Living Like a Levite

Numbers 35 & 36

Rebecca Mon pic

Imagine that today is your regular day of worship at your local church. You grab your Bible and head out to the church. You walk into the Social Hall and there is the guy who usually arrives early setting up folding chairs. You place your Bible on the table and begin unfolding the chairs while talking with him. Another person enters and starts making the coffee and turns on the heat. The room already feels warm which is nice on this chilly day. The Pastor walks in from his office and asks how your day has been so far. Soon people start arriving. A few Youth Workers enter carrying some bags filled with crafts for the kids to make. They are headed toward the Youth Room. The room begins to fill up as more people enter. A couple of praise team members smile as they walk through carrying guitars and making their way to the sanctuary. People sip coffee and others just sit, talk and laugh. Everyone settles in as the Pastor hands out a list of prayer needs and praises. A couple of people share updates on the Missions collection and the food drive. After prayer, the teacher begins to share a lesson about the importance of the Levites. You discover that the Levites served the LORD in many ways including taking care of the Tabernacle and the Temple. The Levites from the family line of Aaron served as the priests for the Israelites. Some were in charge of the treasures of the house of God and dedicated gifts. Some served as guards and others were musicians and singers. They were also the only Israelite tribe that received cities, but were not allowed to be landowners “because the Lord the God of Israel Himself was their inheritance”.

 

Ok, so why imagine this scenario? Because our reading is about the Levites and as servants of God, we have a lot in common with them. This special tribe was chosen to serve the Lord. These servants used their God-given talents to serve the LORD in their community. How amazing that we have this same opportunity today. We are gifted in different ways and possess different talents, but all of these can be used in our service to God. Our willingness to serve is evidence of our love for God and others.

God honored this tribe in Numbers 35. The Lord told Moses to command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in, pasturelands for their cattle and all their other animals. The Levites received forty-eight towns with six of the towns as cities of refuge, to which a person who killed someone could flee. God displays His provision and grace not only to the tribe of Levi, but for all those in the Israelite community. Hebrews and foreigners could flee to the city of refuge for protection and justice. The LORD also provides protection for the inheritance of the individual tribes in Chapter 36. In the example of Zelophehad’s daughters we see that God valued the individual inheritance of each tribe. When we see how God’s commands and regulations were offering provision and grace to the community and the individual, it makes us realize how awesome He is. It makes us want to give of ourselves. It makes us want to serve, to live like the Levites.

Rebecca Dauksas

 

Today’s Bible passage, the last two chapters of Numbers, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+35-36&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be the first two chapters of Deuteronomy as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making Space for God’s Leading

Exodus 39-40

Exodus 39 43 NIV

Throughout history God has lead his people many ways. To a few he spoke audibly, others in dreams but he used the tabernacle to lead the Israelites. They set up the tabernacle to the very detail as God requested. After it was complete, 40:34 says

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 

God made his presence known and clearly began to lead the people on their travels. Whenever the cloud left the people knew it was time to get up and go. Whenever the cloud would stop the people would also stop.

Sometimes I wish that God led us today in such an obvious manner. I need fool proof directions just to get across town let alone the race we are called to run as followers of Christ.

Although it is not as obvious, God still leads his people. He still tells us when and where to go and also when and where to stay.

The tabernacle was a dedicated place for God in the lives of the Israelites. They gave of their time, energy and resources to have a spot for God in their lives. Many often claim that they want direction from God but have not made space for his leading in their lives. They have not made time or space for God.

After the ascension of Christ, the believers were blessed with God’s presence in an even better way than the tabernacle. God’s power, his presence, his spirit can dwell in YOU!

Will you make time and space in your life – for the glory of God to lead you where he would have you go? And further, are you willing to follow that lead?

John Wincapaw

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+39-40&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin the book of Leviticus – chapters 1-4 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

More Than Enough

Exodus 36-38

Exodus 36 3b NIV

We see the builders start working on the sanctuary. They are getting the resources to build from gift offerings from the Israelites. They run into a problem. Although a good problem, still a problem. They have been given too much – and the workers cannot keep up. So Moses has to make an announcement.

After 15 years of preaching – this is an announcement that I have yet to make but would absolutely love making.

Moses tells the Israelites:  We have too much from the offering – we cannot outwork the generosity – stop giving so the work can catch up.

The whole nation of Israel is working together – everyone is doing their part. When the whole body works together there is more than enough.

