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Exodus 30:22-33; The Holy Anointing Oil

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120527_exodus30_22-33.mp3

05/27 Exodus 30:22-33 The Holy Anointing Oil (40:9-15)

We are coming to the end of the instructions for the elaborate tent in which God will symbolically dwell with his people. After all the things are made, they are to be made holy or set apart for God. The people also, who will serve him as priests, are to be set apart as holy to the LORD. This is what the anointing oil is for.

Exodus 30:22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, 24 and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. 29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. 30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31 And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’”

Then in chapter 40, we see God’s instructions for applying this oil.

Exodus 40:9 “Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. 10 You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar may become most holy. 11 You shall also anoint the basin and its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13 and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”

Everything in the tabernacle was to be anointed with this special oil.

Practical Uses of Oil

In our culture we don’t think of using olive oil for much outside of cooking. So it might be helpful to look first at some of the practical uses of oil in biblical times. Oil was considered a treasure (2Ki.20:13), highly valued for its many uses. Of course, oil was used for cooking (Lev.6:21), and was included with most of the sacrifices. We already saw that pure beaten olive oil served to fuel the lamps that illuminated the holy place (Ex.27:20). Oil was also applied to people and to things. Oil was applied to metal and leather objects to prevent them from rusting and keep them in good working condition (2Sam.1:21; Is.21:5). There were medicinal uses for oil. Oil was applied to people’s heads to kill lice. Oil was used to treat wounds and soften scabs (Is.6:1; Lk.10:34). Oil was applied to newborn babies (Eze.16:9). Oils were used to treat the sick (Mk.6:13; Jam.5:14). Oil was used to keep the skin soft and beautiful (Esther 2:12; Ps.104:15) Perfumed oil covered odors and made things smell good (Sol.1:3). Oil, wine and grain were evidence of God’s blessing.

Oil for Consecration

Oil was also used for consecrating, or setting something or someone apart for a specific use or duty. In this passage in Exodus, we see both the furniture and the people of the tabernacle set apart to God by the application of the sacred anointing oil. This particular formula of oil and fragrances was to be used exclusively for the tabernacle. It was not to be duplicated or used for any common thing. It was not to be put on anyone but the priests. We are told in verse 32 that it is holy, and it is to be treated as holy. This distinctive smell was to be associated exclusively with God’s presence.

Kings were also to be set apart for service by anointing with oil. We see David anointed to be king of Israel in 1 Samuel 16.

1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward…

Jesus the Anointed One

The Hebrew word for anointing is where we get the word Messiah, which means ‘the anointed one’, or ‘the one set apart to God’; it is translated in the Greek as ‘Christ’.

We see Jesus, who fulfills the role of the promised Messiah, who holds the title of the Christ, speak of his anointing in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth.

Luke 4:17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus here claims to have been set apart or anointed by God for service. But we are not told anywhere that Jesus was ever anointed with oil. Jesus was anointed with the Spirit. One chapter earlier, in Luke 3, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism, and in chapter 4 verse 1, he is described as ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ and as ‘led by the Spirit’. In verse 14 he returns victorious from temptation ‘in the power of the Spirit’. And then he reads from Isaiah 61 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me.’ and he says ‘today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’. Jesus is the anointed one, the Christ, anointed with the Holy Spirit. When Peter preaches in Acts 10, he points out:

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

God anointed Jesus, not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. Notice that the triune God is at work here; the Father anoints the Son with the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, perfectly fulfills the roles of anointed prophet, priest and king. As prophet, he speaks God’s words to his people. As priest, he brings God’s people into God’s presence through sacrifice. As king, he rules over God’s people with justice, righteousness and compassion. Jesus is the Anointed One, the anointed Prophet, Priest and King. He is anointed, not with fragrant oil, but anointed by his Father with the permeating presence of the Holy Spirit.

This anointing oil had several spices blended together to make a pleasing aroma. Listen to how Isaiah describes the various aspects of the Spirit’s role in the life of Jesus.

Isaiah 11:1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

What a fragrant aroma is this! Wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, the fear of the LORD. Isaiah goes on to describe the outflow of the Spirit-empowered life of Jesus in righteousness, equity, justice, faithfulness. Jesus is our great example of what the Spirit-controlled life looks like.

