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!

Our History of “Firsts”, Part 1 (Genesis 4:1-5)

There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot . . .”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

The following “first times” are recorded in the short passage of Genesis 4:1-5.

First Sexual Intercourse

Genesis 4:1 records Adam and Eve in this intimate act.

God created sex not only to populate the earth, but also for our pleasure. His design for this act is modeled between one man and one woman, within the boundary of marriage. This sacred gift seals the spiritual, physical, and social relationship between husband and wife when exercised God’s way. (See also Gen. 2:18; Jer. 29:6; Isa. 62:5; 1 Cor. 11:11-12)

First Births

Although childbearing pain entered the picture, Eve acknowledged God’s help in conceiving her firstborn son, Cain. She later gave birth to Abel. Both sons occupied honorable occupations: Cain grew to become a farmer, while Abel became a shepherd.

First Struggle in Daily Living

Abel means “vapor” or “vanity.” At this point, Adam and Eve no doubt realized the full impact of God’s curse from their sin (Rom. 8:20). Food, clothing, and shelter would no longer be provided freely as in the Garden of Eve, but wrought with much struggle against the elements.

First Recorded Offerings to God

Although Adam and Eve had been driven out of the Garden away from God’s presence, God graciously still made Himself available for counsel under certain conditions. Although the Bible doesn’t record these first conditions to Adam and Eve in approaching Him, He probably instructed them in regards to sacrifices and offerings given to Him; possibly when God provided the first clothes—coats of animal skins—for them (Gen. 3:21).

It’s likely that Abel’s sheep were to be used for sacrifice since atonement (“covering”) required shedding of blood.

"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast."  - Genesis 4:3-5

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” – Genesis 4:3-5

Cain and Abel may have made many offerings to God. But this was the first recorded time God rejected Cain’s offering. Why? Although we don’t know all of the reasons, my next post will explore some clues as we continue Cain and Abel’s sad saga.

I hope spring is treating you well. Thanks for dropping by!

Overview of Romans

In my last poll someone suggested I post a Bible study. Thus begins this journey. Beginning next week I will sequentially list the given Scripture passage. I won’t write out the entire passage, but may quote a verse or two, add interesting facts, expand on a given concept, and/or add poetry about the topic/passage.

The New Testament book of Romans seems a great starting point after exploring “Evangelism”.

Romans In a Nutshell

Sinners are saved only by faith in Jesus Christ.

Sinners are saved only by faith in Jesus Christ.

Like a skilled lawyer, the apostle Paul presents the Good News—we are saved by grace (undeserved, unearned favor from God) through faith (complete trust) in Christ and His finished work on the cross. He further explains how this knowledge and living by the Holy Spirit’s power should affect our daily living.

Paul, like the other apostles, had never visited the church in Rome, but he had taken the gospel “from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum” (15:19). He planned to visit and preach in Rome someday. He also hoped to continue taking the gospel further westward to Spain. It’s unclear if Paul ever reached Spain or if he was executed in Rome after the end of the book of Acts.

roman-empire-map

The church in Rome began by Jews who came to faith during the Pentecost (Acts 2). A great number of Gentile converts also joined this growing church. Paul felt a bond with these Christian Romans, even though miles and obstacles separated them. In his letter, Paul introduces himself before presenting an organized and clear statement of his faith in Jesus Christ.

Statistics Please

  • Author: The apostle Paul
  • Date: About 57 AD, from Corinth near the end of Paul’s third missionary journey
  • Audience: Believers in Rome and believers everywhere
  • Purpose: 1) Paul was seeking support for his planned visit to Spain (15:24,28); 2) Paul sought to encourage the Romans to greater unity (14:1-15:13); 3) Paul wanted to explain his theology to the Romans and apply it to daily life issues.

Major Themes in Romans

  • Natural revelation – 1:20
  • The wrath of God – Ch. 1
  • A righteousness from God – Ch. 2
  • Abraham, a man of faith – Ch. 4
  • The benefits of believing – Ch. 12-15
  • Does justification by faith promote sin? Ch. 6
  • Life in the Spirit – Ch. 8
  • The triumph of believing – 8:26-30
  • What about the Jews?
  • Practical Christianity – Ch. 12
  • The obligations of love – Ch. 13

Hope you’ll join me next week!

