Bless Them

followFollow Me: Law[1]

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Exodus 20:22-26

The churches personal encounter with their God resulted in a strained relationship. Overwhelmed by God’s presence and power they choose to worship him from afar. God had told Moses to bring Aaron with him, so Moses summoned his brother Aaron, and they entered the presence of God on behalf of the church.

God said to them, “You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.” God is referring to the Ten Commandments he spoke to the entire church. The New Testament references this statement with a warning. We shall not escape if we turn away from “him who speaks from heaven.”[2] The covenant of law God made with the children of Jacob cannot save us, but we are not exempt from obeying the Ten Commandments.

Most of what God said in the fourth trip to the mountain top expounds on the meaning of each commandment. First, God give Moses instructions for making a temporary altar of earth or stone. The altars God accepted by recording his name there could be used for burnt offerings and peace offerings. Erecting the tabernacle and organizing the church administration for worshipping God would take one year. Until that task was completed, God provided a way to meet with his people and bless them.

The chasm between the way God thinks and the way the church thinks is huge. The church thinks God is trying to kill them. They see death in everything. They thought they would die of starvation, die of thirst, their cattle would die, and the fire would sweep down from the mountain and kill them. Fear of death keeps them afar off. They don’t know the truth about God. He wants to bless them so much that he provided a way to come to them and bless them in the absence of a formal place of worship.

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[1] In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul warns us that the things that happened in the wilderness were recorded as a warning to the church because Moses preached the same gospel about Jesus that was preached after Jesus resurrection. For this reason Israel/Jacob will be called the church in this series.

[2] Hebrews 12:25

Terror in the Wilderness

followFollow Me: Law[1]

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Exodus 19:24-20:21 [2]

As soon as Moses entered God’s presence, God told him to go back down and warn the people to respect God’s boundaries. He also told Moses to return with Aaron. Moses returned to the bottom of the mountain to remind the people they must not cross the boundary lest they die, but the people had vacated the area around the mountain. Moses saw them standing afar off.

Before Moses returned with Aaron, God spoke the Ten Commandments in a loud voice.[3] Everyone in the church heard God speak and lived, but the church is consumed with the fear of death. The leaders of the church gathered around Moses for a meeting. They acknowledged that they heard God speak and didn’t die, but they were sure if God kept talking to them they would die. They were afraid the fire would sweep down the mountain and kill them.

They believed God would kill them, but they did not believe God would kill Moses. They wanted Moses to approach the fire and come back and tell them what God said. Moses tried to comfort the people. According to Moses, the terror they experienced in their first encounter with God would instill the fear of God so they would not sin. Moses communicated God’s thoughts but this comment is Moses opinion. Being terrified of God never stopped the church from sinning. Within weeks Aaron will lead the people into a grievous sin, and what the people believed will happen. Many will die.

God heard what the people said and approved.[4] From this point on God spoke to Moses and Moses spoke God’s desires to the church. God’s pleasure with the churches request to deal with him through a man foreshadows the future. The seed God promised Adam and Eve when they sinned would come through the lineage of Abraham and a covenant of Grace. That seed/man would be far superior to Moses and a covenant of law.

Jesus would not only be a man but the very image of God in the earth. He would make a way for whosoever will to draw near to God without the fear of death. His love is a much stronger incentive to refrain from sin than the terror the church experienced when they received the law of God.

[1] In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul warns us that the things that happened in the wilderness were recorded as a warning to the church because Moses preached the same gospel about Jesus that was preached after Jesus resurrection. For this reason Israel/Jacob will be called the church in this series.

[2] All Scripture is from the NKJ Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] Deuteronomy 5:22

[4] Deuteronomy 5:28

Go down…I just got here!

followFollow Me: Love[1]

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Exodus 19:16-20:26 [2]

On the third day a powerful thunder storm awoke the church at dawn. They peeked out of their tents to see the mountain covered in a thick cloud. Powerful bolts of lightning flashed and it was raining so hard water gushed down the mountain.[3] Suddenly, a very loud trumpet blasted summoning them to meet God. The church shuddered with terror and Moses was frightened out of his wits but there was no turning back.[4] The trumpet blast became louder and louder with each passing minute. The church followed Moses to the boundary lines around a mountain blazing with fire and smoke[5] quaking under the arrival of God and ten thousands of his angels.[6]

In the presence of the church God called its pastor to draw near. As soon as their pastor was out of sight the church withdrew to stand afar off, which makes God’s first priority a bit amusing. Drawing near to God was no easy task in the midst of a thunder storm causing water to gush down the mountain. Moses entered God’s presence to hear, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the Lord, and many of them perish.”[7]

I can image what Moses was thinking. Go down…I just got here and you want me to go back down. The last thing Moses wanted to do was go back down and fight his way through a thunderstorm to return. Being tired, wet and frightened out of his wits prompted him to say something dumb. “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for you warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds around the mountain and consecrate it.’”[8]

Why do we tell God what he already knows as though he is stupid? God knew they had obeyed him. Moses missed the point of God’s command. The church is God’s special treasure, but they don’t treasure God. They have accused him of bringing them into the wilderness to slaughter them with starvation twice. They don’t know God’s heart. The last thing he wanted was one of his treasures to perish on this special day. In fact God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”[9] for the evil things they believe about God.

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[1] In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul warns us that the things that happened in the wilderness were recorded as a warning to the church because Moses preached the same gospel about Jesus that was preached after Jesus resurrection. For this reason Israel/Jacob will be called the church in this series.

[2] All Scripture is from the NKJ Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] Judges 5:4-5, Psalm 68:8

[4] While most Bible use a less passionate “trembled” the Hebrew word used in Exodus 19:16 H2729

חרד chârad khaw-rad’ A primitive root; to shudder with terror; hence to fear. The New Testament revels Moses state of mind in Hebrews 12:21, where the Hebrew word translated fear is much stronger. Ekphobos ek’-fob-os From G1537 and G5401; frightened out of one’s wits: – sore afraid, exceedingly fear.

[5] Exodus 19:18

[6] Deuteronomy 33:2

[7] Exodus 19:21

[8] Exodus 19:23

[9] 2 Peter 3:9

God’s Check List

followFollow Me: Love[1]

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Exodus 19:9-15 [2]

Moses walked up the mountain for a second meeting with God bearing good news. The church accepted his terms. If they obey him, they will be a special treasure above all people on earth. God never abdicated his responsibilities to the rest of humanity. He simply values those who obey him so much they are special to him.

After Moses announced the good news God gave him a list of preparations before God would meet with the people who want to be his special treasure. Trust was the first item on God’s list. The church needed to know who God speaks to, so they will know who to trust. God had a simple solution. He would speak to Moses in their presence. God confirmed that we can trust Jesus in similar manner. The apostles were confirmed by the signs and wonders that followed them.

I have never had a pastor that God addressed audibly in the presence of the church. None of them did signs or wonders that I could verify were legitimate. Forty years of Christianity later, I have learned to trust Moses and Jesus. I do not trust anything a pastor says until I see it in the words attributed to God in the Bible.

Cleanliness ranked the second spot on God’s list. Talking a bath and washing their clothes made them smell better but did nothing about the stench in their hearts. At this point in the relationship cleansing the outer man sufficed. Later, John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus by preaching repentance and Jesus would call for pure hearts.

Third, God has boundaries that he is very serious about. They were not to approach the mountain until he called for them with the blast of a ram’s horn. Death awaited any person or animal that crossed the boundary when they were called to approach God’s presence.

Finally, God told the church when to expect him. This reminds me of the fear pastors attempted to instill in some churches I attended. We had to be at church every time the door was open, because we just never knew when God would show up! The church in the wilderness knew how to prepare for his arrival and that he would arrive on the third day.

We see through a glass darkly. Concepts about God often divide us. There are some things that are not given to us to know. But one thing is clear. God never intended for us to follow him blindly.

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[1] In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul warns us that the things that happened in the wilderness were recorded as a warning to the church because Moses preached the same gospel about Jesus that was preached after Jesus resurrection. For this reason Israel/Jacob will be called the church in this series.

[2] All Scripture is from the NKJ Bible unless otherwise noted.

Here’s the Deal

followFollow Me: Love[1]

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Exodus 19:1-8 [2]

Six weeks after the church left Egypt they reached their destination. Moses ascended the mountain where he had encountered the burning bush and presented himself to God on behalf of his million member church.[3]  God sent him back to the church with a message.

“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.” Exodus 19:4-6, NLT

The church was in the wilderness camped at the foot of a mountain through no effort of their own. God destroyed Pharaoh, the tyrant who made their lives a misery, after Pharaoh acknowledged he was a sinner and God is righteous yet continued to resist God. Like an eagle, God snatched them from oppression with his mighty talons and deposited them at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

God gave them a choice, but it wasn’t heaven or hell, serve me or die. All the earth and the people on it belong to God but few people obey him. If the church will obey him, they will be his special treasure, kingdom of priest, a holy nation.

This is a gracious offer considering the church’s history of bad behavior. The first time Moses tried to help, the church rejected him. Forty years later, they accepted Moses, but quickly changed their mind and marched into Pharaoh’s throne room crying we are your servants. They blamed Moses for their problems and wanted God to leave them alone. God remained faithful and delivered them from the tyrant who made their lives a misery. They thanked God by declaring it’s better to be a slave than die in the wilderness.[4] They discussed stoning Moses, and accused God of plotting mass murder twice within six weeks.

Only someone who loves you could put up with your ingratitude and hateful behavior and still want to make you a special treasure to be valued above all others. Moses delivered the message of love and the church accepted the terms.

The offer God made to the church in the wilderness still stands. The apostle Peter wrote to the believers scattered in the persecution that followed Jesus resurrection

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”[5]

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[1] In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul warns us that the things that happened in the wilderness were recorded as a warning to the church because Moses preached the same gospel about Jesus that was preached after Jesus resurrection. For this reason Israel/Jacob will be called the church in this series.

[2] All Scripture is from the NKJ Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] Exodus 3:12

[4] Exodus 14:12

[5] 1 Peter 2:9

Forgive and Forget?

followFollow Me: Love[1]

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Exodus 17:8-16 [2]

While the church quenched their thirst at Rephidim cousin Amalek[3] attacked the most vulnerable members of the church who were “tired and weary; and he [Amalek] did not fear God.”[4] Moses did not forgive them and bless them and turn the other cheek. He retaliated. Joshua and his men overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. The New Testament encourages us to “Make every effort to live in peace with all men.”[5] “Make every effort” suggests our efforts may not be fruitful with some. That might have been the case with Amalek and the church, because God also retaliated.

In response to Amalek’s cowardly act, God declared war on Amalek and instructed Moses to write God’s plan for Amalek on a scroll and read it to Joshua. God told the church, “You shall not forget.” Then God gave them a timeframe. After he gave the church rest from their enemies, and they possessed the land he promised, they must blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.[6]

A sacred doctrine in Christianity is “forgive and forget”, yet we have an example of God refusing to forgive and telling his church “do not forget”. If you think unforgiveness is always filled with bitterness and resentment, you are wrong. God is love. His refusal to “forgive and forget” is filled with justice.

Amalek treated his cousins unjustly when he led his army to attack the weak. God will not forgive and forget BUT keep in mind that God is talking about the nation Amalek became, and he delayed judgment for more than 400 years. God sent King Saul to execute his judgment against the nation of Amalek. Later King David subdued those who escaped Saul. There were still a remnant of Amalekites in the days of King Jehoshaphat.[7] The demise of a nation does not guarantee the individual citizens are doomed to suffer the fate of leaders who do not fear God.

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[1] In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul warns us that the things that happened in the wilderness were recorded as a warning to the church because Moses preached the same gospel about Jesus that was preached after Jesus resurrection. For this reason Israel/Jacob will be called the church in this series.

[2] All Scripture is from the NKJ Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] Amalek is the grandson of Esau. Esau is the brother of Jacob. At this point the church consisted of the children of Jacob.

[4] Deuteronomy 25:18

[5] Hebrews 12:14

[6] Exodus 17:14 ; Deuteronomy 25:17-19

[7] Psalm 83, written in 870 B.C. during the reign of King Jehoshaphat.

Tempting God

followFollow Me: Love[1]

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Exodus 17 [2]

The church had been traveling for three days when they camped at Rephidim. A group of angry elders went to Moses and demanded him to give them water. A mere ten days had elapsed since they demanded food, and Moses warned his church they were not complaining about their pastor. They were complaining about God.

The last time, they accused God of mass murder by starvation. God proved their accusation was not true when he gave them meat and bread from heaven that had appeared every morning for ten days in a row before they found something new to complain about. In fact, they had just collected proof God had no intention of killing him the same day they accused him of mass murder a second time. This time they claimed God brought them out of Egypt to kill men, women, children and their cattle with thirst. If they had cattle why were they complaining about a lack of meat at the Wilderness of Sin?

The church is fixated on their pastor to supply their needs. Their pastor was an eighty year old man with nothing but a rod in his hand, which makes their demand for enough water to quench the thirst of more than a million people and their cattle impossible to fulfill. Once again, Moses ask them why they were quarreling with him. Only a God could give them what they needed.

This time the church elders did more than complain. They tempted God.[3] The elders said, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” In other words, God needs to prove he is among us with a display of his power. If God had not been among them Moses would have died. The church elders were talking about stoning Moses, when Moses, the only one among them with sense enough to bring his problems to God, asked God for help.[4]

From the day God delivered them from Egypt to the day God appeared among them in the person of Jesus, the church leadership has consisted of both wheat planted by God and tares planted by the devil. Their demand for a display of God’s power as proof he was among them is similar to the temptation Jesus experienced in the wilderness.

After Jesus had already heard God say “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,”[5] Satan challenged Jesus to prove he was a Son of God by turning stone into bread. Then Satan challenged Jesus to jump off a pinnacle of the temple and prove the written word of God was true that said angels would keep him from harm.[6]

Jesus did not respond to Satan who tempted him in a wilderness, he rebuked him. God responded not to these devils, who tempted him, but to Moses, a man he respects, who needed his help. He sent Moses to strike a rock, as the elders watched, with specific instructions to use the same rod that they used to strike the river in Egypt turning it to blood. God gave Moses three signs to perform with the rod so the people would believe him. Using the same rod, which was a symbol and reminder of the past, rebuked the elders unbelief. Blood could have flowed from the rock, just like the river turned into blood making the water undrinkable in Egypt, but it didn’t.

When will the church in the wilderness understand that God had come to save them, not judge them as he did the gods of Egypt.

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[1] In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul warns us that the things that happened in the wilderness were recorded as a warning to the church because Moses preached the same gospel about Jesus that was preached after Jesus resurrection. For this reason Israel/Jacob will be called the church in this series.

[2] All Scripture is from the NKJ Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] Exodus 17:2

[4] Exodus 17:4

[5] Matthew 3:17

[6] Matthew 4:5