Thursday, 30 January 2014

(31) January 31: Exodus 24-26 & Matthew 21:1-22

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider what the details of the Tabernacle instructions convey.

To ponder:
In chapter 24 the Mosaic Covenant is formally confirmed. Moses relates the “words” (ch 20) and “laws” (chs 21-23) to the people. They agree to do “everything” and Moses writes it all down in the “book of the covenant” (24v4, 7). Burnt offerings atoned for sin. In them the dead animal is a substitute for the sinful people: Its blood symbolises its life given. Fellowship offerings then expressed the peace with God that resulted. By offering these on an altar of twelve pillars corresponding to the tribes, we see God can only enter into a covenant with sinful Israel (or us) if his anger is appeased. In this context, the book was read and the people reaffirmed their agreement.
As God instructed (24v1), Aaron and sons (later priests), and 70 representatives are allowed part way up the mountain. And they “see,” eat and drink with God! That’s the fellowship he has with his people. The pure, heavenly and expansive nature of his rule is implied by the pavement of sapphire beneath him. It’s not however clear what shape he had; but we may wonder if this was the pre-existent Christ.
Moses is called higher to be given the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. Alluding to Genesis 1, the cloud settled on the mountain for six days, suggesting the law is for the people to act like a new humanity in a new creation. As “a consuming fire” God’s glory reminded Israel of his burning holiness against sin (Heb 12v28-29). Only after this period is Moses called into the cloud. The number 40 denotes a period of testing (as in the desert) and blessing (the reign of good kings). Moses 40 days (v18) would end in receiving the blessing of the law. But it was also a time in which Israel’s obedience was being tested in the absence of her leader.
Jesus draws on this event at the last supper. His new covenant is confirmed with his blood, which atones for our sin so we can enjoy fellowship with God. And as his disciples ate and drank with him (as we do), they looked towards the day when we will eat and drink in his kingdom (Lk 22v20-30), a new humanity in a new creation.
            With the covenant relationship formalized, the construction of the tabernacle stresses God’s presence now with Israel (25v8). The “bread of the Presence” (v30) reminded them this meant ongoing provision. However, by separating off the Most Holy Place, Israel were taught they couldn’t actually survive close fellowship (26v33-35). Christ needed to achieve access (Mk 15v38).
Central is the ark within which the “testimony” (the Ten Commandments) were placed. It’s cover is where atonement is to be made for breaking those commandments (v17). But it also acts like a throne for Israel’s invisible God, as it is there that God would give Moses further commands (24v22).
By repeating all is to be “according to the pattern” given on the mountain, the tabernacle is portrayed as a scale model of heaven where God dwells. Hebrews explicitly states this (Heb 9v11, 23-24). The materials stress just how special and heavenly it is. Eden was a place of gold and onyx, and guarded by cherubim (Gen 2v11-12, 3v24). So the tabernacle is a little Eden within the wider world. Nevertheless, it is only constructed by each man giving “as his heart prompted him” (25v2). Likewise, we give to see the church built as the place of God’s special presence in the world now (Eph 2v22). Shouldn’t it also be a taste of paradise?

Praying it home:
Praise God for his willingness to fellowship with us. Pray that we would be generous in giving to the building of his church.

Thinking further:
For more on the Tabernacle see here. To see a picture of the tabernacle, click here.

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