Some Short Thoughts On Daniel – Vacation post 8

I am on vacation until the 6th Aug. While on vacation I am posting some thoughts on Daniel…

 

Recently, two American missionaries in England were stopped from handing out tracks to Muslims in a Muslim area of England. They were accused of a hate crime. In England it has become improper for a Christian to try and convert a Muslim because it will OFFEND THEM! So Christians are discouraged to try and force an ethnic minority to believe in ‘Christianity.’ Part of that is because Christianity is seen as western, white, religion, but also because it is politically incorrect. Our Culture says that no-one has the right to tell you what to do or believe.

 

And that alone, challenges Christians to compromise aspects of our belief in God.

 

Christians are seen as bigoted, or fundamentalist, or unloving, intellectually stupid and even weak for believing in and trusting what scripture has to say and so we step back, and do not say the things we should say or do the things we should do because we are afraid of the consequences or what people will say to us.

 

If you see someone at school getting beaten up do you step in between them and stand with the person getting beaten? Or would you just slip by? Hey, wait a minute, you might say, that’s not fair. I could get beaten up – I would lose my reputation – I couldn’t make a difference – but you WOULD be making a difference to that one person and for most of us stepping in is just too much trouble for us.

 

So, what is it that makes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego NOT worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue?

 

How easy it would have been to just bow, shout and make believe that they were worshipping the statute.

 

Yet their action in NOT worshipping it is so noticeable that some of the dudes they work with tell the King that they are not obeying the command to worship the statute.

 

Now notice something here – they are ratted out by the people they work with. I don’t think Sadrach, Meshach and Abedego were the cool kids on the block – part of the gang. There seems to be some jealousy here. They were looking for a reason to drop the three into something that would get them into trouble. Maybe the three were vocal about their trust in Yahweh. Maybe they were known as the geeks or the egg heads because they did everything to the best of heir ability.

 

What ever it was they are not liked by their peers.

 

You know Jesus said something very interesting – he said in John’s gospel, that if the world hated him, its going to hate us. Does the world love you or hate you. Most of the time the world loves us because we really love, or at least like the world – that is not God’s way.

 

Now, as an aside, why does Neb decide to build this huge statue? It would have looked a little odd – ninety feet high and 9 feet wide – tall and skinny.

 

Remember the dream Neb has about the big statue with the head of Gold and the body of different metals and the feet of clay that Daniel interpreted?

 

Daniel’s interpretation of this dream, as we saw a few nights back, was telling Neb of the inevitable future.

 

Yet Neb here seems to have built this statue in an attempt to unify Babylon. The statue is not of different metals but of all gold – unified, one metal – and he demands that ALL worship it – a monotheistic religion – a one, unified idol to worship.

 

Yet our three guys refuse – they do not love the world –  and they are brought before the King.

 

I do not know what your greatest fear is. What is the thing that will wake you up in a cold sweat? Disease, death, drowning, burning alive, spiders, snakes.

 

But imagine being brought face to face with your greatest fear. How would you respond? Would you pray? Would you acknowledge God’s power and love? Or would you break down weeping and crying like a baby, and try to get away?

 

Sahrach, Meshach and Abedego are faced with certain death.

 

And yet their answer is one of the most remarkable answers in scipture because it is filled with Faith – a faith that is a Christ based faith – a faith that we need to learn from and begin to live out.

 

Now V17 in the NIV translation is not that good. But the excellent TNIV has adjusted it – the TNIV says If the God we serve is able to deliver us, then he will deliver us from the blazing furnace and from your majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

 

Please notice something – the TNIV leaves room for doubt – IF THE GOD WE SERVE IS ABLE TO DELIVER – I find that so cool. Here are three men who have seen their country  destroyed by Babylon, are captive and have, according to their culture, seen their god defeated. They are expressing normal, expected doubts – our God has been silent and so we are not sure he can save us – AND HERE IS THE AMAZING PART – despite not being sure of all of these things –  THEY STILL WILL NOT WORSHIP THE STATUE.

 

THEY ARE WILLING TO DIE FOR A GOD WHOM THEY DO NOT EVEN KNOW HAS THE POWER TO SAVE THEM – BUT THEY KNOW HE EXITS AND THAT HE IS REAL AND THAT HE IS WORTHY OF WORSHIP!!

 

 

What faith!! What faith!!

 

Here are three things for us to learn about this kind of faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego showed:

 

1. Our faith needs to be rooted in who God is – not in who we are or where we are. Faith based on our circumstances – hey, life is great, God is good; life is crap God is…….  Is not a good place to be. If our faith is based on what is happening to us we will not benefit from faith nor will we be able to group as a Christian. Faith based on a God who is Lord of the Universe even though he seems silent should still be able to give me peace, even when we face our worst fears.

 

2. Our faith needs to be rooted in BOTH the power of God and in his goodness. God can be trusted. Therefore we need to be able to leave the decision of whether God will protect us or rescue us to Him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego say that their trust in God is not based on whether they are save dor not – he is God, he is Good – they trust that!!

 

3. Our faith should be about loving God for his person not for his performance. Too often we pray to God as if we are sending God coded signals to dictate his behavior like a performing pony. Instead we should approach God like loving parent who will do what is best for us. Can we, WILL we trust his decisions?

 

This is the type of faith we are called too. Resilient, (able to cope in tough situations) adaptable (able to survive the unexpected in life) and strong, able to face even our worst fears knowing that God is God.

 

There are times when we will want God to show up so badly, but we will say or try and think that it does not matter if that prayer or desire is not answered – when in fact it does matter and we silently get angry with God – and there are the times when we have prayed and then the things we asked for happens and we are totally stunned God showed up

 

Sahrach, Meshach and Abedego held the tension between “it really does not matter whether God shows up” and “we are totally shocked that he has shown up.”

They really didn’t care either way – it would not effect their thinking or decisions.

 

As the three are thrown into the fire, Neb sees a fourth person in there with them. God shows up and the three guys don’t faint shocked that God did rescue them.

 

Now if I was one of the guys I would popped my head out of the furnace and gone – “Nanananana”.

 

Who was the fourth person in the fire? Jesus.

