28 02 2011

DAY FIFTY-NINE : Leviticus 4 v. 1 – 5 v. 13; Mark 10 v. 13 – 31; Psalm 27 v. 7 – 14

The Sin Offering
Unintentional sin (breaking a commandment) –
(i) if it’s the priest who sins, a spotless young bull is to be sacrificed as atonement (lay hands on it, then slaughter it) – the priest dips the blood and sprinkles seven times in front of the sanctuary curtain, more blood sprinkled on the altar (of incense), and the rest poured at the foot of the burnt-offering altar. The fat and the kidneys to be burnt on the altar, the rest is to burned outside the camp and burned.
(ii) if it’s the whole community who sins (even unawares), the whole assembly brings a young bull as a sin offering; the elders lay their hands on the bull, before slaughter, then the priest does as above with the blood and the carcass;
“In this way, the priest will make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.”
(iii) if it’s a leader who sins unintentionally, a spotless male goat is sacrificed (similarly, hands laid on the goat before slaughter), the priest sprinkles blood on the altar and pours the rest at the foot of the burnt-offering altar. The goat’s fat is burned, but no mention of what happens to the carcass. The leader will be forgiven through this act of atonement.
(iv) if a community member sins unintentionally, a spotless female goat, or a female lamb is sacrificed (as above), and he will be forgiven

I noted the size of the sacrifice was in proportion to the responsibility upon the shoulders of an individual / group : the priest, the whole people, the leader, and then any other person.
Whereas previous offerings were voluntary, in one sense, here these offerings are compulsory, to be forgiven for a particular act of sin.
The sin of the priest or of the whole community is more serious (affects a greater number of people, perhaps) – the blood of the sacrifice is taken into the ‘sanctuary’ onto the altar of incense, and the carcass is burned off-site.

(a) not speaking out about an issue you have witnessed is a sinful act – you have a duty to speak out
(b) touching unclean animals (dead carcasses included) or human uncleanness (even unawares), makes us guilty
(c) careless oathmaking makes us guilty
if any of the above, first confess, then a female goat or lamb must be sacrificed (as a penalty), or (if too poor to afford a lamb) two doves or pigeons (one for a sin offering, one for a burnt offering) – the birds are offered and the offender is forgiven. If too poor to afford the birds, then 1/10th of an ephah of flour is to be offered (some burned, the rest kept by the priest).

Little Children – Jesus already highlighted the value of a small child in yesterday’s readings, and the disciples are so slow to learn the cultural shift Jesus is seeking to bring in – to Jesus, small children are not only welcome, but hold some of the keys of understanding and receiving the kingdom – “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Jesus blesses the children who come to Him.

I was struck by the image of laying hands on the children – there is so much in the Leviticus readings about humans laying their hands on a lamb or bull as an atonement sacrifice (we need to lay our hands on Jesus (or lay our lives before Him), as our lamb of atonement), but here we see Jesus laying hands of blessing upon the youngsters. The disciples and the elders of the church will be called upon to lay hands on people for their healing, or for blessing. How will we use our hands today – hands of surrender, of atonement, of laying down, and hands for healing, for blessing.

The Rich Young Man – Jesus, again, sees into the heart of this honest God-seeker, who has faithfully kept the commandments since childhood. What has a hold on this young man is his wealth, his possessions. His next lesson in discipleship, in seeking to serve God will be to learn to treasure not wealth but God, heavenly treasure. It’s too much for the man, at this stage (Jesus even acknowledges and underlines how hard the rich will find it), but you can’t help wondering what seed has been sown there, and how this man’s life pans out. The last we see of him, here, he goes away crestfallen and sad. He has much to think about. I’m sure it’s not the end of his story.
I’m so glad that there are stages upon our journey. Sometimes, just as we think we’re getting somewhere in it all, a deeper challenge comes along. Though it may be hard, there’s a new lesson to be learned. And so often, it’s a lesson in stripping all away, and learning deeper surrender to God, laying all down before Him.
“Then come, follow me.”The disciples wonder if the journey is too hard, even impossible, for most (even themselves). Jesus reminds them (and us) that it’s more about the wonderful possibilities in life WITH GOD !
“With man, this is impossible, but not with God: all things are possible with God.”

