If you've ever had a house built, you understand how important it is that every detail—and there arethousands of them--must be followed to the letter. From the foundation to the roof, from the floors to the faucets, everything must be exact. It's not only the measurements that matter, but the component parts of each product must be made of the right quality or the end result won't be pleasing or lasting. If the cement used in the foundation has too much sand or water, you can be sure it won't support the beams, walls, doors, and windows set on top of it. Or if the walls aren't plum—well, you get the picture.
Did you ever have a house built? What did you learn from that experience?
After the house is finished, it must be furnished! The decisions never end. But it's worth all the time and effort to be sure it's exactly what you want.
So, I don't think you're in the least bit surprised that when God instructed Moses to build “a sanctuary for me that I may dwell among them,” (25:8), he was as particular and exact about his house and its furnishings as described in these two chapters. For example, in chapter 25:23-25, he gives instructions for the table that will hold the Ark of the Covenant. “Then make a table of acacia wood, 36 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 27 inches high. Overlay it with pure gold and run a gold molding around the edge. Decorate it with a 3-inch borderall around and run a gold molding along the border” (NLT).
What do you think about the requirements God made for his house?
It was always God's intent to live among his people. It began in Genesis with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Now (in Exodus), he's going to dwell in a mobile place, a tabernacle, followed by an opulent and permanent temple that Solomon would build (see 1 Kings 5-8). Both the tabernacle and temple were to be symbolic, but visible dwellings of God. There is great symbolism in the tabernacle and temple as precursors of Jesus who came to make “his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). In the original language the term is “pitched his tent,” an allusion to the OT tabernacle, where God dwelled among Israel.
Where does God live today?
Ever since the Day of Pentecost, God has been building his Church. It's not made with human hands, but it is a living, growing body of believers. The tabernacle and temple are gone, but God, the Holy Spirit, is still living among his people, and by his grace, you and I are that dwelling place.
What kind of "temple" are you building for Jesus to live in?
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). And what’s more, the ministry of the high priest who offered the annual sacrifice in the tabernacle gives us a clear picture of another high priest who has to come to offer a final sacrifice.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)
How should the realization that Jesus lives in his people, the Church, affect our worship and conduct? jbd & gmd
1 Corinthians 10:1-22
The Apostle Paul would have agreed that “those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it” (Winston Churchill, 1948).
The Corinthian church was struggling with the lusts of the flesh: in particular, idolatry, immorality, and grumbling. So Paul reaches back to what had happened to the Israelites, who like the Corinthians, struggled with similar issues. The caution is, the Corinthians could end up repeating history.
Miraculously, the Israelites had come through the parting of the Red Sea. They were obviously privileged and in favor with God who saw fit to rescue them from their years of slavery in Egypt. Wonderful!
Yet, after witnessing this amazing miracle, they engaged in idolatry – worship of the golden calf. They engaged in immorality with the Moabites in worship of their god Baal. They had been “passed over” from the judgment of the death angel, and they had been fed with manna - food from heaven, yet they grumbled. Unbelievable!
The lesson from history: the favored status of the Israelites did not exempt them from responsibility for their actions. God judged them, and in one day 23,000 died. God sent venomous snakes to kill them. Actually, all of them died in the wilderness prior to their offspring entering the land of promise. Ouch!
Jumping ahead many centuries, God was not going to exempt the church in Corinth from responsibility for their actions either. The Corinthians had let down their guard as had the Israelites. God’s judgment on the Israelites was a warning to the Corinthians not to become complacent in their freedom in Christ. No, they could not do anything they wanted.
Paul says to take heed when we think we are strong so that we do not fall. He offers hope in verse 13, with the promise that God will make a way of escape and will not allow us to be tempted above that which the Lord would strengthen us to resist. However, verse 14 makes clear that it’s up to us to flee any form of idolatry.
We have experienced the patience of God as believers, but the example of purity and God’s response to sin are clear: Be careful, lest you fall. God’s delay in punishment isn’t because all is unnoticed. Verse 22 asks, Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? If we think we can resist in our own strength, be warned: “It is dangerous to play with sin and tempt God.” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Wise.)
