His Tabernacle

Numbers 7 cain

During the building of the tabernacle, the tools and utensils were not holy. Everything was normal cloth or gold material until they were consecrated. Once Moses anointed and consecrated the tabernacle and the things that went in it, they were no longer normal objects.  Instead, they were objects of God. If God can turn a simple lamp stand into a holy object, then what can He do with us? We can be made holy and set apart by God to serve a great purpose. As we have said many times, through the book of Numbers God seeks holiness for Himself and His people. This desire didn’t disappear when Jesus came into the world. God desires for us to be holy. Although we sin, God can redeem us just like He did with the tabernacle in Numbers 7.

There is a moment after the tabernacle is consecrated that the people of Israel begin to bring sacrifices and gifts.  Among the gifts are six carts and 12 oxen that are going to be given to the Levites. Carts and oxen make moving things easier.  This would be a pretty handy gift during the time of the wilderness as they move everything they have across the desert by hand! In verse 9, we see the sons of Kohath weren’t given any of the oxen and carts – what kind of rotten deal is that? Why didn’t any of the carts go to the sons of Kohath? The sons of Kohath were in charge of carrying the holy objects on their shoulders. Each heavy object in the tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant, was built with places for poles to slide into so that they could be carried by pole on the shoulders of the sons of Kohath. You may remember the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6 when the Ark was going to be moved back into the city of Jerusalem after being gone for a long time. Notice in 2 Samuel 6:3 they placed the Ark, “on a new cart”. This was a big no-no. The Ark was not supposed to be put on a cart, but instead carried on poles like we see in the law. Then what happens? The Ark begins to fall off the cart on the way into the city and Uzzah, who was just trying to help by catching the Ark, died right as he touched it. God’s holiness can’t be infringed upon. Albeit easier, you don’t put the Ark on a cart. This is why no carts where given to the sons of Kohath. They didn’t need carts to assist in the moving of the holy objects of the tabernacle. Isn’t it interesting how the Bible connects in such unique places? Who knew that around 400 years after God gave the command to not move the holy objects on carts that Uzzah would learn the severity of breaking the command.

The rest of chapter 7 sound maybe like Pete and Repeat wrote it. These aren’t particularly exciting verses and the gifts of each tribe are the same. Between verse 10 and 83, the tribes, their gifts and their offerings are listed. After 12 days of offerings the total was: 12 silver dishes, 12 silver bowls (a total of 2,400 shekels of silver), 12 gold pans (a total of 120 shekels of gold), 12 bulls, 12 rams, 12 male lambs 1year old, 12 grain offerings, 12 male goats, 24 bulls for peace offerings, 60 rams, & 60 male goats for peace offerings (a total of 192 animals). The Israelites would have given a total of around $16,000 in silver and around $71,500 in gold. What a great out pouring from the sons of Israel to God in celebration and honor of the new tabernacle.

After the anointing of the tabernacle and 12 days of offerings, one of the coolest things I can imagine happened to Moses in verse 89. God spoke to Moses from above the Ark of the Covenant. Finally, after all the effort that has gone into getting the Israelites out of Egypt, God now has a place to dwell with His people. The time has come when God speaks to Moses from among His people. No longer does Moses have to travel to the top of a mountain to speak to God. God has moved even closer to His people today. We don’t have to travel to a temple in Jerusalem to be with God because, as we see in the New Testament, we are God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). God can now dwell among us in a more personal way; He has moved into the hearts of His people. We have been anointed and sanctified by the blood of Jesus to become the new temple that God dwells in. We see an ever moving forward march by God to be closer to His people. It started with the tabernacle, then into the hearts of men in the time of the New Testament and now. In the future, we have the hope of God dwelling with us in person in the kingdom! He is with us now in the power of the Spirit that moves among us but, at the time of the restoration of all things, God is going to be with us like it was in the garden of Eden. Revelation 21 says that God is going to dwell among men. There is no part of the Bible without significance. All of it is connected because all of it is the word of God. God’s desires don’t change and He desires to be with us. The creator of the universe, the creator of the estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars wants to be with you. To me, the realization of this fact is humbling and inspiring.  Thank you, God!

