A Sweet Smell

Exodus 30:1-38

Sometimes hear people talking about what God wants – he wants people to get saved, he wants fellowship, and more. Look back at chapter 29 verse 45: there God declared what he will do, not what he wants to do. God does not have unfulfilled desires like most of us. When God says he will dwell with his people, it’s a given – that is precisely what will take place. But it must take place according to God’s plan and method. Is what much of Exodus is about – how God is going to live among his people without injuring his own character or bringing harm to them.

Three-word mantra in real estate: location 3x. If location means anything, in this preliminary description of tabernacle worship, it is at altar of incense we most closely approach holy God. In days of Moses, ancient Jews was heavy curtain separating altar from God on his throne. Average priest could go right up to veil, high priest alone authorized to go behind it, only on one day each year. Location of other furnishings significant as well, let’s consider them in their turn.

A. altar v.1-6

two altars, distinct placement and purpose (1)

this the smaller of the two but more richly appointed: both had acacia wood core, one overlaid with bronze, the other with gold

clear from beginning of instruction that it has a singular purpose – an altar to burn incense on – not to be a multi-purpose piece of furniture with several uses

God made it explicit, v.9 – not a backup for the other altar, intended to serve its design purpose only… with consequences for any kind of misuse

first: close to the world; second: close to God

brazen altar immediately inside gate of courtyard – first thing encountered after entering tabernacle enclosure: altar of sacrifice

could not be made any more plain – anyone who intends to approach a holy God must do so on the basis of shed blood

btw, proximity to God’s presence reflected in materials used – bronze suitable for first altar, gold required for use in holy place

starting place: need for forgiveness; ending place: fellowship with God

in order to make it from where we are to where God dwells with us, first need forgiveness of our sin, then we need cleansing

after forgiveness and cleansing, God will accept our worship and fellowship with him – don’t forget, all furnishings / activities are symbols: they picture in ways people can grasp what God does for his people

more we know and better we understand what is taught by the tabernacle, richer will be our grasp of what Christ has done and continues to do on our behalf – e.g., most of Hebrews incomprehensible w/o knowledge of Exodus-Leviticus

B. ransom v.11-16

must be paid (12)

stated as an either / or principle – either pay the ransom or suffer from the plague – lives were forfeit because of sin anyway

no way they could adequately compensate God for their own life, he graciously accepted token payment that showed their dependence on his mercy, acknowledgement of God’s ownership / rights

by all without exception (13-14)

“everyone among those who are numbered” – not just the firstborn as seen at Passover, applies to everyone, young and old

was adult men 20 and older actually counted – ransom they paid covered all their dependents… wives and children included

an equal amount (15)

someone has wisely said: “The ground is level at the foot of the cross” – basic penalty for sin same for all, basic cost of redemption likewise the same

in liturgy of worship, everyone could pay the half-shekel – when it comes to paying redemption from sin, everyone is bankrupt, completely dependent on God for his grace, mercy, love

C. laver v.17-21

sacrifice alone is not enough

next item described: bronze laver, filled with water for washing – also in outer courtyard along with brazen altar, between altar and entrance to holy place

sacrifice for sin is absolutely essential, not the only thing that is essential – God is primary player in redemption, individual not just a passive recipient going along for the ride

benefits must be applied

John Murray wrote classic text titled “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” – if redemption is accomplished but not applied to individual, nothing changes

when what Christ accomplished by his work of atonement is applied to individual, much changes – 2 Cor. 5:17 he is “a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”

washing at the laver shows visibly on outside what redemption accomplishes inside – washing off the filthiness of sin and its corruption

shows recognition of need

any priest who intended to be actively involved in worship – sacrifice at the brazen altar, service in the holy place – had to wash

both reminder and recognition of the ongoing need for cleansing – needed to be forgiven, yes, needed also to be cleaned up from effects of sin

best efforts, even full trust in completed sacrifice of Lord Jesus not enough to please God – daily change needs to be happening

for us… cooperative effort between us and Holy Spirit using means of grace: preaching/teaching/study of God’s Word, fellowship with him through prayer, with one another around Lord’s Table

D. oil v.22-33

distinguishes sacred from profane

nothing magical about formula for anointing oil, was the recipe God intended should be used for his purpose – to distinguish things devoted to sacred use

things once devoted to holy use not to be used in common everyday way, reserved for use in service to God and him alone

applied to things and people

tabernacle structure itself and all furnishings to be anointed – everything devoted to worship to be designated that way

to be applied to Aaron and his sons also, set apart in this way for God’s exclusive use – they could no longer just be people

remember: we are 1 Pet. 2:9-10 “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

reserved for sacred use

both things and people not to be used simply for common everyday things – might be doing common task but… different purpose and motivation

to be done in service to God motivated by love for God and seeking to please God – applies to all we do, esp. corporate worship

so you don’t think that is unfair or too restrictive – 1 Cor. 6:19-20 “do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

E. incense v.7-10, 34-38

sweet (7)

not just any kind of incense, a sweet incense… one with sweet smell – very important given what was happening just outside

like anointing oil, had its own recipe designed by God for his pleasure – whenever burned on altar, sweet aroma filled space, rising up to heaven just as our worship does

particular connection between prayers of God’s people and incense (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 8:3-4), rising to heaven with aroma pleasing to God – prayers of God’s people offered in faith sweetly fragrant to God

unceasing (8)

offering of incense to be regular daily occurrence morning and evening – fragrance would have lingered after initial burst

worship for God’s people by no means 1-hour-a-week kind of activity – certain elements of worship that had round-the-clock significance

since we are temple of Holy Spirit, our devotion to God / set apartness for his use to be continual… whatever we are doing

sanctified (10)

anything outside the veil subject to being tainted by man, in need of purifying – done on Day of Atonement each year to keep altar itself acceptable to God

important to note: same incense but offered from an impure altar would be offensive to God; worship and prayer offered by unregenerate / unforgiven people does not please God

exclusive (37-38)

not just the altar that was single purpose, incense was also – God’s recipe to be used for no other purpose than offering to Him

true also of worship and prayer, whether for children of Israel or people of God today wherever they may be

Remember the veil… between altar of incense and mercy seat? No longer there. The one who offers incense does so in very presence of God himself. Heb. 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Is a privilege that now belongs to every child of God, regardless of specific vocation. Is also something that should bring joy to us – speaking to God himself, knowing he hears, listening for his answers, resting in his presence, leaving burdens with him and taking blessings away.

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