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.

 

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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?

 

Called and Equipped

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.
“And I, indeed I have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all I have commanded you:”
Exodus 31:1-6 (NKJV)
And Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.
“And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.  He has filled them with skill…,”
Exodus 35:30-36a (NKJV).

God is giving some instructions to Moses about the building of the Tabernacle, the place of His presence among the children of Israel.  But this building will not suddenly just appear; God will use men to build it.  He called the earth into being by His word, but not this.  Men have the honor and privilege of working with God.  Make no mistake about that.  He doesn’t need any of us; He is pleased to use us.  More glory to Him, to use such poor instruments.

Two men are named, Bezalel and Aholiab.  One was from Judah, the head tribe of Israel, and one from Dan, perhaps the “tail” among the tribes.  It doesn’t matter where we’re from; what matters is where we are, and what we’re doing.  One thing about Bezalel.  He was mentioned hundreds of years later when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to the place he had prepared for it prior to the building of the Temple by Solomon, 2 Chronicles 1:4.  His work was still valuable and useful.  Who knows how the Lord will be pleased to use our efforts for Him?  The thing is, they will last far longer than any mere thing of this world we can do, necessary though those may be.

These two men were the foremen, if you will, of the artisans doing the work, 31:6, but the other men were also gifted for their work.  1 Corinthians 12:4-7 has something for us here:  There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. 

That last phrase could be translated, “for the mutual benefit.”  The gifts of the Spirit aren’t about us.  It’s about those around us, especially in the assembly and how we may be a blessing and benefit to them.

Early in our marriage, Sharon and I attended a church who taught for a while on the ministry and gifts of the Spirit.  The emphasis was on how we could know which particular gift was ours.  For some reason, this bothered her because she couldn’t figure out “which” gift was hers.  That seemed to be focus of the series and it really bothered her that she couldn’t see her “gift”.  She couldn’t teach or sing or play the piano.  But one of the gifts of the Spirit Paul lists in I Corinthians 12 is helps, v. 28, and that was and is her “gift”.  She has always been more than willing to pitch in, to help.  This says nothing of the fact that she has put up with me for more than 48 years….

You see, it may not be the man behind the pulpit; it may be the ones who listen to him.  Do you pray for your minister?  His “job” is perhaps one of the most important there is.  He stands in front of men and women who will never cease to exist and it may be that something he says either prepares them for an eternity of glory or for an eternity under God’s wrath because the sin question has never been answered for them.  Spurgeon used to say that the sight of the crowds he preached to at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London crushed him to the ground because he recognized his responsibility toward them.
But standing behind a pulpit is not the only “ministry”.  Your job is a ministry, if you could but see it, how you do it.  Do you have little ones?  Oh, the ministry there!  Those little souls, so impressionable and willing.  They’re like sponges, and they likely learn more from what they see you do than they will from what you say.  Our culture may devalue them, but they are a treasure.

Nothing is unimportant in the life of a believer.  After all, God has numbered the hairs on your head, Matthew 10:30.  If you’re that important to Him as His child, do you think your life and doings are unimportant to Him?  Nothing is “minor” or of no concern to Him.  As little as a cup of cold water given in His name will be richly rewarded, cf. Matthew 10:42.  As Paul put it, let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith, Galatians 6:9, 10.

The Covenant in the Ark

In the last post, we looked at a couple of covenants given prior to the book of Exodus and “the ark of the covenant” it mentions.  In this post, we want to look at the covenant itself.

The children of Israel have finally been redeemed from their slavery in Egypt.  On their way to the Promised Land, God leads them by way of Mount Sinai, where He has some things to tell them.  On the mountain, He says to Moses,
“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:  ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel,” Exodus 19:3-6, emphasis added.

Having said that, God gives Moses further instruction, what we know as the Ten Commandments, although there is a great deal more than just 19 verses in Exodus 20.  These instructions are what we know as the Mosaic Covenant, although God calls it, “My covenant,” so we don’t forget where it came from.  Moses didn’t dream it up on his own.

There are some things we need to remember about this covenant, especially the first part of it:  the Ten Commandments or “the Law”.

1. It’s an expression of the moral law in a specific historic and cultural context.

What do I mean – “moral law”?  First, the moral law itself is the expression of the nature, character and purpose of God.  It’s what He expects of His creatures because that’s what He is:  holy, righteous and just.  The moral law means, for example, that it’s wrong to murder, lie or steal, regardless of who we are or where we live.  It’s what Paul refers to in Romans 2:14, for when Gentiles, who do not have the law [of Moses], by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.  This does NOT mean that Gentiles decide for themselves right or wrong, but simply that they, and we, have such a concept as “right and wrong,” regardless of whether that concept agrees with the Word of God.  The truth is, though, we don’t live up to that standard any more than Israel lived up to Moses.

