Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Colonnade and shops in Bath, England

Monday, January 30, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 31, Ex 39-40

Today's readings are Ex 39-40.

Craftsmen with God-given gifts complete the priestly garb. The outfit is stunningly beautiful and intricate (Ex 39:1-31). The ephod, or breastplate, is a part of the garment that is worn like a vest. It symbolically represents the tribes. Because of the skill and precision with which it is made and because of the cleansing rituals the high priest undergoes, the ephod also symbolizes that the tribes are borne into the presence of God on the ceremonial righteousness and purity of the priest. 

The garments are topped by a turban that has a golden band that is engraved with "Holy to the Lord". This turban hovered over all the priest did and served as a reminder that the priest was covered in holiness and designated as God's holy one. 

The undergarments and robes were beautiful and as ornate as the rest of the garb. They too are made with gifts of great skill given by God to the craftsmen assigned to make them. The materials to make everything were supplied by God as His people left Egypt. Even the capability to fashion the holy garments comes from God as gifts of grace. 

The ephod is worn over the heart of the high priest, indicating that the priest has God's people close to his heart. The ephod is inlaid with 12 precious stones, each one carved with the name of one of the tribes of Israel. The priest bears the names of all of God's people with him when he goes before the Lord. The people cannot go themselves; they are not consecrated. In a stunning portrayal of things to come, we see that the people are judged not because of who they are, but by the righteousness of the priest and who he is.

Inside the breastplate are two unique stones, the Urim (light) and Thummim (truth). They are used in determining God's decisions in matters taken before Him. Their use is an act of trust that God's decisions are made in light and truth. The breast piece is held in place by two straps with onyx stones embedded in them. The stones bear the names of the twelve Sons of Israel. The priests are the ones charged with upholding the people of God and bringing them before the Lord. 

Hanging from the bottom of the robes are alternating pomegranates and golden bells. The bells proclaim the arrival of the priest as he enters into the Holy of Holies. The bells swing to and fro, representing the extremes of death and immortality, of good and evil. The pomegranates represent the new life the people have after being delivered from slavery and are a symbol of beauty.  


From this passage, the Jews learn that the only way to approach God is in the perfect righteousness of the priest who has been ceremonially clean and is wearing garments made exactly to God's specifications.  Once again, we see that God dictates how He can be approached and who can approach Him. His guidelines are strict and not subject to interpretation.

The Tabernacle is erected (Ex 40), the priestly vestments are completed, the ceremonies are followed and the glory of the Lord fills the tent. All the good works have been designed by God. The gifts to do the works have been granted by God Now the works are inhabited by God - all of it a witness to His presence among His people. Apart from Him, they can do nothing.

After everything is finished - no one, not even Moses, can enter into the direct presence of the Lord. His dwelling has been built and His presence among them is insured. But they are not yet clean or holy enough to come into His presence.
Only one man can do that and only after being made clean and wearing the garments God has designed. When that man stands before God, he bears the names of all of God's people.

As Exodus ends, we see that God has created everything, including a man. The man has separated himself from God by sinning. God has exhibited grace in preserving the man's descendants. He has chosen one man, Abraham, to carry God's message of redemption. He has multiplied that man's descendants and assigned the message to them, forming a covenant with them, taken them to Egypt, allowed them to fall into slavery and delivered them from that slavery, all by His grace - even though they seem to grumble, groan and fail all along the way. Even so, God has equipped them with His guidelines for living as His messengers. He has appointed and clothed a representative to stand in their place and He has chosen to live among them as evidence of His presence and power.

He has promised them a new home and has provided a way (the pillar of smoke and fire) for them to get there.

We see that those precious things lost in the garden are being restored, little by little. The garden was where God met with His children. They were ejected for disobedience and the relationship was fractured. But God has been bringing them back into relationship with Him. Now He dwells among them once again and will meet with them in the new symbolic representation of the garden, the tabernacle. 

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