“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, early in the morning, our song shall rise to Thee; Holy, Holy, Holy, merciful and mighty, God overall and blest eternally.” How true it is – God is holy, and as we have seen previously, He expects His people to be holy. This seems to be something of a lost virtue over the past few decades…but, it is no less important in relationship to living a Godly life than it has ever been. In fact, it is my contention that this is a significantly important reason as to why our society is in the shape that it is today…and it is not going to get healthy any time soon. And yet, this also changes nothing as it relates to our responsibility to be God’s people, who value and live in relationship to purity and morality. I truly believe we see the words of Jesus in Matthew chapters 7 and chapters 24-25 coming to bear more so all of the time. That which is going to separate those who are on the wide and narrow roads, or separate the sheep and the goats…and we are talking about religious people…is the difference between whether said people live holy, servant lives and remain as unstained by the world as possible.
In Leviticus 24, it is revealed that there were two sections in the tabernacle…the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. In the Holy Place was located three pieces of furniture – the golden altar of incense, table of showbread, and the golden lampstand. Since there were no windows in the tabernacle, it was necessary to have light in the holy place so that the priests were able to see as they were ministering in there. The lampstand provided the light. Each morning and evening when the high priest burned incense on the golden altar, he was to care for the lights on the lampstand to be certain that they would continue to burn. The lampstand…with the oil…symbolized the Word of God, the light that God provided for His people in this dark world. God’s people couldn't see effectively without it then and they cannot today either. The lampstand also provided light so that the priest could burn incense on the golden altar…this symbolized the prayers of God’s people going up to Him (Psalms 141:2). In a like manner, apart from the Scriptures, we cannot pray effectively. The lampstand also symbolized the nation of Israel, called to be God’s shining light to a dark world. Unfortunately, the priesthood became wicked and failed to maintain the nation’s light before the Lord. Still, the people needed to bring oil so the lights could be kept burning in the holy place.
Loaves of bread were put on the golden table every Sabbath…and then the old bread was given to the priests to eat. What do they symbolize? The table was called, “the table of showbread,” and the loaves were called “the showbread”, which can be translated, “the bread of presence.” God was present with his people and they were able to be in His presence in the tabernacle. It assured God’s people that He was concerned about the “practical matters” in their lives. No matter where the Jews were in the camp, they needed to remind themselves that their people were represented (12 loaves for 12 tribes) in the holy place on the golden table (Colossians 3:1). Also, the loaves reminded the priest that his ministry was for real people. Being somewhat isolated in the tabernacle day after day, the priests could easily get out of touch with the people that they represented before God.
The final matter in this chapter is of a more serious concern. The Jews knew the third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” So fearful were they of breaking it, that they substituted the name “Adonai” for “Jehovah,” when they would read the Scriptures. Here is the account of a man who has blasphemed, who used the name of God in vain. There was a consequence…there was a punishment to pay…and it was death. Obedience to the Law was a very serious matter. To respect a name was to respect the person who would bear that name, and the opposite was also true…and their highest respect was to belong to the Lord. Moses sought the will of the Lord in the matter. He was humble enough to admit that he did not know everything, and he asked the Lord concerning what to do in this situation. The Lord’s decision was handed down to the transgressor…as the lex talionis, “law of retaliation” was in effect (Exodus 21:22-25). It showed respect for the law, life and humans made after the image of God. For the guilty one, the punishment was carried out. The law, at this time, was an expression of God’s justice and compassion, because it helped to restrain personal revenge in a society where there was no police force or large judicial system. It is challenging for us to understand, nonetheless.
It is important to understand a principle that does not really get much respect today, unfortunately, so it is difficult for us to understand it. God’s “proper” name, Yahweh, was and is a sacred and holy name. His name is to be respected by His people Israel…and it was so. The power of God’s name was evident, just as Jesus’ is during the time of the first century (and beyond). Those who would call on the name of the Lord had life, just as those who misused the name would be punished with death. In this regard, nothing that God has said that is holy has changed – it is still holy. The consequences of blaspheming by using the name of God may have changed, but not the respect all should have for God’s Holy Name…although, those who blaspheme the name and will of the Lord by living ungodly lives will face the consequences of their attitudes and actions. We must give God’s name the respect that He deserves as our Creator and Sustainer. It is quite evident that our world abuses God’s name and ignores His power to its own destruction. And I will say this – this also has never changed. We must call on His name to empower us, as seen in the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed (holy, but beyond this really -- ultimate respect) be your name.” We must regularly remind ourselves that we need to rely, not upon ourselves, but upon the Lord God in His holiness, understanding. When we do…He makes us holy, mature.