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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Matt's Messages - Serving the Great King

"Serving the Great King"
July 31, 2005
Exodus 30:1-31:18

Let me ask you one more time: where is Israel at this point in the story of Exodus? At Mount Sinai.

YHWH has rescued Israel from Egypt and brought Israel to Himself at the foot of Mount Sinai. And YHWH has come Himself in His holiness, given them the Law, and made a covenant with Israel.

Now, one more time. Where is Moses in Exodus chapter 30? Moses is on top of Mount Sinai. God invited him up. Moses entered the cloud of God’s presence at the top of the mountain of God. And God is talking to Moses. Forty days and forty nights.

And for those forty days and forty nights, God is giving Moses two things. What are they? We’ve studied them the last two weeks.

Tabernacle Blueprints and Priesthood Instructions.

God is giving Moses the blueprints for His tent, His dwelling place among His people, the Tabernacle.

And He is explaining to Moses how to establish the Aaronic Priesthood to serve before Him in His tabernacle.

These last two chapters of this section (chapters 30 and 31) complete the instructions that God has been giving to Moses. They complete the picture of the blueprints of the tabernacle by telling us about a few other items that go inside of it. And they give us a few more details about what is supposed to go on there. What Aaron and his sons are supposed to do in the service of the tabernacle.

Like the last five chapters, these two chapters are also about the LORD’s holiness and LORD’s presence.

The Holy God of Israel is moving into the neighborhood.

The Great King is setting up His throne room in the midst of His people. A Most Holy Place with the Ark of the Covenant. A Holy Place with the Table of the Presence and the Golden Lampstand. In a tent. Surrounded by a courtyard set off by curtains. With a big bronze altar inside of the gate.

The Great King is setting up His throne room in the midst of His people. And His people are being called upon to serve Him.

Serving the Great King.

They are to build a tent for Him to inhabit. And they are to establish a priesthood to minister as servants in His tabernacle.

Serving the Great King.

What I want to do this morning is read chapters 30 and 31 and pause to look at some of the details and then at the end, draw three observations about the whole thing that we can apply to our lives today.

Let’s pray together and then dive into Exodus chapter 30.

[prayer]

The first item in chapter 30 is an Altar for Incense. Verse 1.

"Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. [This is not for burning sacrifices. It’s for burning incense.] It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high–its horns of one piece with it. Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and make a gold molding around it. Make two gold rings for the altar below the molding–two on opposite sides–to hold the poles used to carry it. [Like everything else, it’s portable.] Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Put the altar in front of the curtain that is before the ark of the Testimony–before the atonement cover that is over the Testimony–where I will meet with you. [The Throne of the Great King!] Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the LORD for the generations to come. Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it. [This kind of incense only.] Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns [on the Day of Atonement]. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the LORD.’" Pause there.

Let’s see if you got it. What is the incense altar made of? [Acacia wood covered with gold.]

What shape is it? [Square like the Holy of Holies. It is called (in v.10), most holy to the LORD.]

Where is it located in the tabernacle complex? [Inside the Holy Place outside of the Most Holy Place.]

What is burned on it? [Incense only.]

Good. I think there is a least two kind of symbolism operating here. Does anyone know what incense often symbolizes in the Bible? [Prayers.]

Continual prayers. Elsewhere, the Bible says, "Pray continually." And the prayers of God’s people are pictured as incense continually lifting up to the LORD.

But I think the more basic symbolism here is the same symbolism we saw with the Table of Presence and the Lampstand. God is here. God is home. God is a good host.

Back in ancient times, a good host would burn incense to hide the odors of desert life. Living with camels and donkeys and sheep and goats [and here, burnt ones!] was a stinky business. Incense was the equivalent of air freshener [and also deodorant!] in the ancient world. A good host would burn incense to make the stay of his guests pleasant.

The Great King is a great host. And I think that’s at least one of the things that is being pictured here in God’s tent. Continual prayers (going up regularly before YHWH). And the Great King serving as a great host at home among His people.

God mentioned atonement. Now He turns to atonement money. Verse 11.

"Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. [Notice, at this point, how many times plagues and death and being cut off from God’s people show up in these two chapters. This is serious business. There will be dangerous consequences if these instructions are not carried out to the letter. V.13] Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the LORD. All who cross over [all those who are counted], those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives. [It’s fair and equal and must not be very much money if the poor can afford it.] Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the Tent of Meeting. [That’s why it’s here. Because it is for the tabernacle.] It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for your lives.’" Pause there.

This in years to come became what is known as the Temple-Tax. And Jesus pays His in Matthew chapter 17 (out of the mouth of a fish!).

Now, maybe this is here to remind them of Who ransomed them in the first place. God owns them. They are remembering that by paying for their lives. Perhaps. The principle is probably lying in there somewhere.

What I think is interesting to notice is that they are to give this atonement money when they take a census. When would they take a census?

Well, they do in the book of Numbers. It’s where that book gets it’s name. They actually do it twice in the book of Numbers.

A king would do a census to find out how strong he is. Wouldn’t he? How many men he has 20 years old and over. Fighting men. This could be a stumbling block couldn’t it? Taking their eyes off of God fighting for them and wanting to know by surveying their strength how powerful they are (in themselves).

I think that’s a lot of why David got in trouble (and got his people deep trouble) by taking a census in 2 Samuel 24. [Do you remember what happened there?]

I think that’s a big part of why YHWH makes them do this tax. Whenever they get to wondering how strong they are in numbers, the LORD reminds them of whom they already belong to.
And the money goes to keeping up the "Headquarters" of the Real Great King. V.16 again.

"Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the Tent of Meeting. It will be a memorial [a reminder!] for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for your lives."

The next section has another item that goes in the tabernacle complex. The Bronze Basin for Washing. V.17

"Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die [!]. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting an offering made to the LORD by fire, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.’" Pause there.

This is a washbasin. Made of bronze. Where does it sit? [Outside of the tent, in the courtyard.]

In front of or behind the altar? [Behind. First Aaron and his sons perform a sacrifice. Then, they wash.] It’s a symbol of cleansing. And it’s actual cleansing of some of that blood from their hands and feet. If they don’t do it, they die.

Cleansing is mandatory.

Now in verse 22, God gives instructions abou the Anointing Oil and Incense. V.22

"Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh [12 ½ lbs], half as much (that is, 250 shekels) [that is, 6 1/4 lobs] of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane [that’s 1 gallon], 500 shekels of cassia–all according to the sanctuary shekel–and a hin of olive oil [about 4 quarts]. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. Then use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony, the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. [Pouring this costly, smelly, gooey oil over all of these things and these people as a sign of consecration and sanctification for God’s holiness.] Say to the Israelites, 'This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on men's bodies and do not make any oil with the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and whoever puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from his people.'’"

That’s pretty serious, isn’t it? The picture of this kind of anointing and sanctification is very serious. The same thing with the formula for incense. V.34.

"Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take fragrant spices–gum resin, onycha and galbanum– and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from his people.’"

This is a limited edition fragrance. For YHWH and YHWH’s house only.

This what is burned on the altar of incense all day long. And it sacred.

Have you ever noticed how sensory the Tabernacle is? I don’t think I’ve ever thought about how many smells there are associated with the Tabernacle. YHWH doesn’t just speak in words. He communicates here in fragrances!

And the message is the same: The Great King is here, and He is holy, holy, holy.

In chapter 31, we find out how important it is to get these details right. So important that it takes "the best of the best," filled by the Spirit to engineer this thing. Chapter 31, verse 1.

"Then the LORD said to Moses ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God [the first time the Spirit is said to fill anyone in Scripture], with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts–to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you: the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent–the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand–and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.’" Pause there.

