Monday, February 28, 2011

Chapter by Chapter in Numbers 9 to 10

Most of what I learn from the Bible doesn't come from outright statements. It's the patterns, the pieced-together stuff, that gives me some of my biggest insights. The treatment of Judah's tribe is one of those patterns: their camping position, leadership in marching, first place in making sacrifices, and numerical growth shows us that God always planned to do something very special through these people. And He did - Judah is the Israeli tribe from which Jesus came.

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Numbers 9 (1) In Numbers 9.1-14, we get a little leniency from God; people who miss the Passover can just celebrate it in the 2nd month. God seems to often make allowances for situations that are beyond our control - I like that. Those of us who get the 'justice' thing don't really understand leniency, and those of us who get the 'leniency' thing don't understand justice, so it's cool to see how God does both. (2) Here's a good memory verse about waiting for God to lead you before you embark on some new endeavor:
Whether by day or by night, when the cloud was taken up they traveled. Whether it was for two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud prolonged its stay over the tabernacle, the Israelites remained camped without traveling; but when it was taken up, they traveled on. -Numbers 9.21-22

(1) Judah's banner -and Nahshon himself (there we go again!)- leads the march of Israel's tribes. I just wanted to point out that Judah (the tribe of Jesus) is special. Judah's treatment is one of the ways in which the Old Testament points us towards Jesus. (2) In Numbers 10.29, Moses enlists his brother-in-law to navigate the Sinai desert for him. This brings up a super practical idea: keep your family close, and don't be afraid to ask for their expertise. You can not do everything yourself. Sometimes you need to call in favors, and no one will answer that call more readily than family.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Numbers 7 to 8

This whole
Desert Wandering thing seems a lot like God's Israeli boot camp. It's God's way of training up His people, telling them 'you are not a special snowflake!' before building them up into real worshipers with a sense of mission and identity. We get to see some Levites graduate from boot camp in Numbers 8. Hope your own personal boot camp with God is getting you tough.

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Numbers 7 The 12 tribe leaders (starting with Nahshon of Judah - noticing a pattern?) give the same offering each of a certain amount of gold, silver, and animals. The fact that the Bible doesn't just say "and all 12 of them gave the same exact thing" shows that God sees each act of worship on its own and pays special attention to each one. Each of your acts of sacrifice and each moment of your obedience actually matters to God. God sees each act of worship that you give.

In Numbers 8.5-22, we have an initiation rite for fledgling Levites where they become new men - they come in groups and shave the hair off 'all their body,' wash their clothes, are sprinkled with water, and offer sacrifices. All Israel shows up to see this. It's like a boot camp experience: a bunch of recruits go in together and come out as the initiated, ready for service. Do something to mark your passage from one part of life to another.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Numbers 5 to 6

No-Shave November is completely Biblical, man. Ever hear of the Nazirites? These were hardcore men and women Israelites who liked to put off shaving for the Lord. You don't get a cooler spiritual discipline than that! To all my most bearded followers, this post's for you.

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Numbers 5 In Numbers 5.11-31, we have a test for adultery in cases when a husband suspects his wife has been sleeping around. Basically she drinks water full of sand and ink, and if she has not slept around nothing happens (thus publicly showing her innocence), but if she has slept around, then she becomes infertile and the water basically becomes poisonous and causes irreparable physical damage. God is the defender of marital faithfulness. Let's honor our vows.

This entire chapter is about the Nazirite vow, a sort of holy No-Shave November oath where participants could not even drink wine, eat grapes, or do anything that would make them unclean -not even burying immediate family members- until their oath was finished. The idea was that you were branding yourself as a hardcore follower of Yahweh, going the extra distance to set yourself apart as one of His people. Take the extra step to let people know that you belong to God.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Numbers 3 to 4

Going through Numbers is great. Some say that you can't get much out of reading a census, or a genealogy, but I think these are great opportunities to see what God does with His people and how He works, almost in the background, making things happen in history. It's dry reading, but it's worth it.

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Numbers 3 Everyone has their role in God's people. In Numbers 3, those roles include carrying parts of the Tabernacle; in the last chapter some Israeli tribes were to lead the nation on its marches and some were supposed to guard the rear. Now that Jesus has come, and we are no longer just Israelis but Christians, God still has different roles for us: some are speakers, some writers, some evangelists, and some have the gift of hospitality. These talents make us part of a larger whole, in a sense the fingers, eyes, ears, and feet of Christ. We, like the Israelis and the Levites, each have our roles in God's people.

