Thursday, April 30, 2015

Covered by Blood

There's a peculiar set of instructions in Exodus, given to Moses by the Lord, regarding the design of the Tabernacle. These instructions concern the tent itself.

The tent is to be made out of fine linen and woven threads, of which the standard colors in the Old Testament are red and purple. It's funny to consider that, since most of the churches I've been in in my life have had either red or purple interiors or fixtures. Pews, chairs, carpets, all in "church red" or "church purple." But I digress. 

This fabric curtain is to be covered, assumedly on the outside, by goat skins dyed red. This is mentioned a couple of times, actually. It's mentioned first in the list that Moses is given of offerings to accept from the people - the people must bring ram skins dyed red. And it is listed here to show where it is being used - the offered ram skins dyed red are used as an outer covering on the tent itself. Which might conjure up images of the camp of Israel moving about the Sinai wilderness - brown sands, brown tents, brown Tabernacle.

...except that over these skins is to be yet another covering, one made of fine leather. Which is probably brown. So brown sands, brown tents, brown tunics, and brown Tabernacle. And here we have the finished tent - brightly colored fabric, covered by ram skins dyed red, covered by fine leather, and hung on poles. 

It really raises an interesting question, doesn't it? If the ram skins are covered on one side by fine linen and on the other by fine leather, what on earth does it matter what color they are dyed or if they are dyed at all? You could put any kind of ram skin in there and nobody would be any wiser. The Tabernacle will still look brown from the outside. It will still be exquisite on the inside. Why is God so specific that the unseen goat skins must be dyed red?

The only possible reason I can come up with is based entirely on conjecture and what I know about God, and that is this: it must be representative of the blood. 

That's all I've got. The ram skins dyed red, even though they are unseen, must be in some form the blood that covers the holy place. God's always been about blood. If you keep reading in Exodus, you'll see Him ordering that His nice, new Tabernacle be splashed in the stuff. You read about Him defining what must be poured out and where, how to put the blood on the horns of the altar, how to anoint His priests in blood. In the New Testament, the blood of Jesus covers us. It's what you might call a theme of God's.

...or an obsession.

In the times of the Tabernacle, the blood had special significance. It was what told the wrath of God to pass over a place. It was blood on the doorposts that told the angel of the Lord not to kill the firstborn in the Israelites' houses. So I think it was blood over the Tabernacle that told the Lord not to bring His fury on that particular place.

The Tabernacle was the place where all uncleanness came to be cleansed, where sin came to be atoned. It could be easy to become angry with a place like that. Easy to turn your holy wrath against such a place. It's filled with depravity, covered only by the aroma of repentance and sacrifice. And now, covered by the blood. 

I think.

It's just one of those things you read in the Bible, or at least I do, and think, huh. I wonder what that's all about. It's one of the hidden things of God that we can speculate about but maybe never understand, but it's still fun to ask the questions. Shielded by splendid linen and covered by finest leather, what does it matter what color the ram skins are? 

God only knows. 

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