Spirit Poured Out on Believers

God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit. But did you know that this anointing with the Spirit is the New Covenant blessing that comes to us who believe in Jesus? Jesus, our great High Priest, was anointed by his Father with the Holy Spirit, and we, chosen to be ‘a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession’ (1Pet.2:9), are also anointed as priests with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told his disciples that his Father would send the Holy Spirit.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Imagine! ‘It is to your advantage that I go away’. Jesus is telling his disciples that he is leaving and where he is going they cannot yet come. They don’t fully understand what he is saying, but sorrow has filled their hearts. And then he says ‘it is to your advantage that I go away.’ What could be better than having Jesus, in person, physically here with us? Better than having Jesus physically here in our presence is having the blessing of the Spirit living inside of you. ‘It is to your advantage that I go.’ Do we, followers of Jesus, believe him?

In Acts 1, the resurrected Jesus is commanding his disciples to wait for the promised Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” …8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus says his followers will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Not merely anointed, poured on the head, flowing down on the beard and on the robes, but immersed in, totally submerged in, drenched with the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament prophesies we see promise of the New Covenant blessing of the Spirit poured out.

Isaiah 32:15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.

Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Ezekiel 39:29 And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

These various Hebrew words for ‘pour out’ carry the idea of ‘pour out until nothing is left’ or ’empty out’; ‘pour out or flow like molten metal’; ‘pour or gush out’; the idea of abundance and generosity is captured well by the New Testament word ‘immersed’ or ‘baptized in’. God promised that he would pour out his Spirit on his people, that he would put his Spirit within them.

All Believers Have the Holy Spirit

The Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Jesus fulfilled his promise to his disciples at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. But who does this promise apply to? Is it for the original disciples only, or is it also for us? What are the requirements for receiving the blessings of the Holy Spirit? Peter extended the invitation to everyone.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

To repent is to have a change of mind and heart, to turn; to turn away from what you were hoping in and holding on to and placing your trust in something different. Turn away from your own good works and self-righteousness and turn to Jesus for forgiveness of sins, and Peter says ‘you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’. But what about water baptism? Does this verse say that water baptism is a prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit? No. Water baptism was the outward act that represented the inward change of heart. We see this later in Acts. Peter was called to bring the good news of forgiveness by trusting in the finished work of Jesus to the Gentiles.

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.

Peter proclaimed the good news, and the hearts of his hearers responded by turning to Jesus with faith. Immediately, the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. They had not been water baptized. They had not done anything.

Acts 10:46 …Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

Remember, Jesus said that his followers would be baptized or immersed in the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is a physical picture of this spiritual reality. These Gentiles who believed in Jesus were evidently immersed in the Holy Spirit. Everyone there could see evidence of his presence in their lives. Peter is arguing that the symbol (water baptism) be allowed because the reality that it pictures (Spirit baptism) had already happened. This is the consistent teaching of the New Testament.

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

It is not the washing with water that matters, but the washing of regeneration – the new life created by the Holy Spirit. And notice, this is not done sparingly or reluctantly. God pours out the Holy Spirit on us richly, lavishly.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing; and then he goes on to list: election, predestination, adoption, redemption, forgiveness, inheritance; and he goes on to say:

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

When you heard and believed the good news of salvation in Jesus, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Every believer in Jesus has every spiritual blessing in Christ; every believer has been immersed in the Holy Spirit. No exceptions. Paul tells us in Romans 5:

Romans 5:5 …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

And he tells us in Romans 8

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him

If God’s Spirit does not dwell in you, that is evidence that you do not belong to Christ, because everyone who belongs to him has God’s Holy Spirit poured out on them. The anointing oil marked off and set apart things and people as God’s, and gave them a distinct fragrance. God sets us apart as his by pouring out his Holy Spirit on us.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The Spirit as a Guarantee

The Holy Spirit is never withdrawn from the believer. The verses in Ephesians tell us that when we heard and believed the gospel, we:

Ephesians 1:13 …were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

A seal and guarantee is of no value if it can be withdrawn. The Holy Spirit is God’s down-payment on our final salvation. As we saw last time, salvation is past, present, and future. We have been justified, we are being sanctified, and we will be glorified. God’s Holy Spirit is the guarantee that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6). We have, not a thing, but the person of God the Holy Spirit living in us as his own seal and guarantee.

We see this also in:

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

1 John 2:20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One… 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you…

The Spirit in us makes us part of Christ’s body, the church.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

The Spirit Transforms

If we have the great advantage of the Holy Spirit poured out on us, living in us, setting us apart for his service and sanctifying us, then as there was in the early Gentile believers, there should be observable evidence of God the Spirit living in us.

