What was the Daily Cycle that Jesus used? And was it different than the Official Jewish Daily Cycle? Part – 2 – Evenings and Mornings

Why am I challenging the traditional view of what the daily cycle used by Jesus was? Well, it is partly curiosity, but it mostly has to do with how we view the events of Crucifixion Week, and it hopefully answer some questions people have had about the Last Supper – e.g., Was it really a Passover Seder or not?

In Part 1 – Passover Events, we found that the first daily cycle used by the Israelites seems to be from sunrise to sunrise rather than the traditional sunset to sunset. But it is possible that other information in the Bible will support the traditional view in spite of what we have found so far. So, is that the case, or will there be more support for what we have already found? The goal here is to find out what the Bible has to say IN ITS ENTIRETY, not just what a few verses here and there say. And if there are verses that say something different we really can’t leave them out, just because we might not like what they say. EVERYTHING the Bible has to say on the subject must be considered. (Yes, I am limiting my investigation into the daily cycle to just the Old Testament for a reason – I want to know how things stood at the time of Christ. How did Jewish culture at the time view things? Was there just one way of viewing a day or were there two?)

You might wonder why I am making such a big deal about this. The reason is because I grew up in a denomination that had selected specific verses that they wanted you to learn (memorize) because they revealed the “truth” that the church’s belief system was supposed to be based on. The problem was, as I started reading the Bible for myself, I kept finding that those select verses were not EVERYTHING the Bible had to say on the belief that was being “proven”. In fact, if you read the texts in their Biblical context, often those isolated verses did not contain everything that was being said in that passage that was relevant to the church doctrine or “teaching” (or, as they liked to proclaim, “THE TRUTH”) under consideration. And using a translation other than the KJV made things even worse because what was being quoted didn’t always say what was being claimed if you used a different translation of the Bible. What was causing problems was the majority of what I was finding did not support the views I had been taught all my life, rather it brought up questions about those doctrines that NO ONE was willing to answer for me.

So now, I demand that everything be included when I research a subject, even the passages that appear to disagree with each other and especially the ones that say things I might not like. I do my best to bring together everything on the subject I am studying before I even try to come to an understanding of what is being said. It is my job to let the Holy Spirit guide my study to find out what God has to say about a subject, and not force my personal opinions or preconceived ideas into what I WANT the Bible to say on that subject. And if it happens to be something I might not like, that is something I have to change in my belief system, I cannot just ignore what I don’t like.

Sorry for the soapbox, but this is something that means a lot to me, and I have no desire to repeat the errors of the way of “teaching” I grew up under. Maybe I go too far the other way now, but I would rather do that than take the chance of missing the full truth of what the Bible has to say. Now that you have a better idea of why I do things the way I do, we can continue our research.

There were several things I discovered while researching the Bible references about the daily cycle that I found interesting. The one had to do with the “Daily” sacrifices, AKA “the Evening and Morning” sacrifices (as they are referred to in the book of Daniel chapter 8). What I found interesting is the vast majority of the Biblical references to them are NOT as is recorded in Daniel! (Why am I making such a big deal about how Daniel uses these words? Well, it goes back to the denomination I grew up in – it was one of their “proof texts” that turned out to mean something much different than what I had been taught all my life.)

But before we get into that, let’s start with how it all began, literally, “In the Beginning God created . . . ” after all, that IS where the daily cycle started isn’t it?

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” (Genesis 1:1-4 NIV)

Now what I find interesting about this passage is first, there is a bit of an ambiguity in the “timeline”. It starts out by stating literally, that “When all things began, God created the heavens and the earth.” Or you could put it this way, “When everything came into existence, God did it!” And then what follows is linked with the word “now” , as in “Now the earth had not been shaped, nor was there any life on it.” (Again, the literal meaning of the Hebrew passage.) The “now” is usually translated “and”, but that really doesn’t matter to our investigation, either way, it just creates a non-time specific link between the first statement and the events that are to follow.

While we are on the subject of “time” something should be understood about what we call “time”, and that is the fact that our way of measuring it is purely arbitrary. How we describe time is totally up to us, and how I or one group of people choose to describe it does not have to be the same as how others do so. So we are NOT looking for the “right” way to describe the daily cycle, just the one used in the Bible, especially the one that might have been used by Jesus in His religious observances. So no, I am NOT trying to make any sort of doctrinal statement with all this, just learn what I can about it from the Bible.

Now back to our discussion. The next interesting thing I found that IS important to our discussion is something that is recorded about God’s first “day” of creating things. The record states that God created light and called it “day” and the “dark” He called “night”. What is interesting is that there are no sun and moon yet, just light and/or the absence of light. And yet, we are told, “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” It is from this sentence, that many claim proof that the “true” daily cycle is from “evening to morning” i.e., first night followed by day, therefore from sunset to sunset, and that this cycle has existed from the very first day of creation. But there is a problem with that claim. Just how do you have an “evening and morning” for the first three days of creation without a sun to create them, or maybe a better way to say it would be, to cause them to happen?

Without the sun, just how do you get a daylight period and a darkness period to create a day? All you can go on is the actual rotational motion of the earth. The nice thing about that is that it really doesn’t care whether there is sun or not as a day is “formed” by the time it takes for a fixed observation point on the earth to rotate from a chosen reference point in space to the next time the observer returns to the same relationship to the chosen reference point in space. It is interesting to note that WHAT that point in space is, will determine how long the “day” (the entire cycle) is. For example, if you chose the sun as your designator – say solar noon to solar noon, you get a 24 hour time period (simply because that IS the definition of our day). However, if you were to chose a different reference point, say the star Sirius, then the time it takes to get from your reference position to that same position again (say you use the meridian crossing – when the star is directly “above” the north-south line that runs through the point at which you are making your observations) will give you a different length of “day” than the one you get using the sun as your reference point. The difference is due to orbital mechanics – and while an interesting fact, is not really pertinent to what we are looking into.

What is pertinent is the fact that we have a reference to a “day” outlined by first an evening followed by a morning, without having a “sun” as our controlling reference point. In fact, the same applies to the next two days as well, we have three days of “evenings” followed by “mornings” without a sun to create them! For there to be “night” and “day” on the earth, you MUST have a localized light source – e.g., the sun – to create that distinction. In other words, you need your light source to be able to cast a shadow when it encounters an object (the earth for example). For the first three days of Creation Week, we do not have a localized light source, but just “light” with no source – no directionality to it. That means the references are purely arbitrary labels applied to the time frame without reference to the events that make them actually happen. At this point in “time” God has created light, therefore He has also created the POSSIBILITY of darkness, which is simply the absence of light. No “day” or “night” exist yet, only their possibility. And remember, these time periods we are talking about here ONLY apply to the earth, yes, every other planet will have a “day” and a “night”, however, NONE of them will be the SAME days and nights. Each will depend on that planet’s orbital mechanics and what its rotational speed is.

It is not until the fourth “day” that we read, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:14-19) It was not until over halfway through the creation process (day four out of six) that we get a local source for the light that has existed since the first day! Weird isn’t it?

But think about that for a bit, without a local source, the implication is that the light existed everywhere, not just coming from discrete places like it does now. That makes me wonder, if the light existed BEFORE the light sources, just how “long” would it take for the light from those “sources” take to get to the other end of the universe after God “gathered” that pre-existing light so that it now came from localized sources? Again, not pertinent to our study, but another interesting thing to think about!

The part that is important is the cycle – evening then morning. But if you think about that for a bit, how else could you describe what has happened? Everything was dark, then all of a sudden, you had light – everywhere! So, first you had darkness, then you had light – first you had “night” then you had “day” – first you had “evening” then you had “morning”. That does explain something I came across years ago, and that is the way one of the Jewish writers looked at it. He believed darkness was a time of chaos, so his description of creation was “first darkness then light”, or “from chaos came order”. And that way of thinking is not all that foreign to us today, don’t we call them the “Dark Ages” because they were a time of “chaos” – a time when there was a break down in civilization? A time when the “civilized” Roman Empire came to an end, and the barbarians over ran the place until the time when order was restored by the formation of new empires? So the question arises, was the way “days” were described during Creation Week based on some God “ordained” daily cycle as many claim or just a way of adding one more reference to what God was doing – creating order out of “chaos”? In Jewish thought, any area not “formed” and/or without life on it, is an area in chaos. It doesn’t matter if what is there is in a “perfect” state exactly as it was originally created by God, without life on it or an intelligent agent actively shaping it or having shaped it (and by that they actually mean cultivating it – growing food on it), it is in chaos. And that was what the earth was – unformed, uninhabited, and in darkness. A “land” in chaos. And out of that chaos, out of that darkness came light, order, and life.

So, does that mean that that is the daily cycle fixed by God? We don’t really know yet, we have only studied the first 7 days of this earth’s recorded history! What is interesting is that the very next time the words “evening” and “morning” appear together after the record of Creation Week is not until Jacob is blessing his sons just before he dies in Egypt. Nothing for thousands of years! It is even many generations after the Flood! They next appear in Jacob’s last blessing, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.” (Genesis 49:27) Notice the order however, Jacob has the evening FOLLOWING the morning, not the other way around as at creation. Jacob is saying that in the morning “Benjamin” (a reference to the tribe of Benjamin) goes out on raiding excursions and in the evening, when they return home, they divide the “spoils of war” they got in their raiding. But as this is a more of a reference to a sequence of events than it is to a daily cycle, it doesn’t really help us much other than to give a bit of an insight into how the day might have been viewed at that time.

It is over 400 years before the term is used again – not until AFTER the Exodus, not until Israel is at Mount Horeb. And again it is in reference to a sequence of events during a day rather than a reference to the day itself as are the following two times the words are used together. (See Exodus 16:8-13; 18:13-14; and 27:21 at the end of this blog.)

The next time they are used is in reference to the daily sacrifices – the “evening and morning” sacrifices that God does command and therefore do, in a way, affect the daily cycle, or at least maybe reveal how God looks at how it goes.

Before we get to much further into this, I thought maybe we should check out exactly what the dictionaries and lexicons have to say about the Hebrew words we are talking about. Here is what I found:

Evening

06153 ערב ‘ereb eh’- reb

It is from 06150 ערב ‘arab aw-rab’ a primitive root that means “to become evening, grow dark”

Strong’s Dictionary – dusk: —  + day, evening, eventide, night.

Hebrew / English Lexicon – 1) evening, night, sunset

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon (1)evening; at the evening; NOTE: in the phrase “between the two evenings”, Ex. 16:12; 30:8; used as marking the space of time during which the paschal lamb was slain, Ex. 12:6; Lev. 23:5; Num. 9:3; and the evening sacrifice was offered, Ex. 29:39,41; Num. 28:4; i.e. according to the opinion of the Karaite and Samaritans (which is favored by the words of Deut. 16:6), the time between sunset and deep twilight. The Pharisees, however, and the Rabbinists considered the time between when the sun began to descend to be called the first evening; and the second evening to be the real sunset.

As the Hebrew word for evening clearly refers to a time period when it is starting to get dark, it has to refer to the time AFTER sundown, it cannot be sometime in the mid afternoon. Remember, the sect of the Pharisees and the “Rabbinists” did not come into being until well after the time of the Exile in Babylon, therefore the meaning of “sometime in the afternoon”, is clearly a later development.

Morning

01242 בקר boqer bo’- ker

It is from 01239 בקר baqar baw-kar a primitive root that means “to seek, enquire, consider”

Strong’s Dictionary – properly, dawn (as the break of day); generally, morning: —  (+) day, early, morning, morrow.

Hebrew / English Lexicon – 1) morning, break of day

1a) morning

1a1) of end of night

1a2) of coming of daylight

1a3) of coming of sunrise

1a4) of beginning of day

1a5) of bright joy after night of distress (fig.)

1b) morrow, next day, next morning

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon (1) morning, daybreak, dawn [“and even before light, Ruth 3:14”] so called from the breaking forth of light; in the morning.

(2) Specially the next morning, Ex. 29:34; Lev. 19:13; 22:30; Num. 9:12; Jud 6:31, “whoever will plead for him, let him be put to death before to-morrow morning“. Hence to-morrow, Ex. 16:7; Nu. 16:5. i.q. 1 Sam. 19:2; used for presently, Ps. 5:4; 90:14; 143:8.

Notice the Hebrew / English Lexicon’s definition “1a5) of bright joy after night of distress (fig.)” Sounds like the Rabbi’s thoughts on darkness being a time of chaos doesn’t it? However, the Hebrew word for “morning” is a clear reference to the time AFTER sunrise, so, we have the time AFTER sunset – evening, and the time AFTER sunrise – morning. So the order they are used in would seem to reflect how the person using the words views how their day goes.

Earlier, I made a reference to how Daniel referred to the Daily Sacrifices. The way he used the words, the order he placed them in is one we are familiar with already, he used the same order as is used in the Creation account. He speaks of the “evenings and mornings” and uses the term in reference to events that took place in the Temple as part of the normal Temple services. And therefore we can know for certain that he is talking about the Evening and Morning sacrifices also known as the Daily sacrifices. And that is the word order he uses, evening followed by morning. However, when God gave the commands that instituted these sacrifices, something interesting is recorded by Moses. Here is what Moses says God told him about setting up the “order of service” for the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle and later the Temple).

“This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering and its drink offering as in the morning—a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.

“For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord.” (Exodus 29:38-42a)

The morning sacrifice – offered just after sunrise – is to be followed by the evening sacrifice – offered just after sundown, and those two sacrifices are on the same day! Day is followed by night! So, is this the only time that they are referred to this way? Actually no.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: “Make sure that you present to me at the appointed time my food offerings, as an aroma pleasing to me.” Say to them: “This is the food offering you are to present to the Lord: two lambs a year old without defect, as a regular burnt offering each day. Offer one lamb in the morning and the other at twilight, together with a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives. This is the regular burnt offering instituted at Mount Sinai as a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord. The accompanying drink offering is to be a quarter of a hin of fermented drink with each lamb. Pour out the drink offering to the Lord at the sanctuary. Offer the second lamb at twilight, along with the same kind of grain offering and drink offering that you offer in the morning. This is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.”‘” (Numbers 28:1-8)

Although the NIV uses the word “twilight” it is the same word we have been studying – the Hebrew word for evening. Here, clearly God is saying that these two sacrifices – to be offered daily – are to be offered first thing in the “day”, just after sunrise, and last thing in the “day”, just after sunset. So the order of the sacrifices is clearly morning then evening.

As we read through these passages and the ones that follow, it becomes clear that the term “Daily Sacrifices” is just one way these two offerings were labeled. The other is by referring to the time of day that they were made, i.e., “The Morning and Evening Sacrifices”. Even an apostate Judean king referred to them this way.

“King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: ‘On the large new altar, offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering, the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, and the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. Splash against this altar the blood of all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance.’ And Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered.” (2 Kings 16:15-16) The “big” alter he is referring to is one he had built that was a copy of one he had seen in the Assyrian capital. He replaced the one built by Solomon with it and moved Solomon’s alter off to one side, still there in the courtyard, but no longer the center of attention.

