The Door of Grace

“You shall make a screen for the door of the tabernacle, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver.  And you shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold; their hooks shall be of gold, and you shall cast five sockets of bronze for them, Exodus 26:36, 37.

He also made a screen for the tabernacle door, of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver, and its five pillars with their hooks.  And he overlaid their capitals and their rings with gold, but their five sockets were bronze, Exodus 37:37, 38 NKJV

We’ve looked at the various “doors” or entrances into the tabernacle in earlier posts, so will not go over that material again.  We want instead to focus on the five pillars which supported the fine woven linen screen on the way into the tabernacle itself.

There were five such pillars.

“Five” is the number of grace.

What is grace?

There are several definitions.

The best one is:  “God’s unmerited favor in spite of our merited disfavor.”

In other words, we don’t deserve it, it’s unmerited.  But we do deserve God’s disfavor, His wrath and judgment.

Or just the three words, “In spite of.”

“In spite of” our rebellion…

…our religion.

I don’t believe in coincidences.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this post and “Good Friday” are on the same day.  I did not plan it that way. 

This is the day that the religious world has declared to be the day Christ died on the Cross.  While I don’t see how it’s possible to fit the “three days and three nights” our Lord said He would be in the tomb between Friday evening and Sunday morning, Matthew 12:40, the thing is, He rose from the dead.

 “We serve a risen Savior.”

No other religion can say that. 

“Three days and three nights” might have been for the Jews.  We do read in Acts that the early church  preached the resurrection: Acts 1:22; 2:31; 4:2; 4:33; 17:18, 32; 23;6, 8; 24:15, 21.  It was their main focus.  The Jews had 40 years of preaching by the church between the resurrection and the destruction of their nation in 70 AD.  They rejected that message and the nation disappeared for 1878 years.  

Five pillars.

Grace.

Wonderful truth.

Saving truth.

By grace you have been saved by faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 NKJV.

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Blood and Water

As I was mulling over the title for this post, I was not thinking of 1 John 1, though I did think of it immediately after.  The title comes from the two items in the courtyard of the tabernacle:  the bronze altar and the laver.  It is these I was thinking about with the title.  In our last post, we talked about entering the courtyard, something there’s no evidence that the ordinary Israelite could do.  He had business at the bronze altar if he had a sacrifice, and he could probably see the bronze laver, but he couldn’t approach it.

We want to look more closely at these two items ourselves as we journey inward.

The Bronze Altar

In Leviticus 1, we read part of God’s instruction to Moses about the various sacrifices:

“If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.  Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.  He shall kill the bull before the LORD; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting,” Leviticus 1:3-6 NKJV.

By the way and simply because I’ve heard it used like this:  the expression his free will” is not making a doctrinal statement about man’s will; it simply means that the offering was voluntary, as opposed to those offerings which were required.

These verses tell us that the one bringing the sacrifice was not a passive onlooker to what was going on, but he was an active participant.  At the least, he had to put his hand on the head of the animal being sacrificed, and the text reads as though he had to kill it, v. 4.  The text down through v. 8 indicates he might also have had parts in the other proceedings.  We’ll stay with some thoughts about v. 4.

He put his hand on the head of the animal.  Doing so, the man was identifying with the animal as the one atoning for the man’s sin.  The man was saying, in effect, “I deserve to die, but you are taking my place.  You are my substitute.”

He also, it seems, had to kill the animal.  In this, the man was saying, “I’m killing you; my sin is killing you.  You are my sacrifice.”

Substitution.

Sacrifice.

Two essential elements in the OT sacrificial system.

Two essential elements in the death of the Lord Jesus.

I asked a fellow once, “What did Jesus do on the Cross?”

Beside the fact that Jesus died, the fellow didn’t seem to have very much idea.

The simple fact is that Christ died for sin, not His own because He had none, but for the sin of others.  He took their place.  As the animal died instead of the individual Israelite, so the Lord died in place of individual sinners.  He was their Substitute.

