When considering this matter of coverings, a whole new panorama unfolds with the study of a vital aspect of Yahweh God which we generally would not think of in relation to coverings. The relevance of coverings and their significance in relation to Yahweh's judgment, or His refrain thereof, is evident through our study in this chapter on atonement. As defined in the 1828 Webster's Dictionary, atonement is – agreement; concord; reconciliation, after enmity or controversy. Interestingly, this definition actually describes the outcome, or product, of atonement, rather than the process. Drawing one step closer to the true meaning of this word, one could address the means of atonement, such as the blood of Yahshua that atones for our sins. But to most beneficially learn about this word, we must look at its root meaning. Found by in large in the Old Testament, the word atonement comes from the Hebrew word "kaphar," which means "to cover over." Atonement is the legal remedy of placing a protecting covering over something or someone.
The incense altar and sacrifice altar had to be atoned for, or covered, by the blood of an animal. Sins committed by the Israelites were to be atoned for, or covered, generally with the sacrifice of an animal and the shedding of its blood. Leviticus 17:11 tells us: "for the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement [covering] for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement [covering]." The blood on the altar was a governmental covering for the soul of the Israelite.
Like all other coverings, including the covering of hair or the beard or the woman's headcovering, atonement was a headship or government issue. This matter of headship is specifically evidenced when, prior to the sacrifice being slain, before the scapegoat was released, before atonement was made with the resulting forgiveness of sins, there was always the governmental act of laying hands specifically on the head of the sacrifice animal. Coverings/atonement are governmental. The extent of the relationship between atonement and headship is seen in the atonement of the defiled Nazirite. As a part of cleansing and restoration, he had to shave off the hair of his dedicated head on the seventh day of his cleansing. Then on the eighth day he was to "consecrate his head" to Yahweh (Numbers 6:9-12). As stated in verse 7, "his separation to God is on his head."
An entire book could be written solely upon this matter of atonement. Plagues were stopped by single acts of atonement, re-establishing a covering (Numbers 16:46-47 and 25:13). A three year famine was broken by the atonement (covering) of covenant blood with the death of seven sons of Saul (2 Samuel 21:1-9). Many sins and defilements were covered, or atoned for, by the sacrifice of an animal. But one of the most interesting coverings is found when a leader counted his army. Let us take time to examine an interesting account and see the consequences when this covering was not placed over these numbered men.
First, we find in Exodus 30:11-16 Yahweh's instruction concerning this census:
Yahweh also spoke to Moses, saying, "When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to Yahweh, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary ... as a contribution to Yahweh .... The rich shall not pay more, and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to Yahweh to make atonement [covering] for yourselves. And you shall take the atonement [covering] money from the sons of Israel, and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement [covering] for yourselves."
The first census was taken and there were 603,550 men with the appropriate half shekel paid (Numbers 1 and Exodus 38:25-26). Next, in Numbers 26 we see a second census that was likewise commanded by Yahweh. Here, the half shekel atonement is not mentioned. And we do not have an accompanying accounting record of it as we do for the first census as recorded in Exodus 38:25-26. But, since Moses was faithfully carrying out Yahweh's command, and since no ill fate befell them following this census, it can be assumed that atonement was made. This must certainly be the case because in a lesser census taken shortly thereafter in Numbers 31:48f by some of Moses' officers, 16,750 shekels of gold were paid by the men to likewise "make atonement [covering] for ourselves before Yahweh. ... So Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it to the tent of meeting as a memorial [or, remembrance] for the sons of Israel before Yahweh." Thus, up to this point, all the armies of Israel were under the covering of the half shekel, and no plague was among them when they numbered them.
The next major census did not take place until 1 Chronicles 21 when "Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel." Actually, we have seen that there is nothing wrong with numbering a man's army, even as Moses and his captains did. But, to number an army without paying the half shekel atonement would bring a plague! And a plague did indeed come following this census, killing 70,000 men of Israel.
Closer examination of this census and
resulting plague further reveals a very interesting truth
concerning the covering half shekel atonement. Interestingly,
Joab, who conducted the census, objected to it and
"did not number Levi and Benjamin among
them" (vs. 6). All other men in Israel were counted.
Now follow closely. When the angel of Yahweh passed
through the land destroying the men with pestilence,
verse 15 tells us that Yahweh halted the plague "by the
threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite." Who was Ornan the
Jebusite? And why did the plague stop at him?
Oman was a Benjamite (Joshua 18:16-20), and the
plague ceased at this southern border of Jerusalem for
one reason – the Benjamites were not counted in the
census. Therefore, they were still under the covering
of the census taken by Moses.
All the rest of Israel was uncovered because they were a part of a census that did not include the half shekel atonement. When Satan "stood up against Israel" to get Yahweh to afflict them, he knew he had to first remove their covering. This was done by the Law of Yahweh. He used the Law to uncover them and evoke His judgment. But Benjamin was spared because of Joab's refusal to number them along with the rest, and were therefore still covered.
When studying this very revealing matter
of atonement, one finds a wonderful testimony of Yahweh's
favor and faithfulness in providing His promised covering.
