Exodus 28-30: Tabernacle and Instructions (pt.2)

We’ve described most of the Tabernacle furniture and structure; we are now left with the priestly clothing, the ordination, and the remaining furniture.

1.  A list of the priestly clothing (Exodus 28:1-5)

2.  The ephod (Exodus 28:6-14)

3.  The breastpiece (Exodus 28:15-30)

4.  The robe (Exodus 28:31-35)

5.  The turban, and other clothing (Exodus 28:36-43)

6.  The priestly ordination (Exodus 29:1-46)

7.  Altar of incense (Exodus 30:1-10)

8.  The Census Tax (Exodus 30:11-16)

9.  The bronze basin (Exodus 30:17-21)

10.  Anointing Oil and Incense (Exodus 30:22-38 )

11.  The History of Mankind and the Hope of the Remnant (Summary of all the Tabernacle Instructions)

1.  A list of the priestly clothing (Exodus 28:1-5)

4These are the garments that they shall make: a(E) breastpiece, an(F) ephod,(G) a robe,(H) a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. 5They shall receive(I) gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.

Holy garments for the priests so they can do their work in the Holy Place and Most Holy Place – this is most interesting.  It is of the LORD’s personality to clothe us, and shield us from harm (think animal skin in Genesis 3; think colourful coat between Israel the father of Joseph and the typology of the Father and the beloved Son; think robes of righteousness Isaiah 61).  This clothing as directed by God should undoubtedly shout out two things: God’s righteousness in the form of clothing us (i.e. it is external to us; the righteousness is NOT found within, a la Buddhist teachings); and secondly, that it is God who clothes us, not that we clothe ourselves with this external righteousness.

If that is the case, if the clothing is that of righteousness, then the clothing should speak something of OUR High Priest, Jesus Christ, our external righteousness which we now wear as Christians.

2.  The ephod (Exodus 28:6-14)

The ephod is a beautifully crafted kind of apron made from gold thread woven into blue, purple and scarlet fine linen.  It has an onyx stone on each shoulder, each stone with the names of each six tribes of Israel written on it (Exodus 28:12) for remembrance.  What this means is that the priest isn’t just representing himself, but also representing the people of God on his shoulders.  The weight of the entire 12 tribes of Israel is therefore on the shoulders of this priest, and sacrifices which he offers are offered on behalf of the entire Israel, the entire church of Christ.  Isaiah 53:6 speaks of the heavy weight of all of mankind’s sin which Jesus had to bear on our behalf; the stones are attached to the ephod with gold chains, ensuring that they won’t fall off.  That is the seriousness of our Christ – he ensures that he has nailed our sins to the cross, and nailed our names to him!

3.  The breastpiece (Exodus 28:15-30)

On top of the ephod-apron is a breastpiece of gold, linen and 14 precious stones (including the 12 which represent each tribe of Israel, and 2 which represent the Urim and the Thummim (Exodus 28:21).  The names of the tribes of Israel are not only on the shoulders of the priest, but also on the heart of the priest!  With the ephod and the breastpiece, the identity of the priest is completely bound up with the people he represents, hence explaining the Bible’s emphasis on Christ and His people as one.  Christ is the head of the church, his body! (Ephesians 5).

Paul Blackham has provided a table of what is possibly a link between the 12 Tribes and the Stones used:

Row

Tribe

Stone

1

Reuben

Simeon

Levi

Ruby

Topaz

Beryl

2

Judah

Issachar

Zebulun

Turquoise

Sapphire

Emerald

3

Dan

Naphtali

Gad

Jacinth

Agate

Amethyst

4

Asher

Joseph

Benjamin

Chrysolite

Onyx

Jasper

However, this is different from William Brown’s interpretation.  Rather than looking at what the 12 tribes represented (in general, by the stones used), he looked at what was actually on the breastplate:

NAME of 12 Stones of Israel

3. Carbuncle (or Emerald) for Zebulun

2. Topaz for Issachar

1. Sardius (or Ruby) for Judah

1st row

6. Diamond for Gad

5. Sapphire for Simeon

4. Emerald (or Carbuncle) for Reuben

2nd row

9. Amethyst for Benjamin

8. Agate for Manasseh

7. Ligure (or Jacinth) for Ephraim

3rd row

12. Jasper for Naphtali

11. Onyx for Asher

10. Beryl (of Chalcedony) for Dan

4th row

He noted that the names on the breastplate were those of the 12 tribes arranged not according to age, but according to the order of the tribes (Exodus 39:14).  Levi and Joseph are not included; but only Manasseh and Ephraim are included.