Numbers 4 (1) Except for the lid on the Ark of the Covenant, nothing in the tent-temple was just metal. It was all wood covered with metal. This made it easier to carry for the Israeli nation, who at this point were wanderers in the desert - a nation without a home. (2) The wider Christian Church is also a nation without a home; we are wanderers, dispersed among all the nations of the earth. " For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the City that is to come" -Hebrews 13.14. Like the Israelis in Numbers, we are waiting for a home that will be ours in the future, but for now we have no true home. Let's not settle down.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Numbers 1 to 2

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Numbers 1 (1) Judah (Jesus' tribe) was the biggest one, and Nahshon (Jesus' ancestor) was its leader. God was saying "I am going to do something big through Judah," from the start. That 'big' thing was the birth of Jesus Christ. (2) Does anyone else notice that God is telling Moses to build an army? He says "Take a census of... all in Israel who are able to go to war." Maybe there is a time for war after all.

Numbers 2 (1) The Tribe of Judah got set up towards the East of the camp, where the sun rose on them first. That seems awfully preferential. God seems to be favoring Judah in every possible way: biggest army, best camping spot, leadership of Israel, etc. (2) The whole camp is set up around the Tabernacle (which is in the middle), which is God's presence in their midst. This shows that God is to be central in our lives - not on the borders of our existence.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Leviticus 26 to 27

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Leviticus 26 Some preachers talk about Hell more than Heaven, because the Bible talks about curses more than blessings. For a perfect example of that, read Leviticus 26. I think that the danger needs to be emphasized here - and judging by this chapter, God thinks so too. This has nothing to do with being judgmental, and everything to do with wanting people to escape danger.

Leviticus 27 (1) When things were given to Yahweh -really given to the Tribe of Levi, much like tithes given to God today are actually a gift to the church- there needed to be rules for how that worked. Gifts of sons, daughters, grown people, houses, land, animals, etc. needed to have rules in place so that people could get their land, sons, daughters, or people back after some time. (2) By the way, the value of women in Lev. 27 is about 50% to 60% what men are valued at. God seems to be giving men a different but more prominent role in society. At leas that is what it looks like.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Recap: Catching Up After Rest (Lev. 8-25)

After I fell behind on reports from Leviticus, I tried to catch up on the material. No dice. Let's get back on track by highlighting a few interesting things from this book of the Scriptures. Among those interesting tidbits is that old Garfield (pictured above) is listed as an unclean animal. See below.

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Temple Priests The book of Leviticus places much higher expectations on Priests than it does on normal people. From one's choice of a wife to the last day of service, all of the Priest's life was laid down for them by this book. God holds leaders to a higher standard.

Cuddly Is Unclean From chapter 11.27: 'All that walk on their paws among all the creatures that walk on all fours are unclean to you.' That means our furry canine and feline companions are unclean animals - Garfield is an unclean animal.

Gender Inequality? The Leviticus 12, a mother is unclean for twice as long after birth if the resulting baby is a girl rather than a boy. It seems like God is really creating a masculine-led culture rather than just allowing for one here.

Cleanliness Next to Godliness? It is not true that 'cleanliness is next to godliness,' but Leviticus treats outward cleanliness as something which symbolizes a deeper reality - a cleanliness of heart, mind, and spirit. For this reason, the cleanliness and purity laws are pretty intricately laid out.

The Nation of Festivals Out of every year, 2/3rds of the festivals are reminders to Israel: The Passover would remind them of their exodus from Egypt; The Festival of Tents would remind them of their stay in the wilderness. There were also Sabbath years which would be nice to practice today. How do Jews practice the Year of Jubilee these days? They don't all quit their jobs do they?

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Postmillennialism: Are We There Yet??

Opening Thoughts
So last post we discussed amillennialism ( no, I am NOT recapping :)) and this post I want to turn our attention to another theory of the millennium, postmillennialism. Obviously, post here means after. So in its simplest idea, postmillennialism is the view that there will be an earthly reign of Christ for a thousand years. Now the conversation takes a bit of a turn. Now that we are discussing views that involve an actual millennium, things will get a little simpler in trying to explain some of this.

