Exodus 30 continues God’s instructions on what needs to be built or created for worship in the Tent of Meeting. The chapter begins with the building of the altar – to be made of acacia wood – and covered with pure gold. It is to be carried along with all the other things as the people move. This altar is to be used primarily for burning incense for God – and we learn later in the chapter that Aaron and his sons are to blend together certain items and make this composition to be used solely for worshiping God.
The use of the altar was clear from God: “Every morning….he shall burn it….at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord”. The altar was to be used daily – morning and evening – as a place to burn incense and worship the Lord. How regular are you in your worship. Is that reserved for an hour on Sunday morning? That really is not the relationship God desires to have with us. Our walk with Him needs to be daily – and not just for a little slice of time we give him as quiet time or some other designation. God wants to be in relationship with us – to be central to our lives every day all day. Is He for you today?
One of the tasks defined here is to collect the ‘temple tax’ if you will – money to support the priests and the Tent of Meeting. It was part of the census process where every person over age 20 was to be counted. “Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel….the Lord’s offering”. Unlike our approach today though – it was a very specific amount for each person. No one was allowed to give more nor were they allowed to give less – each was to contribute the exact same amount as prescribed by God. “The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less”. It was one amount and it has a significant reason: “when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives”. And it has a very targeted use per God’s instruction: “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”.
So we see here that supporting the work of God’s chosen was not optional. It was required for each individual. The balance of the chapter refers to the instructions on how to create the sacred anointing oil and incense that is to be used as part of the worship experience. God again shows that He is interested in details and gives very specific direction on how to blend things together to His specifications. Being a priest and doing it God’s way is not a trivial matter. As He gives instruction around the bronze wash basin – He says this: “They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die”. God expected them to do it His way and that way alone. Not mere suggestions – do it God’s way or die. Oh that we would understand that even today God is not in the suggestion business. His Word is not a mere option – it contains His commandments. We need to be obedient, just like Aaron and his sons were, if we want to have a life that lines up and is blessed by God. Will you die if you disobey His Word? That is not the question. The real question is why don’t we do what God has instructed us so we are walking in His steps as He desires. He is our Lord. He is God. We must obey!
Exodus 29 describes the way that Aaron and his sons were to manage the tent of meeting – how they were to do their job as priests. God says that the people are to “consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests”. They were to be set apart to serve and God has a whole list of specifics for them to follow as they do their job in leading the people. The process of preparing them to serve was detailed: “anointing oil and pour it on his head….the priesthood shall be theirs by a statute forever….you shall ordain Aaron and his sons”. God has given this job of priesthood to Aaron and his family – talk about job security.
The chapter describes in much detail how things were to be done for the various offerings. Blood and guts are part of the job – some happening outside the tabernacle and some inside. There were very detailed things that they were to do – again showing that God is interested in all things big and small. “It is a pleasing aroma…. take part of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet”. Don’t miss the small and precise details here. And the sense of smell – the worship and sacrifices and offerings were a complete experience. There were many details that needed to be done as the priests offered their worship. Check out this list of offerings from this chapter alone:
- “sin offering
- wave offering
- burnt offering
- food offering
- peace offerings”
There will be more offerings we will learn about in future chapters, but lets just agree that God intends us to acknowledge Him and His presence and goodness to us. Offerings are not about us – they are about Him – and we don’t do a great job of that today. Even in our praise during worship we tend to focus on us rather than God. We need to adjust who is the center of our worship and praise.
Once ordained the dailyness of their work as priests began. And that is exactly what it was – each day they were to sacrifice “two lambs a year old day by day regularly”. Not on special days – but every day. They had a job to do – to worship God and make atonement for the people. It was daily – twice a day – morning and twilight – and it happened 24X7X365. They were all about rhythm and doing things God’s way. Why”
“There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory….I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God….they shall know that I am the Lord their God”. Aaron and sons were the keeper of the relationship with God. They managed the interaction and were critical to keeping the people connected to God. God Himself wants to dwell with them and wants them to know that He is their God. It is no different today – but we have direct access to God through Jesus. We can come to Him and seek His face because of the grace and mercy we have received through Christ. But God wants our praise – He wants our worship – He wants us to know that He alone is our Lord and our God!
