Remembering the Laws

December 27, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Q&A | 2 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.

Cooler than the Other Side of the Pillar

November 12, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: The children of Israel were led by a pillar of cloud/fire as they left Egypt. When they got to the Red Sea, did the pillar go over or across the sea so they would know they were supposed to go across, too?

Answer: If you look at Exodus 14:19-22 it appears that the pillar moved from in front of the Israelites to behind them in order to act as a shield between them and the Egyptians. After they crossed the Red Sea, it must have returned to the forefront in order to keep leading them. What’s really interesting is that Verse 19 connects the pillar with “the Angel of God,” which many Bible scholars take as a Christophany (a preincarnate appearance of Christ in the Old Testament). I Corinthians 10:1-4 also seems to support this idea.

The Laver as Baptistry?

July 17, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Q&A | 4 Comments
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Question: Does the washing and purification of the priests in the laver of the Old Testament Tabernacle have any significance for the New Testament ordinance of baptism?

Answer: The Tabernacle laver (made of bronze) is first mentioned in Exodus 30:18. The priests were required to use it to wash both their hands and feet every time they went from the courtyard into the Most Holy Place – upon penalty of death. Its primary function was practical: sanitary hygiene. Many of the priests handled raw meat and bloody flesh. Although “germs” weren’t common knowledge in those days, God certainly knew about their relation to disease, and many of His laws protected the people from things like Hepatitis A (which is easily spread by the failure to wash hands when dealing with shared food preparation) without their knowledge. However, the laver also had a symbolic function. Most people know the expression “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” While this expression is not precisely from the Bible, it does express the idea that holiness is associated with purity. The idea that people would approach the presence of the holy God with dirty hands and feet would be offensive as a reminder of how wrong it would be for sinful people to approach a pure and righteous God. When gentiles would convert to Judaism in the Old Testament, they would be baptized as a symbol of washing away their sin and “uncleanliness.” New Testament baptism is different, though. For Christians, our sin was borne and expiated by Jesus on the Cross, and our baptism, which should be subsequent to conversion, symbolizes our identification with Christ in His death (going down into the water), burial (being under the water), and Resurrection (coming up out of the water).

Is God Your Fill-in-the-Blank?

April 19, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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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 preachers, 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.

Old Testament Prayer

January 5, 2018 at 10:59 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a 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).

The Statute and the Ordinance at Marah

October 12, 2017 at 9:56 am | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: In Exodus 15:25, after the Lord made the bitter water at Marah drinkable, it says that “there he made for them a statute and an ordinance.” What was the statute and the ordinance?

Answer: Moses probably wrote this section of Exodus many years after the events took place, so the Holy Spirit is referencing the giving of statutes and ordinances by God as a foreshadowing of the formal “giving of the Law” which will come at Mount Sinai a few chapters later. The expression, “a statute and an ordinance,” is an example of a hendiadys, meaning that an idea is used and then repeated after the conjunction “and” for emphasis and for clarification. For example, sometimes I refer to “a basic and fundamental” fact. Basic and fundamental are nearly synonymous in that context, but I want to make the point strongly and use two similar words in case one or the other might not be as familiar to everyone who hears or reads it. Lawyers do this when they draw up a “last will and testament.” The “statute and the ordinance” referenced in Exodus 15:25 is described in the next verse:

If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes…

Exodus 15:26

God had Moses tell the people that one of His general laws, even before the Covenant at Sinai, is that His people are required to be attentive and loyal to Him. It will be a really good day for you and me when we understand this and accept it.

A Fawning Farewell

August 8, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: I don’t understand why the Egyptians would give the Israelites their gold and silver and jewels when they were leaving.

Answer: There are a couple of possible reasons found in Exodus 12:33-36. One, it could be that the Egyptians were anxious to get rid of them, since the plagues were obviously because of their presence in Egypt. They had come to recognize the truth: God was going to keep sending plagues until the Egyptians let them go, and they already thought of themselves as “dead men” because of all they had suffered. That is indicated by Verse 33.

And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.

Exodus 12:33

Giving them gifts was a way to encourage them to hurry up and leave.

Second, Verse 36 indicates that this was a supernatural phenomenon where the Lord simply made it so that the Egyptians “favored” the Israelites with gifts without fully understanding why they themselves were doing it.

And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.

Exodus 12:36

It says that they “spoiled” the Egyptians, which is language used when a victorious army takes away the property of a defeated army after a battle. The Irsaelites had won a war without lifting a finger (which means that God actually fought and won it for them).

There is another possibility which I stumbled upon while researching something else. Apparently all ancient cultures practiced some form of “exorcism” (casting out demons). In most cultures this was done by berating or commanding demons, trying to force them to come out of their hosts and leave. However, the form of exorcism practiced in ancient Egypt was quite different. Egyptians priests believed that the way to get rid of demons was to be extremely polite to them. This is pure speculation, but it is fun to imagine the Egyptians (wrongly believing that the children of Israel were under the influence of agents of Yahweh, whom they considered “demons”) trying to coax them to leave the land. “Would you mind taking my coat, sir? I shan’t need it anymore. Oh! and here you are mi’lady, please take this gold necklace and these silver earrings. We fixed you a canteen and a picnic basket for your trip into the wilderness. So sorry to see you go!”

Exodus: Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

July 29, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Posted in Exodus | 1 Comment
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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 | 3 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.

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