Friday, August 22, 2014

EXODUS+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).

Exodus 1:12 "The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied, and the more they spread abroad." The book of Exodus carries on from where Genesis left off. It is the story of how God rooted the national life of the Israelites in His own redeeming love and power. In their days of quiet and prosperity in Egypt's land of Goshen, they had never come to national constitution. They were a welcome guest race and free subjects, but the book of Exodus introduces us to them about 400 years later in circumstances of darkness and difficulty. Now the Israelites were slaves, unjustly and cruelly oppressed. The hopes  Jacob and Joseph had of their people's return to their own land seemed to have no chance of realization since they were powerless and threatened with extermination. But here in our text we see evidence of God's presence and blessing. The Israelites could not be destroyed because God had chosen them for the fulfillment of His purposes. The principle is of perpetual application. The more that forces antagonistic to the will of God operate against the people of God, all the more do His people rise and gain strength.

Exodus 2:2 "When she that he was a fine child, she hid him three months."  The outstanding figure in this book is Moses. He was the chosen instrument of God for carrying out the purposes of His will. Prepared by remarkable experiences, he was brought to a level of faith in God that made possible his employment in this way. It is good for us to recognize that the faith of Moses was preceded by the faith of his parents. As the writer of Hebrews explains, "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents because they saw he was a fine child and they were not afraid of the king's edict" (Hebrews 11:23). One day we will know how often great men and women of God were provided and preserved, begotten and nurtured, by men and women of faith. What the whole world owes to the strong and simple fathers and mothers who worked hand in hand with God by faith will then be known. Thus we see as the back story of what is to come a mother hiding her baby, her heart free from the fear of the king, because she believed God.

Exodus 3:1 "Moses was keeping the flock." Eighty years had passed since Jochebed had hidden her baby boy. Nothing of any apparent value had transpired. The Israelites still groaned because of their bondage. Once, halfway through the period—40 years ago—there had been a flame, a flash, a commotion. A young Hebrew who had lived at the court of Pharaoh flew upon an Egyptian and killed him for oppressing a Hebrew. He also endeavored to settle differences between two contending Hebrews, but his interference was resented. His actions brought him into danger at court so by faith he renounced all his earthly advantages and fled. Now another forty years had run their course and we see him keeping the flock of his father-in-law in the wilderness. How wonderfully those years were preparing Moses for his future work! The years he spent at court provided him with the education and experiences of an accomplished man. Then in the crisis referred to, he learned how inadequate he was to deliver his people. The years spent in the quiet splendors of the wilderness and his shepherd occupation had prepared him for the meekness necessary to lead the people of God. It was in the midst of that work that God appeared to him and called him to His task.

Exodus 4:1 "Moses answered and said, 'But....'" The eyes of Moses saw the wonder of the bush that burned with fire but was not consumed, and the ears of Moses heard the voice of God. In this strange and wonderful communion, Moses learned of God's compassion and purpose for the Israelites, yet he "answered and said, 'But.'" That this man should be filled with misgivings when he thought of the condition of his people, of the power of Egypt, and of his own inabilities is not to be wondered at. Nevertheless this attitude of hesitance and fear was wrong. When it persisted, "the anger of the Lord burned against him" (Exodus 4:14). We naturally feel sympathy with Moses, but surely this story is written that we may learn the deeper lesson of the wrong of such failure. When God is calling us to some high service, we are prone to focus on the difficulties as we see them. The whole difference between faith and fear is that of putting our "Buts" before or after God. God commands, but there are difficulties. That is paralysis. There are difficulties, but God commands. That is power.

