Ki Tisa – “When You Take”

This week’s parasha is entitled Ki Tisa, meaning “When you take ” and it covers Exodus chapter 30:11 through 34:35. It opens as Adonai says to Moses, “When you take a census of the people of Israel each one counted must pay a half shekel” it would be an offering, a ransom for their souls.

No one was exempted. Moses and Aaron also had to bring their half shekel, as did the priests, the rulers and the common people. The rich were not asked to give more than the half shekel and the poor were not permitted to give less.  Everyone who was 20 years and older was to pay the atonement price or be cut off. The lesson was clear: every soul stands equally guilty before God, and all are in need of pardon and cleansing.

Adonai told Moses to make a basin of bronze. The Scriptures don’t give us the size or shape of this basin, although the one in Solomon’s Temple was described in detail, and most likely was a much larger version of this one, holding over 16,000 gallons of water! The basin here seems to be a large reservoir, with the base being a smaller basin, with pipes and valves that allowed running water in the lower parts so the priests could perform their ceremonial washings. This statute was to be kept forever, and violators were to be punished with death.

Next Adonai directed Moses to take the finest liquid spices of myrrh, cinnamon, cane, cassia and olive oil, to weigh all these by the Temple measure and mix them together to make a consecrated anointing oil. God commanded Moses to anoint the Tabernacle, the Ark, the Table of Showbread and its vessels, the Golden Menorah and its vessels, the Bronze Altar and its vessels, the Basin and its stand and to sanctify all of these things to be most holy.

Then Moses was to anoint Aaron and his sons and set them apart as priests. The anointing of the Tabernacle, its furnishings and the priests with this consecrated oil was of such seriousness that any unauthorized use of this oil (even reproducing this same blend for personal use) brought the death penalty!

Moses was also instructed to make holy incense. As with the oil, he was given the exact ingredients and measurements. This incense was to be burned only on the Golden Altar, and the same prohibition was issued that it not be used in any unauthorized way, nor reproduced for anyone’s personal use. The Golden Altar of incense stood just outside the veil of the Most Holy Place.

In chapter 31, Adonai said to Moses, “I have chosen a man from the tribe of Judah to do some special work for me. His name is Bez a leel son of Uri son of Hur.

I have filled Bezaleel with the Spirit of God, and he will craft things from gold, silver, and bronze.  He can cut and set beautiful jewels. And he can work with wood. He can do all kinds of work.

I have also chosen from the tribe of Dan, Oholiab the son of

Ahisamach to work with him. And I have given skills to all the other workers so that they can make everything that I have commanded you.”The lession we learn from this is that Adonai is the author of beauty and that it is He that gives men skills and creativity.

Chapter 31 also contains a reminder of the solemn commandment to observe the Sabbath. There is a time to labor for the Lord and a time to rest, and both are a part of His plan for His people. Just as He enabled us to imitate Him in artistry, we are to follow His example in resting on the seventh day.

In chapter 32, Moses meets with God on Mount Sinai, and receives the Ten Commandments. Meanwhile, Israel has turned aside from following Adonai. The people have convinced Aaron to make a golden calf.  Israel has turned to wickedness and idolatry. Adonai had a mind to destroy Israel and to make a new nation, but Moses interceded with God for Israel. Moses pleaded for mercy and Adonai spared them.

God told Moses to go down the mountain because the people had corrupted themselves.  He went down with the two tablets, and as he approached the camp he saw the golden calf, the dancing and the debauchery. Moses became so angry that he cast the tablets out of his hands and they shattered at the base of mountain. He took the calf Aaron had made, threw it in the fire, ground it to power, sprinkled it over the waters and made the Israelis drink it, proving to them that these were no gods at all. Moses then confronted Aaron with his sin.

Moses then asked who was going to take a stand with him and remain loyal to Adonai. All the Levites gathered to Moses. They were told to strap on their swords and strike down those responsible for the rebellion. 3,000 men were put to death that day, and the people were told to rededicate themselves to Adonai. It is frightening when you think that only 1 tribe out of 12 rallied to Moses, which shows us that the majority is often in the wrong. The lesson is clear: we need to follow the truth, not the crowd.

In chapter 33, Adonai promised Moses that He would send an angel before them, to lead them into the Land and drive out the enemies. But Adonai would not go with them. When Israel heard this, they begin to feel a deep, deep loss. They had enjoyed God’s presence in the pillar of the cloud and fire, and had taken it for granted.

They understood an angel would be a poor consolation when it was the Three-In-One God they needed. Moses pleads with Adonai, and the Lord agrees to allow His presence to go with them.

Adonai said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first, and I will write on the Tablets the words that were written on the first which you broke. And in the morning you are to come up and present yourself to Me.” So Moses again returned to the mountain for an additional 40 days, receiving instruction and enjoying intimate fellowship with God. Yet Moses still desired more, and asked God to show him His presence! The next day, God hid Moses in the crevice of a rock and Moses was allowed to see God’s ‘back’ – his receding glory. In fact, Moses’ face was so radiant from being in God’s presence that Aaron and all of the people were afraid to speak to him. So Moses had to put a veil over his face whenever he came from the presence of the Three-In-One God.

Scripture tells us that these things were written for our benefit. God established a physical priesthood which points to a royal priesthood of believers today. The earthly tabernacle pointed to a heavenly Tabernacle. And the nation of Israel pointed to God’s New Covenant community made up of Messianic Jews and believing Gentiles in the Jewish Messiah.

Let me close with some thoughts about parasha Ki Tisa.

It’s easy to look back and criticize Israel’s behavior with the golden calf, but how much like them are we? Our great temptation is to attempt to re-cast God to our own liking; to ignore the Scriptures which speak of His holiness and to focus only on His grace.

We want a “god” who is convenient to obey or ignore. Remember, the incident with the golden calf was ‘religious’ in nature. All religions are NOT equally valid! We are in serious danger if we ignore or reinterpret God’s instructions.

Just as the priests were required to be ceremonially washed and cleansed, how much more should we who claim to follow Messiah Yeshua? we must also be washed in the waters of baptism, according to His command! If we refuse to obey Yeshua, it means we do not belong to Him, and His atonement will not be applied to us. The consequences of disobedience are spiritual and eternal death.

Moses was sheltered in the cleft of the rock, in order to behold the presence of God. It’s been said that the ‘Rock’ was Yeshua Himself! In Yeshua we are secure from the wrath of God, which otherwise would consume us. God shields and protects those who take refuge in Messiah. It is only in Messiah that we have the knowledge of the glory of God.

The New Testament also tells us that One greater than Moses was the radiance of God’s glory. Unlike Moses, Yeshua’s radiance came from within and was allowed to shine briefly through His humanity.

The hope is that, all of us would live in obedience to God’s Word, So that Messiah’s light could shine through us. The world, Creation, with Heaven is watching.

Shabbat Shalom!