Exodus, Chapter 37

Monday, July 13

Read

Exodus, Chapter 37

Reflect

How do we go back to school? How do we go back to church? And what about when? Wouldn’t it be nice if God just told us exactly what to do in this pandemic? In Exodus 37, Bezalel gives us a rare glimpse into what that’s like. That’s right, Bezalel.  Bet you didn’t learn that name is Sunday school. God gave him specific instructions to make the ark of the covenant and everything inside the tabernacle. What’s amazing is that Bezalel does it. It’s not easy to find a story in scripture where God instructs, and humanity responds with complete obedience. Bezalel offers us that rare example in this chapter. Could God have just created the tabernacle and everything in it? Sure. God did not need Bezalel but instructs him through Moses just the same. From the garden Eden to the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness to today, God continues to pursue partnership with us. During this pandemic, have you ever felt God was calling you to do something?  Has God ever given you specific and direct instruction?  If God did, how would you respond?  Do you think you’d follow the instructions to the letter? Would you ignore them? Would you tweak them just a little bit to suit your needs?  What would it look like for you to say yes to God’s call on your life? Jesus is pretty direct and clear when he teaches his disciples, “Love one another the way I have loved you.”  In order to follow that instruction, we need to do two things.  First, say yes to the love of God extended to us in Christ Jesus.  And second, offer that love to one another.

Respond

When’s the last time God commanded, and you obeyed? As a follower of the way of Christ, what do you know God is calling you to do? Who are the people with whom God is calling you to share the love of Christ? Part of following God’s instruction is hearing God’s instruction. How are you doing listening to God’s direction in your life?

Pray

Take at least 1 minute and be still. Remember that God is God. Listen for that still small voice. When you get distracted, smile and pray “Be still and know that I Am God.” Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to join in what God is already doing in your life and relationships. Be still and know that I Am God. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 38

Tuesday, July 14

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Exodus, Chapter 38

Reflect

I took one accounting class in college, figuring that I needed it not only for a well-balanced education, but for some practical knowledge. I guess you could say that it didn’t have much influence on me.

Exodus 38 offers some practical knowledge about how the people of God functioned, even in the desert. They did their accounting! Ithamar, supervisor of all the work done by the Levites, meets with Bezalel and Oholiab at the conclusion of the work, not only going through the punch list, but also closing the books on everything given and how it was used.

What do we learn? Remarkably, the capital campaign for the tabernacle included not simply freewill offerings, but a per capita tax: one-half shekel of silver from every man aged 27 and older. The per capita wouldn’t have gotten close to the needed funds, but it did mean that everyone had skin in the game.

We also learn something we already had been taught by Paul about the church: all gifts matter. It helps for pastors to know something about accounting, something they pick up in an intro class in college. But some members of the body are vital: those who know accounting. They insure the church’s fidelity to GAAP and its fidelity to God’s justice in matters of money.

The people of God can give freely, joyfully, and confidently when they trust that their money is being used for the purposes intended. God, then, can be glorified rightly when the money is accounted for.

Today, offer a prayer of thanks for all the members of our body who keep our accounts: folks in the finance office, members of our Budget and Finance Committee, and the Session. Where would the body be without them?

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Exodus, Chapter 36

Sunday, July 12

Read

Exodus, Chapter 36

Reflect

I must be honest, I have never read this chapter of Exodus carefully enough to find anything interesting save for descriptions of curtain designs and building frame dimensions.  That is what is so cool about God’s word – it continues to surprise and inspire!  The first part of chapter 36 tells of some skilled craftsmen who have come to help build the new sanctuary for the Living God. I love the way the ESV puts it in verse 2, “…every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come do the work.”  What a wonderful image!  These men were called by God to use the unique gifts they’d been given to help build a house for God, and they came to use those gifts with joy!

But what about those (like me) who wouldn’t know the first thing about construction and had no gifts for craftsmanship?  They too were able to participate in this exciting new chapter of Israel’s life with God through giving of their resources!  And they embraced that opportunity. We’re told that Moses actually had to tell the people to stop bringing contributions for the sanctuary, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary” (verse 7).  The people had to be “restrained from bringing gifts.”  Isn’t that incredible!?

