Some times when I am reading the bible and I get to the descriptions of ceremonies and offerings in the Old Testament my eyes glaze over a little. It feels so stuffy and irrelevant immediately the word tabernacle is explained.
Something that has helped me appreciate the history more and see the importance of understanding these descriptions in the bible to understand their trajectory for what they are pointing to. So to endeavour to bring some of that goodness to us all I will make a few stop offs through Gods story to get taste of what tabernacles and offerings teach us.
- Offerings are to the Lord for the Lord’s work – Exodus 35.4-9, 20-21
4 Moses said to the whole Israelite community, “This is what the Lord has commanded: 5 From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver and bronze; 6 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 7 ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; 8 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 9 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.
20 Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, 21 and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.
The New International Version. (2011). (Ex 35:4–9). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
In this passage we see a command comes from the Lord to bring an offering to the Lord. The offering is served the purpose of contributed to maintaining of the tabernacle (the place of worship) as well as a sign of allegiance to the Lord. There is a certain level of extravagance that comes with the offering. So many different types of offerings are made to honour the Lord and show his standing amongst the people of God.
The clarification made on the offering is that is to be done by those who are ‘willing’ and whose hearts are ‘moved’. The offering is not a legally binding action but is to be an action that reflects in the desires of those bringing it.
- Offerings are not divorced from actions of life- Amos 5.21-24
21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
The New International Version. (2011). (Am 5:21–24). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
In Amos we see God speaking to his people in anger because they think that they can placate him or show allegiance to him with offerings and festivals. The issue is that there lives do not match the relationship they seek to express with their offerings. With their offerings they are expressing allegiance and worship but with their actions they ignore the people God loves, they perform injustices upon people, they ignore the truth of what God calls them to be.
In this part of God’s word we see a connection made between the offering and the actions of someones life. They cannot be separated. God cares about the hearts and actions of the ones bringing an offering to him. The action of worship cannot be separated from the actions of the individual. This is because someones actions reveal their heart. Humans are not simply rational beings but beings of affection. Our actions are not rational but are driven by the desires of our hearts. God condemns his people here for performing a religious action when their hearts desire is not orientated to God’s plan for them and their world.
- Our lives are the offering – Romans 12. 1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 12:1–2). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
As we move through the story we see a change occurs. Rather then us bringing offerings to the tabernacle we bring ourselves as an offering to Lord. We bring our whole lives as an act of worship to the Lord. In the Old Testament God did not divorce the offering from the life of those offering and now the point is even more sharpened and focused as the offering and the one offering are tied intimately into the same action.
Through the Jesus death our sins are paid for and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we become the people of God who are being transformed in our minds and thus our actions. As we exist as Gods people and seek to live out his will in dependance upon the Spirit and repentance in the Son we are an offering to the Lord.
Our eyes need not glaze over when we read of the tabernacle and offering in the Old Testament. When we read them we see an image of what life is like under God and what he is doing in us as we work as apart of his kingdom. The trajectory of those offerings was not legalism but a concern from the Lord to have his people aligned with him. It was him seeking to have his people constantly reminded of who he is and who they are to him. The offering is a sign of who we are ‘in’ or who we apart of. In the past the offering was a sign of being in the promises of God. The Lord was most concerned with the heart of the one giving the offering (needed to be willing). The offering could not be separated from the actions of the offerer because God is concerned with the heart he sees the true heart of people in their actions. Then in the age of the Spirit post Jesus death and resurrection the offering is our very lives empowered by the Spirit to be transformed to worship as living sacrifices.
God has set a trajectory through history of a people offering to give honour to him. Now he has worked in such a way to bring the truth into the hearts of believers that they honour him now with their lives. What a wonderful story we get to experience of a God who is bringing a people to worship him with all of their lives. He does so knowing that the best thing for all humanity is for all creation to have peace with its creator.
The offering we read in the Old Testament is not a boring ceremony to read through quickly but a reminder of a God who is Lord over all and has a plan for all his creation. It is a sign of our God who has a trajectory for his servants to glorify him in all that they do. A sign of a God who become one of us to empower us to make the truth that the world needs to know known to all.