Growing in Christ
"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
Links to observations drawn from other books of the Bible
Introduction: Exodus is the the story of God's deliverance of Israel from their slavery in Egypt following Joseph's death and the calling of Moses to confront Pharaoh, then Israel's deepening relationship with Yahweh centered in the Law of the Covenant and God's presence in His Tabernacle. Exodus ("way out") is from the Greek title; the Hebrew title "these are the names of" is taken from the opening verse.
The date of the exodus has been widely debated but there is no compelling reason to reject the chronology of I Kings 6:1 which places the exodus at 1445 BC. The cities built by Israel in slavery (1:11), though having gone by various names in history, were built 1550-1250 BC, so Israel would have been working on them for 100+ years before deliverance.
Exodus is the second of the five books of Moses (Pentateuch) which continue the account of God's first dealings with His covenant people, chosen to become a redemptive blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:3) through Christ (whose genealogy is traced through Abraham in Matthew 1 and Luke 3).
Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Book of Genesis (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading observations below):
For those who are beginning here, my aim is simply to share my understanding of what the text says about 1.) God, 2.) our role or mission in life under God, 3.) some specific application of that role or mission [often in the form of "I will" statements emphasising intentionality and/or obedience], and 4.) a prayer flowing from my heart in light of these realities.
Becoming Slaves: After Joseph's death (v.6) the descendents of Jacob multiplied to perhaps 2 million (Numbers 1). This large number was useful as slave labor but also feared as a potential source of rebellion (v.7). The Pharaoh who did not know of Joseph (v.8) may have been Ahmose I (1570-1546 BC) who expelled the Hyksos (cf. background note, below) or a successor. (Pharaoh is a general title meaning someone who lives in a "great house")
Selective genocide: Killing baby boys who could grow up to fight and leaving the girls (v.16) to be married into less threatening slave peoples would both eliminate Hebrew identity and keep up the supply of slaves. The strategy was cruel and practical.
The courage of the midwives: Shiphrah and Puah (v.15) made excuses for their disobedience (v.19) but, given their entirely vulnerable position as slaves and women, showed incredible courage and more importantly, absolute allegiance to the Lord at the risk of their lives.
Oppression has often been the experience of God's people, sometimes systemic at totalitarian political or military hands and sometimes random at the hands of a dominant culture, employer or bully. Behind all this is Satan working to sustain spiritual, religious, personal and corporate oppression - yet driving, counter to Satan's purposes, God's people to yearn and call on Him for deliverance and lean solely on Him for sustenance.
Ironically, when Israel was from free from slavery, she often reverted to ignoring God's purposes or pursuing pagan gods. May our freedom in Christ rather draw deeply from us praise and eternal worship!
Personal Application: I will be courageous in the face of earthly oppression, following the example of Shiphrah and Puah. I will look to the Lord for deliverance from personal, political and demonic oppression. Where the Lord is, there is liberty.
My Prayer: Father, help me find freedom in You even if that glorious space seems to others a 'bubble' in a world ruled by the prince of this world.
Background note: "From 1650 - 1550 BC northern Egypt, where the Israelites lived, was ruled by Semitic invaders the Egyptians called "shepherd kings," or Hyksos. Many scholars believe that these kings were sympathetic to the Israelites and that the Israelites may even have been allied with them. When these invaders were finally expelled about 1540 BC, it is easy to imagine that the new rulers (Egypt's 18th Dynasty) were very suspicious of any Semites, including the Israelites, who remained in the country." (NLT)
Deliverance of Moses: Pharaoh's daughter probably understood she was hiring Moses' family to care for him and that she was in rebellion to her father's command. How she explained Moses to her father or husband when Moses came to live in the palace is unknown and may be another miracle. (Moses was a common royal Egyptian name meaning "to give birth" (suggesting the Nile gave birth to him) and sounded like the Hebrew for "to draw out.")
Years of Preparation: During his first 40 years Moses would likely have received administrative, military, and leadership training in Egypt. During his second 40 years in Midian Moses would have learned how to survive in the wilderness where Israel would later wander for his final 40 years.
Moses the Rescuer: Moses's rescue of a fellow Hebrew being beaten (v.12) showed his compassion, courage and decisiveness but also that he relied on himself and wasn't ready to confront Egypt in God's power. In Midian, Moses again showed his opposition to oppression confronting a group of shepherds who could presumably have overcome him.
Reuel (Jethro) the Priest: was likely a descendent of Abraham through Keturah (Gen. 25:1-2), retaining is seems, through the centuries, some knowledge of the God of Abraham. It may even be that Moses, likely steeped in Egyptian religion, learned more about Yahweh from his father-in-law in Midian than he had learned in Egypt.
God's compassion on Israel: It may be the timing of God's readiness to act in behalf of His people was in part related to Moses' maturity and readiness. Sometimes God's preparation is lengthy for a comparatively short season of service. (Sometimes, as with Daniel, God chooses those who are ready while they are still young.)
As long as we draw breath, our mission work of love and rescue is not complete. Therefore God continues to prepare and deepen us, both for our sanctification and for His mission purposes.
Personal Application: I will look for and not turn away from opportunities to express God's 'love and rescue' heart.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for saving and preparing Moses for the great task you had for him. Help us see Your work through our lives for the same essential work, though on different scales, to liberate those who are oppressed by the schemes of the deceiver.
God's Revelation and Call: Moses removed his sandals (v. 5) as a sign of respect and willingness to connect personally with God's holiness, which always transforms. "The common cannot touch the holy without being transformed or destroyed" (NLT).
God's firm promise: God delivered his people because of His compassion for their suffering as slaves and to fulfill his long-standing promise to Abraham of the land to which he had been called. "As a vital crossroads ... between Egypt and the rest of the ancient Near East, Canaan was a hotly contested prize. That Israel could end up in sole possession of it seemed an impossibility (NLT)."
God's sufficiency: God does not answer Moses' question "Who am I, that I should go..?" (v.11) except to point to Himself (in essence: "it's not about you, it's about Me").
The Sign God promises comes after, not before, obedience (v.12). "In the Bible, a sign often occurred after a person or a nation had already had to decide whether to act in faith or not (Isa 7:14). A sign cannot create faith where there is none (Matt 12:39; 16:4). Rather, it encourages the one who has exercised the faith he or she already has (NLT)." Excuses must be set aside, replaced by courage born of trust in God, and the obedience of faith.
Personal Application: I stand in amazement of the transcendent Holy One who calls and redeems. I will remove my shoes, listen to His word, set aside my inadequacies and excuses, and obey.
My Prayer: I am the One who is, thank you that by becoming the Creator of all, you also became my loving Father. Thank you that Your self-sufficiency is the sufficiency for my insufficiency. Thank you that You are with me to accomplish that to which You call me.
Yahweh: God can only
define Himself by Himself: "I AM WHO I AM' or "I am the One who is" (Exodus
3:14). He alone is self existent, Wholly Other, completely self-sufficient and
distinct from the created order. Holy transcendence is God's nature, whereas His
imminence is required for our existence. We live therefore solely by God's
grace. All reality flows from God alone and what is normal in reality (including
behavior and attitude, and being itself) is rightly not defined by us, but by
God. For a fuller understanding click
here or here.
Moses' Objections overcome: To Moses' claim of powerlessness; that he would not be taken seriously, God gives signs of power. In the ancient near-east snakes (v.3-5) were ironically symbols both of death and healing. To turn water of the Nile, the source of much of Egypt's prosperity, into blood, a sign of death (v.9) would also be powerful. To Moses' claim that he couldn't speak persuasively (v.10) God offered his brother Aaron to help (though, over time, Moses leaned on Aaron less and less).
Final surrender: His objections overcome, Moses asks just to be excused (v.13) but God's call is not to be turned aside. God's response here was only the first time Moses experienced God's anger (v.14). God does not accept our trifling.
The Obedience of Faith: God was again angry when Moses didn't circumcise his son (v.24,25), the only expression of allegiance God had so far asked of His followers (Gen.17:10). Moses not being obedient at this point would lessen Israel's obedience also, at this and all other points. Zipporah recognized the initial cause of the crisis and resolved it. Moses may have already been incapacitated by God's anger; there is much not known about this critical incident.
What is clear however is that it is not our native ability but God's sufficiency, and our willingness to let God work through us, that is at issue. The core issue on our part is simple and immediate obedience. Obedience has a bad rap in contemporary evangelicalism, often shunted off to the side-rail of legalism. Obedience however is simply an expression of the allegiance of faith, faith being a tenant always affirmed by evangelicals, with the exception of when we want to avoid obedience.
Hardening of Heart (v.21): ten times scripture will record that Pharaoh hardened his own heart and in ten instances it will say the God hardened Pharaoh's heart. "Seven times Pharaoh hardened his own heart before God hardened it, though the prediction that God would do it preceded all. (Ryrie)" The sovereignty of God brings a balance in which both our will and His will are done, and we are responsible for our will.