Exodus 5:1 "Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord.'" Thus began the dealing of God with Pharaoh to deliver His people. His servants came to the proud monarch, and in his person faced all the power of Egypt with the Word of God. In the case of Pharaoh, the patience and power of God are equally obvious. The acts of God in judgment throughout this confrontation were the ratification of the acts and attitudes of the man himself (an idea developed further when discussing Exodus 11:10). The first result of the delivery of the divine Word was the challenge and flat refusal of Pharaoh, increasing the hardship and suffering of the Hebrew people. It is not surprising that the people would murmur against Moses since his plan for delivering them must have seemed to have disastrously failed already. Moses himself was perplexed and troubled, but his action was that of faith: he took his trouble and perplexity immediately to God. Those who face others, having the right to say to them, "Thus says the Lord" also have the right to return to the Lord, stating the difficulties and exposing their concerns. This brings the answer of His patience and His power.

Exodus 6:2 "I am the Lord." This is the essence of God's answer to the cry of Moses about the refusal of the Pharaoh and consequent sufferings and complaints of the Israelites. He declared that He would  compel  Pharaoh  to let the people go, and reassured Moses with a message of personal involvement and self assertion. Notice the sequence: "I am the Lord," "I appeared," "I was not known to them," "I have established," "I have heard," "I have remembered," "I am the Lord," "I will bring you out," "I will rescue you," "I will redeem you," "I will take you," "I will be to you," "I am the Lord," "I will bring you in," "I will give it to you," "I am the Lord" (Exodus 6:2-8). "The Lord" (Yahweh or Jehovah) is the name that supremely stands for the grace of God.  All the activities of the past, present, and future reveal Him as acting on behalf of His people. This was the divine declaration to the difficulties Moses presented. Even then Moses did not, could not, grasp its full significance, but its statement gave him surer ground to stand on as he waited for the interpretation of experience. Moses gave the Lord's message "to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage" (Exodus 6:9). Yet Moses listened for them.

Exodus 7:1 "I will make you as God to Pharaoh." That is God's Word to Moses in answer to this objection: "Behold, the sons of Israel have not listened to me; how then will Pharaoh listen to me, for I am unskilled in speech?" (Exodus 6:12). Moses would soon stand before Pharaoh in the place of God, not only delivering His messages, but also accompanying them with demonstrations of their divine power and authority. Those demonstrations led to the breaking of Pharaoh's power and the deliverance of God's people. Notice the patient method of God with those whom He calls to serve Him. He calls men to do things for which they are unfit in their own natural powers, even though those powers also are of divine origin. In such hours they naturally shrink and are afraid. But God never loses patience, so long as they remain loyal to Him in heart. He hears their expressions of fear, explains His method, and step by step leads and strengthens them until they accomplish all His will.

Exodus 8:19 "Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, 'This is the finger of God.'" With Pharaoh we see a strong will making itself stupid, while all along the way, until the condition was utterly beyond remedy, God gave him opportunities to use that strong will in surrender. Before the first plague fell, he was warned and given the chance to avoid its devastation. He refused, Egypt was traumatized by the Nile River turning to blood, Pharaoh showed callous disregard, Egypt suffered another plague, and then under the pressure of that plague, Pharaoh relented by saying he would let Moses' people go. Relief came the next day but Pharaoh went back on his word. When the third plague fell, the creation of gnats from dust, the magicians of Egypt tried to duplicate it (something they were able to do to a limited degree with the first two plagues), but were powerless and constrained to recognize "the finger of God." After the confession of his magicians, Pharaoh had to face a new element in the forthcoming plagues: Moses warned him that Israel would be immune. Observe Moses through these events acting with singular calm and dignity. God had prepared him well.

Exodus 9:20 "He who feared the Word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh." Here is a gleam of light amid the prevailing darkness. A plague of hail was about to commence and the warning given was more explicit and careful than on any previous occasion. Some of the servants of Pharaoh feared the Word of the Lord and acted accordingly, sparing themselves and their households from the devastating hail. Thus God is seen as He always is: acting with impartial justice. No man or nation ever perishes by the act of God of whom or which it might not truthfully be said that their blood was upon their own head. No matter how long the rebellion continues, if it gives place to true repentance, He is ready to forgive. His benefits are never confined to the people of one nation. That is a truth the apostle Peter came to realize, for he told his Gentile audience, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him" (Act 10:34-35). 

