Reflections of Incense

This is the ninth article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH [Yehovah].  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series. YHVH is building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  A king reigns from his throne and also pronounces judgment from there. 

As we continue our study of the Tabernacle, we come across a relatively small altar that holds a powerful significance in our relationship with YHVH.  The altar of incense was square with each side measuring 1.5 feet and was three feet high.  It was made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. Four horns protruded from the four corners of the altar.  The altar of incense, also called the Golden Altar, (mizbach hazahav in Numbers 4:11), stood just outside the Holy of Holies.  A special mixture of incense, reserved exclusively for YHVH, was burned on this altar every morning and every evening, thus sending up a continual waft of pleasant odor to YHVH.

The incense altar was the place where YHVH met with Moshe.  Place the incense altar just outside the inner curtain that shields the Ark of the Covenant, in front of the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—that covers the tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant. I will meet with you there.  (Ex. 30:6 NLT).  

On Yom Kippur the incense was burned atop the Ark of the Covenant.  The high priest would fold back the curtain concealing the Most Holy Place, put the censer with the burning coals on the top of the Ark of the Covenant, then throw the two handfuls of incense into the censer.  This was the only day and time that any one (and then only the high priest) was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, thus foreshadowing the work of our High Priest that would permanently  rend the separating curtain.

What does the incense altar represent in the spiritual realm?  It symbolizes our prayers to YHVH (Is 56:7, Ps. 141:2).  The fragrant incense also represents the prayers of Yeshua, who makes continuous intercession on our behalf (John 17:1-26, Rom 8:34) as our High Priest.  The continuous rise of the burning incense reminds us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17).

The daily burning of incense corresponded with the lighting of the menorah.  Scripture indicates that the incense was to be burned at the same time the menorah was to be cleaned and relit (Ex 30:7-8).  According to the Talmud five of the lamps on the menorah would be cleaned, then the incense would be burned before the other two lamps were cleaned.  The menorah and the Golden Altar seem to be interconnected.  If we understand that the menorah represents the light of Yeshua, then Yeshua’s light in us results in worship, praise and petitions to our Father.

In order to burn the incense, fire was taken from the brazen altar (which will be discussed in the next article) and transferred to the altar of incense (Lev 16:12-13), thus symbolizing that the fire of Yeshua’s sacrifice becomes the fire of blessing.  The horns of the golden altar were sprinkled with blood from the animal sacrifice to cleanse and purify it from the sins of the Israelites (Lev 4:7, 16:18). “Just as the horns on the brazen altar represent the power of Christ’s blood to forgive sins, the horns on golden altar signify the power of His blood in prayer as we confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness.”  (The Altar of Incense, the-tabernacle-place.com).  We come to Father in prayer only through Yeshua, cleansed from our sin by His blood and wearing His righteousness, for we have nothing of value to offer on our own.

Before Yeshua’s death on the cross, a heavy curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Tabernacle, illustrating the separation from YHVH that sin had caused.  That veil has now been torn, so that there is no longer any separation, just as there is no separation in the heavenly Tabernacle.

The heavy curtain illustrates YHVH’s eagerness to be near His people.  He would come to them despite the barrier of sin using a curtain until reconciliation would be accomplished through Yeshua’s precious sacrifice.  The horns on the corners of the incense altar represent power, the power of prayer and intercession in this case.  Now that the curtain has been torn, YHVH not only meets with our representative (Moshe, Yeshua), but with each of us individually.

When we are offended by others, we tend to withdraw from them.  Our Father, on the other hand,  seeks all the more to be reconciled and united to us.  We are to forgive those who offend us, love them and always seek union with them if we desire to do as our heavenly Father does.  Are there curtains of separation that need to be torn down in our lives?

We, as living tabernacles, have the privilege of offering the continuous incense of our prayers and intercessions, even prayers for our enemies (Matt 5:44).  Just as the incense was a special mixture reserved solely for YHVH, our worship and prayers too must be reserved for our Father.  We are not to worship or pray to any foreign gods.  To whom are you offering your incense?

Reflections of His Presence

This is the seventh article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH [Yehovah].  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series. YHVH is building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  A king reigns from his throne and also pronounces judgment from there. 

This article focuses on the significance of the “Table of Showbread” and the Showbread itself that YHVH instructed His people to place in the Holy Place in front of the Holy of Holies.  In Exodus 25:23-30, YHVH told the Israelites to: “Make a table of acacia wood, 36 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 27 inches high.  Overlay it with pure gold and run a gold molding around the edge.  Decorate it with a 3-inch border all around, and run a gold molding along the border.  Make four gold rings for the table and attach them at the four corners next to the four legs. Attach the rings near the border to hold the poles that are used to carry the table. Make these poles from acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. Make special containers of pure gold for the table – bowls, ladles, pitchers, and jars – to be used in pouring out liquid offerings. Place the Bread of the Presence on the table to remain before me at all times”.

This table (often called the “Table of Showbread”) was to be set up next to the lampstand (Menorah) outside the Holy of Holies, so that the light from the lamps could illumine the table.  As with the Ark of the Covenant and the lampstand, this was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold, so we know it was meant to be one of the most precious items YHVH wanted to be in His holy place.  We have spoken in earlier articles about the special place that both gold and acacia wood hold in YHVH’s heart, so we can say that the Table had to be made of materials worthy of the King of creation – our King, Messiah Yeshua.  The acacia wood covered in gold that composed the Table of Showbread can also be seen as symbols pointing to both the humanity and divinity of Yeshua.