Exodus 28 gives the specifics for Aaron and his sons who were called by God to be priests for the people. Another example of how God is concerned with detail – He gives the design and use for these pieces:
- “a breastpiece
- an ephod
- a robe
- a coat of checker work
- a turban
- a sash”
Some would say this is just another chapter that is TMI (too much information). But as is always the case God places it in His Word for a reason. Again to remind us that He cares about all things, and in this case, that He cares much about worship and how the people would remember the important stuff.
Part of the role that Aaron and sons would fulfill was to keep folks focused on God. As He gave the details for the ephod, He instructs that “stones of remembrance” be placed on it so that “Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for remembrance”. Does it seem strange to you that God needs to remind the people of who He is? Does it seem unusual that after being led out of Egypt, walking through the Red Sea, being given the Ten Commandments and a host of other rather rememberable incidents they still struggle to remember? But we are much the same and need to find ways to remember as well. God has not changed. Same God, same love, same Book. We would do well to learn ways to keep Him and His actions on the front of our mind.
On the breastplate there were to be 12 stones for the 12 tribes – another visual to keep the people focused including Aaron and the other priests. We all chase shiny objects and can easily get lost in the weeds. “Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord”. The job of the priest is to intercede for the people and the breastplate that God designed had reminders of them all so Aaron would remember. We all need to find ways to record God’s faithfulness so we can also remember what He has done, and that we can share that with our children and grandchildren as well.
The job of priest has some pretty important significance. How he approaches God is important too. Aaron has some heavy responsibilities:
- “Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart
before the Lord regularly
- Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of
Israel consecrate as their holy gifts”
This is not a job for the faint of heart. He had to carry the problems of the people to the Lord. He was the messenger and interceder. He had a big job. We often forget the requirements of the ministry. Those who serve us need our encouragement and prayers. They have a very important and demanding job. We need to lift them up and come alongside them to help them carry the load. Thanks to all who are willing to serve God and us in these important ways.
Exodus 27 continues the detailed instructions on building the tabernacle. And the key focus of this chapter is the altar – which was to be made of acacia wood – and the courtyard around the outside. God continues to show us that He does care about the details. He is not too busy or consumed to want to ignore the small stuff. He makes it clear to Moses that these are not just suggestions either. “As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made”. That small statement tells us a lot about how we need to approach God’s Word.
Too often people want to take God’s instruction as a suggestion. We may read the Bible, but then we choose whether we want to be obedient. We see it as a Book of suggestions rather than The Book of direction. God isn’t in the business of giving us some ideas to consider. He has given us very complete and specific instruction and our role is simple – we are to obey. Not what we want of it – but the entire Book. It is His letter to us as Christ Followers. It is the way we are to live.
The other thing that is clear in this chapter beside the reality that God has a very specific plan, is that it was to be dealt with constantly. He told Aaron and his sons, the priestly tribe, to “tend it from evening to morning before the Lord”. God’s relationship with us is not a part time thing. It is 24X7X365. We need to realize that God is the center of our world all the time. We need to focus on Him and keep Him where He belongs. Is God the center of your world, or have you put yourself there?
The instruction here contains details about building things so they could be carried as the people moved down the journey toward the Promised Land. God was intending to remain the very center of their trip. He also wants to be the center of your life and mine. And less you think this was only about Moses and the people then, God says this: “It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations”. God has a plan for you and me that He wrote a very long time ago. There are no surprises to Him. The only question truly is whether we are joining His plan or not? Are you?
Exodus 26 is all about God’s detailed instructions for the tabernacle. This chapter is all about the very specific measurements and placement of God’s dwelling place. It is easy to ask why this matters. It was long ago and really doesn’t seem to apply to us today. But it does give us insight into a few things. First – God does care about the details. Sometimes we think that He isn’t all that interested in the little things in our lives. It doesn’t take very long reading this chapter to know that God cares about every little thing down to the smallest of all. He is able, and does care, about the small things in your life and mine. He is not overwhelmed by details – in fact He loves to know our heart and all things that we are dealing with every day.
Secondly, God does want a place to engage with us. The tabernacle is our meeting place with God. It was where the people of God could meet with their God. The tabernacle was a portable worship place similar to tents used for revival meetings sometimes today – or like we just experienced at our recent Weekend on the Farm event. In fact the word itself means “tent sanctuary or temporary shelter”. God’s instructions were detailed and this picture gives an overview of how He instructed it to be created. It was to be a rectangular area with three key areas.
