Saturday, July 24, 2010

Exodus 32

The golden calf (vs. 1-6)--It will take many centuries--almost 10, 1,000 years--before idolatry is completed washed out of Israel, and it would require Babylonian captivity to do it. These people had been raised in a polytheistic background, a background which had generations of human history behind it. Yet, they had seen what Jehovah had done in Egypt, and been told that He was the only true God, that there was no other. So they had no excuse for their actions here. Because Moses "delayed coming down from the mountain" (v. 1), the people petitioned Aaron to make them "gods that shall go before us." Aaron is extremely weak here; he apparently immediately agrees to the request, tells the people to provide him with gold, and fashions a "molded calf" (vs. 2-4). The calf, or bull, was a prominent manifestation of deity in the ancient world, representing procreation. Such is understandable--to a point--in a world where life was short and many hands were needed for agriculture or war. Once the calf was finished, Aaron proclaims a "feast to Jehovah" for the next day (v. 5). Was this golden calf simply to be a visible manifestation of Jehovah? Perhaps. But even if so, they had a conception of Jehovah no higher than the Egyptians' conception of their gods. The Lord God is not just a procreative bull.

Moses' intervention (vs. 7-14)--The forming of the golden calf coincided, in time, with the completion of the first session of law-giving to Moses. So the Lord sends Moses back down the mountain because the people "have corrupted themselves." The Lord threatens to destroy the whole people, and give Moses the blessing: "I will make of you a great nation" (v. 10). Moses pleads with the Lord not to obliterate the children of Israel: "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever'" (v. 13). There are two things going on here. First, we see the power of intercessory prayer. Moses appeals in behalf ot the people and the Lord hears His servant. Plus, this is almost surely a test of Moses. God had just told him that He would make of him an illustrious, numerous nation. Having a renowned offspring was a very important matter in the ancient world, so this would be a far greater temptation to Moses than it would be to us. But Moses passes the test; God's promise to Abraham was more imperative than the lawgiver's own lineage. It is one example of the outstanding piety and character of Moses. Jehovah, of course, did not destroy Israel (v. 14).

The sound of music (vs. 15-18)--Moses, carrying the two tables of stone, descended the mountain where he came to the place Joshua was waiting. Joshua thought the noise below in the camp was "a noise of war" (v. 17), but Moses tells him, no, it is "the sound of singing" (v. 18). Revelry.

Moses confronts Aaron (vs. 19-24)--When Moses got within sight of the camp, the situation perhaps appeared worse to him than he had initially suspected. He became so angry that "he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain" (v. 19). He then ground the golden calf into powder, cast it into the water by the camp, and made the children of Israel drink it (v. 20). It is interesting that they did not oppose him in any way (at least as it is recorded). His anger was fierce, but their remembrance of the power and awesomeness of God was surely still in their minds; they probably feared that He might do to them what He had done in Egypt. Was there shame in Israel? If so, it isn't evident from the account. Moses then confronts his brother: "'What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?'" (v. 21). Perhaps he is giving Aaron the benefit of the doubt here; did the people threaten you to make you do this? But Aaron has no justifiable reason, of course, not even fear for his own life. Verse 24 is pitiful: "And I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.' So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out." Yes, Aaron just tossed all the gold into the fire, and poof, this calf was formed and out it came! Moses must have been disgusted with such an explanation.

"Who is on the Lord's side?" (vs. 25-29)--Seeing an "unrestrained" people, "for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies" (v. 25), Moses wants to know if there are any who would stand with him for God: "'Whoever is on the LORD'S side--come to me'" (v. 26). The tribe of Levi gathered to him. Jehovah had already chosen the Levites to be the priestly tribe; perhaps His foreknowledge of their dedication here was one reason why. Levi was also the tribe of Moses--and Aaron. Moses commands the Levites to punish the people, and 3,000 men were killed (v. 28). Moses then tells the people to consecrate themselves back to the Lord, "that He may bestow on you a blessing this day" (v. 29).

