Daniel’s Character

Tonight I would like to look at some aspects of Daniel’s life and faith. Daniel did his best for the Lord and there are many wonderful examples of his faith in action recorded in the book of Daniel. We encounter challenges to our beliefs and our faith regularly Sometimes the reasons for the wars within us are very specifically directed towards us and we see shades of this with Daniel.  Daniel fought a war within himself to remain loyal to God, but the origins of the conflict came from outside and were repetitive.  Here are some examples of Daniel’s successes:

In Daniel chapter 1, Daniel does not defile himself with the king’s delicacies, but is found approved both by God and the king. In chapter 2, Daniel, by remaining loyal to God, is able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. Through Daniel’s interpretations, Nebuchadnezzar comes to respect God, but still condones idol worship. Ultimately, after the interpretation of a second dream, Nebuchadnezzar was made into a sort of animal as the result of his pride, but in the end, he praises God.  (Daniel 4:28-36)

In Daniel chapter 6, we find that the governors and satraps of the kingdom sought to find some charge against Daniel due to Daniel’s excellent spirit. These governors and satraps convinced the king to decree that anyone that petitioned any god or man except for the king would be cast into a den of lions.  They knew that Daniel would break the decree due to his loyalty to God. 

Daniel did exactly what we should all do in the face of such adversity: he worshipped and prayed to God despite the decree.  When he was brought before King Darius for doing so, the king, with a heavy heart, condemned Daniel to the lion’s den. 

After a sleepless night, the king went to the lion’s den to find Daniel untouched. The king was exceedingly glad and cast Daniel’s accusers (along with their families) into the den of lions.  After the ordeal, the king decreed the following in Daniel 6:25-26 “Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, And steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, And His dominion shall endure to the end. He delivers and rescues, And He works signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.“  Daniel’s faith had revealed the power of God to King Darius.  We may not be saved from the mouths of lions, but truly, our dedication to God can do the same to others in our lives.

Some things worth noting in the example of David and the lion’s den: when the governors and satraps sought to find a charge against Daniel, they could find nothing at all concerning the kingdom, so they had to find a way of accusing him concerning the law of God.  Could the same thing be said about any one of us? Doing the right thing spiritually means doing it with totality of purpose. To our friends, family and coworkers, being blameless in all of our affairs should be a goal for us. 

Daniel, by remaining loyal to God, withstood pressure from many fronts in a spiritually hostile environment.  By trusting in God, Daniel’s actions revealed themselves as godly and he seems to have won whatever wars took place inside him with ease. 

Exodus 29: The Consecration of Priests

As Exodus 28 described the holy raiment of the priests and closed out with an explanation of when Aaron and his sons would wear the garments, chapter 29 describes the consecration (dedication, or ordination) of the priests and the sacrificial offerings.

The consecration takes place in the first nine verses and it is a small, humble ceremony that identifies and sets these men aside as dedicated to do the Lord’s work in the tabernacle. Total completion time will be seven days.

Verses 10-14 describe a bull sacrifice that is to be made on behalf of Aaron and his sons. This bull was to “contain” the sins of the priests and sacrificing it would atone for their sins, making them more righteous and fit to serve. A quick note on sacrifices here – atoning for sin through any animal sacrifice did not absolve the sin or produce forgiveness from God. It only helped to compensate for their sins so that both the priests and the people could stand accepted before God as they maintained the terms of the covenant. Forgiveness of sins would of course come much later in the form of Jesus Christ. To forgive sin, there must be a perfect sacrifice, and the obedience of man to enter into the appropriate relationship with God to obtain it. Isaiah 53 tells us that the Suffering Servant Christ will be that atonement, and we enter into the relationship through faith and being obedient to God in baptism (John 3:5, Mark 16:16, I Peter 3:21).