There was to be a screened in court yard surrounded by curtains. A large rectangular room called the Holy Place contained a smaller room beyond the veil called the Holy of Holies. That is where the Ark of the Covenant was to be kept. The Ark was a very special box that represented the throne of God. We learned that in the last chapter. It was to be overlaid in gold and on top was a Mercy Seat. Very detailed directions on the size, location, type of materials etc. Don’t ever get the idea that God doesn’t care about the small stuff. He does.
The Holy of Holies was only entered once a year by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. That is when the blood of the lamb was poured out on the Mercy Seat after confession of all the sins of the people by the High Priest. It was a very important part of their relationship with God. It is easy to get lost in all the cubits and curtains and lampstands and numbers. The key is to remember that God wants us to spend time with Him. He wants us to worship and praise Him. He wants a relationship with us – not because He needs us – but because He loves us and we need Him. The tabernacle was simply a way for the people to be able to understand God and be a place for the priests to do their daily work of making offerings, sacrifices and prayers to God. But it all matters and we need to make sure we are spending time with God in that same way today!
Exodus 25 has Moses getting some instruction from God. This chapter gets into the nitty gritty details of what God wanted created for the relationship He would have with the children of Israel. He begins by telling Moses to ask the people to give: “From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me”. God is setting the expectations for people to give back to Him from their blessing. He asks for precious metals and stones and items that can be used to create the things He asks Moses to lead the people to create.
God tells Moses to make the following for Him:
- a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst
- an ark
- a mercy seat
- a table
- plates and dishes
- flagons and bowls
- a lampstand
- seven lamps
There is a pretty specific list that Moses is to lead the people to create to satisfy God.
So why the fire drill here. What is the purpose of all this. God has some specifics. He wants to dwell with them and needs a place to identify with. The temple sanctuary gives Him that. He also instructs Moses to “put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you” as a holding place and way to transport it. God has some specific reasons for these very detailed requests.
But the biggest seems to be that “There I will meet with you….I will speak with you”. God wants to interact with His people and have a place to do so. He wants to be able to meet with them and be in relationship with them. God desires the same for you and me. He desires a relationship. He wants to be in our presence and have us know Him as God. The real question is – are we doing that? Do we use our time to get closer to Him or spend it on our own selfish desires and wishes? How are you doing in your walk?
Exodus 24 is a direct interaction between Moses and God. Moses is called to come up on the mountain and meet with God. Before he does though, Moses lets the people know what is going to happen. The people are to obey God’s Word and do what He said. Their response: “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do”. Here is the right response to God’s instruction – plain and simple obedience.
“Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord”. Moses doesn’t make it up – he is simply a recorder of what God told him. And once he got it written down “he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people”. Moses recorded God’s Word and then taught it to the people as he read it aloud. And once again the people say “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient”. Remember these responses as we follow the children of Israel in the chapters ahead. How quickly they will forget their commitment to obedience.
Moses gets called up to meet with God. “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction”. God is going to give Moses the tablets with the law written down. He gives Moses specific direction on how to approach and which people to bring along. He is going to meet God face to face. But it is to be him and him alone. Those who were coming along couldn’t go all the way. They had to remain some distance back while Moses met with God.
So Moses goes up onto the mountain. It was not a quick process. A “cloud covered it six days” and then God calls to Moses out of the cloud and tells him to come into the cloud. Moses is there for 40 days and 40 nights – where have you heard that before? Can you imagine being the people waiting for him to return? They had to be wondering what was going on. But Moses was there with God and received His Words. Obedience is the way of life at this time. It is God’s standard and desire.
Exodus 23 continues with more laws and rules for the people. This chapter contains rules around lies and bribes and false charges. Those are not acceptable in God’s economy. And there is a price when we choose to do the wrong things. “I will not acquit the wicked”. God will punish those who choose to sin. Sometimes it seems they get away with things at the time, but God’s justice will occur. He will not be mocked.