Not just anyone can make this Tabernacle. The Tent of the Great King must be made by "the best of the best." God has seen to it that "the best of the best" has the skills needed to make this important tent. He has actually put His spirit inside of "the best of the best" to craft this tent. And He is to make it (v.11) "just as I commanded you."

No deviations. No "change orders." No "I thought the altar would look better over here!"

"[Bezalel and Oholiab] are to make them just as I commanded you."

But in all of this activity, they are not to forget the 4th commandment. They are to keep the Sabbath as a sign. The sign of the Mosaic Covenant. V.12

"Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, 'You must observe my Sabbaths. [Meaning, my weekly gift to you!] This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. [That’s a big sentence! "This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy." YHWH is the one who makes Israel holy. He has given Israel a day to specifically get to know Him and become like Him by resting in Him. It’s called the Sabbath. V.14] Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.'’ [Who are you to do any less?] When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed [whatever this means!] by the finger of God."

The tablets stand for the whole of the covenant. It’s a covenant made by God with His people. They are put inside of the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place.

Now, about this Sabbath sign. Do you see why it’s so important to not work on that day?

If an Israelite desecrated the Sabbath, they would be saying (v.13) that they didn’t want to know YHWH who makes them holy!

The Tabernacle is "sacred space." The Sabbath is "sacred time." Both must be observed because YHWH makes them sacred. YHWH makes them holy. YHWH sanctifies them.

The Sabbath was the Day of the Great King just as the Tabernacle was the Home of the Great King.

And serving the Great King on that day meant resting and (this is amazing!) allowing the Great King to work for them.

Because the Great King while requiring service is the Great Servant Himself.

Even as Israel should scurry to do His will, the Great King stoops to serve Israel and gives them a day off every week to know Him better and be made holy.

Isn’t that amazing?

Now, I hope by now the picture of the Tabernacle and the Priesthood is clearer than it has ever been for you. It’s definitely been good for me to study it and get inside of it and try to feel what it was communicating. And even smell what it was communicating!

The Great Holy King of Israel is planning to come and live (somehow!) in the midst of His people. And He has commanded that they serve Him by building Him an earthly headquarters in a tabernacle-tent and establish a personnel to serve Him as His priests.

Serving the Great King.

Let me draw out three observations from these two chapters and apply them to our lives.

#1. SERVING THE GREAT KING IS IMPORTANT.

I know that’s an understatement. But I didn’t know how else to say it.

It takes "the best of the best" to build this thing. Nothing less will do.

It takes the best of the best materials.
It takes the best of the best craftsmen.
It is the most important thing happening in the last third of the book of Exodus.

How many chapters to create the world in Genesis? 2, right?

How many chapters to build the tabernacle? 25-31. That’s seven chapters just of instructions.

What do you think we’re going to find starting in chapter 35? There are 5 more chapters [!] dedicated to actually carrying out these instructions. That’s 12 chapters on the tabernacle. God thinks it’s important.

Serving the Great King is important.

Do you serve the Great King as a priority?

Lots of people give mental assent to God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Supposedly Christians are still in a majority in the United State of America. But it sure doesn’t look like it!

Do we serve the Great King as a priority? As if He was important?

Or are we just "dating" the Great King?

#2. SERVING THE GREAT KING IS COSTLY.

Think about the costs associated with just the anointing oil and incense. Those were extravagantly expensive spices. That cost something.

The Great King is worth it.

The Lord Jesus had expensive fragrances poured out on Him. And instead of agreeing that the expense of it should have gone to the poor (who truly needed it), He said (basically) that He was worth all of the cost. And He was right.

The Great King is worth it.
Serving the Great King is Costly. And He is worth it.

If you served the Great King at Family Bible Week this last week, please stand. If you were a greeter, a food preparer, set-up team, clean-up crew, teacher, helper, nursery work, worship team, whatever. Please stand up.

Let’s give them a big round of applause.

That cost you something, didn’t? Five nights? That’s five nights not to do whatever else it is you do during the week. Many of you worked an eight hour day and then turned around an worked a three hour night.

Thank you for your service. The Great King is worth it.

Now, let me challenge you. It’s time to plan for the Fall. We need about 5 more Children’s Church teachers to run the program for the Fall. We need about 3 more children’s Sunday School teachers. Michele Kephart hasn’t been to Adult Sunday School in 3 years. She needs a qualified teacher to take her class. We need leaders for Kids for Christ and Uth Group on Wednesday nights. There is a planning meeting for Wednesday Night Ministry on August 11th. We need people to show up for it.

We need people to sacrifice their time and their energy for MINISTRY. Which is another word for service. And service is always costly.

But He’s worth it. He’s worth it.

John and Becky. Would you stand? These two people have given their life to missionary service. I’m sure that they would say that they haven’t sacrificed a thing. But we know better. We know that there are has been a price-tag for their service to the Great King.

And He is worth it. Every cost. Let’s applaud them. Thank you for serving the Great King. He is worth it!

#3. SERVING THE GREAT KING IS SERIOUS.

This is serious business.
Did you notice how often death was threatened?

I counted 8 times in these 2 chapters. There might be more.

No plague will come on them if they do the atonement tax.
Wash with water so that they will not die.
Don’t make a perfume like this or you will be cut off.
Anyone who desecrates the Sabbath must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day msut be cut off from his people.

"[Bezalel and Oholiab] are to make [everything] just as I commanded you."

Serving the Great King is serious business.

It requires total obedience.

No fudging.
No cutting corners.
No going our own way.

The Great King is Holy. And He requires Holy Obedience.

The trouble with American Christianity is that we don’t take the Gospel seriously enough. God is not taken seriously enough. He is assumed. He is ignored. He is treated with only passing attention and, therefore, contempt.

That’s why God is raising up authors who are writing books like, Don’t Waste Your Life and Stop Dating the Church!

This is serious stuff.

And we need to get serious about it.

Are you serving the Great King?

Or are you merely hanging around?

What step could you take this week to get serious about serving the Great King?

What step could you take today to get serious?

Take that step.

But don’t forget that this "Serving the Great King" while being so important, so costly, and so serious, is not working our way, earning our way, to heaven.

That’s impossible. The Great King is the One Who makes us holy.

And He does it not by asking us to serve Him (which does ask).

But by serving us through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ who says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

"I will be your Sabbath."

Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

So, even as you serve the Great King, [and I pray that you do], do it because of His service and in the strength supplied by the Great King Himself who stooped to serve in His marvelous, infinite, matchless grace. Grace greater than all my sin.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Matt's Messages - Aaron and His Sons

"Aaron and His Sons"
July 24, 2005
Exodus 28:1-29:46

Let me ask again this week: where is Israel at this point in the story? Where is Israel in Exodus chapter 28? At Mount Sinai. That’s right.

YHWH has rescued Israel from Egypt and brought Israel to Himself at the foot of Mount Sinai. And YHWH has come Himself in His holiness, given them the Law, and made a covenant with Israel.

Now, let me ask you this. Where is Moses in Exodus chapter 28? Moses is on top of Mount Sinai. God invited him up. Moses has entered the cloud of God’s presence at the top of the mountain of God–the cloud that looks to Israel like a consuming fire.

That’s where Moses is. And God is talking to Moses. Forty days and forty nights. And God is giving Moses something. We studied it last week. What is it? [Blueprints.]

God is giving Moses the blueprints for His tent, His dwelling place among His people. The Tabernacle.

God is moving into the neighborhood. The Great King is setting up His throne room in the midst of His people. A Most Holy Place with the Ark of the Covenant. A Holy Place with the Table of the Presence and the Golden Lampstand. In a tent. Surrounded by a courtyard set off by curtains. With a big bronze altar inside of the gate. The blueprints for the Tabernacle.

