Was God Unfair to Moses?

December 9, 2019 at 11:43 am | Posted in Q&A | 3 Comments
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Question: Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. He led them in the wilderness for 40 years. They were almost always whining, complaining, disobeying, griping, grumbling, and disobeying. They were ungrateful to God and Moses, even though they had been delivered, rescued, and given food, water, and safety so many times. Meanwhile, Moses, who they frequently wanted to stab in the back, even when he pleaded with God not to destroy them, made one little mistake, and God punished him by not letting him enter the promised land, and even showed him the promised land from the top of a mountain, so he could see what he missed out on right before he died! I have a hard time understanding the unfairness of this. Was Moses’s relatively small error really bad enough to justify what God did?

Answer: There are several issues to address here. First, let’s look at the incident to which you’re referring.

Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Numbers 20:1-12

On a previous occasion, when the people panicked about not having water, God instructed Moses to strike a rock with his special rod. Moses did so, and water came out. On this occasion, God gave Moses a different instruction: TAKE the rod, but SPEAK to the rock. Moses, no doubt frustrated and angry at the people because of their attitude and their accusations and their lack of trust in God despite all that He had done, and was doing, for them, “smote” (struck or hit) the rock, not once, but twice. Water came out, but God was not pleased. Because of Moses’s lack of belief in the necessity of following God’s orders precisely, and because of his failure to “sanctify” God (proclaim His holiness) in front of all the people, God decreed that Moses would not live to lead the people all the way across the Jordan River and into the promised land of Canaan when it was finally time for them to go.

Many Bible scholars have struggled with this incident, and with the temptation to see an overreaction on the part of God. God’s decision can be explained a number of ways. I’ll set forth just a few of them, without pretending to be an expert on the matter, of course, or even to have any great insight:

1. Moses’s disobedience was done in the presence of all the people, giving them a false idea of God’s holiness and the importance of obeying Him completely.

2. Moses made it seem to the people like he and Aaron were the ones doing the miracle (“must WE fetch you water out of the rock?”), rather than giving the glory to God. God will not share His glory (Isaiah 42:8).

3. The New Testament would later reveal that the rocks that gave water during the wilderness wandering were symbols of Christ, Who would ultimately be and give “the Living Water” (I Corinthians 10:4; John 7:37-38, 4:13-14). Moses had already struck a rock once (Exodus 17:6). Now he struck a rock twice, as though Christ would need to be crucified twice (which is inaccurate and misrepresentative of the Gospel).

4. Moses’s disobedience was blatant and direct. God said to speak, but Moses struck. While we are prone to excuse Moses, and to recognize his anger as something we often see in ourselves when confronted with ingratitude and whining, God, Who saw Moses’s heart and ulterior mindset, saw it as “unbelief” – something perhaps more calculated than provoked.

I will admit that, even with all this reasoning factored in, our inner sense of “fairness” may still not be satisfied. However, it helps to remember that Moses was not the only one who did not ultimately make it to the promised land. All of his generation, save Joshua and Caleb, perished in the wilderness, although their descendants finally did cross over into Canaan.

Also, I doubt that God allowing Moses to see the promised land, but not enter it, was intended as a taunt. I imagine that Moses was thankful to even see his goal with his eyes before God called him to an even better home in Heaven. The Bible portrays this as more of a consolation than an additional punishment (Deuteronomy 34). In context, it seems like a blessing that Moses, while still in good health and spirits, got to finally lay down the burden of shepherding such a rebellious people, who, no doubt, would have continued to be more than a handful even in Canaan. And, as a side note, we DO get to see Moses with his feet finally standing in the promised land in the New Testament, on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3).