Postmillennialism In a Nutshell
"According to this view, the progress of the gospel and the growth of the church will gradually increase, so that a larger and larger proportion of the world's population will be Christians. As a result, there will be significant Christian influences on society, society will more and more function to God's standards, and gradually a 'millennial age' of peace and righteousness will occur on the earth. This 'millennium' will last for a long period of time (not necessarily a literal one thousand years), and finally, at the end of this period, Christ will return to earth, believers and unbelievers will be raised, the final judgment will occur, and there will be a new heaven and new earth. We will then enter into the eternal state." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1111)

To help all of us who are more visual, here is a chart:

Scriptural Basis
So what does Scripture say concerning postmillennialism? Although the term itself of course is not found in our sacred literature, there can be some interpretation that this idea might be legit.

  • The Great Commission. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 28: 18-20 that "all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to me (Jesus)", and with that authority the disciples were to go forth from that place and make more disciples until the whole world heard the gospel. That sounds like the idea of a gradual process, don't you agree?
  • The Parables of Christ. In His parables, Jesus points to stories which seem to suggest a gradual filling of the earth with the kingdom of God. Two main examples would include Matthew 13: 31-32 which describes the kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, and Matt. 13: 33 which describes the kingdom being like flour that was being leavened until it was full.
  • Those who subscribe to postmillennialism will say that the world is increasingly becoming more Christian in the sense that the gospel is thriving in countries where it is persecuted (i.e. China, India, Egypt, etc.)
The Rebuttal
Although the Great Commission does give Christ all authority in heaven and earth, it is implied by postmillennialists that the majority of the world will be Christian. I have a hard time with this implication because of this: Christ will redeem His elect, although we as the Church have no clue how many that will be. We know from Scripture that God does not wish any to perish, but for all to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), and in this, we know that not all will be saved (Matt. 7:21-23), so where is the predominant Christian society? I know that this might seem off considering this view, but it's good for us to think about.

The other two arguments that are given above really are too vague in my opinion to be considered seriously for postmillennialism. The parables are too vague and any implication that they refer to postmillennialism is just that, an implication.

And for the assertion that the world is becoming more Christian seems a little off to me. Yes, the gospel is progressing to every nation on the earth praise Christ, but in places where the gospel has taken root, there seems to be little impact on society. Maybe I'm just being too harsh, but all you have to do is look at Europe and the United States to see that not only are they not becoming more Christian, but they seem to be seeping into secularism in every sense of the word. Europe was the birthplace of the Reformation, and today you could barely recognize it as Europe becomes entwined with every form of psychology, science and religion, not to mention Roman Catholicism. The church that Jonathan Edwards used to pastor in Massachusetts is currently being used to wed homosexual couples. These are steps backwards in society, not forwards. If postmillennialism is correct, then I feel we have an awful long wait ahead of us.

The Best Of Both Worlds?
One last note on this subject is that it is entirely possible for someone to adhere to postmillennialism as well as premillennialism. We'll hit premillennialism in the next two posts, but there are people (although I have no idea how many) who ascribe to postmillennialism but who also believe that after the world has become increasingly Christian, Jesus will set up His earthly kingdom. That's not in the realm of impossibility, but in the end it all depends how they define the term millennium. Interesting I thought.

Final Thoughts
So as a believer in Christ we are taught to look forward to His coming, as well we should. In that thought we should intercede for the nations and be witnesses for Christ in our neighborhoods, jobs, and wherever we go (Acts 1:8). So in the end this theology should enhance our view of what our great God one day will do. If four guys with PhD's can't agree on this important piece of theology, odds are we won't all agree either. At any rate, pursue the Scriptures and ask questions. There are plenty to ask, and it seems the more you ask the more confused you can get. We need Him and His Spirit to enlighten both our minds and our hearts in these issues, for they certainly are weighty indeed.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Leviticus 5 to 7

Taking the time to blog through the Bible is hard. I'm the sort of guy who reads theological journals. How do I write for the sort of person who doesn't know what the word theological even means, or who thinks that journals are something that you write in when your highschool romance goes bad? If you are reading this, then thanks. This blog has way more support (marked in the sidebar or not) than I ever dreamed it might.

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Leviticus 5 The guilt offering was about setting things right. Not only did you sacrifice a ram but you also paid back 120% of whatever you lied, cheated, oppressed, or stole to gain. The guilt offering lets us know that Jesus' sacrifice gets us forgiven, but still doesn't keep us from having to own up to our mistakes.

