Monday, June 30, 2008

Performing the Impossible

When Jesus instituted this meal, he did so with the full knowledge that he was at the end of his ministry. He was leaving, and as he left he promised that this was a good thing because he would send the comforter, the Holy Spirit to be with them and lead them into all truth. One of the central ways that the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth is here at this table. The Lord’s Supper is itself the proclamation of the Lord’s death; it is evangelism; it is the gospel. But someone might say; that’s funny, it doesn’t look like a highly effective marketing tool. But this is the glory of the Spirit, the Spirit often works silently, mysteriously, and it’s glorious because the Spirit does what is impossible. As Jesus leaves, he says it is better that he go because he will send them the Spirit. In order to be led into all truth, you must be led by the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Jesus. And all of this is proof that it’s the Spirit doing the work. Churches that have everything quickly fall into many temptations to rely on particular people, buildings, traditions, whatever. But churches that lose pastors, churches that have very diverse congregants, churches that have to meet at odd hours or in odd places, those kind of churches know (or should know) in their bones that if they make any kind of impact at all, if anything they do brings glory God and builds his kingdom in a significant way, it was a miracle, something only wrought by the Holy Spirit. And so here we are, doing the impossible. We are proclaiming right now with bread and wine that Jesus died and rose again. That he ascended into heaven and reigns over Greer, South Carolina as her rightful King. And we are doing so in faith believing that Greer will come streaming into the Kingdom one way or another. Since we know that is utterly impossible, we are all the more confident that it is the very sort of thing, our God will delight to do. So I’m leaving, and Craig is coming on. And some of you have challenges in your families, in your work, in your finances, whatever. Good. If it was all easy and straightforward you’d have to wonder if the Holy Spirit is leading you. But if the skies look stormy, if you see death and suffering in your future, if you feel surrounded, if you know you need mercy and grace, then come. This bread and this wine are for you. This meal is for people who need the impossible. And this meal is full assurance that the most impossible thing in the world has already occurred: your sins have been forgiven. And if that impossibility has become reality, how will He not also give you all these things. How will he not also give you faithful children, how will he not also provide for your needs and perfect your marriage? How will he not also establish this church for many generations? So come in faith, believing the promises of God.


Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 40

Opening Prayer: Almighty and Gracious God, we are your house, your temple, your dwelling place. Therefore we ask that you would fill us with your glory-spirit. Come and dwell with us now, and impress your image upon us through your Word, Amen!

We come at last to the end of the book of Exodus. The chapter opens confirming that the erection of the tabernacle is in fact a new creation, the beginning of a new world: the tabernacle is set up on the first day of the first month (40:2).

The New World
The fact that the text repeats the day on which the tabernacle was raised means it’s important for us to catch (40:2, 17). We noted the similarities between the Moses and Noah previously (Ex. 33-34), and the beginning of Moses’ life had an explicit correlation to the story of the flood in the word “ark” (cf. Ex. 2:3). But this chronological placement on the first day of the first month is the same point at which Noah removed the covering on the ark and saw that the earth was dry (Gen. 8:13). This also reminds us of the Passover, in that the Passover was to be celebrated beginning on the 10th day of the first month. This means that the tabernacle is finished exactly one year after Israel left Egypt (cf. 40:17), getting ready for their first anniversary celebration of Passover. This temporal placement emphasizes all the great contrasts between Pharaoh and Yahweh. This is a new world.

Filling the House
After the tent is constructed, the furniture is brought in starting from the center and working outward (40:3-7). Everything gets anointed and consecrated (40:9-15); this once again emphasizes the continuity between the tabernacle and Aaron and his sons. Notice that what God commands runs parallel to what Moses does and what happens: God command Moses to arrange the tabernacle (vv. 3-8), and commands Moses to anoint/wash everything (vv. 9-15). Then Moses arranges everything (vv. 18-33), and God’s glory cloud comes and fills the tabernacle to lead Israel (vv. 34-38). In other words, the anointing/washing of the tabernacle and its utensils (and people!) corresponds to the spirit-glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle. This has a clear NT antecedent in the close association between baptism and the Holy Spirit (e.g. Acts 2:38, 1 Cor. 12:13). When we anoint in obedience to God’s commands, God’s Spirit confirms by filling.

Filling the House
The use of the word “house” is a key term throughout the book of Exodus: Jacob is recorded as having come down into Egypt with his sons’ “houses” (Ex. 1:1), the midwives are blessed and given “houses” for their faithfulness (1:21), blood is put on the doorposts of the “houses” of Israel in the Passover (12:7), Egypt is called the “house” of slavery (20:2), and of course much of the second half of the book is concerned with building the “house” of Yahweh. Interestingly, the tabernacle is never explicitly called the “house” of Yahweh. Israel is supposed to bring offerings to his “house” (23:19, 34:26), but the word “house” is otherwise only used to describe certain materials used to build the tabernacle, as an architectural term often translated as “inside” or “holder” (e.g. 25:11, 25:27, 26:29, etc.). The tabernacle clearly is a “house,” but Exodus closes, the “house” having been completed, explicitly insisting that the people Israel are the “house” (40:38). All the concern with the tabernacle is really concern with Israel. The “arrangement of the furniture” is really a concern for Israel’s heart, her whole-hearted worship and service of the Lord.

Applications & Conclusions
Two things: How is the furniture of your heart arranged? How is your family’s house put together? This works both as an exhortation and as an encouragement. The exhortation is to pattern your lives after the true tabernacle, the Lord Jesus: pursue beauty and glory in your homes. But the encouragement is that if the tabernacle is in your midst then God promises to accomplish that re-creation in you and in your family. God promises to give you the wisdom of the Hebrew midwives, the wisdom of Bezalel and Aholiab. He promises to give you the Spirit of wisdom.

The Holy Spirit was sent into the tabernacle to lead the children of Israel in all their travels, in all their journeys. It was not Moses who lead them in all their journeys; he had been driven out of the tabernacle. It was the Spirit who lead them. This is God’s pattern: first Moses then the Spirit, first Jesus then the Spirit. There is something bound into the character of God that delights in teaching people to walk in faith and live by the Spirit.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Gracious Father, we call upon you to give us that Spirit that you poured out on Bezalel and Aholiab that we might make our homes and our hearts holy and beautiful. Teach us to order our ways after your ways. Make us love the things that you love and hate the things that you hate. Grant that your Spirit might continually remake us. We give you thanks for what you have already done and trust you for the rest.


