Monday, January 27, 2014

In Remembrance of God’s Delivery -- Exodus 16:31-36:


The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. Then Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omerful of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.” As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the Testimony, to be kept. The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. (Now an omer is a tenth of an ephah.)
 
The Israelites named their daily provision sent by God from heaven for their physical nurturing “manna”.  The writer tells us it was white in color, like coriander seed in appearance, and tasted like wafers dabbed in honey.  Wikipedia gives us this picture of coriander fruits:
Only of course it was all white in color.
And God also made arrangements for the Israelites to remember His provision to them.  He told Moses that they were to keep an ‘omer’ of this manna forever.  He wanted it as an exhibit to those that came afterwards, so that this part of history – and especially the fact that it was God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt and fed them daily in the wilderness -- is always remembered.
To accomplish this, Moses told Aaron, his brother, to take a jar, and fill it with manna.  (In Hebrews 9:4 of the New Testament we are told it was a jar of gold.)  As Christians today we have the opportunity to have the “Bread of Heaven” of which this manna was only typical (John 6:32).  I pray we treasure this Bread of Life in the same way.
Aaron was to put one omerful of manna in the jar.  Strong’s Lexicon tells us an omer is a dry measure of 1/10 of an ephah (about 2 litres).  Strong also defines an ephah as a dry measure of quantity about 9 imperial gallons (which is 40 litres).  There seems to be some contradiction between the first definition of an omer (2 litres or 1/10 of an ephah) and this definition of an ephah (40, rather than 20 litres).  Rabbinical writings give sizes of one-half this amount to comply with the definition of an omer.  In any case, Aaron did just that and he placed the jar, the text says, before the Testimony.
Matthew Henry translates the word “Testimony” here as simply the ark.  And this seems indeed to support the meaning given to this account in Hebrews 9:4.
We note that this manna was provided for forty years right up until the Israelites came to the land of Canaan.  While God is outside time, and can do anything by just uttering the appropriate command, we as His children need to be mindful neither to be in a hurry nor to think He is being tardy.  Remember when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, people felt Jesus was four days late going to see his body.  But our Lord was right on time for what He wanted to accomplish through that event.  Both He and us are in a relationship that takes time, as we know it, so that His full plan for us to become more like Him will be fulfilled.
One of the greatest downfalls of many a leader is haste, often manifested with just plain impatience.  God made the children of Israel wander in the desert for forty years.  But the good news is He was there and He fed them daily.
Are you in the desert today because God wants you to learn something or to develop a characteristic that will be useful for His glory in the rest of your life?  If so, make sure you get your daily dose of Manna.  Make sure you are aware that God is there with you and He is providing for you.  And then make sure to remember it years later when you have reached your Canaan.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Keep The Commandments, Yes, But What About His Instructions? Just What Can We Do On The Sabbath? -- Exodus 16:25-30


And Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field.  Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”  And it came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none.  Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?  See, the Lord has given you the Sabbath, therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day.  Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”  So the people rested on the seventh day.
 
The provision of manna for the physical wellbeing of the Israelites was being provided daily by God.  This was an early demonstration of what Jesus had mind many years later when He taught us to pray asking God to “give us this day our daily bread”.  But when it came to the Sabbath, the provision for physical wellbeing was provided the day before when God gave them manna enough for two days.
On the “Sabbath to the Lord” no manna was to be found in the fields.  The word sabbath is from the Hebrew word SHABÀT, meaning ‘cessation,’ or ‘time of rest.’  Interestingly, as God wanted His people to rest on that day, He was, in one sense, also resting, as He was not providing them with food.
What do we take from this?  First, God was serious about His Sabbath requirement for us.  Second, God modelled the required behavior.  Third, God made alternative provisions in order for Him and His people to observe the Sabbath.
A couple of interesting things to note here:  First, the fact that the manna was not provided on the seventh day provides our non-believer scientists with a problem.  What was it in the “evolutionary nature of things” that prevented the manna from falling from the sky every seventh day?  Interesting.  Instead, we can boldly answer, it was a “God thing”.  Second, you will note that the original intent of the Sabbath was not about worship.  God was basically saying to the Israelites “On the Sabbath, rest as I did at the time of creation, and stay in your tents; your bodies need you to.”  We, however, while we make the pretence of not working on the Sabbath, have turned the day into one of much activity in worship.  Although I do not see an easy alternative at this point, I think it would do us good to stop and realize that perhaps what we are doing on Sundays was not the original intent of God.  To Him, our worship was to take many forms and be required of us 24/7 rather than on an hour or so Sunday morning or worse still during the time of pre-sermon singing we are involved in.  But we will save our thoughts on worship for another time.
No manna and clear instruction from Moses as to what they were to do, and yet some of the people of Israel still did not believe God.  Instead, they went out and tried to gather manna on the Sabbath – maybe because they wanted more, or they ate twice as much on the day before and did not save any, or maybe because they really wanted to check it out for themselves as to whether or not Moses, or perhaps God Himself, was giving them the straight goods.  There is a possibility, some may argue, those who did this had not heard Moses’ instructions on this matter; after all, it was a very big camp encompassing a very large area and word does not get around that easily.  But if that were the case, God would have known that and He would not have said what He said to Moses in the next sentence.  Instead He shared His anger of the people with him .
At this point in the text we note that God is angry because the people refused to keep both His commandments and also His instructions.  Many have often argued that God’s commandments must be kept, but many other requests of His are optional.  I do not see it that way.  God is God and I would have a hard time suggesting to Him, “Okay, I will not steal but I cannot possibly really love my neighbour as I love myself because he just is not as nice a guy as I am.”  You get the idea.  Having said that, however, I realize that the perfect keeping of both commandments and instructions is impossible and thus God’s grace allows us to remain in relationship with Him even though we mess up regularly.  And please note I am not in any way condoning the idea that it is acceptable to mess up regularly and thus we should not worry about not messing up.  God forbid.  Instead, I believe messing up is forgivable when we repent with a pure heart and truly regret our sin, because of Who God is and how much He loves us.
So what then did God intend for us to do on the Sabbath and what does that mean for us in the early 21st century?  Let’s get technical but avoid being legalistic if we can.  God clearly told the Israelites a) to rest, and b) to remain at home and not to go out.
Okay, the ‘rest’ part we get.  Most of us do try to rest on the Sabbath.  The problem with the resting component however is not so much the rest itself, but what qualifies as rest for purposes of the Sabbath these days?  Can I read novels?  Can I watch Hollywood movies?  Can I play Scrabble or Monopoly?  Can I work on finishing my basement?  Can I play contact hockey with my teenage children or grandchildren or my friends?  Can I moonlight to make ends meet?
Wait.  There is a part about staying at home on the Sabbath?  Every time we go to church on the Sabbath are we not breaking God’s instruction as given in Exodus to the children of Israel?
I cannot answer any of these questions definitively.  I do not believe anyone can.  But I do know this – Jesus Okayed the pulling of one’s oxen (read automobile today) out of a ditch on the Sabbath.  He also did not want us to stop doing good deeds on the Sabbath.  Is it possible God was only speaking to the Israelites?  (If you think that way, you then get to pick and choose what God intends for you to learn from the Scriptures.)  Well, what about the idea of the New Covenant erasing the Old Covenant (the laws, etc.)?  (Well maybe, but then again you have to deal with Jesus saying He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it, to complete it, to perfect it as we read in Matthew 5:17.) So just how does an individual resolve all of this for him or herself?

For me it simply goes something like this: My purpose in life is to get to know God better.  All of my priorities and activities – every day, not just on the Sabbath – should be ordered or arranged and carried out in such a way that through it all, I am in relationship with my Redeemer and am getting to know Him better all the time.  If I make that my top priority, then as I live and breathe and move about on the Sabbath, I am giving it “to the Lord”.  (Well, maybe not that ‘simply’ but certainly pursuable.)
And how I do that may be very different than how you do that.  While you and I can both rest in the same room, we are not in essence “resting together”.  Our bodies rest independently of other bodies.  You may prevent me from resting, but when I am resting, I do it alone, just as I breathe alone, or heal my physical scars alone.  And as we breathe and heal differently, we may also rest differently.  What really matters is our heart’s passion for God and desiring to know more about Him.  Finally, the motives behind our actions on the Sabbath are critical, as they are for the other six days.  Get those right and enjoy your Sabbath!
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

God Provides For Our Sabbath Needs -- Exodus 16:22-24


Now it came about on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one.  When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a Sabbath observance, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.”  So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul, nor was there any worm in it.
 
A little in the way of background: You will remember back in verse 5 of this same chapter, God had told Moses that when He would give the people bread from heaven, the amount they gathered on the sixth day would be twice as much as their daily allotment.  Then from verse 18 we learn that no matter how much they gathered on a regular day, at the end of each day, it would be as much as they needed.
Now we jump to the first verse of our scripture portion here, verse 22.  The first thing to note is that there is no instruction to the people about the sixth and seventh gatherings.  Moses had told them nothing about what was to happen on the sixth day.  And verse 22 simply says they gathered twice as much on that first sixth day.  How did this happen?  It appears that no matter how they tried to measure their omer (as per verse 18) at the end of the sixth day’s gathering, it came out to two omers’ worth per person.
This became worrisome to them as they may well have felt they were going against God’s command to only gather one omer’s worth per person daily.  So they told their leaders and the leaders went running to Moses to see if he knew what was going on.  He shared with them what God intended as God had explained it to him earlier.  And Moses gave the people instruction as to how to handle the extra amount.  From what they gathered on the sixth day, they were to use what they needed for that day, and then save the rest for the morning of the seventh day.  And guess what, this ‘saving until tomorrow’ unlike the ‘saving’ that took place in verse 20 when it was driven by their insecurity and lack of trust in God’s provision, did not go bad, did not breed worms and did not stink.
What are the lessons here for us in these three short verses?  I find at least four.
First, God is serious about what He asks us to do especially when it comes to things that matter to Him.  In Genesis 2:2 God rested after six days working on the creation of the heavens and the earth.  In Genesis 2:3 He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.  And thus it was that He wanted His people to rest on their seventh day.  Are we aligned with what is important to God?
Second, God made provision for this ‘rest’ for His people totally on His own without their even asking for it.  In fact, He did not even tell them about how He was going to do that, sharing His intention only with Moses.  I would not be surprised if the majority of Israelites would have forgotten about God’s blessing and sanctification of the Sabbath, and having found out that saving manna until the next day was to no avail, had every intention of ‘not resting’ on the Sabbath and going out to gather their daily supply again on that seventh morning, had God not provided otherwise.  Do we trust God to provide for us (no matter what the need is) in accordance with His will and plan and method?
Third, the people enquired about what was happening, being fearful that they may be doing something contrary to what God had ordered. Right away their conscience, knowing that God had said “gather only for your daily need”, knew something was different and they wanted to make sure that they were still united in purpose and approach with Him.  When something changes in our life, when an opportunity or a windfall presents itself, do we stop to check and see if it is indeed from God?
Fourth, normally extra gathering on a regular day resulted in what was being saved for tomorrow going bad, breeding worms, and stinking, due to the laws of nature.  However, when God is behind the very same action, He can circumvent His own laws of nature as we see the extra manna gathered on the sixth day and saved for the Sabbath did not suffer any of those conditions.  Do we realize that we serve a God Who controls what He has created, including nature?
As we think about our actions and God’s provisions today, let us be aligned with His purpose and His approach.  Let us count fully on Him for direction and provision.
_____________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.