God promised:

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The Spirit of the living God cannot fail to accomplish his purposes in us. He will produce.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. …25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

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

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May 27, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:17-21; Furniture in God’s Tent – The Bronze Washbasin

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120520_exodus30_17-21.mp3

05/20 Exodus 30:17-21 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Bronze Washbasin (38:8; 40:30-32)

We have been studying this section of Exodus where God describes how he, a holy God, will dwell with his sinful people. He described his throne room, where he would rule his people from over his covenant; and outside his throne room, his table, always full, his lampstand, always lit, and his incense, always fragrant; then in the courtyard, his grill, always burning, and now, finally, his washbasin.

Exodus 30:17 The LORD said to Moses, 18 “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, 19 with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. 20 When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. 21 They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.”

And in chapter 40, we see this basin put in place.

Exodus 40:30 He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, 31 with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, as the LORD commanded Moses.

What was this basin for? What did it mean?

This basin was a reservoir designed to hold water. It was to be used for washing. Whenever they enter God’s tent, or approach God’s grill, they are to wash. This would serve a very practical function. Remember, the whole foundation of our ability to approach a holy God was the blood sacrifice of a substitute. Animals were slaughtered, blood was collected and applied, meat was butchered, prepared, and grilled. This was a messy, bloody process. The need for frequent washing is obvious. Of course, the whole point of sacrifice was the death of an innocent substitute in place of the guilty sinner to pay the price for sin; it all pointed to Jesus, the once-for-all final substitutionary sacrifice who takes away our sins.

Washing for Purification

When we think of washing, we think primarily of cleanliness and sanitation for health reasons. We wan to kill germs and prevent the spread of bacteria. That is indeed part of it. Especially in Leviticus, we see this idea of washing for purification and cleansing from various causes of uncleanness. We see that God’s laws were designed for the good of his people, for the health of his people, often in very practical ways. Proverbs picks up this idea of washing for cleanliness and takes it as a metaphor for moral and spiritual health.

Proverbs 30:12 There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.

How often have you had a big dirty smudge on your face and you didn’t even know it? Our own opinion of ourselves is often quite far from the truth. You can have sterilized hands but a wicked heart.

Isaiah begins his book by looking past the physical rituals in the temple to the spiritual realities that they are designed to illustrate.

Isaiah 1:11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. … 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

God is saying that the hands of his people are full of blood and need to be washed – not literal blood of animals, but the guilt of evil deeds, the neglect of justice, the oppression of society’s weak.

When Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees over the issue of ceremonial washing, he taught that:

Matthew 15:18 …what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Jesus, like Isaiah, pointed to the root of uncleanness, not physical but spiritual, not unwashed hands but wicked hearts, evil thoughts, destructive words.

Washing hands and feet is a picture that points us to our deeper need for cleansing our guilt before God. This is what Pilate was attempting to do when he turned Jesus over to be crucified; what he did was not just. He felt guilt.

Matthew 27:24 … he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

Proper Hospitality

But cleansing was not the only purpose for washing. To understand this more fully, we need to think back several thousand years and try to understand a little about the culture of the middle east. There was a very important social aspect to washing. The primary mode of transportation was foot travel. Roads were dusty. People wore sandals. Washing feet was part of Abraham’s hospitality in Genesis 18.

Genesis 18:3 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

If you’ve ever been on a long hike, you know how refreshing it is to dip your sore feet in some cool water. Even in many homes today, guests are expected to take their shoes off at the door before coming in. Washing feet would be an invitation into the home to relax and enjoy fellowship. Failure to provide a guest with water for washing would be a deep insult, equivalent to saying ‘you stay outside; you are not welcome in my home’. When Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to his house to eat, that is exactly what he did. He offered no water for washing. This social insult is the background for Jesus’ teaching that he who is forgiven much loves much.

Luke 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. …

Simon is appalled that Jesus would allow this woman to touch him, because she had quite a reputation in the city. Jesus responds:

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus accepts the hospitality of a repentant sinner. God , by providing a basin in the courtyard of his tent for washing was extending hospitality, inviting the priests to refresh themselves, to come in to his presence and enjoy fellowship with him.

Jesus Washes Feet

Washing feet was not a pleasant duty. It often fell to the lowest of servants. There was another occasion when Jesus sat down to eat and no one had extended the hospitality of foot washing. It was his final meal with his own disciples. A common topic of discussion with them was which one of them was the greatest (Mt.18:1; 20:21; 23:11; Mk.9:34; 10:37; Lk.9:46; Lk.22:24-28). Apparently, not one of them was willing to stoop to perform the unpleasant and menial task of footwashing.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

There is stunned, awkward silence, until he gets to Peter.