We see laws here around caring for the land, and our bodies. God reminds the people “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest”. We need to care for ourselves and along with that keep the Sabbath holy as God instructed in the Ten Commandments. Then comes two words we need to heed: “Pay attention”. We often miss what God is up to around us because we are not paying attention. We just go about doing our own thing when in fact God is talking with us continually about doing His thing.
In this case, He is instructing the people on how they should celebrate in their relationship with him. “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast:
- Feast of Unleavened Bread
- Feast of Harvest
- Feast of Ingathering”
God has three specific times He wants the people to focus on celebrating with Him. Here we see the roots of tithing as part of the feasts: “the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord”. Our stuff is not really ours, it is His. We need to give Him the first of what we are blessed with. That is part of our celebration of God – not to give grudgingly, but to recognize that it is all His and we need to give freely to Him.
We get another “pay attention” a bit later in the chapter. “If you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries”. Obedience to God’s way is critical to our success. We need to walk obediently if we desire to receive His touch. “You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless”. It truly is an if…then scenario. We make it too hard most of the time. We just need to do what He has told us to do. When we take those actions, we will receive His blessing!
Exodus 22 continues the list of laws and rules for the people. They cover a number of scenarios: “steals…..breaking in……grazed over…..fire (arson)”. Many of these involve property or livestock which were precious to people in that day. Those things were what allowed them to make a living and feed their families. They address money and the relationship between people when borrowing or caring for another’s property. At first these laws and rules may seem like they are totally irrelevant to today. But we get to the root of a few key areas as we read on.
Scripture defines many of these as a “breach of trust” between people. That is serious business. Life is filled with lots of relationships and actions based on trust. In our culture, for the most part it works well. In some cultures that is not the case. But trust happens between people when we rely on each other for a certain outcome. When that trust is broken, it is a serious problem. And God cares about it too. He insists here on restitution and making things right.
As we go on through the chapter we get to some areas that are near and dear to God’s heart. “If a man seduces a virgin…..he shall…..pay….and make her his wife”. Now that would change things wouldn’t it. If there were personal responsibility for the way people engage in sexual activity to the point that they were required to take care of the situation they create. Sex is not a casual thing in God’s eyes.
As the chapter draws to a close we get a good picture of God’s heart. There are some things very important to Him. “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child….lend money to any of my people with you who is poor….you shall not exact interest”. God has a heart for the widows, orphans, poor and hungry. We see that throughout scripture. We need to pay attention on our journey through scripture to understand just how important these folks are to Him and what His expectations are for us to respond. Are you serving these people in your patch?
Exodus 21 is a whole lot of rules for how people were to play together in the sandbox of life. God gives them to Moses and they deal with how people, slaves and animal relationships were to be handled. The overarching theme is this: “if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe”. There is accountability for how we live and treat each other. We need to pay attention and make sure we live with care. God is keeping score and watching.
These exact laws and rules are not how things happen in our society today. Obviously over time we have changed them and in some cases, completely ignored or reversed the way things work. But I think we can learn some key lessons from where God wants us to show some attention. There are two very strong things said about parents:
- “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death
- Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death”
Respect for our parents is part of the Ten Commandments and now shows up with two very strong rules about how we are to treat them. We are told to ‘honor’ in the original laws, and these rules show that there are to be some serious consequences when we fail to do exactly that. This seems severe doesn’t it – death if we strike or curse our parents.
But God’s plan for us is very intertwined in His design of the family. It is a central part of His plan and we would do well to keep that clearly in mind. God takes marriage and family very seriously. How are you doing in honoring your parents? What have you done in the last week or two in order to show them love and respect. In our society it is pretty easy to get so busy with our own stuff that we totally miss God’s plan in this area. What have you done to teach you kids the importance of family? This is some important stuff that doesn’t just happen. We have to work at living God’s way in family.
The chapter is really about personal responsibility. If a person, or his possessions such as an ox or donkey, does something to cause harm – there should be a penalty. It is pretty clear and not really something that should be argued and attempted to get out of. This is a huge missing quality in people today. The first thing we do when a problem occurs is point fingers somewhere other than self. We try to play the blame game rather than take responsibility. There are always lots of excuses and reasons why it isn’t our fault. We need to get over that and own up to our part in the problem. God will be holding us accountable when we stand before Him. The best way to be ready is to live that way now! We won’t be able to duck our sin then. We should not spend our time trying to place blame elsewhere now either!