The Potter’s House: Sunday, 3/3/2013; The Gospel According to Moses, Part 3
How do we approach the Scriptures? Asked another way: how should we interpret the Bible? This is an especially important question when we approach Exodus 19-31. This is the Mount Sinai event where the first law was given to Israel and plans for the tabernacle given to Moses. These passages are full of images that can be assigned a plethora of meaning. We live in a day where there are approaches to the Bible that yield certain results; for the most part, lack of life application. Christians in our day give little thought to what methods are being used to interpret the Bible. If the outcome sounds good a sound interpretive method is assumed. But method determines outcome, and the Bible is clear regarding what the outcome of Bible study should be. This answers the question: the method should lead to understanding that is profitable for hope, encouragement, teaching, reproof, correction, and righteousness training with the goal being competent in every area of life. The goal is to be equipped for every good work (2TIM 3:16-17).
That’s critical in understanding what the premier biblical hermeneutic is: the goal; to be fully equipped for every good work. Students of the Bible should leave every teaching more equipped. We should also know that the Scriptures are breathed out by God and He does not speak less than He should or more than He should. “All” of Scripture is profitable for equipping us (2TIM 3:16). All Scripture should be approached with that goal and that attitude. That’s the hermeneutic. And I believe firmly that the Bible interprets itself.
As I stated last week, we are going to approach chapters 25-31 with God’s stated purpose in mind. He told Moses the following in chapter 19:
Exodus 19: 5 – Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.
Once the Israelites agreed to the covenant, God begins working with them to bring this plan to volition. What follows has to be interpreted through God’s purpose for doing it in the first place. Secondly, we need to remember what God wanted from the nation of Israel at that time is in fact our present identity as Christians, so we must be on the lookout for how that relates to this body of Scripture:
1Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
It is also a good idea to think about what was going on in general. This is a building project with God as the general contractor. Hence, great insight can be gained by observing how God expected His people to interact with Him in the building of the tabernacle. We see a combination of imperatives and the freedom to use our own creativity. God commanded that molding was to be added to the ark, but didn’t specify design. That was left to the creativity of the craftsman. However, God continually commanded that the craftsmanship be “skillful.” Full diligence was to be exercised and not any halfhearted efforts or shortcuts. And by the way, such should be the case with any project that we do with God—especially sanctification. As we have taken this short interlude into the book of Exodus, I have heard from others regarding the references to sanctification in tabernacle worship. Here is one example:
Just reading in Numbers 28 about the daily sacrifice that was to be offered morning and evening that was to be for a continuing “sweet savour” to the Lord.
The parallel to this is our Sanctification, our daily walk with the Lord.
Rom 12:1 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Eph 5:2 – And walk in love…an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.
Php 4:18 – But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
In our Christian life we have both freedom and stipulation. Sometimes we have the option to give or not give for whatever reason (EX 25:2). Sometimes giving is imperative (EX 30:11-16). The lives of Christians can be fraught with superstition if this is not understood. For example, those who are single and not gifted to be should marry, and marry whomever they want to marry with some restrictions. This is what Scripture reveals. This is very valuable information when helping people who have left a cult. They often see God as one who is ready to severely punish at any moment for not doing every little thing according to His predetermined will. Something else that might be noted is that God didn’t give Moses a reason for why He wanted some things built a certain way, but I am sure many reasons were realized over time. This speaks to the trust issue. We also see God’s practicality: larger objects were made of wood overlaid with gold while smaller objects were solid gold. The tabernacle was portable and meant to be moved; large items made of solid gold would have made portability very difficult.
The tabernacle represents God’s grand goal—to dwell with mankind. Tabernacle means “to dwell with.” This first requires reconciliation. We must make a covenant of peace with Him. Therefore, the tabernacle represented God’s desire to dwell with mankind and the covenant required to make it possible. He dwelt in the most Holy part of the tabernacle between the cherubim, and over the tablets of stone that represented the covenant. That goal is finally consummated in the fullest sense at the end of the ages and noted towards the end of Revelation:
Revelation 21:1 – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Here is the word meaning for “dwelling” and “dwell” in REV 21:1-4;
g4633. σκηνη skene; apparently akin to 4632 and 4639; a tent or cloth hut (literally or figuratively):— habitation, tabernacle. AV (20)- tabernacle 19, habitation 1; tent, tabernacle, ( made of green boughs, or skins or other materials) of that well known movable temple of God after the pattern of which the temple at Jerusalem was built.
g4637. σκηνοω skenoo; from 4636; to tent or encamp, i. e. (figuratively) to occupy (as a mansion) or (specially), to reside (as God did in the Tabernacle of old, a symbol of protection and communion):— dwell. AV (5)- dwell 5; to fix one’s tabernacle, have one’s tabernacle, abide ( or live) in a tabernacle ( or tent), tabernacle to dwell.
Ultimately, we Christians don’t look for what’s next on the prophetic calendar, but the new heaven and new earth when God leaves heaven and dwells with man on earth. This is also the city built by God that Abraham looked for (2Peter 3:13, Hebrews 11:8-10).
