Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘God’s people’

start

After the Jews who had left Babylon had been settled for several months, they came back together and gathered in Jerusalem.  Though they had not yet rebuilt their temple, they thought it wise to keep the Feast of Booths.

The Feast of Booths was a time that the Jews were called to remember their time in wilderness, give thanks, and live in temporary shelters for seven days.  The reason for the shelters was to keep them from growing comfortable, fat, and happy in their houses after harvest.  God wanted them to remember their time in the desert, how he had provided all their needs, and how they must never stop trusting and relying upon Him for all things no matter how blessed they currently are.  This was a time of great joy, feasting, and thanksgiving for the goodness, faithfulness, and provision of God toward his people.  No one ought to mope and cry when blessing is abundant and harvest is at hand.  They were called to feast.

When the priests got to Jerusalem, the first thing they did was build an altar on which to make sacrifices and give offerings.  Having an altar was not the same as having a full blown temple, but it was an important start.  These people knew they must begin with God if they were going to get anywhere they wanted to go.  The same is true for us.

They did not wait until conditions were perfect and projects were complete to begin worshiping and making sacrifices to God.  They did these things first and foremost – and it was not because they were not busy.  Every last one of these families had just moved and restarted their entire lives!  They had plenty to do, but they put God’s glory first.  They made time to honor and worship him despite the fact that conditions were not ideal.  Do we?

Something we ought to note is that, among other offerings and sacrifices, they were required to offer a spotless lamb every single day.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Doing so was meant to point them toward their coming Messiah.  It is meant to point us back to Him.  Every day we must remember our Savior and worship him.  In addition to everything else required of us and everything else going on in our lives, we must bring the Lamb of God, remember his sacrifice, and take time to worship him…every single day.  

After the altar was built and animal sacrifices were made, offering money was given to the builders to begin gathering materials and laying the foundation of the temple.  About seven months later the foundation was laid.

“And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.’ And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.” ~Ezra 3:11

There was a loud shout in Jerusalem but the shout was a mixed bag.  Some were shouting for joy and some were weeping and wailing.  No one could distinguish one from the other.  Those shouting for joy were thanking and inspired to see the temple being rebuilt after 70 years in exile without it.  Those weeping were the older men who had seen the far superior glory of the former temple.  These men were largely disappointed by its smallness in comparison.  Matthew Henry notes, “They despised the day of small things, and were unthankful for the good they enjoyed, because it was not so much as their ancestors had, though it was much more than they deserved.” 

This is a lesson to us regarding contentment.  It is not about what others had or have that ought to concern us.  It is what God has so graciously given us that we ought to consider most and be thankful for.  Eventually God rebukes these weepers (and us!) for their discontent (Haggai 2:1-5).

In Ezra 3, God is giving his people a new beginning after a very tumultuous time of discipline and exile.  They begin to reorganize, rebuild, and reset.  They are beginning with God.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

recommit

After finishing the project to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem, the people of God spent a considerable amount of time praying, fasting, confessing, repenting, worshiping God, and looking intently at God’s law.  They were thankful for his mercy and providence and ashamed of their disobedience.  God used Nehemiah – the great, godly leader he had called to help them – to spur them on to rebuild not only their city and their homes, but also their very own lives.

After their time of reflection and repentance, the leaders drew up and signed a covenant with God.  The people all took an oath of commitment to carry out the terms of these promises.  They also risked a curse if they would fail to obey.  Matthew Henry notes that, “Every oath has in it a conditional curse upon the soul, which makes it a strong bond upon the soul; for our own tongues, if false and lying tongues, will fail, and fail heavily , upon ourselves.”  In other words, if we would make a promise to God or man, we best be prepared to do all within our own power to keep it.

With all this consequence for failing to keep such a pact, why did these people seem so forward to sign up?

The answer is that these people had been failing.  They had been in sin.  They had been exiled, enslaved, and their home had been devastated, destroyed, and left desolate. Yet God had burdened a man named Nehemiah to come and help them.  God had brought them back to rebuild and re-establish themselves.  Now, they recognize both their guilt and his grace and they feel obliged to make these promises and strive to keep them.  Here is a group of people who truly want to be right with God.  These are God’s people.

So, what was it that they bound themselves to do?

The people promised not to intermarry with foreigners as they had been doing, they promised to observe the year of jubilee and forgive all debts in the seventh year, they promised to tithe all they had to God first and to give him the very best of their possessions to use in his house.

What did they commit to God?  Family; money; food; assets; only…everything.

