Friday, May 30, 2014

Mount Sinai Transformed Into An Awesome Site -- Exodus 19:16-20


So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.  And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.  When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.
 
Living in North America, I have had the pleasure of watching some incredible firework displays.  But as I read this passage of Scripture, I realize that even though millions of dollars were spent to put these shows on, they pale in comparison to what God did on Mount Sinai.
The event begins as the right time had elapsed and morning had come.  The two day waiting period in which the Children of Israel were to consecrate and prepare themselves to hear God when He came down on Sinai were over.  The big day had arrived.  Showtime.
The text says there was thunder and lightning flashes.  I remember my experience recently at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve when the sky was lit up like a Christmas tree.  I believe it was nothing compared to what was going on here, since the “whole mountain shook violently”.  Can you imagine thunder and lightening that effective?  David Guzik says these were meant to signal the power and glory of God’s presence.
And then there was the “thick cloud” upon the mountain just as God had promised (verse 9 of this same chapter).  God was in that cloud.  That must have been quite a sight.  Here is a mountain out in the desert and on it, and it alone, was this thick cloud.  Possibly there was sunshine all around the mountain, but not on it.
And then a very loud trumpet sound was heard.  There are differences of opinion as to its source.  Some think it came from heaven and not the camp.  Others believe it was a sound blown from a trumpet played by angels.  If either possibility is true, it is no wonder the people trembled.  They had never heard anything like this before.  It is also possible that this was a sound from the priests of Israel as orchestrated by Moses or as was their custom on such impassioned religious occasions.  But regardless of its source, we note that God had (in verse 13) told Moses that this would be one of the signals for the people to approach the mountain.
Capture in your imagination the scene.  At the appointed time, there was thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, and now the awaited blast from a trumpet or ram’s horn.  Was there really anything left for the people to do but to tremble as they realized what was about to happen?  And tremble they did.  The text says “all the people” in the camp trembled.
So Moses calls them all to come out from the camp and “meet God”.  I am sure they moved forward with great fear of not knowing what to expect, like children who really wish to get closer to the activity taking place before them at some amazing exhibit they have never seen before, but at the same time wanting to cling onto and hide behind their mother or mother because all this was new to them.  Can you imagine the experience the children of Israel were having?  And given what did occur next as we find out in the passages still to come, is it not surprising that it would not be long before they would forget it?  Many of us do exactly the same thing today.  We forget the time that God was so real to us.  We forget His mighty show of presence in our own lives.  When there is no thunder, no lightning, and no mountain shaking to be seen, we think God is nowhere to be found and does not care.  Oh, that we would remember that day when we were called to come out of our camp.
So the children of Israel stood at the foot of Sinai and waited.  I am reminded of going early to my seat at a concert or where someone famous was about to make an important speech and just waiting for him or her to appear on the stage.  The more unique the event we were about to experience, the more that those with me and I talked about what we imagined we were going to see.  The Israelites could see the thick cloud be overtaken by smoke because God had come down on Sinai in fire.  I wonder what they were saying to each other as the excitement mounted.
The smoke from the fire went up “like smoke from a furnace”.  I picture a vertical column of smoke shooting up, perhaps through the thick cloud, almost like a volcano erupting and spewing its lava, and causing the whole mountain to shake “violently”.  Can you imagine the scene before their eyes?  Most of us have very little to compare it to.  The best I can do is to reflect on my seeing the life performance of what the Disney people bill as a “breathtaking 30-minute fireworks and water extravaganza” called Fantasmic.  Those of you who have seen it will know what I mean.  But I assure you it does not compare to what was happening on Mount Sinai.  While the Disney World audience got to see Mickey Mouse emerge from the man-made display that took millions of dollars, thousands of hours, and hundreds of people to produce, the children of Israel were about to hear the voice of the living God in a solo performance – where He alone designed, produced, and starred.  What a sight that must have been!
Then one could hear that trumpet sound that was heard earlier get louder and louder – and as a result longer and longer, just as God had said there would be.  And as if by cue, Moses spoke, the Scriptures tell us, and God answered him with thunder.  What possibly could this servant have said to God at this point?  He knew what God had said would happen, but what does one say to God right at this moment?  “Okay, God, we’re here.  Show up please.”  I doubt it.  Guzik hypotheses that Moses may have been asking God to stop everything that was causing the people to tremble.  Matthew Henry indicates that some believe this is when Moses uttered the words ascribed to him in Hebrews 12:21, “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.”  Did he say that directly to God?  Perhaps this was that time.  It just blows my mind thinking about how Moses must have felt at that very instant.  How amazing is it to have such a relationship with God that a whole nation could be brought to the point of hearing Him?  Henry points out that here was a man who led the people out of their bondage and was now leading them to receive the law from God.  What I see in that suggestion is the very order in which we should do God’s work today.  First, address the physical basic needs of people; then provide them the opportunity to accept God’s solution to their spiritual needs.  For years, we evangelicals have ignored that approach, often going only for the latter.
I cannot wait to ask Moses about that day.
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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, May 29, 2014

