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?

The Kind of People We Really Are vs. The Kind of God We Serve (It’s a love story you need to know.)

I’ve said some interesting things in parenting. Things I never thought I would need to say. Things like:

“Stop licking your brother’s feet. There will be no licking of feet in this house.”

“Do not eat your boogers. All boogers no matter how big or small need to go in a tissue and placed in the trash can.”

“We do not spit in people’s faces.”

“I’m sorry, but you have to wear clothes.” (I mean, honestly.)

But apparently my children are not above any of these things and well, needed to hear them.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 22:16 – 23:19
Key Verse: “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”  Leviticus 20:26


And as I studied the second half of God’s civil laws, I realized God – as the perfect parent, knew we too – as sinful beings – are above nothing. So He went ahead and said the things you’d think would have gone without saying. Things apparently, we needed to hear.

Things like: (And these are all my paraphrase.)

“If you have sex with a virgin, she is now your wife. You need to pay the bride price.” (22:16)

“Have nothing to do with sorcery.” (22:18)

“You can not have sex with animals.” (22:19) (You’d think this was a given.)

“Be nice to foreigners.” (22:21)

“Do not take advantage of widows or fatherless children.” (22:22) (It’s sad God had to tell us this.)

“Do not say disrespectful things about me or any ruler for that matter.” (22:28) (Oh boy.)

“Don’t say lies about people.” (23:1)

Mmhmm, and that’s just a small sampling. There’s more. Go read it if you haven’t yet. Just click here. And God was serious. Many of these laws if broken, were punishable by death.

He then goes on to say, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him” (Ex. 23:4-5). In other words, “Be nice, not hateful.”

Did He really have to tell us that? Yes, yes He did. It’s not in us to naturally do what’s right. I know, disappointing, but it’s true. Even on our best days, we’re still quite the deplorable bunch. (See Romans 3:9-18 for further clarification on the matter.)

But these laws or judgments or regulations or commandments (whatever you want to call them) go beyond just being nice. They go beyond trying to stay on God’s good side. Beyond trying to follow a few rules. (Beyond trying to keep your blue bulldog name tag out of the doghouse – as was my lofty goal every day of my kindergarten career.)

They go beyond the external to the internal. God’s judgments providing the perfect boundaries to embark each of us on a path of holiness.

The problem is, we can’t do it. No matter how hard we try none of us follow the law perfectly. And according to James 2:10 even if we break just one law, we’re guilty of breaking all of it. (Why do I feel like my blue bulldog just got pinned to the doghouse?)

Our only hope is redemption through Jesus Christ. By grace through faith when we come to Him for salvation, believing in his death, burial, and resurrection, Christ in essence signs his name next to ours. It’s “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom. 3:22).

And it’s beautiful. A sacrifice so unconditional we never would have done it. Nope we can’t even pretend for a minute that we would have. Not us, a people who have to be told over and over again to be nice and not hateful.

But our inadequacies don’t mean we’re off the hook. (Get ready for the clencher.) The moment holiness is granted, holiness is expected. To be set apart in God means to be set apart for God. In Leviticus 20:26 God says it this way, “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

Holiness was expected because holiness had been given. In today’s passage God says it this way, “You shall be consecrated to me.” In other words, because I saved you – you have a responsibility to me. Which reminded me of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…You are not your own for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Hallelujah redemption wasn’t just for Israel! But that means neither is holiness. Ephesians 1:4 says of believers, “Even as he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Parenthesis mine.)

We, the deplorable bunch that we are, set apart before the world even began to live and love God. It’s amazing! But how are we doing at it? (I know, I don’t like that question either.) Redemption comes with responsibility. Grace might be free, but that doesn’t mean we have the freedom to live however we want. It means we have the freedom to live a holy life! An expectation not possible apart from Jesus Christ.

You see, to establish holiness in Jesus Christ, is to emanate holiness through of a changed life. The power of the Holy Spirit at work in every one of God’s beloved. Not that we do it perfectly. No, no, step inside my house and you’ll see how flawed I am.

And that’s what gets me. We’re a messed-up humanity. The kind of people who have to be told not to have sex with animals or sleep around or take advantage of widows or join hands with a wicked man or pervert justice. I mean, how awful can we get? Yet, Jesus Christ died for us anyway.

We don’t deserve to worship Him. We don’t deserve to be part of His kingdom. We are unworthy of any sort of invitation. Yet God says, come to the throne. Come and worship me. I have redeemed you. I have set you apart. You are mine. I will put my Spirit within you. I will help you. I will be with you.

Oh it’s lovely, this God we serve, this love story we live. It’s worth living. It’s worth trying. It’s worth every effort I can give. But it’s a love experienced one way and one way only – through faith in Jesus Christ. Who set aside the holiness of heaven, to come and save a deplorable people, like us.

Something I think we should think about.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
As a whole, does the world tend to view humanity as good or bad? What does the Bible say about humanity?
In what ways does the offer of redemption prove God’s love for us? Have you received it? If so, in what situation can you today live out the holiness you’ve been granted by faith in Jesus Christ?

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