Josiah Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+7&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Numbers 8-10 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making a Different People : Blessings and Curses

Leviticus 26-27

Leviticus 26 12 NIV
Chapters 26 and 27 of Leviticus makes it seem like the book ends twice. While the valuations of 27 help us understand tithes and how giving to the Lord means more than money, indeed EVERYTHING we have, it seems like 26 was the “original” ending. The author, editors, and priests who God inspired to write and work in this text ended, first, with a powerful section on blessing and curses.(See note below)
The narrative of the Exodus, that is, God crushing the Egyptians and their gods, leading his people out to worship him, and then bringing them into the promised land, is the climax of the Torah, and arguably the CENTRAL NARRATIVE of the Old Testament. That is why God has repeated something over and over and over again. I hope you caught it, as I noted that when something is repeated, God wants you to pay attention. Here it is in 26:13 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” Think about how many times you have heard something like this in the commands of Leviticus. God keeps grounding his commands in the beautiful reality that he has brought this people, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, out of the land of Egypt. He has redeemed them from slavery. Because he has done that, he wants them to walk in a way that is different and better than the nations around them. If they don’t walk that way but turn away, then he will allow the trouble of this world to overtake them, in order that they might cry out to him. However, if they do obey, then he will give them unending blessings and he promises, “I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” (26:12)
I hope you see the parallel to our lives as we follow Christ. The CENTRAL NARRATIVE of creation is the Exodus led by Jesus, who broke us all out of the bondage and slavery to sin and has set us free. As Jesus brings us into the Canaan of the Kingdom of God, not just the future Kingdom on the Earth, but the present rule and reign of God, he looks to us and says, “there is a better way to live.” He gives us a holy way of life, grounded in his love and his sacrifice. But, better than before, we are able to become changed from the inside out because of the power of God flowing through us. No longer must we simply keep outward laws and regulations, but our hearts can become pure. God can change our desires and our destiny.  We are able to become children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and heirs according to the promise of God. If we follow the way of God, through the power of the Spirit of God, all the while redeemed through the Son of God, then one day we will see God. The metaphor of Leviticus, God saying “I will also walk among you” will become reality. We will be in the full, unmitigated glorious presence of God, in the Land of Promise, His Kingdom.
May you, my brothers and sisters, become a different people.
May the principles and practices of Leviticus shape you into a holy people.
May the mercy and justice of God be made evident to you in all of scripture, and especially in Leviticus.
May the blood of Jesus, a perfect lamb, without spot or blemish, cover you, redeem you, cleanse you of all sins.
May God, my brothers and sisters, bless you!
Jake Ballard
————————————
Note : To be fair, this is a hunch, not a statement of fact or even a solid belief. If you disagree and believe that Moses, or whoever authored this book, wrote it this way on purpose as directed by God, then that is certainly an acceptable view. I just want to point out the fun, interesting quirks of books. This is similar to how John 20:30-31 is a good ending to the book, as well as John 21:24-25. Just some fun food for thought, but not the focus of the devotion. Keep reading above.
————————————
(Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church in South Bend, IN. He lives in the Michiana Area with his wife, daughter, and in the summer, two more little ones. If you’d like to say hi you can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336  You can also hear more teachings at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs_awyI1LyPZ4QEZVN7HqKQ  If you want to have an interesting conversation with him, just say “I don’t like the ninth guy in a blue police box.” God bless!)
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+26-27&version=NIV
We made it through the book of Leviticus and learned about God on the way.
Keep reading!  Tomorrow we begin the book of Numbers (chapters 1 & 2) as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making A Different People : Atonement, Sacrifice, Sexual Relations

