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Exodus 26 – God’s Tent; The Dwelling

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120325_exodus26.mp3

03/25 Exodus 26 God’s Tent; The Dwelling

We are studying God’s word to us in Exodus. God instructed his people to build him a tent.

Exodus 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.

God intended to dwell with his people. He would come to live in their midst. But having a holy God live in the camp with sinful people is dangerous, so careful instruction had to be given for their protection.

The description started, not as we might expect, from the outside moving in, but but with the things in the tent, the things closest to the presence of God, the things of most importance, and worked out from there. We have looked at the only piece of furniture in the most holy place, the box that contained the written copies of the covenant between God and his people, a box covered by a lid which was to be the place where God was propitiated, where his wrath against sinners who had broken their covenant was satisfied by substitutionary blood. We looked at the furniture in the holy place, the table, filled with abundance of bread and wine, with sweet smelling incense. We looked at the lampstand, shining in the darkness, giving light to those who enter in. Now we are going to look at the structure itself, the tent.

Exodus 26:1 “Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them. 2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall be the same size. 3 Five curtains shall be coupled to one another, and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another. 4 And you shall make loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set. Likewise you shall make loops on the edge of the outermost curtain in the second set. 5 Fifty loops you shall make on the one curtain, and fifty loops you shall make on the edge of the curtain that is in the second set; the loops shall be opposite one another. 6 And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains one to the other with the clasps, so that the tabernacle may be a single whole. 7 “You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle; eleven curtains shall you make. 8 The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. The eleven curtains shall be the same size. 9 You shall couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and the sixth curtain you shall double over at the front of the tent. 10 You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in the second set. 11 “You shall make fifty clasps of bronze, and put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together that it may be a single whole. 12 And the part that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. 13 And the extra that remains in the length of the curtains, the cubit on the one side, and the cubit on the other side, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and that side, to cover it. 14 And you shall make for the tent a covering of tanned rams’ skins and a covering of goatskins on top. 15 “You shall make upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood. 16 Ten cubits shall be the length of a frame, and a cubit and a half the breadth of each frame. 17 There shall be two tenons in each frame, for fitting together. So shall you do for all the frames of the tabernacle. 18 You shall make the frames for the tabernacle: twenty frames for the south side; 19 and forty bases of silver you shall make under the twenty frames, two bases under one frame for its two tenons, and two bases under the next frame for its two tenons; 20 and for the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side twenty frames, 21 and their forty bases of silver, two bases under one frame, and two bases under the next frame. 22 And for the rear of the tabernacle westward you shall make six frames. 23 And you shall make two frames for corners of the tabernacle in the rear; 24 they shall be separate beneath, but joined at the top, at the first ring. Thus shall it be with both of them; they shall form the two corners. 25 And there shall be eight frames, with their bases of silver, sixteen bases; two bases under one frame, and two bases under another frame. 26 “You shall make bars of acacia wood, five for the frames of the one side of the tabernacle, 27 and five bars for the frames of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the side of the tabernacle at the rear westward. 28 The middle bar, halfway up the frames, shall run from end to end. 29 You shall overlay the frames with gold and shall make their rings of gold for holders for the bars, and you shall overlay the bars with gold. 30 Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain.

The fulfillment of these instruction is recorded in chapter 36, where this chapter is repeated almost verbatim, with a few minor omissions to shorten it, and changes in verb form to say that they followed the instructions precisely. In spite of the lengthy detail spelled out in these chapters, some details of the construction are not clear. That is why the instruction is repeated to ‘erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain’.

What we see is a four layer tent, the inside layer an exquisite tapestry of fine linen of blues and purples and scarlet, with cherubim worked into it, held together with gold clasps. The second layer was goat’s hair, slightly larger so that it would completely cover and hide the first layer, held together with bronze clasps. This layer was covered by a layer of tanned ram’s skins, then a final layer of leather, probably the hides of sea cows or something like that. Inside there was a gold plated wood framework that gave the tent its structure, and this framework was set in bases of silver. From inside, this tent would be stunningly beautiful, the detailed craftsmanship of the richly colored tapestry framed by the gold boards that provided the structure, set in bases of silver. But very few would ever get to see this inner beauty of God’s sanctuary. It was cloaked in three more layers of drab, protective, weather resistant coverings that would hide all this exquisite craftsmanship from view. From the outside, this would be a rather plain and uninviting structure.

