This Gold House (Exodus 25:23-40 & 30:1-10)

It always starts at a garage sale.

The lady bought a small table at a garage sale. The owner was asking $30.00, but settled for $25.00.

Why not bring it to the Antiques Roadshow? Turns out, it was a “Federal inlaid mahogany demilune card table” made by John Seymour & Son in Boston circa 1794.

Lucky for her, she didn’t try to refinish it, or even clean it up much with harsh chemicals. The Keno brothers couldn’t contain their excitement as they estimated its value at auction to be between $200,000.00 to $225,000.00.

The moral of that story: If you ever have a garage sale, never watch Antiques Roadshow. You’ll kick yourself.

Forget John Seymour & Son. The real find would be a Bezalel & Aholiab. They were chief among the skilled craftsmen who made the one-of-a-kind furniture that was placed in the Jewish Tabernacle, and later the Temple. In Exodus chapter thirty-one we read,

Exo 31:1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Exo 31:2  “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.
Exo 31:3  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship…

Exo 31:6  “And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan… that they may make all that I have commanded you:
Exo 31:7  the tabernacle of meeting, the ark of the Testimony and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furniture of the tabernacle
Exo 31:8  the table and its utensils, the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, the altar of incense,
Exo 31:9  the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base –
Exo 31:10  the garments of ministry, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests,
Exo 31:11  and the anointing oil and sweet incense for the holy place. According to all that I have commanded you they shall do.”

These were more than furniture; they were figures of what was coming in the future.
I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Each Article Of Furniture You Saw In The Holy Place Had A Function, and #2 Each Article Of Furniture You Saw In The Holy Place Was A Figure.

#1 – Each Article Of Furniture You Saw In The Holy Place Had A Function

Morning and Evening is the classic devotional by Charles Spurgeon. If I’m not mistaken, the title is derived from the fact that in the Jewish Tabernacle, the priests had service to perform before God each day at morning and evening.

They performed their daily tasks in the Holy Place. The Tabernacle consisted of two rooms:

The Holy Place, twice as long as it was wide; and, The Holy of Holies, a perfect cube.

A thick veil separated the two rooms. In the Holy of Holies there was one article of furniture: The Ark of the Covenant with its lid, the Mercy Seat.

In the Holy Place there were three pieces of furniture:

The Table of Showbread. The Lampstand; and, the Altar of Incense.

Moses starts by describing the Table of Showbread.

Exo 25:23  “You shall also make a table of acacia wood; two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height.

The cubit is not an exact measurement. It is the distance between your elbow and the tip of your middle finger. It averages eighteen inches, but throughout history, and in different cultures, it varies.

It’s no crazier than the fact that a standard 2×4 measures only 1½” x 3½”. Which is why you should always have a board stretcher handy.

Exo 25:24  And you shall overlay it with pure gold, and make a molding of gold all around.
Exo 25:25  You shall make for it a frame of a handbreadth all around, and you shall make a gold molding for the frame all around.
Exo 25:26  And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs.
Exo 25:27  The rings shall be close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table.
Exo 25:28  And you shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be carried with them.

This description is not really a blueprint. Artisans reading this would produce tables that varied in the details.

When Bezalel & Aholiab were working on this stuff, I’m not sure if they whistled while they worked, but God was giving them wisdom while they worked. He was directing their gifts by His Spirit.

If two other craftsmen had been chosen, I’m guessing the articles of furniture would have looked different even as they still fit the general pattern.

I can’t help but think of the fact that, while every believer is given a spiritual gift or gifts, we each exercise them differently. Even the gifts themselves are distributed by the Holy Spirit as He sees fit – not according to our preferences.

There is an amazing sequence in the feature film, Apollo 13, where Ground Control realizes that the three astronauts are creating too much carbon dioxide and are running out of breathable air. They need to make a scrubber to absorb the CO² – but they’ve got to do so using only the materials they have on hand in the lunar module that had become their lifeboat.

In record time, the Crew Systems Division put together an improvised adapter using all sort of weird and random parts, like a flight manual cover, suit parts, and socks.

I see in that an illustration for us. Every local church is tasked with two things:

Building-up Christians in their walk with Jesus; and,

Reaching out to nonbelievers with the Gospel.

Those are the tasks, and we are to accomplish them with the gifted folks God brings, and the resources He provides through them.

There’s no use thinking we need more people, or different people with certain gifts.
Or that we need more money, or other resources, in order to accomplish the tasks. No, we build with what is on-board.

We need to get everyone working, exercising their gift or gifts, living sacrificially each day. The results will be different from church-to-church because of the particular folks attending. But that’s OK; that’s as God intends it.

Exo 25:29  You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring. You shall make them of pure gold.

The “dishes and pans” probably held the showbread. The “bowls” were probably for the powdered frankincense, which was to be spread over the twelve loaves of showbread. The “pitchers” must have been vessels for wine used in the drink offerings mentioned elsewhere (Numbers 15:1-12).

Exo 25:30  And you shall set the showbread on the table before Me always.

“Showbread” is also called “the bread of the Presence” because in the Holy Place, it was in God’s presence. Elsewhere in the Bible we learn that this bread of the Presence was made of fine flour, baked in 12 loaves, arranged in two piles of 6 loaves each on the Table, covered with frankincense, and served as a memorial food offering to the Lord.

The bread could only be eaten by priests in a holy place and was set out fresh every Sabbath day (Leviticus 24:8-9).

Next Moses describes the Lampstand.

Exo 25:31  “You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece.

The word for “lampstand” is where we get our word menorah. The lampstand is sometimes referred to as a candlestick, but that’s wrong seeing as it did not hold candles. It’s “bowls” held oil, and that is what fueled it as a lamp.

Exo 25:32  And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side.
Exo 25:33  Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower – and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand.
Exo 25:34  On the lampstand itself four bowls shall be made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental knob and flower.
Exo 25:35  And there shall be a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same, according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand.
Exo 25:36  Their knobs and their branches shall be of one piece; all of it shall be one hammered piece of pure gold.

On each side of an upright shaft were three branches extended upward. Each branch had three almond flower-shaped cups, and the center shaft had four such cups. At the top of the center shaft and each of the six branches was a lamp.

Exo 25:37  You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it.

The Lampstand’s “lamps” provided the only light in the Holy Place. Behind the veil, in the Holy of Holies, God manifested Himself above the Mercy Seat, and His glory lit that otherwise dark room.

Exo 25:38  And its wick-trimmers and their trays shall be of pure gold.
Exo 25:39  It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils.

The amount of gold needed was estimated at 75 pounds. Today that translates to $1.3mil.

How expensive a project was this Tabernacle? According to the Easton Bible Dictionary the metals used in the tabernacle were as follows:

29 Talents 730 Shekels of Gold.
100 Talents 1,775 Shekels of Silver.
70 Talents 2,400 Shekels of Brass (which most scholars believe to be copper).

I won’t bother you with all the conversions. It come out to over $52mil. That’s not counting the textiles and the wood. Those items add at least $5mil. If we adjust for inflation… Well, let’s just say it’s a lot.

There is a movement among Christians to decry the owning of buildings and property. It’s seen as wasteful of resources that could go towards furthering the Gospel, and helping others.

It should be clear that God is not immediately offended by a nice facility. He commands us to meet together, in fact. The real issue is stewardship of the resources God provides. And by that I mean the local leadership needs to hear from the Lord. In some cases, He may direct a church to not own property; in another, He may direct just the opposite.

In any case, we must be good stewards – good managers – of what He provides; and there’s just no one way of doing that.

Exo 25:40  And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.

I’ve emphasized the freedom we have to minister before the Lord as He sees fit to gift us. But we also need reminding that some things are never negotiable. The Bible itself reveals those doctrines that are essential to the Christian faith.  Among them are:

The deity of Jesus Christ.
Salvation by grace.
Salvation through Jesus Christ alone.
The physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel.
The Trinity.

If any one of those is denied, or deleted, we are not building according to the pattern given to us.

The last piece of furniture in the Holy Place was the Altar of Incense. It isn’t described in our chapter, but since it was in the Holy Place, I want to look at it now. Skip or scroll ahead to chapter thirty.

Exo 30:1  “You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood.
Exo 30:2  A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width – it shall be square – and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it.
Exo 30:3  And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around.
Exo 30:4  Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both its sides. You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it.
Exo 30:5  You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold.

Also known as the Golden Altar, it was similarly constructed of acacia wood overlaid with gold, with rings and poles. It’s purpose was to burn incense, although we will see that blood was also sprinkled on its horns.

As chapter thirty continues, we get into some of the functions of these three pieces of furniture.

Exo 30:6  And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you.
Exo 30:7  “Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it.
Exo 30:8  And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.
Exo 30:9  You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it.
Exo 30:10  And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”

Reading this, you can get a sense of the priests while inside the Holy Place, at each piece of furniture:

Daily, the priests burned sweet-smelling incense morning and evening. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest was to consecrate the altar of incense by placing blood on its four horns
Daily they tended the Lampstand. Every morning and evening the priest had to use the tools to keep the flames burning brightly.

Weekly, they replaced the 12 loaves of bread. The old bread was removed every Sabbath, eaten by the priests inside the Holy Place, and replaced with new loaves.

As Christians who enjoy the New Covenant, we’ve been conditioned to quickly dismiss the Tabernacle and its service as inferior to our superior relationship with God through Jesus Christ in this, the church age. After all, when Jesus died and exclaimed, “It is finished!” the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. Every believer now has immediate access to God, and is encouraged to boldly approach the Throne of God.

True enough. But that doesn’t mean we can’t linger for a moment and sense the wonder the priests must have experienced.

A few months prior, they had been oppressed slaves, holding on to the oral traditions of their God, the God of Abraham, and surrounded by Egypt’s gods and their idols. Now here they were – ministering with the very glory of God just behind a veil, within a few feet of them.

We didn’t get into it, but the priests wore ornate, expensive outfits. They had literally gone from rags to riches.

In the Holy Place, Tending the oil and the lamps of the Lampstand, they couldn’t help but think of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Oil was as much a symbol of God’s Spirit to Israel as it remains for us. True, under the Old Covenant the Spirit did not permanently indwell believers. But He certainly filled them, and empowered them, to accomplish His purposes.

The Lampstand itself was the product of God’s Spirit working through Moses, Bezalel, and Aholiab.

Do we not also need to be reminded that having begun in the Spirit, we cannot make spiritual progress by yielding to our flesh?

On the Table were 12 loaves. They got to consume those loaves after they’d been in God’s presence for a week of ministry. They may not have caught all the future symbolism, but it was obvious they represented the twelve tribes.

Loaves spoke of dining together, casually, intimately. The presence of the bread of the Presence invited the priests to have fellowship with God.

Do we not also need to be reminded that it is to have fellowship with God that we are made new creations in Jesus Christ?

For over four hundred years they had prayed to be delivered from bondage in Egypt. Now the priest could, in a sense, ‘see’ those prayers in the incense that constantly rose up to God. He had heard them; He did hear them; and in His eternal wisdom, He answered them in His time.

We all know the pain of seemingly unanswered prayer. The suffering of situations God could change for us. Our prayers do rise before the Throne. His answers are often a mystery to us:

We may receive what we consider to be a positive answer to our prayers.

We may be encouraged to suffer for a time, like Job.

We may be called upon to endure much suffering, at all levels of our humanness, like the apostle Paul.

These furnishings are inferior for us, but they were cutting-edge at the time. They didn’t go in to the Holy Place daily, or annually, thinking about what a bummer it was. They were blessed beyond measure by God’s progressive revelation of Himself.

#2 – Each Article Of Furniture You Saw In The Holy Place Was A Figure

Do people still talk about Feng Shui? It was big a while back.

Feng Shui is part of a greater Chinese metaphysics that you ought to avoid. It is sometimes thought to be the art of placement – understanding how the placement of yourself and objects within a space affects your life. The idea is to harmonize with the so-called “energies” in any given space – be it a home, office, or garden.

If you’ve been in my office, it’s more Kid’s Way than Feng Shui.

It wasn’t Feng Shui that the Lord was going for in the placement of furniture in the Tabernacle. It was prefiguring.

The Tabernacle has been called “an earthly sanctuary with a heavenly meaning.” That’s because what God instructed Moses to build was a copy on the earth of things in Heaven.

In the Book of Hebrews we read,

Heb 8:1  … We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
Heb 8:2  a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.

There is a “true tabernacle” in Heaven; it was “erected” by the Lord. Jesus is its great High Priest.

“We,” meaning Christians in this church age, no longer need any earthly replica of the heavenly tabernacle, or any of its rituals. Please do not get sidetracked by those who teach we as Gentiles need to return to our Hebrew roots. In the first century, the writer to Hebrews was telling Hebrews to not return to their Hebrew roots – so why should we?

Later the writer to the Hebrews would call the earthly Tabernacle “a shadow of good things to come” (10:1). We’ll see that it all prefigured Jesus. It was the shadow He cast.

If I have any familiarity at all with this Table of Showbread, the minute I read in the New Testament that Jesus is “the bread of life” (John 6:35), I understand that it prefigured Him – that it pointed to Him. He is the true Bread, who sustains us in our new life, satisfies our hungry souls, and fills us with the joy of His never-failing Presence.

Similarly, the Lampstand prefigured Jesus as “the light of the world,” “the True Light,” and “the Light and Life of Men.”

In the last book of the Bible, in the Revelation, Jesus refers to the church on earth as His lampstand. He is the light; and we are His lights.

There was no other light in the Tabernacle. Likewise, there is no other light in the world besides Jesus revealed through us.

The Table of Incense represented more than prayer rising to God. Blood was sprinkled there.
Thus it prefigured Jesus blood sacrifice on the Cross whereby He became our Advocate with the Father, to continuously offer prayers on our behalf as the One Who ever lives to intercede.

There’s so much more we could say about these articles of furniture prefiguring Jesus Christ. For example: The fact they were constructed of wood overlaid with gold speaks of Jesus as both fully man and fully God – God in human flesh.

Or the fact that, from above it looking down, the very articles of furniture are arranged as a Cross. It goes on-and-on.

(Louis Talbot has a classic book, Christ in the Tabernacle, that I’d highly recommend).

Listen to this, from First Peter 1:10-12.

1Pe 1:10  Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,
1Pe 1:11  searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
1Pe 1:12  To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things which angels desire to look into.

The context of these verses was the sufferings of the Savior. The prophets who wrote about them didn’t really understand what they were writing about under inspiration. But now we do.

Similarly, the Israelites couldn’t have seen Jesus prefigured. Not totally, anyway. But now we do.

Peter encourages believers,

2Pe 1:3  as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

We lack nothing in our walk with the Lord that could help us discover His sustaining grace in times of plenty, and in times of want.

Peter warned nonbelievers,

2Pe 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2Pe 3:10  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

There’s nothing hidden today. Jesus has risen, and is returning. You’re either ready for Him, or you’re not.

Ark My Words (Exodus 25:10-22)

It was the summer of 1981. Raiders of the Lost Ark was the blockbuster movie. It’s twelve minute opening is still considered to be one of the greatest action sequences of any film.

Remember the guy covered with spiders? They were real tarantulas. During filming the spiders, all males, wouldn’t move after being placed on his body, frustrating director Steven Spielberg who thought they looked fake. The crew’s spider wrangler solved the problem by adding one female to mix. The actor, Alfred Molina, recalled, “They’re running onto my face and Steven is going, ‘Shoot! Shoot!… Alfred, look scared!’ and [I’m all], “I’m scared! I’m scared!”

While Indy was busy trying to find and save the Ark from the Nazi’s, a group of archaeologists in the real world did discover a Lost Ark. Eric and Carol Myers made the discovery in Nabratein in the upper Galilee. It caused a temporary worldwide sensation.

It wasn’t the lost Ark of the Covenant. It was a fragment from what is called a Synagogue Ark – a chest that holds the scrolls in the local synagogues in which Jews worshipped.

Has anyone found the lost Ark of the Covenant? If so, where is it?

Before we answer, we should talk about what it is. The human race first encountered it in our verses in Exodus twenty-five, when Moses was given plans for its construction.

I’ll organize my comments about it around two points: #1 You Get A First Look At The Ark of the Covenant, and #2 You Go Looking For The Lost Ark of the Covenant.

#1 – You Get A First Look At The Ark of the Covenant

It turns out ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ wasn’t so far off about the Nazis.

That’s the title of a 2017 book review in the Washington Post. The book is Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich.

It’s author, Eric Kurlander, professor of history at Stetson University, documents facts like some Nazi leaders firmly believed that the Aryan race descended from the aliens who established Atlantis.

SS officer Otto Rahn was obsessed with finding the “Holy Grail,” the so-called cup Jesus drank from at the Last Supper.

Hitler was particularly interested in finding the spear that pierced Jesus’ side – sometimes called the “Spear of Destiny.”

The Nazis believed these objects would, first of all, reinforce their claims of supremacy; and, second of all, unleash mystical powers that would devastate the Allied Forces.

The Nazis didn’t find the Holy Grail, or the Spear of Destiny. Neither did they find the Ark of the Covenant. It’s not sitting in a crate, in a vast government warehouse as portrayed in the Indiana Jones films.

Here in Exodus as God gives Moses the pattern for the Tabernacle – He starts with the Ark, and moves out from there.

Exo 25:10  “And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height.

Think of it as a wooden chest. In Exodus, its name is “Ark” or “Ark of the Testimony.” In the book of Numbers the Ark is given another name – the “Ark of the Covenant” (10:33 &14:44). Further on, in the book of First Samuel, it is called the “Ark of God” (4:11,13,17,19,21,& 22).

“They shall make an Ark” refers to the chief artisan over the construction of the Tabernacle, a guy named Bezalel; and another artisan named Aholiab. They received the plans from Moses, who received the plans from God.

It’s a good place to bring to our remembrance that we, too, are considered builders. The first apostles are said to have laid the foundation of the church. In Ephesians we read that the church is a “household… having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (5:19-22).

As we serve in the Lord’s household of faith, in the church, we are to build appropriately. Here is what the apostle Paul said:

1Co 3:12  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
1Co 3:13  each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
1Co 3:14  If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
1Co 3:15  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Think of yourself as a gifted artisan, building according to the pattern revealed to us by the life of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

I want to give credit to a book I’d recommend by Don Stewart, In Search of the Lost Ark. Some of the factual descriptions of the Ark itself I am quoting directly from that book.
Acacia wood is strong and durable and resists insects and rot. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, renders this word as “incorruptible” wood or “decay proof” wood. The wood is very light and hard and it does not absorb moisture.