Leviticus 16-18

Leviticus 18 3 4 NIV
As we move through Leviticus, it’s important to remember two things.
— First, for the Israelites, God was and is creating a different kind of people; a people who stand out in the world. They were to look different than the nations around them. We will see this more clearly today.
— Second, for us, God is showing us what he likes and wants from his people in principle and practice. We need to see what God likes and wants, and what commands are required from the principles found in the text. Christ covers the commands, and yet reinstates certain patterns of holy behavior.
Having these ideas in mind with help make sense of Leviticus 16, 17 and 18.
Starting at the end, the laws of Leviticus 18 are all about sexual relations. In our Victorian and yet hyper-sexualized society, each of these commands are important. No one command had precedent in the ancient Jewish community. For example, Leviticus 18:22 was just as bad in the eyes of God as Leviticus 18:23. It wasn’t that 22 was LESS serious or MORE serious, all of these actions would bring defilement on those who practiced them.
But it’s neither of these passages that we are focusing on today. Read Leviticus 18:1-5, or go back and read it again. God, when giving these commands to Israel, is trying to make a people that are different than the Egyptians and the Canaanites. He want a people who will walk in his commands and his statutes. God has unending, infinite wisdom; therefore, God’s ways of living are better than mere human ways. Therefore, when he is saying “Live my way, not the Egyptian way or the Canaanite way”, he is saying “Live the best way possible.”
God doesn’t want you to settle for a second class life. All the sexual gratification in the world doesn’t hold a candle to the joy of living life in accord with God’s commands. All these ancient prohibitions for sex are teaching us that we need to be careful to not allow sex to control our lives. Our sexual orientation, our gender identity, our gender expression, are all to be in accord with God’s commands throughout scripture and must be submitted to God. God wants you to be righteous in your sexual life because it is better for you and everyone around you.
The way you can become holy has also changed from the time of Leviticus 16. God’s best life for us is no longer in animal sacrifices, but in allowing Christ to be our atonement. The blood of Christ cleanses us from sin. Christ brings us before the mercy seat in his sacrifice, and he also goes out from the community as the scapegoat, carrying our sin far away.
Today can become your day of atonement. If you trust in the sacrifice of Jesus and call him your savior and lord then you can read Leviticus 16:30 in a powerful new way : “for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” This day can be today, and Christ can make you clean from all your sins.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+16-18&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Leviticus 19-21 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making a Different People: Healing and Uncleanness

Leviticus 14-15

Leviticus 14 2 NIV
Leviticus 14 and 15 have many rules about how to stay ritually clean and become clean, even after something that would make a person ritually unclean, like leprosy or bodily discharges. While this is, again, good but weird, we get the REASON for all these rules in Leviticus 15:31.  “Thus you shall keep the sons of Israel separated from their uncleanness, so that they will not die in their uncleanness by their defiling My tabernacle that is among them.”(NASB) Another paraphrase, the Easy-to-Read Version, puts it this way: “So you must warn the Israelites about being unclean. If you don’t warn the people, they might make my Holy Tent unclean. And then they would have to die!” God didn’t want disease, discharge, sickness, and other things that could be damaging to the community to come into the tabernacle or the temple, where everyone would gather. The community was being protected by God by keeping these rules. If someone ignored these rules and put the community in jeopardy, they would have to die.
But there was also MERCY in these rules. Though the leper may be called unclean, there was a process where they could be made clean again. Though these bodily discharges COULD be bad, there was a process for being made clean again. A person was not neglected by the community forever; there was always a way back in.
Today, that way back into the community of God, to become clean before him, is Jesus. And Jesus is better than the rules of the law. Here, the sickness had to end, the disease had to stop; only then could one be made clean and come before God in honor and with sacrifices. However, Jesus himself takes away the diseases, he makes us clean. This is why the story in Luke 8:42-48 is so powerful. A woman, who was ritually unclean because of her bleeding, believed Jesus could heal her. She risked everything to simply touch his coat. Every person in that crowd, and Jesus himself, became ritually unclean because of the law in this part of Leviticus. But Jesus was not concerned about his cleanness, but about the woman’s healing. Praise God that we have a healer, a priest, who can not only make us clean and allow us into the community, but can take away our diseases and give life to our bodies!
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+14-15&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Leviticus 16-18 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making A Different People: Food, Leprosy, And Caring for our Bodies

