Daily Thoughts from Numbers: Soli Dei Gloria

These are the generations of Aaron and Moses at the time when the LORD spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests. But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father. (Numbers 3:1-4 ESV)

As part of the census or numbering of Israel, Moses recounts the lineage of Aaron and the Levites.  Aaron and his sons were chosen to be Yahweh’s high priests, the ones who supervised the sacrifices with the help of the Levites, and the ones who brought the blood on the day of atonement into the holy of holies to sprinkle it on the ark of the covenant for Israel’s forgiveness.

But two of Aaron’s sons tried to take this privilege to themselves, most likely in a bid to establish their superiority to their brothers.  Here is the account in Leviticus:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.  (Leviticus 10:1-3 ESV)

When the tabernacle was established, Yahweh lit the fire for the sacrifice and this fire was kept going even in all of Israel’s travels through the wilderness.  The strange or unauthorized fire of Nadab and Abihu was fire they kindled themselves.  Though Aaron undoubtedly was heartbroken over their rebellion and death, he recognized the justice of God’s punishment.  No one, not even a son of Aaron, can disobey God’s directives on worship and go unpunished.

If we think we can come to God, like Nadab and Abihu did, with purposes that do not agree with God’s purposes, and expect to have God’s favor, we are sadly mistaken.  As He said, “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified.”  To treat Him as if He is supposed to cater to our desires in disregard for His glorious character and kingdom determination is as foolish as bringing unauthorized fire before Him expecting Him to respond favorably.  Soli Dei Gloria!  Only for the glory of God!


Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Abundant Giving and Receiving

Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution…Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded.”

Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments…as a freewill offering to the LORD.

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.”

And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more. (Exodus 35:1-36:7, ESV)

To their credit the people of Israel gave generously to the construction of the Tabernacle. They gave both of their possessions and of their talents. And though everyone was encouraged to come and do the work, Bezalel was given authority over the whole project to oversee it and, presumably, to determine who did what and that the quality of their work was acceptable. If it was not and they could be taught, he would teach them, as would Oholiab. God’s Spirit was at work in the leaders and the workers, the givers and the doers.

This is the description of a community filled with the Spirit. They have a clear vision of what it is they are to do in order to serve the Lord. They have skillful leaders to guide them in the Spirit’s work. They have generous hearts towards the Lord’s work and towards each other. There is a unity of spirit that comes from the Holy Spirit reminiscent of this time in Israel’s history on journey to the promised land, or the infant church in Acts 2 as they met and cared for one another and served the Lord. It is what Paul describes in Ephesians 4, a maintaing of the unity of the Spirit and the gifted leaders helping the various members of the body to work to increase the growth of the Body of Christ.

Nothing here was forced. God told people to respond only out of a generous heart because He “loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). And their hearts stirred them, stirred them so much that they brought more than enough and had to be restrained.

Where are you contributing like this? Where has God moved your heart to give? May there be more than enough.

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38, ESV)

John MacArthur at Grace to You (gty.org) explains the imagery of this passage: The imagery Christ used in Luke—the idea of pouring blessing into our laps—comes from the ancient Middle Eastern grain market. People would go into the grain market to purchase, literally, a lap-full of grain. The loose material of their garments extended all the way to the ground and was belted at the waist with a sash. When they went into the grain market, they would simply pull up some of that garment, looping it through the sash to create a huge pocket. The grain would be dumped into the makeshift pouch, literally filling their laps (cf. Ruth 3:15).

God responds with abundance to those who give generously.

Daily Thoughts on Exodus: Singing

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying,

 “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

 the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

 The LORD is my strength and my song,

 and he has become my salvation;

 this is my God, and I will praise him,

 my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

 The LORD is a man of war;

 the LORD is his name.


 “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,

 and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

 The floods covered them;

 they went down into the depths like a stone.

 Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power,

 your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.

 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;

 you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.

 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;

 the floods stood up in a heap;

 the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,

 I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

 I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’

 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;

 they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

 “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?

 Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

 awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

 You stretched out your right hand;

 the earth swallowed them. “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;

 you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

 The peoples have heard; they tremble;

 pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.

 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;

 trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;

 all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.

 Terror and dread fall upon them;

 because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,

 till your people, O LORD, pass by,

 till the people pass by whom you have purchased.

 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,

 the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode,

 the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

 The LORD will reign forever and ever.” 

For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them:

 “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

 the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

(Exodus 15:1-21 ESV)

Why sing?  Why include a song in this middle of telling this story?  Part of the answer is that it cannot be helped.  As Moses and the people said, “Yahweh is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”  When God is not just an invisible someone we believe in but someone who has become active in our lives in ways we could never have anticipated, we leave the realm of mere acknowledgement.  We are emotionally involved now with Him and singing to Him and about Him makes all the sense in the world.  You do not have a real relationship with God if He is only your strength and not also your song.

Because of God’s great and awesome deed of deliverance from the mightiest army on the face of the earth at that time, Israel anticipates the fear and dread of Yahweh that will fall on the peoples to whose land they are traveling.  They will leave the Israelites alone when they pass by on the way to Canaan and God will establish His place of worship, His sanctuary, in Canaan, where Israel will worship Him forever.  There is much that is true in this psalm but the Israelites will find that even though afraid, these nations will send armies against them and in the far future Israel’s worship of Yahweh will fade.  May we be warned not to follow their example.  Instead, may we continue to find reasons to sing to Him.

