Saturday, April 30: Psalm 93- The majesty of God.

What a way to start a day… reading this Psalm!

The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure (1).

Majesty and strength, what descriptors of the Lord!

As I sit her on the eve of the Lord’s Day when I will gather with God’s people in worship, I am absorbed in this wonderful Psalm’s depiction of our God.

Strong. Majestic. In control. High and mighty is He!!!

I surrender my gaze to the Lord… for He is worthy of all attention and adoration.

Lord God, thank You for this picture of Yourself. You are majestic, strong, high and mighty. You are the Lord and I bow to You, my God and my Redeemer. Amen.

 

Friday, April 29: Psalm 92- To be with God's people.

A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day. Eight simple words and yet they launched me into meditation.

What a joy it is for me to gather with God’s family and worship. Being part of a group that is praising God in full voice. Gathering with others to bless the Lord and pray for one another and our world. Meeting together to hear God’s Word and encourage one another to love and good deeds in the name of the Lord. Participating in those sacred moments of bread and cup and baptismal waters. Hearing people confess Jesus as Lord and inviting them into God’s family, standing alongside of people in need and lifting up those who have fallen.

Such are the joys of the Lord’s Day and Sabbath and being with God’s people and praising our God for who He is and what He has done and is doing…

The psalmist wonderfully sings:

It is good to praise the LORD

and make music to your name, O Most High,

proclaiming your love in the morning

and your faithfulness at night,

to the music of the ten-stringed lyre

and the melody of the harp.

For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD;

I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

How great are your works, LORD,

how profound your thoughts! (1-5)

And he gives us these lyrics to be sung as God’s people standing together lifting our voices in one voice to the Lord, God, Almighty.

What a joy that is!

I long for Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the day I will stand with God’s family and praise God’s name.

Only two more days and I get to participate again in my weekly ritual of joy, we call worship.

Praise You, Lord God. My God, my Savior, my Lord. It is good to praise You and to make music to Your name, Oh Most High. Halleluiah Amen.

 

Thursday, April 28: Exodus 40- God arrives.

The phrase as the Lord commanded continues eight more times in this morning’s chapter, indicating that Moses set up all the furnishings and consecrated all of the holy things of the tent of meeting, Tabernacle, and outer courts exactly as the Lord directed. The people of Israel had their focal point, their central hub and their place of worship… At this point, Moses finished the work (33). There was nothing more for Moses or Israel to do.

Now what would God do? Would there be a sign setting this place apart?

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (34-35).

I don’t know what the people expected, but I suspect that this was more than they expected.

What a testimony… the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. The Lord God in a visible, palpable presence arrived.

I sat and marveled. The infinite majestic God who created all things allowed a representation of His presence to dwell in a solitary location among His people.

As I typed this last sentence, my thoughts shifted immediately to Jesus who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:15-20).

Israel had the tabernacle, but we Christians have the Son, God in human flesh!

They had the pillar of cloud and fire; we had the living Word of God and we have the indwelling presence of God, the Holy Spirit in us.

I find myself marveling and praising God for being with me, with us. I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone.  God is with us.

Oh my, my heart is pounding at this thought…

Joy… praise… thanksgiving… humility… awe…

Lord, God, my heart is full. You are with us. Your voice echoed among us. You came. You entered. You saved. Blessed be Your name… Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, praise be to You, my God! Halleluiah. Amen.

 

Wednesday, April 27: Exodus 39- As the Lord commanded.

I noticed the 4 words, as the Lord commanded, the first time they appeared, which was in verse 5. Then they showed up in verse 6. By this time my heart was set to notice them.  They appeared another handful of times throughout the chapter, concluding the discussion of each particular item of sacred clothing discussed in this chapter.

As the Lord commanded… those words burrowed into me as I sat this morning with Jesus.

Could that phrase be used to describe how I live? Am I at the Lord’s beckon call? Do I follow through and execute His will down to the smallest detail?

As the Lord commanded… as the Lord commanded… as the Lord commanded…  this thought just kept burrowing deeper and deeper.

I fall so short of this ideal.

Sadness is welling up inside of me… my eyes fill. I see Good Friday and Jesus hanging on the cross to take upon Himself all of my shortfall and sin. Every time I miss the mark and don’t measure up… Jesus paid the debt I incurred. Every time, every sin… paid for by Jesus.

Oh, God, words escape me. I don’t know what to say. All I can reach for and speak is ‘‘Thank You. I surrender to You.’ Amen and amen and amen. 

 

Tuesday, April 26: Exodus 38- The cost.

Again today I was intrigued by the weights of the metals used to make the Tabernacle. In round numbers the Tabernacle and furnishings took 2200 pounds of gold, 6800 pounds of silver and 5000 pounds of bronze. These weights don’t include the weight of lumber, oils, curtains and coverings. The Tabernacle was a formidable movable structure. No wonder the entire Levite tribe was assigned to the care and movement of the Tabernacle. Obviously if everyone played their part, the Tabernacle and tent of meeting were readily constructed, deconstructed and carried as the people moved from location to location.