I will just mention one other thing about the Table – in a typical Hebrew home at that time, it would have been common to have a table set with plates and dishes for bread and incense, and pitchers and bowls for liquid offerings (although probably not of pure gold!).  By having this Table in the Tabernacle, YHVH was showing that He wants us to regard the Tabernacle as His house – this includes both the Earthly tabernacle as well as His heavenly Tabernacle (after which the Earthly tabernacle was modeled).

Moving on now to the bread that Abba instructed His people to place on the Table, we see that “Showbread” is not an accurate translation.  The original Hebrew phrase for this bread is Lechem haPanim, which literally means “Bread of the Presence” or “Bread of the Face [of God]”.

The historian Josephus indicates that the Bread of the Presence was unleavened, pointing to Yeshua as our sinless Savior who is the true Bread of the Presence.  In John 6:35, Yeshua said: “I am the bread which gives life! Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever trusts in Me will never be thirsty”.   Then in Verses 48-51 of John 6, Yeshua says that He is the true Bread that came down from Heaven and that if anyone eats of this Bread, they will live forever.  Yeshua gives us life to the fullest; life more abundant on this Earth and life everlasting in Heaven!

When we look again at the Bread of the Presence in the Tabernacle, we see that it symbolized being in YHVH’s presence, so when the priests ate the bread they were fellowshipping with Abba Father in His presence, face-to-face.  The bread on the Table in the Tabernacle, as well as the bread in Messiah’s communion, reminds us that our life is in the true Bread from Heaven, Yeshua HaMashiachYeshua went even further than this, though, because He told His disciples [talmadim] that he didn’t need physical bread to eat (John 4:32-34),  but rather He had “food to eat that they knew nothing about”.  When they asked what food He had, He said that His food was to do the will of the Father (the One who sent Him).  When Yeshua shared the communion bread of His body, He was teaching His disciples to be filled with the Bread of His presence, satisfied with doing the will of our Father.

Yeshua gives us more spiritual food when He says in Matthew 4:4 that people do not “live by bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God”.  In Matthew 6:11, He also teaches us to pray to our Father that He will give us our daily bread, but I believe this means spiritual Bread as well – that He will tell us what He desires for us to do each day.  I want to leave you with a story about one of my favorite composers – it is said that when Handel wrote the Messiah, food trays stacked up outside his door for 17 days.  He was too busy and too fulfilled to eat – he was eating the Bread of life, the Bread of the presence of YHVH, and it sustained and nourished him.  What is the Bread of YHVH’s presence for you?

Covenant Reflections

This is the sixth article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH.  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series.

YHVH is building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  A king reigns from his throne and also pronounces judgment from there.  The Ark of the Covenant was designed to be the throne of YHVH on earth.  There are two carved cherubim on the lid of the ark, just as there are live cherubim who protect the throne of YHVH in heaven.  The Ark of the Covenant is one phase of the continuing saga of YHVH building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  We see this clearly by examining two other “arks” mentioned in Scripture.  Let us first examine two words that are translated as “ark” in the Bible.

The word that is translated as “ark” for the Ark of the Covenant is aron (Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew #727).  It is most often used in Scripture (194 times) to refer to the Ark of the Covenant.  It is used six times in Scripture to refer to a chest (for money offerings, for example) and one time to refer to Joseph’s coffin (Gen 50:26).  Another word that is translated as ark is tebah or tevah (Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew #8392).  It means a box or a chest and is used in reference to Noah’s ark and the ark (basket) where Moshe was placed as an infant.  Both words are of uncertain origin but since both Noah’s ark and the Ark of the Covenant were personally designed by YHVH, we can speculate on the origin of those words.

There are numerous striking similarities with the three arks.  We will cover several in this article, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.  As we study the three arks we find recurring themes as YHVH continues with His kingdom building plan.

Noah’s ark was used as a sanctuary to protect and preserve the tiny remnant of people and animals that it housed.  From those people would eventually come the Messiah.  Moses’ ark sheltered the infant until he was rescued.  Moses later became the leader of the Israelites and brought them out of Egyptian slavery.  Messiah Yeshua is a descendant of the Israelites.  The Ark of the Covenant was YHVH’s earthly throne, but was also referred to as the “mercy seat”, a sanctuary for the Israelites and, by extension, all those who choose to be part of His kingdom.  We are spiritual descendants of YHVH.

There is a covenant associated with each of the three arks.  YHVH made a covenant with Noah and his descendants to never again destroy the earth by flood.  YHVH made a covenant with Moses and the Israelites to be their God and they would be His people.  YHVH makes a covenant with us to be a part of His kingdom.

Water also plays a significant role in each of these stories.  The inhabitants of Noah’s ark were surrounded by water for many days.  Moses was drawn from the waters of the Nile.  The water of the Nile would later be turned into blood.  He and the Israelites would miraculously cross through the waters of the Red (Reed) Sea.  The walls of water then collapsed and destroyed their enemies.  The waters of the Jordan River parted as the Ark of the Covenant and the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land (Joshua 3).  We are immersed in water at baptism and are filled with the living waters of the Holy Spirit.

Noah’s ark was covered with tar or pitch, a covering to keep it watertight and to protect the humans and animals inside.  Moshe’s ark (basket) was covered with tar or pitch to keep out the waters of the Nile and to protect the infant inside.  The blood of sacrificed animals was sprinkled on the mercy seat once a year (on Yom Kippur or the day of covering) to protect the Israelites from judgment.  Yeshua is the Savior who covers and protects us with His blood.