And Solomon, “the wisest man to ever live”, also used the order “morning and evening” when he spoke of the Daily Sacrifices.

“Solomon sent this message to Hiram king of Tyre:

“‘Send me cedar logs as you did for my father David when you sent him cedar to build a palace to live in. Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God and to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him, for setting out the consecrated bread regularly, and for making burnt offerings every morning and evening and on the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals of the Lord our God. This is a lasting ordinance for Israel.'” (2 Chronicles 2:3-4)

And years later, when the Northern Kingdom was attacking the Southern Kingdom the King of Judah told the attacking army that they were still offering the sacrifices every morning and evening and therefore still doing what God had commanded them.

“As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him. The priests who serve the Lord are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken him. God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. People of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed.” (2 Chronicles 13:10-12)

Many more years later the records show that Hezekiah, King of Judah, donated the animals used for the “morning and evening” sacrifices.

“Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions—each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites—to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the Lord’s dwelling. The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals as written in the Law of the Lord. He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord. As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.” (2 Chronicles 31:2-5)

And there is even one reference to them using the same word order after the return from exile in Babylon.

“When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.” (Ezra 3:1-3)

In fact, the ONLY use of the “evening and morning” order in speaking of the daily sacrifices is the one made by Daniel, during the Exile in Babylon.

“Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.

“Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, ‘How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?’

“He said to me, ‘It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.’ . . .

“‘The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”” (Daniel 8:9-14 & 26)

Notice that in his description of his vision Daniel records that the “small horn” that “grew until it reached the stars of heaven” took away the daily sacrifices, and that the daily sacrifices “were given over to it”? He then hears the question being asked, “How long will the vision about the daily sacrifices being taken way take to be fulfilled?” and the reply is given, in terms of the daily sacrifices – “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings” or the length of time it takes for that many evening and morning sacrifices to be offered, specifically, 1150 days. And then the vision ends with a final reference to it being about the “evenings and mornings” or the daily sacrifices.

This is actually the only time the daily sacrifices are mentioned as occurring in this order. EVERY other time they are spoken of as happening in the morning, then evening. It is helpful to note that Daniel was a high official in the Babylonian government and had been for all of his adult life. And we know from history that the Babylonians DID have a daily cycle that ran from sundown to sundown, and their calendar used the New Crescent Moon as the start time for their month and the new crescent moon is first visible in the evening. That means that the evening was the time of day most important to them and as it was when their new month started it would of necessity also be the start of the first day of that month. I mean, why would you observe the first crescent of the moon and determine that your new month has just started, but the day it starts on doesn’t begin for another 12 hours? If your month starts at twilight with the observance of the “new moon” (actually the first visible crescent) wouldn’t the first day of that month ALSO start at the same time – at twilight?

The remaining times that the words are used together are references to the sequence of events.

Exodus 16:8 – God will give meat in the evening and bread in the morning.

Exodus 16:13 – quails came up and covered the camp at evening, and “dew” (manna) covered the ground in the morning.

Exodus 27:21 – priests were to care for the lamp in the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle) from evening until morning, in other words, over night.

Esther 2: 14 – going in the king’s bed in the evening and leaving in the morning.

Job 4:20 – someone “coming to their end” between morning and evening.

Psalms 30:5 – weeping lasts during the night but joy comes in the morning.

Psalms 55:17 – praying evening, morning and noon.

Psalms 65:8 – God makes the dawn (morning) and sunset (evening) shout for joy.

Isaiah 17:14 – terror comes in the evening, but by morning those causing it are no more.

Ezekiel 33:22 – God kept Ezekiel speechless from evening until morning.

Zephaniah 3:3 – Israel’s judges are “wolves” who devour everything in the evening and leave nothing until morning.

The argument can be made that these are actually references to the daily cycle as well. I have not included them as they are not as explicit in their reference to the daily cycle as others are. They ARE references to the sequence of events that COULD also be references to the daily cycle.

Exodus 18:13-14 – people stood around Moses from morning until evening waiting for him to pass judgment on their complaints.

Psalms 90:6 – grass (people) grows in the morning, but dies by evening.

Ecclesiastes 11:6 – sow your seed in the morning and don’t stop until evening, because you don’t know which will produce a better harvest.

Ezekiel 24:18 – speaks to the captives in Babylon in the morning, and his wife died by evening, and the next morning he did as God had commanded (did not mourn her death) when He told Ezekiel his wife was going to die.

And that is it. All the times that the words “morning” and “evening” appear together in the Old Testament. Clearly, as far as the daily sacrifices are concerned, the cycle is first morning then evening, which would require the day to run from sunrise to sunrise not sunset to sunset. But, we have also seen that Daniel’s view of things was influenced by the way things were viewed in Babylon. However, this gives us a possible source for the sunset to sunset way daily cycle in contrast to the sunrise to sunrise one we have been seeing everywhere else we have studied so far. And THAT creates the possibility of there being TWO daily cycles in use in Jewish culture at the time of Christ.

But that is not all. There is still another way days are referred to – as day and night in reference to a single day. So what about those words? We’ll look into that next.

To be continued . . .

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What was the Daily Cycle that Jesus used? Was it different than the Official Jewish Daily Cycle? Part – 1 – The Events of Passover

 

I was reading a book on the Last supper and something the author wrote got me to thinking about this sunrise to sunrise vs. sundown to sundown discussion about the Jewish day cycle that has been going on among some people on a couple of Face Book groups I am a member of. I have always believed that if there was a sunrise to sunrise cycle, then there must be some Biblical evidence for it. And I have stated a couple of times in those discussions that several of the verses being used to support the sunrise to sunrise daily cycle are at best tenuous and once I started looking into the Greek texts, turned out to not really say what was being claimed. And one authority (who was supposed to be a Jew) that was quoted, didn’t seem to believe in the Exodus or much else recorded in the Jewish Scriptures which made me wonder about his accuracy on things Biblical. I mean, if he really didn’t believe the Exodus had actually happened, how trustworthy could his statements about the origins and format of the Jewish calendar and daily cycle and how it applied to Jewish religious life be? All that to say I have been a skeptic in regards to the sunrise to sunrise daily cycle claims.

However, as I said, this book I was reading got me to thinking and that lead to doing a bunch of research and now I have a few discoveries to relate. First is about something Jesus said. “Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’  He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'” (Matthew 12:38-40 NIV) Notice Jesus said “three days and three nights” . . . not “three nights and three days”. Strange isn’t it when you get to thinking about it.

The claim has always been that the Jewish day runs from sundown to sundown, and everything authoritative on the Jewish calendar I have found so far makes the same statement. And one internet site I found even went so far as to claim the current daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly cycle has always been exactly as it is now from the moment of creation – or at least the middle of Creation Week as it couldn’t really start until after the sun and the moon had been made and given their “marching orders” to “rule the day and night” by God. But if that were the case, then why does Jesus reverse the daily cycle in His comments about how long He would be in the tomb? We refer to days in this way today so it seems like the perfectly natural way to say it. In fact it is so “natural” that we don’t even notice it, what we notice is when things get reversed – or actually put in the “Jewish” order. Even though our days run from midnight to midnight, we normally refer to them as days and nights, if we are going use both terms when we talk about a full day. (Calling it a 1/2 night-day-1/2 night just seems so awkward doesn’t it?) In other words we say that night follows day, but the Jewish way of thinking would have that reversed because their night came first then the day followed. So the “normal” way would have been for Jesus to have said “three nights and three days”, but He got it backwards. Why?

And then there is what got me to thinking about this in the first place. And that was a comment about the Passover as recorded in Exodus. It wasn’t the author’s comment per se, but the actual passage he quoted that caught my attention. So I looked it up, and found that this is what God told Moses about the Passover:

“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ‘This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

“‘On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

“‘This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.

“‘Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.’

“Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

“‘Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, “What does this ceremony mean to you?” then tell them, “It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.”‘ Then the people bowed down and worshiped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.” (Exodus 12:1-28)

The first thing that is interesting is that God didn’t create a new calendar for them, He just revised one they were already using. He opens with the statement, “THIS month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” Not, “Here is a new calendar I want you to use . . . “. He didn’t even change the day that particular month started on, He just said, “This current month is going to be the first month of your year from now on.” Interesting isn’t it? So was Israel’s original calendar based on the Egyptian calendar they would have been living under in Egypt? But that isn’t what we are talking about right now, so I will leave the implications of that for another time.

Maybe it is just me, but something strange is recorded in the passage I quoted above. It is this series of statements that caught my attention. “Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. . . . Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. . . . That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.” (Exodus 12:3, 6 & 8)

The first one just made me think of the sequence of events during Crucifixion Week – they were to pick the lamb on the day that one day, in the far future, Jesus would be “picked” and make the “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem. However, it is the ones that follow that are a bit odd. They are to care for the lamb until the 14th, and then slaughter it “at twilight”. There is a lot of disagreement over what that phrase really means. So I looked it up for myself. One Hebrew Interlinear has the Hebrew translated this way, “and he becomes, to you, for charge, four, ten, day, to [the] month, the this, and they slay, him, all of, assembly of, congregation of, Israel, between, the evenings” The words at twilight literally mean “between the evenings” and that is what makes for the arguments. The way the this Interlinear puts it together is like this, “And it will become a charge of yours until the fourteenth day of this month. Then they will slay it, every assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel, between the evening hours.” Or it could be said to be “during the twilight”, that is, after sunset but before full dark.

I found a reference that said the Talmud defined “dawn” as the 72 minutes before sunrise, so I would assume a similar definition for “twilight” although I haven’t found a specific reference for it yet. The problem I see is, how did they measure minutes? Their “hours” were even divisions of daylight or dark, not specific units of time, so how could they have actual “minutes” of a fixed length? Using their normal “hours” the time would be 1 1/6 hours long, but the actual length of time that stood for would vary depending on what day of the yearly cycle you were on, as the length of the daylight part of the day changes.

In my research I found that today there are actually three different “twilights”, a Civil Twilight, a Nautical Twilight, and an Astronomical Twilight. Each is determined by how many degrees below the horizon the sun is. And it actually refers to both the morning and evening “twilights”. The civil runs from sundown until the sun (actually the geometric center of the sun) is 6º below the horizon. Nautical Twilight runs from there until the sun is 12º below the horizon. And the astronomical twilight runs from the nautical twilight until the sun is 18º below the horizon. The civil twilight is of course the brightest time and for the most part you do not need any artificial lights to see. During this time only the brightest “celestial objects” can be seen and it ends when you start to need artificial light to see clearly. During nautical twilight you can see most stars without optical aids and it ends when you can no longer use the horizon as a navigational aid in measuring the “altitude” (the number of degrees above the horizon) of the stars. And by the end of astronomical twilight it is completely “dark” and any stars that can be seen by the naked eye will be visible.

That is all fine and good, but again how were the people “way back then” going to measure the altitude of the sun and its transit times so they could tell when the sun was “so many degrees below the horizon”? Well, let’s go back to our three twilights. It turns out that, generally speaking, civil twilight lasts until 26 minutes after sundown, nautical twilight ends 55 minutes after sundown and astronomical twilight ends with full dark 84 minutes after sundown. That means the 72 minutes of the Talmud isn’t too far off of the scientific definition of “full dark”. So it would seem that an observational end to twilight would be when you could see all the stars. And it turns out that they did indeed determine when “night” started by being able to see 3 specific stars of a specific brightness (magnitude).

So, now we know when “between the evenings” or “during the time of twilight” is. That means that God told the Israelites to slaughter their Passover lamb AFTER sundown on the 14th of Abib, not before. They were to select a lamb on the 10th and care for it until the 14th at which point they were to slaughter it after sundown, They were also told to roast the lamb over a fire, then eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread “that same day”. It was during the daylight, on the 14th of Abib that they were to make preparations for the killing of the Passover lamb, then at or very shortly after, sundown they were to kill it and roast it over a fire, then have their meal with unleavened bread. So tell me, just how do you make preparations for the sacrifice in the afternoon of the 14th and then kill the lamb after sundown on the 14th if the 14th STARTS with sundown and the afternoon doesn’t even begin for another 18 hours?

And that is not all, God also told them, “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. . . . This is a day you are to commemorate for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. . . . Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses.” (Exodus 12:12a, 14-16a, 17-19a)

If you go back and read through the passage just before what I just quoted again, you will notice that God is still talking about the 14th day of Abib. So “On that same night . . . ” would be the night of the 14th. And then Moses recorded this:

“At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

“During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.’

“The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. ‘For otherwise,’ they said, ‘we will all die!'” (Exodus 12:29-33)

The firstborn died at midnight, shortly thereafter Pharaoh commanded Moses to take all the Israelites and leave immediately, which they did. That means they were gone from their homes BEFORE sunrise. We are not told exactly when they left, but from the narrative it seems like it would have been sometime around 1:00 am leaving them about 5 hours until sunrise. Traveling at about 3 miles an hour (remember they are in a hurry to get out of the country) they could have been around 15 miles down the “road” by dawn. From what I can find on-line it looks like they lived less than 15 miles from the boarder of Egypt in the direction they were traveling so it is a real possibility that they were clear out of Egypt before sunrise.

Interesting isn’t it? God instructed the Sons of Israel to select a lamb on the 10th day of Abib and observe it until the 14th day of the month. On the 14th day they were to gather a bunch of hyssop and make a “brush” out of it, get everything ready for the Passover ceremony, and after sundown they were to kill the lamb. Then they were to use the hyssop bundle to put the blood of the lamb on the sides and top of the doorway of their house. Once all that was done they were to roast the lamb over a fire, then prepare a meal which consisted of bitter herbs, the roasted lamb and unleavened bread, which given how long it would take to roast a whole lamb, they would have finished eating around midnight. It is likely that they were just finishing the meal when word came that it was time to leave – which is why God had told them they were to be dressed and ready to travel when they ate the Passover meal. And they were to eat it in a hurry so they could be done by the time they were evicted. And everything that happened after sundown – killing the lamb, cooking it, eating the meal – was to happen the evening BEFORE the day they were to get ready for it!

Speaking of unleavened bread, that reminds me, I did forget one other thing that God told them to do as part of the Passover events.

“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.

“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.” (Exodus 12:14-20)

Notice that they were to “eat bread made without yeast (actually leavening) from the evening of the 14th day until the evening of the 21 day.” The first meal that they were to eat the unleavened bread at was the Passover meal on the evening of the 14th, because it was “on this very day” that God brought them out of Egypt.