John 13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Peter apparently thinks this is a test. First, he refuses to allow Jesus to wash his feet, to which Jesus responds that washing is a prerequisite to fellowship with him. Peter then responds that he would like a full bath. Jesus points to the fact that he is completely clean, except for his soiled feet.

Justified – Sanctified – Glorified

This is very instructive for us. Jesus is drawing a distinction between the once-for-all cleansing that does not need to be repeated and the regular need for cleansing due to interaction with the world. It is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin (1Jn.1:7). The robes of the saints are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev.7:14). This never needs to be repeated. But our feet become soiled from walking in this world. We need to be regularly washed with water. There is a distinction in the tenses of salvation. I have been saved; I am being saved; and I will be saved. The bible uses all these tenses; the past, present and future to describe salvation. The past tense looks at justification – ‘since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom.5:1). That is the past once-for-all completed never to be repeated or revoked declared not guilty never to be on trial again salvation. Then there is the process of being saved; the day to day continual battle with sin called the process of sanctification. Finally there is the future final salvation, by which we will be transformed to be like Jesus when we see him face to face. That is our future glorification. Justification, sanctification, and glorification; past, present and future salvation.

Means of Sanctification – The Word

This hand and foot washing is the washing of sanctification. In Ephesians 5, in the teaching on marriage that is to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and his church, we are told:

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

‘Christ …gave himself up for her’ – that is the past once-for-all justification. ‘That he might sanctify her’ – that is the ongoing process of salvation in the daily battle with sin. ‘presenting the church to himself in splendor’ – that is the final future phase of salvation; glorification. Today we are looking at the present process of salvation, the sanctification process. Jesus is right now in the process of sanctifying his bride the church. We see in these verses the means of our cleansing: the washing of water with the word. The primary tool for our cleansing is God’s word. The water for washing that is in the basin is the word of God. Why do we preach from God’s word every Sunday, why do we sing biblical truth, why do we teach bible studies, why do we encourage daily bible reading both individually and with families, why memorize bible verses? Because it is the word of God that sanctifies.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s word is potent! God’s word is powerful! God’s word has the power to penetrate past the outward actions and right into the thoughts and intentions of the heart. God’s word gets at the very root of our sin problem; our won wicked hearts. James talks about this sanctifying effect of God’s word in our lives.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Danger of Not Doing

The implanted word is able to save your souls. The present process of sanctification in the life of the believer is advanced through hearing; through receiving the word of God. The ongoing salvation process is producing in us the righteousness that God requires through the regular repeated application of God’s cleansing word. But James goes on to warn us that there is a danger of deceiving ourselves.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James warns that a common self-deception is that hearing is good enough. I showed up to church this week. I’ve done my bible reading for today. I’ve checked the boxes. Don’t deceive yourself! Hear, yes. Read, yes. But use it! Put God’s word into action in your life. Be a hearer and a doer. Apply the living word to your heart and let it wash and transform you. Take action! It is fascinating that James likens listening to the word with looking in a mirror. Do you know what the bronze basin in the tabernacle courtyard was made of?

Exodus 38:8 He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.

The high quality polished brass that the women used for mirrors was the material that was used to cast the bronze basin for washing. No longer look at your natural face in a physical mirror, but look into the soul-reflecting mirror of God’s word. But don’t look only. Do something about it! When you look in a mirror and see you have grime on your face, don’t walk away and forget about it. Wash it off! When you look into the perfect law of liberty that tells the truth about the condition of your heart, don’t walk away without applying his cleansing word to your heart. When you see that your desires are in bondage to sin, apply the gospel truth of Christ’s victory at the cross and walk in the freedom he purchased for you.

Grace and Response

We tend to emphasize the grace of God to the exclusion of our necessary response. We rightly focus on the finished work of Jesus for us, but we wrongly neglect the gospel truth that his finished work is the foundation and basis for our response. The bible is clear that our works contribute nothing to the finished work of Christ. The bible is also full of commands for action.

1Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Philippians 2:12 …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Passionately pursue holiness, because God is at work in you to sanctify you. The foundation must be in place. The foundation is Jesus’ totally complete, finished, justifying work on the cross as your substitute. Without depending on that completely, relying, trusting, believing, you have no foundation and no hope. But once this foundation of faith is in place, the appropriate response must follow. Having been justified as a gift by grace, having the promise that you will be finally glorified, knowing that God is presently at work in you by his Spirit and through his word, pour strong effort and energy into your sanctification. Take Colossians as an example. Verse 5 begins with ‘therefore’, pointing back to the foundational finished work of Christ.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. … 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Read and apply the truth of God’s word to your own heart condition. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another.’

