God’s Presence and Glory Dwells with the People, Exodus 34:29-35

At last, God blesses Israel’s tabernacle with the glory of His presence. Exodus begins with Moses witnessing God’s glory in the burning bush (3:1-5) and ends with God’s glory descending in the camp and filling the tabernacle. Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “The presence of the glory of God in the camp of Israel was not a luxury; it was a necessity. It identified Israel as the people of God and set them apart from the other nations, for the tabernacle was consecrated by the glory of God (29:43-44). Other nations had sacred buildings, but they were empty.”

God’s Glory Reflected (34:29-35; 2 Cor. 3)

Did Moses realize his face glowed? He apparently “absorbed” some of God’s glory when he soaked in God’s presence the past 80 days while fasting and praying. He had also caught a glimpse of God’s glory. According to this passage, however, Moses was clueless about his radiant face. But it didn’t take long for him to figure out why the people were afraid of him when he came down the mountain. Moses soon persuaded them to come and converse as before. He eventually covered his face with a veil as the glory faded (2 Cor. 3:13). Why? Weren’t the people afraid this strange phenomenon? Wiersbe observes: “The Jews saw this glory as something wonderful and exciting, but what would they say if they knew it was fading away? Who wants to follow a leader who is losing his glory?”

So Moses continued the pattern: Talk to God inside the tent of meeting; God’s glory illuminates his face; Moses covers face with a veil as the glory fades. The Apostle Paul—when answering legalists who taught that God’s way to salvation involves not only faith in Christ, but also obedience to the law (Acts 15:1)—made the following applications about this amazing event (2 Corinthians 3):

  1. The glory of the Mosaic legal system was fading away, but the glory of God’s grace in the gospel is more glorious (vv. 7-11).
  2. The lost Jews during Paul’s day had a veil covering their hearts due to unbelief, blocking their view of God’s glory (2 Cor. 3:14-16). The only remedy for the removal of the veil was to trust Jesus and believe the Word.
  3. Paul also related Moses’ experience to Christians, who through faith experience a spiritual transformation by seeing Christ’s glory in the Word (vv. 17-18). Wiersbe writes: “This is why Christians read the Bible and meditate on it, because when the child of God looks into the Word of God and sees the Son of God, he or she is transformed by the Spirit of God into the image of God for the glory of God.”

    (Credit: elleandcompanydesign.com)

REFLECT (Or should I say “RADIATE”?) 🙂

I’ll close with two more Wiersbe quotes (because they’re really interesting!): “The Greek word for ‘transformed’ in 2 Corinthians 3:18 is “transfigured,” as in Matthew 17:2. It describes the glory on the inside being revealed on the outside. Moses only reflected the glory of God; the dedicated believer radiates the glory of God. Unlike Moses, we don’t wear a veil when we come to God’s Word because we have nothing to hide.”

“Truly spiritual people don’t recognize their own godliness but usually feel as though they’re failures and far from what they ought to be. At Pentecost (Acts 2), each believer could see the tongues of fire above the other believers’ heads, but not over their own heads.”

Next week will be my last post on Exodus. Have a great week!

Nepal Campus Crusade for Christ: Krishna Chaudhary

I haven’t posted in the “Service” category for some time, but I hope to add more stories and service opportunities here.

Introducing Krishna Chaudhary

Krishna and his wife recently dedicated their beautiful baby, Jason, to God.

Krishna Chaudhary is a missionary at Campus Crusade for Christ in Kathmandu, Nepal where he has served as full time staff and Finance Manager from 2011 to the present. Krishna received his education from Tribhuvan University. There are six members in his KaV South City Team. His coverage area includes Birjung, Hetuda and Lalitpur.

Our Vision: Movements everywhere in Nepal so that everyone will know someone who truly follow Jesus
Our Mission: Launching spiritual movements everywhere in Nepal through winning, building, training and sending Christ Centered Multiplying Disciples

Despite great persecution and availability of few faithful kingdom leaders, God began to build a spiritual movement everywhere in Nepal since Campus Crusade for Christ began ministry in 1976. Below is an update from the ministry’s national director, Tara Singh Kathayat. As you read, would you prayerfully consider supporting Krishna through prayer and/or being a financial partner?

“Now, religious freedom has definitely given us more opportunity to reach unreached people of the country. But on the other hand nominalism is increasing immensely in Nepal. We have greater technology, resources, kingdom leaders and workers than ever before for proclaiming the gospel to every person, tribe and tongue. Yet many unreached peoples still await a fair opportunity to know and follow Jesus.

Lately, Nepal Campus Crusade for Christ has been identifying the systemic problems and obstacles that hinder us from bringing the gospel to every segment of the society. So we have set the Mission Critical Components-MCC as Student-led Movement, Leader-led Movement, Global Church Movement, Virtual-led Movement and Prayer Movement to highlight the mission strategies that can help us overcome the barriers and bring the love of Christ to every person regardless of their location, language or culture—building spiritual movement everywhere in Nepal by making disciples who makes disciples. We as a team are focused and dedicated to building and equipping followers of Christ.”

To receive Krishna’s current Ministry Partner Letter, view specific prayer requests, and/or financial partnership information contact Krishna Chaudhary at: krish.chudhary@gmail.com. Nepal Campus Crusade for Christ website may be found here: http://www.nepalccc.org/. Thank you for your prayerful consideration!

Grace: God’s Servant Intercedes, Exodus 33:12-34:28

During Moses’ second forty night and day period on Mount Sinai—after Israel commits idolatry—he pleads with the Lord to restore His promised blessings to them. By God’s grace, Moses fulfills his purposes: God promises to go with Israel, God shows Moses a glimpse of His glory, and God forgives Israel’s sins.

God’s presence with the nation (33:12-17)

Moses makes his appeal to God on the basis of His grace. For God showed mercy when He refrained from completely destroying the people for their sin of idolatry. Moses’ request lines up with the factor that set Israel apart from the other nations: God’s presence with Israel. Moses reminds the Lord of His promise to go with the people on their journey to the promised land. He must have been ecstatic when God promises once again to escort them to the Promised Land.

So does God’s people have the right to “negotiate” with God as Moses did? Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) gives an interesting observation: “It all depends on our relationship with God. Moses knew the ways of God (Ps. 103:7) and was the intimate friend of God, and therefore he was able to present his case with faith and skill. The godly Scottish minister Samuel Rutherford, who knew what it was to suffer for Christ, wrote, ‘It is faith’s work to claim and challenge loving-kindness out of all the roughest strokes of God.’ That’s what Moses was doing for the people.”

God’s Glory Revealed (33:18-23)

Although Moses and the Jews witnessed God’s glory in the pillar of cloud and fire, and in the storm on Mt. Sinai, Moses tells God he wants to see His glory revealed to him personally. God’s response? “’I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ ‘But,’ He said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live,’” (33:19-20).

Moses is given a guarded glimpse of God’s back when He places Moses in the cleft of a rock and covers him with His hand. When God later calls Moses to bring two new stone tablets—before He renews the covenant—He associates His name with the greatness of His attributes. This declaration is the foundation to both Jewish and Christian theology.

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us,” (1 John 4:12).

God’s Forgiveness Granted (34:1-28)

Moses must have received a bolt of confidence with God’s renewed promise to go with the people. But would He accompany them like a policeman with criminals, or like a caring Father? Wiersbe writes: “The answer came when the Lord ordered Moses to prepare two new stone tablets, for this meant He was going to replace the tablets that Moses had broken! God would renew the covenant! . . . .Faith comes by hearing and receiving God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), so Moses by faith asked God to forgive the people.”

Even though Moses wasn’t guilty of disobeying God, he bows before the Lord and asks God to “pardon our iniquity and our sin” (34:9). As God graciously forgives the people and renews the covenant He repeats the crucial features in the covenant, especially laws concerning idolatry. For temptation would loom in the Promised Land. God clarifies: His people are not to compromise through making agreements, intermarriage, and/or adopting pagan ways. For idolatry to God is like adultery in marriage.

So God commands the Israelites to destroy everything associated with idols when they reach the promised land. Sound harsh? Wiersbe observes: “We who live many millennia after these events can’t begin to comprehend how filthy Canaanite idolatry was when Israel conquered the land. It was unspeakably immoral, and like cancerous tumors in human bodies, the pagan temples and altars had to be removed and destroyed before the land could be healthy. . . . Idolatry was the enemy that almost destroyed the nation.”

Reflect

This passage offers several great insights, but the following truth really stands out to me: Instead of God showing Moses a vision of His power and majesty, He simply declares who He is. His character—associated with His name—is demonstrated through love, patience, forgiveness, mercy, grace, compassion, faithfulness, and justice. Although God abhors idolatry, He still pursued Israel with great patience and love. He didn’t yoke His commands around their necks, rather, He offered them another chance to embrace His laws and obey. For to obey would bring them happiness and freedom. God also pursues us, even in the times of discipline and punishment. We glorify Him when we obey His commands and allow Him to develop His character in us.

Although we would die if we were to see God’s face now, because of His great holiness and power, He made a way for us to know Him through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:21). It’s hard to fathom that this great God would even want a personal relationship with us. But He does! And He went to great lengths to make this possible.

Do you hunger to know this God who created you and loves you? The New Testament Gospel books—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—tell the story of Jesus’ life and ministry. If you have never read these books in the Bible, why not start now? Reading one chapter daily is doable. You don’t have to have it all together to come to God. None of us do! If you ask God in sincerity to reveal Himself to you, He will. But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 4:29). . . . Have a great week!

The Great Discipline, Exodus 32:15-33:11

God never permits His people to sin successfully.” –Charles Spurgeon

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “God in His grace forgives our sins, but God in His government allows sin to work out its terrible consequences in human life. We reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-8). . . . What a tragedy it is to reap the consequences of forgiven sin!”

King David—a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22)—was one example of not only experiencing God’s forgiveness, but also having to face the consequence of his sins. God told him that the sword would not depart from his family, and it didn’t (2 Sam. 12:1-14).

With Moses’ absence for 40 days on Mt. Sinai, Israel impatiently grumbles against Moses and demands that Aaron set up an idol to lead them in place of God. Aaron complies and the people say: “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt,” (32:4).

Moses Disciplines the people (32:15-29)

Moses asks Joshua to join him as he treks down Mt. Sinai. For one day Joshua would replace Moses and take up his leadership role. As Moses sees the golden calf idol, he throws down the stone tablets—that God had inscribed with His finger—in righteous anger. This act of breaking the tablets symbolizes Israel’s breaking the covenant with God. Now they would face the consequences.

After Moses confronts Aaron, he obeys God’s order and asks the people: “Who is on the Lord’s side? (see Josh. 24:15). The people are given opportunity to repent of their sin and return to God, but only the Levites respond. Setting aside the bonds of family and friendship, these men obediently follow through with the gut wrenching task of killing all involved in the orgy (about three thousand). Paul uses this event—among others—centuries later to warn believers about rebelling against God (1 Cor. 10:1-12).

Next, Moses destroys the idol calf by burning it, grinding the gold to powder, then throwing the powder into a stream. As he makes the people drink from this stream (Deut. 9:21), he forces them to identify with their sins.

Although Moses is angry with the people, God is angrier. When Moses returns to Mt. Sinai again for forty days and nights fasting and praying, he petitions God for an exchange: Spare the Israelites and kill him instead. But God rejects his offer. Maybe if the Israelites knew the anguish Moses experienced because of them they might have been more supportive of him. The Lord, however, comforts Moses with the assurance that His angel would go before them and Moses would once again lead them. But punishment would be certain, in God’s own way and in His own time.

God Disciplines the People (32:35-33:11)

“Grace is simply not just leniency when we sin, grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.” –John Piper

After the Levites kill three thousand men, God’s first discipline comes in the form of a plague among the people. Wiersbe writes: “God knew who all the guilty people were. Sometimes God passes the sentence of judgment immediately but then delays executing the penalty. However, whether in the Old Testament or the New, ‘there is sin leading to death’ (1 John 5:16-17 NKJV).”

In God’s second judgment, He withdraws His presence leading Israel in their march to the Promised Land (33:1-6). Although He would still keep His covenant promises He made with the patriarchs earlier, He would send an angel to accompany them instead of in the person of His Son—“the Angel of the Lord”—going before Israel (23:20-23).

God’s third judgment involves moving Moses’ “tent of meeting” outside the camp where he could personally meet with God. Moses used this as a special tent to consult God since the tabernacle hadn’t been erected or dedicated yet. The cloud of pillar that led Israel thus far would hover at the tent door as God graciously granted Moses the privilege of talking to Him face-to-face (Num. 12:1-8; Deut. 34:10).

Reflect

The brief pleasure of sin isn’t worth its cost. Not only did Israel’s sin lead to thousands of deaths, but it also robbed the nation of God’s presence in both their camp and in their journey to the Promised Land. Although God punishes sin, He also shows His love to a thousand generations to those who love Him and keep His commandments (Exodus 20:6).

If you are experiencing God’s discipline, know that He loves you. Turn away from the sin and turn to Him. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Wishing you a wonderful week!

Israel’s Idolatry, Exodus 32:1-24

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’” –Exodus 32:1

While Moses spends forty days and nights on Mt. Sinai receiving the tabernacle building instructions and tablets of the covenant from God, the Israelites’ impatience becomes their undoing. Instead of waiting for God to fill the tabernacle with His glory, Israel falls into idolatry again, even though they witnessed the invisible God in action. With Moses’ absence, Aaron caves to public pressure. Instead of turning to God for help and warning the people, he gratifies their sinful hearts’ desire by making a golden calf in place of God.

So the people fall back into idol worship—which still lingered in their hearts from their captivity in Egypt—before indulging in immorality. Psalm 106:19-23 says Israel exchanged the glory of the true and living God for the image of an animal, acting like the heathen nations around them (Rom. 1:22-27).

Righteous anger kicks in when Moses sees their revelry. Perhaps his action of throwing the tablets down symbolizes the people’s sin of breaking God’s covenant. Aaron later offers a lame excuse, blaming the people (vv. 22-24). But God doesn’t buy it. He would have killed Aaron in His anger if weren’t for Moses’ intercession (Deut. 9:20).

The Great Test (vv. 7-14)

God’s character doesn’t change, but He does respond to His people’s confessions and prayers.

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “In leadership, the difficult experiences with our people either make us or break us, and Moses was about to be tested. God called Israel ‘your people whom you brought out of Egypt,’ as though the Lord were abandoning the nation to Moses, but Moses soon reminded Him that they were His people and that He had delivered them. Furthermore, God had made a covenant with their forefathers to bless them, multiply them, and give them their land (Gen. 12:1-3). Moses intended to hold God to His word, and that’s what God wanted him to do.”

Next, God takes a different approach with Moses: He offers to make a new nation out of Moses’ descendants after wiping out Israel. But Moses love for his people—as stubborn and sinful as they were—trumps. Moses isn’t focused on himself or his future. Rather, his utmost desire is to glorify God and watch Him fulfill His promises.

Evidently, Moses spends the next 40 days and nights interceding for the people before taking disciplinary action (Duet. 9:18). Although God had every right to be angry with Israel, Moses persuades Him to not destroy Israel. Wiersbe observes: “In writing this account, Moses used human terms to describe divine actions, which is why he wrote in verse 14 that God ‘repented’ (KJV). The Hebrew word means ‘to grieve, to be sorry’ (Gen. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:29) and describes God’s change of approach in dealing with His people (Jer. 18:1-12; 19; 26).

Reflect

Idolatry happens when we seek to replace the unseen God with something that can be seen, usually something physically oriented. We must guard against trying to shape God to our liking for the convenience of obeying or ignoring. Faith is the underlying issue of idolatry since “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).

Aaron had been helpful to Moses with his speaking skills. But without his brother’s leadership, Aaron yielded to public pressure. God gives various abilities and weaves them together for His use. But a strength/ability can also become a weakness if one isn’t careful. As in Aaron’s case, the skills that make a good team player can sometimes also make a poor leader. Most of us have more of the follower than leader in us. Only God deserves our complete devotion. If a leader teaches or acts against God’s Word, we must stand firm, even if it means standing alone. Yet we’re really not alone. God promises to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).

Lastly, instead of referring to the Mosaic covenant—ratified about one month prior—Moses appeals to God on the Abrahamic Covenant. For the provisional law couldn’t save or change human hearts where sin roots. Rather, the Mosaic Covenant showed human hearts’ depravity and condemned sin based on the righteousness of men. While the old covenant gave no assurance for forgiveness of sins, the new covenant is based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Therefore, we can have complete confidence in His forgiveness.

I’m so thankful that God doesn’t leave us in our mess! If you want to probe further into how God can revive and change a sinful heart, the following podcast from my pastor, Cliff Purcell, does a great job in addressing how the Holy Spirit wants to breathe new life into one’s heart. You may find his podcast here: A Chance of Flurries. . . Next week, we’ll look at how seriously God took Israel’s flagrant sin. Have a great week!

Spirit-Filled Spirit Guild, Exodus 31:1-11; 35:30-35

Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.” -Exodus 35:30-35

(Source: yearinthebible.com)

Bezalel and Oholiab—with very unique names—were chosen by God. These two men were commanded to make unique engravings and designs with materials like yarn, linen, wood and gems. They were also to teach others their craft in designing the tabernacle furniture, furnishings, accessories and priestly garments, all according to the pattern God gave Moses.

How could just two men carry off such a huge task? God gave them wisdom, understanding, and knowledge for leadership and artistic craftsmanship through the filling of His Spirit.

God gives His people a variety of abilities. Don’t look down on your skills if you’re not a leader like Moses, or have a theological education. It took tremendous community effort in building the tabernacle. Likewise, churches today need this same kind of mentoring and working together for essential services. What abilities and skills has God gifted you with? How could you use these abilities to serve God and others?

Confession: I stole . . . uh borrowed . . . the title of my post from my pastor’s sermon three weeks ago. (I didn’t think he’d mind!) Pastor Cliff is currently teaching a series about the Holy Spirit. He gave a really interesting message about Bezalel and Oholiab that I’d like to share. You can find (and listen to) his podcast here: Spirit-Filled Spirit Guild. Have a wonderful week!

