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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

read more…

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)

read more…

May 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 13, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 19

The Main Event

Exactly two months after the Israelites left Egypt, they arrived in the wilderness of Sinai. After breaking camp at Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and set up camp there at the base of Mount Sinai.
Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The LORD called to him from the mountain and said,
“Give these instructions to the family of Jacob;
announce it to the descendants of Israel:
‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians.
You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant,
you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth;
for all the earth belongs to me.
And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’
This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.
 Exodus 19:1-6

Intro: Before we jump into the story, here’s what you need to know

This is one of the most significant chapters in the Bible
– it does not reveal a whole lot about God,
• but the information it does reveal is essential
• God reveals himself–that is, his person–to Israel
◦ he also reveals who they will become
◦ Israel identity is derived from Yahweh and their relationship with him
– this chapter is a turning point
• it lays the foundation for all that will follow from this moment on
• Israel is given a new experience of Yahweh
◦ a new revelation and a new relationship
◦ the course of their lives will be sent in a new direction

1-2 The setting is described in terms of time and space

As usual, there aren’t many specific details–e.g., landscape, weather, vegetation, etc.
– in fact, there are so few details that today it is impossible to locate Mount Sinai
• the storyteller assumed his audience was familiar enough with the desert
◦ therefore he could continue on with the story
• still, the fact that this scene occurs in time and space is important
◦ both can be made sacred
“God blessed Sabbath and made it holy” (Gen. 2:3)
and “you are standing on holy ground” (Ex. 3:5)
– Mount Sinai will continue to be the (space) setting for remainder of book

The movement in the story is vertical
– God reveals his presence on the top of Sinai
• the people are present at the foot of the mountain
– Moses is busy going up and down, receiving and delivering messages
• the entire episode is enclosed in an envelope structure:
◦ it begins in verse 3 when Moses first goes up the mountain
◦ it is complete in verse 25 when he comes down from the mountain
• after that, a new section begins (the giving of the ten commandments)

Verses 3-8 are the theological and spiritual heart of the chapter

Corporations define their business, objectives and operations with
– vision statements, mission statements, and purpose statements
• these justify and explain why the company exists; its essence
• God gives Israel a rough draft of their vision statement
– there are three parts to it:
1. Recent history
2. Immediate responsibility
3. Future effect or result

Recent history: you have seen and you know
– what God did to the Egyptians was, he broke their power over Israel
• he took his people out of that oppressive system – all the way out
• my lifetime, seen lots of changes in civil rights,
◦ but we’re not all the way to equality or the end of oppression
◦ in a short span of time, God’s liberation of Israel was complete
carried you on eagles’ wings is poetic – he airlifted them to safety
brought you to myself – they were not lost in the desert
• nor were they still a long way from their destination
• they had arrived – they were now with Yahweh their God
◦ what a revelation that is!
◦ wherever I am, wherever you are, if we are “in Christ” we have arrived

read more…

May 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 6, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 18

Leadership Fatigue And Frustrated Followers

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything God had done for Moses and his people, the Israelites. He heard especially about how the LORD had rescued them from Egypt.  . . .
So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law. He bowed low and kissed him. They asked about each other’s welfare and then went into Moses’ tent. Moses told his father-in-law everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and Egypt on behalf of Israel. He also told about all the hardships they had experienced along the way and how the LORD had rescued his people from all their troubles. Jethro was delighted when he heard about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel as he rescued them from the hand of the Egyptians.
“Praise the LORD,” Jethro said, “for he has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Yes, he has rescued Israel from the powerful hand of Egypt! I know now that the LORD is greater than all other gods, because he rescued his people from the oppression of the proud Egyptians”
Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God. Aaron and all the elders of Israel came out and joined him in a sacrificial meal in God’s presence. Exodus 18:1, 7-12

Intro: God sponsored Israel’s spiritual health with three prominent resources:

Prophecy, worship and wisdom – think: Isaiah, Psalms and Proverbs
– in this chapter we come across two of those resources
• but there’s an unusual twist
• the person who officiates worship and gives wise counsel is not Moses
◦ in fact, this person is not even an Israelite
◦ he is Moses’ Midianite father-in-law, Jethro

1-7 Jethro arrives with Zipporah and Moses’ two sons

The storyteller takes this opportunity to fill in a few details

  1. At some point Moses had sent away Zipporah back to father’s home
    • my assumption: he did this once he realized the danger and hardship they faced
  2. Moses had a second son who was not mentioned before
  3. Between last week and now, Israel had moved to Mt. Sinai
    • this would have brought Moses close to his old home

Moses greets Jethro with warmth and respect
– “welfare” is the Hebrew word shalom
• it is an optimumal state of health, prosperity and peace
– then they then retreat into a more private and homey space
• here Moses can catch Jethro up on all that happened

8-12 The theme of first half of chapter emerges

In verse 1, Jethro had received news of what had transpired
– there were two parts to the message he received:
everything God had done for Moses and his people
the LORD had rescued them from Egypt
– these are the same topics that Moses reports in verse 8 (with more details no doubt)
• and Jethro repeats them in his delighted response

Moses told his father-in-law everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and Egypt . . . and how the LORD had rescued his people from all their troubles (v. 8)
Jethro was delighted when he heard about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel as he rescued them from the hand of the Egyptians (v. 9)
Notice the rescue theme again in verse 10, “Praise the LORD,” Jethro said, “for he has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Yes, he has rescued Israel from the powerful hand of Egypt.”

What happens next is a little surprising
– Jethro takes the initiative in presenting God a burnt offering and sacrifice
• his actions aren’t surprising, because he was the priest of Midian (v. 1)
◦ they would expect this expression of gratitude from a priest
• the surprise is that he’s not Israel
◦ yet Israel’s elders accepted his lead and joined him
– some commentators have tried to make Jethro a convert
• a descendant of Abraham who remembered Abraham’s God
◦ but that’s unlikely – the forever sign of God’s covenant with Abraham was circumcision
◦ remember Moses’ tension with Zipporah over their son’s circumcision?
◦ that would seem to rule out the possibility that God’s covenant with Abraham had been maintained by the Midianites
• Jethro’s confession also points in another direction, Yahweh is greater than all other gods
◦ he the priest of Midian’s god or gods
◦ but he had never witnessed anything like the works of Yahweh

The problem for some Christians is they cannot imagine Israel’s elders allow themselves to participate in a ritual performed by a non-Israelite
– what possible factors could have made this seem acceptable to them?

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Apr 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 29, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 17

Desert Dangers

At the LORD’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of [Sine] and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. So once more the people complained against Moses, “Give us water to drink!” they demanded.
“Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the LORD?” But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” Exodus 17:1-3

Intro: Why are fastest speed limits in California and Arizona posted on our desert freeways?

Most travelers try to get through desert as fast as possible
– I would remind my children, we made desert journeys with out air-conditioning
• my parents reminded us of horse-drawn covered wagons
◦ not that they ever traveled that way, but to give us perspective
◦ it didn’t work
• we also learned that high temperatures made for short fuses
– I bring this up so that we can feel some sympathy for the Israelites
• their trek thru the wilderness led from one hardship to another
• their worst times, however, resulted when they lost sight of God

In some ways, our spiritual journey parallels their travels
– the Apostle Paul made this point in 1 Corinthians
• and that will be how we approach Exodus chapter 17 today
– there were two common experiences on this desert journey:
1. Going through periods of dryness
2. Coming under attack

Israel is on the move againAt the LORD’s command

“Command” is literally “mouth,” and I like the feel of that
– it makes God’s speech seem more direct and intimate
• it’s nicer to be nudged by a gentle voice, “Time to go”
• than be driven by a gruff command, “Get going!”
– Israel’s movements were constantly “from” place to place
• each camp site was the springboard for their next move

