Monthly Archives: July 2014

Exodus 33

There is some amazing stuff in this short chapter all revolving around the presence of the Lord to Moses and his people. Initially God is disgusted with this “stiff-necked people” and says that Moses should get on with it and take the people to the land God promised, the land flowing with milk and honey, but that he will not go with them lest he destroy them on the way. Though he says he will send an angel before them to drive out the other peoples, but he himself, he’s done. But Moses won’t let him.

We learn here something Moses called a “tent of meeting,” set up outside the camp where he meets with God. Actually in this chapter it doesn’t use the word God, but rather Lord. Could this be the second person of the Trinity that is meeting with Moses? When he goes into the tent the pillar of cloud comes and stays at the entrance, and as the people see this they stand at the entrance of their tents and worship. It is impressive that God shows himself in some way, he gives them something visual to hold on to, some evidence that this is not just some head trip of a guy named Moses.

Then it says something shocking and seemingly contradictory too later in the chapter:

11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.

But later when Moses asks to see the Lord’s glory, we read this:

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “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. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

So which is it? How could this make sense apart from the Trinity? Unless face to face in the tent of meeting doesn’t actually mean face to face; that’s the conclusion you would have to come to if you think God is a monism, but he’s not. We also see here a declaration of God’s sovereignty, as Paul discusses in Romans 9. It is the Lord’s will that is supreme, that takes precedence, that determines whom he will save.

Moses started out as a rash hothead, and spent 40 years of his life seemingly doing nothing but domestic work, then messes up again as God calls him to lead his people, but by chapter 33 we can see how much he’s grown and learned, that without God, without the presence of the Lord there is no difference between Israel and any other people:

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

 

Moses isn’t afraid to ask God because he knows the story, he knows what God promised long ago, and this his covenant must be upheld. And we can see the heart of Moses, what is important to him, that he wants to know and please God. Something I need to pray daily as well. Because of Moses, the great intercessor, prefiguring one who will come with eternal rather than temporal purposes, God does not abandon his “stiff-necked” people. Nor does he today, praise be to God!

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Exodus 32

Wasn’t it just a few chapters ago that the Israelites were telling Moses that they would do everything God commanded? Now the first sign of ambiguity, Moses is up on the mountain for 40 days, and they rebel. What’s interesting about the story is the role Aaron plays. It says they “gathered around Aaron” and told him to make them gods because, and I love the way it puts this, “As for this fellow Moses . . . we don’t know what has happened to him.” Not a patient lot. Aaron proves to be a coward, and is clearly scared by what he thinks the people might do to him if he doesn’t oblige.

So he gets the people to give him all their gold earrings, puts it in a fire and casts an idol out of it with the important fact that he fashioned it “with a tool.” But when Moses confronts Aaron about what happened he says this:

22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘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.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

This is almost funny. He just threw the gold in and out popped this calf! He doesn’t even have the guts to tell Moses the truth, that he was so cowed by the people he did exactly what they wanted him to do.

When God tells Moses what is happening he threatens to destroy them, and that he would transfer the covenant promise to Moses and make him into a great nation, but Moses will have nothing of it. He’s probably the right guy to have this happen because he was a reluctant leader, and was certainly not looking for glory or power. In fact, Moses “reminds” God about his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and God relents. Moses, like Jesus, is an intercessor for his people, and God’s wrath is averted.

As Moses is coming down the text says something interesting about the tablets:

15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

You can’t get much more authority than God himself engraving his law upon the tablets. Then when Moses gets into the camp and sees what’s going on his anger burned, and he promptly throws the tablets down breaking them to pieces. Really Moses? You had to bust them all up, tablets that God himself had written? We know Moses had a little problem with anger, and we see it here.

But something very serious is on the line here, and Moses recruits men who are willing to stand with the Lord, and God commands something very harsh for the idolaters: death. And God makes sure it’s done without discrimination, whether brother, friend or neighbor. It’s Levites, the priests, who do this, and three thousand people died that day; sin is serious business. That seems like a lot of people, and it is, but there were over a million people at this point, so it’s a small percentage.