After trying to imagine the organization necessary to take care of and move all of this, I then became intrigued with the value of the tent and Tabernacle. At $1200/oz the gold would have a present day value of approximately 42 million dollars. The silver would be worth another $1.3million ($15/oz). All told the metals were worth more than $43 million dollars. Then there were gem stones and fabrics and coverings and embroidered cloths, etc.

Honestly, I don’t think we can truly understand the equivalent value, but the calculation shows me that the Tabernacle and tent had great value financially and even more so spiritually. This was the center of their worship and the earthy dwelling place of the Lord God Jehovah. It is understandable that it was made of costly construction. God is worth every penny!

My thoughts flipped and I began to wonder if I put my money into my worship like the Israelites did?

Lord, talk to me, show me how deeply I value You… and whatever the answer, Lord, help me to increase. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Monday, April 25: Exodus 37- Gold everywhere.

I found myself trying to figure out the weight of the gold used on these most sacred items. It was an incredible amount. I wondered how these articles were carried. They must have been heavy. If the lampstand was about 75 pounds, how heavy was the ark with the atonement cover of pure gold and the 2 cherubim of gold as well.

I guess I can’t turn off my engineering trained mind.

I also thought about all the gold… a precious metal for the most precious articles of the Tabernacle. These are the items that are in the room where God’s presence lives and the Lord deserves the best.

Interestingly, even in the desert, Israel is able to construct an ark worthy of the Lord!

And with that last thought my time with the Lord took a turn.  What am I constructing with my life for the Lord? Do I give Him the best or my leftovers? Would I have made the lampstand out of gold (the best of the best I have) or out of bronze (looks pretty good but doesn’t cost as much as if I made it with gold)?

Do I prepare for worship well and give God my heart and soul while in worship or am I distracted and not fully present to the Lord?

Do my offerings cost me or are they cheaper, a replica of sacrificial giving?

When I serve, do I serve with heart and soul giving my best or doing I serve grudgingly?

And so my devotional thoughts went.  Do I give Jesus my best or something less? How about you???

Lord, I know I am filled with mixed motives, good days and not-so-good days… whole-hearted service and half-hearted service. Forgive my less than best times and help me to aspire to greatness in giving and service and love for others and You. This is my prayer, prayed in the name of Jesus, my Lord, Amen.

 

Saturday, April 23: Exodus 36- That the world might know Jesus.

Is faith in the hearing or the doing? The doing, right?! Jesus told the parable about the two sons (Matthew 21-28ff). The father says go and work in the field. The first son says, ‘No’ but then changes his mind and does what the father told him to do. The other son said, “Yes, Dad’ but never bothers to go out to the field to work. Jesus makes the point that the first son was the obedient one.

In today’s chapter, Israel demonstrated her faith in the Lord. People gave liberally. In fact they gave so much Moses had to order them to stop giving! And beyond giving, the people rally to weave, sew, butcher and build all the things God directed them to do to build the tabernacle.

Today’s chapter is an example of faith in action and what can happen when people set to do the things God directs them to do under the direction of the leaders God places over them.

My heart traveled to the church… that today’s church would be as faithful as Israel of Exodus 36. The tabernacle God wants us to build today is a globe where every tribe and nation and language and tongue hears the name of Jesus and where all peoples have an opportunity to put their faith in Jesus.

May this be so in our lifetime… and may you and I labor tirelessly to that end.

Oh, God, empower, stir Your people to do the work You have for us to do, so that Your glory will fill the earth as water covers the sea.

Oh, this I give my life… Halleluiah. Amen.

 

Friday, April 22: Exodus 35- It takes a community.

It takes the whole community to do the work of God. Without the gifts of the people and the work of the people, under the direction of anointed leaders, the tent of meeting and the tabernacle would have never become reality (4-35).

What was true in the dessert of Sinai for the Israelites remains true today for the people of God gathering in their churches around the world.

It takes the whole community to do the work of God. Only through the gifts of the people under the direction of anointed leaders will the work of God be accomplished, the evangelization of every nation, tribe and people in the world.

Are you part of God’s family? Are you laboring for the spread of Jesus’ name worldwide? Are you pulling your weight in your church? Am I?

Think about that…

Lord, show me places I can serve. Open my wallet to give. Use me for the sake of Your Gospel spread across this globe. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Thursday, April 21: Exodus 34- No other God's before me.

       I have been using Operation World daily prayer guides to pray for the countries of the world for a few years now. If you want to help advance the gospel spread around the world through prayer this is an amazingly helpful, too. Check out http://www.operationworld.org.

