Monday, August 31, 2020

Leviticus. Day 12, Specific Moral And Ceremonial Sins: The Value Of Being A Person Of Our Word

As we begin Chapter Five we take a look at some specific occasions that warrant the bringing of an offering once the person realizes he has committed these infractions.

"If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible." (Leviticus 5:1) An example of this would be if a crime takes place in the community but there are no known witnesses. A call might go out for anyone to come forward who may have information that will lead to the arrest of the guilty party. If a person witnessed the crime, or if a person learned the identity of the criminal afterwards, he has a moral duty to testify to what he knows. This is the type of sin we might refer to as a "sin of omission"---where a person knows what is the right thing to do but fails to do it.

Now we move on to look at some circumstances that can make a person ceremonially unclean. "If anyone becomes aware that they are guilty---if they unwittingly touch anything ceremonially unclean (whether the carcass of an unclean animal, wild or domestic. or of any unclean creature that moves along the ground) and they are unaware that they have become unclean, but then they come to realize their guilt; or if they touch human uncleanness (anything that would make them unclean) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt;..." (Leviticus 5:2-3) We must cut this passage off mid-sentence because of a subject change in this sentence which we'll get to in a minute. In Leviticus 11 we'll find a list of "unclean" animals an these are the type of animals our passage today is talking about. A person was not to eat such animals or even touch them if at all possible. But a person might not have a clear and full understanding of which animals are unclean, or he might forget, or he might have to remove one out of the roadway or from his property. In those cases the person was to "wash their clothes, and they will be unclean until evening". (Leviticus 11:25)

While in this unclean state, the person could not go to the tabernacle (or later to the temple, after it was built) and could not attend any gathering before evening. Even in the case of a clean animal, if a person had to handle its body, he would have to wash his clothes and self-isolate himself at home til evening.

If a person had to handle a dead body or if a person came into contact with human waste or body fluids, he had to wash his clothes and be ceremonially unclean until evening. If Israel had had undertakers in those days then I suppose the undertakers would have been ceremonially unclean most of the time, but the Israelites did not embalm their dead or hold lengthy mourning rituals before a person's body was committed to the ground. Burial took place very soon after death, the same day if possible. Days of mourning would typically be observed after the funeral instead of in the modern way of having several days of mourning rituals and ceremonies before the person is buried.

When I was a kid, growing up in a rural community in the South, it took almost a week to get a person what was called "decently buried". To spend less time than this was considered disrespectful to the dead and you'd hear comments like, "Well, I guess she couldn't wait to get him in the ground!" if a person was buried within just two or three days of death. For example, I remember when my step-grandfather died in 1975 and when my grandmother (his wife) died in 1977. After the day of death, there was two days of visitation at home. While the morticians did their work on the departed at the funeral home, people came and sat with us in the evenings and brought food. Then there were a couple of nights of visitation at the funeral home after the deceased was embalmed and dressed and made up and placed in a coffin. Then, on the day of burial, a funeral was held at the funeral home in which no fewer than three preachers gave eulogies and several of the person's favorite songs were sung. Then we all went in slow procession to the cemetery where more words would be said over the coffin before at last the person was interred. When I was a kid in the 1970s it would have been unthinkable to hold the funeral on the same night as the visitation in the way we often do today. It would have been shocking to have nothing but a graveside service. But the Israelites of Moses' day would have considered it far more respectful to get the person's body interred as quickly as possible and this means that living people did not have a lot of prolonged contact with the dead.

I believe the main purpose of washing oneself and self-isolating for the remainder of the day after touching anything dead or after coming in contact with waste or body fluids was to help prevent the spread of disease in the community. But spiritually speaking I think these regulations served to remind people that God is holy and must be approached in a reverent attitude. It wouldn't be respectful to go up to the tabernacle in the same clothes a person wore while he moved a carcass out of the roadway. It wouldn't honor the Lord to bow down at the tabernacle with hands folded in prayer without first washing the hands that just dug a grave and placed a body in the ground. This could be compared to the way we attend church in our own day. We bathe and put on clean and modest clothing before attending the Sunday morning worship service. We do this out of respect for the Lord and for His house.

Another area in which a person might sin is in swearing an oath or making a promise or giving his word without thinking things through beforehand. "Or if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil (in any matter one might carelessly swear about) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt---when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned." (Leviticus 5:4-5) The Lord wants us to think before we speak. He doesn't want us making rash promises or breaking our word. Because He intends us to thoughtfully consider our decisions and seek His will in our decisions, there is a penalty for breaking one's word even if what the person promised to do was sinful.

For example, a person might agree to join in with his co-workers to steal some money from the cash register. Or a person might make plans to go to a sinful type of party with his friends or fellow students. This person got carried away with his need to feel accepted and to feel like part of the crowd, so he made the promise without thinking it through, but now he no longer wants to be a part of it. Even though he's doing the right thing by backing out, he must still confess to the Lord his sin of making an unwise promise and he must bring an offering as a penalty. The Lord isn't punishing the person for deciding not to go along with a sinful endeavor; the Lord is teaching the person a lesson about thinking before he speaks.

Suppose a person makes a promise that is not sinful and then backs out? Well, we can all understand why this is wrong. When a family member offers to help you with something and then they back out when the day comes, it hurts your feelings doesn't it? When a friend makes plans with you and then cancels at the last minute because an opportunity came up to do something they consider more exciting than having lunch with you, it's disappointing and hurtful. When an employer makes promises about an upcoming raise or promotion or increase in benefits but doesn't follow through, it makes you feel angry and unappreciated doesn't it? If an Israelite treated someone like this, as soon as he realized he had done wrong he was to confess to the Lord and bring an offering.

I believe, though our passage today doesn't say so, that the Lord expected him to go to the person he hurt and apologize for breaking his word to them. I believe this because the Lord Jesus said that if a person were at the temple and realized he had done something wrong to someone, he was to get up and leave right then and make things right with the person. He wasn't to finish his prayer at the temple. He wasn't to submit his offering at the temple. He was to postpone these activities until he had apologized to the person he hurt. (Matthew 5:23-24) Jesus said, "First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." We can't be right with God if we're wrong with our neighbor, so in our passage today the Lord imposes a penalty upon anyone who breaks a promise to his fellow man. King David understood the value of being a man of his word, so he said that a person who is in the right spirit to approach the Lord must (among other things) be a person "who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind". (Psalm 15:4a) David is talking about oaths we make to do things that are not sinful. The Lord doesn't expect us to follow through on sinful promises but is commanding us not to make sinful promises in the first place by thinking things through before giving our word.

"As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for them for their sin." (Leviticus 5:6) Join us tomorrow as we look at the types of offerings to be brought, how they are to be submitted to the Lord, and what type of offerings can be substituted if the person is too poor to afford the typical offerings.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Leviticus. Day 11, The Sin Offering: When A Person Of The Community Sins

We'll be concluding our study of Chapter Four today. We've looked at what must be done when a priest, the entire community, or a leader sins. Today we'll study what an individual person of the community must bring to the tabernacle when he or she sins.

"If any member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord's commands, when they realize their guilt and the sin they have committed becomes known, they must bring as their offering for the sin they committed a female goat without defect." (Leviticus 4:27-28) The type of offering brought varies according to who is bringing it. We've already learned in Chapter Four that if a priest sins or if the majority of the community sins together, a bull must be brought. If a leader in the community sins, a male goat must be brought. If an individual citizen sins, a female goat is to be brought or a female lamb may also be used, as we'll see further down in today's passage.

The offerings grow less costly as we go down the list. A more costly offering, such as a bull, was to be brought when a priest sinned because as a religious leader in the community he had a great deal of influence on all the people. When all or most of the people made an error together, this was a serious matter that endangered the whole nation and this is why a large offering like a bull was to be brought; also a pricey offering like this became affordable with the entire community chipping in for it. A leader was to bring a male goat for his offering. This was less costly than a bull but more expensive than a female goat or female sheep. A leader in the community would generally have a higher income than an average citizen and could afford a male goat. But average citizens could bring a female goat or lamb so as not to place undue financial hardship on them.

"They are to lay their hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. Then the priest is to take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. They shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. In this way the priest will make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven." (Leviticus 4:29-31) Scholars assume the priest is allowed to keep the remainder of the offering since no mention is made of having to discard and burn the remainder outside the camp. The sin offering for a priest or for the entire community had to be burned in its entirety but not the sin offering for a leader or for a common citizen.

If a citizen brings a female sheep, the process is the same as for a female goat. "If someone brings a lamb as their sin offering, they are to bring a female without defect. They are to lay their hand on its head and slaughter it for a sin offering at the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered. Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. They shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar on top of the food offerings presented to the Lord. In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven." (Leviticus 4:32-35)

The details of the sin offering are sad and somewhat graphic when it comes to the descriptions of the slaughter of the animal and what was done with the blood and the organs and the fat. But sin itself is ugly. It destroys families, nations, lives, and souls. It makes sense that anything that atones for the ugliness of sin must be difficult to look upon or think about. The things our Lord Jesus Christ endured while atoning for our sins are difficult to look upon or think about. The Bible, out of respect for Him, does not go into really explicit detail when describing for us what He suffered, but what it does tell us paints a very gruesome picture. Crucifixion was the most torturous and publicly humiliating form of death the Roman government had been able to devise. If you would like to know exactly how crucifixion brought about the death of its victims you may Google it but here in our study I'm going to follow the examples of those who authored books of the Bible and who drew a veil of respectful secrecy over what the Lord endured on that terrible day.