Leviticus 6-7 There is a manual for everything, including Temple work. You can almost imagine the Levites standing around these chapters in their scrolls muttering "stoke the fire... wear the linen... change clothes to for ash removal... keep the altar burning. Got it." If Israel revives the Jewish Temple, you can bet priests will be keeping these chapters in a pocket reference or an Android app.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ecclesiastes feat. Trent Reznor

Trent Reznor would be seriously angry if he knew that someone was using his songs to talk about the Bible. Trent Reznor, of the band Nine Inch Nails, is sort of a nihilistic Industrial artist whose aggressive Atheism permeates every lyric. but his song, Hurt, strikes a chord that King Solomon once touched on in Ecclesiastes: on its surface life is meaningless and accomplishment has no purpose. Trent sings out of his nihilism about the numb futility of everything:

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of dung
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end

You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt
If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

Solomon said "Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless! The more you know, the more you hurt; the more you understand, the more you suffer. I looked at all the works that my hands had wrought, and there was no profit under the sun. The wise and the fool have the same death - how the wise dies just like the fool!" So Trent Reznor is half right; nihilism is half right: there is no purpose to anything, at least on its own. Everything is a waste of time.

The difference between the two, is that King Solomon did not stop where Reznor stops. In the end he found one thing that isn't meaningless: the worship of God. "Remember your Maker, before the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it."


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Leviticus 1 to 4

Leviticus 1 The burnt offering was the cornerstone of Jewish sacrifice - the Tabernacle's bronze altar was known as 'the altar of burnt offering' even though other sacrifices were done on it too (Leviticus 4.25); this sacrifice alone was done continually, once a day and once at night (Exodus 29.38-39); and the fire of this sacrifice was never to be put out (Leviticus 6.13). Also, this is the only sacrifice that wasn't limited to atoning for unintentional sin. An unblemished male lamb, a picture of Jesus (the sinless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world) was the sacrificial animal for the twice-daily burnt offering. Since Jesus is called 'the Lamb' and he atones for even intentional sins, Jesus is most like the burnt offering. Like the burnt sacrifice, Jesus' blood covers us both in the morning and again at night, and the flame of his offering is never extinguished.

Leviticus 2 The grain offering was about gratefulness and worship. Israel was told to bring these sacrifices once a year -as a sign of thankfulness during The Feast of the Harvest- or else any other time that they felt particularly thankful. This would have been the main sacrifice that would have provided bread to the priests, making it sort of like a tithe. This offering reminds us that God controls the drought and the harvest, the time of plenty and the time of need, and is to be thanked when our times of plenty come along.

Leviticus 3 The peace or fellowship offering came with a pretty cool side benefit for the Levites: Israel was allowed to offer the priests some loaves of leavened(!) bread during the communal meal that followed (Leviticus 7.12-15). If the priests had kept a bread cutter anywhere around, this could have been where the traditional male's beloved steak sandwich was first invented. Like the fellowship offering, the Jesus' sacrifice brings us into community with one another, enabling once-strangers and even former enemies to sit down and share a common meal in His presence.

Leviticus 4 The sin offering was for unintentional sin, involving everyone from the High Priest -because ministers make mistakes, too- to the poorest common Israeli citizen. This sacrifice brought forgiveness to the one who offered it. Now, I have got two quick observations. (1) The High Priest's sin brings guilt on the people - as the leader, his sins have an impact on everyone else, so his offering is the same as what the whole congregation of Israel would have offered together - Leviticus 4.3,13-14 (2) God holds leaders to account (see point #1) but He also does not burden poorer worshipers too severely; Leviticus goes down the list of wealth offering smaller sacrifices ranging from bulls, to male goats, to female goats, to doves, to flour which would soak up some blood from the altar and act as a very cheap sacrifice. Like the sin offering, Jesus covers even our unintentional sin, and unknown sins, sins of which we are not even aware.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dumb on Boredom: Don't Play to the Slack Crowd

Tom used to launch spitballs during Bible Study. Our youth pastor would open up the Bible, start talking about some text or other, and Tom would just goof off and do something to interrupt the the whole Bible Study. I wondered why he even came - why come to something called a Bible Study if you aren't all that interested in studying the Bible?!

