Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

first

Once the Jews have finished rebuilding and securing the wall of their city under the direction of Nehemiah and Nehemiah has taken a count of all who were there, we find out what their priorities really were.

The very first thing the people of God do once they are protected and counted is gather together and hear God’s Word.  Both community and God’s perfect law are so important to these people that they make these two things their number 1 priorities.

“And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate.  And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.  So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.  And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand.  And the ears of all the people were attentive tot he Book of the Law.” ~Nehemiah 8:1-8

Not only do they make listening and learning God’s law together their first priorities, they literally stay and listen the entire morning attentively.

These people were gathered in the public square, in the street, all morning listening to God’s law.  They weren’t falling asleep.  They weren’t checking their watches.  They weren’t watching Youtube on their iphones while Ezra read God’s Word to them.  They were respectfully, attentively listening and learning what God’s expectations of them were.

They stood up in respect for God’s Word.  They answered “Amen, Amen,” lifted up their hands, bowed their heads, and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  This was serious business and they treated it so.

Interestingly, this event took place on the first day of the seventh month.  On the Jewish calendar, this day marked the end of the year.  It was called the Feast of Trumpets.  No work was to be done and the people were to be preparing for atonement.  Likewise, we must always look intently at the law and our own hearts before our sins can be atoned for.

The significance of the trumpets were that of alarm.  This particular day was to be followed by 10 days of introspection and repentance.  The sounding of the trumpets also pointed to future judgement.

This was their call to ready themselves.

How do we ready ourselves for future judgement?  We ready ourselves by preparing our hearts the same way these people did.  We cease from self-sufficiency and works-based efforts of religion.  We gather with other believers in community.  We listen and learn God’s perfect law.  We look introspectively at ourselves and repent.  We wait for grace and we keep always in mind the reality of our future judgement.  Doubtless this is why Christ’s return is also signified by the blowing of trumpets (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.)

These actions must be our first priorities.  We must be attentive to do them if we would have a strong community of believers.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

give

Once Nehemiah has dealt with the oppressive infighting and division among his own people (Nehemiah 5:1-13), all the oppressors agree to repent and do good to their brothers.  Verse 13 says, “I also shook out the fold of my garment and said, ‘So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise.  So may he be shaken out and emptied.’ And all the assembly said ‘Amen’ and praised the Lord.  And the people did as they had promised.”  Here is another reminder of how much influence a good, wise, and caring leader has to change things and turn the hearts of men to follow him in doing right.

Beginning in verse 14 , we find even more proof of Nehemiah’s earnest love and care for his people.  During the 12 years that Nehemiah ruled Judah as their governor, neither he nor his men took the food allowance of the governor.  He did not take the pay due the governor.  He acquired no land for himself, supplied servants to help at personal cost, continued to work diligently for the good of the people, and fed 150 men including guests and help at his own expense every day.

This kind of generosity was unheard of from a governor.  Why did Nehemiah give so much and take nothing for himself in this undertaking?  Consider verses 15, 18, and 19.

Nehemiah gave to God’s people and did not take for himself because of the fear of God.  Nehemiah had not only a deep love for his people, but a conscience that led him to do what was best for them at all times.  He knew these people could not afford to pay him and give him extravagant amounts of food.  He, unlike other rulers in the past, did what was right rather than what would burden the people and be most beneficial to him personally.

Secondly, in verse 18 we find Nehemiah giving this way out of mercy.  Again, he sees his people burdened and he has compassion for them.  His compassion leads not to pity toward them, but personal sacrifice and tangible action to relieve their suffering.

Lastly, Nehemiah treated the people better than they could imagine because of his great trust in God’s ultimate rewards.  In verse 19 we see Nehemiah asking the Lord to remember his goodness toward his people.  Nehemiah’s faith leads him to forfeit temporary, fleeting pleasures and comfort in exchange for eternal, permanent rewards.  While not-so-great leaders do the opposite out of complacency and selfishness, here we find what a true, noble, and loving servant of God’s people would really do to help them during trying times.

All of these actions of Nehemiah just remind us of Christ.  He comes from riches to live with and save those suffering on his own volition.  He protects and fights for them in the face of their enemies while reassuring and encouraging them to do the same.  He makes peace among brothers when they are divided.  He takes nothing and gives everything to all who are under his leadership for nothing more than their help, support, and growth.

