Archive for the ‘Exodus’ Category

Exodus 25-26, “God’s Dwelling Place, part 1”

Some churches (including CC Tyler) like to say “Come as you are,” and with good reason! Certain places have made it seem that unless you can afford to dress yourself according to a certain dress code, you’re not welcome – or, unless your life is perfect, don’t bother walking through the door. Such attitudes are elitist & legalistic, and have no place among the churches of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus walked among the rich & poor alike in Judea, offering the gospel of salvation to anyone who would repent of their sin and believe. They could come as they were; they just weren’t going to stay as they were. Their lives were radically changed by Jesus!

That being said, the idea of “come as you are” can possibly go a little too far. All we need to do is take a late-night trip to WalMart & see it in action! There’s casual, and then there’s casual! We are invited to come as we are, but at a certain point we still need to be wearing clothes! There is at least a little decorum in every circumstance.

Regarding our salvation and the worship of God, it isn’t matter of the way we dress; it’s a matter of the way we think – it’s a matter of our hearts and attitudes. Never do we go to God on our terms, demanding that our Creator bend His will to our own & compromise His own holiness to fit us. Perish the thought! No – we always go to God on His terms, being grateful that we are invited to go unto Him at all.

And we are invited! God wants us to be with Him – God wants us to dwell with Him, and He gives us a very specific way of doing so: through the Lord Jesus Christ. John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” HE is the way (the road, the path) to God – HE is the truth revealed by God – He is the life given by God & the One who gives life to us. It is Jesus alone. To attempt to dwell with God any other way is an attempt of futility. God has to be the one to come and dwell among us, inviting us to dwell with Him – and the way He does it is through Jesus.

What does any of this have to do with Exodus 25, 26, and following? Everything! Almost the entire remainder of the book of Exodus (all the way through Chapter 40) describes both the instructions for, and construction of, the tabernacle of God. A tabernacle is literally a “dwelling place,” – in this case, a portable tent that was taken with the children of Israel everywhere they wandered through the wilderness until they inherited the Promised Land. Even after Joshua conquered the Canaanites, Amorites, etc., the Israelites were supposed to worship God at the tabernacle all up till the day the temple was built by Solomon. (Not that the Hebrews were perfectly obedient in this, but that was the intent.) The tabernacle was where God came to, and dwelt among His people. Although the heavens cannot contain God, God allowed His special presence to be with the Hebrews in His earthly tent, the tabernacle.

The point? The Hebrews couldn’t go to God anywhere else or in any other way. God graciously chose to dwell among them, and if they wanted to worship Him, they had to go to Him on His terms in His way. His way was the tabernacle. This is where the holiness of God was graphically showcased to the people, and when they approached it, they knew they were approaching their Holy Covenant-Keeping God, and they were to worship and fear Him rightly. (So are we, and we do so through Jesus!)

Before we get into the details, there are a couple of things we need to know up front. First, it’s of interest to know that the structure was unique, but not unfamiliar. The idea of a war tent for a sovereign king was not unknown in the Ancient Near East. “The closest parallel to the form and function of the Tabernacle stems from pictorial evidence of a military tent camp that Rameses II used to fight the Hittites in the Battle of Qedesh. This battle was so important to Ramesses II that it is described in hieroglyphics in 10 different places throughout ancient Egypt, and scenes of the battle were depicted artistically in five locations.” (Prof Michael Homan, Torah.com) Although Rameses II likely came later than Moses (although this is a matter of debate), the concept was certainly there. Remember that the Hebrews had just come out of 400 years of Egyptian slavery, so the idea that God chose a variation of an Egyptian form as His own tent makes sense. This was something that would have been understood by the Hebrews, so God chose something relatively familiar in order to do extraordinary things among them. (Not unlike how God came to us in a familiar human form, in order to dwell among us in extraordinary ways.)

Second, the tabernacle isn’t simply a full-furnished tent of worship – it isn’t only a sanctuary. It is very clearly a picture of heavenly things, pointing us to a heavenly purpose. Writing of our better High Priest, the Lord Jesus who now lives in heaven, the author of the book of Hebrews says: Hebrews 8:4–5, “(4) For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; (5) who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”” The key point: the earthly tabernacle was a “copy and shadow” of heavenly things. The things on earth were intended to point to things in heaven – the most important of which is the Lord Jesus.

That said, we need to be careful not to take this too far. Some look at the tabernacle and its furnishings, and come up with all kinds of fanciful interpretations. Some have argued that there is a parallel between the instruction & construction of the tabernacle with the creation week in Genesis (Kline) – others have suggested tiny details such as the bells on the priestly robes speak of the Holy Spirit who “set the gospel bells of testimony ringing,” (Unger). With respect to those scholars, Christians need to be careful not to abandon basic fundamentals of Biblical interpretation. We don’t need to invent symbols just to have symbols; we simply need to let the Biblical text speak for itself.

What we find is that it does speak of Jesus. There is too much symbolism shown in the tabernacle & later picked up in the New Testament to not see Jesus in it. The tabernacle is all about the dwelling place of God, and who else is Christ than God come to dwell among us? Of course the tent will point to Christ…it cannot do otherwise!

How did it all come about? Remember that once the children of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai, God personally showed His glory to them and spoke the 10 Commandments in their hearing. The people were overwhelmed by God’s majestic power & feared, but the proper fear of the Lord helped them commit even further to His covenant (which God further explained to Moses as their intermediary). They agreed to obey all that the Lord said to do, and Moses showed the covenant sealed with the blood of sacrifice. Moses and the elders of Israel fellowshipped with God in a covenant meal on the mountain, but Moses alone was called up further. When Exodus 24 left off, Moses was seen walking into the midst of the cloud of glory on Mount Sinai, with the top of the mountain consumed in God’s holy fire. 

What was it Moses heard and saw during those 40 days and 40 nights? Simply put, all that follows from Chapters 25-31. God gave to Moses all of the instructions for the tabernacle, the priestly garments, the priestly ordination, and more. He showed Moses everything the children of Israel required to build place where God could (and would) dwell among them.

How amazing it is that God desires to dwell among His people! He approaches us, in order that we can approach Him. Approach God in God’s way, that we might dwell with Him through Jesus!

Exodus 25

  • Offerings for the tabernacle (25:1-9)

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering. 3 And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; 4 blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; 5 ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; 6 oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; 7 onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.

  1. Before any instructions are given for the tabernacle itself, instructions are first given for an offering. It makes sense – after all, if these things are going to be built, the materials to build them would first be required. God listed off all kinds of things, including much riches & precious metals of “gold, silver, and bronze.” Considering the Hebrews were former slaves wandering in the wilderness, where would they get this wealth? They already had it! Remember that before they left Egypt after the night of the Passover, God had told the Hebrews to ask for these items from their Egyptian neighbors…and incredibly, they gave it! The Hebrews received 400 years’ worth of back-pay in a single night, which enabled them to have more than enough gold & other wealth to use for the tabernacle construction.
  2. With the command, we see a couple of principles regarding received offerings:
    1. Offerings are to be willing/voluntary; not forced. The Israelites were to give “willingly with [their] hearts.” The opportunity would be presented to them to give, but it was to be a gift. Their offerings were offerings of worship. This wasn’t a forced tax – it wasn’t manipulated out of guilt. In the New Testament, Paul instructed the church to give from a cheerful heart (2 Cor 9:7); the Old Testament standard was no different. God loves cheerful givers!
    2. Offerings are to be appropriate; not random. The people were invited to give, but they weren’t invited to give their leftovers. Specific needs were to be met, and the offerings were to reflect that. Thus the giving was to be done with forethought & intention; it wasn’t to be haphazard & random. Likewise, our normal giving ought to be planned; not left to random chance if we just happened to remember. Nor should we give what is of no value to us; we give to God what God wants (as opposed to what we don’t want any longer).

8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

  1. Of all things to remember about the tabernacle, this is the key. The holy place is God’s dwelling (מִשְׁכָּן) It wasn’t the gold and the furnishings that made the tabernacle special. It wasn’t the ark (nor was there reason to “raid” it!). It was God. God’s presence is what made everything else amazing. Without God, a tent is just a tent – a temple is just a temple (as the Jews learned when God’s glory departed it as seen by Ezekiel). These things are just buildings & structures. Likewise with church buildings! A building is just a building, whether it has spires and stained glass, or if it’s a business complex with an aluminum awning outside. What makes it special is whether or not God is there. And when is God ever present in a church building? Only when the church is gathered in it! Today, we are the dwelling place of God! God the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us, and presence of Jesus is real every time Christians get together. So whether it’s a campground under the open sky, or a beautifully built architectural wonder, it’s all just empty space without God. But with God, it is His dwelling place!

That was just the introduction. Lengthy descriptions of the various furnishings and structures come next. Due to the detail, we’ll take large chunks of Scripture and summarize the dimensions and specifics after reading.

  • The ark and mercy seat (25:10-22)

10 “And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side. 13 And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. 15 The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.

  1. Interestingly, the first item described about the tabernacle is not the tent itself, but the ark to be contained within it. The central importance of the ark becomes clear in 25:16 when Moses is instructed to place the future tablets of the 10 Commandments within it. As for the ark itself (using a standard of 18 inches for a cubit), it is 3¾ feet long; 2¼ feet wide; and 2¼ feet high. In essence, it is an open-topped box, which is exactly what the Hebrew word (אֲרוֹן) implies: a chest of some sort, perhaps used for money storage, or a sarcophagus, or something as sacred as the written law covenant of God. Interestingly, the word translated “ark” is different than the earlier word used for Noah’s ark and the ark of Moses as a baby (תֵּבָה). That word seems to be limited to the accounts of Genesis 7-9 and Exodus 2. As to the ark of the testimony, like many of the other furnishings of the tabernacle, it was fashioned from acacia wood, and overlaid with pure gold. Rings were located on the side of the ark, in which poles were to be inserted for the purpose of transportation. Due to its contents and importance, it was not to be touched. This hard lesson was later learned by Uzzah, when he placed his hand on the ark to steady it, during a time when it was being improperly transported. He was immediately struck dead.
  2. Summary: a golden box meant to carry; not to be carried. It was too holy to touch. What made it so holy? “The Testimony which I will give you.” IOW, the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are YHWH’s witness/testimony to Israel. This was His revelation of His perfect character to them, and the basis of their relationship with Him. The tablets themselves were written upon by the very finger of God…there could hardly be a holier piece of material other than the cross of Christ!
    1. The point? Respect the holiness of God! It is amazing that we are invited into a relationship with the God of the Universe – especially considering how gravely we sinned against Him in the past. Jesus has called us His friends & made us His co-heirs. We have a wonderfully intimate relationship with God as our Heavenly Father (or Abba). Even so, this is not something to be treated casually – to be taken for granted or treated with disrespect. No matter how close we are to Jesus (and we are invited to come wonderfully close!), God is still God; we’re not. Reverence Him! Respect Him!

17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 22 And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.

  1. The ark was without a top, so the mercy seat served as its lid. Thus, its dimensions matched the ark upon which it sat: 3¾ feet long; 2¼ feet wide. The commonly known term “mercy seat” was given by Tyndale, but the Hebrew word (כַּפֹּרֶת) describes atonement. The mercy seat would play a central role in the atonement of the sins of Israel, for that was where the blood of the sacrifice was to be placed, and it served as the throne seat of God. To Moses, God said that it was from the mercy seat that “I will meet with you.” More than a practical lid, the mercy seat was also highly decorated, portraying “two cherubim of gold; of hammered work.” The creatures were to face one another on the mercy seat, with their wings stretched out. Beyond this, no description of the cherubim is given within the biblical text. Their imagery would have been fashioned according to the description given by Moses, based on the vision he received from God (Exo 25:9). Scholars differ on what the cherubim looked like. Some prefer imagery based on Egyptian mythology (lion-like bodies, wings, human faces); others prefer the later description given by Ezekiel, with human faces, four wings, and various different animal parts. In the end, Moses doesn’t record it for us here, so there’s no way to definitively know.
  2. Question: Do these statuettes of cherubim violate the 2nd Commandment? Are not these graven images? First of all, the commandment cannot be broken when God gives an explicit command to make the figures. Secondly, the purpose of these images needs to be kept in mind: these cherubim are not meant to be worshipped; they picture the heavenly beings that worship God. The 2nd Commandment does not prohibit art; it prohibits idolatry. When art becomes idolatry, that’s when it becomes a problem. [Bronze serpent, Num 21:9 & 2 Kings 18:4]
  3. The whole idea of the ark/mercy seat combination is that this was representative of the throne room of God. This was where God would speak with Moses, and this was where God would receive the blood of sacrifice for sin. It was a most holy purpose, which is why it would be set in the Most Holy place.
  • The table for showbread (25:23-30)

23 “You shall also make a table of acacia wood; two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height. 24 And you shall overlay it with pure gold, and make a molding of gold all around. 25 You shall make for it a frame of a handbreadth all around, and you shall make a gold molding for the frame all around. 26 And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs. 27 The rings shall be close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table. 28 And you shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be carried with them. 29 You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring. You shall make them of pure gold. 30 And you shall set the showbread on the table before Me always.

  1. Although this might seem strange to modern ears, even the table was holy. This was something designed by God with a specific purpose. (If God can make a table holy, just think about what He does with you & me!)
  2. As the name suggests, this was the table placed within the tabernacle structure that held the loaves of bread often referred to as “showbread.” Its dimensions were 3 feet long, 1½ feet wide, 2¼ feet high. Like the ark, it was to be fashioned from acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It, too, was to have attached rings for poles that were used in transport, also made of acacia wood and gold. Along with the table, Moses was instructed to have the various dishes and other apparatuses for the table made out of pure gold. As to its purpose, Kaiser writes, “The table with its bread presented two sides of the same truth: a godward side and a human side. First, it stood before God, reminding Israel that they were ever open to the all-seeing eye and protection of God. Next, it was the place where the priests served and found their bread.” The word translated “showbread” (KJV, NKJV) is rendered “bread of the presence” in other translations (NASB, ESV, NIV, HCSB). The Hebrew idea expressed is bread that is before the face of God. This bread was to be always set before God, a continuing reminder of His presence among Israel.
  3. Here, we start seeing the symbolism of Jesus come alive. Who is Jesus? The Bread of Life (Jn 6:48). What is it we eat in the Lord’s Supper? The bread, symbolizing the body of Christ (Mt 26:26). How do we have fellowship with God – how do we stand in His presence? Only by partaking of the Bread of Christ! The glorious golden table? It was nothing compared to the bread that sat upon it!
  • The menorah/lampstand (25:31-40)

31 “You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece. 32 And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side. 33 Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower—and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand. 34 On the lampstand itself four bowls shall be made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental knob and flower. 35 And there shall be a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same, according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand. 36 Their knobs and their branches shall be of one piece; all of it shall be one hammered piece of pure gold. 37 You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it. 38 And its wick-trimmers and their trays shall be of pure gold. 39 It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils. 40 And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.

  1. What is called the “lampstand” in English is the familiar Hebrew word “menorah,” (מְנוֹרָה), often associated with Hanukah celebrations. For this particular menorah, no precise measurements given as to its size, although the text is clear that the number of lamps totals seven (rather than the nine of Hanukah). The piece is described as beautiful, being made of pure gold, hammered into the resemblance of almond branches with every lamp on the stand. Alexander suggests, “There is no explanation why the lampstand should resemble a tree. [I.e. an almond tree, TWB.] Possibly it was to be reminiscent of the tree of life in Gn. 3:22, symbolizing the life-giving power of God.” In addition to the lamp’s beauty, was its cost. The lamp, along with all its utensils, was to be made out of one piece of pure gold weighing a full talent (75 pounds). (According to today’s gold prices, this alone would be worth well over $1.5 million!)
  2. The lamp was practical and Considering that the tabernacle itself was covered with four heavy layers of various fabrics, the inside would have been extremely dark. The light from seven candles on the menorah would have gone a long way! But beyond the practical nature was the beauty. God cares about beauty & art! Want proof? Look at a clear sunset – gaze upon a range of mountains – look into the Milky Way…these things are all beautiful, and each was created by God. The only reason we can appreciate beauty is because God instilled it within us – after all, we are made in His image.
    1. Beware of thinking of God as cold, calculating, and legalistic. He is righteous, yes, but He is anything but cold! Our God is a wondrous God & He loves to create things of wonder and beauty.
  3. Don’t miss the symbolism of Jesus in the menorah. After all, Jesus Himself said that He is the Light of the world! (Jn 9:5) He gives light to us to help us worship God – He brings us from the darkness of sin to the light of life – He puts His light within us that we might be the light to the rest of the world. Praise God that Jesus is the light!

Exodus 26

  • The coverings (26:1-14)

1 “Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen, and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them. 2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits. And every one of the curtains shall have the same measurements. 3 Five curtains shall be coupled to one another, and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another. 4 And you shall make loops of blue yarn on the edge of the curtain on the selvedge of one set, and likewise you shall do on the outer edge of the other curtain of the second set. 5 Fifty loops you shall make in the one curtain, and fifty loops you shall make on the edge of the curtain that is on the end of the second set, that the loops may be clasped to one another. 6 And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains together with the clasps, so that it may be one tabernacle.

  1. Next are the ten curtains of the tabernacle, serving as its covering and making it a proper “tent.” Four distinct layers are described, staring from the innermost covering and proceeding outward. Closest to, and covering the tabernacle itself was a layer of finely woven linen, using blue, purple, and scarlet thread. Although the purpose for these colors is left open to interpretation, not being expressly stated in the biblical text, it should be noted that “blue, purple, and scarlet were royal colors.” Likewise, the fine linen likely refers to a special type of cloth used by Egyptian royalty. Woven into the linen were more designs of cherubim as decoration and symbolism. Each curtain was 42 feet long, 4½ feet wide. The ten curtains were to be made as five paired sets, to be joined together with fifty golden clasps through pre-cut loops in the fabric. 
  2. Considering this was the innermost covering, it’s fitting that it was also the most artistic. The same colors and designs that a priest would see elsewhere in the tabernacle, he would also see on the ceiling as he looked up. It would have seemed as if he looked up into the heavens and saw the cherubim continually surrounding God’s throne.

7 “You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair, to be a tent over the tabernacle. You shall make eleven curtains. 8 The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; and the eleven curtains shall all have the same measurements. 9 And you shall couple five curtains by themselves and six curtains by themselves, and you shall double over the sixth curtain at the forefront of the tent. 10 You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain of the second set. 11 And you shall make fifty bronze clasps, put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one. 12 The remnant that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. 13 And a cubit on one side and a cubit on the other side, of what remains of the length of the curtains of the tent, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and on that side, to cover it.

  1. The second layer was to be made of goats’ hair, eleven total curtains, a little longer than the one underneath: 45 feet long, 4½ feet wide. Hannah notes of the goats’ hair that it is “a black weather-resistant material still used today by bedouins in tent-making.” As with the linen covering, the goats’ hair curtains were to be joined in paired sets with fifty loops, this time joined together by bronze clasps. The extra length of the eleventh curtain would hang over the rear of the tabernacle structure.
  2. Was there symbolism? The goats’ hair would obviously speak of sacrifice – but the main purpose was likely practical. This would provide insulation for the tent, and be the first real covering as the innermost covering was more decorative than anything. 

14 “You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that.

  1. Two additional coverings are listed in Exodus 25:14, though no sizing dimensions are given. The first (third in the series) is a covering made of ram’s skins dyed red, and the final uppermost covering is another leather fabric. The identification of this final covering is unknown. The Hebrew is taḫaš (תַּ֫חַשׁ), and is described as only “a kind of leather or skin, and perhaps the animal yielding it.” Different English versions use different translations: NIV = “sea cows,”; NASB = “porpoise,”; HCSB = “manatee skins.” Kaiser suggests that the leather of the taḫaš “came from the East African sea cows (“porpoise” or “dolphin”), found in the Red Sea.” Whereas this is a possibility, as it could have been included in what the Israelites receive from Egypt (being that the Hebrews were not a seafaring people), the biblical text doesn’t tell us where it came from.
  2. Bottom line: the outermost coverings were extremely practical. Water resistant leather helped the ministry within the tabernacle continue despite poor weather conditions.
  • The structure (26:15-30) 

15 “And for the tabernacle you shall make the boards of acacia wood, standing upright. 16 Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the width of each board. 17 Two tenons shall be in each board for binding one to another. Thus you shall make for all the boards of the tabernacle. 18 And you shall make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards for the south side. 19 You shall make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards: two sockets under each of the boards for its two tenons. 20 And for the second side of the tabernacle, the north side, there shall be twenty boards 21 and their forty sockets of silver: two sockets under each of the boards. 22 For the far side of the tabernacle, westward, you shall make six boards. 23 And you shall also make two boards for the two back corners of the tabernacle. 24 They shall be coupled together at the bottom and they shall be coupled together at the top by one ring. Thus it shall be for both of them. They shall be for the two corners. 25 So there shall be eight boards with their sockets of silver—sixteen sockets—two sockets under each of the boards. 26 “And you shall make bars of acacia wood: five for the boards on one side of the tabernacle, 27 five bars for the boards on the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle, for the far side westward. 28 The middle bar shall pass through the midst of the boards from end to end. 29 You shall overlay the boards with gold, make their rings of gold as holders for the bars, and overlay the bars with gold. 30 And you shall raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain.