Consecration of the Priests (Part 2), Exodus 29; 30:22-33

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” –Hebrews 9:24-26

In order to set the high priest and his sons apart for service, God commanded that they participate in a public consecration ceremony that lasted a week. During this time, the priests had to remain in the tabernacle precincts. My last post summarized the first two stages of this ceremony. Below are the following five stages.

  • The priests were anointed (Ex. 29:7, 21; Lev. 8:10-12, 30). In the Old Testament, God granted priests, prophets, and kings His Holy Spirit for empowerment and service (Luke 4:17-19; Isa. 61:1-3). A special oil was used only to anoint the priests, tabernacle and its furnishings. Moses poured the oil over Aaron’s head. The oil flowed down his beard—covering his breastplate and stones that represent Israel’s tribes—displaying a beautiful picture of unity in the Lord (Ps. 133:2).

(Source: chongsoonkim.blogspot.com)
Under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit’s anointing isn’t reserved just for priests, prophets, and kings. Those who have placed their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior have also received an anointing of God’s Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27; 2 Cor. 1:21-22). The Holy Spirit is the “down payment” of future glory. He has both anointed and sealed us by His Spirit.

  • The priests were forgiven (Ex. 29:10-14).

    Jesus Christ is our sin offering. We find forgiveness in Him alone (Isa. 53:4-6, 12; Matt. 26:28; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; Rev. 1:5-6).

    To atone for the priests’ sins, they had to sacrifice a slain bull (Lev. 4; 8:14-17). This sin offering was to be repeated daily for a week (Ex. 29:36-37) to cleanse not only themselves, but also to sanctify the altar where the priests would minister.

  • The priests were completely dedicated to God (Ex. 29:15-18; Lev. 8:18-21). God expected the high priest and his associates to fully devote themselves to their work of ministry. Total dedication to the Lord is depicted when the animal is completely given to Him during the burnt offering sacrifice (Lev. 1). Likewise, Jesus held nothing back in both His ministry before the cross and becoming our sacrifice on the cross.
  • The priests were marked by the blood (Ex. 29:19-22; Lev. 8:22-24). Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “At this point in the ordination ceremony, we would have expected Moses to offer a trespass offering (Lev. 5), but instead, he offered a ram as a peace offering, “the ram of consecration” (Ex. 29:22). The Hebrew word means “filling” because the priests’ hands were filled with bread and meat.” Moses not only sprinkled the blood—along with the anointing oil—on Aaron, his sons, and the altar, but also marked each man with some blood on the right thumb, right big toe, and right earlobe as a reminder to the following: Listen to God’s Word; carry out God’s work; and follow God’s way. As the blood speaks of sacrifice, the priests became “living sacrifices” in their service of the Lord (Rom. 12:1).
  • The priests were fed (Ex. 29:22-28, 31-34; Lev. 8:25-29). As part of the priests’ payment for serving at the altar, pieces from some of the offerings—along with special harvest tithes—were given to them. However, they were to eat in the tabernacle precincts and view these gifts as holy sacrifices. The priests’ hands were filled from the “food basket” (Ex. 29:2-3) and from the altar (vv. 22-28). Then the priests would wave these gifts toward the altar in devotion to God. Lastly, they shared this food in a fellowship meal (vv. 31-34). The priests would never lack for nourishment if they faithfully encouraged Israel to obey God and taught His Word. Sadly—in later years—some of the priests lost sight of God and His commands as they consumed the best for themselves (1 Sam. 2:12-17; Mal. 1:6-14).

Upon completion of their ordination ceremony, the priests immediately entered into ministry with no allotted vacation or sick days. Their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule were charted in the law that God gave Moses on Mount Sinai. Every day would start with sacrificing a lamb as a burnt offering. This signified the people’s total dedication to God. The day also ended with offering another lamb as a burnt offering. Wiersbe observes: “That’s a good example for us to follow, opening and closing the day with surrender to the Lord. . . . The flour and wine [given as a meal offering] represented the results of the people’s labor in the fields and the vineyards. Symbolically, they were presenting the fruit of their toil to God and thanking Him for the strength to work and for food to eat (Deut. 8:6-18). The wine poured out was a picture of their lives poured out in His service (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6, NIV).”

Reflect

The priests’ first obligation was to minister to God. What does this mean for God’s people today? Who has been anointed with the Holy Spirit today? What is gained from this anointing? What does it mean for believers to present their bodies as a living and holy sacrifice (Rom. 12:1)?

Consecration of the Priests (Part 1), Exodus 29:1-37; 30:22-33

“It comes as a shock to some people to learn that Jesus did not die to make us happy; He died to make sinners holy. ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ was a frequent command to the Jews and it’s repeated in 1 Peter 1:15-16 for believers today. . . .” – Warren Wiersbe, Be Delivered

My last post explored the purpose of the priesthood and the High Priest. We learned that the priesthood with the sacrificial system was temporary. Through the priests and their work, God planned to prepare all people for the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, God in flesh. Jesus, our great high priest, is superior to the Old Testament priests. Like the high priest, He mediates between God and us. But unlike the high priest who could only go before God once yearly, Christ is always available to hear our prayers and intercedes for us as our representative at the Father’s right hand. As a human, Jesus experienced a full range of temptations, but never sinned. He sympathizes with us in our weakness and assures us of God’s forgiveness and help when facing temptation.

It would be easy to gloss over this next section, “Consecration of the Priests”. But through a consistent study of the Old Testament, we’re given a deeper understanding and appreciation of the New Testament. When I read Wiersbe’s quote (below) I wonder if this truth gets muted in some of our churches where the main focus is on entertainment.

Jesus did not die to make us happy; He died to make sinners holy.”

This certainly isn’t a popular teaching. Many probably question: “Why would I want to follow God if He’s not for my happiness?” The truth is, however, God is for our joy and happiness. But being perfectly holy, He hates sin. Yes, He also loves the sinner, thankfully! But if we’re not cleansed from our sin, we won’t be living with Him for eternity (Rom. 6:23). God also knows that deep joy can only be ours when we are free from being entangled in sin. So He disciplines those He loves.

Joy is a by-product of living in God’s presence and is not dependent on our circumstances.

It would be wrong if I don’t finish Wiersbe’s quote before moving on: “The first step toward happiness is holiness. If we’re right with God, then we can start being right with others and with the circumstances of life that trouble us. If you aim for happiness, you’ll miss it, but if you aim for holiness, you’ll also find happiness in the Lord.”

Consecration of the Priests

To set the high priest and his sons apart as God’s servants, God commanded that they participate in a public consecration service. Wiersbe writes of at least seven stages in this service.

  • The priests were washed (Ex. 29:4; Lev. 8:6). The Bible depicts sin with the following terms: disease (Isa. 1:4-6), darkness (1 John 1:5-10), drowning (Ps. 130:1-4), and even death (Eph. 2:1, 5; John 5:24), but frequently it’s pictured as dirt and defilement (Isa. 1:16, 18; Jer. 4:14; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 9:14; James 1:21; 4:8). Complete cleansing from the Lord was symbolized when Aaron and his sons were washed all over. Likewise, those who have placed their trust in Christ have also experienced this inward cleansing from the Lord (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
  • The priests were clothed (Ex. 29:5-6, 8-9, 29-30; Lev. 8:7-9, 13). God instructed the priests to wear specific garments. Moses clothed his brother Aaron and his sons with linen tunics and bonnets. They dared not minister in the tabernacle without their official “uniforms”. Scripture likens the wearing of garments to the character and life of the believer. We are to put aside filthy garments of the old life and put on the beautiful “garments of grace” the Lord provides (Eph. 4:17-32; Col. 3:1-15). When Christ died on the cross He purchased a robe of righteousness for us (Isa. 61:10; 2 Cor. 5:17, 21).

I’ll conclude with the remaining stages of this consecration service in my next post.

Reflect

It’s always easier (and more comfortable) to point out sin in others. But God tells us “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). We can never achieve righteousness by our own efforts and standards. However, when we ask God with honesty and sincerity to save us from our sins, He will do it (1 John 1:9). For “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God, (2 Cor. 5:21).  Although Jesus followed His Father’s call, He willingly laid down His life. Why? “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Christ went all out so we could be clothed in a robe of righteousness and have eternal life.

What an awesome privilege to live in a time when Jesus Christ reigns not only as King over sin and death, but also serves as our Mediator and High Priest! God’s mercy toward us is not to be taken lightly. Philippians 2:12 tells us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. In context, this verse is an exhortation to unity, but I think it also refers to being careful in how we live and what we believe. . . . Have a great week!

The Purpose of the Priesthood and High Priest

Last week we explored the significance of the priestly garments in Exodus 28. We not only discovered that their clothing symbolized God’s expectations for them, but there are also some truths that parallel today’s church ministry of “the holy priesthood”.

Although God originally intended for His chosen people to be a “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6)—both as a nation and individually dealing directly with God—the people’s sin blotched that idea. So God initiated plan B by appointing priests from Levi’s tribe with the intended purpose of the people being able to approach Him within His system of sacrifices. If the people would offer certain sacrifices administered by the priests on their behalf, God promised to forgive their sins. The priests were also to represent God to the people by helping them obey the law through their teaching (Lev. 10:8-11; Deut. 33:10; Mal. 2:7).

The High Priest

The high priest was the highest religious leader of the Israelites. This position was hereditary, traced from Aaron’s lineage (Moses’ brother) who belonged to the Levite tribe (Exodus 28:1Numbers 18:7). Requirements of the high priest included: to be “whole” physically (without any physical defects) and holy in his conduct (Leviticus 21:6-8).

One role of the high priest was to oversee the responsibilities of all the subordinate priests (2 Chronicles 19:11). Only certain tasks were given to him, such as wearing the Urim and the Thummin (engraved dice-like stones used to determine truth or falsity), even though he could also perform regular priestly roles. The Israelites went to the high priest when seeking God’s will (Numbers 27:21). The New Testament (John 11:49-52) references the high priest as also having the gift of prophecy.

Another role of the high priest includes making a sin offering not only for himself, but also for the sins of the whole congregation (Leviticus 4:3-21). When a high priest died, all those confined to the cities of refuge for the accidental cause of death to another were given freedom (Numbers 35:28).

On the tenth day of the seventh month of every year the high priest conducted the service on the Day of Atonement. This marked his most important duty. For he was the only one permitted to enter the Most Holy Place to stand before God. Having made a sacrifice for himself (so he wouldn’t die) and for the people, he then brought the blood into the Holy of Holies. Through sprinkling the blood on the mercy seat, God’s “throne” (Leviticus 16:14-15) he made atonement for himself and the people for all their sins during that year (Exodus 30:10). This service is compared to the ministry of Jesus Christ as our High Priest (Hebrews 9:1-28).

(King James Version, source: Bible.Com)

Reflect

The priesthood with the sacrificial system was temporary. The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us that Christianity surpasses Judaism because it has a better covenant (8:1-13), a better sanctuary (9:1-10), and a more sufficient sacrifice for sins (9:11-10:18).

The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “Through these priests and their work, God wished to prepare all people for the coming of Jesus Christ, who would once again offer a direct relationship with God for anyone who would come to Him. But until Christ came, the priests were the people’s representatives before God. Through this Old Testament system, we can better understand the significance of what Christ did for us (see Hebrews 10:1-14).”

Christ is completely competent, qualified and supreme in the forgiveness of our sins. Not only is He the perfect revelation of God, but He is also the final and total sacrifice for our sin. Thankfully, Jesus—the only way to eternal life—is also our compassionate and understanding mediator.

The Priestly Garments, Exodus 28

I hope you are enjoying this last day of summer! We are drawing closer to the end of Exodus, (exhale). I am certainly learning a lot as I plod through this Old Testament book. It’s time to examine “the holy priesthood” that God ordained for the tabernacle.

God desired for Israel to be “a kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6) to share His blessings and reveal His glory to the surrounding unbelieving nations. But to glorify the Holy God, Israel would need to be a holy people. So God called the Aaronic priesthood (Aaron’s family) and the Levites (Num. 3-4) to serve and represent the people before Him in the tabernacle. They were also to represent God to the people by helping them obey the law through their teaching (Lev. 10:8-11; Deut. 33:10; Mal. 2:7). God didn’t choose Aaron and the Levites because of any special merit on their part, but rather as an act of sovereign grace.

Israel, however, failed in their role as a kingdom of priests. Instead of helping the people worship God, the spiritual leadership slowly decayed to the point of allowing idol worship in God’s temple (Ezek. 8). So God disciplined His people by permitting the Babylonians to carry thousands of Jews into exile. The Babylonians not only destroyed Jerusalem, but also the temple. Why? “But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests who shed within her the blood of the righteous” (Lam. 4:13).

How does the Old Testament priesthood relate to us today? Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “Today, God wants His church to minister in this world as a “holy priesthood” and a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5, 9). If God’s people are faithful in their priestly ministry, they will “proclaim the praises of Him who called [them] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5, 9 NKJV).

Like Aaron and his sons, we didn’t choose God. Rather, “[He] chose us” (John 15:16) as an act of divine grace. It’s no small thing that the Almighty God saves sinners, makes us His children, and then equips us to be His “holy priesthood”. Our first priority is to please God and serve Him. If we accomplish this, then He will work in us and through us to achieve His work in this world.

As we study the Old Testament priesthood, let’s look for parallels between the past work of the Jewish priests and the church’s ministry today of “the holy priesthood”.

The priestly garments

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One way the priests were to please the Lord was to obediently dress in His designed garments for them. They couldn’t dress however they wanted when ministering in the tabernacle. Why? Wiersbe lists three reasons: 1) They gave the priests “dignity and honor (Ex. 28:2) and set them apart, just as a uniform identifies a soldier or a nurse; 2) they revealed spiritual truths relating to their ministry and our ministry today; and 3) if the priests didn’t wear the special garments, they might die (vv. 35, 43).

And now—although I love having you here at my site—let’s examine GotQuestions.Org’s summary of this topic: the significance of the priestly garments. Listed below their post are related topics including: What were the Urim and Thummim?What was the significance of the ephod?, and What was the significance of the anointed priest?  Have a terrific week, end of summer, and beginning of fall! 🙂

God Wants His People to Appreciate and Enjoy His Blessings

God, I love living with you; your house glows with your glory.” –Psalm 26:8 (MSG)

The outside of the wilderness tabernacle may have looked common to foreigners, but Godly Old Testament believers realized the high price and great beauty inside the sanctuary.

Of these treasures, King David testified: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Ps. 27:4 NIV). And, “Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple” (Ps. 65:4).

The holy sanctuary served as nourishment for the souls of believers who loved God. “People take refuge in the shadow of your wings [the Holy of Holies]. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights” (Ps. 36:7-8).

The Sons of Korah wrote: “How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1-2).

What the Old Testament believers treasured in the tabernacle—and later in the temple—God’s people now have in Jesus Christ, who is enthroned at God’s right side in heaven. Everything within the sanctuary pointed toward the Savior, who would come from Israel’s line of descendants. Even the ceremonies pointed to Christ, revealing much of His character and salvation freely given to those who place their trust in Him.

God’s people have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Anything that adds or subtracts from the person and work of Jesus Christ, as revealed in Scripture, is false teaching. For all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ (Col. 1:19; 2:9). He is all we need “for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

Jesus The “Bread of Life”

After Jesus had fed more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish, a crowd in Capernaum’s synagogue wanted Him to prove Himself as Messiah by replicating the miracle of manna (John 6:30-31). They mainly followed Jesus because He gave them food to eat. But they—like us—needed something more substantial than food for their bodies. They needed food for their souls (Isa. 55:2).

God may have only given Israel manna in the desert, but He gave His only Son, Jesus, for the whole world. Jesus said “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Jesus came to give Himself as the Bread of Life for hungry sinners. The only way to be saved from eternal death is to receive Him into our inner being, similar as the body receives food. Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) puts it this way: “Just as the Jews had to stoop and pick up the manna, and then eat it, so sinners must humble themselves and receive Jesus Christ within. The Jews ate the manna and eventually died, but whoever receives Jesus Christ will live forever.”

Reflect

My heart goes out to those who have recently found themselves in the devastating wake of Mexico’s earthquake and the recent hurricanes: Harvey and Irma. It seems these natural catastrophes are on the rise, both in frequency and intensity. Many people are reeling from the loss of homes, businesses, schools and their local economy.

If all of our treasures are only invested here in this earthly life then fear and despair will eventually barge in. But fear and despair are not the final outcome for God’s children. Though we might walk through difficult times, God fills us with hope through His Son, Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I like how The Message translates verses 16-18: So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Let’s keep our eyes on the prize—our treasure Jesus Christ—and the eternal life He promises those who place their trust in Him!

Have questions on Christianity? My pastor, Cliff Purcell, is a gifted communicator of the Gospel. You may listen to his latest teaching here, (and/or sign up to listen to his podcasts): http://firstnaz.com/media?id=544981.


The Tabernacle Framework (Exodus 26:1-37; 27:9-19; 36:8-38; 38:9-20)

‘Honor and majesty are before Him,’ wrote the psalmist; ‘strength and beauty are in His sanctuary’ (Ps. 96:6). The strength of His sanctuary is revealed in its construction, and the beauty is revealed in its adornment.” –Warren Wiersbe, Be Delivered

I didn’t realize that more space is devoted to the tabernacle, more than any other topic, in all of scripture. I also wasn’t aware just how much the tabernacle is steeped in symbolism that points to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

So far in this study, we’ve explored the significance of the following tabernacle furniture: ark of the covenant, the table of “presence bread”, the golden lampstand, the incense altar, the lavar, and the brazen altar. Now onward to the framework of the tabernacle.

Strength

Elegant curtains were draped over the solid structure of the tabernacle proper. Forming the north and south walls were twenty boards of acacia wood overlaid with gold. These stood fifteen feet high and twenty-seven inches wide. Eight similar boards fashioned the west wall.