The wages of sin is and always will be death. When we look around is, in this fallen world we see something that is ubiquitous, of which we are reminded every day, something that we try to but know we cannot escape, and that is death. I read just this morning of a young kid, 20 years old, who recently got accepted to USC, who a final summer weekend before he buckles down to his new life, is struck by lightening at a southern California beach and killed! He just went into the water to wash some sand off his body, and boom! He’s dead! And summer thunderstorms at SoCal beaches just don’t happen. But there it is, death, we are reminded can happen any time. When we were in Tampa to get Gabrielle settled in for her new life we went to visit Sarah’s mother and husband; he’s 93 and dying of cancer. You can see the ravages of death playing out on both of them, time taking its toll. It plays out on us all. I’m 54 today, and one year, one day closer to death, time taking it’s toll on my body, the wages of sin.

Moses tells the people that maybe he can atone for their sin and asks God that their sin be forgiven, even if his own name needs to be blotted out of God’s book, and God does, though he punishes them with a plague. No wonder Moses is revered; he became a great, if flawed man. God then says to get on their way to the promised land. More adventures to come!

Exodus 31

Chapter 31 finishes God’s commands on the mountain. He picks a couple of men that he gives the “Spirit of God” to so they will have great skill to lead other craftsmen in making everything God has commanded for his worship. Then he confirms the importance of the Sabbath:

12 Then the Lord said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.

So they need to observe the Sabbath so they will know that they do not and can not make themselves holy; that is God’s job, to set them apart for himself. Then God says something that seems so radical to our ears: anyone who does any work on the Sabbath desecrates it and is to be put to death. Seems a bit extreme, don’t you think?

Why was the Sabbath so important for Israel? A couple things in the chapter might give us a clue. In v. 16 he says they are to celebrate it “as a lasting covenant.” God’s promise of salvation is bound up in this day of rest, and they confirm the covenant one full day of every week. Verse 17 says that the day is a “sign” between God and the Israelites “forever” because he is the Creator of the universe.

So bound up in the Sabbath is God’s roles of creator and redeemer, the very essence of who he is to his people, and what sets them apart from every other people on earth. It’s interesting that he doesn’t do this with any of the other Ten Commandments, or at least of the final six. The Sabbath was different because it really wasn’t about a day, but about a relationship, one established by God, just as God established us in Jesus as our ultimate Sabbath rest.

Exodus 30

More rules for approaching God and making atonement. God is amazingly picky when it comes to how sinful human beings must approach him; no detail is too small, and several times in this chapter it says that they must do such and such “so that they will not die.” God’s holiness and our sinfulness are so diametrically opposed, the gulf so massive, that when the two confront one another unless the proper precautions are made the sinner will die. Modern people hate this because for them God is just kind of a nice old man sitting up there in heaven who doesn’t make too many demands on we poor humans. God in his word says otherwise, and these chapters on what it takes for his people to atone for their sins shows just how serious a business it is.

Aaron is to make atonement one day a year for the sins of the people, Yom Kippur. But that’s not all. Whenever a census is taken, each person must pay a certain amount of money to the Lord as a “ransom for his life.” The money, which goes to the sanctuary is an “atonement for your lives.” Interesting how giving money can be an atonement, but it’s obviously connected to the whole process of the tabernacle and priestly atonement for Israel’s sin. I also notice that the rich are not to pay more, and the poor not to pay less than this certain amount. No progressive taxation here.

Exodus 29

Sacrifice has been part of God’s relationship to his people from the beginning, in fact from the fall when he killed animals to clothe Adam and Eve’s nakedness. In Exodus this process of atoning for sin is brought to another level. God lays out the exact details for how atonement will be made for sins, and how everything will be consecrated to him so this can happen. The word consecration means “the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious,” and God put Aaron and his sons through a rigorous process so they could be consecrated to him. But to what end?

44 “So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. 45 Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.

