Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying,
I. MAN IS IGNORANT: THE GRACE OF GOD IS SEEN IN THE DISTINCT ENUNCIATION OF HIS WILL. The light of reason, the voice of conscience, the promptings of emotion, - these can inform us only to a slight extent of the worship and service likely to be acceptable to God. Hence the surpassing worth of the full, clear-toned, authoritative utterances of Scripture. That God is Spirit, Light, and Love, that he is holy and almighty, are declarations for which we must be devoutly thankful. The Epicureans pictured the happy gods as dwelling in unruffled serenity far from all cognizance of or interference with the concerns of men. Inspiration removes our suspicions, reassures us with the words, "The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers." Errors in the manner of our approach are prevented. Some would have presumptuously drawn near without the accustomed offering; others might bring unsuitable gifts - human sacrifices, unclean animals, etc. A God less kind might suffer the people to incur the terrible consequences of ignorance, but not if Nadab and Abihu perish it shall not be for lack of instruction. "Go ye into all the world, teaching them to observe whatsoever things I have commanded you."
II. MAN IS FEARFUL AND PERTURBED IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD: IT IS GRACIOUSLY ORDAINED THAT SPECIAL MESSENGERS SHALL BE THE APPOINTED CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION. "The Lord called unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel." When God appeared on Sinai and thundered out His Law, the terrified people implored that God might not Himself speak again lest they should die. Their entreaty was regarded, and Moses became the medium of conveying the mind of God. Should Jehovah be for ever appearing in person, his visits would be attended with such overwhelming awe that the purport of his words might be in danger of being lost or mistaken. When embarrassed, man's thoughts are dispersed, and memory fails. It was better, therefore, that holy men should speak unto men as moved by the Holy Ghost. The striking instance is the assumption of our nature by the Son of God, putting a veil over the features of Deity that weak sinful mortals might draw near without trembling and admire the gracious words proceeding out of his mouth. Even children hear and understand the words of Jesus. And here we may remark that the utterances of the messengers retest be received as coming from the Most High. In the appointed place God talked with Moses, and on his repeating the instructions to the Israelites they were bound to attend to them. It is equally incumbent upon us to respect the decrees of God delivered through prophets and apostles, and above all to honour the Father by honouring the Son, believing his words, trusting him as the Teacher sent from God. Preachers are "ambassadors for Christ." We would give thanks without ceasing when hearers receive the truth from our lips, not as the word of men, but the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
III. MAN IS SINFUL: THE GRACE OF GOD PROVIDES MEDIATORIAL ACCESS TO THE HOLY ONE.
1. Sacrifices appointed. "Bring an offering" without blemish, and place your hand upon its head, to show that it is willingly offered and stands instead of the offerer. And "it shall be accepted to make atonement" for you, to cover your person and works with the robe of mercy and righteousness, so that the Divine gaze may be fastened upon you without displeasure. By the grace of God it was arranged that Jesus Christ should taste death for every man. His was the one offering that, through accomplishing the will of God, sanctifies all who make mention of his name. Who will hesitate to appear before the Most High? Let faith lay her hand upon the Saviour, rejoicing in the conviction that "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."
2. A priesthood. The Levites were set apart for the service of Jehovah, instead of all the firstborn of Israel. And of the Levites, the sons of Aaron were to minister continually before the Lord, observing all his regulations and maintaining constant purification of themselves, so that without insulting the holiness of God they might interpose between him and his people. Priesthood bridged the chasm between sinful creatures and a pure Creator. The priesthood sanctified the entire nation, which was theoretically a "kingdom of priests." Jesus Christ has concentred the priestly functions in himself. He has entered into the heaven as our Forerunner, to sprinkle the atoning blood on the altar. And now with true heart in full assurance of faith we may draw nigh to God.
IV. MAN'S CONDITION VARIES; THE GRACE OF GOD PROVIDES FOR ITS INEQUALITIES.
1. Notice is taken of the poor, and appropriate offerings permitted. Oriental monarchs often despised and rejected the subjects who were unable to enrich their royal coffers. But God is no respecter of persons. It is one of the glories of the gospel that it has been preached to the poor, and is adapted to their needs. God expects every man to come and testify his respect and affection. The poor may bring "turtle-doves or young pigeons." The way was thus opened for the parents of him who "became poor for our sakes." It is to be feared that many withhold a contribution because it seems so insignificant. But the Lord is as sorry to see the mite retained in the pocket as the gold which the wealthy refuse to part with. "If there be first a willing mind it is accepted according to that a man hath." Do not decline to engage in Christian work on the plea of defective ability! Surely some fitting department of service can be found. It is often the one talent that is hid in a napkin.