Pastors and Bible Study leaders sometimes respond to these situations by preaching to the lowest common denominator in their crowd. If a certain congregant/house church member falls asleep during their sermons, the pastor might preach for less time next week. The poor reading skills of some congregants might lead to the pastor embracing a more readable but less literal translation to replace the existing pew Bibles. Complicated theological subjects get to be avoided all together, because (after all) who would understand? The result of this is a slack, shallow theology for a group of increasingly slack and shallow Christians. When you play to the least motivated crowd, you get the people that you aim for - people who can show up to something called a Bible study and then act surprised and hurt that it's not really a games night.

If you go slack on your Bible teaching, you are robbing your people. Lightening up on your campus group could mean that you aren't guarding them from arguments by the school's Atheists and Muslim clubs; it could mean the kids in your youth group don't have the tools to evaluate some random web link that says Christianity borrowed our beliefs from Paganism; it could leave those under your care completely defenseless against the seething doubt that this world of ours pushes against religious faith. Whether you are an army chaplain, a sports player, a campus crusader, a high school kid, or a youth pastor, you need to guard the weaker Christians under your care. But you can't do that if you are spending all your time trying to accommodate the kid in the back who does not care and who gets bored too easily. If he does not want to change, then at some point that becomes his/her responsibility. If you accommodate the slackers too much you will end up harming everyone else. It is not your responsibility to play to the lowest common denominator just because one or two people come to your Bible Study every week hoping that maybe, just maybe tonight will be games night. There are enough of those in the world. We need some place that will offer some real discipleship.

Some of the kids who are bored might get some leniency from you because you think they're not that bright. After all, how could a 16 year old kid possibly understand or care about civilization in early Corinth? Answer: the same way that they are able to understand enough ancient culture to pass their ancient-history exam. These kids can get what you are saying (that's to you, Youth Pastors). The same lesson goes for people on sports teams or Christian clubs or small groups; don't go too light on the meat of real Bible teaching. If you leave your people starved for the sake of 'dumbing things down' for the one guy who isn't all that dedicated in the first place, you're really just fighting boredom by fostering stupidity. And I'm not sure how that method of ministry really serves anybody.

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Exodus 39 to 40

Exodus 39 This part is eerily reminiscent of the poem of God's creation in Genesis, where God is said to have looked upon His creation and declared it good. In this chapter, Moses does this with the Tabernacle: 'And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as Yahweh had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.' There is something about knowing that you have put in good work and been faithful to God, and it is a great feeling. Moses steps back and feels that, shares that, reflects on that to his people. The Tabernacle is finished.

Exodus 40 'So Moses finished the work.' The hard work was done by Bezalel and Oholiab, but Moses gets the honor of completing the Tabernacle. God blesses Moses with this. Why would He do that? Because it is God's choice - in every generation He raises up one man above all others and works through that individual in a special way. Prophets, Judges, Apostles, Abraham, Moses... all of them were individuals that God chose to work through and honor in a very special way. Moses is honored here, and he shows us that God raises someone up in every generation. Who is that person in your area? Is it your pastor? Is it an evangelist? Is it a mechanic? Is it you?

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Exodus 36 to 38

Exodus 36 Bezalel the son of Hur gets to work on heading up the Tabernacle Construction Project. The whole thing ends up taking a massive amount of gold and silver, the women help out with the knitting and weaving, and people have to be encouraged to stop giving to the project - a problem my pastor probably wishes he had to deal with in his people! The building is faithful to the description given to Moses, right down to the last detail, so much that much of the following material is just repeated from the earlier section. Bezalel did not try to add any creative arches or experiment with special designs: he did it exactly the way that God prescribed. Does your church worship God the way that He prescribes in His Word, or does it come up with its own creative ideas that push His aside?

Exodus 37 The Tabernacle continues to be built, just the way that God commands it. It strikes me that the detail isn't exhaustive though. Even today, we still have slightly different portrayals of the Tabernacle and the High Priest's robes, because the decorative bits weren't laid out. I wonder if Bezalel was inspired to produce exactly what God wanted, in the same way that St. Paul or St. Peter were inspired to write letters, so that what was made was exactly what God wanted.

Exodus 38 Bezalel of Judah did the major work, but Oholiab of Dan finished it all up and made the decorative bits into what they were. I think that God did this -made them a team, rather than just giving Bezalel all of the skills- to show us that we were not meant to work alone or be solitary people. God made us in His image, which includes our need for relationships and partnerships that reflect the Trinity, and as the Father/Son/Spirit work together and complement each other's work perfectly, Bezalel and Oholiab worked together and complemented one another's skills perfectly. As the Church we do this too - we are all different parts of one body, living out God's image as we work in unison in one collective unity.

