Sermon Notes: Christ’s Consecration is Our Confidence (NT)

Picking up where we left off, the New Testament comes in looking backward, looking at God’s covenantal promises, and then it begins to show how Christ fulfills them all.  So we move from prophetic anticipation, to Christotelic (Christ in the end) fulfillment.

4. Christ fulfills Zechariah 3.  Not simply by being a perfect Levitical priest, Jesus far exceeds the old system.  Hebrews records that he is a priest not because of genealogy, but because of living a perfect life.  He is called a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7:1-9. Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” [Psalm 110].  For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

But even more to the point, in connection with the consecration of the high priest, is Hebrews 10. There, the priest it says is not acceptable to God on the basis of a sacrifice or sacrifices made for him.  He doesn’t need a sacrifice.  Christ is accepted because of his perfect obedience.

Hebrews 10:1-10. For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

 “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The beauty of Hebrews 10, in relation to Exodus 29, is that Christ does not need to be cleansed of sin.  He is clean.  Thus, his consecration does not depend on the blood of animals; his purity emits from a life that has displayed perfect obedience to the father.  God accepts Christ’s priestly sacrifice and representation, because he is His Son, in whom he is well-pleased.  This is far better than the Levitical system.

 5. The Gospel: We have a priest that is acceptable to God and sympathetic to us.  The promises and invitations to approach the Lord in Hebrews about this are astounding.  Hebrews 7:25, “He lives to intercede for us.”  What does that mean?  Consider how he prays in John 17.

(1) He prays for our protection from the world (17:15)
(2) He prays for our sanctification (17:17)
(3) He prays for the effectiveness of our evangelism (17:20)… which means
(4) He prays for the salvation of those given to him
(5) He prays for the unity of the church (17:23)
(6) He prays for his saints to know his love (17:26)

6. The Application: Draw Near With Confidence.  The New Testament calls us to draw near to God (James 4:8), but such a command would have been absolutely terrifying to the Old Testament people (and maybe even the priests).  Entering God’s presence in any unclean manner resulted in death (cf. Lev 10:1-3).  However, Christ takes away that threat.  Through his perfect consecration, he stands at God’s right hand and bids us come.  He clothes us, who trust in him, with his righteousness and makes us acceptable in God’s sight. Thus, Christian have full access and assurance that our prayers, petitions, and confessions will be heard and received.  This is great news, and one that comes at the end of the line that begins in Exodus 29 passes through the OT and finds fulfillment in Christ in the NT.

May we draw near to God in Christ today, because of his perfect consecration.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Sermon Notes: Christ’s Consecration is Our Confidence (OT)

TEST CASE # 1 :: Exodus 29: Consecration of the Priests

Following the five-fold model (Law, Prophets 1 &2, Christ, Gospel, Christian Application) presented in the last few days, I will today try to give a “test case” for getting from the consecration of the high priest in Exodus 29 to Christ to Christians today.

1. Exodus 29 gives explicit laws for consecrating the priest. 

Exodus 29 is an exposition of Exodus 28:41, “And your shall put them”—that is the priestly garments— “on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.”  The point of the chapter is to explain how the high priest might be received into the presence of the Lord.  And it is an incredible process. To begin with, verses 4-9 give a point by point process for cleansing the priest.

Verses 4-9: Five Steps for Consecration

Verse 4. The priests are washed.  In a hot, dusty desert, these men needed a bath. This would not be sufficient, but it was a necessary beginning.

Verse 5. The priest is clothed.  All the garments made for “dignity and honor,” or “beauty and glory” were put on the priest.

Verse 6. The priest is crowned. The most significant element of the apparel was the turban.  It was put on last, and it essentially crowned the priest (Zech 6).

Verse 7. The priest is anointed.  With the anointing oil, the priest is ordained, as God’s chosen vessel to represent the people before him.  This anointing is defined with greater detail in Hebrews 5, where it says that the priest did not appoint and anoint himself.  As one commentator has said, this anointing basically stamped the priest with heavenly approval.

Verse 8-9. The priest is supported. Each of the priests are dressed and ready to serve him, in the service of the temple.