The ark Noah built did not have any oars.  The ark’s inhabitants were totally dependent on YHVH for their salvation, and could not rely on navigational skills.  Moses’ ark was also at the mercy of YHVH to stay protected in the Nile until Moses was discovered and rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. The Ark of the Covenant had poles attached through gold rings, but the Ark was to be moved only at the direct order of YHVH.  We are helpless to save ourselves and must rely totally on YHVH for our salvation.  We even rely on His gift of faith to receive our salvation (Eph 2:8).

The Ark of the Covenant was made of acacia wood and covered with gold. Yeshua was sacrificed on a wooden cross.  He has now exchanged His crown of thorns for a crown of gold (Rev 14:14).

Let us examine now the contents of the Ark of the Covenant:

  • Manna, the bread from heaven. Yeshua is the Living Bread that came down from heaven.
  • Aaron’s budding rod showed “who is holy (set apart), who is His and who He chooses to come near to Him (Numbers 16 and 17). Yeshua is our High Priest and King, worthy, able and appointed by YHVH to be our representative and leader.
  • The stone tablets with the Ten Commandments which are a summary of the Torah. Yeshua, our Rock, is the Living Torah.

In each story, there was threat of death, yet at least some people were spared so that YHVH could continue with His kingdom plan.  In His justice, YHVH must condemn the guilty, yet His desire is to show mercy.  We, as citizens of His kingdom, are condemned for our guilt, but are also redeemed by His loving sacrifice.  Our King is our true shelter in the storms of life.

Covering Reflections

This is the fifth article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH.  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series.

We have examined each element on YHVH’s list for building the Tabernacle.  Now it is time to begin construction.  The first thing YHVH gave designs for was the Ark of the Covenant.  However, it was not the first to be constructed.  The coverings and framework for the outer walls of the Tabernacle were constructed first.

The coverings had to be in place before the Ark of the Covenant or other precious items  could be constructed and properly protected.  This is similar to creation.  First, YHVH created the universe, then He prepared the earth with a balance of land and water, plants and animals, and finally people.  We see a similar theme in the construction of the Tabernacle.  First the outer coverings were made (the universe).  Next the Tabernacle itself was prepared (preparation of the earth) and finally the people were invited in.  After the Tabernacle was ready special attire was made for the priests who were the only ones allowed in the Tabernacle.   At this point, we still have separation between YHVH and people due to the fall of Adam and Eve.

As mentioned before in our second article entitled “Material Reflections”, there is significance in each of the items chosen for the framework and covering of the Tabernacle.  We will touch on these briefly here, but for a fuller explanation of each, please refer to “Material Reflections”.

The linen curtains provided the necessary separation from YHVH, Who is Holy (set apart).  The curtains were protected by other coverings, just as we through Yeshua are protected by many coverings.  The linen curtains were embroidered with scarlet, blue and purple threads.  Each of these colors has deep significance as explained in “Material Reflections”.

Cherubim were embroidered on the linen curtains.  Cherubim were assigned to protect the Garden of Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve (Gen 3:24).  We will examine the Ark of the Covenant and the role of the Cherubim in the next article in this series.

Goat hair and the skins of goats and rams also covered the Tabernacle.  Two goats were chosen on Yom Kippur (Day of Covering).  One goat was selected by YHVH to be sacrificed for the sins of the people and the other goat was set free after all the sins of the people had been transferred to it.  Both goats represent Yeshua, who took on our sins, was sacrificed in our place, and who bore our sins away as far as the east is from the west.   Yeshua is the sinless, perfect Lamb and through Him we are no longer goats, but righteous sheep.

The linen curtains were fastened with gold clasps, signifying purity and royalty.  The goat hair and goat and ram skins were fastened with bronze clasps, signifying our sin and judgment that were placed on Yeshua.

The framework was made of acacia wood which is virtually indestructible.  Yeshua is our Way, Truth and Life and He is indestructible.  His work provides the framework for our redemption and our future life in the Kingdom of YHVH.  Yeshua became our curse and guilt so that we might become His righteousness (The Divine Exchange, Derek Prince)

Ten linen curtains were made and fastened together.  Ten is the number of a minyan.  Recall Abraham pleading for Sodom and YHVH said that if there were ten righteous men He would withhold His judgment.  It has become Jewish tradition that in order to publicly pray, there must be a minyan (ten Torah observant Jews over the age of 13).  Ten  represents governmental rule, whether it be YHVH’s (Ten Commandments), man’s (minyan), or hasatan’s (ten toes and horns mentioned in Daniel and Revelation).

There were eleven of the other curtains.  Eleven is the number of disorder, chaos and judgment.  In Genesis 11, people rebelled against YHVH and built the Tower of Babel. Jehoiakim, one of the last kings over Judah, ruled for 11 years (609 to 598 B.C.).  After overcoming the city, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon appointed Zedekiah as a puppet ruler of Judea. Zedekiah, however, soon rebelled against his masters. His reign ended in 586 B.C., after only 11 years.  The apostle John saw 11 things in connection with the final judgment (Revelation 20:12 – 14).

Several men were gifted to construct the Tabernacle, but two are mentioned by name.  Bezalel  whose name means in the shadow (protection) of God and Oholiab whose name means father’s tent.  Through the precious sacrifice of Yeshua and His covering, we are now invited into Father’s tent.  There are no longer any barriers to keep us out unless we create them ourselves.  Let us tear down any barriers we may have created and welcome the covering of Yeshua.