  1. As to the structure of the building itself, this is described through the assembly of forty-eight boards of acacia wood overlaid with gold, each being 15 feet long, 2¼ feet wide. The boards were bound together, not by nails (as this would prevent disassembly and reassembly), but through “tenons” (NKJV, NASB) or “projections (NIV). Literally, the Hebrew refers to “hands,” inferring that the boards were cut to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The north and south sides of the tabernacle were comprised of twenty boards each, and the westward end was made of six boards. The remaining two boards were reserved for the rear corners. The boards were not to rest directly on the ground, but were fit into “forty sockets of silver: two sockets under each of the boards.” The total structure measured 45 feet in length, 15 feet in height, and 13½ feet in width.
  2. In addition to the tenons binding the boards together, God instructed Moses to make bars of acacia wood overlaid with gold, which would provide stability to the structure. No precise measurements given for the bars, but detailed instruction is given as to their use. Five bars were required for each of the three enclosed sides of the tabernacle, two bars running through rings toward the top, and two bars running through rings toward the bottom. As for the middle bar, it was to “pass through the midst of the boards from end to end.” One must admire the practicality of such a design, particularly for a building that would be assembled and reassembled hundreds of times over the course of decades.
  3. Specific size – specific assembly. Even the framework was shown to Moses by God on the mountain. Nothing was left to chance! When it comes to how we approach God in worship, for Him dwelling among us, nothing is left to chance. Jesus did not come at a random point in history – His arrival was not unannounced nor unexpected. Scripture prophesied all of these things. What He did, what He said, what He accomplished – all of it had a purpose and was fulfillment of prophecy. There was no more important work than that of Jesus…nothing was left for random chaos. (Why should our worship of God be any less?)
  • The veil & screen (26:31-37) 

31 “You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim. 32 You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy. 34 You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy. 35 You shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand across from the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and you shall put the table on the north side.

  1. The next item described is the first of two hanging curtains (as opposed to the curtains on the roof), this one serving as a divider between what was known as “the holy place and the Most Holy,” or Holy of Holies (קֹ֥דֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִֽׁים). In the Most Holy place, the ark of the testimony with its mercy seat was to be placed, and there it would remain, alone. The other items of furniture (the lampstand, table of showbread, and altar of incense) would be in the outer holy place. Like the first layer of covering for the tabernacle, this veil was also to be made of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, with images of cherubim woven throughout. The veil was to be hung by golden hooks upon four upright pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. The hooks would proceed through four sockets of silver. The veil in front would look much like the covering overhead, again symbolizing the throne room of God.
  2. Although it is not mentioned here, the veil is what separated the priests from the Most Holy place where the unveiled glory of God resided. In that place, only the high priest would go only one time per year, and only after much blood was sacrificed for his own sin. What happened in the New Testament with the temple equivalent of this veil? It was torn in two at the death of Jesus! (Mt 27:51) Jesus has given us full and free access to God through the cross!

36 “You shall make a screen for the door of the tabernacle, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver. 37 And you shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold; their hooks shall be gold, and you shall cast five sockets of bronze for them.

  1. The second of the hanging curtains served as the entrance to the tabernacle structure itself. As with the veil, the screed was also made of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, though no artistic designs of cherubim were prescribed. The screen was to be hung upon five pillars (instead of four, per the internal veil), also made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Again, the screen would be attached with golden hooks, though for this curtain the sockets for the curtain were to be made out of bronze.
  2. This is the first piece of linen made with the blue, purple, and scarlet thread that is not embroidered with images of cherubim. And it makes sense: this is the outer “door” to the tabernacle structure. They are only entering the very front area…things get more & more holier as the priest continues closer to the throne room of God.

Conclusion:

Much has been seen, but much more is still to come! In a display of sheer grace, Almighty God desired to dwell among His people. And the way He did showcases His incomprehensible holiness in wonderfully beautiful ways! Because God is holy, His people were to always remember His holiness, and fear Him in their approach.

That does not change for the church. If anything, it is magnified! How much more of the presence of God do we experience by having Jesus approach humanity & dwell among us? And beyond that (if it is possible), the actual presence of God the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within each of us as born-again believers. Incredible! Of all people, we ought to be continually impressed with the holiness of God and the magnitude of grace on display in His invitation for us to approach Him.

But we do it God’s way. It’s not our way – it’s not “come however we feel like coming”; it is coming to God on His terms in His way through Jesus Christ.

Advertisements

The Ten Commandments

Posted: December 20, 2018 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 20, “The Ten Commandments”

Of all of the law codes in the world, there is not a code more important or influential than the Ten Commandments. The Code of Hammurabi dates back to 1754BC, having the first known instance of “an eye for an eye,” (lex talionis) – the Islamic Sharia law (more recently developed in the 6th century AD) is harshly enforced in many countries around the world today – though perhaps not a law code in the formal sense, the US Constitution is the foundation of all of the laws that affect every American citizen today. All of these are incredibly influential, but the Ten Commandments is beyond them all. Though written after Hammurabi, it is even older than Hammurabi, as they are founded in the character and nature of the Creator God. The Ten Commandments encapsulate God’s moral expectations for His people, and it is impossible to understate their importance or their impact upon the world as we know it.

Today, the Ten Commandments are known for controversy – or at least, the display of them has been controversial. Atheists see the Ten Commandments as a display recognizing the existence and supremacy of the God of the Bible…and in that aspect, they’re right. Rather than debating the display of granite monuments, people (Christians and non-Christians alike) would be better served reading & abiding by the words written on those monuments. After all, it isn’t a monument that changes lives; it is God’s word that does.

How did it all come about? Remember that God had freed the Hebrews from Egypt to be His own people. This had been the culmination of promises He made to Abraham centuries in the past, now in full fruition. Though the Israelites whined and complained about their supposed inconveniences along the way, God personally led, protected, and provided for the people throughout their wilderness journey. When they lacked drinkable water, God gave it (once, from a rock) – when they lacked bread, God let it rain from heaven as manna every day. Even when Moses lacked wisdom, God gave it, providing what was needed to lead a nation of 2 million+ people. Soon, Israel arrived at the base of Mt Sinai, where God prepared them to receive His presence in a whole new way. Although they had seen the pillar of cloud & fire (in addition to all the outpourings of miracles in Egypt, the Red Sea, and beyond), they hadn’t seen anything like what they were about to see on the mountain. God’s presence was manifested in such a glorious way among them that it caused thunderings, lightnings, earthquakes, fire, smoke, and the sounding of an ever-louder trumpet…and the people feared. No wonder! The glory of God was made known among them, and His holiness was emphasized in a way they never before imagined.

What now? Now they were to receive the law of God. When arriving at the mountain, they committed themselves to obeying God, serving Him in a covenant relationship with Him as their God & King. They were going to be treasured by God as His own – they were being made into a kingdom of priests & a holy nation (Exo 19:5-6). What would it look like? It would look like the Ten Commandments. Other specific regulations would be given in the future, but the basis of what it looks like to serve the Holy God in holiness is found in the Ten Commandments (or “Ten Words,” as the Hebrews call it).

Of course, there’s a problem in this: we can’t do it! No one can – not the general Hebrews, not the prophets, not Moses, not anyone. The Ten Commandments lay out the perfect holiness of God, but only God is perfectly holy. If the only way to be the people of God is to abide by His law, we would have to be perfect – exactly as Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect,” (Mt 5:48). What then, does the law of God show us? It shows us our imperfections, and thus our need for a Forgiving Savior. The perfect law of God shows us our need for the perfect Jesus.

This is why we cherish the Ten Commandments today! It not only gives us a glimpse into God’s holiness, instructing us how to worship Him in holiness, but it underscores and highlights our utter dependence upon Christ. Yes, we worship God in holiness, but it’s only possible as we worship Him through Jesus. Let the law drive you to Christ! That is exactly its purpose.

Exodus 20

  • Decalogue / The Ten Words (20:1-17)
  • Preface (1-2)

1 And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

  1. Scholars have often noted that much of the 10 Commandments appears to be put into a literary genre that would have been familiar to the Israelites: a covenant treaty, which establishes the relationship between a sovereign king and his people. In the treaties, the king was introduced, his actions on behalf of the people were stated, the commands upon the people were detailed, and blessings and/or curses were listed at the end for enforcement. The entire book of Deuteronomy is written in this format, and some argue that the 10 Commandments contains a miniaturized form. At the very least, God is still identified and His work made known.
  2. God is identified. Although it might seem obvious to us, this was an important first step for a people who had lived under centuries of slavery in a polytheistic land. It wasn’t Ra, Isis, or even Pharaoh that was the God of the Israelites; it was YHWH, the I AM everlasting God. It was the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. That God was their God: YHWH alone.
  3. YHWH’s actions remembered. This was what He did for Israel to make them His people. He “brought” them out of Egypt – He bought them with the blood of the Passover sacrifice. YHWH God was the One who gave them life & freedom. Everything they now had, they owed to His gracious provision.
  4. We neither worship a generic “god,” nor a god who has done nothing for us. Our God has a name (YHWH), revealing Himself specifically in the Person of Christ Jesus. And our God has acted wonderfully on our behalf, not only giving us life & sustenance, but by sending Jesus to the cross for us in order that we would be brought out of bondage & slavery to sin & death.
  5. One other thing: notice that all of this is said before the commands are given. Obedience to the law was never intended as the way to make Israel the people of God; it was what they were to do as the people of God. God already purchased them through the Passover – He already brought them into life through the Red Sea. Regarding national salvation, the work was already done. The point of the law for Israel was how they were to act now, being freed from slavery. Their freedom was a gift of God’s grace – it always is!
    1. Remember that it is only possible to serve God and worship Him as His people once we are saved by Christ Jesus. We don’t keep the law to earn God’s favor – Jesus has already done that on our behalf. We live lives of obedience now, in thankfulness to God & out of a desire to honor Him. (And even that, through the power & grace of God the Holy Spirit!)
  • 1st Table: Holiness toward God (3-11)

3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

  1. Exclusive worship. God alone had saved Israel, and God alone was to be worshipped by Israel. Question: Does God acknowledge the actual existence of other gods/deities? No; He acknowledges the reality that people worship other gods, but not that those gods exist. There’s no question that people all over the world worship various other gods (Allah, Vishnu, the Great Architect of the Universe, etc.), but these so-called “gods” do not actually exist. Sometimes, people interact with demons pretending to be these things, but there is only one true God: the Creator God, YHWH I AM, the Creator of heaven & earth (revealed in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
  2. If God alone exists, why is it necessary to command Israel to worship only Him? Because they would be tempted to do otherwise. When God says “you shall have no other gods before Me,” literally the term “before Me” could be translated “beside/over/in-front-of My face.” It is the idea of personal presence. In Israel’s worship, they were not to put other gods in front of the True God. Their eyes were to be fixed on the face of the I AM; not to shove other false gods in front of Him. God is to have 1st place, with zero competition for attention.
    1. How might Christians fall victim to this sin? We might not have the gods of Egypt claiming our attention, but we have the “gods” of other passions and desires. For some, their career is their god – for some, their family is their god as they are willing to sacrifice anything and everything for it. Sometimes it comes in a more casual way, when we’re willing to shove Jesus to the back so we can gaze at something else with the desire that should belong only to Him. Is that not what we do when we dive into temptations, enjoying the seasons of lusts (of whatever sort)? We worship the item right in front of us, rather than the God who bought us. Worship God exclusively!

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

  1. Proper worship. The commandment is against idolatry, but that’s the negative prohibition. What would be the positive command? Worship God properly – worship God as He has revealed Himself to be. God is not opposed to artwork (as some might suppose from the 2nd commandment). The book of Exodus does not close before God commands the construction of the Tabernacle & all its furnishings, including: sculptures of cherubim on the mercy seat of the ark, hammered gold work on the menorah to look like almond buds, embroidered cherubim on the veil, and more. Artful images are not the problem; substitutions of God are. It’s when images are used to misrepresent God or replace God – that is the issue with idolatry, and that was the prohibition.
    1. 21st century American Evangelicals tend to think that idolatry is either limited to past times or foreign cultures. After all, it doesn’t take much travel through India to see that idolatry is alive and well around the world. At the same time, it is alive here, too. Anytime we invent an image of God in our own mind, other than how God portrays Himself, it is idolatry. Anytime we say “My God wouldn’t do ____,” if it doesn’t match with the Bible, it’s idolatry.
    2. Keep in mind that we don’t have to imagine or guess what God would/wouldn’t do, or how He should/shouldn’t appear. We have a revelation of God: the Lord Jesus! Jesus said that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father (Jn 14:9) – Paul wrote that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). If you want to know what God is like, look to Jesus!
  2. God is righteously jealous. Typically, we think of jealousy as a bad thing (and when applied to us, it can be), but in this case God calls Himselfa jealous God.” Is God admitting some sort of fault? When the word applies to God, it can be thought of as “a desire for exclusivity,” (DBL). He doesn’t want His people distracted and pulled away from Him by lesser things. God is jealous for our benefit; not our bondage. As a father, I am jealous for the righteous treatment of my daughter. I don’t want her mistreated by some boy that doesn’t have what is best for her in mind, nor do I want her seeking fatherly affection from anyone besides me. That is a righteous jealousy, and that’s the same kind of jealousy God has for us as His children (though to an infinite extent!).
  3. God is perfectly just. When God says that He visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me,” it is confusing for some, causing them to wonder if God imparts a kind of “generational curse” upon those who hate Him. That isn’t what this is talking about at all. The idea here is one of patterns. Those who hate God typically raise their children to hate God. Those who engage in habitual sin often teach their children to engage in the same habitual sin. This is why alcoholic fathers and mothers often have alcoholic children, why abusers raise abusers, etc. These sins frequently get passed from generation to generation. It isn’t God doing it to them; it is their refusal to surrender to God that perpetuates it.
    1. How can someone break the cycle of sin? By being born again by the grace of God through Jesus! We are not doomed to repeated terrible family histories…these things can change when we are made new creations in Christ. Praise God for His transformation!
  4. God is overwhelmingly merciful. If there is any doubt how God transforms lives, just look at the contrast to the 3-4 generations of those who hate God: the thousands of generations to those whom God shows covenantal love and mercy, when they love Him! Once we are in a relationship with God through Christ (once we have experienced the chesed “mercy” spoken of to the Hebrews), everything changes to the uttermost. We don’t have to leave a legacy of sin; we can leave a legacy pointing to the gospel of grace!
  5. It all begins with the first two commandments. When we worship God alone, and when we worship Him as He has revealed Himself, our lives change. That’s the point we are in the relationship with God that He has always desired for us.

7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

  1. Sincere worship. Another possible translation of the command is “Do not lift up (carry) the name of YHWH your God in emptiness.” To take God’s name in vain is to treat His name as empty, being nothing, having no value, as being inconsequential. Can anything be less true of the God of the universe? God values His name, because it represents His person. His name represents His character, His authority, and His work. To treat His name as nothing is to treat God as if He is nothing – to treat God as if He is inconsequential. It’s no wonder God sees it as a vile sin, with the person doing it bearing guilt (though thankfully, guilt that can be forgiven in Christ).
  2. Sadly, this is a command that Christians break far too often. We do so not only through casual blasphemy (“OMG,” or using Jesus’ name as curse word), but anytime we treat the worship of our God with indifference or disrespect. When we pray “in Jesus’ name,” do we mean in the name of Jesus the Son of God? Do we even think about the One to whom we pray when we pray, or do we just go through the motions uttering mere words? We dare not treat our Almighty God, the One who loves us and saves us, the One who destines us for Himself in eternal heaven – we dare not treat Him with such casual disrespect. Our worship ought to be sincere & heartfelt; not “nothing.”

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

  1. Faith-filled worship. When we think about it, what is the bottom line of the Sabbath? It is resting in God, trusting in God’s provision. Here, God commanded that no one among the Hebrews should work on the 7th day (Saturday), regardless if they were a circumcised Hebrew or not. If they lived in the nation of Israel, then they were to rest on the Sabbath day following the example of the Lord God Himself who did the same thing on the original 7th day of creation week. God was sufficient to create everything in 6 days (6 literal days, according to this text!), and nothing more needed to be done on the 7th so He rested. If God was sufficient for that, then He is sufficient to provide for the needs of the Hebrews on the 7th They could (and must) rest in Him, trusting God alone.
  2. The 4th Commandment is very controversial among Christians today, with people wondering how we should keep the Sabbath if we strive to live by the 10 Commandments. There are several things we need to remember.
    1. The Sabbath is a specific part of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Exodus 31:13,16, “(13) “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. … (16) Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.” Like the sign of circumcision, the Sabbath was a sign of the national covenant of Israel with God, making it different from all the other commandments in the 10 Commandments.
    2. The Sabbath is the seventh day, never changing from Saturday to Sunday. Although Reformed churches commonly teach that Sunday worship is the proper observance of Sabbath worship, this is nowhere taught in the New Testament. The New Testament consistently refers to the Sabbath as Saturday, sometimes referring to Sunday as “the Lord’s Day,” (Rev 1:10). The book of Acts does show that the church started gathering for worship on Sunday (Acts 20:7), likely in celebration of the fact that Jesus rose from the grave on Sunday (Mt 28:1). But the 1st day worship is never shown as a replacement for 7th day worship. Gentile Christians had no reason to gather on Saturday, because they weren’t Jewish. Jewish Christians likely gathered both days.
    3. The Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ. If the Sabbath is all about resting from work and trusting the provision of God, then what more could we rest from than our striving to earn our salvation? The writer of Hebrews makes this exact point, acknowledging that neither the seventh day nor the land of promise granted the Hebrews the true rest of God that God promised them. Hebrews 4:8–10, “(8) For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. (9) There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (10) For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” If neither the 7th day nor the land of Israel gave the true rest of God, where is His rest found? In Christ! Jesus did all the work for us when He died on the cross for our sins. “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30) Nothing can be added to Jesus’ work, and no more rest can be given than what He gives.
  3. The bottom line: How do we obey the 4th Commandment today? By placing our faith & trust in Christ! We cannot earn the grace of God; we must rest in Jesus & He gives it to us.
  • 2nd Table: Holiness toward others (12-17)

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

  1. Value family (value authority). The 5th Commandment serves as a transition between the 1st and 2nd tables, in that the family unit represented a miniature version of the relationship between God and Israel. Children were to honor their parents the way Israel honored God. (Same root word used for “honor” as “glory.”) By valuing one’s parents, the Israelite showed that he/she valued the authority structure set up by God, ultimately leading back to God Himself.
  2. The general idea is to give the right weight to your parents – give them honor, not because they deserve it through their actions, but because God ordained them to be your parents. Honor them because God deserves it. This is much harder for some, than others. Some people came from abusive homes – some came from abandoned & broken homes. How do they honor their parents? As an act of worship unto God. It doesn’t mean that we pretend the past doesn’t exist, but it does mean we treat them with the love, mercy, and respect that we would want for ourselves. Again, not because they deserve it, but because God does.
  3. Interestingly, this is (as Paul writes) the first command with a promise (Eph 6:2). If the children of Israel honored the parents of Israel, they would be physically blessed with long life. In other words, if they blessed their parents, they would themselves be blessed. For the covenant people of Israel living in their covenant land, this ought to have been a good motivation! Instead, some turned it into a loophole. Jesus chastised the Pharisees for what they did with their traditions, superseding the word of God, in one particular case using the command to honor one’s parents to let them go hungry while claiming the son’s money was devoted to God (Mk 7:10-12).
    1. For us, do we have the promise of long life? Not necessarily – but we do have the promise of blessing as we live lives honoring to God.

13 “You shall not murder.

  1. Value life. Although the KJV translates this as “Thou shalt not kill,” the idea really is that of “murder.” The Bible does not forbid warfare nor does it reject capital punishment (though the merits of either could be argued on different grounds). But regarding personal vengeance or outright murder, God absolutely forbids it. He is the author of life, so we have no right to take life.
    1. It also means that we do not hate. Jesus said that if we are angry with our brother without a cause, we are danger of judgment (Mt 5:22). John wrote that whoever hates his brother is a murderer (1 Jn 3:15). We ought to be very careful of what is our hearts, that it not cross over to hatred!
  2. On the contrary, we ought to promote life whenever possible. For example, we not only stand against abortion, but we stand for adoption. Valuing life means that we cherish it in all its forms, be it in the womb, with lack of chromosomes, when it is elderly and disabled, and when it is weak and unable to provide for itself. We have compassion upon others because they are men and women made in the image of God.
    1. This is also part of our motivation for sharing the gospel. How better to express our value of life than to tell others of eternal life?

