Grasping God’s Purpose: “The Servant” – Exodus 29

I am a fan of books on leadership. Some years ago, I picked up a little paperback simply called The Servant. It was an absorbing tale unfolded by a skilled author and leader – in the fictional story of John Daily. John was a businessman whose outwardly success belied his inner turmoil. He was failing miserably in every area – his leadership roles as boss, husband, father, and coach. Forced by crisis, he reluctantly joined a weeklong leadership retreat at a remote Benedictine monastery. To John’s astonishment, the monk that led the seminar was a former business executive and Wall Street legend. The monk took a special interest in John and began to guide him to the single realization that changed him: Real leadership is not power, but influence. It is built upon relationship, love, and service. The book was a simple read, but well worth the time.

Servant leadership… influence… relationship…. Are these new ideas? Not really. When we look into the pages of Scripture, we find that model in the setting aside of the priests in the Hebrew Scriptures for service to God. What does it take to be a servant of the living God? Is there something more than just being in the family of God?

Before you switch off on the thought, “Well, I don’t guess I will hear anything I need, since that message sounds like it is for Pastors and ministers” – hear me out. God didn’t just give this passage to Moses – He gave it to the whole of the people. We ALL need to understand the process. Even more, we all need to aspire to have the qualities God set forth in His standard for leaders. When Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus about the character requirements of Elders and Deacons – he wasn’t omitting the rest of the congregation – he was including them. He was instructing them as to what the GOAL of every believer was to become. We all should live as though others are watching our lives – because they ARE. Standards and processes of shaping character are the same in followers and leaders.

Key Principle: In order to serve God, I must be set apart for His use. That involves God’s call, another’s recognition, and my consecration.

In our previous lessons, God showed us a graphic picture of the pattern of worship in the furniture, fabric and fragrances of the Tabernacle – but he also showed it in the fashion – THE UNIFORM that God commanded for His servants in the Tabernacle! As we move forward I the Scriptures, God marked out the FOREMEN of the work – those that would spiritually lead the people. Essentially, Exodus 29 regards the procedures involved in marking out God’s chosen leaders, readying them for service by modeling truths for them to grasp. The benefits God promised to the people were well worth the effort – but an effort it would be.

It is no secret that our modern world is lacking leadership. Those who are willing to lead are becoming rare – and our whole society is suffering because of it.

God didn’t leave us in the dark concerning growing and molding spiritual leaders for the future. In the desert, God was already outlining the spiritual servant leadership needs for a people that would one day conquer cities and build a kingdom. The passage that describes God’s plan can be simply divided into four parts:

  1. The Deliberate Perspective to shape servant leaders (29:1a).
  2. The Defined Process that molds servant leaders (29:1b-25, 35-37).
  3. The Distinct Products of the servant leaders (29:38-42)
  4. The Divine Promises offered to servant leaders and God’s people (29:26-34, 43-46)

There is a DELIBERATE PERSPECTIVE required to produce servant leaders (29:1-3)

Despite many who have not parsed the reality – leaders are fashioned, not randomly produced. We get the leaders we mold.

Exodus 29:1 “Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them to minister as priests to Me:

In this brief opening few words of the verses before us, can you see three thoughts that help define the deliberate perspective?

First, God said that MOSES was to do the work of consecration. God’s current servant leaders were called to think about the production and molding of God’s future servant leaders. If we lack leadership in the church, it is because leadership in the church didn’t do their job and look ahead. Discipleship is a mentality before it is a reality. We have to WANT to share the stage. We have to WANT to joy in the advancement of others. We have to WANT to change the dynamic of ministry from “one man band” to TEAM. Not only that, but the people who followed the leader needed to get on board with the notion that God’s plan was to build a team – not just a way for the leader to deflect the work onto others. God designed ministry as a TEAM pursuit – not a celebrity stardom. Leaders need to use “leadership capital” to advance other future leaders.

Second, notice the passage commands Moses to DO something. This was intended to be an active process – not a passive one. Shaping and leading the leaders was the call of the man that God called to form the work around. He was the center pillar that was carrying aspects of intercession and care that would one day be entirely in the hands of the servant leaders.

Third, Moses was commanded to “consecrate” the servant leaders – that is, to personally mold and then publically mark the servant leaders God indicated. Time spent with them would be drawn from time spent with others, and that was deliberate obedience to God’s call on his life as a leader.

