BIBLE STUDY SERIES #185, 186 and 187

4 June, 1995

ALTAR OF INCENSE - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies has taken us from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, down through the lives of his son, Isaac, his grand-son, Jacob (Israel) and the children of Israel as they entered Egypt to escape a famine, and later, by appointment and design of God Himself, through the Exodus, as described in the Book of that name. They have arrived at Mount Sinai where Israel is receiving instructions from, and a Covenant Relationship with, The Almighty God Himself. Moses, their intermediary, has received instructions regarding the Law, and the form of Worship by which their God is to be honoured and revered. The Priesthood has been outlined, and now the description of the portable place of worship, the Tabernacle, together with its furniture, is nearing a conclusion.

All the regalia and ceremonies, the sacrifices and the instructions for the people unitedly form a teaching pattern which is designed to describe, and which is therefore significant of, the work of Our Lord Jesus Christ among, and on behalf of, His people.

In "The Altar of Incense - Part I", which we covered on our last programme, we had begun our study of Exodus 30, detailing the construction of the Altar of Incense, sometimes called the Golden Altar, which was to stand before the vail of the Holy of Holies within the Tabernacle.

Keil and Delitzsch have several pages from which we can derive some useful factual comments as they approach this passage in their Commentary. Although, we will find some repetition in reviewing their comments, this recapitulation may assist those who missed the last programme. They say:

"Moses was directed to make an altar of burning of incense (lit. incensing of incense), of acacia wood, one cubit long and one broad, four-cornered, two cubits high, furnished with horns like the altar of burnt-offering... and to plate it with pure gold, the roof... thereof (i.e. its upper side or surface, which was also made of wood), and its walls round about, and its horns; so that it was covered with gold quite down to the ground upon which it stood, and for this reason is often called the golden altar... Moreover it was to be ornamented with a golden wreath, and furnished with golden rings at the corners for the carrying-poles, as the ark of the covenant and the table of shew-bread were...; and its place was to be in front of the curtain which concealed the ark of the covenant... "before the capporeth"..., so that, although it really stood in the holy place between the candlestick on the south side and the table on the north..., it was placed in the closest relation to the capporeth, and for this reason is not only connected with the most holy place in I Kings vi. 22, but is reckoned in Heb. ix. 4 as part of the furniture of the most holy place...

Upon this altar Aaron was to burn fragrant incense, the preparation of which is described in vers. 34 sqq., every morning and evening before Jehovah, at the time when he trimmed the lamps.

I will interrupt our reading of the Commentary to insert a useful note found in The New Bible Commentary (Revised) which points out that while the Altar to burn incense stood before the veil which curtained off the Holy of Holies, "It was closely associated with the ark and the Holy of Holies but was outside the veil as the priest officiated at it daily." As Hebrews 9:6-7 explains, "...the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once ever year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people." Thus the Altar of Incense, if it was to be used daily, must be outside the vail which was hung before the Holy of Holies, though it was indeed intimately associated with the Ark and the Mercy Seat within the Holy of Holies.

We now continue with Keil and Delitzsch: "No 'strange incense' was to be offered upon it, - i.e. incense which Jehovah had not appointed (cf. Lev. x. 1), that is to say, which had not been prepared according to His instructions, -nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat-offering; and no drink-offering was to be poured upon it. As the altar of incense was not only marked as a place of sacrifice by its name..., "place of slain-offering," but was put on a par with the altar of sacrifice by its square shape and its horns, it was important to describe minutely what sacrifices were to be offered upon it. For the burning of fragrant incense is shown to be a sacrifice, by the fact that it was offered upon a place of sacrifice, or altar. Moreover the word (in Hebrew), to cause to ascend in smoke and steam..., is not only applied to the lighting of incense, but also to the lighting and burning of the bleeding and bloodless sacrifices upon the altar of incense. Lastly, the connection between the incense-offering and the burnt offering is indicated by the rule that they were to be offered at the same time.