 

And this was not just for the benefit of the three guys, although I am sure the three were vaguely happy to see God. Jesus showing up is for the benefit of Neb. Here was the second encounter he has had with the followers of Yahweh. Daniel not only interprets Nebs dream but tells him what the dream is and Neb is impressed and acknowledges Daniels God to be powerful. Here, he sees three followers of Yahweh completely protected from the fire, in a miraculous way and his response is good, but it is still not the right response. Neb says that the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego should be praised – but he still has not bowed the knee to God  and that was the reason for this miracle. Sharach, Meshach and Abedego could have died and gone to be with God, but God is chasing Neb’s heart.

 

It is the kind of faith which these three Hebrews showed that allows missionaries to continue to try and lead Muslims to Christ. It is this type of faith which will help us when we stand up for those being bullied, or picked on, or beaten up, and it is the kind of faith which will help us to stand up for truth.

 

Is this the faith you have? Is it the faith you want.

 

You know, the true reward of faithful witness to God is not to be found in its results but in the experience of knowing the presence of God in the midst of the struggle.

 

Life will through at you some hefty knocks – some bad situations – times when your so sad you will hurt – and times when you will be SO happy you wish it would never end.

 

Living life with the faith of Christ – the faith that Sharach, Meshach and Abedego had – will help you pass through the hardest and the best of times knowing that God knows what is happening and all things are in is hands.

Some Short Thoughts On Daniel – Vacation post 7

I am on vacation until the 6th Aug. While on vacation I am posting some thoughts on Daniel…

 

What overwhelms you. What stresses you out. What worries do you have? Maybe some these worries, or concerns, or stresses are about your life, your future, your family, the state of the world, global warming, wars.

A lot of life is out of your control. You have no idea if you will get a serious disease, or whether someone will crash into your car and kill you, whether a world wide recession will effect your future education or college or even your parents future.

Daniel had no control over whether he was taken captive and sent to Babylon.

He had no control over his physical state, but he did have control over his inner state.

Now Daniel could have fretted, worried, despaired, been fearful, given up – but he didn’t. He kept going forward. He lived in the place that God had put him to live.

And this is the key – he lived in the PLACE GOD HAD PUT HIM.

God had placed him in Babylon. And I think that this was the attitude Daniel came to live by. Yes, he was now having to do things he didn’t want to do, learn things which he didn’t want to learn, but his loyalty and his focus remained on Yahweh He learnt to live in Babylon with as much faithfulness to God as he would have if he had remained in Jerusalem.

And here is the radical point. Just as Daniel was in Babylon because God had placed him there, so was Nebuchannezzar in Babylon because God had plced him there.

Here was Daniel, captive of the largest most feared kingdom in the known earth and yet it too was completely at the mercy of God, and of God’s people.

Neb has a dream which is so troubling to him that he is willing to kill every wise man in the kingdom unless they tell him the dream and then the interpretation. The dream was so powerful that Neb knew that if he told the dream to his wise men they would then just give him a load of meaningless interpretations – Neb wanted to now exactly what this powerful dream meant.

Babylon was at the mercy of God.

And Babylon was also at the mercy of an insignificant little Jewish guy – Daniel – who then tells the most powerful king in the world what God of the Universe was telling him.

God is involved with our earth. He has not abandoned it. He has not left it. There is no part of the world which is out of God’s hand or out of his control.

Hear this – nothing happens in the Universe without God knowing about it and allowing it to happen.

That is what the Bible says – Jeremiah 20:4-5 says:

For this is what the LORD says: ‘I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; with your own eyes you will see them fall by the sword of their enemies. I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword. 5 I will deliver all the wealth of this city into the hands of their enemies—all its products, all its valuables and all the treasures of the kings of Judah. They will take it away as plunder and carry it off to Babylon.

Jeremiah 25:12: “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, [a] for their guilt,” declares the LORD, “and will make it desolate forever.

Jeremiah 27:11: But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and to live there, declares the LORD.” ‘ “

And here is a big one! 1 Samuel 16:14-15: Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil [a] spirit from the LORD tormented him.

    15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.

Why are their earthquakes in China, or war in Africa, cyclones in Asia. I don’t know – but the message here in Chap 2 of Daniel is that while we may not have an answer as to why something has happened – WE MUST REALIZE THAT GOD STILL KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING!!

God is present with Daniel in Babylon and God is present with us here in the 21st Century America.

We live in a world and a culture which is walking away from God and yet is still terrified of what the world, and nature can throw at it. The world, the culture has no explanation of why hundreds of thousands died in a devastating cyclone in Myammar – or why thousands have died in the earthquake in china, or why kids get cancer or why moms die when their children are young. The world, the culture has no answer for disaster, except to blame a God they do not believe in and use it as an excuse not to believe in God.

“I could never believe in a God that would allow something like that to happen.”

Daniel did not know why God had given Israel over to Babylon, but he did know that God was still in control.

Do you really know that God is in control. How can I know this you might ask? The same way Daniel knew – BY HIS WORD. The Bible tells us to TRUST in God – To do what he says and then to trust that God knows what he is doing.

God is not is heaven multi-tasking and saying “Gosh I hope that works out – ooooh Andy, you nearly messed that up= ahhhhh, John stop that!”

How is God in control?

The dream Neb has shows us.

Too often people get hung up about what the dream represents, and its details – to do that is to ignore its point – the thing hat the dream teaches us is NOT the details of the course of events in history BUT that the fact that HISTORY is UNDER GOD’S CONTROL and that it has a purpose.

What is the purpose?

That all the kingdoms of the earth, Babylon, Assyria, Rome, Great Britain, America will not and cannot stand against the breaking into the midst of this world the Kingdom of God.

Nothing can stop it. Nothing can stand in its way. Every kingdom will eventually be smashed by THE KINGDOM which is to come – the Kingdom of God.

And, by the way, as an aside – you do realize that if you are a believer in Jesus you will not be spending eternity in heaven. Our vision of heaven is some cloud and us sitting there with a harp.

Oh no. Eternity for us will be on a NEW EARTH – a perfect earth. 2 Peter 3:13 says But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Revelation 21:1, Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” [ Isaiah 65:17] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

Paradise, life for ever will happen on the new earth.

But this begins now – the Kingdom of God has broken into our world through Jesus.

And that is the message that we – YOU are called to tell people in your schools, homes, neighbor hoods – wherever you are.

Are you strong enough to give this message?

You can only give this message – you can only live in this world as a follower of Jesus if, like Daniel, you are willing to listen to your culture but have not been assimilated into the culture.

There is nothing that is hidden from God or that God does not understand – NOTHING. In the end, this fact should be more important to us, God’s people, than anything else.

