Grasping God’s Purpose: “Underlying Purpose” – Exodus 35

When my daughter Rachel was a young woman, she and I went on a “daddy trip” to Paris. She had been brought up in a multicultural world in the Middle East, and I wanted to show her the birthplace of some of the most profound, and in some cases devastating, ideas men ever expressed. Paris is the city of Voltaire, the city of culture without God – a kind of humanism very different than what preceded it. I wanted Rachel to know what happened to the men who decided to write beneath the story of mankind a very different purpose – a purpose without God or ultimate meaning. I wanted her to see what their ideas produced, and how they worked out over time.

Out of that trip came many wonderful moments – but one has stuck out to me for years. We took the opportunity to “make a memory” out of watching – as father and daughter – a ballet in the Garnier Opera, built in 1861 (the setting for the “Phantom of the Opera”). This particular piece that night was modern, with ballet on an elevate stage, and other dancers below the stage that were also on projection screens behind the main stage that represented the emotions and underlying hidden thoughts of the people in the scene of life above. It had a profound effect on all who watched. I needed to be reminded that even simplest exchanges often have profound underlying emotions and thoughts. The message was made clear in the method – and I will never forget it. Sometimes what we see is not what is truly going on – there is much more beneath the surface.

For those who may not be aware of this truth, the Bible expresses a clear underlying purpose for men and women and their creation. The Bible is neither silent on why we are here, nor where we are going. It stubbornly demands that there is a God that created us, and that He did so with a purpose. The pages of God’s Word insist on single command– and all of us will either comply, or refuse this single entreaty.

Key Principle: God created us with a singular purpose. He created us in order that we would learn to serve Him and find personal fulfillment only in that act of complete surrender.

With that in mind, the Holy Book divides the world into only two groups – those who know God, and those who need to. Those who know Him, have surrendered to His will. Those who have not surrendered to Him, do not really understand Who they are opposing, and believe the consequence of that rejection. Every adult you have ever met, or ever will meet – is a part of one group or the other.

Many of us are used to the idea that God wants to meet with us. In fact, in a generation where our lives are so full of self – I wonder if some don’t just think that God will get them when He is lucky enough to wait until they’re done doing for themselves. I fear that many – among them some long time believers – will come to churches today, but not to face God, and certainly not to surrender to Him

Long before the church ever existed, Moses faced the same problem three thousand five hundred years ago… In fact, little has changed with people in terms of value systems in that time. Technology changes – sin doesn’t. Stubborn is still stubborn. With that in mind, we have been traipsing through the desert with the Israelites in the book of Exodus, following the story of how God took a rabble, added heat, thirst and troublesome threats, shook them up sufficiently, and baked a nation. We saw in Exodus 34 the story of God’s meeting with Moses, and noted that God had preconditions to meeting with Him. If you trace the first half of the chapter (Exodus 34) you see five of them that are identical to the problems we face in meeting God today in church.

  • Some will come believing that sin is not their chief problem – environment is. If they could just change their job, spouse, family or location – all would be perfect. Sadly, without a real belief that our biggest problem is sin sickness, real answers will be hard to grasp (34:1).
  • Some will come on their own terms – trying to convince God that He ought to let them do what they want and bless them anyway (34:2).
  • Some will come to gain business, attract a man or woman, or just placate a parent – and they will find the hour spent will seem largely a waste – because they came for show (34:3).
  • Some will come to get some felt need massaged – like a sore muscle. They won’t come to worship, but to be healed of their felt need. The utilitarian view of God that He is like a psychiatrist of the soul will leave them needy again – rather than drinking from the well that truly satisfies (34:4-5).
  • Some will come to have their own views affirmed – rather than hear God as God, and submit every opinion and every idea for His Holy approval (34:6).

God’s meeting with Moses after he sinned reminds us that God desires to meet us even in our fallen and rebellious state – but His purpose is CHANGE. He is not afraid of you. He doesn’t get the “willys’ around sinners, since the planet is covered with them. Just knowing that about God is a comfort on the face of it, but the text also makes us face warnings. He will not set aside His insistence on revealed conditions, and we cannot negotiate a compromise on truth. It is because of that, so many will stand outside the door of truth and hear the words of the oracles of men – blowing in the foul winds of human philosophy and understanding. These ideas will neither powerfully change them nor permanently lift them to new heights that are more than momentary emotional manipulation.

Transformation comes with meeting the Maker, face to face.

That was what Paul referred to in Ephesians 1. Real and lasting change comes by going into the fire of His power and having Him turn us and shape us. We undergo His mallet on His anvil, and He re-shapes our broken spirit – our fallen minds, and our warped perspectives. He has a way of straightening every bend in “the old and damaged us”.

The end of Exodus 34 offered us a second important set of reminders – we studied last time eight important concerns that God shared about what He wanted to share with people.

  • God didn’t want people to make up what He was like – so He forbade them from SHAPING HIM (34:17).
  • God didn’t want people to forget how they were changed – so He made them recall their rescue of salvation regularly (34:18).
  • God didn’t want people to believe the things He loaned them were THEIRS – so He gave them a regular offering to remind them that every increase was HIS (34:19-20).
  • God didn’t want people to believe they were the secret to their own provision – so He commanded a time when they stopped working (34:21).
  • God didn’t want people to think their ingenuity gave them their crops – so He commanded an offering of the first of the yield (34:22).
  • God didn’t want the people to believe they could trust in horses and chariots for protection – so He told them to obey and worship as their major form of protection (34:23-24).
  • God didn’t want people to slop their way through their worship and give Him second best – so He commanded precision (34:25).
  • God didn’t want to be tacked on to the END of the week but to be first in priority – so He gave them specific commands relating to PRIORITY (34:26).

Each of these ideas is Gods idea, and as such each is terribly important. At the same time, we can get lost in the details of the passage and miss the simplicity of the one big idea…

We must remember this one truth: God knows what He wants. He knows what He thinks. He is embracing in love but unbending in truth. He is merciful in expression but un-yielding toward error. We cannot bargain falsehood into some kind of compromise with the Holy One. We can submit and listen, or we can believe a lie – and that will lead us to a dead end.

Exodus 34 left us with this: God accepts us when we come on His terms and listen to what He says. As Creator of All – He has no need to bargain and no desire to water down the truth. So why isn’t it perfectly clear what God wants today?

Some people haven’t been taught to submit to God – because giving God’s truth is the teacher’s choice. The sad truth is that Exodus 35 opens with a choice. As we make our way to the next words as God has preserved them, we move from the conversation between God and Moses, to the announcements of God’s Word to the children of Israel. Note that Moses job wasn’t to help them feel good – so much as it was to carefully and clearly relate what God instructed to them. Listen in to the beginning of the announcement:  Exodus 35:1 Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do…”

Note when you read verse 1, that Moses had only three choices:

  • First, he could obey and deliver the message that God intended just as it was revealed in God’s Word.
  • Second, he could ignore God’s instruction and say nothing.
  • Third, he could make up or mix up God’s Word with the thoughts of other bright men of his day, or philosophies he learned growing up in a pagan world’s education system.

Here is the truth: every preacher of every church and every teacher of every Bible study around the world has the same three choices.

The message is not to become so sophisticated in human understanding that we meet the true needs of men and women. We are to be ambassadors and faithful reflectors of God’s truth as He carefully preserved it in His written Word. To the extent that we fail to do this – the world is held away from the truth of God’s Holy Word. When we try to be funny at the expense of the text – we rob people of the manna that will sustain and strengthen them. When we teach the Bible from the latest fad book instead of simply and carefully exposing and connecting the Scriptures to life – we offer “pablum” to a crowd starving for meat. Moses wisely chose to offer God’s instruction and then some explanation.

Look at the next few verses, and it will become painfully obvious that there are three arenas God challenges in people – and they were then the same three arenas we must make a choice about today:

Arena 1: God started with TIME.

Exodus 35:2 “For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 “You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”

Sabbath was a command to the Jewish people for all their generations. It was, and is, a marker of obedience and uniqueness. I am not suggesting that you and I are commanded to keep it – but I am suggesting that the arena of time is still the one God longs for in our lives. For many of us, we treat our Heavenly Father the way a child of divorce is treated – we pass Him into the weekends of our lives. We don’t talk to Him, seek Him, worship Him or listen to Him – except on the designated weekend slots we have scheduled.

Arena 2: God next addressed TREASURE.

Exodus 35:4 Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, saying, 5 ‘Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORD’S contribution: gold, silver, and bronze, 6 and blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goats’ hair, 7 and rams’ skins dyed red, and porpoise skins, and acacia wood, 8 and oil for lighting, and spices for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense, 9 and onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breast piece.

The obvious context of this chapter is the need for items to build the worship center called the Tabernacle, or the “Mishkan”.  In order to have the needed building materials, everyone was called upon to sacrifice. As a generation of slaves, all of them were recently endowed with wealth as the Egyptians showered them with goods on their way out the door to the wilderness. I personally believe it was buyer’s remorse that sent Pharaoh into the desert to get at least their “stuff” back when the water swallowed up those in hot pursuit. Isn’t it ironic that they were showered with GOOD THINGS by God, and then found those very GOOD THINGS hard to part with? God beckons His people to give their STUFF to Him when He tells them to do so. We shouldn’t have to BEG to care for real needs. God’s work done God’s way will not lack God’s supply – if God’s people are obedient to Him.

Arena 3: God finished with TALENT.

Exodus 35:10 ‘Let every skillful man among you come, and make all that the LORD has commanded: 11 the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets; 12 the ark and its poles, the mercy seat, and the curtain of the screen; 13 the table and its poles, and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 14 the lampstand also for the light and its utensils and its lamps and the oil for the light; 15 and the altar of incense and its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the doorway at the entrance of the tabernacle; 16 the altar of burnt offering with its bronze grating, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin and its stand; 17 the hangings of the court, its pillars and its sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court and their cords; 19 the woven garments for ministering in the holy place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests.’”

If you listen carefully, you can hear the skills and talents God enlisted. He needed builders, wood workers, curtain makers, metal workers, movers, oil makers, clothing fitters and sewing specialists, bakers and oven makers, peg cutters… and on and on. There were, and there ARE many ways to serve God. He didn’t call metal workers to make bread – and He didn’t call baker’s to design fabrics. He brought all the workers needed…but He did not force them to comply with His command – that was their choice.

Surrender is always about the big three arenas – time, talent and treasure.

Because of time, I want to explore HOW God wanted these three dealt with in an upcoming lesson – but I don’t want to leave us at a cliff. There is a pattern for surrender, and it can be found in the remaining part of the chapter. Just glance quickly at the elegance of it as we pass by (we’ll be back to small the roses later):

Real surrender is YOUR PERSONAL GIFT. No one can compel you to truly obey God in your heart. It is an internal matter. The decision to obey was each man and woman’s decision. The people did it when they got HOME – just like you will (or won’t). Exodus 35:20 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel departed from Moses’ presence.

Real surrender begins in you when God stirs and moves within. Yet, that only happens in those who let Him – and don’t ignore His voice or drown out the sound it makes. He will not push us until we ask, but will aid us when we do! God moved in each who opened to Him – and people made the choice to respond. Exodus 35:21 Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the LORD’S contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments.

Real surrender begins with an identity loss.  The toughest part of surrender is facing a new identity that emerges from the relationship with God. Our old self gives way to a new one – and that is easy for others to see! When People surrender the markers of their old identity, they show their serious change has taken place. Exodus 35:22 Then all whose hearts moved them, both men and women, came and brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and bracelets, all articles of gold; so did every man who presented an offering of gold to the LORD. 23 Every man, who had in his possession blue and purple and scarlet material and fine linen and goats’ hair and rams’ skins dyed red and porpoise skins, brought them.

Real surrender comes when we GIVE, not plan to give. People discovered the privilege of giving – that God had enabled them for a purpose! Exodus 35:24 Everyone who could make a contribution of silver and bronze brought the LORD’S contribution; and every man who had in his possession acacia wood for any work of the service brought it….29 The Israelites, all the men and women, whose heart moved them to bring material for all the work, which the LORD had commanded through Moses to be done, brought a freewill offering to the LORD.

Real surrender brings a new fulfillment. People are energized by obedience and engage life with a new joy when we work in the area of our gifts and talents – and dedicate that work to God’s higher purpose. Exodus 35:25 All the skilled women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue and purple and scarlet material and in fine linen. 26 All the women whose heart stirred with a skill spun the goats’ hair.

Real surrender is different for different people. God made it clear that He entrusted some with more than others – but they were to surrender what they had to the work. Exodus 35:27 The rulers brought the onyx stones and the stones for setting for the ephod and for the breast piece; 28 and the spice and the oil for the light and for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense.

Finally, real surrender has to be administrated. God’s work had leaders and organization – it wasn’t a free for all and it wasn’t a guessing game. The supervising leaders were announced, recognized and followed. Exodus 35:30 Then Moses said to the sons of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 31 “And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship; 32 to make designs for working in gold and in silver and in bronze, 33 and in the cutting of stones for settings and in the carving of wood, so as to perform in every inventive work. 34 “He also has put in his heart to teach, both he and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 “He has filled them with skill to perform every work of an engraver and of a designer and of an embroiderer, in blue and in purple and in scarlet material, and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs.

Jesus told us that the Kingdom was like a pearl – it was of incredible value. One who truly understood would GIVE ANYTHING to possess it, serve in it, and cherish it. One historian reminds us that when a Roman emperor wanted to show how rich he was, he would dissolve pearls in vinegar and then drink them in his wine, in much the same way that a flamboyant man may might light his cigar using a hundred-dollar bill. I suspect that is what some may be doing with their real fulfillment – their real calling… letting it dissolve in the vinegar of the world rather than setting it as a sparkling gem for God’s enjoyment. God created us with a singular purpose. He created us in order that we would learn to serve Him and find personal fulfillment only in that act of complete surrender.

Grasping God’s Purpose: “The Heart of the Matter” – Exodus 34:17-27

Did you ever try to communicate with someone and find it really wasn’t working? Did you ever feel like you just “weren’t on the same page” as another in your family, or on your team?

A new resident was walking down a street and noticed a man struggling with a washing machine at the doorway of his house. When the newcomer volunteered to help, the homeowner was overjoyed, and the two men together began to work and struggle with the bulky appliance. After several minutes of fruitless effort the two stopped and just stared at each other in frustration. They looked as if they were on the verge of total exhaustion. Finally, when they had caught their breath, the first man said to the homeowner: “We’ll never get this washing machine in there!” To which the homeowner replied: “In? I’m trying to move it out of here!” Good communication is terribly important. Thankfully, we serve a God that INVENTED every form of communication.

In our last study in Exodus, we peeked in on the meeting between Moses and God and asked the questions: “How should I come to God for a REAL MEETING? What is REQUIRED by God for such a meeting?” Looking closely at the text, we saw five truths we needed to embrace:

  • First, we come with a knowledge of our sin. Exodus 34:1 “Now the LORD said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered…”
  • Second, we come on God’s terms. Exodus 34”2 “So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to Me on the top of the mountain…
  • Third, we come privately. Exodus 34:3 “No man is to come up with you, nor let any man be seen anywhere on the mountain; even the flocks and the herds may not graze in front of that mountain…”
  • Fourth, we come with the intent to embrace Him. Moses didn’t come to bargain with God or re-shape His thinking – just to worship and celebrate Him. Exodus 34:4 “So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand. 5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD.”
  • Fifth, we come to hear Him speak the truth. For the moment, listen to the words God proclaimed about Himself as He met with Moses. Exodus 34:6 “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth…”

The timing of this meeting with God was AFTER THE PEOPLE’S SIN and AFTER MOSES’ SINFUL RESPONSE to that sin. God is ready and willing to rejoin you when you have sinned. He isn’t resistant to love and grace – He is the author of them both. He went looking for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after their sin, in order to draw them back. At the same time, the relationship changed from innocence to awkwardness – because of guilt. The same must have been true by the time God set up the meeting in Exodus 34.

Moses was no sooner on the mountain, and the people were quick to leave God – after only a forty day absence of Moses’ leadership! Yet, Moses sin was different than the people’s sin. His wasn’t one of defection – but one of reaction. He wasn’t tempted to wander off and serve anotherbecause He was spending time with God. He was “sitting at God’s feet” and hearing God share mysteries and insights.

Removed from the voice of God and the voice of those who followed God closely, the others among the children of Israel became like the recent graduates of high school when they move to a public university dormitory. Suddenly they are not hearing the daily voice of mom or dad who stay in the Word and walk with God daily. It is only then we can see if they have grasped the faith as their very own. The first wave hits with the first party invitations at college. Why? Because temptation increases with each step away from God. If they are not careful to walk in His presence daily – they will be drawn into compromise, and then question the truth of their faith – as if the truth of God is found in their own choices to faithfulness or unfaithfulness. In the end, straying is much less a temptation, when the voice of God is near – even if that voice is indirect through the words of a godly parent or leader. Here is the point: Moses was on the mountain, and the active work of the Word was gone in their lives. That became the point at which the slippery embankment gave way in their lives.

God’s response to man’s sinfulness is always the same: provisions of grace and commands of obedience. We sing it as “trust and obey” – and it is really that simple. God offers sin payment and says “trust”. God offers command to demonstrate submission and says “obey”. Obedience doesn’t take the place of trust, because sin and salvation are issues of the heart (surrender) and not the hands (works). At the same time, a trust without obedience is a theology without submission – and leaves God with nothing. We get salvation, and He gets a stubborn and selfish so-called “Christian”, who plays no deliberate role in working out that salvation and winning a lost world. The most miserable people in the world are not the lost (this side of death) – but those who have chosen to know God, and then not follow Him. In that state, God beckons His people back to trust and obedience.

The five requirements we looked at last time were singularly about what WE were to care about in our meeting with God. We need to take responsibility for sin, carefully check that we are coming on His terms, come without a show to embrace Him and listen to Him. These are OUR view of OUR preparations… but that is only ONE SIDE of the issue.

This time I would like to address the end of the passage and ask a different question: “What did God want to communicate?” What was on His heart that He wanted to share with Moses and then the people?

If we look closely at the last verses of the text, they deal with the CONTENT of what God wanted to say to Moses. Look at the THINGS GOD WAS CONCERNED ABOUT in the narrative. God leveled eight direct commands to Moses – each reflecting a concern.

Key Principle: God is concerned that men know Him as He truly is. A marred view of God will lead to a life of confusion and grief.

Eight Concerns of God

  1. SHAPING: Go without representation of Me. Exodus 34:17 “You shall make for yourself no molten gods. God doesn’t want His people to define Him pictorially or theologically – attempting to limit what God can and will do.

This may seem slight to some – that God would care if we made a statue, picture or diagram of Him. At the same time, I cannot begin to describe how many people I know that walked away from God because of a theological explanation of Him from a local church. This week I spoke to a woman who told me of the heartbreak of raising a child in the church, only to have that child stripped away from the faith by a professor at school. He focused the child on the teaching of election in order to impugn the God of the Bible as unfair.

The child was drawn into a theologically difficult deduction, and then pulled away from any belief in God. I want to suggest the problem wasn’t the child finding God’s loving character at fault – but believing a picture of God painted by a debate within Christianity about the meaning of some passages of the New Testament. It is terribly important that we remember that the Bible was nowhere meant to truly explain God and His inner workings. This autobiographical library was intended to be instructive to the follower – not restrictive to the author. God cannot explain to me how and why He does what He does – for my mind cannot really grasp that.

When we shape God, whether in picture, diagram or theological statement – we limit God to our own understanding and devices. We draw conclusions beyond the text of Scripture base on finite and flawed logical reasoning apparatus. Here is the point: I am not God. I can experience Him, but not truly define Him. I can picture Him (for Jesus is the expressed image of His person), but I cannot really grasp the depths of how He runs the universe. In my life, it has mostly been Christians that are guilty of overstating what we truly know of God. Be careful not to draw tight lines around your theology such that you give the impression that the Bible reveals all the mysteries of God – it simply does not.

When I leave this life and see the great and exalted God in the high throne of the universe – I will stand in awe. I will not evaluate how close I came in my mental pictures from this life – I will just cry. I will just drop to my metaphorical knees and bow before His greatness. No other image will flood my mind. No distraction will overcome me. No other person or picture will compare. No grand vista from a mountain peak, or calm horizon on the sea will compare with a view of the One who hurled the stars into place. There is no experience in this life that can truly prepare me for that view…but I can long for it. I can seek to know what I cannot truly grasp – because the excitement is in the trying!

We are foolish when we think we can truly understand God’s mysteries this side of Heaven. We must speak of God with humility and anticipation of understanding. God was concerned about that from the beginning…

  1. MEMORY: Recall my work of redemption for you annually. Exodus 34:18 “You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt. God doesn’t want His people to forget how He saved them – and drew them into the relationship.

When we forget how we got into a relationship with God, we become haughty. We look at others who are dashed about in a lost world of darkness and lose our mercy. We get revenge oriented and angry. We lose the “mind of Christ” that we were told to emulate in His coming to earth to save, and take on the mind of Christ the coming Judge. We were not told to level judgment, but to offer mercy. We were commanded by God to work in the ministry of reconciliation of men to God. Our job isn’t to join the enraged masses who condemn, but to see with pained eyes and reach out with open hands. When powerful and heinous sins are committed, we want to criticize. It is not always wrong – especially in a generation that seems to have so little connection to right and wrong. Look at the news and it is easy to see:

VICTORIA, B.C., June 15, 2012 ( – The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled that Canada’s ban on assisted suicide is unconstitutional. Justice Lynn Smith issued a 395-page ruling in the Carter v. Canada case Friday morning, determining that the ban discriminates against the disabled. … Given that suicide is legal in Canada, Justice Smith argues that the ban violates the equality provision in section 15 of Canada’s Charter because it prevents the disabled from getting the help they may need to kill themselves. Interesting thought – a “right to life” issue is the right to find someone that can help me end life. Hippocrates would be stunned at the logic.