 

Precious Reflections

This is the fourth article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH.  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series.

In the first article in this series, Nancy studied the significance of the metals used in the Tabernacle.  In the second article she examined the items YHVH specified in Exodus 25:4-5 as materials to construct and cover the Tabernacle.  In my article last week, I discussed the oil and spices used for the anointing oil and incense in the Tabernacle (Ex 25:6).  This week I will cover the next verse (7) in Exodus 25, which specifies: “onyx stones and setting stones for the [priest’s] ephod and for the breastplate”.

In Exodus 25:7, Abba tells Moshe that he is to ask the people to gather special types of precious stones to be used for the high priest’s ephod and breastplate.  From Torah passages (Ex 28:4, 29:5, Lev 8:7) the ephod signifies a garment, which is part of the official dress of the high priest, and was to be made of threads of various colors.  What can be gleaned from these passages is that the ephod was held together by a girdle sewed on to it (Ex 28:8); it had two shoulder-straps, which were fastened to the front of the ephod by golden rings, to which the breastplate was attached by golden chains (Exodus 28:6-14) which were fastened to the ephod in front (Ex 28:27).

From this description, it appears that the ephod was some type of apron, with the two onyx stones fastened to the shoulder straps. The breastplate was then to be hung down from the ephod straps, and the 12 different types of precious stones were attached to the breastplate, one for each of the tribes of Israel, inscribed with the name of the corresponding tribe (Ex 28:21).  It is interesting to look at the prophecy of the “end times” New Jerusalem in Revelation 21.  We know from Verses 12 and 13 that will be 12 gates to the New Jerusalem, with one of the names of the 12 tribes of Israel on each of the gates.   Then from Verses 19 and 20, we see that there were 12 stones in the 12 foundations around the wall of the city, and the stones are very similar (and probably identical if we knew the Hebrew-Greek correlation) to the 12 stones in the breastplate in Exodus 28.

We know that the New Jerusalem is a direct reflection of the Holy City in Heaven (since it comes down from Heaven), so the foundations of the New Jerusalem are a reflection of the foundations of the City in heaven.   From this we can infer that YHVH plans to build His  earthly Kingdom according to His pattern in heaven, using the stones representing the 12 tribes as the foundation stones – thus He is building His new Kingdom on Earth on the foundations of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Somewhere near the heart of the high priest, among the stones of the tribes of Israel, the Urim and the Thummim were placed on the “breastplate of judgment”, to be used so that YHVH could guide the high priest in judging between right and wrong, especially in cases of deciding the guilt or innocence of the people.  This passage points to Yeshua as our High Priest, who is the Righteous One (as it says in I Cor 1:30: He became Righteousness for us).  While the high priest of Israel determined right from wrong in difficult cases of judgment by allowing YHVH to speak to him through the Urim and Thummim, Yeshua did not require this type of physical sign to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh).  The Ruach HaKodesh spoke directly through Yeshua, and because He has sent His Ruach to dwell inside us, we now have the same Ruach speaking to and through us.

Sha’ul (Paul) reminded us that we live on a spiritual battlefield, and that we must protect ourselves by putting on the whole armor of God.  One of the key elements of our armor is the breastplate of righteousness, but whose righteousness are we putting on?  This breastplate of righteousness refers to the righteousness purchased for us by Yeshua at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). The breastplate He gives us is specially designed by God to protect our heart and soul from evil and deception. Our own righteous acts are no match for Satan’s attacks (Isaiah 64:6). The breastplate of righteousness has Messiah’s name stamped on it, as though He said, “Your righteousness isn’t sufficient to protect you; here – wear mine”.  Yeshua offers us His breastplate of righteousness; it is up to us to accept it and wear it.

Although sometimes it would be comforting to have physical evidence of YHVH’s guidance in our lives when we make decisions, or discern between good and evil, we have something even better than the Urim and Thummim.  We have the Ruach of YHVH Father and Yeshua His Son living within us, guiding us in every part of our lives.  It is not always easy, but our part is to draw close to YHVH, so we are able to hear Him better and understand what is He is saying to us.  We do not need precious jewels and an intricately woven breastplate to hear Him as He guides us – His thoughts and insights are precious jewels to us.  What we need is to know the thoughts and intents of His heart as He knows ours, by sitting in His lap and leaning against His heart.  That way, we can truly call Him Abba Daddy and He can call us His beloved children.

Fragrant Reflections

This is the third article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH.  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series.

In the first article in this series, Nancy studied the significance of the metals used in the Tabernacle.  In the second article she examined the items YHVH specified in Exodus 25:4-5 as materials to construct and cover the Tabernacle.  In this article we will cover the oil and spices to be used for the anointing oil and the incense in the Tabernacle.

In Exodus 25:6, Abba tells Moshe that they are to gather from the people…”olive oil for the lamps; spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense”.  Later on, in Exodus 27:20, YHVH tells Moshe: “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed (beaten or pounded) olives for the light, to keep it burning continually”.  Yeshua is continuously our pure Light.  When we think of Yeshua as the Light of the world, and His command to us to shine that light throughout the world, then we can see how important it is to keep that light shining through us 24/7.

