Thursday, March 24, 2016

'The Passover' and the 'Last Supper'.

'Passover and Exodus' (Exodus 12-14).
God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world (Gen.12:1-3).  Abraham’s descendants multiplied in Egypt, but they end up enslaved. Then God sent His mighty acts of judgement upon the Egyptians but the Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let the Israelites go. The Lord would send one final plague then Pharaoh would release Israel. This brings us to the ‘Passover’ story so watch the video and read the comments below.
Each Israelite household was to slaughter a year-old male lamb and put the blood on the door frames of their houses. They were to roast the meat and eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The Lord would see the blood on the door frames of their houses and He would pass over the Israelites when He struck down every firstborn in Egypt.

Then after 430 years, the Israelites would leave Egypt with their families, their possessions and with many other people accompanying them. Then when the Israelites entered their ‘Promised Land’ they were to observe the ‘Passover’ for the generations to come. When their children asked the meaning of the ceremony they were to say, ‘It’s the Lord’s Passover, for the Lord spared the Israelites when he struck down the Egyptians.’

The Israelites had multiplied in Egypt but they became enslaved until God struck Egypt with His mighty acts of judgment (10 plagues). In the final plague, the plague of the firstborn, the Lord spared the Israelites but judged their oppressors. When the Lord saw the door frames of the Israelites houses covered with the ‘blood of the lamb’ He passed over them and struck down the firstborn of Egypt. Then the Lord would bring judgment on the ‘gods of Egypt’ and He led His people out of Egypt by the pillar of cloud and fire. More than anything else this ceremony and its accompanying story defined the Israelites and shaped them into a community. In a similar fashion, as New Testament believers we are defined by and shaped into a community by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. One of the primary ways that these defining events are communicated to us is by means of a ceremonial meal (John 1:29, 1 Cor.5:7, Eph.1:19-21). 

The Lord's Supper (Matt. 26, Luke 22, Mark 14 and John 13).
If you are preparing for a ‘Maundy Thursday’ or a ‘Good Friday’ worship service you will do well to keep the story of the Passover in mind. Now in this story Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and then he is betrayed by a friend. After this Jesus institutes what we call the Lord’s Supper and exhorts his disciples to love one another as he loved them. Watch the video or listen the story and read the comments below.
A shared meal really does strengthen relational ties between people. The Passover meal did this for the Old Testament people and it retold the story of God rescuing Israel from Egyptian slavery. As faithful Jews, Jesus’ disciples wanted to know from Jesus where they were to prepare for the Passover meal (Exodus 12). Jesus told them to go into the city and follow a man with a water jar into a house and ask the owner about his guest room where they could prepare for the meal. The disciples went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. Jesus was well aware of all that was happening to him. Surely all these events were part of God’s plan and were by no means outside of His control.

That evening Jesus arrived at the house with his disciples. Then before the meal Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and challenged them to do the same for each other. Then at the meal Jesus told the twelve that one of them would betray him. Jesus knew of the passages in the Psalms which spoke of being betrayed by a friend (Ps.41:9) and he knew which one of the twelve would betray him. This news saddened the disciples and they each said, “Surely not I?” (Mk 14:19).  The betrayer would be the one Jesus would dip bread into the bowl with. Again this was all part of God’s plan but the one betraying the ‘Son of Man’ would be held responsible (Mk 14:19). These sad events turned the Passover celebration in a solemn event. 

Jesus’ words refer to Daniel’s ‘son of man’ and Isaiah’s ‘suffering servant’ and connect this death to the coming of God’s kingdom (Dan. 7:13, Isa. 53:12). Jesus exposed Judas as his betrayer and Satan entered into Judas. Then Judas left the room to go and betray Jesus. Then Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying that the bread was his body. The bread of affliction (Dt.16:3) in the Passover story would be replaced by the broken body of Jesus. The blood of the covenant would become Jesus’ own blood (Mk14:24, Ex.24:8). In addition, Jesus gave his disciples a ‘new command’ to love each other as Jesus had loved them and by this people would know them as his disciple (John 13:34). This is a command that none of us takes seriously enough and God only knows how different our world would be if we did . 

Jesus gave this meal to be perpetually observed in his church. By faith we are to look to Jesus to empower us to serve one another and to give ourselves sacrificially for the good others. Moreover, we can only imitate in this way as we rely on Jesus’ death and resurrection and on the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit. This story ends with Jesus and his disciples praying and singing a hymn, and proceeding to the Mount of Olives. There Jesus would prayerfully wrestle over having to drink the ‘cup of God’s wrath’ and there all the disciples of Jesus would be scattered and fall away (Zech.13:7).  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

'God Promises His Presence' (Exodus 33-34).

