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Exclusively published to the Touchstone website each week, these Daily Reflections are brief commentaries on the lectionary readings contained in the St. James Daily Devotional Guide. The reflections are penned by Patrick Henry Reardon, editor of the Daily Devotional Guide and a senior editor of Touchstone. Father Reardon provides here a very brief directional clue for one of the texts each day. Long-time readers of the Daily Devotional Guide will find these reflections an additional help to their reading of Holy Scripture which they can print and keep with their Guide.

The Daily Reflections will be updated weekly.

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Sunday, May 29

Exodus 35: Although these instructions are quickly given, one should probably think in terms of several months for their accomplishment. There was evidently a great deal of hustle and bustle in progress at the foot of Mount Sinai.

The building and proper appointing of the tabernacle must begin with the gathering of the materials. As we shall see in due course, something in the neighborhood of eight tons of precious metals and stones would be required in this work. In addition, there would need to be wood and various kinds of expensive cloth. The present chapter describes how this vast array of materials is assembled by the generosity of the people. This tabernacle would be the consecration of their own material resources, the fruit of their labor.

Because the tabernacle and its appointments were to be modeled on Moses’ vision of the heavenly and eternal tabernacle of heaven, the construction of all these things was dependent on the grace of the Holy Spirit, who would inspire and guide the minds and hands of the artisans (verse 31).

Monday, May 30

Exodus 36:There is considerable stress laid on the people’s generosity. It is a rare thing that God’s people have to be told, as they are told here, to “stop giving!” One may compare the singular generosity of the Christians in Philippi in Macedonia who, during the three weeks that St. Paul spent in neighboring Thessaloniki (cf. Acts 17:2), sent offerings on two occasions for the maintenance of his ministry (cf. Philippians 4:16). The Apostle would be speaking about that Macedonian generosity for years to come (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

Particularly to be noted is the use of the “veil” in all of Israel’s worship. Even as God reveals (which literally means “unveils”) Himself, He is manifested, not as an object open to direct regard, but as supreme Mystery, chiefly to be adored. When God and man are finally reconciled by the death of Jesus on the Cross, this symbolic veil of the Old Testament is rent asunder; cf. Matthew 27:51. The sacrificed Jesus Himself enters behind the veil of the heavenly tabernacle; cf. Hebrews 6:19. In another sense of the same image, because it houses His divine person, the very flesh of Christ is also called the veil of the divine presence; cf. Hebrews 10:20.

Tuesday, May 31

Exodus 37: This chapter narrates that the ark, the table of the presence bread, the lamp stand, and the incense altar were constructed according the specifications that Moses received in his Sinai vision of the heavenly sanctuary. This distinction between the earthly and heavenly sanctuaries was important to the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who made it the framework for his exposition in Chapter 9. He speaks of the very elements we find in the present chapter of Exodus: the Ark of the Covenant, the table for the Showbread, the golden lamp stand, the altar of incense. He disappoints us (if one may be completely frank) by finishing his description with the comment: “Of these things we cannot now speak in detail” (Hebrews 9:5)!

The author’s point in the Epistle to the Hebrews, however, is not to satisfy our curiosity with the respect to the tabernacle that Moses made. He is interested, rather, in directing our attention to that heavenly sanctuary, “the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation” (9:11). It was into this heavenly tabernacle that Christ entered, unto the fulfillment of our redemption. This heavenly sanctuary is the one that Moses, in mystic vision, saw on the mountain. It is the one that St. John saw when the door opened into heaven (Revelation 4:1). It is to this eternal and heavenly sanctuary that Christians, in their prayer, have eternal access, because Jesus entered into it as the culminating act of our redemption.

Wednesday, June 1

Exodus 38: When, at their departure, the Israelites “borrowed” silver, gold, and precious stones from their Egyptian neighbors, the text (11:2) did not indicate just how large was the amount. Now we begin to gain a staggering idea of it. Although the measurement of the ancient talent varied somewhat, it has been reasonably approximated at over 75 pounds, with three thousand shekels to the talent.