The Israelite was guilty of sin.  So are we, and the wages of sin is death, Romans 3:23.  The animal was sacrificed to take his place.  We are guilty of sin and death is our reward, both physically and spiritually, if we die without the Lord Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior.  We will die physically unless the Lord comes back before then.  If you’ve recently lost a loved one, I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to add to your grief.

And apart from the Lord Jesus, we are already “dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1, already “dead spiritually.”  And apart from the Lord Jesus, we are already guilty before God.  The common idea that we’ll have to wait until the Judgment to find out our “fate” is false; it’s already set – apart from the Lord Jesus:

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, John 3:18 emphasis added.

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him, John 3:36 emphasis added.

Not “the love of God,” as so often and falsely taught today, but the wrath of God.

Only in the Lord Jesus does one have any “claim” on the love of God.  Apart from Him, there is only wrath.

Apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no hope and no future.  There is no “better place.”

He is our Substitute, our Sacrifice.

The second item of furniture in the courtyard was the laver, for the daily and continual cleansing of the priests as they went about their duties.

We, too, though forgiven, also need daily cleansing from the increasing pollution and filth of this world.  As the Israelite was made unclean just by contact with things which were unclean, so we, in contact with this world, are made unclean by its actions and philosophies and need to be cleansed.

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

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.

Entering the Courtyard

“You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, Exodus 26:31.

“You shall make a screen for the door of the tabernacle…, Exodus 26:36.

“For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long…, Exodus 27:16, NKJV.

Three doors, in our reading, starting with God and working outward.  We’ve talked about this in earlier posts.  God starts at one end, with His grace and His mercy, but we have to start at the other end, because we’re on the outside, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:12, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

A writer of an earlier generation, I. M. Haldeman, suggested that these three doors represent Jesus’ saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

That may be, but I think the Apostle John had the right idea in 1 John 2:12-13a:

12.  I write to you, little children,
Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

13. I write to you, fathers,
Because you have know Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
Because you have overcome the wicked one. 

In these two verses, John addresses three groups:  little children, young men and fathers, and he counsels and advises each group.  Three groups:  three stages of human development from babe to adult.

I think this is something of what we have symbolically in the tabernacle, a picture of development and growth in our Christian life.

Now, the ordinary Israelite knew nothing of this.  He had no idea that the very real things happening to him and his nation were “examples,” as Paul put it much later:  Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition,…, 1 Corinthians 10:11.

They were very real to him, things that actually happened, but to us they are being used as object lessons, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted,  1 Corinthians 10:6.

There’s nothing that indicates the Israelite himself was able, when he brought a sacrifice, to go any further into the courtyard than the entrance where the bronze altar was.  Only the priest had access beyond that point.  Though there were age and other requirements, it was his life and responsibility.

On the other hand, according to the book of Hebrews, as believers, we have the right and the privilege to go as far into the tabernacle, symbolically speaking, as we can, by the grace and mercy of God.

The new believer, as it were, enters the courtyard where the bronze altar and the laver are.  These represent the Cross of our Lord and our cleansing from the guilt and power of sin.  It’s a time of rejoicing as the weight of guilt is gone.

Though it wasn’t yesterday by any means, I can still remember as though it were, that time when the Lord brought me out of the darkness of sin into the light of His grace and mercy.  I thought I was saved.  I’d “gone forward” in a special service at the church my Grandmother attended when I was staying with her during summers, services led by one of Billy Graham’s associates, Mordecai Ham.  When I was home, I never went to church.   I remember being baptized and nearly drowning, or so it seemed to me.  Right after that, I did something Grandma didn’t like and she made me go forward again, not to be saved, but just to make it right, I suppose.  I was nine years old.  Grandma was a teacher of the little old ladies at her church and she made me listen to the radio preachers of the day:  M.R.DeHaan, “First Mate Bob” and the crew of “the Good Ship Grace,” and some others; those are the two I remember.  That was all the spiritual training I had as a kid.

Time passed.  We won’t go into detail.

One day at work, one of the guys invited me to church.  That was the last place I wanted to go.  He kept after me and finally I went, just to shut him up!  Funny thing, I never “went forward” or “prayed the prayer,” or any of the number of things folks talk about today, but I know as certainly as I’m sitting here in my recliner typing this post on this old, beat up laptop that the Lord met me there and rescued me.  He changed me, cleaned me up and sent me to Bible College.