Something else is odd here, They are to hold a “sacred assembly” on the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread and another on the seventh day. How could they do that while they were fleeing Egypt? The morning after the Passover meal they were on the road out of Egypt, they had absolutely no time for any sacred assemblies or making any other preparations for that matter. God said that on the first day of the Festival they were to remove all leavening from their homes and hold a sacred assembly – and on that same day they were to make preparations for the Passover celebration – get everything ready for killing the Passover Lamb, putting the blood around the door of their house, roasting the lamb and fixing the meal – all those preparations had to be finished before sundown. I suppose the claim could be made that the sacred assembly and all that were for after they left Egypt – i.e., a year later and for all following years, but not for the first Passover celebration. But consider this, God told Moses all of this after the first day of Abib (remember He said “This month is to be the first month . . . ” so the month had to have already started). And He had to have told him before the 10th day of the month otherwise they would not have been able to select the Passover lamb on the 10th day and keep it until the 14th day when they were to kill it. So they had the time to GET READY for the celebration, but afterwards, they were on the road and didn’t have time for anything but walking until they were across the Sea of Reeds and no longer being pursued by the Egyptian army, at which time they had a big celebration (on the seventh day of the “Festival”?). Remember, these people (just like most people of the time) were very used to walking everywhere they went, so walking all day every day for a week would not be that big of a deal to them. If they could average a pace of only 2 miles an hour for 10 to 12 hours a day, they could travel 20 to 24 miles a day (without counting any traveling at night – which they did some of). So in 6 days they would be somewhere between 120 and 144 miles from their starting point. At that distance, once the army was done away with, they would not need to stay on the move and could spend the seventh day in celebration, and Moses records that they did just that – only it was labeled as a celebration of God destroying the Egyptian army in the Sea of Reeds. (See Exodus 14:29-15:21) God seems to have known that they would be on the move for the six days between the 14th and the 21st of Abib and it would only be on those days that they would be able to have their sacred assemblies. So He told them that in the future, that was how they were to celebrate the Festival, just like they did when they left Egypt – even to only being able to fix food to eat each day and not have time to do any other work.

So, do you see my problem now? God NEVER said a thing about making the preparations for the Passover on the 13th, HE said “do it on the 14th day of the month”! If everything was to happen on the afternoon and into the evening of the 14th day of the month of Abib (later Nisan), how could that be if the evening of the 14th was BEFORE the afternoon of the 14th?

So it looks like that at least during the time of the Exodus, Israel used a sunrise to sunrise daily cycle rather than a sundown to sundown one.

To be continued . . .

Teach Us to Pray – Some Thoughts on Luke 11:1-13

I found something interesting in my reading the other day. It is from Luke and is when Jesus is “teaching His disciples how to pray”. And no, I am not going to discuss the “Lord’s Prayer”, but something He said as a follow up to it. Here is the passage I am referring to:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins,     for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:1-13 NIV)

If you are like me you have either heard or read this many times, but I would bet that also like me, the focus has either been on the prayer itself, or the “ask and receive” part. But something else caught my eye when I read it this time. And that is what Jesus says to end His discussion on prayer. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13) What caught my eye was when He asks what father would give his son something different than what he asked for. What is interesting and what would have upset His listeners is what He uses as examples for alternate gifts. “If your son asks for a fish would you give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg would you give him a scorpion?” Notice that the son asks for something that was considered “clean” – something God allowed the Israelites to eat, but what is substituted is something “unclean” – something they were forbidden to eat. Jesus is asking them, “which one of you will give your son something that will defile him when he asks for something good?” Then He goes on to ask, “If you evil people can give good things to your children when they ask for them, don’t you thing that your Father in Heaven (Who is absolutely Holy) will give you something even better when you ask Him?”

Remember, this is in response to a request to teach His disciples how to pray, so we need to go back and see what it was Jesus mentioned we should ask for. So what ARE we to ask for? Just this, We are to ask for God’s kingdom to come, our daily bread, forgiveness for our sins (because we have already forgiven anyone who has sinned against us), and finally to not be lead “into temptation”. The first three are easily understood, but what did He mean by the last thing?The word used here is interesting. And as Jesus told us to pray that we won’t be lead into it – whatever it is – maybe we should find out exactly what it was He was saying. It turns out that the Greek word is “poneros” and this is how it is defined:

Temptation (04190) – πονηρός poneros pon-ay-ros’

Hebrew – English Lexicon – hurtful, i.e. evil (properly, in effect or influence, and thus differing from 2556, which refers rather to essential character, as well as from 4550, which indicates degeneracy from original virtue); figuratively, calamitous; also (passively) ill, i.e. diseased; but especially (morally) culpable, i.e. derelict, vicious, facinorous; neuter (singular) mischief, malice, or (plural) guilt; masculine (singular) the devil, or (plural) sinners: —  bad, evil, grievous, harm, lewd, malicious, wicked, wickedness. [2556 – kakos – of an evil character or way of thinking; 4550 – sapros – rotted, putrid]

Strong’s Dictionary – 1) full of labours, annoyances, hardships; 1a) pressed and harassed by labours; 1b) bringing toils, annoyances, perils; of a time full of peril to Christian faith and steadfastness; causing pain and trouble

2) bad, of a bad nature or condition; 2a) in a physical sense: diseased or blind; 2b) in an ethical sense: evil wicked, bad

++++

The word is used in the nominative case in #Mt 6:13. This usually denotes a title in the Greek. Hence Christ is saying, deliver us from “The Evil,” and is probably referring to Satan. [Mat. 6:13 is Matthew’s parallel to Luke’s passage we are studying]

 

The word “temptation” doesn’t seem to be the best choice to have used in translating the Greek word does it? It seems to mean: “hardships, labours, and toils”; or “a bad condition, disease, or evil” according to Strong’s Dictionary, and things that are “hurtful, bad, grievous, or evil” in their effect on us according to the Lexicon. And Matthew said that Jesus actually said to pray that we would not be lead to “the Evil One”, i.e., Satan – or at least not allow us to be within his influence.

But something that isn’t clear in English is a “play on words” Jesus uses in all this. He says, “pray that you are not lead into “things or times that have a bad or evil influence on us” but He ends this by saying. “If you then, though you are “hurtful, bad, grievous, or evil”, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” He used the SAME Greek word to describe His listeners as He did to tell them what they are to pray that they not be lead to! Jesus tells His listeners, “You, who are the exact thing I said to pray you are not lead into the influence of, know how to give your children good things, so don’t you think a Holy God will know how to give good gifts too – don’t you think that He will give even better gifts than you do?”

But what do we teach God does? A common teaching is that He brings evil, hardship, trials, diseases, and grievous things into our lives. We teach God is the source of the very things Jesus said we are to pray that we are kept away from! Strange isn’t it? Why do we think God is the source of evil? Is it because we don’t really understand what the Bible is saying about where the bad things that happen to us come from and what God’s connection to them is? Maybe we should spend at least as much time trying to understand what was REALLY being said as we do blaming God for them happening to us.

(For a more involved discussion of this subject take a look at my blog “The Problem of Pain – Part 1”.)

The Holy City – God’s Dwelling Place – The New Jerusalem, The Bride of the Lamb

 

A vision of John, shown him by Jesus:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:1-27 NIV)

 

Sounds really nice doesn’t it? How many times have you heard or read about the “New Jerusalem” and what it looks like? But have you really thought about that description? For instance, the angel measures the City, which is “laid out like a square”, and finds it to actually be a cube – he finds out how long it is, and then finds it is “as wide and high as it is long”. Or what about all those “foundations”? The descriptions says it has twelve of them. Have you ever thought about that anomaly?

When i was a kid, a speaker came to our church who had a model he had built of the “new Jerusalem”. In his model he had made twelve layers below the city walls (which were NOT as high as the city was long or wide) each layer just a little smaller than the one below it until you reached the base of the walls. In other words, it looked like the city was on top of a set of stairs that went up to the walls and were uniformly surrounding the city. Imagine the steps going up to a capital building or the Lincoln Monument only without handrails, and they go all the way around the building or monument without any interruptions. That is what his model looked like.

A question for you builders out there, If you built a wall like that, how many foundations would it really have? Just one right? The rest of those “foundations” would just be like the cinder block “foundation walls” that are below grade (under ground) and support the floor joists of the first floor. To put it bluntly, they are not really foundations at all. We call them “foundation walls” simply because they are under the ground, but if you take them far enough underground then they quit being “foundation walls” and become basement walls. If you take the dirt away from the “foundation wall” and build it out of wood instead of cinder block or concrete, you have a pony wall, not a “foundation wall” even though it serves the exact same purpose as all of the other “walls”. When you build a wall, you have a “footing” which is the real foundation and then a wall that rests on the footing. You don’t have multiple layers of footings, each one smaller than the one below it. Right?

So just what was John describing? To discover that we will need to go back to geometry class. In geometry we learned that the basic foundation of all things in geometry was a point in space. It has no size (dimensions) just location – all we know about it, and all there IS to know about it, is where it is. And then we move into the first dimension. From that “point in space” we move in some direction. Now we have our first dimension – a line. We either know where it is going, and that can be either: it starts here and goes that way (a ray) or from this point go that way and the exact opposite way (a line), or we can know where it started and where it ends (a line segment). Now a person living in that one dimensional universe can only have two friends, one on either side of him. He can “know of” other people, but can never meet them because he has no way of getting past the people on either side of him. Rather limiting isn’t it?

But, if you notice, that one dimensional object, that line (or line segment or ray, depending on which type of line it is) has as a “foundation” a point in space – something one dimension “below” it. Confusing right?

Maybe things will get a bit clearer when we move into the second dimension. And to do that we turn 90º to the first dimension. And when we do that we form a plane. To describe a plane all it takes is a starting “point” of a line and the plane goes “that way” from it, or you can say it passes through three points in space. Now a person (we’ll call her Suzy) living in that two dimensional universe (what many like to call “Flatland”) can have many friends because there is nothing limiting her, she can move side to side and up and down, or a combination of them. Interestingly, to build a “house” for a Flatlander, you need to draw two walls, a roof, and the floor or foundation of the house – but don’t forget the door, or it will become a prison that Suzy can’t get out of!

Now let’s consider that house. To make it easy, it will just be a simple square. But to describe that square, you start with the same “foundation” as you do with Flatland itself – a line. So for a two dimensional object, Suzy Flatlander’s house, you have as its foundation something one dimension “below” it – a line.

Now, we will turn 90º to Flatland. And we move into the third dimension, the world we are familiar with, the one we live in every day. You know all the ways we can move in our world, and you know what it takes to build a house here. But to be on the same page with all of this we will go over it anyway. The “house” we are going to build is going to be about as basic as you can get – four walls and a flat roof. In other words a cube. But if you notice, as we build our walls, we need to put a foundation under each one. And as we do, what do we form? A square, or a two dimensional object. Again, the foundation for our three dimensional object is something from one dimension “below” it. And if you look at the foundation (foundations really) for our house you might notice that there are actually four of them, one for each wall.

While we are here, we will have some fun and go visit Suzy in Flatland. But as we approach Flatland, notice that neither Suzy, nor anyone else in Flatland can see us coming, we are totally invisible to them. We can be one molecule distant from them, or even an atom away from them, but they cannot tell we are there. Why? Because we are 90º from anything they can “see”. We are actually just outside their universe. Now comes the fun part, we “enter” their universe. For us, all we did was move a bit “that way”. But for them we appeared out of “nowhere”. And we can leave just as fast, or move to somewhere else in their world almost instantaneously. Or even more fun, we could even be in more than one place at the same time – a finger here another there, how about all ten fingers at the same time? Or what if we move a three dimensional objet from our world into theirs? What would it look like to them? Well, why don’t we keep it simple and just use a cube. Now if we put it corner first into their world, they would see a dot that quickly expands into a triangle. How about a side? They see a square. What about an edge? Then they would see a line that expands into a rectangle. Yes what they see is part of an object from our world, but what it looks like depends on many factors. Oh, one other thing. We can watch everything they do without them even being aware of us. AND as I said earlier, we can be so close to them that we are virtually touching them without them even knowing that we are there. Think about that for a bit – it might have some applications in your life as well!

But, we need to get back on our journey, so we will turn 90º to our world, and disappear, well, not really, but to anyone watching that is what it would look like. Now we are in the fourth dimension. What is the fourth dimension you ask? Who knows? Many think it is time, but we really don’t know because we cannot “see” that way. But, based on things we have learned so far on our trip we can deduce a few things. And that has a lot to say about where we started all this – the City of God. So, what can we learn while we are here in the fourth dimension? Well, like everywhere else, let’s build a “house”. Now we have learned that an object in one dimension has as its foundation an object from one dimension below it. So, our “simple” fourth dimensional “cube” house will have a three dimensional cube as a foundation! And if you take a close look at that cube, what do you see? There are four edges on each face for one, which is where each of the foundations for the walls of our fourth dimension “house” will be built. But if you count them all guess how many of them there are? Twelve! A fourth dimensional object – a tesseract – will have 12 foundations! And 12 walls – each with a gate in it? And it will be “as wide and as high as it is long”! Now where have we heard that before?

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

Interesting isn’t it? We cannot know what the City will look like because all we can do is “draw” pictures of what a fourth dimensional object looks like – and in our world those “drawings” are actually three dimensional objects themselves and as with any drawing, what you “see” depends on “where” you choose to “stand” to look at your object so you can draw it. If you want to get thoroughly confused, just Google “fourth dimensional cube” or “tesseract” and you will find more than you will ever be able to investigate. And remember, EVERY picture shown of a tesseract (a fourth dimensional cube – also known as a hypercube), no matter what it might look like, are all drawings of the SAME THING!How is that for some advanced math in the Bible?

The Torah – Part 2 — The Laws of the Covenant

As in my last blog, we are once again looking at the “Law” in the Book of Exodus, only this time we will examine the actual Covenant between God and the Israelites. The story of the “Giving of the Law”, as many like to call it, is contained in Exodus 19:1 through 24:8 and as we saw last time does not actually contain what the Bible states is the “Ten Commandments”, those, we discovered, are actually recorded in Exodus 34.

What confuses many people is there were actually two separate sets of stone tablets and it turns out what was written on them was not the same thing and only the first set was actually written “by the finger of God”, the second set was “engraved or inscribed by Moses” (see Ex. 34:28 – Hebrew). The first set lasted less than 12 hours, most likely less than 3 or 4 hours. It was the second set that eventually ended up in the ark in the Tent of Meeting.

Last time we studied what was written by Moses on the second set of stone tablets. This time we will see what eventually ended up on the first set (well, may have been on the first set), but we will also find out something interesting as we go. Well, actually several things. So let’s get started. The story has several parts. It starts with what I call the Introduction – the set up to God giving the Israelites the terms of His covenant with them. Then comes the Giving of the Terms of the Covenant. There turns out to be a big interruption to the actual “Covenant”, but I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s get on with the story.

 

Introduction

“On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.

“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’

“So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said.’ So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.’ Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, “Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.” Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.’

“After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. Then he said to the people, ‘Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.’

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

“The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, ‘Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.’

“Moses said to the Lord, ‘The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, “Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.”‘

“The Lord replied, ‘Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them.’

“So Moses went down to the people and told them.” (Exodus 19 NIV)

 

We will pause the narrative here for a moment to look at a few things. God has had Moses get the people ready to meet Him and now the day has arrived. He descends on the mountain “in fire” there is the sound of a trumpet and Moses speaks and God answers.