And a little aside to those who know they’ve given up a lot to follow, to serve Christ – home, family, possessions – will receive a hundred times more – sense of home, family, possessions, and persecutions !! – and ultimately eternal life.
Again, it’s about learning to see the primacy of being last, surrendering the desire to be top dog!

I am reminded, once again, about the Covenant Prayer :
“Let me be employed for You, or laid aside for You
 Exalted for You, or brought low for You
 Let me have all things, let me have nothing
 I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal….”

“Teach me Your way, O Lord;
 lead me in a straight path….
 I will see the goodness of the Lord
 in the land of the living.
 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart
 and wait for the Lord.”

My re-created thoughts :

When reading the book of Exodus, the daily news was about the plight of the Egyptians and their push for democracy, for a new freedom.
Whilst reading Leviticus, Libya is the constant news story. In my reflections today, when sinners use their hands in surrender and seeking atonement for their sin, and when Jesus uses His hands to bless and to heal, my heartfelt prayer is that in Libya, which may see terrible loss of life (of people laying down their lives seeking a new freedom), hands that are plotting destruction and death will be stopped, and an outpouring of blessing and healing will flood the land.
We pray!

“It’s not what God had wanted – we’ve ignored the Maker’s plans.
 He made us not for clenching fists – but for offering helping hands.”

Lord, use our hands today,
not for bashing, but for blessing
not for hurting, but for healing
not for destroying, but for deepening Your kingdom on earth
not for cutting people off, but for drawing people into Your great love.
Lord, use our hands today,
in forgiving, and in setting others free.

Sacrifice and saltiness….

27 02 2011

DAY FIFTY-EIGHT : Leviticus 1 v. 1 – 3 v. 17; Mark 9 v. 33 – 10 v. 12; Psalm 27 v. 1 – 6

Leviticus, here we go!
Where Exodus ends focussing on where to worship God (the Tabernacle), Leviticus is about how to worship. Some sections relate exclusively to the Levites (from where the book gets its name) – the priests – but most of the book relates to every person, every worshipper, and is about sacrifices, cleanness and holiness.
So, the first seven chapters are about SACRIFICE, and I found this note helpful :

“These chapters are called the Manual of Offerings. The specificity of the instructions and their attention to apparently minor details strikes modern, western sensibilities as strange. But these matters underline an important point : atonement is only possible because God offers it. He, therefore, determines its conditions. The heart which is so stubborn as to refuse to meet His conditions is hardly the repentant one necessary to receive God’s forgiveness…” (Wesley Study Bible)

Burnt Offerings – God’s first act, once the Tent of Meeting is complete, is to outline the worship to be offered. A male animal, without defect, is to be offered. The ‘atonement’ is offered as a person lays his / her hands upon the animal’s head. The individual slaughters the animal and the priests sprinkle the blood on the altar sides. The individual skins the animal, and cut it in pieces. The priests wash the inner parts of the animal (and the legs) and it is all offered on the altar as a burnt offering, “an aroma pleasing to the Lord.” Similar for bulls, sheep or goats, slightly different for doves / pigeons (where people were unable to afford to give an animal, and it’s the priests who deal with the birds…)

I noted, again, the requirement of an animal without blemish – God requiring the very best – a perfect sacrifice :
“You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1 v. 19)
“Christ has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” (Ephesians 5 v. 2)

Grain Offerings – the finest flour is to be offered, and whether it is brought in raw form (mixed with oil and along with incense), or ready cooked (with salt (which represented the covenant promise that God would ‘preserve’ Israel forever), but without yeast), there is a portion of it which the priests burn on the altar, and the rest is kept by the priests (belonging to Aaron and his sons);

Fellowship Offerings – unlike the burnt offering (which offers the whole animal on the altar), the fellowship (or peace) offering surrendered parts of the animal to be burnt, and the rest to be eaten (some by the giver, some by the priests, as we shall see in ch.7). This offering may have been to thank God for His presence / fellowship, and to pray it would continue.