In Exodus 30:23-24 YHVH provides details of the ingredients and preparation for the anointing oil listed in Exodus 25, and how it is to be prepared – He says to Moshe: “Collect choice spices—12 1⁄2 pounds of pure myrrh, 6 1⁄4 pounds of fragrant cinnamon, 6 1⁄4 pounds of fragrant calamus, and 12 1⁄2 pounds of cassia—as measured by the weight of the sanctuary shekel. Also get one gallon of olive oil”. In Verse 25, He then explains how these ingredients are to be mixed together: “Like a skilled incense maker, blend these ingredients to make a holy anointing oil”.  Note that YHVH has added yet another qualification to the anointing oil – as I highlighted in the last verse, it is referred to as a “holy anointing oil”.  This tells us that it is to be set apart and made in a very special way compared to all other oils, such as the oil for the lamps.  Yeshua baptizes us with the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit.

Let us look at the spices to be used in the anointing oil in more detail:

  • Myrrh is a pale yellow gummy substance extracted from a small thorny shrub, typically used in spices and ointments. It is very costly and is known to be purifying to the body, and has a pleasant fragrance.
  • Fragrant cinnamon oil is distilled from the bark of a special type of cinnamon tree. It is very tasty and is often used to flavor food because of its pleasant aroma.
  • Fragrant (or sweet) calamus is a tall wetland plant with scented leaves – it is a fragrant cane whose root is highly prized as a spice. When it is crushed, it exudes a sweet fragrance. The more it is broken and crushed, the more of the fragrance that is exuded. In its spiritual application, the calamus speaks to us of brokenness, and reminds us that Yeshua was crushed and broken for us.  There are times in our lives when we must be crushed or broken in order to be purified.
  • Cassia comes from the aromatic bark of a Middle Eastern tree, and represents the true humility of anointed worship. It is sometimes used as a natural medicine. Cassia is derived from the Hebrew root “quadad”, meaning to bend or bow. This can be seen to represent us as God’s people, who are to bow down in humility before the strong hand of God (1 Pet. 5:6).
  • The main ingredient by volume in the Holy Anointing Oil is olive oil, which has both secular and sacred purposes. The olive tree is very important in secular life for cooking, cosmetics and soaps, and as a fuel for oil lamps. The olive tree has been a symbol of peace and prosperity since the time the dove returned to Noah’s Ark with an olive branch.

Let us now take a look at the spices YHVH specified to be used in the Tabernacle:

  • When Frankincense is burned it emits a fragrant odor, and hence the incense became a symbol of the Divine name (Malachi 1:11) and an emblem of prayer (Psalm 141:2; Luke 1:10; Revelation 5:8; 8:3).
  • Stacte is generally understood to be the purest kind of myrrh; and as the Hebrew name implies a drop, it would seem to refer to this type of myrrh as dropping from the tree of its own accord, without any cutting. This makes me think of Yeshua’s precious teardrops of blood in Gethsemane.
  • Onycha: Hebrew shechelet is thought to be the resin from a Mediterranean shrub that has been used for medicines and sweet perfumes for hundreds of years.
  • Galbanum: this rather foul-odored spice, when mixed with all the other spices, produces a perfect mixture for the incense. An ancient story tells of a perfumer who experimented with the biblical incense recipe and discovered that when the galbanum was left out of the mixture, the other ingredients still produced a pleasant fragrance. However, when the galbanum was added, something quite wonderful happened chemically: “the full mixture of the spices, including the foul galbanum, smelled infinitely more delicious than the mixture without galbanum”. The experiment showed that the galbanum transformed the sweet spices to produce the most beautiful incense possible. In the same way, as saved believers, we are transformed through the cleansing of our “foul” sins into beautiful children of God.

It is wonderful that YHVH explained to His people the precious spices they were to gather and use in the holy anointing oil and the incense, but we need to always remember that our obedience to Him is the sweetest aroma we can sacrifice to Him (1 Sam 15:22).  Our prayers are the most powerful incense we can offer up to YHVH (Rev 5:8).

The holy anointing oil that was to be used in the tabernacle can also be related to the oil of the Holy Spirit, flowing through our own tabernacles, purifying us and making us holy to stand before YHVH in His heavenly Tabernacle.  Let us welcome the oil of the Holy Spirit to keep our bodies and souls pure and set apart from the lusts of the world, such as power, greed, arrogance, hostility and envy.  We are called to be set apart to be with YHVH for all of our days, both here on Earth and forever in Heaven.

Material Reflections

living-tabenacles

This is the second article of a new series (Living Tabernacles)  where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  However, it is more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, for each of us is now a tabernacle of YHVH.  There will be two posts each month for this series.

In the first article in this series, we studied the significance of the metals used in the Tabernacle:  gold, silver and bronze.  In this article we continue examining the list YHVH gave to Moshe itemizing the components He desired to build His Tabernacle.  We will cover the items listed in verses 4 and 5 of Exodus 25: colored threads, fine linen, goat hair, ram skins, fine goatskin leather and acacia wood.

Thread is interwoven throughout the material just as the spiritual significance of these threads should be interwoven throughout our lives.  The scarlet thread symbolizes cleansing, purification, sin, riches, a marker, and/or clothing of a valiant man.  We know what “valiant Man” has died for our sins, cleansing and purifying us.  He still wears those markers on His hands and feet.  He has gained for us untold wealth.  In Him, we must root out the sin that is interwoven in us, so that His cleansing and purifying may permeate every part of us.  We are abundantly wealthy in Yeshua and we wear His mark on us (Rev. 7:2-3).