When we realize this truth about God’s knowledge, we should be comforted as well as have the courage to go on even when life seems dark, when we are confused by the shocks of life and wondering what is going on and why.

Some Short Thoughts On Daniel Chp 1 – Vacation post 6

I am on vacation until August 5th. While away I will post some of my notes from a series I did on Daniel…..

There was a survey done in England about teenagers and cell phones. They took ten teenagers and took away their cell phones for one week.

What do you happened? Their lives degenerated into chaos. They were unable to communicate with each other – they did not know where to meet each other – their lives literally fell apart.

They would arrange meeting places and meeting times only minutes before they got together – sometimes changing the meeting place or time by text. Their life was so flexible that without a cell phone you would be unable to know where your friends were going to meet.

They had come to rely completely upon their cell phones – much more than they thought.

This got me thinking – What would happen if we had no computers, or if televisions stopped working – what would we do.

Think about the times when the power goes out, maybe in the middle of your favorite show. How do you feel when there is no power in your house. Helpless – frustrated – nothing works, no tv, no internet, no air, no lights. We basically grind to a halt and wait for the power to come back.

We have become reliant upon things haven’t we.

But what about our faith in Jesus.

What do we rely on for your faith? What keeps our faith going?

For some of us its youth group – for others it’s the Bible – for others it’s social events – friends – family – church – trips – music – diocesan events.

What would happen to your faith in Jesus Christ – to your Christianity – if you were not allowed to read your Bible, or to go to Church or to go to youth group or to any diocesan events?

Would you be able to sustain your faith for the next 25 years?

Would you be able to still know God, worship God, pray to God and recite scripture and grow in your faith without church, youth group, a bible, devotionals, worship music, Christian videos? What would happen if all the props of Christianity were removed from your life?

What would happen if everything was stripped away and all that was left was YOU and your RELATIONSHIP with God.

Would we discover that actually our faith in God is tied up with going to youth group, to going to church or going to Camp or having devotionals, or listening to music. Might we discover that these extra props of our life as a Christian have become the source of our faith rather than tools of our faith.

This is exactly the question that Daniel discovered when his country was attacked and taken over by Babylon.

Daniel was suddenly faced with a life where everything he had relied upon religiously was gone – his temple was gone – his ritual was gone – his sacrifices was gone – his way of life and daily devotions were gone – as was his freedom!!

Not only that, but Daniel’s whole world had been shaken because when Babylon defeated Israel – it appeared to have defeated God – Yahweh. A smashed Israel equated with a smashed Yahweh.

In Daniel’s day when a country beat another country the underlying message was – “My God has beaten your God – nanananana”. If your country prospered then your god was strong – if your country did not propser and was weak then o was your god.

He had to wear new cloths – he was given a new name and he was in a place where all trace of his belief and faith were GONE!!

He was an insignificant minority in a culture that saw his belief system as a waste of time.

How would your faith hold up to that?

That’s what Daniel and his friends faced as they were force out of their country into a new life.

But Daniel discovered something about God as he began to live away from everything he had known – he came to realize that God was a God 2 Go God. That God was able to exist outside the temple, outside the ritual, outside the daily devotions.

Daniel realized that God was a portable God – he came to Babylon with the Israelites.

Not only that but Daniel was re-trained, re-educated and re-named – everything about them changed as they – externally – but the one thing the Babylonians could not do was change someone internally.

And what you are like Internally depends upon what you have feed yourself with in the past – it rings to the surface what you truly believe to be true.

Daniel had been a good jew – he had been diligent in studying the torah – he knew the words of God – he knew the words of God SO well that they were a part of his DNA.

And so when EVERYTHING else about his faith was taken away he still was able to fall back on what knew to be true – and that the Babylonians could not change.

This meant that Daniel could LEARN all the Babylonian philosophy, all the Babylonian religion, all the Babylonian law – he learns them with excellence, but they mean nothing to him. He was not assimilated by it nor changed by it – it was knowledge, not life.

So, I ask again, what would happen if all the externals stuff of your Christianity was taken away from you – could you survive as a Christian. Would, or is the culture engulfing you, assimilating you.

To some extent you and I are like Daniel. We live in an alien culture – its alien compared to the words and commands of God. It is alien because it does not recognize the supremacy of Jesus. And not to recognize the supremacy of Christ is not to be fully human. Life cannot be lived to its fullest without Christ at the center.

And we have a choice in how we live as believers in this culture – we can either be assimilated by it or we can understand it but do not let it become apart of who we are.

In the one area that Daniel was able to show loyalty to God he does – food – he does not defile himself but eats vegetables.

In this culture, in the culture of iphones and Macs and Wii’s and playstation 3, of what clothes you must wear to be cool, or what shoes to have, or msic to play, were are you taking the stand against culture – where are you showing yourself to be loyal to Yahweh?

Where?

Or are we so assimilated into the culture that we have become unrecognizable? Because if that is true then we have lost.

If you claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ then you must be 100% committed.

Now when I say 100% committed I do not mean that you are perfect. When people say are you 100% committed to God it sounds an impossible task for there are days when I do not feel 100% committed.

But I heard a story which helped me get a better understanding. There was a teenager who at school was a good student: A’s and B’s. Then all of a sudden they started to slip and they started to get 70% in tests and the teach took the student aside and said “hey, whats the problem, you’re a great student, you can do better than this – give me a 100%.”

Well, the student did not get better, and sadly the teacher watched a great student get mediocre to bad grades.

About 10 years later that Student, who was now a writer for Time Magazine, saw his teacher as a reunion and went over and said to her, “Thank you for all your encouragement. But you know, when I was in your class, my home life was a bad place. My dad had left home and my mom was an alcoholic and I had to look after my little brother at night time and couldn’t study. I tried my hardest. the 70% was, at that time, my 100%.”

Is you 70%, or 80% or even 65% the 100% of what you have NOW!

Daniel had no middle ground to walk it was either total assimilation or total commitment to God. I am sure he had doubts, and was angry and sometimes confused and may have wanted to give up. But he gave God what he had.

Give God what you have!

We must stop having one foot in the Kingdom of God and one foot in the world. We need to stop putting our relationship with God third on our list of things to do – we need to stop spending our money on what we want and instead on what God wants – we need to stop thinking we can get way with the private things we do that we know God is not pleased about and start to REALLY live a life open and honest before god and before our culture – and that means at school as well!

