EXODUS 25:1 – 27:21 and MATTHEW 21:1–27
The Lord now begins to speak to Moses upon the Mt. of Sinai. The next several chapters will consist of much symbolism. The symbolism is rich in meaning and significance. Before this God instructs Moses to inform the people to bring an offering that is willingly given. There are several items mentioned that can be brought and all of them would be used to construct the Tabernacle. This is seen in the first 7 chapters (Exo 25-31). It is the resources of the people that will be used to make the tabernacle and it had to be given willingly, without compulsion. The items make it clear that all manner of people can be involved based on the offerings that they give. The purpose for this Tabernacle is so that God may be able to dwell amongst them.
We have noted the various ways God has spoken to man to date. It could have been the burning bush or the burning mountain. Up to now he has limited His appearance or means of speaking to man through Moses and a few others. The tabernacle was going to give a picture and pattern as to how God could be in their midst and how a people will be able to make an approach unto God. We will also see the various functions of ministry, especially the role of priests in the tabernacle. Remember, the priesthood has yet to be established. The testing for priests seems to now be taking place as Moses is removed from the people for 40 days. The functioning of the tabernacle will be managed by priests and we will begin to see different divisions amongst them. It should prove instructive for us.
Something that we can note right away as the Lord begins to give instruction are the characteristics of the Ark that will be constructed. The Ark will consist of Shittim wood (vs 10) which speaks of humanity. It will be overlaid with gold (vs 11) which speaks of divinity. Here we see that man will have an opportunity to be joined and have access to God. Sinful man cannot stand before a holy God but here we are being shown that there will be a means by which man will be able to approach God. This will be looked at in more detail a bit later.
In verse 16 the Lord mentions that the Law of testimony will be placed inside the Ark after it is given. The Law was enunciated in Exo 20 but has not yet been put upon stones. The Ark conveys the truth that man can be joined to God and have access into His presence. We then see that the Law, the tables of stone will be later placed within the Ark. This makes clear the importance and significance of the Law. In verse 17 we are introduced to the Mercy Seat which will later cover the Ark. It is made of pure gold signifying God’s sole prerogative regarding mercy. A review of this picture is again given in verse 21. The Lord then goes on to say that it will be here where He will meet Moses. It seems that we can equate the significance of the Ark, the Law and Mercy Seat as being likened to the place where Moses will receive the Law from God. No other priest could approach, not Aaron, not the sons of Aaron or any other of the elders. What a privilege Moses is given here. In many ways he is like a type of Christ in having this kind of access, he was beyond the veil, something that was not broken until the time when the Lord died on the cross.
The Lord introduces the Table of Showbread next in verses 23-30. This piece of furniture will be separated from where the Ark will be located. It will be positioned in the Holy place of the finished Tabernacle. The table gives several meanings but chief among them will be a picture of the Lord who will become broken bread on our behalf. The next piece of furniture is the candlestick which has the connotation of the anointing of the 7 spirits of God. This too is a holy place feature. The 7 spirits of the Lord can be linked to Isa 11:2-3. It is an anointing that is not open to all but to those who (spiritually) have access to the Holy Place. People like Daniel, David and others functioned under this anointing. Remember how Daniel and his three friends grew in wisdom, knowledge and understanding by purposing in their heart not to be defiled? (Dan 1:8,17-20) Three of the seven spirits of God are in fact wisdom, knowledge and understanding. The Lord Himself spoke of it (Luk 4:18). The 7 spirits can be linked to several other scriptures as well (Zech 4:2, Rev 1:4, 3:1, 4:5).
