Sometime back, while I was looking up the definition of anointing for the purpose of one of my earlier blog posts, I happened upon an article that really gave me a wake up call about the biblical meaning of anointing. If you are interested, you can read the article yourself at http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/housechu/anoint.htm since it goes into some deep study. The main thing I took away from it was that anointing is not the same thing as power.
In today’s reading from Exodus 40:1 through Exodus 40:38 (the end of the chapter and the end of the Book of Exodus), God instructs Moses on how to set up the tabernacle for the very first time. He explains how to arrange the furnishings and the coverings for the courtyard, and then God tells Moses to prepare the tabernacle for use by anointing everything.
Now, if anointing were equal to power, the items used for God’s service would be where the power was at rather than the power existing with God and God alone. Just as with our Messiah, with the word Meshiach and Christ meaning “The Anointed One,” we know that what set Yahshua apart from other men was not His power, but it was His consecration to the work of God. Power could have struck all His accusers and crucifiers down, but consecration helped Him to say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The anointing on the articles in the tabernacle was to consecrate them for God’s service.
After all the furnishings and utensils were anointed with the special oil based on God’s direction (not just any old oil or grease would work), God told Moses to bring Aaron and his sons to the tent of meeting, put them in their vestments, and then anoint all of them for the work of the priesthood. This anointing consecrated them to do the work that God was calling them to do. The consecration to the work of the Lord carried a heavy responsibility, and we will see in the next Bible book the results of some of that responsibility and what happens when it is taken too lightly.
When you seek an anointing from God, remember to seek it for the right reasons, and remember the responsibilities that go with it. It is not a light thing, but it is a great blessing to see even a small work of obedience yield great results for The Lord.
So who among my readers is a fan of The Princess Bride? If you have seen it, then you already know what the line “As you wish” actually means. If you haven’t seen it, or if you have forgotten, watch the provided YouTube clip for understanding. Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, go get it right away because it’s one of those movies everyone should see at least once. 🙂
In today’s reading from Exodus 39:22 through Exodus 39:43 (the end of the chapter), we get the details for the final pieces of the vestments to be worn by Aaron and his sons for their services as priests to God. At the end of the description for each new piece, we get the same statement: “As Adonai had ordered Moses.” That statement could also be said like this: “As the Lord wished.”
From verse 33 to verse 41, we read that the tabernacle is now complete, and the craftsmen bring all the pieces to Moses. There is a list of all the pieces that have been created to make the project complete. And then, in verses 42 and 43, it all culminates with a statement of victory which I will let you read for yourselves…
42 The people of Isra’el did all the work just as Adonai had ordered Moshe. 43 Moshe saw all the work, and — there it was! — they had done it! Exactly as Adonai had ordered, they had done it. And Moshe blessed them.
Yes, they had done it! Each piece of furniture; every utensil; all the priest’s garments; the finely woven linen; the artistically embroidered curtains; and every bit of gold, silver, and bronze; all used and put together exactly as Adonai had ordered Moses. Moses carried the instructions to the people, and the people carried out the instructions from God. They had done it exactly as God had ordered.
Imagine the whole thing going something like the movie. The people, like the princess, make their request. They cry out, “Yahveh, save us!” And Yahveh Almighty answers them from His heart, making a plan of deliverance and mercy and grace. They may not have heard Him say the words, but everything He does for them is the same as if He had answered, “As you wish.” Though they struggled with doubts and human weaknesses, and–like Princess Buttercup did to Wesley–they pushed God away at times, when they realized who He was and began to walk in obedience, their actions returned the answer of “As you wish” back to God.
And now, that completed tabernacle is more real than ever for Behold, The Tabernacle of God is among men. When we find ourselves in bondage to sin and paying the price of sinful behavior, we cry out to God for deliverance. He answers, “As you wish” and offers mercy and grace in the blood of Yahshua our Messiah. We may not always accept it right away, and we may struggle even after we realize what that means to us, but He knows we long for His righteousness in our hearts. The struggle continues, and maybe there are times when we reject Him and push Him away completely. But one day, we will find ourselves on our knees–ready to surrender to Him. He will knock on our heart’s door, and we will answer, “As you wish, Lord.”
I love when a title can be seen in multiple ways, and even more when all the ways can be true. Based on the definitions of the word vest, it can be a garment worn to the waist, and the priest in the camp of Israel will wear the garment. It means to bestow power or authority on someone, and God definitely bestowed a lot on the priests of the tribe of Levi. And, it can mean to have a personal stake in something or someone. Both God and the priests have a vested interest in Israel and in the mercy and grace that are represented by the priesthood and the tabernacle practices.
In today’s reading from Exodus 39:2 through Exodus 39:21, we get to see the details of the vest that the artisans are making for the high priest. The parts of the vest, such as the breastplate, are made from gold; blue, purple, and scarlet yarn; and finely-woven linen. And, yes, the first item in that list is actually gold, not just gold yarn. The reading says that they hammered the gold into thin sheets and then cut the sheets into threads in order to work them into the yarns and linen.
Can you imagine gold thread that is actually made from gold? Elvis Presley could imagine something close since he had a famous suit made from gold lame’ which was a yarn made with metallic ingredients. A famous tailor to the stars named Nudie Cohn created that suit, and many other famously outrageous outfits. You can read about him at Wikipedia, but since there are no pictures, I found a Pinterest page with lots of fun images, including Elvis’ suit and Nudie’s famous car. I actually got to see the car in person when I was a little girl living in Southern California. There were coins in the dashboard, the doors opened by pulling triggers on pistols, and there was a huge set of bull horns on the front of the car.
So, getting back to the original celebrity designer, God issued detailed instructions for the designs that would cover the priests in His service, and then He anointed skilled men to create them. He did all of this to represent the value of Israel to Him since the high priest was a representation of God Himself. And the part I find the most moving in this story is that God wanted the breastplate fastened down with gold chains, so it would ALWAYS be over the heart of the priest. Need I say more?
Do you remember the children’s story called “Stone Soup”? It’s one of those stories that seems to have stuck with me from childhood forward. I’ve always believed in the idea that anything can be accomplished if only people will stop being selfish and will pull together as one. We have Scriptures that tell us that, like where Paul talks about all the members of the body being one, and we teach our kids to sing songs like “If We All Will Pull Together,” but when it comes down to it, it’s a struggle to find people who will share for the greater good.
In today’s reading from Exodus 38:1 through Exodus 39:1, we read more about the furnishings and utensils created by Bezalel and Oholiab. Yesterday, we read that the people of Israel actually gave too much, and the craftsmen had to tell them to stop bringing their offerings. Today, we actually get a breakdown of the donations and offerings the people brought in. I won’t give you the entire breakdown, but the metals given weighed in at the following amounts: Gold equaled 1930 pounds, silver equaled 6650 pounds, and bronze equaled 4680 pounds.
Now, while all of those above numbers sound like a lot of metal, (and they would be a lot of metal when it came time to carry the tabernacle from one location to another), today’s reading also does a quick census and tells us that of men 21 years old and over, there were over six-hundred-thousand. It goes on to say that the silver offering only came to about one-fifth of an ounce per person. From this we can see that when everyone comes together to give for a common cause, the needs will be more than met, and it may not even cost that much from each individual giver.
I think the thing that makes me the saddest here is that the government has gotten too involved in our giving. Their ways of forcing us to give by over-taxing to pay for things we may or may not believe in has caused people to pull even more into themselves instead of being the givers God created us to be. Even the Egyptians were giving people and sent Israel off with much of the gold they’re probably now giving. Now we’re at a point where we can’t really fight it, so at the least, I think it’s time for Christians to begin praying that our giving (no matter how compelled) will somehow be used to provide for the needs God wants taken care of. And let us pray above all else that God will be glorified in us and in our giving.
…and I used it on a piece of gold, I do not think it would come out looking like the beautiful designs you see here on this golden menorah in Jerusalem. I could hammer in the morning, I could hammer in the evening, I could hammer all over this land, and I could not create something like this because it is not my calling. Of course, most any tool in my hand would be useless toward creating beauty from scratch unless that tool is used for writing and the beauty comes out in words. Though not every piece of my work can be considered artistic, I am thrilled when something I write captures a readers heart in the same way an artisan craftsman captures someone’s eye.
In our reading today from Exodus 37:17 through Exodus 37:29 (the end of the chapter), we read more about the craftsmanship used to build the tabernacle furnishings. The details in the golden menorah are so clear, it’s like you can close your eyes and truly envision the finished product. In verse 22, we read that the whole menorah is one piece of hammered work made from pure gold. That’s a lot of gold, and that’s a lot of hammering. And, in my estimation, that’s a lot of beauty.
