Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Glory of God in Us

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting…Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy…Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest.

This Moses did; according to all that the LORD commanded him, so he did. In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected…Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40, ESV)

Can you imagine getting up in the middle of the night in your encampment in the wilderness, walking outside your tent and seeing a burning fire in and around the Tabernacle, or during the day seeing a cloud emanating from it?  From the first day that the glory of Yahweh filled the Tabernacle there was powerful evidence that God was with His people in demonstrative form.  If the cloud was lifted off of the Tabernacle it was the signal that it was time to move and you packed up all your belongings and your tent, while the Levites attended to dismantling the Tabernacle and preparing it for transport.  Perhaps you hoped you could stay longer rather than shorter.

God showed in the way He displayed His glory in the Tabernacle that He really did want to dwell with His people and that His dwelling with them was not going to be a passive one.  He is always about pursuing the purpose of restoring His kingdom in this fallen world.  He went after a nation that He would use to be a witness to all nations of His greatness.  He is leading this nation through the wilderness after having judged Egypt for its wickedness and with a judgment for the nations of Canaan who have filled up their iniquity to the fullest (Genesis 15:16).

We are to pray daily for His kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).  We are to move when He moves and stay when He stays as we look for opportunities to redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).  We are the Tabernacle of God on earth today, His temple, His people, from whom He wants to demonstrate His glory.  People ought to see an evidence of His glory permeating our lives, fire and cloud.  The most obvious evidence of that glory, according to Jesus, will be our love for one another and for our neighbors (John 13:35).

How are we doing?

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Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Equipped by God

The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.” (Exodus 31:1-11, ESV)

When God gives us a task to perform He also gives us the ability to perform it. It may not be us He gives the ability to personally, but He will give it to our team. God intends us to work as teams and equips individuals differently to provide the various necessities a team has to accomplish its purpose. We are not to presume that our particular ability is supreme.  Rather, because they are all needed, we must understand what value each member brings to the team.

Do you understand what the Spirit of God has equipped you to do? Do you know your purpose? And do you appreciate those around you by knowing their purpose and valuing their gifts and talents? Whether you are Bezalel, Oholiab or one of the many men or women God has given ability to, you are operating as an expression of His abilities, serving in cooperation with His work, to achieve something wonderful and beneficial for your community, maybe even the whole world.

It’s those stately geese I find especially impressive. Winging their way to a warmer climate, they often cover thousands of miles before reaching their destination. Have you ever studied why they fly as they do? It is fascinating to read what has been discovered about their flight pattern as well as their in-flight habits. Four come to mind.

1. Those in front rotate their leadership. When one lead goose gets tired, it changes places with one in the wing of the V-formation and another flies point.

2. By flying as they do, the members of the flock create an upward air current for one another. Each flap of the wings literally creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. One author states that by flying in a V-formation, the whole flock gets 71 percent greater flying range than if each goose flew on its own.

3. When one goose gets sick or wounded, two fall out of formation with it and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with the struggler until it’s able to fly again.

4. The geese in the rear of the formation are the ones who do the honking. I suppose it’s their way of announcing that they’re following and that all is well. For sure, the repeated honks encourage those in front to stay at it. As I think about all this, one lesson stands out above all others: it is the natural instinct of geese to work together. Whether it’s rotating, flapping, helping, or simply honking, the flock is in it together…which enables them to accomplish what they set out to do.

Chuck Swindoll, letter, October, 1991.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Being Priests

“Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. Take one bull of the herd and two rams without blemish, and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil… Then you shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the coat and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastpiece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod. And you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban. You shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him. Then you shall bring his sons and put coats on them, and you shall gird Aaron and his sons with sashes and bind caps on them. And the priesthood shall be theirs by a statute forever. Thus you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.

“Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. Then you shall kill the bull before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and shall take part of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and the rest of the blood you shall pour out at the base of the altar. And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. But the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.

“Then you shall take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, and you shall kill the ram and shall take its blood and throw it against the sides of the altar. Then you shall cut the ram into pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head, and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD.

“You shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, and you shall kill the ram and take part of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet, and throw the rest of the blood against the sides of the altar. Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons’ garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

“You shall also take the fat from the ram and the fat tail and the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination), and one loaf of bread and one cake of bread made with oil, and one wafer out of the basket of unleavened bread that is before the LORD. You shall put all these on the palms of Aaron and on the palms of his sons, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. Then you shall take them from their hands and burn them on the altar on top of the burnt offering, as a pleasing aroma before the LORD. It is a food offering to the LORD.

