What Kind of Heart Do You Have?

Hebrews 8

Hebrews 8 10

The messes people get themselves into.  Moses had gone off to the top of the mountain to be with God.  Out of that mountain God called out to Moses and laid out a wonderful plan for his people.  God told Moses that He had done wonderful things for His people, Israel, and that His people had seen with their own eyes what He had done to those miserable Egyptians.  Through those terrible trials with the Egyptians, God had been like an eagle and had bore His people, Israel, on His wings and had brought His people to Himself.  They were safe.  They were free.  They had a wonderful future ahead of them.  He described those blessings to them.  Israel would be His very own treasured possession, they would be a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.  Oh, the life, safe in the arms of the God of the universe!  It was theirs.  All they had to do was…. if only…why couldn’t they have done what He asked?  Oh, the messes we get ourselves into (Exodus 19:3-6)!

It would have been simple.  Very simple.  If only.  Instead they decided to build that stupid calf.  Not only did they build a calf, but they used their own treasured possessions to build it.  They gave up their own treasured possessions of gold to build a calf which would cause them to lose their position as the most treasured possession of God Himself.

All they had to do was simply obey God’s voice.  Instead they decided to obey the voice of sin.  Aaron described them well.  He told Moses, “you know these people.  All they think about is evil.”  (Exodus 32:22).  All they had to do was simple…simply listen to the voice of God Who had delivered them out of the worse mess they had ever been in while they were in Egypt.  All they had to do was listen to the voice of Him who loved them the most and keep His commandments.

God’s anger burned hot against His people! Moses’ anger burned hot against the people!  Then things really turned crazy!  Moses came down that mountain with his hands full carrying the commandments of God, written by God Himself, on two stone tablets front and back (Ex. 32:15-19).  It doesn’t say, but I think Moses’ might have thought he could straighten out the people by showing them those stone tablets containing the commandments of God.  Instead, they became part of the carnage.  When Moses saw what the people were doing, dancing and singing and worshiping a stupid calf, he threw those tablets made of stone and they broke in a million pieces.  He then took that golden calf, burned it and ground it to powder, then scattered it on the water and made the people drink it!  Their precious golden calf made by their precious golden jewelry was gone forever!

But God was not through with them yet.  God sent a plague on the people because they (correction – Aaron) made the calf.  We reap what we sow.  (Exodus 32:35).

End of story, right?  Nope.  God was not through with them yet.

Let’s fast forward to Hebrews 8.  Amazingly God was not through with the house of Israel and the house of Judah yet.  Here, Paul tells us that God is establishing a new covenant with them and with us.  The first one, written on tablets of stone long ago, will be replaced with one written in our minds and on our hearts.  Until the commandments and promises of God are written on our hearts and become flesh, we cannot become new people.   We are simply stone people. This new covenant, of which Jesus is the high priest, will not be displayed on tablets of stone which can be broken into a million pieces, but will be in our hearts and minds. Our old heart of stone will be removed, and a new heart of flesh will be given to us (Ezekiel 11:19).  This new covenant will change our minds and hearts because Jesus, the new high priest, is able to save us to the uttermost (completely and at all times).

What kind of heart do you have?  One of stone which serves sin and will break in a million pieces when sin is exposed?  Or one of flesh which loves and serves God who considers us His most treasured possession?

Luke Elwell

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God’s Presence and the Tabernacle

Exodus 40 16 17

Text: Exodus 40

 

As we leave the Garden, the state of God’s relationship with his creation is strained. Adam and Eve have been kicked out of the garden because of their defiance, and no longer have access to God’s presence like they had before. They are effectively exiled.

 

Let’s jump ahead to Moses. Now, there is much that happened between the garden and the introduction of Moses, and it is important stuff to know, but I want to race ahead to our topic of God’s presence.

 

As you probably know, Moses was a man chosen by God to lead God’s people (the Israelites) out of captivity in Egypt. It’s quite the epic story, and it is crucial to the Israelites. It reminds them how God chose them as his people and was faithful to them, bringing them out of captivity.