Nehemiah is an amazing leader.  Because of his success and a big dose of jealousy, neighboring leaders hated Nehemiah.  Those who aren’t looking to grown, learn, and keep getting better generally hate to be shown up – especially by the underdog.  They did all they could to discourage and bring down his project and his morale.  Next we will look at chapter 6 where Nehemiah deals again with those who despise him and his success.

Read Full Post »

obedience

In the final chapter of the book of Exodus, chapter 40, we find Moses again hearing from the Lord.  Although at this point all the specified items had been made – the furniture, the Ark of the Covenant, the curtains, the framework – for the building and furnishing of the tabernacle, Moses has waited upon God for further instruction.  He did not simply move on ahead and put it all together until God said to do so.  We must always remember to allow God to go before us every step of the way on every journey he sets us out upon. If not, we often end up doing our own will rather than his.

Here, we have God speaking to Moses and telling him exactly how and when to erect the temple and anoint the priests.  God is very specific and Moses is very obedient down to each and every minute detail.  We know this because of the absolute redundancy of chapter 40.  Not only did God repeat exactly that which he had previously told Moses on Mt. Sinai the first time, but after every act of obedience the text says this, “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”  Consider the text:

Exodus 40:16 – “This Moses did, according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did…” 

Exodus 40:19 – “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Exodus 40:21 – “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Exodus 40:23 – “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Exodus 40:25 – “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Exodus 40:26 – “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Exodus 40:29 – “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Exodus 40:32 – “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Moses did all that the Lord commanded exactly how and exactly when the Lord commanded.   That is why this portion of scripture ends with the words, “…So Moses finished the work.”  It was because of Moses’ strict obedience and deference to God that the perfect work of the Lord was completed.  Apart from our submission and complete surrender to God’s will, we personally will not be positively useful in finishing his perfect work, yet we may be negatively useful.  By this I mean that by obeying God will use us in a positive way to build his church, but in disobedience God may use us in a negative way to build his church in the same way he uses the evil in the world to stir up courage and compassion in the just.

After the temple was erected and furnished according to all that God had said, the priests were anointed.  Here we have the order of operations.  First, the church is to be built, then the leaders are to be inaugurated.  Matthew Henry says,  “Thus, in the visible church, which is God’s tabernacle among men, it is requisite that there be ministers to keep the charge of the sanctuary, and that they receive the anointing.” Many a men have mistakenly sought to build a church without understanding the importance of chosen, called, just, anointed leadership designated before attempting to begin ministry in that place.

Once the priests are anointed for service, God’s presence arrives.  A cloud descended and covered the tabernacle.  The cloud remained every day and fire was in the temple by night.  Israel saw these proofs of God’s holy presence at all times during their subsequent journeys.  It was for their consolation that he was indeed with them at all times, as well as their protection.  The cloud hid them from the world while they worshiped here.  What a beautiful example of how when we repent, obey, and move close to God, he comes down and moves close to us.  Henry notes,  “As when, in the creation, God had finished this earth, which he designed for man’s habitation, he made man, and put him in possession of it, so when Moses had finished the tabernacle, which was designed for God’s dwelling place among men, God came and took possession of it.”

This is a picture of the modern day church.  We repent.  We obey.  We surrender fully to God’s leading and he comes down, reassures us of His holy presence at all times through the Holy Spirit, and protects us when we draw close to him.  The Lord Jesus Christ builds his church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.  Still yet, we so often fail.  Moses was not permitted in the holy place once the presence of God descended.  In the closing of this amazing book, I will leave you once again with the words of Matthew Henry,

“This shows how terrible the glory and majesty of God are, and how unable the greatest  and best of men are to stand before him.   The divine light and fire, let forth in their full strength, will overpower the strongest heads and the purest hearts.  But what Moses could not do, in that he was weak through the flesh, has been done by our Lord Jesus, whom God caused to draw near the approach, and who, as the forerunner, has has for us entered, and has invited us to come boldly even to the mercy-seat.  He was able to enter into the holy place not made with hands; nay, he is himself the true tabernacle, filled with the glory of God, with the divine grace and truth prefigured by this fire and light.  For in him dwells all the fullness of he godhead boldly.  Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!” 

Amen!

Read Full Post »

mosesfacemountain-632

When the Lord was finished giving instruction to Moses and rewriting the Ten Commandments on the second set of tablets, Moses came back down the mountain to the people.  Last time, Moses found them in deliberate, devastating sin.  This time, they are awaiting his arrival in faith.  When Moses shows up, though, they are afraid because his face is supernaturally shining with God’s glory.

