The Relief and Terror of God’s Presence

April 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Posted in Exodus | 3 Comments
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What a great relief it must have been to hear that God would re-write His covenant laws on tables of stone. Moses obeyed God and took two blank slabs up Mt. Sinai. Then God descended and proclaimed His name and His attributes.

And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Exodus 34:5-7

Do you hear the ominous note in Verse 7? “By no means clear the guilty.” Can you sense the tension and paradox between that and “forgiving iniquity [our sinful condition] and transgression [intentional sin] and sin [the most general category encompassing everything worthy of judgment and death]?”

Moses did not argue or debate:

And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.

Exodus 34:8

He worshiped. God is not a problem to be solved. He is a Person to be worshiped.

Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.

Exodus 34:12-16

He told them that, when they got to the promised land, they must destroy the wicked people of the land, or else the wicked people of the land would corrupt them.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.

Exodus 34:27

Again, this must have been a huge relief for Moses – that God was renewing or reconfirming His covenant with the people and reassuring them that He would be with them.

And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.

Exodus 34:28-30

Moses’s face radiated in a way that was visible to those who saw him, but that he himself could not feel. This was a sort of foreshadowing of the great evidence of God’s presence with us in Christ. It makes us humble, yet it should impress and even convict others when God’s glory shines in our life. In Moses’s case, it was literally visible, though, and it terrified the people. They could not honestly question the fact of Moses’s appointment by God as their earthly leader while his face resembled a miniature version of the glory cloud of flashing stormy light they had previously seen on Mt. Sinai. He had to cover his face with a veil so that they could stand to be near him.

And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.

Exodus 34:33

Worship Is about Sacrifice

June 12, 2015 at 9:31 am | Posted in Exodus | 8 Comments
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The instructions that God gave to Moses and the people for the construction of the Tabernacle let them know that this was going to be a movable structure, but its mobility was not merely functional, like a circus tent. The purpose of the Tabernacle would be greater than simply providing shade or a central location to worship. It was supposed to inspire appreciation for God’s attributes.

The Tabernacle would point to God’s strength and His beauty:

Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them.

Exodus 26:1

It would inspire reverence of Him:

And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place.

Exodus 26:33-34

This was going to represent the place where the presence of God on earth lived.

It would be a place of sacrificial worship:

And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basons, and his fleshhooks, and his firepans: all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass.

Exodus 27:3

True worship always involves more than receiving. True worship is primarily about giving – giving that which is costly and valuable to us – ultimately, giving ourselves.

In Exodus Chapter 28 we see the ordination of the Aaronic priesthood. The priests were ministers – to the people, yes, but not primarily to the people.

And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.

Exodus 28:1

We forget this aspect of ministry too often. We think we are doing what we do for others or ourselves (and they and we do benefit), but true priests ministered unto the Lord, which means that we need to ask, “Is what I’m doing pleasing to Him?” In order to know what’s pleasing to Him, we need to ask Him, by looking for the answer in His Word. We must think of Him even before the people who are in danger, even before our own children, even before my spouse. The very clothes and garments of the priests reflected that whatsoever they were to do, they were to do it unto the Lord.

And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.

Exodus 28:2

Lord, Leader, and Ladder

June 15, 2010 at 9:53 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Genesis | 8 Comments
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In Genesis Chapter 28 we see the account of “Jacob’s Ladder.”

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

Genesis 28:12

This was Jacob’s exclamation when he awoke from that dream:

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

Genesis 28:16

Why was Jacob so surprised at the presence of God? I suspect, like most of us, Jacob had an intellectual understanding of God’s omnipresence. However, also like most of us, he tended to get distracted by circumstances and forget about God’s presence.

For one thing, Jacob had left his family for the first time. He was on a long trip to the home of his father’s people. He probably did not expect to encounter another Yahweh-worshiper during the whole trip. Christians who do not attend church regularly, and who work with nonbelievers during the week, may tend to miss out on the reminder of God’s presence that comes with being around God’s people.

For another thing, Jacob had left behind his earthly father, and his earthly father’s altars and tents. As Christians we must not forget that the house of the Lord is not the only place we can meet with the Lord. We can make an altar and experience God’s presence anytime, anywhere.

Finally, Jacob may have been too focused on his own fears to focus on God’s presence. Jacob’s mother had told him, before he left,

Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?

Genesis 27:45

For all he knew, his brother, Esau, might have been hot on his heels, ready to take his life. This would have been quite a reversal of roles, because Jacob is known for sneaking up on his brother throughout their lives up until this point (Genesis 25:26-34). Christians today must remember that fears, dire circumstances, and the possibility of our past catching up to us, should not cause us to forget the Lord’s presence. Our Savior, Christ Jesus, compared Himself to the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream (John 1:51). Jesus, fully man and fully God, is our Gateway into God’s presence. He is the only One who can put one hand on us and one hand on God the Father, and bring us into mediated fellowship.

Jacob's ladder

Do You Want to Live Forever?

October 23, 2009 at 9:31 am | Posted in Eternity, Salvation | 27 Comments
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You have probably heard the expression, “Life is short.” In one sense, it is. No one will live forever in this world. However, in eternity, everyone will consciously exist forever. Do you know what your eternal existence will be like, and, if your answer is yes, upon what are you basing that knowledge? The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:5). If this is true, then it is absolutely crucial that you know Him personally. You will spend eternity in the presence of God. The presence of God through His Mediator will be absolute bliss, blessedness, and joy (Revelation 21:1-7). The presence of God without His Mediator will be unbearable torment (Revelation 14:10).


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