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Posts Tagged ‘Moses’

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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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.

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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.

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altar

In Exodus 20:22-26, we find Moses meeting with God.  He has just walked into the darkness after God has given the 10 Commandments and all the people are afraid.  Moses is elected mediator and he enters God’s presence on Mt. Sinai.  Here, God begins to expound about the commands he just gave.  In this passage, we find God giving details as to how to carry out worship to him and how to avoid breaking the first two commandments he has just given.

22 And the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’ ~Exodus 20:22-26

In verse 22, God instructs Moses to tell His people that because they have seen for themselves that he has come down and condescended them from heaven – because they have personally witnessed God’s presence among them – that there should be no need to break command number one.  There should be no reasonable excuse for you to make images of God as if he were not present.  Not only that, but they had experienced God’s voice, not his form.  They had not seen any images of Him to even have the ability to make a proper representation even if they had been permitted to do so.  This served as a reminder to both they and we that we must keep close to God and his presence on account of his Word alone.

In verse 23, God forbids making gods out of fine materials.  He knew the people were apt to use their silver and gold to make images and set them up beside him in pretense of worship to him.  With these, they pretended to worship and honor God but actually became guilty of idolatry and worshipped them in place of or in addition to God.  In other words, they started out with the idea that they were going to use their best, most expensive materials to make the most elaborate things to worship god with, but ended up worshipping those things their hands had made as idols.  They stopped giving honor and glory to God and began giving it to the things their hands had made.

Next, verse 24-26 instructs the building of altars and promises a blessing where he is remembered.  The altars were to be made of earth or unhewn stone.  The altar was to be a place of honor and worship to God.  Therefore, God determined that it ought to be made from the unadulterated versions of what he created without man’s modifications.  The composition of the altar was to remind men that they cannot improve upon God’s building blocks for change. Furthermore, they may be tempted to make a graven image if they were permitted to finish the stones rather than using them as they found them.   Finally, the humble, base materials God called for here coupled with the lowness with which they were to be constructed were to help God’s people realize that worship to God ought to be humble and self-abasing rather than external, flashy, prideful, and pompous.

Matthew Henry says this in relation to God’s promise to meet with them and bless them anywhere his name is remembered: “In all places where I record my name, or where my name is recorded (that is, where I am worshipped in sincerity), I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.  Afterwards, God chose one particular place wherein to record his name: but that being taken away now under the gospel, when men are encouraged to pray everywhere, this promise revives in its full extent, that wherever God’s people meet in his name to worship him, he will be in the midst of them, he will honor them with his presence, and reward them with the gifts of his grace; there he will come unto them, and will bless them, and more than this we need not desire for the beautifying of our solemn assemblies.” 

So, what does this mean for us today?  The practical applications are thus:

  1. God’s Word alone is to be sufficient evidence of his enduring presence with us.
  2. We must recognize and be on guard against the temptation that comes by setting out to build God’s kingdom starting with what we consider the best materials when we are actually building a kingdom for ourselves because we love those things and the praise and honor that comes with them more than we love God.  True worship and acceptable sacrifice is a result of what God gives, not what man makes.
  3. The place of change, worship, and sacrifice ought to be a place of noticeable humility and lowliness rather than extravagance and man-made showmanship.
  4. God honors the gathering together of his people no matter how humble and small the group is.  If he is being honored and his name is being lifted up and remembered among us, that is a place God is bound and determined to bless.

 

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Looking at Exodus 20:18-21 which are the words spoken immediately after the 10 commandments are given.

 If we look back to just prior in chapter 19, we see that strict rules are given by God about being purified and not going too close to the mountain.  The mountain is then enveloped in smoke and people see thunder, lightning, and hear trumpets.  It is then that the Lord comes down and Moses is first called up.  Moses goes up the mountain and God sends him right back down to tell the people to stay back and warn them again.