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Exodus 33 to 35

Exodus 33 Moses pleads with God to continue on with Israel: 'For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?' The lesson from this chapter is that, if you can't have the blessing and presence of God in doing something, then it isn't worth doing at all; 'If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.'

Exodus 34 If God's relationship with Israel is like a marriage, then God is like the husband of a cheating wife. Two chapters ago Israel made an idol and worshiped (in effect) another god. In the last chapter Moses plays the mediator. Finally, in this chapter, God looks with His eyes upon unfaithful Israel and renews His wedding vows to her: 'I am making a covenant. Before you I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Yahweh, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you... I will drive out before you the nations.' It's kind of sweet, in an 'I am going to help you wipe out a nation,' sort of way.

Exodus 35 With the covenant renewed and the 'marriage' re-made, work on the Tabernacle begins. Israel comes on her part and makes amends by giving generously to the building project; every man and woman contributes something to the Tabernacle construction project. This is God's sign that He will be with His people, in the midst of them, as their faithful God and protector. The Tabernacle (and keep in mind what just happened a couple of chapters ago) is God's sign that He will be with this nation that isn't yet a true geographic nation.

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Exodus 31 to 32

Exodus 31 Exodus records that Bezalel and Oholiab were 'filled with the Spirit of God' so that they would have the skill to do work on the Tabernacle. This makes me wonder if the transition from academic to tradesman (and back again) is as simple as asking God to empower you for one task or the other, or both. And by the way, here is a little reflection on the Hebrew Sabbath, which I've taken up to help me understand the Old Testament better: it's way better than taking your Sabbath on Sunday. To keep your Sunday sabbath, you have to be unproductive for 32 hours (all of Sunday of plus eight hours of sleep); to keep the Jewish sabbath (about 6:00pm Friday to 6:00pm Saturday), you begin your sabbath with sleep and end it in the late afternoon the next day, keeping things down to a trim 24-hour period.

Exodus 32 Like a business leader who goes away on vacation, only to come back to find the office steeped in complete and utter chaos (fights breaking out; a man photocopying his rear end while cackling strangely; employees making long-distance calls on the phone; computer-game players; uninvited children; an unexplained ape roaming around in shirt and tie, etc.), Moses learns a lesson the hard way: good leaders are hard to find and his people are unreliable. The Israelis have fashioned an idol by this point and held a drunken party in its honor - right in time for Moses' return. As for Aaron, Exodus tells us that he was left in charge, and that he turned out to be the one who fashioned this blasphemous little statuette. Moses was not happy. My favourite part? Moses is said to have ground the golden calf into powder and made his people swallow it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Exodus 28 to 30

Exodus 28 In Aaron's high priestly robe, we have more than just some piece of clothing that could have made Ric Flair himself salivate with envy; we have (theological) Thinking Man duds. loaded with symbolism. This robe carried more meaning than John Lennon's glasses, Gryffindor's sword, Michael Jackson's glove, and Elvis' Las Vegas jumpsuit all put together. The High Priest literally carried the names of the Israeli clans before God in sacrifice, carried God's will for the nation to the people (Urim and Thummim), wore statements of God's holiness on his head, was draped with the color of divinity, and bore symbols of fruitfulness on the hem of his garment.

Exodus 29 The ordination of Old Testament priests was intense. I think that this was because God demands more of spiritual leaders -in fact, I believe I read that in this book one time...- and because Yahweh Himself is holy, and cannot be approached without care, reverence, and holiness on the part of His people. No one can flippantly or carelessly approach the throne of God: the Jesus Is My Homeboy t-shirts tell lies.

Exodus 30 It might be the fiscal conservative/policy wonk in me, but the part of this chapter that really interested me was the part about taxes. In this case the tax is low (according to Bible commentator John Gill, 1697-1771), and every person is made to pay the same amount regardless of income.