The offering of the bull has some symbolism to address. The blood, here as in throughout the Bible, represents life. The placing of the bull’s blood before the altar and on the horns of the altar represents that the animal’s life was given as a substitute for the life of the sinner. This, incidentally, reveals the seriousness of sin’s consequences. The fat and the kidneys were to be burned on the altar while the rest of the animal was to be burned outside the tabernacle. The fat in many ways represented the best that the animal had to offer because it was the excess of the animal, showing that it was healthy and considered fit for God. The kidneys, along with the heart, are considered representative of a man’s inner life. Sacrificing the bull in this way reminded the priests of the price of sin. This offering serves to anoint them as priests, after all. In fact, it should have also initiated a surge of gratitude towards God because it was the bull and not they, that was giving its life for their transgressions of the law.

The sacrifices mentioned in verses 15-28 are described as fire offerings, wave offerings, burnt offerings, and heave offerings. These offerings are described in their detail and serve to please God. The burnt offerings (fire offerings included) are meant to please God with their aroma. Further anointing with blood on and around the altar and around the priest’s bodies takes place. No reason is given for why blood is placed on the right ear, thumb, and big toe. But if you look ahead to Leviticus 14:14-18, a person seeking ceremonial cleansing after recovering from a skin disease received the same treatment with blood and oil.

The peace offerings (wave, heave offerings) celebrated the priests’ communion with God and incorporated a shared meal of sorts.

In verses 29-37, we have the conclusion of the ceremony needed to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests. This process was to take seven days. The holiness of the priests would be sufficient for serving God in the tabernacle and presiding over the daily sacrifices. The holiness of the altar was stressed mightily along with the priests: “Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and sanctify it. And the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar must be holy.” These in-depth explanations serve to stress to the Israelites and us today just how far away we are from God, how far sin has taken us from Him. If all of the actions of seven days did not properly forgive transgressions for the priests, it is another indicator of just how precious the saving blood of Christ is.

There is a lengthy yet revealing explanation in Hebrews on how animal sacrifices were futile in the mission to forgive sin, albeit necessary under Old Testament law for the people to be able to serve and approach God. Pay attention to the italicized statements in the passage below. As has been mentioned before in our study of Exodus, the Old Covenant was for us a teacher, to prepare mankind for the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus Christ that was perfect enough to offer salvation to every human being that has ever, or will ever live.

Hebrews 10:1-10: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come— in the volume of the book it is written of Me— to do Your will, O God.’ ”  Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

The final verses of this lengthy chapter sum up the point of it all. What is all of this ceremony, show, preparation, and sacrifice building to? Why go to all of this trouble?

Exodus 29:46: “And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.”

There should be very little doubt as to why. In the face of a powerful God that can and will exact vengeance for sin (including those with whom He has a covenant), mankind has no greater duty to fill than to follow the commandments of the Lord, and to do so with purpose, gratitude, pride, and fear.

Exodus 28: Holy Habiliment

Exodus 28 is special because it embodies an idea of outward holiness reflective of how we should approach God. These verses describe the different parts of clothing that the Priests of God (Aaron and his sons) were to wear. As verse two says, these garments were made for glory and for beauty. They are meant to distinguish the priests from the rest of the Israelite population, recognizing their ordination as ministers to God. They are consecrated and meant for godly service and the clothes make it obvious. Herein are described a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a tunic, a turban, and other articles.

The ephod – The ephod was like a vest or apron and it came to mean that if you were wearing an ephod, you were serving as a priest. It was made with gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread with fine woven linen. The ephod was an outer garment to be worn under the tunic. Two onyx stones, each engraved with six names of the sons of Israel, completing the twelve names, were to be set in gold and placed so that they would be on the shoulders of the priest when he wore the ephod. Wearing the names in this way testified to God that the priest knew it was whom God had chosen. By bearing the names of the sons of Israel on his shoulders as he ministered to God the sacrifices and other rituals and rites, the high priest would always know for whom he was ministering.

