This chapter is a very controversial chapter and tends to bring up all kinds of questions and debate. In it YHWH deals with defilement (primarily sexual defilement); what defiles the people and what defiles the land. In this chapter YHWH gives instruction for the people not to uncover their relative’s nakedness (or have sexual relations with them). Incest is forbidden including incestual relations between a man and his mother, a father and his daughter-in-law, a man and both a woman and her daughter, and other relations.
There are other issues at work in this chapter as well. For instance there is the command not to uncover a woman’s nakedness during her menstrual period, not to sleep with a neighbor’s wife, and not to sacrifice your child to Molech (this doesn’t happen anymore… does it?). Each of these issues is very important and significant and should in no way be minimized.
However, the most controversial verse in this chapter (according to the current cultural view) is verse 22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” You can see where a big part of the controversy begins here. There are many that say that this passage does not apply anymore due to Christ having fulfilled the law. That since Christ came and died and was raised again, and the curtain to the most holies was torn, we are no longer bound by the law. We do not have to fulfill the sacrificial rules and regulations because Christ became the perfect sacrifice. Since this passage is part of the legal instructions given to the Israelite people, it is completed and fulfilled and no longer applicable to us.
To some extent, that is an accurate (albeit flawed) understanding of Christ’s fulfillment of the law. This entire chapter holds a different kind of sway than most of the rest of the law. It is true to some extent that the law was for the nation of Israel, but this chapter is about what supersedes that law. Verses 24-25 explain this a little bit better:
“Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.”
It doesn’t take an exegetical genius to understand that the commands in this chapter aren’t limited to the people of the Israelite nation. These are laws that defy nature itself. They are not limited to the people of Israel. They apply to all people and all time. It is because of these kinds of sins that the Israelites have the right, and the responsibility to not only conquer the land of Canaan, but to destroy its inhabitants as well. The land itself has judged the Canaanites and is spewing them out because of the sins listed in this chapter. The Israelites are simply tools to the fulfillment of that justice.
So how should we respond to those caught up in these kinds of sins? Are we to judge and condemn them? Is that our “right”? I don’t believe so. God says, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” In that passage He is referring to not judging those of the world. That judgment is His, not ours to dole out. However, in I Corinthians 5 we are instructed to judge those within the body that are sinning against the body, and the sin refereed to there is a sin directly related to this chapter. It was a sin being accepted and even praised within the church that should have been condemned. That is a pattern we would be wise to heed. The leaders of the church are responsible for understanding and responding appropriately to sin within the body. In NO WAY should the church be lifting up and encouraging within the body what YHWH has condemned. We are to be the light of hope to the troubled and struggling, not following in the defilement of the world.
“Then God (Elohim) spoke all these words, saying,
‘I am the LORD your God (YHWH Elohim), who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God (YHWH Elohim), am a jealous God (Elohim),’” Exodus 20:1-5a
Leviticus 17 expands on and deals with the particulars of this passage a little bit more. There are two connected issues here. First, no one may slaughter an ox, lamb, or goat within or outside of camp without bringing the body to the tabernacle to offer it as an offering to the LORD. This is to ensure that there is no other worship except the worship of YHWH in the Israelite camp. If a man or a woman sacrificed an animal to another god, that would have brought defilement upon the camp and people of Israel.
Reading that you could not slaughter an ox, sheep, or goat without offering it as a sacrifice to YHWH, i wonder how the Israelites could harvest their flocks and herds. If sheep, goats and oxen were the primary means of meat for the Israelites, and they could only be slaughtered to sacrifice them to God, where do they get the meat needed to live on? I don’t have the answer to that one, but knowing me, i’m probably just missing something simple.
The second part of this chapter deals with the command not to consume blood. Blood is the life of the creature. That’s been backed up by research for centuries. The essence of the creature, it’s life and support system, comes from the blood. As such, God requires that we do not consume of it. In fact, when we hunt or kill an animal, we are instructed to let the blood drain out and cover it with dirt.
Do we take Exodus 20:1-5a seriously? Have we made for ourselves gods other than YHWH? Obviously we don’t make idols. However, we have a tendency to worship, pursue, and trust in many things other than YHWH. Some worship the god of money, others the god of family, others the god of education, others of technology. Most American’s worship and bow down to the god of self. When we place any of these things before YHWH, we are making them gods in our eyes. What will it have to take to change our view and for us to start truly worshiping YHWH, the one true God, once again?
After going through Exodus like this; i’ve come to understand it a little bit better. Exodus is more than just about YHWH bringing his people out of Egypt and rescuing them from Pharaoh. It’s more than about bringing them through the wilderness to Mount Sinai. It’s even more than about bringing the people of Israel face-to-face with God. The conclusion that i’ve come to is that Exodus is about fulfilling a promise and it’s about giving the people true worship.
