Atonement Money

11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. 13 Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. 14 All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord. 15 The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives. 16 Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord, making atonement for your lives.” Exodus 30:11-16

Having grown up in Egyptian society, Moses would know the importance they placed on numbers and statistics. Moses acted as a combined census taker and the tax collector. The rich, poor, and foreigner (those who “crossed over to those already counted”) paid the same amount, a half shekel. This tribute wasn’t to redeem their souls but to acknowledge their sin and honor the God who could save them. The money would be used for upkeep and maintenance of the tabernacle.

Already into this journey in the wilderness we see that there were rich and poor people. Not that long ago in the story, they were still in Egypt working as slaves. It was presumed that they were all on equal footing. No one owned land or lived in fancy homes. It didn’t take long for people to figure out how to become wealthy while many more remained in poverty. We don’t have numbers or anything to compare their riches with but the people knew who the rich were. How did they do it? How did they figure out how to make money when the vast majority of Israelites were still complaining about bread and manna?

But the Lord saw the rich and poor (and foreigners who traveled with them) as equals in His sight. Later Jesus would talk about giving out of abundance, but the half shekel was an equalizer. Everyone had “skin in the game” so to speak.

Fortunately this gives us yet another reason to pray for people regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus is no respecter of persons, poor, wealthy, foreigner, or citizen.

  • Pray the governments have the wisdom to sustain an orderly society over the business closures.
  • Pray that Satan would be defeated and many will come to faith in Christ.
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Filling Up the Golden Censer

“Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. 2 It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high—its horns of one piece with it. 3 Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and make a gold molding around it. 4 Make two gold rings for the altar below the molding—two on each of the opposite sides—to hold the poles used to carry it. 5 Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 Put the altar in front of the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law—before the atonement cover that is over the tablets of the covenant law—where I will meet with you.

7 “Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. 8 He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come. 9 Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the Lord.” Exodus 30:1-10

This altar was called the golden altar (Numbers 4:11). This altar served a practical purpose: to cover over the harsh smell of the burnt offerings that the priests performed.

Consider the odor you have from any food you burn on the stove or in the oven. The smell of animal flesh burning must have been unbearable day after day.

No animal or offering was to be burnt sacrificed on the golden altar, and the priests sprinkled blood on it only once a year.

We see a vivid illustration of this golden altar in the Book of Revelation.

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Revelation 8:3-4

Our prayers matter. You know this, and I know this, but we need to be reminded often. It’s easy to get discouraged and burdened in these troubled times.

As I write this, the economy is tanking, churches have closed their doors for a few weeks, restaurants and businesses are being closed down by the government due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and people are becoming more and more fearful.

The people we know need to know we’re praying for them and for the situation at large. They need to “feel” our prayers now more than ever.

It’s not wasted time or effort, or an exercise in futility.

It’s petitioning the only God who is in absolute control of the entire situation. There is a massive spiritual awakening occurring within our borders and around the world.

But there is also a spiritual war being waged against Believers as well. (Closing down churches and relegating them to online worship is very much a spiritual battle).

We need to fill up that angel’s golden censer with our prayers in the next few days and weeks.

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The Lord Their God is the Lord Our God

31 “Take the ram for the ordination and cook the meat in a sacred place. 32 At the entrance to the tent of meeting, Aaron and his sons are to eat the meat of the ram and the bread that is in the basket. 33 They are to eat these offerings by which atonement was made for their ordination and consecration. But no one else may eat them, because they are sacred. 34 And if any of the meat of the ordination ram or any bread is left over till morning, burn it up. It must not be eaten, because it is sacred.

35 “Do for Aaron and his sons everything I have commanded you, taking seven days to ordain them. 36 Sacrifice a bull each day as a sin offering to make atonement. Purify the altar by making atonement for it, and anoint it to consecrate it. 37 For seven days make atonement for the altar and consecrate it. Then the altar will be most holy, and whatever touches it will be holy.

38 “This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. 39 Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. 40 With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. 41 Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering and its drink offering as in the morning—a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.

42 “For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you; 43 there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory.

44 “So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. 45 Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God. Exodus 29:31-46

Recall when Moses went up on the mountain, the Lord told him to take off his sandals for it was holy ground. In the same light, the Lord also consecrated the altar and made it holy. We don’t tend to view objects as holy but evidently the Lord did.

Again, the directions for Aaron and his sons were explicit and detailed, plus they (and only they) were able to eat some of the meat that they cooked on the altar. The rest would be burned.

Every day these men would be sacrificing lambs and other offerings.

It was their duty to offer this up on the consecrated altar twice a day.

They were doing it on behalf of the million or more people that escaped Egypt through the Red Sea. But the Lord would meet with them and speak to them. It could get old for them but it was probably exciting each day knowing they’d get to speak with the Lord God Himself.

For He was the Lord their God.

Just as He is the Lord our God.

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Of Supercomputing and Sacrifices

10 “Bring the bull to the front of the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 11 Slaughter it in the Lord’s presence at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 12 Take some of the bull’s blood and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour out the rest of it at the base of the altar. 13 Then take all the fat on the internal organs, the long lobe of the liver, and both kidneys with the fat on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But burn the bull’s flesh and its hide and its intestines outside the camp. It is a sin offering.

15 “Take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 16 Slaughter it and take the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar. 17 Cut the ram into pieces and wash the internal organs and the legs, putting them with the head and the other pieces. 18 Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord, a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.

19 “Take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 20 Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then splash blood against the sides of the altar. 21 And take some blood from the altar and some of the anointing oil and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. Then he and his sons and their garments will be consecrated.

22 “Take from this ram the fat, the fat tail, the fat on the internal organs, the long lobe of the liver, both kidneys with the fat on them, and the right thigh. (This is the ram for the ordination.) 23 From the basket of bread made without yeast, which is before the Lord, take one round loaf, one thick loaf with olive oil mixed in, and one thin loaf. 24 Put all these in the hands of Aaron and his sons and have them wave them before the Lord as a wave offering. 25 Then take them from their hands and burn them on the altar along with the burnt offering for a pleasing aroma to the Lord, a food offering presented to the Lord. 26 After you take the breast of the ram for Aaron’s ordination, wave it before the Lord as a wave offering, and it will be your share.

27 “Consecrate those parts of the ordination ram that belong to Aaron and his sons: the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. 28 This is always to be the perpetual share from the Israelites for Aaron and his sons. It is the contribution the Israelites are to make to the Lord from their fellowship offerings.

29 “Aaron’s sacred garments will belong to his descendants so that they can be anointed and ordained in them. 30 The son who succeeds him as priest and comes to the tent of meeting to minister in the Holy Place is to wear them seven days. Exodus 29:10-30

Sacrificing animals was an extremely messy process. Because we get our meats from a grocery store or a butcher, we rarely have to deal with the mess of killing and cutting up animals.

The Hebrews, though, were accustomed to it because they had to do it just to eat.

The Lord gave Moses very narrow restrictions on how Aaron and his sons were to sacrifice animals to the Lord. They had to take great care to do it right lest it anger the Lord.

It wasn’t that the Lord would get offended by something like this. No, the Lord gave Aaron and his sons simple and detailed directions on something that only they were permitted to do. He entrusted them to obey those directions.

In an age of supercomputing, millions of calculations can be processed in a very short period of time. Chain a few of the super computers together, and the number of calculations are astronomical.

Literally.

I don’t know this to be fact, but the Father and Son ran through all possible calculations that ever could have been made (probably in a split section), and there was only one solution to the problem of humanity: God the Son would have to put on human flesh and be the Sacrificial Lamb.

There was no other way.

We should be very thankful for the messiness Christ went through on our behalf. It was the only way to redeem lost humanity.

Yesterday He loved me,
Today He’ll do the same.
How long can it last?
Forever, praise His name.
– Warren W. Wiersbe

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Aaron and Sons

“This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests: Take a young bull and two rams without defect. 2 And from the finest wheat flour make round loaves without yeast, thick loaves without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, and thin loaves without yeast and brushed with olive oil. 3 Put them in a basket and present them along with the bull and the two rams. 4 Then bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 5 Take the garments and dress Aaron with the tunic, the robe of the ephod, the ephod itself and the breastpiece. Fasten the ephod on him by its skillfully woven waistband. 6 Put the turban on his head and attach the sacred emblem to the turban. 7 Take the anointing oil and anoint him by pouring it on his head. 8 Bring his sons and dress them in tunics 9 and fasten caps on them. Then tie sashes on Aaron and his sons. The priesthood is theirs by a lasting ordinance.

“Then you shall ordain Aaron and his sons. Exodus 29:1-9

Aaron and his sons were about to go through a ritual they would practice for the rest of their lives. This was the new normal for them. It didn’t matter whether they liked it or not; it was now their job that they would have to take seriously. They now had an important role among the Israelites. Would they take it seriously after they’d been doing it regularly for five or ten years? Would it get old for them? Time would tell.

If we’re not careful, we can fall into those patterns as well.

I recall singing in 10 or 12 different churches in eight days or so. After a week of doing the same “show” it wasn’t fresh anymore. The songs were losing meaning to those of us who sung. To the audiences, though, it was their first time to hear what we were singing and their response was overwhelming. We always had to keep that in the back of our minds: this is their first time to hear us.

This certainly applies to more than just spiritual things. We, as a whole, are restless, always wanting more and rarely satisfied. We get bored easily and want to try new things for adventure.

There are times, though, that I’ll look up into the sunset and just gaze in amazement. I feel like the Ziggy cartoon when the sun is rising and Ziggy merely says, “Go, God!”

May the Lord refresh and reinvigorate you as you seek Him.

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