Leviticus 10-12

Leviticus 10-12…The death of Nadab and Abihu, and outlining things unclean.

Many biblical texts clearly teach that our holy Creator takes His worship very seriously. In these chapters, for example, we read of the occasion in which God struck Nadab and Abihu dead for worshiping Him in a way that was strange (Leviticus 10:1–3). Commentators are not sure about the exact nature of their error, but they do agree that the seriousness of the offense is related to their worshiping God in a manner that He had not commanded. They sought to be innovators in worship, and they paid the price for it. The Lord does have some lines within which we’re to color, especially when we consider 1 Corinthians 11:27–30. Many of the Corinthian Christians were taking part in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper inappropriately, and some of them died for their unworthy partaking. These passages, and many others, make it clear that it is a very serious matter to worship God according to his command.

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Leviticus 1-3

Leviticus 1-3…The burnt offering, the grain offering, and the fellowship offering.

Burnt offerings were the propitiatory sacrifices in ancient Israel. For God to maintain His justice, He must punish sin. To forgive at the expense of His just wrath would be inconsistent with His character; according to His holiness, those who have sinned must die (Gen. 2:15–17; Rom. 6:23). Once the Lord satisfies His wrath, it passes away, allowing fellowship between the Creator and His people. The burnt offering temporarily accomplished propitiation (satisfied God’s wrath) under the old covenant (2 Chron. 29:7–8), allowing God’s wrath to be appeased against Israel.

In this section of scripture (Leviticus 3 in particular), we also see God’s concern for His glory being made known through a corporate witness. God has always wanted His people to live together in unity, love, and holiness, so His name would be glorified. Today, this is done practically through the local church. This is Christ’s plan for his people, and it includes you if you’re a Christian. Commitment to a local church is they way in which we live out all the “one another” imperatives in the New Testament.

Exodus 26-28

Exodus 26-28…Design plans for the tabernacle, the altar of burnt offerings, and the priestly garments.

There is much that could be said about the tabernacle’s design, but perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it was designed to be a copy of the Almighty’s heavenly throne room. The ark of the covenant sat within the Most Holy Place as the Lord’s footstool (Exodus 26:34), and the cherubim woven into the curtains of the tabernacle were depictions of the heavenly host that glorify God day and night in heaven (Exodus 26:1).

Clearly, the details of the tabernacle, altar, and priestly garments were to be a sign that there is a massive separation between our holy God and sinners. Entering His presence is no small matter, and His worship must be carefully guarded so His name is not profaned. The care given to entering God’s presence because of sin shows just how desperately we need a savior to intercede on our behalf. Christ’s sacrifice was pleasing to God, because of His holiness. It is a healthy spiritual practice to remember this huge chasm each day, so we esteem Jesus properly, and cling to His righteousness, seeking to grow in righteousness ourselves.

Exodus 23-25

Exodus 23-25…The last few laws, the covenant confirmed, and offerings for the tabernacle.

Three observations about these chapters:

1) God desires our worship

In Exodus 23, the last of the laws are given, and God expects the people to obey. He desires our worship of His word and His ways. He tells Moses in Exodus 23:13, “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” This piece of instruction closes the loop on the commands in Exodus. Back in Exodus 20, the first commandment was “you shall have no other gods before me.” Now, as the Lord concludes, He gives them some hints on how to carefully live this out practically. Carefulness, specifically avoiding speech that includes other gods. For us, this means being intentional about what we talk about. Do you ever discuss God’s word with someone else? Or are you constantly obsessed with talking about your troubles, your difficulties, your life? What are most of your conversations about?

2) God provides spiritual help for His people

Exodus 23:20 tell us, “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” God has sent His Son for us and His Spirit to work in us to preserve us until we’re called home or He returns. But not only that, Christ has established His church, which is like a foreign embassy for heaven. Are you struggling to pursue Him joyfully? Commit to a local church, and live out this spiritual battles in this life with other believers. Share your life with them. Pour into them, and let them pour into you. The bible has no category for the long ranger Christian.

3) Salvation requires bloodshed

As we’ve progressed through this year-long study, beginning in Genesis 1 and now through Exodus 25, we have seen clearly that humans don’t initiate with God, but He pursues them. The blood of the covenant in Exodus 24 is a symbol of the blood Christ would shed for us. To pretend that one can come to God without blood atonement simply means that one is not coming to the one true God, to the God of the Bible, for the God of Holy Scripture lives in holy love. Yes, some have invented a convenient God of “love” who has no character of holiness in which that love functions, and to which he holds his image-bearers accountable. But this is a mere idol of the mind, who can be used to do the bidding of his deluded inventors. You will not meet such a “God” in the Scriptures. On the contrary, the true God of infinite love is at the same time a God of infinite holiness. That is why Hebrews 9:22 states: “without shedding of blood is no remission of sins.”

Exodus 20-22

Exodus 20-22…The ten commandments and the judicial laws.