YHWH had made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob about their descendants; that he would make their descendants a great nation and that he would bring them out of Egypt. This is the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise. The people of Israel have become vast in number, yet they have turned against each other. In fact, they have united against Egypt and become a unified nation in spite of being 12 separate tribes. YHWH has led them out of Egypt and brought them to Himself. He made promises to Moses and to the people as well, and is fulfilling them.
What is worship, and what place does it have in our lives? The only understanding of God that the people of Israel had was that He was the God of their fathers, and what limited experience and information had been passed down through the generations. The people knew that there was a God of their fathers, but they had no understanding of who He was / is and what His purpose was for them. There was a need and a desire for God. There was a drive to know and worship Him. There was a pursuit of God, but there was no fulfillment. That, i believe, was YHWH’s greatest gift to the people of Israel in the book of Exodus. Not the parting of the Red Sea… not water from a rock… not manna… not the destruction of Egypt… not even freedom from slavery or the unification of a nation. No, the greatest gift that YHWH gave to the Israelites in Exodus, was the ability to worship Him. It was the fulfillment of their need and purpose. That’s the true jewel of the book of Exodus.
Exodus posts in cloud form
- Exodus posts in cloud form
The time has come for all the work to find completion. The design and construction work have been completed and inspected, and now is the time for the assembly and final work to be done. This appears to be a work that Moses, himself does, or in the very least that Moses directs. He anoints it all with oil and puts everything together. Piece by piece and part by part, the work gets done and the tabernacle is erected, “just as the LORD commanded him.”
There is something fascinating to me about the process of anointing oil and anointing with oil. I know that anointing oil and anointing with oil (among other things) are used to represent YHWH’s spirit being poured out as well as being anointed or consecrated for a work. This is what is being represented here. It is a preparation of these materials for the work that YHWH has for them. They are set apart for a holy purpose, and somehow anointing them with oil helps to do this.
Anointing with oil is something that some churches and denominations do, and some do not. It serves the same purposes, it is anointing in preparation of materials for the work of service. It is also to set something / someone apart as holy for God’s use and purpose. The third primary purpose of oil / anointing oil is for healing. Oil used to be used to cleanse wounds to prevent infection and other problems. As such, it is also used to represent the supernatural healing work of God’s Holy Spirit. This can be physical healing as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. It’s a beautiful image of some of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Overall though, the real beauty of this chapter comes in the last verses of the chapter; “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” The work is completed. The tabernacle has been anointed and erected, and now the reason and purpose of not only the work and the tabernacle but the very book of Exodus and the Bible is here. The LORD… YHWH, and His glory (weight / presence) fill this place. His is the true anointing presence.
Thus ends the book of Exodus.
All the work that needed to be done to finish making the tabernacle has been completed. The last, and extremely important task of making the priestly garments has been finished. All the work and weaving. All the fine linen and twisted woven work is done. Even all the pure gold threads individually cut from a sheet of beaten gold have been woven in among the blue, purple and scarlet threads. It must have been amazing to have seen! Oh, how jealous i am to have missed it.
The work has all been completed by the workmen and they brought it to Moses to inspect. Moses looked it over and found that it had been done exactly as YHWH had commanded. Every piece was there and every part done. Nothing was missing that was needed, and all was ready.
Oh, how i wish i could have seen it, but then again i have also seen the completion of the scripture, and the fulfillment of the law. That is something that the Israelites of the time never saw.
So the tabernacle and all that it will contain has been made. Now on to the court and the alter. If i thought that the ark of the covenant was small, the alter is HUGE! At 5 cubits long (~7 1/2 feet) and 5 cubits wide and 3 cubits (~4 1/2 feet) tall, this thing was not small at all. But then again, when sacrifices included bulls, size does matter!
So the court of the tabernacle is underway with its pillars and linen hangings. All around the tabernacle are these hangings of fine twisted linen connected to pillars of bronze with hooks of silver. The entryway was to the east, to the rising sun, and the work of making all of the tabernacle and its tools of worship is finished. All that’s left is the priestly garments, putting everything together, and… the results.
All of this came together with structure and a plan. It took time, and effort, and finances to make it happen. It wasn’t just God doing it because it would be faster and easier for Him to do it Himself than to rely on humans to do it. He gave us the work. He gave us the plan. He gave His people the desire to make it happen. Do we have a structure and plan for our spiritual growth? Are we willing to invest ourselves into that plan? Are we willing to put our time, effort, and finances into loving God and loving others, or are we only willing to do the absolute minimum in order to get away with the least we can. Are we giving our firstfruits or our leftovers? Do we want to enter the court of the King, or are we satisfied with just passing it by and knowing that it’s there if we need it?