Today I prayed for Brazil and here is a portion of the prayer need OW identified: Brazil is a spiritually open country, for good and for ill, and is probably more Spiritist than Catholic in underlying worldview. Although “non-religion” is actually the fastest-growing faith group, few of that category would be hardcore atheists. Most follow Afro-Brazilian cults (such as Candombl√©, Macumba, Umbanda) derived from African animism and witchcraft, but “high Spiritism” (Kardecism) is more popular among whites. Only 1.3% identified themselves solely as Spiritist in the census, but around 10 million practice, and even one-third or more Brazilians visit Spiritist priests or guides; many quite happily practice Catholicism and Spiritism together. The ecstatic experiences, flexible practices and emotional mysticism give it great appeal to the Brazilian mindset. Pray for all spiritual falsehoods to be exposed as such and for Christ alone to be exalted as Lord in Brazil; pray for those in actual spiritual bondage to be delivered through Jesus.

What I read about with Brazil and the syncretism of the Christian/Catholic church with the indigenous religions of the area connected, I connected it with God’s Word to Moses in verses 12-17.

Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same. “Do not make any idols (12-17).

When I was first reading these verses I remember thinking, “Wow, God is really strong on this issue.” Then later when I read and prayed for Brazil, I understood why. A mixed faith is really no faith…

Our God is a jealous God. As Jesus said, You cannot serve God and mammon (xx). You cannot serve two gods at the same time.

This obviously drove into me… am I divided? Have any of the gods of my world wormed their way into my life?

How about you???

Lord, create in me a pure heart ,Oh, God, and renew a right spirit in me. See if there is any wicked way in me, and if so, Lord, root it out. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Wednesday, April 20: Exodus 33- Mentoring in the faith.

I found myself wondering about Joshua, Moses’ aid and junior associate. Verse 11 caught my attention, the only mention of Joshua in the chapter.

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

It seems that unless he was out on an assignment where Moses went, Joshua went. The verse above also indicates that Joshua accompanied Moses into the tent of meeting where Moses met and spoke with the Lord.

What caught my eye was the comment that when Moses left the tent to return to the camp, his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. The ‘did not leave’ seems to say that Joshua was there in the tent with Moses.

Did Joshua observe or listen in on Moses’ conversations with the Lord? I pondered this. If Joshua did, he gained a unique understanding of Moses. He heard the conversations between Moses and God, thus he knew precisely what God said. He then got to watch and observe Moses as he took God’s Words and brought them to the people. What a lesson of integrity that would have been! The views into Moses’ heart would have been extraordinary.

·         He would have heard Moses’ complaints to the Lord about the people and God’s responses.

·         He would have heard Moses’ arguments with the Lord on behalf of the people.

·         He would have watched and listened to how faithfully Moses conveyed God’s Words to the people.

·         He would know when and if Moses cut corners and his humanity and sinfulness prevailed.

·         If he saw all this, Joshua was never the source of a leak; he never once spoke of it!

It is little wonder that Joshua will eventually replace Moses as leader of Israel. He had shown himself faithful in many ways. He never disobeyed an order or discussed private details of God’s and Moses’ conversations. Plus he got to observe how a person connects and communicates with the Lord faithfully and honorably.

I began to think about the different people who have mentored me in my walk with Jesus, directly and indirectly. What a gift they have been… how much I have learned from them.

Next I wondered if I am faithfully mentoring others in their walk with the Lord. Hmmm...

Lord Jesus, Father and Spirit, thank You for every mentor You have brought into my life. Those who have lingered for years and those who have only walked with me a brief time. Each of these have helped form me into a disciple of Yours.

Please bless these people. Make Your face to shine upon them and give them Your peace.

I also ask and pray that I may be an apt mentor to others. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Tuesday, April 19: Exodus 32- Standing with the Lord.

Reading the account of the golden calf, my heart sank. Oh, how sin destroys our connections with God. And how sin breeds sin… the calf, the lying, the revelry. How the Lord’s heart must have broken.

What I saw in the account this morning was more than Israel’s sin. I saw in this account a double event. It seems as if it was also a test for Moses. How would Moses react? Was he a God-honoring leader? I saw the heart of Moses emerge in this account.

Right out of the gate, as the corruption of Israel first comes to light, Moses’ heart for the Lord, the people, and his firm understanding of God’s Word shines brightly. And Moses speaks his piece respectfully and strongly to the Lord:

LORD, why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever’ ” (11-13).

Listening to these words, Moses exposes his heart which is tuned to the Lord. God’s honor throughout the world was paramount. Moses’ reaction was not driven by self, but by love for God, God’s Word and God’s people.

The Lord relents.

When Moses goes down the mountain and sees the corruption first hand we see his heart again. We read: When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it (19-20).

Righteous anger flares up in Moses. Discipline pours forth from Moses. Again Moses aptly stood in for the Lord and preserved God’s righteousness and God’s honor.

Moses, I would say, passed God’s integrity test.

What I just wrote launched my personalization of the text as I sat with the Lord.

Do I pass God’s integrity tests as they come up in my life? Do I honor the Lord as I live my day and APPROPRIATELY speak up when I have a voice? I emphasized the word ‘appropriately’ because I do not have the authority or the position to speak up every time a situation of sin or anti-God activity occurs. Sometimes the God-honoring thing to do is to hold my tongue and pray silently. But there are times when I should speak up and speak out in a manner that honors the Lord.

