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Exodus, Part 3

2012-2013 – The Year of The Bible

The third section of Exodus, Chapters 20-40, complete the journey of Israel from slavery, to redemption, to worship.  As we begin this section, note the context of worship. Worship is a response to grace. Following the remarkable deliverance from the Egyptians, Israel gathered at Sinai, the mountain of God, where Moses climbs to the presence of God and receives the 10 Commandments. Note the opening sentence of Exodus 20:1-2. Before giving any commandment, God reminds them how he delivered them from Egypt, an event of grace. Once that context is established, he gives the summary of the Law in the form of the 10 Commandments, divided into 4 commands about relating to God and 6 commands about relating one to another. Now, take special notice of the response of Israel in 24:1-8. As Moses summarizes the revelation from the LORD that instructs Israel how to live, they respond with one voice, “All the words that the LORD has spoken, we will do” (24: 3). Again, “All the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (24:7). Here is the reminder that worship is more than an occasional experience of singing and praying but is essentially a lifestyle of obedience. Thus the pattern of worship is established – grace; then, in response, worship with a lifestyle of obedience.

But as central to the Bible as the 10 Commandments are, we must understand that they have a function other than being the means of personal transformation; they do not have the power to free us from sin. Rather, they, along with the rest of the Law, remind us that not only do we sin because of the fallenness of the human heart (there was murder, lying, adultery, etc., long before the giving of the 10 Commandments), but now there is sin as the result of breaking a specific command of God. In fact, the Apostle Paul makes the point that the purpose of the Law is to convince us of our need to be forgiven of sin, both inward and outward.  (See Galatians 3.) But we don’t have to wait for Paul to learn this truth.

Following the giving of the 10 Commandments, God calls Moses back to the mountain where he outlines the design of the Tabernacle, the place where God will display his presence on earth and call Israel to corporate worship. But the people grow impatient with Moses’ long visit with God. They commission Aaron to build an idol – an intricate statue of a calf overlaid with gold – and they set themselves to idolatrous partying. Their self-centeredness is exposed by their longing to return to Egypt. Their rebellious disobedience is exposed by breaking the first two commands just given by God.

The next concept learned from Exodus is the need for a mediator in order to be forgiven of our sin. When Moses descends from the mountain, he enters into his personal mediating role by praying that God would forgive the people of this grievous sin and keep his promise that he made with Abraham. (Remember that in Part 1 we discussed how Moses points us to Jesus, the final mediator of sin.) Once again, the grace of God is displayed and, once again, God’s people are given an opportunity to respond in worship.

The remainder of Exodus is given to the actual construction of the Tabernacle, the center of worship. This structure is portable, which enables it to go wherever Israel goes, in order to be a constant reminder that God is “slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin (34:6). But God also reminds them that he does not leave the guilty unpunished (34:6). Someone must pay the penalty, which leads us into the heart of the Book of Leviticus.

  1. Read Romans 12:1-2. How does Paul remind his readers that worship is more than an occasional time of singing and prayer?
  2. Read Romans 7:7-12.  Summarize Paul’s argument that explains the purpose of the Law.
  3. Read 1 Timothy 2:5. Just as Moses mediated God’s forgiveness for Israel, Jesus mediates God’s forgiveness for us. Bow in prayer right now and thank God that he gave us Jesus, who forgives us for (name any sin that comes to mind.) Now worship him today by walking in obedience.

Exodus, Part 2

2012-2013 – The Year of The Bible

Exodus chapters 1-4 set the context for the need of Israel to be redeemed. God’s people are in bondage to the Egyptians. In chapters 5-19 we discover how God redeems Israel from slavery.

The issue here is this: who owns Israel?

In Exodus 5:2 Pharaoh insists that Egypt owns Israel.

Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.

In Exodus 6:6-7, God insists that, with his mighty hand, he will demonstrate that he owns Israel.

‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.

With the 10 plagues that are thrust on Egypt, God wages war on Pharaoh, as he does on anyone who attempts to stand between him and his people. The first three (blood, frogs, lice) demonstrate God’s superiority over the magicians in Pharaoh’s court.  The second three (insects, pestilence, boils) demonstrate God’s protection over his people, because these plagues fall only on Egypt, not on Israel.  The third three (hail, locust, darkness) demonstrate that God cannot be compared to any other being in the universe (9:14).  The  10th and final plague, which stands apart from the others, proclaims that God has ultimate power over life and death, and that life is a gift that is given, but only if there is a substitute whose blood is shed on our behalf. The plagues accomplished their purpose. As the multitude of Hebrews exit Egypt, the people are graciously redeemed from slavery in fulfillment of the promise God made with Abraham (Ex 6:8, Gen12:2).

But redemption is more than the deliverance from an old life. Redemption is also the gift of a new life. Israel had to leave Egypt, where they were slaves, but they then had to enter into the Promised Land where they would enjoy a new relationship with God as sons. This concept is developed in Exodus 19. In verses 5-6, Israel is described as God’s own possession, a people God chose from all the peoples on earth. As such, in their new life they are to uniquely represent God as a “kingdom of priests” and a “holy nation” (vs. 6). These two designations remind Israel that they are a nation that will impact other nations on God’s behalf (that is the function of a priest) and that they will do so by being unique in worship and their ethics (a description of holiness). Since they belong to God, they are to represent him by being like him. Here is another obvious and gracious connection to the promise God made with Abraham. (Ex 19:6, Gen 12:3)

  1. Read 1 Peter 2:9-10. Note the parallels of our salvation in Jesus Christ to the story of God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt.
  2. Read Acts 1:8. What is the parallel of our calling to the calling of Israel outlined in Ex 9:6?
  3. Read 1 Peter 1:15-16. Pray that the Lord might bring to mind any area of your life that is not set apart for the Lord. Now, ask for his grace and strength to dedicate that part of your life to him, that you might be a testimony of his grace to those around you.