Remember what Jesus said when he finished washing his disciples’ feet?

John 13:12 …“Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. … 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

As you apply God’s truth to your own heart and life, then carefully, lovingly, with genuine care and concern, with all humility and with much prayer, serve one another by applying the cleansing water of God’s word to wash away the daily dirt that we accumulate from our interaction with the world. And remember,

James 1:19 …my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…

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

May 20, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:11-16; Ransom Money

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120513_exodus30_11-16.mp3

05/13 Exodus 30:11-16 Ransom Money (38:25-28; Numbers 1)

Today we are in Exodus 30:11-16. This is a curious instruction for a ransom price to be collected whenever God’s people are numbered, placed in the middle of God’s instructions for building his tabernacle. At first glance this seems out of place, inserted here between the altar of incense and the bronze wash basin.

Exodus 30:11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. 14 Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD’s offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

We see God commanding this census to be taken in Numbers chapter 1; this is what gives the book of Numbers its name.

Numbers 1:1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. 3 From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company.

Reuben: 46,500

Simeon: 59,300

Gad: 45,650

Judah: 74,600

Issachar: 54,400

Zebulun: 57,400

Ephraim: 40,500

Manasseh: 32,200

Benjamin: 35,400

Dan: 62,700

Asher: 41,500

Naphtali: 53,400

44 These are those who were listed, whom Moses and Aaron listed with the help of the chiefs of Israel, twelve men, each representing his fathers’ house. 45 So all those listed of the people of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war in Israel–– 46 all those listed were 603,550.

There were 603,550 men 20 years old and up able to fight in battle. This did not include the men in the tribe of Levi.

47 But the Levites were not listed along with them by their ancestral tribe. 48 For the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 49 “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel. 50 But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. 51 When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death. 52 The people of Israel shall pitch their tents by their companies, each man in his own camp and each man by his own standard. 53 But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony.” 54 Thus did the people of Israel; they did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses.

How Much Silver?

Scholars believe the half-shekel was a unit of weight that measured about 5.7 grams. If we do the math, 603,550 men giving a half shekel each would equal about 7,584 lbs or over 3 ¾ tons of silver. We find out what this silver was used for in Exodus 38.

Exodus 38:25 The silver from those of the congregation who were recorded was a hundred talents and 1,775 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary: 26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel, by the shekel of the sanctuary), for everyone who was listed in the records, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men. 27 The hundred talents of silver were for casting the bases of the sanctuary and the bases of the veil; a hundred bases for the hundred talents, a talent a base. 28 And of the 1,775 shekels he made hooks for the pillars and overlaid their capitals and made fillets for them.

So, this ransom price was used for the foundation of the tabernacle. One hundred blocks of cast silver weighing about 75 pounds each were used as the bases for the frames of the tabernacle. The remaining 11 pounds of silver was made into hooks and overlay for the tops of the pillars.

Why The Census Tax?

This helps us to understand what the silver was used for, where it came from, and how much there was. But what did this offering mean? Why was each man numbered to give a half-shekel each? Look back at the text in Exodus 30.

Exodus 30:11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.

This payment was a ransom for the life of each fighting man given to the LORD to prevent a plague. In verses 15 and 16, we are told that it is

15 …the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 … the atonement money from the people of Israel … that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

This half-shekel was ransom money or atonement money. These Hebrew words are related. Atonement is to cover over sins, or to pacify or propitiate. We saw this term when we looked at the atonement cover, or the mercy seat – the lid that covered the violated covenant from God’s sight; the place where blood was applied once a year on the Day of Atonement. A ransom is the price of a life. It is the price paid to cover a person from the consequences of their actions. If someone had acted foolishly and gotten into debt that they could not pay, they would be sold into slavery in order to pay back the debt. If they had a relative that was willing to rescue them, he would pay the ransom price and redeem them from slavery. We were introduced to this concept of redemption in Exodus 13, where God claimed all firstborn as his property, all firstborn animals were to be sacrificed to him, and all firstborn sons had to be bought back or redeemed by paying the ransom price. In the final plague, God killed all the firstborn in Egypt, but in any house that was covered by the blood of the lamb, the firstborn was spared.

This ransom or atonement price is to cover sin so that you will not die, ‘that there be no plague among them when you number them.’ God is saying that he will treat you like he treated the Egyptians, his enemies, if you do not do this. What was the sin, and why did a price have to be paid? We see a graphic illustration of this in 1 Chronicles 21 (and 2 Samuel 24). King David, in his later years, was incited to number the people of Israel.