Maybe Aaron had seen some of God’s artisans at work, and that’s where he got the idea that he could say someone could pour gold in a fire, and a fully formed figure would pop out of it. Sometimes, when you watch a truly talented person engage in his or her creative calling, the process seems so smooth it could appear to be automated. I imagine it might have been a little like that for those who got to watch Oholiab as he worked under God’s anointing. Whether he was making the menorah, the altar of incense, or the utensils and dishes for use with the furnishings, he probably worked with a creative flair that was magnificent to view as the finished pieces became more and more real.
In addition to not being creative with a hammer, I also am not creative with sand and dirt. My God is though. He made millions of creatures, so different and yet so alike in many ways, with just dust and wind. How could I ever doubt that with a touch of His creative Spirit, any man can create any number of amazing things? I need to remember that when I begin to doubt myself because of my human failures. It’s not the tool that matters, and it’s not even who’s wielding the tool; it’s the God who blesses the whole work from beginning to end. Except the Lord builds the house, all who labor will labor in vain. Oh, but if the Lord is the Master Builder, you’re going to get a master-built piece.
And speaking of sand, let me close by including a video of an anointed artisan who crafts amazing images with just some dirt and light. He is Joe Castillo, and if you watched the 2012 season of America’s Got Talent, you saw him complete a number of images with that smooth and almost automated ability of one whose creative calling comes directly from God. And, while there are other sand artisans, you’ll be pleased to know that Joe has his focus on Christ, and you can find out more by visiting his website at http://www.joecastillo.com/about_us.html
Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t be possible to make antiques to order, unless the place is one of those that makes things for restaurants that hang stuff resembling real antiques on their wall. I do know that I would want to go into this store because of the sign though, so it is good advertising.
According to a few dictionary definitions I found, made to order can mean something is made to someone’s personal specifications and requirements, or it can mean it’s just perfect for the situation. In today’s (very long) reading from Exodus 35:30 through Exodus 37:16, I think it means both of those and more.
Most of today’s reading centers around a guy from the tribe of Judah named Bezalel. He is a grandson of Hur, one of the two guys who helped hold Moses’ arms up, so Israel could defeat her enemy. Bezalel is a master craftsman who has been endowed by God to make everything from clothing to jewelry to gold dinnerware. He is like a machine who takes in what Israel donates and comes out with a perfectly-designed temple according to the design God showed Moses on Mt. Sinai.
Bezalel hires a helper, Aholiab, from the tribe of Dan. Together, they will both design and create the temple coverings, curtains, furnishings, and all that is needed for temple worship. The Bible says that God filled them both with wisdom of heart and ability to do all manner of craftsmanship. In addition to being gifted with wisdom for creativity, God also gifted these men to teach others, so they would not have to build the entire tabernacle on their own.
In a sense, in addition to building a “made to order” tabernacle, God also made these men to order (train) other men in how to create according to God’s plans. I don’t know if it works this way for all those who are gifted with wisdom in creativity, but I am thankful for those Christian writers who go beyond the gift of their own writing and share tips and tricks with others. There are a few whose teachings I have learned from, and whose lessons feel as anointed as their creative works. I learn well from them. There are more than I can list here, but if you want to know some of the people that inspire me as writing teachers, let me know and I’ll share some in comments.
As for the rest of the passage, please click the link above to read the details about all that these men and their helpers created. You’ll find they sound much like the details given to Moses on the mountain because they are determined to line up to that blueprint. I can only imagine the designs, but knowing what God can do when He works within a willing vessel, I imagine them to be spectacular and beautiful. I expect them to be that way because of the times when God works in my life to bless whatever efforts I put my hands to. Whether He guides me as I write or sing, or when I design a new kaleidoscopic or abstract creation, if I feel God guiding whatever part of me in engaged in the work, it always comes out better than the results when I struggle to do things on my own.
I got thrown for a little bit of a loop tonight as I began the new week’s study and portion. This is apparently the first portion that would be doubled for normal years, but is actually separated for leap years, and on the Jewish calendar, 5774 is indeed a leap year. Apparently, there are 7 leap years for every 19 year cycle, and I spent almost too much time trying to learn what all of it meant, so I could share accurately with you, my beloved readers.
Well, in all I sought, I also found out that the portion is read in full on the dates I’m finding, meaning that if I am dividing it by 7 days, I would read it the 7 days prior. That means we’re actually sort of a week behind. So, though it is a leap year, I am going to read this leap year special portion as if it’s a full year, and that should put us back on track. It’s okay, though, because the subject matter pretty much stays the same–at least for the first half of the week. 🙂
So, without further adieu, I bring you the beginning of Parashah (portion) 22, with the Hebrew name of Vayak’hel meaning “He Assembled.” The reading will be from Exodus 35:1 through Exodus 35:29, and it begins with a strong reminder to work for only six days, and to rest on the Sabbath to remember it is a holy day. I say strong reminder because this one says that if anyone does any work on the Sabbath, he should be put to death. Yep, that’s pretty strong.
The assembling in the title is about Moses bringing the people together to share with them what God showed him on Mt. Sinai. He will tell them the details of building the temple, including calling together the craftsmen who God anointed to create certain portions. Before actually giving them the descriptions, however, Moses first asks for an offering. He does not demand anything, cajole anything, use any kind of guilt or manipulation, or any other tactic to collect an offering. Instead, Moses asks for God-directed offerings. I love the way it actually states it in “The Complete Jewish Bible” where it says in verse 5… anyone whose heart makes him willing is to bring the offering for Adonai.
The rest of the reading goes through the items and craftsmanship that will be needed for the temple, and it asks for each thing with a request something to the effect of, “let it be given by the one who feels God is telling him or her to offer it.” How pleasant that true giving comes from listening to God as He speaks to our hearts. He knows our hearts anyway, and whatever He judges for us in this life will come from what He sees our hearts give more than what He sees our hands give. He will tell us what we can give, and He will tell us what He wants us to give. Nothing more. Nothing less. And, above all, with no guilt.
To bring this home, I’ll share it this way: I have never been your average “Suzie Homemaker” type of girl. I won’t show up with pies, casseroles, cleaning gloves and mops, if you are in need. I’m much more likely to send e-mails out to a prayer chain, or call people, or call businesses to make arrangements, or Google some information for you. I asked God why I was not strong in the gifts I saw in most women, and He basically told me that I could not be strong in everything. I must do what He calls me to do regardless of how the rest of society (including a church society) thinks I should do things. And the same goes for any one of you who is reading this. Be thankful for both your strengths and your weaknesses. Let God tell you what to give, how to give, and when to give. Let your gifts be one-hundred percent inspired by God that your rewards may be one-hundred percent returned to Him in praise.
Believe it or not, there is a whole genre of artistic creation that falls under the heading of “Light-Painting.” You would be amazed at what people can create with cameras and light. There are entire groups at Flickr dedicated to light-painting, though I couldn’t share most of their photos due to copyright restrictions. But, if you’d like to see at least one, take a visit to the “Light Junkies” group by visiting… http://www.flickr.com/groups/lightjunkies/pool/ where you’ll find over 100,000 photos to amaze you. Another type of light-painting is achieved digitally by photo manipulation software. I enjoy the one called “Fractalius” and you can see some of what it creates by visiting the Flickr Fractalius group at http://www.flickr.com/groups/fractalius-photo/pool/ with about 6000 very cool photos.
In today’s reading from Exodus 34:27 through Exodus 34:25, we complete another Torah portion as are invited in to see Moses back on the mountain top with Yahveh, This portion brings another week comes to a close, so Shabbat Shalom to all of you. And, by the way, if you click the link to read the portion yourself, you’ll find links to the recommended readings from the rest of the Old Testament and from the New Testament if you’d like to do more study.
So Moses has gone forty days and nights with nothing to eat or drink. He is totally engulfed in the presence and the words of his Creator. God has Moses write down all the laws and commands that were previously written, and then God inscribes something on the tablets Himself. I was a little confused from the reading if God wrote the title, The Ten Words, or if He actually wrote down what we call “The Ten Commandments.” Either way, imagine being called as a scribe for God, and then having God write with His own hand on the cover of your book. I have a friend who is called as a something of a modern-day scribe, and I can just imagine an indescribable level of excitement if that happened to her. (Yes, Debbie, I’m talking about you. 🙂 ) (Note: click on her name if you’d like to read about Debbie and find information about her books that tell stories of God’s “Miraculous Interventions-tm” in human lives.)
Now Moses comes down from the mountain with the two tablets and doesn’t realize that God has done a little light-painting of His own. Moses face is glowing and sending out rays of light from his skin. At first, people were afraid to approach him, but he called them over, so he could present the tablets of testimony and pass on all the orders God gave him on Mount Sinai. Once he finished speaking to them, it says he put a veil over his face that he would leave on until he went into the tent of meeting to speak again with God.
See, I love the idea of God doing light-painting on His creations. There are times when the glow of the sunshine almost seems to paint the surrounding view and make it glow. On my kaleidoscope set at Flickr, I make the following statement:
I believe God sees the people of His creation in the same way we see a kaleidoscope image: all different yet all beautiful and even more beautiful when light (especially God’s light) shines through them.