Overview of the Old Testament – Vacation post 5

I am on vacation until August 5th. While away I will post some of my notes from a series I have started at the Church on the Overview of the Old Testament…..

The title of this book in the Hebrew Bible is Elleh Ladderbarim; these are the words (1:1).

Ancient Near Eastern territorial treaties usually began with These are the words. Hence the jewish title gives a strong clue to the literary character of Deuteronomy.

The English Title, which comes from the Septuagint was actually an error due to a bad translation of Deut. 17:18 When he is seated on his royal throne, he is to write a copy of this instruction for himself on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.

The translators of the Septuagint mistakenly renders copy of this instruction as this second law – which is what Deuteronomy means.

Deuteronomy is to some extent a repetition of the law. Moses presents the law which was given at Mt Sinai to this new generation as they prepare to enter Canaan. It is a wonderful example of the elder teaching and preparing the younger.

In the Jewish nation Deuteronomy is an important book. It is to be read publicly during the feast of Tabernacles at the close of each Sabbatical Year:

Deut. 31:10 Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Festival of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”

Deuteronomy is largely a sermon – or a series of sermons preached by Moses. It is a motivational sermon urging Israel’s faithfulness to the covenant laws of Sinai given 40 years previously.

The first sermon is Deut 1:1-4:43. It recounts God’s mighty acts on Israel’s behalf from the time of the covenant at Sinai to this renewal ceremony.

The second sermon is 4:44-26:19. This restates the covenant laws originally given in Ex 20-23.

The third sermon is 37:1-31:30. This is Moses final address to the nation – the blessings and the curses are read out.

The book ends with three appendixes: the Song of Moses (32), the blessing of Moses (33) and the death and burial of Moses (34)

If Exodus was about redemption – Leviticus about sanctification and Numbers about Obedience then Deuteronomy is about faithfulness.

Moses constantly reassures the people of God’s faithfulness and his power to keep his promises and he urges the people to remain faithful to God and the covenant. It may well be the longest farewell speech in recorded history!

The concept of the covenant is at the heart of Deuteronomy.

We know that a covenant has is an agreement between two parties who wish to enter into a relationship. They agree to certain actions, which have certain consequences and even certain punishments if the agreement is broken.

The theological values of Deuteronomy can hardly be exaggerated. It stands as the wellspring of biblical historical revelation. It is a prime source for both the OT and NT theology. Whether the covenant, the holiness of God or the concept of the people of God is the unifying factor of Old Testament theology, each finds emphasis and remarkable definition in Deuteronomy.

Deut is quoted some 95 times in the NT. Jesus quotes from Deut more than any other OT book. Most famously, Jesus quotes Deut 6:4-5 as the first and greatest commandment. And this shows us the big idea of Deuteronomy – if loving God is the greatest commandment, then obedience and faithfulness to God’s commands is the greatest expression of love for God and for their neighbor.

OK, lets summarize Deuteronomy:

CONTENT: rehearsal of the covenant for a new generation of Israelites just before the conquest.

EMPHASIS: the oneness and uniqueness of yahweh; yahweh’s covenant love for Israel in making them his people; yahweh’s universal sovereignty over all peoples; Israel as yahweh’s model for the nations; the significance of the central sanctuary where Yahweh is to be worshipped; Yahweh’s concern for justice; that his people reflect his character; the blessings of obedience and the dangers of disobedience.

What drives Deuteronomy from beginning to end is an uncompromising monotheism – one God – coupled with an equally deep concern for Israel’s uncompromising loyalty to Yahweh.

As you read Deuteronomy watch for three things:

The constant reminder that Israel is about to possess the land (a phrase which occurs 100 x in Deut). God is about to fulfill his oath to Abraham

The relentless demand that, when entering the land, Israel not only avoid idolatry but they completely destroy the high places of worship in Canaan. If they do not do this then Canaan idolatry will destroy the Israelites reason for being: Deut. 7:1   “When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess, and He drives out many nations before you—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you— 2 and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you and you defeat them, you must •completely destroy them. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 because they will turn your sons away from Me to worship other gods. Then the LORD’S anger will burn against you, and He will swiftly destroy you. 5 Instead, this is what you are to do to them: tear down their altars, smash their standing pillars, cut down their •Asherah poles,a and burn up their carved images. 6 For you are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be His own possessiona out of all the peoples on the face of the earth. Deut. 7:23 The LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will hand their kings over to you, and you will wipe out their names under heaven. No one will be able to stand against you; you will annihilate them. 25 You must burn up the carved images of their gods. Don’t covet the silver and gold on the images and take it for yourself, or else you will be ensnared by it, for it is abhorrent to the LORD your God. 26 You must not bring any abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be •set apart for destruction like it. You are to utterly detest and abhor it, because it is set apart for destruction. Also – 12:1-3; 13:6-18; 16:21-17:7; 20:16-18. The only way for Israel to bless the nations (4:6) is for them to obliterate all forms of idolatry and to walk in the ways of the God who redeemed them to be his people (5:32-33).

The requirement that they regularly worship at one central sanctuary – Deut. 12:10 When you cross the Jordan and live in the land the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all the enemies around you and you live in security, 11 then the LORD your God will choose the place to have His name dwell. Bring there everything I command you: your burnt offerings, sacrifices, offerings of the tenth, personal contributions,a and all your choice offerings you vow to the LORD. This is repeated in 12:14; 18, 26; 14:23-25; 15:20; 16:2-16; 17:8-10; 26:2. Yahweh will dwell among his one people in one place unlike the pagans who worshipped many gods on many high places.

Why are these issues so important? God, through Moses is driving home the total distinction between yahweh and Baal. There can NEVER be any compatibility between Yahweh and Baal – no similarity in function or practice.

There are two final things to point out regarding Deuteronomy.

The first is that within this book about the law of God to Israel we have a strong emphasis upon God’s love for others: Deut. 10:19 You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt Deut. 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor people in the land;a that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.’
Deut. 24:14   “Do not oppress a hired hand who is poor and needy, whether one of your brothers or one of the foreigners residing within a towna in your land. Deut. 31:12 Gather the people—men, women, children, and foreigners living within your gates—so that they may listen and learn to •fear the LORD your God and be careful to follow all the words of this law.

The second is the prophetic element of Deuteronomy. The covenant required the people to uphold their side of the covenant – obedience and faithfulness. Moses is making sure that this second generation knows the deal. And Moses does not just say what might happen – he tells them what WILL happen!!!