God instructed Jewish men of military age to give silver shekels (“redemption money”) to be made into two silver bases for each board. This provided needed stability and security on the uneven ground. Wiersbe writes: “God’s sanctuary didn’t rest on the shifting sands of this world but on the solid foundation of redemption.” Further strengthening the 48 boards were four rods (crossbars) which ran through golden rings on every board. The door into the Holy Place stood on the east end of the tabernacle.  A linen curtain—beautifully embroidered with blue, purple and scarlet yarn—hung on the five posts stationed there. Some scholars believe that the boards on the north and south walls were connected to the end pillars by an additional rod to give even more stability to the framework.

Beauty

The hangings and coverings of the tabernacle were cloaked in gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and white; major colors representing spiritual themes. The white linen fence surrounding the sacred area points to God’s holiness. At the east end stood the 30 foot gate embroidered in blue, purple, and scarlet. These brilliant colors stood out against the white linen fence. Blue, the color of the sky, reminds us of heaven and the God of heaven. Purple represents royalty, which points to the King. Scarlet signifies our Savior’s blood sacrifice.

Covered with four different curtains in the Holy Place and Holy of Holies, these curtains graced the walls and hung down to the ground. The leatherlike outmost covering consisted of badgers’ skins (“sea cows,” NIV). These not only protected the other coverings, but also the tabernacle proper and its furnishings. Below this protective covering lie a curtain of rams’ skins dyed red. The next layer consisted of a woven fabric made from goats hair, which might have been black. Fine linen embroidered with cherubim in blue, purple, and scarlet made up the last curtain.

The veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies hung from golden clasps supported by four pillars. The veil was also embroidered with cherubim in white, scarlet, blue, and purple. Hebrews 10:20 tells us that this veil typifies Christ’s body. When His body was offered on the cross, the veil in the temple tore from top to bottom (Mark 15:38).

Wiersbe notes: “Some students see a parallel between the four gospels and the four pillars that supported the veil with the four colors. Purple speaks of royalty—the gospel of Matthew, the gospel of the King. Scarlet reminds us of sacrifice—the gospel of Mark, the gospel of the Suffering Servant. White speaks of the perfect Son of Man—the gospel of Luke, and blue points to heaven—the gospel of John, the gospel of the Son of God who came from heaven to die for our sins.”

Next week we’ll explore how the treasures that the Old Testament believers possessed in God’s house translates to modern believers. Have a great week!

God Wants His People to be Clean, Exodus 30:17-21; 38:8

Then the Lord said to Moses, Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it.  Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.’” – Exodus 30:17-21

For the priests, keeping themselves clean became a matter of life or death.

The priests and Levites had to stop regularly at the lavar—located in the tabernacle courtyard between the brazen altar and the tent—to clean their hands and feet. To enter the tent, or serve at the brazen altar, without first washing meant they were placing their lives in the path of peril.

God didn’t give the shape or measurements of the lavar. For it was the contents that mattered most: clean water. The Levites were to replenish the water all day to keep it fresh.

What does water represent in Scripture?

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “Water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God (John 7:37-39), while water for washing is a picture of the Word of God (John 15:3; Eph. 5:25-27). The laver, then typifies the Word of God that cleanses the minds and hearts of those who receive it and obey it (John 17:17). The fact that the lavar was made out of the bronze mirrors of the Jewish women (Ex. 38:8) is evidence that it typifies God’s Word, for the Word of God is compared to a mirror (James 1:22-26; 2 Cor. 3:18).”

(RickWarren.org) . . . .There were three ways under the Old Testament to achieve ceremonial cleansing: by water, by fire, or by blood.
Under the New Testament, we are cleansed from our sin by the blood Jesus Christ shed on the cross for us. To receive this cleansing, we must confess our sins (1 John 1:5-2:2). But our hearts and minds can still become defiled by sin when we disobey God, (see Ps. 51). We may be restored through the “washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26).

The Need for Constant Cleansing

Wiersbe makes another interesting point and relays how this applies to believers today: “The Old Testament priests became defiled, not by sinning against God, but by serving God! Their feet became dirty as they walked in the courtyard and in the tabernacle (there was no floor in the tabernacle), and their hands were defiled as they handled the sacrifices and sprinkled the blood. Therefore, their hands and feet needed constant cleansing, and this was provided at the lavar. . . . When we trust Christ to save us, we’re washed all over (John 13:10; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) and don’t require “another bath” [see John 13:1-15], but as we go through life, our feet get dirty and we need to be cleansed. If we aren’t cleansed, we can’t have fellowship with the Lord, and if we’re out of fellowship with the Lord, we can’t enjoy His love or do His will. When we confess our sins, He cleanses us, and when we meditate on the Word, the Spirit renews us and restores us.”

(hipsterscripture.com)

Have a wonderful week!

The Brazen Altar, God Receives His People’s Sacrifices

The word atonement carries with it the idea of the just, holy, righteous side of God’s nature being satisfied. God’s law required death as the penalty for sin. When God saw the death of the innocent sacrifice, he was satisfied that the demands of his law had been carried out. Sacrificing an animal on an altar did not take away the sin. Man was still sinful. The sacrifice only pictured what was necessary for sin to be forgiven—death and shedding of blood. The blood provided an atonement or covering for sin.” –The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John R. Cross

Out of the tabernacle’s six pieces of furniture, so far we’ve looked at the ark of the covenant, the table of “presence bread”, the golden lampstand, and the incense altar. We now come to the fifth piece of furniture where animal sacrifices were burned: the brazen altar.

(bible-history.com)
When the common Israelite approached the tabernacle with his sacrifice and passed through that entrance gate he found that between him and the tabernacle structure stood an altar with a priest waiting beside it. The altar was square in shape (foursquare). Its length and breadth were exactly the same as the height of the white linen fence around the court 5 cubits (7 1/2 feet). Its height was 3 cubits (4 1/2 feet) and it was made of acacia wood overlaid with bronze with horns at each corner.

(bible-history.com)
The first thing a worshipper met when coming to the tabernacle to offer a sacrifice was a white linen fence that surrounded the tabernacle. This created a courtyard where the priests ministered. At the west end stood the tabernacle proper. The east end held a thirty-foot entrance to the enclosure where the priests met the people coming to offer sacrifices. The priest would inspect every animal carefully to make sure it was acceptable. To identify with the offering, the worshipper would lay his hand on the animal’s head (Lev. 1:1-9). Then the priest would slay the animal and offer it on the brazen altar (Lev. 1-7).

One Way to God

There was only one way to get to the altar of God because there was only one entrance gate to this enclosure. Likewise, there is only one entrance to God. The “gate” is Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 10:9).  Many think that every way is acceptable to God in our pluralistic society, but Scripture teaches otherwise (Prov. 14:12; Matt. 7:13-27). Forgiveness from sin and fellowship with God can only be attained through His Son.

Below is a summary of the significance and symbolism of the brazen altar.

(Source: SlideShare from The presence of_the_lord_v2)

For more on the significance of the tabernacle sacrifices and how they point to Jesus Christ, I found the following post from the Tabernacle Place helpful: The Brazen Altar. Also, The Bronze Altar from Bible History Online offers a more detailed post. Blessings!

God Hears the Prayers of His People

In prayer it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.” – John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

I am enjoying this study in Exodus and hope you are as well. So far in studying the tabernacle, we’ve covered the ark of the covenant, the table of “presence bread”, and the golden lampstand. The remainder of the tabernacle furniture includes: the incense altar (covered in this post), the lavar, and the brazen altar. We’ll explore the tabernacle framework, coverings, and the veils last.

The Altar of Incense

The priests were warned not to use the golden altar for anything except for burning incense (Ex. 30:9). God’s people were also called to pray whenever the priest burned incense (Luke 1:8-10). Today we are called to “pray continually” (1 Th. 5:16-18).

Made out of acacia wood and overlaid with gold, the altar of incense stood the tallest of all the furniture in the Holy Place (a foot and a half square and three feet high). An ornamental gold rim like a crown circled the top with golden “horns” on each corner. The altar stood before the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. The priest burned incense here, morning and evening, as he trimmed the lamps.

Prayer 

The Bible often paints a picture of prayer whenever incense is mentioned. John wrote about his experience in seeing the elders in heaven with “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8; also see 8:3-4).

God not only gave specific instructions to the priest for a prescribed mix of spices in the incense, but also the correct fire on the altar (Ex. 30:34-38). The brazen altar, where sacrifices were offered to God, supplied the fire for burning the incense (Lev. 16:12-13; Num. 16:46). The priest that risked disobedience also risked his life, as was the case with Nadab and Abihu. Both were killed when they tried to worship God with “false fire” (Lev. 10). Likewise, any Israelite trying to copy this special incense for personal use would be cut off, possibly leading to his death.

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “This suggests that true prayer must be based on the work of Christ on the cross and on our complete dedication to God. A true fervency in prayer isn’t a religious emotion we work up ourselves; rather, it’s a blessing that God sends down as we yield ourselves to Him.”

There are no substitutes for prayer. Contrary to some views, prayer isn’t just mumbling words with the hope that the “Big Guy in the sky” hears and answers. The golden altar also wasn’t intended as a bargaining table with God, but rather a place to adore Him and pray that His will be done. Some of the ingredients the Bible lists for prayer include: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, submission (1 Tim. 2:1; Phil. 4:6). Jesus even  gives us a pattern for our prayers (Matt. 6:5-15).

Believers today don’t have the veil that separates ourselves from God, but rather have direct access to His throne because of Jesus’ work on the cross. What an awesome privilege! God extends His grace to us under the new covenant and welcomes our worship and petitions in Jesus’ name (Heb. 10:19-25). And, not only does the Holy Spirit intercede in our hearts (Rom. 8:26-27), but Jesus—our living, reigning Priest-King—continually intercedes for us in heaven as well (Rom. 8:33-34; Heb. 4:14-16; 7:19-28). What an amazing blessing!

Now for the convicting part, at least for me. The priest didn’t rush into the tabernacle, burn the incense and then rush out so he could check off one more item on his “to do” list. Rather, he reverently drew near the altar after preparing himself to be in the presence of the holy God.

Reflect

Although we are privileged to draw near to God because of Christ, He deserves our utmost respect.

Interestingly, the priest had to apply blood to the incense altar once a year—on the Day of Atonement— to make it ceremonially clean before God (Ex. 30:10). Why? Wiersbe writes: “Even in our praying we can sin!” How? He continues: “. . . . special incense had to be ‘salted’ (Ex. 30:35), for salt is a symbol of purity and of a covenant relationship (Lev. 2:13). ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear’ (Ps. 66:18 NKJV). . . . We’re commanded to remove ‘anger or disputing’ from our hearts (1 Tim. 2:8). If God killed every believer today who didn’t pray as He has ordered, how many of us would survive a prayer meeting?”

Ouch. I’ll stop here. If I come across “preachy”, please know that any finger pointing is aimed at myself. . . . Alrighty then, wishing you a wonderful week!

Significance of the Lampstand in the Bible

“A talent of pure gold is to be used for the lampstand and all these accessories.” -Exodus 25:39

I hope you are enjoying summer. The months seem to fly by faster and faster. . . . Continuing our study in Exodus, we come to another significant piece of tabernacle furniture: the lampstand.

The candlestick was hammered from about seventy-five pounds of gold. Although the lampstand is laced with symbolism, it primarily points to Jesus Christ.

“Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.” -Exodus 27:20-21

Without the lampstand, the priests couldn’t carry out their ministries in the Holy Place for lack of light. Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) observes: “God wants us to offer Him intelligent worship, not ignorant worship (John 4:19-24; Acts 17:22-31; Rom. 1:18:25), and to do that, we need the light of the Word of God to guide us (Ps. 119:105, 130; Prov. 6:23). . . Prayer is enlightened by the Word (John 15:7), and the Word is opened up to us as we pray (Ps. 119:18; Eph. 1:15-23). Both the study of the Word and the exercise of prayer must be energized by the Holy Spirit, who is symbolized by oil (the lampstand, Zech. 4:1-7) and fire (the altar, Acts 2:3-4).

For more on the lampstand’s symbolism, I found the following post from gotquestions.org both interesting and informative. Writing of light, may you enjoy the rest of your summer as daylight lingers longer.

What is the Significance of the Lampstand?

 

The Place Where God Dwells, Part 2

When the Israelites traveled from place to place in their wilderness journey, the pillar of cloud and the ark of the Lord led the way. Out of the six special pieces of tabernacle furniture, the ark is mentioned first. Why? The ark represented God’s power and authority in Israel’s camp.

God Must Be First in Everything (Exodus 25:10-22; 37:1-9)

The New Testament’s version of putting God first.

The ark consisted of a wooden chest measuring forty-five inches long, twenty-seven inches wide, and twenty-seven inches high. God’s “shekinah” presence rested with the ark in the Holy of Holies. God’s throne—represented in the golden mercy seat—sat upon the ark with a cherub at each end; their wings overshadowing the ark.

The Ark Points to Jesus Christ

God designed the ark to symbolize His Son, Jesus, with the wood representing His humanity. The gold—which completely covered the wood—represents His deity.

The contents within the ark included: the tablets of the law (Ex. 25:16), a pot of manna (16:32-34), and Aaron’s rod that budded (Num. 16-17). Of these items, Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “These objects tell us that the law of God was in Christ’s heart and He perfectly obeyed and fulfilled it (Ps. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:5-9); He is the Bread of Life, who gives eternal life to all who receive Him (John 6:32); and He lives by the power of an endless life so we can be fruitful for God (Heb. 7:16).”

Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. Israel’s sins were covered for another year when he sprinkled blood from the sacrifices on the mercy seat (Lev. 16). Christ fulfilled this type when He died once for all the world’s sins. Jesus, the “Bread of Life”, clothed Himself in humanity that He might enter our world and sacrificially die in our place.

God’s Presence Nourishes His People (Exodus 25:23-29; 37:10-16)

When the priest walked from the outer court into the Holy Place, he would see the table of “presence bread,” on the right. The golden lampstand would be on his left, and the golden altar of incense ahead, which stood before the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.

Like the ark, the table—three feet long, a foot and a half wide, and twenty-seven inches high—reminds us of Jesus’ humanity and deity from the acacia wood overlaid with gold.

Each week, twelve loaves of bread were baked, (see recipe in Lev. 24:5-9). The old loaves were removed and eaten each Sabbath by the priests in the Holy Place while new loaves replaced the old. Wiersbe writes: “The loaves are called “showbread” (Ex. 25:30 NKJV) or “Presence bread (NIV), literally ‘bread of faces’. The presence of twelve loaves of bread in the Holy Place couldn’t help but remind the priests that they were serving the twelve tribes of Israel, God’s chosen people. Through these loaves, the twelve tribes were presented before God and God was present with them in their camp, beholding their worship and their daily walk. The tribes were also represented by the jewels on the breastplate and the shoulders of the high priest (28:6-21). When you combine the images of the jewels and the loaves, you learn that the Lord feeds His people, bears them on His shoulders, and carries them in His heart.”

The loaves of bread were considered a meal offering so no leaven would be in the dough (Lev. 2:1-11). The priests were to eat the bread in a thoughtful manner. The act of a defiled priest eating the bread or sacrificial meat belonging to the priests was punishable by death (Lev. 22:3-9).

Reflect

Ancient Israelites followed the ark of the Lord and pillar of cloud. God’s children today are also led by God from His throne: communicated through His Word, the Bible, and through His indwelling Holy Spirit.

Although Moses was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies to receive God’s will for the Israelites when God spoke to him from the golden mercy seat  (Ex. 25:21-22; 29:42; 30:6, 36; Num. 7:89), God’s people today may enter into His presence through the “mercy seat” of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:19-25).

God’s throne is no longer reserved for a high priest making atonement for sins once a year. Rather, God’s children may fellowship at the foot of God’s throne any where, any time, because Jesus’ sacrifice makes us right before God by cleansing us from our sin when we place our trust in Him and ask for His forgiveness (Heb. 9:11-10:14).

Paul used the comparison of the church to a loaf of unleavened bread (1 Cor. 5:1-8; 10:16-17) to emphasize that God’s people must keep themselves free from impurity. Jesus, the “Bread of Life”, not only offers eternal life, but also comforts and nourishes His children.

How are Christians called to act as priests today? What qualifies Jesus to be our mediator and Great High Priest under the new covenant? How is the church to “feed” the world?

 

The Place Where God Dwells—Part I

See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” -Exodus 25:40

The last section of Exodus (ch. 25-40) describes God’s plans for the tabernacle and the priesthood. God gave Moses the tabernacle pattern on Mt. Sinai and warned him to make everything accordingly.

So far, God has fulfilled His promises in Exodus 6:6-8 by delivering His people from Egypt (Ex. 1-18) and adopting them as His special treasure (Ex. 19-24; Rom. 9:4). Now He’s about to fulfill the remainder of His promise by coming into the camp so He might dwell with His people. Not only would this be a great privilege for the Israelites, but also a huge responsibility as the camp would need to be holy for the holy God to dwell there.

After giving Moses the law, God gives detailed instructions for the tabernacle He wants the Israelites to build. This would not only be a place of worship, but also a mobile building designed for the people to set up and take down during their wilderness journey. God also designates the tribe of Levi to be set apart that they might serve Him as priests.

The remainder of Exodus not only relays historical events, but is also steeped in spiritual truths. This book isn’t arranged topically. The tabernacle and priesthood is also sprinkled throughout Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Perhaps God did this so we wouldn’t just read one book, but study all the books He has authorized in the Bible. I’m following Warren Wiersbe’s outline from his book, Be Delivered, and hope to highlight how this section relates to us today.

God Designs the Plan (25:9, 40; 26:30)

God’s design for the earthly tabernacle was a copy of the heavenly tabernacle (Heb. 8:1-5; 9:1). The book of Revelation parallels the heavenly tabernacle with the earthly tabernacle: an altar (6:9-11), an altar of incense (8:3-5), a throne (4:2), elders/priests (vv. 4-5), lamps (v. 5), a “sea” (v. 6), and cherubim (vv. 6-7).

God always has a plan when He does a work, whether it’s building a tabernacle, local church, or individual Christian life (Eph. 2:10). We are told to follow His pattern, not the pattern of this world.

God Provides the Materials (25:1-9; 30:11-16; 35:4-29)

Precious metals, fabrics, wood, skins, olive oil, spices and precious stones were collected. Over three tons of silver and a ton of gold have been estimated in the tabernacle construction.