Israel is My First Born: means "special", even "sacred", so highly does God value Israel in His plan of redemption (v.23). Pharaoh also highly values his first born (v.23), so should understand how crucial is the confrontation in which he is involved.
Personal Application: I will not make excuses when called by God to do as He has directed, whether in a burning-bush confrontation or a quiet prompting. I will be obedient as an expression of respect and of faith.
My Prayer: Father, let me hear your voice and call always clearly without ambiguity, whether it comes in a whisper or a sign or any other form in which you choose to speak. Let me trust you, obeying in confidence that You are sufficient to accomplish that which you have purposed.
Starting Badly: Pharaoh's rejection of Moses' bold command is premised on the Egyptian view that 'god and king' are one (common to many cultures) and his defiant assertion that it would take a stronger force than the Hebrew's God to force his will (v.1-2).
Moses' apparent lie to Pharaoh that God would kill the Hebrews for disobedience (v.3) is rejected and may even be why God allowed the further hardship of equal quota plus straw (v.7-8). By beating Hebrew supervisors (v.14) Pharaoh also won the victory of setting them against Moses and Aaron (v.21) and discouraging Moses deeply (v.22-23). If there had been any doubt, humanly speaking Pharaoh had the upper hand. As such, it's even surprising Pharaoh tolerated the conversation, not putting Moses to death.
Repeatedly however God brings His people to the end of themselves to turn to Him in full reliance and to demonstrate deliverance comes only from the Lord.
Personal Application: With persecution on the rise, nominalism and syncretism rampant and various heresies continuing to weaken our global task, it's easy to be discouraged with the percentage of Christians of any stripe lacking growth for a century. But God is God and I will press on with the task of mobilizing key leaders for His global purpose. I will give my best to finishing the book long in process.
My Prayer: Father, in every extremity You are God and Your hand is not shortened. I trust You and will obey You. Father, move powerfully for Your Church, to protect and renew and empower us in holiness and in mission. Father, move powerfully for the lost, to deliver from the evil one and all his false gods.
Crisis of faith: after initial enthusiasm (4:31) and disappointment Israel's leaders turned against Moses (5:21). God therefore reherses history to provide the true meaning (v.3-5) of Moses' call. But this (first of many) crises of faith deepens, 1.) as Israel's leaders refuse the risk of following Yahweh against Pharaoh (v.9) and 2.) as Moses returns to asking to be excused due to lack of eloquence (v.12, 30). But God...
Who is Yahweh? The key question is not the sufficiency of Moses, rather the question previously raised by Pharaoh (5:2). Yahweh is the same God as first known by the patriarchs as El Shaddai (the strong and sufficient one) (v.3) (more here or here). Names in the Hebrew worldview are not mere labels as often today. The names of God reveal his very nature, being and character by which he is rightly known.
Upstart pagan gods are depicted in ancient literature as rising to challenge and overcome old gods, as a young lion might challenge an older alpha male. Not so of Yahweh who has always been and whose purposes do not change.
Knowing and be Known: Knowing (v.7) is the same term here as a bride knowing her husband and being known by him. This vision and purpose is of knowing God in a marriage-like relationship is unchanging throughout scripture - from God walking with Adam and Eve in the garden to the "bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21:2). The Bible is little concerned about us knowing abstractly about God. God wants to be known personally and by experience; his heart, character and ways.
The fact this knowing of God (in contrast with pagan religions) is non-sexual, highlights the fact the deepest knowing of one another in marriage in the Christian worldview, is also far more than physical/sexual. Christian marriage is deeply spiritual.
Moses and Aaron's genealogy: show them firmly within the linage (v.14-27) of the patriarchs with whom God has made covenant (v. 3-4). Yahweh's covenant purpose has always been deeply personal; his is our kinsman-redeemer (Heb: gaol), as he was for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God's intent is that we, having been redeemed, would be His people and He our God.
Personal Application: I will trust the Lord in new crises of faith brought about by the world's ongoing clash of worldviews. I will always seek to more deeply know the Lord, delight in Him, and repeatedly rejoice in His deliverance.
My Prayer:Father, Your people have had many crises of faith in the clashes of worldview around us. Make us strong. You are our strength and deliverance. You are our God and we are your people; knowing and being known, in trust, joy and worship always.
A Power Encounter: The 10 plagues were essentially what we have come to call an extended power encounter between God and the earthly powers set against His righteous rule. As Ryrie points out, the plagues are a power encounter is between Yahweh who is worthy of worship and the gods of Egypt who are not:
Hard hearts: God's glory was the reason for the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. The plagues were signs and wonders (v.3) leading Egypt to know Yahweh (v.5) as above all gods, including theirs. Pharaoh however continues to look for reasons, such as the mimicking arts of his occultists, to maintain resistance.
The heart is the source and reason for our destiny more than our intellect. For this reason God values the attitude of our heart more than the capacity of our intellect.
Signs: A cobra's head featured prominently in Pharaoh's headdress, so God's use of Aaron's staff to shallow Egypt's serpents (v.12) showed Yahweh's superiority over Pharaoh as well as the sorcerers magic arts.
Water and blood: Pharaoh worshiped the Nile as giver of life (v.15). Yahweh is greater than Egypt's river-god (v.20) and the true giver of life. The occultists, having dug for clean water around the Nile (v.24), imitated God's sign in a small scale (v.22). Their point would have been better made had they turned blood in the Nile back to water (they could not) but their effort gave Pharaoh enough reason to maintain his hard (Heb: heavy) heart (v.23)
Personal Application: Prayer often involves unseen power encounters against earthly powers arrayed against God. I too am involved in Moses' battle. Yet I will initiate public power encounters only by the Lord's direction and timing. I will not be impressed with powers channeled by the occult.
My Prayer: Father, thank you that You are greater than the powers of Egypt and greater than all those arrayed against You. Thank you that You overcome even the human heart for Your glory. Rule my heart also again today, and more fully than ever.
Clinging to gods which cannot give life: Frogs were Egyptian gods of fertility, revered for their ability to live in two worlds (water and land), symbols of the Egyptians' desire to live well in this life and the next. Pharaoh's magicians made matters worse again with more frogs (v.7). Pharaoh didn't ask his magicians to remove the frogs they had produced, perhaps already recognizing Yahweh as greater than Egypt's best. Egypt's magicians could not produce more gnats (v.18) and were the first to publicly acknowledge Yahweh as greater (v.19), though Pharaoh hung on stubbornly. The forth plague involving insects brought Pharaoh to a point of negotiation (v.25).
Negotiation not an option: Pharaoh began to learn that since Lord is sovereign, negotiation is not an option (v.25-28). To try, and particularly to back away from one's word, as Pharaoh did, is not negotiation but deceit (v.29).
God's Purpose is More than a Rescue: The contest was not only to free God's people from slavery but to show who is ultimate sovereign and ultimate reality (v.10). Moses invited Pharaoh to help prove that Yahweh can not only remove the frogs He brought, but choose exactly when to remove them (v.9); Moses boldly calls this participation in God's purpose, Pharaoh's "honor." God is in every way greater the Pharaoh and his gods.
Caring for His People: God caused the last 7 plagues not to touch His people, showing both Israel and Egypt his love for His people.
Personal Application: I will not negotiate with God or seek explanations as conditions of obedience. Rather I will obey the Lord as soon as I become aware of His will, without delay or subterfuge, with a whole heart.
My Prayer: Father, give me a whole heart to obey you. Help me not obey grudgingly, delay obedience, or obey externally for show, but be eager fully to honor and please you.
The Fifth Plague: Animals were viewed in Egypt as gods, especially ram, goat, and bull representing power and fertility, but were also vital to agriculture and transportation. The fifth plague struck at the heart of both: false deities and everyday life (v.6); but Pharaoh's pride held firm (v.7).
The Sixth Plague struck man and beast. Even the magicians (v.11), far from being able to duplicate the sign, were unable to spare themselves from it (NLT).
God's Purpose: in the plagues and for surviving the plagues (v.16) was to reveal Yahweh's greatness (v.14) and proclaim it in all the earth (v.16).
The Seventh Plague (v.18, 25-26) was remarkable also because rain normally comes to Egypt only a few days each year. Hail and thunderstorms are virtually unknown (NLT). Nevertheless, some of Pharaoh's servant's believed God and were spared the effects (v.20). The land of Israel was again untouched (v.26).
Pharaoh's confession (v.27) was true but short-lived (v.34) showing pride is often dangerously stronger than reason - even today, pride overcomes fear of hell.
How beautiful pride before the fall would have been producing radiant self-respect and joy in our accomplishments. How destructively, what was intended for good, devolved after the fall.
Personal Application: I will take every warning from the Lord, whether addressed to the church or to the world, seriously.
My Prayer: Father, give me a long memory of repentance that I do not forget, as Pharaoh did, that from which I have turned to love, serve and follow you.