Well, the tabernacle proper and the alter have been built. Now it is time for the very core of the tabernacle; the furnishings. We have the table, the lampstand, the alter of incense, and most importantly, the ark of the covenant. When i was a kid i always thought that the ark of the covenant would be BIG. It would be taller than me and so big i wouldn’t be able to touch from end to end. Almost like it would be the length of a big dining room table, but it’s actually very small. If a cubit is the distance from the average person’s elbow to the tip of their middle finger, and the ark of the covenant is 2 1/2 cubits long, it’s really not very big. Add to that the height and width each being 1 1/2 cubits, it’s something i could easily jump over from a standing position (not running)… not that i would. I’m just saying that it would have been feasible if i had wanted to and God hadn’t struck me dead for even thinking it.
It’s even more interesting when you consider that the ark of the covenant sat on the floor / ground and not on a table. So chances are that the ark of the covenant didn’t even come up to most people’s waists. It was the throne of YHWH, yet while standing up you looked DOWN on it!?! I guess it’s surprising to me because i would think that the throne of the God of the universe and everything would be a wee bit bigger than… well, than that. But it’s His ark. I’ll let Him make it as big or small as He wants it to be.
The other interesting thing i wanted to note is how you hold it. I grew up watching Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. My dad really liked that movie. So i know what the Ark of the Covenant looked like. It was covered in pure gold, it had the two cherubim on top and the rings for the carrying poles about 3/4 of the way up. But wait! According to the text, the rings for the carrying poles were at the feet of the ark?… It was the same way with the table. The rings for the carrying poles were on the feet. It’s almost like YHWH wanted everyone to be able to see it when they travel. Almost as though it wasn’t just meant to be hidden away in some tent 24/7/365. Hmm, what an interesting concept! You mean God isn’t just some hidden away god that we aren’t allowed to see or interact with?
So construction has finally begun on the tabernacle. The people continue to bring their offerings and Bezalel and Oholiah and every skilled person are at work doing the work of construction. The curtains and the tent with its covering and the wooden structure that holds it all together are all being constructed and completed.
There is a great deal of work to be done, and Bezalel seems to be in charge of the work. However, there appears to be one serious flaw to the whole plan. That flaw is the people. They keep bringing more and more and more to give to the construction work, and the workers just don’t know what to do with it all. It is way too much for the work, and the people just keep giving. So Moses has to send out a message to the people to stop giving! Wow, imagine that! You have a church building project and the people are giving so much to the construction fund that early on you have to tell them to stop giving. What kind of people are these, and how do we get them into our church…
Is this the mentality we have? Do YOU and I give to the church and ministry of the church body so much that WE have to be told to stop giving? No? But we want others to do that? Maybe WE need to change how we spend our time and money.
In Exodus 32 (Sheep and Calf) we brought up this concept of the people’s desire to worship and offer sacrifice to God. They wanted it so much that when it wasn’t given to them how and as fast as they were looking for it, they created their own god so that they would have something… some sort of god to worship. They had been instructed by Aaron to give the earrings from their ears and he created a god for them from the gold. Here however, God, YHWH, has a better way. He doesn’t just want gold, He wants silver, and bronze, and fine fabrics, and goats hair, and acacia wood, and oil, and spices, and setting stones, and so much more. There should not have been a single person of the sons of Israel that could not give / offer something. They have all had a desire to give to the God that gave to them. Now they finally have a chance to do that. They can finally give back to YHWH to their heart’s content. They finally have a healthy outlet for their appreciation.
We have that need too. We have the need to honor and serve something / someone: to express our honor and our praise. It is something that is deep inside of every one of us. It is as much a part of us as our very need to breathe. We are a people of thanksgiving and blessing. If we are not worshiping YHWH, the God of the universe and everything, then we are worshiping money, or family, or education, or entertainment, or ourselves, or something else entirely. We have to find an outlet for our praise and worship or it tears us up inside. We are a people of offering.
It is such a fascinating concept to consider; that WE are beings with a need and primal desire to worship. To give and be an offering. It makes sense when we understand that YHWH created us for relationship with Him. Whether it is purposeful or simply a side effect of that purpose, we NEED to praise, worship, give an offering, and BE an offering.
This chapter also parallels back to Exodus 31 (Work & Rest) in a couple of different ways. Right away the LORD emphasizes the need for a Sabbath rest. In fact, in verse 1 the people are told, “These are the things that the LORD (YHWH) has commanded you to do:” Then the very first thing listed is observing a sabbath rest. In our busy schedules, how often do we ignore this so important command? The other parallel from chapter 31 is that our offering is our giving of our skills and abilities. So often we get into this rut of thinking that our tithe and offering to God is the first 10% of our money, but God doesn’t just ask for our money. He seeks our hearts and our lives. He accepts /expects / demands from us our very lives. Our tithes and offerings are not just our money, they are our skills, abilities, and work / play.
We ARE our offering, and we need to live that way.
John J. Camiolo Jr.