Exodus 30: The Destructive Dessert

In Chapter 30 we are looking at more very detailed instructions from God about His temple as well as the recipes for the anointing oil and incense.

Verses 11 to16 seems to take a little side trip to deal with census taking. The experience of David’s day (2 Samuel 24) showed how dangerous such an activity was considered. God tells each person to pay a ransom for his life at the time he is counted.   God gave His people a “way out” so they would not be destroyed.

These verses brought to mind another verse in 1 Corinthians 10. In chapter 10 it talks about the wanderings in the dessert and how God’s people chose to “set their hearts on evil things.” It is a warning by the example of the bad choices that the people of Israel made and how they suffered because of these choices. In verse 13 God warns us about sin—but He doesn’t leave us alone in this–He promises us a way out. “But when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Sin can be like this luscious ice cream sundae with lots of hot fudge and nuts and a cherry on top. It looks so good— yet when we eat it we discover it has a bomb inside that blows up in our faces. Sin is always destructive. God has promised to always provide a way out for us —but it is our choice to take that way out. The best way of course is to never take that first bite—it gets harder the more we eat—the more we go down that road and take part in the sin. God has given us a ransom in His Son for all of our sin but His heart is that we do not get entangled in it at all. God’s heart is one of forgiveness and of protection.

— Sue

Application Questions

Do I take God’s way out when I’m tempted or do I indulge my desires?

Do I try to take care of it myself first?

Do I recognize not only God’s heart of forgiveness but of protection for me?

Exodus 29: Do Crazy Stuff

Wow! Really? Exodus 29? It is a chapter about clothes and blood and sacrifice and other stuff. What could this possibly mean to me? I just don’t get it.

That is what I said about chapter 29, and frankly, about a few of the other chapters in Exodus as well. Anyone else out there have the same thoughts? What could this possibly mean to me? Before I actually tell you what it means to me, let me talk about some principles.

First, everything in the Bible—the Old Testament and the New Testament—is meant to be taken in context. That means there are going to be certain things that are never going to mean anything to you. They are specific truths for specific people at specific times.

Second, everything in the Bible—Old Testament and New—is inspired by God. That means it is all important and we cannot just toss certain passages because we do not understand them or because they are inconvenient or seem to be speaking to a certain culture. Despite what I said in the first point, God’s truth is timeless. Now, that does not mean it all applies to us, but it is still true and important.

So, what do we do with Exodus 29 and other passages like it? Well, we read it in its larger context. Yes, we are trying to read one chapter a day and yes, our blog posts are on one chapter at a time. However, that does not mean that Exodus 29 can or should stand alone. Because it cannot and it does not. It is positioned in a larger narrative, a narrative of God choosing a group of people and then giving them specific instructions about how to be and act in a way that shows they are separate from the culture around them. “Don’t be like the people around you,” God says, “be like this instead: I’ll give you some instructions.” “Be a HOLY people,” God says. And in case you do not know what holy means, it means set apart, that is what God called the people of Israel to. And some of these seemingly crazy and arbitrary instructions were to show that set-apartness.

What do I get from Exodus 29? It comes at the end in verses 45 and 46:

I will dwell among the Israelites, and I 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.

 “Do this crazy stuff,” says the Lord God, “and people will know that you are my special treasure, my chosen people.” And he continues to call us to this crazy stuff today. To feed the poor, to set captives free (physically and spiritually), to proclaim GOOD NEWS to everyone: the good news that God is doing a new thing through the work of Jesus and that we can all be a part of that life and this community of holy people.

— Dennis

Exodus 28: How Are You Dressed Today?

Today we move from the construction and the furnishing of the tabernacle – a visible centre for God’s presence and for worship, to the outfit for the priests. Reading a chapter like this can be a bit of a struggle. In fact all week we have encountered stuff like this, so I have asked myself two questions: What can I learn about God here? What is God saying to me today?