Leviticus 11-13

Leviticus 11 45 NIV

So far in the book of Leviticus, we have been reading laws that are about sacrifices and how to remove guilt, show thanksgiving, or just sacrifice to sacrifice. These laws and the story of forgiveness have been weird but good. (You were thinking the Bible was weird, I’m giving you permission to say it. Still, God’s word is good.)
In chapters 11-13, we move into different kinds of laws. As John said in his recent posts, Christ has covered these laws. We don’t have to think about sacrifices or food laws or laws of uncleanness. Why worry about them? I will always remember what Bob Jones shared with me at the Bible College: the Old Testament shows us what God likes. By giving these law, God was making a different people, a people who would do what he liked. We are not required to keep the laws, but something in them, in principle or practice, is a thing God wanted his people to know at the time. When we read these texts, the principles and practices we see should effect our own walk today. So let’s see if a principle can lead us to a practice today.
The Principle : Our bodies are important and we MUST CARE for them.
In Leviticus 11, we see what constitutes clean versus unclean food. There are many theories as to why God labelled some food clean or unclean. Many point to the potential serious food borne illnesses that could be found in uncooked pork, or how vultures and lobsters (both prohibited animals) are scavengers and may become infected through infected food they eat. But I think more importantly, God wanted to make a population of people who understood that their bodies were important and not everything should go in it. They don’t eat just any kind of food, they don’t drink just any kind of drink, they don’t allow just anything to enter their bodies. Connect this to the discussion to disease in Leviticus 13, and we begin to see the principle emerge: we are given one body, and it is serious enough that to protect the most bodies, some may have to be put outside the camp. Though we could talk about the heartbreaking situation it is to have a serious skin disease and to become unclean, it is also true that the bodies we are given are not replaceable. These bodies are IMPORTANT and we MUST care for them. We must make sure our diseases are treated. We must make sure what goes in them is thoughtfully considered. Anything less is missing the fact that we are only given one body.
The Practice : Take Care of yourself in food and health
Though today you can eat shrimp, crab, and lobster (and boy are they good), the question we must ask is, “Is this going into my body to help me?” We are allowed to eat shrimp scampi; is it wise to consume a diet rich in fatty foods? We are allowed to drink soda; is sugar water the best way to care for our own body? This is not a condemnation of any, and far be it from me to fat shame. In America, we are over-blessed, and that means we have TOO much food, TOO many good things. In our diets we need to ask, “Is this food caring for my body?” Beyond food, this is true of alcohol. Whether you believe any alcohol is acceptable or not (and there are good arguments for and against consumption), over consumption is always wrong. Illicit drugs are always detrimental to our health. Ignoring the signs of illness and avoiding the doctor based on some misplaced pride also avoids caring for the body in which you have been placed.
God was and is teaching his people that our bodies are important and we must care for them. In doing so, God was and is creating a different kind of people; a people who stand out in the world.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+11-13&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Leviticus 14-15 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Who Have You Been With?

Exodus 33-35

Exodus 34 29b NIV

After Moses destroys the idol he gets another opportunity to be in the presence of God. He actually was able to see the glory of God pass by.

And we see God’s description by his own account.

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

But what stuck out to me is how Moses changed after being in the presence of God. His face was so radiant it scared the others.

It’s easier than we might think for people to know where we’ve been or what we’ve been doing.

Many can tell you of my interest in chocolate. It started at a young age. My parents tell me of a story of when I was little and I snuck a piece of cake. My face was full of chocolate icing. I was approached about if I took a piece of cake and I straight faced lied – “I did not take the cake”. Despite my insistence, my parents knew where I had been and what I was up to.

Maybe it’s the icing on your face, the ticket-stub that falls out of your pocket, maybe it’s your extensive knowledge of a certain sport, or your church name printed on your shirt, but there are clues that tell others where you have been, who you were with, or what you’ve been up to.

Over time people notice deeper things as well. Because the truth is, whether we are aware of it or not, what and who we spend our time with changes us. Whatever you spend your time looking at, meditating on, and thinking about is what you will slowly, but surely, become. And people pick up on it.

So let me ask the question, “What have you been doing?”

“Who or what has left a mark on you?”

“What do you reflect in your character?”

And more specifically, if it is easier than we might think for people to tell where we’ve been, would anyone think you’ve been with God?

Do you show signs of having been in contact with him and his Word?
John Wincapaw
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+33-35&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 36-38 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)

Remember

Exodus 28-29

Exodus 29 42b NIV

I’ve been a pastor for 35 years.  I’ve pastored local congregations.  I’ve served on the mission field in a different country.  I’ve served as a hospice chaplain with people who have been diagnosed with life ending diseases and as a hospital chaplain with people who are very sick, or having surgery, or recovering from surgery or recovering from pneumonia, or have attempted suicide or are struggling with mental health issues and need extra support.  I preach each week to people in the nursing home and those who are suffering from Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.  I’ve stood at the bedside and prayed with families whose loved one is about to die or who has already died.  I’ve prayed blessings over newborn babies and people over 100 and everywhere in between.

The one common need I find over and over again is the need of the person going through crisis to know that God is with them.  Everyone goes through challenges and difficulties, losses and pains in life.  It’s not a question of, “Will bad things happen?”  or even, “Why do bad things happen?”, it’s more a case of, “When bad things happen what resources do you have to draw from to help you get through it?”

As God’s people, Israel was being transformed from slaves to the people of God who were to be a light to all nations, they were going to face many challenges on that journey of transformation.  They had a desert to cross.  They had numerous enemies to face who all wanted to prevent them from reaching the promised land, and once they arrived in the land, there were enemies who wanted to take the land away from them and turn their hearts away from undivided loyalty to God.

