Exodus 35-36, Mark 15

God Provides.

Exodus 35-36, Mark 15

And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. – Exodus 35:21 ESV

In chapters 35-36 of Exodus we have the beginning of the construction of the Tabernacle that God had commanded the people to build. But before the work could begin, the construction materials had to be gathered. It’s interesting to note that the Israelites were a group of people who had spent over 400 years in exile in Egypt. They had been shepherds and farmers by trade. Now they found themselves living in the wilderness and given the task of building a portable temple for God, that could be set up, taken down, and carted with them wherever God should lead them to go. And it was not to be just some ordinary structure. It was to be made of the finest materials and crafted with care and precision. So where was all this gold, silver, wood, and fabric to come from? How in the world was a group of freed slaves going to pull this off this formidable task? God had already taken care of it. When they left the land of Egypt, God had caused the Egyptians to weigh them down with all kinds of gifts. After suffering through the ten plagues, they basically paid the Israelites to get out of their land. Moses records, “The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in hast. For they say said, ‘We shall all be dead’…And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked for. Thus they plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:33, 36 ESV). So when the people of Israel left Egypt, God had loaded them down with Egyptian treasure. Little did they know that there was a divine purpose behind this surprising blessing. God was simply providing in advance all the materials necessary to build the Tabernacle. God had told Moses this would happen. “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:21 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

Everything they would need for the construction of the Tabernacle had been given to them by God. Not only that, God had supernaturally endowed two men with “with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft” (Exodus 35:31-33 ESV). These men had been filled with the Spirit of God so that they might do the work of God. And they were also given the ability to teach and train these ordinary farmers and shepherds to do the work that had to be done. Everything about the Tabernacle, from the design and construction to the material, was the work of God. When it came time to collect all the gold, silver, wood, jewels, fabric, and thread needed to begin construction, God would ask the people to give – out of the treasure given to them by the Egyptians. But even the giving was God-inspired and motivated. “And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments” (Exodus 35:21 ESV). God knew exactly what treasures were necessary and who held them in their possession, so He caused His Spirit to stir the hearts of each individual to give what was needed. And they gave and they gave, to the point that Moses had to command them to stop giving. Rather than having to scrimp and scrounge for the materials, God ensured that they would have more than enough. All so the people of God could build a dwelling place for God, where His presence could exist among them.

What does this passage reveal about man?

The text doesn’t say it, but knowing human nature like I do, I have to believe that each and every one of the Israelites had long since decided that the treasure they walked out of Egypt with belonged to them. God had given it to them for their own use. But they were going to find out that God had blessed them for a much more significant reason. The treasure was not for their individual use, but to minister to the body, the corporate community of Israel, by providing for the presence of God in their midst. The Tabernacle would become the place where God would meet with them. It was where their sins would be atoned for and forgiveness would be offered. They would find mercy and grace there. That structure would become the focal point of their community and the most important part of their lives as the people of God. Those gifts they had carted out of Egypt, given to them by God, were never intended for their own selfish purposes, but had been intended to accomplish God’s will in providing for Himself a dwelling place among them.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Ultimately, both the Tabernacle and the Temple were symbols of something much greater and more significant to come. They would provide a foreshadowing of the coming work of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV). Once again, God was going to provide everything necessary to ensure that sinful mankind could have access into His presence and a means by which they could find forgiveness for their sins. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17 ESV). “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).

God provided all that was necessary for me to have a restored relationship with Him. He sent His Son in the form of a man. He sacrificed His Son on a cruel Roman cross. He provided the “resources” necessary for man to have access into His presence. Jesus was the ultimate Temple or Tabernacle. He Himself declared, “Destroy this temple, and in three days ‘I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise t up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:19-21 ESV). The earthly Tabernacle was provided for by God. It was made up of expensive materials that had great earthly value. But Jesus was also of great value, the very Son of God, sacrificed for the sins of man. It is fascinating to think about the fact that, at His trial, Jesus was covered in fine linen too, just like the Tabernacle. He was clothed in an expensive purple cloak and a crown of wood was placed on His head. He was to be God’s ultimate provision for forgiveness of sin, providing access into His presence. Mark 15 records the death of Jesus and he writes, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mark 15:37-38 ESV). At the death of Jesus, the veil that had long separated the people of God from the presence of God was ripped in two. And it was God’s doing. With the death of His Son, He removed once and for all the barrier that had long kept men out of His divine presence. Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). God has provided me with all I need to have access into His presence. It is all His doing, not mine. It is His plan, not mine. It is based on His effort, not mine. Like the Israelites, I don’t deserve access into God’s presence, but it is by the death of Christ that I can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV).

Father, You have provided everything. I bring nothing to the table. You gave the most precious thing You had to offer, Your Son. You sacrificed Him on my behalf, all so that I might enjoy the pleasure of Your presence in my life. I find grace, mercy and forgiveness for sins, all because You provided the ultimate sacrifice. Thank You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Exodus 33-34, Mark 14

The Priority of His Presence.

Exodus 33-34, Mark 14

And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” – Exodus 33:15-16 ESV

God was about to give the people of Israel marching orders to break camp and make their way to the Promised Land. But He would give them one significant and startling bit of news: He would NOT be going with them. God told them, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Exodus 33:3 ESV). God had had just about enough of these stubborn, rebellious people, and so He broke the news to them that He would be faithful to fulfill His promise, but they would have to get there without His presence. And “when the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned” (Exodus 33:4 ESV). They were dumbstruck at the idea that God was not going to be going with them as they made their way to the land of promise. That meant no pillar of cloud by day or pillar of fire by night. That meant no smoke, thunder and lightning on top of the mountain. That had to leave in question His daily provision of manna and quail. It was going to be a different ball game from this point forward, and they were not happy about it. They were even willing to listen to God and give up their trinkets and baubles, like the jewelry they had given to Aaron so he could build the golden calf. God was testing to see just how repentant and remorseful they really were. He told them, “Take now off your ornaments that I may know what to do with you” (Exodus 33:5 ESV). They found themselves in a very precarious predicament. God was threatening to remove His presence from among them, and with His presence would go His power, provision and protection.

But Moses was not willing to lead the people of Israel on a journey without God’s presence. He was going to intercede on behalf of the people and beg God to change His mind. He knew that it was the presence of God that made them the people of God. “For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:16 ESV). He knew that it was the presence of God that proved that they were the people of God. Without Him, they were nothing. It was God in their midst that set them apart from all the other nations. It was God’s power actively at work in and around their lives that made them distinctive from every other people group on the face of the earth.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God’s abiding presence among us must be our highest priority and greatest joy. Everything else becomes worthless without Him. Ornaments without God are of no value. A land of promise, but without the presence of the one who gave the promise, would eventually prove to be unfruitful and unfulfilling. God’s presence was life-changing. Moses knew that first-hand from his many encounters with God on the mountain and in the close confines of the tent of meeting. Moses longed for God’s presence so much that he begged God to let him see His glory. Moses wanted more than just the law of God. He wanted the God of the law. He knew that the people would be nothing without God. They would never make it to the land. They couldn’t survive without God. So he asked God, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance” (Exodus 34:9 ESV). Yes, Moses knew they were sinners and undeserving of God’s presence, but he also knew that they were completely dependent on God for everything they needed. It was the very fact that they WERE sinners that demanded that they needed the presence of the only one who could offer pardon from and forgiveness for sin. God was going to have to pardon their sin and forgive them open rebellion against Him. But it was critical that He did so, or the people of Israel would have ceased to be the people of God. They would have become just another religious sect worshiping yet another god.

