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The Bible In A Year: Day 33

Exodus 28-31
Psalm 29

Chapter 28 is all about the priestly garments that are to be worn during their ministering in the tabernacle, and later in the temple. Each item had an important symbolic function and is similar to how our priests vest for mass today. Every piece of the priestly vestments have a purpose that may be lost in us in the pews, but it’s there nonetheless.

For people who say liturgy and vestments isn’t important, I’d counter with these few chapters we’re reading today. God seemed to place a good enough deal of importance on them that there greatly detailed here, and especially in Numbers and Leviticus. Some of these details of the old covenant priesthood carried over to the new covenant priesthood, including an all male priesthood and some of the liturgical functions.

One of the items mentioned here are the Urim and the Thummim, which were two items used in a type of sortilege, where God’s will is divined from these items. There’s more mention of them being used by the priests in the Old Testament, but there’s never a detailed explanation of how they are used, so they remain a somewhat mysterious item. They are also lost to history after the Babylonians destroyed the temple of Solomon in 587 BC . (Check out what Jimmy Akin from Catholic Answers has to say about them here

Chapter 29 covers the ordination of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. This involves cleansing rituals, vesting rituals, anointing with oil, and multiple sacrifices. One of the sacrifices involves taking the blood of the ram and putting a dab of it on the right ear, the right thumb, and right big toe of Aaron and his sons. This is for them to be dedicated to God and consecrated to hear his words, carry out and do what he commands, and to walk always in his ways.

These ordination rites go on for seven days straight, so that by the eighth day they’ve been remade as priests forever consecrated to God in his service.

The chosen people was constituted by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God himself is its inheritance. A special rite consecrated the beginnings of the priesthood of the Old Covenant. The priests are “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”

CCC 1539

The chapter ends with directions on how to offer a perpetual sacrifice to God. This is called the Tamid sacrifice, and takes place twice a day from this point until AD 70 with the destruction of the second temple (only interrupted for approximately 70 years between the destruction of the first temple and the dedication of the second temple).

Chapter 30 tells of more sacred objects that will be placed inside of the tabernacle, starting with the Altar of Incense. This altar is placed right in front of the veil separating on section on the tabernacle from the other and just outside of where the Ark of the Covenant is placed. The incense burned on it represents the prayers of the people going up to God, and that’s the same meaning behind the incense we burn in church today.

The two altars of the Tabernacle signify the two covenants of salvation. The first, used for animal sacrifice and stationed outside the sanctuary, stands for the fleshly worship of the Old Covenant.
The second, used for incense and stationed inside the sanctuary before the most holy place, stands for the interior and more perfect worship of the New Covenant.

Saint Bede

The half shekel temple tax is first imposed here by Moses for the upkeep of the tabernacle, and later both temples. This is the tax that Jesus paid for himself and Peter with the coin in the fish’s mouth in the Gospel of Matthew. This tax was continued in the form of the fiscus Iudaicus, or Jewish Tax, that was levied by Emperor Vespasian after the destruction of the temple in AD 70. It was kept at the same half shekel rate, but the money was directed to the upkeep of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome. It was applied to both Jews and Christians for a time, because to the Roman authorities they were both Jewish. It wasn’t until late in the first century that the Roman’s began considering the early Christians as a separate and unprotected religious group.

In chapter 31 God calls by name two specific men that are to be the architects and designs of the tabernacle and its instruments. God has laid out very specific instructions on what and how to make everything, but these people have been shepherds and brick-makers, they aren’t craftsmen and specialized builders as far as we know. But here is something that God does throughout the ages, and even done for Moses too, when he calls someone to a task he also equips and empowers the, to carry it out. He never calls someone and then leaves them to founder unassisted, he is always right there with them.

At the end of the chapter it is told that God hands to Moses two tablets of stone, written with the finger of God, that contained the Decalogue on them. This ends Moses 40 day stay up on the mountain while he spoke with God and heard all these instructions.

Tomorrow’s Readings:
Exodus 32-33
Psalm 30
Mark 1

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