|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #212, 213 and 214|
10 December, 1995
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies was begun several years ago, in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram, to leave his home country and, trusting The Almighty, to seek out by God's guidance, a new land, and, by miracle, a progeny to become a blessing to the world. In this sequence of studies, we had, on recent programmes, reached the later chapters of the Book of Exodus.
On our more recent programmes, we were considering the symbolic prophetic nature of the activities of Moses as he first ascended Mount Sinai to receive God's offer of what amounted to a marriage to the nation of Israel. With the national agreement of Israel to that binding Covenant with The Almighty, Moses had returned this answer to God atop the Mount. As soon as Moses was out of view, the people created and began to worship a golden calf, an act of idolatry which caused Moses, upon his return down the mountain with the tablets of the Commandments in hand, to break those tablets, order the eradication of the sinners and then to return up the mount to intercede with Yahweh, (Jehovah), the God Who had, by their agreement become their national husband. The pattern looked forward to Jesus Christ, a "Greater than Moses", Who would intercede for His people with His Own Blood.
When we began to read Exodus 35, we saw in the first few verses that, in creating the Tabernacle and its furniture and priestly garments, not only were the people to adhere with strict attention to the design patterns enjoined by The Almighty, but that, during the process of creating these material objects, they were also to see that the rest of God's Laws were not contravened while doing this. In a later generation, as reported in Matthew 23:24, Christ would condemn the scribes and Pharisees as blind guides "which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." They had lost the correct priorities of God's Law.
Reverting to the scene described before us, as Moses repeats God's orders to the Israelites, we find that God's Law required observance of the Sabbath, and, in that connection the law which stated that the laborious task of igniting a fire was not to be done on that day. If these laws had not been specifically repeated at this stage, the tendency might otherwise be to consider that the work of preparing God's Holy Tabernacle was of such importance that it must hold priority and that it therefore must proceed continuously regardless of the Sabbath.
God wanted to insure that not only the product must be holy, but also the process of creating it. In a later century, when King Solomon's Temple was to be constructed, a somewhat parallel, or at least similar, respect for the holiness of God's House during the production processes of that structure would be observed. Doubtless with the example of God's injunction to Moses to guide the directors of that new work, a similar observance of the Sabbath would prevail during the construction of a Temple which displayed dimensions twice those of the Tabernacle. Also, no tooling of the wood and stones, no hammering was to be done at the site. All was to be completed apart and then, pre-fabricated, assembled in holy tranquillity. I Kings 6:7 says "And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building."
That statement, in turn, reminds me of Christ's words to the Pharisees in Luke 17:20-21, concerning the manner in which the Kingdom of God would come. He said on that occasion, you may remember, that "The kingdom of God commeth not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there, for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (The preferred translation being, as in the margin, "...is among you.") In other words, God was using a silent process of a similar pattern in assembling His kingdom. It would arise in holy estate without great commotion and sound; each piece being fully designed and prepared apart and later fitted to a total pattern of design unseen until the assembling process was completed.
Now let us read Exodus 35 starting at verse 4:
4. And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD commanded, saying,
5. Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD; gold, and silver, and brass,
6. And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair,
7. And rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood,
8. And oil for the light, and spices for anointing oil, and for the sweet incense,
9. And onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod, and for the breastplate.
10. And every wise hearted among you shall come, and make all that the LORD hath commanded;
11. The tabernacle, his tent, and his covering, his taches, and his boards, his bars, his pillars, and his sockets,
12. The ark, and the staves thereof, with the mercy seat, and the vail of the covering,
13. The table, and his staves, and all his vessels, and the shewbread,
14. The candlestick also for the light, and his furniture, and his lamps, with the oil for the light,
15. And the incense altar, and his staves, and the anointing oil, and the sweet incense, and the hanging for the door at the entering in of the tabernacle,
16. The altar of burnt offering, with his brasen grate, his staves, and all his vessels, the laver and his foot,
17. The hangings of the court, his pillars, and their sockets, and the hanging for the door of the court,
18. The pins of the tabernacle, and the pins of the court, and their cords,
19. The cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest's office.
20. And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses.
21. And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the LORD'S offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments.
22. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the LORD.
23. And every man, with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers' skins, brought them.
24. Every one that did offer an offering of silver and brass brought the LORD'S offering: and every man, with whom was found shittim wood for any work of the service, brought it.
25. And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen.
26. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats' hair.
27. And the rulers brought onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate;
28. And spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense.
29. The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.
30. And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah;
31. And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship;
32. And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,
33. And in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work.
34. And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.
35. Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work.