Yahweh vs. the gods of Egypt: Yahweh is supreme (v.2) overwhelming Osiris, the Egyptian god of plant life, with locusts (v.13), 130 million per sq. mile. Likewise Yahweh overcomes the Egyptian sun god Amon-Re with darkness (v.22), giving His people light (v.23b). Pharaoh, viewed as a god in Egypt, is reduced to offering further compromises (v.11, 24) which Moses in each case rejects. In addition, Pharaoh's servants (v.7) increasingly offer policy rather than Pharaoh himself.
Death threat: It is surprising, given Pharaoh's power, that Moses hasn't already been killed. God has protected. Pharaoh now threatens death publicly (v.28). Moses agrees the confrontation is over (v.29), knowing it will not however be on Pharaoh's terms.
God's purpose is unchanging. Israel will be Yahweh's people, serving His eternal redemptive purposes by which His holy character is revealed to all the earth and the nations come to know Him and live under His covenant and blessing. Temporary repentance (v.17) will not do; only wholehearted surrender, love and devotion.
Personal Application: I will not fear the totalitarian regimes of politics, economics and technology but only the Lord God before whom all must and will bow in humility (v.3). I will bow now.
My Prayer: Abba Father, how easy or how painful can be the path leading to repentance before the Living God of Hosts. Abba, you've never hardened my heart but I've hardened my own heart against you. Please forgive me. Thank you for having opened my heart wholly to You with great joy!
Pharaoh's Loss of Control: despite Pharaoh's threat (10:28), he was no longer in control, "not even a dog would bark" (v.7) in resistance to Israel's departure. Moses was no longer asking Pharaoh, he was telling Pharaoh (v. 4ff). Despite Pharaoh's authority, it would be his servants who would send Israel out, begging them to leave (v.8). Israel would leave on the date God set (12:6).
The tables were turned: rather than Pharaoh being angry at Moses, Moses left in "hot anger" at Pharaoh (v.8). Rather than Moses seeking Pharaoh's approval, Pharaoh would ask for Moses' blessing (12:32). Rather than Egypt keeping Israel as poor slaves, Israel left freely with the wealth and plunder of Egypt (v.2).
Death of Firstborn: God's final plague struck Egypt in two ways. First, Egypt primarily worshiped life. They spent much of their time, energy and thought preparing for the afterlife. But God was greater than any underworld god; Yahweh is God of both life and death. Secondly, the firstborn of Egypt and their livestock was Egypt's future; without the next generation there would be no life. In fact, God ruled Egypt's future.
God is utterly sovereign. His timetable is certain. He will do what He has declared He will do at the exact time He chooses. God is greater than any false god of Egypt or of the underworld or of any occult personage or dark spirit in Egypt. Or elsewhere.
Personal Application: I will pray God for freedom from oppression of totalitarian governments and systems, however overwhelming they may be or seem, for God is greater.
My Prayer: Father, You are the God of hope against all odds and I seek You for deliverance from evil and from evil governments and systems standing against You and your people. Thank You for victory, now and in the day to come.
Protection of the Unblemished Lamb: Israel was to give God their best (v.5) just as God would give us His best: “the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Pet 1:19):
Blood (v.7) is required for life and represents life (Lev 17:11). Since the consequence of sin is death, blood is given in exchange for forgiveness (Heb 9:22).
The Lord's Passover (v.11) is a beautiful foretaste anticipating Jesus given in redemption for us at Calvary.
A wartime lifestyle of Pilgrimage: Unleavened bread symbolized haste - Israel would leave Egypt abruptly at the time Yahweh chose. This would allow no time for bread to rise (v.34). Unleavened bread also speaks of the length of the journey. Bread with yeast lasts up to two weeks, unleavened bread can last a year. God's people live a wartime lifestyle in their pilgrimage to the City of God.
Surrender of the gods of Egypt: When Pharaoh releases Israel without conditions (v.31-32) and asks Moses to bless him (v.32b), Pharaoh acknowledges Yahweh is God and Pharaoh is not. Nor are any of the gods overcome by earlier plagues; v. 12: "Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments - I AM Yahweh."
Plundering Egypt: Egypt had enslaved Israel, now Israel is given gold, silver and clothing for their journey, freely, since Israel found favor in the eyes of the Egyptians (v.35-36). Israel departed on foot 430 years (v.41) after they had come for refuge.
The formation of a people to be God's light to the Gentiles and to announce salvation to the earth is so momentous in the OT it can hardly be overestimated. God always works through His people and His people always face opposition, testing their allegiance to their Savior and King. The theme of joyful exodus from oppressive false gods runs through the end of Revelation and could be seen as the theme of the Bible.
Personal Application: I will patiently await deliverance from Egypt even as surveillance governments seek to strengthen control over God's people. It is God who will break the oppressor and deliver by the strength of His hand revealed in the return of Christ.
My Prayer: Father, how great and majestic are You against those who set themselves up against you. How we rejoice in your deliverance, as in history tyrants fall and in eternity we worship in freedom and joy.
Reminders of Deliverance: Israel was never to forget what God had done. To assist, God gave Israel reminders which included:
Sanctification of every first born (v.2, 15) dedicated to be holy to the Lord. This in striking contrast to the punishment of Egypt in which their first born were struck down.
Passover lamb (12:5ff) whose life is given for our deliverance.
Unleavened bread (13:3, 6, 7) reminding God's people of our need for readiness and His provision for the lengthy journey ahead for His pilgrims.
Phylacteries (v.16) meaning "prayers" or "prayer cases" - small pouches containing short sections of God's Word for prayerful meditation on the journey.
Formation of God's people "in martial array" (v.18), pointing to the fact they are not fugitives in disarray but under God's hand and purpose.
The presence of God (v.21-22) in His pillar of cloud and fire providing security, guidance and protection to final destiny.
Signs are visible pointers to invisible (spiritual) reality.
Western Christianity has focused on sacraments - few (evangelicals) or many (Catholic) - serving as pointers to ultimate reality.
Eastern Christianity values a far wider range of signs in the form of icons as aids to faith.
Beyond the signs and pointers I am perpetually in greatest need of God's unspeakably glorious and profound Presence Himself.
Personal Application: I will slow to reflect on those signs God has already given to remind us of His provision in our relationship. In addition I will watch for fresh signs God gives along the way, grateful for His heart to encourage us in our journey to His Promised Land.
My Prayer: Lord, give me eyes to see the pillar of your presence - ever present, ever sufficient, ever powerful as You lead to Paradise graciously restored in Christ.
Mismatch of no consequence: Egypt's 3-horse chariots carrying warrior and driver were the height of military power. Israel had never fielded an army but rather had spent their whole lives as slaves building for a culture preoccupied with graves (v.11). There could be no greater mismatch. God's people have often faced inequity; you may be on the short-side of such a mismatch today, utterly helpless.
Faith before sight: Moses saw the same physical terror overwhelming Israel but, in the face of it, declared what God had put into his heart, "Salvation is of/from the Lord; He will fight for you" (v.13). The angel of the Lord may be seen (v.19-20) or unseen (v.25) but is always working to advance God's Kingdom on our behalf. Israel was completely helpless and had to either rely on Yahweh for rescue or die.
Go forward: Even when God acts sovereignly and supernaturally, it seems we always remain assigned a role expressing faith (v.15). We too are easily frightened by enemies and feelings of powerlessness. When we feel boxed in, it is always wise to ask nevertheless, "What does God ask of me, which way is forward (or am I to pray only)?"
God fights for us: God saves through the timing of natural events and His overriding of natural events; or both, as likely the case holding back water (v.21). The swerving or twisting of the wheels of the chariots likewise (v.25) may have been natural or supernatural; it is of little consequence as the distinction exists more in our minds then in the Lord. We may be confident however, God can and will save by the many means in his hands.
Apparent security or the ultimate security of faith in God: "The cry of the unsurrendered heart is always, “Give me the security of slavery rather than the risk of faith” (NLT). We see this losing trade in today's broadening willingness to exchange liberty with risk for the slavery of the deep-state surveillance police state. We need not panic or accept bad exchanges. May we always choose freedom in Christ with risk and opposition from the world over the world's false promise of security for surrender.
Personal Application: I will fear not (v.13). I will not surrender to the world's false promises in exchange for the true security of faith in God. I will "go forward" (v.15) where there seems to be no way and watch the Lord contend for me and those I love.
My Prayer: Father, grant me courage in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds as totalitarian governments and ambitions increase. Show me what I am to do to "go forward" in each circumstance even if, to me, that way seems small, beside the point, or impossible. Lord, please enable me only to hear you rightly with a heart to obey.
The Song of Moses: Language changes over time but this celebration of God's victory over Egypt stands among the oldest examples of the Hebrew language in the Bible. It was sung antiphonally with Miriam leading the women in chorus (v.20-21).
