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

Acts 10:1-12:23: Times of Transition.

Actually, Acts 13:1 might be called a turning-point, although the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10 is itself a landmark in early church history.  The Gospel had begun to be slowly diffused through the nations, but there was still a lot of ground to be covered in the disciples themselves.  They still had much to learn.  The conversion of Cornelius was one such lesson.

1. An Elect Gentile, 10:1-11:18.

Conversion of, 10:1-48.  This chapter shows us the opening to Gentiles of the door granting direct access to God.  The early church, made up of Jewish believers, had a very difficult time working through the idea that Gentiles could have such access.  After all, for centuries the Jews had been God’s chosen people and in order to come to God, one had to go through them, as it were. Over and over, Israel had gotten into trouble for mixing with other nations, and now, here was the Gospel message for them equally with Israel.  It was a tough nut to crack and took a direct message/vision from God to get it done.

In the conversion of Cornelius, we see God working both in Peter and Cornelius, vs. 1-33, and His witness in Peter’s message to Cornelius, vs. 34-43, and, finally, in the manifestation of the Spirit, vs. 44-48.

This incident forever refutes the idea that baptism is essential to salvation – unless one believes that unbelievers can receive the Holy Spirit.

Controversy concerning, 11:1-18.

1. Confrontation, vs. 1-3.  It seems terrible that believers would be upset over others receiving the Word of God, but we must remember the cultural and religious background of these people.  God Himself had forbidden religious and/or social admixture with other peoples and Jerusalem and the Temple had for centuries been the focal point of God’s worship.   As we noted above, the early church had great difficulty understanding this change in God’s dealing with mankind “one-on-one,” as it were, instead of through the mediation and channel of Jerusalem.  They failed to understand that a Person is the Way into God’s presence, not a place, John 14:6.

2. Recitation, vs. 4-17.  Peter gives a simple and straight-forward account of what happened, and then finished with the reasonable conclusion in v. 17 that since God was pleased to give “them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

3. Glorification, v. 18.  These early believers recognized the hand and will of God and submitted to it, even if they didn’t completely understand all that was going on.

2. Expanding Grace, 11:19-30.

The Gospel goes to Antioch in Syria and a second influential church is established.  With this church prospering, the church at Jerusalem recedes into the background as far as the divine record is concerned.

Growth of the church, vs. 19-21.  Here we pick up the record begun in 8:4 of the scattered believers.  Saul wanted to exterminate the church at Jerusalem, but all he succeeded in doing was extending the reach of the Gospel.  Note well v. 21.  See also Saul’s later testimony as Paul in Philippians 1:12, But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.

Grace of the church, vs. 22-24.  These verses record the last “investigation” we read of by a delegation from Jerusalem.  The church at Antioch was recognized as a true and independent assembly of believers.  There is no Scriptural support for the denominational and hierarchical structure we see in Christianity today.  There is no “holy city”  or “headquarters” in spite of what men might think.  Though they may choose to work together, no church has any authority over another church.  Each is to be autonomous and responsible only to her Lord.

V. 23 mentions a theme often recurring in Scripture:  the perseverance of the saints.  Cf. 13:43 and 14:22.  While certainly also teaching the preservation of the saints, Scripture also teaches the responsibility of the saints to act like it.

Gathering of the church, vs. 25, 26.  Barnabas became a key man at Antioch.  We saw him first in Acts 4:36, which tells us that he did what he could.  Here he was enabled to do much more, even to playing an important role in the early missionary efforts of Saul/Paul.

Gift from the church, vs. 27-30.  Nothing is said of this church having a “community of goods” as did the church at Jerusalem.  They did, however, have the same compassion and sent aid to relieve the poor saints at Jerusalem.

3. Escape From Death, 12:1-24.

Herod’s Murderous Design, vs. 1-4.  Perhaps this whole incident was politically motivated.  Herod was hated by the Jews.  V. 3 indicates at least that the arrest of Peter was done with the idea of getting on the Jews’ good side.  See in this the sovereign purpose of God.  He permits the death of one of His servants, v. 1, but then delivers another from death.  Why didn’t He deliver them both?  Only He knows.  Only He needs know.  Cf. Job 33:13.