God is teaching his people that he is the unseen God. No one ever sees God. He is always invisible, hidden from sight. The ordinary Israelite would only see the outer covering of the tent, he would never see the inside of the sanctuary or any of the ornate furniture that adorned it. A measure of faith would be required of them to believe that some of the things inside even really existed.

Jesus: God Dwelt Among Us

We’ve seen how the different furniture in the tabernacle all points to Jesus. Jesus, who is the light of the world. Jesus, who is the bread of life, Jesus, whom God put forward as the propitiation or ‘mercy seat’ by his blood. The tent itself gives us one of the most direct connections to Jesus. In the beginning of John’s gospel, he tells us of the infinite and eternal second person of the triune God, the Word, the divine Creator of all that exists, who was with God and who was God, and he says:

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This word translated ‘dwelt’ is literally ‘pitched his tent’ or ‘tabernacled’; the verb form of the word used in the Greek Old Testament for the tabernacle. God’s stated purpose for the tabernacle was to ‘dwell in the midst’ of his people, and we find this fulfilled in Jesus, God the Son, who ‘became flesh and dwelt among us’, or ‘pitched his tent among us’. God himself came to live with his people. But the way in which he came, the way he stooped down and condescended to live with us, the way he pitched his tent among us, was the most inconspicuous and outwardly humble way, a way that hid his true identity from almost everyone, a way that many found offensive. He entered this world as an embryo in the womb of virgin who was pledged to be married. He was born on the road, in a stable, his first bed was a feed trough for livestock. He grew up as a carpenter, learning the trade of his step-father. When he began to travel and teach, he warned his followers that he had nowhere to lay his head, no place on this earth that he could call home. His true identity was covered, hidden, veiled in the common and ordinary. But Mary knew.

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God.

Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

And God knew.

Luke 3:21 …when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

And the demons knew.

Luke 4:41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

And those who were healed by him began to get a clue as to his true identity.

Mark 7:36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

And Peter confessed what God revealed to him of Jesus’ true identity

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” …20 Then he [Jesus] strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

And on the mountain, Jesus pulled back the curtains, as it were, and gave a glimpse of the glory of his true identity to his three closest disciples.

Mark 9:2 …And he was transfigured before them. …9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Jesus, God come in the flesh, came in such a way that the glory of his true identity was hidden under a hide, or skin, of ordinary humanity.

Isaiah had prophesied that this was the way the Messiah would come.

Isaiah 53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Paul speaks of this amazing condescension of the Son of God,

Philippians 2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Of course, Paul cannot stop there, having himself met the risen and exalted Jesus, who revealed to him his true identity as God in the flesh.

Philippians 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus, fully God, became flesh and dwelt among us.

He Stretched Out the Heavens Like a Tent

Let’s look back at the design of the inner beauty of the tabernacle.

Exodus 26:1 “Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them.

From the inside of the Most Holy Place, the walls, the ceiling and the veil would all be fine linen, blue, purple and scarlet, with cherubim. These angelic beings take us back to the garden, where they were placed to guard the way to God’s presence. The colors blue and purple and scarlet in the tapestry are another connection back to creation – they remind us of the colors of the sky. In Psalm 104, all of creation is described in terms of a tent or dwelling place for God.

Psalm 104:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, 2 covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. 3 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; 4 he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire. 5 He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.

We find this picture of God stretching out the heavens like the covering of a tent repeatedly in the scripture, especially in Isaiah.

Isaiah 48:13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together. (cf. Isaiah 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 51:13)

The heavens, or the night sky, are pictured as the tapestry of God’s tent. But here, the veil, which had the same appearance as the inner layer of the tabernacle, is intended to keep us out of God’s presence. It appears to be one piece, with no openings or any easy way to pull it aside to enter in. It is intended to be a separation. It is a protection for the priests from the deadly presence of a holy God. Only once a year, and only with the sacrificial blood of a substitute, was anyone allowed beyond this curtain.