Yahweh is celebrated as mighty warrior (v.3), majestic in power (v.6), worker of wonders (v.11) and Israel's healer (v.26). There is none like Him, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises (v.11). Yahweh, who has purchased Israel (v.16) and delivered them from Egypt, is fully able to establish them (v.17) in the promised land. Even those who do not acknowledge Yahweh, know this, and tremble (v.14-15).
God's Provision: It's sad to see how faithful trust in the Lord, even days later, was shortcoming of those who saw God's power displayed in their deliverance from Egypt (v.23-24). Yet we need not look far to see our own weak tendencies. God calls these opportunities to trust Him a "test" (v.25). God's commands should be seen as part of God's provision and blessing, including covenant laws which help protect us from diseases (v.26).
Personal Application: May I not quickly forget God's glorious triumphs (v.21, 24). I will meditate on God's greatness and goodness so as to have an established default spiritual position to look to when difficult or frightening circumstances come. I will focus 3 to 10 times more on God's sustaining providence than on where I may fear shortfall.
My Prayer: Father, grant me
quickness of mind to remember, and heart to trust - You who are majestic in
holiness, awesome in praises, worker of wonders (v.11)!
Yahweh is our Provider: in our extremity, God is sufficient. Learning to trust Him in the wilderness was Israel's continuing walk of faith. Trusting the Lord always is our walk of faith, not only in extremity but daily. God's daily 'ordinary' care in a 1000 different ways is no less grace than when given 'extraordinarily' as quail (v.13) or manna (v.14). God gives daily as a test (v.4) to teach us to trust him daily.
Complaint: is evidence of distrust in His faithfulness which is unfaithfulness in us. Complaint focuses on what is wrong with the present and glorifies an unreal past (v.3, NLT)). Complaint spoken to Moses and by us is in fact distrust of the Lord (v.8).
Manna: Hebrew 'man hu’ simply meant, 'What is it?.' Manna was a continuing daily miracle for 40 years (v.35). Can we still see God in those gifts which come every day? Jesus is our bread from heaven (John 6) on which we draw anew every day as we come to him in awareness both of need and thanksgiving. Can we see our daily gifts, both from heaven and those which spring from the earth?
Sabbath: (Hebrew "cessation") from gathering manna (v.23). Cessation as rest - allowing everyone a day at home away from work (v.29) - is a gift. Yet God must command his gift (v.28) because of our inclination not to trust God to supply and therefore to work everyday for our needs and wants. We instinctively resist a style of life in which it is necessary to depend on God each day...We wish to have supplies in advance so that we can feel independent (NLT). Yet God was training His people for a life of faith.
Personal Application: Look back on your life. When has the Lord not provided? Why then do I struggle, wondering if I can trust God to provide "next time"? God never fails. Even if he slay me I will trust him. I will guard my heart from complaint with trust and thanksgiving. I will not complain, either about my personal situation or about external sin or chaos in the world. I will pray only and seek to hear His voice. The Lord knows all and cares, even situations where I don't understand His workings. (Piper: He Knows Your Need)
My Prayer: Lord, you've provided far beyond my need or deserving. Enable me to escape every snare of presumption, every snare of assuming I know what is best for me, or of assuming that something I want should be mine. Lord, cause me to look up, over the wilderness, and see your glory (v.10).
Testing the Lord or being tested by the Lord: The Lord knew His people needed water in the wilderness. Would they trust Him? God welcomes the test of faith (Mark 9:24) but not the test of doubt (v.2, 7 and John 6:30). The test based on doubt makes us the judge and God the defendant (NLT). Nevertheless God proved himself, providing water (v.6) and victory (v.12-13).
We are prone to forget God's provision so easily, becoming discouraged when faced with our weakness and vulnerability. However the Lord also gives us the ability to trust Him and trust Him we must.
Joshua: this is the first mention of Joshua who Moses trusted to lead Israel in war (v.9) and later after Moses' death. Joshua means Savior in Hebrew, as it does the Greek: Jesus.
Moses' lifted hands: were visible to God as a sign of intercession and trust and were visible on the hill to the fighters as a sign of encouragement and dependence on the Lord. Moses lifted the staff high (v.9) but grew weary needing the support of Aaron his brother and Hur his brother-in-law (v.12).
Yahweh my Banner: In v. 15 Yahweh-nissi (my banner) is Israel's battle flag. The kind of banner the Lord is to his people varies according to need in Scripture but our allegiance is always to Him.
My Response: I will test the Lord in faith, never in an attitude of doubt. I will lift my eyes, hands and prayers in faith to Yahweh my banner when in need or danger. I will lift the hands of those who trust in the Lord when they are weary.
My Prayer: Lord, you are my banner; enable me to hold up my hands in prayer till provision and victory comes.
Family support in hard times: In the dangers confronting Pharaoh leading up to the Exodus, Moses had sent (v.2) his family to safety in the home of his father-in-law, Jethro, who accompanied them to Sinai (v.5) for reunion with Moses. Jethro rejoiced to hear, first hand, testimonies of God's power and goodness (v.9) and shared a sacrificial meal with Moses and the elders (v.12).
Jethro's Wisdom: These elders (v.12) were not apparently involved in helping Moses settle disputes. Moses worked alone (v.14). This weakness seems rooted in what Moses had seen modeled in Egypt where "all authority flowed from Pharaoh, who ruled by fiat (NLT)." The impact of Jethro's advice can hardly be over-estimated:
1. Rule-of-law (v.20), rather than rule-of-leader: God ruled. Moses remained also under the law of God. This is in stark contrast with Egypt where "no Egyptian law code has yet been discovered" (NLT) leaving the people under the whim of capricious leadership.
In the lengthy section which follows (Exodus 20 through Numbers 10) rule-by-God's-law is established. "Moses needed to distinguish between his teaching function, in which he received and declared God's decrees and instructions (18:19-20), and an administrative function, in which he applied all of those decrees and instructions (18:21-22) (NLT)."
2. Moral qualification of judges: Jethro suggested those who applied the law be highly moral judges who would refuse bribes (v.21). The key qualification was not educational or bureaucratic but manifest godliness.
3. Delegation: was not only to apply God's law to disputes but delegation was implemented because God has compassion on both leaders and people; desiring not to wear out leaders (v.18) which results in loss of perspective and good judgment, then not serving the people well.
Personal Application: I will select, train, delegate and trust others to advance life goal objectives in advance of my retirement. I will do so based on God's heart and character rather than my whim or authority.
My Prayer: Lord, show me to who I can delegate wisely key roles as I approach retirement.
Promise Fulfilled: Moses returned with Israel to the same place he first met Yahweh (Ex. 3:12). It is now two months after Israel's deliverance from Egypt (v.1). God had kept His promise and could be counted on to keep all His promises to come (v.5-6).
Promises Anticipated: Israel would be Yahweh's "special treasure" (v.5), "a kingdom whose citizens were all priests with access to God, and a holy nation, separated from all other nations and devoted only to God (Ryrie)."
Promise Conditional: This promise is however conditional "if you ... obey ... keep (v.5)." The conditions are expressed in the form of a suzerainty treaty, current at the time, defining the relationship between a powerful king and his vassals. It is made up of a preamble (v.3), historical introduction (v.4), obligations of each party, witnesses to the treaty, and consequences of keeping or breaking the treaty (blessings or punishments). This outline is followed from Exodus 19 through Numbers 10. To "listen and heed" is key to the covenant (v.5-6).
Utterly Holy: Yahweh's perfection is pure and unmixed. Therefore the unclean cannot come near without preparation and safeguards (v.10-25). For the protection of His people also, God does not appear to them directly; He is shrouded in thick cloud and smoke to prevent Israel's gaze and death (v.21).
The Theophany: is expressed in earthquake, smoke and fire and thunder. Even the sound of the trumpet came from the presence of Yahweh (v.18-19). God appeared that Israel might take their covenant with Him seriously and that they might believe Moses as Yahweh's representative in their midst (v.9). They committed to this (v.8) but the brevity of Israel's memory is legendary (Ex. 28)
Profound themes of relationship: God's holiness, majestic theophany, covenant treaty with His people and the necessity of boundaries unless being called to cross with a mediator bringing us near to God. God intends all His people to have access to Him and all His people to be separated unto Him from the world as testimony to the world of God who alone is Yahweh.
Personal Response: I will draw near the Father, holding the hand of Jesus, my sacrifice, mediator and High Priest. I will respect God's boundaries and cross those boundaries He calls me to, in relationship with Him, and in ministry.
My Prayer: Lord, You are amazing! I want to draw near, with Jesus as my covering, and stand in awe, kneel in awe, in wonder and love forever.
