So, now comes the final part of the journey.
Well, actually, the journey’s pretty much over. Deuteronomy is Moses stepping up in front of everyone and retelling the story of what happened – at least, a lot of the interesting bits. I wonder – remind me at the end of this book to return to the thought as to whether you could just read Deuteronomy, and then skip Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, because this one has all the important bits anyway.
Chapter one is long, at least in comparison to most of the chapters I’ve read so far, and actually has a lot in it. There are a couple of verses, that I want to draw back into. They don’t really link or relate directly to one another, but they’re just the ones that stood out to me.
1. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” ~ Deuteronomy 1:30-31
Like a father carries his son.
You know, the picture I get here is one that continues from that moment. I have this mental image of God, as a father, carrying his child through the journey that Israel was going through. He wants to help them get from the beginning to end, and he wants to make it as easy for them as possible; so he carries them. The problem is, that the child doesn’t want to be helped, doesn’t want to be carried, and so keeps kicking and swinging and trying to get out until the father eventually has no real choice but to put the child down.
One of my all time favourite poems is the Footprints poem; again, a reference is in there to Jesus carrying us through the difficult times in our lives.
I’d like to ask, though, how often do we kick and scream and wriggle and writhe? When God’s trying to help us, trying to carry us through something, how much do we just refuse that help? Is it pride that keeps us from accepting his assistance?
I think we tend to have a bit of the wrong attitude to God and his assistance these days. We have a tendency to want to do everything on our own, and it’s not until it all collapses around us that we then turn back and face him – usually asking why he didn’t help. To which he can only respond that we didn’t really allow him to do so.
God is, though, a father – he does want to help us and does want to assist us. That’s not to say that he’s going to do it all for us; but he’s right there giving us guidance and directions – all we have to do is listen to him.
I’m going to drift off on that one instead of going to the other points I had in mind. Didn’t expect to go on for so long.
So, tonight’s another bit of a milestone. Another book down, only 64 to go.
It’s been an interesting journey so far. 90 chapters, more than that in days, but basically, I’ve come a long way.
My relationship with God has really been getting stronger over this time.
So what did I get out of Exodus?
Well, I guess the biggest thing that struck me from Exodus has been God’s patience, and our diligence. Over and over and over and over God’s shown his faithfulness to his word and to the Israelites through this book. No matter how many times they mess it all up, no matter how badly they mess it all up, God is faithful and patient. Even after the golden calf, God gave consideration to destroying them – but he didn’t. In all that, he actually stated that he was still going to keep his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
There is nothing that we can do to make God renege on a promise he has made. He remains faithful, he remains patient and he keeps his word.
Secondly, though, has been with the building of the tabernacle – our part, really.
This isn’t a religious thing. God reached out to us and brought his son, as a sacrifice, that we could then reach back to him and come into his presence. He does, still, give us guidance and ways to live. He does call us to be like Jesus, and to live holy and pure lives. He gives us instruction and guidance, and when we are diligent in following those instructions, that’s when we’re following God completely. Just like the Israelites did with the tabernacle, they didn’t settle for good enough, and neither should we.
And that’s basically leading in to the final chapter. It’s time for it all to come together!
Again, the bible goes in to great detail about this process. Instead of just saying that they put it together, it clarifies and describes every item, where it was put, how it was done, and so on.
I have some recollections of being a kid, and I’m just at the moment thinking of being a young child and coming home from school to tell mum what happened that day. As a kid, everything was so exciting, every little detail, every moment that I could remember.
As we get older, we start to lose a bit of that don’t we? “How was your day?” Becomes a question that can be answered in one syllable – “Good.
It’s more often when it’s a bad day, though, that we’ll actually go in and share everything that happened. How much of a reverse is that from being children and sharing every exciting moment of our day?
I really feel God saying to me as I read this last chapter, that I should start working on remembering the excitement of the good moments. I can really see a young Israelite child coming home to his parents and actually detailing this story.
“And then! They put the lamp in the tabernacle, and it went on the south side opposite the table! Just like God commanded! And then they put the altar in the tent too! It went right in front of the curtain, and it was burning nice-smelling incense! And then…”
And so on… And so on… And so on…
We’re God’s children, and he wants to hear about what we’ve done. Just like a child coming home and telling their mum a story that she heard when she was a girl, but she listens with rapt attention anyway – that’s how God is. He wants us to come home, sit on his knee and tell us all the things that happened, all those exciting moments that made us smile and got us through the day, and even if he does already know the details, he still wants to hear it again, as we tell it to him.