Exodus 26:31 “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 32 And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. 34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. 35 And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side. 36 “You shall make a screen for the entrance of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. 37 And you shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia, and overlay them with gold. Their hooks shall be of gold, and you shall cast five bases of bronze for them.

Our sins have separated us from God. We rebelled against him in the garden, and we were forced to leave his presence. Now God is dwelling in the midst of his people in a tent, but he requires a separation between the glory of his presence and his people. For their own protection they are kept out. Isaiah, in chapters 63 and 64, is crying out for mercy and confessing his sin and the sins of his people.

Isaiah 64:5 …Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 7 There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

He cries out for God in his dwelling place to be stirred to compassion and act on behalf of his sinful people.

Isaiah 63:15 Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me.

And then he makes this plea:

Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence–

Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29), hanging on the cross, enduring the darkness of the displeasure of his Father, forsaken by God, crushed under his wrath against our sin (Is.53:6,10-12). He paid our price in full and cried out “it is finished” (Jn.19:30).

Matthew 27:51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.

Isaiah’s prayer was answered ‘Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down’. God became flesh and pitched his tent among us. God our Savior opened for us a new and living way through the curtain, that is, through his own flesh torn for us (Heb.10:20).

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,

And the centurion who stood watch knew: “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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March 25, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 25:31-40; Furniture in God’s Tent – The Light

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120318_exodus25_31-40.mp3

03/18 Exodus 25:31-40 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Light

In Exodus 25, God is giving us a glimpse of heaven on earth. He has given Moses a vision of his heavenly throne room, and instructed Moses to build a replica to place in the middle of the camp of Israel; a tent for God to dwell with his people. Through the details of this tent we learn much about God. We started in his very presence, where a box was to be placed containing the terms of God’s covenant with his people. This box was to be covered with the propitiatory, a lid that covered his law, and this lid was to be smeared with blood, satisfying God’s justice as he saw that his covenant had been violated. Outside this inner chamber or throne room we saw the table, piled high with bread, the bread of the presence, as well as containers for wine and trays for incense.

Psalm 16:11 … in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The next thing we are told about is the light.

Exodus 25:31 “You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. 32 And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; 33 three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch–so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 34 And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, 35 and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out from the lampstand. 36 Their calyxes and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. 37 You shall make seven lamps for it. And the lamps shall be set up so as to give light on the space in front of it. 38 Its tongs and their trays shall be of pure gold. 39 It shall be made, with all these utensils, out of a talent of pure gold. 40 And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.

Then the record of building it in Exodus 37:

Exodus 37:17 He also made the lampstand of pure gold. He made the lampstand of hammered work. Its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers were of one piece with it. 18 And there were six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; 19 three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch–so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 20 And on the lampstand itself were four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, 21 and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out of it. 22 Their calyxes and their branches were of one piece with it. The whole of it was a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. 23 And he made its seven lamps and its tongs and its trays of pure gold. 24 He made it and all its utensils out of a talent of pure gold.

And the instructions for lighting the lamps:

Exodus 27:20 “You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.

Light in the Darkness

As we will see, God’s tent was made up of four layers; fine linen, goats hair, and two layers of leather or animal hide. This tent would be dark inside. So God gave specific instructions for light to illumine his tent. This is not because God is scared of the dark. It is not so that he wouldn’t stub his toe on the table in the dark. Like the bread in his presence, the light would primarily benefit the priests who served in his tent. The lampstand was placed outside the curtain that hid the immediate presence of God from view. Inside the holy of holies, the radiance of the glory of God would be the only light. This lamp would benefit the priests who came in regularly to serve in the holy place.

These seven lamps, kept blazing all night long, were probably the brightest light in the camp of Israel. This would serve as a vivid reminder that someone is home in God’s tent. God is indeed dwelling with his people. The lights in God’s tent were to be kept on all night every night.

Psalm 121:3 …he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Tree of Life

Look at the design of this lampstand. It is described with the language of botany. It has a trunk with branches, stems, buds, and flowers. The whole structure is designed to resemble a tree in bloom. It appears that there were three blossoms on each of the six branches, and four blossoms on the trunk, 22 blossoms in all. Seven of these blossoms would be the cups that would hold an olive oil lamp. This would be a dazzling tree of solid gold in full bloom, with seven of its flowers on fire.