I just want to close out our study of Chapter Four by reminding us of this: if we were not sinners, Christ would never have been beaten and spit upon and tortured and nailed to a cross. It was the ugliness of our sins that put Him there. We all had a hand in His death. But praise be to our Savior and Redeemer, all who place their faith in Him will share in the glorious inheritance that the Father has in store for Him! Because Christ loved us enough to die to redeem us, and because He rose in victory over death to prove that God the Father accepted the offering He made on our behalf, we have become heirs of God the Father and co-heirs with God the Son. (Romans 8:17) Christ loved us too much to leave us as we were: lost and undone with no hope. We were unworthy of His love but He loved us anyway. We were worthless as we were but He redeemed us anyway. And now, hard as it may be to comprehend, we will someday share in the riches and blessings of the holy and perfect Son of God! We don't deserve this but He happily and willingly and lovingly invites us to share these blessings with Him, for now that we have placed our trust in Him, we are the children of God and the Lord Jesus Christ is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2:11)

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Leviticus. Day 10, The Sin Offering: When A Leader Of The Community Sins

Today we'll be looking at what a leader in the community must do when he has sinned. Yesterday we studied the sin offering the people were to bring when they realized they had sinned as a group. The day before yesterday we talked about what a priest was to bring when he realized he had committed sin.

We need to keep in mind that this chapter is talking about unintentional sin. This doesn't necessarily mean the person has no awareness at all that he's doing wrong but by using the term "unintentional sin" we know the Bible is not talking about the sin of those who have rejected the Lord and who are living in defiant opposition of Him. It's talking about the average God-fearing citizen of the nation who wants to do right but who (like all of us) messes up from time to time. This person loves the Lord and belongs to Him but is incapable of avoiding all errors because he is living in a mortal human body in a fallen world.

Based on what I've studied in regard to this chapter, unintentional sin can be a sin committed in ignorance because a person doesn't know all the Lord's laws or because the person misunderstands the Lord's laws. Or it can be a type of sin a person commits because he has been deceived, either by someone else or by the temptation of the devil or by his own reasoning. It can be a case where the person reacted in a way that seemed right to him but, if he'd had time to compare his reaction to the word of God, it would not have stood the test. It can mean he's harbored a wrong attitude about someone or something and he didn't realize it for a time or else it didn't bother him for a while until the Holy Spirit pointed out his error. We all commit these types of sins. We love the Lord and belong to Him but we dwell in weak human bodies in a world where we're bombarded by stress and temptation. In Old Testament times we'd need to bring a sin offering when we became aware we were in the wrong, but now that Christ has offered Himself for us, we need only go to the Lord in a repentant spirit and admit our wrong and ask for the forgiveness the Lord faithfully bestows upon us. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

"When a leader sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the commands of the Lord his God, when he realizes his guilt and the sin he has committed becomes known, he must bring as his offering a male goat without defect." (Leviticus 4:22-23) The sin offering for a priest or for the community as a whole was a bull. A bull was a bigger and more expensive offering than a male goat. I think this is because the sin of a priest was very serious due to the influence he had on the entire community; his sacrifice had to be a big one. Also when the community as a whole sinned, it was a very serious matter and it required what was considered the biggest type of sacrifice. Although a leader in the community (an elder or a judge, for example) has a great deal of influence, his personal sin is not likely to affect the entire community but only those with whom he has the most contact or those who are under his direct supervision. So his offering is to be a male goat.

"He is to lay his hand on the goat's head and slaughter it at the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered before the Lord. It is a sin offering. Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. He shall burn all the fat on the altar as he burned the fat of the fellowship offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the leader's sin, and he will be forgiven." (Leviticus 4:24-26) The Bible makes no mention of the remainder of the goat having to be burned outside the camp the way the remainder of the bull had to be burned outside the camp. It is believed this means the priest could retain what was left over, just as he does with certain other types of offerings.

We have to remember that the priests made their living from their work at the tabernacle, as they should and as was ordained by God. They had to support not only themselves but also their wives and children, for the priests were married men with families. This is why with many types of offerings the bringer only had to devote a portion of them to the Lord and the remainder could be shared by the bringer and the priests or the remainder belonged to the priests alone.

I want to stop here and point out that the Bible does not teach that a priest must be unmarried. The only instances in the Bible that I can think of where a priest or prophet or teacher of the gospel was not to get married was due to the particular circumstances of the time period he was in. For example, the Lord told the prophet Jeremiah not to marry in Jeremiah 16:1-4. This was not because a prophet isn't to marry but because of the terrible distress that was soon to come upon the people when the Babylonian army besieged and conquered Jerusalem. The Lord makes it clear that He's trying to spare Jeremiah the worry and distress that a man with a family was going to experience in those times.

For another example, the Apostle Paul chose to remain unmarried, though this was not because the Lord forbade him to marry. He felt that due to the perils of his work in preaching the gospel, he would be endangering a wife and children. He also thought he couldn't do as good of a job for the Lord if he had to worry about how his ministry would affect his family. He told his fellow Christians that if they had the ability to remain celibate that due to the intense persecution the church was going through it would be a good idea not to marry at that time. (See the 7th chapter of 1 Corinthians for Paul's words on marriage.) One reason Paul was so fearless in preaching the gospel is because he knew he was endangering no one but himself. He had no wife and children to be seized and arrested along with him. He didn't have to fear that his wife and children would be beaten or imprisoned or even executed due to him being a minister of the gospel.

For a third example, we can look at the Lord Jesus Christ who was an unmarried man. From a human standpoint it wouldn't make sense for Him to take on a wife and children, knowing He was going to be executed on a cross. He knew He'd be leaving a widowed wife and orphaned children behind. It wouldn't have been fair to put them through what they'd have to go through during the years of His ministry and during the years after His departure from this earth. One could even say it would be cruel to obtain a wife and have children knowing what was to come. From the standpoint of Him being God the Son, He never intended or needed or wanted to marry because His bride is the church as a whole. Christ belongs to every human being on the face of the earth who puts their trust in Him. He loves us all the same. He belongs to us all the same. He is just as much your Lord as He is mine. To all who are His, He is the "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6b)

Friday, August 28, 2020

Leviticus. Day 9, The Sin Offering, Part Two: When The Community Sins

In looking at the chapter regarding the sin offering, yesterday's passage told us what a priest must do when he realizes he has sinned. Today the Lord tells Moses what the people must do when they realize they have sinned as a community.

What constitutes a sin that the entire company of the Israelites could make? Has there ever been a time when every member of their society committed the same sin together at the same time? It's hard to know but we've already witnessed an occasion when a large number of them went astray and made a golden calf and bowed down to it. There are going to be times when they make unwise alliances with the pagan people of the promised land. There are going to be times when they become overconfident and get ahead of the Lord and go into battles they are not ready to fight. I don't think every single individual has to commit the same sin at the same time in order for the Lord to call it an occasion when "the whole Israelite community sins". If enough people sin at once, or if the leadership of the nation sins, the entire community is pulled into the unpleasant circumstances caused by this sin.

In the Old Testament we'll find the prophets praying to the Lord for mercy for national sins. The prophets themselves haven't committed the sin of idolatry, for example, but they cry out to the Lord for mercy and identify themselves with the idolaters by saying in their prayers, "We have sinned." A lot of wicked and ungodly things take place in our nation every day. Even though we ourselves may not have committed the specific sin for which we're praying, we can follow the prophets' examples and say to the Lord, "Have mercy on us. We have sinned and gone astray." Whether or not we've committed the national sins that are heavy on our hearts, we are all sinners and have all fallen short of perfection.

"If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord's commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, when they realize their guilt and the sin they committed becomes known, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the tent of meeting." (Leviticus 4:13-14) Yesterday we discussed how it's possible to sin without realizing it at the time. Our lives are so busy and we often have to make decisions in a split second. We don't always have much time to think about a situation before we react to it. Later in the stillness of the night we may finally have enough peace and quiet to reflect on our day and to realize we didn't handle everything in a way that represents who we are in Christ. Or we may realize one day that we've been deceived somehow and that we've been operating under some untrue assumptions. There are all sorts of ways in which we might say or do the wrong thing or maintain a wrong attitude and not be aware of it at the time, especially if we are keeping ourselves too busy to get alone with the Lord. If we never take time to get quiet before the Lord then we're in danger of failing to realize the Holy Spirit is trying to bring something to our attention.

As soon as the people realize they've made an error they are to bring a sin offering to the tabernacle. Only one bull is required, no matter how many people were caught up in the sin. "The elders of the community are to lay their hands on the bull's head before the Lord, and the bull shall be slaughtered before the Lord." (Leviticus 4:15) It would be too time consuming for every person in the community to walk by and place their hand on the bull's head so only the elders perform this symbolic action. The elders represent the entire community when they place their hands on the bull's head to signify the transference of the people's sin onto the sacrificial animal.