The blue thread symbolizes holy covering, heavenly, holy service, chastening and water (Spirit).  We are no longer naked in our sin (Gen 2:25, Is 47:3), but are covered with Yeshua’s righteousness.  Yeshua came down from Heaven for the express purpose of establishing (or perhaps re-establishing) YHVH’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  Yeshua baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit fills us, chastening, strengthening and preparing us for holy service to YHVH.

The purple thread symbolizes royalty and riches. The Roman soldiers placed a purple robe on Yeshua during his trial in order to mock Him.  Little did they realize that Yeshua, above any other human, is entitled to wear the color of royalty.  Yeshua is our King and High Priest.  We are a royal priesthood and adopted children of YHVH.  Our wealth is in Messiah Yeshua, for without Him we have nothing and with Him we have an abundance of treasures.

The fine linen spoken of in Exodus 25 is the Hebrew word bad.  The word is from a root which means “separation”.  The Hebrew word for holy is kadosh which means to be set apart.  The fine linen worn by priests indicated that they were set apart to YHVH. YHVH is set apart and we are called to separate ourselves from the world and be dedicated solely to YHVH.  Our clothing must be the fine linen of Yeshua’s righteousness (Rev. 3:18), for without it we will not be welcome at the wedding of the Bridegroom (Matt 22:12).

Goat’s hair is used in Bedouin camps today for tents, tent ropes and rugs.  Goats’ hair cloth is able to stand the hard usage of a frequently shifting encampment.  We must be resilient enough to follow our Leader wherever He takes us.  Goatskin leather was used as a covering for the Tabernacle.  Yeshua is our spiritual covering.  With Yeshua’s covering, we are able to withstand many trials and persecutions.

On Yom Kippur, two goats were selected and lots were cast for them.  One goat would be sacrificed for the sins of the people and the second goat would bear the sins of the people and be sent out of the camp and into the wilderness, signifying how YHVH has removed our sins far from us (Lev 16).  Yeshua is both the sacrifice that atones for our sin (Heb 9:26) and the One who carries our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12).

Tanned lambskins were also used to cover the Tabernacle.  Some versions translate this word as badger skins, but this is unlikely since badgers are considered to be unclean animals.  The skins of lambs have significant spiritual relevancy since Yeshua is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) and Yeshua is a covering for us.  Some versions translate the tanned lambskins as lambskins died red.  The blood of Yeshua, the Lamb of YHVH, covered His skin as He hung on the cross.  His blood now covers us.

When Adam and Eve had sinned, they realized that they were naked.  YHVH made the first animal sacrifice on their behalf and clothed them with the skins of the animals signifying a much greater and more effective covering to come (Gen 3:21).

The acacia tree mentioned is likely the gum-arabic tree.  It is a gnarled and thorny tree.  Acacia trees are plentiful in the wilderness where the Israelites traveled.  Acacia wood is not desirable to insects and is virtually indestructible.  Was the cross made from acacia wood?  Possibly, but we have no proof of the type of wood used by the Romans in Jerusalem for crucifixion.  We do know, however, that Yeshua, even though He died, is indestructible.  Was the crown of thorns woven from acacia thorns?  We do not know for sure. The tree is formed much like an umbrella, just as Yeshua’s sacrifice provides us protection from the sentence of eternal death.

What is the significance of all the wood being overlaid with gold?  The acacia wood is gnarled and crooked signifying the twistedness of sin and evil.  The long thorns are menacing.  Yeshua willingly allowed Himself to be beaten beyond recognition.  He wore a crown of thorns and was humiliated and despised.  However, the reward He has reaped for Himself and for us is eternal glory and untold riches.  What appeared to be a disgrace and defeat, has turned into triumph and victory beyond measure (Rom 6:4).  Yeshua now wears a crown of unsurpassable glory.  On our own we are defeated, but in Yeshua we are victorious!

As we reflect on these materials, let us, living temples of the Holy Spirit,  be transformed into the image and likeness of YHVH, reflecting His glory.

Metal Reflections

living-tabenacles

This is the beginning of a new series (Living Tabernacles) where we will study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  However, it is more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, for each of us is now a tabernacle of YHVH.   There will be two posts each month for this series.

The building of the Tabernacle involved participation on the part of the Israelites from the beginning.  YHVH showed Moshe the building plans and a heavenly model so that he would understand exactly what needed to be done (Exodus 25:9, Heb 8:5).  Then YHVH gave Moshe a list of items needed for the Tabernacle.  Moshe was instructed to share the list with the Israelites.  They were to take from their possessions in order to have the necessary building materials.  Where did they get the materials in the first place?  From YHVH Himself.  Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow (James 1:17).   Since the Israelites gave of their own possessions and, later on, their time and talents, they had a significant stake in the Tabernacle and in the worship of YHVH.

The list that YHVH gave to the Israelites was as follows:

  • gold, silver, and bronze;
  • blue, purple, and scarlet thread;
  • fine linen and goat hair for cloth;
  • tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather;
  • acacia wood;
  • olive oil for the lamps;
  • spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense;
  • onyx stones and other gemstones to be set in the ephod and the priest’s chestpiece.

Every item on the list points not only to Yeshua, but to us who are seeking to become like Yeshua.  Each listed item symbolizes a characteristic of Yeshua and, by extension, should symbolize a characteristic of His followers.  What can we learn from this list?

