Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
The Jane Austen Centre and Regency Tea Room in Bath, England

Monday, February 8, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Feb 9, Ex 30-32

Today's readings are Ex 30-32. Tomorrow's are Exodus 33-35. 

Ex 30 provides the instructions on how to build the altar of incense for the Tabernacle. Burning incense represents sacrifice and worship, a sweet aroma to God. In Ex 30:6, God says this is where He will meet His people, at the altar of sacrifice and worship. The Jews come to understand that sacrifice and worship are required for them to come into the presence of God. 

The census tax is instituted. Every man has to pay it and the price is the same for everyone. It is a "ransom", compensation and atonement for his life. What the Jews learn from this is that everyone's sins need to be atoned for. Everyone's life needs to be ransomed. 

We see the bronze basin. Everyone who approaches the Lord must be clean or they will die.  

Recipes are given for the anointing oil and incense to be used in the Tabernacle. Both are extremely expensive, demonstrating the invaluable gift of being called (anointed) and worship (incense). The recipes are not to be tampered with, which will soon become abundantly evident. In them, is implicit evidence that there is only one way to worship God. No one has the prerogative to change them or modify them to suit their whims. It is not for pleasure or entertainment, it is for His glory. God will soon demonstrate this very dramatically. 

In Ex 31, we see that God designates the men who will carry out the instructions, the builders and craftsmen, and has given them particular gifts that will enable them to do their work. Those God calls, He enables to walk in their calling. Even the gifts and talents they will use to serve him come from Him!

The Sabbath is mentioned again, this time in the overall scheme of creation. It emphasizes God's pattern of work with rest at the end of the work. It not only shows that rest must be part of His children's lives, but it points toward the promise of an ultimate rest. 

Meanwhile in Ex 32, while Moses is up on the mountain receiving all this, the people get impatient and talk Aaron into making a golden calf, using the very gold they carried out of Egypt.

We see a tension in Ex 32. God prescribes authentic, holy worship and sacrifice in the preceding chapters. Then, as this chapter begins we see counterfeit and perverted worship. The worship designed by God is God-centered, God glorifying. The worship the people engage in is worship of the flesh and human desire (Ex 32:6). 

Moreover, and perhaps most significant, we see the people reject the leader God has given them. God chose Moses, empowered him, worked signs and wonders through him and delivered them through him. Now, they turn their backs on him, demanding that their own desires be met. It becomes clear that there are grave consequences for rejecting God's chosen man. 

For this, God threatens to kill them all except Moses. Moses, acting as an intercessor/advocate pleads for mercy and God relents. God's wrath can be averted by a man who is willing to be an advocate!

Still, there is a price to pay for open rebellion against God. The camp is called upon to make a choice as to whom they will serve. The sons of Levi, as a tribe, stand with Moses. They are commanded to slay 3,000 of their brothers who rebelled against God (Ex 32:27-29). This is a difficult part of the passage. But, it shows that those who follow Him with all their hearts must be willing to do so even if it means forsaking family and friends. 

This is not meant to be prescriptive to God's people in all cases. Killing is a violation of God's commandments. Our lesson is not about killing but about the ruthless removal of anything unholy from among God's people. In this incident we see that sin will not be tolerated within the camp. There is a grave and serious price to pay for rejecting God. 

We are at a watershed moment in the story of the Exodus. God has delivered His people and given them the Law. At the moment they are receiving the Law, they are called to make a decision. Those who decide not to follow God and the leader He has designated, are eliminated. This will become another pattern we will see throughout the rest of Scripture. The Law has done what it is designed to do, reveal sin. 

In another significant turn, this is the first act of the Levites' complete devotion to God and is immediately followed by the Lord's blessing. They are ordained into His service and will eventually play a significant role in the history of Israel as priests and servers in the Tabernacle/Temple. Here's another pattern we've seen and will continue to see - obedience is followed by blessing. Radical obedience is followed by radical blessing. 

 God sends a plague, as well. God is compassionate and merciful but will not tolerate open, unrepentant sin. There will always be earthly consequences for sin among God's people. They remain His people, but becasue of their willful self-indulgence, there will be some suffering. 

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