Does Moses Add His Own Condition Regarding Consecration? -- Exodus 19:14-15


So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments.  And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”
 
Every once in a while we are presented with a text in Scripture that some of us may find a little problematic or at least one that we need to dig deeper into.  This is one such verse for me, as you will see.
After God tells Moses that He wanted him to consecrate the people and to prepare them for His coming down “on Sinai”, Moses does return to the bottom of the mountain and consecrates the Children of Israel.  The people did indeed wash their garments as a symbol of their willingness to present themselves as being clean before God, but what about their hearts, their minds, and their lives or behavior?  The answer seems to reveal itself in later chapters and books of Scriptures.  While washing our clothes, we would do well, Matthew Henry suggests, to be thinking about washing our souls by repenting from the sins we have committed since our deliverance. He also writes, “It becomes us to appear in clean clothes when we wait upon great men; so clean hearts are required in our attendance on the great God, Who sees them as plainly as men see our clothes. This is absolutely necessary to our acceptably worshipping God.”  Note he is not saying we need our “Sunday best” to be worn at all times, but is calling for the equivalent in clean hearts.
But the real problematic part for me was the issue of whether or not the message of the need for consecration was only for the men?  Is that why Moses warned them “do not go near a woman” again until we have met with God?  If not, why was that said?
Commentator Chuck Smith simply states that this was spoken to men with respect to their wives.  That is, they were not to have sexual relations with them for this short period of time.  They were to just really set themselves aside for God, and God alone.  And perhaps since it was the men who in those days dominated the sexual relationships between husband and wife, Moses addressed this statement to them, while the whole consecration matter was intended for all the Children of Israel.
Moses was saying, “Look if you want to have done all you could to be ready to meet God when He comes down on Sinai, you need to focus on Him and that means no sex with your wives until after that – it’s only two days.”  You may think that what Moses was asking for was a little too much.  Well, maybe.  I must admit I am a little puzzled by it especially as we have no record here of God demanding this.  However, in I Corinthians 7:5, the apostle Paul writes the following: “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  That’s the New Testament take on the same matter.  But it is addressed to both the husband and the wife.  Society had changed much on this topic from the day of Moses to the time of Paul.  The matter of equality of husband and wife, before God, continued to evolve as a concept in the New Testament, and neither Jesus nor the Apostles taught against this progression.
There is an excellent book on this very development, as well as two others, in Scripture written by William J. Webb. It is entitled Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring The Hermeneutics of Culture Analysis.  Intervarsity Press, 2001, is the publisher.
Did Moses add something here on his own initiative?  Perhaps he did, but God allowed it to remain as part of His Holy Word.  And Paul supported it many years later.  Did Moses do this because he felt it was appropriate and/or what God would expect?  Not sure.  This was not the last time that Moses was to act on his own.  And when he did so another time it cost him dearly.  However, here, clearly, even if he acted on his own initiative as a leader, God did not disapprove of his action.
Here’s the bottom line for me.  If we want to meet with God on the mountain and hear His voice and get His directions for our lives, it cannot be on a spur of the moment type of thing.  Great preparation is necessary.  And that means physical, mental, and spiritual consecration.  Sometimes I fear far too many of us are guilty of simply wanting what God has for us, but not willing to do our part to receive it.  Salvation may be a free gift of God that we cannot deserve or earn, but walking closely with God and benefitting from His being our Lord and Master, Teacher and Friend, requires hard work.  Just ask Moses or the host of other saints God has used mightily through the ages.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