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

  1. Value marriage. Marriage was instituted by God before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, and it is cherished by Him. In marriage, God takes two physical people (male and female), and make them spiritually one. Husband and wife have entered into a covenant relationship with one another (supervised by the Lord God) that ought not be broken. Just as it is abhorrent to think that God might break His covenant of salvation with us, so we ought to look at the covenant of marriage the same way. It is to be cherished, protected, and upheld.
  2. Adultery is a direct assault on that covenant. It destroys trust, and breaks what God declared should not be separated. And it happens far more often than what appears in divorce courts! According to Jesus, anytime someone looks at another person with lust, he/she has committed adultery in his/her heart (Mt 5:28). As with Job, we need to make covenants with our eyes never to look upon a person other than our spouses (Job 31:1), and truly cherish & value our marriages.

15 “You shall not steal.

  1. Value ownership. It’s not that property has so much value in the eyes of the Lord (stuff is just stuff), but ownership does. After all, God owns us. He bought us with the blood of Christ, just like He bought Israel with the blood of the Passover sacrifice. When we steal from others, we do not respect the ownership our neighbor has – we don’t respect his/her individual rights – ultimately, we don’t respect his/her person. After all, if one guy steals from another, it means the first guy didn’t think the other person mattered enough not to do it.
  2. We do not steal because God does not steal; God gives. God gives us life, breath, food, clothing, grace, personal value – He gives us everything we need and everything we are. We dare not take that away from someone else. Instead, we show grace by giving – we show respect by valuing the other person and the things God has given him/her.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  1. Value truth. Although the wording is most appropriate to a courtroom testimony, the overall principle is that of truth. God’s people do not represent God by lying or through deceit or through misdirection. God speaks the truth, God’s word is truth, and Jesus is the truth. There is nothing about God that is false, and as His people, we ought to be the same way.
  2. Beyond outright lying, we can also engage in false witness through gossip (spreading rumors which we may not know are true). We can do it through false reporting (passing on news stories that are unverified). We can do it through attributing false motives to people (when we cannot know what is truly in their hearts). Be careful! As men and women dedicated to the truth of God, we need to be sure that we also speak the truth about others.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

  1. Value contentment. Out of all of the commands in the 2nd table, this is the first that directly deals with an issue of the heart. Granted, there’s no way someone murders someone or commits adultery, etc., that doesn’t have sin in his/her heart already, but those other things still imply some sort of action. Covetousness does not. When someone covets (gets greedy), all of the warfare takes place in the heart & mind. This is where ungodly jealousy breeds and where pride originates. When we want what we don’t have (or can’t have), it starts down the road to all other kinds of sin. In fact, we might argue that murder, adultery, and theft all start with the sin of coveting (if not the entire list of the 10 Commandments). Thus God forbids it in all its forms, giving a long list (though not comprehensive) and including a catch-all at the end. There ought be no confusion or loopholes here: don’t covet anything.
  2. What should we do? Be content. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6). When we trust God to provide for us, then we don’t have to be jealous of what someone else has. We know that God gives us what we need, and He hasn’t given it to us (or hasn’t given us the ability to go out and earn it), then we don’t need it. Why do we need so much stuff, anyway? Food, clothing, and relationships are enough! Be content, and be at peace!
  3. FYI: There is a difference between Catholic & Protestant listing of the 10 Commandments at this point. Catholics combine the 1st and 2nd commandments together & split the 10th into two commands: not coveting your neighbor’s house & not coveting anything else. The wording of all the Scripture is the same; only the organization and numbering taught is different.
    1. FYI again. Traditional Jewish listing has one other difference in numbering: They combine our 1st and 2nd Commandments together, while taking the preface as their 1st If it is argued that the commandments begin as soon as God begins speaking, then it is better to include the preface with the 1st Commandment (“I am the LORD your God…you shall have no other gods before Me”) than to combine the 1st two commandments together as they speak of different, though overlapping, ideas.
    2. The importance isn’t so much how the commandments are numbered (God did not personally number them, after all); it’s that they are read and obeyed.
  • The nation’s response (20:18-21)

18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

  1. Understandable response! Can you imagine how you might feel if you witnessed the same thing? Earthquakes, fire, smoke, lightning storms, an ever-blowing shofar trumpet…and if that wasn’t enough, the booming voice of Almighty God. We would tremble, too! We would run & stand “afar off,” pleading with God not to be killed. That’s a totally natural reaction.
  2. What would be the only remedy? To get a Mediator. As for Israel, that’s what they quickly realized. Moses had served as their mediator in the past, and they wanted him to do it again. They had often heard the word of God, but always through the words of Moses. Once they heard and saw God for themselves, they realized they weren’t able to handle it. Without Moses as a mediator, they would perish.
    1. What do we need? A Mediator. What do we have in Christ? A Mediator! He is the only mediator between God & Man – He is the only one sufficient to stand in our place, and bring us into the presence of Almighty God. Without Jesus, we would be left in a place of terror, but with/in Christ we are brought into a place of grace!

20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”

  1. Sounds contradictory: “Don’t fear, but fear!” Moses isn’t being inconsistent; he’s being instructive. The children of Israel didn’t need to run in terror, but they did need to fear God. They needed to fear Him in the right way. The righteous reverent fear of God doesn’t cause us to flee from God; it causes us to run to Him for mercy and grace. In the book of Revelation, those who refuse to repent from their sin recognize the day of the Lord’s wrath & they want to run & hide (Rev 6:15-17). They fear, but not rightly. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet had his vision of heaven & feared, but understood he needed grace (Isa 6:5-7). That was the right
  2. The right fear of God could be used by God. That sort of fear was for the people’s proving/refining. A righteous perspective of God keeps us wary of sin. After all, what sin do you habitually commit that you would fear to do so if you were to look into the all-consuming fire of God’s holiness? Not a one! Things that we treat so casually today would be cast aside as if it were poisonous. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, partly because the fear of the Lord keeps us from sin.

21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

  1. Why the difference between Moses & the people? Only Moses had the invitation to draw near. (19:24)
  • Initial instructions for worship (20:22-26)

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.

  1. Although this might seem somewhat random in light of the 10 Commandments, it goes hand-in-hand with the nation’s fearful response to God. They didn’t know how to worship God in light of all of His glory & in light of all of what He just revealed to them in His law. So God tells them. They needed some kind of immediate response in worship, and God graciously grants it to them.
  2. The new experience with the Lord at Mount Sinai ought to have changed everything for Israel. By this point, they should know that gold or silver could not represent the Almighty God. They knew better (though they would soon forget when they forged the golden calf!). At the same time, all of this presented a problem for the people. For the past 400 years, the only official way they witnessed people worshipping their false gods was through all the idolatry of Egypt. God had commanded them to worship Him, but how should they do it? Verse 24…

24 An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. 25 And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. 26 Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’

  1. A natural altar for the supernatural God. The Creator God was to be worshipped by using tools of His unaltered creation.
  2. Also, He was also to be worshipped in reverence. Nothing casual or profane was to be allowed. Thus priests were to wear pants under their cloaks/tunics (something which was later reflected in the priestly uniform).
  3. Interestingly, the commands of vss. 24-25 were only temporary. This soon changed with the instructions surrounding the tabernacle. At that point, there would be an altar made out of bronze, specifically & artistically forged by human hands. But that was then; not now. In the present, until God told them the rest, this was what they were to do. Bottom line? Worship God according to God’s instructions.

Conclusion:

We have a holy God, and He is to be worshipped in holiness! For Israel, they were confronted with the reality of this holy God in a new, awesomely dramatic way, and they feared. The problem was that they didn’t fear in the right way, and they did not fear God nearly enough. Not only did they initially want to run & hide, they were not consistently faithful in their obedience. They couldn’t even keep the first commandment…and it was upon it that all the others rested.

We strive for holiness, but we cannot earn it. We seek to obey the commandments of God, but we realize it can never be done. There is none righteous, no not one (Rom 3:10) – and that is exactly why we need Jesus! Remember that we don’t obey God to gain grace; we obey God because we have been given grace. We are utterly dependent upon Jesus, having no hope without Him – and it is because we are, that now we strive to live in God-honoring obedience.

Worship God in holiness! Worship Him according to His instruction & revelation. Love what He loves, and value what He values. When we do, our very lives will be witnesses to all the world about the glories of our God!

The Mountain and the Mediator

Posted: December 13, 2018 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 19, “The Mountain and the Mediator”

Pomp and circumstance. Different fanfare is made for different people, all dependent on the importance of the one arriving. When it’s family that hasn’t been seen in a while, it’s whoops & hollers & hugs; when it’s the President of the United States, it’s the Marine Corps band playing “Hail to the Chief.” When it is the Almighty Creator God, you can bet the fanfare is going to be immense!

And it was! On the cusp of receiving the 10 Commandments, the people of Israel first saw and received their King & God. His holiness was so immense that it nearly destroyed them. Were it not for Israel having a mediator in Moses, surely all the people would have perished. Thankfully, God gave a mediator, and the people were saved.

We too, have a Mediator: the Lord Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5–7, “(5) For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, (6) who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, (7) for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” Paul’s singular purpose in his ministry was to proclaim Christ Jesus to all who would hear. He needed to tell others of this grand Mediator: the Messiah of God who interceded between man and God, and who paid the ransom price due our sins by His blood shed on the cross. Jesus is the perfect Mediator: both God and Man, fully capable of dying yet fully able to give life. Jesus stands between us and God, interceding to God on our behalf, and communicating the glories of God back to us. When we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father, and there is no other way to the Father except through Him (John 14:9,6). He is our wonderful Mediator!

That’s us; what about the Hebrews? We have the revealed incarnate Jesus; they had the one who prefigured Jesus, Moses. Like us, they needed a mediator. God was too holy, too terrible & mighty & majestic for them to stand before as sinners. They needed someone to go back & forth for them, and Moses served faithfully in that role.

Of course, he had been serving that way for quite some time. Moses was the one to communicate the word of God to the people during the Egyptian plagues. He was the one who told them of God’s commands regarding Passover and their resulting exodus from slavery. It was through Moses that God led His people through the wilderness to go to His holy mountain. And the people needed this mediation! Why? Because they (like us) were a complaining people. Although they were only weeks removed from Passover & the parting of the Red Sea, already they were grumbling against God. First there were bitter waters, then a lack of bread, then a lack of any water at all, and the people complained that Moses had led them into the wilderness to be killed by God. Yet God was so gracious! He provided in wonderful ways, repeatedly making His presence known among them through His many miracles (sweetening the water, daily manna from heaven, water from the rock). Even when facing their first military battle against the Amalekites, God was faithful to protect His people.

Most recently, God showed His provision once more through the gift of wisdom – presented by Moses’ father-in-law Jethro. The burdens of leadership & service borne by Moses could be shared by other leaders as everyone worked according to God’s individual gifting.

With the people organized (and Jethro having come to faith), the Israelites were finally ready to hear from God & to worship Him. Or were they? Did they even have a grasp of Whom it was they were sworn to worship? Their previous complaining indicated “no.” They needed to come to grips with God’s holiness and their own sinfulness before they were ready to hear His covenant commands. They needed to fear Him before they could worship Him.

So do we. God is far too holy for us to approach Him in our sin. We need the right view of our sin & the right view of God’s holiness before we can truly have a relationship with Him as Lord. We need to fear Him, and when we do, we’ll see what we truly need: a mediator. Praise God a Mediator has already come: the Lord Jesus!

Don’t take the holiness of God for granted. Fear Him & cling to Christ!

Exodus 19

  • Arrival at Sinai (1-2)

1 In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain.

  1. When? “Third month” could be translated “third new moon,” (per ESV), but it is the same basic principle. The beginning of this third month/new moon (late May/early June) put the Israelites nearly 50 days following their exodus “out of the land of Egypt,” or 50 days following Passover – providing the basis for the later celebration of Pentecost.
  2. Where? At the base of the mountain. Which mountain? No one really knows, and it’s a matter of much debate. The location of Mt. Sinai was well known to people of antiquity, Elijah having fled to it (1 Kings 19), and Paul identifying it as being in Arabia (Gal 4:25). That said, we need to be careful not to assume that the ancient world’s understanding of geography was the same as our own. A map of Arabia dating from 1720 doesn’t even show the Sinai peninsula, and the kingdom we know today as Saudi Arabia includes only a portion of the land traditionally known as Arabia.
  3. The important thing was that they finally arrived! Potentially, they had gotten there during the events of Exodus 18, but whenever Jethro’s visit fell within the timeline, the Hebrew people were finally at the place where God had promised they would be. Only a few short months ago (though it surely felt like ages), God had commissioned Moses on Mt. Sinai to go to Egypt and bring the Hebrews back to worship God in that same place (Exo 3:12), and it had finally happened. God was good to His promise!
    1. He always is! Big or small, if God spoke it, God will perform it. There is no promise of His that He will not keep.
  • Command #1: Commitment (3-9)

3 And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:

  1. This is where we first see Moses as a mediator – a pattern that will be repeated throughout the chapter. Although the whole Hebrew nation is present, only Moses goes up to God. Why? Because only Moses had the invitation from God to come up. “The LORD called to him from the mountain.” Moses already had the needed relationship with God, and Moses alone had the invitation and grace of God. – This is Jesus’ work for us. Why is He our Mediator? Because He has come from God (being God Himself, the only begotten Son), Jesus has the necessary relationship with God, and He alone has the invitation/imprimatur of God. No one else is commissioned by the Almighty to be our Mediator; Jesus alone is. We cannot stand before God on our own behalf, and no supposed-saint can do it for us. Not even any prophet of the past can stand between God & us, for even the prophets (Moses included) had their own sin to answer for. Jesus alone can do it, and thus our only hope is in Him.
    1. How is Biblical Christianity different from all other religions? Only Biblical Christianity relies solely on the work of the God-given Mediator. All other religions look to other people: ourselves, our works, other fallen prophets…and all those things fail. We cannot determine for ourselves how we go to God; He determines for us – He sets His own terms. And His terms are through His Son, the One Mediator between God & Man (1 Tim 2:5).
  2. As Moses arrives on the mountain, God gives a double introduction of the Hebrews prior to His initial covenant command. They are both “the house of Jacob” and “the children of Israel.” Jacob/Israel refer to the same man, but in two different phases of life: one simply as his birth, and the other in his eventual faith. Thus, the Lord spoke to His people in those two aspects: His relationship with them was founded (1) on the promises He made to Abraham & all the patriarchs, and (2) on His grace received through the faith of the people. God had promises for the Hebrews (promises based on ancient words from long ago), but these were promises & relationships experienced only through faith.
    1. How is it we have a relationship with God? Because God was faithful to His ancient promises to send Jesus, but the salvation Jesus offers is experienced only through faith. (Jacob & Israel)
  3. Moses was commanded to speak. What was it he was to say? Verse 4…

4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

  1. God spoke of how God Himself worked and what God was doing. Notice the use of the 1st person: “I did…I bore…My voice…My covenant…to Me…Mine.” God had done amazing things in the past, was still working amazing things in the present, and promised still more to come in the future. Israel had not delivered themselves, nor was Israel providing for themselves later – all of it was the work of God. The same God who cast the stars in the heavens and reigns over infinite space and time personally intervened in the lives of the Hebrews and specially provided for them. The privilege they had was amazing! God had crushed the most powerful army on the earth, for Israel. God had raised Israel up on His own wings, providing for them in the desert, bringing them to this point. God was personally speaking to them, and even granting them a covenant, promising that the nation would always belong to Him & be in His own special care. What amazing privilege and grace!
    1. How amazing it is, what Jesus has done for us! He knew you, and called you by name. He forgave you your sins, and made you a child of God. He has a plan for you, and has given you God the Holy Spirit to empower you to accomplish it. And more! Never lose sight of the privilege of personally interacting with Almighty God! By no means could we ever deserve such a gift, yet He gives it.
  2. From 1st person, to 2nd person: God basically says “You saw, you experienced.” God had done all these things for them, and Israel saw it for themselves. They witnessed the Passover & the Red Sea. They were the ones carried on the wings of God, eating the manna and drinking the water. They saw these things with their own eyes & experienced it in their own lives. Thus, they had no excuse! How could they not believe, when they had experienced so much already? How could they refuse to acknowledge God when God had already proven Himself abundantly? Disobedience & disbelief was completely unjustifiable. (Just like it is with us!)
  3. The point of it all was God’s “covenant” with His people. What is a covenant? It’s like a contract, but far more. Think of it more in terms of a compact, or relationship commitment. Marriages are supposed to be covenant relationships. Although the state grants a wedding license, a marriage is far more than a notarized piece of paper; it is a solemn commitment made between two people and God that impacts the rest of their lives. It’s similar with our covenant relationship with God – it’s a lifelong (i.e. eternal) commitment between us and our Creator. We agree to be His people, and He agrees to be our God…forever. (Which is only possible through Jesus!) That said, note that this was a conditional IF you hear/obey, THEN you will be set apart. IF Israel heeded the Lord God, then He would do incredible things for them: take them to Himself as a “special treasure” differing from all the other nations of the world which still belonged to God – He would make them a “kingdom of priests,” or make them all kings and priests in service to the Most High – He would make them a “holy nation,” fully set apart unto Himself for His own glory. Yet only if they obeyed. If they heard Him & heeded Him, they would experience bountiful blessing; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t.
    1. This is a crucial difference between Israel and the Church! Whereas Israel received a conditional covenant (one which they repeatedly broke!), the Church’s covenant through Jesus is unconditional. All we do is repent of our sins, receive Jesus in faith, and everything else follows. Jesus has already fulfilled the covenant requirements on our behalf; all we do is rest in His grace. (It doesn’t mean we’re not obedient! It does mean we rejoice in the mercies of Christ!)
    2. God’s ancient plan for Israel is also God’s present plan for the Church. 1 Peter 2:9–10, “(9) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (10) who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” Oh the blessings of being a covenant people with God – our covenant being through the blood of Jesus Christ!

7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. 8 Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.

  1. Again, Moses as a mediator. He took the words of God to the people, and took the words of the people back to God. Constantly interceding, this is what Jesus does to the highest extent. Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for us (Heb 7:25).
  2. Notice the “alls.” Moses gave ALL of God’s word. ALL of the people answered. ALL of God’s commands were promised to be obeyed. Moses was faithful to say everything, not omitting anything (a faithful pastor!). In response to this, it wasn’t only the elders who responded on behalf of the nation; all the people did as individuals. (The church is corporate; salvation is not.) Finally, all the people promised to obey all the commands of God. Although the intent was good, it was an impossible promise to keep! To fail in one point is to fail in everything (Jas 2:10). The people were committed to keeping the law, but no one would be able to do it. (Impossible for all, that is, except Jesus!)

9 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.” So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.

  1. Something very different was about to happen! God had manifested His holy presence among the people in the past, but He was about to do something wholly different, promising that “I come to you in the thick cloud.” His presence is emphasized: “I Myself will come/am coming to you…” God would come in a way that the people would not be able to deny. Amazingly, they had denied Him several times already – perhaps not pretending that He wasn’t there, but grumbling about the way He was Although God’s personal presence was visible through the pillar of cloud & fire – although He made Himself known through the many & daily miracles – the people still denied Him His rightful fear and respect. That would soon change! God would appear in such a way that the people would be rightly shaken.
  • Command #2: Consecration (10-15)

10 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. 11 And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.”