1 Chronicles 21:2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.”

When David was young, he recognized that it is not numbers or weapons that win the battle. He said to the Philistine champion:

1 Samuel 17:45 …“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

Throughout his military career, David had seen the LORD give victory to his people even when they were severely outnumbered and disadvantaged. Now, later in life, David had conquered much land and wanted to know how many troops he had. David’s military commander Joab knew that this was a dangerous move.

1 Chronicles 21:3 But Joab said, “May the LORD add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?”

In spite of Joab’s warning, David persisted. David wanted to know how many men he had. God sent a plague and it cost him 70,000 men.

Sin Against God

Why was this so serious? We are told:

1 Chronicles 21:7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. 8 And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”

First, to number the people without collecting the ransom money was in direct disobedience to God’s instructions recorded in Exodus 30. We sometimes feel that it’s no big deal. We want to know why God said what he said before we are willing to obey. But God is God. He doesn’t have to tell us why. It is ours to obey.

But I think we can see why this was so serious. It was demonstrating distrust in God. Counting men was a way to see how much military might you had. It showed a leaning on human strength rather than on God who himself gives the victory. At root, David’s foolishness and great sin was unbelief.

David’s sin was also a violation of ownership. You only take inventory of your own belongings. I don’t have any right to go into my neighbor’s house and count his belongings without his permission. I have no right to access my neighbor’s bank account and check his balance. David, by counting the people without having them pay the ransom price, was saying ‘these are my men. This is how many I have to work with’. He is not acknowledging God’s ownership of his people. He is counting God’s property as if it were his own.

What Are You Worth?

The ransom price was a way to say that these people are God’s people, and to acknowledge that God is the one who holds their lives in his hand. The atonement money was a covering for sin, owning the fact that we are all sinners before God and deserve to die. The ransom price was the price of your life. What are you worth? A half-shekel was the set price; no more for the rich and no less for the poor. We are all on equal footing before God. What are you worth? A half-shekel was about 5.7 grams of silver. I don’t know how much buying power that had then, but today you can cash in 5.7 grams of silver for about $2 – $5, depending on its purity. That’s humbling. You are kidnapped and held for ransom – for two dollars. That’s humiliating. I like to think I’m more valuable than that. And although I can think of lots of people who are worth more than me, I also think I’m more valuable than a lot of other people I know. God says no. If you are a human, you are of equal value. None more, none less. And think about this for a minute. Where did the Israelites get the silver? They were slaves in Egypt. God said “I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and when you go you shall not go empty …you shall plunder the Egyptians” (Ex.3:21-22; cf.Ex.12:36). So even this half-shekel was given to them by God. Everything they had was a gift. The only proper attitude to have before God is humility. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas.4:6, 1Pet.5:5). God said to Pharaoh “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” (Ex.10:3), and that was also a question of ownership; God said “let my people go that they may serve me.” Pharaoh was proud. God humbled him. God owns us. God is the one who “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).

It is right that we humble ourselves before God. It is also right to understand who we are as God’s people. This silver was to be given:

16 … for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

This atonement money became the foundation of the tabernacle. This silver was in the presence of God. It was designed to bring the people to remembrance before the LORD. In chapter 28, we saw that the high priest would bear the names of Israel on his shoulders on stones of remembrance (v.12). And he would also “bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece …on his heart when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD” (v.29). Now, this silver, constantly in God’s presence, is to bring the people to remembrance before the LORD. Do you ever feel forgotten? Do you ever doubt your worth before God? Do you feel valueless?

Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. 5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. 6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

The Ultimate Price

You are called by name, precious, remembered, ransomed. Peter reminds us:

1 Peter 1:18 …that you were ransomed …not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

We have been ransomed, not with a half-shekel of silver, but with the precious blood of the Messiah. Jesus said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf.Mt 20:28)

We get a glimpse of our High Priest in the tabernacle in heaven:

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty–four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

In heaven Jesus is worshiped because he paid the ultimate price for us. The ransom price was infinite, the blood of God the Son. Jesus ransomed us by substituting himself in our place, dying the death we deserved, so that we can be his priests and reign with him. Paul reminds us:

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

You are not your own. You are owned by God. He paid the ultimate ransom price. You are his. You are his temple. So, live your life to the glory of God. Glorify God in your body.