Exodus 10:26 "Not a hoof shall be left behind." This was the final word of Moses in a persistent conflict against anything in the nature of compromise. After the fourth plague (flies), Pharaoh suggested that the Israelites might sacrifice, but without going away from Egypt (Exodus 8:25). Moses at once refused. Pharaoh proposed after the eighth plague (locusts) that they should leave the women and children behind (10:8-11). Moses refused. After the ninth plague (darkness), Pharaoh suggested that the cattle be left (10:24). That's when Moses said, "Not a hoof shall be left behind." This is the true attitude of the man of faith. Evil is always suggesting some compromise. To entertain it is to remain enslaved. The only way into liberty is to leave the land of evil, accompanied by the women and the children, and to take all the property also. It is when that attitude is assumed that men pass out from all bondage and find the liberty that is in the purpose of God for them. This truth may be applied in both individual and national life.

Exodus 11:10 "The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land." This is the last declaration of its kind in connection with the plagues, prefacing the story of the slaying of the firstborn. In the note on Exodus 5:1 it was stated that these acts of judgment were the ratification of Pharaoh's acts and attitudes. Let's now consider the fact that there are three Hebrew words translated harden or hardened: 1. Chazaq means to make strong; 2. Kabad means to make heavy, with the idea of stupidity; 3. Qashah means to make hard or fierce. Throughout the story, chazaq—to make strong is used to describe the action of God (Exodus 4:21; 7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:12, 35; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17). It is never employed to describe the actions of Pharaoh. It is once used to describe the anxiety of the Egyptians that the Israelites should be allowed to go quickly (12:33). Kabad—with the idea of stupidity occurs first as God's description of Pharaoh's condition (7:14), then three times of Pharaoh's actions (8:15, 32; 9:34), of the writer's description of Pharaoh's condition (9:7), and finally to describe an act imposed by God (10:1). Qashah—to make hard or fierce is found only twice: to describe the act of God (7:3) and the severity of Pharaoh's stubbornness (13:15). A careful examination shows that God's activity first strengthened Pharaoh, leaving him to act. He did not harden him in the sense of rendering him stupid until he had persisted in that action himself beyond remedy.

Exodus 12:2 "This month shall be to you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year to you." These words constitute a change in calendar at the command of God, coming when the Israelites were passing into national constitution as a theocracy, a people under the direct and immediate government of God. It was directly connected with the institution of the Passover Feast. The beginning of the year changed from Tishri, the month of harvest, to Abib or Nisan, the month of green ears or springtime. Every new year would now begin with the celebration of the feast that emphasized the relation of the people to God, bringing to mind the redemptive basis of that relationship. God is always the God of new beginnings in the history of failure. The ultimate statement of that truth is in the next-to-last chapter of the Bible: "Behold, I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5). All such beginnings are founded on Redemption and Righteousness. God had redeemed His people from cruel bondage and brought them to Himself so that under His law they might realize the meaning of life and fulfill its highest purposes. God had admitted them to a fellowship with Himself, which to them would supply all need and to Him an instrument in the world for carrying out the program of His infinite grace.

Exodus 13:17 "God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although it was near."  A great principle of the divine government emerges in these words that explains many experiences through which the Israelites would pass. These people were but newly released from slavery and were undisciplined and untrained. Before they could be ready to withstand the opposition of new enemies, they had much to learn. The near way geographically to their destination lay through the land of the Philistines, but to pass that way would inevitably involve them in conflict. Therefore God led them round about. How constantly God does this with His people! He leads us by ways that can seem long and tedious when there are ways apparently so much more direct to the goal. Let us always know that when He does so, He is avoiding for us perils that we may not be conscious of, but which are far graver than those we pass along the pathway He marks out for us. The nearest way is not always the shortest. Our God never permits us, as long as we obey Him, to meet any danger unprepared. The length of the way and the slowness of the method are really making for quick and sure arrival.

