Wildflower Tea August 11th 2020
Under the direction of Karla Myers, the basement was once again transformed into a beautiful tea room. This year, due to the pandemic, she and her team of planners were confronted with the added challenge of considering how to adjust the seating and serving arrangements. By placing fewer seats at larger tables, extra space was provided without destroying the friendly atmosphere. Plastic gloves were available at the head of the serving table.
Several ladies spent Saturday and/or Monday at the church. The hours setting up tables, hanging decorations, folding napkins, etc. were well spent. Conversation sweetened the work, and many hands made the load lighter.
Maurina served the ladies by planning the menu. The recipes were easy to follow, and the dishes were pretty and packed with flavor. Bonnie’s Hibiscus tea was refreshing, especially at the end of a hot and humid August evening.
Friendship was the theme of the program. Most of the ladies contributed by reading selected quotations. Julie and Jacquie sang an arrangement of the hymn, “Fairest Lord Jesus”.
Our special speaker was Joie Fitzpatrick, who spoke to us about the Best Friend, Jesus Christ. She reminded us that he is our Familiar, Faithful & Forgiving friend who desires our Fellowship. We were challenged to find Christ’s counsel for our good and our growth in His word. We need to read, to love, to listen, and to hide His word in our hearts. It will teach, help, encourage, chide, correct, and show us our need of repentance, as well as reveal the glory of His grace.
Bonnie closed the meeting by thanking the ladies and inviting all to join the church group as they plan to begin a Bible study on subject of Joy this September.
The priests were to be clothed in a special way. They were clothed for glory and beauty because they were the servants in the house of God. Their clothing was in that sense livery, such as the servants of a great house wear, marking them out, signaling the dignity of their employer. The priestly garments were expensive clothes.
The main garment was called an ephod, which was an apron-like garment of costly material. On the shoulders of the ephod were onyx stones, each with six of the names of the tribes of Israel. The meaning is that the high priest who wore this garment carried the people on his shoulders. That was a priestly function: to represent the people before God.
Resting on the ephod and attached to it carefully was a pouch with a metal plate on the front called the breastplate. This golden plate had twelve different jewels set on it: four across and three down. These once again were engraved with the names of the twelve tribes, so that the priest had them on his heart. The point again is that he is their representative before God.
Under the ephod was a blue, sleeveless tunic, which had a hem bordered with yarn balls shaped like pomegranates alternating with metal bells. There are two things to observe here. One is the theme of trees and fruit that you get in the decorations of the Tabernacle and see emphasized more in the Temple. There is the suggestion of a garden, the garden, in fact, of Eden. Where did God come to walk with Adam before sin broke the relationship? It was in a garden, and the priest represents a return to that. What is the meaning of the bell? When the priest was doing his work in the tent, nobody saw him. Only priests could go in, and there was a section, the Holy of Holies, where nobody except the high priest could go. The bells, however, sounded as he went about his business: he could be heard though he could not be seen. The sound of a priest doing efficacious work in God's presence on behalf of God's people is the sound of the Gospel. The Gospel after all is a report of a transaction Jesus Christ our high priest has conducted on our behalf in God's presence, a report that he still intercedes for us in a place we can't see, and a promise of better access to God than the old covenant afforded. The text says that the bell had to sound so that Aaron might not die. That is why I think it represents the Gospel, the sound of the promise of the Gospel, the actual efficacious transaction without which nobody can live.
On the high priest's head was a turban, and surmounting the turban was a plate of gold in which was engraved "Holiness to the Lord." In connection with this garment we read that Aaron would bear any guilt from the holy things that the people consecrated. Having the engraved plate on his forehead, the gifts would be accepted. It is a constant reminder that the people brought contamination, uncleanness, and that which was unholy to God in whose presence everything must be made holy, fitting for him. God established a Tabernacle so that by means of these shadows and symbols they could have access to him. It was a limited access, but it was real access because it was a shadow and symbol of Jesus Christ, who really is holy, who really makes us clean, and who bears away our guilt.