Both offerings shadowed forth the devotion of Israel to its God, whilst the fact that they were offered every day exhibited this devotion as constant and uninterrupted. But the distinction between them consisted in this, that in the burnt or whole offering Israel consecrated and sanctified its whole life and action in both body and soul to the Lord, whilst in the incense-offering its prayer was embodied as the exaltation of the spiritual man to God...; and with this there was associated the still further distinction, that the devotion was completed in the burnt-offering solely upon the basis of the atoning sprinkling of blood, whereas the incense-offering presupposed reconciliation with God, and on the basis of this the soul rose to God in this embodiment of its prayer, and was thus absorbed into His Spirit. In this respect, the incense-offering was not only a spiritualizing and transfiguring of the burnt-offering, but a completion of that offering also... Once a year Aaron was to expiate the altar of incense with the blood of the sin-offering of atonement, because it was most holy to the Lord, that is to say, as is expressly observed in the directions concerning this expiatory act..., to purify it from the uncleannesses of the children of Israel."

After providing some insights regarding precise meanings in the Hebrew, they continue: "The term 'most holy' is not only applied to this altar, in common with the inner division of the tabernacle... but also to the altar of burnt-offering..., and all the vessels of the sanctuary... which were anointed with holy oil; then to the whole of the tabernacle in its holiest aspect...; and lastly, to all the sacrifices, which were given up entirely to Jehovah...;- consequently to everything which stood in so intimate a relation to Jehovah as to be altogether removed, not only from use and enjoyment on the part of man, but also from contact on the part of unsanctified men. Whoever touched a most holy thing was sanctified thereby... ."

Another approach to understanding the meaning of this remarkable table is to be found in a reference which I have quoted on similar occasions in the past, namely that of Pastor Maureen Gaglardi, in her "The Path of the Just, Volume I." Stating that "The truths of this altar are precious and particularly applicable to our day", she makes an interesting point with regard to the dimensions of this altar. Her words are very well chosen and enlightening, and I think that I ought to quote from her book the three paragraphs which follow. She continues: "To introduce the subject, we begin with its measurement. This is the smallest and yet the tallest piece of furniture in the tabernacle itself, that we have measurements of. It is, in essence, typical of our service to God, thence the highest. The highest service is first to love and serve God. Second to love and serve our neighbour, and lastly to care for one's self. We have three main avenues of service and fellowship in this room: first service to God, typified in the altar, second the candle-stick for others; and last the table for ourselves.

The Golden Altar is typical of our service to God, apart from our good works toward others or our receiving the Word for ourselves. It speaks of the service of worship, praise and prayer. It is small, yet high. We sometimes cast off small things as of lesser importance, only to find that in God's sight an apparently small thing may be very high. God places incense ascending up to Him as the highest service of all. It is, after all, not the size we appear to be, but the height to which we attain in Him, that counts.

It brings us not only into the heights of God's presence, but closer to His glory. The lamp and the Table were on the sides of the Tabernacle and on the same level, but the altar was as close to the glory as it was possible to attain in this room. It is obviously the last piece of furniture before passing through the veil. It is no coincidence that God has moved in a wave of glory in these days, teaching us the principles, purposes and benefits of worship, praise and prayer to Him at the Altar of Incense." Those observations by Pastor Gaglardi are well spoken, and worthy of careful consideration.

As we have about run out of time for today, we shall postpone further consideration of Exodus 30 until our next study. Let me leave with you two thoughts. One is that The Almighty God of all the earth has planned in detail for the whole life of every person on this planet, and we have now the privilege of bringing to Him prayers which rise as incense. He is willing to receive this of all who have made their peace with Himself through the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our substitute.