There is a DEFINED PROCESS required to produce servant leaders (29:1b-25, 35-37)

The bulk of the passage is about the making of a servant leader. How do we actually do it? Are there timeless principles in the Word (along with the many models we have) that instruct us how to shape and mold them? Take a look at the process:

First, the process begins with attitude shifts among the flock:

  • It begins when the community of faith acknowledges willingly – there will be a future cost to all of us. We cannot mold leaders and still do all the things we were doing before we were deliberately doing that. There is a cost. In our work, we have sacrificed any desire to be the biggest ministry and ministry with the greater cash reserves – in favor of supporting a growing support base for “disciple makers”. To Moses and his people it sounded like surrendering expensive and important wealth:

Exodus 29:1b “…take one young bull and two rams without blemish…”

  • It continues by an open willingness to share even the needed provisions God has given us: The people gathered manna, and the people made bread. They did the grinding, mixing and baking. They worked and others used what they made as support. Bread was the substance, more than any other that was synonymous with NEEDS in the Bible.

Exodus 29:2 “…and unleavened bread and unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil; you shall make them of fine wheat flour. 3 “You shall put them in one basket, and present them in the basket along with the bull and the two rams.

It is our great privilege to train servant leaders. It must be intentional, but watching them is also MOTIVATIONAL! It is costly, but it has also been INSPIRING! It is exhausting, but it is also EXHILARATING!

Churches are formed with a vision to reach an area. For a while they grow, press ahead, and try their best to get services going. At long last, they build a building. That is the perilous time – because for many they drop into passivity. Now comes the hum drum of paying the mortgages and running the committees. The place takes on the stale smell of “Club Jesus”. Yet, every now and then, a special group of people come along that really seek to LAUNCH the faith. The Moravians that sold themselves into slavery to reach far flung places on the globe sacrificed all in this life for the cause of Christ. We are inspired by such stories, but truthfully, most churches really cannot see what they have contributed beyond the periodic aisle walker and the occasional missionary dedication. I am not suggesting that every life doesn’t count- it does. I am suggesting the enthusiasm is hard to maintain in the daily norm of life. We who begin with a fire in our belly end up sitting on a committee. Our team is fighting HARD not to let that happen here. We keep launching forward. We keep expanding the vision – yet we try to be responsible to keep the bills paid. Vision is not an excuse for more credit. Sustainable ministry is responsible ministry. Stay tuned, there is more to come, but it will involve launching people into ministry in many places! Our attitudes are the starting place.

Second, the process moves ahead when the servant leader’s individual preparations are established:

We can talk about building leaders, but then we actually have to do it! There is a specific way God instructed this:

  • Preparation to be a servant leader requires inspection and help in “dealing with dirt”. Moses was commanded to bring the men together and “wash them” with water. Dirty people aren’t eligible to serve in this role – they need to vetted and get any outstanding issues dealt with before they are to be released for ministry.

Exodus 29:4 “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting and wash them with water.

Let me be very clear: To aspire to lead is to seek to influence others – and God isn’t interested in you spreading disease and dirt among His people! If you would be used by God to lead, you must choose to lay aside selfishness and take on the disciplines that you want to see in others. If you cannot hold your tongue, your disciples will not learn to hold their tongues. If you will not push yourself to prepare for ministry carefully, those under your care will be haphazard.

  • When they are qualified to join the ranks of the servant leaders, the actual fitting into the role begins. Moses was commanded to “dress them” with each piece that was thoughtfully prepared and sized for them. Our last study went over the uses and principle involved in each article of adornment, but the point is clear – they need to be adorned by leaders to become leaders. They needed to learn the work before they could adequately be expected to perform the work.

Exodus 29:5 “You shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the tunic and the robe of the ephod and the ephod and the breast piece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod; 6 and you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban… 8 “You shall bring his sons and put tunics on them. 9 “You shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and bind caps on them, and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute. So you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.

I recall a parent several years ago telling me that they had a full grown child that did not know that a STAMP was not all that was required for a letter to be sent – the AMOUNT OF VALUE on the stamp needed to be sufficient. They thought one stamp was as good as another – so they used the cheapest one! Patterning and mentoring needs to be included, because there is much we think they really SAW when they were beside us! Have you ever been asked to drive to a place you went many times when another was driving, only to discover you hadn’t been paying any real attention as to how to get there? Intentional training while DOING the work is the only effective method.