 

So now the Israelites, under the leadership of Moses and the miraculous deliverance of God himself, have escaped the clutches of Pharaoh. While they are in the middle of nowhere, at the foot of Mt. Sinai, God begins to form a deeper relationship with them. He begins by giving them some basic guidelines of being his people, part of which is what we know as the Ten Commandments.

 

In Exodus 25, God begins giving Moses some very specific (exhaustive!) guidelines for building a tent structure called the tabernacle. It is important to ask why, just like how we asked why God would create us in the first place. And I think the answer to why he created and the answer to why he wanted a tabernacle built are the same answer: In 25:8, God says, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”

 

Simple enough. But God has been interacting with his people all along. We can see how he worked in Noah, Abraham, and Joseph, just as a few examples. And now he has entered into a very special relationship with Moses, and by extension, to the rest of the Israelites. So if God is working among them and has a relationship with them, why do they need a tent thing?

 

I don’t know why God chose a tent specifically, but there is something special about it. God wanted to use it to dwell among his people, in a way that was closer to how he dwelt in the Garden. It was a much more intense dwelling and presence than he had been able to have among his people for a long time, since the Garden. Mankind lost special access to God’s presence after the Garden was off limits, but with the tabernacle, God was providing them with a new way to access his presence again. God is in the business of restoring.

 

God’s intentions and vision for this tabernacle are made more clear by the frequent callbacks to creation. In chapters 25-31, there are seven sections that begin, “the LORD spoke to Moses…” followed by detailed tabernacle plans. This is a reference back to the seven days of creation, when God commanded the cosmos into order. The sixth speech mentions craftsmen and priesthood, where day six of creation features mankind created in his image. The seventh speech is a reminder to the Israelites about the importance of the Sabbath, while day seven of creation is when God rests.

 

The tabernacle and creation accounts are further connected in structure with key phrases: Gen 1:31 vs Ex 39:43 (seeing what was done), Gen 2:1 vs Ex 39:32 (completing), Gen 2:2 vs Ex 40:33 (finishing work), Gen 2:3 vs Ex 39:43 (blessing), and Gen 2:3 vs Ex 40:9 (sanctifying).

 

Additionally, there are several symbols in the tabernacle that are connections back to Eden. The lampstand in 31:8 is a symbol of the tree of life, and the ark may symbolize the tree of knowledge (it contains the law, and you die if you touch it). There are images of cherubim in the tabernacle, reminding us that cherubim guarded the entrance to the garden. Gold and precious stones may also be symbols that tie the tabernacle back to Eden.

 

Similar connections to creation and the garden exist when looking at Solomon’s Temple, but I’ll leave that unexplored to return to our regularly scheduled program.

 

What is the purpose of all these references to creation and the garden? I believe God wanted his people to recognize the symbolism as his attempt to bring the garden back to them, in a way. God wanted to commit to his people and assure them that they could again have access to his presence. God wanted them to know that dwelling with them was his plan from the very beginning, and he will restore it. And we know that God’s intent is to dwell with us too, in ways that far surpass the tabernacle among the Israelites, and in ways that far surpass even the garden.

 

What? Yes! We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. Now to Exodus 40 before I get too excited. When everything for the tabernacle was done according to God’s instructions to Moses, God’s presence rested in it:

 

Ex 40:34-38 (NASB): “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”

 

If you are Moses, then this is a fairly anti-climactic way of ending Exodus. He didn’t even get to go in! There is still apparently a problem with sin. If you go into the holy of holies and are not clean enough, you die. Only the high priest can go in, once a year, offering blood to cover for the sins of him and the people (Hebrews 9:7). Looking back at the garden, and how sin and the presence of God are incompatible, maybe kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden could have been more of an act of mercy than a harsh punishment.