The other is that, as we of the British-Israel-World Federation recognize, modern Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples are descendants of ancient Israel. Thus we fulfil the prophesied fullness of nations which the descendants of the early Patriarchs were to become in the Last Days. We have, then, the added responsibility of applying His National Law in order to demonstrate the promised blessings which will be granted to Israel when they fulfil their part of the agreement made at Sinai so many centuries ago with the God Who, in Christ, came to Redeem His Bride, His Nation of Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred Israel peoples. Until next week, may you find blessing in these meditations.

11 June, 1995

ATONEMENT-MONEY

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

This present series of Bible Studies, starting as it did, with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12, has taken us forward down the centuries as his descendants, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), and the nation which grew from Jacob's descendants first entered Egypt, and then in a later generation was drawn out from their bondage in that land by the mighty works of God in accordance with His promise. They have, under the direction of God's servant, Moses, drawn near to the foot of Mount Sinai where they are presently encamped, and where they have made their commitment to become God's own nation; His people - in effect His national "Wife."

We watched as they received God's Commandments, undertook the necessary sacrifices, and latterly have been receiving the detailed instructions regarding the preparation of The Tabernacle, their national focus of worship. The priesthood has been explained, and now the remaining articles of furniture are being designated. All will eventually point down the corridor of time towards the ever-living work of Jesus Christ, as we, of later generations are able to discern.

Before examining the details of the design of the Laver, and before the details of ingredients for the Incense which is to be used exclusively in the Tabernacle are explained, another matter is inserted. The Scripture passage found in Exodus 30:11-16 contains some words concerning a specific and important ransom which the children of Israel are to give for their souls or in place of their lives at times of national census. I shall read that passage now, and as we read, I shall introduce explanatory comments, either of my own, or drawn from recognized authorities on the subject.

11. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
12. When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.

Keil and Delitzsch have prepared over two pages of notes on this feature of the Tabernacle service, and I think it would be useful if we were to read what they have written. They say:

"The Atonement-Money, which every Israelite had to pay at the numbering of the people, has the first place among the supplementary instructions concerning the erection and furnishing of the sanctuary, and serves to complete the demand for freewill-offerings for the sanctuary." The Keil and Delitzsch translation of this passage may give some assistance in understanding what is being said. It reads as follows: "When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel according to them that are numbered, they shall give every one an expiation for his soul to the Lord at their numbering, that a plague may not strike them (happen to them) at their numbering." Commenting upon the Hebrew terms, they explain "hence to review, or number an army or a nation, for the purpose of enrolling for military service." Their comment concerning the choice of the word "expiation" is that the sense of "expiation-money" is "to be traced to the idea that the object for which expiation was made was thereby withdrawn from the view of the person to be won or reconciled. It is applied in two ways: (1) on the supposition that the face of the person to be won was covered by the gift (Gen. xxxii.21; 1 Sam. xii. 3); and (2) on the supposition that the guilt itself was covered up (Ps. xxxii. 1), or wiped away (Jer. xviii. 23), so far as the eye of God was concerned, as though it had no longer any existence, and that the sinful man was protected from the punishment of the judge in consequence of this covering. In this way (the Hebrew word) has acquired the meaning (of) a payment by which the guilty are redeemed... and this is the meaning which it has in the passage before us, where the soul is said to be protected by the copher, so as to be able to come without danger into the presence of the holy God...

13. This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
14. Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
15. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.

