God Wants His People to Appreciate and Enjoy His Blessings

God, I love living with you; your house glows with your glory.” –Psalm 26:8 (MSG)

The outside of the wilderness tabernacle may have looked common to foreigners, but Godly Old Testament believers realized the high price and great beauty inside the sanctuary.

Of these treasures, King David testified: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Ps. 27:4 NIV). And, “Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple” (Ps. 65:4).

The holy sanctuary served as nourishment for the souls of believers who loved God. “People take refuge in the shadow of your wings [the Holy of Holies]. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights” (Ps. 36:7-8).

The Sons of Korah wrote: “How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1-2).

What the Old Testament believers treasured in the tabernacle—and later in the temple—God’s people now have in Jesus Christ, who is enthroned at God’s right side in heaven. Everything within the sanctuary pointed toward the Savior, who would come from Israel’s line of descendants. Even the ceremonies pointed to Christ, revealing much of His character and salvation freely given to those who place their trust in Him.

God’s people have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Anything that adds or subtracts from the person and work of Jesus Christ, as revealed in Scripture, is false teaching. For all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ (Col. 1:19; 2:9). He is all we need “for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

Jesus The “Bread of Life”

After Jesus had fed more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish, a crowd in Capernaum’s synagogue wanted Him to prove Himself as Messiah by replicating the miracle of manna (John 6:30-31). They mainly followed Jesus because He gave them food to eat. But they—like us—needed something more substantial than food for their bodies. They needed food for their souls (Isa. 55:2).

God may have only given Israel manna in the desert, but He gave His only Son, Jesus, for the whole world. Jesus said “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Jesus came to give Himself as the Bread of Life for hungry sinners. The only way to be saved from eternal death is to receive Him into our inner being, similar as the body receives food. Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) puts it this way: “Just as the Jews had to stoop and pick up the manna, and then eat it, so sinners must humble themselves and receive Jesus Christ within. The Jews ate the manna and eventually died, but whoever receives Jesus Christ will live forever.”

Reflect

My heart goes out to those who have recently found themselves in the devastating wake of Mexico’s earthquake and the recent hurricanes: Harvey and Irma. It seems these natural catastrophes are on the rise, both in frequency and intensity. Many people are reeling from the loss of homes, businesses, schools and their local economy.

If all of our treasures are only invested here in this earthly life then fear and despair will eventually barge in. But fear and despair are not the final outcome for God’s children. Though we might walk through difficult times, God fills us with hope through His Son, Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I like how The Message translates verses 16-18: So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Let’s keep our eyes on the prize—our treasure Jesus Christ—and the eternal life He promises those who place their trust in Him!

Have questions on Christianity? My pastor, Cliff Purcell, is a gifted communicator of the Gospel. You may listen to his latest teaching here, (and/or sign up to listen to his podcasts): http://firstnaz.com/media?id=544981.


The Tabernacle Framework (Exodus 26:1-37; 27:9-19; 36:8-38; 38:9-20)

‘Honor and majesty are before Him,’ wrote the psalmist; ‘strength and beauty are in His sanctuary’ (Ps. 96:6). The strength of His sanctuary is revealed in its construction, and the beauty is revealed in its adornment.” –Warren Wiersbe, Be Delivered

I didn’t realize that more space is devoted to the tabernacle, more than any other topic, in all of scripture. I also wasn’t aware just how much the tabernacle is steeped in symbolism that points to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

So far in this study, we’ve explored the significance of the following tabernacle furniture: ark of the covenant, the table of “presence bread”, the golden lampstand, the incense altar, the lavar, and the brazen altar. Now onward to the framework of the tabernacle.

Strength

Elegant curtains were draped over the solid structure of the tabernacle proper. Forming the north and south walls were twenty boards of acacia wood overlaid with gold. These stood fifteen feet high and twenty-seven inches wide. Eight similar boards fashioned the west wall.

God instructed Jewish men of military age to give silver shekels (“redemption money”) to be made into two silver bases for each board. This provided needed stability and security on the uneven ground. Wiersbe writes: “God’s sanctuary didn’t rest on the shifting sands of this world but on the solid foundation of redemption.” Further strengthening the 48 boards were four rods (crossbars) which ran through golden rings on every board. The door into the Holy Place stood on the east end of the tabernacle.  A linen curtain—beautifully embroidered with blue, purple and scarlet yarn—hung on the five posts stationed there. Some scholars believe that the boards on the north and south walls were connected to the end pillars by an additional rod to give even more stability to the framework.

Beauty

The hangings and coverings of the tabernacle were cloaked in gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and white; major colors representing spiritual themes. The white linen fence surrounding the sacred area points to God’s holiness. At the east end stood the 30 foot gate embroidered in blue, purple, and scarlet. These brilliant colors stood out against the white linen fence. Blue, the color of the sky, reminds us of heaven and the God of heaven. Purple represents royalty, which points to the King. Scarlet signifies our Savior’s blood sacrifice.

