I’m good now, bro

I’m cool now. Rant over, prayers for those involved in the Charleston church shooting have gone up in the name of Jesus.

God wants us to love each other despite our differences. Can you imagine that?

Funny how a post or two ago I commented on big houses, and how a huge mansion would scare me (and I don’t scare easily). Just yesterday, my sister informed me of a story that I somehow managed to miss, about a billionaire couple who sought to build an unnecessarily large and expensive house in America modeled after the Palace of Versailles. The house will be 90,000 gaudy square feet and is expected to appraise at $100 million. Its features include a skating rink, ballroom big enough for approximately 500 people, about nine kitchens (even though the wife can only cook spaghetti???), a two-sided aquarium, about eleven bedrooms and something like thirty bathrooms??

Out of curiosity I looked up videos on YouTube and was appalled at what I saw. I am not sure who the couple, David and Jackie Siegel, are trying to impress, but the house thus far looks too EXTRA for my (simple) tastes. I won’t repeat what I already wrote in a previous post, but this house screams dissatisfaction with life to me. I am not fooled. This guy is 80 years old and the house still is not complete. How much time has he wasted worried about this house that could have been spent with his family or building up his business? Incidentally, the couple did have a daughter who died, and it is thought she committed suicide. I hope not, because she was pretty young (only 18). I have looked up some information about the family out of curiosity, and a lot of stuff that was said about the couple’s parenting, or maybe lack thereof, are not worth repeating.

Focus on building up people, not STUFF. There is more reward in helping people than there is in attaining a bunch of THINGS.

When we last saw the Israelites they were coming off of the golden calf fiasco. Chapter 32 of Exodus ended with God sending a plague upon the Israelites as punishment for their idol worship. Now, in Chapter 33, it is time to regroup and move on.

That right there is amazing. After the people had committed such a grave sin, God is still willing to work with them. He has “spanked” them and now God gets right back to business, telling Moses:

“…Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying,’I will give it to your descendants. I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way” (33:1-3).

God is going to keep his promise and the people will continue on toward the Promised Land, but not with him. I can understand God’s displeasure. After all he had done, the Israelites repeatedly showed little to no respect or appreciation for God’s continual presence and provision. Now they would get to see how the journey would be without the God they had rejected in favor of a golden calf. God, being omniscient, knows that the Israelites will continue to disobey and tempt him to wipe them out.

The people hear the words and begin to mourn. No one put on any ornaments. My guess is that ornaments were for more of a festive atmosphere or mood. I think of mourning in today’s terms. At funerals people tend to wear black or other dark solid colors. Jewelry is usually not flashy. My assumption is that the same type of feeling applied here. Scholars have also stated that the removal of the jewelry was a sign of repentance and remorse.

In the next several passages of Scripture we find Moses utilizing the Tent of Meeting. Moses was truly blessed (burdened, but blessed nonetheless). The Tent of Meeting was a tent that Moses pitched at a safe distance away from the camp. Anyone who needed to inquire of the Lord would go to the tent. Moses would enter the tent to speak to the Lord face to face. Whenever Moses went into the tent, the people were able to see a pillar of cloud come down over it and stay at the entrance while Moses and the Lord talked. This was another scene the Israelites saw with their own eyes, as the Bible states that “and whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances of their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent” (33:8). After Moses got done speaking with the Lord, he would return to the camp, but we see that his young aide, Joshua, did not leave the tent. Certainly there might have been some curious Israelites who would forget the plague they had just gotten over and out of curiosity try to go into the tent.

I like reading about Joshua. God always has a plan, and it is apparent, knowing what was to come of Joshua, that training was taking place as Joshua shadowed and aided Moses. Undoubtedly he was able to see how Moses responded to the people and how God responded to him in return. I wonder what the Bible means when it says that Joshua was Moses’ “aide”. Of course we see how effective Joshua was in war, but did he aide Moses in other ways? Moses was getting up there in age, and I am sure that dealing with the Israelites was an exhausting job. I think of how people aide pastors in churches and wonder if Joshua did some of those same things. Did he provide words of support and encouragement? Did he pray with Moses after a long day’s work? Did he make sure that Moses did not neglect himself as he tended to the people? I know some pastors stay so busy that they fail to eat properly or rest. Perhaps Joshua aided Moses in that manner.

It’s just conjecture.

