Hebrews Lesson 136 September 25, 2008
NKJ Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Well we're continuing our study in Hebrews by studying the Old Testament backgrounds to Hebrews 9, which involves a study of the Tabernacle. As I pointed out (I think at the beginning of this sub-series back in early May when we first got started), it seems like if it's not a hurricane or a trip to Israel or just a summer thunderstorm that floods the streets it's one or many of the above have interfered on Thursday night. So actually we haven't had that many lessons. It's just that we have had that many interruptions over the past 4 or 5 months. But we're coming close to the end of our study.
This week and next week we'll be on the Ark of the Covenant – then after that dealing with some specifics related to the role of the High Priest, his garments and paraphernalia and everything related to the High Priest of Israel as a depiction of Jesus Christ who is our High Priest. Then we'll sort of wrap things up with a special study of the Temple down through the ages.
So we're looking at the Tabernacle. You might as well open your Bibles to Exodus 25 where we see the description of the Ark of the Covenant, the mandate to Moses to build the Ark of the Covenant, which is actually the centerpiece of the Tabernacle. It's the last piece of furniture that we're coming to. But it is the most important the most significant aspect of the Tabernacle because this is the place where God took up His residence on earth through the presence of the cloud or the pillar of fire which was later referred to by the rabbis as the Shekinah from the Hebrew word shakan meaning to dwell. It's the dwelling place of God. It's never referred to that in the Old Testament; but it is referred to. That term was developed and coined by the rabbis so we often speak of the Shekinah glory or the dwelling glory of God. We see that depicted in this artist's depiction of the Tabernacle at night with the pillar of fire hovering over the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was located.
Now in the last several weeks we've gone through the furniture that we find inside the holy place. There is the outer room - the holy place where you have the candelabra (the menorah) on the left, the table of showbread on the right and the altar of incense in the middle just against the veil. Last time we talked about the veil. The golden candlestick pictures Jesus Christ as the light of the world. The table of showbread depicts Jesus Christ as the bread of life. The altar of incense depicts Jesus Christ as our intercessor, the One who is continually praying for us. So each of these depict something about His ministry and His work.
Tonight we're going to look at the Ark of the Covenant as Christ our propitiator – Christ our propitiator. The rabbis said that the Ark was in the exact center of the whole world, standing on the starting point of creation. They believed that Israel was at the center of the world, Jerusalem was at the center of Israel, the Temple was at the center of Jerusalem and the Ark was at the center of the Temple. Now they're not talking about a physical center, but an idea. At the very center of everything is God and His dwelling upon earth.
Now there are a lot of questions that people have about the Ark of the Covenant and that's been generated a lot by the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. So people have all kinds of different ideas as to what happened to the Ark. There's been a lot of speculation about what happened to the Ark of the Covenant ever since that film came out in the early 80's. So one of the things I want to get to is some of the ideas as to what happened to the Ark of the Covenant and where the Ark of the Covenant might most likely be today.
So first of all let's begin in an orderly manner by looking at the passage in question, Exodus 25:10-22 as well as Exodus 37:1-9 are our central passages for God's revelation of the Ark of the Covenant, His mandate to Moses to build the Ark of the Covenant. So it begins. All of the descriptions, all of the mandates for building the Tabernacle begin in chapter 25 and the first 9 verses provide a general overview of what the people should give and provide in order to build the Tabernacle according to the pattern that God has set before Moses. The earthly Tabernacle is apparently modeled after a heavenly prototype. We'll get into that some more when we get into the latter part Hebrews 9 and Hebrews 10.
The Ark itself comes from the Hebrew word arwon. The word arown simply means a box or a chest. It's even used to describe the coffin for Joseph when he was buried – the coffin when they brought him out from Egypt. So it's just a simple word for any box or chest. Now in English we use the word ark (a-r-k). It's the same word used for the ship or barge that Noah built. But it is actually a different word in the Hebrew. The Hebrew word for the ark of Noah as well as the papyrus basket that Moses' mother put the infant Moses in when she set him adrift on the Nile River comes from the Hebrew noun tebah (t-e-b-a-h). The b is a soft b so it's usually pronounced like it's a v. So that is a different idea. Tebah is used of some sort of vessel that floats upon the water. But the arown (the ark) is a box or a chest. There are several different ways in which this is used – 34 times the ark is referred to as the Ark of God. Sometimes that's expanded a little bit - the Ark of the God of Israel. But primarily the two terms are the Ark of God (34 times) and the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh 31 times.
