WEEK 7, 2018 — Through the Bible, Getting to Know God

DAY ONE – Exodus 14-18

Israel is out of Egypt, and Pharaoh is a raving lunatic! How could he have allowed such a thing? The Israelis did all the heavy lifting for Egypt, and now they are gone; they must be brought back. So Pharaoh amasses his chariots, captains, army and whatever else to pursue and recapture Israel. Bad move. On their part Israel is freaked out; they can see the Egyptian army in close pursuit, and they are quickly running out of time. There is no way of escape–at least none visible; and they cry to Yahweh God while they rail against Moses and Aaron. The Israelis feel totally powerless after decades of slavery to resist their tormentors, let alone deliver themselves from them. But God IS in control… Exodus 14:14-18  Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall be still.” 15  Yahweh said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward. 16  Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go into the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17  Behold, I myself will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall go in after them: and I will get myself honor over Pharaoh, and over all his armies, over his chariots, and over his horsemen. 18  The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have gotten myself honor over Pharaoh, over his chariots, and over his horsemen.”  God has already gotten victory over the ‘gods’ of Egypt. They were no help to the Egyptians during the nightmares of the plagues. NOW God has determined to extend that victory over Pharaoh himself so that no doubt remains as to who the LORD is! Not only that, but Israel must also be retrained and brought to a new reality to go with her new status. Following the victory of the Red Sea, Moses led Israel in a song of praise to Yahweh… Exodus 15:11-13  Who is like you, Yahweh, among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 12  You stretched out your right hand. The earth swallowed them. 13  “You, in your loving kindness, have led the people that you have redeemed. You have guided them in your strength to your holy habitation. This is the REDEEMED nation, bought back from slavery by God to become a free people who live in the Presence of Almighty God! No one will be able to mess with them if they live in the relationship that God is offering them: “I will be their God and they shall be my people.” So the Red Sea incident is LIFE to Israel and DEATH to Egypt. It is the final rite of passage, as Paul also explains: 1Corinthians 10:1-2  Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2  and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea… Redemption and baptism seal the deal. Israel now belongs to God and must learn to live as this newly recovered nation under the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God’s COVENANT is now in full effect for an entire nation of people who will never be the same as they live in the community of nations.  Their God sets them apart and makes the distinction in no uncertain terms.

So Israel’s song is our song, and it begs to be sung at regular intervals to remind us with Whom we are in relationship. Exodus 15:1-3  Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to Yahweh, and said, “I will sing to Yahweh, for he has triumphed gloriously. The horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. 2  Yah is my strength and song. He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3  Yahweh is a man of war. Yahweh is his name. We go forward; we have a destination; our God is leading us; He has always proved victorious and will again. What part of “don’t be afraid” do we not understand? It’s time, and it’s time NOW. The kingdom “suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” Men and women of God, move forward in His Presence!

DAY TWO – Exodus 19-21

Living in a pagan culture has diminished Israel considerably. Being slaves to a nation of pagans has further eroded their sensibilities. Among other things, the sanctity of life is no longer understood clearly. So three months after God has delivered Israel from Egypt they arrive at the Mountain of Sinai, where the Lord intends to introduce Himself in a more personal demonstration. He has Moses sanctify the people and prepare them to meet God, after a fashion. On the third day a trumpet blast, long and loud, announces the momentous event, and the mountain begins to tremble as smoke and fire descend on the mountaintop. The blast continues, becoming louder and louder until everybody is trembling and wondering what’s next. With commands and warnings, God summons Moses and Aaron to the mountain and begins to speak. The discourse that follows is commonly called The Ten Commandments, although they are embellished with additional instructions and explanations. In essence, Israel is beginning over again, this time with Yahweh present and active among them to give them distinction and status among the nations. When the Lord is finished with the ceremony, Moses will possess two stone tablets with the 10 commandments etched in them by God’s finger (so to speak). A new understanding of life and relationships will grow out of these instructions, and a new measure of accountability will attend to them. A new degree of civilization will grow out of godly wisdom and training as they move toward their physical destination. It is understood that Yahweh God, who claims to be THEIR God, has done a wonderful thing and intends to see it through by remaining among them.