Life Application Questions
Preparation— Did you remember to bring stone tablets? Before you arrive in the Presence, are you even thinking of stone tablets?
“Stone tablets? No, I can clearly say it never occurred to me,” one disciple replied.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke’” (Exodus 34:1).
Personally, I have at times sought soul-silence before addressing the LORD. I have done so with an awareness that spiritual contact is no cheap ticket. However, I never included stone tablets in those moments of preparation. Just imagining, your experience is similar to my own.
Audience— Access to the Sovereign is a high and holy privilege. However, Moses received a direct instruction before an audience, an invitation calling him to approach the Holy One. He appears before the One we know as the Father—Creator, Sustainer, Life-giver, the One Who brings justice to all (Exodus 34:7 and Isaiah 6).
“The Lord said to Moses… ‘Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain’” (Exodus 34:2-3)
Task— Afterwards, Moses has a task. The account reads, “And he [Moses] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments” (Exodus 34:28b).
God stood near to Moses during those days on Mt. Sinai and we have brief glimpses of the experience. Moses’ times with God included both information as well as preparation. Leadership’s challenges will soon dominate his life.
His task will carry him into Pharaoh’s presence. Moses will be directed in the challenges of establishing as a nation, this wandering mass of humanity. The task takes a lifetime and even then, it will not be completed but littered with regrets, obstinate obstacles, compromising challenges and foolishness.
Today, are there specific words of spiritual preparation which apply to appearing before God?
What is comparable to being in the Presence?
As a song of reflection consider Love Ran Red, by Chris Tomlin, 2014. Available as video, lyrics and chords on YouTube as well as other sites.
The rule in my home growing up was that, if you got spanked at school (which still happened in the 70’s), you got spanked at home. When my Mom found out that I had been disciplined at school (which happened more than once!), she would say, “Wait until your father comes home.” Those were long, unhappy hours of waiting and wondering “What is Dad going to do?” In fact, the dreadful anticipation of what Dad might do was often worse than the reality.
Now go back to the Israelites camped out at Mount Sinai. They had sinned against Yahweh by lasciviously worshipping a pagan god. Moses had averted their complete destruction by interceding for them. But then at the beginning of Exodus 33 God told Moses to go on and lead the people to Canaan “…but I will not go with you” (33.3). This was the worst possible news.
In response, Moses made one of the best decisions of his life by refusing to go anywhere. He wasn’t about to try and lead the Israelites without God.
So, the whole nation just waited and wondered, “What is Yahweh going to do with us? What’s going to happen to us?” They took off all their jewelry and finery. When Moses went to talk with God, they all stood at the entrances to their tents and watched and prayed, waiting and wondering.
We’re not sure how long this excruciating waiting lasted. Eventually, Moses worked up the courage to make a speech to Yahweh about it. Here’s my paraphrase...
“God, these are your people, not mine. I’m not going anywhere unless you go with me. You said that I have found favor in your eyes. Now please go with us.” (For the real thing read 33:12-17).
God replied, “I will do the very thing you have asked...” YES! What a relief! The dreadful waiting and wondering was over.
The question is, why did God agree to go with the people?
God tells Moses, “…because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Moses found favor with God and, as a result, all the people whom Moses represented enjoyed the benefit of God’s presence.
Does this sound familiar? It should.
On two occasions during the life of Jesus, God spoke audibly from heaven, declaring his pleasure in His Son Jesus (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Jesus found favor in God’s sight, in a much more complete and perfect way than Moses did. As a result of Christ’s perfect obedience to the Father, all those who are “in Christ” enjoy the full benefit of God’s presence in their lives. Through faith in Jesus, we become “co-heirs” with Him, inheriting what he deserves for his obedience. Our whole hope is wrapped up in Jesus having found favor in God’s sight.
Moses’ life was a shadow of the reality which is found in Jesus.
Now the challenge is to live up to this grace and calling which we have received. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us today.
