Exodus

From Slavery to Glory

September 23, 2019 Series: Scripture: Exodus 40 by Chris Strevel

Three Reasons for the Repetition

At Sinai’s summit, when they constructed the tabernacle and prepared the vestments for the priesthood, and again here by way of summation, the instructions for the tabernacle are repeated. There are three or four good reasons for this. First, if we take the broadest view, Exodus began with slavery and it now ends with worship. Or said another way, the Lord delivered his people from bondage so that they might worship him. This same principle applies to us, as Peter wrote (1 Pet. 2:9). This is a grace we forget at our peril. Second, God does not change, but he knows how very fickle we are. Can we modify worship here and there? What about doctrine? By repeating the same directions, the Lord was telling them that his will must reign supreme when it comes to worship. They should not deviate in the slightest (Deut. 12:29). And, closely related, we should make it clear that God is very concerned about the kind of worship we give to him. With the coming of the Spirit, it is thought that God cares less about the outward parts and more about the heart, but this is true only to a certain limit. He was far more concerned about the heart than outward observances under the old covenant (Isa. 29:13; Jer. 2:27; 32:33). The more exact details about the form and function of his old covenant temple is undoubtedly due to the fact that they did not have the Spirit or completed Scriptures as we do. These greater blessings do not free us from what the Lord once said, for he has no more love for “will worship” today than he did then (Col. 2:23). This is a phrase that means worship that man devises for himself. It is vain to follow men’s commandments and traditions, thinking that God will accept this worship and service (Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7).

God’s glory was the goal for all these directions, giving for the construction of the tabernacle, and actual construction of it, and now the setting up of the whole. When the people were doing these things under Moses’ direction, they did not know what would happen – that once Moses had obeyed the Lord’s commands, the shekinah cloud of his glory would permanently indwell the tabernacle. But we know what happened, and therefore should take the lesson to heart that God’s glory with us requires proper preparation and obedience. Enjoying God’s presence and blessing and promises is far more than walking into a service, hearing some music, getting that “feeling,” and then walking away claiming to have been in the presence of God. His glory abides with us more now, for we are God’s temple. The tabernacle of his presence has come down out of heaven to dwell with us, our Lord Jesus Christ. And since the Spirit’s indwelling makes us God’s temple and dwelling place (Eph. 2:20-22), we should be careful to prepare for glory – when it comes to worship, repenting of our sins so that we do not offend him with our presumption, and obeying his word from loving hearts that rejoice in his grace.

Tabernacle, Furniture, and Priests

The order of tabernacle set up is from the inside out – from the ark of the testimony, Holy of Holies and its furniture, the Most Holy Place, and finally the courtyard. What is most important and gives vital significance to the rest is God’s presence with his people. This is symbolized by the ark, and we should not forget that within was kept a copy of the covenant, which was God’s pledge of grace, nearness, and love. After the tabernacle curtains were raised, the whole tabernacle was then anointed with oil, symbolizing the graces of the Holy Spirit and that what we offer to God must be cleansed. Then Aaron and his sons were brought before the door to be washed, anointed, and officially clothed.  This was all done on the first day of the month, in the second year, about a year after they left Egypt. It remains a testimony to us of the greater glory of the new covenant order of worship and ark of God’s presence, God with us, Jesus Christ our Lord. All that we offer to God must be cleansed by faith in his blood and offered with the unction of the Holy Spirit. For we are not come to an earthly tabernacle or temple, but to the heavenly Zion, heaven itself, where our Savior appears in God’s presence for us – we are invited to go there, to the very throne of grace, with the Spirit’s help and our Savior’s heavenly mediation. We must be more conscious about this when we draw near as God’s temple to worship him.

Moses Obeys God’s Orders (vv. 17-33)

17 And it came to pass in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up. 18 So Moses raised up the tabernacle, fastened its sockets, set up its boards, put in its bars, and raised up its pillars. 19 And he spread out the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent on top of it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 20 He took the Testimony and put it into the ark, inserted the poles through the rings of the ark, and put the mercy seat on top of the ark. 21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, hung up the veil of the covering, and partitioned off the ark of the Testimony, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 22 He put the table in the tabernacle of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil; 23 and he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 24 He put the lampstand in the tabernacle of meeting, across from the table, on the south side of the tabernacle; 25 and he lit the lamps before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 26 He put the gold altar in the tabernacle of meeting in front of the veil; 27 and he burned sweet incense on it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 28 He hung up the screen at the door of the tabernacle. 29 And he put the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 30 He set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water there for washing; 31 and Moses, Aaron, and his sons would wash their hands and their feet with water from it.      32 Whenever they went into the tabernacle of meeting, and when they came near the altar, they washed, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 33 And he raised up the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the screen of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.

As the Lord Commanded (vv. 17-32)

Seven times “as the Lord commanded Moses” appears in these verse. His people might be disobedient and stubborn, but Moses their leader was determined to obey God in everything. This is the best commendation for every servant of the Lord – that he does not take liberties with the Lord’s word or in any way trusts his own judgment against what the Lord has commanded or forbidden. We tend to value personal charisma or personal agreement with our preferences as the marks of a good leader, but Moses teaches us otherwise. In serving God, a faithful leader in church, home, and state must be determined to obey God no matter what obstacles he faces – not follow his own heart, obey the demands of others, but do what God has said in his word. And yet, this degree of obedience, which Moses was led by the Spirit of Christ to record, cannot exist unless there is an unshakable conviction that God has spoken and that his word is trustworthy. Whenever we see widespread disobedience to God’s word, we can be sure that men are not struck by the majesty of God speaking in his word and have lost faith that his word is living because he is. Satan stokes the spirit of disobedience by undermining confidence that the Scriptures are the living voice of Jesus Christ. We must plug our ears against his insinuations and study the word which is able to save our souls and bring us to our heavenly inheritance (James 1:21). If we are to be devoted to obeying God, we must live before his face, grow in our estimation of his glory and grace, and pray for his Spirit to fill our otherwise cold hearts with joyful wonder at his great love for us (Rom. 5:5).

So Moses Finished the Work (v. 33)

As we look at Moses setting up the tabernacle, placing all its furniture where the Lord directed, lighting the lampstand for the first time, and placing the washing bowls for the priests between the altar and door, what a strange sight it is! Here was the man who had just spent all that time in God’s presence on the mountain, hearing God’s voice, and enjoying his fellowship, now engaged in following God’s detailed worship instructions. Setting up God’s worship – building Christ’s house (Heb. 3:1-6) – was a crowning act of Moses’ life to this point. He considered it an honor to make sure that God was worshipped according to his will. He would let nothing distract or hinder the work of worship. Should we not, following this eminent servant of God, also consider zeal for his house and worship the fruit of fellowship with him? The height of our calling and redemption from slavery? If we thought of worship more as the goal of our redemption, we would not seek to be entertained or exhilarated by our forms of worship, for this is to turn the attention upon us – to invert worship’s purpose, from God to man. Instead, we should be concerned that our forms and tone of worship be God-centered – to tell him how great he is in a way that he likes to be told, that we hear from him more of the great things he has done for us, so that we might then in turn give him more thankful worship.

And if we remember who he is that has redeemed us, who has now condescended to dwell with us in far more glorious ways than in the tabernacle, we shall consider it our privilege to worship him according to his will and to serve him in whatever place and way he directs. Moses forsook the possibility of being a Pharaoh to set up God’s tabernacle on earth – the world laughs, but Moses rejoiced. Moses forsook riches and pleasure for the wilderness and the tabernacle. The world can never understand these choices, for men are blind until quickened by the Spirit of God. Thus, we should not expect the world to love what we love or to understand our pleasure in God’s truth, service, and worship. Instead, let each of us be diligent in finishing the work to which God calls us, whether loving one another and training our family in his word, doing our work heartily unto him, or speaking his truth with love. Let us not forsake the worship of his church (Heb. 10:25) but attend upon it constantly, for in the assembly of his saints God is known, glorified, and does great works (Ps. 20:2; 77:13; Heb. 2:12). He has saved us to worship; he brought us up out of slavery to worship him.

 

 

Glory Fills the Tabernacle (vv. 34-38)

34 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

Indwelling: God Kept His Word (v. 34)

When all was ready, the shekinah glory cloud, some visible representation of God’s glory, likely brilliant, multi-colored fire and light, came down and filled the tabernacle of meeting. Its full name is given here, for at the tabernacle God would meet with his people. In fact, this indwelling glory was God fulfilling his promise to “dwell with them and walk with them, and to take them as his people.” Unlike heathen deities, the Lord God of Hosts, the one and only God, does not look to make men his slaves but his friends. He does not leave them slaves of sin provided they unquestioningly submit to him. He redeems them from sin and slavery so that they are his willing, his voluntary servants (Ps. 110:3) – from love, rejoicing in his grace, and enjoying his fellowship. Men today look to the state to save them, like all the social justice warriors, or to brutal deities like Mohammed’s delusions, they should understand that their gods have but one tendency – to make men slaves to lies and therefore enemies to each other. God showed in his ancient people a different way – that the God and Maker of all, the Redeemer of his people, drew them from idolatry’s blindness and sin’s slavery to live with them, to enjoy them, even as they live to glorify and enjoy him. He loves us. This is unheard of – a God who loves, who fellowships with his people, who delights in the prosperity of his people, who is so generous, kind, and merciful! Let us delight so much more in him since he dwells with us in greater fullness and glory than he did then.

Concealment: Moses Unable to Enter (v. 35)

Indwelling glory fulfilled God’s promise to be with his people; it was the fuller pledge that he had forgiven them and would not destroy them. But the glory also concealed fellowship; even Moses could not enter the tabernacle. This is surprising, for Moses had been with God on Sinai. But there was a difference between God’s grace to Moses as his servant and God’s glory officially in his dwelling place. God might bring Moses up on the mountain into his presence, but even there, he said that Moses could not see his face and live. There was a separation, a concealment, that, as Paul would later write, “the way into the Most Holy Place was not yet made clear while as yet the first tabernacle was standing” (Heb. 9:8). God was near, but he was also unapproachable, except in a very restricted way. He was near, but he was distant. This is one of the ways the older covenant is distinctly inferior to the greater glory and privileges of the new – that we may now approach the consuming fire with confidence through God-with-us, Jesus Christ our Lord. His atoning sacrifice has obtained our redemption and allowed for the casting of our sins into the bottom of the sea of satisfied justice. His blood has washed us clean. We may enter the glory of heaven confidently, even boldly (Heb. 4:16). Jesus Christ is the reason for our boldness. The more we understand and believe this, the greater will be our joy and peace, as well as our love and consecration as his disciples.

 

Guidance: I Will Never Leave You (vv. 36-37)

They were also taught by the cloud of glory that God would never leave them but always guide them. When the cloud went up from the tabernacle, they knew it was time to break camp and move forward; when the cloud remained; they stayed in the same place. We need not spiritualize this overmuch to learn the important truth that “God will be our guide, even until death.” And his glory is leading us – his glory now manifested in Jesus Christ, so that in a very real sense, our daily “march” is a living for his glory, enjoying and glorifying him in all we do, from eating and drinking to the larger things we think of as more important (1 Cor. 10:31). But we shall never be given the privilege to do the greater or have the strength to do it unless we learn to wait for his glory, to wait upon the Lord, in all things, and to follow him in faith and obedience (Col. 3:17,23). It is true that they had a visible manifestation of God’s glory, but do we not see Jesus (Heb. 12:1)? If we have eyes to see him, the glory is clearer for us than for them, for now there is no veiling, but we see mercy and peace, grace and truth, love and power, all sealed to our hearts by the Holy Spirit. As we rejoice in these things and serve the Lord with loving, trusting hearts, we are following his lead – his glory is leading us. The reason we do not appreciate this as we should, and therefore rob ourselves of great joy, is that we struggle to walk by faith. One reason we struggle is unbelief, for how hard it is to be persuaded and live persuaded that what we see by faith looking at the word is more vivid and lasting than what they saw with their fleshly eyes. Not hearing the word with faith, they could not handle the glory we now have. The word did not profit them as it might have done.

But does it profit us? We should like for there to be a visible cloud leading us, an audible voice saying, “Go here, but do not go there.” But would we follow the light and voice? Israel did not. And do we not have the light and the voice? It does not say, “Avoid that traffic jam,” but it does say to be patient in the traffic, which is a much higher lesson! We have our Savior’s own living voice in his word, the light of his presence to guide us as we yield ourselves to his Spirit, through the Word, submitting to the government and discipline of his church through the pastors, teachers, and elders, and in the fellowship of the saints. We have so many more helps than they did. They needed something “in your face” because they were so stubborn and unbelieving and infantile. Jesus Christ has come. And if you ask any maturing believer, he will tell you that the brilliance and wisdom he finds in the Scripture is itself so blinding and inspiring that he can barely gaze upon it, almost as if he were looking upon the face of God in Christ, which we are, if we look by faith. So I, and I hope you will join me, will not turn the covenants upside down by saying that their fiery cloud was better than our indwelling Savior, who is the light and wisdom and power of God. We do not feel our greater privilege because we do not give ourselves more consistently to the greater grace we have in Christ, do not what our Savior said, “Abide in his word,” and look about for something else to guide us than his Spirit leading us through the Word. And when we do this, he will guide even in the particulars – calling, family and financial decisions, guidance in every form – because we are waiting upon him and looking at his glory in Jesus’ face.

Protection: Until You Enter Rest (v. 38)

Exodus concludes with the great promise that the glory of God will be the protection of his people. God’s enemies cannot triumph over this glory, either the visible glory of the older covenant or the heavenly glory we possess in the new covenant. God was with Israel through all their journeying – a remarkable promise given their rebellion. Sometimes God was with them in chastening and judgment, but he never left them but brought them to their promised rest. Consider what this means for us: that whatever we experience in this life, however hot the fires of trouble and affliction, the Lord will protect us from every enemy: sin, Satan, our careless and worldly hearts, ungodly men and their schemes. He is our shield, our rock, and our fortress. These truths are much more pressing and carry a heavier weight of glory for us. God has shown us the way he protects us, through his mighty armor empowered through constant prayer (Eph. 6:10-18). Do we take him seriously? We hear that he will protect us and be with us, but we must also take seriously that he uses means to do so, not means that are separate or operate independently from his wisdom and power, but means that he has revealed because we are closer to him, enjoy more truth, and are brought into his counsels through Jesus Christ so that we are his active, knowledgeable servants and friends. God will protect us; we must take seriously the ways he protects us, the helps he provides, so that we never trust ourselves or fret that he has left us to our own strength. Never will he leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).

Greater Glory: God Indwelling in Jesus Christ

And thus, since Jesus Christ has come, we have the promised glory, for he is the glory of God, the incarnate Son of God. When we look upon him in faith – and we shall one day look upon him with heavenly sight and resurrected eyes – we see the glory of God – blinding but bearable, majestic yet gracious, wonderful beyond words but inviting and comforting and assuring – too much to take in. And the way to enjoy that glory – we must draw near, but how? Leviticus. Moses could not enter, but Leviticus showed the way – through the shed blood of God’s appointed substitute. And here is the wondrous thing, our Exodus was led by Jesus Christ – the glory of God was crucified for us – not ontologically, but covenantally in our mediator. Jesus Christ is our Leviticus, our shed blood, our open door into the heavenly glory. Armed with this, we may count upon him to protect us. Yes, the enemies of God’s church and gospel are many, but our weapons are mighty in Christ through the pulling down of every stronghold and thought that arises in rebellion against Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5). We must look more at the glory, less at men’s faces. We must hear our Savior’s voice in his word, trust his promise to guide and protect, and then fearlessly use the weapons he has provided. He has delivered us from slavery and brought us to glory. He will guide us to our final inheritance, where we shall see his glory and be forever changed into his image. Hallelujah!

Profiting from the Word and Searching Our Hearts

1. Why are the tabernacle instructions repeated?

2. What does this teach us about preparing for glory? Carefulness in worship?

3. Why is obedience the defining mark of faithful leadership? How does Moses teach us this truth?

4. What does determination to obey God require?

5. What does it mean to say that God has saved us from slavery to worship him?

6. How did the Lord keep his promise when his glory indwelled the tabernacle?

7. Why was Moses unable to enter?

8. How may we enjoy the clear light of God’s guidance?

9. What is the connection between Exodus and Leviticus?

 

 

How Shall we Respond to God's Mercy

September 9, 2019 Series: Scripture: Exodus 34:11-35 by Chris Strevel

No Other Gods before Him (vv. 11-17)

11 "Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 12 "Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. 13 "But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images 14 '(for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 "lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, 16 "and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods. 17 "You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.

No Pluralism – God is Jealous (vv. 11-14)

The spirit of rebellion is so much in the air that all the old traditions and any emphasis upon obedience are hated. Sadly, in the church this resistance goes under the name of grace and “let’s have everything new and exciting,” but this scene is one of the most gracious in the old covenant. And can you imagine Moses, having seen the revelation of God’s glory, thinking that the repetition of these duties were somehow a denial of the grace and mercy of God’s forgiving his people? What a disappointment and contradiction that would have been! I forgive you, but now go earn my favor through your obedience, or remain in suspense of my favor until you do enough good things. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Mosaic portion of the old covenant certainly was inferior to the grace now revealed in Christ, but it did not contradict God’s grace. It did have burdensome ceremonies attached to it, and since the church then was so wayward and rebellious, it required a very heavy dose of law, much like a wild pony must be kept under bit and bridle at all times. But the revelation of God’s name was grace and mercy and longsuffering, so these particular duties must be interpreted in line with that revelation – that the Lord was teaching his people how to respond to his great love and rich mercy.

For a moment, let us take a broad view of what God first says – no other gods, no entangling alliances with the world, and no graven images. Already he is stepping on our toes, even as he stepped on Israel’s. Embracing religious tolerance as a political and social virtue, as we are now learning, has been a stepping stone to setting up Baal’s in the church; in some quarters, we hear increasingly that all religions have the same basic elements and that we should not think the Christian religion absolutely true but be willing to learn from other faiths. And no covenants with the world or intermarriage with unbelievers? This is very intolerant and arrogant – how can we win the world unless we become as much like the world as possible? No graven images is a synecdoche for “worship me according to my word,” but very few think of this as having any importance, the main thing about worship being that I like it and that we remove as many barriers as possible that prevent the world from feeling at home. Surely his mercy calls for higher aspirations than this! Mercy surely, especially the full mercy in Christ, calls for higher aspirations than this! To win the world to the Savior who delivers from sin, we cannot be like the world. We cannot follow its path to respectability, or join with it in redefining love in such a way that every man is his own moral legislator and his own god. We must come out from the world’s darkness and rebellion and pursue an intentional separation.

When God forgives our sins and delivers us from corruption, he does so to make us “servants of righteousness,” as the apostle wrote to the Romans (Rom. 6:16-19). His grace empowers us to “perfect holiness in his fear” (2 Cor. 7:1). Therefore, we are not to go back to sin’s vomit and provoke the Lord’s majesty by worship its gods, the very idols and demons that the Lord Jesus has triumphed over (Col. 2:15). We are not to learn the ways of the heathen – the way they live or the way they worship their false gods (v. 13). It will be a snare to us if like Dinah, we “go out to see the daughters of the land” (Gen. 34:1). For what purpose? Curiosity? Envy? So zealous must we be for God’s glory – his goodness and mercy to us – that we “cast down every imagination and high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4). Israel was to break down every worship grove and smash every image, something that godly civil magistrates would do if their people were godly and desired to be ruled by Jesus Christ and his holy scepter. At the very least, we must worship no other gods or any form of pluralism, for God is jealous. He is our Lord and our Husband, and he vigilantly guards his love for us and ours for him. Mercy, therefore, requires first that we keep the first table of God’s law, and especially that we be intensely loyal and exclusive in our love and service to God alone.

No Intermingling Covenants (vv. 15-16)

God is of course repeating by way of summation the Ten Commandments, which served as the basis of his covenant with Israel. This is instructive on many fronts, not the least of which is the idea that when the Lord forgives us, we cannot tell him, “Don’t tell me what I already know.” We do this with each other – hey, I have asked forgiveness, let us drop it. Others will say, “Grace means that I can do what I want to do. Don’t bog me down with obedience and written commands.” The Lord says, “Not so fast.” I forgive you, but I have some more words to say to you – actually, the same words I have already said, but the words you broke. So, listen again, as I warn you not to make a covenant with the peoples of the lands that I am giving you. Do not go to their worship services or import their worship practices into mine. Do not take foreign wives for your sons – it being unlikely in ancient societies for the son to join his wife’s family and move to her land.

This same concern for moral separation – not ethnic purity, except insofar as it broke down religious distinctions – still applies with great force in the new covenant, as the apostle makes clear in his warnings to the Corinthians. Only marry in the Lord, he wrote to them (1 Cor. 7:39). Only marry someone who is in the same covenant relationship with Jesus Christ as you are, through baptism, church membership, and Christian discipleship. There is to be no intermarriage with unbelievers, for light and darkness do not mix (2 Cor. 6:14-16). And yet, we are wiser than God, often redefine “believer” to mean “barely a believer,” and do not consider the miseries and difficulties we create by mixing what God has separated – light from darkness, grace from sin, Christ from Satan. In our age, “Christian” has almost been reduced to someone who is not actively opposed to Jesus Christ or is open to spiritual things. A Christian may pursue and marry only one who is actively committed to Jesus Christ, which means seeking to obey him, being a faithful part of his church, and loving him before every other consideration. Marrying a nominal Christian will give you a nominally happy marriage, if you are a Christian, or a miserable one, for true and false vines grow more consistent with their roots as the years pass.

No Graven Images (v. 17)

One of Satan’s most effective attacks has been at this exact point – do not maintain the antithesis with the world. Do not separate from darkness. Evil company does not corrupt good morals – that’s the boring lesson of moral do-gooders and killjoys. Find common ground with the world. You have Christian liberty to watch what you want, go where you please, associate with whom you please, eat, drink, and smoke all you want. Every age of his church has suffered devastating consequences from this foolish disregard for God’s protective wisdom. In our day, the usual rebuttals to calls for separation from the world are that they are mean-spirited, prevent evangelism, and tend toward a separatist attitude. These things may be true, but need not be, and are not necessarily evil. None of the challenges of intentional separation along the lines of 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 justify our throwing caution to the wind and neglecting God’s plain instructions. Personally and privately, in homes and churches, in decisions about education and entertainment, we are to be deeply conscious that God dwells with us. His presence calls for holiness, which is separation from sin; our response to his mercy is committed obedience to his word and separation from sin.