 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

21 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’” 24 And the Lord said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break out against them.” ~Exodus 19:20-24

At this point, Moses is probably like dude, I just climbed up here and you’re sending me back down to tell my guys what I just told them.  We have been preparing for this for three days.  They are consecrated already, God. I warned them already.  You made me draw lines around the mountain, remember?

So that’s where we are when God begins to speak the ten commandments.  The people have been warned twice and consecrated and Moses is somewhere at the foot of the mountain with them because it does not appear that he has had time to go back up the mountain with Aaron yet.  The ten commandments are given and immediately afterward is where we pick up today.

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. ~Exodus 20:18-21

These supernatural events – thunder, lightning, smoke, the trumpets alongside the voice of God Himself produced absolute terror in the people – as they would any and all of us.  The text says they stood “far off.”  They elected Moses their mediator.  “You talk to God Moses.  Don’t let him talk to us! We will die for sure!” 

Moses answers them and says, essentially, “Fear not; fear God.”  This is so cool.  Exodus 20:20.  Here is our clear vision.  Here’s 20/20 guys.  Don’t fear death and the judgement of sin.  Fear the God who command you not to sin!  If you do the latter, you will no longer have to fear the former.  If you refuse to do the latter, you better fear the former.  Therefore, fear not; fear God.

What was happening right before the eyes of these people was fearful.  Just close your eyes and consider it.  Consider standing in the wilderness and witnessing these events.  It was indeed terrifying and meant to be so.  But what were they ultimately afraid of?  That the fire and fury of God would consume and destroy them.  Moses says, “No.  Don’t fear that.  Fear God and you will live.”

The truth is, our sin and guilt will destroy us and his judgment will consume us if we fail to fear God, believe the promises of the Savior, and trust in his mercy.  So fear not; fear God is what Moses says to them and then, this is amazing, Moses walks towards the darkness.  Everyone else is getting as far away from God’s presence as humanly possibly and Moses is drawing near.  The first question that came to my mind when reading this passage was, “Why wasn’t Moses afraid?”  He’s just a man like the rest of them, right?  And the answer is, Moses was not afraid because Moses knew his calling.  Moses heard God’s call and nothing was going to stop him from doing that which God had purposed for his life.  He wasn’t afraid to draw near to the most powerful being in the universe because Moses had heard directly from God himself on numerous occasions and God had graciously instructed him.  Moses knew his call.  He knew the voice of His Master and it gave him great confidence and assurance to do all that which God expected of him – fearful or not.  Moses was courageous because he knew and understood his call.

In all of this we see how the law was given.  This was quite an epic event – one not soon forgotten.  This was God’s way of making absolutely clear to us that His law is of utmost importance.  He wants us to learn to fear Him first, above all else, that we might not sin, lest, as we deserve, we die without mercy.  The law was given in such a way that it might startle, wake, and humble sinners in preparation for Christ and the gospel.  Without understanding the wrath and judgement we all deserve for transgressing this law, we cannot understand and desire the mercy and forgiveness of the gospel.

If you are sharing a gospel that only includes love, mercy, and forgiveness while leaving out the law, you are not sharing the true gospel.  Without the law, sinners do not have a need for a Savior.  The law, the Bible teaches, is the schoolmaster meant to bring us to Christ.  We must realize the seriousness of God’s holy law, understand how thoroughly we have broken it, and feel the weight of God’s coming judgement before we feel any read need for a Savior or commit to Him as Lord.

So share the gospel.  Don’t forget to talk about the law, first, though.  Amen.

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“You shall not steal.” ~ Exodus 20:15

This command is pretty self-explanatory.  I think we all know what stealing is – taking something that belongs to someone else.  I have not really struggled with stealing in my life but I have stolen things before.

The two instances I can distinctly remember were both when I was young.  The first, I was about six years old and my friend had a doll I wanted.  I stuck it in my shirt and thought no one would notice as I was leaving her house.  I was caught.  The second time I stole lipstick from a store because my friend encouraged me to and when I walked out the alarms went off.  I am pretty sure that is the last time I ever tried stealing anything that did not belong to me.