 

But here is God, dwelling among his people again, restoring and guiding them. My prayer for you today and every day is that you will seek to be where God is, by following that cloud. That you will linger when the cloud lingers and that you will set out when the cloud is taken up. That God will show you where and how he is moving and invite you in on the action.

 

Jay Laurent

Jesus is Greater than . . .

Matthew 17

matthew 17 5

In Matthew 17:1-9, Jesus takes his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, up to a mountain privately. During this time, God was about to do something that they would never forget. As they stood talking to each other and to Jesus, all of a sudden Jesus’ appearance changed and started shining like the sun! If that wasn’t enough, the disciples saw Moses and Elijah standing there talking with Jesus! What in the world is going on, they must have been saying.

 

This vision that the disciples saw has many truths within it that are significant for us to know. The first is that they got to see a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God is going to be like. In Daniel 12:2-3, we learn that after the resurrection, the righteous are going to “shine” like the sun and the stars. That is exactly why Jesus appeared to be shining before them; they were seeing a little bit further into the future to what it will be like after the resurrection.

 

Moses and Elijah are significant because they represent the whole Old Covenant; Moses represented the Torah (or Law) and Elijah represented the prophets. Although these were incredible figures in Judaism, when God spoke during this vision, he didn’t address them; he only spoke in favor of Jesus by saying “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” (Matt. 17:5 NLT) This vision was making a point: Jesus is greater than both Moses and Elijah, and therefore, greater than the entire Old Covenant!

 

Why should this matter to you? Well, if Jesus is greater than even Moses and Elijah, he is greater than whatever you are facing in your life. Any struggle that you may suffer from, whether it’s at school, work, home, or even within yourself, Jesus is greater. The best part is that he is willing to step into your life and help you, if you are willing to call on him. So, no matter what difficulties you are facing, Jesus is there and is greater; I encourage you today to call for his help. He loves you and wants the best for you; allow him to change your life.

 

-Talon Paul

Lessons from the Wilderness: The Israelites

heb.Over the next few days, we’re going to look at four wilderness stories in the bible to learn a lesson about what the wilderness is and what it can teach us. The first Wilderness Wandering Lesson is this:

Wilderness Wandering Lesson #1: The faithful love of God is infinitely more secure than our fractured circumstances.

The most recognizable story of wilderness is that of the Israelites. After 400 years of servitude to the Egyptians, the Israelites kept crying out to God for the deliverance prophecied by Joseph in Gen. 50:25. That help came in the form of Moses, who was commissioned by God to lead the Israelites to the land of Canaan. So this so-called Promised land, part of the covenant promise that God made with Abraham in Gen. 12, was the Israelites’ destination. Even in the Israelites’ time in the wilderness, we can see two purposes in the wilderness. The wilderness in the first year was a time of purification and dependence. It is in the wilderness that the Israelites learned to trust God for direction (Fire and Cloud – Ex. 14) and sustenance (Manna and Water – Ex. 16). In Exodus 16, God even says, “I will test them to see whether or not they will follow my instructions” (v. 4). This testing was his goal for the first year the Israelites spent in the wilderness. Spent mostly at the base of Mt. Sinai, it was in this time that the Israelites received the ten commandments, built the tabernacle, and received the rest of the law (Ex. 15-Num. 10). Though there was difficulty in this time (think Golden Calf – Ex. 32), this time in the wilderness was also full of incredible closeness to God. It was during this time that the Israelites were able to witness the Shekinah glory of God descend on the tabernacle. And, during this time, the Israelites experienced the humbling dependence on God that came from relying on him.