What is interesting is that the first thing that God does is have Moses come up on the mountain so He can tell him to go back down the mountain and make sure the people don’t touch the mountain or they will die. Moses reminds God that they have already told the people that and have in fact fenced the mountain off, just as He told them to do. God tells Moses to go and tell the people to “keep off” anyway. So Moses descends the mountain to tell the people. And God also tells Moses to “bring Aaron with you when you come back up” in spite of having told Moses that “even the priests who approach the Lord” had to consecrate themselves” and that even they were not to “force their way through to come up to the Lord” or they would be destroyed. This would indicate that there were already priests in the camp, even before the “law” was given. Now back to the part where God starts giving them the terms of His Covenant.

 

The Covenant

“And God spoke all these words:

 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

1   “You shall have no other gods before me.

2   “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

3   “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

4  “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

5   “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

6   “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

7   “You shall not murder.

8   “You shall not commit adultery.

9   “You shall not steal.

10   “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

11   “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The Interruption

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’

“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’

“The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.”

 

It is interesting, God has only made it through the first 11 terms of the Covenant when the Israelites call a halt to the proceedings. They tell Moses, “Enough! You go talk to God and then come back and tell us what He has to say, if God keeps talking to us like this, we are all going to die!” It seems that they figure if talking to God is going to kill anyone, let it be Moses, not them! And if he survives, then he can come back and tell them whatever it was God had to say. So, Moses does as they ask and goes back up the mountain to get the rest of the terms of the Covenant from God.

 

Back to the Covenant (Now God is talking to Moses)

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites this: “You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven:

12   “‘”Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

13   “‘”Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.”‘” (Exodus 20)

“These are the laws you are to set before them:

14   “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

15   “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

16   “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.

17   “Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.

18   “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.

19   “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

20   “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.

21   “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

22   “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

23   “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.

24   “If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded. This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.

25   “If anyone uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the one who opened the pit must pay the owner for the loss and take the dead animal in exchange.

26   “If anyone’s bull injures someone else’s bull and it dies, the two parties are to sell the live one and divide both the money and the dead animal equally. However, if it was known that the bull had the habit of goring, yet the owner did not keep it penned up, the owner must pay, animal for animal, and take the dead animal in exchange.” (Exodus 21)

27   “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.

28   “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.

29   “Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft. If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double.

30   “If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard.

31   “If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.

32   “If anyone gives a neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double. But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other.

33   “If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required. But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, restitution must be made to the owner. If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, the neighbor shall bring in the remains as evidence and shall not be required to pay for the torn animal.

34   “If anyone borrows an animal from their neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, they must make restitution. But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.

35   “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.

36   “Do not allow a sorceress to live.

37   “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.

38   “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.

39   “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.

40   “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.

41   “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

42   “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.

43   “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats.

44   “You must give me the firstborn of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.

45   “You are to be my holy people. So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs.” (Exodus 22)

46   “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.

47   “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.

48   “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.

49   “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.

50   “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent.

51   “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.

52   “For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

53   “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.

54   “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.

55   “Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.

56   “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.

57   “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.

58   “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.

59   “Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.

60   “Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord.

61   “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast.

62   “The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning.

63   “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.

64  “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.

God’s Angel to Prepare the Way

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.

65   “Pay attention to him and listen to what he says.

66   “Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.

“If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.

67   “Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces.

68   “Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.

“I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

“I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you.

69   “Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods.

70   “Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.” (Exodus 23)

 

And there you have it. The covenant between God and Israel, or at least I should say the proposed Covenant as it hasn’t been accepted by Israel yet. Did you notice how many terms or rules there are in the Covenant? That is right – there are exactly 70 terms or rules! Not 10, not over 600, 70! If you are like me, I bet you have NEVER heard that before have you?

Now for the ratification of the Covenant – and we are going to find out one more very interesting thing here. I’ll let you read the story and then see if you noticed it.

 

Ratification of the Covenant

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.’

“When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the Lord has said we will do.’ Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.

“He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.’

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.'” (Exodus 24:1-8)

 

Did you discover it? Not one mention of any stone tablets! Nothing! In fact, God didn’t even write ANYTHING down on stone tablets or anywhere else. Moses did all the writing – in a book. It was what Moses wrote down in this book that was the terms of the Covenant between God an Israel. And it was what was written in this book that Israel agreed to – “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.” And by that declaration, they accepted God’s Covenant.

Interesting isn’t it, what you DON”T find in the terms of the covenant? Where are all the Levitical regulations? Where are all the rules about the sacrifices and what is OK to sacrifice and what is required to accompany the sacrifice? All of that is missing! The terms of God’s Covenant with Israel are just the 70 items we have just gone over, that is it!

There is one other thing that is interesting about all this, and that is the terms or words God uses to refer to all of what we just read through. To start off, He refers to it all as “my covenant”. If you remember how things started God said, “‘Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'” (Exodus 19:5-6a) So this is a covenant. But what is a covenant? What does the Hebrew word actually mean? This is what the Lexicons have to say:

Covenant – ברית bᵉriyth ber-eeth’

Strong’s Dictionary – a compact (because made by passing between pieces of flesh): —  confederacy, covenant, league.

Hebrew/English Lexicon 1) covenant, alliance, pledge; a) between men; 1a1) treaty, alliance, league (man to man); 1a2) constitution, ordinance (monarch to subjects); 1a3) agreement, pledge (man to man); 1a4) alliance (of friendship) 1a5) alliance (of marriage);

1b) between God and man; 1b1) alliance (of friendship); 1b2) covenant (divine ordinance with signs or pledges);

2) (phrases); 2a) covenant making; 2b) covenant keeping; 2c) covenant violation

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicona covenant, so called from the idea of cutting, since it was the custom in making solemn covenants to pass between the divided parts of victims. [But the idea suggested by Lee deserves attention, viz. that it is strictly nothing more than an eating together, banquet, since among Orientals, to eat together is almost the same as to make a covenant of friendship. The Hebrews too were accustomed to eat together when entering into a covenant, and in this way we obtain an explanation of covenant (an eating?) of salt.] It is used of a covenant entered into between nations, between individuals and friends, of a marriage covenant, those joined by league to any one [sic].

 

So we see that a covenant is much more than a simple contract. It carries with it a moral, or ethical obligation on those agreeing to its terms. And those obligations are much more binding than a contract. Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.” (Galatians 3:15) In fact, In Romans 7, Paul says that a covenant of marriage can only be broken by the death of one of those who agreed to the covenant! So covenants are very serious agreements, and have much more intense moral and ethical obligations to follow their terms than any simple contract.

But in what other way did God refer to what He told Israel that day? Well, the next time anything is said, Moses just states that, “And God spoke all these words:” (Exodus 20:1a) And again this is what the lexicons have to say:

Words – דבר dabar daw-baw’

Strong’s Dictionary – a word; by implication, a matter (as spoken of) or thing; adverbially, a cause: —  act, advice, affair, answer, because of, book, business, care, case, cause, certain rate, commandment, counsel, decree, deed, due, duty, effect, errand, hurt, language, manner, matter, message, oracle, portion, promise, provision, purpose, question, rate, reason, report, request, sake, saying, sentence, somewhat to say, speech, talk, task, thing (concerning), thought, tidings, which, word, work.

Hebrew/English Lexicon – speech1) speech, word, speaking, thing; 1a) speech; 1b) saying, utterance; 1c) word, words; 1d) business, occupation, acts, matter, case, something, manner (by extension)

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – (1) Often collect. words, speech, discourse, word of lips, i.e., futile, vain speech, skilled in speech. Specially it is–(a) a promise, something promised, (b) a precept, an edic, a royal mandate, (c) a saying, a sentence, as of a wise man, especially the word of the Lord, an oracle, the word of [Yahweh] came to any one [sic], oracles, (d) a counsel, proposed plan, (e) rumour [sic], report, words to be spoken concerning anything, what is to be said about it.

(2) thing, thing done, affair, business, that which is spoken of, discourse, the actions of (someone), commentaries of actions performed, journals, this thing, this, all these things, in this manner, thus–(3) anything, something–(4) a cause, reason

 

So basically, Moses said, “This is what God had to say.” Nothing about “laying down the law”, or “here is what God commanded”, or anything like that, just, “This is what God said.”

So did God (or Moses) EVER say anything about commandments, or rules or laws? Well, there was actually one mention of laws, but it didn’t occur until after the Israelites interrupted everything and had Moses be the “go between” for them. And it was God who said, “These are the laws you are to set before them:” (Exodus 21:1) Finally! we have God calling them Laws! Or do we? Let’s look at what the word really means before we get all worked up over it! So what do the lexicons have to say about it?

Laws – משׁפט mishpat mish-pawt’

Strong’s Dictionary – properly, a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree (human or [participant’s] divine law, individual or collective), including the act, the place, the suit, the crime, and the penalty; abstractly, justice, including a participant’s right or privilege (statutory or customary), or even a style: — ceremony, charge, custom, desert, determination, discretion, disposing, due, fashion, form, to be judged, judgment, justice, justly, (manner of) law, lawful, manner, measure, (due) order, ordinance, right, sentence.

Hebrew/English Lexicon – 1) judgment, justice, ordinance; 1a) judgment; 1a1) act of deciding a case; 1a2) place, court, seat of judgment; 1a3) process, procedure, litigation (before judges); 1a4) case, cause (presented for judgment); 1a5) sentence, decision (of judgment); 1a6) execution (of judgment); 1a7) time (of judgment)

1b) justice, right, rectitude (attributes of God or man);

1c) ordinance;

1d) decision (in law);

1e) right, privilege, due (legal);

1f) proper, fitting, measure, fitness, custom, manner, plan.

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – (1) judgment–(a) used of the act of judging.–(b) of the place of judgment, to bring any one [sic] into judgment.–(c) a forensic cause, to set forth a cause, to plead an one’s [sic] cause, to be his patron, to contend with any one [sic].–(d) sentence of a judge, Especially used of a sentence by which penalty is inflicted. sentence of death, to pass a hard sentence on one, to impose punishment upon him, punishment.–(e) fault, crime, for which one is judged, capital crime.

(2) right, that which is just, lawful, according to law.–(a) a law, a statute (as a rule of judging), and collect. used of the body of laws.–(b) used of that which is lawfully due to any one [sic], (privilege).

 

So it would seem that rather than “laws” what we really have are more like judicial verdicts, judgments, or decisions. These are actually like what a judge decides in a civil case rather than “supreme court rulings”, legal decrees, or laws. They do end up being rules to follow, but not as we would typically think of them, as DEVINE COMMANDS. And if you look closely at the section following God’s statement in Exodus 21:1 that we are looking at, you might notice that what God is saying is, “When you are faced with this situation, this is what you should do . . . ” It actually sounds more like fatherly advice than Royal Decrees.

So we still don’t have any real “laws”! Maybe that happens after everything is all “said and done”. Well, the next time the terms of the covenant are mentions is when Moses is finalizing the Covenant with the Israelites. Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.'” (Exodus 24:8)

The very same Hebrew words used in Exodus 19:5 and 20:1a above. That isn’t much help either – the Covenant never does get called Commandments or Laws, just a “covenant”, “words”, and “judicial decisions” or “judge’s rulings”.

So when did the “Law” show up? For that we need to do a bit of a recap from Part 1. We will continue from where we just left off and see what happens next.

 

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.’

“Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, ‘Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.’

“When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” (Exodus 24:9-18)

 

And then, as we saw last time, God and Moses spend the time discussing the building of the Tabernacle. But, did you notice? We FINALLY have the stone tablets, the Law and Commandments! “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.’” (Exodus 24:12) Well, before we get too excited, let’s check out the words used again.

Law – תורה towrah to-raw’ or תרה torah to-raw’

Strong’s Dictionary – a precept or statute, especially the Decalogue or Pentateuch: —  law.

Hebrew/English Lexicon – 1) law, direction, instruction; 1a) instruction, direction (human or divine); 1a1) body of prophetic teaching; 1a2) instruction in Messianic age; 1a3) body of priestly direction or instruction; 1a4) body of legal directives

1b) law; 1b1) law of the burnt offering; 1b2) of special law, codes of law

1c) custom, manner

1d) the Deuteronomic or Mosaic Law

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – (1) instruction, doctrine.–(a) human, as that of parents.–(b) divine through prophets.

(2) law.–(a) human, the manner and principles which men follow.–(b) divine, whether one, followed by a genit. of the object, e.g., the law of sacrifice, or collect. laws; the book of the law.

 

Interesting, while it can mean “Law”, it seems to be more like instructions than rules. Well what about “commandments”?

Commandment – מצוה mitsvah mits-vaw’

Strong’s Dictionary – a command, whether human or divine (collectively, the Law): —  (which was) commanded, commandment, law, ordinance, precept.

Hebrew/English Lexicon – 1) commandment; 1a) commandment (of man); 1b) the commandment (of God); 1c) commandment (of code of wisdom)

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicona command, a precept, especially used of the precepts of God, of a human teacher. The idea of prohibition “any of the commandments of [Yahweh] which ought not to be done,” things prohibited by his precepts. What was due to the Levites.

 

Finally! Now we have it – a COMMAND! God called them commands. Yes, He did, He called them His instructions and commands or precepts – His instructions and rules. But there is one other thing He said. Did you notice it? He also said what they were for – they were “written for their instruction” so we need to add that to the mix as well. So back to the lexicons again.

Instruction – ירה yarah yaw-raw’ or ירא yara’ yaw-raw’

Strong’s Dictionary – a primitive root; properly, to flow as water (i.e. to rain); transitively, to lay or throw (especially an arrow, i.e. to shoot); figuratively, to point out (as if by aiming the finger), to teach: — cast, direct, inform, instruct, lay, shew, shoot, teacher, teaching, through.

Hebrew/English Lexicon – 1) to throw, shoot, cast, pour; [this usage is in the “Hiphil” form so I have removed the other forms of the verb] 1c) (Hiphil) 1c1) to throw, cast; 1c2) to shoot; 1c3) to point out, show; 1c4) to direct, teach, instruct; 1c5) to throw water, rain

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – (1) TO CAST, an arrow, Part. an archer.

(2) to lay foundations, to found.

(3) to sprinkle, to water (pr. to throw water, to scatter drops). Hence part. the former rain.

Hiphil. (1) to cast, specially arrows. Part. an archer.

(2) to sprinkle, to water.

(3) to send out the hand, especially for pointing out. Hence to show, to indicate.

From pointing out or shewing [sic] it is–(4) to teach, to instruct, followed by an acc. of pers. to instruct an one [sic], properly to instruct in something, to teach or conform to something, to instruct concerning.

 

Interesting word isn’t it? It seems that the word means to instruct someone so that they are well founded (have a good foundation), can grow (are well watered), or are able to “hit the mark” (hit the target when they shoot their arrows). So, to put it all together, what God was to write on the stone tablets were His “instructions and commands (or precepts or rules) so that His people could be well founded and grow up so they could ‘hit the mark'”.