"Then the anointed priest is to take some of the bull's blood into the tent of meeting. He shall dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle it before the Lord seven times in front of the curtain. He is to put some of the blood on the horns of the altar that is before the Lord in the tent of meeting. The rest of the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the tent of meeting." (Leviticus 4:16-18) As the Apostle Paul said, "The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22) If we get blood on our clothing we consider it a stain. If it won't wash out we throw the garment away, so it's difficult for us to understand how blood cleanses anything. But we have to look at it from God's perspective. Because we are sinners we are under the sentence of death. We owe our own blood as the penalty for our sins and we deserve the eternal separation of our souls from the presence of a holy God. But the Lord was willing to accept other blood in place of our own, and that blood canceled out our debt and washed the slate clean so that we don't have to experience eternal separation from Him. It wiped away the record of our wrongs. In the Old Testament this was accomplished by shedding the blood of animals, which temporarily wiped the slate clean. But in the New Testament it was accomplished by shedding the blood of Christ, which is capable of forever keeping our record clear.

"He shall remove all the fat from it and burn it on the altar, and do with this bull just as he did with the bull for the sin offering." (Leviticus 4:19-20a) The priest follows the same procedure with the bull for community sin as he did with the bull for his own sin, as we studied in our passage yesterday.

"In this way the priest will make atonement for the community, and they will be forgiven. Then he shall take the bull outside the camp and burn it as he burned the first bull. This is the sin offering for the community." (Leviticus 4:20b-21) The Apostle Paul spoke of man's need for someone better than a mere human priest to make atonement for our sins. An Old Testament priest had to "offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people". (Hebrews 5:3) But Christ, who never sinned and therefore never had to make a sacrifice for His own sins, was able to make an atonement for man that lasts forever and "He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him". (Hebrews 5:9)

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Leviticus. Day 8, The Sin Offering, Part One: When The Priests Sin

In today's study we move on to Chapter Four and the subject of the sin offering. This is a type of offering that would be made when a person sinned in ignorance and realized later that he or she was in the wrong.

This is not a deliberate sin. It's not an occasion where a person knows and thinks about the laws and commandments of the Lord but decides to break them anyway. This is the kind of sin where a person may realize later, "I shouldn't have done or said that." Or perhaps the person thought he was doing right at the time, because humanly speaking it looked like the proper course of action, but he or she didn't know there was a law or commandment specifically forbidding this course of action. Upon learning that there was, the person would become aware of guilt, would repent, and would bring the offering.

I'm reminded of what King David said in one of his psalms to the Lord. He was extolling the goodness of the Lord's laws and commandments and said of them, "By them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward," and then he added, "But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults." (Psalm 19:11-12) David was very familiar with the word of God and yet he knew that he wasn't capable of applying it to his life every minute of every day. He knew he was in danger of sinning and not realizing it. We can relate to what David was saying. Sometimes we go about our day and this or that wrong thought may pop into our heads or we may have an impatient attitude over a delay or we may use a tone of voice that doesn't reflect who we are in Christ. At night when we lie down to sleep, are we even able to recall every incident that day where we weren't perfectly in line with what the Lord says? It may not strike us until days later that we said or did something ungodly and at that point we make the "sin offering" of repentant prayer to our God. But in the days before Christ, in the days of Moses which we are studying, a person also had to bring a sin offering to the tabernacle.

We begin Chapter Four by looking at what a priest had to do when he realized he'd sinned. "The Lord said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites: When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord's commands---If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the Lord a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. He is to present the bull at the entrance to the tent of meeting before the Lord. He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it there before the Lord." (Leviticus 4:1-4) You know by now from studying various sacrifices that the person placed his hand upon the animal's head to signify the symbolic transference of his sin to the animal.

The priests had an enormous responsibility to live godly lives in the sight of the people. This is why the Lord says if an anointed priest sins he brings guilt on the people. The actions of the priests affect everyone in the camp because the Israelites are looking to the priests for an example of godly living. If the priests begin to go astray they will influence others to do the same. People will say, "Well, if Aaron and his sons can do this thing, so can I. It must be okay if a priest is doing it."

"Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull's blood and carry it into the tent of meeting. He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the Lord, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary. The priest shall then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense that is before the Lord in the tent of meeting. The rest of the bull's blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the tent of meeting." (Leviticus 4:5-7) The priest doesn't make his sin offering in secret. The people don't expect a priest to be perfect but when a priest messes up he has a duty to show that he is sorry for his mistake. Whether the sin he has become aware of is private or is publicly known, he sets an example for everyone in the camp by acknowledging his error and bringing to the Lord an offering for his sin. In our day a situation like this might involve a pastor or religious leader making a public apology to the congregation for some well-known mistake he's made. Or if he hurt the feelings of someone in a more private setting he can go to that person and tell them he's sorry. In our day we don't expect our religious leaders to be perfect either, but we do expect them to acknowledge and repent of any mistakes of which they become aware. This is respectable and godly behavior. This sets an example for the rest of us to live by.

"He shall remove all the fat from the bull of the sin offering---all the fat that is connected to the internal organs, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which he will remove with the kidneys---just as the fat is removed from the ox sacrificed as a fellowship offering. Then the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering." (Leviticus 4:8-10) These parts, considered the most valuable by ancient people, were offered up wholly to the Lord. You'll recall from yesterday's passage that the people are forever forbidden to eat fat in their meals. As we discussed yesterday, it's not possible to remove every smidgen of fat from the meat that's eaten, but the people were intended to trim it off as much as possible. The fat and the blood were considered holy to the Lord; they were never to be treated as common and unimportant enough to be eaten.

Nothing can be kept from the bull used for the sin offering. "But the hide of the bull and all its flesh, as well as the head and the legs, the internal organs and the intestines---that is, all the rest of the bull---he must take outside the camp to a place ceremonially clean, where the ashes are thrown, and burn i there in a wood fire on the ash heap." (Leviticus 4:11-12) In some types of sacrifices we've seen the people removing the hide but in the case of the sin offering even the hide must be discarded. Hides were very useful and the people needed hides for various things, but because this hide is part of a sin offering it is considered "worthless" just like sin. The meat isn't eaten by the people either since it is part of a sin offering. Sin is worthless to God. Sin is worthless to man. It can never add any value to man's life or to his eternal soul, so by taking these leftover parts of the bull outside the camp the priest is symbolically removing the sin from the camp.

The author of the book of Hebrews, who is believed to be the Apostle Paul, takes our passage today and applies it to the death of Christ who gave His life on a cross outside the gates of Jerusalem. "The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood." (Hebrews 13:11-12) Jesus gave Himself as a sin offering----not for sins of His own, for He was sinless---but for the sins of mankind. The Bible is not saying that the body of this sin offering was worthless (Christ's body) but that in order to fulfill the law found here in Leviticus 4 He had to die and be buried outside the camp (outside the gates of the holy city of Jerusalem). Just as the body of the bull was taken outside the camp, Christ's body also was taken outside the camp. But unlike the sin offering of the bull that had to be repeated time and time again, the sin offering Christ made only had to be done once. And unlike the body of the bull that was burned so that it would not decay, there was no danger of the body of Christ decaying but instead He rose to life again in an eternal, immortal human body never to die again. This is the proof we have that Christ's sacrifice on our behalf was acceptable to God. This is the proof we need that Christ's sacrifice is forever able to make righteous those who come to Him in faith. Because this sacrifice and our faith are all that's needed, we will stand before our holy God and Judge someday and be declared not guilty in His holy court of law.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Amen!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Leviticus. Day 7, The Fellowship Offering, Part Two

Yesterday we talked about the meaning of the fellowship offering and we learned that either a bull or a female cow could be brought, unlike with the burnt offering in which only a male could be brought.

Today we'll see that two other types of animal were acceptable for the fellowship offering: a sheep or a goat. Unlike with the burnt offering, birds could not be brought for a fellowship offering.

"If you offer an animal from the flock as a fellowship offering to the Lord, you are to offer a male or female without defect. If you offer a lamb, you are to present it before the Lord, lay your hand on its head and slaughter it in front of the tent of meeting." (Leviticus 3:6-8a) We've already learned in our study of Leviticus that placing one's hand on the animal's head signifies the person identifying himself with the animal. In the case of the burnt offering (an offering that symbolizes atonement) the person was acknowledging that the animal was standing in for him. The person's sins were symbolically being transferred to the animal as it stood in for the man. When it comes to the fellowship offering, putting one's hand on the animal's head represents the fellowship the man has with God.

"Then Aaron's sons shall splash its blood against the sides of the altar. From the fellowship offering you are to bring a food offering to the Lord: its fat, the entire fat tail cut off close to the backbone, the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys. The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering to the Lord." (Leviticus 3:8b-11) As with the bull or cow, after these specific parts of the lamb are offered to the Lord, the meat can be consumed by the bringer of the offering and the priests. The parts offered to the Lord were considered delicacies in ancient times but I think it's interesting that this left the leanest and healthiest portions of the lamb for the people to eat. They aren't eating blood or fat or organs.