  1. Get ready! In three days they would see the glory of God. They needed to take advantage of the time they had in the present on this day & the next day to prepare themselves for “the third day.” – What a wonderful parallel we see in the resurrection of Christ! Although we cannot say it is a direct fulfillment, we can certainly notice the pattern. On day 1, God announces Himself; on day 3, He appears. At the cross, Jesus was announced; on the third day at the empty tomb, He appeared. What were the disciples supposed to be doing in the meantime? Preparing! Granted, they grieved and feared – but if they had believed the prophecies of Jesus they would have prepared themselves for the glory of God seen on Sunday morning.
    1. Jesus has come & appeared (praise God), but we know His Resurrection appearance is not the only one. He will come again. What do we do in the meantime? We get ready! Prepare yourselves for the glory of God!
    2. How so? Through consecration – setting themselves apart in holiness. That’s what God went on to say…
  2. Be clean. Although it might seem strange to command the Hebrews to “wash their clothes,” it makes sense from a symbolic point of view. They could not cleanse their souls (that’s only a work of God), but they could set themselves apart to be cleansed by God, symbolized through the washing of their garments. The only way we can stand in the presence of God is when we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ – their clean clothing looked forward to the same thing.
    1. How can we get clean? Through confession & faith! (1 John 1:9) Jesus cleanses us from all Unburden yourself of your sin by giving it to Christ in simple honest prayers of confession – turn away from those things and walk in renewed cleanliness!
  3. Be careful/fearful. The people could not come up the mountain in any way they wanted. “Bounds” were to be set around it, not to be crossed for any reason. Livestock that wandered upon the mountain could not even be retrieved, but would have to be shot with an arrow. Like the tabernacle that was soon to come, there were boundaries from God’s presence that could not be crossed by anyone not specifically invited by God. Harsh? Perhaps, but necessary. God is that Even prophets who saw visions of the Lord feared for their lives because they realized no one could look at God and live (Isa 6:5). God is so holy that angelic creatures fly around His throne constantly proclaiming His holiness, never ending in a day-and-night chorus (Rev 4:8).
    1. A God like this is worthy of our utmost reverence, and yes, fear. People sometimes hesitate from speaking of the fear of the Lord, trying to dial-back the idea or explain it away, but that’s not what the Bible does. The Bible openly speaks of the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov 1:7) – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10) – by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil (Prov 16:6) – the fear of the Lord leads to life (Prov 19:23). The fear of the Lord is a good thing! The fear of the Lord keeps us from evil, and it keeps us humble in the sight of God. Does the fear of the Lord mean we flee from Him in terror? No…but only because we are made His children through faith in Jesus. Without Jesus, we’d have every reason to flee! But because of Christ, we run to God in our fear of Him, knowing what would come to us apart from Christ. Apart from Jesus, we would expect nothing but the righteous wrath of God; it is only because of Jesus that we experience His grace and love.
    2. This is not something to casually ignore or take for granted. The God we worship is the God who created the heavens and the earth. He is the God who will cast the devil himself into the eternal lake of fire. He is the God of limitless power and knowledge. He is a God to be feared & reverenced with the highest regard. We dare not marginalize Him, blaspheme His name, nor abuse His mercies. Instead, we treasure Him for who He is: our holy Creator King.
  4. Be near. Although boundaries were set to prevent people from coming up the mountain, the people were still commanded to “come near the mountain.” God was to be feared, but He was still to be worshipped. The Hebrew people had come all this way to worship God, and God wanted them to worship Him. He wanted them to be in a covenant relationship with Him – it’s just that they could only come to Him according to His ways & His terms.
    1. It’s no different with us. All people are invited to come & worship. God wants people to draw near to Him! Only we draw near to Him in His way, and the way He has given us is Christ Jesus.
    2. BTW – The same principle applies to Christian worship as a whole. How do we know how to worship God? By following His terms & His guidelines, as written in the Bible. We don’t make up the way we want to worship God; we worship God the way He wants & invites us to worship Him. This is why we sing songs of praise (Ps 149:1) – why we pray (1 Ths 5:17) – why we learn the Scripture (2 Tim 3:16). It’s also why we don’t bark like dogs, or engage in other disorderly conduct (1 Cor 14:33). We go to God His way, through His means.

14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not come near your wives.”

  1. Give credit where it is due: the people were obedient! Not only did they set themselves apart & wash their clothes, but they also kept themselves physically pure. Although God is not recorded as having given any prohibition about marital intimacy, it’s possible it was an additional command given to Moses. In any case, the people went to great lengths to ensure their purity, and to prepare their hearts to see the Lord. (Which was soon to come!)
  • Appearance at Sinai (16-20)

16 Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

  1. The holy glory of God! In the truest sense of the word, this was a terrible sight. “Terrible” coming from the word for “terror,” and talking about something extreme or great (Webster). Imagine the scene: You’ve been waiting three days, all the while preparing yourself to see the visible appearance of the God who freed you from Egyptian slavery. You’ve witnessed His power in the past, and have been warned about potential death for even setting a foot on His mountain. Then on that third day, a cloud descends like no other storm cloud you’ve ever witnessed – lightning flashes, thunder rolls continually, and there is the sound of a trumpet loudly ringing in the air. It’s no wonder the people “trembled!” How could you do anything but quake in fear?
  2. Interestingly, the word for “thunderings” is literally the word for “voice.” Contextually, there’s no question this was the reference to the thunder accompanying the lightning, but when we consider that Almighty God was about to speak, the voice of the thunder served as a preview for what was about to come.
  3. Also, “thick cloud” = heavy The word (כָּבֵד) speaks of something heavy, massive, burdensome, thick. Again, this was no ordinary cumulus nimbus – there was something visually different about this cloud, and for good reason: it was the cloud of God’s glory!
    1. How God appeared at Mt. Sinai is how Jesus will appear in His 2nd Coming! He will come with the clouds in great power & glory! (Mk 13:26)

18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.

  1. Overwhelming to all the senses! Smoke, sound, fire, shaking. Their eyes, ears, throats, and bodies were physically assaulted with the glorious presence of God. The sort of thing Hollywood imagines with disaster movies and massive destruction is what took place on the mountain of Sinai. The difference: it wasn’t CG; it was real! When YHWH God descended on the mount, He could not be missed!
  2. Like the smoke of a furnace”: (NET) “The image is that of a large kiln.” Reminiscent of God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15:17…multiplied to the nth degree! Once more, this pictures His holiness: the burning, refining, purifying character of God. Our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). Those who encounter Him in His holiness are forever changed!
    1. Aren’t you glad that He purifies you? Any person who meets Jesus in truth is never the same as what they were before. We may change at different rates in different ways, but we all We cannot help otherwise! God the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us, and He carries with Him God’s purifying fiery nature.
    2. Does it hurt to be purified and cleansed? It’s not always easy when Jesus exposes the sinful tendencies in our hearts…but it’s always good. He changes us from the inside-out, burning away the impurities like the dross from gold or silver is burned away. The end result is a purer faith, a cleaner heart, and a life more glorifying to God.

20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

  1. God came down, and Moses went up. As God had done several times before, He called to Moses, and Moses came up at His command. Moses was the one constantly going back and forth between God & the people.
    1. How similar is our approach to God through Jesus Christ! Again, Jesus constantly mediates for us – He constantly prays for us, interceding. It is through Jesus that we know the Father & it is through Jesus that we receive the word of the Father. Why is it we pray “in Jesus’ name”? It’s not to simply close our prayers; it’s to acknowledge that we cannot go to God on our own, but we must go through Jesus. It’s only His work & His grace that opens the door for us in prayer; we are ever-reliant on Him.
  • Command #3: Caution (21-25)

21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.”

  1. This may seem strange, considering that a warning had already been given & God’s glory had already descended. God gives Moses one additional warning for the people not to go too far, under penalty of death. With all of the incredible visual spectacle taking place, it was only natural for some people to lose themselves, and start breaking through the boundaries that had been set. [Like instructions not to look at a solar eclipse!] For some, setting a line is a only a temptation to cross it, and they had to be warned not to do it.
  2. Also, there was an additional caution of consecration. Those offering sacrifices & serving the Lord through acts of worship had to be especially careful. They could not forget themselves and start taking things casually, out of habit. Ministry was not to go on “autopilot”; it was to be mindful at all times, the priests always knowing what they were doing.
    1. BTW – What priests? Perhaps a bit of foreshadowing, as the Aaronic priesthood had not yet been established. It also may have referred to the tribal elders, as many of them served in priestly roles for their individual families. The Hebrews had gone into the wilderness in order to sacrifice to the Lord without a formalized priesthood – perhaps this was in reference to that same group of people.

23 But Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds around the mountain and consecrate it.’ ” 24 Then the LORD said to him, “Away! Get down and then come up, you and Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest He break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.

  1. Moses protested that the people had already been warned…God said to warn them again! This was too serious, and could not be taken lightly. If the people & priests broke through to God, then God would “break out against them.” A day of fearful worship would soon turn into a day of terrible wrath, and God didn’t want that for His people. The double-emphasized warning would serve to underscore the importance and solemnity of it all.
  2. Though Moses initially objected, he was faithful to obey to relay the warning to the people. He gave all of God’s word, exactly as he was commissioned to do – not holding back anything. (When it comes to a warning of death & judgment, we can’t afford to hold anything back!)

Conclusion:

What an incredible sight! The people of Israel arrived at the mountain of God, and God actually descended upon it. His glory manifested itself in sight, sound, fury, and fire…to which the people rightly feared. Thankfully, they had a mediator – someone constantly going between them and God: Moses. Through the messages communicated via Moses, the people committed themselves to serving God, and prepared themselves to hear more as God readied them to receive His 10 Commandments.

Being that we are well over three thousand years removed from those days, two thousand years living in the Christian era, it can be difficult for us to relate. After all, we aren’t wandering through the desert; we live in comfortable western culture. We don’t depend on manna to eat; we go to the grocery store. We don’t even have the same concept of God – the Hebrews (sometimes) saw God as the Almighty Creator, full of fury; we see God the Father in Jesus. And that’s a glorious thing…until we start taking Jesus for granted. It’s when we start seeing Jesus as just a man, like anyone else – just another guy, even if He was a super-nice guy…that’s when we have problems. That’s when we’ve lost sight of who our God truly is: worthy of true fear.

As we think about Jesus coming as a Babe in the manger, think also of how He exists right now. The apostle John gives us our most recent description of Jesus: Revelation 1:13–16, “(13) and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; (15) His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; (16) He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” In response to this, John fell at Jesus’ feet as if he was dead. Why? Because even though the apostle John knew Jesus well, having lived with Him for three years, John also knew the glory of God when he saw it…and he feared.

We need a righteous fear of the Lord! We need to understand Him for who He is, so that we would be clean, be careful, and be near. The better we fear the Lord God, the more we’ll cling to our Lord Jesus. Yes, He is God, but He is also our Mediator – and we need Him as much as we ever did.

Ain’t Too Proud…

Posted: December 6, 2018 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 18, “Ain’t Too Proud…”

The Temptations said it most famously: “Ain’t too proud to beg!” In the singer’s case, he was pleading for his girlfriend to stay, but there are other ways in which pride can become an unmovable obstacle. Proud people refuse to stay home or go to the doctor when they’re sick & end up with worse symptoms (and many times, passing along their illness to others). Proud people refuse to ask for help when they’re struggling, and often force their families to endure unnecessary hardship. Most troubling, proud people refuse to humble themselves before God, and end up facing His terrible, yet righteous, wrath for their multitudes of sin. Proud people are destined to struggle and flail – precisely the opposite of what they hoped to accomplish in their pride.

It is the humble person who succeeds. Perhaps not always in terms of worldly influence (quite often, that goes to the arrogant), but always in the things that really matter in life. Humble men and women are loving fathers and mothers. Humble individuals recognize the times they need help, ask for it, and receive. People who are truly humble see their own sin for what it is, ask for the mercies of Christ, and receive it in abundance. Jesus said it is the meek who inherit the earth (Mt 5:5), and the Bible affirms that although God resists the proud, He gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:6).

What do pride and humility have to do with Exodus 18? Everything. Not that Moses was proud – far from it! He was the most humble of any man on the earth (Num 12:3). But he had a problem arise in his leadership of Israel (one unknown to himself), and if he had been proud about it, all his leadership could have crumbled & he would have been ineffective in both his ministry to God & to the people of God. It was only due to his humility that he was able to receive the advice he did, to the benefit of all.

At this point in the book of Exodus, the nation of Israel is in major transition. For the first time in over 400 years, the Hebrews are free from slavery, all due to the magnificent & miraculous work of the Living God in their midst. God’s presence was among them, God parted the Red Sea for them, God personally led them through the wilderness, God protected them against marauding enemies, and God provided for all of their physical needs (bread & water). Despite all of Israel’s grumbling, murmuring, and complaints, God was their gracious, merciful Provider God.

Now Israel is on the cusp of Mount Sinai. For all that they had already seen of God’s work & presence, they were about to see and hear Him in a whole new way. Their whole idea of God was about to be blown away when the trumpet of God sounded, the glory of God descended, and the mountain of God quaked. And all of that would pale in comparison with the word of God spoken as God Himself gave His Ten Commandments to the people as a covenant law for the nation.

What happens in the meantime? Something extremely practical: Moses learns to lead. Moses receives a visit from his father-in-law Jethro, and two things happen. (1) Jethro comes to faith – something amazing in itself! (2) Jethro gives Moses wise advice regarding his leadership. In both instances, humility was required. In the first, the priest of Midian Jethro would need to be humble enough to realize he didn’t know everything about God. In the second, the already-successful leader of Israel Moses would need to be humble enough to receive some godly counsel about his failings. Pride could have gotten in the way of either, and both would have suffered.

Beware of pride! Cultivate humility! Pride keeps us from the wisdom of God, and pride keeps us from the gospel of God. Get rid of your pride, and see the glory & work of God done!

Exodus 18

  • Jethro’s faith [1-12]. Receiving the word of God.
  • Jethro arrives (1-6)

1 And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people—that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.

  1. News travelled fast! Israel had only been in the wilderness for a couple of months (just into the third ~ Exo 19:1) when messages started getting passed back & forth from Jethro to Moses. Remember this was a day long before email & cell phones (a day long before the “snail” mail of the post office!) – for Jethro to send messages to Moses already having heard of God’s work of deliverance was an impressive feat.
  2. The fact that news traveled to Midian regarding Israel meant that even the Gentiles observing what took place with Israel were impressed. They recognized “all that God had done,” and couldn’t stop talking about it. Quite the contrast with Israel itself! The Gentiles were impressed with God’s work, but Israel complained about it. Israel hadn’t even crossed the Red Sea by the time they were grumbling against the Lord (Exo 14:11-12), and they were already thoroughly convinced that YHWH God Himself was indeed working (though the many plagues). In other words, Israel recognized God’s work, but they weren’t impacted by it. They didn’t yet fear God, at least, not enough. A proper fear of the Lord would have kept them from their grumbling, but that was something they never fully stopped. At times it seemed the Gentiles feared God more than the Hebrews…something that would be demonstrated once more through Jethro.
    1. How sad it is when the people of the world treat God with more reverence than the people of the church! May we never take our God for granted!
  3. BTW – Who was Jethro? Ch 18 reminds us that he was the “priest of Midian,” and he was first introduced in Ch 1-4, identified by two different names: Reuel (Exo 1:18), and Jethro (Exo 3:1). The Midianites were a nomadic people descended from Abraham (one of the sons of Keturah ~ Gen 25:2). Over time, they seem to have lost their monotheistic faith in the One True God, worshipping the local deities alongside the Canaanites to their north. Although Moses was married into this Midianite family, as a whole, the Midianites were not friendly to Israel & they would later join with Moab in hiring the pagan-prophet Balaam to try to curse the nation (Num 22-24). As far as Jethro is concerned, he is pictured as a relatively righteous man, one who showed great kindness to Moses when he needed it most. He was last seen in Exodus 4:18, when Moses asked permission of him to return to Egypt, although Moses is not recorded telling Jethro the precise reason he needed to leave. Whether in the past, Jethro knew anything of YHWH as God is unknown; as time went on, he certainly learned something about him through His works among Israel.

2 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back, 3 with her two sons, of whom the name of one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land”) 4 and the name of the other was Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”);

  1. In Exodus 4, Moses is seen travelling to Egypt with his family (although Eliezer is not named), and it was the cause of a rather big problem. Although Moses had been divinely chosen by God to be God’s spokesman, Moses had neglected his duty within his own family by not having his sons circumcised. Moses was almost killed by God, until Zipporah intervened & did what Moses had refused to do: bloody circumcision (Exo 4:24-25). Moses learned the importance & weighty responsibility of being the representative of the Holy God!
  2. With that in mind, if Zipporah and Moses’ sons were travelling with Moses, why did Jethro have to bring the family to Moses? At some point, Moses’ wife and children had been sent back to Midian, and Jethro finally had the opportunity to reunite them. As to the reasons why & when it all took place, the Bible is silent & we’re left with speculation. Many theorize that Moses sent his family away once he got to Egypt & realized how rough times would be during the plagues. Others suggest that after the crossing of the Red Sea, Moses sent Zipporah and the boys ahead & they were the ones who served as the initial messengers to Jethro. Ultimately, we can’t know and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is they came back!

5 and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God. 6 Now he had said to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.”

  1. The Hebrews were already in the region of Sinai, and Moses & Jethro met at the “mountain of God.” Some scholars have questioned the chronology of this passage based on this and another issue (which we’ll see later), considering that Chapter 19 talks about Israel arriving at the base of Mount Sinai. Although it would not change any doctrine for the chronology to be different, there’s really no reason to assume it to be necessary – the first verses of Exodus 19 could be a summary including these events, all of it being a transition to hearing from God at Sinai.
  2. In any case, the message had gone from Jethro to Moses that he was coming to meet him, and the most logical place of meeting was Mount Sinai. After all, that was the mountain where Moses had earlier tended Jethro’s flock, so it would have been a location with which Jethro was familiar. It wasn’t as if Moses could send his father-in-law GPS coordinates; they had to pick a location that both of them would be sure to find. Besides, it’s unlikely that Moses took all of the nation of Israel with him. Moses likely went out by himself, met his father-in-law, and brought him back. It’s what Moses told his father-in-law upon their meeting, that is of most importance…
  • Moses’ testimony (7-8)

7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him. And they asked each other about their well-being, and they went into the tent. 8 And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and how the LORD had delivered them.

  1. Happy reunion! For the first time in a long time, Moses saw a friendly face (as opposed to the rage of Pharaoh, and the grumbling anger of the people), and Moses greeted his father-in-law with great & culturally appropriate affection. They got caught up with their small talk, and that’s when the important conversation took place.
  2. Happy news! Moses testified of God’s deliverance. Jethro had heard the rumors & the 3rd-hand accounts; now he heard it straight from Moses himself. Moses witnessed of YHWH God, telling Jethro about all the many plagues & miracles, the differences YHWH made between the Egyptians & Israel, the terrible judgment of the Passover, and the glorious victory at the Red Sea. God had done amazing work, and Moses spoke of it all. Interestingly, the word for “delivered” could be translated “take/snatch away, rescue, recover.” Moses spoke of how God rescued Israel from Egypt: YHWH God tore them out of slavery in a powerful act of deliverance. God had done something amazing, and that news was worth telling!
    1. This is our message when we share our testimonies! Jesus has done something amazing, and it is worth telling. He has dramatically rescued us from sin, having torn us away from the grasp of death. That’s a story of which we can never tire of telling! Do you remember where/who you were? Do you remember how Jesus dramatically intervened? You have seen the work of the Living God in your life…tell people of that!
    2. Some might just respond as did Jethro…
  • Jethro’s response (9-12)

9 Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.

  1. Jethro “rejoiced” at the work & deliverance of God. And why not? When people are convinced that the Living God has torn someone from death, that’s a reason for joy! Do you remember the first time you heard of the work of Jesus & believed? It’s one thing when we are still in our skepticism & sin; it’s quite another when we listen through ears of humility & faith. That’s when we get excited about the work of God! 
  2. Jethro declared the blessedness of God: “Blessed be the LORD” בָּר֣וּךְ יְהוָ֔ה – Blessed be YHWH the I AM of Israel! YHWH is filled with strength, and worthy of all praise. He is the One to whom we kneel, and to whom all people owe their allegiance. Blessed be the Lord! – To bless God is to exalt Him, and to ascribe strength & power to Him. Not that we give Him that power (we cannot bless God in that way; the greater truly blesses the lesser); we speak of His already existing strength & power. We recognize Him for Who He is, and give God the glory He deserves. (When was the last time you blessed God in this way?)

11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.”