That is the kind of commitment we must make to Our Lord if we would seek to truly repent and follow him.  WE are the ever failing, exiled from the garden, living in the  broken world we call home, sinners.  When we recognize the things he has done for us in sending a Savior to rebuild and recenter our very lives around the truth and His righteousness, we cannot help but to commit our everything to the building of His house and His kingdom.  If that is not our attitude and desire, we have not yet seen him and we do not yet know him. Therefore, let us repeat the words of these restored sinners and do as they committed to do saying, “We will not neglect the house of our God.” ~Nehemiah 10:39b

Read Full Post »

true_repentance

After God’s people had spent a considerable amount of time hearing his law and glorifying him through praise, worship, and feasting as they were commanded, they begin  a time of confession and repentance in Nehemiah chapter 9.  This is the function of God’s law.  It is meant show us our sin and lead us to Christ through our recognition of guilt and need.  Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”

Previously, they had been instructed not to weep or mourn, rather to celebrate.  Now they are commanded to mourn their sin.  First, they change their clothes.  The people put on sackcloth and mark their heads with dirt and ashes to show that they are mourning.  They begin to fast as a sacrificial proof that they are sorry and reliant upon forgiveness and provision from God.

Most times we would mourn first and later celebrate forgiveness and favor.  They celebrated first and then mourned.  God had it that way that they might be all the more aware of his goodness and mercy to them, as well as obedience to his order and command about how to carry out all things in his time and in his way.

The people of God were also commanded to separate from all foreigners during this time of confession and repentance.  Likely, this was because they had previously been commanded to be separate, not intermarry with those who follow foreign gods, etc., and had disobeyed, but such is a wise practice for other practical reasons as well.  Any of us who seek to genuinely bare all, bore our rightful blame, and confess intimately to God must always be wise about who is among us when we do so.  Let us not forget that there are those who seek only to gossip, destroy, and bring dishonor upon God himself when they hear about the failings of his people.

After God’s people had separated from those who weren’t of him, they began to confess their own sins as well as the sins of their fathers.  They read the law for a quarter of the day and offered confession and worship a quarter of the day.  Half the day would amount to six hours.  Six hours time they spent in the presence of God seeking forgiveness and favor knowing they did not deserve it, yet relying upon his great mercy.  When is the last time your church did that?

The people cried out to God in prayer and praise offering adoration and thanksgiving for the many great wonders God had done for them and their people.  They made it a point to remember who God really was and talk about his goodness to them in the past.  They spoke of his promises kept, his deliverance, his signs and wonders, his law, his providence, his forgiveness, his slowness to anger, his mercy, his leading, and his faithfulness even despite their own great sin.

Then, they made it a point to remember who they really were and they confessed all their sins, faults, and failings.  They spoke of their presumptuousness, their stiff-necks, their disobedience, their ignorance of his miracles and goodness toward them, their idolatry, their blaspheme, and their broken promises.

Matthew Henry says this, “They abused God’s prophets, slew them because they testified against them to turn them to God, so returning the greatest injury for the greatest kindness.  They abused his favors.  After they had rest, they did evil again.  They were not wrought upon either by their troubles or their deliverances out of trouble.  Neither fear not love would hold them to their duty.”  

At the end of the day, the bottom line was clear.  God had been altogether faithful to them and they had been altogether unfaithful to him.  They knew it and they admitted it.  They confessed it and they repented of their sin.  They made a covenant stating their desire and intention from that day forward to obey God and not turn away again.

Notice that it was not just the leaders who did this.  It was the whole assembly and all the people who belonged to God.

Christians, these this is a true picture of what a heart full of godly sorrow looks like.  These are the things one will do when he is serious about repentance and getting his heart and life right with God after sin.  He will carry out plans God’s way and in God’s time.  He will change his disposition to a somber, sober seriousness.  He will separate from all that would entangle him.  He will spend a considerable amount of time looking at God’s expectations; his law; his Word in order to recognize his own responsibilities.  He will duly confess his sin and repent.  He will make every effort to right his wrongs and promise to not sin in the same ways again.  He will surround himself with accountability and have others join together with him in his efforts to change.  He will leave spoken and written proof in the presence of God and many witnesses of his future intentions.  These are the things a man does when he is serious about correcting his failure against God and man and avoiding sin.

 

Read Full Post »

forgiveness-and-reconciliation

In Exodus 34:10-28. God and his people are reconciled.  Peace has been made after their sin.  God has not only forgiven them, but poured his love, mercy, and affections upon them saying, “…Behold, I am making a covenant.  Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation.  And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.” ~Exodus 34:10

Not only is God making a covenant with these newly restored people, he is sacrificing other groups for their advancement.  He has again made them the very apples of his eye.

