Scripture Reading: Exodus 29:1-46, Psalm 132:12-16, Hebrews 7:23-28
I once spent a summer cleaning bathrooms at a Christian youth camp. A few other girls and I made up the cleaning crew and we followed the same routine every day with every bathroom. My adolescent self was amazed to discover that no matter how well we cleaned a bathroom one day, just as much cleaning was required the next. And though I would be leaving after a month, as long as there were campers around, the bathrooms would always need cleaning. It was a job with no end in sight.
In Exodus 29, Moses receives instructions for the daily role of the priests: “This is what you are to offer regularly on the altar every day: two year-old lambs. In the morning offer one lamb, and at twilight offer the other lamb” (vv. 38-39). This offering atoned for the people’s sin. The Hebrew word used to describe this type offering is tamid, which means perpetually or continually—“always.” This makes sense, considering there is always more sin to be atoned for, always more mess that must be cleaned up. This passage describes a job with no end in sight.
Performing the same task every day without a weekend or a day off creates the type of monotony that can lead to hopelessness. Even as you are faithful to the work, you wonder, Will it ever be enough? Will I ever get a break?
This is why I love the finality of the author of the book of Hebrews’s language when he says of Jesus, “He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all when He offered Himself” (Hebrews 7:27). Christ did what every high priest before Him could not do: He took the place of the lamb. He played the role of both priest and sacrifice, and in offering Himself on the altar, He put a stop to the cycle. He ended the monotony. Jesus was enough, and only He was enough because only He was “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (v. 26).
At the end of Exodus 29, God explains to Moses the reasoning behind the consecration ritual of the temple and the priests when He says, “I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. And they will know that I am Yahweh their God, who brought them out of the Land of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them” (vv. 45-46). God is always moving toward His people. Drawing near. Freeing the Israelites from captivity in Egypt. Freeing us from the captivity of our sin.
Life is full of daily, monotonous tasks, reasons to give up hope, jobs with no end in sight. But the gospel tells a contrary story, one in which the most hopeless part of us is made new and a future glory made possible, all because we know that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.