In this first article we will examine gold, silver and bronze.  Gold and silver are precious metals and, for the Tabernacle, had to be “pure” (Exodus 25:11) and “refined” (1 Chronicles 28:18).  YHVH refines us through fiery trials so that we may be purified.  “Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand (Dan 12:10). Gold is symbolic of YHVH’s kingship, glory and holiness and we are meant to reflect His glory and holiness.  Gold is one of the least reactive chemical elements.  When the blood was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant (made of pure gold), the gold did not tarnish.  When we are sprinkled with adversity, it should not discolor or corrode us.

Silver signifies redemption, which means to purchase back at a cost. Yeshua paid the highest price to redeem us.  The Hebrew word for silver is ‘kesef,’ meaning a very strong desire. According to Strong’s Concordance, the root for this Hebrew word is:

H3700 – כּסף – kâsaph – kaw-saf’ – A primitive root; properly to become pale, that is, (by implication) to pine after; also to fear: – [have] desire, be greedy, long, sore.

Generally, when we purchase something at a steep cost, we expect to possess something of substantial value.  Yeshua “pined after” us so much that He was willing to lay down His life in order to get us back.  Do we pine after Yeshua to the extent that we are willing to lay down our lives in order to follow Him?

Many scripture passages tie bronze to sin and judgment.  The bronze Sea where the priests were to wash was constructed so that they could see their reflections in order to ensure that they did not miss any dirt.  Scripture and Yeshua (the living Torah) are our “bronze Sea” where we can examine ourselves in order to remove any stains or blemishes.  For it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the Law who will be declared righteous (Rom 2:13). For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror— 24 for once he looks at himself and goes away, he immediately forgets what sort of person he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect Torah, the Torah that gives freedom, and continues in it, not becoming a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts—he shall be blessed in what he does (James 1:23-25)

The bronze altar signifies that YHVH is willing to take our judgment upon Himself, but only if we are willing to repent of our sins.  In the case of King Zedekiah who was not willing to repent, we see that he was carried off to Babylon in bronze shackles (2 Kings 25:i7).  If we are not willing to repent of our sins, we will have to deal with YHVH’s judgment ourselves.

Just as the Israelites offered treasures, time and talent to build a Tabernacle for YHVH, each of us must do the same as we prepare ourselves as fitting tabernacles for YHVH.  We will continue our study of the significance of the elements in the next article in this series entitled Living Tabernacles.

Each of us is now a tabernacle for YHVH.  Yeshua replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them (John 14:23).  The materials for the Tabernacle were costly and of the finest quality.  What does your tabernacle look like?  How are the gold, silver, and bronze reflected in your tabernacle?

YHVH’s Sanctuary

yhvh-is-a-shelterWhat did Yeshua mean when He said in His Olivet discourse: “as it was in the days of Noach” (Matt 24:39)?  In this and other Re(new)ed Covenant Scriptures (2 Pet 2; 2 Thess 2), the authors speak of a future world of great wickedness, such as has not been known since the times of Noach and Sodom.  These Scriptures also speak of YHVH’s judgment on those who are deceived by the lies of hasatan and refuse to turn to the truth of the Creator and Redeemer of the world, Yehovah Elohim.

They also speak of YHVH our Deliverer saving and protecting His people during times of past trials or judgment:

  • Noach and all his family were divinely saved from destruction by the protection of the Ark (2 Pet 2:5). Note that the Hebrew word for ark (tevah) not only means a box or covering, but it also means “word” – so you can think of Noach and his family truly being covered by YHVH’s Word!
  • In the time of Sodom & Gomorrah, we are told that the people were very immoral and ungodly, but also that God [Elohim] rescued Lot from the fiery judgment because Lot was a righteous man who followed the truth (2 Pet 2:6-7)
  • Moses (Ex 44:7), David (1 Sam :14-15) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8) were all protected in the wilderness
  • In the same way, when YHVH brought all the plagues onto the people in Egypt, He spared the Hebrews from the worst of those plagues (Ex 9). Yeshua became our Passover Lamb 2000 years ago, and now we can cover ourselves with His blood for protection from the enemy’s attacks
  • Finally, in speaking about the end of days, Yeshua says in Revelation 12 verses 6 and 14 that YHVH will once again protect His people from both the unbearable attacks from the adversary hasatan, and also from His own judgments against the wicked

From these Scriptures we know that YHVH has protected His people many times in the past, and has said that He would protect us again during the Tribulation period.  We also know from Yeshua’s words in Matthew 24 and Sha’ul’s prophecies in 2 Timothy 3 that the times before the end of this current world will be characterized by great sinfulness and evil.

What will lead the people of the world into such great lawlessness, though?  We know there are plenty of greedy, boastful and wicked people throughout the world now, but Yeshua says the End will be a time like no other that has ever been seen or will ever be seen again.  Several Scriptures speak of a great apostasy, deception, or falling away (2 Thess 2:3, Matt 24:10).  Reading further in these Scriptures we see many reasons for this falling away of believers in Yeshua, so great that even some of the elect will be led astray (Matt 24:24).  Yeshua speaks of many false prophets and teachers, and the great signs and wonders they will use to try to convince believers that they are the Messiah who is prophesied to return.

There is a stronger deception than simple signs and wonders that will be leading the saints away from YHVH, though.  This deception becomes clear when you look at the expanded meaning of apostasy – it means “an abandonment of the truth”.  In spiritual terms, this means that the end times will involve a wholesale rejection of YHVH’s revelation, a further “falling away” of an already fallen world.  This “end times” falling away is confirmed as the sign that will come before the Tribulation ends and Yeshua returns for His saints (the set-apart ones) in several other Scriptures.