Finally, while those explanations may not help our finite minds to understand exactly why Moses’s punishment seems so disproportionate to his crime, my brain always sends up a big red flag when I see the term “unfair” connected to God. Every breath that Moses took – and that every one of us takes – is an undeserved gift from God. We owe our very existence to him, and, from the moment of our conception, our whole experience is one of overflowing grace whether we recognize it or appreciate it, or not. Remember, Moses was a human being. A sinful and fallen human being just like me and you. The last thing we want from God is “fairness,” because, as the only image-bearing rebels and traitors in the universe, what we really “deserve” from God is eternal punishment and conscious torment. It is unwise to think our sin is “not as bad” as someone else’s (II Corinthians 10:12-13) or try to evaluate how, or in what measure, God should distribute His glorious grace and mercy (Romans 9:20-23; Job 38; Matthew 20:1-16).

Remembering the Laws

December 27, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Q&A | 3 Comments
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Question: The laws that were given to Moses by God in Exodus 21 and 22 were given orally. How could so many laws be remembered by Moses and then transmitted to the people without writing them down?

Answer: Later on (probably during the wilderness wanderings) Moses did write them down, and, since he was inspired by the Holy Spirit at that time, there was no possibility of him making a mistake in remembering them. However, before they were written down, they were given with certain literary and mnemonic devices built into them to help with their memorization. One of these is the device of chiasmus. Also, faithful Hebrew fathers were supposed to rehearse the laws with their children frequently and regularly, so that they could be remembered and passed down from generation to generation. See Deuteronomy 6:1-9.

Is God Your Fill-in-the-Blank?

April 19, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: In Exodus 3:13-14 Moses asked God to tell him the name that he should tell the people when they asked Moses who sent him. God told Moses that He was “I AM THAT I AM,” and that he should tell them “I AM” sent him. Did God leave a blank at the end of His revealed name so that people could fill in the blank with whatever they needed Him to be? In other words, the people in Egypt needed to be delivered from bondage, so they could finish God’s statement by imputing to Him the name, “I AM… your Deliverer.” When they got hungry or thirsty later on, they could think of Him as “I AM… your Provider.” When they got sick, they could could call Him “I AM… your Healer.” If they were attacked, they could pray to “I AM… your Shield.” And so forth. Does that make sense – the idea that God would be whatever you need Him to be?

Answer: God used the name “I AM” which sounds abbreviated to us, but which actually points to His supreme holiness. In other words, Moses was looking for a way to describe what manner of God this was Who had spoken to Him, and God could not point to anything outside of Himself for comparison. He had to stop at simply “I AM” because there is no thing and no one in this universe to which He can be properly compared, since everything is “creaTION” except for God Himself, Who is “CreaTOR.” He used the name “I AM” in the singular sense of “I AM it, I’m all there is when it comes to ‘gods.’ I’m the only one that’s real.” (This was a real deal-breaker for Pharaoh and the Egyptians who had gods for everything from frogs to houseflies.) I think this interpretation is reinforced by the First Commandment, where God declared that He is one God (I AM the LORD your GOD), and that no one is allowed to make up any other little g gods “before Him.”

Perhaps people will think of the name “I AM THAT I AM” in whichever sense they find more comforting. I know that people like to think of God as being whatever they need Him to be during difficult times. Personally, I take greater comfort in knowing that whatever He reveals Himself to be in the Bible is ultimately what is best. When I swing out into eternity and leave this world behind I’m depending on the God that is “real” to hold me in His everlasting arms, regardless of whatever personal ideas I might have ascribed to Him.

The Real Emancipation Proclamation

March 9, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?

Proverbs 20:6

We have a strong tendency to promote ourselves. The Hebrew word translated as “proclaim” in Proverbs 20:6 is qara. It is from a root word meaning to stop someone and accost them. Most of us are willing to go out of our way – to insert ourselves into someone else’s path if necessary, to stop them in their tracks, to grab hold of them – and in some way try to cause them to think well of us as individuals. We are like traveling salesmen or street-corner hucksters, distributing a good opinion of ourselves and seeking our own glory.

This category, “most men,” is contrasted with the “faithful man.” The rhetorical question, “Who can find one?” emphasizes the scarcity of faithful people, but it also draws a sharp distinction between the self-promoter – the one who accosts people to tell them of his own goodness – and the faithful person who is literally hard to find. Why is he hard to find? Because he’s not trying to be found. He’s too busy serving other people.

