28 February – 5 March 2016.
In the last few chapters of Exodus, the instructions to the Jews on how they should set up their tabernacle are repeated. In these last chapters we also see a lot of detailed instructions for the priests. These detailed instructions continue into the next book, Leviticus, which sets out the rules and regulations for Israel’s priests.
While these texts give us a good description of what religious life was like for the ancient Jews, they all sound strange to us modern Christians. After all, we don’t have a desert tabernacle, and in our churches we have no priests.
There is an important reason why we use the word “pastor” today instead of “priest”. Many different religions have priests, and ancient Judaism also had them. Priests had a very special task, namely to stand between the people and their god and act as a mediator. If the people wanted a relationship with their god, they had to go through the priest. And if the god wanted a relationship with the people, that god also needed to go through the priest. So on the one hand, the priest’s job was to be a mediator between the people and their god. But on the other hand, the priest’s job was also to be a gate-keeper, keeping the people away from their god. That’s why today’s chapter describes the tabernacle as a forbidden area, a separated space where normal people must not enter.
But in our churches we don’t have priests. That’s because Jesus Christ is our mediator. Because of Jesus we have a direct relationship with God, with no one standing between us. Because of Jesus, there is no one who can block our way to God. The job of the Jewish priests was often to stop women or gentiles or the sick or the so-called unclean from coming close to God. But today, because of Jesus, if you want to come close to God, there is no one left who stands in your way! Because of Jesus, God will no longer allow there to be any barrier between us.
What wonderful good news! And what a wonderful reminder to us this week to come forward to God – and push aside any who would try to block our way.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis