Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 8:1-17

bibleTwo weeks ago, we closed out the Sermon on the Mount as recorded for us in the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we paused our study through Matthew to look at Christ’s forgiveness as we moved into Easter Weekend. Today, we are going pick up where we left off beginning in Matthew chapter 8. As we work through the Gospel of Matthew, we are going to also look at the Laws and the Prophets mentioned by Matthew as he records what Jesus said and did to fulfill them. The best way to study the Old Testament is through the lens of the New Testament.

After the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus has closed out the Sermon on the Mount and starts to move down the mountain, being followed by crowds. If you will recall back in Matthew 4 Jesus began His preaching ministry in Galilee. Matthew 4:23 (ESV), “And [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

Matthew 8 (ESV)

Matthew 8:1-4 (ESV) | Jesus Cleanses a Leper

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

Let’s look at what it was that Jesus told the healed leper to do. What is the gift that Moses commanded?

Leviticus 14:1-32 (ESV) | Laws for Cleansing Lepers
1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, 3 and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, 4 the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. 5 And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. 6 He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. 8 And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. 9 And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.

10 “And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil. 11 And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 12 And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. 13 And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy. 14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 15 Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand 16 and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. 17 And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. 18 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord. 19 The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. 20 And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

21 “But if he is poor and cannot afford so much, then he shall take one male lamb for a guilt offering to be waved, to make atonement for him, and a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and a log of oil; 22 also two turtledoves or two pigeons, whichever he can afford. The one shall be a sin offering and the other a burnt offering. 23 And on the eighth day he shall bring them for his cleansing to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, before the Lord. 24 And the priest shall take the lamb of the guilt offering and the log of oil, and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. 25 And he shall kill the lamb of the guilt offering. And the priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 26 And the priest shall pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand, 27 and shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the Lord. 28 And the priest shall put some of the oil that is in his hand on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, in the place where the blood of the guilt offering was put. 29 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed, to make atonement for him before the Lord. 30 And he shall offer, of the turtledoves or pigeons, whichever he can afford, 31 one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, along with a grain offering. And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for him who is being cleansed. 32 This is the law for him in whom is a case of leprous disease, who cannot afford the offerings for his cleansing.”

The healing of this leper was no small thing. It’s not like simply having a case of unsightly eczema, this man was ceremonially unclean, unable to engage in worship under the Law of Moses. It is unlikely he could have heard Jesus’s sermon, as He was undoubtedly surrounded by a crowd of Jews. This leper would not have been able to press in or mingle among the crowd. He had to wait for Jesus to be on the move again, so that he could approach the Messiah (though he might not have realized Jesus was the Messiah). Jesus not only healed the man, He did so with a touch of His hand. Matthew doesn’t record how long the man had been a leper, but I know that it doesn’t take long for me to miss a touch of compassion and affection. Yes, Jesus healed his skin, but in touching the man, He undoubtedly touched his heart. Jesus was already being followed by a large crowd, and there was yet much He needed to do so He told the man not to say anything to anyone, but to present himself before the priests as was required of the Law. No doubt this man would present himself before the priests, gather up the required gifts, and begin his 7 day cleansing ritual, culminating in the 8th day sacrifices/cleansing. This wouldn’t always be the case, but for now the Law remains a guardian until the time for Christ to lay down His life as the final sacrifice to make atonement before the Lord for all who are being cleansed.

Matthew 8:5-13 (ESV) | The Faith of a Centurion

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

The faith of this Centurion is remarkable. To get a better idea of who this Centurion was and how it might be that he had learned of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and of Jesus (thus receiving faith) we might take a look at the account in Luke 7:1-10. Matthew, however isn’t focused on the Centurion. Matthew is focused on the Jewish witnesses, the sons of Abraham. Notice what he records Jesus saying to them, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus is prophesying here of the Gentiles being grafted into the Kingdom, while sons of Abraham perish in their sin. This is amazing news… the Good News… the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ came first to the Jews, the sons of Abraham, but He came for all of mankind, that through Him all the nations of the earth might be blessed. In Him, we are adopted into the Kingdom, we who were separated from the Promise by birth. Amen.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he addresses an over-reach he sees in the Gentile churches thinking they’ve completely supplanted the Jews or the sons of the kingdom. He makes it clear that such is only a temporary state, Romans 11:25 (ESV)Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

Matthew 8:14-17 (ESV) | Jesus Heals Many

14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”

Every commentary and cross-reference I’ve consulted points to Isaiah 53:4. This is interesting because we see interpretation going on rather than direct translation/quotation.

