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Aug 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 5, 2018 – John Chapter 6

Everything Is A Test

After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.
Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.”
One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in that place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. John 6:1-10

Intro: Does John give us a clue that of something special in this chapter?

In the stories of Jesus, episodes are marked by a scene changes
– for instance, there is usually a shift:
• in time — After these things
• place — Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea 
– here we find both in the first verse, so now the story gets underway
• but then John inserts a notation regarding Passover
◦ Passover would typically indicate time (spring) or place (Jerusalem)
◦ but here it doesn’t seem relevant to anything

Passover is a week-long commemoration
– it is mostly preparation for the central ritual — a sacred meal
• Passover is what launched Israel from Egypt into the wilderness
◦ there they ate manna for forty years
• we will soon hear echoes of that journey in the dialogue later on
– sometime after the miracle of feeding a crowd of thousands
• Jesus confronts the crowd that had tracked him down
◦ it is a wild conversation that reaches its climax in verses 53-58, where Jesus claims,

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (v. 54)

• perhaps John is suggesting something that parallels Israel’s Passover
◦ what Passover meant to the Jews, Jesus is to his followers
◦ namely, a full participation in the salvation God has provided

Jesus knew what he was about to do

But first, he presented the challenge to Philip as a test
– the test may have included such issues as:

  • what had Philip learned about Jesus?
  • what did Philip know about himself?
  • how would he react in a pinch, when the pressure was on and he had no answer?

• Jesus’ presentation of the test is skillfully done
◦ he gave Philip the impression that it was up to him to resolve the problem
◦ but Jesus dropped this impossible task on him in a safe context
(there was the safety net of Jesus already having the solution)
– Philip made a quick calculation and admitted defeat
• Andrew jumped in to help,
◦ but after reporting their sparse inventory, he too admitted defeat
• both of them attempted to find a rational solution to meet the need
◦ but given the situation and their resources, there was no rational resolve

Did they pass the test or did they fail?
– I don’t think it was that kind of test
• more like sounding the depth of a body of water by dropping a line into it
• it was simply a measurement — how far had they had come?

read more…

Jul 31 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 29, 2018 – Exodus Chapters 35-40


Then Moses said to the whole community of Israel, “This is what the LORD has commanded: Take a sacred offering for the LORD. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the LORD: gold, silver and bronze [etc.].”
So the whole community of Israel left Moses and returned to their tents. All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the LORD. They brought the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of its rituals, and for the sacred garments. Exodus 35:4-5, 20-21

Intro: I’m going to take us back to where this whole section began

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerrings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them. . . . Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you (Ex. 25:1, 8-9)

You may remember a Sci-Fi movie that was released in 1997 — “Contact”
– scientists monitoring interstellar “space noise” discerned a pattern
• an intelligence out there somewhere was communicating a message
◦ it contained instructions for building a device that would facilitate an encounter
• Jodie Foster was the lucky person chosen to enter the device and meet an alien
– this is similar to the biblical story unfolding here
• the transcendent, and therefore hidden, God has transmitted a message
◦ Moses was the fortunate one to receive instructions for a sacred tent
◦ what was it they were making? a Tent of Meeting, a place to connect with God
• notice God’s emphasis on building the tent exactly per his specifications
◦ repeatedly in chapters 39 and 40, almost to the point of redundancy, we read:

just as the LORD had commanded Moses or just as the LORD commanded him

◦ the details mattered

After Moses’ announcement, the response was immediate and enthusiastic

A key word is “all,” also translated “every,” “whole” (community), and “entire”

All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved (35:21)
Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing (35:22)
All those who owned the following items willingly brought them . . . . And all who had silver and bronze objects brought them . . . . All the women who were skilled in sewing and spinning prepared blue, purple and scarlet thread . . . . (35:23-25)
. . . every man and woman who was eager to help in the work the LORD had given them through Moses–brought their gifts and gave them freely to the LORD (35:29)
So Moses summoned [the artisans] who were specially gifted by the LORD and were eager to get to work (36:2)

• the climax of this eager and energetic momentum comes in a surprising twist:

[The artisans] went to Moses and reported, “The people have given more than enough materials to complete the job the LORD has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp: “Men and women, don’t prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!” (36:4-6. I cannot imagine any preacher or church in America ever saying this to anyone!)