“Everything comes from you,” King David prayed, “and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chron. 29:14). God not only supplied the materials, but also stirred the people’s hearts to give. They were so generous, in fact, that Moses actually told them to stop (Ex. 36:6-7)!

Everything we have to give has been given to us first by our Maker.

God Equips the Workers (31:11; 35:30-36:7)

God not only appointed Bezalel and Oholiab to lead the workers, but also gave them wisdom and the ability to succeed. The tabernacle and furniture were crafted by assistants that God also enabled (Ex. 35:10).

God is still in the business of calling people who differ in abilities and spiritual gifts to be used for His glory and the good of His church (1 Cor. 12:1-13; Eph. 4:1-16; Rom. 12). (For more on this topic see Spiritual Gifts, Romans 12:3-8).

Wiersbe writes: “The Jews built a tent that long ago turned to dust, but we’re helping to build ‘a habitation of God in the Spirit’ (Eph 2:22) that will glorify God eternally.”

Reflect

What spiritual gifts and abilities has God given you? Where is God prompting you to join in His work?

God’s Call to Moses, God’s Call to Us, Exodus 24:9-18

Then they climbed the mountain—Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel—and saw the God of Israel. He was standing on a pavement of something like sapphires—pure, clear sky-blue. He didn’t hurt these pillar-leaders of the Israelites: They saw God; and they ate and drank. God said to Moses, ‘Climb higher up the mountain and wait there for me; I’ll give you tablets of stone, the teachings and commandments that I’ve written to instruct them.’ So Moses got up, accompanied by Joshua his aide. And Moses climbed up the mountain of God.” –Exodus 24:9-13 (The Message)

You may read Exodus 24:9-18 here: Bible Gateway.

After Moses followed God’s instruction to ratify the covenant with Israel, as spelled out in the Ten Commandments, the final act of this process ends with the covenant meal. Eating together denotes friendship. Seventy-five leaders who teach, interpret law, and act on Israel’s behalf receive God’s blessing and agreement as they eat together in the glory of His presence.

God Summons us to Worship Him

(www.bloglovin.com) Today, God calls us to enter into His presence through “the new and living way” (Hebrews 10:19-25). We don’t have to be fearful when our names are written down as citizens of heaven (Heb. 12:18-24). Only we can decide how “high” we will go in our worship and fellowship with God.

Although only a handful of witnesses behold God’s partial glory from a distance in the old covenant, God invites all of us to draw near Him under the new covenant. God longs to fellowship with us and invites us into His presence. He seeks people who will worship Him in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

Worship of God is the greatest responsibility and highest privilege. One day we will give an account to our Almighty Creator who is the highest Being in the universe. As believers, our very being and actions should flow from our relationship with the Lord.

The Tablets of Stone

God calls Moses even higher, to the top of Mt. Sinai, to give him the commandments (along with the tabernacle’s blueprints). The commandments are inscribed in stone by God’s own finger.

Moses stays on the mountain for forty days and nights as God uses that time to give him the plans for the tabernacle and priesthood. Wiersbe writes: “The glory cloud ‘abode’ on Mount Sinai, and the Hebrew word translated “abode” is shekinah, a word that both Jewish and Christian theologians use to describe the presence of God. It’s translated “dwell” in Exodus 25:8 and 29:45-46. The blazing fire on the mount reminds us that “our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).”

Reflect

The elders of Israel are amazed that God doesn’t strike them dead from their revelation, but interestingly, Moses’ revelation of God is only described from their perspective at the camp’s base, rather from Moses himself. Perhaps Moses didn’t want to showcase his experience since he is recorded as being very humble (Numbers 12:3). Or maybe the experience was too special and overwhelming to adequately put into words. For the Israelites couldn’t even look steadily at Moses face because of God’s glory. But interestingly, this glory faded. Of the glory of the new covenant, the Apostle Paul writes: “Will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!” (2 Cor. 4:8-9).

The expression “finger of God” not only relates to the Ten Commandments (Ex. 31:18), but also points to God’s creative power  and authority over His creation (Ps. 8:3), writing judgment (Da. 5:5, 24-28) and executing miracles. He also inscribed revelation to us through the Bible, communicating the old and new covenants. (For more on covenants see The Covenant Confirmed, Exodus 24:1-8 ).

For believers under the new covenant, God has marked us with His seal “the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory,” (Ephesians 1:13). The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:3: “You show that you are a letter from Christ . . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

The thought that God wants to dwell with us—in us—through His Holy Spirit is mind-blowing. His “finger” not only pursues us in love, but also works powerfully in us and around us (2 Cor. 3:17-18, Rom. 8:28). His beloved Son endured ridicule and suffering before laying down His life—dying a criminal’s death—to become the once for all perfect sacrifice. Through the sprinkling of Christ’s blood, God provides a means of forgiveness and relating to people. With open hand, He extends an invitation to everyone to participate in this incredible gift of abundant, eternal life.

Have you entered into a relationship with God through means of His new covenant? There is nothing more important, or life altering, than this decision. Eternal life and death hang in the balance. (For more on this topic, please click on the Salvation tab in the menu bar.)

The Covenant Confirmed, Exodus 24:1-8

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.” –Exodus 24:1-2

These verses connect with God’s call for Moses to ascend Sinai in Exodus 20:21, (along with seventy elders, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu).

Hundreds of years before the scenes in this passage unfold, God promised Abraham that he would become a great nation and give them (Israel) the promised land (Canaan). God intended to bless the nation of Israel and multiply His blessings to all nations through them (Gen. 12:1-3). In Genesis 15, God ratified His promises as a covenant between Himself and Abraham. Now, after redeeming Israel from bondage in Egypt, He formally institutes the Mosaic Covenant as defined in the Ten Commandments.

You may read Exodus 24:1-8 here: Bible Gateway.

God’s Ratification Process

Moses understands that God’s covenant needs to be ratified with Israel. So the next morning he builds an altar to the Lord and sets up twelve pillar-like stones, each stone representing Israel’s twelve tribes. Next, the young priests sprinkle some of the blood from their sacrifices on the altar. After Moses shares God’s words, the people (once again) readily promise to follow God’s commands (24:3,7; 19:8). Then Moses records the Ten Commandments and the book of the covenant before sprinkling the rest of the blood in the basins onto the book and the people. This formally links the people to the covenant sacrifices, which ratifies the covenant.

Quite the process! I, for one, am thankful to live in the New Testament era. Although it would be an amazing experience to witness God’s manifestation on Mt. Sinai (see Ex. 19:16-19; 24:15-17). . . . Writing of thankfulness, I’m also grateful for the wisdom I can borrow (and quote) in answering questions such as: Why this unusual process?

(godlikeproductions.com)

“To understand this unusual covenant ratification ceremony, we need to understand the Bible’s view of sin and forgiveness. God is the sovereign judge of the universe. He is also absolutely holy. As the holy judge of all, he condemns sin and judges it worthy of death. In the Old Testament God accepted the death of an animal as a substitute for the sinner. The animal’s shed blood was proof that one life had been given for another. So on the one hand, blood symbolized the death of the animal, but it also symbolized the life that was spared as a result. Of course the death of the animal that brought forgiveness in the Old Testament was only a temporary provision, looking forward to the death of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:9-10:24). . . . Moses sprinkled half the blood from the sacrificed animals on the altar to show that the sinner could once again approach God because something had died in his place. He sprinkled the other half of the blood on the people to show that the penalty for their sin had been paid and they could be reunited with God. Through this symbolic act God’s promises to Israel were reaffirmed and lessons are taught to us about the future sacrificial death (or atonement) of Jesus Christ,” (The NIV Life Application Study Bible).

Warren Wiersbe, Be Delivered, writes: “The promise of the Lord in Exodus 6:6-8 was now about to move into its third phase. God had redeemed His people (Ex. 1-18) and taken them to Himself as His people (Ex. 19:24); and now He was about to come and dwell among them and be their God (Ex. 25-40).”

This last phase of God dwelling among the people is described in the last section of Exodus when God relays the blueprint for the tabernacle and dedication. God—who initiates this covenant with His chosen people—makes a clear distinction between the Israelites and Himself along with paralleled distinctions in the tabernacle. Although the priests have greater access to God than other Israelites, only the high priest may enter the Holy of Holies, once yearly. Although these distinctions are abolished in the new covenant, this portion is rich in spiritual truth and practical lessons.

Reflect

With the covenant being ratified by blood, God would hold His children to their promises. Although the Israelites heartily promised to obey God’s covenant, their obedience soon plunges—even before Moses descends the mountain—by building a golden calf and committing idolatry.

How can we make sure that our enthusiasm to follow God’s directives on Sunday are carried out in obedience during the week? What can we learn about God and His values from the Mosaic laws (21:1-23:19)?

Finally, the following video from The Bible Project helps paint a clearer picture of covenants in the Bible, including the difference between the old and new covenants and how they link together. Enjoy, and have a great week!

Beyond the Ten Commandments, Exodus 21-23

While the Ten Commandments outline God’s law for His people in our dealings with Him and others, the Mosaic Law continues for two more chapters in Exodus. These laws fall under the umbrella of the Ten Commandments, further detailing God’s design for ancient Israel in the areas of mercy, justice, and social responsibility.

It’s easy and comfortable to focus on God’s grace, but the Old Testament reminds us that God is also perfectly just. Although these civil laws differ from contemporary customs, they follow the path of natural justice.

As Christians, we are not obligated under these laws since we are now under the new covenant. However, God has not changed His moral expectations of us. And we can still glean wisdom from reading the Mosaic laws God gave His fledgling chosen nation.

You may read Exodus 21-23 here: Bible Gateway.

Protection for Servants, Persons, and Property (21:1-22:15)

God’s value of life rings with tenacity through His commands that prohibit killing and stealing. He expects His people to respect their servants as human beings, even to the point of allowing families freedom in the Year of Jubilee. Who were these servants in ancient Israel? Layman’s Bible Commentary writes: “Foreign slaves were often war prisoners. However, impoverished Israelites sometimes sold themselves or their children so that they could work and be cared for. In other cases, judges sold some persons for their crimes, and creditors were, in some cases, allowed to sell debtors who could not pay. Forced Hebrew slavery for any reason was not practiced and is ranked in the New Testament with the greatest of crimes.”

Social Responsibility (22:16-31)

At first glance, these first few laws may seem harsh, such as: “Do not allow a sorceress to live,” (vs. 18). But sorcery was a crime against God Himself. The first commandment to “have no other gods” was abused by invoking evil powers. As one continues to read through this section, God’s mercy shines through His expectations of how the people are to treat widows, orphans, and the needy. God calls His people to honor Him by respecting and honoring those around them through generosity and justice.

Laws of Mercy and Justice (23:1-9)

God details acts of justice through the lens of fairness and honesty. Every practical requirement of God not only enables the Israelites to worship Him with their behavior, but also sets them apart from their pagan neighbors. He prohibits the lessening of faults and aggravating small ones. Neither does He allow excuses for offenders, accusations of the innocent, or trivial misinterpretations of the truth.

Sabbath Laws and Festivals (23:10-19)

These laws teach the need for dependency on God and the importance of mercy. The seventh week day and seventh year are designed for sacred times of rest and rejoicing in God. In following this schedule, God teaches His people to trust that He will provide and bless their faithfulness.

Because of the Israelites’ weakness for idolatry, God sets up a rigorous schedule in which they are to honor Him during three annual festivals. Their love and loyalty to God are shown when they arrive to these festivals with sacrifices instead of being empty -handed.

God’s Angel to Prepare the Way (23:20-33)

At the end of this chapter God promises to prosper and prepare the way for Israel by driving out their enemies and bringing them safely to the promised land. He commands them to be attentive and worship the angel alone that He will send ahead of them.

Reflect

I’m sure there are several questions to ponder in this section, but being a full-time taxi-mom lately, I’m drawn to the following question/challenge from Layman’s Bible Commentary: “Have you allowed your life to crowd out time for worshiping and celebrating God’s goodness? This is the blessing intended for all of God’s children—to come together in gratitude and to enjoy and honor Him on a regular basis. Indeed, periodic rest from the duties of the world helps us anticipate the heavenly rest which we crave—when all earthly labors and cares shall cease. How can you seize upon the blessing of a day of rest and worship more practically amidst a hectic life?”

Cheers to some intentional times of refreshment through worship and celebration! 🙂

The Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:1-21

Not too long ago my daughter shared a conversation she had with a classmate.

“Are you religious?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Are you?”

“Nope. And I’m glad I’m not . . . if I were then I couldn’t say any bad words.”

While his honesty and confession make me laugh, his perception of religion probably sides with the majority. Most of us chafe under rules that we think restrict us. There are 613 commands found in the first five books of the Bible. Admittedly, I have a difficult time reading through all of the Old Testament laws, let alone the book of Leviticus.

Although these laws are directed toward ancient Israel, how could anyone follow all these laws, let alone remember all of them? What is the purpose of the law? Are we expected to follow all of these laws today? What is the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant, and how are they linked together?

Although I’m camping out at Exodus 20 in the familiar Ten Commandments Campground, I hope this post helps answer some of these questions. You may read this passage here: Bible Gateway.

While all the Ten Commandments deal with our responsibilities toward God, the first four relate primarily with Him. The last six deal with people. How we relate to God will manifest how we relate to others.

After freeing the Israelites from bondage, God wasn’t about to chain their hands and feet with burdensome legalities. Rather, His desire was for Israel to become a holy nation and kingdom of priests (19:6). Israel’s accurate representation of God would only manifest through them if they adhere to His commands.

(Pinterest.com) God’s laws are given to free us to be all He desires us to be. The only restrictions He sets are ones that keep us from doing what might cripple us and keep us from being our best. His guidelines light our path and keep us from destructive paths when we follow them.

God desired to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness by meeting individual needs in a responsible and loving way. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The Ten Commandments are both a corporate constitution for Israel and an intensely personal revelation from God to His children. The you in the commandments is not plural, but singular. Each individual is therefore urged to enter into the joy of service by adopting this covenant and by obeying the laws which are contained therein. The Decalogue is not only a constitution, it is God’s standard for Israel’s culture.”

The correct interpretation of the law is best understood by a study of the Old Testament prophets. Rather than zooming in on the particulars, their focus is on the essence of the law (Hosea 6:6-7; Micah 6:6-8). By Jesus’ time, most people viewed the law through distorted lens. Instead of seeing the law as God’s principles to fulfill His ultimate law of love, law-keeping became an end in itself. The religious leaders added their own burdensome laws that even they themselves couldn’t keep. They promoted the idea that one had to keep every law to earn God’s protection and prosper on earth and the life to come. But God never intended for the law to be a means of earning His favor or salvation.

Layman’s Commentary adds: “The Mosaic Covenant was never given as a means of earning righteousness by law keeping. The new covenant is promised because the Mosaic Covenant could not be kept by Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Whenever Israel failed with regard to the law, it was not just a matter of violating the law in some minute particular, but it was a result of unbelief (Psalm 78:21-22, 32:-33, 37).”

In Hebrews, the Apostle Paul writes that the law is provisional and preparatory. The law not only laid out God’s principles, but acted as a mirror to show us our unrighteousness. Although the law was good, the new covenant is superior. By revealing God’s righteousness, the law demands righteousness. But the law can’t give righteousness (Gal. 2:21); only Christ can do that (2 Cor. 5:21).  Unlike the old covenant—where only a few could draw near to God—all who wish may draw near to God in the new covenant.

Layman’s writes: “The first manifestation of God on Mount Sinai portrays the marvelous truth of the holiness of God, and the separation which that demands. The second manifestation of the Lord (on Mount Calvary) reveals the marvelous grace of God, by which He draws near to us and by which we may draw near to Him. How careful we must be to keep both the holiness and the grace of God in perspective.”

The following video is a good animated explanation of the Old Testament Law by The Bible Project. They share not only how the old and new covenants link together, but also how Jesus fulfills the law.

God’s Manifestation on the Mountain, Exodus 19:16-25

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.”  -Exodus 19:16-19

God was about to teach His law to His people. For the Israelites were called to be sanctified—set apart—unlike surrounding nations. You may read Exodus 19:16-25 here: Bible Gateway.

(Pinterest) “The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” -Deut. 5:24-27

A storm in Scripture often symbolizes God’s power and awesome presence (Ps. 18:1-15; 29; Hab. 3:1-16). Darkness, lightning and thunder, and earthquake and fire manifest God’s greatness.

God’s manifestation on Mt. Sinai not only portrays His holiness, power, and purity, but also the separation that He demands between Himself and sin. The combination of washing their clothes, keeping their distance from Sinai, and witnessing the storm must have left a great impression on the Israelites’ sinfulness and God’s grand holiness. Not only did the Israelites tremble with fear, but Moses also admitted his own fear (Heb. 12:21; Deut. 9:19). And rightfully so, for “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). Only as the people revered God and obeyed could they truly be God’s holy nation and enjoy the privileges of being a kingdom of priests.

Reflect

What does it mean to have “the fear of God”? GotQuestions.org. explains this concept well.

For the unbeliever, the fear of God is the fear of the judgment of God and eternal death, which is eternal separation from God (Luke 12:5; Hebrews 10:31). For the believer, the fear of God is something much different. The believer’s fear is reverence of God. Hebrews 12:28-29 is a good description of this: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” This reverence and awe is exactly what the fear of God means for Christians. This is the motivating factor for us to surrender to the Creator of the Universe. (You may read the entire post here: “What does it mean to have the fear of God?”)

Have a great week!

 

 

 

Prepping for God’s Appearance, Exodus 19:9-15

“Are you prepared for what’s coming?” This is the question Prepper Journal inquires on their website. A quick Google search on prepping brings up about 38,500,000 results ranging from emergency food, water, lighting, heating, shelter, gear, etc.

But what about prepping to meet God?

Up to this point, God has shown the Israelites the importance of keeping their part of the covenant by obeying the laws He’s about to reveal. And the people have eagerly agreed to follow God’s laws. Now God has some specific prepping instructions for Moses and the Israelites.