The Ark was “covered with gold,” inside and out. This probably means that hammered plates of gold were attached to the wood by means of small nails. But it could be some type of gold application we are unaware of.

God gave its dimensions in cubits – which means we don’t really know exactly how big it was. The cubit was measured from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger.

There is no agreement as to the exact length of the cubit. The various estimates range from as little as fourteen inches to as much as twenty-four inches. My ‘cubit’ measures 19 1/8”. Using an average eighteen-inch cubit, the Ark would have been 3’ 9” long, 2’ 3” wide, and 2’ 3” high.

Exo 25:11  And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around.

In addition to the gold overlay, there was a molding, or a border, of gold all around it. Honestly, no one knows what that means; not exactly.

The more we read, the more we see that there are a lot of details we cannot be 100% certain of. It seems that God gave the general plan to Moses, but that he, Bezalel, and Aholiab were directed by the Holy Spirit as the Ark was being fashioned.

Later in Exodus God will say, “I have placed wisdom within every skilled craftsman in order to make all that I have commanded you” (31:6-7).

Unless you actually saw the original Ark, you could not reproduce it; and that’s why there are so many different representations of it.

Exo 25:12  You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side.
Exo 25:13  And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold.
Exo 25:14  You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them.
Exo 25:15  The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.

The Ark had four golden rings, two on each side. There were two poles made of acacia wood. These poles were covered with gold and were permanently inserted into the rings for the Ark’s transporting.

Artists who draw the Ark always assume the poles ran lengthwise, but it is entirely possible they ran parallel to the shorter ends.

One takeaway from all this is that ministry can look different. Think of the writers of the New Testament. James and John were very different in their tone; yet both ministered the same Gospel.

People sometimes get confused as to why there are so many churches. They assume it is a bad thing. It’s not; it’s a good thing – a God thing.
We are told to worship God in Spirit and in truth, but there is no one, set way of doing that. We are free so long as we do not act unbiblically.

Exo 25:16  And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.

The “Testimony” referred to the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed (Exodus 24:12).

Regarding the tablets of the Ten Commandments, I learned something interesting. The Ten Commandments were written on two stone tablets. This probably means two copies.

Don Stewart writes,

The reason for having two copies of the Ten Commandments has only recently been understood. When a written covenant was made in the world of the Bible, each party making the covenant had a copy of its contents. If the covenant was between two nations, the two copies would be kept far apart, in the temple of the god of each land. In Israel, though, the covenant was between God and His people. Both copies of the Ten Commandments were kept in the Ark.

Exo 25:17  “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width.

The Mercy Seat was the lid of the Ark. Though separate articles, they went together. The Bible sometimes uses the term “Ark” when referring to both the Ark and the Mercy Seat.

“Mercy seat” is not a good translation. No one sat there! The basic meaning of the Hebrew word kapporeth is “to cover.” One translator calls it “the atonement cover.”

A language scholar wrote, “The verb that lies behind the noun… in the expression [mercy seat] means to ransom or deliver by means of a substitute.” It was named after its function – to receive the blood of an innocent substitute in order to deliver the offerer from sin so that he or she might approach God.

Since it was a representation of God’s mercy in not giving sinners the death they deserved, later translators called it the mercy seat, and that is still its popular name today.

Exo 25:18  And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat.
Exo 25:19  Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat.
Exo 25:20  And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat.

Facing each other at opposite ends of the atonement cover were two cherubim made out of hammered gold. Cherubim are winged creatures in God’s service. We assume they are an order of angels, but we’re never told for sure.

The Bible, in other passages, gives various descriptions of cherubim; but we can’t say for sure what the cherubim on the Ark looked like.
The Ark was the primary article of furniture in the Tabernacle. It was the only thing in the Holy of Holies.

We’ve seen that it was a place where atonement was made. It was also the spot from where God communicated with His people:

Exo 25:21  You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you.
Exo 25:22  And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.

God spoke with Moses from His glory between the two cherubim. Most likely Moses stayed in the Holy Place behind the veil that separated it from the Holy of Holies and the Ark.

It might be best to think of the Ark as God’s throne on the earth.

I’ll tell you what the Ark was not: It wasn’t a magic box that contained God. No Israelite believed God was inside the box. When the Ark was placed in Solomon’s Temple, Solomon’s prayer showed that the people did not believe God was limited to one particular area. He said, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” (First Kings 8:27).

There were times the Ark preceded Israel in battles they won, but it wasn’t a source of power that guaranteed victory. In First Samuel chapter four, the Ark was with Israel, but they were defeated, and the Ark taken from them by the Philistines.

It wasn’t intended to be a weapon. The Bible gives no report of lightning, electricity, or any other force emanating from the Ark as it was taken to battle. God was the One fighting for Israel, not the Ark.

The Ark was God’s throne. It was His seat, in a manner of speaking. In Isaiah 64:16 we’re told God was, “the One who dwells between the cherubim.”

God provided a way for the Israelites to approach Him by the sacrifice of a substitute. There was a national day of sacrifice that took place once a year, the “Day of Atonement.” On that day, the high priest sacrificed a bull and a goat for his own sin and for the sins of the people, and then he sprinkled the blood on the “atonement cover” of the Ark (Leviticus 16:11-17; 17:11).

In Romans 3:25 we are told of Jesus that “God set [Him] forth as a propitiation by His blood.” That word “propitiation” is the Greek equivalent of the word translated “atonement cover” or “mercy seat.”

The mercy seat of the Old Testament, and the blood sprinkled upon it by the High Priest, prefigured Jesus Christ. With the coming of Jesus Christ, God provided a new and better way – the offering up of His own Son for us as a Substitute and Sacrifice of permanent atonement. His death on the Cross was the once-for-all sacrifice for sin.

We therefore have no need of the Ark. But that doesn’t mean it won’t play some part in the Last Days.

#2 – You Go Looking For The Lost Ark of the Covenant

When Jesus was on the earth, there was no Ark in the Temple. The Holy of Holies was an empty room.

The last time we see the Ark is in the Old Testament, just prior to the destruction of the Temple by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. From that point in the sixth century forward, no one knows what happened to the Ark; not really.

The Jews were held captive in Babylon for 70 years until Persia defeated the Babylonians to become the world ruling empire. King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. In Ezra 1:7-11 we are given a detailed list of things that Cyrus returned to the Jews for their Temple:

Ezr 1:7  King Cyrus also brought out the articles of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods;
Ezr 1:8  and Cyrus king of Persia brought them out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and counted them out to Sheshbazzar [Zerubbabel] the prince of Judah.
Ezr 1:9  This is the number of them: thirty gold platters, one thousand silver platters, twenty-nine knives,
Ezr 1:10  thirty gold basins, four hundred and ten silver basins of a similar kind, and one thousand other articles.
Ezr 1:11  All the articles of gold and silver were five thousand four hundred. All these Sheshbazzar took with the captives who were brought from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Conspicuous by their absence are the sacred vessels of the Temple: The Golden Lampstand, the Table of Showbread, the Altar of Incense, and most notably, the Ark of the Covenant. All of them were unaccounted for.

The Jews rebuilt their Temple. It is sometimes called Zerubbabel’s Temple, after the governor of Judah at the time. It’s most often called the Second Temple.

That can be a little confusing, because the Temple that stood in Jesus’ day was known as Herod’s Temple after King Herod who oversaw the rebuilding. But since it was more a remodel, it is still considered the Second Temple.

Solomon’s grand Temple was the First; Zerubbabel’s and Herod’s were the Second. As we will see in a minute, there will be a Third Temple.

There was no Ark in the Holy of Holies in the Second Temple. Many historical references attest to that fact. For example, in 167BC the Antiochus Epiphanes entered Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple. According to literature of that time, when he entered the Holy of Holies he found it empty.

You might be wondering how the High Priest was able to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement since there was no Ark with its atonement cover. The Mishnah is a written compilation of Jewish oral tradition. In the Mishnah we read, “After the Ark was taken away, a stone remained there from the time of the Early Prophets, and it was called ‘Shetiyah.’ It was higher than the ground by three fingerbreadths (Yoma 5: 2).”

It was on this stone that the blood was sprinkled. Keep in mind, without God’s presence between the cherubim on the Ark’s cover, there was no light in the Holy of Holies. It was pitch dark.

There are a few credible theories on what might have happened to the Ark, and where it might be.

The first is that it was destroyed. Just because we’re not told in the Bible, and there is no record in history, of its being melted-down for its gold, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t. There is nothing in the rest of the Bible that demands that the Ark be found.

The second theory is that the Ark has been, and remains, in Ethiopia. Through the centuries, Ethiopian Christians have claimed that the Ark rests in a chapel in the small town of Aksum, in their country’s northern highlands. It arrived nearly 3000 years ago, they say, and has been guarded by a succession of monks who, once anointed, are forbidden to set foot outside the chapel grounds until they die.

There are at least two reasonable accounts regarding how the Ark came to be in Ethiopia. I will say this: The Ethiopian people are certain it’s there. There is a long held Ethiopian belief that they can trace the ancestry of their kings back to Solomon. The twentieth century Ethiopian leader, Haile Selassie, was given titles belonging to the Davidic kings such as the “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” He even had written into their Constitution some of the traditions linking him to Solomon.

Scholars like to poke holes in the timeline that the Ethiopian stories propose. The stories might have been revised, and be inaccurate. But that doesn’t mean the Ark isn’t in Ethiopia. It very well might be.

The third theory on the whereabouts is that it was hidden before the arrival of the Babylonians, and remains hidden today.

An important component of the hidden Ark theory is believing that there was a secret vault under Solomon’s Temple. It makes sense you’d want to be able to rather quickly hide the Ark somewhere beneath the Temple.

Who hid it? Some say it was King Josiah. King Josiah had been told by Huldah the prophetess that the Temple would be destroyed soon after his death. Knowing this, he is said to have ordered the Ark to be put in the underground vault. Those who hold this theory say the Ark remains there, safely hidden.

Jeremiah may have hidden the Ark. He was prophesying the coming destruction of the Temple, and Jerusalem, so he had motive to hide the Ark.

The Temple Institute in Jerusalem is a group that is preparing for the building of the Third Temple in Jerusalem. To that end, they have reproduced all the articles necessary to reinstitute worship.

They’ve reproduced everything except the Ark. That’s because they believe they know exactly where it is. This is quoted from their website:

Tradition records that even as King Solomon built the First Temple, he already knew, through Divine inspiration, that eventually it would be destroyed. Thus Solomon, the wisest of all men, oversaw the construction of a vast system of labyrinths, mazes, chambers and corridors underneath the Temple Mount complex.

He commanded that a special place be built in the bowels of the earth, where the sacred vessels of the Temple could be hidden in case of approaching danger. Midrashic tradition teaches that King Josiah of Israel, who lived about forty years before the destruction of the First Temple, commanded the Levites to hide the Ark, together with the original menorah and several other items, in this secret hiding place which Solomon had prepared.

This location is recorded in our sources, and today, there are those who know exactly where this chamber is. And we know that the ark is still there, undisturbed, and waiting for the day when it will be revealed.

That’s a bold statement. And it may be true.

We know that a Third Temple will exist during the seven-year Great Tribulation. Daniel spoke of it prominently, and Jesus verified his prophecy. Imagine what would happen if the Lost Ark was to be found or brought out of hiding. It would most certainly encourage, if not demand, the building of the Third Temple to house it.

As exciting as that would be, we look beyond that, to a great truth in the Revelation. In 11:19 we read,

Rev 11:19  Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

The Tabernacle on earth, and later Temples one, two and three, are copies of what exists in Heaven. The “Ark” in Heaven isn’t the lost Ark of the Covenant. It’s the original; the Ark we’re talking about was a copy.
In the Tribulation, with the Third Temple on earth, God will show mankind that they have no need of the lost Ark. Believers have immediate access to God thanks to the propitiation of Jesus.

What about after the Great Tribulation? In the one-thousand year Kingdom of Heaven that follows the Tribulation, called the Millennium, there will be another Temple in Jerusalem. Let’s call it the Millennial Temple. According to Jeremiah, that Temple will not have the lost Ark, either:

Jer 3:16  “Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the LORD, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore.
Jer 3:17  “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.

Ezekiel describes the Millennial Temple in great detail (chapters 40-42), and he never mentions the Ark. There is a Holy of Holies (41:4), but it is empty, and it is not separated from the Holy Place by a veil.

The lost Ark represents what God has gone to great lengths to secure: a face-to-face, intimate relationship with you. The sin that came between God and mankind will finally be eradicated from the universe.

The last thing we read regarding a Temple is in the Revelation. In eternity, after the creation of new heavens and a new earth, and after all the believers from all time are in their forever glorified bodies, the apostle John exclaims,

Rev 21:22  But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

The fellowship lost in Eden will be restored, and then some.

The greatest action sequence of all times is imminent – the return of Jesus to resurrect the dead in Christ, and to rapture living believers.

Be ready.

Stirred Before Serving (Exodus 25:1-9; 35:21-29; 36:3-7)

Why “shaken, not stirred?”

You don’t need to be a fan of James Bond to recognize that phrase as his preferred recipe for a martini. But why?

A biographer of Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, said that he liked his martinis shaken, not stirred, because Fleming thought that stirring a drink diminished its flavor.

Some things do need to be stirred before serving. Recipes may suggest that you “stir occasionally,” or they may insist that you “stir constantly.”

The Israelites camped at Mount Sinai were stirred before serving:

Exo 35:21  Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments.

Their “hearts [were] stirred,” and as a result their “[spirit’s] were willing” to serve the Lord by bringing freewill offerings to be used for the building of the Tabernacle.

The stirring and their willingness were so incredible that the builders say, in chapter thirty-six, “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the LORD commanded us to do.” So Moses gave a commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, “Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.” And the people were restrained from bringing” (v5-6).

They were so stirred-up that their giving exceeded the need.

We can discuss our own giving to the Lord from these verses, as long as we keep in mind that this was a one-time building project, and not the pattern for regular offerings.

What is much more beneficial is to focus our attention on what it means to be “stirred,” and to then serve “willingly.” Those underlying characteristics can affect more than just our giving. They can affect everything in our walk with God.

Perhaps the best way to approach this topic is to ask two subjective questions: #1 Can You Say That Your Heart Is Stirred?, and #2 Can You See That Your Spirit Is Willing?

#1 – Can You Say That Your Heart Is Stirred? (25:1-9)

Let’s start by pointing out that stirring the heart isn’t something for backsliders. It’s for you who are spiritual.

I say that because the apostle Paul wrote to young Pastor Timothy, telling him, “to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (Second Timothy 1:6).

Timothy wasn’t in sin; he hadn’t backslid. He was a veteran missionary currently busy serving the Lord as a local pastor. If he needed occasional or constant heart-stirring, so do we.

Exo 25:1  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Exo 25:2  “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.

We read in verse nine that the offering was for the building of the Tabernacle. Chapters 25-31 and 35-40 all deal with the plans for the Tabernacle. That’s a lot of ink devoted to one subject.

We’ll talk about its design and its symbolism in those chapters. Today we are concentrating on the offerings that made its construction possible.

It was a free-will offering. God did not constrain anyone to give. He didn’t tell Moses to guilt the people into giving.

In fact, it reads as if He was restricting the offerings to only those that were voluntary, given willingly from the heart.

Every local church has to determine its approach to receiving offerings. While some churches seem to always be soliciting from their members, others may not even receive an offering, having boxes set-up where members can put their donations.

Our own approach is to talk about giving when the topic comes up in the Bible study – like today. We want to teach with clarity so that you can make your own determination about giving as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Taking into account all the various approaches churches adopt, the statistics on giving (in America) are actually pretty pathetic.

Before I mention a few stats, I need to say a word about tithing. “Tithe” means 10%. Tithing is giving 10% of your gross income to your church. It is often used as a baseline for giving. If it was good enough for Abraham and the patriarchs, it must be good enough for us, or so the argument goes.

How are we – the church in America – doing with regard to tithing? Here are a few conclusions that some of the polls and studies have published:

Those who give 10% make up only 10-25% of the average congregation (Christianity Today).
Fully 80% of Americans give only 2% of their income to the church (Church Development). By comparison, during the Great Depression, Americans gave 3.3% of their income to the church (ChurchLeaders).
Among Christian families making less than $20,000.00 annually, 8% tithe (HRF).
Among families making above $75,000.00 annually, just 1% tithe (HRF).
37% of regular attendees give nothing to their church (HRF).
The average amount given by adults who attend Protestant churches is $17.00 per week (HRF).

Everything is, of course, relative to your particular situation. But in general the stats on free will giving tell a selfish, not a sacrificial, story.

After listing some statistics like that, Relevant Magazine asked the question, “What would happen if the church tithed?”

Their answer: “If believers were to increase their giving to a minimum of, let’s say, 10 percent… There would be an additional $165 billion for churches to use and distribute. The global impact would be phenomenal.”

Here’s just a few things they suggested the church could do with the kind of money:

$25 billion could relieve global hunger, starvation and deaths from preventable diseases in five years.
$12 billion could eliminate illiteracy in five years.
$15 billion could solve the world’s water and sanitation issues, specifically at places in the world where 1 billion people live on less than $1 per day.
$1 billion could fully fund all overseas mission work.
$100 – $110 billion would still be left over for additional ministry expansion.

The New Testament doesn’t teach tithing as a commandment or as a requirement. It gives us principles – not percentages.

There are three key principles:

God expects believers to give cheerfully (Second Corinthians 9:7).
He expects believers to give regularly (First Corinthians 16:2), and,
He encourages believers to give sacrificially (Mark 12:41-44).

If giving to the church is supposed to be “cheerful,” we probably shouldn’t coerce it by making believers feel guilty. We should leave it up to each Christian as a matter of their free will. Thus our approach to discuss it when it comes up in our studying the Bible.

If giving to the church is supposed to be “regular,” we ought to offer as many ways as possible for believers to give regularly. We take a live offering every Sunday; there are offering boxes; many of you have set up automatic payments to Calvary Hanford from your checking account; you can give through PayPal on our website; we’re currently working on having a giving Kiosk in the Bookstore.

Giving is supposed to be “sacrificial.” This is where it gets subjective. You and the Lord need to work out what is sacrificial in your situation. All I can say is that, given the stats we presented, “sacrificial” certainly does not describe most of the giving going on in American churches.

This is the takeaway: You don’t have to tithe, but you’re expected to give cheerfully, regularly, and sacrificially.

Exo 25:3  And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze;
Exo 25:4  blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair;
Exo 25:5  ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood;
Exo 25:6  oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense;
Exo 25:7  onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.