God promised to bless the world through Abraham’s descendants (Gen.12:1-3). Abraham’s family multiplied but was enslaved in Egypt until they cried out and God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. God brought out of Egypt by ‘His mighty acts of judgment’ and Pharaoh let the Israelites go (Exodus 7-12, 12:12). Yet, Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his troops who trapped the Israelites by the Red Sea. Then the Lord divided the sea so Israel walked through on dry ground, but Pharaoh’s army pursued them only to drown in the sea. The Lord led Israel by the pillar of cloud and fire and miraculously provided them with ‘manna and quail’ and ‘water from a rock’ despite their grumbling. Israel camped by Mt. Sinai and the Lord called Moses up the mountain to establish His covenant and give Israel the 10 commandments. Moses spent 40 days and nights with God on the mountain until the Lord told Moses to go down because the Israelites had corrupted themselves by making a golden calf as an idol. Moses interceded and the Lord preserved Israel. Moses went down the mountain and smashed the idol, ground it to powder and made the Israelites drink it. The Levites stood with Moses and at the Lord’s command they went through the camp putting 3000 people to death. Afterwards, Moses went back up the mountain to the Lord to see if he could make atonement for the Israelites which brings us to our story.
The Lord told Moses to take the people Moses brought out of Egypt, and go to the land the Lord promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Lord would fulfill his covenant and drive out the inhabitants of the land.  However, the Lord would not go with the Israelites because might provoke the Lord to destroy them because the Israelites were a stiff-necked people (33:1–6). So Moses wanted to know who the Lord would send with him to lead the people. Now Moses would meet with God outside the Israelite camp at what was called the “tent of meeting”. The people would watch Moses enter the ‘tent of meeting’ and the pillar of cloud would rest at the tent’s entrance. There the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend (11). This closeness enabled Moses to boldly ask God to go with Israel on their journey.

If the Lord was pleased with him then Moses wanted to be taught the Lord’s ways. Moses wanted to know the Lord and know the Lord’s favor. Then Moses reminded the Lord that Israel was the Lord’s people and the Lord responded by saying, “My presence will go with you.” But Moses wanted to be sure because if God didn’t go with them then how would anyone know that the Lord was pleased with Israel? Furthermore, what else would distinguish Israel from all the other peoples on earth? So God promises to be ‘present’ with the people because He was pleased with Moses. Then Moses asks to see God’s glory (18) and the Lord promised that His ‘goodness’ would pass by Moses (19). Yet, Moses would not be able to look upon God directly (20) because no one could look at the Lord directly and live (33:12-23).

So Moses was to chisel two stone tablets and to go alone up Mount Sinai in the morning and present himself to the Lord. Moses went up Mount Sinai and the Lord came down in the cloud and passed by Moses. The Lord proclaimed His name to Moses revealing himself as the merciful and compassionate God, who forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin (33:19), but who is just and will not leave the guilty unpunished (see Pss. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8).  Moses bows in worship and sought further assurance that the Lord would go with them to Canaan. They were a ‘stiff-necked people’ so Moses asked the Lord to forgive their sins and take them as the Lord’s inheritance (34:1-9).

The Lord confirmed that He was making His covenant with Moses and Israel and that He would perform His wonders before them. They were to obey the Lord’s commands and the Lord would drive out the inhabitants of the land. They were not to make treaties with them; rather they were to tear down their idolatrous places of worship because the Lord was jealous for their affections. The Lord would drive out these idolatrous nations, enlarge Israel’s territory, and protect their land when their men went up three times each year to appear before their God. So the Lord told Moses to write down these words, for the Lord was making His covenant with Moses and Israel (34:10-28).  

When Moses came down Mount Sinai with the tablets of the covenant his face was radiant from speaking with the Lord. They were afraid but Moses summoned the elders and after giving them God’s commands, Moses veiled his face (33). Then when Moses entered the Lord’s presence he would remove the veil and after speaking with God his face would be radiant again. Then Moses after speaking with Israel would cover his face until he would go back to meet with God again (34:28–35). 