  1. Jethro put his faith in YHWH. He probably would have known of YHWH earlier, depending on how much Moses shared with him in the past. How much, we can’t be certain. Even if Moses didn’t tell Jethro about his encounter at the burning bush, surely Moses told his father-in-law of his cultural heritage as a Hebrew. If nothing else, Jethro surely would have had some memory of God passed to him through his own Abrahamic lineage. Whatever Jethro knew, it was only head knowledge. There was no faith there in the past. But “now” (emphatic) Jethro knew and believed in God’s greatness. Now Jethro knew something about YHWH God that he never knew before: he knew that God is the greatest of all gods, and no one nor nothing else compares with Him.
    1. Question: Was Jethro still a polytheist? We don’t know, but it’s doubtful. The fact that “the LORD is greater than all the gods” was something proven definitively true in Egypt. None of the gods of Egypt could hold a candle to YHWH – especially not the false god of Pharaoh. Of course, none of that proves that those false gods exist – it only shows that the concepts the Egyptians had of these gods were impotent & the demonic forces behind them were useless. For Jethro to declare God greater than all gods is probably his faith that YHWH God is the only
  2. What had these other gods done? The other (false) gods “behaved proudly” – the word could be rendered “boil up, seethe, act presumptuously.” The so-called “gods” of Egypt were insolent against YHWH, but God put them down!
    1. This was what Satan did. Scripture indicates that prior to his fall, Satan tried to steal the glory of God for himself & tried to exalt himself above his creator (Eze 28:17). It couldn’t be done, and Satan was thrown down to earth – his insolence against God answered with swift judgment.
    2. This is what we do! What else can we call it when we sin? When we decide that we know best for ourselves, rather than God, then we’re “behaving proudly.” We’re being insolent & presumptuous, thinking we know better than our Creator God. God is infinitely greater than us, yet we lose sight of this in our sinful pride!
      1. Thankfully, this is of what we are forgiven! Jesus died even for proud, insolent people like us. 
    3. Don’t miss the humility of Jethro in all of this. Remember that Jethro was the priest of Midian. We don’t know what it was he did, nor which exact gods Jethro had worshipped in the past, but if he was a priest it meant that he ministered on behalf of others. Jethro was seen as the spiritual authority. Yet all of a sudden, Jethro admitted that there was something about spiritual things that he did not know. Whatever he thought about other gods in the past, he “now” knew he was wrong. The only God worth worshipping was the God who put all other false gods to shame. He would have never have admitted this if he had dug in his heels in pride. The humility of Jethro was key to Jethro coming to faith.
      1. Humility is key to anyone coming to faith. No one reaches out for a Savior unless he/she first realizes he/she needs to be saved. No one asks for help unless the need for help is seen. Pride blinds us to our need. Only the humble person sees his/her need for Jesus, and Jesus answers every humble person who comes to Him in faith!

12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God. And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

  1. Jethro worshipped. What else would you do, after coming to faith? You worship! For Jethro at this time in history, it meant offering sacrifices unto the Lord. Although the priesthood hadn’t yet been given by God, Jethro was himself a priest & knew exactly how it ought to have been done.
    1. We obviously do not offer animal sacrifices today because Jesus is the one all-sufficient sacrifice offered to God. Instead, we offer our sacrifices of praise (Heb 13:5) – we offer the sacrifices of our lives (Rom 12:1). Our whole “burnt offerings” (so to speak) are the whole-hearted sacrifices of our lips & lives, fully dedicated unto the Lord.
  2. Jethro fellowshipped. In what is reminiscent of a communion meal, Jethro broke bread not only with Moses, but also with Aaron & the other “elders of Israel.” Although Jethro is not mentioned as having converted to be a Hebrew (i.e. circumcision, although as a descendant of Abraham he may already have been circumcised), this meal was him being received into the fellowship of Israel. He was not viewed as an unclean Gentile, with whom the Hebrews could have no relations. Jethro was a welcome member of the family, someone with whom they could eat & celebrate.
    1. This is what happens with anyone who comes to faith in Christ. No matter what our background may have been, once we’re in Jesus, we’re family! We’re brothers & sisters together (with all of the issues that come with family!), all made one because of the work of the Lord Jesus.

So Jethro was reunited with Moses, and (far better) came to faith! By itself, that would be reason to rejoice. But there was more to come. With Jethro being older and more experienced than Moses (itself an accomplishment, considering Moses was at least 80 years old at the time), he saw the things Moses was doing among the people, and offered his counsel…

  • Jethro’s advice [13-27]. Receiving the wisdom of God.
  • Questioning Moses (13-16)

13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening.

  1. Imagine it: a full day of non-stop judgments. Imagine being in line all day long waiting for your chance to see Moses. Remember that there were over 600,000 Hebrew men (not including women, children, or the mixed multitude of Egyptians with them) – the issues would have been numerous! No doubt hundreds of people stood in line every single day, the vast majority of whom never got to speak to Moses at all. Moses was just one man, and he only had 24 hours in a day. It would have made for a massive bottleneck & an exhausting life.

14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”

  1. Good question. Why do you do this alone? Why make the people wait all day? What possible reason could you have for having such an ineffective system? Moses had an answer…

15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

  1. Moses’ answer was well-intended, and to a large extent, true. The people came to Moses in order to come to God. Moses had God’s word & knowledge. He alone knew the law (torah) – he alone had the information the people required for wise decisions. If the people wanted to ask God a question, the only thing they knew to do was to go through Moses. And if Moses wanted to give an answer, this was the only way he knew to do it.
    1. What was burdensome for Moses is no problem for Jesus. This is exactly what we should do! We should go to Christ with our issues, and He will intercede and give us the judgment and word of God. His word contains what we need to know, and His Spirit guides us into all truth.
    2. That said, Jesus has gifted His church with more than just His word & God the Holy Spirit…He has gifted us with one another. We need one another in the church – not for mediation between us & God, but as help to live out lives honoring to God. (Which is much of the point of what Jethro gets to with Moses…)
  • Jethro counsels Moses (17-23)

17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.

  1. What Moses was doing was “not good.” There were good intentions, but bad results. All of this was “too much” / too heavy for Moses. He would break under the pressure. In fact, it wasn’t only bad for Moses; it was bad for the people. “You will surely wear yourselves out.” To “wear…out” is to sing, drop, wither & fade, to crumble. Talking about burnout – Jethro is saying they’d run themselves into the ground if they kept this up.
  2. Have you ever experienced burnout? Have you ever felt the burdens of life so heavy that it is as if you’re going to drop under the pressure? Like being at the gym, lifting a weight over & over again – it might not seem like much at first, but with many reps it gets heavier & heavier & heavier. All of a sudden, your muscles give out & you drop. Life can feel like that at times. Even Christian life and ministry can feel like that. You start out doing something really good, but over time it gets harder & harder, heavier & heavier, all to the point that it seems you can’t do it anymore. How do we avoid burnout as Christians? How do we avoid getting crushed under the weight of good things done in inefficient ways? Answer: we get help. When Jesus saved us, He didn’t save us to be all by ourselves; He saved us & placed us within the church (the “called-out” ones). We simply need to humble ourselves from our proud self-reliance, and ask for help.
  3. That was exactly Jethro’s counsel to Moses…

19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.

  1. First: Continue to judge. Jethro doesn’t tell Moses to abandon the work; just do it better. Sometimes people get the idea that if they ask for help, they will get pushed out of doing the things they love. Again, the burnout for Moses wasn’t with a job that was sinful; it was just for a job that was too much for one person. The judgment needed to be done, and Moses was the right person to be doing it; he just didn’t need to be doing it alone. Moses could keep judging; just judge better.
    1. For us, it may be parenting or teaching Sunday School or cleaning, etc., all of which are really good things to be doing – and they are things we need to keep We just want to be sure that we get help when we need help. Asking for help doesn’t mean that you’ve failed; asking for help usually means you’re doing what’s necessary not to fail!
  2. Second: Teach the people. Moses could think of it as “preemptive judgment.” If the people knew the word of God already, there would be less questions for them to ask of Moses later. The more they knew upfront, the less problems they would have down the line & less need for Moses to decide later.
    1. One of the greatest responsibilities for any pastor is to teach people the word of God, and to teach people how to read and understand the word of God for themselves. Pastors are given to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph 4:12). Paul solemnly charged Timothy: 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” That wasn’t for Timothy’s “job security”; it was to help the church be guarded from false teaching, and for them to be grounded in the truth. The better taught the congregation, the better off they are to face the things of this life. 

21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.

  1. Third: Delegate. Moses was to equip and empower other people to help do the work. Moses didn’t have to do it all by himself; there were close to 2 million other people who could help. Surely there were some people who were capable of helping bear the load! All Moses needed to do was find them, and empower them for the work.
    1. The early church followed the same advice. When the apostles found themselves doing too many things other than what the Lord Jesus specifically called them to do (pray, teach/disciple others), they equipped and empowered other godly people to help. (Acts 6) What was the result? The gospel spread, and even more people got saved! (Acts 6:7) What happens when we delegate? We become even more effective than before, and God is glorified!
  2. The flip-side to delegation is that there must be people to whom to delegate. It would have been extraordinarily strange for Moses not to find one qualified man from 600,000+ Hebrew men, and especially not one willing to serve. Even so, not everyone would be willing. The key was to find the right people who were also willingly available to be used by God.
    1. What was true for Moses and Israel is no less true for the New Testament church. There is no lack of opportunity to serve, but there is sadly often a lack of willing servants. We need one another to serve God in their callings and giftings. Paul wrote to the Romans how we are all members of one body, having different functions, callings, and abilities: Romans 12:6–8, “(6) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; (7) or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; (8) he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” The same principle was written to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12). However God has gifted you, use those gifts! Be willing to be used by God for His glory!

23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

  1. Key point: whatever counsel Moses received, it needed to be founded on the command of God. If God didn’t command Moses to follow through on Jethro’s advice, then Moses shouldn’t follow through. Why? Advice that appears good isn’t always godly. Some things the world recommends for success is downright evil. The wisdom of the world says it’s okay to step on others to make things better for yourself (i.e. “survival of the fittest”) – the wisdom of the world says that as long as it feels good, do it (i.e. hedonism). Yet the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God! (1 Cor 3:19 – specifically regarding the gospel, but true in general). We don’t merely need effective counsel; we need godly Where do we find it? In God’s word, among God’s people empowered with God’s Spirit.

That was Jethro’s advice. What did Moses do with it? Verse 24…

24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26 So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves.

  1. Moses was humble enough to heed this father-in-law. Moses was humble, period – the most humble man on the face of the earth (Num 12:3). His humility is seen not only in the way he responded to personal attacks, but also how he responded to the knowledge of his own weaknesses & the correction offered to him by Jethro. He didn’t blow off or ignore his father-in-law; Moses listened to Jethro & implemented his advice. (Surely after he sought the Lord on the matter, although it isn’t described for us in the passage.)
    1. It is good to listen to counsel & correction! Proverbs 10:17, “He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, But he who refuses correction goes astray.” Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid.” Don’t misunderstand – it’s never easy to be corrected. No one enjoys being told that what we’ve been doing isn’t good & it needs to change. But to despise godly wise correction is the height of foolishness! A bodybuilder working out in the gym would be foolish to ignore the advice of Arnold Schwartzenegger – a young basketball player would be stupid to ignore the instruction of Michael Jordan. How much more when we ignore the counsel of God? To be corrected by God’s word is not something of which to be ashamed; it is something wonderful! What a privilege it is that we have the word of God, and that He actually does give us correction when we need it!
  2. Moses was humble enough to get help. Of course this goes hand-in-hand with heeding Jethro, but it can’t be neglected. It’s one thing to hear someone out; it’s another thing to put it into practice. As much humility as was required for Moses to heed the voice of his father-in-law and admit his wisdom, even more humility was needed for Moses to go among the people of Israel and ask for help. Remember, these were people who looked to Moses as having all the answers. Now he freely admits that he doesn’t, and that he needs the help of others.
    1. Humbling? Yes – but wonderful! What would have happened without Moses’ humility? Moses would have been crushed by the weight of the peoples’ burdens, and the nation itself would have suffered. Pride would have been a blockade to future blessing, and everyone would have suffered. Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.” Because Moses was humble, all the people benefited.
    2. Likewise with us. Sure, we could dig in our heels in stubborn pride, trying to do everything on our own – but we will soon find ourselves in trouble, unable to do anything. Far better to humble ourselves & ask for help – the people of God working together is a beautiful thing!
    3. BTW – Sometimes it isn’t always looking for help, but looking how we can be a help. Maybe there’s someone you see who’s struggling, yet too proud to ask for assistance (or perhaps doesn’t yet know he/she needs assistance). Why not gently ask to help? Sometimes we can be blinded to our own needs until someone says something (like Jethro to Moses); perhaps you’re the one to suggest it & to act.
  3. Question: Did all of this take place immediately? Technically, the Scripture doesn’t say. It says Moses did it, but it doesn’t say when. Many scholars believe that this part of Scripture (although true) is arranged topically, rather than chronologically. It’s possible that Moses planned to delegate this responsibility to others, but didn’t do so until Numbers 11, after the nation had spent a year at Sinai & the tabernacle had been built. At that time, Moses gathered 70 elders of the people, and the Holy Spirit came upon them & they prophesied (Num 11:24-25). While it may be possible, it doesn’t seem likely. (1) 70 elders isn’t enough to fulfill the division of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands for a group of 600,000+ men. (2) Why wait? As Jethro noted, Moses had felt the burden immediately. He and the nation was in danger of wearing themselves out. This was an action that needed to be taken sooner, rather than later. It wouldn’t make sense for Moses to put it off for over a year. – Whenever the delegation took place, thankfully it actually took place! What a burden was lifted from Moses’ shoulders & what freedom was given to the people! When God’s people work according to God’s word in the power of God the Spirit, it is a wonderful God-honoring thing.

27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way to his own land.

  1. Why didn’t Jethro stay? Scripture doesn’t say. On one hand, with Jethro’s newfound faith in the Lord and his close ties with Moses, it would have made perfect sense for him to remain among the Hebrews and learn more about the God he now worshipped. On the other hand, as the priest in Midian, Jethro had a unique opportunity to share the news of the One True God with Gentile people who worshipped many false gods.

Conclusion:

Oh the wonders of humility! Jethro’s humility brought him to faith – Moses’ humility benefited the whole nation. Either one of these men could have allowed themselves to fall victim to their pride. Jethro, as the priest of Midian, could have claimed he knew all there was to know about God…and he would have been eternally lost. Moses, as the already-accomplished leader of Israel, could have thought himself the only one capable of leading the people…and he, along with all the people, would have been crushed by the burden. Thankfully, both men were humble, and both men were blessed!

Pride is the first of all sins. Pride caused Satan to puff himself up & fall from heaven, and pride caused Adam & Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden & fall from grace. Pride keeps us from relying on the wisdom and plans of God – pride keeps us from relying on the grace and mercies of Jesus. Get rid of your pride & see God glorified!

Grumbling Against God

Posted: November 29, 2018 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 16-17, “Grumbling Against God”

As fun as Christmas can be for parents of young children, it can also be a time of frustration. For as much as some kids are showered with presents, there’s always the chance of disappointment for when the present wasn’t exactly what was expected. Some kids (thankfully a minority!) are even downright ungrateful when they don’t get what they want when they want it. Like little Ms. Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they throw temper tantrums and demand “I want it now!”

Sadly, spoiled children often grow into spoiled adults, and we all sometimes have tendencies to act that way at times with our Heavenly Father. He gives us wonderfully good gifts in many different ways, but when things don’t go our way according to our timetable, we get upset and start grumbling against God. Times haven’t changed. The children of Israel did the same thing with God, demonstrating it on their initial release from their Egyptian slavery.

Remember what happened to get them to this point: God personally intervened in incredible ways to grant them freedom. There were nine supernatural plagues, filled with all kinds of events unexplainable, save for the work of God. There was the tenth supernatural plague/judgment of Passover, in which those who placed their faith and trust in God’s sacrifice were saved from the death of the firstborn were spared, whereas all the other homes suffered grief. This had purchased their freedom. There was the supernatural confirmation of their freedom, when God completely vanquished the Egyptian army by drowning them in the Red Sea, while God’s chosen people were graciously allowed to pass through on dry land. In response to this miraculous deliverance & salvation, Moses led the people in a tremendous song of praise, thanking God for the things He had done! Even so, the people complained at the first sign of trouble when they arrived at an undrinkable spring…to which God supernaturally intervened again, making the bitter waters sweet.

In light of all of this, the people ought to have had tremendous faith, confidently following God, trusting His provision. Not so much. Instead, they were more like us: fickle & forgetful. Rarely able to see past our next set of problems, we complain about every situation, blaming God for the things He has allowed to come to pass. Instead of grumbling, we should be trusting. God is a faithful provider! He has provided us Jesus, so that means we can trust Him to provide everything else. God does things according to His plan that will give Him the most glory. Trust Him to do it!

Exodus 16 – God provides food

  • A complaining people (1-8)

1 And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt.

  1. Likely in the middle of the Sinai peninsula, on their way to the mountain to meet with God. More important than the location, is the date. Compared with the 10-14th of Nisan/Abib for Passover (Exo 12:6), the 15th day of the 2nd month is barely 30 days past. The Hebrews had 30 days of freedom by the time they experienced these events. Already they are dissatisfied and losing faith!
    1. It doesn’t take long for us to lose faith! As soon as we thank God for one blessing, we’ll turn around and grumble about something else. Think of it: how great is our salvation in Christ? If God granted us nothing else for the rest of our lives, we would still have the greatest gift that could ever be given! As the Hebrews say at Passover, “Dayenu,” it would have been enough for God simply to forgive us our sins, but God does so much more. He has made us His children, given us His Spirit, made us fellow-heirs with Jesus…and far more! What gives us the right to gripe about the little things? What He has given is enough!
    2. But God does give more. He gives us breath every day – He gives our heart more opportunities to beat – He gives us food to eat and water to drink and clothes to wear. It may not be luxury, and some people have vastly more than others, but God gives. He gives, and gives, and gives. Be thankful, and don’t lose faith!

2 Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

  1. Who complained? Everyone! “The whole congregation of the children of Israel.” Remember that there were over 600,000 Hebrew men alone. With the combination of women, children, and the mixed multitude of Egyptians, there were at least 2 million people present. All of them (or at least the overwhelming majority of them) grumbled/murmured/complained against Moses & Aaron. These two men were the spokespeople of God, and they were the ones who took the brunt of the national anger. Thirty days had gone by, their few provisions they had brought from Egypt had been used up, and they were hungry out in the middle of the wilderness. Keep in mind, no one is recorded to have starved to death, but the people were still cranky and complaining…to ridiculous extremes. They claimed to prefer to have been killed by YHWH in Egypt, rather than for Him to allow them to die in the wilderness. Back in Egypt, they imagined huge potluck stews & bountiful bread – never mind that they were slaves without access to any of it! But they thought it better to have died back there by the hand of God, than to waste away in the desert.
  2. Don’t miss the extent of their complaint: if they said God should have killed them in Egypt, they were despising Passover itself! They thought it was better not to have been covered by the blood of the Passover lamb, and have the Angel of YHWH personally kill them, rather than go hungry. How shortsighted! They despised their own salvation because of a temporary discomfort.
    1. We can be a complaining people! But don’t lose sight of what is most important. To be starving, naked, and thirsty while being eternally saved is far better than living the life of luxury while being eternally lost. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet still lose his soul? (Mt 16:26)

4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. 5 And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”

  1. Not only would the people not die of starvation, they would be filled to abundance. God promised to “rain bread from heaven.” So much bread would come, that they would never be hungry again in the wilderness. (And they wouldn’t! For 40 years, it would come on a daily basis.)
  2. The daily bread would be God’s provision, but more than that, it would be a “test.” More will be said on it later, but the type of test is made clear: God would test the Hebrews’ trust of Him on the Sabbath. Would they trust Him? Time would tell.
    1. Does God test us? Yes! Interestingly, as with Greek, the Hebrew word for “test” could be translated several ways. It can mean to test/try – it can mean to train – it can mean to tempt. God does not tempt us with evil, but He does test us to prove & strengthen our faith. He uses situations to train us, helping us be molded and conformed into the image of Christ… God does not tempt us with evil (Jas 1:13), but He does test us & prove us as gold being refined.

6 Then Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, “At evening you shall know that the LORD has brought you out of the land of Egypt.

  1. At this point, was there any doubt? Apparently so! Even at this time, just 30 days after Passover, there were Hebrews not convinced that YHWH God was living, active, and had delivered them from Egypt.
    1. What will it take for some to believe? The proof is abundant! The only obstacle is our proud flesh that stands in the way.

7 And in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD; for He hears your complaints against the LORD. But what are we, that you complain against us?” 8 Also Moses said, “This shall be seen when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the LORD hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the LORD.”

  1. Note: God heard their complaints. As terrible as it was that the people grumbled against God, God showed incredible mercy in hearing their grumbling. Their complaints did not cause God to strike them dead (as they deserved); God went so far as to give them an audience. He graciously heard them, and had a plan to provide for them. (Which will be detailed in a moment.)
  2. And it was obvious they were complaining against God; not Moses. The people may have raised their voices against Moses & Aaron, but the truth of the matter was clear. Moses didn’t have any control over the destination or the lack of food. It was the Lord who led them, so it would be the Lord who provided for them. The people could not pretend to be “religious” toward God while being hateful toward Moses. Their hate & grumbling was directed to only One person: God. (They may as well have been honest about it!)
  • A providing God (9-36)

9 Then Moses spoke to Aaron, “Say to all the congregation of the children of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for He has heard your complaints.’ ” 10 Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

  1. God gave the people an invitation to see how He would answer their grumbling. He most definitely had a plan for them, and He wanted them to see it for themselves.
  2. First, God answered through His glorious presence: “the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.” God was there. Of course, God being omnipresent, He is always present; God simply gave a visible sign of His presence among Israel at that time. (Can you imagine the sight? Can you imagine the reaction to the weighty & powerful glory of God?)