So God listened to Moses and reestablished His covenant with the people. He called them to obedience . He reminded them of His law and their obligation to keep each and every aspect of it. On the mountaintop, God revealed Himself to Moses and once again confirmed His commitment to His covenant. Moses received a second set of the Ten Commandments and the assurance from God that “in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel” (Exodus 34:27 ESV). After 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain in God’s presence, Moses was able to walk away with an assurance of God’s ongoing presence among His people. He would continue to lead and feed them, provide for and protect them, fight for and forgive them.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Even the rebellious Israelites knew that they were helpless and hopeless without God. The news that He might not be going with them was a “disastrous word” (Exodus 33:4 ESV). They were smart enough to know that this journey had been hard enough up until that point WITH God, so it would be absolutely impossible WITHOUT Him. When God reconfirmed His law with Moses up on the mountain, He reiterated His requirements that they not worship other gods, that they not fashion for themselves idols, that they keep the appointed festivals, feasts, and sabbath observances. He told them, “observe what I command you this day” (Exodus 34:11 ESV). A big part of enjoying God’s presence was going to be based on obeying God’s Word. The covenant He was making with them was bilateral – it was going to require them to keep their part. But they would find it increasingly difficult to live up to their side of the agreement. Their sinful natures would prove to be a constant problem. They would remain stiff-necked, stubborn and rebellious – all the way up until the day they entered the Promised Land and long after they had settled down and made themselves comfortable. Even though God remained with them and would continue to dwell among them, they would live as if He wasn’t there. They would fail to practice His presence. In other words, they would begin to either take Him for granted or simply forget that He was among them. Once they achieved the coveted prize of the Promised Land, their need for God would diminish. Once they had homes of their own, an abundance of crops and a relatively stable lifestyle, the presence of God would become less and less important to them. God would warn them of this very threat right before they entered into the land.

“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes… lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14 ESV).

In time, they would live as if God didn’t exist. Sure, they would give Him lip service. They would offer Him sacrifices and attempt to keep all His religious festivals and feasts. Years later, God would speak the following tragic words through the prophet Isaiah: “this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men…” (Isaiah 29:13 ESV). Jesus would quote these same words when speaking to the Jews of His day. The abiding presence of God should be met with worship, not indifference. It should be an attitude of the heart, not lip-service.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I hate to admit it, but I can fail to practice God’s presence. And yet, I am fully aware that I am nothing without Him. Without the indwelling presence of Christ in the form of the Holy Spirit, I would be nothing. I would still be in the same sad state I was in when He called me. Like the Israelites, I would still be a slave; captive to the power of sin over my life and condemned to face an eternity apart from God’s presence. But I can’t help but recall the words of Paul, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 ESV). It is His presence within me that makes me a child of God and an heir to His kingdom. I am nothing apart from Him. But “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV). In chapter 14 of the book of Mark we have recorded the closing days of the life of Jesus. We read about the Last Supper, His time of prayer in the garden, His betrayal by Judas, and the denial of Him by Peter. What amazes me is that the vast majority of the people involved in these events surrounding Jesus’ last days on earth were totally oblivious that God was among them. The Son of God was present in their midst, but they were incapable of seeing or recognizing Him. They had witnessed His miracles and had been amazed at His teachings, but they could not accept Him as the Messiah, the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Jesus would be killed for claiming to be the very presence of God among men. When asked is He was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed, Jesus responded, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62 ESV). He was Immanuel – which means, “God with us.” He was God in human form. He was the divine sacrifice for the sins of men. But He was going to be missed by most who saw and heard Him.

My life is totally dependent upon God for everything. My very existence was His doing. My salvation was made possible by Him through the death of His Son. But I can find it so easy to fail to practice His presence. I can forget just how dependent I am on Him for everything. But the very thought of life lived without Him should be inconceivable to me. It should strike fear into me. And while I am assured of His never-ending presence in my life, I can still live as if He doesn’t exist. I can take His presence for granted and live with my eyes focused on the wrong things. I can set my hopes in things other than Him. I can attempt to find my worth and value in something or someone other than Him. Which is nothing more than idolatry. It is His presence that makes me distinct and sets me apart as His own. Without Him, I am nothing.

Father, I simply echo the prayer of Moses: “How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Exodus 31-32, Mark 13

Patient Obedience.

Exodus 31-32, Mark 13

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. – Mark 13:32-33 ESV

It didn’t take long. Moses had been up on the mountain receiving the Law from God. Down below, the people had begun to lose patience, wondering what had become of their leader. Eventually, they took matters into their own hands, appointed for themselves a new leader and demanded that he make them a god like the ones they had worshiped back in Egypt. It is ironic to think that while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments, given by God and engraved by the very finger of God, the people were at the base of the mountain preparing to violate the first two commandments. If ever there was proof for the need of the law of God in the lives of men, this is it. God knew mankind well. The laws He was giving Moses were a direct reflection of the sinfulness of man. In spite of all that God had done for them and how He had revealed His power on behalf of them, they demanded that Aaron “make us gods who shall go before us” (Exodus 32:2 ESV). They had grown impatient and dissatisfied with the God of Moses. In their minds, He was a difficult to understand God. He was a demanding and oftentimes harsh God. He was a God who made pleasant-sounding promises about future rewards and blessings, but in the meantime, they found themselves wandering around in the wilderness eating manna and living in temporary shelters. They were unhappy with the way things were going under the rule of Moses’ God. And with Moses out of the way, they decided to make a god of their own choosing.

What does this passage reveal about God?

One of the things God had been telling Moses up on the mountain was His plans for the construction of the Tabernacle, His dwelling place among the people. Not only had God given Moses exacting, detailed plans for the construction of this “tent of meeting,” He had made it clear that He had prepared the workmen for the task, naming them by name, and assuring Moses that “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!” (Exodus 31:3-5 ESV). God provides for what He commands. He had already Spiritually-enabled those who would do the work of building the Tabernacle and all the elements associated with it. But it was all going to take time. It wouldn’t happen overnight. Things were going to have to be done God’s way and according to God’s exacting standards, but He would bring it about by His divine enablement.