It was a time of light and rejoicing.  I remember one of the supervisors at work commenting about my friend and me, that it seemed like “a young people’s meeting.”  I was a changed man.

That was 1963.

That was my experience at the entrance to the courtyard.

Next post:  Blood And Water.

“Fine Woven Linen, and Blue, Purple, and Scarlet Thread”

“…ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread,” Exodus 26:1.

“blue, purple, scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, Exodus 36:37 NKJV.

Though we’ve mentioned these items in other posts, we want to look at just them in this post.  The linen was the main item out of which the tabernacle was constructed, but it was embroidered with thread of these three colors.

Now, what do, or could, these four items suggest when it comes to the study of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the tabernacle speaks in type and shadow?

Linen, blue, purple, scarlet?

With just a couple of exceptions in Paul’s writings, where do we find information about the Lord and His life in Scripture?

Is it not in the four gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

Why four?  Why not five, or ten or fifteen?

Because that’s what God wanted.

What is especially interesting about these four men is that each and every one of them was absolutely unqualified to write about the life of Christ.

God used them anyway….

Matthew, though Jewish himself, was a tax-collector for the hated Romans.  Jews would have considered him a traitor.  Yet God used him to write of their Messiah-King, who would deliver them from a far worse bondage than Rome.

Mark, that one who left Paul and Barnabas and their endeavors to go back home, was used by God to write of the Servant-Son, who finished what He started.

Luke, educated, polished, likely the “best” of the lot, humanly speaking, but, still, a Gentile:  with no part in the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.  Nevertheless, God used him to know and to write about the Ideal, the Perfect Man, sent not only to Israel, but to gather His sheep out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, Revelation 5:9.

John, a rough-and-tumble fisherman, using simple grammar to tell his story.  Beginning students in Greek use his Gospel in their first attempts at translation.  Simple words, uncomplicated grammar, expressing truths which 2000 years of study have not yet begun to fathom.

If we adapt Pilate’s exclamation about the Lord Jesus to that hostile crowd prior to our Lord’s crucifixion (John 19:5), we might come up with the following:

Matthew:  “Behold the Sovereign!”  He wrote to the Jews of their Messiah, their King.

Mark:   “Behold the Servant!”  To the Roman mind, which looked down on servants and serving, he wrote of Jesus, “the Servant of Jehovah.”

Luke:  “Behold the Sympathetic!”  He addressed the Greek viewpoint, present Jesus as Ideal Man.  As such, his is the “human interest” Gospel.

John:  “Behold the Son!”  John wrote to Christians, to declare and defend “God manifest in the flesh.”  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and, [literally] God was the Word, emphasizing the deity of our Lord.

Boiling the distinctives of each Gospel down to one word:

Matthew is the Gospel of Christ’s Authority.  Cf. 7:24-29, especially v. 29; 28:18.

Mark is the Gospel of Christ’s Activity.  He records only one instance of teaching and four parables, but eighteen miracles.

Luke is the Gospel of Christ’s Availability.  Though there were times when Jesus withdrew from the crowds, yet, through Luke, He brings “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people,” 2:10.

John is the Gospel of Christ’s Antiquity.  The prologue, 1:1-18, isn’t the only place where John states the eternal dignity and existence of the Word.  He quotes Jesus Himself as doing so.  In 8:58, Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
Unbelievers today may deny that Jesus ever claimed to be God, but those Jews who heard Him make that statement knew exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him on the spot – and that fact that He was telling the truth was why they couldn’t.
Ultimately, that’s why Jesus was crucified.  In the so-called “trials” of Him, all four of the Gospels record that the scribes and Pharisees, the leaders of the people, recognized what Jesus claimed:  Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14:60-62; Luke 22:66-71; John 19:7.   And, apparently, one of the few at that gruesome and bloody scene who recognized the truth about Jesus was the Roman centurion, a pagan, who exclaimed, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39.  The other notable witness was the thief who was converted at pretty much the last minute, Luke 23:42.

_______________

Four men.

Unlikely men.