The breastplate – The breastplate was the most elaborate of all of the garment pieces. Named in verse 15 as the “breastplate of judgment,” it was to mirror the artistry of the ephod and also made with gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, with fine woven linen. The breastplate goes further in documenting the twelve tribes as there are twelve precious stones to be embedded in the breastplate, each representing a tribe. The breastplate, not unlike the ark of the covenant, was to be connected by gold rings, in this case to the ephod. The detail and value of the precious stones drive the point home of how special God considered the relationship He had with His people. The high priest is ministering to God on behalf of the people and this likely weighty ephod is a physical representation of how the high priest represents their interests, gratitude, worship and supplication to God.

The Urim and Thummim mentioned in this section are mysterious in their nature and makeup. Most likely stones, many consider them to have been physical symbols of light and perfection and that their inclusion in the priestly garb helped assure the priest and the people that the decisions coming from the Lord would be true, great, and in the best interest of the people.

The robe – The robe was to be blue and would go underneath the ephod and breast plate. Surely beautiful and striking in its appearance, the bright blue color with the ornate bells described along the hem would serve to draw attention to the priest and to his movements. The mention “that he might not die” is a reference to the priest’s attitude before God. Recall Moses’ taking his shoes off before God at the burning bush. This was a recognition of God’s holiness and man’s ineptitude before his Creator. Likewise, the priest, wearing these detailed garments as God specified, attributes that He is approaching God with the right amount of humility, respect, and awe.

The turban – Along the same lines of being holy, the turban was to include a plate of pure gold which had engraved on it the phrase, “Holiness to the Lord.” Verse 38 says about this plate, “So it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.” God required this plate to distinguish the high priest as consecrated for holy duties. The high priest belonged to the Lord for the purpose of service and ministering and the gold plate was a reminder to all of this relationship.

The tunic – The tunic and trousers were the innermost pieces, the trousers serving as undergarments and the tunic being that article that came between the trousers and the robe. The tunic was to be made of fine linen and a sash mentioned here that would go around the waist, would be of intricately woven work.

With all of the symbology inherent in the physical sight of the priest, none would doubt who he was or whom he was serving. These articles are meant to draw attention because the relationship that the Israelites had with God was the most important thing in their lives. It is the same for us today. Our relationship with God is more important than the ones we have with our parents, our children our friends, and even our spouses. God comes first.

So, what can we learn from this chapter detailing the holy raiment of the high priest? Initially, we should be reminded of the importance of our attitude when approaching God. This is true for how we approach Him in prayer and in our thoughts. When I regard God, do I do so with a sense of awe and reverence, keeping in mind how lop-sided the relationship is? It might seem like a hard truth, but God does not owe you or me anything at all. And yet the relationship that He created with us in the present day is priceless, the greatest gift in all the world. When I pray, and when I consider my actions, and when I consider my speech, and when I consider the patterns of my heart, am I as wonderfully clothed with respect and reverence as the high priest?

Also, there is something that we “put on” in our present age as New Testament Christians, Christ Himself. Leaving our old man of sin behind, we find ourselves indebted to Him eternally as we are forgiven. Being baptized in Christ, we come out of the water a new creature, having put on Christ. This is a garment that transcends the priestly garments in every way. Because the putting on of Christ for me and for you is a spiritual act. And it is holier than even the glory of the priest’s garments.  

This week, let us remember the garments of the ancient high priests with fondness and reverence, but also in the proper context. For what we wear to sanctify ourselves before God in Jesus Christ is greater, simpler, and perfect:

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Romans 13:11-14

Exodus 27: The Altar, Court, and Lampstand Care

This week we continue the explanation from God to Moses on how to configure various elements of the tabernacle.

The Altar

The altar is described as a sturdy structure made of wood, overlaid with bronze and with bronze implements to adjust the offerings. This is the place where animal sacrifices would be offered to God on behalf of the transgressions of the Israelites. It would have been roughly seven and a half feet square and four and a half feet tall. The bronze overlays would have protected the acacia wood from the fire and its shovels, basins, forks, firepan and grate are all the implements needed to lay the offerings on the burning altar and catch the ash and detritus as the it burned. The poles to carry the altar would also be overlaid with bronze.

