonement, once a year in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, v. 29.  The purpose of the sacrifices was to make atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the assembly, v. 33.  It was the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar.  It still is, even though Israel now has no sacrifice to offer or place to offer it.

There is no longer any need for such offerings and ceremony.

We don’t have a tabernacle or the ceremonies associated with it.

We have that to which these things pointed – the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 7:26-28, For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens, who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.  For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever, NKJV.

Hebrews 8:1, 2, Now this is the main point of the things we are saying:  We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the true sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man, NKJV.

Hebrews 9:13-14, For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God, NKJV.

Only through Him – not through Mary, not through “the saints,” not through the church, but through Him – is there salvation and the forgiveness of sins.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

 

The Ark of the Testimony

“And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height.  And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around.  You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side.  And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold.  You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them.  The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.  And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you,” Exodus 25:10-15 NKJV.

Then Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits was its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height.  He overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold all around it.  And he cast for it four rings of gold to be set in its four corners:  two rings on one side, and two rings on the other side of it.  He made poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold.  And he put the poles into the rings at the sides of the ark, to bear the ark, Exodus 37:1-5 NKJV.

The Ark of the Testimony, or Covenant, as it’s called elsewhere in Scripture, was the piece of furniture in the Tabernacle which perhaps more than the others was the symbol of Israel’s relationship to God.  It was a gold-plated chest in which had been placed the tablets which Moses had received at Mount Sinai, a pot of manna as a reminder of how God had supported and provided for Israel during her wilderness trek, and Aaron’s rod that budded, the evidence that his was the priesthood by Divine appointment and not something he had taken for himself, Hebrews 9:4.  Many years later, all that was left in it were the tablets, 1 Kings 8:9, 21.

The Covenant, or the Mosaic Law, is what we know was the Ten Commandments, though there was much more involved than just 17 verses in Exodus 20.  It was that which made Israel “a special treasure to Me above all people;…”, Exodus 19:5.  In Deuteronomy, rehearsing the actions of God toward Israel to a new generation, Moses said, “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us…?” Deuteronomy 4:7.  Much later, God said to Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth…,” Amos 3:2.

Israel’s special relationship to God gave her a special responsibility.  We mentioned Israel being “a special treasure” in the sight of God.  There was more to it than that.  In that same statement, and after reminding her of how He had delivered her from slavery in Egypt and had taken her through the wilderness, God said, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” Exodus 19:5, 6.

Israel really had no idea what was involved, but confidently said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do,” Exodus 19:8; 24:3.  I’m sure they meant it.  But there were nearly seven weeks involved in everything that transpired at that time, and Moses wasn’t down from the mount the last time before Israel had already broken her word in a wild orgy, Exodus 32:1-25.

That wasn’t the only covenant God made or will make with the nation of Israel.  Contrary to those who say that God is done with Israel – and except for His grace, and His word, He would be! – He has promised one more covenant.

In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God said,

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people.  No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD.  For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Then He goes on to say that if the sun and the moon depart and the heavens above can be measured,

“I will also cast of all the seed of Israel
For all that they have done, says the LORD.

The verses in Jeremiah are quoted in Hebrews 8, where the writer is warning his audience against going back to the “old” way of doing things, thereby turning their backs on the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.  It’s sometimes thought that the New Covenant is for New Testament believers, but we only come under its provisions through the Lord Jesus, Hebrews 9:11-15, 24-28.

We’ve never been under the Old Covenant, though many try to put us there.

The Ark of the Covenant was a visual reminder to Israel of her blessings because of the grace, mercy and truth of God.

We have another visual symbol of God’s grace to us:  the bread and fruit of the vine in the Lord’s Supper, or communion.  Our Lord said of the fruit of the vine, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many,” Mark 14:24, also Matthew 26:28 and Luke 22:20.

Oh, do you know the forgiveness of sins through the Lord Jesus Christ, or are you hoping that things will just “work out”?  Oh, that you might see that there is only one way of salvation, one way into heaven, one way for the forgiveness of sins.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

The Table of Showbread

“You shall also make a table of acacia wood; two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height.  And you shall overlay it with pure gold, and make a molding of gold all around.  You shall make for it a frame of a handbreadth all around, and you shall make a gold molding for the frame all around.  And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs.  The rings shall be close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table.  And you shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be carried with them.  You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring.  You shall make them of pure gold.  And you shall set the showbread on the table before Me always,” Exodus 25:23-30 NKJV.

