Tag: Free to Worship

Don’t Get Comfortable

Exodus 27:1-21

Much of the world – daily priority… survival. Acquiring food for the next meal, shelter from elements and violence, making through until tomorrow. In parts of world like ours, something else takes higher priority… comfort. May be something we pursue, might be what we accept. Do what we can to spend as much time as possible being comfortable. Not just the things we buy or do in order to enhance comfort, desire for comfort influences how we think. Rather than resist things we should, persisting in doing and thinking what pleases God, instead we come to point where are comfortable with things we shouldn’t be.

When God came to dwell in midst of his people, didn’t put down roots. Didn’t build architectural showpiece with all the amenities. Instead, had his people build him a tent, something of vital importance.

Heb. 11:9-10 By faith [Abraham] dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Everything about tabernacle declared it was temporary, portable, ready to move with little notice. Aspects of tabernacle worship that made plain were some things about God’s relationship with his people only temporary. Need for sacrifice, for separation – conditions and limits that should make us uncomfortable, leave us wanting more. Important principle to keep in mind:

The more comfortable we are with earth, the less we will long for heaven.

God dwelling in the midst of his people in a tent is far from end of the story. God has much more in mind for us… everything broken and frustrating about this world should increase our desire for promised inheritance. Meanwhile… because of who we presently are, who God is, things have to be certain way by God’s design and purpose for us to have personal relationship with him. Sacrifice is essential, separation is expected, and support is encouraged.

A. altar v.1-8 sacrifice essential

location – first

once again, things relating to tabernacle structure and worship described from POV of significance – not floor plan, other consideration

called by different names: brazen altar (ref. its cladding); altar of burnt offering (Ex. 38:1) ref. its use; like much other furniture, made of acacia wood core clad with bronze sheets

positioned so as to be unavoidable – directly between 1st and 2nd entrances – straight line between entrance to courtyard, holy place, most holy place

first thing encountered by worshiper after entering sanctuary space – the one thing that filled view of person outside looking in

size – largest

7-1/2 feet square, 4-1/2 feet high, massive piece of workmanship – large enough to hold every other piece of furniture, dominating by very size

nothing subtle about altar of burnt offering or its purpose – if in architectural / ceremonial design size counts for anything, this altar of huge importance

need – indispensable

God by his purposeful design reinforcing principle first introduced in Garden of Eden – once sin is present, of necessity restricting fellowship with God, only way for sinner to approach is through sacrifice

at same time… had poles to be used for carrying, was made of wood and bronze – durable, yes, but with limits to its endurance

not designed to be the place or the method of reconciling sinful man to holy God for always – 2 better things to come

better sacrifice and better situation – one day Lord Jesus would be priest, sacrifice, altar bringing end to that way of worship (Heb. 7:27; 9:14; 13:10)

day still future when need for sacrifice no longer present – fully redeemed, incorruptible bodies, souls confirmed in righteousness (1 Cor. 15:50-57)

B. court v.9-19 separation expected

clear distinction

outside the courtyard and inside place of worship visibly and physically distinguished – white curtain 7-1/2 feet tall enclosing courtyard in middle of encampment

only part visible from outside – top portion of tent, cloud or pillar signifying God’s presence… rest hidden from view

similar situation inside courtyard – all that was visible were things belonging to worship of God: altar, laver, tent, people and priests, animals for sacrifice

clear entrance

in middle of one end, curtain following same color pattern as entrance curtains screening holy place and holy of holies – obvious standout in white linen screen

no mistaking where entrance was, no back door / second entrance / servant’s gate – only one way in and out of worship space

whether coming in or leaving, that ever-present reminder that no one was there on their own merits, only by virtue of sacrifice

used to be chorus in Sunday School: “One door and only one, and yet its sides are two – inside and outside, on which side are you” — those looking for / trying to make other doors on fool’s errand… with eternal consequences

only way into eternal sanctuary through the one who is the door, the perfect once-for-all sacrifice, who takes us by the hand all the way into holy of holies

entering requires exiting

number of places on roads of Maine and NH where borders of municipalities are identified – many with simple sign post, town name on each side

others posted differently – two signs, short distance apart… one says “Leaving Buxton”, next says “Entering Gorham”

occasionally church will do something similar – sign posted by exit door, “Entering your mission field” – should have one on outside perhaps, “Entering God’s presence”

to enter God’s presence requires leaving some things outside – Moses and Joshua had to take sandals off, standing on holy ground

many things belong to this world, do not belong in God’s presence – some we gladly leave behind… conflict, frustration, negatives

advantage to having defined, dedicated space for worship: helps to keep before our minds this world not all there is, not our forever home, should not be getting too comfortable in it


place set apart from common use – grew up in pretty simple country church, even so, different standard of behavior required

don’t run, take hat off, keep voice down, leave that outside – this is sanctuary, you don’t do that in here

might think some of parents’ expectations were excessive – they came from a clear sense of the sacred, largely lost in present way of thinking

is the place where worship God, things present set apart for sacred use, use in worship, not to be used for other purposes

was also to be place of refuge, safety, security – if life in danger, could make it to horns of altar, supposed to be safe from harm

is to be representative of what we have to look forward to – no moth, no rust, no thieves… no sin, no sickness, no dangers

C. light v.20-21 support encouraged

sign of God’s presence

already given description of lampstand with 7 lamps in previous chapter – to stand outside holy of holies, provide light for holy place

within view of worshipers in outer courtyard, tended by Aaron and his sons – seen by all who came into courtyard, signifying God’s presence on the other side of the veil

fueled by people’s gifts

it was work of priests to service the lampstand, keep in good working order – not their job to supply olive oil to keep lamps burning

another way in which worship was participatory – people could see light shining, know was oil they had brought that fueled it

everyone’s participation necessary

in order for tabernacle worship to function properly, required everyone to be involved – worshiper brought own sacrifice, oil for lamps

yes, priest would offer up sacrifice to God… but only after one bringing sacrifice laid hand on head of animal, transferring sin to substitute who then paid penalty

if Israel was to be light to nations (Isa. 42:6), people from all tribes and walks of life had to be involved – no less true in our world

if Christ’s church is to be light helping to push back darkness in neighborhoods and communities, takes everyone doing their part

Has been lots of discussion about liberties we enjoy or should be able to enjoy in our country. At same time is much about nation and culture that should greatly disturb child of God. God has definitely been gracious to every one of us individually, to our nation. Yet for all liberty we enjoy, everyone of us know probably at least ten people who are enslaved. Slaves to sin, debt, possessions, desire, drugs/alcohol, all tools of arch slave master Satan. Only reason is different for us: Christ has set us free. Christ is the only one who can deliver those ten people each of us know from their slavery.

One more thing – regardless of your position on immigration, 2016, nearly 44 million immigrants in US, #1 destination for immigrants for 60 years. Here’s what that means – shape of missions has radically changed. On average 1 out of 7 US residents have come from what 60 years ago would likely have been considered a mission field. Now live in our neighborhoods and towns, many wanting what we have… our language. We have both opportunity and responsibility – carry light of Gospel outside sanctuary, outside home, outside comfort zone to those living in darkness and slavery.

God can and will use us as his ambassadors when we devote ourselves to his service, putting the souls of lost people ahead of personal comfort and convenience.


Its Curtains

Exodus 26:1-37

“When you were a child, you no doubt drew pictures for your mother and father. Most likely you used crayons. However, your crayon drawing of your house was not really your house. It was just a drawing of what was genuine. In the tabernacle, God provided His people with a very large crayon drawing. It was designed to teach Israel about what it meant for God to dwell among them and lift their hearts to heaven, to the reality of the tabernacle. Above all, the drawing was to help the people of god know Him.” Daniel Hyde, God in our Midst

Because of distance in time and space from ancient Israel, tabernacle is in some ways crayon drawing for us. For children of Israel camped around Sinai, was much more than drawing. Intended and designed by God to be interactive – “let my people go that they may worship Me.”

Not first time God dwelt among his people – was the reality in Eden. Garden itself the Most Holy Place where God and his people had intimate fellowship. Then sin changed that, entrance to Garden guarded by cherubim to protect now-fallen human beings from consuming fire of God’s holiness. Over next several millennia, God did meet with his people… individually, or in small groups. Not until Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and construction of tabernacle did God take up residence with people. This one of several steps along way of restoring what was lost in Eden… and more.

As we consider curtains, essential part of tabernacle structure and function, two concepts are prominent: holiness and heavenliness. God’s holiness and man’s lack of it; heaven as ultimate destination of people of God. This earth as it is now not our final home. Not even long stop on way home – 70, 80, 90 years a miniscule portion of all eternity. Yet is an essential portion of life… for us, for our redeemer who makes heaven both desirable and doable for his people.

A. the coverings v.1-14

linen tapestry – white, blue, purple, scarlet (1-6)

innermost covering, visible from within tabernacle – formed the ceiling of both rooms – formed along with gold framework backdrop for God and his throne

cherubim provided protection – guarding God’s presence from what would contaminate or offend his holiness, intimately associated with God and heaven – angels on blue sky

colors of purity, royalty, redemption all worked in together – was definitely “holy ground” there inside most holy place… because of God’s presence

worshiper inside tabernacle would have clear sense of being in another world – populated with all that belongs in presence of high and holy sovereign of universe

the true Most Holy Place where we enter by faith every time we gather for worship, entering boldly “by the blood of Jesus”

goat skins – black (7-13)

these along with ram skins mostly (not entirely) hidden from view between linen tapestry and outermost skin covering

served practical purpose of protecting and insulating what was underneath – even in desert heat, would have been cool / dry inside

ram skins – red (14a)

something perhaps on idea of burgundy morocco leather, comfortable and durable, at same time by its color reminding of need for redeemer… shedding of blood

badger skins – natural (14b)

to most people’s tastes, tabernacle not much to look at on the outside – yet great glory mostly concealed inside

God’s purpose in redemption becoming more apparent – God intended to dwell with his people but in way that was “safe” for them

God’s glory present, yet filtered – near, yet with boundaries – a redeemed yet sinful people could be close to God w/o being consumed

B. the framework v.15-30

upright acacia wood frames

made from wood readily accessible, suitable for fine cabinetry as well as structural strength – formed core of much of furniture as well as perimeter of tabernacle, posts for outer courtyard

covered with gold / silver / bronze depending on use and proximity to Most Holy Place – most precious the closest, same for other furnishings / utensils

silver bases (19)

tabernacle structure rested on foundation that joined panels together – great strength and stability when assembled, yet obviously portable

reminders everywhere of temporary nature of this place of worship – God’s design and intent for his people to worship in the original someday, no longer in the copy

stabilizing bars (26)

God’s dwelling made up of many individual components, each serving distinct purpose, all necessary to make complete structure

would not have met the need if different pieces could go every which way – needed to be held together and stabilized

wood overlaid with gold (29)

two design needs had to be met – durable portability and beauty – either material by itself would meet one need but not the other

every last specific detail not given in text – remember, Moses saw the pattern (v.30), how it all fit together, how tent was pitched and stabilized, same for courtyard

C. the veil v.31-35

another linen tapestry – white, blue, purple, scarlet (31)

since a tapestry, pattern could be seen from both sides – same colors used for threads as innermost covering – was defining king’s throne room after all

a divider between two spaces (33)

intended to separate between worshipers and their king – but remember was a curtain, not a wall: allowed for passage under certain conditions

inner space completely surrounded by cherubim

no flaming swords in hands of these cherubim like those east of Eden guarding way to tree of life (Gen. 3:24) – could move aside for one authorized to enter

tapestry no longer in place, has been replaced by Lord Jesus – is he who governs access to the Father, will someday come from that place of honor to gather his people

D. the screen v.36-37

embroidered linen – blue, purple, scarlet

another screen, this one embroidered, with same colors if not same pattern – just colors would have indicated not average person dwelling in this tent

only priests allowed behind the screen yet like inner veil… was a curtain and not a door or wall – God had already told people they would be “kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6)

just as structure in its entirety was temporary, so were some of boundaries and distinctions necessary at that time

overlaid acacia wood pillars

same basic design as pillars to hold / support veil shielding Most Holy Place – durable yet portable, functional yet beautiful

bronze bases

unlike pillars for inner curtain, these had bronze rather than silver bases – moving from most holy place toward brazen altar

can’t just waltz into God’s presence – forgiveness and cleansing required for Hebrew children in wilderness, same needed for us

E. the significance

rich, beautiful, temporary

place fit to worship holy and glorious God who deserves the best – best materials, best workmanship, best dwelling place

everything about it made plain was not the last word in worship, not God’s permanent home among his people

close but… separate

sure, God would dwell in midst of his people – would come, make presence known, everyone aware God was there, but…

was there but not really with them… in the other room… still need for separation because people not fit for heaven yet – step closer…

looking forward and up

forward to Christ, up to heaven

wasn’t only the tent that was temporary… so was altar and what it represented – sacrifices repeated indefinitely not end of God’s plan for his people

think about heaven, what must be like – does it make sense that animal sacrifice would still be required? no? must be some other provision for sin, then… Lord Jesus

“These parallels show that the tabernacle was a step toward paradise regained. The breach that had caused separation was being overturned slowly. This was a step toward realizing the final dwelling place of God and man. Hebrews sees the tabernacle as not only looking forward but also as looking up. It was a copy of the throne room of God. We are now seeing how God will make a way for us into that throne room. All of this is showing us the gospel. God wants a relationship with His people, but we are all sinners. None of us can come into the presence of God on our own. We cannot make it back to Eden on our own. But God provided a way to have access back to Him by blood, through a sacrifice offered by a high priest.” Tony Merida, Exalting Jesus in Exodus


That I May Dwell Among Them

Exodus 25:1-40

Worked with camp director years back, more than one task or opportunity available, asked question “what is your first choice?” Recognized people often open to different possibilities, might hedge answer based on circumstances. When asked that question, wanted to know person’s strongest preference.

How would God answer question if he were asked? Obviously God because of who he is gets his first choice, but you understand. Perhaps answer to WSC #1 gives hint. Chief end of man? Glorify God and enjoy him forever. God’s first choice? Be glorified by his people and enjoyed by them forever. See indications of that in Garden – regular face-to-face interaction between God / Adam and Eve common occurrence. After sin, they expected God to show up, planned for it by making clothes. From very first, God wanted his people to enjoy him… personally… in closeness.

Sin radically changed relationship between God and man, put up barriers, made certain conditions necessary for fellowship to continue. But God didn’t give up on idea of being close to people… in a good way, and them knowing it. Rather than disown man because of sin, throw out of house, lock the door, that’s the end of it, God made ways to accommodate additional requirements. Here in text one of accommodations, showing God’s determination to be close to his people – a tent of meeting. Centuries later would send only Son to live with his people… face-to-face, skin-to-skin… then his Spirit to live in his people.

Person and work of Redeemer seen in shadow forms of Tabernacle worship. Reality of his finished work of redemption what we enjoy in part today, in fullness for all eternity. Text hits high spots, we will do same. What is clear: God’s ongoing purpose to dwell among willing worshipers who are a redeemed people in fellowship with him in light of his truth and presence.

A. among willing worshipers v.1-9

give an offering

since he knows human nature, God wisely included specific guidelines for charitable contributions – Moses to make need plainly known, accept response of people

clearly stated what was required (list of acceptable items), purpose for which would be used, indicated how project should be presented, what were right motives for giving

worshipers to give back to God willingly from the heart – not to be compulsory, not to use manipulation to increase the take – offering to be loving response from thankful people

give the best

not second-class things, used but w/ some life left, good enough for missionary barrel and we’ll get new, or no longer needed

might wonder if was really the way to provide for need – maybe not enough given to finish, not sufficient quality – when time came, had to tell people to stop… brought too much (Ex. 36:3-7)

to make a sanctuary

this place to be more than place where church meets, not even just a worship center or room with stage and maybe lectern

place set apart from common use where God would dwell, not visit or meet, with his people in continual ongoing relationship

don’t live in tents grouped around central sanctuary now – instead have even closer relationship: “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” John 14:20

“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12 now believers make up sanctuary where God dwells among his people

according to a pattern

Moses, general contractors and sub-contractors had to follow blueprints precisely – earthly tabernacle had to be faithful representative of true sanctuary… heaven (Heb. 9:23-24)

pattern of the tabernacle, pattern of its furnishings had spiritual and redemptive significance God intended to communicate

B. a redeemed people v.10-22

“numbering” of pattern pieces significant

not order of assembly when tabernacle would be set up / taken down; didn’t follow floor plan from inside out or outside in

this beginning summary addresses aspects of God’s redemptive purpose, how a holy God would accommodate nearness to a “not holy” people

God cuts to chase – must be redeemed, not just willing – asked for offerings from all who had willing hearts… required something other than willing heart to make approach to God possible

throne of God

were to make wooden box completely covered with pure gold with atonement lid made same way, a cherub at each end of lid

above the lid from between the cherubim where God would meet with his people (v.22), iow God’s royal throne

containing Testimony (16, 21b)

box would contain written terms of covenant between God and people – constant reminder of King’s character and expectations

also makes plain man’s approach to God is always on God’s terms – hasn’t changed in New Covenant: relationship with God possible only one way, through Lord Jesus… whose person / work signified throughout Tabernacle

in between… the atonement lid (17-21a)

God’s Law not far from his presence, inside his throne… but not outwardly visible – God knew they were there, priests and people did, too, but…

atonement lid / mercy seat interposed between holy God and righteous Law – lid where blood from sacrifice would be placed

God can accept worshipers when he looks at his Law through blood of atonement – is Lord Jesus who takes that place now

place of instruction (22)

when God calls a meeting, receives people into his presence, intends to instruct them how to live like people he is making them

God’s practice not to issue edicts, leave up to subjects to figure out what they mean and how to use – God supplies explanation, example application along with commands

C. in fellowship v.23-30

remember meal on the mountain

men went partway up mountain, “saw the God of Israel” while they ate and drank – would be regular occurrence, only veil between priests in Holy Place and God present in Most Holy Place

meal eaten in someone’s presence indication of friendship – were fixings for meal there on table: bread, wine, utensils always ready for use

fellowship to be continual

called “bread of faces” – bread that represented faces of all the people (12 cakes, 12 tribes) continually before the face of God

God intended his people to have in minds: they lived constantly in presence of their God – we don’t have same reminders, do have same God present in us continually

bread to have pan of frankincense on top for the week, frankincense then burned on altar of incense there in holy place

and intimate – see Lev. 24:5-9

bread stayed there round the clock Sabbath to Sabbath – each Sabbath, new loaves put in place of old, frankincense burned and meal enjoyed by priests

bread in sense a sacrifice offered with the incense, then eaten – intimate relationship bidirectional: people offering themselves as sacrifice to God, God nourishing people as they fellowship with him

D. and in light v. 31-40

are to fellowship in the light

to be light in Holy Place continually, natural light during day, light from lampstand all night – presence bread never in the dark

meal to be eaten in front of lampstand, fellowshiping with God in the light of his face, his truth, his presence, his people

live in the light

God doesn’t want / expect his people to live in the dark – darkness of sin, confusion, ignorance, discouragement and depression

Jesus made some powerful claims: “I am the bread of life”, “I am the living bread” – the one who came down from heaven to give life to the world (John 6:35, 48, 51)

also claimed to be “light of the world”, declaring that he had “come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in [him] should not abide in darkness” (John 8:12; 12:46)

be a light

light of life and truth not supposed to stay in Holy Place, to be confined to the church – lampstand not to be only source

Moses reflected light of God’s presence / glory after encounters – those who spent time in Holy Place to reflect light outside

if God’s people truly do have him dwelling within, his light should shine through us – why Jesus told listeners “You are the light of the world”; “let your light shine before men” (Matt. 5:14-16)

carry the light

God expected his people to be light, witnessing to his truth as people from nearby and far corners of world passed thru Israel

also expected them to take that light into exile, bearing witness to his truth wherever they went, in whatever kind of culture God saw fit to place them

God’s expectation continues today – that his people will carry light of Gospel with them at all times – as dark as world is, not hard to bring light to our corner

We more fully equipped to live and fellowship in light, be lights, carry light into the world than God’s ancient people. Have complete Bible, finished work of atonement, always present Holy Spirit. Even more people stumbling around in dark today – may God use us as willing worshipers to be lights in dark world.

The Glory of the Lord

Exodus 24:12-18

Moses was one-of-a-kind. Had experiences like no other man… burning bush, water from rock for example. Latest scene first in series that present Moses in crucial role as mediator of Old Covenant. Moses held comparable position between God and people as Lord Jesus does for us. Moses received word from God, took to people, heard their response, took to God. Moses heard complaints, took to God, brought back God’s response.

Considering how much of OT Moses wrote down, something very surprising… not what Moses recorded but what he left out. Wrote often of the glory of the Lord, but doesn’t say much to describe it. In last week’s text, recorded fact that ones who went up the mountain “saw the God of Israel”. Notice how he words it, v.10, “they saw…” not “I” or “we”. Have no first-hand description of God by Moses, yet he spent more than month as close to God as man could and live. Close enough long enough that ch. 34 tells of his face reflected so much of God’s glory, people were afraid of him. Would that were true for us… that others would see glory of God in our faces.

Glory of the Lord not on switch, not something to be put on / taken off. Is an inseparable part of God’s being, displayed because God is glorious. Moses, other OT figures, even disciples saw displays of God’s glory, somewhat dimmed yet real. John in referring to experience on Mount of Transfiguration declared “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 Author of Hebrews describes the Son as “being the brightness of his glory” (Heb. 1:3). Want something to ponder… says “being the brightness…” not “having…”

Those fellows saw God’s glory with physical eyes; we… for now… see his glory with eyes of faith, displayed / revealed to us in God’s work book and his Word book. Glories of creative handiwork in world around us, glories of his redemptive handiwork in Word before us. Learn some things about his glory from portion of his Word book in Exodus 24: his glory teaches us, it prepares us, and it purifies us.

A. God’s glory in the law teaches v.12

signatures reveal character

Trump/Kim signatures – graphologist: one skilled in the “art or science of inferring a person’s character, disposition, and aptitudes from the peculiarities of his handwriting”

“The angular formation shows, basically, he thinks he is very important, is quick tempered, highly critical and tense. He relies on his own opinion rather than taking advice from others and is an analytical thinker. The angular formation of his signature combined with the large bunched letters show he loves being in the limelight or constantly being the centre of attention. The pressure of the pen on paper shows he is very dominating and the heavy pressure on the strokes shows he demands perfection from himself and others.”

“The ascending strokes shows he is optimistic and currently in high spirits, an intuitive thinker. He is extravagant in nature given the large spaces between the letters. The large spacing gives away even more clues to his personality, including that he doesn’t like other people. He may prefer others at a distance. I’d say he has a very tight circle of friends and is not easy to make friends with and prefers his own company.”

not exactly God’s signature but was his handwriting… given to Moses… written on stone… with his finger – wealth of teaching just in that much, even before getting to content

God didn’t use secretary, his power caused writing to appear on tablets – no need for draft copy, spellcheck, white-out or eraser

also makes plain that God personally bound himself to covenant with his people – gets even more personal later in Lord Jesus

statements reveal expectations

intended to endure – written on stone – reinforced by first command: no other gods; we think of something engraved in stone as unchanging… God even more so

if what God wrote revealed his character by what he expects of his people, since God’s character doesn’t change, neither do expectations

holds true even now: still expects same ways of thinking, saying, doing from his subjects – difference is we have different degree of help to meet God’s demands

most important is this: God accepts Lord Jesus’ perfect obedience so he can gracioiusly accept our less than perfect obedience

law and commandments liberate

original lie Eve believe: God’s law unnecessarily restrictive, preventing her enjoyment of something she was really entitled to – Satan’s lie and fallen human nature perpetuate that way of thinking

God had different point of view: God wrote law and commandments for instruction of his people, not to burden or confine

did not expect Moses to go down mountain, start using tablets to weigh down the people, rather to teach what God expects

no need to learn by trial and error how to please God, no need to wonder how demanding standard of performance really is

no one can honestly consider terms of God’s covenant and expect to keep terms perfectly – know is only matter of time… short time… before failure

teach need for someone who can satisfy demands – is why instructions for sacrifice immediately follow proclamation of commandments

“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Gal. 3:24

B. God’s glory in worship prepares v.16

come and wait

Moses instructed / invited to go up mountain nearer to God’s presence, into the cloud and approacing the fire on top of mount

can come up with lots of reasons why meeting should get underway as soon as Moses arrived – importance of subject, amount of ground to cover, other demands on God’s time and attention

in our way of life / thinking, delay means wasting time – apparently God thought otherwise… nothing happened for six days… or is that really true?

Moses not sitting in waiting room hanging out til God showed up – God already there, Moses closer than anyone else to God

think this way

Moses didn’t say anything, God didn’t say anything… for six days – can be sure Moses didn’t put his mind in neutral, turn engine off while he waited

when Moses arrived, probably had in back of mind men he left behind at foot of mountain, kinds of things they might deal with

long before end of six days, Moses’ thinking focused on one thing only… God and his glory – that is what Moses talks about, 2x

doesn’t matter how long have been Christian, are things about thinking that still need to change – sitting quietly before God helps reorient thinking so we understand better from God’s POV

words aren’t always necessary

is true in human relationships – often just being together enough, don’t need conversation – rides to / from Dresden, etc.

no question, God has communicated to us using words… very precise ones at that – if is as it seems, no conversation for six days, and not wasting time, simply being in God’s presence has great value

reasonable to expect if Moses’ face absorbed some of God’s glory, his mind must have absorbed things as well, what would prepare him for next stage

when God spoke on seventh day, began long instruction on essentials of worship – both the place and things to be done at tent of meeting

God wanted Moses’ thinking pointing in right direction to receive that instruction, not cluttered up with lots of other things

good pattern for us, at least make point of getting heads going in right direction before come through door on Sunday morning – sets up for gaining greater blessing / profit from time spent in worship

C. God’s glory in relationship purifies v.17

both cloud and fire present

God as both leader and protector – pillar of cloud to lead, pillar of fire to light the way, God’s presence 24/7 to protect from enemies

cloud served necessary function for Moses and people at the mountain – hid God and his full glory from those at a distance

clear reminder that C S Lewis’ words about Aslan true also of God – “he is good but he is not safe” – sinful man cannot approach holy God too closely even when invited by God

Moses entered the cloud and approached the fire

was when Moses got closer to the fire that impurities were burned off, God’s glory rubbed off on Moses, and Moses was changed

God and sinfulness cannot co-exist in close relationship – as we approach God, we are changed: desires, ways of thinking and acting

sinfulness gets pushed away, purged away by fire of God’s holiness – a sense in which more of God we have in us, the less of sin there will be

more fully saturated with God’s truth, more aware of his presence, more devoted we are to him and more fully we depend on him, less apt will be to displease him

God intends to purify his people

God showed his love “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8) – does not intend we should stay that way; “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that [we] should follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21)

heard someone on radio say “God loves you just the way you are” – no, God loves you when you are the way you are, but intends to change you

Best news of all: Heb. 12:18, 22-24, 28 Jesus a better Mediator than Moses – lilke Moses, Jesus teaches how “we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear”; unlike Moses, Jesus gives his people grace so they can “serve God acceptably”. Unlike brothers and sisters from Old Covenant, don’t have to settle for laying sins on head of animal trusting God to keep his promise and pardon us. And do it again… and again, as long as we live. Can rejoice in confidence that our sins laid on Jesus covered by his blood, never held against us by God, that “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psa. 103:12)

Come and Worship

Exodus 24:1-11

Few other places in the world have such a diversity of experiences called worship as you can find in our country. Everything from coffee shop or living room with one or two handfuls of people up to multi-site churches with a few thousand spectators watching a speaker who is a holographic projection. Then there is all sorts of help available to choose worship seating, worship lighting, a worship leader, a worship team, worship music all carefully arranged in a worship center to provide the ultimate worship experience.

Yet in all written and said about these things, little if any attention given to whether or not at “ultimate worship experience” God shows up. Almost as though must be a given that He would – call it worship, take for granted God will be there. Truth is no venue regardless of place or size has immunity to that kind of thinking. Is also true that wherever God’s people gather together to “worship the Father in spirit and in truth”, God will be present. “The Father is seeking such to worship him.” (John 4:23)

Worship scene described in text not what comes to mind first: building, music, seating, etc. This was outdoor worship, for some requiring hike up side of mountain (Sinai), carrying food and drink for outdoor meal in very presence of God himself. This something that totally took Moses by surprise, Moses who had closer personal contact with God than anyone else w/i sight of mountain. No question, God was in charge of this encounter, no one came down mountain same as when they went up.

A. a call to worship v.1-4a

God gives the call

“come to me and worship” – is an imperative invitation: inviting Moses and companions to come away from the crowd, at same time God calls with authority

God would not have accepted excuses – sorry, not a good time, maybe next week, have pair of tickets, opportunity for double-time, not in right mood for worship

God sets the terms

no way Moses was getting out of this one, not any hint he wanted to; told specifically who to bring with him: brother who would become high priest, two of Aaron’s sons, the seventy chosen at Jethro’s suggestion

Moses given greatest and nearest access to God’s presence, those who went with him could come close but not too close, the people around foot of mountain

foreshadowed nature of worship once tabernacle completed – outer courtyard, holy place, holy of holies – and how regulated

God speaks to his people

remember Ex. 20:19-21 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

here in text, Moses put that into action – taking God’s words that he heard directly to people – what people heard was God speaking to them through spokesman Moses… God’s word, Moses’ voice

later that day Moses began process of writing the Bible, started in middle of Exodus not beginning of Genesis – is God’s voice we hear when his word is read, same as verse 7

true worshipers respond

didn’t ask for time to think it over, not we’ll do these but those are asking too much – no negotiating, quarreling, simply commitment to obedience to God

how well people kept commitment another matter – first response to hearing God speak was best one, only satisfactory one

B. a place of worship v.4-6

altar – presence of God

for God to be present with his people, his holiness / their sinfulness requires some kind of sacrifice – sacrifice requires altar, built according to God’s instructions – see Ex. 20:24-26

where God is worshiped in way that pleases him, God shows up in particular way, w/ stated intent of blessing worshiping people

pillars – people of God

arranged 12 standing stones around altar – not Stonehenge – giving tangible form to God’s presence in midst of his people, his whole people… no tribe left out

later represented by 12 cakes, showbread or bread of presence continually before presence of God in holy place


two kinds of sacrifice – burnt offering, peace offering – intended to signify two very important and distinct things

burnt offering the sacrifice for sin – hand on head, vicarious sacrifice, pardon received, offering consumed completely on altar

peace offering sacrifice for thanksgiving / commitment – thanks for forgiveness and reconciliation, commitment to obedience – fat/kidneys burned as sacrifice, meat grilled and eaten

C. the book of the covenant v.7

reading the Word

first pages of the Bible not even 24 hours old, ink hardly dry, Moses reading aloud to gathered people of God – small but significant fragment of what would become 66 books by 40 authors recorded over 1400 years

this beginning portion contained terms of God’s covenant w/ his people – God defining how he would relate to them, they to him

important to remember: no one comes to God outside covenant – cannot invent own way of approaching / worshiping God… and have it be accepted by God

proclaiming the Word

more to it than just reading only things God had said – needed to know more than what God had said, needed to know that God had spoken

also needed to know with certain clarity which God had spoken – Moses proclaimed what he had written as word of YHWH who had made covenant with his people

responding to the Word

is to YHWH and his word that people responded – “all that YHWH has said we will do” – this time was to God’s written word read publicly they made verbal commitment to change

regardless of success or failure of follow-thru, response was correct – this part of their example good and right, one we should copy

D. the blood of the covenant v.8

vicarious sacrifice

observe sequence here: burnt offerings made, portion of blood sprinkled on altar; Book of Covenant read, people respond; rest of blood sprinkled on people

teaching in living color only way God’s people can enter covenant, remain in covenant with him is through sacrifice of another


God shows his commitment to keeping his people in covenant with him – restoring through atonement and pardon, purifying from sin and sinfulness

better blood in the New Covenant

was clear ritual of sacrifice not one-time thing – because of how God regulated it, something that would be part of life for them

not so for us – we participate in better covenant established on better promises with better mediator and better sacrifices

Heb. 9:13-14 “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh,how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

E. fellowship with God v.9-11

they went closer

after worship through sacrifice, Moses and companions acted on God’s call – mountain previously off-limits to all but Moses

now that formal terms of covenant understood, others could approach God more closely – majority of people still kept at distance, would change radically with New Covenant

they saw God

for brief time, God parted curtain between physical and spiritual, earth and heaven – given privilege of seeing God of covenant

God’s glory restrained yet visible, same God seen by Ezekiel and Daniel and John – a significant element of worship, to see true God in some measure… revealed by Spirit thru Word, ordinances, and people

they ate and drank

was to be more to their worship than seeing God – were to experience and enjoy him… as friends sharing a meal, one of most intimate things friends did in that culture

this experience really shadow form of future reality – what we in New Covenant experience with greater clarity, what all God’s people will enjoy in next age

they lived

wonder if Moses surprised – God did not lay his hand on them! — remember, was time when people convinced were gonna die if they saw God

As awesome as this experience was, we enjoy fuller relationship / experience with God than brothers and sisters of Old Covenant. Not just select few who are called up the mountain to eat and drink with God:

Heb. 10:19-22 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,and having a High Priest over the house of God,let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

“Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God; it whets our appetite.” — Eugene H. Peterson Worship should fuel desire for day when will “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

God’s Leading Man

Exodus 23:20-33

Events in our text close out this scene in drama at Mount Sinai. Had arrived at mountain, made camp around it. prepared for visitiation from God. On third day, God came down on mountain, showed his presence with “thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.” (Ex. 19:16) After giving further instruction to Moses, God spoke in hearing of people… giving Ten Commandments. Followed that with example application – gave his people basic principles, then explained how to apply in real life situations.

Next chapter, God will call Moses and select few up the mountain for amazing time of worship, then will give Moses detailed instructions for constructing portable worship center… the Tabernacle. But first, once again God makes clear what he intends to do for his people, what he expects their / our response to be. Hebrew children have long road still ahead – traveling through desert area, lands filled with hostile people, to finally arrive at destination. Not coincidence their journey looks / sounds a lot like ours – traveling through hostile territory until reach heavenly Canaan.

Also not coincidence Hebrew children provided with leader, guide, protector to bring them to destination. Same individual appointed by God to lead us to our final destination. Everything credited to Angel leading Israelites can in principle be credited to one leading us on our journey – is Lord Jesus who led them and is leading us…God’s Leading Man. Without question, God and his Angel are central to this portion of text – all about God and what he committed to doing for his people.

A. God’s actions (y)

has prepared a place (20b)

God just finished telling how they should live and act in the land, has not specified location in their hearing… yet – would really want to turn tail, run back to Egypt if knew all that awaited them

instead God builds up to it, tells little at a time – reassures them, not going alone, not to unknown place… unknown to God

is a place God has been actively preparing, beginning with Abraham – ” I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan” (Gen. 17:8)

Abraham not to take immediate possession – would take 400 years, “in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Gen. 15:16)

sends a leader (20a)

God would not give treasure map with key and secret decoder ring, send them on their way – God would send leader of his choosing

sure, God had chosen Moses to lead people from Egypt to Canaan, were some things about journey beyond Moses’ ability

God did not trust Hebrew children to pick own leader – God did the picking… only he was fully qualified to choose right person

will bless his people

given short condensed form of list identifying God’s intended blessings – comprehensive description of blessings / cursings later in Deut. 28:1-14 followed by list of consequences for disobedience

God commits to caring wisely / well for his people – at same time, lets his people know he expects willing obedience

starts right out with most important blessing: pardon (21); then protection (21-22); food will be nourishing (25), healed from sickness (25), large families and long life (26)

…protect his people

don’t have ability to get to destination by themselves, God will send leader; will be tempted along the way, will fall into sin, God sends one who can / will pardon sin

will be enemies along journey, those who would do them harm; will be adversaries, actively opposing God’s declared purpose and people – God will personally deal with them

God will keep his people from unnecessary harm, will clear the way of all opposition – will do it in such a way that land is not harmed, unable to support Israelites (29)

…establish his people

is God who fixes the boundaries / borders of their land – “conquest of Canaan” overseen / orchestrated by God down to last detail

remember… was “place he had prepared”, sounds a lot like Jesus in John 14, place where he would establish his people as nation

was God who would drive out Canaanites, who would deliver them to destruction – had God not done so, Israelites would never have succeeded, would never have really arrived and gained their inheritance

B. God’s Agent (b)

an / My Angel

an Angel v.20, My angel v.23, messenger / agent specifically designated by God for this particular task – leading people of God to their destination

we are no better equipped to make it to final destination than Israelites – need skilled guide to lead the way so don’t lose way

has authority

to command: “pay careful attention… and obey” – as divinely appointed messenger would communicate God’s word to people

yet God doesn’t stop with telling them to obey his word (God’s message) – requires them to “obey his voice“, to “not rebel against him” – no other angel like this one

disobedience / rebellion treated as sin which Angel has power to forgive – forgiveness of sin a prerogative reserved for God alone

has a Name

no surprise to hear this Angel has God’s Name – the one who will be with them, will lead them, none other than God himself

only one person fits this description – the Angel sent from God with authority to command and forgive – God’s Leading Man the Lord Jesus… the one who has gone before us to lead the way home

see Joshua 5:13-15

God kept promise: lead up to first battle in Canaan, Commander of Lord’s arrmy met Joshua… on holy ground

C. God’s purpose (m)

keep you (20)

important task for Angel: keep / guard / protect God’s people along the way – haven’t been gone from Egypt 3 months yet

except for God’s keeping power, would have been decimated by Pharaoh’s army at Red Sea crossing; same true when Amalekites harassed on way to Sinai

will be more enemies / adversaries before even reach Canaan – will need God’s / Angel’s protection… just like we do

some tried to bar the way, prevent from ever traveling that far; other enemies brought up by Satan to discourage / demoralize, make them give up

even when gave in to unbelief (Num. 14), God threatened to abandon and start over, then pardoned because of Moses’ intercession

continued to protect his people throughout repeated episodes of rebellion, provided for needs during balance of 40 years

go before you (23)

God doesn’t send his people to place where he hasn’t gone first – Angel goes ahead, preparing way, God’s people follow

wherever we go at God’s bidding, can do so confidently… knowing God himself going before – will never be situation where can truly say “God, you just don’t understand my troubles”

also means Angel encounters enemies before we do, he’s out in front, most dangerous place – we safely behind in his shadow

think about all enemies Jesus has encountered – temptation, discouragement, fatigue, fear, death – and has defeated them all and arrived at our final destination

bring you (23)

this a measure of God’s tender care – takes his people by the hand, brings them to destination – ask for help in box store, two responses: point, give directions… “come this way, I’ll show you”

in spite of Israelites’ shortcomings, God never let go of their hand – faithfully step by step brought them to Promised Land

D. our response (g)

obey (21)

consider who God was speaking to: a mixed group, both believers and unbelievers – made no distinction in regard to obedience

God’s expressed expectation is for everyone to obey his commands – also makes clear will be consequences for disobedience

God’s desire… that we obey his voice because we love him, want to please him – motivation counts in God’s eyes

do (22)

remember who it is speaking: God’s Angel who has his Name – is Jesus who has shown the way by his own obedience, leads us step by step in our obedience

serve / worship (25)

here’s the main point of Exodus – God has delivered his people from slavery so they can serve him, worship him, be devoted to him… alone, with no competitors

should be main point of life for us: serve God, worship God confidently and faithfully in all of life, knowing is one with nail-scarred hands who leads us each step of way to our eternal home


All Work and No Play…

Exodus 23:10-19

God has been amazingly good to his people since the very beginning. Didn’t make Adam and Eve, then turn loose in Garden to figure things out by themselves. Gave instructions before day was over: read Gen. 1:28-30 Can’t really imagine what they thought when heard God’s command… even though command to produce and reproduce described as blessing. Would have been easy for them to get wrong impression – that in Creation Mandate God had given them complete summary of life. Creation account doesn’t end there… Next thing we’re told is… God rested! read thru Gen. 2:3

Theme of rest, of refreshment one that keeps showing up all the way thru Bible. Not limited to this life either – Hebrews chapter 4 speaks at length of rest, explicitly promising “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” (Heb. 4:9) that awaits in next life. God does not expect his people to go without R & R until get to heaven. Doesn’t even think will have to wait until retirement. Sufficient rest according to God’s plan as close as Lord’s Day, the best way to begin a new week.

Sad but true, many think of what God’s word teaches about one day in seven as intrusion into time with family, opportunity for doing what didn’t have time for during week. Often heard coworkers talking about work schedule, refer to Sunday as “my day, do things I want”. Perhaps you have thought that way, too. Take look at Isaiah 58:13-14 – read. Even before had full revelation of Gospel, finished work of Christ to celebrate, God expected would be day filled with joy and exquisite delight. Be careful… promise comes with conditions: remember first whose day it is – “my holy day”, then treat as good gift from God and honor him, He and his Day will be a delight. When God is our delight, further promise of Psalm 37:4 – “He shall give you the desires of your heart”.

What do we need to know and do so we enjoy delight of Lord’s Day as God intended?

A. rest and be refreshed v.10-13

follow God’s schedule

six years, one (sabbatical) year – begins with bigger picture, basic agricultural cycle of yearly planting / harvest… more than simple regulations God giving to people

still camped at Sinai, Promised Land / Canaan not even on horizon, yet God talking as though already there – iow, his guarantee would bring them all the way there

six days, one (sabbath) day – narrows focus down to weekly, expects his people to devote 6 days to work – productive labor whether for employer or self

keep God’s priorities

the poor – we think allowing land to lie fallow for benefit of soil, opportunity to replace nutrients taken up by crops… not what God had in view

reinforcing idea at most basic level of love for neighbor – added to by requirement to leave some behind each harvest for gleaners… remember Ruth and Boaz

fields might not have been purposely tilled but would have been good crop of “volunteers” during fallow year, besides grapes and olives

the beasts – more evidence God cares for all of his creatures, expects his people to be good stewards of whole creation

the laborers – as God prospers, must not forget to be generous… no group of individuals exempted from enjoying day of rest

yes, are those engaged in works of necessity… yet they should not have to work every Lord’s Day – need their turn for R&R

experience God’s blessings

sow and gather – when follow God’s schedule and priorities, he blesses w/fertility – sowing not in vain, will be produce to gather

crops produced will be sufficient to meet all needs: farmer and his family, laborers, poor, strangers… God will ensure that

rest – following pattern God established at Creation: God worked 6 days, God rested the seventh… his rest not one of inactivity

God rested from “customary productive” activity of previous 6, expects us to do same; other “works” God didn’t rest from

refreshed = take a breath; LXX, ἀναψύχω, cool off, catch your breath – too many people, too many of God’s people too busy

are not biological machines, designed to run non-stop with only periodic maintenance – one day in seven God’s gracious gift

respond with loyal worship

careful to obey – must be as diligent to work well 6 days as we are to rest on seventh – neglecting either will turn out badly

attitude should be one of loving gratitude – because can work, God blesses our work, have gift of rest day, God blesses that day to us also… will serve his good purpose for us

quick to praise – worship ought to be first priority, is bi-directional: we praise God, he rests / refreshes / restores his people

reminder – cannot expect God to provide promised blessings to us unless we do our part… depending on him for all things

watch your focus – don’t even think about giving credit to someone else… remember whose day it is, what he has just promised

same goes for rest of attention for rest of day – looking for opportunities to praise God, grow in knowledge of him

B. enjoy the fruit of your labors v.14-17

keep the Feast

celebrate a holiday – not just a Baptist thing for food to be significant element of fellowship… God started it, makes a good thing

people of God should be known for joy – sure, much wrong with world and it troubles us; yet God gives daily cause for joyful celebration

anticipation – Passover – similar significance as Lord’s Table, serious time, deliverance always sufficient reason for celebrating

first harvest – Pentecost – God has kept promise, seed has produced firstfruits / early harvest… indication of what will follow

final harvest – Tabernacles – certainly time for joyful thanksgiving, plentiful harvest that God makes sufficient until next season

none shall appear empty-handed

don’t come without something – for ancient people, meant bringing particular kinds of sacrifice… but notice no amount specified – expectation is simply not to come empty-handed

two things to remember: Heb. 13:15 reminds us to “offer the sacrifice of praise ot God, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks”

when we put God first, can count on him to meet our needs as we trust him, more in a minute

don’t worry, you’ll have something – God doesn’t require his people to do the impossible, he makes it possible for his people to please him, meet his expectations (imperfectly)

don’t come alone – stated requirement for males to appear, travel to central place of worship for three annual feasts

know from later history was a family affair – Samuel’s parents to Shiloh; Jesus and his family to Jerusalem

gather the fruit

will be firstfruits – certainly times later on when wasn’t much if any harvest… were reasons for that, like serious disobedience

typical pattern: they plant, God sends rain, makes things grow, fruit begins to be fully ripe… time for celebration and thanksgiving offerings – God has indeed blessed their labor

will be harvest – like firstfruits, God declares as given there would be reward for labor to gather – could plant / tend expectantly

will be enough – would not be simply enough to call it a harvest, God would supply enough to meet their needs… more besides

remember every seventh year, harvest previous six years enough to carry through all of seventh and following year until harvest… including enough seed to plant… plus food for celebrating Feasts too

C. the first of the firstfruits are the Lord’s v.18-19

the right way

still emphasis on holiness – significant part of blood sacrifice: reminder to people of need for forgiveness, cleansing from sin

also factor in reminder that God establishes rules of engagement – people approach God on his terms, not their own

leaven = corruption = reminder of sin – they could eradicate leaven from homes, were unable to eradicate sin from self or life

hence close connection with sacrifice: keeps us humble to know are limits to what we can do for ourselves, how much we depend on God to do for us

eat hearty – like Passover meal, were expected to clean their plates – no leftovers, sharing ok but nothing kept for following day

whether we get it or not, simply following God’s instructions bring blessing – he honors obedience from loving hearts when falls short of perfection… which it always does

the first

is God who made seed produce – just like growing things, is God who blesses or hinders our labors to produce… work accomplishing our purpose not a given

has supplied the first, will supply the rest – giving back the first should be natural response of gratitude, not expecting God to manage with leftovers… cuz most of time there aren’t any

will supply enough – shows we understand principle that God will meet our need and we trust him to do so… in his own way

James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights”

the best

God is the best, deserves the best – “Q. 1. Who is the first and best of beings? A. God is the first and best of beings. Keach’s Catechism

God is good, will not withhold good – think about what he has already done… “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Rom. 8:32

for that reason alone should want to give everything back to God – often turns out the more we give to God, more he entrusts to us… because are using it well for his glory

will be adequate good seed – farmer often saves seed from first, biggest, best… so next year’s crop will be better – can safely give it to God, trust him for next year’s crop

“Ryken says, The three major Old Testament feasts were rich in their teaching about salvation. Jesus Christ is the Savior God always planned to send; so already in the Old Testament he gave his people experiences that would help them (and us) understand the meaning of their salvation. Jesus is the source of our sanctification, the firstfruits of our resurrection, the Lord of the harvest, the water of life, and the sacrifice for our sin. This is the gospel according to Moses, as recorded in Exodus 23. (Exodus, 761)”

One final thought – is “the living God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment” 1 Tim. 6:17NET Let’s intentionally enjoy all God’s good gifts starting with Day he has set aside for our rest and refreshment.