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February 20

Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.

Reading 1 - Exo 31

So many of God's faithful servants have been shepherds: Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David, to name but a few. In NT times, the vocation of fisherman was prominent among the Lord's followers. Both these secular occupations well fitted such men for the spiritual work they would do -- as "shepherds" of the flock of God, and "fishers of men". The connections in Scripture between the literal and the typical in these cases are plentiful indeed, and rich in spiritual instruction.

Taking our lead from such obvious patterns, what then should we make of the livelihoods of God's two most prominent servants: Jesus the carpenter (Mat 13:55; Mar 6:3) and Paul the tentmaker (Act 18:3)?

The thread starts in Exodus, where the LORD God commanded Moses to build Him a tabernacle, "according to the pattern showed you in the mount" (Exo 25:40; Heb 8:5). For this work, the LORD called and inspired Bezaleel (Exo 31:2) and his assistant Aholiab to be "cunning" workmen in metal and timber and fabric.

"Bezaleel" signifies "in the shadow (under the protection) of El". He was of the tribe of Judah; the sun of Uri ("light"; the plural is "Urim"); the grandson of Hur ("whiteness", "splendor"). He was definitely the "artisan-in-charge": Aholiab was "given with him" (Exo 31:6; cp Ezo 38:23), "to help him" (NIV).

Apparently Bezaleel was especially skilled in metal and stone and wood, whereas his assistant Aholiab (the name itself signifies "the tent of his father") was more adept in the working of fabrics and skins. The distinction is borne out by a careful reading of Exo 35:30-35; 38:23. Together, they carried forward the word of building the tabernacle.

A bit more about Bezaleel: Clearly, he stands in the narrative as a type of Christ:


The Mosaic tabernacle, with all that pertained to it, was a "figure" (Greek "parable") of the "greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands" (Heb 9:9,11). This spiritual "tabernacle", or temple, is of course the ecclesia, built upon Jesus Christ the "foundation" (Eph 2:20-22; 1Co 3:16; 1Pe 2:5-7) and chief corner-stone (Psa 118:22,23). As Bezaleel labored to build the literal tabernacle, so Jesus labored to build the spiritual. As Aholiab assisted the "master builder", so Paul assisted Christ (cp 1Co 3:9-15; 2Co 6:1).

The secular occupations of Jesus and Paul beautifully fill out this picture: Jesus, like Bezaleel, the "artisan" in wood and stone and metal, built the framework and foundation of the spiritual tabernacle -- the "center pole" of his work being the cross of wood erected at Golgotha. He also "worked" in metal -- the spikes with which he was nailed to the cross.

Afterward, Paul -- the New Testament "Aholiab" -- was chiefly responsible for the "stitching together" of the skins and fabrics (the individual ecclesias?) into whole coverings, to overlay the wooden framework. Building up and binding together individuals into ecclesias, and ecclesias into the One Body of Christ.

The "carpenter" and the "tentmaker" working together, according to the pattern of the more perfect tabernacle!

Reading 2 - Psa 89:27

"I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth" (Psa 89:27).

This implies other children in God's spiritual family; but Christ is first of them all, "the beginning of the (New) Creation of God" (Col 1:15-18; Rom 8:29; Heb 1:6; 12:23; Rev 1:5). In Hebrew the term "firstborn" is not so much a designation of natural birth order, as it is a designation of the one who will receive the inheritance. Natural "firstborns" in Scripture almost always failed (Cain, Ishmael, Esau, Reuben, Amnon, etc, etc), and were then replaced by spiritual, and appointed, "firstborns" -- to whom glorious promises were given. Israel, God's "firstborn" nation (Exo 4:24; Hos 11:1; Jer 31:9), failed, but Christ -- the true "Israel" -- succeeded. The "first Adam" failed, but the "last Adam" succeeded (1Co 15:45; Rom 5:15-19)! And, in his success, many others, through faith, may be called the sons and daughters of God.

So Paul alludes to Psa 89 in 2Co 6:18: " 'I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty." And likewise in Gal 3:29: "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

This proves that Jesus was not the "firstborn" prior to the creation of Gen 1 and 2. Rather, Jesus was not to be made firstborn until many years after this psalm was written. So, when Paul uses the term, the "firstborn of all creation" (Col 1:15) is equivalent to "the firstborn from the dead" (Col 1:18); and the "creation" intended by Paul is the "New Creation" of men and women who believe in Christ (Eph 2:10; Col 3:9,10; Gal 6:15; 2Co 5:17; etc).

Reading 3 - 1Co 1:10

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1Co 1:10).

"Fellowship is primarily a 'community of interest' rather than individual advantage. It is the family sharing which keeps Father, Son and believers in a unity of belief as well as purpose; and as far as Father and Son are concerned, this unity is an unbreakable one. But in the hands of believers in the ecclesia it can be a fragile thing, so unpredictable is the human heart. Paul was very conscious of this and exhorted the Corinthian ecclesia: 'Now I beseech you, brethren.. that ye be perfectly joined together.' In practice this vital doctrine of the unity of the Household cannot be manifested without the dedicated effort of every member of each ecclesia. It is, by the Father's will and help, a cooperative and precious creation made possible by the shed blood of Jesus. This whole conception of fellowship is at once magnificent and humbling; but it can be broken: by the disagreement of an individual member with his ecclesia, or vice-versa" (John Marshall, "The Living Ecclesia", The Christadelphian 108:56).

In the same context of his Corinthian letter, the apostle stresses that the brethren were called unto the fellowship of God's Son (1Co 1:9). It is a striking concept, reminiscent of the Lord's words: "I will draw all men to me" (Joh 12:32) and "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out" (Joh 6:37). Here is the strongest affirmation of the principle that our "fellowship" is not ours alone -- it is God's and Christ's. And any unilateral attempts by men to subvert or destroy this sublime unity, without clear and certain and incontrovertible evidence from the Bible, is a direct affront to Heaven.

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