This altar, the physical description of the first method to atone for sin, would be a symbol of sacrifice for the Israelites for the foreseeable future. But the altar had limited function and could not wholly erase the blight of sin from the spirit of man or from the mind of God. As men and women under the dispensation of Jesus Christ, we understand the meaning of the altar better than these early Israelites. This old law is at last tutor for us, readying us for the relationship of grace we enjoy with God through Jesus Christ. See this passage from Hebrews 9:13-15:

“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”

As much as Christ has done for us personally through the forgiveness of our awful sins, we see in this passage how expansive yet at the same time exacting his sacrifice was: it served to also forgive the transgressions of the Israelites under the first covenant. What a savior!

The Court

The court of the tabernacle can be defined as a common area. It would house the altar, the bronze laver and it would have a gate. The boundary of the tabernacle court is again determined by screens and hangings using silver hooks. The pillar sockets would be made of bronze. It would be approximately sixty yards long and thirty yards wide.

The sacrifices were to be made there and the Jewish people could come into the court. The distinction of the court and the holy place were evident. Only the priests and the high priest could enter the holy place. This physical boundary of the court and the holy place within represented the closeness of the priests and the common people to God, respectively.

An “Eternal” Flame

The oil in the lampstand, pressed from olives and used to keep the lamp lit, was to burn continuously. It also represents the gifts and knowledge of God. The oil provided by God gives light which man can see, Likewise, God’s Word and gifts lift man up and allow man to let his light shine before others as He practices lawfulness and righteousness in a sinful world.

Although these elements of the temple seem common and may even lack relevance to us in any practical sense, we can readily see how the symbols they embody are still very close to us today. Christ was the one true last sacrifice to atone for all. We also are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice before Him. On the altar of the cross, Christ offered himself and we likewise offer ourselves on the altar of our lives.

Letting our light shine before men is also a known New Testament directive. In these detailed plans for a house of God, we have the beginnings of a blueprint for the salvation of all mankind.

Exodus 26: The House of God

Exodus 26 explains the construction and details of the Tabernacle. Moses will have taken these details back to the people eventually for construction. The Tabernacle is built as a way to represent the presence of God among the people. Within the Tabernacle, there is a nucleus referred to as the “Most Holy Place.” This place is the core of the presence of God as it would hold the Ark of the Covenant, which will ultimately contain physical artifacts that represent proofs of the agreement and promises that God made with the Israelites.

The Tabernacle was very ornate, decorated with rare materials and colors. The beauty of the Tabernacle was to call attention to the sanctity of the relationship that God has with His people. The many curtains described identified boundaries and served to create a “holy” atmosphere. When the people saw or entered the Tabernacle, there would be no mistake that they would know that it pointed them toward the Lord. Thread colors are specified blue, purple, and scarlet and there is much written on the significance of this color grouping. Blue, the color of heaven, purple, the color of royalty, and scarlet, the color of blood. The meanings are clear yet complex when you think of God communicating from the heavens to man, who will sacrifice to Him.

There are ther attributes of the Tabernacle which indicate specialness or holiness. The outer coverings were made of more hardy or common materials, while the inner and interlocking junctures were made of strong and costly materials:

  • Loops of blue yarn
  • Clasps of gold
  • Clasps of bronze
  • Sockets of silver
  • Sockets of bronze
  • Curtains of goats’ hair for the tabernacle covering
  • Covering of ram skins dyed red
  • Covering of badger skins

The significance of the Tabernacle has meaning for us under the law of grace in Jesus Christ as well. The writer of the book of Hebrews (most likely the apostle Paul) recognizes the symbolism and order that the Tabernacle represented for God’s people:

Hebrews 9:2-5: “For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.”

“These things” were known oracles to New Testament Christians as they are to us today. Perhaps mysterious in nature to these early Jews, the contents of the Tabernacle no longer hold much mystery to us under the law of liberty in Jesus Christ. For He has brought everything to us, has made everything known through His death, burial and resurrection:

Matthew 27:51: “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.” This veil was of course that covering leading to the Most Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.