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

May 13, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Exodus 30:1-10; Furniture in God’s Tent – Incense Altar

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120506_exodus30_1-10.mp3

05/06 Exodus 30:1-10 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Incense Altar (37:25-28; Lev.16:12-14)

We are examining God’s instructions to his people whom he redeemed out of slavery. He rescued them so that they would know him, so that they would enter into relationship with him, so that they would serve and worship him. He gave them instructions for an elaborate tent where he would symbolically dwell with his people, a place where they could approach God in the way that he specified. God’s description began with the container that held his covenant agreement with his people, inscribed on tablets of stone, and the cover of this container, where blood would be applied to cover the sins of God’s people when they violated his covenant. Then he describes the table for the bread of his presence that abundantly supplies our need, and the lamps that overcome the darkness and illumine our path. He describes the tent itself, with the ornate curtain that divided his throne room from the holy place. He gave instruction for the large bronze altar for burning his offerings, and then he turned to describe the people who would serve him in his tent, what they would wear and how they were set apart for his service. He defined the offerings that they were to offer every day, morning and evening on his altar, offerings that would be a pleasing aroma to him. Now, having the priests in place and the burnt offerings begun, he turns back to give instructions for a piece of furniture in the holy place that he skipped over until this point in his instructions.

Exodus 30:1 “You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. 4 And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, 8 and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”

In the fulfillment passage telling that they built everything according to God’s plan, this incense altar falls logically from a construction perspective right after the ark, table, and lampstand, and before the altar of burnt offerings.

Exodus 37:25 He made the altar of incense of acacia wood. Its length was a cubit, and its breadth was a cubit. It was square, and two cubits was its height. Its horns were of one piece with it. 26 He overlaid it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And he made a molding of gold around it, 27 and made two rings of gold on it under its molding, on two opposite sides of it, as holders for the poles with which to carry it. 28 And he made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold. 29 He made the holy anointing oil also, and the pure fragrant incense, blended as by the perfumer.

This altar was similar in construction to the altar of burnt offering, in that it had protrusions, or horns on its four corners, but it was much smaller, only about 18 inches square and 3 feet tall. But it was similar in construction to the ark and the table for bread, in that it was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold.

To Cover Odors

A practical function for this incense altar would be to cover the smells of the sacrifices. The tabernacle, with all the animals being offered there, would smell like a slaughter house. The fragrant incense burned on this altar would help to make things smell better in God’s tent.

A Symbol of Prayer

But what is the significance of the altar of incense? And why was it not mentioned back in chapter 25 with the other furniture that was placed in the holy place?

We get a hint at the significance of this altar in the Psalms:

Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,

and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

There is some connection between this incense and prayer. We see this connection reinforced when we look to the New Testament. Zechariah, soon to be the father of John the baptist was serving in the temple.

Luke 1:8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

See the connection between this incense altar and prayer? At the hour of incense, ‘the whole multitude of the people were praying outside.’ Even the placement of this altar points us to this. God tells his people to put it ‘in front of the veil’ and ‘in front of the mercy seat’ ‘where I will meet with you.’ God wants to meet with his people. That is what prayer is; meeting with God, conversing with God, talking with God. The prayers of God’s people are pictured to rise up to God as a sweet fragrance to him. This is the reason Jesus gave for overturning tables and chairs and driving out those who bought and sold in the temple.

Mark 11:17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Is.56:7; cf. Mt.21:13; Lk.19:46)

Jesus is angered and takes action against those things that would divert God’s house from being what it was intended to be, a place for God to meet with man; a place of prayer for all the nations.

This prayer / incense connection is made explicit in the book of Revelation. In the scene in the heavenly tabernacle, around the throne of God, when Jesus takes the scroll from his Father.

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

The bowls full of incense are the prayers of the saints. Remember, in the bible, the term ‘saint’ is not reserved for some special class of person who has achieved some special standing with God. It means ‘holy ones’, those who have been set apart to God. All of us who are believers in Jesus are called ‘the saints’. Your prayers, my prayers, our prayers are kept as it were in golden bowls in God’s presence, a fragrant aroma to him. Just a few chapters later in Revelation, we see this connection again.

Revelation 8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

Qualified to Pray

‘Let my prayer be counted as incense before you’ (Ps.141:2). Now we can begin to understand why the altar of incense was left out of the description of the holy place until this point. The sins of God’s people must be dealt with before the prayers of God’s people can be acceptable to God. Guilt must be confessed and the substitute must be offered on the altar of burnt offering before incense can be carried into the presence of God. We are told in verse 10 that:

10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”

The instructions for the day of atonement are given in Leviticus 16.

Leviticus 16:11 “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.