Now we have God promising to give Moses His “instructions and commands” on stone tablets. So what did He write? Well, we don’t really know. It would be safe to assume that it was the 70 terms of the Covenant, but it does not say that. And s we saw in Part 1, when Moses finally got the stone tablets (40 days after God promised He would give them to him) he shattered them when he got to the bottom of the mountain. That means that Moses, if anyone, was the only one who ever saw what was actually written on them!

And as we also discovered in Part 1, God had Moses make two new stone tablets. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.’ Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:27-28) So what ended up on the second set of stone tablets was the “ten commandments” that we studied in Part 1, and NOT the 70 terms of the Covenant – those were written down by Moses in a book and never did end up on anything else! So, what is the Torah specifically? If it was what was “written on the stone tablets” then it is what was recorded in Exodus 34 and nothing else. It definitely was not the Covenant between God and Israel as we have just discovered. However, it could also be argued that the “ten commandments” were a “representative selection” of the terms of the Covenant and therefore the entirety of the Covenant didn’t need to be repeated. So are they? We will have to take a look and see. I will list the Ten Commandments from Exodus 34 one by one and we will see if we can find its complement in the 70 terms of the Covenant.

 

1          “‘Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.'” (Exodus 34:12-16) This one covers numbers: 1, 3, 38, 54, 67, 69, and 70; number 68 could be said to be implied.

2          “‘Do not make any idols.'” (Exodus 34:17) This one covers numbers: 2, and 12.

3          ‘”‘Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.'”‘ (Exodus 34:18) This one covers number: 56.

4          “‘The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.'” (Exodus 34:19-20a) This one covers number: 44.

5          “‘No one is to appear before me empty-handed.'” (Exodus 34:22b) This one covers numbers: 43, and 57.

6          “‘Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.'” (Exodus 34:21) This one covers numbers: 5 and 53.

7          “‘Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.'” (Exodus 34:22-24) This one covers numbers: 55, 58, 59, and 60.

8          “‘Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Festival remain until morning.'” (Exodus 34:25) This one covers numbers: 61 and 62.

9          “‘Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.'” (Exodus 34:26a) This one covers number: 63

10        “‘Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.'” (Exodus 34:26b) This one covers number: 64.

 

Terms of the Covenant not covered by one of the Ten Commandments: 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 65, and 66.

To summarize, there are 23 out of the 70 terms of the Covenant specifically covered by the Ten Commandments and 1 that is implied, or at least you could say it is. That leaves 46 that are not covered in any way. So, I ask you, are the Ten Commandments a “representative selection” of the terms of the Covenant? Statistically, more are not even hinted at than are mentioned. And several of those not covered are a bit surprising, like – Don’t take God’s name in vain; Don’t murder; Don’t steal; Don’t cheat on your spouse; Don’t lie when called to be a witness; and Don’t covet – just to mention a few. I will say this, the first and last terms ARE included and 22 of the terms in between. And in that way you say they are a “representative selection” of the Covenant between God and Israel. I am not an expert in Jewish Law or Rabbinical thought – in fact I know virtually nothing about either one, other than they tend to take things God said to do very literally – so I have no way of knowing how they would look at it, but for me it could just as easily go either way. However, there is one thing that does tip the scales and that is what God told Moses. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.'” (Exodus 34:27) So, the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus 34 are meant to be a summary of the 70 terms of the Covenant that God gave Israel from Mount Horab.

Thoughts on the Rich Young Ruler

As Jesus started on his way, a certain chief ruler (possibly a member of the Sanhedrin or a synagogue ruler) ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what upright and honorable observance must I be carrying out, to possess, I mean, to absolutely be inheriting eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good? And why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “There is only One who is good. No one is good—except God alone. If you want to enter life, attend carefully to the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “You know and understand the meaning of the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“Teacher,” the young man declared, “all these I have guarded carefully since I was a boy. Where do I still fall short?”

Upon hearing this, and looking at him Jesus loved him, delighted in him, and held him in high esteem. “You still fall short in one thing. If you want to be complete, go, sell your possessions, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then you come, and continuously follow me.”

When the young man heard this, his was grieved, uneasy, and was overcome with sorrow to the point of death, and went away, because he was tremendously wealthy and had large estates.

Jesus looked at him and seeing his sorrow said, “How difficult it is for someone who possesses monetary wealth and abounds in material possessions to enter the kingdom of God!”

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the hole in a needle than for someone who abounds in material possessions to go through into the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were even more amazed and greatly astonished, and asked each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27; and Luke 18:18-27 NIV)

 

Interesting story isn’t it? But have you ever wondered why the disciples were so amazed and perplexed by Jesus’ comments and why this young man who was so important and respected in Jewish society was so upset?

Consider some of the things they had been taught. What about, “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.” (Proverbs 10:22) How about a Psalm that they most likely sang every time they went up the hill to the Temple?

“Blessed are all who fear the Lordwho walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord.

 “May the Lord bless you from Zion; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. May you live to see your children’s children—peace be on Israel.” (Psalm 128:1-6)

Or even better yet, something that God Himself told them through the prophet Moses? “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. (Deuteronomy 8:18)

So is it any wonder that EVERYONE believed that if you were rich it was because God was blessing you and if God was blessing you it clearly meant you were obviously one who “fear[s] the Lord”, and “who walk[s] in obedience to him”? Simple right? Do what God wants, get blessed. Get blessed, become wealthy! But now we come to the young ruler. He was clearly an exceptional young man to hold such an exulted position at his age. And by everyone’s reasoning, he must be doing everything right – after all, God had blessed him tremendously. But still, he came to Jesus and asked, “What else do I need to do? What duty do I need to perform? What task does God want me to do? WHERE DO I FALL SORT? WHERE DO I MISS THE MARK?” He clearly felt something wasn’t right in his life, he still was not comfortable with where he thought he stood with God. And so he came to Jesus, not any of the priests or scribes or Pharisees, or even a fellow ruler (member of the Sanhedrin even?).

Jesus’ response to this young man is interesting. He NEVER argued about how well he was doing on any of his spiritual observances, in fact He even seemed to acknowledge the young man’s advanced level of understanding of the Torah. But what He did do was turn everyone’s belief system on its head. He told this young man to give up everything that pointed to how well he was doing in following what God wanted him to do. According to what was believed and taught by their religious system, if you did what God wanted you to do He would bless you. And everyone knew that the Scriptures taught that every good thing came from God. That ALL blessings were gifts from God. So it was clear that if you were wealthy, it was because God was blessing you and was therefore pleased with what you were doing. And the more wealth you had the more God was blessing you and therefore the better you must be doing in following His commands. And here is Jesus saying, “Give all that up. It is all of that stuff that is standing in the way of you being ‘perfect’, of your truly hitting the mark God wants you to hit, of really pleasing God.” And so obviously the young man would be upset, everything he had been taught to use to see how well he was doing was no longer of any value. His entire world view had just been shattered. Is it any wonder he went away upset? He had a lot to think about! He needed to evaluate EVERYTHING he thought he “knew” about God in light of this new revelation from Jesus.

It reminds me of the warning Jesus had John record and send to one of the churches in Revelation. By the way, each of the messages to each specific church also ends with the command, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It seems that while each message was aimed at a particular church and its problems, the warnings were also to be understood as warnings to ALL the churches – warnings of things that all of the churches needed to be watchful about. So the warning to the church in Laodicea, while specific to them, is also a warning to us. Do you have “ears”? Then you need to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches”!

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

“‘These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

“‘Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

“‘To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'” (Revelation 3:14-22)

The problem with those who are “wealthy” is not in their wealth, but in their perceived lack of need. “I have everything I need, I don’t need anything more.” (Unless they are just flat out greedy, but that is different problem!) And so it is in our religious life. When we look to ourselves, it is easy to “see how we are doing” by comparing ourselves either to those around us or to some list of standards we have set up. And as we are the ones doing the evaluation, we are also the ones who decide how we are doing. And as with the way the disciples and those of the Jewish community of their time thought, by the standard chosen, certain people are clearly “doing OK and in need of nothing”. And THAT is why it is so hard for a “wealthy” person – especially one who is religiously “wealthy” to understand the Gospel Jesus taught. All that stuff they look to for their standing with God has no value in Jesus’ economy, and from His point of view they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” and they don’t even know it. They forgot David’s advice, “Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.” (Psalms 62:9-10) Although he is specifically talking about “ill-gotten” wealth, his advice is still good – “even if your riches increase, do not set your heart on them!”

Like Job said, “If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’ if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained, if I have regarded the sun in its radiance or the moon moving in splendor, so that my heart was secretly enticed and my hand offered them a kiss of homage, then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.” (Job 31:24-28) Job says that depending on your wealth for security is no different than worshiping the sun or moon! Giving honor to what has been created for our benefit rather than the One who created them.

David proclaims, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalms 62:5-8) And that is what everyone forgot – God is our salvation, God is our “rock of refuge”, God is our source of security. And it is God who makes us righteous. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)

What are you looking to for your security with God? What standard are you using to evaluate how you stand with God? Are you looking to your own “wealth” or are you depending on God to “sanctify you through and through” and to keep you “blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”? Because He is the only one who can “keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault.” “The one who calls you is faithful and HE WILL do it!”

The Torah – Part 1 — When Israel Got the Law vs. When They Got the Stone Tablets

It is interesting how you can read something many times and never see everything that is written in what you are reading. I had that happen to me this morning. I just noticed something reading through Exodus this time. I have lost track of how many times I have read the Book of Exodus, but I have never noticed this before. It is so interesting that I think I will take you on a journey through Exodus and let you see it for yourself rather than just telling you about it. We will start when the Israelites first arrive at the Mountain of God – Mount Horeb, or as we know it better – Mount Sinai.

“On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.

“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’

“So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said.’ So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.” (Exodus 19:1-8 NIV)

To set the stage: They are at Mount Sinai, Moses has gone up onto the mountain and God has started talking to the people. As we will see, Moses is already starting his many trips up and down the mountain taking messages back and forth between God and the people even though, as we will soon see, God didn’t need Moses to speak for Him.

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, “Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.” Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.'” (Exodus 19:10-13)

God has Moses get the people ready for the “Big Reveal” – the day He would reveal Himself to them and speak directly to them.

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

“The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, ‘Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.’

“Moses said to the Lord, ‘The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, “Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.”‘

“The Lord replied, ‘Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them.’

“So Moses went down to the people and told them.

“And God spoke all these words:

“‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“‘You shall have no other gods before me. . . .'” (Exodus 19:16-20:3)

“‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.'”

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’

“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’

“The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites this: “You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

“‘”Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.”‘

“‘These are the laws you are to set before them:

“‘”If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.”‘” (Exodus 20:17-21:2)

God is still speaking to the people, but now He is speaking through Moses at the request of the people. But in spite of the interruption, God continues to give them the terms of His covenant with them. And He continues:

“‘Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.

“‘Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.

“‘No one is to appear before me empty-handed.

‘”Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.

“‘Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.

“‘Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord.” (Exodus 23:14-17)

And then He closes the covenant with a promise:

“‘See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.” (Exodus 23:20-23)

“‘I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.'”

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.’

“When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the Lord has said we will do.’ Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.'”

“He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.’

“Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.’

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.'” (Exodus 23:31-24:12)

Did you notice anything in the above passage? Moses has received the entirety of the Covenant (or the Law as everyone likes to call it) and HE WROTE IT DOWN IN A BOOK and read it to the people. After that, the people agreed to the terms of the Covenant and Moses sprinkled them with the “Blood of the Covenant”! BUT, THERE ARE NO TABLETS OF STONE YET! The Covenant has been “signed, sealed and delivered” without the “tablets of stone”. And now that everything has been taken care of legally, God tells Moses, “Come back up here and I will give you the “hard copy” of the Covenant!” And now comes the interesting part. Moses goes back up on the Mountain. What most people will tell you is that God is going to spend the next 40 days giving him the Law and then God will give him “the stone tablets” with the Law written on them, but that is not what happens. As we have just seen, Moses and Israel have ALREADY received the Covenant Law, so what is it that God and Moses talk about for forty days?

“When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.

“‘Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.'” (Exodus 24:15-25:9)

They spent the time discussing the building of the Tabernacle! Not one mention of the Law! The stone tablets do not even show up until the very last day.

“When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18)

Finally! The stone tablets have shown up. However, notice that God has finished talking to Moses, but there has been no mention of the Law in all their talking for the last 40 days. Now, that Moses has the tablets, they get put in a nice box and preserved for the following generations right? Well let’s see what happens next.

“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’

“Aaron answered them, ‘Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'” (Exodus 31:18-32:4)

After swearing that “‘We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey” Israel made it a total of 47 days before they decided they no longer wanted to do things God’s way – a whole 47 days! Wow! But then do we do any better?

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”‘” (Exodus 32:7-8)

“Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. . . . When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.” (Exodus 32:15-16 & 19)

And now Moses has finally gotten the two stone tablets with the covenant law written on them, but they only survive the time it takes him to get down to the foot of the mountain. As soon as he gets there he throws them down and breaks them. But, they were never used by Moses or anyone else as part of the covenant ceremony – how they could have – they didn’t exist when the covenant was made! They were written about 7 weeks later. So the stone tablets were NEVER part of the covenant. The covenant law that Israel swore to follow was written in a book by Moses 48 days earlier.

Here is the timeline:

  • It all starts on the 1rst day of the third month after they left Egypt – What we now call the month of Sivan.
  • God called Moses up on the mountain and told him, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” He then goes on to tell him to have the people spend the rest of that day and the next two days washing their clothes and consecrating themselves because on the third day God was going to come down on the mountain and meet with them.
  • On the 4th of Sivan God descended on the mountain and gave the Israelites the Covenant Law. Moses spends the rest of the day writing everything down.
  • On the morning of the 5th (50 days after Passover by the way) Moses built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve pillars – one for each of the 12 tribes. After offering a bunch of sacrifices, Moses read the Covenant Law to the people from the Book he had just written – the people agree to the covenant and Moses sprinkles them with the Blood of the Covenant.
  • Then Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s two oldest sons, and the 70 elders go up on the mountain to “see God”. They have a meal and then God calls Moses to come up further on the mountain alone to talk to Him and receive the stone tablets.
  • Moses starts up, but God stops him and makes him wait for six days. On the next day He summons Moses to come on up. So Moses finishes ascending the mountain on 12 Sivan.
  • They spend the next 40 days discussing the construction of the Tabernacle. Moses receives the Stone Tablets on the 40th day – the 22nd of Tammuz, and promptly breaks them.

Rather fascinating don’t you think? So just WHEN did they get the “stone tablets”? Well, for that we need to read on – for quite a few days worth of records it turns out. We will pick up the story right after Moses broke the tables of stone that God wrote on.

“Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, ‘Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.’ And all the Levites rallied to him.

“Then he said to them, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.”‘ The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, ‘You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.'” (Exodus 32:25-29)

The Levites kill 3000 people but that isn’t the final judgment. The next day, once things have had a chance to settled down a bit more, Moses talks to the people and says he is going to try and intercede with God for them. However, things don’t work out all that well.