The Tabernacle, a place where Israelites interfaced with God, loses its weight for us today since God made all things new under Christ (Revelation 21:5). But the Tabernacle still has a mysterious attraction as a relic of our Creator’s interaction with mankind. God, at this time in human history, saw fit to create a dwelling place among His people where they could sacrifice to Him and maintain the artifacts of His holy covenant. For thousands of years, God’s people would utilize the Tabernacle to interact with Him. The Tabernacle would not always be a holy place, as man would corrupt and misuse it. But through Jesus, God created the perfect way to dwell among us, and the perfect singular sacrifice to atone for all sin.

Just like so many other examples from Exodus, the Tabernacle served as a tutor. Galatians 3:24-25: “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

The Tabernacle, or God’s “dwelling place” among His people, was supplanted by His Son Jesus. Matthew 1:23: ““Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.””

Exodus 25: Getting Specific

While Moses is on the mountain with God for forty days and forty nights, God tells Him many things. For the next few chapters in Exodus, we will review the content of the details God gives Moses on the various artifacts of worship. For chapter 25, God provides the detailed requirements for:

  • Ark of the Covenant
  • Table for Showbread
  • Gold Lampstand

While these specifics seem foreign to us, keep in mind that God is telling them exactly what to do and exactly how to do it, leaving little to no room for private interpretation. God is specifying the conditions of worship and how the Israelites are to approach Him. In preparation of the decorative aspects of the materials listed, God makes request of special valuable offerings from the Israelites in verses 1-9. He asks them for items such as gold, silver, animal skins, oil, stones, and other things. All of this is to direct the people to create a place for God to dwell among them: The Tabernacle.

Ark of the Covenant (vs. 10-22)

A holy box, approximately four feet long and two and one quarter feet wide and high. Acacia wood is impervious to disease and insects and would have been durable. Although there is not yet a restriction mentioned of touching the Ark, a lot of description is in place to ensure that it can be carried with poles.

In contrast to their pagan neighbors, the Ark is as close as God’s people will get to an idol of any kind representing God. The only content specified for the Ark at this time is the Testimony which God will shortly give to Moses (The tablets of the Ten Commandments). The Ark would have surely been impressive with its gold and depiction of cherubim, which were mysterious angels atop the mercy seat, or lid of the Ark.

The mercy seat has an interesting meaning and application. It is translated from a Hebrew noun derived from the verb meaning to “atone for.” The Israelites would have recognized the mercy seat as representing peace with God. A commentary suggests that it would have a similar meaning to the Israelites as the cross does for us today.

Eventually, the Ark will come to contain many objects deeply relevant to God’s promises and covenant with His people. These physical reminders will serve to encourage and remind the often-forgetful Israelites of what God has done and has promised He will do for them.

Table for Showbread (vs. 23-30)

Like the Ark, the Table for Showbread is overlaid with pure gold and will be carried using poles, restricting the touch of human hands. The holiness of these artifacts before God and the people precludes human touch, who live in sin before a perfect God. The dishes on the table will be made of pure gold, to elucidate the value of God’s relation to man. The Table for Showbread will eventually contain twelve loaves of bread to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Gold Lampstand (vs. 31-40)

This lampstand surely would have been beautiful. It was to be made out of one talent of pure gold, which equates to about seventy-five pounds, or about $112,425.00 in USD today. “Monetary” value of the lampstand at the time of the Israelites is uncertain. This gold lampstand was a menorah with seven lamps, which will eventually become the basic design of the menorah in Judaism. The number seven for the lamps represents completion. The symbolism abounding in these artifacts only increases in its complexity and impressiveness as we move forward through these chapters.

For us, the most relevant message in this chapter is found in the last verse: “And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” God is saying many things to His people, but there is a theme that connects all of His instructions and guidance: do not deviate. If God is going to all of the trouble of recording the history of His interaction with mankind, and is specific in how He wants man to approach Him (under both the old and the new covenants), then it follows that He fully expects us to pay close and focused attention on how He specifies our actions towards Him. Given His power, His love, His mercy, and His ability to punish, we are poorly served to frivolously approach His instruction.