More detail on the stones to come!

4.  The robe (Exodus 28:31-35)

Under the ephod is the blue robe.  The hem is the special feature, with brightly painted pomegranates (blue, purple and scarlet – like the colour on the curtain!) – but between the pomegranates was a golden bell. v.35 reveals that the sound of the bells will be heard when Aaron enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die.  The sound of the bells as he walked meant there was nothing secretive about the work of the priest.  Levicitus 10 displays that careless wandering into the presence of the LORD warranted their deaths, even if you are a priest.  The sound of the priest walking in is an audible warning that the priests were coming before the LORD in the Holy Place; the worshippers outside would wait in anticipation for the SOUND of the Priest returning from the Holy Place.

5.  The turban, and other clothing (Exodus 28:36-43)

The priest’s turban had a plate of pure gold attached to the front, saying “Holy to the LORD”.  So not only is the priest dedicated to his job, with the weight of Israel’s sin on his shoulders, but the names of the tribes on his heart, coming in open before the LORD.  This plate of pure gold on the head displays even further the utter dedication of Christ to his job – the golden sign was declaring that the promised Messiah-Priest would be absolutely holy, without sin.

Exodus 28:38 explains that the symbolic holiness of the priest is what enables him to bear the people’s sins, which explains why Jesus cannot have sins of his own: he would have to pay for His own sins and incapable of bearing others’.  This emphasises the significance of the turban, the ephod, the robe and the breastplate which all point towards both the symbolic righteousness of the High Priest, as well as the burden which He must carry to the Most Holy Place (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The remaining clothing, Woven Tunic and Sash were about dignity and honour (v.40):

39“You shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework.

40(X) “For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them(Y) for glory and beauty. 41And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall(Z) anoint them and ordain them and(AA) consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.

Thus, we conclude that the Levitical Priest is just a symbol of holiness, glory, beauty, dignity, honour (additional descriptions from the NIV translation).  No man has these qualities, and even the chosen High Priest must don the clothing which represents these qualities; but one God-man, Jesus Christ, has all of these qualities without the necessity of clothing anyone else’s righteousness.  He is our righteousness (Job 35:8; Psalm 5:8 ).

6.  The priestly ordination (Exodus 29:1-46)

So while chapter 28 is sufficient in presenting a figure capable of entering into communion with the Holy Trinity on behalf of others, this figure is not yet ready for service!  The priest must and cannot invite himself into the presence of God; he must be ordained.

The rites of ordination is laid out in chapter 29, with two significant features of purification with blood; and the anointing with oil – undoubtedly, two extremely prophetic and Messianic symbols.

Firstly, the blood flows everywhere in the ordination rite, from the horns of the altar to the base of the altar; sacrifice is the underlying meaning of the tabernacle.  This is a picture of the priest, having to continually offer sacrifices for himself, to keep himself in a state to gain forgiveness for others.  Only after that could he bring the forgiven people into the presence of God.  Au contraire, Jesus need not continually make such sacrifices for himself, for he had no sins of His own that needed to be forgiven!

Secondly, oil also gets everywhere, even onto the priestly clothing.  v.7 shows Aaron anointed with oil (Psalm 133:2), the symbol of the Holy Spirit (as I have established the oil’s symbolic meaning in previous posts).  This is a direct prophecy of the Messiah’s life and work, filled with the Spirit without measure (John 3:34), the Messiah who is fittingly called the Christ, the Anointed One (in Hebrew).  Thus, only a priest anointed with oil could serve in the Tabernacle; so also, only Christ anointed by the Holy Dove, could be equipped to work for his bride, the church, and his Father in heaven as symbolised by the Tabernacle and its temporary dividing curtain.