God revealed the design, but the people materialized it
– they constructed the physical space located in their world
• each person giving what he or she had, doing what she or he could do
◦ for instance:

Bezalel made the bronze washbasin and its bronze stand from bronze mirrors donated by the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle (38:8)

◦ (as a footnote: how could they serve at the entrance of the Tabernacle before it was built?)
• another footnote that I promised I would point out
◦ how would they get gold thread in the wilderness?
◦ the answer is:

Bezalel made the ephod of finely woven linen and embroidered it with gold and with blue, purple and scarlet thread. He made gold thread by hammering out thing sheets of gold and cutting it into fine strands. With great skill and care, he worked it into the fine linen with the blue, purple, and scarlet thread (39:3)

– the people of Israel believed in the value of this project
• and it would never have happened without them

When finished, Moses inspected all of the unassembled parts

Something unexpected happens when we hear echoes of creation


read more…

Jul 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 22, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 34

How God Makes Himself Known

Yahweh! Yahweh!
The God of compassion and mercy!
Slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations. 
Exodus 34:6-7

Intro: Last week Moses asked God for the ultimate experience

Show me your glory – Let me look at you; see you as you are
– he knew the truest way to know someone was to experience that person
• Moses’ request was denied
• nevertheless, God gave Moses all he had to give at that time
◦ and all that Moses was able to take without being obliterated

Everett Fox, “. . . it is almost as if the text is saying ‘This is all that can be known, intimately, of this God, and this is all one needs to know”

– all our tools for exploring the universe are in our bodies
• if something exists that we cannot see, touch, deduce or imagine,
◦ we will not be able to discover it through any technology we invent
• God is here in our universe, but in a dimension beyond it

This was Job’s frustration. He could see all the marvelous things that God did in the world, but
when he comes near, I cannot see him.
When he moves by, I do not see him go (Job 9:11)
Job’s friend, Zophar, asked him “What did you expect?”
Can you solve the mysteries of God?
Can you discover everything about the Almighty?
(Job 11:7)

As Paul wrote to Timothy, No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will (1 Tim. 6:16). This is because our human senses are not equipped to see into God’s dimension. They were made for life in our four-dimensional universe.

The only way we can ever know God, is if he reveals himself to us
– this knowing comes with a condition: I must experience what God is willing to reveal
• if I treat what God reveals as mere information, I will not know him
• I can have an encyclopedic knowledge of God yet not know God himself

Arthur Vogel, “To be able to reduce the Christian option to choice between ideas is to have totally lost the essence of Christianity. . . . Knowledge and [informed thinking] play an essential role in the Christian religion, but they do so in the service of something that is more than they. If the ‘more’ is lost, all is lost, and the first step has yet to be taken.”

– we come to know God by our experience of him as he reveals himself to us
• this means, whatever he reveals is within the realm of our experience

Vogel, again [because he says it so well], “Many people feel the absence of God in their lives, which means that his presence should be recognized by feeling too.”

◦ by feeling Vogel did not mean emotion, but perception
◦ like feeling loved or a gust of wind
• whatever we experience, we own — it is our truth, our reality
◦ and nothing else is more personal or more convincing

When Jesus’ critics could not disprove the fact that Jesus healed a blind man, they announced that he was a sinner because he performed the healing on a Sabbath day. “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” (Jn. 9:25)

◦ he was not ready to tackle the theological challenge, but he was certain of his experience

4-6 Once again Moses climbed Mount Sinai and God came down

We have primed for this dramatic moment
– God told Moses that he would see something (Ex. 33:22-23)
• but the way the event unfolds is sort of strange
• all we are told is that Moses heard something 
◦ I assume that what he heard was more important than his visual experience
– Moses first heard God announcing his own name
• this is significant, because a person was considered inseparable from his or her name

Walther Eichrodt, “. . . this proclamation of the divine Name was treasured as an act whereby God himself came forth from his secret place and offered himself in fellowship . . .”