Wikipedia defines and says of singing that it is “the act of producing musical sounds with the voice and augments regular speech by the use of sustained tonality, rhythm, and a variety of vocal techniques,” and mentions the health benefits of singing for the brain and the body in general.  But in a strange way it is comedian Steven Wright’s joke about singing that gets more to the heart of it.  He says, “I remember when the candle shop burned down.  Everyone stood around singing ‘Happy Birthday.'”  Singing is the soul taking joy and even tragedy and making it bearable.  It is God’s gift to us for saying from our souls what just could not be adequately said in mere words.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Getting Our Attention

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.  (Exodus 3:1-6 ESV)

When God wants to get our attention He does something unusual in our lives.  For Moses, now a shepherd of sheep in charge of another’s flock, the sight of bushes catching fire in the wilderness might not have been that uncommon, but when this bush would not stop burning, was not consumed by the flames, his curiosity was aroused and he altered his normal path.

It says that the Angel or Messenger of Yahweh appeared to him in a flame and then says God called to Moses out of the bush.  And so the Messenger of Yahweh and Yahweh are identical, leading us to realize that this is the pre-incarnate (before he took on human nature or flesh) Son of God serving at the Father’s behest to communicate to Moses.  His holy presence demands special honor from Moses.  It has made the very ground on which Moses is standing, holy.  Removing his shoes is a powerful symbol of respect.

Moses believes, as have so many to whom God appeared, that if he sees God he will die, so he averts his eyes. There is truth to this in that God’s unmitigated or veiled appearance would kill us simply because our bodies cannot take that kind of stimulation without shutting down.  But God would not purposely appear to us in a way we couldn’t handle, and here, appearing as a flame, He is veiled enough to not hurt Moses.

How is God seeking to get your attention?  Is He waking you earlier than you need to get up so you’ll spend some time with Him?  Is there conflict in your life that He wants you to come to Him about?  Has He sent someone to you to alter your normal way of life?  And in that situation are you acknowledging His holiness and “taking off your shoes?”

Russian Proverb;  “It is the same with men as with donkeys; whoever would hold them fast must get a very good grip on their ears!”

Lessons From the Old Testament: Arts and Technology

Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.  (Genesis 4:19-22)

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  (Genesis 11:3-4)

Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.  (Exodus 31:1-5)

The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. (Judges 1:19)

Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.  (Proverbs 14:4)

From the beginning of civilization there has been a division among those who who focus on the arts and those who focus on technology.   This is not to say that the two are opposed.  It is more a matter of gifting and because we have trouble giving value to more than one thing at a time and because we tend to value our own gifting over others, we sometimes find ourselves at odds in this area.

But the Bible values both.  Art speaks to our souls in a way that calls forth our deepest emotions and challenges us to be our most God-like selves.  Art draws our attention away from ourselves and is our attempt to put into words or pictures our sense of wonder at the glory of God’s creation.  Art connects us to the earth, to each other, and to God with a sense of appreciation.

Technology does much the same thing but with a different emphasis.  Technology is our attempt to shape our world with the creative energy of God in order to draw from it our most practical necessities.  Technology is what makes us more productive at growing food, finding shelter, providing clothing, and, of necessity, in a fallen world, protecting ourselves.

Sometimes the two are at odds with each other because of the time required to survive.  In survival mode we may prioritize art beneath technology.  But normally we find a way to do both.  We marry technology and arts together often.  A car does not have to be beautiful, but we prefer it that way because of being image bearers of the Creator who is both artistic and technological.

Sin has made it likely that we will use art and technology for wrong purposes.  When we use art to express a message of hopelessness, that may be a legitimate expression of what we are feeling, but it is not true to the reality of the gospel.  When we use technology in a way that hurts others or hurts the earth, we are not being responsible with our God-given abilities.

God is not against technology.  He is against technology that is used to accomplish selfish and human-centered needs in a way that contradicts where the real sovereignty of the world lies.   God is not against arts.  He is against arts used to lead people away from truth.  The Old Testament recognizes several examples of the proper use of arts and technology and the improper uses.  Everything, according to the Old Testament, must be seen as a good gift from God and used in accord with His desires.  This is because He loves us and loves His world and knows what is best for both.  Arts and technology are ultimately, in God’s hands, a form of worship and a form of serving others.

Lessons From the Old Testament: God Is in Our Midst

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.’”  Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.  You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”  This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.  Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.  “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.  Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.  I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.” (Haggai 1:2-11)

God is not happy with Israel His people.  They have been back in the land after He cast them out mere years before, and already they have forgotten first principles.  And first among the first principles is that God is first.  This is not a selfish neediness on God’s part, that He would demand the Israelites put Him first so He can feel good about Himself.  This is essential for Israel’s health as individuals and as a people.  If they fail to see that God is in their midst because He loves them, and that nothing else is more important than their relationship to Him, if they put all their energy into building their own lives, there will visit their souls a poverty of spirit that will leave them empty of life and a vacuum for devilish lies.

God wants to spare them this, so He sends them a poverty of wealth.  When wealth comes into their hands, it falls through them like a sieve.  They can no more hold onto what they so desperately are clinging to than they can grasp the wind.  God makes the heavens and the earth to fight against them so that they will wake up and realize that the true source of their wealth is a relationship with their Creator and Redeemer.

They must finish building the temple!  They must not neglect the most ferocious reality of their lives — God is living among them.  The mighty Fashioner of worlds, whose immensity cannot be contained in a trillion temples, nevertheless wants to live with them.  He wants to parley with them on a daily basis.  He wants to be a part of their daily quest for food, their interaction with family, their expressions of creativity in work, and, of course, their worship.

Have you acknowledged the God in your midst today?  Have you entered into His temple like a favored guest and received His kiss on the cheek, His anointing oil on your head, and His provision of abundant food?  Does every aspect of your life radiate like spokes from His hub?  Nothing else will satisfy the deep longing of your soul.