God is the ultimate Light Painter, and I will gladly be one of the subjects He uses to show Himself to the world. How about you?
I remember the days of renting a room in someone’s house because it was too expensive to get my own place. There are always drawbacks to that set up, like a lack of privacy, a bit less freedom, and a shared bathroom. But there are also benefits, not the least of which is how much less it usually costs than trying to keep up even a small apartment on your own. One place I rented, however, was almost perfect. The owner was a strong woman with unbending house rules. She assigned kitchen shelf space, refrigerator space, and quiet times, and she made sure all renters knew that she was in charge of the thermostat. We had three very different people types (an atheist in her fifties, a Catholic organist in her eighties, and me–a Pentecostal in her twenties), but we all got along perfectly because of the house rules.
In today’s reading from Exodus 24:10 through Exodus 24:26, Israel is getting ready to move toward the “Promised Land” and God lays down the rules. The first thing He does, though, is to remind them of who He is and of what He will do through them if they observe His commands. See, like the homeowner in my rental situation, God has already worked with and seen a variety of living situations–including those in the future since He can see through all times, He knows what works, and He knows what doesn’t work. So He tells Israel that He is going to do awesome things through them, and all they have to do is trust Him to know what works.
The first thing God knows will not work is a land filled with people who worship false gods. In their idol worship and lifestyles void of The True God of Creation, they have no value of human life, and they worship gods made of stone and metal that have no power. Yahveh promises to drive all these people out, so they won’t be a snare to them within their own borders. He tells Israel the kind of people they are, and He warns them not to imitate them in any way. In a paraphrase, God says, “Don’t even go to dinner with these people. If you do, you’ll end up eating stuff they sacrificed to idols, then your sons will marry their daughters, and then their daughters will get your sons to prostitute themselves before their idols the way they themselves do.”
God is a jealous God, and He knows He is the only One who is truly looking after Israel’s best interests. He also knows that Israel is made up of human inhabitants, and that by trying to befriend these people who worship false gods, Israel risks many things in addition to stirring up God’s jealousy. If the people of Israel get too close to the people of the land, they may feel sorry for them and refuse to do their part in pushing them out of the land God wants to consecrate for Himself and His people. And, if there are any people who might change their ways, how will they see that there is a different way to become, and a True God to serve, if the people imitate them instead of standing strong in their obedience to Yahveh?
So, after some stern warnings of “do nots” for Israel to remember with their temporary roommates, God reminds Israel of what He wants them to do. Oh, but He does issue one last (and huge) do not first. He tells Israel not to build any metal gods, so now they have no excuse to ever again create and worship a golden calf.
Now, onto the “to do” list, which mostly includes keeping the feast days He has created because they all represent Him in some way, and they will help Israel to remember what is important. The first of these feasts is The Feast of Unleavened Bread. It will remind them of their deliverance from Egypt. We now know it also represents deliverance from sin which is why leavening is to be cut out because leaven represents sin and pride.
Between the feast reminders, God reminds the people that the first born will always belong to Him. Each one is to be redeemed with a sacrifice, and no one is to come to God empty-handed. I think this is God’s way of saying that He is first, and He created all things, so whatever is first is special as a reminder of these things. The sacrifice is our way of giving Him thanks for being our Creator and Leader. And then He reminds them to keep the festival of Sabbath, which is held on the last day of the week. He wants them to keep it even during planting and harvesting, because like there is always a first, there is also always a last. And in this I believe that God uses Sabbath to remind us that just as He is our first, He is also the last. In the New Testament, He says He is our rest, and He also says He is the Alpha and the Omega.
The last verse of today’s reading reminds Israel to bring the best of their first fruits as an offering to God. We should always bring our best to God, and we should always bring what we have to Him before offering it to the thankless world around us. Whatever we have belongs to Him first anyway, and only He promises to do awesome things through us by bringing His gifts back to their source. If Israel will live by God’s rules, and not be swayed by the ways of their new roommates, they have a promising and prosperous future ahead of them. And because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so do we.
Be Kind, Rewind, isn’t something most of our younger generation is likely to hear anymore since video cassette tapes have been replaced by DVDs and Blu-ray discs. But there was a time in the not-so-distant past that a random act of kindness was simply to rewind the movie you had just rented before you returned it to the rental store. Audio cassettes were still in use then too, and this reminds me of the time I found an LP record of Queen’s greatest hits for my husband and decided to play it for my nephew. I think he was about 13 or 14 then, but I figured it would be good for him to hear the music his uncle grew up on, and I was pretty sure he would like it. I was right. As soon as it got to the end, he told me he liked it, and he asked me how to rewind it. 😉
In today’s reading from Exodus 34:1 through Exodus 34:9, we have God telling Moses to meet Him on the mountain top, so they can rewind their earlier activity of inscribing God’s laws onto stone tablets. If you can see God as having a sense of humor, you should be able to laugh at the way He speaks to Moses in verse 1… “Adonai said to Moshe, “Cut yourself two tablets of stone like the first ones; and I will inscribe on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.” In future readings, God will make more statements about “the first tablets” and “the ones you broke.” I don’t know if it’s just the way the scribes wrote it, or if God really did say these things to Moses more than once. I think the latter, and I think it was to remind Moses that even he got fed up with how the people acted when there was no one around to watch them.
So Moses climbs the mountain with the two new stones, cut like the first, and goes to meet God as He requested. This meeting was to include ONLY Moses, to the extent that God didn’t even want the animals grazing near the base of the mountain. When Moses gets up there, God descends in the cloud to meet him, and the first thing He does is pronounce His memorial name–Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (YHVH aka Yahveh, also written in modern language as YHWH aka Yahweh)–just as He had done with Abraham. This is a big deal, and it speaks of just how Yahveh felt about Moses.
Next, God repeats His name again, and this time He frames it with a statement that He, Yahveh, is The Lord who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth, showing grace to the thousandth generation. He goes on, I believe as a precursor to the laws He is about to give again, and tells Moses that He is God who forgives offenses, crimes, and sins, yet does not exonerate the guilty but causes the negative effects of the parents’ offenses to be visited on future (even to the third and fourth) generations.
I want to point out here that I’ve heard people make statements about the unfairness of God visiting effects on future generations, but it’s just the law of the harvest in action. If I plant bad seeds, it is not only me that is affected. Everyone who eats the bad plants, or who can’t eat because crops won’t grow, will be affected. The ground can be affected and cause future crops to not grow. And even when people don’t care enough for themselves, they will often change for others, so God was just using the same psychology as social service workers who threaten parents with a loss of their children if they don’t change their own behaviors–such as drinking or drug use. And while negative effects are visited to the third and fourth generations, as God says at the first, His mercy is given to the thousandth generation.
When God finishes speaking, Moses bows his head and prostrates himself before God. Moses then speaks and asks God that if he has indeed found favor in His sight, would He please stay with the people of Israel. He admits that the people are stubborn, but he asks that Yahveh will pardon their offenses and sin, and that He will take them as His possession once again. So, we started with God telling Moses to be kind, rewind, with the tablets, and now we have Moses asking God to be kind and rewind in His forgiveness and favor of Israel.
What would you do if God gave you the opportunity to actually see Him walking near you? Even though most of us realize that we, ourselves, are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, we rarely think of God’s actual presence dwelling with us because a spirit doesn’t seem quite the same as a physical being. So, if suddenly He came by and told us we could see Him physically, I think we would all have the mixed emotions of a kitty cat ready to pounce–excited to go forward (seek) but unsure and ready to run at the same time (hide).
In today’s reading from Exodus 33:17 through Exodus 33:23 (the end of the chapter and another super short one), Yahveh is telling Moses that He will do as Moses has asked and continue to walk with Israel. God reminds Moses that He is doing so because Moses has found favor in His sight, and because He knows Moses by name.
So, here’s Moses having this very personal conversation with The Creator of the Universe who is telling him that He knows him by name, but Moses wants more. He asks God to show him His glory. And since God does not get upset with Moses, I’m guessing this continuous seeking is okay with Him. As I’m typing this, I have a purring kitty cat meowing at me and digging at my arm to reach over and pet him each time I stop to type, and even though I must continue, I am actually quite blessed at knowing he wants more of me and my attention. I’m guessing from this that God was blessed by Moses’ seeking more of Him.
God tells Moses He will pass by him. He leads Moses to a rock where He says Moses can stand to watch the event, and then He tells Moses that He will hide him in a cleft of the rock until He has passed by to where Moses can only see Him from behind. He reminds Moses that if no man can see His face and live, so in actuality God is showing mercy to Moses here. Maybe that’s why just before telling Moses about hiding his face, He says He will show favor to whom He will, and He will show mercy to whom He will.