• God called out his name twice – I do not know why
◦ but remember, in their first encounter God spoke Moses’ name twice
◦ perhaps the double announcement stresses the momentous nature of this event

read more…

Jul 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 15, 2018 – Exodus 33:7-34:3

“Will You Be Angry with Us Forever?”

It was Moses’ practice to take the Tent of Meeting and set it up some distance from the camp. Everyone who wanted to make a request of the LORD would go to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp.
Whenever Moses went out to the Tent of Meeting, all the people would get up and stand in the entrances of their own tents. They would all watch Moses until he disappeared inside. As he went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and hover at its entrance while the LORD spoke with Moses. When the people saw the cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, they would stand and bow down in front of their own tents. Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua the son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.
 Exodus 33:7-11

Intro: I love this episode that we begin today

And because I love it, I’m afraid of it
– from the burning bush on, God has been revealing himself
• if that was like sunrise, the light has been getting brighter
• now it is so bright as blind
◦ my fear has to do with my inadequacy to present a revelation this awesome
◦ I want you to experience the fullness of what transpires in this passage
– there are some big ideas here, but those are not all we are meant to see
• people tell stories in order to share their experience
• so, probably, it is best if we try to feel our way through these verses

7-11 Signs are posted that mark beginning and end of the episode

We begin with the “tent of meeting” in verse 7 come back to it at the end of chapter 34
– in this way, the theme of the tent creates an envelope around this section
• in doing so, the meaning and role of the tent informs the entire passage
– here, the is like a footnote–in fact, it is almost a distraction
• in the last scene, God was still deciding what he would do with Israel
• so the shift to Moses’ visits to the tent of meeting fills time
◦ time during which God makes his decision and the people wait silently
◦ the storyteller uses Moses’ visits to the tent to set up his conversation with God

We have read about this tent, but here we see it in operation
– the designation, “tent of meeting” identifies it as a place of encounter
• this is not the full-blown sanctuary God described to Moses previously
◦ in fact, we are not certain now whether that one will ever be built
• this is a makeshift shrine that serves as a point of contact with God
– the phrase outside the camp recurs many times in Leviticus and Numbers
• it usually refers to the exclusion of something taboo
◦ something unclean or unholy and considered contagious
◦ placing it out of reach was opposite to something in the sanctuary that was too holy to touch
• but here the tent of meeting is outside the camp because of its holiness
◦ it is the people who are unclean
◦ outside the camp was symbolic of God’s announcement that he would not go with them

We observe what happens whenever Moses headed out to God’s tent
– the people would move to entrance of their tents and watch him
• the cloud–God’s presence–would hover over the entrance of the tent of meeting
• the actions of the people corresponded to Moses’ actions (only, in reference they would bow)
◦ their movements and gestures were a participation in Moses’ interaction with God
◦ God chose doorways for encounter – thresholds in space and time (Ex. 29:38-42)
– while there, God would speak to Moses
• two phrases emphasize the intimacy of their conversations:
face to face and as one speaks to a friend
◦ afterward, Moses would return to the camp – perhaps w/a message
• this last word is unexpected

. . . but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting 

◦ it is like when Joshua suddenly showed up with Moses on Mt Sinai (Ex. 32:15-17)
◦ I like to think that he was there out of a desire to linger in the Presence
(the spiritual aspiration of God’s devout worshipers; Ps. 27:4-5; 63:1-2; 73:25; 84:1-2)

12-16 Moses continues to press God for an answer

read more…

Jul 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 1, 2018 – Exodus 32:1-33:6

A Droplet of Hope

When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron, “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.
So Aaron said, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.”
All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the LORD!”
The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry. 
Exodus 32:1-6

Intro: Last week took us into God’s gift of creativity
(in the construction of his sacred tent)

