The Laver as Baptistry?

July 17, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Q&A | 4 Comments
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Question: Does the washing and purification of the priests in the laver of the Old Testament Tabernacle have any significance for the New Testament ordinance of baptism?

Answer: The Tabernacle laver (made of bronze) is first mentioned in Exodus 30:18. The priests were required to use it to wash both their hands and feet every time they went from the courtyard into the Most Holy Place – upon penalty of death. Its primary function was practical: sanitary hygiene. Many of the priests handled raw meat and bloody flesh. Although “germs” weren’t common knowledge in those days, God certainly knew about their relation to disease, and many of His laws protected the people from things like Hepatitis A (which is easily spread by the failure to wash hands when dealing with shared food preparation) without their knowledge. However, the laver also had a symbolic function. Most people know the expression “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” While this expression is not precisely from the Bible, it does express the idea that holiness is associated with purity. The idea that people would approach the presence of the holy God with dirty hands and feet would be offensive as a reminder of how wrong it would be for sinful people to approach a pure and righteous God. When gentiles would convert to Judaism in the Old Testament, they would be baptized as a symbol of washing away their sin and “uncleanliness.” New Testament baptism is different, though. For Christians, our sin was borne and expiated by Jesus on the Cross, and our baptism, which should be subsequent to conversion, symbolizes our identification with Christ in His death (going down into the water), burial (being under the water), and Resurrection (coming up out of the water).

The Tabernacle Completed, Inspected, and Turned over to the Owner

July 18, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Exodus | 3 Comments
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And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.

Exodus 40:1-2

The Tabernacle was set up for the first time on the first day of the new year (which would be sometime around March-April on our modern calendar).

Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him, so did he. And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up.

Exodus 40:16-17

This would have been about 11 months after the people reached Mt. Sinai.

One of the themes of Exodus Chapter 40 is “just as the LORD commanded him.”

And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.

Exodus 40:33

Moses wasn’t the designer or the builder or even the general contractor – but he was the quality control supervisor.

Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

Exodus 40:34-38

Imagine or recall the feeling of seeing your baby for the first time or a house you were having built finally finished or your wedding day finally arrives or your child gets married or graduates – but Moses could not go in while the Lord’s presence filled it. A builder is no longer allowed to go into a home he has been hired to build once he hands over the keys to the owner, unless he has the owner’s permission.

Command-Fulfillment Pattern

June 28, 2016 at 11:04 am | Posted in Exodus | 5 Comments
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The repetition in Exodus 35-38 is an example of the “command-fulfillment” pattern. The Holy Spirit could have inspired Moses to write, “They did everything the LORD told them to do” or “and so it was done,” but, instead, He restates the instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle. This command-fulfillment pattern was also used in the description by God to Moses of what would happen in Egypt with the plagues, and then the recitation of the fulfillment of it exactly as He said.

One reason for the use of the command-fulfillment pattern was to illustrate externally what was happening internally. The commandment against coveting, for example, is difficult to document and verify, but the command to sew a scarlet and blue and gold curtain was not. Therefore, the pattern demonstrates a verification of the people’s obedience.

Another reason was that this would be a teaching tool for the priests to use later in instructing future generations of priests and people in how to worship Yahweh. It is intended for learning by repetition.

A third reason is that it would remind people that worship of God is supposed to be sacrificial, not “easy” – especially with them going into a land where an idol would be hanging from every tree and standing in every field. It would serve as a safeguard against lazy idolatry by reminding the people that the real God deserves attention and sacrifice.

A fourth reason was that preparing to worship is itself worship. This would be a good reminder that everything is an act of worship.

A fifth reason was that God graciously allows willing participation. The structure of the commands told them they needed to “think” and “act” in obedience. This would teach the people to obey God in what He has specifically said, but to also use their brains and their backs to honor Him with the freedom He allows. Free obedience seems contradictory, but it is really a beautiful paradox found only in true worship of the true God.