It’s a little difficult to find more of a story in such a short reading, but still, I can find a number of treasures in these words. Standing on the rock is a sure and stable place, while hiding in the rock is like safety from surrounding storms and attacks. God placing His own hand over Moses is a personal and powerful type of protection for him. God speaking His name as He walks by is an assurance of who He is and that He is to be trusted. And I’ve heard an interesting theory that Moses seeing God from behind represents the history that God gave him to record in the first five books of the Bible, aka The Torah that we are studying now. Now it’s your turn to tell me in the comments what the words in this passage mean to you.
Oh, and just because of the Scriptures covered today, I must share this old hymn (Rock of Ages) as sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford…
As I was looking for pictures of square pegs, it suddenly occurred to me that the only way to get a square peg into a round hole is to make the square smaller. Maybe that’s why people who consider themselves to be “fitter-inners” are often found belittling those they consider to be squares. But if you have to become less of what you are to fit in with someone else’s idea of success, I say, be happy to be a square peg.
In today’s very short reading from Exodus 33:12 through Exodus 33:16, we follow up with God telling Moses that He will no longer travel with the people of Israel because their stiff-necked behaviors might make Him destroy them. Now remember, Moses talks to God face to face as a man talks to a friend, so while most of us would not dare to speak to God the way He is doing, Moses has proven his respect to God and his love for Him, so he gets away with it.
So, in my own paraphrase, here is Moses’ conversation with God…
Moses: You tell me to move on with these people, but you haven’t told me who is going with me as a support system since You aren’t going with us. But then again, You told me that You know my name, and that I have found favor in Your sight, so here’s my suggestion. First of all, if what You say about how You see me is true, then show me Your ways of righteousness and truth. Grant me an understanding of You, so I can continue to find favor in Your sight. And, above all else, I ask You to please keep seeing Israel as Your people.
Yahveh: Don’t worry yourself, Moses. I have decided to go with you after all.
Moses (as if he hasn’t heard what God just said to him): Because if You don’t go with us, I don’t even want to move on. I mean, how else will people know I have favor in Your sight? How else will they know You favor Israel? There is no way unless You go with us. Your presence–that’s the thing that sets us (me and Israel) apart from all the other people on earth.
So, what if the whole world decides that Israel is nothing but a bunch of square pegs with a bunch of square traditions? That’s what’s coming in their future. Is it their adherence to law that sets them apart? No, it’s not. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. Rather, it was always God’s presence that made them the people they were. That’s what was proven while Moses and the elders were up on the mountain. God’s presence was up there on the mountain, and the people were just people then. And their humanness led them into sinful behavior, even though they had a leader in Aaron (albeit one who was slacking in his duties), and they had the history with God as their deliverer. They needed God’s presence right there with them to be a truly set apart people in all their ways. And as the people of God go, that has never changed.
Remember this round from school days?
Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? You stole the cookies from the cookie jar. Who, me? Yes, you. Couldn’t be. Then who?
Even in our playtime, no one ever wanted to really take the blame. Whether it was because we didn’t really believe we would get caught, or because we truly thought that if we denied it people would drop the case, Now, as then, it doesn’t seem to be customary to confess our wrongdoings unless there is just too much solid proof. And even when there’s just no denying it because we have been caught red-handed, we still don’t take full responsibility. Instead, we try to create an excuse that makes it someone else’s fault.
In today’s reading from Exodus 31:18 through Exodus 33:11, we get to see what the people of Israel have been up to while Moses and the elders have been up on the mountain learning about God’s plans to show mercy on them through His law and through sacrifice. They’ve gotten bored. They’ve decided that they no longer trusted Moses to be in God’s favor and think God has killed him. And in believing their leader is gone, they’ve also decided they no longer have Yahveh as their God, so they call on Aaron to create a god for them to worship. If only they had known that though Moses couldn’t see what they were doing, he was aware of God’s anger toward them, and he was pleading for their souls to the very God they had abandoned.
So, imagine you’re like Moses, and you’ve just spent hours pleading with a judge to have mercy on a family member because you just know his or her behavior was a one-time thing. You want the judge to give the person another chance, and the judge agrees. You head to where the person lives to share the good news, and instead of gratefulness, you find a wild party going on. Wouldn’t you want to just scream, drive everyone out, and the beat the living tar out of the offender for not recognizing the absurdity of his or her actions? Moses sees these people dancing and singing around a golden calf, calling it their god, thanking it for delivering them from Egypt, and suddenly, his anger blazes into a raging flame. He throws down the tablets of commands he has just been spending so much time receiving and crushes the golden calf into dust. After he sprinkles the dust on the water, he makes the people drink it.
Now Moses confronts Aaron who was supposed to be watching the people. The Scripture says that Aaron allowed the people to get out of control. Remember that all this time, God has been telling Moses about the job Aaron was chosen to do as an anointed high priest. With that anointing, Aaron should have cared more for the people’s souls, and not given in to their whining voices. Now, when Moses confronts Aaron, what does he do? He pulls the infamous not me routine and blames all the behavior on the people–and in a way on God. He says he told the people to bring him gold to make them a god, and when he threw the gold in the fire, out popped a golden calf. Really, Aaron? Do you actually think anyone is going to believe that?
But all the excuses in the world were not going to change anything because God was looking on their hearts, and I’m guessing there were some that incited the people into believing the nonsense and giving up on God. He sent the true believers out to kill many of the unbelievers, and three-thousand people were killed that day. At the same time, Moses went back to the mountain to plead for God’s mercy one more time. God agreed to show mercy, but He still sent a plague on the people. He told Moses to continue to lead them to the promised land, but He also told them He could no longer walk with them because He would be too tempted to destroy them on the way.
As the reading comes to a close, Moses and Joshua set up a tent of meeting outside the camp since God will no longer walk into the camp. Whenever they go in to speak with God, the cloud of God’s presence resides over the top of the tent. The people, now being reconfirmed about God and His power, stand in the field watching Moses go into the tent, and when the cloud comes down, they fall on their faces and worship. While in the tent, Scripture says Yahveh would speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks to a friend.
I guess that last line should be the goal for each of us. We can find God on the mountain top, or we can see His feet from someplace a little lower than the top, or we can see His presence from a distance and fall down to worship Him. But, oh, how precious would it be to speak with Him face to face as with a friend? The veil that once separated all but the high priest from the presence of God was torn, so we can have that now, but it is nothing to take lightly. I believe we must tear the veil of sin from around our hearts on a regular basis, and let God in to that deepest place each day. It’s not easy. Like Paul said, “I die daily.” But our daily dying out to sin means a daily resurrection to new life in Him. That’s why His word says in Lamentations 3:22-23 that God’s mercies are begin fresh EVERY morning.
The world around us is filled with creativity. Most of it is God’s direct action on molecular structure, but because He made man in His own image, He has also passed on some of His creative genes. In return, we have the pleasure of filling our worlds with the crafts and creations of others. Whether the person doing the creating is the one who comes up with the idea or the one who adds the final touches, they are given the gift of creation by The Master Creator.
In today’s (slightly lengthy) reading from Exodus 30:11 through Exodus 31:17, we are beginning a new portion on the give and take that provides for the crafts used in tabernacle service. The Hebrew name for this parashah is Ki Tissa, and it means “When you take.” It begins with God’s order of a census of the people and a charge for their atonement to be collected at the same time. God explains that the price of atonement will be the same for everyone ( half a shekel), and it will be used to fund the operating costs of the tabernacle.
A new piece of furniture is presented today–the bronze laver, or wash basin. Not many are certain of its original design, but I like the image I saw with spigots in the bottom to fill a trough for washing feet. The priests could also wash their hands in the flowing water before it filled the bottom trough. As I mentioned in the “Altar Ego” post where I talked of the brazen altar, no minister could come up to these bronze-coated furnishings and not see himself in it. I think it’s especially important to take a look at yourself when you are getting ready to wash. That works spiritually as much as it does physically.
The last part of Chapter 30 talks of the aromatic spices, oils, and extracts that are to be used to create the anointing oil and the incense for the altar of incense. The oil, which is used to anoint all the furnishings and instruments of the tabernacle, is not the same oil as is used for putting on people–such as anointing to heal the sick. God is specific about its ingredients, and He says no other ingredients should be used for this particular anointing oil, and this oil is not to be used for any other purpose. It is so holy that making it without God’s instruction, or using it contrary to His purpose, will cause a person to be cut off from his people. In like manner, God gives specific instructions for creating the incense, and He says that anyone who makes it to use as perfume will be cut off from his people.
