Daily Summaries and Comments

Monday, February 8, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Feb 9, Ex 30-32

Today's readings are Ex 30-32. Tomorrow's are Exodus 33-35. 

Ex 30 provides the instructions on how to build the altar of incense for the Tabernacle. Burning incense represents sacrifice and worship, a sweet aroma to God. In Ex 30:6, God says this is where He will meet His people, at the altar of sacrifice and worship. The Jews come to understand that sacrifice and worship are required for them to come into the presence of God. 

The census tax is instituted. Every man has to pay it and the price is the same for everyone. It is a "ransom", compensation and atonement for his life. What the Jews learn from this is that everyone's sins need to be atoned for. Everyone's life needs to be ransomed. 

We see the bronze basin. Everyone who approaches the Lord must be clean or they will die.  

Recipes are given for the anointing oil and incense to be used in the Tabernacle. Both are extremely expensive, demonstrating the invaluable gift of being called (anointed) and worship (incense). The recipes are not to be tampered with, which will soon become abundantly evident. In them, is implicit evidence that there is only one way to worship God. No one has the prerogative to change them or modify them to suit their whims. It is not for pleasure or entertainment, it is for His glory. God will soon demonstrate this very dramatically. 

In Ex 31, we see that God designates the men who will carry out the instructions, the builders and craftsmen, and has given them particular gifts that will enable them to do their work. Those God calls, He enables to walk in their calling. Even the gifts and talents they will use to serve him come from Him!

The Sabbath is mentioned again, this time in the overall scheme of creation. It emphasizes God's pattern of work with rest at the end of the work. It not only shows that rest must be part of His children's lives, but it points toward the promise of an ultimate rest. 

Meanwhile in Ex 32, while Moses is up on the mountain receiving all this, the people get impatient and talk Aaron into making a golden calf, using the very gold they carried out of Egypt.

We see a tension in Ex 32. God prescribes authentic, holy worship and sacrifice in the preceding chapters. Then, as this chapter begins we see counterfeit and perverted worship. The worship designed by God is God-centered, God glorifying. The worship the people engage in is worship of the flesh and human desire (Ex 32:6). 

Moreover, and perhaps most significant, we see the people reject the leader God has given them. God chose Moses, empowered him, worked signs and wonders through him and delivered them through him. Now, they turn their backs on him, demanding that their own desires be met. It becomes clear that there are grave consequences for rejecting God's chosen man. 

For this, God threatens to kill them all except Moses. Moses, acting as an intercessor/advocate pleads for mercy and God relents. God's wrath can be averted by a man who is willing to be an advocate!

Still, there is a price to pay for open rebellion against God. The camp is called upon to make a choice as to whom they will serve. The sons of Levi, as a tribe, stand with Moses. They are commanded to slay 3,000 of their brothers who rebelled against God (Ex 32:27-29). This is a difficult part of the passage. But, it shows that those who follow Him with all their hearts must be willing to do so even if it means forsaking family and friends. 

This is not meant to be prescriptive to God's people in all cases. Killing is a violation of God's commandments. Our lesson is not about killing but about the ruthless removal of anything unholy from among God's people. In this incident we see that sin will not be tolerated within the camp. There is a grave and serious price to pay for rejecting God. 

We are at a watershed moment in the story of the Exodus. God has delivered His people and given them the Law. At the moment they are receiving the Law, they are called to make a decision. Those who decide not to follow God and the leader He has designated, are eliminated. This will become another pattern we will see throughout the rest of Scripture. The Law has done what it is designed to do, reveal sin. 

In another significant turn, this is the first act of the Levites' complete devotion to God and is immediately followed by the Lord's blessing. They are ordained into His service and will eventually play a significant role in the history of Israel as priests and servers in the Tabernacle/Temple. Here's another pattern we've seen and will continue to see - obedience is followed by blessing. Radical obedience is followed by radical blessing. 

 God sends a plague, as well. God is compassionate and merciful but will not tolerate open, unrepentant sin. There will always be earthly consequences for sin among God's people. They remain His people, but becasue of their willful self-indulgence, there will be some suffering. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Feb 8, Ex 28-29

Today's reading is Ex 28-29. Tomorrow's is Ex 30-32. 