God Instructs Moses To Prepare The People For His Coming Down On Sinai -- Exodus 19:10-13


The Lord also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”
 
Clearly we can see from the text “The Lord also said to Moses” that there was a conversation going on here.  Can you imagine how awesome it would be speaking with God in this way?  The fact is that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, did make that possible for us and even today we can enjoy communion with God as we spend time with Him.
God told Moses to go back to the people and to “consecrate them” during that day and the next.  This is the first of 44 times that the specific word “consecrate” appears in the English translation of Scripture.  In its original form, it has several meanings including to be set apart, to be hallowed, consecrated, tabooed, to show oneself sacred or majestic, to be honored, to be treated as sacred, to be holy, to dedicate, to observe as holy, to keep sacred, and to be devoted.  And thus it takes on many other meanings in the English text, being employed 172 times.  God wanted this done in preparation for His coming down on Mount Sinai.  I am reminded of how often we go to our church services and ask the Holy Spirit to visit us that day, and yet we have done very little to consecrate ourselves for that occasion.  God wanted the people to take their time (two days) to prepare for His visit.
They were to “wash their garments” in preparation for the third day when He would come down on Sinai.  The people were to be ready.  They were to be waiting in anticipation.  This “washing of clothes” was a symbolic action typifying the washing of their hearts, their minds, and their lives, making themselves pure for the manifestation of God.  God was about to come down on the third day in the sight of all the people and they all had to sanctify themselves for this awesome day they were about to experience.
Matthew Henry writes on verse 11, “though they should see no manner of similitude (likeness, resemblance of God’s actual appearance), yet they should see so much as would convince them that God was among them.”  And is it also possible Henry asks, that due to the geographical nature of Mount Sinai and its height, other surrounding countries may “discern some extraordinary appearance of glory upon it, which would strike a terror upon them”?
God told Moses that people had to be restrained from moving up the mountain to God.  As David Guzik puts it, “The coming of God to Mount Sinai did not mean the people were free to go to the mountain and fellowship with God.  They had to keep their distance behind a barrier, and the penalty for failing to keep their distance was death.”  This was indeed an audience with the Creator and Ruler of the Universe and it had to be observed as that.  We would do well to remember that as we fellowship with God today.  Yes, He is our Father and Jesus is our Brother, but we are mere creations of theirs and they are parts of the Triune Godhead.  We cannot recklessly forget that.
Guzik goes on to say that “Any person or animal killed for getting too close would be regarded as so unholy they could not even be touched, they had to be executed with a stone or arrows.”  And presumably it would be up to the leaders of Israel under Moses’ direction, to do so.
The God Who created us knows us well.  He knows that it is basic to our human nature to need boundaries.  Guzik says, “In setting these boundaries and providing the death penalty for breaching them, God showed Israel (and us) that obedience is more important than their (our) feelings.  We don’t doubt that some bold Israelites felt like going beyond the boundaries [reminds me of the apostle Peter who because of his ‘feelings’ wanted to go beyond what Jesus wanted], but they were to submit their feelings to obedience.”  God said to Moses tell them not to go up the mountain or even think about it by getting close to its edge.  Matthew Henry suggests that probably Moses had a line drawn, or ditch dug, round at the foot of the hill, which none were to pass.
Moses was to warn them for God did not wish for any to perish on that mountain.  Yet the penalty for disobedience was so clear and it applied to both man and beast alike.  God wants to be with His people and He wants them to be saved from death, but He is also a God of justice.  Given Who God is, a positive outcome for man’s relationship with Him can only come from a realization of God’s authority over us and a submission to His will, His Word, and His love for us.  We have no negotiating leverage, none whatsoever, nor should we.
Finally God told Moses to tell the people that there will be a signal for them to come up to the mountain – that is, to gather together to see evidence of God’s presence.  And that signal was the sound of a long blast from a ram’s horn.  What we do not know is how exactly that sound came to be.  Robert Jamieson suggests, “This gave the scene the character of a miraculous transaction, in which other elements than those of nature were at work, and some other than [a] material trumpet was blown by other means than human breath.”  He suggests God had the trumpet blow miraculously.  It is also possible that Moses and the leaders of Israel were overseeing a great ‘national assembly’ of the people in anticipation of the visit from God and that they had the trumpet blown at an appropriate time, as discerned by the leaders, and following what God had told Moses.
I do not know about you, but even as I study this passage and write down my thoughts about it, I find myself in great anticipation of “God coming down on Sinai” to meet with His people.  And I am reminded of the promise that Jesus Christ will come back to earth again.  What a day that will be.  Are you anticipating it?  Do you believe it?  Are you ready?  Prepared?  Consecrated?
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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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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.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