“You shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s ordination and wave it for a wave offering before the LORD, and it shall be your portion…

“The holy garments of Aaron shall be for his sons after him; they shall be anointed in them and ordained in them. The son who succeeds him as priest, who comes into the tent of meeting to minister in the Holy Place, shall wear them seven days…

“Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight… The other lamb you shall offer at twilight… There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God. (Exodus 29, ESV)

Here it is Yahweh’s intent to show that the priests must be purified by washing and by sacrifice and set apart to Him in this unusual way by garments and sacrifice. No one else may serve in the Tabernacle with the sacrifices except Aaron’s sons. Because they have this work they must be supported by the people and part of the sacrifice is given to them for food. As the sacrifices are made and their guilt is transferred to the animal the Tabernacle itself is made a holy place in which God will come and speak to Moses and lead His people. It is Israel’s privilege to have Yahweh dwell among them.

In Yahweh’s new economy with the coming of the king, Jesus, we are all priests to God and called upon to be set apart to Him. Our sacrifices are praise and good deeds as we proclaim the great King to all the world. Let’s be priests today.

Paul Althaus, the great interpreter of Luther’s theology, explains the original Reformation meaning of this term:

Luther never understands the priesthood of all believers merely in the sense of the Christian’s freedom to stand in a direct relationship to God without a human mediator. Rather, he constantly emphasizes the Christian’s evangelical authority to come before God on behalf of the brethren and also of the world. The universal priesthood expresses not religious individualism but its exact opposite, the reality of the congregation as a community.

Of course, Luther did believe that all Christians had direct access to God without recourse to what he polemically called “the tin gods and buffoons of this world.” But for Luther, the priesthood of all believers did not mean, “I am my own priest.” It meant rather: In the community of saints, God has so tempered the body that we are all priests to each other. We stand before God and intercede for one another, we proclaim God’s Word to one another and we celebrate his presence among us in worship, praise, and fellowship. Moreover, our priestly ministry does not terminate upon ourselves. It propels us into the world in service and witness.

John Calvin interpreted the priesthood of all believers in terms of the church’s participation in the threefold office of Christ as Prophet, King, and Priest. Specifically, every Christian is mandated to be a representative of Christ in his redemptive outreach to the world: “All believers … should seek to bring others into the church, and should strive to lead the wanderers back to the road, should stretch forth a hand to the fallen and should win over the outsiders.” In other words, the priesthood of believers is not a prerogative on which we can rest; it is a commission which sends us forth into the world to exercise a priestly ministry not for ourselves, but for others—“the outsiders”—not instead of Christ, to be sure, but for the sake of Christ and at his behest. – First Things, The Priesthood of All Believers, Timothy George

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: God’s Lampstand

“You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out from the lampstand. Their calyxes and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. You shall make seven lamps for it. And the lamps shall be set up so as to give light on the space in front of it. Its tongs and their trays shall be of pure gold. It shall be made, with all these utensils, out of a talent of pure gold. And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.” (Exodus 25:31-40, ESV)

This article is from ligonier.org:

“The lampstand was among the most ornate pieces created for use in the tabernacle, and those familiar with modern Judaism would know that the lampstand looked basically like a seven-branched menorah. It also resembled a tree with the cups at the end of each branch designed to mimic the appearance of almond blossoms with sculpted calyxes (outermost parts of a flower) and flowers (25:31–36). Many scholars believe that God commanded the floral design in order to remind the Israelites of the Tree of Life from the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:9). This is certainly an appropriate conclusion as true life is found only in the Lord’s presence (Ps. 16:11), and this presence was made manifest in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35). Almonds were also a symbol of hope and fruitfulness in the ancient Mediterranean world, so these ideas were also brought to mind when priests saw the lampstand.

Of course, the lampstand also served the very practical purpose of providing light for the priests to do their work, since there were no windows in the tabernacle through which natural light could enter. The almond blossom-shaped cups would have been filled with olive oil, and wicks would have been inserted into the oil and lit to provide light. Aside from helping the priest see, the light from the lampstand would have also been a physical depiction of the truth that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

Because of the proximity to the Lord’s presence, the lampstand was also made out of valuable materials like gold and fine wood. That it was “made of hammered work” (Ex. 25:31) means that a wooden frame was created and then covered with “a talent of pure gold” (seventy-five pounds; vv. 37–39), which was hammered out to create the lampstand’s ornate appearance. God deserves the very best to be used for His worship, and thus He commanded Israel to use the finest materials in His presence.”

God is the light of the world, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But Jesus has also told us we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). God shines through us as we serve Him in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. The churches in Revelation are therefore represented as lampstands (Revelation 1&2). If we hide our light we are foolish. But shining it gives others a chance to come out of the darkness.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Your Promised Land

“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.

“But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

“When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” (Exodus 23:20-33, ESV)

The word “angel” means “messenger” and Yahweh says here that this messenger who is going to accompany Israel and guard them on the way has His name, Yahweh, in him. The nation must be careful to obey this messenger and if they do they will have complete victory over all enemies. It is quite likely that this messenger is the Son, the pre-incarnate Jesus (before he took on human nature), the second person of the Trinity.