Second, the “specific historic and cultural context” has to do with nation of Israel just after they had been rescued from Egyptian slavery.  Some of the law’s requirements seems strange to us.  Some of our laws would seem strange to them, although there really is no comparison between what came from God and what sometimes comes from fallible and sinful legislators.

2. It was given only to the children of Israel.  Some groups insist that we are obligated to keep these laws as well, but God told Israel, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” Exodus 20:1.  Later, as we read above, He called her His “special treasure”.
Concerning the unique nature of Israel’s covenant relationship with God and their responsibility because of it, Moses said,
“Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statures, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’
“For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?  And what great nation is there that has such statues and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day”
 Deuteronomy 4:6-8?
This is the “specific historical…context” of the Mosaic Covenant.

3. While the law expected a great deal from the Israelites, it had nothing to help them to fulfill those expectations.  At the end of his life, Moses himself put it like this:

“You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land- the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders.  Yet [-pay attention to this!-] the LORD had not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day,” Deuteronomy 29:2-4.

In spite of all they witnessed, in spite of the fact that their clothes and their shoes had lasted for the forty years of their wilderness trek, v. 5, it was all in one ear and out the other.

Concerning any ability to “keep the law,” someone has put it like this –
“Work” and “run”,
The Law commands,
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
But sweeter sounds the Gospel brings-
It bids me fly and gives me wings.

The Law gives no feet to walk in its ways or hands to do what it says.  It was an external code to Israel and it still is to those who try to live by it today.  It does nothing for our fallen internal character and nature, except show us that they are fallen.  It can do nothing to change them or to save us from them.

4. Because of this inability, and in spite of what many think, the Law is NOT a means or way of salvation.  It is true that the LORD told Israel, “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them:  I am the LORD, Leviticus 18:5, emphasis added.  Yet, there is not a single verse in the Old Testament that gives any indication that God expected that they would obey.  In fact, just after God had given the Law to Moses and the people had said, “we will hear and do it,” God made this comment to Moses, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!  Deuteronomy 4:27b, 29.

Sometimes it’s argued, how can God expect us to do something we can’t?  Others put it this way: since God requires it, we can do it- as if He were responsible to us and not we to Him.  He can expect us to obey simply because He is God.  He is our Creator; every breath we take comes from His hand, cf. Daniel 5:23.  In the book of Leviticus, time after time God enjoins obedience to some precept simply by saying, “I am the Lord.”  No other reason.  He is the Lord!  We’re to obey simply because He tells us to!
We don’t believe that in our culture anymore.   Even in church, we don’t really receive or worship Him as God.    We picture Him as on the outside looking in.   We preach that He wants to bless us, but we have to be “willing;” we have to take that first step toward Him before He can take a step toward us.   Ultimately, we have made Him in our own image.
This very noon, on the news –  our area is experiencing freezing drizzle, with ice on the roads and forming on tree branches.  Thousands of people, some not all that far away, are without power.  The news focused on a church just a couple of miles away.  Included in the coverage showing the darkened interior was a picture of Jesus, blond and blue-eyed!

*sigh*

Away with such nonsense, indeed, such blasphemy.

“There is a God in heaven, Daniel 2:28, whether we like it or not, a God who
does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.

No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, “What have You done?” Daniel 4:35.

5. If the Law can’t save anybody, then why did God give it to Israel?

Paul himself asked the question, What purpose then does the law serve? Galatians 3:19.  He answered in that same verse, It was added because of transgressions.

I think God gave the law in order that we might see that we need to be saved from sin and from ourselves.  We need to know what sin is.  There is an objective standard by which every act, thought and word is to be measured.  It’s not up to us to decide.  Paul put it like this:  I would not have known sin except through the law, Romans 7:7.  A verse or so later he confessed, I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, v. 9.  What does this mean?  Until the Lord met him on the Damascus road, Paul was quite content with his life; in fact, I believe he was rather proud of it.  After all, as he wrote in Philippians 3:4-6,

If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless, emphasis added.

But then the Lord Jesus met him!

Hear his testimony after the Lord converted Him:  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, Philippians 3:7, 8.

When he left for Damascus on that fateful morning, he had no idea that he would be an altogether different man before he got there.  No wonder the believers in Judea were amazed and said, Is not this he who destroyed those who called on this name..., Acts 1:21?   He had intended to kill them, Acts 22:4, and here he was, wanting to join them!
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This, then, is the covenant kept in the Ark of the Covenant.  Lord willing, we’ll return to the Ark itself later in these studies.