Here we see detailed instruction regarding the coverings, the hooks, the kind of animals used to make the coverings as well as other various measurements. All things mentioned have significance and can be researched for their deeper meaning. We note a separation within the boundaries of the Tabernacle itself in verses 31-33 where the veil is mentioned. In verse 34 we see that the Mercy Seat and Ark of testimony are placed within the veil. It is noted as the most holy place. What a beautiful picture that is beginning to take shape. God so desires to tabernacle with men and He now is revealing through Moses how man can approach Him. We also are reminded that our God is a holy God. To some the tabernacle can be viewed as just a memorial, featuring rituals that Israel of old had to perform. Some will say that it is Old Testament and no longer relevant consisting of several pieces of furniture, different kinds of tapestries and all kinds of killed animal skins. Some will also say that is just a building that has a lot of crazy measurements. The truth is otherwise, the Tabernacle is most instructive in understanding God in a greater way. The three divisions (Outer Court, Holy Place and Holy of holies) helps for us to understand that there are different degrees of believers. The methods and ways of God never cease to amaze. How many today see the Tabernacle in that light? One such warning should be noted in the study of the Tabernacle. The outer court had no covering. It was in the open air unlike the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. In these volatile days we need to seek to be covered and hidden under His covering; symbolized by the coverings or garments of the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. The understanding of the truths surrounding the Tabernacle of Moses can lead us into that experience.
We now have an altar of offering described in verses 1-8. This is not the same as the altar of incense which is described in Exo 30. It is constructed of the same Shittim wood as seen in the altar of incense but this one is overlaid with brass (vs 2). The altar of incense is overlaid with gold (30:3). The location of these two altars are different as well. The altar of offering is located in the outer court before the entrance to the holy place where the general people gathered. The altar of incense was located before the veil of the Holy of Holies. This would denote a different degree of consecration of prayer. In the Holy place it would be a priestly prayer. The two altars help to demonstrate that there is a level of consecration and spiritual growth in our journey.
In verses 8-19 we have the dimensions given for the outer court. The curtains which make for the walls are mentioned as well. It needs to be noted that it is an enclosed structure that is open from the top. The holy place and holy of holies are both covered from the top, denoting a measure of protection from outside elements. This is instructive to us as believers. In the last days there will be great judgments and pestilences. (Similar to that which was seen earlier in the plagues) We want to be those who (spiritually) attain to the Holy place. We can liken the Holy place to those who are not only called but also chosen. We do not want to settle in being just “outer court” Christians. This is an attitude that speaks of believers who choose not to press onward in their journey. They are content with a “status quo” Christian life. Such people do not bring a measure of consecration to their lives that would then enable them to come into the Holy Place. These are people who do not establish altars in their lives; a prayer and devotional life that allows God to deal with sin. There is no protection from the elements in the outer court.
May God prompt us to be among those who dwell in the secret place of the most High (Psa 91). May we also be those who seek after meekness and righteousness so as to be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger (Zeph 2:3). That day appears to be close at hand. In verses 20-21 the people were to bring pure olive oil for the lamps (candlesticks) that would burn perpetually. The purity of oil denotes the work of the Holy Spirit. We then see that this “light” refers to the candlesticks that would reside in the Holy Place. The Holy Place would only be for the priests. It separated them from the Outer Court where the general public could have access. The people in verse 27 brought the pure olive oil which would then be placed into lamps (candlesticks) in the Holy Place. We see here an aspect of the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that one can press into their respective walks. It was also true in the ministry and walk of our Lord.
Heb 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
As we progress in our study it would be worthy to seek the help, guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit to better understand the patterns and types that are referenced in these chapters.
Jesus is now making His approach towards Jerusalem. The purpose for His coming to earth is about to come to its climax. His teaching and mission is now taking on a greater focus and intensity. There will be heightened spiritual activity as well. In verses 1-12 we have the account of Jesus giving instruction in obtaining the colt that would bring in him to Jerusalem. This was the fulfillment of a prophecy given in Zech 9:9.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”
How did Jesus know that there would be a colt available upon entering Jerusalem? He knew what was written of Him; He knew prophecy. As our walk with the Lord intensifies I feel there will be a similar measure of insight into things to come. Time was running out and the Lord knew of things that were about to come to pass. Today we too have many insights available to us provided we walk circumspectly before God. The Lord, riding on the colt, makes His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. There are multitudes gathered crying out “Hosanna (save us) to the Son of David”. The people knew him as Jesus, prophet of Nazareth. In addition they cut down branches (palm) and laid them in the path. He was recognized as the righteous one. It is interesting that in a matter of days the Lord would be abandoned and forsaken by most of the people. What happened, what brought about such a swift change of sentiment?