Note the attitudes of those who contributed to the creation of this place of national worship. Those who had possessions which were required brought an offering, as in verse 5: "Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD." and verse 21: "And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the LORD'S offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments." Verse 22 says "And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought..." And in verse 29: "The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses."
Those in whom The LORD had imparted special skills to His service had the injunction as in verse 10: "And every wise hearted among you shall come, and make all that the LORD hath commanded."
God's kingdom, like His Tabernacle, is prepared by those who are of a willing heart, and those who are wise hearted to do the work. Let us not lose the later honour and satisfaction of knowing that we have made a willing contribution towards the building up of His Kingdom when He moves us to do so.
Here is a meditation for this week. "Do not be impatient either at the seeming delay in the inauguration of the kingdom for which you wait, nor for the peculiar and particular stresses and strains which may plague the course of your own life pattern. All who are to share in becoming a part of God's kingdom will eventually find their place and be perfectly fitted to their position within it. Everything will be done at the precise moment, in accordance with the Great Plan. We may well be living stones for the building but we must submit to the process, though it may sometimes feel hurtful, of being hewn and shaped before the final assembly to our appointed places. May this thought bless your life in the coming days.
17 December, 1995
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies began several years ago in Genesis 12 with God's Call to Abram. We are proceeding through the Scriptural record examining the verses in consecutive order as we progress, and we have now reached Exodus 36 wherein the Children of Israel, descendants of that Patriarch, are camped at the foot of Mount Sinai.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) had perpetuated and doubtless brought to a high level of competence the raising of cattle and sheep, and other family activities relating to their existence in a nomadic culture. Indeed, Abraham held no land in Palestine, we might remember and had to purchase a burial site for his wife, Sarah when she died. The patriarchal ancestors, whose experiences had over a number of generations been chiefly in the area of animal husbandry, and no doubt such connected trades as leather work, and possibly also the raising of some crops, would doubtless have been able to demonstrate high skill in those occupations.
The Almighty, however, had made a sequenced and expanding agreement with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob which would, down the centuries, require the broadening of education among their descendants to all fields of education and culture. Doubtless it was, at least in part, for this purpose that the family had, by God's Plan, been forced through famine to seek food from Egypt's granaries. To create the necessary conditions for the provision of such schooling over a sufficient period of time, The Almighty God had, through the service of Joseph, prepared their path. Thus they received the good land of Goshen in the area of the Nile Delta, and there the family was drawn to a broader agricultural experience, and into the civilization of Egypt.
The raising up of a Pharaoh who "knew not Joseph" was also part of the plan. With the bondage experience under that harsh monarch there came enforced labour extending to the creation of large buildings, and doubtless the artistry which would adorn and grace them. These new occupations, related as they doubtless were to the production of many articles of Egyptian civilization, would require the acquisition of related skills ranging through a far broader education than might have been available in the parched grassland of the Middle East.
Having just recently left these experiences of Egyptian bondage with the enforced production of all manner of buildings and adornments under the Egyptian Pharaoh, the Israelites would, by the generation of The Exodus, most probably have numbered among them some, at least, whose skilled craftsmanship might rival or surpass any available in the land of Egypt. They would have acquired the ability to work with the utmost skill in all manner of textiles, wood, stone and assorted metals. These skills they had brought with them into the Wilderness as they crossed the yam suph or sea of weeds, taking with them the spoils of Egypt (Exodus 12:35-36), in payment for their years of unpaid toil.
Thus had the workmen and artisans been provided with skills for the construction of The Tabernacle when the time for its creation finally arrived. The gold, silver, copper and jewels, the fine linen and other materials which would be required, these the Egyptians had heaped into the arms of the departing Israelite nationals. This the Egyptian families had done in the hours of grief wherein their own firstborn who should have inherited portions of this wealth lay dead by reason of the visitation of The LORD at midnight on the first Passover.
Thus had The LORD provided both the materials and the skills of the workers. In yet another matter had The LORD prepared. While Moses was absent atop Mount Sinai for the first forty days, the Israelites below had sinned in the creation of a golden calf, which they had worshipped. This had been visited with exemplary punishment by Moses upon his return. The lesson had sunk deep. Those workers who might have soiled their handiwork in the creation of The Tabernacle by sinful hands and idolatrous tendencies or unsanctified minds had thus been culled by death from the ranks. Moreover, Yahweh, (Jehovah), The Almighty God, knew the skills which His Spirit had imparted. He had placed within those who would labour, and especially those who would direct matters as the work progressed a spirit of understanding, so that all would be kept within the design which God had perfected and had placed before Moses.
Let us read some verses from the passage found in Exodus 36, beginning at Exodus 36:1.
1. Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the LORD put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the LORD had commanded.