2. The offering of the poor is pronounced equally acceptable. Note the repetition of "it is a sacrifice, of a sweet savour unto the Lord" after the 17th verse. It is rather the spirit than the action itself which God regards. Not the results of labour so much as its motives and the proportion of ability to accomplishment. - S.R.A.
The Lord called unto Moses, and spake.Moses; and secondly, that it was not the product merely of the mind of Moses, but came to him, in the first instance, as a revelation from Jehovah — Jehovah spake unto Moses." And although it is quite true that the words in this first verse strictly refer only to that section of the book which immediately follows, yet, inasmuch as the same or a like formula is used repeatedly before successive sections — in all, no less than fifty-six times in the twenty-seven chapters — these words may with perfect fairness be regarded as expressing a claim respecting these two points, which covers the entire book. The words say nothing, indeed, as to whether or not Moses wrote every word of this book himself; or whether the Spirit of God directed and inspired other persons, in Moses' time or afterwards, to commit this Mosaic Law to writing. They give us no hint as to when the various sections which make up the book were combined into their present literary form, whether by Moses himself, as is the traditional view, or by men of God in a later day. They simply and only declare the legislation to be of Mosaic origin and of inspired authority. Only, be it observed, so much as this they do affirm in the most direct and uncompromising manner.
(S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
I. "THE LORD... SPAKE." So they are God's words, not man's, to which we are called to listen in this deeply instructive book. Then let us give it attentive hearing (Matthew 11:15). Moses here records the very words of God, and the Holy Spirit alone can bring to our apprehension His own teaching (John 14:26; John 16:13).
II. THE LORD SPAKE UNTO MOSES. God had before spoken unto him, specially on two memorable occasions.
1. From the burning bush (Exodus 3.), when He came down in grace to deliver His people Israel from bondage in Egypt — as now He delivers from the bondage of sin and Satan — revealing Himself as Jehovah, the self-existent "I AM," able to destroy their enemies, and rescue them (Exodus 6).
2. From Mount Sinai, after the deliverance from Egypt, when the people had rashly undertaken (apparently in their own strength) to do all that the Lord had spoken (Exodus 19:8), God spake the words of His "Holy Law," the "fiery law" (Hebrews 12:18-21; Exodus 19:18-20; Romans 7:12; Deuteronomy 33:2). That law showed the exceeding sinfulness of sin, but provided no way of salvation for those who disobeyed it, therefore could only condemn (Romans 7:13, 10, 11), as "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23), and "sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4), or "lawlessness" (R.V.); but in the passage before us —
III. THE LORD SPAKE "OUT OF THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION"; and this tells, not only of deliverance from bondage, but of the Lord's dwelling in the midst of His people, as their Leader and Guide (Exodus 13:21; Exodus 40:38), meeting and communing with His servant Moses from the mercy-seat (Exodus 25:22; Exodus 30:6; Numbers 7:89), and establishing a medium for worship and access.
IV. "GOD HATH SPOKEN UNTO US BY HIS SON," who is the Revealer of the Father (John 1:18). But even now, as we listen to the words of God out of the Tabernacle, it is God speaking to us by His Son; for the Tabernacle is a type of Jesus. "The glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34); Jesus is the "Brightness," or outshining of God's glory (Hebrews 1:3). He is the true Tabernacle, "For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9). "God was in Christ reconciling," &c. (2 Corinthians 5:19). Christ is the manifestation of the Father's love (1 John 4:9, 10). He brings untold glory to God in the salvation of sinners (John 17:4); and the saved ones He will take to share His glory hereafter (Luke 9:30, 31), as the blessed result of "His decease."
V. THE LORD WOULD SPEAK BY THE CHURCH, also typified by the Tabernacle. It was "sprinkled... with blood" (Hebrews 9:21); "the Church of God "was "purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). The Tabernacle was anointed with holy oil (Exodus 30:25, 26; Exodus 40:9); the Church has "an unction from the Holy One" (1 John 2:20). The Lord dwelt in the Tabernacle (2 Samuel 7:6); the Church is "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:21, 22). The Spirit reveals "the deep things of God," the things of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:10-12; John 16:14, 15); the Church is "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1:23); hence it is God's purpose that "unto the... might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10, R.V.).