So, in the last two days, we’ve learned much about being holy to Yahveh. He wants us to do our ministries to Him with complete dedication to Him and Him only. We don’t offer praise just to look good to others, and we don’t minister just to be uplifted by others. I am sad to say that we have a strong apostate spirit in this generation, and there are those who dub themselves prophet, prophetess, reverend, etc., for unholy purposes. I won’t give names, but if you want to read some “tell it like it is” revelations about those who use God’s holy things–like anointing and praise–in ways other than God has designed them, have a look at some articles by my friend and fellow Christian writer, Brenda, who writes the blog, Redeemed Hippies Place. Do not even visit, though, unless you are one who can take hard truth with no fluff. And if you are interested in some more strong reading about being holy and separated for service to Our Creator, be sure to pick up the book called “Holy to Yahveh” by Terrye Goldblum Seedman. You can find her articles and information at http://yahveh.com/, and her book is under the store label.
Please take time to read the Scriptures I post for yourself. I have created all links to open in new windows/tabs, so you will not lose your place here. The remaining part for today’s reading covers some specific artisans, and it deals with the requirements for keeping Shabbats/Sabbaths. I have covered that some, and I will cover more of it later, but for now, I just encourage you to go read these things for yourself. I’ve given links with plenty to read this time, so I’ll close for now. And please leave me comments on your thoughts about the Scriptures, and about the readings at the other links I’ve provided. Many blessings on your week.
I have always loved to sing, and more than that, I have always loved to sing songs that I could feel in my heart. When I stand with a congregation to sing praise songs to God, I look for the deepest meaning I can find in the song, and I try my best to sing it to Him directly. It’s a struggle for me to sing something I cannot feel. I have often stood crying when it seemed the music around me was just cluttered noise. Sometimes I would cry because I felt the presence of God by seeking God in the midst of whatever was going on around me, and sometimes I would cry because I was hurting over the shallowness I felt in what should have been the holiest time of our fellowship together.
Long before King David and the Book of Psalms he filled with praises toward Yahveh Almighty, God taught men how He wanted praise to be delivered to Him. In today’s reading from Exodus 30:1 through Exodus 30:10 we learn about the Altar of Incense which represents praise. Beyond offering a regular sacrifice twice each day, God also commanded the priests to offer fragrant incense twice each day. He gave instructions for an altar that would be used specifically for this purpose.
The most important instruction about the Altar of Incense is where God said to locate it. He said to put it in front of the curtain by the Ark of the Covenant. Remember that the priest, and only the high priest, could go into the Holy of Holies, and then only once per year. Many layers of drapery separated that area from the rest of the tabernacle. But, while men could not go beyond the curtain, the smoke that ascended from the incense would be able to penetrate the material to reach the ark that represented God’s presence.
Because this smoke went directly into God’s presence, God was very specific about what to burn on the altar and how to burn it. Unholy things cannot dwell in God’s presence, so anything not created by God’s exact instructions was considered “strange fire,” and should never be put on God’s altar. He said to offer no grain offerings on it and to pour no drink offerings on it. In addition, God told Aaron to put the blood of atonement on it once per year to keep it holy because, according to God, that altar was especially holy to Him. Imagine, something that represents praise being called “especially holy” to God then and throughout all the generations of His people.
Since we are now able to come boldly before the throne of God and into His presence, it might be easy to forget just how holy praise is to Him. We sometimes sing songs because they sound good or because a certain singer or band does a good job with their performance. I know how hard it is to lead music and remember that it’s not about performance at the same time. But I also know the experience of how I’ve heard my own voice, as if it wasn’t even coming out of me, somehow sound better than any practice or performance because my heart went to a place of true worship as I sang.
While we often start services with praise because we want to change the atmosphere by ushering in the presence of God, I love the times where we sing to change ourselves and usher our own spirits into His glorious presence. Since the smoke of incense rises, and since incense represents praise entering God’s presence, I feel like praise is a way to rise up out of our flesh and actually send a part of ourselves into the holy presence of our Holy Creator. Sometimes, it may even take a sacrifice–a break away from our own thoughts and ways–but to me, there is no greater joy than to lead my heart into a place of worship that God can receive as a holy and acceptable offering to Him. And on that note, enjoy this video with lyrics of the song Heart of Worship by Matt Redman.
In one of the greatest misheard lyrics of all time, we get the title of this post from the song I’d Really Love to See You Tonight by England Dan and John Ford Coley. The line actually says, “I’m not talkin’ about movin’ in.” It’s a song with a catchy tune but sort of a sad set of lyrics. The guy misses his ex, and to get her to consider spending time with him, he tries to assure her that he’s not talking about anything permanent.
But in tonight’s Torah reading from Exodus 29:38 through Exodus 29:46, the end of the chapter, God speaks a message directly opposite this song. There are details about the lambs that are to be offered in the morning and the evening every day, details about the grain offering of flour and olive oil, and details about the drink offering of wine. There are no more details about the fine-woven linens, so even though it’s based on a misheard lyric line, my title is correct.
The last half of the paragraph in today’s reading is the one that got my attention though. The offerings are given to draw the Spirit of Adonai with their pleasing aroma. At the place of offering, Yahveh says He will meet with the people, and the glory of His presence will consecrate the meeting place. Then, it says, God will live with Israel and be their God. He says that when He lives with them, He will be their God and they will know that He is the One who brought them out of Egypt. More importantly, it says they will know He brought them out of Egypt in order to live with them.
Yes, God is talkin’ about movin’ in. He does want to change their lives. He wants to be their God, and He wants them to know Him as their God. And because Yahveh is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I believe His message is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His purpose in delivering us from the bondage of sin is because He wants to move in. He says that He is a jealous God, and He has never liked being a stranger to those He created with love and with His own breath. He doesn’t just want to see us for one night, or once a week. He wants to move all the way into our lives, and then He wants to continually move IN our lives if only we will let Him.
I grew up hearing the statement “Pretty is as pretty does.” It was a good lesson for teaching me to look beyond outward beauty, and it may be the reason I rarely thought of celebrities as any more valuable than non-famous people. Of course, even pretty behavior doesn’t guarantee a pretty heart, but the self-control required to maintain things like courtesy and respect can at least slow a person down to a point of being more reachable. In a culture that now seems to value wild unruliness over dignity and chivalry, it would be nice to see the quietness that would come from pulling people back to a place of more controlled character and virtue.
In today’s reading from Exodus 29:19 through Exodus 29:37, we read a number of duties and details for becoming holy. Just being selected as a generation of priests, or even for the position of high priest, did not make Aaron, his sons, or any part of Israel automatically holy. Just being washed, redressed, and anointed didn’t even do the job. And as if offering sin offerings, atonement offerings, and sacrifice offerings was not enough, today will add the “wave offering.” Yet, even all of these things together did not create any kind of guaranteed position of holiness.
As I read through the required works, including the seven days required for sanctification, two things caught my attention. First, I noticed that from days ago, none of these works are random. They are all prepared for in advance. The bread the men will eat today was put in a basket before the washing had ever begun. The clothing was created in advance. Because of the stringent requirements of perfection on the part of the animal sacrifices, there couldn’t just be a noisy stampede by the door while the priests grabbed the first critters they could get their hands on. Being holy is not just something to be, it requires becoming; constantly renewing those things that don’t fall into line the same way a lady would do in guarding her every step and word to fall in line with the behaviors of a true debutante.
Planning ahead takes planning ahead. I have never been very good at that. If I was, it wouldn’t have taken me years after starting my blog to become regular at posting on it. Still, if I had not already started it, that may have become an excuse for not moving forward, so I’m glad I had a place already prepared. I’m trying to learn to do better at planning ahead for my Sabbaths. There is even a word in speaking of biblical Sabbaths that means “Sabbath preparation day” rather than actual Sabbath, and that is the word used when they said they had to hurry up and get Yahshua crucified because “the preparation day” is coming. Unlike most of us Christians who run rampant getting ready for services on Sunday mornings, most Hebrews spent a full day preparing for their day of rest, so everything would already be taken care of ahead of time. Of course, this is also why I’m fairly certain that Yahshua was crucified on a Thursday, but that would be another whole blog post in itself.
The other thing I noticed was the last line that “whatever touches the altar will become holy.” I’m certain this relates to the first thing in that nothing was even allowed near the altar until it was prepared. The priests had to be washed, dressed, and anointed before approaching the altar. The animals had to be chosen, washed, and cut into whatever pieces were required for specific rituals before the remains were put on the altar. Even Our “Sacrificial Lamb” spent 33 years being human, and enduring human things like weakness and hunger, before He came to the altar of sacrifice. He had to learn obedience to parents before being considered mature, and He had to learn the value of manual labor before He graduated to miracles. He even had to go toe to toe with His enemy after 40 days of suffering in the wilderness before He was even ready to get baptized.
As I said above, we live in a world of wild abandon, and too many just want to throw themselves on an altar and become instantly holy. Maybe that’s why so many fall to their knees in moments of emotion but run back to their old and familiar ways when the going gets rough for them. If I could teach anyone anything of true value it would be that Yahveh Almighty is worth the preparations and sacrifices required to be holy to Him. Feeling His presence and love surround you and separate you from the distractions and clamor of your worldly needs and desires is more valuable than any reward the world has to offer. As the song of the same title says, “I keep falling in love with Him over and over, and over and over again,” and that love makes me want to do holy as much as I want to be holy for Him.