Verses 10-28: Six Atoning Sacrifices

Now everything was ready for the offerings.  In verses 10-28, Moses lists six different kinds of offerings that were involved in the priests ordination.  Most of these would be further explained in Leviticus 1-7, but let’s take a short survey here to simply mention the complexity of all the sacrifices involved.

Sin offering.  Unclean sections of the animal are taken outside the camp and burned.

Burnt Offering. First ram is completely consumed, symbolizing the priest’s total devotion

Ram of Ordination.  Only for the priests, this lamb was slaughtered and the blood applied to their ear lobes, thumbs, and big toes.  All the exposed parts of the priest are cleansed by the blood.

Wave Offering.  Taking the cooked meat and bread, the offering was waved before the Lord. Walter Kaiser describe them like this: “The waving was not from side to side but toward the altar and back, showing that the sacrifice was given to God and then received back by the priest for his use” (Exodus, 470). This food is then burned up on the altar as a Food Offering.

Peace Offerings.  Included in the consecration was the eating of the food before the Lord.  This ‘portion’ to eat represented the kind of peace the priests (and Israel) had with God through the atoning sacrifices.

Verses 29-42: Further Priestly Instructions

After the offerings came another round of detailed instructions.  Everything from how to boil the food that the priest would eat with God to directions on the daily offerings.

Verse 29-30.  God gives instructions concerning the garments, and how they are to be passed down from one generation to the next.

Verse 31-35.  The priests have instructions for boiling the meat and eating it.

Verse 35-37.  This ordination takes 7 days, again showing how weak the sacrifices were and how great was the need for cleansing.

Verse 38-42. On top of the ordination service, there is the morning and evening sacrifice, which twice a day provided atonement for the holy place.

This elaborate system, along with everything else in Exodus 25-40, was put in place to teach Israel about the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and what it takes to get into God’s presence.  In one sentence, the message was this: You need a priest who will represent you before God, and that priest needs the highest degree of cleansing.  Now the question becomes, “How did Israel do with this?”  Let’s see.

2. Malachi 2:1-9 shows how the priests failed to keep covenant with God. Reciting the covenant God had with Levi, Malachi indicts the sons of Levi for their corrupted service.

 And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the LORD of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.

3. Zechariah 3 promises a new priest who will be pure and devoted to God. In a book full of Messianic promises, the hope of a royal priest who will cleanse the people is especially prominent, because God’s dwelling with his people depended on the people’s purity.  Verses 6-10 read,

Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.

At this point in redemptive-history, the people of God wait for a pure priest.  God’s promise is sure, but the fulfillment is still future.  The flow of the narrative builds anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah.

Following the lead of the inter-testamental period, we will pause here too, and come back in our next post.

dss

Sermon Notes: The Priest’s Particular Work (NT)

Moving from Old Testament to New, the particularity of the priestly office continues.  In fact, just as the high priest represents the 12 tribes whose names are engraved on his heart; Christ lays down his life for his church, the New Israel, those who are made new in Christ (cf. Gal 6:16; 1 Pet 2:5, 9).

Jesus Priesthood in John’s Gospel

For instance, in John, Jesus describes his atoning work as accomplishing salvation for those who believe (3:16), for all his sheep (10:14), for all his friends (15:13), and for all those God the Father has “given to him” —Jew or Gentile.  Consider Jesus high priestly prayer,

Since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him… I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours (John 17:2, 6-9).

As John records it, Jesus does not reveal himself or pray uniformly to all people.  He prays for those whom the father has given him.  In priestly vernacular, he mediates only for those whose names are written on his ephod and breastpiece.

Maybe you are thinking, can we really connect Exodus 28-29 with John 17? That is a legitimate question, so it is important to see that there do seem to be some linguistic and conceptual links between the two passages.  This is most evident in verses 16-19.

They [i. e. those whom God has given to Jesus] are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world… For their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth

In this brief prayer, there are at least two words/ideas that were used in Exodus 28–sanctify/sanctified and consecrate.  Apparently, as Jesus anticipates his atoning death, he prays to the Father for his own.  He stakes the fact that he will consecrate himself for them, which has explicit reference to his priestly work of sacrifice, so that they might be sanctified for access into God’s holy dwelling (cf. Heb 10:19ff).  This was obviously the purpose of Exodus 25-40; and so it is with Jesus, who makes atonement not in an earthly tabernacle, but in God’s heavenly temple.  And who does he make atonement for?  According to John 17, it is those people whom the father has given.  This is not a universal group; it is God’s particular covenant people.