As I think about this I realize that both the words and the manner I use are important when I speak on God’s behalf. Moses had a straightforward reverence when he spoke with the Lord and a fierce confrontation with the people who were running amok. By the way, Moses is never disciplined for breaking the stone tablets. His fiery outburst apparently came from a God-honoring heart!

Turning back to myself, God is asking me, will I stand with Him as I live my life? Will I represent Him in content, manner and character as I live my life?

Will you?

Lord, I have not been tested and proved like Moses. Nor have I the importance of call that Moses had, but in my circle of influence, I pray, Lord, that I will have the courage and strength to stand for You in any and every situation appropriate to me and my position. Oh, Lord, that my life honors You 24/7/365.

Praise be to Yo,u Father, Jesus and Spirit. It is to You that I pray. Amen and amen

 

Monday, April 18: Exodus 31- Sabbath.

Why is sabbathing so hard? Why do people of all ages struggle to enjoy Sabbath, a day of rest, relationships and worship? Why is this so hard for us? Why is it so hard for me? Why? Why? Why?

I wish I knew the answer to this question.

When it comes to work, unions and people of all stripes have negotiated for 2 day weekends. We want time off. We long for time off. So why do we struggle when God says,“Take a day for nothing, a day to rest, recreate and worship?”

The commandments, I suggested back a week or so ago, are guardrails for life. One of those guardrails is Sabbath. I wonder why I (we) struggle so with having to take a day a week?

Is it because we are unsure we have enough so we want to work, work, work?

Is it because we don’t want anyone to tell us anything, even take a day off?

I admit I struggle and I am not sure why I struggle.  I understand less why people in general struggle with this.

I do know that when I do Sabbath, I feel better and my key relationships are stronger because I have taken that day to connect. And certainly my walk with the Lord is stronger when I take time to be with Him and the people of God one day in seven.

So even though it is a Monday, I am thinking about Sabbath… and the blessing that Sabbath is. Now I need to pray that the Lord will help me understand better and enjoy Sabbath weekly.

Lord, help me Sabbath. Help me see the gift that one day in seven is. Open my eyes to the gift Sabbath. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Saturday, April 16: Exodus 30- .

I noticed that the last two items: the anointing oil and the incense, were only to be used in the service of the Lord. And anyone who made a similar product for any other use was to be cut off from the people. A very harsh punishment. Clearly the Lord is serious that these two products were exclusively for use at the Tabernacle and only for the expressed purposes that were directed!

God being God has the right to demand whatever He wants from us, no questions asked. These two products are used in most holy rituals of anointing and as a fragrance offering that is always before the Lord. They are exclusively used in the holy worship of God. No generics… it is the same recipe and no copying.

I thought about medications that have a copyright, no one is allowed to make a generic version for a legislated number of years. But with Tabernacle items it is a forever copyright, one God takes very seriously.

This is the same exclusivity that God expects of us with regard to worship of Him. The Lord expects that we will serve Him and Him alone.

God allows no room for other gods; the first commandment, I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7).

God expects exclusive devotion to Him.  As I move toward prayer, I sense a need to examine my life to see if I am inviting any other gods into my life. Am I trusting in anything, in addition to the Lord? Do I listen to any other voices when I make decisions, in addition to the Lord?... And so the questions go as I probe my life...

Lord, show me where I entertain other gods or voices that are contrary and additional to Your voice. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, April 15: Exodus 29- Blood everywhere.

As I read the ordination ritual all I could see was blood everywhere. I thought of the meticulously made priestly garments getting sprinkled with blood and oil. I thought of Aaron and his sons with their hands on an animal’s head, and then the animal being slaughtered by having its neck cut… blood everywhere. Did more splatter on the ordination clothing? I tried to picture blood being put on ear lobes, thumbs and big toes. What was it like to feel the warm animal blood being ritually applied?

In our sanitized world every one of these images and rituals is completely foreign to me. I’ve never gutted an animal or had blood splattered on me except from my own injuries.

Beyond the acts themselves is the symbolism. Hand on the animal as it was slaughtered… killed for your sins. Your sins transferred to the animal who pays the price for you. And with this thought, I traveled millennia across time to Jesus hanging on the cross. Jesus, the son of God, taking on my sins and the sins of the world; bearing my sin (our sin) and paying the penalty I (we) deserve. Without the shedding of blood, the writer of Hebrews pens, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).

Today’s reading is a graphic representation of the importance the shedding of blood is.  And…Jesus shed his blood for me and you...

Jesus… his name is Jesus…

Jesus… his name is Jesus…

He is high and lifted up and all the world will know his name.

Jesus… his name is Jesus.

Oh, Jesus, I worship and adore You. Oh, Father, thank You for the pain of separation You endured to send Jesus to us for those 33 years and those 6 hours of agony and those days in the tomb. Thank You, Father. Thank You, Holy Spirit for opening my eyes to see the wonder of Jesus. He is high and lifted up and all the world will know His name.