VI. GOD WOULD SPEAK THROUGH EACH MEMBER of the Church. First He speaks to, and then by them. He spake to Moses, that he might "speak unto the children of Israel." In like manner He acts now: Have we received blessing to our soul? If so, God would have us help others (Mark 5:19).
(Lady Beaujolois Dent.)
The Tabernacle of the congregation. —I. IN OUR APPROACH TO GOD NOTHING IS LEFT TO HUMAN INVENTION.
1. There are conditions to our acceptable approach.
2. There are minutely revealed conditions for our approach.
II. FOR OUR RIGHTFUL APPROACH TO HIM, GOD HAS MADE FULL AND GRACIOUS PROVISION.
1. A place for meeting God.
2. A sacrificial basis of acceptance.
3. A mediatorial ministry.
III. BY SUCH ARRANGEMENTS FOR OUR ACCEPTABLE APPROACH, GOD HAS LAID US UNDER MOST SOLEMN OBLIGATIONS TO SEEK HIM.
1. Shall God wait in vain within the Holy Place, and none draw near?
2. Can sinful man despise the sacrifice of Jesus offered for his propitiation?
3. With such a Priest within the Holy Place, have we no mediation to ask, no sins to confess, no offerings to bring?
(W. H. Jellie.)
3. Those which, like "sanctuary," draw attention to holiness as an attribute of the place itself (Exodus 25:8). Now a house where God was, or was supposed to be, must be a place for worship, and a place for Divine worship must of necessity be holy ground; thus one fundamental idea lay at the root of all these appellations, viz., that the Tabernacle was a meeting-place between Jehovah and His covenant people. There Jehovah was to be thought peculiarly present, and therefore peculiarly approachable. By the Jew the Lord God Almighty was not to be sought in woods or fountains or valleys, but in this house which He had appointed.... It must be remembered, however, that approach to Jehovah was conditioned by the terms of the Sinaitic revelation. Whilst, therefore, the Tabernacle as the dwelling-place of the Most High, was by the Divine condescension a place where God and the Jew might come together, that contact was arranged in accordance with the characteristics of the Mosaic dispensation. The whole structure was a place of meeting where man and God could congregate; but it was in the court only that the common Israelite could approach Jehovah, and that by mediation in the person of the appointed priestly representatives; in the Holy Place, to which the priests alone had access, the worshippers also approached the throne of Deity by mediation, being admitted, so to speak, to the anteroom of the Divine audience-chamber by the adoration of their chief; whilst to the high priest alone, and that after solemn preparation, was it permitted on one day in the year to pass within the veil, and gaze unhindered upon that mercy-seat, aglow with gold, where rested the shadowy cloud of the Shechinah. Further, if the Tabernacle was the appointed sanctuary where man might meet with God on the fulfilment of certain conditions, be it noted that the several altars were, so to speak, the points at which those conditions could be best fulfilled. Every square inch of the sacred enclosure was a place of meeting between Jehovah and His people, according to the terms of the Divine revelation: but it was at the altar of burnt-offering in the court that the non-priestly worshippers approached most nearly to their God; it was at the golden altar in the Holy Place that the priests were admitted to closest access; and it was as he approached most directly the space beneath the outstretched wings of the cherubim that the high priest drew nearest to the throne of intercession. The several altars were the shrines, so to speak, of the several sanctuaries, in which their essence was concentrated, and from which their power radiated. The essential significance of the peculiar sanctuary of Judaism lay, then, in the fact that, being the visible dwelling-place of Jehovah, it testified to the possibility of human approach to God so long as the conditions of the related laws were observed — these conditions being, so far at least as the theocratic status of the worshippers was concerned, that the Israelite might come near to God in the person of His priests in the court, and especially at the altar of burnt-offering; that in the Holy Place, and especially at the altar of incense, the priesthood might do homage to Jehovah as enshrined behind the veil; and that in the Holy of Holies, and especially at the high altar of the mercy-seat, the high priest might, by careful obedience to the prescribed conditions, occasionally regard that cloud by which the Almighty condescended to reveal and at the same time to conceal His presence.
(A. Cave, D. D.)
(B. W. Newton.)