Map-Route-Exodus-Israelites-Egypt

We can think of this first year in the wilderness as the training wheels period where God was showing the Israelites that relying on him was best. That trusting in him was the way to choose life and joy. In Numbers 10, the Israelites break camp and move towards the border of the Promised land. In Numbers 11, the cracks begin to show again as the Israelites complain more and more about hardship, food, and in the case of Aaron and Miriam, the power and relationship with God that Moses had. Based on the tendencies that we see in these chapters, we shouldn’t be as surprised as we generally are that the Israelites get to the border of the promised land and choose to go against God and refuse to take the land because of their fear (Num. 14). The Israelites chose not to go into the promised land because their trust in God was lacking. They didn’t think that God would do what he said he would. Instead, they based their decisions on their circumstances, which seemed too difficult to overcome. It’s this that ultimately angers God and leads towards his judgment against the Israelites: They would wander the wilderness for 40 years (one year for each day they spent scouting the wilderness). In the remaining chapters of Numbers, we see more instances of rebellion and provision as the Israelites do exactly as God says and wander the wilderness for 40 years. It is not until the book of Joshua, that we see the next generation of Israelites rise up and take the land just as God promised his people that they would.

These two tales are frequently told together, but they tell two very different stories of the wilderness. In the first, the Israelites seemed to have done nothing to be put in the wilderness, while in the second, the wilderness was a place of punishment for the past sin of the people. But, the purpose of each wilderness experience is the same. The wilderness is meant for purification and refinement, to make the people of God ‘holy, because [he] is holy’ (Lev. 19:2). Too often, I think we view the wilderness as a punishment, and because of that, we go back to asking God, “Why? Why am I here?” We may even sound like some of my high school students when they get called out, “Why? I wasn’t even doing anything!” (No matter what they are doing.) We need to stop viewing the wilderness as a place of punishment. It can be that place, as we’ve seen with the Israelites. But, more importantly, this time in the wilderness is where God is beckoning us back to him. It’s in this time that all of the Israelites first heard God’s word. It’s in this time that they felt the characteristics of God that Moses spoke in Numb. 14:18. In your wilderness wanderings, instead of focusing on the doubt – the questions of why you are in that experience – focus on who God is:

“The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children to the third and fourth generation.” (Numb. 14:18)

Rest on God’s faithful love, and in your time in the wilderness, don’t forget to remember who he is. When we trust in him, our circumstances don’t seem so challenging anymore.

~ Cayce Fletcher

What Moses Teaches Us Today

Heb 11 26

Summary

Thanks for reading along this past week, and I really hope you have benefitted from this.  I know I have enjoyed studying and writing this past week. I just wanted to finish off with a quick summary.

 

The story of the Exodus is a story of a people who had been promised so much from God, but had forgotten him and taken on a culture and pantheon that was inherently sinful.  God then works through Moses to directly attack every sinful aspect of their culture and every false god that his people were following to show them beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that there are no gods before him.  As they are heading out of Egypt on their way to becoming their own nation with their own land God begins to form their culture around himself in order to help them to stay true to him.

 

So many aspects of the passover point the Israelites towards Jesus in the future and prepares their culture for his coming, but we know that when Jesus did come they did not accept him because they had walked away from the lessons they had learned under Moses.  Similarly Jesus’s message brought a massive change in culture to all those who followed him. People started to live changed lives and loved others truly instead of just following rules because they had to. That is the changed life that we are supposed to live.  Just as the Israelites had to sacrifice the lambs that the Egyptian culture worshiped we need to lay aside the idols in our culture that only bring sin into our lives. Maybe that is social media, or crass tv shows, or sleeping around, or any number of other things that are standard in our culture but can easily consume our lives and become idols.

 

Also just as Moses’ story and the Exodus points towards Christ, Jesus’ points us towards the Kingdom and his second coming.  So unlike the Israelites we need to remember what Jesus taught and live by his teachings so that we will be ready for his return.

 

Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3  4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

-Chris Mattison

Revelation 21-2,3

The Passover

exodus 12 13

I had touched very briefly yesterday on the plague of the firstborn and the passover ceremony which spared the lives of those who followed God.  Let’s look at that a bit more today.

 

To prepare the Israelites for the passover they were to have each family take a lamb and slaughter it at twilight and take some of the  blood and put it on the doorframes of their houses and then cook and eat the lamb that night with bitter herbs. They were to also take care of the lamp for a week before they slaughtered it.  This would not be an easy thing to do and the meal would not taste good. This was meant to show the pain and sorrow that sin causes and the blood that is required to wash away sin.

