Part 7 – The Wedding in the Wilderness

‘Agnus Dei’ (‘Lamb of God’) painted by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) (Museo del Prado, Madrid).  A wonderful depiction of a lamb ready to be sacrificed, and representing Jesus as the Lamb of God (see Isaiah 53.7, Acts 8.32).

‘Agnus Dei’ (‘Lamb of God’) painted by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) (Museo del Prado, Madrid). A wonderful depiction of a lamb ready to be sacrificed, and representing Jesus as the Lamb of God (see Isaiah 53.7, Acts 8.32).

Part 7 of the Big Journey is entitled ‘The Wedding in the Wilderness’.  It’s a twenty-page PDF document illustrated in full colour throughout.  Click on the PDF icon below to download it:

Outline of contents
“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.” (Romans 9.4)

After their rescue from Egypt, God’s people don’t go straight to the Promised Land.  They go through the wilderness to Mount Sinai to meet with God (Exodus 19.4). God’s people set up camp at the base of this mountain.  There, God brings His people into covenant relationship with Himself.

This covenant was like a marriage. God became their Husband (see, for example Isaiah 54.5, Jeremiah 31.32). Remember what we learned in the very first session – the Bible story is at its heart a love story (compare Jeremiah 31.3).

♦ The wedding ceremony  Firstly God makes a solemn covenant with His people – just as a man and a woman make vows to each other at a wedding.

♦ The wedding reception  Then God and representatives of His people eat and drink together – just like a wedding reception.

♦ Their new home together  After their marriage, a husband and wife live together.  Accordingly, God makes arrangements to live together with His Bride, Israel. He shows Moses the blueprint for a beautiful new home where He will live among His people. This home is a tent called the Tabernacle.  God Himself will live there, and specially appointed representatives of His people – the priests – will come in and serve Him there.  Viewed from outside, all you would see would be the dark outermost covering of leather – dull and ordinary. But stepping inside was like stepping into a different world.  That was the whole point. It was a different world – a place, untainted by sin, where God lived and ruled, a meticulously crafted world of holiness and peace and beauty and fragrance. The Tabernacle was a new Garden of Eden where mankind would once again have access to God’s immediate presence.  As Sandra Richter explains, “In the tabernacle the Presence [of God] lives on earth for the first time since Eden”.

In this session we explore this marvellous tent, and see how the priests and Levites worshipped and served God there, mediating His forgiveness and blessing to the nation.

We also look at God’s Law (Hebrew torah, meaning ‘instruction’ or ‘guidance’).  The Law wasn’t, to quote Elmer Martens, “a set of arbitrary restrictions intended to inhibit people and make them miserable and guilty”; it was to show them how to live, and enable them to enjoy life to the full.  In N.T. Wright’s words, the Torah “holds out an extraordinary blueprint of what a genuinely human life is like”. Tremendous blessing would overtake them if God’s people obeyed (Leviticus 26.3-12, Deuteronomy 28.1‑14).

The Law also gave instruction about the sacrifices that God’s people were to offer to Him.  To our modern eyes, these Old Testament sacrifices seem complicated and obscure. We enter a gory world of blood and butchery and burning carcases that seems repugnant to us. But these sacrifices lie at the heart of the covenant God gave through Moses.  The sacrifices enabled God’s people to have fellowship with Him – as far as was possible under that covenant.

And the sacrifices are God’s ‘scale-models’ of what Jesus did on the Cross.  He fulfils each and every one of them. If we want to really understand what Jesus’s death accomplished for us we must turn back to the Old Testament and read about the sacrifices.

The Law also sets out a sequence of special days and seasons – the Sabbath days and years, the great Year of Jubilee, and the various “feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23.2).  We close this session by looking at how Israel was to celebrate these, and what their significance was.  And we see how perfectly these feasts foreshadow God’s plan of redemption for mankind through Jesus Christ.  Our salvation and our eternal destiny were pictured thousands of years ago by this calendar of special days and seasons.  How awesome is that!

Part 7 of the Big Journey is available as a twenty-page PDF document illustrated in full colour throughout.  Click on the PDF icon at the top of this page to download it.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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