11 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’ ”

  1. Second, God answered through His verbal promise. Provision was coming! There would be both meat and bread – the very things the people longed for in verse 3 (pots of meat & bread to the full). And there would be no doubt that YHWH Himself had provided it. It would come in such a miraculous way that it could not be written off to coincidence. 
  2. What grace that God answers a complaining people!

13 So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. 14 And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.

  1. Meat for dinner; bread for breakfast. Not much is said about the quail, as it seems this was a one-time provision by God given at twilight that night, according to His promise. (There will be a later event with quail that would be associated with God’s judgment.) It was the bread/manna that got the most attention. The people may have understood the massive flocks of birds landing among them in the evening, but the mystery was when they awoke the next day. All kind of beaded-substance was on the ground, and they didn’t know what to make of it.
  2. What was it? Great question! So much so, that the question became the name. (מָ֣ן ה֔וּא) Moses attempted to provide a better label. Better than calling it “What?”, was to recognize it as the gift of God.
    1. Ultimately, this gift was a picture of Jesus! Jesus explicitly says as much when confronting the Jews of Galilee who searched Him out simply to get more bread, after Jesus fed the 5000. John 6:47–51, “(47) Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. (48) I am the bread of life. (49) Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. (50) This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. (51) I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” Jesus is the bread of life! He is the true manna given by God for the world.
  3. What were they supposed to do with the “what”? Instructions are given starting in verse 16…

16 This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’ ” 17 Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less. 18 So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one’s need. 19 And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.”

  1. There was enough for individual needs. Families large and small would have enough to gather and eat for an entire day. There was enough bread for two million people on a daily basis…that’s a lot of manna!
  2. But only enough for the individual day. The people were given a specific command not to store any of the manna away. They were to gather for the day, but not hoard it for later. God wanted the people trust Him not just one day a week, but 7 days a week. They were to be dependent on Him on a daily basis. 

20 Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21 So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted.

  1. People still disobeyed and tested the Lord! Disobeying the command, they found it was physically impossible to store the bread. Although it was good to eat all day long, at night it rotted. This too, emphasized the supernatural provision of God. The bread was a miraculous gift, and it had a miraculous rot. Unless God gave it & unless God sustained it, it wasn’t good for anything.
    1. That doesn’t just go for bread; that’s the truth for all things! All good gifts are gifts from God, and they need to be used according to God’s word for God’s glory. Be it our finances, our food, our opportunities, or anything else, recognize it as God’s gift, and use it for God’s glory.

22 And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23 Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.’ ” 24 So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it.

  1. Sabbath exception. On the 6th day, people were to make preparations for two days. This was another miracle, as shown in the fact that this was the only day of the week the manna didn’t rot!
  2. Further explanation in verse 25…

25 Then Moses said, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.” 27 Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. 28 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? 29 See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

  1. Why would nothing be found on the 7th day? Because God had already provided on the 6th. This too, was tested by the Hebrews, and they failed the test of God.
  2. The lesson? Trust in God’s provision of rest. Trust in Jesus! Trust the fact that God has already provided for our sins when He gave us His Son.

31 And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

  1. Again, the naming of the bread was simply a repetition of the question. (Hebrew transliterated.) It looked like seed/grain on the ground every morning, and tasted like honey graham crackers. Coriander is another name for cilantro – it wasn’t the actual cilantro plant seed on the ground; the manna simply had a similar look & size to it. 

32 Then Moses said, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: ‘Fill an omer with it, to be kept for your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’ ” 33 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a pot and put an omer of manna in it, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations.”

  1. Commanded to remember God’s provision. A small portion was to be set aside, because future generations would never know the daily experience of collecting the manna, so one portion would be kept (never rotting!) which would serve as proof/an example of what God had done. It would be reminder to all that God had provided sustaining life for their ancestors, and God would do the same for them, too.
  2. We still need to remember! This is why we celebrate communion. “Do this in remembrance of Me.” (Lk 22:19) When we partake, we are not re-sacrificing Jesus; we’re remembering the provision of His one sacrifice, fully sufficient for all sin for all time. We remember, and we worship!

34 As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. 35 And the children of Israel ate manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36 Now an omer is one-tenth of an ephah.

  1. Verses 34-35 seem to be later editorial insertions, as the ark of the testimony had not yet been built, nor had the children of Israel gone through their wilderness wanderings. Moses could have written this in prior to his death, or Joshua could have added it later. Neither takes away from inspiration of Scripture or Mosaic authorship of the Torah.
  2. How much was an ephah & omer? Estimates vary, depending on the scholar – anywhere from 15-23 liters (3.3 – 5 gallons). The omer was 1/10th the size (~ 2 liters / .5 gallon).

Exodus 17

  • God provides water (1-17). A complaining people (1-4)

1 Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink.

  1. Notice they started up on their journey again at the “commandment of the LORD.” To this point, they are still being led by the pillar of cloud & fire (Exo 13:21-22). Put it together, and it makes it clear that God purposefully took the people to a place of no water. God had a plan, if only the people would trust Him. 

2 Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the LORD?”

  1. Had they learned nothing!? Already they contend & grumble again. And Moses called them out on it. God had earlier tested the people with the manna; now the people were testing/tempting the Lord with their doubt!
    1. How might God be tempted/tested in this case? With His wrath! How often can His grace be despised, and Him not react? There comes a time when His patience ends & His wrath is poured out. For individuals, it is at the last breath of someone who has refused Jesus; for the world, it will come during the years of the Great Tribulation. Either way, it is coming…of that, we can be sure!
  2. Question: Is doubt sinful? Not always – sometimes, it’s simply our natural response borne out of fear or confusion. But sometimes, yes, doubt can be sinful in that certain kinds of doubt are kin to rebellion. This was certainly the case with the Hebrews. Their contention was like a lawsuit they leveled against God, as if God was in breech of contract. For us, perhaps sometimes we treat God the same way.
    1. Be careful! God is gracious towards us, but He is not obligated to us. Never forget that God is God & we’re not. All we have is based on the grace & love of Jesus Christ. He is our only hope & our only appeal.
  3. Even this didn’t stop the peoples’ complaints…

3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”

  1. Just as they did before, the people “complained against Moses,” this time accusing him of killing them.
  2. At this point, Moses had a legitimate fear of death, and he “cried out to the LORD.” … Was Moses complaining? Yes & no. He grumbled, but he wasn’t grumbling against God; he was taking his needs to The people complained without asking the Lord for help – they complained believing the worst about God & God’s servant. Moses complaint (if it can be called a “complaint”) was directed to God as an appeal for help, trusting that God would speak and act. The people complained in distrust & rebelliousness; Moses complained in faith and submission to God’s will.
    1. It is good & right to take our requests to God…even when our requests are soaked in honest emotion. As long as we are submitted to the Lord, it is a good thing; the problem comes when our requests aren’t for the Lord but against Him.
  • A providing God (5-7)

5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

  1. God already had a plan for the moment. A rock struck in the presence of the elders of Israel… Water sufficient for 2 million people + their livestock… A true miracle! … Why the elders? Among 2 million people, it would be next to impossible to see the actions of a single man as he struck the rock with the rod of God. The elders would serve as witnesses to the supernatural intervention of God.
  2. Ultimately, this was a picture of Jesus. Writing to the Corinthians about their need to walk and faith & holiness, following the examples given in the Scripture, Paul said: 1 Corinthians 10:1–4, “(1) Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, (2) all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, (3) all ate the same spiritual food, (4) and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” Don’t miss how the historical events of the Old Testament picture the work of Christ Jesus in the New Testament. Especially here – the Rock struck by Moses symbolized none other than the Lord Jesus. YHWH God had promised Moses that He would personally be with Moses at the rock in the region of Horeb, and He was…apparently in the rock itself! The rock was struck and life-giving waters flowed, prefiguring the moment when Jesus as the Rock would be struck at the cross & He would give the waters of life.
    1. It is also perhaps one reason why Moses was not allowed into the Promised Land after a second very similar instance in Numbers 20. God commanded Moses to simply speak to the rock for water to flow, and instead Moses struck the rock – not just once, but twice in anger (Num 20:10-11). Not only did Moses disobey the direct command of the Lord God, but he destroyed the picture of Christ as the Rock. Jesus was struck upon the cross only once; no further strike or re-sacrifice was ever necessary.

7 So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

  1. There had been constant contention against God, and it was forever memorialized in Moses’ naming of the place. “Massah” = test/trial/proving, and comes from the same root word for test/try/tempt used in 16:4 & 17:2. “Meribah” = strife/contention, and comes from the same root word for “contention” here in 17:7.
  2. How amazing is it that the people still doubted? They didn’t just doubt the Lord’s provision; they doubted His presence among them & His love for them! “Is the LORD among us or not?” How much more could God have done?
  • God provides victory (8-16). Current war with Amalek (8-13)

8 Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.

  1. Who was Amalek? This was a nation distantly related to Israel, as they were descended from Esau. They become thorns in the side for the Hebrews, popping up from time to time threatening their very existence. In this first instance, Amalek tried to attack the fledgling nation newly freed from slavery. They had no training in warfare, but they were forced to step up to the plate quickly!
  2. The question becomes: had God now abandoned Israel? The people had doubted God’s provision of food – they doubted God’s provision of water. What would happen when it came to battle?

9 And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.

  1. Nothing is recorded of God speaking to Moses at this time, but undoubtedly there as a God-given plan in motion. There would be two battle fronts engaged that day: (1) physical, (2) spiritual. Joshua (1st mention of him in Scripture) would lead the chosen Hebrew warriors into physical battle, and Moses would engage in spiritual warfare on a hill overlooking the battlefield.
  2. Behind every physical front, there is always a spiritual battle! We do not battle against flesh & blood, but against powers & principalities, etc. (Eph 6:12). We need to recognize our battles as spiritual, and battle them through spiritual means. That means we go to God in prayer – it means we act according to the Bible – it means we let God be our defense, standing firm on His truth. Moses could have rushed to the front of the battle alongside Joshua – he likely had the most military training of all of them, due to his upbringing among Egyptian royalty. Instead, he realized that what was needed was spiritual war, and at the time, he was the only one among Israel who would wage it. – Recognize the kind of battle you face, and fight it appropriately. Stand fast in spiritual strength!

11 And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

  1. The things that happened spiritually with Moses affected what happened physically with the people. When his hands were raised, Israel went forth in the power of God; when his hands fell, Israel was weakened. It wasn’t anything magical about the rod, or even the position of Moses’ hands; it was symbolic picturing their dependence upon God. When Moses lifted his hands in a position of prayer, it was as if God fought the battle for them; when his hands lowered, Israel fought in their own strength (i.e., none).
  2. What to do when Moses’ arms tired? He needed help from his brothers in the Lord! Help was provided by Aaron & Hur as they sat Moses down & raised his hands for him. What a great picture of the body of Christ working together! As Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” (Gal 6:2).
  3. The result? Victory! God provided total victory over the enemy…
  • Perpetual war with Amalek (14-16)

14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”

  1. The battle was to be remembered…especially by Joshua. Why Joshua? Because he would need to remember the provision of God when Joshua eventually took over leadership of the nation of Israel. Just as he had seen God work through Moses at this time, Joshua would need to trust God to work through him later. This battle helped prepare Joshua for future battles to come. 
  2. Question: Is it a contradiction to remember the battle, while God would “blot out the remembrance of Amalek”? Not necessarily. The fact that this battle was recorded in Scripture ensures that the nation of Amalek would be remembered. The phrase God used was an idiom (figurative language) promising the destruction of the Amalekite people. He would “blot [them] out,” or scrape them off – as if ink was scraped off of vellum (animal skin) used as a type of paper. The people would be destroyed…and they were. The Amalekites no longer exist, due to the judgment of God.

15 And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-LORD-Is-My-Banner; 16 for he said, “Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

  1. Not only did Moses memorialize the battle in writing, but he memorialized it in worship, by building an altar. “YHWH Nissi” = “The LORD is my banner” ~ my flag, my standard, my ‘rallying point.’ When an army begins to struggle in battle, they could look to their national flag still waving for a boost of confidence. This is what the Lord God was for Moses & the Hebrews. They could look to Him as their confidence & their strength.
  2. God gave the Hebrews victory over the Amalekites in the present, promised the destruction of the Amalekites in the future, and guaranteed that there would be no reconciliation with them ever. In a sense God would have perpetual “ware with Amalek from generation to generation.” Why? Because there is no reconciliation with the flesh. That which tries to destroy the work of God can never be compromised with – there can be no negotiation. (This would be seen in later generations with Saul & Esther…)

Conclusion:

Our God is a grand provider! For the Hebrews, He provided meat & manna in the wilderness – water from a dry rock – and victory from a terrifying enemy. Though they grumbled and complained against Him constantly, God was merciful & was faithful to provide.

He has provided for us, too: He has provided us Jesus! Jesus is the bread from heaven, the bread of life – Jesus is the living water of God – Jesus is our victory over the terrifying enemy of death. Jesus is all the provision we need! Yet we still grumble against God. We wonder how He will feed & clothe us – we complain how our bills might not be paid – we contend against Him when it comes to our health. All of these are important things, but they are not the most important thing. Of most importance is our rescue from eternal death and our reconciliation with God, and all of that is assured in Christ Jesus. But with Jesus providing that, can we not trust God for the rest?

This is what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:31–34, “(31) “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (32) For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Seek Jesus first, and trust God to provide the rest. Don’t grumble against God; trust Him. Don’t complain that He isn’t doing things your way according to your timetable; rest in God’s wisdom and provision, knowing that He hears you, knows you, loves you, and provides for you. That is simply who He is.

Song for the Savior

Posted: November 15, 2018 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 15, “Song for the Savior”

How wonderful it is to sing! There are certain emotions captured by music that cannot be expressed in other ways. Even reading the lyrics to songs falls short of those same words expressed through singing. Sometimes it’s full-throated excitement – other times, it’s soft tenderness – whatever song is in one’s heart, to sing it is to give voice to the emotion behind it. And it’s not dependent on skill – even those of us without formal training in voice know the joys of singing (even if it’s only in the shower!).

Many examples could be pulled from the radio or everyday life, but surely the best examples of song are found in the Bible. Be it songs of praise or laments of mourning, the Biblical writers knew the power of music. So much so, that we have at least three full songbooks in the Bible itself: Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations. Yet we don’t have to wait until the days of David to find a song in Scripture; the very first (recorded) song in the Bible is found in Exodus 15, written by none other than Moses himself.

Although we cannot know the tune until we get to heaven, we can rejoice with Israel as they celebrated their freedom from slavery, and God’s total victory over Pharaoh & the Egyptian army. And a celebration it was! It had taken 400 years to get to this point, what God had done was nothing less than miraculous.

The Hebrew people had basically given up hope by the time of Moses’ arrival. First, they had been forced into slavery, only later to experience mass persecution with the murder of Hebrew newborn boys. It was in the midst of all of this that God gave Moses, who (after his own experiences as both Egyptian royalty and a Hebrew fugitive) came with the power and message of God commanding Pharaoh to let the people go. From this came nine supernatural plagues, each growing in intensity & demonstrating a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. Egypt was being systematically dismantled and defeated by YHWH God (the I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), though Pharaoh stubbornly hardened his heart against the Lord. Finally, God personally passed through the land in the 10th plague, passing over the homes covered with the blood of faith-filled sacrifice, and killing the firstborn in all of the other homes in the land. At this point, Pharaoh acknowledged his defeat & released the Hebrews.

That was a banner day among the children of Israel – something to be remembered for all time…but it wasn’t over. After the Hebrews left, Pharaoh soon regretted his decision and gathered his army in hot pursuit. At the edge of some branch of what was known as the Red Sea (Yam Suph), Israel found themselves trapped: the waters before them & Egypt behind them. That’s when God acted in His power once again, parting the waters. The Hebrews walked across on dry land while the Egyptians were drowned as the walls of water collapsed upon them. If God had purchased the Hebrews’ freedom the night of Passover, that freedom was confirmed at the Red Sea. His people were truly delivered!

So what now? Now it was time for celebration – it was time for song! The enemies of Israel had been soundly defeated, and their years of slavery were over. Moses and the rest could (and did) sing their praises to God for His deliverance.

Yet there was more to it. Israel not only needed deliverance from Egypt; they needed deliverance from themselves! Their tendency towards unbelief is seen immediately after God’s greatest victory over their enemies, and it foreshadows many more times of faithlessness to come. Even so, God was gracious, providing for them everything they needed to trust Him & rest in His deliverance. When they heard God and obeyed Him, they could praise Him for salvation.

It is little different with us. Likewise, we need deliverance from the slavery of sin and we also need to be saved from ourselves and our own tendencies towards unbelief & faithlessness. What can we do? Rest in the work of our Deliverer! Jesus is our Mighty Savior, and when we hear Him & heed Him, it frees us to give Him our praise!

Exodus 15

  • Moses’ song (1-19) – Sing to the Lord!

1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!

  1. We’re not told how much time elapsed between the Red Sea and Moses’ song, though surely it took some time to compose and teach to the nation of Israel. Even it wasn’t immediate, it was entirely appropriate. They had just been totally & finally delivered from Egyptian slavery, and the right response to God’s deliverance is praise! Objection: “What about all of the dead soldiers, chariot horses, and firstborn children in Egypt? What happened was massive death – how could that be praiseworthy?” Death isn’t praiseworthy; victory is. We need to be careful not to look at this through 21st century eyes. In 1440BC, life was much different – warfare was much different. When enemy armies attacked, they attacked with the full intent of destroying every living thing in their ways. The Hebrew women & children were in just as much danger of death as the Hebrew men were, if the Egyptians had reached them on the seabed floor. What God did was simply act as the single Warrior on Israel’s behalf, and what He did was more than enough. Not one of the 2 million+ people among the party of Israel died at the Red Sea – a truly amazing accomplishment when one considers the human odds they faced. So yes, God was worthy of praise! All those who lived had much reason to praise God! YHWH (I AM) had demonstrated His amazing power, overthrowing the enemy by tossing them into the sea. The most powerful of military weaponry at the time (Egyptian chariots) were no match for Almighty God; He is infinitely more powerful than any enemy we face.
    1. He still is! There is nothing we can endure that our God cannot take us through. There is no trial from which He cannot save – there is no sin He cannot forgive. Whatever it is to which we have been enslaved, our God can overcome! Horses & riders are thrown into the sea – addictions are destroyed – guilt is washed away – fits of rage melt into nothingness. How so? By the power of our God!
    2. So yes, we sing praises! There is a reason our worship services begin with song. Music is not the only way to worship God, but it is a wonderful way to worship Him. It is effective & powerful, and prepares our hearts to hear His word and to dwell on Him more richly. We sing praises to our Deliverer in order that we can know more of His deliverance.
  2. How did Moses begin? He sang of the exaltation of the Lord: “He has triumphed gloriously.” The Hebrew construction actually repeats the same word for “triumph/exaltation” (inf abs, גָּאָה) as a way of adding intended emphasis. Moses basically declared that God had “risen-risen” – He rose to vast new heights. YHWH is lifted high – He has risen up in triumph!
    1. When we praise God, we exalt His name. We lift up His reputation, for God is already lifted on high. We cannot add to His glory, but we add to the chorus that sings of it!

2 The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

  1. Who is YHWH? Many things!
    1. My strength”: Our might is found in Him. Any power available to us over the enemy is power that is given us by God. We have no hope apart from Jesus, but through Jesus and the Holy Spirit we have all the power we could ever need!
    2. My “song”: God is our praise, and our reason for singing. He is our joy, our grand desire. He is our Creator, so our hearts are complete when we are reconciled to Him through Jesus, giving glory to His name. There is a reason worship endures forever in heaven: in Jesus, we always have reason to sing!
    3. My salvation”: This is literally who Jesus is, as this is His name. יְשׁוּעָה = Joshua = Jesus. When we receive Jesus as our Lord & Savior, we receive the salvation of God that is inherent in Him. Jesus is our hope of glory, for Jesus saves!
    4. My God”: There is none else we worship apart from the Creator God, YHWH / I AM of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No job can take His place, no person (parent, friend, spouse, child), no hobby or passion. He alone is our God and we serve no one else but Him.
    5. My father’s God”: For Israel, this hearkened back to the patriarchs as they remembered they served the God of Abraham, and were included in the promises that God made to Abraham. They had relationship with God because of the covenant & relationship their forefathers had with God. For us, this tells us we serve the God of the Bible. You may be the first born-again Christian in your family tree, but if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are a child of Abraham (Gal 3:7). You have been brought into the inheritance of Jesus, becoming His joint-heir (Rom 8:17). You are set apart from the rest of the world because of the God you serve.
  2. Notice the use of 1st person singular: “my” (4x). Because Moses taught this song to Israel, we might expect the 1st person plural “we,” but that’s not what is written. Why? Perhaps to emphasize the need for personal praise. Corporate (group) praise is important, but it is meaningless without a personal relationship with Almighty God. Yes, the Hebrews were to worship God together as a nation, and He served as their King, but they still needed personal individual faith in Him.
    1. So do we! It’s good to worship in & around the church, but it isn’t enough to worship only because of the church. You aren’t even part of the church without personal individual faith in Christ Jesus.

