The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 3 Review

"...all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt."

“…all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”

In week three we took a trip down to Egypt. Although God’s people had spent 400 years in a foreign land and were under the great burden of slavery, God had not abandoned them nor his plan. He leads them out of Egypt and set them in the direction of the Promised Land.

God did great wonders in their sight, but the people continue to waver between faith and doubt. Not long after God delivered them they turn to false idols. Their great sin is a danger to their on-going existence as God says he’d be tempted to destroy them if he were to be in their midst. But Moses pleads with God to stay because of their sin.

God’s people are a stiff-necked, stubborn, sinful people. But that is all the more reason we are desperate for God to be with us. This longing for God’s presence and guidance is a deep desire within us. Our sin is a barrier, but in Jesus Christ God has done all that was needed to remove our sin making it so that our longings can be fulfilled.

God and a stiff-necked people: Reflections on Exodus 33-34

God shows himself to Moses and to the people of Israel in incredible ways throughout the story of the Exodus. He protects Moses and raises him up to be a leader in Israel. God come to Moses and speaks to him in a burning bush and reveals his name. In ushering them out of captivity in Egypt, God shows his might pouring out 10 plagues on the land and he shows his mercy in sparing the children of Israel during the 10th plague. God provides a way for them in the Passover by the blood of a lamb. God then leads Israel out of Egypt, guiding them by the cloud of his presence. And if these acts weren’t enough, God then parts the Red Sea as pharaoh’s army advanced behind them. Truly this is a God with control over all things. He has great power and has used it to save his people and to be with them.

Unfortunately the chosen people of God cannot match his faithfulness and so quickly they are turning to those things which are not god. They reject God and turn to idols. This is sin and it offends God to the point that he says his presence can no longer be with the people.

The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 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 33:1–3

Why can’t God be with the Israelites? It is because of their sin. It is because they are sinful and God fears that he will destroy them because of it. He describes their issue by describing them as a “stiff-necked people.”

The idea that God’s presence will no longer be among the people is devastating to Moses. This has been a hope that the God who revealed himself as, I AM, would remain with Israel and guide her. Moses has enjoyed the immense blessing of being in the presence of God and wants this blessing for others.

So Moses intercedes with God. If your presence will not go with us, why did you bring us out of Egypt? How can we be your people if you are not with us? We don’t want your angel–we want you.

Moses then asks to see the glory of God and God passes before him. He hides Moses in the cleft of a rock and God’s goodness goes in front of him and God says in chapter 34:

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.

Moses’ response is to bow in worship. And then he makes his final plea. He wants for the people what he just experienced himself, the presence of God. What argument can Moses make to get God to remain there among the people? What reason can he put forth for why God should make his dwelling in the midst of a sinful people? What does Moses say? In verse nine he says, "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.”

What sort of argument is this? Why had God already said he couldn’t be with the people, lest he consume them? Because they were stiff-necked. Now Moses is asking God to stay with them because they are stiff-necked. Does this make sense?

Let’s say there were two roommates, one of whom was moving out. Jack says to Jill, “Why are you leaving?” and Jill responds, “Because you’re filthy.” So Jack thinks this over and comes back and says, “Jill, I think you should reconsider.” “Why?” she replies. And his thoughtful argument is this, “Because I’m filthy.”

Would that make sense? His filthiness is why she’s leaving. So why would use that as a reason to stay? Do they have an unhealthy codependent relationship? Is Jack too dependent on Jill relying on her alone for his cleanliness, needing her to stay so he won’t be filthy?

While inappropriate for Jack to put that responsibility on another, it is entirely right for Moses to realize that only God can provide for Israel. Because they are stiff-necked they are sinful and that separates them from God. But in their sin, who can save? Could they ever save themselves? No. Therefore, Moses realizes that because they are stiff-necked they need God all the more. It is the problem and cause of separation, but it is also the cause of their great need. Israel is desperate for God to be with them because they know they are lost without him.

Graciously God says yes. He will remain with them, but we see throughout scripture what he does to make a way for our holy God to be with a sinful people. The end of Exodus tells us about the tabernacle and how that provides a way. We sometimes can read about it (or the temple) and see it as a barrier to being with God. Instead we should see in it how our God desires to be with us and for us and that is the way it could be accomplished.

It was the way for generations. The presence of God was seen as located among Israel. But now because of the work of Jesus Christ, the world is different. Read what Paul writes in Ephesians 2:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Those provisions of the old are fulfilled and nullified in him because on the cross Jesus took the sin that separated. He removed the barriers and brought us together with God. Now in Jesus Christ, we who are a stiff-necked people are blessed with his Spirit and the very presence of God is not confined to a tabernacle or a temple and it is not limited to the few priests. We who are in Christ all have the presence of God by his Spirit and we all are made into temples of the Holy Spirit.

Where once the world went to Jerusalem to seek the presence of God in the temple, now the temples go out from Jerusalem to the world.

The Bravery of the Midwives to Fear God and Protect Life

If you’re a pharaoh that means you’ve got a great deal of power and not that many checks on said power. If you tell someone to do something, they should do it.

In chapter one of Exodus the pharaoh has a message for the midwives who are there at the deliveries for the Hebrew women. He’s not happy that the people of Israel were increasing in number and he feared them. So his idea is to control their population.

“When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.”

This is not a suggestion. It is an order. But what do the midwives do? While they almost certainly feared the pharaoh, they valued life and they feared God more. They did not do as they were commanded, instead allowing the male children to live. They deceive pharaoh to cover up their actions and it says in verse twenty that “God dealt well with the midwives.”

These women knew who was truly king in the land and they protected life even in the face of a pharaoh who could have ordered their execution.

Take Time to Review the First Two Weeks

We are now in our third week of The Bible in 10 Weeks reading plan. We have had our “Introductions” and a week on “The Promise of God” and are now at the Exodus.

My goal is that in these ten weeks we begin to see more clearly the big picture of the Bible, and that can’t happen if we read each week and forget about what came before. So take some time, especially since this week is a bit shorter than last, and ask yourself some good questions and do some review:

  • How would you describe creation?
  • What did Adam and Eve do?
  • What was God’s response?
  • Did God abandon them?
  • What plans does God have now?
  • To whom did God make his promise?
  • What was the promise?
  • Where did the promise take the people?
  • How did God begin to move his people into a foreign land?
  • How has God been at work in his people and accomplishing his plan?

This week we’ll pick up in Egypt and read what I believe will be both familiar and unfamiliar passages about Moses, the Exodus, and God’s ongoing interactions with his people.

Cloud, Sea, Food, and Drink in 1 Corinthians 10

"Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire" by Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik. Check out more of his papercut art by clicking the image above.

“Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire” by Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik. Check out more of his papercut art by clicking the image above or go to his blog: http://isaacb2.blogspot.com

Paul begins 1 Corinthians 10 drawing out four parts of the Exodus story: the cloud, the sea, spiritual food, and spiritual drink. God’s presence was made known to his people by the cloud. The sea is what was the means of deliverance when the Egyptian army came charging after the Hebrews. The food was the manna and the drink was the miraculous water that sprang forth from the rock. These are signs of God’s provision in freeing his people from bondage and leading them to the promised land. But we are then reminded, that nevertheless God was not pleased with them.

These four parts parallel the presence we have in God’s Holy Spirit and the sacraments of the church in the New Testament, baptism and communion. In drawing these parallels Paul is framing the church as a new people of the Exodus. But his warning is also clear. Just because you are God’s people and recipients of his presence and partakers of the sacraments, don’t presume that all you do pleases God. Corinth was a church that we know of its faults from previous chapters. They are defrauding their fellow believers, using their freedom in Christ to return to sin (like returning to slavery in Egypt), and exercising their rights in a way that causes others to stumble. Paul wants them to know, and to learn this lesson from history, that like the people of the Exodus, the blessings of God did not give a blanket approval of all that was going on. If you come to church, take communion, and are baptized, that does not mean God is satisfied. God wants us to press on and, like we read in 1 Corinthians 9, we discipline ourselves pursuing a goal. Paul wants his church to learn from their forebears and not repeat the mistakes that lead to them missing out on further blessings.

Paul wants us to remember our history, which is the history of Israel

Moses strikes water from the stone, by Francesco Bacchiacca

Moses strikes water from the stone, by Francesco Bacchiacca

Our Bible reading this week is from 1 Corinthians 10:1-22. Paul begins it by encouraging the reader not to be unaware of what has gone on before us. That is a double negative that could be understood as, “I want you to know…” Paul wants his readers to know their history, so he calls to mind a few events. Maybe some did know about these events, but they weren’t on their minds. He wants them to remember and be thinking of these things as he moves along in this chapter.

But perhaps we are not as familiar with Paul’s references. If so, let’s begin this week by going back and reading through those chapters that will help us to know (to not be unaware).

To do this, read Exodus 13-17.

As you do, try to connect Paul’s references to the events found here. You could just read the few verses you may find in your cross references, but it’ll be much better to read within its context and be reminded of the larger story.

Christ’s Sacrifice Frees Us From Sin, Not For Sin

When Paul mentions the Passover he is calling to mind one of the defining events for the Jewish people. The final plague of Exodus was to be the death of the firstborns in Egypt, but God’s people are spared because he has made a provision for them. The blood of the firstborns is replaced by the blood of a lamb. Its blood is smeared on the doors of the homes and death passes over God’s people. Paul now says to the church that Christ is this Passover lamb.

Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) - Francisco de Zurbaran

Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) – Francisco de Zurbaran

But the Passover calls to mind not only the passing over, but also the final deliverance from Egypt. The people were to prepare themselves for on the same night that Israel is passed over and death comes upon many in that land, there were to leave. They need to be ready to go and go quickly. Exodus 12:11 says this:

In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.

Having your belt fastened is what is at times translated, “gird up your loins.” The idea behind it is be ready for travel. Don’t let your robes hang low and trip you up as you make your escape. Don’t just have your shoes by the door, put them on. Fasten your belt, tie your shoes laces–in double knots, have your car keys in hand and not on the table. Be ready to go immediately.

This hurry is why they eat the unleavened bread. Israel would have no time for their dough to rise. They needed to make haste.

Then as God had told them, it all comes to pass. Cries went up in the night “for there was not a house where someone was not dead.” Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron in the night and commands them to go. He says, ““Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”

There is a great urgency for Egypt to rid itself of such a people that have brought God’s judgment upon them. They fear what may come next. So with such urgency in the land, it was in God’s wisdom that he prepared Israel to make haste. This great exodus was no small undertaking and it would have taken much preparation, and God had guided them through it. Here is what happened, beginning in verse 34 of Exodus 12:

So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

The book of Exodus then recounts the length of time that Israel had spent in Egypt, emphasizing the ending of that time and the beginning of a new day for Israel. Now they are freed. Generations of slavery have come to an end. So, when death pases over the people and Pharaoh finally tells Moses and his people, “Go!”, the only proper response is to leave. God did not bring about such a miraculous deliverance for his own people from the great worldly power of Egypt for them to remain in captivity. Israel’s response to God’s work and Pharaoh’s charge cannot be to linger. When Pharaoh says to leave, they shouldn’t say, “Give me a minute.” They can’t stay a moment longer. They can’t remain in slavery. God makes this point when he tells them to prepare themselves and dress appropriately for they won’t even have time for bread to rise. When God makes the way for his people, they must go. He desires to free them from Egypt and deliver them into a land that had been promised to them.

Paul is calling upon this theme of deliverance in 1 Corinthians. When he mentions that Christ is our Passover lamb he wants you to remember the Passover. The Passover is not only the sparing of Israel, it is the catalyst of their freedom. Likewise, Jesus is our sacrifice, sparing us from the consequence of our sin. He has taken the judgment on himself. But this Passover lamb was not sacrificed so that we can now linger in slavery. The church in Corinth is making a mockery of the sacrifice and is misunderstanding freedom in Christ. The arrogant sinning that is going on is nothing but a return to slavery. Paul wants them to understand and then live into a true freedom in Christ. His sacrifice is what brings us freedom to flee from captivity, leaving behind the chains of sin and the dominion of death.

Knowing that Jesus is our Passover, we ought to make haste to flee from sin and rush into his arms. We experience true freedom in him. We know the life we are intended to live when we are in Christ.

Lamb of God Stained Glass

Using our freedom in Christ to return to sin is a return to slavery. Rather, just as Israel prepared itself to march out of Egypt into God’s guidance, we too must prepare ourselves. We are called to rid ourselves of such bondage, casting aside whatever weighs us down and entangles us because we have a race before us that we must run (Hebrews 12:1-2). We must be ready for a march into God’s promised land. We have a kingdom to be stewards of in this fallen world. We have a life of freedom that leads not to death, but to newness of life and life everlasting. So in our continuing work to leave the captivity of sin and live the life of a freed people, captive only to the righteousness of God, let us prepare ourselves as we are instructed in Ephesians 6, keeping in mind the way the Israelites were to prepare themselves on the night of their deliverance:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

How is Christ Our Passover Lamb?

Lamb

When Paul refers to Christ as our Passover Lamb, there is a wealth of Scripture that a Jewish audience would have flooding to mind. But the church, as it is now, is a place of great variety, and those who were familiar would have been expected to bring others along in their understanding. Here are two great passages to help make you more familiar with the Passover and further your understanding of how how Christ is our lamb.

Exodus 12

Here is where we learn of God’s instituting of the Passover. God’s people are in slavery in Egypt and God is in the process of bringing plagues upon the land as his means of deliverance. God then gives instructions for how to survive his final judgment on Egypt. It is a way for the Hebrews to be saved as death passes them over and this plague will be the catalyst for their deliverance from bondage.

1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

John 1

Here in the New Testament in John, John the Baptist is identifying Jesus with the Passover Lamb, proclaiming that Jesus has come to take away our sins.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

Take note that here in the very beginning of John’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry is already directed to the cross, where he will make the ultimate sacrifice.