2. And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the LORD had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it:
3. And they received of Moses all the offering, which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of the sanctuary, to make it withal. And they brought yet unto him free offerings every morning.
4. And all the wise men, that wrought all the work of the sanctuary, came every man from his work which they made;
5. And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make.
6. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing.
7. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.
We have previously mentioned both the directors of the work, Bezaleel and Aholiab, and commented upon the preparation which these two men must have experienced in order, not only to accomplish the mastery of the varied skills required, but we ought now, also, to note that The LORD must have placed within their past experiences the practice of directing others. Perhaps they had previously been in charge of artisans preparing works of the finest craftsmanship for Pharaoh. We do not know. But we do know that The Almighty God Who had so ordered the preparation of the whole nation of Israelites for the last hundreds of years would not have left anything to chance, and particularly so in such an important matter as this.
And what more shall we say concerning the preparation of the willing and generous hearts among those Israelites who now held in their hands great possessions, indeed they now had perhaps the greatest wealth they had ever before seen, let alone possessed, in consequence of the balancing of the ledger in the matter of the back wages which had been so recently heaped upon them by the bereaved Egyptians. Of this wealth, they forthwith donated the required materials in such abundance that Moses had to announce that no further materials would be required! What a day! What a display of devotion by the common folk of the nation. Would it not be wonderful if people today would display even a tenth so great a commitment of their possessions to The LORD's work. But here we must explain an important truth. While they of that former generation were providing materials to create in symbolic form a focus of national worship to The LORD, today, the Tabernacle, together with the later Temple, is the symbol of the work of Jesus Christ among His people, as we have previously discovered. The preparation of this present Tabernacle is the preparation of ourselves for sanctification by the work of Jesus Christ in the human hearts and souls. This applies both to the nations which will merge to become His Kingdom, and to each individual within those nations.
The instructions which Moses received for the construction of the Tabernacle which was thereupon built by Israel in the Wilderness so long ago were in a certain sense something like the lines of an architect's blueprint, which, upon being drawn up, would then be used to construct an architectural model of some structure, let us suppose the building of a great cathedral. While the model would be small and not in itself capable of fulfilling the purpose of the larger construction, it nevertheless provides a means by which we might come to understand and to assess the design which is later to appear in full in the midst of our city. The Almighty is preparing Himself a beautiful Temple created of human living stones. May we, as we close today's lesson, see ourselves, our lives, being shaped to the final design. It may sometimes hurt, but all is well if God's handiwork is involved. Let us yield ourselves to His design, for the glory yet to come. We shall continue our studies next week with some comments relating to the Christmas season.
24 December, 1995
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
This present series of Bible Studies began several years ago in Genesis 12 with God's Call to Abram. God, from the first conception of the world, has prepared a Great Plan of which we form a consistent part. Normally, in accordance with the steady sequence of Biblical passages which we are studying, we might today be examining some words from Exodus Chapter 36. However, as we have arrived, in the great cycle of the calendar year, at that time wherein we celebrate the appearance of the Babe of Bethlehem, God's Word in human form, it is appropriate to take our thoughts back to a time and place, and to an event which approximately two thousand years of human history has perhaps dimmed, but in no way tarnished. We are, of course, speaking of the First Advent, that appearance upon the world's scene of a divine Word, the fulfilment of multitudinous prophetic words from Scriptures, given, in some cases, thousands of years before that moment of divine intervention in the affairs of mankind.
Remember that, as we are informed in Revelation 13:8, Jesus is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." This was, and is, so of course, because The Almighty was even then planning a world in which a decision called "love" would be not only possible in the minds of His creatures, but indeed required. To co-exist in peaceful enhancement of life, love must exist in the relationships between the various members of mankind, and it must also define their attitudes towards The Almighty God Himself.
Immature decisions, made by uninformed or impatient minds would, for some time at least, inevitably create variance with the perfection of Godly consistency, which variance is called "missing the mark", or, in other words "Sin." God, in love, had to provide a legal meeting point between the creatures and Himself which would satisfy His perfect justice while permitting the creatures to retain life. That meeting point is The Cross of Jesus Christ, where He by substituting Himself, took upon Himself the punishment deservedly apportioned by God's Law to ourselves.
There will, at this point in time, be many who will scoff at any belief in the realities upon which we discourse. There will be others who, while there remains a wistful wish for it to be true, have allowed the oppressive darkness of scepticism to overwhelm that tiny light which may yet flicker in the human breast. Others may fully want it to be true but will deny it by their everyday activities wherein selfishness begrudges little beyond the immediate interests of the moment. Then there are those who, with a willing heart, and a longing impatience for His appearing, as for a long-awaited family member, scan the Biblical record and thus receive renewed assurance, counting that He Who gave promises which found fulfilment at the First Advent will most certainly and assuredly fulfil those which pertain to the Second Advent, so long prophesied, and so ardently desired by countless millions down the long corridor of history from that day to this.
