take them from their hands


Exodus 29:19-25

19 “You should take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons should lay their hands on the head of the ram, 20 and you should kill the ram and take part of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet, and throw the rest of the blood against the sides of the altar. 21 Then you should take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and dab it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons’ garments with him. He and his garments should be holy, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him. 22 “You should also take the fat from the ram and the fat tail and the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination), 23 and one loaf of bread and one cake of bread made with oil, and one wafer out of the basket of unleavened bread that is before the LORD. 24 You should put all these on the palms of Aaron and on the palms of his sons, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. 25 Then you should take them from their hands and burn them on the altar on top of the burnt offering, as a pleasing aroma before the LORD. It is a food offering to the LORD.

take them from their hands

The priests are preparing to serve the LORD. The various elements of this part of their ordination ritual spoke of their consecration for that service. Their consecration was symbolized by the preparation of a meal that they would offer to the LORD. Each element of the meal was a testimony of their complete dedication to the task the LORD had called them to.

  • The blood of the ram symbolized the forgiveness they accepted as a gift of God’s grace, purchased for them, and then applied to them. The blood dabbed on the fingertips, toes and ears showed their complete acceptance of that grace and forgiveness.
  • The oil symbolized the purity in which they were to minister, untainted by ugliness of the world around them. This purity as well was a result of grace.
  • The ram was a symbol of a life that had to be taken in order for that atonement by grace to function.
  • The bread was to be unleavened, showing again the purity required for ministry. Some of this bread was waved before the LORD, then consumed by the altar. This was a reminder that the priesthood exists for his sake, not just for the sake of those ministered to.

LORD, as we prepare ourselves to minister your grace, may we accept your means for our ministry, relying not on our own craftiness or skill, but on your Holy Spirit. May we be grounded in your grace, dedicating our entire lives to sharing the gospel with the lost.

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burn the whole ram on the altar


Exodus 29:15-18

15 “Then you should take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons should lay their hands on the head of the ram, 16 and you should kill the ram and should take its blood and throw it against the sides of the altar. 17 Then you should cut the ram into pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head, 18 and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD.

burn the whole ram on the altar

Why should the creator be pleased by the complete destruction of one of his creatures? There is a message here, but most of the planet is not in a place where it is ready to accept it. The symbolism is more about eschatology than soteriology. Previously, the potential priests were to lay their hands on the young bull, as a way of identifying it as a symbol of substitution for themselves so that they could intercede for others. Perhaps the first ram symbolized those who would not be reached by their ministry. Its complete destruction symbolized the destiny of those who would not be part of the redemption process.

The good news of the gospel has its dark side. Like the ministry of the priests under the old covenant, the ministry of the priest-kingdom under the new covenant will have “takers” and “leavers.” There will be those who never hear the gospel, and there will be those who have a complete understanding of its message, and still choose to reject that message. The message of the first ordination ram is for the priests of either covenant. It warns us of the reality that the wages of sin is death. The grace of our God allows us to be part of his atonement, accepting the substitutionary death of Christ on our behalf. But the justice of our God requires that those who refuse that grace be completely destroyed for their sins. Those of us who share this gospel of grace must be careful to make that truth known as well.

LORD, as we prepare ourselves to minister your grace, may we be compelled to share the whole truth to those who listen. May we be moved with compassion toward the lost who are on their way to eternal destruction.

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laying hands on the head


Exodus 29:10-14

10 “Then you should bring the bull in front of the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons should lay their hands on the head of the bull. 11 Then you should kill the bull before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting, 12 and should take part of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and the rest of the blood you should pour out at the base of the altar. 13 And you should take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you should burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.

laying hands on the head

This less elaborate sin offering ritual was part of the process of ordaining the priests for service within the temple. Before that is possible, the priests themselves must undergo cleansing by means of the substitutionary blood sacrifice of the young bull. Without the atonement which this ceremony signifies, no access to the presence of God can happen. Even though the priests of Aaron’s line are already set apart for the purpose of bringing people to God, they also suffer the same problem that the people do: they sin. The wages of that sin is death. So, they are instructed to place their hands on the head of this young bull. Their guilt and unworthiness are to be symbolically transferred onto the bull, which had no guilt. The punishment of death that they deserved would now be taken on by the innocent animal. So, even though the priests were destined to serve God, they themselves must first receive forgiveness and cleansing.

