For the week of February 20, 2010 / 6 Adar 5770
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 25:1 - 27:19
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 5:26 - 6:13
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle (Hebrew: mishkan), and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. (Shemot / Exodus 25:8,9; ESV)
Many people think that in the Old Covenant knowing God required keeping his rules, rules that no one could actually keep. They contrast this to their understanding of the New Covenant. Under this new system, they say, we can relate to God by grace, which, according to them, is based on God's unconditional love, meaning, because of what Yeshua did for us, then no matter what we do, God accepts us.
While there are smidgens of truth laced through this explanation, it actually misrepresents both Old and New Covenants. If under the Old Covenant, the only way to have a right relationship with God was to fully keep his rules, then no one had such a relationship, which is not the case. All the way through the Old Covenant writings, we find many people who truly knew God, imperfect though they were.
As for the New Covenant, the Messiah himself spoke of the narrow gate and hard way leading to life that few people find (see Matthew 7:14). Paul and the other New Covenant writers are clear that anyone who concludes that God's forgiveness through the Messiah implies that we can doing anything we like, has completely missed the point (See Romans 6 for example).
Our Torah portion describes the particulars of the mishkan (English: tabernacle). The mishkan was a tent-like portable structure that was to be the central place of sacrifice and worship for the people of Israel. It was a precursor to the permanent Temple that Solomon would build many years later. Many people who attempt to read through the Bible get bogged down when they get to passages such as this one, because they find the details uninteresting. It is understandable that people would find the narrative portions more gripping, but that doesn't make them more important. God is very particular when it comes to how we are to relate to him. He didn't tell Moses to make any old structure he wanted or that the people were free to sacrifice however they liked. Far from it! They were to follow God's directions very carefully. Every detail of the mishkan was designed to help the people know who God really was and what he was really like. Failure to stick to his particulars would lead the people to create a god of their own imaginations, instead of knowing the "I am" who revealed himself to Moses (see Shemot / Exodus 3:14).
While there are significant differences between the Old and New Covenants they both are clear in their insistence regarding the need to stick to God's particulars. The ultimate purpose of the mishkan was to prepare Israel for the coming of the Messiah. To then think we can relate to the Messiah any way we wish is to undermine the essence of biblical teaching about God and his ways. Using a metaphor of a vine and its branches, Yeshua said, "If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned" (John 15:6; ESV). In order to be in right relationship with God, it is absolutely necessary to abide in the Messiah. But how does one abide in him? Yeshua himself tells us when he said, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love" (John 15:10; ESV).
What many don't seem to understand is that under both Old and New Covenants the only way to properly relate to God was through trusting in him. Right standing with God could never be accomplished by our own moral and spiritual uprightness. We all have fallen short of God's standards and deserve judgment. It is only by his grace that people at any time in human history could truly know him. At the same time what trusting in him entails and how to maintain a right relationship with him has always been based on his particulars, whether it be the mishkan and the sacrificial system under the Old Covenant or the Messiah under the New.
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