"If your offering is a goat, you are to present it before the Lord, lay your hand on its head and slaughter it in front of the tent of meeting." (Leviticus 3:12-13a) The Lord doesn't say whether the goat can be either a male or a female but I think we can safely assume this is the case since this was acceptable in the first two types of fellowship offering we've studied in Leviticus 3.

"Then Aaron's sons shall splash its blood against the sides of the altar. From what you offer you are to present this food offering to the Lord: the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys. The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering, a pleasing aroma. All the fat is the Lord's. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: You must not eat any fat or any blood." (Leviticus 3:13b-17) Sacrificial blood was to be considered holy. Pagan cultures sometimes drank blood in their religious ceremonies but the Israelites were never to follow their example. If they had begun to treat blood as something common, its use as an atoning substance would have lost its meaning for them. Since all these atoning sacrifices pointed toward the ultimate and eternal atoning sacrifice of Christ, it was imperative that they consider the blood holy.

The Lord is protecting not only the spiritual health of the people when He makes the decree that they aren't to eat blood, but He's protecting their physical health as well when He commands them not to eat the fat. A diet high in animal fat is known in modern times to be extremely unhealthy. In fact, many nutritionists and physicians have come to the conclusion that following the kosher Jewish diet, as given to the people by God, is a healthy diet to follow. The animals the Lord said were "unclean" are the ones most likely to raise our cholesterol and triglycerides or to potentially infect us with parasites. The fats in the kosher diet are healthy fats, such as olive oil, not animal fats. It's not possible for anyone to completely remove all fat or all blood from meat but the Lord was simply asking them to remove these ingredients to the best of their ability. Just as you or I might ask the butcher at the meat counter of our local supermarket to trim the fat off some steaks or a roast for us, the Lord wanted the people to trim the fat from the meat they ate.

I know it's disturbing to think about animal sacrifice. As an animal lover and pet owner I don't like to think about it. But we have to keep in mind that the Lord was speaking to an agricultural society. They were raising most of these animals for consumption to begin with. Some of them they kept to provide milk or wool, but if any of you have ever lived on a farm or lived close to a farm, you know that the farming business is a business and that these animals generally are not considered pets. They are being raised so the farmer can feed his family or so he can sell them to other people to feed their families. My parents raised chickens and hogs when I was a kid and I knew these animals were intended for food, with the exception of the good laying hens whose purpose it was to produce eggs. I grew up surrounded by farms where people raised cattle, where many of the cows and bulls were intended to end up on a table at some point with the exception of the dairy cows whose purpose it was to produce milk. We may not like reading about the sacrificial system because it offends our sensibilities, and it's okay if it does offend our sensibilities as we discussed several days ago. Sin itself is offensive and naturally the atonement made for sin has some offensive aspects to it so that we can recognize and repent of the ugliness of our sins. If the Lord had asked man to bring atonement offerings of flowers or cakes or pies we wouldn't consider our sins or the atonement made for them as anything very serious or troubling, would we? But sin is a deadly, bloody business and so is atonement. Atonement has always cost life: the life of the animals who stood in for man in Old Testament times, the life of Christ who stood in for man in the New Testament.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Leviticus. Day 6, The Fellowship Offering, Part One

We move on into Chapter Three this morning to take a look at a third type of offering that was to be made at the tabernacle: the fellowship offering.

The fellowship offering was also known as the peace offering. It could be made as a freewill offering to God as an acknowledgment that He provides the means for making peace between Himself and man. It could be brought when a person fulfilled a vow to God. Or it could be made as a solemn occasion of observing thanks to God. The fellowship offering is not what makes peace between God and man; it celebrates the fact that the person bringing the offering has peace with God. The person is enjoying fellowship with God when he brings his offering and symbolically it's as if he eats a meal with the Lord. With the exception of specific parts that are offered on the altar, the bringer of the offering and the priests share the meat in the presence of the Lord.

"If your offering is a fellowship offering, and you offer an animal from the herd, whether male or female, you are to present before the Lord an animal without defect." (Leviticus 3:1) We are going to see some similarities between the fellowship offering and the burnt offering and we are going to see some differences. Right away we learn from verse 1 that, unlike with the burnt offering, a person could offer either a male or a female animal from among his cattle. But like with the burnt offering, the animal could not be sick or have any deformities.

"You are to lay your hand on the head of your offering and slaughter it at the tent of meeting." (Leviticus 3:2a) The person who brought a burnt offering had to do the same thing. He identified himself with the animal before giving it to the Lord.

"Then Aaron's sons the priests shall splash the blood against the sides of the altar. From the fellowship offering you are to bring a food offering to the Lord: the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys. Then Aaron's sons are to burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering that is lying on the burning wood; it is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord." (Leviticus 3:2b-5) Only certain internal organs and the fat attached to them are offered to the Lord. The rest is for the bringer of the offering and the priests to divide up, at which time a meal is prepared and shared.

In our churches today we often refer to a meal in which we all partake as a "time of fellowship". We primarily think of it as a time for church members to enjoy and build upon their relationships with each other. This is a very important thing because it strengthens the body of Christ. But a shared meal like this is also a way of enjoying fellowship with the Lord. We are gathered together in His name, as His people, in an attitude of thankfulness and prayer to enjoy the blessing of food which He has provided.

Even when eating a meal alone I believe we can think of it as an opportunity to "fellowship" with the Lord. We can humbly bow our heads in prayer before beginning the meal and thank God for providing the food our bodies need. We can think on the Lord's goodness while we consume the meal. We can talk to the Lord throughout the meal, and I think it's a beautiful thing if we slowly enjoy our food while telling the Lord about our day or about our concerns or about how much we appreciate all He has done for us. Of course the Lord already knows all about our day and about whatever is in our hearts and minds, but He wants to hear about it anyway. Those of you who have had small children, even when you knew everything that had gone on in your child's day, didn't you still enjoy having your child tell you about it? Wasn't it a way of building and strengthening your relationship with your child? Wasn't it a precious time of fellowship with your child? The Lord feels the same as an earthly parent in this regard. He wants us to talk to Him about anything that interests or concerns us. He enjoys having us share our lives with Him in this way, and isn't that the most precious thing? Almighty God, who created the universe and everything in it, who is so holy we can't even comprehend it, wants us to sit down and talk with Him about whatever is on our minds. What an opportunity this is! What a privilege! Let's not neglect it.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Levicitus. Day 5, The Grain Offering, Part Two

Yesterday we talked about what the grain offering symbolized: thankfulness. Today we'll be talking about the regulations for making various types of grain offerings.

"If you bring a grain offering baked in an oven, it is to consist of the finest flour: either thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in or thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with olive oil. If your grain offering is prepared on a griddle, it is to be made of the finest flour mixed with oil, and without yeast. Crumble it and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering. If your grain offering is cooked in a pan, it is to be made of the finest flour and some olive oil." (Leviticus 2:4-7) There is never to be any yeast in the grain offering, for as we've said before, yeast symbolizes sin in the Bible. Oil tends to symbolize the Holy Spirit and we see here that each type of grain offering either contains olive oil or is brushed with olive oil.

"Bring the grain offering made of these things to the Lord; present it to the priest, who shall take it to the altar. He shall take out the memorial portion from the grain offering and burn it on the altar as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. The rest of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the food offerings presented to the Lord." (Leviticus 2:8-10) The priests shared in almost everything brought as an offering to the Lord. This is how they supported and fed their families.

"Every grain offering you bring to the Lord must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in a food offering presented to the Lord." (Leviticus 2:11) Scholars disagree about the reason for prohibiting the use of honey. Some say the pagan idolaters of Canaan offered cakes made with honey to their false gods. Others say that honey would attract bugs or cause the bread to spoil faster. I doubt that the bread cakes were baked up too far ahead of time before bringing them to the tabernacle so they probably wouldn't have had time to spoil before being offered, but since yeast and honey are capable of causing quicker spoilage they may symbolize corruption. Nothing that symbolizes sin and corruption is acceptable as a burnt offering on the Lord's altar.

Items containing honey can be brought as a different type of offering, but never as a burnt offering. "You may bring them to the Lord as an offering of the firstfruits, but they are not to be offered on the altar as a pleasing aroma. Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your offerings; add salt to all your offerings." (Leviticus 2:12-13) Salt acts as a preservative. It is the opposite of ingredients like yeast and honey which promote faster spoilage. Salt is often used in the Bible to symbolize purity, usefulness, and faithfulness. The Lord Jesus Christ referred to believers as the "salt of the earth". (Matthew 5:13)

"If you bring a grain offering of firstfruits to the Lord, offer crushed heads of new grain roasted in the fire. Put oil and incense on it; it is a grain offering. The priest shall burn the memorial portion of the crushed grain and the oil, together with all the incense, as a food offering presented to the Lord." (Leviticus 2:14-16)

All this talk about bread brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt is making me hungry, but that just serves to remind me that we owe our thanks to the God who fills our bellies with what we need to keep us alive and healthy. When bringing this type of offering to the Lord I don't think the people could help thinking about the goodness of bread and about the goodness of the God who gives it. "Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things." (Psalm 107:9)

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Leviticus. Day 4, The Grain Offering, Part One

Chapter Two involves an offering called the "grain offering". Like the burnt offering, this is something that is to be brought to the Lord at the newly constructed tabernacle.