3 The LORD is a man of war; The LORD is His name.

  1. YHWH is a warrior! This was seen powerfully during Passover and the Red Sea (which will be described again in a moment). God rose up as a warrior on behalf of His people, and vanquished the enemy. Objection: Isn’t God a God of love & peace? Yes, but that doesn’t mean He is not also a “man of war.” God is indeed love (1 Jn 4:8), and Paul repeatedly describes God as the “God of peace” (Rom 15:33, 16:20, Phil 4:9, etc.) – but that is not mutually exclusive from God waging war on His enemies. The Bible often shows God going to war (sometimes against His own people! e., the Babylonian conquest & captivity), and when He does, He does so in an overwhelming fashion. But that does not mean He does not love nor grant peace. God is all of these things, for this is what He must be. Sin requires an answer of wrath and judgment, while God still gives grace to the humble and those brokenhearted over their sin.
    1. Sometimes people get a false idea of God, as if there is a God of the Old Testament & a God of the New Testament. They can’t see how God can both express His wrath and pour out His love. Yet the Bible shows God loving His people in the Old Testament (treating Abraham & Moses as friends, graciously & repeatedly appealing to His rebellious people to repent, etc.), and it also shows God pouring out His wrath in the New Testament (the book of Revelation). These attributes of God do not cancel out one another. Just like we can love our family & desire judgment on our enemies, so does God – to the infinite degree!
    2. This is good news! To what extent will God judge sin? To the utmost! To what degree will God defeat the devil? Infinite, throughout eternity! We want God to judge sin; we just don’t want God to judge sin in us. Thankfully, He has delivered us from that through Jesus!

4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. 5 The depths have covered them; They sank to the bottom like a stone.

  1. Repeated mention of the Red Sea. It will be described in various ways throughout the song. … Figurative descriptions of literal event. The Egyptians were not literal stones, but they were literally drowned. Be careful not to write off every description of the Red Sea as mere symbolism. If there’s one thing certain about the Bible’s description of God’s victory over the Egyptians, it is that they were drowned between two walls of water that miraculously stood upright. The language describing it may often be poetic (though not always!), but the event it repeatedly referred to as historical and literal.
  2. Some events are cornerstone, foundational events. For the Hebrews, it was the Red Sea, which is why it is repeated so often through this song & in future songs in the Bible. For us, it is the cross. That is when life changed, where our relationship with our Creator God and our eternal futures were forever altered. It’s no wonder we sing of it so often!
    1. Individually for us, it was the moment we received Jesus as Savior and Lord. Do you remember the time? Even if you don’t remember the exact calendar date, think back to the time, and relive it in your mind. Remember that joy of your first taste of forgiveness – the time when you knew beyond doubt that Jesus is alive & He is God, your God. And then praise God! 

6 “Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces. 7 And in the greatness of Your excellence You have overthrown those who rose against You; You sent forth Your wrath; It consumed them like stubble. 8 And with the blast of Your nostrils The waters were gathered together; The floods stood upright like a heap; The depths congealed in the heart of the sea.

  1. The song continues on in these themes of praising God’s character & power. That God is “glorious” = majestic, noble. Of His “excellence,” it speaks of exaltation & majesty. If earlier, Moses described God as the Warrior, he now describes God as the Noble King. Of course, kings of the day were warriors, as they personally led their armies to battle. At the Red Sea, YHWH the King led His army away from battle (as He led Israel through the sea), but He Himself still went to war and won it in a singular moment. God’s power & wrath is overwhelming! All He needed to do was breathe, and the waters served as His weapon of mass destruction.
  2. Once again, the Red Sea is described. The waters “congealed” as if they were a wall. Many ways of describing the same miraculous event.

9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, My hand shall destroy them.’ 10 You blew with Your wind, The sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

  1. This was the doomed plan of Pharaoh (14:23). After everything he and the Egyptians endured during the 9 plagues + Passover, Pharaoh actually believed he could win! How foolish, yet how typical! This is what happens when people consciously reject God. They lie to themselves despite the evidence, and they pay a terrible price.
  2. Ultimately, Pharaoh was destroyed by the “wind” of God, as the waters gathered up with the great wind & crashed down upon the Egyptian army. Interestingly, this could also be translated as the “spirit” of God. (רוּחַ) Exodus 14:21 describes a “strong east wind” that blew all night as the waters stood on end, but there’s no doubt the Lord was in the wind all night. It was not the wind nor the waters that defeated Pharaoh; it was Almighty God!

11 “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?

  1. Who is like YHWH, worthy to be feared? Who can do the glorious wonders God does? He alone!
    1. What is your response to these things? What is your response to Him? Praise Him – worship Him – sing Him your songs of deliverance!
  2. Question: are there any other gods, but God? Then why does Moses sing of them? It’s an acknowledgment of the cultural idea. People do worship other gods, but it doesn’t mean that those other gods exist. Some people worship demons posing as gods, and others worship things or people that they have elevated to the position of gods. Even so, there is only one God, and He alone is to be praised.

12 You stretched out Your right hand; The earth swallowed them. 13 You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation.

  1. This is all about the work of God. God’s people were saved by God’s right hand of power. God’s mercy (חֶ֫סֶד) given to God’s redeemed. Whereas the power of God’s wrath was shown against the Egyptians, the power of God’s love was shown towards Israel. Both are infinite in scope as ultimate deliverance was provided away from sin as God brought His beloved people closer to Himself.
    1. Likewise with the cross! There we see the infinite power of God: total judgment upon sin & total grace towards the redeemed believer.
  2. Where is God’s “holy habitation”? Wherever God is! Part of the mercy of God included Him leading His people with His personal presence as He dwelt among them.
    1. Possibly a prophetic word anticipating the future temple…
  3. This kind of display of power is impossible to keep quiet…and indeed, it should be shouted from the rooftops. (Which is part of the reason for the song!) But it would also spread to other nations, and they would have their own reaction to the wondrous works of God. Verse 14…

14 “The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. 15 Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; The mighty men of Moab, Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away.

  1. The Gentiles would be in anguish and terror at the news of what God did to Egypt. People who had dwelt in their own lands for centuries would soon fear what God would do to them. After all, if God destroyed the superpower of Egypt without breaking a sweat, how much more would He do to the people of Canaan?
  2. How badly were they terrified? Even 40 years later, after a generation of Hebrews had died in the wilderness, the people of Canaan still feared what God would do to them at Jericho. (Josh 2:10) Sadly, the Gentiles had a greater fear & respect of the power of God than did the Hebrews!

16 Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm They will be as still as a stone, Till Your people pass over, O LORD, Till the people pass over Whom You have purchased.

  1. The Canaanites feared God’s people among them, like Egypt feared God’s angel passing through their land.
  2. Reminder that the people were “purchased” – they were bought with a price.

17 You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O LORD, which You have made For Your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O LORD, which Your hands have established.

  1. Looking forward to the promised possession. Moses trusted the promises of God, knowing that God would grant Israel their homeland. This was the inheritance promised to Abraham, and Moses had no doubt that God would grant it. 
  2. Not only was there a deliverance from slavery, but there was a deliverance to a home. The salvation promised and provided by God was total! So is ours. Too often we tend to think of salvation as simply forgiveness from our sins of the past. If that were all there was to it, it would be enough & we could still give God our everlasting praise. But it’s not…there is so much more! We were delivered from sin & death, and we are delivered to a relationship with God Almighty through Christ Jesus. We are forgiven of the past, but we also have blessing in the present & promised life in future eternity. We know God in the now and we live in relationship with Him through Jesus, being empowered by His Spirit. That is total deliverance!

18 “The LORD shall reign forever and ever.”

  1. Amen! YHWH is always king! For how long will Jesus reign? Forever & ever & ever…just like Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus declares!

19 For the horses of Pharaoh went with his chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them. But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.

  1. Summary / recap.
  • Miriam’s song (20-21) – Sing to the Lord some more!

20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. 21 And Miriam answered them: “Sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!”

  1. Remember Miriam’s background: she was the one who followed Moses in his floating cradle as God took him down the river to the house of Pharaoh’s daughter. Miriam was the one who suggested that the baby receive a Hebrew nursemaid, and who went to go fetch her mother. This is the first we’ve heard of her since Moses’ infancy, but she played an essential role in his life & in the deliverance of Israel. If it hadn’t been for Miriam, the rest of the nation might never have heard of Moses or Aaron. 
  2. Considering that Moses was 80 years old by this point, Miriam was potentially 90. What was this 90-year old woman doing? Singing & dancing her praise! She took up an ancient tambourine (timbrel = hand drum with pieces of metal for ringing) and began leading worship and a dance for the Israelite women. She sang the song her youngest brother taught the nation, using the first few lines as a refrain.
  3. In the New Testament, we don’t see dance used in worship, but in the two most famous Old Testament instances (Miriam & David), it was done to express wholehearted worship. Obviously we are to worship God decently & in order, but we are to worship Him with everything we have. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength. Many times that includes song…sometimes, it might even include a dance!

What a song! What a time of amazing national praise! The Egyptians had been defeated, and Israel had seen the power of God firsthand. God had delivered them from centuries of slavery, and more than that, God was with them in the present (the pillar of cloud/fire), and God was personally leading them to a future (the promised land). All of that should have inspired solid faith & even more praise. Yet that wasn’t exactly the case…

  • Marah’s testing (22-27) – Submit to the Lord!

22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.

  1. Don’t miss the “three days” of travel. How long did Moses originally ask of Pharaoh for the children of Israel to travel? Three days. (Exo 5:3) The nation travelled through the wilderness for the time they expected to travel, and they arrived at the place they (probably) expected to arrive. But that’s when their expectations fell. It was supposed to be a place of worship, but it was a place devoid of water. Remember that the Hebrews hadn’t had time to do much packing, but had to leave Egypt in haste. No doubt they had carried some water with them on the road, but they would need to replenish their supplies along the way. Now they went to where God had told them to go (He was personally leading them, remember), and they ended up at a place without water. To the Hebrews, something wasn’t adding up!
  2. The little water they found, was no good…

23 Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”

  1. There is a repeated play on words re: “bitter.” Marah (מָרָה) = “bitter,” and the description of the water’s bitterness was “bitters” (מָרִ֖ים). e., “They came to Bitter and they could not drink the waters of Bitter, for they were bitter, therefore the name of it was called Bitter.” 
  2. As bad as this was, what was worse was the attitude of the people. They were as bitter as the water! Upset at what they found, they complained/murmured against Moses. Of course, it wasn’t Moses’ fault; they had all followed the presence of the Lord. In reality, when the people complained against Moses, they complained against God.
    1. Consider for a moment what happened: God had just gotten done with 9 supernatural plagues against Egypt, the 10th plague of Passover, and the parting of the Red Sea. The people had just memorized and sung a song of incredible praise to God for all of His works of power. They even had the visible presence of God right in front of them…and they still As if God hadn’t known what it was they would face, or God was somehow unable to provide for them in their distress. How quickly they forgot, and how lacking was their faith!
    2. Before we point the finger, we need to look to ourselves, for we do the same thing. How much more has God provided for us than for the Hebrews? We have something far better than freedom from Egyptian slavery; we have freedom from sin & death because of Jesus Christ! Better than the visible presence of God in front of us is the spiritual presence of God within us! (We are the temple of the Holy Spirit.) Yet what is it we so often do at our first sign of difficulty? We start murmuring and complaining against God. “Why did You do this to me? Why did You let me get to this point? Why didn’t You warn me? What am I going to do?” (As if we did anything to get us to a place of blessing at all!) Christian, stop complaining & start trusting! Stop walking in unbelief & start walking in faith. If God led you to this point, then God will get you through. He knows what it is you face, and He knows what it is you will yet face. Trust that He knows what He’s doing!
  3. Moses had a far better reaction. Though the Hebrews complained against him, Moses took his complaint to the Lord and asked for help…

25 So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. …

  1. God had a solution! There was a tree provided by the Lord, and that was all that was required to make the waters “sweet” (drinkable/potable). Note: the tree was always there; it just had to be shown to Moses by the Lord. When the children of Israel arrived in that place, God had His provision waiting for them…they simply needed to ask Him what it was and trust Him to provide it.
  2. Interestingly, the word for “showed” (יָרָה) is related to the word for “law” (torah; תּוֹרָה). The law of God is what shows us God’s will and instruction for our lives. That may have been on Moses’ mind as he wrote about the follow-up to the tree…

… There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, 26 and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.”

  1. Although the word “torah” is not used, a law was certainly given that day. The waters of Marah were a learning opportunity for God’s people, and that was where God “tested” them. It was a proving ground. Again, they had just come from a demonstration of God’s obvious deliverance. They had trusted God then; would they trust Him now? The Hebrews had heeded God’s word in regards to Passover, and followed His instructions when it came time to go forward through the Red Sea. How would they respond in the future? Would they continue to listen, or would they fall back into unbelief?
  2. The issue is still one of deliverance/salvation. Originally, the Hebrews needed deliverance from Egypt; now they needed deliverance from themselves. Slavery was the obvious enemy; their own tendency to unbelief and complaint was more subtle. Yet that was what they would face far more often! The Israelites needed just as much grace from God on this point as they did on the first one.
  3. This was the purpose of the statute: deliverance. How would they be saved from themselves? By heeding the word of God. Notice this was a conditional law. The condition: obey God; the result: live in safety. If the Hebrews paid attention to God & did what He commanded them, then they would be free from the various plagues on the Egyptians. Don’t misunderstand – this wasn’t a specific threat of bloody water, lice, boils, frogs, etc.; it was a warning of judgment. All of the plagues sent against Egypt were God’s judgments against Egypt due to their continued rebellion against Him. That was the warning for Israel. If they grumbled & complained against God (i.e., if they hardened their hearts against God and walked in unbelief and rebellion), then they would likewise face the judgment and discipline of God. (Which they did, historically speaking!) How would they be delivered from judgment? By walking in faith. They would need to hear God’s word, and heed it.
    1. Could it be done? Not without God’s power and grace! God’s standard is perfection, and we fall short of perfection every single day. The Hebrews would fall short time & time again…which is one of the reasons they would later receive the various laws of sacrifice, so that they could look forward in faith to the one all-sufficient sacrifice that would be made by Jesus.
    2. Where do we find deliverance from our own tendencies to sin? In Christ! There is comfort in His word, guidance in His instruction, and grace in His love & forgiveness. But there’s only one way to experience it: walking in faith. Without Christians clinging to Christ, how does anyone receive forgiveness and cleansing? Without holding fast to His promises, how do we receive comfort? We’ve got to hold to the word of God by faith, heeding it for what it says…and we need the grace of God to do even that!

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.

  1. Earlier, the people had doubted God and failed. God had a plan all along regarding their provision; they just needed to trust Him to take them to it.

Conclusion:

Praise God for His deliverance! Praise God for His provision! We need freedom from sin, and we need deliverance from our own bodies of death with our own sinful tendencies…and God gives it! Christ Jesus is our grand deliverer, and He does for us what we could never do on our own: grant us freedom. The power He demonstrated at the cross & resurrection forever proves His victory over our greatest enemies (sin & death), but it also shows us what is available to us on a daily basis.

Sometimes that’s the harder battle, is it not? When God passed through Egypt in the Passover, the people had a firm command to trust God and rest in His work. When God parted the Red Sea, it no doubt amazed the people & caused them to fear, but it was also obvious that they were to walk through it & experience God’s deliverance from their enemies. It was when Egypt was gone & they were in the wilderness that Israel struggled. It was then that they slipped so easily into doubt and unbelief. It was a sneakier enemy, but one just as dangerous.

Jesus delivers us not only from the obvious enemies of sin & death, but from the sneakier, subtler enemy of our own fleshly temptations. Trust Him! Hear His word, heed it in obedience, and rest in His provision and grace. And when you do, sing! Sing out His praise, because He is worthy to receive it! He is the warrior – the conquering King – and He is our God, our Salvation. Praise Him!

Exodus 9-10, “The Danger of a Hardened Heart”

It’s been often said that the first rule to getting out of a hole is to stop digging. If you find yourself in trouble, stop doing what it is that caused you to get into trouble in the first place: turn the car in the opposite direction, stop spending money on wasteful things, stop engaging in harmful habits, etc. Just stop, and then figure out what comes next. 

The problem is, we don’t always want to stop. At a certain point, our pride kicks in and we think we can just push through. That might work on occasions (such as sudden pain during a race), but there are almost always consequences that follow (physical damage and prolonged healing time). Other times, it doesn’t work at all, and it can lead to dire results. (Ignore chest pain, and you might end up dead of a heart attack!)

Such was the case with Pharaoh. He got himself into a bad situation, a pretty deep hole – but instead of stopping what he was doing, he kept digging. At any moment he could have humbled himself and repented towards God; instead he doubled down on his sin and continued to lead himself and his nation to destruction.

Remember the context: After 400 years of slavery, God raised up Moses as a deliverer to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, returning them to the homeland promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Despite having the word of God given to him, and miracles of God shown to him, the Pharaoh despised Moses and the Lord God. Pharaoh not only refused to recognize YHWH as God, but he also refused to allow the people of YHWH to leave Egypt.

That’s when the plagues began. First there was the water of the Nile river turning to blood (becoming blood no matter if it was in the river, or in buckets on land). Then there were frogs – so many that they infested the ovens and beds of the people. This was followed by a massive outbreak of lice/gnats, as if the sand of the desert had come to life – and followed again by swarms of nasty, biting flies (though only on the people of Egypt; the Hebrews were spared). As time went on, the severity of each of the plagues increased, and through each event, Pharaoh hardened his heart exactly as God said that he would (7:3).

Pharaoh’s hardened heart would continue to get him into trouble. God had been merciful with all of the many opportunities He gave to Pharaoh to repent, but Pharaoh simply refused to do it. Pharaoh’s heart was filled with pride, being convinced he could somehow outlast the infinite God. It can’t be done! Things would get far worse for Pharaoh before he finally learned his lesson.

Don’t be too proud to stop before God! The more you resist God, the harder your heart becomes, and the more you want to resist God…all the while piling up more judgment upon yourself. All it takes is one single lasting moment of repentant faith…but that comes through brokenness; not pride. Hardened hearts are proud hearts, and pride kills.

Exodus 9

  • Plague #5: Animals diseased (9:1-7)

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 2 For if you refuse to let them go, and still hold them, 3 behold, the hand of the LORD will be on your cattle in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the oxen, and on the sheep—a very severe pestilence.

  1. Starts with the same pattern as has been seen with the other plagues: God’s name, God’s command, and God’s warning.
  2. God’s name: YHWH Elohim of the Hebrews. Remember that the Egyptians worshipped a large pantheon of false gods, Pharaoh himself being considered divine. For Moses to give a message in the name of God, Moses needed to be very specific as to which God (who is the only God). He is “I AM, Creator God of heaven and earth, the God who chose the descendants of Abraham as His own people.” With that kind of name, there could be no mistake!
    1. In our own culture, it is becoming increasingly important that we are specific about the God we serve. The word “god” is used so generically that it can refer to any higher being of any person’s imagination (if not the person himself!). We too, can (and should) use how God has revealed Himself to us to identify Him to others. How did He reveal Himself to us? Through the person of Jesus Christ! Jesus is the image of God, the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15) – He is the Word of God (Jn 1:1) – the one who has seen Jesus as seen the Father (Jn 14:9). When you witness, be specific regarding of Whom you witness!
  3. God’s command: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.” From the very beginning words to Pharaoh, this is the repeated command: the Hebrews were to be released to serve & worship God. The Hebrews did not belong to Pharaoh; they belonged to YHWH. They were His people, and He had a purpose for them.
    1. Just as we are His people today, and He has a purpose for us: to make disciples of all the nations, and to declare the praises of God!
  4. God’s warning: “if you refuse…” Anytime that Moses announced a plague to Pharaoh (which wasn’t every time), God always gave Pharaoh the opportunity to obey. None of the plagues had to come – any one (or all!) of them could have been avoided if Pharaoh had heeded the command of God. He did not, so there were consequences. It was a classic if/then statement: “Free the people, but if not, face the judgment.” Sadly, Pharaoh consistently chose to face the judgment.
    1. So do far too many people today! They have the opportunity to repent; they just don’t take it. (Don’t miss your opportunity!)
  5. The actual plague: pestilence/disease upon the livestock animals. Some have suggested that it was an outbreak of anthrax due to all of the dead decaying frogs, lice, and swarms of flies. Speculation is rather futile, and it takes away from the obvious and purposeful supernatural aspect of the plague. The fact is that this plague was sent by God, upon the livestock, and the humans were unaffected. If this were a natural (though dangerous) epidemic, why weren’t the people infected – why did only the animals die? Natural explanations fall short. This was undoubtedly a work of God.
    1. BTW: Why the animals? Why should all of the livestock of Egypt die due to the sin of Pharaoh? This is just part of the cruelty of sin. Sin always has unintended consequences…always. There’s no such thing as a “victimless” sin. What one person does always ripples out to someone else. In this case, the innocent animals of Egypt bore the brunt of the punishment due to Pharaoh. Obviously, it was better that the livestock be diseased than the people, but they were still innocent victims of Pharaoh’s sin.