We’re not really set-up to receive your “ram skins dyed red.” Or most of the other items on this list. But, then again, you don’t have most of these things to give, either.

Exo 25:8  And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.

There are three Hebrew words for the “sanctuary” we most commonly call the Tabernacle. The first is mishkan, which means ‘a dwelling-place.’ It is used in 25:9, and is stated in 25:8 as the explicit purpose for which the tabernacle was to be erected: “that I may dwell among them.”

A second word for the Tabernacle is the word miqdosh, which is used in 25:8 and means a ‘holy (place).’ The Tabernacle was holy, as its two parts testify; one of these was termed the ‘Holy Place’ and the other the ‘Most Holy Place,’ or the ‘Holy of Holies.’

Thirdly, the Tabernacle is referred to as a ‘tent,’ the ohel mo’ed, or ‘tent of meeting.’

God delights to dwell among His people:

He walked with Adam in the Garden of Eden.
He visited, and dined with, Abraham.
He wrestled with Jacob.
He spoke to Moses from the burning bush, and to the people from Mount Sinai.

Now He proposed a moveable “dwelling place” among His people. Later, His stationary dwelling place would be the Temple in Jerusalem – made in the same “pattern” as the Tabernacle.

Then God would come to earth, God Incarnate, God in human flesh. The apostle John said of Jesus “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). It could be translated, “He tabernacled among us.”

Today the dwelling of God on earth is the church. We, collectively, are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We are living stones, being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:21-22).

Jesus will at any moment come for His church – resurrecting the dead in Christ while rapturing living believers. After the seven year Great Tribulation, and the one thousand year Millennial Kingdom, He will create new heavens and a new earth wherein God will dwell with His people in glory forever (Revelation 21:3-4).

Exo 25:9  According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

God told Israel what He was going to do; and He told them the part they could play in it. He set the stage for them to respond.

Jump ahead to Exodus 35:21.

Exo 35:21  Then everyone came whose heart was stirred…

In chapter thirty-five we read about some of the Israelites. It says, “Then everyone whose heart was stirred…”

There were those among them who’s hearts were stirred to serve the Lord by giving the things He had requested.

God desired to dwell among them, and many were excited to do everything they could to aid and abet Him.

The wording implies that there were two responses. Some had hearts that were stirred; some did not have their hearts stirred. God was the same to both types of heart. The unstirred hearts could have been stirred.

There are as many reasons why some hearts were not stirred as there are hearts. Selfishness… Greed… Idolatry… Bitterness… Just about anything could settle in the heart as a sludge that defied stirring.

The rich young ruler that Jesus encountered in the New Testament might be a good example. He seemed to have a sincere desire to follow Jesus, and to serve Him. But when the Lord asked him to sell all his possessions, and told him he’d have treasure in Heaven, we read, “But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich” (Luke 18:23).

Maybe the best thing we can do is ask the question of ourselves, “Can I say that my heart is stirred?” Ask it – but with the Lord to answer you. He who said truthfully to the busy Ephesians, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” (Revelation 2:4-5), He will tell you if your heart is stirred or settled.

No one wants to say, “My heart is not stirred. I’m happy to live in sludge that has settled there.” No one wants to be labeled “Stir lazy.” Trust the Lord to reveal your heart to you.

#2 – Can You See That Your Spirit Is Willing? (35:21-29; 36:4-7)

Speaking of James Bond – Sean Connery really owns that role. Overall I think he was better playing Malone in The Untouchables.

“What are you prepared to do?” was the question he asked Kevin Costner’s version of Eliot Ness.

“Everything within the law,” answered Ness.

“And then what?” countered Malone. “You must be prepared to go all the way… [Capone] pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get Capone. Are you ready to do that?”

The stirring of your heart implies a readiness to act. The willingness of the spirit is shown in taking action.

In a moment we’ll see the Israelites in action. First I want to acknowledge that a lot of important stuff happens in the chapters that we’ve skipped – including the infamous incident with the Golden Calf.

We will go back and study them; we’re not skipping them entirely. Right now, however, we’re following this thread of giving to the building of the Tabernacle.

Exo 35:21  Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments.

Heart-stirred means spirit-willing, which means you take action and serve the Lord as He has asked. In the case of Israel camped at Mount Sinai, it was to bring to Him the offerings He had requested for the building project.

Projects can rightfully stir the heart, leading your willing spirit to step-up and serve. When we purchased this building, we saw a lot of that. Guys and gals with specific skills came in and did demolition, construction, installation, and finish work.

They still do. In fact, anytime we announce something special, you step-up, and it’s a blessing.

But you don’t need a particular project to have a willing spirit. The church is an on-going building project; it will not be completed until Jesus comes for us, to resurrect the dead and rapture living believers.

The apostle Peter said, “Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you,” (Second Peter 1:13).

Peter taught believers the Word thinking it would stir them up to press forward in their normal activities – Praying, studying the Word, fellowshipping with believers, and sharing their faith in Jesus.

The writer to the Hebrew Christians said, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works…” (10:24). Those are on-going, everyday projects – “love and good works.”

There is always a call, from God, to serve – to offer yourself as a living sacrifice.

We shouldn’t need a special project; we have one; we are one.

Exo 35:22  They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the LORD.
Exo 35:23  And every man, with whom was found blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, goats’ hair, red skins of rams, and badger skins, brought them.
Exo 35:24  Everyone who offered an offering of silver or bronze brought the LORD’s offering. And everyone with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it.
Exo 35:25  All the women who were gifted artisans spun yarn with their hands, and brought what they had spun, of blue, purple, and scarlet, and fine linen.
Exo 35:26  And all the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats’ hair.
Exo 35:27  The rulers brought onyx stones, and the stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate,
Exo 35:28  and spices and oil for the light, for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense.

Just a few observations:

“They came, both men and women.” That’s as it should be – but often men are absent from church life. It’s a little dated, but in 2006 Biola University published an article titled, The Feminization of the Church. It dealt with what they identified as a centuries-old mystery: Why there are generally more women than men in every type of church, in every part of the world. Christian men who are absent from church definitely need to be stirred-up.
They gave material goods, but also offered their skills, as we read they, “spun yarn of goats hair.” Everyone can contribute something. Maybe you can’t give money; you can serve. Or maybe you are stirred to do both.
“The rulers” also contributed. Everyone has their function in the Lord’s house, and while some are leaders, all are equal.

Exo 35:29  The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the LORD, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the LORD, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done.

There was “all kinds of work which the Lord… had commanded to be done.”

There still is all kinds of work to be done in and through the church. By “church,” I mean each of us, as the living stones that comprise it.

A lot of times folks will come and say that God has laid something on their heart; that He has stirred their heart about something. While we might be able to come alongside and help, if it’s you God has stirred, it’s usually you who needs to take action.

Skip ahead to 36:3.

Exo 36:3  And they received from Moses all the offering which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of making the sanctuary. So they continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning.

“They” are the craftsmen charged with the construction of the Tabernacle. The offerings came in to Moses, and he got them to the appropriate builders.

Previously we’ve read in the Book of Exodus that a lot of Moses’ time had been occupied with hearing disputes, and adjudicating matters of conflict between Israelites. He did this all day – from morning until evening.

What a welcome relief from that drudgery to instead be receiving the freewill offerings of stirred hearts whose spirit was willing to serve.

It’s typical of being stirred-up that your focus becomes more on important matters. More spiritual matters. Instead of demanding your pound of flesh from others, you refuse to yield to your own flesh.

Exo 36:4  Then all the craftsmen who were doing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work he was doing,
Exo 36:5  and they spoke to Moses, saying, “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the LORD commanded us to do.”

What a great problem to have – too many resources.

In the recent Marvel film, Infinity War, Thanos is on a mission to eliminate half the population of the universe. He’s trying to solve the problem of too few resources to maintain the over-population of planets. After collecting all six infinity stones, he randomly annihilates folks with the snap of his fingers.

If you’ve got that kind of power literally at your fingertips, why not use it to create more resources? That’s what Dr. Carol Markus did in the StarTrek universe, in The Wrath of Kahn. Her Genesis device turned barren planets into veritable gardens of Eden.

Of course, in The Search for Spock you learn that the planet was also unstable. But, hey – she tried.

Anyway… The Israelites exceeded bringing the materials that were needed.

Exo 36:6  So Moses gave a commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, “Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.” And the people were restrained from bringing,
Exo 36:7  for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done – indeed too much.

Churches (and other non-profits) often put up a visual, like a thermometer, to show the progress towards achieving the financial goal.

Can someone tell me why a busted thermometer motivates giving?

Moses sent a proclamation through the camp, but it appears folks kept coming anyway, until he restrained them from bringing.

I mentioned the Relevant Magazine article on what would happen if the church tithed. Another source suggested that $2.5billion would fully fund the Great Commission. They said, “We have the resources to put a Bible in everyone’s hands and literally tell the world about Jesus. Think of the impact a small sacrifice from everyone could make.”

I want to stress, however, that this is not about money; not primarily. It is about having stirred hearts and willing spirits to take action to serve the Lord. That action might include giving more to Him. But there are a lot of other things that would occur as well.

Bottom line: You can see if your spirit is willing by taking a look at your serving.

When Paul exhorted Timothy to stir up his gift, he went on to say, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind“ (Second Timothy 1:7). It implies that Timothy was a little shaken by criticisms and other difficulties.

The Lord’s church should be stirred, not shaken, by the times in which we live. The ultimate answer to the many issues overwhelming the world is Jesus. We know Him, so let’s serve Him, and by playing our part as living stones, introduce Him to the world.

Hey, You, Get Off My Cloud; Don’t Hang Around ‘Cause 70’s a Crowd (Exodus 24:1-18)

My Diet is Better than Yours.

I’m referencing the 2016 reality TV series by that name. The series featured five contestants who each picked a trainer and a type of diet that they believed was the most suitable for them; the competitors subsequently dropped their trainers in the elimination process if the results were not satisfactory.

The results from worst to best:

#5 The Wellness Smackdown, changed in Episode Three to The Strong, Safe, Sexy Plan.
#4 The No Diet Plan.
#3 The Clean Momma Plan, changed in Episode Five to The Nutrient Timing Plan.
#2 The Paleolithic Wild Diet.
#1 The Superfood Swap Diet.

“Get lean while you clean,” is the slogan for the Clean Momma Plan. It’s creator calls it the busy woman’s guide to sustainable weight loss. It turns everyday household chores into exercises.

We will probably never agree on the best diet for humans; but we know the best diet for dogs. It’s K-L Ration. We know that because of the jingle:

My dog’s bigger than your dog;
My dog’s faster than yours
My dog’s shinier ‘cause he gets Ken-L Ration,
My dog’s better than yours

Something else we agree on is that the New Covenant with Jesus is better than the Old Covenant with Moses. We’re told outright in Hebrews 7:22 that Jesus is the “guarantee of a better covenant.” The writer to the Hebrews goes on to explain that Jesus Christ is better than everybody and everything:

In chapter two he says that Jesus Christ is better than angels.
In chapter three he says that Jesus is better than Moses.
In chapter four, Jesus is better than Joshua.
And then Jesus is better than the high priest Aaron.
And then Jesus is better than the Old Testament sacrifices

What Israel had was good; but what we have is better. They had the shadow; we have the substance.

Keep that in mind as we look at chapter twenty-four of Exodus. I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 “Draw Near To Me,” says Jesus Who Bled Better For You, and #2 “Draw Near To Me,” Says Jesus Who Builds Better With You.

#1 – “Draw Near To Me,” Says Jesus, Who Bled Better For You (v1-11)

It’s not eavesdropping if you overhear conversations while you’re waiting for the movie to start. While we were waiting for the third installment of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy to start, The Return of the King, we overheard a guy telling those he was with that he had not seen the previous two movies.

It was just wrong on so many levels.

Sometimes you need previous or additional material to understand what you’re watching… Or reading.

The Bible is like that generally. It’s been said, and it’s true, that the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible.

You’ve probably heard the old adage regarding the Old and New Testaments that says, “The New is in the Old contained, while the Old is in the New explained.”

As we’ve already suggested, the passage we are studying today should be explained by our knowledge of the Book of Hebrews. Hebrews allows us to see that while the Covenant God made with Israel was good, ours is far, far better.

There is disagreement among commentators on the exact order of events in Exodus twenty-four. It seems like verses one through eleven describe one ascent of Mount Sinai, while verses twelve through eighteen describe a different ascent.

Regarding the first ascent, it seems that verses one and two, and verses nine through eleven, occur after verses three through eight.

That being the case, let’s start with verses three through eight.

Exo 24:3  So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has said we will do.”

“All the words of the LORD and all the judgments” summarizes the things we’ve been reading starting with God speaking the Ten Commandments to Israel in chapter twenty. What we learn here is that God wasn’t simply giving them Laws; He was inviting Israel to enter into a binding agreement with Him – a covenant.

Having heard God’s Laws, the people eagerly agreed, promising to obey the Lord.

At this point Israel is typically criticized for being too hasty. For sure, we know from their history that the nation would miserably fail to obey the Lord. I would, however, note two things:

First, this wasn’t a promise to never disobey. It was an agreement to the terms of God’s covenant. It was like those disclaimers that pop-up all the time on-line, where you must choose “Accept” or “Do Not Accept.” If you want to move forward, you “Accept.”

Second, do we not promise to obey the Lord everyday only to fall short? Let’s cut them some grace.

That’s not to give the impression God was forcing them into something against their will. Israel knew this was a binding covenant. What’s more – I’m going to say that they were excited about entering into it. I mean, look at all God had already done for them? Who wouldn’t want to sign on the dotted line?

Exo 24:4  And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel.

Sometimes you need a paper trail to establish what you really agreed to. A few months ago, we learned that the State of California had suspended Calvary Chapel of Hanford from being a corporation. It had the potential of voiding any contracts we have entered, e.g., our mortgage. They were claiming that at our inception, the Secretary of State determined we were a religious organization but not a church. The difference is that churches do not file any annual tax documents, but religious organizations do file annually. As far as the State was concerned, we owed filings dating back to 1985.

It was solved when we produced the original document we received from the State saying we were incorporated as – you guessed it – a church.

Moses built an altar, and twelve pillars. The altar represented God in the covenant, while the twelve pillars represented the nation of Israel and its twelve tribes.

Exo 24:5  Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD.

There was no formal priesthood yet, but Israelites were familiar with sacrifices going all the way back to the Garden of Eden. The “young men” were likely firstborn men who represented their tribes.

From the beginning, in the Garden, God established that something had to die in order for sin to be dealt with. Because the penalty for sin is death, and because everyone is born a sinner, a substitute is necessary to have fellowship with God. Blood must be shed.

Exo 24:6  And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar.

It was a covenant agreed to and ratified by blood – the blood of a substitute who died on their behalf. God would accept the substitute and they would live as His nation, under His Laws.

Exo 24:7  Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.”

It wasn’t like the contracts we regularly sign, e.g., in escrow for a new home, in which we don’t read anything, and have just a basic idea what we agreed to. The terms of the Covenant were clear.

Exo 24:8  And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”

Moses probably sprinkled the blood on the twelve pillars that represented the people of Israel, and not on the people. Still, this was a bloody ceremony.

Exo 24:1  Now He said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD…”

This signing, as it were, was preliminary and necessary in order for the Lord to be able to say to them (v1), “Come up to the LORD…”

What was happening in this Covenant was tremendous; it was exhilarating. God had made a way for Israel to approach Him, and to worship Him, and to reveal Him to the Gentiles. The fact that the Old Covenant is inferior to our superior New Covenant shouldn’t be a reason for us to think little of it.

The superior access we have to Jesus can dull us to the fact that God was inviting Israel into His presence as much as He could prior to the Cross.

Exo 24:1  Now He said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar.

On this momentous occasion, representatives of the nation, as well as those who would be priests, accompanied Moses. Sure, the worshipped “from afar,” but it was closer than any living Israelite other than Moses had ever been to God.

Again, it was inferior to our access; but for its time, it was wonderful.

Exo 24:2  And Moses alone shall come near the LORD, but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.”

Moses still enjoyed greater access. The gen-pop had access only through representation. It was nevertheless unprecedented access to the Creator of Heaven and earth.

Drop down or scroll ahead to verse nine:

Exo 24:9  Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,
Exo 24:10  and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.

I thought you couldn’t see God and live; yet these all are described as “see[ing] the God of Israel.” Commentators jump through a lot of hoops to explain why they didn’t really “see” God; or that they only saw His “feet.”

According to commentary provided by Stephen in the Book of Acts, they saw the son of God, the God of Israel, in an human form, as a pledge of His future incarnation.

They saw Him; and the reason they didn’t die is in the next verse:

Exo 24:11  But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand…

The “nobles” describes everyone other than Moses. God let them see Him without them dying. OK, it may have been a limited viewing – the place where He was standing. But they saw Him.

Exo 24:11  But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank.

They ate in His presence. Nothing in the Bible shouts fellowship quite like sharing a meal. Jesus goes so far as to compare salvation to His knocking on your door and you inviting Him in to supper.

Distance… Partial sight… The Old Covenant was inferior, but if you were part of that nation, you’d know that God was in your midst, loving you, desiring to have fellowship with you.

God wasn’t trying to keep Himself hidden. He wanted to reveal Himself to Israel, and through Israel. It’s just that before the Cross, this was as good as it got.

“They saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.”
Compare what the apostle John would see after the Cross:

Rev 1:12 … I saw seven golden lampstands,
Rev 1:13  and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
Rev 1:14  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
Rev 1:15  His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
Rev 1:16  He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

“Come up to the LORD,” He said to Israel. There’s a New Testament version of that invitation. We are repeatedly exhorted to “Draw near to God.”

The writer to the Hebrews uses that phrasing several times. Here are three of them:

Heb 4:16 (NASB)  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Heb 7:25  (NASB) Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
Heb 10:22  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

One commentator said of this drawing near,

The great aim of this writer is that we get near God, that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that God not be a distant thought, but a near and present reality.

Our drawing near is not anything physical. It isn’t the good works we perform; it isn’t our spiritual disciplines; it isn’t even our devotions.

It is an invisible decision of the heart to believe we can have immediate access to the throne of God in Heaven. Someone said, “God is as distant as the holy of holies in heaven, and yet as near as the door of faith.”

The Israelites approached the Lord through the blood of bulls and goats. We approach Him through the blood of His Son shed for us. In Hebrews 10:19 it says, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…”

The result: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

God desires we each draw near. His Son died to make it possible for a believer to always have immediate access to Him.

Are we unworthy? Of course! But it’s not up to me to make myself worthy – as if I could do anything in my own strength.