The striking thing about the instructions for the oil used to light the seven-branched lamp in God’s sanctuary is where the instructions occur. They do not occur in chapter 26 when we learn about the lamp. Nor do they occur later when we learn about the incense used in the tabernacle, or when the fragrant anointing oil is described. The instructions for the oil that powers the oil lamps is given to us after the instructions for the perimeter fence and before the instructions for the priestly clothing.
When we think about the order in which the furnishings of the tabernacle are given, we find a certain motion. For example: the first thing described is the Ark of the Covenant, after which we move to the table and then the lamp. Then we get the tent itself and move on from that to the bronze altar outside the tent. Anybody who knows about the furnishings of the tabernacle will realize we haven’t had the smaller incense altar yet. That is something that goes inside the tent, and yet it is not described when every other item within the tent is. Clearly there are associations being made. This is what we need to do with the oil. We need to associate it with what surrounds it fully to understand what it means.
Once we are in the outer perimeter, which is what comes after the bronze altar and before the oil, we are in the area in which most of the priestly work was done, but not all. The priestly work also included a daily trimming of the lamps. With that daily trimming, we will eventually learn, there also came the offering of incense. But before that we have to have a priesthood.
So here is the order of events:
The oil is a way of connecting that which is continually harvested and continually brought through the camp to God’s dwelling, with the inner dwelling. It represents the best of the olive crop, the bounty, and it has a high and holy function: to shed light on the table in God’s house all night long. “The pure oil signified the gifts and graces of the Spirit, which are communicated to all believers from Christ the good olive, of whose fulness we receive (Zec. 4:11, 12), and without which our light cannot shine before men.” -Matthew Henry
Bringing the oil to its place is something only the priesthood can do, and so it is associated with them. It is something that must be constantly renewed, that comes from without and fuels the ongoing light and splendor of that place where prayers are offered up symbolically in incense by the high priest morning and evening when he trims the lamps. “This office God enjoins upon the priests, because they ought to be ministers of light when they are interpreting the Law, which David calls ‘the lamp of our feet, and the light of our paths.’” -John Calvin
The perimeter fence of the tabernacle enclosed a space that was 150 ft. by 75. It consisted of linen curtains suspended from posts which were 7 ½ ft. high and set 7 ½ ft. apart. The posts were placed in bronze bases, and the curtains were attached with silver hooks and rings. The enclosure had one entrance 30 ft. long which was designated by more decorative linen curtains. No doubt there were also cords stabilizing the posts: we learn that the pegs were made of bronze.
Bronze was the level that touched the ground. The Tabernacle was where God came to live with his people. They pitched their tents and lived their lives on the dusty floor of the wilderness. God joined them, and the place where his habitation met the camp was at the base of this perimeter tent: the bronze level.
The bronze altar was where what they brought was consecrated to God’s purposes, and the threshold of the sanctuary also was made of bronze. The threshold of the inner sanctuary, the space crossing between the holy and the holy of holies, was of silver, just as the higher fixtures of the post were. And the whole pictured an ascent, in three stages, to the place where God rested between the Cherubim.
The perimeter fence traced the outer boundary between that which was common and daily, between where God’s people lived and that which was consecrated, the space where sacrifices were made, cleansing was obtained, and God’s holy presence sanctified the lives of his people. It was a porous membrane, we could say, that allowed the people to approach God and obtain pardon and cleansing in his holy presence.
It reminded them that they must approach God on his terms, and “the majesty of holy things was shewn them in this type, in order that they might reverently approach the worship of God; and they were reminded of their own unworthiness, that they might humble themselves the more before God, and that fear might beget penitence.” - John Calvin
What is an altar? A place of sacrifice. Practically speaking, an altar is much like a grill. It was a place where a fire was lit and on which things were burned. Symbolically, however, an altar is a mountain. It stands on the ground where human beings are and raises things up to the skies. From the altar the smoke of the burnt offerings went up. The altar was much like mount Sinai, to which the people approached, and on the smoking top of which God came down. Sacrifices were symbolic meals, and it was on the altar that the choice portion that belonged to God was consumed. It was God’s place at the table, in that sense.