The prodigal life is often reflected in the way people live and also characterized the lives of the Israelites. “You can still be living in your home and have departed for a distant country. You can play the role of the “good son” with a heart that roams in the twilight beyond good and evil. You can even show up to church every week with a voracious appetite for idols. Not all prodigals need a passport,” stated James Smith in, On the Road With Saint Augustine. Why are we and the Israelites so prone to wander?
God has remained the same. His covenant ways and His love are steadfast, they never waver. God is true to his character, He is perfect in His love and righteousness. “God never permits His people to sin successfully.” (Charles Spurgeon) If God is immutable (unchanging), then it is my prodigal ways that lead my feet on a prodigal path. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8) How have you see this principle of reaping and sowing played out in the lives of people in scripture, in our culture, and in your own life? God was not going to ignore the golden calf and He will not ignore our rebellious hearts, either. “…our ancestors…were all baptized into Moses in the cloud…they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ…nevertheless, God was not pleased with them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as an example to keep us from setting our hearts on evil…so, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (I Corinthians 10:1-12)
We are all prodigal possibilities. When our emotions become our god, they can lead us away. Fear, sadness, anger, loneliness, seeking to assuage my emotional pain, can quickly become my golden calf. Impatient waiting on God’s answers can be that first step on a path to find the “answer” in my own way: and my god substitute rears its golden head. The Israelite’s’ fears drove them to say to Aaron, “…make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses…we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Genesis 32:23) When have you tired of waiting on God? How did you respond?
“Moses saw that the people were running wild…” (Exodus 32:25) He knew God’s character and he knew God would respond to their sinful rebellion. Moses was angry with the people (Exodus 32:19,22), but it was an anger tempered with love, which is anguish. How many of you have felt the “anguish” of loving a prodigal? You can put yourself in Moses’s sandals and understand his anguish over the rebellious path that they were embarking on. My own prodigal ways of bowing to the “idols” of life are often as foolish as the Israelite’s golden calf. “I remember…my wanderings, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet…I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail…it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:19-25). Is there anywhere in your life that God looks at you and sees your heart, “running wild?” What “golden calf” have you adopted in your prodigal path that you need to melt down and “wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord”? How will you remember God’s unfailing compassions?
How long has it been since you broke a promise? Did you say, "I will never do that again!"; sign a contract, or commit to do a job? When you made it, you sincerely meant to keep your word. But, for whatever reason and much too soon—deliberately or innocently—you broke that promise. Now you're in over your head and you need someone to intercede for you.
Who do you call when you need a mediator?
We forget, as Israel did, that God has a purpose in the testing of his people. “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20). Unfortunately, the Israelites did forget over and over again throughout their history. And God recorded their broken promises for all to read. Back in their early experience at Mt. Sinai, as we read in today’s Scripture passage, they wait for Moses to return from his second meeting with Yahweh, and they forget their promise of just a few days earlier, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do" (19:8). And they actually create and worship an idol.
How long are you willing to wait for God to answer before you break a promise or turn to a "god" of your own making?
We are likely to harshly judge Aaron and the people for this unholy blot on their history. But wait! How many times have you and I made a commitment similar to Israel’s? “We will do what you say, God.” Whether in a public confession or in your private prayer closet, haven’t you made such a commitment—perhaps several times? And what has been the result? Without question, God has allowed you to be tested on that commitment—usually, pretty quickly, too.
We are often so impatient with God or others that we decide to take things into our own hands. The other half of this tragic story reveals Moses at his very best. God was so angry at the idolatry of his chosen people, his “special possession,” that he threatened to wipe them out completely. He even offers to make Moses the leader of a brand-new nation to be God’s people. Wow! Think of that! Not many men could resist that offer. But in a face-to-face meeting, Moses negotiates with God.
The New Living Bible commentary on this passage notes:
Moses exhibits astounding unselfishness and commitment to the Israelites. He could have agreed with God—let's scrap these people and start fresh. Instead, he presents a compelling argument to God (32:11-12) and asks God to spare his chosen people. . . . Moses reminds God that the Israelites are "his own people" and that if he decimated the Israelites it would look to others like God had reneged on his promises. . . and if God were to break this covenant, he would be acting against his own nature.