This is a key understanding of the ark - is that it belongs to God. It is the place of His dwelling. In Exodus 25:8 we read:
NKJ Exodus 25:8 "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
Then in verse 22:
NKJ Exodus 25:22 "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.
So the Ark becomes the center of Israel's relationship with God. Now some of the ways in which the Ark is described or referred to in the Old Testament are called the Ark of the Testimony - the Ark of the Testimony in Exodus 25:22 which we just saw. This emphasizes the fact that one of the three things that were contained in the Ark was the tablets of the Ten Commandments.
The tablets of the Ten Commandments were the prologue to the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law was functionally the constitution for the nation. It was their body of laws. It contained both ceremonial laws (ritual laws) for their spiritual life as well as the criminal and civil laws for the conduct for the nation. Israel as we'll see violated the Mosaic Law even while it was being given to Moses. They became impatient called upon Aaron to make for them a golden calf, an idol of God. So they are breaking that even as God is giving the Law so that the presence of the Law is a legal witness of the way God is going to conduct Himself in relationship to Israel and it's a legal witness against Israel's disobedience as we'll see. So that's why it's called the Ark of the Testimony because the law's presence serves as a witness to God's dealings with Israel.
It's called the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord in Numbers 10:33; 31 times it's called the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh. Deuteronomy 10:8 and Judges 20:27 are two of those passages. The term Yahweh is always associated with God's covenant with Israel in a special way that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the God who redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt. It is referred to the Ark of God in I Samuel 3:3 and the Ark of the God of Israel in I Samuel 2. This is because it's association with God who is the God of Israel. It's referred to in I Kings 2:26 as the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, the Ark of the Lord God. It is referred to as the Holy Ark in II Chronicles 35:3, which emphasizes the fact that it is set apart and distinct. This is a key element that I emphasized last time related to the veils – the outer curtains as well as the curtains around the holy place itself – the Tabernacle's itself proper as well as the veil between the outer holy place and the inner Holy of Holies.
All of these emphasize that God has to be approached on His terms. God is a holy God. He is set apart and distinct and man cannot come into His presence on his own terms. He has to come into the presence of God on God's terms. So there is this distinctiveness about God and that's a good way to translate holiness. It can pick up the ideas of moral purity, which really comes from righteousness later on; but the core of idea in qadash has to do with uniqueness, distinctiveness. God is totally other. It relates to the fact that He is the creator; we are the creatures. So this is the Holy Ark. It is set apart specifically for the dwelling of God. Then in Psalm 132:8 it is referred to as the Ark of Thy Strength. So these are some of the terms that are used to refer to the Ark. Each of these terms emphasizes little different aspect of its role and significance.
The description of the construction of the Ark begins in Exodus 25:10.
NKJ Exodus 25:10 " And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height.