And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel saying, “…gifted artisans among you shall come and make…the showbread,” Exodus 25:4,10,13, and all the other parts of the tabernacle.  There is no recipe given to us, though, for that bread.

He made the table of acacia wood; two cubits was its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height.  And he overlaid it with pure gold, and made a molding all around it.  Also he made a frame of a handbreadth all around it, and made a molding of gold for the frame all around it.  And he cast for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that were at its four legs.  The rings were close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table.  And he made the poles of acacia wood to bear the table, and overlaid them with gold.  He made of pure gold the utensils which were on the table:  its dishes, its cups, its bowls, and its pitchers for pouring, Exodus 37:10-16 NKJV.

These are only a few of the 20 references in Scripture to the showbread.

This bread and the various offerings and sacrifices brought by the Israelites made up a large part of the food for the priests, cf. Matthew 12:4.

In John 6, that most misunderstood and controverted chapter, our Lord four times refers to Himself as “bread”:

John 6:33, “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

John 6:35, And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

John 6:48, “I am the bread of life.”

John 6:51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

There has been a lot of discussion, to put it mildly, over the centuries about what our Lord meant by these statements.  It’s not our purpose to enter into that discussion in this post.

At the same time, what did our Lord mean?

I believe He Himself tells us in the Gospels.

Matthew and Mark give us an account of the Passover our Lord observed just before His crucifixion.

In Matthew 26, we read, And as they were eating , Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom,” 
vs. 26-29.

Mark 14 gives us this account:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.  Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God,”
vs. 22-25.

It seems clear to me that our Lord is not saying, “This bread becomes My body,” as some religious organizations teach.  He is saying, “This bread represents My body.”

Paul had some further teaching on this.  Writing to a church which had completely missed the mark on this ordinance, he wrote,
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.  Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, 1 Corinthians 11:26, 27.

When our Lord said that those who partake of this bread will live forever, John 6:51, was He saying that the mere eating of the bread and drinking of the cup in a church setting confers eternal life??

No, He wasn’t.

We have to remember what these elements represent, namely, the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus on the Cross, as Paul wrote.  It is His death which saves us.  Communion is merely a symbol, a picture, of that death.

In my wallet, I carry pictures of our family.  One of the women in those pictures is my wife.  But those pictures have never told me that they love me, have never held me, have never fixed a meal for me, never bore our children.

They’re just pictures.

Likewise, communion is just a picture, with no more power to save than those pictures of my wife have power to do anything for me.

I’ve been around church most of my adult life.  One thing I’ve noticed is that we like to eat:  fellowship dinners, going out after church on Sunday, and what not.  A lot of us could probably do less in that department.  The thing is, are we spiritually as well-fed?

How much time do we spend feeding our souls?  What would they look like if we could see them?  Well-fed or emaciated?

How much time do we spend in the Word?  I’m not talking about a quick read in some devotional booklet.  These might be useful, but I compare them to fast food, as opposed to a good, hearty dinner.  How much time do we spend in God’s Word itself – Genesis through Revelation?

Though I’ve tried several different ways of reading it, I suggest going through the whole Bible once and then going back through the New Testament again.  And then do it again.  And again.  And again.  Even after half-a-century of reading, I find things I never noticed before.  If the Lord were to give me another half-century, I would still find new things.

Oh, that we might follow the advice of the Psalmist in Psalm 34:8 and taste and see that the LORD is good.

The Lampstand

“You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work.  Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece.  And six branches shall come out of its sides:  three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side.   Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower – and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand.  On the lampstand itself four bowls shall be made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental knob and flower.  And there shall be a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same. according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand.  Their knobs and their branches shall be of one piece; all of it shall be one hammered piece of pure gold.  You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it.  And its wick-trimmers and their trays shall be of pure gold.  It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils.  And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain, Exodus 25:31-40 NKJV.