God is also giving Moses something else.

God is giving Moses instructions on establishing the priesthood.

Here at Mount Sinai, God is not only making a covenant, giving the Law, and setting up a dwelling place for Himself. God is also establishing the Levitical Priesthood–the permanent priesthood to serve God in the Tabernacle.

Now, let me ask you a question. Who knows who will be the first priest(s) of the people of Israel?

Aaron and His Sons.

Moses’ brother Aaron and His descendants will serve before God as the priests of Israel. They are descendants of Levi, therefore, they are the Levitical Priests.

Aaron will be the first High Priest (Chief Priest, #1 Priest, Top Dog Priest) in Israel.

And Aaron’s sons will follow him.

Aaron and His Sons.

We’re only going to study two chapters this morning. Chapter 28 and chapter 29. Chapter 28 tells us about Aaron and His Sons’ Clothing. And chapter 29 tells us about Aaron and His Sons’ Consecration. Clothing and Consecration.

What I want to do is read chapter 28 pausing along the way to look at all of the details. And then stop to draw out what I think is the major theological big idea of the chapter and apply it to our lives. And then we’ll do the same thing with chapter 29. There will only be two points this morning. One on chapter 28 and one on chapter 29.

Let’s pray and then begin reading about Aaron and His Sons.

[prayer]

Exodus chapter 28. Aaron and His Sons’ Clothing. Verse 1.

"Have Aaron your brother brought to you [Moses] from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor. [King James: "glory and beauty."] Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests. Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen." Pause there for a second.

God is asking Moses to summon the tailors of Israel. They are to make a work-suit for Aaron to wear when he is serving as priest before God.

It is a suit unlike most other suits. Verse 4 again. "These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. [V.5] Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen."

What does that sound like? The blueprints for the tabernacle we read about last week! The priests are to look like the tabernacle. Their amazing outfits are to match, to correspond with, the amazing stuff that the tabernacle is made of.

Now, God gives Moses the particulars. First, the Ephod. Verse 6.

"Make the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen– the work of a skilled craftsman. It is to have two shoulder pieces attached to two of its corners, so it can be fastened. Its skillfully woven waistband is to be like it–of one piece with the ephod and made with gold, and with blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and with finely twisted linen. Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel in the order of their birth–six names on one stone [the older brothers] and the remaining six on the other [the younger brothers]. Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the LORD. Make gold filigree settings and two braided chains of pure gold, like a rope, and attach the chains to the settings." Pause there.

Now, last week, I said that I wasn’t much for reading blueprints. The same is doubly true this week for reading clothing patterns!

However, I’ll do the best I can. The Ephod appears to have been an apron-like piece of clothing. Sleeveless. With two shoulder pieces holding it together at the top. And a "woven waistband" [I believe that is the sash] to hold it together at the bottom. It’s made of glorious materials like the tabernacle, "...gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen–the work of a skilled craftsman."

Now, I think that the most important thing to notice are the onyx stones that are mounted on the shoulder pieces of the Ephod. Did you catch what is engraved on them?

The names of the tribes of Israel. Six on one. Six on the other. And YHWH says in verse 12, "Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the LORD." We’re going to see more about that.

The next piece of clothing is the breastpiece. Verse 15.

"Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions–the work of a skilled craftsman. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. It is to be square–a span long and a span wide–and folded double [9" by 9" and folded double to make a little pocket. Verse 17]. Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. In the first row there shall be a ruby, a topaz and a beryl; in the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and an emerald; in the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; in the fourth row a chrysolite, an onyx and a jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes." We’ll come back to that. 12 Stones. 12 Tribes. Mounted on the front of the breatpiece. V.22

"For the breastpiece make braided chains of pure gold, like a rope. Make two gold rings for it and fasten them to two corners of the breastpiece. Fasten the two gold chains to the rings at the corners of the breastpiece, and the other ends of the chains to the two settings, attaching them to the shoulder pieces of the ephod at the front. Make two gold rings and attach them to the other two corners of the breastpiece on the inside edge next to the ephod. [Notice that the ephod is worn under the breastpiece.] Make two more gold rings and attach them to the bottom of the shoulder pieces on the front of the ephod, close to the seam just above the waistband of the ephod. The rings of the breastpiece are to be tied to the rings of the ephod with blue cord, connecting it to the waistband, so that the breastpiece will not swing out from the ephod. Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the LORD." Pause there.

I think that the point of all of the gold rings is just to show Moses how it’s supposed to hang together and not swing around a lot. And it’s made of gold because it’s going in to the Holy of Holies.

The breastpiece is also used for guiding Israel in decision making. That’s what it said in verse 15. Now in v.30, God gives the decision-making equipment. V.30

"Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron's heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD." Pause there.

We don’t know much about the Urim and Thummim. We can guess. It seems like they are two lots that are kept in the "breastpiece pocket" and cast to make decisions and be guided by YHWH. One of them probably meant Yes or Success and the other meant No or Curse. We’re not sure how it worked. We only know that it did and that it was part of the Aaron’s High Priestly Clothing.

Next is the Robe. V.31

"Make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, with an opening for the head in its center. There shall be a woven edge like a collar around this opening, so that it will not tear. Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die." Pause there.

The robe is worn under the ephod and the breastpiece. It is beautiful and ornate, and it must be worn exactly like this or there will be deathly consequences. Aaron is to wear it and when he moves in the Most Holy Place the bells will tinkle and they will know that all is well.

[In later years, tradition has it, that they would also tie a rope around the leg of the High Priest so that if he did die, they could pull him out without having to go in after him.]

Now, the Turban. Verse 36.

"Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron's forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron's forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD."

We’ll talk more about this again in a minute. V.39. The Tunic.

"Weave the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen. The sash is to be the work of an embroiderer. Make tunics, sashes and headbands for Aaron's sons, to give them dignity and honor [,too. The tunic is worn under the robe under the ephod under the breastpiece.] After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests." That’s the next chapter. One more layer of clothing. V.42.

"Make linen undergarments as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants." Stop there.

This is not a sex-religion. The priests are not naked. Not exposed. They wear linen underwear. And then a tunic. And then the High Priest wears a robe. And an ephod. And a breastpiece. And on top: a turban with a title on it that says: "Holy to the LORD."

Question. What do they wear on their feet?

It doesn’t say.

My guess is that this is Holy Ground. And they are to take their sandals off on Holy Ground.

Now, do you have the picture in your head? At least a little bit? If you want to see a picture of what it might have looked like, you can go to BiblePlaces.com and click on the tabernacle. There are a few pictures from there up on my weblog. You could check them out there, too.

What do you think is the biggest idea that is being communicated by this clothing?

All of our clothing sends a message. What is the biggest message that is being sent by God in this clothing in Exodus chapter 28?

I want to suggest that it is this. Point #1 (of 2):

Representation Before God.

The priest represents the people before God.

That’s what a priest does!
And His clothing communicates that, doesn’t it?

What is on the shoulder pieces of the ephod? The names of the tribes of Israel.

What is on the costly gemstones on the breastpiece? The names of the tribes of Israel.

What is going on there?

Verse 12. "Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the LORD."

Verse 29. "[Aaron] will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart..."

When Aaron goes into the Holy of Holies, He is Israel!

He (symbolically) represents Israel before God.

That’s the point of the Turban, too. V.36 again.

"Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron's forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron's forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD."

Aaron is representing the guilt of Israel before YHWH when he brings in the sacrificial gifts to YHWH.

REPRESENTATION BEFORE GOD.

Now, let’s apply that.

First, AS SINNERS, WE NEED A REPRESENTATIVE BEFORE GOD.

You and I need representation before God.

If we don’t have it, we are toast.

You and I need a High Priest.

