September 17, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Build an altar . . . Make a courtyard for the tabernacle . . . Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning . . . This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.”—Exodus 27 (NIV)
In Exodus 27, we see more of God’s plans for the tabernacle laid out. Here, the description for the altar of burnt offering is given, as well as the courtyard for the tabernacle and the instructions regarding the supplying of oil for the lampstand in the tent of meeting. So, what can we make of this? Well, a few things . . .
First, I want to point out the Lord was providing the people with specs that act as a “copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (Hebrews 8:5 NIV). It was kind of like a scale model, a bit of heaven breaking through on earth. This is why so much attention and detail is given by God to Moses in these chapters.
Now, let’s look at the key areas from this chapter . . .
The Altar of Burnt Offering
Did you know the idea behind the Hebrew word for altar is pretty much killing place? It’s the place where the death the people of Israel deserved for their sins would be paid for by a substitute—a bull, goat, or lamb. Why did this need to happen? Because “it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:11 NIV). Why was death needed? Because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 NIV).
Now, it’s important to understand these sacrifices served two important purposes: They covered the people’s sins for a time and, more importantly, they pointed to the work God would do in the future through His promised Messiah. You see, our altar—our “killing place”—is the cross where Jesus’ blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sins; where He died in our place to redeem us and bring us into right relationship with God.
The courtyard of the tabernacle—and later the temple—is an important theme in the Old Testament. Why? Because the tabernacle itself was inaccessible to most, except some key priests. The rest of the people met the Lord in the court. But in Christ, all who believe can come into His presence, boldly into the throne room of God (Hebrews 4:16).
The oil for the lamps, the only light in the tabernacle, came from pressed not beaten olives. Like these olives, we may be “pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed” (2 Corinthians 4:8 NLT), and God uses our times of pressing for His glory!
Additionally, God never wanted the lamps to lose their fire. It was only through the continual supply of oil and trimming of the wicks that they could keep the fire burning. In the same way, you and I can only continue to be burn bright as lights of the world if we’re continually supplied with the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit and are trimmed through sanctification by God to shine brighter.
I hope you see how these seemingly extraneous chapters carry a significant amount of deep, rich truth and should never be glossed over!
Pause: Why is it important to value and read through every passage and area of Scripture, even the lists of names and building instructions? What do we see in this passage?
Practice: Spend time praying through this chapter today!
Pray: Father, thank You for Your powerful Word, Your Word that points to Jesus and His saving work in every story, passage, song, and law. Thank You that through Your Holy Spirit, we are able to see this and discern the truth of Jesus in all of Scripture. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.