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Category: Exodus

A generous & willing heart

After meeting with the Lord and receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses assembled all the congregation of Israel and relayed to them all that the Lord had commanded them to do. This included the request to take a contribution for both the materials and the skilled labor required to build the tabernacle.

“Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: …”
Exodus 35:5

“Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded: …”
Exodus 35:10

A few things that stood out to me as I read through this account in Exodus 35.

  • Proclaim not persuade – sometimes we can be a little too concerned with addressing the entire congregation with a particular message because we know that what we say may only apply to a select few. I like how Moses didn’t seem to worry about that but rather was simply obedient to proclaim God’s message. He broadcasted to all the people and allowed the Spirit to do the work of persuading and encouraging the people to respond.
  • No condemnation – although Moses broadcasted the message to the entire congregation, and in particular to those with a “generous heart”, there was no guilt trip. Those who didn’t feel moved to act were not put on blast and made to feel any less than those who gave. Again, the command and need was made known and it was then the Spirit’s job to work in the hearts of the people.
  • It’s a matter of the heart – and speaking of the Spirit working in the hearts of the people, it really is never about the gift as much as it’s about the heart that motivates the giving.

Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart …
Exodus 35:20-22

My prayer is that I would have a willing and generous heart. I pray that my heart is willing and generous because it has a full understanding and appreciation for the fact that it was first loved by God even while it was still sinful. I pray that the Spirit will move me toward generosity and that anything I give will be because I first received it from the Lord. I pray that I will worship the Lord with a full heart.

God Promises Deliverance to Israel

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’”
Exodus 6:6-8

What an awesome, loving, faithful, powerful, steadfast, covenantal God.

As a man speaks to his friend

Moses, Egypt, burning bush, miracles, plagues, Passover, Red Sea, wandering, grumbling, promises, commandments, covenant. These are words that typically come to mind when I think about the book of Exodus. The last couple of days of reading through Exodus has had me thinking of a different word – relationship.

In chapter 33, there is the tent of meeting. This is a place that is set up far outside the camp of the Israelites. It’s probably a quiet place that is away from the distractions of the day-to-day hustle and bustle of life in camp. It was a place that was set up specifically for the people to go and seek the Lord. And surely, it was a special place for Moses. In fact, in Exodus 33:11 it says that the tent of meeting was a place where,

“the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”

A place where Moses and the LORD could meet face to face. A place where God talked to Moses just like a man would speak to his friend. This reminds me of Jesus addressing His disciples in John 15:15 when He says,

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

And then, in Exodus 34:29, we see that,

“Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.”

Moses’ face shone because he had been talking with God. Moses was transformed through his time talking with God. By being exposed to God’s glory.

Let’s recap; Moses had a special place set aside where he could experience regular fellowship with God. Moses spent time talking with God. Through that time, God the Father revealed things to Moses similar to how a man would speak to his friend. The result of Moses spending time talking with God is that he was transformed and radiated the glory of God such that others could recognize that he had been in the presence of the most high God.

Is this type of fellowship, intimacy, and relationship available to us? Could it possibly be that if we spend time with Jesus that He will make known to us all that He has heard from His Father and in so doing, consider us His friend? Is it possible that by spending time talking with God that we might somehow be changed in such a way that people around us can notice a difference? Is it worth finding out?

As I consider these things, the Holy Spirit brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s teaching to the believers in Corinth when he said,

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3 ESV)

Amen.

Steady hands

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. (Exodus 17:8-12 ESV)

The above referenced passage is from my reading in Exodus 17 this morning. Whenever I read this account, I always picture Moses up on top of the hill, looking somewhat like the conductor of an orchestra except instead of a baton, he uses a staff. The activity on the battlefield responds to his staff just like an orchestra responds to the baton of a conductor. And, just like a conductor must defer to the composer of the music for how beautiful the music sounds so must Moses defer to the will of the sovereign Lord for how things actually play out. This whole scene causes me to consider a few things in particular.

The Staff – this is the very same staff that Moses used to carry around and use during his time of tending his father-in-law’s flock in Horeb before he met God in the burning bush. There is a connection to his past, before he was called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. It is the very same staff that God used to demonstrate His power and mighty acts to Moses, the Israelites, and to Pharaoh. The same staff that turned into a snake, the same staff that turned water into blood, the same staff that caused an overflow of frogs to come up out of the Nile, the same staff that struck the dust of the earth and caused gnats to rise up, the same staff that parted the Red Sea, and the same staff that caused water to flow from a rock. So, for all intents and purposes, this staff has come to symbolize the Lord’s deliverance for His people. And now, as they are fighting against Amalek, their success seems to be dependent on whether it is raised high or lowered toward the ground.

