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A Portrait of Christ

By admin | October 26, 2015


After three months, at a slow pace through the wilderness, the children Israel came to Mount Sinai for an appointment with their God and their Deliverer. God had instructed Moses: “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Ex. 3:12b). There they waited in anticipation and apprehension for additional instructions. Their departure from Egypt was a great initial leap of faith and brought them out of bondage and under the watch care of their Creator.

At the foot of Mount Sinai, God proposed marriage to the Israelites through the Mosaics Covenant. “‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Ex. 19:5-6). “Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do'” (Ex. 19:8a). Thus, God and the people entered into a marriage contract. Little did the people know that the law that God would establish, would be a portrait of Christ who would someday satisfy all of the law, died on a cross for the sin of all mankind and on the third day be resurrected.

Israel’s marriage to God consummated a relationship that reflected many of the great things God had planned for mankind. The daily activities in the lives of the people were filled with celestial patterns, examples, types, and shadows to remind them of their special privileges and their unique relationship with their God, their Husband. These patterns, examples, types, and shadows looked forward to the person and works of the Christ who would come. The unique nature and the significance of everyday events were obvious in the area of religious affairs.

There are multitudes of specific rules discussed in Exodus, Leviticus, and the first ten chapters of Numbers. God required the people to wait at the foot of Mount Sinai until all the details of the ceremonial law were completed. It seems that the Levitical rules are parenthetical to the wilderness march as God is trying to make sure that all of the details are understood. This becomes clear when we observe that the wilderness march began twice – in the last chapter of Exodus, and again in the tenth chapter of Numbers. In fact, so many details are given that we often lose sight of specific subjects and miss much of the overall impact. We will attempt to organize and focus on some of the details of the Levitical or ceremonial law while observing the new nation camped in the shadow of Mount Sinai.

Just why did God choose to set up so many specific rules for the religious ceremonies of the Levitical law? There is no doubt that God wanted to clearly set the worship services of the Nation Israel apart from those of the Gentile nations. The Gentiles performed elaborate ceremonies and offered sacrifices to many gods. Through marriage, Israel was committed to one God who claimed to be the one and only God – the Creator of all things. The Israelites promised to be faithful and accepted His will to direct them. Their faithfulness would be measured primarily by their obedience to ceremonial detail and their dependence upon their Creator.

God’s nature is pure and holy. It does not allow Him to fellowship with anything that is unclean. If any person, animal, or object that is brought into His presence is not properly cleansed, it must be destroyed or rejected. He, alone, established the rituals of purification that must be followed to ceremonially cleanse all participants.

God’s rules also made it clear to the people that He expected them to recognize Him as the exclusive source of their blessings. His chosen people were given specific instructions regarding their returning to Him a portion of all that they received. God required a return of all firstborn sons, the firstlings of all flocks and herds, first fruits of the field, and one-tenth of all cattle and produce. They were told to give Him part of the great wealth that they had taken from Egypt. This wealth was to be used for constructing the tabernacle and for clothing the priests. God’s requirements served a practical purpose in supporting the priesthood, but His primary intent was to motivate them to direct both their treasures and their hearts to Him.

The religious ordinances are also very prophetic and beneficial in teaching by types. The writer of the book of Hebrews makes it very clear that the tabernacle, priesthood, and animal sacrifices were prophetic shadows or types that were later fulfilled in the life of Christ. Scripture clearly indicates that the national feasts were prophetic, and at least four of them have been fulfilled. Since we are following the golden thread of Scripture, we will explore, in summary form, the typical teaching of the ceremonial law. Many Biblical writers neglect this emphasis, but it is essential to understand this if we are to see the unfolding eternal plan of God.

Before moving to the next section, which is a detailed description of the tabernacle, it would be beneficial to read chapters seven through ten of the book of Hebrews. After our study of the Levitical law is concluded, a review of these chapters may also prove rewarding. For those who would like a more detailed study of Biblical types, “Gleanings in Exodus” by Arthur W. Pink and “Tabernacle, God’s Portrait of Christ” by J. Vernon McGee are highly recommended.

