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Exodus 28-31: The Lord Provides What He Demands Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 September 2009

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I am one of these people who normally follows written directions closely.  When I put our swing together on our back porch, I followed the directions.  When Isaiah gets a new toy or new furniture, I follow the directions.  I am a man who follows the directions.  Not everybody is like me and they can normally get things done a whole lot faster than I can.  I lack the experience to be able to see how certain parts will fit together and form whatever it is I am trying to make.  I can look at the box and identify the goal, but without some help, I am not very good at getting there by myself.  Thus, I start with step one and slowly work through the directions, trusting that they will lead me to the desired goal.

Being the people of God is not an easy task.  The Bible never presents following God as anything less than difficult.  In fact, if we are honest, the commands that Godís character demands are impossible for us to keep.  We cannot be, if left to ourselves, the people that God would have us to be.  We cannot reflect His character in the way that He prescribes.  We are too human, too infected with sin.  Yet, this is not the end of the story.  Make no mistake about it, God does not withdraw His commands, indeed, He cannot, for they spring from who He is.  He cannot stop demanding holiness anymore than He can stop being holy.  How then can we as Godís people ever expect to keep His demands?

The people of Israel knew this struggle.  God had redeemed them out of Egypt and made them His own.  He has given them the law and instructions concerning the Tabernacle.  He has promised to dwell among them, but He has also commanded their obedience.  They are to obey the Law, they are to build the Tabernacle in the way that He has described, they are to worship Him as He has directed.  In our passage this morning, the Lord gives them directions concerning the priesthood and further instructions about the Tabernacle. 

Even though priests have been mentioned before in the text (see 19:22), this seems to be the official beginning of the priesthood.  The book of Leviticus will explain their function in more detail, but we see it mentioned here in 29:43-46.  Look at that with me.  The Lord is going to dwell with His people.  He commands their obedience.  Yet, He graciously provides the priests as mediators.  They will represent God before the people and the people before God (as we noted last week).  They will make sacrifices for the people and their sins.  All of this implies that God knows that His people will sin.  He knows that they will not be able to fully keep His demands by themselves.  Thus, He graciously provides for what He demands.

We see this throughout the Bible and throughout this text.  Godís character has demands for the priests and He provides for that.  His character has demands for the building of the Tabernacle (as we have already seen) and He provides for that.  Letís begin with the demands of His holiness for the priests.

The necessity of consecration

The priests needed to be set apart for their service.  Their role as mediators between God and Israel was no small task.  Thus, in chapter 28 the Lord commands that they have special clothing to set them apart.  Look at 28:1-5.  Verses 2-3 make it clear that the purpose of these garments is to set Aaron and his sons apart as priests.  It is part of their consecration to the Lord.  If they are to serve as mediators, then they must be clothed how the Lord commands.  Chapter 28 goes on to describe how the clothes are to be made.  They are to make a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash.  All of these are part of the consecration of Aaron and his sons.

They are also to be consecrated through sacrifice.  Chapter 29 describes the clothing and sacrifices that are to be made for the priests.  Part of this sacrifice is for their consecration.  Starting in verse 10 several sacrifices are mentioned that are to be done for Aaron and his sons alone.  These are sacrifices that set them apart as servants of the Lord.  Likewise, they are consecrated through the anointing oil as well.  Look at 30:30-33.  The oil is to be different from any other oil and it is only to be used on the priests.  It is to set them apart.  They are consecrated through the anointing oil, through their clothes, and through the sacrifices. 

Of course, the question that must be asked is why is sacrifice necessary?  What exactly do these sacrifices mean?  These questions lead to the next demand of Godís holiness.

The necessity of atonement

The reason that Aaron and his sons had to sacrifice is because they too were sinful.  In order for them to serve as mediators between God and Israel something had to be done about their sin.  The Lord had to provide a way for dealing with their sin.  How does He do this?  Through a substitutionary sacrifice.  After describing the different sacrifices, the Lord commands Aaron and his sons to eat part of what is sacrificed. 

Look at these commands in 29:31-33.  Notice how the sacrifices are described.  They are those things with which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration.  The sacrifices are for their atonement.  We see this again in 29:35-37.  The consecration of Aaron and his sons is to last for seven days and every day they are to sacrifice a bull as a sin offering for atonement.  Their sin must be dealt with.  God cannot receive sacrifices from them until they have first been sacrificed for.  They need forgiveness and God provides it through these offerings (at least to some degree, see below). 