Thus, even on the most conservative estimate, we are dealing here with an enormous amount of precious metal: more than a ton of gold, three and a half tons of silver, nearly three tons of bronze. Moreover, if the weight is being computed according to the later temple measurements, these figures may need to be adjusted up to 20% higher.

Thursday, June 2

Exodus 39: Much of this passage is repetitious of chapter 28. Worthy of particular notice among the priestly vestments is the ornate “breastplate” to be worn by the high priest for purposes of divining (verses 8-21). Its twelve polished stones are arranged according to the marching order of the twelve tribes that they represent. Thus, when he appears before God, the high priest is adorned in such a way as to represent the whole chosen people. These stones are themselves symbolic, of course, of the great foundational stones of the heavenly city, the final company of the redeemed; cf. Revelation 21:19-20,

The construction of this tabernacle out in the desert of Sinai was a feat of mammoth and nearly unparalleled difficulty. Aside from all the vestments, hangings, instruments, etc., just the metal for the construction of the tabernacle apparatus has been estimated at around eight tons. Recalling that it was to be carried through the desert for the next forty years, one will think enhanced respect of the Levites who were to carry it!

Friday, June 3

Exodus 40: Everything is to be anointed with consecratory oil. The Christian will read these verses in the awareness that the tabernacle itself is a prefiguration of Christ, the Anointed One. The Son of God, anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, is the permanent presence of God to humanity.

The only new piece of information in verses 16-33 is in respect to the purpose of the laver, which will be used, we are told, to wash the hands and feet of the priests who are to serve the tabernacle ministry.

The glory of the divine presence descends into the tabernacle (verses 34-38). This glorious cloud, associated with both the passage through the Red Sea and the giving of the Law on Sinai, is now a feature of God’s ongoing presence with His people. Both events become permanent and “institutionalized” in the Mosaic tabernacle. The divine overshadowing will in due course be transferred to the Solomonic temple at Jerusalem (1 Kings 8:10-11), as well as the second temple (Haggai 2:6-9).

All of these manifestations of the divine presence, as well as the rabbinical speculations regarding the cloud (shekinah), are properly taken as prophetic of the Incarnation, in which God’s eternal and consubstantial Word definitively “pitched His tent (eskenosen) among us” (John 1:14). Thus, all of the earlier overshadowings are but prefigurations of that by which the Holy Spirit effects the mystery of the Incarnation in the Woman who served as the tabernacle of God’s presence in this world; cf. Luke 1:35.

Saturday, June 4

Leviticus 1: Because the English noun “sacrifice” is commonly employed to translate several quite different Hebrew words, readers of the Bible in English may not suspect how varied and complex is the Bible’s treatment of this subject.

For instance, the sacrifice treated here in the first chapter is quite distinct. One would not suspect just how distinct from the common English translation (King James, for example), “burnt sacrifice.” Since just about all sacrifices in the Bible, with the obvious exception of libations, were burned, the expression does not tell us very much.

The Hebrew word employed for the sacrifices in this chapter is ‘olah, a participle meaning “ascending.” This term may originally have been connected with the ascending smoke released by the fire that consumed the victim. In the ancient Greek translation (the Septuagint), this term was rendered holokavtoma, which indicated that the whole victim, not just part of it, was consumed in the fire. This Greek word became the Latin holocaustum, whence is derived our English “holocaust.” Because it consumed the entire victim, the holocaust, which is the sacrifice envisaged in this opening chapter of Leviticus, was the most complete form of sacrifice.

The six steps involved in such a sacrifice are described in verses 3-9, which treat of a bovine sacrifice. Nearly identical steps were followed for the holocaust of sheep (verses 1-13) and birds (verses 14-17).

It is clear that a holocaust always involves the sacrifice of a living animal, not a grain or any other form. Those other sacrifices are treated in the next chapter.



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