“The next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’

“So Moses went back to the Lord and said, ‘Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.’

“The Lord replied to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.’

“And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.” (Exodus 32:30-34)

So it seems that the Levites killing 3000 people didn’t take care of everything. God caused a plague to fall on the people, we are not told how many died from it. But that wasn’t the only result of their actions. God has more to say.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants.” I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.’

“When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites, “You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.”‘ So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.” (Exodus 33:1-6)

God says that He is going to leave them to their own devices because if He stays with them He would most likely end up killing them all because they are so unwilling to do what He commands. Moses has a rather interesting response to that.

“Moses said to the Lord, ‘You have been telling me, “Lead these people,” but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, “I know you by name and you have found favor with me.” If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.’

“The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’

“Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?’

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.’

“Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’

“And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’

“Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.  When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.’

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.’

“So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation'” (Exodus 33:12-34:7)

Moses “talks” God into staying with them and guiding them on their journey, and then asks to see God’s Glory – a rather bold request given the violent displays that God has already put on! And finally we come to the stone tablets. However, this time Moses is the one to cut them out of the rock and shape them not God. Then with the tablets in hand he returns to the mountain where God shows him His Goodness.

“Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.’

“Then the Lord said: ‘I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.'” (Exodus 34:8-11)

Once again God makes His covenant with Israel. This time there are several differences. He is only talking to Moses, the “terms of the covenant” are very abbreviated, and there is one other – major – difference.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.’ Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:27-28)

Moses is the one who wrote on the stone tablets this time! And between God showing him His Goodness (which I would imagine took quite awhile) and Moses slowly chiseling out the words of the covenant, once again he was up there for 40 days and nights. So all together, it has been at least 88 days, maybe even a couple of days longer since Moses sprinkled the “Blood of the Covenant” on the Israelites and when they finally received the stone tablets!

Oh, one last thought. Well, you check it out and see what you think. (NOTE: the following verses are quoted continuously. The bold numbers are added to make my point, but do not skip any text.)

“Then the Lord said: ‘I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.

1          “‘Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

2          “‘Do not make any idols.

3          ‘”‘Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.

4          “‘The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.

5          “‘No one is to appear before me empty-handed.

6          “‘Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

7          “‘Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.

 8          “‘Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Festival remain until morning.

9          “‘Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.

10        “‘Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.'”

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.’ Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:10-28 Emphasis and bold numbers are mine.)

Should Christians Call Themselves “Blessed”?

Is God free to bless whomever He wants? Or is He only allowed to bless those who live in “poor” nations? Who gets to decide? Us, or God? Does God decide who He is going to bless or are we the ones in charge who decide who He can bless and who He can’t?

Over the past year or so I have read several articles that have been posted on FaceBook that had as their topic the idea that Christians should not called themselves blessed. Actually, when you read the articles, you find that they narrow that down a bit and say that Western Christians, or more precisely, Christians living in the US, should not call themselves blessed by God. Their reasoning is that it makes Christians living in other parts of the world feel like they are not “good” Christians because they do not have the same income level that those who live in the US. And, they reason, God is not a “Cosmic Vending Machine” handing out blessings to some and not to others. That means that American Christians are not blessed more than those in other parts of the world. While all that might sound “holy”, what that leaves us with is this: That pure chance – a random throw of the dice – gave them a lot more and better stuff, or at least the opportunity to acquire more and better stuff than everyone else has. And that is supposed to make people feel better? Personally, I think that just makes things worse!

But is this a Biblical view point? Yes, I agree, God is not a cosmic vending machine. He does not hand out blessings if you live in the right part of the world, or if you “have enough faith”, or pray hard enough, or “send in enough money” to whatever TV (or other) evangelist that promises God’s financial “blessings” if you do so. Nor does He give material blessings to those who articulate the correct phrases. However, that does not mean that God does not promise to bless His people in material ways for faithfully following Him. The Bible is full of such promises. But, we should not expect a life of ease if we are truly following Jesus. As He warned His disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. . . . Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! . . . Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:16-18, 21-25, 34-39 NIV) And nowhere in the New Testament do any of the writers give any indication that later generations of Jesus’ follower’s are to expect anything better.

 

I don’t know about you but that does not sound like a life of ease and prosperity to me! So, what about all the promises of material blessings? What are we supposed to do with them? I mean, how many sermons have you heard on this passage? “‘You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 3:9-11) Granted, most will leave out verse 9, but still, God does promise a blessing for those who are faithful in giving Him a full tithe of their income. And every sermon I have ever heard on these verses is always accompanied by multiple examples of people who report that God is faithful and He does fulfill this promise.

So what are we to do with all these articles that advise us, particularly those of us who live in the US, to not claim to be blessed by God? After reading them, one of the things that they all seem to have in common, is an underlying tone of guilt. Guilt for being born in the US. Guilt for having a nice house. Guilt for having a good paying job. Guilt for having a car, maybe even several cars. Guilt for growing up in a Christian home. Lots and lots of guilt.

Let me ask you, Did you decide where you were going to be born? Did you decide what skills or natural abilities you were going to be born with? Did you decide who your parents were going to be? Did you decide what sort of a home they were going to raise you in? I don’t know about you, but I know I had absolutely no control over any of that! So, if you and I did not have control over these things, who did? Maybe God? And if He decided all that, then why should we feel guilty for something He decided to give us? Maybe, just maybe, He had a reason for doing so.

In all this talk about “blessings” one thing I should mention is while the New Testament does talk about blessings, they are more in the line of one person pronouncing a “blessing” or benediction on another. The one exception I could find is in reference to spiritual blessings, which again are really God pronouncing a blessing on us. As Paul says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3) When the New Testament talks about what the Old Testament calls blessings it is God giving us “good things” or “gifts” rather than the Old Testament concept of His giving us blessings. Paul even devotes several “chapters” of one of his letters to a discussion of the spiritual gifts that God gives EVERY believer. (See 1 Corinthians 12 and onward.) Does that mean that God no longer blesses us? Well, I’m not one to split hairs in this regard. Call them gifts, or call them blessings, I believe they amount to the same thing, something that God gives us for absolutely no reason other than He wants to. And yes, the New Testament talks about both spiritual gifts and material gifts from God.

James, one of Jesus’ brothers, had this to say about blessings, or gifts from God, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:16-17) “EVERY good and perfect gift” is from God. So that means that ANY good thing that happens in my life is from God. Or, it is a blessing from God, take your pick in how you want to say it.

A big problem I have with those who want to deny that the good things we have are from God is this, If they are not from God – where do they think they came from? To me it sounds like they are trying to say “All this is not from God, therefore I earned it, I deserve it, it is all mine.” I am not saying that is what they believe, I am just saying that is what it sounds like. And heading down that road leads to something Jesus talked about. “And he told them a parable saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” And he said. “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.'” (Luke 12:16-21 ESV) Not a good idea is it?

So what ARE we to do with our gifts from God? Jesus also had this to say, ” . . . give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) God does not expect us to hold on to what He gives us, He expects us to bless others just as we have been blessed. However, if I believe I have not been “blessed” then there is no reason for me to feel the need to bless others, after all, it is just what I have earned by my own hard work. And therein lies the problem, and maybe the source of the feelings of guilt.

This whole issue revolves around the Anti-“Prosperity Gospel” movement – the fight against the belief that “If I have enough faith, or I pray hard enough, or whatever, God will give me material blessings.” God does not HAVE to give us anything. He CHOOSES to give us things, He also promises to give us things we ask for in prayer, however, He also adds a caveat – what we ask for must be in accordance with His will. And what He has told us His will is has been revealed to us in the Bible. Jesus told us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV) We are to desire things that can only be stored up in heaven, not here on earth, so material wealth is NOT something we can pray for and be within God’s will. Jesus also told us why, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) If our heart is set on having material wealth it CANNOT be set on the things of God. According to Jesus there is no middle ground on this, either our heart is set on God or it is set on the things of this earth. So a desire for earthly wealth is NOT within God’s will.

I have heard some claim that God will give us material blessings or gifts to see what we will do with them. And I will admit there is some truth in this, however, just before he tells us every good thing we have is from God, James also tells us, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15) So, if we do have material wealth, it is not because God is testing us to see if we will sin. If we sin and start lusting after earthly wealth it is because of our own sinful desires. If we have material wealth it is for a completely different reason.

We don’t have the “Year of Release” or “jubilee” that God gave the Children of Israel before they entered the Promised Land, but we can learn some things about what God expects His people to do with the material blessings He gives them from the instructions God gave them at that time. Here is what God said through Moses, “And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you. However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.” (Deuteronomy 14:27-15:6)

The first thing I find interesting is that God told them to use 1/3 of all their tithes to care for the poor – including foreigners (immigrants) – that lived among them. Interestingly, each town was to care for their own poor and needy. And this was to include the Levites – those who “worked for God”. And second, every seventh year they were to cancel all debts owed them by their fellow Israelites. And if they faithfully followed all of God’s instructions – including these – then, God promised, there would be no poor among them! He would so bless His people materially that there would be no one in need of anything! Amazing! Does that mean everyone would be rich? No, it doesn’t say that, what God promised, was that He would provide enough for everyone – some might not have enough, but others would have more than they needed so they could help out those who didn’t have enough, and in that way no one would be in need. The community – the nation – would have more than enough, not each individual.

Moses goes on with God’s instructions. “If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: ‘The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,’ so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11) See, He does not promise there would never be anyone poor. But, did you notice why there would be poor in the land? It seems God wanted His people to take care of them! Those that God had blessed with material blessings were to use those blessings to bless those in need around them. Some might claim it was God’s way of testing them to see if they would obey Him, but I think it was more God giving them the opportunity to join Him in His work of restitution, reconciliation, and redemption. Of being a light to the nations around them, showing them how God wanted things to be done. How He wanted people to treat each other. God was giving Israel a chance to join Him in helping Him take care of people.

So, if God set this sort of a system up as His ideal way of doing things several thousand years ago, do you think He has changed His mind today? Maybe He blesses some people more than others just so they can participate in His work of blessing people! Maybe there is a good reason for people to feel a bit guilty for all the “good” things they have when they look around at those in the world who don’t have it so good. Could it be that we are holding on too tight? Maybe, just maybe, God is telling us, “Let go, use what I’m giving you to help others. You really don’t need everything I’m giving you, so pass it on!

Jesus once had this encounter with a very wealthy individual. “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.”‘ ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’ Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.'” (Mark 10:17-25) Jesus didn’t tell everyone He met to sell all they owned and give it away, but He does call everyone to use what He has blessed them with to help others. He could see the hold this man’s possessions had on him and He knew that hold had to be broken, so He told him he needed to let go of everything.

I find it interesting that some manuscripts record Jesus as saying, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” This reminds me of what we read earlier that Jesus said about riches, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) Our heart should be so full of God that there is no room for the things of this earth. If it is, then we will have no problem letting go.

The answer isn’t to deny you are being blessed by God – the Bible says you are. The answer is to quit holding on so tight to what you have, let go of it, pass it on to someone who really needs it! God has given us both spiritual gifts (salvation for example) and material gifts, if we will not let go of the material gifts to help others, what makes us think we will be any more willing to “let go” of the spiritual ones, i.e., tell others the “good news” of salvation? James asks, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16) If we don’t care about someone’s physical needs that we can see, do we really care about their spiritual needs that we cannot see? Jesus ties these together. As we just read, “Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.” And He also said, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:43-45) What is your heart full of, the things of God, or the things of earth? How you handle what God has given you reflects where your heart is, where your heart is determine what your heart is full of, and what your heart is full of will determine what you have to say to others about God. Do you hold on to what God has given you with an open hand or a closed fist? How you hold your blessings will affect how you witness to others about the Gospel.

Do You Want to Feed 5000 People?

How many times have you heard the story of Jesus “Feeding the Five Thousand”? If you are like me, you can’t remember how many times you have read the story, let alone heard it told. But something happened when I read it this time, I noticed something that has escaped me all those other times, and it seems it might have escaped most everyone else’s as well because I cannot recall anyone ever mentioning it when telling the story. I noticed the context in which the story happened.

This is how Mark records it: “Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. . . . They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” (Mark 6: 6b-7, & 12-13 NIV)

And while they are out doing all that, there is an interlude in which Mark records that King Herod hears about it and comes to conclusion that Jesus must be John the Baptist come back to life. And then Mark tells of how Herod had ended up having John beheaded.

Then Mark returns to the narrative about the disciples and what they had been doing. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:30-34)

And that is the setting for the “Feeding of the Five Thousand”. The disciples have been given the authority and power to perform miracles of their own, and have just returned from a trip where they had done so successfully – without Jesus being around to make sure they knew what to do and how to do it. They had been sent out in pairs so they were pretty much on their own. And they had performed miraculous healings and driven out demons! And when they get back, they are all excited to tell Jesus everything they did. But it is so hectic that they can’t even get time to eat, so Jesus takes them across the lake to a remote area, but the people see where they are going and get there first. Now they are out in the middle of now where with a huge crowd and this happens: “By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ‘and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ But he answered, ‘You give them something to eat.'” (Mark 6:35-37a)

They had just returned from a trip where they had proven to themselves they had the power and authority to perform miracles, so why not? Jesus was telling them “You can do it, go ahead, you don’t need Me.” But they forgot everything that had just happened. This was different after all, just look at all those people!

“They said to him, ‘That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?'” Sound familiar? Have you ever responded to trouble that way? Notice what Jesus did next. “‘How many loaves do you have?’ he asked. ‘Go and see.’ When they found out, they said, ‘Five—and two fish.’ Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. (Mark 6:37b-43)

Notice Jesus didn’t ask them how much money they had, He asked them how much food they had. He didn’t increase their monetary resources so they could buy the needed food supplies, He used what food they already had. The point He was making with the disciples was, “You don’t need more money, You need God’s power and I gave you access to that power so you can so this, you didn’t need Me to do it! Quit thinking of earthly things and remember the power I gave you! I gave you authority – use it!” But they didn’t get it, in fact, Jesus reran the test not too long after this with a 20 % smaller crowd (4000 men), and more resources, 7 loaves of bread instead of just 5 and “several” fish rather than 2, and they responded in the exact same way! They looked to earthly resources rather than the power of God they had been granted the authority to use. (See Mark 8:1-21 for the full story.)

After the second event Jesus had this to say to His disciples, “‘Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’ ‘Twelve,’ they replied. ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’ They answered, ‘Seven.’ He said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?'” (Mark 8:17b-21) The power available to them, as demonstrated by Jesus, didn’t care how many resources were available, nor did it care what the demand was – it over did the need in both cases, the first time by 12 small wicker baskets stuffed clear full (one for each disciple by the way), and the second time by “only” 7 baskets – although this time they were reed lunch hampers. I’m not sure how the two compare in size – but it was definitely more than needed in either case. My opinion is that the reed basket would be larger as reeds are a coarser weaving material than wicker, and would therefore be used to make a larger container. So there is a real good chance that they ended up with about the same amount of leftovers each time – enough to feed them all for a couple of days.