In the Book of Exodus God spoke with Moses face to face, in a sense. He spoke to him as a friend, and assured him that He had favor with God. This prompted Moses to ask for a huge request. Knowing that ordinarily no man could see God with His glory unveiled and live, Moses asked for a special dispensation: “Lord, show me your glory.

God agreed to a partial granting of this request:

And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

Exodus 33:19 (emphasis added)

God, like the boastful men of Proverbs 20:6, proclaims, too, but this is a different type of proclaiming. This is an announcement not tinged with a desperate need for acceptance. This is a bold, straightforward, official proclamation of Who God is – according to God Himself! And he told Moses flat-out: “I will decide on My own – without anyone else’s help or input – who will receive grace and who will receive mercy.”

As Christians, we are commanded to serve. Part of our service is to proclaim the truth about God, and part of that truth is that the results are up to Him, not us. Our part is to be faithful – to walk humbly with God, and to obey His Word. Our accosting of other people on God’s behalf may be successful or unsuccessful according to our estimation, but we should find comfort and hope and the resolve not to quit in knowing that the distribution of God’s grace and mercy to those to whom we minister is in His hands.

Did Moses Die?

February 12, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: Why do some people say that Moses didn’t die?

Answer: I think it has to do with his appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-31). Peter, James, and John went up a mountain with Jesus and saw Him talking with Moses and the prophet Elijah. Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (II Kings 2:11) were the only people to be taken up to Heaven without dying a physical death here on earth. So, some people assume that, since Elijah appeared with Moses in the New Testament, that Moses must not have died, either. However, this flies directly in the face of Scripture because Deuteronomy Chapter 34, Verses 5-7 specifically say that Moses died.

An interesting side note is that Moses died while he was still very strong and in good health (at the age of 120!) He was alone with the Lord when he died, and the Lord personally buried him. Later on, in Jude v.9, we find out that Satan wanted to take possession of Moses’s body, but Michael the archangel fought him off.

Old Testament Prayer

January 5, 2018 at 10:59 am | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: In Exodus Moses talks to God and relays messages back and forth between God and the people. Did people in the Old Testament pray in the way that we do?

Answer: That’s a really good question that forces us to think about the nature of prayer. We know that people prayed in the Old Testament, even before Exodus. Two notable examples are Abraham in Genesis 20:17 and Abraham’s servant in Genesis 24:12-14. After Exodus the Old Testament is replete with all kinds of prayers in all kinds of situations. Many of the Psalms are in the form of prayers, although sin could always serve as a hindrance to prayer (Psalm 66:18).

It is possible that in Exodus 2:24-25 when God heard the “groaning” of the Israelites in their bondage in Egypt that this groaning was a type of call to God for help, but it is also possible that, after hundreds of years in Egypt, the people had forgotten about Abraham’s God and did not practice prayer. It may be that through the ministry of Moses and the priesthood the practice of praying to the one true God was reinstated.

Your reference to Moses, though, is especially astute, because it reminds us that, while Moses interceded with God on behalf of the people, under the New Testament we have a better Intercessor (Romans 8:34) and Mediator (I Timothy 2:5) that allows us to call upon the Lord in His Name freely whenever we want (Hebrews 4:14-16).

His Glory and His Word

May 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Posted in Mark | 4 Comments
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It is often said that of all the Israelites who were over 20 years old when they left Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb survived the wilderness wandering and entered into Canaan. However, we might add Moses to that list, as well, for, although he did not make it there during his earthly lifetime, he does appear there in the New Testament:

And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.

Mark 9:2-4

Jesus demonstrated His glory and Deity on the mount of transfiguration. In a common Biblical formula, the demonstration of God’s glory was closely followed by the proclamation of God’s Word.

And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

Mark 9:7

“Hear Him,” says the Father of the Son. God’s two greatest revelations of Himself are Jesus’s incarnation and His Word.

