Notes from A Woman’s Heart – Week 5

Summary notes from Week 5 of A Woman’s Heart ~ God’s Dwelling Place

If last week was my favorite week of Bible study yet, this week might have been the most challenging. We have now entered the Holy Place, the area beyond the first curtain of the tabernacle that contains both the Golden Lampstand and the table of the Bread of Presence. I am overwhelmed by the rich, deep meaning and intricate symbolism of the Golden Lampstand. I really don’t know if I could ever reach the bottom of its meaning! I am grateful for the promise: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)

The lampstand is another object in the tabernacle fashioned according to God’s explicit instructions. It was hammered out of 75 pounds of pure gold. There were 7 branches, each with multiple almond buds, blossoms, and fruit. Every stage of the growth of the almond branch was represented on the lampstand: springtime, summer, and harvest. As with all other aspects of the tabernacle, the lampstand was a shadow of a heavenly reality. Many scholars believe that the lampstand represented the tree of life that existed in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9) and exists eternally in the heavenly kingdom (Revelation 22:2).

What is the significance of the almond branch? God gives us a glimpse of the meaning in His call of the prophet Jeremiah, when God shows Jeremiah a vision of an almond branch. God asks Jeremiah, “What do you see?” Jeremiah replies, “I see an almond (in Hebrew: “shaqed”) branch.” God answers him, “You have seen well, for I am watching (in Hebrew: “shaqad”) over my word to perform it.” (Jeremiah 1:11-12) God is playing on words in Hebrew and uses the almond branch to illustrate to Jeremiah that He is watching to see that His word is fulfilled (NIV translation). How does God see His word fulfilled in us? When we remain in the true vine of Christ and bear fruit. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:5,8)

God instructed that each of the 7 lamps on the lampstand were to burn continually with pure, pressed olive oil brought by the Israelites themselves (Leviticus 24:2). What is the symbolism behind the use of olive oil? Before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus went to a place at the foot of the Mount of Olives called Gethesemane (in Hebrew: “oil press”). Jesus described his overwhelming distress to His disciples, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” (Mark 14:34) There in the garden, He fell to the ground under the full weight of His humanity, praying to God, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…” (Matthew 26:39) Our Lord entered His darkest period, pressed from all sides, as the pure oil of sacrifice.

May we rejoice as we consider the Golden Lampstand, burning continually to cast its glow and light our way behind the heavy veil to the entrance of the Holy of Holies.

Viewer Guide answers (pages 112 & 113 of your study book):

  1. echo, Eden, Garden of Eden; cherubim, bar, God’s presence
  2. branches, buds, blossoms; time, springtime, summer; harvest; all at once, time
  3. almond flowers, watch, watchful, vigilant; earliest
  4. combined imagery
  5. tend, continually

Notes from A Woman’s Heart – Week 4

Summary notes from Week 4 of A Woman’s Heart ~ God’s Dwelling Place

This is my favorite week yet of this Bible study! I am amazed and humbled at the realization that not only is every aspect of the Altar of Sacrifice in the tabernacle significant, but every element represented Jesus Christ. To realize that this knowledge is right there on the pages of Exodus fills me with joy that God is endlessly revealing His mysteries to us in His word.

We now find the Israelites beginning to construct the tabernacle but they are still moving through the wilderness at God’s prompting, following His pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. The tabernacle was a mobile structure. The walls of the tabernacle were pure white linen, the linens of the gate were embroidered with the colors blue, purple, and scarlet. There was only one gate through which to enter the tabernacle and it faced the east, reflecting the gate to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24).

God specifically located the tribes of Israel at different locations around the tabernacle. The group to the west of the tabernacle was the smallest (~108,000), the groups to the north and south of the tabernacle were slightly larger and approximately the same size (~150,000), and the group to the east of the tabernacle was the largest (186,400). The people remained in these locations and, when the camp picked up and moved, the tribe of Judah, located at the east in front of the gate, moved first. Can you picture this? The tribes formed a cross moving through the wilderness!