'This temple-tax shows the equality of the redeemed and ransomed of the Lord; for though some sins and sinners are greater than others, and some are redeemed from more sins than others, yet all sins being infinite, as committed against an infinite God, but one price is paid for all, and that is the precious blood of Christ, the Son of God, an infinite and divine Person; hence all the ransomed ones have the same faith, righteousness, salvation, and eternal life.' -John Gill

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Exodus 25 to 27

Yikes! After our best posting month ever, it looks like we are falling behind on regular posts again. My bad. Incidentally, for those of you who are doing the Chronological Bible Reading Plan, I think I have a solution to getting through these blueprint chapters: use your unrest to think about how the Israelis must have been feeling - what feels to us like a long 4 days for us was actually 40 days for them. In that mindset we begin to realize that the sin of worshiping the golden calf seems almost natural after waiting so long. Of course we recognize that we could have done the same thing, and that is a scary thought! And also, imagine how cool it was for Yahweh to outline what He wanted organized religion to look like: reverent, repentant, pregnant with symbolism, structured, and thoughtful. Not to mention full of love for God and neighbor. Moses had quite the experience.

Exodus 25 The list of Temple furniture seems randomly thrown together and out of order - most likely assembled from notes, journals, and drawings that Moses would have left behind with Joshua. There could be a method to the (apparent) madness according to how these pieces are arranged, but so far I am not seeing it. Just one observation here: The mercy seat is the height of perfection in the Meeting Tent; from the solid gold cover, to the cherubim being made of one piece with the rest of the lid, to the worshipful (head down) posture of the angels, the whole thing is a picture of purity (solid gold - all of one piece) and worship (cherubim facing down).

Exodus 26 Construction plans for the tent itself. The whole tent-temple (tentple?) is both inclusive and exclusive - inclusive in that Yahweh is shown to be in the midst of Israel; exclusive in that the closer to the Holiest Place you went, the less people were allowed to enter into it. It served to bring God closer to the people, but also to keep Him an obvious and reverent distance away from them. No one could enter the courtyard except for Levites; no one could enter the tent except for Aaron's family, and no one could enter the Holiest Place except for Aaron - and, even then, only once a year.

Exodus 27 The altar in the court yard was made of bronze; it had kind of an olympic-flame theme going on, meaning the fire on it was never supposed to go out. This is where all of the animal sacrifices would have been done, and the sand underneath would have soaked up (and covered) the massive amounts of blood shed on that altar. When I think of how many bulls, goats, sheep, and birds were given to this thing, I think of Jesus: the priests had to sacrifice many animals all the time, but Jesus' blood only needed to be shed once; the priests were sinners, but Jesus -the great Priest- had no sin of His own to atone for on any altar; the Priests died and were replaced by later generations, but Jesus conquered death by the resurrection and always make intercession for us: Jesus is the better sacrifice, the better priest, and the better altar.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Recap: Chapter by Chapter in Exodus 16 to 24

Exodus 16 This chapter covers the gift of manna. It strikes me more and more that the desert is a sort of boot camp where the Israelis were trained to trust in Yahweh. For example: every day they collected just enough food, and then they had to trust God to miraculously provide the next morning. It is like they were being conditioned to have faith - and it worked. The next generation (under Joshua) was probably the best generation of Israelis ever produced.

Exodus 17 Amalek goes to war with Israel - and Israel wins. What Exodus does not tell you is that the Amalekites were attacking Israel from the rear, cutting off its most tired and weary travelers -probably the women and the children- with unusual cruelty (Deuteronomy 25.17-18). That sort of explains Yahweh's commitment to 'continually' war against Amalek. If Josephus is to be believed, and I think he is upon this occasion, taking the Amalekite camp meant Israel got the spoils of war: food, wine, clothes, light armor, gold and silver, and cattle (Josephus, Antiquities, 3.2.4-5).

Exodus 18 The major part of this chapter, the visit from Moses' father-in-law, is already pretty well covered by most. Let me zero in on something else. Jethro brings his daughter Zippporah and her children (Moses' wife and kids) back from Midian to be with Moses. I do not know whether he sent her home out of concern for her safety in Egypt, or if she left on her own after the argument in Exodus 4.24-25, but either way: it is not good for families to remain separate for very long, except under extreme conditions. Zipporah needed her husband. Her children needed their father. That universal need of wives and children -for the man who fills those roles for them- is still as practically true today as it was 3,451 years ago.

Exodus 19 In the section of Hebrews that talks about this chapter in Exodus, one of my mentors wrote in the margins of his Bible, 'God is hardcore.' And He is. For any one who doubts that the fear of God actually means fear, they should read this chapter. Lightning, thick black smoke, fire, rumbling, loud horns, penalty of death upon touching the mountain - it's all there to give the Israeli people a profound fear of God, lest they make too light of Him.