When Sha’ul talks about the end times in II Timothy 3, he talks first about all the wickedness that will mark that time, but then he goes on to say in Verse 7 that people at that time will be: “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth”.  This agrees with II Thessalonians 2:10-12 which states that the ones who will be judged in the latter days will be the ones who did not believe the truth of YHVH, but instead believed the enemy’s lies.  The crux of this passage in Verse 11 says: “…God will cause them to be greatly deceived, so that they will believe these lies”.

Going back to Matthew 24, Yeshua’s first answer to His disciples about the signs of the end was: “Be careful that no one leads you astray! For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will lead many astray” (Matt 24:4-5).  Remember that one of Yeshua’s harshest reprimands of the religious leaders was in John 8:44 when they accused Him of casting out demons and healing people in the name and power of the devil: “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies”.

The essence, then, of the reason for the great falling away in the end times will be that a great majority of the people (believers and unbelievers alike) will believe the lies of the false teachers and prophets and of the anti-messiah himself.

So how do we prepare ourselves for these perilous times, so that we can discern false from true teaching and prophecy, and resist following the popular path of believing the captivating lies of the enemy’s allies?  As with all temptations and allurements of our society, we need to put all our trust in our Rock and Redeemer, Yeshua HaMashiach, and be filled with Yehovah’s Holy Spirit.  We need to ask Abba for guidance in discerning the truth from the lies, and then follow that truth no matter what are the world consequences.  While it is true that not all believers will be delivered physically through the Tribulation, we know that if we remain steadfast in our trust and obedience, YHVH will help empower us to overcome the world, by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony.  In this world we will have tribulation, but Yeshua has overcome the world, and greater is He that is in us (the Holy Spirit) than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Who’s Missing?

mind-of-spirit-is-peace

When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

Many of us are familiar with Yeshua’s words from Matthew 12:43-45.  It is possible, however, to read over this passage many times and yet miss some vital information.  This is an important message for all of us, so it is wise to spend some time reflecting on Yeshua’s warning.

First, let us look at the rest of the chapter for context.  At the beginning of the chapter, Yeshua, referring to Himself as Son of Man (Hebrew expression for a human being) is also declaring His identity and authority as Son of God, because He has authority even over the Sabbath.  We know from other Scripture verses that Yeshua emptied Himself, or divested Himself from His power as the Son of YHVH (Phil 2:7) and relied solely on the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), as He expects His followers to do (Luke 24:49).[1]

As the chapter continues, Yeshua performs miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Beginning in verse 22, Yeshua casts out a demon from a man who is both blind and mute.  The people consult with their leaders after this miracle, saying that surely Yeshua must be the Son of David, the Messiah.  The leaders, who are against Yeshua, tell the people that Yeshua is not using the power of YHVH to perform His miracles, but the power of the prince of demons.  They are denying the power of the Holy Spirit in their attempt to discredit Yeshua.

Now we come to Yeshua’s words concerning an evil spirit who leaves (or is driven out) from its dwelling within a person.  After wandering for some time, the demon returns to its former abode, which has now been swept clean and is in order.  This suggests that the person has repented, been forgiven, and/or had soul wounds healed.  But Scripture also says that the abode is empty, or unoccupied.  Who should be dwelling there now?  The Holy Spirit.  If there is any part of our souls (mind, will, emotions) that have not been yielded to Yeshua and filled with the Holy Spirit, they are prime areas for demons to move in.

In our efforts to quell demonic activity in our lives and repair the damages, we must be intentional in inviting the Holy Spirit to ensure that the former (or potential) dwelling of the demon is not only in order and swept clean, but occupied and guarded as well.   In other words, we cannot truly improve on our own, but need the help of the Holy Spirit. In Mark’s version of this story (chapter 3), Yeshua tells us no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.  On our own, we are not strong enough to withstand the enemy.  The Holy Spirit is the “strong man” that cannot be overpowered by demons.

Yeshua purposely divested Himself of His power and authority as the second Person of YHVH in order to rely solely on the power of the Holy Spirit, thus demonstrating to us that we must divest ourselves of our own power and rely on the Holy Spirit.

Why did Yeshua say “that would be the experience of this evil generation”?  Because the Pharisees wanted to be in control to the extent that they not only denied the power of the Holy Spirit when it suited them, but they gave credit to hasatan for the work of the Holy Spirit.  Some believers today are still falling into that error.  Some say that speaking in tongues is of the devil, for example.  Many of us avoid the Holy Spirit out of fear or reluctance to relinquish control.

Where the Holy Spirit prevails there will be order, unity and love.  Where the Holy Spirit is not welcome, there will be chaos, division, hatred or apathy.  We cannot atone for our sins on our own, but need to rely on Yeshua’s sacrifice on our behalf.  Likewise, we cannot steer our own course through this spiritual battlefield on earth, but must rely on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Aside from some practice runs, the apostles did not get started on their assignments in YHVH’s harvest until they had been filled with “power from on high” or the Holy Spirit (Acts 2)

Are there areas in your life that are confusing or chaotic?  Are there broken or weak relationships in your life?  How will you sweep these areas clean?  Will you welcome the Holy Spirit to reign in that area of your life as your “strong man”?

[1] Yeshua did not cease to become the Son of YHVH at any time nor did He relinquish His authority as the Son of YHVH, but He operated only by the power of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate to His followers what He expected of them.