God Tells Moses How He Will Affirm Him -- Exodus 19:9


And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I shall come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe in you forever.”  Then Moses told the words of the people to the Lord.
 
Most commentators seem to avoid this verse, especially the last phrase God speaks in it. I found that rather interesting.  So let us take a closer look at it.  Moses has just gone up the mountain to report to God that the people had agreed to do all that He (God) had asked them to do.  And God simply informs Moses of what He is planning to do next and why.
To begin with, God tells Moses He will come “to you” in a thick cloud.  The ‘you’ is plural as Moses is one of the Children of Israel. God’s presence would be evidenced in the appearance of a thick veil of cloud in the heavens.  God wants them to know He is there but not to see His face or His throne.  Matthew Henry suggests the “thick cloud was to prohibit curious enquiries into things secret, and to command an awful adoration of that which was revealed.”
God’s purpose for coming down was also intended to place “honor” upon Moses.  God wants the people to be able to “hear when I speak with you, Moses” in order that they may believe you, Moses, forever.”  As God comes closer to the people in this thick cloud, they would be able to hear His voice as He speaks to Moses, and in so doing, they would know (believe) that what Moses tells them is of God.  Henry writes, “first (there is a physical) appearance of the divine glory, which was afterwards . . . carried on more silently by the ministry of Moses.”  Henry likens it to the appearance of the Holy Ghost when He descended visibly upon Christ at his baptism, “and all that were present heard God speak (of) Him (Christ), that afterwards, without the repetition of such visible tokens, they might believe Him (Christ).”  Another example Henry cites is the Spirit descending in cloven tongues upon the apostles at Pentecost that they may be believed.
What could be a greater testimony of spiritual leadership in a person than to have God make His presence visible to the leader’s followers so they know when He is speaking to the leader, and then by that, allow them to believe that leader?  That is how God works but it is not for every man (or woman) to seek that endorsement.  Only God chooses to whom He gives it.  Pursuing it for the sake of getting it, as political candidates go after the endorsement of famous, rich, and/or influential individuals, would prove disastrous.  Our job as leaders is to get close to God for the sole purpose of knowing Him better, and keep on doing His will.  Henry and Richard Blackaby’s book, Spiritual Leadership: Moving People On To God’s Agenda is an excellent resource for this subject.
Notice also when this happened.  What God said He would do in this verse, occurred only after the people had declared their willingness to obey God’s voice.  When they made a sincere promise to obey the Word of God, then God promised they would hear His voice.  You may well argue, “But that was then, for the people of Israel in the wilderness.  Surely, it is not that simple for us here and now.”  I understand how you would feel that way, but I am more convinced by what the New Testament says about it.  In John 7:17, we read Jesus’ words, “If anyone is willing to do His (God’s) will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.”  There is no greater assurance that we need.  If we sincerely desire to do the will of God, His way, in His timing, and in accordance with His plan, we will hear the voice of God – through prayer, through the study of His Word, through the confirmation of the saints – and others will know it as well.
