Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Your Advocate

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. (Exodus 32:1-14, ESV)

Yahweh tells Moses that the people have “turned aside quickly” and for certain it did not take long for them to go back on their word to Yahweh that they would do all He told them to do. How could they think that this was in any way the right thing to do. Aaron is too complicit in their request, though he tries to put a positive spin on things by saying there will be a feast to Yahweh.

The calf is a symbol of fecundity or fertility and many believe that the “play” that they engaged in was sexual in nature, a way of recreating or replaying God’s fertilizing of the earth. Yahweh is ready to destroy them for this stiff-necked rebellion, but Moses saves their skin by appealing to God’s covenant with their forefathers. It appears that Yahweh is testing Moses here to see how he will respond. Does he love this people or is he willing to let God make a great nation of him. Of course God knows what is in Moses’ heart but it is important for Moses to see what he will choose in this situation, and he chooses well.

It is important to see the hardness of our own hearts and to appeal to God for softening of them. We have an interceder on our side, as well, Jesus Christ the righteous one (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 7:25).  Satan accuses us day and night before our God (Revelation 12:10).  But we’re told that Jesus always lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34).  What do you suppose Jesus is saying to His Father on our behalf?  Would that he could say what he said about Job, that there is no one like him, blameless and upright, who fears God and shuns evil (Job 1:8).  But even if not, Jesus paid the price for us with his blood and he will let no one snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28).

Jesus sought me when a stranger,

Wandering from the fold of God;

He, to rescue me from danger,

Interposed His precious blood.

(second verse of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson, 1757)

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Getting Your Permanent Forgiveness

“You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. And you shall make horns for it on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze. You shall make pots for it to receive its ashes, and shovels and basins and forks and fire pans. You shall make all its utensils of bronze. You shall also make for it a grating, a network of bronze, and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. And you shall set it under the ledge of the altar so that the net extends halfway down the altar. And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. And the poles shall be put through the rings, so that the poles are on the two sides of the altar when it is carried. You shall make it hollow, with boards. As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made.” (Exodus 27:1-8, ESV)

The bronze altar was set in front of the Tabernacle to receive the sacrificial offerings and burn them on the fire. The ashes would fall down through the grate and could be removed with the shovels, etc. Like the ark and the other pieces of furniture it was to be transported with poles, a man on each corner holding the poles of their shoulders. We’ll see later that this task fell to the tribe of Levi, even as the priesthood fell to this tribe and the family of Aaron within this tribe.

The altar signals that no one approaches Yahweh without a cleansing for sin. Sacrifice after sacrifice was offered on this altar and the annual sacrifice for the whole nation on the Day of Atonement was offered here. But Jesus offered one sacrifice for all and for all time. The inability of the sacrifices to truly cleanse the conscience of the offerer was illustrated over and over by the necessity of repeating the sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice covers all our sins once and for all so that we are fully cleansed and fully confident in our conscience that we have been redeemed.

When you first purchase a car the dealer will tape a temporary, paper tag in your window to signify that you just bought the vehicle and are in the process of getting a permanent license plate made of metal and containing your permanent license number.  The temporary tag works but only for a limited time.  The permanent tag is, well, permanent.  The animal offerings were temporary offerings that anticipated that the permanent one was coming.  When the permanent offering of atonement came it proved that God was righteous in accepting the animal offerings with a view to Jesus’ final sacrifice (Romans 3:21-26).  I hope you are enjoying Jesus’ perfect and final sacrifice for your sins and feel in your conscience that your life has been purified before God.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14, ESV)

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Tabernacling God

“Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them…

“You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle; eleven curtains shall you make…

“You shall make fifty clasps of bronze, and put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together that it may be a single whole. And the part that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. And the extra that remains in the length of the curtains, the cubit on the one side, and the cubit on the other side, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and that side, to cover it. And you shall make for the tent a covering of tanned rams’ skins and a covering of goatskins on top.

“You shall make upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood…

“You shall make bars of acacia wood, five for the frames of the one side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the side of the tabernacle at the rear westward…

“And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.

“You shall make a screen for the entrance of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework…” (Exodus 26, ESV)

Why a tent?  Israel had been formed as a nation from nomadic people, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each being sheep herders who moved from place to place in Canaan to maintain their herds.  The tent conveyed at once home and the ability of home to move with you.  Israel was on the move from Egypt to Canaan and once in Canaan would have its various tribes moving through the land to conquer and occupy the portions assigned to them.  God would symbolically be “with” them the whole way.  He told Israel that in the future He would select a place as His center of worship (Deuteronomy 12) and we know that place He chose was Jerusalem.  The nomadic form would no longer be needed.

He creates within the tent two compartments, one when you immediately enter called the Holy Place, where the table with show bread on it is, and the golden lampstand, and the altar of incense, and then, with a veil separating it, the Most Holy Place (Hebrew says most by saying holy of holies, the holiest place).  Here resides the ark of the covenant where the blood is sprinkled on the atonement or mercy seat to atone for the sins of the nation.  No one but the priests get to see the inside of the tent or Tabernacle, though the Levites, who carry and take down and set up the Tabernacle will see its components as could anyone watching as the tent is disassembled.  But when it is functioning as a sanctuary it is hidden to obscure the glory of God.

There are ways in which God both hides and manifests Himself.  The tent itself is a manifestation of His presence among Israel, but the inner workings of His worship and atonement are hidden.  Everyone knows the truth about who God is (Romans 1:18-26) from what has been made but God doesn’t always demonstrate His power with miracles.  There is a fine line between compelling faith through power demonstrations and inviting faith.  God could open up the sky right now and force all who rebel against Him to acknowledge Him, however reluctantly, but that does not serve the greater purpose of wooing people’s hearts to acknowledge the greatest single fact of the universe that they already know but wish to run from.  Only God knows how to walk this line.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Place of Atonement

“They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.