God used them.

God can use us.

Linen.  Blue.  Purple.  Scarlet.

Four colors.

Four Gospels.

One message.

One Savior.

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

Coverings

“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.

“You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair, to be a tent over the tabernacle.

“You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that.  Exodus 26:1, 7, 14 NKJV.

Then all the gifted artisans among them who worked on the tabernacle made ten curtains woven of fine linen, and of blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim they made them…that it might be one tabernacle.

He made curtains of goats’ hair for the tent over the tabernacle,

Then he made a covering for the tent of ram skins dyed red, and a covering of badger skins above that.  Exodus 36:8, 13, 14, 19 NKJV.

Again we have given both the instructions for the tabernacle and some details of its construction.  We’ve done this to show how careful Bezalel and the crew of people working with him were to follow what God told them.

Just thinking about it, I could probably do a post just on the word, “careful,” which occurs more than 50 times in Scripture.  Yes, I checked, just to be “carefu,” as I notice I originally typed that word in the first sentence.

* sigh *

A tent, with three coverings.

What does it all mean?

The tent itself was made of fine woven linen covered with artistic designs of cherubim.

Oh, there’s a world of thought just in that idea: artistic designs.  When one looked at entrance to the tabernacle, he saw a work of art.  Granted, it wasn’t “art” just for the sake of being pretty.  It meant something.  The tabernacle was an expression of His holiness, as signified by the presence of the cherubim.  The priest was reminded that he was entering the presence of God.

And when God Himself began to create….!  This world, this solar system, this universe, are all works of art.  No matter how far “down” one may go with a microscope or how far “out” with a telescope, there is order and beauty and design.  The human body itself is an amazing, intricate work of art, with each part doing its bit and the whole working together as a unit.

Speaking of that, if evolution were true and time had weeded out those unable to “survive,” wouldn’t that tend toward obscurity?  By that, I mean, wouldn’t “natural selection” tend to “select” those who “fit in” and didn’t “stand out” to the notice of predators?  Wouldn’t the “colorful” creatures be more likely to be caught and eaten than their more drab cousins, and, therefore, not be able to pass their genes on to a next generation?  Wouldn’t “nature” tend to become more “drab” with the passing of time?

But that’s not what we see!  Color is everywhere!  Just in our backyard, there are robins and bluejays and woodpeckers.  One year, some robins built their nest on our porchlight.  Some others a couple of years later tried it, but they weren’t as skillful and the nest fell to the ground, breaking three light blue eggs.  Beautiful butterflies flit around the shrubbery.  Even the ants! – red or black.  One morning, there was a bright yellow caterpillar crawling across our patio.  Sharon and I wondered what it would turn into.  The grass is green – at least in the Springtime.  The lilac at the side of our garage bursts into a cloud of purple contrasting with the yellow rose at its base.  If we’re “lucky,” the wind isn’t blowing across the lake, bringing dreary clouds, so that it’s a beautiful sunny day.

Then you go to the tropics!  The birds!  And there’s the world of tropical fish, in which I was immersed as a teenager.  (Sorry.)  There’s very little more beautiful than a tank full of neon tetras in a dark aquarium with good lighting.  Siamese fighting fish.  Fancy guppies.  Sailfin mollies.  The list goes on and on.  And that doesn’t count the saltwater world, where we find Nemo and his colorful cousins and friends.

The evolutionary “scientist” is just too blind and stubborn to see.  All this beauty and artistry could not have just “happened,” any more than a Rembrandt or a Picasso.

We know there was an artist behind their art.

It’s only that greatest of all masterpieces, creation itself, that’s said to have “just happened.”

But, “sin entered” and slashed the canvas.

However, just as the world of art has people skilled in “restoration,” so God will more than skillfully restore His creation.  Cf. Romans 8:21-23,

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

The tabernacle was a work of art, portraying for us the wonderful work of redemption.

Its fine linen speaks of righteousness, as we’ve seen.  The spotless, sinless Son of God, who didn’t come just to tell us about the God of heaven, or show Him to us, but to bring us to Him.

There was a curtain of goats’ hair covering the tabernacle itself.