Anastacia Ruth Sumpter: March 23, 2008

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord: he that believes in my, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosever lives and believes in me, shall never die.

Hymn: Jesus Priceless Treasure

Let us pray: O God, whose beloved Son did take little children into his arms and bless them: Give us grace, we beseech you, to entrust this child Anastacia Ruth Sumpter to your never-failing care and love, and bring us all to your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalm: 116:5-19: Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, And my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, therefore I spoke, "I am greatly afflicted." I said in my haste, "All men are liars." What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. O LORD, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the LORD's house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 51-58: But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death…. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Funeral Meditation

Somehow it seems rather fitting that the first funeral I perform should be one for my own daughter. There’s nothing quite like death that concentrates the mind and makes priorities obvious and clear. As we commit Anastacia to the earth in sure confidence of God’s care over her and her resurrection at the Last Day, I want to consider three things.

First, our family has prayed that God would prepare us to serve his people both here and those that we will serve in the future. There is no doubt that this is part of that preparation for us. Related to this has been our prayer over the last six months since we knew that Anastacia had died, that we would learn the lessons that God would have us to learn through this time. I have no doubt that there are many such lessons, but one of them has certainly been related to the calling of ministry. And this is not really limited to pastors either. The calling of all Christians is to bear crosses, to lose their lives in order to find them, to lay their lives down for their neighbors, families, friends, and even their enemies. The call of Christian ministry is a call to die. We came here to South Carolina to die, and we have. And in God’s great kindness he has also raised us back up to serve again. We are all called to consider our lives as living sacrifices; we are to think of our lives as a slow motion death for everyone around us in gratitude and thankfulness to God.

Second, I, like many of you, have prayed and continue to pray for Holy Trinity Church, that God would be pleased to establish it for many generations, and that God would equip the saints here for ministry. I believe that Ana’s death is part of this process of establishing Holy Trinity here in Greer and equipping the saints here to minister for many generations. As the apostle says, except a seed be planted in the ground and die it cannot bear fruit. We fully intend for Ana’s grave here to be a memorial to and for the saints of Holy Trinity. It is our prayer that Ana’s death and grave, as little as they are, would nevertheless be a reminder to you of our love for you and our hope that God will continue to do great things through you in the church. A pastor leaving is always a sort of death for a church, and it can be an opportunity for doubts and insecurity. But we hope that you will trust in the God of resurrection with us, and that you will look forward in faith to the more glorious future that God has ahead you. May Ana remind you of that from time to time.

Finally, I want to point out that we named our daughter Anastacia Ruth. Anastacia means “resurrection,” and we thought this was fitting for several reasons. First, she and Tovia were born on Resurrection Sunday, March 23rd, Easter – of all days. Second, all the appearances are that the placenta they shared just wasn’t sufficient for the two of them. One of them had to die in order that the other might have life. This is also related to why we gave her the name Ruth. Ruth means “friend,” and she was a friend to Tovia for a number of weeks and truly a great friend in her death. Third, we certainly do believe that we will meet Anastacia again at the resurrection. Her name is meant to convey our sure faith in Christ who will raise her up with all those who have died in the Lord.

We give great thanks for the privilege it was to have had some brief care of Ana, and for her short life. We realize that all of the children God gives us are foster children. They are ours to care for on behalf of their Father in heaven and their Mother, the Christian Church here on earth. May God teach us wisdom as we mourn. May God teach us to hate sin and death more and more. And may God grant us grace to live knowing that because of the resurrection, our labor is not in vain. But Christ will come and establish the work of our hands.

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.

Let us pray: (singing) Our Father who art in heaven…

Grant us, O God, with all who have died in the hope of the resurrection, to have our consummation and bliss in your eternal and everlasting glory, and, with Anastacia and all your saints, to receive the crown of life which you promise to all who share in the victory of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn: For All the Saints

In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our sister, Anastacia Ruth, and we commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless her and keep her, the Lord make his face to shine upon her and be gracious unto her, the Lord lift up his countenance upon her and give her peace. Amen.

Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of comfort; deal graciously, we pray you, with all those who mourn, that, casting every care on you, they may know the consolation of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Hymn: Nunc Dimittis: Master let your servant depart in peace…

May Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, now and for evermore. Amen.


Living like Royalty

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works. Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil. Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Eccl. 9:7-10)

This is one of the great summary statements of the calling of the Christian life. Your calling as a Christian is to live like heaven. Work hard, love your wife, eat your dinner with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart. Dress sharp, look your best for those around you, and do it all not with some kind of pride or arrogance, but because God is good, because God has already accepted your works, because God looks at you and your family and all the work still to be done and says, you are my new creation in Christ, you are my beloved son and daughter in whom I’m well pleased. And this is why you are invited here week after week so that you will not forget who you are and how you are required to live. You are the beloved sons and daughters of the king, and therefore he invites you to his feast week after week, and he calls you to go out into your homes, work places, and neighborhoods and live like the royalty that you are. You are the nobility of God, and he invites you here to rejoice with bread and wine at this table and sends you out to do the same in all of life. If it’s pizza paper plates, eat it like sons and daughters of the king. If you drive a beater car, drive it with joy in your heart. If your family is pretty rough around the edges, love them, serve them, and speak to them and about them, like they are the best people in all the world. We do all of this not because we’re blind or apathetic, but because we are called to live by faith, imitating the God who calls those things which are not yet existent as though they were. Therefore come and rejoice as though everything was right in the world because it is and it will be.


Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 39

Opening Prayer: Kind Father, we come before you once again and ask you for your Spirit to be with us now. We know that the Spirit pours out your wisdom and knowledge and understanding. And we confess that we need those things desperately. We live in a day and in a culture that has rejected your wisdom and delights in incoherence and confusions. Open our eyes to see, give us clear thinking minds, and enable us to walk before you faithfully. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!

Today we come to the completion of the construction of the tabernacle and the making of the priestly garments. Just as the first creation was concluded with the blessing of God, so too this new creation of Israel concludes with the blessing of God.