He also made the lampstand of pure gold; of hammered work he made the lampstand.  Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and its flowers were of the same piece.  And six branches came out of its sides:  three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side.  There were three bowls made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almost blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower – and so for the six branches coming out of the lampstand.  And on the lampstand itself were four bowls made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental knob and flower.  There was a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same, according to the six branches extending from it.  Their knobs and their branches were of one piece; all of it was one hammered piece of pure gold.  And he mad its seven lamps, its wick-trimmers, and its trays of pure gold.  Of a talent of pure gold he made it, with all its utensils. Exodus 37:17-24 NKJV.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, and say to him, ‘When you arrange the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand’.”  And Aaron did so; he arranged the lamps to face toward the front of the lampstand, as the LORD commanded Moses.  Now this workmanship of the lampstand was hammered gold; from its shafts to its flowers it was hammered work.  According to the pattern which the LORD had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand, Numbers 8:1-4 NKJV.

This article of furniture must have been beautiful beyond description – and yet hidden away in a room only a few men were ever permitted to enter.  It was the source of light for that room.

Scripture has a lot to say about light, from its creation as a separate thing from the One who created it, who is light, 1 John 1:5; Genesis 1:3, to its being unnecessary in the New Jerusalem, where the glory of God illuminated it.  The Lamb is its light.  And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, Revelation 21:23-24a.  There shall be no night there:  They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light, Revelation 22:5a.

“The Lord God gives them light.”

The Psalmist understood this:

For with you is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light, Psalm 36:9.

This is true in the natural realm, certainly, and very few would deny light’s existence, though many deny its creation by God, but it is also true in the spiritual realm, a realm which many deny, seeking to explain everything by natural processes.

The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; not can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned, 1 Corinthians 2:14.

But there is an agent beyond man’s natural frailty who contributes to this inability:

whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Notice Paul’s emphasis:  “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God….”

Of all the truths of Scripture, the deity of the Lord Jesus is one of the most disputed.  Sinful men will perhaps allow Him to be a teacher, thought they ignore what He taught, or they might allow Him to be a good man who was caught up in the intrigue of His time. but the idea that He was and is the second person of the Trinity is just a bridge too far, as is His statement that He is the only Savior and the only way into the presence of God,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6.

What do you think of the Son of Man?

Your eternal destiny depends on that answer.

Within the Veil

“You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen.  It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim.  You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold.  Their hooks shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver.  And you shall hang the veil from the clasps.  Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil.  The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy,” Exodus 26:31-33 NKJV.

And he made a veil of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen; it was worked with an artistic design of cherubim.  He made for it four pillars of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold, with their hooks of gold; and he cast four sockets of silver for them, Exodus 36:35-36 NKJV.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
Then behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom,
Matthew 27:50- 51 NKJV.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, Hebrews 10:19-20 NKJV .

The two references in Exodus describe the instructions for and the construction of the second veil, which separated the two compartments of the tabernacle.  The first veil covered the entrance into the tabernacle itself.  The vast majority of Israelites never saw the inside of the tabernacle, let alone dare to enter it.  Only the priests, under very limited circumstances, had that privilege.  But even they would never have dared push aside the second veil to enter the Most Holy Place.  Among them, only the High Priest, a direct descendant of Aaron, had that privilege, but even he only one time in the year, on the Day of Atonement.  So afraid were the others that it’s said that a rope was tied around his waist just in case he died for some reason while performing his duties, so that the others could pull his body out to where they could get to it for burial.

The third verse occurred at the Crucifixion as our Lord had completed His sacrifice for sinners like us.  After He yielded up His spirit, Matthew reports that the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  Granted, this was the veil in Herod’s temple and not in the original tabernacle, but the significance is still the same.  Keep in mind also, this veil was not some cheap, simple curtain, easily ripped.  It’s reported that it was about a hand-breadth, that is, about five inches, thick, and carefully and intricately woven.  No mere human strength could have made a dent in it, let alone tear it in two.

And it was torn in two from top to bottom, indication of something more than a human action.  Now, it’s true that the priests patched it up and their various rituals continued for another 40 years until the Romans finally put a stop to everything by destroying the Temple and pretty much the nation itself, which disappeared from history until its reappearance in 1948.  Nor have we heard the last of her, political agitating notwithstanding.  Israel will yet blossom and bud, And fill the face of the world with fruit, Isaiah 27:6.

These veils teach us some lessons.

The first veils were in the tabernacle, a building given to Israel by God.  Entrance through them was very limited, though Israel otherwise was given blessings not given to other nations.

In spite of those blessings, she stands as an object lesson that no number of merely external things is enough to bring true understanding of the things of God.  Moses commented on this.