And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

Mark 9:5

Peter and the Disciples could not stay on the mount of transfiguration, reveling in the glory. They needed to go down and get busy, motivated by what they had seen and heard. Have you been motivated by the revelation of God’s glory in your life? Can you give a testimony of your conversion experience and tell people why you believe what you believe? If so, does your manner of living demonstrate your testimony? If you told your acquaintances, “I believe that Jesus is God, and I know that He paid the price for my sins and has given me eternal life,” would they say, “Hmm, I sure couldn’t tell you believed that,” or would they say, “Ohhhh, that explains why you act that way – why you care for others, why you pray, why you carry a Bible, why you go to church…”?

Later on in Mark Chapter 9 we see that Jesus restored a demon-possessed child to his father. This reminds us that we, too, should have a ministry of restoring children to their fathers. The Holy Spirit probably had Mark highlight Jesus’s ministry to children in his Gospel because “child” and “servant” were the same words in Aramaic.

And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

Mark 9:36-37

The world says it is an honor to have others serving you. Jesus says it is an honor to be serving others.

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

Mark 9:35

No one can be neutral about Jesus Christ

And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.

Mark 9:38-40

As Christians we can be purified by God’s controlled fires in this life, but those who reject
Jesus will be burned by the fire of God’s wrath forever.

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

Mark 9:47-50

Exodus: Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

July 29, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Posted in Exodus | 4 Comments
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Key Themes in the Book of Exodus:

1. The Lord sets His people free. (Exodus 5:1)
SIGN: The actual “exiting” from Egypt (Exodus 12:51)
SEAL: The plagues – especially the death of the firstborn (Exodus 12:29)
DELIVERANCE: The destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:27) [If you are a Christian, the Lord has set you free and He has destroyed the power of your enemies.]

2. The freedom which the Lord grants comes with the responsibility of obedience. (Exodus 15:26)
SIGN: The Decalogue and the Covenant Code (Exodus 20:1)
SEAL: The splashing of blood (Exodus 24:6-8)
DELIVERANCE: A true system of worship (Exodus 20:23-24)

3. The Lord allows trials and tests to strengthen faith. (Exodus 14:3-4)
SIGNS: Trapped at the Red Sea; Amalekite attack; lack of water and food (Exodus 14:10, 17:8-9, 16:2-4, 17:1-3)
SEALS: Red Sea parted (Exodus 14:21-22); water and manna provided (Exodus 15:25, 16:13-15)
DELIVERANCE: Promise of a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8)

4. The Lord wants intimate worship. (Exodus 6:7)
SIGN: The appointment of Moses as mediator and intercessor (Exodus 19:3, 32:11-14)
SEAL: The instruction to build a tabernacle in the midst of the people (Exodus 25:8)
DELIVERANCE: The continuing office of priests (Exodus 40:15)

5. The Lord wants sacrificial worship from His people. (Exodus 3:18)
SIGN: Offerings would be integral to worship (Exodus 13:15)
SEAL: The acceptance of shed blood for the remission of sins (Exodus 29:10-22)
DELIVERANCE: The provision by God of the things to be sacrificed, as opposed to Pharaoh’s cruel order that they find their own straw (Exodus 12:22-23, 5:10-12)

6. The Lord wants to abide permanently with His people. (Exodus 19:5-6)
SIGN: The promise of the Lord to be their national and personal God (Exodus 33:12-17)
SEAL: A detailed, intricate, specific, yet mobile, tabernacle, as opposed to pilgrimages to a holy place (Exodus 25:9)
DELIVERANCE: The glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34)

Links to lessons in the Exodus category:

1. God’s People in the World (Exodus 1)
2. Moses as a Type of Christ (Exodus 1-2)
3. How God Prepares Leaders (Exodus 2-3)
4. When It’s Time to Cut Loose (Exodus 2, 4:21-26)
5. What Is God Like? (Exodus 3, 15:11)
6. Don’t Beat around the Bush (Exodus 3-4)
7. Spiritual Arteriosclerosis (Exodus 4, 7-11, 14)
8. This Is Not a Negotiation (Exodus 5, 7, 8, 10, 14)
9. Beware False Finger-Pointing (Exodus 5)
10. The Manager Who Thought He Was an Owner (Exodus 7:5; Luke 20:9-16)
11. Knowing that He Is the Lord (Exodus 7, 8, 14)
12. Smiting the Gods (Exodus 7-8)
13. Outer Darkness and Inner Darkness (Exodus 10)
14. Evil Angels (Exodus 11-12)
15. The Passover: Killing, Purging, and Eating (Exodus 12)
16. The Lambs that Were Silenced but Still Speak Today (Exodus 12)
17. A Fawning Farewell (Exodus 12)
18. Remembering the Garlic (Exodus 12-13; Numbers 11:4-10)
19. The Why behind the What and the How (Exodus 13)
20. A Three-Item To-Do List before Leaving Egypt Behind (Exodus 13)
21. Two Miracles: A Parted Sea and a Hardened Heart (Exodus 14)
22. Delaying Dutifully During Deliverance (Exodus 14)
23. Cooler than the Other Side of the Pillar (Exodus 14:19-22)
24. Poetry, Dancing, and the Wondrous Fear of God (Exodus 15)
25. When the Lord Becomes Your Song (Exodus 15)
26. Omniscience, Obstacles, Opportunities, and Overruling Oversight (Exodus 15-16)
27. The Statute and the Ordinance at Marah (Exodus 15:25-26)
28. The Bookends of Faith (Part 1) (Exodus 3:13-14; 16; John 6:26-51)
29. How to Raise Your Hand During a Test (Exodus 17)
30. A Busy Time-Out (Exodus 18-19)
31. Three Reasons for Ten Commandments (Revelatory) (Exodus 20)
32. Three Reasons for Ten Commandments (Restrictive) (Exodus 20)
33. Three Reasons for Ten Commandments (Reflective) (Exodus 20)
34. Three Words about God: His Supremacy, His Image, and His Name (Exodus 20:1-7)
35. A Fourth Word about God: His Rest (Exodus 20:3-11)
36. Teaching the 3rd and 4th Commandments to Children (Exodus 20:7-8) *
37. Catechism Question 2 (Exodus 20:11)
38 The Horizontal Words (Exodus 20:12-17)
39. Frightening Words (Exodus 20:18-20)
40. Reverence as a Warning Against Idolatry (Exodus 20:18-26)
41. A Justice Sandwich (Exodus 21)
42. Remembering the Laws (Exodus 21-22)
43. Properly Promoting the Principle of Personal Property (Exodus 22)
44. A Revelation of a Violation against Revilation (Exodus 22:28)
45. Peer Pressure and Robin Hood Theology Exposed (Exodus 23:2-3)
46. The Forbidden Recipe and the Special Angel (Exodus 23:19-21, 20:22-23)
47. A Bloody Confirmation and Covenant (Exodus 23-24)
48. Restriction and Freedom in Worship (Exodus 24-25)
49. Worship Is about Sacrifice (Exodus 26-28)
50. Oh, be Careful, Little Ears, Thumbs, and Toes (Exodus 29)
51. The True Consecration (Exodus 29-31)
52. The Laver as Baptistry? (Exodus 30:18)
53. Why We Can, and Cannot, Have Nice Things (Exodus 31-32)
54. Syncretism and Sexual Sin (Exodus 32:5-6)
55. Corrupt Curving off Course (Exodus 32:7-9)
56. The Intercessory Prayer of Moses (Exodus 32:10-13)
57. The Personality of God (Exodus 32, 14:12)
58. When the Word of God Crashes the Party (Exodus 32:15-20)
59. The Consequences of Partying Naked (Exodus 32:21-25)
60. The Great Peradventure (Exodus 32:26-30)
61. God’s Unassisted Bookkeeping (Exodus 32:31-35)
62. What Moses Really Wanted from God (Exodus 33)
63. The Real Emancipation Proclamation (Exodus 33:19)
64. Catechism Question 13 (Exodus 33:20)
65. The Relief and Terror of God’s Presence (Exodus 34)
66. Unveiled Glory and Unguarded Giving (Exodus 34-35; II Corinthians 3:7-18)
67. Up to Spec (Exodus 35-38)
68. Command-Fulfillment Pattern (Exodus 35-40)
69. The Tabernacle Completed, Inspected, and Turned over to the Owner (Exodus 40)

* most-viewed post in category

The Tabernacle Completed, Inspected, and Turned over to the Owner

July 18, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Exodus | 4 Comments
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And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.