Still, as I meditated on this verse this morning, I began to consider ways in which “good moral Christian people” do steal from one another in ways we may not realize.  Not materially – other ways.

I looked at the other commandments in order to put it in perspective.

With the first and second commands, if we break them we steal what belongs only to God – namely our worship – and give it away to other, lesser things, people, etc.  When we take the name of the Lord in vain we steal God’s honor by failing to respect him appropriately.  When we refuse to rest we steal God’s time filling it with earthly things or work in our own strength apart from him.  It is pride that causes us to steal time from God and refuse to rest in Him.  We steal honor from our parents when we break the fifth command.  We steal life when we break the sixth command.  We steal someone else’s spouse when we break the seventh command.  We may also steal another’s purity or steal affections and attention that belong to someone else.  When we bear false witness we steal another’s good name and reputation by the evils of slander, gossip, misrepresentation, and purposefully misleading others concerning their character.  Lasting, when we covet we steal the encouragement and love we should for others and fail to give it to them out of jealousy.  Jealous people always seek to bring down, discourage, avoid and injure the party of whom they are jealous.  I have encountered many jealous people who refuse to build up, love, or even know others simply due to their own covetousness.

Therefore, stealing is so much more than taking material things – although it is that.  I personally would rather have my lipstick stolen before my reputation.  But the latter is what “good moral Christians” in the church do again and again to one another by gossip, slander, and jealousy.  God help us.

Amen.

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numberone

Finally, I made it.  Exactly halfway between slavery (Exodus 1) and glory (Exodus 40),  right smack dab in the middle, we find Exodus chapter 20.  Herein lies the ten commandments.  Halfway between slavery and glory, we find the law.

God begins his face to face meeting (well, more like face to finger…isn’t that just like a father?  Pointing his all-knowing finger and writing down the very important instructions we children need to obey?)  with Moses, by telling him two things.

The first thing God does is remind Moses exactly who He is and what good He has done.

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ~Exodus 20:1-2

He then proceeds to give a huge, all encompassing law beginning with the ten commandments and extending to every aspect of Jewish life for the next eleven chapters and for the better part of the following book of Leviticus as well.

So, just so we are clear, God literally spoke all of these words.  They were His ideas and it is His authority that both establishes and upholds them – not mine.

Command number one:

“You shall have no other gods before me. ~Exodus 20:3

I have to be honest.  I had to stop right there, close the book, and spend a few days just thinking on what it would look like for me to have no other gods.  What if, truly, God was my only God.

In other words, what do I need to put away?  What have I elevated above or equal to Him?  How would my life change if He truly were my one, my only, and my greatest above all else, God?

I do not want to assume He is just because I want Him to be or because I wish he was.  I do not want to pay lip service to this commandment because it is the right Sunday School answer.  I want to know what it really means to cast down my idols.  I want to investigate what those idols might be and find real, practical, tangible ways to tear them down and remove them from my life.

The hardest part is when idols are good and necessary things, people, or places – gifts, even – from God Himself.  It is balance, affection, and attitude that generally makes the difference between whether something is becoming an idol that is being used for my glory or whether it is being being used rightly for God’s glory.

Consider those things and people and places and talents and gifts that you most enjoy.  Consider whether they have an appropriate place in your life or if God has reason to be jealous of the affections you are offering to them.  Because it is not a matter of saying, “I only believe in the One and Only True God.  Of course, I have always believed that.”  No.  It is a matter of living our entire lives in worship and sacrifice to Him alone in all things at all times.

That is what it means to have no other gods.  It truly is a daily battle of balance and being-ware.  That process starts with remembering exactly who He is and what he has done.

 He is the Great I Am, Creator of the Universe!  He has delivered us!  Let us love and serve Him accordingly.

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