Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Respecting God

“You shall make the court of the tabernacle…

“You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.

priest-costume--stones“Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, 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. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.

“And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth… And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance…

“You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it—of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it. It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth. You shall set in it four rows of stones… There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel… So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD. And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the LORD. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the LORD regularly.

“You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear. On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the LORD, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.

“You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD…

“For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty. And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs; and they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they go into the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they bear guilt and die. This shall be a statute forever for him and for his offspring after him. (Exodus 27:9-28:43, ESV)

The courtyard of the Tabernacle kept a certain separation between the tribes of Israel and the Tabernacle itself. This is the interplay of intimacy with Yahweh and yet recognition that He is holy and other. The oil for the lampstand is to keep a light on continuously in the Tabernacle.

Aaron and his sons, the priests of Israel, must have garments that show their connection to the Tabernacle and speak of the glory of Yahweh, hence the colors and beauty of the garments. The ephod, which holds the breastplate and bears on it the two stones, one on each shoulder, with the names of the tribes of Israel, and the breastplate, which holds 12 stones, one each for the 12 tribes of Israel, are worn before Yahweh when they enter the holy place and the most holy place to represent Israel and atone for Israel.

In the breastplate is something called the Urim and the Thummim, which later are described as in some way giving indication of Yahweh’s will concerning various decisions that need to be made. We don’t know how they functioned to accomplish this.

Aaron also has to wear bells on his clothes to make a noise as he enters the holy place. This was a sign of respect for Yahweh. You don’t just enter in with casual purpose or you will die. Entering in must be done in all respects as Yahweh has prescribed. The priests must be anointed for this service and even their undergarments are prescribed to maintain purity.

We are told to come boldly to God (Hebrews 4:16) but this does not mean flippantly. We are under no judgment for being familiar with God but we also treat the relationship with respect. Part of that respect means being absolutely transparent with Him when we converse. He already knows us intimately but it is important for us to come to Him in complete honesty as well as humility.

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Daily Thoughts on Exodus: Singing

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying,

 “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

 the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

 The LORD is my strength and my song,

 and he has become my salvation;

 this is my God, and I will praise him,

 my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

 The LORD is a man of war;

 the LORD is his name.

 

 “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,

 and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

 The floods covered them;

 they went down into the depths like a stone.

 Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power,

 your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.

 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;

 you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.

 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;

 the floods stood up in a heap;

 the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,

 I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

 I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’

 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;

 they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

 “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?

 Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

 awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

 You stretched out your right hand;

 the earth swallowed them. “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;

 you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

 The peoples have heard; they tremble;

 pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.

 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;

 trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;

 all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.

 Terror and dread fall upon them;

 because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,

 till your people, O LORD, pass by,

 till the people pass by whom you have purchased.

 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,

 the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode,

 the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

 The LORD will reign forever and ever.” 

For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them:

 “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

 the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

(Exodus 15:1-21 ESV)

Why sing?  Why include a song in this middle of telling this story?  Part of the answer is that it cannot be helped.  As Moses and the people said, “Yahweh is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”  When God is not just an invisible someone we believe in but someone who has become active in our lives in ways we could never have anticipated, we leave the realm of mere acknowledgement.  We are emotionally involved now with Him and singing to Him and about Him makes all the sense in the world.  You do not have a real relationship with God if He is only your strength and not also your song.

Because of God’s great and awesome deed of deliverance from the mightiest army on the face of the earth at that time, Israel anticipates the fear and dread of Yahweh that will fall on the peoples to whose land they are traveling.  They will leave the Israelites alone when they pass by on the way to Canaan and God will establish His place of worship, His sanctuary, in Canaan, where Israel will worship Him forever.  There is much that is true in this psalm but the Israelites will find that even though afraid, these nations will send armies against them and in the far future Israel’s worship of Yahweh will fade.  May we be warned not to follow their example.  Instead, may we continue to find reasons to sing to Him.

Wikipedia defines and says of singing that it is “the act of producing musical sounds with the voice and augments regular speech by the use of sustained tonality, rhythm, and a variety of vocal techniques,” and mentions the health benefits of singing for the brain and the body in general.  But in a strange way it is comedian Steven Wright’s joke about singing that gets more to the heart of it.  He says, “I remember when the candle shop burned down.  Everyone stood around singing ‘Happy Birthday.'”  Singing is the soul taking joy and even tragedy and making it bearable.  It is God’s gift to us for saying from our souls what just could not be adequately said in mere words.