In Ezekiel 16 we see His selection of Jerusalem from
its original unwanted, vulnerable, rejected state. Yahweh
chose it, cleansed it, refreshed it, and, most significantly,
covered its nakedness. Jerusalem prospered under His
covering and became a splendorous example among the nations.
"But you trusted in your beauty and played
the harlot because of your fame," declared Yahweh,
and she greatly multiplied her sins. Thus He said, "Because
your lewdness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered
[she removed her own covering] through your harlotries with
your lovers and with all your detestable idols, and
because of the blood of your sons which you gave
to idols, therefore, behold, I shall gather all your
lovers with whom you took pleasure, even all those whom
you loved and all those whom you hated. So I shall gather
them against you from every direction and expose your nakedness
to them that they may see your nakedness. Thus I shall
judge you ..." (vs. 36-38).
Yahweh said: Because you have removed your covering and sinned greatly, I will fully remove your covering and judge you. When women remove their coverings by rejecting their husband's headship and therewith remove the coverings over their bodies and their heads, then Yahweh must fully remove His covering and judge. Like Jerusalem, they "have borne the penalty of [their] lewdness and abominations" (vs. 58). Such is the state of not only the families of this nation, but of this nation as a whole as well.
When moorings are
One craft bound to
Adrift the crafts
But in this disparity their remains hope. "Nevertheless," says Yahweh to Jerusalem and to us, "I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed .... Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am Yahweh, in order that you may remember and be ashamed, and never open your mouth any more because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven [Lit., atoned – covered] you for all that you have done" (vss. 60-63). In the beginning, Jerusalem was naked, and Yahweh promised that He would cover her. Through her harlotry she uncovered herself, and Yahweh completely uncovered her and judged her thoroughly. But, Yahweh promises to return to her through His covenant and once again recover her.
There are things I have done in the past, even as a sincere Christian, that I am ashamed of today. Following a change in our family towards greater modesty, on one occasion we pulled out the old family movies to show the children. But instead of enjoyment for me, I found them to be a shame – the way we dressed and inappropriately and inadequately covered ourselves. We too were uncovered, following the ways of worldliness. I will not look at those movies again. They are the past that no longer represents our lives. We will go on to the coverings Yahweh has for us. Once a person truly realizes their dire need for a covering, the humiliation of the past will guard them, and they will wholly seek the coverings of Yahweh. Can you imagine Adam and Eve going back to their fig leaves?
And we cannot leave this matter of atonement without addressing the uncovering of our nation. On just one solitary issue alone, as a nation we are wholly deserving of Yahweh's judgment. Numbers 35:29-34 warns: "And these things shall be a statutory ordinance to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings. If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses .... Moreover you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death .... So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation [atonement – covering] can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. And you shall not defile the land in which you live ...." Today, through the murders of abortion, our land is polluted and defiled. As was Israel, it is uncovered and is due Yahweh's judgment.
But let us also look at the history of America and see the place the beard has occupied. At the founding of this nation the beard was not resident upon men's faces, other than on some immigrants and frontiersmen. By the 1800's it had found its place on the face of the men of the west. Then in 1861 an eleven year old girl by the name of Grace wrote the soon-to-be President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and a period of thirty years began in which all American men, North and South, East and West, began to grow the beard. By "grace" the covering beard took its place upon the men of this nation, uniting it as one when in our darkest hours it seemed that nothing else united it. While the nation was divided over the issue of slavery, the beard of Grace/grace united it. During the Civil War and for a quarter of a century following, the covering of Yahweh on a man's face resided in this nation. But in the 1890's the beard once again began to gradually lose its place on the face of American men. In 1895 King Camp Gillette introduced the disposable safety razor, beginning the "fad" of men shaving at home. The clean-cut look began, and has lasted for over 100 years.
Today, it is encouraging that men in the
United States are once again covering their faces.
This can only be from above and has hopeful prophetic implications. Those
implications can only be positive. Through our
nation's most troubling times, by His covering
grace Yahweh brought us through, united us bearded under
one progressing nation, and caused us in the 1900's
to become the blessing to the world as promised to Abraham
– "in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall
be blessed" (Genesis 18:18, 22:18). There is no
other nation in the history of the world that
could fulfill that promise.
This recovering of men today with the beard bears the hope of being the preluding work of Yahweh. While many are prophesying doom and destruction in the days ahead; to the contrary, Yahweh's grace will bring us mercy. As wayward Israel was promised to be recovered, Yahweh will recover and restore us, doing us good and not evil, bringing us through and not forsaking us. This He will accomplish – not just for our sake, but for His holy name's sake (Ezekiel 36:22). We rejoice and take hope in Yahweh's recovering of men's stern jaws. We also take hope that in recovering men's mouths, He also will bring forth His words of truth and life that are from above, having been withheld.
As we close this brief study on atonement, is it not evident that coverings are entirely essential to preclude Yahweh's humiliation and judgment? Repeatedly in the atonement process laid out primarily in Leviticus and Numbers, the final word after having passed through the recovering procedure was – "and they shall be forgiven." Let us seek our re-covering. Let us seek our atonement. And should we do so, Yahweh will say – "Forgiven".
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