The Ten Commandments are a summary of the terms of the covenant offered us by God, more fully spelled out in Exodus 19 to Numbers 10. This covenant says several incredibly important things which cannot be overemphasized or fully appreciated even in a life-time of engagement:
1. God is committed to relationship; He is a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God,
2. The relationship is personal, possible, reasonable and of infinite consequence,
3. The terms of the covenant are absolute (unlike other Near East codes which, being polytheistic, can offer only competing claims),
4. Our relationship with God and with His people cannot be separated (unlike others in the Near East of the time). We have relational obligations to both God and man.
Is God's covenant for my benefit (relationship with the Living God) or His (worship and honor)? God's covenant (as is true in every false "either/or" choice) is not to be so separated but bless both. In this context then, is worship a "benefit" to God? No, worship is our only possible, reasonable response and His absolute due.
Monotheism: God is identified in the first four commandments. God is Israel's rescuer (v.2), the only true God (v.3), transcendent and beyond representation (v.4). When people make images as idols (v.4) they lessen God and worship some aspect of creation rather than the Creator.
Vast consequences: The sins of one generation, i.e. breaking covenant, affect several following generations negatively (v.5). Graciously, God limits this consequence to 3 or 4 generations and extends the blessing of faithfulness to incomparably more generations. It is vital therefore that we live faithfully to His covenant, whatever the cost, to prevent self-destruction and to bring immeasurable blessing to future generations.
Love and hate: in scripture are far more than feelings. "To "love" is to choose and act consistently with that choice. To "hate" is to reject and act in ways consistent with that choice."(NLT) This applies to love and hate in both "tables" of God's covenant.
Why the Law? We are not to be afraid of God (v.20) though He is awesome beyond measure, to be utterly respected and will always follow-through on His promises and warnings (v.19-20). The terms of His covenant and warnings are "that you may not sin" (v.20) or suffer the consequence, but rather be blessed.
Practical Applications: I am bound in my relationships by Yahweh's covenant. We are not victims of our feelings. We make choices which affect our feelings & vice versa but covenant-keepers live consistently with their choices. I will give priority to nurturing the next generation in their relationship with the Lord of the covenant also. This is among the most important things I can do, recognizing older souls often become hard-hearted over time.
My Prayer: Lord, give me a deeper heart for relationship with You, to honor You, to keep your covenant. This alone is my life's joy and above all else.
Exodus 21 - after the 'core' Ten Commandments come details of the covenant involving application of these principles.
Debt-Slaves: Slavery was the common practice by which debtors paid their debt, hence the term "debt slave" and the adage "debt is slavery." Even children could suffer the slave-consequence of their parent's debt (v.1-11).
Application: Can we miss it? Better to be poor than a slave, never go into debt.
Protective Principles: The line between buying a concubine (v.8) or 'second-wife' (v.10) and bride-price for a son are somewhat blurred (vs. 7-11) as is the line between 'hired man' and slave paying off his debt - but the principles are clear:
A debt, however large, is dispelled in six years and the debtor released - though allowed to stay if life has been better with his new master then before (v.6).
The debtor cannot be sold to a foreign people who do not respect God's covenant (v.8).
Debt-slaves remained, while the debt was being repaid, citizens of Israel, the distinction between foreigners and Israel remaining vital for the protection of debt-slaves, particularly in light of the cruelty of surrounding pagan nations.
Violence against a citizen-slave resulted in cancelation of the debt and return to freedom (v.26, 27).
Capital punishment brings final justice to one who murders (premeditatively (v. 12-14) or via one's animal (v. 29), kidnaps (v.16), or does violence to parents by striking (v.15) or cursing (v.17), or to a pregnant woman resulting in a prematurely born child (v.22-23). Capital punishment protects the community from repeated harm.
Limits to punishment in non-capital offences: fit the crime (v.24-25) ending the practice of escalating cycles of revenge so common outside of Judeo-Christian cultures.
God is committed by His character to justice in this life, resulting in a safe society, or, since justice isn't always done in this life, God will complete justice in the life to come for those who reject His grace.
Personal Application: I will insist on justice for others, especially for the weak and marginalized; not just for myself.
My Prayer: Lord, give me your heart for the weak and marginalized, for those who cannot gain justice for themselves.
Justice is essentially about protecting the powerless from the powerful. "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him; you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (v.21)
Theft: thieves must return stolen property and multiples of it (v.1,4). Self-defense against a thief at night, even if it results in the thief's death, does not incur bloodguilt (v.2). In daylight however, when there is less chance of the death of the thief being an accident, provision for the family of the thief must be made since the thief was their provider, even if it means the householder becomes a debt-slave (v.3; cf. 21:1-11).
Restitution: all behavior has consequences including misbehavior (v.5) and accidents v.6). This consequence includes restitution to those harmed. Borrowing and Lending: Likewise in borrowing property the borrower is responsible (v.14), in contrast to the owner helping his neighbor in a circumstance where his property remains under his control (v.15). In economics, forgiveness is not given in place of restitution, rather both are part of restoring right relationship.
The Poor and Powerless: Just as only the borrowed item (e.g. ox or axe) is the be returned, likewise with money (v.25) only that which was lent is to be returned, not more. This is especially so with the poor. Even collateral needed by the borrower is not under absolute control of the lender but lent in return to the poor (v.26-28). God cares about the powerless with passion (v.21-24) (e.g. the poor, strangers, orphans and widows; those without the protection and provision of family, etc.)
First-fruit: God is the giver of all good things which sustain us. In gratitude we return to Him the first fruit of the harvest (v.29), the womb of marriage and flocks of the field (v.30) for His service. All of life is for His service, first-fruit but a pointer.
Personal Application: I must never use power to personal advantage, all the more not at the expense of those with less power, e.g. employ a poor person at a lower wage than I can fairly give, push people around to meet my goals. I will distinguish between those who are disadvantaged, and help those who are most disadvantaged, especially those who receive least assistance. The disadvantage may be social, economic, educational or medical need, certainly need and distance from Christ.
My Prayer: Father, give me the tender compassion of a father to all. Justice is essentially about protecting the powerless from the powerful.
Justice must be impartial (blind): It must not be influenced by mob (majority/multitude, v.2), economic status (v.3), whether the other likes you or you like him (v.4-5) or by bribe (v.8). If justice were not impartial it would not be justice.
Sabbath: the gift of rest is given equally to the worker, his animals (v.12) and to his field (v.11), with the benefits going to the poor.
False gods: are to be ignored and forgotten, not even mentioned (v.13). The entire reason the Canaanites are to be destroyed (v.23) or driven out (v.29-30) is to keep their gods from intruding into God's purpose to produce a holy people out of which would come the Messiah as Savior and Lord of all the earth, destroying the works of evil. (e.g. v.19b is a Canaanite ritual in which the mother's milk is then poured on the ground to make it more fertile)
Destroying the Canaanites: The conquest is frequently challenged by those who reject it's purpose. God makes His purpose clear however (v.33). We need look no further.
Angel of the LORD: The messenger's name is not given and could be One inhabiting the pillar of cloud and fire, Moses or a member of the Trinity. More important than the identity of God's messenger however is that Yahweh's name (I AM) is in His messenger (v.21).
Holy People: God's purpose is utterly without compromise. He will form a holy people utterly devoted to Him. He will do this by making covenant with them and utterly overthrowing the false gods around them (v.24); abundantly blessing (v.25) those who keep covenant with Him.
God's blessing: to His holy covenant people are all we need to flourish in His presence, rest and refreshment (v.11-12), health, fruitfulness, and protection from enemies (v.25-27).
Personal Application: How do we apply sabbath benefits to the poor today? We can give gifts to the poor each Sabbath, with a review every 6 years with a view to giving more according to wealth accumulated during the period. I will stand/fight for justice even if alone. I will receive God's gift of Sabbath rest gratefully and not ignore it. I will give to the gospel and to the poor, both a graduated tithe and all beyond a defined threshold. I will turn away from all false gods who seek my allegiance, both demonic and material; world, flesh (sarx) and the devil. I will keep covenant in every moment, thought and deed of my awareness.
My Prayer: Father, how deep your desire for a holy people who reflect your just and compassionate character and Kingdom. May we be that holy people. May we bring glory to You. May others come to know You as they see You in us.
Call to Worship: In one the most amazing chapters of the OT, Moses and the elders are called near to worship Yahweh (v.1-2). There is nothing greater than to be called by God (v.16), be with Him (v.18), see Him (v.10), eat & drink with Him (v.11).
"Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank." (v.11)
Covenant Written and Ratified: Moses wrote what God had spoken (v.4) and read from what he had written (v.7). The Book of the Covenant (v.7) is likely contained in the Pentateuch. The covenant was ratified both before (v.3) and after (v.5-8) Moses wrote down its terms.
The covenant was ratified both with the words of Israel: "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!" (v.3,7) and with the blood of the covenant (v.6, 8).
Banqueting in the Presence of the Glory of the Lord (v.11): may be seen as an amazing foretaste of wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev.19:9). The glory of God is seen as a consuming fire (v.17) and as One under whose feet is a pavement of sapphire (v.10).