So he could dwell among his people; he wants his people to know that he is the Lord their God. How amazing is that. God wants us to live in a relationship of security with him, not a relationship of fear and judgment, but without forgiveness there is only fear and judgment; God is holy, we are not. No wonder atheists so desperately want there to not be a God; they can’t stand his judgment against their sin, against them. He brought Israel out of Egypt, and us out of sin, that he might dwell with us.

This all points to Jesus and what he did that we might know that God is for us and not against us, that our sin no longer alienates us from the Father; we have been adopted, become his sons and daughters. We are no longer at war, or enmity with him because of our sin. The gospel is good news indeed, and here in Exodus 29 God is telling us why Christ’s sacrifice was so crucial to his plans: his atoning sacrifice for our sins was necessary so God could not only dwell among us, but shockingly, dwell within us! That’s insane! Does God know me, how corrupt this dwelling is? Of course he does, and thus we see the power and scope and depth and breadth of the atoning work of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Wow!

The idea of atonement is offensive to natural man. Atone means, “to make amends or reparation, as for an offense or a crime, or for an offender.” The idea of guilt before a holy God just doesn’t sit well with the unrepentant sinner. The irony is, of course, that every human being, as Paul tells us in Romans 1, doesn’t even live up to their own standards, let alone God’s. Their conscience condemns them, yet they’ll say they don’t need God’s forgiveness. They look at the cross and think it absurd that sin must be paid for, but the fundamental nature of reality is that doing wrong carries with it a cost, a penalty that must be paid, in this life. That they would think it so strange that the creator of this reality, who is the basis of all that is good and true and beautiful, must punish sin is irrational.

We know from Genesis 3 that the essence of sin is the desire to usurp God’s rightly place as the creator and ruler of the universe. How incredibly irrational is that! The unrepentant sinner is in rebellion; they have committed treason against the ruler, the King of the universe, and until they lay down their arms they will never know peace.

Exodus 28

God commands what the priestly garments are to be and look like, for Aaron, his sons and descendants. Befitting the Creator of a universe of splendor and magnificence and “useless” beauty, they are elaborate and beautiful, filled with fine garments, gold and precious stones. In two of the verses he says this about how they are to be made:

Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest.

and

15 “Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions—the work of skilled hands. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen.

I note that human skill comes from God’s wisdom. Why would that be? Skill must be developed, painstakingly through a lot of human effort, trial and error. So what does God have to do with that? Only everything.

God is the source of all knowledge, ALL knowledge. Everything in the universe works the exact way it does because he made all the laws that allow everything to function exactly as they do. And I don’t mean laws in the sense a deist means laws; he sets everything up and then it goes on it’s own. No, God is the animating principle of every single thing, literally each particle of matter. He holds it all together by his power. Paul says thus in Colossians 1:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

And not only this, but the concept of beauty, that it even exists, exists in the person of God himself. That we can create beauty is due to being created in God’s image; we are co-creators with God. And if you think about it we are always creators in our lives, and everything we create is a testimony to the greatness of the ultimate Creator.

And God here is establishing the office of High Priest, which will one day lead to the one who is High Priest forever, as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 4 & 5.

Exodus 25-27

God commands Moses:

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

I found this site all about the tabernacle:

The Tabernacle Place exists to educate on and promote the use of the Old Testament tabernacle as a main biblical reference to Jesus Christ. The tabernacle not only is a crucial visual aid to give us a clear understanding of Christ’s redemptive work, it also provides us with many precious insights as to our privilege as believers. We seek to help believers learn about this visual aid and provide tools for them to teach it to others.

God gives Moses very detailed instructions to build this dwelling place among them, and in John 1:14 we are told that Jesus made his dwelling among us, or tabernacled among us. Jesus is the fulfillment of the tabernacle. It isn’t surprising that God would require exacting care for his dwelling. He is obviously a creative God, a God of beauty and order, a God who cares about presentation, about what his interaction with his people will look like and what that experience will be. There is a lot more of this to come.