Let us heed all of the Words of Holy Almighty God. Let us take all of His commandments seriously, putting on the whole armor so that we may find strength and success as we strive to live righteously and justified before Him. Heeding the ways of the world will not serve us well in the end.

Exodus 24: Strengthening the Covenant

Verses 1-8: The Book of the Covenant

Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu are all in esteemed positions before God but Moses is the most honored among them. Moses tells the people all of the rules, laws, and judgments that God had spoken to him. The people say back to Moses that they will follow all of the words of the Lord. Moses then wrote down these things that God told him (this is most likely what is referred to as the Book of the Covenant in verse 7) and He directed young men to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings to the Lord. Offering sacrifices at this time was still done by God’s people independent of a specific directive from him and comes from the people (Moses for this instance) when they are grateful to the Lord and want to express their devotion. God had told them in the latter part of Exodus 20 about how they are to construct an altar.

Notice the role that blood plays in this passage. At the time of the sacrifices, Moses took the blood and put it in basins and sprinkled it on the altar. Then he read to them the Book of the Covenant, which would be the second time the people heard these words that God had delivered to Moses. This repetition is great for the people so that they could familiarize themselves with the commandments of God. Again they confirm they will comply, this time saying, “All that the Lord has said, we will do, and be obedient.” Moses then sprinkled the blood on the people to seal the covenant. This blood, not unlike the blood from the Passover, is over the people and seals the agreement between them and God, protecting them. Where the blood of the Passover protected God’s people from God’s wrath, this blood protects the people from themselves and regulates their behavior, creating a peaceful social environment within which they can live and thrive.

Verses 9-18: Going up the Mountain

Moses goes up with his brother and nephews to the mountain and seventy of the elders of Israel. Verses 10 and 11 are few in detail but heavy with import. Moses and the rest of the men saw God and He must have been in somewhat of a human apparition because reference is made to the feet of God and His hand. God was standing on what is described as a paved work of sapphire stone. God’s association with the precious things of earth is used to convey the great value and holiness that His presence brings. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders ate and drank. This meal could be a reference to sealing the covenant in the presence of God. If we were so inclined, we could even make parallels between this meal and the eventual supper that Jesus would have with the apostles. Both were meals that man had in the presence of God that affirmed or established a holy covenant.

God calls Moses up to receive the tablets of stone, the law and the commandments. Moses and Joshua then go up to the mountain but the elders stay back in case any of the people at the base of the mountain are in need. A cloud surrounds the mountain as Moses ascends and he is there for forty days and forty nights. To the people, Moses was obscured in a fiery, smoky barrier at the top of the mountain. This was the glory of the Lord manifest to the people. Moses was there with God all that time that he was on the top of the mountain. Imagine what that must have been like.

God reaching out to the people in this way from the top of Mt. Sinai was a great blessing to them. There was great fear from the people, and rightfully so, but there is also a sense of divine care and concern for the people. God is terrible, yes, but He is also benevolent. The fear of the Lord is a healthy thing and God certainly gives them reason to fear. But beneath the show of His dominance and power are His guidance for the people. If they only follow the Lord, they will have peace and prosperity beyond their wildest imaginations. The people have said multiple times that they will follow the directives of the Lord, but the time to come will show that they often have great difficulty in adhering to their declarations of obedience and loyalty.

When following the Lord, we need to incorporate constancy and steadfast loyalty, no matter our conditions or surroundings. Sounding off that we will obey is good, but it is ultimately meaningless if we do not follow through with active, decisive obedience.