Peter Singer, notorious infanticide and bestiality-promoting ‘ethicist’ was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) this week, …given for “merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or humanity at large,” on Monday at the 2012 Queen’s Birthday honors. It was granted for his “eminent service to philosophy and bioethics as a leader of public debate and communicator of ideas in the areas of global poverty, animal welfare and the human condition.” (Posted by Adina Hoshour from lifesitenews). Really? Sleeping with animals and killing children is now a help to modern ethical development?

Are believers to IGNORE this slide of our culture? No. But we must not become belligerent and angry in public discourse either. I suggest you put down the signs if they are not lifted AFTER we drop to our knees and seek God. Anger is not the right motivation – love is. We should write the necessary letters to legislators when we have opportunity for public voice, but be careful about how we sound. Be reasoned and always loving. Pretend you actually have the chance to reach the other party for Jesus Christ – because you do. Even pagans feel empty when truth hits their heart. We weren’t better than them before we had a relationship with God. We may have been “off” in a different area – but we weren’t deserving of our relationship with God either. God wants us to keep the CROSS  CLOSE because beneath it – things are pretty level. Before Jesus, nobody looks good on their own.

  1. OWNERSHIP: Make sure you remember that you belong to Me. Exodus 34:19 “The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep. 20 “You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed. God doesn’t want His people to think they OWN what He has loaned to them.

Maybe this will help: “…on the sixth day God made man after His own image, and we have been returning the favor ever since. Listening to a sampling of the sermons of most modern TV and radio preachers makes it clear that many these days believe God exists only to meet our needs. Broke? Come to Jesus and He will make you rich. Bad marriage? Disappointing job? Difficult childhood? Come to Jesus, the great therapist, and He will fix you. Jesus came to affirm us in our upper middle-class values, didn’t you hear? Besides from this pulpit, when was the last time in church you heard about the blood of Christ, the reality and pains of Hell, the justice of God, the necessity of repentance, the demand of sacrifice, and the call for believers to live as strangers and pilgrims in this lost world. Most modern, so-called “seeker sensitive” preaching appeals to people’s felt needs. But you have a need, ladies and gentlemen, that you may not feel: A need to be reconciled to God and rescued from His sure and certain wrath. God does not exist for us. We exist for Him.” (Quentin Morrow, sermon central illustrations).

It doesn’t take long for us to feel pretty good about ourselves. We followed God’s Word and things started to fall into place. A few spiritual victories and we start to believe that we don’t need Him quite as much as we did when life was falling apart. We start appearing before God empty-handed. Our thankfulness gives way. Our humility drains our. Self takes hold. We start to sound more like the know it all Pharisee than the “bankrupt of Spirit” Jesus said God would bless (Mt. 5). Slowly, we forget that we are not our own – but bought with a price. The house God provided becomes OUR HOUSE. The body we have over eaten in and under-exercised becomes OUR BODY. The children of our households become OUR CHILDREN.

One of the chief concerns of God about His people is this: Know that I own you – and you are not a FREE AGENT to live the life of self and stubbornness. You were created BY and FOR me – and you will never be happy until you truly grasp that fact.

  1. TRUST: Trust me to care for your needs. Exodus 34: 21 “You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest. God doesn’t want His people to believe they are the secret to their own provision.

When I recognize God’s ownership, I begin to understand that His purchase of me has placed the weight of provision on HIM. He will provide for me, and not me – apart from Him. I must work hard – but not for bread. I must be diligent – but not for self. My life’s work must not be for simple recognition of men. My heart must not take more joy in treasures on earth –where I will fight moth and rust and thieves. God’s order of the Sabbath was a specific issue to Israel for their marking without – but it was also a lesson for their heart within. They were to STOP plowing. They were to put down the harvesters. They were to wait – it was an issue of TRUST. It is worth asking ourselves: “Are we truly trusting God to provide?” Governments cannot do what God can. He is our provision, our refuge and our resource.

  1. RECOGNITION: Celebrate my provision for you. Exodus 34:22 “You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. God doesn’t want His people to be duped into believing they pulled off their own success.

Pastor Quintin Morrow wrote: I recall a cartoon in Christianity Today magazine which tellingly described our loss of a sense of the holiness of God. It depicted three scenes in three boxes. The first showed German Reformer Martin Luther, quaking with fear and sweating. He says, “In the pages of Holy Scripture I encountered an utterly holy God. And there I learned that I was completely unable, through my own good works, to acquit myself and quiet my conscience before Him.” Scene two shows John Wesley, the great revival preacher and father of Methodism, with arms outstretched to heaven, crying, “God’s holiness, revealed in His holy Word, convicted my sinful heart and there I discovered that I was undone. And after reading Luther’s commentary on the Book of Romans my heart was strangely warmed.” The final box shows a modern, 21st woman with frizzy hair, big spectacles and big earrings. Her smiling face is saying, “In Skip and Jodi’s Bible study I discovered that I needed a check-up from the neck up! I don’t need another diet. What God wants me to do is learn to love me.” We have lost our sense of the holiness of God.

Well said. I would add: Man is not starved for a greater view of himself. We have been awash in positive thinking, empowerment and ego boosting – and the result is a generation that is wholly unsatisfied with self and hungry for something more. When we exalt our Savior, we offer them a choice of One greater – One higher. He alone can fill the emptiness they have – for He was the Father’s agent of creation that formed their very being. No one knows me better than my Creator. God’s early concern was that His people would falter in their celebrations because they began to focus on their own success – and forget that without HIM they could do NOTHING.

  1. PROTECTION: Recognize that obedience brings peace. Exodus 34: 23 “Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel. 24 “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the LORD your God. God doesn’t want His people to believe their might is the secret to their own protection.

When we embrace the reality that provision and success are not from our hands, we still must grasp the truth that protection comes from the Lord. The Psalmist knew the God who was his “rock” and his “fortress” and his “deliverer”. We are quick to appear before men. We are quick to ask for and receive counsel. We are slow to appear before the Lord. We are slow to trust Him to care for abuses and attacks against us. Our might will fail. Our body will give way. We must learn a new level of trust in the Lord for protection against the assault of the world’s pagan values, the enemy’s snares and the flesh’s longings. We must HIDE in Him much, much more.

  1. PRECISION: Do what I say, when I say it, the way I say it. Exodus 34:25 “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread, nor is the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover to be left over until morning. God doesn’t want His people to get sloppy about obeying the specifics of His commands.

We must become more fussy about observing God’s Word in our lives, and less fussy about pleasing our fleshly hungers. Many of us suffer from prosperity. We choose what we want to eat every night. We can eat Mexican for lunch and Thai for dinner. We have leisure time and relaxation choices. We KNOW when we don’t get exactly what we order in the restaurant, but are pretty casual about our obedience to the Lord.

Bad word? Oops, slipped. Eyeballing that woman? Well, it’s only natural! Silent about the extra change the cashier gave you? Well, after all if they cannot add… We just aren’t prepared to take God’s Word seriously on many levels of life. God knows those who want to be careful in word and deed. The question is not just if you ARE but if you even DESIRE to be.

  1. PRIORITY: Each increase should be celebrated before Me first. Exodus 34:26 “You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” God doesn’t want His people to think He is less important than what they share together.

Too many people are FAKING IT when it comes to their Christian life. Some will enter church today because they need the social experience more than the encounter with God! I am not arguing that we should be COLD one to another – that isn’t what the Word teaches. Rather, I am say that we must understand the real priority and not FAKE IT.

The Catholic priest and author Arthur Tonne told of an overnight visitor to the White House during the Coolidge administration. Calvin Coolidge was not one of the warmest people to be around – he was well known for his brevity and reserved nature. Seated at breakfast with President, the visitor determined to attempt to be as “invisible” as possible by imitating everything the President did and thus avoiding any possible digressions of etiquette. All went well, until Coolidge began to catch on. Reaching for his coffee, the President poured some of it into his saucer… the visitor followed suit. Then Coolidge reached for the cream and poured a generous amount into the saucer… the visitor did the same. Then Coolidge bent down and placed the saucer on the floor for his cat. There is a difference between those who merely get by – who copy, imitate, and fake it – AND those who are “real” or authentic about what they believe and do. (Pastor Jeff Strite, sermon central illustrations). We don’t want to be caught “faking it” like the pompous church member who visited a young Sunday School Class and at one point asked: “Why do you think people call me a Christian?” After a pause, one little boy raised his hand timidly and asked “Because they don’t know you?”

God is concerned that men know Him as He truly is. A marred view of God will lead to a life of confusion and grief.

Grasping God’s Purpose: “The Meeting” – Exodus 34

It happened this past Friday morning. I was quietly reading with wrapped attention the notes of a friend on “Facebook” that was leaving his home, probably for the last time. He was heading for hospice care after a long sixteen year battle with cancer. He was trying to find the words to say “Goodbye” to all of his friends. His race on earth, it seems, is about to be over. The sickness appears about to overcome his body, and he wanted to go out with some encouraging words one can only hear from men who have spent time gaining confidence in God’s character by learning His Word and talking with Him about serious life issues.

As I read my friend’s words, he reminded me of an important truth: No man dare meet God the first time at death. We can meet Him now, and know Him now – so that when we stand in His presence, we will experience the a warm embrace of a Savior and not the stern face of a judge. The choice is ours. All of us face death – but believers face death as a change of address from pain to promise, from uncertainty to assured fulfillment. You can hear it in our voices. We know this physical body is not our end, and its demise is our beginning.

The simple fact of living on a fallen planet in a body that betrays us more each day is this: Life down here can beat us down. It is for that very reason God led a man, long ago, through the desert – and kept a precious record of his struggles and failures. The arduous task of leading the children of Israel into to a land of promise, along with the trials of the more than thirty-eight years of heat and exhaustion culminated in the view of the promised land that God granted them. Life was difficult on the way – but Moses’ story was not just about the difficulty of the journey, but about navigating successfully a tough walk and arriving at God’s promised destination with the Lord as both his Master and his loving companion.

Today I want to look at the meeting of God and man. The context is important – for many of us met God at a point when we suspected we could soon break. Moses came to a place in his walk, very early in the leadership in the desert when the pressure of leading the people became overwhelming. The people whined, cheated on God, and seemed to lack any sense of common destiny. They were easily distracted and just as a easily placated. They thought as slaves – happy to have the next meal provided and the next mountain surveyed. They followed unless it was uncomfortable. Moses was wearing out and running on his last nerve, and they weren’t that far from Egypt yet. In frustration, and as a response to God’s Word that the Lord would send a “stand in” to travel with them (an angel) Moses begged God to meet Him face to face. Our text in Exodus 34, is God’s response. God met with Moses. The encounter changed his life – as it always does when one truly meets God at the point of desperation. Our story reveals an answer to at least three important questions:

  • First, what was required to be in such an audience?
  • Second, what did God reveal about Himself there?
  • Finally, what was God’s chief concern when they met?

Here is the point of the story: Fake meetings with God just won’t do when troubles are real. We need a time with Him that grips our lives and moves us deeply into His arms.

Key Principle: God wants to meet with us, to share Himself with us, and to reveal the dangerous places that lay about us.

Real believers MEET God, and the change God makes in them impacts their world. Don’t forget – real diamonds can cut glass. The reality of true diamonds is seen in the mark they make. So also, real Christianity is shown in the mark that God makes in our personal encounters with Him.

How should I come to God for a REAL MEETING? What is REQUIRED by God for such a meeting? Look closely at the text:

First, we come with a knowledge of our sin. Exodus 34:1 Now the LORD said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. When Moses wanted to come to God, it was with full knowledge of his sins of the past, but a hopefulness of a new future. God told him to cut stones to replace the ones he broke out of anger. That was WRONG. It was SIN. The reminder was necessary – because God doesn’t meet the arrogant. He hates prides and resists the proud heart. Self sufficiency is the opposite of longing for God.

There is a hunger in the human heart:

  • To be a part of something grand, something more important than the mundane life many of us live in.
  • To be loved by someone that sees us as incredibly valuable.
  • To know our origin, our purpose, and our destiny.

It is worth noting that an intimate knowledge of God provides food for all of these hungers like nothing else will.  Jeremiah 9:23 reminds us: Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD..

Today, I promise you it is worth taking the time to get to know Him better. He will make you a part of an incredible journey, wrap His arms around you and draw you into His love, and show you how you fit in bringing about the great destiny He has planned!

Second, we come on God’s terms. Exodus 34”2 “So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to Me on the top of the mountain. When Moses came, it was on God’s timing, with God’s instruction. Note that God called to Moses – because God wanted to re-initiate time together. Moses didn’t crawl through slop or beat himself in penance, but he knew he was wrong. He knew he didn’t deserve time with God – and that sense of personal failure and sinfulness was not destructive when it led him back to God. We have been raised in a generation so afraid to damage our self worth that we have missed the blessing of conviction. When you ache because you have been wrong – it is a gift to drive you back to the Savior’s arms. The difference between CONDEMNATION and CONVICTION is where it leads you. One leads you to withdraw from God, the other draws you tearfully back to His embrace as you look into His eyes for forgiveness.

Third, we come privately. Exodus 34:3 “No man is to come up with you, nor let any man be seen anywhere on the mountain; even the flocks and the herds may not graze in front of that mountain.” When Moses approached God, he came as privately – and it was not a show for others. Walking an aisle in a church service isn’t the only way to meet God – and often it isn’t even the BEST way. What God is looking for is the intimate and personal experience of your heart quietly surrendered – particularly in issues you may have never shared with another person. This is why I argue that we are a generation too quick to ask for counsel, and too slow to pray sincerely about our issues. God urged Moses to come privately and personally – with no grandstanding and no fanfare.

Fourth, we come with the intent to embrace Him. Moses didn’t come to bargain with God or re-shape His thinking – just to worship and celebrate Him. Exodus 34:4 So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand. 5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Note the meeting was preceded by OBEDIENCE to God’s command – because that is a requirement God will not breach. If we understand that He is God and we are not – we come in obedience to Him – not as an equal. This was WORSHIP – not COUNSEL.

I get concerned with the number of people who were raised with the Dr. Spock popular notion that they should only feel the need to obey in commands they feel they completely understand. In the world we live in, often heard are the voices of those who think the rules don’t apply to them, because they don’t see any real negative impact to their disobedience. The truth is this: We disrespect God’s position and offend His PERSON, when we try to negotiate out of obedience. Believers need to be very concerned about the way we handle God’s Word and God’s person. We dare not think that because He calls Himself my friend, that I am therefore His equal or His counselor – I am not, and I never will be. The friendship exists because He stoops down to me, not because I have such a stature as to look Him in the eye where I stand.

Fifth, we come to hear Him speak the truth. For the moment, listen to the words God proclaimed about Himself as He met with Moses. Exodus 34:6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

  • He began with a word about HIS EXISTENCE. God said: “LORD”: I AM THE “I AM” (Yahweh). God began with the open statement that He is the I Am… The beginning of wisdom is the reverence of the Lord, and the beginning of reverence is belief that He is exactly Who He claims to be. God states that He IS before He states what He has done. You can know Him by observing what He has done. He is a PERSON, not an obscure force or idea – intellect, emotion and will.
  • He continued with a word about HIS ABILITY. I Am the Strong and Mighty (Yahweh El). I Am the One Who is Able to perform any reality consistent with My nature that I desire to perform. (Jer. 32: “Is there anything too difficult for thee?”; Mt. 19:26 “All things are possible”).

That reminds me of the classroom where the professor was suggesting the Bible was mythology and the understanding of the students was shrouded in mythical understanding. The Western Civilization professor told the students: “Moses didn’t cross the Red Sea, it was the “sea of reeds” – so it was really no big deal. It was probably only 5” in depth!” A student shouted out from the back of the class: “What a miracle! The Egyptian forces drowned in 5” of water!”

People try to rationalize the POWER of God. Remember that He speaks the truth, and He claims He is able… Because of that truth: I dare to pray for the humanly impossible (not the spuriously ridiculous) because my God can do it!…When I am whipped or tired, I can crawl to Him, and He is not tired! He will watch over us when we admit we cannot watch over ourselves!…In regards to my enemy, I have the greater power with me!

  • He offered nine character statements about HIS NATURE.

I Am (NASB:Compassionate) Tender (Rachoom; tender), just as David reminds us in Psalm 57:10 For your mercy is great to the heavens! (At the time of David hiding in the caves of 1 Sam. 24).

I Am Gracious (Hanoon: compassionate; showing special favor or pity). Mary knew this in the Magnificat: Lk. 1:50: And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.

I Am Longsuffering (Awrake Aphim: long nosed; slow to flare up). This causes me to understand God’s goodness without becoming presumptuous, or believing that God didn’t notice my sin.

I Am Abundant in Goodness (6b: V’rav chesed v’emet: and full of many covenant faithfulnesses). God is unending in His eternally good nature. (Ps 90: “From everlasting to everlasting..”) If I can do it, it is no fun for God! I can live beyond my nature, resolutions, abilities, for my life is in Him, and He is eternally faithful and good!

I Am Abundant in Truth (6b: v’emet: stability, sure foundation, reliable). God is the foundation everywhere, but is not manifest everywhere! People go to church to find God, He is not AT a place, He is always near. No point close to God than any other on the planet, but people closer and farther away!

I Keep Mercy for thousands (7: Nawtsar chesed: guarding my faithful loves). God is always looking out for His own, He is never in a bad mood for He does not change (Mal. 3:16 “I CHANGE NOT”).

I forgive iniquity, transgression and sin (7: nassaw awvone v’peshah v’ chata’ah: lifting the guilt; rebellion and those who missed the mark). You have NO skeletons in your closet that God doesn’t know!

I do not clear the guilty (7b: v’neqa lo : not clear defiant ones) God’s love does not blind Him to those who choose rebellion. He is a realist. ONE SIN kept Adam out of the garden (the blessing); ONE SIN kept Moses out of the land (his blessing). God loves you so He takes sin seriously. (Ps. 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me!”)

I visit the iniquity up on the children (7b: y’neqa pikaad awvone: and reckon or factor that guilty defiance on the children). The sins of Abraham gave us a world wide conflict. Even though God loved him, He did not erase the effect of his sin, nor that of Adam, nor that of any man.

Stop for a moment and think about what God said about His own character. He isn’t hard, He is tender toward you. He isn’t impressed with your position, He cares for those no one else even sees. He isn’t rash – He puts up with a great deal before He steps in. He isn’t mean-spirited, for His nature is ever filled with goodness. He isn’t duplicitous, for His word is absolutely reliable. He isn’t negligent, for He stands constant guard over those who have entrusted themselves to His care. He isn’t grudging, for His forgiveness flows openly to those whose heart is softened and yielded. He also isn’t blind – He will draw us to Himself in loving compassion, but the results of our rebellion will outlive us.

Men and women, America needs to hear about the true character of the living God. The made up Hallmark cosmic do-gooder has supplanted the image of the True Creator across our land. The man-made God of indulgence – who gives me what I want with no view to how I act is NOT the God of the Bible. America is starving for the truth today – nibbling away at the husks of a self-made God that is not only morally ambiguous, but incredibly impotent. A God who can be shaped offers a morality that can be popularly changed – but His flimsy and whimsical frame cannot hold a struggling nation from the toppling over the edge. America needs to return to the God our fathers laid the foundations of government upon. Their reverence for an unbending moral uprightness based on humbled hearts toward our Creator must again fill our community centers, our courtrooms, our churches and our commercial establishments – or America will collapse into tyranny. Do not pass by God’s description without pausing and asking this important question:

If this is Who God is, am I living as though He is my God?

When we come to Him, we must come with a knowledge of our sin, we must come on His terms, we must come intimately , privately and wholly to Him. We must come to worship and to listen. When these things happen, there will be a responses as natural as breathing…

First, we will recognize how great He truly is. Moses couldn’t stand before God – he fell down to the earth. It was the right thing to do. Exodus 34:8 Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. We saw it with Daniel, who fell as a dead man at the feet of the Great I Am. We saw it with John in Revelation when he beheld the Risen Savior in His glory. At the foot of the Master, our lives will be changed. Our attitudes will be adjusted. Our standards, our goals and our longings will be changed…

The German artist “Dannaker” was known for his painstaking work on his sculpture. For two years he worked on his famous statue of Christ. When he felt he was finished he called to some children playing outside his studio and asked one of them to come in and evaluate his work. “Who is that?” he asked. The little girl prompt replied “A great man.” That reply struck at his heart, for he wanted a work that declared the power of a Risen Savior… not just a ’great man’. So he took up his chisel and for the next 6 years he toiled to recreate the masterpiece. When he was finished, again he asked a child to come into the studio and asked again: “Who is this?” The child replied: “It’s Jesus.” And thus, Dannaker’s powerful work was declared ready for the world. The sculptor later confessed to a friend that during those long weary days of working on this sculpting, Christ had come and revealed Himself to him. He had only transferred to the marble the vision he had seen. Sometime later, Napoleon Bonaparte desired to commission Dannaker to sculpt a statue of Venus for the Louvre. The money was good, and the employment was sure, but Dannaker refused. “A man,” he said, “who had seen Christ can never employ his gifts in carving a pagan goddess. My art is henceforth a consecrated thing.”

Second, we will become hungry for more of Him. Moses wasn’t exhausted by spending time with God – he was pleading for more of God’s presence. Exodus 34:9 He said, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession.”

Third, we will hear God’s direction clearly. Moses met the Creator of all, and God made the promise that His power would be seen uniquely by the people of Israel. Exodus 34:10 Then God said, “Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you.

God performs powerfully when men surrender wholly. We lack God’s power because we resist God’s control. We lack God’s blessing because we oppose His direction.