The bronze altar was 7 ½ ft square, and 4 ½ ft high. Its construction was such that it was hollow, and was probably filled with earth and stones, which insulated the bronze covered board of the frame. It had horns on each of the corners, and these represented the power of the altar. Blood was daubed on these horns in cleansing rituals. It also consecrated things. We read, when it is finally dedicated, that whatever touched it would be made holy, or devoted, or consecrated. That means that whatever touched it became the Lord’s possession, no longer useful for common purposes but for special, consecrated purposes. It was a warning to use it only for holy purposes.
That it was bronze is associated with the lowest order of the precious metals of the temple, the level that touched the ground at the borders of the encampment. This bronze altar was set in the courtyard, the enclosure which set off the holy space of God’s dwelling from the space of his people’s dwelling and where God’s people could come with their gifts of devotion, of cleansing, of communion. God received the gifts brought from the life of his people. They were prepared and in contact with the altar, consecrated so they might be received by a holy God. Holiness to the Lord, was the legend on the High Priest’s crown: and only holy things would be received.
That altar represents Jesus Christ, who is not only the sacrifice and the one sacrificing as high priest. Jesus Christ is that which consecrates us, the one who is not only clean, but cleansing. In union with him we are consecrated, devoted to the Lord and no longer available for common or profane purposes. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11. The words of Paul, especially what he says in the following verses 15-20 seem to me to allude to the idea of contact with holy things and how that renders one consecrated and unfit for common usage. He was thinking of the shadow of Christ in Exodus, and the meaning for us who no longer need a bronze altar of the spiritual realities the bronze altar represented. Our body and our spirit now belong to God, Paul says, and can only be used for his glory. We have come into contact with that which turns us into living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God.
Now this brazen altar was a type of Christ dying to make atonement for our sins: the wood would have been consumed by the fire from heaven if it had not been secured by the brass; nor could the human nature of Christ have borne the wrath of God if it had not been supported by a divine power. Christ sanctified himself for his church, as their altar (Jn. 17:19), and by his mediation sanctifies the daily services of his people, who have also a right to eat of this altar (Heb. 13:10), for they serve at it as spiritual priests. To the horns of this altar poor sinners fly for refuge when justice pursues them, and they are safe in virtue of the sacrifice there offered.
 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 133–134). Peabody: Hendrickson.
In the 25th chapter of Exodus we read about the furnishings for the tent where he was to dwell. In the 26th chapter we read about the tent itself.
If you convert a cubit to 18 inches (as the New Living Translation does), what you get is a frame that is 45 ft. long by some 15 ft. wide. Two layers of cloth and then two layers of leather cover that frame. The first layer of cloth is of the highest quality, with bright colors and with a pattern depicting cherubim, which are fierce angelic protectors of access to God. This cloth consists of ten bolts that are 42 x 6 ft., sewn together in two groups of five. The two resulting 42 x 30 pieces are held together with golden clasps, like a huge zipper, so that the total spread of the cloth covering the frame is 60 x 42, draped over that 45 x 15, which is 15 ft. high. The second layer of cloth is rougher, common tent material made of black goat’s hair. Instead of ten bolts of cloth, they made 11, and they were slightly longer than the first bolts: 45 x 6. Two panels were created by sewing 5 and 6 of the bolts together, and the resulting panels were clasped together again in the middle. That 66 x 45 cloth was draped over the first, and entirely overlapped it. The inner cloth had gold clasps, the second one had bronze clasps. So that you get an inner luxury layer, and an outer more functional one. Over this they stretched two protective outer layers of one whole piece so that the tent would be thoroughly weather proof.
The theme of the metal used in the Tabernacle is an important one. At the base of the gold-sheathed boards that form the frame, we get silver sockets. Gold is higher up when we are starting from the bottom. The symbolism with the clasps is that gold is further in, when we are talking about the covering. The further in you get, the higher the quality.
