We have a breakdown in faith in Exo 20.18-21. The people were to come up to the mountain when they heard the shofar, and Moses drew near but the people stood “afar off.” What made Moses draw near? It is the concept of faith in action. He knew the Lord, he had been on the mountain before (Da’at/knowledge). He had love for the Lord (Ahav) and the Lord told him to come up (Mitzvot/commnaments). All three components of faith were in action in Moses, but the people did not do this. They had never met the Lord and didn’t really “know” him, they had not learned to “love” him as yet and they disobeyed the “command” to draw near, a breakdown in faith.
When it came time to draw near they didn’t do it because they saw all the manifestations in 20.18. They “trembled” and “stood at a distance.” They wanted Moses to go up and hear the Lord, then tell them what he said. They did not want the Lord to speak directly to them.
In Exo 20.22-26 we have the command about an altar. It was to be made of “uncut stone” because it was not to be a work of man (Deut 27.6). The word for “uncut” is “shelemot” and the root is “shelem” meaning “peace.” The altar was associated with “peace” because that is what it did, it brought peace. It was where you would go when you wanted to do business with the Lord. The altar was to be made with stones that God had made (uncut). No iron tools were to be used on it. The altar was made to extend life and iron is sometimes used to make weapons which shorten life.
God uses altars to measure our hearts, like in the case of Cain and Abel, and in Rev 11.1. Altars are used to draw near to the Lord, and that is why the offerings were called “Korbanot” (draw near) not sacrifices. God is going to cut a covenant here at Sinai, and that will include a covenant meal with the Lord. The Temple was seen as a continuation of the covenant at Sinai and the korbanot were covenant meals with the Lord. This aspect of the korbanot is not taught outside of Judaism. For more information on this go to the book “The Temple: Its Symbolism and Meaning Then and Now” by Joshua Berman.
Altars can reveal God’s plan. Abraham had altars and these became locations where we have God’s promises to Abraham (Gen 12.1-3, 6-8, 13.18, 15.6-11, 22.9). The altar foreshadowed God’s plan for Yeshua and how it would “the four corners” of the earth. The altar is a witness. Isaac had enemies because his altars reminded God’s enemies of the promise and blessings to Abraham.
Altars set relationship examples. Jacob built one at Shechem (Gen 33.18-20). Shechem was going to be a part of the plan of God. It had an affect on Joseph’s life and became his burial place in the land. It is where Israel heard all the Torah which Moses had written. Not one word was left out. There is no hint of an “oral” Torah in addition to what was written (Josh 8.30-35).
Jacob built an altar at Bethel (another name for Jerusalem-Gen 28.19, 35.6-7) expressing thanksgiving and praise, which becomes the dominant purpose for altars as taught in the Torah. For example, the Korban Shelem is the only korban that is eaten by the offerer, and it is called the “peace offering.” Altars are patterned after the altar in heaven. They were uncut stones, no steps (a ramp), like a table (Lev 3.16). It has a kedusha and we are not to speak against this altar.
The blood is a covering for sin (Lev 17.11) and it must have a daily korban (continual) korban of a lamb upon it, morning and evening (Num 28.3-4) called the “Tamid.” Why does the Torah have these instructions. It is because it was to impress upon us that the altar belongs to God, it is his rules, his requirements and his business with us. The altar was his place in his house (Deut 12.11). But there is another aspect to it.
There is a primary aspect of the Temple that is not taught very often and that is the Temple was a place to rededicate to the covenant at Sinai. One of the primary words that appears in the korbanot sections in the Scriptures is the word “zevach” and it is a synonym for korban. It basically means a feast centered around meat. When covenants were cut between two parties, a feast was prepared (Gen 26.28-30, 31.44-46, 31.54). The Temple was a focal point to remember the covenant between God and Israel.The korban or zevach was a feast that included bread and wine (Num 15.1-14).
This brings us to the question “Does God eat?” We see in the Scriptures that the korbanot were described as “God’s bread” and we see statements like “a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” When the Torah describes this aspect of God’s “senses” it means that the korban/zevach is a shared meal; man literally and God figuratively by using anthropomorphisms. The korbanot were celebratory feasts. We see this concept in relation to the covenant at Sinai in Exo 24.3-11. Israel agrees to the terms of the covenant and they celebrate with a meal. That is the concept when offering korbanot/zevachim in the Temple.
We also have the concept of the “salt covenant” in Lev 2.13 and Num 18.19. This covenant is discussed in 2 Chr 13.4-4. The Torah commands that salt be sprinkled on every korban as the “salt of the covenant with God.” Salt symbolizes the everlasting nature of God’s promises and it is a preservative. The Korban Shelem is offered and the owner partakes of the meat and shares it with others, while God considers it “food” and a “pleasing aroma.” Then we have the concept of the “breaking bread” with the Lechem ha Panim in Lev 24.8 (the 12 loaves on the golden table in the Heichal), and in the various bread offerings. Wine was to accompany the korbanot as well. What we have is this. The korbanot in the Temple is ripe with feast imagery and “eating” is the most “holy” facet of worship that there is in the Scriptures, in remembrance of the covenant at Sinai.
Coming into the Temple you had to deal with the altar. Religious people consider the korbanot more important than the altar, but Yeshua would disagree with that. He said that the altar “sanctified” (gave it a kedusha) the korban (Matt 23.18-20). But, religious people will kill a lamb or buy a leg of lamb at Passover and think they are being obedient without ant altar at all. What does the altar have to do with God’s plan?
An altar is coming in Jerusalem and God will measure the people (Rev 11.1). The test is who will stand with the Lord and Yeshua and the Torah and who will not (Rev 12.17). The Lord is the rightful owner of the earth. God owns anything that touches the altar. The False Messiah will oppose this altar because it is God’s ownership mark. The False Messiah wants to steal the earth and everything in it. Many will join with him against this altar, not understanding it is a test.
Exo 21.1 through 24.18 teaches us about ethics and that man has been created in the image of God. There are around fifty-three separate laws here, giving the full range of social laws about slaves, servants, manslaughter, personal injury, damages, the three main pilgrim festivals, custodianship, the occult and money, etc.
Now, do the laws concerning the city we live in, the county, the state or nation nullify our faith? Do the civil laws nullify our faith? Do the criminal laws nullify our faith? Do the traffic laws nullify our faith? So, if man’s laws cannot nullify our faith, how can God’s laws? If we break God’s laws will we be in trouble with the Lord? Yes, so the laws are connected to our faith. Our behavior towards God and our neighbor is connected to our faith. That makes the Torah a “good thing” because it reveals what pleases God. It teaches, it instructs, it informs and it guides. Does the Torah nullify God’s promises? The answer is “No!”
These verses in Exo 21 through 24 deal with social justice in the land. These laws sort things out and Israel had to have laws in a civilized society. The bottom line of these commands is “Do good to one another, don’t do harm. By this they will know that you know me” (John 13.34). The Lord has given the Ten Commandments and Moses recounts what the Lord said we should do because the people did not want to hear God’s voice directly after that. Three times in Exo 24.4-8 they say they, “We will do all that the Lord has spoken.” In less than forty days they will build the Golden Calf, so what happened?
Some say they were eager at first, but made mistakes. They had no knowledge. But others say they were not whole-hearted. Both are bad positions to be in. A good attitude without knowledge doesn’t help us a whole lot. It won’t carry us through. Persistence and steadfastness is what we need. The Rabbis have said that God was always trying to get the people to “hear” when speaks to them. Moses repeated what God said and even wrote it down. But to hear is not the end of it. Hearing means obeying (Jam 1.22).
In Part 77 we will pick up here with some of the “nuggets” of the Torah.