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: 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: Don’t Delay

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs. The Nile shall swarm with frogs that shall come up into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed and into the houses of your servants and your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your servants.”’”  And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. But the magicians did the same by their secret arts and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Plead with the LORD to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be cut off from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.” And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. The frogs shall go away from you and your houses and your servants and your people. They shall be left only in the Nile.” So Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the LORD about the frogs, as he had agreed with Pharaoh. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses. The frogs died out in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.  (Exodus 8:1-15 ESV)

Heqet…is an Egyptian goddess of fertility…represented in the form of a frog. To the Egyptians, the frog was an ancient symbol of fertility, related to the annual flooding of the Nile. (Wikipedia).  Who was God, Yahweh or Heqet?  Though the magicians of Egypt were able in a small way to duplicate Moses’ and Aaron’s calling up of frogs from the waters, Pharaoh obviously believed that their power was greater than his magicians and so he agreed to release the people to go worship Yahweh if Moses would remove the frogs.  He had had too much of his frog goddess.

Moses asks Pharaoh to set the time, and it is amazing that he chooses to wait a day, but Moses wants it to be clear that nothing happens to these frogs except at Yahweh’s command.  But once there is relief Pharaoh reneges on his promise, even as God predicted he would.  Pharaoh’s people suffer because of his hard heart, a common problem even to this day among leadership.

What are you putting off for a day?  What “respite” are you getting that hardens your heart to dealing with the problems  in your life?  Who is lord of your life, you or Yahweh?  You cannot duplicate the power of God.  Ask someone to pray for you that God’s power would release you from what you are putting off and then look for how He gives you His respite.

 

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

(2 Corinthians 6:2)

One Way to Respond to the Jehovah’s Witness Who Comes to Your Door

I just had a Jehovah’s Witness come to the door.  She seemed like a nice lady.  She had a Jamaican accent (or at least that is as sophisticated as I am at judging Caribbean accents).  I could have listened a long time.  She was inviting me to a convention downtown that would take no offering and was free.  I said I wouldn’t be going and she asked if I was acquainted with Witnesses.  “Yes,” I said, “I had not too long ago met with some of your people and gone through the little book.”  She knew exactly what book I was talking about and said, “Yes, it is a very nice book.”  I immediately answered, “No, it is not a nice book.  It does not give Jesus the honor he deserves.”  “Oh, we believe in Jesus,” she said.  “But you don’t believe he is God,” I said.  Her instant reply was, “But Jesus never called himself God.”

I didn’t go further with her but I wish I had responded this way:

“Ma’am, if you have the slightest openness to hearing contradictory evidence to your claim, I would be happy to share it with you.  Are you open to receiving an opposite viewpoint?”  If she said yes I would have directed her to Revelation 22:12,13, which reads,

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

The speaker is identified in verse 16 as Jesus.  And he calls himself the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  So I would direct her attention then to Revelation 1:8,

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

Do you see the dilemma for the Jehovah’s Witnesses here?  Jesus takes the same titles as the “Lord God.”  That is blasphemy unless Jesus is actually God.

I remember sitting across the table from the Witnesses with whom I went through the little book and I remember laying out this passage to them.  It was at this point that the woman (it was a couple I was meeting with) took a book out of her purse and began looking up the answer to this passage.  I never heard what that answer was, though I am sure they have one.  It must not have sounded convincing to her.

Now let me be clear about something.  Even if Jesus never did directly say, “I am God,” (though he has indeed by claiming these titles), the rest of the New Testament very clearly proclaims it (John 1:1, for example, which, by the way, cannot be translated the way Jehovah’s Witnesses translate it in their New World Translation, see John 1:1 translation).  And if the apostles and prophets of the New Testament teach it, it is true.

Ephesians 2:8,9 — Conversations with God

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

Father, these are some of the most amazing words in Scripture.  So clear, so exact, and yet I’m tempted to take them for granted.  They have been so quoted as to feel trite at times when in fact they are world changing.

To acknowledge that my rescue from death comes not by works of obedience I have done, but by trusting in Jesus’ provision of sacrifice, is at once humbling and worldview changing.  Every major and minor religion trades in the coin of good works as the means to salvation, often not even differing that much on what those works are.  But Christianity is uniquely different, trading in the altogether different currency of faith and grace.

