Exodus 29:29 - 31:18
Aaron and his sons being consecrated and having waved their offering before the Lord, they are to be reminded of the temporary character of their appointment, as we see in verses 29 and 30. No priesthood for ever was theirs: it was transmissible from father to son, in contrast to that which we read of our Lord in Hebrews 7: 24. Moreover the special garments mentioned were soon to be unused, as we have seen. The Lord Jesus is crowned in His glory and honour for ever. So that here again, when we view the type in the light of the Antitype, it is the contrast rather than the comparison that strikes us.
In verses 31-37 Aaron and his sons are again in view, and two things are mentioned. The first is that certain parts of the ram of consecration and of the bread, which had been waved as an offering before the Lord, were to be food for Aaron and his sons. As priests they were to eat and assimilate that which had been offered as a sweet savour to God. The saints of God today are a holy priesthood, as we are told in 1 Peter 2. As such it is our privilege to "offer up spiritual sacrifices," but in the same chapter we are reminded that "to you therefore that believe is the preciousness" (New Trans.), which infers that we assimilate for ourselves the excellencies of the One, whom we present to God in our praises.
The second is the holiness of God, and all that it demands in the way of sacrifices. The consecration of Aaron and his sons had to cover seven days, and on every one of those days a sin offering had to be slain for atonement, and thus the altar at which they were to officiate was to be cleansed. Having thus been cleansed by the blood, it was to be anointed and thus set apart for God. An inanimate thing, such as an altar, could be sanctified, inasmuch as "to sanctify" simply means, "to set apart for God." The two things that we saw in Exodus 12,—the blood applied, and the flesh of the victim eaten—reappear here.
This leads to the ordinance as to the daily sacrifice of two lambs, one each morning and one each evening. Thus priests and people were to begin their day and end it with a reminder that they only stood in acceptance before God on the ground of sacrifice. Only thus was it possible for God to dwell among them and sanctify the tabernacle with His glory and communicate His mind to His people through Moses.
The order of the priesthood with the appropriate sacrifices having been prescribed, there follows at the opening of Exodus 30 the instruction as to the making of the altar of incense, which was to stand in the holy place immediately in front of the vail. As with both ark and table of shewbread, it was to be of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold. In size it was smaller and in use it was different. It was never to be used for burnt or meat or drink offerings, as verse 9 shows, and the incense burnt thereon had to be only that which was made according to the instructions which we have at the end of the chapter.
In this type, it would appear, we have again two things. In the first place it set forth the perfect fragrance and acceptance of Christ in the presence of God, in which acceptance the priestly company today can draw near to God. Aaron drew near, when on the day of atonement he was permitted to enter the holiest with the blood of the sin offering, but he had to be enveloped in the cloud of incense. He only entered once a year, signifying that the way into the holiest was not yet opened. We have a boldness of entrance which was unknown to him.
In the second place, we see a type of the service of our Lord as Intercessor. In this capacity He stands as the great Priest over the house of God, through whom the praises of His saints come up before God as an odour of a sweet smell. As we have previously remarked, we are still in a condition of weakness, the flesh still being in us, and consequently, as it was in the days of Haggai (see, Haggai 2: 10-14) so today, there is an element of what is unclean and defective in the holiest and most spiritual of our worship. What we offer He presents in the fragrance of His own acceptance.
Just as a lamb was to be offered as a burnt offering both morning and evening, so the sweet incense was to be burnt before the Lord morning and evening. The burnt offering was on the altar without and the incense on the altar within. Thus both within and without there was to be an odour of a sweet smell before the Lord. The fragrant excellencies of Christ are ever before God, and in His acceptance we are accepted.
Yet, once a year on the day of atonement was the blood of the sin offering to be upon the golden altar. Aaron, who ministered there, was a sinner like the rest of Israel, and as such there was an element of defilement in all that he handled. There was no perfection in the Levitical priesthood, as we see in Hebrews 7: 11. So the ceremonial worship of the people, carried out through the high priest, had to be based on the blood of sacrifice.