The LORD said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you. . . . Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.’” –Exodus 19:9-12

You may read Exodus 19:9-15 here: Bible Gateway. Verses 10-15 outline God’s expectations for the people as they prepare to physically and spiritually meet with Him. In order to dedicate themselves to God, Moses is instructed to consecrate the people by setting themselves apart from sin and ordinary daily routine.

Warren Wiersbe, (Be Delivered), writes: “The act of washing their clothes helped the Israelites prepare their hearts and minds to meet with God. Washing and changing clothes in the Old Testament is equivalent of 1 John 1:9 and 2 Corinthians 7:1.”

Boundaries on the Mountain

can-stock-photo_csp11158611Suppose a survivalist or adventure seeker—perhaps driven by curiosity—pushed past God’s boundaries marked on the mountain? His/her life would end in death, no matter the amount of prepping he/she did.

Why does God set boundaries on the mountain with such harsh consequences for trespassing?

Wiersbe writes: “The structure of Old Testament worship emphasized man’s sinfulness and God’s ‘otherness’. . . . The emphasis was always ‘Keep Your Distance!’” Those who dared to press past God’s boundaries would display an attitude of irreverence.

God never takes irreverence lightly.

Later, Abihu and Nadab would be killed because they became careless with this principle (Lev. 10). Although Uzzah’s intentions (to keep the ark from falling from the ox cart) stemmed from good intentions, his irreverence resulted in God striking him dead (2 Samuel 6:6-7). Moses’ slip of irreverence (striking of the rock) exempt his entrance into the promised land (Numbers 20:12).

Layman’s Bible Commentary Bible observes: “Irreverence is the by-product of an inadequate sense of the holiness of God. The Israelites do not yet have an adequate grasp of the holiness of God. The manifestation of God on Mount Sinai is a spectacular demonstration of God’s power and majesty. His coming necessitates preparatory consecration, and it also motivates continual consecration, as people could see themselves in the light of His glory and grace (Exodus 19:23).”

Reflect

Both in this age, and in the age to come—when we stand before God—we will either be prepared or unprepared to meet Him.

God taught the Israelites—in dramatic fashion—the distance between sinful people and a holy God. While the Old Testament emphasizes “Keep your distance from God”, the New Testament emphasizes God’s nearness. When God’s Son became flesh and dwelt on earth (John 1:14), He was named ‘Immanuel—God with us’ (Matt. 1:23). Jesus opened a new and living way into the presence of God (Heb. 10:1-25) through His death and resurrection.

This doesn’t mean we are God’s buddies or equals. But our Heavenly Father longs to have a loving relationship with us. Because Jesus paid the death penalty for our sins on the cross, He acts as our mediator to the Father. We can now come directly to God the Father through Christ. When we ask for forgiveness of our sins and submit ourselves to His Lordship, God the Father embraces us as His child.

Maybe you have prepped for earthly emergencies. But have you prepped to meet God face to face? It’s not about stockpiling good works in order to earn eternal life, but rather coming to Christ in faith and submitting to His Lordship. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 6:23).

How can we prep to meet God in worship? What daily distractions do we need to set aside in order to give Him the reverence He deserves?

The Prelude to Israel’s Constitution, Exodus 19:1-8

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  -Exodus 19:4-6

Chapter 19 serves as a prelude to the commandments God gives Israel. The purpose of His commandments, along with the perspective we should have toward them, are also found in this chapter. You may read Exodus 19:1-8 here: Bible Gateway.

I wonder what went through Moses’ mind and heart as he and the Israelites finally reached Mt. Sinai. For God’s promise to bring the people out of Egypt “to serve God on this mountain” finally arrived. This was where God had previously spoken to Moses at the burning bush. And now the Israelites would camp here for the next 11 months.

God’s Purpose for the Prelude

God’s reason for redeeming Israel from slavery in Egypt rings with clarity as He speaks with Moses atop the mountain. In the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 18:18), God promises that Israel will become a great and powerful nation. This blessing is meant to be a channel of blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:2).

Although the ultimate fulfillment of God’s blessing would come through the Messiah’s life, death and resurrection, God purposed to use Israel in the interim. God’s condition? If Israel obeys God’s covenant, as defined by His law, then He will embrace them as His people and pour out His blessing.

Israel would become His prized and chosen nation: a holy nation set apart for God—a kingdom of priests who would act as a mediatory people sharing the way of entering into fellowship with God. (In Old Testament times, people couldn’t approach God directly. A priest acted as a go-between sinful human beings and God.)

Why did God choose Israel? Although He knew that no nation on earth deserves His love and mercy, He chose Israel despite her wrong doing to be an agent of salvation to the world and represent His way of life. Isaiah 60:3 predicted that kings and Gentiles would come to the Lord through Israel. “For salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).

A Life of Maturity

(Jason Simpson/flickr photo share) . . . . God desired that Israel no longer be enslaved, but to soar and bless the entire world. Israel’s calling marks a great privilege and responsibility. God’s rigorous training program included discipline whenever the people returned to their comfortable, old ways.

I love how God used the image of an eagle when God gave Moses His words to pass on to the people. (Moses also used this image in a song he taught Israel near the end of his life, Deuteronomy 32:10-12).

As the young eagle grows, the parent breaks up the comfortable nest, forcing the young birds to fly in order to fulfill their purpose. While Israel probably felt that God had abandoned them at times, God was simply stirring the nest so the eaglet would spread his wings and fly. If one falls, the parent catches them and carries them on strong wings.

Warren Wiersbe, (Be Delivered), writes: “The eaglets illustrate three aspects of freedom: freedom from (they are out of the nest, which to us is redemption), freedom in (they are at home in the air, which to us is maturity), and freedom to (they can fulfill their purpose in life, which to us is ministry). True freedom means that we’re delivered from doing the bad, we’re able to do the good, and we’re accomplishing God’s will on earth.”

Reflect

Although this section ends with the people committing to obey God, it didn’t take long for their resolve to melt away in the desert heat. Instead of influencing the nations to worship Jehovah, the nations influenced them to worship idols.

Is there a commitment you have made to God? How is it going?

With Christ’s victory on the cross, God changed the pattern of having to go through a priest to approach God. Now we can come directly into God’s presence without fear (Heb. 4:16). When we’re united with Christ—members of His body—we also join in His priestly work of reconciling God and man (2 Cor. 5:18). Like ancient Israel, we are instructed to point others to God through our words and deeds (1 Peter 2:5, 9).

Have a great week!

The Bible Project’s Review: Exodus ch. 19-40

Hello! I hope this post finds you well and you are enjoying this season of spring. I especially love this time of year, (minus abundant weeds), when everything greens up and new life abounds.

Below you will find the second part of The Bible Project’s review of Exodus, chapters 19-40. Their animated series help me piece Scripture together to see the BIG picture.

Enjoy!

The Bible Project’s Review: Exodus Ch. 1-18

So far we’ve covered almost half of Exodus, (chapters 1-18). I thought this would be a great place to take a breather and review. I find The Bible Project videos both entertaining and informative as they explain Scripture through animation.

I appreciate all your visits, comments, and encouragement. You, dear Reader, inspire me to dig deeper into God’s truth. Blessings and enjoy your Memorial weekend! 🙂

 

Jethro Advises Moses, Exodus 18:1-27

Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” –Exodus 18:10-11

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, had heard of God’s deliverance and protection of the Israelites. So he decides to pay Moses a visit. Not only is he anxious to hear from Moses himself, but he also aims to reunite Moses with his wife and sons. Shortly after his arrival, however, he observes a serious problem in Moses’ life. His wise advice enables Moses to keep his sanity as he balances his workload.

You may read Exodus 18:1-27 here: Bible Gateway.

The last mention of Moses’ wife and two sons—Zipporah, Gershom, and Eliezer—is in chapter four. We’re not told why Moses’ family separated. But one might reasonably guess that safety was a pressing concern for Moses. Or, perhaps the weight of leading Israel and confronting Pharaoh made him feel inept in his role as husband and father. Whatever motivated Moses to send his family away, Jethro’s visit is laced with concern and compassion.

After listening to Moses’ report, Jethro rejoices and praises God for His merciful acts toward Israel. For the first time, perhaps, Jethro acknowledges God’s superiority over all other gods. This is an unusual event since Midianites often indulged in idolatry (Numbers 25:17-18; 31:16).  But Jethro demonstrates his newfound faith by offering sacrifices to God before sharing his sacrificial meal.

Jethro’s Advice

In her post, Moses and Jethro, Vivian Mabuni writes: “We need someone who will patiently build our trust by observing and listening without judgment. We need people to seek out our hearts, instead of quickly offering unsolicited advice. And should we be blessed with such a friend, may we learn from their wisdom and heed their advice. ‘Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.’” -Proverbs 19:20

“What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge?”

Jethro is baffled as he witnesses Moses’ attempt to solely govern nearly two million people. Moses’ response reveals his misconceptions about his leadership role.

As he observes Moses’ edging toward burnout, Jethro advises him to delegate most of the work to others. Then Moses could focus on the jobs most suited for him, primarily teaching the people God’s principles, precepts, and guidelines for problem solving.

Reflect

Moses failed to see the importance of having a strong network to support him. His sense of public duty overshadowed his sense of personal responsibility. But despite his failings, God blessed him through a loved one’s wise advice and continued to use Moses as Israel’s leader. As he learned to delegate, his stress decreased and the quality of government improved.

Jethro’s advice is timeless. Layman’s Bible Commentary challenges us with the following take-away: “How can you facilitate the ministry of others by encouraging and equipping them to do what they do best? Faith is required to trust God to enable you to do what He has called you to do. Faith is also required to enable you to leave what you should not do to others.”

Hmm. . . think I’ll be doing some more house and yard work delegation! 🙂 Have a wonderful week!

God Defeats Our Enemies, Exodus 17:8-15

In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without heart.” – John Bunyan

In our faith journey, we will not only face trials involving the necessities of life—as the Israelites did—but will also face battles involving our enemies. In this passage, Israel soon discovers they have a fierce enemy as they are attacked at Rephidim by the Amalekites. You may read Exodus 17:8-15 here: Bible Gateway.

Who were the Amalekites? This fierce nomadic tribe lived near the Dead Sea and made part of their livelihood through frequent raids. They would kill for pleasure before carrying off the booty. They were descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau (Jacob’s brother).

Despising spiritual things, Esau lived for himself. He is described as “a profane person” (Heb. 12:16). Our English translation of profane stems from the Latin and means “outside the temple,” which could be translated “unhallowed and common”. As Esau had threatened to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41), his descendants also opposed Jacob’s descendants (Israel). Annihilation of Israel soon became their goal.

From a human standpoint, Israel defeating the Amalekites would appear next to impossible. For Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for the past 400 years (Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6) and never had an army. (For an interesting read on Israel’s timeline see: How Long Were the Israelites in Egypt?.)

Gaining Victory

Moses was careful to give God all the glory for Israel’s victory by building an altar and naming it “The LORD is my Banner”.

Victory over Amalek wouldn’t have happened without God. Although He could have sent his angels to wipe out the enemy (Isa. 37:28), He chose to empower and use His people. God worked through and sealed the victory with Joshua’s leadership skills in conjunction with Israel’s army; and the intercession of Moses, Aaron, and Hur.

This is the first time that Joshua is mentioned in Scripture, but he will be mentioned two-hundred more times before Scripture ends (Wiersbe). Moses must have seen his aptitude for military leadership when he promoted him as his servant and general of Israel’s army.

Intercessory Prayer

Jews were accustomed to lifting up their hands during prayer (Ps. 28:2; 44:20; 63:4; 134:2; 1 Kings 8:22, 38, 54; 1 Tim. 2:8.) Total dependence on Jehovah’s authority and power was signified as Moses lift up God’s staff in his hands. When Moses’s hands came down, Amalek prevailed. But when his hands (and staff) stayed up, Israel prevailed.

Wiersbe notes: “We can understand how Joshua and the army would grow weary fighting the battle, but why would Moses get weary holding up the rod of God? To the very day of his death, he didn’t lose his natural strength (Deut. 34:7), so the cause wasn’t physical. True intercession is a demanding activity.”

Reflect

In the Christian life as we are told to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). When we identify with Christ, His enemies become our enemies.

Our biggest enemy is Satan and his demonic army (Eph. 6:10-12). He often attacks believers after spiritual victories and/or special blessings. Warren Wiersbe offers a fresh perspective for the battle: “God can use those attacks to keep us from trusting the gifts instead of the Giver. . . . We need the battles of life to help balance the blessings of life; otherwise, we’ll become too confident and comfortable and stop trusting the Lord.”

Why God chooses to use humans to accomplish His purposes, I don’t know. But He does. Although He may choose fewer up front leaders such as Moses, or Billy Graham, He uses all of our efforts in intercessory prayer to win spiritual battles. He is looking for people who will continue steadfastly in prayer to share in the battle and help seal the victory (Rom. 12:12; Isa. 59:16).

“Joshua couldn’t have succeeded without Moses, but Moses couldn’t have prevailed without the support of Aaron and Hur,” (Wiersbe).

We can be like Aaron and Hur by “lifting up the hands” of our spiritual leaders not only through prayer, but also with words of encouragement, or helping shoulder their workload. . . . Have a great week!

Life is a Journey, Exodus 17:1-7

“Where are we going!?” My oldest son asks as we settle into our van after taking in a Mariner’s game. Weaving in and out of neighborhoods really isn’t the ideal route to the freeway entrance.

“I don’t know, but Google Maps is usually pretty accurate,” I assure him. But so far, Ms. Google seems to enjoy leading us on a wild goose chase. I don’t know why 20 minutes passes before the now obvious clue is processed: There is a sprawling bike path beside every meandering street Ms. Google leads us on.

Alas, the light-bulb flashes! (Okay, at least for my husband.)

“Is Google Maps on bike mode or car mode?”

I peer down at my phone. “Uh, that would be bike mode.” . . . . Despite our ignorance, we manage to laugh at ourselves. After all, our trip marked a special get-away as we celebrated my son’s and his team’s baseball state championship.

***

The Israelites did their own meandering. But instead of wandering throughout neighborhoods in a vehicle, they wandered through the Sinai wilderness. Although they didn’t have Google Maps, they had a far superior navigational guide: God Himself.

God led them through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Although He knew the easiest and most direct route to the Promised Land, He led them instead where they would encounter difficulties. This passage marks the second time that God leads the Israelites to a place without water. About three months passed since He had miraculously delivered them from Pharaoh and his army. And now their celebratory mode faded with every dusty step.

You may read Exodus 17:1-7 here: Bible Gateway.

Why would God lead the Jews to Rephidim, where for the second time there was no water? Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “The Lord was still directing Israel into difficult and trying situations in order to prove His power and build their faith and character. After all, life’s journey involves much more than merely reaching a destination. If we aren’t growing in faith, in the knowledge of God, and in godly character, we’re wasting our opportunities.”

I wonder how many times they demanded: “Where are we going?” And, “Are we almost there?” before working themselves into an irrational desire to stone their leader (17:5)!

Wiersbe admonishes: “Every difficulty God permits us to encounter will become either a test that can make us better or a temptation that can make us worse, and it’s our own attitude that determines which it will be. If in unbelief we start complaining and blaming God, then temptation will trap us and rob us of an opportunity to grow spiritually. But if we trust God and let Him have His way, the trial will work for us and not against us (Rom. 8:28; James 1:12-15) and help us grow in grace.”

On the bright side, Moses held true to his unfailing resource: God. He called on Him for help. The Lord instructed him to take the staff that symbolized His power, along with some elders, and strike the rock in the sight of the Israelites. As Moses obeyed, the water streamed out. God once again graciously met both the people and their livestock’s needs.

I always wondered how the Israelites could doubt God when He so powerfully worked miracles on their behalf and led them in such an obvious way. But Scripture tells us that their hearts were hard. Instead of submitting to God, they rebelled against Him. As a result, God disciplined them by making them wander in the desert 40 years. Sadly, the older generation remained unbelieving throughout their entire wilderness journey (Ps. 95:6-11; Heb. 3). Consequently, they never did enter the Promised Land.

Reflect

Wiersbe offers a good challenge to help us identify our past attitudes during trials: “On the map of our lives, how many places ought to be named ‘Testing and Quarreling’ because of the way we’ve complained about our circumstances and failed to trust God?”

I know I haven’t always associated difficult circumstances as being a test from God. I also know I’ve failed a few tests. But after digesting this section, hopefully I’ll be more discerning and better equipped.

I hope you are enjoying spring. We’re finally getting some much wanted sunshine. 🙂

Remembering God’s Lessons, Exodus 16:32-36

Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” –Psalm 90:12

A family whom I went to church with as a teenager recently lost their son to a rare kidney disease. He was 32. Though my heart mourns for their loss, I rejoice that he knew the Lord and committed his life to Him. He is now pain-free and no doubt rejoicing in our Savior’s arms.

I’m reminded that life is short. Only God knows our last day here on earth. In comparison to eternity, we only have a brief time to apply the lessons that God teaches us.

In this passage, God instructs the Israelites to put some manna in a special jar as a reminder to future generations of His provision in the desert. You may read Exodus 16:32-36 here: Bible Gateway.

Warren Wiersbe, (Be Delivered), writes: “The instructions in verses 33-34 anticipate the giving of the law (or ‘testimony’; 31:18; 32:15) and the making of the ark of testimony (25:16, 22; 26:33) and the construction of the tabernacle. The information in 16:35 was added years later to complete the account. At that time, Moses wouldn’t have known how many years Israel would march in the wilderness.”

Later in Scripture we learn that the ark of the testimony served as God’s throne—in the Holy of Holies—inside the tabernacle of the Israelites’ camp. God made sure that two tablets of the law, Aaron’s rod, and the golden jar of manna (Heb. 9:4) were placed inside the ark.

Although the high priest was the only one who could enter the Holy of Holies once a year, the Jews knew of the the ark’s contents. These symbols reminded the nation important truths about God: He is both King and Lawgiver; He established the priesthood; and He lovingly provided for His people. Jewish parents were to teach their children these truths.

Reflect

(Pinterest)

In our busy lives it’s easy to forget the lessons we’ve learned through God’s dealings with us. Symbols are a powerful reminder of God’s work in Christian worship, as long as they don’t become objects of worship themselves. Some people journal during their quiet time. Others write notes in their Bible margins, or post a picture that reminds them of a truth, or blog. 🙂

Whatever reminds us of life’s important lessons, it’s important that we apply the learning so we might walk with God in obedience because . . . .

