Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Eiffel Tower

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 29, Ex 33-35

Today's readings are Ex 33-35.

In Ex 33, it's time for Israel to leave Sinai. While this has been clear all along that they would be moving on, it is important for believers to understand the symbolism in their departure - the Promised Land is their final destination, not the Mountain of the Law. The Law is not their point of reference as God’s people, not their identity. The Law is a gift that helps them along the way. They are defined by their relationship with God and their home in Him.

God makes a startling statement in Ex 33:2-3. He will no longer travel among them. They are a stiff-necked, unfaithful people. The consequence of sin is a broken relationship with God! Is God going to abandon them? No! He will still protect them by sending an angel ahead of them. What the people will lose is their proximity to God. He will not be close to them.

When the people realize the magnitude of the sin they committed at Sinai (Ex 32) and the consequence of distancing themselves from God, they repent and mourn over their sinful behavior. 

The first thing we learn is that repentance is the appropriate reaction to all sin which separates us from God. As they repent with contrite hearts, God seems to relent (Ex 33:5-6).

The tent of meeting puts this loss of proximity on display (Ex 33:7-11). The designated place of meeting with God is now outside the camp. His continued presence is demonstrated by the pillar of cloud (Ex 33:9-10). But, Moses is the only one who can come close to God (Ex 33:11). He is clearly the mediator between the people and their Father in heaven.

Moses intervenes on behalf of the people. God agrees to remain with them (Ex 33:12-22). This is the second lesson we learn from God's startling statement in Ex 33:2-3. Only His chosen mediator can resolve the tension and separation between sinful people and God. The healing of the relationship is founded solely upon the work of the mediator, in this case, Moses, and upon God's mercy and compassion, not on the faithfulness nor the merit of the people. 

In Moses, we see a righteous mediator, an advocate for God's people. Even though Moses is only righteous in a manner that a man can be righteous and not perfectly so, the template is set for a truly holy and righteous mediator who will restore God's fellowship back to His people. 

God rewrites the commandments on new tablets (Ex 34:1-9), the old ones having been smashed by Moses. Even in these new tablets, we see a lesson. The tablets are not eternal. They can be destroyed but God will preserve His word. 

Because of Moses's intercession, the covenant is renewed (Ex 34:10-27), this time in more detail. God has purged the sin from His chosen ones, albeit temporarily for the moment and the relationship with them is restored by His grace.

Only after the restoration to fellowship with God occurs is work started on the Tabernacle - another lesson. God will dwell permanently among His people through the work of a mediator/advocate and by the work of His grace. This is one of the reasons Moses will come to be revered among His people.

Meanwhile, we see Moses as he begins to understand God’s glory. It’s been growing in Moses all along, a gradual realization that God does what He does for His glory, not for Moses’ benefit. Moses is certainly a benefactor of God’s mercy and grace. The benefit comes from God revealing Himself and His glory through the work He does in Moses, not because of who Moses is, but because of who God is.

In Ex 35, construction of the Tabernacle begins. Here we see the true reason for the gold carried out of Egypt. Previously, the gold was used for personal adornment and the building of the calf, both representations of man worshiping himself rather than God. Now, the humbled and chastised people stop wearing the gold for ornamentation and begin donating it to the building of the Tabernacle (Ex 35:20-27). The gifts the people received were meant to honor God, not themselves! 

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