Deut. 4:25   “When you have children and grandchildren and have been in the land a long time, and if you act corruptly, make an idol in the form of anything, and do what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, provoking Him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that you will quickly perish from the land you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. You will not live long there, but you will certainly be destroyed. 27 The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be reduced to a few survivorsa among the nations where the LORD your God will drive you. 28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see, hear, eat, or smell. 29 But from there, you will search for the LORD your God, and you will find |Him| when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.a 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, you will return to the LORD your God in later days and obey Him. 31 He will not leave you, destroy you, or forget the covenant with your fathers that He swore to them by oath, because the LORD your God is a compassionate God.a

Deut. 30:2 and you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and all your soul by doinga everything I am giving you today, 3 then He will restore your fortunes,a have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.b 4 Even if your exiles are at the ends of the earth,a He will gather you and bring you back from there. 5 The LORD your God will bring you into the land your fathers possessed, and you will take possession of it. He will cause you to prosper and multiply you more than |He did| your fathers. 6 The LORD your God will circumcise your hearta and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love Him with all your heart and all your soul, so that you will live. 7 The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 Then you will again obey Him and follow all His commands I am giving you today. 9 The LORD your God will make you prosper abundantly in all the work of your hands with children,a the offspring of your livestock, and your soil’s produce. Indeed, the LORD will again delight in your prosperity, as He delighted in that of your fathers, 10 when you obey the LORD your God by keeping His commands and statutes that are written in this book of the law and return to Him with all your heart and all your soul.

Deut. 32:26    I would have said: I will cut them to piecesa
and blot out the memory of them from mankind,
27 if I had not feared insult from the enemy,
|or feared| that these foes might misunderstand
and say: Our own hand has prevailed;
it wasn’t the LORD who did all this.”

You can hear the plea of Moses to this generation in Deut 30:19-20: I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 love the LORD your God, obey Him, and remain faithfula to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

This is the plea to us from Deut – remain faithful, loyal, love and devotion to God!

Let me end with a quote from a theologian:

The Church today needs to return to the principles of godly living explained in Deuteronomy. Only then can we move forward in victory, by faith in Christ, and claim the inheritance He has appointed for us. To love God supremely and our neighbors as ourselves, and to seek to glorify God in all that we do, is the essence of Deuteronomy; and its a message we need to return to as we face the challenges of the future.

Overview of the Old Testament – Vacation post 4

I am on vacation until August 5th. While away I will post some of my notes from a series I have started at the Church on the Overview of the Old Testament…..

Numbers is probably one of the most difficult books in the OT in terms of “what on earth is going on”.

Numbers is filled with a mixture of things – narrative, additional laws, census lists, oracles from a pagan prophet (Balaam) and it is not easy to see how it all fits together.

To understand Numbers you need to remember the driving force of the Pentateuch as a whole – God’s promise / covenant with Abraham that his seed would inherit the land of Canaan. This is what underlines everything in the book of Numbers. God WILL bring about the fulfillment of this promise, even in the face of Israel’s reluctance and disobedience.

A summary of the content of Numbers: The Israelites long stay in the desert as they journey from Mount Sinai to the Plains of Moab – a journey which takes them 38 years. During the journey they are given supplemental covenant laws.

A summary of the Emphasis of Numbers: Preparation for military conquest of the promised land – God’s covenant loyalty towards Israel – Israel’s repeated failure to keep covenant with God – God’s leadership of his people and His affirmation of Moses’ leadership; preparation for entering and worshipping in the promised.

The book itself opens with a Census – The Lord spoke to Moses…. a pattern seen in Exodus.

So Moses, in Chps 1 & 2 takes a census of the people and then tells them to camp around the Tabernacle – Num. 2:1-2   1 The LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron: 2 “Every one2 of the Israelites must camp3 under his standard with the emblems of his family;4 they must camp at some distance5 around the tent of meeting

The purpose of the census is to list all those who were to be fighting men for the coming conquest of the land of Canaan. According to Num 1:1 this takes places on the first day of the second month the second year after God brought them out of Egypt.

Israel is being prepared, as we saw last week, to be God’s people, and to take the claim of Canaan in order to do the work of the Lord.

One of the characteristics of Numbers is that the people of Israel are not shown in a good light at all.

Chp 11:1 When the people complained; 11:4-5 If only we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. But now we are all fried up and there is nothing at all before us except this manna! 16:1ff Now Korah son of Izhar the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the son of Eliab and On son of Peleth who were Reubenites took men and rebelled against Moses. 20:3ff The people contended with Moses saying, ‘If only we had died when our brothers died before the Lord. Chp 21:4-9

Each time Israel complains God punished them. They should have known better. They had witnessed untold miracles and still they refused to trust in God’s provision for them, even wishing they were back in slavery.

But in the middle of this complaining and grumbling something goes horribly for the wrong for the Israelites.

Chp 13 – Spies are sent out to look at the land and coming back they all, apart from joshua and Caleb, say that Israel cannot win. They show their distrust of God’s power, despite knowing how he defeated Egypt.

God punishes them by promising they will not dwell in the land:

Num. 14:20   Then the LORD said, “I have forgiven them as you asked.36 21 But truly, as I live,37 all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. 22 For all the people have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have tempted38 me now these ten times,39 and have not obeyed me,40 23 they will by no means41 see the land that I swore to their fathers, nor will any of them who despised me see it. 24 Only my servant Caleb, because he had a different spirit and has followed me fully–I will bring him into the land where he had gone, and his descendants42 will possess it. 25 (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites were living in the valleys.)43 Tomorrow, turn and journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea.”

Now begins their long desert journey. Numbers overs the 38 years they are in the desert as the original generation, except Joshua and Caleb die.

In this period of ‘wandering’ in the desert the Israelites are prepared for warfare.They encounter hostile Canaan and Amorites Kings who come to fight and God tells the Israelites to attack the Midianites. Scholars talk about this being the second stage of the Holy War. The first stage – against Pharaoh in exodus was carried out by God himself, extracting his people fro Egypt and killing the Egyptian army. This second stage is the conquest of the land and this stage requires the people’s co-operation and participation.

Hence, after the 38 years, a second census is called by God, so that the second generation will be recorded and ready to take the land God had promised them. The Israelites were now by the Jordan opposite Jericho and ready to go!