As is noted with the atonement for the altar, not only are Aaron and his sons sins dealt with, but they are made holy through these sacrifices of atonement.  And just so that we understand the weightiness of what is going on here, notice how many times the Lord warns them so that they can avoid death.  Look at 28:35; 28:43; 30:15-16 (dealing with the census tax); 30:20-21.  The Lord is serious about consecration and atonement.  He is serious about obedience.

Godís character demands that the priests be holy.  They must be consecrated and set apart.  They must have their sins atoned for.  Godís holiness demands this and His mercy provides for it.  Aaron and his sons could never serve as priests apart from Godís gracious provision for the demands of His character.  He provides for what He demands.

The necessity of able men

After the instructions for the consecration of the priests, the Lord gives further instructions concerning the Tabernacle.  They are to make an altar of incense and a bronze basin, which again involve the consecration of the priests.  The Lord also instructs Israel about the offering of the census tax for the Tabernacle and the making of the anointing oil and incense, again emphasizing the importance of consecrating the Tent of Meeting.  This brings the instructions concerning the Tabernacle to a close.

Of course, one important issue remains to be resolved: how is Israel going to do all of this?  The Lord has been very clear on the fact that they must construct the Tabernacle according to the plan that He has given Moses.  They are to follow it exactly.  Yet, how are they going to do this?  The Lord answers in 31:1-11.  Wow!  The Lord demands that the Tabernacle be built in a very particular way, which involves great skill, and then He provides the men required to accomplish this task.  He equips them with the Spirit so that they can carry out His commands.  They will build the structure and all of the articles.  They will make the priestly clothes (see also 28:3).  They will provide the anointing oil and incense.  There is nothing that God has commanded that they will not be able to do.  Amazing.  God demands great things from His people and provides for these great things through His people.

The necessity of obedience (or keeping the Sabbath)

We have noted in weeks past the continual call for Israel to obey and so it goes without saying here.  Yet, our passage closes with another call for Israel to obey.  Particularly, they are to obey the commands concerning the Sabbath.  We have considered these issues before, so I just want to mention the fact that once again God demands obedience.  He is serious about obedience and warns His people against disobedience for their own sakes.

Thus, Godís holiness demands a lot from His people.  It demands that His people be set apart and their sins be paid for.  It demands that they keep His commands faithfully, doing all that He has called them to do in the way that He has instructed them to.  These are great demands indeed.  So then, who can follow after this God?  Who can be a part of His people?  Who will ever be able to meet the necessities of His holiness?

The only answer that I give is Ďno one.í  None of us will ever be able to meet the demands of Godís holiness.  None of us can set ourselves apart.  None of us can do anything about our sins.  None of us can obey.  None of us have the ability to perform the tasks that He has given.  At least, none of us can if left to ourselves.

The only hope we have is that God will provide for His demands.  And the glorious good news is that He has done exactly that by sending us Christ.  Jesus has met the demands of Godís holiness on our behalf.  Think about it.  He lived the life that we could never live.  He obeyed the Father in every way.  And His righteous life is credited to our account when we repent and believe in Him.  Not only that, but He has made atonement for our sins.  In fact, He has made atonement for all sins. 

The author of Hebrews tells us that the blood of bulls and goats could never pay for sins (see Hebrews 10:4).  Thus, in one sense, even the sacrifices that Aaron and his sons were making looked forward to a greater sacrifice.  The author of Hebrews describes that sacrifice in 9:11-14.  Look at that passage with me.  Our High Priest did not offer the blood of bulls and goats.  No, He offered His own blood.  And every sacrifice that Aaron and his sons made pointed to this great sacrifice that was once for all.  Jesus offered Himself as the sacrificial Lamb for our sins.  And the author of Hebrews says that such a sacrifice will purify our conscience for dead works to serve the living God.  So then, our sins are paid for and we can now serve our God.  And going even further, God has given us His Spirit so that we might serve Him faithfully.  The Spirit enables and empowers us to do what we are called to do as the people of God. 

And what are we called to be?  Peter answers: 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 (1 Peter 2:9).  The Lordís holiness places great demands on His people.  But He has met every demand for us in Christ.  Brothers and sisters, may we indeed spend our lives proclaiming the excellencies of our God!  Amen. 

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 September 2009 )

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