A grain offering is a type of offering that was brought in ancient times to great kings as a token of the people's thankfulness for his protection and provision. The custom of a grain offering was a custom observed by nations other than Israel. Such offerings were also brought by pagan cultures to their false gods. But Israel is to bring grain offerings to the tabernacle as a token of their thanks to the greatest king of all---the King of kings---and to the greatest god of all (the one and only God) the Lord of lords---for His protection and provision.

"When anyone brings a grain offering to the Lord, their offering is to be of the finest flour." (Leviticus 2:1a) Just as with the burnt offering, the people are to bring their best. A man had to select a fine specimen from his flock or herd to bring to the Lord for the burnt offering and in the same way the person bringing a grain offering must bring the finest flour.

"They are to pour olive oil on it, put incense on it and take it to Aaron's sons the priests. The priest shall take a handful of the flour and oil, together with all the incense, and burn this as a memorial portion on the altar, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord." (Leviticus 2:1b-3) Out of the measure of flour the person brought to the tabernacle, a priest would gather a handful and burn it on the altar as a thank offering to the Lord. This aroma is pleasing to Him because the Lord is pleased with our thankfulness. He says, "Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor Me." (Psalm 50:23a) The Lord is displeased with ungratefulness. He created us, provides for us, and made a way of salvation for us. The least we can do is come to Him in an attitude of gratitude and give Him our thanks.

The remainder of the flour belongs to the priests. "The rest of the offering belongs to Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the food offerings presented to the Lord." (Leviticus 2:3) The tribe of Levi (the priestly tribe) will be given cities to live in when the nation of Israel arrives in the promised land but the tribe of Levi will not be given a marked-out section of territory like the other tribes will be given. The Lord does not intend the Levites to be landowners. He has called them to be priests, not farmers or herdsmen. They are to make their living as priests. There are too many verses backing this up for me to list here, but in Old Testament times the priests shared in the offerings brought to the tabernacle and later to the temple, with the exception of burnt offerings, and in the New Testament we are told that the preachers of the gospel deserved to be supported by their churches.

The Apostle Paul states that he had the right to expect his needs to be met by the members of the churches he founded but that he made himself an exception and did not ask the members to support him. Many believers did voluntarily send aid to his missionary ministry but he didn't ask them to because he was worried he'd be lumped in with unscrupulous orators and philosophers of his day who were charging people a great deal of money to come and listen to their speeches. He was afraid that some would dismiss the gospel he was preaching by dismissing him as a charlatan who was out for money so he refused to ask the churches to support his ministry. He had the right to ask them to support him; he just excepted himself from this right. He was not, however, excepting any other preacher from this right and stated that they deserved to be supported by their churches. But in Paul's case if the churches voluntarily took up collections or sent food and clothing to him, he gratefully accepted it as an offering to God and called it a "sweet-smelling aroma" and "an acceptable sacrifice". (Philippians 4:18) He was calling it a thank offering, like the grain offering we are studying in Chapter Two.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: we owe it to our church pastors for them to be able to make a living wage as a pastor. If at all possible, pastors should not have to hold a job outside of the church. I realize there are small country churches here and there in underpopulated areas where there aren't enough church members to contribute a living wage or where the church members are all living below the poverty level and there just isn't enough money to be put into the offering for the pastor to make a living just working for the church. I grew up in rural Southwest Virginia where most church pastors had to have a secondary occupation. The landscape was dotted with small churches spread throughout the farming communities and most of the pastors did something else besides preach the gospel because they had to, whether that meant farming or teaching at the schools or driving into the surrounding cities to work in factories. But our current chapter shows us it's ordained by God that we give to the churches we attend because the preacher of God's word should be able to devote as much time as possible to the study of God's word and to ministering to the church members.

If you haven't given to your church lately, now is a good time. Or if you don't attend a church but follow various pastors and teachers online, you should donate to them since you are benefiting from their teaching.

Above all we must give thanks to the Lord, for our thanks is a sweet-smelling savor and an acceptable sacrifice. Let's all take time out of our day to give thanks for the great things our God has done for us!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Leviticus. Day 3, The Burnt Offering: Evidence That the Family Of Jesus Was Poor

We are still in the first chapter of Leviticus which has to do with the burnt offering. In yesterday's study we only looked at verse 5. Verses 5 through 9 involve offering a bull to the Lord. Verses 10 through 13 are about offering a goat or a sheep. Verses 14 through 17 speak of an offering of birds. We'll be looking at the remainder of Chapter One today.

In verse 5 yesterday the bull was brought before the Lord and the bringer of the bull had to deliver the death blow. We talked about some reasons why the bringer had to be so "hands on" with his offering. After he killed the bull the blood was drained into basins and then the priests would splash the blood against the altar. Then, "You are to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Then Aaron's sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord." (Leviticus 1:6-9) In verse 6 we learn that the bull is skinned after it is killed but we are not told what happens to the skin until Leviticus 7:8 where we are informed that the priest who assists the person with his offering is allowed to keep the animal hide for himself.

The aroma of the sacrifice is pleasing to the Lord because the burnt offering is a complete surrender. Unlike with other types of sacrifices, the person who brings the burnt offering retains nothing from it. It is entirely given up to the Lord and it symbolizes an attitude of the heart that says to the Lord, "I surrender all. I hold nothing back from You." It is this attitude that is pleasing to the Lord. He can really do something with the lives of those who come to Him in this manner.

The burnt offering doesn't have to be made with a bull. Not every man of Israel is a cattle rancher. Some of them are sheep herders and goat herders, so an animal from among the herds is acceptable as a burnt offering. "If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, from either the sheep or the goats, you are to offer a male without defect." (Leviticus 1:10) Just as with a bull offering, the man who brings a goat or sheep must bring a healthy male from the flock. The sacrifice must be an actual sacrifice. A man couldn't bring an animal that was of no value to him, such as one that is sick or disabled. It had to be one of the best of his flock or herd or else he had to purchase an acceptable animal for the purpose of sacrifice.

Later in the Bible we find many of the people only going through the motions of religion and bringing unacceptable sacrifices. The Lord will accuse them of showing contempt for His name by defiling His table with unholy sacrifices. The people will protest they have not done so and will ask Him to back up this claim and He will reply, "When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong?... When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?" (Malachi 1:8a, 13b) The Lord is worthy of our best, and though in our day we don't bring animal sacrifices to Him, we are still to honor Him with our best efforts in everything we do. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3:23-24)

The process of offering a goat or sheep is the same as that of offering a bull except we find no mention here of removing the hide. "You are to slaughter it at the north side of the altar before the Lord, and Aaron's sons the priests shall splash its blood against the sides of the altar. You are to cut it into pieces, and the priest shall arrange them, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to bring all of them and burn them on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord." (Leviticus 1:11-13)

Just as not every man of Israel was a cattle rancher, not every man of Israel owned sheep or goats. A man who was not a farmer could purchase a bull for the burnt offering if he could afford a bull. If he could not afford a bull, a sheep or a goat would cost less and he could purchase one of those to bring to the Lord. But not everyone could afford to bring an animal like this, so the Lord was willing to accept certain types of birds for the burnt offering, which is what the remainder of our passage today involves. "If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon. The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off the head and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. He is to remove the crop and the feathers and throw them down east of the altar where the ashes are. He shall tear it open by the wings, not dividing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is burning on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord." (Leviticus 1:14-17)

We find mention of the bird offering in Luke's account of the gospel, when Joseph and Mary travel to Jerusalem with the baby Jesus to fulfill the law that says every firstborn male must be presented to the Lord thirty-three days after his birth. (See Leviticus 12:1-8 for the full set of regulations.) Leviticus 12 says that when the parents of the child bring him to the temple, they are to offer a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering, but if they can't afford a lamb they can bring a young pigeon or a dove instead. When Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple, Luke tells us that they offered two birds to the Lord, one as the burnt offering and one as the sin offering. (Luke 2:24) By this we know that the carpenter and his young wife were a lower-income family. The Lord Jesus Christ, crown-prince of heaven and heir to all that God the Father owns, the One who is King of kings and Lord of lords, was born into a family too poor to offer anything at the temple but a pair of doves or a pair of pigeons. The thought of such love and humility on the part of the Lord Jesus Christ is astonishing!

We owe our best to the Lord. He gave His best to us.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Leviticus. Day 2, The Burnt Offering: Why Sacrifice (And The Cross) Is Up Close And Personal And Offensive

As we discussed yesterday, now that the tabernacle has been built there is a central location where Israel can bring sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. Though this tent of meeting is movable, there is a sense of permanence about it because it will go wherever they go. It's time now to institute further laws in regard to what a person is to bring to the tabernacle and how they are to bring it.

Chapter One deals with the burnt offering. We studied the first four verses regarding this offering yesterday and now we pick up with verse 5 which is the only verse we'll be talking about from Leviticus today.