Exodus 14:30 "Thus the Lord saved Israel." Years ago a Scottish minister speaking to children asked if any of them could tell him how God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. Many hands were held up, but the bright and eager eyes of one little girl caught his attention so he asked her to tell him. With radiant face and great eagerness she said, "Just fine!" Was ever a better answer given? What a wonderful account of God's wisdom, might, tenderness, and patience! His wisdom is manifested in His perfect understanding of the hearts of all those who were involved, and in His methods with them. His power appears in His dealings with Egypt and parting of the Red Sea. His tenderness is proved by all His words and every arrangement He made. His patience is seen in His dealing with Pharaoh, to whom He had given detailed warnings to set His people free without suffering to himself or his people. Thus had the Lord saved Israel. They had nothing to boast of except their God. They were not free as the result of their own cleverness or strength. They owed everything to Him. So it is with those of us who love the Lord. In Him we may at all times make our boast, and all such boasting is good because it sets forth His praise and keeps us free from the self-confidence that weakens and destroys.

Exodus 15:1 "Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord." There are moods of the soul that can be expressed only in poetry and in music. They are the great moods, whether of joy or sorrow. This was a moment of high experience, full of the sense of the greatness of life. The chains were gone, the enemies destroyed; freedom was theirs and opportunities were before them. Their sense of the greatness of life was created by their sense of the greatness of God. Therefore this newborn nation sang a glorious celebration of their King. It has its backward and forward look, and in each case the supreme fact is God. He had triumphed magnificently! All the power opposed to Him and them proved weak in His mighty grasp. Moreover He would fulfill His purpose in bringing His people to the mountain of His inheritance for them. The soul who recognizes God's purposes and power can sing out loud, even though the threatening inhabitants of Edom, Moab, and Canaan are near. Such moments of high vision and glorious praise are full of value, even though soon enough there may be darkness and declension. Whenever they come, let us avail ourselves of them to the full.

Exodus 16:2 "The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled." What a startling change from the song of yesterday! It seems incredible that so soon they should have descended from the height of glorious song to the depth of coarse grumbling. Yet so it was and still is. What had happened? Had God changed? Was He not still the glorious King? Had they encountered some enemy more powerful than Pharaoh, some obstacle more impossible to overcome than the sea? No, they were hungry, that's all. Had they forgotten God? No, not wholly, but they were allowing the near and the trivial to make them for the moment unmindful of Him. Almost invariably when the people of God are grumbling, it is over some experience they are called to endure that is of the most trivial nature compared with the great things of life. This kind of thing quickly spreads. Notice that the whole congregation joined in this unworthy expression. Unanimity is not always proof of wisdom or rightness. In an hour when the prevailing mood is of dissatisfaction, it is a good thing if some lonely singer celebrates the Lord in song. If singing is impossible, let there at least be silence. That is always better than grumbling. The sequel shows how unnecessary the murmuring was. It always is.

Exodus 17:7 "They tested the Lord, saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'" There are two things to note here: the nature of the suggestion made by the people and the effect that it had on the Lord. Regarding the first, under the stress of an immediate lack, the people doubted the one fact they had overwhelming evidence of. All the experiences they had gone through and that brought them to where they now were came directly through the presence and power of God. Had He not been with them, they would still be slaves in Egypt. Yet the lack of water made them either question that fact or imagine that God had abandoned them. In hours of lack, stress, or difficulty we too are prone to imagining that God has left us or even to imagine we might have been wrong in believing He had ever been with us. That this is not only unworthy but also wicked is shown by the language used to describe the effect of such a thing on God: "they tested the Lord." Essentially they were giving Him a reason to abandon them by suggesting maybe He had done so. Necessarily this statement is an attempt to express a divine truth through a human analogy since "God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone" (James 1:13). He provided water for His people and everything else they needed, but that was wholly of His mercy and grace. Such questioning of God merits punishment. They tested God, yet He was not moved to such a response as they deserved. We must always strive against the suggestion that God can act in any way that contradicts our past experiences of His presence and power.