Keil and Delitzsch continue: "Such an approach to God took place at the numbering of the people for the purpose of enrolling them in the army of Jehovah... Hence 'every one who passed over to those that were numbered' who was enrolled among them, i.e. in the army of Jehovah, - that is to say, every male Israelite of 20 years old and upward (ver. 14), - was to pay half a shekel of the sanctuary as atonement-money; the rich no more, the poor no less (ver. 15) because all were equal in the sight of Jehovah; and this payment was to be a 'heave' for Jehovah, for the expiation of the souls. The shekel of the sanctuary, which contained 20 gerahs, was no doubt the original shekel of full weight, as distinguished from the lighter shekel which was current in ordinary use. In chap. xxxviii. 26 the half shekel is called ... (literally) the split, i.e. half, from (the root Hebrew word) to split; and we find it mentioned as early as the time of the patriarchs as a weight in common use for valuing gold (Gen. xxiv. 22), so that, no doubt, even at that time there were distinct silver pieces of this weight, which were probably called shekels when employed for purposes of trade, since the word shekel itself does not denote any particular weight, as we may perceive at once from a comparison of 1 Kings x. 17 and 2 Chron. ix. 16, at least so far as later times are concerned. The sacred shekel, to judge from the weight of the Maccabean shekels, which are in existence still, and vary from 256 to 272 Parisian grains, weighed 274 grains..." Keil and Delitzsch attempt a valuation to money of the time when they prepared their Commentary but modern inflation would require us to vastly increase the modest sums of money which they suggest as equivalents for the shekel and half-shekel!

16. And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.

Keil and Delitzsch continue: "This atonement-money Moses was to appropriate to the work of the sanctuary... Through this appropriation it became 'a memorial to the children of Israel before the Lord to expiate their souls," i.e. a permanent reminder of their expiation before the Lord, who would henceforth treat them as reconciled because of this payment. It was no ordinary tribute, therefore, which Israel was to pay to Jehovah, as its King, but an act demanded by the holiness of the theocratic covenant.. As an expiation for souls, it pointed to the unholiness of Israel's nature, and reminded the people continually, that by nature it was alienated from God, and could only remain in covenant with the Lord and live in His kingdom on the ground of His grace, which covered its sin. It was not till this sinful nature had been sanctified by a perfect atonement, and servitude under the law had been glorified and fully transformed into that sonship to which Israel was called as the first-born son of Jehovah, that as children of the kingdom they had no longer to pay this atonement-money for their souls (Matt. xvii. 25,26)." Keil and Delitzsch point out that, by comparing Numbers 1:1, 18 with Exodus 40:17, the census of the nation was not taken till a month after the building of the tabernacle was completed, and yet the atonement-money to be paid at the taking of the census was to be appropriated to the purpose of building, and must therefore have been paid before. This apparent discrepancy may be reconciled by the simple assumption, that immediately after the command of God had been issued respecting the building of the tabernacle and the contributions which the people were to make for that purpose, the numbering of the males was commenced and the atonement-money collected from the different individuals, that the tabernacle was then built and the whole ceremonial instituted, and that, after all this had been done, the whole nation was enrolled according to its tribes, fathers' houses, and families, on the basis of this provisional numbering, and thus the census was completed. For this reason the census gave exactly the same number of males as the numbering (cf. chap. xxxviii. 26 and Num. i. 46), although the one had been carried out nine months before the other."

That is the end of the quotation from Keil and Delitzsch on this particular subject of atonement-money. Before leaving the topic, I might insert some variant thoughts taken from The New Bible Commentary which says "No mention is made in this passage of military forces, and the plain meaning seems to be that all adult persons (14) of either sex were to be included in the census of the population. By the levy of half a shekel... not only was the service of the tabernacle supplied (16), but all the people were reminded that their great population was no glory to themselves, but that each was preserved alive by the mercy of God alone (12) and that their sinful souls were forfeit to Him. David forgot both these lessons (2 Sa. xxiv). The sum was so small as to make it clear that, while atonement is necessary, this was but a token of that fact, and that no sum of money could redeem the soul. The equal amount for rich and poor alike (15) saved the rich from pride and boasting and reminded them that in God's sight all souls are of equal value."

We have not time to add any further comments. Let us carry from today's lesson the fact that atonement is essential for each of God's people and failure to carry forward this principle may endanger our well-being just as it did those of ancient Israel. We have the person of Jesus Christ as our justification, and doubtless it was the nature of that later provision to which the former was in part at least, designed to point forward.

