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.

 

Advertisements

“The Kindness of God.” Part 6: “…having obtained eternal redemption.”

In our last post, we began to look at the special responsibilities the Lord Jesus undertook on behalf of believers, or the elect.  We noted that He was their Representative and as such became their Substitute.  As their Substitute, satisfying all the requirements of God’s Law and justice by living a sinless life, and dying on a Roman cross, He also became their Redeemer.  We stopped last week after seeing that He satisfied the requirements for redemption

In this post, we want to look at the second aspect of His becoming Redeemer.

b.  He secured the reality of redemption.

I use the word “reality” deliberately.  Most Christians believe that He only secured the “possibility” of redemption, and that it’s up to us to make it “real”. It’s usually taught that Jesus only died to make men “salvable,” that is, able to be saved, but His death doesn’t actually “save” anyone until and unless they “accept” Him.  While we in no way deny man’s obligation to “repent and believe the Gospel,” the Scriptures teach that Jesus did far more on the Cross than the vague generalizations most people have of His death.

1).  Hebrews 1:3 says, …when he had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….  Hebrews 10:12 repeats this:  …this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of God….

“Purge” means “to cleanse.”  He sat down to demonstrate that redemption had been accomplished, not just “attempted.”  This is significant.  No Old Testament priest could ever sit down because his work was never done.

For years I heard it said, and believed it myself, that there was no seat in the tabernacle.  This isn’t strictly true.  What did the High Priest do when he went that one day a year into the Holy of Holies?  He sprinkled blood on the Mercy Seat.  He would never have dared to sit on that seat because he had no right to it.  His work wasn’t done.  However, the Lord completed the work of redemption. Nothing could be added to it, and nothing needed to be added to it.  I won’t be dogmatic about it, but I believe that when He sat down in Heaven, in the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man, Hebrews 8:2, He sat down on the Mercy Set.  Not only was there blood on the Mercy Seat, but the One whose blood it was is there, as well.  Sin has been cleansed, and the One who did it sits on the Mercy Seat as proof.

2).  Hebrews 9:12, not with blood of bulls and goats, but with His own blood, He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Hebrews says that He obtained eternal redemption, He didn’t just make it “possible” for us to obtain.  Throughout the book, the writer demonstrates the superiority of the Lord Jesus in the areas of revelation and redemption over several OT persons or ceremonies, in that He fulfilled or finished the things which they themselves did or typified.

The Law had a shadow of good things to come, but the Lord Jesus came as the High Priest of those things, Hebrews 9:11.  The OT sacrifices could never take away sin, Hebrews 10:11: He has…put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26.  Because He died, sin has been paid for and “put away.”  The word translated “put away” means “to set aside,” “to annul,” “to reject.”  By His death, the Lord Jesus “set aside,” “rendered null and void,” “rejected” the sins of those for whom He died.  By “rejected” is meant that He got rid of them.  And in the words of Hebrews 1:3, He did this “by Himself.”  His payment for sin doesn’t require the “acceptance” of those for whom He died in order for it to be “effective.”  He…put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 

3). Romans 8:28-30, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He did foreknow, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son,…Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30 has been called, “The Golden Chain of Redemption.”  There used to be a TV show called, “The Weakest Link.”  There are no “weak links” in this chain.  It was planned in eternity past in the wisdom and purpose of God the Father; it was forged in the fires of Calvary by the grace and suffering of God the Son; it stretches from eternity past to eternity future , if we can refer to eternity like that, through the activity and power of God the Holy Spirit.  We’ve already looked at those who think that all this was simply the result of what God “foresaw” that we would do.  In contrast, the Bible talks about what God will do.

4). Romans 8:33, Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.

The words, “it is,” have been supplies by the translators.  I believe the verse could be framed as a question:  who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?  God who justifies [them]?  This verse ties together God’s election of some to be saved, as we saw in the last post, and Christ’s redemption of them in accordance with God’s will.  According to Paul, in His purpose, God has already “justified” His elect, Romans 8:30, but what does “justified” mean?  Basically, it means “to declare righteous.”  Sometimes a play on the word is used to say that it means, “just as if I’d never sinned.”  This is true as far as it goes, but there is so much more to it than that.  What it really means is, “just as if I’d always obeyed,” which to my mind is something far greater!  Since God has already, in His purpose, cleared us of wrong-doing, and credits us only with “right-doing,” who is successfully going to charge us with anything?  God has already accepted us as His righteous children in Christ.  Who is going to be able to nullify or question that decision?

5). Romans 8:34, Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Again, translators have supplied words.  We could read the verse, Who is he who condemns?  Christ who died…?  In John 5:22, 27, Jesus said, “the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son, …and has given Him authority to execute judgment also….”

