Day 043: The Weight of Glory (Exodus 39-40)

"And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:35).

It’s amazing to me that Moses wasn’t able to enter the Tabernacle. Was it because Moses was too human, or was it because God’s glory was too holy? I think both.

The Hebrew word for glory (kavod) originally meant heaviness or weight. God’s glory was and is a tangible, substantial, weighty thing.

Maybe it’s like the ocean. We can enjoy a day at the beach and splash in the shallows. We can dive to the bottom and brush away the sand to look for sand dollars. But after doing so, would any of us say that we had explored the bottom of the ocean? That would be laughable.

We know that the real treasures lay much deeper. But if we were to actually dive to the bottom of the ocean, the weight of the water above us would crush us. In order to truly explore all the treasures on the sea floor, we would need a pressurized suit so we could carry the atmosphere of our world with us.

Moses literally couldn’t handle the change in pressure. God knew this a few chapters earlier, when Moses asked Him, “Please show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18). The weight of glory (kavod) would crush him.

When it comes to experiencing the fullness of God’s glory, we’re at an impasse. We could only survive it if we pressurized it to our atmosphere. But God doesn’t permit His holiness to be equalized to our worldliness.

So, maybe our worship experiences are like a really great day at the beach. Nothing refreshes our spirits more than immersing ourselves in the shallows of God’s glory. But as we are wiggling our toes in the sand, letting the waves break at our waist; or going a little further and feeling our entire bodies rise and fall on the incoming swells, we look out at the horizon, and something in our spirits longs to go deeper. We feel the pull of the undertow, and there is something thrilling and terrifying about the constant tug.

I think that’s the Spirit whispering to my spirit, “Not yet, My child. But someday, when I’ve perfected my good work in you (Phil. 1:6); someday when your earthly body has been transformed into your resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:42-44), you will be able to go into the deepest depths of my Presence, and you won’t be crushed by the weight of my glory.

And oh, the treasures you will find there!”

Note: The title “The Weight of Glory” is borrowed from one of CS Lewis’s most famous lectures. You can check out the book for yourself here.

Ear, Thumb, and Big Toe (Exodus 29:19-20)

“and you shall kill the ram and take part of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet...”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭29:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I wrote this prayer for the missionaries I worked alongside in South Asia, Feb 8 2020.

Anoint my ears O Lord. My ears are a constant reminder that I did not simply evolve from some single cell that crawled out of the ocean, They are among the most intricately designed, highly specialized, and miraculously engineered parts of the human body.

Let what I listen to bring glory and honor to You. Tune my ears to hear Your voice and the voice of Your people, crying out.

Hear through my consecrated ears.

Anoint my thumbs, O Lord. Thumbs are one of the ways You’ve made us different from the animals. With our thumbs we can make tools and get to work. With our thumbs we can text and post and scroll (oh, God, how I need that to be consecrated unto You!). With our thumbs we can give approval and disapproval– a thumbs-up to what is excellent and praiseworthy, and a thumbs down to that which dishonors You. Train my hands to do Your will and serve Your people.

Work through my consecrated hands.

Anoint my big toe, O Lord. Without our big toes, we would quickly lose our balance. And You call Your servants to balance so much. Faith and works. Truth and grace. Judgment and mercy. Work and rest. So Lord, anoint my big toes, so I can walk uprightly! And anoint my feet, Make my feet beautiful only insofar as I preach the gospel of peace. Anoint my feet so I can follow in Your steps and go to Your people.

Direct my consecrated steps.

And with the blood of the Lamb covering me from the top of my ears to the tips of my toes, send me to the nations. Make me Your priest, interceding for the people.

Amen.

Day 037: God’s Command and our Social Media Feeds (Exodus 22-24)

23 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, (Exodus 23:1-2)

Few things have caused more division, more dissension, and more disunity than the “Like” and “Share” buttons on social media. We see a post about a politician we don’t like, and our first impulse is to pass it along. We may not know for sure if it’s true. We may not care. If it puts the politician in a negative light, it doesn’t seem to matter if it is malicious, unkind, untrue, scandalous, libelous, or hurtful. If it makes the person we disagree with or voted against look bad, we gleefully share it.

But for a Christ follower, it should matter. God’s Word is crystal clear on the topic. Do not spread a false report. Do not join hands with a wicked person to be a malicious witness. Christian, take note: every time you retweet or share what is specifically intended to malign someone else, you are literally joining hands in order to be a malicious witness.