In Deuteronomy 29:2-3, he said to Israel, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land – the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders.  And he relates their further experiences:  how their clothing hadn’t worn out and their food had been miraculously provided for forty years, vs. 5, 6.  But in between those two statements, he makes this solemn declaration:  “But the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day,” v. 4.

All that Israel had, and yet how quickly and how often she turned away from the God who had so richly blessed her and acted just like the nations she had replaced.  Indeed, she was worse than they, because she knew better.  Except for a small minority of individuals, she didn’t care.

The veil was there to symbolize that they had no direct access to God, but had to go through ritual and sacrifice and priesthood.

But the veil has been torn in two.  The humblest believer may now come into the presence of God on his or her own behalf and on behalf of others.  And we may do that boldly.  This means that we have liberty and permission to do so.  His door is never closed.  But I’m afraid that, too often, God is more willing to receive us than we are enter His presence.  We’re too busy, too caught up in the everyday things of life and of making a living.  And we live in a world that increasingly denies and rejects the God of the Bible.  I’m afraid that we haven’t seen anything yet.

In spite of all that, and of our own failings and faults, let us…

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name, Psalm 100:4.

May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake.

“The Altar of Incense”

“You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood.  A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its width – it shall be square – and two cubits shall be its height.  Its horns shall be of one piece with it.  And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around.  Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both its sides.  You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it.  You shall make two poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold.  And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you.

“Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it.  And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.  You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it.  And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once  year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD….”

And the LORD said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each.  You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy.  And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you.  It shall be most holy to you.  But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition.  It shall be to you holy for the LORD.  Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people,”  Exodus 30:1-10, 34-38 NKJV.

He made also the holy anointing oil and the pure incense of sweet spices, according to the work of the perfumer, Exodus 37:29 NKJV.

Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with his hand full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil.  And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die, Leviticus 16:12, 13 NKJV.

This is the last article of furniture before one reaches the veil, which is the separation from the holy place, where we are, and the most holy place, where God told His OT people that He would meet them.

There are 139 occurrences of the word, “incense,” in Scripture.  All but 7 of them are in the OT.  Of those 7 times, 3 are in Luke 1, where Zechariah the priest was burning incense, and the other 4 are in Revelation.  The ones in Luke are at the announcement to Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth, though both old and well beyond such things, were to be parents, parents of the forerunner and herald of the Messiah.

The first three occurrences in Revelation describe incense as the prayers of the saints, 5:8; 8:4, or as being offered with the prayers of the saints where it is described as much incense being offered with those prayers, emphasis added.  The last reference, 18:13, is in regard to the false church.

We don’t often think of our prayers as incense, or that God finds them well-pleasing and fragrant.  Too often, I’m afraid, we don’t really think of them at all.  We just “say” them.  But, at least in theory, we’re coming into the presence of the God who created the universe and holds it together by His power.  At the same time, though, He has numbered the hairs on our head.  We are never to think that He’s too busy to be concerned about us.  We’re never to think that there is any problem that is too great for Him to handle, or too minor to bring to His attention.  He already knows all about them; in fact, He might have already set in motion their answer.  In promising a time of future blessing for Israel, God said, “It shall come to pass, That before they call, I will answer, Isaiah 65:25, emphasis added.  While this speaks of the future, I think it’s also a present reality and blessing for believers.

Nor do we think of the necessity of much incense being added to them as Revelation teaches.

Some religious circles talk of the merits of the saints.  The difficulty with that is that “the saints,” whether man-made or Scriptural, have no merit in and of themselves, let alone having any “left-over” for others to borrow.  We have only demerits.   There’s only ever been One with merit, and that is why we are taught to pray in the name of the Lord Jesus, Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17.

“The name of the Lord Jesus,” “in Jesus’ name” – these are not some sort of magic talisman, some “abracadabra” or “open sesame,” that we can utter in order to get God to grant us three wishes.  No, no.  It’s the recognition that only through Him, through the Lord Jesus, have we any right – any permission – to come into the presence of God, and that in such fullness that we may come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16, emphasis added.  Using His name is, in effect, pleading His merit, not some imaginary merit of sinful humans.

It is His merit, and His alone, which is the much incense added to the prayers of the saints and makes them effective.

Though we don’t think very much about it, if at all, I’m not sure that God is at all pleased with our negligence in this matter.  In the Old Testament, it was forbidden either to make incense for personal use, Exodus 30:37, 38, or to offer any other incense in the worship of God.  It is this latter which got Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, though priests themselves, into trouble, Leviticus 10:1, 2.