Num 26:2-3 “Take a census of the whole community of Israelites, from twenty years old and upward, by their clans,3 everyone who can serve in the army of Israel.”4 3 So Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them in the plains of Moab, by the Jordan River5 across from Jericho

God’s promises will come true – He is patient – he is true and even in the midst of our failings, our sins, our mistakes, God’s promises will happen.

Two things stand out very importantly in Numbers – firstly, is the constant challenge to Moses and Aaron’s leadership.

Chp 16 we see korah challenging Moses. Some of this is jealousy – v3 Why then do you exalt yourself above the community of the Lord – most of it is about the fact that things are not going the way they thought it would go.

The issue here is not that Korah thinks God has NOT spoken to Moses – or that Moses is doing something that God has said NOT to do. The issue is korah does not LIKE what is happening

Following the Lord’s calling, both individually and together as a community is not about a free ride – that everything goes smoothly, without any hitch or challenges. It can be HARD, the challenges can be huge and the outlook can sometimes look bleak EVEN when you follow the way of the Lord.

Korah wanted things his way in his own time. That’s not how things are done – and when we push our own agendas and our own ways and our own timings we rebel against God. This is why Korah’s punishment is so dramatic.

The second thing is the narrative about the pagan prophet Balaam.

Here we have a wonderful image that when you walk in the paths of the Lord, you shall be protected. Notice something here. This is going on behind the back of Israel. Apart from the fact that God obviously tells Moses what happened so to put it in the book, this whole episode is happening without the Israelites knowledge.

If you were aware of every spiritual battle that took place over your life you would be terrified.

The King of Moabites goes to Balaam in order to curse the Israelites. The fact that God intervenes to speak to and direct Balaam shows that this was a real issue – the curing of the Israelites would have had consequences.

Yet God intervenes. Balaam is unable to prophecy a curse against the Israelites to the chagrin of the king.

The big theme then of Numbers is that despite ISrael’s sins, wafflings and complaints, this is above all God’s story and God will keep and fulfill his part of the covenant with Abraham.

The issue is whether Israel will keep the covenant with God – and Numbers reminds you over and over again that the divine provision for them to do is always ready at hand.

There are some major events in Numbers which are mentioned elsewhere in Scripture – Joshua and Caleb alone think Israel can take the promised land (Num 13-14 / Jos 14:7); Moses striking the rock and water coming out (Num 20:11 / Ps 106:32); Moses lifting up a bronze serpent on a pole so that believing Israelites may be healed (Num 21:6-9 / John 3:14) & Balaam was rebuked by his donkey (num 22:21 / rev 2:14).

OK, to sum up – in this book the people of God tested God’s patience and he in turn tested their endurance and faithfulness. Though the people failed many times God showed his own faithfulness by his constant presence leading the way.

What can Numbers teach us? Well, the apostle Paul helps here: 1 Cor 10:1-6 says:   For I do not want you to be unaware,1 brothers and sisters,2 that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized3 into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness. 6 These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did.

Let’s not doubt the goodness of God – even when we feel we are in the wilderness – let’s rejoice in his provision for us, even when it may appear mundane and let us not crave other things beyond what God has for us. A re we grumbling? Are we rebellious? Can we be like the Israelites?

Overview of the Old Testament – Vacation post 3

I am on vacation until August 5th. While away I will post some of my notes from a series I have started at the Church on the Overview of the Old Testament…..

This morning we will be looking at the book of Leviticus.
This is another one of the Old Testament books which Christians tend not to rush to study. lronically, it was one of the first books studied by a jewish child.
ln summary the content of Leviticus is: Various laws having to do with holiness before God and love of neighbor, including sacrifices, ritual, cleanness and social obligations, as well as laws for the levites regarding their priestly duties.
The books AIM is all about getting it right with regard to worship, for both the priests and the people.

Leviticus picks up exactly where Exodus left off… the Lord speaking to Moses from the tent of meeting and saying “speak to the lsraelites and say…”. Each new section of Leviticus is signaled by the phrase “The Lord said to Moses….”
Lev. 4:1 Lev. 5.14 Lev. 6:1
The LORD said to Moses, The LORD said to Moses: *The LORD said to Moses:
To get the most out of reading and understanding Leviticus you must remember two things: (1) these laws are part of God’s covenant with lsrael and therefore they are not just religious rites but are all about relationships; (2) Leviticus

is part of the wider narrative of the pentateuch and must be understood in the light of what has happened and what will happen.
Let’s look at the seconded point first. The context of Leviticus is lsrael camped at the foot of Sinai. They will spend a year here being molded into the people of God and being prepared for the journey into the promised land.
They will need protection – from various diseases and from one another! ln order for this group of people who grew up in slavery to be formed into God’s people they need to get right with God and they need to get right with each other.
This is always the order.

Exodus 19:5-6 says ‘Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
God promises to make lsrael his own treasured possession. And their role is to serve God as priests for the world!
And to do this they must bear his likeness.

God promises to bless lsrael. And in return God asks that israel maintains a holy awe and obedience towards him – this is what it means to be covenantal.
Leviticus can be split into two parts – Chps 1-16 = the Levitical Code – regulations for the people and the priests related directly to the tabernacle. Chp 17 onwards deals with the holiness code – how the people are to be holy as I am holy.
The people of God are to be LIKE God and therefore they are to be holy – not just outwardly in their rituals, but also inwardly in their heart – and the result of this would be evident in their relationship with everything else!

Where Exodus is all about redemption, Leviticus is about Sanctification – receiving God’s mercies and acceptance should be followed by Holy living and spiritual growth.
The central act in Leviticus is the Sacrificial offerings.
For the most part Leviticus tells you WHAT to do, but necessarily the theology behind WHY you should do it. That appears to be already known. The only WHY verse is Lev 17:11:
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

So why did God ask for sacrifices? To answer this we need to go back again to the Garden of Eden.
Adam and Eve are the only human beings who lived in a world which did not require any sacrifices. But when they disobeyed God in Gen 3, what was the first thing God did for Adam and Eve after he gives the judgment? (v21)
He clothes them with skins of an animal. He covers their shame, their nakedness with the skins of a dead animal.
Now this means that an animal in eden was killed. My own theory is that this was the pre-incarnate Jesus – the second person of the Trinity, who having given the judgment to Adam and Eve and to Satan for their rebellion,

as well as having given them a glimpse of the solution he (the coming seed of the woman) will crush your head, and
you (the serpent) will strike his heel, proceeds to kill an anmial in the Garden of Eden to clothe Adam and Eve. death had not just entered into Adam and Eve’s life but into the whole creation.
So God’s response in eden was to sacrifice an animal in order to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. This is the beginning of the sacrificial system. Notice that Cain and Abel offer sacrifices to God although we are not given any indication that they were commanded to. They just knew, from their parents, that that is what they must do. Again, long before Moses and the law, Noah leaves the Ark and does what – offer a sacrifice to God – Gen 8:20.