The ultimate meaning of this ritual is found in Christ. Without his sacrificial death on the cross, no one can access God for anyone else. Even our prayers would be of no avail before a holy God who demands perfection and wholeness in his presence. But, the good news of the gospel is that after the death of Christ we are able to come into God’s presence. Yet we cannot presume to do this in a casual way. We, as ordained priests of the new covenant, are in just as much need of personal cleansing as the sons of Aaron were. We must lay our hands on the head of our redeemer, and accept his grace and his sacrifice in our place. Only then will we be fit to enter into the presence of the LORD and intercede on behalf of others.

LORD, we accept your loving sacrifice in our place. We trust in you to take away our guilt, and give us access to your throne. We accept this as the first step in our new lives, and the prerequisite for ministry.

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hands given over fully


Exodus 29:1-9

1 “Now this is what you should do to them to consecrate them, so that they may serve me as priests. Take one young bull – a son of the herd, and two rams without blemish, 2 and unleavened bread, unleavened loaves mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil. You should make them of fine wheat flour. 3 You should put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, and bring the bull and the two rams. 4 You should bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 5 Then you should take the garments, and put on Aaron the coat and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the sacred pouch, and wrap him with the skillfully woven sash of the ephod. 6 And you should set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban. 7 You should take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him. 8 Then you should bring his sons and put coats on them, 9 and you should wrap Aaron and his sons with sashes and bind headbands on them. And the priesthood should be theirs by a statute forever. This is how you will give Aaron’s hands and his sons’ hands fully to their ministry.

hands given over fully

The elaborate ordination ceremony for the priesthood under the Mosaic covenant begins by collecting all the elements of the ordination. The offerings include three animals: two perfect rams from the flock, and one perfect young bull from the herd. There are also a basket full of cakes of wheat, of two different types – unleavened thick cakes, and unleavened thin ones, both types anointed with oil. There is all the special clothing designed and manufactured to designate the priests and to protect them from God’s power while in his presence. There is water for washing them, and oil for anointing them. Both of these elements ensure purity and distinctiveness.

Before going into the details of the ceremony, it is important to think about some of the purposes for it, which can be deduced from this introductory passage.

1. These men were being introduced to a new kind of employment. The ceremony was to give their hands fully to that new ministry. Whatever they had been before, or done before, was no longer what defined them. They were now to be priests to the LORD.

2. The ordination required the taking of the lives of these animals. It was a solemn event and its seriousness could not be understated.

3. There was symbolism here that suggested meaning that perhaps even those going through the ordination would have to contemplate. Some aspects of the ceremony were probably not even understood by them.

Under the new covenant, initiated by Jesus himself, all believers are to serve God as priests.[1] No doubt there are many aspects of that priesthood which we do not yet understand. But we can understand that there is a work that we can do that helps to form the connection between a needy people and the God they need. It is a work we often call evangelism. That is a priestly function that we can be involved in now.

LORD, show us how to give ourselves fully to the work of bringing people into a relationship with you.

[1] Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6.

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protective clothing


Exodus 28:31-43

31 “You should make the robe worn with the ephod entirely of blue. 32 It should have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear. 33 On its hem you should make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, 34 a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. 35 And it should be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound should be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the LORD, and when he comes out, so that he does not die. 36 “You should make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ 37 And you should fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It should be on the front of the turban. 38 It should be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron should bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It should regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. 39 “You should weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you should make a turban of fine linen, and you should make a sash embroidered with needlework. 40 “For Aaron’s sons you should make coats and sashes and headbands. You should make them for glory and beauty. 41 And you should put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and should anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 42 You should make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They should reach from the hips to the thighs; 43 and they should be on Aaron and on his sons when they go into the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they bear guilt and die. This should be a statute forever for him and for his offspring after him.

protective clothing

There is an entire industry providing access to protective clothing and gear for those who whose occupation or recreational life puts them in dangerous situations. For every vulnerability, there is an appropriate device or garment that is designed to protect and preserve wholeness and health.

Moses received instruction about protective clothing for the priests who would serve in the tabernacle. The clothing they wore had to be beautiful and glorious like the LORD himself. But it also had to be made and worn to precise specifications or else the wearers would face immediate death. The God who had rescued his people from Israel did so by grace. But he also did so with displays of deadly power, punishing the guilty with death for defying his wishes.

So, it should come as no surprise to readers when they hear warnings that the priests should not dress casually in the presence of their God. To go into his presence, even for the high priest, without the proper ritual warning bells, meant immediate death. To miss the slightest detail, even something unseen like the proper undergarment, meant bearing guilt and dying.

At the return of Christ, all believers will put on their heavenly dwelling, a glorious immortal body[1] that will be fit for coming and going in the presence of our God, the consuming fire.[2] But for today, we are instructed to put on Christ himself. He serves as our armor protecting us when we engage the enemy,[3] and our protective clothing, giving access to God’s throne of grace.[4] Because of him, we can come boldly into the LORD’s presence.