Unfortunately, in the modern church, not everyone is pulling their weight. I know it sounds harsh and I may be preaching to the choir. But the statistics show that 20% percent of the church is carrying 80% of the workload. It roughly translates to participation, work and giving.

It follows along with the Pareto principle – which simply defined is: roughly 80% of the effects come from roughly 20% of the causes.

So if the church is functioning with only 20% of the people active and giving, think what it could do if everyone did their part? If everyone carried their weight, could the workers not keep up with generosity of the church again?

My challenge to you: get involved, help out, give generously and recruit others to do the same.

 

John Wincapaw

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+36-38&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 39-40 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

In God’s Presence

Exodus 25-27

Exodus 25 8 NIV

                Places of worship come in all different shapes and sizes.  I have worshipped God in huge cathedrals with impressive pipe organs and altars overlaid with gold and stained glass windows.  I have also worshipped God in open-air tabernacles with sawdust floors.  I have worshipped God in a deer stand, at the beach, on a mountaintop and on a table undergoing radiation.  I have worshipped God in loud and energetic services with guitars, drums, and electronic keyboards and I have worshipped him in places with no sound at all except the flickering flame of a single candle.

                I believe God loves to be worshipped in lots of ways and in lots of places.  Even in the Biblical stories God was worshipped on simple stone altars, in burning bushes, on mountain tops and down in valleys.

                Israel was at a critical time in their formation and it was important for them to have a steady reminder of God’s presence.  God made his presence visible to them as they journeyed with both a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night.  As they continued their journey across the wilderness, God chose to make his visible presence known to them in a portable house of worship.  This place would provide structure in the midst of their community wherever they stopped to make camp.  The tent of meeting or tabernacle would be an ongoing visible sign that God’s glory was in their midst.  And God taught them how to be a holy nation. He used various symbols and rituals of sacrifice and worship as a way to drill home to them his holiness and the consequences of sin.

                How God chose to do this is quite interesting.  He could have simply built a temple Himself in the heavens and dropped it down fully formed on earth.  However, God chose instead to invite His people to become active participants in creating this place of worship.

                First, God began with their willing desire to give.  “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze;  blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair;  ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather acacia wood;  olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breast piece” (Exodus 25:2-7).   This was not a mandatory tithe that was required; this was an offering to be willingly given and received.

                Where did the people get all of these valuable commodities?  If you will recall, as they were leaving Egypt they were given many valuable items by the Egyptian peoples – one might say this was payment to help compensate for years of slavery.  They had these items in their possession already.  Those who were willing could give them to help create the tent of meeting and the prescribed worship items inside of the temple, which included the Ark of the Covenant, the table, the lampstand as well as the material for the tabernacle itself, and the altar, courtyard and the oil to keep the lamps burning.  All of the materials were freely donated.  The people of God used their own skill to build the items from these donated materials – carpenters, weavers, stonemasons, goldsmiths and others each made their own contributions to the creation of this place of worship.  In this way, everyone in the community that wished to participate had buy in to the tabernacle.  It truly was a communal place of worship.

                Once the nation finished their journey through the wilderness and took possession of the Promised Land, they would eventually transition from a portable tent of meeting to a permanent temple under the leadership of King Solomon.  However, this tent of meeting served them well for 40 years in the wilderness and many more during the times of the judges, and king’s Saul and David.

                For Christians, we do not worship God in a tabernacle or physical temple and we do not bring sacrifices of sheep or goats or bulls for an offering to God.  For us, the Church itself is the temple of God.  I am not talking about the building where the Church gathers to worship, I am talking about the actual people who gather to worship, and we are the Church.  Jesus said whenever 2-3 gather in his name that he is there in their midst.  There is no one single right way or place to worship God.  It is wherever God’s people come together.  Christian Worship does not have to follow follow a strict pattern.  Worship is where we gather to read the word of God, pray, worship, encourage each other and exhort one another to good works, break bread and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus.  Blood sacrifices are not necessary because Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and he entered into the holy of holies once and for all and gave his own body as the final sacrifice for all of our sins.

                One thing remains unchanged from the time of Israel in the wilderness tent of meeting and the Church today.  God still welcomes us to bring our offerings from the heart as a way to say thank you.  We can still bring tangible offerings, and we can still offer our gifts and talents as ways of showing God our deep gratitude for all of his blessings to us.  It is not all that important how we worship or where we worship, but it is very important that we worship and we bring our offerings freely to worship God.