Who is the Greatest – back in Capernaum (for a stop-off, en route), Jesus tackles the argument which had been brewing as they had journeyed, about which disciples was the greatest / best (!!). His teaching is that the very best is the one who sees himself as last, as servant of all. Then Jesus uses a small child to illustrate the kingdom – welcoming a small child equates to welcoming Jesus, even God.

Whoever Is Not Against Us Is For Us – more teaching to tackle the disciples’ misunderstanding. John tells Jesus that they had stopped someone (a person unknown to the disciples), who was driving out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus points out that no-one can perform miracles in His name and speak ill of Him, that whoever is not against us is for us – not shutting things down, seeking to control, but to get alongside, and even to accept refreshment from others (who will get their reward).

Causing to Sin – ‘don’t hinder other people’s walk with the Lord (causing them to sin), and ruthlessly eliminate sin from your own life’, says Jesus. Better to lose a limb (hand, foot, eye), which is causing you to sin, than to be thrown into hell. The reference to ‘salt’ (which links to the Leviticus readings today – the ‘salt of the covenant’), is a reminder that we are to have impact in the world, flavouring, preserving, healing.
“Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other”

– I conducted a wedding, yesterday, and uttered the words, “What God has joined together, let no-one separate”, pronouncing a blessing on the couple. Of course, intentions in making those vows in marriage are that they are for life, and our prayers are for all marriages. The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus again with their question, but Jesus reaffirms the Moses law about writing a certificate (outlining reasons, rather than merely telling the woman to leave), and that it had been needed to restrain the hardness of hearts.
On the issue of divorce and adultery, see my post on January 27th (relating to Matthew 19).

“The Lord is my light and salvation – whom shall I fear?
 The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom whall I be afraid?”
“One thing I ask of the Lord – this is what I seek –
 that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
 to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.”
“at His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
 I will sing and make music to the Lord.”

Mountain-top Glory descends…..

26 02 2011

DAY FIFTY-SEVEN : Exodus 39 v. 1 – 40 v. 38; Mark 9 v. 2 – 32; Psalm 26 v. 1 – 12

The Priestly Garments – the multicoloured garments for Aaron and the other ‘ministers’ are created just as God instructed.
The Ephod – the skilled craftsmen made the ephod of gold and multicoloured fabrics, with the engraved onyx stones carved with the names of the sons of Israel, just as God instructed.
The Breastpiece – the skilled craftsmen made the breastpiece of gold and multicoloured fabrics, with its rows of precious stones (twelve to signify the sons of Israel), and its golden chains, just as God instructed.
The Other Priestly Garments – a robe of blue (by the skilled weaver), with its pomegranates and golden bells fitted alternately around its hem, just as God instructed;
there were tunics, turbans, headbands and underclothes, and the gold plate engraved with “HOLY TO THE LORD“, for Aaron and his sons, all created just as God instructed.

Moses Inspects the Tabernacle –  all the artifacts, and pieces of the Tabernacle are brought to Moses (quite a list, quite a collection), and Moses confirms that it has all been made just as God instructed, so he blesses all the work.

Setting up the Tabernacle – it’s all set up on the first day of the month, following God’s layout and instructions; then everything is anointed with the oil, to consecrate it (set it apart for its holy work); Aaron and his sons are brought to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, are washed, dressed and anointed, consecrated as priests – “their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue for all generations to come.” – all done just as God instructed.
Moses puts everything in place himself, blessing it as he does, no doubt.

The Glory of the Lord – the cloud covers the Tent of Meeting, God’s glory filled the Tabernacle, so much so that Moses could not enter it;
“In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out – until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels.”