Following the commandments of God is one mark of the true Christian. After all, Christ lives in His people (Gal. 2:20), and since Jesus’ food is to do the will of His Father (John 4:34), He certainly works in us so that we see following God as essential to our sustenance. Yet may we never forget that our obedience is always grounded in grace, for apart from the Lord changing our hearts, we have no desire to please Him (Rom. 8:7–8). Following God’s law, therefore, does not mean obeying it to secure our right standing in His heavenly court, for we can stand before Him by His grace alone (Eph. 2:8–9). Also, following God’s law does not mean obeying it in order to boast of how we are more godly than others. We are always to confess our failures and remember that “there but for the grace of God go I” (Luke 18:9–14).

Until we trust Christ, God’s law can merely restrain the extent of our sinning, encourage us to love sin, and condemn us as sinners who need the Savior (Rom. 7:8; Gal. 3:23–25; 1 Tim. 1:8–11). But once we are converted, God’s law becomes something in which we rejoice. Redeemed hearts no longer experience the Lord’s regulations as burdensome (1 John 5:3), and they see the importance of keeping “the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19). Through obedience, we thank Him for the right standing granted to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 5:12–6:14).

Exodus 17-19

Exodus 17-19…God brings about water from the rock, Jethro visits Moses, and God instructs Moses at Mount Sinai.

The Rock is one of the titles of Jehovah (Deut. 32:15). In 1 Corinthians 10:1–4, we read that the Rock (of Horeb) was Christ. Christ would stand in our place, the place of the accused, and bear judgment for the sins of His people. The rod is a symbol of judgment—in this case, divine judgment, for Moses was God’s representative. By the rod, Jesus was smitten, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5) from sin. In the same way, by the smiting of the rock at Horeb, water flowed forth, just as the Holy Spirit flows forth from Christ to nourish and equip His church. And so, in the Old Testament, we see this beautiful picture of God’s grace in the salvation of His people, for He stands in our place so that by His wounds we will be healed.

In Exodus 19, Moses gives us an inspired account of what happened at Sinai when the Israelites arrived. God made His presence known on the beginning of the third day, descending as fire and enveloping the mountain in lightning, thunder, cloud and smoke (vv. 16–19). This was truly an awesome sight, and it was meant to remind the people that the God who set them free was no deity to be taken lightly. Other passages of Scripture tell us that angels were also present (Galatians 3:19), their submission to the Lord being a further indication of His glory and power. God’s holiness is also demonstrated in His appearance to the people at Sinai, as the need for the people to be purified is stressed. They are also forbidden to touch the mountain lest they be destroyed (Exodus 19:9–15).

Our need for a Savior is woven throughout these chapters. Each day, we need to be laid low, humbling ourselves before God in repentance, and esteeming Jesus greatly. The more we grow in our understanding of the massive chasm between God and us because of our sin and His holiness, the more we’ll love Christ. If we believe in Him for any other reason, we’ve missed the entire point of Christianity.

Exodus 11-13

Exodus 11-13…The death of the first-born is threatened and then brought to fruition, the passover instituted, and the Israelites flee and are rescued by God miraculously parting the Red Sea.

The death of all the first-born in Egypt had been the first threatened, but the last to be executed. See how slow God is to anger. Also, notice that this was for everyone. The prince was not too high to be reached by it, nor the slaves at the mill too low to be noticed. God does not change. He has this same patience with us. We too, are not exempt from His wrath. It doesn’t matter if we grew up in church, know all the Bible stories, and prayed the sinner’s prayer. We desperately need Jesus. The fruit that comes from submitting our lives to Him should be evident. We cannot just agree with the gospel in principle, but need to be transformed by it in our daily lives.

In Exodus 12, the passover was instituted. It was to be kept every year, both as a remembrance of Israel’s preservation and deliverance out of Egypt, and as a foreshadowing of Christ. Their safety and deliverance were not a reward of their own righteousness, but the gift of mercy. They would be constantly reminded that all blessings came to them through the shedding and sprinkling of blood. It is that way for us with Christ. His perfect life had to be laid down for us to be made righteous. Apart from the loving sacrifice of our Savior, we are not safe, and have no hope.

There were two ways from Egypt to Canaan. One was only a few days’ journey, and the other was much further. Through the wilderness was the way in which God chose to lead his people Israel. The Egyptians were to be drowned in the Red sea, and the Israelites were to be challenged and humbled in the wilderness. God’s way is the right way, though it can sometimes seem more burdensome and tortuous. In some of our trials, we may not ever understand God’s purposes this side of heaven. But, God’s wisdom will clearly appear when we come to our journey’s end.

Genesis 39-41

Genesis 39-41…Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker meet Joseph in prison, and Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and is put in charge of Egypt.

Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers, and was taken down to Egypt. Genesis 39-41 is a remarkable part of God’s history as He continues to use the most unlikely circumstances to bring about His glory. In these chapters, we can observe three things Joseph did which demonstrate his love for the Lord.