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+25-27&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 28-29 on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God’s Presence and the Tabernacle

Exodus 40 16 17

Text: Exodus 40

 

As we leave the Garden, the state of God’s relationship with his creation is strained. Adam and Eve have been kicked out of the garden because of their defiance, and no longer have access to God’s presence like they had before. They are effectively exiled.

 

Let’s jump ahead to Moses. Now, there is much that happened between the garden and the introduction of Moses, and it is important stuff to know, but I want to race ahead to our topic of God’s presence.

 

As you probably know, Moses was a man chosen by God to lead God’s people (the Israelites) out of captivity in Egypt. It’s quite the epic story, and it is crucial to the Israelites. It reminds them how God chose them as his people and was faithful to them, bringing them out of captivity.

 

So now the Israelites, under the leadership of Moses and the miraculous deliverance of God himself, have escaped the clutches of Pharaoh. While they are in the middle of nowhere, at the foot of Mt. Sinai, God begins to form a deeper relationship with them. He begins by giving them some basic guidelines of being his people, part of which is what we know as the Ten Commandments.

 

In Exodus 25, God begins giving Moses some very specific (exhaustive!) guidelines for building a tent structure called the tabernacle. It is important to ask why, just like how we asked why God would create us in the first place. And I think the answer to why he created and the answer to why he wanted a tabernacle built are the same answer: In 25:8, God says, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”

 

Simple enough. But God has been interacting with his people all along. We can see how he worked in Noah, Abraham, and Joseph, just as a few examples. And now he has entered into a very special relationship with Moses, and by extension, to the rest of the Israelites. So if God is working among them and has a relationship with them, why do they need a tent thing?

 

I don’t know why God chose a tent specifically, but there is something special about it. God wanted to use it to dwell among his people, in a way that was closer to how he dwelt in the Garden. It was a much more intense dwelling and presence than he had been able to have among his people for a long time, since the Garden. Mankind lost special access to God’s presence after the Garden was off limits, but with the tabernacle, God was providing them with a new way to access his presence again. God is in the business of restoring.

 

God’s intentions and vision for this tabernacle are made more clear by the frequent callbacks to creation. In chapters 25-31, there are seven sections that begin, “the LORD spoke to Moses…” followed by detailed tabernacle plans. This is a reference back to the seven days of creation, when God commanded the cosmos into order. The sixth speech mentions craftsmen and priesthood, where day six of creation features mankind created in his image. The seventh speech is a reminder to the Israelites about the importance of the Sabbath, while day seven of creation is when God rests.

 

The tabernacle and creation accounts are further connected in structure with key phrases: Gen 1:31 vs Ex 39:43 (seeing what was done), Gen 2:1 vs Ex 39:32 (completing), Gen 2:2 vs Ex 40:33 (finishing work), Gen 2:3 vs Ex 39:43 (blessing), and Gen 2:3 vs Ex 40:9 (sanctifying).

 

Additionally, there are several symbols in the tabernacle that are connections back to Eden. The lampstand in 31:8 is a symbol of the tree of life, and the ark may symbolize the tree of knowledge (it contains the law, and you die if you touch it). There are images of cherubim in the tabernacle, reminding us that cherubim guarded the entrance to the garden. Gold and precious stones may also be symbols that tie the tabernacle back to Eden.

 

Similar connections to creation and the garden exist when looking at Solomon’s Temple, but I’ll leave that unexplored to return to our regularly scheduled program.

 

What is the purpose of all these references to creation and the garden? I believe God wanted his people to recognize the symbolism as his attempt to bring the garden back to them, in a way. God wanted to commit to his people and assure them that they could again have access to his presence. God wanted them to know that dwelling with them was his plan from the very beginning, and he will restore it. And we know that God’s intent is to dwell with us too, in ways that far surpass the tabernacle among the Israelites, and in ways that far surpass even the garden.

 

What? Yes! We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. Now to Exodus 40 before I get too excited. When everything for the tabernacle was done according to God’s instructions to Moses, God’s presence rested in it:

 

Ex 40:34-38 (NASB): “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”

 

If you are Moses, then this is a fairly anti-climactic way of ending Exodus. He didn’t even get to go in! There is still apparently a problem with sin. If you go into the holy of holies and are not clean enough, you die. Only the high priest can go in, once a year, offering blood to cover for the sins of him and the people (Hebrews 9:7). Looking back at the garden, and how sin and the presence of God are incompatible, maybe kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden could have been more of an act of mercy than a harsh punishment.