This speaks of substitution.  In Leviticus 16, we read:

[Aaron] shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering…
He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.  Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats:  one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat.  And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the LORD’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering.  But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness, 
Leviticus 16:5, 7-10 NKJV.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV.

There’s an expression about someone “being the goat,” that is, taking the blame, when something goes wrong.  This is where the expression came from.  There’s a terrible interpretation by a certain group that says the goat in Leviticus 16 refers to Satan.  That’s impossible.  He will bear sin, to be sure, his own, for ever and ever in the lake of fire, Revelation 20:10.  But he will never pay for it, never atone for the ruin it brought.

No, no.

This is a picture of the Lord Jesus on the Cross, bearing away our sins forever.  He was our Substitute, taking our blame.

Then there’s a covering of ram skins dyed red over the goats’ hair.  Surely, this brings to mind the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 and Abraham’s famous answer to a question from Isaac:  “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

We’re so used to the idea of Christ dying on the Cross that we seldom if ever really think about it.  There were three men hanging on crosses that day.  Two of them were indeed dying because of their own sin.

The other one?

He was dying because of mine….

He was our Sacrifice.

Over that covering, and the one that was seen, was a covering of badger skins.  Some scholars believe that should be translated, “porpoise” skins.  They would certainly be waterproof and provide excellent covering and protection for the tabernacle.  They speak of security.

But they would be nothing to look at.

Isn’t that how the Scripture describes our Lord?

He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.  He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we esteemed Him not, Isaiah 53:2, 3 NKJV.

If He passed us on the street today, we’d hardly give Him a second glance.

There’s nothing about Him to attract “the natural man,” the unsaved, the lost.  That One we’re not interested in until the grace of God knocks us to the ground, so to speak, like it did Saul of Tarsus.

And the durability of the covering foreshadows the durability of the Word of God and the Gospel.  For 2000 years or more, men have tried their best to get rid of the Bible and some of their efforts remain with us to this day:  Marx, Freud, Dewey, Wellhausen, Kierkegaard, just to mention some recent names, some of them perhaps unfamiliar, but their teachings pollute our Christian culture and our thinking to this day.  Every aspect of life has been infiltrated by them.  But the Word of God remains, and will remain, if another 2000 years go by until our Lord returns.

Speaking of Saul, his two questions on the road to Damascus serve us well here.

“Who are you, Lord?” Acts 9:5.

Until this moment, Saul was fully convinced that he knew who Jesus was:  an interloper, a heretic, someone to be destroyed at all costs, Acts 26:9.

But then he met Him.

The last thing he probably expected from the glory which knocked him to the ground was the answer, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,” Acts 22:8, emphasis added.

The trouble with modern churchianity is that a lot of church members have never met the Christ of the Bible.  They have a Christ they can “worship” on Sunday morning, but then pretty much forget the rest of the week.

Oh, but to really see Him, not in some esoteric vision or other, but in and through the Word.  Seeing that He loved me and gave Himself for me!  That He died for me!

This One who is not just another prophet, not just another religious personality, but God incarnate, come to take my place!

It is then we finally understand the words of John Newton, a slave trader who wound up being a slave himself before God caught him:  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found.  ‘Twas blind, but now I see.

Saul’s next question followed from the first:

“Lord, what do you want me to do?” Acts 9:6.

None of us is called to be “the apostle to the Gentiles,” Romans 11:13.  Most of us are not called to “full-time Christian service,” although that’s a misnomer.  There is no such thing as ” ‘part-time’ Christian service.”  It’s not just “a job.”  Not everyone is called to stand behind a pulpit; most of us are called to sit in the pew, though I’m giving away my age.  There may be something called a pulpit on the stage, but now we sit in comfortable chairs.  We are called to serve, even if not in front of an audience.  There’s a need for Christian janitors, too.  Christians who work in every field of lawful endeavor.  Christians who show by the work they do that they are not of this world.  That they work for more than just a paycheck or benefits.

We are called on to “do” something.  Wherever we find ourselves in life, and whatever we find ourselves doing, there is where we are to “serve God.”  Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31.

That is what the Lord would have us to do.

 

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.