Monday, May 23, 2016

Jesus in the Old Testament: The Tabernacle Part VII

We are exploring the Old Testament, and seeing how Jesus' name, Yeshua ("salvation" in Hebrew) appears in many passages.  I have been reading Exodus, and I came upon the chapters where Moses is given very specific instructions on how to build the Tabernacle and then what the priests are to wear in it.  I noticed a pattern, and I am excited to share it with you.  It fits our study of Jesus in the Old Testament, although not by His name, but by representation.

First, Exodus 26:1 outlines the materials to be used for making the curtains which will surround the interior area of the Tabernacle:  "Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them..."

This inner part will be then covered with a lining made of goat hair with two more coverings made with "ram skins dyed red, and over that a covering of hides of sea cows," (26:14) which is, in effect, an outer tent.  The inner sacred space is covered with leather, an earthly material, derived from flesh. We will visit this again in a bit.

Now, Exodus 26:31:  "Make a curtain of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it..."  This curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.

On to Exodus 26:36:  "For the entrance to the tent make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen..."  This covers the entrance of the Tabernacle from the outer courtyard.

This all seems very orderly:  The curtains are to carry the colors of the evening sky:  blues and purples, with a fiery red, as from a sunset.  You move from entering the Tabernacle with a curtain of just the heavenly colors, to curtains with cherubim worked into them.  Interestingly enough, only the high priest will see the curtains with the cherubim worked into them.  The people will only see the one curtain without the cherubim.

The cherubim in the curtains in the inner area show that this isn't just the beautiful heavenly sky overhead; these curtains enclose a sacred space representing Heaven, the court of the King of the Universe.

Now, Chapter 28 of Exodus explains the priestly garments Aaron and his sons will wear.  The garments are to give them "dignity and honor" ( verse 2).  The garments set these men apart to serve the Lord as priests.  Think about it: Without the garments, they are indistinguishable from other men. Don the garments, and they are the priests of the most high God.  What are the materials to be used to produce all of the parts of the priestly ensemble?  "Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen." (verse 5)

Their clothing, however, does not have the cherubim worked into the cloth.  They wear the sacred materials on the outside, but on the inside, they are still men of flesh.  They are not angels serving as men; they are men who have been clothed with power from Heaven.  Without the clothing, they are still men.  Their dignity and honor are bestowed.  Thus, they are the inverse of the Tabernacle:  the outer garments show sanctity only because it is given.  The Tabernacle encloses its sanctity and must be entered into only by men who are clothed properly.

The men serving in the Tabernacle are arrayed with the same sacred colors and linen as the inner sacred areas of the Tabernacle, not with the leather that covered the outside of the Tabernacle.

Consider:  What did God cover Adam and Eve after they sinned? The skin of a slain animal.  The Tabernacle will not just be another covering for a sinful nation using animal skins.  God is moving His people into a deeper relationship with Him and He is going to use a different kind of covering: An animal will be slain, yes, but the covering will be blood. Not a covering made from dead flesh, but a covering that carries life in it. Leviticus 17:11 makes that clear: "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life."  Jesus's blood carries life and we are recipients of His very own life when we are saved by it.

How does the Tabernacle then point to Jesus?  John puts it well:  "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (1:14)  The word for "dwelling" here is the word for "tent" and "tabernacle." So, Jesus was the Tabernacle in human form, covered with an earthly outer covering of flesh.  Within Him was a sacred space occupied by the very Lord of the Universe.  The Tabernacle becomes a representation of the One to come.

But there's more. Jesus also donned the "garment" of the priests--His miracles. His miracles set Him apart from other men. For example, at the marriage at Cana, He was just one more guest at a table. But, once He turned the water into wine, He was now a Man set apart for sacred service. John 10:37-8 underscores this: "But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.  If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me."  John 14:11 says, "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves."

Jesus looked like a mere man, but He was "clothed" with power from on high when He was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended on Him and He heard His Father's voice proclaiming Him.  So, Jesus came to be our High Priest (the book of Hebrews beautifully unpacks that) but He also provided the offering itself:  His own blood would not only cover the nation of Israel, but the whole world.  Not just once a year, but for all time.

So, the Tabernacle and the priests were intimately connected:  one did not exist without the other. The one was the place to meet the Lord by ones chosen to provide that interface between Heaven and Earth.  They will chosen by God and despite the temporary providing of atonement, the priests point to the One to come.  

Jesus left the court of Heaven and covered Himself with the flesh of our humanity: He was a walking Tabernacle. He was chosen by God to be our Priest and with clothed by God with power and might to do His works among us. He will clothe us with power from on high because of what He did on the cross and His resurrection: "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:22)

Paul also writes, "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Cor. 15:45-49)

The earthly Tabernacle that was moved from place to place, showing that God moves among His people wherever they go, was a representation of the One who would walk among us, preside over us and die for that He may live in us!

This is so rich and we will continue as the Lord leads!


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Does Jesus See Himself in the Old Testament? Part VI

We will digress a bit from our study on this posting. We are exploring the idea that Jesus is named in the Old Testament when the Hebrew word yeshuwa'h (salvation) is used, for that is what His name means: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, ["the LORD saves"] because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

How did Jesus see Himself in light of the Old Testament? The Tanakh (the Jewish Scriptures) is the only reference He and His listeners had.

Let's go to Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

Jesus sees the Law as needing fulfillment, which would imply that it is awaiting something deeper, something that will complete it. Strong's defines "fulfill" as "to become" and "come to pass." This would imply that the Law is incomplete, that it was not an end in itself but a means. Jesus is effectively defining Himself as the end. What are the Law's means? To show us our utter need for a Savior, for no one can keep all of the Law all of the time: "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear." (Is. 59:2)

In Isaiah 53:5-6, we read: "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him."

