Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Journey Through the Bible: Exodus 31 and 32

Exodus 31:3—“And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.” This is said by the Lord of a man named Bezalel, who would be the chief artisan is constructing the tabernacle and all the materials related thereto. This being “filled…with the Spirit of God” is not necessarily miraculous; indeed, the old King James Version does not capitalize the word “spirit,” and I agree with that thought. The Lord has given all of us talents; Matthew 25 and Romans 12 both abundantly teach that. Those talents, abilities, were given to us by His grace in order that we might use them to His glory. Bezalel, and another man, Aholiab (Ex. 31:6) had the talents of artisanship, “wisdom,” “understanding,” and “knowledge” from the Lord. I’ve often envied others of their talents that I don’t have; Beethoven’s skill at producing music was a blessing from God, not something accomplished totally by his effort. Yes, indeed, he had to work to improve and refine it, but still there was a natural ability there—not a miraculous one—that enabled him to write stirring music. It wouldn’t matter how hard I tried or how long I studied, I would never be able to create music like his. And if I even tried, I would be neglecting what talents God did give to me. We all have abilities from the Lord, special abilities, things that we can do better than others for His glory and honor. Let us, like Bezalel and Aholiab, use them, work in His vineyard, while we are here on this earth.

Exodus 32:14—“So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.” This is the great “golden calf” chapter. The children, despite God’s wondrous acts which they had witnessed in Egypt, were soon turned back to the gods they were familiar with in their captivity. Jehovah was ready to wipe them out and start over (v. 10). Moses talked with Him and the Lord relented (vs. 11-14). People miss the point when they read this as an immature, wrathful, vengeful God who is “talked out” of His anger by a more patient, compassionate human. What we see here is the power of intercessory prayer. Moses beseeches Him on behalf of the people, and Jehovah hears that prayer. We, too, should pray for others in hopes that the Lord will act in their behalf. And, of course, the greatest intercession of all was made by Jesus Himself, who is our Advocate before the Father (I John 2:1). God has not changed; a loving prayer and advocacy can move Him to work in ways that are in harmony with His will. He always knows what’s best, of course, but He wants to hear from us anyway..

Exodus 32:26—“Then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, ‘Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together with him.” Levi was the tribe into which Moses was born—which meant Aaron, too. And the tribe stood with him, and the Lord, in the matter of the golden calf. To the best of my memory, the Bible never says that this event was the reason God chose the Levites for the priestly tribe; indeed, He had already done that in His instructions to Moses on the Mount. But perhaps we do see some of the foreknowledge of God is selecting the one tribe that would stand with Moses in this crisis. At least somebody was faithful in the incident.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Journey Through the Bible: Exodus 30

Exodus 30:15—“The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves.” There was a “ransom,” or monetary atonement, required of all the Israelite men, aged 20 and above. The purpose of it was “for the service of the tabernacle of meeting” (v. 16), and for a memorial. This appears to have been a one-time tax, “when you take the census of the children of Israel” (v. 12); obviously future “atonements” were through the sacrificial system, and the priestly tribe was supported in other ways. It is interesting that everyone, rich and poor alike, paid the same amount. There was no “graduated tax,” which is a Marxist concept of the 19th century. Since everyone, equally, would be benefited by the service of the tabernacle, everyone, equally, paid the same amount. This seems fair, and gives us a pretty good indication of who has the most influence on our tax system today—an atheist, Karl Marx, not the Lord Jehovah. But, sadly, it’s been a long, long time since God had much influence on the policy decisions of the United States.

One more point about this chapter, in general. It discusses the altar of incense, the bronze laver, and the composition of the holy anointing oil and the incense. All of it was holy, and reserved strictly for the Lord’s use. Any profaning of that which was holy led to severe consequences (e.g., verse 33). It is a good lesson for us today, who rarely distinguish between the holy and the common (Ezek. 22:26).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Journey Through the Bible: Exodus 29

Exodus 29:35-37—“Thus you shall do to Aaron and his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Seven days you shall consecrate them. 36 And you shall offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement. You shall cleanse the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to sanctify it. 37 Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and sanctify it. And the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar must be holy.” Once again the Lord is very specific and very detailed in what He wants. Much of it makes no sense to us, i.e., why he required certain things. Blood and water are fairly understandable—water for cleansing, blood, representing life, as a substitutionary sacrifice for sin. But why the blood is to be spread, sprinkled, etc. in various places is unknown to anyone but Jehovah. That doesn’t matter, though, and it’s a principle that men need to learn and most haven’t. For example, in the New Testament, God commands that men be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Why? Other than the symbolic meaning found in Romans 6, there’s no real rationale—to us—for being immersed in water. What does that have to do with forgiveness? About the same as cutting a bull and ram up and sprinkling their blood everywhere around the altar, and putting some of it on Aaron’s (and his sons) right ear, thumb, and big toe (v. 20). We don’t have to understand God’s will; are job is to obey it.

As verses 35-37 indicate, this process was to continue for seven days. Because of the “completeness” of the creation in seven days, that number became a sacred number in Hebrew lore. It’s found all through the Bible and here represents the perfect, total cleansing of priest and altar. “Whatever”—and whoever—“touches the altar must be holy” (v. 37). And God doesn’t accept anything less than holy worship today under the Christian dispensation. “Blessed are the pure in heart; they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (I Peter 1:16). Holiness means being like God, and the only way to do that is to be obedient to His commandments, because all His commandments are righteousness (holiness—Psalm 119:172). There can be no other way to approach His divine throne. Blood is needed today as well (the blood of Christ, I Jn. 1:7), but such is no excuse for presumptuous disobedience.