The end of the book of Exodus sees the completion of the Tabernacle (Tent of Meeting), one year after the Israelites left Egypt, and nine months after arriving at Sinai (according to some); significantly the Holy Presence of God (the Glory) which initially covered Mt. Sinai moves to fill the tabernacle – ‘God’s glory moved from an unmoveable mountain to a moveable tent’.
“So every day, we’re on our way, for we’re a travelling, vagabond race – we’re the people of God.” 


The Transfiguration – yesterday’s NT reading finished with the promise that some of the disciples would not face death before seeing the Kingdom of God come in power – here, Peter, James and John experience the powerful presence of God, and the Kingdom on the mountain top – Jesus shines with God’s glory, dazzling white (‘whiter than Daz / Persil / even Vanish all put together’), and also Moses and Elijah meet Jesus and talk with Him.
The disciples get their mountain-top experience, and, as God appeared to Moses and Elijah on mountain-tops, Jesus appears in divine glory before their eyes.
Peter wishes to make this encounter last longer, and offers to put up tents for each of them – God’s powerful, holy presence can no longer be merely ‘tented / tabernacled’. Though awestruck and scared, Peter knows it’s ‘good for them to be there’.
God’s voice is heard, again. “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” (similar to the words spoken over Jesus at His baptism).
Jesus tells the disciples not to say a word about that holy encounter, until after His resurrection.
Elijah – just as the scribes believed that Elijah would appear before the Messiah, so Jesus hints that John the Baptist was the Elijah to His own Messiah-ship (it’s Matthew who makes this explicit – 17 v. 13)

Healing the Boy with an evil spirit – Jesus drives the evil spirit out of the boy (who has had this spirit inflict him from a young age), “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” With a shriek and a violent shaking of the boy, the evil spirit flees. Though the boy looks dead, Jesus lifts him up.
The disciples struggle with the feeling that they had been unable to drive out the spirit. They have heard Jesus say to the boy’s father, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” The refrain throughout Holy Scripture is that ‘nothing is impossible with God’. The response of the boy’s father could be ours, today, too :
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

The disciples are taught that ‘prayer’ is the only way to drive out such spirits. Pray, pray, pray.
This time they pass through Galilee, keeping moving, as Jesus wanted quality time with His disciples alone, teaching them over and over again what is to happen to Him (death and resurrection). The disciples are slow to understand and afraid to ask questions.

“Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;
 for Your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in Your truth.”
“I wash my hands in innocence, and go about Your altar, O Lord….
 I love the house where You live, O Lord, the place where Your glory dwells.”

Just as God instructed…

25 02 2011

DAY FIFTY-SIX : Exodus 37 v. 1 – 38 v. 31; Mark 8 v. 14 – 9 v. 1; Proverbs 6  v. 1 – 11

The Ark – this is Bezalel’s pride and joy, the gilded acacia wood ark with its atonement cover, just as God instructed.
The Table – the other skilled workers helped make the table out of gilded acacia wood, and all the plates, bowls etc (of pure gold) just as God instructed.
The Lampstand – the skilled workers made the pure gold lampstand, with its branches and flowers, buds and blossom design, all from ‘one talent of gold’, just as God instructed.
The Incense Altar – the skilled workmen made the gold covered acacia wood altar, and followed the recipes for the anointing oil and incense, just as God instructed. 