Isaiah 53 (ESV)
1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
7. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
 stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
   and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Matthew isn’t only talking about the healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law, or the others healed in that house. As we saw in the account of the leper’s healing, Jesus touched the leprous man to heal him and then told him to observe the Law of Moses in presenting himself to the priests. The man’s leprosy wasn’t just about being sick, it was about being unclean. Matthew’s audience isn’t like our secular society that creates a false barrier between sickness and sinfulness. The Jews understood that our griefs, sorrows, sickness, and disease are all the result of sin. Matthew, in his Holy Spirit inspired interpretation of the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Jesus, is moving toward the fullness of the Gospel and its eternal fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets in that He will take away our sin at the Cross. We’ll see in Chapter 9 Jesus saying point-blank, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (Matt 9:5 ESV). The two are connected in that all forms of death in this life are the result of sin. Sadly, many a false teacher misrepresents this Truth as the lie that all who are saved will never be sick. The bible doesn’t promise us that for this life. In this life we will have struggle, for His Glory. Our total and complete healing, freedom from our bodies of corruption, come at the Resurrection.

Romans 15:13 (ESV)

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 3:1-12

bibleIt has been quite the time away from posting. We were greatly blessed with extended family time. It was a time of fellowship and adventure for our little ones.

Regarding Faithful Stewardship, some of the feedback we’ve received was that there was simply too much volume on a daily basis, that the posts were just so long that folks felt they didn’t have enough time to get into a serious read. I can definitely understand that sentiment. We discussed possibly moving the Biblical text to end-note references or hyperlinks, but I don’t want to highlight my own words so much as God’s Word. Therefore, we will simply try break up how much text we are covering in a single post. Picking up where we left off in our Gospel Wednesday posts, we will return to the Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 3.

Matthew 3 (ESV)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
    make his paths straight.’”

Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Those of you who attend liturgical churches probably already dug into this text during Advent (the season before Christmas). We looked at the prophesy regarding John in our examination of just what Mary might have known. There are some curious descriptions of John that bear mentioning, particularly given that Matthew’s primary audience was the Jewish believer. Mathew’s account begins with Joseph and his dreams (reminiscent of Joseph, the son of Isaac/Israel), and here we see John the Baptist described in verse 4, “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.” Interesting what God the Holy Spirit prompted Matthew to write here. Remember in Luke 1:17, the angel Gabriel told Zechariah regarding John “and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared“. Could Matthew’s description of John the Baptist be a sign or a reminder to the people of Elijah?

2 Kings 1:1-8 (ESV)

Elijah Denounces Ahaziah

After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel.

Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.” But the angel of the Lordsaid to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Now therefore thus says the Lord, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” So Elijah went.

The messengers returned to the king, and he said to them, “Why have you returned?” And they said to him, “There came a man to meet us, and said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, Thus says the Lord, Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?” They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

Very interesting. Yes, God’s word is revealing that John the Baptist had indeed come onto the scene in the spirit and power of Elijah. I find it interesting, too, that in the 2 Kings account above, Elijah shows up unannounced, declaring a word of rebuke for the sin of idolatry. Ahaziah didn’t send for a Prophet of the Lord God; rather, he sent for a word from a mute idol. Judgement was coming, and the Lord God sent His servant, Elijah. But the occasion for John the Baptist was different… he was preaching repentance and preparing the way for the Messiah, the Christ. John baptized with water, but the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire.

Another interesting note from Matthew’s description of John the Baptist is that his food was locusts and wild honey. As odd as such a diet might seem, it met the Levitical standard for clean food.

Leviticus 11:20-23 (ESV)

20 “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you. 21 Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground.22 Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind.23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.

Now that Christ declared all foods clean, we needn’t worry too much about the culinary restrictions of the Mosaic covenant, but understand that this took place before Christ had done so, and any uncleanness on the part of John the Baptist would have disqualified him as a Prophet of God, especially in his baptism.

When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John, his words are very direct and ominous. Judgement was being spoken against the leaders. Elijah rebuked the kings of Israel, and John the Baptist rebuked the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem. Elijah pointed Israel back to the Word of God, and John the Baptist prepared the way for the people to see the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ.

We will continue working our way through the Gospel according to Matthew next week. Until then, may the Lord Bless you and keep you always.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

What is your Testimony?

Stiftshuette Modell

Stiftshuette Modell Timnapark CC BY-SA 3.0

Growing up in Evangelical churches, we heard often from folks who wanted to share their testimony with the church. A lot of weight was given to the sharing of one’s testimony. In fact, it was weighted so heavily that many times I heard caveats that both disturbed and discouraged me in my faith. Caveats such as, “well, my testimony isn’t nearly as powerful as that of brother so-and-so” or “I don’t have much of a testimony, because I grew up in a Christian home”. Such rubbish. This is NOT Biblical, and I want to end the week by looking at what our testimony is.

Your Testimony isn’t about you

We will look at the Biblical definition of what a testimony is, and what our testimony is supposed to be in a minute, but I want to point out that the major flaw in the caveats I mentioned is that they betray a fundamentally flawed view that a testimony is about the person giving it. It isn’t. Have you ever heard someone give their testimony and start to get a little uncomfortable about how they keep going on and on about how bad they were? We get into weird competitions over who was the “most bad” person was before they were saved.