And that’s exactly what Jesus is!

The book of Hebrews says it like this. Chapter 4 (v.14), "[W]e have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God..."

Before the Throne of God Above
I Have a Strong, A Perfect Plea
A Great High Priest Whose Name Is Love
Who Ever Lives and Pleads For Me
My Name Is Graven On His Hands
My Name is Written On His Heart
I Know That While In Heaven He Stands
No Tongue Can Bid Me Thence Depart
No Tongue Can Bid Me Thence Depart
(Charitie L. Bancroft (1841-1892))

"[W]e have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God..."

That is, if He is your High Priest. You can know He is by putting your trust in Him and what He did on the Cross.

That was representation before God! When Jesus went to the Cross, He was us.

As Sinners, We Need a Representative Before God.

And Jesus is it. The priest par excellence!

Second application to this first point. AS PRIESTS, WE NEED TO INTERCEDE FOR OTHERS.

As a priest, you need to represent others to God in prayer.

Now, some of you are saying, "Whoa, Pastor Matt, I am not a priest!" I don’t wear a black suit with a big white collar on it. I’m a woman. And there are no women priests!

But that’s not what the Bible says.

Raise your hand if the Bible says that you are a priest.

1 Peter chapter 2, verse 9.

"[Y]ou are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." All of you.

Revelation chapter 1. Verse 5.

"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen."

In the Old Testament, generally speaking, the priesthood was reserved for children of Levi, children of Aaron, children of Eleazar and Ithamar. And for men of those families only.

But in the New Covenant, the priesthood is what we are all saved into.

I am not a priest any more than you are. But you are one. And so am I.

And so we need to do our own representing of people before God. Not like Jesus did. His was perfect and complete. But we can take people before the throne of God in prayer. And we should.

Do you pray for other people?

As a sinner, you need a representative before God.
Now, as a priest, you need to represent people before God in intercessory prayer.

Now, chapter 29 is all about Aaron and His Sons’ Consecration.

The clothing was to be prepared for this moment of consecration and then their priestly work to follow. Let’s study the instructions for Aaron and His Sons’ Consecration. Chapter 29, verse 1.

"This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests: Take a young bull and two rams without defect. And from fine wheat flour, without yeast [remembering the Passover], make bread, and cakes mixed with oil, and wafers spread with oil. Put them in a basket and present them in it–along with the bull and the two rams. [A basket of bread, cakes and wafers, one bull and two rams.] Then bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting [tabernacle] and wash them with water. [We’ll see what was available there for washing things next week. First a cleansing bath. Then, V.5] Take the garments and dress Aaron with the tunic, the robe of the ephod, the ephod itself and the breastpiece. Fasten the ephod on him by its skillfully woven waistband. [We’re suiting up.] Put the turban on his head and attach the sacred diadem to the turban. [He is representing Israel: Holy to YHWH.] Take the anointing oil and anoint him by pouring it on his head." He is set apart as the High Priest. This actually happens in Leviticus chapter 8. Verse 8.

"Bring his sons and dress them in tunics and put headbands on them. Then tie sashes on Aaron and his sons. The priesthood is theirs by a lasting ordinance. In this way you shall ordain Aaron and his sons. [And now, there are three offerings. Offering #1. Verse 10.] Bring the bull to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. [Identifying themselves with the bull.] Slaughter it in the LORD's presence at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Take some of the bull's blood and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour out the rest of it at the base of the altar. Then take all the fat around the inner parts, the covering of the liver, and both kidneys with the fat on them, and burn them on the altar. But burn the bull's flesh and its hide and its offal outside the camp. It is a sin offering."

This is a typical sin offering. It is to atone for Aaron and his sons’ sins. They identify themselves with the bull. They sacrifice the bull. It is a payment for their sin. Now, the second offering. The first ram. V.15.

"Take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head [identification again]. Slaughter it and take the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides. Cut the ram into pieces and wash the inner parts and the legs, putting them with the head and the other pieces. Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire."

A burnt offering. This is another kind of offering. It symbolizes complete dedication. Devotedness. Committment. The whole thing goes up in smoke as a symbol of complete dedication. First a sin offering. Then a burn offering of dedication. And then the third offering which is for the ordination itself. V.19

"Take the other ram [ram #2], and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head [identification once again]. Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then sprinkle blood against the altar on all sides."

Ears, hands, toes. All are offered for God’s work. V.21

"And take some of the blood on the altar and some of the anointing oil and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. Then he and his sons and their garments will be consecrated. [These beautiful garments are to be stained with blood. And that consecrates them. V.22] Take from this ram the fat, the fat tail, the fat around the inner parts, the covering of the liver, both kidneys with the fat on them, and the right thigh. (This is the ram for the ordination.) From the basket of bread made without yeast, which is before the LORD, take a loaf, and a cake made with oil, and a wafer. Put all these in the hands of Aaron and his sons and wave them before the LORD as a wave offering. Then take them from their hands and burn them on the altar along with the burnt offering for a pleasing aroma to the LORD, an offering made to the LORD by fire. After you take the breast of the ram for Aaron's ordination, wave it before the LORD as a wave offering, and it will be your share. Consecrate those parts of the ordination ram that belong to Aaron and his sons: the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. This is always to be the regular share from the Israelites for Aaron and his sons. It is the contribution the Israelites are to make to the LORD from their fellowship offerings. Aaron's sacred garments will belong to his descendants so that they can be anointed and ordained in them. [Succession.] The son who succeeds him as priest and comes to the Tent of Meeting to minister in the Holy Place is to wear them seven days. Take the ram for the ordination and cook the meat in a sacred place. [This ordination sacrifice is a fellowship sacrifice and gets eaten in God’s presence. V.32] At the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, Aaron and his sons are to eat the meat of the ram and the bread that is in the basket. They are to eat these offerings by which atonement was made for their ordination and consecration. But no one else may eat them, because they are sacred. And if any of the meat of the ordination ram or any bread is left over till morning, burn it up. It must not be eaten, because it is sacred." Stop there and let’s get our bearings.

There are three offerings. The first is a sin offering (a bull). The second is a burnt offering (the first ram). And the third is an ordination-fellowship offering. It atones for Aaron but it is also shared by Aaron. And that’s probably why it is waved before YHWH. It’s not waved side to side but forward and backward towards the altar and back to Aaron. They are together. They are sharing this. This is fellowship with God. Aaron’s ordination is marked by relationship with God in the sacrifice. Do you see the picture? Aaron is now ordained, consecrated, set apart for God’s service.

And he does it in God’s presence.

This is the way to do it every day. V.35

"Do for Aaron and his sons everything I have commanded you, taking seven days to ordain them. Sacrifice a bull each day as a sin offering to make atonement. Purify the altar by making atonement for it, and anoint it to consecrate it. For seven days make atonement for the altar and consecrate it. Then the altar will be most holy, and whatever touches it will be holy. [And then, this is their daily offering task. V.38] This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering and its drink offering as in the morning–a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire. For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD. [Catch this. This is what happens every day.] There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory. So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God."

This is why they are rescued.

They are rescued to have fellowship with God. Consecrated to have fellowship with God Himself.

Here’s the big theological idea that is the focus of chapter 29:

CONSECRATION TO GOD.

If chapter 28 was about Representation before God, chapter 29 is about Consecration to God.

Aaron and His Sons were to be consecrated. Made holy. Sanctified.

Specially set apart for God’s holy service.

Consecration to God.

There were three main steps. A sin offering to pay for their sin. A burnt offering to offer their whole selves to God. And an ordination-fellowship offering to symbolize fellowship and whole-hearted service to God. Consecration.

Now, let’s apply that to our lives.