Life with God is never static
– Paul compares the human body to a tent (2 Cor. 5:1)
• a temporary shelter
◦ the book of Hebrews says we have no permanent residence in this world
• it’s like standing on the ocean shore, ankle-deep in water
◦ the sand keeps shifting under your feet, so you have to keep moving
– we are not in heaven yet
• but going from place to place is not so bad if, like Paul says,

we . . . are being transformed from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18)

• God meets us where he finds us in this place at this moment
◦ and he walks us into the next place and the next moment

The first problem they ran into in this new place: no water

Of course they complain – and their complaint is routed to two departments
– it reaches Moses as a dispute, and reaches God as a test

The word test (also translated tempt) frequently occurs in the Bible. To get at its meaning, imagine that you inherited a ring from a dear old aunt. Wanting to know if the diamond in it is real, you take it to a jeweler who can test it for you. The test will not only confirm the genuineness of the diamond, but also reveal its quality and value. Tests in the Scriptures serve a similar purpose.

• God has tested the people of Israel two times
◦ in Exodus 15:25, he tested their faithfulness
◦ in Exodus 16:4, he tested them to see if they would follow is instructions
• God doesn’t learn anything from testing me — he already knows me
◦ but when tested, I learn something about myself

read more…

Apr 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 22, 2018 – Exodus Chapters 15 – 16

Basic Survival: Food and Water

I will sing to the LORD for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise him—
my father’s God, and I will exalt him!
 Exodus 15:1-2

Intro: These verses begin Israel’s first psalm of praise

However, it will be a long time before music becomes regular feature of their worship
– I am going to run through what follows quickly and then return to this song

Israel’s “other song” is their chorus of complaint (15:22-27)

They arrived at their first desert oasis, but the water there was undrinkable
– we naturally encounter “bitter” moments when traveling
• they went straight to complaint, grumbling or murmuring
• the Hebrew word suggests frustration or disappointment settled in the heart
◦ and then verbally leaking out
◦ they learned to complain while they were slaves in Egypt
– Israel was an infant nation – they had been dependent on their masters
• it did not occur to them that they could fend for themselves
◦ symbolically, the wilderness was more than a place, it was a state of mind
◦ uncertainty, unpredictability, chaotic and filled with unknown dangers
• God did not scold them for complaining or for criticizing Moses
◦ instead, he used this incident to test and train them (see vv. 25-26)
◦ he could take care of them and given their cooperation he would take care of them

Their next trek brought them to a true oasis, v. 27
– the significance of twelve springs and seventy palm trees:
• a water source and five palm trees (date palms) for every tribe
• God was taking care of them

Before long, the people were griping again (Chapter 16)

When forming an opinion about a situation or a person,
– nothing easier than finding something to criticize
• if you can’t find some flaw, it is easy enough to invent something

For example, when Daniel’s enemies could not find any fault or evidence of corruption in his administration or service to the king, they conspired to set the stage so he would be condemned for his righteous behavior (Dan. 6:4-5).

• criticism is not a skill we want to develop
◦ it tends to spoil everything in our lives
– note the symmetry in their complaint:
• it emerges in the contrast between Egypt and the wilderness:
“In Egypt we had food.
In the wilderness we are going to starve to death.”

Again, God does not fault them for their grumbling
– for now, he wants them calling on him whenever they have a need
• this is not exactly prayer and it was certainly not best possible way to ask
◦ in fact, their statement is rather snide, If only Yahweh had killed us back in Egypt
• but God is patient with them
– Moses, on the other hand, is obviously irritated

What have we done that you should complain about us? . . . What have we done? Yes, your complaints are against the LORD, not against us (Ex. 16:7-8)

Then God did something special for Israel – 16:9-10
– he revealed himself to Israel and set food on the table
• the revelation of God’s glory is a self-manifestation

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