“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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

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.

 

Righteous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is easy.

The silver rods represent His grace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier, in Leviticus 18, God admonished Moses,

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

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

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

Neither do we.

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

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

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

He died because we couldn’t.

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

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

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

 

Walls and Screens

“You shall also make the court of the tabernacle.  For the south side there shall be hangings for the court made of fine woven linen, one hundred cubits long for one side.  And its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets shall be of bronze.  The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver.  Likewise along the length of the north side there shall be hangings one hundred cubits long, with its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of bronze, and the hooks of the pillars and their bands of silver.

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

“For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver.  It shall have four pillars and four sockets.  All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze.  The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits, the width fifty throughout, and the height five cubits, made of fine woven linen and its sockets of bronze, Exodus 27:9-18. (NKJV)

To this point, we’ve studied something of the instructions God gave concerning the materials to build the tabernacle and the workmen who used those materials.  We looked at one piece of the furniture:  the Ark of the Covenant.  We did that because God gave the instructions starting with Himself, and moving outward from there. Having done that, we’re going to look at the rest of what Scripture says about the tabernacle from the standpoint of an Israelite approaching it from outside, from the camp.

There is some discussion about the length of a “cubit.”  The standard view is that it’s 18 inches and that’s the view we’ve taken here.  That means the courtyard we’ve just read about was 150′ by 75′ and the wall surrounding it was 7.5 feet high.  The wall was anchored by 100 “sockets” or foundation moldings of brass.  The curtain was hung from rods (“bands,” “fillets,” depending on your version) of silver.

Some have questioned the extreme detail of these instructions.  Granted, they don’t read like we might write them today, but they remind us that God is a God of details.  The saying of an unbelieving world is, “the devil is in the details,” as in “you’d better read the fine print,” but it’s not true.  God is in the details, even to numbering the hairs on our head.  After all, any detail He might “miss” might be the crucial one.

To illustrate this, there’s an old saying,

For want (lack) of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the message was lost.
For want of a message, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.

There are innumerable versions of this, and they’ve made many appearances in many places.

The point is of the rhyme is:  all those things were ultimately lost, even to the kingdom itself, because of the absence of a nail to secure a horseshoe.  Details are important, especially in eternal things.  We have no idea of the ultimate result of a seemingly insignificant act.

As the Israelite man or woman would approach or look toward the tabernacle, he or she would see only a fence, except for one side, which we’ll look at later, Lord willing.  Everything else was blocked as to view or to entrance.

Revelation 19:8 says, “And to her [the Lamb’s wife] it was granted to be arrayed in fine line, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”  Some versions say, “righteousnesses of the saints.”  So we could say that the linen in the fence surrounding the tabernacle grounds represents righteousness.  Why is that a barrier, as in this case?

Because we don’t have any!

At least that God will accept.

The righteousness we have, those religious acts when we do some little thing we think is serving God, God looks at quite differently.  Isaiah 64:6 says of them, all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.  The word translated “filthy rags” refers to a cloth a woman might use during her time of the month, or the rags a leper might use.  Not very pretty.  That’s God’s view of our “righteousness,” our very best.  That’s because we’re all sinners.  There’s only every been one Person who could honestly ask, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” John 8:46.  He’s the only One of whom God said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” Matthew 3:17; 12:18.  The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake, Isaiah 42:21, emphasis added.  “His” refers to “the Servant” of v. 1, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Most, if not all of us, can find people who we think are not as good as us in one way or another:  the thief, the murderer, the politician.  The trouble is, they’re not the standard of righteousness God requires.  The Lord Jesus is the standard.  For all the boasting of how good people are, probably very few would say that we’re as good as He is.  The truth is, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.

“Fall short.”

In southern Colorado, there’s a canyon known as the Royal Gorge.  The Arkansas River winds its way along the bottom, 956 feet below the rim.  It’s a very scenic and beautiful area.  The point is, it would be impossible to jump across that canyon.  It wouldn’t matter if one just jumped, or used a pole to assist him, as high-jumpers do in athletics, or had some other device to help him.  He would still fall short and fall to his death.

Early in the 1900s, men devised a way to place a bridge over the canyon near Canon City CO.  Building it was a masterpiece of construction.  Pictures of the work-in-progress are unbelievable.

So it is with us and God.  We recognize that we need “something” to bridge the gap between what we are and what we’re supposed to be.  So we use baptism, or church membership, or the Catechism, or the Ten Commandments, or any one of a hundred other things to “get us across.”  The problem is, none of those things work.  They all have their place, yes, but it’s not as a way of salvation.  They all fall short.

In Isaiah 45:22, the Lord Jesus says, “Look to Me, and be saved, All the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other.”

He is the bridge, and He alone.

Have you looked to Him?

Or are you trying to build your own bridge?