Two points of application. #1. AS SINNERS, WE NEED A TOTALLY CONSECRATED HIGH PRIEST.

Because, you know what, Aaron really messed up. We’re going to see that in just three chapters. Aaron flunked. And Aaron’s sons really messed up. Nadab and Abihu flunked. They don’t ever make it to High Priest. And even those High Priests who serve well, they keep dying off. And none of them are totally consecrated. They keep requiring blood and sacrifice and blood and sacrifice again and again and again.

This priesthood wasn’t designed to be perfect. It was designed to point towards perfection and give way when the perfect came.

Hebrews chapter 7, verse 21.

"[Jesus] became a priest with an oath when God said to him: ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.' Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. [Totally consecrated! That’s what we need! "Holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens!"] Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins [there were none!], and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man."

We have a totally consecrated High Priest!

"Holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." Totally consecrated. Just what we need.

What Aaron and His Sons were picturing was fulfilled and is fulfilled and will be always fulfilled in the perfect priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Isn’t that the greatest news ever?

And those of us who put our faith in Him will never be disappointed. "[Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."

Second application and last. AS PRIESTS, WE NEED TO BE TOTALLY CONSECRATED TO GOD.

He is the Priest we need. And we need to be priests like Him. Totally consecrated to God.

Aaron was prefiguring our total dedication.

The sin offering was fulfilled in Jesus’ death on the Cross.
The burnt offering is fulfilled when we offer ourselves as living sacrifices pleasing to God.
The ordination offering is fulfilled when we have fellowship with God and serve Him in total consecration of our lives.

All of our lives in fellowship with Him and serving Him.

Does He have all of you?

Not just theoretically. But really.

Does He have all of you?

Are you totally consecrated?

No one is perfectly. We have to come for cleansing each and every day.

We have to get up on the altar every day and offer our bodies as living sacrifices.

How about right now?

Does He have all of you?

Jesus died to purchase you. He was totally consecrated, and He represented you before the throne of God above! Your name is written on His heart.

Is His name the focus of your heart?

"Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated, Lord to Thee." (Frances Rile Havergal)

What are you holding back?

Your ears?
Your hands?
Your feet?

Consecrate it all to Him.

High Priest


This good looking fellow is a replica of Aaron, the high priest, wearing his priestly garments in the tabernacle. I'll be preaching on him/them tomorrow.

God told Moses, "Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor. Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests." (Exodus 24:2-4)

This is a close-up of what the breastpiece might have looked like. It communicated how Aaron (and his high priestly sons) would have represented the people of Israel before God.

"Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the LORD." (Exodus 28:29)

Thanks to Bible Places for the visuals!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Mark of Jesus


I just finished Timothy George and John Woodbridge's new book: The Mark of Jesus. It was a good read.

Strangely enough, it's a book on love. I don't think there are enough books on that topic. The subtitle is "Loving in a Way the World Can See." The authors are building on a quote from Francis Schaeffer in The Mark of A Christian and spelling out what it might look like in the first decade of the 21st century.

After an introductory chapter about love: "(1) The Christian's Mark," George & Woodbridge apply it to a wide swath of subjects:

(2) Loving Your Neighbor When It Seems Impossible
(3) Evangelical Unity (Drawing Boundaries and Crossing Barriers)
(4) When the World Calls Us Hypocrites (How Should We Respond?)
(5) What's In a Name (Are We All Fundamentalists?)
(6) But What About (People Of Other Religions)

The 3rd and 5th chapters were the reason I picked up this book (which was given to us at the EFCA National Conference by Next Step Resources). I've been wrestling a lot with boundaries and barriers within Christianity. I have been trying to work through what Christian unity means and how it relates to evangelicalism (and what "evangelicalism" means, nowadays for that matter!). This was a helpful read, especially because of the historical lessons that these two scholars have drawn out for us.

For example, here are some exceprts from chapter 3: "1. We do not achieve unity by compromising our convictions. 2. We must never seek togetherness for mere prudential reasons. 3. We msut never imagine that doctrinal matters are trivial or unimportant. [On the other hand...] 1. Make a careful distinction between primary doctrines of the faith, which may not be compromised without betraying the Gospel, and secondary issuses, which may be important but are not essential for fellowship. 2. When we have theological disagreements with our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is always appropriate for us to pray for additional guidance and illumination from the Holy Spirit 3. Humility, not arrogance, is the proper attitude in all controversies among Christians."

I especially enjoyed reading something from John Woodbridge again. Dr. Woodbridge had been one of my professors (and my advisor for one year) when I had been at Trinity. It was fun to "hear his voice" while reading and recognize some of his favorite themes (esp. the fundamentalist/modernist controversy).

I'm afraid that the book didn't answer all of my questions. And I would have loved some more on the "how-to" side of things (like how to make the "Careful Distinction" between primary and secondary doctrinal issues). But it was helpful along the way, especially in giving some historical context. I recommend it for those who are wrestling with these kind of questions.

What the world does need is love, sweet love. But not love like the world loves. Love like Jesus loves.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Matt's Messages - Blueprints

"Blueprints"
July 17, 2005
Exodus 25:1-27:21

Where is Israel at this point in the story? Where is Israel in Exodus chapter 25? At Mount Sinai. That’s right.

YHWH has rescued Israel from Egypt and brought Israel to Himself at the foot of Mount Sinai. And YHWH has come in His holiness, given them the Law, and made a covenant with Israel.

Now, let me ask you this. Where is Moses in Exodus chapter 25? Moses is on top of Mount Sinai. God invited him up. Moses has entered the cloud of God’s presence at the top of the mountain of God–the cloud that looks to Israel like a consuming fire.

That’s where Moses is. And God is talking to Moses. And God giving Moses something. Do you know what it is?

Blueprints.

God is giving Moses blueprints of a home that He wants Moses to have built.

Yesterday, Roper Houston dropped off a set of blueprints for me to look at and show to you. Here they are.

They are blueprints for a pretty fancy home. Did you build this one for someone, Rope?

These blueprints are detailed instruction of how this family wants their home to be constructed. And they give us a lot of specific and complex details that Roper would then translate into a house with his craftsmanship skills. They do it in pictorial form with measurements and all.

On Mount Sinai, God gave Moses a set of "blueprints" of a home that He wants Moses to build.

But God’s blueprints for this home are written out in text format. They aren’t a picture. It’s all words.

There are different kinds of literature (called genres) in the Bible. There are letters and laws and stories and parables and apocalyptic and prophecies and genealogies. Over the last seven years, as I have had the privilege of studying the Bible with you, we’ve looked at a little bit of all of those.

Well, here’s another genre, another kind of literature in the Bible: blueprints. And today, we get to study them in depth. And there are lots of little, complex, specific details in these chapters. And we want to see those. But we also want to see the "big picture"–what these blueprints are supposed to add up to be.

And to say about God.

Because God is the "main character" of even these blueprints!

So, as I read chapter 25, verse 1 through chapter 27, verse 21, I want us to look for what these blueprints are saying about the Architect and the Homeowner Who designed them and commanded Moses to build.

Let’s pray and then get started.

[prayer]

God gave Moses blueprints of a home that He wants Moses to have built.

And this home is for no-one less than God Himself. It’s called the Tabernacle. Chapter 25, verse 1.

"The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are
to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give. [A
"freewill" offering.] These are the offerings you are to receive from them:
gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat
hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the
light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx
stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. ‘Then have
them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle
and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you."

God wants a home built. A sanctuary–a holy home. And God Himself plans to dwell in it.

God tells Moses up on Mount Sinai to take a freewill offering of some pretty amazing stuff. Some stuff that can be found in the Sinai peninsula. And other stuff that they must have gotten from the plundering of the Egyptians.

