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.