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chosen
Moses had been on Mt. Sinai for some time now.  He had been instructed on the laws of God as they pertain to personal conduct, altars, slaves, restitution, social justice, sabbaths and festivals, the future sanctuary, and furniture therein, the tabernacle the people were going to build, and the priests and their holy garments.  In Exodus 29, God instructs Moses on how to prepare, or, “consecrate,” the priests who were to serve His people in His temple.

Moses was told to consecrate the priests.  To do so, he had to wash them, dress them, and make offerings for them.

First, Moses was told to make a sin offering for the priestly candidates.  He was told to bring them to the entrance of the tent and wash them with water.  Then, he was to clothe them with the priestly garments, anoint them with oil, and “ordain” them.

To ordain literally means, “to fill the hand.”  Anyone who is called into ministry will have their hands full, so to speak.  We must! If we have nothing to give, we’ve no use in God’s house.  We must be busy about God’s business when he has us involved in serving his people and his house.  We have no time to slack or sloth as some who wear the titles in the church are so infamously known to do.  We must ourselves continually receive from God in order to properly give nurture, console, comfort, correction, and instruction to His people.  Therefore, our hands must first be filled.  Our hands will be full if we would work for God.

These men were brought to the entrance, or, the doorway of the Tent of Meeting.  This act symbolized their mediation and their standing between God and man.

After they were ordained, the offerings were to be made.  One was a sin offering for the sins of these soon to be priests (Exodus 29:10-14.)  One was a burnt offering wherein these me dedicated themselves to God (Exodus 29:15-18.)  And one was to be a peace offering for the fellowship between God and man (Exodus 29:19-28.)  Part of the blood from these offerings was put upon these men and sprinkled on their robes.  This was to point us all to the necessity of Christ’s sacrificial blood covering us.  They had to wear these blood-stained garments and make sacrifices for seven days in order for ordination to be complete.  Not only that, but once they began to serve in the temple they had to make animal sacrifices daily.  I imagine it was a pretty dirty job for someone wearing such elaborate clothing.  One who faithfully serves God’s people is bound to get their hands, and robes, desperately dirty in doing so.

Only the priestly candidates could eat of the ram of ordination.  Anything that touched the altar where these sacrifices were made became holy.

All of these preparations were done to magnify the seriousness and sacredness of the office.  It was so they, and we, might understand the weight of the call of God when we hear it, and that those who are seeking position and influence in God’s house out of human ambition rather than a true call might not assume such things upon themselves.  Many a man wreaks havoc, brings great judgement upon himself, and harms many within God’s church by putting himself forward for ministry out of greed and self-interest.  Woe to him!

The whole seven day ceremony was meant to point they, their people, and we, to the gospel.  Jesus is our high priest.  He is our one mediator between we and the Father.  If we are going to serve him, we must first be washed clean of sin and clothed with his sacrificial blood.  We must understand the seriousness of our call, and we must prepare accordingly.

We live in a culture full of people who treat the offices of leadership within the church as day jobs and personality contests; power pulls and position pandering.  Many lack respect and reverence in their knowledge, their attitudes, and even their dress.  These things are evidenced clearly by their utter and complete unpreparedness.  These things should not be so!  If you would not preach the gospel and tend to God’s house for the joy of doing so and free of charge, you should not ever think yourself fit to do those things in exchange for a paycheck!  The priesthood, the pastorate, and the leadership within the church are not day jobs!  They are not popularity contests, power plays, or positions to covet!  These are to be taken on only by the direct and decided call of God after much preparation and sobriety of thought over their consideration.  Anyone who believes he is called to ministry should consider Exodus 29 carefully.

Caring for God’s people is the hardest job in the world, hands down.  Caring for God’s people is the best job in the world, hands down.  Amen.

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skills

Still on Mt. Sinai, once God was finished giving instructions to Moses on how to build and furnish the tabernacle, he proceeded to instruct Moses on the people who would be attending it – the priests.

Exodus 28 is a record of what the priests were to wear and the significance of their garments.  From their heads to their undergarments, the priests were to be notably and specifically dressed.

 “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. ~Exodus 28:1-5

In verses 1-5, we see the sovereign choosing of God highlighted as he informs Moses that his brother, Aaron, and all of his descendants were to be the priests serving in temple.