Jesus’s Priestly Work in John’s Apocalypse

Finally, the list of names for whom Jesus represents as priest is also given in Revelation.  For instance, in Revelation 13:8, John declares that judgment is coming upon “Everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”  In other words, God in eternity past purposed whose names would be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Here, John is warning earth-dwellers of their impending demise, but by contrast, those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be saved.  Clearly, it would be inappropriate to say that this passage refers to the ephod or the breastpiece.  However, the principle is analogous.  In both the Lamb’s Book of Life and on his priestly garments are the names of those for whom Christ died.  Again, the names indicate a particular representation for a particular people.

Likewise, in Revelation 17:8, John records, “And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.” Like the earlier verse in chapter 13, John is describing those whose names are left out of the book; but that has to imply that their are others–a countless multitude in Revelation 7–whose names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Thus in both positive (the ephod and breastpiece) and negative (the book of life) terms, God distinguishes those whom the Lamb dies for, and those whom he does not.  As God’s appointed priest and sacrifice, God sends him to earth to be slain, so that by his blood he would ransom people for God “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9-10).  In this way, God’s particular means of salvation are made known to all the earth; and the promise that the gospel will be universally effective is found in the fact that in every tribe, language, people, and nation, God has his chosen ones.  In this way, God’s offer of salvation can be offered to all people indiscriminately; and it has the promise of absolute efficacy, because of Christ’s perfect, priestly atonement and intercession (see Hebrews 9-10).

The Good News of Christ’s Priestly Work

This is the Good News!  Christ’s salvation cannot be revoked.  It cannot be overturned.  It will not fail.  While the Levitical priests were weak, and unable to cleanse human guilt, they did preserve the flesh.  Yet, they could never save the soul.

Not so with Jesus.  His priestly ministry is infinitely better.  For all whom he died, he effectively saved.  He is a glorious and beautiful priest!  He perfectly intercedes for all those whose name are on his vestments; he does not forget us.  We are close to his heart.  As John records, He has lost not one!  And all those who have trusted in him and repented of sin, can have glad-hearted confidence that their name is written across his heart.

May we proclaim that word all over the earth, until the priestly-king returns to reign on the earth!

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Christ’s Priestly Garments (Exodus 28)

Read by itself and without understanding how it fits in the larger narrative of Exodus and the rest of the Bible, Exodus 28 sounds like a cross between a jeweler’s catalogue and a tailor’s procedural manual.  If seen in this way alone, it can make Exodus 28 feel unfamiliar and unimportant.  However, what Exodus 28 does for the Christian is give a colorful explanation of what Christ has done for his saints.  It lists a number of priestly garments worn by Levitical priests, and it foreshadows a number of important things that Christ did when he assumed the mantle of a priest greater than Aaron.

Today, we will consider the priestly garments in the order they appear in Exodus 28.

The Ephod

In the Bible, ephods are typically involved in the process of worship—true worship and false (cf. Judges 18:14-20).  In Exodus 28, God gives Israel the true ephod for worship.  It was a royal apron, as R. K. Harrison describes it,  “a sleeveless vest, which fitted close to the body and may have extended somewhat below the hips.” It was made of the finest fabrics–“gold, blue, and purple and scarlet yarn, and fine twined linen”–materials that matched the make up of the tabernacle.  In other words, when the priests came into God’s house, they had to dress for the occasion.

Significantly, the ephod is fastened to the high priests body by two onyx shoulder pieces.  And on each of these of shoulder pieces are the names of Israel’s twelve tribes—six on one shoulder, six on the other.  What were they for?  “They were a reminder that Aaron served God as high priest, not for his own benefit, but on behalf of the Israelites” (T. D. Alexander, From Paradise to Promised Land, 198).

