The Opportunity that Awaits Us

As Israel journeys through the wilderness there are multiple occasions we see them play the pessimist. First they’re going to die hemmed in by the sea. Then they wish for death back in Egypt for lack of food. Then they accuse Moses of trying to kill them when they were thirsty. Unfortunately complaining was a pattern for them.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 24
Key Verse: “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28


But in today’s passage there is nothing but optimism. In fact, it’s a bit of a party. It’s covenant confirmation day. The day Israel entered into relationship with the LORD. In many ways we could think of it like a marriage ceremony. Since Egypt God had been wooing them. Showing them His might and sovereignty and power through the plagues and then the crossing of the Red Sea. Then revealing His ability to provide through the manna and the giving of water.

Upon reaching Mt. Sanai, God spoke to Israel himself laying out the Ten Commandments. But Israel was terrified so instead they suggest, “Hey Moses, from now on why don’t you just talk to God on our behalf.” Which God was fine with because it’s only by way of a mediator (Jesus Christ), personified in the work and person of Moses, that any of us can have a relationship with God in the first place.

So up the mountain Moses goes to receive the rest of the judgments – the remaining stipulations that would make up the book of the covenant. Once the LORD finished giving these to Moses verse 3 says, “Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules.” (The things we’ve been discussing the past few weeks.)

And the people together said, “We’ll do it!” They saw nothing wrong with the LORD’s stipulations. It sounded well and good to them. In other words, God made the proposal and Israel said yes! So Moses moves to the next step of ratification and writes it all down (v. 4). (Just like we would today if we were entering into a contract.)

Then Moses “rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.” And he had certain young men offer burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar. (The altar represented God, while the pillars represented the people.)

Upon the last of the offerings Moses took half the blood that was spilt and threw it on the altar. (Blood on the altar, are we surprised?) Then he read the Book of the Covenant out loud to the people (think of this as the official marriage ceremony) and Israel responded, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (v. 7). (There’s that optimism again.) In other words, Israel said, “I do.”

With a verbal agreement in place Moses took the blood and threw it on the people or perhaps he threw it on the pillars representing the people. Scholars go both ways on that. Hebrews 9 tells us Moses mixed the blood “with water and scarlet wool and hyssop” and also sprinkled the book of the covenant with blood, indicating the covenant was now a matter of life or death.

And for a few brief moments God and Israel were in fellowship together. With the covenant yet to be broken, Moses and Aaron and Aaron’s sons and seventy elders “went up and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness” (v. 9-10).

I know it’s hard to believe, but that’s what it says. They saw the God of Israel.

Verse 11 goes on to say, “they beheld God, and ate and drank.” The word beheld in the Hebrew indicates really seeing and taking it in. It wasn’t just a quick glance. They didn’t have to look away. They weren’t distraught on their faces. They weren’t terrified. They looked and beheld and ate and drank in the presence of God.

Can you imagine? Unbroken fellowship with God. Yet that is exactly what God wants for all of us. It’s not by accident the elders ate and drank with God after entering into covenant with Him. It portrays our ability to fellowship with God and be in His presence through the new covenant in Jesus Christ.

Because it’s still by way of covenant we enter into relationship with God. A covenant today based on grace instead of works. A covenant ratified with Christ’s blood, instead of a burnt offering. Sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, instead of our own weak words.

Jesus said to the disciples at the last supper, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Invited into relationship, covered with Christ’s righteousness, it’s the pure in heart who get to see God (Matt. 5:8). Though it’s not face to face until we step into eternity, there is a beautiful fellowship available even now for the believer. Through the abiding of us in Him and He in us, we can see and know and have fellowship with this brilliant God Israel beheld.

The opportunity is there.

The problem is we more often than not forsake the feast for famine, by keeping company with idols, instead of keeping company with Christ. And then we wonder why we still feel empty. Which is like laying on the floor complaining about how hungry we are when the table is full of food.

Seek me and find me, says God (Jer. 29:13). “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). (What a promise, huh?) My friend, fellowship with God is not an unlikely fantasy. It’s not a fairy-tale. It’s the reality of the one who seeks for it knowing there is no great accomplishment than to sit or run or cry or laugh or work in the light of the holy God.

It didn’t take long for Israel to break covenant with God. Yet God was busy weaving another way. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).

In covenant relationship with Christ, the opportunity is there to eat and drink and behold this great God both now and for eternity. It’s what God intends for each of us. To know him and be with him. To see him through creation. To behold Christ through his word, his Spirit, and his people.

But are we too busy? Distracted? Stubborn? Are we lying on the floor complaining about how hungry we are when the table is filled to overflowing with food? Or perhaps we’re merely eating the crumbs off the floor when there’s a chair, with our name on it, right next to Jesus.

It’s a grace filled God who not only paves the way for fellowship but grants us the means to behold him not just once or twice, but all-day long. Oh that we might bask in the opportunity! For His perfect, powerful, and peace filled presence wasn’t just for Israel, it’s for us too.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What differences do you see between the covenant ratified with Israel at Mt. Sanai and the New Covenant given in Christ?
What blessings do we gain because of the New Covenant?
Are you part of the New Covenant? If so, do you take advantage of the fellowship with God offered to you?

