And YHWH called to Moses and spoke to him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Leviticus 1:1
Spoke – Why did God wait until His presence rested over the tabernacle before He spoke to Moses about the sacrifices? Some contemporary translations of this verse omit the word “tabernacle,” but we shouldn’t! The tabernacle represented the presence of God among His people. It was not a dwelling place. God didn’t reside in the tabernacle. It was a visible symbol of God’s glory in the midst of the camp; a reminder that God elected this community. From this holy manifestation, God instructs Moses. The fact that God communicated out of the tabernacle raised the communication to its most sacred level. What God says next is critically important. It has the same authority as the voice from Mount Sinai. What God says involves all the details of how we are to stand before Him.
The Hebrew word dabar means both “to speak or to say” and “what is spoken, a word or speech.” The same consonants (D B R) are used in both forms. What God speaks is His word. Once we have that securely in mind, then we need to ask the next question: How are we to treat God’s word? The answer is obvious. God’s word is the very substance of life. Not only must we have it in order to live (“Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”), but it is also God’s word that calls everything, including us, into existence. God’s word is the instruction that will not disappear even if heaven and earth disappear. God’s word is the permanent declaration of His will, His character and His authority. When God speaks, the angelic hosts revel in His majesty. So, when God summoned Moses and spoke to him, you can bet that Moses listened very attentively. Makes you wonder about us, doesn’t it? Do we treat this portion of God’s word with the reverence it deserves? Do we recognize it with the same power and majesty as the speaking of the Ten Commandments? Are we as careful to obey it? Probably not, but it makes you wonder, doesn’t it? When did we decide that some things God’s says are more important than others, that some are more spiritual than others?
There is one other element to this voice from the tabernacle. When God does tell Moses about the system of sacrifices, we discover that the offerings cover a very wide range of human situations and attitudes. Yes, that’s right – attitudes. God’s instructions acknowledge no difference between civil and spiritual “laws”, no difference between what is moral and what is legal, and no difference between my heart and my hands. Of course, there are different civil punishments, and different elements of sacrifice, for those who exhibit inner attitudes in ungodly outer behavior, but the torah is the only ancient code that actually legislates what I think as well as what I do. When it comes to the Word of the Lord, all life falls under His purview. Sometimes we forget that God has an interest in everything about us. Maybe that’s why Leviticus is so detailed. Maybe that’s why we usually think it boring. Maybe we’re the ones who want anything but the routine, but it is in the routine that God is so wonderfully present.
Next time you wish you were climbing mountains, look around at the valley where you’re standing. God is sitting in those shadows, ready to greet you.
Topical Index: Sacrifice