(H. C. Trumbull.)— The Tabernacle was a figure of Christ, and was intended to teach us some important lessons respecting Him. We have in the Tabernacle a beautiful illustration of one of the precious names of Jesus our Saviour. Just before He came into our world, the angel Gabriel was sent to Joseph, His reputed father, to tell him about that wonderful Child that was to be born unto Mary his wife. And this is what the angel said: "They shall call HIS name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matthew 1:23). This name is wonderful. It is full of meaning. But many find it difficult to understand its meaning. And so God ordered the Tabernacle to be built in the wilderness, that in it He might dwell among the people, and thus be a figure, or illustration to them of the way in which Jesus now dwells in the hearts of His people by faith. The Tabernacle was a definition of this name — Emmanuel. As God was present with the Israelites in the wilderness, in the Tabernacle, so Jesus is present with His people in this world. And as we study the different parts of this Tabernacle we are taught much that is interesting and profitable concerning the presence of Jesus with His people. The Tabernacle taught that there was to be pardon connected with His presence. The brazen altar, or the altar of burnt sacrifice, was the part of the Tabernacle that taught this lesson. That was the first thing one would see on entering the court of the Tabernacle. Here the daily sacrifice was offered. Here the blood of the slain animals was shed, that it might be sprinkled both on the priests and on the people. No one was allowed to enter the Tabernacle or to worship God there till he had first been to this brazen altar, and had the blood of the sacrifice sprinkled upon him. And the great blessing represented by the shedding and sprinkling of the blood was the pardon of sin. There was no power in the blood of those animals to put away sin, or to procure pardon. But it pointed to the blood of Christ, through which alone all pardon comes. And this is what the Apostle Paul teaches us, when he says that, "without the shedding of blood there is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22), or no pardon. If Jesus had not shed His precious blood there never would have been any pardon for sin. But that blood was shed. And now there is pardon for all who repent and believe in Him. His presence with His people is a pardoning presence. "He has power on earth to forgive sins" (Matthew 9:6). There is nothing that we need more than pardon. We are born in sin. We sin every day, and we are always needing pardon. And it is a blessed thing to know that we can have this pardon at any time by seeking it in the right way. Jesus is — "ready to forgive" (Psalm 86:5). His promise is that — "He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). Here is an illustration of the pardoning power of Jesus. It was told by a sailor who witnessed it, who was made a Christian by it, and afterwards became a chaplain. "Our vessel lay at anchor," said he, "off the coast of Africa. The yellow fever had broken out on board, and several of the men had died. It was my duty every morning to go through that part of the vessel used as a hospital, and see if any of the men had died during the night. One morning as I was passing through this sick ward, a poor fellow lying there took hold of me with his cold, clammy hand. I knew him very well. He was an old shipmate, and one of the wickedest men on board. I saw in a moment that he had not long to live. 'Oh, Jim,' he said, 'for God's sake, let some one come and read the Bible to me before I die! 'None of the sailors had a Bible; but at last I found that there was one on board belonging to the cabin-boy. I told him to get his Bible, and bring it into the sick ward, and went back there myself. Presently the boy came with a small Bible in his hand. In the meantime a number of the Kroomen, or native Africans, who were working on board, gathered round the sick man, not to see him die, but, as one of them said, 'to see what de good book do for poor Master Richie.' I told the boy to read a chapter. He sat down by the sick man, and, opening at the third chapter of St. John, he began to read. The poor fellow fixed his eyes on the reader, and listened most earnestly to every word he spoke. Presently the boy came to the beautiful words in the sixteenth verse, 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life I 'I watched the face of the dying man as these words were read. I never saw such earnestness and anxiety in any face as were in his. The boy was going on with the next verse, when the sick man exclaimed, 'Stop my boy, stop! Bead that verse again, and read it slowly.' The boy repeated the verse, and was going on again. But he was interrupted a second and a third time with the earnest cry, 'Stop, my boy, stop! Read that verse again.' And when he had done so a number of times, the dying man said, 'Don't read any more. That's enough.' And then, as he grew fainter and fainter, we heard him, in a low voice, repeating to himself those wonderful words, and making his own remarks on them, 'Whosoever — that means anybody. That means me. Whosoever believeth. I do believe this. Well, what then? Whosoever believeth shall not perish. No, not perish, but have everlasting life. Not perish — not perish — but have everlasting life.' These were his last words. With these upon his lips, he passed away, and entered into heaven — 'one pardoned sinner more,' saved through the precious Mood of Christ." The presence of Jesus which the Tabernacle illustrates is — a pardoning presence.
(Richard Newton, D. D.)
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