Yahweh promises that in Canaan, if Israel worships Him alone and makes no covenants with any in the land, that He will remove all their enemies and make them supernaturally prosperous, with no miscarriages, abundant supply of food, and eventually a homeland that stretches from the Red Sea that He miraculously enabled them to cross, to the Euphrates River in the north. Though Israel’s record of obedience will be quite spotty, in the day of Solomon Yahweh will nevertheless give Israel a time of prosperity much like this and land dimensions like this.

Yahweh also acknowledges the mutual dependence of the ecosystems He created and explains that He will not immediately drive out the current inhabitants lest the land get overrun with wild beasts.  God is the ultimate ecologist.

There is so much God wants to do for us and so little we trust Him for. In our covenant with Him He has not promised perfect prosperity, despite the teachings of prosperity gospel preachers, but He has promised to use us to spread the kingdom message to the whole world and see the powers of the kingdom irrupting into this present age.  He is not immediately bringing the kingdom but using us to “conquer” territory from the devil little by little.  And there is always the need to maintain the conquered land.  Where do you see idolatry rampant in your sphere of influence?  What is your plan under God for taking it in His name?  May we trust Him for our Canaan victories, our promised land.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Your Priesthood

On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”

So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain.

Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.” And Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’” And the Lord said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break out against them.” So Moses went down to the people and told them.  (Exodus 19)

Now that Israel is near Mt. Sinai, Yahweh has them travel around to the base of the mountain where Moses will go up and receive Yahweh’s law, which will be the terms of His covenant with them and what constitutes them as a nation under Him. But they must agree to this and consecrate themselves, make themselves ready by washing their garments, a symbol of clean hearts, and abstain from sex (nothing is more important than this day). He gives careful instructions to Moses to restrain the people from trying to come up to Him. Only Moses may come up, and Aaron. This clearly shows who is tapped to be Israel’s leaders.

The experience is intense. The mountain is wrapped in smoke, a terrifying sight, and the mountain is gripped in tremors and a sound like trumpets gets louder and louder, and finally, when Moses speaks out loud to God, He answers with thunder. Then Moses goes up. God is ready to make Israel a kingdom of priests and a set-apart nation. Their job will be to represent Yahweh to all the nations as their priest, and to reflect the character of Yahweh to all peoples.

This is still the job of the church (Revelation 1:5,6). Each day we represent something of the terrifying yet wholly satisfying God of the universe to those who have deliberately sought to forget Him. We are to be a holy people so that the world sees the character of this loving God and desires Him.  It is possible of course that the world may despise us for this as it despises Him.  But priests minister no matter how they are viewed because our ministry is to Yahweh, not to men.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Light Shines in the Darkness

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.”  (Exodus 10:21-29 ESV)

Can you imagine living in absolute darkness, darkness so thick that you cannot see the others around you, cannot find your way to the bathroom, can only stumble towards whatever food stores you have in your home to find a bite to eat?  Can you imagine everyone in your community staying in one place for three days, frozen by the darkness?  Ra, the sun god of Egypt, was at a loss as was Pharaoh and all his people, and undoubtedly many were cursing Pharaoh’s name for not sending the Israelites away.  Pharaoh still wanted to impose conditions on how Israel was to obey God but Moses would not, could not, bend.

More startling than the physical darkness was the spiritual darkness in Pharaoh’s heart.  This was something the restoration of light to his nation could not undo.  There is a spiritual blindness that afflicts those who do not know God.  Paul says we have all sought to repress the truth we know about Him rather than have to submit to Him (Romans 1:18ff).  It takes the power of God to open blind eyes, but He also chooses to use emissaries of light, you and me, to shine truth into the lives of those around us.  They may further harden their hearts, like Pharaoh did, or they may see the light and come to the knowledge of the truth.  Lord, help us to shine the light in this darkness.

Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople in the 4th century. said that Jesus “did not hide his teaching in mist and darkness, as they did who threw obscurity of speech, like a kind of veil, around the mischiefs laid up within. But this man’s doctrines are clearer than the sunbeams, wherefore they have been unfolded to all men throughout the world. For he did not teach as Pythagoras did, commanding those who came to him to be silent for five years, or to sit like senseless stones; neither did he invent fables defining the universe to consist of numbers; but casting away all this devilish trash and mischief, he diffused such simplicity through his words, that all he said was plain, not only to wise men, but also to women and youths. For he was persuaded that the words were true and profitable to all that should hearken to them. And all time after him is his witness; since he has drawn to him all the world, and has freed our life when we have listened to these words from all monstrous display of wisdom; wherefore we who hear them would prefer rather to give up our lives, than the doctrines by him delivered to us.”