Week of 4/21/19 - Pages 144-150

Exiting Exodus.

As we exit the book of Exodus, let us pause to ponder the marvelous manifestations of our awesome, Almighty God! 

This is history that only God could have orchestrated.

Could anyone conceive the improbable rise to leadership of the magnanimous Moses? How about a burning bush, productive plagues, a protected Passover, a split sea, miraculous manna (free food), colossal commandments, and a traveling Tabernacle?

This is history that only God could have orchestrated.

In the final scenes of Exodus, the people of Israel listened intently to Moses as he conveyed God’s call for the construction of the Tabernacle. Men and women contributed skills and material wealth, so much so that Moses stopped them, saying: 

“Men and women, don’t prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!”

Can you imagine being in a desert with minimal resources, tasked with an elaborate construction project, and then somehow having more provisions than you need?!

This is history that only God could have orchestrated.

God’s specifications for the Tabernacle were precise, from the sturdiest structural supports to the subtle stitching on the priests’ garments. And the Israelites listened. The catalog of project milestones completed “… just as the LORD commanded Moses” is nearly exhausting to read.

“Just as the LORD commanded…” – the phrase appears so often it must be of intense importance, but we are talking about history, right? Is that relevant for me, in today’s world? Scripture is a gift from God, full of His instructions (or commandments) for us. The Word of the LORD guides us today, much like a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

“Seek the LORD while you can find him.” Today, will you be obedient to the prodding of the Holy Spirit? If so, you will:

Be an active part of this history that only God is orchestrating!

Week of 4/14/19 - Pages 131-143

It struck me how detailed God’s instructions for life were to Moses and Israel. And after giving the instructions, on page 138 The Lord said to Moses “Write down all these instructions, for they represent the terms of the covenant I am making with you and with Israel.”

Covenant means “agreement”, so we are getting into the meat of the old covenant or “old agreement”.

We Christians believe that God has since made a new agreement or new covenant as documented in the New Testament. While not completely doing away with the old covenant, the new covenant states that the main value of the old covenant and guidance therein is to make us realize that we cannot possibly be obedient enough or good enough to be acceptable to God. History has taught us that no matter how hard we try we cannot live up to the standards that God is laying out in this old covenant (the pages we just read or are about to read). Trying to live up to those laws led our ancestors/Israel to constantly ask for forgiveness and atonement for their shortcomings.

The new covenant that God makes with us is really good news. It says that we no longer have to constantly ask for forgiveness, and we are no longer subject to the penalty (death-or eternal separation from God) for not being obedient to all of God’s very specific instructions. God’s new covenant, which seems very generous to me, says, that once and for all the penalty for our errors or failures to obey Him, were paid when His perfect Son, Jesus, was tortured and put to death. As a result, if we accept that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our transgressions, we are forgiven. Completely forgiving, and made completely acceptable to God. 

Week of 4/7/19 - Pages 118-130

I admit that I have been mostly a New Testament Christian, meaning that I mostly avoid reading the Old Testament except for Psalms and Proverbs.  The truth is I’ve been afraid to read about an Old Testament God who seems very different than New Testament Jesus, a God whose ways seem violent and primitive.  However, as I read the Old Testament, I’m finding something different.  I don’t need to be afraid of the Old Testament because God really is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  By not reading the Old Testament in the same way I read the New Testament I’ve been missing out on a lot of good stuff.

Here are some headlines from pages 118 – 130, which is roughly Exodus 22 – 29.  Funny how all of these observations sound very much like of Jesus:

·      God is practical – he gave sensible laws to help his people live in peace and harmony.

·      God is jealous – he won’t tolerate idols and sorcerers amongst his people.

·      God is compassionate – he protects foreigners, orphans and widows.

·      God is just – he calls his people to honesty, fairness and to care for the poor.

·      God gives renewal – he says to take a day off each week, and even gives the land rest every seventh year.

·      God loves parties – he requires his people to celebrate three festivals every year.

·      God is covenantal – he makes promises and wants to bless his people with good things.

·      God is relational – he wants to live amongst his people and asks them to build him a house.

·      God leads – he gives detailed instructions for his house, ordination and atonement.

·      God is holy – to be with him, atonement is required.

As I read the Old Testament and this section, I’m struck by God’s holiness and the cost of forgiveness. The detailed instructions he gave the Israelites regarding the tabernacle, ordination of priests and daily sacrifices for sin were emphatic, bloody reminders of his holiness and that sin is death.  For me, with my modern sensibilities, even though I understand these concepts in a theological sense, they feel ancient and primitive.  Reading the Old Testament is breaking through some of my modern bias, and helping me to see and feel God’s holiness and the cost of forgiveness. And feeling it is much more powerful than just understanding it.

Father, please forgive me for overlooking this part of your Word.  Forgive me for my modern arrogance.  As I continue to read the Old Testament, I know there will be hard parts I don’t understand.  I ask for perseverance to finish it, wisdom to understand it, and faith to trust it. In Jesus name I pray, Amen. 