Sixth, spotting minor changes between the commands and the fulfillment reminds us not to “skim” – not to take for granted any passages of Scripture. Every jot and tittle is important to God. It also teaches us the importance of how, as children of God, we are to exercise precision in how we speak. For example, Christians shouldn’t say that they are “proud” of their kids. They shouldn’t “thank their lucky stars.”

All the gold that was occupied for the work in all the work of the holy place, even the gold of the offering, was twenty and nine talents, and seven hundred and thirty shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary.

Exodus 38:24

That’s between 2000 and 2200 pounds of gold.

And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.

Exodus 38:25-26

That’s about 7545 pounds of silver.

After they finished all the furnishings and the priests’ garments, they brought everything to Moses to inspect:

Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished: and the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they. And they brought the tabernacle unto Moses, the tent, and all his furniture, his taches, his boards, his bars, and his pillars, and his sockets,

Exodus 39:32-33

And he did inspect it thoroughly:

According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work. And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.

Exodus 39:42-43

The idea is not that Moses gave a cursory look-see. Remember, he had seen these things in a vision in the glory cloud on Mt. Sinai. He knew how God wanted them to look and function, and he did a very careful and thorough inspection. It is noteworthy that such a project was accomplished, but it is truly remarkable that it was done “as the LORD had commanded.”

Now it needed to be set up.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.

Exodus 40:1-2

The Old Covenant Sanctuary and the New Covenant Sanctuary

February 29, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 6 Comments
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For the Hebrew believers the New Covenant was an extreme departure from everything they had done to attempt to keep a right standing with God. For those of us who have grown up around New Testament Christianity it would be like if we started having church standing on our heads! This is one reason why the Holy Spirit, in the letter to the Hebrews, breaks things down element by element, piece by piece, as if to say,”Look, it’s okay to draw near to God under the New Covenant.” The logical conclusion for 1st Century Jewish Christians would have been, “If we keep drawing closer and closer, we’re going to wind up in the Holy of Holies – that’s as close as you can get – AND WE CAN’T GO IN THERE!

So in Hebrews Chapter 9 the Holy Ghost explains, using contrasts, just how superior the sanctuary in Heaven (the New Covenant sanctuary) is to the sanctuary in the Tabernacle or the Temple. It is also important to remember that, for New Testament believers, our “sanctuary” is not really a “building.” Today, if you are truly a believer, the Spirit lives within you.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

I Corinthians 6:19

However, keeping that in mind, here are some contrasts between the Old Covenant sanctuary and the Heavenly sanctuary.

1. The Old Covenant sanctuary was man-made.

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

Hebrews 9:1

The earthly sanctuary was limited by decay and locale. The eternal sanctuary is permanent – spoken into existence by God.

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

Hebrews 9:11

2. The Old Covenant sanctuary was a “type” of a greater reality.

For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

Hebrews 9:2-5

The pattern for a dress lets the seamstress see what it’s meant to be, but the actual dress is much more useful and fulfilling for the wearer. The Old Covenant sanctuary, by its very nature, pointed to something greater.

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 9:12-14

The sacrifice made in the New Covenant sanctuary actually cleans the conscience, instead of just making someone ceremonially clean.

3. The Old Covenant sanctuary acted as a boundary.

But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:

Hebrews 9:7

Only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year, but in the New Covenant sanctuary, spiritually, we can have unlimited access to God, through Christ because of His shed blood.

4. The Old Covenant sanctuary was temporary.

The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

Hebrews 9:8

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

Matthew 27:50-51

The New Covenant sanctuary is not only permanent, but is home to a permanent ministry.

For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

Hebrews 9:24

Even the Jewish genealogical records have been lost or destroyed, and their religions leaders and historians are not sure who is supposed to be ministering as a priest today.

5. The Old Covenant sanctuary was set up to deal with ceremonial and carnal purity.

Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

Hebrews 9:9-10

The New Covenant sanctuary deals with the heart (the conscience). It changes what is on the inside.

For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 9:13-14

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Hebrews 9:27

Have you taken advantage of the true – the better – the superior – the everlasting ministry of the sanctuary in Heaven?