Our story today begins with an example of creativity gone bad
– this episode is a mirror image of the previous seven chapters
• it runs parallel to God’s instructions for the sacred tent
◦ only what is produced here is a grotesque distortion
• the resources that were to be used for God’s tent–
◦ including the sacred objects, sacrifices, and service of its artisans and priests
◦ gets hijacked by patchwork cult
– we can explore this episode using a key marker
• when the word “this” is used in a dismissive way
◦ for example, the way the Israelites refer to this Moses in verse 1
◦ “this” creates distance from a person
(like when a mother refers to her child as “this son of yours . . . .”)
• when we come to these markers, they will indicate a change of attitude

A new chapter: the people are done with this fellow Moses

The people had grown impatient with how long Moses was gone
– the particular phrase they used refers to an embarrassing delay (Jdg. 3:24-25)
• people are shamed into feeling pressured until they feel they must act (2 Ki. 2:16-18)
• Moses had left Aaron in charge, so the people confront him
Make gods for us – they want Aaron to fabricate something tangible
• they were the only people who had only one god and no idols
◦ naturally, their thoughts turned to what was familiar
• tired of waiting, they wanted to move on
◦ and they felt like they needed gods to lead them

The first thing Aaron did: he asked for their gold
– when God told Moses he wanted a sanctuary where he could live among his people,
• the first thing he asked for was gold for the sacred objects and clothing (Ex. 25:2)
◦ this was exactly where God’s instructions for the sacred tent began
• unknowingly, Aaron was imitating God
◦ but he was creating something very different from God’s design
– it seems Aaron poured molten gold into a mold,
• and then refined its details by sculpting it with an engraving tool
◦ he was doing the work of artisans like those we met in chapter 31

Robert Alter observes that “golden bulls or calves were often used as cultic seats for deities in the ancient Near East”

• in other words, the very purpose of the golden cherubim on ark’s lid

Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel . . . .
O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory (Ps. 80:1)

◦ this had been the first object God told Moses to construct
◦ now the calf is the first religious object Aaron makes

read more…

Jun 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 24, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 31

Oh Yes You Can!

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!
“And I have personally appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make.” Exodus 31:1-6

Intro: This chapter concludes a section of Exodus that began in chapter 24, verse 12

Moses had climbed Mount Sinai and disappeared into a cloud on the summit
– God invited Moses into his presence to assign Israel a task
• he gave Moses instructions for constructing a sacred tent
• God’s intention was to live among his people
– the last two concerns addressed here are:

  1. Assigning a work crew for this extensive project
  2. Another reminder regarding the Sabbath

• reading Exodus, we keep bumping into the Sabbath
◦ the formal command appears in the Ten Commandments
◦ but already they kept a Sabbath in Egypt, at the beginning of journey, and received a reminder in 23:12

The sacred tent defined holy space – the Sabbath defined holy time
– God structured space and time to provide opportunities for encounter
• these occurred as day passed into night and night to day
◦ as one week ended and another began — the same with months and years
• each season had its unique celebration that brought Israel back into God’s presence
– it could be beneficial for us to meditate on the way God has structured space and time for us
• and use these moments as reminders to reconnect with God

1-5 The general contractor supervising the project

“Look” – this word usually has a specific purpose in biblical stories
– it indicates a shift in our point of view
• we are no longer looking through the eyes of the storyteller
◦ but we see what one of the characters inside the story sees
◦ this brings us into the story — in this case, as if we’re looking through Moses’ eyes
specifically chosen – translates a Hebrew term that is literally called by name
• I do not want to give up this literal translation
◦ it is not merely a summons, it is a personal summons (as with Abraham, Jacob, Moses, etc.)
◦ because of the personal nature of names and the role they play in relationships, God revealed his name

The LORD replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name” “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh (33:17, 19)

• God knew the name of every Israelite following Moses
◦ he knew their individual situations, their strengths and weaknesses, and their skills
◦ God knew what each person was capable of doing

I have filled him with the Spirit of God
This is the only place in the Old Testament that we find this phrase
– it refers to a unique experience given to few people
• these few were supernaturally empowered to perform a task or fill an office
◦ included: Moses, the elders, various judges, the first two kings of Israel, and the prophets
◦ filled with God’s divine energy, they worked miracles and led Israel
• the first time I realized what happens in this passage I was shocked
◦ this man was not a warrior like Samson, a leader like David, or a prophet like Isaiah
◦ he was an artisan and artist
master craftsman is also an interpretation and not a literal translation
• the Hebrew text continues to list Bezalel’s inspired skills;
• namely, the ability to think, or imagine, or plot a course of action