Isn’t it funny how when we are in the most danger and disobedience, we fear not the God against whom we are sinning, but when we are in a repentant and expectant posture we recognize our great need of mercy?  It seems just the opposite of what ought to be, but, no.  The more we know God and his holiness, the more we know ourselves and our unholiness.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Moses’ face was gleaming with God’s glory when he came down the mountain.  Likewise, perhaps not physically visible as Moses’s radiance, yet still recognizable, there is a certain countenance God puts on us when we have spent considerable time with Him in earnest.  Matthew Henry says, “Serious godliness puts a lustre upon a man’s countenance such as commands esteem and affection.” There is a noticeable difference between the face of man and the face of a man who knows God intimately.

Interestingly, Moses did not know his face was shining.  The most humble men are often the most used of God.  Sometimes, those who are least apt to think God is pleased with them are most recognized by others as great instruments of grace.  Conversely, those most confident in their own abilities and talents are often dismissed by their own pride and most unfit for use in the kingdom.  We ought not know our own excellence, or if we know it, cover it with a humble and gentle spirit of modesty.

Even though the people have been waiting patiently upon Moses’ return down from the mountain – the very thing that grieved them and was the source of their complaints and idolatry last time he went up – they are not excited and jubilant when Moses returns.  They are afraid because of his radiant face.  They are afraid to even come close to Moses.  Remember, last time Moses came down, he found them in their sin.  Seeing Moses’ face shine supernaturally insites guilt and fear of judgement for the guilty.  In the same way, many people today are anything but excited to hear about what God said in His Word or what we experience while in His presence because seeing someone who is the real deal makes them overwhelmingly conscious of their own guilt and quite fearful.  Henry says, “Holiness will command reverence; but the sense of sin makes men afraid of their friends, and even of that which really is a favor to them…for the most sensible proofs will not of themselves conquer an obstinate infidelity.”

After giving the people God’s laws and commands, Moses covers his shining face with a veil.  Apparently this was not to ease their fear, since he waits until after he calls them near and explains all God’s orders to them.  This was to keep the people from seeing the glory fade away.  Until Christ came and the gospel was revealed, God’s people saw but shadows of the fullness of Christ; the gospel was, as it was, veiled and concealed in the Old Covenant, fading and coming to an end, making way for the Living Word, that is, Jesus Christ.

Everytime Moses went back to speak with God outside the camp after this event, he took the veil off.  When he came out, his face shone bright again and slowly faded.  He kept the veil on among the people, but never with God.  All is laid bare in the presence of God and there is no hiding our face.  We who see God’s glory through our belief in the gospel have what the apostle Paul calls, “unveiled faces.”  Just as Moses saw God and knew him intimately, so do we who are in Christ.  Amen!

Read Full Post »

rest

There is one command that God gives as preparation (Exodus 16:23), directly before (Exodus 20:11), at the front of (Exodus 23:12), and, now, in Exodus 31:12-18, directly after all the other instructions he had given Moses regarding a covenant life with his people. This means that it was part of the moral law, the judicial law, and the ceremonial law.   God insists upon Sabbath-keeping.

Wait.  What?  If Sabbath-keeping was a part of the moral law, just like being forbidden to murder and commit adultery, what does that mean for us today?

The principle God was establishing was rest.  This was the example that he himself set in creation.

Work, work, work, work, work, work, rest.  Work, work, work, work, work, work, rest.  Work, work, work, work, work, work, rest.

This is God’s model.  God wasn’t telling his people to rest for their health.  Ok, he was, but there was way more underneath this command than that.  While it would indeed give them better health – physical, mental, and emotional – this was an explicit command for which the penalties were banishment and/or death!

Hey kids, you rest, or, you die!

What?! What is God trying to show these people – and us – because, after all, this is moral law, right?

The text says, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.” ~Exodus 31:12-13

Above all.  Above ALL, do this.  After everything else God has just instructed, this is above all of that on the to do list.  Why?!

“…for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.”

Matthew Henry says, “If we sanctify God’s day, it is a sign between him and us that he has sanctified our hearts: hence it is the character of the blessed man that he keeps the sabbath from polluting it.”

Our willingness to rest proves our faith and trust in God.  Our willingness to rest proves our faith and trust in God to a restless, faithless, anxiety-ridden world.  Our willingness to rest proves our faith and trust in God when there is more work laid upon our shoulders than we could possibly ever do.  It is an act of great trust.  Willingness to rest is the antithesis of God’s most hated human act: self-sufficiency.

Still, why was this part of moral law?  Does that mean if I work seven days a week that I am morally corrupt?