And this begins with worship – no graven images (v. 17). As a whole, the church needs deep repentance at this fundamental point. Worship is not for unbelievers but for God to meet with his people. The purpose of the service is not to find a lowest common denominator version of the gospel, however moving and slickly produced, that attracts the masses. All of these things actually do the very thing prohibited here – going to the blind world to learn what it likes, then importing these things into the worship of God’s holy church. The failure to separate in worship leads to the failure to separate in life – separation is all-inclusive – that we are seeking to come out of the world – in our thoughts, attitudes, words, works, activities, associations – and unto Christ. Intentional separation from sin and pursuit of faithfulness to Jesus, since it humbles, makes us ready to serve him and speak his truth much more than if we are immersed in the world and have lost much awareness of God’s holiness and the sinner’s need for his sovereign grace and mercy.

Consecration and Worship (vv. 18-26)

18 " The Feast of Unleavened Bread you shall keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, in the appointed time of the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt. 19 "All that open the womb are Mine, and every male firstborn among your livestock, whether ox or sheep. 20 "But the firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb. And if you will not redeem him, then you shall break his neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. 21 " Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. 22 "And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end. 23 "Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel. 24 "For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year. 25 " You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leaven, nor shall the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover be left until morning. 26 "The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk."

Passover: I Have Redeemed You, and You Are Mine (vv. 18-20)

This abbreviated statement of the various feasts and celebrations is not simply repetition. God is mercifully renewing his covenant. His will is not altered by Israel’s rebellion, and he is again calling his people to consecrated lives of worship. When God in mercy returns to us after we have offended him, he does show us a different way to walk but calls us to resume the old paths. This begins with the most fundamental observances of all – Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (v. 18). Never were they to forget that God redeemed them for himself, that he gave Egypt for their ransom. And since God has redeemed his people, he owns them – the firstborn consecration was typical that the entire nation was purchased. He will accept the firstborn son – through the substitution of a sacrificial lamb. All firstborn animals are to be redeemed or slaughtered – it is the blood of the covenant or it is death (vv. 19-20).

Now we see much more clearly that these very same truths like at the bedrock of the gospel are the powerful springs from which all devotion to Christ springs. We have been redeemed not by silver or gold, but by the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). We have been purchased at a great price, and therefore we are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 7:23). Since no more bloody sacrifices are required, the dynamic of redemption-consecration requires that we daily think of what a great price the Son of God paid to redeem us, that ever after all that we are or have belongs to him, and that not for one second can we think ourselves free to live as we please. In our body and spirit, we are to glorify him. All our children, not simply our firstborn, are dedicated to him and must be taught to be his holy seed in life even as they are by promise (1 Cor. 7:14). Let us take this dynamic seriously – since God has redeemed us, we belong to him. Belonging to him, let us zealously serve him, and say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Sabbath and Worship: I Dwell with You (vv. 21-25)

Devotion to Christ prevents separation from being arrogant, cold to others, or enslaved to manmade regulations. Sabbath-keeping is vital in this regard, especially in the new covenant. The full glory of the Sabbath could not then be known, for it was anticipatory of the new order of God’s kingdom that Jesus Christ established by his resurrection from the dead on the first day of the week. But even under the old covenant, it was a time to rest from one’s labors, remember God’s goodness, and learn to trust him to take care of us. How much greater is our privilege and the weekly way we renew consecration to the Lord – that we draw near to his living temple as living stones, have God indwell us by his Spirit, see his glory in the sanctuary as Jesus Christ preaches to us and sings his Father’s praises, and enjoy the fellowship of the saints. This is the Sabbath-observance that remains to us (Heb. 4:9) – when we worship God for his grace to us, rest upon the finished work of our Savior who has now entered into his rest, and seek renewal each Lord’s Day in communion with our God and one another so that we can serve him faithfully in this world. Whenever Lord’s Day zeal dwindles among us, low consecration to Christ and weakness must result among us, leading to compromise with the world. And these sins in turn feed a diminished appetite for the delights of the Lord’s Day, as Isaiah speaks of them, and he lived before the Lord of glory came and ushered us into heaven itself!

Along with the Passover, the Feast of Firstfruits, or Pentecost, and the Feast of Ingathering, all the men of Israel were to appear before the Lord three times during the year (vv. 23,25). Your land and possessions will be safe, the Lord promises, for I will guard them. Be careful to keep my worship; be diligent in worshipping me as I command (v. 24). Bring the first-fruits into my house (v. 26), which was not yet built but here he anticipates a more settled order of the church. It reminds us also that the tithes and offerings were under the oversight of the priests and Levites. The growing cycle and seasons, giving and sacrifice, life itself, therefore revolved around worship and communion with God. Some of this worship was anticipatory of his blessing; some of it was thanksgiving for blessings received. How different their lives would have been – how different our lives would be! – if we recognized that everything good we have comes from the Lord, that we have nothing of ourselves except sin, and that we deserve nothing from his hand. This would produce great humility in us, and therewith zeal to serve him with thankful hearts. Remember, finally, that the feasts celebrated God’s goodness and pledge to be with his people. We must learn, however, not simply to keep up the formality of worship but the reality of it – that God now indwells us by his Spirit, receives our thanksgiving and praises, forgives our sins, and strengthens us. His goings (Ps. 68:24) are much greater in his living sanctuary now that Jesus Christ has opened heaven to us!

Separation: No Superstition (v. 26)

Exclusive love and obedience, dedication and worship – these are the hallmarks of the covenant God reestablished with his people, even as they are with us, provided we see the much greater light and grace extended to us through Jesus Christ, and rejoice that the heavy burden of ceremonies has been removed. It is rather odd in this summary to find so specific a law as the prohibition of “boiling a kid in its mother’s milk” (v. 26). But by this repetition (Ex. 23:19), the Lord has an eye to the sinful propensities of Israel – to incorporate elements of paganism into his worship and into their lives. The boiling of the baby in its mother’s milk was part of the paganism associated with fertility cults and chaos. It was the reason behind the prohibition of sowing with diverse seeds and wearing clothing of mixed fabrics. In themselves, these things may be nothing, but as part of Baal worship, it was doing bizarre and superstitious things in order to increase fertility. Christians must therefore not incorporate superstitious practices into our worship or our lives. The Easter bunny should not make an appearance in our worship services, or Santa Claus, or nationalistic displays of patriotic fervor. Fertility and blessing come from the Lord, not secret rites or manipulation of the elements or prying into the unseen things (Col. 2:18).

Transformed from Glory to Glory (vv. 27-35)

27 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." 28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses' hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. 35 And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.

 

Written Word Comes from Heaven (vv. 27-28)

If ever we doubt the reliability of the written word to convey transcendent truth, if ever the voice of wolves and critics threaten to drown out God’s still, small voice by undermining our confidence in his Scriptures, let us keep this moment before our minds. Moses walked down from the mountain with the word of God under his arms. It was the very Ten Commandments that we now possess. All the hatred of men for God’s law, especially its public display, is Satan’s screeching against such a clear witness to the authority and trustworthiness of God’s Scriptures. Those who hate God hate his word; those who hate his word hate him. For Israel, the Ten Commandments were a summation of God’s covenant with them – their duties, the way they were to walk in fellowship with the God who “forgave iniquity, transgression, and sin.” For forty days, Moses was on the mountain, neither eating nor drinking – God does not need earthly nutriment to sustain our bodies, although he normally chooses to use them. God’s word was Moses’ food. No wonder we can trust him to take care of us in every circumstance! But the main thing we learn there is that God has made a covenant with us, now more clearly in Jesus Christ, whose blood seals God’s promises and whose obedience is our righteousness. And God has bound himself to us in his word, so that if we hold fast to his Scriptures, this is the light that shines in the darkness of this world (2 Pet. 1:19). All the light that is in the world is found in our written Scriptures, for they are the word of the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. Let us abide in them, and so be our Savior’s fruitful disciples.

The Lesser Glory of the Old Covenant (vv. 29-35)

When Moses came down from the mountain, his face was shining, reflecting the brightness of God’s glory and indicating that God had indeed met with him. The rebels had spoken dismissively of “this Moses,” but God shuts their mouths by causing his faithful servant to reflect his brightness. Moses did not know his face shone. Those who spend close fellowship with God see more of him and less of themselves. They might and often say that they are nothing and filthy. Nothing is more common than for those who are truly close to God – chastening their souls every morning before him – to confess that they are barely Christians at all and know and do little of what they ought (1 Cor. 8:2; Phil. 3:12). A man who talks a great deal about his spiritual experiences and progress is likely to have known little of either, for when God imparts himself, he imparts also the meekness and gentleness of his Son. Initially Aaron and the people feared to come near to Moses (v. 30), but Moses brought them near again and talked with them (v. 31). He looked more like an angel than a man. They could not bear to look at him.

In this we are given a picture of the glory of the old covenant. It was a real glory particular to itself – God’s holiness and majesty, a glory that humbled and inspired fear in sinners, a glory that revealed the true distance between the holy God and sinners. For all this, it was a “ministration of condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:7-9). It was truly glorious, but it was not a bearable glory, for while God’s holiness was clearly revealed, the “way into the holiest place,” to close and safe fellowship with him was not yet clearly revealed (Heb. 9:8). The removal of sin was revealed in types and ceremonies but not as it has been to us in Jesus Christ. Because the glory was unbearable, even when it was manifested so closely to them in a familiar person, they put a veil over Moses’ face. He gave them God’s covenant, which should have comforted them for it came from God’s mercy, but the glory Moses reflected was terrible to behold. The way to stand confidently before that glory was not yet revealed, for Jesus Christ had not yet come. Another reason for the veil, Paul wrote, was that the glory was fading (2 Cor. 3:13). It was not permanent. When Moses spoke with the people, he put the veil on – hiding the glory that was fading, even as the glory of Jesus Christ is veiled to the unbelieving Jewish heart to this day, so that they cannot understand the Old Testament, that it points to him and is fulfilled in him (2 Cor. 3:14-15). When Moses went in to speak with God, he took off the veil.

Unveiled Glory in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

The fading and veiled glory of the old covenant has given way to an unfading and unveiled glory in the new covenant in Christ Jesus. We now look upon the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ – the riches of his grace, mercy, and peace to us, the covenant of forgiveness fulfilled and offered to the world, God’s indwelling Spirit to renew and sanctify. This is one of many reasons that all the cults that come and say they are another revelation from God are false – they have no glory. There is no higher glory for us than the glory of God in Jesus’ face. All the cults and their insane leaders have is more rules and self-aggrandizement; they have no glory, no power, and no closer access to God than what we have in Jesus Christ. And here is the wondrous thing – we can and must look upon that glory, as the apostle directs all our attention heavenwards to where Christ sits at the Father’s right hand (Col. 3:1).

In Jesus Christ, when we look upon him by faith, the new eyes the Spirit gives, we see God’s love for us, his free invitation to draw near boldly to his throne of grace, the friendship we have with a reconciled God and Father, and all his other promises fulfilled. We have the hope of heaven, of seeing God’s glory in the incarnate, enthroned Son of God, of ourselves being better receptacles and mirrors of that glory when we see Jesus and are made like him. Even now on our pilgrimage, we are not kept away from the consuming fire but brought near (Heb. 12:29) – to be transformed, from glory to glory, so that we reflect God’s glory in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. We? Sinners we are, but redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and brought near to God, indwelled by God, having God with us, being the temple of the living God. This is his covenant with us, sealed with our Savior’s precious blood, and its glory has not faded but goes from strength to strength unto this hour.

If these things are true, why is there such little glory among those who profess to be looking at the glory? The Israelites could see glory shining in Moses’ face. It was an outward glory, a visible one, as ours one day will be, but now our true lives, Christ’s full life in us, is hidden (Col. 3:3). We have this treasure but in fragile vessels, easily cracked and broken, so that the power of God may be seen as our only foundation for endurance in this world. It is not surprising that a ministry of condemnation would have a shining outward glory, for the faithful needed some encouragement, or else their hearts would have broken with longing and uncertainty. Is God really speaking to us? Does he love us? Is he near? Ah, there is Moses’ face. We have and need no such external props, for we have the Spirit of holiness, who bears witness in our very hearts that we are God’s children. This inner witness is more powerful than sight, for eyes can deceive and circumstances make us fear, but God does not lie. And then when he seals the seal, if you will, verifies his witness with fruit, then there is truly glory among us. What do I mean? When we love one another with pure hearts, forebear and forgive, and cover sins with love, then the God of love is in our midst. When we are able to resist sin, even with tears and weakness, and long for holiness and righteousness, then God himself is present, stirring us not with an outward glory but with his own indwelling presence. But if we are to enjoy these tokens of God’s kindness, we must, as the apostle, keep looking at the glory that is revealed in Jesus Christ. This is the one thing needed more than anything else – that we keep the glory of Jesus Christ before us, in our thoughts and prayers, in life and love. His glory before us is truly God with us. His shining will never diminish, but move forward from glory to glory.

 

 

Profiting from the Word and Searching Our Hearts

1. Why are God’s grace and mercy our greatest motivations to love and obey God? See Romans 12:1.

2. What is the gracious context of this repetition of covenant duties? See Exodus 34:1-10.

3. How do these broad duties – idolatry, intermarriage, separation – step on our toes?

4. Why must Christians marry Christians? What is a Christian?

5. Why is worship so prominent in God’s covenant?

6. What is the redemption-consecration dynamic?

7. Why not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk?

8. How does Moses coming down from Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments help us overcome doubts about the reliability of God’s written word?

9. How could Moses not see that his face was shining?

10. Why was his face shining?

11. How was the old covenant glorious?

12. Why did Moses wear a veil?

13. How is new covenant glory greater? How do we look at the glory and what should we expect as we look at it? See 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. 4:17-18.

 

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