Moses talks with God (vs. 30-35)--Moses tells the people that they have "committed a great sin," and he would go back up the mountain and converse with Jehovah: "perhaps I can make atonement for your sin" (v. 30). Moses asks the Lord to forgive the Israelites, but if He will not, "blot me out of Your book which You have written"--a noble, humble request. "Punish me along with my people." Perhaps Moses felt a responsibility for their deed, that he had not led them as he should. Regardless, the Lord tells him that only sinners will be blotted out of the book, and that didn't include Moses. God then informs His servant that he should continue the mission of bringing the people to the Promised Land, and that "mine angel shall go before thee" (v. 34). Yet, the people's punishment was not finished. "The LORD plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made" (v. 35). We have no way of knowing what this "plague" consisted of, but surely it wasn't pleasant and was fitting for the occasion.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Exodus 31

The artisans of the tabernacle (vs. 1-11)--There were men with certain God-given talents whom the Lord commissioned to do the work of making all the utensils, etc., for the tabernacle. One of them was a man named Bezalel, whom God had "filled...with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship" (v. 3). There is no reason to consider this as a miraculous endowment. If I have any talent from God, it wasn't given to me miraculously, I was born with it and developed it further. How the Lord put these abilities into man's genetic make-up is something that we will never understand on this earth. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Bezalel was to be helped by a man named Aholiab. No doubt they would have assistants because they were to make everything (vs. 7-11). But these two men would be the overseers.

The Sabbath day once again hallowed (vs. 12-17)--The Lord had mentioned the importance of the Sabbath (Exodus 16 and 20), but emphasizes it again here. It is to be a holy day; "Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people" (v. 14). The "cutting off" here is defined in verse 15 as "surely...put to death." The Sabbath was a "sign" between God and Israel (v. 17). As He labored six days in creating the heavens and the earth, then "rested" on the seventh, even so it was to be among the Israelites. That has changed in the New Testament dispensation. The Lord Jesus was raised on Sunday, and that is the holy day to be observed now.

The tablets of testimony (v. 18)--Some suppose that only the Ten Commandments are meant here; the account is not clear. Since much of the law had not been given yet (i.e., many laws in Leviticus and Numbers), it's possible that only the Ten Commandments are intended. It's not an important point.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Exodus 30

The altar of incense (vs. 1-10)--This altar was also to be made of acacia wood, and overlaid with gold. It was twice as high as it was broad (v. 2), perhaps 18-21 inches by 3 to 3.5 feet high, again depending upon the length of a cubit. It was to be overlaid with gold (v. 3). There was to be horns on it (v. 2), and two golden rings with poles to carry it. The altar of incense was to be placed before the veil of the Most Holy Place (v. 6). Incense was to be burned upon it every morning and every night (vs. 7-8). The recipe for the incense was given in verses 34-38 of this chapter; and the warning given, "you shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it" (v. 9).

The redemption money (vs. 11-16)--Every male, 20 years of age and up, was to give a half-shekel as a "ransom for himself to the Lord" (v. 12). It was to be "an offering to the Lord" (v. 13). Everybody, rich and poor, gave the same amount, because every man's soul was equal in the eyes of God. The money raised was to be used "for the service of the tabernacle" (v. 16), and as a memorial for the people.

The bronze laver (vs. 17-21)--Before the priests could "go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister" (v. 20), they were to wash--no unclean thing before the Lord. The laver was to be place between the door of tabernacle and the altar (v. 18). The priests had to wash, "lest they die" (v. 20)--not only their hands, but also their feet (v. 21). "And it shall be a statute forever to them--to him and his descendants throughout their generations." The bronze ("brass," KJV) almost assuredly typifies baptism. Before we can enter the service of the Lord, we, too, must wash with "water." Thankfully, because of the work of Christ, our "washing" need take place only once.

The holy anointing oil (vs. 22-33)--Everything, including Aaron and his sons, was to be anointed with this "holy anointing oil" (v. 34). It was to be made from myrrh, cinnamon, cane, cassia, and olive oil. It would thus smell lovely; indeed, it was to be "an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer" (v. 25). Verses 26-30 list all the items which were to be anointed which, as noted, included everything in the tabernacle. Since it was holy, it was never to be reproduced or used for man's profane purposes. Anybody who tried to make oil like it "shall be cut off from his people" (v. 33).