Job – probably the oldest book in the Bible has Job offering sacrifices for his children (1 :5).
So, by the time Moses is told to give the contents of Leviticus to the lsraelites, sacrifice is not a new issue – it is here, however, codified into a system which incorporates the cultic practices of the nation.
The sacrificial worship of lsrael is detailed in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. Every step was minutely revealed to Moses concerning the five offerings, from the animals to be offered to the duties of the priests who functioned as mediators between God and lsrael. From sunup to sundown, every day of the year, thousands of

animals were paraded before the priests, killed, and their blood sprinkled on the altar. There is no significance to the order in which the offerings appear in Leviticus. The first offering listed, the burnt offering, should follow the sin offering, but a number of reasons have been presented for the burnt offering being given first. lt was the first offering mentioned in Scripture (Gen. 8:20) and was-the offering most frequently presented by the patriarchs long before the
Mosaic law stipulated the specific sacrifices to be offered. Most likely the burnt offering encompassed the sin offering in the patriarchal period. The Lord instructed Abraham to offer lsaac as a burnt offering (Gen. 22:2); it was the
offering Moses performed in the desert after leaving Egypt 10

(Ex. 5:3); both Jethro (Ex. 1B:12) and job (Job 1:5) offered it long before the giving of the law at Sinai. lt was continually offered as a perpetual sacrifice, night and day, on major feast days and at new moons in lsrael. The term burnt sacrifice (v. 3) comes from the Hebrew word olah, meaning to ascend upwards, and refers to the whole offering that was consumed on the altar and ascended to God. Finally, since the whole sacrifice was consumed on the altar, it represented the fullest form of lsrael’s consecration and worship.
The different offerings were:
The burnt offering most costly offering there is, since it is completely burned up with nothing left (except for the skin,
11

which the priest kept). The motive for offering the burnt offering are thanksgiving, penitence, vows, and self- dedication. The mention of “a pleasing aroma” (1 :9″ 13.
17) implies that the sacrifice results in the Lord’s favor toward the offerer. Three options are provided regarding the material of the sacrifice-a bull, small livestock (such as a sheep or a goat), and a bird-but all were to be from the offerer’s own prior possession (y2).
Grain offering typically consisted of four elements: (1) fine flour; (2) oil; (3) frankincense; and (4) salt (see 2:11-
13). They could be brought either uncooked (vv. 1-O) or cooked (vv. 4-10). The priest would not burn the entire offering but only a handful as a “memorial portion” (see note on vv. 1-3). The grain offering would ordinarily be
’12

offered with a burnt or peace offering and probably served the same purpose as the offering it accompanied, whether for petition or for praise.
The Peace Offering. This offering achieves and expresses peace or fellowship between an offerer and the Lord. The ritual as a whole symbolizes a communion meal that is held between the offerer, the officiating priest, and the Lord. ln OT times such meals were a means of affirming a covenant relationship (Gen. 26:28-30). Generally speaking, then, this offering was a time to remember and reaffirm the covenant relationship between the Lord and lsrael (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16-1 8; 11:23-26).As with the burnt offering, there are various specific motives for offering a peace offering, ranging from petition to
13

praise. ln this chapter, though, the entire emphasis is on the procedure for the offering, with a special focus on the burning of the fat.
The Sin Offering. Cf. 6:24-30. ln this section the focus of the sin offering (Hb. khatta’t) is on making amends for one’s broken relationship with the Lord, caused either by unintentionally violating one of the Lord’s prohibitive commandments (4:1-35) or by failing to do something that one was required to do (5:1-13). (ln other places the focus will be on addressing severe cases of uncleanness; e.9.,
12:6; 14:19: 15:15, 30.) The sin offering is distinguished from other offerings in that the ritual can vary according to the sinner’s position before the Lord (e.g., the type of animal required or what the priest does with the blood). In
14

ch. 4 the ritual for the sin of the anointed priest and that of the whole congregation is basically the same, while the ritual for a leader and a common individual is the same. A core part of the ritual is the sprinkling of blood (4:6. 17). Since this is a purifying act (cf. 16:19), it implies that the holy objects are considered to be defiled by the sins of the people. Because of this-and the fact that this offering occurs to address uncleanness as well-some have preferred to call the offering a “purification offering” instead of a “sin offering.” ln either case, the offering deals with the sin or impurity of the offerer, culminating in the Day of Atonement ritual in ch. 16. ln this regard it foreshadows the essence of the Messiah’s atoning work on the cross.
15

The Guilt Offering. Cf. 7:1-10. The distinction between the offenses covered by the guilt offering and the offenses
related to the sin offering is puzzling. ln general, however, the offenses here appear to be more serious, as shown by the fact that the sacrificial animal is more costly (a male
instead of a female) and that the sins are described as a “breach of faith” (5:15). The word translated.”guilt
offering” (Hb. ‘asham) is used elsewhere with the sense of “compensation lreparation for guilt” (5:6), and the offering as a whole serves to repair the relationship between sinners and the Lord. This has led some to call this a “reparation offering.
Why such an elaborate system of sacrifices?
16

1.that the people would know that atonement must be made to God for sins
2.that they recognized that another must make substitutionary atonement FOR them – they could not atone for their own sins
3.the blood atonement covered their sins before God making it possible for Him to withhold judgement (because of Jesus’ promise)
4.it made possible the communion of sinful people with a holy God
S.their sacrifices pointed to a day when Christ would once and for all atone for sin.
How can we apply Leviticus?
17

The theme of holiness in Leviticus extends to the Church. 1 Peter 1 :15-16 as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy,”
This verse references Lev 19.2. Just as God did with the Israelites, He has redeemed and consecrated Christians. lf you are his child then he wants you to reflect His
character. He is sanctifying you much like He did the nation of israel.
So, does our life echo God’s?

Overview of the Old Testament – Vacation post 2

I am on vacation until August 5th. While away, I have posted some notes on a series I did on the overview of the Old Testament….

