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)

Living Stones

1 Peter 2

1 Peter 2 5 NASB

Often, we think of our life as our own; and it is to a point. We think we just go and do what we want, when we want and no one else has any right to say anything about it. The thing we need to remember as Christians is that we have given our lives to another. We have devoted ourselves to service. As such the master to which we are devoted is constantly guiding us … Are we following?

Peter tells us to put aside ALL malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. He suggests this will come naturally as we long for the pure word of God. This will cause us to grow in salvation and kindness. One of the best ways we can show love to one another is to show kindness to others. He says that as we have seen the kindness of God we will show kindness to others.

As His servants we are constantly being built up into a priesthood for Him. That does not mean we are going around in black shirts with white collars but it does mean we are to be serving Him with our entire being. We are called to offer sacrifices to God. Verse five of this chapter reminds me of Romans 12:1

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1 (NASB)

The sacrifice we offer is one of ourselves, not merely something of value to us but our entirety. We are chosen to serve Him as capable in His power, we are His possessions to serve as His people, for His glory and purposes. Peter continues to tell us that as we do what is right we may turn others to serve God as they see our actions. Also in doing right we will silence false accusations as all have seen us doing right by Him.

We are also called to respond differently than those around us. Many people are vicious toward others, especially when wronged. God is calling us, through Peter, to a better way. He has called us to be true to Him and to turn the other cheek as Jesus gave example. He reminds us that sin is no longer our master but we are now servants of Christ and his Father, our Father.

-Bill Dunn

Priestly Purity – and Then – it’s Time to Celebrate (Leviticus 21-23)

Saturday, August 27

hebrew_calendar_2016_pdf

Priestly purity is the topic of the first two chapters today.  As priests of the Most High their job was to represent God to the people as well as representing the people before God.  It wasn’t a job to be taken lightly.  It wasn’t enough to just belong to the right tribe (of Levi – thus the name of the book – Leviticus).  It wasn’t enough to be part of Aaron’s family within that tribe. It wasn’t even enough to follow all the laws given to the Israelites.   For, besides following all the rules for the Israelites, the priests also were committed to following a higher standard with additional rules for themselves, who they can marry, and how they will serve.  As we all know: with great power comes great responsibility.

And then (1,000 plus years later) there was Jesus.  He became the high priest and his believers became the royal priesthood – representing God to the world.  And still today: with great power comes great responsibility.   How are you handling the power?  Who will you represent God to today?   What will you do and say to be His agent in the world?  How will you hold yourself up to a higher standard than those around you?   What responsibilities are you ready to take on for the Almighty?

But, just when this representing is starting to sound like a lot of work . . . we hit the Time to Celebrate Chapter – #23.  As it turns out, God has designed his children (and representatives) to work BEST with regularly built in days to rest (Sabbaths come once a week) as well as special holidays to celebrate blessings and harvests, to remember God’s faithfulness throughout history, to offer sacrifices to God, to take a break from work, and to feast!  Some of these holidays were a week long!   One of the week long celebrations God created seems to look a whole lot like a camping trip to me – which is one of my family’s favorite ways to relax and remember God’s goodness in His beautiful outdoors.  The Festival of Tabernacles was a week spent in “temporary shelters” to remember how God took the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness and provided for them on their way to the Promised Land.  God had this holiday planned even before they reached the Promised Land and their permanent homes.  I think it is neat that even back then there was benefit  and Godly gain from “getting away from it all”.  How can you “work in” some of these important aspects of holidays and festivals – to celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness while taking a break from your regular work, while offering sacrifices and feasting?   I like the vacation plan for God’s representatives!  And then, with recharged batteries and a heart full of wonder and thankfulness to a Great Big God who supplies all the needs of every generation of believers past, present and future – let’s get to work again.  We have an Awesome God to represent!

Thank you for reading this week as we have worked through most of Leviticus together!  I pray you receive His blessings as you continue to dig in and seek His wisdom and way.  God’s Word is Great – because He Is!
Marcia Railton

Leaping into Leviticus (Chapters 1-4)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

leviticus     (page of Leviticus from an early German Bible)

Well, here we are . . . ready to delve into the third of the five books of the Law – Leviticus.
Leviticus is not known for being fun or light reading.  Most of the book is a listing of laws, consequences, sacrifices and priestly roles – and some of it can seem as foreign to us today as a totally new – or ancient – language.  But, don’t give up!  Forge on and let’s see what we can glean from its pages for us today.  In yesterday’s devotional thoughts we mentioned the importance of living holy lives – particularly for the priesthood which represents the Almighty.  In the book of Leviticus Moses instructs the Israelites on what holiness would look like.

