Exodus Day Thirty-Eight
August 21, 2020, 4:00 AM

Word, Sacrament and Preacher
Exodus 16:32-35

Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded:
'Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations,
so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness,
when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’
And Moses said to Aaron,
“Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it,
and place it before the LORD to be kept throughout your generations.”
As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept.
The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land.
They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.

Joshua 5:12 brings this thought to fulfillment: “And the manna ceased the day after they [Israel] ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.” God shepherded a fledgling band of part-time ingrates – scrupulously for forty years. Nothing ever did that people lack. A forgiving God giving graciously in a desolation of unforgiving circumstances. The gravy over the meal: At just the right time, at just the right place, God smoothly transitioned the nation into its new “home”— the manna ceases the day they draw their sustenance from the good Land. As old-time religion says aptly, “God is never early, never late; but always right on time.” And, so he was.

The miraculous provision of manna was something to remember. Even as manna had a shelf life of but one day, and at most, a 48 hour window on the weekend before it stank and wormed— God directed that an omer of the “What is it?” be placed in the soon-to-be ark of the Covenant. According to the all-things Jewish webpage, Mi Yodeya (literally “Who Knows?” – loosely “What does this mean?”) an omer measures to about one cup. “The exact amount needed to produce bread for one day for one healthy adult.” It was to be a memorial to the experience. This is tangible testimony to Jehovah jireh – the God who provides.

I’m thinking off-script from here on out, so get ready to roll the trousers up so we can wade a little deeper in the theological waters. There were two other memorial artifacts placed within the ark of the Covenant. The preacher in Hebrews 9:3-5 lists them: “Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” (cf. Exodus 25:21 and Numbers 17:10). Three memorable items to be remembered in the holy box: some manna, Aaron’s dead staff that blossomed life and the Ten Words in stone, “written with the finger of God.” (Ex. 31:18). Point of clarification – The ark was the footstool of God within the Holy of Holies in both the Tabernacle and Jerusalem Temple. The ark had the mercy seat on top where the blood of the Day of Atonement was deposited, and this sacred furniture guarded by the wings of two face-to-face cherubim.

Whenever I read that passage in Hebrews 9, I always find myself getting to that line— “Of these things we cannot now speak in detail” —and thinking, please do tell. I want to hear more! We may never know the more of Holy of Holies detail, but we do know these three memorials to be before the people in perpetuity symbolize three key building blocks in the Faith: The divinely digitized tablets of Ten Commandments represent the Word; the manna displays the heavenly provision of the Meal, the sustenance to get God’s people through to the Promised Land; and the budded, dead staff demonstrates the authority of God’s Priestly servants, Moses and Aaron— remembering that the blooming rod quieted the critics, whose staffs remained dead, in the aftermath of Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16-17. Aaron’s dead wood blooming with life displayed the fruit of priestly service: God’s Words mediated through priestly servants brings resurrection!

Okay, here’s my dog I’m walking here for you: We have those same three building blocks of the Faith in and for the Church today— Word, Sacrament and Preachers. Back in the old days, the Presbyterian Church (USA) designated its pastors with the long-winded title, “Ministers of the Word and Sacrament.” In hindsight, I think that was theologically astute. Certainly resonates richer in my ear than “Teaching Elder.” Ministers, as in the days of the Aaronic priesthood, are essential in explicating, embodying (ever imperfectly, but earnestly) and officiating the ways of God to the people of God. (We see dead people; and we want them to be resurrection people!) The sacrament of Communion matches up well with the distribution of the bread of heaven. When you see the Communion Table on Communion Sunday, you ought to mentally picture the golden jar of manna. And of course, the centrality of God’s Word and the Ten Commandments is the foundation of all foundations for believing believers.

We know that on the day the Lord Jesus was crucified and breathed his last, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:38). The Holy of Holies was revealed. The separating veil between man and God, gone. Through the doors of our sacred worship spaces opened by our Lord’s death and resurrection, we offer Word, Sacrament and Ministry to any earnest soul who would seek us out. What a great theological thought to enter the weekend on! See you at the ark on the Lord’s Day.

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