Exodus 30:16 (HCSB)
16 Take the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will serve as a reminder for the Israelites before the Lord to atone for your lives.”
At first this passage seems out of place among all the construction and furnishings of the tabernacle. But, we end up seeing a tie in to the tabernacle as this money is to be used for the upkeep of the tent of meeting. Despite this being a practical use of the atonement money, and a reminder to keep the tabernacle, God’s dwelling among His people, in good shape, it hardly seems to be the real point to this pericope.
Instead, the main thrust seems to be the last part of Exodus 30:16 – “It will serve as a reminder for the Israelites before the Lord to atone for your lives.” Wouldn’t it be very easy to build the tabernacle, furnish it, maybe even attend a couple services, and then just kind of wander off never to see it, or God again? But this is not God’s design. His design is to constantly remind us to remember Him. We know some things from this passage:
- There will be censuses. This command is for the future, a census yet to come. Man will be accounted for. God already knows who everyone is, and where we are, but the census reminds us that He knows.
- Our lives must be ransomed. We have a debt, a debt that must be paid. Here we see a token payment, a half shekel, but ultimately we know that our debt has been paid by Christ. But similar to the tithe in many ways, this atonement money serves as a reminder of that payment.
- The fee is the same for all men. We cannot sin so much more that I require more than Jesus to atone for our sin. Nor can we be so good that it takes anything less than Christ to atone for our sin. The half shekel was for the rich and the poor.
- There seems to be a choice. If you don’t pay the ransom: a plague will come upon you. The ransom frees us from the captivity of sin, and eventual death. Just as we must make the choice to submit to Christ as our Savior, and gain eternal life with Him, else we choose the alternative, eternal death apart from Him.
Lord, thank You for atoning for us. It’s a payment that a half shekel certainly does not cover, but You took care of it. I pray for the willingness to submit to You, to follow You, and to accept Your gracious gift to us. Amen.