Life is short.

The School of Life (Part 3), Exodus 16:16-31

Since God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), whenever He starts something new, He always gives the instructions necessary to make the venture successful. If we obey His instructions, He will bless, but if we disobey, there will be disappointment and discipline. The principle is still ‘Let all things be done decently and in order.’” – Warren Wiersbe

You may read Exodus 16:16-31 here: Bible Gateway.

The gathering of the manna. God first instructed the Jews to gather enough manna daily for each person in the family. By pooling their daily supply together, family members never lacked for nutritional sustaining meals to equip them for their day’s trek in the wilderness.

(Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org)

Since the desert sun would melt the manna, the Jews arose early to gather this heavenly bread. Wiersbe points out an important lesson here: “We must start the day with the Lord, gathering spiritual food from the Word, because it we wait too long to meet God, the day will become cluttered, we’ll get distracted, and we’ll suffer from spiritual malnutrition.”

The keeping of the manna. Although Moses warned the Israelites to not save some manna so they could sleep in the next morning, some did so anyway. As a result, maggots were attracted to the rotting manna. Wiersbe again gives a personal warning for God’s people today: “We can’t hoard His Word and try to live on yesterday’s spiritual nourishment. . . . There’s no substitute for a daily time alone with God, gathering fresh nourishment from His Word.”

Manna for the Sabbath. While the Sabbath is called “the seventh day” in Genesis 2:1-3—commemorating the Lord’s rest after six days of creation—Scripture first mentions the name Sabbath in Exodus 16:23. It appears that the Jews were taught to observe the Sabbath before God gave them the Ten Commandments.

Wiersbe writes: “The Sabbath was a day given especially by the Lord to the Jewish people as a reminder of His covenant with them (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:12-17; Neh. 9:13-15). The word Sabbath in Hebrew means ‘to cease working, to rest’ and is related to the Hebrew word for ‘seven’.”

The Jews were supposed to prepare their meals in advance, including the gathering of the manna, so they wouldn’t have to work on the Sabbath. On the sixth day, they were permitted to gather twice the amount of manna. God not only miraculously showered down the manna, but also miraculously kept it from rotting on the Sabbath.

However, there were some who failed God’s test of obedience as they searched for manna on the Sabbath. This insult to the Lord showed Him that those who disobeyed his instructions regarding the simple gathering of manna would most likely disobey His statutes and laws that He prepared to give them.

Question of the Day

As God tested the Israelites with instructions for the manna, where might God be testing you in the area of obedience?

The School of Life (Part 2), Exodus 16:4-18

Consider yourself fortunate when God all-powerful chooses to correct you.” -Job 5:17 (CEV)

Last week I shared from Warren Wiersbe’s book, Be Delivered, that we should expect trials. God tests, but never tempts. Through testing, He searches our hearts and reveals to us what is in our hearts (Dt. 8:10). He also sometimes shakes things up to correct and perfect us (Heb. 12:8-11; 1 Pt. 5:10; Rom 5:3-4).

After God performed miracles in the wilderness, the Israelites trusted Him intensely. But in the heat of trials, their trust soon melted into more grumbling.

You may read Exodus 16:4-18 here: Bible Gateway.

Trust God to Supply the Need  

God heard the Israelites’ complaints and mercifully met their needs. He would rain down bread in the morning and meat by evening. In giving these provisions, He was also testing their belief and obedience.

God’s Promises

I am borrowing from Warren Wiersbe’s wisdom again, (now that’s a tongue twister!)

As we journey through life, we live on promises and not explanations. Wiersbe explains: “When we hurt it’s a normal response to ask ‘Why?’ but that is the wrong approach to take. When we ask that question we’re assuming a superior posture and giving the impression that we are in charge and God is accountable to us. God is sovereign and doesn’t have to explain anything to us unless He wants to. Asking ‘why?’ also assumes that if God did explain His plans and purposes to us, we’d understand perfectly and feel better.”

Job is an example of repeating: “I’d like to meet God and ask Him a few things!” But when God does visit Job, Job is so overwhelmed with His presence that He doesn’t ask anything (Job 40:1-5). Wiersbe concludes: “Can we begin to understand the plans and ways of God when His ways are far above us and His wisdom unsearchable (Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33-36)? Explanations don’t heal broken hearts, but promises do, because promises depend on faith, and faith puts us in contact with the grace of God.”

God’s Glory  

When the going gets tough it’s natural to ask God to get us out of the situation. But He desires that we ask Him: “What can I get out of this?” Wiersbe writes: “God permits trials so that He can build godly character into His children and make us more like Jesus. Godliness isn’t the automatic result of reading books and attending meetings; it also involves bearing burdens, fighting battles, and feeling pain.”

Israel would have glorified God if they walked by faith and focused on Him, not on their own appetites. God desires our trust not only when things go well, but also when things go wrong. This involves a choice: trust God intentionally, or resent His way and rebel.

When we choose to trust God through the storms, He receives the glory and we enjoy His presence. We’re also made more into His likeness.

God’s faithfulness 

God not only provided abundant quail, but also made a sweet spread in the wilderness as He shared “the bread of angels” with His people (Ps. 78:17-25; Ex. 16:31). Manna—man hu in Hebrew from the question: “What is it?”—would be the Israelites’ food for the next 40 years.

God’s Son

(christianphotos-jesusimages.blogspot.com)

After Jesus had fed more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish, a crowd in Capernaum’s synagogue wanted Him to prove Himself as Messiah by replicating the miracle of manna (John 6:30-31). They mainly followed Jesus because He gave them food to eat. But they—like us—needed something more substantial than food for their bodies. They needed food for their souls (Isa. 55:2).

Jesus declared that He was “the true bread” that came down from heaven. God may have only given Israel manna in the desert, but He gave His only Son, Jesus, for the whole world.

The manna in Exodus was a picture or type of God’s Son. Jesus came to give Himself as the Bread of Life for hungry sinners. The only way to be saved from eternal death is to receive Him into our inner being, similar as the body receives food. Wiersbe puts it this way: “Just as the Jews had to stoop and pick up the manna, and then eat it, so sinners must humble themselves and receive Jesus Christ within. The Jews ate the manna and eventually died, but whoever receives Jesus Christ will live forever.”

Another application to the miracle of manna is the exercise of daily “feeding on Christ” by reading His Word and obeying. Although the Jews in the synagogue thought Jesus was literally speaking about eating His flesh and blood (John 6:52-56), Jesus made it clear that He was referring to receiving His Word (vv. 61-63).

Blessings this Easter as we celebrate our resurrected Lord and King!

The School of Life (Part 1), Exodus 15:22-16:3

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” –Phillips Brooks (American preacher and Episcopal bishop, 1835-1893)

Perhaps Philips Brooks had the Israelites in mind when he spoke these words to his Boston congregation. For the Israelites began to grumble and whine about returning to Egypt whenever they encountered trials. Their joyful worship of God after crossing the Red Sea failed to connect with daily trust of God’s provision during their wilderness walk.

You may read Exodus 15:22-16:3 here: Bible Gateway.

It’s easy to look down on the Israelites’ grumbling attitude, especially after their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. I’m missing out, however, if I don’t look beyond their faults. Am I any different? Do I sing praises to God on Sunday, only to complain about my circumstances during the week? Have I recently won a spiritual battle only to find myself losing the victory like the Jews in their journey toward Mount Sinai?

Warren Wiersbe shares some great advice about the Israelites’ desert wanderings in his book, Be Delivered. I’m following his outline in this series.

Expect Trials to Come

Wiersbe writes: “God was testing His people, not because He didn’t know their hearts, but because they didn’t know their own hearts. . . . ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer. 17:9).’ The Lord tests us to encourage spiritual growth and bring out the best in us, but the Devil tempts us to bring out the worst in us and to encourage spiritual immaturity. The attitude that we take toward our difficulties determines which direction life will go, for what life does to us depends on what life finds in us. If we trust God and obey His Word, we’ll pass the test and grow, but if in unbelief we complain and disobey the Lord, we’ll fail the test and remain immature (James 1:12-18; Heb. 12:1-11).”

I know I’m guilty multiple times of trying to avoid or smooth over situations that create conflict or produce pain. I’d rather be sailing in the Caribbean while soaking up the sunshine and sipping my strawberry soda. But the truth is: Life is a journey where we must fight new battles and learn new lessons. We need new experiences that challenge us. And God knows best how to tailor these challenges to help us grow and glorify Him.

“What shall we drink?” (15:22-27). This question, along with: “What shall we eat?” (16:1-3) were at the forefront of the Israelites’ minds. Although they had forgotten their bondage and beatings while enslaved in Egypt, they remembered Egypt’s “flesh pots” that filled their stomachs.

Now their challenge consisted of traveling three days in the desert—with children and animals—without water. Not a pleasant experience! On the third day they came across water, only to find it was bitter, (Marah means “bitter”).

Unlike the Israelites who complained and accused Moses and Aaron of leading them into the wilderness to die, Moses acted in faith. He cried out to God and then obeyed.

Wiersbe concludes: “God can solve our problems by changing things (like making the bitter waters sweet), by giving us something else (like the wells of water at Elim), or by giving us the grace we need to bear with our difficulties and not complain. The third approach is what produces lasting spiritual growth (2 Cor. 12:7-10). . . .Note to self . . . . The Jews not only learned something about themselves and about life, but they also learned something about their God, that He is ‘Jehovah-Ropha, the Lord who heals’ (15:26). God promised Israel abundant physical blessings if they would obey Him, but physical afflictions if they disobeyed (Deut. 7:12-15; 28). These promises were a part of the old covenant with Israel and aren’t repeated in the new covenant for believers today. If it is His will, God is certainly able to heal every disease, but our attitude must always be, ‘Not my will but Thy will be done.’”

(surveyofchrisianity.com)
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus—knowing the intense suffering that lay before Him—modeled this prayer three times. Instead of complaining or questioning God, He simply prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” (Matthew 26:39b). What incredible love and obedience!

Thankfully, God knows how to balance our life experiences. He alone knows how much we can take. Although God gives us trials to humble and grow us, He also pours out rich blessings to encourage—just as He did by leading His people to the restful place of Elim with lots of water.

The Song of Moses and Miriam, Exodus 15:1-21

The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” –Exodus 15:2

There is no record of the Israelites praising God when enslaved in Egypt. Their journey out consisted mostly of complaints. But now with their freedom secured and their enemies drowned, the Israelites burst into an epic praise song led by Moses.

Some say this is the oldest recorded song in the world. Miriam, Moses and Aaron’s sister, (also called “prophetess”), leads a special choir of Jewish women with tambourines and dancing as she repeats the first words of the song.

You may read Exodus 15:1-21 here: Bible Gateway.

The following four stanzas make up this praise hymn.

1) God’s victory announced (vv. 1-5). Pharaoh had ordered the Jewish boy babies to be drowned, but now God gives him what he dished out. I imagine the Jews sang from their hearts: “I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea . . . . The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. . . . They sank like lead in the mighty waters . . . . In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumes them like stubble.”

 Verse 3 might take some by surprise: “The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.” Interestingly, one of God’s names is “Jehovah-Sabaoth,” which means “Lord of hosts, Lord of armies.” Throughout the Old Testament, this title is referenced 285 times.

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “If there is in this world an enemy like Satan, and if sin and evil are hateful to God, then He must wage war against them. ‘The LORD will march out like a might man; like a warrior he will stir up zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies’ (Isa. 42:13). Jesus Christ is both the Lamb who died for our sins and the Lion who judges sin (Rev. 5:5-6), and one day He will ride forth to conquer His enemies (19:11). To emphasize only ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16) and eliminate ‘God is light’ (1 John 1:5) is to rob God of His attributes of righteousness, holiness, and justice.”

2) God’s weapons are described (vv. 6-10). Although God doesn’t fight with conventional weapons, Moses uses human characteristics to describe God’s divine attributes: “Your right hand was majestic in power. . . . By the blast of your nostrils the water piled up. . . . You blew with your breath, O LORD, and the sea covered them.”

3) God’s character is exalted (vv. 11-16a). If any doubt of God’s power lingered in the Jews’ minds after the 10 plagues, His mighty deliverance left no room for disbelief. In this victorious moment they sang: “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” Of course by now they knew the answer—no one!

This stanza continues to praise God for His power, His mercy of deliverance, His wise guidance, and His awesomeness in bringing fear into their enemies’ hearts. The Israelites anticipated this news of God’s deliverance would travel quickly, sparking fear in opposing peoples as they march toward the Promised Land.

4) God’s promises are fulfilled (vv 16b-18). This stanza reiterates that God purchased Israel and they are His people (Ps. 44:2; 80:8, 15; Isa. 5). It also looks forward to Israel’s conquest of Canaan. God would dwell with His people in glory when He places His sanctuary among them. The climax of this song points out that God is sovereign and eternal.

Unfortunately there’s more to this story. As the Israelites enter the wilderness “they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel”, (Ps. 106:13).

***

So you won’t find Moses and Miriam in the following music video, but perhaps their descendants. 🙂 Presenting “Praise to Our God 5 Concert” – Lechu Nerannena LeAdonai (Let us sing to the Lord) from the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel.

Israel’s Future Success, Exodus 13:17-15:21

True faith depends on what God says, not on what we see or how we feel. It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence—that’s superstition—but obeying in spite of consequence.”  -Warren Wiersbe

Apart from Israel’s exodus being an interesting historical event, God has recorded Exodus for our benefit. Warren Wiersbe makes some great observations about Israel’s exodus experience in his book Be Delivered. He writes, “Israel’s exodus experience taught them that their future success lay in fulfilling three important responsibilities: following the Lord (Ex. 13:17-22), trusting the Lord (14:1-31), and praising the Lord (15:12-21).”

Following the Lord (13:17-22)

The exodus from Egypt was just the beginning of Israel’s experience with God.

It took one night to take Israel out of Egypt, but forty years to take Egypt out of Israel.” – George Morrison

This truth also applies to the redemption we have in Jesus Christ. God delivers us from the bondage of sin and spiritual death instantaneously through salvation. But it takes a life time to grow in our Christian walk as God brings us into eternal blessing.

Weirsbe writes: “A.W. Tozer used to remind us that ‘we are saved to as well as saved from.’ The person who trusts Jesus is born again into the family of God, but that’s just the beginning of an exciting adventure that should lead to growth and conquest. God liberates us and then leads us through the varied experiences of life, a day at a time, so that we might get to know Him better and claim by faith all that He wants us to have. At the same time, we come to know ourselves better; we discover our strengths and weaknesses, and we grow in understanding God’s will and trusting His promises.”

If Israel obeyed God, He would give them their inheritance by bringing them into the promised land (Deut. 4:37-38). Unfortunately, that would take the Israelites 40 years of wilderness wandering.

Trusting the Lord (14:1-31)

As the Israelites learned, sometimes God leads us on paths that don’t always make sense.

Wiersbe writes: “As long as the Israelites kept their eyes on the fiery pillar and followed the Lord, they were walking by faith and no enemy could touch them. But when they took their eyes off the Lord and looked back and saw the Egyptians getting nearer, they became frightened and began to complain.”

This seems to be Israel’s default button during their journey from Egypt to Canaan. But before criticizing them too much, maybe I should ask: “At what point does my default setting change from trust and contentment to unbelief and complaining?”

God wants us to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Like Peter walking on the water to Jesus (Matt. 14:30), I find that I rise above fear and doubt when my gaze is locked on Christ. But, like Peter, when my attention is focused on stormy circumstances, I sink in fear. And like the Jews who were sure they were going to die in the desert, I easily forget God’s promises when I don’t consistently read His directional guide, the Bible.

So what are we to learn from the Israelites’ example? Wiersbe writes, “Simply this: Life is a constant test of one’s faith in the Lord. As a child of God, every perilous situation I find myself in is no accident. It is the Lord’s way of asking us a very important question: ‘Will you trust Me?’ He asks, ‘Will you trust Me to deliver you from this perilous situation? . . . . And if I choose not to deliver you in the way that you desire, for reasons of My own, will you trust Me to provide you with the strength to endure, believing that: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness?’” (2 Cor. 12:9).

We may not have God’s visible presence now, but we can trust His Word to direct our ways and get to know Him better through prayer. Through life’s storms we can anchor our trust in the mighty God who not only hears our cries, but also powerfully commands the impossible.

Praising the Lord (15:12-21)

With their freedom secured and their enemies drowned, the Israelites burst into a praise song led by Moses and Miriam. . . . But I best stop here and pick up on their praise and worship next week. . . . Blessings!

Israel’s Deliverance, Exodus 14:10-31

Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’” – Exodus 14:13-14

You may read Exodus 14:10-31 here: Bible Gateway.

Perhaps this is the first instance of the Israelites’ bitter grumbling as they accuse Moses of bringing them out of Egypt only to die in the desert. I wonder if the Israelites’ cries were louder than the pounding hoofs of the Egyptians’ horses as the men swept in for the kill.

Moses, however, tries to assure them that God will deliver. But Moses’ words seem to fade in the dust as the Egyptians draw closer. So Moses does what any normal person would do—cry out to God.

Although this passage of Israel passing through the Red Sea is one of the most popular and dramatic events recorded in the Old Testament, the following verse stood out to me: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on . . . . ‘” (v. 15).

Why would God tell Moses to stop praying and get moving? Aren’t we suppose to seek God in everything? Especially in times of great stress and uncertainty?

I found The Life Application Study Bible commentary helpful (and convicting!): “Prayer must have a vital place in our lives, but there is also a place for action. Sometimes we know what to do, but we pray for more guidance as an excuse to postpone doing it. If we know what we should do, then it is time to get moving.”

Layman’s Bible Commentary writes: “Moses knows that God has guided the Israelites to this place—between the Red Sea and the Egyptians. The pillar has led them there (13:21-22; 14:19), and God has explained His plan to Moses—so that He could gain glory through Pharaoh and his army (14:1-4). Moses knew that God had promised to bring the Israelites into the land of Canaan, which was across and beyond the Red Sea (Genesis 15:13-21; Exodus 3:7-8; 16-17; 6:4; 12:25; 13:5). Moses also knew that God had given him power through the use of his staff.”