The relationship between Moses and Joshua also shows me how humbly Moses was in terms of accepting that his leadership role would eventually come to an end (I’ll bet he was looking forward to it, dealing with those people. (J/K)). We discuss training in church every now and then. Sometimes we get people in church who see it as a threat to train someone to take over their position, and if that happens and that person suddenly dies or leaves, a major void is left behind as the church scrambles to fill that role. No matter what we do in the church, if we have attained some type of position or have a set of responsibilities, we should always be actively recruiting and training people to step in. God will appreciate our contribution to making sure any transitions in his house are as seamless as possible.

Moses is not comfortable with the idea of going forward without the Lord, and he voices his discomfort. He then asks to see the glory of the Lord. God’s glory is his very character–that of love–and he expresses as such in his response to Moses:

“…I will cause my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But, “he said,” you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (33:19-20).

God has to reveal his glory in “layman’s terms”, so to speak. Man is not capable of standing in the presence of the full glory of God. So instead, God offers up his love and mercy as an expression of his glory.

Why can’t anyone see God’s face and live, I wonder? Why can’t God give us glimpses of himself and let us carry on living? I don’t know, but I imagine after I see God I wouldn’t be interested in returning to this life. Just a thought. The more I get to know God, the more I am less interested in maintaining this life. Not saying that I am hasty to die, but when the time comes, I can only imagine the wonderment I will feel when I get to behold him and his full glory. There is no way I would want to live on this miserable earth forever. I wonder about people like Dmitry Itskov, the Russian multimillionaire who thinks we can achieve human immortality by 2045 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/17/dmitry-itskov_n_3455807.html). I think science and technology have done wonders for humans, and although we go overboard sometimes, innovation should continue. But why in the world would someone want to live forever????

Or how about this poor soul, who takes $1000 worth of pills each day–100 pills total–to try to stay young (http://elitedaily.com/news/world/google-executive-taking-pills-live-forever/1001270/)

I don’t know either of these individuals personally but I have to wonder if they are Christians. I tend to think they are not, only because Christians know that there is nothing we can do to escape death if God has decided it is time for him to call us home. Christians know that death has no boundaries; it does not discriminate.So whether someone has a special diet or puts tons of supplements into their body doesn’t matter. Of course we should take care of our temples, but only as much as we need to stay healthy. I hate to break it to these guys, but there is no such thing on EARTH as living forever. If they don’t want to perish, might I suggest they try Jesus? He’s free, and no special diet is needed.

Now we get to Chapter 34. Recall that in his anger, Moses smashed the stone tablets containing the 10 Commandments to kibbles and bits, so he needs new ones. Instead of God handing him brand new ones, now Moses has to put in some work. He is instructed by God to chisel out two tablets like the ones he had broke, and God would again do the inscribing. Moses does as told, and meets the Lord atop Mt. Sinai early in the morning. During the process of receiving the Laws again, the Lord reminds Moses of his covenant with them, which comes with responsibilities that the Israelites fail to carry out in the following books:

“…I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders neverbefore done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (34:10-14).

God knows that the Israelites are not strong enough spiritually to withstand the possible temptation posed by those pagan nations if they and their gods are allowed to remain in Canaan, the Promised Land. God’s instructions here are crystal clear. The Israelites will have choice land handed to them and all they have to do, with the help of the Lord, is to rid the land of the people in it and their idols. The last sentence is kind of ironic to me, because when I read it, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps the plague that broke out after the golden calf incident should have served as proof of God’s jealousy, but obviously the command against idol worship cannot be repeated enough. In the Scriptures that follow God carefully explains exactly how the natives in the land could be a snare to them. I assume the pattern would be the same as it could be today, where a “little” sin gets out of control. God says that the Israelites, if they left the natives, would be tempted to eat of the sacrifices made to their gods, that they would intermarry their sons with their daughters, and the daughters would entice their husbands to worship their gods.

God reminds Moses of the statutes he has previously discussed: No idols, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, dedication of the first offspring to God, Sabbath day rest, Festival of Weeks and Festival of Ingathering,etc. Moses is on Mt. Sinai for another forty days and forty nights receiving these Laws, neither eating bread nor drinking water–just feeding off of God’s Word an his presence. (If God has a job for us to do, he will sustain us throughout it). When Moses is finished, he descends the mountain, and the people are able to see the radiance from speaking with the Lord all over his face, so much so that the people were afraid to approach him. To diminish their fear, Moses puts a veil on his face, and each time thereafter he put a veil on his face after he spoke to the Lord.