Peter’s Miraculous Deliverance, vs. 5-19.  This is an unbelievable section.  Here is Peter, expecting to die.  Was he worried?  He was sound asleep!  He had witnessed the death of his Lord, had been reconciled to his risen Lord.  Death held no terror for him.

Herod’s Miserable Death, vs. 20-23.  One would think Herod might learn something from all this, but no.  How dense, how stupid we are, apart from the grace of God!

  

 

Acts 6:5-9:43: Men, Martyrdom and Miracle

In this portion of Acts, we have the first lapping of the “water of life” beyond the shore of Jewry.  If one takes Acts 1:8 as the “outline” of the book, then chapter 8 gives us preaching “in Samaria,” and then the first convert from “the uttermost part of the earth,” i.e., the Ethiopian eunuch.  In this portion, we note the beginning of changes from a narrow and limited view of evangelism to a wider world-view, all in accord with the revealed will of God all along, Genesis 12:1-3; Matthew 28:19.  God’s purpose in grace has never been as narrow as some would make it, although, to be fair, neither has it been as wide as others tend to make it.

This section focuses of four men of martyrdom or miracle:  Stephen, Philip, Saul and Peter.

1. Stephen, 6:5-8:4.

His Ministry, 6:5-8.  Chosen as one merely to help in the distribution to the poor, Stephen evidently soon excelled.  SInce the early Christians seem greatly to have been filled with the Spirit, he was probably one of many such men, but he is noteworthy because his life in particular impinged on and greatly influenced a young man named Saul of Tarsus, 7:58.  Also, Saul may have been one of “them of Cilicia” who were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke, Acts 6:9-10, although that isn’t certain.

What an encouragement this young man is to us – and what a rebuke to our expectations!  We want huge crowds and wonderful “ministries,” but even in the ministries of men like Spurgeon – may God raise up some men like him! – the working of God’s Spirit is always “one-on-one.”  As an encouragement to us – here was a young man apparently cut off very early in his life, yet his testimony was part of the means of the conversion of one who forever influenced the church.  We have such a narrow, sometimes fatalistic, sometime ineffective, view of the sovereignty and purpose of God.

His martrydom, 6:9-8:4.  Stephen’s witness before the Sanhedrin is a masterpiece.  It isn’t simply a collection of facts, or a mere historical recitation, but a careful account of God’s dealing in grace throughout Israel’s history, not leaving out their rebellion and sin, which ultimately consisted in their murder of the Messiah, 7:51-53.  He probably never got to finish.  His mention of God in v. 56 would have been intolerable blasphemy to the Sanhedrin, v. 57, and for that they killed him.

2. Philip, 8:5-40

Philip was another of “the seven,” and like Stephen was greatly used of God.  He is interesting for several reasons.  He was used in a great city-wide “revival,” for lack of a better term, and yet was caught away in the midst of it all to go way south to talk to a single individual.  What we said about Stephen is also applicable here.

One result of his ministry was the “conversion” of a man named Simon.  A lot of discussion centers around the question of whether he was actually saved or not.  I don’t think he was, but then I don’t really know.  We can’t see the heart of people.  According to our Lord in Matthew 7, there will be a great number of people who can say, “Lord, Lord,” who will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  It is not without reason that another of these four men – Peter – warned his readers to make your calling and election sure or certain, 2 Peter 1:10.

3. Saul of Tarsus, 9:1-31.

In the audience listening to a heretic named Stephen was a young, zealous Jew named Saul of Tarsus.  This same Saul later preached a sermon which echoes the sermon of Stephen, Acts 13:16-41.  We doubt he ever forgot that episode or that preaching, for we believe it was the means of his eventual conversion.

But even though the seed had been sown, it was not yet God’s time for the harvest.  In the meantime, we believe that Saul fought tooth and nail against what he had heard.  In some circles, there is a great and often heated discussion about whether God’s grace is effectual or whether it can be resisted no matter what God might try to do.  I think Saul indeed had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the border of the kingdom of God, 8:1-3; 9:1-2, 5, but when he found out who Jesus really was, he “willingly” walked into it.

4. Peter, 9:32-43.

Just because the Gospel emphasis is beginning to shift from Jew to Gentile does not mean that things were not happening with the Jews.  Peter was still being mightily used  of God.  This section shows him being moved into place for what was not his final ministry, but it is the one we Gentiles are the most concerned in, for it shows the door of faith being opened wide to us.