 

But here is God, dwelling among his people again, restoring and guiding them. My prayer for you today and every day is that you will seek to be where God is, by following that cloud. That you will linger when the cloud lingers and that you will set out when the cloud is taken up. That God will show you where and how he is moving and invite you in on the action.

 

Jay Laurent

What are You Waiting For?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9_27 28

Good morning!

Today’s chapter starts off with some details about how the tabernacle was set up.  It gives some great descriptions of exactly what it would look like and makes it very tangible for readers.  I love the little aside that the author gives at the end of verse 5 when they write “But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.”  It makes me smile because I imagine someone who is so excited about sharing everything they have with the Hebrews, but has to contain themselves because they know they have more important things to discuss.

Now on to the “more important” things!  At this point people would’ve known what priests had to do when going into the Most Holy Place and recognized the sacrifice that was required.  The author here is giving the background information for the rest of the message to show the significance of Christ.  It is explained that priests no longer had to go to a place made by humans that required continuing sacrifice of animals for forgiveness; Christ was able to enter the Most Holy Place by one sacrifice to obtain eternal redemption (vs. 11-12).  This would’ve been a big deal in this time!

Verse 14 and 15 are great verses to meditate on for this chapter!  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” What a great verse to give us some perspective!  We have a Savior who offered himself as a completely perfect sacrifice ONE TIME for the redemption of our sins that should’ve led to death.  And why? So that we can not only serve the living God, but also so that we can be set free from our sins and receive eternal inheritance (vs. 15).  That is simply amazing, friends!

There is so much more in this chapter that we could really unpack, but I don’t need to write a whole book so we’ll finish off with the final verses 😊

When we look at verse 27 there are two really big pieces that we need to recognize.  The first is in verse 27 which reads “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” This key factor on the morality of humans is one of the many reasons Christianity differs from other religions.  Here it says that people get one life to live, they die one time, and after will face judgment.  The second piece shows me that people have a lifetime to seek forgiveness for their sins.  It doesn’t say that we will face judgement after we do that one really bad sin, or that by the time we reach a certain age, etc.  We will face judgment after death.  With that in mind, we aren’t all guaranteed a long lifetime to seek that forgiveness.  Are you living each day as if you could be judged the next moment?  Are you continually serving the living God and asking for forgiveness when you fall short?  Those can be some sobering questions to ask yourself.

Finally, in verse 28, we get a glimpse of that hope we have.  “…And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Jesus is coming again!  I want to be one of those who are waiting for him, and I hope you all do too!  Today, how can your actions, thoughts, words, and choices reflect that you are waiting on Jesus’ return?  Or, how can you encourage a brother or sister in Christ and remind them of his second coming?

-Sarah Blanchard

 

Finding Your Place (I Chronicles 6-7)

Wednesday, November 16

levite_musicians

Chapter 6 starts with listing the descendants of Levi.  The tribe of Levi is set aside to be the priests, workers in the tabernacle and temple, and things like that.  In verse 11, it says “These are the men David put in charge of the music in the house of the LORD after the ark came to rest there.”  This is the list of men who had a specific job because of their genealogy.

In verses 48 and 49, it says “Their fellow Levites were assigned to all the other duties of the tabernacle, the house of God.  But Aaron and his descendants were the ones who presented offerings on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense…”  Again, these other Levites had specific jobs or duties because of their genealogy.

As we move into chapter 7, we see lists of other groups of people, and for each one, it lists their number of fighting men or warriors.  Each of these also had a duty as warriors, both in defense and offense.

As I was reading this, I thought about how this could relate to us.  We each have special roles in the church.  If we look at the genealogy of the church, where do each of us fit in it?  Would you be listed as having “priestly duties”, the spiritual leaders in the church?  This could be as a pastor, elder, or a scholar possibly.  Would you be listed as a musician, giving praise to the LORD?  Would you be listed as a warrior, standing up for your faith on the defense and/or evangelizing and spreading the word on offense?

We are not cast into a certain position based on the tribe we belong to, but there is a place where each of us fit.   I encourage you to examine what roles God is leading you to, and follow God’s plans for you.

-Andrew Hamilton