One of the first things the Lord did upon entering the city was to go into the temple and begin turning things upside down (vs 12-13). He did this because the temple was being used as a merchandising place in lieu of worshipping God. What were they merchandising, what were they worshipping? In a word-mammon. Is it a stretch to suggest that the Lord was touching the “central bank” of His day? They were buying and selling, making merchandise in a place that was to be devoted for worship. I personally feel there is a strong parallel that can be applied to central banking as we see it today. (This will be developed at a later time) This truly put things into motion and helps to give light in how the mood of the people quickly changed. Their anger increased when they saw Jesus healing a blind man who came into the temple. The temple, which had the purpose for being a place for worship and prayer, now sees a healing and yet the scribes and chief priests are enraged. I guess we can see where one’s priorities are. Mammon is their god. There was an anointing (Spirit of Might) upon Jesus when he moved through the temple. The spirit of might (Isa 11:2-3) came upon Him and upset the apple cart of the money changers, the ones who exacted control over the lives of people.
In verses 17-22 there is the account of Jesus coming upon the fig tree. In Mark’s account it states that Jesus was hungry (Mark 11:12). From a distance the fig tree had the appearance of fruit. This can be likened to a church or even an individual. To the casual eye this church or individual can have the appearance of being fruitful. The fig leaves serve as a cover to the reality. It is interesting to note that man first sought to cover-up by way of fig leaves in the garden (Gen 3:7). From a distance all can seem well. What happened to Adam when the Lord approached them in the garden? Adam and Eve had to hide; they could cover up no more. Jesus approached the fig tree and upon close inspection found that there was no fruit (Math 21:19). Likewise, the Lord is drawing near today, making closer inspection to His church and people. How do we respond? Do we cover up, excuse or seek to run away from allowing the Lord to deal with our lives? What Jesus discovered regarding the fig tree can well be said for many churches and people today. Things may look good from a distance but what is the true picture within? How do we respond when the Lord stands at the door and knocks upon our heart (Rev 3:20)? This to me is a powerful truth and serves as a warning to us all that we seek to have the heart that David had.
Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
Psa 139:24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
After this event the Lord returns to the temple and has a discussion with the chief priests on the issue of authority (vs 23-27). They asked Jesus as to who gave him the authority to do these things. They sought to trap Him because they were looking to try and take Him in blasphemy. Jesus answered their question with a question of His own. He turned the tables on them because he understood their motive. Jesus now put these men on the defensive by asking whether the Baptism came from heaven or men. This is brilliant when you think about it because Jesus was actually asking them the same question that they were asking of Him. If they could or would not answer then Jesus would do the same, at least for now. We will find later that Jesus does reveal the authority from which He functions and that He claims before them that he is the Son of God. The timing was not yet right for this disclosure. You can only do something like this when the Word of God is strong within you. You will have discernment to understand people’s motives and you will have wisdom to know what to say or do in such situations. Asking the right questions can open many doors that will enable one to minister or to answer critics who seek to undermine. It is vital that we feed upon the milk and honey of God’s Word in order to have this level of discernment.
The Lord teaches a few more parables in the remaining verses of Math 21. Each of these parables was taught in such a way that the priests and Pharisees knew that He was talking about them. This only fueled their fire all the more. The first parable of the vineyard (vs 28-32) speaks of those who seem to start well and commit to doing the work of the kingdom but do not follow through nor obey the voice of God. The second group initially does not commit but does so later. Jesus made clear that many publicans and harlots will enter the kingdom, even before the religious. He upbraided their hypocrisy.
He built upon this parable by presenting one that referred to Himself (vs 33-46). The implication of this parable is quite clear. The son that was sent into the vineyard would be Himself. Jesus exposes the attitude of the Pharisees in this parable as they go forth murdering the heir of the landowner. It was plainly spoken to the point where the chief priests and Pharisees knew he was speaking about them. This last week in Jerusalem sees an acceleration of activity and animosity against the Lord coming to a peak. It started with the triumphal entry into the city. He upset the economy of the bankers due to their merchandising in the temple. He conveyed a powerful truth regarding the fig tree. There is a veneer over much of Christendom that covers up the true picture. The Feast of Atonement is the Feast where God dealt with the sins of the people. If we do not allow this introspective work we will be cut off (Lev 27:29).This parable ends with a vivid picture of the heart of the chief priests and Pharisees being revealed. We need to be ever mindful of these things due to circumstances coming to bear that will reveal what is within our hearts.