Three items lay within the Holy Place: the Laver, the Table and the Lampstand. This week we pause to consider the Laver or Sea. This was a vast dish that was full of water. Its purpose was for cleansing and purification. Whenever we approach God we need to do so “with clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4)
This idea is taken up by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount when he tells his disciples that it is “the pure in heart” who will see God (Matthew 5:8). The outward washing can only at best be a sign of the more important inward cleansing. In the end all outward rituals are only outward, but God looks on the heart. However, doing things outwardly can help us achieve things inwardly. Ablutions are one of those activities.
This theme is taken up in the letter to the Hebrews: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).
Once again Peter reminds us that water by itself cannot cleanse us inwardly: “Baptism, which corresponds to this (Noah and the Ark), now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience …” (1 Peter 3:21).
Jesus enacted the ritual of ablution with water during the Last Supper when he took a towel and washed the feet of his disciples (John 13:12-17). They did not need a complete bath (for baptism achieved that!), but they needed daily cleansing from the sins and toil of the day.
The Laver in the Tabernacle was the only source of water for the cleansing process. It enabled people to be purified and so able to enter in the holy presence of their God. We too want to be able to draw close and be safe in his presence.
Father, I am not worthy to enter into your presence, but say the word only and I shall be cleansed. Wash me thoroughly with your word. Amen.
Taunton Team Chaplaincy serves the community and businesses of Taunton as Town Centre and Workplace Chaplains from an office in the Market House. If you are computer literate and have organisational skills why not join us as our volunteer administrator whose role will include event administration, maintenance of a data base of Friends of TTC and volunteer records plus general office duties.
Please visit the web site www.tauntonteamchaplaincy.org for information about our work and take the next step by emailing us from there or contact Rev Steven Reed.
“We do hope you like the new message boards which were commissioned on Wednesday 25th February. The design took a lot of work and we were keen to include the sign of fish, which was an early symbol of Christianity, and this was achieved with the white line. What we didn’t plan for was another fish appearing in the background – can you see this? It is as if God has given us His stamp of approval. Thanks to the notice board team for all their hard work – it was worth it!”
Let us be forewarned and forearmed. Satan (or the Devil) goes around wanting to devour us, but we are to recognise his tactics and to resist him strong in the Lord. If we know God’s will and we long to please him then we will be able to stand our ground and not be shaken.
“put into the ark the testimony which I shall give” (v.16) RSV
The Ark resided in the Holy of Holies and it specifically represented the presence of God. The word ‘ark’ literally means a box or boat. Of course there is the well known ark of Noah, but the ark of God was a carefully constructed box which measured 2½ cubits (112cm) by 1½ (77cm) by 1½ cubits (77cm). It was covered with gold inside and out, and it was carried by two poles that fitted through rings which were attached to each of its four corners.
This box contained “the testimony” (v.16) of God. That is, it contained the two tablets of stone that Moses had brought down from Mount Sinai upon which were written the Ten Commandments. Thus the law of God resided in the ark, representing his just and holy presence.
However the ark did not only consist of the box, for God instructed that above it should sit the “mercy seat” (v.17). This construction represented the love of God which overcame his justice. The two cherubim sat opposite each other with their wings touching so that they created a holy space between themselves. This space (note, no idol or representation of God) was filled with the love of God.
As God said, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat … I will speak with you …” (V.22). Here is revealed the whole purpose of religion, to meet with the living God. The ark was normally kept in the most holy place, but it had a chequered history, once being captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:1-7:2). Later King David tried to bring it to Jerusalem (before the Temple was built). His first attempt was disastrous because he did not carry it as God had instructed. Consequently Uzzah died (2 Samuel 6:6-7). On the second attempt it was carried with due reverence and all was well.
God is holy and is to be obeyed, but he is also merciful and longs to forgive and to restore. So when we come to him we trust not in our merit but in his steadfast love and mercy.