Priest as Tabernacle
The priestly garments are the same colors and fabrics as the tabernacle itself. The tabernacle curtains, veil, and screen are made of blue, purple, and scarlet threads (36:8, 35-37). So too are the garments of the priest (39:1), the ephod (39:2), the breastplate (39:8), the pomegranates on the hem (39:24), and the sash (39:29). Like the tabernacle, the priest also has precious metals worked into his uniform: gold threads woven into artistic designs on the ephod (39:3, 5). The word for “beat/hammered” (39:2) is related the word for the firmament (Gen. 1:6), and strikingly, the golden thread is said to be worked “in the midst” of the blue, “in the midst” of the purple, “in the midst” of the scarlet thread just as the firmament is said to be placed “in the midst of the waters” (Gen. 1:6). Like the curtains of the tabernacle, the shoulder straps are “coupled together” (39:4). The High Priest is a walking, miniature tabernacle. Remember that we noted previously that the High Priest’s garments are like armor: e.g. the breastplate, shoulder guards, and the robe which is like a coat of mail (39:23). If the High Priest is a warrior, then the tabernacle is a military fortress. Yahweh is teaching his people how to wage war.

New Creation
The phrase “as the Lord had commanded Moses” is repeated throughout chapters 39-40. It occurs 7 times in chapter 39 and 7 times in chapter. 40. This is surely a double emphasis on the completion of the work, and that this work is the completion of a new creation. The first seven instances of “as the Lord had commanded Moses” refer specifically to elements of the priestly garments, the second set of seven refer to elements of the tabernacle. This reinforces the idea that the priest is a walking tabernacle, and vice versa, we can say that the tabernacle is meant to represent man restored to fellowship with God, humanity walking with God in the garden. The tabernacle is a person filled with the glory-cloud-presence of God, and it pictures what God always intended to do to every individual. This is why Christ can be said to have come and “tabernacled” with us (Jn. 1:14). In Christ dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 1:19). Lastly, the blessing of 39:43 is clearly an allusion to Gen. 1:31-2:3, and it means that the work is finished. And this is why we go out from here with the blessing of God week after week.

Conclusions & Applications
We serve the God who completes what he starts. He has begun a good work in you as individuals, as families, and as a congregation. But notice how God delights to finish the project: he does it by bringing us into the community where the completed project is present. The tabernacle was a picture of the completed project, a picture of people walking with God, drawing near without dying. Christ is the fulfillment of that picture, the true tabernacle of God to which we draw near and in whom we walk with God.

But God calls us to faith in the midst of life that always needs finishing. Maybe you feel the need for completion in your marriage, in your children, in your parents, in your work, in the church, in your friends, wherever. God calls those things which are not as though they were (Rom. 4:17). You serve the God whose word is more important than the way things look. You serve the God whose word always finishes what he starts. The New Covenant means that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it. Just as God created the world in the beginning, calling light out of darkness, Jesus is our sure confidence that God is in the process of remaking this world. And that includes our marriages, our children, our families, our neighborhoods, even the world. Therefore, imitate your God: let your words and actions be done in faith, acting as though God’s Word is sure and true even if the whole world looks the opposite.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Concluding Prayer: Gracious Father, we ask you to give us faith in the midst of the many things that are unfinished. We know that you have been pleased to call us as though we are finished, and we rejoice in this grace and ask for more.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tovia Approaching 8lbs & River's 4th Birthday


Monday, June 16, 2008

To the Ends of the Earth

When we celebrate this meal, we do so in imitation of Jesus who having given thanks for the bread/cup gave it to his disciples to eat/drink. This is why it is our custom to have the elders serve one another and then distribute the elements to the rest of the congregation. With the wine, we offer the common cup and we also have the little cups available to those who prefer, but the idea is meant to be the same: we are one loaf and one cup. We are one body in Christ, and his blood flows through us. This is why we serve one another. Just as in a body, the different parts need each other; we confess and display that here. So the elder or deacon or other assistant may hand the bread or the wine to each row, but then maybe your wife hands you the bread or your son or daughter passes the wine to you. Maybe a member of another family passes you the tray of cups. This is as it should be. We are one body, one family made up of many parts held together and empowered to work together and serve one another through the working of the Holy Spirit. But our celebration here also pictures the promise of the gospel. The blessings of the new covenant are pictured in Ezekiel as water pouring out over the threshold of the temple, and as the prophet follows the flowing water it becomes ankle deep and then up to his waist and then it is too deep to wade through and it flows out and purifies the seas. This is what the gospel has been doing for the last two thousand years. And we are a witness of that fact sitting as we are on the other side of the world and two thousand years from that first upper room in Jerusalem. We are that body with the blood of Christ coursing through our veins; we are that river of blessing and forgiveness flowing out from the cross to the ends of the earth. You are God’s forgiven people, you are in the blood, you are his family. Come and rejoice.


Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 37-38

Opening Prayer: Almighty and most merciful God, we ask that you would cause your Spirit to be poured out upon us once again. We are here as your new creation, and we ask that you would continue to renew us and remake us. Empower your word now that we might be built up into your house, fitted together as your temple and dwelling. Amen!

We considered the tabernacle last week as the embodiment of Israel as the Warrior-bride of Yahweh. Bezalel and Aholiab are the fulfillment of the midwives, leading the wise-hearted women who are building the house of God as the armies of Yahweh (Ex. 38:8).

As the Lord Commanded
We noted lasted week that this is the second time we’ve read all these details. Ex. 25-31 was the record of the initial instructions given by God on the mountain, the seven speeches of the ‘new creation’ of Israel. This explanation of the actual work of Bezalel may seem superfluous, but it both proves that the new covenant is in force and that God’s word does not return void. As in the first creation account, ‘God spoke and it was done’, so too, here God has spoken, and now it is being done “all that the Lord had commanded Moses” (38:22). The new covenant with Israel is not merely ‘another try,’ it is what completes and fulfills all that the first covenant sought to perform. The entire list of what was carried out is given as a summary in 39:33-41 and in the order that it is carried out. Another way of looking at this recapitulation of the details of the tabernacle follows the original creation pattern of Gen. 1-2. Just as Gen. 1 is the creation of the world according to God’s spoken word in six days and Gen. 2 follows the creation of man, his situation in the garden, his naming of the animals and finally the creation of the woman, so too these two accounts of the details of the tabernacle accomplish similar goals. In Gen. 2, we see Adam imitating God and following his commands in naming the animals. In Ex. 36:8-39:31 we see Bezalel (chiefly) carrying out the commands of the Lord. Likewise, if the tabernacle is to be seen in feminine terms, the completion of the tabernacle is the creation of a new Eve from the side of Israel, the new Adam-son of God (cf. Ex. 4:22).