I wonder if I am radiant after I speak with the Lord? I certainly feel that way. After a good prayer, reading some good Scriptures, or hearing that little voice telling me something I need to hear, I definitely feel radiant. There is something comforting about being in God’s presence, knowing of his nearness. I hope that not only do I look radiant, but my radiance is something that is obvious to others… I pray that everything about me radiates Christ.

The chapters that follow detail the construction of the Tabernacle. Previous chapters already discussed the materials to be used, the measurements to be made, etc., so I won’t repeat them. Before they begin construction at the beginning of chapter 35, Moses reminds the people that they have six days a week to work on the structure and the seventh day would be one of rest. Punishment for disobedience is death. Then it begins.

Moses repeats the long list of materials that God desires and, just as God had said, tells everyone who is willing to give to bring their goods. After he makes his announcement, the nation withdraws and the people stockpile their items. The theme of people “who were willing” to bring items and do work is repeated several times in chapter 35. That leads me to believe that some people were still refusing to believe and/or participate in the construction of the Tabernacle.

I can’t help but think about a major problem we have in my church, one that disheartens me. From what I understand from speaking with other saints, the problem is pervasive. There are too many people who are content to be bench warmers, people who reserve their talents for themselves and do not participate in building the kingdom. God has given us the gift of salvation, and he did not do so that we might keep it to ourselves.Once we become saved we ought to jump headfirst into the work of getting others saved too. That is not going to happen if we only come to Sunday service, shout a few “Hallelujahs” and “Amens” during the service and then go home and don’t talk about or to God the rest of the week. We need more worker bees in church. I cannot pretend to understand why people are unwilling to work, because I am often asked to do all types of things at my church (probably because I am one of the few young people there) and I am always happy to oblige if I can. I want to do whatever I can for the Lord while I have the strength in my body. All Christians ought to have that devotion, but some don’t. I wonder if it is from lack of faith in God or lack of love for God, and thus lack of love for the brethren?

What irritates me sometimes is the people who claim they don’t “get anything” out of church. These are often the same people who never open their Bible outside of church, or who never come to Bible study or join an auxiliary or group. They are the same people that expect to be spoon-fed the Word. If you don’t put anything in to your spiritual life, you won’t get anything out. I compare this Christian journey to job training. Training helps you learn the specific duties of your job, and to be truly effective at what you do, training, or at least refreshing and updating your skillset,ought to be a continuous process. For example, I’ve read the entire Bible before, but that doesn’t mean I know everything in it. Getting this Christian thing right is going to be a lifelong journey. The Bible helps me grow.

Remember Bezalel and Oholiab, the two individuals from the tribes of Judah and Dan respectively, that God mentioned in chapter 31? These were the two that God imparted with special skills that will help in the design and construction of the tabernacle. Now, at the end of chapter 35 and beginning of 36, we see Moses informing the Israelites of the men’s special talents and summoning them and all other skilled workers in the nation to get started. Chapter 36:8-38 details construction of the tabernacle; chapter 37 shows how the Israelites constructed the ark, the table, lampstand and altar of incense following God’s instructions;  and 38 discusses the altar of burnt offering, basin for washing and courtyard and ends with a listing of sorts of the materials used for the tabernacle. In chapter 39, the priestly garments for Aaron and his sons are made exactly as God had commanded them (I’ll bet those garments were a beautiful sight to see, with the blue, purple and scarlet yarn, the stones, etc).

After all of this work has been done (I wonder how long this took??) Moses, the project manager of sorts, inspects the finished work, give it his stamp of approval (meaning they had done it the way the Lord told them to, surprisingly) and blesses them. Next up–they have to actually set this thing up.

What does all of this detail tell us? When thinking of the materials God used for this building, we can conclude that we should give God our best. He used choice materials in building the tabernacle. In future chapters we will see that the Israelites camped around the tabernacle, making the place of worship central in their lives, as our relationship with God ought to be in our own lives. The tabernacle was portable, signifying how God will be with you and guide you–if you let him. However, the tabernacle also showed the barrier sin puts between man and God, which is symbolized by the Holy Place and Most Holy Place and the curtains that kept the civilians out.

That barrier was broken by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Now wretches like me can talk directly to God. No need for a human intercessor. I have a Divine One who shed blood for me. An Advocate, an Ally, a Healer, a Friend, my everything.

Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus.

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