As we've seen every time we've gone through these different pieces of furniture, they're all made out of acacia wood (or frequently made out of acacia wood) and covered with a metal. In the case of the brazen altar, it's covered with bronze because its role is to serve as a burnt offering. So it needs to be able to withstand the heat and the fire representing judgment. But when we get into the other aspects (the other pieces of furniture inside the Tabernacle itself), the acacia wood is covered with gold. It is a depiction of the humanity of Christ pictured by the wood united with the pure gold, which represents His deity. The acacia wood itself is a tree that grows in the Sinai Desert. They have many of them in Israel. You can drive down the streets of Tel Aviv in the springtime and they produce a bloom on them that is not – they don't look very different from a mimosa tree. The blossom that they have reminds me (It's a bright red) of a mimosa tree, which is usually (at least around here) more pink and white. But it is an indestructible wood. It is a very hard wood. In fact the Greek translation of the Old Testament when the rabbis translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek about the 2nd to 3 century BC, they just translated acacia wood as incorruptible wood so that the wood not only depicts the humanity of Christ, but it also depicts His impeccability - that He was sinless, that He was with out sin, without guilt, without either a sin nature or personal sin which is emphasized in various passages in the New Testament. For example I Peter 1:18-20:
NKJ 1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
A lamb without spot or blemish was a depiction of the impeccability of Jesus Christ. So the sacrifice for sin (for cleansing) had to be the sacrifice of a lamb that was without spot or blemish. The blood was a representative metaphor depicting the shedding of blood, a violent kind of death. The blood represents death. In this case it represents the spiritual death of Jesus Christ. It wasn't His physical death; but His spiritual death that paid the penalty for our sins when He was crucified, when He was … when God the Father imputed to Him the sins of the world between 12 noon and 3 pm during that day on Golgotha when it became dark.
This is the time when Jesus Christ is separated from the Father judicially, not in terms of His being, but it's a judicial judgment that is poured out upon Him. Of course the Second Person of the Trinity can never be separated ontologically. (I thought I would throw a good word; wake everybody up. See it shook up somebody back in the recording sector) You can't separate Him ontologically or metaphysically in terms of His essential being, but He is separated judicially as He bears our sins in His own body on the cross.
Another verse that speaks of this more clearly is Hebrew 4:15.
NKJ Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
…so that He is absolutely perfect in His humanity and thus able to go to the cross and serve as our substitute.
Now when we look at the Ark, it is wood covered with gold. In its construction…there are some different ideas about how the ark was constructed. Some think that gold leaf was placed on the ark. But the rabbis taught that actually three boxes were made that fit together very tightly. So you had the box of wood. Then there was an inner box of gold that slid down inside the wooden box – just a perfect fit. Then there was an outer box that was gold that the wood box then fit in so that the wooden box is then completely encased between the inner and outer gold boxes without any room there – just a smooth fit. We don't know exactly how it was constructed because no one has seen it; but these ideas have been passed down in Jewish tradition. So that speaks of His humanity and His deity united together in one person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now the Ark itself had three things that were contained within it. Theses are alluded to in Hebrews 9:3-4 which is technically the passage we're studying.
NKJ Hebrews 9:3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All,
NKJ Hebrews 9:4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;
These three things are said to be contained within the Ark of the Covenant. Now there is some disagreement in how we understand some other verses because there seems to be a contradiction. But it's probably not an actual contradiction. In I Kings 8:9 we are told:
NKJ 1 Kings 8:9 Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb,
That's another term for Mt. Sinai.
when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.
But this is done at the time that Solomon dedicates the Temple. It is thought by that time for whatever the reason, Aaron's rod that had budded and the manna are no longer associated or contained within the Ark of the Covenant that somewhere along the line they had either been lost or removed.
There is another discrepancy in terms of the Hebrew preposition. In Deuteronomy 10:5 suggests that they were kept beside the Ark. In Deuteronomy 10:5 says the Ten Commandments were in the Ark and in Deuteronomy 31:26 uses the Hebrew preposition mitzar, which means "beside" the Ark.
Now the rabbis had an interesting way of pulling this together which may be close to the truth. That is that the tablets that Moses was told to write a second time because the first set was broken when he came down from the mountain after he had received the law and he hears the orgy going on at the base of the mountain with the Jews who've had Aaron construct the golden calf. So he throws the tablets down and they break. So there is a second set that's made according to Deuteronomy 10 and those are the ones that are in the Ark, but it is the broken stone tablets that were put in the Tabernacle beside the Ark. That is very likely. The rabbis believed that both the broken tablets as well as the whole tablets stayed with the Ark. The broken tablets were a picture of how Israel had broken the law and the tablets that were restored pictured God's grace and forgiveness to the nation despite their sinfulness.
So you have these three elements. The first relates to the tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written which depicts the covenant that God has made with Israel. It's the foundation of His relationship with Israel.
