The Memorial Price
Text: Exodus 30:11-16
Introduction: Which Service?
One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the church. The plaque was covered with names, and small American flags were mounted on either side of it.
The seven-year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the boy, and said quietly, " Good morning Alex."
"Good morning pastor," replied the young man , still focused on the plaque.
" Pastor McGhee, what is this?" Alex asked. "Well , son, it's a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service."
Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. The Pastor sensed that some strong questions were running through the boys mind and he prepared himself to answer them as best he could.
Little Alex's voice was barely audible when he asked, " Pastor?”
“Did they die in the morning or the evening service?”
Counting the Cost Exodus 30:11-12
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying when thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.
In this section of Exodus the Lord is instructing Moses in the building and preparation of the tabernacle, the place that would serve as the meeting place between God and His people. The tabernacle would stand at the center of their camp and would serve as a rally point for the people of God during times of crisis or celebration.
This particular part of the preparation of the tabernacle is unique in that the silver taken from the men of the tribes of Israel was not voluntary as were the other gifts of gold, linen, and bronze. This was in a sense a tax, each man had to give a small amount of silver as commanded by God.
We know this wasn’t voluntary because the Lord tells Moses that he should count the people and then they shall give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord. He also says the this would be done so that there would be no plague among them.
What exactly is God commanding and what did He mean to collect this ransom from every man in order to avoid the plague?
The word ransom in Hebrew is kofer. It translated 8 times in the KJV as ransom. It comes from a word that means “cover” and 3 times in translated as pitch that would be used to cover a vessel or basket and make it repel water, like the ark or the very basket that Mose had been placed in as a baby.
The word used here, as a ransom for souls, does not mean that they were giving money in order to be saved. Instead, as we will see later in the passage, the silver given is a reminder of the unholiness of Israel's nature, that by nature it was alienated from God. This payment in silver and the use of that silver later was a reminder, a memorial, that they were in covenant with the Lord and in a relationship with him on the ground of His grace, which covered their sin. (– paraphrased from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.)
Centuries later this is the money that Jesus had Peter take from the fishes mouth and pay to the Temple.
This tribute was to be paid as a ransom of the soul, that there might be no plague among them. Hereby they acknowledged that they received their lives from God, that they had forfeited their lives to him, and that they depended upon his power and patience for the continuance of them; and thus they did homage to the God of their lives, and deprecated those plagues which their sins had deserved. – Matthew Henry
The tribute money was an acknowledgment of the grace God had given them, it was not a purchase of forgiveness. Such an idea is an abhorrence to everything the Bible teaches us about salvation, but the idea of every man giving because of what God has already done through grace is exactly what the Bible does teach. That is what we see happening here.
So let’s see how we as people who no longer have a tabernacle or a temple and in fact not even any real silver can apply this to our Christian life today.
The Lord said there were two reasons why they were to give.
First, the tribute was to be given as an acknowledgment of salvation, but I believe also it was in recognition of all the blessings given to us by God through the relationship we share with him.
Secondly, they also gave in order to prevent a plague, a punishment, because of their refusal to obey the Lord and pay the price commanded by God.
For us the application is that each person is to pay the price, each person is to give because of what God has given and in order to prevent the lose of future blessing and indeed the punishment of God.
It has often been said that freedom is not free, this is true. True when we are talking about our nation and true when we are talking about our freedom in Christ. We enjoy the benefits, but it cost a great deal to bring us that freedom. The tribute, the part that each of us is called upon to give, is a reminder of what has already been given to us and now must be given by us with the understanding that if I refuse, there is a terrible price to pay in the future. In doing our part, in paying our own price, we acknowledge the grace of God and the price paid by those who have gone before us as well as the price that is necessary now to continue in the blessings of God.
If we quit paying the price, we lose that which the generations before us have paid with their lives blood. Whether it be political freedom or the work of the gospel, both have been bought and paid for with shed blood, broken backs and battered spirits. The next generation and those who follow will not have the blessings we now enjoy unless each of us is willing to make the commit to pay the price.