Pastor Steve Ely wrote: “Stop and think about this: Over the course of a 12 month period when you take into consideration the daily sacrifice which would total 706 animals a year. The double sacrifice of the Sabbath adds another 96 more animals a year. The new moon sacrifice, the Passover sacrifice, the sacrifice required during the Pentecost Week, the Trumpet Feast, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacle Sacrifice the priests by duty sacrificed almost 1300 animals each year. This was not a job for the squeamish. This was not a job for the weak stomached person. It was a gory daily task.” They were to do this while wearing white. They were to do this while keeping their stomach in check. They needed practice with people that would show them HOW to do it all – not just expect them to “figure it out.”

  • They have to become publicly acknowledged as prepared. It can easily be demonstrated that the oil used in Scripture was related to official commissioning for the offices of prophets, priests and kings. Later Scriptures will relate the oil as a symbol for the Spirit of God. Here, what was clear was they were to be publically marked as the ones recognized with God’s hand on them to complete His tasks.

Exodus 29:7 “Then you shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him.

Once the people took in the deliberate attitude of raising servant leaders, and they were prepared –they “graduated. The smell of anointing oil marked them as “ready to begin the work”…

Third, the process works especially well when it addresses the heart of the fledgling servant leaders.

Training for serving God isn’t just about FACTS, it is about really grasping God’s people (their needs) and God’s person (His desires) – learning how servant leadership works in daily life. There are a few hurdles to overcome:

  • They need to be reminded of humility. Public acknowledgement can be “heady stuff”! They needed to be reminded they were not chosen because they were less sinful, or a better “spiritual bargain” than anyone else. Nothing can shrink the size of our head as quickly as the reminder of our own sin sickness. Putting their hands on a bull and then watching it die in their place was a powerful call back to a humble heart.

Exodus 29:10 “Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. 11 “You shall slaughter the bull before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 12 “You shall take some of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger; and you shall pour out all the blood at the base of the altar. 13 “You shall take all the fat that covers the entrails and the lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, and offer them up in smoke on the altar. 14 “But the flesh of the bull and its hide and its refuse, you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.

Servant leaders must be made to recognize what people have given up for them, and plan on giving of their future for others. They needed to take seriously the fact that their future belongs to God and not themselves. It wasn’t enough for people to sacrifice for them – they needed to SEE it, and grab hold of the model for their own lives. There is a cost to the community now, and there will be a cost to them.

Exodus 29:15 “You shall also take the one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram; 16 and you shall slaughter the ram and shall take its blood and sprinkle it around on the altar. 17 “Then you shall cut the ram into its pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head. 18 “You shall offer up in smoke the whole ram on the altar; it is a burnt offering to the LORD: it is a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD.

Servant leaders must lay aside specific “common rights” so that God can use them. They must restrict things that have access to their mind – their ears are dedicated to hear God’s voice. They must lay aside the ambition to forge with their own hands – their hands belong solely to God’s purposes for them. They voluntarily restrict going where they would otherwise choose to go – for their feet were fashioned to take them where God calls – and nowhere else.

Exodus 29:19 “Then you shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram. 20 “You shall slaughter the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the lobes of his sons’ right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet, and sprinkle the rest of the blood around on the altar. 21 “Then you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments and on his sons and on his sons’ garments with him; so he and his garments shall be consecrated, as well as his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

Servant leaders give the best of all that is put in their hands to the Lord’s holy use. They use what God provides to honor God, glorify God, and care for the needs of the flock. The singular purpose of the work must be to please the Lord – it is FOR Him!

Exodus 29:22 “You shall also take the fat from the ram and the fat tail, and the fat that covers the entrails and the lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination), 23 and one cake of bread and one cake of bread mixed with oil and one wafer from the basket of unleavened bread which is set before the LORD; 24 and you shall put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons, and shall wave them as a wave offering before the LORD. 25 “You shall take them from their hands, and offer them up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering for a soothing aroma before the LORD; it is an offering by fire to the LORD.

Drop your eyes down the text to 29:35. There is one more note that must be made about this process of consecration IT TAKES TIME! The time was to be spent in BOTH SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD and in CONSECRATION TO GOD. The ceremonies were performed on the first day, yet they were not to be considered as completed until the seven days’ ended. In dedication and special service, a distance was created between their commission and their former state. That isn’t the only reason… Think of it! Since they had to pass over one Sabbath together, they got the opportunity to all “practice” the procedures of the garments and work before they were out doing the work as fully acknowledged servants!