Respond

We are in a time of great uncertainty – not only our health with COVID-19, but with our financial stability, both individually, as a church, and as a nation.  This story of the Israelites’’ overwhelming generosity seems miles away from our current reality, and yet we know that God remains faithful.  Sometimes, especially when it comes to money, we give the leftover to God.  We figure out what our expenses are and then charitably offer the remainder for the work of the Kingdom.  But what would it look like to put God first?  What would it look like to give even in the midst of anxiety and uncertainty?

What would it look like if FPC had to reach out to its members to “restrain them from bringing gifts because the material they had was sufficient to do all the work and more” (verse 8)?  Seems impossible and yet our God is the God of the impossible – the One who conquered death itself and calls us to follow in radical faith.

Pray

God, loosen our grip on the things of this world.  Help us to overcome our driving desire for certainty and control that we might lean a bit deeper into trusting you.  Give us open hands and hearts ready to respond to your extravagant grace, and Lord, give us wisdom that we might discern our gifts, how to give, how much to give, and how to best follow the example of your Son Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray.  Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 35

Saturday, July 11

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Exodus, Chapter 35

Reflect

Descriptions of the Tabernacle and Vestments have been given (25-31:17). The golden calf incident shows the need for ordered structure (31:18-34:29). The Tabernacle and Vestments must be created to remind them that God dwells in their midst. Complex and exact work is ahead of them, but before they can begin, four things are to guide them. Before they did anything, the are reminded to enter into God’s rest and respect the Sabbath. Anything done for the Lord must rest in God. Secondly, Moses describes what is needed in materials and labor for the construction. Before beginning, one needs to know what is required. Thirdly, the people respond with joyous generosity sharing their wealth and labor. God’s normal way of channeling resources for God’s work is by the gifts from God’s people with a willing heart. The fourth ingredient is God filling craftsman Bezalel with the Spirit in wisdom and understanding. The source of beauty and creativity is God. Resting in God, assessing needs, joyous generosity, and being Spirit-filled are the requirements for God-given tasks.

Respond

What tasks are before us? How should we prepare? Recongregating in the midst of Covid-19 and the racial unrest are just two of the major tasks before us. We begin by resting in God. God is with us; let us turn to God for direction and insights. With God’s help, we need to delineate the needs and resources. Then let us respond with generosity of wealth and labor. But most of all let us ask God to fill us with the Spirit.

Pray

Gracious and loving heavenly Father, fill us with your Spirit. Give us the wisdom and understanding to tackle the tasks you have set before us. May we be filled with generous hearts so you can use us for your honor and glory through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 33

Thursday, July 9

Read

Exodus, Chapter 33

Reflect

If ever God was to abandon all hope of shaping a people to rightly love him, this would be it. The Israelites’ behavior with the golden calf was, to put it bluntly, shameful. We may not bow down before gold castings of animals, but we worship our fair share of inanimate objects.

But the LORD, who is longsuffering, continues His involvement with a wicked people, which is good news for us. The LORD makes his way from the throne room of heaven to spend time in a tent on the dusty Sinai peninsula, also good news for us.

I love this line from one of his desert meetings, “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (33:11). Who can know the mind of God? Why such grace and love?

God goes one infinite step farther—He takes on the tent of human flesh, in Christ Jesus our Lord. And He desires this day to speak face to face with you, as a friend. Amen.

Respond

Don’t wait! Jesus is calling! Take time right now, as you are doing, to speak face to face, by the Spirit’s power, to Jesus.

Pray

How real is your presence to me LORD. You who have no need of me; and yet, you died for me and desire to know me more intimately each day. O treasure beyond all treasures. Jesus, keep me near the Cross. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 32

Wednesday, July 8

Read

Exodus, Chapter 32

Reflect

Israel’s great sin is lack of faith and trust in the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt.   While Moses is meeting with God and receiving the words of His commandments, the people grow fearful in the absence of Moses.   The God of the Exodus cannot be controlled or produced upon the people’s command, molded according to their wishes.

The people are unwilling to wait for Moses’ return and upon God’s timing.  Anxious and impatient, they seek to take control by producing a god that they ask Aaron to fashion for them.  The people choose to worship a false god.  God is rightly angered by the Israelites’ sin, and Moses must plead on behalf of the people for God’s mercy and forgiveness to be given.

We can become impatient with God’s timing.  We listen to the news of the increase in the number of persons infected with the coronavirus, the racial injustices and discord, the decline in the economic stability and growth in our nation.  We want God to step in and solve these complex problems now.  When God does not work in our timing, we want to take control in an effort to ease our anxiety and fear.

God wants us to seek Him and wait on His timing, His guidance, and His revelations through His chosen instruments.  Where would God have us act and where would God have us pray and wait on His timing?

Respond

The words of Proverbs 3:5-6 remind us to trust in the Lord our God with all our hearts and lean not into our own insights.  In all our ways to acknowledge Him and He will make straight our paths.  What are the issues that are making you feel anxious and fearful, impatient for speedy resolution?  Lift them up to God in prayer, with thanksgiving that He hears our prayers and is faithful, loving, merciful and kind.  Let us seek His ways and His timing, and not our own.

Pray

Great is Your faithfulness, O God.  In You we place our trust.  Calm our restless, fearful hearts.  Make we seek You and Your ways and worship You alone.  Forgive us when we seek to place our trust in false sources of security.  Use us in accordance with Your vision for Your world and our lives.  Grant us a purity of heart to will only one thing:  Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 31

Tuesday, July 7

Read

Exodus, Chapter 31

Reflect

One of you shared a COVID-19 joke with me:

“Until further notice, the days of the week are now called
Thisday, Thatday, Otherday, Someday,
Yesterday, Today, and Nextday!”

Staying at home has meant losing all sense of time and rhythm. It has meant sleep schedules being demolished. I’ve found myself waking at 3:00 in the morning, tossing and turning until I finally get up to read and pray. I still have time to turn on a baseball game from last summer and eat a snack, and the sun hasn’t come up yet.

I’ve been looking for silver linings in this season.  Here’s a suggestion: the ordinary rhythm of days of the week is a gift. “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” In the evening we settle down and at night we sleep; in the morning we awake and go about our labors; one day out of seven we rest from our labors.

In Exodus 31, God reminds the Israelites, as the preparations for the Tabernacle are concluding, that holy spaces – worship spaces – need holy times. The Sabbath day is one day in seven, every week, set apart to sanctify us. I’m not one to give too many prescriptions, but I will give you an eager suggestion: keep Sunday as the Sabbath Day, or the Lord’s Day. If the Israelites could keep it in the wilderness, with no Temple to visit, I suppose that we can do the same.

Remember the Sabbath day, even if we can’t gather. Do no work. Set your own personal or family times. Rise at the same hour. Prepare a special meal. Worship online at the same time on that day. Read the Bible and pray at the same time each Sunday, praying for church leaders, civic leaders, and all people who feel angry or alienated. Undertake some act of faithfulness each Sunday – call someone who might be lonely, or write someone.

I’ve heard it said that the Sabbath keeps us more than we keep the Sabbath. The other days of the week might be mush, but Sundays can be the Lord’s Day, sanctuary or not.

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Exodus, Chapter 30

Monday, July 6

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Exodus, Chapter 30

Reflect

According to Exodus 30:20, if we don’t wash our hands we’ll die. Maybe that’s where the CDC got the idea.  God instructs the priests to wash their hands and their feet (in the same bowl!!!) before entering into the Tabernacle. Exodus 30 offers instructions for the right way to worship as well as the right way to be the people of God. The instructions are so specific, ranging from materials to event calendars, to smells. This chapter even provides incense and oil recipes only to be used for worshipping God. All of this points to the simple and profound reality that there is something special and unique about the Hebrew people’s relationship with God. This is true in different human relationships as well. We don’t relate or interact with all people the same way. We walk around our families in clothing (or lack of clothing) that we would never wear in public. Why?  Because our relationship with our family is special and unique. Like the Hebrews in Exodus, we are a people of God, and more specifically because of Christ, we are people with God. There is something special and unique about our relationship with God through Christ Jesus. In a word, it’s intimate. We can share things with God, we can interact with God, and we can love God in a way that we can with no one else. What is it that’s so unique about our relationship with Christ? Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans. “Who is in a position to condemn us, only Jesus Christ.  [What does Christ do?]  “It is Christ Jesus who died for us, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.” In a time and season that feels out of control, the one constant is the unique intimate love of God we experience in Christ Jesus. Say yes to God’s yes to you today. Say yes to the unique intimacy offered to you from the one who has been with you from the beginning.

Respond

What would it look like if you said yes to the special, unique, and gracious nature of a relationship with Christ today? What’s your recipe for worship in the time of COVID – 19? When’s the last time you sat still in God’s presence? When’s the last time you laughed with God from joy overflowing? As you prepare for prayer, pause and lean into the Holy Spirit’s invitation toward increased intimacy with God. Imagine the hand of Christ Jesus extends toward you, take it, and see where Christ would lead you today.

Pray

Open my lips O Lord, may my mouth declare your praise. 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. Broken as I am oh God, you offer me all of yourself in Christ Jesus. Grant me the courage to say yes to your yes to me and offer you all myself today. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 29

Sunday, July 5

Read

Exodus, Chapter 29

Reflect

These are the kinds of passages we often skip over in personal devotions, Bible studies, and sermon series.  Modern Christians assume these ancient practices of animal sacrifice are dated and no longer bear any relevance.  However, we know that there is a reason that the author of Exodus includes these details.  As the law around the tabernacle, worship and the priesthood are given to God’s people, we see that the emphasis is not so much on the people’s ability to follow every jot and tittle, but rather the willingness of God to come and dwell with his people.

There is a portion of this chapter that I had never really noticed before, but it seemed strangely specific and somewhat out of place.  What is all of this instruction around blood being smeared on the tips of Aaron and his sons’ ears, and the thumb of their right hands and the big toe of their foot?  That is especially odd and specific.  As we know by now, blood is a very important symbol of life as it is offered to God in total surrender.  To consecrate the priests with blood on these specific body parts was intentional.  As the blood touched their ear they were to hear differently; as it touched their thumb they should work differently; as it touched their toe they should walk differently.

To be one of God’s chosen is to have every part dedicated to him.

Respond

Though the way we set apart holy things today looks much different from this passage in Exodus, we still have means by which we notice the holy around us.  What could you do today as a way of re-dedicating your work, your time, your day to God?  Perhaps it’s a special prayer over the hands that cook dinner or hold children, maybe it’s a word of gratitude over the glasses that help you see and interact with the world. You could speak a blessing over your shoes as you slip them on in the morning – mindful of the places they will take you and the people you might encounter.

The Israelites had a unique understanding of God’s presence being bound up in the tabernacle; but we as Christians know that in Christ, God has come to us and is present everywhere through his Holy Spirit.  As you make your way through this week, take time to be intentional about naming and noticing the ways God is at work all around.

Pray

Gracious God, thank you for sending your Son among us to “tabernacle” here on earth and reveal your goodness and grace.  Make us eager students each day as we respond to your devotion to us with renewed joy and attentiveness.  We ask it in the name of Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 28

Saturday, July 4

Read

Exodus, Chapter 28

Reflect

The instructions for the Tabernacle have been given. Now in preparation for the ordination of Aaron as High Priest and his sons as priests, the description of their vestments and insignias are given. Aaron’s clothing is ancillary to his fundamental task: to bear the names of the twelve tribes of Israel into the presence of God and enable the dedication of Israel. The finest of materials of gold, blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen are used. Only the most precious and beautiful adornments are to come before God. The gold signet on Aaron’s turban proclaims, “Holy to the Lord.” Psalm 132:8-9 describes the placement of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies:

Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting place,

    you and the ark of your might.

Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,

    and let your faithful shout for joy.

The vestments are clothing the priests with righteousness so they can present Israel to God so that Israel might be declared righteous. In Hebrews 4:14 Christ takes the role of the High Priest. As the new High Priest, Christ bears our names before God making us righteous.

Respond

Paul uses the metaphor of clothing: “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14) and “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). As the priesthood of all believers, we put on Christ especially as we worship connecting with and participating with the living God. When I place the stole over my head before worship, I remind myself that the stole is the yoke of Christ. Being yoked with Christ enables the worship to be Christ centered.

Pray

Gracious and loving heavenly Father, only you are holy. Because we are clothed with Jesus Christ, we humbly come before you. In all that we think, say, and do this day, may it be to your honor and glory. May we walk and delight in your will through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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