The Burnt Offering Altar – the skilled workmen made the bronze covered acacia wood altar, with its bronze grating, just as God instructed.
The Basin – the skilled workmen made the bronze basin and stand (out of the women’s mirrors – a little detail added…why?), just as God instructed.
The Courtyard – the skilled workmen made the courtyard silver covered posts, bronze bases, silver hooks and curtains (the entrance to the courtyard is on the east side, where the sun rises), and lots of bronze tent pegs, just as God instructed.
The Materials – there’s an inventory of the materials used to build the tabernacle (the inventory was created by Aaron’s son, Ithamar).
GOLD – 29 talents and 730 shekels (collected from the wave offering)
SILVER – 100 talents and 1,775 shekels (collected from the 1/2 shekel community tax per person – 603,550 men, who crossed the Red Sea)
BRONZE – 70 talents and 2,400 shekels (collected from the wave offering)

What an amazing offering, (one estimate is that if a talent is approx. 34kg, and a shekel is approx. 12g, then we’re talking 996kg of gold, 3,425kg of silver and 2,411kg of bronze) and an amazing piece of work – all just as God instructed. \

The Yeast of the Pharisees –
this is so beautifully cryptic of Jesus, almost teasing the disciples for their slowness to learn. He wants them to understand, by either working out for themselves, or some divine revelation, what the ‘twelve baskets’ or ‘seven baskets’ of leftovers represent, or what the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod means. Jesus is trying to teach them here that just as good yeast permeates a batch of dough, so bad yeast (bad teaching, bad attitude, bad character) permeates a person, even a community of people, but the disciples haven’t made that link, yet.
Great human touch that they’ve forgotten to bring the bread for the journey…..Jesus is dealing with raw material here, and it’s so encouraging to us, that the disciples don’t ‘get it’ all at once, they’re on a journey of discovery (and Jesus is their bread for the journey!).

At Bethsaida – Jesus heals a blind man, taking him to one side, away from the crowd, using His spit again, and placing His hands on the man. Jesus draws the man into the healing process by asking him what he sees ? The man is beginning to make out figures, like trees walking. Another touch from Jesus restores his sight completely. Jesus sends the man home by another route (not through the village).

Peter’s greatest day – en route to Caesarea Philippi (north of Galilee), the disciples talk with Jesus about what they’ve heard people say about Him – some liken Him to John the Baptist or Elijah (come back to life) or to one of the prophets. Peter gets to speak on behalf of them all, when he responds to Jesus’ question (which echoes down the ages to us), “Who do you say I am?”
“The Christ / the Messiah” comes the reply.

Peter’s worst day – Peter might have expected a pat on the back from Jesus, and certainly would not have expected Jesus, then, to teach that this Messiah-Christ will suffer and die at the hands of the religious powers, but rise again. When Peter takes Jesus to one side to ‘rebuke’ Him for such talk. Jesus recognises, again, this temptation which plagued Him in the wilderness and will follow Him constantly (‘it doesn’t have to be this way – you could have it all without enduring the suffering’), and hears the words of Satan himself in Peter’s tone.
How hard for Peter to hear Jesus’ words, “Get behind me, Satan” – and criticizes Peter for having a human, rather than a divine, perspective on it all. 
Yet, Jesus knows there’s a God-given plan for His life, and He will follow it through, just as God instructed….

Oh, the highs and lows of the spiritual journey. Peter had it all in one day! I think we all learn to pray for protection after a spiritual high – there’s an attack imminent, and a potential low!

As in Matthew’s gospel, we get the teaching about surrendering all of life (‘give up life for Jesus’) to gain real life, even eternal life, to take up the cross (symbol of execution, showing the laying down of the whole of one’s life, for the sake of following Jesus).

PROVERBS – a call to put things right, to act justly, to seek pardon.

Good job done !

24 02 2011

DAY FIFTY-FIVE : Exodus 35 v 1 – 36 v. 38; Mark 7 v. 31 – 8 v. 13; Psalm 25 v. 16 – 22

This stewardship image, containing John Wesley’s words, seemed appropriate given the OT readings relating the offerings all the Israelites brought for the making of the Tabernacle – the bringing of the first-fruits…giving the very best.

The remaining chapters of Exodus outline the building of the tabernacle….

EXODUS 35 – again, Moses reminds the Israelites about the importance of the Sabbath;
Materials for the Tabernacle – Moses repeats God’s instructions about everyone contributing to the offering for the Tabernacle (gold, silver, bronze, yarns and linens, spices, fragrances etc.); there’s a call for skilled people to offer their talents (a complete list of all the items needed to be made is given).
The Israelites left Moses, and “everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering  to the Lord for the work on the Tent of Meeting…” – everything is brought as a wave-offering; “all the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work…”

Bezalel and Oholiab – the Israelites are told that Bezalel has been filled with the Spirit for the work (skill, ability, knowledge in all kinds of crafts); both Bezalel and Oholiab have been given the ability to teach others;
Moses summons Bezalel and Oholiab and all the craftsmen/women and gives them all the offerings (more offerings were brought daily – until no more is needed and the word has to go out – ‘please do not bring more – we’ve got enough!!’)

The Tabernacle
– the workmen follow the instructions given for making the ten curtains and gold clasps, eleven curtains of goat hair for the tent over the tabernacle and bronze clasps, the ram-skins and sea-cow hides for coverings; the upright frames (acacia wood and silver bases), the crossbars (acacia wood overlaid with gold, and gold rings), the multicoloured curtain – everything just as they had been instructed.

Healing of a deaf and mute man – Jesus returns to the Galilee region, and is brought a deaf and mute man for healing; strange sight to be sure: Jesus sticking His fingers in the man’s ear and using His spit on the man’s tongue – but, hey, if it works !!
Even with our weakness and sickness, we may need to humble ourselves before the master, and let Him do things His way !
Jesus looks heavenward, and sighs deeply – Jesus acknowledges His close walk with the Father, and groans with compassion for the man.
Jesus says “Ephphatha” (‘Be opened’) – just as with Jairus’ daughter (5 v. 41), Jesus speaks in the needy person’s Aramaic language.

There are several “Ephphatha Ministry” organisations which focus on bringing the good news to those who are deaf and mute. This logo is from the Missouri Lutheran church’s ministry to the deaf community

Again, as much as Jesus asks them to be quiet about it, they can’t help but tell their story and spread the news. Is this reverse psychology at work ?

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand – in this further feeding of a multitude (with the number seven featuring prominently – seven loaves and seven basketfuls of left-overs), Jesus again involves the disciples (it appears to be as much a learning / discipling opportunity for them as anything), as they witness and participate in God’s miraculous provision for many people through the breaking of bread…..

This marks the end of Jesus’ ministry around Galilee – tomorrow’s readings have Him moving off further afield – and He leaves the Pharisees still wanting more ‘miraculous signs’ (there have been so many in the first eight chapters of Mark – Jesus is like a Superhero, ‘immediately’ going here, there and everywhere); the Pharisees will never believe, Jesus says as He goes.


“The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish.
 Guard my life and rescue me…for I take refuge in You.
 May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in You.”


Holy Moses !!

23 02 2011

DAY FIFTY-FOUR : Exodus 33 v. 7 – 34 v. 35; Mark 7 v. 1 – 30; Psalm 25 v. 8 – 15;

The Tent of Meeting – the tent is pitched some way outside the camp (this is a temporary tent/tabernacle, until the one they have full instructions for is completed in Ex. 40); Moses would go and meet with God there (and the pillar of cloud would represent God’s presence outside the Tent); all people would worship God outside their own tents.
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young assistant, Joshua, son of Nun, did not leave the tent.”
v. 7 says that whoever enquired of the Lord would go to the Tent of Meeting.

Moses and the Glory of the Lord – Moses pleads for God’s help, for God’s direction in his leadership; God’s promise (like Jesus’ to the disciples) is that He will be with Moses and will grant Him rest; Moses pleads for God’s presence, or there’s no point, then asks to see God’s glory (brave man!!); although Moses is not allowed to see God’s face, God promises to ‘pass by him’, so that Moses sees His back (God will cover Moses with His hand as He passes by); what an awesome promise!

EXODUS 34 – Moses prepares two stone tablets for a new copy of the Commandments; he goes up Mt. Sinai; God proclaims Himself, “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”, both ‘forgiving’ and ‘just’ (punishing sin); Moses pleads for his people, “although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and sin, and take us as Your inheritance”.
God makes a covenant with Moses, that He will do wonders, awesome works, as the Israelites show their obedience to Him. They will reach the promised land, but the Israelites must not make any compromising treaties; “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
God wants His people to remain pure, untainted by the peoples whose land they will inhabit.
In this encounter on the mountain top, Moses is reminded that the Israelites are :
– not to make idols
– to celebrate the feasts (Unleavened Bread, Weeks, Passover
– to tithe (offer the firstborn males of livestock, best of the firstfruits of the soil)
– to keep the Sabbath as a rest-day
This time, (over a period of 40 days and nights) Moses, himself, carves out the Ten Commandments, as a covenant sign between God and the Israelites.

The Radiant Face of Moses – Moses’ face is glowing, radiant, having been in God’s presence (and Moses didn’t know it); the Israelites fear Moses, but they all come to him and receive the commandments. Moses wears a veil which he only removes when he is in the Lord’s presence;

Moses, unawares initially, is reflecting the Holy Presence of God to the people; when we have been in God’s presence, our physical appearance can change, and we can glow with His Holy Presence.

Clean and unclean – the disciples are eating with unclean hands, and the Pharisees want to point this out to Jesus; Jesus points out their hypocrisy, caring more about external traditions than internal direction of the heart, “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”
The man-made traditions have become more important than the commandments, and he gives and example of them using a tradition of “Corban”, devoting money to God, as an excuse for not honouring / caring for mother and father;

“Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’….it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’.”

Jesus shows Himself to be much less interested in which foods are clean / unclean, but rather pointing out the unclean marks of a heart – evil thoughts, etc. which lead people to break the commandments.

(mmm…why did this image of ‘Dusty Bin’ come into my mind when reading the folly of judging things ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’ (fit for the bin!)?..what’s the real rubbish in our lives (internal, not external)?…why did the ‘quality show 3-2-1’ come into my mind when thinking of what’s pure and what’s rubbish? You decide !!)

The Syro-Phoenician Woman – again (we had this story in Matthew 15), Jesus is revealed to have a ministry amongst the gentiles (the Jews considered the gentiles to be ritually ‘unclean’, so this story is as much about Jesus proclaiming ‘clean’ those others judge to be ‘unclean’, just as He is seen to claim ‘all food’ is clean in the previous verses).
The woman receives her faith-filled desire, that her daughter be healed, and Jesus’ mission to ‘all’ is made clearer.

PSALM – God is upright, good, desires to teach His people, is loving, faithful, forgiving. It’s amazing that God shares His will, His thoughts, His commands with us…
“The Lord confides in those who fears Him;
 He makes His covenant known to them.
 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
 for only He will release my feet from the snare.”

Holy Cow !!

22 02 2011

DAY FIFTY-THREE : Exodus 31 v. 1 – 33 v. 6; Mark 6 v. 30 – 56; Psalm 25 v. 1 – 7;

Bezalel and Oholiab – Bezalel is filled with the Spirit-Breath of God, gifted in both the ability and knowledge of all kinds of crafts, and, along with Oholiab, they are commissioned to oversee (with the God-given skills of all the craftsmen) the making of all the artifacts and the Tent of Meeting / Ark of the Testimony etc..

We note throughout the Old Testament, how the Spirit of God is ‘given’ to specific people, at a specific time,  for a specific purpose (e.g. Bezalel in these verses). The first person described in Scripture as ‘filled with the Spirit of God’ is a craftsman, an artist, not a prophet, priest or king.

The Sabbathlike a refrain running throughout these chapters, God reminds Moses (and His people) of the holy purpose of the Sabbath, and how it is to be a permanent reminder of the Lord resting after six days of creation. Those who desecrate the Sabbath are to be punished by death ! Whoever works on the Sabbath is to be cut off from the people. The Israelites need telling over and over again about the importance of a Sabbath
(a rest / stop day – how often to you think we need reminding ?)

Moses is given the stone tablets, inscribed by God’s own finger.

The Golden Calf – 
 Aaron is being pressured to allow the Israelites to make ‘gods’, in Moses’ long absence – they say they don’t know what’s happened to their leader. Aaron oversees the melting of ear-rings, and the making of a golden calf – a representation of a god, which the Israelites worship for bringing them out of Egypt.
Aaron builds an altar and announces a festival day of sacrifices and revelry.
Moses is sent down from the mountain, God warning him that the people have become ‘corrupt’. A ‘stiff-necked people’ who have angered God. When God threatens to ‘destroy them’, Moses appeals to God to turn from His anger, to relent, reminding God of His faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and the promise-covenant to make them numerous nation in a promised land.
“Then the Lord relented and did not bring upon His people the disaster He had threatened.”

Moses descends the mountain with the stone tablets, double-sided, hand-written by God.
Joshua hears the revelry and mistakes it for the sounds of war – Moses corrects him – it’s singing / worship.
Moses is livid when he sees the golden calf – throws the stone tablets on the ground and they’re smashed to pieces.
He destroys the golden calf, grinds it to powder, puts it in water and makes the Israelites drink it !
Aaron, who had succumbed to the corrupt will of the people, pleads his innocence, but Moses observes that Aaron had let the people run wild, out of control, and a laughing stock.

Drastic action is required. Moses calls those who want to be ‘for the Lord’. This time, not everyone, but just the Levites, come to him. They are sent back into the camp to slaughter brother, friend, neighbour (about 3,000 people died). The Levites have been ‘set side’ amongst the people.

When Moses addresses the people, he points out their great sin and goes back up to God to make atonement. Moses asks for forgiveness, and is willing to be cut off from God’s blessing and plans. God will blot out those who have sinned, but re-commissions Moses to lead the people to the promised land, with an angel-messenger leading the way.
The people do suffer a plague as a result of their corrupt worship of the golden calf.

Moses and the Israelites are told to move on, and make for the promised land. This time, though, God won’t go with them (in quite the same way as He had before), because He calls them a ‘stiff-necked people’ and God might wipe them out en route ! God is clear that He wants them to know His anger and disappointment, desperately wanting them to learn to be obedient to to His will and purpose.
The Israelites get the message, they go into mourning for their actions and God’s judgement.

Feeding the five thousand – the apostles have returned, rejoicing in what God has done through them. Jesus wants them to rest now – the value of a secluded place and rest.

Jesus, again, has compassion upon the crowds of people following, and desires to ‘shepherd’ them well, spending time teaching them. When it gets late he tells the disciples to feed them. With what ??? They find five loaves and two fish, which, when blessed by God, are able to feed the thousands there.
“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish” (oh, another part of the twelve times-table?)

Jesus is teaching the disciples the full provision of God for everything needed – not unlike the Israelites learning dependance upon God’s provision – His manna in the desert.

Walking on water – Jesus sends the disciples across the lake (Jesus sometimes sent His disciples into danger to test them) while He goes up a mountain to pray. He rejoins them in the middle of the night, in the middle of the lake, walking on the choppy waters (He’s observed how the disciples are struggling with their oars). It looked as if He was walking past, ghost-like, and the disciples were terrified.
Jesus says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
(‘It is I’ could be translated “I AM is here” – a reminder of the way God revealed Himself to Moses (Ex. 3 v. 14)).

When Jesus is in the boat, the wind and waves die down – what peace we experience with Jesus on board in our lives, whatever the external conditions !

It must be the early hours of the morning when they land at Gennesaret, and many people are brought to Jesus for healing. All who touched Him were healed : one touch from the King changes everything.

“No-one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame…
Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths;
guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Saviour,
and my hope is in You all day long.”