Would you be as bold before God as Moses was?
You and I often feel inadequate to approach God on the behalf of another. And we are, apart from the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). The amazing truth is that as believers we can approach God's throne boldly because we are covered with the blood of Christ. Not only that but the writer of Hebrews says, "This high priest [Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same testings we do. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God" (Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT).
Has God put someone in your life who needs your intercession or for whom you can humbly and boldly "negotiate" with God? Or are you the one who needs Moses to go to God for you? wjbd & gmd
Parents may say something like this to their children: If you obey, I’ll buy you an ice cream sundae taller than the Empire State building! But if you disobey, I’ll put you on a plane to Timbuktu and it’s a one-way ticket!
God, the Perfect Parent, has similar things to say:
Walk before me faithfully and be blameless, and . . .
I will lead you into a land flowing with milk and honey
By the blast of my nostrils, I will pile the waters up
I will carry you on eagles’ wings
I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the enemies out of your way
I will break the bars of your yoke
Every place where you set your foot will be yours
You will always be at the top, never at the bottom
I will prepare a feast of rich food for all people
Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill made low
The heavens will rain down righteousness
The trees of the field will clap their hands
The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.
But if you remain stiff-necked and do not circumcise your hearts, then . . .
I will make the sky above like iron, the earth beneath like bronze
I will pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols
I will draw out my sword and pursue you
I will make you so fearful that the sound of a wind-blown leaf will put you to flight
I will turn the rain into dust and powder
Your carcasses will be food for the birds of the air
You will become a thing of horror and an object of scorn and ridicule
You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both day and night
I will send you back in ships to Egypt
You will offer yourselves as slaves, but no one will buy you
Even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen
I will lift your skirts over your face and show the nations your nakedness
I will sweep everything away from the face of the earth
I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices.
(For these words from God, see: Gen 17:1; Ex 3:17; 15:8; 19:4; 23:28; Lev 26:13; Duet 11:24; 28:13; Isa 25:6; 40:4; 45:8; 55:12; Mal 4:2 Lev 26:19, 30, 33, 36; Deut 28:24, 26, 37, 66, 68; Isa 1:15; Nah 3:5; Zeph 1:2; Mal 2:3.)
Life Application Questions
The wisdom is unmistakable. Being faithful as a truth-teller establishes and confirms identity. This is as authentic today as when God’s instructions were first provided.
During training days, when the people of God were being called, formed, and enlightened as to their new identity, specific instructions were provided. Exodus 23 specifies a few of these, some of which remain among the elementary truths of our Faith: “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness” (Exodus 23:1).
There was an extensive pagan culture long ago. The training day instructions were vital in shaping the people while laying out particulars for the new nation; yes, they were to be a peculiar people, a royal priesthood called into holiness.
In this way, God’s spoken instructions, apparently later to be written, functioned as the teacher, the trainer, the tutor; or, in the words of an earlier day in our language, the pedagogue was functioning as intended. It is an old word and has slipped into near archaic language. Yet the pedagogue remains a perfectly acceptable way of imaging how God interacted and continues to interact with disciples.
Our brother Paul once wrote: “Wherefore the law was our pedagogue in Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after the faith has come, we are no longer under a pedagogue.” (Galatians 3:24-25 Douay-Rheims translation of 1899, American Edition)
A contemporary translation is provided by the New International Version: “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.”
Do parts of God’s elementary instructions, regardless of the era in which they were first delivered, encourage decisive behaviors for you?
An extensive resource hyperlink—if you choose to invest more time in understanding God’s identification of the pedagogue, the guardian, the trainer, the tutor: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1114&context=sor_fac_pubs
It has been said that “fences make good neighbors.”
What does that mean?
It means that knowing and abiding by a clear delineation of property, ownership, and rights helps people relate better. Knowing the boundaries--whether physical, social, relational, or sexual--makes living together easier and more peaceful.