When Paul lists the gifted people God has given to his church,
– every service they perform is specifically religious

read more…

Jun 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 10, 2018 – Exodus Chapters 28-29

Dressing Up to Serve God

Call for your brother, Aaron, and his sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Set them apart from the rest of the people of Israel so they may minister to me and be my priests. Make sacred garments for Aaron that are glorious and beautiful. Instruct all the skilled craftsmen whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom. Have them make garments for Aaron that will distinguish him as a priest set apart for my service. Exodus Chapters 28-29 [read 28:1-3]

Intro: Last week we rushed through God’s instructions for gathering materials and assembling the sacred tent

Today we’ll run through God’s instructions for preparing his priests to serve in his tent
– a special class of ministers were needed to maintain the tent and perform its services
• these chapters have to do mostly with their clothing and ordination
glorious and beautiful – tells us something about worship
◦ glory refers to God’s radiant presence
beauty refers to what is proportionate and visually appealing
– making sacred garments for the priests required talented people
• “skilled” translates a Hebrew word meaning “wise of heart”
• a kind of practical wisdom that is developed through practice
◦ people who have perfected their craft

God chose Aaron to be the high priest and his four sons to be ordinary priests
– what it meant to be a priest is immediately spelled out:

  1. They were set apart from the rest of the people
  2. They were to minister to God (“to me”)
  3. They were to be God’s priests

• they were always to remember and observe these conditions
• God’s presence in his tent radiated holiness into every square inch
◦ they were not allowed to forget the energy present in that environment
◦ imagine it being like working in nuclear power plant

The sacred clothes worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:6-39)

An Ephod – we do not know what this was; perhaps an apron of sorts
– two swaths of material, one worn on the front the other on the back
• top of each part was connected by straps over the shoulders
◦ the bottom of each swath was held together by a sash or belt
• two stones were mounted on straps above the shoulders
◦ the names of six of the tribes were engraved on each one

in the same way a jeweler engraves a seal (v. 11)
A person’s seal (or “signet”) was unique and served like their signature or personal identification (e.g., Gen. 38:18, 25-26). To have the signet ID of the people indicated their endorsement of the priest and his authority to represent them before God. It was sort of like having what we know today as “power of attorney.” So the stones were there as a reminder that Aaron represents the people of Israel. Aaron will carry these names on his shoulders as a constant reminder whenever he goes before the LORD (v. 12).

– Aaron’s shoulders are the first of several significant body parts mentioned in these chapters
• there are a ton of shoulder idioms in the English language:

Some people have a good head on their shoulders
Others have a chip on their shoulders
While others carry the weight of the world on their shoulders
A successful person may be standing on the shoulders of someone else
Have you ever needed a shoulder to cry on?
What about someone giving you the cold shoulder?

• in the Old Testament, the shoulder has to do with work and carrying burdens (Isa. 46:7)

read more…

Jun 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 3, 2018 – Exodus Chapters 25-27 & 30

Containers and Their Contents

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them. Here is a list of sacred offerings you may accept from them:
gold, silver, and bronze;
blue, purple, and scarlet thread;
fine linen and goat hair for cloth;
tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather;
acacia wood;
olive oil for the lamps;
spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense;”
onyx stones, and other gemstones to be set in the ephod and the priest’s chestpiece.
Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according tot he pattern I will show you. 
Exodus 25:1-9

Intro: The first time I saw blueprints for a building, I was fascinated

It was a simple aerial drawing of the building’s “footprint”
– doors and windows were easily recognizable
• years later, when I needed a set of blueprints for a church building
◦ I was introduced to structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing drawings
◦ to me, they were a blur of lines and meaningless symbols
• that’s when I lost my blueprint fascination
– the chapters we’re zipping through today describe the structural details of God’s sacred tent
• I confess, for many years, this has been a place in scripture where I practice speed-reading
◦ part of my difficulty is that for a long time I read only the King James Version
◦ whenever I came to measurements defined by “cubits,” my brain shut down
• furthermore, we read these instructions without the benefit of drawings or diagrams