I quoted Hebrews 10:22, which said, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
The authors of the Bible Knowledge Commentary explain that, saying,

The writer’s words are probably an exhortation to lay hold consciously of the cleansing benefits of Christ’s Cross and to draw near to God in enjoying them, putting away inward guilt and outward impurity.

Whatever might be keeping you from drawing near to God is not as powerful as the blood Jesus shed that you might draw near.

Lay hold of the access you have to Him, by faith. He desires to have supper with you – to fellowship with you. Enjoy it.

#2 – “Draw Near To Me,” Says Jesus, Who Builds Better With You (v12-18)

Have you ever considered the similarities between Jesus and Moses?

Jesus is sent by God to deliver his people, pursued as an infant by a murderous king, and spared in Egypt. Jesus came out of Egypt, enters the wilderness for forty days of testing, and then goes up on a mountain to deliver a new law. Jesus is known to miraculously feed large crowds of people in desolate, wilderness-like places and is spotted by his disciples on a mountain with his face shining like the sun.

This echoes Moses’ story almost exactly. It’s why we can say that Moses was a type of Jesus. We see Moses in the next set of verses – but we’re looking ahead to Jesus.
Exo 24:12  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”

This is another ascent up Mount Sinai, after some time had passed.

Exo 24:13  So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God.

Joshua in this chapter makes for a great devotional. Sure, he got to go part way up with Moses; but not far enough to be in God’s presence. Nevertheless he had to wait forty days in a kind of no-man’s land.

Ever been there? Feeling a little distant from God, but without any immediate help from the fellowship of believers?

Exo 24:14  And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Indeed, Aaron and Hur are with you. If any man has a difficulty, let him go to them.”

They were to “wait” at the foot of Mount Sinai, at base camp. Moses seemed to know that he would be gone a while, because he made plans to have his duties as judge covered by Aaron and Hur.

Exo 24:15  Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain.
Exo 24:16  Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.

Moses would wait for six days, in the cloud cover, before being brought into the presence of God. We don’t know why he must wait, or how Moses occupied himself. It’s likely Joshua was with him during this time. It could be the wait was more for Joshua than Moses – a time for them to retreat, as it were.

The things God does in and surrounding your life impact others. You can’t always know the impact, but that doesn’t diminish its importance.

Exo 24:17  The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.

Fire can be devastating. Our friend Dennis Agajanian posted that his home was spared in the Alpine fire that started Friday.

The “consuming fire on the top” of Mount Sinai didn’t consume anything; it burned as the glory of God. It gave the Israelites a visual of God.

Exo 24:18  So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

We pointed-out the similarities between Moses and Jesus. I came across this list of ways Jesus is superior to Moses:

Moses was sent to deliver the nation of Israel out of physical slavery in Egypt, Jesus was sent to deliver people from all nations out of spiritual slavery to sin in their hearts.

Moses only spoke the words he received from God, Jesus came as the very Word of God who declared, “I say to you” and it simply was God’s words.

Moses came as a recipient of the Law, Jesus came to fulfill the Law.

Moses’ face shone with the reflection of the heavenly glory he had seen, Jesus’ shone like the sun with his own divine glory.

Moses mediated temporarily between God and man by the Law, Jesus mediates eternally between God and man by the shedding of his own blood.

Once more turning to Hebrews, we read,

Heb 3:3  For this One [i.e., Jesus] has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house.
Heb 3:4  For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.
Heb 3:5  And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward,
Heb 3:6  but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.

Moses was a great servant. God used him mightily to build a nation, under God, based upon the Covenant ratified by the blood of substitutes.

Jesus is the Son. He is building the Church, based on the New Covenant ratified by His blood as our once-for-all Substitute.

Jesus is building better than Moses ever could. The apostle Peter said,

1Pe 2:5  you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

There has never been anything like what we call the Church. Believers are each part of a living “building” project. The Holy Spirit inhabits us – individually and corporately.

In the recent Justice League feature film, the bad guy came to earth to retrieve what were called Mother Boxes. There were three of them. Wonder Woman says of them, “They don’t contain power; they are power.” They were kept apart, because if they got near one another, they’d unite and their power would be unleashed.

Maybe we can think of believers a little like that. We are living stones, empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Built together, united in a fellowship, we are God’s power on earth as the means through which the Gospel is announced.

We are the better building, being built by the better Builder, in the fellowship of believers in the local church.

As living stones in this better building, we are “to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Our assignment is an assessment. We are to ask ourselves, “Am I offering up spiritual sacrifices?”

By “ask ourselves,” I mean we are to ask the Lord to search our hearts. With His aid, review your use of time; your use of talent; and your use of treasure.

When we met at the YMCA, they had a wall that had fake bricks with the names of donors.

Spiritually speaking, you should see your name – your brick – in the on-going building of the greatest building ever built, the church of Jesus Christ.

Angel In The Battlefield (Exodus 23:20-33)

It is perhaps the worst miscasting in a feature film of all time. Who do you think it was, in what film? Hold that thought.

Casting is so important. Every now and then someone publishes a list of actors who were almost cast in iconic roles instead of those who were:

We can’t imagine anyone other than Harrison Ford as Han Solo in the original StarWars trilogy. But they almost cast Al Pacino.

We can’t imagine anyone other than Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather trilogy. But they almost cast Jack Nicholson.

Forrest Gump was brought to the screen by Tom Hanks instead of John Travolta.

Who was the worst actual miscast of all time? No, it wasn’t George Clooney as Batman. It was John Wayne as Genghis Kahn in The Conqueror.

The film was a critical flop; it is often ranked as one of the worst films of the 1950s and one of the worst ever. The Conqueror was listed in the 1978 book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time. Wayne was posthumously named a “winner” of a Golden Turkey Award for his performance in the film.

On top of that, eleven above-ground nuclear weapons tests occurred at the location where it was filmed. The cast and crew spent many weeks at the site, and the producers later shipped 60 tons of dirt back to Hollywood in order to match the Utah terrain and lend realism to studio re-shoots. The filmmakers knew about the nuke tests but the federal government assured them that the tests caused no hazard to public health. The cast and crew totaled 220 people. By the end of 1980, 91 of them had developed some form of cancer and 46 had died of the disease.

Turning to our text in Exodus: The Israelites were perfectly cast as the conquerors of the Promised Land.

God said to them,

Exo 23:27  “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.
Exo 23:28  And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you.

Israel’s mandate: Go into the land and completely conquer its inhabitants.
We can learn from their example as conquerors, for sure. But our mandate, as Christians, is very different. We do not eliminate our enemies; we dwell with them. We are called upon to live in the midst of a fallen, even evil, world, surrounded by supernatural powers of darkness.

Jesus prayed to the Father about us, specifically asking Him, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

In this world we are not taken out of, surrounded by enemies like “the evil one,” we are described by the apostle Paul not as conquerors, but as “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).

We often want to be conquerors when, in fact, we are “more than conquerors.”

Let’s use illness as an example. We want to conquer it through prayer and fasting and faith and seeking God. Our Father still heals, and there is nothing wrong with seeking Him for conquering illness.

A “more than conqueror” is someone who, like the apostle Paul who coined the term, can accept God’s “No” and experience grace sufficient to glory in it.

Conquering is easy, in one sense. God could easily, immediately overcome all our pains and problems.

More than conquering – that’s real work, spiritual work, that readies us to see the Lord Who suffered and died that we might live.
It will help to remember this basic worldview: “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Are More Than A Conqueror In The Place Jesus Has Prepared, and #2 You Are More Than A Conqueror Against The Powers Jesus Has Permitted.

#1 – You Are More Than A Conqueror In The Place Jesus Has Prepared (v20-24)

God is a prepper. I don’t mean in the survivalist sense. I mean that He is always at work preparing things for us:

“I go to prepare a place for you,” Jesus promised us. You can read its description in the last chapters of the Revelation. It’s our mansions in the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, we read in Ephesians that God has “good works… prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

In verse twenty, the Lord tells Israel He has “prepared” the Promised Land for them. Seeing the kind of prepping the Lord did for them will help broaden our understanding of His prepping in our lives.

Exo 23:20  “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.

This “Angel” is none other than an Old Testament appearance of the Second Person of the trinity – Jesus Christ.
We are confident it’s the Lord, and not a mighty angel, because in the Book of Joshua you’ll see this Person described as Captain of the Lord’s host, and Joshua worships Him as God.

We all have a favorite Far Side cartoon. Mine was one in which God was a contestant on Jeopardy! He was the only one with any score, and He had a gazillion dollars heading into Final Jeopardy. It was an easy win.

With the Angel of the Lord, the Captain of the Lord’s host – Jesus – fighting for you, it was an easy win. Or at least it was a guaranteed win.

We have the Lord with us in a much greater sense. True, He’s departed and in Heaven; but He said that was a good thing, because now we each have the Holy Spirit indwelling us.

The Angel would “keep” Israel “in the way.” The place He had prepared must be approached along the way He had ordained.

We need reminding that it is the narrow way – the way of separation from the things of the world. We are in the world by God’s design; we are not to become of the world by its deception.

Exo 23:21  Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.

This doesn’t mean their “transgressions” could not be forgiven, but that they would have consequences. Part of God’s covenant with Israel was conditional on their obedience. I said they were guaranteed a win – but only if they obeyed Him and followed “the way” He prescribed.

Case in point: After the Israelites obeyed God in the conquest of Jericho, they disobeyed Him in the assault on Ai. They were defeated until they dealt with those who had sinned. Then they received a new strategy from the Lord, followed it, and were victorious.

Exo 23:22  But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

Tremendous promise, yes; but did you catch what He said? There would be “enemies” and “adversaries” in the land.

God had prepared the land for them by allowing enemies and adversaries to remain in it. They were headed into battle.

Our ideas about preparation are very different than God’s. I’m thinking He should have already driven-out the enemies, so that they could walk right in and start farming. Instead verses twenty-three and twenty-four describe what was waiting for them:

Exo 23:23  For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.

These nations were to be conquered. Let me deal quickly with the complaint that God was cruel in ordering the destruction of these peoples. First we must understand how incredibly wicked they were, e.g., casting their infants into fire to worship their gods.

There is something else we must factor in, and it’s put well by this quote:

It is contrary to the spirit of the divine law, and to the facts bearing on the subject scattered in the history, to suppose that any obstacle was put in the way of well disposed individuals of the denounced nations who left their sins and were willing to join the service of Yahweh. The spiritual blessings of the covenant were always open to those who sincerely and earnestly desired to possess them.

We see examples of individuals from these nations saved. It wasn’t that they could not repent; they would not.

Exo 23:24  You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars.

The Angel of the Lord would overcome these nations. All the Israelites had to do was not bow down to their gods, but instead utterly destroy their places and objects of worship.

It reminds me of when I first was saved. The Gospel was the power of God unto salvation, and it included deliverance from sin. I’ve told you before I was a drunk. The Lord immediately took that away; I no longer had any desire to drink alcohol. It was much better to be filled with the Holy Spirit. All I need do was to not be drawn back into drunkenness.

Is there something in your life the Lord conquered but you have now returned to? Over time, walking with the Lord, we are definitely “prone to wander… Prone to leave the God I love.”

In the world Jesus asked His Father to not remove you from, there remain serious enemies: Satan, sin, death and the grave.

Our enemies were all conquered at the Cross when Jesus said in a loud voice, “It is finished!”

Satan and his malevolent followers were defeated. Colossians 2:15 proclaims, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Sin was conquered. Romans 6:11-15 declares, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”

Death and the grave are no longer enemies. First Corinthians 15:55 says,  “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING? O HADES, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY?”

We have only to appropriate the conquest of the Cross by resisting the devil and refusing to yield ourselves to sin.

As for death and its aftermath, the grave, I told you earlier to have this mindset: To live is Christ, and to die is gain.

As we wait for Him, the Lord encourages us to discover “good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

One commentator said this:

It involves the idea of a previous determination, or an arrangement beforehand for securing a certain result. The previous preparation here referred to was, the divine intention; and the meaning is, that God had predetermined that we should lead holy lives.

God has prearranged that we can bring forth good works as we encounter and engage with our defeated enemies. We normally think of good works as feeding the poor, or taking care of widows. Those are good works; but something else is in view here.

An example of this type of good works will help. The apostle Paul encountered something he called a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan that buffeted him. He prayed repeatedly for healing and deliverance. God said, emphatically, “No.”

God said more than “No.” He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

To which Paul responded, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (Second Corinthians 12:9-10).

Paul wanted God to conquer the thorn in his flesh. Instead he became more than conqueror by letting grace be sufficient for him.

Many of you have gone through, or are going through, something in which you are asked to be more than conqueror. If not – you will have experiences like that.
With the empowering of the Spirit Who lives in you, bring forth the good works of a believer trusting in his or her Savior.

#2 – You Are More Than A Conqueror Against The Powers Jesus Has Permitted (v25-33)

If victory was guaranteed, why fight? As it turns out, fighting was necessary for some very important reasons.

Exo 23:25  “So you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you.

“Bread and water” are basic staples for living. We think of them as a diet for criminals. The promise here is that even things as ordinary as bread and water would be amazing in the Promised Land.

Do you have a favorite bread? Maybe King’s Hawaiian bread? Or any version of garlic bread?

How about water? I love Topo Chico sparkling mineral water.

There would be no sickness. Remember: This was promised to Israel in their mandate to drive-out all their enemies. Our mandate is to live among enemies; we are most definitely not promised health and wealth.

Exo 23:26  No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.

Long-life and a heritage were promised. Behind this is the reminder that God would fulfill all that He had unconditionally promised to Abraham, e.g., multiplying his descendants to be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and the sand on the beaches.

Exo 23:27  “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.

God would employ a number of odd strategies in their conquering of the Promised Land, including “fear.” When Israel crossed the Jordan, we read,

Jos 5:1  So it was, when all the kings of the Amorites who were on the west side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had crossed over, that their heart melted; and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel.

God used fear… And hornets!

Exo 23:28  And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you.

There is a lot of speculation on what is meant by “hornets,” including that God sent actual hornets. I rather think it’s a way of describing the effect of any of the strategies God would employ. Whether it was drying up the Jordan River… Or marching around the walls of Jericho… Or causing the sun to stand still in the sky while Israel defeated her enemies on the battlefield… It was like sending swarms of hornets in its effect.

Exo 23:29  I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.

The conquest would take more than a year. In fact it took seven years for Joshua to subdue their enemies.

I’m positive the average Israelite would have preferred that God drive-out their enemies without any fighting. But that would have been impractical, in many ways, but certainly regarding the land reverting to being too wild.

Thirty years after its reactor #4 exploded in a pillar of radioactive smoke, the abandoned wasteland around the Chernobyl nuclear power station is one of the most important habitats for scientists studying native wildlife in Europe. Within ten days of the accident on April 26, 1986, almost the entire population of 120,000 people had been evacuated from a 30 kilometer exclusion zone around the plant. But with humans off the scene, wild animal and bird species are roaming what is effectively one of Europe’s biggest – if unintentional – wildlife reserves.

Wild boar, wolves, elk, and deer in particular have thrived in the forest and grassland landscape.  The “zone,” as is it popularly known, has become an improbable sanctuary for more elusive fauna including Lynx, endangered European Bison – that wandered across the border from Belarus – and a growing population of Przewalski’s Horses, a wild equine released in the area in the 1990s. The extremely rare breed is doing so well in the area that herds are beginning to stray beyond the zone.

In another place in the Bible God tells them that He left enemies in the land so the Israelites would grow in their skills and abilities as warriors.

All-in-all, God’s plan to put them into battle was faith-building.

Exo 23:30  Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land.

God had a solid strategy for occupation. It would take time, but victory was assured.

Exo 23:31  And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you.

It was an ambitious plan, but very doable for a people who would obey the Lord.

Exo 23:32  You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.
Exo 23:33  They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

Israel had to be all-in. These nations must be destroyed – save for any who repented and believed in the Lord. The Israelites were not to deviate at all from God’s plan by merely subjugating the people, or entering into treaties with them. That would keep “their gods” in power – and that would ruin Israel.

We must realize that these “gods” were genuine supernatural entities. They were represented by idols of wood and stone; but they were not the mere imaginings of primitive people.

We saw, for instance, that the magicians of Egypt could perform more than magic tricks. They harnessed genuine supernatural power to duplicate a few of the things Moses could do.

It was simple: If Israel tried to make the pagans serve them by entering into covenants, they would end up serving their gods. They would thus be ensnared. They would be defeated and disciplined by God until they repented and got back on spiritual track.

Demands for exorcisms in the Catholic Church are on the rise. Earlier this year more than 200 priests from around the world traveled to Rome for an annual Vatican training course on how to perform exorcisms, the ritual used by the Catholic Church to free people who are believed to be possessed by demons.

We should not be surprised. The apostle Paul described “principalities… powers… the rulers of the darkness of this age… [the] spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Peter told us to resist the devil – indicating he would be on the attack, like a roaring lion, during the Church Age.

The passage in which the apostle Paul glories that we are “more than conquerors” reads like this:

Rom 8:35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Rom 8:37  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Rom 8:38  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
Rom 8:39  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That’s quite a list of perils, pain, problems, and pitfalls. To be a more than conqueror, you must experience some of them.

William MacDonald shares this commentary about being more than conquerors:

Instead of separating us from Christ’s love, these things only succeed in drawing us closer to Him. We are not only conquerors, but more than conquerors. It is not simply that we triumph over these formidable forces, but that in doing so we bring glory to God, blessing to others, and good to ourselves. We make slaves out of our enemies…

It all sounds so glorious – until it’s me who is in pain or peril. If I remember that to live is Christ, and to die gain, then God’s grace will be sufficient.

That word, “sufficient,” is described in Strong’s Concordance this way: “ the idea of raising a barrier; properly to ward off, that is, (by implication) to avail (figuratively be satisfactory): – be content, be enough, suffice, be sufficient.”

It isn’t that you are promised just barely enough grace to hang-on to your faith.

No, you are guaranteed grace that acts as a barrier, warding off the things assailing you. They cannot touch you spiritually – even as they may ruin you physically.

Your outward man is always perishing; your inward man is being transformed into the image of Jesus.

Sufficient grace also preaches to others watching you. To see you basking in the love of Jesus in the midst of such pain puts Heaven into perspective.

Satan, sin, death and the grave are defeated. While we patiently wait for Jesus to resurrect the dead believers of the Church Age, and rapture those alive at His coming, these enemies are permitted to operate on the earth.

