Exodus 32-33 is one of the most heart-breaking passages in the Old Testament. The context is “while the teachers is away, the children will play.” There are other variations like cat and mice, but with the point – Moses had gone up to talk with the LORD on Mt. Sinai; [Exodus 24] and the people below begin to “play harlotry”. Now remember God enabled the Israelites to “ransack” Egypt as they were leaving – taking all sort of pillage. I find it very interesting that while Moses is getting the instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant and the other items for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness; the people below in the valley were using the same resources to create their own version of God. While Moses is getting the Tablets of Stone with the Law written by the finger of God, below the people are rising up to rebellion; and the leader is Aaron! After reading about all the details given for making the Altar, the incense, the High Priest clothes, Court of the Tabernacle; the Veils, the Bronze Altar, the boards and sockets from gold and sliver – we jump right into the premeditated work of “creating an idol” to worship. Moses couldn’t have been gone long before the “playing” started. I can remember as a child how that as soon as my parents were out of sight, we kids would start doing what we know we couldn’t otherwise do. Moses up on the Mountain being all spiritual and all, but sin and rebellion in the valley. Most of us have had mountain top experiences, even Peter wanted to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration and build tents. But we don’t live on the Mountain; we live in the Valley! Living in the Valley is hard, the trenches of ministry can be very lonely and depressing. I often was reminded after going to a leadership development seminar, that my bosses would remind me, that “the stuff you learned there, won’t work here, so don’t even try it.”
The difficulty with this passage is that God had been faithful to Israel; they had received Manna, Water and Quail. God as Jehovah-Jireh had provided for all their needs. But this isn’t the 1st nor the last time that Israel will replace God with another god. Baalism was the reason for Israel going into Babylonian captivity. Mankind likes a “sensuous visible god.” The fact that Israel forgot God so quickly proves that without leadership – people will cast off restraint. Mankind will worship something; even it is himself. “Make us a god” – so Aaron accommodates their request. “Give me you jewelry and earrings;then he fashions it into a “golden calf.” How much more blasphemous could they get! The Golden Calf was a god of Egypt. In God’s omniscient way He informs Moses what “his people” are doing. Moses destroys the stone Tablets on his way down the mountain. If it were not for the intercession of Moses; God would have killed them all. We know that the Tablets will be replaced and God being merciful spares the people. But did they ever get over their “Hearts of Stone?”
In Exodus 32:9; 33:3, 5 and 34:9 we have a word from God about the people. He tested them to see if they would be obedient. The word used to describe the people of Israel [God’s people] was OBSTINATE. This by definition means they were stubborn, pig-headed, inflexible and unmoved. Might I add – UNGRATEFUL.
One wonders after reading about the Israelites why God even bothered with them – but we quickly would find that the same could be said about us. God is long-suffering and merciful. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. There will be great failures in our walk with the LORD – but He still loves us. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us – the godly for the ungodly. The covenant is renewed between God and His people. But they continued to have a heart of stone. Lamentations 3:23 says that God’s mercies are renewed each morning. We all should be thankful that God is a forgiving and loving God. Praise Him today for His “unconditional Love.”