God gives the instructions for making the garments the priest will wear while serving in the Tabernacle. They are just as intricately detailed as those of the Tabernacle. The priest must be adorned in perfect clothing, according to God's clear instructions. While the Jews do not yet have a full understanding of how all this symbolism applies to the coming Messiah - none of this has been revealed to them at this point - they do have a reverence for God and His commandments that leads them to see His holiness in the details. To us, the precision and perfection of the priestly clothing is another shadow of the perfection of Christ. 

The priest wears an invaluable, ornately designed ephod (a kind of breastplate) which bears that names of the twelve tribes. The names are brought before the Lord each time the priest ministers. Today, we see this as a picture of Christ and our union with Him. Christ is our advocate appearing before God in a more perfect and more beautiful manner than the priest could. He bears our names and bring us into the Father's presence.
The priest must be consecrated by a ritual bath (cleansed) before putting on the priestly garments. The cleansing ritual is a symbol of the removal of sin and the filth of the world. The garments are a symbol of untainted and perfect righteousness.  Sacrifices are commanded, morning and evening. God takes pleasure in the sacrifice. The sacrifice is meant to atone for the sins. God takes pleasure in them because they point to the ultimate sacrifice and the full implementation of His plan for redemption, revealing His glory. 

The priest can fulfill his duties in the Tabernacle only after he's been sprinkled by the blood of the sacrifice. This is seen as part of the ritual cleansing process, allowing the priest to enter the Holy of Holies. Later, the Scriptures will tell of the work of Jesus being completed only by the shedding of His blood, allowing the believer to come into the presence of God (Heb 10:19). 

The priest and his sons cannot approach the mercy seat unless they are consecrated and wearing the proper clothes. This is by the commandment of God, revealing His holiness and the necessity of righteousness in order to come before Him. In a similar manner, we are unable to enter back into relationship with the Father unless we are cleansed of our sin and wearing the righteousness of Christ (Is 61:10).

The Tabernacle, all of its trappings, the priest and his clothing, even the preparation of the priest...they all foreshadow Christ. To the Jews, in their time, they were instructions ordained by God. The Jews, in spite of their stumbles and failings, want to honor God in all they do. So, they follow His instructions down to the finest detail. They are the evidence to all around them of obedience to the Father. Unlike the gods the pagans worship, gods who are demanding and dangerous, The God of the Hebrews is a God of grace, incessantly shedding that grace on His chosen people. These people, the Hebrews, are set apart by their obedience and His grace.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Feb 7, Ex 25-27

Today's readings are Ex 25-27. Tomorrow's are Exodus 28- 29.

Once God reminds Moses of the details of the covenant, He, in Ex 25 gives him instructions on building an ark to contain evidence of the covenant (symbolizing His grace and mercy), a table for bread (symbolizing the "bread of life"), a lamp stand (symbolism the "light of the world") and a tabernacle in which He will dwell among His people. It's not that God needs a house; it is a shadow of the coming Temple which will be a shadow of the Christ who will dwell inside us. 

The instructions are given in minute detail for God's beautifully detailed creation, made to His precise direction, not to be changed or enhanced by man. God, not those He created, will design and fashion His dwelling.  

Much gold, silver, precious metals and stone are required. Where would a nomadic people, constantly on the move, acquire such riches? They have the gold and treasure of Egypt! Remember? It's another reminder that the gifts God gives us are to be used to honor Him! It's also a reminder that God has purpose for everything that occurs in our life.  

Every facet of the tabernacle has meaning and symbolism. If you'd like to read in more detail about it, try this link. You will see the incredibly intricate way God has designed the temporary home for Himself as a way to demonstrate His presence among His people and a way to point toward their permanent home with Him. 

The unfolding events at Sinai are a powerful testimony that God uses the day-to-day circumstances of our lives to bring us into fellowship with Himself and into worship of Him. God sent His people to Egypt and brought them out, leading them to Sinai and now shows them how they will worship Him. The beautiful aspect of this is that it all points us toward the truth that our lives are fashioned by Him in intricate detail to bring us into His presence and to worship Him.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Feb 6, Ex 22-24

Today's readings are Ex 22-24. Tomorrow's are Ex 25-27.