Not only is there a sense that inward is better, but also that upward is better. Within the tent there is a partition, and this is hung from the clasps in the tent above and also supported by pillars with hooks. That partition a curtain of the same luxury cloth as before, the pillars are sheathed in gold, and they are set in silver sockets. There is another similar curtain covering the Eastern, or front opening of the tent, and this is set in sockets of bronze. The point of these sockets is to form thresholds: when you go into the tent, you cross from the baser bronze into the nobler silver, and when you cross into the Holiest of all, you cross from silver presumably to gold. The point is that you move upward, that the Tabernacle has an ascending symbolism that indicates that higher is better.
Further up and further in!
This is God’s dwelling: a carefully framed tent that all fits together. Repeatedly you read God saying: sew these things together, the point is to have one tent. All the intricate instructions come together as one place, one dwelling of God.
What does it mean now?
It was a gesture at the church, and also a gesture at our life in the world to come. The whole point of Scripture is that we once met with God in the garden, but we sinned and are exiled from God’s presence. Cherubim keep watch, and make sure we don’t have access. With the Tabernacle, limited access was opened, but not unlimited, free access. In Christ, we have access; we are the Temple not made with hands, we are being put together for a holy habitation of the Lord.
Paul was a tentmaker, and he was one who was used to build the church, to speak to if of unity, of having many members but one body, of all coming together to serve the Lord. We serve the Lord as his dwelling place, as we gather corporately. We serve the Lord when we gather to do New Covenant worship: praise, prayer, preaching, reading, and the obedient observance of what God has ordained. The Tabernacle pictures how we should work together as a congregation, taking our different functions in ways that help and strengthen and unite each other. The Tabernacle also pictures our life in the world to come, with God dwelling among his people, when we will each one use the whole of our being to manifest the glory of God to that complete and innumerable and united society of God’s redeemed.
The order in which Moses is told about the various elements and furnishings of the tabernacle is important. We find that he begins with the ark, and then he moves on to the table and the lamp, after which he tells him how to make the tent. There is an object that is left out and explained later: the small altar of incense. That is not explained till after the great bronze altar and the tabernacle’s perimeter are given, and before the bronze laver. What is curious about this is that the small altar, which is placed inside the tent, is not described when all the rest of the objects in the tent are.
The reason for this is that the objects that come together are the furnishings for God’s dwelling, and the altar is not a furnishing. It is not one of the things for the home, but rather is a function of something else. What we have in the ark, is a footstool, and then we get a table and a lamp.
God has no bed in his house, in fact, the lamp is lit all night long. Why? He who keeps Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
So why, then, does God have a table and a lamp?
We can understand the table better if we look at the four things it says were on it. Exodus 25:29 You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring.
The dishes are that on which the showbread was displayed: two rows of six loaves. This is what we associate with this table, but that’s not all that was placed on this table. What are the pans, the pitchers and the bowls? Is this God’s holy cupboard? Not quite.
The pans are for incense. The showbread was offered with incense, and incense is symbolic of prayer offered up. So you have a table with bread and prayer. What about the pitchers? For the wine, which was poured out as a drink offering. When they poured out the wine, it was poured into the bowls, or cups, because that must be done decently and in order. Everything is done decently and in order in God’s house.
What do you get? You have a table with bread, wine, and prayer constantly laid out in God’s dwelling place. You have no doubt heard of something similar elsewhere!
It is the table of the Lord.
We also have a lamp. If you look at the description of this lamp you will realize that it is a stylized almond tree. So why an almond tree? Why not an olive tree? Why a tree at all? Why a tree of light?
Almond trees were the first to blossom in the spring. They were for that reason known as watchers. It was a watching tree. The lamp, then, was intended to suggest a watching tree, a watching thing, an illuminator that watched as well, that saw, that understood. The lamps were set into that gleaming, elaborate golden lampstand so that the light would fall directly on the table. It illumined the table of the Lord. As you probably know, oil is a picture of the Spirit, and the light of this illumination that falls on the table of the Lord is representative of the Spirit’s accompanying the words of Scripture, the words of promise, making them effectual to those who receive them with faith.
It is the lamp of the Holy Spirit, shedding attentive light, making all things in God’s dwelling place clear and bright.