Blue, Purple, Scarlet and Engraving
Because the construction of the tabernacle includes a number of allusions to the original creation account, we should not shy away from looking for more. We have noticed by now that the colors blue, purple, and scarlet show up all throughout the tabernacle descriptions. The colors blue and purple are clearly royal and are associated with kings and nobility, and the color scarlet is literally the word for “worm” (cf. Ex. 16:20, Dt. 28:39, Ps. 22:7, Jon. 4:7). This is because a particular sort of worm was used to create a red/crimson dye in the ancient world. But all these colors are the same as the sky, and the fact that there is a sea-basin at the entrance of the tabernacle reminds us of the “waters above” (Gen. 1:6-7). The firmament is what joins heaven and earth, and this is what the tabernacle is designed to do. The tabernacle is the sky come down into the middle of their camp. The fashioning of the tabernacle is described as “engraving,” “designing,” and “weaving” (38:23). “Engraving” is a word that is associated with plowing, but it can also refer to remaining silent. The first use of this word was in Gen. 4:22 where the cultural achievements of the descendents of Cain are recorded. The building of the tabernacle is a reversal of that curse. The same word is used to describe how the names of Israel were to be engraved on the shoulder stones of the priest’s garment (Ex. 28:11). But it is also used a number of times to refer to remaining silent in times of crisis or tension as a strategy for deliverance as in Ex. 14:14 where the Lord promises to fight for Israel (cf. Gen. 34:5, Josh. 2:1, Jdg. 16:2, 1 Sam. 23:9). This is the deceptive warfare that the people of God are called to. Israel is this sort of warrior-bride. The word for “weaving” really only shows up one more time in the OT in Ps. 139:15 where David describes how God “knit” him together. This word may also be related to the word for “expanse/firmament” and would tie back to the idea of the tabernacle as the sky, the expanse/firmament which is symbolically what joins heaven and earth.

Conclusions and Applications
The charge last week was from 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul ties together the building of the temple of God with the wisdom of God. Paul says that God’s wisdom is foolishness to the world, and the world’s wisdom is foolishness with God. There Paul warns the Corinthians not to defile the temple of God through worldly wisdom. Every generation is tempted to live and build God’s house with worldly wisdom. We do this by thinking that real power is found in swords and guns and politics. We do this when we think that different traditions, teachers, denominations are a threat to God’s kingdom. We do this when we put our confidence in men (think numbers, money, buildings) rather than Christ.

God is building his kingdom in this world, and he is building it with us. This kingdom began as a stone that will grow up into a mountain that will fill the whole world (Dan. 2:44-45). The fact that God is using us is already a sign that God’s wisdom is folly with the world. He’s using us with all our failings, all our weaknesses, and all our problems. But furthermore, God’s wisdom has determined that water and preaching and singing and eating and drinking is the means by which he will overrun the world with his grace. We are the armies of God. Israel carried out her warfare through building the tabernacle, and carrying out the work of the tabernacle (Ex. 38:8). Likewise, we are the victorious warrior-bride of God. Therefore believe this and live this.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Almighty God, we ask that you would continue to build us up into your house and temple. We pray for our community and the people of Greer and Greenville, SC in particular that you would establish your kingdom here through the prayers, praises, and feasting of your people.


Right Away, All the Way, and Cheerfully

The fifth commandment requires that children honor their parents, and this command is reiterated by Paul in Ephesians when he says that children are to obey their parents in the Lord. This command must be understood in two directions: First, parents must love their children such that they are led to obey. Secondly, children must honor their parents such that they actually obey. And lest there be any confusion on what it means to obey, we must insist that obedience is immediate carrying out of instructions with joy. Children must obey their parents just as God requires all of his children to obey him. We are required to obey God right away, all the way, and cheerfully. Therefore, we ought not expect anything less of our children. Rolling eyes and then obeying is not obeying. Stomping feet while carrying out instructions is not obey. Doing half the job is not obeying. Parents must love their children enough to insist upon obedience. Proverbs says that a father who refuses to teach and discipline his son actually hates him. This is because he is allowing his children to grow up believing that obedience is optional. And this means that this child will grow up under the curse of God and the end of that road is death. A father who does not teach his child to stay out of the road hates his child. A father who lets his child put his fingers in electrical sockets hates his child. Likewise, a father who refuses to teach his child to obey hates his child. And this requirement of obedience does not end at some magic age. Whether you are fourteen or nineteen or twenty-six or fifty, the command is still in place to honor and obey your parents. Of course wise parents will not act like tyrants, but the command is still there. Children, obey. This means obeying right away, all the way, and cheerfully. Parents, love your children enough to require this; children, honor your father and mother enough to follow this. And we do this believing the promise that comes with this command: that we may have long lives and that it may go well with us in the land.


Smiling at our Enemies

In the New Testament when the apostles try to develop a baptismal theology or explain what baptism means they repeatedly refer to the great events of redemptive history. Paul refers to the Exodus, crossing the Red Sea and the cloud that followed Israel into the wilderness as a picture of baptism in 1 Corinthians 10. Peter refers to the flood and Noah’s ark to describe baptism. But of course those monumental events are merely previews for the greatest redemptive event which we see in the death and resurrection of Jesus; so it’s not too surprising to see Paul referring to that in Romans 6 where he insists that everyone who has been baptized has been joined to that historic event, united to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now while it is certainly true that some people have turned this sacrament into a superstitious magic trick, the problem does not seem to be putting too much emphasis on this sacrament. The problem is not making a big deal about baptism per se, the problem is with making a big deal about the wrong things in baptism. The thing that the apostles point to over and over again is the power of God to deliver his people from all bondage and his sure covenant promises to his people in the face of all their enemies. The apostles say baptism is like being delivered from all the armies of Egypt charging you with hundreds of chariots in full battle array. They say baptism is like being brought safe and sound into an enormous boat while a storm rages outside drowning the wicked and destroying the world. Baptism, Paul says, is like being killed and stuffed into a grave and somehow – wonder of all wonders, even that can’t stop God. Baptism is all about the power and possibilities of God. It means that we serve the God who keeps his promises. We serve the God who is faithful to his covenant, and we serve the Triune God who delivers us and our children from all our enemies. The reason we make a big deal about baptism is because God has promised us big things. We don’t think there’s some magic in the water, and I certainly haven’t been given any superpowers. But God’s Word is sure and powerful, and his promises cannot be broken. Therefore, Kirk and Jennifer, as you bring your son, Jackson, for baptism, I charge you to do so with faith. Do it believing the promises of God. Do it believing that the same God who acted to save Noah and his family, the same God who acted to deliver Israel out Egypt, the same God who delivered our Lord Jesus from the grave, promises to save and deliver your son, Jackson from all his enemies and even death itself at the last day. Your response to these promises must be faith. Believe the Word of God and joyfully raise your son to believe the Word of God. Raise your son to be a fearless disciple of Jesus; raise him to look at floods and laugh. Raise him to see enemies surrounding him and smile. Raise him to face even death itself with full assurance of resurrection. God has spoken; therefore it is so.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 35-36

Opening Prayer: Almighty and gracious God, we come before you as your bride, and we ask that you would wash us with the water of your word. Wash us that we might be made spotless and equipped to serve in your house. Through Jesus Christ, Amen!