After delivering the ten commandments (the Law), the moral guidelines that reveal the character and nature of God, Moses receives the civil and ceremonial laws (the law). Notice the difference between the two. Many people believe we are no longer under the Law as if, somehow, Jesus thinks it's OK to worship other gods and murder each other. We are, indeed, no longer under many of the ceremonial laws and not all of the civil. But even the ceremonial and civil laws are a revelation of God's character and, in reality are the basis for many of the civil laws we observe today. Those start in Ex 21 with guidelines for, but not prohibition of, slavery. There are civil laws and rules in Ex 22 and the first half of Ex 23. God lays out the festivals in the second half of Ex 23, each of them symbolic of the deliverance of His children and of the promise of the future redemption and deliverance as well. 

Some of the laws seem obscure. All of them are far less a way to control His people than they are a revelation of who He is and how He functions. As you read through these laws, read them with this in mind; Jesus sums them all up in two beautifully simple statements,

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

You can see this clearly in these chapters in Exodus. Each law is a detailed reflection of Jesus' summation. Believing we are no longer under the Law of God denies the very word of Christ. We are certainly no longer under the condemnation of the Law. We no longer suffer the consequences of disobeying the law, death. But, the Holy Spirit is conforming us to His image, using the moral code found in the Law.

God promises, again, to bring them safely to the Promised Land. Once they get there, they are to drive out the inhabitants "utterly". This will be a significant commandment that will impact them greatly as they move forward.
The covenant with God is reconfirmed. Moses goes up on the mountain for 40 days and nights. He's receiving the tablets! 

Then, things get interesting....

How Do You Read Your Bible?

As we see the detail in the Law and ordinances in Exodus and Leviticus and read over some of the rituals and statutes, it can be hard to retain a big-picture perspective on the Bible. We can find ourselves asking "What do these things have to do with me?" Worse yet, as some might accuse, "These verses have no bearing on a time or in a culture like the one I live in."

A common error that's easy to make when reading the Scriptures is in approaching them as if they are written about me, a code of conduct leading to a better Christian life. Some prefer to think of the Scriptures as a personal message God has for them, one that is meant to assure them and comfort them, leading them into a deeper, more profound life.

While there's enough truth in all this to make it sound accurate, we have to understand that the Bible is about God and His self-revelation to His creation (1 Sam 2:27, Ps 98:2,

Is 40:5, John 1:31). It depicts His character and nature, reveals His glory in how He redeems His own and portrays the consequences for those who rebel against Him. The Bible is God's story, tracing the progress of redemptive history from the beginning of all creation, through the end of time.

None of this leaves us, as followers of Christ, out in the cold. The great blessing God intends for us as believers is that we become the beneficiaries of His self-revelation, as ever-transforming vessels that demonstrate His glory (Is 43:7). God takes the totally depraved natures we have as human beings and transforms us into holy people (1 Ths 5:21), making us one with Himself (Jn 17:20-23). It is a truly incredible miracle, done by an all-powerful, sovereign God, which is exactly the point of the Bible.

The Bible is God's story, not ours.

This necessitates a change in how we read the Bible. We have to approach the Scriptures differently. Instead of reading to see what they say about me, I have to read them to see what they say about God.

So, as we read some of the seemingly tedious passages that are found in Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Leviticus, we can search them for what they tell us about our great God.

These ordinances deal, in a pragmatic way, with how the character and nature of God manifests itself in the lives of His people. They reveal His justice, His holiness, the consequences of idolatry, envy, covetousness, etc. These passages take the Ten Commandments and expand their application to cover various aspects of daily, communal living. 

To those who would accuse these passages of being
meaningless to a 21st century culture, we would say, "The Ten Commandments give us the structure of holiness. The various laws, ordinances and rituals gives us the application. They are examples to follow and set the tone for how we live our lives in relationship to a holy God. While some of them seem ancient, they are not meant to be an exhaustive set of rules for a particular ancient culture. They are intended to be guidelines that can be reinterpreted and applied in all cultures and eras." 

This does not mean the meaning of the laws change. The details and circumstances may change but the underlying principals do not. The truth that under-girds the ordinances and statutes is constant and unchanging, just like God.

For this very reason, if you read the statutes and ordinances carefully, you'll see that the principals they portray are the basis for virtually all the civil laws of modern society. We derive basic civil principals like "The punishment should fit the crime (an eye for an eye)" for example.

Every page, every verse of the Bible will tell us something about God. The beauty of this is that the more we know about God, as believers, the closer we get to Him and the richer our lives become. The more we make it about Him, the better we know ourselves.