“Moses Calls Aaron to the Ministry,” (detail) by Harry Anderson
On Mount Sinai, God gave Moses detailed instructions about how to build an elaborate portable house of worship for the Israelites to use during their journey to the promised land. The Hebrew word shakan (שָׁכַן) means to settle or to dwell, so the related word mishkan (מִשְׁכָּן), which is translated “tabernacle” means more literally “the dwelling place.” It was intended to be literally God’s house on earth, the place where God would dwell.
God’s instructions appear in Exodus 25-27. The actual building of the tabernacle according to those instructions appears in Exodus 35-38. Here are some of the objects in the tabernacle, with relevant blog posts for some of them:
- The altar
- The table of shewbread
- The candlestick: Patterns
- The altar of incense
- The ark of the covenant and the mercy seat: With Healing in His Wings – 3 Nephi 25:1-3
- Numerous small instruments: What Are the “Vessels of the Lord?”
After the tabernacle was completed, God accepted it as His house. “The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle,” and after that time, there was a cloud over the tabernacle by day and a fire by night. Isaiah later prophesied that our homes would one day become holy places like the ancient tabernacle.
God also provided instructions for how Aaron and his sons were to be consecrated as priests (Exodus 28-29). The fulfillment of those instructions is recorded in Exodus 39-40. Water, oil, and sacred clothing were all part of the process. (See Exodus 29:4-9, Exodus 40:12-15; see also Leviticus 8:1-10.) Aaron’s clothing also included an important object called the Urim and Thummim. (See Exodus 28:30.)
Here are some blog posts which reference these events:
- What Is a High Priest?
- What Is the Urim and Thummim?
- What Offering Will the Sons of Levi Make in Righteousness?
In the book of Leviticus, the Lord specifies the activities which should take place within the tabernacle, which Nephi and his descendants would later call the “performances and ordinances” of the law of Moses (See 2 Nephi 25:30, Mosiah 13:30, 4 Nephi 1:12.) These actions, which included burnt offerings (Leviticus 1), meat offerings (Leviticus 2), peace offerings (Leviticus 3), sin offerings (Leviticus 4), trespass offerings (Leviticus 5, Leviticus 6), and the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), were symbolic in nature and were intended to teach principles as the Israelites completed them precisely according to the instructions.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from these ancient ordinances, with relevant blog posts:
- We need God’s help to resolve the root causes of our problems, not just the visible symptoms (Leviticus 11:32-34): What Does It Mean to Cleanse the Inward Vessel?
- We must remember that the blood of Jesus Christ can save us (Leviticus 17:11): What Does It Mean to “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ?”
- There is power in doing things the Lord’s way (Leviticus 18:3-4): “Mine Ordinances”.
- A gathering of believers can be a sacred experience if we are prepared (Leviticus 23:36): A Solemn Assembly.
Besides the rules of conduct God provided in Exodus 20-23, the book of Leviticus adds a number of other laws, including:
- “Be holy” (Leviticus 19:2): Why Is Jesus Called “the Holy One of Israel?”, Why Did Jesus Tell Us to Be Perfect?
- “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge” (Leviticus 19:18): Vengeance Is Mine – Mormon 3:14-15.
- “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18): The Two Great Commandments, This Is the Law and the Prophets – 3 Nephi 14:12.
- Treat strangers as though they were family (Leviticus 19:33-34): What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About Refugees?
Scattering and Gathering
Leviticus 26 is not part of the reading this week, but it is one of my favorite chapters in the scriptures. God describes what the Israelites will experience if they disobey His laws. These consequences will occur in progressive stages until they lose everything and are scattered (Leviticus 26:33). But even then, God reassures them that He has not abandoned them: “I will not cast them away,” He says. “But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors…that I might be their God” (Leviticus 26:44-45). It is a beautiful reminder of God’s enduring love for His children.
Here is a blog post which references that chapter:
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