Today’s Bible readings are from Exodus 37, John 16, Proverbs 13 and Ephesians 6.
Exodus 37 speaks of the fabrication of the ark with its mercy seat (37:1-9), the table and its utensils (37:10-16), the lampstand and its utensils (37:17-24) and the altar of incense, anointing oil and the incense (37:25-29).
The ark was a chest made of wood and overlaid with pure gold. It pointed to the humanity and deity of our Lord. It contained the tablets of the law, the golden jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. If applied to Christ, these things speak of Him as the One who said, “Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8); as the bread of God come down from heaven (John 6:33); and as the Priest of God’s choosing, risen from the dead (Hebrews 7:24-26). If applied to the people of Israel, they were all memorials of failure and rebellion. (William MacDonald)
The mercy seat was the lid of the ark. It was also God’s throne, the place of His dwelling on earth. When the cherubim looked down upon it, they did not see the Law or the jar of manna or the rod, all of which were reminders of Israel’s rebellions. Rather, they saw the sprinkled blood, which enabled God to be merciful to rebellious sinners. (William MacDonald)
The bronze altar was the place of sacrifice. Bronze speaks of sin and the perpetual fire (Lev. 1:5-7) on the altar symbolizes God’s judgment against sin. Jesus died on an altar; it was called the cross. He died for our sins on that cross. He suffered pain for our sins.
The laver symbolizes our cleansing from sin – our holiness. Once we are forgiven of our sins, God starts changing us to make us truly holy as He is holy (Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Pet. 1:16). Water is symbolic of two concepts in scripture: 1) the Holy Spirit Who comes into our life, convicts us of sin (John 16:8) and starts living in us to change us (John 7:37-39); and 2) the Word of God which reveals to us our sin (John 15:3) and is useful for reproof, conviction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). While the mirror at the bottom reminds us that we will still see our true sinful self (Rom. 7:24), it is also comforting because the symbolism reminds us that God knows we are not yet perfect in this life. We have not lost our salvation; we are just not yet free from sin in this life.
The gold lampstand speaks of the One who revealed the Father to us – Jesus the light giver (Matt. 11:27). He is the light of men. The light was to burn perpetually. Today, Jesus is not here in body but His Word is. By reading and studying it we receive spiritual light.
The bread that was placed on the table represents God’s presence in our lives.
The altar of incense speaks of Christ being a perpetual sweet aroma of God. It also suggests the present ministry of the Lord Jesus, interceding for us in heaven. (William MacDonald)
In John 16 Jesus is preparing His disciples for when He will no longer be with them. It will be a time of persecution (16:1-4), but the Holy Spirit would be with them (16:5-15).
When Tyndale was persecuted and his enemies were out for his life because he sought to give the Bible to people in the English language, he said calmly, “I never expected anything else.” Jesus offered men his glory, but he offered them a cross as well. (William Barclary)
Jesus actually tells them that it will be to their “advantage” (v. 7) that the Holy Spirit would be with them rather than Jesus Himself. As J. D. Greear puts it, “the Spirit inside you is better than the Jesus beside you.”
Four ministries of the Holy Spirit are mentioned here in John 16:
- The convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11). This ministry is directed towards unbelievers. “Sin is the truth about man, righteousness is the truth about God, judgment is the inevitable combination of these two truths.” (David Guzik)
- The guiding work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-13). This primarily has to do with the Spirit’s work in the inspiration of NT Scriptures.
- The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus Christ (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit doesn’t magnify Himself, but Jesus.
As Arturo Azurdia has rightly said, “Jesus will be the sum and substance of the Spirit’s revelatory ministry. The predominant work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal and glorify Jesus Christ …”
4. The disclosing work of the Holy Spirit (16:13, 14, 15) also has to do with the inspiration of NT Scripture. This passage is what makes it foolish to say something like, “I’ll take what Jesus taught, but not what Paul and the others taught.”
Jesus also tells His disciples that they would see Him again, that He would “come back” from death (16:16-24). Then, their joy would be full.
Finally, Jesus speaks of His ascension and return to the Father (16:25-33), again telling them that they would be facing persecution, but with the promise that Jesus has already won the victory (v. 33).
Proverbs 13 is another collection of maxims, again displaying the good fruits of living by wisdom. This chapter begins with a familiar refrain:
1 A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
18 Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
Things are not always as they seem. One may make themselves rich, or one may have money but live in fear because of the threats one faces (v. 8).
Let me hold lightly things of this earth:
Transient treasures, what are they worth?
Moths can corrupt them, rust can decay;
All their bright beauty fades in a day.
Let me hold lightly temporal things —
I, who am deathless, I, who wear wings.
Let me hold fast, Lord, things of the skies;
Quicken my vision, open my eyes!
Show me Thy riches, glory and grace,
Boundless as time is, endless as space.
Let me hold lightly things that are mine —
Lord, Thou hast given me all that is Thine!
–Martha S. Nicholson
Remember that Jesus chose to become poor to enrich us spiritually (2 Cor. 8:9).
Ephesians 6 continues Paul’s teaching on Spirit-filled relationships, addressing the parent-child relationship (6:1-4) and the master-slave relationship (6:6-9).
The last section of Ephesians is the “stand” section on spiritual warfare. Paul tells us that our battle is “not against flesh and blood” but spiritual forces (v. 12). We are not equipped for this battle in our own strength or wit, so we must put on God’s armor (most of these items were worn by the warrior God in the Old Testament Scriptures).
The problem with most Christians is that we live like we are on a playground when in fact we are engaged on a battlefield.
David Jeremiah’s book Overcomer is a good explanation of what the pieces of spiritual armor are and how to use them.
Prayer is also a weapon of our warfare. John Piper says “prayer is a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom. It exists for advancing the mission, not for calling the butler to turn up the thermostat….All requests serve the mission, or the thing malfunctions in our hand” (Put in the Fire for the Sake of Prayer)