In chapter 28, I see God in a way I haven’t noticed before – God the Designer. We know Him as the Creator of the world. We see his masterful work all around us but I’ve never thought of him as a clothing designer! Once again he shows us his attention to the details, using the very best, this time in some clothes. He instructs Moses to use fine linen, gemstones, beautifully coloured thread – gold, blue, purple and scarlet and all of this is to be skilfully made and embroidered by experienced craftsman (filled with the spirit of wisdom.) His design is beautiful! It was important to God that these priests – Aaron and his sons who were set apart to be the mediators between God and the people, the ones who would be working in his holy dwelling place were dressed right!

 

What can we learn from this? I believe it is this – We too are set apart! God calls us “priests”. As Jesus followers – as people set apart, we too need to be dressed right! The clothing that we as Christ followers need wear looks a little different though. It says in Colossians 3:12

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

As people set apart, we need to look different – people dressed in mercy, clothed with kindness, wearing humility, putting on gentleness and patience! How are you dressed today?

— Carolyn

Exodus 27: Don’t Do It!

Don’t do it!

Don’t just skim over these chapters in Exodus that are packed with ‘temple-decor-directives’, assuming there is nothing useful in them for you!

That’s what i was temped to do with Exodus 27, until i stopped and asked God to speak to me, even out of this chapter that is full of measurements and construction details.

Almost instantly my eyes were drawn to the first sentence in Exodus 27:1 and the phrase “…construct an altar…”.  The word ‘altar’ nearly jumped off the page for me!

We often think of an altar as a sacred, ornate table or slab-topped-stand at the front of a clean and neatly ordered church.  However, the word ‘altar’ in the original Hebrew means something far more poignant and sobering.  ‘Altar’ in the ancient Hebrew means ‘killing-place’.  The stuff that is placed on the altar isn’t going to be walking home!  This is the end of the line!  It is brought to the altar to be sacrificed and dedicated to God.

Now, someone is going to say, “So what!  We don’t live by those Old Testament laws any more!  We’re in Christ!  What does this have to do with anything relevant in my life?”

Great question!…and the answer is:  Romans 12:1

The writer of Hebrews takes the ancient tradition of offering sacrifices on the altar and says, “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sister, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice (on the altar), holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”

Today God calls each of us to climb up on the altar, the ‘killing-place’, and to let stuff die there!

Let selfishness die!

Let unforgiveness and strife die!

Let arguments, jealousy, racism, greed, and passion for the things of this world die there!

Dedicate your life to God freshly, every day!

When i was growing up, my pastor used to say, “The only problem with a ‘living-sacrifice’ is that it keeps wanting to crawl off the altar!”

He was right!

How many times do i walk away from the altar of dedication and walk back into my old ways of thinking and my own habits?

How about you?

Are you living on the altar or have you crawled off?

Is there stuff in your life that needs to be put back on the altar and allowed to die there?

This morning, i wondered what God could possibly be saying to me from Exodus 27.  Now i know!

Ask God to speak to you today, and i’m pretty sure He will!

Blessings…

— Todd

Exodus 26: God’s Desire to Dwell With Us

I think the bloggers of the recent chapters have summed up pretty well the thoughts we’re having reading this part of Exodus – it’s a hard read!! From a story telling perspective, the end of chapter 15 would have been a good place to stop. Instead, it seems we have nearly 25 chapters of descriptions and rules, and in great detail.

In light of this, I think we should ask ourselves – why does the Old Testament focus on these things?

God puts a lot of emphasis on constructing the Tabernacle when the Israelites are probably more concerned about their basic needs of survival. I think the significance of this building project is what it represents – God’s desire to dwell with his people.

In fact, the longing and desire to be with God is really the deepest desire of each of us – Psalm 42:1 says “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God”. The way that God has connected to His people over history has changed – it began in perfection in Eden, changed to a series of sacrificial requirements in Exodus, manifested in the person of Jesus, and now is the Body of Christ as the Church and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in those who believe.

We live in a broken world, where we each have our own concerns, hardships, and forms of suffering. Ultimately, through Christ we will all experience the fullness of relationship with Him, and through that our deepest longings will be fulfilled and our joy will be complete. How incredible!