18 June, 1995

THE LAVER

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

This series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with a study of God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12, is designed to provide insights into what we may term God's Great Plan. That Plan was set in place at the "foundation of the world" and it pertains to the provision for, and ultimate existence of, a state of inter-active love between The Almighty God and His created beings.

Love is a free-will choice; it is that which is preferred while rejecting an alternative. Meaningful choice involves discrimination and selection among possible courses of activity and the ability to make such choices therefore requires the ability to predict consequences. Hence Natural Laws of cause and effect had to operate throughout the concourse of time and space in God's Great Plan to make such predictability everywhere available. Existence, in short, had to be "rational."

Humanists must not take from this apparently universal operation of Natural Law the conclusion that God does not exist, and a little thought will show why such a conclusion would not be scientific. If dancing dice be set in contention against Deity as a "first cause" and sustaining influence, but the existence of "Natural Law" is mandated by both scenarios, then the "litmus test" which will decide the issue must be the revelation of "miraculous" age-long pattern, worked into the time-space continuum, which reflects the operation of Deity rather than dice as first cause and sustaining influence. In other words, the test of "Miracle", rather than "Natural Law", must be appointed as the judge to sit in judgment on the contending scenarios in order to decide which scenario is true. "Miracle" cannot, therefore, be "ruled out of court" prior to the judgment!

When God included free-will choice within His Plan it necessitated allowance for immature deviant error called Sin during the history-long learning process. That Sin, in turn, must be permitted to result in evil consequences flowing therefrom, in order to preserve a rational existence. Because Sin exists, The Perfect God must require correction of such deviance. He must require Justice. Because God's design is to create Love, the Plan must therefore also accommodate a solution to the results of Sinful choice. That solution involved the interposition of a substitute penalty bearer, God's Incarnate self-expression, called "The Word" Who was made flesh or, in other words, Jesus Christ at His First Advent. God's Perfection demands Justice while His Love demands Mercy. These meet in The Cross.

In order to make The Crucifixion a rational event, prior prophecy and methods of instruction were required. A national entity charged with the responsibility of preserving such prophecy and instruction must be created. For this purpose it pleased The Almighty to choose Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Israel). By the Sinai Accord with Yahweh (Jehovah), and subsequent instruction, the Nation of Israel became that instrument.

Presently, in the book of Exodus, we are examining the description of the Tabernacle which formed part of this course of instruction, and today we have arrived at Exodus 30 where The Almighty God is instructing Moses regarding the creation of one of the pieces of Tabernacle furniture which is to facilitate priestly washing during the ceremonies accompanying worship. We begin reading at verse 17.

17. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
18. Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
19. For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:
20. When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD:
21. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.

Remember that, the use of the word "brass" in the AV might better have been rendered "copper" or "bronze." A. Widdison, in his Outlines of Lectures on the Tabernacle in the Wilderness" has some notes on this Brazen Laver. He says: "It should be noted that it (the Laver) is not introduced until after the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the Priesthood. This also is true of the Golden Altar. These vessels have to do with our approach to God, and we speak of them as 'vessels of approach.' For our approach to God the Priesthood is necessary. Our Lord is the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. As Apostle He comes out from God to us, and as High Priest goes in to God for us. In His case we go in with Him."

Widdison continues under the heading "The Material" with these notes: "Highly burnished bronze. It was made of the looking glasses of the women, assembling at the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation." (We find that reference, incidentally, in Exodus 38:8.) "This is rather striking. Formerly used by these women to detect what would lessen the attractiveness of those who looked into them, they were now given to Moses to be used in the higher service of revealing what was unsuited to God's priests and to hold water to remove such defilement. These women were like converted sinners. Once occupied with ourselves, we have seen the face of Jesus, and now none but He can satisfy. The material thus spoke of surrender; of willingness to part with that which might make something of self in order that conditions of holy purity might be maintained in those who served God. Nothing can be allowed in the life and work of the priest that is not in keeping with the death of Christ. The abiding necessity of practical purity in those who take up holy service is thus emphasised."