Breast Piece of Judgment

On top of the ephod was the “breastpiece of judgment.”  Like everything else, it was a “skilled work,” one that corresponded to the ephod—literally, “in the style of the ephod,” Moses was to make the breastpiece “of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it” (verse 15).

The shape of the breastpiece is square and sits in the middle of the chest—over the heart.  It is doubled, or folded over, so that the Urim and the Thummim may be placed in the breastpiece (v. 30).  Now on the breastpiece are 12 stones—four rows of three.  Verses 17-21 describe it like this,

A row of sardius, & topaz, carbuncle shall be the 1st row; the 2nd row an emerald, a sapphire, & a diamond; the third row a jacinth, an agate, & an amethyst; & the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree. There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes.

These precious stones indicate the value of God’s people in eyes of God, but God’s love is not mere sentimentality; it is effective.  The names of the tribes of Israel indicate the way the priest represents the people before God.  As verse 29 states, “So Aaron shall bear the names of sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD.”  The breastpiece then is not simply for glory and beauty; it serves the purpose of mediating God’s blessing towards Israel, and protecting God’s covenant people from imminent danger.

Urim and Thummim 

The function of this breastpiece is also seen in verse 30, “And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes before the Lord.  Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.”   No one definitively knows what these are.  When they are mentioned in Scripture they are involved in decision-making and discerning the will of God. For instance in 1 Samuel, when God does not respond to Saul because of Saul’s foolish leadership, to determine where the fault lies, he employs the Urim and Thummim.

Therefore Saul said, “O LORD God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O LORD, God of Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.” And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped (14:41).

Robe  

Under the ephod, Aaron was to wear a robe.  More than ephods, robes appear throughout the Bible: They were usually adorned by people of rank; they symbolized authority and/or status; kings often adorned robes as did their court and their brides. In short, robes function as a status symbol.  Think of Joseph’s multi-colored robe.  Such is the case with priests.  These men are the chosen instruments of blessing and mediation in Israel.  Their apparel and adornment–especially the high priest as he served–reminded Israel of their important role.

In the NT, this imagery continues.  For instance, Jesus in Revelation is clothed in a royal robe (1:13; 19:16).  And so are his people (6:11).  All those who trust in Christ, will be clothed in royal, maybe even priestly garments (3:18).  In fact, in Revelation, the book is filled with royal priests—Christ is the priest who now reigns as king; and all of his people are blood-bought royal priests.  

So in Exodus, the robe demonstrates the especially favored position of the priest, who has intimate (though dangerous) access to God’s royal throne.  The robe itself has bells on it.  Some have said this was to announce his coming into God’s presence, but this seems a little odd.  He doesn’t need to be warned of what he already knows.  Rather, it points to another reality, namely that the tinkling of bells announces the sacrifice is being effected.  Verse 35: “It shall be on Aaron when he ministers, its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the Lord, & when he comes out, so that he does not die

Turban

There rests on Aaron’s head a turban.  Like everything else, it is made for beauty and glory, but the beauty and glory are not limited to the visual.  There is a gold plate on the forehead that says much about what the high priest achieves as he makes atonement.  Douglas Stuart explains, “The gold forehead plate was not primarily decorative but apparently symbolized Aaron’s role as representative of the people in the process of atonement (v. 38).”  To say it another way, the work that Aaron did on behalf of Israel achieved or maintained their holy standing.

In Exodus 19:6, Israel is called to be a holy nation.  They are not naturally holy.  They, like us, are a sinful people.  The question is: How can they be holy?  The answer: God’s holiness is imparted to them by the priest.  As the Exodus 29 shows, Aaron is consecrated and made holy, but even more his service purifies the people of Israel from their sins, which defile them and make them unholy.

This is a beautiful picture of the way God cleanses sinners from the acts and attitudes that defile them.  This is true in part in the Levitical system; this is increased infinitely in Christ.

The Coat and Under Garments

Finally, not only are the external garments holy unto the Lord, but his undergarments are as well.  Verse 39 describes a fine linen coat that would have been up against the body, that the priest would have worn.  And verses 40-43 describe a holy undergarments for the purpose completely covering the nakedness of the priest.