More detail on the priestly ordination to come!

7.  Altar of incense (Exodus 30:1-10)

This is the final piece of furniture described within the tabernacle.  Why is this the last piece of furniture explained?  Why couldn’t it have been explained earlier?  The order has been thus far: the Trinity furniture (Ark, Table, Lampstand); the Tabernacle Structure explaining the division between heaven and the church, the division in their harmony; the Bronze Altar, explaining the underlying significance of sacrifices and offerings to remit sins; the Court of the Tabernacle, to explain the inclusion of the church in the secular world (the whole of creation); yet the Oil for the Lamp is lit.

Who can maintain the sacrifices and the offerings though?  The priests themselves; their clothing firstly speaking of Christ; and their actions secondly during their ordination, speaking of the ordination of Christ.

What could the significance of the altar of incense mean?  Firstly, notice the location of the altar of incense: it was to be placed just near the dividing curtain in the outer room, the Holy Place.  This altar represents the prayers of the church (Revelation 5:8; Malachi 1:11).

8.  The Census Tax (Exodus 30:11-16)

The census tax is a good example of the atonement money going towards the work of the tabernacle, and what a small cost to be paid for such a tough job on the High Priest:

11The LORD said to Moses, 12(DB) “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give(DC) a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel[i] according to the(DD) shekel of the sanctuary (the(DE) shekel is twenty gerahs),[j](DF) half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. 14Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD’s offering. 15The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than(DG) the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall(DH) give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to(DI) remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

This money is ransom money (v.12), it is for the atonement of their lives (v.15), and each shall pay if they are 20 years and upward.  No bias, no partiality.

9.  The bronze basin (Exodus 30:17-21)

Finally, the bronze basin, which is a sign of new birth, regeneration; after the sacrifice of burnt offering would there be a need of the washing of renewal as the tent was approached by the priest.

Titus 3:5-7:

5he saved us,(H) not because of works done by us in righteousness, but(I) according to his own mercy, by(J) the washing of regeneration and(K) renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he(L) poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that(M) being justified by his grace we might become(N) heirs(O) according to the hope of eternal life.

10.  Anointing Oil and Incense (Exodus 30:22-38 )

25And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the(DP) perfumer; it shall be a(DQ) holy anointing oil. 26(DR) With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the(DS) basin and its stand. 29You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy.(DT) Whatever touches them will become holy. 30(DU) You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition.(DV) It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33(DW) Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.'”

The message spoken of here is immensely deep, provided we stick to the spiritual representations of the previous instructions.  The anointing oil is sacred, and holy (v.25).  Whatever touches them (the tent of meeting, aka the tabernacle; the ark of testimony; table and its utensils; lampstand and its utensils; the altar of incense; altar of burnt offering with utensils; basin and its stand) will become holy (v.29).  The Trinity, the Prayers, the Sacrifices, the Spiritual regeneration – are all made holy by the sacred anointing oil.

And only Aaron and his sons may be consecrated, serving as priests, anointed by this sacred anointing oil.  No ordinary person shall have it poured on him or her.  The significance spoken of is referring to Jesus’ work on the cross.  Only through his work, and his ascension can he fill the universe and give gifts to all them (Ephesians 4:10; Psalm 68:18).  This is extremely important: why didn’t God start the instructions with the anointing oil?  Why leave it till the very end?  Or, the question is… is this the very end?  God had already seen into the future: the saving work on the cross, the giving of the Spirit to all flesh during the Pentecost festival, Jesus’ death on the wood, His righteousness imputed onto us as ours.  At Christ’s ascension, he filled all things; gifts among even the rebellious, that the LORD may dwell on earth.