The tabernacle also represents the fact God is completely uncompromising when it comes to the only truth that will heal. He is completely uncompromising in regard to the only truth that sanctifies (John 17:17). He is completely uncompromising in regard to truth that brings life. This is the message that often perplexes people and tempts them to think God is harsh. What an appropriate observation for this series in Romans and our gospel commentary! The ark was not to be touched (NUM 4:15). The tabernacle ordinances were to be carried out in specific ways or death could occur. The tabernacle was to be arranged in a specific way lest the same occur as well. When the ark was handled in a flippant way, consequences were severe (1SAM 5:1-6, 6:19, 2SAM 6:1-3). But take note of what the specific offence was: treating God’s holy covenant with man flippantly. The ark represented the covenant that makes reconciliation with God possible. You don’t mess with that. There is only one way to be reconciled to God, and you don’t dare go into the tabernacle and start rearranging the furniture. This is the point the Hebrew writer made in regard to the new covenant being less fearful than its shadow presented at Mount Sinai:
Hebrews 10:26 – For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 12:18 – For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
Because we supposedly live in an age of grace and not law, there is no reason to fear Mount Sinai and the old “covenant of death.” No, God has less patience today than He did at Mount Sinai for those who treat the covenant lightly. In fact, in times past, God winked at ignorance but now commands men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
Angels occupy a great deal of the tabernacles imagery. Why is that? First, there were myriads of them about Mt. Sinai when God came to meet with Israel for the covenant ceremony. This wasn’t mentioned in Exodus, but reveled in DUE 33:1ff., PS 68:17, and Acts 7:53. This is probably why God didn’t have to give details concerning what images of angels should look like in the tabernacle. We also read the following in Galatians 3:19:
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
“Put in place” is the following:
g1299. διατασσω diatasso; from 1223 and 5021; to arrange thoroughly, i.e. (specially) institute, prescribe, etc.: — appoint, command, give, (set in) order, ordain. AV (16)- command 7, appoint 4, ordain 3, set in order 1, give order 1; to arrange, appoint, ordain, prescribe, give order.
This covenant put in place by the angels at Mt. Sinai was eventually rejected by Israel through disobedience, but will be permanently enforced by the angels as recorded in the book of Revelation. As noted in Hebrews, the Lord will once more shake the earth in regard to this covenant (HEB 12:26). There are references to the tabernacle throughout the book of Revelation; e.g., 6:9-10 and 11:19. In the Book of the Covenant God warns Israel not to make a covenant with other nations for protection and wellbeing (EX 34:15). They do exactly that by making a pact with hell (IS 28:15, Daniel 8:24-25, 9:27, 1THESS 5:2-4) for protection and that launches the last seven years of the times of the gentiles (Luke 21:24). Undoubtedly, the 144,000 are commissioned to announce to the Jews that God has come to enforce the covenant one way or the other and on a grand scale we have the same scene that we see at Mt. Sinai when the Israelites made the golden calf. It will be time for the Jews to fish or cut bait: are you with God or the antichrist? Those who are with God will inhabit the millennial kingdom that Christ will then usher in.
Sabbath ordinances were also a special part of the Book of the Covenant issued at Mt. Sinai (EX 23:10-11), and the Jews broke that covenant leading to God punishing them through Gentile persecution for a designated period of time. 483 years of that time to finish the transgression are complete, and there are seven left. The assembly of Christ inaugurated at Pentecost constitutes a parenthesis within the times of the Gentiles that will be ended by the imminent return of Christ for His assembly and the ushering in of the final seven years that will enforce the Mt. Sinai covenant. Biblical references that you can study on your own follow:
LK 21:24, MAL 1:10-11, ROM 10:14-11:32, LEV 25:4-5, 26:14-35, JER 25:11-12, 29:10-11 2CHRON 36:21, DAN 9:1-2, 20-27.
Throughout the New Testament it is clear that the return of Christ for His assembly is imminent, but nothing in Revelation is imminent—events are clearly marked on a specific timeline. Upon the signing of the covenant between Israel and the anti-Christ, all following events will be able to be marked on a calendar. I believe that the running to and fro and increasing of knowledge stated in the book of Daniel refers to the book of Revelation and its relevance for that day (DAN 12:4).
The Bible interprets the Bible. If you want to say that the curtain that separated the most holy place from the holy place represents Christ, that is correct because HEB 10:19-23 and MATT 27:50-51 states that specifically, but a Christocentric interpretation should not be imposed on any Bible verse where it is not warranted. And lastly, truth may not be played with like a toy. You cannot separate God’s holiness from truth and His covenant. This is perhaps the primary point of the tabernacle. People love to make propositional truth something that is beneath God’s dignity. To suggest that we know anything about God is supposedly the epitome of arrogance. Of course, this gives license to believe anything we want to. Therefore, I think an excerpt from the second part of this three-part interlude is a fitting conclusion:
What better example than the infamous “Touchdown Jesus” that was an icon of a church in Monroe, Ohio. The statue of Jesus was 60ft. high and was merely a couple of hundred ft. from I-75. That is, until it was struck by lightning. The flames could be seen for miles in the night and the pictures thereof can be best described as apocalyptic. The next day, it was the talk of the nation. But telling was the hundreds of testimonies recorded on the news and in newspapers; i.e., “what the image meant to me.” Yikes! The hundreds of different interpretations were staggering, and the statue never spoke one word! Most interesting was a comment by an unbeliever who worked in the Monroe area: “Obviously, God did it.” Often, there is a disconnect between the secular mindset and the Christian mindset which involves the disintegration of common sense that is a natural endowment; mysticism often abandons the matter and faith becomes a license for mindlessness.