And from those rare and beautiful building supplies, Israel is supposed to build a home for God.

Notice in verse 9 that God is very particular about how this tabernacle will be built. V.9 "Make this tabernacle and all its furnishing exactly like the pattern I will show you." Exactly. That’s going to show up again and again as we read. V.10

The Ark of the Covenant.

"Have them make a chest of acacia wood–two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. [A cubit is about 18 inches. So this is 3 3/4 feet by 2½ feet by 2½ feet. A rectangular box.] Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. [Acacia wood is darker and harder than oak and very light.] Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it. [It’s portable as is everything in this tabernacle.] The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. Then put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. [The Testimony is the 10 Commandments on the Tablets of Stone that stand for the covenant that God has made with Israel. The are inscribed by the very finger of God (we’ll see that in chapter 31) and they go inside the box...Here’s what goes on top of it:]

‘Make an atonement cover [King James: mercy seat] of pure gold–two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. [3 3/4 feet by 2 ½ feet. For on top of the lid.] And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites."

Do you get the picture? We are on a tour of the Tabernacle. And God starts with the furniture. Before He describes the house, He describes what goes in the house. And the first thing is the Ark of the Covenant. It’s a big golden-plated box that houses the Testimony Tablets. And above that is the Atonement Cover which is overshadowed by these angelic beings that face one another. It’s an amazing piece of furniture!

Do you know what this is supposed to symbolize? This is the throne of God. Verse 22.

"There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites."

God is to be enthroned above and between the cherubim. That’s why this is the most important piece of furniture. It’s the throne of God. Verse 23.

The Table of the Bread of Presence.

"Make a table of acacia wood–two cubits long, a cubit wide and a cubit and a half high. [3ft x 1½ ft by 21/4 ft] Overlay it with pure gold and make a gold molding around it. Also make around it a rim a handbreadth wide and put a gold molding on the rim. [So nothing will fall off.] Make four gold rings for the table and fasten them to the four corners, where the four legs are. The rings are to be close to the rim to hold the poles used in carrying the table. Make the poles of acacia wood, overlay them with gold and carry the table with them. [It’s portable.] And make its plates and dishes of pure gold, as well as its pitchers and bowls for the pouring out of offerings. Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times."

God a wants a table in His home. And the table is to have bread on it. We find out in other parts of the Bible that there are to be 12 loaves on the table each day. One for each tribe. The King James called them the Showbread. It’s literally "bread of the faces [or Presence]." Meaning God’s presence.

And this bread on this golden table is to be set before God symbolically every day.

What is that saying? It’s saying that God is at home. There’s bread on His table. He’s here in communion with His people. The elders ate in His presence in chapter 24. God’s table is always set. Verse 31.

The Lampstand.

"Make a lampstand of pure gold and hammer it out, base and shaft; its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms shall be of one piece with it. [This is a lampstand that is made to look like an almond tree. We know it as the Menorah. It is takes real craftsmanship to make this one. V.32] Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand–three on one side and three on the other. Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair–six branches in all. The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold. Then make its seven lamps and set them up on it so that they light the space in front of it. Its wick trimmers and trays are to be of pure gold. A talent of pure gold [75 lbs!] is to be used for the lampstand and all these accessories. See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."

Now, I’ve been studying these details, and I’m not sure what to think of all of them, but I think this looks something like this [drawing.]

Any way about it; it’s beautiful, costly (75 lbs of pure gold!), and it gives light to the Holy Place.

Some people think that it stands for Jesus being the light of the world. But I think it’s got a more basic meaning: the light is on...Somebody is home.

God is at home. He is on His throne. The table is set. The light is on. God is at home. He dwells in the midst of His people.

Now, I know that we’ve entered into a foreign territory. We don’t think in these kinds of patterns. We don’t have anything like this in our cultural or architectural vocabulary.

But God has put this in His holy word for us to learn something.

And I don’t think it’s all that hard to get the basic idea. God has come to live with His people. He wants a home built. A beautiful home. And at the center of the beautiful home is a throne. And just outside of that is His table. It’s symbolizing fellowship and presence with His people. And the light is always on.

That’s the furniture. The next chapter explains the layout of the tabernacle itself. Chapter 26.

"Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them by a skilled craftsman. All the curtains are to be the same size–twenty-eight cubits long and four cubits wide. [About 42 ft long by 6 ft wide.] Join five of the curtains together, and do the same with the other five. Make loops of blue material along the edge of the end curtain in one set, and do the same with the end curtain in the other set. Make fifty loops on one curtain and fifty loops on the end curtain of the other set, with the loops opposite each other. Then make fifty gold clasps and use them to fasten the curtains together so that the tabernacle is a unit. [That’s the inner lining of the tabernacle tent. Then a outer lining gets put on. V.7]

‘Make curtains of goat hair for the tent over the tabernacle–eleven altogether. [Goat hair in the Middle East was black, not white. This is protective covering for the tabernacle.] All eleven curtains are to be the same size–thirty cubits long and four cubits wide. [45 feet by 6 ft] Join five of the curtains together into one set and the other six into another set. Fold the sixth curtain double at the front of the tent. Make fifty loops along the edge of the end curtain in one set and also along the edge of the end curtain in the other set. Then make fifty bronze clasps and put them in the loops to fasten the tent together as a unit. As for the additional length of the tent curtains, the half curtain that is left over is to hang down at the rear of the tabernacle. The tent curtains will be a cubit longer on both sides; what is left will hang over the sides of the tabernacle so as to cover it."

Now, I’m not going to go into detail here. But this is a tent. And it has an inner lining that is beautiful and crafty and covered with blue yarn to remind them of the heavens above and with cherubim angels to signify the angelic host surrounding God. And no one was allowed inside of this place except priests. And then there is one protective covering. And now a second protective covering. A tent within a tent. V.14

"Make for the tent a covering of ram skins dyed red, and over that a covering of hides of sea cows. [Dolphins or porpoises. Keeping the rain out. Now the tent poles and frames. V.15] Make upright frames of acacia wood for the tabernacle. Each frame is to be ten cubits long and a cubit and a half wide [15 feet by 2 1/4 feet], with two projections set parallel to each other. Make all the frames of the tabernacle in this way. [It’s like a trellis tent frame.] Make twenty frames for the south side of the tabernacle and make forty silver bases to go under them–two bases for each frame, one under each projection. For the other side, the north side of the tabernacle, make twenty frames and forty silver bases– two under each frame. Make six frames for the far end, that is, the west end of the tabernacle, and make two frames for the corners at the far end. At these two corners they must be double from the bottom all the way to the top, and fitted into a single ring; both shall be like that. So there will be eight frames and sixteen silver bases–two under each frame. ‘Also make crossbars of acacia wood: five for the frames on one side of the tabernacle, five for those on the other side, and five for the frames on the west, at the far end of the tabernacle. The center crossbar is to extend from end to end at the middle of the frames. Overlay the frames with gold and make gold rings to hold the crossbars. Also overlay the crossbars with gold. Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain."

Did you get all of that? I sure didn’t. Maybe Roper or Larry could explain it to us afterwards.

The basic point of God’s Word here is that there are specific dimensions for the tent of the tabernacle (which hosts the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place...specific dimensions) that must be followed.

These are the specs on this building project. And they must be followed to the letter.
"Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain."

Let me give read to you the blueprint for the curtain and then I’ll show you a picture to summarize what we’ve seen so far. V.31

The Curtain. Otherwise known as "The Veil."

"Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman. Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the Testimony behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. Put the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy Place. Place the table outside the curtain on the north side of the tabernacle and put the lampstand opposite it on the south side. ‘For the entrance to the tent make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen–the work of an embroiderer. Make gold hooks for this curtain and five posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold. And cast five bronze bases for them."