Jesus, thank you for giving us access into your Father’s presence, serving as our great sinless high priest. Thank you for the promise of an eternal life in your kingdom when you return, and thank you for being our protection today, both from the enemy as we do battle, and from the consuming fire of your own power.

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:53; 2 Corinthians 5:2.

[2] Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Isaiah 33:14; Hebrews 12:29.

[3] Romans 13:12-14.

[4] Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16.

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Lights and Darks


Exodus 28:15-30

15 “With skilled craftsmanship, you should make a sacred pouch for judging. You should make it after the style of the ephod – out of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen should you make it. 16 It should be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth. 17 You should set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle should be the first row; 18 and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; 19 and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; 20 and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They should be set in gold filigree. 21 There should be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They should be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes. 22 You should make for the sacred pouch twisted chains like cords, of pure gold. 23 And you should make for the sacred pouch two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the sacred pouch. 24 And you should put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the sacred pouch. 25 You should attach the two ends of the two cords to the two settings of filigree, and so attach it in front to the shoulder pieces of the ephod. 26 You should make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the sacred pouch, on its inside edge next to the ephod. 27 And you should make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, at its seam above the skillfully woven band of the ephod. 28 And they should bind the sacred pouch by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, so that it may lie on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, so that the sacred pouch should not come loose from the ephod. 29 So Aaron should bear the names of the sons of Israel in the sacred pouch of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD. 30 And in the sacred pouch of judgment you should put the Lights and the Darks, and they should be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the LORD. Thus Aaron should bear the judgment of the sons of Israel on his heart before the LORD regularly.

Lights and Darks

The usual interpretation of the Urim and Thummim is that a separate group of stones were placed inside the sacred pouch and taken out and used for divination in case of an important national decision that needed to be made. This interpretation suggests that the stones were either black stones and white ones, or stones that were black on one side and white on another, and thrown like dice to discern what the LORD’s guidance was.

There is another option in regards to the Urim and Thummim. Looking at the variously colored and shaded gemstones used in the pouch themselves, it is not preposterous to conclude that these stones themselves were detachable, and could be used as the Urim and Thummim. Perhaps if there were a dispute among the tribes, the stones representing each tribe involved in the dispute could be placed in the pouch, and the prevailing tribe’s stone could be drawn out first. Or, if there were a more general need for guidance, the light stones drawn out could indicate “yes” and the dark ones “no” or vice-versa.

That is my own speculation, so it should be carefully studied before accepted. Regardless of whether that speculation is correct, it is clear that the LORD provided for his people a means of discerning his will when the usual means of consulting the covenant regulations and counsel of the elders proved ambiguous, and the way was not clear. The light and Dark stones were a reminder that God has a way for his people to go, and that he knows that way even when it is not clear to them.

LORD, we pray for clarity when making the important decisions, as nations, churches and families. Give us the clarity and confidence we need so that we walk in your path, and honor you with that walk.

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bearing the names


Exodus 28:6-14

6 “And they should make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. 7 It should have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. 8 And the skillfully woven band on it should be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. 9 You should take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, 10 six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. 11 As a jeweler engraves signets, so should you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You should enclose them in settings of gold filigree. 12 And you should set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron should bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance. 13 You should make settings of gold filigree, 14 and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; and you should attach the corded chains to the settings.

bearing the names

Aaron’s ephod was a long sleeveless vest that distinguished him from the other priests. His ephod also contained shoulder straps at the top that contained engraved stones on each shoulder. These were engraved with the names of the sons of Israel, six on each side. Every time Aaron entered the tabernacle, he would be literally bearing the names of the tribes with him. His purpose was “to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD”.[1] This speaks to me of the evangelistic prayer ministry of the priesthood. Aaron was to represent the people before the LORD, seeking their deliverance and blessing.

Christ, as our great high priest, bears our names before the Father in a similar way. This is because “he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.”[2]

LORD, we bring the names of our lost loved ones to you today. We ask you to bear their names before the Father, and bring them to full deliverance. We trust you, and know you are able to save them, once and forever.

[1] 28:29.

[2] Hebrews 7:25 NLT.