— Dan

Application Questions

If you are reading quickly through a chapter, slow down and read it again – try and think about the passage in a different way. What stands out to you about God?

What are some of the joys that have been brought to you through Christ?

Exodus 25: The Ark of the Convenant

Well….reading through chapter 25 quite honestly feels a little bit like reading through the instruction sheet of a newly purchased item. While some days it has felt like we were a part of a gripping, on the edge of our seats story….today feels a little less…well applicable. I’m not exactly sure how two winged creatures on the top of an acacia wooden chest should be applied to the circumstances of my day today.  I am pretty sure that should we spend some time studying this chapter we could find some significance in these images & instructions. However, I simply want to share some of my impressions I felt as I read the chapter on my own. So… not thinking these are fully profound impressions, they are the thoughts that came to me as I was reading through.

#1 These designs are pretty elaborate.

Gold & silver, fine linens, goat hair, tanned ram skins….the list is both specific and long of what is needed and the descriptions of how to build the chest, the tent, the table and the lamp stand imply some pretty detailed work. It strikes me that among these people that are now nomadic and wandering must have been some pretty skilled trades workers as well as tools & materials that they carried with them on the move. The images of the detail work needed speaks to the fact that there were people in Israel that would be called to bring their very best skills together to make something that God was asking of them. These weren’t simple pieces…they would have required slow detail work to create something pretty amazing.

#2 It seems implied that people will bring their best.

As we look at the wording, there doesn’t seem to be much effort in trying to convince people of why the need to bring some pretty valuable resources & skill to Moses to do what God has asking them to do. I wonder if this is because they have such an immediate awareness of what God was doing in their midst that their natural response wouldn’t have been asking “why is this needed?  why all this energy?” but rather a natural reaction of joy & willingness to participate in what God was asking of them.

#3 There are appropriate moments for beauty and elaborate design.

The church used to be the home for art & beauty. Travel any part of the world that has a long history and you will find some pretty inspirational and humbling feats of beauty housed within the church structures. We have shifted from that in many ways (and I’m not trying to attach a value to that statement) to the place where we would likely think it is inappropriate to invest massive amounts of resource into elaborate architectural designs in our day. That would certainly seem to be poor stewardship. It makes me ask the question of where and when it is appropriate to use what God has given us to create elaborate and beautiful things. I don’t know the answer to that one.

So…I leave you today with a few of my impressions and musings. Hopefully you have found some of your own as well. Tomorrow we begin to talk about the curtains 🙂

— Jon

Exodus 24: God’s Love Letter

These chapters of Exodus can be seen as dry, boring, and irrelevant to our lives today. As we are bombarded with law after law, and as we struggle to dig up the concepts behind them, we wonder under what filter should we read these texts. I’m in the same boat you are. These chapters are tough to get through, but stay with me here.

3 So Moses went to the people and told them everything GOD had said—all the rules and regulations. They all answered in unison: “Everything GOD said, we’ll do.” –Exodus 24

Let that sink in…while you do, take a look at this verses as well:

“The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold… oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” –Psalm 119

The way we view the Law of the Lord in its entirety is seriously important. Are we seeing it as a checklist to heaven, or as a gift from God? A hill to climb, or a pathway to the fullness of Life? What we see, not only in Exodus but the entirety of the Bible, is that the Law, with relationship with God, under his grace, becomes absolutely beautiful. It becomes the path of life. A guide to how we can live to please the Lord. It becomes precious, and a primary way for people to unite.

But the Law outside of the grace of God, feels like a meaningless checklist that despite our best efforts we will never complete. It feels like death, an impossible, cruel, hill to climb. As Christians, the Law has been given to us for our joy. And let us indeed harness that joy knowing that we covered by the grace of God. This isn’t a checklist. This is a love letter from the Almighty. We will never fulfill the Law, and understanding that means the Law becomes precious because the Law becomes the path of life. Under the love & grace of the Lord, the law becomes not something we have to do, rather something we want to do because it is “more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold”.

— Cole

Exodus 23: Reading The Fine Print

I’ll admit I wanted to skim over chapter 23. What could I learn from God’s instructions about how the Israelites should do life 3500 plus years ago?