As Jesus is speaking in Matthew 5, He has Isaiah as one of many reference points. In fact, He inaugurated His ministry with the reading of Isaiah in His local synagogue. He knows all too well of "The Suffering Servant" mentioned in Isaiah, and may be implying that His suffering and final offering for sin is what the Law longs for and what His Father longs for. He is the end-game of the Law. 

Jesus speaks of His authority, for the Law is the authority to His contemporaries. So, if He breaks the Law, which He does by healing a man on the Sabbath (thus working on the Sabbath) and encouraging him to carry the mat he used to lie upon (which was also working) then what is the valid basis for His ministry? If not the Law, then what? He responds in John 5:16-19:

"So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, 'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.' For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus gave them this answer: 'Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.'"

Jesus predicates His authority on what His Father is doing, which is the Law of Love over the letter of the Law.  The Jewish leaders had authority to point out transgressions of the Law, but Jesus possessed a higher authority.  Both where given by God, but Jesus is coming to fulfill the Law and put into operation a higher one:  the Law written on newly born-again hearts.

A little later, Jesus says, “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5: 36-39)

So, Jesus is arguing that His authority is derived from the very Scriptures that the Jewish leaders are using to condemn Him and His ministry. He is saying that the Scriptures are about Him. He then invokes the very leader that the Jewish people so revered: “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:45-7)

Jesus saw Himself as the One to Whom the Law pointed: a Mediator like Moses, a High Priest like Aaron and the Passover Lamb of the Exodus.

So, in essence, the Law is fulfilled in Jesus.  He is our Mediator Who will bring a new law down from Calvary's mountain: the Law of Love, written on believers' heart and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

He is our High Priest, Who offered Himself once and for all and satisfied the Law's requirement for atonement.

Finally, He is our Lamb: His blood, over our doorpost, will cause the Angel of Death (who flies out of our sin) to pass over us as we sit at the feast of eternal life.

Did Jesus see Himself in the Old Testament? Yes, and resoundingly so. He staked His life on it.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Is Jesus Named in the Old Testmament? Part V

We are taking a breathtaking sweep across Scripture to discover if Jesus was present in the Old Testament.  We have seen how His name, Yeshua, (yeshuw'ah) is present in many Old Testament verses, and means "salvation."

We are continuing our look at the Old Testament, the Tanakh, in the Neviim or "Prophets" with Isaiah.  His is a prophetic book, richly filled with verses on the Suffering Servant.  This Servant is unnamed, but His presence is felt as He silently walks through the prophecies.  Let us look at those verses where yeshuw'ah is used:

Isaiah 12:3:  "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."  

Jesus frequently referred to Himself as Living Water.  His encounter with the woman at the well is instructive:

"Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'

'Sir,' the woman said, 'you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?'

Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” (John 4:4-13)

Do you hear the echo of Isaiah in what Jesus said?  The "wells of salvation" has been embodied in Jesus Himself.  Let's recast the verse, and it speaks powerfully: "With joy you will draw water from the wells of yeshuw'ah."  He is the Well, He is the Water, and the woman's deepest need (and ours) is to have our spiritual thirst satisfied, and not just for the moment, but for all time.  

But why is she (and us) so thirsty?  Well, this woman lives in desert area, dry and with little rain.  Going to the well to draw water each day is not an option; it is a necessity.  She is rather rattled by the fact that this Jewish Man is asking her (a despised Samaritan) for a drink.  She immediately declines His request by citing the historical grievance between her people and the Jews.  But the wall is coming down.  Salvation is here.  So, the past is no longer important, and Jesus gently dismantles her concern by bringing her closer to Him and away from all that would impede that encounter.

The water from the well is only a temporary solution to the hot dry conditions.  But even more to the point, water drawn from an earthly well will not satisfy.  But the water Jesus gives is another matter:  not only does it completely satisfy, it produces water in the person who partakes!  The well, in other words, changes location.  It goes from the outside to the inside and it keeps producing!  It is a living moving spring that keeps "welling up."  It doesn't sit at the bottom of a person's soul, waiting passively for the person to draw it up.  It cannot be contained!  It is a constant source.  Why, because He is a constant Source.  He cannot be contained, so if He dwells in us, the Water flows and refreshes, bubbles up and strengthens, invigorates and renews.

Look at Isaiah 12:3 one more time:  "Joy" is the experience at this well of yeshuwa'h. Jesus goes on to explain to this woman why her source has left her dry spiritually:  she is living in the desert of sin:
"The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.'

He told her, 'Go, call your husband and come back.'

'I have no husband,' she replied.

Jesus said to her, 'You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.'

'Sir,' the woman said, 'I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.'

'Woman,' Jesus replied, 'believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.'”

The woman said, 'I know that Messiah' (called Christ) 'is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.'

Then Jesus declared, 'I, the one speaking to you—I am he.'” (John 4: 15-26)

Jesus showed her the dry desert of her life and why her thirst was unquenchable.  She wanted the water without changing her life.   But the Well shows us our thirst, and it is only the Well that can satisfy it.  The Water in it is Life itself:  the salvation of our souls. 

Like Moses leading the Children of Israel and striking the rock for water, our Salvation came from One who was struck.  Isaiah lovingly pours forth the poetry of the One through Whom yeshuw'ah comes: 

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:1-6)

Amen.   May your day be blessed and may you find joy in the Water that never runs dry!

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