1) He trusted God’s sovereignty. If anyone had reason to grumble and complain about unfair circumstances, it was Joseph. Clearly God had given him a miraculous ability to interpret dreams, but on the surface it seemed that this gift only resulted in trouble. Later, in Genesis 50:20, Joseph explains what God was doing when he tells his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph’s trust in the Lord’s goodness was not shaken one bit. Our Father in heaven loves us and disciplines those He loves, so we need to trust His plan, even if we don’t understand it. He will undoubtedly bring us trials in this life.

2) He remained faithful. Joseph was put in a very difficult circumstance with Potiphar’s wife. She tried to seduce him, but he resisted. Notice the way in which he avoided sin in Genesis 39:10; “And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even to be with her.” This is the kind of vigilant faith Jesus described in Mark 9:47 when He talks about pursuing holiness. He says, “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.” Joseph was wise enough to know that it wasn’t enough to simply avoid sleeping with her. His faith was big enough and his love for God passionate enough, that he decided he could only remain pure by avoiding her altogether. A helpful example of how we should approach similar situations.

3) Joseph sought to change his circumstances. A common misconception of reformed theology, especially by those who are not reformed, is that it removes free will and human responsibility from the equation. However, this would be hypercalvinism, which is wrong. Any teaching that assumes we must sit back and let God do whatever He is going to do because we have not control over anything is false. The scriptures are full of imperative commands, as well as examples of saints throughout history who took action. Joseph certainly understood God’s hand in his difficult circumstances, but he aggressively tries to change them to better himself. In Genesis 40:15, when he interprets the dream of Pharaoh’s cupbearer in prison, he says, “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” The story of Joseph is a great example of both God’s sovereign hand orchestrating events, as well as man’s responsibility to act, and his freedom in doing so. This is difficult to grasp in our finite humans minds, but God is 100% sovereign and man 100% responsible. This is true throughout scripture, and therefore is to be believed.

Genesis 15-17

Genesis 15-17…God establishes his covenant with Abram, Hagar and Ishmael become part of the narrative as a result of sin, and the covenant of circumcision between God and Abraham is put in place.

We’re only 17 chapters into the first book of the Bible, and the pattern of interaction between God and man is well-established. God creates and blesses His people. He wants fellowship with them, and they consistently turn to their own selfish wants and needs. Prideful unbelief and selfishness mark all people from Adam to us. But, despite this stiff-necked opposition to our Creator, He consistently shows grace and mercy.

In chapter 15, we see exactly what God wants from us. Genesis 15:1 says:

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

He wants us to believe in Him, and to find contentment in Him. He is our reward, and our interests should align with His. We should pursue righteousness if we love God, because He loves righteousness. This text is married beautifully to Romans 4. We have to have a savior, and we must have righteousness come from outside ourselves, because we cannot be righteous enough. God’s covenant with Abram requires faith in return for righteousness. And so it is for us as well. We cannot be justified by works, but need the works of one who was without sin. Our faith in Christ and repentance from sin is the only way to be shielded from God’s wrath, because He is both perfectly holy and perfectly just.

Genesis 16 outlines a pattern of human unbelief and pride which marks our own lives. Abram’s wife, Sarai, does not believe that God will bless her with children. She convinces Abram to sleep with her servant, Hagar, and he gets Hagar pregnant. This is the same Abram who had just been miraculously saved by the Lord in the previous chapters. Sarai is then upset by the outcome, which is not surprising. However, this is exactly what we do. We don’t like God’s timing and/or word, so we take matters into our own hands. We sin, choosing to somehow please ourselves and find happiness. The outcome of our sin is usually not great, then we are upset with the circumstances that we put ourselves in by not obeying God in the first place. This cycle of prideful unbelief marks all of our lives, but it can be broken. We have to first recognize that we are in desperate need of a savior because of our sin. Through repentance and faith we can be changed. This is what true conversion looks like.

God’s interaction with Abraham in Genesis 17 follows the same course. He promises to bless Abraham with a son, and Abraham laughs at him. But God, being abundantly patient and merciful, blesses Abraham anyway. He is a loving father, and exercises this same patience with us. He wants our hearts, and desires that we put down the trinkets and toys that we worship. Those idols we try to find contentment in will not be in heaven. Are you looking forward to heaven for the right reward? Because if you a longing for eternity with something other than God, you aren’t going to like heaven.

Isaiah 40:23

Isaiah 40:23…”He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.”

God is sovereign over authority in this world. He places people in positions of leadership for His glory. Since we’re not Him, we can’t fully understand His plan, but because of His character and word, we know that His plan is good. If we’re in a position of leadership, be it in our families, churches, or work, He put us there. As Christians, we are constantly either telling the truth about what Christ is like through our actions and words as leaders, or we’re giving false witness. This is true of the times when we do nothing as well. When we fail to lead through not speaking or not acting, we abdicate our responsibility, and lie about Christ. Thankfully, He perfectly led, and always spoke and acted in holiness. If we repent and believe in Him, His perfect life is imputed to us. However, we need to take spiritual inventory of where we are falling short, because where there is no recognition of sin there is no repentance, and where there is no repentance there is spiritual immaturity.