In chapter 23 we find ourselves neck deep in the fine print of Yahweh’s covenant with the Israelites and we learn another characteristic of God. He is detail oriented.

Fine print is not easy to read, but it is important. It is in the fine print that the true nature of an agreement is revealed. God does not hide his “fine print”. He puts it in plain view and through it reveals His values.

Wanting to discoverer what God values I was able to read chapter 23 in a fresh way. As a Christ-follower I want my life to resemble the values of God more and more each day. As I read God’s instructions on justice, property, and festivals I found an opportunity for some self-reflection.

Does my life reflect the values I read? As I dove into this time of reflection I found things to celebrate in my life and things I need to change. I also found some things that require further reflection and input from other Christ-followers. Here’s a quick list of some of what jumped out to me as I read with a new appreciation for fine print.

God values honesty – Verses 1,6,7

God values conviction & integrity – Verses 2,3,6,8

God values giving & kindness – Verses 4,5,11

God values compassion & equality – Verses 3,6,8,9,11

God values rest – Verses 11,12

God values celebration & community – Verses 14-19

— Jordan

Application Questions

What God values are reflected well in your life and can be celebrated?

What God values need some attention?

On what God values could you use some input from other Christ-followers?

Exodus 22: God’s Passion For Us

People matter to God. Our worship is for God alone.

That pretty much sums up Exodus 22 – a selection of property laws, social laws and a few random laws thrown in as Israel begins to build a new society that would eventually become a nation. Some of these laws will never be applicable in the lifetime of these hearers (they will never own a house, a vineyard or grow crops in their lifetime). Others are practical and relevant immediately. Some of these laws are deterrents, to prove how highly God values his people, and others are entirely about our worship.

For example, there are three reasons for the death penalty in this chapter: sorcery, bestiality and sacrifice to other gods. All of these are cultic practices and are not to be tolerated in a society whose worship is to be in God alone. (I wonder how that resonated in a society that not so long ago were sacrificing to a god made of their own hands? Gulp. I should be dead!)

Other laws show God’s mercy; in a land where child sacrifice was standard practice for gods of the day, the God of Israel also expects a sacrifice of their firstborn… but not to death. Consecrated. Set apart. And alive.

In a society where women were property to be used and owned, God says if you have sex with a virgin, you will provide for her for the rest of her life… and show her honor by paying the bride price to her family. Not shamed. Honored. Provided for.

And each of these rules point to a God who loves his people passionately and longs for our worship in return.

— Kirsten K.

Application Questions

What rules do you struggle to see God’s heart for his people within?

How do you think these rules apply to lives of believers today?

Exodus 21: It’s My Choice To Make

In Chapter 21 Moses receives further instructions as to how the Israelites should live now that they have been freed from bondage and slavery.

“These are the laws you are to set before them”

The laws defining how they were to treat each other and resolve conflicts and how to deal with situations as they arise are very specific and at times harsh, with death being the consequence of one’s actions. He gives guidelines as to how slaves should be treated.

My first reaction to this Chapter is: “Wow! That’s pretty legalistic God. There’s not much room left for discussion! It’s hard to put myself in this circumstance and try to understand what God was trying to do, but when times were different, moral guidance was needed for the Israelites. After all they’d been in bondage and slavery for so long, they’d forgotten what freedom looks like and how to live under these new circumstances. The laws given here are intended to be fair and just to all…. including slaves. Yet again we see how wise our God is, He is setting things up for His people to live in a moral, just and fair place, teaching them to treat each other with respect and honour, no matter their station in life.

Do I need that lesson today? I have not experienced bondage or slavery…or have I? God has given me a free choice every day to choose Him or choose to go where I want to go. Very often my own will takes over and I choose my way. I am so thankful that He is still there waiting for me to choose Him. I pray that in choosing Him I can treat others in the same patient and loving way.

— Irene

Application Questions:

How does God look at us today? Are we in need of instruction on how to live our lives in a moral, just and fair fashion? Are we enslaved by the pull of society which draws us away from God?

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