P.S. Just in case you’d like to hear that song, here’s a link for it at YouTube…
There’s just something about a uniform that evokes more trust than everyday clothing. For me, working for a company that gave me a uniform, even if it was just a vest to wear over my own clothes, made me feel like I was a part of something important. The first picture I ever saw of my husband was of him in a uniform. It didn’t have to be his dress uniform for me to know he was a soldier, and I felt a sense of pride in that even before meeting him. After getting to know him, I noticed that the uniform didn’t only affect me, but it affected his behavior as well. He knew when he was dressed in uniform that he represented more than just himself, and he cared that others saw that representation as perfectly as possible.
In today’s reading from Exodus 29:1 through Exodus 29:18, we step into the dressing room of Aaron and his sons. I’m going to try my best to compare the steps that prepared these first priests with the steps today’s servants of God should be taking. After all, we are called “A Kingdom of Priests” and “A Royal Priesthood.” See Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9-10, and Revelation 1:6. I hope I can bring it all together, and I hope each of my readers will feel dressed for success after reading about this wonderful calling to walk before Yahveh as servants and friends.
In yesterday’s reading, we were told that Aaron and his sons were to be anointed, inaugurated, and consecrated to serve in the office of priest. I looked up the definitions of those three words and found the following: anoint = ceremonially confer divine or holy office by smearing with oil, and nominate or choose; inaugurate = begin, admit formally, or mark the beginning of office; and consecrate = dedicate formally for divine service, ordain or devote to service. Based on the definitions, I believe that lines up with the Scripture in Revelation 17:14 that says those who will minister on the side of Christ in the final war are His called, chosen, and faithful.
For Aaron and his sons to take their chosen offices, and for us to take our positions in service to God, I believe the steps are similar. They start with things that happen at the door of the tabernacle before anyone even approaches the Holy Place or The Holy of Holies. The first thing done to Aaron and his sons were that they were washed. They could not put on the ministry uniforms until they were cleansed. We usually hear our call to serve God outside the church as well. Maybe we see a good example, maybe we have a dream, or maybe someone ministers to us. Maybe we hear Christ knocking a number of times before we choose to open the door and walk through. Once we walk through, we often choose to get baptized to represent that we are washing away our old lifestyle, so we can be consecrated to God’s service.
After Aaron and his sons were washed, then they were dressed in the ritual vestments. Those uniforms, as I pointed out previously, covered them from head to toe. These new priests were completely washed and completely covered in a new image. When we make a decision to walk according to God’s will, we are told (in Romans 13:14) “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” We are also reminded in Galatians 3:27 that if we have been baptized (washed) into Christ, we have put on Christ. Since the word baptism means “immersion” that means we have been dressed or uniformed–head to toe–in Christ, just as the priests were dressed in their vestments.
The last thing done to Aaron and his sons to prepare them for service was to have the anoiting oil poured over their heads. It was only after these new priests were washed, redressed, and anointed that the sacrifices could be offered in atonement for their sins. They placed their hands on the head of the sacrifice to be offered. I believe that gave them a connection to it. It wasn’t just some light message of an errand boy running up saying it was done. They were a part of the sacrifice as it was slaughtered. Once we have committed ourselves to Christ, and after we have been washed and dressed, it is time for us to become connected to Yahshua. When we have a relationship with Him, His atonement for our sins will mean that much more to us.
Let me break here by giving a quick example of how much more something means after a connection has been established. When I read Eli by Bill Myers, the crucifixion scene was done quite differently since it was shown in the 1970s instead of 33AD. I have never seen a live crucifixion, and other than biblical stories, I haven’t even seen them on television. But I have seen fights, and I have seen televised fights that included people being kicked when they were down. So when the author describes Jesus being kicked in the ribs with pointy-toed cowboy boots, I felt it to my core. I cried as much or more than I did when I watched the beating scene in The Passion.
After the initial offering of the bull, the remains were given as a burnt offering, and then the whole ram was also given as a burnt offering. I believe that last offering is the one that represents us burning up our old ideas and our old ways because it was only after the washing, the consecration, the new image, the anointing, and the first blood sacrifice that the second offering became a sweet-smelling aroma to Yahveh. It is after we have begun our dedicated service to God that the sacrifices we make in the form of good works, or things we give up for Him, are seen by Him as acceptable.
As with the priests, being anointed for ministry to God is only one step in our service to Him. It’s the step that says He has called us to do what He has already prepared us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are of God’s making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do.” (Red letter emphasis is mine.) After we are anointed and washed, we can dress for success in the uniform that is Christ. When we’re wearing that uniform, we walk as if we are consecrated, or “set apart,” for our anointing and calling. As we walk in that calling, we will have opportunities to fail, but like Aaron for his sons, our High Priest, Yahshua, is always making atonement for us, so we can continue to walk. Micah 6:6-8 puts it most simply, and here it is from The New Living Translation…
New Living Translation (NLT)
6 What can we bring to the Lord?
What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God
with offerings of yearling calves?
7 Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?
8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
I was looking for something with a picture of bells when I came across the above image from a challenge I had while in a digital kaleidoscope creation group back in 2008. I was torn between using an image and a song title, so in my search, I also discovered that there are a lot of songs out there with lyrics or titles about bells. So, just for fun I thought I’d ask, how many songs can you name that are about bells or have bells in the title? Here are some to get you started…
- Jingle Bells
- You can Ring My Bell
- If I Had a Hammer (verse 3: If I had a bell to ring)
- I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
- Ding Dong, Ding Dong, Christmas Bells Are Ringing
- Let ‘Em In (Somebody’s knocking on the door, somebody’s ringin’ the bell)
- Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead
- Silver Bells
- When They Ring Those Golden Bells
And the last one I’ve listed is the perfect segue into today’s reading from Exodus 28:31 through Exodus 28:43, the end of the chapter. The details for adorning the priest are now up to the blue robe that the priest will wear under the ritual vest. On the hem of the robe, the artisans are instructed to add blue, purple, and scarlet pomegranates with golden bells between each of them. The bells will ring continually while the priest walks around and ministers in the Holy Place, so the people will know He has not gone into the presence of Yahveh with a sinful heart and collapsed in death.
So now my mind is all over the map with trying to figure out if the bells signified anything else besides the evidence of life. I know from a tour of The Tabernacle Experience when it was in Louisville that on the highest holy day, Yom Kippur, the people knew the importance of their sins being pushed forward a year, so they waited quietly, listening for the priests bells to make sure nothing interrupted this important part of his ministry. But, I also wonder if the bells were a type of music to God. Did He long for the sound of the bells that said one of His priests was about to enter His presence? Did He rejoice with the music of the bells as the priest went out to announce to the people the good news that their sins were forgiven for another year? Interesting things to think about, huh?
In addition to the adorned robe and vest, the priest is to wear a linen turban that includes a golden seal engraved with the words, “Set Apart for Adonai.” This reminder is needed because the high priest, Aaron at the time, goes in bearing the guilt of the people who have erred from God’s commands. It is both a blessing and a grave thing to be set apart for the Lord. It is a blessing because to be set apart means to be holy in God’s eyes. And it is a grave thing because, for the high priest, it meant he carried a very heavy burden until it was hoisted upon the altar. For our final High Priest, Yahshua our Messiah, it was a blessing to come to this earth holy enough to bear the weight of our sins permanently, but it was also said to be a curse to die upon a cross as He had to do to free of from our sin.
The priests were also to wear woven tunics and colorful belts to hold everything in place. And while I haven’t checked it piece by piece yet, I think there’s a connection to all these priestly vestments and the whole armor of God. Be my guest and see what you can come up with, and add your notes to the comments section.
Finally, the last paragraph talks about what I think is the very first pair of underwear. With both pomegranates and underwear in the same story, I momentarily thought of using the title “Fruit of the Loom,” but I decided against it because of the holiness that all the priests vestments represent. In this case, God tells Moses that the men are to wear linen shorts that they will not be found guilty in His presence, and so they will not die.
I am amazed at how God covered, literally, every part of the human form that our humanity and sin could be covered to allow for ministry and sacrifice. He desired to be connected to us so much that when these artistic coverings and the blood of bulls and goats were still not enough, He created a priest’s garment made of flesh and robed His Spirit head to toe to give us His life in our place. While He was still walking in that flesh, He stated that there was no greater love than that of one who would lay down his life for a friend. His word tells us that we are not just His flock as the people were like flocks for Aaron and other priests, but we were also Christ’s friends. Truly, there never has been, and never will be, a greater love.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been greatly affected by the admonition from Romans 12:1 to not judge because when we do, we must beware of doing the same thing. Even when directing my nephews for the short time I raised them, I always thought about how I could be accused of doing the same things I was now disciplining them for, so I would try to tell them that discipline did not mean I was judging them. People who do not serve God might call it “karma” or some other word, but I guess I’ve always felt that if I passed judgment over others, I was risking putting myself in a position to be tested by that very thing.