On past occasions when we paused to assess the message of Christmas, we took a look at various aspects which, by now, will be familiar to many. First, there is the consideration that as shepherds were out in the fields that night, keeping watch over their flocks, it would probably not have been a mid-winter date with snow on the ground which saw the babe wrapped in swaddling bands, but in all likelihood, some date, perhaps in the fall of the year, and quite possibly at a Feast Day or a related and long-marked occasion. What then should we say of December 25, the date presently associated with His birth? It was apparently selected to mark the occasion years later, and much dispute and debate was apparently occasioned in various quarters over the actual date which ought to be observed as marking the Birth of Our Lord.
"Epiphany" means, according to the dictionary, "showing forth", or "manifestation" and it relates to the occasion when the Christ-Child was shown to the Magi, customarily observed on January 6th. A number of pages of small print in the Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, under the entries for "Christmas" and for "Epiphany" attest to the sorting out process through which various sections of the early church selected and settled upon one or another date to mark Christ's Birth. This process appears to have continued at various times and in various parts of the church over a period of some hundreds of years. January 6th was an alternative selection to December 25th on which to mark this great event. Other dates were also proposed.
Some more recent authorities have re-considered all the factors in the light of prophetic themes, and a date of birth about the end of September or the beginning of October seems to them to be appropriate.
In any event, if we look at the attention which tradition gives to the December date, then we might suggest that it was then or thereabouts that the Angel Gabriel made the Annunciation to The Virgin Mary, that through the overshadowing power of The Holy Ghost, she was to bear "that holy thing" which would be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Curiously, the matter of the legal status which is to be accorded to a child during the generally accepted period from conception to birth impinges upon this question. When the Annunciation was made, the promise was given that "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." That is a legal inheritance pronounced upon the "holy thing" while it was yet incipient.
I have recently been doing some research in Blackstone's "Commentaries on the Laws of England", in connection with another matter, and while in that process, I happened to review a passage which is found in Book I Chapter 1, Item 1 of that work, and which deals with "the right of personal security", which "consists in a person's legal and uninterrupted enjoyment of his life, his limbs, his body, his health and his reputation."
While meditating upon the theme of Christmas, the various suggested dates thereof, and the Scripture passages relating thereto, I found myself making a connection. Blackstone says "Life is the immediate gift of God, a right inherent by nature in every individual; and it begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother's womb. For if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise, killeth it in her womb; or if any one beat her, whereby the child dieth in her body, and she is delivered of a dead child; this, though not murder, was by the antient law homicide or manslaughter..." He continues "An infant ... in the mother's womb, is supposed in law to be born for many purposes. It is capable of having a legacy, or a surrender of a copyhold estate made to it. It may have a guardian assigned to it; and it is enabled to have an estate limited to its use, and to take afterwards by such limitation, as if it were then actually born. And in this point the civil law agrees with ours." Incidentally, for those unfamiliar with the term "copyhold" a dictionary supplies this explanation "a species of estate or right of holding land, for which the owner can only show the copy of the rolls originally made by the steward of the lord's court."
Now that quotation from Blackstone holds some interesting thoughts. Of course, it provides some grist to the debate involving abortion. It also makes the point that an unborn child enjoys the protection of the law as regards its legacy. Here we see that, in the Scripture portion I quoted a moment ago, Jesus is to enjoy that legacy which the angel announced to Mary.
Zacharias and Elizabeth, although of advanced age, had received a parallel message imparted by Gabriel to Zacharias when he was serving in the temple of the Lord. This had happened about six months earlier, and it pertained to the forthcoming birth of the child who would later be called John the Baptist, and who was related as a cousin to Jesus Christ.
When Mary went to visit Elizabeth, as she entered the house and saluted Elizabeth, the babe, John, "leaped in her womb." Such a reaction is surely not that of a fetus "growth" but of a living human being. It is thus that God deems such a young child to be.
We are approaching the end of our time for today's comments, so perhaps it would be most appropriate if, having the date in view, I express the prayer that our nations may honour and obey that "holy thing" which, by God's edict, is to inherit "the throne of his father David" and Who shall "reign over the house of Jacob for ever." We, of the British-Israel-World Federation have, as our long-time listeners know, often expressed the view that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of today are that "house of Jacob" over which Jesus Christ is yet to reign. May that thought bless your Christmas assemblies and your peaceful days as the year continues forward to that fateful hour of His Appearing.
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