First off tonight, I want to point two new things out. To my left ( <– That way) you may notice that the menu has been updated. For those on Twitter or Facebook, your support would be greatly appreciated!
Tonight was life group night.
I came out of this really challenged, actually. We started off the evening debriefing over the sermon from Sunday morning about loving the house of God, and having the right heart, the right mindset, the right attitudes, the right behaviours that are in accordance with Jesus’ life and God’s heart. I loved the way it was put on Sunday morning, in asking that if we were to walk into the house of God – what calibre of people would we expect to find there?
I love the word calibre. According to my favourite online dictionary, Merriam-Webster, the word calibre can be defined as: a degree of excellence or importance.
So basically, what level of excellence would we expect to find in the house of God?
God’s challenged me with one core thing since I renewed our relationship, and that has been the example of Jesus. The main thing God’s been saying to me, is to live a life that is an example of how Jesus lived. Jesus was unblemished, perfect, the holy and undeserving sacrifice to pay for the sins of all mankind. If anyone is the beacon of excellence when it comes to life, it’s him.
Ultimately, the calibre of people in the house of God should be demonstrating the highest degrees of excellence, shouldn’t they?
We’re not perfect, I’m certainly not, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.
The absolute centre of Jesus’ life and ministry, as I see it, was love. Love for God, and love for others. When we let love come first in our lives, then we start to be examples of what Christ was like.
Now we’re onto the priestly garments. Again, like with the tabernacle, this chapter goes into massive amounts of detail about how the Ephod, the Breastpiece and the other priestly garments were made.
And how about those details?
They hammered out thin sheets of gold and cut strands to be worked into the blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen – the work of a skilled craftsman. ~ Expdus 39:3
They made gold thread to weave into the priestly garments. That just amazes me…
But after it was all made, they brought the whole lot to Moses. Again, so much detail, instead of just saying it was all brought for inspection, they felt it necessary to point out each item individually. From the incense and bread to the ark of the Testimony (and its poles), everything’s actually mentioned.
Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the LORD had commanded. So Moses blessed them. ~ Exodus 39:43
Going back to last night’s discussion about giving God our every effort when we’re doing things – here’s the “payoff”, so to speak. When we give God everything, when we put our entire heart and soul before him and put it into the things that he wants us to do – then he will bless us.
I’m still quite amazed at some events of this evening.
A week or so ago, I was talking to a work mate about the fact that I’m not drinking at the moment, simply because God told me to. Yet it was difficult to actually get the words out, and afterwards I felt convicted about the insecurity that I had when it came to the strength of my relationship with God; that I didn’t even say straight out that yes, it was because God doesn’t want me drinking at the moment.
Today was slightly different though. I caught a taxi to meet up with a friend, and as I got in the door, the cab driver put away the book he was reading. Not before I saw the cover, though.
It was a book I own and have read. God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens.
So without hesitation, I asked him about it. It allowed him to launch into a diatribe about how religion is so bad and between the huge number of swear words coming from his mouth, he gave no uncertainty about his opinion of Christianity, and how anyone who believes in it must only be stupid.
Well. I turned to him and said that I was once a person who was antagonistic, argumentative and anti-religion and anti-Christianity; only to discover that God’s truth is real, and now I’m a Christian – that kind of left him a little shocked and a little speechless for a moment, I think.
We talked as we drove, as you do – he kept bringing the conversation back to all the faults of religion, and God kept leading me to bring the conversation back to my relationship with God. He accepted that even Jesus was all about loving people, not condemning them – and so I was able to share with him that that is the essence of my relationship with God. Loving other people. Which he also accepted, and then came to accept that more people should try to live their lives like that.
When I got out of the car and was walking away, God just said to me that I’d sown the seed. I actually still feel Dad’s smile upon me, like I can look up and just see him smiling back at me.
If we listen to God; he’ll give us the words to say. He’ll impress the words on our hearts, and all we have to do is share them out loud.
So I’m kind of jumping forward a step tonight. A little bit of catch up while we’re in this little stage.
These two chapters basically give the story of building the tabernacle – but to the details of exactly how God described how it was to be built in the first place.
This says, first and foremost to me, the importance of this place. It was so important that they just noted down how big it was, what it was made of, what the details were – but it was so important that they went through and actually made it clear, word by word, that it was built according to the instructions that God gave them.
Isn’t it easy, sometimes, to do a job that we think is good enough? If we’re told to pick up 50 things, well, when we find 47 and can’t easily see the other three, then we’ll just shrug and leave it at that. It’s good enough, right?
Well when building the tabernacle, the Israelites weren’t going to accept good enough. They wanted to make sure that they did it exactly as God wanted, so much so that they actually wrote down every detail of the work that was completed.
That’s the attitude God wants from us, too. He doesn’t want us to just do good enough – he urges us to do our best, he encourages and calls for us to actually accept the calling he’s given us, and then run with it to perfect completion. It might take longer, it might be harder, but ultimately it’s what makes us grow, and draws us closer to him.
I’m quite terrified about the week ahead.
Work’s been giving me more and more responsibility, basically by the day almost over the past month or two. Which is great, don’t get me wrong about that – but this week is the first conference that I’ve basically done the organisation for by myself; which means, anything that goes wrong is going to be my responsibility to deal with – and my ear that gets chewed by angry people down the phone line.
I mean, I’m reasonably confident that I have everything sorted, and probably just being overly cautious, but I’m worrying about all the things that could go wrong. The whole company is basically relying on me to have got everything set up and organised properly so that their conference is a success. Well, all I can do is hope.
Any prayers that people can offer would be great in the meantime, that all goes smoothly and is successful. Thanks very much.
You know, the introduction to this chapter intrigues me.
The Israelites, day after day after day, kept bringing more and more offerings to help build the tabernacle. They’ve brought so much that the people working on building it have to put down their tools, go up to Moses and tell him that they have too much. Moses then has to go to the Israelites and tell them to stop giving! Stop!
Imagine the impact that there would be on the world, if people gave so much that they had to be asked to stop giving. I’m not just talking about to God and the church, but just in general.
I haven’t ever seen the whole movie Pay It Forward, but I know – and absolutely love – the concept. It’s so brilliant. Just imagine a world where people stopped and thought about someone else. They stopped and just gave something to another person.
Today at church, there was quite a theme that I brought out of it, of generosity, of love, of giving – of having the mindset that I come second, and others come first.
We live in a world that is ruled by “ME”. We’re taught, we encourage each other, we live life with the attitude that we need to look after ourselves first. We can’t give to others, unless we have enough to spare – and enough to spare is enough not only after our necessities, but after all the other bonuses and good things that we want to get for ourselves as well.
Imagine what would happen if we flipped that around. Imagine what would happen if we suddenly decided that we were going to give to others, out of what we don’t have?
Once the Israelites have stopped giving, though, then the workers can get on with building the tabernacle.
Are these the same Israelites? Only a few days or weeks (months maybe?) before, they were whining and complaining. Moses had taken too long on the mountain, so they gave their earrings to Aaron and he popped the gold into a fire, and out came a golden calf. Now, suddenly, they’re all on board with God and the tabernacle.
It’s quite amazing. God doesn’t want us to have idols, or even images that we worship. What he does want, though, is for there to be a place of worship.
Now that doesn’t have to be a tabernacle, or a church – it can be a lounge room with some friends, or a park, or even a car. Wherever is convenient.
However he does emphasise there being a place of worship. A place where humans can come together and be in relationship, not only with God but with each other.
Relationships are good. I have some wonderful friends who just light up my days. It doesn’t take away from my relationship with God, in fact, those people strengthen it, because we can exhort and encourage, as well as pull each other into line if need be.
We’re not meant to walk this life alone. We’re meant to have people around us, and this is one of the purposes God had in ensuring a place of worship was built – to bring us together so that we can build relationships with each other. Our relationships with each other also bring us closer to God.
It’s amazing how easy it is to let your focus slip.
I’ve been doing what I can to make sure that I keep my focus on God lately, ever since coming back to him. However it is exceptionally easy for things to just get in the way.
Whether it be just being tired, or issues with a personal relationship, or being sick, or just being stressed about whatever it might be, they can all get in the way of God.
I’ve been dealing with some issues surrounding personal relationships the past few days, and it’s hard. I keep letting things go to God, and telling him that I trust him in all of it. However then I find myself grabbing hold of it again. Feelings, thoughts, emotions keep flowing back and all becomes a distraction from my Father.
It’s getting easier, though. As I keep releasing things, the peace begins to increase as does the comfort, and I don’t worry about things so much.
Well, I think God really took the sabbath day seriously.
It’s so important. It really is. I know that I discussed this just recently, but the importance of the sabbath day is massive. It’s the day dedicate to God.
This chapter really shows how seriously God takes the things that he commands and wants to see us do. Not simply because of the heaviness of the statements about the sabbath, but also through the next sections. We find Moses going to the people of Israel and asking them to bring forward offerings for the tabernacle. Instead of simply saying that, though, it’s detailed. He goes through every single item required, gold, silver, bronze, fabrics, dugong hides, gems, the whole kitten kaboodle! He goes through and tells them what it’s all for, as if it hasn’t already been explained what everything’s for.