Here’s a picture of what we’ve seen so far:

The Tabernacle is a tent. The Israelites all live in tents right now. And God wants to set up a tent in the midst of them Himself.

It’s a rectangular tent. And it’s created out of acacia wood tent poles, curtains made of beautiful fabric and outer protective skins and coverings.
The tent has two sections. The Holy Place which has the Table of the Bread of Presence and the burning light of the Lampstand. That room is rectangular.

And then, there is a cube-shaped room at the end. A perfect cube. And all that is in it is the Ark of the Covenant with the Atonement Cover and the Cherubim–the Throne of God.

Where that throne is–God is!

We know from the rest of scripture that no one was allowed to go into the Holy Place except the priests (The rest of the people are kept out of the Holy Place by the "entrance curtain" of verses 36 & 37). And no one was allowed to go into the Most Holy Place [the "Holy of Holies"] except the High Priest and him only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). The rest of the priests are kept out by the curtain or "the veil" of verses 31-33. "The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place."

Do you see how holiness is bound up in the architecture?

God is present. But God is holy.

God is here. The light is on. The table is set.

But you may not enter in...without invitation and without atonement. Beware!

God is present. But God is holy!

There are cherubim woven into the fabric of the curtain.

Does anyone remember where cherubim have shown up before in the Bible? There’s only one place until this passage.

Genesis chapter 3. Adam and Eve fell into sin, and God cursed them and drove them out. And Genesis 3:24, "After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life."

You can’t go in here. You can’t go in here. You can’t go back.
God is present. But God is holy!

And that’s why we need an altar. Chapter 27. Verse 1.

"Build an altar of acacia wood, three cubits high; it is to be square, five cubits long and five cubits wide. [That’s 4 ½ ft by 7 ½ ft by 7 ½ ft.] Make a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar are of one piece, and overlay the altar with bronze. [That’s why it’s sometimes called the "Brazen Altar."] Make all its utensils of bronze–its pots to remove the ashes, and its shovels, sprinkling bowls, meat forks and firepans. Make a grating for it, a bronze network, and make a bronze ring at each of the four corners of the network. Put it under the ledge of the altar so that it is halfway up the altar. [It’s like a great big barbeque gril.] Make poles of acacia wood for the altar and overlay them with bronze. [This is to be portable, too.] The poles are to be inserted into the rings so they will be on two sides of the altar when it is carried. Make the altar hollow, out of boards. It is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain."

There’s that phrase again. "Just as you were shown. According to the pattern. Exactly like what was shown."

This altar was for the burnt offerings. This was a place of propitiation. A place of sacrifice. A place where unholy people could get forgiveness and offer themselves in dedication and worship.

It’s actually placed outside of the tabernacle tent. It’s the first thing you see when you come in the gate. It is accessible, but unavoidable and unmistakable [Walter C. Kaiser]. It’s a place where sin gets dealt with. It must be crossed before anyone enters into the tabernacle. It’s in the courtyard, which is described in the next blueprint. Verse 9.

"Make a courtyard for the tabernacle. The south side shall be a hundred cubits long and is to have curtains of finely twisted linen, with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases and with silver hooks and bands on the posts. The north side shall also be a hundred cubits long [150 feet] and is to have curtains, with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases and with silver hooks and bands on the posts. The west end of the courtyard shall be fifty cubits wide [75 feet] and have curtains, with ten posts and ten bases. On the east end, toward the sunrise, the courtyard shall also be fifty cubits wide [75 feet]. Curtains fifteen cubits long [22 ½ feet] are to be on one side of the entrance, with three posts and three bases, and curtains fifteen cubits long [22 ½ feet] are to be on the other side, with three posts and three bases. For the entrance to the courtyard, provide a curtain twenty cubits long [30 feet], of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen– the work of an embroiderer– with four posts and four bases. All the posts around the courtyard are to have silver bands and hooks, and bronze bases. The courtyard shall be a hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide, with curtains of finely twisted linen five cubits high, and with bronze bases. [150 feet by 75 feet by 7 ½ feet tall–so noone can look in.] All the other articles used in the service of the tabernacle, whatever their function, including all the tent pegs [!] for it and those for the courtyard, are to be of bronze."

I never noticed how the metals start out as gold in the Holy of Holies and move out to bronze for the tent pegs. All of the metals are precious. But as you get closer and closer to God the value keeps going up and up. Holiness is built into the very building materials of this tabernacle.

I’ll give you another picture here in a moment, but first, I’ll finish our chapter. V.20

"Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. [I think this is the Lampstand again.] In the Tent of Meeting [another name for the Tabernacle], outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony [the veil before the Most Holy Place], Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come."

Now, next week, we’ll find out more about Aaron and his sons and how the priests are to be dressed and what they are supposed to be doing in their work in the tabernacle.

But here it just says that are to keep a light on in the Holy Place all night long. And I think it’s the same idea as before. It’s a night light to reassure Israel that God is at home.

Now let me show you another of my "wondering drawings" that gives the bigger picture. [I know, I should leave the blueprints up to Roper!]

The courtyard is another rectangle. It’s 150 feet by 75 feet with a 30 foot entrance facing the sunrise–East.

When you walk in, you see the Altar of Burnt Offerings. And you see God’s tent. And you know what’s inside there! And there are few other things you see which we won’t get to until chapter 30.
Now, that’s just a basic introduction to the blueprint.

But what does it mean? How do we apply this blueprint to our lives?

Well, for one thing, God isn’t asking for us to build Him a building like this. In fact, this has nothing whatsoever to do with buildings for New Covenant people!

The New Covenant church can have building if we believe they will be used as a tool. But the New Covenant people of God are not based around building any more. This doesn’t tell us a thing about what kind of buildings we should build. Churches don’t even need buildings to be a church. Fundamentally, church isn’t something you go to; it’s something you are.

It’s not telling us that.

But it does tell us something about God, doesn’t it?

He is the Architect. He is the Homeowner. What do these blueprints tell us about Him?

When Heather and I built our house (off of a piece of graph paper that Heather sat down one night and drew up!), it said some things about what we valued and what we are.

We built it around a growing family–so the kitchen and the area of play was large and a focus of the house. And we built it for having Bible studies and lots of people over to visit. So we built in space for visiting.

An architect and homeowner build in themselves into their plans–especially when the Architect and Homeowner are the same person.

What do these blueprints tell us about God? Three quick points of theological application this morning.

#1. THESE ARE BLUEPRINTS ABOUT THE AUTHORITY OF GOD.

And it is an unquestionable authority. An ultimate authority.
What God says, goes.

Again and again, we saw God say "Do it this way." There is no building committee here. I am the architect and the homeowner. You will it do this way.

As we go further into these instructions that God gave Moses up on the mountain, we will see Him use the death penalty for breaking these instructions. The death penalty [!] for wearing the wrong clothes in the temple and for mixing your own incense or anointing oil for personal use. The death penalty!

It’s God’s way or no way.

There is no negotiation.

God has been incredibly gracious to give Israel this tabernacle to build. God doesn’t have to move into their neighborhood! But He plans to. He is there God.

But they must be His obedient people.

This is the way its should be done.

Application for New Covenant Christians? As Jesus is God, we should OBEY JESUS’ COMMANDS WITH UNWAVERING OBEDIENCE.

Remember, God has not changed.

Even though the covenants have changed, and we are not under the Old "Mosaic Covenant," God has not changed. And we are still under Him.

I almost named this sermon "So Many Cubits by So Many Cubits." [My wife liked that title better than this one!]

If God asks us to do something, whatever it is, we need to do it, "So Many Cubits by So Many Cubits." In other words, just like He said.