Some may argue that case, and I would agree that such a practice is wholly unwise as well as evidence of the lack of faith in God’s provision, however, I personally do not believe that is why God included it in the moral law.

For the Old Testament believers, there was no distinction.  The law was the law was the law.  God said it and they had to keep it to the best of their ability.

For New Testament believers, because of Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s law on our behalf, we no longer continue in the keeping of the Old Testament Jewish ceremonial laws and rituals.  In fact, to do so would be an affront and an abomination to the finished work of Christ on our behalf.

But what of the Old Testament moral law that God gave?  New Testament believers are indeed called to keep the moral law in the very same way – with the very same diligence and vigilance as the Old Testament believers were.

Therefore, Sabbath-keeping and rest are required.  Sabbath-keeping and rest, however, point us to our eternal rest.  Our infractions of this command have more to do with trusting in Jesus’ finished work on the cross and our resting in faith in Him alone than they do with physically working on a specific day of the week.  (Again, not implying that a weekly rest from our physical labor is not necessary or helpful, just saying that I do not believe that is the indication for New Testament believers as far as moral transgression goes.)

In other words, our “moral” duty to rest is realized when we trust in Christ alone by faith alone for our own salvation and refuse to point at any and all of our own work or works when determining our standing with God.  Obeying God’s command to rest is meant to, as the text says, be a sign that we may know the Lord sanctifies us.

That we may know what?  That the Lord sanctifies us.  Who sanctifies?  The Lord.  Our earthly rest, or, ceasing from our earthly work,  is meant to remind us whose work ultimately changes us and allows us to enter true, eternal rest.  That’s the whole point of this Sabbath rest – knowing and understanding that it is the Lord’s work to save and sanctify – not ours – and nothing we can ever do would be work enough to accomplish it.  Therefore, we must rest in him if we will live and not die eternally.

Working is obligatory on this earth.  Works for the kingdom are obligatory in that without them our faith is dead.  But, even more so, rest (in Christ) is obligatory because without it we prove our that faith does not even exist within us.

The physical reality that these Jews were called to is a spiritual reality that we Christians are called to.  Both point to eternal rest as the ultimate fulfillment and reward of keeping this commandment.  That helps us understand why God stressed it so much and why it was so important to keep the Sabbath.

After this final instruction on the necessity of rest for God’s people, God finally sends Moses back down the mountain with the two tablets (set #1) with the law written by his very own finger.

Read Full Post »

sinai

In Exodus 24:1-10, God has just given the most important guidelines for human behavior ever given to man.  After Moses receives the ten commandments and the promises of God, he immediately begins working to share them.  Good leader Moses told the people what God expected of them.  Good leader Moses wrote it all down.  Good leader Moses got up early and worshipped.  Good leader Moses read the words aloud to the people.  Then, he covered them with the blood of the sacrifices.

Notice that Moses did not cut the people up into pieces, burn them on the altar and sacrifice them in order to please God.  No.  He covered them with the blood of another as they came to the place of worship.  Likewise, when we go to a place of worship, we should not be beaten, killed, and left to bleed on the altar for our sin by the leaders.  A sacrifice was already made for us for that very reason.  The blood of Jesus Christ should be applied to us by the servants leading worship.

After God reveals himself to the leaders, he calls Moses back up the mountain.  Then, he tells him to do something very difficult: wait.

The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”  ~Exodus 24:12

Wait, Moses.  Go where I tell you and wait there.  The reason for the waiting given to Moses was, “that I may give you the tablets of stone…”  Moses was to wait so God could physically give him the tablets with the commands written on them.

Moses obeyed.  He took his young friend Joshua and he went where God sent him.  He put two others in charge over the people while he was gone.  He is told to wait, and he in turn tells those under him to wait as well.

Note, good leaders do not leave those they have been given responsibility and charge over without delegating that responsibility and leadership to someone else first.  He who is not faithful with what he has been given will not be given more.  What he does have will be taken away.  (Matthew 25:29)

Moses goes up and a cloud covers the mountain.  God’s presence descended and for six days Moses waited upon God.  It was not until day seven that Moses heard God call out to him.

Note, even when we obey God’s commands and instructions perfectly and without delay, he often still calls us to wait upon him for further instructions.

When God does appear, the text says, Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.” When God appeared after all Moses’s waiting and righteous obedience, it was not just him that saw God.  All the people below saw God appear.  Moses wasn’t making this stuff up and they knew it.  There could be no mistake.  God was doing something of unmitigated importance.  They all saw and they all knew.  Makes you wonder how they could ever choose to make and worship and idol while this was still going on.  But, as we all know they did just that with the golden calf.