As I read the directions for the burnt, grain, fellowship and sin offerings I was reminded of a saying I heard many times from my Grandpa Clair Alcumbrack.  Grandpa was a master craftsman who took great pains to get a job done right and generously gave most pieces away.  When his work was being admired by the lucky recipient Grandpa would jokingly say it was,  “Good enough for who it’s for.”   We always knew it was just his humble way of accepting praise for a job well done.   But it got me to thinking . . . how often do I forget who I am serving and working for – and the quality He desires from me.  Would I ever be able to come anywhere close to saying that my offerings for God were “Good enough for who it’s for”?

Eight times the phrase “Without defect” is used in the first 4 chapters of Leviticus to describe the sacrifices the Israelites were to bring before God.  These animal and grain offerings are no longer required since Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.  But, can we learn something about what God expects from His children?

Let’s all check the quality of our offerings this week.   Is it obvious – to ourselves, others, and to the Master Craftsman, by the quality of our offerings and sacrifices, that we desire to be His chosen people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation (I Peter 2:9)?  Our Almighty Father deserves the very best we have to give –  offerings “without defect”.  What are we giving Him?   What defects need to be removed from our offering in order for it to be pleasing to Him?  A bad attitude?  A timing issue?  Poor quality control?  A long list of excuses?  How will you work to come closer to giving a sacrifice that is without blemish?

 

— Marcia Railton
( Marcia is the wife of Jason Railton and mom to 3, all of whom were at FUEL.  Marcia is thankful for her Christian parents, Ray & Susan Hall, youth leaders and teachers, Bible College staff and church family who have taught the importance of loving God’s Word.  She enjoys working with Family Bible Church, Basic Youth Group and Family Camp.  Besides long walks on the beach… she enjoys crafting, quilting, camping, and caring for preschoolers in her home.)

 

This Sounds Vaguely Familiar (Exodus 38-40)

Saturday, August 20

20-holiness-to-the-lord

We have made it to the end of the book of Exodus!  Even if this is your first time reading through the book of Exodus (and CONGRATULATIONS to you, if it is!), several parts of these final chapters should sound quite familiar – because we have read nearly the SAME thing just a few chapters back?  What is the difference?  Why the repetition?

In Exodus 27 & 28 God is giving explicit directions to Moses on how the priestly garments, the altar and the tabernacle courtyard are to be made – materials to be used, precise dimensions, and the exact designs God desires for His Holy Place and His Holy People.  And, in Exodus 38 & 39 we read that it WAS done exactly the SAME way – including once again all the materials, dimensions and exact designs.  In chapter 39 it says at least 8 times that the work was done “-as the Lord commanded Moses”.  At the end of the chapter (vs. 43-43) is says, “The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord commanded Moses.  Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded.  So Moses blessed them.”  It seems that details are pretty important to God.  He didn’t just want it done.  He wanted it done correctly.  He wanted it done HIS way.  Sometimes I think we are quick to pat ourselves on the back if we can just cross a job off the list.  But, have we done it correctly?  Have we done it God’s Way?  Is there a job that needs some more of your attention to do it correctly?  To get it done God’s Way?

Another related phrase that caught my attention was a saying that was to be engraved on a gold plate and attached to the priest’s clothing with a blue cord:  “HOLY TO THE LORD”.   Holiness – to be set apart – total devotion  – unlike any other.   As a member of the royal priesthood (as explained in 1 Peter 2), how is your holiness quotient looking today?  Are you set apart – or blending in?  Are you totally devoted – or only when convenient?  Is there a visual reminder (like the priest’s gold engraved plate on their clothes) that will help you remember to be HOLY TO THE LORD?

    “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy , but now you have received mercy.  Dear friends, I urge you, as strangers and aliens in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, thought they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”         I Peter 2:9-12

  Live Today

HOLY TO THE LORD!

And All Your Tomorrows Too!

(Thank you to Josiah Cain who wrote this week.  Since he was working so hard serving in Louisiana the devotion for today (Saturday) was written by Marcia Railton.  Keep praying for Louisiana – and let’s jump into Leviticus next!)