The instructions guide their relationship with Yahweh and with each other. They will learn the value of life and how to maintain civility in the culture. They will understand when and how to punish unacceptable behavior. Their sense of longevity will grow along with their knowledge and understanding of Yahweh. The end game is that they will procreate a long line of priests and kings who will accomplish God’s will on earth and further Yahweh’s future plans for mankind. For now, however, much of that remains obscure. There is too much to be grasped so soon, and coming generations will need constant reinforcement by Yahweh to keep from scuttling His long-range plans. God’s wisdom always has an invitation to go deeper into His wonderful nature and work with Him to sustain His efforts to salvage mankind and fulfill eternal purposes in His creation. We are privileged to receive His grace and mercy which results in salvation and a rich future with Him. The man of God wisely counsels– Psalm 90:12  So teach us to count our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 

DAY THREE – Exodus 22-24

There are foundations upon which all societies are built. The Judaic tradition was pieced together from the instructions Yahweh gave through Moses to the people. It was a powerful beginning. First the plagues of Egypt caused the Pharaoh to release the entire nation of Israel to Moses to lead them away. Then at the Red Sea, with no place to go and the Egyptian army close behind, Israel saw the sea open and the water form two walls on either side of a dry passage through the sea. When the Egyptians tried to follow them across, it wasn’t dry anymore!  Now here they are at Mt. Sinai, and the top of the mountain is on fire! Moses is up there with God, and he has witnessed to the people all that God has told him concerning their new life as a free nation. God is a nation-builder, and He fashions the laws and customs of a land to reflect His sense of justice and righteousness, revealing in the process that He is a gracious God. It’s obvious that Yahweh God wants us to be like Him as much as possible. Foundations included property rights, how to live with and among each other, how to regard others fairly and righteously, and how to resolve differences without perverting justice. Once again it’s obvious that God doesn’t show partiality among those who are following and living by His precepts and statutes. He wants all to have a fair shake at life and enjoy the best we can. This is a good God. As Moses received from Yahweh all the ‘law’ for the people he wrote it down and preserved it for posterity. Soon the nation would leave Sinai and continue toward their destination which, four hundred years earlier, had been promised to Abraham and his seed. God is doing everything He said He would do. The people are asked only to fear and obey Him, especially the Angel He would send with them on the journey. When they arrive at their place, the Lord Himself will help clear out the land, remove the current inhabitants and purge the evil that has gone on there for generations. Then they may settle in peace and enjoy what God has done!

The whole Bible reveals the Creator God who made everything and has persisted throughout the millennia to save mankind from a disastrous end of everything. Salvation is everywhere we look, if we are looking for it. God is behind all that is good, if we are considering the good. The natural world isn’t natural; it’s spiritual, for it contains the stamp of God’s creative wisdom everywhere we look. He is All in All, and I take time each day to worship and give thanks. So our ‘journey’ continues into the known future.

DAY FOUR – Exodus 25-28

Religion is God’s gift to man. After Adam and Eve rejected God and were disconnected from their True Source of life, God said to them, “Without shedding of blood there is no remission (or, forgiveness).” That occurred when He had to kill an animal for its skin to cover the first couple, who now knew they were naked. That was the beginning of religion–God’s requirements  to create a bridge for mankind to come to Him. From that time to Noah, very little was revealed by God as to how religion would be carried out on earth. When Noah came out of the ark, he built an altar to God and gave thanks. In return, God added religious context by stipulating the blood theme in religious covenant. People were not to consume the blood of a sacrifice; it was to be poured out as an offering. They were not to eat meat strangled with the blood still inside; it was to be drained from the sacrificial animal. Why? Because ‘the life is in the blood.’ This is what God said. We can thus conclude that all religion that God approved was initiated by Him, not by people. And now we are at Mt. Sinai with the Israelites, and God is downloading to Moses the ONLY religion He ever gave to the world, which means that the hundreds of religions we see among the peoples of the world are the creations of men, not of God. Since all of mankind has historically maintained some worldview that includes God, or god, or gods, religion has proliferated among almost all societies and nations, even if in primitive form. But be clear: the ONLY religion given by God to men is Judaism, for in it is contained all the revelation of God’s salvation being offered through Abraham and his descendants. Religion is God’s way of preparing mankind for His salvation, and Judaism was the beginning of that revelation. It would culminate with Judaism’s replacement, which is salvation through a Person rather than a religion! Jesus would become THE BRIDGE God would offer the world to replace mankind’s efforts to placate God or find a way to come near to Him.