Finally, I want to deal with the last phrase of the words God spoke to Moses, namely,  “believe in you (Moses) forever.”  Let us first of all keep in mind that God was here speaking specifically to Moses, promising him that the people of Israel would indeed believe in him forever.  And that is exactly what happened through the ages.  The Children of Israel, today’s Jews who indeed worship God, have reserved a very high honor for Moses.  Wikipedia sums it up nicely when it states, “To Orthodox Jews, Moses is called Moshe Rabbenu, `Eved HaShem, Avi haNeviim zya"a. He is defined ‘Our Leader Moshe’, ‘Servant of God’, and ‘Father of all the Prophets’. In their view, Moses received not only the Torah, but also the revealed (written and oral) and the hidden (the `hokhmat nistar teachings, which gave Judaism the Zohar of the Rashbi, the Torah of the Ari haQadosh and all that is discussed in the Heavenly Yeshiva between the Ramhal and his masters). He is also considered the greatest prophet.”
I also know that God does not make any mistakes.  So, if He bestows upon a leader such an honor, then that leader may well be believed forever.  The concern is not with God as to whether or not He makes errors.  The issue is with our ability, because of our own failure to walk closely with God, to discern any honor God has or has not placed on a leader.  We have that responsibility.  And there are four possible outcomes to that discernment:
First: If we discern correctly and God has given a leader such an honor, then we would do well to follow him or her.
Second: If we discern correctly that God has not given a leader any such honor, we would do well to carefully examine how that leader may or may not still be led of God and to what extent.  We need to examine carefully for ourselves the direction the leader may be taking us and whether that direction aligns itself with Scripture and God’s will, to the best of our ability to determine as we continue in prayer and supplication for our own direction.
Third: If we discern incorrectly, assuming God has not confirmed a person’s leadership being of God when in fact it is, we stand to lose much in not following him or her, for God would be clearly working there and we will not be part of it.
Fourth: If we discern incorrectly, assuming God confirmed a person when He in fact did not, then we would labor in vain with that individual.
My prayer is that God will grant each of us the wisdom we need and the desire to seek Him and His will for ourselves in these cases of leadership.  Look for evidence of God’s presence.  Hear His voice in unison as He speaks to the leader involved.  And only then, follow.
The 9th verse of the 19th chapter of Exodus then ends with Moses telling the words of the people to the Lord.  This is a repeat of what verse 8 had recorded.  Is this unnecessary duplication?  Is it an error in translation?  Neither.  I believe it is the continuation of a conversation between God and Moses.  Moses reported to God what the people had said and promised (verse 8).  God then told him what He would do in exchange (main party of verse 9).  Finally, Moses reconfirms the people’s willingness to do as God said and assures God of their sincerity.  In today’s experience, it is like saying, “You will not regret this, God, because of what the people said they would do.”  But ah, how often we give God reason to regret His actions because we do not keep our promises.
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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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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Promises We Make To God -- Exodus 19:7-8

--> So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him.  And all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!”  And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.”
 
After God gives Moses the exact words he is to share with his people at the foot of the mountain, Moses rushes down and immediately calls the elders to a meeting.  There can be no hesitation to carry out the command of the Lord.  One must take time to hear God’s directions and commands, but one must not hesitate once they are given.
So Moses shares the exact words God had commanded him to share – nothing more, nothing less.  I wonder how we compare to Moses in that regard?  Do we embellish the words of God?  Do we hold some back?  Do we try to make them ‘more acceptable’ to people?  Do we even share them in any form?
Moses did, and all the people answered in one united voice, “We will do all that God has spoken (and required of us).”  Do you find that amazing?  It is almost unheard of in today’s world, especially in churches where people have as much education and status in the community as their pastor has.  But I believe it is still possible, as Henry and Richard Blackaby would suggest (in their book, Spiritual Leadership: Moving People On To God’s Agenda) if the leader hears from God, and he/she invites the people to hear from God Himself as well.  Then over time, all will indeed be on the same page.  The job of the leader is to both seek and hear God’s direction, but more importantly to help and train the members of his/her organization to hear God’s voice.  How are we doing in this regard?
So the people promise to obey God’s voice, keep His laws, and be a ‘holy’ nation.  The text is interesting at this point because from verse 7 we understand that Moses shared this with the elders, but in verse 8, we read “all the people” made the promise together.  It is not clear from scripture whether the ‘people’ here refers to all the elders, or in fact, all the people.  I would humbly suggest that it is the former, and indeed, there was likely more difficulty in getting 100% buy-in from all the ‘people’.  But regardless, the real crucial issue for you and me is to ask ourselves if we have made promises to God about our willingness to hear His voice, obey His laws, and be ‘holy’.  God says we can do all of that.  He expects it.  We often promise to do so.  But many of us fail miserably.  Is it that we were never sincere about our promises or is it that we do not stay focused on Him?  Our Loving Father continues to wait for us to do both.
This passage concludes by telling us that Moses went back to the Lord to report the answer of the people.  But I wonder why he did that.  God had not asked for a report.  God was able and did hear the response of the people.  So why might Moses have gone back to God on this?  Here are some possibilities: First, once again, God may have directed him to come up the mountain again.  We do not know.  Second, Moses was so amazed at the response of the people that he just wanted to meet with God again and thank Him for how He worked among the people to get this kind of response.  Thirdly, and perhaps as evidenced by the verses that follow, Moses knew he would need further instructions as to what to do next, or that God had more instructions to give him.  Whatever the reason, Moses realized that he could not stray far from God in order to implement the plan God had for His people.  He could not do it alone.  He needed to be close to the Source of all that had happened, was happening, and was still to happen for the Israelites.
As leaders, are you and I there?  Do we get it?  Do we understand Who matters in our leadership?  And from Whom our leadership comes?
As people, are we doing all we can to keep our promises to God? 
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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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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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Difference Between a Covenant and a Condition -- Exodus 19:5-6


“‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’  These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.’”
 
God had made a covenant (a binding agreement and in this case a promise) to Abraham.  In Genesis 12:1-3 and again 17:4, Abraham was promised he would be a father of many nations.  That promise was reconfirmed with Isaac (Genesis 17:21) and later with Jacob (Genesis 28:13).  This is summed up nicely in Exodus 2:24 (as well as Leviticus 26:42) where all three are mentioned in relation to the covenant.
At no time was the covenant that God made with Abraham totally free of any responsibility on his part.  In Genesis 12:1, he had to do two things.  First, leave his country (which he did) and second, leave his relatives (which he did not do thoroughly as he took his nephew Lot and his family with him).  I see the Genesis 12 passage as the point where God tells Abraham about what He wants to do with him.
Then in Genesis 17, God talks to Abraham about “establishing His covenant” with Him (Genesis 17:2).  Once again here we have a twofold responsibility associated with it.  In verse 1 of that chapter we read: “Walk before Me, and be blameless.”  Verse 2, as well as verses 4 – 6, relate what God would do – i.e. establish His original covenant.  Later on in verse 21, we read that actually the covenant was not “implemented” yet, but would be with Isaac.  God was very precise about that.  And later Jacob was to be a descendent through which this covenant of growth and land ownership was to be delivered.
But here in Exodus 19:56, God wants to go beyond the terms of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  For the original covenant, even though the three of them had not always met God’s requirements of them (especially the ‘walk before Me and be blameless’ ones), He, being a Father who loves His children, was still going to deliver His part.
But now God talks of His desire to take them to the next step or level of relationship with Him.  He talks about making them “a special treasure” to Him.  God wanted the Israelites to have a unique role in His plan for mankind, as well as to be a population of people who would be of special value and concern to God.  That is so hard for many Christians today to accept.  But if we do not, we either reject the words of Scripture or we are joining those who would question God’s right to decide whatever He wants, even if it seems unfair or unjust to the rest of us.  I am not prepared to take that option.  God is God and He can do whatever He wants without the interference of an international tribunal on Human Rights, let alone my feelings about things.  I think the sooner each of us except that kind of thinking, the easier it becomes for us to gain a greater understanding of Who God is and how we should relate to Him.
Much later in the New Testament, in Romans 10:12, the apostle Paul clearly unites us non-Jews (Greeks/Gentiles) with the Jews and says, “the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him.”  We have become, but notice, not at the exclusion of the Israelites, God’s special treasure, having called on His Son Jesus Christ to save us.
Returning to our text in Exodus 19:5-6, we note that there is a big “if” here.  There was no big “if” in the case of the original covenant with Abraham.  And it is not as if this “if” is to be ignored or quickly passed over, for the text emphasizes its criticality to the deal, with the phrase, “if you will indeed”.  They had to do this to become and remain His “own possession among all the peoples”.  That is, if they did “obey (His) voice” and “keep (His) covenant or laws”, they could remain as a very special people and be treated differently from “among all the peoples” of the earth.  That was what this promise was all about.
The implications of this are significant. First, through the original covenant, God was going to make Israel a means whereby all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).  Through Israel came Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.  That is not at question here.  Second, through this promise here in Exodus, the Jewish people had an opportunity to become and remain the “special treasure” of God.  Third, if they failed to “indeed” obey His voice and keep His covenant/laws, then it would be open season for others to join them in being God’s treasured special possessions among all the nations.  (Note: We are not talking here about who else could have been saved for that had already been decided by God and shared with us in Genesis 12:3 as mentioned above.)  And that is precisely what happened – Israel was not able to keep their side of the deal.  And that takes us full circle to Romans 10:12 cited above, wherein Gentiles who become God’s children are also His treasured possessions.
The following question than arises: How will God deal with His original special treasure, the people of Israel in the final analysis?  There is no clear answer to that question from either the passage here in Exodus, or the Romans 10 passage.  However, other portions of Scripture may well provide some answers.  As a minimum, we know that all Jews have the same access to salvation as everyone else – God’s mercy (Romans 11:32).  But one is best to study Romans 11:25-32 very thoroughly.  Much has been written about that portion of Scripture.  My own personal belief at this point, from this Romans passage, is that God will save Israel through Jesus Christ in a miraculous opening of their eyes in the last days, so that His mercy can indeed be exercised on their call for salvation.  How and exactly when and how many, I am satisfied to leave entirely to Him.
Returning to our current Exodus passage, God goes on to tell the Children of Israel that He wants them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. It is interesting that what God wanted for the Children of Israel, He later also granted to us.  As David Guzik puts it, “God intended for Israel to be a kingdom of priests, where every believer could come before God themselves, and everyone could represent God to the nations.”  And in the New Testament, Peter (in I Peter 2:9) reminds us that we too are a royal priesthood that serves God as both kings and priests, as Jesus made us to be (Revelation 1:6).  In that same verse (I Peter 2:9) we (Christ-followers) are reminded that we are a “Holy Nation” especially chosen to proclaim His praises – set apart, thinking and doing differently than others in the world.
As I observe my life and the lives of those around me, one of my greatest disappointments is that so many of us, myself among them, fail so miserly in just that.  While we are set apart because of our position in Christ, we fail to carry out our responsibility to think and act differently than others.  One only has to look at what we enjoy and value – our music and other entertainment, our pastimes, our desire to have our way, and so on.
Finally, our short passage of two verses ends with God telling Moses, “Speak these things to Israel.”  Much later in the history of the world, God uses Peter and Paul and others to “speak these things” to us.  Are we listening?
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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.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up 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. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________


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.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What Does God’s Reference To The “Egyptians” Say To Us Today? -- Exodus 19:4


‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.’”
 
God wants Moses to remind the people again of what He had done for them – what He did to their enemies, the Egyptians, and how He “bore them (the children of Israel) on eagles’ wings” and brought them to Himself.
I find it interesting that God keeps referring to what He did to the ‘Egyptians’ rather than to ‘Pharaoh’.  Why the people?  Why not the leader?  I wondered about that.  And it made me think of the push in our society today to distinguish between Islamic terrorists and Muslims.
The word “Egyptians” in the plural is used 98 times in 87 verses in the KJV of the Bible.  Of these less than 5% speak of the Egyptians in a positive way – when they mourned at the time of Joseph’s death and when the Israelites found favor in their sight (Exodus 11:3).  The remainder of the references deals with the Egyptians as enemies of God and of His people.  This is an interesting contrast to how Scripture dealt with other enemies of God – in many cases, the reference is to their leader, usually “the king of . . .” and in there you can put the various kings that attacked Israel over the years.
Using a feature of www.blueletterbible.org, I was able to read all the verses containing the word “Egyptians” in order from start to finish.  The last thing I want to do is to draw conclusions between Egypt and present day Islamic states where God may well have intended no such relationship.  A few thoughts that did come to my mind, however, were these:
1.     The Egyptians were clearly the people that God most focused on as His enemies in the early parts of the Old Testament.  [Other candidates throughout the Bible are Babylonia or Jezebel, and then of course, Satan himself.]
2.     The Islamic religion had not yet originated at the time of Scripture.  Although God knew about its arrival much later in history, it would make no sense that it be referred to in the Pentateuch or elsewhere in the text, by that name, at that time.
3.     As I went through the verses, I wondered what it would look like if one replaced the word “Egyptians” with “Islamists” or “Muslims” in those instances that clearly were “after the Exodus”.  Would the result be a reflection of what was going on in the world today?  Could what happened to Egypt and the Egyptians shed any light on what may happen to the Islamic world?
So I did just that.  Here is some of what came to mind:
a.     In Ezra 9:1 we read of the Israelites not separating themselves from the peoples of other lands, including the Egyptians.  [Have we separated ourselves sufficiently from other false religions today, including Islam?]
b.     Throughout Isaiah 19, the text speaks of the destruction of the Egyptians from within, one fighting another.  [Will Islam so wane?  There clearly is a great divide between the majority of Muslims today and those that are creating havoc around the world.]
c.      In Isaiah 19:4, they are submitted to the authority of a “cruel leader”.  [Will the Twelfth Iman they are expecting turn out to be the one that ultimately leads them to their own destruction?]
d.     In Isaiah 19:16, it was prophesized that the Egyptians would “tremble like women” because the Lord of Hosts waved His hand over them.  [Will we see that with the Muslim world?]
e.     In Isaiah 19:21, we read of the Egyptians coming to know the Lord and to worship and serve Him.  [Do we not anticipate this for many of today’s Muslims?]
f.      In Isaiah 31:3, we see the end of the Egyptians and what they represented, as we know of them.  [One day we will see the end of all that Islam stands for.]
The bottom line for me is that God delivers His people from their enemies.  He did it for the Israelites in the days of Moses, He kept on doing it throughout history, He does it for individuals and groups of people today, and He will do it again.  And what amazes me even more is how He does it.
God tells Moses to remind the people that He carried them on eagles’ wings.  Eagles differ from other birds, as they do not carry their young in their claws.  Instead, a young eaglet attaches itself to his mother’s back and is protected while being carried.  David Guzik says, “Any arrow from a hunter must pass through the mother eagle before it could touch the young eagle on her back.”  What a beautiful image that is of God’s love and care of His children.
The verse goes on to say, “and brought you to Myself.”  The Israelites were delivered from their enemy so that they may have fellowship with God Himself.  He did not free them to -- as one commentator wisely points out -- do their own thing, but rather so that they would be His People.  Sometimes we like the Israelites of old and perhaps of today, easily forget the purpose of our salvation.  It is not dear friends so that we can call the shots. 
_____________________________________________________________________

[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.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up 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. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________

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.