Some teachers try to make God’s sacred tent meaningful by loading it with symbols
– there is some symbolism here, but that’s not what makes it important
• and these chapters are important! – I hope to make that clear
– the subject of God’s tent will take us to the end of Exodus
• chapters 25-31 provide instructions for putting the tent together
◦ chapters 34:10-40 describe its construction
• between these two halves, the people nearly sabotaged whole plan

25:1-9 Yahweh puts Moses on a new project

God introduces it by telling Moses to request donations from the people
– “offering” refers to a specific sacrifice and how it was presented
• it was “lifted” or “raised up” in the hands of the priest
• so, giving was considered an act of worship, and the gift was considered sacred
– one condition to their giving was that their hearts had to be moved to do so
• this had to be something they wanted to do
◦ it has to do with the nature of the sacred tent
◦ they had to value their participation, and it had to be personal
• what they provided were raw materials

I do not like the word “tabernacle” and try to avoid it
– there are several different names for the sacred tent
• “sanctuary” is built on the Hebrew word for holy and refers to a holy place
◦ like our English word sanctuary which comes from the Latin word for holy, sanctus
• “tabernacle” refers to a place of residence
◦ a verb form of this word is used in (v. 8), where God’s purpose is revealed

so I can live [reside] among them
or, in essence, Build me a holy sanctuary so I can tabernacle among them

• God wanted his own tent, set up among theirs
◦ a holy place that could be moved around with their places of residence

Everette Fox referred to the tabernacle with an odd word picture, “portable anchor.” We anchor a ship so that it will not keep traveling through the sea. But he explains that God’s holy tent “establishes stability wherever it goes.”

– the people did not ask for this; for God to live among them
• at this point, I doubt that it crossed their minds
◦ the last we heard, they were comfortable keeping their distance
• this was God’s idea — he wanted to join them in their journey

This introduction to the sacred tent ends with an emphatic statement
– Moses must be sure to make it exactly according to the pattern God gave him
• we come to several more reminders of this in these chapters

25:10-40 The building design begins with furnishings

We might fail to see the logic of a building project that begins with furniture
(however, it makes perfect sense to my wife, Barbara)
– but this is the big idea: the type of structure depends on what’s inside
• the contents define the shape of the container
◦ we might want to remind ourselves the meaning of church in the New Testament
◦ it refers to the community of people who come together and not the place where they meet
• so God begins with the holiest object that was to be placed in the holiest room
– the “Ark” itself was a box, a container
• the contents were covenant conditions engraved on a sacred document
◦ this was the heartbeat of their relationship with God
• the lid was sacred in its own right as the epicenter of atonement (Lev. 16:13-14)
◦ cherubim (cherub is singular, cherubim is plural), guardians of divine presence
◦ their wings were spread above ark, with their heads facing downward at it

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May 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 27, 2018 – Exodus Chapters 21-24

Israel Says, “I Do”

Then the LORD instructed Moses: “Come up here to me, and bring along Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders. All of you must worship from a distance. Only Moses is allowed to come near to the LORD. The others must not come near, and none of the other people are allowed to climb up the mountain with him.”
Then Moses went down to the people and repeated all the instructions and regulations the LORD had given him. All the people answered with one voice, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.
Then Moses carefully wrote down all the LORD’s instructions.
 Exodus 24:1-4

Intro: The chapters I asked you to read comprise the covenant-making ritual

We want to link the idea of God’s “covenant” with “relationship”
– there were other “social covenants”: political, commercial and relational
• beneath the political and commercial covenants was a basic lack of trust
◦ in these contexts, covenants, contracts and treaties acted as guarantees
• one of loveliest relational covenants was that of Jonathan and David

Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as his own soul (1 Sam. 18:3)

– covenants have a specific beginning in time
• in Exodus chapter 24 Moses performed the ritual that bonded Israel to God
• that sacred ritual is to covenant what a wedding is to marriage
the wedding is a ritual in time–a rite-of-passage
marriage is the ongoing relationship that follows