Exodus 20 Here are the Ten Commandments, covering everything from making idols to coveting your neighbor's collection of Ante-Nicene Fathers. Jesus sometimes summed them up as loving God and your neighbor. The form of the commandments is actually a lot like a 1400's B.C. war treaty between a strong king and a weak king in the middle east; essentially it is 'I have done this, now these are your responsibilities.'

Exodus 21 This is the beginning of the random list of Israeli laws. There is no order (as far as I can tell) to how they are laid out. My theory is that Moses wrote multiple journals, lists of things that Yahweh had revealed to him, and also decisions God had given him about the cases that he decided between his people from morning till night time, and then whoever compiled Exodus just wrote them down in the order he found them, without making too much of an effort to put things in order. My guess is that Joshua did most of this work, then Ezra updated it.

Exodus 22 A convicting passage about tithing: 'You shall not delay to offer from the first of your harvest.' I have gotten much better at the tithing thing over the past year (though still not good as I could have done), but sometimes I delay things for a couple of weeks or pay off something and then 'pay God back' on the next pay day. According to this passage, I'm an idolater with a love of money; I should not delay to offer my tithe.

Exodus 23 An interesting point, in quotes: 'I will send hornets before you, which will drive out the Canaanites from before you' (Exodus 23.28). God directs even nature to fight on behalf of the Israeli army. Imagine how terrifying they must have been. This army of Bedouins comes up against you; your walls fall; hornets go ahead of them; hail falls from the sky; earthquakes accompany them; the sun maintains its place in the sky and does not move; the people who God sent His people against must have thought they were demons.The Canaanites had to be freaked out when the Jewish people came up against them.

Exodus 24 Moses finally climbs the mountain of Sinai, in stages (resembling the stages to the Temple, which I will talk about in a later post). Interestingly, Joshua gets to remain with him. Also interesting is that Moses, Aaron, Hur, Joshua, and the 70 elders of Israel see God physically - or at least His feet. Of course God is invisible, so we can never say 'oh, that's what God looks like,' but that does not mean that God cannot assume a form.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Glimpsing God In Exodus 4 to 6

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

According to the book of Exodus, the solution to every problem is a right view of God. Moses complains about being a bad speaker, and Yahweh points back to Himself: 'who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or death, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh?' God points back to Himself often in the Scriptures, in response to our complaints, as in chapter 6 below.

The Litany of Divine Qualities, Chapter 6
After the failed Freedom Mission to Pharaoh's palace (described in chapter 5), Moses was pretty freaked out. He is recorded as having prayed to God 'why have You done evil to Your people... why did You ever send me?' And in that moment God spoke to him and reminded Moses about His faithfulness, His understanding, His plan, and His glory. Notice that God's 'I' is the subject of every statement:

  • 'I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty.'
  • 'I established My covenant to give them the land of Canaan.'
  • 'I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel.'
  • 'I have heard, and I have remembered My covenant.'
  • 'I therefore will bring you out from the burdens of the Egyptians.'
  • 'I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great judgment.'
  • 'I will bring you into the land that I swore to your fathers.'
  • 'I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God.'
  • 'I am Yahweh.'

See God High and Exalted
The solution to everything is to see God for who He is, and to trust in Him. Are you nervous about your upcoming speech? You should remember that God made the mouth. Are you frustrated that nothing ever works out? Then remember that God is faithful. Do you feel alone? Do you feel as if your life has no purpose at all? Then trust that God knows your pain, and is sovereign, and has a purpose for everything. Over and over a thousand times, we need to learn from Moses that having a right view of God changes our perspective on everything else. This is why God reminds Moses of His power and faithfulness during times of frustration.' In all situations in life, let us see God high and lifted up and exalted, seated on the throne, as Isaiah saw. As Matthew Henry writes,
"Let us by faith see God on this throne, on his throne of glory, infinitely transcending the splendour and majesty of earthly princes - on his throne of government, giving law, giving motion, and giving aim, to all the creatures - on his throne of judgment, rendering to every man according to his works - and on his throne of grace, to which his people may come boldly for mercy and grace; we shall then see no reason to be discouraged by the pride and power of oppressors, or any of the afflictions that attend the righteous."


Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!