Exodus 22 is an exercise in creating the kinds of fences that make for good neighbors. God knows what those fences are and where they should go.
There are consequences for sneaking through or breaking through the fences and stealing from a neighbor. Those who steal a lamb, or damage another person’s property, or violate a woman’s virginity must pay restitution. Restitution was often twice the amount of that which was stolen, destroyed, or damaged. This works as a deterrent to theft but also acknowledges that theft does more damage than just the loss of what was stolen. Making things right is costly.
The Law gives lots of examples, but one can’t cover every possible scenario. Judges were needed to apply general principles to particular cases. Justice requires wise judges.
Notice that the Law was able to draw some fine distinctions. For example, the homeowner who kills an intruder at night is not guilty of murder; however, if the same thing happens during the day, the homeowner can be held liable for manslaughter. We can speculate as to the reason for this. Thieves rarely steal in broad daylight, so such an event begs the question “What was really going on?” In the daylight, one may not need to use lethal force to scare off an intruder.
At times, the Law could seem harsh. Idolaters and those who practice witchcraft were condemned to death.
On the other hand, the Law emphasized mercy. The foreigner, the widow, the orphan, and the poor were to be treated with dignity, kindness, and generosity. James must have had Exodus 22 in mind when he wrote: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). In one sentence, James brought together social justice and moral purity.
The Law had authority because it was rooted in the Person and character of God. It reflected his truth and grace. Those who obeyed it discovered that they were on the path of wisdom.
It is not hard to discern echoes of Exodus 22 in American law. After all, OT Law and the Roman legal system were the foundation of western jurisprudence. Unfortunately, western cultures have rejected God and the Bible. In some courtrooms, witnesses still must swear to tell the truth with their hands on a Bible. But that is an empty symbol when one has no understanding of the Author of the Book or of its contents.
For all the talk of tolerance and inclusivity, it appears that people are having an increasingly difficult time getting along. The polarization and fragmentation just keep getting worse. This is partly because we’re losing the “fences” that once made for good neighbors, namely fear of the Lord and respect for God’s good commands and laws. That has happened in the broader culture. Let’s not allow it to happen in the church.
The news has been relating stories of passenger’s bad behavior on planes. Fist fights, ugly words, and disrespect abound. Other violent behaviors seem to shock our nation. What violent acts have shocked or dismayed you. Lester Holt stated on the evening news: “Roots of behavioral change are not easily legislated.” God is not surprised by man’s sinful choices. God knew the Israelites would need a code of conduct to direct their behavior just as we need Holy Spirit behavior modification in our lives.
Justice is the practical outworking of the righteousness of God in human history. “The Lord loves righteousness and justice, the earth is full of his unfailing love.” (Psalm 33:5) Our world may be filled with injustice, but the time will come when God will judge the world in righteousness. “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31) How does God’s justice impact you?
As far as the criminal courts are concerned, the goal is to free the innocent and condemn the guilty, but when it comes to our relationship to God, there are no innocent people. (Romans 3:23) But in His grace, because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God can declare righteous any guilty sinner who believes on Jesus. The code of conduct laid out for the Israelites is no longer our judge. Men are by nature slaves of sin. Charles Spurgeon said, “If you are resolved to be the slave of your passions, then your passions will indeed enslave you.” Have you or others you know become enslaved?
We should not be shocked to hear about the bad behaviors and ways that people are enslaved around us, it is to be expected in a world infected with sin. Jesus has set us free from sin’s bondage. In Exodus 21:5-6, we read of a freed servant, “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.” A painful piercing marked this servant for life. Our Savior also loved us and demonstrated his commitment to us as he was willingly pierced. “But he was pierced for our transgressions…by his wounds we are healed.” (Psalm 53:5) We are God’s servants for life. Is our heart pierced with the permanency of our relationship with Jesus? The freed servant who chose to have his ear pierced was marked for life as belonging to his master. How are you marked as a Christ follower? What defines those who are a part of WLGBC family? How is God calling you to be marked as his follower?