Just because it might not get us into trouble like it did them, it’s still a serious sin:  to make light of or adding to or subtracting from who the Lord Jesus was or what He did for us in His life or on the Cross.

“This Little Light…”

“You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work….  You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it.  And its wick-trimmers and its trays shall be of pure gold.  It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils.  And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain, Exodus 25:31, 37-40 NKJV.

He also made the lampstand of pure gold; of hammered work he made the lampstand….    And he made its seven lamps, its wick-trimmers, and its trays of pure gold.  Of a talent of pure gold he made it, with all its utensils, Exodus 37:17, 23-24 NKJV.

This is the second piece of furniture in the holy place – the first compartment of the tabernacle.  It’s perhaps the most important piece, if “rank” can be assigned to these pieces, because by it the priest could see the other pieces and could see where he was and where he was going.

Scripture has a great deal to say about “light.”

One thing it says is in John 1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it, vs. 1-4.

These verses tell us that God is the source of light, or, more specifically, “the Word,” the Lord Jesus, is that source.  In Genesis 1:3, God said, “Let there be light,” and created light as something distinct from Himself, who, Himself, is Light, 1 John 1:5.

John 1 further says that life itself is “light:”  the life was the light of men.  Life itself tells us that there is “more to life” than life.  This is spite of the fact that evolution tells us that man is just a sad, essentially useless cosmic accident, with no purpose or meaning.  This world and all that’s in it will wend its way through the ages that remain until the Sun, with its last dying gasp, flames out and extinguishes everything.

But man knows innately that there is something more “out there.”  How many religions and philosophies there are which want “to ascend,” want to leave this physical plane for some “spiritual” something or other that is said to be superior to, and “beyond,” ordinary life.

_______________

1. Light guides us.

I’m thinking here of the old sailing days, before GPS and all the electronic gadgets that we have.  Old time sailors were not without their own navigational aids in the stars and Sun and lighthouses and a lot of knowledge that I’m afraid is pretty much lost to us.  We can’t hardly go to the corner store without consulting Alexa or some other electronic device.  Even then, our eyes are glued to our phones, to the extent that, according to the latest news,  “distracted driving” has become a major problem and is an increasing cause of traffic accidents and deaths.

To the old-timers, a lighthouse was a welcome sight.

Scripture also guides us and gives us some indication as well as to what is “out there.”  It tells us that there is indeed more to life than life and that when this life is over, life itself is not over.

There’s a story told of a little country church that was surrounded by fields belonging to an atheist.  The church wasn’t air-conditioned and, in warm weather, had to have its windows open.  One spring, this atheist planted his fields on a Sunday, plowed and tended them especially on Sunday when the church was in session, and, finally, harvested them on a Sunday.   After he was done, he wrote to the editor of the local paper:  “I planted my fields on  Sunday, took care of them on Sunday, and harvested them on Sunday.  I didn’t pay any attention to god and I had a bumper crop this September!  What do you think about that?”  The editor printed the letter, but then answered, “My friend, God doesn’t settle His accounts in September.”

“God doesn’t settle His accounts in September.”  But He will settle them!

It is appointed to men to die once, but after this the judgment, Hebrews 9:27, emphasis added.

2. Light discovers.

You can see stuff in the light that is hidden in the darkness.  That’s why, almost invariably, when people go into a dark room, even a familiar one, they turn on the light.   In the same way, Scripture lights up the darkness of this world so that we can see things to avoid – or to receive.

I heard someone the other day who called Christians, “God’s flashlights.”  That’s not a bad analogy.  We’re here to shine in the darkness of this world, in order to guide people to the light of the Gospel.

3. Light can be overpowering.

When I was in Bible College, one of my fellow-students in the dorm, if I remember the wattage correctly, decided to get a 1000 watt light bulb.  It’s been over 50 years, but I remember vividly that when you walked into the room and turned on the light, it almost knocked you over, it was so bright.  Needless to say, the administration took a dim view of this and made him get a smaller bulb!

This is what happened to Saul of Tarsus as he was intent on wiping out the name of Jesus.  On the road to Damascus, with no thought of anything but that, he saw “a light from heaven, brighter than the Sun, shining around him and his party.  It turned him and his life completely around, to the point that he was preaching salvation through the very Name that he had just a day or so before tried to destroy!