This imagery of a tree, like much of the imagery in the tabernacle, brings us back to the presence of God in the garden in the beginning. The cherubim that serve as God’s throne in the most holy place were first introduced in Genesis:

Genesis 3:24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

The cherubim with flaming sword were set to guard the way to the tree of life. Now we have another connection with the garden. This golden flaming tree that gives light in the presence of God reminds us of the tree of life in the garden of God. God is inviting his people back into relationship with him; back into his presence; back into paradise.

Jesus Light of Life

This is a tree shaped lampstand; its purpose is to give light. We are reminded that God is the author of light.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Light and life are closely connected throughout the scriptures. Without light, there is no life. So one of God’s first creative acts was the creation of light. These words of creation and light from Genesis are echoed in the New Testament gospel of John:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is the true light who came into the world. Everything we have seen in the tabernacle points us to Jesus.

The propitiatory or mercy seat points toward:

Romans 3:24 …Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

The bread of the presence points to Jesus, who said:

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. …51 …And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

And now the lampstand points us to Jesus, who said:

John 8:12 … “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

Jesus is life and light. He overcomes the darkness. This was prophesied in Isaiah.

Isaiah 49:6 … I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Jesus is the life giving light of the world. How is Jesus the light of the world? In what way does Jesus give light? In John’s gospel we see a focus on Jesus as the light. John’s gospel begins by pointing us back to creation and back to the Word, or Jesus, who is God, who has always existed as God, and who was active in creation with with his Father. John tells us that life, the essence of life was in Jesus, that Jesus is the source of all life, and that the intrinsic life of Jesus was the light of men. When light shines, it overcomes darkness, and Jesus, the true light was coming into the world. But there was a problem. It says Jesus who created the world came into the world, but the world did not recognize him. It says he came to his own people, but even they did not receive him. In chapter 3, John says this:

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.”

There is a darkness in the heart of people that causes us to hate the light and cling to the darkness. Jesus comes as light, bringing the good news of eternal life to all who believe in him, and we scurry for a dark corner to hide from the light that would expose our wicked hearts. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that this is a spiritual problem.

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Paul tells us that there is a diabolical blindness caused by the devil himself to prevent us from seeing the light of the good news of the glory of Christ. So Jesus, the light, shines in the darkness of this world, but we are blind, under the power of Satan, kept from seeing the good news in Jesus. This sounds like the darkness has overcome the light! What hope is there? Paul points us to our only hope in verse 6:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

It is God, who spoke light into the darkness at creation, who can create light in the spiritual blindness of unbelieving hearts so that we can recognize and receive the good news of Jesus. God is still at work today overcoming darkness with his glorious light! This is what gave Paul the confidence to preach the gospel to spiritually blind people.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Paul knew that the means God uses to open blind eyes to the glorious good news of Jesus was the proclamation of the truth. Paul had confidence in the power of God to open the eyes of the spiritually blind because he had experienced this first hand. Paul, who was formerly called Saul, was zealous for God but hated this Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah, and genuinely thought he was serving God by ‘ravaging the church, entering house after house, dragging off men and women and throwing them in prison, breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ (Acts 8:3; 9:1).

God appeared to Saul on the Damascus road in blazing blinding light, knocked him to the ground, and said “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15), and he said to the stunned physically blinded but now spiritually alert Saul:

Acts 26:17 …I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

God opened Saul’s eyes to the fact that he had been blind, under the power of Satan, trying to earn favor with God by his own self-righteousness. What he desperately needed was to be knocked off his high horse, to have his sinful pride and self-righteousness forgiven as a free gift from God and begin a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. Later he contrasted his own good works with the gift of righteousness he received from God:

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–

Paul knew by personal experience that God overcomes blindness and darkness in hard, self-righteous unbelieving hearts by the light of the good news of forgiveness in Jesus. So Paul preached the good news with confidence in the power of God to save sinners. Paul says:

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Jesus, the light of the world, was lifted up and hung on a cross so that his light would shine down on lost sinners like you and me. Come to Jesus, the light of the world; let his penetrating light expose the wickedness of your proud heart, and trust him to freely forgive all your sin.

