Israel’s unity with God at this point is through Moses, who is isolated on the mountain in the presence of God for 40 days. God speaks to Moses and tells him to raise an offering “from every man whose heart moves him.” What is it that would cause a man to sacrifice his fortune to God? For Israel at this point in time, the answer is not obvious, but it is the key to unity with God.
The answer lies in one of the ten steps of the Cycle that has been glaringly absent so far. Do you remember what it is?
God tells Moses that his sanctuary is to allow God to dwell among them; the Ten Commandments are a key part of its holiness; and that it is to feature a mercy seat for propitiation with God. In simple terms, God is saying that Israel needs to regain the good will of God after doubting him so many times.
Israel’s missing element in the Cycle has been total lack of repentance and God is now placing the opportunity for restoration made possible through his never-ending love right in front of them.
How that is to be accomplished is laid out in detail over the next three chapters. The gory details of the sacrifices and the mess they create on the altar are very difficult to picture. But the sacrificial blood and guts are symbolic of Israel’s sin, which is equally ugly to God. Aaron’s priestly dress is designed to carry the names of the sons of Israel over his heart when he alone enters the holy place; but Aaron also carries Urim and Thummin over his heart, symbolizing God’s judgment of their already terrible sins. For seven days in a row a bull is offered in repentance for the sins of Israel. Then the altar is to be cleaned spotless because it alone is holy!
In Matthew 23:19, Jesus chastises the Pharisees for considering the offering more important than the altar on which the offering is sacrificed. Then it hits home hard: my sins are not symbolic – they are very real and filthy to God. And the mercy seat that is first defiled with my sins and then consecrated by God is Jesus himself, my living sacrifice.
This completely broke me, until a moment later when I realized Jesus redeemed and atoned for it all and now waits for me and his church to come together in perfect unity so that we can be his bride!
God tells Israel and you and me, “I AM the Lord your God!”
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, wretch that I was….