Covered with four different curtains in the Holy Place and Holy of Holies, these curtains graced the walls and hung down to the ground. The leatherlike outmost covering consisted of badgers’ skins (“sea cows,” NIV). These not only protected the other coverings, but also the tabernacle proper and its furnishings. Below this protective covering lie a curtain of rams’ skins dyed red. The next layer consisted of a woven fabric made from goats hair, which might have been black. Fine linen embroidered with cherubim in blue, purple, and scarlet made up the last curtain.

The veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies hung from golden clasps supported by four pillars. The veil was also embroidered with cherubim in white, scarlet, blue, and purple. Hebrews 10:20 tells us that this veil typifies Christ’s body. When His body was offered on the cross, the veil in the temple tore from top to bottom (Mark 15:38).

Wiersbe notes: “Some students see a parallel between the four gospels and the four pillars that supported the veil with the four colors. Purple speaks of royalty—the gospel of Matthew, the gospel of the King. Scarlet reminds us of sacrifice—the gospel of Mark, the gospel of the Suffering Servant. White speaks of the perfect Son of Man—the gospel of Luke, and blue points to heaven—the gospel of John, the gospel of the Son of God who came from heaven to die for our sins.”

Next week we’ll explore how the treasures that the Old Testament believers possessed in God’s house translates to modern believers. Have a great week!

God Wants His People to be Clean, Exodus 30:17-21; 38:8

Then the Lord said to Moses, Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it.  Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.’” – Exodus 30:17-21

For the priests, keeping themselves clean became a matter of life or death.

The priests and Levites had to stop regularly at the lavar—located in the tabernacle courtyard between the brazen altar and the tent—to clean their hands and feet. To enter the tent, or serve at the brazen altar, without first washing meant they were placing their lives in the path of peril.

God didn’t give the shape or measurements of the lavar. For it was the contents that mattered most: clean water. The Levites were to replenish the water all day to keep it fresh.

What does water represent in Scripture?

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “Water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God (John 7:37-39), while water for washing is a picture of the Word of God (John 15:3; Eph. 5:25-27). The laver, then typifies the Word of God that cleanses the minds and hearts of those who receive it and obey it (John 17:17). The fact that the lavar was made out of the bronze mirrors of the Jewish women (Ex. 38:8) is evidence that it typifies God’s Word, for the Word of God is compared to a mirror (James 1:22-26; 2 Cor. 3:18).”

(RickWarren.org) . . . .There were three ways under the Old Testament to achieve ceremonial cleansing: by water, by fire, or by blood.
Under the New Testament, we are cleansed from our sin by the blood Jesus Christ shed on the cross for us. To receive this cleansing, we must confess our sins (1 John 1:5-2:2). But our hearts and minds can still become defiled by sin when we disobey God, (see Ps. 51). We may be restored through the “washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26).

The Need for Constant Cleansing

Wiersbe makes another interesting point and relays how this applies to believers today: “The Old Testament priests became defiled, not by sinning against God, but by serving God! Their feet became dirty as they walked in the courtyard and in the tabernacle (there was no floor in the tabernacle), and their hands were defiled as they handled the sacrifices and sprinkled the blood. Therefore, their hands and feet needed constant cleansing, and this was provided at the lavar. . . . When we trust Christ to save us, we’re washed all over (John 13:10; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) and don’t require “another bath” [see John 13:1-15], but as we go through life, our feet get dirty and we need to be cleansed. If we aren’t cleansed, we can’t have fellowship with the Lord, and if we’re out of fellowship with the Lord, we can’t enjoy His love or do His will. When we confess our sins, He cleanses us, and when we meditate on the Word, the Spirit renews us and restores us.”

(hipsterscripture.com)

Have a wonderful week!

The Brazen Altar, God Receives His People’s Sacrifices

The word atonement carries with it the idea of the just, holy, righteous side of God’s nature being satisfied. God’s law required death as the penalty for sin. When God saw the death of the innocent sacrifice, he was satisfied that the demands of his law had been carried out. Sacrificing an animal on an altar did not take away the sin. Man was still sinful. The sacrifice only pictured what was necessary for sin to be forgiven—death and shedding of blood. The blood provided an atonement or covering for sin.” –The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John R. Cross

Out of the tabernacle’s six pieces of furniture, so far we’ve looked at the ark of the covenant, the table of “presence bread”, the golden lampstand, and the incense altar. We now come to the fifth piece of furniture where animal sacrifices were burned: the brazen altar.

(bible-history.com)
When the common Israelite approached the tabernacle with his sacrifice and passed through that entrance gate he found that between him and the tabernacle structure stood an altar with a priest waiting beside it. The altar was square in shape (foursquare). Its length and breadth were exactly the same as the height of the white linen fence around the court 5 cubits (7 1/2 feet). Its height was 3 cubits (4 1/2 feet) and it was made of acacia wood overlaid with bronze with horns at each corner.

(bible-history.com)
The first thing a worshipper met when coming to the tabernacle to offer a sacrifice was a white linen fence that surrounded the tabernacle. This created a courtyard where the priests ministered. At the west end stood the tabernacle proper. The east end held a thirty-foot entrance to the enclosure where the priests met the people coming to offer sacrifices. The priest would inspect every animal carefully to make sure it was acceptable. To identify with the offering, the worshipper would lay his hand on the animal’s head (Lev. 1:1-9). Then the priest would slay the animal and offer it on the brazen altar (Lev. 1-7).

One Way to God

There was only one way to get to the altar of God because there was only one entrance gate to this enclosure. Likewise, there is only one entrance to God. The “gate” is Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 10:9).  Many think that every way is acceptable to God in our pluralistic society, but Scripture teaches otherwise (Prov. 14:12; Matt. 7:13-27). Forgiveness from sin and fellowship with God can only be attained through His Son.

Below is a summary of the significance and symbolism of the brazen altar.

(Source: SlideShare from The presence of_the_lord_v2)

For more on the significance of the tabernacle sacrifices and how they point to Jesus Christ, I found the following post from the Tabernacle Place helpful: The Brazen Altar. Also, The Bronze Altar from Bible History Online offers a more detailed post. Blessings!

God Hears the Prayers of His People

In prayer it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.” – John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

I am enjoying this study in Exodus and hope you are as well. So far in studying the tabernacle, we’ve covered the ark of the covenant, the table of “presence bread”, and the golden lampstand. The remainder of the tabernacle furniture includes: the incense altar (covered in this post), the lavar, and the brazen altar. We’ll explore the tabernacle framework, coverings, and the veils last.

The Altar of Incense

The priests were warned not to use the golden altar for anything except for burning incense (Ex. 30:9). God’s people were also called to pray whenever the priest burned incense (Luke 1:8-10). Today we are called to “pray continually” (1 Th. 5:16-18).

Made out of acacia wood and overlaid with gold, the altar of incense stood the tallest of all the furniture in the Holy Place (a foot and a half square and three feet high). An ornamental gold rim like a crown circled the top with golden “horns” on each corner. The altar stood before the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. The priest burned incense here, morning and evening, as he trimmed the lamps.

Prayer 

The Bible often paints a picture of prayer whenever incense is mentioned. John wrote about his experience in seeing the elders in heaven with “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8; also see 8:3-4).

God not only gave specific instructions to the priest for a prescribed mix of spices in the incense, but also the correct fire on the altar (Ex. 30:34-38). The brazen altar, where sacrifices were offered to God, supplied the fire for burning the incense (Lev. 16:12-13; Num. 16:46). The priest that risked disobedience also risked his life, as was the case with Nadab and Abihu. Both were killed when they tried to worship God with “false fire” (Lev. 10). Likewise, any Israelite trying to copy this special incense for personal use would be cut off, possibly leading to his death.

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “This suggests that true prayer must be based on the work of Christ on the cross and on our complete dedication to God. A true fervency in prayer isn’t a religious emotion we work up ourselves; rather, it’s a blessing that God sends down as we yield ourselves to Him.”

There are no substitutes for prayer. Contrary to some views, prayer isn’t just mumbling words with the hope that the “Big Guy in the sky” hears and answers. The golden altar also wasn’t intended as a bargaining table with God, but rather a place to adore Him and pray that His will be done. Some of the ingredients the Bible lists for prayer include: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, submission (1 Tim. 2:1; Phil. 4:6). Jesus even  gives us a pattern for our prayers (Matt. 6:5-15).

Believers today don’t have the veil that separates ourselves from God, but rather have direct access to His throne because of Jesus’ work on the cross. What an awesome privilege! God extends His grace to us under the new covenant and welcomes our worship and petitions in Jesus’ name (Heb. 10:19-25). And, not only does the Holy Spirit intercede in our hearts (Rom. 8:26-27), but Jesus—our living, reigning Priest-King—continually intercedes for us in heaven as well (Rom. 8:33-34; Heb. 4:14-16; 7:19-28). What an amazing blessing!

Now for the convicting part, at least for me. The priest didn’t rush into the tabernacle, burn the incense and then rush out so he could check off one more item on his “to do” list. Rather, he reverently drew near the altar after preparing himself to be in the presence of the holy God.

Reflect

Although we are privileged to draw near to God because of Christ, He deserves our utmost respect.

Interestingly, the priest had to apply blood to the incense altar once a year—on the Day of Atonement— to make it ceremonially clean before God (Ex. 30:10). Why? Wiersbe writes: “Even in our praying we can sin!” How? He continues: “. . . . special incense had to be ‘salted’ (Ex. 30:35), for salt is a symbol of purity and of a covenant relationship (Lev. 2:13). ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear’ (Ps. 66:18 NKJV). . . . We’re commanded to remove ‘anger or disputing’ from our hearts (1 Tim. 2:8). If God killed every believer today who didn’t pray as He has ordered, how many of us would survive a prayer meeting?”

Ouch. I’ll stop here. If I come across “preachy”, please know that any finger pointing is aimed at myself. . . . Alrighty then, wishing you a wonderful week!