 

God’s Faithfulness, Romans 3:1-8

There’s no camouflage here. The apostle Paul paints a bleak portrait of our sin against the canvas of God’s brilliant holiness. In the previous two chapters, Paul chisels away at the common excuses people use to justify they’re not sinners: 1) “There is no God” (1:18-32), 2) “I’m better than others” (2:1-16), 3) “I’m religious, or a church member” (2:17-29).

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this "Deadly Sins" t-shirt.  Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this “Deadly Sins” t-shirt. Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Paul Defends With Four Questions

This chapter begins with Paul strengthening his defensive stance: All stand guilty before God.

It’s as though he’s tackling an imaginary opponent who is blitzing him with objections on his previous points of Jewish “lostness”. In classic Paul style, he fires back with four questions:

  1. What advantage has the Jew? (vs. 1-12) Paul’s statement about real circumcision and true Jewish identity undoubtedly sent shock waves throughout the congregation (2:25-29). They would naturally have questions. Paul answers this question: “Much in every way!” The Jews were chosen first to model and share God’s words in the Old Testament. (Paul later lists other advantages in Rom. 9:1-5.)
  2. Does Jewish unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? (vs. 3-4) Paul answers: “Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.” (“Not at all!” has been translated as “Far from it!”) In chapter 2, Paul described the hardened Jews who talked the Law talk, but failed to walk the Law walk (2:21-24). They were faithless to the covenant God made with them. Paul cites part of Psalm 51:4 to prove God’s vindication in judgment.
  3. Is not God unjust to impose His wrath upon us? The imaginary objector proposed that his sin provided a contrast to God’s righteousness, thus highlighting God’s holiness. Paul answers: “Certainly not!” Shepherd’s Notes says it well: “If that were so, how could God judge the world? The moral governorship of the universe was at stake with such an absurd charge.”
  4. Does not my falsehood cause God’s truth to abound? This question is similar to #3. This reasoning feeds the lie: “Let us do evil so good may shine forth.” (vs. 8) What is Paul’s response to this twisted concept? “Their condemnation is deserved.”
So What?

God doesn’t need our sin to highlight His holiness. Instead, He wants us to reflect His love and goodness.

The Mosaic Law, which God gave to show us how to live, convicts us of our sin. The Law, however, is not our source of hope—God is.

We can’t earn God’s love; He freely offers us forgiveness and eternal life through faith in His son, Jesus Christ—not through observance of the Law.

The Promise of Many Descendants, Romans 4:13-25

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” – Genesis 17:4-7

Abraham’s name means “father of a multitude”. Israel, the nation that would come from Abraham, was to follow God and influence others. Jesus Christ—born to save humanity— descended from Abraham’s family line. 6fbc418779f48e2f1433a58ed83d578bThrough Christ, people can have a personal relationship with God and become His children by being grafted into His family.

As the first Hebrew patriarch, Abraham became a role model of faith. God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants are based on grace, not on their ability to keep the Law. Although Abraham made mistakes and sinned, he believed in God’s power and integrity. His goodness and faith became evident in his actions of surrender, obedience, and complete confidence in God to carry out His promises.

Shepherd’s Notes observes: “Putting the relationship between God and humans on a legalistic basis invites the wrath of God. Relationships with a legalistic basis require both parties to carry out perfectly both the spirit and the letter of the Law. Failure to do this results in penalties (wrath) to the offending party. Knowing the weakness of human nature as He does, God knows right relationship must be founded on something other than a legal basis.”

Paul ends this section reminding us that Abraham’s justification by faith has purpose for us too: for “us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (vs. 24) is also reckoned righteousness . . . . Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification (vs. 25).

So What?

God graciously gave His Son, Jesus Christ,8607e1deaa4c56349abdb964bdfba256 to be crucified and raised to life as payment for our sins. All who reach out in faith will receive the power of His forgiveness, eternal life, and abundant blessings.

On what basis did God declare Abraham righteous?

What does it mean to be justified by faith?