We know this because God promises to drive out all of those living in the land they are about to inhabit.  He specifically instructs them to tear down their false gods and refrain from making friends of those who worship other gods.  He reminds them – doubtless due to their most recent failures – “for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God,” and “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.” ~Exodus 34:14,17  Matthew Henry says, “Those cannot worship God aright who do not worship him alone…That they might not be tempted to worship other gods, they must not join in affinity or friendship with those that did….such is the corruption of nature that the bad are much more likely to debauch the good than the good to reform the bad.” 

God very specifically tells his people not to intermarry with idolaters.  The reason is that their covenant is with Him and not to be exchanged for alliances with them.  Let us remember these words anytime we are among unbelievers.

Next, God commands His people to keep feasts of remembrance, make sacrifices to him, honor the Sabbath, and come before him regularly three times per year. The reason for these feasts was to remind the people of God’s provision, to remind them to give their best to God, and to remind them to rest, obey, honor and remember Him as their only true God.

In verses 21-24, we find God all but saying, “Remember me.  Remember me.  Remember me.”  In verse 25 – Remember my provision (the manna in the desert), remember my salvation (the Passover), and in verse 26 – remember not to worship idols (The boiling of a calf in its mother’s milk was a pagan ritual and superstition.) Remember me; remember me; no idols.  Remember me; remember me; remember me.  Remember me; remember me; no idols.

Finally, he tells Moses to write it down for them.  Moses fasted forty days and forty nights and rewrote the Ten Commandments on the tablets.  How utterly amazing.  Our God is a God of reconciliation.  He is a jealous God and will stop at nothing to eradicate idols and idolatry from our lives.  He makes his people remember him that we might not sin against him.  Amen.

Read Full Post »

tax

In Exodus 30, Moses is instructed by God to impose a tax on God’s people.  Moses was commanded to take a census of every person twenty years and older.  Each person, regardless of wealth or poverty had to pay the same amount.  The cost was half a shekel, which compared today would have been about $10.

The reason God gave for this imposition is found in Exodus 30:12.

“When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.”

The reason the people had to pay was that they needed redeemed.  This fee was  ransom they gave for their own lives.  The idea was to remind them of their need to be bought back and “counted” worthy.

This tax came with a warning.  Those who would not pay were in danger of being plagued.  Doubtless the illustration is the fact that we are plagued by sin when we’ll not acknowledge our need for redemption and obey God in all that he commands.

This small fee could never truly redeem them, but it pointed them to their need.  It pointed them back to Passover to the God who redeemed the from slavery and it pointed them forward to a Savior who would truly redeem them from sin.

Again, every one of God’s people – rich or poor – paid the same amount.   This makes it clear that all souls stand on level ground.  We all stand in need and the cost is uniform.

The atonement money collected was to be used to defray the expenses of God’s tabernacle and its operations.

When we take a step back and look at the big picture here, it is clear that, as all of these things were being done for God and his glory, they were simultaneously being done for God’s people and their good.  The tabernacle was built for God.  The tabernacle was built for God’s people.  The altar was built for God.  The altar was built for God’s people.  The Arc of the Covenant was built for God.  The Arc of the Covenant was built for God’s people.  The golden lamps were built for God.  The golden lamps were built for God’s people.  The priests were consecrated to serve God.  The priests were consecrated to serve God’s people.  The incense, the showbread, the tax, the veil, the oil – everything was for God, and everything was for God’s people.  God instructed all these things to show his people who he was.  God instructed all these things to show his people who they were. Amazing.

 

Read Full Post »

In Exodus 26 we find all the instructions on the making of the tabernacle.  The tabernacle was to be the meeting place of God and man in the wilderness as the people of God travelled through.  It was basically a tent with expensive and intricate items of great significance inside.  It’s specifications were very detailed and every item had a purpose.

What we find here is that God not only wanted a special place to meet with his people, but he wanted a specific kind of place.  The kind of place God wanted was: movable, humble outside with treasures inside, with all parts and pieces well-made.  God is making a specific kind of place to point to and represent a specific kind of people who, in turn, would point to and represent Him and His own image.

God wanted not only his meeting place with his people to be movable, he wants he his people to be movable.  God wants us to understand that neither this world nor any place in it is truly our home.  Nothing here is permanent.  We are just pilgrims passing through.  God wants a movable, changeable, moldable kind of heart and soul to be evident in His people.  One who is dead set on their own works and their own strength is not suited to follow a Lord and King who is ever directing our paths and lives.

Secondly, the tabernacle and everything inside was very specifically made, placed, and positioned.  It was humble outside but held great treasures inside.  This is the way God would have his church and his people – who are, essentially, his church by the way – to be.  Hypocrites are shiny outside and rotten and ugly inside.  God’s people are to have their treasure inside and be humble on the outside just as the tabernacle was to be built.