Once again, though – like what happened earlier, the people of Israel bring forward what they have.
And everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the LORD for the work on the Tent of Meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. ~ Exodus 35:21
It’s all about what’s in their hearts. Generosity starts in the heart.
Tonight I heard a great analogy made.
The flavour – or the character – of tea isn’t actually released until you put it in hot water.
We were talking about character; and in the discussion this analogy came out, which I found wonderful. Our character, the real truth of who we are is evident and released when we find ourselves in hot water. Our character isn’t the person who we show to the world when everything’s fine and dandy, no, the real character of a person is shown when things turn bad. I might show the world this face of being calm, happy, innocent, pure or whatever – but what happens when I’m working with a hammer and slip, and break my thumb?
That’s when the real me shows up. I can present myself as calm and pure all I like, but if, when I hammer my thumb, I suddenly curse enough to make a sailor blush, well then which person is the real me?
I haven’t hammered my thumb in quite a while – for which I’m grateful – but it doesn’t have to be something so dramatic.
For me, and I’m going to openly confess something here – it’s courage. I do have a lot less courage than I tend to present to other people. Perhaps I don’t present it as well as I think, and there are actually people who know me nodding their heads as they read this going. I do know that some of my closer friends will already know this, but for me, at least, I feel I present a much more confident face to the world when Ican, than what I really have.
That’s something that I have to ask God for help on, to grow my character and to strengthen it – and he’s doing that, by putting me into the hot water. The fact is that in some situations, I’ve come through it well, and in others I haven’t done so great. We’re building on it though – because I know I’m going to need to have real confidence and courage when it comes to the future, both in Kazakhstan and other plans that God has for my life.
So; question – What part of your character could do with some hot water? It’s how we grow it
You know how annoying it is when you get through explaining something to someone, and they just zoned out and need you to repeat yourself?
Imagine how much more frustrating it would be, to have chiselled out the law and moral code onto two stone tablets, only to have the delivery guy break them?
Well, we know that God’s not quite in the same category as us, but it must have at least been a little frustrating for him to look at Moses and ask him to bring two more stone tablets up so that they could be recarved.
There is one thing that I love about passages like this, and that is the reality of God. You can – to go back a step – really see his character.
Here is God, in one of those positions that we would consider ‘hot water’. He’s spent all this time helping Israel, getting them out of trouble, and because he and Moses talked for too long, they got bored, melted down their jewellery and decided that instead of God, they’d worship this golden calf. Over and over and over they’ve defied God; they’ve ignored him; they’ve whined, complained, moaned, grumbled; they’ve blamed him and accused him of trying to kill them rather than rescue them.
And what does God do?
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” ~ Exodus 34:6-7
He loves. He forgives. He is compassionate and gracious.
He is also just.
God makes a covenant with Moses, and he begins to reiterate much of what he said in the law back when Moses was up the mountain the first time. God and Moses talk to one another for forty days and forty nights, and when Moses returns, his face is radiant, so radiant that he actually has to wear a veil over his head to keep from freaking the Israelites out too much.
Today was the race that stops Australia. The good old Melbourne Cup.
I’ve never quite witnessed the Melbourne Cup before, from the angle I saw it today. Most years I’ve just let it pass me by without a second thought. One year I wore a butterfly on my head in the office I was working in; the year before that one was one of the more painful days of my life. Perhaps that’s why, especially in recent years, I’ve just let the cup go by without thinking about it.
How many definitive moments can you think of in your life? Definite points where you made a choice that actually had a major influence on where you stand today?
Melbourne Cup day reminds me always of one of those moments. I won’t go into any more detail, but basically, there were events on one day that transpired, and had I made one single choice differently, then every moment since then could well have been so different. There actually aren’t too many moments in my life where I can look back and think that a choice made in that one instant could have caused a completely different outcome to my life; which is kind of odd given that there have been a few rather big decisions that I’ve made in my life.
God still isn’t acknowledging the Israelites as his own. He tells Moses to leave Sinai – and to take the people Moses brought out of Egypt with him.
However, he doesn’t go back on his promise.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendents’” ~ Exodus 33:1
This is a really simplified way of looking at it, but I just had this thought come by about real love and real relationships. Sometimes you’ll have a fight with someone that you really care about – and you stop talking, you just turn your back and walk away. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter how angry you might be with one another, because when the chips are down and things get tough, you’ll be right there by their side.
