February 1, 2017 Bible Study — Offerings to the Lord

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Leviticus 1-4.

    Today’s passage describes four types of offerings which the people of Israel would sacrifice to God. Three of those four are animal offerings: burnt offering, fellowship offering, sin offering. This passage offers no explanation for why someone would offer a burnt offering instead of a fellowship offering, or vice versa. I am curious as to why the burnt offering, if it was not a bird, was to be a young bull or a young ram (either sheep or goat), while the fellowship offering could be either male or female(with no option for a bird of any kind). And then there is the sin offering for unintentional sin. The appropriate animal varied depending on who had sinned. Perhaps another time I will struggle my way through the significance of those differences.

January 31, 2017 Bible Study — Setting Up the Tabernacle

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Exodus 39-40.

    Once all of the work on the Tabernacle, its furnishings, and the priestly outfits had been completed, Moses inspected them to see that they complied with the instructions he had received from God. Then Moses received specific instructions about the order for setting up and consecrating the Tabernacle and the priests (Aaron and hi sons). There is a distinct logic here. God instructs Moses to begin from the inside and work his way out. In the same way, as we strive to bring our lives in line with God’s will for us, we should start from the inside and work our way out.

    We need to allow the Holy Spirit to make changes to our heart (to our thoughts and attitudes), then allow those changes to be made manifest in our outward appearance and behavior. This is the opposite of what we too often encourage new believers to do. We ask them to change their outward appearance and behavior in the hope that it will make changes to their inward thoughts and attitudes. Change which reflects changes which God has made to our hearts, to our attitudes and beliefs, will show those around us God’s love in a way that a superficial change can never accomplish. It is too easy to change our outward behavior in a way that mimics godly behavior without actually changing our beliefs and attitudes. Unbelievers will quickly see through such a change and recognize us for the hypocrites we are.

January 30, 2017 Bible Study — Building the Tabernacle

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Exodus 36-38.

    I am not sure why the Bible contains both the earlier description of the plans God gave Moses for building the Tabernacle and the somewhat more detailed description of what was actually built. I have never taken the time to compare the two in detail to see if there are elements of the plans which could have been interpreted differently when it came time to build, so it is possible that is the reason for the two descriptions. Every time I read this I am struck by the fact that the craftsmen who were building the Tabernacle had to ask Moses to tell the people to stop bringing donations of materials for the Tabernacle.

January 29, 2017 Bible Study — God Will Personally Go With You

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Exodus 33-35.

    When After the incident with the golden calf, God instructed the people to stop wearing jewelry and fine clothes. As I read that I thought that it made a good point about how we should live our lives. I still do, but I am not sure how to put that point into words. The people of Israel accepted God’s judgment of their actions and changed their behavior to reflect their repentance. We should live our lives so that they reflect our repentance for our sins, reflect our desire to be different going forward.

    When Moses asked God whom He would send with them as He sent them to the Promised Land, God answered that He would personally go with Moses. To which Moses replied that God needed to personally go with the entire people. God acknowledged and accepted Moses’ clarification. I believe that God personally goes with each and everyone of us who has accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. God looks favorably upon us and knows us by name. It is God’s personal presence with us which sets us apart as His people. Now, this should cause us to have great joy. However, it should also cause us to have great trepidation because it means that He is right there when we do wrong.
    I want to reiterate a little bit. We are not anonymous faces in the crowd. God knows who we are by name, more than that He knows us personally. So whatever we do impacts what God thinks of us. When we do something good, God is proud of us. When we do wrong, God is disappointed in us. I think we all know that someone who, when they notice us do something good, we get an extra warm feeling that makes us feel ten feet tall, and when they notice us do something of which they do not approve we shrink inside. That is how we should feel about God every moment of every day. He notices the good and the bad that we do.

January 28, 2017 Bible Study –Why Did Aaron Choose a Calf?

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Exodus 30-32.

    The passage continues with further design instructions for the furnishings of the Tabernacle (including the recipe for the incense to be used and the anointing oil). Among those instructions is a tax to be levied whenever a census is taken of the men of Israel. I have heard some people state that failure to collect this tax was the sin which King David committed when he held his census. This tax was to be used for the care of the Tabernacle. It is my understanding that this passage was the basis for the Temple Tax mentioned in Matthew 17. What I find interesting about this passage is the combined facts that this tax was to pay for the upkeep of the Tabernacle, but no frequency was given for taking a census.

    There are a lot of elements to the story about the golden calf which Aaron had made which are worth some thought, but I want to take notice of the fact that Aaron chose a calf as the image of God. It was not a bull, nor was it a cow, it was a calf. It is worth noting that many years later when Jeroboam led the Northern Tribes in rebellion against Rehoboam, he set up two calf idols so that the people would not go to Jerusalem to worship. The Egyptians did not worship a god for which the representation was an idol in the form of a calf, nor did the peoples among whom the Israelites would later come to live. Many commentators I have read conflate the calf in this passage, and Jeroboam’s later ones, with the bulls representing gods worshiped by other peoples in the area. I think this is a mistake and that we can learn something about the early Israelite understanding of God from the fact that they represented Him with a calf from time to time (despite His explicit instructions to not represent Him with any physical object).

January 27, 2017 Bible Study — Setting Aside The Priesthood

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Exodus 28-29.

    Today’s passage describes the outfits which were to be made for Aaron and his sons to wear as priests. These read as being as beautiful as the description of the Tabernacle (although, I think I would view them as a bit gaudy). They were designed to mark the priests as being different from the average people. I could be mistaken, but these articles of clothing strike me as being impractical to wear for anyone who was not a priest. Just like the Tabernacle (perhaps even more so), these clothes were designed with symbolism. There were multiple gemstones sewn into the garments designed to remind the priest, and the people, that the priest represented ALL of the people of Israel, not just some of them.

    Once the design of the priestly garments was fully described, instructions for their ordination and dedication as priests was given. The ordination procedure was designed to show that those who were called to be priests were ordinary men who needed to be set aside in order to fill the role of priest. They were not priests because they were better than other men. They were priests because God had chosen them, for reasons of His own. Before the ordination, they were nobody special. After the ordination, they were only special because God had set them aside for Himself. In the same way, we who follow Christ are not special because of anything about ourselves. Anything about us which is special is because God has set us apart as His. We have no way to know who else God will choose to set aside as His, so we should not think that what God has done makes us better than others.

January 26, 2017 Bible Study — Using Beauty and Symbolism to Worship God

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Exodus 25-27.

    Today’s passage is a description of the plans for the Tabernacle and some of its furnishings. There are two elements to these plans. First, they describe something that would be beautiful and awe-inspiring. Second, they contain a lot of symbolism. The first part shows us that there is a place for creating a beautiful space for us to worship God. Beauty can help us to worship and admire the awesomeness of God. There is another aspect to this as well, making a place of beauty to worship God can be an act of worship in and of itself. This act of worship in building a place of worship was both in the giving of the materials and in using one’s skills.

    For me the symbolism is a little more difficult. When I look at the descriptions in this passage I can visualize how beautiful it would have all been. However, while I can see that there was symbolism in the instructions and the specifics of the design, I do not understand what that symbolism is. There is symbolism in the fact that the carrying poles for the Ark of the Covenant were never to be removed from the Ark, but I do not know what message that symbolism was supposed to convey. There is symbolism in the two cherubim who were part of, or attached to, the cover over the Ark. Again, I do not understand what that symbolism is, unless they are intended to symbolize witnesses to the covenant between God and the people of Israel, but I think there is more to it than that. The only part of the symbolism I do think I understand is that of the two stone tablets containing the terms of the covenant. They represent the conditions on the relationship between God and the people of Israel. In a similar manner, we need to put the Word of God in our hearts as our hearts play the role in the new covenant which the Ark played in the old.

January 25, 2017 Bible Study — Do Not Worship the Gods of the People Around Us

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Exodus 22-24.

    Much of this passage is a list of various laws for regulating the relationships among the Israelites. Some of them are offensive to our modern sensibilities, although I wonder if part of that is because terms have come to be understood differently and part of it is because the gap between the life lived by the free and the life lived by slaves has widened. That is, that while we understand what life was like for slaves in that society (or think we do) we think of our own lives when we think of those who were not slaves. Despite these passages which offend our sensibilities there is a thread of not oppressing our fellow man. Of not using our wealth and power to make their lives more difficult.

    Having given the Israelites those commands, God made them a promise. He promised that He would be an enemy to their enemies. He would drive those who opposed them out of the land ahead of them. God promises to destroy the peoples currently living in the land He was giving the Israelites completely. This sounds utterly harsh, and, based on other commands He gave the Israelites it was. However, there is a hint here, and elsewhere, that it was not quite as harsh as it sounds. Because in the next phrase God makes it clear that what makes those nations nations which must be destroyed are the gods they worshiped and the practices which they had as a result. If the people of those nations abandoned their gods and practices and instead adopted the practices of the Israelites and the worship of God, they were welcome in the nation of Israel.

January 24, 2017 Bible Study — The Ten Commandments

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Exodus 19-21.

    Today’s passage contains what we know as the Ten Commandments. Jewish tradition refers to them as the Ten Words, or Ten Sayings, depending on how one translates the Hebrew word “Aseret ha-D’varim”. The Jewish term makes it easier to make sense of them, since the first two do not clearly divide into two separate commands, but do separate into two distinct separate statements. Looked at this way the Ten become the following (I have left out the additional text because you can read it for yourself):

  1. I AM the Lord your God.
  2. You must not have any other god but Me.
  3. Observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy.
  4. Honor your father and mother.
  5. You must not murder.
  6. You must not commit adultery.
  7. You must not steal.
  8. You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
  9. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, or any of his property.

Knowing that, in Jewish eyes, these are the “Ten Sayings”, not the “Ten Commandments” makes a lot more sense out of Jesus’ answer to the question about what the greatest commandment is, since “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not one of these ten.

    I have rarely heard, or read, anyone comment on the connection between the second Saying and the instructions on building an altar. The Israelites were instructed to use an altar made out of packed earth or uncut stones. Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but this instruction seems to be designed to keep people from worshiping the altar itself.

January 23, 2017 Bible Study

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Exodus 16-18.

    The Book of Exodus contains story after story about relying on God to meet our needs.The Israelites fretted and complained about their lack of food, convinced that they were going to starve in the wilderness. After seeing how God provided food for them, they still complained when they came to a place and found not water there. In both instances, God provided for their needs. Manna is in many ways the perfect example of how God provides for us. They received just enough manna for each day, except on the sixth day, when they received enough for the sixth and seventh day so that they would not need to gather manna on the Sabbath. This is how God provides for us. He provides just enough for today, unless He has something coming up where He does not want us to spend time gathering for our needs. Or, another way to look at it, when God provides us more than we need for our immediate needs, we had better put some of it aside for the future.