Week of 3/31/19 - Pages 105-117

Choosing to Worship and NOT Complain    

In our reading this week, the Israelites observe countless miracles from God (daily food provisions, pillars of fire, water from a rock, parting of the Red Sea etc.) and yet they continually gripe whenever life got a little tough.  Moses and Aaron caught the brunt of it all and took the peoples complaints to God on their behalf… and every time, God answered with another miracle.

When we read the story, it appears as everything happened back to back and in quick succession, however, in reality, these events occurred over 40 years. That's a LONG time. This year I celebrate my 40th birthday… and it's fair to say, a LOT has happened within my last 40 years! I’ve reached many milestones, had great success and endured my fair share of epic failures. But like the Israelites, I’m often quick to forget the miracles God has done throughout my life and often resort to complaining about my current circumstances.

In our reading, God commanded the Israelites to “build an altar wherever I cause My name to be remembered, and I will come to you and bless you”. In other words, God is saying, “Build something to remember Me by, whenever I turn up and perform a miracle in your life. That way you can return to this place, remind yourself of what I’ve done and you’ll receive faith to trust Me for the future.” 

Of course!! Makes total sense right?

So why don’t we do it?

Why do we forget to journal an event or build something creative and put it in a place we traffic regularly that reminds us of what God has done in our lives? Why do we get so busy and forget to do this vitally important thing God has commanded us? Especially when God promises to bless us every time we return and remember what He did!

The encouragement I received from our reading this week is to go back to those memories in the past where God has provided, where He performed a miracle in my life and create mementos or something that will cause me to remember His goodness whenever I see it. I want the blessings God promises when we remember Him in worship.

When I worship, it's amazing how quickly the complaints disappear! 

Week of 3/24/19 - Pages 92-104

On Page 92 Moses is having a dialog with God.  I can’t imagine what that would be like today with all the craziness that is going on in this world.   And frankly I probably would be as reluctant as Moses to follow God’s instructions based on my inability to to perform up to God’s standards.  Which, of course, are my own imposed standards that make me feel inadequate or not up to the task.  But in this case, God used Aaron to be the speaker in Mose’s stead.  This reassures me that God really knows what’s best for me and He will make a way for me to accomplish His will.  If I listen and really understand His will.  Which is not always crystal clear.  The real wonder is that Moses actually could have a dialog with God and hear exactly the words God spoke and have a clear understanding of the steps that God wanted him to take to free the Israelites.

Imagine how Moses would have felt being told by God “Pay close attention to this.  I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron will be your prophet…” and  “I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt.” (Pg 93)  Then God proceeded to use Moses and Aaron as his instrument to show Pharaoh “...you will know that there is no one like me in all the earth.  By now I could have lifted my hand and struck you and your people with a plague to wipe you off the face of the earth.  But I have spared you for a purpose—to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth”.

No wonder the Egyptians had become favorable toward Moses and the Israelites.  I think I would have been very upset about all the hardship and loss the Egyptians faced through all the plagues.  Especially knowing that Pharaoh was the one bringing it all upon them.  (Can we see a parallel with what is going on in our government today?  And feeling hopeless to do anything about it.  Leaving our elected officials to do the right thing and having no control over what that is).  But the final straw came when God instituted the instructions for the Lord’s Passover.  “Remember these instructions are a permanent law that you and your descendants must observe forever….  Then your children will ask, “What does this ceremony mean?  And you will reply, “It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt.  And though he struck the Egyptians, he spared our families.” (Pg 102). Now I understand better why the Passover celebration is still being celebrated today.  It was a huge deal to the Israelites and their descendants!

Be blessed!

Week of 3/17/19 - Pages 82-91

I don’t know about you but have you ever thought that God just isn’t listening? I know I have. In our fast paced world we usually want something and we want it now. Thankfully, God’s timing is perfect, because He knows our hearts. We see this when the Lord sought out Moses because the Lord had heard his people’s cries. Moses doubts the call because he isn’t listening. The Lord instructs Moses to tell the people who He is, “I AM WHO I AM, Yahweh, the God of your ancestors. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.” God gives Moses assurance that he will not be alone.

What I love and am always amazed at is that God is the same today, as he was yesterday and will be tomorrow.  As I read these passages what stood out to me was its all in God’s timing and that it’s not about me. Rather its when the Lord calls on me. Am I listening? Its about how  the Lord sees me. That I am enough. Often times I can easily get in the way of what the Lord wants me to do, because I have my own agenda, a plea bargain, or self doubt. It’s when I get out of the way and let the Lord lead. It is then that I discover that the Lord fills me up and I sense His presence.

Time after time we are reminded that the Lord uses people like you and me. His promises hold true then and now. He is with us every step of the way. Moses is a great example. We see it when Moses pleads with the Lord and says, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” I love how the Lord asks Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord?”  Then the Lord tells Moses to go and reminds him, “I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what you are to say.” This is our reminder that the Lord is with us every step of the way.  When we have doubts we can be assured that we are not alone. 

It’s our obedience to Him and resting in His truths. What we lack in ourselves, the Lord sees as great and uses for good. The Lord doesn’t seek to cause us harm rather he seeks to make us succeed. He uses us to make himself known. We cannot and should not be afraid to step out in faith.