Ark and Altar (Exodus 27)

Some parts of the Bible are like nuts, and often, we’re too lazy to crack them. We easily bore with a passage like this. It is as though we shove the shell of in our mouth expecting candy and then quickly spit it out. Our palates are juvenile and our minds lazy. Comparatively, even among similar passages of Scripture, we find this one lackluster. After the description of the tabernacle, we find that of the courtyard plain, dull, and drab. What we bore with, the Israelites sang of.

“When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple (Psalm 65:3–4)!”

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah …For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness(Psalm 84:1–4, 10).”

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100).”

Come to texts like this prayerfully. Come to texts like this willing to work prayerfully. Come to texts like this asking God to make you sing.

Cracking this nut isn’t a matter of finding some hidden meaning in the fine details, but rejoicing in the clear revelation found in the big emphases. The altar is the biggest piece of furniture in the court, don’t miss it. It’s the biggest piece of furniture associated with the tabernacle, and for good reason, it was the most utilized.

As the ark is central to the tent, the altar is central to the court. Sometimes a person might have a piece of furniture or an appliance so large they joke that they build their house around them. Sometime it’s no joke. The tent and the court are designed around the ark and the altar respectively. Ark and altar are not just the prominent pieces of the tabernacle, they are the prominent pieces of the universe.

The only way to the ark is through the altar. The only way into God’s blessed covenant presence is through the altar of Christ cursed for our sins. The only way to the throne of grace is by the judgment of the cross. That’ll make you sing.

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