The Wilderness Tabernacle

Throughout the pages of Scripture, we see God’s desire for fellowship with man, and His efforts to establish a place where we can dwell together. Scripture opens in Genesis with God coming down to walk in the garden with Adam in the cool of the day; it concludes with man fellowshipping with God in the New Jerusalem. The tabernacle is a significant link in the golden chain stretching from Genesis to Revelation.

When God united in a marriage bond with Israel, He descended upon the mountain of Sinai, and spoke to Moses and His people. God’s presence was manifested as a consuming fire on the mountaintop. The people saw flashing lightning and a great cloud of smoke. They heard great thundering and the sound of a very loud trumpet. The whole mountain shook violently. They had been instructed to wash their garments and be consecrated before He came. Any man or beast, touching the mountain, without being called by God would die. After experiencing such an awesome encounter with God, who can question their reaction? The people trembled, stood at a distance, and asked Moses to relay God’s messages to them. They actually feared that they might die if God kept speaking directly to them. This fear was well founded because God had warned Moses that many would perish if they gazed upon Him.

The great contrast between the holiness of God and the depravity of man presents a real dilemma that must be overcome in order for God and man to dwell together. Even though God promised them that He would go with them and help them conquer and possess the Promised Land of Canaan; He could also separate himself from the people by the boundaries set upon the mountain. In order, for His presence to dwell among them, a special place would have to be prepared and consecrated. A special group of people, known as priests, would have to be selected to serve before the Lord, and act as mediators between Him and His people. For this reason, the Lord instructed Moses to collect a special contribution, and also gave him a detailed list of things to acquire.

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering. And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goat’s hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it'” (Ex. 25:1-9).

The tabernacle has at least three meanings which we must quickly examine: 1) It was to be a dwelling place for the presence of God; 2) It was to be the sanctuary of all religious ceremonies; and 3) It was to be a typical picture of Christ who would come to redeem man from his depravity.

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The Wilderness Tabernacle

The Priesthood

Simultaneously with the work on the tabernacle, detail instructions are also given relating to other aspects of the religious ordinances. The instructions for the priesthood are closely related to the instructions for construction of the tabernacle and its vessels. Prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law, the head of each family offered sacrifices to God (Gen.8:20). From what we have observed, Moses had this responsibility. Now this and other responsibilities relating to the ministry of the tabernacle are to be given to the new office of the priesthood. The high priest will serve as the head of the group with the other priests assisting him. The priests will represent the people before their God. Later, we shall see that it is the prophet who represents God before the people.

God chose Aaron and his sons, who are of the tribe of Levi, for this revered and honored responsibility. God instructs Moses: “Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar” (Ex. 28:1). A new order was established that day, which would remain within the family of Aaron for the next thirteen hundred years. Aaron was appointed high priest and the office was to pass in succession to the oldest son. Later, the entire tribe of Levi was set aside and appointed to service as caretakers and transporters of the tabernacle and its holy vessels (Num. 1:48-53, 3:5-39). However, only Aaron and his sons were to serve as priests (Ex.27:21, 28:43, 29:9).

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The Priesthood

The Sacrificial System

The primary responsibility of the priests was to offer sacrifices to God on behalf of the Israelites – for individuals, for families and for the nation. The offering of animal sacrifices has been traced back to Adam; there, God took the skins of animals to make clothing for Adam and Eve. The sacrificial offerings, from the time of Adam to the death of Christ, are recognized as a covering for sin in anticipation of the day when the death of Christ would permanently wash away sins. The practice of offering sacrifices was so widespread at the time the Law was given that the Gentiles were offering sacrifices to their idols.

Because of the tremendous influence that the Gentiles had over God’s chosen nation, God, through the law, restricted and refined the sacrificial services for Israel. The new rules and procedures given to Israel were patterned after and were symbolic of God’s blueprint in heaven for the eternal salvation of man. The Gentiles were offering sacrifices of their own design, including humans, to appease their pagan gods. These gods were created through their own vain imaginations. It is amazing how closely Satan imitates yet distorts the meaning of the things concerning God the Creator.

God’s first requirement was that sacrifices be brought to the door of the tabernacle.