The promises of God would eventually be fulfilled. They would one day find themselves in the land that God had promised to Abraham. But the people were going to have to learn that the journey was just as important as the destination. They were going to have to learn to worship God in the wilderness or they would never worship Him in the land. Patient obedience was one of the things we all must learn when following God. His ways are not our ways. His timing rarely gels with ours. At times He seems to disappear or be distant. He is difficult to see and even harder to comprehend. His commands and expectations can seem too harsh and too demanding. His promises can sometimes come across as empty and unfulfilled in our lives. And it is at those times, we must patiently obey and faithfully wait for Him.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We are a fickle lot. It doesn’t take much to cause our faith to turn into faithlessness. When things don’t quite go our way or turn out to our liking, we can quickly turn on God, just like the Israelites did. In their case, they constructed an actual idol. But we tend to be more sophisticated, placing our hopes, dreams and our constant need for security in things like money, our careers, our own intelligence, other people, science or the philosophies of this world. Either way, we end up making gods out of something we can see or touch. The English word, “idol” comes from the Greek word, eidolon which means “something to be seen.” We tend to put our faith and hope in the visible and the tangible. We struggle with the concept of an invisible, unseen God. We get uncomfortable with His “otherness” or transcendence. We grow impatient with His seeming lack of presence in our lives. We wrongly assume that because we can’t see Him, He is not there. And our impatience can easily turn to impertinence. We grow doubtful of His presence and, ultimately, disobedient to His rule over our lives. God accused the people of Israel of having “corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them” (Exodus 32:7-8 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Patiently obeying God is difficult. There are so many times in my life when I am tempted to give up on God and move on with my life. I take matters into my own hands because I fail to trust the God has them firmly in His own. The promise of heaven is wonderful, but I find myself in this world, surrounded by the problems that come with living in the midst of a fallen creation and among sinful people. Life can be difficult. And I can’t always see what God is doing behind the scenes. So I can find myself growing impatient and impertinent. I can easily turn my doubt and disbelief into disobedience to God’s will. In the 13th chapter of Mark we have recorded for us the words of Jesus to His disciples. It is near the end of His life and He is preparing Himself for His coming death, and them for His eventual departure. They will find themselves alone and on their own. So He warned them about all that was going to happen in the days to come. Much of what He said referred to events that have yet to take place. Jesus was giving them an overview of the end times – all the way from the more immediate days after His death and resurrection to the much more distant events associated with His return. Things were not going to get easy for the disciples. He told them, “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them” (Mark 13:9 ESV). He warned and encouraged them, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Exodus 13:13 ESV). They were going to have to patiently obey. They were going to have to trust God’s timing. Jesus Himself was not privy to the exact timing of God’s plan. “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32 ESV). So He told them, “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33 ESV). Much of what Jesus talked about would not happen in their lifetime. It has yet to take place in ours. But He would tell us the same thing. Stay awake! Be ready. Live patiently obedient. Trust God and don’t bail on Him just because you can’t fully understand or comprehend what He is doing in and around your life. Jesus assures us that the one who endures to the end will be saved. That is a picture of patient obedience, as we do our part and faithfully trust God to do His.

Father, I want to patiently obey. I want to increasingly trust You, regardless of whether I can see You or not. You have given me more than enough reasons to do so. You have always been faithful to me. You have proven Yourself faithful throughout the ages. You have given mankind plenty of evidence of Your power, Your presence, and Your patient endurance of our sin and faithlessness. Help me stay awake, be on guard, and patiently obey to the end. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Exodus 29-30, Mark 12

The Greatest Commandment.

Exodus 29-30, Mark 12

The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” – Mark 12:32-33 ESV

Once again, God provides Moses and the people of Israel with painstakingly detailed commands regarding the Tabernacle and their interactions with it. He outlines the proper way to consecrate Aaron and his sons so they might properly serve as His priests. For them to come into His presence and offer sacrifices, they had to be purified themselves; washed with water and sprinkled with the blood of a ram that had been sacrificed on their behalf. They were to have the sacrificial blood placed on their ear lobes, thumbs, and big toes – a visual reminder that they were to listen to God, serve on His behalf as mediators for the people, and walk in a way that was honoring to Him. They were to be anointed with oil, representing their empowerment by God’s Spirit for His service. This process was to take place for seven days in a row, and during that time the people were to repeatedly make atonement for the altar and consecrate it. God made it clear that this was all a necessity if they wanted to enjoy His presence in their midst. “I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God” (Exodus 29:44-46 ESV).

In chapter 30 we see God’s further instructions regarding the Altar of Incense, the Bronze Basin, and the Anointing Oil and Incense. Over and over again, the word “atonement” is used to signify the need to make reconciliation or to cover the sins of the people. Every Israelite, 20 years old and up, was required to pay a “ransom” for his life in the form of a tax. Everyone had to pay the same amount, regardless of their income level or status in the community. Every step of the way, there were requirements that had to be obeyed if the people wanted to be accepted before God and enjoy His presence among them. Nothing could be overlooked. Nothing was to be ignored. God’s requirements were exacting and non-negotiable. He was holy and He demanded to be treated that way.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God takes His holiness seriously. His requirements might seem a bit over-the-top to us. All the sacrifices, blood, rituals and requirements come across as antiquated and a bit barbaric to our modern senses. But God was attempting to teach His people the sacredness and seriousness of His nature. Every one of these commands was costly to the Israelites, requiring them to give the best of their flocks and even of their finances to atone for their sins. God wanted them to understand that sin was not to be taken lightly. Sin required a payment. Entrance into His presence was not possible as long as sin was present and unpaid for. Holiness was not to be considered cheap or easy. Enjoying the presence and power of God in their lives required some significant sacrifice on their part. Sin always separates man from God. So God had to give them a plan by which they could temporarily atone for or reconcile their sins and be made right with Him. But all along the way, what God wanted was the relationship, not the rituals.

What does this passage reveal about man?

When it comes to things regarding God, we are always prone to miss the point. The Israelites were going to end up focusing on the sacrifices more than the one to whom they were made. They would end up turning all of this into nothing more than a repetitive, ritualistic act that had long since lost its meaning to them. They would end up going through the motions and fulfilling their obligations, but without putting their hearts into it. The real purpose behind all the rules and regulations was to test the obedience of the people. Would they do what God required of them? Would their desire to have Him in their midst be strong enough to motivate their obedience to His demands of them? All throughout the Old Testament, we see that God wanted more than just ritualistic adherence to a set of rules. The prophet Samuel told King Saul, ““What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22 NLT). God spoke through the prophet, Hosea: “For I desire steadfast loveand not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6 ESV). Over in the book of Micah, we are told, “‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:6-8 ESV). King David wrote, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17 ESV). In time, the people of God were going to miss the point. God wanted their hearts. Their obedience was to be a byproduct of their desire to be with Him. The sacrifices would be a constant test of their obedience and love for Him.