What was the Altar of Sacrifice? Positioned between the gate and the door of the tabernacle, it was the first structure one would have encountered upon entering. The altar was made of acacia wood, known for its ability to resist decay. This type of wood was also known for bearing large, sharp thorns. Like the acacia wood of the Altar of Sacrifice, the body of Christ never saw decay (Acts 2:27) and He bore a crown of thorns as He was made the sacrifice for our sins (Matthew 27:29).

God instructed that the altar should be hollow but the inside should be filled with earth (Exodus 27:8; 20:24). Recall that the word “Adam” in Hebrew means “groundling” or “of the ground.” The symbolism here shows us that, before Christ accomplished His work on the cross, the blood that poured from the sacrifices on the altar soaked into the ground to atone for man’s sin. We know that there could never have been enough blood to accomplish this task — until Christ shed His blood for all mankind.

A horn was placed at each corner of the altar, to both tie down the sacrifices and serve as a place where those seeking the protection of God could flee (I Kings 1:50-53). Jesus, the “horn” of our salvation (Luke 1:69) would provide us with eternal refuge in His salvation.

Do not forget that every aspect of the tabernacle, including the Altar of Sacrifice, was a copy of a heavenly reality. God chose to give the prophet Isaiah a glimpse of this reality in a vision in Isaiah 6. In this vision, Isaiah sees the Lord on His throne with His robe filling the temple. Around Him fly seraphim (“burning” or “fiery” ones in Hebrew), beings who continually praise and worship God Almighty. When Isaiah begins to despair at being “a man of unclean lips,” a seraph flies to him and touches him on the lips with a burning coal taken from the altar saying, “…your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:7)

We can be sure that this burning coal was taken from the Altar of Sacrifice. Why? Because there was no atoning power in the coal, or even the altar from which it was taken. The only thing that could atone for sin was the blood that was on the coal — the blood of Christ, shed on the altar of the cross. How awesome to see Christ revealed on the pages of Isaiah!

Viewer Guide answers (pages 90 & 91 of your study book):

  1. awe
  2. relief; cover, reconciliation, sacrifice
  3. refuge
  4. joy

Notes from A Woman’s Heart – Week 3

Summary notes from Week 3 of A Woman’s Heart ~ God’s Dwelling Place

After giving Israel both their freedom from Egypt and their sustenance in the wilderness, God invites the Israelites to participate in the construction of the tabernacle by the giving of a freewill offering. While the amount they could offer was unrestricted and should come “from every man whose heart moves him” (Exodus 25:2b), the items they could offer were very specific (Exodus 25:3-7). The response of the Israelites to the freewill offering was so overwhelming that the giving was halted because there was “much more than enough” (Exodus 26:3-7). Compare these passages in Exodus with Paul’s instructions for freewill offerings in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11. Think about the fact that God’s desire for our freewill offerings as a response to His goodness and provision in our lives has not changed.

We will see in the weeks to come that each of the items God instructed the Israelites to give was very symbolic and there are many reasons why each material was significant. Gold signified rarity and purity and represented God’s deity. Silver represented redemption and atonement. Bronze represented strength and judgment. The precious stones represented God’s children. The blue linens would remind Israel that the tabernacle was from the heavens. The purple linens represented royalty, kingship, and elegance. The scarlet linens represented bloodshed, pain, and sacrifice. And finally, God chose to fill Bezalel, a man from the tribe of Judah, with the Holy Spirit to enable him with the intelligence, ability, knowledge, and craftsmanship necessary to construct the divine sanctuary (Exodus 31:1-11)

But again, Israel was impatient. When Moses did not return from the mountain fast enough they demanded that Aaron create gods for them. Aaron did what they asked yet did not take responsibility for his actions (Exodus 32:24). Israel would soon realize that their grievous sin put their entire relationship with God at risk. God tells Moses that He would no longer be with Israel, as His very presence among them would destroy them in their sinful state (Exodus 33:3-5). At the same time, their sin would allow Moses to have “the most elevated glimpse of God [he] has ever had and will have” (NIV Application Commentary pg. 583).