All that is required for the Lord to use us completely is for us to surrender to Him entirely – and that is the troubling truth of it all. Our churches are not losing to a superior message in the public square, our people are surrendering to personal desires rather than submitting to a Holy God. The future of our nation is much more determined by our personal submission to God than to our Congress, courts or chosen Commanders-in-chief. It is time for believers to stop blaming the White House and start looking to our own house. Judgment starts with the house of God. We must ask: “Am I truly walking with God? Am I praying for my neighbors? Am I lovingly sharing Jesus with those about me.” These questions are of far greater significance than some of the more distracting political posturing of our time.

Fourth, we will stop flirting with others. Moses heard from God a covenant of marriage – but God wanted fidelity in the relationships with others. Exodus 34:11 “Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. 12 “Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. 13 “But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 —for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God— 15 otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods.

Think about what God told Moses. Don’t spend time looking at what the world wants. Don’t pattern your desires after their wants. Tear down the morally warped God defacing edifices they leave behind. Don’t eat the slop they are feeding you. Take a stand – first in your own heart, then in the public square. Don’t tolerate and play with things that can quickly gain great power over you. Is that the believer in our culture? Are we shielding ourselves from a godless pagan thinking? Are we calling our youth to a higher standard of life – or asking them to bring us a higher standard of living? I submit that some are flirting and walking the ledge of seduction, and others are seduced- engulfed in a new form of Pagan Christianity, where our prayers are canned and our power is a myth.

Fifth, we come to Him and are changed by the meeting. When Moses met with God, it showed on his face, as well as in his life! Exodus 34:28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him...

Years ago, I heard a Pastor ask this question to the audience. He asked: “Do you recall HOW he changed Charlton Heston’s look to show this “God’s glory?” Heston’s hair became white and face became wiser and more mature. By today’s standards of film wizardry it looks a little odd, but it was still effective in communicating what God did in Moses’ life. Then the Pastor asked: “Now think hard again – in the movie – WHEN did Heston undergo this change? Do you remember?” The director of the movie made the appearance change when he met God at the burning bush. But that’s not what the Bible tells us. It didn’t happen at the bush… Moses took on “God’s glory” after the 2nd giving of the law – after he trekked up the mountain a 2nd time to receive a copy of God’s commandments to replace the ones he broke earlier. This change took place at the 2nd giving of the law, not the first. Why would Moses change now? I believe the difference took place because Moses had changed from an attitude of “getting by” to one of “getting real“.

Consider the fact that at the Burning bush, Moses was a reluctant emissary. When he stood before Pharaoh, he was following orders. As he led the people in the first days of their desert trip Moses was always asking “What am I to do with these people?” Up this point, this whole thing wasn’t his idea. It was God’s. It’s common knowledge that kids from Christian homes, who go off to college, often lose their faith. At college, they find themselves in an entirely new world that challenges many of the standards they had grown up with – and their faith falters. Why would that happen? Frankly, it’s often because the faith they seem to lose wasn’t ever really their own. It was their parent’s faith. These children had obediently gone along with the morals and beliefs that ruled their home while they were in that place. Once they moved away, since the faith wasn’t theirs to begin with they lose it. In order to survive, they need to change from the faith of their fathers (and mothers) to a faith of their own.

Real encounters with God change people…. and we need more transformed and yielded people. There are just too many FAKES that masquerade as believers. Look on the surface, and all is well. Look carefully at the label of the ingredients of their life – values, choices, friends… and you will see IMITATION all over the place.

Normally we buy IMITATION products because we want the cheaper price… but if you know the REAL THING, you realize the imitation is simply a poorly substituted replica of something greater. We are desperate for AUTHENTIC BELIEVERS that are ENCOUNTERING GOD and being transformed. Is that YOU?

Beloved, God wants to meet with us, to share Himself with us, and to reveal the dangerous places that lay about us. Real believers are serious about MEETING God, and allowing Him to change God them. Like diamonds that cut glass – real believers are known by the mark they make. That power comes from personal encounters with God.

Grasping God’s Purpose: “The Companion” – Exodus 33

Believers are walking alone on the road, because they don’t want a companion that should be ever with them. They are walking hungry, because they have no sense of desperate need to be filled.  It is a strange time.

Near the end of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, (a story set within the French revolution), a brief but touching scene reminds us of the importance and strength we draw from of a companion.  As a daily grim procession of prisoners was tugged through the streets of Paris for execution at the guillotine, the scene froze on two people who were facing death. The young Sidney Carton was a brave man who had once lost his way in life but had now found it again and was now offering his life in substitution for his friend, having taken his identity before the tribunal. A young girl was placed in holding beside him. They were not strangers – they had met before in the detaining prison. The young woman noticed the a serene courage on Carton’s face – a man who finally FOUND himself while preparing to give his life away. She said: “If I may ride with you, will you let me hold your hand? I am not afraid, but I am little and weak, and it will give me more courage.” They were taken together, and she joined her hand in his. When they arrived at the place of execution there was no fear in her eyes. She looked into the face of her companion, and said “I think you were sent to me by Heaven“. Facing death, the companion of strength and resolve gave her the needed strength to face a certain future.

What a great word – companion. It was derived from two Latin terms: “com: is with and “panis” is bread. The most basic meaning is “someone you break bread with” – the most common expression of familiarity and friendship. Companions are more than just familiar, they are necessary. Every believer has one. In fact, the very MARK of a believer is that someone has joined your journey, and you are no longer alone. The true mark of the believer is not simply LOVE, though it includes love. The true mark of the believer is not PATIENCE, though it includes patience. The true mark of the believer is not PEACE, though it includes peace.

Key Principle: The true mark of God on the life of a believer is the clear daily companionship he or she has with God. It is as clear to see as someone who is in love.

Exodus 33 explains the need to walk through life with an intimate and personal daily relationship with God, and the expectation that such companionship would naturally mark the life of a real believer. Four truths about this accompanied life are offered in the text:

Truth One: Companionship is held back by deliberate rebellion (33:1-3):

The first truth actually reaches back into Exodus 32, and pulls us back into the scene that sets the narrative of Exodus 33. You will recall that the people were openly in the willful and rebellious violation of idolatry, and though the leaders of the offense were killed, the others did not yet really seem yet to grip the consequences, according to the record. They didn’t seem to really “get it”. Here is the truth:

Our continual state of self-reliance can make distance between us and God seem normal, when it is not. It evokes the distance we felt in our lives before we knew God. To the believer, God is not a forced companion, but the very atmosphere of our life. He is as natural as air to a man or water to a fish. Because we have been invited into His arms, we need not live as those who do not know and love Him. He desires our life with Him to be in the midst of our journey, not pressed unnaturally into an occasional monastic respite from our real life. God is not a modern parent that has settled on weekends with us! He urges us to recognize His daily and enduring grasp of constant companionship along the rough and tumble of life. We must learn to intentionally live in His presence.

At the risk of being too wordy, let’s say it plainly. Rebellion is self reliance. Self reliance is the act of pulling ourselves back into the lifestyle of a godless pagan. It is living life on our own instead of living as one who shares daily hopes, dreams, goals, and joy with the God that loves us.  Rebellion attempts to break the benefit that salvation brought.

  • Rebellion brings terrible pain: In Exodus 32:28, Moses had the offenders dealt with severity. “So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.Sin causes death. Rebellion cuts off the benefits of intimacy with God to those around me who need a relationship with Him. Those who have not yet learned to follow the Lord will often be cut off from their opportunity to do so by those who know God, but want to live carnally. We see it all the time in the third generation of those who are brought up in Christian homes. To be plain: when you walk in rebellion you nutor your natural ability to reproduce spiritually. God may work in spite of you – and often does in His mercy toward another – but your work as a tool in His hand is thwarted by your self will. The people who made the idol could not be used by God before the nations in their rebellious state. Some perished because in this way God showed the seriousness of their sin. 1 Corinthians 11, in a passage on the mishandling of the church as the body of Christ, says that it was the cause of some of the sickness in the believing community. In fact, Paul said, “some have died” because of it.

Here is a terrible truth: There are believers in hospitals today because they have chosen to live in rebellion to God. Not all sickness comes from sin, but SOME sickness does. It is the primary reason such believers were to call on the Elders to anoint them. It is NOT because the Elders possessed any special way to fix their problem, but because their problem was primarily a spiritual one. Rebellion opens the door to discipline, and closes the door to full use of God as He designed us to be used. It is for this reason we need to ask ourselves a question today: “What would God be doing through me if I wasn’t deliberately harboring sin and selfishly living for ME instead of HIM in this area of my life?” It is a worthy question!

  • Rebellion forces division in people: In Exodus 32:29, Moses called on the Levites to settle themselves, and recognize that their tough obedience in discipline was part of the consequence of their neighbor’s sin. “Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.” Those who are obedient to God find themselves shell shocked and horrified at the prospect of having been involved in the discipline of the rebellious ones. This also is a far too frequent occurrence in our day. The brazen rebellion of modern believers leaves mature believers shocked and often befuddled.

When a Pastor writes a book declaring Hell is not the promised destination of one who rejects Jesus Christ – he forces those of us who take seriously the “lost-ness of men” as declared by the Bible to stand against his unholy words. If we are deliberately making disciples, we must do so on the basis of the Word of God, and that does not allow us to stand silent while men reframe God’s Word into saying the opposite of what it clearly teaches. When a church ordains a man whose sexual orientation is a celebration of rebellion – trying to reframe the definition of LOVE in the Bible – we find ourselves in the position of declaring that church no longer in harmony with the clear teaching of God’s principles. We don’t enjoy doing this. In fact, it hurts us deeply. The brazen modern process of rewriting God’s Word by men of our generation has become a constant source of pain to real believers who seek God in His Word.

We understand what is happening, so let us make it plain. The modern Christian subculture has fed this moral slide in culture. Many a church has proposed that God’s prime focus is on here and now. We have allowed lost men to believe the Gospel was about Your Best Life Now, as though surrender and commitment were issues secondary to personal benefit in a walk with God. When we teach that God exists for OUR lives, OUR comforts, OUR desires – we embellish the modern and un-Biblical definition of God: He who exists to make my our life worth living. Such a self-oriented view of God opens the door to the next logical conclusion – God’s big goal is my happiness. If that happiness comes from my improper perception that my life would most be complete in a same sex union, then surely God wants that for me – because He knows that is how I feel – and my feeling of completion is really His big goal.

The church cannot both argue that God’s main goal is personal satisfaction in this life and that Scripture limits specific choices (as in our sexual expression) – or we simply confuse the world around us by our duplicitous message. In the end, our poor portrayal of God’s big purpose has opened the door to the “new morality”. Prosperity theology  bought and taught a world view that conflicts with Scripture itself – and we now reap the whirlwind.

In the end, the church of Jesus Christ must become more clear than ever – God made us. His honor and His glory are the purpose of human history. His boundaries are the right ones for us – no matter what else is said. The defection of parts of the “so called church” into a modern selfish world view is forcing a division between those who claim Jesus as their salvation, and those who claim Jesus as their Master in this life. It is driving a wedge between those who have a God who serves their desires and those who understand, as our forefathers understood, that our lives are to glorify Him. It is a painful division – but a necessary one. Our forefathers got it right, and we are heading in the wrong direction when we leave them behind. Rebellion is again forcing division

  • Rebellion hinders the leadership: In Exodus 32:30, the leader was forced to explain the sin and the consequences to the people. “On the next day Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” Some people are so used to stubbornness and rebellion, they cannot see the need to address the wrong in their lives. They live under the stubborn impression that their sin only affects their life, and they are fine with the outcome on that basis. Sadly, they aren’t even close. Again we must assert the Biblical truth: my choices affect my whole community. They affect my family. They affect my children. They affect my sharp perception of moral slide. These are days like few others in our country’s history. Our nation is turning a page to reject the premise of Christian thought: That God has created us for HIS PURPOSES. It will only be slowed by believers who boldly live the truth and step out of the shadows of moral gray to stand in the white light of truth.

Walk with God! Learn His Word! Lovingly and graciously share His truth with as much zeal as those who are brazenly proclaiming a new ethical system to replace the one our country was founded upon. I am never so amazed as when I find people who believe that Christians are insensitive when they share the Gospel. How strange, in a country that proudly displays those with moral perversion parading the streets, that I should shrink from speaking the truths that set men and women free!

The plain truth is that as more believers truly walk with God, more of the church’s leadership can be focused on those who are without Christ. All it takes for the enemy to hold back our advance is successfully dangling temptation before immature believers that are busily keeping the flames of sinful behavior burning at home and in their private lives. While rebellion rages in the house of God, leaders cannot focus on the advance of the faith.

  • Rebellion makes uncertain the future: In Exodus 32:31, the leader interceded for the people, asking God not to turn away from them in their stubbornness. “Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32 “But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” 33 The LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.” It is clear from the reading that SOME of the people that were to be blessed in a walk with God were now cut off from that possibility because of their gross sin. In the mystery of God’s providence, we can only begin to imagine how this may work. Does the stubbornness of a drunk father that drives with his children in the car sever them from their opportunity to hear about Christ? Does his sinful behavior bring physical harm that will impair them from ever knowing God’s love? Does the emotional damage of living with him change their perception of their Heavenly Father, making them less open to His beckoning when it comes? We can only say this for certain – it is sure to make engaging God more difficult. Rebellion makes uncertain the future from the human perspective.
  • Rebellion stalls the forward movement of the work: In Exodus 32:34, God must push the leader forward. What slowed his progress was the sin of the people. He and God had just met together, and He had just engaged God’s goodness for an extended period. Sadly, the people pulled him from that high place, and he found himself covered with slime and mud  – stalled out in the work. God therefore instructed: “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” 35 Then the LORD smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.” Here is the instruction: when sin causes the work to stall, deal with the sin and then re-start the work. It may be that it will be hard to re-start. Some of the sparkle of time with the Lord will be dulled by the reality of dealing with dirt – but it is part of the calling to lead.

In the final analysis, we need to recall this simple truth: Rebellion strains companionship. We cheat ourselves when we walk through life as a believer un-surrendered to God. Even when good things come, we cannot fully enjoy them. We are held back by a plague of doubt. An open heart invites God’s leadership and God’s blessing – but it also invites a quiet heart of joy.

Truth Two: Companionship is hindered by delayed repentance (33:1-6)

By the time we open up Exodus 33, we enter a conversation that has been ongoing. God was instructing the leader to keep moving on the journey, but a detail of that journey was still under consideration – would God in His personal and intimate manifest presence join with the people on the journey. God is always present. He is always in charge. He is always attentive to His creation, keeping it, guarding its path – yet God does not always manifest His presence.

Have you ever felt far from God, and you knew exactly why? Have you ever chosen to walk in disobedience and rebellion and felt Him remove some sense of His holy presence within? He is present, but the manifestation of His presence changed. That is exactly what Moses was concerned about for his people:

Exodus 33:1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2 “I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. 3 “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.” 4 When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I shall do with you.’” 6 So the sons of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

When we look at the text carefully, we can pick out a number of truths:

  • God doesn’t turn the clock back on His purposes because of our behaviors. His plan doesn’t depend on our obedience – our blessing and participation in that plan does. God purposed to bring the people back because it was His pleasure to make the promise long before. Moses could choose to participate or not – but God was going to do what He promised to Abraham long before.
  • God wanted the people to recognize the benefit of His intimate presence in the journey and to openly express that they DESIRED God to go with them. They needed to ACT outwardly to show a change inwardly.

For every day we resist openly changing our allegiance from our lusts and desires to our unreserved duty to God’s purposes, we delay His good work in us again. God is at work changing everything in our lives constantly, but He leaves our heart to our demand. If we resist Him, He allows that resistance in our daily walk, and withdraws the sense of His presence and the security that brings. The longer we delay in repentance, the more we delay His open blessing.

Truth Three: Companionship is helped by determined requests (33:7-11)

God seeks those who seek Him. He wants to be wanted – not as a plumber who will fix our leaky pipes of life – but as a God we will hunger to walk behind – following in the paths He sets before us. He cannot be the servant to our fleshly hungers – that is not in His nature. He is, however, able to fill the greatest need we have – the need of HIM. Here is the greatest truth of the passage: God wants those who want Him, and many of us forget that is TRULY WHY WE CAME TO HIM IN THE BEGINNING.

The Setting for the request:

Moses was deliberate in his time to settle issues with God. He made a place and a time. His relationship with God was not haphazard… nor can ours be. Look at the lengths he went to in order to spend time with God: Exodus 33:7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. 8 And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. 9 Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Don’t miss that God met Moses when Moses made it a priority to meet God. If he simply “got too busy” to spend time with God – the intimate sense of God’s presence would not have continued with him. God would not have left, but His presence would not be felt in the same way. Moses needed to meet with God, and the people needed to know that Moses was meeting with God. The passage is clear to state that people knew what he was doing. The people needed to see the importance of that work of intercession as much as Moses needed to do it. Intimacy with God must be cultivated in the quiet time with Him, or the leader, in the public time before others, will show waning strength. Many believers and many Christian leaders do not need more vacation from ministry – they need more deliberate time with God.

The Sound of the request:

Step into the tent, and listen to the private time between God and Moses. God decided to reveal what was said inside that personal space. The argument of Moses with God may have been inserted into the narrative by Joshua after Moses was gone – a point that may be the purpose of 33:11, and the place of Joshua. Moses argued openly with God: Exodus 33:12 Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ 13 “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.

Moses sought God’s presence. He openly stated that it was HIS NEED. God saw the heart of one who knew the work was TOO BIG FOR HIM. In the sound of the request is the noise of deep humility. Moses knew he had to have God’s daily presence manifest before Him, over and over. Such a hunger pronounced Moses’ sense of God reliance. The last words of verse fifteen say it all: “If you aren’t going, let’s all stay!” Is that the sound of today’s Christian leader? I suspect not…

  • Our world celebrates self reliance. God’s Word celebrates God dependence.
  • Our world champions the self made leader. God’s Word champions the one made complete by God in the face of their personal weakness.
  • Our world invites men and women to think more highly of themselves. God’s Word pushes men and women into self doubt that leads to God trust.

Our world has produced the leaders of our modern church – a self dependent and self acknowledged lot, filled with confidence in the place where the Spirit of God longs to reign – in our own hearts. His intimacy is chased out of a heart filled with self-confidence.

The Sign in the request:

Here is the big truth of this whole account: The world will know we are His disciples by the mark of His very presence they see in us. Exodus 33:16 “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”

When we sing: “They will know we are Christians by our love!” we must be careful that we don’t misspeak. In a world that interprets God’s love as their personal fulfillment and delight in this life – they can conclude that LOVE is actually the satiating of their desires. God’s view of love is that which is based on TRUTH and not DECEPTION. The people of God should be marked with the PRESENCE OF A HOLY GOD Who is cheerfully reflected in their loving demeanor and commitment to please Him. That is the LOVE of God’s Word. Unfortunately, LOVE in many modern Christian circles is now a “catch word” for the Biblical definition of LUST in the Bible. A generation ago, songs on the radio confused LUST with LOVE – now a generation of Christians is doing the same.

The simple truth is this: God’s presence marks obedient believers powerfully, and they have His manifest presence in their daily lives because they take the time to access it.

Truth Four: Companionship is honored by a definite response

We have said it many times and in many ways: God meets men who want to meet Him. He moves toward those who move toward Him! Moses had a heart to KNOW God, to walk in daily intimacy with God. You cannot read these words any other way: Exodus 33:17 The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” 19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” 21 Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; 22 and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 “Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”

God heard Moses’ words, but more than that He saw Moses heart. God didn’t leave Moses hungering – that isn’t His way. If we hunger for Him – He meets us where we stand.  I want to echo the words of John Piper with his statement: ‘The weakness of our hunger for God is not because he is unsavory, but because we “keep ourselves stuffed with other things”’.

Brothers and sisters, when we are not hungry, we do not seek Him. When we do not seek Him, we do not hear His mighty by gentle voice say:

  • I will come with you this week. You are favored and loved by Me.

  • I know your name, your trials, your pains, your uncertainties – and you can lean on Me.

  • I recognize the size of your journey and the strains it has placed upon you – and I will sit with you. I will smile at you.

  • I feel your awkwardness as you move through the room. Come! There is a place beside Me.

You will never open your heart to God, and have Him leave you standing there wanting. His Word is clear: “Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you!” (cp. James 4:8).

Grasping God’s Purpose: “Self Inflicted Wounds” – Exodus 32

Men and women under the crucible of fire that comes with modern warfare sometimes simply break. We have heard many reports from the front in wars spanning from the First World War in the early part of the twentieth century, until now. The truth is, the problem is as old as warfare itself. Even the mighty men fighting at Troy were not unaware of the problem. Some simply cannot mentally and emotionally cope with the terror of war, and they overcome the natural instincts against self-harm because they see a more inevitable damage coming toward them if they remain in their foxhole. In extreme cases, they will use a weapon to inflict a wound that will cause them to be sent home, hoping that no one will know about it. Sadly, many of them fail to be able to cope with that very decision later in life. In fact, statistically, many break under the stress of their secret, as they did under the stress of warfare.

It isn’t only servicemen and servicewomen that can be driven to self-inflicted harm. In fact, if the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey in 2009 was accurate, suicide in America was the tenth most common coroner’s explanation for death, with about just under 37,000 Americans that chose that course of action. In addition, a full 666,000 Americans were found to have self-inflicted wounds – though it is not always certain how many of them were intending harm to themselves. The fact is, it seems that for many, the most dangerous person they will ever meet is looking back at them in their mirror every morning.

This doesn’t only inflict the poor and down cast. A former Chargers football star was found dead in his home this past week from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in Oceanside, California. A 43 year old, this 12-time Pro Bowler and a 6-time All Pro who stands certainly to be a Hall of Famer after a very successful 20-year career, took his own life.

I mention the cases of self-inflicted wounds to point to the spiritual truth that, I believe, will clearly show itself in Exodus 32. The truth is – not only are many of us dangerous to our physical bodies – we are dangerous to our spiritual communities as well. We choose to open wounds that cripple the functioning of the body of Messiah. We selfishly indulge in sin, and think because we can distance our thoughts from God,  and He will somehow forget that we are doing so.

Key Principle: Our sin affects the whole body of God’s people. It slows the work and paralyzes the leadership. At a time when our culture needs stronger and stronger works and workers – we are facing an enduring weakness because of self-inflicted wounds of choice, and we must choose to turn the tide.

Before we plunge into such a forceful subject, let’s take a step back. We have been dealing with the Tabernacle and trying to define for several chapters of Exodus studies both the people and the pattern of worship as prescribed by God. Moses was atop Sinai engaging the very Creator, and receiving from Him words etched by His own finger. Ironically, while God was shaping that gift, at the bottom of Mount Sinai, Israel was inventing their own version of both worship leaders and worship patterns. Here is the warning:

The enemy will tempt sin and the believer will allow sin right under the nose of the careful administrations of God’s Word and the work of God’s designated leaders. Moses wasn’t far away. Joshua could hear the people from where he slept. Yet, the enemy was at work in the people of God, and sin was abounding at the foot of the holy hill. It isn’t just about WHERE you are, nor WHO is leading you, it is about WHAT you are choosing to become. Today, believers must choose to live like God’s calling on their life, or the best teacher, the most inspiring leaders and the most creative materials will affect little in our immorally emboldened culture.”

You may be sitting in a church with a Bible open right now. I am glad. It may be a highly reputable church, even an influential one. You may have a great Bible study leader, and the teaching may be compelling. Great! At the same time, make no mistake: that guarantees nothing about the spiritual state of people around you. We open ourselves to work together, but we cannot see each other’s hearts. Some may be working tirelessly in ministry and not really understand why it isn’t going better – why some aren’t coming to Christ and others aren’t growing. What they cannot see is that even some that they count on to help them, are diving into sin behind the scenes. “God talk” becomes their cover to hide the dark guilt they are carrying inside. Eventually, as Scripture says, sin find us out. Secrets are temporary – and that thought should draw us back to repentance and a clean walk. Let me show you an example of what I mean in Exodus 32:

People: A new leader is appointed

God was on Sinai explaining to Moses the office of his brother Aaron, the High Priest and the work and garb of the same. The people, right under his nose, were making their own priest out of Aaron. Instead of a High Priest that was leading them in personal relationship TO GOD for answers and fulfillment; they followed the pattern of an Egyptian’s creed – a religion that led them to THE PRIEST for completion.

Exodus 32:1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron…

With little time to really grow in love and trust with Moses before the mountain, all too soon he was gone from the sight of the people. The fickle crowd was a slave lot, and they thought as slaves – looking for a new master to follow. They emphasized the physical needs – and didn’t take seriously the spiritual presence of God. If you examine carefully the words at the end of the verse (1b): “…as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” You can easily see that they UNDERSTOOD the power to have come from the MAN (or at least be regulated by man), and not from the God that wanted them to follow HIM. Underlying their comments are two truths: first, they were not sure of Moses’ real abilities, intentions or benevolence toward them; and second, they saw life in the HUMAN SPHERE, but didn’t really recognize God as ACTIVE in the affairs of their lives – beyond a superstitious level. They sought men who could lead them and stand as the official “control valve” of any god they would serve. This almost always defines a religious tradition.

  • Religion wants OBEDIENCE to a set of rules and ethics made by men. Relationship requires a careful examination of the PRINCIPLES God set for in the precedent of His Word.
  • Religion need only PRODUCE BULLET POINTS of a doctrinal statement, and enough supporting verses to prove its veracity. Relationship requires a more thorough KNOWLEDGE of the whole of what God said – so that we can fairly follow the path He carved for us.
  • Religion exalts LEADERS. Relationship requires all to follow the WORD as given – regardless of WHO says so, and WHO you may be.

Misplaced affection in human leaders is not new. It happens in religion all the time. Even in cases where God has truly been on the move in people’s lives – some will come to believe that it is because of the vehicle – not because God is at work. They will exalt and pedestal the leader, teacher or speaker – and miss the point. God uses those who follow His Word to carry the torch – but it is HIS WORD that truly transforms people.

We must always be on guard against the adoption of a slave mentality – the physical world view of living for the next meal – and elevate any master we can see in replacement of the Holy Master that beckons to them from above. We must not simply ask: “Who can get us what we want?” – but rather: “Who will faithfully lead us to God and His Holy Word?” As popular ideals and opinions become stronger and more divergent from the Bible – as the culture and the text clash more and more – this will become especially important. People who stand for the Word ARE increasingly finding it hard to be taken seriously. Our comfort is this: so did our Savior.

Acquiescing to sinful and base lifestyles will draw the crowd of the comfortable – it always has. Yet, sadly they are an enslaved lot – for they accept the emotional over the spiritual and the temporal over the real.

That is why the people chose Aaron – because they could control him. He would not stumble over the Word of God – but would dwell in the land of pleasing the crowd he was supposed to lead.

Pattern: A new god is announced

Why do people choose a leader that doesn’t tell them what God says? Wouldn’t it be much more lasting, fulfilling and significant to follow the Creator, rather than devise a self-fulfillment strategy? Maybe, but look again at the text and you will see a pattern of what people WANTED GOD AND “FAITH” TO BE LIKE. There are five desires they had (and many still have today!):

First, people wanted a God they controlled: We skipped examining a phrase in 1b “…and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us…” As slaves, they saw Pharaohs order the making of “gods” and empower them. The pattern in Egypt was the only pattern they knew, so they wanted Aaron to do the same. They thought that God was on a string led by a leader, and not the other way around. They thought he could sculpt god, and then make god empower their lives and bring them safely across the desert.

The notion of a self-made god is not offensive to even the darkest of men. If He will only continually say what we want to hear, we will gladly listen with whole-hearted attachment. If He will not call us out from practices of personal indulgence – He is fine with us. If He promises to love, comfort, bless (in all pursuits of any kind), unreservedly affirm us and always be ready to take us into His arms – whether we choose to hang on to our disobedience or not – then we will serve Him. In point of fact, men by nature want a God that serves THEM, not a God that is served by them.

Even as believers, we must be careful not to allow these attitudes to become our own. We live in this culture, and it is getting hard to walk through these streets without entering in God’s worship center and appearing just like the world around us. We MUST be careful. Are we prepared to serve God as God? It is a question worth asking when He pulls us from a pursuit we love, or an affirming position we want – to be a clear witness for Him. The generations that follow us are depending on the pass of the baton from our hands – will they be able to see who is on the team?

Second, people wanted a list of things they could do: Aaron complied. First, he ordered them to follow his commands: Exodus 32:2 “Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf…” Aaron spoke. Aaron took. Aaron said, “Bring them to ME”. All through the narrative is the sense that Aaron was the savior they needed. Like all self-appointed or man-enlisted “saviors”, Aaron had a LIST. He spoke, they jumped. This is the way religion works.

Third, people want a simple mark of completion: Exodus 32:4b “…and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 5 Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” Look closely at where the announcement of the new god came from. It was made BY THE PEOPLE WHO ORDERED IT. The people said this was their god – this lump of old gold earings was now the object of their supreme dedication! Keep reading, and you will see Aaron responding to the crowd and building an altar for their “jewelry become god” point of adoration. The leader is looking very much like a pandering crowd pleaser. Two thoughts should capture us here: first, LEADERS ARE EITHER LED BY PRINCIPLES or PRAISES. Either they do what they believe to be right, or they do what they think OTHERS will believe is right. A second thought: people really want to know they have reached steps in their spiritual life. They want a god they can see, and they want to know they have found complete acceptance by that god. Even when they invent a faith, they want markers of completion levels to feel like they are progressing – even if what they are doing is not real.

Fourth, people want services more than a daily walk:  Exodus 32:6 So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; How satisfying religion is! It is so simple to just keep a list of prescribed commands, and then feel like your spirit is secure with no additional investment of yourself. A relationship with God places demands that religious life just doesn’t. Religion lets me check the box: “DONE!” Relationship keeps me coming to God and asking what would delight Him today.

Fifth, people want celebrations that feed their physical and emotional desires: Exodus 32:6b “…and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Most of the rabbis of old and even the Christian commentators suggest the Hebrew term “to play” (l’sahek) implies lascivious living or sensual looseness. The people did their bit for their god, and now they wanted to really get to the enjoyment part. Don’t miss the essential desire religion has for satiating desires of a fleshly nature. In “Christianeze”, this can be observed in the need for emotionally driven meetings, where believers are whipped into frenzy by powerful and emotionally pitched music and message – with little spiritually challenging content. Sometimes we need to have our heart tugged, but it can never come as a replacement for the content of the Truth found in a careful look at the Lord and His Word.

Problem: A new crisis is activated

In the event that people decide to deny obedience and run headlong into rebellion, there are a few things they need to keep in mind:

First and foremost, God sees all that we do, and it grieves Him:

Exodus 32:7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’”

Second, God’s older leaders see how we disobey, and as a byproduct it discourages them:

Exodus 32:9 The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.

The most alarming thing about twenty-first century American Christianity is the ease with which God’s people are drawn into serious sin with little regard for its effects and consequences both on earth and in Heaven.

God led Moses to minimize the damage by a preparatory exercise. It appears in the first reading of the text that God couldn’t decide what to do, but that isn’t the God of Scripture. Something beneath the obvious is going on here. God doesn’t need convincing, but we need to convince. When we are discouraged, we need to remember why the cause or person is worth fighting for. In a sense, God set up Moses… and at the time he probably didn’t suspect why that happened. God opened an argument as a lesson: Exodus 32:10 “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” 11 Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom

This argument forced the leader to retrace a history of the people’s redemption by God: Exodus 32:11b “…You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

The argument also reminded the leader to cite God’s testimony before the nations: Exodus 32:12 “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people.

Next, the argument forced the leader to recall God’s promises out loud: Exodus 32:13 “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

Here is the point: When God’s people plunge into sin, the work stalls out while the leaders and God get locked into a discussion that is deeply emotional and draining. The sin detours the body from growth into returning to the simplicity of issues of surrender. Paul felt this pressure with the Corinthians. He argued in 1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.

The flow of God’s truth – simple learning of God’s way – was slowed by immaturity and un-yielded hearts. God’s truth is spiritually discerned, and the Spirit’s work is based on surrender. Un-surrendered Christians are selfish and flesh oriented Christians. They trade the ability to really grasp the things of the Spirit for their hunger in this physical world.

Paul begged young immature believers to gain different APPETITES: 1 Corinthians 3:2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly….

The problem with continually disobedient believers isn’t that God’s Word hasn’t been taught to them – but that they have refused to grow out of stubbornness and they cannot endure the tough truth of surrender. Where does it often first show? In strife and division: 3b “…For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?

One obvious manifestation of selfishness and willful rebellion toward God is the inability to get along with one another. Unity comes from surrender, and rebellion leads to division. When we truly all kneel before the Cross, we find a friend kneeling beside. When we look at what Jesus did for OUR SIN, we don’t puff ourselves up – because we see the light of God’s goodness in stark contrast to our own former darkness. As the Apostle James said, battles between us come from battles within us. Hurt people hurt people. Refusing to be healed by God will eventually spill over into wounds we will give another – it is inevitable. Either I can take my wounds to the Cross and have them healed there – or I will wound others with my stubborn and failed self-reliance. This church was divided, because people in this church refused to grow up in Christ and yield to Him. Many a church conflict can be summarized in that same way.

Then, the argument prepared the leader emotionally for dealing with the people, but the shock of the scale of disobedience still took him off balance:

First, He allowed Moses to fight for them and thus overcome his own doubts about the people’s worth. Exodus 32:14 So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

Next, God armed Moses with a covenant contract that He wrote for the people: Exodus 32:15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. 16 The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets…But, when the time came, Moses still lost it: Exodus 32:19 It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.

Don’t forget, Moses hadn’t been in the job very long. It was only less than two months since they left Pharaoh behind. He didn’t know most of the people, even some of the ones closest to him!

Third, our younger leaders see our disobedience and are confused by the disobedience:

  • For Joshua, it was the whole situation that was hard to grasp. Exodus 32:17 Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, Nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; But the sound of singing I hear.”

You can almost hear Joshua’s thoughts: “Singing? Why would they be singing?’ The young leader cannot imagine how quickly people will abandon their covenant pledges for something else. He was going through a time of growing and challenge in his faith on the hill, while they were doing religious dances and throwing licentious parties below. He was taken totally off guard. That is one of the tragedies of recognizing how thin the commitment of some is. It is also a reason why we need to be careful about “laying hands on a man” too quickly. They need time to learn to be positive in the face of abandoned commitments and sinful infiltrations into the camp.

  • For Aaron, it exposed his real weakness as a leader: Exodus 32:21 Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?” 22 Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. 23 “For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 “I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

Oh the pressure to be loved and accepted by some in leadership! Aaron may have felt threatened, as Jewish tradition holds, or he may have simply felt like there was no other viable option. What he SHOULD have known was the power of God that he witnessed first-hand as he walked with Moses into the court of Pharaoh. The memory is short when the pressure is great. As a leader, he abandoned his post. We see it all around us today. We see leaders who preach the Gospel, but will drop into fuzzy language when it comes to powerful cultural assaults against the Word of God as it is today. They will preach grace and salvation, but take no stand on divorce, abortion, women in ministry, homosexuality, etc.

Here is the bottom line: each generation of the last 100 years has faced new and growing breaches in the departure from the Biblical values of our society. Divorce among believers is now widely accepted or even worse, simply ignored. We don’t want to offend people or they won’t come on Sunday. Pastor’s conferences among those who call themselves the “Bible believers” now contain a large percentage of ordained women, as Paul’s timeless words concerning the order of Creation and the Fall are ignored in favor of a new and enlightened feminism that simply dismisses Pauls arguments as cultural. Soon – mark carefully – many even in our pulpits will openly advocate homosexuality as a valid Christian expression of family. I watched in horror this week as one national, Christian brother did so from his pulpit. If I mentioned his name, you would all know it, and wouldn’t believe such a departure – but get ready. It is coming. In each case they will cry LOVE as their emblem. Increasingly, anyone who advocates seeking God only on the terms outlined clearly in His Word will be deemed both an unloving legalist and uncaring literalist. We have been here before. Liberalism tore away many a denomination in the past. The difference now is that there is little Biblical vigilance to stand in its way from sweeping evangelicalism headlong into modern culture. At the risk of sounding unloving, let me say this: It is NOT a loving act to advocate what God has forbidden. It is NOT a loving act to represent Jesus and not preach, teach, and live according to His Word. It is deceptive, plain and simple. The text is stubborn, regardless of the shifting sands of culture.

Fourth, Rebellion and sin force divisions in the people:

  • People needed to take a side for or against the violation, whether they wanted to or not: Exodus 32:25 Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies— 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him.

I HATE having to point out departure from the Word in brothers and sisters in the faith! I don’t want to bring negative news and divisiveness to the family – and that is what sin forces in those responsible for the spiritual lives of others. Wrong must be answered, because ignoring it makes the immature conclude that such things are fine with God. Moses HAD to answer the violation, but HE WASN’T BEING UNLOVING, anymore than a surgeon is being unloving when he operates to remove cancer cells. This IS negative, but it is caused by the violators, not the leadership that stands in the way.

  • It made people into judges and ultimately forced one to discipline the other: Exodus 32:27 He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”

How very sad that even believers are forced to divide over behaviors – but what else could Moses do? If he allowed the idolatry and departure from God’s standards, would we even have this record today? The world is changed by people who believe and follow God – not to destroy, but to build. At the same time, foundational cracks must be addressed or the buildings will not stand.

Fifth, it brings uncertainty to the continuance of the work:

  • It brings terrible shame to God’s family: Exodus 32:30 On the next day Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”
  • It causes God to withdraw His empowering from His people: Exodus 32:31 Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32 “But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” 33 The LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” 35 Then the LORD smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.

God didn’t place standards in His Word to hinder us, but for our benefit. They help us understand bigger principles of the spiritual world. They mark us in obedience and liberate us from the deception of the fallen world. They uncover the story of the truth that is not always easy to see. We give up something important when we become ashamed of God’s standards – and in its place, we shame ourselves before God and each other. Randy Alcorn wrote a story that illustrates what happens when we are ashamed of God’s standards:

There was a teenager who didn’t want to be seen in public with her mother, because her mother’s arms were terribly disfigured. One day when her mother took her shopping and reached out her hand, a clerk looked horrified. Later, crying, the girl told her how embarrassed she was. Understandably hurt, the mother waited an hour before going to her daughter’s room to tell her, for the first time, what happened. “When you were a baby, I woke up to a burning house. Your room was an inferno. Flames were everywhere. I could have gotten out the front door, but I decided I’d rather die with you than leave you to die alone. I ran through the fire and wrapped my arms around you. Then I went back through the flames, my arms on fire. When I got outside on the lawn, the pain was agonizing but when I looked at you, all I could do was rejoice that the flames hadn’t touched you.” Stunned, the girl looked at her mother through new eyes. Weeping in shame and gratitude, she kissed her mother’s marred hands and arms. (Source: Randy Alcorn. From a sermon by Billy Ricks, Suffering, 2/27/2011, sermon central illustrations).

Instead of being ashamed at what was not easily accepted by the world around her, the girl learned she should be ashamed at her betrayal – and that was the truth. We must not attempt to motivate God’s people by guilt, but by the truth that we must know that God has called us to something higher and greater than buying into the ever  sinking standards of our day. We must face sin in ourselves – or it will affect the whole body. Our sin affects the whole body of God’s people. It slows the work and paralyzes the leadership. At a time when our culture needs stronger and stronger works and workers – we are facing an enduring weakness because of self inflicted wounds of choice.

Grasping God’s Purpose: “Divine Order” – Exodus 31

We all know that order takes work. Ask any mom how hard it is to keep an orderly household. Ask any shop owner how tough it is to keep worker’s tools put in the right bins. Order is not the natural state of the fallen world. In fact, left to themselves, things fall apart and become disorderly. Some people have a knack for disorder. A comedian told this story: A doctor, an architect, and a politician were arguing over who had the oldest profession. The doctor said, “Well the first operation was performed on Adam, so the medical profession is the oldest.” “No,” said the architect, “Architectural planning and design was needed to create the earth and the universe out of chaos, so I represent the oldest profession.” The politician politely stopped both of them and asked: “There you have it, we were first. After all, where do you think the chaos came from?”

Design begets order. Design is important, and follow through on that engineering design is essential: One author wrote: Henry Ford was an automotive genius. He came up with great ideas and handed them to researchers for development. One of his ideas was the concept of an engine in which the pistons were set at an angle to each other rather than in a straight line. He sketched out his idea for the V-8 motor and took it to his engineers. After he left they looked it over and shook their heads for the boss’ ignorance of basic engineering. Somebody volunteered to tell that his idea was impossible. Ford said, “Do it anyway and stay at it until you succeed.” It took over one year and many designs but eventually Ford’s researchers came up with the design of the most powerful automobile engine known to us today. His refusal to acknowledge the impossible laid the foundation for turning an idea into a working design. – Think and Grow Rich, 1960

What do you suppose would have happened if Ford’s engineers had come to him and said “We have done it!” and showed Ford an engine that looked nothing like what Ford asked them to build? I suspect that the boss would have fired some people. Design specs aren’t random. Blueprints and engineering designs must be followed, or disaster can ensue. What does that have to do with our lesson today? It is simple. Exodus 25 to 31 has been a building story of God’s design of a worship structure and the people operating it. Yet, we have seen it is much more. It is God’s instruction on how He designed worship and its setting. Since God designed all of it, instructions on the original design have been important to follow. What is true in the automobile is true in ministry and worship – the designer knew exactly what He wanted – and we need to follow the blue print – or disaster can ensue.

Disaster is when the people of God cannot decide what God truly wants as a part of our lives. Disaster is when worship becomes Madison Avenue gimmickry led by world stage hands. Disaster is when we gauge success by men’s pleasure and not God’s acceptance. Disaster is when people are moved by the music about God, but never actually meet Him in praise and worship. It is when they have been satisfied with entertainment, but know little of God’s character and kindness.

Key Principle: Every aspect of the design of worship and ministry has been designed and revealed by God. Failure to follow the blueprint will lead to disaster – but care to each detail will lead to a perfect representation of His blueprint.

The Lord sets the pattern of ministry (31:1).

We have been saying it in one way or another for weeks – God had a specific pattern in mind for worship. We are not speaking here of the order of a service, but rather the components that MUST be included.

Exodus 31:1 “Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying…”

The opening of the text is “Now”: Only after God made clear to Moses the pattern of worship is the furniture, fabric, fragrances, fashion and foremen of the Tabernacle – did He instruct Moses on getting the work underway. What did we learn as we studied these? It would take us much time to review, but let’s take a very quick synopsis of the previous lessons to get right to our point about design:

  • Worship has a beginning point: The center of worship was, is, and always should be the Word of God. The ark was the first item described by God, because it held His Holy Word, and the testimony of what He had done in their past to bring them to Him – the story of their redemption.
  • Worship celebrates, but takes work: There was always to be a portable table stocked with bread made from God’s supply – first of manna and later of barley or wheat from Israel’s fields. They were to work to put it there and guard it on the table with an edge crown, to keep it from falling off. God’s provision was to be celebrated, and that would take effort and work on their part to do so.
  • Worship is about truth: I was created by God, and I was created FOR God. Worship is the act of standing under the light of His lampstand and getting it straight – I am not my own. The world screams I am – but worship is where TRUTH is discerned.
  • Worship includes accessing God through prayer: The small incense altar was technically in the most holy place, though outside the curtain that hid the ark behind. Prayer is not an add-on to the worship experience. Nothing can replace your direct conversation with God as you seek Him. No counseling can benefit what sincere prayer can accomplish.
  • Worship is accessed because of a sacrifice: For the Tabernacle, the coverings reminded of the goats of sacrifice, and the ram’s skin dyed red reminded of the death that covered sins to abate God’s wrath. In our worship, the Cross and the blood of Jesus, sacrificed at Calvary must always cover the worship. We have access because He made it possible by paying for our entry.
  • Worship has a distinct fragrance: Both the implements and people were permeated with the odor of the ointments and the incense commanded by God. There was to be a distinctive aroma of the followers of the Living God. Paul argued that aroma exists in believers in the church. To those who do not want Jesus – it is the aroma of death, and it repulses them. Yet, to those who hear and accept the Savior– it is the aroma of a fresh, new life.
  • Worship has chosen workers suited to lead: The men that were called to lead the flock in worship were men uniformed for the purpose. They were recognizable in appearance, and their uniform was a constant constriction and reminder of the specifics of the call. That call of God included intercession, discernment and practical service of God and His people.

All this was disclosed before God added this last component to the ministry – the actual TEAM He chose for the building of the work…

The Lord spoke to Moses: Ministry has never been about what we want or what men devise – it has been initiated by God and revealed by His Word. The priorities of God’s people must be those revealed by His Word. When we frame ministry, it is not necessary to invent the framework, but rather to know the Word well enough to be able to build to the design.

The Lord calls the people for ministry (31:2-11)

Assets make things possible, but people make them happen. Ministry isn’t about a large bank account, it is about properly trained and disciple people building what is necessary to grow both the physical and spiritual needs of the flock. Some of it will be the “nuts and bolts” of physical structure. Some will be the stitches carefully sewn of a delicate cloth. Some will be the training of sons and daughters to maintain and care for what the older ones leave behind… there are many aspects of the people work.

Exodus 31:2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.

When it came to the people in the work – It was God’s job to CALL, it was Moses’ job to RECOGNIZE the called.

In Preaching Today, Leith Anderson wrote: “My family and I have lived in the same house for seventeen years. We’ve lived there more than twice as long as I have lived at any other address in my entire life. I’ll sometimes refer to it as ‘our house,’ but more often I refer to it as ‘home.’ What makes it our home isn’t the address or the lot or the garage or the architecture. What makes it home is the people.”

The same is true of ministry. What makes the work exciting is not the structure, but the people God calls to work together. What should draw us to them is not the beauty of the environment – it may or may not be the kind of landscape we like – it should be the people. God calls a group together –our skills are not at the core of how we got them. God has a purpose for calling the one that He calls. If you know God, and you are called by God to serve, He has placed you where you are – but you must look and recognize the value of the people He has given you.

From time to time I sit with men in Pastoral ministry that are struggling. I noticed years ago a trend in their speaking. They often referred to outreach as their only hope – because they were desperate to get different people to whom they could minister. They didn’t want the people they had – they wanted better ones. They would say things like: “If we can just reach some people with more talents”, etc. Here is the point: Moses Got the people God supplied with which to build. He didn’t CHOOSE them, he looked out for the ones that God chose to work side by side.

Exodus 31:3 “I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.

When it came to the other chosen leaders of the work – It was God’s job to ENABLE, it was Moses’ job to SUPERVISE THEM. God told Moses, because God wanted Moses to be involved. At the same time, God didn’t want Moses to storm over the other gifted men He placed around Moses. Look at the description of God’s enabling of Bezalel ben Hur.

God “filled with wisdom” this man. What does that mean? “Chokmah” is the word translated “wisdom”, but it normally refers to a practical skill – an ability to perform a practical function, as opposed to simple theoretical knowledge. God filled up Bezalel with the practical skills to complete the tasks He outlined. God’s filling was especially in three areas:

  • Understanding: “tawboon” is from the root word “bin” – a term for perception and cleverness. God gave him particular cleverness in dealing with a variety of mediums – metals, precious stones and wood.
  • Knowledge: “da-ath” is the word from “yada” (to know) that means to recognize and utilize the content of a body of learning. God planted within him a concept of how each of the parts were to be constructed and fit together.
  • Craftsmanship: “melakaw” is from the term malak (angel or messenger) and was a term translated as “business” or “work” of someone. God energized Bezalel to confidently seize the work as his own, and do it well.

Moses was not called to KNOW everything Bezalel knew. He was not called to second guess everything Bezalel created. At the same time, God told Moses because he was the leader, and he needed to have some way to make Bezalel accountable. In the end – It was God’s job to ENABLE, it was Moses’ job to SUPERVISE WORKERS. Both had a task, and both were to fulfill it faithfully.

Exodus 31:6 “And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan…”

Not only did God choose the head worker, but God raised up the necessary team mate to make the work go well. Note that God APPOINTED Oholiab. The word “natati” is from the Hebrew word for giving a gift, the word we get the name “Nathan” from. The current Prime Minister of Israel gets his family name from this word: Netanyahu is “gift from Yahweh”. The term can be translated best “entrusted” – and it bears reminding…God’s enabling of us is a TRUST He has placed in us to use our gifts and talents to His glory.

Before we run too quickly by this man and his gifts, let me ask you some penetrating questions: Have you identified the gifts and enabling of God that He has given you? Are you, right now, able to identify HOW you are using these for the glory of God? Are you using them to their fullest? Is there something the Spirit has been nudging you to do that you have resisted in using of your gifts?

Just remember, it was God’s job to PAIR THE TEAM, it was Moses’ job to ENCOURAGE IT. That is what a spiritual leader is supposed to do. He or she isn’t to be the DOER or all ministry, but the encourager and equipper. My work in your life is simple: “Equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.” (Eph. 4:13). In the world, I am instructed to “Do the work of an evangelist”, but in the body I am supposed to equip and encourage. The work is not to make you faithful in attendance, nor to recruit new people – God has people in the body that have been apportioned these tasks – and I am to reach out to encourage you to do those needed works.

Exodus 31:6b “…and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of testimony, and the mercy seat upon it, and all the furniture of the tent, 8 the table also and its utensils, and the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering also with all its utensils, and the laver and its stand, 10 the woven garments as well, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, with which to carry on their priesthood; 11 the anointing oil also, and the fragrant incense for the holy place, they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you.”

God again helped define responsibilities in these verses. Note that it was God’s job to EMPOWER PEOPLE, it was Moses’ job to EMPLOY THEM.

Do you see the words of verse 6? God planted skilled people with specific enabling in the work. Moses didn’t take anyone who wanted to help, but limited the functions of ministry among those to whom God’s enabling was made evident. People had to be more than faithful, they had to be enabled to do the work by God. Teachers in our body must be gifted to teach, or the crowd will quickly dwindle. It doesn’t mean it won’t take commitment and faithfulness – it simply means that it will also take something else – the gift invested by God. All of us have gifts from God, and they determine our primary function in the body.

Now notice the final word of verse 6. To whom did the Lord give the direction of the body? He gave it to the leader. The leader was to know what God said in His Word. He couldn’t simply make the excuse I heard a nationally televised preacher make when asked a difficult question on a cable news interview, “Well, gee Wolf, I am not much of a Bible scholar!” What an admission. You are the leader and you don’t make it your business to work HARD to grasp God’s Word on the tough issues of our time? I suspect you just said a lot about whether you should be in the position. Leadership in ministry isn’t about the political ability to keep the elderly happy and kiss the babies. It is primarily about grasping God’s Word and translating that into the lives of called and skilled people who WANT and HUNGER to be used by God.

Let me be clear: the role of the leader is not to exalt himself, or desire to be the center of the room. The role of the godly leader is to desire God to be at the center of every room of ministry – and the vehicle that allows him to make that happen is the WORD OF GOD. Knowing God’s Word precedes obeying God’s Word.

As the twenty first century moves swiftly toward moral abstraction, believers are not at a time when we can afford to be ambiguous about the absolute truth that is the source of our hope! In a culture that sees such truth as an evaporating concept of ignorant medieval men, we must reassert the truth that there IS a Creator, and that He HAS spoken. We must reclaim the steeples of our cathedrals and loudly proclaim the clarion call of truth. God has spoken, and His Word is true. We can trust it, and we must believe it. There is no second road. Jesus is still what He claimed: “THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE”. He still stubbornly insists “NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT BY HIM” (John 14:6).

The Lord places the parameters of ministry (31:12-17)

Exodus 31:12 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 13 “But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying…”

The people will need more than the Word to build the work, they will need the verbal encouragement to keep it – so God provided a leader. People only do the wrong thing for two reasons: they CAN’T do the right thing, or they WON’T do the right thing. In the case of CAN’T – they need education. In the case of WON’T- they need discipline. God charged the leader with verbal communication of His Word and His standard so that BOTH could be addressed.

13b “…‘You shall surely observe My Sabbaths…

Look at the word SURELY. We need to hear God’s perspective on His commands and our obedience. God has a Divine expectation of diligent personal obedience. He isn’t simply interested in empty theological treatises that claim belief – He requires surrendered lives. He invites relationship, but expects respect.  His grace offers us a door, and He has given us the feet to walk through it – but the walk is our responsibility. We are not victims, forced to disobey endlessly and cry out for His mercy. We are able to choose to follow, and we are expected to do so. We will falter, and He will lift us in that hour. But we must never use that as an excuse to passively slide through life without resisting the downward pull. We can never earn the right to be a son – we are sons by surrender to His Word and work on our behalf. Yet, it takes effort to walk as sons. We have no right to ask to be a part of a family if we will make no effort to honor our Father. Christian disobedience is supreme disrespect and disregard for both the price of our salvation and the honor of our Savior. It is the contemptuous offense of one who abuses the beautiful wife of their youth.

God is under no obligation to explain WHY we are to follow His commands. At the same time, we are not little children, and sometimes He graciously opens up His reasoning behind a command. To Israel, they were clearly called to keep the Sabbath. Here, God tipped His hand to some of the reasons:

  • First, He wanted a PERSONAL LINK between them: Exodus 31:13b “…for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. The link was to remind them that God separated them from the peoples of the earth as a special relationship. It was, in effect, the WEDDING RING of the Father. He wanted the world to know that He and Israel were joined by His choice.
  • Second, He wanted a PERFORMANCE MEASURE of surrender and obedience: Exodus 31:14 ‘Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 ‘For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death. Surrender and commitment can be measured by obedience. Not only is He the very God who reminded Saul: “To obey is better than sacrifice”, but He is also the God who asked: “Why do you call Me Lord and not do the things that I say!” We are committed to Him only as much as we OBEY Him. That was the point of marking the Sabbath and making it a clear measure.
  • Third, it was to become a PUBLIC MARKER between Israel and the world around her. Exodus 31:16 ‘So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ 17 “It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.” This marked Israel, before God, as acknowledging God as both Creator and boundary setter (Lord). Someone has said: “More than Israel kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept Israel.” Throughout the generations of loss of land and leaders, the Sabbath marked the people as distinct from their neighbors.

The Lord gives the proclamation of the ministry (31:18)

Exodus 31:18 When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.

What a privilege! Moses was handed the very words written by God’s finger. He was to proclaim, not words contrived by wise men and scholars – but words inscribed in stone by the Creator of matter itself! We must never become casual with the power of God’s Word, nor the blessing that God manifest His Person and His expectations to us.

Imagine a world where we could not know how we got here. In that world we would have no idea if there was intent behind our very existence, or whether we simply came into being without reason. We would have no insight as to our destiny. We would be without beginning or end, and without purpose between. Educated men of our modern world propose such a world – a world where God is gone and uncertainty is the only absolute. In such a world morality vanishes and brutality emerges. It is a world of natural struggle, where the strong routinely take from the weak – and no judgment occurs in the end to make it right. Welcome to the twenty-first century as outlined by the best curricula in American universities. Now stand back, brace yourself and watch as the generations that are taught such things begin to act them out.

Don’t be deceived – God IS, and God HAS spoken. It is not a reason to shrink back in fear, but a reason to REJOICE. Our Creator WANTS US to know Him! Can we not break forth in praise at such a prospect! He has spoken about how to KNOW HIM and how to WORSHIP HIM. Every aspect of the design of worship and ministry has been designed and revealed by God. 

Grasping God’s Purpose: “The Servant” – Exodus 29

I am a fan of books on leadership. Some years ago, I picked up a little paperback simply called The Servant. It was an absorbing tale unfolded by a skilled author and leader – in the fictional story of John Daily. John was a businessman whose outwardly success belied his inner turmoil. He was failing miserably in every area – his leadership roles as boss, husband, father, and coach. Forced by crisis, he reluctantly joined a weeklong leadership retreat at a remote Benedictine monastery. To John’s astonishment, the monk that led the seminar was a former business executive and Wall Street legend. The monk took a special interest in John and began to guide him to the single realization that changed him: Real leadership is not power, but influence. It is built upon relationship, love, and service. The book was a simple read, but well worth the time.

Servant leadership… influence… relationship…. Are these new ideas? Not really. When we look into the pages of Scripture, we find that model in the setting aside of the priests in the Hebrew Scriptures for service to God. What does it take to be a servant of the living God? Is there something more than just being in the family of God?

Before you switch off on the thought, “Well, I don’t guess I will hear anything I need, since that message sounds like it is for Pastors and ministers” – hear me out. God didn’t just give this passage to Moses – He gave it to the whole of the people. We ALL need to understand the process. Even more, we all need to aspire to have the qualities God set forth in His standard for leaders. When Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus about the character requirements of Elders and Deacons – he wasn’t omitting the rest of the congregation – he was including them. He was instructing them as to what the GOAL of every believer was to become. We all should live as though others are watching our lives – because they ARE. Standards and processes of shaping character are the same in followers and leaders.

Key Principle: In order to serve God, I must be set apart for His use. That involves God’s call, another’s recognition, and my consecration.

In our previous lessons, God showed us a graphic picture of the pattern of worship in the furniture, fabric and fragrances of the Tabernacle – but he also showed it in the fashion – THE UNIFORM that God commanded for His servants in the Tabernacle! As we move forward I the Scriptures, God marked out the FOREMEN of the work – those that would spiritually lead the people. Essentially, Exodus 29 regards the procedures involved in marking out God’s chosen leaders, readying them for service by modeling truths for them to grasp. The benefits God promised to the people were well worth the effort – but an effort it would be.

It is no secret that our modern world is lacking leadership. Those who are willing to lead are becoming rare – and our whole society is suffering because of it.

God didn’t leave us in the dark concerning growing and molding spiritual leaders for the future. In the desert, God was already outlining the spiritual servant leadership needs for a people that would one day conquer cities and build a kingdom. The passage that describes God’s plan can be simply divided into four parts:

  1. The Deliberate Perspective to shape servant leaders (29:1a).
  2. The Defined Process that molds servant leaders (29:1b-25, 35-37).
  3. The Distinct Products of the servant leaders (29:38-42)
  4. The Divine Promises offered to servant leaders and God’s people (29:26-34, 43-46)

There is a DELIBERATE PERSPECTIVE required to produce servant leaders (29:1-3)

Despite many who have not parsed the reality – leaders are fashioned, not randomly produced. We get the leaders we mold.

Exodus 29:1 “Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them to minister as priests to Me:

In this brief opening few words of the verses before us, can you see three thoughts that help define the deliberate perspective?

First, God said that MOSES was to do the work of consecration. God’s current servant leaders were called to think about the production and molding of God’s future servant leaders. If we lack leadership in the church, it is because leadership in the church didn’t do their job and look ahead. Discipleship is a mentality before it is a reality. We have to WANT to share the stage. We have to WANT to joy in the advancement of others. We have to WANT to change the dynamic of ministry from “one man band” to TEAM. Not only that, but the people who followed the leader needed to get on board with the notion that God’s plan was to build a team – not just a way for the leader to deflect the work onto others. God designed ministry as a TEAM pursuit – not a celebrity stardom. Leaders need to use “leadership capital” to advance other future leaders.

Second, notice the passage commands Moses to DO something. This was intended to be an active process – not a passive one. Shaping and leading the leaders was the call of the man that God called to form the work around. He was the center pillar that was carrying aspects of intercession and care that would one day be entirely in the hands of the servant leaders.

Third, Moses was commanded to “consecrate” the servant leaders – that is, to personally mold and then publically mark the servant leaders God indicated. Time spent with them would be drawn from time spent with others, and that was deliberate obedience to God’s call on his life as a leader.

There is a DEFINED PROCESS required to produce servant leaders (29:1b-25, 35-37)

The bulk of the passage is about the making of a servant leader. How do we actually do it? Are there timeless principles in the Word (along with the many models we have) that instruct us how to shape and mold them? Take a look at the process:

First, the process begins with attitude shifts among the flock:

  • It begins when the community of faith acknowledges willingly – there will be a future cost to all of us. We cannot mold leaders and still do all the things we were doing before we were deliberately doing that. There is a cost. In our work, we have sacrificed any desire to be the biggest ministry and ministry with the greater cash reserves – in favor of supporting a growing support base for “disciple makers”. To Moses and his people it sounded like surrendering expensive and important wealth:

Exodus 29:1b “…take one young bull and two rams without blemish…”

  • It continues by an open willingness to share even the needed provisions God has given us: The people gathered manna, and the people made bread. They did the grinding, mixing and baking. They worked and others used what they made as support. Bread was the substance, more than any other that was synonymous with NEEDS in the Bible.

Exodus 29:2 “…and unleavened bread and unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil; you shall make them of fine wheat flour. 3 “You shall put them in one basket, and present them in the basket along with the bull and the two rams.

It is our great privilege to train servant leaders. It must be intentional, but watching them is also MOTIVATIONAL! It is costly, but it has also been INSPIRING! It is exhausting, but it is also EXHILARATING!

Churches are formed with a vision to reach an area. For a while they grow, press ahead, and try their best to get services going. At long last, they build a building. That is the perilous time – because for many they drop into passivity. Now comes the hum drum of paying the mortgages and running the committees. The place takes on the stale smell of “Club Jesus”. Yet, every now and then, a special group of people come along that really seek to LAUNCH the faith. The Moravians that sold themselves into slavery to reach far flung places on the globe sacrificed all in this life for the cause of Christ. We are inspired by such stories, but truthfully, most churches really cannot see what they have contributed beyond the periodic aisle walker and the occasional missionary dedication. I am not suggesting that every life doesn’t count- it does. I am suggesting the enthusiasm is hard to maintain in the daily norm of life. We who begin with a fire in our belly end up sitting on a committee. Our team is fighting HARD not to let that happen here. We keep launching forward. We keep expanding the vision – yet we try to be responsible to keep the bills paid. Vision is not an excuse for more credit. Sustainable ministry is responsible ministry. Stay tuned, there is more to come, but it will involve launching people into ministry in many places! Our attitudes are the starting place.

Second, the process moves ahead when the servant leader’s individual preparations are established:

We can talk about building leaders, but then we actually have to do it! There is a specific way God instructed this:

  • Preparation to be a servant leader requires inspection and help in “dealing with dirt”. Moses was commanded to bring the men together and “wash them” with water. Dirty people aren’t eligible to serve in this role – they need to vetted and get any outstanding issues dealt with before they are to be released for ministry.

Exodus 29:4 “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting and wash them with water.

Let me be very clear: To aspire to lead is to seek to influence others – and God isn’t interested in you spreading disease and dirt among His people! If you would be used by God to lead, you must choose to lay aside selfishness and take on the disciplines that you want to see in others. If you cannot hold your tongue, your disciples will not learn to hold their tongues. If you will not push yourself to prepare for ministry carefully, those under your care will be haphazard.

  • When they are qualified to join the ranks of the servant leaders, the actual fitting into the role begins. Moses was commanded to “dress them” with each piece that was thoughtfully prepared and sized for them. Our last study went over the uses and principle involved in each article of adornment, but the point is clear – they need to be adorned by leaders to become leaders. They needed to learn the work before they could adequately be expected to perform the work.

Exodus 29:5 “You shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the tunic and the robe of the ephod and the ephod and the breast piece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod; 6 and you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban… 8 “You shall bring his sons and put tunics on them. 9 “You shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and bind caps on them, and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute. So you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.

I recall a parent several years ago telling me that they had a full grown child that did not know that a STAMP was not all that was required for a letter to be sent – the AMOUNT OF VALUE on the stamp needed to be sufficient. They thought one stamp was as good as another – so they used the cheapest one! Patterning and mentoring needs to be included, because there is much we think they really SAW when they were beside us! Have you ever been asked to drive to a place you went many times when another was driving, only to discover you hadn’t been paying any real attention as to how to get there? Intentional training while DOING the work is the only effective method.

Pastor Steve Ely wrote: “Stop and think about this: Over the course of a 12 month period when you take into consideration the daily sacrifice which would total 706 animals a year. The double sacrifice of the Sabbath adds another 96 more animals a year. The new moon sacrifice, the Passover sacrifice, the sacrifice required during the Pentecost Week, the Trumpet Feast, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacle Sacrifice the priests by duty sacrificed almost 1300 animals each year. This was not a job for the squeamish. This was not a job for the weak stomached person. It was a gory daily task.” They were to do this while wearing white. They were to do this while keeping their stomach in check. They needed practice with people that would show them HOW to do it all – not just expect them to “figure it out.”

  • They have to become publicly acknowledged as prepared. It can easily be demonstrated that the oil used in Scripture was related to official commissioning for the offices of prophets, priests and kings. Later Scriptures will relate the oil as a symbol for the Spirit of God. Here, what was clear was they were to be publically marked as the ones recognized with God’s hand on them to complete His tasks.

Exodus 29:7 “Then you shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him.

Once the people took in the deliberate attitude of raising servant leaders, and they were prepared –they “graduated. The smell of anointing oil marked them as “ready to begin the work”…

Third, the process works especially well when it addresses the heart of the fledgling servant leaders.

Training for serving God isn’t just about FACTS, it is about really grasping God’s people (their needs) and God’s person (His desires) – learning how servant leadership works in daily life. There are a few hurdles to overcome:

  • They need to be reminded of humility. Public acknowledgement can be “heady stuff”! They needed to be reminded they were not chosen because they were less sinful, or a better “spiritual bargain” than anyone else. Nothing can shrink the size of our head as quickly as the reminder of our own sin sickness. Putting their hands on a bull and then watching it die in their place was a powerful call back to a humble heart.

Exodus 29:10 “Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. 11 “You shall slaughter the bull before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 12 “You shall take some of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger; and you shall pour out all the blood at the base of the altar. 13 “You shall take all the fat that covers the entrails and the lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, and offer them up in smoke on the altar. 14 “But the flesh of the bull and its hide and its refuse, you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.

Servant leaders must be made to recognize what people have given up for them, and plan on giving of their future for others. They needed to take seriously the fact that their future belongs to God and not themselves. It wasn’t enough for people to sacrifice for them – they needed to SEE it, and grab hold of the model for their own lives. There is a cost to the community now, and there will be a cost to them.

Exodus 29:15 “You shall also take the one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram; 16 and you shall slaughter the ram and shall take its blood and sprinkle it around on the altar. 17 “Then you shall cut the ram into its pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head. 18 “You shall offer up in smoke the whole ram on the altar; it is a burnt offering to the LORD: it is a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD.

Servant leaders must lay aside specific “common rights” so that God can use them. They must restrict things that have access to their mind – their ears are dedicated to hear God’s voice. They must lay aside the ambition to forge with their own hands – their hands belong solely to God’s purposes for them. They voluntarily restrict going where they would otherwise choose to go – for their feet were fashioned to take them where God calls – and nowhere else.

Exodus 29:19 “Then you shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram. 20 “You shall slaughter the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the lobes of his sons’ right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet, and sprinkle the rest of the blood around on the altar. 21 “Then you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments and on his sons and on his sons’ garments with him; so he and his garments shall be consecrated, as well as his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

Servant leaders give the best of all that is put in their hands to the Lord’s holy use. They use what God provides to honor God, glorify God, and care for the needs of the flock. The singular purpose of the work must be to please the Lord – it is FOR Him!

Exodus 29:22 “You shall also take the fat from the ram and the fat tail, and the fat that covers the entrails and the lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination), 23 and one cake of bread and one cake of bread mixed with oil and one wafer from the basket of unleavened bread which is set before the LORD; 24 and you shall put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons, and shall wave them as a wave offering before the LORD. 25 “You shall take them from their hands, and offer them up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering for a soothing aroma before the LORD; it is an offering by fire to the LORD.

Drop your eyes down the text to 29:35. There is one more note that must be made about this process of consecration IT TAKES TIME! The time was to be spent in BOTH SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD and in CONSECRATION TO GOD. The ceremonies were performed on the first day, yet they were not to be considered as completed until the seven days’ ended. In dedication and special service, a distance was created between their commission and their former state. That isn’t the only reason… Think of it! Since they had to pass over one Sabbath together, they got the opportunity to all “practice” the procedures of the garments and work before they were out doing the work as fully acknowledged servants!

Exodus 29:35 “Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you; you shall ordain them through seven days. 36 “Each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it. 37 “For seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it; then the altar shall be most holy, and whatever touches the altar shall be holy.

Leaders need to learn not to follow the crowd when the truth is at stake. They need to learn to think Biblically, and not react instinctively. That reminds me of the story shared by Pastor Andrew Chan:

It was autumn, and the Indians on the remote reservation asked their new Chief if the winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was an Indian Chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn’t tell what the weather was going to be. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared. Also, being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, “Is the coming winter going to be cold?” “It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed,” the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood in order to be prepared. A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. “Is it going to be a very cold winter?” “Yes,” the man at National Weather Service again replied, “it’s definitely going to be a very cold winter.” The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of wood they could find. Two weeks later, he called the National Weather Service again. “Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?” “Absolutely,” the man replied. “It’s going to be one of the coldest winters ever.” “How can you be so sure?” the Chief asked.  The weatherman replied, “The Indians are collecting wood like crazy.” (adapted from sermon central illustrations).

There are DISTINCT PRODUCTS that the servant leaders are called to produce (29:38-42)

We will only mention this passage in this lesson, for much more detail on the work of the servant leader is available throughout the Torah. There is only one point that we MUST make note of – since it is the most obvious issue involved in the verses: Every aspect of the expectation of God is defined in His Word. Servant leaders don’t “make it up as they go along”. They learn to KNOW what God wants because God has said exactly what He expects.

Exodus 29:38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously. 39 “The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; 40 and there shall be one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering with one lamb. 41 “The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it the same grain offering and the same drink offering as in the morning, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD. 42 “It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there.

There are DIVINE PROMISES offered to servant leaders and God’s people (29:26-34, 43-46)

Promise of God to provide for the servants:

God instructed to take the as wave-offering here is the ram of installation as well as in the “shelmim”, or peace-offering (Leviticus 7:30). Later it was also key to the Nazirite sacrifice (Numbers 6:20). Peace offerings were a THANK YOU offering – a balance of recognition for God’s goodness.

Exodus 29:26 “Then you shall take the breast of Aaron’s ram of ordination, and wave it as a wave offering before the LORD; and it shall be your portion. … 28 “It shall be for Aaron and his sons as their portion forever from the sons of Israel, for it is a heave offering; and it shall be a heave offering from the sons of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, even their heave offering to the LORD. … 31 “You shall take the ram of ordination and boil its flesh in a holy place. 32 “Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket, at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 33 “Thus they shall eat those things by which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration; but a layman shall not eat them, because they are holy. 34 “If any of the flesh of ordination or any of the bread remains until morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire; it shall not be eaten, because it is holy.

God provided for the needs of the servant leaders by providing for the JOYS of the people. When the people experienced special blessing, God’s servants were abundantly blessed!

Promise of God to provide for the people of God

Finally, the moment came when God shared what He was prepared to do for ALL His people:

Exodus 29:43 I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. 44 “I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. 45 “I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. 46 “They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.

  • I will engage all my people.
  • I will set apart their worship place.
  • I will set apart their servant leaders.
  • I will pull in and live among them!
  • They will KNOW that I am there and that I am God!

In order to serve God, I must be set apart for His use. That involves God’s call, other’s recognition, and my consecration. If we act according to the principles God commanded, He can open up the blessings He desires to give us! If we do not, we pull a curtain over God’s desire to show Himself to others through us!

His name was Sam. He was an inquisitive kid for a little tot from a small Missouri town. He went to church and Sunday school in his early life, but church leaders bickered incessantly in that little church. As he grew up, he knew elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them. He heard men using foul language and saw them practice dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday. He listened to ministers use the Bible to justify slavery. Although he saw genuine love for the Lord Jesus in some people, including his mother and his wife, he was so disturbed by the bad teaching and poor example of church leaders, that he became bitter toward the things of God. Samuel Clemens wrote books as Mark Twain that have reached all around the world – but he did so without a relationship with Christ – in spite of time in church. When people don’t live their faith- they hide God’s truth from those who desperately need it.

Grasping God’s Purpose: “Suit Up!” – Exodus 28

Uniforms… they seem like they are all around us! They identify our favorite sports team, our neighborhood policeman, and even our local plumber! The uniform, in most cases, was carefully designed to aid in the work of that particular craft, as well as identify the man or woman as part of the company or team. God’s team of intercessors was no different. God showed us a graphic picture of the pattern of worship in the furniture, fabric and fragrances of the Tabernacle – but he also showed it in the foremen and their fashion! These important individuals were called by God and chosen for their task – and their uniform helps us understand their Divine purpose. God chose the priests, and then carefully specified the uniforms they were to have. The care and planning of each portion was obvious, but it reflected the purposes of God in the work the men were called to accomplish.

Key Principle: The uniform gives away the identity. The care in creating it reveals the importance of the work prescribed.

What do the garments tell us about the purposes and priorities of the servants of God?

Before we explore the topic, keep this in mind: A believer has both their identity in Christ and their position in Christ.

  • Recognizing our identity is the key to walking in confidence when the enemy attacks to condemn us. We are a son or daughter of the Great King – and therefore we have our Father’s affection. Our failures will not pluck us from His hand, and our lack of confidence in some stages of life is not an indication of our Father’s love – just our own frailty. Standing in our identity will give us courage to face failure and continue to grow.
  • Recognizing our position of responsibility is the other end of the spectrum. Jesus His followers were called to bear fruit. We are called to be priests – intercessors for a wayward world to God.  1 Peter reminds: (2:9): “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” Careful reminders abound in Scripture of our priestly duties. Reminding ourselves of these duties will give us encouragement to get busy.

In this lesson we identify the choosing and dressing of God’s priests – on the way to recognizing their work. We peer through the cloth of the uniform into the heart of the priest, in order to be encouraged to walk in our position. Take note: we are BOTH princes and priests – both sons and servants. It is both our greatest goal and our deepest privilege as a child of our Father in Heaven. None of us feels like we have mastered our role – but we must grow in understanding of it!

Truths That Enlist God’s Servant Team

#1: God picks the servant team – not the leaders, nor the mob (28:1).

28:1 “Then bring near to yourself Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the sons of Israel, to minister as priest to Me—Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.

God chose who He wanted. Moses didn’t pick Aaron, and we don’t pick our ministry team – we acknowledge them. We recognize God’s call in their lives and do what we can to grow them into the role God has indicated through their giftedness. They may or may not be our first choice – but they are God’s choice, and that is all that matters! That doesn’t mean that the people voted themselves in either…there was a process. Even now, there is a way God indicates His hand is upon a life – and those who choose to look carefully will see it.

Pastor James May wrote (my paraphrase): God is still “Looking for a Few Good Men” – not in the sense of men “deserving of his grace”. Not one of us will ever be worthy. God is looking for “good men” in the sense that He seeks a man whose heart will both allow God to dwell within, and will surrender his will to God’s will. He seeks one who will desire to become as much like God’s Son as a human being can become. (

We should not be deceived into thinking either that we have earned our position through some special mark of character – which leads to pride, nor that we are a random act of God – which opens the door to discouragement. We are chosen. How that works may  not be at all clear to us. Why God did this may also not be at all clear. Yet, the evidence and clear Word of the Scripture is this: God called His servants. He knew what He was getting. He is not facing buyer’s remorse – He is fighting to get us to be productive. He is calling us to take up our Cross, follow Him, bear fruit – and not make excuses. We have been called into a time of war – and it is time that we take up our posts on behalf of a country that is falling away, on behalf of other believers that are weakening at the walls, on behalf of the Great King – whose service is far more important than our personal exaltation and pleasure.

#2: There is ordained intent in the adornments – the uniform has a purpose (28:2).

28:2 “You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.

Look at the way God commanded Moses in this verse. I was particularly struck by the relationship between Aaron and Moses. Look at the way God told Moses to get the garment for Aaron made – He said it is for YOUR BROTHER. Aaron would need to be respected, even though he was so familiar. This had to be a hard reality, if Moses and Aaron were anything like my brothers. It is easy to disregard those who are close at hand. Jesus said in Mark 6 that “a prophet is without honor in his own country.” Familiarity breeds contempt – and contempt is the opposite of respect.

We are living in a time when respect is not getting its due. The casual nature of everyday life in the twenty-first century has made respectful people stand out. Believers need to pay special attention to the respect due to leaders – and to those who have charge over souls. We need to be especially vigilant not to overlook the unbelievable gifts that God has given us. I am overjoyed and humbled to be a part of the lives of young people as they train to follow God. It would be easy for us to disrespect and discard the incredible gift of our youth. We may easily become guilty of “despising their youth” and not take their potential seriously. We wouldn’t be the first:

One author wrote: “I see no hope for the future for people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today. For certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wild and impatient.” (Greek poet Hesiod c.700 BCE).

A little closer to our day, another well know speaker said: “Youth today love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, no respect for older people, and talk nonsense when they should work. Young people do not stand up any longer when adults enter a room. They contradict their parents, talk too much in company, guzzle their food, lay their legs on the table, and tyrannize their elders.” (Socrates – 420 BCE).

Keep marching through time, and another wrote: “The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents of old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they know everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward and immodest and unwomanly in speech, behavior, and dress.” (Peter the Hermit 1274 CE).

My point is that it is easy for people to become familiar, and not have both great expectations and great humility to be in the presence of God’s unique gifts placed all around them. As I stand before the congregation in which I serve, I do so knowing that the team around includes some of the best people I may ever have the joy of serving beside. I have known godly men and women, and I work with some that tower above their generation. Yet, it is common to see people act like they are nothing special. I am here to testify to the truth – they ARE SPECIAL. This work is God’s – and it is special. May respect be a common character mark of the people of Grace.

It isn’t enough to be recognized – we need to be dressed. There is a look to match a heart. God gave the uniform as much for the wearer as for the crowd. The care involved in dressing for the work would have made the man pause and recognize the realities of the office. God intended the leader to deliberately and intentionally adorn the priests with glory (kawvod) and beauty (tif-aw-raw’)! The word beauty was used of the HONOR due God’s Temple. The idea was that Aaron was supposed to adorn himself with the honor of the office he held. He was not as important as the office itself – and that is something leaders should consider in ministry, even today. Do we LOOK the part of God’s servants?

#3: The adornment must not be haphazard – nor should the work be sloppily done (28:3).

28:3 “You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me.

The process of adorning must be done by skilled and faithful workers that will set apart the adorned one. The echo of Paul’s words to Timothy about his desire for those who desire to lead rings in our ears: 1 Timothy 3:2 “…An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable…” Dress up a man whose heart is God’s – and you will draw your eyes to character. Dress up an ungodly man and put him in leader’s clothing – and you might as well be putting lipstick on a pig. The damage done by leaders unworthy of their vestments is legendary – and we must take all our offices of service seriously. That is true of ever usher, Sunday School teacher, ABF leader, Deacon, Elder or Pastor, It is true of children’s workers. Our people are a SACRED TRUST placed upon our shoulders by God’s election and empowering. Each duty is sacred – because people matter to God!

#4: The adornment was chosen by God and specified in His Word (28:4,5).

28:44 “These are the garments which they shall make: a breast piece and an ephod and a robe and a tunic of checkered work, a turban and a sash, and they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister as priest to Me. 5 “They shall take the gold and the blue and the purple and the scarlet material and the fine linen.

Not only is the priest chosen by God, but what adorns a priest is also specified by God. It isn’t enough for us to give them what we want them to have – we have to provide for them based on God’s specs! What do people need to know to be ready to lead others to Jesus? The Word specified it.

I would argue that too much time and money is invested in teaching people things that are not the essentials expressed in the systematic study of God’s Word. It is as though people are choosing their own colors, fabrics and trim – in the form of seminars, songs and sermons. God gave us what we need to know, and we need not wonder about the curriculum – He made it plain. He has given us more helps than any generation before us – and we seem to learn less. Puritans barely had but a Bible – but they learned it.

Let me ask you: How well do you know the Word? Are you making measurable gains in your understanding of it? Do you invest time in learning both what it says and how the internal principles apply to your decision making on a daily basis? If asked, right now, can you tell what each book in the library of God is about? Will you be able to do that in another year, two or three at the rate of your study? Do you know where to open its pages to rescue a man or woman with a broken heart, a failing marriage, or a wayward child?

Why are so many places of worship measured more by the worship band than the clarity of the Word? We must do our best to build a worshipful atmosphere, but that is not our main goal. We must be clear: what changes men and women from brutish and selfish fallen beings to godly servants is but one thing – the renewing of our minds by the work of the Spirit through the Word of God. I want deliberately to encourage you to get into its pages. In the swirl of modern life, God’s Word remains unchangedbut sadly unopened by many a believer. Do not expect God to design a special uniform to your specification. He has chosen what you need – now it is your turn to gather around you skillful workers and assemble the garments that will mark your life.

The next three segments of the text relate the WORK of a priest, as seen through the uniform functions:

#5: The uniform reminded the servant of the weight involved in intercession (28:6-14). The first work specified was PRAYER for people.

28:6 “They shall also make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen, the work of the skillful workman. 7 “It shall have two shoulder pieces joined to its two ends, that it may be joined. 8 “The skillfully woven band, which is on it, shall be like its workmanship, of the same material: of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen. 9 “You shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, 10 six of their names on the one stone and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, according to their birth. 11 “As a jeweler engraves a signet, you shall engrave the two stones according to the names of the sons of Israel; you shall set them in filigree settings of gold. 12 “You shall put the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of memorial for the sons of Israel, and Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for a memorial. 13 “You shall make filigree settings of gold, 14 and two chains of pure gold; you shall make them of twisted cordage work, and you shall put the corded chains on the filigree settings.

If you look closely at the verses, you will notice that much of the description is about the “chevrons” – that is the “shoulder pieces”. The “weight” of the intercession before God fell to the servants chosen for that purpose – they were to carry the needs of the people with them and remember them constantly before the throne of God. They pressed on the servant, and they also constricted his reach.

We need to spend a few moments here, because we are again losing sight of this vital quality. Servants of God need to be able to pray, desiring to pray, careful to pray, hungry to pray, joyful in prayer. The fuel of the movement of God’s church is prayer. We cannot excuse our laziness nor accept our passivity… God is worthy of more. Even among believers, prayer is often tacked on to an event – as if the work we do is more important than the seeking of God’s empowering and blessing. We almost treat prayer as a “last resort”, like in the little story I read recently:

I heard a story of a ship that was sinking in the middle of a storm, and the captain called out to the crew and said, “Does anyone here know how to pray?” One man stepped forward and said, “Yes sir, I know how to pray.” The captain said, “Wonderful, you pray while the rest of us put on life jackets–we’re one short.” (Author unknown. Taken from

We treat prayer like it keeps our food from giving us illness, and keeps the boogeyman away while we sleep. It is NOT intended to do anything to your food, nor is it a good luck talisman for our night watches. Prayer is the seeking of God’s audience – the emptying of self-will and the resetting of expectations. Prayer IS the work. A handful of men and women that can pray can stop an army, change a nation, and pull lives back from the brink.

I mention this because many believers are in danger of seeing announcements as equal to prayer in their church services. In a great many church gatherings in our nation, we have become “Club Jesus” with a cross where the Moose is in other meetings. I am not being glib – I am being pointed. Call a meeting to discuss money and you will get many more people than calling a meeting to pray for a known and serious issue. The church will slog on anemic until its forces are engaged on their knees. Men and women of God, servants of the King, must be people who pray. God doesn’t need it – we do. He isn’t lonely, grasping at ways to become meaningful in our lives – He is HOLY and COMPLETE. It is the church that is starving for God’s direction and empowerment – not God that is going hungry. A primary work of the servant of God is carrying the needs of the flock, and praying for them. Intercession isn’t an add-on – it is the heart of the work.

#6: The work of discernment is a chief concern for the leader (28:15-30). The second work specified was DISCERNMENT.

28:15 “You shall make a breast piece of judgment, the work of a skillful workman; like the work of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen you shall make it. 16 “It shall be square and folded double, a span in length and a span in width. 17 “You shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, topaz and emerald; 18 and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond; 19 and the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; 20 and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree. 21 “The stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, according to their names; they shall be like the engravings of a seal, each according to his name for the twelve tribes. … 30 “You shall put in the breast piece of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD; and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.

Judging direction was a major feature of priestly work, but it was not entrusted to just any priest. The high priest carried a special responsibility before God and the people to seek the Lord on their behalf, and to call direction for them. The issues involved in people’s sin and offenses against one another have NEVER been a simple matter. God offered to the High Priest a specific way of understanding His desires – and God makes that same offer today. God’s will can be discerned, but it takes work. It takes the careful application of His timeless Word after serious and considered study.

I am amazed at the haphazard nature of decision making among God’s people. What a joy to serve with men of God that will study for themselves and will match Scriptural thinking to a problem! We seem unwilling to admit that God’s Word isn’t as simple as the persuasive article we read last week on a passage. Don’t misunderstand me here- I want to encourage study of the Word… let there be no doubt. At the same time, real decision making must be made with God’s directives in a way that is neither rushed nor haphazard. Too much is decided in haste. The consequences of expedient decision making can be hazardous to the life of the servants of God. Take your time! Learn the principles systematically. Don’t think that an article makes you an expert, but DIG into God’s Word. People’s lives are at stake in the poor handling of God’s Word.

I live in a generation of ministers that will answer to God for their casual handling of eternal truth.

  • We will face God for the way we have allowed so called “liberation theology” to take the place of God’s salvation message to Central and South America.
  • We will be called into account for the way we have allowed psychology and counseling to replace propositional truths clearly and un-apologetically espoused from pulpits that were on fire with God’s presence and holiness.

The state of ministry in America is not good, but it is not finished. There is much we can do to lift high God’s truth. It begins with prayer, and it is nourished by the Word. Preaching needs to once again be lifted to a place where it stirs the heart and moves the mind.

#7: The work of seeking God is as holy as sharing God – and must be carefully prepared (28:31-35). The third work was SEEKING GOD.

28:31 “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. 32 “There shall be an opening at its top in the middle of it; around its opening there shall be a binding of woven work, like the opening of a coat of mail, so that it will not be torn. 33 “You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: 34 a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe. 35 “It shall be on Aaron when he ministers; and its tinkling shall be heard when he enters and leaves the holy place before the LORD, so that he will not die.

Entering the presence of the Lord is a sacred thing – and it dare not be taken lightly. We are all aware of the need to witness, but far fewer recognize the need to SEEK GOD in our lives. We must intentionally seek the Father. For the priest of old, there was a way of showing intent – it was by putting on the right robe before entering.

Francis Chan: “We are a culture that relies on technology over community, a society in which spoken and written words are cheap, easy to come by, and excessive. Our culture says anything goes; fear of God is almost unheard of. We are slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry. The wise man comes to God without saying a word and stands in awe of Him. It may seem a hopeless endeavor, to gaze at the invisible God. But Romans 1:20 tells us that through creation, we see “His invisible qualities and divine nature.” (When we look into the vastness of God Heavens, what is our reaction?) Are we Speechless? Amazed? Humbled? When I first saw those images, I had to worship. I didn’t want to speak to or share it with anyone. I just wanted to sit quietly and admire the Creator. It’s wild to think that most of these galaxies have been discovered only in the past few years, thanks to the Hubble telescope. It means they have been in the universe for thousands of years without humans even knowing about them. Why would God create more than 350,000,000,000 galaxies (and this is a conservative estimate) that generations of people never saw or even knew existed? Do you think maybe it was to make us say, “Wow, God is unfathomably big”? Or perhaps God wanted us to see these pictures so that our response would be, “Who do I think I am?”  R. C. Sproul writes, “Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”

The last two portions of the text relate to ADMONITIONS to the Priest:

#8: The uniform reminded the servant of God’s distinct call of his life (28:36-38). Admonition: Pay attention to walk as a priest.

28:36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ 37 “You shall fasten it on a blue cord, and it shall be on the turban; it shall be at the front of the turban. 38 “It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.

One of the purposes of the priestly adornment is consecration – he needed a constant reminder that he was not his own. Who cannot hear the words of 1 Corinthians 6:19 to believers that were walking in amnesia. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” Stuck right on the front of his head was a simple sign – you belong to MY PURPOSES, MY CALL, MY ENDS.

How we have compromised on this in the lives of so many a servant of God! In the simple realm of purity, we have heard the story many, many times. We need the old sign: Holy to the Lord!” We need it on our TV sets, hung above our computers, Stuck beside our magazine racks.

Annie Dillard, in her book The Writing Life, tells of an experiment that was done with butterflies. The experiment involved placing a male butterfly with a female butterfly of his own species. Then they placed a painted cardboard butterfly alongside them. The cardboard butterfly was bigger than the female — bigger than any female could ever be. The male ignored the living female butterfly next to him and went to the painted cardboard butterfly over and over again. Dillard adds, “Nearby, the real, living female opens and closes her wings in vain.” It is a picture of the world in which countless males are trapped today. Staring at painted cardboard butterflies they are squandering their own resources and defrauding the real, living, breathing females in their homes. But then you don’t have to establish a relationship with cardboard butterflies. You don’t have to put up with their failures — nor do they have to live with you and discover yours. There are no expectations from you. You don’t have to communicate with them. An inviting smile is painted on their faces and they don’t even know you. Perhaps it is better that way. (sermon central illustrations).

It is the work of the high priest to keep the distinctiveness of God before him at all times. Remember, it was NOT the HAT that was holy – it was to be the MAN of God. The hat just kept the sign to remind him that his choices needed to match his big hat.

#9: The uniform kept focus on God – and not on the distraction of His servants (28:39-43). Admonition: Stay out of God’s way when it comes to glory!

28:39 “You shall weave the tunic of checkered work of fine linen, and shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash, the work of a weaver. 40 “For Aaron’s sons you shall make tunics; you shall also make sashes for them, and you shall make caps for them, for glory and for beauty. 41 “You shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him; and you shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests. 42 “You shall make for them linen breeches to cover their bare flesh; they shall reach from the loins even to the thighs. 43 “They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they enter the tent of meeting, or when they approach the altar to minister in the holy place, so that they do not incur guilt and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and to his descendants after him.

God made a dress code for modesty and holy care among those who served Him. He wanted them to work well and offer no distraction to the flock. The same was said in the early church. The issue of distraction for men and women was addressed – men with ego seem in argument and women with ego seen in immodesty. Both wanted to attract self attention…

1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. 9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

We need to be very careful not to rob God by trying to make ourselves the main attraction. We are here to serve our Holy Father – and not to have faith directed primarily at us. Paul urged (1 Cor. 11:1) that believers at Corinth: “Follow me as I follow Christ!” The call of the priest is to lead them to God’s glory, for God’s glory – not to become a superstar or a distraction

You see, the uniform gives away the identity. The care in creating it reveals the importance of the work prescribed. We have a great call, and a holy commission. The line of those who served before us is vast. The line behind us watches and waits. Will we take up the call?

Grasping God's Purpose: "Smelling Like Worship" – Exodus 30

Did you ever feel like you were praying to the ceiling? Did you ever honestly feel like you were seeking God, but He was tied up doing something else and your issues were not on His heart? I am not suggesting this was true, but I am asking if you FELT that way. Do you know what I mean? Today, the Word beckons us back to the study of worship and intimacy with God. That study presupposes something about you… that you WANT to have a thriving walk with your Creator. It presupposes that you have a gnawing in your life that cannot be satisfied by food and drink, fun and recreation. That hole inside your innermost being is God shaped – and it has been with man since our mutiny of the Holy One in the Garden of Eden. We thought we could face life alone. We thought God was holding out on us something really good in that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After all, innocence, we thought, was for BABIES – and we were grown-ups. We thought it would set us free to shake our fist at God and sing the anthem: “I did it MY WAY!

The problem is that broken relationships that produce freedom in our schedule also leave a hole in our heart. Ask anyone that came out of a marriage. They had the familiar ring of the sixties singer as she sang: “one less man to pick up after” but they learned the song of lament: “I know I should be happy, but all I do is cry.” The backside of freedom is stark loneliness, and a deep hole that once had a relationship. That is man’s state apart from a new birth in their relationship with God today.

We have been attempting to do something great. We have desired to construct a beautiful picture of worship by looking at the Tabernacle – God’s planned construction effort based on His own plan. If you work through the whole of this study, there is a beautiful benefit – at the end you will see the complete masterpiece God designed to describe in visual terms the path of restoration for lost intimacy. Our work on this picture reminds me of another stunning progressive work made long ago… When Michelangelo painted God and man touching in the Sistine Chapel in the four years between 1508 and 1512, he could not paint the whole fresco at one time. In the “buon fresco” method, the fresh plaster had to be applied over a rough underlay, only in amounts that could be completed in one day. This area is called the giornata (“a day’s work”), and on very close inspection you can observe up close the different day stages in small seams that separate one giornata from the next. In the same way, we have been constructing a picture of worship and intimacy, but not in one sermon – one giornata. It has taken a few lessons, but only when you step back can you see the whole picture… and it is a beautiful one!

We started in Exodus 25 forging the pattern of worship. We saw that God offered a building program to model and even richer idea – how to KNOW Him again.

Key Principle: God left us a graphic picture of the pattern of worship in the Tabernacle, with each part showing something about both Him and us – leading us into His arms. The place and the experience should change us!

In God’s record, the description began on the inside of the central and most holy meeting place, at the Ark of the Covenant. It is as though God’s record began with the central issue: this is a meeting place that God wanted to manifest His character in some specific ways.


There were four of the furnishings in the order they were presented in Exodus 25 that told us of God’s plan for worship:

  • First, we focused on the Ark (Aw-rone), where we saw that true worship has the Word of God at its heart. (Exodus 25: 10-16)

The transportable container that contained the Word of the Living God was at the very center of the worship was to be God’s own Word. The center was not an emotional expression of powerful music, smoke machines, subtle lighting or ecstatic utterances. In fact, the box for the Word reminded us of three important details, that can in the form of commands: Carefully make a vessel for the Word, Keep it with you, Make it for God’s self revealed testimony.

  • Second, we followed the ark instructions to the fashioned lid, called the “Mercy Seat” (Kapporeth), where we noted that true worship is meeting God at the only place we can today – at the place covered in His mercy (Exodus 25: 17-22).

Just as angels prepare to stand in His Holy presence, I can do no less. He is the author or my life and my universe. Time with Him and a life walked together is life on the highest plane. Again, the Word revealed three important details: The place of mercy is the Interface with God, two angels stood watch and observed God’s mercy, and the place was where God summoned people – God drew them to His forgiveness.

  • Third, we stopped to note the table of the “Bread of His Presence” (Lechem Panim), where we were reminded that true worship takes constant renewed effort (Exodus 25:23-30).

God wanted a table of bread, made by human hands, so that people would recall that HE IS PRESENT WITH THEM.  Another three details were offered: Protect the bread from slipping with a rim – for the symbol represents something very precious; Keep the symbol of bread always renewed, and it will take work to make, maintain and protect.

  • Finally, we gazed at the fashioned Lampstand (Menorah), and were reminded that true worship dispels lies and highlights truth (Exodus 25:31-40)

The seven branches were hammered and fashioned out of gold with three stated details: The seven showed completion, the almond blossom (shaqad) showed God’s watch care (shoqed), and the light emphasized the truth.

The furnishings left us with a picture like this: the heart of worship is trusting in the Word of God and the Testimony of what He has done, seen through His mercy. The application of that mercy is found in the shed blood that is poured out for a sacrifice. We are to keep that record with us, as well as constantly working to keep in front of us the evidence of God’s good provisions. In all of this, we are to remember that whether we “see” Him or not, He is watching over us – and His truth lights our way.


Next, there were four coverings over the Holy Place and Holy of Holies that were related in Exodus 26:

  • First, the linen ceiling was described (26:1-6) as it was placed directly over the framework of wood (26:15-30). The fabric comprised the actual ceiling of the Sanctuary that could be seen on the inside when a priest entered the Holy Place. The fabric was assembled to two pieces from the ten panels (five and five connected by fashioned golden loops). They were colored in red, blue and purple on white panels, with images of cherubim on each panel. Three items stick out in the description: the count, color and characters:

On the Count we saw little reason to look for meaning beyond the practical. In the Colors: of the cloth with the specific six part WEAVE PATTERN – we saw that most often White denoted cleanliness –the “righteousness of the Saints” (Revelation 19:8), the garb of the armies of Heaven (Revelation 19:14). Obviously, the poetic use of the color was CLEAN (as in “whiter than snow” in Psalm 51:7). If the color is symbolic, it must relate to this idea. In the Blue, Purple and Scarlet: ROYAL SPLENDOR and MAJESTY of God in the Heavens, and this was His place of meeting.

  • Second, there were the Curtains Of Goats’ Hair (26:7-13) referred to as the “tent” was placed over the Curtains of Fine Linen.

The details of this curtain include the RAW MATERIAL, the SIZE of the woven material, and the ARRANGEMENT of the pieces. The color was brown – and the material was the INTELLIGENT weave of the GOAT HAIR that is used by Bedouin today in the desert. The hair was sheared from the GOAT – the animal of the primary SIN OFFERING (Chata’ah – cp. 4:24,5:6, 9:3) of Leviticus. Particularly on the Day of Atonement, two goats were presented to the Lord – one was killed as a sin offering, the other preserved alive as the SCAPEGOAT (Leviticus 16:7-10). Keep reading, because the third covering and the waterproof fourth suggest God was going somewhere with the pattern…

  • Third was the Rams’ Skin Dyed Red referred to as the Covering and was probably only on the top.
  • Finally, the whole structure was covered by a waterproof Covering of the “Tahash” Skins. This final covering was the only thing visible above the wall from the outside of the Tabernacle. (26:14).

Goats and Rams were a part of the sin payment system God set up in the sacrifices long ago. Add to that the other curtains above it, and I think the picture isn’t stretched – God wanted the people to connect to His ROYALTY but be covered by the sacrifice. As a Pastor today, it is EXACTLY that which I want for my flock. I want people to stand beneath the Cross, but stop allowing the shame that Jesus paid for to shadow over your sense of CALL, COMMISSION and PURPOSE.

God left us a graphic picture of the pattern of worship in the Tabernacle, with each part showing something about both Him and us – leading us into His arms. When we meet Him, we contact His splendor and majesty, and that can be a painful experience – because we LOSE our right to be a victim, and take on the identity of one called by the King… that is a painful moment to the lazy follower.

If you continue reading about the Tabernacle, after the Furniture and Fabric, there is quite a bit of information about the Fragrance – the aromas of the worship place.


There were two aromas that show help us understand the Tabernacle – the anointing oil on the priests and furnishings, and the aroma of the incense burned on an altar that permeated the whole area.

The Smell that goes OUT: The Perfume of a God’s Holy Ones (30:22-33)

Exodus 30:22 Moreover, the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty, 24 and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin. 25 “You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 “With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28 and the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its stand. 29 “You shall also consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them shall be holy. 30 “You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister as priests to Me. 31 “You shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 32 ‘It shall not be poured on anyone’s body, nor shall you make any like it in the same proportions; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 ‘Whoever shall mix any like it or whoever puts any of it on a layman shall be cut off from his people.’”

The priests of God were to carry with them a distinct aroma. They smelled like where they worked! The place of worship was to have a specific fragrance. The things of God exuded the bouquet of God. What did it smell like? Well, first, we have to admit we really don’t know. It wasn’t imitated because of the prohibition in Exodus 30:32-33. Like the unspoken name of YHWH, we have fewer people who encountered the method of mixing the oils – so there are few sources. The Bible offers this about the ingredients:

  • 2 parts myrrh (Mor- darror: “free flowing or pure myrrh) – if shekel is understood (200 oz. by weight).
  • 1 part cinnamon (kinamone: from erect; a bark) – if shekel is understood (100 oz. by weight).
  • 1 part fragrant cane (kaneh-bosem) – if shekel is understood (100 oz. by weight).
  • 2 parts cassia (kiddaw: from kawdad – to bow down or split) – if shekel is understood (200 oz. by weight).

All of these were crushed and blended into a little less than a gallon of virgin olive oil. That would yield more than a five gallon bucket of liquid when bound.

The Uses of Oil

Oil was not an unusual substance to the Biblical person. They used it, as did the Egyptians they were leaving, for many purposes:

  • Cleaning: People anointed themselves with oil, as a means of “cleaning”, refreshing or invigorating their bodies (Deuteronomy 28:40; Ruth 3:3; 2 Sam 14:2; Micah 6:15; Psalms 104:15, Proverbs 27:9).
  • Etiquette: Anointing was an act of hospitality (Luke 7:38,46); in royal situations a preparation for physical contact with the King or Prince (Esther 2:12).
  • Gifts or Displays of Wealth: The wealthy were perfumed (Song of Songs 4:10; John 12:3-5).
  • Medicine: Oil was applied to the fevered, and also to wounds and skin abrasions (Psalms 109:18; Isaiah 1:6; Mark 6:13; James 5:14). Sometimes it was a comfort to those who were in pain, and a reminder they were not alone. It often also carried an antiseptic quality.
  • War: The expression, “oil the shields” (Isaiah 21:5), refers to the custom of rubbing oil on the leather of the shield so as to make it supple in final preparations for battle.
  • Preparation for disintegration: The bodies of the dead were often anointed (Mark 14:8; Luke 23:56;John 12:3)
  • Consecration of the Holy: Be they priests Exodus 29:29; Leviticus 4:3) or the sacred vessels (Exodus 30:26) – perfumed oil was used. Both the high priest and the king were called “the anointed” (Leviticus 4:3,5,16; 6:20; Psalms 132:10).
  • Messiah: The Promised One was called the “Anointed” or Messiah (Psalms 2:2; Daniel 9:25,26; John 1:41; Acts 9:22; 17:2,3; 18:5,28), the Messiah of the Old Testament.

We cannot be certain of the plants, and we have “holes” in our knowledge of the exact measures, but we can say several things about the aroma of the priests:

First, it was associated with the essential CLEAN smell of the time. It was the smell of WELCOME HOSPITALITY and the smell of SAFE and WELL CARED FOR people. I don’t want to over-stretch the purpose of the narrative, but there are a few things I think we can safely say about God’s intent:

  • God wanted His priests to look, act and smell clean: they were to keep themselves unspotted by the world’s dirt. This didn’t mean they didn’t get both dirty and bloody to intercede and help the repentant sinner – that came with the job. What it meant was they didn’t choose to get dirty for any other reason. They prepared and maintained their cleanliness SO THAT THEY WERE PREPARED to be used of God. Does God expect less from His people today? Peter pointed out to the Gentiles he wrote to: 1 Peter 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.    

  • God wanted neighboring people to NOTICE the place and people of worship: He wanted the world about them to know that He was their God – He provided for them well. From the day in Genesis 22 that Abraham exclaimed the name of the place of sacrifice “The Lord will See (Provide) – Jehovah Jireh”, it was clear that God wanted to be known by His holy provision. When King David exclaimed (Psalm 37:25): “I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread.” – his heart was to show God as GIVING, LOVING and NOT STINGY. I openly wonder if we praise God for the incredible extravagance He pours out on us regularly? Do unbelievers hear how we feel about GOD or how we complain about GOVERNMENT more?

It is time for God’s people to pick up the PRAISE put down the PROTEST. We need to draw in people with a winsomeness and JOY about how GOOD GOD is to us!

  • God wanted His own people to notice that He that was an inviting God – a God that beckoned them to come to Him. He offered great invitations to them, as He does to us. Jesus beckoned: Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” I wonder if our children associate a life lived for Jesus as a HEAVY LIFE? I wonder if they see church as a hassle and the Bible as a rule book. Isn’t it time we showed them something better?

Let me say it plainly: We need to smell different than the lost world around us. We need to smell like a place that is inviting, hospitable, happy and safe. If we smell harsh – they will not come to meet our Savior. If we smell fake – they will feel we are suckering them in for the sake of their wallets, or something of that sort. It is time for a cleaning in many lives in the church – so that the place will SMELL BETTER.

The Smell that Goes UP: The Incense that God smelled (Exodus 30:34-38)

The other smell in the Tabernacle was not to change the atmosphere for the neighbors nor for the worshippers – it was a smell for GOD HIMSELF. That God loved the smell of the sacrifice is well documented (see Leviticus 3:16, 6:21). Yet, God also awaited to SMELL the prayers that were so well embraced by the aroma of a sweet incense.  The time of prayer was the time of the incense burning, because the two were mixed together into the nostrils of God. Luke opened with the story of the time of incense burning:  Luke 1:8 Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

This was a special moment before God –a time when God perceived in a special way the needs and presentation of His people. It was a pleasing aroma to Him:

Exodus 30:34 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each. 35 “With it you shall make incense, a perfume, the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 “You shall beat some of it very fine, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I will meet with you; it shall be most holy to you. 37 “The incense which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the LORD. 38 “Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people.”

Look closely at the ingredients. We don’t know if God intended us to see anything in them, but the rabbis of old certainly did – all in relation to PRAYER:

  • Stacte – is Nataf in Hebrew. which was a bitter gum resin that naturally oozes to the surface. Some rabbis noted in sermons long ago that it appeared on the face of the tree forced out of the inner heart of the tree by some stress or pressure, causing it to be abundant on the outside of the tree. Still others noted that God made the tree with so much sap that it always had much to “give away”. What is clear is that it was a resin that oozed out of the tree – as some of our prayers do from our heart because of stress and pressures that we need to pour out willingly to God, or our abundance from which it flows.
  • Onycha – is shekh-ay’-leth in Hebrew, (an unused root in association with a lion’s roar). The word likely refers to the operculum (closing flap of gill in fish, but a special gland in some shell fish). This comes from below the surface of the Red Sea and may be representative of prayers from the “depths”… Some prayer comes from the depths of our lives that need to be carefully rooted out of the encased shells of our lives, and shared with the God who loves us. It is the only way deep issues can be healed!
  • Galbanum – (Chelbanum from cheleb or fat – drawn out) – is a word used for a number of differing processes – as in being tapped from the commiphora tree like Maple Syrup. A tap is burrowed from the outside into the tree, piercing the exterior and “wounding the tree” to get the bitterness inside out. Some prayer, the rabbis taught, was to empty our souls of the bitterness trapped within us before God, who alone could handle it. The word is now more commonly associated with the extraction from “Ferula gummosa” –  a low shrub of Persian slopes. Galbanum of this type is used in the making of modern perfume – the ingredient which gives the distinctive smell to the fragrances “Must” by Cartier, and “Chanel No. 19”.
  • Frankencense – is tapped from Boswellia trees and is milky white in color.  Frankencense is “levonah” in Hebrew, (lavan=white). It is not only white in color, it makes a thick whitened smoke when it burns. Many Old City shops carry it and Catholic Churches use it in the incensers to this day. The point is that it’s addition to the incense was that, like the prayers of God’s people, it made an impact or a change that was evident to all. Prayer changes people and the spiritual atmosphere with a noticeable fragrance and color.

By the time of Paul’s journeys in the first century, incense had a whole different connotation to a Roman. He didn’t think PRAYER – he thought PARADE!

This was as natural as the mind link between July 4th and fireworks in the American mind. Let me explain.  As Rome spread her control over the Mediterranean – eventually calling it “Mare Nostrum” or “Our Sea” – it became the custom from the time of the Emperors to welcome victorious generals and their troops to the Rome with a massive celebration – The Roman Triumph, or POMPA. In fact, the purpose of those ARCHES all over ancient Rome were to add a “Station” to the Pompa procession. State Pompa processions generally followed the Via Sacra through the Forum and (after Domition) ended at the Coliseum.

In order to celebrate the Triumph some conditions had to be satisfied:

  • The general being honored must have been the field commander.
  • The campaign had to be completed, the region pacified, and the troops brought home.
  • Though the number is unclear, it seems that at least 5000 of the enemy must have died in battle.
  • The conquest must have contributed to Roman expansion – though this was sometimes strained.
  • It must have been against a foreign foe, not a civil war.

A typically procession would follow this order:

  • State officials and Roman Senators
  • Trumpeters.
  • Spoils of war (after 70 CE they brought the Menorah, the Table of the Bread of Presence and gold trumpets in Titus’ Triumph of the Jewish War.)
  • Pictures of the conquered land, models of ships destroyed and citadels captured.
  • A white bull to be sacrificed.
  • Captives in chains: Enemy princes, generals and leaders to be executed.
  • Lictors: Officials bearing fasces (bound rods) who cleared the way for the person(s) to be honored.
  • Musicians playing lyres.
  • Priests carrying censers of perfume. To the victors it was a perfume of joy, triumph and life. To the following captives it spoke of defeat and death.
  • The general in a chariot drawn by 4 (white?) horses. The general wore a purple tunic with gold palm leaves and over it a purple toga with gold stars.
  • The general’s family.
  • His army wearing their decorations and shouting “Lo triumphe!” (words from the original name of Bacchus).

Other priests were positioned along the line of march along with an honor guard of soldiers holding holding urns of burning incense. The aroma would be sweet to the victors, but the smell of death or permanent enslavement to those in chains. Days of celebration would follow during which many of the captives would be offered to Roman vanity and bloodletting in the arena. For the victors there were fame, fortune and honors. For the captives there was slavery or death.

Paul said the smell of our outreach is the very same thing to those we share Christ among:

2 Corinthians 2:12 Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia. 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

God left us a graphic picture of the pattern of worship in the Tabernacle, with each part showing something about both Him and us – leading us into His arms. The place and the experience should change us! It should make us SMELL LIKE WORSHIPPERS. It should draw people to a CHOICE – they will come in, or they will walk away to avoid the fragrance.

Grasping God's Purpose: "Reunion of the Royal Pains" – Exodus 26:1-14

If you have been on the planet long enough, you know what a humiliation a class reunion can be. What an event! You travel to some distant place and meet with people that intersected with your life for a time long gone by. Admittedly, you journeyed together for a time, but since those days you may not have been “in” each other’s daily lives. That produces some awkwardness to the whole thing. Perhaps you were a pimply and skinny little kid when they last saw you. Maybe you were several dress sizes below your current greatest possible hope when you donned the cap and gown in their presence. All in all, reunions are intimidating… especially if it has been a long time since you saw each other.

 I mention this, because in a strange way, our study of the Tabernacle, as we have been passing through the Exodus account, brings us to the place of a reunion. In the beginning, God walked with man in the Garden – but man’s mutiny made a continuation of that daily intimacy impossible without a sacrificial system. The idea of the creation of a special place of meeting was God’s answer to man’s need for a continued reunion. Worship and intimacy were woven together in God’s establishment of the moveable meeting place – the mishkan, or Tabernacle.

How important was this place and what it represents in worship and meeting to God Who revealed it to us through Moses? Consider what Pastor Jerry Shirley pointed out in his study on this passage years ago. He made the observation that when God created he Heavens with the myriad of stars, He recalled that stunning creation in all of FIVE WORDS: “He made the stars also…” (Gen. 1:26). That was it! It is as though God was not terribly impressed by the accomplishment…

Solar masses, hot coronas, stellar winds, fusion reactions, luminosity, red giants, white dwarfs, black dwarfs, supernovas, pulsars and neutron stars… all one quintillion of them got a five word mention in the Creation account.

Why do I mention this? Because God devoted fifty chapters to the Tabernacle! God seemed far more interested in Moses’ recording the reunion hall designed to gather both God and man than the placing of the starry heavens above us. Alas, it seems God was far more interested in intimacy with man than the beauty and majesty of the physical universe.

We were in Exodus 25, last time together – on a search of the pattern of worship. We saw that God offered a building program to model and even richer idea – how to worship Him.

Key Principle: God left us a graphic picture of the pattern of worship in the Tabernacle, with each part showing something about both Him and us – leading us into His arms. When we meet Him, we contact His splendor and majesty, and that can be a painful experience. It reminds us that we have been chosen to accomplish His purposes.

You may have noticed that in the reading through Exodus, God unfolded the story in a way that is different than many of us would have. The record of the worship center did not begin with the outer court and move us into the place of the Holy of Holies – the way you would have approached it after it was built. Rather, in God’s record, the description began on the inside of the central and most holy meeting place, at the Ark of the Covenant. It is as though God’s record began with the central issue: this is a meeting place that God wanted to manifest His character in some specific ways. We saw in our last lesson four of the furnishings in the order they were presented in Exodus 25. Before we move ahead, let’s review them – because we are in the midst of establishing a pattern.

First, we focused on the Ark (Aw-rone), where we saw that true worship has the Word of God at its heart. (Exodus 25: 10-16)

The transportable container that contained the Word of the Living God was at the very center of the worship was to be God’s own Word. The center was not an emotional expression of powerful music, smoke machines, subtle lighting or ecstatic utterances. In fact, the box for the Word reminded us of three important details, that can in the form of commands: Carefully make a vessel for the Word, Keep it with you, Make it for God’s self revealed testimony.

Second, we followed the ark instructions to the fashioned lid, called the “Mercy Seat” (Kapporeth), where we noted that true worship is meeting God at the only place we can today – at the place covered in His mercy (Exodus 25: 17-22).

Just as angels prepare to stand in His Holy presence, I can do no less. He is the author or my life and my universe. Time with Him and a life walked together is life on the highest plane. Again, the Word revealed three important details: The place of mercy is the Interface with God, two angels stood watch and observed God’s mercy, and the place was where God summoned people – God drew them to His forgiveness.

Third, we stopped to note the table of the “Bread of His Presence” (Lechem Panim), where we were reminded that true worship takes constant renewed effort (Exodus 25:23-30).

God wanted a table of bread, made by human hands, so that people would recall that HE IS PRESENT WITH THEM.  Another three details were offered: Protect the bread from slipping with a rim – for the symbol represents something very precious; Keep the symbol of bread always renewed, and it will take work to make, maintain and protect.

Finally, we gazed at the fashioned Lampstand (Menorah), and were reminded that true worship dispels lies and highlights truth (Exodus 25:31-40)

The seven branches were hammered and fashioned out of gold with three stated details: The seven showed completion, the almond blossom (shaqad) showed God’s watch care (shoqed), and the light emphasized the truth.

By the end of our study then, we determined that true worship is HONEST. True worship takes constant renewal. True worship is centered in God’s Word… and true worship is dependent upon God’s mercy expressed in the blood that covered us when Jesus gave of Himself. Every other kind of “worship” is just singing, talking…  just a show… and God isn’t interested in the productions we can put on in His name.

Chapter 26 skips other furnishings and moves rather to “The Four Coverings Over the Holy Place”

First, The ceiling linen is described (26:1-6) were placed directly over the Framework and comprised the actual roof or ceiling of the Sanctuary (26:1-6). They were in ten panels (five and five connected by fashioned golden loops), they were colored in red, blue and purple on white panels, the had images of cherubim on them.

Exodus 26:1 Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material; you shall make them with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman . 2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits , and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall have the same measurements. 3 Five curtains shall be joined to one another , and the other five curtains shall be joined to one another. 4 You shall make loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set , and likewise you shall make them on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in the second set . 5 You shall make fifty loops in the one curtain , and you shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is in the second set ; the loops shall be opposite each other . 6 You shall make fifty clasps of gold , and join the curtains to one another with the clasps so that the tabernacle will be a unit .

When you observe the detail concerning the linen ceiling, three items stick out: the number, color and characters. There is a danger here, and we need to acknowledge it. Bible students cannot assume that everything has a symbolic meaning, and in fact, doing so can lead to all kinds of error. We need to be careful to stay inside the parameters of what God indicates in the revealed Word. Yet, there are some generalizations that we can make:

Of the number: there are those who look for how TEN is used everywhere in the Bible and find things like the CORE COMMANDS of the CIVIL CODE. That is interesting, but I suspect the matter was as simple as dividing the curtains to allow them to assemble the ceiling in two parts because of the weight in the placement – I see little reason to look for meaning in the number. Having built one in the Wilderness of Judea some years ago, I found that adding too much cloth was nearly impossible, as the structure was delicate enough to require real care in the assembly. I personally think that God was warning them about the dangers and making the assembly easier. If that is NOT the case, I am lost on why there is specification to assemble them five and five with hooks.

Of the colors: Though I am uncomfortable with some efforts by Bible commentators to identify meaning in the colors white, red, purple and blue, the narrative takes pains to identify that the cloth does have a WEAVE PATTERN: The mention of three colors on the LINEN (Shesh – as in a six part weave) suggests that the linen was three white strands to each three colored – a six part pattern. (Its actual look is a matter of conjecture).

  • White: We could quickly show white in the post judged individuals of Revelation, and even see that the white linen was the “righteousness of the Saints” (Revelation 19:8), the garb of the armies of Heaven (Revelation 19:14), a garb of honor in Esther 8:15 and the garb of priests and Levites and even SINGERS on occasion in the Temple (2 Chronicles 5:12). There is no need to identify a symbolic meaning to color – but it is interesting that white is so common when it has to do with righteousness, judgment and the service of God in the priestly office. Obviously, the poetic use of the color was CLEAN (as in “whiter than snow” in Psalm 51:7). If the color is symbolic, it must relate to this idea.
  • Blue, Purple and Scarlet: Though these are very distinct colors in the modern world of fast dyes and exacting color blends, the technology of dye making was somewhat more elemental during the time of Moses. The three colors were not all predictably made, and all were made by extracting from the murex snail glands the dye base. The extreme expense of shucking 10,000 snails to get a thimble full of dye base made the color something extravagant and expensive. Red, blue and purple cloth was expensive cloth. We get the term “ROYAL BLUE” from the remembrance that only royalty could afford such fast dyes in the ancient world.

Blue: (Hebrew: Tekhayleth) Used more than 49 times in Priestly garb and curtains, this color was a marker for ROYALTY. The name “tekhayleth” comes from the word “shecheleth” for the shell creature.

Purple: (Hebrew: Argaman) With 38 references in the Hebrew scriptures, this was clearly used for the garments of KINGS and CHIEFS, as in the Midianite chieftains of Judges 8:26 –  this was a royal color.

Scarlet: (Hebrew: Shawnee) This color was mentioned some 42 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, most often in reference to SPLENDOR. Some make reference to Isaiah 1:18 and “though your sins be as scarlet” – but again it is not certain that this is the intent or that God had a specific picture in mind in the color.

What is the BIG DEAL with the ceiling linen? What seems very safe to conclude about the colors of the covering is that they denoted the ROYAL SPLENDOR and MAJESTY of God in the Heavens, and this was His place of meeting.

Israelites saw such colors surrounding the throne of the Egyptian Pharaoh. They knew the colors of POWER and SPLENDOR. The most shocking part of their new life in the wilderness was that Moses didn’t live in a majestic tent – just another place like theirs. He was ONE OF THEM, though he was the one that God designated as leader. God told the people to cover the place of MEETING WITH GOD in the colors of MAJESTY —  but why? There really is an importance to the detail. Let’s not skip past this footnote, let’s stop and ask a question here: What do you picture in your mind when you pray – Who captures the image of God in your thinking? Is He a sheriff, a father, a coach?

A.W Tozer wrote: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Our view of God patterns much of our thinking about everything else.

Do you think of God as “His Majesty”? Is He a RULER worthy of obedience and loyalty, or merely a friend and provider. In our efforts to pull our lives in line with the God revealed in Scripture, is it possible that we shaped Him and reduced His rank in our minds? In our democracy, is it possible we struggle now to recognize the right of Kings to require submission?

I love the phrase used in appointment ceremonies by those in the West Wing of the White House: “I serve by the order of and at the pleasure of the President.” Do we think that way about our God, or have we refashioned Him to be all about taking care of our desires, needs and wants?

If we were completely honest, some of us would admit the majesty of God and His transforming power are not what we truly want. I like the writer Tim Hansel, that reminded us in his book “When I Relax I feel Guilty” an insight of what most people want from God: “I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please.”  Transformation, worship and submission are all really scary concepts to modern man. The days of the kings are long past, and not remembered well. Yet, God offered a gentle reminder to Israel as they traveled that He was not there to be there buddy, magic genie, or supply sergeant. He was there as their KING – and He is ours as well.

The beauty, color and splendor of the cloth helped the people to sense Who God is.

I find the same thing can happen even today: Recently I read a story told by a naval chaplain: “When I was stationed in Italy, the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Chaplains came for a visit. One of our Chaplains, Lt. Neil James, was in charge of arranging for a personal visit to some of the large Roman Catholic cathedral down town. While the Chief of Chaplains and Neil were in this beautiful cathedral, there were also a fairly large group of American tourists. These tourists were in reverence and admiration at the workmanship of the chancellor area. It was completely silent as they felt the wonderment of God in this building. They were engulfed in the splendor of the moment. The Chief of Chaplains had gotten separated from Neil but he saw him standing by the Confessional Booths talking to a friend, a priest that served this church. The Chief of Chaplains raised his voice and called out and said “Neil”. The entire tourist group dropped to their knees at the Chancellor Rail.” That made me smile – people so overtaken in the beauty of the place that they sensed some innate duty of obedience.

You see, when we DEMOTE God in our thinking, we also find a way to let ourselves off the hook. Kings don’t live in SLUMS and they don’t hang with COMMONERS. We demote God in some way to lesson our responsibility to act in accordance with the VALUE God ascribes to us!

I have adapted something that Pastor Rod Buchanan wrote: “I often hear some Christians say, “Well, I’m just a sinner like everybody else.” I understand what they are saying. They mean that they make mistakes like everybody else…The problem with thinking of ourselves as sinners is that it can become a convenient excuse to sin. But, most of all, it (labels) us with an identity that is so far below how God sees us. … It is like calling someone a moron. Call them that long enough and they act like a moron and believe they are a moron — even if they are actually quite brilliant. (When a child of God, born again by a surrender to the love of Jesus and His full payment on Calvary calls himself) a sinner and you will not rise above that. You will not believe you can do any better. But call yourself a child of God who shares his glory and see the difference it makes in your attitude about yourself. I’m not just trying to pump up your self-esteem, I’m trying to get you to see the reality of who you are. In fact, God did this… Rather than simply continuing to condemn us, God exalted His children in Scripture. We will be invited to reign with him, for Paul wrote to Timothy: “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12). Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Meeting with a KING and being chosen by a KING to walk together leaves us higher than we were before He came into our lives.

We live life on a higher plain. We have a job to perform  – an assigned and chose role to play in the Kingdom. I guess the clear question is this: “What is it that God is asking you to do?” The natural follow up question is this one: “Are you willing to accept the responsibility to accomplish it?

I am stopping here at these curtains because I believe there is a story here. God wanted people to know HIM and He wanted that knowledge to CHANGE THEIR VIEW OF THEMSELVES, their purpose, their value.. It was because HE MADE THEM – and they were long overdue for a reunion that would remind them of it.  I recently read an article by Jill Carattini where she told this story: “A nurse named Melanie was on her way to work when something in the trash bin caught her eye. She was immediately taken with the possibilities in the discarded treasure. It was a cello, slightly cracked in several places, but nonetheless a discard of character, a piece charming to the eye. Her boyfriend, who is a cabinetmaker, also saw the cello’s potential. Together they thought it could be turned into a beautifully distinctive CD holder. The discarded cello was indeed old and it had been abandoned, though authorities are not sure why or how it ended up in the trash that day. But a most shocking revelation to the nurse (and arguably to the thief as well) was the fact that it was not merely an old cello. It is one of only 60 like it in the world made by master craftsman Antonio Stradivari in 1684. The 320-year-old masterpiece, valued at 3.5 million dollars, was stolen from a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra just weeks before it sat rescued in Melanie’s apartment with dreams of becoming a CD holder. In the music world ‘Stradivarius’ is an untouchable description. Neither scientist nor musician understand the difference between the ‘voice’ of a Stradivarius versus the voice of modern violins and cellos, but the distinction is real — and costly. They are the most sought after musical instruments in the world, works of art in their own right, coveted by collectors and players alike. To be in the presence of a Stradivarius is to be in the presence of something great — whether it is recognized or not.”…The thief put it on the trash pile, and even Melanie did not see the splendor of what she was holding. That is the way your life is. It has enormous value. The spiritual thief and enemy of your soul wants to dump you on a trash pile. Perhaps you don’t see your value either, but your life is especially precious to the One who made you. (From Rodney Buchanan, Sermon Central illustrations).

Should we not admit to some fear that if we really see God as He is, and see ourselves as He has declared us in our relationship with Him as Savior, that we will give up our victim status and take on the responsibilities of those who have been chosen by the King? Can’t we feel both the empowering and the pain of the lame man at Bethesda, as Jesus commanded him to “Rise up! Take up your bed and walk!”?

There is some relief coming in the remaining verses of our study. They will help us to “take cover” in this sense of exposed responsibility – but they will not remove it. Keep reading…Three more covers are atop the white linen.

The Curtains Of Goats’ Hair (26:7-13) referred to as the “tent” was placed over the Curtains of Fine Linen.

Exodus 26:7 “Then you shall make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle ; you shall make eleven curtains in all. 8 The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits , and the width of each curtain four cubits; the eleven curtains shall have the same measurements . 9 You shall join five curtains by themselves and the other six curtains by themselves , and you shall double over the sixth curtain at the front of the tent . 10 You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in the first set , and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in the second set . 11 “You shall make fifty clasps of bronze , and you shall put the clasps into the loops and join the tent together so that it will be a unit . 12 The overlapping part that is left over in the curtains of the tent , the half curtain that is left over , shall lap over the back of the tabernacle . 13 The cubit on one side and the cubit on the other , of what is left over in the length of the curtains of the tent , shall lap over the sides of the tabernacle on one side and on the other, to cover it.

The details of this curtain include the RAW MATERIAL, the SIZE of the woven material, and the ARRANGEMENT of the pieces. The color was brown – and the material was the INTELLIGENT weave of the GOAT HAIR that is used by Beduoin today in the desert. We are VERY FAMILIAR with this course material, and my wife and I had “goat hair” sewing parties at my house when the Tabernacle was under construction. Goat hair “breathes” when dry, but shrinks when wet to cause water to run off. It is dark brown, and it requires constant attention to be kept in shape. Mold is the enemy that can destroy it.

The hair is sheared from the GOAT. If you looked at all the times a GOAT is mentioned in Leviticus as an animal of sacrifice, you would find most related to the SIN OFFERING (Chata’ah – cp. 4:24,5:6, 9:3). All the others relate to either the special ceremony held on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16) or the cleansing of the Sanctuary and in conjunction with the ordination of priests (Lev. 10:16). At the Great Feasts (Dt. 16:16) that were ordered by God to be observed by all of the people – Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles – goats played a significant role. Particularly on the Day of Atonement, two goats were presented to the Lord – one was killed as a sin offering, the other preserved alive as the SCAPEGOAT (Leviticus 16:7-10). Keep reading, because the third covering and the waterproof fourth suggest God was going somewhere with the pattern…

The Rams’ Skin Dyed Red referred to as the Covering and was probably only on the top, and covered by a waterproof Covering of The Tahash – Perhaps Badgers’ (or Manatee, etc.) Skins was the final covering and it was this covering that was the only thing visible above the wall from the outside of the Tabernacle. (26:14). Exodus 26:14 You shall make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red and a covering of porpoise skins (tahash) above.

Goats and Rams were a part of the sin payment system God set up in the sacrifices long ago. Add to that the other curtains above it, and I think the picture isn’t stretched – God wanted the people to connect to His ROYALTY but be covered by the sacrifice. As a Pastor today, it is EXACTLY that which I want for my flock. I want people to stand beneath the Cross, but stop allowing the shame that Jesus paid for to shadow over your sense of CALL, COMMISSION and PURPOSE.

God left us a graphic picture of the pattern of worship in the Tabernacle, with each part showing something about both Him and us – leading us into His arms. When we meet Him, we contact His splendor and majesty, and that can be a painful experience – because we LOSE our right to be a victim, and take on the identity of one called by the King… that is a painful moment to the lazy follower.

Can we not rise up and see Who our God is today?

His name and His character are pronounced by the Heavens that He hurled into place (Ps. 19). His timepiece has no beginning and no end – for time itself is a creation of His own mind. He requires absolutely NOTHING to create something. His storehouses have inexhaustible bounty and unparalleled beauty. He is the very definition of POWER, MAJESTY, BEAUTY, INTELLIGENCE, WISDOM and LOVE. There is no way to measure Him – for He is limitless. There is no point to wrestling against Him – for His might is boundless. No struggle can overcome Him. No obstacle can retain Him. No foe can withstand Him. He is the King – and there is no one like Him. The prophet asked: “Who is like You, Oh Lord!” and then stood back in reverent silence as the universe beheld the truth – there is NO ONE like our God.

Because that is true… Can we not raise our eyes to see who we have been declared to be today by this wise and all knowing King? If our God is so great, and He has chosen us to be His people – can we not feel JUST A LITTLE BIT BETTER about our own identity. Smile – the King chose you. Try to look at the bright side, like these dear folks:

At a nursing home in Florida, a resident group was discussing ailments: “My arms are so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee,” said one. “Yes, I know, my cataracts are so bad I can’t even see my coffee,” replied another. “I can’t put my head back to drink because of the arthritis in my neck,” said a third, at which several others nodded weakly. “My blood pressure pills make me so dizzy that if I drink the coffee, I will pass out,” another went on. “I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old,” winced an old man. There was general agreement and a short moment of silence ensued. “Well, it’s not that bad,” said one woman cheerfully. “Thank God we can all still drive!”

Men and women, will we not be changed by encountering His MAJESTY under the covering of HIS ENABLING SACRIFICE of One slain on our behalf?