One thing that is interesting is that this admonition comes right after Jesus warns them about the “leaven of the Pharisees”, and the disciples confuse the spiritual leavening influence of the teachings of the Pharisees with physical bread. The Pharisees had demanded that Jesus give them a “sign from heaven” – after He had just fed 4000 men with just 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish. What more could they possibly need? And what Jesus was warning His disciples about was this refusal to accept the truth in spite of all the evidence needed to believe. And the Pharisees had all the “Scriptural” teachings they needed to back up their position, at least that is what they believed. But in spite of all that Scriptural knowledge, they refused to accept what the Scriptures pointed to – the Messiah right in front of them.

Do we do the same thing today? God has given the Church the authority to do various things through the Gifts of the Spirit – that use the same power Jesus gave His disciples. Do we use them or do we look to “how many day’s wages” it will take? The Bible tells us we have the authority, the early Church demonstrated that power in use, but do we believe it? Or do we “yes, but” it out of existence? Are WE swallowing the “leavening of the Pharisees” without even a hesitation?

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.'” (Matthew 28:18)

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.'” (John 14:6-14) Greater works than Jesus did? Really? Where are they? Or is the leavening of the Pharisees more tasty? Are you a follower of Jesus? If so, then the Holy Spirit is living in you and He has brought certain Gifts from God with Him. Those Gifts use that power that Jesus showed His disciples – they are to be used to do those “greater works” than Jesus did. Greater works of love and compassion. Greater works of building His Church. Are you using them? That same power the disciples could have used that day is also yours to use today. Will you?

The Cross in the Wilderness – Part 2

In Part 1 We discovered the first cross in the wilderness, now we can search for the second one. This one will take a bit more study simply because there is so much more to see with it. However, we don’t have to go very far to start our search for it. It is right at the heart of the cross we just found.

I’ve mentioned the Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting many times already, and that is where we are going to look next. Moses describes it for us like this:

“So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. When Moses set up the tabernacle, he put the bases in place, erected the frames, inserted the crossbars and set up the posts. Then he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering over the tent, as the Lord commanded him. He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him. Moses placed the table in the tent of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle outside the curtain and set out the bread on it before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him. He placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle and set up the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him. Moses placed the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the curtain and burned fragrant incense on it, as the Lord commanded him. Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. He set the altar of burnt offering near the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it burnt offerings and grain offerings, as the Lord commanded him. He placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing, and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the Lord commanded Moses. Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work.” (Exodus 40:17-33 NIV)

Tabernacle and Courtyard

Figure 1. Tabernacle and Courtyard Layout

We will start our search with the Courtyard. It was 100 cubits by 50 cubits and was oriented east to west. It was made of linen curtains 5 cubits high and held up with posts mounted in bronze bases by silver hooks on silver bands. There was a post every 5 cubits all around the Courtyard. There was an entrance 20 cubits wide in the center of the east end. (See Exodus 27:9-15, 17-19 & 38:9-17) The cloth used in making not only the curtains for the courtyard, but the entrance curtains for the courtyard and the Tabernacle, the Shielding Curtain, and the first covering over the Tabernacle was linen. It was much finer than the linen of today. “Finely twisted linen” was so fine that the high quality fabrics made from it could not be distinguished from silk without a magnifying glass. Also, it was not the drab beige we see today either, but a very pure white.

 

A side note about the cubit mentioned here. It could be the common cubit which was about 18 inches long. This is the cubit that was used in trade. You bought and sold things, including land, using this cubit. But, Moses grew up in the royal household as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter and was educated in the royal university. Therefore he would have been very familiar with the royal Egyptian cubit of 20.6 inches. Historically, it is this cubit that was most commonly used, even outside of Egypt, for building, therefore, it is the one a lot of historians believe Moses would have used. However, I have found several references to one more cubit that shows up in the archeological records of ancient Israel and it is 25.43 inches long (1 meter). It is believed by some to have been handed down from Noah as the measurement given him by God. But there are many who disagree – for some reason they seem to think that nothing originated with anyone Hebrew – everything they knew and used was borrowed from other cultures. So how could they have a measurement that no one else in history ever used? I do not know why this prejudice exists among Biblical scholars, but I have encountered it many times. Personally, I believe more things originated with the Hebrews that were copied by others than the other way around.

So, which cubit would Moses have used? The short, common one, the royal one, or the even longer one? I’m inclined to think he would have at least used the royal cubit, but in reality, I believed he used the one meter cubit, after all, he was building a place to meet with the God of the universe. And God did say that He was going to “dwell with His people there”. So don’t you think Moses would have at least used the royal cubit for the sovereign God of the universe? If he did, that would mean everything would be a bit over 11% larger than we normally think of them. However, Moses recorded that God had told him, “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” (Exodus 25:9) And he recorded 4 more times when God reminded him that he was to follow the patterns he had been shown. (Exodus 25:40; 26:30; 27:8; 31:11) And 4 times he records that things were made exactly as commanded (Exodus 39:32; 39:42,39:43; Numbers 8:4) As a woodworker, all the patterns I use include the dimensions I am to use in building the object in the pattern. So it is entirely possible that God included the length of the cubit he was to use as part of the patterns He gave Moses.

Therefore, if the “long” cubit was used in building the Tabernacle and all its furnishings as I believe, then they would have been over 41% bigger! So that means the Tent of Meeting would have been almost 25 1/2 feet by over 63 1/2 feet and a little over 21 feet tall, rather than the 15 – 22 1/2 feet by 45 feet and 15 feet tall normally claimed. (See Appendix A for a discussion on the true dimensions of the Tabernacle.) And the courtyard would be almost 212 feet by almost 106 feet instead of 150 feet by 75 feet with the curtains over 10 1/2 feet tall rather than 7 1/2 feet. And the same goes for everything else.

Now, back to our tour. There was only one entrance to the courtyard, and as stated earlier, it was on the east end. It had linen curtains hanging in it. This is how it was made, “The curtain for the entrance to the courtyard was of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen–the work of an embroiderer. It was twenty cubits long and, and like the curtains of the courtyard, five cubits high, with four posts and four bronze bases. Their hooks and bands were silver and their tops were overlaid with silver.” (Exodus 38:18-19 See also Exodus 27:16) How many times have you seen illustrations of these curtains neatly held open in nice pretty drapes? If you are like me, I am having a hard time thinking of a time when I have seen a depiction of them in any other way. However, reading through the account of Moses setting up the Tent of Meeting, I can find no mention of these curtains or the ones on the Tent itself being held open. I believe that they were both closed and you had to push them aside to enter. You entered through the curtains, not through an open gateway.

Now, did you notice the colors of these curtains? Blue, purple, scarlet, and white, the colors of royalty, but they had other meanings as well – deeper meanings as we will see. Some people think that the colors were embroidered on a white background because they “were the work of an embroiderer”, however, the term used is of a professional who worked with colors – one who mixed colors – either by weaving, dying, or by embroidery. So he could have been a weaver, a dyer, or an embroiderer, or someone who could do it all. I believe they were woven in stripes of blue, purple, scarlet and white. One of the biggest reasons is two of the curtains we will see later do have embroidery on them, and it would be hard to see it if it was on top of a background already covered by random patterns of colors. Because the colors are always listed in the same order, I think that is the order they were woven in – blue, purple, scarlet, and white. I don’t know why that particular order, nor are we told how wide each color is – although a set of curtains we will see later are made of panels 4 cubits wide that have all four colors in them. Therefore you would have each color appearing in sequence and it would repeat in whatever multiple of 4 you want to use in each 4 cubit panel. That means each color strip could be 1 cubit wide, 1/2 cubit wide, or 1/4 cubit wide, etc. However, once you get below 1/8th of a cubit for each stripe, you will not be able to see the stripes at much of a distance, the colors will all blend together. All of the curtains have almost the exact wording used in their instructions so it is reasonable to assume that they are all made alike with the color stripes of the same width. In fact, all of the curtains could have been made using those same 4 cubit panels. The Courtyard entrance curtain would have needed 5 panels 5 cubits long. The Tabernacle entrance would have needed 3 panels 10 cubits long although there might have been 4 panels, and the Shielding Curtain would have had 3 panels 10 cubits long.

I don’t see a significance to their width or their sequence other than purple can be made by combining the colors on either side of it, but the colors themselves are significant. To enter the courtyard you had to go through these curtains – you entered through an area of blue, purple, scarlet, and white stripes in an otherwise pristine white wall – why? Isaiah 53:4-5 tells us, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” When Jesus was beaten before He was crucified, His wounds would have been stripes of bloody red, and blue and purple bruises, interspersed with the white of His skin and bones. And these wounds are represented by the colors of the curtains in the entryway. And the purity of the white curtains of the Courtyard remind us that Jesus was pure, He was innocent – it was our guilt He was punished for, it was our sins He died for, He was sinless. The curtains of the Courtyard completely surround the Tabernacle and everything else involved in the religious observances that occurred here, so just as the curtains contain it all, what everything inside represents is contained in Jesus and His ministry in some way or another as we will see.

One thing I find interesting is that the entrance to the courtyard, the entrance to the Tent itself, and the entrance to the Most Holy Place inside the Tabernacle (also known as “The Veil”) are ALL through the same type of curtains (although the Veil also had cherubim embroidered on it). And there is one other “curtain” that was made of the same materials, the one that covered the entire Tabernacle, the one that made the “ceiling”. (Compare Exodus 38:18, 36:37, 36:35, and 36:8-13 respectively.) Hebrews 10:19-20 says, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, . . ” (NASB Revised) The Shielding Curtain (or the Veil) represents Jesus’ broken body and shed blood, and since all three entrances are virtually identical, we can say that all three are representative of Jesus’ broken body, and therefore access to each area is “through Jesus”. And when you are in the Tabernacle itself you are completely covered by the broken body of Jesus as well. So let us enter the Courtyard through the veil of Jesus’ broken body.

The first thing we encounter after we enter the Courtyard is the Altar of Burnt Offering. It

Altar of Burnt Offering

Figure 2. Altar of Burnt Offering

was made of wood overlaid with bronze. It was 5 cubits square and 3 cubits tall. It had a horn at each corner and a bronze grating inside halfway up. It was carried with wooden poles overlaid in bronze that were mounted in bronze rings on opposite sides of the altar. All of the utensils needed for the sacrificial offerings and to maintain the fire were also made of bronze. (See Exodus 27:1-8 & 38:1-7) This is where the lambs were offered for all the sacrifices. This is where everyone came to confess their sins over the head of their sacrificial lamb before it was “offered up in smoke”. So what does this tell us of Jesus? The disciple John records this comment made by John the Baptist, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.'” (John 1:29) The author of the letter to the Hebrews seconds this, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. . . . For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10 & 14) It is here, at the Altar of Burnt Offering, that our sins are symbolically transferred to Jesus. It is also where those sins are symbolically burned out of existence when that “lamb” is sacrificed.

 

Basin

Figure 3. The Basin

As we move on from the altar, the next thing we find is the Basin, or as some translations label it, the Laver. This is all we are told about its construction, “They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” (Exodus 38:8 NIV) (See also Exodus 30:17-18) It might seem like it did not hold much significance, but God told Moses, “Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.” (Exodus 30:19-21) If washing in its water would keep you from dying, then it would seem it was very important. So it was important, but what does it tells us about Jesus? Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27) And he told the church in Corinth, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) And the Apostle John wrote, “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'” (Revelation7:13-14)

 

The basin reminds us of our need of cleansing and that only Jesus can provide what is needed. The apostle John says, ” . . . but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7 & 9 NASB Revised) The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22) Here he takes us all the way from the Basin, into the Holy Place, through the Veil, and into the Most Holy Place – all the way into the presence of God! In his “Revelation of Jesus Christ”, as part of the opening salutation, the Apostle John says, ” . . . And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, . . . ” (Revelation 1:5 KJV) So the Basin, or Laver, reminds us that it is by the blood of Jesus that we are cleansed from our sins.

Tabernacle

Figure 4. The Tabernacle

 

Now we come to the Tent of Meeting itself. Unlike most tents of the day as it was built with both solid walls like a normal house and fabric and leather coverings like a normal tent. We will look at the coverings first.

The first covering of the Tabernacle was of 2 curtains 28 cubits by 20 cubits that were joined together by 50 gold clasps and had loops of blue material along the ends. Each curtain was made from 5 panels that were 4 cubits wide and 28 cubits long which were literally “united” into one curtain. These two curtains were then clasp together to form one larger covering for the Tabernacle. Once joined they made a covering that was 28 cubits x 40 cubits long. They were made of “finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by expert hands.” (Exodus 36:8 NIV) [Could also mean embroidered – literally says “the work of a thoughtful worker” It doesn’t say how it was done.] When it was placed on the Tabernacle, it would hang down equally on each side and on the west end. Obviously a much smaller overhang would be over the entrance curtain. (See Exodus 26:1-6 & 36:8-13) As we have already seen, the blue, purple, scarlet and white stripes of this “curtain” are representative of Jesus’ broken body, but also includes cherubim. In the Bible cherubim are always in the presence of God, so these cherubim embroidered on the curtain remind us of Jesus’ divinity, and that just as these cherubim were part of the curtain, Jesus’ divinity was inherently part of Him.

The second covering, God called it a “tent over the tabernacle” (Exodus 26:7 NASB Revised), was again made of 2 curtains only this time one was wider than the other. The smaller one was 30 cubits by 20 cubits and the larger one was 30 cubits by 24 cubits. They were made of goat hair and were joined together by bronze clasps so they made a covering that was 30 cubits by 44 cubits. Unless it was dyed, and there are no instructions to do so, this covering would have been a mottled, beige, tan, brown, and black – although there are some who claim it would have been made entirely of black goat hair. Either way it would have been just like every other tent in the camp. This covering is 2 cubits longer than the first so would hang down 1 cubit further on each side and on the west end. The rest would hang down over the entrance, however, the final panel on this side (the extra one) is folded in half so it will not hang down quite so far, but it will still cover the first covering. (See Exodus 26:9)

Over this was a covering of red dyed ram skins and then another of the hides of sea cows (NIV) neither of which are given any dimensions. The ram skins would at least completely cover all previous layers and most likely go clear to the ground on the north and south sides and the west end. The blood red covering reminds us that the blood of Jesus covers us and as God said, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11 NIV) It is a reminder that the blood of Jesus was shed in atonement for our sins.

