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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Exodus, Chapter 27

Friday, July 3

Read

Exodus, Chapter 27:1-21

Reflect

People have told me that sometimes they put their bible on the table and let it fall open, and place their finger on a page, and each time, God speaks the exact word they needed in the moment. I wonder if anyone’s bible ever landed on chapter 27 of the book of Exodus, and if it did, how would God have used the description of an altar, curtain, and lamp to speak to them? The details of this chapter are not particularly profound. However, it is most interesting to consider the “why” behind all of these details. Someone must have asked along the way, “why are we spending so much time and effort on these things?” To which, the only response would likely have been, “God demands it of us.” We may not be able to relate to the calling to build a particular lamp, but the call of God to permeate the most minute detail of our work absolutely translates into every context. Lately, I have heard people communicate the sentiment that, “I keep my faith and my politics separate.” This sort of thought makes no sense to me. I’ve never been at a church that taught me that the life of Jesus was only meant to impact part of my life. Nothing in scripture supports that understanding of the faith. Certainly, the calling of a Christian is to allow the life of Jesus to determine our every step, in the most particular of ways. It is quite the consideration, but it would seem our resurrected savior would settle for nothing less. Amen? Amen.

Respond

Is there part of your life that you have intentionally kept separate from your faith? What would it look like to give that to God? The process of sanctification is an ongoing task of the Spirit and our own self-will; is there something you have previously given to God that you once withheld? What was that like? I challenge you to share that endeavor with a friend.

Pray

God of all creation, you never stopped short of giving everything that the whole world would be redeemed, fully. Lord, may we have the courage and creativity to offer each part of our life over to you, withholding nothing that would stop short of the Amazing Grace offered in your Son Jesus Christ. In his name we pray, Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 26

Thursday, July 2

Read

Exodus, Chapter 26

Reflect

You probably know what it is like to make preparations for a long-awaited guest. It could be a family member or friend you haven’t seen for a long time. You are looking forward to their arrival, planning for the stay, getting the house cleaned, and hospitable.

If you’ve been following along in our Exodus devotionals, you know that Israel is getting ready for the unlikeliest of houseguests: the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! The preparations are recorded in Exodus 25-40, which includes the construction of the tabernacle (Hebrew = dwelling place). It is shocking that the infinite God of the universe would camp in the desert with an unimpressive ancient near-Eastern tribe.

The care and detail that go into the Lord’s arrival is a reminder to us as well. John 1:14 reminds us, “…the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” And Paul says, “may the Word of God dwell in your richly.”  Our hearts are now Christ’s home. The new tabernacle of God’s glory is the incarnate Christ. And by the Spirit, Jesus, ascended to the right hand of the Father, is wanting to dwell in us, in His church.

Respond

I wonder how the detailed instructions (Exodus 25-40) of preparing for the arrival of God in the Tabernacle might be translated in your life to preparing your heart to be Jesus’ home? What kind of care do you give to making your life fit to receive the Lord of Life?

Pray

Jesus, no amount of cleaning up will make my life fit to receive you. And yet, you come anyway. You come in love. And you come to do the cleaning and perfecting that you alone are capable of. Come Lord Jesus, quickly come. Stay in me and make me what you alone can do. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 25

Wednesday, July 1

Read

Exodus, Chapter 25

Reflect

There is an innate human longing for the presence of God.  In Chapter 25 of Exodus, God generously responds to the Israelites’ desire for communion with God.   God provides the plan for the construction of a tabernacle where God will dwell among the people of Israel and where God will meet with Moses on behalf of the people of Israel.  God provides the pattern for the construction of the tabernacle and its equipment and gives the requisite skill to the artisans, but human effort and cooperation are needed for the implementation of God’s plan.  God’s plan begins with the collection of an offering.  All of the people who are willing are to bring the finest of materials needed.  The material gifts and the skills and time required for the construction of the tabernacle are, in fact, gifts from God, but the Israelites are now asked to dedicate these gifts to the purposes of God.

Then God sets forth the details for the construction of a tabernacle that will provide for its mobility as the Israelites transport it on their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land.  Wherever the Israelites will travel, they will carry the tabernacle with them.  God will be with His people.  Just as the Israelites long for the presence of God, God’s self-giving plan reflects God’s desire to be present with and present to His people.

Jesus shared with us this divine desire as He promised to be with us always through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Thanks be to God.

Respond

Do you have a place and time for meeting with God for prayer and reflection?  Do you ever have a sense that you carry the presence of God with you throughout your day?  How are you responding to your longing to be still and know God’s steadfast love and mercy?

Pray

Gracious God, We thank that You are a God of presence who longs to reveal to us Your mercy and love.  Help us to be attentive to You.  Forgive us when we selfishly guard Your generous gifts to us and refuse to share with You and with others our time, our gifts and abilities and our material blessings.  Open our hearts to respond to Your call to worship You in spirit and in truth and then help us to live a life in communion with You, our God. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 24

Tuesday, June 30

Read

Exodus, Chapter 24

Reflect

This ceremony reminds me of a wedding, at least in one way.  Two parties meet at the altar, God and his beloved Israel, and they make promises. The people say, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do, and we will be obedient.” The promises are sealed in the way that the most important promises were sealed in that time – in blood. And Moses says, “See the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

We can forget that our covenant with God is more than a relationship; it’s a set of promises. A woman and man find relationship in their beginning, and jointly decide to enter into a covenant by making promises. Heather Havrilesky, in an essay praising marriage, names some reasons why people resist marriage.

In an upgradable, consumer-driven, instant-gratification world where the experiences of shopping for high-end cellphones, high-end mates, and high-end sperm cells are hauntingly similar to one another, isn’t it reasonable to question the value of a legal contract, written in ink, on paper, that involves disastrously punitive terms of dissolution? What kind of an old-fashioned mutant could crave such a primitive trap, particularly when it’s paired with an enormously expensive ceremony that often includes allusions to obedience and lifelong mutual suffering and death, of all things?( New York magazine 2019)

Yet people continue to marry. People continue to be drawn beyond relationship, into covenant faithfulness. It’s remarkable, actually. Could it be that our deepest joy is found only on the long road of faithfulness, that our fullest humanity is expressed as we make promises and keep them? Of course, everyone who stands at an altar and makes promises does so aspirationally, well aware of the inconsistencies and failures ahead. Yet vow we do, because the vows include forbearing with the others’ failures and forgiving the others’ sins, just as the other does for us.

On the night of his betrayal, Jesus sat at table with his disciples, blessed a cup, and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Does that sound familiar? The LORD has made a covenant with us, a pledge of fidelity in Christ’s blood. We have made our own promises in baptism, vowing allegiance to Christ alone and obedience to his way. Of course, our vows are aspirational, and we won’t keep them perfectly; but vow we do, because our Lord forbears our weaknesses, forgives our sins, and loves us into more perfect versions of ourselves.

Pray

God of covenant love, sealed in covenant blood, renew our love and commitment to you. When we are too comfortable in our relationship to you, taking you for granted or forgetting your commands, wake us up. Remind us this day never to take you for granted, and that our deepest joy is found on the long road of faithfulness. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 23

Monday, June 29

Read

Exodus, Chapter 23

Reflect

The conversation may be as old as parenting itself. “But mom!  Everybody’s doing it!” To which the mom replies, “If everyone were jumping off a cliff would you?” Honest kids (and adults) will respond with a resounding, “If it was trending, maybe!” Exodus 23 points to the type of people the Hebrews are called to be. God’s people practice justice for all: not just when it’s convenient, not just when it’s advantageous, not just for the people who look, act, and believe the way they do, not just when its popular, but justice for all always. This impartial justice will set apart the people of God from the people of the world.  Think about where we are as a nation and world today. The governments and powers of the world have not been able to provide justice for all no matter how lofty their ideals and founding documents. Look no further than recent and current news to see that justice for all and always has yet to take place. Better yet, flip back and forth between news outlets to see opposing sides, stories, and accounts of who justice is for and what it is. What’s striking about this chapter is the description of justice is right alongside the description of Sabbath practice. If nothing else, the practice of sabbath will shape and form the people of God in a different way than the nations of the world. Remember they have just been slaves in Egypt. Slavery and PTO don’t go together. The sabbath is not only for the Hebrews but also for the non-Jews (slaves and aliens) who live in their midst. The sabbath protects vulnerable groups from oppression and exploitation. The sabbath, like God’s justice, is for all.  Not only the sabbath but the sabbatical year. If you told any business that once every week and once every 7 years they had to focus on resting and not producing . . . the CEO would probably disagree with your business model.  Justice, time, and rest are for all people and God has just given the Hebrew people systems to help the Hebrews practice it. Can you imagine Chic-fil-a being closed for a year?  The Hebrews are going into the promised land. This is territory that is currently occupied by others.  “Little by little”(v.30) as the Hebrew people grow God plans to give them this land. God plans to replace the unjust systems of the world with God’s justice through the Hebrew people. God invites us to do the same.  God invites us to practice, support, and live out this justice for all always.  Sometimes, the price of practicing God’s justice is inconvenient, unpopular, uncomfortable, lonely, and may even involve a cross. The Good news is that Christ has paid that price, shown us the way, and invited us to take up our cross and follow as disciples, apostles, ambassadors of God’s just mercy and grace.

Respond

Reread verses 1 through 9. Where do you see yourself, your family, your school, your business, our nation, and maybe even our church succeeding or failing to practice God’s justice? What could the Holy Spirit be calling you to do about it? If someone was to look at your life, would they notice anything different about the way you live because of the God you love? Is there something you have resisted doing or saying because you’re afraid of how it will look to the majority of those around you?

Pray

God of just mercy and amazing grace, teach me to look not only to my own interests but also to the interests of others. Make me mindful of ways I may have crucified your justice for my comfort, and little by little may the same mind be in me that was in Christ Jesus. May I be your willing instrument of justice and mercy in my home, community, and world. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 22

Sunday, June 28

Read

Exodus, Chapter 22

Reflect

Chapter 22 is part of a larger section of text here in the middle of Exodus called the Book of the Covenant.  It includes the 10 commandments listed in chapter 20 and other laws given to the Israelite people from Mt. Sinai.  While we as modern Christian readers may be tempted to skim over this section as an intrusion to the ongoing narrative, the ancient Israelites’ ears would have perked up.  Now that they have been redeemed, they want to know what to do.  And here is a key point – redemption always precedes law.  The law is a response to grace not a precondition for it.  So when we read these strange laws about oxen and idols and bestiality, we must remember these were words spoken by God to a redeemed people.  Now, in light of their redemption and freedom, they are to live in harmony with God and one another.

Our first temptation when confronted with verses like these that don’t easily translate into our modern culture is either to totally dismiss them or to try and uncover a hidden meaning or principle that we can fit into our contemporary context.  But the Book of the Covenant was a very specific law given at a particular time to a particular people for a particular purpose.  And because of that, these few chapters give us unique insight into the way God was shaping His people after their escape from Egypt.  They have a new start and these are just a few of the ways God wanted to structure their life together.

Respond

When you hear “grace precedes law,” how do you feel?  Is this assuring, threatening, does it bring up a sense of security?

For many of us, there is comfort in the law because when we are given a set of rules, we feel as if we are in control of our standing with God.  If we try just a bit harder or do a bit more, then perhaps we can earn an extra measure of His grace.  However, over and over again, especially in the Gospel narratives, we find that God’s grace cannot be controlled or tamed.  We are fully dependent on the God who eagerly extends irresistible grace to each of us as He took the form of a man and saved us from our sin.  There is nothing more to be done, no more grace to be earned.  We can trust Him.

Pray

Merciful God, we cannot fathom the expanse of your grace.  We cannot comprehend the depth of your love.  Forgive us when we try to limit you by our desire for control and our narrow understanding of your salvation.  When we become burdened by the laws and rules we set up for ourselves, reorient us, remind us of your economy of grace that doesn’t fit neatly into any of our boxes, but simply calls us to trust, to love, and to find freedom in our limits. In Christ’s name. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 21

Saturday, June 27

Read

Exodus, Chapter 21

Reflect

God has delivered the Hebrews from slavery. They are free. Not free to do what they want, but free to do what is right. God has shown them what is good for them in the Ten Commandments. But how are those “ten words” lived out in day to day living? How are they applied in questionable situations? Chapter 21 begins a section of ordinances or case law that deal with the “usual way” of handling issues and disputes that arise between members of the community. A community cannot survive without a structure that prohibits cycles of revenge, abuse, or violence.  The Hebrews had been chattel-slaves in Egypt. The owners could do anything to their chattel. But the Hebrews would only have debt-slavery (becoming a slave to pay off a debt). The slave would go free when the debt was paid. If the master abused the slave, the slave would be set free. “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (v. 24) sounds vengeful and legalistic to us, but it was to stop the revenge from cycling into a continuing escalation of violence. For 12th Century BC, these rules build structure that preserves the sanctity of life.

Respond

In the Sermon on the Mount though Jesus takes it a step further, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer” (Matthew 5:38-42). In the community built on love instead of trying to limit the revenge, Jesus calls us to find a creative way of dealing with violence instead of retaliation. “Turning the other cheek” is a creative way of startling the other in order to find reconciliation. We need structure in our community, but structure based on the rule of love.

Pray

Gracious loving heavenly Father, you know all that is good for us. Open our eyes to see the path of your rule of love. Show us how to stand up against evil and injustice in a creative way that is not retaliation but reconciliation. Through the self-giving of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 20

Friday, June 26

Read

Exodus, Chapter 20:1-2

Reflect

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of slavery.

Each time the 10 commandments are listed in the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy, and in Exodus, there is a preface which declares the relationship between God and the Israelites, and the acts in which their relationship stands. The one who will command such things is the God who has been in relationship with these people, the God who brought these people from captivity and into freedom. The commands rest on this relationship and these acts. In this way, God doesn’t make demands absent from a relationship rooted in acts of liberation. God has done the messy work of hearing their cries, calling them forth, and leading them through the baptismal waters in the Red Sea, and through deserts. That is the kind of God we serve. God does the messy work of hearing our cries, calling us forth, and leading us from captivity and into freedom. On the other side of baptismal waters, we are claimed as God’s children. Jesus summarizes the law, and says, love God and love neighbor. May we consider these commands as ones that are rooted in a relationship with a God who has set us free.

Respond

Why do you think God declares who he is before making commands? Would it matter if God hadn’t freed the Israelites, and yet still gave them the commandments? If we took Jesus’ summary seriously, this day, how might we show our love to God and our neighbor?

Pray

God of all creation, you have brought us forth from the chains of our oppression. Through Jesus Christ, you have set us free, for the purposes of bringing you all honor and glory. Thank you for being a God who will enter into the mess of creation and our lives. May we never forget all that you have done, and may we grow tired in passionately pursuing every effort to love you and our neighbor. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 19

Thursday, June 25

Read

Exodus, Chapter 19

Reflect

As a child, you learn pretty quickly there are things that you shouldn’t touch, like power lines, hot stoves, and moving trains. All three of these are good things. They supply electricity to our homes, put food on our tables, and allow us to move about in a rapid and efficient way. But it would be silly for us to approach these things like we would a beloved family member.

Something like this absurd effort is occurring in Exodus 19. God is the force for good behind the ordering of the cosmos, but this is also what makes him supremely dangerous. Likewise, the sun gives us light that makes life on earth possible; yet, we know a trip to the sun would mean certain death.

In Exodus 19 we see a just, holy, and loving God going to the greatest lengths to be in close contact with those who are dangerously not fit to be in His presence. The climax of which is God taking on flesh and descending not on Mount Sinai but on the mountain that is Calvary, the mount of His crucifixion.

Respond

Give thanks that we don’t have to approach God with fear and trembling. Give thanks that God has approached us, in the flesh!

Pray

Jesus, keep me near the cross. Keep me near your grace and mercy. Lord, I come to offer you my life, my heart, my all. Amen.

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