Well, you know the rest of the story: God delivers Israel—once for all—from Pharaoh’s dominion in dramatic fashion; the nation of Israel is birthed; and the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea is God’s culminating act of divine judgment.

I love the animation and visual effects from the “Prince of Egypt” movie. Enjoy!

 

Charting Israel’s Course, Exodus 13:17-14:9

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.” –Exodus 13:17-18

You may read Exodus 13:17-14:9 here: Bible Gateway.

While Egypt buried its dead, the Hebrew slaves left as a free people.

The Israelites left Succoth and camped first at Ethan before going to Baal Zephon to camp by the sea.

The shortest route would have been the road crossing through the Philistine country. But, as stated in the opening verses, God reasoned that He didn’t want them to face war and lose heart. This sounds strange since verse 18 tells us “The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle”.  Layman’s Bible Commentary helps clarify: “The expression used here has been understood to refer only to the orderly way in which the Israelites (nearly two million people, counting women and children) departed Egypt. Others understand that the Israelites did come out of Egypt at least partially armed, but all seem to agree that Israel was not at all prepared to fight a full-scale battle at this point in time.”

To me, the coolest part of Israel’s departure was how God led them. “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people,” (13:21-22).

The Israelites must have felt safe and secure with God leading them in this visible manifestation. However, they probably questioned Moses’ directional sense when he told them to turn back and camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. But Moses was simply following God’s marching orders. Knowing that Pharaoh would think the Israelites are confused in the desert, God would harden Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh would predictably pursue them.

Sure enough, according to the NIV Life Application Study Bible, six hundred Egyptian war chariots bore down on the helpless Israelites as they found themselves trapped between the mountains and the sea (14:9).

But what appeared to be a foolish idea to the Israelites, God would use for His glory “and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD,” (v. 4).

Reflect

Have you ever felt like you were treading backwards instead of moving toward your intended goal? I know I have. In retrospect I can sometimes see how God’s direction, which seemed confusing at the time, ended in blessing. Other times, I’ve just had to trust that He is working everything out for my good since He sees the end journey from the beginning.

I admit, during the confusing times I’ve thought: if I only had an obvious directional sign—like God leading the Israelites in a pillar of cloud and fire—then I would know God’s will!  But then God reminds me that the Israelites didn’t own a direction manual like we have in the Bible. God manifested His presence to them not only to show His visible presence, but also to protect and lead them on their journey to the promised land.

I’m reminded that we are not only blessed with access to God’s Word, but we also have the same assurance of God’s presence and leading. For example, God’s Word tells us how to discern His will:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will,” (Romans 12:2).

And though we can’t see God, we read in Scripture: “He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being,’” (Acts 17:25-28).

And when I flip over to Psalm 9:10, I’m reminded that no matter what we face, the Lord never forsakes those who seek Him. What a great assurance! So when in doubt, reroute, to God and the Bible that is. When we seek and pray, He’ll light the way. . . . Have a great week!

The Passover, Exodus 12-13:16

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.  The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.” –Exodus 12:1-8

You may read Exodus 12-13:16 here: Bible Gateway.

God instituted the holiday of Passover. So begins God’s story of redemption, the central theme of the Bible. Redemption means “to buy back” or “to save from captivity by paying a ransom.” A slave could be purchased by offering an equivalent or superior slave in exchange. This is a picture of how God chose to buy us back from captivity to sin and spiritual death. But God didn’t purchase us with a superior slave.  Instead, He offered His perfect sinless Son so we could live with Him forever.

In Old Testament times, God accepted symbolic offerings: an animal’s life for the sinner’s life.

For the Israelites to be spared from the death plague, a lamb without defects had to be killed. God commanded its blood be placed on the door frames of each home. The innocent lamb was a substitute for the person who would have died in this final plague—another picture, or symbol, of Christ being our sacrificial Lamb.

God didn’t spare the firstborn of the Israelites because they were more righteous than the Egyptians, but rather by His grace alone. God also made provision for non-Israelites to participate in Passover if they acknowledged their faith in the Abrahamic Covenant, as demonstrated through circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14; Exodus 12:48-49). Since a large number of non-Israelites left Egypt with Israel (v 38), It’s likely that many Egyptians converted as a result of the plagues and were spared death through Passover’s provision.

The Passover is proof of God’s possession of Israel. The firstborn of Israel belonged to God as a result of the Passover, and all of Israel was God’s possession as a result of the Exodus. All of the commandments and requirements which God placed upon the Israelites were predicated upon the fact that they were a people who belonged to Him.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Like the redemption of the firstborn and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover was to become a permanent part of Israel’s religious liturgy (12:24-25). The Passover not only memorializes God’s mighty hand in Israel’s deliverance from slavery, but also serves as instruction and a reminder for Israel’s future generations (12:26-27; 13:8, 14-16).

Believers today also experience a deliverance and restoration to God. When Jesus came and ushered in the New Covenant, He made repeated animal sacrifice no longer necessary. His sacrificial death on the cross enables the believer’s redemption—deliverance from spiritual death and slavery to sin—through belief and trust in Him. By taking the penalty we deserve, Christ’s blood sacrifice covers us, sparing us from the spiritual death we deserve because of our sin (Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:13-15, 23-26).

I found the following 38 minute video, “Christ in the Passover”, really interesting and insightful. David Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, links the ancient Festival of Redemption and Christ as the Lamb of God in a meaningful visual sermon demonstration. If you have time, I encourage you to view it, especially as Passover draws closer. . . . Blessings!

Strike Ten: Death and Judgment, Exodus 11

So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’”  -Exodus 11:4-7

The death of Egypt’s firstborn is the final plague that drives Pharaoh to release the Israelites.

(freebibleimages.org) You may read Exodus 11 here: Bible Gateway.

(freebibleimages.org)
You may read Exodus 11 here: Bible Gateway.

God’s judgment of sin is not a popular or comfortable subject. However, judgment is part of God’s divine revelation, although advocates for false religions will tell you otherwise. The plagues on Egypt—especially the slaughter of Egypt’s firstborn—don’t make for light reading. We’re reminded how seriously God takes sin. “This text insists that we examine and accept the meaning and application of God’s judgment at work in His creation and in the lives of His people,” (Layman’s Bible Commentary).

It’s good to keep in mind, however, that not all disasters and calamities are a result of sin. Job is a great example. His exemplary walk with God motivated Satan’s desire to destroy him. God, knowing how Job would respond, allowed Satan to fling his fiery afflictions on Job. But God used this adversity as a means of Job’s spiritual growth and immensely blessed him in the end.

God is not silent when punishing people for sin. “When He is silent at the time of the suffering of a saint, this is a test of faith, not an evidence of God’s judgment,” (Layman’s).

Layman’s Bible Commentary also observes the following perspectives on the severity of God’s judgment and the Egyptians:

  • God judged the gods of Egypt more than He did the Egyptians. Just as hell is the place prepared for Satan and his angels, so judgment here is for the Egyptian gods and whoever chooses to serve these gods.
  • God’s judgment may be intended to bring some of the Egyptians to a saving faith. The fact that some Egyptians leave Egypt with the Israelites (Exodus 12:38) gives substance to this possibility.
  • God’s judgment upon the Egyptians is the means of delivering His people from terrible bondage.
  • God’s judgment is poured out upon His own Son on the cross of Calvary, so that all mankind might be saved. God’s “severity” extended to His own Son. There was an alternative provided by God to suffering the plagues of Egypt—heeding God’s warning and doing as He commanded. God’s judgment could be avoided by faith and obedience.
  • Finally, these plagues are a prototype, a sample of God’s future judgment. They are like those which Israel will experience (Deuteronomy 28:27) if they disobey the law God is soon to give. There is much similarity between the plagues of Egypt and the plagues described in the book of Revelation, which are poured out upon the earth in the last days, preceding the return of the Lord. Thus, in Revelation we find the victorious tribulation saints singing the “song of Moses” (Revelation 15:3).

Next week, I’ll explore Israel’s first Passover in Exodus 12. . . . Have a great week!

Strike Nine: Darkness, Exodus 10:21-29

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.’  So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.”  – Exodus 10:21-23 

(freeimages.com)

(freeimages.com)

I really can’t imagine being stuck in thick darkness for three days, nor do I want to. But the following story is my fictional piece of what it might have been like. You may read Exodus 10:21-29 here: Bible Gateway.

***

Pharaoh paced through the night as sleep evaded him. This morning, he would rid Moses and his slave brother once and for all. If it weren’t for them and their desert god, Egypt would still thrive as the most powerful and influential nation on earth. A prosperous nation resulting from his genius alone. For if it weren’t for him seizing the moment, Egypt would be no different from surrounding nations. But being a god gave him extraordinary vision. None of Egypt’s great cities would exist without his insight and direction. Didn’t he seize the opportunity by using the Hebrews? With zero down payment, the cities flourished. And wealth just his kept multiplying.

Until now.

Egypt’s rich, fertile land now lay in waste. What little vegetation remained after the hail soon became ravaged from the last plague of locusts.

Re the mighty sun-god should be rising by now. But Re did not rise in her glory. In fact—not that the Pharaoh or the Egyptians could accurately calculate—Re failed to dominate the Egyptian skies for three entire days. Instead, a heavy darkness fell upon the land. A darkness so thick that it could actually be felt, like being tangled in a damp heavy curtain on a cold rainy day.

Even the most jovial-hearted Egyptian couldn’t climb out of the deep pit of despair this newest plague inflicted.

None of the Egyptians dared leave their homes. For just to eat, drink, and relieve themselves proved to be the challenge of their lives. By the time it took Moses to reach Pharaoh—after being summoned—almost every Egyptian family had incurred some sort of injury due to their sudden loss of vision.

But the Israelites remained free from the dark pit that imprisoned the rest of Egypt.

“Go!” Pharaoh shouted to Moses. “Take your children, but leave your flocks and herds here.”

Moses replied in a flat, even tone: “Our livestock must go with us. For they are needed in the worship of our God.”

Pharaoh’s muscles knotted while wielding his sword. “Then you and your people will remain!” Stepping forward, he pressed the cold blade against Moses’ throat. “And if I ever see your face again, you’re as good as dead!”

Pharaoh’s threat only seemed to fuel Moses’ audacious stubbornness. “Fine, have it your way,” Moses said in a calm voice. But his face burned red before turning on his heel. “You shall never see my face again!”

Reflect

The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “As each gloomy plague descended on the land, the Egyptian people realized how powerless their own gods were to stop it. . . . Amon-Re, the sun-god and chief of the Egyptian gods, could not stop an eerie darkness from covering the land for three full days. . . . [In contrast to the Egyptian gods] the God of the Hebrews was: (1) a living personal Being, (2) the only true God, and (3) the only God who should be worshiped. God was proving to both the Hebrews and the Egyptians that He alone is the living and all-powerful God.”

Strike Eight: Locusts, Exodus 10:1-20

The previous hailstorm plague had destroyed Ancient Egypt’s flax and barley crops. But the spelt and wheat crops hadn’t matured yet, until now (9:31). The locusts would claim these crops.

(source: freeimages.com)

(source: freeimages.com)

The italic excerpts in the following story are from The Message Bible translation. Everything else is my fictional retelling of this passage.

You may read Exodus 10:1-20 (The Message) here: Bible Gateway.

***

Pharaoh sighed. He longed for the days when he received envoys from foreign lands. Diplomats use to gape in awe at his wealth and amazing open buildings. But of late, his world was falling apart at the seams.

Shasu. Moses—the insolent white haired Hebrew with smoky eyes—entered his throne room with his slave brother unannounced once again. He hated that his own guards and people were beginning to favor Moses, as though he was some kind of dignitary.

He’d love to rid these two for good. But how does one bargain or fight against their god? This desert deity powerfully commands water, animals, insects, wind, storms, and disease. At least Re, the sun god still favored him. As long as Re rose in the morning, so would he!

Aaron spoke without permission: God, the God of the Hebrews, says, ‘How long are you going to refuse to knuckle under? Release my people so that they can worship me. If you refuse to release my people, watch out; tomorrow I’m bringing locusts into your country. They’ll cover every square inch of ground; no one will be able to see the ground. They’ll devour everything left over from the hailstorm, even the saplings out in the fields—they’ll clear-cut the trees. And they’ll invade your houses, filling the houses of your servants, filling every house in Egypt. Nobody will have ever seen anything like this, from the time your ancestors first set foot on this soil until today,’” (vv. 3-5, The Message).

Moses and Aaron turned and left.

Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long are you going to let this man harass us? Let these people go and worship their God. Can’t you see that Egypt is on its last legs?”

 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. He said to them, “Go ahead then. Go worship your God. But just who exactly is going with you?”

 Moses said, “We’re taking young and old, sons and daughters, flocks and herds—this is our worship-celebration of God.”

 He said, “I’d sooner send you off with God’s blessings than let you go with your children. Look, you’re up to no good—it’s written all over your faces. Nothing doing. Just the men are going—go ahead and worship God. That’s what you want so badly.” And they were thrown out of Pharaoh’s presence, (vv. 7-11).

Within the hour, a strong east wind blew in with a black, ominous cloud. The Egyptians held their breath, wondering what curse would befall them next. But it didn’t take long for everyone to realize this was no ordinary storm cloud looming over their land.

Locusts!

An army of whirring wings infiltrate and consume every building and field. So thick were the bugs, that the Egyptians couldn’t even see their neighbor. Every living plant that survived the hail storm was utterly demolished by millions of these ravenous creatures.

Pharaoh order Moses and Aaron be brought back to him.

He said, “I’ve sinned against your God and against you. Overlook my sin one more time. Pray to your God to get me out of this—get death out of here!”

 Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to God. God reversed the wind—a powerful west wind took the locusts and dumped them into the Red Sea. There wasn’t a single locust left in the whole country of Egypt.

But God made Pharaoh stubborn as ever. He still didn’t release the Israelites, (vv. 16-20).

Reflect

I didn’t include God’s instructions for Moses prior to meeting with Pharaoh (vs 1-2). But I think it’s worthy to note. God adds another reason for His powerful display of signs/plagues: “so you’ll be able to tell your children and grandchildren how I toyed with the Egyptians . . . . You’ll tell them the stories of the signs that I brought down on them, so that you’ll all know that I am God,” (MSG).

Warren Wiersbe writes (Be Delivered): “This purpose was also written into the Passover Feast. Whether in the family or the local church, it’s good for each new generation to learn and appreciate the way God has worked on behalf of previous generations.”

And although Pharaoh appears to humble himself before Moses and God in this passage, there is still no deal. . . . Have a wonderful week!

Strike Seven: Hail, Exodus 9:13-35

The first three plagues were unnerving (water to blood, frogs, gnats); the second three were wounding and costly (flies, death of livestock, boils). But the last four plagues would be perilous and devastating.

You may read Exodus 9:13-35 here: Bible Gateway.

Moses repeats God’s command for Pharaoh to let His people go to the desert for a special meeting. But the Lord also adds: The God of the Hebrews is about to release “the full force” of His plagues on Pharaoh, his officials, and the people (vs. 14).

This is the longest warning Pharaoh has received, perhaps because it would also be the most destructive plague so far. For the next day, God would send “the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt” (vs. 18) if Pharaoh continues to disregard God’s command.

Some of Pharaoh’s servants are now believers of God. Those who heed Moses’ warning shelter their cattle, (the cattle that wasn’t killed in the fields during the fifth plague.)

True to God’s word, as Moses lifts his staff toward the sky the next day, the worst storm Egypt had ever witnessed breaks loose. Thunder echoes through the land. Hail and lightning not only destroy their crops, but also kill every man and animal in the fields.

“The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were,” (vs. 26).

Although Pharaoh confesses his sin to Moses and said he would release the Israelites, his repentance proves insincere. Moses—knowing Pharaoh wasn’t about to let his people go—grants his request anyway as he prays that the storm would cease.

But Pharaoh “sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts . . . He would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses,” (vs. 34-35).

Reflect

God is merciful and gracious. He doesn’t immediately give sinners what they deserve. Although God gives people second chances, He won’t tolerate persistent, rebellious sin forever.

God is merciful and gracious. He doesn’t immediately give sinners what they deserve. Although God gives people second chances, He won’t tolerate persistent, rebellious sin forever.

Moses probably felt like he was running a marathon. Every time he confronts Pharaoh, things just grow worse. But he persists in obeying God anyway. Is there a challenge or conflict that keeps blocking your way? Don’t give up in doing the right thing! As Moses discovers, God rewards persistence.

Strike Five and Six: Animals and Boils, Exodus 9:1-12

The word plague means ‘a blow, a stroke,’ and indicates that the hand of the Lord was punishing the Egyptians. The longer Pharaoh resisted God, the more serious the judgments became.” – Warren W. Wiersbe

While the first three plagues were unnerving (water to blood, frogs, gnats), the second three were wounding and costly (flies, death of livestock, boils).

You may read Exodus 9:1-12 here: Bible Gateway. The following is my fictional piece.

***

Pharaoh pace as he wait for his magi. The flies had vanished after Moses prayed to his god. But the threat from Moses and Aaron a couple of days ago about a deadly pestilence struck full force yesterday. Not only did the cattle of the fields die, but also the horses, donkeys, camels, and sheep that grazed in the pastures.

The most disturbing part, not a single beast from the Israelite clan contracted this deadly disease.

Pharaoh scratched his head. Had he offended his gods? He had never missed Opet’s great festival. Hadn’t he always revered Thoth, Ounnefer, Re, and Atum?

Why is mighty Apis allowing this cattle plague? Who is this desert deity that Moses keeps referring to as Lord? And why would he side with these low class slave people?

“Sir,” Pharaoh didn’t notice the servant entering the throne room. “We could only bring in one magi . . .”

“Ridiculous!” Pharaoh interrupted. “Where are the others? Bring them at once!”