Exodus 23: Feasts and Promises

Guidance on how to practice honesty and goodness continues in Exodus 23. Practicing evil is condemned as is  standing in the way of justice. The Lord continues to establish rules, practices, and guidelines that are appropriate for the people and their living conditions. Note that even though the examples used to illustrate the principles are of a non-technological age, the principles themselves are timeless, wholesome, and still applicable to our modern age. Ideas such as respect, fairness, kindness, honesty, and practicing righteousness in all dealings are coming to life in the application of these rules established by God:

  • Practice honesty
  • Evil, and being in proximity to it, is condemned
  • Avoid showing partiality
  • Demonstrate respect for others and their property
  • Be a wise and honest source of advice
  • Do not torment the messenger of bad news
  • Be kind and giving to strangers
  • Help the needy with excess food

The Israelites are also told to keep the Sabbath as a holy and restful day.

Verses 14-16 establish three different feasts that they are to have:

  1. Feast of the Unleavened Bread
    1. To help commemorate their being saved as slaves from Egypt
  2. Feast of Harvest
    1. To celebrate the first gatherings from a ripened field
  3. Feast of Ingathering
    1. To celebrate the totality of production from the fields

These feasts are to point the children of Israel toward God by helping them understand and recognize what a huge role He plays in their lives. The salvation from Egypt is a memorable event, with its own holiday, the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread augments that celebration. The other two feasts are there to remind the Israelites that God is providing for them continuously by providing their food. The admonitions in verse 18 and 19 steer the people away from some of the pagan practices that took place in idol-worshipping of the time.

In the closing verses of this chapter, God promises the Israelites many things. He promises them protection, health, long lives, to vanquish their enemies, and deliverance to the land that He has long promised them. But these promises are conditional. In order to receive these things, the people had to obey the laws and commands that God was giving them. The Angel will go before the people and conquer the warring tribes that were all around the Israelites. But the people would be required to take up arms confidently against these people and also have patience for God said that He would remove these people from the land gradually. This gradual removal was necessary to allow for the Israelite nation to grow large enough to inhabit all that land and so that wild beasts would not overtake it if all of the other tribes were to suddenly leave.

Lessons for us this week are plentiful. The main one that I see is that every single one of God’s laws, rules, guidelines, and commandments has a greater truth and righteousness standing behind it. It would do us well to know God better by study and prayer so that we can see the greater import that his commandments have in our lives. The Israelites at the time may have struggled with why they needed to hear and obey, but once they followed the pattern (although they never did it for long), they found themselves living in a prosperity overflowing with happiness, righteousness, mutual respect and relative peace. Are children not this way?

As adults, we are better off obeying God than questioning Him. He has created the game, written the rules, and determined the players. What good does it do us to question the rules?

Exodus 22: Laws about Property and Social Responsibility

God is trusting man to make judgmental decisions in light of property-based offenses. Judges appointed by Moses will make the judgments, but there is also a series of common-sense parameters outlined that will help with issue resolution.

Verses 1-15: Laws about Property

As Exodus 21 ended with animal control laws, Exodus 22 begins with laws about property. Since animals were some of the primary objects of property for humanity at this time, it makes sense that animals are at the outset of the discussion on the theft and destruction of personal property.

Theft

  • Ox and sheep thieves will compensate owners for their theft: five times the amount for oxen and four times the amount for sheep
  • A thief that breaks in and is killed at night is rightfully killed, but if the thief is killed after sunrise, the defender is guilty
    • This means that if the killing happened during the act, it was justified, but if it happened after the fact (the day after), it was unnecessary force and the defender is guilty of bloodshed
  • If the thief is identified, he is to make recompense for the stolen goods. If he is unable to do this, he will be sold into slavery to make up for the loss
  • If the thief is found with the livestock still alive, he will restore double the amount

Livestock and crop responsibility

  • A man’s livestock should only feed on the grain that is on this property; if a man’s animal feeds on the materials in another man’s fields, that man whose animal wrongfully fed will need to make up for the loss
  • If a man loses some of his neighbor’s property that was given to him to watch over, he will be responsible for it and will pay double. If a thief is not found for the loss, the man responsible for the goods will be brought before the judges to determine his guilt
  • If an animal is borrowed and dies while the owner is not present, the borrower is responsible to make restitution for the death of the animal