 

Slaughtering the lamb in Egypt would also have taken a lot of faith.  Animals were of great value back then, which is why so many of the Egyptians worshiped them, and most likely many of the Israelites did as well.   Animals were of even greater value as well because of all the plagues that had just wiped out the animals in Egypt. Earlier we had seen that they could not do any sacrifices in the land of Egypt because the Egyptians detested it.  Now they are doing just that. In order to do this the Israelites are sacrificing their material wealth, as well as turning their backs on the Egyptian gods. If they were not able to let go of the wealth or culture then they would have faced the judgment.  He goes on to say,

 

Exodus 12:12-14

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.

 

The plague of the firstborn was to be the final blow to the Egyptian culture/gods, and with it God is also implementing a lasting holy day in their culture by which they will remember what God has done for them for all generations, and the seder passover dinner is practiced around the world to this day.  The problem with the Israelites in Egypt was that they forgot what God had promised them. God was not going to let them forget again so easily.

 

In the Old Testament there were many festivals and holy days and cultural things that God implemented in the Israelites in order to remind them of his work and power in their past.  Even with these they often forgot and wandered away from God. After Jesus we do not live under these laws and we do not have to follow these feasts and rituals, but we still need to make a permanent change in our lives every time that God acts in our lives.  We need to constantly remind ourselves of what God has done for us. The passover ceremony was designed to make people ask why they would do such a thing so that the Israelites could tell people the story of the Exodus. Similarly our stories of how God has changed our lives are our most powerful tool for spreading the Gospel.

-Chris Mattison

The Plagues

exodus 6 7

After Moses goes back to Egypt and starts trying to get things going with the exodus it backfires on him and he is starting to have doubts (Exodus 5).  God replies

 

Exodus 6:6-8

6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”

 

God is ready to go.  He is done with people doubting him, and he is ready to show his power.  To do this he sends the ten plagues on Egypt. (Exodus 7-11) Each of the plagues was very symbolic and directly attacked the gods and culture of the Egyptians.  I’ll cover just a few of them here and their symbolism.

 

The plague of blood turned the water of the Nile river into blood, which killed the fish and other things in the river.  The Nile was the source of life in Egypt and was represented by the god Osiris. God shows that he is more powerful than Osiris and that refusing him brings death.

 

The plague of gnats/lice was a really fun time.  The dust became gnats that covered everything. This was an insult to the god Set who was the god over the desert.  This also was directed towards the priests and magicians who prided themselves on being pure and clean, but God was pointing out their sin and uncleanness to everybody.

 

The plague of livestock involved all of the Egyptian cattle dying. This attacks many of the Egyptian gods because many of them take the form of cattle.  This came right after Moses says that the Egyptians would stone the Israelites for sacrificing cattle and livestock to God. God is telling Pharaoh that he can either give up some of his cattle to God, or lose them all.

 

The plague of the firstborn involved an angel of God killing all of the firstborn in Egypt that were not covered by the passover blood of the lamb.  This obviously killed a lot of people but it also was a direct attack on Pharaoh who was supposed to be a god in Egypt but could not protect his own son from the wrath of God.

 

Each of these plagues tore down a god or aspect of Egyptian society that the Israelites had adopted and showed that it did not bring life or an escape from sin, but only brought death in the end and that only God is worthy of being worshiped and followed.

 

I hope that once we come to Christ it is obvious which aspects of our old lives were only bringing sin and pain.  Sometimes though we do not realize which things in our society are against God and many Christians continue to live in their old ways.  We need to pray and be wise in our life choices to make sure we are not putting any idols before God, because one day Christ will return and most parts of the book of Revelation make the plagues look like a walk in the park.

 

On that happy note, I’ll see you guys back here tomorrow 🙂

Chris Mattison