Sunday, August 15, 2010

Exodus 34

Moses receives the two tables of stone (vs. 1-9)--The reader may recall that he had smashed the first two in anger over seeing the Israelites worshipping the golden calf (chapter 32). There is no indication of rebuke from Jehovah for what he did. The Lord required Moses to return, alone, to the top of the mountain (vs. 2-3). Moses obeyed and the Lord "descended in the cloud" and met him (v. 5). God descending and ascending in clouds is a common occurrence in Scripture. Usually it's intended in a figurative sense (Matt. 24:30; 26:64), but not always. Jehovah announces His character in verses 6 and 7: He is merciful, but just, and some sins have consequences beyond the generation that commits them (v. 7). Keep in mind that the Jews did not know this God very well, so He continues to drill them on who--and what--He is. Moses knows Him better than anyone, and bows before Him (v. 8), asking for forgiveness for himself and his people (v. 9).

Sundry commandments repeated (vs. 10-26)--God is "awesome" (NKJV, v. 10; the KJV's and ASV's "terrible" conveys a negative sense which is not indicated by the context), and has made a covenant with Israel and would do "marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation" (v. 10). Israel's response, of course, was to be obedient, driving out of Canaan the wicked tribes who might influence God's people to sin (v. 11). Don't make a covenant with them (v. 12), but "you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images" (v. 13). Israel was to have only one God (v. 14). The Lord feared--knew--that if the Israelites intermingled with the pagan peoples of Canaan, they would "play the harlot with their gods" (v. 16). Once again, the principle of "evil companions corrupt good morals" (I Cor. 15:33) is announced. It shouldn't be that way; godly people should lift the ungodly to a higher standard, but it doesn't always happen that way, and we are warned, constantly, about the influence the wicked can have on us.

Rather than worshipping false gods, Israel was to keep the feasts God had appointed for them. He mentions only the Passover here (v. 18). God requires the first of male and animal (v. 19, a donkey may be redeemed with a lamb), "and none shall appear before Me empty-handed" (v. 20). They owed God everything (as do we), and to give Him nothing in return is an insult of the highest order.

The theme of serving only God is continued for the rest of the chapter. Just as Jehovah had done at the creation, the Jews were to work six days and rest on the seven (v. 21). The other two yearly feasts (the Feast of Weeks--Pentecost--and the Feast of Ingathering--Tabernacles) are now mentioned (v. 22), which means the Jewish males were to "appear before the Lord, the God of Israel" three times a year (v. 23). God would providentially protect them at this time (v. 24), which is an important thought. If all the males of Israel were in Jerusalem three times a year, who would safeguard them from invasion by their enemies? The Lord would: "neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year" (v. 24). No blood sacrifice was allowed at the Passover, and again, the Lord repeats the instruction that they are to give the first of their goods to Him (v. 26). The stricture "you shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk" has been found before (Exodus 23:19). Clarke has a quote from another writer which is interesting and possibly the reason behind this command: ""It was a custom of the ancient heathens, when they had gathered in all their fruits, to take a kid and boil it in the milk of its dam; and then, in a magical way, to go about and besprinkle with it all their trees and fields, gardens and orchards; thinking by these means to make them fruitful, that they might bring forth more abundantly in the following year."

Moses returns with the tables of stone (vs. 27-35)--The Lord commanded Moses to write down what he had been told (v. 27). Moses was on the mount 40 days and nights again (v. 28), miraculously sustained by God--"he neither ate bread nor drank water." Verse 27 also indicates that only the Ten Commandments were on the tablets, although this could be representative of the whole law. It is a little difficult to conceive of the whole law being written on two stones small enough for Moses to carry.

When Moses returned to the people "the skin of his face shone" and the people were afraid to come near him (v. 30). This condition apparently lasted for awhile (v. 35), and Moses had to wear a veil when he spoke to the people, but not with God (v. 34). As he always faithfully did, Moses passed Jehovah's commandments on to the people (v. 32).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Exodus 33

The command to go to Canaan (vs. 1-6)--At some point following the events of chapter 32, God once again commands Moses to lead the people to the Promised Land. But Jehovah is so annoyed with their rebellious spirit that He tells them "I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people" (v. 3). The taking off of ornaments, which would have included rich garments, was apparently a sign of mourning (vs. 4-5). The people were certainly distressed over the "bad news" that God would not travel in their midst, but it was their own fault.

The temporary tabernacle (vs. 7-11)--Since the permanent tabernacle had not yet been constructed, Moses took his own tent to serve as a temporary one. It was called the "tabernacle of meeting" (v. 7). Moses placed it "far from the camp" (v. 7)—reverence for the presence of God. It was a solemn occasion when Moses went to this tabernacle: "all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle" (v. 9). The Lord came and talked with Moses at such times (v. 9), appearing in a cloud. The people saw "the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door" and worshiped (v. 10). Verse 11 provides a wonderful compliment to Moses: "So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." Joshua is called a "young man" in this verse, which may be so compared to Moses and Aaron. But he would have been at least 50 years old at the time.

Moses requests guidance (vs. 12-16)--One of the reasons Moses was such a great man was his humility and dependence upon God. Jehovah has given him the command to take the people to Canaan, but the exact details had not yet been given. So Moses requests "Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight" (v. 13). The only answer he gets at the moment is the Lord telling him "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (v. 14). Moses confirms that, responding, in effect, "Well, if You won't go with us, then there's really no sense in us going at all. Because how will we know we have found grace in your sight, if You aren't with us?"

The Lord shows Moses His glory (vs. 17-23)--Moses' mission was a difficult one--to lead over 2 million people through a hot, dry desert on a lengthy journey. The Lord knew it was a mighty task and gave Moses further comfort and confirmation by allowing, upon Moses' request, His servant to see His glory. All Moses was allowed to see, however, was Jehovah's back (v. 23), for "you cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live" (v. 20). So the Lord puts Moses "in the cleft of the rock" and covered him with His hand as He passed by (v. 22). This is one of those great Biblical scenes one wishes he could witness.