Role of the judges

  • Any accusations of loss, trespass including oxen, donkeys, sheep, clothing, or any material good will be brought before the judges. The judges will discern whether or not the accused party will pay double to make restitution
  • Oaths are also mentioned to ensure that there is trustworthiness and respect for the property of others. Allowances are made for natural loss

Verses 16-31: Laws about Social Responsibility

  • A man shall not lie with a woman before she is his wife. If he does, he shall marry her. If her father refuses him as a son-in-law, then he must pay the bride-price for her
  • Those that practice sorcery, bestiality and sacrifice to other gods will be put to death
  • The following are to be treated well: stangers, widows, and orphans. Those who mistreat them will be punished
  • If one borrows something, they will return it and also those that receive money as a loan are not to be taken advantage of
  • Authority, including God and the judges and rulers of His people, will not be disrespected or reviled
  • The best of everything will be offered to God and meat from wild beasts is not to be consumed

God is promoting unity and peace with these guidelines and restrictions. If all of these rules are followed, a community of peace, goodwill, and understanding will result. This is not meant to be a foundation for a utopia but is rather meant to solve some of man’s common problems while also teaching the capable men and leaders among the people to govern themselves.

The Sacrifice of Jesus

Tonight let us look at the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ represents so much for mankind. He embodies God’s most important blessing, He is our highest example of human behavior, and He brings us peace of the kind that we cannot find this side of heaven.

Please read with me in Matthew 27 in verses 32-66. So much has led up to this point at the end of Jesus’ life. Jesus has grown His ministry and ultimately was hunted down for His claims. It has all been leading to this willing sacrifice.

Many things happen in this passage in sequence. It is interesting to read them as a list, so that we can see how the events of Jesus’s sacrifice unfolded: 

1. A man named Simon is tasked to help Jesus bear His cross to Golgotha. Jesus was weakened by the scourging and could not carry it himself.

2. Jesus is nailed to the cross at Golgotha and His clothing is allocated to soldiers by casting lots, thus fulfilling prophecy. 

3. Jesus is chastised by the crowd and sardonically labeled “The King of the Jews.”

4. Darkness comes over the land for three hours.

5. Jesus calls out to God, asking why He has been left to suffer in such a state. 

6. Jesus dies.

7. The veil of the temple tears, rocks split and the earth quakes.

8. Roman guards admit that this Man surely was divine after seeing these miraculous occurrences.

9. Many women who were among His followers watched His crucifixion from afar. Among them were Mary Magdalene and Jesus’s mother Mary.

10. A wealthy disciple of Jesus’ named Joseph provides a burial tomb for Him. A large stone seals the tomb as Mary Magdalene and Jesus’s mother Mary watch over the tomb.

11. Pilate allows the chief priests and Pharisees to seal the tomb further and set a guard over it to prevent what they fear would be disciples stealing the body.

Of course, Jesus’s body would leave the tomb but it would not be from someone stealing it. For Jesus’s claim from verse 63: “After three days I will rise” would come true and Jesus would rise from the dead. 

This passage is the culmination of many things: Old Testament prophecies, the fulfillment of God’s plan to redeem all mankind, the plan of the Jewish elite to kill Jesus, etc. But the focus for us this morning is what this sequence of events means for us.

Recall how He prayed so earnestly in the garden of Gethsemane. He prayed that He might not have to suffer so; He prayed that the task would pass from Him. But His desire to serve and to please Almighty God overruled his physical self-preservation and He said: “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” His devotion to God meant an abundance of blessing for us.

When Christ died on the cross, He did so for us. And when we are baptized into Him, we enter into a holy relationship with God wherein the old sinning version of ourselves dies and our new self rises. We do not continue in sin, but rather we live for Jesus.

In His death, we have life. In His pain and suffering, we have the comfort of forgiveness. But as he broke free from the confines of death, He leads the way for us to shake off the shackles of sin and live pure before our God.