We have Genesis ending with Joseph and Israel in Egypt. Exodus continues the story.

Exodus is a more difficult book to both read and understand. Chps 1-20 are easy enough as they continue the story of this family, nation of God. But chps 21-24, 25-31 and 35-40 are filled with the detailed instructions about the Tabernacle and it’s furnishings and then it’s construction.

All this can appear irrelevant and somewhat repetitive unless you keep them in the context of the big picture of the Pentateuch.

Exodus gives us three defining moments of Israel’s existence as a people in relationship to God: (1) and most obviously, the miraculous deliverance by God of his people from Slavery, (2) the return of the presence of God as distinguishing his people from all other people on the earth and (3) the gift of the law as the means of establishing his covenant with them. Let’s look at each of these.

1. The exodus itself. Notice that Moses and the event we call the exodus from Egypt are inseparable. The story of the exodus is Moses story and vice versa. Israel’s desperately hopeless situation is overcome by God’s intervention on their behalf. At this point Yahweh was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – now he becomes the God of Israel. He is no tribal, local diety – he shows himself to the LORD – defeating each of the Egyptian gods through the plagues and ultimately over Pharoah himself. Exodus 4:22-23 is key: You must say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is my son, my firstborn,7 and I said to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me,’ but since you have refused to let him go, I will surely kill your son, your firstborn! God here formally adopts Israel as his firs born son!
2. The return of the divine presence. The divine presence of God was lost as the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. God has appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but he did not ‘dwell’ with them as he had dwelt with Adam and Eve in the Garden. The restoration of God’s divine presence is a central feature of Exodus. It begins with the call of Moses and is seen most clearly in the building of the tabernacle – a tabernacle which was constructed under God’s specific guidance. Now God would once again dwell with his people. The final act of Exodus is the covering of the tabernacle with God’s glory – his shekinah glory: Listen to the last 4 verses of Exodus: Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. But when the cloud was lifted up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on all their journeys; but if the cloud was not lifted up, then they would not journey further until the day it was lifted up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, but fire would be on it at night, in plain view of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. Why does Exodus end like this? This new nation – Israel – God’s adopted first born is now ready for their journey towards the promised land!
3. The giving of the law, with the ten commandments as it’s centerpiece in chp 20 is the third defining moment. The laws focus on two things – Israel’s relationship with God and Israel’s relationship with each other. This sets the stage for the further elaboration of the law in the rest of the Pentateuch.

With these three defining moments we begin to see God fulfilling his promises to Abraham.

Regarding the tabernacle, we must have a basic understanding of what is going on.

The details of the tabernacle are considered SO important that they are spelled out twice. This is always a pattern in scripture – if something is said twice, take very close notice of it!

The tabernacle was divided into two sections – the holy place and the most holy place (holy of holies).

The holy place symbolized the earth – the physical universe. The most holy place symbolizes heaven. A curtain hung between the two sections as a dividing barrier, and this is one of the most eloquent expressions of the severity of sin in the whole Bible. The curtain physically separated the Most Holy place representing heaven from the rest of the tabernacle, representing the earth.

Woven into the curtain were cheribum , the very angels whom God placed outside of the Garden of Eden with flashing swords to keep sinners out (Gen 3:23). There can be no entry into the holy of holies without meeting the fiery swords of the cheribum – fire representing the boundary between heaven and earth. The curtain declared that the cost of entry into the Most Holy place was death.

Also notice that the holy of holies is a perfect cube. Look at Rev 21:16 And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.

These are the only two cubes in the whole Bible.

The furniture is also very significant – briefly we have the ark – the throne which represents God’s throne and it resides in the Holy of Holies – heaven. On top of the ark sat the atonement cover (Ex 25:17) – the mercy seat. In Ex 25:22 God says that it is there – on the mercy seat between the two cheribum that he will meet humanity. This all represents the impossible possibility: the acceptance of sinners into the throne room of God. The mercy seat absorbs the judgment of God – c/f Romans 3:25.

The table of presence – Ex 25:30 – displayed the ‘bread of the presence’ all the time. 12 loaves of bread were constantly kept on this table. Jesus talks of himself as the bread of life – the bread from heaven – this represents the second person of the trinity – Ex 33:14-15 – the one who is present in the earth.

The lampstand was inside the holy place – it was the only light and so it represented the light that shines in the darkness. The lampstand also represents the Holy Spirit. Zech 4;1-6: The angel who was speaking with me then returned and roused me as one awakened out of sleep. 2 He asked me, “What do you see?”
I replied, “I see a solid gold lampstand there with a bowl on its top. It has seven lamps on it and seven channels for each ofa the lamps on its top. 3 There are also two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
Zech. 4:4 Then I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these, my lord?”
Zech. 4:5 “Don’t you know what they are?” replied the angel who was speaking with me.
I said, “No, my lord.”
Zech. 4:6 So he answered me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’a says the LORD of •Hosts.

So far, with these three pieces of furniture we have, symbolically, the life and work of the Trinitarian God. The tabernacle is founded on God desire for sinful humanity to be in fellowship with all three divine persons.

The golden altar of incense stood just before the cheribum / curtain to the holy of holies. Morning and evening the priest would burn incense on it. Rev 5:8 tells us what the incense represents – the prayers of the people of God – Ps 141:2 has David saying that his prayers might be as incense to the Lord. The freshly burning incense represented God’s people coming before the Lord.

The overall theme of Exodus is redemption – how God delivered the Israelites and made them his special people. And as we will see later, through the law God is showing his people that all of life relates to God. Nothing is outside his jurisdiction!

God then provides his people with the understanding of how to be in a relationship with Him and with each other – the law. He told then the why and the how of worship. And in the midst of this, through the tabernacle, he dwells with people on the earth.

Like the Israelites who left Egypt, all of us, all Christians are redeemed and consecrated to God, through Christ. The sacrifices which the Israelites are told to offer were, as we saw in this mornings sermon, not meant to be just outward acts of obedience, but a reflection of the inward love they had for God because they knew God was devoted and committed to them. We no longer offer animals as sacrifices – every animal sacrificed by the people of Israel was an illustration of what would happen to Jesus. But there is a sacrifice we as Christians must offer – Romans 12:1-2 – Offer your BODIES as a living sacrifice to the Lord. For us the curtain is removed – we have access to the heavenly throne room of God – Heb. 4:16 Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.