Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Reading in Exodus This Week #6 (32-40)

51ChsiH46qL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_This post will conclude our discussion on Exodus, with the commentary, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, by Philip Graham Ryken, The final section of Exodus records the disobedience and then the obedience (at last!) of Israel to build the tabernacle and worship God with the result that God himself “moves in” to the camp and lives with Israel as their king. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The Israelites were on the cusp of having the very presence of God in their midst, but they could not wait and let God do it his way. They did not trust God and chose to do it their own way and disaster resulted. The golden calf was supposed to represent YHWH but broke the 2nd commandment by making an image of God. Instead of bringing their culture under the authority of God and his word, they reinterpreted God and how to worship him by their culture

Rather than waiting on God or trusting their God-given leader, the Israelites decided to take matters into their own hands. And this is how sin happens. We fall into sin when we fail to trust that God knows what he’s doing and try to work things out on our own. Exodus 32.1-6, 977

Chapters 33-34 of Exodus deal with the aftermath of Israel's sin with the golden calf. Because the people have rejected God by worshiping the gods of Egypt and/or worshiping God in the way he said not to, God has decided not to go with them to the promised land. He will continue bless them but will not live with them in the tabernacle as a visible presence. The people and Moses are devastated by this news. They realize that God's presence is the only thing that distinguishes them and makes them a viable people. Thus, Moses negotiates with God to continue his presence with them. God agrees to do this and renews the covenant with the nation based on Moses' acts as mediator and his covenant promises. God then shows his goodness to Moses and gives the reason he is willing to do this: His character is to be a God of compassion, mercy, patience, covenant love, forgiveness who is jealous to maintain this unique and privileged relationship. This revelation is a key insight into God's character that is referenced over and over in subsequent scriptures. Israel's responsibility would be a commitment to regular corporate worship, resting in God and giving their best to Him.

This is what happens when we worship other gods, especially gods that we can see and touch. Rather than bringing us closer to God, our idols take us farther away...What preoccupies our thoughts? What do we treasure in our hearts? God wants to fill our lives with his presence. But when we carry other things around with us, pursuing them by day and thinking about them at night, there is no room left for God. Exodus 33.1-11, 1020

As we study the history of salvation, we see God always moving in the direction of closer intimacy with his people. He is always seeking to restore the intimate fellowship we lost through sin. All through Exodus he is trying to find a way to dwell with his people. He can’t do it in Exodus 33, but he hasn’t given up yet either. He is still meeting with Moses. Soon he will go ahead with his plans for the tabernacle. And by the end of Exodus he will come down to dwell with his people in glory. , Exodus 33.1-11, 1026–1027

(God) proclaimed in word what he had already demonstrated in deed, that he is “the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exod. 34:5–7a). This is the God who saved Israel. He is the only God who could have done it. No other god could have saved people like them. Exodus 34.1-7, 1045

Moses made a new set of tablets (Exod. 34:1). Then, under the inspiration of God, he rewrote the Ten Commandments, putting the same words on new tablets (Exod. 34:28). This was all very reassuring because it meant that God remained committed to his people. He still wanted to have a relationship with them, even after they had sinned. And the way to reassure them of all this was to remind them of the covenant. Whenever we have any doubts about the love of God, all we need to do is go back to the promises he has made to us in the covenant.  Exodus 34.8-17, 1053

To love is to give. Thus it is not surprising that when he was teaching the Israelites how to love, God told them to give him the very best they had to offer, starting with their livestock. Exodus 34.18-28, 1067

Meeting with God had a remarkable effect on Moses. Every time he had an audience with the King of kings, he came away glorious. This shows that it is possible for sinners to shine with the rays of God’s reflected majesty. Being with God has a transforming effect on people. No one who meets God by faith is ever the same again, because when we see God as he is, we become like what he is. Exodus 34.29-35, 1075

The final section of Exodus records God fulfilling his plan to visibly live in the midst of Israel in the tabernacle. "As Tremper Longman writes in his book on Old Testament worship, “the symbolism of the entire structure revolved around one central idea: the Holy God was present in the midst of the camp.” (1107) The section repeats much of the earlier sections of Exodus because the Israelites build the tabernacle exactly as God revealed it to Moses. The people come together to provide the materials and labor for the tabernacle as God has gifted them and they give far beyond the need. This is a pattern for how the church, the modern tabernacle, should live out Christ's presence.