When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, He didn’t hesitate or have to think about it. He immediately responded, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31 ESV). A love for God and others is the basis for all the laws. Jesus would further clarify the significance of these two things by stating, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40 ESV). Loving God and loving others was to be the heartbeat behind all the other commands. It was to be the motivation behind all the sacrifices. Getting right with God and longing to have a restored relationship with Him was to be the central objective behind all the rules and regulations surrounding the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple. But rules would eventually replace relationship. Laws would overshadow love.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God wants my heart. He desires willful, loving obedience, not ritualistic rule-keeping. Like the Israelites, I can misinterpret God’s holy requirements of me and simply view them as inconvenient laws to be kept. But God did all that He did out of love. He wanted His people to live distinctively and differently. He knew that they were prone to sin and struggled with a love for the things of this world. So He lovingly provided ways in which they could set themselves apart. He provided a means by which their sins could be atoned for and forgiven. He lovingly provided a way in which they could remain in His presence and enjoy His ongoing love, provision and power in their lives. I can easily turn reading the Bible into a heartless, ritualistic duty and miss the point that God has lovingly revealed Himself to me through His Word. I must learn to read God’s Word enthusiastically and eagerly because it is is His revelation of Himself to me. I can easily turn prayer into nothing more than an unpleasant requirement that puts a crimp in my day. Or I can see it is an opportunity provided by God that allows me to not only talk to Him, but hear from Him on a regular basis. It should be a delight, not a duty. I should see it as a privilege, not a punishment. God wants my heart. He desires my willful and willing obedience. He wants me to love Him and the greatest expression of my love for Him is how I love those whom He has made. I can’t wrap my hands around God, but I can hug one of His sons or daughters. And “this is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

Father, I want my life to be an expression of love for You. I don’t want to just go through the motions and do my “duty.” I want to live in obedience to You because I love You. Give me an ever-increasing love for others. May my love for You increase as I love those whom You have made. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Exodus 27-28, Mark 11

Holy to the Lord.

Exodus 27-28, Mark 11

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. – Mark 11:15-16 ESV

The descriptions given to Moses by God for the construction of the Tabernacle and all of the elements associated with it can be a bit overwhelming and confusing. There is so much detail given by God as to the materials and the precise fabrication of the various pieces associated with the Tabernacle. If we’re not careful, we can get lost in the details and miss the main point. The Tabernacle was to be God’s dwelling place among the people of Israel. In the Holy of Holies, His presence would hover over the Mercy Seat on top of the Ark of the Covenant. So everything about this structure was to be dedicated to and set apart for God. It was intended for the worship of God. So God made it painfully clear that each and every item was to be made in a specific manner and manufactured from the finest materials. Even the priests had to be consecrated to Him and for His use only. In the days of Jeremiah, when the Temple had long since replaced the Tabernacle as the dwelling place of God among the people, they seemed to have forgotten that this place was to be holy to the Lord. Jeremiah writes, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in the deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord'” (Jeremiah 7:2-4 ESV). The people had made an idol out of the Temple, falsely assuming that because the Temple existed, God’s presence among them was assured. But they had failed to keep the Temple holy to the Lord. Jesus would quote from this very passage when He cleansed the Temple in His day, saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17, Jeremiah 7:11 ESV). What God had set apart as holy to Himself had been desecrated by men. They had profaned what was holy by using it for their own selfish desires.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is obsessed about His holiness. His holiness refers to His otherness – there is nothing and no one else like Him. He is the God of the universe; completely righteous, all-powerful, all-knowing and the creator of all that exists. He has no competition and is incomparable in every way. The Tabernacle, like the Temple constructed by Solomon, was to be a reflection of His very nature and character. It was to be made of the finest materials. It was to be designed to exacting specifications, given to Moses by God Himself on the top of Mount Sinai. God left nothing to Moses’ imagination. And God expected every aspect of His plan to be followed and His word to be obeyed. What made each of the elements “holy” was not the materials or plans used to make them. The priests were not considered holy by God because of the robes, breastplates and turbans they wore. What made everything holy was that God had set each and everything apart to Himself. They were “holy to the Lord.” They had been consecrated or dedicated to God. This place and the people who worked in it were God’s possession, just as the people of Israel had been set apart to God. Moses and the people were to take the Tabernacle seriously.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Everything we have read up to this point in the books of Genesis and Exodus has reflected God’s sovereign choosing of the people of Israel as His possession. He had chosen them as His own. He had redeemed them slavery in Egypt and was in the process of leading them into the Promised Land, where He would fulfill His covenant promises made to Abraham. He had set them apart. He had dedicated them for His purposes. The Tabernacle was a concrete and practical confirmation of His abiding presence among them. And God was incredibly specific because He knew the nature of man. Without clear directions, they would tend to do things their way. Left to their own devices, they would have constructed a Tabernacle that met their needs. They would have built a monument to man, not a place to worship God. Even in Jesus’ day, the Temple had become a national icon, a point of pride. At one point, during the last week of His life on earth, as He and the disciples were walking past the Temple, several of them pointed out how majestic it was, making special note of the “noble stones” (Luke 21:5). But Jesus told them, “the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Luke 21:6 ESV). The Temple that bore God’s name and was supposed to be His dwelling place, would be destroyed, just as it had been in the Old Testament. Why? Because they had profaned His name. God had warned the people, “And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you” (Leviticus 22:32 ESV). They had taken what was to be holy and set apart and made it common. They had used what was intended for God’s use for their own personal use. The Temple had become an icon, not a place of worship. Rather than living lives that were set apart and distinctively different among the nations, they had become just like all the other nations – and in the process, they had profaned God’s name.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God has set me apart for His use. I belong to Him. I am holy because He bought me with the blood of His Son and made me His own. I no longer belong to me. I am His. But I can live my life in such a way that I profane His name by attempting to use what is His – my life – for my own selfish purposes. Paul reminds us, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24 ESV). But it is so easy to take back ownership of my life. It is so tempting to want to make it all about me, and not about God. But to do so is to profane His name. It is to take what is holy and make it common place. When I use my life for my own selfish purposes, it is no different than if one of the priests had taken the golden lampstand which had been dedicated for God’s use and taken it home for personal use. It would have taken what was holy and made it common place. And that is exactly what I do when I attempt to use my life for my own selfish desires. Paul would remind me, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV). I am holy. I belong to God. I have been set apart by Him and for Him. The Tabernacle would remain holy only as long as the people of God treated it so. The Temple would remain holy only as long as the people of God treated it so. It was a dangerous thing for the people of God to place their faith in the existence of the Temple and assume that God was there with them. It is equally as dangerous for me to take my salvation and the promise of His presence in my life for granted by taking my body – His temple – and using it in ways that are inappropriate and unintended by God.

Father, I want to live a life that is set apart to You. I don’t want it to be in word only, but in my actions. I want my life to reflect that I belong to You and not me. Forgive me for the many ways in which I profane Your name by using what You have set apart for Your use for my own selfish purposes. Help me to remain totally dedicated to Your glory and not my own. Help me to see my life as belonging to You and not to me. I want to holy to the Lord. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Exodus 25-26, Mark 10

The Presence of God.

