Revelation of Divine Purpose in Exodus
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
In our last paper we considered the first two sub-sections of The Revelation of Divine Purpose in Exodus (refer to the complete analysis of the book again in the July-August, 1970, issue). We are now to study together the remaining two subsections, and in order to follow more easily you should read Exodus 28 to 31.
The Priesthood - A Priest for Sacrifice, chs. 28-29.
The function of the priest was (i) to bring the people to God and (ii) to reveal God to the people. These chapters record that the priest was
Chosen, 28. 1. He was taken "from among the children of Israel" to minister to God in the priest's office. Believers now have "a great high priest" who is touched with the feeling of their infirmities, even Jesus the Son of God. He too was "taken from among men"; see Heb. 4.14-15; 5.1.
Clothed, 28. 2. His holy garments were "for glory and for beauty". The ephod, or priestly robe, was inseparably connected with the shoulder pieces and the breastplate - the shoulder symbolizes strength and the breast symbolizes affection. God's saints are carried on His shoulders, and borne upon His heart, 28. 9-12,15-29. They are precious in His sight, but as jewels have no lustre of their own, so the saints are glorious only as they reflect the perfections of the divine presence.
In the breastplate of judgment was the Urim and the Thummim, or "lights and perfections", the revelation of God's mind and counsel to His people. Other references are Numbers 27. 21; Deuteronomy 33. 8-10; 1 Samuel 28. 6 and Ezra 2. 63.
The plate of pure gold engraven with the words "Holiness to the Lord", v. 36, was worn by Aaron upon his forehead at all times, that "they may be accepted before the Lord", v. 38. His holiness was theirs, despite their sin and failure. So, our Great High Priest is our representative before the throne of God.
Cleansed. "And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water", 29. 4. God's priests must be sanctified or separated from all defilement, moral and spiritual, before they are fitted to minister to God. All believers have "an high priest . . . who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners", Heb. 7. 26; one who, though the friend of publicans and sinners, moving amongst men, knew nothing of the contagion of sin.
Consecrated. Moses was to "consecrate Aaron and his sons", 29. 9. Chapter 28. 41 gives a summary of the preparation of the priests for ministry - "thou . . . shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office". Thus they were (i) anointed, by the sacred oil upon the head, 29. 7. For the exercise of priestly worship we, too, need the Holy Spirit's power,
(ii) Consecrated, note that the A.V. margin gives this word as the translation of two Hebrew words meaning "to fill the (open) hand". God's priest must be fully equipped and utterly devoted in his preparation for his ministry, (iii) Sanctified; in the exercise of priestly ministry in Christ, we are empowered by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, equipped by our consecration to Himself, and effectual as we are constantly cleansed by the washing of water by His Word, Eph. 5. 26.
The Service - A Privilege for Service, chs. 30-31. In
this section we notice
1. The Ordination to Service, 30. 1-38; 31. 1-11. We read that (i) access into service was the grace of atonement, 30.1-16. When Moses numbered the children of Israel, every man gave "a ransom for his soul unto the Lord . . . half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: . . . The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less . . . to make an atonement for your souls". This atonement money was appointed for the service of the tabernacle, a memorial before the Lord, to make atonement for them. Sovereign grace, for rich and poor alike, is the basis of redemption, and the precious blood of Christ is its cost.
We see that (ii) acceptance for service was the cleansing at the laver, 30.17-22. Aaron and his sons wash their hands (for the handling of holy things) and then their feet (for approach to the altar) at the laver, "that they die not", v. 20,21. Acceptable service to God requires purity in work and walk.
Again, we read that (iii) anointing for service was the holy oil, 30. 22-33. As to the holy oil, (a) its composition is described - varied and measured by the standard of the sanctuary, v. 24. The varied graces of the Holy Spirit were found only in perfection in the Lord Jesus Christ. His character, like His garments, was fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, Ps. 45. 8. Only in their association with Christ, are believers partakers of the gifts and graces of the Spirit. As to the oil, (b) its counterfeit was forbidden - "Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, ... it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you", v. 32. The unregenerate person cannot appreciate the glories of Christ.
We also perceive (iv) appreciation of service in the fragrant incense, 30. 34-38- The incense was "a perfume after the art of the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy", 30. 35 r.v. Note (a) the preciousness of its contents, v. 34, "sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense"; (b) the proportion of its components, v. 35, no special quantities were given for each ingredient, but of each there was to be an equal weight "tempered together, pure and holy"; (c) the position that was central, v. 36, "thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy". Perfect service requiries a perfect servant; such a person was the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone did always those things that pleased the Father. In Him were unlimited graces and virtues, a perfect balance in character and temperament. Even the simplest activity glorified God, and the greatest pressures of life served only to emit the sweetest fragrance of His character. God only could fully appreciate His glorious worth.
We note also that (v) the appointment to service was ordained of God, 31. i-ii. All true ministry, whether in the Old Testament tabernacle or the New Testament church, must be ordained of God. In this passage Bezaleel was (a) "called by name", v. 2. God chooses and calls His servants individually for the task, suited to his abilities and capacities. It is for each believer to respond to the call. He was (b) divinely equipped for the task "I have filled him with the spirit of God", v. 3. Those whom God calls He equips for the work, "in wisdom" (ability), "understanding" (apprehension), and "knowledge" (attainment). God needs men, and men need God, that in co-operation the work of God may be accomplished, as much in the skills of every day life as in the ministry of prophet and priest.
2. The Observance of the Sabbath, 31. 12-18. The sabbath was (i) a special token of relationship, v. 13. "Verily ye shall keep my sabbaths: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord which sanctify you", R.v. Israel was a marked people, separate from all the nations. It was (ii) a solemn rest, holy to the Lord, v. 15. "Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord", R.v. To keep the sabbath was a sign of their devotion and obedience to the Lord. The sabbath was also (iii) a sign for a perpetual covenant, vv. 16, 17. "Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath ... for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever". In this day of grace, the believer has the Lord's Day, the first day of the week, the resurrection day. It is to him the special token of relationship with the Risen Lord, a day of hallowed privileges and activities, and the reality of the new covenant of grace "until he come", 1 Cor. 11. 26.