Promises For Israel; But What About Us?

The other day I found myself trying to explain to my daughter what a role of film is. “Well it’s this thing we use to put in our cameras. It was all coiled up. And it stored the pictures.” She was amazed and shocked and slightly horrified she might be getting one for her birthday.

Don’t worry dear girl.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 23:20-33
Key Verse: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7:9


But in all seriousness, do you remember how exciting it was to develop a role of film? I would beg to go to the store. But now, we just snap and look and trash and try again, until we get the perfect one. On our phones for cryin’ out loud. Then we upload and share and pretend people actually care that my child just built a Lego tower taller than he is. No more waiting! No more developing 192 photos so you can throw 190 of them in the trash and keep two.

Times sure have changed huh? We could name a million ways life is different today than it used to be. Especially if we go back to Bible times. Yet we could also name a million ways nothing has changed! As Solomon said by way of the Spirit, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).

Indeed. We still live and die and laugh and love and struggle and celebrate and make memories and rock babies and worry and dread the thought of goodbye. While much of life has changed, much remains the same. Including – the God we serve.

He’s still the same you know (Heb. 13:8). Unchanging in all his ways (James 1:17). Which is what we have to keep in mind when looking at a passage like Exodus 23:20-33. It’s the closing segment of the book of the Covenant. It reiterates to Israel God’s promise of land and a permanent home. It’s the explanation point at the end of a long list of “do this” and “don’t do that’s” because it holds the promise of what God will do if Israel chooses obedience.

Obedience that included not just following the law, but the Lord. “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him” (Ex. 23:20-21).

This was no ordinary angel they were to obey. This angel could pardon sin or not pardon sin. An angel who held the very character of God within him. There is only one who holds the radiance of God’s glory within and it is none other than Jesus Christ. Who we know was with Israel from passages like 1 Corinthians 10:4, “And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

But Christ didn’t just follow them, he lead them (Ex. 23:23). And if Israel obeyed his voice, then Christ would go before them defeating every one of their enemies. Sending terror on the people of Canaan, confusing them, driving out the Hivites and Canaanites and Hittites, blotting them from existence (Ex. 23:27-29).

Though God would do it little by little, not in one year, “lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you” (Ex. 23:29). Oh how I often want God to just hurry up and fix things! Then when He doesn’t I convince myself He doesn’t care. But here, with Israel, his slowness was an act of love and protection over them. A practical but purposeful delay. A means to draw them close. It’s a lie of the devil to think God doesn’t care. A lie I believe more than I should.

But the bottom line is, no matter how long it took to possess the land, Israel need not fear, for Christ was with them. A truth that has yet to change. Though for Israel – it was conditional on obedience.

If they obeyed, God would not only give them the land but bless their bread and their water.  Keep them healthy and strong, no sickness would befall them. None would miscarry or be barren. (Not even the animals – Deut. 7:14). There borders would be set and unmovable. Life would be established and full and multiplied and abundant. (My lands, they had every reason to obey!)

But you know what, so do we, though the promises we cling to are different, in the end the outcome will be the same.

We cannot say today that anyone who miscarries or struggles with infertility must be living apart from God. No, no, let’s not go there. Nor can we assume the same for anyone who has cancer. I’ve been to the funerals of some very godly men in the past several years. And I assure you, God was with them to the very end. Honored in both their life and their death.

No, these specific conditional promises were for Israel alone. But their spiritual parallels are for us. And just like Israel, it’s through obedience we’ll get to experience them.

1. You better believe God is still in the business of defeating enemies. But the enemy is no longer next door. Need I remind you, those are our neighbors, whom we’re to love. The real enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. But not to worry – “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20).

2. And God is still in the business of blessing. Just look around. He’s still providing. In His way; In His timing. But it’s no longer material blessing and health and wellness that showcases God’s glory to the world, as it was in Israel’s day. Today, it’s God’s ability to bring us through even the toughest of circumstances that makes the world stop and wonder. For “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), no matter the valley, no matter the mountain.

But one day, in the not so distant future we’ll know and experience the promises given to Israel as well. In eternity. In the presence of Christ. With borders forever secure. Free of sickness, free of heartbreak, abundance will have no bounds.

Times may have changed my friend, but our God never has. The victory and hope is still ours.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
How are the promises given to Israel different than the promises we have? How are they the same?
What promises are you currently clinging to? How does the idea that God gave Israel victory in Canaan little by little, encourage you today?

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God’s Design for Society. Maybe It’s Time We Look.