Here, the instructions for building the tabernacle are beginning to be carried out. Notice that Moses begins the new covenant of Sinai with a reminder of the Sabbath (35:1-3). This is a reversal of the “old” covenant sequence of the instructions for building the tabernacle which ended with the Sabbath command (31:12-17). Contrast this Lord and his building project with Pharaoh and his.

Nobility and Generosity
Moses commands the people in the name of Yahweh for all those with a “willing heart” to give an offering to the Lord of gold, silver, and bronze. A “willing heart” is literally a princely or noble heart (cf. Num. 21:18, 1 Sam. 2:8, Ps. 47:10, etc). What is striking is that this offering is considered an act of nobility; the ability to give is an act of a noble. This is why God requires his people to give tithes and offerings; you are his nobles, his royal people and therefore you must give like it. There is clearly a number of people involved in the actual construction of the tabernacle. As we have noted previously, “gifted artisan” is literally “wise of heart” (35:10). Wisdom has everything to do with what it creates. Wisdom is always justified by her children (Mt. 11:19). The congregation departs from Moses and everyone whose “heart was lifted” and whose spirit was “enlisted” brought the Lord’s offering (35:21). The word for “willing” (35:21-22) is the verb form of the word for “noble” and is often used for soldiers and officers volunteering/enlisting for battle (Jdg. 5:2, 9, 2 Chr. 17:16), but the same form is used in a parallel context in the building of the temple (1 Chr. 29:5). This giving is not merely noble, it is princely and martial. This offering is a reaffirmation that Israel is the army of Yahweh (cf. Ex. 6:26, etc.).

Women and Artists
It’s striking that the text puts so much emphasis on who is bringing the offerings. The “men and women” bring jewelry offerings (35:22), “every man” brought offerings of thread and linen (35:23), “all the women” spun yarn and all the wise women spun yarn of goats’ hair (35:25-26), “rulers” brought precious stones (35:27), and the conclusion summary is that the “children (‘sons’ lit.) of Israel” brought a freewill/enlistment offering (35:29). Bezalel and Aholiab are clearly set up as the foremen of the building project (35:30-35). But they are working with “every gifted artisan” in whom God has put wisdom and understanding. Given the passage, it is the women in particular who are noted for being “gifted artisans” and for their “wisdom” (35:25-26). The fact that women are singled out and recognized for their part in the building of the tabernacle is significant: the tabernacle itself is already pictured as feminine (26:3, 5, 6, 17) and perhaps there is some connection to the ‘fire offerings’ as well which is spelled with the same letters as the word for “woman” (cf. 29:18, 25, 41). Since the Church is the “bride of Christ” and the “mother” of all those who believe, it is not surprising that the tabernacle and temple should be considered feminine as well (cf. Song of Songs). But this is also related to Israel’s calling, the sort of army Israel is supposed to be: remember it was the courageous midwives who defied the Pharaoh’s orders (Ex. 1), mothers who hid their sons and daughters who helped them (Ex. 2), and later it was the Hebrew women who took the lead in plundering the Egyptians (Ex. 3:22).

The Offering and the Building
The people continued to bring the “Enlistment Offerings” until the craftsmen notified Moses that they had more than enough supplies for the project (36:2-7). Literally, the craftsmen are “wise men” which contrasts with the “wise men” of Pharaoh who with the magicians mimicked Yahweh’s power (Ex. 7:11). Interestingly, the description of sewing the curtains together uses a different words than previously: instead of joining “a woman to her sister” (cf. 26:3ff), it says joining “one to one.” This joining of one to one is to be done such that there might be “one tabernacle” (36:13, 18, cf. 26:6, 11). It should also be noted that much of the language of the tabernacle is anatomical: the sides of the tabernacle are described as “ribs” (36:25, 31, 32), they are covering the tent with “skins” (35:7, 23, 36:19), and the tabernacle has “lips” (36:11, 17) and a “head” (36:29, 38, cf. 26:24). If the tabernacle is a woman or at least represents Israel as the bride of Yahweh, then this is the construction of the new Eve. In this covenant marriage between God and his people, he is creating a new bride with whom he can become one with.

Conclusions and Applications
You are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the bride of the Lord Jesus. You are called upon to imitate “Lady Wisdom.” You have been given the Spirit of wisdom so that you might be “gifted craftsmen.” But our construction project is first and foremost bound up with people. As Spirit-filled craftsmen you are called upon to raise up faithful and godly children. As Spirit-filled craftsmen you are called upon to beautify and glorify your wives and husbands. As Spirit-filled craftsmen you are called upon to build the house of God through ministry to the saints and the strangers and orphans and widows.

Lastly, this call to ministry is a call to battle and warfare. But our warfare is the warfare of seduction, the warfare of a woman. We are called upon to embody the gospel such that the world is drawn to it. We do not compete with the world, we offer the reality to which there are so many false substitutes. You are called upon to be Hebrew midwives and Master Craftsmen. You are Bazalels and Shiphrahs.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Gracious Father, we ask that you would give us your Spirit more and more. Empower us to fight sin and wickedness so that we might create beautiful pictures of your gospel in our families, in our homes, in all that we do.