"You are to slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron's sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting." (Leviticus 1:5) In yesterday's study we learned that the bringer of the offering had to bring his best: a healthy male from his flock or herd. The bringer had to lay his hand on the head of the animal to signify the symbolic transference of his sin to the animal standing in for him. Today we learn that the bringer is the one who takes the life of the animal (which was done in one swift motion with a special sharp knife across the jugular so death would be instantaneous). Everything about this sacrifice is intended to feel like a sacrifice. It's intended to be very personal and "hands on". And I believe it's intended to feel sad and solemn and even offensive to the bringer of the offering.

If a person did not have to bring his best to the Lord, he would not respect and revere the Lord and consider the Lord as holy. It's imperative for man to respect, revere, and consider the Lord holy. If we fail to lift the Lord up like this in our minds and hearts then we will fail to see how far we have fallen short of perfection. If we fail to acknowledge our shortcomings then sin will cease to seem like a problem to us. And if sin ceases to seem like a problem to us then we won't feel sorry for it, won't repent of it, and won't receive forgiveness for it.

If a person did not have to lay his hand on the animal's head before sacrificing it, and if a person did not have to kill the animal himself, he could manage to maintain a degree of separation between himself and his sin. But by laying his hand on the animal's head he is admitting that he himself deserves to die for his sins but that the Lord is willing to accept the substitutionary death of the animal instead. By being the one to take the animal's life, the person finds it difficult not to feel remorse. It's due to his sin that the animal is being offered. This is a solemn occasion. It's sad. The person's sin is the reason the animal must die and that's why the bringer of the offering (whose hands are dirty with sin) must be so "hands on" with the offering that blood will wash over his hands. This offends the sensibilities of man and I think it's intended to be offensive. Sin is offensive to God. The penalty for sin is death and death is offensive to God because He did not create us for death. Though God is willing to accept substitutionary death in place of taking human life, the Lord would prefer that no death occur at all, but when sin entered the world through man then death entered with it. (Romans 5:12) Death was never God's perfect will for man or for the other creatures He created. But death became necessary because of sin and I think the Lord intended man to feel disturbed by the need for sacrifices.

Did you know that the Bible calls the cross, and the crucifixion of Christ, an offense? The Apostle Paul referred to it as such in Galatians 5:11. The gospel message---which is nothing without the cross---was offensive to many in Paul's day and it still is offensive to many. We are going to look at several reasons why this is.

First of all, the crucifixion of Christ offends the sensibilities just as the sacrificial system of the Old Testament offended the sensibilities. It's messy. It's difficult to think about. It's difficult to look at. The crucifixion of Christ involved pain and blood and sweat and tears and thirst and the sting of rejection and the shame of false accusation and a feeling of abandonment by God. (For reference see Isaiah 53:1-12, Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46, John 19:28.) We naturally want to look away from such a physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually agonizing spectacle.

For another thing, the message of the cross offends man's pride. It tells man he is not perfect. It tells man he has fallen short and that he is a sinner and that he needs forgiveness. So many people are offended by even the merest suggestion that they don't have the right to live their lives exactly as they please or that anyone (even the God who created them!) has the right to judge them. People are offended at the notion that they will have to answer for their deeds someday in the presence of a holy God and Judge.

For a third reason, it offends man's desire to make his own way, like that old song that says, "I did it my way." Many are offended when told that there is only one way to God: through the One who testified of Himself, saying, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6) God couldn't have made the way to salvation any easier for man than by giving us one way to be saved. He didn't leave us to fumble around in the dark and figure it out for ourselves. He provided one simple, well-lighted path for us to follow. He issued the invitation to all. No one is excluded or disqualified or discriminated against. He invites us all to come to Him through Christ and be saved. So why do some find this one way so offensive? I think it's because once we come to Christ the Lord focuses on conforming us into the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29) For the rest of our lives here on earth, everything that God has to say to us and everything that He allows to happen to us is for the purpose of making us more like Christ. And a lot of people don't want to be anything like Christ. Nothing could be less appealing to them. To be like Christ is to love sacrificially. To be like Christ is to minister to others. To be like Christ is to serve rather than to be served. (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45) To be like Christ is to put not only our fellow man ahead of ourselves but to put God ahead of ourselves, which brings me to the final point I'd like to make today.

To be like Christ is to put the will of God before one's own will and to say to the Lord, "You are God and I am not." It means to say what God the Son said to God the Father: "I have come to do Your will, My God." (Hebrews 10:7), and, "I desire to do Your will, My God." (Psalm 40:8) and, "Not my will, but Yours, be done." (Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42, John 6:38) To be like Christ is to allow God to have sovereign authority over our lives. Ever since man has lived on the earth, man has tried to make a god of himself and has failed miserably. Following our own inclinations is the same thing as idolatry, for we are making the statement, "I am the god of my life. I will do what I want, where I want, how I want. No one has the right to advise me or judge me." You've probably heard the saying, "The man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client." This is wise advice about not thinking we can adequately defend ourselves in a court of law. Even defendants who are lawyers are advised not to defend themselves. But there's also another saying which goes, "The man who makes himself into a god has a fool for a god." A frail and sinful human being can't make anything more of himself than what he already is: a frail and sinful human being. He's incapable of adequately running his life or of defending himself someday in the holiest court of all. We must have only one Defender and only one God, for He alone can advise us, guide us, save us, sanctify us, defend us, and declare us not guilty.

The sacrificial system offended the sensibilities of man and it was intended to offend him---so man would have to face his faults, admit he was a sinner, acknowledge that he deserved the death of his body and eternal separation of his soul from God, and accept that God alone could save him. The cross offends the sensibilities of man for the same reasons. If we are not sinners, then why did the holy Son of God shed His blood in place of ours? If the holy Son of God shed His blood for us, then doesn't this mean His sacrifice is the only sacrifice acceptable to God? And if His sacrifice is the only sacrifice acceptable to God, then isn't Christ the only way to God?

We can be offended by the cross to the point of rejecting the gospel message or we can allow the offense of our sensibilities to bring us face to face with the truth: that we are sinners, that our sins have made us worthy of death, that our sins have earned us eternal separation from God, that Christ came and shed His blood so we don't have to be separated from God, and that God offers us eternal salvation only through Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Leviticus. Day 1, A Sacrifice Without Defect: Comparing Verses 1-4 With The Lamb Of God

Leviticus is the third of the four books written by Moses. The word "leviticus" means "pertaining to the Levites", referring to the priestly tribe of Israel. The book is for the nation of Israel as a whole but the priests will be tasked with overseeing sacrifices and offerings and with interpreting and applying the laws of God.

When researching the main theme of Leviticus it seems the majority of pastors and scholars feel that it is "sanctification" and I believe they are correct. Now that the tabernacle has been constructed, there is a place where the Israelites can meet with the Lord and where they can bring the appropriate offerings and substitutionary sacrifices to the Lord. While salvation is indeed by faith, that faith must be based on belief in the ability of the Lord to forgive sins and sanctify the sinner, and on what basis does He sanctify the sinner? On the basis of a substitutionary sacrifice, for, "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22) 

In the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, the sins of man were symbolically transferred to the animals that were serving as stand ins for man. God didn't want to wipe human beings from the earth for their continual waywardness and idolatry, so He chose substitutes to stand in for them. God Himself will specify what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice. In the same way, in the New Testament we find the sins of man being transferred to Christ (and it would appear this transfer is both symbolic and literal; see 2 Corinthians 5:21) and this sacrifice is so wholly acceptable to God that it is sufficient forever for anyone who places their trust in Christ. 

Now that the tabernacle is complete, the Lord can give the laws regarding the sacrifices and offerings that are to be brought to the tabernacle. This is where we begin today in Chapter One of Leviticus, with the Lord speaking of animal sacrifices.

"The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said, 'Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When anyone among you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock. If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord." (Leviticus 1:1-3) A person had to bring the best to the Lord. It would have been tempting to offer an animal from the flock or herd that had something wrong with it since it would have had little value to the man who owned it. But then it would not have been a "sacrifice" and the very nature of a sacrifice is that it must cost something. God the Father, when providing for us a perfect and eternal sacrifice, chose the best He had, didn't He? He chose His own Son, a "male without defect", as the law requires in verse 3 above. The blood of His own Son was shed for us, "the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect". (1 Peter 1:19) God selected the perfect Lamb for our atonement, the Lord Jesus Christ, about whom John the Baptist testified when he saw Him coming down to the Jordan River, saying, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) 

Also in verse 3 we learn that before the animal could be sacrificed it had to be presented at the entrance to the tent of meeting. This symbolizes the Lord inspecting the animal and finding it acceptable as an offering. On the Lord's behalf, the animal would be inspected by the priests to make certain it had no diseases or disabilities. If the priests found anything wrong with the animal they would reject it and the person had to take it home and bring back another in its place. 