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The Sacrificial System

The Feast Days

The twenty-third chapter of Leviticus gives instructions for the celebration of feast days –  these are designated as Holy Convocations. “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feast'” (Lev. 23:2). Seven feasts are given to the children of Israel to celebrate with the offering of sacrifices. They range in length from one day to seven days. The feast of Passover, Unleavened bread, and First fruits all took place during the second and third week of the Jewish first month of Nisan (March/April). The Harvest Festival, Pentecost, celebrated the wheat harvest and occurred fifty days after the feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread during the month of Sivan (May/June). The remaining three feasts, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles, were celebrated in the fall after the harvest was completed during the seventh month of Tishre (Sept./Oct.).

These “feasts of the Lord” coincided with the changing seasons and reminded the people of God’s constant provision and protection for them. These feasts provided an opportunity for the people to return to God a part of all that he had given to them. All were occasions of delight and enjoyment of God’s gifts, and a time to seek his forgiveness and cleansing. These feasts brought the twelve tribes together in worship and fellowship. All males were required to attend the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Ex. 23:14-19).

Since the feasts were prophetic in nature, they, like the other ordinances, foreshadowed events to come. Each one of these feasts has already found or will find a fulfillment in the future. Some have already been fulfilled and have been documented for us in the New Testament. It is amazing how the chronological sequence of the feasts, within the year, corresponds to their chronological fulfillment of God’s program.

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The Feast Days

The Sabbaths

In addition to the special Feast Days, one day out of each week, the Sabbath, was observed as a day of rest and as a holy convocation. “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings” (Lev. 23:3).

The Sabbath was given to Israel as a memorial of God’s creative activity, and as a permanent sign of their covenant relationship. “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Ex. 20.11). The keeping of the Sabbath was given as the fourth commandment of the Law. “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8).

Scripture is clear that the Sabbath was given only to Israel and served as a sign of their unique covenant relationship with God. “Therefore, the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed” (Ex. 31:16-17).

There were also, other Sabbath – the Sabbath year and the year of Jubilee.

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The Sabbaths


One cannot study the Jewish religious ordinances without noticing the recurrence of the number, seven. The number seven denotes completeness and is used as a structural element in the Mosaic religious ceremonial system. Notice that every seventh day was a Sabbath, every seventh year was a sabbatical year, and every seventh Sabbatical year was followed by the Jubilee year. Every seventh month was a month of feast. There was seven weeks between the feast of Passover and the feast of Pentecost. The feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles lasted seven days. We also see the sevens in the numbers of animals sacrificed. At the feast of Passover and the feast of Tabernacles fourteen (twice seven) lambs were offered. The entire Levitical system was run on wheels of seven cycles and pointed to what was completed in the first advent of Christ.

The Glory of His Presence

Some nine months after the first instructions for the Levitcial Law were given to Moses, and the tabernacle and Holy garments were made ready, God spoke unto Moses. “On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. You shall put in it the ark of the Testimony, and partition off the ark with the veil. You shall bring in the table and arrange the things that are to be set in order on it; and you shall bring in the lampstand and light its lamps. You shall also set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the Testimony and put up the screen for the door of the tabernacle. Then you shall set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. And you shall set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar and put water in it. You shall set up the court all around and hang up the screen at the court gate” (Ex. 40:2-8).

“And you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy. You shall anoint the altar of the burnt offering and all its utensils, a consecrate the altar. The altar shall be most holy. And you shall anoint the laver and its base and consecrate it” (Ex. 40:9-11).

“Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water. You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics. You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations” (Ex. 40:12-15).

“Thus, Moses did; according to all that the Lord had commanded him, so he did. And it came to pass in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up” (Ex. 40:16-17). The tabernacle was raised on the first day of the religious year, and on the first anniversary of their national birth. They have been camped at the foot of Mount Sinai for approximately ten months.

Then Moses offered a sacrifice: “And he put the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting and offered upon it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Ex. 40:29).

The book of Leviticus provides this insight to the sequence of events: “And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Lev. 9:23-24).

“Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34-35). The duties of priest passed from Moses to Aaron and his sons and Moses could no longer enter the tabernacle. A new order had begun. All is complete and the camp of Israel was ready to march to the Promised Land.

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