Exodus 18:17 "Moses' father-in-law said to him, 'The thing that you are doing is not good.'" This is an arresting story because this advice on administrating the affairs of the people comes from a man outside their borders, and Moses rightly acts upon it. Three matters are particularly significant. The first is that the principle is a good one. No man is warranted in attempting to carry more than he is able to carry. One of the greatest signs of capacity for leadership is the ability to call others into fellowship in responsibility and service. The second is that God has many ways of making known His will to His servants. He at times speaks through a Jethro to a Moses as surely as through a Moses to His people. The third is that all advice we receive from men should be tested by submitting it to God for ratification or amendment.

Exodus 19:8 "All that the Lord has spoken we will do!" These words should be carefully pondered because they are vital to understanding the whole story. They are the peoples' response after the Lord reminded them of His redeeming them from slavery and bringing them to Himself. He also declared His purpose for them to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). Observe that those are the very terms that describe God's purpose for the church: "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). The Israelites' response to God's grace was an enthusiastic declaration that they would do everything God said. How little they knew themselves! Their answer was sincere, but it was ignorant. God's next words were, "Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud" (Exodus 19:9). That was to prepare the way for the Law and the priesthood, which were provided for a people who, however sincere their desire, were  yet not able to realize the high ideals and purposes of God. Thus began the period of the Mosaic Law, which continued until Calvary and Pentecost. It was a period of persistent failure of these people and the persistent patience and victory of God. He waits and pursues His own way of grace and government. We may truthfully say for both Israel and the church that all that the Lord has spoken they will do finally, but only by His grace, not their own wisdom and strength.

Exodus 20:2 "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." These are the words that introduce the Law and are the immediate prelude to the Ten Commandments. God's law was for His ransomed people. Every requirement is rooted in this fact of relationship. God did not promulgate a code of laws for the Israelites while they were in bondage, telling them that if they would obey it, He would deliver them. He brought them out of the house of bondage and then gave them His law. From all responsibility to the proud despotism of Egypt He liberated them by bringing them into the liberty of His love. Then He gave them the words that revealed His will. Thus Law in itself was an expression of Love. That is always God's way. In this special time of His grace it is still true, yet grace does not set aside ethical requirements. God still has us live by laws that govern conduct and worship. The thought of strength and comfort for us is that every requirement of His law is rooted in His love.

Exodus 21:5-6 "I will not go out free....Then...." Among the first of the laws following the Ten Commandments were those regulating "slavery," but they replaced what we call slavery with covenanted or contracted service. An Israelite might buy a man's service, but only for a period of six years. In the seventh year he must go out free. No Israelite was allowed to hold men or women in perpetuity. Here, however, was an exception. There were certain circumstances under which one man could become the servant of another for his whole life. That, however, could not be by the compulsion of the master, but by the deliberate choice of the servant.  This is not some ignoble refusal to face the responsibilities of freedom, but a yielding to the claims of love. The servant here has gained wife and children from his master. His master has earned his love. Rather than go out into personal freedom, he chooses to abide with his loved ones and continue serving a master he loves. This service is, in fact, noble. There is no higher exercise of freedom than choosing to serve out of love.

Exodus 22:18 "You shall not allow a sorceress to live." With blunt directness and complete finality is given the law of God against all traffic with the world of evil spirits. The enactment of this law reveals the possibility of such communications, and the death penalty makes perfectly clear the heinousness of all such action. Christians and others have often made the mistake of denying the possibility of such things, treating witchcraft, sorcery, and spiritism as unreal things to be laughed at or denied. No graver blunder can be made. There are very real dealings with spirits, as the Bible makes clear and history demonstrates. The whole biblical teaching is opposed to the practice, viewing it as essentially evil and strictly forbidding it. Human experience shows the evil effects of all such traffic. Wherever it is indulged in, sooner or later it produces terrible results physically, mentally, and morally. It is clearly against the revealed will of God that in this life men and women should hold any communication with the spirit world other than direct fellowship with Himself through His Son by the Holy Spirit.