The servant elbowed the magi forward—avoiding physical contact as much as possible—but the magi collapse to the floor. Pharaoh gagged. Who is this man? He resemble more of a writhing snake about to shed his dry skin. Wet yellow pus seep from his scaly blisters. Red bumps cover his entire body. His puffy eyes were swollen shut.

“Take him!” He pointed to the door. “Wh-what happened to him?”

“Sir, Moses scattered ashes into the air . . .”

“I know, he did it in my presence!”

“That’s when this dreaded disease came upon both the people and the animals.”

“Are the Israelites affected?”

“No Sir. I am told that none of the Israelites, or their animals, are suffering.”

Hmph! Who does Moses think he is . . . messing with a god like me?!

Pharaoh squeezed his servant’s arm hard. With flared nostrils, he shouted, “Tell Moses that I still refuse him and his hideous people passage to worship their god in the desert!”

Reflect

I love to focus on God’s love and mercy. But the truth is, God’s righteous character also includes anger and judgment. Proverbs 29:1 says, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”

Even though the Egyptians were greatly suffering, Pharaoh continued in stubborn resistance to God and God’s servants.

(source: Facebook.com) The fear of God is the opposite of a hardened heart. Reverential fear and respect motivates us to obey God's commands (Prov. 9:10).

(source: Facebook.com)
The fear of God is the opposite of a hardened heart. Reverential fear and respect motivates us to obey God’s commands (Prov. 9:10).

The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: God gave Pharaoh many opportunities to heed Moses’ warnings. But finally God seemed to say, ‘All right Pharaoh, have it your way,’ and Pharaoh’s heart became permanently hardened. Did God intentionally harden Pharaoh’s heart and overrule his free will? No, he simply confirmed that Pharaoh freely chose a life of resisting God. Similarly, after a lifetime of resisting God, you may find it impossible to turn to Him. Don’t wait until just the right time before turning to God. Do it now while you still have the chance. If you continually ignore God’s voice, eventually you will be unable to hear it at all.”

God’s Judgments and Pharaoh’s Response, Exodus 8:20-9:12

Through His servants, Moses and Aaron, God had been dealing with Pharaoh for months because of his oppression of the Israelites. First, came the plague of blood. Second, came the slimy frog invasion. The third plague manifested itself in a pesky gnat invasion.

But Egypt’s king still refuses to bend to God’s command, let alone acknowledge God’s authority.

The next six plagues would not only be painful, but also destructive. The final seventh plague would bring Pharaoh to his knees with the death of every firstborn son, including his own.

You may read  Exodus 8:20-9:12 here: Bible Gateway. How did Pharaoh respond to these judgments of God?

Warren Weirsbe’s study, Be Delivered (Exodus), offers the following observations of Pharaoh’s response to God’s judgments. Weirsbe challenges us to examine our own hearts while reading through these points; what is our response to God’s will?

Bargaining (8:20-32)

Pharaoh views Moses and Aaron as national nuisances. But even though he wouldn’t admit it, Pharaoh was the cause of Egypt’s troubles. “God was dealing with Pharaoh in mercy, wanting to bring him into submission, for it’s only when we obey God that we can truly enjoy His blessings. With one blow, God could have wiped out Pharaoh and the nation (Ex. 9:15), but He chose to give them opportunity to repent,” (Weirsbe).

God’s Warning (vv. 20-21)

Before sending seven of the ten plagues, God warns Pharaoh. He and his officials should have known that the God of Israel was in control of these spectacular events. For they happened exactly as God described. But Pharaoh persists in disobedience.

God’s Grace (v. 22)

The Jews would escape the last seven plagues, as God announces prior to the fourth plague of flies. “Only the great God of Israel could control the flight pattern of tiny flies and keep them from entering the land of Goshen. . . . During the time when Joseph was in Egypt, Pharaoh had given the land of Goshen to the Jews, and now God set it apart for His people. In this way God made a ‘division’ between His people and the Egyptians. The word translated ‘division’ in Exodus 8:23 means ‘a redemption, a ransom, a deliverance.’ Because they belonged to God in a special way, the Jews were ‘different’ from the Egyptians, but Pharaoh wouldn’t acknowledge this fact,” (Weirsbe).

God’s Wrath (v. 24)  ac4f6c0002af430218c1cfe9de8d96a3

The next day—true to God’s word—swarms of flies invade the land, homes, and Pharaoh’s palace. Not only are they annoying, but their diseased germs and egg deposits most likely ruined all the vegetation.

Some scholars believe the fly was very sacred to the Egyptian god Uatchit. So this would have been another strike toward their false gods.

Pharaoh’s Offers (vv. 25-32)

Pharaoh begs for help when he needs it. But as soon as he finds relief, he changes his mind and hardens his heart. Pride rears its ugly head as Pharaoh thinks he can bargain with God. Four compromises to Moses and Aaron are recorded during the plagues. The first two happen during the fly plague (Ex. 8:25, 28); the third happens with the locust plague (10:7-11); and the fourth occurs during the four days of darkness (vv. 24-26).

Weirsbe writes: “God’s people face similar “Egyptian compromises” today as we seek to serve the Lord. The enemy tells us we don’t have to be separated from sin because we can serve god ‘in the land.’ God’s reply is found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. . . . True service to God means giving Him authority over all our possessions and all the people in our family for whom we’re responsible. Not to do so is to disobey (Mark 10:13-16; Ephesians 6:4; and Deuteronomy 6:6-13).”

Resisting (9:1-12)

“As you study the account of the plagues of Egypt, keep in mind the purposes God was fulfilling through these momentous events. First of all, He was manifesting His power to Pharaoh and his officials and proving to them that He alone is the true and living God. At the same time, the Lord was exposing the futility of the Egyptian religion and the vanity of the many gods they worshiped, including Pharaoh himself. All that God did to Egypt was a reminder to His people that their God was fighting for them and they didn’t have to worry or be afraid,” (Weirsbe).

Reflect

Once again, I‘m leaning on Weirsbe’s wisdom. He writes: “What does it mean to harden your heart? It means to see clear evidence of the hand of God at work and still refuse to accept His Word and submit to His will. It means to resist Him by showing ingratitude and disobedience and not having fear of the Lord or of His judgments. . . . But the narrative also makes it clear that by sending these various judgments, God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Does this mean that God was unfair and that Pharaoh shouldn’t be held responsible for what he did? No, for the same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay. It all depends on the nature of the material.”

Just a couple thoughts in closing: How am I responding to God’s will? Do I need to repent and change any attitude of disobedience or compromise? Also, let’s pray for our new leaders, that America will once again be Israel’s ally. God still loves Israel: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse,” (Genesis 12:3).

Strike Three: Gnats, Exodus 8:16-19

From the way Denny’s shaking his head, he’s either got an injured shoulder or a gnat in his eye. ”  – Jerry Coleman

Source: clipartpanda.com

Source: clipartpanda.com

After God strikes Pharaoh and Egypt with the plague of blood, then frogs—due to their oppression of the Israelites—God sends a plague of gnats. You may read Exodus 8:16-19 here: Bible Gateway.

I didn’t have much success in finding many gnat quotes, (as you can see in my opener), but here are some interesting—or should I say disgusting—facts about these tiny creatures (Source: I Remove Pest).

  • Gnats use fermenting or decaying substance as a medium to breed.
  • Gnats feed themselves and live on rotten or decay substances.
  • Biting female gnats require and use blood as an effective protein for reproduction. Sometimes they will travel more than 40 miles for blood to breed.
  • Female gnats lay up to 300 eggs a day.
  • A larvae will turn into an adult gnat in a week.

As with the last two plagues, the following is my short fictional narrative of this Exodus passage.

***

Pharaoh swat at the swarm of gnats as though he were in the heat of battle. It was only a short while ago that he had defeated the accursed Hatti and his band of Hittites with a mighty hail fire of arrows and javelins. But his strength and glory amounted to nothing with these tiny pests, as was also the case during the plague of blood, then frogs.

This plague—pronounced by Moses from His God—erupt from the desert dust like a huge storm cloud covering his land, people, and animals. No one could keep the tiny bugs from wedging themselves under their linen clothing. The multiple bites not only stung, but also left itchy red bumps all over its victims.

Could Moses’ God, whom he referred to as Lord, really have this much power over nature?

As Pharaoh’s arms swell with blotchy red bumps, he rip his bracelets from his wrists before flinging them at the rigid magi standing before him. None of them dare flinch to attract his steel gaze. For in an instant he could untether the chain of the lion sitting at the foot of his golden throne. Fortunately for them, both the lion and Pharaoh were distracted with the biting insects.

“Why can’t you also produce gnats?” he yelled at his magi while trying to spit the bugs from his mouth.

A moment of silence only aggravated Pharaoh more, sending him into a tantrum of wild gestures. The lead magi finally spoke in a hush tone. “Surely this is the finger of God. For we can neither do nor undo this gnat infestation.”

“Nonsense!” Pharaoh hurl a quiver in their direction. A shriek filled the room as one of the magicians stumble backwards and collapse to the floor.

“Leave, you fools!”

A couple of magi rushed to grab their injured colleague before scrambling out of the throne room.

Reflect

Once again—just as God had said—Pharaoh refused to listen and hardened his heart.

Persistence is a good thing. But self-centered stubbornness, as in Pharaoh’s case, can be downright destructive.

The Life Application Study Bible summarizes: “[Pharaoh’s] stubborn disobedience brought suffering upon himself and his entire country. . . Stubbornness toward God is always disobedience. Avoid disobedience because the consequences may spill onto others.”

Thanks for taking the time to read. Have a wonderful week!

 

Strike Two: Frogs, Exodus 8:1-15

The plague tragedy—a unique judgment on the Egyptians for their oppression of the Israelites—continues. Seven days have passed since the Lord struck the Nile with the first plague of blood (7:25). This time God covers Egypt’s land and people with frogs.

(Courtesy of brothersoft.com) Hoppy New Year! :)

(Courtesy of brothersoft.com)
Hoppy New Year! 🙂

You may read Exodus 8:1-15 here: Bible Gateway. The following story is my fictional translation of this passage.

***

Pharaoh bolt out of bed upon feeling webbed feet pummeling his face. Damp skin clung to him like a wet towel, sending him into a frenzy. He flung green speckled creatures in all directions.

How did all these frogs make their way to the third floor palace?!

When he slipped and fell on the sea of green, expletives rang through the halls with the chorus of croaks. Never again would the croaks from Goddess Heqet’s offspring soothe him to sleep. Their slimy bodies created a slip and slide not only throughout the palace’ halls and rooms, but also in every Egyptian home. So thick were the beady eyed creatures that all the precious wood and ivory furniture inlaid with gold and ivory, not to mention the carpets, lie ruined.

A servant girl brought him his morning loaf of bread fresh from the oven. Pharaoh impulsively grabbed a piece and took a bite. It was tougher than normal, and tasted like smelly swamp water. Upon seeing green slivers and tiny black dots checkered in the slice, he spit it out before vomiting.

MOSES. That guy and his slave brother had some nerve . . . marching into his throne room—catching his guards and himself by surprise—with his silly demand: “My God says ‘Let my people go, so they may worship me!” He managed to pull off his frog invasion threat. But didn’t Pharaoh’s magi also summon frogs to cover their land by calling on their great god Khnum?

“Moses! Bring him to me at once!” he ordered the guards.

His servants brought Moses and Aaron before him. Pharaoh said, “Pray to God to rid us of these frogs. I’ll release [your] people so that they can make their sacrifices and worship God.”

Moses said to Pharaoh, “Certainly. Set the time. When do you want the frogs out of here, away from your servants and people and out of your houses? You’ll be rid of frogs except for those in the Nile.”

“Make it tomorrow.”

Moses said, “Tomorrow it is—so you’ll realize that there is no God like our God. The frogs will be gone. You and your houses and your servants and your people, free of frogs. The only frogs left will be the ones in the Nile,” (Exodus 8:8-11, MSG).

The next morning dead frogs littered the palace, courtyards, houses and fields. Pharaoh ordered the people to pile them in mounds. The palace, houses, and land stunk for months.

As Pharaoh found relief from the massive pileup of frogs, he refused Moses and Aaron’s request yet again.

Review

Although frogs were common around the Nile River, Egypt had never experienced this many. I would take our cold spell over a plague of frogs any day!

Once again, God uses the frog plague to attack one of Egypt’s gods. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “Frogs were regarded as having divine power. In the Egyptian pantheon, the goddess Heqet had the form of a woman with a frog’s head. From her nostrils, it was believed, came the breath of life that animated the bodies of those created by her husband, the great god Khnum, from the dust of the earth. Therefore frogs were not to be killed.”

Next week, we’ll visit God’s third plague on Egypt: Gnats. . . . Have a great week!


Strike One: Blood, Exodus 7:14-24

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! My family and I enjoyed visiting extended family, and some downhill skiing over Christmas break. I am thankful to report no blood on that front!

Moving on with my study in Exodus, we enter the plague section which God brings upon Pharaoh and his people. I admit, I’d rather not begin the New Year writing about God’s judgment, even though it’s specific to ancient Egypt. But ultimately all nations are under God’s watchful eye and judgment (Psalm 96:10; 110:6). So it’s a good reminder not only of God’s power, but that we should also be praying for our leaders and nation(s).

The plague tragedy is a unique judgment on the Egyptians for their oppression of the Israelites.

This first plague attacks their Nile god, Hapi, who represented fertility. The following narrative is my fictional rendering based on this passage. You may read Exodus 7:14-24 here: Bible Gateway.

***

Pharaoh began his descent toward the banks of the mighty Nile. He would worship Hapi, the Nile god, this morning.

Pharaoh squinted into the early morning sun. Is that a man or a tall bird? The appearance of a man with a grizzled beard stood eerily still on the river’s bank. Moses! The crazed Hebrew nomad who spoke articulate Egyptian both intrigued and infuriated him at the same time. The man had guts. But how dare he challenge him—son of a god—to allow the Hebrews a desert leave. All in the name of worshiping some puny god he’s never even heard of!

Moses and his measly slave brother thought they could persuade him through trickery, turning a staff into a snake. Guess they underestimated my magi! They instantly replicated the same stunt, even though their snakes were swallowed by Moses’ snake.

Now within fifty feet—with Pharaoh enshrined in royalty—Moses still didn’t flinch. But his knuckles paled from grasping his staff in his right hand. Even from this distance, Pharaoh couldn’t miss the fiery intensity in Moses’ eyes.

With clenched jaw Moses boomed, “God, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you with this message, ‘Release my people so that they can worship me in the wilderness.’ So far you haven’t listened. This is how you’ll know that I am God. I am going to take this staff that I’m holding and strike this Nile River water: The water will turn to blood; the fish in the Nile will die; the Nile will stink; and the Egyptians won’t be able to drink the Nile water,’” (Ex. 7:15-18 MSG).

Aaron struck the water with the rod. Splinters of red first reflect in a dazzling pattern. But then streams of crimson flowed together until all of Hapi’s water seeped a thickening blood red, threatening to strangle her life flow. It wasn’t long before bloated fish surfaced. The air permeated with the foul smell of death.

Pharaoh’s servants scurried to him from all directions. “Blood is everywhere! The rivers, canals, ponds, even in pots and pans—they’ve all turned to blood!”

“Nonsense!” Pharaoh bellowed while glaring at Moses. “Magi, replicate this trick at once!”

Reflect

When Moses’ snake had previously gobbled up the Egyptian snakes, one would think Pharaoh would have reconsidered his stance toward Moses and the Israelites since the serpent was considered sacred in Lower Egypt where that confrontation took place.

But true to God’s word, Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened.

Most of Egypt’s people lived along the banks of the Nile’s 3,000 mile waterway. Egypt couldn’t exist without this life source for farming, fishing, bathing, and drinking. Sandy soil near the river’s bank filtered the water. But literal blood would fail to filter by the sand. Now the Egyptians had to dig along the Nile to get drinking water (v. 24).

God later gave a prophecy in Ezekiel 29:2-6 that concludes all of Egypt would know He is the Lord by this miracle.

How Does Moses Point to Christ? (Part One)

The entire Old Testament, though dealing with the history of the nations and of Israel, ultimately spoke of the Messiah, the Redeemer who would come.”  – J. Hampton Keathley, III

I love that God has creatively woven types and parallels throughout the history of His people that highlight Christ through various people and events.

With Christmas approaching, I thought this would be a good time to detour from Exodus 7:14—the beginning of the 10 plagues in Egypt—and instead highlight how Moses foreshadows Christ. After all, Christ is God’s main event in which the Old Testament leads up to.

Though not your traditional Christmas message, it’s interesting to see how pieces of Moses’ life reflect some of Jesus’ life.

Similarities Between Moses and Jesus

  • Pharaoh killed innocent children during the time of Moses’ birth (Exodus 1:22). King Herod also killed innocent children in Bethlehem during the time of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:16).
  • Moses had to flee his home due to Pharaoh’s persecution (Exodus 2:15). Jesus and his parents also had to flee their native land due to Herod’s persecution (Matthew 2:14).
  • Moses was able to return when told: “All the men are dead that sought your life” (Exodus 4:19). Jesus was also able to return after Herod’s death: “those who sought the child’s life are dead” (Matthew 2:20-21).
  • Moses prayed and God healed Miriam’s leprosy (Numbers 12:10-13). Jesus healed the leper (Matthew 8:2-3).
  • Twelve messengers were chosen by Moses. Hoshea, Moses’ close assistant, is renamed Joshua (Numbers 13:2-16). Twelve apostles were chosen by Jesus. Simon, Jesus’ close friend, is renamed Peter (Matthew 16:17-19; Mark 3:16-17).

My favorite similarity between Moses and Jesus is their role of being deliverers. God raised Moses up to deliver His people, the Israelites, from Egyptian bondage. God sent Jesus to earth not only to teach us His ways, but also to deliver us from the bondage of sin and eternal death.

Have you accepted His free gift of forgiveness and salvation through His Son?

Prophecies of the Birth of Christ by J. Hampton Keathley, III offers a thought provoking study on Jesus’ birth and how to identify the true Deliverer from counterfeits. I know some of you can easily digest his words in one sitting. But if you’re like me trying to stay a float with the holiday to-do list, a couple paragraphs or sections a day would make a great study leading up to Christmas.

Blessings!