And so you have in God’s house, a picture of the Holy Trinity. The Father, monarchial, is enthroned above the cherubim who keep watch at his footstool. From the Father two proceed from all eternity, the Son and the Spirit. The Son is seen in the table, he approaches his people on a mission, giving us true nourishment. And the Spirit illumines it, so that when the sustenance to be had in the Lord’s house is received by faith, it nourishes eternal life. The pattern that Moses saw on the mountain spoke to this spiritual truth: when we come to God’s presence by faith, having access through the merits of Jesus Christ, we are caught up into the life of the Blessed Trinity. There we dwell in God's house. There we can live in communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“Have the people make an Ark of acacia wood—a sacred chest 45 inches long, 27 inches wide, and 27 inches high.” – NLT
The first thing God tells Moses to build is this chest. The movement is from the most holy object outward to the perimeter fence, in chapters 25-27.
I find the NLT helpful in providing measurements we can understand. The downside is that it gives us a sense of precision which ancient measurements did not have. There was no standard that we know of. The unit of measure was the forearm, which we usually translate with the term ‘cubit’. But whose forearm?
Still, the guess is accurate enough. Here is the point of the measurements: they were all based on human proportions. This chest is measured to human proportions.
We read that once the wooden box is made, it is covered over in gold, into which are set four gold rings. These rings have gold-covered wooden poles set through them. This is like putting handles on a trunk: they make it portable, and they are never removed. It is a chest that can be moved.
Then they make a cover of solid gold. This is the lid to the chest. It is often called the ‘mercy seat’, and it is not wrong to do so. But the lid is called a cover, and the Hebrew word is one that includes a covering for sin, or an atonement. That is the point of this chest: it is a place for atonement, and in that sense a locus of mercy. Nobody physically sits on the mercy seat.
What the cover has are two cherubs. Cherubs, or cherubim if you use the Hebrew plural, are composite beings. They are the beings that guard the way back to Eden, and here they are guarding the place of God’s presence in the Tabernacle. These are images, images of beings with wings, that could be human in shape, or could be quadrupeds (it appears that scholarly opinion inclines to the latter—google an Assyrian cherub and see what you get). They were meant to be fierce and intimidating, not reassuring. They are not worshipped, however. These are images of guardians, they restrict access, they are God’s security detail.
And that, God says, is where I will be.
What does all this represent?
This chest at the heart of the Tabernacle and at the heart of old covenant worship is a picture of the believer’s heart in the New Covenant. Where does God write his law, where is it treasured up and stored? What is the receptacle? The human heart. What is sprinkled clean by the blood of Christ’s atonement? The human heart is where his blood is applied as a cleansing, to cover our sins and to purify our desires. The old covenant chest was built to human proportions, and it was such a thing as could be moved whenever God desired it. That is the regenerate heart: responsive, moved to ready and eager service of God. In the New Covenant God is enthroned in his gathered people, they are the Tabernacle in whose midst God dwells, and the innermost thing of the innermost place is the individual human heart: where God is enthroned, where access is no longer jealously prevented by fearsome cherubim.
Having loaded his people down with the treasures of Egypt, and having entered into covenant with them at Sinai, the Lord spoke to Moses and told him to take up an offering.
What was the purpose of the offering?
To build a holy place where God himself would dwell with his people. That was the purpose, and that would be the motivation. God who had shown his mighty arm, who had fought for his people and delivered them would live with them. God with them, or God with us, leading to the climactic end of the book of Exodus.
The offering was not compulsory, but voluntary. They had a new master, a good master, one unlike Pharaoh and the taskmasters of Egypt. He would be served by sincere desires and willing sacrifice.
The offering was not to be anything at all, but specifically what God wanted in order to build and furnish his house. This may seem capricious, but only if we do not understand God’s being and character. As meditate your way through the furnishings and structures and the meanings of all they will build, you will understand that God is not doing this in order to have a house according to his arbitrary tastes, but to set up a system of meanings about himself, ourselves, what separates us, and the solution that is coming in Jesus Christ.
And the offering was to be then turned into a sanctuary, a set apart place made not according to their best ingenuity, but according to a pattern that God would show them. It was a place revealed, and a place of revelation: the tabernacle itself revealed God’s purposes for his people.