Notice that Moses did not argue with God or sulk because he himself had not been chosen for this particular job.  Moses was a prophet.  He had much to do for God and for the people already.  Moses’ job was different than that of a priest.

In this time, priests were primarily responsible for attending the ever-burning fire and the sacrifices given.  Heads of families were responsible for the teaching of their own people on the ways of God.  Once synagogues became commonplace after the Jews’ captivity, the priests and leaders in the temple then became teachers and preachers of the law and the Word of God.

Today, it is still true that prophets hear words from the Lord, see visions, direct God’s people in His ways, warn, intercede, correct, and admonish all.  Priests and pastors attend to House of God, shepherd the people, and help them do what God has called them to.  These are very different callings .  Prophets can preach and preachers can prophesy, but these are not the primary responsibilities each has.  Both are equally important, but, a priest has a much more tender relationship with the people while a prophet generally is held at a distance because the people fear, avoid, and even hate him for his truth-telling.

Nevertheless, Moses isn’t complaining.  He is happy to give his younger brother this honor.  Aaron had served under him up until this point and God honored him for it.

As we see in verse 2, Moses was instructed to have holy garments made for Aaron.  He was told to call all those who were skillful to this task.  That tells us that these garments were not only mandatory, but they were greatly important to God.  He wanted them to be exactly as he instructed that his own glory and beauty might be seen through these men.

Each item that the priests wore had a meaning and a purpose.  We will be examining those in the coming days, but notice today especially what God’s Word says of those Moses was to call to the task of making these clothing items for the priests.

You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. ~Exodus 28:3

The lesson here is that God gives people their skills and talents.  He gives them a “spirit of skill” and he expects it to be used for his glory and according to his very specific instructions.

God chooses who will be the prophet.
God chooses who will be the priest.
God chooses who will make the garments.
God chooses who will have trade skills.
God chooses who will be given a spirit of skill.
Good chooses what those who have been given a spirit of sill and excellence will make and do.
Good gives the skilled workers the materials needed to produce what will most glorify him.

Get this, Christians!  This is so very important.  Prophets are not better than priests.  Prophets are just people chosen by God to be prophets.  Priests are not better than the people they serve because they are called to teach, preach, and counsel others.  Priests are just people chosen by God to be priests.  And, finally, skilled workers who make and do jobs of trade with excellence are not unspiritual or unused of God simply because they are preaching, teaching, or prophesying like prophets and priests are doing.  Skilled workers who make and do jobs of trade are filled with a spirit of skill, according to Exodus 28:3, and are therefore just as spiritual and used of God when they act upon their calling as prophets and priests.

Did you get that?  It’s important.  There are no spiritual superheroes in God’s house.  Every person is greatly needed and equally important.  Therefore, there should be absolutely no attitudes of superiority or looking down on a man who works a trade vs. a man who preaches or vise versa within God’s house.  AMEN.

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familyworship
In Exodus 25, we find the three furnishings that the tabernacle was to house.  Here, we find what the contributions the people of God had been called to make were designated for.

It is somewhat unusual to build furniture before building the house, but perhaps the Lord intended here to show us an order of importance of sorts.  What goes into God’s house, namely the law, the mercy, the place designated for the bread, and the lampstand, is more noteworthy than the building itself.  These items represent what actually constitutes a true Christian and a true church today.

If we have not law and grace, a special place for the presence of God, and a light-bearing witness, we have not an individual nor a place prepared and fit to worship Almighty God.  We can place all kinds of other things into our hearts and inside church buildings but nothing other than these particular furnishings will suit.  Nothing other than these particular things will make either us or that building a place fitting, pleasing, and suitable for the Lord to dwell.  I imagine the reason why so much unnecessary and spiritually unrelated “stuff” goes on in the church is because the real elements and foundation necessary for true worship to take place are not even present.

