Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Friday, January 27, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 28, Ex 32-34

Today's readings are Ex 30-32.

Ex 30:1-10 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 begin to understand that sacrifice and worship are required for them to come into the presence of God. 

The census tax is instituted (Ex 30:11-16). Every man has to pay it and the price is the same for everyone. It is a "ransom", or in other words, a compensation and atonement for his life. The lesson from the ransom is that everyone's sins need to be atoned for. Everyone's life needs to be ransomed. 

We see the bronze basin (Ex 30:17-21) and find that 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 (Ex 30:22-38). Both are extremely expensive, demonstrating the invaluable gifts of being called (anointed) and worship (incense). The recipes are not to be tampered with. In these detailed instructions is implicit evidence that there is only one way to worship God. No one has the prerogative to change the instructions 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 31:1-11, we see that God designates the men who will carry out the instructions, the builders and craftsmen, and has given them very specific gifts that will enable them to do their work. Those whom 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 (Ex 31:12-17), 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 32:1-6, while Moses is up on the mountain receiving all these teachings and the tablets (Ex 31:18), 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 before the golden calf is worship of the flesh and sensuous human desire (Ex 32:6). 

Moreover, and perhaps most significant, we see the people reject the leader God has given them (Ex 32:1b). God chose Moses, empowered him, worked signs, wonders and deliverance 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 (Ex 32:9-10). Moses, acting as an intercessor/advocate pleads for mercy and God relents. We see that 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 and sounds extreme to some. 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. The brutal lesson in Ex 32:25-29 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.

We are at a watershed moment in the story of the Exodus. God has delivered His people and given them the Law. As the Hebrews receive it, the Law demands 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 and set God’s people apart.

In another significant turn, the brutal nature of Ex 32:25-29 is the Levites’ first act of personal sacrifice. Their total devotion to God and willingness to sacrifice all that is dear to them 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. This is another familiar scriptural pattern - obedience is followed by blessing. Radical obedience is followed by radical blessing.

God sends a plague, as well (Ex 32:35). 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 because of their willful self-indulgence, there will be some suffering. 

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