Let’s suppose that this covenant ritual is a liturgy
– liturgy refers to worship that is mapped out in a specific order
• the greeting, prayers, songs, scripture readings, sermon, benediction
◦ it usually includes the celebration of Eucharist as well
• the liturgy contains all the necessary elements of a sacred service
◦ there are also special liturgies for baptisms, weddings and funerals
◦ liturgies are written out for people to follow, and they repeat every week
(liturgies for Christian worship have been around since the third century)
– we will take a closer look at each part of the covenant-making liturgy
• but first, there are these three chapters of legal stipulations
◦ that is because both parties need to know the conditions of their covenant relationship
◦ each vows to fulfill certain responsibilities to the other
• the Book of the Covenant (24:7) begins with the Ten Commandments
◦ but a more formal introduction is found in chapter 20:

These are the regulations you must present to Israel (Ex. 20:1)

Israel’s part: legal stipulations and religious celebrations
Yahweh’s part: to lead them safely to the land and settle them there

A word or two about these regulations

The logic of how these laws were arranged was not like ours
– all of our laws related to a particular regulation are grouped under the same heading
• but reading through the Mosaic law, it is difficult to see how they’re connected
◦ it seems like they were pulled out of a hat and randomly thrown together
• there were certain rules followed in the arrangement of these laws
◦ but those rules appear foreign to us
– Robert Altar identified two parts to these laws:
◦ the first group of laws (21:2-22:17) are laid out as hypothetical cases
(If someone does this, then the judgment will be this)
◦ the second group (22:17-23:19) are laid out as direct commands
(You must not allow . . . .)

Here are some ways the laws were put in order:

  1. Some laws are grouped according to a shared theme or key words
    – Regulations that deal with the rights of Hebrew slaves
    – Regulations that deal with crimes of assault that entail capital punishment
    – Regulations that deal with crimes of assault that may not entail capital punishment
    – Regulations that deal with accidental injuries
    – Regulations that deal with property damage, loss or theft
  2. Some laws are loosely related, not according to the prohibition, but some other factor
    – Three Ex. 22:18-20: three laws in which the common theme is capital punishment (22:18-20)
    – Seven laws in which the common theme is justice or right actions (23:1-9)
  3. A few laws include explanations
    – Regarding the exploitation of widows or orphans (22:22-24)
    – Regarding the oppression of foreigners (23:9)
  4. A beautiful aspect of all Hebrew writing is that poetry can be found everywhere
    – So several laws contain poetic language or a poetic structure

Robert Alter, (Ex. 23:22) “I shall be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. The perfect parallelism of this statement recalls the symmetry of a line of biblical poetry, and several verses in this concluding section of the Book of the Covenant approximate the formal balance and high solemnity of poetry.”

– another problem with Old Testament law: in general it falls far short of our standards
• it’s surprising that God’s law regulates slavery rather than outlaws it
◦ we must remember the these laws matched their time and culture
◦ they had relevance to the world as it was then
• the law was not an attempt to change culture, but to shape behavior in it
◦ to set limits, constrain violence and abuse

The point of all of these regulations is that the brought God’s will into their everyday lives
– the covenant is not a religious add-on to life in the world
• it is a life-changer – it speaks to social interactions and wrongdoing
• it also speaks to how people on the margins are to be treated
◦ God’s people to be devoted a social practice of inclusion
◦ no one is left out because he or she was too poor, weak, or did not belong
– the law makes them aware of what surrounds their everyday lives
• and it addressed not only what they did, but their underlying feelings and motives

Daniel Doriani, in a different context, reminds us,  “In the matter of wants versus needs, adults have a duty to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter for themselves and their children. But both rich and poor are prone to the character flaws of avarice, worry, greed, and the ingratitude that promotes self-pitying comparisons to others who have more than we do.”