Moses is called into the fiery cloud for 40 days (v.18) to know the I AM who called him and so be prepared for the 40 years to come.
Personal Application: I will worship and seek His face. Oh to see God and live in His presence.
My Prayer: Lord, may I see, hear and know You and live.
The Tabernacle: speaks of God's deep desire to restore after the fall His intention to "dwell among" us (v.8) and us with Him. The prominence of the tabernacle shows the centrality of that desire. Then yet more personally, Jesus Christ "tabernacled" among us (John 1:14, Heb. 10:19-20). As God comes to tabernacle among us He brings mercy (Ex.25:17), revelation (v.22, "I will speak") and testimony (v.21) of the truth expressed in the law of the covenant. The term "sanctuary" (v.8) is literally here (not "place of protection" but) "the holy place."
The Meaning of Pattern (v.9): God is very particular as to how the tabernacle is to be built. "Fifty chapters of the Bible report instructions concerning the tabernacle: 13 in Exodus, 18 in Leviticus, 13 in Numbers, 2 in Deuteronomy and 4 in Hebrews" (Ryrie). Hebrews 9:11, 10:1 distinguishes between "form" and "shadow" suggesting the earthly tabernacle reflects a perfect tabernacle "not of this creation." The earthly tabernacle then reflects a wonderfully greater reality beyond. Since worship in the presence of the Lord is central to the tabernacle, many earthly worship leaders seek to follow the pattern of the tabernacle also (link).
Mercy Seat: God gives mercy (v.17), let's not miss this central wonder in the details of the material and dimensions of the mercy seat. The term may more literally be translated "propitiatory shelter," which served also as cover or lid for the chest called ark of the covenant. God meets with us and speaks to His people from above the ark of the testimony (covenant), between the cherubim.
Table for Bread: speaks of the table fellowship God desires with us. The bread itself is called "bread of the presence" of God (v.30) and points ahead to the bread of the New Testament communion table.
The Lampstand: speaks of God as the light of His people. There are seven flames on the lampstand, following the "pattern" of heaven seen also in Revelation 4:5.
Personal Application: I desperately need communion with God and am so grateful for His initiative to give Himself, bridging the gap I've created. Symbols of this self-giving (the ark, bread, lampstand etc.) are powerful because each points to a greater reality which is ultimate reality. "There I will meet with you" (v.22); I must meet with God on His terms. He has provided the way, in his Covenant, the Tabernacle and in the cross of Christ.
My Prayer: Father, you revealed something of the glory of heaven to your children on earth in the tabernacle representing your presence, your "real presence," among us. Father, 50 chapters detailing the tabernacle - the place of your meeting with your children - then the incarnation! How deeply You desire communion with us, as you did in the garden, now, and do again in heaven to come. Father, cause in me the depth of desire You alone can place in me for this unspeakable, glorious, ongoing encounter with your Holiness.
Why the Detail? Some find tabernacle construction details tedious. That observation alone would miss vital points, including:
1. God is so immensely holy, His people in their sin had to be protected from direct contact lest they die. God therefore dwells in the "holy of holies" (v.33) behind a veil (said by Josephus to be 4 inches thick). When Christ our high priest offered himself, once for all, the veil was torn for our access to God (Mark 15:38, Heb. 10:19ff)!
2. Israel, in worshipping Jehovah turned their faces west (since they entered from the east, v.22), the opposite of Egypt and other pagans who worshiped the rising sun. Israel rather worshipped the God who made the sun and them (Jamieson).
3. Unity: The tabernacle is designed to be a single unit (v.6,11). This emphasis may point to the unity of God, His Lordship over all of life or to the unity his people who worship there.
4. Reflection of Reality: The tabernacle is according to a plan or pattern given by God (v.30), the shadow of a reality which will be seen in fullness in heaven.
Personal Application: I will respect, yes, fall on my face before the Holy One, my true Father to whom I now have full access in Christ. Only in His presence may I know myself as I am. Because the tabernacle, where God's people meet, is "a unit" (v.6,11), those who meet there must be one. I will love and respect God's people from all Biblical traditions. I will work to enable the whole Body of Christ to recognize and live this unity of worship, fellowship and mission.
My Prayer: Father, let me live in Your presence today, gloriously conscious of Your holiness and love. Thank you for the tabernacle given to Israel and for the heavenly reality yet to be seen in fullness.
Details of the altar of sacrifice for sin, the court where worshippers would gather and the lamps which burned continually to represent the God who is always present (v.20), are given to Moses. Matthew Henry offers an allegory for each:
The Wooden Altar which is hollow so that it can be carried and covered with bronze so it is not consumed is a type of the sacrifice of Christ. "The wood would have been consumed by the fire from heaven, if it had not been secured by the brass: nor could the human nature of Christ have borne the wrath of God, if it had not been supported by Divine power."
The Outer Court contained the tabernacle. Henry points out this distinction represents similarly "the difference between the visible nominal church, and the true spiritual church, which alone has access to God, and communion with him." Striking to me in this reading is the smallness of the tabernacle court, holding perhaps 1000 people standing, compared to the community of perhaps 1 million. Perhaps initially only key leaders had the privilege and to the rest, the tabernacle was a symbol of His Presence.
The Lamp Continually Burning: Finally, "the pure oil signified the gifts and graces of the Spirit, which all believers receive from Christ, the good Olive, and without which our light cannot shine before men....Blessed be God, this light is not now confined to the Jewish tabernacle, but is a light to lighten the gentiles, and for salvation unto the ends of the earth."
Personal Applications: Praise the Lord! Christ's sacrifice is once and for all, utterly sufficient, never needing to be repeated. By this grace, I want above all, to be in the presence of the Lord in that place made holy by him. There I do not stand alone but with those given to him. We are made for communion with Him who has redeemed us and to whom we are always present near his glory. Time stands still, there where nothing is more important than to be with Him. I will begin each day in His presence.
My Prayer: To be in Your presence, Lord, to be conscious first and only of You, is worship and ecstasy. By the call and grace of Christ, I come to You.
Glory and beauty: God's holiness is not to be approached casually but with deliberate preparation of heart and mind. Even priests' garments are prepared with skill and wisdom for "glory and beauty" (v.2, 40) reflecting their high calling before the Lord (v.4).
Bringing names before the Lord: The names of the tribes are engraved on onyx stones (v.9) to bring before the Lord (v.12) over the priest's heart when he enters the holy place continually (v.29-30).
Holy to the Lord: Also engraved is the phrase "holy to the Lord" (v.36) on a gold plate to be worn on the priest's forehead, keeping central his purpose for entering the holy place. All this is to bring representation of the people, taking away iniquity, that they may be accepted into the Lord's presence (v.38, 43). In Christ, we are now also priests before the Lord. When I pray, I bring into the Lord's presence (v.29-30,38) those for whom I pray, as Aaron brought the names of the children of Israel.
Personal Application: I am / may be the only person bringing another into the Lord's presence; I must not neglect to pray for people, particularly those with great responsibilities and those for whom no one else is praying. Perhaps retirement will bring the fulfillment of the highest call or greatest effectiveness yet - through extended systematic and responsive prayer for those I know and those I don't. Perhaps I should consider retiring early for this purpose.
My Prayer: Lord, I don't understand how prayer participates in the battle for the souls of men and nations, perhaps even the obedience of the universe to Your redemptive purpose, but I ask to be enabled to participate fully. Show me, Lord…
Consecration: Because atonement is God's greatest gift to His sinful people, those who represent the people in the sacrifices involved in atonement have been given a high calling. This high calling is highlighted in their consecration to this task of mediation. The priest must first be accepted by God, so that the purpose of their task can be accepted. Moses high calling is indicated in that he is the one who consecrates Aaron and his sons as priests to that high office.
Elements of consecration: Priests were consecrated at the door of the tabernacle (v.4), appropriate as they were to mediate between God who dwells in the tabernacle and the people who come to Him in the tabernacle. They are washed (v.4), specially clothed (v.5-9), anointed (v.7), cleansed from sin and atoned for by virtue of sacrifices (10-18, 20-21) and are so equipped for their role.
Effects of the consecration: The fact Aaron and his sons are invited to share a meal of the completed sacrifice (v.32-34) in the presence of the Lord is evidence God has accepted their consecration and atoning work as priests. The gift and result is nothing less than fellowship with God! - "that I may dwell among them; I am the Lord their God" (v.46).
The Person and the Office: Since Jesus as high priest has caused the need for sacrifice to cease there is no office of priests among men. We respect now those consecrated to other leadership roles in the church in response to the Lord's calling. The office however does not function independently of the person, so the person must be holy in conduct and devotion to the Lord and not simply rely on their office.
Personal application: I will consecrate myself to the Lord's service, set apart from the darkness of the world, to reflect His glory. I will renew remembrance of this high calling and purpose daily at the beginning of the day and walk in it. I will enjoy the gift of fellowship in the presence of the Lord in worship and meditation.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for providing in Jesus and accepting His sacrifice which restores us to fellowship with You! I glory in you, love and worship you, delight in you forever! Praise your holy name! Amen.