The time in which a believer lives determines the casting:

Israel was cast as conquerors, empowered to drive-out enemies.
We are cast as more than conquerors, empowered to dwell in victory in the midst of enemies.

One Christian author wrote, “While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy.”

In the lyrics of Henry Francis Lyte,

I fear no foe with you at hand to bless,
though ills have weight, and tears their bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, your victory?
I triumph still, if you abide with me.

Father Knows Rest (Exodus 23:10-19)

“Time may fly when you’re having fun, but when you’re bored, it scrolls.”

With a hook that clever, I had to keep reading. It was an article about the native calendar on your iPhone. Apparently you can scroll indefinitely backward or forward in time:

Scrolling backward, one person reported that when you reach year 1AD, it jumps to 1BC.

The farthest anyone claims to have scrolled in the future is the year 60313.

My iPhone calendar likes to automatically alert me to certain holidays I’ve never heard of – like Eid al-Fitr. It’s on the US Holidays calendar.

So are the Lunar New Year and something called Diwali.

We’ve come a long way since day planners and the Rolodex. There are seemingly endless calendar apps; and everyone has to have multiple calendars that need to be synced with one another.

Plus your calendars need to be synced with others in your family or at your workplace.

If you long for simpler times, you’ll like our text in Exodus. It presents the calendar of Israel, and it’s pretty easy to understand:

You worked for six days, then the seventh day was a day of rest for all individuals.

After six years, the entire seventh year would be a time of extended rest for the land.

Meanwhile, three times per calendar year there would be feasts that every adult male Jew was mandated to attend.

It was definitely a cool calendar.

Not that we want to adopt their calendar, or its observances. We don’t. The apostle Paul instructed believers in the church age, “Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths” (Colossians 2:16).

We have zero obligation to follow anything on the calendar God established for Israel.

Doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it. Their work, and their worship, were planned out years in advance. It had built-in rest, and it was meant to be festive.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Your Work For The Lord Ought To Be Restful, and #2 Your Worship Of The Lord Ought To Be Festal.

#1 – Your Work For The Lord Ought To Be Restful (v10-13)

Under California law if you are a non-exempt worker, you are entitled to meal and rest breaks:

A 30-minute meal break if you work more than 5 hours in a workday.

10 minute breaks for every 4 hours you work.

A recent scientific study found that the most productive formula is to work for 52 minutes followed by a 17 minute break. All day – not just once or twice. That adds-up to 90 minutes in breaks.

I’m sure your boss will immediately implement the 52/17 schedule once you tell him or her you heard it from the pulpit.

The Israelites had been slaves charged with making bricks in Egypt. That was their day job. Off-time was spent sowing and harvesting their crops, and tending to their livestock.

In the recent past, during the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, they were required to make the same quota of bricks but without being provided the necessary straw.
So on top of everything else, they had to go out and gather their own straw. It was brutal daily labor.

The Promised Land would involve a much more relaxed pace.

Exo 23:10  “Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce,

This is what I would have heard as a recently redeemed Israelite: “Your land,” and “produce.”

God was giving them a land of their own; and He was speaking as if it were a done deal.
It wasn’t hardpan or swampland. It was going to be incredibly productive.

I’m sure they were chomping at the bit to get to work. God was going to rein them in a bit.

Exo 23:11  but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove.

As an aside, I’ve got to ask: If you are a Sabbatarian who farms, do you follow this Sabbath rule today?

Part of the challenge to obeying this was believing that God would either give you an increase in your sixth-year crops, or see you through with what you harvested. It required faith.

In practice, Israel would miserably fail. At one point they would ignore the Sabbath year for 490 years straight.
God therefore set the time of Israel’s captivity in Babylon at 70 years – the exact number of Sabbath years they had worked rather than rested.

Though fallow, the fields would still produce. A benefit of fallow fields was that “the poor” could glean from them; and wild animals could, too.

This doesn’t mean that they only ate every seven years. It means that they feasted every seven years. During the six years of regular crops the poor could glean:

Leviticus 19:9-10 instructs Israelites to leave the margins of their grain fields unharvested. The width of this margin appears to be up to the owner to decide.

They were not to pick up whatever produce fell to the ground. This would apply when a harvester grasped a bundle of stalks and cut them with the sickle, as well as when grapes fell from a cluster just cut from the vine.

They were to harvest their vineyards just once, presumably taking only the ripe grapes so as to leave the later ripening ones.

The exciting thing – the thing we can overlook – is that God was giving them a huge time of rest. The Israelites got a year off every six years.

It was a rest that required them to trust in God. It might be their land, and it might be on account of hard work their crops produced. But it was only because of God that they were being blessed. To ignore the Sabbath year and sow crops was to disbelieve God.

Our work, as believers, ought to be restful. It’s not by might, nor by power, that we produce anything for the Lord. It is all by His Spirit. Jesus said partnering with Him would make for rest.

That doesn’t mean we are idle. It isn’t “Let go and Let God.” No, we are to be spiritual workaholics. For example: We are told to pray “without ceasing.” That sounds intense – and it is.

But our work is done by His empowering; and we are not to get proud and think our effort is the reason we are blessed, or that it merits us more favor from God.

Exo 23:12  Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.

Sabbatarians argue that God established the keeping of the Sabbath day in Genesis when He rested on the seventh day of creation. If that were the case, why must He tell Israel to keep the Sabbath? If it had been the pattern since creation, they would have defaulted to it once freed from slavery in Egypt.

God’s seventh-day rest in Genesis was not a perpetual moral command. It wasn’t something you see Adam do weekly; or any of the patriarchs. It started with Israel in the wilderness.

Exo 23:13  “And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth.

This exhortation makes sense when you remember that the land they were going to possess was filled with Canaanites who worshipped any number of gods.
They’d need to be on guard. More than on guard. The word translated “circumspect” means “to hedge about (as with thorns).”

They were to practice spiritual agriculture by planting a hedge of thorns to protect their hearts from other gods.

The command was pretty strict: Don’t even mention the gods; their names should never even be heard coming out of their mouths.

It would have been impossible to worship these gods if Israel had taken this literally.

Are there things God doesn’t want you to see… Or to hear… Or to say? Probably. Be literal about it and you won’t be drawn in.

I’ve said enough for us to know that we are not subject to the Sabbath. We’ve covered this in previous studies anytime the Sabbath comes up in the text. Rather than go over that ground again, I want to share something a lot more encouraging to our walk with the Lord – a topic that is suggested by the Sabbath.

It has to do with the number seven. It seems to be a super-important number in the Word of God. We’ve already seen that the seventh day was a Sabbath, and the seventh year was a Sabbath. There was also going to be a Jubilee year after every seven cycles of Sabbath years; that is, every 50th year. According to Leviticus, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest (25:8-13).

We will read about three annual feasts, but in all there will be a total of seven biblical feasts. Concerning the feasts:

Every 7th month was holy and had 3 feasts.
There were 7 weeks between Passover and Pentecost.
The Passover feast lasted 7 days.
The Feast of Tabernacles lasted 7 days.
At Passover 14 lambs (7 twice) were offered daily.
At Tabernacles 14 lambs (7 twice) and 70 bullocks were offered.
At Pentecost 7 lambs were offered.

It doesn’t stop with that. The recurrence of the number seven – or an exact multiple of seven – is found throughout the Bible. Bear with me while I mention a few:

Seven pairs of clean animals were taken on the Ark. In addition, the Ark came to rest in the seventh month.
In Joseph’s time, there were seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine in Egypt.
Animals were to be at least seven days old before being used for sacrifice.
Leprous Naaman had to bathe in the Jordan River seven times to be healed.

Sevens surrounded the conquest of Jericho:

The Israelites marched around Jericho for seven days.
On the seventh day they had to make seven circuits.
Seven priests blew seven trumpets outside the city walls.

The prophet Daniel described God’s prophetic plan for Israel as lasting seventy weeks of seven years each.

Jumping to the New Testament:

Jesus told Peter to forgive “Seventy times seven.”
There are seven “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John.
There are seven miracles recorded in the Gospel of John.

In the Revelation there are a slew of sevens:

Jesus writes seven letters to the seven churches represented by seven lamp stands.
Seven spirits minister before the throne in Heaven.
Jesus opens a seven sealed scroll, revealing seven trumpets and seven bowls of wrath.
There are seven stars, seven horns, seven eyes, seven angels, seven thunders, seven heads, seven crowns, seven plagues, seven hills, and seven kings.

You should be familiar with the ministry of Chuck Missler. If not, find him on YouTube. He recently went home to glory.

I watched a brief video in which he described what is called the “heptadic structure” of Scripture. Heptad is a fancy word that means seven or a group of seven. Using the first seventeen verses of the Gospel of Matthew (which contain the genealogy of Jesus), Missler revealed a hidden structure in the words themselves regarding the number seven or its multiples. Missler said:

There are 72 Greek vocabulary words in these initial 17 verses:

The number of words which are nouns is exactly 56, or 7 x 8.
The Greek word “the” occurs most frequently in the passage: exactly 56 times, or 7 x 8. Also, the number of different forms in which the article “the” occurs is exactly 7.
There are two main sections in the passage: verse 1–11, and 12–17. In the first main section, the number of Greek vocabulary words used is 49, or 7 x 7.
Of these 49 words, the number of those beginning with a vowel is 28, or 7 x 4. The number of words beginning with a consonant is 21, or 7 x 3.
The total numbers of letters in these 49 words is 266, or 7 x 38 – exactly!
The number of vowels among these 266 letters is 140, or 7 x 20.
The number of consonants is 126, or 7 x 18 – exactly.
Of the 49 words, the number of words which occur more than once is 35, or 7 x 5.
The number of words occurring only once is 14, or 7 x 2.
The number of words which occur in only one form is exactly 42, or 7 x 6.
The number of words appearing in more than one form is also 7.
The number of the 49 Greek vocabulary words which are nouns is 42, or 7 x 6.
The number of words which are not nouns is 7.
Of the nouns, 35 are proper names, or exactly 7 x 5. These 35 names are used 63 times, or 7 x 9. The number of male names is exactly 28, or 7 x 4. These male names occur 56 times or 7 x 8. The number which are not male names is 7.
Three women are mentioned – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. The number of Greek letters in these three names is 14, 7 x 2.
The number of compound nouns is 7. The number of Greek letters in these 7 nouns is 49, or 7 x 7.
Only one city is named in this passage, Babylon, which in Greek contains exactly 7 letters.

Missler based a lot of his stuff on the earlier work of Ivan Panin. In Genesis 1:1, Panin discovered an incredible phenomenon of multiples of seven:

The number of Hebrew words is 7.
The number of letters equals 28 (7×4).
The first three Hebrew words translated “In the beginning God created” have 14 letters (7×2).
The last four Hebrew words translated “The heavens and the earth” have 14 letters (7×2).
The fourth and fifth words have 7 letters.
The sixth and seventh words have 7 letters.

There are many other sevens as well; but those should be more than enough to show that, underneath the inspired words of Scripture, there is a supernatural structure that gives evidence for divine design. The odds of heptadic structure being possible, even using a supercomputer, are nearly incalculable.

The apostle Paul said, “let no man judge you [regarding] sabbaths.” When the church council met in the Book of Acts to determine if Gentiles were obligated to keep the Mosaic Law, including the Sabbath, the answer that an entirely Jewish panel gave was an emphatic, “No!”

Instead of getting bogged-down by the Sabbath, let’s talk about the awesomeness of our God, Who has given us His signature in things like heptadic structure. This book IS the Word of God.

#2 – Your Worship Of The Lord Ought To Be Festal (v14-19)

After I read that article on scrolling back in time on the calendar, I went to my birthday in 1955. It fell on a Sunday. This year, it’s on a Tuesday.

Do you ever wonder how George Washington’s birthday can always fall on the third Monday in February?

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act is an Act of Congress that amended the federal holiday provisions of the United States Code to establish the observance of certain holidays on Mondays. The Act was signed into law on June 28, 1968, and took effect on January 1, 1971.

The Act moved Washington’s Birthday (February 22), Memorial Day (May 30), and Veterans Day (November 11) from fixed dates to designated Mondays, and established as a federal holiday Columbus Day – which had previously been celebrated in some states on October 12 – to a designated Monday.

Veterans Day was removed from this list of “always-on-Monday” holidays when it was moved back to its traditional date of November 11, by act of Congress in 1975, effective 1978.

Though the holiday was not in existence at the time, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday (established 1983) is celebrated on the third Monday in January, instead of King’s actual birth date, January 15.

The Act was designed to increase the number of three-day weekends for federal employees. Not that I’m complaining. I like a long weekend as much as the next person.

Pity poor Israel. As far as I can tell, Israel had no holidays until the Exodus. Then, all of a sudden, they had three involving pilgrimage.

Exo 23:14  “Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year:
Exo 23:15  You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty);

The Feast of Unleavened Bread includes Passover (which immediately precedes it), and Firstfruits (which ends it). For example, this year Passover was, on our calendar, March 31st-April 1st; Unleavened Bread was April 1st thru April 8th, with Firstfruits falling on April 7th-8th.

The Israelites went in haste from Egypt, having no time to spare. This was symbolized by eating bread that didn’t have time to rise.

Exo 23:16  and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field…

The Feast of Harvest is also known as the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of 50 Days, because it begins 50 days after Passover. We know this feast as Pentecost, which translates roughly to fifty days. This year, Pentecost was May 26th-27th.

Exo 23:16 … and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.

This is the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, when the Jews live outdoors in temporary shelters.

This year it will be September 24th thru October 1st. It will be preceded by two other holy days – the Feast of Trumpets on September 10th-11th; and the Day of Atonement five days before, on September 19th-20th.

These appointed times gave thanks for the harvest. They were agricultural celebrations. But they also commemorated three important spiritual things:

The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorated the Passover when the lamb’s blood sprinkled on the doorpost redeemed them from the death of every firstborn.

Pentecost commemorated the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai – believed traditionally to be fifty days after Passover.

The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated God’s continual provision for Israel in the wilderness.

They were constant reminders of the mercy and grace of God. O how we need reminding.

Exo 23:17  “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD.

It was mandatory – but it was festive. It’s like being ordered to celebrate. Like going to church; it’s festive. If you find yourself burdened by going, you need to adjust your thinking.

Twice we’ve heard God say, “Appear before [Me].” We tend to forget that the Jews enjoyed the manifestation of the glory of God in the form of the pillar that was cloud by day and fire by night.

Exo 23:18  “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; nor shall the fat of My sacrifice remain until morning.

The “blood… sacrifice” meant was the lamb offered at Passover. Leaven, or yeast, since it is a corrupting agent, was seen to represent sin. More rules would be given later, in Leviticus for example.

Exo 23:19  The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

“First of the firstfruits” meant the first and best. It was a test of faith. The Israelites had to trust God would provide at the end of the harvest.

The case of the young goat in his mother’s milk is baffling. Commentators can only guess at why it was so important. Here are their best guesses:

Because it was an idolatrous practice.
Because it was a magical (occult) practice to try to make the land more productive.
Because it was cruel to destroy a baby goat in the very milk which sustained it.
Because milk and meat are difficult to digest.

They don’t know; Jewish commentators don’t know; I certainly don’t know, nor do I hazard a guess. I will say that it has nothing to do with health issues. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the practice that would lead to illness.

I do know that it was a practice which would set them apart from their neighbors, leading to opportunities to share with Gentiles more about God.

Have you been troubled by folks who say we as Christians are wrong for ignoring the feasts? One recent group is being called the Hebrew Roots Movement. No question what they advocate: Return to the so-called Hebrew “roots” of our faith.

I like what one pastor said:

We have peace with God by trusting in the finished work of Christ alone. Add anything to that and you have fallen into a false gospel. You do not have peace with God by trusting in Christ and by being circumcised, or by trusting in Christ and keeping the Feast of Weeks. Add anything to the work of Christ, and you lose the work of Christ.

If you want to attend a Passover Seder, that’s OK. If you think it is necessary, or that it will elevate your Christian walk, that’s not OK. That’s not grace; that’s works.

The church has a very different ‘calendar’ than Israel has. We are told to live in daily expectation of the Lord’s return to resurrect and rapture us. We are to look forward to, and by doing so, hasten, the return of the Lord.

Every year there are predictions that Jesus is going to rapture us during the Feast of Trumpets, or on Pentecost. He may; but He may do so on any other day of the year.

My phone’s operating system automatically populates my calendar with weird holidays. Ashura and Indigenous People’s Day are right around the corner.

It would be better if, everyday, it began with a pop-up reminder that Jesus is coming.

Law-Law Land (Exodus 22:16-23:9)

Every now and then, there’s a story about the antics of an eccentric judge:

In 2009, Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak sentenced Clifton Williams to six months in jail for yawning loudly when the judge sentenced his cousin to two years probation. The prosecutor in the case said the yawn was a “loud and boisterous” attempt to disrupt the courtroom.

In 2005, Judge Robert Restaino, of Niagara Falls, New York, jailed all 46 people in his courtroom after none of them would admit to having the cell phone that began ringing during his court session.

Reality television has given us a few colorful judges – Wapner… Judy… Roy Brown. I’m pretty sure that we shouldn’t think of the courtroom as a place to be entertained.

My favorite judge from the movies: Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd. “I am the law,” he said, serving as futuristic judge, jury, and executioner.

Did you know that Stallone’s slurred speech is the result of an accident at birth? During his delivery, forceps damaged the nerves to his face leaving the left side permanently numb.

In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Stallone plays Stakar, the leader of a group called the Ravagers. Trouble is, he couldn’t pronounce it, but kept saying, “Ravenger.”

We won’t read about loud yawns or disruptive cell phones in our text from Exodus. We will read about a variety of legal issues being brought before the elders who had been appointed to help Moses judge cases.

We can step back and look at this as if it were the daily judicial calendar. Case after case came before the elders, and they were as diverse as you can imagine. It was their responsibility and privilege to apply the Ten Commandments and make their ruling.

Most of these cases refer to Israelites by birth. There are two verses about people from other countries living among them, here called “strangers.”

Putting all that together, I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Since You’re To Love Him As Yourself, You Will Want Justice For Your Neighbor, and #2 Since You’re To Love Him As Yourself, You Will Want Justice For The Stranger.

#1 – Since You Love Him As Yourself, You Will Want Justice For Your Neighbor

On the surface, it was a daunting task. Several million Israelites, along with a mixed-multitude, found themselves in the desert. Their ancestors had been in Egypt over 400 years – a good portion of the time serving as slaves. They’d known only Egypt’s laws, and mostly from the perspective of a subjugated people who had little legal recourse.