4 And the LORD will make a difference between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt. So nothing shall die of all that belongs to the children of Israel.” ’ ”

  1. As with the swarms of biting flies, there would be a distinction between the Hebrew & Egyptian livestock. This is not the case every time, but often God determined to show mercy to His people, while the fateful judgment fell upon Egypt. It would be one more factor declaring that the judgment was a supernatural work of God; not a simple (albeit devastating) natural disaster.
  2. Does God always shelter us from the judgment He pours out on the nations? Sometimes He does, but many times He does not. (Just ask born-again Christians living in persecuted lands today.) Even during the Great Tribulation although the church will be raptured away from the terrible judgments to come on the earth, there will still be men & women coming to faith during that time, and they will need to endure. Even so, does God “make a difference” between us and the rest of the world? Absolutely, yes! We are His children – we are indwelled by the Spirit – we are His ambassadors to the world. He always makes a distinction between us and the world!

5 Then the LORD appointed a set time, saying, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.” 6 So the LORD did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the children of Israel, not one died.

  1. Note: Even in this proclamation of judgment, God gave Pharaoh a window of opportunity to repent. Pharaoh had the time from the announcement of Moses & Aaron until the next day to make a decision. “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing.” At any time during those hours, Pharaoh could have humbled himself and come to his senses. Sadly, he didn’t do it. He wasted his opportunity to be saved. (Don’t waste yours!)
  2. Just as God warned, there was a massive death-toll of animals the next day. Some have criticized the statement that “all the livestock of Egypt died,” considering that animals are seen in Egypt during the later plagues. There are explanations for the other animals (as we’ll see); the bigger problem is why so many people are willing to water down the word of God at the first potential difficulty. When there is a question, always give the Bible the benefit of the doubt. What God inspired to be written is not going to be mistaken. It might be misinterpreted, misapplied, etc., but it will never be incorrect. God, being God, is fully capable of diseasing every livestock animal among the ancient Egyptians, while keeping the Hebrew livestock alive and healthy. Unless there is clear reason to believe otherwise, we should believe the Bible at its word.

7 Then Pharaoh sent, and indeed, not even one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh became hard, and he did not let the people go.

  1. Pharaoh hardened his heart. He had heard the warning, and he saw the results, and it meant nothing to him. Although God clearly worked in his midst, Pharaoh was unwilling to humble himself & instead continued to harden his heart, just as he had done many times before.
  2. What does it mean to have a hard heart? It is to have a “heavy” heart. Like a stone, the hard heart sinks in selfishness, stubbornness, and sin. The word used here is the same root that in other grammatical contexts & constructions is sometimes used for “chabod,” or the weighty honor & glory of God. What’s the difference between hard stubbornness and weighty honor? It’s whether one serves oneself or serves the Living God!
    1. Serve the Lord! Get your eyes off of yourself & onto the Risen Christ Jesus! Stop resisting the conviction of the Holy Spirit in your life – stop hardening your own heart. Make the choice to humble yourself & repent!
  • Plague #6: Boils (9:8-12)

8 So the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take for yourselves handfuls of ashes from a furnace, and let Moses scatter it toward the heavens in the sight of Pharaoh. 9 And it will become fine dust in all the land of Egypt, and it will cause boils that break out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.”

  1. Notice there was no warning with this plague. This was the 3rd plague in the 2nd cycle, and every 3rd plague was a judgment. God simply gave instructions to Moses, and Moses acted in obedience.
  2. This particular judgment: boils. It may have been similar to what was experienced by Job in his suffering. Job 2:7–8, “(7) So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. (8) And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes.” Imagine being covered in burning blisters all over your body, like bad reactions from poison ivy that bubble up into large boils. It would have been awful for everyone who experienced it!
    1. FYI, there is also a potential parallel to the 1st bowl judgment of Revelation, the loathsome sores (Rev 16:2). What was seen and experienced in Egypt may one day be experienced again on a world-wide scale. 
  3. Note: They were to appear on “man and beast.” Question: if all of the Egyptian livestock died in the 5th plague, where did the animals come from in the 6th plague? There are varying explanations: (1) “All” the Egyptian livestock might refer to all in a certain geographic area in Egypt, or, more likely (2) The Egyptians acquired more livestock as replacements. Perhaps they purchased them from Cush/Ethiopia, or perhaps they simply took some of the Hebrew livestock for themselves. Considering that animal livestock is crucial for an agricultural economy to survive, it seems unlikely that they would have gone too long without finding some source of animals for themselves.
    1. The better question isn’t where the animals came from; it’s why the Egyptians didn’t sooner rise up to Pharaoh demanding his repentance towards God! Pharaoh may have been the absolute ruler in Egypt, worshipped as a god by his people, but every nation has a breaking point. The Egyptians waited an absurdly long time before trying to convince Pharaoh to repent.

10 Then they took ashes from the furnace and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses scattered them toward heaven. And they caused boils that break out in sores on man and beast. 11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians and on all the Egyptians.

  1. Why the ashes? God didn’t “need” ashes for the miracle; this was a symbol, and a step of faith for Moses. Some have speculated that the ashes came from one of the furnaces used to bake the bricks. If so, it would have been a powerful symbol of the abusive slavery of the Hebrews by the Egyptians being turned against them.
  2. Interestingly, no distinction between Hebrew and Egyptian is listed. Perhaps there is an implied distinction in verse 11 regarding the boils being on “the magicians and on all the Egyptians.” (No Hebrews mentioned.) That the magicians were affected was significant. Earlier, they seemed to duplicate (to a lesser extent) some of the effects of the plagues, although they were unable to remove them or offer any relief. Later, they were unable to duplicate anything, and were found ineffective. Now, they were harmed by the plague of God, coming under direct attack just like all the other Egyptians. Step by step, God revealed the Egyptian magicians to be utter frauds and they were totally defeated.
    1. False gods & false religions are just that: false!

12 But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

  1. For the first time in the series of the plagues, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Earlier, God said that this would be His work (Exo 7:3), but it took six of the nine primary plagues for it to happen. For five of the plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart; finally God is specifically spoken of doing the hardening.
  2. Does God have the right to harden? Yes, without question. (Rom 9:18-21) He is the Potter; we are the clay. He has the right to do whatever He wants with His creation. Is God unjust in His hardening? Absolutely not. Again, Pharaoh hardened his own heart five previous times (and does so again with the seventh plague). Pharaoh was responsible for his own sin & stubbornness.
    1. Although we sometimes have difficulty reconciling the sovereignty of God & the responsibility of man, the Bible has no such difficulty. We see those things as polar opposites; the Bible portrays them hand-in-hand. God cannot be blamed for our sin & lack of repentance. If someone chooses to reject Christ, he/she bears their own sin because it was his/her responsibility to repent.
    2. The point? Make the choice to repent! Stop blaming God (or Satan, or anyone else) for your bad choices – those are yours alone. The only thing stopping you from experiencing the mercy & grace of God is a refusal to repent. You’re digging your own hole…stop digging!
  • Plague #7: Hail & fire (9:13-35)

13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me, 14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.

  1. The next plague starts with the same pattern, but gives a harsher warning: “I will send all My plagues to your very heart.” The severity increases, and Pharaoh will be personally affected. The extent of which, he cannot yet imagine…the final 10th plague will take his own firstborn son. Again, God was giving Pharaoh repeated opportunities to repent – Pharaoh just wouldn’t do it.
  2. God also gives part of the purpose for the plagues: so that Pharaoh would recognize YHWH as God. Remember when Moses first approached Pharaoh with God’s demand for Hebrew freedom, and Pharaoh flatly turned him down. Exodus 5:2, “And Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”” Then, Pharaoh did not recognize the Lord; now God declares that is precisely what the plagues would force Pharaoh to do. Each one of the plagues was an additional testimony of the reality of YHWH, God of the Hebrews.
  3. The purposes continue…

15 Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. 17 As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go.

  1. The plagues were God’s mercy. God could have killed Pharaoh instantly, but He didn’t. He allowed Pharaoh to live through each and every one of these events, giving him opportunity after opportunity to repent.
  2. The plagues were God’s testimony. The whole world would see what God did in Egypt, and they would fear the God of the Hebrews. And it worked! Forty years later, when Joshua finally led the people into the Promised Land, the city of Jericho was terrified of the Hebrews, in part because of what the Lord did to the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Josh 2:10). There may not have been mass media in those days, but news of the miracles of God travelled fast!
  3. The plagues could have been temporary. The reason they continued was a direct result of Pharaoh’s pride. Pharaoh exalted himself rather than God. Not only did God use the plagues to witness to Pharaoh, but God used them to humble Pharaoh. Eventually that hardened heart would be broken, though it would take massive death and judgment before it happened.
    1. Clay can be reshaped in two ways: when it’s soft, it can be molded; after it’s fired & hardened, it must be broken. Keep your heart softened!

18 Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now. 19 Therefore send now and gather your livestock and all that you have in the field, for the hail shall come down on every man and every animal which is found in the field and is not brought home; and they shall die.” ’ ” 20 He who feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses. 21 But he who did not regard the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field.

  1. Strict warning of imminent death
  2. Everyone had the chance to believe, and respond.

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt—on man, on beast, and on every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.” 23 And Moses stretched out his rod toward heaven; and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire darted to the ground. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt. 24 So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy that there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.

  1. Massive hail & fire rained down on Egypt.
  2. For all the various speculations of how some of the previous plagues could have come about through natural means, there is no natural explanation of this possible. Hail, perhaps…but not fire. Likewise, there’s no foundation to write off the “fire” as mere lightning that accompanied a violent storm (as both the NIV & HCSB translates it). There is a difference between the Hebrew words for “lightning,” (בָּרָק) and “fire,” (אֵשׁ) and it is the word for “fire” used here.
    1. Beware of those who try to write off the supernatural in the Scripture! Were it not for the supernatural interaction of Almighty God, none of us would be saved!
  3. Unique in Egypt. Unique in history. Not unique in the future! Revelation 8:7, “The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” It will happen again, but on a scale heretofore unseen by the world!

25 And the hail struck throughout the whole land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail struck every herb of the field and broke every tree of the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail.

  1. Again, massive death toll. Anyone (human or animal) in the open, died.
  2. Again, a distinction was made between the Hebrews and Egyptians.

27 And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. 28 Entreat the LORD, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.”

  1. Pharaoh actually admitted some sin, but only some. “I have sinned this time.” What about all the other times?! His hard heart prevented him from seeing the full scope of his sins. He confessed God’s righteousness and begged for mercy, but he wasn’t surrendering himself into God’s hand. Thus, this wasn’t a change of heart for Pharaoh. Although it seemed that he humbled his heart, he didn’t. Even as he begged for mercy from God, Pharaoh lied (and Moses knew it).

29 So Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God.”

  1. Moses agreed to act, knowing that even the cessation of the hail was a witness to God.
  2. Even so, he knew the truth of Pharaoh’s heart, that Pharaoh was lying. Pharaoh did “not yet fear the LORD God.

31 Now the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the head and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they are late crops.

  1. Spring crops destroyed; fall crops unaffected.

33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and spread out his hands to the LORD; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain was not poured on the earth. 34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

  1. True to his word, Moses acted in faith, and God’s power was evident in the relief from the plague.
  2. Sadly, it made no impact on Pharaoh. Once out of danger, “he hardened his heart” and changed his mind. And it wasn’t just Pharaoh. Even his servants hardened their hearts!
    1. Just like faith can be contagious, so can rebellion. Be mindful of the influence you have on others!

Exodus 10

  • Plague #8: Locusts (10:1-20)

1 Now the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

  1. Question: Who did the work of hardening Pharaoh’s heart: Pharaoh or the Lord God? Both! Here, God spoke of His own work – and it wasn’t just with Pharaoh, but with Pharaoh’s servants. They were in a similar position as their king, first hardening their heart and then God confirming their terrible choice.
  2. God also gave another reason for Pharaoh’s hardened heart and the plagues: as signs to Israel. In Exodus 9:14, God said the plagues were witnesses to Pharaoh – in 9:16, God said the plagues were witnesses to the world; in 10:2, God says that the plagues are witnesses to the Hebrews. The Hebrews needed to know the power of God – they needed to understand His holy justice & His might – they needed to know to what extent God would go to keep His promises. All of that can be seen in the plagues.
    1. Look around and see the work of God! How far will He go? To the cross & resurrection!

3 So Moses and Aaron came in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? …

  1. However Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, the ultimate issue was pride. He consistently refused to humble himself before God.

… Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 4 Or else, if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. 5 And they shall cover the face of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains to you from the hail, and they shall eat every tree which grows up for you out of the field. 6 They shall fill your houses, the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians—which neither your fathers nor your fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the earth to this day.’ ” And he turned and went out from Pharaoh.

  1. This was Pharaoh’s last chance before the locusts came. Egypt’s agricultural economy was already devastated – this would be a knockout blow. The locusts would destroy anything remaining. How bad would it be? The locusts would be unavoidable and undeniable.
  2. There’s an interesting change/addition to this particular plague account: a little extra note at the end of verse 6 that Moses gave God’s warning, and left. The implication is that Moses didn’t stick around waiting for an answer. He already knew what Pharaoh’s response would be, so he left.
    1. Notice that didn’t stop Moses from delivering the message! Even though he knew Pharaoh’s heart was hard – even though he knew Pharaoh was a liar deserving of God’s judgment – Moses was still faithful, delivering the message from God exactly as God instructed him to do.

7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?”

  1. Even the servants begged Pharaoh to relent! They saw what Pharaoh refused to see – what his hard heart had blinded it from. 
  2. And Pharaoh listened! At least partly, as he called for Moses and Aaron to return. 

8 So Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. Who are the ones that are going?” 9 And Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” 10 Then he said to them, “The LORD had better be with you when I let you and your little ones go! Beware, for evil is ahead of you. 11 Not so! Go now, you who are men, and serve the LORD, for that is what you desired.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

  1. Although Moses’ request was reasonable, Pharaoh denied it, insulting Moses in the process. He questioned Moses’ manhood & ejected he & Aaron from the Egyptian court.
  2. This is the danger of pride! Pharaoh was so close to experiencing peace and relief from the plagues, but his pride wouldn’t allow him to admit defeat.

12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land—all that the hail has left.” 13 So Moses stretched out his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind on the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. 14 And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt and rested on all the territory of Egypt. They were very severe; previously there had been no such locusts as they, nor shall there be such after them. 15 For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every herb of the land and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left. So there remained nothing green on the trees or on the plants of the field throughout all the land of Egypt.

  1. Pharaoh’s last encounter with Moses had sealed his judgment from God, and it came forth strong! A supernatural swarm of locusts totally destroyed the land. Nothing like this had ever happened before. The Egyptians had seen locust swarms in the past, but this was unnaturally thick.
  2. How bad was it? Verse 14 said that “They were very severe,” the word “severe” being the same word used earlier to refer to Pharaoh’s hard heart. It might be translated, “They were very heavy / very weighty.” What a response to Pharaoh! As hard has his heart was, so was the severity of the swarm of locusts upon his land!

16 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste, and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. 17 Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and entreat the LORD your God, that He may take away from me this death only.”

  1. Was Pharaoh ready to admit defeat? His response was similar to that with the fiery hail. On the surface, he seems as if he’s ready to be humble, but upon a closer look, he wasn’t. Notice that Pharaoh was blinded to the extent of his sin. He wanted forgiveness “this once,” and to have “this death only” taken away – as if he had only sinned the one time.
  2. True confession is utter openness with God. It’s agreeing that our sin is truly sinful, separating us from Him in rebellion. It’s no excuses, no holds-barred, no conditions. If we’re not willing to do that, then we’re still holding onto pride. 

18 So he went out from Pharaoh and entreated the LORD.

  1. Notice how Moses was merciful every time Pharaoh asked. Moses was under no obligation to pray on Pharaoh’s behalf. He had been commissioned to speak for God; not Pharaoh. Yet he did it anyway. Moses was an intercessor to someone who didn’t deserve intercession.

19 And the LORD turned a very strong west wind, which took the locusts away and blew them into the Red Sea. There remained not one locust in all the territory of Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go.

  1. More hardening…this time it was the Lord God who did it to Pharaoh. Once again, God confirmed the choices Pharaoh made for himself already.
  • Plague #9: Darkness (10:21-29)

21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

  1. This was the final plague of the final cycle of plagues, thus it was a judgment plague given without warning. “This plague is comparable to the silence in heaven, just prior to the last and terrible plague (Rev 8:1),” (NET Bible).
  2. Darkness might not seem so bad. But consider the extent of the darkness. How bad must it have been, for the thick darkness to be “felt”? Have you ever been in a cavern when the lights are turned out & it become pitch-dark? It’s a scary thing when you can’t see your hand right in front of your face, and you know your eyes will not adjust. That’s a darkness you can feel – perhaps not physically, but viscerally. That was what came upon the land of Egypt (though not upon the land of Goshen). God gave palpable darkness to the Egyptians, while He gave light to the children of Israel.
  3. Ultimately, this was a direct hit on the most revered false god of Egypt: Ra, the sun god. This was the chief god in their pantheon, and he was shown to be powerless in the face of YHWH. God is the only God!

24 Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also give us sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock also shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind. For we must take some of them to serve the LORD our God, and even we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.”

  1. At first glance, it seems that Pharaoh is ready to admit defeat. He gave limited permission to Israel.
  2. Moses didn’t accept it. Why not? He knew better! He knew what God had commanded of him, and what to expect. He wasn’t about to settle for less.

27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me! Take heed to yourself and see my face no more! For in the day you see my face you shall die!” 29 So Moses said, “You have spoken well. I will never see your face again.”

  1. God may have hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but Pharaoh’s anger was his own. Every word Pharaoh spoke, and every reaction he had was his own choice. He made some very poor choices along the way! (Just like us!)
  2. Sadly, Pharaoh was closing himself off from any opportunity to hear of God’s mercy & grace, cutting himself off from every opportunity to repent. He demanded Moses leave and never see his face – but Moses was the only one who could intercede to God on his behalf. Like the man or woman who turns away from Jesus (our only hope), so did Pharaoh turn away from Moses (his only hope). People need a Mediator between us & God, and there is only one Mediator offered to us today: Jesus! Don’t turn away from Him!

Conclusion:

Hardened hearts are dangerous! Hearts become hard due to proud rebellion against God, and pride kills. It’s always been that way. Satan became proud, and desired to be in the place of God, only to be cast down out of heaven. Adam and Eve were tempted through their pride to know as much as God, only to fall from grace and be cast out of the Garden of Eden. Pride is not only the downfall of obviously sinful people like Pharaoh; it’s the downfall of all of us.

For Christians, it can be difficult to see how the pride of Pharaoh relates to us. It shouldn’t be! In the first place, at one point we were all like Pharaoh, exalting ourselves above God, rebelling against His every command. Though He graciously gave us many opportunities to repent, we didn’t. Instead, we dug in our heels against Him, and He had to bring us to the point of breaking or to some other point where He could no longer be denied. (Some of you might still be at that point today!) The good news is that once we did humble ourselves before Jesus, repenting of our sin & believing upon Him, that’s when He saved us by His grace. Thus, we can look on Pharaoh & thank God that He saved us out of that place!

At the same time, pride isn’t something that only affects the reprobate. Each one of us, even as born-again Christians, can sink into the quicksand of proud, hardened hearts. Yes, we initially repented & placed our faith in Christ, but we found other areas of our lives that we weren’t ready to surrender to God. We had things pop up along the way that we kept for our own, being unwilling to give to Jesus – being unwilling to obey what the Scripture tells us to do with them. We’ve nursed our grudges, neglected to serve others, made ourselves our priority, etc. By refusing to give those things over to the Lord, we’ve opened the door to hardened hearts. Beware! That won’t lead to ultimate judgment, but it will lead to God’s firm discipline. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” (Jas 4:6) That truth never changes, even for believers in Christ.