“Be responsible.” How many times have you wanted to scream it at the TV? Or a professional athlete? Or a politician? Or your children? (Hmm, seems I don’t have enough fingers and toes.) For some reason being responsible is not something that runs parallel with our natural desires. Instead, it’s just easier to shrink back and blame someone else.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 21:12 – 22:15
Key Verse: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10


Especially if the elicited result was merely an accident. Right? I mean who wants to take responsibility when you didn’t mean to do it? No one, that’s who. For example, the following is a common conversation I have all the time with my beautiful little blessings:

“Mom, he hit me!” says child A.
“But I didn’t mean to!” says child B.
“Well even if you didn’t mean to, you need to apologize and take responsibility for your actions,” says the exasperated mother.
“But I DIDN’T mean to!!” says child B louder this time.
“It doesn’t matter whether you meant to or not. Tell your brother you’re sorry for hitting him,” says the exasperated mother A LITTLE LOUDER THIS TIME.

Can I get an amen? I know I’m not the only one repeatedly having this conversation. In fact, I’m just sure you’re nodding your head in agreement right now.

Taking responsibility for our actions is not something we like to do, nor want to do, nor take any pleasure in doing, but it’s Biblical. (Surprise, surprise.)  Exodus 21 and 22, our text today, leaves no room for doubt on the matter. In both passages God expounds on the law by giving a list of rules or examples that were to help Israel’s leaders judge cases, usually at the city gate. So beginning with instances of personal injury done to others, like, well, murder the LORD covers an array of incidents on down to the accidental injury of a neighbor’s animal.

These rulings were part of the Book of the Covenant Israel agreed to live by in Exodus 24. It helped them function as a nation. Remember they had been under the not so wonderful example of Egyptian jurisdiction for almost half a century. So it was important God set some new parameters if they were to be His treasured possession and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6).

In every case or ruling the punishment was to fit the crime. There were no million-dollar lawsuits for a cup of spilled coffee. The principle used was Lex Talionis. Described in Exodus 21:23 like this, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

However, the only instance we see this play out literally is with murder. If someone purposefully took the life of another, he was to pay with his own life. Yes, the Bible supports Capital punishment my friend. God values the sanctity of life too much not to. Only in the case of an accidental death was the offender’s life to be spared.

Otherwise Lex Talionis was not to be taken literally, especially in matters of personal dispute. If someone cut your ear off, it wasn’t a free pass to turn around and cut off theirs. That’s not what God had in mind as Christ makes clear in Matthew 5. Lex Talionis was to be the principle guide used by Israel’s judicial system (consisting mostly of elders at the city gate). It insured punishment for the offender, all the while protecting them from being unjustly punished.

The idea is appropriate restitution. If you wrong a brother (or sister for that matter), then make it right. If it’s an injury, pay for their time off work and the medical care needed to get better (Ex. 21:19). If you harm your slave – let them go free (v. 26). If you dig a pit and your neighbors donkey falls into it, pay for your neighbor to get a new donkey (v. 34). If your animals graze in your neighbor’s field, make restitution by giving them the best of your own field (22:5).

In other words, BE RESPONSIBLE.

If you make a mess, clean it up! If you borrow a friend’s shovel and it breaks don’t just give them back a broken shovel; buy them a new one, even if it was an accident. If you push someone down, help them up, even if you didn’t mean to send them to the floor.

Be a neighbor. This was God’s hope for his people. And it told the Israelites they served a fair God. A fact I’ve contested with God from time to time when I didn’t get my way, but the revealing of his law clearly paints the portrait of a fair God.

However, enforcing these standards is not the job of the offended, but the official or the judge or the jury sitting inside a sweltering hot courtroom. (I don’t know why, it just seems like it should be sweltering hot in there.) But my personal responsibility is forgiveness and love and peace and kindness that I might be an instrument of righteousness God uses to bring the lost to saving faith. (The heart of what Christ was getting at in Matthew 5.)

So there is responsibility on all sides my friend. No one gets off scotch free. My neighbor might owe me a new shovel, but I owe my neighbor the hand of forgiveness and the decency to not tell everyone in town he broke my shovel.

But the problem is we’ve set aside the example God’s laid out for us in Exodus 21 and 22. One of respect and decency towards one another. One of restitution. One of responsibility. One in which the punishment fits the crime. Our legal system has gone both ways. Handing out victorious lawsuits for vain charges. And/or not handing out insufficient correction for convicted criminals.

Now I may not be able to do anything about the government that oversees me, but I can certainly do something about the God who oversees me. I can honor Him by recognizing his sovereign design for society and model it. I can take responsibility for my actions and teach my children to do the same. I can say I’m sorry even when it was merely an accident. I can buy new shovels when necessary and keep my mouth shut and reign in my heart when required.

I can know God’s word and I can live it myself. Because God’s ways are not old fashion, but expertly crafted for a people He knew would have ample opportunities to say, “I’m sorry,” and make restitution for the error of their ways.

Bottom line – I can be responsible for my heart and mind and actions and reactions. Because living accountable for our actions is not just a fleeting hope we have for our government officials or the professional athlete our kids look up to so much. But it’s the hope of God for all of us.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What do you need to take responsibility for today? And where do you need to extend the hand of forgiveness?
In what ways is God’s design for society upheld today and in what ways is it not?

It's the hope of God

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