The greatest things God determined to place inside the tabernacle were the law, the mercy, the light, and the bread of His Presence.  If a child of God or any church lacks any of these essential elements on the inside, it matters not how shiny and superb they may look or act on the outside.  We must possess a holy knowledge and fear of God’s law, extend his mercy and grace, be light in the midst of darkness, and rely on His provision and presence at all times.  If any of these precious things are lacking or we fail to possess or extend them, we fail to be the kind of representative, temple, or adequate dwelling place for the Spirit of God.  If we fail to hold high any of these specifics, we are likely not a person or a place God will use to meet with man very often.

Lastly, everything in the tabernacle was to be well-made.  Nothing God builds is weak, ill-positioned, or cheaply assembled.  WE are God’s workmanship.  God designs and builds his people in such a way that we are made strong, well-positioned, and well-made in Him and by Him.  In fact, it is because we are in Him that we are, by virtue of His indwelling Spirit, well-made with the very finest, strongest, and best raw materials.  The same was true of each and every very important, symbolic items he instructed to be built and placed in his tabernacle.

If you ever doubt your worth or God’s work in you, consider the tabernacle.  1 Corinthians 3:16 tells you otherwise.  You are His temple; His dwelling place; the very vessel He – by His Spirit – chooses to live in.  Paul reasons that this is the reason that Christians ought to be unified. Consider what kind of place he is building you to be.

 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. ~1 Corinthians 3:16

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

leadership

After God promises his people the promise land and gives them the instructions on how to get there, Moses, their leader, is called back up to the mountain by God.

Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. Moses alone shall come near to the Lord, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.” ~Exodus 24:1-11

Moses and his leaders were called up to worship the Lord.  They were instructed not to get too close to the mountain, where God’s presence was.  Their staying back speaks of the great reverence and holy fear all men are to have for God.  Moses alone was to come close to the Lord.

Moses hears from the Lord.  Moses obeys the Lord.  When we hear from the Lord, especially in an instruction, the very next action should always be to obey the Lord.

In verse 3, Moses comes back down to the people and tells them everything God had said.  Moses was up front about the requirements God gave to him and to them.  He gave the people the requirements of God before asking whether they were willing to commit to and obey them.  This is a practice many wanna be preachers seem to forget today.

Not only is Moses clear about God’s expectations before asking the people to commit, he himself is prepared before he ever speaks to the people at all.  A good leader must always hear from God, obey him, spend time in worship, and spend time alone with God before they would go to others to share God’s word with them.

In verses 3 and 8 we see the people of God agreeing wholeheartedly and unanimously to the terms of God’s agreement.  If they would but obey his rules and laws, he would bless their food, water, take away sickness, barrenness, give them long life, and annihilate all of their enemies.  Sounds like a great deal for God’s people right?!  Who wouldn’t agree to that?

After they were fully informed and wholeheartedly agreed, Moses wrote down all of the laws and rules.  This way, no changes could made, less error could occur, and everyone would be clear about what they had agreed to abide by and what the requirements actually were.

Good leaders make sure there is clarity even after speaking truth.  Writing down an agreement between parties is always a good practice when the terms are greatly important.  Much less room for error and dispute can be had once things are in writing.  Little wonder why God gave us a written Word to follow.

After Moses writes everything down, the text says he gets up early in the morning and builds an altar.  He sends men to make sacrifice on the altar and he puts half the blood on the altar and saves half in a basin.

Getting up early and giving the Lord the firstfruits of our day is a practice good leaders ought to get used to.  If God is not first for us each and every day, it is likely He will not be first any day.

After the sacrifices are made, Moses picked up the Book of the Covenant where he had just written down all of God’s expectations and he read it to the people.  He told them what God expected, he wrote it down, and then he read it to them word for word once again.  Again, they agreed (verse 7).  Finally, Moses threw the blood he had saved on all of them.  This was to remind them of their need for a sacrifice, and that they were to be living sacrifices for God as they had promised to be.  The blood covering them ratified the covenant God had made with them.

Clarity, clarity, clarity.  Good leaders always, always, always make certain that terms are clear when expectations are given and before the deal is sealed.  The blood points us to our need for Christ to be sacrificed for us, our duty to be living sacrifices, and that He himself, through his death on the cross and our being covered by His own blood ratifies the covenant God has made with us.

Lastly, after the Covenant is confirmed between God and his people, in verses 9-11, God shows up.  God reveals his presence to the leaders.  Let the same be true for us.

+

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »