Exodus 30:11-12 11 The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.
When we read of ‘the tabernacle tax’ or ‘ransom money’ in Exodus 30, we must consider what is being discussed and how it fits in the context of the Book.
What is being discussed here? Why is it needed to avert a plague? Why is it the same amount for all those over the age of 20 and not proportionate to one’s wealth?
Concerning the redemption of our souls, notice the way the theme of redemption is introduced in the Book of Exodus:
- The need for redemption is revealed in the people’s bitter life of bondage to Pharaoh and the hard taskmasters of Egypt (Exodus 1-5; 3:7)
- The holiness of the Redeemer is revealed in the plagues (Exodus 6-11)
- The means of redemption is revealed in the required sacrifice of a perfect substitute- the application of the shed blood of the Lamb to the doorposts of each family (Exodus 12-13)
- The duty of the redeemed- thanksgiving and obedience (Exodus 14-24)
- The privileges of the redeemed- worshiping God in the beauty of His holiness (Exodus 25- 31)
Matthew Henry writes, “In other offerings men were to give according to their worldly ability; but this, which was the ransom of the soul, must be alike for all. The souls of all are of equal value, equally in danger, and all equally need a ransom. The money raised was to be used in the service of the tabernacle. Those who have the benefit, must not grudge the necessary charges of God’s public worship. Money cannot make atonement for the soul, but it may be used for the honor of Him who has made the atonement, and for the maintenance of the gospel by which the atonement is applied.” (Matthew Henry concise commentary).
It is in the context of the redeemed people of God entering into the privileges of worship that the ½ shekel tax was introduced. God’s ransomed people are given the privilege of participating in the worship of our Redeemer by contributing financially to the service of the tabernacle.
They were already redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, but their redemption was to be realized in the important privilege of worshiping the one True God in spirit and in truth as His redeemed people. If they neglected or abused this privilege, there would be a corresponding judgment in the form of a plague. (This would actually happen later in their history when King David with improper motive took a census of his people, banking on the strength of his own numbers!)
This is why it was called ‘ransom money’. It held off the plague. They all had an equal stake in the worship in the tabernacle. God’s work must be supported by God’s people. Their future depended upon it.
The purpose of the census God commanded was not to assess one’s own strength or resources but to remind the people that the nation and every citizen in it belonged to the Lord.
The census numbered the adult males that belonged to the Lord. The shepherd numbers his own sheep, not those who belong to another.
In this case, the Good Shepherd has the right to command His mediator (Moses) to number those who belong to Him.
Each one’s redemption was equally costly. Their preservation as a people depends ultimately upon the redeeming work of the Lord and not their military strength, wealth, or poverty.
Exodus 30:13 13 “This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD.
We have already learned that our salvation is purchased by the shed blood of the Lamb of God and cannot be bought with silver or gold.
The true atonement price, the offering of the perfect Substitute, Jesus, the Lamb of God, had been weighed in the balance before the Throne of God and found to be perfect. The Father’s acceptance of our Savior’s ransom was demonstrated when He raised His Son from the dead and exalted him to His own right hand. Christ has paid our atonement price in full, discharged our full debt to God’s holy law, perfectly satisfied every demand of Divine holiness and justice on our behalf, and provided a secure position for believers to stand before Him in His very own righteousness.
Isaiah 55:1 1 “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.”
1 Peter 1:18-19 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary adds, “When counted, each adult male (over 20), whether rich or poor (v. 15), was to pay a half shekel, one-fifth of an ounce. A “gerah” was a Babylonian weight. The shekel was silver (cf. 38:25-26). This practice became the basis of the later temple tax (Neh. 10:32), though the amount then was reduced to one-third of a shekel which became an annual tax in the time of Christ (Matt. 17:24). (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty).
Our contribution to the worship activities of God’s people should be a reflection of the fact that our ransom has been paid for by the inestimable sacrifice of God’s holy Son, Jesus.
This is the 7th of the holy vessels introduced in the Book of Exodus. Although it is introduced last, it is the second which the priest would encounter as he made his way towards the holiest of all.
Contrast this with the brazen altar, which the priest would encounter first:
- The altar was made of wood and brass; the laver was made of brass only
- The altar was square in shape; the laver was round
- The dimensions for the altar are specific; no dimensions of the laver are given
- The altar had rings and staves for carrying (symbolizing the cross); there is no instruction of the covering or carrying of the laver
- The altar was for fire (judgment); the laver was for water (purification).
- The altar received sacrifices of all types; the laver was for the priests’ cleansing alone.
The cleansing here does not refer to the cleansing of the guilt of our sin before God in order to gain acceptance. That is secured by the blood of Christ, prefigured by the sacrifices on the brazen altar. What is spoken of here is cleansing of our hearts and minds from the defilements of this fallen world system. Before the priests would go to offer incense at the golden altar, they must wash hands and feet at the altar of brass.
The priests went barefooted on the desert floor of the tabernacle. Their hands were stained with the blood and the handling of sacrifices at the brazen altar. They came in contact with death and were defiled. Therefore, they needed to have a fresh cleansing in order to enjoy communion with God.
Psalm 24:3-4 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully.
Hebrews 10:22 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Water is a type of the Word that cleanses (Psalm 119:9; John 15:3; Ephesians 5:25-26) and both give and sustains life (John 3:5; Titus 3:5).
What we notice about the anointing oil was that four principal spices were put into olive oil. It was to be used in the consecration of the sacred vessels of the tabernacle and Aaron and his sons in their consecration to the service of the priesthood.
Psalm 45:7-8 7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows. 8 All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, and cassia, are the prescribed ingredients for the anointing oil. They are to be mixed in exact proportions by an expert incense maker (The Holy Spirit). In the communication of the Anointed One (Christ), the Holy Spirit gets it right!
A counterfeit manufacture or use of the holy anointing oil is forbidden.
Exodus 30:32-33 32 ‘It shall not be poured on anyone’s body, nor shall you make any like it in the same proportions; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 ‘Whoever shall mix any like it or whoever puts any of it on a layman shall be cut off from his people.'”
As with the anointing oil, there was an exact recipe for the incense that was to be burnt in the Tabernacle. The spices of resin droplets, mollusk shell, and galbanum were to be mixed in equal measures with pure frankincense. The mixture was to be sprinkled with salt, making it holy to the Lord, and ground to a fine powder. The incense was never to be made for oneself, it was always to be made for the Lord, and it was to be placed before the Ark of the covenant, on the altar of incense before the veil.
Exodus 30:38 38 “Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people.”
An artist is a person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria. In the case of the Tabernacle, skill and craftsmanship were required but great respect was to be given to produce works that were according to the pattern shown to Moses on the Mount and that will be pleasing to the Lord.
Bezalel is named as the primary artistic designer for the Tabernacle construction project. He is highly capable and skilled for fashioning the Tabernacle and everything it contains.
Oholiab is Bezalel’s appointed assistant. Other artistic experts and craftsmen were to work under their supervision and quality control.
There is a place for God-given artistic skills in God’s plan.
Notice the Holy Spirit’s contribution to the God-given talent of Bezalel:
Exodus 31:3-5 3 “I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.”
F.F. Bruce answers, “Bezalel’s filling with the Holy Spirit took the form of the impartation of wisdom and skill for the work which he undertook in connection with the house of God. Similar language is used of those who made high-priestly vestments for Aaron (Exodus 28:3). We may say that all true wisdom comes from the Spirit of wisdom and understanding (Isaiah 11:2). But the indwelling and filling of the Spirit, in the sense in which believers have experienced them from the Christian Pentecost onwards, could not have been known before the Ascension of Christ.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE SABBATH- (Exodus 31:12-17)
The sabbath was a specific reminder to the people of Israel of God’s covenant promises to them. It was given to them so that they might know that He is the Lord who makes them holy. It was to be a day of complete rest. They were to be reminded that they enjoy rest not because of their own labors but because of what the Lord has done and has promised to them in their covenant relationship.
THE TABLES OF STONE GIVEN TO MOSES, WRITTEN BY THE FINGER OF GOD
We come to the end of this section of Exodus with verse 18:
Exodus 31:18 18 When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: MATTHEW 26:47-68
Jesus is identified in the darkness of the evening when Judas gives the prearranged signal of greeting him with a kiss. Jesus, knowing Judas had given himself to the devil’s work of betrayal, calls Judas “friend” saying “Do what you have come for.” (Matt 26:50) What a horrific thought to have one’s purpose defined as the ignoble task of betraying the Son of God into the hands of those who would arrest him and bring him to crucifixion.
What follows is an illegal pre-dawn meeting of the council at the home of Caiaphas, the high priest. The leading priests scramble to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, ‘so they could put him to death.’ They did not want truth or justice. They did not want to give Jesus a hearing. They wanted Jesus dead. Such is the natural heart.
Jesus does not answer the false charges, but he does answer to the truth when He is asked.
Matthew 26:63-65 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”
65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy.”
Is Jesus guilty of claiming to be God? “Yes”, they shout.
What is your verdict? Is Jesus who He says He is?
TODAY’S READING FROM PSALMS
Psalm 32:1-2 1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!
David gives a testimony of how his attempt to hide his sin with Bathsheba cost him physically and spiritually.
Psalm 32:3-5 3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
It is so important that we don’t pretend to hide our sins from God, but that we come clean before Him with an honest confession.
5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.
1 John 1:9 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
There is no safety in trying to keep secrets from God. But there is a safe hiding place for us if we run to the cross and put our trust in our Lord and Savior.
Submit to God. He will lead you. He will counsel you. He will watch over you. His unfailing love will surround you and restore Your joy!
We can see that Wisdom is personified in Proverbs 8 and this personification is suited to Jesus or each person of the trinity:
Proverbs 8:27-32 27 “When He established the heavens, I was there, When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, 28 When He made firm the skies above, When the springs of the deep became fixed, 29 When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth; 30 Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in the world, His earth, And having my delight in the sons of men. 32 “Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, For blessed are they who keep my ways.
PRAYER: You are the Eternal All-Wise God! You created all things and uphold all things by the Word of Your power! How grateful we are for the miracle of salvation. You redeemed us and granted us the privilege to stand before You in the righteousness of Your Son as a royal priesthood and holy nation! You have called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light to show forth Your virtues! May the anointing of the Spirit that is upon Christ our Anointed Head, flow down to every member of His body corporate, that we might be empowered to accomplish His choice purposes in the places where You have appointed us for service! In Jesus Name! Amen.
TODAY WE START PRAYING FOR ALL THE NATIONS ON THE EARTH FROM ‘A’ to ‘Z.
PRAY FOR AFGHANISTAN