We can’t boast about why we should merit Your salvation.  We can’t stand before You or anyone else and list our credentials for getting into heaven or the kingdom.  We must receive the rescue as a gift, totally unmerited except for the merit of Jesus earned on our behalf.

Thank You for Your indescribable gift!

But once we have given up earning our own way and have received this gift of all gifts, we have every confidence that You have rescued us from our terrible plight because of Your imcomparable love for us.  You have made a way where there was not way.  I’ll boast in You rather than myself.

Ephesians 1:7-10 — Conversations with God

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ…In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

A third blessing You have blessed me with, Father, is redemption through the blood of Your Son, Jesus.  You purchased me to Yourself by covering my debt that I owed You with Your own sacrifice.  This sacrifice freed You to forgive my sins and is yet another evidence of the richness of Your grace. 

It seems there is no end to how much You love us, for You lavished on us this forgiveness, covering even the most vile of our transgressions.  There are some of us who were convinced that our crimes were too great, too heinous, to be forgiven.  But Your grace has known no bounds.

Indeed, to a population of trespassers who could hold their collective wisdom in a thimble, You gave an additional blessing of all wisdom and insight by making known to us the mystery of Your will.  How else could we have known the extent of Your love and that it was really ours to receive?

Jesus is the embodiment of this kind intention of Yours to fill us in.  He came to tell us about You and about the rescue available to castaways drowning in an ocean of sin and rebellion.  He began a new administration of Your grace that is suitable to the finalization of Your plan to redeem the human race.  Jesus is the sum of all things and His administration of Your grace is the summing up of all things in heaven and earth.  We are looking to this finalization of Your plan when He establishes His kingdom here.  I can’t wait, Lord!

Father, there has been much reflection on why You deemed it the right time to send Jesus, why that was the fullness of time.  it seems a history of rebellion and exile and restoration had prepared Israel for the Messiah.  The success of world super-powers like Greece and Rome in creating a need for and ability for speaking one universal language by most people on earth made preaching this fullness of times easier.  it does not seem that the world was any darker nor more enlightened than any other time.

But in Your infinite wisdom You considered what we now call 5 B.C. (or B.C.E.) the right time for the Son of God to take on a human nature and be born as a human child.  The uneasy relationship between Israel and her Roman conquerors set the stage for Jesus’ crucifixion.  And the rest is history.

It is still the fullness of times and the administration of the gospel is still in full force, but it seems we continually need a kick in the pants to keep our energies up.  I need constant motivating and I thank You for helping me along.  My daughter asked, or should I say remarked in disgust, yesterday, “Are Christians now considered extremists?”  I suppose we are.  May we ride that wave to glory, Lord!  May we be identified with Your Son, the extremist.

Unity and the Glory of God (Theology for Living from Philippians)

To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings.  All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verses 20-23)

For Paul, everything revolved around the gospel of Jesus Christ, and so he was most excited to greet those who had embraced this gospel and send greetings from those whom Christ had found through the gospel.  Such were those who had received his witness while in prison in Rome (we believe).  Once again Paul has a chance to emphasize that nothing can thwart the gospel, not even the great apostle’s imprisonment.

It is this unity of believers in the gospel that then becomes his most powerful message.  For even though nothing can thwart the gospel, disunity among believers can hinder it.  Disunity is the single most dangerous enemy of the gospel.  Unity is the most powerful base of our witness to the truth of the gospel.  When we stand together as one our enemies get truly scared.  When we fight, they laugh us to scorn.

And though we say that, for Paul, everything revolved around the gospel of Jesus Christ, we might also say that an even higher level of importance for him was to give glory to God.  But it is this same devotion to the gospel that brings God such glory.  It is His gospel, it is His message to a lost and dying world, it is His means of restoring His creation to its original beauty.

Would you bring Him glory?  Devote yourself to His gospel.  Would you be devoted to the gospel?  Devote yourself to the unity you must have with your bothers and sisters in Christ.  “The grace of the Lord Jesus,” the love that moved him to sacrifice his rights and agendas, “be with your spirit.”