We are told in Isaiah 59 that

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Our sins must be dealt with through sacrifice before our prayers can be acceptable. Proverbs tells us

Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

No one is righteous. No, not one. Only when our sins are covered by the blood of our substitute Jesus, only when we are clothed in his perfect righteousness, can we boldly approach the throne of grace.

Devoted to Prayer

And then, pray we must. The early church was devoted to prayer.

Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 6:4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

We are encouraged by the example of the Apostles, who prayed like this: ‘my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved’ (Ro.10:1); ‘I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, …And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment’ (Phil.1:3-4,9); ‘We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, …we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God’ (Col.1:3,9-10); ‘We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1Th.1:2-3); ‘we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith’ (1Th.3:10); ‘To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (2Th.1:11-12); ‘I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day’ (2Ti.1:3); ‘I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ’ (Phm.1:4-6); ‘Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul’ (3Jo.1:2)

Exhorted to Pray

We are exhorted to ‘be constant in prayer’ (Rom.12:12); to ‘strive together …in your prayers to God’ (Rom.15:30); to pray ‘at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication’ (Eph.6:18). We are told ‘in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God’ (Phil.4:6); to ‘continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving’ (Col.4:2); to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1Th.5:17). We are urged ‘that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people’ (1Ti.2:1). We are told to ‘pray for one another… The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working’ (Ja.5:16).

Jesus on Prayer

We are encouraged by the teaching of Jesus to ‘pray for those who persecute you’ (Mt.5:44); to ‘go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret’ (Mt.6:6); to ‘pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’ (Mt.9:38). Jesus said ‘whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith’ (Mt.21:22); he said to ‘watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation’ (Mt.26:41). Jesus told us ‘whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses’ (Mk.11:25); he told us to ‘bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you’ (Lk.6:28); he taught us that we ‘ought always to pray and not lose heart’ (Lk.18:1).

We, as followers of Jesus, must be devoted to prayer. We, forgiven sinners, now called to be his holy priesthood, must take up our responsibility to regularly, daily, offer up the fragrant aroma of our prayers to God. Our attitude should be that of Samuel, who, in spite of being rejected by God’s people when they demanded a king, said

1Samuel 12:23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.

Samuel considered it a sin not to pray. Entering into the presence of God, talking with him, enjoying fellowship with him, making our requests to him, interceding on behalf of others, this should be our delight, our favorite thing to do. Access to God through prayer is an awesome privilege we as believers enjoy.

The Prayers of Jesus

But there is one even greater thing to look at before we leave this subject of prayer. We, as kings and priests (1Pet.2:9; Rev.1:6; 5:10) to God have the awesome privilege and responsibility to commune with God in prayer. But even greater than this, we need to know that we are being prayed for. We, as God’s priests, have a great High Priest, who is praying for us. Did you know, that day and night, moment by moment, you are the subject of Jesus’ conversation with his Father? Jesus prays constantly, without ceasing, for you! Romans tells us:

Romans 8:34 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.

Jesus is right now, at the right hand of his Father, interceding for us. The author of Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

The resurrected Jesus is persistent in prayer for us. He is able to save us to the uttermost. He continues to apply his finished work on the cross to us, continues to intercede for us, continues to carry us on his heart into the presence of his Father with joy.

But what does Jesus pray for us? What is the content of his prayers? He told Peter ‘I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail’ (Lk.22:32). In John chapter 17, we get a glimpse into the heart of Jesus as he prays for us. In verse 9 he says ‘I am praying …for those whom you have given me, for they are yours’. And in verse 20, he says ‘I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me though their word’. Jesus is praying for his disciples, and for us, who believe in him through their recorded words. What does he pray?

First, he prays for the glory of God; that the Father and the Son would be glorified. Then he prays for us. He asks ‘Holy Father, keep them in your name’ (v.11). He prays ‘keep them from the evil one’ (v.15). He prays ‘sanctify them in the truth’ (v.17). And he asks ‘that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory’ (v.24). Jesus prays for us that we would be kept in his name, that we would be kept from the evil one, that we would be sanctified or set apart in the truth, that we would be with him to see his glory. And in and through it all, he prays for our unity. In verse 11 Jesus prays ‘that they may be one, even as we are one’. In verse 21 he prays ‘that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’. In verse 22-23 ‘the glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Jesus, today, continues to make intercession for us. He prays for the glory of God, for our unity, for our faith, for our protection, for our sanctification, and ultimately, that we would be with him where he is to see him for who he is.

Soul, take encouragement that even when you fail to pray, Jesus never fails to pray for you.

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

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment