Grasping God's Purpose: ”The God that Will Be Known” – Exodus 7-12

When we left off in our story in the Biblical account of the Exodus, we were standing on a hill overlooking the ancient cities of Pithom and Ramses in Egypt. We were watching a drama play out between three men. First in our scene was the mighty ruler of Egypt, the Pharaoh of the most powerful nation of his day. He was a world leader with unparalleled strength on his continent — a man groomed for destiny. Standing before him, day after day, were two old men, neither powerfully dressed nor imposing in their appearance. One was dressed, in fact, in the garb of a Midianite shepherd. The other stood before Pharaoh with the meager arraignment of the slave classes.

From our perch, we watched as plague upon plague fell upon the Egyptians from Heaven to show them that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was not One among peers — but God above all that was worshipped by their society. The point of this whole section of the story, as we pointed out, was God on the move – exposing WHO He is to lost men. We kept asking the nagging question… “How will the whole world know our God?”

The fact is that we find ourselves in this time and place of history in sort of the same place Moses and Aaron did. We are surrounded by men and women who sacrifice all to the pagan gods of fortune, fame, power and pleasure. They do not think there is a God above them beyond the self-made and carefully sculpted gods they have bowed before. They worship money, celebrity, amusement and sexuality. Some barely mask their worship. It is fed by publishing houses, television networks, film makers and entertainment industry specialists the world over. Advertisers appeal to the sensual nature of these who are completely ensnared and often totally oblivious. Standing before the “mass of the powerful” are a few believers who know and love the God that created all things. What’s more, we were called to powerfully demonstrated Who this God is before those all about us. We were not called to JOIN them nor JUDGE them… We were called to REACH them.

We must remember that God has taken the time and energy to expose Who He is and how we can know Him. He began the process in the Garden after man sinned, and expanded the knowledge of Himself over time. Today, we will trace three paths that God wants to establish to Himself: He is at the end of each path… drawing men from their darkness into the warmth and light of His presence. The first path is one for the strong follower that needs to be led by a powerful God in the midst of dangers and disappointments; the second is the weak believer that needs to grow strong in his trust of God’s plan and direction; a third is the path for the nonbeliever that needs a relationship with his Creator.

Key Principle: God is reaching out to men and women – but they must learn to see Him through the dust the world is kicking up around them!

Go back with me to the story. Before we go too far, take out your Bible and look closely at these names. Go back to Exodus 6:13 and look at the words: Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and gave them a charge to the sons of Israel and to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt.” Mark the three characters – the so called three players: Moses/Aaron (the strong believers), the Israelites, though at times you will want to place Aaron here! (weak but growing believers), and the Egyptians and Pharaoh (unbelievers).

Now turn to Exodus 7:5 and look at God’s purpose in all that He did: “The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” The one purposeGod had in the whole story of the plagues is obvious: The formula ” … that you may know that I am the Lord … ,” or something similar to it appears eleven times (in Exodus 6:2, 6, 7, 8, 28; 7:5, 17; 8:10, 22; 9:14; and 10:2).

Now think through the plagues we read about last time we were together, did you also noticethree patterns: The story offers a way for God to show some important distinctionsGod makes with people. The Biblical truth is that God doesn’t see all people in the same way, nor does He deal with them in the same way. NO! God distinguishes:

In Plagues 1-3: The Lord distinguishes between his servants, Moses and Aaron, and the servants of the Egyptian gods, the magicians.

  • 1st Plague: 7:14-19. Water to Blood- Both the Nile and stored water was affected.

  • 2nd Plague: 8:1-15Frogs Everywhere!

  • 3rd Plague: 8:16-19 Lice, Sand Flea or Chigger Infestation

Although the Egyptian magiciansduplicate the first two plagues (7:11, 22), they cannot reverse the effects (8:8), and they cannot duplicate the third plague (8:18), finally recognizing “the fingerof God” (8:19). In each of these plagues, God acts through Moses and Aaron!

In Plagues 4-6: The Lord distinguished between his people, the Israelites, and the Egyptians.

  • 4th Plague: 8:20-32 Flies everywhere!

  • 5th Plague: 9:1-7 Death of the Livestock.

  • 6th Plague: 9:8-12 Boils on the Egyptian People and Animals not killed with the livestock.

While the first three plagues affected allof Egypt, the next three don’t impact the land of Goshen, where the Israelites live (8:22-23). In the fourth and fifth, God acts directly though Moses prays!

In Plagues 7-9: The Lord distinguished between Himself and everyone else.

  • 7th plague: 9:13-35 Hail.

  • 8th Plague: 10:1-20 TheLocusts.

  • 9th Plague: 10:21-29 Plague of Darkness

In these plagues, he demonstrates that “there is no one like Me in all the earth” (9:14); therefore, the severity of the plagues is without precedent (9:18, 9:24, 10:6, 10:14).

In The 10th plague: The Lord distinguished himself again in this plague. Moses (11:3), the Israelites (11:7) and the Lord (11:6) are all differentiated again.

  • 10th Plague: Death of the Firstborn Children and protected cattle (11:1-10).

The Lord executed the 10th plague Himselfand not through Moses or Aaron (12:12). Potentially all people could have been affected, but the difference He made was through the instruction of the blood on the door or tent post. This showed clearly that people had the opportunity to be saved from destruction, but they needed to demonstrate faith by obedience to God’s Word. Those who didn’t were treated very differently from those who did. Even weak believersthat obeyed were cared for by God.

This seems like a lot of review, but it is critical to summarize what God showed the people in order for us to see the Biblical point of the story. Careful combining of the ingredients of the text gives us the opportunity to taste extraordinarily of the richness of what God wants us to know. Haphazard observation makes poor spiritual food.

What God said in the ten plagues, as we studied them was this:

You can’t trust the daily source of your sustenance of the past (Nile); nor the source of your comfort and personal relief (frogs eating flies). Your superstitions (insects) are worthless and your economy a house of cards(cattle). Your education, health care and technology (magician’s boils) can’t save you from God’s power, nor can you have confidence that your leaders and family (death of first born) will be able to remain strong in the face of the troubles. Resist the God of the Hebrews and suffer! Follow Him and LIVE!

The gods of men are self-made and offer no ultimate rescue. The gods of our culture are NO DIFFERENT than the many gods of the ancient Egyptians. Look at the way our pagan gods fail us today!

  • Richesfade in the hospital room of the dying.

  • Celebritymeans little when the lights go down and the crowd disperses. This is the reason so many athletes find it nearly impossible to deal with the off season or an injury that takes them from the spotlight.

  • Poweris fleeting. At the dawn of my life, Americans once believed we would have decades of Kennedys in leadership over the country. Two cut down by assassin’s bullets, a third marked in scandal, a son crushed in a freak accident – and they were off the stage of leadership.

  • The god of entertainmentand pleasurerequires an ever committed legion of followers to pay greater and greater personal costs to stay entertained. Who doesn’t know a young person that has fallen into the electronic rabbit hole that eats all his energy and accomplishment in a video game? How many are so busy searching for a friend on Facebook that they cannot develop a single real and touchable human relationship – because they need to keep “channel surfing” for a better and more interesting friend.

Fortune, fame, power and pleasure are the gods made by men. They are hungry for more allegiance—they are insatiable. Sadly, in times of trouble, they offer no rescue. In times of JOY they offer no relationship. They are cold gods – stones shaped by human hands.

From the lessons of the plagues we can grab incredible truths:

Truth #1. God revealed to the strong follower (Moses) that even He needs to be led by a powerful God.

Watch the growth of Moses as he learned to trust God, and you will see a movie about growing mature in the Lord.

  • Look where Moses started! Exodus 3 records that when God called him, Moses could ONLY SEE HIMSELF and all his flaws and weaknesses. God reminded him: Exodus 3:10 “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” That is where we begin in our walk with God. He tells us He called us. He offers us a way to walk with Him and have a daily walk with Him. We jerk back, and He shows us that He is ready to walk with us.

  • Follow Moses forward. Exodus 4 tells of how God walked the weak beginner Moses through seeing His power – a stick comes to life and a hand withers… Moses learned that God isn’t unable to accomplish what He calls us to do with Him.

  • When Moses walked in on Pharaoh in Exodus 5, he had every reason to believe that God’s power would push Pharaoh to an immediate response. It did – but not a repentant one. Moses heard the PROMISES of God in the call… but he didn’t listen to the PROBLEMS of the call – the truth was already revealed that PHAROAOH WOULD NOT LISTEN! God said it, but Moses didn’t hear it.

Henry Blackaby once wrote, “When God was ready to judge the world with a flood, He came to Noah. When He desired to build a nation for Himself, He turned to Abraham. When He heard His children groaning under Egyptian bondage, He appeared in a burning bush to Moses. They were three of the most ordinary of men. But God had work to do, and He knew just who to do it with. God has always given His people assignments that are too big for them to handle alone, so that a watching world can see—not what we can do—but what God can do.”

  • Keep following Him, and you will see Moses growing up in FAITH right before your eyes. From the despair of the end of Exodus 5:22 “Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? 23 “Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.” Moses kept moving ahead. God was teaching him to trust.

Follow Him through Exodus 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 – 11 and into 12. Here is what you will read. Time and again “The Lord told Moses to go and speak” and a verse or two later… “And Moses went to Pharaoh and said…” He got it. He learned that God meant what He said. He learned that things looked out of control, but God was sculpting a plan.

WHY NOT JUST WIN ON THE FIRST ROUND? Because God isn’t just showing the world Who He is – He is teaching US as well. We need the troubles. We need the defeat… and YES, we need the despair. We need things to be tough to see God’s Word in action. WE NEED TO BE LED BY A POWERFUL GOD. Muscles are best seen when things break down and someone strong needs to push!

Truth #2. God revealed to the weaker believer that needs to grow strong in his walk that God was able to work through men to accomplish great things, even when it didn’t look like things were going well.

Maybe you don’t see yourself as a Moses. Maybe you don’t see the strength to move ahead based solely on God’s Word. It is good to also note that God’s power was not lost on the Israelites, they too learned that God is able and resourceful!

January 6, 1850, was bitterly cold in Colchester, England, a hard-biting blizzard keeping most worshipers at home. At the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Artillery Street only about a dozen showed up. When it became apparent that even the pastor would not arrive, an unlettered man rose and spoke haltingly from Isaiah 45:22, Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. Then the crowd dispersed, thinking the day’s service a loss—not realizing that a fifteen-year-old boy had ducked into the room to escape the snowstorm, and, hearing the sermon, had been converted.

Years later that boy, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, wrote: “Don’t hold back because you cannot preach in St. Paul’s; be content to talk to one or two in a cottage. You may cook in small pots as well as in big ones. Little pigeons can carry great messages. Even a little dog can bark at a thief, wake up the master, and save the house.… Do what you do right thoroughly, pray over it heartily, and leave the result to God.” (Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations and Quotes).

3. God revealed Himself to the non-believer that needs a relationship with his Creator.

Pharaoh was an arrogant and stubborn man. He saw himself as the King in his own land, and in his own life! He is used to getting his own way.

Many people come into a religious audience or church congregation in America today just like Pharaoh. It may be why some of you are listening right now. Your problems are buckling your legs, and you are hoping if you do right for an hour, God’ll back off.

Be careful! Proverbs warns us of the consequences of a hard heart. Proverbs 29:1 says, “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” That is pretty sobering.

Did you notice in Pharaoh’s example were responses of a Hardened Heart. Such a heart can continue to:

Defy God: The “Ignore it and Hope it goes away” method. Water to Blood (read 7:23-25):

7:23 Then Pharaoh turned and went into his house with no concern even for this. 24 So all the Egyptians dug around the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the Nile. 25 Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile.

This is a silent way of Defying God! Remember, Pharaoh’s initial response was, “Who is the LORD that I should obey his voice?” (Exodus 5:2)

Delay God: “We can obey God … tomorrow” method. Frogs (Read 8:8-10):

8:8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Entreat the LORD that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.” 9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, {that} they may be left only in the Nile?” 10 Then he said, “Tomorrow.” So he said, “{May it be} according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God.

So he said, “Tomorrow.” In Pharaoh’s reactions we see the mistakes that individuals make to day when things get difficult in their lives. In times of difficulty, they put God off. He puts off submitting to God until the last possible moment. “Tomorrow” he says will be soon enough.

Phil Yancey wrote: “Living in Colorado, I climb mountains. Colorado has 54 mountains rising above 14,000 ft and every summer I climb some of them. On a summer weekend in the mountains, I see casual hikers who have no idea what they are doing. In sandals, shorts, and T-shirts, carrying a single container of water, they start up a trail at mid-morning. They have no map, no compass, and no rain gear. They also have no apparent knowledge of the lightning storms that roll in many summer afternoons, making it imperative to summit before noon and head for the safety of the timberline (the elevation in a mountainous region above which trees do not grow).

My neighbor, who volunteers for Alpine Rescue, has told me hair-raising stories of tourists who must be rescued from certain death after wandering off a trail, falling, or simply being exposed to a sudden hailstorm or 30-degree drop in temperature. Nevertheless, regardless of the circumstances, Alpine Rescue always responds to a call for help.
Not once have they lectured a hapless tourist, “Well, since you obviously ignored the most basic rules of the wilderness, you’ll just have to sit here and bear the consequences. We won’t assist you.”

Their mission is rescue, and so they pursue every needy hiker in the wilderness, no matter how undeserving. A whistle, a cry, a flashing mirror, a bonfire, an “SOS spelled out in pine branches, a message of distress from a cell phone – any of these signals will cause Alpine Rescue to mobilize teams of medically trained searchers.

I have come to see the central message of the Bible, too, as one of rescue. In the book of Romans, Paul takes pains to point out that none of us ’deserve’ God’s mercy and none of us can save ourselves. Like a stranded hiker, all we can do it call for help.
A hardened park ranger could look at the efforts of Alpine Rescue as indulging the bad habits of irresponsible tourists. Shouldn’t they spend their energy instead handing out rewards to hikers who follow the rules? (“God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers,” prayed the Pharisees.)

When I posed such a question to my neighbor, she looked at me uncomprehending. “But our business is rescue!” she said. “Do you expect us to leave any hiker stranded in the wilderness? I don’t care who they are – they need help.” (“In the same way,” said Jesus, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents
.Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World, pp.154-55

Deal With God: “I will submit to God on my terms” method. Insects (Read 8:24-28):

8:24 … And there came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants and the land was laid waste because of the swarms of flies in all the land of Egypt. 25 Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” 26 But Moses said, “It is not right to do so, for we will sacrifice to the LORD our God what is an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what is an abomination to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not then stone us? 27 “We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as He commands us.” 28 Pharaoh said, “I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Make supplication for me.”

Pharaoh here offers twodifferent bargains to God and His followers. These proposals strangely parallel offers that Satan makes a believer today:

  • The first deal we will call the “Partial Obedience Deal”: You can serve God, but keep one foot in the world (8:25).

  • The second deal we will call the “Partial Commitment Deal” (8:28): Stay where you can see the world (8:28) You can leave, but please “leave with one eye still on Egypt”.

Dent Without Dedication(9:27-30, 35): The ever popular “convicted without commitment” method. Hail. (Read 9:20, 27-28, 34-35):

9:20 The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses… 27 Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ” I have sinned this time; the LORD is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones. 28 “Make supplication to the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail; and I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.”

Note that Pharaoh felt bad, but he made no change. Being convicted of our sins is not the same as being saved from our sins. You can sit in a service with tears streaming down your face because of the deep conviction of your sins, but that does not save you. It takes more than conviction – it take commitment. To be delivered from our sins we must commit ourselves to the Lord.

“You may be in the danger zone …..You have played fast and loose with your life, ignoring warning after warning. You have shoved aside essential truths for so long that your heart has become hardened. And the longer you harden it, the more difficult it will be to allow God’s light to finally break through.” [Charles Swindoll. Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication. (Nashville: Word, 1999) p. 188].

God is reaching out to men and women – but they must learn to see Him through the dust the world is kicking up around them!

The Making of a Leader: The Call of Moses

Leadership seems to be the subject of much of the Biblical narrative surrounding Moses. The beginning of his leadership was shaped by his “call” to the place in history he was to fulfill. If you are interested in the process of becoming a leader, Watch The Call of Moses on You Tube:

For information on ordering this DVD (US) email me, other countries email Kerugma Productions:

Who were priests and who were Levites?

The Priest and Levites of the Tabernacle

The operations of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) were in the hands of one extended family as mandated in the Torah. Instructions for the Levitical and Priestly offices are outlined in the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra) as follows:

Offerings   1:1 – 7:3

Priests  8 8:1-10:20

Regulations on Sacrifices, etc.   11:1 – 27:34

These important positions were given exclusively to the sons of Levi, the third son of Jacob (by Leah). Levi had three sons (in order of birth): Gershon, Kohath and Merrari. The importance of Levi is nowhere hinted in the Genesis record, in fact the later importance of Levi is an evidence against the total redaction of the Genesis text. For those who are critical of the text, an importance evidence of its early date is found in the lack of special words for Levi. Further, one wonder why Gen. 34:25-31 would have remained in the text if it were written after the formation of the Levites as a religious power. Genesis closes with a curse on Levi (Gen. 49:5-7) for the crime at Shechem! The term “Priest” is much more restricted than “Levite”. Priests were specific kinds of Levites, sons of Kohath through Aaron and his sons. As a result, all Kohathites were Levites, but not all Levites were Kohathites (some were Merrarites and others Gershonites, simply referred to as Levites). Additionally, all priests were Kohathites, but not all Kohathites were priests (since Kohath had other sons beside Amram the father of Aaron- see Ex. 6:18 for Izhar, Hebron, Uzziel; cp. Num. 3:17-20, 27-31).

Each of the Levites had specific work assigned to them in the maintenance and transportation of the Tabernacle:

-The Gershonites were charged with the transportation of the tent, curtains, hangings of the court and door, and the rope cords. When the camp was set up and the Tabernacle placed in the center of the camp, they encamped immediately outside the west of the structure (in the back). They were allotted two wagons and four oxen to transport the fabrics (Num. 7:7).

-The four families of the Kohathites included many not in the priestly line of Aaron. These were charged with the responsibility of carrying the Ark, Table, Menorah, Altars and vessels. All were covered with individual coverings (Num. 4:1-20) and were carried by hand, with no carts assigned to their family. The Kohathites encamped immediately adjacent to the south of the Tabernacle.

-The sons of Merrari were charged with the responsibility of transporting the wood and metal work of the Tabernacle. They moved the boards, pillars, sockets and cords of the courtyard in four wagons pulled by eight oxen (Num. 7:8). Their place in the camp was immediately north of the Tabernacle.

Exodus: How many people traveled to Mt. Sinai?

Problems with understanding the Exodus account may be partly our own making.

A foundational story of the Bible is the encounter of the children of Israel with their God at the “Mountain of the Law” (Exodus 19ff). Though the story is critical as a formational cornerstone for the Hebrews, and despite the fact that it is the most important event of the tiny Sinai Peninsula, the Exodus is shrouded in mystery. The timing of the events as well as the number of participants has been hotly debated.

The Bible record of the Exodus illustrates a debate in scholarly circles of the reliability of the Bible as a legitimate historical source. A great number of modern scholars have doubted the veracity of the record of the Exodus in the Bible. Critics are not difficult to find. Though they have highlighted some of the problematic aspects of the record, there are still a significant number of Bible students (like this writer) that find merit in the literal and historical approach to the story. In these academic circles there are scholars that believe the Biblical narrative be an accurate record of a real historical journey.

Read the whole text:

Understanding the Exodus from Egypt

Understanding the Wilderness Tabernacle

As many of you know, for about seven years, I directed a project to rebuild a full scale 1:1 replica of the Tabernacle of Moses in Israel. After thousands of visitors went through, we eventually had to shut it down due to the constant tensions in the region. Visitors bought a booklet when they went through that included the information in this article. 

Understanding the Wilderness Tabernacle

A replica in the Judean Desert


The Tabernacle or “tent of meeting” was the place where the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob met with His people (Ex. 25:8; Num. 17:7-8). It was a place for the leaders and people to come together in holy convocation and observe the necessary sacrifices instructed by God. It was built according to a design given by God himself (Ex. 25:9). The design was etched into Jewish memory as a place most significant, demonstrated by the forty-six chapters of the Hebrew Bible that are devoted to its construction and worship (13 chapters in Exodus, 18 chapters in Leviticus, 13 in Numbers, 2 in Deuteronomy). God instructed every facet of its construction, and ordered it set up exactly one year after the Passover that set the people free from bondage (Ex. 40:2,17).

Our replica at Kibbutz Almog is not exactly like the original built by Moses and the children ofIsrael, because there are many details that were not given in the Hebrew Bible to disclose the exact appearance of the original. Educated speculation was used to compose the replica we present to you. Using the Hebrew Bible, along with the teachings and ideas of the Sages, we have followed the pattern given as closely as we were able. Where debates and disagreements existed in the rabbinical record, we have simply chosen a position that seemed suitable, always in complete harmony with the sense of the Biblical text. The sizes conform to the Biblical account, as do the surfaces in appearance.

The Name of the Tabernacle

The term tabernacle is derived from a Latin form, and generally means “a tent or temporary dwelling”. Two Hebrew terms for the Tabernacle of Moses are used in the Hebrew Bible:

1. Mishkan (mish-kawn’): a residence or hut. This term is also used of an animal den, a shepherd’s temporary shelter, or a tent. This is the most common term for the Tabernacle in Exodus, and is taken from the primary root shakan (shaw-kan’), which means to reside or dwell within.

2. Ohel (o’-hel): a tent or place of dwelling. Used often in the Exodus account, this term is apparently derived from the word ‘ahal (aw-hal’), or “to be clear” (as in obvious) or “to shine”. Scholars believe the connection was the obvious conspicuous presence of a tent as a place of residence and hospitality in the desert that linked the term “conspicuous” with the term for a tent. The Psalmists appear to prefer this term for the place of God’s dwelling.

The Purposes of the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle was a place where God met at least three needs of the Israelites in their travels through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. First, the people had a need for a visual place of worship. When Moses went up into the mountain of the law, he did not return for forty days (Ex. 32:1) and the people grew impatient. They combined their golden earrings (the symbol of their former slavery) and fashioned a golden calf (32:4). Though a clear act of disobedience, it demonstrated that the people felt the need for something visual to illustrate the God they followed. After ten generations of slavery, fashioning elaborately decorated temples for foreign gods of the Egyptians, it is no wonder they wanted a visual of their own God. Had they only waited, they would have discovered that God understood their need, and provided the plans for the Tabernacle, complete with the Holy Ark of stunning gold.

Second, the Israelites also had a need for formation, to bond together as a people working on a common goal. The other parts of the Mosaic covenant gave the people instructions to obey, but nothing in the law gave them so clear an immediate common objective. This was a positive opportunity to become organized in a task. Every willing person could bring a gift (35:5). The skilled women could spin the tapestry; the skilled men could begin to build (35:10). Teachers and leaders were brought together to organize the effort (35:29-35).

A third need the Tabernacle met for the Israelites was also illustrated by the story of disobedience with the golden calf. With the extended absence of Moses (32:1), the people showed the need to see their leader meeting with God. They needed to sense the presence of God with them and with their leader. Truly this is recognized by God’s specific promise that He would meet with them there (Ex. 25:22).

The Tabernacle was not only a place where God met the needs of the people, but it was also a place where He tested the obedience of the people. There are at least two tests that can be observed. First, the Israelites were tested in their generosity. The newly set free slaves of the Exodus had spent their lives in a lowly state. They toiled hard (Ex. 1:11) without gaining most of the spoils of their work until the time of the first Passover, when the fearful Egyptians suddenly gave them great wealth (Ex. 12:32-36). They leftEgypt with the greatest combined wealth the children of Jacob had ever known. The Tabernacle was a place where God gave them the opportunity to give their first free will offering to Him (Ex. 25:2) out of their new found wealth.

Another test for the Israelites was one of obedience. The Tabernacle had a specific design that they were to follow and not vary (Ex. 25:9). The work was difficult (it required Divine wisdom – cp. Ex. 35:35), and the designs were intricate. Transporting such a building and all of the vessels would tax the people and their ability to move in the wilderness. Just the transportation of the Holy Ark was a major task. The existence of such a building as a symbol for people who were forced into a nomadic lifestyle was powerful.

The Journey of the Tabernacle

In function, the Tabernacle was a portable place of worship for the Israelites. Born out of the most difficult circumstances, the sanctuary was first erected in the desert, on the journey from the Mountain of the Law (Sinai), to the Promised Land. It was built by artisans who had been trained to build cities and temples for the Egyptian taskmasters. Because the people were on a journey, a permanent shrine was inappropriate, so this moveable version was to be the center of their religious life. The Tabernacle was dismantled for each leg of the journey, theArkand two altars were carried by the sons of Kohath (the Levite) and the remainder of it was moved by 6 covered wagons pulled by oxen (Num. 7).

From the time of the instruction at Sinai (some time between 1600-1300 BCE), to the building of theTempleatJerusalemby Solomon (950 BCE) the Tabernacle and its furnishings were central to the religious foundation of the Israelites. The Tabernacle stood in the desert at Kadesh with the Israelites for 35 years (cp. Amos 5:25), and the Israelite advances included the Holy Ark (Num. 10:33-36).

The Holy Ark with the Mercy Seat cover was very much a part of key events and battles. These events include the crossing over the Jordan River (Josh. 3:6); the march onJericho(6:6); the establishment of a worship center at Shiloh (1 Sam. 1:3); and the celebration of the conquest ofJerusalemby David (2 Sam. 6). It remained at least until theTemplewas built (circa 930 BCE). So related to the early victories of the Israelites, it was poetically recalled as “the ark of God’s strength” (Ps. 132:8). The power of the presence of God is nowhere more clear than the story of theArk’s travels after the Philistine’s took it in the battle of Ebenezer (1 Sam. 4-7).

Though not specifically described, the Tabernacle may have been first erected in the “Promised Land” at Gilgal (Josh. 4:19) after the Israelites crossed over theJordan River. The structure was then moved onto the Benjamin plateau at Shiloh, and remained so long it took on a sense of permanency (hence referred to as a “temple” – 1 Sam. 1:9; 3:3). With the heavier rains and colder temperatures of the mountains, some scholars feel the fabric tent, which had worked well in the desert, was retired in favor of a more durable structure. The excavations atShilohbear a northern flat area of the approximate size that may have been for that purpose.

Because so much of the specific design is part of the Hebrew Bible, the courts, posts and pieces of Holy Furniture can be approximated. Each part of the construction is detailed in both the Bible and Rabbinic writings.

Posts and Courtyard Enclosure (Ex. 27:9-15,17-19; 38:9-17, 20; 40:33)

(Court: Heb. khaw-tsare’, a yard from a verb form to surround, a stockade, a separation; post: Heb. ‘am-mood’, a stand as in a pillar or column from the verb ‘amad, to stand).

The first part of the Tabernacle that you can observe is the “Outer Court”, an area 100 cubits long (150 feet) and 50 cubits across (75 feet), a great rectangle barrier made of a hanging fabric fence five cubits (about 7.5 feet) high. On each side of the enclosure pillars of acacia wood, topped with caps of silver held the fabric. Rods or bands of silver were also connected to the wood.

On the south side of the courtyard, there was a hangings of fine twined linen (probably like meshwork) 100 cubits (150 feet) long. To hold the hanging, there were 20 pillars, with 20 bases of bronze (copper). The hooks on the pillars and their fillets (bands or bars) were made of silver. Opposite the south side, the north side of the courtyard enclosure was made in an identical way.

To the west (rear) side of the enclosure, a hanging of 50 cubits (75 feet) was made. To hold the hanging, 10 pillars were made with bases of bronze (copper). Again, the hooks and bands on the pillars were made of silver. Closed at the corners, this closed the rear from any entry.

On the east side, an opening that functioned as the door was centered (see below: “The Door to the Enclosure”). The opening was 20 cubits wide (or about 30 feet). From each corner 15 cubit wide hangings (about 22.5 feet) extended from the corners on either side of door. Three pillars held the hangings on each side of the door (each with sockets as other sides of the enclosure). All of the anchoring pegs of the courtyard were made of bronze (copper).

The Door to the Enclosure (Ex. 27:16, 38:18-19)

(Door: Heb. shah’-ar, an opening from the verb shaw-ar’ to split or make open)

The courtyard was oriented with its only opening to the east. This side was 50 cubits wide (75 feet) with a centered opening of 20 cubits (about 30 feet) that acted as the gate to the entire enclosure. The gate screen measured the size of the opening, and may have covered the opening, or may have been pulled away from the white enclosure.

The Biblical description defines a fine twined linen (“sheshet” cloth, probably open weave) door screen 20 cubits (30 feet) long and 5 cubit high (7-1/2 feet) that was embroidered in blue, purple and scarlet thread (probably wool). There are some rabbinic records that suggest this measurement was a summary and the entire screen was actually built at the height of 15 cubits (22-1/2 feet). The gate had 4 pillars set in 4 brass or copper bases, and hooks and fillets of silver.

The Brazen (Copper) Altar (Ex. 27:1-8; 38:1-7; 40:29)

(Bronze/brass/copper: Heb. nekh-o’-sheth, copper or something made of copper, later used of brass; altar: Heb. miz-bay’-akh, an altar, from the verb zaw-bakh’, to slaughter or sacrifice).

Upon entering the great enclosure, two of the furnishings stood out in the open air – the Brazen Altar and the Laver. Closest to the door was the altar. At 5 cubits square and 3 cubits high, the altar was made of acacia wood and overlaid with copper (brass). Built as one piece with the altar each corner had a raised area called a “horn” because of its shape.

A mesh grating was also made of copper. This grating was placed inside the altar halfway down from the top ledge. Made with four rings attached to its corners, it was inserted into the hollow area created by the four altar walls. The four rings probably aided in removing the mesh. Four copper rings were made and attached to the outside of the altar, placed on each corner. Poles were made of acacia wood and overlaid with copper, and could be used to transport the altar shell. Each pole was passed through two of the rings, so that the poles were on two sides of the altar when it was carried. Some have suggested the mesh could also be removed by using the poles. Pots were made to receive the ashes from the altar. Shovels, basins, forks and fire pans were also made of copper.

Rabbi Rashi, in a Talmudic commentary, says the altar sat upon a 1 cubit high base, and the altar walls (hollow in the center) acted like a container. Other commentators said the altar had no base at all.

The Laver (Ex. 30:17-21; 38:8; 40:30-32)

(Laver: Heb. kee-yore’, something round or bored like a pit, a washbowl, from an unused root koor’,  to dig through, a pot or furnace).

Continuing toward theHoly Place, but still in the open court, A copper washstand stood, made with a copper base. It was filled with water for the priests to wash hands and feet before entering the tent or before sacrificing on the altar. They washed their feet and their hands. The washstand was a large pot with 2 spigots. The Bible records it was made of the polished copper mirrors of the women that assembled at the door of the congregation.

Door (Screen) to The Holy Place (Ex. 26:36,37; 36:37:38; 40:28)

(Screen: Heb. maw-sawk’ , a veil or screen from a root word saw-kak’ , to entwine or embroider, by implication to cover, to protect).

Standing before the tent of theHoly Place, a screen veil hung as the door to the structure. Made of blue, purple and scarlet thread (probably wool) woven on fine twined linen, it was embroidered with needlework. It measured 10 cubits square (about 15 feet). Five pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold were supporting the screen. Hooks of gold protruded from the pillars to hold the screen in place. Each of the five pillars stood in its own base of bronze (or copper).

The Coverings

(Covering: Heb. yer-ee-aw’ ,a hanging curtain,

from the root yaw-rah’ , to be broken up).

Draped over the outside of the wooden enclosure around theHoly Placewe observe tent coverings. There is substantial debate over the number of fixed coverings that were placed over theHoly Place. The difficulty stems from the Biblical text’s detailed description of the linen covering, a detailed description of the goat hair covering, followed by single sentence descriptions of the last two coverings. As a result, it is possible that ram’s skin and tachash (an animal of uncertain description) coverings may be a covering for the transportation of the tent materials, or may be a description of the roof (as we are showing).

The Goat Hair Covering (Ex. 26:7-13; 36:14-18; 40:19)

(Goat hair: Heb. ay-zim’ plural form of she goat, used as goat hair).

Along the north, south and west sides, we can see goat hair woven into panels. In the Biblical description, eleven panels were made of goat’s hair, each panel 30 cubits long (about 45 feet) and four cubits wide (about 6 feet). Five of the panels were sewn together, and the other six were sewn together, leaving two pieces. Fifty loops were made (presumably of goat hair) along the edge of the two pieces corresponding to one another (each about 10-3/4 inches apart). Fifty copper (or brass) tasches (hooks or knobs) were made to clasp the pieces together. When buttoned together, it made one whole covering. The panel above the entrance door was doubled (probably 2 cubits wide folded over above the door and overhanging). The extra material pulled around to the rear of the building.

The Roof: The Ram’s Skin Dyed Red (Ex. 26:14a; 36:19a) and

The Tachash (Ex. 26:14b; 36:19b)

(Covering: Heb. yer-ee-aw’ ,a hanging curtain,

from the root yaw-rah’ , to be broken up).

The description of the erection of the Tabernacle simply states that Moses put up the tent and the cover (suggesting one cover over the linen and not the three additional coverings, cp. Ex. 40:19). Several rabbis argued that the third and fourth covering were on the top of the building as a roof, not covering the sides. In this case, they suggested that two materials were sewn together into one covering. It was only visible from the top of the building, not on the sides. One material was the ram’s skin that was dyed red, and made as a covering for the tent. No size or shape was specified. In addition, the “tachash” skin (transliterated because we are uncertain what it was) was to be used as a covering for the tent. This look of this animal is also uncertain. Some have suggested a grey waterproof and expanding material like the skin of a marine animal. Others have translated the skin as a manatee, a large shark, a beaver, and a variety of other ideas.

The Boards, Tenons, Sockets and Bars (Ex. 26:15-30; 36:20-34; 40:18)

(Boards: Heb. keh-resh’ , from a root to split off, a slab or plank, bench or board; Tenons: Heb. yaw-thade’ , from a root meaning to pin, peg or fasten; sockets: Heb. eh’-den , a base, a foundation of strength, from the root aw-done’, to rule or be in control; bars: Heb. ber-ee’-akh , bars from baw-rakh, to bolt (also used to flee away).

Stepping into theHoly Place, impressive gold covered walls surrounded you. The walls consisted of 48 beams were made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. Each beam was 10 cubits high by 1-1/2 cubits (about 27”) wide by 1 cubit thick (about 18”). The width of the boards is not stated in the Bible, but if the six boards go across the west, and the interior width of theHoly Placeis 10 cubits, the board width can be calculated as 1 cubit.  A groove was made in the bottom of each beam to create 2 pegs (called tenons). Twenty beams were placed in forty silver sockets on the south side, and twenty more beams were placed in forty silver sockets on the north side. On the western wall, six beams spanned the wall, with two additional beams set in the corners (a total of eight). Sixteen silver bases were constructed for this wall.

Holding the walls together, in addition to the sockets at ground level, were five strips (or bars) of acacia wood were laid horizontally across the beams on each side of the tent. The middle bar was continuous from one end to the other of the wall it was supporting, and may have been drawn through the boards (36:33). The strips were held on by metal rings, which were nailed to the beams. All of the beams and the strips were overlaid with gold.


The Linen Covering (Ex. 26:1-6; 36:8-13; 40:19)

(Linen: Heb. shaysh , white woven linen, sometimes used as alliteration from meh-shee’ ,  from a cocoon or silk).

Inside the Holy place, the view to the ceiling was stunning. Ten separate panels of fine twined linen were woven, each twenty-eight cubits long (about 42 feet) and four cubits wide (about 6 feet). According to the Biblical description, each panel had cherubim of blue, purple and scarlet embroidered on them with thread (probably wool). The look of the Cherubim is uncertain. Rabbi Rashi taught the cherubim pattern appeared like that of a lion and an eagle.

Five of these tapestries were sewn together, as were the second set of five, leaving two pieces. Fifty loops of blue were made on the edge of the end tapestry in each of these two sets of tapestries (each about 10 inches apart). Fifty clasps of gold were made. These threaded through the loops of the two sets of tapestries, so that the two sets were connected together.

Table of Bread of Presence (Shewbread)

(Ex. 25:23-30; 26:35; 37:10-16; 40:22-23)

(Shewbread: Heb. le-khem pan-im’, literally “bread of

the face”, used as bread ever before, in My Presence).

On the inside of theHoly Placewere three pieces of furniture: a table (on the north wall side), a golden altar (centered near the curtain), and a lampstand (on the south side). The table was fashioned of acacia wood and covered with gold. The table surface was 2 cubits long (about 3 feet), 1 cubit wide (about 18”) and 1-1/2 cubits high (about 27”). A molding of gold was made around the top like a crown. A second molding of gold was one handbreadth inside the outer molding. The edge was entirely framed in gold.

Four gold rings were made and fastened to the four corners at the legs. The rings were used as holders for the poles to carry the table. The poles were also made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. Plates (pans) for bread, dishes for incense, and bowls to pour libations (drink offerings) were made of gold. Bread was kept on the table, always present before God.

The Incense Altar (Ex. 30:1-10; 30:34-38; 37:25-28; 40:26-27)

(Incense: Heb. ket-o’-reth , a fumigation or sweet smelling perfume,

from verb kaw-tar’ , to smoke out occupants from a closed place)

In front of the veil to theMost Holy Place, an altar of acacia wood was made for burning of incense. Shaped as a box, it stood 2 cubits high, and had a surface of1 Cubit Square. Each corner had a horn extending from it, made as one piece with the altar. The altar was completely covered with pure gold. A molding (rim) of gold was placed around it, perhaps just below the horns (The Biblical record does not say exactly where, and Rabbinic opinion varies).

Two gold rings were made and attached to the corners along the molding (rim). These rings may have been on each side, or possibly on opposite corners. It is difficult from the narrative to tell if there were a total of two or four rings. These held the staves for transportation of the altar. The staves (poles) were also covered with gold.

The normal use of this altar was the burning of a sweet incense (described in Exodus 30:34-38) each morning and each evening when the lamps were trimmed. Though it was not to be used for any other incense, and no drink offering was poured upon it (as well as no meat offerings), there was a special offering one time each year that was not incense. Once a year the horns were sprinkled with the blood of the sin offering as an atonement symbol.

The Menorah (Ex. 25:31-40; 26:35; 27:20-21; 37:17-24; 40:24,25)

(Cups: Heb. gheb-ee’-ah , from an unused root meaning to be convex, a goblet or cup, the bell of a flower; knobs: Heb. kaf-tore’ , from root to encircle, the capital of a column or a disk; blossoms: Heb. prakh-ee’-ah , bud of flower or blossom, from the verb paw-rakh’ , to break forth as a bud or blossom).

Along the south wall stood a lampstand of pure gold, a menorah. Beaten from one talent (58 to 80 lbs.) of solid gold, it was made as a single piece with a base, stem, decorative cups, orbs (almond shaped) and flowers fashioned from the same block of gold. In design, it featured a center upright stick, which had three branches extending from each side. Each branch extended from an orb at the joint, and contained three embossed almond-shaped cups, a disk (orb), and a blossom. The center shaft displayed four almond-shaped cups, with knobs and blossoms (maybe four of each).

The top of the stand held seven lamps (six on branches and one in the center) that were filled with oil and lit with wicks. The lamps were filled with a special olive oil (beaten not pressed) and burned continuously. They were positioned to give light on the space in front of the menorah (toward the center of the room), with all wicks facing the center stem. The lamp snuffers and trays along with a set of tongs were fashioned from gold, and used each morning and evening to service the lamps.

The Veil of the Holy Place (Ex. 26:31-33; 36:35,36)

(Veil: Heb. po-reh’keth , a separator from an unused

verb root – peh’rek , to break apart, fracture.)

Guarding theMost Holy Placefrom view, there was a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet thread (probably wool) woven on fine twined linen. Adorning the curtain were cherubim, which have been pictured in a variety of ways (Rashi said they were like the figure of a lion on one side and a figure of an eagle of the other side.) Some rabbis held the curtain was a handbreadth thick (Shekalim 8:5), while others thought this to be the size of the pole and clearance of the curtain from its hooks.

The curtain was hung on 4 pillars of acacia wood, which were overlaid with gold and were attached with hooks of gold. Each pillar was placed in a base of silver.

The Holy Ark and Mercy Seat (Ex. 25:10-22; 26:34; 37:1-9; 40:20,21)

(Ark: Heb. aw-rone’ , a box or gathering place from verb aw-rah’ , to gather or pluck; Mercy Seat: Heb. kap-po’-reth , only used of the top of the Holy Ark, from the primary root verb kaw-far’ to cover with (originally a maritime word for covering a boat with bitumen), used in a figurative sense to appease or pacify.)

Inside theMost Holy Place, a solitary piece of furniture sat in isolation from the rest of the tented building. Surrounded on three sides by walls of gold, and on the fourth by the curtain adorned with guardian cherubim, The Holy Ark was essentially a wood box overlaid with gold. Made of acacia wood, it measured 2-1/2 cubits long (about 45”), 1-1/2 cubits wide (about 27”) and stood 1-1/2 cubits high (about 27”). Covered with a layer of pure gold both inside and out, a gold rim was fashioned around the top. (According to some commentators the artisan Bezalel made 3 boxes – an inner gold box, a middle box of plain wood and an outer box of gold).

On the outer corners, four gold rings were cast for the ark and placed on each corner. (Rashi said they were placed on the upper third of the ark. Ramban said the rings were fixed at the bottom corners). Two carrying poles were made of acacia wood, and covered with a layer of gold. The poles were placed through the rings and were not to be removed.

On top of theArk, a lid of pure gold was positioned. Its size matched the surface area of the box (2-1/2 cubits long and 1-1/2 cubits wide). The lid was beaten from a block of gold, and had two gold cherubim (keruvim) on top. Facing each other from the two ends, the wings of the cherubim were spread upward over the lid of the Holy Ark. The cherubim faced each other, but their faces inclined downward toward the lid. The exact appearance of the cherubim is not known. Some Commentators wrote the cherubim facial features were like those of a child. Still others interjected that one cherub was male and the other one was female, both childlike in appearance. Some commentators suggest a distance of ten handbreadths between the lid surface and the top of the outstretched wings.

The lid was referred to in the Hebrew Bible as the “mercy seat”, where the Shechinah (manifest presence of the Most High) met with the High Priest to offer instruction for the people. The Bible says theArkcontained the testimony (stone tablets) of the covenant.

Exodus 24 Learning the Value of the Community of Leaders

Following the Amalekite war, Moses went through the painful but profitable experience of correction by Jethro, his father-in-law. Moses placed himself in a position of unrealistic expectation, trying to accomplish more than anyone could expect – a mistake common to driven leaders. The result was an overuse of his abilities, a slow draining of all of the creativity and leadership vision by the wearing grind of daily administration. Jethro told him to delegate administration, and in those words, God used a man that could get Moses’ attention, and get him to change the pattern of his work habits to refresh him and pull him back on track (Ex. 18:24). After the departure of Jethro, Moses brought the people to the edge of the Mountain of the Law, as God instructed. The time came that would later be memorialized in Shavuot (or “the Feast of weeks”), a holy convocation instructed in Levitical law (Lev. 23:15). This feast was an agricultural celebration, but its true importance is underscored in the Biblical instruction that included it as one of three mandatory offering appearances before the Lord annually (Dt. 16:16). God did not want this day forgotten! This was a day He gathered the children of Israel and God blew a shofar (ram’s horn trumpet) before them that shook their camp (Ex. 19:16)! God has seldom made Himself so obvious in the affairs of men – this day was not common! They had already traveled fifty days from the departure from Egypt (Ex.12: 15-20) to the time of the arrival at the mountain (Ex. 19:1). The term “fifty days” was captured in the word “Pentecost”, still a holy memorial each year among observant Jews recalling the encounter with God at the mountain, and the giving of the law. The Sabbath days between Passover and Pentecost were counted according to God’s instruction (Lev. 23:15).

God invited seventy elders and a specific guest list of leaders to the mountain to worship Him (Ex. 24:1). They were not allowed to move up the mountain with Moses, but they were instructed to come together for a corporate time of reverence (the Hebrew verb shakhaw means to bow before, prostrate one’s self, or revere, Ex. 24:1) some distance away from Moses. Moses prepared himself for the meeting. He rose early in the morning, wrote down the words God had given him in the previous encounter, raised up an altar and standing stones for the tribes, and sprinkled the blood of offerings on the altar. He read over the words he had written before the people, and they affirmed their commitment to God’s holy covenant. He took the elders and leaders up to the mountain.

The event that followed was unprecedented in human history. God passed by before the men, and they beheld a brightness that seemed like the sun. The mystery in the event was not simply that they gazed upon the path of God, and stood before a striking brightness. The shocking part of the story was their response! They were called there to worship, and yet the text reveals they “saw God, and did eat and drink.” What a response! God came, and they had a banquet together.

At a certain time in the meal, God instructed Moses, “Come up before Me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tablets of stone…” Moses arose, and took Joshua with him (Ex. 24:13). God made it clear that Moses was to appear alone (24:2) and either Joshua stopped some distance away or was considered necessary by God to help Moses in and out of His holy presence. The text does not say clearly, and only Joshua, Moses and God know for sure. One thing is certain: Joshua learned an important lesson in his preparation to the lead the nation that day.

Having grasped that intercession by a leader was essential, it was obviously not the whole training course. Joshua saw something new at the mountain of God’s appearing. He learned a graphic lesson that Moses heard from Jethro weeks before this encounter. Joshua saw a picture of a communal team that honored God. He ate with the others, drank with them, and communed with them. He saw a team leadership formation in corporate worship. There is a time for personal time with God, but there is equally a time for team.

The passage not only stemmed any uprising concerning the veracity of God’s authorship of the commandments (some might have thought Moses was making the commands up on his own), but it also gave the elders the opportunity to commune together and feast and worship. What an important lesson: Leaders need to lock arms with other leaders. We are not called to be “Supermen” that face the forces of darkness alone, depending solely on our “superhuman” ability or even the work of the Spirit within. We need each other, and grow when we can worship corporately, not only individually. We are stronger in communion, not in “Lone Ranger” mode.

Moses learned this in a rebuke by an older priest and relative. Joshua avoided the painful experience of sapping his own strength and “burning out” by observing the incredible benefit of corporate strength. The team can worship together, eat and drink together, and help to strengthen one another! It is significant that we have no Bible record of Joshua hoarding power, nor of him taking on responsibility that God had not ordained. His record of leadership and delegation is impressive. He may well have grasped the lesson at a banquet on a mountain!

The Divine wisdom penned out in the words of King Solomon recall: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they can have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, KJV)

Joshua’s training included the graphic display of the advantages Solomon later cited. The wise king reminds us ‘Together-

We can accomplish more, so the rewards are greater (Eccl. 4:9).

We can assist and rescue one another, so the endurance is greater (Eccl. 4:10).

We can comfort one another, so the encouragement is greater (Eccl. 4:11).

We can defend one another, so the strength is greater (Eccl. 4:12).’

Often leaders fall into the trap of believing their own press, subscribing to the affirmation of the positive view of their followers and not remembering their own weaknesses. It is part of the fabric of our makeup. We lead – they follow. We know – they don’t. It is a dangerous tendency to distance ourselves from the accountability that helps refocus and redirect us. We need other leaders. Joshua could have duplicated Moses’ mistake, but in this awesome display God accomplished another step in his training. It all happened at the buffet table on the mountain!

Exodus 17:8-14 Learning the Power of Intercession

Out of the story of the Amalekite attack in Exodus 17 came the first of seven great training lessons to the “Chief in the making” – Joshua. Moses faced a tough situation, and Joshua watched the solution unfold. He was able to pick out what any leader needs to quickly understand: Everyone can see the problem, leaders devise solutions. That is what the people needed, and that is what Moses provided. Moses focused immediately on the six things a leader must know to make good decisions, and Joshua got the benefit of seeing the lesson close up:

  1. Leaders must know the circumstances, the situation they are faced with. Nobody conquers a demon they don’t know about. Every significant move of a leader is preceded by an accurate assessment of the circumstances that they face. (17:8).

  2. Leaders must know the enemy they face. Sometimes reconnaissance is necessary to gain knowledge (Num. 13 and 14), as knowledge of the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses make all the difference in battle. Whether physical or spiritual, battles are won or lost often on the enemy assessment. Understand where and how an enemy will attack is essential to preparing defenses that will withstand his onslaught (17:9).

  3. Leaders must know their resources for problem solving. Foolish leaders tackle every problem on their own. Wise leaders assess their own team to meet the demand of battle (17:9).

  4. Leaders must understand that even the physical problems of God’s people are fought in Heavenly places. This is a critical area often neglected. Paul later addressed the physical disturbances to his work with the truth that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers” (2 Cor. 10:3ff). Moses didn’t need a simple head count and weapons assessment, he needed to bow before God and intercede for the battle. (17:10-13). The upward palms have long been understood by rabbis as a position of prayer. In the Hebrew world of long ago (as in Orthodox traditions today), prayers of supplication were symbolized by holding the hands palms up. In times of extreme need, the arms were lifted upward and palms were held up, a position probably referred to in the instruction of Paul to Timothy (1 Tim. 2:8). If understood in this way, there was nothing mystical about the hands of Moses, but POWER lay in the intercession of the leader. What a great lesson for any leader that gets caught up in the mechanics of the problem to the exclusion of the spiritual reality!

  5. Leaders must be good followers (17:9-10). Look at the unquestioning obedience of Joshua. Moses said, “Jump!” Joshua jumped. It is worth highlighting that Joshua was not prepared to lead if he was not prepared to follow.

  6. Leaders must acknowledge where true victory comes from. Note the instruction at the end of the battle (17:14). Joshua was to be brought in to hear the specific promise of God; He would cut off Amalek from the earth because of this attack. Joshua needed to hear it, and understand that any work that he would do in that cause was not his victory, it was God fulfilling His promise. Leaders need to feel responsible to faithfully execute the work of God, but not to own the work. It is God’s work, and we are privileged to be a part of it.

In the final analysis, Joshua needed to see the power of an interceding leader. The troops can do the work, but they will easily believe that it was at their hands that victory was attained –because of their skill, their ingenuity, and their power. They, of course, would draw the wrong conclusion. It is only an interceding leader that can see the truth.

Exodus 30:34-38 The Incense of the Altar

The four ingredients to the incense may be a clue to what kinds of prayers God recieves:

  1. Galbanum – which was a bitter gum resin and Rabbi Shelomo ben Yitschak comments on this passage that galbanum is bitter and was included in the incense as a reminder of deliberate and unrepentant sinners. Galbanum (CHal-ban-um) is collected from the outside of a tree like pine sap that naturally oozes to the surface. Some rabbis noted that it was 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. Others noted that God made the tree with so much sap that it always had much to “give away”. I use this to indicate that some of the prayer we offer oozes out of our heart because of stress and pressures that we need to our out willingly to God.
  2. Onycha – which is probably operculum which comes from conchs from the Red Sea and I am guessing could possibly be representative of prayers from the “depths”… Exactly, 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!
  3. Myrrh – is tapped from the commiphora tree and I have not an inkling of what it represents, but am guessing it might have something to do with it being very expensive, sometimes more than gold. Myrrh is tapped 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.
  4. Frankencense – is tapped from Boswelia trees and is milky white in color.  Other than that I have no idea what to do with it…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 Cityshops 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.

Exodus 15-17: The God Who Provides

Me_and_the_camel God sometimes shows Himself in the most unlikely places to make a simple point to His followers – there have never been “God-forsaken” places or people. The stage for this lesson in Scripture was set amidst a brewing conflict with the desert tribal people called the Amalekites. The children of Israel were already tired by the beginning of the Amalekite conflict (Ex. 17:8). Part way through the fifty-day journey from Egyptian territory to the mountain of the law (recalled now in the 50 days between Passover or Pesach and Pentecost or Shavuot) they already neared exhaustion.

God’s Provisions in the Past

They had experienced God’s provision at the healed bitter waters of Marah (Ex. 15:23-26) and the refreshing oasis of twelve pools and ten palm trees at Elim (Ex. 15:27), yet they were compelled to move on to the mountain where God planned a meeting with Moses on their behalf. To the mountain they trudged, sheep and goats, carts and children.

Suffering hunger in the dry and barren wilderness, the Bible records that God rained upon them first bread, then quail from the heavens to fill their stomachs (Ex. 16). Their incessant complaining and overt disobedience led even God to ask, “How long will you refuse to trust Me?” (Ex. 16:28). Yet God continually provided, and the manna in a pot became the first of many memorials the children of Israel made. The pot was later placed beside the tablets of the law that Moses received from God and kept in the Tabernacle (Ex. 16:34).

Img0164 The Current Crisis

Journeying into the sand-filled fanlike fingers of the Wadi Feiran system of the Sinai desert (Ex. 17:1-7), a connected system of valleys with water in underground rivers beneath, the Israelites arrived depleted of water in their canteens and very thirsty. Though God had shown them His might at the parting of the Sea, the cloud and pillar of fire, and numerous supply demonstrations, the people again panicked.

The huge uplifted granite mountains of the Sinai peninsula sloped above them, and God directed Moses to take the elders to the slope of a mountain he knew well from his shepherding days (cp. Ex. 3:1). This was the shepherding territory of Jethro the Midianite, the father-in-law of Moses. Moses did not doubt that God could and would supply the water necessary for the people. He also knew how to get the water, because he lived in this desert before.

In areas of that desert where the metamorphic rock (sand stone and the underlying granite beds) meet sedimentary rock there are strata deposits of water. Shepherds of the ancient world, as the Bedouin Sinai dwellers today, knew exactly where these deposits of water awaited their needs. Even as we travel through the desert today on camel back through this Sinai landscape, we still see the places where the calcified deposits on the walls of the great Wadi Feiran have been pierced by sticks and rocks to access the water deposits that exists in those pockets behind the walls.

Moses knew the method, and had he had the time to look carefully, he could even predict with fair accuracy the location of water deposits. The appearance of small mosses and damp surfaces can be signs of water deposits. He was, after all, a skilled shepherd from the region before he led the children of Israel.

A modern discovery of this phenomenon by a westerner illustrates what a Near Eastern shepherd of this region knows well. This selection is taken from records of the British governor of the Sinai region of the 1930’s, Major C.S. Jarvis – today a part of the “Palestine Exploration Fund” records:

“Several men of the Sinai Camel Corps had halted in a dry wadi (river bed) and were in the process of digging about in the rough sand that had accumulated at the foot of a rock face. They were trying to get at the water that was trickling slowly out of the limestone rock. The men were taking their time about it and Besh Shawish – the color sergeant – said, “Here, give it to me”. He took the spade of one of the men and began digging furiously in the manners of NCO’s the world over who want to show their men how to do things but have no intention of keeping it up for more than a couple of minutes. One of his violent blows hit the rock by mistake. The smooth hard crust which always forms the weathered limestone split open and fell away. The soft-stone underneath was thereby exposed and out of its apertures shot a powerful stream of water. The Sudanese, who are well up in the activities of the prophets but do not treat them with a vast amount of respect, overwhelmed their sergeant with cries of ‘Look at him! Prophet Moses’!”

God commanded Moses to break the crust of deposit on the surface of the rock and cause the water beneath, pent up from rains of years gone by, to break forth on the dry landscape (Exodus 17:6). What a miracle God demonstrated at the rock! Though it is possible to get water in this way from the desert, the amount of water necessary to care for the children of Israel was excessive and unprecedented. Major Jarvis’ team had only a few gallons compared to the stream that would have cared for Israel’s thirst. Think about it, in order for such a large cask of water to have been stored in the rock ledge deposit, the rain waters would have begun to accumulate long before Joseph had even led the children of Israel into Egypt!

Mvc002sGod knows your need before you do

God may have instantly stored the necessary water, but there is no reason to believe He did not begin to supply the answer long before the question! It may well be that hundreds of years before rains began to form in the water deposit so that it was ready for God’s thirty children. It would be just like our God to create the solution before we face the problem. Is that not like His character?