You say, “But the other side’s positions on moral issues go against everything I believe.”

Fine. Don’t vote for them. Write to them. Urge them to change their minds on the legislation you are passionate about. They are responsible before God for their position.

You are responsible before God for your obedience to His word.

You say, “But what if it is true?” Well, then, you have some other criteria to help you evaluate whether or not to pass it along. For this, I always remember the acronym THINK:

T: Is it True?— we’ve already covered this, but let me emphasize: If you’ve ever started a post with “I don’t know if this is true or not, but if it is…” then you know it is wrong to share it.

H: Is it Helpful? Does it contribute to the conversation? Is it a unique, Christ-centered perspective? Or is it just one more voice in an already-crowded echo chamber?

I: Is it Inspiring? Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8 are worth memorizing here:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

N: Is it Necessary? Check your motivation for sharing what you are about to share. Is it to signal that you agree with what everyone else is saying? Is it to let people know how angry you are, or that you are in on the joke? Maybe a good test is this: if it has already been shared 15.2K times, does it need one more share from you?

K: Is it Kind?

Beloved, Jesus taught that our kindness should not be reserved only for those with whom we agree. In the Sermon on the Mount, He taught:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47)

And if you are trying to change someone’s mind or to confront a sinful behavior, remember two things: First, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. Not yours.

Second, it’s kindness that leads to repentance. (Romans 2:4). If you have someone specific in mind that you think needs to hear what you are sharing, then share it with just him or her. Or even better, talk to them about it over coffee. That you pay for.

We are in an election year, and although it is only February, already the rhetoric is heating up. It never really simmered down, did it? But as Christians, we are commanded to lower the temperature. To be ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11-21) not promoters of dissension.

Now, allow me a moment of irony: Is there someone else that needs to hear this? Then share it.

Day 034: God’s Practical Provision (Exodus 13-15)

21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. 
Exodus 13:21-22

In February 2020, I was sitting in the Atlanta airport, preparing to fly to South Asia to spend a week with some potential mission partners. I had never been to this particular country before. I was flying by myself. I had no idea what to expect. And on top of all this, we were just beginning to hear disquieting reports about a new virus coming out of China.

I was in the terminal, listening to my Bible Recap podcast. I heard Tara-Leigh say,

A cloud can shield you from the blistering desert sun and provide water at times, and a fire at night can light your way or keep you warm or drive away coyotes.

The Bible Recap book, p. 84

I had always thought about the guidance provided by the fire and the cloud. I had never considered the practical provision of these beacons.

And I thought, how kind of God! How practical He is, to not only guide the Israelites, but to provide for them. Could He have provided anything more useful for a bunch of people walking through the desert? Shade and rain in the day, heat and protection at night.

Because of these verses, I was able to step into this unknown situation with confidence. It was an incredible week of working alongside these missionaries, seeing firsthand how guided by the Spirit they are in their daily work.

By the time I left South Asia, the signs of the impending pandemic were even more ominous. Special lines at customs and immigration for anyone who had traveled to or from China. Longer waiting times. Fear and anxiety in the air. I realized later that had my trip been just a week later, there was a high probability I would have been locked down in this particular country for four to six weeks.

Again, God’s practical provision. His abundant kindness. His perfect timing. And yet, how often I want to do things my own way, without His guidance, and therefore without his protection and provision.

Later in Exodus (the last verses, in fact) we learn that “throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up.” (Exodus 40:36-37).

Heavenly Father, teach us to stay under the cloud and behind the fire. Because it is when we get out from under the cloud that we get out in front of God, and we no longer benefit from Your practical provision. Provide for us, and guide us in the way we should go today. Amen.

Day 033: Under the Blood (Exodus 10-12)

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:7-13)

We are a month into this adventure of reading through the Bible together, and by now you should be getting used to looking for events that look forward to and anticipate the work of Jesus. We saw it in the story of Noah (Day 003), when God shut Noah’s family inside the ark while the ark itself absorbed the fury of God’s wrath.

We saw it in the story of Abraham’s offering of Isaac (Day 019). God provided a lamb as a substitutionary sacrifice in place of Isaac.

Today’s story is arguably the greatest foreshadowing of Jesus’ death for our sins in the entire Old Testament. In the tenth and final plague, the Lord sends His destroying angel through the streets of Egypt, in order to kill the firstborn son of every household. But God instructs His people to take the blood of a spotless lamb and paint the doorposts of their houses with it. When the destroying angel saw the blood, He would pass over that house, because all those inside the house were under the blood of the lamb. God’s wrath would be turned away from them.