While it may seem strange to us that Exodus includes this mention of nakedness.  It reminds us that from Genesis forward, man is not innocent.  While in the Garden Adam was naked and unashamed, now mankind’s nakedness is a mark of shame and impurity before the Lord.  Because of our sin, all humanity is in need of holy apparel–clothes that man cannot manufacture, but rather that must come from the Lord (cf. Isa 61:10; Rev 3:18).

Overall, Exodus 28 is a wonderful picture of the way God clothed the priest in Israel, such that this sinful man could come into the presence of the Lord and atone for the rest of Israel.  But still this doesn’t touch the rest of humanity or people today.  So, in the days ahead, we will see how these garments point to Christ and apply to believers who have been clothed with Christ and his righteousness.  In this way, Exodus 28 helpfully shows us our shameful nakedness before God and the way that God has intended to clothe us once and for all.  Stay tuned!

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Sermon Notes: The Tabernacle as God’s Meeting Place

A Tent of Meeting

The holiness of God in his sanctuary is matched by the plan for God to meet with his people at the tabernacle.  Now to avoid confusion, it should be said that later, in Exodus 33:7-11 to be exact, there will be a tent constructed that is called the “tent of meeting.”  This is not the same thing as the tabernacle.  This is a temporary meeting place where Moses met with God, but this was only to last until the tabernacle was constructed.  Still, the purpose was the same—to meet with God.

In Exodus 25, there are two verses that make this meeting place explicit.

25:8. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.

25:22. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

While the meeting place plays a significant role in the life of Israel, it also helps Christians today to understand the kind of relationship that we have with God in and through Jesus Christ.  Let us notice three ways that the tabernacle in Exodus foreshadows Christ–the true tent of meeting.

Jesus is the True Tabernacle

That God instructs Moses to build this tabernacle foreshadows God’s loving desire to meet with rebellious humanity.  In this way, the tabernacle is an incredible source of encouragement.  God who dwells in heaven, has moved heaven and earth to reach down to us.  When we could not get up to him; he climbed down the ladder to get to us.

John sees this tabernacling impulse of God in Jesus Christ.  John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us… full of grace and truth.”  The word for “dwelt” is literally “tabernacled.”  In Jesus, we have a greater tabernacle, one made without human hands, in which the fullness of God dwells bodily (Col 2:9). Likewise, John says that Jesus is full of grace and truth, which also references Exodus, for in chapter 34, God “appears” to Moses and describes himself as a God as “abounding in steadfast love (grace) and faithfulness (truth).” 

When we read about the tabernacle, we cannot comprehend fully its significance without seeing that it is the shadow of the substance of Jesus Christ.  Yet, in the tabernacle, we don’t just have a general connection between the tabernacle and Christ, it also gets more specific.

The Incarnation

In Exodus 25, there are three kinds of furniture.  In verses 25:10-22, Moses receives directions for constructing the ark of the covenant.  In verses 23-30, a blueprint for the table for the bread of the presence is given; and in verses 31-40, the golden lampstand, otherwise known as a Menora is given.  Each are covered with gold and placed inside the residence of God.  Now while the gold speaks of the value and worth of the deity who inhabits this home, the three pieces of furniture—a seat, a table, and a light—were the common furnishing of the ancient Israelite.

When God comes to dwell with Israel, he assumes the same humble residence as those in the wilderness.  Though not incarnation in the New Testament sense of the term, this is a kind of incarnation that prepares the way for the true Immanuel.  His gracious condescension meets us where we are, and he becomes just like us.  He is not just a God transcendent.  He is a God close, personal, and as near as the hearing of his word.

We see the incarnation in another way as well.  On the inside of the tabernacle are beautiful colors—scarlet, blue, and purple.  Everything is covered in gold.  It shines forth the glory of God.  Yet, from the outside, the temple is drab.  The beautiful garments on the inside are covered by the black curtains of goats hair.  While the light burns eternal inside the tabernacle, all outside is dark.

Again this teaches us much about the life and ministry of Christ.  When he came to the earth, he did not come in power, glory, or beauty.  Rather, he became a common carpenter.  If you saw him in a crowd, he would not have had a radiant glow or a halo over his head.  He was plain and common.  He was human.  So common was his appearance that Isaiah can say, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should rejoice him” (53:2).