Exodus, Part 1

2012-2013 – The Year of The Bible

Genesis closes with the story of Joseph, who, through a series of circumstances was brought to Egypt and because the Lord was with him, rose through the ranks to become second in command of the most powerful nation on earth. As such, when the world was in the grip of famine, God brought Jacob, and the 70 members of his household, to Egypt where Joseph cared for them, giving them the most fertile land in the country to use to tend their flocks and raise their families. As it turned out, that which was intended for evil against Joseph, God turned to good for his family (Genesis 50:20). Over the ensuing generations, the family of Jacob grew into a great multitude that became a threat to the Egyptians, motivating the leaders of Egypt, who did not know Joseph, to enslave them.  Thus the setting for Exodus is set, with the continents divided into a three-part narrative – the journey from slavery, to redemption, to worship.

Four hundred years have passed since God’s promise and covenant to Abraham, and the family of Jacob (Israel) is crying out to God in their distress. God hears their cry and, as is his pattern, he addresses the needs of his people by raising up a leader, whose name is Moses. Chapter 2 tells the story of Moses’ birth, exile and sojourn in Midian. Then in Chapter 3, God calls him into ministry by appearing to him in a burning bush, revealing his personal covenant name, which translated means “I AM who I AM” or “I AM he who is.” Notice that vs. 13-15 link I AM, the eternal present, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, giving us the first indication of the truth of life after death. God was not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And as such, God is committed to keeping his promise to them, and he establishes the next phase in the ministry of Moses.

Moses occupied three distinct roles in his ministry. First, as a descendent of Levi, Moses enters into a priestly role, mediating the grace of God to the people of God (more on that later this week.). Second, his call is definitely prophetic. He was confronted with the presence of God and given the Word of God. He was commissioned by God, and provided with divine assurance from God. Finally he was empowered by God to perform miraculous signs to the glory of God. Third, Moses was a legislator, setting up a rule of law that would form the foundation to govern the people of God.

Now let’s relate the ministry of Moses to the condition of the people of Israel. They were living in bondage as slaves, and they needed to be delivered. God raised up a deliverer who would be priest, prophet and ruler. Does this remind you of anyone? Of course! Moses was a type of the one to come (Deut 18:15, 18-19; Acts 3:22-26). Moses’ ministry was a shadow of the ministry of Jesus, who is the ultimate deliverer of those in slavery to sin. 

 

The Cross: Expressing The Holy Love of God

Read Exodus 34:6-7

God and man are fundamentally different.  How’s that for a profound statement.  Here is what I mean.  Humanity is infected by sin in every aspect of our being.  The major expression of that sin is self centeredness, the human attribute that largely contributed to the fall.  However, the person who is a Christ follower, whose heart of stone has been replaced by a heart of flesh, who has partaken of the divine nature, who has been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, also has the nature of Jesus living within (Gal 2:20).  Consequently, as a behavior of discipleship, a Christian can, and should on a daily basis, deny himself. (Luke 9:23).  Instead of being self centered we are to be Christ centered.  We can deny self.  Not so with God.  God cannot deny himself (2 Tim 2:13) So what does this have to do with the cross?

The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,  7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)

Here we have a dual expression of God’s attributes.  God is compassionate, gracious, loving, and forgiving, yet he punishes the guilty.   Doesn’t it seem proper that if the nature of God is rightly expressed in those “loving” attributes that he would just overlook sin and let the guilty off the hook.  Not for a moment.  For God is at the same time holy, and he cannot deny himself.  Sin offends God, it provokes God, and in response he burns with righteous anger and is obligated to pour out his wrath against sin.

In the cross of Christ there is a collision of the holiness and love of God.  And after the smoke clears, the holy love of God is satisfied.  Listen to several statements that have been suggested over the years:

“In the cross of Christ, God’s justice and love are simultaneously revealed” – G.C. Berkouwer

God, “in a marvelous and divine way loved us even when he hated us.” – John Calvin

“The wrath of God is the love of God.” – Emil Brunner

God is both the “Judge who must punish evil-doers and the Lover who must find a way to forgive them.” – John Stott

If you read my most recent post that outlined the nature of Jesus being both God and man, you will remember that I suggested that it was God in Christ who died on the cross.  As such, the cross is the perfect expression of God’s holiness and his love in that God poured out his wrath on himself in order to satisfy himself, and he did it in order to express his love for us.

On Good Friday, when you have occasion to reflect on the cross, marvel at the wonderful truth that in the cross of Jesus, God expresses his holy love.

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand-
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land…
O safe and happy shelter!
O refuge tried and sweet!
O trysting-place where heaven’s love
And heaven’s justice meet!

Much of the material in this post is a summary from The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott

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