To get through these challenges Israel needed regular assurance that God knew them and that God was with them.  If you’ve been a Christian for most of your life, it is likely that you know these things already.  You know that God knows you by name, that before He formed you in your mother’s womb he knew you.  You know Jesus’ promise that he will be with you always, to the end of the age, right?  There’s no way you would ever forget that God knows you and that Jesus is with you, right?  (More about that in a minute).

The people of Israel were spiritual babies.  They were just starting to learn about who this God is and to get used to the idea that God would stay with them and not abandon them.  They needed a lot of reminders.  So, in addition to having a tent of meeting constructed in their midst (see yesterday’s devotion) they needed to know that they had representatives who would go before God regularly on their behalf.  So God set aside a group of men who would serve as priests.  They had a special calling and were set apart or consecrated to do the work of a priest.

Today’s reading describes the various pieces of clothing that the priests wore and the purpose of each item- ephod, breast piece, robe, tunic, turban, urim and thummin, gold plate, sashes etc…  of all of these descriptions in Exodus 28 one in particular stands out: “Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord. (11-12).  So when the priest went before God, he went bearing the names of the sons or tribes of Israel.  This was a reminder that they were there on behalf of the entire people of God.  The message for the people was that the priests would bear on their bodies a constant reminder to God of His beloved people.

We might ask the question,” if God is perfect and all knowing, why would he need such a reminder? ” I would say that the reminder wasn’t for God as much as it was for the people to have the assurance that they were being constantly brought before God.  Prayer works the same way for us.  When someone prays to God  on our behalf, they aren’t exactly bringing new information to God’s attention.  God knows our needs before we ask.  One of the benefits of intercessory prayer is to remind us that we are not alone in the midst of our needs.  When I was first diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery and radiation lots of people were praying for me.  It brought me great comfort and encouragement to be reminded regularly that people were remembering me before God’s throne.

In Exodus 29 it provides a description of the rituals that were used to consecrate or set apart the priests for their duties of bringing the people before God.  Notice how the consecration involved sacrifices and blood.  In order for the priests to go before God on behalf of the people, their sin and guilt had to be covered over by blood.  In fact, every day, morning and night, a lamb was to be sacrificed to God. “For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you;  there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory.” (42-43)

This served as a constant reminder that God was holy and sinless, and that human beings are sinful and needed to be cleansed and forgiven of their guilt in order to come near to God’s presence.  As a result: “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.  They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” (45-46)  These daily sacrifices served as a constant assurance to God’s people that He was their God and that He was with them.

As Christians, we are not required to sacrifice a lamb day and night in order to be assured that God is with us.  Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  He, as the high priest and the sacrificial lamb, went into the most holy place with his own blood and offered a sacrifice that covers over all of our sins once and for all. (Once you read the book of Exodus, the book of Hebrews in the New Testament is much easier to understand… check it out).  When Jesus was first prophesied in Isaiah 7 it was said that he would be a sign that God is with us (Immanuel means God is with us).  In the name of Jesus we can be assured that God is with us – not because we are perfect or sinless, we are no more sinless than the nation of Israel was, but we have been made holy by the blood of Jesus.

Earlier I asked the question: “There’s no way you would ever forget that God knows you and that Jesus is with you, right?”  That fact is, we all have times when we forget that God knows us and that Jesus is with us.  This is a danger when everything is going well in our lives- when we are busy enjoying the blessings that God gives us and are on a roll, we can get so caught up in enjoying the gifts that we forget to worship the one who gives them to us, God.  It is also a danger when things are tough and we are hurting and feel all alone or worry that God isn’t answering our prayers.  When we go through spiritual depression or the dark night of the soul we can forget that the Lord promised never to leave us.  We need constant reminders, in the good times and the bad times.  That’s why we need to gather regularly with other believers to find encouragement and strength, so we don’t forget.  That’s why we need to regularly break bread and drink the cup at communion, to help us remember.  You and I need ongoing reminders that God is with us, that God remembers us.  We need to know others are bringing our names before God in difficult times, and we need to remember to bring others before God during their difficult times.  We may not have to wear ephods and robes and rub lamb’s blood on us, but as Christians we are all priests and we all need to go before God regularly on behalf of each other and behalf of people in the world, in the name of Jesus.  Don’t forget to remember, God is with us and God will never forget you.

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+28-29&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Exodus 30-32 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)