This is the antithesis of our culture and the world at large.  In our world, image really is everything.  Have you ever see an ugly person on the news?  What about on the cover of a magazine?  On TV?  We are a culture who has confused glamour for beauty.  I would go so far as to say that we know little of  what true beauty is.  The tabernacle is a corrective for this.  God’s dwelling with humanity is beautiful.  Yet, from an earthly point of view it is unimpressive.  Such is the wisdom of God.

Atonement  

Not only does the tabernacle point us to Christ’s incarnation, it also foreshadows and explains his atonement.  We see this in the altar and the mercyseat.

The Bronze Altar.  Standing in the center of the courtyard, the priests could not enter the tabernacle without passing this giant altar.  As T.D. Alexander describes it, “this altar dominated the area in front of the tabernacle; it was half the width of the tabernacle (2.5 metres) and over 4 feet high” (T.D. Alexander, From Paradise to Promised Land200). It was constantly burning with sacrifices, and as Hebrews picks it up, it teaches us how much more valuable Christ’s New Covenant sacrifice was than all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood (Heb 13:10-12).

The Mercy Seat.  In addition to the altar that stands outside the tabernacle, there is the mercy seat that rests inside God’s inner chamber.  It was here that God dwelled, and significantly it was a place where mercy might be found.  Though a series of purification rituals were needed for the priest to come into the most holy place once a year on the day of atonement, it was nonetheless a place of mercy and grace in time of need (cf. Heb 4:14-16).

Significantly, the name “mercy seat” is translated in Greek by the word, hilasterion, which is the word translated in English as “expiation,” “propitiation,” or “atoning sacrifice” (see Graham Cole for an up to date, careful, and evangelical reading of hilasterion in the New Testament in his God the Peacemaker).  That the the mercy seat is the place where God’s wrath is removed and replaced with his favor is significant; more significant however, is the way in which that propitiation is procured.  It is by the blood of the lamb that is sprinkled on the throne of God.  In the Old Covenant, this atoning sacrifice permitted God’s people to dwell in his presence.  It protected Israel in the flesh from God’s anger breaking out on those in the camp.  However, in the New Covenant, Christ’s sacrifice does not merely atone for the flesh; it purifies the conscience as well.  Moreover, it is not applied to a shadowy tabernacle on earth; iti is applied to the heavenly altar in the throne room of God.  Thus, his sacrifice is far superior and finally efficacious.

Thus we conclude today with the statement in Hebrews 9:12-14, that depends heavily on sacrificial system established in Exodus.

[Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Martin Bucer on Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King

This fall I am writing a paper on the atoning work of Jesus the Christ as (1) Prophet, (2) Priest, and (3) King and how these relate to the church and the world.  So as I come across rich quotes, I will be putting them up. I hope they will encourage any who take the time to meditate on their truths.

The first is that of 16th Century, German theologian and contemporary of Martin Luther and John Calvin, Martin Bucer.  In his commentaries on the gospels, he makes two quotes worthy of contemplation.

Christ was anointed, so that he might be our king (rex), teacher (doctor), and priest (sacerdos) for ever.  He will govern us, lest we lack any good thing or be oppressed by any ill; he will teach us the whole truth; and he will reconcile us to the Father eternally.

And again…

Just as they used to anoint kings, priests and prophets to institute them in their offices, so now Christ is king of kings (rex regum), highest priest (summus sacerdos), and chief of prophets (prophetarum caput). He does not rule in the manner of an external empire; he does not sacrifice with brute beasts; he does not teach and admonish only with an external voice.  Rather, by the Holy Spirit he directs minds and wills in the way of eternal salvation; by the Spirit he offered himself as an acceptable offering to God; and by the same Spirit he teaches and admonishes, in order that those destined for his kingdom may be made righteous, holy and blessed in all things (Quoted from the combined version of Bucer’s commentaries on the first three Gospels and on John: M. Bucer, In sacra quator evangelia, Enarrationes (Basel, 1536), pp. 9 and 606; quoted by Geoffrey Wainwright, For Our Salvation: Two Approaches to the Work of Christ [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997],104).

Soli Deo Gloria, dss