May this be so and may my life help take Your name, Oh, God, throughout this world. Amen and Amen.

 

Thursday, April 14: Exodus 28- Love God and neighbor.

The first thing I thought as I read the text was how did Israel have the ability to make all of this? Where did they get the tools to weave fabric, and spin yarn, even yarn of gold? What did they use to die the yarn? And what about the needles to sew or the tools to engrave stones? The two onyx stones of verse 9 had six names engraved on each. This requires either large stones or fine engraving work and since they were worn on the shoulders, my hunch is that it was fine engraving work.

After being amazed by all this, I was caught by some of the symbolism.  For example, the design of the breastplate with the 12 stones representing the 12 sons of Israel worn over the priest’s heart (29). Every time the priest enters to work before the Lord, he carried all Israel close to his heart as a constant reminder that he stands before the Lord on behalf of Israel. What a picture!

And then, there is the seal on the turban engraved with the words, Holy To The Lord (36), worn on the forehead when ministering.  This was a constant reminder to the priest of his sacred duty. Another incredible picture.

I thought how apt this symbolism is for me and all Christ-followers. Our lives, too, are to be lived Holy To The Lord.  We should keep all God’s family near our heart as well… love the Lord Your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

Lord, God, as I venture out into today, help me to keep these two truths in the forefront of my living so that my life might please you. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, April 13: Exodus 27- Respecting God.

I confess that reading the details of building the tabernacle is growing wearisome for me. So after I read, I sat with the text before me and sought something from the account to ponder. The closing paragraph, and particularly the imagery of Aaron and sons keeping the lamp burning within the tent of meeting outside the Ark of Covenant, drew me in.

Why, I wondered was this so important?

Why must the lights be ‘kept on’ every night?

The text is silent about ‘the why’… so I wondered and thought. What did this communicate? What did this say about God or the way we are to treat God and God’s things?

Slowly the idea emerged… God is to be tended to day and night. God is never gone, and so His people are to keep the signs of life ‘burning’ before Him.

When a neighbor’s house is dark, I think no one is home. When I go away, when neighbors go away, we leave lights on so the house looks ‘lived in.’ God’s ‘house’ the tabernacle must look lived in, because it is. God is always present and we must treat it so.

Keeping the lights lit is a sign of respect, of honor, of importance...

How can I (we) show the Lord respect, honor and importance today?? This question startled me, but also challenged me. How do I?

My daily times in God’s Word and prayer…

My weekly times of corporate worship, gathering with others who believe and saying by my presence, ‘Lord, You are important to me.’

It is giving sacrificially to causes that honor the Lord; taking of what I have and giving it to the Lord’s work; and honoring other people, treating them with the dignity that being made in the image of God deserves, even when their actions and words are far less that God’s image in us deserves.

I guess it comes down to seeking to love neighbor and God… this is how we honor, respect and show the importance of the Lord.

Thank You, Lord, for this journey with You today. My musings surprise me since the reading didn’t grab me at first. How wonderful You are, drawing me into a space that surprised me.

Lord, I pray that my life will show my respect for You, my honor of You and the importance You are in my life and for the world which You have made. Bless You, Lord, God. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Tuesday, April 12: Exodus 26- Playing my part.

The elaborate detail continues even for the tent in which the Ark of the Covenant will be placed.

I found myself wondering about how many people it took to make this movable tabernacle… carpenters, metal workers, tailors, people to shear the animals. Someone had to make the threads to stitch the cloth and others had to dye the cloth. People had to make the forges to forge the metal.  Did they bring the tools for all this work or did someone have to make them? There was wood for the fires and the acacia wood for all the frames and parts; this had to be harvested. Were there people to clean up? And there were supporting crews who do the grunt work for the skilled people to do their work. Then there would need to be some oversight, people managing this or that portion of the work. This was a massive undertaking for people living in the unfamiliar dessert.

The work of God requires the people of God!

That’s it… that was my ‘God moment’ this morning.

To be successful at the things or callings of God, the people of God have to pool resources and talents to make it happen. The NT writers refer to a body (see 1Cororinthians 12) to explain how it works. Here in the dessert, at the base of Mt Sinai, a manufacturing image tells the same story.

Fast forward to today, it still takes the people of God to accomplish the work of God.

Am I playing my part in God’s church? Are You? Think about it…

Oh, Lord, I lay my talents, gifts, time, resources at Your feet. Use me, as you desire, to be part of Your team and Your body to accomplish in this world the spreading of Your name across the globe so that every people, language, nation and tribe has the opportunity to put their faith in You. In Jesus’ name and for the glory of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

 

Monday, April 11: Exodus 25- Exacting detail.

The value of the offering and exacting detail of the Ark caught my attention as I read this morning. God has been laying out the rules for His new people, but the detail ratchets up a number of notches when the Lord prescribes the construction of the sacred Ark.