Followers of Jesus become Light

Amazingly, Jesus, who claimed to be the light of the world, turned to his followers and said to them:

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus, whose light shone in the darkness, who is a light for the nations, who said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” now turns to his disciples and tells us ‘you are the light of the world. Let your light shine in such a way that the fruit of your faith draws attention not to you but to your Father.’

The life and light of Jesus comes and transforms the hearts of his followers, so that the light of Jesus now shines out from the lives of his followers. You are the light of the world. Let your light shine. We find the image of the golden lampstand again in John’s vision on Patmos.

Revelation 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet … 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, … 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

The light once contained in the temple is now going out for all the nations to enjoy. We, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, transformed by the good news, now bear the light of the good news of the glory of Jesus for all to see.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 25:23-30; Furniture in God’s Tent; The Table

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120311_exodus25_23-30.mp3

3/11 Exodus 25:23-30 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Table

Here in Exodus 25, God is giving his instructions for the construction of his tent. God desires to dwell with his people. Our God is not a distant God, an aloof God; our God is a God who desires fellowship with his people. He wants to make his home with us. That is what the tabernacle is all about. God is instructing his people what it means to have a holy God dwelling with them. God sets the terms of the relationship. God will dwell with his people as King. He is holy. He must be honored. So he gives instructions for building his tent, and instructions for the furniture that will go in his tent. He starts with the things that are closest to him, that are immediately in his presence, and he works out from there. Last time, we looked at the box containing the contract between God and his people, and the elaborate cover for this box. This was to be the only furniture for God’s throne room. This was where our sin was decisively dealt with. Now we move outside the most holy place to the holy place, and look at the next piece of furniture in God’s house; a table. Here are God’s instructions for this table.

The Table

Exodus 25:23 “You shall make a table of acacia wood. Two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 24 You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a molding of gold around it. 25 And you shall make a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and a molding of gold around the rim. 26 And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and fasten the rings to the four corners at its four legs. 27 Close to the frame the rings shall lie, as holders for the poles to carry the table. 28 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, and the table shall be carried with these. 29 And you shall make its plates and dishes for incense, and its flagons and bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. 30 And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly.

And again in chapter 37 we see these instructions carried out exactly.

Exodus 37:10 He also made the table of acacia wood. Two cubits was its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 And he overlaid it with pure gold, and made a molding of gold around it. 12 And he made a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and made a molding of gold around the rim. 13 He cast for it four rings of gold and fastened the rings to the four corners at its four legs. 14 Close to the frame were the rings, as holders for the poles to carry the table. 15 He made the poles of acacia wood to carry the table, and overlaid them with gold. 16 And he made the vessels of pure gold that were to be on the table, its plates and dishes for incense, and its bowls and flagons with which to pour drink offerings.

This table was similar in construction to the box that contained the covenant. Both were the same height, both were made of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold; both had gold moldings; both had gold rings and poles they were to be carried with. But this table was smaller (half a cubit less in both length and breadth) the table top was about 18” x 36”. And this was a table, not a box. But this was not just a table. Included with this table were plates, dishes, bowls, flagons – this was a table for food. It was to have bread on it continually. We find the instructions for what is to be placed on this table in Leviticus 24.

Leviticus 24:5 “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. 6 And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. 7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. 8 Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. 9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.”

Drink Offerings

Bread is not the only thing on this table. There were four types of gold vessels associated with this table; plates and dishes, flagons and bowls. The text tells us that the bowls and flagons were used to pour the drink offerings. There is not absolute clarity in the biblical text about the drink offerings, and why the vessels for the drink offerings are associated with this table. When offering a sacrificial animal, it was to be accompanied by the specified quantities of a grain offering and a drink offering (Num.15). This was intended to create ‘a pleasing aroma to the LORD’. Exactly how and where the drink offering was to be poured out is not clear. Tradition tells us (Sir.50:15; Josephus Antiquities 3:9:4) that the drink offering was poured out at the foot of the altar, but Numbers 28:7 tells us that the drink offering was to be poured out in the Holy Place.

Numbers 28:7 Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD.