Moses’  Hands – at first glance, it may seem as though the Israelite victory is dependent on Moses’ ability because as long as he keeps his hands up, they are winning. But what we see that it is a demonstration of Moses’ weakness and God’s strength. It wasn’t so much dependent on Moses as it was evidence that God was continuing to work His deliverance through Moses (despite Moses’ weakness). The victory was dependent on the staff (symbolizing God and His deliverance) being raised high, not necessarily Moses’ hands.

Intercession – Aaron and Hur provide a great example for us here. When they notice that Moses is getting weak and weary, they step in to help. They don’t help by telling Moses to step aside and grabbing the staff themselves. No, they respect the fact that God has called Moses and has chosen to work through Moses. Instead, they support Moses in his calling. They prevent him from stumbling by giving him a firm place to sit. They each take and arm to prop up so that Moses’ hands will stay raised and so that Israel will continue to be victorious. They steadied his hands. I imagine it probably ended up making Aaron and Hur weak and weary as well since it says that they steadied Moses’ hands until the going down of the sun. They helped Moses bear his burden.

So, here’s what’s on my mind this morning as I consider this and think through what I might take away from this.

  • God has called me and can/will use what I have (talents, gifts, skills, abilities, weaknesses, possessions, etc.) at the time of His calling to bring Him glory. And, if there is anything that I lack that might hold me back from doing His will, He will provide it as He deems appropriate and in His due time.
  • God will equip me with whatever I need to obediently respond to His calling and He will continually remind me that I am to be faithful to His task and He will be responsible for the outcome. He had not called me to be successful but rather, obedient. It is in my weakness that God will reveal His strength. Anything that I accomplish in His name and for His glory will not be by might, nor by power but by His Spirit. At all times, I will lift God’s name high and seek to serve in humility (and obscurity if necessary).
  • I need to be available and faithful to come alongside my brothers-in-Christ, stand in the gap, and steady their hands if necessary. Likewise, I need to foster relationships with others that might do the same for me and, in humility, be willing to let them do so.

God bless and remember; the battle belongs to the Lord.

Armchair spirituality

Have you ever noticed that it is easy to read the Bible from the relative comfort and safety of your chair at home and it doesn’t take long before you find something at which you begin to shake your head. Whether it’s the prideful, haughty, and arrogant behavior of the Pharisees, the slow to comprehend disciples, the brash and impetuous Peter, or the churches that Jesus calls out in the book of Revelation, there is always something where you say to yourself, “who do these guys think they are” or “why don’t these guys get it” or “what was he thinking” or “man, I’m glad I’m not like them”. And, then after thinking these thoughts I wonder how I can feel so comfortable when I have a plank sticking out of my eye. But alas, I caught myself starting to shake my head again this morning as I read in Exodus 15:22-16:36.

As is usually the case, I have a whole lot more that I would like to say than I have time to say it. That’s the problem with choosing to sleep in a little bit and then getting caught up in all the headlines of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. So if I have to pick just one thing to hone in on and shake my head at, it will be this; the Israelites are grumbling and worried about what they are going to drink.

Why does this cause me to shake my head? Mostly because of what was previously recorded in the first 21 verses of Exodus 15 which was in direct response to what happened in Exodus 14. They have been in captivity for many years, subjected to hard and unforgiving labor at the hands of the Egyptians. Through the mighty acts and mercy of God, Pharaoh has released them to go worship their God. God’s presence was with them and leading them through the desert by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.But now, Pharaoh and the entire Egyptian army is in pursuit and closing in fast. After being hemmed in with the impassable Red Sea ahead and the Egyptians behind, God displays His omnipotent and sovereign nature as He causes the sea to open so that the Israelites can safely pass through to the other side. And, as if that’s not enough, He further demonstrates His power by closing the waters over the pursuing Egyptians, thus delivering them to safety. And now, after witnessing and living through that, and after spending the first 21 verses of Exodus 15 singing praises to God for delivering them, they are worried about a drink of water. Sorry folks, but you can cue the head shake for me right here. But as I consider what’s really going on here, I have reason to cease all head shaking.

So why, after getting all riled up about the Israelites, do I come to a point where I humbly stop shaking my head? Because am I really so different? Despite the fact that I have trusted in the Lord for my salvation, there are still times where I worry about my daily bread? Despite the fact that God has revealed Himself as faithful time and time again, there are still times where I doubt His goodness. Despite the fact that I trust and desire that His will be done, there are still times where I am anxious.