All this happened, just as God said it would. Those who willingly placed themselves under the blood were not only saved from God’s wrath, but were released from slavery. They were no longer captives. And God began from that moment to bring them into the land He had promised them. It would take another forty years, but God would use the wilderness experience to ready His people for their promised rest.

Do you see it? Paul spelled it out for the Corinthian church centuries later, when he said, “Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).

Under His blood, we are saved from God’s wrath. We are set free from bondage to sin. And those whom God saves, He sanctifies. At the point of salvation, God begins the lifelong process of sanctifying us, until the day He brings us into our promised land. It begins with placing yourself under the blood of Christ. Beloved, have you done that?

Day 032: Who Hardens the Heart? (Exodus 7-9)

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. (Exodus 7:3-4)

This whole issue of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart can be difficult to process. We can picture Pharaoh as the innocent victim of God’s sovereign plan. We imagine him as the helpless puppet who would have let God’s people go long before the tenth plague, if only God didn’t keep hardening His heart.

As Tara-Leigh emphasized in the podcast, God is absolutely sovereign over the hearts of men and women. But that does not mean humans have no agency. And it absolutely does not mean that they are not responsible for the hearts being turned away from God.

Even the text itself doesn’t credit God with the heart hardening every time. Let’s look at it, plague by plague (these are from the English Standard Version):

Before the first plague (Ex. 7:13), “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.” It doesn’t say God did it, nor does it say Pharaoh deliberately hardened his own heart. Let’s take this one as, “Pharaoh was already predisposed to not listening to Moses and Aaron.”

The First Plague: Water into Blood: Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened (predisposed against God) after his own magicians duplicated the trick (7:22).

The Second Plague: Frogs: Verse 8:15 says that when Pharaoh saw there was a respite (in other words, no more frogs), hehardened his own heart and would not let the people go. So once the crisis passed, so did the conviction.

Side note: Isn’t it just like Satan to make you think your problem is solved by giving you MORE of the problem? “Oh, so you’re dealing with a plague of frogs? Watch this: I’ll have my magicians give you… more frogs! Ta da!”

The Third Plague: Gnats: Pharaoh’s heart was hardened (8:19)

The Fourth Plague: Flies: Pharaoh hardened his heart (8:32). So, Pharaoh still has some agency at this point.

The Fifth Plague: Livestock: Pharaoh’s heart was hardened (9:7).

The Sixth Plague: Boils: Now we see something for the first time. In 9:12, The Lord hardened his heart. It is the same phrase for the eighth plague (locust; see 10:20) and the ninth plague (darkness; see 10:20). With the exception of the seventh plague of hail (9:35), this is the language for the rest of the plagues. God is doing the hardening.

So theologically, what are we to make of this? I think there’s a point of no return when it comes to sin and repentance. That up to a point, we are still capable of making a decision towards God. And He is patient with us. He wants all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). He is kind to us, knowing that His kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

But only up to a point. If we reject God’s kindness enough times, we will eventually lose the ability to choose Him. I think this is what happens with Pharaoh. Far from being an innocent pawn to God’s sovereignty, his own stubborn, willful, rebellious heart eventually brought him to the point he could no longer choose the right. We see the same thing happen in Romans 1, when God gives the unrighteous over to “the lusts of their hearts” (Romans 1:24); to “dishonorable passions” (1:26); and to a “debased mind” (1:28). God didn’t harden their hearts. He just quit softening them.

So there are two lessons we can get from the plague narrative. The first is that the Lord is incredibly patient. But the second is that not even God’s patience is bottomless. Reject God long enough, and eventually you will be unable to do anything else.

Day 031: Honey, I Shrunk the LORD (Exodus 4-6)

Scene from DreamWorks The Prince of Egypt
2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” 3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”  Exodus 5:2-3

Update: please don’t read this unless you also read the retraction post I wrote after someone pointed out the errors in this one.

In Exodus 3, Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13).

In response, God revealed to Moses His personal, covenant Name:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14). 

In Hebrew, the Name is the Hebrew characters YHVH, called the Tetragrammaton by scholars. Hebrews considered the Name so holy that they literally made it unpronounceable. The vowels attached to these consonants in Masoretic texts can’t be read. When rabbis and cantors got to these consonants in their reading, they would substitute either “Adonai” (Lord) or Ha Shem (The Name).

