Sunday, January 03, 2016

"Make Sure You're Clean Before You Serve Me" Says God


Exodus 30: The Altar of Incense; Atonement Money; the Anointing Oil; and the Incense itself.

Exodus 30:1-38: In chapter 30 of Exodus, God gives detailed instructions for each of the items listed in our heading. Please read your preferred version of Scripture in parallel. Below we simply highlight some of the key features of the chapter for our study.
While the beginning of chapter 30 sounds like a repeat of what we have at the beginning of chapter 27 – instructions for building the altar, it is not. The first altar was five cubits square and three cubits high.  This one is much smaller at one cubit square and its height only two cubits. This one was placed right in front of the veil to the holy of holies and it was to be used by the priests alone.  And there were instructions about what Aaron had to do, and what he could not do, on this altar. He was to burn fragrant incense on it daily as well as make atonement on it annually with the blood of the sin offering.
Then verses 11 to 16 provide rules for taking a census of the people. [Actually some see this as a bit enigmatic as the Israelites were forbidden to take a census. Literally, the word for census used here is ‘sum’. David Guzik says this was an occasion when God did allow a census. He puts forth the idea (which I like) that only God to whom Israel belonged could order a census, but if anyone else wanted a census it implied that what they counted was theirs (or as in David’s case much later, a lack of faith) and thus such a census would make the people subject to the plague.] This included the requirement that each person was to pay a ‘ransom’ for himself to the Lord. Doing this would prevent any plagues among them. The rich and the poor were to pay the same amount that also was specified. It applied equally to everyone who was numbered that was twenty years old and up. (And we can assume here that this only involved males and not seniors, given what we know from other references to family members or census taking in the Old Testament.)
Finally, the money collected was to be given over to the service of the tent of meeting. Here is our cue that we are not to begrudge the money spent on our place of meeting with God as a congregation. And Guzik suggests that it was not a model for our giving, as it was a “flat tax” more symbolizing the cost of our own redemption. As such, it is of equal value to God, as all of us are created equal and redeemed so. In all other offerings, each one is required to participate in accordance with what he or she is blessed with.
Verses 17 to 21 give instructions for the constructing of a washbasin (some think it was rather big like a bathtub) that the priests had to use in the washing of their hands and feet whenever they entered the tent of meeting or when they approached the altar to minister. They had to do this in order not to die. This too was to be a statute throughout all generations. It seems God demands cleanliness in those that serve Him. It is a reminder to us who are in His service (as we all should be) that we are to cleanse ourselves daily of the impurities of life before commencing our service for God.
Verses 22 to 33 provide instructions on the recipe for the holy anointing oil as well as to how it was to be used. With it, all the furniture that God wanted made for the entire structure of the tent of meeting was to be anointed and consecrated. And Aaron and his sons were also to be anointed and consecrated with it. Then comes the double-warning: first nothing else, and more importantly, no one else, was to be anointed with this special oil; and second, no one was to make any other oil just like this using the same proportions (i.e. recipe). If one broke either of these commands, they “shall be cut off from his people”. There was no doubt this was a holy oil and had to be treated as such.
In the concluding verses of the chapter (34-38) God indicates He wanted special incense made, again following a specific recipe of spices. This gave a perfume that was salted, pure, and holy. God wanted some of it in the tent of meeting where He was to meet with the priests for the people. And again, it came with the same warnings as the anointing oil. Several commentators make reference to the incense as being symbolic of the fact that prayer for us is most important – that while we cannot see God with our eyes (as the Israelites could not be in holy of holies), we can be drawn through our prayers (symbolized by the aromas of the incense) to focus on what God was saying and doing and requiring of us.

Both the oil and the incense were not to be imitated as the work of the Holy Spirit is not to be imitated. Woe to us if we misuse the holy things of God for our own purposes, or pleasure, or gain, or as Guzik suggests, if we make these holy things commonplace.

Finally, Matthew Henry suggests that given the fact that a phrase like, “The Lord spoke unto Moses,” is used in this chapter alone three times (verses 17, 22, 34) “intimates that God did not deliver these precepts to Moses in the mount, in a continued discourse, but with many intermissions, giving him time either to write what was said to him or at least to charge his memory with it.”  As I study Exodus and other otherwise difficult books in the Old Testament, I find myself in agreement with him.

The complex and detailed instructions in all these matters is indicative of the God we worship today – a God of great interest in the details of our being and our doing. And while some can focus on His warnings as being those of a strict disciplinarian, we need to rejoice in the fact that He cares so much about our well being. It’s all in our perspective. Rejecting God because He appears to be authoritarian has incredible consequences. Accepting God because He wants the best for us has amazing benefits.

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

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