“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. (Exodus 25:10-22, ESV)

The first piece of furniture the artisans are to make for the Tabernacle is the ark of the covenant. It was a box a little less than four feet long and a little more than two feet tall and wide, covered inside and out with hammered gold. Poles that fit through rings at its base were for carrying the ark, the only way it was to be transported. And inside it were to be placed the stone tablets on which God wrote the 10 commandments. It was the most holy piece of furniture of all.

Its lid, called the atonement or mercy seat, represented the place of God’s throne, with a cherub, an angel, on either side facing inwards as though worshiping Yahweh. This is where the blood of the sacrifice would be sprinkled to make atonement for Israel. This ark would be placed in the innermost chamber of the tent, the most holy place, and would be where Yahweh would speak to Moses and give Israel her marching orders.

In Romans 3:25, as Paul is describing the nature of our rescue by God through Jesus, he describes Jesus as the atoning sacrifice and he uses the term that refers to the mercy seat. Jesus has become the place where the blood was sprinkled, his own blood, as the sacrifice that once and for all purchased forgiveness for those who believe. The image so carefully expressed in the Tabernacle has been fulfilled in the ultimate reality it pictured. Jesus’ obedience to the 10 commandments was perfect and has been reckoned to our account, making us righteous before this holy God who Himself rescued us.


Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Obedience and Seeing God

Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. Moses alone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”

Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.”

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24, ESV)

Yahweh now gives the priestly leadership a chance to experience or “see” Him, though what they see appears to be Him taking human form (note his “feet”) with an aura of glory around him (crystal clear pavement like sapphire). They sit down and eat with Him in fellowship, a foretaste of the kingdom and a precursor to His presence in the Tabernacle that will soon be built. Because His presence is mediated in some way they do not die.

All this, however, cannot take place without sacrifice being made and the blood atoning for the people. God is making covenant with them through blood. The people assent to the covenant with one voice in unison, “All that Yahweh has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”

Joshua has become Moses’ assistant and he accompanies Moses further up onto the mountain where God will give him the 10 commandments written on stone. Moses has already been writing down the Law as God has given it to him, but now he will spend 40 days alone with Yahweh in the midst of a powerful display of Yahweh’s glory. Moses is still the designated leader of this nation.

God longs to fellowship with His people but it is a fellowship which requires obedience and sacrifice. Jesus has become the sacrifice that gives us entrance into God’s presence and His obedience has been credited to our account so that we may boldly come before His throne. The Father has made a way for us to be Moses on the mountain top. Let’s come to Him and let’s “see” Him and vow our obedience to Him, all the while recognizing that we cannot give it unless He works it in us and that we are nevertheless responsible for the obeying.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Consecrated Children

The LORD said to Moses, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”

Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. And when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.

“When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”  (Exodus 13:1-16 ESV)

We know that when God repeats something it is to emphasize just how important it is.  So here again He instructs Moses to make clear the necessity of observing Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread each year and in conjunction with this to consecrate every firstborn male, whether animal or human, in Israel.  All of this is with an eye to acknowledging how powerfully Yahweh delivered Israel from slavery and sin and as an instructional opportunity to teach who He is to the next generation.

Consecrating the firstborn, something we presume would only need to be done once in the lifetime of the firstborn child or animal, meant this one was devoted to the Lord and His service.  He had been spared from death by the blood of the Passover lamb and so He belonged to God.  For an animal that was normally sacrifice worthy, the animal would be sacrificed.  For animals that were not used as sacrifices, the animal was to be killed.  For animals that were necessary for the success of one’s household they could be redeemed, that is paid for with the sacrifice of another animal in their place.  And of course, for children, a sacrifice would be made in their place.

This statute does not apply to believers now who are not Jewish and in one sense cannot be complied with by Jews because there is no place to sacrifice.  Though our deliverance as Gentiles is related to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, it is not directly a part of our history with God.  The history of our deliverance centers all around Jesus.  For both saved Jews and saved Gentiles all our lives belong to Him and we are to be living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1).

The church I was raised in encouraged a dedication of all children to the Lord in a public ceremony.  We recognized that every child belonged to God and we were stewards charged with raising each child in God’s ways.  We are each consecrated to Him.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Journey

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.

Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”

The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.

And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

All the people of Israel did just as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.  (Exodus 12:21-51 ESV)

God knows how weak we are.  He knows that if He did not institutionalize the Passover it would have been forgotten.  By making it a required festival it was assured that every year there would be opportunity to recount to themselves and their children what happened in Egypt on that fateful night, 430 years to the day that they entered Egypt and became slaves.

With the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn and the firstborn of all Egyptians and even their flocks and herds, Pharaoh has had enough and commands the people to leave immediately, with the Egyptians hurrying them out of fear of more deaths.  Yahweh gives Moses more instruction about how to observe the Passover and who may partake of it.  Those who are not Jewish must basically become converts to Judaism in order to participate in Passover.

The people bring with them great wealth donated by the Egyptians as well as their own herds and flocks.  So begins a journey of faith into the wilderness and on toward the land of Canaan.  They are not done with Pharaoh yet because God has more to show them.

God is still working in this way in our lives.  We are on a journey toward Christlikeness and we are on this journey as a family of believers.  Those not yet believers can become so and join us.  We have not arrived.  The journey is a process of never stopping to grow and never stopping loving one another as we await the coming kingdom.