The notes continue under the heading "Type." They state "Two vessels were made of metal only - the Brazen Laver and the Golden Candlestick. The absence of Shittem Wood, common to the other Vessels, and typifying the incarnation of our Lord, must mean that there is a departure from the usual typology. In both cases it seems that the Holy Spirit is intended also to be represented."

Three sections follow. These are:
"(a) The Laver Revealed. The Holy Spirit is the great Revealer, and He ever acts through the Word of God. By that Word He reveals our guilt to us when unsaved; and by the same Word, personal defilement to the child of God.
(b) The Laver Held Water. Water, as a type, is used both of the Word of God and of the Spirit of God. Thus the Word is the medium, and the Spirit the Agent. Regeneration is by the Spirit, through the Word. Restoration is by the Spirit, through the Word, also.
(c) But Christ is seen in the Laver also. The bronze would teach us that the foundation of regeneration and all true holiness lies in the death of Christ. And the water the Laver held would come from the smitten rock."

After these notes we read the further explanations by Widdison under the headings which follow:

"THE PURPOSE. Let us first distinguish two different washings.

AT THE CONSECRATION OF AARON AND HIS SONS.
This (is) not said to be at the Laver, for it was not yet introduced. They were washed 'all over' by Moses - the only time that Aaron and his sons were washed BY ANOTHER with water. This is typical of REGENERATION.

AT THE LAVER. Here Aaron and his sons, for themselves, laved their hands and feet; constant washings. 'Lest they die' is twice repeated. Both thoughts are brought together by two different Greek words in our Lord's discourse with Peter in John, 13. 10. 'Louo and Nipto.' Literally, 'He that has been in the bath, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit..' Using a figure from everyday life, our Lord in effect says that in crossing to the house after bathing, the feet only become defiled and need to be laved. This is typical of PERSONAL PURITY.

BLOOD AND WATER. Here we should consider the important distinction between Blood and Water.. Twice the Apostle John bears witness to a fact of great importance, namely, that from the side of our crucified Lord, pierced by the Roman soldier, there flowed blood and water. He gives the historic record in his Gospel, and instruction as to the bearing of the fact in his first Epistle. We see
(a) Blood and Water connected with Death of Christ.
(b) Though connected, they are distinct. They are cited separately as witnesses. We must, therefore, carefully distinguish them in our thoughts.
(c) Both are connected with Cleansing. We may say they connect themselves with the two great effects of sin - the GUILT of sin and the DEFILEMENT of sin.

THE BLOOD sets before us the death of Christ as dying for our sins, thus cancelling our guilt and bringing forgiveness. By this we are cleansed judicially - thus justification.
THE WATER indicates the same death but rather is that by which our sinful state is dealt with in judgment, so as to deliver us from the old conditions and associations of the life in which we once lived. Thereby we are cleansed morally and the power of sin broken forever.

THE LAVER AND ITS WATER. The Laver revealed any defilement, and held water to wash such away. The use and action of the Word of God is threefold.
(a) To Prevent and Preserve from false ways.
(b) To Cleanse and Restore if we neglect and become defiled.
(c) To form us after Christ.

Finally, Widdison sums up the notes on this article under the heading THE HISTORY OF THE LAVER. He states: "The Tabernacle gave place to the Temple. In the Temple Solomon made ten lavers and a SEA to hold three thousand baths of water. The Sea was for the priests to wash in. This Sea of water gave place to the Sea of Glass mingled with Fire of the Revelation. In the latter case the days of defilement were over, and those who stood on it looked down to see how clean they had been made in the Blood of the Lamb." That is the end of Widdison's notes on this aspect of the Tabernacle furnishing.

Our time has gone. From these considerations, let us take heart in noting how much The Almighty God loves us, and consider our most appropriate response.

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