Thus, this anointing oil is a picture of the Pentecost – the giving of the Spirit to the entire world.  Prior to this, the Spirit is indeed represented by the Golden Lampstand; but when the work of the cross is complete, the Spirit is now given to both Jews and Gentiles, and the oil is spread across everything.  We partake in the complete renewal of all things because of the High Priest, Aaron, a type of Christ, in whom we stand.  He is the only one consecrated by the holy oil; and we are consecrated by the holy oil for we are in Him.

11.  The History of Mankind and the Hope of the Remnant (Summary of all the Tabernacle Instructions)

Let’s follow the line of Christian logic thus far:

The Trinity has existed prior to the creation of the world; however, heaven and the church had harmony in the past.  This is merely a foretaste of things to come in New Jerusalem, which not only a mere garden, but an entire city of God.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they were given animal skin – an offering to God as represented by the Brazen Altar, a symbol of sacrifice necessary for remission of sins after the division between heaven and earth is made.  Now Adam and Eve are thrown to the East of the Garden, into the world of the court of the Tabernacle – the rest of God’s creation.  Yet, throughout this period, the oil for the lamp, the Holy Spirit, is lit in the hearts of the professing Christians of the earliest age of mankind, preparing for the coming Messiah (Genesis 3:15).  This Great Messiah is also the true High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, of the greatest righteousness, who can carry the burden of the world’s sins on his shoulders through a righteousness of his own.

Despite his status as pre-incarnate Christ is that of glorified and transfigured righteousness, he must then be ordained to commit to the works and plans of God in his incarnation; and only through the High Priest’s saving work can the altar of incense, the representation of our prayers, work through him.  Only after the High Priest’s ordination can our prayers be relayed to the Father through the mediation of the Son, who enters the throne room in Third Heaven on our behalf. If Jesus was not ordained, and he did not go to the cross, then our prayers will not go to the Father, for the Father will not hear us.  But the very reason that the Old Testament saints spoke through Christ, the one Mediator, to the Father LORD displays the inevitable victory of Christ on the cross; it shows the inevitable anointing of the High Priest, and his work which will enable the saints of all ages to have their incense at the centre stage of the Trinity’s thoughts.

In the duration of our prayers to the LORD, we are simultaneously saved by the symbolic census tax: what we give up is such a small price compared to what we receive; and so we repent of our sins symbolised by the giving of the tax, the money which belongs to the LORD anyway; and after we are justified and salvaged from the bondage of sin, we are cleansed simultaneously by the Holy Spirit, shown through the bronze basin.  We then finally reach the anointing oil and incense which makes all things holy, including us.  We are made holy by God alone; we are made holy by Christ alone (Isaiah 61).

Yet, this leaves something to thought.  God had already established the entire plan, and Moses saw into the history of mankind and the future of mankind just for spending time with the LORD in the thickness of the mountain.  This may, after all, shed light onto the most mysterious verse of Revelation 13:8 (here are v. 6-8):

It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling,[a] that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7Also it was allowed(A) to make war on the saints and to conquer them.[b] And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8and all(B) who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in(C) the book of life of(D) the Lamb(E) who was slain.

Indeed, if the Lamb of God was slain before the world, it explains how some could partake in the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament; it explains how the prayers were heard in the Old Testament; it explains how the Old Testament saints were saved.  Because the work on the cross was already prophesied in the story of the Tabernacle, but actually already done before the foundation of the world!  Christ’s incarnation is but a replay, a manifestation in the physical world of what has already occured in the spiritual world!  Christ’s incarnation is a fulfillment, a theatre, of things already accomplished.  The victory was secured in Genesis 3:15 because it is already done.  We know the OT saints had the Spirit in them; how else could they be saved?  We know the OT saints had their prayers heard, but was it through Aaron’s work, or was it through Christ alone?  We know that the OT saints were saved (look at Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah), but how could they be if the work on the cross is not accomplished?  Indeed, the work of the cross is prophecied in the OT, because it is already accomplished before the creation of the world.  The world, after all, is a theatre of God’s glory in which we partake.

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Exodus 28-30: Tabernacle and Instructions (pt.2)

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