At it’s core, is this really any different than watching God part the Red Sea and devouring your enemies only to then worry about how you will satisfy your thirst? You see, when I read this passage of scripture, my first thought is, “you saw what He did for you and how He delivered you from the Egyptians. Do you really think He would do that only to let you die of thirst?”. And then to myself I could say, “you saw what He did for you on the cross in order that you might receive forgiveness for your sins and enjoy eternal life in the presence of God the Father. Do you really think He would do that only to let you struggle in the mire of fear, doubt, worry, and anxiety?”

Today, instead of shaking my head at the grumbling of the Israelites, I’m going to:

  • ask the Lord to examine my heart (Psalm 139:23)
  • take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5)
  • let perfect Love drive out fear (1 John 4:18)
  • not worry about what I will eat, drink, or wear (Matthew 6:25)
  • not be anxious about anything but instead, let my requests be known to God (Philippians 4:6)
  • ask God to provide me with my daily bread – no less, no more (Proverbs 30:8b)
  • give thanks and praise to God and bless His name (Psalm 100)

 

Cloud and Fire

“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.” (Exodus 13:21-22 ESV)

As  usual, I really enjoyed my time in the Word today, I just don’t have much time to jot down my thoughts. So, instead I thought I would share a few things that rattled around in my head while I was considering the verses referenced above. Specifically, how God used the pillars of cloud and fire and what purpose they served (at least as observed and understood by my finite eyes and brain).

  • They revealed His presence – The pillars were not just a means of wayfinding for the people as they made their way through the wilderness. God used the forms of the cloud and fire to reveal His presence to, and among, the Israelites.
  • They were visible no matter the circumstances – notice that the Lord provided the pillar of cloud to lead them during the day and the pillar of fire to lead them at night. God has made provision for His people that no matter the situation, they may know that the Lord is with them. That He will never leave them nor forsake them. God’s glory was revealed and His presence made known at all times.
  • They lead the people along the way – For some reason I think about the comparison to how Joseph probably made his way into Egypt and how he was probably driven forward with his captors behind him, pushing him along and making sure that he didn’t make a break for it. The escape of the Israelites was different. They were not prodded along from behind. The Lord went before the Israelites, leading them along the way. He guided them and directed them but it was up to the people to willingly follow where He lead. He gave the people something to focus on and allowed them to be looking forward toward their future hope.
  • They did not depart from the people – God is faithful and the comfort of His presence was with the Israelites at all times. Both day and night. God is steadfast and gave the Israelites no reason to ever doubt Him (although they would anyway).

My goal and desire for today is not to see a pillar of cloud or fire. My desire is to seek Him and ask that the Holy Spirit would give me eyes to see Him regardless of how He chooses to reveal Himself today. I have already encountered a revelation of God’s existence and presence today as I interacted with His word and marveled at the beauty of His creation. I desire to allow Him to go before me and that, as He leads, I willingly submit to Him and humbly follow. And I do trust that He will never leave me nor forsake me. And because of that, I press forward. Not looking back but looking forward to the future hope that was secured in the past and in which I rejoice in the present. The inheritance that was sealed for me in Christ Jesus. And if, whether by my own stubbornness or by the loving discipline and will of God, I am required to wander through dessert places here in this lifetime in order to enter into and enjoy that inheritance, I am more than willing. Although, I must admit, all other things being constant, I would prefer to just trust and obey and skip the discipline, wandering, dessert part. But not my will, but His be done.

Our heroes aren’t always heroic

If you were to say the name “Moses” to me, the first images that would come to my mind would include him standing on the banks of the Red Sea with a determined look on his face and a staff raised high in his hand. Or perhaps he would have a an angry look on his face while raising a stone tablet high over his read, ready to smash it to the ground. Maybe it would be the image of his veiled face because he was reflecting the radiance of God’s glory. The common theme here is that I would immediately flash to Moses’ highlight reel. But the reality is that Moses, like everyone else in the Bible that we might consider to be “heroes” of the faith, had his lowlights as well. In fact, I was reminded of some of them while reading Exodus 4 this morning.