I found myself pondering this observation…

My sense is that the detail has to do with the immensity, perfection and glory of God. Humanity’s connection with God was of the utmost importance. And God being God could not be treated and worshipped in any old manner… everything connected with the Lord had to match God’s prominence and perfection. These exacting directions mirror the perfection and honor of God.

The ark wasn’t simply made out of acacia wood; it was to be overlaid with pure gold. It was costly. It was magnificent. It shone in brilliance, inside and out. Every detail communicated its importance.

I found myself thinking about the rings and poles, again overlaid with pure gold. I know the story; the poles are for carrying the Ark. No human hands are to touch the Ark after it is commissioned. Absolute respect and honor for the seat of God in the midst of His people!!!

And on the Ark cover stands two cherubim. Cherubim. Cherubim are angelic beings, they stand guard over Eden (Gen 3:24) and if Revelation 4:6-9 are cherubim, then they are constantly praising and glorifying God in heaven. These cherubim stand as protectors of the Ark even as their presence emphasizes the glory of God. 

Our great God, THE God of all creation warrants an Ark with this detail and glory.

At this point I placed my head in my hands and was overwhelmed by the glory of God… the God of the Scriptures… The Father God, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit… three persons One God. Oh, the glory and the wonder of our God.

My ponderings morphed naturally into to praise…

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who is and was and is to come.

God in the heavens. God over all. Matchless, invisible, the God only wise. Creator. Savior. Lord of Glory.

I fall and praise You, Lord God Almighty… I sing Your praises. I glory in Your name. To You all honor and glory belong. Amen and Amen.

 

Saturday, April 9: Exodus 24- Words are easy.

Standing by the mountain, with the awe of God all around them, Moses told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do (3). Then Moses writes down the law and the next day among pageantry and sacrifice Moses took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “we will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey (7).

Twice now in the span of 24 hours the people have said “Yes, we will do everything the Lord says.”

Words, especially in highly charged spiritual moments, are easily spoken compared to the faithfulness of honoring and keeping those words.

Big name evangelists like Billy Graham and Louis Palau understand this and put vast energy into creating a follow up plan so that people who come forward in the moment are connected to a local church where faithfulness to their ‘decision’ can be lived into.

The words of a song we used to sing come to mind: Faithfulness, faithfulness is what we long for…

This is so true. Momentary words of devotion are nothing compared to faithfulness in day-to-day, year-to-year living!!!

As these thoughts roll around my head, God, as he invariably does, turns the words and directs them to me.

Am I faithful to the words and commitments I have spoken to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Israel’s life will never match the devotion they spoke in this chapter. Can I do better? I have no illusion that I will be perfect in my devotion. I fail regularly. I am so thankful that when I fail, Jesus is standing there offering me forgiveness.

But I dare not take forgiveness for granted.  God calls you and me and all who will follow Jesus to a life of devotion, service, love and even sacrifice. Will I walk with Jesus? Will I carry my cross? Will I live for Him instead of self?

How about You?...

Oh, God, I am hearing You call me to deeper faithfulness. Oh, God, help me do more than say ‘Yes’. Help me to live ‘Yes’ every day, every year, every decade I have before my body wears out and I am summoned home to be with You for eternity. In Jesus’ name and for the sake of Your kingdom. Amen.

 

Friday, April 8: Exodus 23- False gods.

As the Lord sets up His people, it is important to Him that people be treated fairly. In verse 9 God gives the example that Israel is not to oppress foreigners, because Israel were foreigners in Egypt. And yet, even as the Lord places this responsibility upon His people, God is adamant that Israel beware of foreign gods.

“Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. ... Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. ... Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods.  Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you”(13, 24, 32-33).

The Lord is a jealous God allowing NO room for competitors. And while our situation may be different, I hear the Lord warning about being ensnared by the gods of the land I live in.

In my country, one of the gods is the god of money, success and the lessor gods of pride and success that accompany the main ones. It is so easy to be seduced by money and success. Their trappings are everywhere… clothes, fashion, houses, cars, vacations, toys, schools… and on and on it goes. Seducing us from dropping our eyes from the Lord and placing them on something else.

I know a fellow who is looking for work and he is interviewing with companies across the US. I have lived in some of the areas and know people in others. Interesting how the gods of money and success can drape themselves in different attributes in different parts of the country.

In New York, for example, success often comes at the cost of family, long hours commuting into the city. California has the seduction of weather and play, that coupled with success, keeps people from the people of God. Foreign gods in my culture are subtle, conniving gods who seduce people with niceties away from the Lord.

The warning about foreign gods has my antenna up…

Lord, help me be appropriately aware of any gods who are working to steal me away from You. I place my heart, soul, mind and strength in Your hands, Oh Lord. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Thursday, April 7: Exodus 22- Restitution.

Reading through the various laws described in today’s chapter, the word ‘restitution’ appears over and over again. And it seems if I understand things correctly, that ‘restitution’ involves making the offended party whole plus some additional for what I would call a penalty, which seems to be at least paying double (4).