According to Pattern

“According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all the furnishings, just so you shall make it,” Exodus 25:9 (NKJV).

The tabernacle wasn’t a ramshackle affair.  It wasn’t something made up as they went along, but every part of it, down to the clasps which held the sides to the frame, was set forth and described.  There were no revisions, no “TabernaclePlan.02”  It was complete as it came from the mind of God to the hand of Moses.

That’s equally true of everything in creation.  Many may believe that this world came into being as the result of a chance event, but someone has calculated the odds of such a thing happening as 1 in 40 to the tenth power, or as 1 followed by 40 zeroes.  That is a lot of zeroes: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.  We probably don’t even have a name for such a number.  It seems to me that it’s a lot easier to believe Genesis 1-3 than it is to believe in such a throwing of the dice, as it were.  Of course, that does get rid of God and any obligation mankind might have to obey Him.  We think we’re so smart, but all things considered in perspective, an amoeba may be smarter than us.

The truth is, God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, or order, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33.  While Paul wrote primarily to correct some serious problems in the Corinthian church, what he wrote is applicable in a lot of places.  No matter where one looks, whether through a microscope or a telescope, he sees order and design.  Even in the so-called random movement of atoms, there is a discernible pattern.

This is true also of life.  He has not left us on our own, as it were, but has given us instructions about pretty much every area of life.  Whether individually, in our church, in our family, our neighborhood, our city, our country or our nation, there are principles and practices either commanded or forbidden, the doing of which in either case will have discernible results.  We do reap what we sow.

55 years ago, a woman decided we should ignore what God says, so she went to court.  We see the results around us today.  True, she wasn’t the first publicly to oppose God, but she was the most outspoken and successful.  I’m old enough to remember “back then,” what it was like before Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her atheism permeated society.  People left their front doors unlocked.  Cars were left unlocked – we can see this in the old TV programs.  Women could walk down the street at night without worrying about it.  I’ve mentioned this several times before, but the high school I attended was in a “tough” neighborhood.  I hate to think what it’s like today, 59 years after I graduated.  This “tough” school had a rifle range in the basement, with rifles and live ammunition.  I qualified as a marksman on that range.  People today get all upset at the very ideas of “guns” at all, let alone around or in schools, but there was never any problem at that school.  Young men carried rifles in a rack in the back window of their pickup trucks.  No one thought anything about it.  Was there crime?  To be sure.  But nothing at all compared to today.

But now….

To paraphrase Hosea 8:7, “We have sowed the wind and have reaped the whirlwind.”  Or, in the immortal words of Pogo, for you “old-timers:”  “We have found the enemy and they is us.”  I don’t mean to minimize the problem or make fun of it, or to imply that Walt Kelly, the author of Pogo, would agree with my views.  He probably wouldn’t.  But he was right in this case, whether he meant it as I take it or not.

“We” are the enemy.  Having decided that we’re too sophisticated for those old-fashioned “Puritan” ideas, we’ve thrown them all out in the name of “freedom.”

Having rejected “order,” we have opened the door to “confusion”.

“At The Right Hand of the Father”

This continues our side trip into some questions and ideas about “the kingdom”.  In Daniel 2:44, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the God of heaven was going to establish an eternal kingdom.  Reams of paper and gallons of ink, to say nothing of gigabytes of data, have been used to explain what that is.  Our last post dealt with the idea that this kingdom can never be an “earthly” one.

The post today deals with the question, “Yes, but isn’t Jesus already reigning at the right hand of the Father?”

Without a doubt, the New Testament is clear that the Son is seated at the right hand of the Father.  The question is, What is He doing there?

Scripture tells us.

Leaving aside our Lord’s statements during His trial before the Sanhedrin that they would see Him sitting on the right hand of power, here are the verses which teach that He is at the right hand of the Father.

1. Acts 2:33, “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God.”  This is Peter’s explanation on the Day of Pentecost about the events of the day and relating them to the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus.

2. Acts 2:34, “For David did not ascend into heaven, but he says himself, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ‘  Here he quotes Psalm 16:8-11.  This is an important testimony.

3. Acts 5:31, “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”  Compare Acts 2:36. Christ was not an executed criminal, but had been exalted to be a Ruler, in order for Him to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  As grateful as we ought to be that mercy has been extended to us Gentiles, never make the mistake of believing that we have taken over all the promises and prominence given to Israel.  Whatever was given to them still belongs to them.  Note carefully the present tense in Paul’s listing of the advantages of being a Jew in Romans 9:3-5.

4. Acts 7:55, 56, The dying Stephen sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, a phrase which is repeated twice.  Though in this one instance He is standing, Jesus is still “at the right hand of God.”  Some have suggested that this single recorded instance of His standing is because He is waiting to receive the first martyr of the church.

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.  Paul here tells us that Christ is not “reigning,” but interceding for His people.  His work as High Priest, begun on Calvary, isn’t finished.  His work as “King” hasn’t yet begun.

6. Ephesians 1:19-21, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality….
Here Paul taught the Ephesians that the power that regenerated and saved them was the same power that resurrected the Lord Jesus and brought Him back to heaven.  That’s the same power that saves us.  It isn’t without reason that the Bible likens salvation to a creation, a resurrection, a birth.  That same power that created the heavens and the earth and called forth Lazarus from the tomb is the same power that calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light – an effective, irresistible power.  

7. Colossians 3:1, …where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  The complete verse says, If then you are raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  This verse isn’t so much about where He is right now, as it is about where we are right now.  Are we, like people of the world, content with the paltry things this world offers, or are we like those of whom the book of Hebrews speaks, These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, Hebrews 11:13.

8. Hebrews 1:3, …when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….  Note carefully the words, “by Himself.”  He doesn’t need “the saints,” or Mary, or the church, or “the sacraments” to save His people.  By Himself He paid the awful penalty.  By Himself He purged, “cleansed,” “put away,” our sins.  He says, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.  You won’t find rest at the front of a church, or in baptismal waters, or in ritual or routine.  Only in the Lord Jesus is there salvation from sin.

9. Hebrews 1:13, to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?  This is the second time this Psalm has been quoted in this connection.  Our Lord quoted it in Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 21:41-44 to confound the Pharisees in their attempts to trip Him up.  The fact that this incident is recorded in all three Synoptic gospels is of some significance.

10. Hebrews 8:1, …We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven….  Again, the reference to Christ as High Priest.  He is not yet “King”.

11. Hebrews 10:12, 13, But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifices for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  Again, and this cannot be emphasized enough, one sacrifice for sin.  One sacrifice.  One.  One.  ONE!!!

12. Hebrews 12:2, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Cross was no walk in the park for the Son of Man.  Even He only “endured” it.  We really have no idea what the Son of God “endured” on that day, with our glib and powerless Christianity, our sanitized pictures, our pretty crucifixes, blasphemous as these are because the cross is empty, and the death of Christ was a horrible and ugly thing, because of which, by faith, God saves us.  The early church was accused of turning the world upside down.  I’m afraid it must now be said that the world has turned the church upside down.

13. 1 Peter 3:21, 22, …Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
What does this mean?  Weren’t they already subject to Him?  They were subject to Him as God, but He laid all that aside when He came into this world to live and die for His people.  At the Ascension, His humanity and human nature were exalted to the same level as His deity and divine nature.  A real human being is seated at the right hand of the Father, a Being who is fully Human and, at the same time, fully God.  To Him, to this Man, this God-Man, angelic beings were brought into subjection.  That cannot yet be said of humans.  The time is coming when it will be.  The question is how and when that will happen.
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These verses certainly teach that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  But notice how He Himself characterizes this in Revelation 3:21, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (emphasis added).  Right now, according to the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus is seated with His Father on His Father’s throne.

So, when does He sit on His own throne?

Hear His own words in Matthew 25:31-34,

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will divide them one from another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand…,” emphasis added.

The Lord Himself calls Himself “the Son of Man” at the time of His Second Coming.  It isn’t until then, when He returns to this world, that He sits “on the throne of His glory.”  His sitting on His own throne as King is connected with His Second Coming, not His Ascension.

Matthew 19:28 also bears witness to this.

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory….”

The rest of the verse answers a question that Peter had, which has no bearing on our subject.  In the part we read, our Lord referred to “the regeneration”.  I believe that  Scripture teaches a regeneration of society just as it teaches the regeneration of an individual.  We call this, “The Millennium”.  If one asks, “Why?” I believe it is to answer once and for all the idea of some that all that is needed is the proper education, or the right economic conditions, or some other improvement, and men will finally show that, at heart, they are basically good people.

Yet, Scripture tells us that, after 1000 years of the most perfect government and environment this fallen world has ever known, Satan will have no trouble fomenting a world-wide rebellion, Revelation 20:7-10.  This will demonstrate once and for all that man is not basically good.  He is basically evil.
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In our next post, we’ll discuss the title of our Lord Jesus:  “King of Kings”.