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.

The Difficulty of Moses Handing Leadership Over to Joshua

In this read through of Deuteronomy one thing that is standing out to me is Moses’ role in handing things over to Joshua. Here is a man who desperately wants to enter the promised land, but cannot. God tells him in Dt 3:28, “charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.”

History is full of bloody transitions of power. Successions do not always go over well. Turn to 1 Samuel and see the way that Saul takes the news that there will be another king. As remarkably peaceful as the transitions of power in the United States have been for over 200 years, there are still accounts of outgoing presidents (and staff) being less than gracious in the way they leave the White House for the next administration.

So this must be tough for Moses. He not only cannot go to the promised land, his job until then is to train the one who will go. But how important a job is that? It is hard to look beyond our own experiences and lifetime and look ahead to future generations. What are we doing to prepare the way for those who will come next? What world are we leaving to them? What ministries are we passing along? We like to be involved and be active, but there are times when we need to shift our focus on the future, rather than our our immediate circumstances.


If you are looking for a bit more introduction and recap as you read Deuteronomy, you may enjoy going back to this article from June 2012.

So much has already happened in the first few books of the Bible and it is very easy to get lost or confused with all the people, travel, city names, the people groups that end with -ites. Due to that, don’t hesitate to flip back through your Bible or use online tools to be reminded of who’s who.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

We have skipped over some books and about forty years and find ourselves reading the first chapters of Deuteronomy. But don’t think you’ll be in the dark. Moses here does a great job of recapping where they have been and what God has been up to. They left the mountain and wandered for forty years because of their lack of trust in God and now as they have endured God’s discipline, they stand at the threshold of the promised land. Israel is again given the opportunity to walk in faith into the land that God has prepared for them.

But not before a real hard look at themselves in the mirror, courtesy of Moses.

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.

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.

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.

A Word About 1 Timothy and Paul

You may live your whole life and never once hear about the issues of authorship that arise in the discussion of the pastoral letters of Paul. And that life would be just fine. But questions do come up as to whether or not Paul wrote the New Testament book we’re reading this week for Year in the Bible, 1 Timothy.

As I said, you could live a full life without spending great time and energy on this question. But I bring it up because the authors of these books are important and I don’t want to make it seem like this issue is hidden. When churches never touch on controversial issues there can be a feeling that it is because if the controversy is true and some new idea becomes the norm, everything will fall apart. If Paul, by his own hand with his favorite quill, did not write 1 Timothy, do we then throw away the Bible and quit church? I do not think so.

One thing we shouldn’t do is use these questions as an excuse to dismiss parts of Scripture that we find difficult. Just recently at a conference at Princeton Seminary a professor, instead of tackling an issue that is raised in 1 Timothy, just dismissed whichever parts she was unsatisfied with saying something like, “Well, Paul probably didn’t write that book.”

1 Timothy is still part of the Bible. Clear on that? If Moses didn’t write all five books of the Pentateuch, does that mean we can then say, “Well, that’s in Genesis, and Moses probably didn’t write it.” The Bible is God’s book and he has worked upon many people throughout generations so that we may know his story.

That introduction aside, here is a very brief rundown of some thoughts about 1 Timothy. First, the issue of who wrote it is brought up because of different styles in grammar and form between a book like 1 Timothy and Paul’s epistles. I am no great expert, but in hearing these objections while in school I couldn’t help think to my own writing and how different it must have been my first year in college compared to my final year, my first year in seminary to my final year, and compare that to my writing today. Take that into consideration along with different causes for writing and different audiences and I thought that could account for a good deal of change. Perhaps that is far too simple an explanation. But I do know Paul was not perfect, and even though he was a teacher to many, he certainly had lessons to learn as well, and as he matured he may have had a better sense of what to say, how to say it, and to whom to say it.

Without further ado, here are three views quickly summarized with the help of New Testament Theology by I. Howard Marshall (397-398).

  • Paul is aided by a colleague in ministry who had a certain degree of freedom in composing the message.
  • The letter was written by someone else who wanted to bolster the authority of the letter by associating Paul’s name with it.
  • This letter contains Paul’s materials that were appropriate for the needs Ephesus and were formatted into a letter so as to be better received by the church.

Moses and Christ, Hebrews 11

Throughout the book of Hebrews Jesus Christ is being linked to the practices and objects of the Old Testament. For example, Christ is the veil, he is the sacrifice, and he is priest. The ways of the old covenant find their improvement in Jesus Christ and the new covenant that he has instituted.

In chapter 11 as we read about the role of faith in the people of God, going all the way back to Abel, we read one line about Moses that continues to strengthen the link of Christ to the Old Testament. Verse 26 says:

[Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

It doesn’t say that Moses considered the reproach of God, but rather the reproach of Christ as a greater treasure than all that could be found in Egypt. Verse 25 tells us how Moses chose to be mistreated with God’s people rather enjoy the sinful spoils of Pharaoh’s courts. In so doing he willingly took on scorn and suffering–the reproach of others, and did so, as the NIV says in its translation, “for the sake of Christ.”

Moses did not know the name of Jesus Christ, but he put his hope in God, and that hope is Christ. Jesus is Messiah, the one in whom all the hope of Israel was wrapped. Moses trusted the promises of God, looking ahead to the reward, knowing it to be better than any fleeting treasure or pleasure. So Moses endured reproach for what to him at the time was unnamed. But now the author of Hebrews looks back and calls it what it was. Moses enduring for the sake of Christ, the only hope we have now.

Likewise we now are called to endure reproach for his sake, and opportunities are not hard to come by. It may not be a Pharaoh seeking to kill us, but we are often given the choice between the fleeting pleasures of sin and Jesus. When we choose the latter we often choose hardship, as well.