Anger is going to happen. Arguments are going to happen in our relationships – but maturity and love for people means that even if an argument leads to having to spend some time apart, we’ll still remember the heart of the relationship with that person.
The second part of the chapter is all about Moses’ relationship with God. Moses would go and spend time with God in the Tent of Meeting, Moses was able to witness the glory of the Lord. How amazing to be able to witness the glory of God with your actual eyes.
That itself may be unlikely to happen before we arrive in heaven, but coming into the Tent of Meeting is something that we can do so easily now.
Moses was special, he was the one who did the talking to God for the Israelites. He was the one who God spoke to.
You can see why we needed something more. Why we needed Jesus. This wasn’t the relationship that God wanted to have with humanity, talking to us through a select few. Jesus allowed God to actually reach out to each one of us individually, and have a relationship with us independently.
And even when we might feel away from him. Even when we’ve turned our back, He still remembers his promises. Just like he remembered his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and didn’t let go of the Israelites, nor will he let go of us.
Sometimes I wonder why we have emotions.
Over the past few years until this one, I found that one tactic I could use to keep myself from feeling too bad about things, was simply to close myself off to everything. Not completely, I could still function, I just didn’t let many people get too close. It was easier to deal with being let down, particularly by people, if I didn’t care about them. If they weren’t important enough to me to actually care what they did, then when they did something that hurt or left me feeling let down, well, I was expecting it wasn’t I?
I knew the reality of the world – we can’t rely on each other completely. We’re not actually going to be able to survive that way because somewhere, somehow, some day everyone we know will let us down in some manner.
I read a page on Facebook today – entitled something like: “You said you’d never hurt me, well you lied.”
I’m sorry, but yes, that’s a ridiculous promise to make – but it’s also a ridiculous promise to believe. Everyone is going to let you down at some point in your life.
Except for one: God; Jesus – He won’t let you down no matter what. I can think of several people I know right now who would disagree with me on that, but the truth is, he doesn’t. He never left me, even in the darkest points of my life. I didn’t see him there, but when I look back on my life now and think of where I could have ended up? Well, I can’t deny that even though I wasn’t listening, wasn’t following, was completely ignoring and turning my back on God – he was still doing what he could in the background to make sure I stayed safe.
Anyway though, on to Exodus:
This is – wow – an exceptionally intense chapter; with a whole lot to draw out of it.
First of all, how impatient were these Israelites? Moses is gone what – a few days? Maybe a month? Was there food up on the mountain? Water? I’m sure God would have fed him if it was needed, though. Listen to the Israelites, though, they’ve lost sight of Moses, and straight away they’re looking for something new to focus on.
I’ve heard our generation being called “the ADD generation” in the sense that we don’t focus on things for very long. We’re always looking for the next big thing, something new and exciting to entertain us. We get bored so quickly and so easily – and the opening to this chapter makes me think the Israelites were a bit the same way. Apart from the fact that we’ve already seen the way they start whining as soon as things don’t go their way, now they’re just going: “We’re bored with God! He’s not doing anything exciting! Give us a new god!”
Wow, sound familiar? Why do our TV shows need to be so quick and consistently exciting? Because otherwise we’ll change the channel. This was the Israelites looking at Channel Sinai and going, “There’s nothing on… Let’s go check out that new Golden Calf show on Channel Idol!”
Perhaps there’s not really an ADD generation – perhaps it’s more that we just are able to notice it more these days because we have so many things to turn our attention to. Perhaps we’re not all that different from the Israelites in all their whining and complaining. Perhaps we’re looking for the new idol too.
Look at verses 7 to 10; though.
The first thing that struck me as I read this, was God’s pronoun usage. He says to Moses “your people”; he calls them “They” over and over. God separates himself from the Israelites in this passage, he actually implies that he’s done with them. They aren’t his people any more, they’re Moses’ people. God’s been patient with them all this time, he’s fed them and cared for them and rescued them and so many things, and yet now, once again, they’ve decided they’d rather do things their way.
So God – for a moment at least – turns his back on them and says that he’s had enough.
Thankfully they had Moses there – once again – to actually plead their case with God.
Parallels again. Moses is pleading the case of the Israelites with God; not only that, but he actually says to God in verse 32:
“But now, please forgive their sin – but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” ~ Exodus 32:32
Moses actually went to the point of offering his own life on the altar, if it would mean saving the Israelites. Sound familiar?
Moses wasn’t able to carry the sin of any others; his death would have meant nothing, and God knew that. Jesus’ death, however, was different. He was God incarnate, human, holy, pure, and the sacrifice that was able to carry the sins of all others.