Beginning in Exodus 25 we find the instructions for building the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was used by the Israelites until the time of Solomon’s building the 1st Temple at Jerusalem. The Tabernacle was the outdoor “sanctuary” for worship, sacrifices and where Moses sat for listening to judgements for the people. It was permanently set-up at Shiloh and forgotten; that is the Ark of the Covenant, until David retrieves it and brings it to Jerusalem. The Tabernacle was intricate and expensive. As one reads through the various furniture and curtains that make-up the entire Worship Center; one might wonder where in the world would they get such materials and of that great quantity. We must remember that God enabled the Israelites to “ransack” the Egyptians of all the gold, silver and various other precious resources. As a side note, while Moses is in the mountain getting all the instructions; we have Aaron and the people below making a Golden Idol Calf to worship. The very same materials that were to be used for Yahweh and worship – now was being used to produce a “cultic” worship. Which just goes to show that if we aren’t careful, we can take what God meant for good and turn it into a detestable abomination to Him. There is great detail and specifications for each artifact to be in the Tabernacle. The construction begins with the Ark of the Covenant. We have all watched the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and saw the representation of the Ark, with the Mercy Seat of Cherubim’s. There is no expense spared as gold is either overlaid or solid in the making of the Ark. The Mercy Seat can be confusing, it is nothing other than the lid for the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the Ark are three things: Aaron’s rod that budded, bowl of manna and the Tablets. It is called the Ark of Testimony – for it is the place where God will meet the High Priest. It is the Holy of Holies place where atonement will be done once a year, for the sins of the nation. Inside the Tent of Meeting, also inside the veil is the Table of Showbread, golden lamp-stands [known better at Menorah]. Then there is the outer Court, but still inside the tent, the place where daily sacrifices will take place. There are curtains that are 39 feet tall and 6 feet wide that will be joined together by loops of gold. The flooring is described as a 30 foot square. Then there is the veil and screen that is so famously torn from top to bottom, however that was in the Temple not the Tabernacle. The construction of the Bronze Altar is quite a feat; some 9 1/2 feet x 4 1/2 feet rectangular table. Then there is the Court of Tabernacle that is separated from the Holy of Holies that measures 150×75 ft. When I was reading about the High Priest’s clothing I could help but visualize what the pope in the Roman Catholic church looks like all dressed up in regalia. Moving on to chapter 30; we find the instruction on how to get anointing oil. The spices and such can be found today and I actually made some one time, quite interesting smell and concoction. We know that Aaron had two sons that violated the Altar of incense, for they burned “strange incense” to the Lord. [Lev. 10:1] I often wondered why the incense, but when I thought of the blood sacrifices and all the burning of flesh and grain, I can understand the need for a sweet-smelling aroma. I know this didn’t make for good reading – but the House of worship to the Lord even today should be held in such I regard; but somehow we have “cheapened” the place of Worship where people are to meet the Lord. If there was such particular detail about what was acceptable, shouldn’t we be maybe just a little more reverent with the places that are chosen to bring our sacrifices of praise?
Our reading is from Exodus 21-25; I want to include last weeks chapter 20 – in it we have the account of the 10 Commandments. The following chapters have more or less various ways of interpreting the Ten Commandments. These are listed as “sundry laws”. I find that looking at these verse this past week in light of the Cross and the trials of Jesus during the Passion week is significant. Especially, sin the Law is our schoolmaster that condemns us because our “depraved nature” to sin. We know that Jesus is the End of the Law, having fulfilled and made the Law lose its power. The Law [10 Commandments] are still effective to point out our humanity is in need of a Savior. The Cross of Jesus “it is finished” took the penalty of sin and death and nailed it to the tree. It is because of the various laws in our land today that so many are “considered criminals” of which Paul had said that we all were because the power of evil Satan had worked in us to be the sons of disobedience. In a criminal case, we would all be found guilty. We all deserve our just punishment. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23] “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is Eternal Life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” [Romans 6:23] The chapters of our reading have a plethora of laws, many that we would think are obsolete and even ridiculous. But I have been reminded of some of the laws states, counties and cities have on file still about hitching horses and the such. Specifically, in the reading there is the crime or infraction of the Law, towards beasts, slaves and neighbors; then there is listed the means of restitution for the perpetrator. I presume you could call the “Sundry laws,” “Civil Law” for us today. It is there to maintain a semblance of order and respect for other people and their property. Without Laws and Lawyers, we would have a society of chaos. Paul tells us that we are not to fear those that are enforcers of the Law, for the Law is only for those who violate the Law. If we observe or keep within the limits of the Law there is no fear of the Law enforcers. I have learned in life though that locks are for honest people!
The Law was enacted and called upon during the Passion week; however it was “interpreted” in such a way [twisted] to make a case against Jesus. One thing I have learned about the laws, all someone has to do is insinuate that you did something, then it is up to you to prove your innocence. So much for “innocent until proven guilty.” When Jesus was accused of insurrection – no collaboration could be done. They accused him of revolting against Caesar – no foundation. Jesus was like a sheep before its shearers silent [Isaiah 53].