Exodus 29:35 “Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you; you shall ordain them through seven days. 36 “Each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it. 37 “For seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it; then the altar shall be most holy, and whatever touches the altar shall be holy.

Leaders need to learn not to follow the crowd when the truth is at stake. They need to learn to think Biblically, and not react instinctively. That reminds me of the story shared by Pastor Andrew Chan:

It was autumn, and the Indians on the remote reservation asked their new Chief if the winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was an Indian Chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn’t tell what the weather was going to be. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared. Also, being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, “Is the coming winter going to be cold?” “It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed,” the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood in order to be prepared. A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. “Is it going to be a very cold winter?” “Yes,” the man at National Weather Service again replied, “it’s definitely going to be a very cold winter.” The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of wood they could find. Two weeks later, he called the National Weather Service again. “Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?” “Absolutely,” the man replied. “It’s going to be one of the coldest winters ever.” “How can you be so sure?” the Chief asked.  The weatherman replied, “The Indians are collecting wood like crazy.” (adapted from sermon central illustrations).

There are DISTINCT PRODUCTS that the servant leaders are called to produce (29:38-42)

We will only mention this passage in this lesson, for much more detail on the work of the servant leader is available throughout the Torah. There is only one point that we MUST make note of – since it is the most obvious issue involved in the verses: Every aspect of the expectation of God is defined in His Word. Servant leaders don’t “make it up as they go along”. They learn to KNOW what God wants because God has said exactly what He expects.

Exodus 29:38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously. 39 “The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; 40 and there shall be one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering with one lamb. 41 “The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it the same grain offering and the same drink offering as in the morning, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD. 42 “It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there.

There are DIVINE PROMISES offered to servant leaders and God’s people (29:26-34, 43-46)

Promise of God to provide for the servants:

God instructed to take the as wave-offering here is the ram of installation as well as in the “shelmim”, or peace-offering (Leviticus 7:30). Later it was also key to the Nazirite sacrifice (Numbers 6:20). Peace offerings were a THANK YOU offering – a balance of recognition for God’s goodness.

Exodus 29:26 “Then you shall take the breast of Aaron’s ram of ordination, and wave it as a wave offering before the LORD; and it shall be your portion. … 28 “It shall be for Aaron and his sons as their portion forever from the sons of Israel, for it is a heave offering; and it shall be a heave offering from the sons of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, even their heave offering to the LORD. … 31 “You shall take the ram of ordination and boil its flesh in a holy place. 32 “Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket, at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 33 “Thus they shall eat those things by which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration; but a layman shall not eat them, because they are holy. 34 “If any of the flesh of ordination or any of the bread remains until morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire; it shall not be eaten, because it is holy.

God provided for the needs of the servant leaders by providing for the JOYS of the people. When the people experienced special blessing, God’s servants were abundantly blessed!

Promise of God to provide for the people of God

Finally, the moment came when God shared what He was prepared to do for ALL His people:

Exodus 29:43 I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. 44 “I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. 45 “I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. 46 “They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.

  • I will engage all my people.
  • I will set apart their worship place.
  • I will set apart their servant leaders.
  • I will pull in and live among them!
  • They will KNOW that I am there and that I am God!

In order to serve God, I must be set apart for His use. That involves God’s call, other’s recognition, and my consecration. If we act according to the principles God commanded, He can open up the blessings He desires to give us! If we do not, we pull a curtain over God’s desire to show Himself to others through us!

His name was Sam. He was an inquisitive kid for a little tot from a small Missouri town. He went to church and Sunday school in his early life, but church leaders bickered incessantly in that little church. As he grew up, he knew elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them. He heard men using foul language and saw them practice dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday. He listened to ministers use the Bible to justify slavery. Although he saw genuine love for the Lord Jesus in some people, including his mother and his wife, he was so disturbed by the bad teaching and poor example of church leaders, that he became bitter toward the things of God. Samuel Clemens wrote books as Mark Twain that have reached all around the world – but he did so without a relationship with Christ – in spite of time in church. When people don’t live their faith- they hide God’s truth from those who desperately need it.