Redeemed by lamb’s blood, they were being established by God as His own special nation on the earth. God had appeared to them in His glory; He had spoken to them from Mount Sinai. He was offering them a covenant, and had given them the Ten Commandments as its basis. They would soon serve Him in His earthly Tabernacle.

Greatest of all – Through Israel, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, would be born.

Before any of that could happen, they’d need to get along with one another.

They could, if they’d simply Love the Lord with all their heart and mind and soul; and Love their neighbor as themselves.

When that didn’t happen, and, in fact, they mistreated one another, then the elders must judge the case.
Let’s take a look at some of the cases that came before them, and get God’s guidelines on their disposition.

Exo 22:16  “If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife.
Exo 22:17  If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.

“Betrothed” is what we’d call “engaged,” except it was a formal, legal contract that required a divorce to break. At the time of betrothal, a “bride price” – a dowry – was paid to the family of the bride.

We would call this premarital sex. It’s hard to settle on solid statistical evidence, but one researcher summarized by saying, “Today, most Americans think premarital sex is okay, and will have three or more sexual partners before marrying.”

Another study found, “Only 29% of American adults said premarital sex is “not wrong at all” in the early 1970s. Acceptance went up to 42% in the 1980s, remained flat in the 1990s, climbed to 49% in the 2000s, and surged to 58% in 2012.”

When premarital sex results in a pregnancy, so-called “shotgun weddings” have declined.

About two-thirds of couples who had a premarital pregnancy in the early 1960s got married in a rush. That share fell to just about a quarter by the early 1990s, research shows. The latest analyses by researchers from federal agencies suggest a drop to single digits as more couples opt to live together rather than marry and don’t want a child to rush them into marriage.
God’s guidelines for Israel were the following:

According to Deuteronomy 22:23-24, the seduction of a girl who was betrothed resulted in death by stoning for both parties.

If an unengaged virgin submitted to seduction the guy was required to pay her bride price and marry her.

If her father did not want his daughter to marry the guy, he was still obligated to pay the bride price.
In addition, according to Deuteronomy 22:28-29, if they did marry, the husband in this situation could never divorce her.

These guidelines definitely curbed premarital sex. You were essentially deciding to marry, without the possibility of divorce; and if the father refused to let his daughter wed, the guy would be out the money he and his family had been setting aside for his marriage.

If part of you says, “Gee, that’s harsh,” it really wasn’t. Consider the following two things:

Premarital sex robbed the family from participating in the joy of a betrothal and wedding. It was incredibly selfish, driven only by lust, not by love.

These guidelines mercifully provided for the girl, who might never marry, by demanding that the guy either man-up or pay-up.

Our guideline today, at least a big one, is Hebrews 13:4, which says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

Marriage as defined by God is between one biological man and one biological woman for as long as they both shall live.

It is a gift from God. Sex is to be restricted to those in a covenant of biblical marriage. Anything else is not only sin – it is less than God’s best for you.

Both in ancient Israel and today you can avoid all the hassle by just saying “No” to sex outside of marriage – trusting that God, Who made you and loves you, has your best life in mind.

A quick word of grace: Many of us started-off wrong, or sinned along the way, but God has redeemed our situations. We should never sin that grace might abound; but when we sin, and repent, grace does abound.

Speaking of such grace, A.W. Tozer wrote, “The same grace that saved me will save you. Therefore, I recommend, if you have slipped a little bit, and all of us have at some point, just take the plunge into the ocean of God’s grace.”

Case closed. What was next on the docket?

Exo 22:18  “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.

Forget zoning laws to keep palm readers and mediums outside of city limits. Capital punishment will do it.

Seem harsh? Well, then don’t practice sorcery. Nobody was forcing you to do it; it was a choice, and you knew the consequences.

Today we think of sorcery as a form of entertainment. Whether it’s Harry Potter, or some television medium, it all seems not only harmless, but helpful.

The Bible is a supernatural book, revealing the supernatural realm. There are fallen angels and seducing spirits; there are demons.

When psychologist Carl Jung tells you that he was in contact with a spirit-being named Philemon, we say it was “Philemon the demon.”

It’s not all real. Harry Houdini made it an obsession to debunk psychics and mediums as frauds. But there are real sinister powers at work in many cases; and to protect the national psyche of Israel, God wanted those on earth who were in contact with them killed.

Best to steer clear of all this stuff.

The next case is rated MA:

Exo 22:19  “Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.
Exo 22:20  “He who sacrifices to any god, except to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.

I read these together because the worship of these little-g gods sometimes involved depraved sex acts.

I’m going to quote a Canaanite epic poem, The Baal Cycle. You might want to cover the ears of any children. Ready?

Mightiest Baal hears; He makes love with a heifer in the outback, A cow in the field of Death’s Realm.
He lies with her seventy times seven… [She conceiv]es and bears a boy.

You may have heard of the Book of Enoch. It’s not Scripture, but it is quoted as being reliable by both Peter and Jude; and references to it can be discovered elsewhere in the Bible. In one passage, the Book of Enoch seems to indicate that the angels who sinned by marrying and mating with human women to produce Nephilim giants may have also had sex with animals to produce some of the weird creatures that are made famous in various mythologies.

Let’s move on. The next case, in verse twenty-one, involves a non-Israelite; let’s take it up later, and go to verse twenty-two.

Exo 22:22  “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child.
Exo 22:23  If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry;
Exo 22:24  and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

“Kill you with the sword” was a warning that if such behavior persisted, God would punish the whole nation by using an invading army against them.

These verses allow us to recognize something we haven’t mentioned yet, but that is part of all God’s dealings. He is compassionate. In this case, His compassion is shown by His heart towards widows and orphans. God wanted His people Israel, and He wants His people the church, to be compassionate, as He is.

One of the first big decisions in the early church in the Book of Acts was the fair treatment of widows.
The apostles took it seriously and appointed their best seven men to oversee the distribution of goods to the widows.

Next case:

Exo 22:25  “If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest.
Exo 22:26  If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down.
Exo 22:27  For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.

No interest loans! Sign me up. If the guy was borrowing money, he probably only had the clothes on his back as collateral. You couldn’t keep his outer garment overnight. It served as a sort of blanket – cause he was probably living outdoors.

Next case:

Exo 22:28  “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

This has to do with recognizing the authority God has over your life. You belong to Him. True, you were set free by lamb’s blood; but it was a freedom to serve God rather than sin.

The “ruler of your people” is God’s delegated authority over you on the earth. I know – most of them seem ungodly. But we are to submit to them as unto the Lord.

No punishment is suggested, giving the elders some wiggle room to enforce this. Remember: These are guidelines on how to implement the Ten Commandments.

Next case:

Exo 22:29  “You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me.
Exo 22:30  Likewise you shall do with your oxen and your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.

Israel was God’s firstborn, having been spared by Him when death took the firstborn of Egypt on the night of the first Passover. These rituals involving the firstborn of man and beasts celebrated their redemption and salvation. They were a constant reminder of all that the Lord had done to save them.

The next case involved road kill:

Exo 22:31  “And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat meat torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs

Not exactly road kill, but you get the idea. In such a case, the blood would not have been drained immediately, and to eat blood was a violation of God’s law (see Leviticus 17). Also, there was the danger of infection from various diseases spread by animals.

But beyond those health issues is the fact that God wanted them set-apart from their neighbors.
The rules God established weren’t always about health and hygiene. That’s where some people go wrong and urge you to abide by all the Old Testament dietary restrictions.

Kosher Jews don’t eat pork or crab. There’s nothing wrong with pork or crab – no health or hygiene issues. One rabbi even said, “While the commandment to follow a kosher diet falls under the category of laws which do not necessarily seem logical, we observe them only because God commands us to.”

God wanted them to have opportunities to share with Gentiles, and by being set-apart from certain things, questions would be asked, leading to witnessing about the goodness of God.

Exo 23:1  “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

An accusation required two witnesses to be verified. It would tempt folks to ask someone to falsify their testimony in order to act as the second witness.

Exo 23:2  You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.

You’d be surprised how easily a person can be pressured by a crowd and go along with their wickedness. It would make it really tough on the elders.

This might be a good place to realize that these elders, hearing these cases, needed more than God’s Law. They needed discernment that could only come from God the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell believers in former times; that is a privilege given to the church age. But they could be filled with, and led by, the Spirit; He could come upon them.

He must, in fact, if they were to render decisions.

Exo 23:3  You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.

This is interesting. We normally think of the “poor man” as the victim. He can be, for sure; but his poverty doesn’t insure his innocence. The elders shouldn’t show him preference.

Exo 23:4  “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.
Exo 23:5  If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.

This is a “who’s-my-neighbor” thing. As Jesus would describe it, the real question is, “Who’s neighbor are you?”

You’re everyone’s neighbor – including your enemy’s. You’re to do good, as a good neighbor should. “Like a good neighbor, Christians are there.”

Exo 23:6  “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute.

“Your poor” reminded the elders that, though impoverished, the poor man was his brother. There was a sense of responsibility to show mercy. “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

Exo 23:7  Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked.
Exo 23:8  And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous.

These were ethics rules governing the elders who judged. Certainly you hoped to appear before someone who was impartial, and had the integrity to not be bribed – either directly, or by favors.

Commenting on this section, one author wrote:

The strictness of the Divine justice is seen in these ancient enactments; but there is also revealed the tenderness of the Divine compassion. The law is severe on evil-doers, in order that well-doers may be encouraged and strengthened. God is just to punish the unjust and the oppressor; but He is compassionate to the weak and helpless. How tenderly He cares for the widow and the orphan. Their mournful cries touch His Divine heart. Here are combined the justice of the ruler and the tenderness of the father. We must be just, but justice must be tempered by mercy, and sweetened by compassion. Let the beautiful humanness of our religion be always manifested.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Jesus manifested a beautiful humanness in all of His dealings with people on the earth. He reached out to touch the leper, while not backing-down from exposing the legalist.

We need to let compassion overrule us without our compromising God’s rules or rulership. We know what is right, and what is just. But we also know that God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to eternal life.
Do you remember the old Aamco Transmission slogan? “Our mission is transmissions.”

Our “mission” is the Great Commission – to go and as we are going, make disciples of all men.

Our mission is the Great Commission. Our manner ought to be compassion.

#2 – Since You’re To Love Him As Yourself, You Will Want Justice For The Stranger

We skipped a verse in chapter twenty-two; and there is one left in chapter twenty-nine.

Exo 22:21  “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Exo 23:9  “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

We know “the heart of a stranger.” In absolute numbers, the United States has a larger immigrant population than any other country, with 47 million immigrants as of 2015. This represents 19.1% of the 244 million international migrants worldwide, and 14.4% of the US population.

Many of us are the children or grandchildren of immigrants to this great nation. I for one am grateful my dad came over from Italy.

Our text speaks to a few basic issues regarding biblical immigration.

While researching it, I came across a pretty thorough analysis by a Christian professor at The Center for Immigration Studies. He made two excellent points from the language and context of the Bible:

The first was that “stranger” was a technical term describing a foreigner who had attained legal status in Israel.

The second was that in the geopolitics of the Bible there were recognized borders that required permission to pass.

The Israelites themselves, you remember, asked permission of Egypt to initially settle within their borders, in Goshen. They were granted permission, and thus had legal status in Egypt.

The article I’m referencing concluded that, “In the ancient biblical world, countries had borders that were protected and respected, and foreigners who wanted to reside in another country had to obtain some sort of permission in order to be considered an alien with certain rights and privileges.”

This tiny bit of information by no means resolves the complicated immigration issues we face. It simply keeps us from misapplying the Bible within the on-going debate.

As Christians, we should promote and obey the rule of law; but we must do so, always, with the compassionate “heart of a stranger.”

As Christians, our mission is what? That’s right – our mission is the Great Commission. We are to be about the Lord’s work, promoting the Gospel – which is the power of God unto salvation.

Whatever the political issue, if people get saved, then the situation will change dramatically.

Evangelist Charles Finney came to Rochester, New York in September 1830 to fill the pulpit of Third Presbyterian Church.  The congregation was without a pastor and in danger of disbanding.  Originally Finney and his team had declined the invitation. 

After praying about it, Finney went. If you read the story, you’d say he was sent – by God the Holy Spirit. He preached every night, and three times on Sunday, while members of his team fasted and prayed.

In six-months, Rochester was completely transformed as 100,000 people came to salvation.

A pastor in New York who was converted in the Rochester meetings gave the following account of the effects of Finney’s meetings that city:

The whole community was stirred. Religion was the topic of conversation in the house, in the shop, in the office and on the street. The only theater in the city was converted into a livery stable; the only circus into a soap and candle factory. Grog shops were closed; the sanctuaries were thronged with happy worshippers; a new impulse was given to every philanthropic enterprise; the fountains of benevolence were opened, and men lived to do good.

The Gospel doesn’t stop you from being involved in the issues of the day. Together with several other evangelical leaders, Finney promoted social reforms, such as abolition of slavery and equal education for women and African Americans.

BUT: If you want to effect change, real change, work for the Lord by promoting the Gospel. Discover your gifts; attend every service you can; invite others to church; ask for opportunities to share your faith.

Do it all with the Lord’s compassion. Show the humanness of our religion. Have the heart of a stranger.

Mr. Redeemer’s Neighborhood (Exodus 21:28-22:15)

Have you ever had a bad neighbor?

He probably wasn’t as bad as Florida landscaper Mitchell Igelko.

When he wasn’t hired by his neighbor to mow the lawn, something in the man snapped. He decided if he couldn’t mow the lawn, no one would. So he sprayed toxic chemicals on the property that caused the grass to die.

From there, he went on a rampage, showering numerous houses with eggs, nails, and flammable liquids, which caused a boat to catch fire.

Video surveillance cameras caught Igelko in the act, and he was sentenced to five years’ probation. 

You might assume that Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was a bad neighbor – but not for the reason you might think. While putting together his private zoo, Escobar imported a single male hippopotamus and three females.

After Escobar’s death in 1993, many of his pets were shipped off to other parts of the world, but the Colombian government sort of forgot about the hippos. National Geographic counted at least 70 in 2013. Rural Colombians are dealing with the 4000 pound ear-wiggling inbred maniacs coming up to their villages in increasing numbers, all thanks to their long dead neighbor.

Even if you’re not a fan of Seinfeld, if I say, “Hello, Newman,” you know I’m referring to Jerry’s despicable neighbor. TV guide included him in their 2013 list of the “60 Nastiest Villains of All Time.” In 2016, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #16 of their “40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time.”

In the good neighbor category we’d expect to find Mr. Rogers. After all, it was always “A beautiful day in the neighborhood.”

Here is a bit of controversy: Although we all remember Fred singing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” if you search for it on YouTube, he sings “this neighborhood.” Weird.

We’re thinking about good and bad neighbors because our next verses in Exodus set forth the guidelines that can make it a beautiful day for neighbors. Specifically, they deal with avoiding personal injuries, and with respecting personal property.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Love Your Neighbor As Yourself By Keeping Him Safe From Personal Injury, and #2 You Love Your Neighbor As Yourself By Keeping Safe His Personal Property.

#1 – You Love Your Neighbor As Yourself By Keeping Him Safe From Personal Injury (21:28-32)

I still remember some of the safety tips promoted by Fire Marshall Bill:

Like when he demonstrated the danger of throwing a live grenade into a fireplace during the office Christmas party.

Or like when he demonstrated the danger of Stop, Drop, and Roll if the floor is covered with thumbtacks.

“Safety is no accident.” We say that to each other around campus – especially when one of the staff is not practicing safety.

Since the Israelites were to live in community with one another, personal injury was going to be an issue. God addresses a few cases, and gives His judgment on them.

These obviously are not exhaustive; but they are typical.

Exo 21:28  “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted.

I think you know this, but I am afraid of all animals – large or small. I’m afraid of my own pets. They could turn at any time.

The internet has only deepened and confirmed my fears as I watch over-and-over again that lady who gets attacked by a house cat and slips all over the icy sidewalk between her front door and her mailbox.

Who knew oxen could kill? They could, and they did. When they did, they were put to death. The owner wasn’t held accountable, but neither could he profit by selling the meat.

Exo 21:29  But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death.

If the ox was a menace, a disaster waiting to happen, then it was a different story. That was negligence. It carried the death penalty for its owner.

Way back when, we had Siberian Huskies. I don’t recommend it; not if you want to have a yard. They weren’t aggressive, but the Rottweilers living in one of the yards we walked by were. One night while Pam and I were walking two of the Huskies, the Rott’s broke through the rickety fence. There was only one thing to do: I ran off with our dogs while Pam fended-off the Rottweilers.

That’s a funny story – but only because no one was hurt. There are too many dog attacks as a result of the owner’s negligence that result in severe injury or death.

Exo 21:30  If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him.

He was not a murderer. He hadn’t trained the ox to be a killer. He wasn’t involved in underground, backyard ox-goring competition. “The first rule of ox-club is you don’t talk about ox-club.”

Instead of the death penalty, his life could be ransomed. The victim’s family apparently could demand a monetary settlement instead of the death penalty.

Exo 21:31  Whether it has gored a son or gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him.

The sanctity of the precious lives of children was thus upheld. They were no less valued than adults.

Exo 21:32  If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

The fact that the ox was killed for goring a slave is significant. It tells us that the slave had the same sacred worth as a free person. A slave wasn’t property; he or she was a person made in the image of God.

We commonly say that “thirty shekels of silver” was the price of a slave. That’s kind of true. Here’s what I mean: Slaves in Israel were not bought and sold. We saw in our last study that, for a variety of reasons, they put themselves into slavery, but had to be released after a maximum of six years of serving.

Thirty shekels wasn’t the ‘going rate’ for purchasing slaves. No, the thirty shekels was compensation for the loss of the slave’s labor, which might have been intended to pay off a debt that he owed.
We also tend to think that thirty shekels wasn’t very much money. True, it converts to only about $60.00; but we need to put that into perspective. For example, the prophet Jeremiah bought a field from his cousin for seventeen shekels (Jeremiah 32:9).

In the Book of Judges, a priest is hired at wages of ten shekels per year (17:10). Thirty shekels, then, was his three years wages.

Of course, the most famous use of thirty shekels in the Bible is the price Judas was paid to betray Jesus. The point isn’t that Jesus was ‘sold’ as a slave. The thirty shekels paid Judas were the fulfillment of a couple of marvelous prophecies in the Old Testament book of Zechariah.

Back to Exodus: These were guidelines, helping the elders and the judges to apply God’s Law to every specific case. Love demands I keep my neighbor safe.

You’re undoubtedly familiar with the phrase, “Ambulance Chaser.” It’s a lawyer who specializes in bringing cases seeking damages for personal injury.