Three bad trials [all illegal], a mock trial at best; then a mob scene in front of Pilate, here we have a gentile, pagan governor swayed by the “legalistic lawyers” of the day. The religious rulers wanted Jesus dead – they couldn’t do it so they had Pilate do it, as if they could “wash their hands of the whole mess.” Jesus and Lawyers didn’t get along anyway. Their contention was always over how to “interpret the Law.” They knew the Law, but not the Author of the Law. The “practiced man’s laws at the neglect of The Law.” No one is ever redeemed by the Law. The Law could only prove that I am a sinner, it couldn’t do anything for me but condemn me. Jesus came and was made sin, He who knew no sin – that I might be the righteousness of God in Christ. So we must understand that Laws and Lawyers are necessary to show us our sin. But Jesus was our Advocate, our Defense Attorney. But like no other, when the Righteous Judge, Our Heavenly Father pronounced judgment on our sin – Jesus pleads our case and tells the Father – I paid it all! Satan is the Prosecuting Attorney – But our Defense Attorney our Advocate has already won the Verdict – Not Guilty by way of Cleansing! The blood of Jesus has Cleansed us of our sin – and we are forgiven – our record of sin ex-sponged forever!
Exodus 11-15; In this last plague from Yahweh, we find there is so much more than just the hard-hearted Pharaoh at stake. The 10th plague is the death plague. When we look at Egypt – “called the house of slavery” we can draw from this phrase – it means enslaved to sin and its bondage over us. Sin is not going to let us go easily, much less go to worship the LORD! In the beginning of the plagues, Pharaoh hardened his heart. But by the last three plagues we find that the LORD knowing Pharaoh’s intentions and ego, hardened his heart further. The point of the plagues wasn’t just to get Israel out of Egypt, but also that the LORD El Shaddai would be glorified through His work in Egypt and the bringing down of Pharaoh. The news of the “LORD’s strong hand” was spread all over and for many years kept in the memories of Israel and the surrounding nations. Some 40 years later Rahab, recalls the great defeat and victory God/Israel had over the Egyptians. The Memorial of the Passover while being an Israelite Feast – it has great significance for people of Faith in Jesus Christ. The instructions for observance are important with respect to the “unblemished Lamb” – for such was Jesus. We find that the Institution of the Passover was the New Beginning of days for Israel. Their Jewish calendar is based on the event. The month is Nissan correlates to our month of March/April; hence Easter during this time of the calendar. The Lamb was to be taken and observed for 4 days; this observance was to ensure that there wasn’t any defect in the Lamb. Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Sunday and on Thursday; four days later the Religious leaders came to take him and crucify him. Jesus meet the requirement of the Unblemished Lamb. Required was the absence of Leaven; this has been over emphasized in the Lord Supper for Christians today. The reason for no leaven was because the people were to be in a poster of readiness. Some have equated the admonition of Jesus to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees [Matthew 16:6 -ff] as leaven has the meaning of sin. The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover over time became jointed together into a week-long Feast to the Lord. Jesus in the Upper Room with the disciples on Thursday was observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread – even though it was called the Passover. Passover did not occur until the Sabbath Friday and the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb in the Temple. Jesus was the Passover Lamb – he was scourged and crucified at the time the Passover Lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple. However, Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb of God was a one time completion of the sacrifices – that’s why the Temple Veil was torn, no longer did there need to be a Lamb sacrifice or a Day of Atonement – Jesus in Hebrews is the High Priest and the Lamb [blood] sacrifice once and for all. The Blood was to be placed on the doorposts and the lintel; the presence of the Blood [which makes a cross] would cause the “death angel to ‘Passover’ the house.” When the blood of Jesus is applied to the repentant person, it is effectual for “passing over” the sins of the person and the eradication of death – that’s why we have eternal life – death no more holds sway over us. The Resurrection is proof that death has been defeated by Jesus. Sin and death have been dealt with and the Believer is “free” to live the abundant life in Christ – John 10:10b and Col 1:27. The institution and Memorial were to be perpetual for Israel until the time of Jesus – who would come to “fulfill the Law” of sacrifice. The Memorial Feast finds its counterpart for us in the Lord’s Supper/Communion observance. This is an Ordinance not a Sacrament. In other words we observe for “remembering nor for saving.” Israel was to remember and pass on the great deliverance from Egypt – just as we are called to remember the deliverance from sin by Jesus through the Lord’s Supper table. Israel fail miserably in remembering which so often led to their troubles and falling away. The failed to remember the Lord’s feasts and celebration such as the Year of Jubilee and Sabbatical Year – this directly relates to the 70 years in Babylon captivity, marking the number of times Israel forgot the Lord’s Feasts. We must remember and pass on to our children the “why” of the things we do for in doing so we exalt and bring glory to God for His “righteous powerful strong hand.”