Then comes the leather outer cover. It would definitely go clear to the ground on the north and south sides and the west end and would hang down far enough to cover all the other coverings over the entrance and provide enough protection from the elements for the entryway. It could be so low that, as with most tents of the day, the average person would need to duck to go under the edge of the tent as they entered, probably about 2 1/2 cubits or so above the ground. However, if it only hung down an additional cubit over the entrance like all the previous layers, it would be 5 cubits from the ground – the same level as the top of the Courtyard curtains. This leather covering would make the outside of the Tabernacle a nondescript brownish gray color that, over time, would weather to a shade which would blend into the desert background very well, and from ground level outside the courtyard, absolutely nothing of the entrance to the Tabernacle could be seen. (See Exodus 26:7-13 & 36:14-19) That reminds me of what Isaiah had to say about the coming Messiah, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2b) Like the Messiah to come, there was nothing external to the Tent of Meeting that would indicate its significance or the beauty inside, there really was nothing about it that would attract your attention and make you want to “check it out.” In fact, the only bit of color that could be seen would be the blue, purple, scarlet and white stripes of what little of the entrance curtains that would be peeking out from under the leather covering at the front of the Tent of Meeting but until you entered the courtyard, you could not even see that.

The solid walls of the “tent” were made of wood panels that were overlaid with gold and enclosed a space that was 30 cubits by 12 cubits. (See Appendix A for a discussion on the true dimensions of the Tabernacle.) Each panel was 10 cubits by 1 1/2 cubits. They each had 2 posts in the bottom that were placed in silver bases to hold them upright. Each of the silver bases weighed 75 pounds. The panels were joined together by some sort of couplings and held in place by 3 sets of 5 gold covered wooden poles. As a wood worker, I would interpret Exodus 26:28 (“The middle bar in the center of the boards shall pass through from end to end.” NASB) to indicate that one pole was inserted in a mortise that ran side to side through the middle of each panel and locked them all in place. Then 3 of the poles were inserted into rings on the outside of the panels. As they were inserted in the rings, they were also inserted into the loops along the edges of the first three coverings of the Tent to hold them down – the outer, leather, covering would be staked to the ground. The last pole in each set would be mounted outside the tent as well, near the top of the panels, so that it would help keep the coverings from chafing in the winds on the panels of the walls. (It is also possible that only the first two coverings were so mounted and that two of the poles were used to keep the coverings from chafing – the text does not mention how the ram skin covering was fastened down, it could be fastened like the first two or it could be staked like the outer cover.) (See Exodus 26:15-29 & 36:20-34) But none of this can be seen from the outside as it is completely hidden underneath all of the coverings. The Tabernacle is divided into two rooms by a curtain, the outer room is called the Holy Place and the inner room is the Most Holy Place.

It is this room, the Most Holy Place, that everyone is arguing about. No one seems to be able to agree on how big it was, and the size of this room will affect the size of the rest of the Tabernacle. But we are not concerned with its size right now, we are just getting an over view of the Tabernacle itself. (See Appendix A for a discussion on the true dimensions of the Tabernacle.)

Now, back to our tour, the next stop is the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and as we have already seen, it is through the blue, purple, scarlet and white striped curtains representing the broken body of Jesus. It is death for anyone but the priests to enter the Tabernacle, and the only reason we can go beyond this point is because Jesus has opened the way for us with His broken body and the cleansing of His blood.

The first area we enter is called The Holy Place. It has gold covered walls, and facing us is a curtain of blue, purple, scarlet and white like the two we have already come through, however, it also has cherubim embroidered on it so it is a little different than the others. And the “ceiling” is identical – blue, purple, scarlet and white with the cherubim

Altar of Incense

Figure 5. The Altar of Incense

embroidered on it. And directly in front of us is the Altar of Incense. It was made of wood and was completely covered in gold. It was 1 cubit square and 2 cubits tall and had a horn on each corner. It had two wood poles covered in gold that were used to carry it and they were held in place by 2 gold rings on each side. (See Exodus 30:1-5 & 37:25-28) God gave some very specific instructions about both this altar and the use of the incense that was burned on it and in the censers that Aaron and his sons used. “Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come.” (Exodus 30:7-8) “He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die.” (Leviticus 16:12-13) One of the things the smoke did was create a veil between the High Priest and the Ark – representative of Jesus our mediator who stands between us and a holy and righteous God, a God who is present everywhere, and in whose presence nothing evil can exist. (See Isaiah 33:10-16)

 

However, that is not all it represents. David wrote this in one of his psalms, “I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Psalms 141:1-2) The Apostle John wrote, “He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” (Revelation 5:7-8) And later he added, “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” (Revelation 8:3-4) And Paul tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes fur us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:26-27) So the smoke of the burning incense represents not only the prayers of those who claim Jesus as Lord and Master of their lives, but also the work of the Holy Spirit in “correcting” those prayers into what they should be.

Behind the Altar of Incense is the Shielding Curtain, or Veil, as it is more commonly known. As I pointed out above, it is different from the entrance curtain. Here are the instructions God gave for it and the entrance curtains so you can see the differences, “They made the curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim woven into it by a skilled worker. They made four posts of acacia wood for it and overlaid them with gold. They made gold hooks for them and cast their four silver bases. For the entrance to the tent they made a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen—the work of an embroiderer;  and they made five posts with hooks for them. They overlaid the tops of the posts and their bands with gold and made their five bases of bronze.” (Exodus 36:35-38) (See also Exodus 26:31-33 & 36-37)

“The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.” (Leviticus 16:2) So this veil was very important. It was a barrier between God and sinful man. As Isaiah wrote, “‘Now will I arise,’ says the Lord. ‘Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up. You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw; your breath is a fire that consumes you. The peoples will be burned to ashes; like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze. You who are far away, hear what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge my power!’ The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: ‘Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?’ Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—” (Isaiah 33:10-15) Yes, the righteous can stand in God’s presence, but, as Solomon pointed out, “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

This is the “veil” that the writer of Hebrews was referring to when he wrote, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22) He clearly identifies the veil as Jesus. So what can it tell us about Him?

This curtain is held up by 4 posts rather than 5 like the entrance curtain so there would be three expanses of curtains showing instead of the 4 at the entrance to the Tent. As we have seen, it represents Jesus our “shielding curtain”, and the three sections remind us of His threefold mission – He shields us from the punishment we deserve, He stands in our place before God, and His perfect life stands between us and judgment. Also, as the cherubim only appear in the presence of God, the cherubim embroidered on this curtain remind us of Jesus’ divinity.

When we pass though the Shielding Curtain we enter the Most Holy Place. This is where

Ark of the Covenant

Figure 6. The Ark of The Covenant Law

God manifested His presence in a very special way. The room is square with three gold walls, the forth being the Veil we just came through, and the ceiling is a continuation of the curtain we saw in the Holy Place – blue, purple, scarlet and white with cherubim embroidered on it. There was only one thing in this area – The Ark of the Covenant. It was made of wood covered in gold. It was 2 1/2 cubits long, 1 1/2 cubits wide and 1 1/2 cubits high. It had two gold covered wooden poles fastened to it by two gold rings each that were used to carry it. And it had a solid gold covering that had a solid gold cherub at each end. The cherubim faced each other, but were looking down towards the cover, and had their wings uplifted to overshadow both them and the cover. So Raiders of the Lost Ark got it wrong. (See Exodus 25:10-22 & 37:1-9) What can we learn of Jesus from the Ark? “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.'” (Leviticus 16:2) After the Ark was built And Moses was putting the Tabernacle together, “He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him.” (Exodus 40:20-21) And later we find out, “When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.” (Numbers 7:89)

 

The Sh’khinah – The manifest presence of God – appeared between the wings of the cherubim, above the atonement cover or Mercy Seat, as it is commonly called today. God had Moses put the Tablets of Stone, on which were written the Law of the Covenant, inside the Ark. So The Atonement Cover was between the Presence of God and the Law – representing Jesus, the manifestation of God’s mercy.

So we’ve come on our tour from the camp into the presence of God, but that has been in a straight line, not a cross. For that we need to go back into the Holy Place because we did skip two things while we were there. When we go back in, we see on the right (against the

Lampstand

Figure 7. Lampstand

southern wall) an interesting light fixture, the Lampstand. It was made of solid gold and with the lamps and the utensils needed to care for them weighed 75 pounds. It had 7 branches and each branch had a lamp on it, for a total of 7 lamps. (Although I have seen one translation/interpretation that gives you 7 branches each with 7 cups and 7 lamps giving you 49 lamps with 1 additional cup and lamp on the top of the main “trunk” for a total of 50 lamps.) And it was decorated with an almond motif. (See Exodus 25:31-39 & 37:17-24) So what does this tell us of Jesus? “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (John 8:12) He also said, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4-5) But He is not “in the world” any more so now what? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His listeners, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15) As Jesus pointed out, a light does no good unless it is out where people can use its radiance to see by. So as we take Jesus, the Light of the World, out into the world, we form the first arm of the cross.

 

The second item we missed is on the opposite wall. There we find the Table that held the Bread of the Presence. It was made of wood and was overlaid with gold. It was 2 cubits long, 1 cubit wide and 1 1/2 cubits high. It had 2 gold covered wooden poles fastened to it by

Table

Figure 8. The Table of the Bread of the Presence

2 gold rings each that were used to carry it. (See Exodus 25:23-29 & 37:10-16) God instructed Moses, “Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times.” (Exodus 25:30) And what does this table and the bread say about Jesus? Jesus Himself claimed to be the Bread of Life. “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'” (John 6:35) And a bit later in the same conversation, He said, “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:50-51) Jesus is the Bread of Life Who came down to earth out of the presence of God bringing life for a hungry and dying world. And as we take Jesus the Bread of Life into that same hungry and dying world we form the second arm of the cross.

 

Tabernacle Cross

Figure 9. The Tabernacle With Cross

A cross hidden in the Tent of Meeting! No wonder Jesus said that Moses wrote about Him! Not only do all the objects in the Tent, but the curtains around the Tent, the objects in the courtyard, and the Tent itself all proclaim Jesus.

 

And there we have the second Cross in the Wilderness! One that reminds us that as we journey into the presence of God, we must also take Jesus out into the world. He came into this world to die on a cross, and we must take Him into a dying world so that they might live.

 

Appendix A

It is the size of the Most Holy Place, that everyone is arguing about. No one seems to be able to agree on how big it was, and the size of this room will affect the size rest of the Tabernacle. There is much discussion among the “experts” as to how big it was. Well actually, only about how wide it was. The Bible is very clear that the Tabernacle was 30 cubits long and no one has any argument over that, it is the description how the west end of the Tabernacle was to be constructed that is the issue, and how you interpret what the Bible says determines how wide entire structure was.

There are 6 normal panels and two corner panels, and the argument is over what is meant by the description of the 2 corner panels. The panels are normally 10 cubits tall and 1 1/2 cubits wide so with just the 6 normal panels you have 9 cubits. That means those who claim a 10 cubit width have a problem – how do you get two more panels of a size large enough to have 2 bases made of 75 pounds (1 talent) of silver each under them (See Exodus 38:27) on either end of the 6 panels and only use 1/2 a cubit per panel? And then there are those who think the Tabernacle was 15 cubits wide. They get this from a literal reading of Exodus 26:23-24, that in some translations says that the two corner panels were doubled which would make them 3 cubits wide each – so the 9 cubits of the normal panels plus the 6 cubits of the “doubled” panels gives you 15 cubits. But not all translations agree on what the correct English word is to use to translate the Hebrew word used here.

Here is what the NIV translators wrote, “Make six frames for the far end of the tabernacle, and make two frames for the corners at the far end. At these two corners they must be double from the bottom to the top, and fitted into a single ring: both shall be like that. So there will be eight frames and sixteen silver bases–two under each frame.” (Exodus 26:22-25) It is the words translated “double” and “ring” that are what is causing all the confusion. So, to try and clear up the confusion, I checked things out in the Lexicons I have available to me. It turns out that the Hebrew word translated double can also mean twin or twinned, coupled, or joined. And the word translated ring, can also refer to a signet used to stamp in sealing wax, the seal, or mark, in the wax that a signet makes, or a signet ring, and eventually it came to refer to just a regular ring as well. Looking at this as a wood worker, it makes much more sense to say that the two corner panels were designed in such a way that they could be joined to the side panels as well as the normal joinery that would join them to the adjacent end panels, and that these special joints were to “seal” them to the side panels. So these two panels had normal joinery in one edge that would connect them to the other panels in the end of the Tabernacle, but they also had a special type of joinery along the edge of one face that would be used to connect them to the end panels in the side walls.

So, if they were any larger than any of the other panels at all, it would only be by the thickness of the panels. That means that the interior dimensions of the Tabernacle would be the 30 cubits in length everyone agrees on by 12 cubits in width for the west end panels. And this would give us something interesting – if the Veil, or Shielding Curtain, was placed 12 cubits from the end wall, you would have 3 gold walls of 12 cubits each. Why would that be significant? The Bible gives three different lists for the tribes of Israel – the first is the list of the sons of Jacob – the “real” tribes; the second is the list of the tribes of the Exodus where the tribes of Levi – those claimed by God as His tribe – and Joseph are not listed but are replaced by Ephraim and Manasseh – Joseph’s promised double portion; and the third is in Revelation. In this list Ephraim is missing, but Levi returns and Dan is also gone, replaced by Joseph, which is very significant, but that is a whole different study of its own!

And one other thing, if the Most Holy place is 12 cubits square, then something interesting occurs with the first covering – well actually the first two coverings. The first one is made of 2 identical “curtains” that are 20 cubits wide and 28 cubits long and are joined together by 50 gold clasps right down the middle. Fully assembled it is 28 cubits by 40 cubits. If you center the 28 cubit length over the width of the Tent you will obviously have the same overhang on each side. So 28 cubits – 12 cubits = 16 cubits which would leave 8 cubits to hang down on each side of the Tabernacle. Now take that same overhang of 8 cubits from the 20 cubit width of 1/2 of the covering to use as the overhang on the west end of the Tabernacle and that leaves 12 cubits to go from the end of the Tabernacle to the place where the two halves of the covering are joined – and that is exactly where the Veil is located. Interesting isn’t it? And that leaves the 20 cubits of the other half of the curtain to cover the remaining 18 cubits of the Holy Place giving 2 cubits of overhang above the entrance. Now let’s add the next cover, the goat’s hair one. It is 30 cubits by 44 cubits which means it is 2 cubits longer so it would hang down 1 cubit further on each side and position it with the same 1 extra cubit of coverage on the west end. This covering was not joined in the middle, but had one part 20 cubits wide and the other 24 cubits wide. The extra panel on the wider side was to be folded in half and would be located over the entrance to the Tabernacle. So if we take 9 cubits from the 44 cubits of the cover, that leaves 35 cubits to cover the Tabernacle. As the tabernacle is only 30 cubits long, that means there would be 5 cubits hanging down over the entrance, but as we just saw, the last 4 cubit panel was folded in half so only 3 cubits actually hang down – and that means it hangs down exactly 1 cubit further than the first covering over the entrance as well as the sides and west end – something that cannot happen if the Tabernacle is any other width than 12 cubits!

And with each of the three successive inner layers being one cubit longer, you can easily position the rings for the gold covered poles so that you can tie them down. This would leave on set of poles to mount higher up on the walls to hold all the coverings away from the gold covered panels to keep them from chafing in the wind. The outer, leather cover, out be staked down, just like all the other tents.