Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank you for creating us in your image to be the lords of this world. Almighty God, we thank you for Jesus who has come that we might have your image renewed and transfigured in us. Grant that through us, you might remake the world around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Today we finish the section of instructions for creating the new world of God in the tabernacle (Ex. 25-31). This section finishes the “creation week,” and it reminds us that worship is all about remaking the world.
Golden Altar of Incense (finishing Day 1)
The altar of incense is golden which means that it is associated with the Most Holy Place (30:3). It is place in the Holy Place directly in front of the veil of the Most Holy Place (30:6). And it is Most Holy just like the bronze altar (30:10 cf. 29:37). Nothing else goes on this altar except for “sweet incense” every morning (30:7) and once a year on the day of Atonement blood is smeared on its horns “to make atonement for it” (30:10). Chapters 25-30:10 are “day one” of this new creation. The tabernacle is the light of the new world; the tabernacle is what separates the Day of Israel from the Night of the nations.
Census and Atonement (Day 2)
“Day two” is the provision for the people to protect them from the plague when a census is taken (30:12). The obvious implication is that if they took a census without this “atonement offering” they would be struck by a plague. This word means “plague,” but it is the noun form a word that generally means “strike.” It is used to describe the plague of frogs and the plague of the firstborn, and later generally to the whole Exodus story. Remember that the story of the Exodus as a great battle between the “hosts” of Israel (Ex. 6:26, 7:4, 12:17, 41, 51) and the fortress-strength of Pharaoh (14:4, 9, 17, 24, 28). There, at the Passover, blood covered the armies of Israel. This ransom payment is the same for all males over 20, and therefore it is a matter of life. But this whole provision seems to have something to do with trusting the God of armies and not one’s armies. Remember David’s sinful census of the armies of Israel (2 Sam. 24). Remember that the second day of creation concerned the firmament that separated the waters above from the waters below, it has to do with how heaven and earth are joined and relate (cf. 2 Kgs. 6:8-17ff).
Laver of Cleansing (Day 3)
“Day three” of the original creation week was the gathering the waters together into one place to create dry ground and the seas. Here in the new world of the tabernacle we have the waters gathered into a miniature sea that stands between the altar and the tent (30:18). In the temple it is actually called the “sea” (e.g. 1 Kgs. 7:23). The priests are required to wash their hands and feet before going into the tent and before offering the sacrifices on the altar (30:20). This washing is required on pain of death (30:20-21). Perhaps this gives new significance to Jesus’ foot washing at the last supper. Jesus is preparing his disciples for sanctuary-service, and he commands them to go and do likewise (Jn. 13:3-17).
Oil of Anointing (Day 4)
On “day four” God made the great lights and placed them in the firmament. These great lights are rulers, and they are meant to symbolize God’s own glory and rule. Likewise, oil is associated with rule, and oil makes a man’s face bright and shine like the lights of heaven. This oil is used to anoint the tabernacle and all of its utensils and furniture (30:25-28). This is also the oil used to anoint Aaron and his sons (30:30). This oil is considered holy and may not be used for common purposes in Israel, and if anyone does so, he shall be “cut off from his people” (30:33).
Incense (Day 5)
“Day five” describes the incense that God requires the priests to offer before him. It is “most holy,” and this is related to the fact that it is offered “before the Testimony” (30:36). Like the oil, it is holy and may not be used for ordinary purposes in Israel. He who treats Yahweh’s incense as common will be “cut off from his people” (30:38). Throughout Scripture, incense is associated with prayer (e.g. Ps. 141:2); prayer ought to fill and permeate our lives. It ought to stick to us and in our clothes like a scent that is hard to shake. Throughout Scripture we see the presence of God surrounded by smoke and incense, and John sees incense rising to the throne of God with the prayers of the saints (e.g. Rev. 5:8, Rev. 8:3-4). This is why it has been common in the historic Christian church to use incense in worship both to beautify and to remind.
The Spirit and the Artisans (Day 6)
Just as God breathed the breath of life into man on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 2:7), so too, the Spirit is given to Bezalel and Aholiab (31:4). This is the same Spirit of God that hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation (Gen. 1:1). The image of God in man includes the power and drive to create by the inspiration of the Spirit. This Spirit of creation is wisdom in their hearts (31:6).And this Spirit and the wisdom given to these artisans is for following the commands of Yahweh (31:6, 11, cf. Gal. 5:16ff). This is what true creativity is: it takes the pattern-commands of God and implements them in beautiful ways in the world.
Sabbath Reminder (Day 7)
As the first creation week ended with Sabbath, so too, God reminds Moses/Israel that this new world must include the original creation pattern. The Sabbath is a sign to Israel that they might know that it is Yahweh who sanctifies them (31:13). Israel is to guard this time just like they guard the other holy things of God, and the one who treats it commonly will be put to death and “cut off from his people” (31:14). The Sabbath observance is the covenant between God and his people (31:16). We rest as the Creator rests (31:17). The Sabbath is a call to live like God does. Create like God does but rest and rejoice in our labors like God does. God was “refreshed” when he rested, and he calls us to the same (31:17). To be refreshed is to be given the breath of life (cf. Gen. 2:7).
Conclusions & Applications
We labor in the world for the kingdom of God. We sell merchandise for the King. We raise and teach children for the King. We run businesses, wash dishes, take out garbage, and crunch numbers for the King. We need to think intentionally and strategically about this. And there are at least two possible errors to avoid: Because God is renewing and refashioning this world, it takes wisdom to understand which things stay and which things go. This is like cleaning out the basement: depending on your personality, you are probably tempted to throw everything out or save everything. But neither one will do.
Cultivate Sabbath living. An important part of making/re-making the world is through rest. Give the “breath of life” to your family on the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day should not be weighed down with too many activities, too many rules, and don’t treat it like it’s just another government holiday. The Sabbath is like your first day in a brand new world. What would you do?
You are lords of this world made new in Christ. In the OC God gave numerous explicit instructions for ruling the earth, but in the NC, you have been granted authority in Christ. This means that God gives you this world and cares what you think. How do you think it should go? What should Greenville look like in 20 years? 40 years? 500 years? You are the priests and kings of this city therefore live, pray, and rejoice in this fact.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, we thank you that the blood of Jesus was poured out to purchase all the nations of the earth. We thank you that this includes Greer and Greenville, South Carolina. We ask that you would teach us diligence and wisdom as we seek to rule wisely in this land that you are giving to your Son, King Jesus. Give us true Trinitarian wisdom.