Exodus 25-26, Mark 10

And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. – Exodus 25:21-22 ESV

In chapters 25-26, we have God’s incredibly detailed instructions to Moses for the construction of the Tabernacle and all the elements that were to be contained within it. God left nothing up to speculation. It was all to be done according to His design, and there was a very clear plan involved. The specificity in these two chapters is amazing, if not somewhat boring. God gives exact measurements and specific details regarding the construction methodologies and the materials to be used. And He funds it all through the free-will gifts of His people. He tells Moses to take up an offering, but only “from every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me” (Exodus 25:2 ESV). This was not going to be a coerced contribution, done halfheartedly and unwillingly. It probably didn’t hurt that the last vision the people had had of God was “like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain” (Exodus 24:17 ESV). They had just been witness to the power and presence of God, so when Moses asked them to contribute to the construction of a “tent” in which God might dwell, they were more than motivated to give. The very name, “tabernacle” means “dwelling place.” This was to be where God would meet with them. It would be a constant reminder of God’s abiding presence. And the place where God’s presence would rest would be above the mercy seat, within the Holy of Holies. The writer of Hebrews provides us with a summary description of the Tabernacle: “Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tentwas prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second sectioncalled the Most Holy Place,having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail” (Hebrew 9:1-5 ESV). The central feature of the entire Tabernacle was the mercy seat, which sat atop the Ark of the Covenant. It was into the Most Holy Place that the High Priest would enter one time per year “and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people” (Hebrews 9:7 ESV). It was there that the high priest offered sacrificial blood once a year to atone for (cover) the sins of the Israelites as a nation. This offering made propitiation (satisfaction) for their sins for one year. But each year, this same process had to be repeated. It was a sacrifice that had limitations and could never completely satisfy the just demands of a holy God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

This structure was to be the dwelling place of God. It was designed to house His presence and was to be a central focus of the Israelite community all through their years of wandering through the wilderness. It was to this place that they would come to regularly offer sacrifices to God. Within the Holy of Holies and inside the Ark of the Covenant were contained the copy of the Ten Commandments, given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. The tablets of stone contained God’s holy, righteous and unwavering expectations of man. But on top of that same Ark was the Mercy Seat, aptly named, because it was there that God meted out His undeserved grace and mercy each year, forgiving the people for all the ways in which they had violated His commands throughout the year. It is a picture of God’s law and love, His righteousness and mercy, His justice and patience. The very fact that God would dwell among men who regularly and willingly disobeyed Him is remarkable. The idea that God would offer a way in which men could enjoy mercy when what they really deserved was His wrath should not escape us. It is all a picture of the mercy made available to mankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Again, the writer of Hebrews makes the connection for us: “ But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12 ESV). Christ not only performed the role of the High Priest, entering into the Holy of Holies to offer a sacrifice on behalf of the people, He came presenting His own blood as the payment that would satisfy the just demands of a righteous, holy God. And unlike the yearly sacrifice offered by the human high priest, Christ’s sacrifice of His own life was a one-time event, fully covering the sins of mankind for all time. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12 ESV). He did what He came to do and when He was done, He returned to His Father’s side. The Tabernacle was a foreshadowing of what was to come. It was a glimpse into a greater sacrifice yet to be given. It offered a temporary reprieve from God’s justice. But it would not be until Jesus Christ came in human flesh and died a sinner’s death on the cross, that God’s demands for justice against the sins of mankind would be completely satisfied.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man cannot satisfy God on his own. Our very sin nature makes us an unacceptable payment for our own sins. We can’t pay back God for all the sins we have committed against Him. From the earliest days of the people of God, a substitute sacrifice was necessary and the shedding of blood was required. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV). Over the centuries, tens of thousands of innocent lambs, goats, and bulls were slain in order to pay for the sins of mankind. And while the sacrifice of these animals was ordained by God, it was never intended to be a permanent solution to man’s problem. Speaking to His Father, Jesus said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book’” (Hebrews 9:5-7 ESV). Ultimately, it was going to require the death of Jesus on the cross to fully satisfy the just demands of God. His innocent life and substitutionary death was the only way the sins of mankind could be paid for once and for all. And just as in the days of Moses, men still need a stand in, a substitute to pay for their sins. Our sins make us unworthy to come into God’s presence. The commands of God condemn us as law breakers and deserving of death. But God extends mercy. He offers a way in which we can enter into His presence, free from guilt, uncondemned by the law and free from the penalty of death. All because He provided His own Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The reading of the details of the Tabernacle and all its elements can be somewhat boring and uninspiring, until I remember that it is a picture of what God has done for me. It is a reminder of God’s intricate, detailed, marvelous plan to provide me with a means by which I can stand in His presence, forgiven and sin-free. The Tabernacle was costly. It contained materials of great value. It was the most priceless place in the entire camp of Israel. It was the central focus of their community and the pride of the nation. I should hold the death of Jesus Christ on my behalf with the same value. I should not take for granted the priceless gift I have been given by God in the form of His Son. Peter reminds us to conduct ourselves with fear, “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19 ESV). My access to God’s presence came with a price. A great price. It cost God His Son, and Jesus His own life. In the book of Mark we read the story of Jesus and His encounter with Bartimaeus, the blind beggar. When this man heard that Jesus was near, he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47 ESV). Even when those around him tried to shut him up, he only cried out louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:48 ESV). And Jesus stopped, turned to him and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51 ESV). And suddenly, Bartimaeus, an undeserving sinner, found himself standing in the presence of God Himself, being offered an opportunity to receive something he didn’t deserve: healing. His sight was restored. His faith in Jesus’ ability to provide healing and wholeness resulted in something he could have never provided for himself. And that has been my experience with Jesus. He has healed and freed me from the blindness of sin and the darkness of a life lived outside of His divine presence. I have been shown mercy by the God of the universe. What an incredible reality.

Father, I can’t thank You enough for providing the means by which I could be made right with You. Without Your Son’s death, I would have no life. Without His sacrifice, I would still be blinded by sin, living in darkness and completely unable to change my circumstances. Thank You for providing Your Son as my substitute and satisfying Your just demands for my sins. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Exodus 23-24, Mark 9

A Glimpse of God.

Exodus 23-24, Mark 9

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. – Mark 9:2-4 ESV

What would it be like to see God? Unimaginable, isn’t it? I can’t even begin to get my mind around what a personal glimpse of God would look or feel like. And yet God is incredibly interested in revealing Himself to us. The entire Scriptures are His revelation of Himself to mankind. His Son, Jesus Christ, “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 ESV). When Jesus came to earth, He made God visible to man. But in Moses’ day, God was hidden. His actual form was unseen by human eyes. They could see His glory, but not His true divine essence. To have looked on God would have been a death sentence. Later on in the Exodus story, Moses will ask for permission to actually see God, but God will tell him, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20 ESV). Moses would be allowed to see God’s glory, but not His face.

Yet in the 24th chapter of Exodus we have the story of Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders all getting a glimpse of God. “They saw the God of Israel … and he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank” (Exodus 24:10a, 11 ESV). Yet the description of what they saw is quite cryptic and limited: “there was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stones, like the heaven for clearness” (Exodus 24:10b ESV). They were given a glimpse of God’s glory, but not a full-on revelation of His person. They couldn’t have handled it. It would have been too much for them. God gave them just enough for them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was indeed Him.

Even the people got to experience a God-sighting. “Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel” (Exodus 24:17 ESV). There was no doubt in their minds that they had experienced the presence of God. It was clear and powerful. God’s purpose behind these appearances was to convince His people of the reality of His person and presence. He was a tangible, living being. He was real and not the figment of Moses’ imagination. Moses had been convinced of God’s reality on a number of occasions. But now His leadership team was receiving up-close and personal proof of the reality of God. They would know for sure that the laws being given to them by Moses were from God and not man.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The laws of God carry no weight if the existence of God remains in doubt. In chapter 23 of Exodus, God repeatedly tells the people, “you shall” and “you shall not.” He clearly articulates His expectations and requirements of His people. He leaves nothing up to speculation or the imagination. But He knew that the people needed proof. Everything God commanded and demanded hinged on the reality of His existence. It all goes back to the key question the people had been asking since they had left the land of Egypt. “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7b ESV). God was patiently proving His presence to a people who were plagued by doubt and constantly in need of evidence. But God lovingly refrained from displaying His full divine nature, because the results would have been devastating. Instead, He provided glimpses of His glory – small revelations of Himself that were faith-building, but not life-threatening. In the case of Moses and his leadership team, God wanted them to know that they were ratifying a covenant with the all-powerful, holy God of the universe. They shared a covenant-closing meal with God Almighty. That would prove to be a dinner they would never forget. The people had eagerly agreed to God’s covenant demands, shouting as one, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 24:3 ESV). But God knew the people well. He knew that their pledges to obey would be short-lived and nothing more than lip-service without a visual reminder that the God to whom they were swearing allegiance was both real and ready to hold them accountable.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man has an overwhelming need to see God. That’s why men make idols and worship the creation instead of the Creator. We value what we can see. The unknown, while intriguing, is difficult to wrap our minds around. We desperately search for explanations for the inexplicable and rationalizations for the unknowable. Not knowing is uncomfortable for us. And we find not being able to see scary. So we search for God in the visible. But the danger is that we end up making a god of our own choosing. The disciples were guilty of doing just such a thing. Their view of God had been influenced by generations of ancestors before them. Their God was invisible and unknowable. He was distant and disconnected from their everyday life. It had been a long time since anyone had seen the glory of God in a pillar of fire or a pillar of cloud. They had not been at Sinai when the glory of the Lord descended on the mountain in smoke, thunder and lightning. Their God was real, but unproven in their day-to-day existence. They continued to make sacrifices at the Temple, attend the Synagogue on the Sabbath, and attempt to keep His commands, but the proofs of His presence were few and far between.

Then Peter, James and John got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a glimpse of God, up-close and personal. And it would not be what they had been expecting. They had been walking with Jesus for some time. They had chosen to follow Him, becoming His disciples and slowly coming to grips that He might be the Messiah for whom they had long waited. When Jesus asked them “who do you say that I am?,” Peter quickly responded, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29 ESV). The word “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah.” It means “anointed one.” Peter was clearly acknowledging Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. But His statement did not carry with it an understanding of Jesus’ deity. So Jesus would include Peter in the trio of disciples who would witness His transfiguration on the mountaintop that day. Mark records, “And he [Jesus] was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:2-3 ESV). Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, having a conversation with Him. When Peter saw this remarkable sight, all he could say was, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5 ESV). In spite of what he saw, Peter still could not see who Jesus really was. But God cleared it up for him. “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Sometimes I see only what I want to see – that includes what I see of God. I can be just as guilty as Peter of having my own vision of what God “looks like” in my life. Peter was willing to acknowledge Jesus as his Messiah, but based on his own definition and according to his own terms and expectations. He was wanting a conquering Messiah who would lead the Jews in a political and military victory over the Romans. But Jesus came to be the suffering Messiah. He came to bring victory over sin and death, not Roman rule. He came to bring freedom from slavery to sin, not from Roman oppression. God gave Peter a glimpse of His glory by allowing him to see His Son in His glorified state. Over in Exodus 24:15-16, Moses spent six days on the top of the cloud-cloaked mountain before God appeared to him on the seventh day. In the gospel of Mark, we read, “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Mark 9:2 ESV). It was on the seventh day that God revealed Himself to the disciples in the transfigured form of Jesus, His Son. God was proving His presence among men. He was lifting the fog like a veil, in an effort to prove His presence and communicate His Word to His people. That day on the mountain, God told Peter, James and John, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mark 9:7 ESV). Jesus is the very nature of God, revealed to us as proof of God’s presence among us. But I must learn to listen to Him. I must seek to know Him and see Him for who He is, not who I have made Him out to be. I have been given a glimpse of God in the life of Jesus. And He now lives in me!

Father, thank You for revealing Yourself to me through Your Son, Jesus Christ. But forgive me for failing to see Your abiding presence all around me through Your indwelling Spirit and the power of Your Word. Give me eyes to see Your glory and worship You for who You really are. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Exodus 21-22, Mark 8

Laws For Living In A Lost World.

Exodus 21-22, Mark 8

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. – Mark 8:34-38 ESV

It’s hard to read these two chapters in Exodus and not have your mind filled with questions. You can’t help but wonder why God included laws regarding slaves. Why didn’t He just outlaw slavery altogether? The whole legal concept on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth comes across as so antiquated and uncivilized. And what is really interesting is that all of these commands or statues come after the Ten Commandments. Why is that important? Because the Ten Commandments banned much of what is dealt with in these two chapters. They were not to have any other gods other than Yahweh. They were not to worship idols. They were forbidden to murder, commit adultery, steal, testify falsely against a neighbor, or to covet. And yet, in chapters 20-21, we have additional rules and regulations regarding what to do with murderers, thieves, the covetous, and adulterous. Why? Because these laws were not an attempt to create heaven on earth. They were not intended to bring about a utopian society, but to illustrate man’s sinfulness. Paul asks and answers the question: “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions…” (Galatians 3:19 ESV). God gave the law because the world in which man lived was racked by sin. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, mankind had steadily succumbed to the same predisposition to rebel against God and live according to a standard ruled by self and sinfulness. Even a cursory read of these two chapters should paint a vivid picture of a world in need of salvation. Slavery was NOT God’s intention or will for mankind, but it existed. Why? Because of man’s own sinful, selfish nature. Because of inequality and the existence of poverty. Why did God have to provide additional laws regarding murder when He had already banned murder altogether? Because mankind was unable to keep that law. Men were going to kill one another regardless of what God had decreed. Because of sin. As you read through these two chapters you see words like, strike, death, steal, quarrel, curses, and gores. You read of cases of neglect, abuse, dishonesty, poverty, and inequality.

The world in which the Israelites lived was brutal and sin-ridden. God never expected His Law to redeem mankind from sin. In fact, Paul tells us, “For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law” (Galatians 3:21 ESV). The law was never intended to save us. Jesus was. He was God’s plan of salvation from the very beginning. The law, like a speed limit sign on a highway, simply shows us our sin. It let’s us know we have broken the law. It condemns, but it can’t redeem. God’s law reveals His holiness and man’s sinfulness. Paul makes it clear that the law of God reveals the sin of man. “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet'” (Romans 7:7 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God looked down on mankind and saw sinners sinning against one another. Men were enslaving one another. Murder was not only commonplace, it was justified and rationalized. Sexual sins of all kinds were taking place. Injustice and inequality was rampant – even among the people of God. And yet, the people of God were to be set apart, distinctive, different. They were to live holy lives, displaying a fear of God and marked by a distinctively different set of standards. At the end of chapter 22, God reminds them, “You must be my holy people” (Exodus 22:31 NLT). God desired to make a difference in their lives. He longed for them to live set apart. He had redeemed them from physical slavery, but His greatest and ultimate desire was to redeem them from slavery to sin. But that would not take place until His Son came to earth, in human flesh, and lived a sinless life in complete compliance with God’s law. He would be the first and only man to keep the law of God perfectly. And it would be that accomplishment that would make Him the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Again, Paul puts it in words far more eloquently than I could write. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4 ESV). God knew mankind well. He knew their propensity for sin and their inability to live righteously. But He didn’t leave us helpless and hopeless. He sent His Son.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Over in the gospel of Mark, Jesus looked at the large crowd of people who had gathered around Him, and He said, “I feel sorry for these people” (Mark 8:2 NLT). He was moved by their physical hunger, so He performed a miracle that provided them with food. Later on, the Pharisees demanded that Jesus show them some kind of miraculous sing from heaven to prove His authority. Mark records, “he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign?'” (Mark 8:12 ESV). He knew their hearts and saw their real motives. Jesus was saddened by their stubbornness and unbelief. Every day of His life on this earth, Jesus was confronted by needs. He was surrounded by lost people suffering from the effects of sin: hunger, disease, disbelief, selfishness, and even self-righteousness. Men had a difficult time seeing Jesus for who He really was. Their motives for following Him were selfish in nature. Even His own disciples could not grasp the true nature of His ministry. His miracles amazed them, but usually left them with more questions than answers. Even Peter, after having been told by Jesus that He was going to have to go to Jerusalem and suffer and die, refused to accept this news and rebuked Him. Jesus responded by saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33 ESV). Peter, like most men, was guilty of living with an earthly perspective, rather than a heavenly one. He was stuck on a horizontal plane, seeing everything from his limited human viewpoint. His view of Jesus was distorted by His myopic perspective. And Jesus, much like the law, somewhat harshly revealed the true nature of Peter’s sin-prone heart.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I live in a world marred by sin. It is all around me. It constantly influences and infects me. I must do daily battle with my own sin nature, experiencing the same frustration that Paul felt. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15 ESV). The presence of sin around me, and even within me, is a constant reminder of my need for a Savior. I am a work in process. Like the Israelites, I am living in and amongst sinful people, and I am one of them. But I have the capacity to live differently. I have the Holy Spirit living within me and the Word of God available to me, so that I can know God’s will and live it in His strength, not my own. I am no longer obligated to keep the law in order to be made righteous. I have the righteousness of Christ. My sins have been paid for by His death on the cross. But I do have an obligation to live differently and distinctively in this sin-marred world. And God has given me not only the responsibility to do so, but the capability as well. So when God says, “You must be my holy people,” I know that I have within me what it takes to make that command a reality in my life.

Father, this world is a difficult place in which to live. But You have given me new hope, new life, and a new capacity to live differently, distinctively and holy. May I continually recognize my need for Your strength to live according to Your will as Your child. May I learn to live increasingly more holy in a world marred by sin and in need of proof that there is a Savior. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Exodus 19-20, Mark 7

Not Up For Interpretation.

Exodus 19-20, Mark 7

Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ”This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”  You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. – Mark 7:6-8 ESV

Most of us have no trouble believing in God. It’s obeying Him that tends to be the problem. All of us have had parents, and none of us would argue that point. Be there were more than a handful of times when we argued with our parents, rejecting to submit to their authority over our lives and refusing to admit that they might know best for our lives. We treat God in the same way and so did the Israelites. They had the normal human tendency to see God as some kind of helpful deity who existed for their good and to bring them glory. They saw themselves as special because they had been chosen by God. They viewed themselves as set apart from the rest of humanity and worthy of some kind of recognition for their status as God’s hand-picked people. In a way, God was little more than a cosmic servant who was there to meet their needs. He provided them with food. When they were thirsty, He gave them water. He was like a divine concierge, providing advice, directions, and helpful travel tips. He had even promised to give them their own land, flowing with milk and honey. It was easy for the israelites to assume that this was all about them. But chapters 19-20 of Exodus provide a stark wake up call to all those who might want to turn God into their own personal genie, obligated to grant their wishes and obligated to obey OUR every command.

What does this passage reveal about God?

After nearly seven weeks of travel, the people of Israel arrive at the foot of Mount Sinai. But this was not going to be just another camping spot. There at that remote place, they were going to get an introduction into the true nature of their relationship with God. He was going to give them an up-close and personal glimpse of His true personality and clearly communicate His expectations of them. Theirs would no longer be a casual relationship, but a covenant and conditional one based on obedience and purity. God didn’t mince any words when He told them, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;  and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:4-6 ESV). Their relationship with God was conditional. There were going to be expectations and requirements if they wanted to remain His treasured possession. They were going to have to a holy nation. And God would make it unmistakeably clear what that meant.

In order to get the attention of the people, God appealed to their senses. He used imagery and sounds to convey His power and greatness. He did not want them assuming He was anything like the false gods they had worshiped in Egypt. They had been mute and immobile, powerless to do anything for themselves, let alone for the people who bowed before them. The Psalmist described them well when he wrote, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not talk; and they do not make a sound in their throat” (Psalm 115:4-7 ESV).

The Israelites were going to learn that their God was not like the other gods. He appeared in a thick cloud on the top of the mountain, accompanied by thunder and lightning, and the sound of a trumpet blast. His presence caused the entire mountain to quake. And He struck fear into the hearts of the people. He warned them to cleanse themselves and not to come near to Him, lest they die. Their purity was a prerequisite for coming into His presence and a protection against His holy wrath. This God whom they had taken so lightly and treated so disrespectfully was going to make sure they understood the true nature of their relationship with Him. They were going to learn that they existed for HIS glory, not the other way around.

What does this passage reveal about man?

When God laid out the commands He was going to require that the people keep, He included some that dealt with their relationship with Him, and others that had to do with their relationships with one another. It was going to be impossible for them to maintain a right relationship with God if they failed to treat one another with respect and dignity. Their holiness was to be holistic. In other words, it was to affect every area of their lives. Their set-apartness was to be all-encompassing, influencing their interactions with God and with one another. But they would struggle with God’s commands from this point forward. Even all the way up until Jesus’ day, the people of Israel would find themselves struggling to keep their commitment to obey God’s commandments. Which is why Jesus so harshly condemns them, reciting the words of Isaiah the prophet, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6-7 ESV).

They had long lost their awe and fear of God. They had once again turned Him into some kind of disembodied force who existed for their good and their glory. They had taken His commandments and given them an interpretation that better suited their own desires. They had come up with their own set of rules, designed to make them feel holy and righteous. They had so dumbed down God’s standard for holiness that it had long ago lost its holistic sense. Their treatment of God and of one another had become surface-oriented and superficial. Which is why Jesus had to remind the disciples that true purity was personal and internal, not external in nature. “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23 ESV). It’s interesting to note how many of the things listed here by Jesus are directly dealt with in the Ten Commandments given by God at Sinai. The people of Israel had made it all about the externals, and in doing so, had forgotten to deal with their hearts.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God’s holy requirements are not up for interpretation. It’s not left up to me to decide whether I think I’m holy or not. God sets the standard. And while it might be an impossible standard to keep, that doesn’t give me the right to dumb it down or trick it up by providing my own interpretation. God’s righteous standards remain the same. And God still expects His children to live up to those standards. But He has provided a way to make it possible. He sent His Son to be born as a human being and live a life according to God’s righteous standards. Which is exactly what Jesus did. He did what no other human being had ever done. He kept God’s commands perfectly and completely. He lived a sinless life so that He could become the unblemished sacrifice that would pay the penalty for our sin-stained lives. And then He provided His Holy Spirit to live within us so that we might have the same power to live obediently and holy – according to God’s standard, not our own. Like Paul, I want to be able to say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). I want to live it in His strength and according to God’s standards. I want to live it holistically and completely, not compartmentalizing my life or categorizing my sins in a convenient attempt to make myself look better.

Father, I want to honor You with my life. I want to make all that I do all about You, and not me. Forgive me for sometimes thinking that You exist for my glory. Give me an ever-increasing awareness of just how holy You are and how You have set me apart to live a distinctively different life – in Your strength and according to Your standards – so that others might know that You are God, not me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Exodus 17-18, Mark 6

Is the Lord Among Us or Not?

Exodus 17-18, Mark 6

They were totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in. – Mark 6:51-52 ESV

Fear and faith. Those two qualities are constantly doing battle in the lives of all those who follow God. There is nothing inherently wrong with fear. It is a natural human response to certain circumstances and conditions. But for the follower of God, fear is never to be a controlling factor in life. We should never allow it to determine our decisions or produce in us those two additional human responses of fight or flight. It’s not surprising that we see fear on display in the lives of the people of Israel as they were led by God from captivity in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. But we also see it equally evident in the lives of the disciples of Jesus as they traveled and ministered alongside Him. Both groups enjoyed the presence of God. The Israelites had the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day, guiding their path and providing for all their needs. The disciples had Jesus, who the angel said would be called Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). They had all been witness to God’s amazing power. They had been given more than enough evidence of His abiding presence. But in spite of all they had seen, they continued to doubt and fear. Their actions illustrated what they were thinking in their hearts. “Is the Lord among us or not?”

What does this passage reveal about God?

In chapter 17 of Exodus, we see the Israelites face their first real battle against an opposing enemy. God provides them with a miraculous victory and Moses names the place, Yahweh-nissi, which means, “the Lord is my banner.” Having found themselves under attack by the Amalekites, Moses sent Joshua to lead the army, while he stationed himself on a nearby hill overlooking the battle ground. Moses used the staff of God, the symbol of God’s power, to intercede on behalf of the people of Israel doing battle with the Amalekites. As long as he held the staff aloft, the people were victorious. But if he allowed his hands to drop due to weariness, the people fell back in defeat. It is evident from the passage that God was the source of the victory, but Moses had to do his part, and it required the help of Aaron and Hur. Moses used the staff of God to call down the power and favor of God on the people of God. The passage states that “Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword” (Exodus 17:13 ESV), but it is clear that this victory belonged to God. That’s why Moses ended up calling the site of their victory, Yahweh-nissi. God had gone before them and provided the victory. Once again, He had showed Himself faithful and powerful. Even prior to this great manifestation of His presence and power, God had graciously provided the people with water. They had come to Moses demanding, “Give us water to drink!” They had found themselves camped in a place where there was no water, and Moses is the one who had led them there. So they turned their anger on him. But God intervened again, demanding that Moses take the staff of God in his hand and strike the rock on which the physical manifestation of God’s presence came to rest. God said, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink” (Exodus 17:6 ESV). Moses struck the rock where God’s presence stood, and the result was life-giving water. It is interesting that Paul refers to this event saying, “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4 ESV). God was their source of sustenance and their source of victory. He would provide all their needs. But they had to believe.

What does this passage reveal about man?

In spite of all that God had done for them, the people of Israel continued to doubt Him. Moses gave the place where God provided water from the rock two different names: Meribah and Massah. The first meant “quarreling” and the second meant “testing.” But Moses makes it clear that the source of their quarreling and testing was their questioning of God’s presence. “Is the Lord among us or not?” Their bickering and moaning about water was a direct attack on God’s presence and His ability to provide. He had given the manna and quail to meet their physical needs. He had turned bitter water into sweet water. But now, when they found themselves without a source of water, their fear got the best of them and they doubted God’s presence. Fear is not wrong, unless it is based on a doubt of God’s presence and power. If we fear because we doubt that God is or that He can, then we are exhibiting a lack of faith. The disciples did the same thing. Each of them, having been sent out by Jesus,  personally experienced the power of God as they healed the sick and cast out demons. They had watched as Jesus miraculously fed more than 10,000 of people with just five loaves and two fishes. But when they witnessed Jesus walking on the water in the midst of a storm, they feared. Mark writes, “And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:51-52 ESV). They still not recognize Jesus as God. Like the Israelites in Moses’ day, they were questioning, “Is the Lord among us or not?” They were mystified by Jesus. They were astounded by His miracles. They were hopeful that He was the Messiah. But they still did not recognize Him as Immanuel, God with us.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

At the end of the day, this is all about recognizing God as God in my life. It is about placing my faith in His abiding power and presence. It is about not judging Him based on my circumstances. It is about not fearing, but rather placing my faith in who He is and what He has said He will do. There are far too many times when I ask, “Is the Lord among us or not?” I may not say it out loud, but I scream it with my actions and my reactions. When I fear, I am basically saying, “God is not here!” When I take matters into my own hands, I am showing my doubt that God can take care of my situation. When I refuse to see recognize His activity in my life simply because it does not come in the manner I would prefer, I am doubting His presence in my life. When a difficulty comes, I must not assume He is not there. When a trial comes, I must not reject it as out of God’s will for my life. The Israelites could have easily seen the presence of the Amalekites as outside of God’s will for them. But it was actually a God-given opportunity for them to see His power at work. The disciples could have easily seen their presence in a boat on a stormy sea as outside of God’s will for them, but it was the perfect spot for them to see God’s power on display. The Lord is always among us, but we must be willing to look for Him. We must never forget what He has done in the past or we will find ourselves struggling with faith when difficulties come in the future. Is the Lord among us or not? Yes. He is always there. Regardless of what the circumstances may say or my heart my feel.

Father, You are always with me. Forgive me when I doubt You or fail to see Your hand in and around my life. You are my banner. You are my source of strength and sustenance. I can rest in You. I can rely on You. Forgive me for the many times I have said, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org