Illustration: Hold the Rope
There is a famous missionary story that involves William Carey, the father of modern missions, and a group of men who met with him in at a farewell service in 1793 to pledge that “they should never cease till death to stand by him.”
Andrew Fuller was one of those men, and he described the occasion with an analogy. He said that the mission to India seemed like a few men who considered going into a deep, unexplored mine. To Fuller, it was as if Carey said, “I will go down, if you will hold the rope.” The meeting, in Fuller’s mind, was as if he and the other brethren gave their word that “whilst we lived, we should never let go the rope.”
Let me expand the analogy to us today, it applies to missions and missionaries still but I want you go think of that rope, as our part, our giving, our commitment. We grasp that rope by what we do today and it not only joins us with the freedom we have today but it also links us with the past and it secure the future. As long as we are committed to hold fast that rope, then we grasp the blessings of the past and help to insure those blessing into the future.
That is our commitment, that is our part, that is our price.
Reckoning the Ransom Exodus 30:13-15
This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
Every Man Blessed, Every Man To Give
Moses was told that each man was to give, Half a shekel as the ransom price. Each was to pay the same whether rich or poor the offering was still half a shekel. Most commentators think this amount was about 50 cents in comparison to our currency today. It would be an amount that every man would have in his power to pay.
By this qualification of the command the Lord was simply saying each person was to pay their fair share. The rich did not pay more, the poor did not pay less. God viewed them all as equal in His sight. This gift was within the ability of everyman to do his part, as they had all been blessed by God equally than all should give equally.
Equally Blessed, Equally Commanded
Proverbs 22:2 The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all. (Now there’s a description of a Baptist church. Except the part about the rich, of course.)
As Proverbs says and as this passage shows, in God’s eyes, in this payment there was no difference between rich and poor. Other offerings were by ability and were proportionally like the tithe but this was not an offering and it was not to be reckoned as percentage, instead it was a set price.
The reason for this equal and set price is stated in vs. 15 “to make atonement for your souls.”
The money was to be paid by every man over 20 and it represented God’s redemption, his atonement of the nation of Israel. In that nation every soul was precious to God, every soul was of equal worth to God and every soul that had been blessed by God was to be pay this tribute at the same price.
This graphically tells us that God is no respecter of persons but views all as equally needy and equally loved in His sight. Rich or poor, great or small, famous or obscure all are bought with the same priceless gift of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
This is what we read in Romans 3:22-26 …for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
In the wilderness, each man of the Hebrews was to and equal price, for all had benefitted from the redemption of Israel from Egypt. In the same way each of us should be willing to give back to God, because each one of us have been saved and blessed by God’s gift to us in his Son Jesus Christ. Our gift is given because we remember the great gift of salvation.
Illustration: This Do In Remembrance Of Me
There is another very graphically reminder of giving and memorials that we seen in the Lord’s supper. For the church it the most important memorial given to reminds us of what Christ has sacrifice for us. It serves the same purpose of all memorials, tying the past, the present and the future together. Jesus said, “this do in remembrance of me.” Paul added the purpose of the memorial, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
This is the reason for every memorial and it our calling, our duty to do our part, give our share, pay the price to continue that memorial. Without the memorial we will lose both the past and the future.
Transition: Finally lets see how that God would take this tribute money and use it to build a memorial for Israel.
Making a Memorial Exodus 30:16
And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
Memorial in the Wilderness Then
The Money was used to build and service the tabernacle, which would be a memorial for them in the years to come. The silver used in the tabernacle, taken from their gift, be a reminder of the Children of Israel before God, the Bible says, that would make atonement for their souls. The money was used to purchase the offerings and the implements of those offerings for the benefit of all the nation of Israel. This money paid to the Tabernacle and later the Temple, did not buy their redemption but instead it was given as a memorial that would that would continue through the service in the tabernacle of that atonement gift.
It was no ordinary tribute, therefore, which Israel was to pay to Jehovah as its King, but an act demanded by the holiness of the theocratic covenant. -Keil and Delitzsch - Commentary on the Old Testament – Volume 1: The Pentateuch.