The second thing was Aaron's rod. It was the staff of his authority as the High Priest. It was cut from an almond tree. In an episode we'll study in a minute, it was placed in the tent of meeting overnight. The next morning it had sprouted green leaves and it in fact bore fruit something that could not transpire simply overnight without a miracle being involved. Then the last element that was contained within in the Ark was the last of the angel food that God provided the original angel food in the wilderness, the manna. We'll look at each of these in just a second.
Now by way of introduction to these contents these three elements are important because they represent two things. On the one hand they represent God's judgment and on the other hand they represent God's grace. Both are depicted here. On the one hand they represent the failure of Israel to accept what God has provided for them. And on the other hand they also depict God's provision for continued provision for Israel - continued faithfulness to them over time and ultimately they are types of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The law (the tablets) indicates their rejection of God's law and ultimately they will reject God's standard of righteousness when they reject the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus Christ gives a direct confrontation with the Pharisees.
The key verse for understanding the Sermon on the Mount is when Jesus says, "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you won't see the kingdom of God."
The point that He is making is that people all thought that the Pharisees were extremely righteous. They were the best you could be. They prayed 7 times a day. They went to the Temple three times a day. They did everything right. They were rigorous in their application of the Law. So, everyone believed that the greatest human righteousness you could possibly have is that of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Yet Jesus comes along and in His interpretation of the Mosaic Law (which is what the Sermon on the Mount is), He's going to show that the righteousness that the Pharisees had is really a deluded righteousness and they have reinterpreted the Law in such a way that it could be followed legalistically. But His point is that no one can fulfill the righteousness of the Law on their own. It has to be a different kind of righteousness – a righteousness that is given. So the Mosaic Law represents the kind of righteousness that men must have in order to have fellowship with God. The purpose of giving the Law was to show that man can't do it on his own and that God must do it for them. So it is the broken law. It is a picture of man's failure to live up to God's law and God's law depicts of course the righteousness of God and the righteousness that is in Christ. He fulfils the Law in His humanity thus making it possible for us to have salvation.
So the Mosaic Law represents this rejection of God's law, rejection of righteousness as well as its ultimate fulfillment in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another aspect is that the Ten Commandments are a legal witness of Israel's legal guilt in terms of violating God's contract, the Mosaic Law, for the Ten Commandments are just that prelude to the Mosaic Law, to the constitution of Israel.
It's interesting in the ancient world that normally in other cultures where they worship other gods what would be in the center of their temple would be a statue or idol of the god. Whenever they entered into legal contracts, this is a place where they would validate or deposit them. Now one of the reasons we have the Mosaic Law in the Ark of the Covenant is that this is one of the copies placed before God that would serve as the standard for indicting Israel if they violated that particular contract.
It's just like when you enter into a will. You have to go down to the courthouse and probate it. Then that will is going to be put on file at the courthouse. If you get married, you have to get a marriage license. You go and you get married and the pastor signs the marriage license and then that is sent into the county and the county is going to register that. It's really not until that marriage license is sent in that the deal is done. It's that signature. The "I do's" don't have anything to do with it. It's that signature and mailing it in. Three days later you can still not mail it in and you're not married yet.
The first time I did…I came back to Houston in '91. I did a wedding. I had not done one in several years. I hadn't done one in Harris County in a while. I wasn't at a church. I didn't have a secretary or anybody else covering all the bases. I kept reminding the couple.
"Make sure you get me the marriage license so that I can sign that. In all the commotion and hubbub and everything that goes on at the wedding, we don't want to forget that."
So we did the wedding over at the Junior League. It used to be over there on 610. Did the wedding…I never gave it a thought…totally slipped my mind to get the marriage license. Well about 4 nights later in Bible class suddenly this couple taps me on the shoulder after class.
"We need you to sign the marriage license, but there's a little problem,"
I thought, "Hmm. What's the problem?"
