Category Archives: Exodus

Exodus 40

Here in this last chapter in Exodus, God has Moses put everything that has been made together so that God can come and dwell among them. It says that “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” And this was represented by a cloud which settled on it. When the cloud was there, the Israelites would stay put, and when it lifted they would continue their travels, God leading them by his presence to the promised land. Again God in his grace giving them a sign, something they could see, evidence to put their faith, their trust in him, and his representative on earth, Moses. Not unlike Jesus giving his disciples the healings and miracles as evidence that they should put their faith and trust in him.

Now on to Leviticus.

Exodus 37-39

These chapters continue the construction of the sanctuary, and God spares no detail about exactly what is to be done for his dwelling place. And I suppose all this to show that man and God have some issues, that a holy God and sinful man need a mediator, need something to cover what has caused the alienation, which is our sin. And the Israelites finally did something right; it says at the end of chapter 39 that they did everything “just as the Lord commanded.” And because they did, Moses blessed them. Maybe there is some hope for these people after all.

Exodus 35 & 36

These and following chapters tell us how the tabernacle was made. Something happens here that is a bit different than in previous instructions from God. The people are not commanded but invited to bring the material:

Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing which theLord has commanded. Take from among you an offering to the Lord; whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s offering:

and

20 Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, every one whose heart stirred him, and every one whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s offering to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 So they came, both men and women; all who were of a willing heart

and

29 All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work which the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done, brought it as their freewill offering to the Lord.

It says it again once more in chapter 36. In fact, the people brought so much stuff that Moses had to tell them to stop. Why the change? Probably because they had seen so much, both good and bad, and Moses had such huge credibility at this point, that they were excited to be contributing to God’s dwelling place.

Exodus 34

Since Moses broke the first stone tablets God wrote his law on, he instructs him to make two more and God will write his law on them again, but before that God does something he does nowhere else in the Bible; he describes himself. I’m very curious about the names God uses for himself and what Moses uses for him. So I did a little searching and found this piece, “God’s Self-Revelation in Exodus 34:6-8.” It’s a scholarly work that digs into the Hebrew, and not just for the words of God. Fascinating. The Bible, God’s Word, his revelation to us is so full of meaning, so full of one profundity after the other.

As a preface to this self-Revelation, God as he met with Moses proclaimed his name, the Lord. As I’ve mentioned previously, a person’s name in ancient culture was more than just a name. It reflected who the person was, their character, it told you something about who they were. Then verse 6 & 7:

The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

He proclaims his name twice more to emphasize that what is coming is the very essence of who he is, and what is that? God is not a tyrant. The supreme all powerful ruler of the universe doesn’t put the hammer down every time his subjects rebel against him. Far from it. In fact the very first word is merciful; punishment is due, but God relents. His nature is gracious, i.e. he gives favor that we do not merit. His anger is slow in coming, although as sinners we know it is deserved. He’s not only steadfast in love an faithfulness, but he is abounding in these qualities. And finally he forgives the trifecta of rebellion: iniquity, transgression and sin.

It is astounding that God’s only description of himself encompasses a fatherly concern for his creatures. What really gives these words and these character traits power is the Trinity. Having read Michael Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity recently I now know why. All these traits assume a relational God, and specifically a God of love. If God were a monism, God cold not be love, as John tells us in 1 John 4:8 that he is. If God were a single solitary being what would he have been doing for all eternity? God’s fundamental nature if Father, who loves the Son and the Holy Spirit, who love back. Loving his creatures then is a natural outgrowth of the eternal love of the Godhead, and we see if reflected here.

Yet God is holy, and sin brings guilt and must be punished at some point. But here I think he’s not speaking so much of punishment as of consequences. We know very well these can go on for generations, but notice there is a limit. At some point people can break free of that which they inherited from their family.

Then Moses again asks God to go with them, and God promises to do that, and to drive out the people’s that will cause them to rebel against him. But this is predicated on their obedience, of their staying separate from them, not intermarrying and practicing their pagan religion. We know how that goes.

When Moses comes down from the mountain with the new tablets, we see that he’d been up there another 40 days and nights, and it says “without eating or drinking water.” I wonder why put this in the story. I suppose God is life itself, the animating principal of life, so that being with God means he himself is our sustenance. And the people notice something new about him; his face was “radiant” and he himself wasn’t aware of it. It was so glaring that the people were afraid to come close to him. So he put a veil over his face every time after he spoke with God. I love this because God is giving the people evidence that Moses is his man, that they must listen to him. It’s not just take Moses’ word, but listen to him because he is God’s man. Something to consider for those who would seek to influence for God and for good: spend time with God, and we can now, amazingly, enter the holy of holies and be in the very presence of Almighty God!

 

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!

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.