 

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As the Lord begins to speak to Moses on Mount Sinai, he enters into a very long discourse on exactly how to build a place of worship.  He goes into great detail over a period of forty days and forty nights just instructing Moses on how to instruct His people to erect, furnish, and attend His place of worship.  It begins in Exodus 25 and does not conclude until Moses comes back down the mountain in Exodus chapter 31.  Let’s consider these instructions for God’s holy dwelling place carefully.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. ~Exodus 25:1-9

The very first thing God tells Moses about his sacred place is that it is to be a place of giving.  Each and every person attending God’s place of worship was to offer a gift.  Each and every person was to contribute.  No one was to come empty handed.  No one was to be excluded from making an offering.  No one was to be kept from giving whatever they had to give.  God gave specific instructions on what to bring.  The idea here is that the people of God were to bring the very best things they had and offer those to the Lord.

Note…to the Lord.  Verse two tells us that the contributions made were “for me” and God was speaking.  The gifts we bring to the house of God are for HIM; to glorify HIM; to honor HIM; to please HIM.

This was the very first instruction God gave in regards to the place of worship where he would be pleased to come and dwell.  This tells us that giving and offering our very best gifts in a place of worship is greatly important to God.

We should never enter or attend a place of worship empty handed.  We are to bring our very best gifts and offer them back to God.  We ought never to forbid others from giving their best gifts to the Lord.  God commands His people first and foremost in a place where he is to come and dwell to contribute.

If we fail to contribute to God’s house due to apathy, complacency, laziness, or greed, we ought to be very ashamed.  If we fail to allow others to contribute due to pride, control, envy, or jealousy, we ought to be very ashamed.  God would not have made this instruction first, foremost, and primary if it was not of great importance.

Let’s do things God’s way, Church.  “Whatsoever is done in God’s service must be done by His direction and not otherwise.” ~Matthew Henry

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screwtape

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul begins to defend himself within the Corinthian Church.  He had been encouraging and instructing in the preceding chapters.  Now, his tone completely changes.  He began to deal with the fact that there were false apostles, false teachers, and false teachings in this church that were presenting in the form of competition and defaming of his own personal character as well as a concerted effort to discredit him personally and deny him the authority he had been given by God to lead and teach in this church.

Paul begins with humility agreeing with his accusers that he was indeed low and mild when present among them.  Paul makes clear that he has no desire to be rough or overbearing even despite the severe and abusive slander being spread about him personally.  Paul is not about to stoop to that level, although he does make it very clear that he is both equipped and prepared with the authority given to him by God to punish offense done against him.  It was hindering the gospel which, in turn, made it an offense done to the gospel itself.

Paul points not to his own power, but to the wonder-working power of God over the spiritual realm.  Consider his words:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” ~2 Corinthians 10:3-6

He’s like, “Hey, guys!  This confusion and conflict and disunity we find in this particular church has nothing to do with the superficial problems or isolated issues that everyone wants to argue over.  This conflict is spiritual.  Everything going on here is a result of unseen forces working to destroy and devour God’s people and God’s plan.  There is bondage here – spiritual bondage that we must wage war against.  Spiritual strongholds are just that – spirits strongly holding people captive by deceit, by confusion, by ignorance, by prejudice, by lust, by lofty, high and prideful thoughts and opinions which contradict God and His will. These things are not trite or trivial.  They are a force waging an all out war against us all.  Thank God, that in his grace he has given us weapons with divine power.  Divine power!  The very power of God!  These are weapons which are able to defeat these forceful, spiritual strongholds.

That’s why I’m not gonna play your game of fleshly and worldly comparison.  We have a war to fight and that war is not against each other.  We have only one enemy and his name is Satan.  The war is against demonic forces evidenced in these conflicts and character assassinations being brought against me personally.”

“Ignorance, prejudices, beloved lusts, are Satan’s strongholds in the souls of some; vain imaginations, carnal reasonings, and high thoughts, or proud conceits, in others, exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, that is, by these ways the devil endeavours to keep men from faith and obedience to the gospel, and secures his possession of the hearts of men, as his own house or property.  But then observe, the conquest which the word of God gains.  These strongholds are pulled down by the gospel as the means, through the grace and power of God accompanying it as the principal efficient cause…The apostle speaks not of personal revenge, but of punishing disobedience to the gospel, and disorderly walking among church-members, by inflicting church censures.  Not, thought eh apostle showed meekness and gentleness, yet he would not betray his authority; and therefore intimates that when he would commend those whose obedience was fulfilled or manifested others would fall under severe censures.” Matthew Henry

Paul had every right and reason to punish this blatant disobedience to the gospel but he was waiting for the fulfillment and completion of their obedience first.  Later, in verse 10-11, he references again their complaint of him and responds:

For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.