When Worship Becomes Liturgical Clap Trap

In nearly every letter of the New Testament, the apostles insist that Christians must live out the gospel in their families. As we seek to build this church, this must be one of the central results of our gathering here. Husbands who worship here must be characterized by loving their wives, cherishing their wives, and teaching and leading their wives just as Christ loves, cherishes, teaches, and leads us. Wives who worship here must be characterized by love and submission to their husbands, rejoicing in their callings just as we submit ourselves as the Church to the leading and teaching of our head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise, children who worship here (whether they are three or eighteen) must be characterized by love and obedience to their parents just as we love and obey the Word of God declared here. If we are not being characterized by these things, we are not getting it. If our families are not living out this gospel then our worship here is useless at best and at worst a high handed blasphemy against God. When the families of Israel were characterized by harsh words, injustice, disunity, and disobedience, God said to them through the prophet Isaiah: get your Call to Worship out of here. Who has required this Confession of Sin? I have had enough of your readings of Scripture. Why do you come here and trample my courts? Stop your empty Passing of the Peace. I cannot stand your celebrating the Lord’s Day. I do not delight in your Lord’s Supper. I have had enough of your Psalm Singing and all the rest of your other liturgical clap trap. When you lift up your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear you. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean. Put away the evil from your doings: Husbands love your wives, wives submit yourselves to your husbands in joy, children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Wise Men and Magic

Continuing my binge of posts:

"Wise men" only show up in Ex. 7:11 and 36:4. In 7:11 they're Egyptians who are helping the magicians to do enchantments to make their staffs turn into serpents like Aaron's. In 36:4 they're Israelites who are apparently helping Bezalel and Aholiab and the other "wise hearted" artisans to turn the offerings of Israel into a house.

This is in contrast to the golden calf. In 32:4 the golden calf was made with an "engraving tool" which is the same root for the word "magician." So not only was the Israelite sin some sort of imitation of Egyptian sorcery, the building of the tabernacle is true magic, the work of wise men in obedience to the Lord.

One other thought is how the "wise men" who came to see Jesus might have some correspondence to what's going on in Exodus. The Magi bring offerings of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Mt. 2:1-12). Gold is metal that covers everything in the Most Holy Place and the altar of incense. Frankincense is one of the key ingredients in the incense that was to be offered on the altar of incense, and the myrrh is one of the ingredients in the holy anointing oil. Not only was that oil for anointing the priests, but it was also put on all the furniture and utensils in the tabernacle. These wise men bring offerings for the building of the new tabernacle. And in particular, their offerings seem to be associated mostly with the supplies needed to construct the Most Holy Place. Jesus is the new tabernacle, the new Holy of Holies, and the new builder of the new house of God in himself.

Last thought while I'm on the magi: The wise men who come to worship Jesus are warned in dreams not to return to the wicked king Herod. These magi understand dreams and interpret them correctly. These are true Magi/true wise men. In the Old Testament that's always the problem with wise men. Pharaoh has dreams that need interpreting and the wise men can't do it. Only Joseph can. Nebuchadnezzar has dreams, but his wise men can't help him. Only Daniel can.


Tovia Ann: Real Baby

I've been meaning to mention that last week we heard Tovia give us a real good cry for the first time.

I should say that Tovia is the sort of baby that does a lot of grunting and squeaking and twisting and turning and frowning when things aren't quite like she would prefer. She's fairly subtle like that. Her usual pattern is to do this grunting-squeaking-twisting-frowning for a while and finally, when she is all fed up with our neglegence, she lays down the law with one, short-lived cry. It lasts for all of two seconds and then she goes back to the squeaking and grunting thing. Her "cry" is like the bell sound at the end of a boxing round; it's the last straw, the final call.

Ok, but what I was leading up to say is that Tovia had her first shots last week, and that was a bit painful and she came home and had her first real good cry. This lasted for all of two minute (maybe). Of course her mom and I were trying our best to make her comfortable and soothe her, but her older brother and sister (our resident natives) came rushing into the room and burst out laughing.

They had never heard Tovia really cry before, and all of a sudden they realized she was a real baby and she was crying and this was apparently quite hilarious.

Ever since, whenever Tovia lets out one of her little cries, both brother and sister giggle and chuckle. Tovia is a real baby. She cries.


Sumpter Plans

Most folks have probably heard by now or have at least heard rumors that we are moving. 'Tis true. I have accepted a call to serve as pastor at Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow, Idaho, and we will be moving at the beginning of July.

I'm very thankful that Holy Trinity here in Greenville has called Craig Beaton to take my place, and he will be able to take over immediately after I leave town. He's an old friend of many in the congregation, a gifted man, and we're grateful to have him stepping in.

So the boxes are beginning to accumulate (again), and plans are beginning to formulate for making the continental trek once more.

I'm grateful to report that our daughter Tovia continues to grow and act like a little new born. She seems to be a fairly mellow and easy-going baby so far, and Jenny is quite pleased that she seems to being going with a deep shade of blue for her eye color. She's plumping up rather nicely, and it's almost hard to believe that she is the same sickly, little girl that was born nine weeks premature on Easter Sunday.

Thanks to those of you who have faithfully upheld our family in prayer over the last number of months. Your prayers have been answered bountifully, and in God's goodness we will be moving home in a few weeks and rolling up our sleeves for the next chapter of this adventure.



Double Creation Narratives

Exodus 25-31 form a single unit of seven speeches: "And God spoke to Moses saying..." The fact that there are seven speeches already suggests a parallel to Genesis 1, but the order of the speeches seems to confirm this pattern as well (e.g. the last speech is a restatement of the Sabbath command). After this "new creation" of Israel, Israel sins and breaks covenant with the Lord, just like Adam. Exodus 32 and the golden calf incident have a number of parallels with Adam's fall (e.g. Aaron shifts blame like Adam, Moses and the sons of Levi gather at the entrance of the tabernacle with swords just like the cherubim that are stationed at the entrance of the garden after the Fall).

That first creation and fall are followed by a covenant renewal sequence (chs. 33-35) before the actual building of the tabernacle begins (36:8). The narrative describes in detail the obedience of Israel and the artisans in following the word of God in building what was described in the original seven speeches. This narrative closes with several statements like "all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished" and "Moses looked over all the work and indeed they had done it; as the Lord had commanded just so they had done it. And Moses blessed them." These sound remarkably like the end of the original creation week: "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good... Thus the heavens and the earth and all the hose of them were finished. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had done... Then God blessed the seventh day..."

The implication seems to be that the actual building of the tabernacle is also an act of creation that fulfills and completes the creation "week" that God had spoken in Ex. 25-31. Perhaps this is in some way following the Genesis narrative. In Gen. 1-2 there are two creation narratives, the first is the original creation week structured by the speeches of God whereas the second is creation narrative focused more directly on the man, the garden, the animals, and finally the creation of the woman. Perhaps there is at least some correspondence to that double creation narrative in Exodus. Ex. 25-31 is Genesis 1-2:4 and Ex. 36:8-39:43 is Gen. 2:5-25.

This would also fit with the tabernacle as a woman motif. When the tabernacle is finally built, a new Eve has finally emerged from the side of Israel, the new son of God, the new Adam.


Bezalel and Aholiab and the Midwives

Given the parallels between the wise women of the early chapters of Exodus and the wise women who are building the tabernacle toward the end of Exodus, it seems clear that Bezalel and Aholiab, the chief artisans of the tabernacle, are in some sense parallel to Shiphrah and Puah, the faithful Hebrew midwives. As Shiphrah and Puah led the Hebrew mothers in giving birth to sons as an act of wisdom in the "fear of God" (1:17), so too Bezalel and Aholiab are leading the wise women artisans in bringing to birth the nation of Israel as the son of God (cf. 4:22).

This also fits with the statement that concludes the midwife narrative which says that because the midwives feared God, He blessed them and gave them "houses" (1:21). Faithful midwives build houses and are given houses; Bezalel and Aholiab are the new faithful midwives who fear the Lord and are building the house of Yahweh.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wisdom is a Woman

Given that "wisdom" is central to Yahweh's building project, it is hardly surprising that women are the ones singled out for their contributions to the building of the tabernacle (35:22, 35, 36, 38:8). There were clearly men leading the building project, but it is women who are identified most directly with being "gifted artisan" or having "wise hearts."

Wisdom, as Proverbs insists, is a woman.

What's also interesting is that in the instructions for building the tabernacle, the tabernacle itself is identified as a woman or as womanly. In chapter 26, the curtains and boards are said repeatedly to be "coupled to one another" (26:3, 5, 6, 17), but literally the hebrew says "a woman to her sister." The curtains are joined together like "a woman to her sister." Literally the curtains and boards of the tabernacle are sisters; they are feminine. It is the wise women who are weaving the fabrics and spinning the yarn for the curtains who are themselves women.

Wisdom, as the book of Exodus insists, is a woman.


Wisdom Builds a House

At the beginning of Exodus it is Pharaoh who decides to deal "shrewdly" with the Hebrews and forces them to build his storage cities. The word in Hebrew is literally "wisely" (1:10). Later, it is Pharaoh who summons his "wise men" to perform enchantments to counter Moses and Aaron (7:11). Of course Yahweh confounds the wisdom of Pharaoh and all of his wise men and delivers Israel out of bondage. Numerous people have pointed out that Israel is changing masters/lords: they go from serving Pharaoh to serving Yahweh, they go from building Pharaoh's cities to building Yahweh's house. One of the other striking contrasts is between the wisdom of Pharaoh and the wisdom of Yahweh. Throughout the tabernacle building narratives (31:1-6, and chapters 35-38), God gives "wisdom" to the craftsmen and builders of the tabernacle. In the NKJV, the word "gifted artisan/s" is literally "wise hearted." The wisdom of Pharaoh sends Hebrew slaves to build his cities as a not-so-cleverly disguised population control measure, whereas Yahweh's wisdom is the Spirit of freedom given that they might build Yahweh's house and have life.


Monday, June 02, 2008

New Covenants

We have noted this morning that when we refer to the "Sinai Covenant" we are really referring to two covenants. The covenant is originally established with the nation of Israel, the law is given and explained, and the whole deal is sealed with a feast. But this covenant is broken in the golden calf incident, and it is only through Moses' intervention and mediation, that the covenant is renewed. In Moses, God makes a new covenant with the people of Israel. But this is not the first time this pattern has occurred. In the Garden of Eden, God made a covenant with Adam. Adam broke that covenant, but God renewed the covenant with Adam through the promised seed. God made a new covenant with Adam on the basis of the Seed who would come to crush the head of the serpent. In the Seed, God makes the new covenant with Adam and his posterity. Finally, we see this same pattern at work in the New Covenant. There is ambiguity in the prophets at points whether the New Covenant was established in the return from exile or at the coming of the Messiah. But this ambiguity is for the same reasons we have noted the previous pattern. God did in fact make covenant with the returned exiles, but they like their Adamic ancestors before them, broke this covenant, and by the time of the first century, the covenant breaking had become a way of life. Only through the mediation of Christ, could Israel be saved from God's wrath. Thus in Jesus, God made a new covenant with Israel. And this meal is the celebration of that new covenant. This is the new covenant in Christ's blood. But one of the points that this reoccurring pattern makes is that new covenants are always for covenant breakers. New Covenants are provisions for people who are under the wrath and judgment of God. You are not invited here because you are good or holy or because somehow you really will keep covenant this time. No, you come to this table to be united to the one mediator who has pleased God. In Christ, your sins are forgiven, and you are accepted and forgiven. This meal is for the forgiveness of sins. This is the new covenant in his blood. So come and rejoice.


Third Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 33-34

Note: A number of the following ideas were inspired by several talks in James B. Jordan's audio lecture series "Studies in Exodus."

Opening Prayer: Gracious and long-suffering God, we come before you now and ask that your Word would transform us and glorify us. Fill us with your Spirit that we might be your faithful servants. Through Jesus our Son and our Lord, Amen!

The Image of God is related to the Word of God: Adam imaged God as he obeyed his Word. When the Word was broken so was the Image. Like Adam, Israel needs a Word-keeping Image to lead them. Moses is that Christ-like mediator.

God Becomes the Curse
God initially proposes to send Israel to the land of promise with his Angel ahead of them; he says that he will not go in their midst because he would end up “consuming” them (33:1-3). This is the same word he used back in 32:10 and 12 which means to “finish/complete.” He would bring them to an end if he was in their midst. Remember the promise of the Angel of Yahweh was the promise of God’s presence/nearness (23:21, 23, 25). God had originally intended to dwell with the people of Israel (Ex. 25:8, 29:45-46). The ornaments (Egyptian spoils) are significant because they were what the golden calf had been made out of (33:4-6, cf. 32:2-4). Moses’ response is to move his tent “outside the camp” for the safety of Israel (33:7). But being “outside the camp” is itself a kind of curse: it is where the sin offerings are deposited (Ex. 29:14, Heb. 13:11), it is where lepers live (Lev. 13:46), it is where the condemned are taken for execution (Lev. 24:14, Num. 15:35). Being outside the camp is a sign of a curse (cf. Heb. 13:13). Moses and the Presence of God go outside the camp bearing the curse of Israel, so that Israel can still worship in their doorways without being consumed (33:8-10).

A New Passover
Being in the doorway reminds us of the Passover (Ex. 12:7, 22-23). The doorway is also where the continual offering was supposed to be, where God would meet with Israel and dwell in their midst (29:42). Now only Moses meets with God at the door and Israel worships in their doorways from a distance (33:8-10). Instead of the pillar of smoke ascending from the altar at the doorway, God’s own cloud presence is the pillar ascending. Instead of Israelites offering the worship directly and “standing” in the doorway of God’s house, they are “standing” in their own doorways and worshipping from a distance. The word for pillar is the same for “standing” and literally means “stood up” (33:9-10). Thus, every time Moses enters the tent, and God does not consume Israel, the Angel is “passing over” the camp and descending upon the doorway of Moses, but Moses is not consumed because he has found “grace in the eyes of the Lord.”

Moses is a New Noah
Moses is like a new Noah in this story in that he has “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Ex. 33:12-13, 16-17, cf. Gen. 6:8). God promises to send his presence with Moses and give him “rest,” a verb related to the name of Noah (33:14). While God decisively distinguished between Noah and his family and all the rest of the people “upon the face of the earth,” Moses asks that God be just as faithful with him and all Israel (33:16, cf. Gen. 6:7, 7:4). Wound through this exchange is Moses’ request for God not only to go with him but also to go with the people (33:13). God initially says he will go with Moses (33:14), but Moses insists that his presence go with “us” (33:15-16). And Yahweh agrees to do this thing (33:17). This new covenant appears to be made with Moses as opposed to the whole nation. God makes the covenant with Moses and all who are “in him” (cf. 1 Cor. 10:2). The other request of Moses was to know God’s way and to see his glory (33:13, 18), and God also grants this request through proclaiming his name to Moses (33:19). God places Moses in the cleft of the rock and allows him to see God’s “back” as he declares his Name (33:20-23, 34:5-8). His Name is His Glory. Like Noah, God makes a new covenant with Moses; Exodus 34:10-28 is a recapitulation of Ex. 21-23 the book of the covenant. Compare 34:10-17 to 23:23-24:8 and 34:18-26 to 22:29-23:19. Again, Moses tells them the “Ten Words” of Yahweh (34:28), and he explains the covenant to Aaron, the rulers, and all the people (34:31-32). Exodus 34 basically retells the story of Ex. 19-24 only with a single character (Moses) instead of the entire nation: proclamation, specific laws, forty days and nights on the mountain, and a descent with the Ten Words.

The Shining Face
Jim Jordan points out that this story begins with a golden (shining) idol which is meant to replace the leadership of Moses and the glory cloud of God (32:1ff). This story ends with Moses shining with the glory of God (34:29). Part of this is an explanation of the second commandment that Israel has broken: people are the image of God as they are conformed to his Word (34:1-2, 7, 14, 17, cf. Ex. 20:4-6). In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul explains that Moses’ veil is a parable for the people to show them their own hardness of heart. Paul says that Moses wore the veil to show the people that the glory was “rendered ineffective” (2 Cor. 3:7, 11, 13). Moses takes the veil off when he speaks to the elders, the people, and to God (Ex. 34:31-35). But Paul says that it was “rendered ineffective,” and this happens when minds are blinded but for those who “turn to the Lord” the veil is taken away (2 Cor. 3:16), and with unveiled faces we behold the glory of the Lord and are transformed into the same image, the image of Christ as the gospel is proclaimed (2 Cor. 3:17-18, 4:3-6). Paul ties all of this to creation: just as the Word commands light to come out of darkness, so too the Word precedes and produces the Image (2 Cor. 4:6).

Conclusions and Applications
Christians gather “outside the camp” for worship, to the Lord Jesus who has borne our curse, to bear his reproach with him (Heb. 13:13). He has borne our curse. We are called out of the camp to our new Moses to share in his glory, to a Moses-like ministry on behalf of the world. We like Moses must have the same kind of love that intercedes for the world (Jn. 3:16). God wants us to wrestle with him for the world. Remember, Jacob wrestles with God before entering the land. It’s in the wrestling that Jacob sees God and is blessed (32:24-32). God gives us his Name/Word for wrestling with him (34:6-9), and this is for our glory and blessing. This is a wonderful promise, but this is also a sobering threat. If the Word of God is not received in faith, it can be “rendered ineffective.”
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Almighty God, since you abound in truth and goodness, we ask that you cause your Word to penetrate into us deeply. Teach us to love your Word that we might wrestle with you and be blessed so that you might go with us as take this land.


Doing Marital Laundry

One of the ways that we love one another is through manners. Etiquette, someone has said, is just love in the little things. Everyone has laundry to do, but it’s common courtesy to do it before or after the dinner guests arrive. Now in every marriage there are discussions to be had; husbands and wives need to have open, honest conversations and sometimes issues need to be worked through before there is agreement or consensus. That in itself is not a problem so long as it is taking place in a Christian manner. But it is simply bad manners to allow those discussions and conversations to be broadcast to friends and other family members. Everyone knows that Mr. Smith has underwear, but Mrs. Smith ought not leave them lying around the living room for the dinner guests to wade through. This is all to say that wives and husbands need to guard their conversations with others such that their words do not bring out their dirty laundry for the world to see. And we need to guard this because James says that the tongue is fire that is able to set the whole body ablaze. Paul says that a wife is the glory of her husband, and it is the husband’s calling to give glory to her. And this is why Paul says that a man who loves his wife actually loves himself. To be glory and to bestow glory is to make the other look good. If you are the glory of your husband then your words ought to make him look good, your words ought to make him sound like the faithful husband that he is. If your wife is your glory, then your words ought to bestow glory upon her, by praising her (to her face and to others) and by making her look good. That’s what glory does. These are little things, but they are like the rudder that is able to turn a ship in completely different directions. Of course there is a time when husbands and wives can and should seek help and advice from appropriate friends and elders, but even this must be done in a spirit of love and respect. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself; this means that you ought to speak about your closest neighbor (your spouse) in the way that you would want to be spoken about. You are your spouse’s glory; therefore let your words reflect this.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Tovia Baptized