If God had wanted to, he could have dropped a tabernacle from the sky, but this is not the way he works. He invites us to get involved with what he is doing in the world. In this case God made the plans, but the people did the work. He initiated the tabernacle, but they participated in its construction. Exodus 35, 1083

The Bible gives many warnings about the dangers of wealth. Large sums of money tempt us to be selfish and proud. But when financial prosperity is combined with personal godliness, wealth becomes a powerful force for spiritual good...This is why God has made us rich: so he has more money to use for ministry! As our income rises, so should our commitment to making more and more costly sacrifices for the kingdom of God. Exodus 35, 1088

This was God’s plan: to make his dwelling place in the church. Just as God once filled the tabernacle, the temple, and the physical body of Jesus Christ with the radiance of his glory, so now he fills the church with the glorious presence of his Spirit. God is living in us, both individually and corporately. Where is God’s dwelling place today? In the church. We have become the tabernacle of God. Exodus 36, 1108

All of the furniture inside the tabernacle was designed to show God's character. The ark was the place where heaven met earth. The mercy seat was where the blood of the day of atonement was poured annually to remove the national guilt of Israel and keep them in covenant with God. The lampstand showed that God was the light and life of the nation. The table of bread showed that God was their king who provided for his people. All of these pointed forward to Jesus and the cross as the ultimate atonement for the world, the bread of life, the resurrection and the life and the light of the world.

The ark was a portable wooden box covered with gold and measuring roughly four feet long by two feet wide and two feet high. Three sacred things went with it...Who is God? According to the manna in the ark, he is a faithful provider. The second item in the ark was Aaron’s staff...Who is God? According to the staff by the ark, he is the ruler of his people. The third item was the one that gave the ark its name. It was God’s covenant with Israel, written in stone...Who is God? According to the covenant inside the ark, he is both Savior and Lord. Exodus 37, 1112–1113

The courtyard furniture was designed to show the method of approach to God. He is a great and holy king and can be approached only on his terms. The altar showed the necessity (met completely by Christ at the cross) for sacrificial atonement. The amazing fulfillment of this is that Jesus' death, which fulfills this, is done completely by God - our role is that of the murderer as our sins nail Christ to the cross. The sacrifice is the picture of what Christ has done, in forgiving his murderers, to bring us access into relationship with the Trinity. The basin symbolizes the ongoing need for daily cleansing as we serve God.

The altar of burnt offering was only a temporary arrangement. God was teaching the Israelites that the price had to be paid in blood, and at the same time teaching them to wait for the full and final atonement that only he could provide...This is the amazing fact of our salvation. The debt for our sin needs to be paid in blood, but God does not make us pay the price; he was willing to pay it himself! Exodus 38, 1127

First came the altar of atonement, followed by the basin for cleansing. First, justification, then sanctification. First came the atoning blood sacrifice that made sinners right with God by paying the debt of their sin; then came the pure cleansing water that made sinners holy before God by washing away the remaining corruption of their sin. Exodus 38, 1129

The priests represented God to the people and the people to God. They were chosen by God and outfitted according to his instructions. The amazing thing here is that Aaron is allowed to continue after leading the people into sin. Right from the beginning God is showing that he will be served by forgiven people. All of us, as a nation of priests, serve God only because he has given us grace and mercy and are called to share that mercy and grace with the world.

Why was a sinner like Aaron allowed to serve the holy God? He was able to serve because although he was fallen, he was also forgiven. In preparation for the priesthood, Aaron’s body was washed with holy water (Exod. 40:12), symbolizing his consecration to God. Then he confessed his sins, placing his hands on the head of a bull and two rams, which were sacrificed to make atonement. Through the cleansing water and the sacrificial blood, Aaron was set apart to serve. Exodus 39.1-31, 1133–1134

Exodus ends with God placing his glory in the tabernacle in the very midst of his people. This is clearly not based on the people's goodness but with grace, mercy, and forgiveness, God places His holy presence at the center of the camp. By the way, this will put some of those, who do not accept his mercy and trust his forgiveness and care, in a very dangerous position. The bottom line is that God's default position is love, mercy, forgiveness and fully committed relationship. Condemnation comes only when this is rejected.

The tabernacle was God’s dwelling place on earth. God called it “my dwelling place among you” (Lev. 26:11). As a replica of Heaven, it taught the Israelites that their God was not some tribal deity, but the Lord God of the universe, who “stretches out the heavens like a tent” (Ps. 104:2). It also taught them about God’s character. It taught them that he is a mighty God, attended by angels. He is a holy God, shrouded in mystery. He is a loving God who wants to have a relationship with his people. Exodus 39.32-43, 1144

Here we see both God’s immanence and his transcendence, his nearness as well as the greatness of his glory. God did not just rescue the Israelites from Egypt and then dump them in the wilderness to fend for themselves. On the contrary, he was with his people for good. He wanted to do something more than simply save them; he wanted to have a relationship with them.  Exodus 40, 1161

Ryken's restatement of his view of the message of Exodus...

This is the message of the exodus, as it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Once we were in bondage to sin, enslaved by its tyranny. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—our Passover Lamb—God has delivered us from the Egypt of our sin. Now he is leading us through our earthly wilderness, with all its difficulties and dangers. The great God of the exodus will never leave us or forsake us. In the church he has set up a sanctuary where even now we may enter his presence for worship. And one day soon Jesus will come down in glory to take us up into the glory that will never end. Everyone who trusts in him will be saved for the glory of God. 1164

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