In other words, Paul doesn’t say things right.  Who does he think he is?  Writing corrective letters but showing up and speaking softly?!  His speech is all wrong.  Why would we listen to him?!

If you hate what someone is saying and you want to avoid the truth of it, a great strategy is to just personally attack them and incessantly complain about how they say it.

Paul answers by pointing to his actions.  Actions speak louder than words.  If you find someone who doesn’t talk like you or walk like you but they walk like Christ, think about who they are called to follow and imitate.  It isn’t you or your preferences.  It is Jesus Christ and His practices.

Paul goes on to oppose their worldly comparison games and refuses to participate.  He restates his purpose – which was edification for the church, not destruction as he was so often and brutally accused.

Herein we find both the cause and the remedy for conflict, confusion, and disunity within a divided church.  The cause is spiritual strongholds and evil influence warring against God and His people.  The remedy is using the weapons which are listed for us in Ephesians 6 as truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer.  These are the things which, when used appropriately, have divine power to destroy the enemy’s schemes and free our brothers and sisters from spiritual bondage.  Thank God!

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood.  Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”  C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

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defense

Paul spends the better part of 2 Corinthians 11 and 12 “boasting.”  Why would he do that?  Why did he do that – even calling himself foolish and a madman as he did it?

False “brethren” – false “apostles” – more or less false “friends” had come into the Corinthian church.  They were not only maligning the gospel, but also pointedly maligning Paul himself.  Paul steps up to the plate to defend himself based on the facts of his own example.  He uses his hardship and weakness as his boast.  He speaks of all the right and reasons he had to be heard by his church.

The truth is, he never should have had to do this.  His church should have defended him when these false frenemies came to tear him (and them!) down.  If anyone was worthy of their loyalty, it was Paul.  No one loved them more than he did save Christ.  This man would have given his life for theirs.  How could they not see the truth?  How could they be so blind?

He begins by showing them that he has all the qualifications they use to disqualify people who do not.  He shares all the pain he personally had endured for the sake of the gospel and for them.  He talks about a persistent problem he deals with in his own life – his “thorn.”  These are his “boasts.”

In chapter 12 Paul tells his church that he has been a fool to elaborate on such things, but that it was they that “forced him to it.”  How so?

His reason for speaking so foolishly and boasting in his weaknesses was because his own church had forsaken him.  Consider that.

The Corinthian church knew Paul very well.  They knew he was qualified to lead them.  They knew what he had risked, endured, and lost for the sake of the gospel and for Christ.  They surely knew these facts well.  He feels particularly inclined to remind them because they surely should have loved him.  They should have listened to him.  They should have remembered him and his true words when false brothers came in and slandered him and the gospel itself.

Paul’s church did not defend him.  They listened instead to liars who they did not know from Adam.  They followed false men with a false gospel whose primary goal was to discredit Paul himself so that they could take control of the church.

Paul’s church did not defend him so he defends himself.  He’s talking crazy because their utter foolishness is making him crazy!  He’s saying, “Hey, guys!  Remember me?  The guy who taught you the gospel?  I am not inferior to these troublemaking false new best friends of yours.  I am noone special but, with God as my witness, I am a true friend to you and to God.  Did you see the signs he gave me?  I know you did.  I don’t want your money or your positions or whatever it is you think I’m going to take away from you.  I want your heart.  Show me your heart.”

“…for I seek not what is yours but you…” ~2 Corinthians 12:14

You guys think I’m here to take something away from you or hurt you.  I am not seeking what belongs to you.  I am seeking YOU!  Sounds like something Jesus would say…

“Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.” ~2 Corinthians 12:19

You think I am defending myself?  This foolish defense is for YOU!!! It is for your growth, church.  BELOVED church.  Please.  Please do not let me show up and see you unrepentant.  This is my third visit to you.  I warned you.  There are no more warnings.  Warning time is over.  Examine yourselves.  See if you are truly in the faith.  I want you to be restored.  Here is the only way that is going to happen:

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” ~2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Rejoice.  Restore.  Comfort each other.  Agree.  Live in peace.  Please.  Church, please.