In Chapter 3, God reveals himself through a burning busy and proceeds to share his vision with Moses for rescuing His people from Egypt. Moses of course responds with the question, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 ESV) God doesn’t necessarily answer Moses’ question directly but instead explains that He will be with Moses. God proceeds to share with Moses what he is to say to the children of Israel. In chapter 4 of Exodus, we see that God’s answer doesn’t really satisfy Moses. In fact, Moses stands ready with many excuses why God’s plan won’t work. They won’t believe me. They will not listen to my voice. I’m not eloquent. I talk funny. Please, send someone else. Moses thinks that there must be a flaw in God’s recruiting process because surely, he does not have all the required qualifications for the job. Moses suffered from a common ailment that is still prevalent to this day. An ailment that affects the heart, mind, and eyes but manifests itself as fear, doubt, and lack of trust.

The first problem is that Moses is too focused on the recipient of the message (himself) rather than the sender of the message (God). He’s too worried about what’s being requested instead of marveling at Who is requesting it. Was there anything wrong with Moses’ excuses? Not necessarily. They were probably very honest, logical, and rational when evaluating Moses purely on his own abilities, background, and experience. However, God already knew those things about Moses and asked him to go anyway. God wasn’t asking Moses to do something based on Moses’ abilities. As we’ve seen so many times throughout scripture, God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God chose Moses because He is a gracious God and because Moses was best equipped to reveal God’s glory. In Moses’ weakness, God could be strong. Where Moses was deficient, God would reveal Himself to be more than sufficient.

Related to this, Moses was too worried about the results instead of the process. He was concerned about his own reputation instead of God’s reputation. He didn’t want to look foolish in front of everyone. He didn’t want to fail in front of everyone. I can relate to that. But again, God equips His children for the specific works to which He has called us. He is a good God and can be trusted and has repeatedly proven His faithfulness. His children are to walk by faith and not by sight.

Given that I’m running late this morning and am not even halfway to pulling together my random thoughts on this passage, I will wrap it up with this thought. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. God is not looking for what the world would define as the “best of the best”. He’s not necessarily looking for the most skilled, the most believable, the most eloquent, the best presenter, or the best looking. Certainly God can use all those qualities and attributes for His glory. But only if they come with an available, obedient, and willing heart. A man with a humble and contrite heart before his Maker that, rather than saying “Send someone else” instead says, “Here I am Lord. Send me.”

So, the next time you hear God call you to a task that seems overwhelming and beyond your natural abilities or resources, get ready because it’s going to be exciting. God is going to reveal Himself in a mighty and powerful way. And when He does, thank Him for allowing you to participate and witness such an awesome display of His glory.

Do you ever share with others what the Lord is doing in your life?

As I was reading through the 18th chapter of Exodus this morning I came across the account of when Moses’ father-in-law Jethro heard about all that God had done for Moses and for Israel and decided that he would travel with Moses’ wife and two sons out to the wilderness to check in and visit. After I finished the chapter and was reflecting on my observations (what I read) and considering the interpretation (what it means) of all that I had read, I kept coming back to verses 8 and 9 for my application.

Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. ~ Exodus 18:8-9

Do you notice what happens here? After exchanging the initial pleasantries and finding out about the welfare of each other, Moses spends time sharing with Jethro everything that has been happening in the life of him and the Israelites; both the good and the bad. And it’s all shared in the context of how God’s mighty hand has been directing and guiding and allowing all of these events to have occurred. There is an acknowledgement of how it is the Lord that delivered them. And although it doesn’t specifically say this, I think when Moses shared about the hardships they encountered along the way there was an acknowledgement of how their disobedience played a role and the the Lord continued to be patient and gracious, abounding in love and slow to anger.

When was the last time you shared with someone else all the things that God has done for you? All the ways that God has further revealed himself to you or made you more aware of his presence? All the ways that He has gotten your attention or disciplined you? All the ways that you have fallen short and been in need of God’s grace and mercy?

I think what Moses and Jethro experienced here was what true Christian fellowship should look like. At least a big part of true Christian fellowship. I think most of us have the other pieces down pat. But those are probably the pieces that are indistinguishable from pagan fellowship. I think there is a real opportunity to connect with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when we become transparent enough to share from the heart all the ways that God has been working in our lives. And by doing so, not only are we able to deepen the bonds of love but it provides a chance to offer encouragement, exhortation, and when needed, correction.

Look for opportunities to just sit and enjoy fellowship with other believers and take the chance to open up about how God has been active in your life. Not only do I plan to do this with my relationships but I think I will also dedicate one day per week to post here on my blog all the ways that I have been aware of God’s activity and presence within my life for the previous week. And I encourage you to approach this next week in anticipation and with eyes and ears that are alert to look for and take notice of God’s presence in your life.

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