Unfortunately, what I’ve just described is not the effect God wanted that admonition to create. To the contrary, He actually wants us to judge, but to do so in righteousness and not with pride as if we’re better than others, or as if we don’t commit our own sins in our own ways. In today’s reading from Exodus 28:13 through Exodus 28:30, we read about an important piece of the garment for the High Priest of God. This piece is called “the breastplate of judgment” and it has some pretty cool aspects to it that can help us avoid the condemnation that follows in the other verses in Romans 2.
First, the design of the piece includes twelve beautiful stones. The artists are told to engrave one name of each tribe of Israel into each stone. Basically, these are the children of Israel’s birthstones. These stones, sewn into the breastplate and laying over the top of the vest of the high priest’s garment, will always be above the heart of the priest when he goes into the holy of holies to minister to God. This will keep the tribes of Israel over his heart, so he will judge with righteousness.
Beyond the breastplate, we have a couple extra pieces called the urim and tumim that will be covered in detail later, but these stones that rest on the shoulder of the high priest will help him in determining the truth for God’s children, so he can judge correctly.
As with the priests, it is God’s will that we judge, and that we do so correctly in righteousness. If we seek His help and direction, we can keep the right thoughts on our hearts when we are required to pass judgment. God has to judge between good and evil because evil cannot dwell with Him. We must judge between good and evil if we want to keep ourselves from evil, so we can dwell in the presence of God. That is why judgment begins at the house of God–our house/temple of God’s Holy Spirit. May God place His heart–the heart of a righteous judge–within us all that none of us would judge in pride or arrogance but only in obedience and righteousness in Christ.
I was looking for an image of the garments for the High Priest among the Creative Commons images at Flickr. The one I found above was not only the right picture, but I really like the caption given by the photographer: What the Best Dressed Priests are Wearing. I think I read somewhere that it’s “Fashion Week” in New York, so a lot of people are thinking about “best dressed” celebrities and models to grace the covers of their magazines and news stories. But I have to agree with the photographer that the best-dressed ever were the temple priests.
In today’s reading from Exodus 27:20 through Exodus 28:12, we are beginning a new portion called Tetzaveh which is Hebrew for “You are to order.” In this reading, God orders the oil for the menorah, and then He goes into extreme detail for Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons who will serve as tabernacle priests.
The first thing I noticed here was that the garments were to set the priests apart for serving God, and they were to express dignity and splendor. Isaiah 61 talks about putting on the garment of praise to replace the spirit of heaviness in our lives, and it is speaking to all of us while also speaking to those it says in verse 6 will be named the priests of the Lord. Read all of Isaiah 61 for an uplifting and strengthening piece of biblical prose. And remember, we are all called a kingdom of priests for God. So, when we put on a new garment of praise for God, it expresses dignity and splendor to God, and He returns peace to us in spite of our heaviness. Awesome huh?
Then I noticed that God again calls for skilled artisans. He says, in verse 3, “Speak to all the craftsmen to whom I have given the spirit of wisdom, and have them make Aharon’s garments to set him apart for me, so that he can serve me in the office of cohen.” So, for artisans to be skilled, it meant they had received their skill by the wisdom of God. To me, that means my creativity, and the creativity of other Christians, is a gift of wisdom. Our Master Designer placed that piece of His Creative Self within us that we may be set apart to serve Him with dignity and splendor. When you and I put our hands and heart in motion to praise Him through our creativity, God will see us adorned in that garment of praise, and He will declare us as best dressed for Him.
We don’t usually hear anyone cheer people who compete for Olympic medals, or other medals for that matter, to “Go for the bronze.” We tell them to shoot for the gold but be proud if they make silver or bronze. It’s the same with ribbons. We don’t usually encourage ourselves, or anyone else we know, to just be happy with a participant ribbon. But for some reason, when it comes to encouraging people to cross the finish line for Heaven, we think just getting there is enough. But if you’ll read 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, you’ll find an interesting dialogue about our works, and how they will be tried by fire. Our goal should be to build something that will withstand that trial to give us a greater reward.
So what does this have to do with today’s reading? Well, with the winter Olympics going on, I thought the title and image were a good way to showcase today’s reading from Exodus 27:9 through Exodus 29:19 with its instructions on building the courtyard for the wilderness tabernacle. The courtyard was important in that it surrounded and protected the Holiest of Holies. But, that’s just it; it surrounded the heart of the tabernacle. It was not, of itself, the heart or the most important part of tabernacle worship.
In the building details, we read of artistic tapestries of finely woven linen, bronze sockets, silver rings, and amazing dimensions of 150 feet in length by 75 feet in width. After all the details, we are told at the end of today’s reading that all equipment for service in the tabernacle, and all the tent pegs for the courtyard, are to be of bronze.
My take on all of this is that bronze represents a working metal and not a high value metal. Bronze is an alloy of copper, and as such has great metallic value. But it’s not the value of silver or gold. It can tarnish, but it can be shined up again to mirror quality. To me, this sounds a lot like those of us who walk as servants to Yahveh Almighty He is the gold, and we are mined from the earth and can be tarnished by sin but can be cleaned up to reflect the personality of our Savior Yahshua. So, in one way, we can go for the bronze by becoming converted from simple clay. At the same time, we can go for the gold by seeking as much of God’s presence as we can find on this earth, and by striving to dwell in the holiest places of the heavens.
I’m not sure if the close spelling between alter and altar are intentional, but I do find it interesting that we go to an altar in order to alter our futures. Through an altar built to Yahveh, we can alter an attitude, a destiny, or a focus. We can make decisions based on seeking God’s perfect will for our lives simply by using an altar to alter our commitments from self to God.
When I was a kid, I used to like a song by Tom T. Hall called “Me and Jesus.” The last two sentences in the chorus said, “Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’. We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.” I just liked it as a “Jesus” song with a fun rhythm, but with maturity in God, I now know how self-centered the thought process of that song was. While a man can make an altar out of a stone, and while we need a personal relationship with Christ, we also need humility to surrender to God and let Him run the show. Think of it this way: One word for self is the word “ego.” The letters in the word “ego” can stand for “edging God out.”
In today’s reading from Exodus 27:1 through Exodus 27:8, Moses receives the instructions for building the brazen (bronze) altar. Because the instructions include meat hooks, fire pans, and pots and shovels for removing ashes, this is the altar where sacrifices will alter the destinies of those who would otherwise be condemned by their sins.
Without an altar to change things, men just received the natural recompense for their actions until the sins of the day came to a point of destroying life on this earth. The corruption (moth, rust, dust, disease, etc.) so tainted the life God planned for those created in His image that He had to destroy the earth and all but eight people. But now, He is giving people a definitive set of rules and a way to receive mercy when those rules are violated. Just like the blood that was shed in the garden when God slayed an animal to cover the sins of Adam and Eve, there will now be an altar to receive the blood that will–at least temporarily–cover the sins of the people when a sacrifice is made for those sins.
As with other furnishings, there will be poles and staves to carry this altar from place to place as the tabernacle travels with the people. As with other brass-covered furnishings, the priests are not able to approach the altar without seeing themselves in the reflection of it. This may be similar to the reference in James 1:23-24 where it talks of those who are hearers of the Word but not doers. It says they are like men who behold themselves in a mirror, and then walk away and forget the type of man they just saw. Oh that, instead, we would all approach an altar seeing ourselves in honesty as we make ready to sacrifice and abandon ourselves to God’s perfect will for our lives. That’s an “altar ego.”
Back when people used answering machines more often than voicemail, it was easier to screen calls rather than just screening callers. If you were in the middle of something, you could listen to the message as it was being left and decide if it was something that could be handled later or needed an immediate response. But, while that works for people, it’s not a good idea to do the same thing with Yahveh.
When God reaches down into “miry clay” and calls us from our humanity to a higher place in Him, we really don’t want to miss out on the wonderful plans He has for us. He calls us because He loves us and desires for us to be closer to Him–to walk with Him both in this life and in eternity. Like a parent who knows what’s best for his child, our Heavenly Father calls to us because He has the best plan for us. Besides, while you can hold off on answering the phone since the caller cannot see you, we know from Scripture that God knocks on the door. 🙂
In today’s reading from Exodus 26:31 through Exodus 26:37 (the end of the chapter), we have more details on tabernacle construction. Most of them are finer details on things like the curtains and furnishings, but in this we learn where they are putting the Ark of the Covenant and placement of other furnishings. We also learn about the screen that will be placed between the “Holy Place” and the “Especially Holy Place” (often called The Holy of Holies). In this case, priests did have to screen God’s call to learn if they were called as high priests that could go into the holiest part of the tabernacle or not.
The above-mentioned screen is what is often referred to as the veil, and it is what was torn from top to bottom at the moment Yahshua gave up the ghost when He breathed His last breath on Calvary. I believe He, Himself, tore it apart as a follow up to His words, “It is finished,” meaning that the final sacrifice was done, so people could now come boldly before the ark. And, remember, the ark was topped by the mercy seat. Christ presents His own blood at the Heavenly altar that we may continually come boldly for a mercy that is new every morning. And I’m so glad that God doesn’t screen my calls.
During our December to January marathon of Christmas movies, the classic movie Lilies of the Field found its way to our DVR. We watched it just a week or so ago, and both hubby and I enjoyed it tremendously. I don’t know if I saw it as a little child, but if I did, it was long enough ago that the only thing I remembered was the main song. If you are a reader who has not seen this movie, I recommend it sooner rather than later.
In today’s reading from Exodus 26:15 through Exodus 26:30, we get another part of the “genealogy” of temple construction. I say it that way because, like the materials, the reading is pretty much consumed with details on how to build. There’s not much I can say here except to focus once again on the value of good instruction and teamwork. God definitely knows how to teach, and if Israel is paying attention, they should create a tabernacle that will line up with the design God showed Moses on the mountain.
As I type, I think I can find one more interesting thing here. God did the main construction for our bodies as the temples for His Holy Spirit, so we often just feel like the snowball that has been started down a hill, and we just roll without direction. But we have work to do just as the wilderness tabernacle was made for a certain job. If we will be sensitive to God’s voice, He will teach us the details we need to do whatever He has created us to do as His sanctuary. We know His plans are for good, so we can trust Him. And He has said that His sheep will hear His voice, so we just need to turn down the volume on the voices of flesh and listen for His tender leading. And with another reference to the above-mentioned movie, can I get an Amen?
It has been quite awhile since I was in a “home ec” class, but I know I liked the cooking ones better than the sewing ones. Maybe because I could eat my creations. 😉 Of course, I did get called to the principal once as a result of one cooking class. I made my first and only lemon meringue pie, and I brought a piece of it to my Spanish teacher. When the principal called me in, he asked if I was the one who gave pie to the teacher. I thought I’d done something horribly wrong until the principal told me the teacher gave him some of it, and he just wanted to know if I had any left and would bring some to him.
Well, Israel already had their cooking class back when God rained down manna for them. In today’s reading from Exodus 26:1 through Exodus 26:14, they get their sewing class. God gives them detailed instructions for making the curtains of finely woven linen for the wilderness tabernacle. He gives them measurements, amount of material, colors of yarn–royal colors of blue, purple, and scarlet–and even the color of the loops that will be used to hang the curtains. He tells them to use their artists to create embroidered cherubim (angels) in the drapes and to add golden fasteners, so the curtains can be joined as one complete unit.
After the linen curtains, God instructs Israel to make coverings with sheets made of goat hair. He gives strong details for making the coverings, but it is clear by the details that artistry is not of the same importance for the outer covering as for the inside drapes. This is what I was talking about when I spoke of the hidden beauty in an earlier post. And if goat hair isn’t enough to hide the beauty inside, Israel is then instructed to make more outer coverings of ram’s skins dyed red followed by dolphin or porpoise skins. That detail is given more clearly in the Amplified version of the last verse.
I think the thing I’m loving about the wilderness tabernacle is that everyone is working together with detailed instruction, and each person is to work within his or her own strengths. In my high school home economics elective, I was given the choice of “Threads” or “Grub,” so I could take the class I was most interested in. I tried the sewing one, and I think I remember making a blue corduroy pantsuit, but it’s long enough in the past that I don’t recall if I ever finished it. But I do remember that neither of those things was ever a strength to me like writing (especially poetry) and singing were. I am thankful, though, for everything God has allowed me to learn and experience in life. I’m even more thankful that He is a personal Creator that knows the strengths and weaknesses of those who walk with Him.
I enjoy going on cave tours, and one of the most beautiful ones I have toured was called “Caverns of Sonora” in Sonora, Texas. The image above was just one of those happy accidents as it was one of the few that came out nice from my point and shoot camera. As I looked at it, I thought about how long it had stayed in the dark before men discovered it and added light. The beauty was the same, but only God was able to see it. And then I thought of the Scripture about God looking on our hearts and wondered how much undiscovered beauty there might be in people.
In today’s reading from Exodus 25:17 through Exodus 25:40 (the end of the chapter), we see the instructions for three pieces of furniture for the yet-to-be-constructed tabernacle. There are details about size and dimension, materials, and usage for the Ark of the Covenant, Table of Shewbread, and Golden Menorah. The beauty being built into each of these items is exquisite, but most of the time, only those who can go to the holy parts of the tabernacle will be able to see them. That means, the beauty is hidden from all but the priests and God.
There are many theories and articles about the meanings of the tabernacle furnishings, but I’ll tell you just a little about my thoughts on the three mentioned today. The ark, being the dwelling place of The Most High, would represent the human heart. It is the place where God’s testimony (the Torah/Law) will be stored along with a pot of manna (to represent trust in God’s provision), and Aaron’s rod that budded (to represent God’s power and authority.) We know it is good to hide the law of God in our hearts, and isn’t that where we also find faith and where we tap into power? The encouragement to “give it your whole heart” shows just how much is rooted there.
The table has bread which feeds God’s priests, but I believe it is also a reminder that we are not to live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God. I believe it also represents the Bread of Life which is Yahshua our Messiah.
The Menorah, which is another of those words that includes the Hebrew OR for light, will bring light into the holy place. Again, Yahshua is The Light, and in the menorah, oil (which often represents the Holy Spirit) is used to give life to the light.
Like I said, there is so much more that can be found in these furnishings, including the fact that the Mercy Seat sits above the Ark of the Covenant because God’s mercy sits above His law. We are able to see these things now because He has made us a Kingdom of priests and a royal priesthood, and we are able to come boldly before the seat of mercy because God tore the veil that once separated us from it. I could go on, but I’ll let you read it for yourself and search to find your own beauty in these things and in God’s Holy Word.
P.S. I have put this image and quote on a few items in my Zazzle store. I’d like to post a few more one day soon. If you are interested in seeing the different colors and styles, just click http://www.zazzle.com/crystalwriter/gifts?cg=196922414116128920 to visit. Thanks.
I’ve always thought that houses with “Mother-in-law quarters” were a nice idea for people who wanted to be closer to their parents in times of need but not have them living under the same roof. It offers the respect of privacy for both the full family and the addition, and above all else, it offers close proximity.
In today’s reading from Exodus 25:1 through Exodus 25:16, we begin a new portion, number 19, titled T’rumah which is Hebrew for “Contribution.” It’s all about the contributions the people of Israel will give to build the Holy Temple according to God’s command. It begins with the very important statement that the only acceptable offerings are those the people freely and wholeheartedly want to give. God knows what materials He requires for this new temple, but the thing He wants most is that all will be done with desire and not because people have to give. He still wants us to give in this way.
In verse 8, God says that He wants the people to make him a sanctuary. His reason, He says, is so that He may dwell among them. Of all the reasons we build churches and temples these days, do we ever think about the first temple to God Himself, and that it was built for the purpose of His dwelling among His children? That’s why He wanted it built with freewill offerings. He didn’t want the scenario where a child grudgingly allows a parent to live with him but hates every moment of it. He wanted to be wanted. Of course, after everything He did for them, it’s hard for me to imagine not wanting Him around, but if I look back to my days of living in sin, I can see how that could happen.
Specifically, this makes me think of a time when I was homeless due to some bad decision-making on my part. I was so embarrassed about my situation that when I spotted someone I knew passing through town (I was living in Las Vegas, and people who were on their way from Los Angeles to Utah for a big convention came through there during my lowest time), I ran the other way. They would have loved me, cared for me, fed me, and brought me back home–but I ran. I ran hard and scared. I was terrified. Maybe I was sure they would hate me if they saw the real me, or maybe I was just humiliated, but whatever made me run felt more like someone was after me to kill me than to love me.
I think that fear of the unknown contributes to all people who run from God instead of letting Him into their lives. That’s why it takes faith to let Him in. Israel had a battle with that, and God just kept looking for ways around it. He let them be taken into captivity, and then He got them out. He delivered them from their captors, and He allowed them to see the death of their tormenters. He gave them bread from Heaven, and He brought them up to hear His voice at Mount Sinai. Now He is having them build a sanctuary that will allow them to bring Him into their midst without the fearful images they saw when they tried to look on Him directly. Because it is impossible for sin to dwell in His presence, He has issued rulings to purify the people, and He will be putting these rulings in the ark He describes in verses 10-16, so they can always remember them. He does all of this just because He desires to dwell with His people. I think we should make room and let Him in.
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