God continued: “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:15).

Powerful stuff. The kind of Name that mountains would bow down and seas would roar at the sound of.

Notice that Moses anticipated this question coming from the Israelites. However, the one who actually asks the question is Pharaoh. But I don’t think the response was supposed to change. Moses was supposed to say, “I AM sent me to you.”

Instead, he told Pharaoh, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days journey into the wilderness.” (Exodus 5:3).

Hmmm. There seems to be a big difference between “I AM WHO I AM” and “the God of the Hebrews.” The first speaks of power and authority. Mystery and transcendence. It’s a Name that offers no further explanation, fosters no discussion, allows for no negotiation, and absolutely does not have to say “please.”

I AM WHAT I AM does not require the permission of a Pharaoh to do what He desires to do.

But this is not the name with which Moses answers Pharaoh. Instead, Moses responds, “the God of the Hebrews.” You can almost hear the stammer in his voice: “th-th-the God of the Hebrews. N-n-now, please let us go. We’ll only be gone three days. “

Three days? This is the first we’ve heard anything about three days. This wasn’t what God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. I AM WHAT I AM intends to set His people free forever, not offer them a weekend pass from slavery.

This is what happens when we don’t take God at His word. We feel like we have to present Him to the world as smaller. Less demanding. More reasonable. We try to explain the unexplainable, to name the Unnameable, and to tame the One who is untameable.

So of course Pharaoh says no. Moses hasn’t introduced Pharaoh to the Great I Am. Instead, he’s described him as a regional God. The God of the Hebrews. Pharaoh feels no obligation to this God. No reverence before Him. I AM WHAT I AM should make him fall to his knees. “The God of the Hebrews” makes him suppress a yawn.

In time, Pharaoh and all his household will tremble at the Name. God’s purposes will not be thwarted. But I have to wonder how the story would have played out if Moses had responded to Pharaoh the way God had instructed him to.

Beloved, God is revealing Himself to you every single day you are in His Word. Do not diminish Him. Do not apologize for Him. And do not look for the world’s permission to obey Him.

Day 030: “I Have Seen… So Send I You” (Exodus 1-3)

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:11-12)

The scene of God appearing to Moses at the burning bush is one of the most significant moments in the entire biblical record. After 40 years of tending sheep in the wilderness, the 80 year old Moses turns aside to marvel at the bush that is burning but not consumed. God assures his servant that He is aware of the suffering of His people in Egypt.  Notice all the pronouns. God says,

  • “I have seen their affliction… and [I] have heard their cry” (v. 7)
  • “I know their sufferings” (v. 7)
  • “I have come down to deliver them” (v. 8) 
  • “[and I will] bring them up out of that land” (v. 8)
  • “the cry of the people has come to Me” (v. 9)
  • “I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.”

Up to this point, Moses is saying, “Yes! Get ‘em, God! Sic ‘em!” I’ll bet Moses can’t wait to watch God kick some Egyptian butt. 

Then, in verse 10, God throws Moses a curve: “Therefore, I am sending you.”

Wait, what? All this time Moses is getting pumped about how God is going to work, only to have everything come crashing down when he realizes God’s plan is to work through Moses. In Exodus 4, we will look at all the excuses Moses makes for why God’s got the wrong guy. But the first two are significant:

  1. Who am I? (verse 11)
  2. Who are You? (verse 13)

Moses may have thought to himself, “God, if you were going to use me, why didn’t you do this forty years ago, when I was a prince of Egypt? Why now, when I’m a fugitive octogenarian?”

God’s answer is not “Moses, you’re awesome! Moses, you can do it!” God doesn’t give Moses a self-esteem pep talk. He simply says, “I will be with you.”

Who are you? You’re the one that I, the Lord, will be with.”

Then God answers the question Moses hasn’t asked yet. He says, “and here’s how you know that I have sent you. When you’ve brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship Me on this mountain.”

Talk about delayed gratification! Moses will not worship God on that mountain again until he receives the law in Exodus 20. After the ten plagues. After the Red Sea.  After manna and quail and water from the rock. When all is said and done, Moses will look back and realize God was with him the whole time.

We may not have the assurance that God is with us until after we begin to obey Him. But when we do obey Him, we begin to realize that who we are doesn’t matter at all. Who God is makes all the difference in the world.

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