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decked out


Exodus 28:1-5

1 “And you should bring Aaron your brother near to you, and his sons along with him, chosen from among the sons of Israel, to serve me as priests- Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 2 And you should make holy clothes for Aaron your brother, to display glory and for beauty. 3 You should speak to all those whose hearts are wise, whom I have filled with a spirit of wisdom, so that they make Aaron’s clothes to consecrate him for my priesthood. 4 These are the clothes that they should make: a sacred pouch, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They should make holy clothes for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. 5 They should receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.

decked out

Moses, as the leader of the Israelites, was not given any specific instructions as what to wear. But his brother and his nephews were to be made unique, intricate and costly clothes. They were to be decked out like no other Israelites. Their clothes were to be made of the same materials as the curtains and fixtures in the tabernacle. As priests of Yahveh, they were to represent him. They were to be focused on ministering to Yahveh at all times, but particularly when they were serving within the temple courts. That was when they were to wear these unique, intricate and costly clothes.

Applying this text is not so easy today, since we have no tabernacle or physical temple, nor do we have a priesthood like this under the new covenant. Under the new covenant, the kingdom and priesthood are subsumed together as one.[1] The specially prepared white garments of this kingdom/priesthood will be put on only after the second coming of Christ.[2] We will be clothed upon with a special holy body fit for ministering to the Lord for eternity.[3]

So, how is the believer in Christ to be decked out today? Paul says that “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”[4] The Holy Spirit within us is all the special attire we need to function as priests to the LORD. We minister to him by faith, not based on how holy of sinless we feel today, but based on his promise that we will be made holy and sinless when he comes.

LORD, we surrender to your Holy Spirit within us. We minister to you in faith, trusting you to make us worthy of that task by your power and grace.

[1] Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6.

[2] Revelation 3:4-5, 18; 4:4.

[3] 2 Corinthians 5:1-4.

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:5 ESV.

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keepers of the flame


Exodus 27:20-21

20 “You should command the sons of Israel so that they bring to you pure processed olive oil for the light, so that a lamp may be regularly set up to burn. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons should tend it from evening to morning before the LORD. It should be a permanent rule to be observed throughout their generations by the sons of Israel.

keepers of the flame

Jesus taught that his followers should always be ready for his return. He used a parable to illustrate that principle. It was a story about ten virgins.[1] This rule of maintaining fresh oil for the lamp in the tabernacle has a similar purpose. The keepers of the flame were testifying to the reality of the presence of God among them, and were never to let the light go out, as a reminder of that reality.

We keep the flame going when we are consistent in our testimony and behavior. That lets the world know that we are real, and so is our LORD.

LORD, help us to stay true to you over the long haul.

[1] Matthew 25:1-13.

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why have a courtyard?


Exodus 27:9-19

9 “You should make the courtyard of the tabernacle. On the south side the courtyard should have drapes of fine twined linen a hundred cubits long for one side. 10 Its twenty pillars and their twenty bases should be of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets should be of silver. 11 And likewise for its length on the north side there should be hangings a hundred cubits long, its pillars twenty and their bases twenty, of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets should be of silver. 12 And for the breadth of the courtyard on the west side there should be drapes for fifty cubits, with ten pillars and ten bases. 13 The breadth of the courtyard on the front to the east should be fifty cubits. 14 The drapes for the one side of the gate should be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 15 On the other side the drapes should be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 16 For the gate of the courtyard there should be a screen twenty cubits long, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. It should have four pillars and with them four bases. 17 All the pillars around the courtyard should be filleted with silver. Their hooks should be of silver, and their bases of bronze. 18 The length of the courtyard should be a hundred cubits, the breadth fifty, and the height five cubits, with drapes of fine twined linen and bases of bronze. 19 All the utensils of the tabernacle for every use, and all its pegs and all the pegs of the courtyard, should be of bronze.

why have a courtyard?

The tabernacle courtyard was a set of boundaries. Some people are not comfortable with boundaries. They want to be free to think and act outside the box. But worship cannot be entirely free, because our present relationship with God is still defined by our ancestral rebellion. Our natural inertia leans toward sin, even when it comes to worship.

The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives since Pentecost does not change that. For that reason, the apostles had to put some kind of structure to worship services, because God’s people are inclined to worship according to the flesh.

Jesus is going to change that. In the new Jerusalem, there will be no temple, and no boundaries to worship, because our relationship with God then will not require those things. In the mean time, might I suggest that we keep others in mind when we display our love for him. Others will have come to him from different directions, and will not share our tastes in music, dress, and worship styles. It is not being considerate to force them to adopt our ways. In fact, each of us will change throughout our lives. Freedom to worship as I please is not an inalienable kingdom right.

The LORD gave himself up for us. We should seek to display that kind of grace towards each other when coming together to worship Him.

LORD, may our expressions of personal freedom in worship be controlled by your Holy Spirit, and express our mutual consideration of each other, as well as our united love for you.

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