The Golden Lampstand

A good architect gives thought to lighting. But the golden lampstand in the holy place of the tabernacle, Exodus 25:31-40, was made for deeper reasons than aesthetics.

The lampstand looks back to the source of light. Light marked the beginning of God’s creative work. “Let there be light” was the creative word of the first day. The same Hebrew noun as is used repeatedly in Genesis 1 is Moses’ choice to describe the light given by the lampstand. When God dwells symbolically in the tabernacle in the midst of the camp of Israel, his sanctuary is not to be in darkness. All night long the lamps were kept burning, Exodus 27:20-21.

The lampstand was made to reflect the perfection of Eden. Without being too speculative, it appears that there is a resemblance, a conscious reflection, between the original tree of life and the lampstand, with blossoms incorporated into its construction. I was formed of gold—75 pounds of gold. Continue reading

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Your Good Confession

Timothy was unique, but the confession that he made was not. In 1 Timothy 6:11-13 Paul calls you to hold to your confession.

Keep your good confession. You have made a good confession. Timothy had made a good confession. Paul may be looking back to Timothy’s ordination, but more likely to his baptism. This young man, son of a Greek father and Jewish mother (Acts 16:1), had learned God’s Word from his mother and grandmother. But as a young man he had heard the good news of Jesus Christ and had responded in faith. Included also is the life that Timothy had continued to live before the Lord and his people. You have confessed Christ before many witnesses. Witnesses summon you to remember what you have promised. They remind you of the faithfulness of your God. See Deuteronomy 32:1. Make yours a good confession, one to which you remain true. Your confession is not simply empty words, but it must be something seen in your daily life. Congregation, remember that you are witnesses! You have a responsibility to encourage those who have professed their faith and even to call them to account. You can remind a baptized child of what it means that God has marked him as one who belongs to him. Continue reading

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Building a Tabernacle for God

You move into a house, new, or new to you, and it begins to reflect your tastes, your personality. What does a house for God look like? Exodus 25:8-9 shows God pointing his people to the pattern he would reveal to Moses on the mountain.

God dwells with you. This theme runs through the Scriptures. In Eden God came down and had fellowship with Adam and Eve, mankind made in his image. The fall disrupted that fellowship. Cherubim with a sword blocked the way to the Tree of Life and the fellowship our first parents had had with God. But God, in his grace, was not satisfied to leave it that way. Jump to the end of Scripture, Revelation 21:15-27, and in the new heavens and earth you have God dwelling with his people. There is no temple, but, as Vos points out, this is not a city without a church, but a city that is a church. This is a theme that runs through the Bible, tying Scripture together. Abraham and the patriarchs built altars, often at locations connected with trees, worshiped God. But now, after the Egyptian slavery, the family has become a nation. God will not longer visit occasionally—he is having his people build a house for him, a place where he will dwell in the midst of his people. Here is where God’s people would gather to offer their worship. “[T]he tabernacle . . . is the place where the people offer their worship to God. It is the palace of the King in which people render Him homage.” (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical theology, p. 168). Later, when God’s people settled in the promised land, the movable Tabernacle was replaced by the larger scale Temple. But both buildings fell short of the reality they represented. Haggai comforted those rebuilding the Temple after the Babylonian exile, that the glory of that house would be greater than that of Solomon’s Temple. Jesus pointed to himself, or better, himself with his people for whom he would die and rise again, as the true Temple. God no longer has a tent, a wooden framework covered with embroidered linen, or a stone building lined with cedar and covered with gold, as the place where he meets us. Rather his Temple is made of living stones. The church corporately and believers individually are, by the Spirit, the dwelling place of God. And it finds its full development in the perfection of the new heavens and earth, the magnificent garden city, like the Most Holy Place, forming a cube. Continue reading

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The Blood of the Covenant

Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper at his final celebration of the Passover with his disciples. The Passover is part of the background for the New Testament sacrament. But the words of institution are actually quoted from Exodus 24. They deal not only with partaking of communion, but also with how you live your daily life.

You are covered by the blood of the covenant. The blood of the covenant covered Israel. The people needed to be consecrated before they could approach the Lord. Here the problem of sin is dealt with by the offering of sacrifices. The animals died in the place of the sinful people. The blood sprinkled on the altar, symbolized God’s forgiveness, his acceptance of the sacrifice. The blood sprinkled on the people shows that even their oath to keep God’s covenant can be kept only as they are covered by the sacrificial blood. There is no place for works salvation here. “Before the blood could act for the benefit of the people it had to do its work with reference to Jehovah, and this could scarcely consist in aught else than to make the prerequisite expiation.” (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, p. 139). Continue reading

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The Book of the Covenant

The appearance of the Lord at Mount Sinai was not just a temporary visit. Instead he was preparing his people for his continuing presence among them. To that end he had Moses record a summary of his laws in what he called the Book of the Covenant, found in Exodus 20:22—23:33.

Your God has come to you. You need the Book of the Covenant. Though it is possible that some of God’s revelation to his people had been written down earlier, this is the first mention of a book, a book in which God is revealing himself to his people. The Book of the Covenant is mentioned in Exodus 24, as Moses sprinkles blood on it, as well as on the altar and on the people. Apparently this book comes before the engraving of the Ten Words on the tablets of stone. In the covenant God promises to be with his people and to be their God. They are to respond with worship, love, and obedience. This book will be the guide for his people in that relationship. Take time to read Exodus 20:22—23:33. It contains many things, not always in an order that you might expect. It includes quite a few laws, covering many areas of life. The book looks forward to the time when Israel would be in the promised land. That may explain some details that we find hard to understand—God is protecting his people from the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites. It also contains the assurance that God is placing his name on his people. He is having fellowship with them. Continue reading

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