Week Seven Devotion: (Download PDF)
The glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle
This week we finish up the book of Exodus and begin to read through the book of Leviticus. And this might be a challenge for us because the book of Leviticus is tedious, repetitive and somewhat difficult. It’s not difficult in the sense that we don’t grasp what it is saying. God is crystal clear on what His expectations are, but this book is difficult in the sense that we struggle to understand why all these laws and rituals are necessary. Why is it important to God that we eat some things and not others? Why is it important to God that every little detail of Israel’s life together is spelled out for them?
So, before we begin to read this book it is important to remember what we have seen up to this point so that we can keep Leviticus within the scope of the Biblical story line. The Bible starts with a Garden where God and man dwell together in peace and relationship, but sin entered the Garden and caused separation between God and man. Because of their sin Adam and Eve were banished (exiled) from paradise and they had to strike out on their own away from the presence of the Lord.
So mankind had a relationship with God but lost it because of sin. But then a few chapters later we see God reach out to Abraham and establish a relationship with Him. Not only that, God also promises to bless him, make him into a great nation and to restore fellowship between God and man through his descendants. God is working to restore the relationship that sin damaged.
Fast forward to the book of Exodus and you remember that God saved Abraham’s family from slavery, He led them out into the wilderness, He made a covenant with them, and gave them plans for a special tent called the tabernacle. This tabernacle was the one place on earth where God’s presence would dwell among His people. So in a sense, God was restoring a part of the Garden of Eden, but there was still a big problem…sin.
And this remaining sin problem was illustrated for us at the end of the book of Exodus. Once the Tabernacle was complete we read that the Glory of God came down and filled the Tabernacle. God has come down to dwell on earth again and within reach of the people. The book closes with God dwelling in the midst of His people again, but it also ends with Moses being unable to enter the Tabernacle. If anyone should be able to go in and see God, talk to God, have fellowship with God it would be Moses. But he couldn’t come into the presence of God, at least not yet.
Here is something to discuss…
Why was Moses not allowed into the presence of God? For that matter, why aren’t any of the Israelites allowed into the presence of God? Well the short answer is that we are still corrupted by sin and the long answer is found within the book of Leviticus.
In this book, God gives His people three ways that He will address their sin and make them able to live in His presence. Those three things are rituals, priesthood, and purity laws. The rituals deal with animal sacrifices which are quite gruesome and repetitive, but very important. The priesthood is made up of a select group of men who follow very strict guidelines in order to remain ritually pure and these men are allowed to enter into God’s presence as representatives for the people. Then third, there are a whole bunch of purity laws that teach Israel how they can remain pure and what kind of things would make them impure.
Now, these three things (rituals, priesthood and purity laws) work together to help us understand what is required to live in the presence of God. Let’s talk first about animal sacrifices. Why is it necessary for a creature to die in order for our sin to be covered? Good question, and the answer is found in Leviticus 17:11 and 14.
V. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.
V. 14 For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life.
The big idea around blood and atonement in the sacrificial system is that in order for us to have our sin removed and to be able to commune with God there must be a payment made. Since a creature’s life is in its blood and God requires blood for the cleansing of our sin, what God is teaching is the idea of substitution. Either we are going to die in our sin and outside the presence of God, or a substitute is going to die for our sin so that we can come into the presence of God.
So how would I encourage you to discuss this with others? First I would encourage you to read Leviticus 16-17 paying special attention to what the priest’s do. Then ask these questions, “What insights does this ritual give us about our sin? What does this teach us about the character of God? How does the sacrifice of atonement highlight both the justice and mercy of God at the same time?”
Here is something to meditate upon…
Let’s think about what we see taking place in chapter 10 with Nadab and Abihu. These two guys are Aaron’s sons and they had gone through all of the rituals for purification that were necessary for priests. So they should be ready to serve but as they start to go about their role something goes terribly wrong. They offer strange and unauthorized fire before the Lord and they are killed on the spot.
They did something that they were not commanded to do in God’s presence and as a result they were punished immediately. Now, what does this tell us about coming into God’s presence? It tells us that we come into God’s presence on His terms and not our own. The offense of Nadab and Abihu was that they assumed they could fulfill their duties to God in their
own way instead of the way God prescribed but they were wrong and they paid the price for their mistake.
God’s laws are not intended to harm us they are intended to protect us. The laws God gave to the priests should have prevented this from happening but in their arrogance these two sons of Aaron chose to disregard God’s law and still tried to come into the tabernacle.
So what can we meditate on in this story? What does this say about God’s holiness that even the priests don’t get off easily? What does this say about God’s law? What does this teach us about the nature of worship? What does this teach us about the other religions in the world that seek to come to God on their own, apart from faith in Jesus?
Here is something to pray about…
The book of Leviticus is filled with purity laws which are aimed to set the people of God apart from all the other nations. Since Israel lived near the very presence of God on earth, they were to reflect the uniqueness, holiness and purity of God to the world. So God told them things they were supposed to do and things they weren’t supposed to do.
Some things are clean and other things are unclean. Some actions keep us pure while other actions make us impure. It wasn’t always sinful to be unclean or impure, but you couldn’t come into God’s presence until you had undergone the necessary rituals to make you clean or pure again.
But these purity laws are intended to set the children of Israel apart as the unique people of God. Leviticus 11:45 says, “You shall be holy as I am holy.” This is a mark of God’s people today as well. In 1 Peter 1 we read this:
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
By faith in Christ we are declared forgiven of sin and are able to come into the presence of God because Jesus has made us ritually pure. But this doesn’t mean that we should have no concern for holiness. Our obedience doesn’t save, Jesus does, but our obedience is a mark of our salvation. It is a fruit of what Christ has done in us. So pray that God would help you to grow in your faithfulness to Him. Pray that God would help you to understand the role of saving grace in your life and the call to holiness as well. Pray that we would grow in our appreciation of the holiness of God and that God would help us to live in such a way that we reflect that holiness to the world around us.