Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Exodus 30:22-33

I try to bring God's Word into my head through several avenues throughout the day. I read my Bible in the morning, usually reviewing the Sunday School passage for the coming week, sermon texts for the coming Sunday, the day's Proverbs chapter (read Proverbs every day, the chapter that corresponds with the date. you'll read it through 12 times a year. I rotate through a few translations: NLT, NASB, ESV, KJV,NIV), and I get a daily Bible reading email. A few days ago, this was the Bible reading email passage:

The Anointing Oil and Incense

22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, 24 and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. 29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. 30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31 And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’ ”

Ex 30:22-33 (ESV)

I wanted to reflect a minute on the idea here. God is instructing Moses to do something for worship that is not allowed anywhere else in Israel. The following verses reflect a similar instruction for the incense used in the Tabernacle. What can we learn from this? I see a couple of things, and they're not necessarily connected. Here you go:

1. I see indications of early authorship, probably Mosaic authorship of Exodus. Think about it. This is the 'secret formula' for oil and incense, and it's spelled out exactly! Why would a priestly traditionalist write this down several centuries later? This is the kind of thing you would keep a secret. Unless you are writing at the beginning, as you record all the specifics as God gives them to you. Later priests would have lesser fears of losing the formula---after all, there were plenty to teach it to, plenty to remember it. Also, they would have had the option to record the formula securely, the way Coke or KFC keep their 1 copy of the recipe safe.

2. And this is the more applicable thought: There are things that belong only in the worship of God. There are behaviors, perhaps, and preparations that are about serving God, and we ought not borrow them into our daily lives.

I think there is a difference between walking in daily obedience and the acts of corporate worship as the Body of Christ. Where do these lines lie? Well, for one, I'd put the Lord's Supper as an act of the Church. At the very least, a local body approved gathering, such as church operated home groups. It's not something for a group to just decide to do on a weekend retreat, but should be something going on during a normal, expected, primarily attended activity. (Primarily attended? that would be the primary meetings of the church, such as normal worship services, home groups that are normal activities, something that attending marks active involvement in the church. And that carries no added on cost.)

Baptism should be, as much as possible, handled within the church context. There are reasons for exception here, and there would be with the Lord's Supper. One would not expect soldiers on deployment to find a local church to attend, but would not deny their participation in the Lord's Supper. However, chaplains are generally representatives of local churches somewhere, so there's a connection.

What other things? Good question! What do you think? I'd like to know if you think there are things that belong only in the worship of God, and things that belong outside of that. I know we would agree that certain things don't belong in church, when it comes to music lyrics and clothing, but many of those really don't belong in our lives at all. What about things from church behavior that we shouldn't take out at all?

3. The other side is that the worship of God should never be ordinary. A viable discussion can be had about being relevant and contextual, but the line stops at church becoming just like any other experience we have. Church should not be just as entertaining as culture, just as boring as lectures, just as somber as funerals, just as fun as the circus, or just as spiritual as the corporate retreat. There should be something different about being in church. And we should be careful to allow God to dictate that. Just as He told Moses how to mix the oil and the incense, let's have God tell us how to make our worship pleasing to Him.



  1. Doug,

    What an interesting idea... what should we NOT take out of the church and into everyday life. I'm turning that over in my head, thinking what functions or sacraments are reserved only to the church. You mentioned baptism and Lord's Supper, which are all I came up with.

    But I'm curious. Different people, or maybe different denominations, define the role of the father in the family differently. I'm thinking of Voddie Baucham speaking of the father as "Four P's" - provider, protector, priest, and prophet.

    Hmmm. I hadn't thought that through yet, but now I'm thinking. If the father IS the priest of the family, than he could administer the Lord's Supper, or even baptism, to his own family. But is that Biblical?

    And now I'm wondering (given Dan's post yesterday about Prophets) if calling the father the prophet of the family is Biblical?

    I've got questions, but no answers... just thinking "out loud".

    Still, though, I am in awe of your third point - the worship of God should never be ordinary. Seems like a lot of churches today have totally abandoned the whole concept of holiness... of being on holy ground.

    Now, I don't have a problem with a multi-purpose facility. (In fact, I attended a church in Hawaii that met in a gazebo on a golf course!) But even if you're on a basketball court, when you're having church there it should "feel" different. We're missing that idea of the sanctuary - a holy place.

    Maybe I'm way off from where you were going, but thanks for the food for thought.


  2. Julie,

    A lot of this would come back to seeking Scripture for what the basic unit of expression of the Christian faith is. Is it the family? Is it the church?

    I'd hate to disagree with Dr. Baucham (he's one of those people that if I disagree with, I'll assume I'm wrong), but there are some questions to be asked, and he may have some great answers. For example, do we even need earthly priests? And the whole prophet thing is a good discussion: if prophecy is always divinely inspired, then do we have them today? Not by that definition. One could even split hairs over the idea that God is our provider and protector, and that sometimes fathers are used by Him to do that, and sometimes not.

    As far as the 'multi-purpose facility:' that's what we're in! And it's a problem sometimes, because some people want it to be such a holy space that we can't use it for anything else, and others don't find it holy at all. And I had to rearrange the chairs so I wasn't preaching to the half-court line.

    I know we are new covenant believers, but the Old Testament is still inspired Scripture, so I think that we should be learning from this.

    I was mainly thinking of how we try to match production level between the church and the world--how some churches have time flow sheets to watch every second, make sure everything is always moving, that type of thing. But you have a good point on the 'feel' as well. I think we're missing a lot of that feel.

    (Thomas Clay's been blogging out thoughts about formality vs. reverence vs. order at it's been thought provoking for me)

    One of the issues I was thinking through was just the whole idea of having church at all. With some of the emergent/organic/whatever you call it church movement, there's a kick against any level of organization, that you should just take it all with you into the world. I'm just not sure that's right, that there isn't supposed to be something specifically special about our gathering, and that our location should be conducive towards it.

    I think part of this is, for me right now, I don't have that sense of holy ground at church. There seems to be a settling into comfortable routine for our church, and into hectic activity without stopping to notice God for me as the pastor. I don't like it.


  3. Oh Doug,

    That's funny. I didn't know you were in a gym :0)

    We've been in churches with a dedicated sanctuary and in multi-purpose rooms, but what I'm thinking of is more the attitude. I mean, the church isn't the building, it's the body - right?

    We have friends that subscribe to the 'we are the church' mentality. They don't go to church, but have church at home.

    My question is, how can you obey the command to be subject to the elders if you don't acknowledge any authority over you? And how can the shepherds be watching over you?

    So you can see what I think about THAT.

    You Pastors have a challenging life and I respect you,


  4. Julie,

    I think that's part of it, that the church is the people that you come together with. And the multi-purpose is ok, it just has some baggage. Actually, it has lots of baggage in this particular instance, but anyway...

    The attitude you bring in is most important. If you come in with the 'it's just a big room' mentality, I think you lose something, just like if you come in to a dedicated sanctuary with 'this is where God lives' you're in trouble. God is present everywhere, it's the use of the space as an assembly of his people that makes it special.

    I think New Testament Christianity had to be more than just a family affair. How that comes forward to now gets into a whole 'nother blog post.

    'We are the church' so we don't have to go? Yeah, and the men are really worshipping on their deer stands in November.



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