Well, they both just graduated from A&M. This is not casting any aspersions upon Aggies. They had both just graduated from Texas A&M and they had gone to get their license (They had finals the week before) on Thursday. They were getting married on Saturday evening. Now in the old days (I hate saying that. It makes me sound old and I'm not) but back in the 70's and early 80's (I don't know when the law changed), you could go get your marriage license and it was valid at that point. But somewhere in the late 80's it changed and marriage licenses in Texas weren't valid for 48 hours. They didn't go get their marriage license in whatever county College Station is in...they didn't go get their marriage license until Friday morning which means it wasn't valid on Saturday night.
So I told them, "Well, we'll just date it for Sunday and you'll just have a two day or three day anniversary. Make that kind of special."
So it's the signing of the marriage license that legalizes it. It's the contract.
So Israel has entered into a contract with God and that contract is placed as a matter of record in the Ark of the Covenant as a testimony and witness to be used against them in the case of their violation of the law. So that's the significance of the Mosaic Law.
The bread on the other hand represents God's spiritual sustenance, His provision of spiritual nourishment for the people both in terms of the written bread…Jesus said in Matthew 4:4:
NKJ Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' "
So He's talking about the fact that the bread represents the spiritual food that God provides. So you have the bread of the Word of God, the written Word of God. Then we have the bread of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ who said, "I am the bread of life." So the manna is used to typify or to indicate certain aspects of the provision of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course they rejected that in the wilderness and complained about God's provision of the bread – that it was the same thing everyday and so it was boring.
Gee! We still get the same complaining about the teaching of God's Word. We have to jazz it up with choruses and music and rock bands and everything else. People just don't want to hear the Word of God.
Now it's interesting…I think David Dunn was asking me about this the other day. In Matthew (14, I believe) there's a passage where the disciples are going out with Jesus in a boat. It says in the text that they worshipped Him saying...He had asked a question in the verse before:
NKJ Matthew 16:15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
That verse says:
NKJ Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Now that's a participle there that's translated with the "ing" verb, saying.
David called me up and he said, "Am I right in taking that as a participle of means."
I looked at it and said, "Yeah. I think that's the only thing it can be because participles in Greek can have ten or so different meanings."
If they are adverbial, they can be a participle of manner or cause or concession or means. There are 3 or 4 attended circumstances or three or four other categories. Usually this is left untranslated when it comes into the English, which is standard procedure for translators. Sometimes they'll interpret it; but usually they should leave the interpretation to a pastor and they should simply translate. So they translate it rather ambiguously. "They worshipped Him saying." But if it's a participle of means, "They worshipped Him by saying, 'You are Jesus the Son of God.'"
See worship is just the recognition that Jesus is the Son of God. That's worship. You don't have to clap your hands and stomp your feet and have a rock band and sing choruses and all these other things that people define today as worship. It is very simple. It is the study of God's Word. It's the recognition of divine truth. It's the acceptance of divine truth. So Jesus as the living bread is the incarnation of God's revelation, the highest form of His revelation to us. When people recognize that and accept it, that is worship. The study of God's Word is the highest form of worship that there can be and it doesn't have to be sugar coated with all kinds of other activities – just accept it. But the Jews rejected it. The manna was boring just like so many people reject the Word today because they say it is boring.
Then the budding rod – the rod of Aaron - is a depiction of life coming where there was death. A staff or a rod is cut from a dead piece of wood. There is no life there. Yet God miraculously brought life where there was death. That can have one of two significances. One it could relate to regeneration where God creates spiritual life where there is spiritual death. And, it can relate to regeneration. In this case I think it is a picture of – excuse me – not regeneration, resurrection. It's a picture of resurrection because it is the Lord Jesus Christ who in His resurrection God raises Him from the dead, validates and affirms all that He did on the cross in dying on the cross for our sins and paying that penalty for us. So He is our High Priest. When He is resurrected, then He ascended to heaven and begins that new role as our High Priest in heaven. So these three things deal with rejection. The Israelites had rejected Aaron's leadership. They wanted a couple of others to be High Priest. They were blaming Moses for putting members of his own family in leadership. So God is going to show that it wasn't Moses that chose Aaron – God chose Aaron. So each of these depicts Israel rejecting something God provided. On the other hand God's grace in ultimately providing the antitype to each of these - Jesus Christ the fulfillment of the Law, Jesus Christ who is the eternal bread of life, and Jesus Christ who is our High Priest.