The New Testament tells us that this covenant was glorious but that it is far surpassed by the ‘New Covenant’ in Christ. The glory of the ‘older covenant’ was a fading glory like the radiance on the face of Moses. The ‘new covenant’ is permanently fulfilled in Jesus Christ and will never fade away. Paul also tells us that as believers in Jesus we are being transformed by God’s Spirit into Christ’s likeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

'The Golden Calf' (Exodus 32).

God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world (Gen.12:1-3). Abraham’s family grew but became enslaved in Egypt. They cried out and the Lord God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and the Pharaoh let the Israelites go. But Pharaoh changed his mind and his troops trapped the Israelites by the Red Sea. However, the Lord divided the sea so Israel could walk through on dry ground. Then Pharaoh’s army followed Israel into the see only to be drowned. Life was tough in the desert but the Lord miraculously provided the Israelites with ‘manna and quail’ and ‘water from a rock’. Then the Lord gave Israel ‘His Law’ and confirmed ‘His Covenant’ with Moses and Israel (Exodus 19-20, 24). This brings us to the story of the ‘golden calf’ which we find in Exodus 32. You can watch the video and read the comments below. 
The Israelites grew impatient with Moses being up on the mountain with God. They didn’t know what had happened to Moses so they went to Aaron to have him make them gods to go before them. They asked Aaron to make them gods to lead them so Aaron collected their gold jewelry and formed it into an idol in the shape of a calf. They were unwilling to wait for Moses to return from God and they resorted to an idolatrous expression of worship. Aaron was an eyewitness to the ‘exodus’ and the Lord’s mighty acts in the plagues. Surely he knew to wait for Moses yet Aaron made an idol and built an altar. He also announced that the next day they would hold a festival to the Lord. It turns out that the people were willing to worship other gods and they even gave them credit for bringing them out of Egypt. The festival Aaron called for was to the Lord but the idol Aaron fashioned corrupted their worship. Their worship became idolatrous and their behavior became immoral (Romans 1).    

The Lord knew what was happening below so He told Moses to go down to Moses’ people who Moses had brought out of Egypt. The Lord couldn’t identify the Israelites as His own people because they had corrupted themselves by turning from the Lord’s commands. The Lord wanted to destroy the Israelites and turn Moses into a ‘great nation’. God had promised to make Abraham into a ‘great nation’ but now He was willing to abandon Abraham’s family with the exception for Moses. However, Moses sought the Lord’s favor to preserve Israel even though they had grumbled against Moses several times. Moses interceded for Israel by first referring to the Israelites as the Lord’s people that the Lord had rescued out of Egypt. Then Moses argued that if the Lord destroyed the Israelites then the Egyptians would say the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt only wipe them off the earth. Finally, Moses reminds the Lord of His promise to give Abraham, Isaac and Jacob descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and a land as their inheritance forever. After Moses’ appeal we are told that the Lord chose not to bring about the disaster He had threatened.

After successfully interceding for Israel, Moses went down the mountain with the two tablets of stone engraved with the commandments of God. When Moses saw the calf and the people dancing and partying he threw the tablets of stone and they shattered at the foot of the mountain. Moses took the calf, burned it in the fire, ground it into a powder, scattered it on the water and he made the Israelites drink it. Moses was shocked that Aaron had led the people into such a grievous sin. But Aaron tried to avoid responsibility by mentioning how prone to evil the Israelites were. Aaron also claimed that when he threw the Israelite’s gold into the fire somehow a calf idol formed itself. Then Moses called whoever was for the Lord to stand with him and all the Levites stood with Moses. Moses said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man should go back and forth with a sword through the camp killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ ” Three thousand people died and the next day Moses went up the mountain to see if he could atone for Israel’s sin. So Moses pleaded that the Lord forgive Israel’s sin and if not then Moses requested that he be blotted out of the Lord’s book. But the LORD said that whoever had sinned against Him would be blotted out. Then the Lord exhorted Moses to go lead the Israelites and the Lord promised that His angel would go before them. The Lord said that in time He would strike Israel with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

We may never fashion an idol and seek to worship it or seek to worship the Lord through it. However, all too often we turn to things other than God. We can also very easily drift into ways of worshiping God that are contrary to His will as revealed in his word. Moreover what we need is someone to make God present to us, to intercede for us and to make atonement for us when we violate or neglect His commands. Surely this greater mediator than Moses that we all need is our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus, unlike Moses, can fully atone for all our sins by offering to God his perfect life and his own death on the cross on our behalf.  In addition, Jesus alone can lead us into all the realization of all the promises of God.