Paul’s question is, “Will Jesus condemn ones for whom He died?”  Most modern Christians would say, “Yes, because they didn’t accept Him as their Savior.”  We’ll have more to say about the importance of faith in a later post.  For now, let’s just say that such an answer would have been the farthest thing from Paul’s mind.  Christ didn’t just “die.”  Listen as Paul piles evidence upon evidence that those for whom Christ died cannot and will not be condemned:  Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (emphases added).  Paul says four things about what Christ did and is doing for sinners.

a).  He died.  He did indeed die, but His death wasn’t random, or an accident or mistake, as some blasphemously assert.  It was a sacrifice, given as a ransom for many, Mark 10:35.  The idea of “ransom” implies a particular, personal transaction.  A “general ransom” is a contradiction in terms.

b).  He rose again.  Jesus was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification, Romans 4:25.

Jesus made certain claims while He was alive, most of which were rejected or ignored.   The Resurrection was God’s “Amen” to His Son.  It was also, if you will, the receipt for the payment Christ made on the Cross.  If He had not risen from the dead, we would have no way of knowing if His death did any good.  The Resurrection is our assurance that it did.

c.)  He was exalted.  Him God has exalted to His right hand to be a Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins, Acts 5:31.

Leaving aside the implications of the phrase, “to Israel,” note that the exaltation of Christ declared Him to be the Savior, Who gives repentance…and forgiveness of sins.  His death not only purchased the salvation of all for whom He died, but also the means of that salvation, namely, repentance and faith.

d).  He intercedes for us.

The only time in His earthly life that Jesus said, “I will,” to the Father was in regard to this very thing.  In John 17:24, He said, Father, I will that they, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am…[KJV].  It’s true that the NKJV and the ESV translate it, “I desire,” but it doesn’t matter.  Will the Father not give the Son the one thing He ever said He wanted?

Jesus finished His request by saying, “for you loved Me before the foundation of the world.”  The Father loved us “before the foundation of the world,” as well, gave us to His Son and sent Him to be our Redeemer and Savior.  That’s what He came to do, and that’s what He did.

Furthermore, in this very prayer, our Lord said, “I pray for them.  I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours,” John 17:9.  It’s strange that He would die for “the world,” as some insist, but He wouldn’t pray for it.  If it be argued that He was praying for His disciples, vs. 6-8, that’s true, but in v. 20, He said, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.”   In v. 21, He clearly distinguishes between those for whom He is praying, and “the world.”

Someone might object, “Now, wait!  What about those verses which speak of Christ’s death for the world?”  Lord willing, we’ll look at them next time, and then finish up with a look at Christ and the individual.

Further references:  Matthew 1:21;  John 10:10, 11, 15-16: Acts 20:28; Romans 4:7, 8; 8:31-32; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:19, 20; 5:2, 25-27; Philippians 1:6, 29; Titus 1:2, 2:13, 14; Hebrews 2:17; 9:15; 10:10; 13:12.

Questions

1.  What is the first aspect of Christ as Redeemer?

2.  What is the second aspect of Christ as Redeemer?

3.  What is the significance of the phrase, “He sat down”?

4.  What kind of redemption did Jesus obtain by His death?

5.  What did Jesus do with sin?

6.  Does His death require the agreement of those for whom He died to be effective?

7.  What does “justification” mean?

8.  Can those for whom Christ died ultimately be condemned for their sin?

9.  What four things did Jesus do, or is He doing, for sinners?

10. Write out one of the verses in “further references.”  What does it say about the death of the Lord Jesus?

A Girl Named Rhoda.

In our reading Sunday, my wife and I were in Acts 11 and 12.  When we read Acts 12, I had to chuckle at what happened, and yet also reflected how often what happened then happens now.

In ch. 12, Herod had decided to persecute the church at Jerusalem.  He put to death James, the brother of John.  Because this greatly pleased the Jews, with whom the Herods pretty much always had uneasy relationships, he also imprisoned Peter.  V. 5 tells us that constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.  What happens next always impresses me:  on the night before Peter was to be brought out, probably to be executed, that night Peter was sleeping…. (!)

“Sleeping”….

I wonder what you and I would do under similar circumstances.

Well, Peter is miraculously released, which ultimately cost the lives of 16 Roman soldiers and went to where many was gathered together for prayer.  This is where Rhoda comes in.

So excited was she to hear Peter’s voice on the other side of the door that she didn’t open it, but ran and told the others, “Peter’s outside the door!  Peter’s outside the door!”

Their response? –

In the vernacular of our day, “You’re out of your mind!”

“No!  He’s outside, he’s outside!”

“No way!”

“Way!”

“It must be his angel.”  This from one of the more spiritual brothers.

Well – finally – they opened the door, and the Word says that they were…

…”astonished”(!)

Oh, my!

(Looking in the mirror) – how often we are “astonished” when the Lord answers prayer unexpectedly, as He did here.  I don’t know exactly what the believers were praying for when they prayed for him, but it evidently wasn’t that he would just show up at the door!

How often – too often – we’re like the man in Mark 9, who came to the Lord about his son and said, “…if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  I think the Lord was very emphatic in the first part of His reply when He said, “If you can believe – all things are possible to him who believes.” 

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:17-24.

Aye, there’s a prayer for us poor believers!

“Lord, we believe.  Help our unbelief!”