This collection was the reverse of a bazaar, where all kinds of goods are displayed and the consumer comes and gets and takes away. What God had given them in Egypt, the Israelites now brought together and collected. They gave it to God and used it for God, so that God might have a place to live among them.
And that is a pattern for how we serve the Lord: from the heart, bringing what he requires, and using it as he directs. We find that when we do, just like the tabernacle did of old, we also accomplish God’s own purposes in the best way possible.
Having heard the cry of his people in Egypt, having come down to the burning bush on the mountain, having sent Moses—however reluctantly—having done wonders in Egypt so that his people were begged at last to leave, plundering the Egyptians, having drowned his enemies in the sea, having made the water sweet, provided bread from heaven, given victory over Amalek, poured water out of the rock, and brought them at last to Sinai, God thunders his terms to the people till they can stand no more.
They beg Moses to deal directly with God instead. Moses is the intermediary.
Which makes for a lot of work for Moses.
He goes up and down the mountain some seven times. He writes the book of the covenant. On the day he ratifies the treaty he gets up early and builds an altar. God had specified that the altar had to be made of earth or of uncut stones. One of the reasons for this is that the altar is a mountain: it evokes a mountain. The mountain with fire and smoking before which this altar is, is where God is. In the treaty they are about to make, the altar represents God. The pillars that Moses then raises, represent the people, the twelve tribes of Israel.
What is interesting is that Moses then has young men do the slaughtering of animals. We might think he should get help building altars and raising up memorial stones, and then do the priestly slaughtering himself. Why doesn’t he?
Because he is the mediator, he’s the intermediary: he brings the people and God together, so he has to be the one who builds the representative objects. When it comes to the slaughter, he has something more important to do as mediator: he handles the precious blood.
Half of the blood he splashes on the altar he’s made. He soaks the thing in blood probably—we don’t know how many animals were slaughtered, but if each tribe contributes just one to each kind of sacrifice, we get 24 total. Half of that precious and costly life goes to the altar. When you make a covenant it is solemnized with something serious, something to do with life and death. Hence the blood.
The other half of the blood is collected in pans. It says he ‘sprinkled’ it, but what is more likely here is that he hurled it out in an arc over the people in an attempt to get blood on as many of them as possible. It was probably more than one pan he had on hand, and though not everybody could have been in range, no doubt many were thus spattered. And knowing what it represented, they received it willingly.
Blood is a cleanser, and that is what these people who have purified themselves, used up precious water in the desert washing their clothes to stand in them clean and receive the blood, that is what they needed: cleansing. They were owning the covenant verbally and now through the cleansing and solemnizing that this ‘sprinkling’ involved. You can’t approach a holy God without cleansing, and that is driven home again and again. This sprinkling is a culminative moment for that.
That is why, when the 70 representatives of the people went up the mountain to eat the fellowship sacrifice—half of which was burn on the altar, as God consumed his part of the meal, and then half of which was eaten by the human participants—it says that they saw God and he did not lay hand on them. Who can approach God and not die? They were cleansed, they had a kind of access to him, they saw a vision of God and did not die.
They are in a way returning to Eden. The Garden of Eden, you remember, had four mighty rivers coming out of it. It is hard to picture what exactly the layout was, but one thing is certain about running water, it flows downhill. Which means that Eden was a mountain, the mountain where God came down to and communed with his people. Sinai is a similar mountain, but the access is restricted, mediated, temporary, and partial. It is a picture of what they want to return to, but not the whole way back.
The whole way back is with better blood, blood that truly cleanses us from sin, blood which obtains real pardon. The way back is through the offering of a better sacrifice, one that was obedient as no animal can be, perfectly willing always to do what God required, and whose obedience can be imputed to us. It is only through these merits we can approach God. Jesus Christ came down from heaven and he took up humanity. He is the mountain of the Lord, where God dwells with his people and they with him. Where he is, there is Zion, where God has determined to dwell among his people forever. Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, Jesus Christ mediates the new covenant, uniting God and man, bringing heaven to earth, sprinkling us clean forever.