The Lord Jesus Christ was also presented to God the Father at the temple on many occasions. Whenever Jesus was in Jerusalem we find Him teaching at the temple. Whenever He is teaching we find Him being examined (questioned) by the priests and the teachers of the law. We find Him being inspected (scrutinized closely) by the priests and teachers of the law whenever He is doing or saying anything at the temple or anywhere else. The Lord Jesus was watched more closely than any celebrity or politician has ever been watched by the paparazzi or the media and yet no sin was ever observed by anyone. No expert of the law was ever able to successfully debate Him. No investigator was ever able to dig up any dirt on Him. He was never caught in a lie (because He never told a lie) and no skeletons ever fell out of His closet (because none were there) and no fault was ever found in Him---not by those who lived and worked the most closely with Him and not by those who desperately wanted to find something...anything!....wrong with Him. Not even the wicked, idolatrous, anti-Semitic Pontius Pilate found anything to object to in this Jewish man from Nazareth, making the public statement at His trial, "I find no fault in Him." (Luke 23:4, John 19:4) 

Now we move on to Leviticus 1:4. "You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you." After a man selected the best male of his flock, and after he presented this stand in at the entrance to the tent of meeting, he was to lay his hand on the head of the animal to signify that the animal was taking his place. A burnt offering was an atonement offering. It was wholly given up to the Lord. Unlike many of the other sacrifices, the bringer could not retain any part of it to consume with his family. This offering was an offering of total surrender.

Jesus Christ, when making atonement for our sins, gave Himself wholly on our behalf to God the Father. He held nothing back. He surrendered all He had. But before He gave His life for us, hands were laid on Him. During the night before the crucifixion and into the morning hours of the next day, Jesus was handled by both Jews and Gentiles. He was in the custody of both the soldiers of the high priest and the soldiers of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. He was pushed around and slapped and beaten by Israelites and by Gentile idolaters. Though none of these men knew it, they were laying hands on the perfect Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Though none of these men knew it, they were laying hands on an atoning sacrifice and thereby symbolically transferring their sins onto Him just as the one who brought a sacrifice of atonement would lay his hand on the animal brought to the entrance of the meeting house. Because Christ was about to give Himself for all people----Jews and Gentiles alike----Jews and Gentiles alike laid their hands on Him. 

When studying the sacrificial system of the Old Testament we must keep in mind that these sacrifices pointed toward the ultimate sacrifice. We must remember that these temporary and ongoing sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice which was to come. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Exodus. Day 141, The Glory Of The Lord Fills The Tabernacle

The book of Exodus concludes on a splendid note today as the glory of the Lord comes and fills the completed tabernacle.

"Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." (Exodus 40:34) This is the proof the Lord is pleased with the work of the Israelites. They have made the tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly as the Lord instructed. The people want the Lord to dwell among them. They want Him to go with them into the promised land and they want Him to be with them for all the generations to come. Therefore, the Lord is pleased to dwell among them.

Following their shocking fall into idolatry, the people responded appropriately to being confronted with their sin. They did what the Apostle James says a person should do when he has fallen into sin: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." (James 4:7-10) They repented of their sin and grieved the distance their sin had placed between them and God. Now they've drawn near to Him and in faithful response He is drawing near to them. The Lord is a gentleman and does not force Himself in where He is not wanted, but the Israelites are clearly demonstrating their desire to have Him dwell among them in a new and more personal way. He demonstrates His presence with them by appearing to them as a thick cloud that settles down on and fills the tabernacle.

The presence of the Lord is so overwhelming and all-encompassing that for a short period of time the tent cannot be entered; it can only be observed reverently. "Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." (Exodus 40:35) The same thing happened about 430 years later at the dedication of the temple King Solomon built for the Lord at Jerusalem. The priests placed the Ark of the Covenant behind the curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the main sanctuary and then, "The cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple." (1 Kings 8:10-11)

What is this cloud and what did it look like? I think its physical appearance was much like a large, thick cloud in the sky. In the original Hebrew the word used for "cloud" literally means "the thunder cloud" or "the cloud mass". I believe it was a large, smoky looking mass so thick no one could see into it. The rabbis later named this type of manifestation of the Lord's presence the "shekinah glory". The word "shekinah" means "dwelling" or "one who dwells". The thick cloud represents the divine presence of God on earth.

You'll recall earlier in Exodus the Lord told Moses no one could see His face and survive the encounter. Moses longed to see the Lord's face because he believed it would strengthen him for all the years to come while he led the people in the wilderness, and the Lord let him see a glimpse of Him from the back as He passed by, but if the Lord did not veil Himself in the thick cloud here in Exodus 40 I think all the people would have fallen dead. The mortal human body simply cannot withstand a face-to-face meeting with Almighty God. It is for their protection that He wraps Himself in the cloud.

But when the Word of God (God the Son) became flesh and dwelt among mankind, He was the embodiment of the shekinah glory. And because He took on our image, we are able to behold Him just as we are---in our weak human flesh. And because He took on our image we who have placed our faith in Him will someday take on His image. (1 Corinthians 15:50-55, Philippians 3:21, 1 John 3:2) Then, when we stand before the throne of God someday in bodies like Christ's, I believe we will be able to behold the face of God the Father.

The Lord demonstrates not only His presence with the Israelites by the cloud, but He also guides their journey with the cloud. "In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out---until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels." (Exodus 40:36-38)

The Lord wants to guide us in the right ways. If left to our own devices we'll go astray, which is why the wise King Solomon advises us to, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways submit to Him, and He will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6) The Lord is directing Israel's path with the cloud that signifies His presence. He's teaching them to trust Him, to lean not on their own understanding but to submit to His wise guidance. If they'd rushed headlong into the promised land and if they'd begun to start taking it over in the wrong ways and at the wrong times, disaster would have followed. The Lord knows the situation in Canaan and He knows every circumstance that lies ahead of the Israelites. It's best to trust Him to direct their journey every step of the way. It's best for you and I to trust the Lord and let Him direct our journey every step of the way through this world.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Exodus. Day 140, The Priests Consecrated And The Tabernacle Set-Up Completed

In Exodus 28 the Lord described how Aaron and his sons were to be consecrated to serve at the tabernacle. He reissues the instructions for their consecration to Moses and Moses performs these duties.

"Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water. Then dress Aaron in the sacred garments, anoint him and consecrate him so he may serve Me as priest. Bring his sons and dress them in tunics." (Exodus 40:12-14) We studied the priestly garments in detail in Chapter 28.

It's interesting that Moses is asked to wash and dress his brother and nephews instead of having the men perform these duties for themselves. I believe this has to do with Moses being the mediator of the covenant between the Lord and Israel. Only Moses can perform the consecration ceremony for them and make them outwardly pure in the eyes of the Lord, just as only Christ (the mediator of the new covenant) can consecrate a person and make them pure from the inside out.

"Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve Me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations." (Exodus 40:15) It was to Aaron and to his sons and to their descendants that the priesthood was assigned---to the tribe of Levi. This is why throughout the Bible you will find the priests referred to as Levites and why you'll find their calling in life referred to as the Levitical priesthood.

"Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him. So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. When Moses set up the tabernacle, he put the bases in place, erected the frames, inserted the crossbars and set up the posts. Then he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering over the tent, as the Lord commanded him." (Exodus 40:17-19) This set up will need to be performed every time the Israelites break camp and move to another location.

"He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him." (Exodus 40:20-21) Other objects will later be added to the ark. The Apostle Paul, who is believed to be the author of the book of Hebrews, says: "This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant." (Hebrews 9:4) The budding of Aaron's rod (shepherd's staff) will take place in Numbers 17. We don't know when Aaron's rod and a golden jar of manna were added to the ark but they are missing from it when we arrive at 1 Kings 8:9 and 2 Chronicles 5:10. By the time Paul writes the book of Hebrews the ark itself is missing. It disappears from the pages of the Bible around the time Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians; however, my opinion is that it was not taken by King Nebuchadnezzar but was hidden before the city fell to the invaders. I believe there is a very distinct possibility that the ark still exists and has been kept for safekeeping until the third temple is built. There are many scholars who believe this to be true; there are many who disagree with them. If you have time and are interested in the subject you can find plenty of reading material about the ark online but I'd caution you to be careful of the source. I can only personally recommend consulting reputable Jewish or Christian websites or else you'll end up with more bizarre and unscriptural theories than you can shake a stick at. In good conscience I can't recommend researching the ark on any "alternative" websites because I've looked at some of those and they contain either occult-related materials or theories that directly contradict the Bible.

"Moses placed the table in the tent of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle outside the curtain and set out the bread on it before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him. He placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle and set up the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him. Moses placed the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the curtain and burned fragrant incense on it, as the Lord commanded him. Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. He set the altar of burnt offering near the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it burnt offerings and grain offerings, as the Lord commanded him. He placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing, and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the Lord commanded Moses." (Exodus 40:22-32) Moses isn't placing the furnishings in the tabernacle according to however they look best to him. He's placing them where the Lord told him to earlier in the book of Exodus. Everything inside the tabernacle has a purpose and a place, so he puts them where the Lord commanded him.

"Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work." (Exodus 40:33) Moses deserves to be congratulated on a job well done and so do all his fellow Israelites. This work is good and acceptable to the Lord because it was done in obedience to His instructions. He is pleased with their work and in tomorrow's passage He proves it by dwelling among them---in the tabernacle---in a way never before seen by them.

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Exodus. Day 139, Setting Up And Consecrating The Tabernacle And Its Furnishings

All the work has been done to manufacture the materials for the tabernacle and its furnishings. But the people don't go ahead and erect the tent of meeting in the wilderness. They wait for the Lord to tell them when and how it is to be set up.