Since we live in a visible, external world, all the religious instruction contained in these chapters creates a visible representation of God’s requirements and can be carried out in a visible and perfunctory manner. So Yahweh God has created a means of access and reminder with repetitive actions that will hopefully keep His people in a healthy relationship with Him…and all of this without them ever really seeing God as He is. External religion will have to suffice until the next part of the plan unfolds. Faith and obedience were needed then, and they are needed now.

DAY FIVE – Exodus 29-32

There is always a beginning. These chapters describe the beginning of Judaism, God’s gift of religion to the descendants of Abraham. However, what is begun as represented in this story is to continue throughout the generations until and unless God Himself provides something better. We repeat with emphasis that Judaism is the ONLY religion ever given by God to the world. All other religions are imposters and attempts of mankind to appease God or be acceptable to Him.

The first noticeable action in this story is the killing of a bull. And that’s only the beginning. Animals will be slaughtered daily throughout the generations by the designated priests of Yahweh to demonstrate the deadly effects of sin on mankind. To also demonstrate the hope associated with their religious observances, Yahweh designates Aaron (Moses’ brother) as high priest, and his sons as priests who serve at God’s tent of Presence, commonly referred to as the ‘tabernacle.’ Their lineage will be successor priests in coming generations. An elaborate ceremony is instituted by God to initiate their priestly service. It is external, observable. The people will SEE what is going on and hear the meaning as explained by Moses.

  1. The priests of God will wear special clothes for their service.
  2. They will operate in a physical facility whose very design, materials and dimensions are specified by Yahweh.
  3. They will be cleansed and anointed in special ceremonies.
  4. They will carry out the sacrifices and offerings–many different kinds–as specified by Yahweh.
  5. They will be set apart from the other tribes as God’s representatives for service.

As to the sacrifices themselves, they will consist of animals, grains, oil, spices, etc. They will occur annually and daily. There will be incense and smoke. Lamps will be lit throughout the night. The sounds of animals being slaughtered may be observed every day. The sights and smells of offerings being burned and otherwise administered before God will be a constant reminder to the people of the consequences of sin and its deadly power over mankind. This wonderful, gracious God of Creation is applying a remedy to sin and offering a BRIDGE over troubled waters so that all mankind may seek Him and find Him. And the first step is to SEE the religion God gave them. It was the first step to experiencing a relationship with Creator God, to entertain His Presence and blessing in their midst; and to remove the threat of extinction that has always existed.

As a footnote to the unfolding of this dramatic story, before Moses could even come down from the mountain with the tablets of stone engraved by the finger of God, the people had made an idol–a gold calf–and held a debauched festival to celebrate their ‘god’ who brought them out of Egypt! Thousands died in that melee, but merciful God salvaged His plan and moved forward with Moses and the Israeli nation.

Are you keeping a journal or notebook? You might be surprised at the insights you are gaining. Your notes will bring you great blessings in the years to come! And if you get behind in the reading, don’t panic; just pick up at our current location and keep moving. You can always go back later. May God add abundant grace to you!

If you live in the Chico area, you are still invited to our discussion group which meets on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., 1137 Arbutus Ave. – Chico First Assembly (no meeting February 14)

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