There seems to be wisdom in this system. Restitution seems to have a double benefit. The offended person gets back what was stolen plus something for their trouble. And the offending party feels the pain of what they did.

In our day we toss people in jail, which does incarcerate the offender but the offended person may still be out whatever was stolen.

Justice in the OT works for both parties.

There are so many issues that need to be addressed when establishing a people.

Stepping back. God suggests that making the offended party whole, as best as possible, is important. As I consider my own sins, it is one thing to be forgiven by the Lord… thank You, Jesus. However, another element all together is making the person I hurt or offended whole. Pondering this puts another layer of responsibility on me as a sinner.

I love that God forgives… but sometimes that truth allows me to forget about the person I hurt. The idea of restitution does not allow me to look past the other person…

Hmmm, I have some thinking and chewing on this to do…

Gracious God, thank you for forgiving me. But even as I write this, help me to consider the person I hurt or offended and whisper how I can restore them for what I have done. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Wednesday, April 6: Exodus 21- Laws and rules frame a society.

Rules give society boundaries, protect the weak and provide order. The Lord is establishing Israel as a people, a nation and as such there must be rules that define the nation. This is what we are reading… the rules for Israel as a nation.

I admit I do not understand all the rules. Some make sense and some feel foreign to me. I also do not know what the general practice back in that day was with regard to national laws. My limited knowledge of the ancients informs me that whoever had the big stick made the rules. Whatever the bully wanted he got until a bigger bully came along. Eye for an eye actually moderated the acceptable penalties of the day.

I cringe at the slave laws, but again these laws apparently moderated the understanding of what a master could do to a slave in the day. It still makes me cringe, but life changes in increments, not all at once.

One thing I do know is that for me as a Christ-follower, NT understanding of things supersedes any OT law. And a rule or law not carried into the NT –like dietary laws for instance- are not binding on me.

So I sit and ponder what these laws say about the community God is establishing… that there is rule and law. And life is much more sensible and honoring of life than it was prior to these laws.

I also think how hard it is to obey any law and how much I need a savior, which leads me to thank Jesus for being my Lord, and my God, and my Savior.

Thank You, Jesus, for Your love poured out on the cross and Your teachings on life and value of others. Praise to You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

 

Tuesday, April 5: Exodus 20- Guardrails, dividers and lane markings.

I have driven on some pretty treacherous roads in my life. Narrow, winding, curving, steep mountain roads, with switchbacks and murderous drop-offs on the edge. I never once disliked a guardrail protecting me from the drop off.

I have driven 1000s upon 1000s of highway miles, too. I have driven them in metro areas and in the flat open country of the US west. I have even driven highways internationally. Particularly in busy areas I have never thought ill of center dividers that separate the lanes of on-coming traffic. In fact, overseas there are times I have wished for them. I get nervous when the car I am in is driving 120kph or more on winding highways without passing lanes.  You crest a dip and there is an oncoming car in your lane passing someone or simply driving in the middle of the roadway. As I swerve to save my life, I have wished for center dividers.

Even lane markers are a given. Driving home from an airport early one morning, the fog was so thick I crept along at maybe 15mph on a highway hugging the reflective lane markers because I could barely see 5 maybe 10 feet in front of my car. Without those lane markers I would have had no bearings at all. And in Lagos, Nigeria, I longed for lane markers and people who would have obeyed them. Rush hour hit as I was driving to catch a flight. The highway was wide enough for about 3 lanes; there were no lane stripping or dashed lines, so it was up for interpretation. As traffic bulged so did the number of lanes, at one point there were at least 6. I mean cars were scraping rear view mirrors and if there was the tiniest space someone tried to squeeze into it. It was a mess, people were aggressive and GRIDLOCK only got worse as people tried to create more lanes so THEY could get through. I missed my flight and got to do it all over again the next morning! Ugh.

Why these driving discourses? Because… as I have matured I have seen a change in my understanding of the 10 commandments. I no longer view them as fun-crushing rules I have to follow. Instead I see them a God’s gracious guardrails, median barriers and lane markers for life. They are the ‘rules of the road’ to insure safe travel through life.

Imagine a world where truth telling was a given! It is presidential campaign season, imagine how quiet and tame the airwaves would be if candidates only told the truth and only made promises they knew, or at least really thought, they could actually keep! Imagine a trial system where perjury was unnecessary and telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth was a given.

I know the commandments can be hard to keep… I’m sure I have broken everyone just like I have drifted out of my lane and even shared the same space with a center median. None of these are good things.

This morning I am giving thanks for God’s commandments, guardrails, medians or line markers… because they have been given to me and the world to make our journey safer and more pleasurable.

And when I break one, I am thankful that Jesus forgives me when I confess it and seek His forgiveness. And I am also thankful that the Lord gives me strength to forgive others when they stray into my lane.