God is holy and our worship of Him must be pure and holy.
Incense: is perfumed (v.34-38) and to be burned perpetually (v.8) as an offering to the Lord. The offering involves atonement (v.10). Incense continues to be used in Catholic and Orthodox worship representing prayer rising to the Lord (Rev. 5:8).
Laver (large bronze bowl): was for cleansing (v.19) in order to approach the altar (v.20) in spotless holiness.
Anointing oil and incense: were both the work of a perfumer (v.25, 35) to provide an enjoyable odor to the Lord (and perhaps a contrast to the smell involved in butchering offering animals). The tabernacle and it's furnishings (v.26-28) are anointed with the perfume. This anointing of these furnishings consecrated them in a way that priests and Levites who touched them would also be made holy (v.29) rather than die as would those not consecrated to this service (2 Sam. 6:7).
Census tax: enabled Moses to number the people and provide silver for tabernacle furnishings (v.16; 38:25ff).
Personal Application: I am atoned by Him, He makes me holy (v29). I must therefore not make myself unclean again by returning to sin. I will be a fragrant offering to the Lord in my life and in my prayers. I must be holy, for He is Holy, and am called to bring all peoples to holiness through His atonement. (All of creation must also be consecrated to it's creator, restored to Him, made holy.)
(v.6) "You shall put this altar (of incense) in front of the veil that is...in front of the mercy seat that is over the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with you."
My Prayer: Lord, I confess I repeatedly go back to sin when You have made me holy. Forgive and cleanse me again by the efficacy of the Cross. I have no other hope but Jesus, in whom I pray. May it be so. Oh, for the power to be holy!
God's purpose: "I am the Lord who sanctifies you" (v.13): God desires and is committed to your and my sanctification. He works towards our sanctification continually for His glory. It is for our sanctification that God designed the tabernacle with it's progression from the altar to the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies. For this purpose He established the priesthood and gave the Sabbath (v.13, 16) and tablets of the law of the covenant (v.18). I must not settle for gradualism. I will set my heart on the purity of His glory in me now.
God's Glory: In all the art and craftsmanship expressed in every component of the tabernacle (v.7-11) God ensured the love, beauty and glory of His relationship with His people would be expressed and seen. Therefore He chose men (Bezalel, v. 1; Oholiab, v.6) prepared and gifted for their work with His Spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and craftsmanship (v.3) to do the work.
God's Sabbath: Even as these men worked to build the tabernacle and it's holy furniture, the Sabbath "of complete rest, holy to the Lord" (v.15) applied.
As a child I grew up in a small community that honoured the Lord and His Sabbath. This was decried as legalism by a society who rejected God's rest and chose rather a lifestyle marked by overwork and stress. Why are the Mosaic sanctions against Sabbath-breaking so harsh (v.14)? Because God's rest is a gift and if we don't rest in His presence we will break down and fail.
Personal Application: In work and rest, I am His. All "my" gifts are from God, are God's, and are for God and His service and Glory forever. I will receive the Sabbath as a gift of grace for rest (v.15) and refreshment (v.17). I will drink deeply of His goodness in work, worship and in rest.
My Prayer: Lord, Your covenant was written by Your own Finger on stone for permanence (v.18). How life-giving it must be for You to have done this! May I love and keep Your covenant, new and enriched in Christ, with exceeding joy!
Aaron's cowardly compromise: When Israel's heart turned back to the gods of Egypt (v.1), Aaron accommodated their idolatry (v.2-4), likely from fear, and proposed worshiping Yahweh (v.5) alongside the gods of Egypt.
Corruption: syncretism drew Israel down to unfaithfulness and up to "play" (euphemism in v.6). God saw their corruption (v.7-10) and was angry.
God's eternal purpose - undeterred: God has an eternal redemptive purpose which He will accomplish - even if He has to start over by removing Israel and beginning anew with Moses's desendants (v. 10).
Moses' Intercession: Moses appealed to God's miraculous intervention in Egypt, His promises and reputation (v.11-13) and, remarkably, scripture records "Yahweh changed His mind" (v.14), a majestic illustration of God's ear to the heart of an intercessor!
Moses' Anger: Having so battled for Israel's very existence, Moses returned to the camp, dashing the stone tablets which defined God's covenant with them to the ground (v.19), destroying the Egyptian idol and making the Israelites ingest it (v.20).
Aaron's excuse and Israel's punishment: Aaron's exaggerated account (v.24) did not belie the fact that Israel remained out of control (v.25) to that very moment. When Moses called those remaining faithful to the Lord out from among the revelers only the sons of Levi responded (v.26) and they were commissioned to execute punishment on Israel (v.27-28).
Restoration: Those who reminded were called to dedicate themselves to Yahweh (v.29). In this we see punishment and forgiveness are not opposites. It is significant that Moses punished Israel with the sword (v.28) and Yahweh with the withdrawal of His presence (33:2-3) in the process of restoration. (v.32).
Even so, God forgave Aaron and allowed him to continue as High Priest - amazing grace! From this I'm reminded I need from the Lord the same grace He showed to Aaron, and He shows to me, for those around me .
Moses' Second Intercession: Moses returned to the mountain of the Lord to seek forgiveness for Israel. (v.30-31). Moses again pled that God would restore Israel rather then begin again with himself (v.34).
Personal Application: I like Aaron, who was able to be led, intimidated, and in fact lead God's people into sin, too am able to loose my focus, my calling to abide in Christ, and His assigned mission to me. Lord, protect me.
I will not turn back to any gods of secularism, syncretism, gospel 'lite' or other compromise. Rather I will keep sharp focus and strong courage in following the Lord. I will also, like Moses, be an intercessor (v.11-13, 31-32) for God's people, individually and corporately, where we compromise and loose focus or courage.
My Prayer: Father, give me equal passion - both for Your holiness and Your mission, for repentance and for overflowing grace. Enable me to give up on no one, unless You explicitly tell me to.
God doesn't always enjoy the company of His people: The idea may seem shocking but after Israel's worship of Egypt's golden calf, rejecting Yahweh who delivered them, God sends His people forward to Canaan (v.1) but doesn't want to accompany them personally (v.3). Rather He offers to send an angel (v.2). It seems God doesn't trust Himself not to destroy Israel on the way (v. 3-5) when they next show their flagrant disrespect.
Tent of Meeting: Moses is deeply aware of his need for guidance. His "prayer room" is a private place of meeting where Moses communes with God as a "man speaks with his friend" (v.11). The tabernacle (yet to be built) may be seen as a public expansion of Moses' private place of encounter with God (v.10).
Moses' prayer: as God declares Moses must go into Canaan without Him, Moses asks, with increasing boldness
1.) to know God and His ways and to know assurance of His favor (v.13), and
2.) to know who will accompany him to Canaan (v.12) and, more specifically, that God Himself would accompany them, demonstrating that God has distinguished Israel from the other peoples of the earth (v.16).
May God not only accompany Moses (v.14) but "us" (v.15) as corporate Israel.
Moses prayer is granted (v.17). How amazing that we can ask such great things of God and be heard!
Moses then asks, 3.) to see Yahweh's glory as evidence (v.18).
God's answer: God hears all three of Moses' requests. Yet Moses cannot physically bear to see God's unshielded face (v.20), therefore God will
1.) cause His goodness to pass by Moses and
2.) declare His name (I AM) before Moses, which includes unilateral (sovereign) grace and compassion (v.19), and will
3.) shelter Moses enabling him to see God - at least God's back as He passes, protecting Moses from seeing His face (v.23).
Intimacy with Holy God: God does desire intimacy with His people (worship, communion, prayer) but in the context of holiness.
Moses too desired this intimacy, refusing to go to Canaan if God didn't accompany him (v.15) and wanting to see God's glory (v.18) in order to know Him intimately.
Personal Application: This intimacy with God must be our greatest desire and without question is our greatest need as we advance in the hazardous rescue mission to which God has called us to accompany Him. I will go daily to a "tent of meeting" (a quiet place, physically and in my heart & schedule) to know Him, seek His will and power, and be reminded of His ways.
My Prayer: (Moses: v.17) "I pray You, show me Your glory!" (Dare I ask and face God's glory?) Lord, give me courage to ask and see your glory!
(This is a bigger question for me than
it may appear because, when the Lord called me out of
despair in college (1969), I heard Him proclaim His
name in a vision, and in it
experienced the terror of being unexpectedly in the power of His presence. The
experience transformed my life but cannot be put into words.)
Responsibility: Moses broke the stone tablets in anger against Israel (Ex. 32:19) and he is now responsible to cut out new ones (v.1) for God to write on again. Moses did so and returned to the mountain (v.5).