Lawyers are near the bottom on lists of Most Trusted Professions, ahead of only Business Executives and Lobbyists.

Pastors fall in the middle. The most trusted profession by far: Nurses.

Israel had no Ox Chasers. When a situation arose between neighbors involving personal injury, it was resolved according to the Law as summarized in the Ten Commandments; which can further be summarized by loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul; and loving your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus was once asked, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He answered, saying,
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like it: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

“Loving your neighbor as yourself” is the foundation for these judgements about personal injury, and personal property. Keep love in your heart and you will strive to avoid causing personal injury to your neighbor. Love your neighbor as yourself and you’ll know what to do if you cause a problem for him.

Rather than attempt a list of ways I can love my neighbor as myself, I came across this quote that puts it into perspective rather boldly:

[The] commandment to love our neighbor as we love ourselves… seems to demand that I tear the skin off my body and wrap it around another person so that I feel that I am that other person; and all the longings that I have for my own safety and health and success and happiness I now feel for that other person as though he were me… If this is what it means, then something unbelievably powerful and earthshaking and reconstructing and overturning and upending will have to happen in our souls. Something supernatural. Something well beyond what self-preserving, self-enhancing, self-exalting, self-esteeming, self-advancing human beings… can do on their own.

The “something” that must happen is that I get saved and have God the Holy Spirit take-up residence in me. With His indwelling and His enabling, I can feel for that other person as though he, or she, were me.

#2 – You Love Your Neighbor As Yourself By Keeping Safe His Personal Property (21:33 – 22:15)

Speaking of Seinfeld… In one episode, Jerry sees his dry cleaner wearing his coat that he had left with them. Later he spots the dry cleaner’s wife wearing his mothers fur coat.

I recently acquired a replacement shirt from my dry cleaner. They lost one of mine, so I picked-out a shirt from their rack of unclaimed clothes. Turns out, the shirt I chose is quite expensive. Whenever I wear it, I wonder if its owner is going to see it and confront me.

Do you ever wonder what happens to your car when you give up the key for valet parking?

If you have a Tesla, you’ll know what happens. A Tesla keeps track of the car’s energy usage. One owner saw a dramatic spike on the dashboard after it was valet parked.

“It was all the way up to the 900 level,” the owner said. “I’ve never had a spike like that.”

For five to six miles, the car recorded that someone floored it, likely topping speeds of more than 90 miles an hour.

“It was clear that they were driving the car hard,” he said. “Driving it like you stole it; it’s exactly what they did.” Busted!

Concern for your neighbor’s personal property is next discussed in Exodus.

Exo 21:33  “And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it,
Exo 21:34  the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his.

The “pit” was normally a well. It needed a protective wall around it so it wasn’t a hazard. Don’t skimp on the wall; or leave it undone. There was too much danger.

How many times have we seen a child fall into an abandoned well or mine shaft? Too many times.

Exo 21:35  “If one man’s ox hurts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the money from it; and the dead ox they shall also divide.

I’m not sure I get ox-math, but each individual ends up with the equivalent of a whole ox in meat and in money.

Exo 21:36  Or if it was known that the ox tended to thrust in time past, and its owner has not kept it confined, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall be his own.

In the case of the aggressive ox, the innocent party is paid the value of his gored ox, and he keeps it for its meat and hide.

Exo 22:1  “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep.

That seems a pretty effective deterrent to stealing. You had to restore 5-fold or 4-fold. If you couldn’t, you’d serve six years as a slave.

Exo 22:2  If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.

As we will see in verse three, the attempted theft in verse two occurs at night. The homeowner had the right to protect himself using lethal force against the nocturnal intruder.

Exo 22:3  If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed…

If the thief broke-in during the day, things were different. “Guilt for [the thief’s] bloodshed” means the person being robbed was held accountable for taking the thief’s life.

In one case, you’re sleeping; it’s dark; you’re startled by the intruder and don’t know his intentions. Lethal force is understandable and acceptable.

If it’s daytime, and you can see you are not in mortal danger – you can’t just kill people. Plus in the light of day you could identify the thief, leading to his capture.

Law Enforcement has a Use of Force Continuum. It’s a standard that provides them with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation.
Cops can’t randomly draw their sidearm and shoot people. Sure, it makes their job a whole lot more dangerous, but they must only use as much force as is necessary.

I saw a video the other day of an Arizona purse-snatcher being shot at by a by-stander. As much as the guy was a dirtbag, I don’t think shooting him fits the crime. Human life is of greater value than a purse.

One commentator put it this way: “God holds sacred even the life of a thief who is breaking into a house. If he breaks in at night and is slain, the slayer is not charged. But if his crime is in the daytime, when the owner could call for help or even recognize the intruder and accuse him later, then the slayer is guilty of homicide.”

Exo 22:3  If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.

The “he” in the last half of the verse is the thief. He must pay-up or serve as a slave.

Exo 22:4  If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double.

God thought restitution was a good thing to demand. BTW: Our courts often do order restitution – although it can be difficult to enforce.

Exo 22:5  “If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed, and lets loose his animal, and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.
Exo 22:6  “If fire breaks out and catches in thorns, so that stacked grain, standing grain, or the field is consumed, he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.

Your neighbor’s grazing land was important for his livelihood. You must work to keep your animals off of it; and to be sure you don’t accidentally kindle a fire.

A do-it-yourself bedbug extermination attempt gone wrong left a Cincinnati home in flames and displaced 10 people.

The fire broke out in a multifamily home, which had five units. Three people suffered smoke inhalation. The blaze caused $250,000 damage.

It was the second recent such incident in Cincinnati.

The blaze began when a woman on the first floor tried to kill bedbugs with alcohol that ignited near an open flame, either a candle or burning incense.

Call Hedges Pest Control. Leave it to the professionals.

Exo 22:7  “If a man delivers to his neighbor money or articles to keep, and it is stolen out of the man’s house, if the thief is found, he shall pay double.
Exo 22:8  If the thief is not found, then the master of the house shall be brought to the judges to see whether he has put his hand into his neighbor’s goods.
There were no banks, or mini-storage facilities. Personal property was sometimes given to a neighbor for protection. The one who received someone’s valuables (goods, clothing, or animals) for safekeeping was responsible for them. If personal valuables were lost and no thief was found, the one who kept the goods had to prove before the judges that he did not steal them or he had to make restitution by paying double.

I’d like to make an observation. In verse eight, many Bible versions have the word “judges.” It’s the Hebrew word elohim, which I’ve mentioned a few times as a description of God and other beings that inhabit the supernatural realm. In some Bible versions, scholars interpret it as also referring to human judges. That’s not accurate.

Elohim does not refer to humans unless they are deceased and in the supernatural.

One of the better recent translations of the Bible, the ESV, translates the word in this verse, “God.” It’s correct in doing so.

Moses was emphasizing that these judgments were being made before God. Besides, when Moses at the urging of his father-in-law, Jethro, first chose men to help him judge, they are not called elohim. They are called elders (Exodus 18).

In the question of Yandu to Rocket regarding something Baby Groot was saying, “Is this conversation important?”

It is – in order to remain consistent with the use of elohim throughout the Old Testament.

Exo 22:9  “For any kind of trespass, whether it concerns an ox, a donkey, a sheep, or clothing, or for any kind of lost thing which another claims to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whomever the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.

Again, “judges” should be translated God. The translators who prefer “judges” are interpreting what they believe is being said. It might sound strange to us, to say that the parties came “before God,” but it shouldn’t. An Israelite might appear before Moses, or the elders; but he was to understand that he was really appearing before God.

By the way, according to Deuteronomy 17:12, “the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed… the judge, that man shall die.”

Exo 22:10  If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, no one seeing it,
Exo 22:11  then an oath of the LORD shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept that, and he shall not make it good.
Exo 22:12  But if, in fact, it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to the owner of it.
Exo 22:13  If it is torn to pieces by a beast, then he shall bring it as evidence, and he shall not make good what was torn.

Taking care of someone’s animals was tricky. These verses list some of the things that might happen to them, and whether the neighbor was required to make restitution or not.

Exo 22:14  “And if a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make it good.
Exo 22:15  If its owner was with it, he shall not make it good; if it was hired, it came for its hire.

This is one reason I don’t like to borrow things. If I break it, I’ve bought it – for its owner. And I always seem to break it.

These are not the comprehensive property laws of Israel. They were representative guidelines to give the Israelites understanding on how to approach property issues.

Want to get along with others? Love God; love your neighbor.

It’s simple – until you try to do it. Then you find it is impossible.

But wait: We’ve been told that what is impossible for man is possible for God.

If you are a believer, something supernatural has occurred in your life. God the Holy Spirit has taken residence in you.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” has nothing to do with your natural disposition or personality:

You’re not at a disadvantage to love this way if you’re a hermit-like curmudgeon.
You’re not at an advantage if you’re a syrupy-sweet glass-half-full kind of person.

Loving your neighbor as yourself is totally supernatural.

But so are you and I – because God resides in us.

It may sound like a cop-out, but rather than tell you how to love your neighbor as yourself, I’m only going to remind you that you can.

If you start thinking of specific activities… That’s putting the cart before the horse. If you list it out, then you’re setting yourself up for failure:

Either you will fail to accomplish your list, feel defeated, and grow even less loving; or,
You’ll think you’ve succeeded and grow into a legalist – which might be worse than failing in the long run.

Having begun in the Spirit, you cannot make advances by your own efforts.

Everyday is a beautiful day in the neighborhood for loving God, and for loving your neighbor, all in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

One-half Of 12 Years A Slave (Exodus 21:1-27)

If you have a job that seems menial, or sounds boring to people, perhaps you should consider giving it a more creative title.

You’ve all heard the title, Domestic Engineer, applied to a housewife (or a house husband).

Likewise, you’re not a Garbage Man; you’re a Sanitation Engineer.

See if you can spot the jobs behind these titles:

Director of First Impressions – That’s a Receptionist.

Vision Clearance Engineer – That’s a Window Washer.

Media Distribution Agent – That’s a Newspaper boy or girl.

Reprographics Expert – That’s someone who makes copies.

There’s a word in the Bible with so much negative connotation that the translators try to avoid using it as much as possible. They use acceptable variants that to our ears make it sound less severe.

According to one commentator, the Hebrew word we’re talking about appears 800 times as a noun, and nearly 300 times as a verb. It is the word for “slave.”

It appears eleven hundred times in the Old Testament; but if you do a search for it in the New King James Version, you’ll find that it’s translated “slave” only about fifteen times.

Instead of “slave” the translators opt for “servant” or “bondservant.”

It’s done for good reason. They want to differentiate biblical slavery from what we normally associate with slavery. We can’t help but think of the abominable American institution of slavery – the bondage and oppression experienced by Africans in the 18th and 19th centuries on our soil.

Slavery in the Bible was nothing like what we are familiar with. Nothing.

We have a tough task ahead of us in chapter twenty-one of Exodus. We have to think of slavery in the biblical sense.

It wasn’t a horrifying institution by which men owned other men and women as property.

But it wasn’t exactly Club Med, either.

Then, just as we finish discussing slavery, Moses brings up capital punishment.

One way to keep ourselves focused on what the Bible teaches versus the biases we bring is to draw out the fact that underlying everything in these verses is the sanctity of all human life.

Slaves and free men alike were understood to be made in the image of God. All life was to be respected. Disrespect for it brought the severest of punishment.

I’ll organize my comments on these verses around two points: #1 You See The Sanctity Of Human Life In The Maintaining Of Slaves, and #2 You See The Sanctity Of Human Life In The Mandating Of Capital Punishment.

#1 – You See The Sanctity Of Human Life In The Maintaining Of Slaves (v1-11)

According to the American Psychiatric Association, by age 18, a US youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence.

Those numbers double if they watch one episode of The Walking Dead. (Just kidding about that last one).

I don’t want to be drawn into the debate about whether or not media violence is to blame for what is happening among our youth. Without saying where it leads a viewer, a case can be made for the devaluing of human life in our media.

Then there is the absolute horror of abortion on demand. Between 1970 and 2014, the CDC reports nearly 44.5 million legal induced abortions in the US.

As of March 2018, human euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg, Canada and India. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, South Korea, Japan, and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Montana, Washington DC and California. An assisted dying scheme in the Australian state of Victoria will come into effect in mid-2019.

Sanctity of life seems to be at an all-time low.

What exactly do we mean by the sanctity of life? It can have more than one definition, but this is a good one:

The phrase “sanctity of life” reflects the belief that, because people are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), human life has an inherently sacred attribute that should be protected and respected at all times.

God gives directions on how the Hebrews were to maintain slaves. Those directions are built upon the bedrock of the sanctity of all human life. We might summarize them by saying, “You can’t treat a slave as a slave.” God demand slaves be treated as full, 100% human beings, with respect.

Israel had no prisons; no penal system. Instead they had a type of slavery that promoted restoration and restitution.

Exo 21:1  “Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them:

God had previously spoken aloud to Israel the Ten Commandments. The “judgments” given in the next few chapters are guidelines given to judges in order that they might apply the Ten Commandments to particular cases that will arise among Israelites.

These first verses, one through eleven, are the Ten Commandments applied to slaves.

Before we look at them, let’s talk about how you could become a slave. According to one source, there were four basic ways a Hebrew might become a slave to another Hebrew:

In extreme poverty, they might sell their liberty (Leviticus 25:39).
A distressed father might sell his children into servitude (Exodus 21:7).
In the case of bankruptcy, a man might become servant to his creditors (Second Kings 4:1).
If a thief had nothing with which to pay proper restitution, he served as a slave (Exodus 22:3-4).

The instructions that follow are “judgments” that apply the Ten Commandments to slavery. There certainly were other cases not listed in the Bible that required the judges to apply precedent.

This isn’t comprehensive of all cases, but it is typical of all cases.

Exo 21:2  If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing.

Whoa! Right away you understand that Hebrew slavery was entirely different than anything we might be familiar with.

The maximum tenure of a slave was six years. Then, freedom; and more than freedom. According to Deuteronomy 15:13-14,

Deu 15:13  And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed;
Deu 15:14  you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the LORD has blessed you with, you shall give to him.

Commentators can’t agree on whether “in the seventh” means in the Sabbatical year; or at the end of any six-year period.

In biblical times, the Hebrews were supposed to let their land rest every seventh year – as a Sabbath. It was for failing to do this for 490 years that the Jews were required to remain captive in Babylon for 70 years during the time of Daniel.

I’m thinking slavery lasted a maximum of six years regardless of the Sabbatical year. After six consecutive years a slave was emancipated without having to be bought, or to buy himself or herself, out of slavery. He was gifted to help re-establish him.

Exo 21:3  If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him.

This tells us that even though a slave, the man was able to maintain a home life with his wife and children. There was respect for marriage, and for family.

Exo 21:4  If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.

You’re serving your six years and a woman in the household catches your eye. You fall in love, get married, and have kids.

At the end of your six years, your wife and kids belong to the master of the house. Unfair, you say? Then don’t get married while you’re a slave. It wasn’t a trick; everyone knew the rules.

It’s getting typical that believers follow their feelings over their faith:

“I fell in love with an unbeliever; it must be from God.”

“I fell in love with someone but I’m married; it must be from God.”

How could it be so wrong when it ‘feels’ so right?

Write this down: It isn’t blessed of God if you sin by doing it.

Exo 21:5  But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’

Freedom of choice. That’s not typical of slavery as we know it.

There wasn’t pressure from the master of the house – no coercion or threatening. No, the slave preferred to stay and serve in this household. It was based on “love.”

Exo 21:6  then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

The slave must declare in a public, legal ceremony, that he was making this decision himself. He took this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

He was then ‘earmarked’ as a lifelong slave.

I note in passing that piercings are biblical. And probably they wore an earring. If you’ve had your ear pierced, you know that if you don’t wear jewelry it will close-up.

What good is having your ear pierced to identify you as a permanent slave if the piercing closes-up?

Exo 21:7  “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.

It’s hard to pin everything down exactly, but it seems that a daughter might be sold to be a housekeeper or do other work.

There was nothing perverse about this. This wasn’t sex trafficking.

That doesn’t mean it was easy. But remember the father had fallen on hard times and needed help.

We have a foster care system, do we not? It isn’t the ideal, but it can be very helpful.

We encourage adoptions, do we not? It isn’t the ideal, but it can preserve the sanctity of life.

Exo 21:8  If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her.

I wish all this was more clear; it isn’t. What we can say is that a “betrothal” took place. The master of the house intended to marry her. Then he decided not to. In that case, “he has dealt deceitfully with her.” She had rights – and he had wronged her. She could not be sold as property, but must be cared for.

In case you’re not aware, Disneyland is changing an iconic scene in its Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The scene that once had a redheaded character named Redd as part of a “wench sale” with signs that read “Auction – Take a wench for a bride” has changed with the times. Redd will now be a pirate who’s just pillaged the town’s rum supply and has something to say about it.

I love the ride but all of it is problematic for children:

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot
Drink up, me ‘earties, yo ho
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho

The song goes on to glorify filching and sacking; embezzling and hijacking… Charring, inflaming, igniting; burning cities and frightening. All in good fun?

Exo 21:9  And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters.
Exo 21:10  If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights.
Exo 21:11  And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.

In the case of a female slave, she could not go out free in the seventh year if her master had taken her as a wife or concubine and was willing to fulfill his responsibilities to her. If he was not willing, she had to be redeemed, but could not be sold to Gentiles.

If he wanted her as a wife for his son, then he had to treat her as he would any daughter-in-law.

If the master took another wife, he was still responsible to provide for the slave girl and to give her full marriage rights.

Multiple wives and concubines rightfully bother us. Tribal societies create certain unusual circumstances that push the envelope. For example, in Israel, the family name must continue. No tribe could go extinct. It made for unusual provisions – like the one that said a brother must produce children for a deceased brother by having sex with his sister-in-law.

Should we follow these judgments and restore biblical slavery? No.

These judgments were the application of the Ten Commandments in the foundational, tribal society of Israel.

We should make application of the Ten Commandments to our western, non-tribal society.

The true wonder of these verses is the preservation of the sanctity of life. We can look at our laws and ask ourselves, “Are we maintaining the sanctity of all human life?”

#2 – You See The Sanctity Of Human Life In The Mandating Of Capital Punishment (v12-27)

Nineteenth century novelist Alphonse Karr said, “If we want to abolish the death penalty, let our friends the murderers take the first step.”

Another Alphonse, twentieth century gangster Alphonse Capone, said, “You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.”