This first tribute money paid in silver was given and used in the building of the tabernacle. When the tabernacle was being crafted together and God’s plan called for a silver capital or hook, the silver that was used to fashion that came from the money that was given by the Children of Israel. When they would enter into the outer court of the tabernacle and see the top of the posts that made up the wall, shining in silver, they would know, that was part of my giving, part of what I paid. Years later when their descendants would enter that same courtyard, they would see those same posts and remember, those who gave their all in the wilderness escaping the slavery of Egypt, gave that I might be able to enter into this place and know the blessing of God today.
And in the full assurance of what God had done, what else could they do but also give what God asked of them. It was a fair price, it was a price they could all pay and is was a price that would build a memorial that protected the heritage of the past and insured the hope of the future.
Memorial in the World Today
As I read this passage this past week, I could not help but ask the Lord, “Am I paying the price?” When I realize all that God has done, the price that was paid for my redemption, the blessing that have been poured into my life and the promise of eternity, when I understand all that God has meant to me, I must ask, am I doing all that I can to pay the price and continue to build a memorial in the world today. A memorial that will honor the past and will also ensure that God’s blessing carry to the next generation.
God told Moses each person must pay their own price or else punishment would come.
Aren’t we seeing that today? Churches that hold up sin and call it love? Who offer forgiveness without repentance? Christians who have forgotten the heritage of the past, some who have forgotten the name Baptist, or what a church is or even what a Christian is supposed to be and believe.
Some who have even forgotten, if they ever knew, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Forgotten that they were sinners and God shed the blood of His only begotten Son, to atone for them, to cover their sins, to pay the price and ransom their souls.
I think of some who have given up, some who have turned bitter and angry and walked away, not willing to pay the price and build a memorial. Or some who perhaps have not actively turned against God but have quit supporting their church, giving to missions or caring about the past or praying for the future? Aren’t they aware of the cost they will pay one day for their refusal to give as God as commanded?
Just as God commanded the Israelites under Moses to pay the price, He commands us today, to make the commitment. Just as William Carey went into the darkness of India while those back home held the ropes, we hold the ropes of the past and present in our hands and in our giving to God, his church and his work.
I see a parallel between our memorial for God’s work and the memorials built in our nation that also tie together the past, present and future. One reason many wish to destroy memorials and statues of the past, is to try and erase that past, especially the blessing of God in our past as a nation. An in destroying the memorials, the statues, and the landmarks, as God warned they will bring a plague of punishment upon this country.
It is was not that way just a few short year ago nor was it this way when Abraham Lincoln gave his most famous speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery, after a battle in which the armies of the north and south suffered nearly 8,000 dead and 27, 000 wounded. Listen to some of these unforgettable words.
Illustration: Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln
We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate -- we cannot consecrate -- we cannot hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain …
Isn’t that the same commitment we should share as both Christians and Americans? Now please understand, I don’t in anyway equate these two. My commitment to God is and must always be the greater and must always demand the greater price paid, but the reasoning is the same and I would be a fool not to realize that this nation and its freedom is part of that heritage and blessing that God has given. And I believe that it is fitting to apply Lincoln’s words to the commitment we should make today.
“It is for us the living to be dedicated to the unfinished worked when they so nobly advanced.”
I hope that you have been challenged this morning to pay the price that is called by God from all of His own. A price that will build the memorial of our lives, our families, our churches and our nation. A memorial that will hold together the blessings of the past and the hopes of the future through God’s blessings. This memorial price cannot be paid by others, it is a cost that I must personally bear because of all that God has done to bless me. It is not a price I dare to ignore or refuse, for if the blessings of God will continue into the future then I must I must pay the memorial price today.
It was common when I was a child to observe Memorial Day with a red poppy worn on the lapel, but it is rarely seen anymore. The poppy was chosen due to the poem “Flanders Field” written during WWI by army surgeon Lt Col John McCrae in 1915
In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.