If Jesus asks us to love each other, we need to do it, "So Many Cubits by So Many Cubits."

If Jesus asks us to reach out with the gospel to unbelievers in our lives, we need to do it, "So Many Cubits by So Many Cubits."

If Jesus asks us to forgive those who have hurt us terribly, we need to do it, "So Many Cubits by So Many Cubits."

If Jesus asks us stay sexually pure or marry only in the Lord or fight against the power of lust, we need to do it, "So Many Cubits by So Many Cubits."

We are not allowed to fudge on the Lord’s commands.

We need to follow Christ with unwavering obedience, "So Many Cubits by So Many Cubits."

What is God asking of you today? What command of His are you fudging on? You and I need to do it, "So Many Cubits by So Many Cubits."

#2. THESE ARE BLUEPRINTS ABOUT THE HOLINESS OF GOD.

You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? God’s majestic holiness is all over this tabernacle. It’s made to remind us of His creation. It’s made of some of the best materials in His creation.

It’s progressively more and more holy and perfect in precious metals and symmetry.

It’s marked off by curtains and veils so that not just anyone can come in.

The curtains have cherubim on them to remind us of our Fall and our sin.

There is a great big altar and an atonement cover to remind us of our need for sacrifice and propitiation.

It progresses from a Holy Courtyard to a Holy Place to the Most Holy Place. And no one dares to enter God’s presence uninvited and without atonement.

This is a blueprint about the holiness of God. And it should make us tremble.

Yes, a blueprint should make us tremble.

But here’s where the good news of Jesus breaks in again. We need to hear about the holiness of God. But it’s to lead us to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10, verse 19.

"...we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body..."

I could spend years unpacking Hebrews 8, 9, and 10! Verse 19 again.

"...we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body..."

When Jesus died on the Cross, the veil of the Temple (the descendent of the Tabernacle) was torn in two.

God was symbolically opening up the way to Himself through Jesus. A new and living way through the curtain that was torn, His body.

And now, we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place (the real one! The heavenly Most Holy Place!) by the blood of Jesus.

Application for today? Trust the blood of Jesus to enter into God’s holy presence.

TRUST JESUS AS YOUR WAY INTO THE MOST HOLY PLACE

You may have not gotten a lot out of this tour of the tabernacle. You didn’t expect to come to lecture on architecture today. But God could save you through what this tabernacle is pointing to.

Without Jesus, you are not allowed into God’s presence because of your sin.

But Jesus has made a way to come to God and His awesome and Holy Presence [and enjoy Him forever!] by His blood.

To get there, you must go through Him. You need to trust Jesus as your way into the Most Holy Place. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

By trusting in Jesus, you can enter His presence.

Which is the main and greatest point of these blueprints.

#3. THESE ARE BLUEPRINTS ABOUT THE PRESENCE OF GOD.

The whole point of these three chapters is that God is planning to move into the neighborhood.

Chapter 25, verse 8.

"[H]ave them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them."

Chapter 25, verse 22

"There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites."

Chapter 25, verse 30

"Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times."

The table is set. The light is still on. God is on His throne.

God is at Home among His people.

That’s what the blueprint was calling for.

And that’s what the blueprint foreshadowed.

A day when God would come and live with His people even more directly!

The tabernacle (or the Temple twice its size) could not contain God.

But the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 14 says, "The Word [God] became flesh and dwelled among us." Do you know what the Greek word behind "and dwelled among us" is?

Literally, it is "Tabernacled."

"God became flesh and tabernacled among us."

All of the fullness of deity dwells in Jesus Christ bodily!

Therefore, we should REJOICE THAT JESUS TABERNACLED WITH US.

He is Immanuel, God with us.

And His incarnation, His enfleshment, foreshadows an even greater day!

A day when God will live with His people in unshielded glory!

Rejoice that Jesus tabernacled with us. And anticipate the day when God will dwell with His people in unhindered, unbroken, unending, unimaginable glorious fellowship!

Revelation chapter 21. John says, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

That’s what this blueprint is pointing towards.

The Day when we live in unshielded God’s presence.

And what a Day that will be!


I Don't Like Bubble Parties! Posted by Picasa


I like Bubble Parties! Posted by Picasa


Bubbles Everywhere! Posted by Picasa


Peter Stomping on the Bubbles. Posted by Picasa


Ready to Puff! Posted by Picasa


Drewby Blows Some Bubbles. Posted by Picasa


Peter in the Bubbles Posted by Picasa


Smiling Robin at the Bubble Party. Posted by Picasa

Tabernacle


Here's a picture from the good people over at Bible Places of a life-sized tabernacle replica in Timna Park. Tomorrow, I plan to preach on the tabernacle (if I can organize my thoughts!).

What an amazing part of the Bible!

Today, in my reading and meditation, I have been struck by two seemingly opposing things that the tabernacle teaches: (1) God is present with His people and (2) God is holy and almost completely unapproachable. And of course, that leads me to think about Jesus Christ and what He has done in both being God's presence (John 1:14) and our way into God's holy presence (Hebrews 10:19-22).

The best things I have read on the tabernacle that think theologically (not just "physically" or "spiritually") are Vern Poythress' The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses and Peter Enns' The NIV Application Commentary on Exodus (pgs. 506-561). Hopefully, some of their good, clear thinking will come through in my message tomorrow.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Link Groups

My final project for the doctoral class I've been taking is now done and in the hands of my professor. Our leadership board reviewed it last night and adopted it as our current strategy for small group ministry.

Here's the summary: "A Link Group is two or more people associated with Lanse Evangelical Free Church who are primarily led by a commissioned Link Group Leader and meet together at least once a month for the purpose of spiritual growth in biblical community."

"We envision that the spiritual growth of Lanse Free Church will deepen, broaden, and spread through implementing a system of Link Groups, led by qualified, coached, and commissioned leaders. We hope that a significant proportion of people who attend our church will find a home in at least one of these small groups. We envision our Link Groups becoming a primary means of spiritual growth for our people, a primary mode of operation for our various ministries to youth and adults (men, women, couples, seniors, etc), and a primary method of connecting our flock to the shepherding ministry of Lanse Free Church."

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Half A Year of Reading


Each year since 1999, I have kept a running list of books that I complete in that year. Some of the books are repeats (It seems like we re-read all of the Dorothy L. Sayers "Lord Peter" mystery novels each year), some are for work (especially commentaries), some are for school (this year: books on small group ministry), and some are ones that I started in previous years but finished this year. Some are better than others. Some I hope never to read again. Some I hope to re-read really soon.

Here is my list for 2005 at the half-year mark:

Ascol, Thomas K., Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry

Donahue, Bill and Russ Robinson Building A Church of Small Groups

Myers, Joseph R. The Search to Belong

Bilezikian, Gilbert Community 101

Sayers, Dorothy L. The Nine Tailors

Vanier, Jean Community and Growth

Haggard, Ted Dog Training, Fly Fishing, & Sharing Christ in the 21st Century

Mortimer, John Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders

Frazee, Randy The Connecting Church

Grudem, Wayne Business for the Glory of God

Mahaney, CJ Why Small Groups? [Free .pdf version here.]

Sayers, Dorothy L. Murder Must Advertise

Compilation, edited by Michael Kurland, Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years

Sayers, Dorothy L. Strong Poison

Harris, Joshua Not Even a Hint: Guarding Your Heart Against Lust

Carson, D.A. The Cross and Christian Ministry [See my brief review of it here.]

Tripp, Tedd Shepherding a Child’s Heart

Piper, John The Passion of Jesus Christ

Sayers, Dorothy L. Have His Carcase

Bond, Douglas Crown & Covenant: Duncan’s War