He saw the Light and it overpowered him.

That’s what light does to the darkness.  It doesn’t negotiate with it.  It doesn’t try to “woo” it or reason with it.  It simply shines, and the darkness is gone!

4. Light isn’t always welcome.

God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed, John 3:17-20, emphasis added.

Men don’t like to be told they’re sinners, or that, apart from the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned in the sight of God.  They want to believe the devil’s lie that they’re all right.  As the saying was, a few years ago, “I’m ok, you’re ok.”  The problem is that, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, I’m not ok, and neither are you.

The Lord Jesus has come and turned on the light!

What does it reveal?

Have folks come to the Light?

Or have they, like rats and roaches, scuttled back into the darkness?

Thank the Lord, many have indeed come to it, but many more have rejected it.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven,”  Matthew 5;16.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

“The Bread of Life”

“You shall also make a table of acacia wood;  …And you shall set the showbread on the table before Me always,” Exodus 25:23, 30 NKJV.

This table was about three feet long, a foot and a half wide, and a little over two feet high, covered with gold and with gold decorations and molding around its top.  We’re not so much interested in the table itself, as we are in what was put onto the table:  the showbread.

Along with their part of the animal sacrifices, the showbread was part of the priests’ provision, although we’re not told how, cf. Mark 2:26.  We’re not given a great deal of information about its preparation, except that during Solomon’s reign, it was replaced weekly by some of the sons of the Kohathites while still warm from the oven, 1 Chronicles 9:32; 1 Samuel 21:6.  There are records of it being on the table as late as the time of Nehemiah, Nehemiah 10:33.

But we’re not so much interested in that as we are in a confrontation our Lord had with some of His contemporaries centuries later, as recorded in John 6.

John 6 is a difficult chapter to understand, on several levels.  The Jews who heard Him had difficulty with it and a whole church ritual is built on a misunderstanding of part of it.  Here is that part:

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

…………

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father,  so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven – not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live forever.”

These things He said as He taught in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said; “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” John 6:26-29, 48-60 NKJV.

This quote breaks into the middle of the conversation.  Though there is much in this chapter, we’re interested only in that part where Jesus said He was the bread of life, and talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

There is another Scripture we must add to the mix:

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink for it, all of you.  For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  [And lest folks later get the wrong idea about what these elements were, He continued,]  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 6:26-29 NKJV.

There is another whole discussion about these verses we’ll not get into, except to say that our Lord isn’t declaring that these elements become His flesh and blood, nor is He saying that, in some ethereal way or another, His flesh and blood are along side these elements.  He is only saying that these elements represent His flesh and blood.

This brings us back to the showbread and our comment that it was part of the priest’s provision.

When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” He was telling those who heard Him, and us, that He – and He alone – is the provision that will give us eternal life.

Well, then, how do we “partake”?

In answer to a question from His contentious audience in John 6, He told us:

“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent,” John 6:29.

“Believe”….

There seems to be a whole cottage industry built around that word.  I see posters and pictures and potholders which tell me to “Believe.”

What I’m to believe isn’t mentioned.

But the only “belief” that will do any good spiritually is belief – faith – in the Lord Jesus Christ, who He was – the Incarnate Son of God, and what He did – took the place of believing sinners, enduring the wrath of the Father against their sins and forever discharging the debt they have because of those sins.

It’s futility – presumption – beyond description to believe that some little act of ours – some penance, some “good deed,” some charitable act, some routine or ritual – can take away even one sin, let along the innumerable number of which we are guilty.  It’s only because we’ve forgotten who God is, if we ever really knew, that we can believe such things.

If there was something we could do to pay for sin, then the death of Christ was unnecessary.  I hate even to write such a sentence.  But because we are helpless and our efforts hopeless, the Lord Jesus took pity on us and took our place on the Cross.

He is the Bread of Life.

But how little we feed on Him, which can only be done through the Word.  It alone tells us what we need to know about Him.  To read that Word, to meditate on it, to believe and trust it for our soul’s welfare – that is to “feed” on Him.

Have you partaken of Him by faith?  Do you trust Him and Him alone for the forgiveness of your sins and for the privilege of going to heaven one day?

If not, oh, that today you might see your need of Him and trust Him for your eternal benefit.

If yes, then rejoice and feed even more through His Word.

He is the Bread of Life.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in him, Psalm 34:8.