"Then the Lord said to Moses: 'Set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month.'" (Exodus 40:1-2) We don't know which day of which month the Lord issued these instructions. The people may have had to wait a few days or weeks before the day came to set up the tabernacle.

We've all had to wait for things, haven't we? Sometimes we get impatient, or at least I know I do. We'll want a certain thing to happen and it will look like everything is in place for it to happen and we'll wonder why the Lord doesn't go ahead and make it happen. Worse than feeling impatient, we might even get ahead of the Lord and try to make the thing happen right away without waiting for Him. Every time I've ever done that I've regretted it. Receiving a good thing at the wrong time can be as bad as never receiving it at all. God knows when we're ready to handle big blessings. He knows when He has every circumstance lined up perfectly for us so that when He bestows the good thing we will be able to enjoy it to the fullest. We may think everything is lined up so that our hopes and dreams can fall into place right now, but God sees parts of the picture that we don't see. 

Even when everything is lined up just right and there's nothing to keep us from receiving the blessing right now, God may ask us to wait a little while in order to develop our reliance on Him. Like obedient children, we should move ahead when our Father says to move ahead and we should sit still when our Father says to sit still. If we don't learn to wait for His instructions we'll put ourselves in harm's way needlessly, much like a child running out into a busy roadway. If we don't learn to obey the Lord in the small things, we won't be in the habit of heeding His voice when something big comes along.

Not only does the Lord tell the Israelites when to set up the tabernacle, but He also tells them how to set it up. "Place the ark of the covenant law in it and shield the ark with the curtain. Then bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. Place the gold altar of incense in front of the ark of the covenant law and put the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. Place the altar of burnt offering in front of the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting; place the basin between the tent of the meeting and the altar and put water in it. Set up the courtyard around it and put the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard." (Exodus 40:3-8) We were told earlier in Exodus that the Israelites left Egypt in the first month of the year and now we find them setting up the tabernacle in the first month of the following year. By this we know that twelve months have passed since the Lord brought them out of the land of oppression. This may be why He chose to have them set up the tabernacle in the first month---to commemorate the month of their rescue from Egypt.

"Take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and everything in it; consecrate it and all its furnishings, and it will be holy. Then anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils; consecrate the altar, and it will be most holy. Anoint the basin and its stand and consecrate them." (Exodus 40:9-11) Oil is used symbolically in the Scriptures to represent the anointing of the Holy Spirit. By anointing the tabernacle and its furnishings with oil the people are welcoming the Holy Spirit into the tent of meeting with open arms and open hearts. Their actions acknowledge that without the Holy Spirit, nothing they do at the tabernacle means anything. Without the Holy Spirit's presence and approval, nothing they do there is holy and acceptable in the Lord's eyes. As my pastor is often known to say during our church services, "If the Holy Spirit isn't here, we might as well go home." We sing a song sometimes in church that goes, "Holy Spirit, You are welcome here." That is what I believe the people are saying when they anoint the tabernacle and everything in it with oil: "Holy Spirit, You are welcome here."

Although as believers in Christ we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us at all times (1 Corinthians 6:19), we can still say to the Holy Spirit, "You are welcome here," whenever we sit down for some quiet time with the Lord. It's amazing how much more reverent and holy our attitude becomes if, when we are about to read the Bible or pray or listen to Christian music or meditate on the Lord, we begin by saying, "Holy Spirit, You are welcome here." Yesterday we talked about taking up the challenge of reading one Old Testament chapter a day and one New Testament chapter a day. (I've begun with the book of Psalms and the book of Matthew.) I think it would be a wonderful idea to follow the Israelites' example from our passage today and say, before we begin our time of Scripture reading, "Holy Spirit, You are welcome here!"

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Exodus. Day 138, Moses Inspects The Work

Normally I would not skip over any passages in our study but there is a long section between where we left off yesterday and where we pick up today that is just a list of all the objects and materials the people made for the tabernacle. This list exactly corresponds with the one the Lord provided to them in Exodus 25 through Exodus 28. Since no additional information is included with this list when the objects are actually made, I made the choice to skip to the place where Moses comes to inspect the completed items.

"So all the work on the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, was completed. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses." (Exodus 39:32) They obeyed the instructions of Exodus 25-28 to the letter. They are going to be bringing many offerings and sacrifices to the Lord at this tabernacle in the coming years but what is it that He says is far better? Obedience. (1 Samuel 15:22) A person can give to the Lord while having a heart that's far from Him but it's far more difficult to obey His instructions with a heart that's far from Him.

I'll use an example from my own family tree to illustrate this point. My great-grandfather on my mother's side regularly donated money and time and labor to local churches and to the needy in the community. He was well-known and well-respected in our rural county. He gained a reputation as a fine Christian man simply because of his giving. People assumed anyone who gave to the Lord's work must be a godly man. But he was an extremely wicked man in his private life. He did terrible things that emotionally scarred several generations of his family. So we see that even the ungodly can be generous in their giving, especially when they are getting something in return (an enhanced reputation, more customers flocking to their business, people liking them because their true character is veiled by their generosity). But what would the Lord have preferred my great-grandfather do? Be obedient to the word of God. Know the Lord by having a genuine relationship with Him. Be a godly example to his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Be a good husband to his wife. Do no harm to those under his care and influence. This is why obedience is better than sacrifice, for anyone can bring an offering to the house of God while harboring sin in their heart. But the one whose heart truly belongs to the Lord will want to know and follow His instructions.

Now that all the items for the tabernacle have been manufactured, the people present these items to Moses for inspection. "Then they brought the tabernacle to Moses: the tent and all its furnishings, its clasps, frames, crossbars, posts and bases; the covering of ram skins dyed red and the covering of other durable leather and the shielding curtain; the ark of the covenant law with its poles and the atonement cover; the table with all its articles and the bread of the Presence; the pure gold lampstand with its row of lamps and all its accessories, and the olive oil for the light; the gold altar, the anointing oil, the fragrant incense, and the curtain for the entrance to the tent; the bronze altar with its bronze grating, its poles and all its utensils; the basin with its stand; the curtains of the courtyard with its posts and bases, and the curtain for the entrance to the courtyard; the ropes and tent pegs for the courtyard; all the furnishings for the tabernacle, the tent of meeting; and the woven garments worn for ministering in the sanctuary, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when serving as priests." (Exodus 39:33-41)

How long did it take for the people to complete this work? The Bible doesn't say, but based on which month of the year we were told He began giving the law to the people, and based on which month of the year they will be told to set the tabernacle up, scholars estimate it took them anywhere from six to nine months to manufacture all the items. The discrepancy in their opinions is because we don't know what month the Israelites began the work. We know Moses had to relay all the instructions to them and then there was a period of time in which they collected the materials that would be needed, but the Bible doesn't tell us how many days or weeks the preparation for the project took. But I couldn't find any references by any scholars who believe it took more than a year to complete the project and set the tabernacle up for the first time, and the majority of the references I found adhered to the six to nine month timeline.

"The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses. Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them." (Exodus 39:42-43) The people were so careful to be obedient to the Lord that nothing has to be corrected or discarded and made over. I am sure the work itself cannot be described as flawless (from a manufacturing standpoint) because no human being is perfect and nothing a human being does is perfect. But the hearts of the people were in the right place as they did the work and they followed the Lord's instructions as much as is humanly possible, so in His eyes the work is "just as the Lord had commanded". I am reminded of when the Lord completed His creation work and stood back and looked at it and declared it "good". He declares the work the people have done to be "good" here in Exodus 39 and issues a blessing upon them through Moses for their obedience. You and I, as imperfect human beings, can't create anything perfect with our imperfect hands. Yet the work of our hands can be declared "good" by Almighty God when that work is done in a spirit of obedience toward Him. "Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him." (Psalm 128:1)

In order to be obedient to the Lord, we must know what the Lord says. In order to know what the Lord says, we must study His word. It's imperative that we immerse ourselves as often as we can in the Scriptures. If you are not in the habit of daily reading the Bible aside from what we study together on this blog, I'd recommend starting to read a chapter a day from books like the four gospels where you can read the words the Lord Jesus spoke and from books like Psalms and Proverbs that provide a great deal of instructions for godly living. Most of the chapters in these books are of a length that can easily be worked into our hectic daily schedules.

This is something I'm pledging to do myself. I was challenged by what Dr. Charles Stanley said on his radio program the other day about what a difference we'll see in our relationship with the Lord and what a difference we'll see in how we deal with things going on around us if we'll commit to reading at least a chapter a day. Dr. Stanley said he is in the habit of daily reading one chapter from the New Testament and one chapter from the Old Testament. I've decided I'd like to do that too, so if you want to join me my study plan is going to begin with me reading one chapter from the book of Matthew each day and one chapter from Psalms each day. I know there may be days when things will happen that might cause us to forget, but if that happens then we can just get back on track the next day. I think if we do this we'll find ourselves growing in our knowledge of and in our obedience to the Lord. And what happens then? "Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him." Blessings can take many forms, so He's not necessarily promising to endow us with great wealth or keep us from ever encountering any problems in life, but I don't think there's any doubt that spiritual blessings will be ours if we devote more energy to reading God's word and following it. I don't think there's any doubt we will have more peace in our lives if we spend more time reading God's word and doing what it says.