Everyone born of man is born equally dead in sin. Sin isn’t a merely list of wrongdoings, it is a state of being.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Romans 3:9-20 (ESV)
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law,so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Apart from the Gospel, no one is righteous, nor can they be made righteous or justified in God’s sight, even by the Law. Man’s need for Jesus Christ is Universal. In the same way, all who have come to the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ share in that same testimony, that we all need Jesus. We don’t need to add to our sinfulness to amplify the Gospel. On some levels, we want people to know that the Gospel finding ME was such a super big deal that no one should ever doubt in it. But that isn’t the focus of the Gospel, it is a blanket truth for all of mankind. Unless the Gospel of Jesus Christ finds you, you have no hope of salvation. And that is why we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our testimony isn’t supposed to glorify our sin; rather, it is supposed to focus on the Word of God.

Now, let us take a look at some Biblical foundations of what a Testimony truly is so that we might have a better understanding of what it means to share your testimony.

The Ark of the Covenant

If you remember in a post from earlier in the week I made reference to how the Passover Lamb pointed to Jesus on the Cross, as an atonement, the final atonement for all our sin. How in the Israelites leaving Egypt points to our being rescued out of the kingdom of Darkness, and how their passing through the Red Sea points to our water Baptism which represents joining Christ in His death and burial and resurrection to a new life in Him. We also compared the wandering of Israel for a generation in the wilderness to our living in a fallen and sinful world as we make our way to the Promised Land which in our case is the Kingdom of Heaven by the blood of Jesus Christ. In keeping with that same imagery, let us now turn to Exodus 25, when God commanded Moses to build an ark.

Exodus 25:10-22 (ESV)
10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on itsfour feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.

17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

Now, outside of the Law of Moses, this ark is most commonly referred to in the Bible as the Ark of the Covenant. What we see in Exodus and in Numbers, though, is that it is referred to several times as the Ark of the Testimony. I hadn’t noticed that before, so it’s very exciting for me to read now. We see here God instructing the building of the ark, and he tells Moses that he will be giving him a testimony that should be placed into the ark. Before we get to that, notice where the mercy seat of God is placed… over the testimony. We can already see here, that the Mercy Seat of God rests atop the Testimony that God will give. Let us move ahead a bit as we follow the instructions regarding the ark.

Exodus 26:31-35 (ESV)
31 “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 32 And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy.34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place.35 And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.

This veil, is the one that was found split when Christ died on the cross. Notice that before Christ, the veil separated God’s people from the mercy seat except for certain times, and then only by proxy (the High Priest). Now, let’s jump ahead a bit (Moses was given a lot of instructions here) to chapter 34.

Exodus 34:27-35 (ESV)
27 And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

34 Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Praise the Lord. The testimony is the Law of God, the 10 Commandments. They were given to Israel as a testimony to His Covenant with them. If you read from the beginning of the chapter, you see God instructing Moses to bring 2 fresh tablets to replace the ones that he smashed after seeing the sin of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. Those, too, were called the tablets of the testimony.

Exodus 31:18 (ESV)
18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

Exodus 32:15-16 (ESV)
15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

Exodus Chapter 40 concludes the instructions given to Moses regarding the tabernacle and the ark.

Exodus 40:16-21 (ESV)
16 This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did. 17 In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. 18 Moses erected the tabernacle. He laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars. 19 And he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent over it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 20 He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark. 21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

The Day of Atonement

Now that we know that the testimony Moses was to place inside the ark was the two tablets of the testimony. They were placed into the ark of the Testimony, upon which rested the Mercy Seat of God, and all of it was behind the veil. Let us skip ahead to Leviticus to see the Ark of the Testimony and the Mercy Seat.

Leviticus 16:1-5 (ESV)
1 The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died, 2 and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. 5 And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.

Leviticus 16:11-16 (ESV)
11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.

We see a great deal going on here, but I wanted to point out this Day of Atonement and the special place of the ark of the Testimony and the Mercy Seat, and the blood of the atoning sacrifice. All of this points to Christ.

Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant*

In closing, I recommend reading the book of Hebrews. The writer of Hebrews explains the 2 covenants beautifully, and when you read through it, take the time to cross-reference the Old Testament passages.

Hebrews 8 (ESV)
1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

And the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, is that this new covenant is available to all people, not just the Jew. And our testimony, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 19:9-10 (ESV)
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Amen. Whenever you share your testimony, know that what you are sharing is not supposed to point to you; rather, it is to point to a risen Savior, whose blood was shed on your behalf, so that you can stand before the Mercy Seat of God without fear of judgement.

Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV)
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Grace and Peace to you in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord,
Jorge