Saturday, November 23, 2013

Travelling Light

Scriptural Reading: Exodus 40:16-30, 34, 38
Devotional Reading: Hebrews 9:11-15

In studying the lesson I am reminded that people learn and have their needs met in one of three ways. Humans visually see and/or read about something, auditorily hear and/or talk about something, or they touch and manipulate objects and do activities. The children of Israel were now free from the bondage of Egypt, but they did not know where they were going and were not secure in their freedom. When their leader, Moses, was out of their sight with God atop Mt. Sinai too long, they pooled their gold and built a golden calf below (Exo 32). They felt a need for seeing a god, but it was one built by man without any power. They did not realize that God was giving Moses explicit blueprint for forty days and forty nights (Exo 24:18b) as to their care in the wilderness and for generations to come. The blueprint was for a traveling sanctuary that would serve two purposes: as a place of worship, and a place that symbolized the presence of God (Exo 24-31). The people needed to be assured of the presence of God and were positively responsive to the movable tabernacle. “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 NKJV)

This quarter of study is entitled “First Things”. We are in Unit III – “First Freedom” of the three units of the quarter. This is the last lesson of a four-lesson study. We shall study the development of the story of Israel’s beginning as a freed nation.

In chapter 35 Moses delivered the instructions the LORD had commanded in His blueprint to the congregation. The people began to gather their articles of gold, silver, bronze, acacia wood, onyx stones, spices and oil, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, goats’ hair, red skins of rams, badger skins, etc. (Exo 35:20-29) The Israelites brought the articles willingly until the chosen artisans exclaimed they had, “brought much more than enough for the service of the work which the LORD commanded us to do.” (Exo 36: So Moses commanded the people to stop giving (Exo 36:6-7).

The gifted artisans, led by Bezalel and Aholiab, built the tabernacle, its furnishings, and the priestly garments in obedience to the blueprint instructions received by Moses from the LORD. “According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work. Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, just so they had done it. And Moses blessed them.” (Exo 39:42-43) The people had presented their work to Moses, but he was not going to set up the tabernacle without further instructions from God. In Exo 40:1-15 God gives him specific instructions as to how to proceed in setting up the tabernacle, placing the furnishings in their proper areas, sanctifying the tabernacle and its furnishings, and consecrating Aaron and his sons for all generations.

We see the importance of paying attention to details for “This Moses did; according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did." (Exo 40:16 NKJV) He was not the builder/manufacturer, but he had to assemble the tabernacle according to the blueprint the LORD had given him. Moses was determined to be obedient by placing the artifacts and furniture in their specific places according to their function and significance of its service to God. It would be necessary for him to do this priestly function of setting up the tabernacle and leaving it to the appointed ministry. He was a member of the Levi tribe although he was not a priest. He performed at the direction of the LORD as a prophet, a lawgiver, not a priest. Once Aaron and his sons were consecrated they would be able to perform all of the priestly functions in this tabernacle. It should be noted their second Passover was to be focused on the worship place of the LORD as Exo 40:17 reflects the time when Moses was to raise the tabernacle. “And it came to pass in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up.” (NKJV)

In following the blueprint the LORD provided him, Moses began to assemble the building meticulously. At Exo 40:18b-21 it reads that he “…raised up the tabernacle, fastened its sockets, set up its boards, put in its bars, and raised up its pillars. And he spread out the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent on top of it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. He took the Testimony and put it into the ark, inserted the poles through the rings of the ark, and put the mercy seat on top of the ark. And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, hung up the veil of the covering, and partitioned off the ark of the Testimony, as the LORD had commanded Moses. (NKJV) Here we have the leader, the lawgiver, raising the tabernacle according to all the detailed instructions he had received. He had to do this by himself in order to anoint the tabernacle. The sockets had to be in place and the boards, crossbars and pillars. The sockets had to be secure. A tent was to be placed over the tabernacle with a covering for the tent. The Testimony of Law was placed in the ark. The ark had a pole attached through the rings on each side. The mercy seat was on top of the ark and two winged creatures. The ark was the embodiment of the very presence of God and access was restricted to once a year on the Day of Atonement by the high priest when he offered burnt offerings on behalf of the sins of the people. That which was to be veiled (ark), Moses veiled immediately. The ark was located in the Holiest of Holies.

The Holy Place was the foyer outside the Holiest of Holies. It would be used in preparation of worship for the high priest before he entered the Holiest of Holies. The actions of Moses as declared in Exo 40:22-30 indicates that "He put the table of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil; and he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD, …He put the lampstand in the tabernacle of meeting, across from the table, on the south side of the tabernacle; and he lit the lamps before the LORD, …He put the gold alter in the tabernacle of meeting in front of the veil; and he burned sweet incense on it,…He hung up the screen at the door of the tabernacle. And he put the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the grain offering,…He set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water there for washing," (NKJV) The table in verse 22 is the LORD’s table. God will never have HIS table unfurnished. The table is the “table of showbread” used to display twelve loaves of bread which are representative of the twelve tribes. The table was about 3 feet long, 18 inches wide, and 27 inches high. Then Moses lit the golden lampstand in the tent of meeting opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacles. The lampstand with seven branches was to remain lit daily and was the only source of light in the tabernacle. Moses installed the golden altar in front of the veiled entrance and immediately began to burn sweet incense to the LORD. He hung up the screen at the door of the tabernacle and began to offer burnt and grain offering unto the LORD. Moses set the laver between the tabernacle and the altar with water for washing. Every priest in attendance was required to wash his hands and his feet before entering upon his official duties. To this end a laver was ordered to be made a part of the tabernacle equipment (Exo 30:17-21;38:8). Its composition was of brass (bronze), and it consisted of two parts, the bowl and its pedestal or foot. This first laver was a small one, and was made of the hand mirrors of the women in attendance upon the altar. Moses was always obedient in doing even the smallest of things, just “as the LORD commanded him”. (see verses 23, 25, 27, 29)

And Moses “raised up the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the screen of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.” (Exo 40:33) The LORD was pleased with the work of His servant Moses and the children of Israel. They had been stiff-necked and displeasing to HIM in the past. Yet they had definitely proven they could be obedient to HIS extremely meticulous instructions. The LORD accepted their work by showing up in the midst of a cloud. It is written at Exo 40:34, 38, “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle…For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.” (NKJV) The people were overjoyed. By God taking habitation in the tabernacle, it meant they could see His glory. He was their traveling light. They now believed more than ever that His promises to their forefathers would come to pass. Those who had broken hearts had hope and expectation. All would be able to serve the God of Israel who dwelt among them.

The tabernacle was what the church is supposed to be today – the place of God’s dwelling and presence in the world. Believers can’t play church. It is not about us, but about obedience to the ultimate blueprint of God. We now have direct access to God because the tabernacle curtain or veil, designed to shield people from the presence of God (in the Holiest of Holies), was removed by Christ (see Matt 27:51; Heb 10:19-22). It is stated at Heb 9:11-12, “Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (NKJV) Enough great things can’t be said as to Christ who came with the greater and more perfect tabernacle. It was not a building made of hands, but it was purely spiritual meant to redeem us from the beginning. He sacrificed with His own blood, not that of goats and calves. And neither can it be said that His term was for one year only. He did it once and that was enough for a believer to claim an eternal inheritance and receive direct access to God. When He completed His assignment He simply stated, “It is finished (Jn 19:30).” (NKJV)

Written by Deborah C Davis

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