Aaron thus represented the people; but what about the people themselves? They had been redeemed as a nation out of Egypt, but the necessity of redemption had now to be brought home to every man among them in an individual way. This we discover as we read verses 11-15. Every man numbered among them from twenty years old and upward had to give half a shekel as a ransom for his soul, and this was called the atonement money. If we turn to Exodus 38: 25, we find the statement that this atonement money was silver, and it was used for the sockets of the tabernacle. Hence we regard silver as typical of redemption.
Let us take note that every man had to give this small silver piece no more and no less. The rich man might have wished to display his wealth and generosity by giving more: the poor might have felt he should be excused from giving anything. All had to give alike. Here we have a foreshadowing of the "no difference" doctrine, which is stated in the Epistle to the Romans 3: 22 23, and Romans 10: 12. In the presence of the holiness of God all human distinctions dwindle and disappear. The way of atonement is the same for all.
When we reached Exodus 26, we pointed out that in the description of the whole tabernacle system we had first those items that typified God's approach to man; then details of the tabernacle tent itself with the altar of burnt offering. After that we had details as to the consecration of Aaron and his sons; and lastly the items that typify the approach of the worshipper to God. We have had the priest, the altar of incense and a people for whom individually a ransom had been given. One thing more was needed, and that we have described in verses 17-21.
The laver was to stand between the brazen altar and the door of the tabernacle, and it too was to be made of brass—typical of the demands that flow from the holiness and righteousness of God. Those demands were met firstly by the blood on the altar; and secondly, for the priests who would enter the sanctuary, by the water that filled the laver. There they had to wash both hands and feet every time they entered. They were never to carry anything of the dust or defilement that was outside into the presence of God.
In this we see a striking type of that which is often overlooked. The Christian, being introduced into priestly nearness, needs the water as well as the blood. It seems evident that the Lord Jesus referred to this when He spoke the words recorded in John 13: 10. The priest who had been bathed all over, needed this oft-repeated washing to draw near. Peter had the initial washing of the new birth, but he needed the feet-washing if he was to have the "part with Me," of which the Lord spoke. When we reach John 15: 3, we find that this secondary cleansing is ours "through the word which I have spoken unto you."
This washing of water, then, is by the word, which cleanses morally and spiritually. It is important to remember this, and to keep it in our minds distinct from the blood, which cleanses judicially. Both blood and water were necessary for the Aaronic priests, if they were to enter the sanctuary without dying. In type, the blood witnessed that the judicial penalty of their sins had been borne: the water that worldly defilement had been removed.
These things help us to understand such a Scripture as 1 John 5: 6. Jesus Christ came, "not by water only, but by water and blood." In that epistle the introduction of anti-Christian teachings is contemplated, and in our day similar teaching is common, to the effect that He did come simply as a reformer of morals, both social and individual, by the power of His word; that is, "by water only." But He came "by water and blood;" dying to pay the penalty of sin.
Before we pass on it may be helpful to remark that in Numbers 19 we get the ordinance of the "water of separation," which was a "purification for sin," available for any of the people that contracted defilement by such a thing as touching a dead body. This shows that God demands moral fitness from all His people. Our Scripture shows that for priestly nearness and service there must be a cleansing by the word from any defilement of the outside world that might otherwise cling to our actions, typified by the hands, or to our walk, typified by the feet.
The rest of Exodus 30 is taken up with detailed instructions as to the composition of the "oil of holy ointment," and then of the "perfume . . . tempered together, pure and holy," which was to be used for incense. The holiness of both these is strongly emphasized and any attempt to imitate them stringently forbidden. When we consider their typical import, we can understand this, for the former was typical of the Holy Spirit of God, and the latter of the fragrant excellencies of Christ.
The oil was to be used to anoint the tabernacle and its vessels, and also Aaron and his sons, as we have seen. All the ingredients were to be "principal," or "best," and the proportions of each to be as prescribed. Upon man's flesh it was not to be poured since it prefigured the anointing of the Spirit, that characterizes our day. Man's flesh is sinful flesh, and the anointing of the Spirit is only received where the blood has been applied.
In verse 34 the spices of equal weight are specified, and verse 35 says, "thou shalt make it into incense, a perfume . . . pure, holy" (New Trans.) Before use it had to be beaten "very small," evidently into a powder. This of course was to release the maximum amount of fragrance. The beating very small may remind us of the way our Lord was tested in all things, enduring the contradiction of sinners against Himself, all of which only served to make manifest the fragrance of His perfection. No man could possibly produce anything like unto it, but men might have tried to copy the incense which was the type of it; hence the attempt was forbidden.
All these instructions having been delivered, one can imagine Moses standing rather aghast at the minuteness of the details and the solemn warnings against any deviation, and wondering by what means they could be carried out. His mind must have been set at rest by God's words recorded in the first eleven verses of Exodus 31. God Himself had made provision by calling and equipping two men, whom He names, Bezaleel and Aholiab. The former sprang from Judah, the very foremost of the tribes; the latter from Dan, which as to its subsequent history we should place amongst the last. In His choice of these two men God revealed His sovereignty, calling whom He will and endowing them as He sees fit.
The thought of this should be a great encouragement to us, for we may be sure that God always raises up the necessary servants for the carrying out of His work. If God orders work to be done He supplies the workmen, and if the work is not done it implies failure in the workmen and not in God. As all these things that were ordered had to be constructed in the wilderness, far from the civilized surroundings of Egypt, supernatural wisdom and understanding must indeed have been needed for their accomplishment. God gave that wisdom, and He also endowed with skill many other wise-hearted ones, whose names are not supplied. They helped in a subsidiary way. This we see, as we read verse 6.
From this we ought also to accept a word of warning. It is evident that to do God's work mere natural ability is not enough. Bezaleel may have had a natural aptitude for such work; if so, it was not enough. He had to be filled with the Spirit of God to accomplish it. If this was the case when material things were being dealt with, how much more so when the service of God concerns spiritual things, and the welfare of the souls of men. Let us never take up the work of God as though we had in ourselves the power or the wisdom to carry it out.
That which God spake to Moses when he was in the mount for forty days and forty nights began with Exodus 25, and now in verses 12-17 of our chapter we have God's closing words. They concerned the proper observance of the sabbath, which He declared was to be "a sign between Me and you throughout your generations." This fact is twice stated—verses 13 and 17—so it is evidently of much importance. Based upon God's rest after creation the seventh day was chosen for it, and the penalty for its infringement was to be death. This may appear to us a very stringent enactment, but we must not forget that now everything was on the basis of law, which the people had just accepted, as that which should govern their relations with God.
Now in order to be a sign a thing must be of an outward nature which can be observed of men. The sabbath was such an outward observance. Its careful observance would at once have made Israel a peculiar people amongst the nations of the world, and signified that they were in covenant relations with God. In the light of this fact we can at once see how full of meaning were the repeated actions of our Lord in mercy on the sabbath day. He was not only showing that the mercy of God is not restricted by the law God had given, but also that the grace He brought was setting aside the law of Moses as the basis of acceptance before God. This is particularly marked in John 5: 17, 18. The sabbath, which spoke of rest, was the sign of the law system, but no rest had been reached on the basis of the law. It was now set aside in favour of work—that work which was shared by both the Father and the Son. After the foreshadowing of Abraham and Isaac, in Genesis 22, Father and Son were working together towards the sacrifice of the cross.
Our chapter ends with the statement that to Moses were given two tables of stone, on which as a testimony the commandments were inscribed by the very finger of God. On stone—be it noted—which is of all things most rigid. It cannot be twisted as rubber can be, but it can be broken.
It is of interest to observe the three occasions on which the finger of God wrote. The law on tables of stone. The judgment of the impious Belshazzar and Babylon on the plaster of the wall—Daniel 5: 5. The grace of God written on the dust by our Lord—John 8: 6.
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