Exodus 30 (link) carries us further into the discussion of how to build a mobile sanctuary for the worship of the Almighty God of the Universe. This was not something that had been needed before. In the age of the patriarchs, that time before Jacob and his sons went to Egypt, there were not very many people gathered in one place to worship God. So, a family-size altar was more than adequate.
Now, though, one needs a nation-size altar. That gets to be a whole different ballgame. There is certainly something instructive in that thought about how worship method may need to adjust when you go from family gatherings to gathering with more than one family. That's another discussion, though. It will come back to a somewhat more personalized answer. The answer should still be scripturally-bounded, but the variance between people, cultures, and family sizes are remarkable. I will not attempt to solve that here.
Instead, let's look at two other portions of this chapter. The first is something repeated twice, at the end of the descriptions of how the incense for the altar and the anointing oil were to be made. These are described in detail, all of the recipe is given.
Then this command is made: anyone who makes either the oil or the incense for their own use is to be cut off from their people. These items were to be used only in worship at the Tabernacle. It was not something to be done at home or as part of your own Torah study group. It was only to be used for what God specified it for—no matter what good intentions an individual may have had in the process.
The other portion that jumps off the page for me in this chapter is Exodus 30:15. This is the summary verse after the command that each person of Israel was to give a half-shekel every time a census was taken. Notwithstanding how good it sounds to only pay a tax every ten years in America, the command about payment here is more valuable for us.
God commanded that every person pays the half-shekel. The poor pay it; the rich pay it; everyone pays it and everyone pays the same. What does that tell us?
It tells us that they are paying for something that cannot be bought. If it could be bought, then the price would vary according to ability or need, but it does not. Instead, the half-shekel here is a token acknowledgement of the dependence of the people on God for their redemption and deliverance.
In short, it was something that could not be bought. In the same way, the holiness and the worship that the oil and the incense were for could not be bought and taken home personally. They could only be provided at the place of meeting with God.
This is a lesson we would do well to remember. There is no way that we can personally pay for or obtain holiness and righteousness before God. Neither can we make it for ourselves by mixing the right components of devotion or action.
Instead we must realize that only God's grace can provide those things for us. In turn, our response can be either to accept that grace and respond by offering our lives and our obedience or by rejecting it.
What will you do?
Today's Nerd Note: The Nerd Side is taking a break. Be back tomorrow.