Anyway, Moses is no stranger to the fire of God.  When he was called to deliver God’s people out of Egypt, it was a burning bush that God chose to reveal himself and speak through.  Make no mistake, Our God is a consuming fire and he will not be sold out as a dry and lifeless ember as some would seek to have him be.  Little wonder the Bible says, “Quench not the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19)

God kept Moses forty days and forty nights as he elaborated upon all the laws and also gave Moses the physical tablets of stone with the law written down on them by His very own finger.

Note, when God is giving instruction to leaders that he has placed over his people, he often does so for a great amount of time that they may be duly prepared for the difficult business he is about to employ them in.

Just to recap, here is what Exodus 24:12-18 gives us practically to apply in our lives today:

1. Moses did not cut the people up into pieces, burn them on the altar and sacrifice them in order to please God.  No.  He covered them with the blood of another as they came to the place of worship.  Likewise, when we go to a place of worship, we should not be beaten, killed, and left to bleed on the altar for our sin by the leaders.  A sacrifice was already made for us for that very reason.  The blood of Jesus Christ should be applied to us by the servants leading worship.

2. Good leaders do not leave those they have been given responsibility and charge over without delegating that responsibility and leadership to someone else first.  He who is not faithful with what he has been given will not be given more.  What he does have will be taken away.  (Matthew 25:29)

3. Even when we obey God’s commands and instructions perfectly and without delay, he often still calls us to wait upon him for further instructions.

4. Make no mistake, Our God is a consuming fire and he will not be sold out as a dry and lifeless ember as some would seek to have him be.

5. When God is giving instruction to leaders that he has placed over his people, he often does so for a great amount of time that they may be duly prepared for the difficult business he is about to employ them in.

Read Full Post »

wilderness1

In Exodus 23:20-33, God gives Moses and His people instructions and promises about how to obtain the land to which he was taking them.  They had already been in the wilderness for some time.  Here, they are promised a home and great blessings.  They are given a guide and a few contingencies at the front of their conquest.  Let’s consider this.

In verse 20, God promises to send a guide to go before His people.  The guide is described as an angel and his job was to bring them to the place God had prepared for them to go and to live.  Some believe this angel was the preincarnate Christ.  Regardless, they were commanded three things pertaining to this angel guide.  They were told to pay careful attention, obey his voice, and to not rebel against him.  Their failure to do these three essential things in their attitude and behavior toward this guide would result in his failure to forgive them for it.  The reason given was that God’s name was “in him.”

The promises for obedience were guidance (23:20), possession of a good land in which to live (23:23-24), blessed food, water, healing of sickness, fruitful wombs, long life (23:25-26), and victory over many kinds of different, powerful, strong enemies (23:22, 27-28).  The victory was to be a slower, more gradual take over rather than an all at once overcoming of their many enemies.  The text says, “little by little,” as they were growing in number and moving into the new land, God would drive their enemies out.

Finally, in verses 32-33, they are given one final warning against idolatry.

Here, we find not only the instructions for the success of the people searching for the promise land, but also the skeleton outline for the life of every successful Christian.

When we are called out of the wilderness and into the promised place God is preparing for us, we are given a guide.  His name is Jesus Christ and we are called to pay careful attention to Him (and Him alone), obey His voice (His sheep know His voice), and to not rebel against him.  If we fail to pay attention to Him, disobey Him, and rebel against Him those actions are indicative of refusing Christ as Our Lord.  If we refuse Christ, we forfeit the forgiveness and grace he offers and will not be pardoned for our sin. Because he is the Way as well as our guide, to refuse Him is to forfeit all of the blessings that following offers.

If, on the other hand, we do pay attention, obey, and not rebel, we are promised victory, protection, the bread and water of life, healing, fruitfulness in regeneration, and life everlasting.  Our victory, like theirs, is little by little.  All throughout this life through many toils and snares, we are moving toward the promised land of eternal life; the place He has prepared for us.  We are growing and our enemies are being eradicated little by little by God Himself on our behalf as we become sanctified thus gaining victory over sin in our own lives.   No other gods are permitted during any part of this journey.

How gracious a God we serve to give such tender care and guidance to us as we walk home through this worldly wilderness!  We are his children and he will fight for us if we but pay attention, obey him, and stop rebelling against him with our sin.  What a beautiful picture of Our Father’s mercy we have in Exodus 23.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »