Thursday, April 30, 2015

Exodus 35: The Beginning Of "Organized Religion"

Sometimes you may hear "organized religion" get a bad rap.  "I'm spiritual alright," someone will say, "I just don't believe in 'organized religion'."  Religion (and especially organized religion) gets blamed for most of the wars throughout history, violent injustices of all sorts, racism, sexism, homophobia, and virtually any kind of evil you can think of.  If it's so bad, where did it come from?  And why does it stick around?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Exodus 34: Glow In The Dark

Exodus 34 reinforces the notion that God wants His people to be different from all those around them.  Different!  Not the same!  This is an important word to our age when there is a growing distance between how the Bible calls us to act and what our culture teaches is appropriate.  Sometimes there may pressure applied on the people of God to become just like everybody else, but this pressure does not come from the Bible.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Exodus 33: To Go, Or Not To Go? That Is The Question!

Will He or won't He?  This seems to be the big issue of Exodus 33.  Will God go with the Israelites, or will He just send an angel along for the journey instead?  While verses 2-3 state that God cannot go with the people lest He destroy them, verse 14 indicates that God changed His mind and will indeed send His presence with them.  In the midst of all of this, we also see the depth of Moses' relationship with the Lord.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Exodus 32: Holy Cow!

Anyone who believes that people are not quick to become faithless and turn to sin needs to take a good look at Exodus 32.  Here were the Israelites fresh from their deliverance out of Egypt, saved from slavery via ten miraculous plagues, saved from death by the parting of the Red Sea, saved from hunger by the gifts of quail and manna, saved from thirst by water from a rock, and saved from their enemies by the uplifted hands of Moses.  But when Moses takes too long up on the mountain of God, the people become impatient and demand of Aaron that he make them gods like everyone else has.  Out of the fire comes a graven image, a golden calf which the Israelites worship, a direct violation of the first and second commandments.  And so God has to save them once again - this time from the corruption of their own great sin.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Exodus 31: Good Work, Bad Work

In the first half of Exodus 31, we learn that any kind of work can become a holy calling.  God points Moses in the direction of two skilled craftsmen that He has in mind to work on the construction of the Tabernacle: Bezalel and Oholiab.  There is no sacred/secular distinction here between work that God is calling them to do and physical labor.  On the other hand, the second half of chapter 31 reveals that work must be kept within the bounds of a six-day week.  Capital punishment is prescribed for those who would desecrate the Sabbath by working on it.  THAT is how serious God takes the commandment to rest on the Sabbath and keep it holy!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Psalm 66: A Joyful Noise

You've probably heard the expression, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord."  Psalm 66 is one of those occasions where we hear this imperative.  For those of us who have difficulty singing, being told to simply make a joyful "noise" sounds very reassuring and feasible!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Exodus 30: Tabernacle Rules

Exodus 30 brings us to the end of God's instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle.  (Don't worry - you'll get to hear all of these details again when the Israelites actually build it!)  This chapter discusses the half-shekel offering required of every man for the maintenance of the tabernacle, the bronze basin for a ritual washing by Aaron and his sons whenever they approach, and the altar of incense and the special anointing oil compound that is to be used only in the Tabernacle - and nowhere else!

God is meticulous in laying down the rules and guidelines for the Tabernacle to impress upon the Israelites that these things are holy - and that God is holy.  The idea of separation in the midst of closeness (holiness in the midst of fallenness) is one of the lessons that the Tabernacle teaches.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Exodus 29: Ordination, Then And Now

Exodus 29 outlines the ordination ceremony for priests in ancient Israel.  We still ordain people for ministry today, but a lot has changed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Exodus 28: Special Clothing

In Exodus 28, God describes the special garments that His priests shall wear in ministry before Him.  The vestments are rich in spiritual symbolism.

Exodus 27: The Bronze Altar

The blueprint for the bronze altar is given to Moses in verses 1-8.  The altar is where the burnt offerings will take place.  As such, it is a holy instrument.  As with the other parts of the Tabernacle, God commands Moses to have it constructed precisely as it is revealed to him on the mountain.  When it is finished, it will be consecrated and become a functional altar to the Lord.  It, like the other furnishings described in this part of Exodus, is completely portable, being carried by two bronze poles (vs. 6-7).  This is important as the people must be ready to pick up and move on very short notice as they follow the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.

Exodus 26: The Tabernacle

A tabernacle is literally a tent, a movable structure.  When we talk about THE Tabernacle in the Old Testament, it designates a special place of meeting between the people and God.  It is to be the symbol of God's presence in the midst of His people (the Tabernacle will be set up in the very middle of the camp.)  When Moses is to inquire of the Lord, it will be at the Tabernacle.  After all, the people cannot take Mount Sinai with them on their journey!  Instead, God gives Moses very detailed instructions on how to build a tent of meeting - and of worship.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Exodus 25: Moses' Ark

I was just a kid when "Raiders of the Lost Ark" made its debut in 1981.  I remember my first thought upon hearing of this new motion picture was that it would be all about the discovery of Noah's Ark.  Oops.  Wrong ark.

Psalm 65: The Impulse To Praise

Many people speculate on the differences between human beings and animals.  Some argue that humans are unique because we use tools, or laugh, or strategize, or are aware of our own mortality, or have a soul.  Those are all good guesses - but I would add that something else that separates people from animals is an impulse we find within ourselves to look for something greater than ourselves.  This spiritual quest that so many of us undergo is a part of what it means to be human.  We have an impulse to praise.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Exodus 24: Foreshadowing

Exodus 24 contains another one of those cryptic Old Testament passages that is illuminated by the New Testament.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Exodus 23: Beware The Snare!