Encounter and Revelation: Moses called on the great I AM. The Lord came down and stood with Moses and spoke (v.5), saying I AM - My nature is compassion, grace, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness and truth, forgiving...yet consequences of human unfaithfulness follow even through the generations (v. 6-7).
Our only response can be to worship (v.8). Always the angels cry, Glory, Glory, Glory, Holy, Holy, Holy.
(Unconditional) Request and (Conditional) Response: Moses makes an unconditional request for God's presence and blessing (v. 9) but God does not give an unconditional response, rather offers promises (v.10-11) based on a conditional covenant (v.10-27). This covenant, perfectly fulfilled by Christ, remains conditional to our response.
Covenant: These requirements include a) separation from those who serve false gods (i.e. no covenants or intermarriage or idols, v.11-17), b.) feasts to remember and celebrate God's character (Unleavened Bread, Weeks, Ingathering, v.18,22-23), c) devotion of all first born to the Lord (v.19-20), d) Sabbath rest (v.21) and e.) pure sacrifices (v.25-26). The written covenant is the foundation of scripture (v.27) beginning with the Pentatuch.
God's covenant is not to be trifled with and His face is to be sought diligently in responsible relationship.
The Glory of the Lord: empowered Moses to fast food and water without harm (v.28) focusing exclusively on the Lord, and the encounter caused Moses face to shine (v.29ff). Moses returned to the source of God's glory repeatedly to be replenished and receive direction (v.34).
Personal Application: This ongoing encounter with the Lord is our highest call from which all else flows. I too am firstborn (v.19), first fruit (v.26) and belong to the Lord. I want to be like Moses, so near the Lord that my face shines (v.29-35). I will enter into the tent of meeting daily.
My Prayer: Lord, may I walk and talk with You as Moses did. Lord, go with me and Your people, in our midst...take us as Your own possession.
God gives gifts to His holy people, including the gift of Sabbath rest (v.2), His own presence, forgiveness and protection.
God's people are invited to give the materials from which the tabernacle of His presence will be constructed. These are to be voluntary from a willing heart (v.5,21,22,29) just as God's gifts to us are voluntary from a willing heart.
Craftsmanship: God gave skills to women (v.25-26) and to men (v.30-33) to design and bring about works of beauty to the glory of God (v.35) as well as to train others to do the same (v.34). The community gave together (v.5) and worked together (v.10) to bring into being from the pattern given by God, this expression of His redemptive presence, mission and glory.
Personal Application: I will value community and unity. I make my best contribution when I do so in community (v.10), with a willing heart (v.5), under leadership (v.31ff) to the Glory of God. I will use my gifts from God for the good of the community and for the glory of God who gave them.
Lord help me work together effectively with others and to help others
work together effectively for Your redemptive mission and Glory.
The Joy of Giving: The people continued to give daily (v.3) until there was "more than enough" (v.5) to build the tabernacle. In the end, the people had to be restrained from bringing more (v.6). In addition, those with skill volunteered their labour (v.2) till the task was complete.
The Purpose of Giving: God desires to "tabernacle" among His people that we might enjoy and even be overwhelmed by ineffable communion with Him.
(The remainder of this section repeats the instruction of chapter 26).
Personal Application: Efforts and contributions given freely for a great cause (v.3) are far greater than any extracted under requirement. I will respond immediately, generously, joyfully and freely as God stirs my heart (v.2) to needs and people and godly causes as God's Kingdom expands by grace.
My Prayer: Father, give me ears to know of ways in which You would have me give and serve that You be known and glorified forever.
The Ark of the Covenant: The Ark of the Covenant represents Lord's presence in the Most Holy Place (v.1-9). The Ark holds the terms of God's covenant with Israel. This covenant, like the ark of Noah and the ark which floated baby Moses on the Nile, provides safety and salvation as did these earlier arks.
The Mercy Seat: The lid of the ark is called the mercy seat on which two cherubim are seated (v.9) representing the presence of God who gives mercy to those who seek Him. This mercy seat in the Old Covenant is the foot of the cross in the New Covenant. Where does the line between restoration or loss, lie? It lies at the point where one turns always and only towards God's mercy seat, or away from Him.
The Furnishings: The table held the bread of the presence of God and drink offering to God which speak to us of the communion meal Jesus shared with his disciples and now shares with us. The lampstand holding seven lamps point to the presence of the Lord in Rev. 4:5. The ultimate gift of God to us is God Himself.
Worship: The altar of incense is the place of outpouring ourselves to the Lord in worship. Worship involves all the senses; our hearts, voices, physical posture and even fragrant aroma!
Application: May I be poured out before Him as a
drink offering (v.16) and to give mercy to others as He wonderfully gives mercy
to me. I will cling to the Lord as my only
Ark of salvation, source of mercy and reason for worship.
Lord, I have received mercy - grace upon grace - so many times
I am utterly humbled and will
praise You forever! I
delight in being, like the cherubim, facing always and only Your mercy seat.
The Bronze Altar: Represents our sacrifice to the Lord and Christ's sacrifice in our place. Though 7.5 feet across and 4.5 feet high (v.1), the altar was hollow (v.7) so it could be carried by a pilgrim people to stay focused on the Holy One, whose purpose was to make them holy also.
Laver: Water in the laver enabled priests to see themselves rightly in the reflection of the water before they washed. The reference to mirrors (v.38) reinforces the notion of honest self-awareness as we come to the Lord.
Curtains: The curtains around the tabernacle shielded worshipers from distraction enabling singular focus on the Holy One (v.9-20).
Worthy of the Lord: The fabric material (v.23), elaborate engravings, a literal ton of gold (v.24), 2.5 tons of bronze (v.29) four tons of silver (v.25) all point to but cannot reflect the value of the God we worship without limit.
Personal Application: I cannot give more than God is worth, either in worship or in service to His redemptive mission. I will worship in my QT following the Tabernacle pattern (detailed here) and in corporate worship when with a congregation which values the pattern. I will use material things (clothes, tools, equipment) as long they function or can be repaired in order to give generously to others.
Lord, make me a worshipper and a giver.
Gold and precious stones: Gold is prominent in the garments of the high priest. Gold sheets are cut into threads to be woven into the materials used for clothing (v.3). Chains for the breastplate were made of gold (v.15), as were the rings through which gold cords passed (v.17) and gold bells for the robe's hem (v.(26). On the high priest's head rested a crown of gold (v.30) engraved with the purpose of it all: "Holy to the Lord!"
Called to Holiness: The breastplate of the priest keeps a reminder of the twelve tribes of Israel before the Lord, represented by twelve precious stones (v.14). Israel, like the high priest, is called to be "Holy to the Lord" (v 30). Likewise Jesus, our high priest, holds our name before the Father (Heb.9 and 10) and cleanses us by His own blood that we might be holy.
I am represented before the Father now and always in Christ. I cannot earn what is already freely given and mine; acceptance by the Father, given in the cross of Christ by my great and holy High Priest. What majesty, joy and calling are in this chapter!
Personal Application: I will hold myself accountable to live holy before the Lord (v.30) and to give grace to others freely always as they have need. I will do both without playing one (holiness) against the other (grace). I will not protect others from wrestling with how to live both also.
Lord, I want be holy as you are holy. I want to be full of grace as You
are full of grace. Father, empower me to be full of holiness and grace,
broken by your Holy Spirit!
Moses finished his work (v.33). One year after Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt (v.17) and nine months after their arrival at Sinai (19:1) the Tent of Meeting is erected. Establishing Israel's covenant relationship with Yahweh has been Moses primary work. This he has now done. Entering the promised land will be the work of another. How deeply I desire to finish the work God has given me.
Dedication of the Tent of Meeting: The tabernacle where God dwells with His people is also frequently called the Tent of Meeting, or most literally, the Tent of Appointment, where Israel keeps her regular appointments with Yahweh. These appointments can be seen as precursors to a daily "quiet time" many Christians seek to keep.
The Glory of God: descends from the cloud of His presence and fills the tabernacle with such intensity that Moses is unable to enter (v.34-35). Some have termed this experience "the weight of His Glory." Do we seek such an encounter with the Lord? May we be granted the experience.
The Guidance of God: in the Pillar of Cloud and Fire the Lord presences Himself with His people and guides them both day and night (v.38). The wilderness of Israel's experience was physical. Ours may be of another form. The Lord's faithful presence and guidance is constant.
The Lord wants to use holy, anointed (v.9) people for His purposes. Yet it is not we, but He, who calls, anoints and makes us holy.
I will ask the Lord to enable me to know fully, not be distracted and to complete fully the work to which He as called me.
I expect to be led, as Israel was, through the wilderness by the Lord's presence and direction to fulfilling my calling, to His best for me and for His fallen world.
I will seek His face daily that I may benefit fully from His gracious purposes.
My Prayer: Lord, guide me with such clarity that I am certain of each decision and turn on the way. Above all may I know your presence tangibly today.