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In the Gates

The Purpose of the Ceremonial Laws

Abiding Principles from the Ceremonial Laws: Introduction (3)


The ceremonial laws renewed Israel in the heart of God’s Covenant.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40.34, 35

The focus of the practice of the ceremonial laws was the Tabernacle which Moses constructed in the wilderness and, later, the Temple. Here God would meet with His people, who would see His glory filling the tent and know that He was among them and with them. The various sacrifices and offerings, conducted by the priests and Levites, were carried out in the presence of God’s glory. These were a means of bringing the people of Israel before the Lord in order to cover their sins and renew them in God’s favor.

The institutions – priests, Levites, Tabernacle, feasts, Sabbaths – and means – sacrifices and offerings – which God provided in the ceremonial laws are further evidences of His grace toward His people. Rather than condemn and destroy Israel whenever they sinned, God made a way for them to come back to Him, to be renewed in His favor.

At the Tabernacle the people of Israel would be able to engage God in His glory – not directly, of course, but from behind a veil, as it were. This would remind them of God’s gracious redemption from Egypt, His provision of His good and righteous laws at Mt. Sinai, and His presence with them through the wilderness. These laws also made it possible for Israel to remember the grace of God, and their constant need for Him, so that they might nurture right attitudes in their own hearts and obey God gladly. Thus the people of Israel could be renewed in their relationship with God and know the presence and power of His glory once again.

The ceremonial laws instruct us to seek the glory and favor of the Lord. In Jesus Christ the veil that separates us from the glory of God has been removed (2 Cor. 3.12-18). Being justified by grace through faith, we stand in the hope of glory (Rom. 5.1, 2). We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit Who is from God, Who makes us willing and able to do what pleases the Lord (Phil. 2.13). But whereas the priests, ceremonies, and sacrifices of ancient Israel were temporary, and had to be renewed continually, the finished work of Christ brings us into the glory of God as we confess our sins, repent, and take up our cross daily in obedience to Him. As we engage God in His glory – the glory revealed in His Word and by His Spirit – we are transformed into that glory, into the very image of Jesus Christ. Thus we may be daily renewed in Him and our faith increase from glory to glory.

Pastors, we’re getting ready to start the next season of The Pastors’ Fellowship. Write to me today at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about how you join in these online discussions. Our theme for the coming series is “The Worldview of God’s Law.” There is no charge for participation, but you must reserve a place for these monthly gatherings. Subscribe to Crosfigell, the devotional newsletter of The Fellowship of Ailbe.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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