"They shall not live in your land, or they will make you sin against me; for if you worship their gods, it will surely be a snare to you" (vs. 33).  For anyone whose ever wondered, "Why can't we just all get along?", Exodus 23:20-33 offers an intriguing answer.

Exodus 22: More Laws

Exodus 22 contains more detailed laws that dive into areas of fair restitution among injured parties.  The task of today's Bible reader is not necessarily direct application of these laws (I, for one, have no sheep or oxen to worry about), but to look for the deeper principles of justice that these laws rely upon.  In this fallen world, we are sure to encounter incidents where one person suffers loss through the fault (intentional or not) of another person.  Exodus 22 helped the Israelites understand when and how to assign responsibility in those cases.  Our modern day legal system should do the same - we all want fair ground rules.  This section of Exodus reveals that this concept of justice is very important to God as well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Exodus 21: The Bible Condones WHAT?!

One of the primary avenues of attack against the Bible by its detractors has to do with the specifics of some of the Old Testament Law.  In our day and age, it can be hard to understand what the Bible commands concerning such things as slavery, marriage, and punishment.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Exodus 20: The Original Top Ten List

A lot could be said - and has been said - about the Ten Commandments.  Simply put, they form the cornerstone of the Law.  The basics of how God wants us to act toward Him and treat one another can be found here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Exodus 19: At The Mountain

Exodus 19 looms large in our mental picture of the Israelites before their God.  Fresh out of their slavery in Egypt, they assemble at the foot of the mountain in Sinai.  This is a fulfillment of God's promise given to Moses at the burning bush all the way back in Exodus 3:12.  This is also a scene that will be referred to in the New Testament in Hebrews 12:18-21 as a contrast with the inheritance that Christians have at Mount Zion.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Exodus 18: Lessons From Jethro

Sometimes we don't think of the fact that "larger-than-life legends" in the Bible were "flesh-and-blood people", too.  Moses had a wife which means he also had in-laws.  Exodus 18 tells of a reunion Moses experienced with his father-in-law, Jethro (also known as Reuel in some places) who was a priest of Midian.  Jethro had some important lessons to impart to Moses.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Exodus 17: Lean On Me

Israel fights its first military battle in Exodus 17.  Having just come out of Egypt as a nation of slaves, they are viewed by the surrounding peoples as both a potential threat and yet vulnerable to attack.  Amalek is the first to go on the offense.  This fight reveals what all the battles will ultimately show: that they are more spiritual than physical.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Exodus 16: A Time To Sin!

How quickly can singing to the Lord turn to sinning against Him!  The troubles in chapter 16 actually started back at the end of chapter 15, immediately following the account of the victorious songs of Moses and Miriam.  The people begin grumbling - they had no water to drink.  In their thirst, they complained about Moses' leadership.  God, of course, provided for their needs as He always does.  But did they listen and learn?  Nooooo!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Exodus 15: A Time To Sing!

The first song found in the Bible is the Song of Moses in Exodus 15.  It comes at the culmination of God's deliverance of His people through the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.  The people are now free and safe, and their hearts open up in an expression of praise and thanks to the Lord.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Exodus 14: Deliverance!

The account of the Hebrews' Exodus would be incomplete without the parting of the Red Sea described in chapter 14.  Yes, Pharaoh had finally buckled and "let the people go" after ten devastating plagues wracked his nation.  But as long as Egypt remained a strong military power while the Jews were en route to the Promised Land, their new-found freedom would always be threatened.  There remained one final miraculous act of judgment to truly accomplish the people's deliverance.

Exodus 13: Touchstones

To help the Israelites remember who they are (and whose they are), God instituted several "touchstones" in their religion and culture.  These observances serve as veritable re-enactments of their history which guide the people in receiving and passing on their heritage.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Exodus 12: Passover

"When I see the blood, I will pass over you..." (vs. 13)

Exodus 11: The Plague Of Death

God gave Pharaoh multiple opportunities to do the right thing.  Yet he disregarded them all: the moral case against slavery, Aaron's staff turning into a snake, the waters of the Nile turning to blood, frogs, gnats, flies, diseased cattle, boils, hail, locusts and thick darkness.  Even after all of these plagues (warnings), the king continues to resist the Lord.  There is only one thing left to do that will break Pharaoh's hard heart and cruel will: the death of the firstborn of all the Egyptians.  The plague of death is coming.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Exodus 10: Choosing The Darkness

After a plague of locusts devours everything that was left by the hail, a ninth plague of darkness settles upon Egypt.  It is a thick, palpable darkness "that can be felt" (vs. 21), and it lingers in the land for three days.  Yet it is merely symbolic of the terrifying final darkness of the tenth plague that is coming if Pharaoh will not humble himself and submit to God's will in letting the people go.

Exodus 9: Plagues Five, Six, And Seven - Sick Cows, Sick People, And Hail From Heaven

Egypt is going from bad to worse.  More plagues are being visited upon the nation as God, through Moses and Aaron, makes clear that He is serious about Pharaoh letting His people go.  Stubborn, proud, hard-hearted Pharaoh, however, refuses to budge.  He continues to shake an angry fist at God - and continues to suffer the consequences.