- Rick LoPresti
The looking glass
Mirrors are common items today. You can buy one at the corner store for a few dollars. It was not so in ancient times. Mirrors were not made the same way they are today. The earliest mirrors were still pools of water or polished stones. Later, they were made from polished bronze. Since the bronze has color, the image it reflects is somewhat distorted. The materials and techniques to make mirrors has changed over the years to produce clearer and truer reflections, but the images are still not exact reproductions of the originals. For example, even if the image appears very clearly, it is still a reverse of the true. A famous example of an imperfect mirror is the first mirror used in the most powerful telescope ever made - the Hubble space telescope. Its mirror is 7.9 feet across. Because of the huge distances of the observations it would be making, its mirror needed to be polished to an accuracy of 10 nanometers (0.4microinches), or about 1/65 of the wavelength of red light. After the telescope was launched in 1990, the images it was returning to earth were distorted. Analysis of the flawed images showed that the cause of the problem was that the primary mirror had been polished to the wrong shape. Although it was probably the most precisely figured optical mirror ever made, at the perimeter it was too flat by about 2,200 nanometers (2.2 micrometers; 87 microinches), according to wikipedia.com. It was financially and practically impossible to repair or replace the mirror, so instead changes were made to the optical equipment to compensate for the flaw.
When the Israelites left Egypt, God told them to take spoils from the Egyptians (Ex 3:22, Ex 12:35-36). This was not only as a punishment on the Egyptians, but as partial payment for 400 years of unpaid labor. God also had plans for some of the items taken. They were later used in the construction of the tabernacle. One of the pieces of furniture in the tabernacle was the brazen laver (Ex 30:18-21). It was the second piece of furniture a Levitical priest would see as he entered through the gate into the court of the tabernacle. It was a container for water with which the priest would wash before entering the holy place. It was made out of the bronze mirrors the ladies of Israel had (Ex 38:8). The first piece of furniture inside the gate was the brazen altar where the animal sacrifices were made (Ex 40:6-7). Thus the first item symbolized repentance and atonement for sin through bloodshed and death. The second item symbolized washing from sin in preparation for entering into the holy presence of God. Thus we have a perfect symbol of the New Testament plan of salvation explained by the apostle Peter on the day the church began in Acts 2. After Peter preached the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the people asked him what to do. He responded, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38)." The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1Cor 15:1-4). Our response to the gospel is to die to sin in repentance, be buried with Christ in water baptism, and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the resurrection power of God (Rom 6:1-4, Col 2:8-13).
The Hebrew word translated lookingglasses in Exodus 38:8 means vision or mode of revelation. It appears 12 times in the Bible, and is translated vision or visions 11 of those times. This is not referring to natural vision. It is talking about having a spiritual vision or revelation from God (Gen 46:2, Num 12:6, 1Sam 3:15, Eze 1:1, Eze 8:3, Eze 40:2, Eze 43:3, Dan 10:7-8 & 16). Thus the laver being made of mirrors has real spiritual meaning. For one, it means that we are to examine ourselves when we make our approach to God, both initially and always after (1Cor 11:28, 2Cor 13:5). There is a difference between examining ourselves and condemning ourselves. The priest had to approach the laver and wash each time he entered the tabernacle to avoid dying from his uncleanness in the holy presence of God. We only need to baptized in water once to receive remission of sins. There is no scriptural precedent for being baptized again unless the first one was not by being immersed in water in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins repented of (Acts 19:1-7). However, we are always in need of an attitude and posture of repentance in our approach to the Holy One. We cannot see ourselves the way God sees us without His help. Our heart is gullible (Jer 17:9-10). We can deceive ourselves (1Jn 1:8). Man is often guilty of trying to justify himself instead of God. In Oscar Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), a portrait serves as a mirror that reflects the decaying image of a man who sees himself as always young, as well as the effect on his soul of each sinful act.
Yet God also wants us to see ourselves through the eyes of His love. God created man in His image (Gen 1:27). Sin has tainted that image and distorted what God made man to be. The greatest curse of sin is not circumstantial, but relational. In other words, the danger of sin is not just that it produces difficulties in this life. It is that is distorts our relationship with God. Sin makes us see God, sin, and ourselves inaccurately. We then produce a distorted image. God wants His perfect image to be reflected in and through us. Although sin has distorted our ability to reflect that image, God has made a repair to the optical equipment so that the true image of God can again be seen. It was His incarnation, life, death, burial, and resurrection in the person of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29, 1Cor 15:49, 2Cor 3:18, 2Cor 4:4, Col 1:15, Col 3:10, Heb 1:3). God amde Adam in His image, but sin distorted that into the image of imperfect man (Gen 5:1-3). Jesus came as the perfect image of God to show us what it is, and to recreate it in us (Rom 5, 1Cor 15). The word image in the Old Testament most often means a man-made idol. In the book of Revelation, it refers to the image of the antichrist (Rev 13:14-15, Rev 14:9-11, Rev 15:2, Rev 16:2, Rev 19:20, Rev 20:4). This is the ultimate attempt by man to make his own image without God. It is the spirit of the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9). It continued to be the spirit of Babel, which is Babylon (Dan 4-5). It is the spirit of this world (Ps 2, 2Thes 2). God wants us to reflect His perfect image, not a distorted, sinful image. He does see our flaws, and He does not merely overlook or excuse them (Acts 17:29-31). What He does in His love for us is offer us repentance (Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, Rom 2:4, 2Tim 2:25, 2Pet 3:9). When we accept, He can start correcting our spiritual optics so His image can begin to be seen more clearly. When Paul wrote the beautiful passage about love in 1Corinthians 13, he said, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (vs 12)." He also wrote, "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2Cor 3:18)."
We need God to help us see the truth when we look in the mirror of His word. James wrote, "For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (Jam 1:23-25)." Due to its location in a steep-sided valley, the Italian town of Viganella gets no direct sunlight for seven weeks each winter. In 2006, a large, expensive, computer-controlled mirror was installed to reflect sunlight into the town's piazza. We need God to shine the light of His truth into our heart so we can see Him, sin, and ourselves the way they really are (Jn 1:1-18, Jn 8:12, Jn 9, Jn 12:46, 1Jn 1-2).