Exodus 40:1-2

The Tabernacle was set up for the first time on the first day of the new year (which would be sometime around March-April on our modern calendar).

Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him, so did he. And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up.

Exodus 40:16-17

This would have been about 11 months after the people reached Mt. Sinai.

One of the themes of Exodus Chapter 40 is “just as the LORD commanded him.”

And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.

Exodus 40:33

Moses wasn’t the designer or the builder or even the general contractor – but he was the quality control supervisor.

Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

Exodus 40:34-38

Imagine or recall the feeling of seeing your baby for the first time or a house you were having built finally finished or your wedding day finally arrives or your child gets married or graduates – but Moses could not go in while the Lord’s presence filled it. A builder is no longer allowed to go into a home he has been hired to build once he hands over the keys to the owner, unless he has the owner’s permission.

Command-Fulfillment Pattern

June 28, 2016 at 11:04 am | Posted in Exodus | 5 Comments
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The repetition in Exodus 35-38 is an example of the “command-fulfillment” pattern. The Holy Spirit could have inspired Moses to write, “They did everything the LORD told them to do” or “and so it was done,” but, instead, He restates the instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle. This command-fulfillment pattern was also used in the description by God to Moses of what would happen in Egypt with the plagues, and then the recitation of the fulfillment of it exactly as He said.

One reason for the use of the command-fulfillment pattern was to illustrate externally what was happening internally. The commandment against coveting, for example, is difficult to document and verify, but the command to sew a scarlet and blue and gold curtain was not. Therefore, the pattern demonstrates a verification of the people’s obedience.

Another reason was that this would be a teaching tool for the priests to use later in instructing future generations of priests and people in how to worship Yahweh. It is intended for learning by repetition.

A third reason is that it would remind people that worship of God is supposed to be sacrificial, not “easy” – especially with them going into a land where an idol would be hanging from every tree and standing in every field. It would serve as a safeguard against lazy idolatry by reminding the people that the real God deserves attention and sacrifice.

A fourth reason was that preparing to worship is itself worship. This would be a good reminder that everything is an act of worship.

A fifth reason was that God graciously allows willing participation. The structure of the commands told them they needed to “think” and “act” in obedience. This would teach the people to obey God in what He has specifically said, but to also use their brains and their backs to honor Him with the freedom He allows. Free obedience seems contradictory, but it is really a beautiful paradox found only in true worship of the true God.

Sixth, spotting minor changes between the commands and the fulfillment reminds us not to “skim” – not to take for granted any passages of Scripture. Every jot and tittle is important to God. It also teaches us the importance of how, as children of God, we are to exercise precision in how we speak. For example, Christians shouldn’t say that they are “proud” of their kids. They shouldn’t “thank their lucky stars.”

All the gold that was occupied for the work in all the work of the holy place, even the gold of the offering, was twenty and nine talents, and seven hundred and thirty shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary.

Exodus 38:24

That’s between 2000 and 2200 pounds of gold.

And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.

Exodus 38:25-26

That’s about 7545 pounds of silver.

After they finished all the furnishings and the priests’ garments, they brought everything to Moses to inspect:

Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished: and the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they. And they brought the tabernacle unto Moses, the tent, and all his furniture, his taches, his boards, his bars, and his pillars, and his sockets,

Exodus 39:32-33

And he did inspect it thoroughly:

According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work. And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.

Exodus 39:42-43

The idea is not that Moses gave a cursory look-see. Remember, he had seen these things in a vision in the glory cloud on Mt. Sinai. He knew how God wanted them to look and function, and he did a very careful and thorough inspection. It is noteworthy that such a project was accomplished, but it is truly remarkable that it was done “as the LORD had commanded.”

Now it needed to be set up.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.

Exodus 40:1-2

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