• the law sets boundaries to these “character flaws”

Certain preparations were made for the covenant liturgy

To me, verse 3 looks like an informal rehearsal for what the people will say formally in verse 7
– instructions are given regarding Aaron, his two sons and the elders of the people
• they will have an important role in sealing the covenant with a shared meal
◦ but immediately we notice something unusual
◦ previously, not even the priests were to touch Mount Sinai
◦ now the priests and elders are given backstage passes
• perhaps this is because the ritual calls for intimacy
◦ as Israel’s representatives they were allowed to cross boundaries and come close to God
◦ their actual experience on the mountain will remain a mystery to us
– what is clear is that three different “stations” of holiness were established

read more…

May 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 20, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 20

Covenant Stipulations–The Basics

Then God gave the people all these instructions.
I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. Exodus 20:1-2

Intro: Last week, God revealed to Israel his intention for them

They would belong to him in a covenant relationship
– if ancient people wanted anything, it was to have the gods to be on their side
• for fertile soil, the right weather, healthy crops and livestock, and so on
• God promised, for his part that he would be their faithful God
◦ he would make them become a kingdom of priests, his holy nation
◦ the guarantee of their access to him and his favor toward them
– now he presents them with the other side of the covenant: their part
• the law wasn’t simply to teach them right from wrong
◦ but to mold them into the kind of people Yahweh desired
◦ God would make them a suitable partner
• these commandments, the Big Ten, assume a good understanding of human nature
◦ the various forces that drive us or tug at our hearts

1-2 Gateway to the Big Ten

What is the rationale behind the Ten commandments?
– first, their God is–I am Yahweh your God–and second, what he’s done–rescued you
• he doesn’t follow this with description of his nature or a list of his attributes
◦ the Christian church has constructed a super-rational theology
◦ by extracting concepts from scripture and arranging them in categories
• that is not how theology emerges in the Scriptures
– the Bible isn’t an encyclopedia–“Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About God”
• nor does it concern itself with abstract concepts
◦ God’s self-revelations come through interactions with him

Going through life with God, Abraham learned Yahweh was El Shaddai (the Almighty God), El Elyon (God Most High), Jireh (Provider). These revelations came to him in the course of his life through both his circumstances and his personal encounters with Yahweh.

• God does not reveal his essence; that is, what he is in himself
◦ he reveals to us what we need to know about him, who he is to us

You must not have any other God but me. Exodus 20:3

The first commandment: The covenant relationship is exclusive

Our English language has a rare feature: “you” can be both singular and plural
– in Hebrew, the “you” in each commandment is singular
• in other words, the commandments are addressed to every individual
• reading this, I am meant to hear God talking to me
– “before my face,” or in his presence
• in prayer and worship the meaning is specific
◦ God’s presence is experienced
• however, in general their entire lived-experience was before him
◦ God wanted them to know he was always alert to this
◦ when anyone’s heart began to form other attachments

This command doesn’t affirm or deny existence of other gods
– I assume that the human author of Exodus was monotheistic
• however, he knew the reality of Israel’s history
• in no period were they free of other gods until the exile
– the fact is, there are other gods – not like the deities of the ancient world
• but there are passions, ambitions, even possessions
◦ that can draw from me a greater devotion than I give to God
• these other interest do not start out as gods,
◦ but given enough time and energy they become obsessions
◦ some are addictions are not even enjoyable, yet we make great sacrifices for them

You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected–even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love and obey my commands. Exodus 20:4-6

The second commandment is related to the first: No idols

You must not make for yourself
Idol-making is something we do for ourselves
– we make a god in our own image (cf. Ps. 115:4-8)
• isn’t it true that we want a physical, tangible god – a manageable god
• the idol we fabricate reflect our needs, desires, values
◦ God specifies that idols are not to be made of anything in the heavens, earth or seas
◦ these were the primary zones of Israel’s worldview
– the making of any image is qualified by verse 5

You must not bow down to them or worship them

• this should not be construed on a complete ban on sculptures, paintings, etc.
◦ nor does it leave no place for sacred art in Israel’s worship
• later on God will call for sacred art in his sanctuary
◦ both sculptures of angels above the ark of the covenant
◦ and images of cherubim woven into the tapestry (Ex. 25:17-19; 26:1, 31)

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