What was the elevated glimpse of God that Moses was allowed to have?

  • God’s affectability: God gave His creation the ability to affect Him – He permits this to happen (Psalm 30:5a). He is omniscient, yet still participates in the human experience. He felt the effect of Israel’s sin (Exodus 33:1-6).
  • God’s friendship: Moses enjoyed the intimacy of friendship with God. God spoke with Moses face to face (or “presence to presence”) as a man speaks to his friend (Exodus 33:11). Compare this notion of friendship with Jesus’ words in John 15:13-15.
  • God’s presence: God’s presence was to accompany Israel and give them rest (Exodus 33:14) as well as distinguish them from all other peoples (Exodus 33:16). God’s presence meant both comfort and identity. Compare the importance of God’s presence to Israel and the promise of Christ’s presence in John 14:21.
  • God’s glory: God allowed Moses to affect His decision and chose to remain with Israel because His goodness and glory are inseparable and He is a God of compassion (Exodus 33:18-19).

Viewer Guide answers (pages 70 & 71 of your study book):

  1. affectability
  2. friendship
  3. Presence, anxiety; with; significance
  4. glory

Notes from A Woman’s Heart – Week 2

Summary notes from Week 2 of A Woman’s Heart ~ God’s Dwelling Place

The Israelites find themselves in the wilderness, a solitary and vast desert landscape, filled with their own bitterness that they had been removed from the relative richness and luxury of Egypt. How quickly they had forgotten their lives as slaves, and how they “groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.” (Exodus 2:23). How did God respond to the cry of His people? He was true to His name (“I AM WHO I AM “) and moved Israel into the wilderness with a promise of fellowship with Him. “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.” (Exodus 2:24-25)

God allowed Israel to taste their own bitterness when they were desperate with thirst. After 3 days without water, they finally came upon the water of Marah only to find that it was completely undrinkable. God illustrates Himself as the Healer of bitterness by showing Moses a log that would sweeten the water when thrown in, and leading Israel to the relief of the palms and springs of Elim. However, this healing came with a command for Israel to “diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statues…” (Exodus 15:26)

Israel’s grumbling continued in the wilderness of Sin, as they hungered for the full pots and full bellies of their past life in Egypt. God responded by providing manna (“man-hu” in Hebrew, meaning “what is it”) each day as the morning dew faded. Explicit instructions accompanied this bread from heaven: that they should only gather as much as they could eat for the day and not store it up, for the provision would perfectly meet their need. Not only that, but the provision on the 6th day (“lehem mishnah” in Hebrew, meaning “double the bread”) would be enough to allow for rest and observance of the holy Sabbath, which God had first introduced in Genesis 2 but had not instituted as part of law (“Torah” in Hebrew, meaning “law” or “instruction”) until Exodus 16:23.

God’s miracle of daily manna illustrates His desire for a daily relationship with His people. His provision was inviting them into His presence, and was not about creating dependency on Him but rather about creating depth of relationship. The freshness of the daily manna and their inability to store it up without consequences illustrated that God expected Israel to seek Him daily to meet their needs.

We serve a God who pursues us with passion each and every day. He is more than able to meet our need, and is vastly more than able to meet our want. He seeks relationship with us yet remains a mystery. “Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11b). So how do we respond? We respond based on who He tells us He is – knowing that we must seek in order to find (Matthew 7:7), that He grants to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him (2 Peter 1:3), and that we must get out of our tents and gather up what He so graciously and mercifully provides (Exodus 16:16).

Viewer Guide answers (pages 48 & 49 of your study book):

  1. expecting, unexpected
  2. daily relationship
  3. daily, pride, fear