Now let's take a minute (a little more than a minute actually) and look at each of these things in a little more detail. Turn with me to Exodus 16 – Exodus 16 and we will see the episode with the manna.
Now manna (the name) comes from the Hebrew word minhu which means "what is this?" You could paraphrase that as "What's that?" or "What it is?" They didn't know what it was so they asked the question. They had never seen anything like this. It comes into play as God provides for them as they're in the wilderness. God provided for the Israelites miraculously. For 40 years their shoes didn't wear out. Their clothes didn't wear out. God provided food for them and water for them in miraculous ways. Yet they continued to grumble and complain about God's provision. For God to provide you don't have to have the latest fashions. You don't have to have the things that everybody else has. God is going to supply everything. Now that doesn't mean that it's wrong to have nicer things or fashion or any of those things. It just means that God is going to supply what you need at the time you are serving Him. So while they're in the wilderness God is going to supply everything for them. Their rejection showed that they had no capacity for grace. They were ungrateful and gratitude is one of the key elements of grace orientation.
So after they had left Egypt and they are up in the wilderness of Sin and they are headed toward Mt. Sinai and they go by the place of bitter waters that God makes sweet and then he goes to the Palms at Elim.
NKJ Exodus 16:1 And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin,
That's the shortened form of Sinai – Sin. It is not sin; it is Sin (seen)
which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt.
2 Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.
3 And the children of Israel said to them, "Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
They are thinking back on all of that wonderful food that they had and the full bellies that they had when they were in Egypt and all of the spices that they had that made the food taste so good. They would rather have that than freedom. They had no capacity for the freedom that they had. They just want security. That's often the juxtaposition that we have in history. The masses would rather have security than freedom because freedom brings with it tremendous risk. When you have freedom the risk means you are free to succeed; but you are also free to fail. To the degree that the government comes along or anyone comes along and provides a safety net to protect you from failing, they are also going to limit success. This is one of the problems of socialism. It's a direct attack on divine institution #1 as we've seen in previous studies.
It's interesting today. Chavez down in Venezuela said that the only thing that's going to get the world out of its current mess economically is socialism. But, he is dead wrong. The only thing that is going to get the world out of its mess is responsibility. That comes from freedom, not from socialism. But we have a world today where people are just like the Jews - no capacity for grace, no capacity for freedom, no capacity for responsibility. They want somebody else to make all the decision for them. So they just wanted to go back and be slaves rather than to be free and they are blaming Moses for it.
So the Lord is going to be gracious. Notice He doesn't make an issue out of their moaning and groaning at this point. He responds to them and because in the response he confirms their lack of gratitude.
NKJ Exodus 16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.
This is one of the terms used for manna.
And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.
So God is going to teach them that His grace is sufficient, but He's not going to give it to them all at once. He's going to give them enough for each day and it will be sufficient. They have to learn to trust Him on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis – something like many of us have been doing the last two weeks as we've been getting promises from Centerpoint that tomorrow "Yes, you too will have power." Then tomorrow comes and the power doesn't. So we have been living one day at a time and thank God I got word just before class that the power had come on. So I'll be modernized after Bible class.
So God is going to test them whether they will be obedient or not. That's one of the reasons we go through suffering and adversity – to see if we're really going to trust God in the difficult circumstances. So God lays down the protocol for dealing with manna. They get enough for each day. If they get more than they are going to use, then what's left over is going to rot. If they try to eat it, it's going to make them terribly sick. Each day they go out and get enough for that day. Then at the end of the week they're going to be allowed to get enough for two days because on the Sabbath they aren't supposed to work. They don't go out and collect manna. On that day miraculously the manna is not going to rot over that extended extra day period on Shabbat. So He outlines this to Moses and then Moses and Aaron give directions to all of the Israelites.
NKJ Exodus 16:7 "And in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD; for He hears your complaints against the LORD. But what are we, that you complain against us?"
