Saturday, January 27, 2018

What Do Obeying God, Building a Model Airplane, and Assembling IKEA Furniture Have In Common?

Obedience to God? It Has To Be His Way, In His Specified Order, and On His Exact Timing
Exodus 40:17-33:

17 Now in the first month [a]of the second year, on the first day of the month, the [b]tabernacle was erected. 
18 Moses erected the tabernacle and [c]laid its [d]sockets, and set up its boards, and [e]inserted its bars and erected its pillars. 
19 He spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent [f]on top of it, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 
20 Then he took the testimony and put it into the ark, and [g]attached the poles to the ark, and put the [h]mercy seat [i]on top of the ark. 
21 He brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up a veil for the screen, and screened off the ark of the testimony, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
22 Then he put the table in the tent of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil. 
23 He set the arrangement of bread in order on it before the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 
24 Then he placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table, on the south side of the tabernacle. 
25 He lighted the lamps before the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
26 Then he placed the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the veil; 
27 and he burned fragrant incense on it, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 
28 Then he set up the [j]veil for the doorway of the tabernacle. 
29 He set the altar of burnt offering before the doorway of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the meal offering, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 
30 He placed the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing. 
31 From it Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 
32 When they entered the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 
33 He erected the court all around the [k]tabernacle and the altar, and [l]hung up the veil for the gateway of the court. Thus Moses finished the work.

Thoughts on the Passage
In verses 17 to 29 of this passage, we see Moses overseeing the actual assembly of the Tabernacle and all its furnishings.  Then we come to the last piece, the wash basin or lave in verse 30.  He placed it in its rightful spot and poured water into it “for washing”.

Whenever Moses, Aaron, or Aaron’s sons entered the Tent of Meeting or when they approached the altar, they had to wash their hands and feet just as God had commanded Moses. Guzik says this phrase (as God had commanded) is repeated over and over again in Exodus. Obedience is central to doing the will of God and to serving Him effectively. Every command from God requires obedience, not just those we feel like complying with.  He quotes Morgan, who writes,

“It reminds us that Divine Work must always be done according to the Divine pattern, and most strictly in the Divine way. The truth is so self-evident, that it would seem needless to stress it. Yet a perpetual temptation to the mind of man is to endeavor to improve upon a Divine plan.” 

That is often our problem in the church. We try to improve on God’s way of doing things. We think we know better as to what today’s society needs. [We believe we have an in on what teenagers need to stay in the church. And we’ve often been wrong. For example, teenagers today are not telling us we have to have a certain type of music or speak the way they speak. No, instead they tell us they want each of us to be genuine and stop being hypocrites.]

The passage also indicates that priests could not properly perform their duties without this ritual cleansing which indicates that God wants service from pure hands and feet. And though Moses was not properly a priest, Psalm 99:6 tells us that God numbered him among His priests, and Matthew Henry says “the Jewish writers call him ‘the priest of the priests’ [for] what he did he did by special warrant and direction from God, rather as a prophet, or law-giver than as a priest. He set the wheels a-going, and then left the work in the hands of the appointed ministry.” Maybe some elders on church boards need to take a lesson from Moses – he gave the instructions God gave him to well-selected individuals like Bezalel and then let them do their job, and afterward, he inspected it. He had confidence in those that were selected, and he did not get in the way of the actual work.

And then we come to the last verse of this passage or section of Chapter 40 – verse 33. Here we are told that after Moses raised up the court all around the Tabernacle and the altar, and after he hung up the screen of the court gate, we read, “So Moses finished the work.”

What a great feeling that must have been knowing that he had finished the work that God gave him to do. And little did he know at the time, that this Tabernacle he had built to God’s specifications would have such incredible symbolic meaning in the future when describing the work of our High Priest, Jesus Christ. Guzik writes,

“Hebrews 9:23-24 tells us that at some point in time (after the cross), Jesus entered the heavenly reality represented on earth by the Tabernacle, and appeared in the presence of God to offer a perfect atonement for our sins. Therefore, every time before this event, when the High Priest made atonement in the earthly tabernacle, it was “play acting” – and looking forward to – the perfect atonement the Son of God would offer.”

Matthew Henry says we should note that while the Israelites were hoping they were awfully close to the Promised Land, they did not say, (my words) “hey, let’s wait to set this thing up when we get there, since we’re so close and we don’t want to take a chance of anything breaking now”. No, they wanted to obey God in every instruction. So, set it up now they did. The lesson for us being, obey God today, worship Him today – don’t wait for what we think is a perfect time, a perfect setting.
Henry also notes that not only did Moses follow all the instructions, he followed them in the precise order that God wanted him to. We often try to get ahead of God’s pattern for us by doing some of the easier or more exciting things first, leaving the hard things for later. If so, we fail to grasp the fact that the Master Designer had a reason for the order that He gave us. I am reminded of building model airplanes as a child. Many times, I did things out of the order prescribed, only to find out why that wasn’t a good idea later on. But the glue was dry.  It also happens when putting together “assembly required” furniture (like that one buys from IKEA). Don’t follow the instructions and be prepared to undo all you have done to start again. That’s the way it is with God’s pattern for your life – obey each step, obey them in order, and them at the right time.

In verse 29 we read that the altar of the burnt-offering was set up and then there’s a reference to actual offerings (the burnt offering and the meal offering) taking place right there and then at the time the altar was set up. The commentators are not in agreement as to when that actually took place with some thinking it was done some time afterward. Henry thinks “he immediately began the ceremony of [the offering’s] consecration, though it was not completed for seven days.”

The argument that it did occur right away is supported by what we read in the next two verses regarding the laver. In verse 31, we are told that Moses and Aaron and the priests washed their hands and feet and that immediately follows the placed of the laver or wash basin in verse 30. So there appears to be a precedent there for do things immediately once the furnishings required were in place. However, linguistically as I read it, it can go either way.

If Henry is right, then this is an indication that when God gives us talents, we are to use them right away, but as prescribed by God.

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