Thank You, Lord, for providing these rules of the road. You are a good and wonderful God and I will serve You and love You all the days of my life. Amen and amen. 

 

 

Monday, April 4: Exodus 19- Holiness .

As I read this passage and watched how God guarded the people from coming into His presence, I was overtaken by the holiness and the otherness of God. God is so perfect that just to attempt to be in His presence is worthy of death. An apt punishment since barging into His presence will cause us –mere humans- to die.

Mt Sinai renewed my awe for the Lord and reminded me about the sanctity of reverence for God.

In my modern world there is a rush to make God approachable, knowable and personal. Scripture reveals God to be like this particularly in the person of Jesus Christ. But what I am realizing is that we cannot chase after the approachableness and personal-ness of God if it means losing sight of God’s majesty and holiness and total otherness.

In the pursuit of God it is never either-or but always both-and. The Lord is both indescribably majestic and holy and approachably personal. God holds the world and all eternity in His hand and is present with us every moment. God deserves absolute worship and yet allows us to choose to follow Him or not.

Today I allowed my mind and thoughts to explode with God… trying to comprehend as best my feeble mind can, the wonders of our God. God who created ALL THINGS, and who entered humanity fully in JESUS. God, Who is the perfect judge of ALL THINGS and the One who paid humanity’s sin price in Jesus on the cross, only asks that we believe in Jesus. God, Who is above or beyond time yet He entered time to meet Moses.

And so my thoughts coursed from wondering and thinking about the holy and perfect God, who has revealed Himself to me in Jesus, the living Word, and His inspired Word in Scripture

All glory laud and honor to the Redeemer King…

God You are high and lifted up and Your train fills the temple.

Blessed be Your name, Oh, God, my Rock and my Redeemer… Amen.

 

Saturday, April 2: Exodus 18- Wise words.

Blessed is the person who has others who can speak wisdom into their lives.

Today we read about Moses’ father-in-law coming to Moses in the desert. After a night of hospitality Jethro sees the extreme burden of ministry upon Moses in the morning and imparts some much needed advice. This account sparked memories of tremendous advice that friends, confidants and advisors have given to me over the years.

To go through life alone is a sad journey. To have trusted allies speak truth into your life is a joy and gift.

I think of the professor, I mentioned awhile back, who gave me the single best piece of advice I have ever received. I think of my wife who loves me, whose words have wisely counseled me too many times to number. I see the faces of many people who have at times spoken godly wisdom into my life. I am blessed. Their words have helped keep me true to Jesus, discern God’s direction when I was unsure, and blessed me over and over again.

Moses lived with Jethro and his family for 40 years. I wonder what it was like and whether Jethro had other words of wisdom that never found their way into the Scriptures.

I hope and pray that every reader has people of godly character who can speak into your life. I do and I am blessed because of it.

As my musings close for today, I am feeling the impulse to thank God for the many ‘Jethros’ God has placed in my life, people who have helped shape me into the disciple of Jesus I have grown to be…

Lord, thank You for the many people You have brought into my life who have steered me closer to You. Thank You for their time, words, care, love, counsel and trust. Thank You for the times they have corrected me and thank You for the times they have steered me. Thank You, Lord, for the brothers and sisters You have given me who have enriched my life in so many ways. And thank You for Your Holy Spirit who is always there with me, guiding and speaking to me. Bless You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Friday, April 1: Exodus 17- God is steady in His love.

Two stories from the desert dominate this chapter.

First, Israel quarrels with Moses and whines against God because they were thirsty and had no water.

It hit me as I read this passage how human the Israelites are. When I am in pain or am hungry/thirsty or emotionally down, I do not function at my best. I am more irritable, selfish, whiny etc. My observation is that this is generally true for most of us humans.

This is not an excuse for the Israelites and their faithless actions, but it does offer a bit of human insight into their actions.

God absorbs their sinfulness, and directs Moses to an action that miraculously brings water from a rock. Moses then names the place Massah and Meribah, memorializing their faithlessness and quarreling, providing a life-lesson for Israel.

The next story is the attack of the Amalekites and God’s defense of Israel. As Joshua fights Moses lifts his hands, likely as a sign of prayer. When his hands are up Joshua wins, down and they lose. So as the fight grows long two men help Moses keep his hands in the air and Israel ultimately wins.

This part of the story reminds me how much we need friends and companions and helpers to stay faithful. Also, how we all need to do our part for the group to succeed… some fought, some prayed, some helped and encouraged.

As my reading came to an end I had an overarching thought. God is faithful. He gave water from the rock and victory in battle. And the Lord didn’t hold a grudge from one event to the next.

This last thought brought me great comfort. I am not consistent in my faithfulness. Some days I am more or less faithful than others. And yet the Lord is consistently faithful. He is always there for me. He doesn't play passive aggressive games; He is steady in His love and care!

This thought brought great comfort to me this morning. I serve, very imperfectly, an incredible loving, caring, faithful God. And my heart warmed and praises flowed at this thought.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghosts. Amen and amen.