Notice how Moses and Aaron make an issue out of the complaining, but God didn't. So they are going to lay out the manna. But the Israelites are going to complain about this eventually because it's the same thing day after day after day. Anything no matter how good it is (and you all know that I think that manna probably tasted like a hot Shipley donut. I imagine that after – I don't' know – after a year or two having a couple of hot Shipley donuts every morning it's probably gong to get a bit old. I don't know. I'd like to give it a try) But they start complaining about that. So He judges them with grace and He sends the quails into the camp and they all over eat and get sick from that. So the manna, which is first introduced here and becomes the standard way God provides for the nourishment through the time in the wilderness, is rejected. It is a rejection of God's provision.
Now there are various different ways in which manna is described in the Scriptures. In Exodus 16:4 as we just saw, it's called the bread from heaven indicating its source. God is the one who provided this bread for them. It's said that it actually tasted like coriander seed. I'm not quite sure what coriander seed would taste like; but I have a feeling I probably wouldn't care for it a whole lot. Coriander – isn't that like cilantro? So it's also referred to as the bread of angels. Now that's not like angel food cake. It's indicating that this again had a heavenly origin.
NKJ Psalm 78:24 Had rained down manna on them to eat, And given them of the bread of heaven.
NKJ Psalm 78:25 Men ate angels' food; He sent them food to the full.
Man did eat the bread of angels. He sent them food in abundance.
Then in Numbers 21:5 the Jews referred to it as miserable food.
NKJ Numbers 21:5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread."
So they have completely rejected and are mischaracterizing what God has provided for them.
Now the manna itself is said to depict something. It has a spiritual significance that is used to symbolize something in the New Testament. This is described in I Corinthians 10:1-4. This is generally a summation of their time coming out of Egypt. Paul says to the Corinthians:
NKJ 1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware
He is saying, "I don't want you to be ignorant brethren."
Now if you were a postmodern 20-something today you would get offended at that statement because what he just said was – you're already ignorant. And that's not politically correct. Nobody wants to say things like that so. But you find that in the Bible all the time.
"I don't want you to be ignorant. So I'm gong to give you information."
that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,
The cloud refers to the presence of God. Passing through the sea is the Exodus as they go through the Red Sea as God parted the Red Sea. They're able to escape from the armies of pharaoh.
Then he says:
NKJ 1 Corinthians 10:2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
That doesn't mean that they got wet. Only the Egyptians got wet.
"All were baptized into Moses" indicates the significance of baptism which is identification. Those who went through the Red Sea were following the leadership of Moses. They're identifying with Him by means of the cloud and by means of the sea. Then subsequently, they all ate the same spiritual food. So the manna is spiritual food. It depicts something spiritual just as the water and the rock is going to depict something about the Lord Jesus Christ, which is indicated in verse 4.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
These events are used to depict something, a doctrine in the spiritual realm. So the manna depicts God's provision. It depicts Jesus Christ. In John 6:32 said to the crowd:
NKJ John 6:32 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
…referring to Himself.
So the bread of heaven (the manna) was to depict something about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the source of our spiritual nourishment.
The second element is Aaron's rod that budded. This indicates their rejection of God's provision of a high priest. This is seen in Numbers 16. So turn with me over one book - two books to Numbers 16 and 17. Here we see the rebellion of Korah against Moses and Aaron.
NKJ Numbers 16:1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi,
So he's a Levite. He is a distant relative of Moses and Aaron along with two other conspirators, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan is not Edward G. Robinson (if you've watched the Ten Commandments) - that is a misrepresentation of Dathan.
with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men;
So Korah was a Levite along with Dathan and Abiram and On is not a Levite at all. He's not priest. He is a Reubenite. They're going to rise up in a rebellion against Moses' leadership with 250 other leaders. So they've been working background to get this conspiracy together and they are going to challenge Moses' leadership and they're going to accuse him of showing family favoritism to his brother Aaron.
So they say, "Y'all have taken too much upon yourselves for the congregation is holy; every one of them and the Lord is among them."