The composition of the incense (vs. 34-38)--Moses is then given instructions on how to create the incense. It was made from "sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each" (v. 34). It, too, was "a compound according to the art of the perfumer," and, in this case, "salted, pure, and holy" (v. 35). It was thus holy and must not be reproduced for human use, either, on pains of the same penalty as the holy anointing oil (v. 38).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Exodus 29

The consecration of the High Priest (vs. 1-28)—Everything/everyone that comes before God must be pure and holy, and that certainly means people above all. Before he could assume his duties as High Priest, Aaron had to be consecrated (made holy) before the Lord. It was an elaborate ceremony, but the functions of his office would be ineffectual without this purification. There were four steps in the process:

Washing and anointing of Aaron and his sons (vs. 1-9)—The whole process would involve one young bull and two rams “without blemish” (v. 1), plus unleavened bread, cakes, and wafers made of wheat flour, with some oil in the process. The first step was to wash Aaron and his sons with water at the door of the tabernacle (before they could enter, v. 4). Then the priestly garments were to be put on Aaron (vs. 5-6) and he was to be anointed with oil (v. 7). Moses was to put tunics on Aaron’s sons, and sashes and hats on all (vs. 8-9). The priesthood is given to Aaron’s family “for a perpetual statute” (v. 9).

The sin offering (vs. 10-14)—The bull was to be brought forth, and Aaron and his sons were to lay their hands on it (signalizing the transference of sin from themselves to the animal, v. 10). The bull was to killed (v. 11), and the blood distributed in various ways around the altar (v. 12). Some of the bull was to be burnt on the altar and some outside the camp (vs. 13-14). “It is a sin offering” (v. 14).

The burnt offering (vs. 15-18)—One of the rams was to be offered as “a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD” (v. 18). The process and details were largely the same as for the bull (vs. 15-17).

The “ram of consecration” (vs. 19-28)—There is a different process involved for this offering, which I won’t detail; the reader can study them as he/she wishes. The key here is the “consecration.” The offering (which in this case included the bread, cake, and wafer, v. 23) was to be put into the hands of Aaron and his sons and given back, thus denoting that the person now has a right to offer a sacrifice before God. The “wave offering” (v. 24) was apparently a back and forth motion, while the “heave offering” (v. 28) was up and down. The purpose of this is not explained. The ram, of course, was to be offered as a burnt offering (v. 25).

By these four steps, Aaron and his sons were purified for service to the Lord

Consecration of the successor (vs. 29-30)—A medley of matters concludes the chapter. Aaron’s High Priest’s garments were to be passed on to his son-successor, who was to be anointed and consecrated in them, and wear them for seven days.

The priest’s part of the sacrifice (vs. 31-34)—Since the Levites weren’t given any land for agricultural production—they were to devote themselves totally to religious service—they were to be supported by the rest of Israel. Part of that was a portion of the sacrificial offering. Anything not eaten was to be burned, “because it is holy” (v. 34). No one else could eat it.

The initial consecration (vs. 35-37)—During the period of Aaron and his son’s consecration (seven days, v. 35), a bull was to be offered every day “as a sin offering for atonement” (v. 36). The altar was to be cleansed and anointed for seven days “to sanctify it” (v. 36). “The altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar must be holy” (v. 37). Holiness before the Lord. If such were true under the older, inferior law, how much truer must it be in the newer, perfect law?

The perpetual sacrifices (vs. 38-46)—Once the sacrificial system was instituted, two lambs were to be offered every day, one in the morning, one at night (vs. 38-39). Also, “one-tenth of an ephah of flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine as a drink offering” (v. 40). This was to be “a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD” (v. 42). The Lord would accept and sanctify these offerings and “dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God” (v. 45). And they would know Him, too (v. 46). Such was contingent, of course, upon their obedience, which was not continually forthcoming.