Oh, be Careful, Little Ears, Thumbs, and Toes

June 29, 2015 at 3:43 pm | Posted in Exodus | 7 Comments
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The framework of the Tabernacle was built with acacia wood, which is strong, pliable, and abundant in the region where the Israelites were encamped. Acacia wood was also used in the furnishings for the Tabernacle, some of which would then be covered with gold, although some of the furnishings were actually made of solid gold.

The inside coverings of the Tabernacle were linen, woven, and thicker and coarser toward the outside. Goat hides with the fur still attached were used for one layer. The metals and materials that were used went from being more precious on the inside of the Tabernacle – closer to the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies – to less precious as the construction moved further toward the outside.

The altar that would be used for the burnt offerings was similar to what we would think of as a big grill. There was also a laver for washing.

All the people who were allowed to worship would be allowed in the courtyard. Only priests could go into the Holy Place, although this area was visible from the outside.

There was the Table of the Bread of the Presence, which symbolized God’s fellowship with His people. In ancient customs – especially between the parties of a covenant – the eating of a meal together signified honor, respect, and trust. There was a lampstand for light, and to represent God’s light in the world. There was the altar of incense, by which the people were reminded of the need to live lives that smelled pleasing to God.

Only the High Priest could go into the Most Holy Place where the Ark was. No one else could even see inside there. The Ark was wrapped for moving, and carried by poles inserted through rings, because it was holy, but also to keep it from being damaged or worn.

In Exodus Chapter 29 we can read about the ordination or installation of the priests. They had special washing rituals, which symbolized washing off the world. They had special clothing so that they could be visually recognized as dedicated unto God. They performed special sacrifices to remind them that the external things they were doing were only symbols, and that the real focus was on God.

And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.

Exodus 29:19-20

They received symbols of special consecration upon their:
-Ears, to remind them of the importance of what they would hear – the Word of God and the petitions of the people;
-Thumbs, to remind them of what they were to do with their hands – pick up the burdens of God’s people and minister to Him in symbolic sacrifices;
-Toes, to remind them of where they were to go – into and among God’s people, and into the Tabernacle.

Just like New Testament believers, they were called to present their bodies as living sacrifices. If we fail to surrender our bodies to the Lord, it will do us no good to plead the excuse that God looks upon the heart and isn’t concerned with our outward actions, because our outward actions are the best indication of what’s really going on in our hearts. God wants both – the inward and the outward. Those of us who are Christian fathers and husbands especially need to be careful about what we listen to, what we pick up, and where our feet go.

Worship Is about Sacrifice

June 12, 2015 at 9:31 am | Posted in Exodus | 7 Comments
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The instructions that God gave to Moses and the people for the construction of the Tabernacle let them know that this was going to be a movable structure, but its mobility was not merely functional, like a circus tent. The purpose of the Tabernacle would be greater than simply providing shade or a central location to worship. It was supposed to inspire appreciation for God’s attributes.

The Tabernacle would point to God’s strength and His beauty:

Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them.

Exodus 26:1

It would inspire reverence of Him:

And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place.

Exodus 26:33-34

This was going to represent the place where the presence of God on earth lived.

It would be a place of sacrificial worship:

And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basons, and his fleshhooks, and his firepans: all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass.

Exodus 27:3

True worship always involves more than receiving. True worship is primarily about giving – giving that which is costly and valuable to us – ultimately, giving ourselves.

In Exodus Chapter 28 we see the ordination of the Aaronic priesthood. The priests were ministers – to the people, yes, but not primarily to the people.

And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.

Exodus 28:1

We forget this aspect of ministry too often. We think we are doing what we do for others or ourselves (and they and we do benefit), but true priests ministered unto the Lord, which means that we need to ask, “Is what I’m doing pleasing to Him?” In order to know what’s pleasing to Him, we need to ask Him, by looking for the answer in His Word. We must think of Him even before the people who are in danger, even before our own children, even before my spouse. The very clothes and garments of the priests reflected that whatsoever they were to do, they were to do it unto the Lord.

And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.

Exodus 28:2


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