NKJ Numbers 16:3 They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?"
Notice how they use a religious rationale.
"God loves all of us. God is the Father of everyone. Why do you say that there is any kind of exclusivity in the plan of God?"
Just like a modern liberal!
"You Christians, why do you say you're the only ones who get to heaven? God's the father of everybody. All roads lead to heaven – the Buddhists, the Moslems, the Jews. Everybody is going to get to heaven as long as they're sincere."
But, that's not what God says. Dathan, Abiram and Korah were all sincere; but they were sincerely wrong and they're going to sincerely die - instantly.
So when Moses heard of this challenge, he falls on his face. Why does he do that? Because, he realizes the seriousness of what they are saying. They are confronting God. They don't really believe God means what He says when He's established these various death penalties for encroaching upon the priesthood.
NKJ Numbers 16:4 So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face;
5 and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, "Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy,
That is, who is set apart to Him.
and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him.
In other words the choice is God's. It's not mine. Moses isn't showing favoritism to his brother. So he gives them an experiment to perform.
NKJ Numbers 16:6 "Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company;
That is the bowls in which the incense was burned. They took coals from the brazen altar.
NKJ Numbers 16:7 "put fire in them and put incense in them before the LORD tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the LORD chooses is the holy one. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!"
9 "Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the LORD,
"You are still a priest, but you don't appreciate the world you have. You want to have an even greater role."
As you read down through the chapter, what happens is that they are to take their staffs and put them inside the tabernacle of meeting. The next day when they get up the only one of the staffs that has sprouted green leaves and almonds and flowered is Aaron's indicating that he is God's choice. Immediately these 250 are executed by God. We see that execution beginning in about verse 25.
NKJ Numbers 16:25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him.
26 And he spoke to the congregation, saying, "Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins."
In other words, "receive their punishment."
So Korah, Dathan, and Abiram go to out. They go to their tents. They collect their families, their wives, their children, their infants. They stand there. Then Moses says in verse 28:
NKJ Numbers 16:28 And Moses said: "By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will.
NKJ Numbers 16:29 "If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me.
NKJ Numbers 16:30 "But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD."
This is serious. Can you imagine what that must have been like to have stood there and watched this? All of a sudden you feel the earth vibrate and hear the rumblings and it just separates right there at the tents where these men and their families are standing.
NKJ Numbers 16:32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods.
NKJ Numbers 16:33 So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly.
After this I would not disobey God anymore – in any of these things, just once.
"I've straightened up and you're not going to have anymore problems."
But that shows that it's not a matter of empiricism. It's a matter of volition. The people have already rejected the grace of God so there is a continued complaint that takes place. The people continue to complain. I've never understood this. After witnessing this, on the next day:
NKJ Numbers 16:41 On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, "You have killed the people of the LORD."
"Ah! These were such wonderful people. They were so sincere – so religious. Moses you're just so tough. This is just so terrible. You believe in capital punishment. You're terrible. You're a Republican."
I just wanted to see if anybody was still awake.
So the congregation gathers against Moses and Aaron and God's going to teach them another lesson and sends a plague upon them.
In verse 49 we learn that 14,700 besides those who died in the Korah incident are killed in this plague. Approximately 15,000 Israelites die in this rebellion. So the presence of Aaron's rod in the Ark of the Covenant represents this whole incident, which is the rebelliousness of the people against God's provision of a high priest. Again it is a rejection of God's grace provision for the people in terms of leadership. But ultimately God is going to provide a greater high priest than Aaron in the Lord Jesus Christ. And what are the Jews going to do? They're going to crucify Him. They continue to reject the grace of God, which is the trend of the fallen human heart because of the total depravity because of our sinfulness.
Now that just covers the first two. That covers the manna. It covers Aaron's rod. We touched on the Ten Commandments. We'll come back review that briefly next time, then we'll go on to talk about the significance of the Ark because when you get into the next couple of chapters in Numbers, we see the role of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement and God's instructions to Aaron come directly out of this rebellion of Korah and Dathan and Abiram.