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family

In Exodus chapter 18, Moses’ father in-law comes to see him.  He had heard of all that God had done for His people and wanted to speak with Moses first hand.

Apparently, Moses’ family had not been with him during a large portion of his ministry thus far.  His father in-law, Jethro, likely understood, not only the great importance of what God was doing through Moses, but also the great importance of Moses having his wife and children with him in any further endeavors.

Moses’ family coming with him served firstly to encourage and help him.  The very names of his sons, which are made special note of here in the scripture itself, serve to encourage and remind him of who he is.

Gershom, meaning stranger; pilgrim; sojourner, reminded Moses of his lifetime lack of belonging and future citizenship in heaven.  Eliezer, meaning God is my help or God delivered, reminded Moses of where his strength and help really lie.

Our families are called along with us as our primary line of encouragement and support – second only to the encouragement and support of the Holy Spirit – any time God calls us into ministry.

Moses’ family coming with him served secondly to be an example for God’s people on how his chosen ones ought to function in their own family.  Moses, being the chosen leader of the people of God, had a great responsibility to show them how to lead their own families and affairs to the glory of God.  This is the same reason the New Testament makes clear the importance of the leaders in God’s church having their own family in order first, before they may be allowed to lead God’s church.

 Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Moses must have his family with him, that while he ruled the church of God he might set a good example of prudence in family-government, 1 Timothy 3:5.  Moses had now a great deal both of honor and care put upon him, and it was fit that his wife should be with him to share with him in both.”

So, when Jethro came with Moses’ family in tow, the very first thing Moses did was to greet him respectfully and take and interest in their (his own) family’s well being.  As tempting as it must have been, Moses did not run out to Jethro and Zipporah (Moses’ wife) and tell them of all the amazing signs and wonders or run them over with all that God had done right away.  Instead, Moses took care to greet Jethro with the respect he was due and to ask of his welfare first.  Others first.  This is a basic, foundational principle God’s leaders must possess.

Finally, Moses shares his wonder-filled testimony with his own family, who, had previously only heard of it second, third, or tenth hand.  Henry says, “Conversation concerning God’s wondrous works is profitable conversation; it is good, and to the use of edifying, Psalm 105:2.”

Unfortunately, we have many who would disagree with both Moses and Mr. Henry.  They warn us, “Don’t talk too much about the things God has done which cannot be explained.  Do not give him glory for his signs and wonders.  Do not even mention those things that belong to the realm of the spiritual and miraculous.” Many disagree with Moses and Jethro and Mr. Henry because they fear; they doubt; they disbelieve; they envy.  Therefore, they seek to silence anyone who would share the great and mighty works of a God who will not be tamed for mere man’s comfort.

In disbelieving and discounting the works of God, those ones miss both the blessing and the benefit of rejoicing in and knowing well a God who is greater than our greatest imaginations.

As we see evident here in Moses’ own family, the result of speaking the truth about the signs, wonders, and miracles of God first hand is rejoicing and strengthening of faith.  Some might even call this instance conversion for Jethro.  Jethro heard of the good for God’s people and he was genuinely happy for them.  He wasn’t jealous or suspicious or contemptuous or unfavorable concerning God’s providence and people.  He was genuinely happy and rejoiced – even he, a foreigner.

Because the leader and his family made their table-talk of that which glorified God, they found themselves rejoicing rather than murmuring, complaining, or running down their would be friends as the people following behind and all around them were so quick to do. This leader of God’s people kept his own family spiritually healthy even when those who were following behind him could do nothing but grumble, complain, accuse, and fault-find.

Just as in the case of the Jews and the Gentiles, the tragedy for those who actually witnessed the miraculous take place before their very eyes, truly missed it.  Those closest to the wonders closed their eyes in willful blindness, but those standing by and hearing second hand were more zealous and faithful than they despite the many, many great advantages God had given them.

It seems that this entire passage is one with the intent to teach us the great importance of respect and care for good family relations and conversations among God’s people and leading by example in all those things related to such. When God calls leaders, he calls their families.  This is his chosen earthly example for proper daily living.  Therefore, let us live up to our calling as those to whom the world looks for answers.

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