Exodus 30:9 tells us that no drink offering was to be poured on the other table in the Holy place, the table of incense. We don’t know for sure if the bowls and flagons were made and stored with this table but used at the altar, or if the wine was to be brought into the Holy place in these bowls and poured out or placed on this table. Whatever the practice, there is a close connection with this table that held the bread of the Presence, and the wine for the drink offering.

Incense

The other gold vessels associated with this table, plates and dishes, are said to be ‘for incense’. In the Leviticus passage we are told that the incense used on this table was frankincense.

Leviticus 24:7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD.

Frankincense, or olibanum (Hebrew ‘lebonaw’) is an aromatic resin collected from the Boswellia tree. It can be burned as incense or eaten. It has soothing medicinal properties, and has been used to treat depression. Frankincense was used primarily in the tabernacle or temple rituals, and was associated with the service of the priests. Frankincense was one of the three gifts given in worship to Jesus by the Magi.

Matthew 2:11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Gold is a royal gift that pointed to Jesus who is our God and King. Frankincense pointed to Jesus who is our great High Priest. Myrrh, a bitter resin and strong antiseptic used in embalming, pointed to the reason Jesus came – to die for our sins.

Bread of Presence

So God’s table, placed in the Holy place in his tent, had aromatic incense placed on it, and it was associated with the drink offerings of wine, but the primary purpose of this table was a table for bread.

Exodus 25:30 And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly.

The bread of the presence, literally bread of the face, bread placed before the face of or in the presence of God. This bread was to be kept on the table continually. 12 loaves, probably representing the 12 tribes, together with sweet smelling frankincense, were to be continually before the face of God. Leviticus gives us more detail:

Leviticus 24:5 “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. 6 And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD.

This table was to be continually piled up with bread. An ephah is about 3/5 of a bushel or 22 liters. So two tenths of an ephah is 4.4 liters or about 18.5 cups. For 12 loaves, that adds up to about 223 cups or almost 14 gallons of flour (about a bushel and a half) That’s a lot of bread! This was to be baked fresh and replenished every Saturday. Imagine the aroma of that much freshly baked bread. This was truly a feast fit for a King. But unlike other pagan deities, this was not intended to be food for God to eat. The common understanding of idols was that they could do everything but feed themselves. You feed the god and in return it will bless you with rain or fertility or whatever that god is responsible for. That is not what is going on here. God is not needy and hungry and waiting to be fed. God corrects this misunderstanding of sacrifice in Psalm 50

Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

This bread is not for God to eat. It is a demonstration that he is the source of all good things; in his presence there is no lack. This bread was not to meet a need God had, but it was to be eaten; it was given to the priests who served in the tabernacle as their portion. Their supply came from God’s presence. God provides for his people. When David was fleeing for his life from Saul, he and his men came to the priest and asked for bread to eat.

1 Samuel 21:6 So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the LORD, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.

This bread was exclusively for the priests to eat. The priest bent the rules to meet David’s urgent need. Jesus brought up this incident when the Pharisees were picking on his hungry disciples.

Matthew 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

God values mercy, steadfast love, caring for those in genuine need, above a strict observance of religious rituals. God is a God who loves to overflow with compassion and kindness and give good gifts to his children.

Matthew 7:11 …how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Psalm 107:8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men! 9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

When the disciples were worried and wanted to send the people away to find food because they didn’t have enough, Jesus fed the huge crowd with a young boy’s lunch. It is interesting that when everyone was satisfied, the disciples gathered 12 baskets full of leftover bread. There is no lack in God. He is overflowing with goodness, and loves to give good gifts to those who don’t deserve it. But Jesus wants to go beyond simply satisfying a temporary hunger. After feeding the crowds, they began to follow him looking for another handout, so he confronted them and offended them in order to turn their attention to their deeper need.

John 6:26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

…35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. …47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. …50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Now this was offensive to them.

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

After this offensive speech, many who had been following Jesus turned back and stopped following him. Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb. God the Son became flesh so that he could offer that flesh as a sacrifice for our sin. As the Old Testament worshipers transferred their guilt to a lamb, and the lamb died in their place, and they applied the blood as a covering and ate the lamb to nourish their bodies, so Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree. His blood covers all our sin. Our souls feed on Jesus and receive strength and nourishment from him. He is the bread of life.

Application

What can we learn from all this? As the bread representing Israel was kept continually in the presence of God, so we too are continually before the face of God. We are constantly on his mind. And we are presented with the fragrant incense of our great High Priest.

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We learn that God is the great provider. He is the one who meets our needs and satisfies our longings. And our most pressing needs may not be our most important needs. There are things we think we need; there are things we urgently feel we must have; and there are deeper needs we may as yet be unaware of. We hunger for food, but the deepest need of our heart is for relationship. We need to be forgiven by God, to be reconciled to God, to be loved by God, to enjoy a right relationship with our Creator. All these deepest human needs are satisfied in Jesus, who offered himself for us, paid our price in full, beckons us to come to him, satisfies the hunger and thirst of our souls, gives us the gift of eternal life, and comes to make his home in us. Sinner, do you have need? In God’s presence there is abundant supply. God delights to give good gifts to those who come with empty cup to him and ask.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 11, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 25:10-22; Furniture in God’s Tent: The Throne Room

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120304_exodus25_10-22.mp3

3/4 Exodus 25:10-22 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Throne Room

We are in Exodus 25. We are entering now the holiest place. God has rescued and redeemed his people, brought them to himself, entered into a covenant relationship with them, and now he is giving them the gift of his presence. As King and Commander, he will pitch his tent in the middle of their camp. In God’s instructions for the building of his dwelling place, this replica of what is in heaven, he starts with the things that are closest to him, things that most immediately represent his presence. Today we enter the very throne room of God and look at the first two pieces of furniture; the container and its cover.

Exodus 25:10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you. 17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

And then in Exodus 37 we see these things built to specification.

Exodus 37:1 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 2 And he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold around it. 3 And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. 4 And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold 5 and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark. 6 And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 7 And he made two cherubim of gold. He made them of hammered work on the two ends of the mercy seat, 8 one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends. 9 The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.

The Chest

The most important piece of furniture in God’s tent was this box and its lid. The word translated ‘ark’ means simply a chest, a box or a container. In Genesis 50 this same Hebrew word is used to refer to the box or coffin that Joseph’s body was placed in.

This word is also used in 2 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 24 of a chest with a hole in its lid used as a collection box for money. The ‘ark’ in the tabernacle also serves as a container; God tells Moses in verse 16 to put into this box ‘the testimony that I shall give you.’ The box was to contain the two tablets of stone inscribed with the requirements of the covenant. It was a testimony or witness of the covenant relationship between God and his people. This chest is referred to as ‘the ark of the testimony’ or ‘the ark of the covenant’. We could think of it as the container or ‘safe’ holding the official documentation of the contract between God and his people laid up in the most holy place.

A ‘cubit’ is the distance from the tip of your fingers to your elbow; about 18” long, so this chest was to be about 3′ 9” long; 2′ 3” wide and 2′ 3” tall. The box was to be overlaid with gold inside and out. It was to have a gold molding around it, and it was to have gold feet with gold rings to receive the two gold covered poles. These would serve as handles by which to carry the box, so that no one would touch the box directly. This was King David’s mistake, when he first attempted to bring the ark into the city of Jerusalem, he put it on a cart pulled by oxen. This cost Uzzah his life; when the oxen stumbled and he touched the ark, God was angry and struck him down for his error (2Sam.6; 1Ch.13). This box was holy, set apart, not to be touched by human hands. Later, (Num.4:5-6) we find that the ark was rarely ever to be seen by human eyes; whenever the tabernacle was packed up and moved, the ark was to be wrapped with the veil, then goatskin, and then a blue cloth.

Numbers 4:5 When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it. 6 Then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin and spread on top of that a cloth all of blue, and shall put in its poles.

This box, containing God’s commandments for his people was only part of this piece of furniture. The other part was its lid. Here it is called ‘the mercy seat’. This cover for the box was an elaborate thing, dimensioned to fit on top of the chest, but made of pure gold, with a winged angelic being formed at both ends.

The Cherubim

The angelic beings are called ‘cherubim’. We first meet the cherubs or cherubim in Genesis chapter 3. God had planted a garden, full of every good thing. There he placed the man and the woman he had created. He blessed them and entrusted the garden into their care. This was to be a place where God would manifest his presence, where God would fellowship with his very good creatures. This garden, if you will, was designed by God to be a temple where the man and woman could enjoy his presence, walking with them in the cool of the day. God gave them every good thing for their pleasure. He placed on them only one restriction; one tree was not to be eaten of under consequence of death. The man and the woman rejected God’s authority and chose to follow Satan’s lie rather than God’s truth. They severed their relationship with God. They could no longer enjoy his presence, but hid in fear. Their sin separated them from the holy God (Is.59:2). It says:

Genesis 3:24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Cherubim were awesome angelic guardians protecting the presence of God. We find the most detailed description of cherubim in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 1:4 As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. 5 And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, 6 but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: 9 their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.

Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal; and I knew that they were cherubim. 21 Each had four faces, and each four wings, and underneath their wings the likeness of human hands. 22 And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the Chebar canal. Each one of them went straight forward.

Many scholars think these creatures resemble a sphinx-like composite creature. Depictions have been found from Egypt to Babylon to Israel dating back to the 12th century B.C., giving ideas of how they might have been portrayed.

In several places in scripture God is seen as enthroned on or above the cherubim (2Ki.19:15; Ps.18:10; 80:1; 99:1; Is.37:16; Ezek.9:3; cf. 2Sam.22:11).

Psalm 99:1 The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

This is what we see reflected in the design of the cover for the ark.

Exodus 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

God is not represented by the cherubim; that would be prohibited by his second commandment. God makes his presence known above and between. The outstretched wings of the cherubim serve as God’s throne.

The Cover

These angelic figures are part of what is translated as the ‘mercy seat’ in the KJV and ESV. The NIV translates ‘atonement cover’; it was translated by Wycliffe as ‘propitiatory’. The Hebrew word כפרת[kapporeth] is derived from כפר[kaphar] which means to cover over, propitiate, or atone. The name comes from the function this cover will play on the Day of Atonement, as described in Leviticus 16.

Leviticus 16:2 and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. …11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. 15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. …29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever.

God made a covenant with his people. He knew they could not perfectly keep the terms of this covenant. So with the covenant, he provided a way for sins to be forgiven. God, enthroned above the cherubim, looks down on the covenant documents that his people promised to obey. They have transgressed his law. The wages of sin is death. Then sacrificial blood is applied to the lid that covers the law. A death has occurred to meet the just conditions of the covenant. God sees that the violated covenant has been covered by the blood and he is satisfied. Their sins are paid for and they are clean. The Hebrew word means to cover. Our English word ‘atonement’ points to the result of sins being covered. It comes from the phrase at – one – ment; harmony, unity, a reconciled relationship. Because our sins are covered, we can enjoy a favorable relationship with our covenant God.

The LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, used the word ιλαστηριον [hilasterion] to translate the Hebrew word for mercy seat or atonement. This is the Greek word the author of Hebrews uses for the mercy seat.

Hebrews 9:5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. 6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.

This same word is translated ‘propitiation’ in Romans 3.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

A closely related word [ιλασμος] appears in 1 John

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus is our atonement cover. His death satisfies God’s just wrath that our sins deserve. His sacrifice opens the way for God to be propitious or favorable toward us. He restores harmony and brings true reconciliation between God and man. This is what the author of Hebrews points us to when he contrasts the high priest of the Old Testament with Jesus, our greater High Priest.

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. … 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Jesus death on the cross was the final fulfillment that the sacrificial system was pointing toward. Jesus’ sacrifice of himself once for all covered the law that we violated from God’s sight. No longer do we need a human priest to go in to God’s presence for us. No longer are we excluded from God’s presence because of our sin. Our sin was finally and forever nailed to his cross. Jesus is our great and final High Priest. At his crucifixion, the curtain barring us from the holiest place was ripped from top to bottom.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

No longer is the law written on tablets of stone and laid up in a box in the heart of the sanctuary.

Jeremiah 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We are God’s temple, God’s people, his law is written on our hearts.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment