Moses part 9

I’m back after a break I didn’t expect to take. But that’s what happens in the wilderness, isn’t it? Life consumes and sometimes an unwelcome pause occurs.

Moving into Leviticus 1-11 I have to point out a few things. I know these are chapters that are often skipped, but there is an interesting story here about Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons.

Read: Leviticus 1-11

Review: The beginning of these chapters outlines the tithing and offering process for the Israelites. Then in chapter 4:1-2 an interesting thing begins: The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands—

Even when sin occured unintentionally it is offensive to God. As this was before Jesus came to be the ultimate sacrifice, there was a process for this type of sin.

Leviticus 5:1-6 furthers the unintentional sin with specific scenarios.

“‘If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.

“‘If anyone becomes aware that they are guilty—if they unwittingly touch anything ceremonially unclean (whether the carcass of an unclean animal, wild or domestic, or of any unclean creature that moves along the ground) and they are unaware that they have become unclean, but then they come to realize their guilt; or if they touch human uncleanness (anything that would make them unclean) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt;or if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil (in any matter one might carelessly swear about) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt—when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned. As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering[a]; and the priest shall make atonement for them for their sin.

After the outlines for the guilt offering Aaron and his sons are ordained. Aaron, the creator of the golden calf is now put in charge of making sure everyone abides by God’s laws regarding attonement.

Make sure to read chapter 10, two of Aaron’s sons didn’t take their responsibility seriously and paid with their lives.

Record: What do you make of all the rules for attonement?

What does attonement mean?

Does it sit well with you that Aaron becomes the head priest?

Reflect: These chapters for me serve an important part of the wilderness story. The Israelites were given strict boundaries and a way to say clean before God. The reality is that it was never supposed to be possible for the Israelites to stay unblemished. They were supposed to realize the need for a savior. Unfortunately many lost their lives prior to understanding they couldn’t achieve perfection. It is part of what kept them in the wilderness so long, the lack of willingness to obey. The lack of surrender.

Still the redemption story is present in the appointing of Aaron as the head priest. God forgave those who repented and he kept his promises then just as he does today.

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On apologies in the wilderness​

Recently (in)courage had a post titled Understanding the Language of an Apology and it’s been one that’s stuck with me. Jennifer Schmidt explained that similar to love languages we all have a certain way we are able to best receive an apology, and we all have a certain way we extend apologies.

As I read through the five explanations I recalled a few arguments Ordell and I had had in recent years and could easily see the repetition of them was possibly linked to the inability to receive an apology.

Now, if you are thinking something along the lines of “If they can’t accept my apology that’s on them.” then you aren’t alone. I see both sides of this discussion and at the same time realize people are creatures of habit. Those who compromise first have the least stress. Another way to look at it is good old Dr. Phil’s question, do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right?

There was another thought that jumped into my head while processing this blog post. Is it possible that the wilderness of silence from God is brought on by this same issue of apology? 

Now, stick with me here. One thing that humans are consistently guilty of is humanizing God. We are wounded by situations that don’t go the way we expect and our response is to blame God. Further, we demand to know why our lives are not playing out the way we planned. When we are wounded we expect apologies, and for many, the form of apology we seek from God is a change in direction to get our own way. We disguise this demand in words such as “provision” and “blessing” but the expectation is the same. We will reconcile when things move our way.

Here’s the thing, though, God doesn’t need to apologize to us. He’s not human, he’s our creator and he doesn’t make mistakes! David acknowledge’s God’s perfection in Psalm 18

As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.

Wounds hurt, no doubt. I’m guilty of waiting for the apology to look a certain way in friendships, my marriage, and in my relationship with God. I’ve never thought of my wilderness including this aspect, but now I can’t deny it. My “why me” and “when” has been about life looking a certain way and an acknowledgement that “my way” is right. What am I really asking for in that moment? An apology, admitting of wrong and right. What does that boil down to? An apology. When my thoughts move this way the edge of the wilderness is drawing near yet again. My demands will go unmet because they are inaccurate. When I turn and become the one to apologize for forgetting who is perfect and who is not life will move forward, as it was always meant to.

 

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Because there is one who is stronger

For some summer is wrapping up with just a few weeks left, for our family summer has transitioned to football season. The kids and I will still enjoy some late summer excursions, but for the most part, summer has transitioned into fall.

Fall can be overwhelming for me. The transition to school hours, school activities and after school activities usually means many hours in the car and less time for rest. The calendar days of overfull weekends and very few white squares has arrived again and it will be a steady marathon pace of “on the go” until after the holidays.

The “yeses” of fall are starting to creep up again. There is a staggard start that will find itself in full swing by Labor Day. It’s a good thing when the events to begin are anticipated with joy and for the most part that is the case. The trick is to not consider all that is about to begin at once, for then it becomes too much.

I was in a state of too much this past weekend. We’ve been displaced from our home for several days due to a cracked pipe. Although we’ve been generously provided for life in limbo always feels harder, doesn’t it? With a growing list of things that need to happen but can’t happen yet the beginning of football season has felt, too soon.

As we worshipped in church this weekend I finally laid my burdens down. Stronger by Hillsong was the reminder I needed that God has already decided to carry me and my burdens do not have to overwhelm me. As thoughts materialised into prayers I realized I’d carried them without allowing them to take form, yet they had steered me into the wilderness. With each prayer asking God to step in, acknowledging him as stronger and thanking him, the wilderness distanced again. Peace has settled in my heart again and life no longer feels overwhelming.

Fall will not be the beginning of death in growth. God has reminded me he is in charge of death and life. He is stronger and his strength will carry me, just as it carried Joseph, Sarah, Esther and others.

There is love that came for us
Humbled to a sinner’s cross
You broke my shame and sinfulness
You rose again victorious

Faithfulness none can deny
Through the storm and through the fire
There is truth that sets me free
Jesus Christ who lives in me

You are stronger, You are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me
It is written, Christ is risen
Jesus You are Lord of all

No beginning and no end
You’re my hope and my defense
You came to seek and save the lost
You paid it all upon the cross

You are stronger, You are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me
It is written, Christ is risen
Jesus You are Lord of all

image: http://static.urx.io/units/web/urx-unit-loader.gif

There is none

So let Your name be lifted higher
Be lifted higher, be lifted higher
So let Your name be lifted higher
Be lifted higher, be lifted higher

So let Your name be lifted higher
Be lifted higher, be lifted higher
So let Your name be lifted higher
Be lifted higher, be lifted higher

You are stronger, You are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me
It is written, Christ is risen
Jesus You are Lord of all

You are stronger, You are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me
It is written, Christ is risen
Jesus You are Lord of all

 

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Wilderness and who will rule my heart

I’ve been quiet this month and until church today I didn’t have anything that felt coherent or organized enough to say.

Summer has been my hardest season for many years. The contrast of the growth and energy that surrounds me in the warm calendar months doesn’t help as the busyness that consumes me and the financial stresses that arise. Why is it that every summer car issues, kids growth spurts, and medical bills happen in the same week?!

As the stress of this summer has piled up not only personally, but around the world, I quickly identified I’d stepped back into the wilderness. I hesitate to explain personal stresses as I want to protect the privacy of others, but globally this past weekend there was a Black Lives Matter march on Friday in our town, then the events in Turkey unraveled followed closely by France. Sunday morning Baton Rouge awoke to discover police officers had been targeted for death and everything in me has cried out “ENOUGH!  God help us! God, please let this be the event that awakens a nation.”

  • When I look at the events surrounding me instead of up to God I step into the wilderness.
  • When I listen to the words of those who hide behind the safety of anonymous and whisper “you are not good enough for me” instead of listening to the words from my Heavenly Father who whispers “you are mine” I step into the wilderness.
  • When I allow fear to dominate my thoughts instead of scripture I step into the wilderness.

Job 1:20-22 records Job’s response upon hearing his flocks and fields had been destroyed and his children had been murdered. 20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Job had the chance to look at his circumstances or his God and he chose to worship. Further, Job did not blame God for all that had happened. As I acknowledge the edge of the wilderness moving further away from my sight, the desert before me. The thing that draws me back consistently is worship. David wrote worship songs to express his feelings and thoughts about God and it is a practice that continues today. Matt and Beth Redmann’s Blessed Be Your Name, Hillsong United songs Oceans, and Even When it Hurts have all defined milestones in my wilderness seasons.

The thing about wilderness songs is that they are never ending. Hard seasons draw our hearts to see comfort and peace, and that is found in God alone. John Mark McMillian’s King of My Heart   is another mile marker for me. This is the song that has brought the wilderness edge back to a place where stepping away seems possible.

Let the King of my heart be
The mountain when I run
The fountain I drink from; Oh
He is my song
Let the King of my heart be
The shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life; oh
He is my song

You are good, good, Oh
You are good, good Oh

  • When I acknowledge God as King of my heart instead of fear I step out of the wilderness.
  • When I remember God is my provider despite circumstances I step out of the wilderness.
  • When I remember God is good I step out of the wilderness
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Moses part 8

Read: Exodus 33-40

Reflect: Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

This passage in Exodus 33 is really interesting to me for several reasons.  First, Moses and God spoke face to face as one speaks to a friend.  God created us for relationship and Moses clearly had a great one with God.  Second, Joshua was a witness to all that was being said.  He was able to sit in the tent.  No wonder he had such a deep faith!  Third, Moses would go communicate to everyone else what God had said.  I’m so thankful that I can have a relationship with God like Moses did instead of having to wait for someone to communicate with God me!  Lastly, I think this is interesting because this is the second writing of the tablets and Moses and God have adjusted in order to engage the Israelites.  This process has now started where they can see it, and the ritual of worship at the presence of the cloud (God’s glory) engages them in the new laws to be written.  They receive things in bit size pieces.

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” 17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

Moses asked God to stay present with the people and God said “because I am pleased with you and know you by name I will what you ask”  Moses was known by name because he was a follower of God.  Still, even in the answer to this request from Moses God did things in a way that protected him.

Exodus 40:33-38 33 Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work. 34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. 38 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 Israelites during all their travels.

A few things stick out here.  The Israelites have completed the work commanded, but Moses was the one who finished things.  There was still separation.  When the cloud was in the tent there was no space for Moses.

Record: The second writing of the laws.  How do you view the setting up of the tent?  Was it grace?

Why did God have the Israelites go through all the building and specifications?

What do you think of Moses completing the work?

Review: This time in the wilderness was set aside for the Israelites to prepare for their new home.  They weren’t fully aware of what would happen when they moved forward, but preparations and rituals created in this time re-established the Lord for all he is.  His Glory was present and would draw closer. A temple worthy of the Glory of God resting was created.

In present days, the temple the Holy Spirit enters is our heart.  I think this symbolism is interesting when we consider that we need to prepare a place worthy of God’s presence to stay close.

The Lord was always with the Israelites, just as he is always with us.  But when we draw near to him, he draws near to us.  I think that we are offered a visual of all that can encompass here in Exodus.

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Moses part 7

Read: Exodus 23-32

Reflect: 

Exodus 24:1-8 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.”

When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws,they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.”Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.

He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord.Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.” Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

So Moses is about to head to the top of the mountain and he has a very specific word for Aaron and the 70 additional elders.  They respond with a promise of obedience and a blood covenant is made.  Exodus 24-31 gives very specific commands from God to the Israelites. Exodus 31 stood out to me: “Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,”    God was filling people with his specific wisdom from the beginning.  I wonder if they understood what was happening?

I’m skipping ahead to Chapter 32

“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b]Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” 11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.”

So, Moses was on the mountain for 40 days.  40 days was long enough for the Israelites to begin to worship another god.  The calf was created from their gold.  It was done in front of them and yet they decided it was worth their worship above the Lord, who had brought them out of Egypt, provided food and drink and safety and was continually present in the form of a cloud or fire.  Exodus 32 continued:

“9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”  11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. 15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.”

So God has seen what is happening and tells Moses he’s going to wipe them out and start over.  Moses reasons with God and his anger subsides.  Moses has been told what is happening but when he sees it for himself his anger rages and he crushes the calf, puts it in water for the Israelites to drink and then orders the Levite to murder those who stand against God, which turns out to be 3,000.

Aaron’s part kills me.  He expects Moses, who has just spent 40 days speaking directly with God, to believe gold thrown into a fire created a calf.  I can’t ignore the symbolism here either.  As the Israelites sit in the wilderness waiting for Moses they stray at the bottom of the mountain.

Record: When you read the specifics of all God was calling the Israelites to do what are your thoughts?

Why do you think Aaron is still so easily swayed by the Israelites at this time?

Why was it easier for the Israelites to worship a calf than to wait for Moses?

Review: When I read that a blood covenant was broken in less than 40 days it doesn’t surprise me that they had trouble trusting God would not break a covenant with them. This is a common occurrence isn’t it?  For some reason, we are more comfortable boxing God into human standards.  The ironic part is that we ask for outrageous things like financial provision or healing of our bodies and expect answers.

I can understand the Israelite’s nervousness with Moses being gone.  Their leader was not present and they weren’t sure when he would come back.  They had been given visual confirmation of God’s presence and the ability to hear from Moses at any time up until this point.  They were left in the care of elders who had also been in Egypt with them.  The reality was, they weren’t ready to step into a deeper faith.  They weren’t ready to trust a God sight unseen.

When I reflect on my life I can pinpoint multiple times when I asked God for evidence before faith.  I wanted to see provision, see my prayer answered, see my way work out and then I’d worship.  The wilderness is where God teaches us to step into deeper faith.  It’s the place where we either die with our own gods or move forward with the one true God.

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Moses part 6

Read: Exodus 17-22

Reflect: 

Exodus 18  Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.”

So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent.Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them.

I think this is an interesting passage in the middle of the Israelites fighting for the promised land.  Jethro cared about Moses and brought his family back to him.  We read a little later in verse 17 that Jethro quickly sees how exhausted Moses has become.  Jethro gives a suggestion to Moses and in verse 24 we read that Moses begins to spread out the responsibilities.  It seems this freed up Moses enough to head up to the mountaintop with God.

Exodus 19  tells of a new boundary that God is establishing. Moses helps to establish a new level of worship and reverence for God.  In Exodus 20 Moses is to receive the 10 commandments, but it’s important to read in chapter 19 first that the Israelites agreed to obey the boundaries that were to be established.

“5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.Although the whole earth is mine, you[a] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.”So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.

The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.”

Record: Read Exodus 20-22, what stands out to you.  Reflect on how far we have strayed as a country.

Do you think any of the commandments are unnecessary?

What do  you think of the Israelite’s commitment?

Review: I think we all face times in our lives when God’s boundaries seem impossible to abide by.  In this situation, the Israelite’s were given the chance to say no ahead of time.  God’s promise was lavish, just as grace is for us.  Still, it is never as easy as we expect it will be!

Our move to the mountains was a bold act of obedience.  It made no sense, and yet it was clear God was calling us out into the wilderness.  Plan and prepare as we tried life looks very little like we imagined it would. As we consider all that we anticipated our lives would look like, I can’t help but wonder if the Israelites made inaccurate assumptions as well.

Our disappointments came in assumptions made and not fulfilled.  God laid out a simple boundary for the Israelites and they agreed to it.  It wouldn’t take long for them to change their minds.

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