The Old Testament Law prescribed capital punishment for an extensive list of crimes, including:

Murder (Exodus 21:12-14; Leviticus 24:17,21).
Attacking or cursing a parent (Exodus 21:15,17).
Disobedience to parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
Kidnapping (Exodus 21:16).
Failure to confine a dangerous animal, resulting in death (Exodus 21:28-29).
Witchcraft and sorcery (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:27, Deuteronomy 13:5, 1 Samuel 28:9).
Human sacrifice (Leviticus 20:2-5).
Sex with an animal (Exodus 22:19, Leviticus 20:16).
Doing work on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14, 35:2, Numbers 15:32-36).
Incest (Leviticus 18:6-18, 20:11-12,14,17,19-21).
Adultery (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).
Homosexual acts (Leviticus 20:13).
Prostitution by a priest’s daughter (Leviticus 21:9).
Blasphemy (Leviticus 24:14,16, 23).
False prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:20).
Perjury in capital cases (Deuteronomy 19:16-19).
Refusing to obey a decision of a judge or priest (Deuteronomy 17:12).
False claim of a woman’s virginity at time of marriage (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).
Sex between a woman pledged to be married and a man other than her betrothed (Deuteronomy 22:23-24).

We see four specific cases in the following verses: Premeditated murder; physical violence against parents; kidnapping; and the verbal abuse of parents.

Exo 21:12  “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.

Since we’ve just seen regarding the treatment of slaves that God promotes the sanctity of all human life, we must conclude that His prescribing capital punishment also upholds sanctity.

I like what the good folks at Answers in Genesis have to say. They quote God’s instruction to Noah after the flood, in Genesis 9:6, which says, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.”

Then they apply it this way:

Though Genesis 9:6 may seem inconsistent or contradictory to the sanctity of life, it in fact demonstrates the sacredness of human life. The Scriptures view murder as such a contemptible crime against man and God that the only just penalty is the forfeiting of the murderer’s life. Any other punishment degrades the life of the victim. Any other punishment risks additional murderous acts, even by those serving a lifetime prison sentence. Any other punishment reduces the heinousness of murder, thereby endangering society by lessening its stigma. In a sinful society, Genesis 9:6, though a dreadful command, is a blessing from God. It furnishes the ultimate protection for human life.

Whenever the subject of capital punishment comes up, we like to try to win the point by arguing that it is a deterrent to crime, or something like that.

The real issue is this: Has God prescribed it as a punishment? If He has, then that settles it.

It’s pretty clear God prescribed it for Noah’s descendants.
It’s pretty clear He demanded it in Israel.
I don’t see it rescinded in the New Testament. In fact, in a famously quoted verse from Romans 13, we are told that, “if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (v4).

Exo 21:13  However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.

A provision was made for accidental, unintentional deaths; for manslaughter. God’s altar was the safe place to flee to. Cities of refuge were later set up where the person responsible for the death could flee for safety of retribution until the judges could hear the case.
Exo 21:14  “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

“Take him from My altar” meant that there was no place of refuge; the murderer must be executed.

Exo 21:15  “And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

Note to self: Take elder abuse seriously.

Exo 21:16  “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

Kidnapping to sell… That sounds like the kind of slavery we’re more familiar with. God said folks involved in that kind of slave trade deserved the death penalty.

Exo 21:17  “And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

As a practical matter, the judges of Israel rarely if ever administered the death penalty in such cases, yet the child was held accountable. Remember – these are guidelines for judges.

The remaining verses follow no real order; they simply speak to cases that were likely to occur. Let’s read them and then comment on one important but misunderstood principle in them

Exo 21:18  “If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to his bed,
Exo 21:19  if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.
Exo 21:20  “And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished.
Exo 21:21  Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.
Exo 21:22  “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
Exo 21:23  But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life,
Exo 21:24  eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Exo 21:25  burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Exo 21:26  “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye.
Exo 21:27  And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.

Zero-in on “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

What about that? Well, first of all – it wasn’t meant literally. How do we know that? Because in verse twenty-six a man destroys the eye of another man, but the prescribed punishment isn’t to take his eye. Likewise in verse twenty-seven regarding knocking out a tooth.

The law of “an eye for an eye” is mentioned twice more in the Old Testament. Each time, the phrase is used in the context of a case being judged before a civil authority such as a judge.

“An eye for an eye” was intended to be a guiding principle for lawgivers and judges; it was never to be used to justify vigilantism or settling grievances personally.

It meant that the punishment must fit the crime. You should not be overly severe; you should not be overly lenient.

Capital punishment upholds the sanctity of all human life. One of the commentators wrote, “This grand principle of the sanctity of human life, if acted on all round, would discourage all violence and inaugurate the era of universal peace and good will towards man.”

It wouldn’t be right to end this study without returning to the slave ‘earmarked’ by choice for lifelong service to his master.

Throughout the New Testament, the earmarked slave is applied metaphorically to someone absolutely devoted to Jesus. Paul, Timothy, James, Peter, and Jude all describe themselves as “bondservants of Christ,” where by “bondservant” they mean voluntary, lifelong slavery.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews applies Psalm 40 to Jesus. In that psalm, the Lord says to His Father, “My ears you have opened.” Some commentators think it is a reference to being ‘earmarked’ as a lifelong slave.

You might be a Domestic Engineer… Or a Sanitation Engineer… But are you first and foremost a bondservant – earmarked for Jesus?

My Master, lead me to the door;
Pierce this now-willing ear once more.
Thy bonds are freedom; let me stay
With Thee to toil, endure, obey.

Altar Joys (Exodus 20:22-26)

Here are five sports clichés I never want to hear again:

“We gave 110%.”
“We brought our ‘A’ game.”
“They just wanted it more.”
“He came to play.”
“There’s no ‘I’ in team.”

Then there are these dumb quotes from sports figures:

Six-Time Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Chad Ochocinco once said, “I’m traveling to all 51 states to see who can stop #85.”

Australian Golfer Greg Norman: “I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father.”
Five-Time NBA Champion Dennis Rodman: “Chemistry is a class you take in high school or college, where you figure out two plus two is 10, or something.”

Former NBA Center Chuck Nevitt: “My sister’s expecting a baby, and I don’t know if I’m going to be an uncle or an aunt.”

10-Time NBA All-Star Jason Kidd: “We’re going to turn this team around 360 degrees.”

No list like this would be complete without a quote from Yogi Berra. When asked by his wife where he wanted to be buried, he said, “Surprise me.”

Even though I hate sports clichés, because of their overuse, I often find my mind drifting to them. For example, in our verses today we get instruction about the altar of sacrifice. I caught myself thinking, “We need to leave it all on the altar.”

As it turns out, “Leave it all on the altar” isn’t so cliché after all. We’re told in the New Testament to present our bodies a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1). The scholars at Dallas Theological Seminary comment on this, saying, “The word “bodies,” mindful of the Old Testament sacrifices, represents the totality of one’s life and activities, of which his body is the vehicle of expression.”

Totality; that sounds a lot like “all” to me.

The word altar is first used when Noah built an altar to the Lord after leaving the ark. Altars are implied prior to that; and we see men build altars after that. But as far as I can tell, our verses in Exodus are the first time God gives instructions about building an altar.

If we’re going to “leave it all on the altar,” we need to hear what God had to say. I’ll organize my comments about the altar around two points: #1 To Worship God, You Need An Altar, and #2 To Worship God, You Have An Altar.

#1 – To Worship God, You Need An Altar

Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, informs us that the syrian Governor Cestius Gallus requested the high priest to take a census of Jerusalem to convince Nero of the importance of the city and of the Jewish nation. The method used by the high priest was to count the number of lambs slain annually at Passover. The figure they reported was 256,500.

It’s likely an exaggeration; but a lot of lambs were slain – and that doesn’t take into consideration every other sacrifice throughout a year, and through the centuries.

For all the slaughter committed there, God’s altar communicates that salvation is by grace. It really does.

In the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve sinned, God said to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).

Scholars have labeled these words the protoevangelium. That translates to the first Gospel. It is the Gospel being preached for the first time in the Bible.

Adam, Eve, and Satan may not have fully understood what God meant; but we do. He meant that, as the Seed of the woman, He was coming Himself as a man – coming as God in human flesh – to defeat the devil by paying the penalty for sin.

God immediately showed Adam and Eve and Satan what that payment would involve. As God in human flesh, He would die to pay the penalty.

His death was prefigured by the killing of animals in order to provide Adam and Eve with proper clothing.

It was probably lambskin, and it symbolized a more spiritual reality. God was clothing them spiritually with His robe of righteousness.

They were naked and ashamed sinners, but God would die in order to clothe them with His righteousness.

It was a gift; it was all by God’s grace. Adam and Eve were required only to believe God.

The Genesis account and the protoevangelium had been passed down through the generations. The Israelites in the exodus knew it well. Thus an altar upon which animals were sacrificed would remind the Israelites of God’s promise to come, and to die, as their Substitute and Savior from sin.

It was the place that reminded them salvation was God’s gift – that they were saved by grace, through faith.

Previous to our verses, God had spoken the Ten Commandments. After our verses, beginning in chapter twenty-one and continuing through chapter twenty-four, God’s laws will be further expounded.

The altar is strategically placed before the further instruction in the Law. It was a reminder that they were made right with God not by keeping the Law, but by God’s grace in making the way of salvation by the redemption of His blood. The Law followed redemption by blood as the means of enjoying relationship with God and with others.

Exo 20:22  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

This should arrest our attention. They had been addressed personally by the Living God in real time and space.

You’ve heard it said, and have probably yourself said of your believing in Jesus, that, “It’s not religion; it’s a relationship.”

That has always been true for those in any era who believed God. God and Israel were in a personal, living relationship. The laws that follow were not meant to be a religion so much as they were the prescription for how to best enjoy their relationship with God.

Do you have rules in your home? Sure you do. It helps things to run smoothly to know what is expected of dad and mom and the kids. The rules don’t create the relationships in the home; they simply make the relationships more enjoyable when they are followed.

God gave the Law to Israel as household rules and regulations so that their relationship with Him, and with each other, might be enjoyable.

Exo 20:23  You shall not make anything to be with Me – gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.

We are used to thinking of ‘gods’ as mere inanimate idols of silver or gold. I’ve been pointing out that the word for ‘gods’ in Hebrew is the plural of elohim. It’s important to realize that elohim is not a name of God. In the Bible, elohim is used of any being that inhabits the supernatural realm. God is an elohim; but so are angels and demons and the departed spirits of human beings.

One example is Psalm 8:5, which reads, “For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned [man] with glory and honor.” The word for “angels” is elohim.

Another example is First Samuel 28:13 where we see that the spirits of the human dead are also called elohim.

Why is this important? Well, first of all, it’s important because it’s the correct interpretation.

It’s also important if you want to get a better sense of what was at stake. It seems as though idols may, in some cases, be more than mere inanimate objects of silver and gold. They may be empowered by ‘gods’ that we would call demons.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote,

1Co 10:20  … the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.

Concerning the ‘gods,’ one writer said,

The Biblical approach to the gods of the pagans is not as simple as mere scoffing and consigning them to the realm of fantasy. The reality was often more tragic and harmful than mere fantasy. The Scriptures hold forth the fearsome possibility (and likelihood) that many of these gods were in fact demons in disguise.

The Israelites had been in Egypt over four centuries. We know that Egypt had many idols, representing their ‘gods,’ and that ritual magic was performed.

By “magic,” we don’t mean card tricks. During the ten plagues you will recall that two Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Jambres, didn’t pull rabbits out of a hat. They turned their staffs into real snakes.

They were also able to replicate a few of the plagues before having to admit Moses’ God was superior to their ‘gods.’ This was genuine demonic power on display – the work of ‘gods’ being evoked through idols.

When Almighty God told the Israelites to “not make anything to be with Me,” it could be He was warning them not to try to evoke His presence through ritual magic.

Besides that, it just doesn’t make sense to try to replicate God in an object.

A company called Terasem Movement, aims to (and I quote) “transfer human consciousness to computers and robots.”

They want to replicate your dead loved ones with robot clones – complete with a digital copy of the person’s brain.

The manager of the company said, “It’s like when people stuff a pet cat or dog. We don’t stuff humans but this is a way of ‘stuffing’ their information, their personality and mannerisms.”

Just like you wouldn’t think that a digital replica is your loved one, you can’t make something and think it replicates the living God.

Exo 20:24  An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you.

On a simple, earthen altar, the Israelites were to offer animal sacrifices. God specified two types of sacrifices: burnt offerings and peace offerings:

The Hebrew word for “burnt offering” means to ascend; literally it is to go up in smoke. The smoke from the sacrifice ascended to God. It was the complete destruction of the animal (except for the hide).

The “peace offering” didn’t have to be an animal; it could be grain. Only a portion of it was burned. It wasn’t, as we might think, something offered to make peace. It assumed the parties involved were at peace. Another name for it, a better name, is the “fellowship offering.” The parts of it that were not burned were eaten as a festive meal to illustrate fellowship with one another – in this case, with the worshiper and God.
It’s an over-simplification, but I think you see that the death of the Substitute in the burnt offering makes it possible to be at peace with God, and to fellowship with Him – symbolized by the festive meal.

The burnt offering reminds you salvation is by grace through faith.

The peace offering invites you to then have fellowship with God, and with His people.

Looking at the altar, I can’t help but think of the words in the New Testament that say, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life…” (Romans 6:23).

The burnt offering highlights the wages of sin. Sin required the death of an innocent substitute.

The peace offering – that’s the enjoyment of eternal life, now and forever, thanks to God’s sacrifice of Himself.

“In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you.” In other words, wherever God led them, it was His intent to be present among them in order to bless them.

You’ve probably heard the term Deism, or Deist. It’s the belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator, but one who does not intervene in the universe. It’s really very popular. If you’re aware of it, you’ll see it promoted in some popular TV shows and movies.

God, the God of the Bible, our God, does ‘intervene.’ History is unfolding just as He has written it in advance. We are headed toward the creation of new heavens and a new earth.

Exo 20:25  And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.

God was OK with a simple earthen altar. Sun-dried bricks or packed earth were sufficient building materials.

If the Israelites chose to use stone instead, it must not be hewn, or engraved, in any way.

That goes against our grain. We automatically think we must do more for God. While that can be the case in some things, it was definitely not the case regarding the altar.

If we remember that the altar is a place of grace, it’s easy to understand why God gave this prohibition. Any craftsmanship on the part of the offerer would take away from the altar communicating grace.

Using hewn stones, then carving on them, would add human work to God’s grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Exo 20:26  Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’

As one commentator put it: “Man could contribute nothing… either by the tools of personal effort or the steps of human achievement.”

Another wrote: “[The use of tools] would corrupt the whole plan of redemption by blood.”
Pagan worshippers built their altars very high, partly through pride and partly in the belief that their gods might hear them better. Many such altars had gods engraved on them.

The Israelite altar would look puny and pathetic compared to the altars of the other ‘gods.’ That was part of what God was revealing about Himself. He would come as a servant, humble, born in a manger, not having anything outwardly that would commend us to Him. He would die on the Cross as if He were a heinous criminal, then be buried in a borrowed tomb. It all lacked grandeur; but it preaches grace.

“That your nakedness may not be exposed” excluded plumbers from going up the steps. (Just kidding!).

Nakedness, or near-nakedness, were common in Egypt. According to one researcher, “The ancient Egyptians wore [a] minimum of clothing.”

Apparently, underwear was not a popular item. Later in Exodus we’ll see the garments of the priests will include a type of underwear to cover their nakedness.

The mention of nakedness takes our minds back to the Garden of Eden. Before they sinned, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed before each other and in the sight of God.

After they sinned – they were naked and ashamed. As we said earlier, God covered their nakedness with animal skins.

The altar was the place that reminded the Israelites of original sin and the coming of God to be their Substitute and Savior.

It was the place that represented them being graciously clothed in God’s righteous robe.

It would therefore ruin the illustration to show any nakedness at the altar.

If you are counting on being a good person, having done more good than bad, in order to be admitted into Heaven when you die – take a long look at the altar. Men and women are redeemed by blood. Not by the blood of lambs, but by the blood of the Lamb of God – Jesus. All the animal sacrifices until His death on the Cross were pointing to Him dying once-for-all to pay in full the penalty we owed for sin. As evangelists say, “He came to pay a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.”

Salvation is being offered to you; it’s a gift. But you must receive it by faith, calling upon the Lord and turning from your sin.

#2 – If You Want To Worship God, You Have An Altar

The New Testament Book of Hebrews was written to Hebrew Christians suffering persecution for their faith in Jesus. All they had to do to avoid persecution was return to the rites and rituals of the Temple; rituals like bringing burnt offerings and peace offerings to the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The writer essentially told them, “No can do.” By His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has fulfilled and ended those things. They were a shadow pointing to His coming. To return to them is to deny or despise what Jesus has done.

With regard to the altar, the writer proclaims, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat” (Hebrews 13:10).

The writer was using the “altar” to represent the whole Jewish system of worship, centered at the Temple. “We” – meaning Christians – have an “altar” that is not the one in the Temple.

We have a superior, spiritual altar in the Person and work of Jesus.

“Those who serve the Tabernacle” were those urging, even persecuting, the Hebrew Christians to return to things like animal sacrifices. In Jesus, we have spiritual blessings and benefits that far surpass the “eat[ing]” of peace offerings made on the altar.

Outwardly it seems we have no altar. We have no material altar, that is. The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was the place God “record[ed] His name and [came] to us.” It was His prescribed place of worship.

It hasn’t existed since it was destroyed in 70AD by Titus and the Roman Legions.

But we do have an altar – a far superior spiritual altar – and it’s Jesus.

Our altar isn’t just the Cross on which Jesus died. It’s everything about Him – His life, His Cross, His death and burial, His resurrection, His ascension, His Second Coming, etc., etc.

You might say that the entire New Covenant is our altar.

Alexander MacLaren said: “[the writer] exalts the purely spiritual worship of Christianity as not only possessed of all which the rituals round about it presented, but as being high above them even in regard to that which seemed their special prerogative.”

We no longer come to the altar with burnt offerings and peace offerings. But as I mentioned earlier, we do present ourselves living sacrifices.

Just as the burnt offering was totally consumed, we can ask ourselves if we are totally consumed with the pursuit of God in our lives.

Just as the fellowship offering was shared, we can be encouraged to share more of our time, talents, and treasure with God, and among His people in the church, and out among nonbelievers by sharing the Gospel as we have opportunity.

Let’s “leave it all on the altar…” “Give 110%…” “And bring our Jesus-game.”