Exodus 23:2 "You shall not follow the masses in doing evil." The first application of these words in the text was to the administration of justice. The possibility then and now is allowing popular prejudice to influence judgment against an individual. Involved within the command are much wider applications. It reminds us that popular opinion is not always right. How foolish the old saying vox populi vox dei: the voice of the people is by no means always the voice of God! Indeed, majorities have been so often wrong that only with great caution should one consent to be counted among them. The history of all right movements has been the history of lonely souls, who, having heard the authentic voice of God, stood alone or in small minorities. It is easy to move with the current, drift with the tide, shout with the multitude, but ease is not the condition either of righteousness or true progress. In the home, society, business, national life, and sometimes in the church, the multitude may be wrong. Then the soul must refuse to follow and be willing to stand alone. To do so will bring strain and stress, but it will always discover strength because it will find God.

Exodus 24:11 "They beheld God, and they ate and drank." Exodus 24:9-11 tells about one of the most wonderful events in connection with the giving of the Law: "Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they beheld God, and they ate and drank." This is the story of a great communion. The account of this experience is reverently reticent. Nothing  is said about the form the divine manifestation took. The only description attempted is what was under God's feet. The declaration that they saw God is arresting, especially because He later tells Moses, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see me and live!" (Exodus 33:20). Two different Hebrew words are employed to describe what happened to the elders of Israel. The word translated "saw" in verse 10 is the common word for seeing, while the word translated "beheld" in verse 11 is almost invariably used of mental perception or discernment. It is likely the second word interprets the first. These men in an exalted moment of communion were given a vision of God that was perceivable by their senses. It was a great experience and the wonder was that in such an hour "they ate and drank": they lived their natural lives in all fullness.

Exodus 25:2 "From every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution." An abiding principle is revealed in these words. It is that the one value to God of gifts presented to Him by His people is the willing heart that prompts them. All the materials for building the tabernacle were to be supplied by the people themselves. God could easily have provided everything another way. As the apostle Paul declared to the Athenians, God is not "served by human hands, as though He needed anything" (Act 17:25). Nevertheless, He enables and asks men to provide the necessary materials, but lays down the one condition that their offerings must come out of their willing hearts. When this is so, the simplest gift becomes of real value to Him, for it is a symbol of loyalty and devotion. This truth is beautifully stated in 2 Corinthians 9:7: "Let each one give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." It is a healthy exercise to test our gifts by this standard.

Exodus 26:33 "The veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the most holy place." This beautiful veil was the solemn symbol of inclusion and exclusion. Notice where it was hung: not between the camp and the courts  or even between the courts and the holy place, but between the holy and most holy places. It did not divide between secular and sacred or service and worship; it separated between all high things and the highest, between relative purity and absolute holiness. The veil's blue, purple, and scarlet materials embroidered with fine-twined linen in the shape of cherubim were symbolic to the Israelites of the perfections in man necessary for communion with God. Every detail, therefore, spoke eloquently of the exclusion of imperfect man. Only once a year was man represented beyond the veil by the high priest, and that only for a brief period by the grace of God upon the ground of atonement. Only by grasping all this will we realize the significance of what happened immediately when Christ finished His work on the cross: "Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:41). When at last the Man in whom all perfections were realized had made full atonement for human sins, the symbol of separation was destroyed. Now, through Him alone, we may draw near to God and realize the highest of life as in fellowship we fulfill its highest functions.

Exodus 27:20 "Pure oil beaten for the light, to make a lamp burn continually." Behind the veil in the most holy place, there was no light other than that created by the glory of the Lord, shining above the mercy seat. The holy place outside that veil was illuminated by a seven-branched lampstand. This lamp was the sacred symbol of the light-bearing function of Israel. The light of this symbolic lamp was derived from pure olive oil, burning continuously, and this was attended to ceaselessly by the priests. This imagery of the lamp appears often in the messages and songs of the prophets and psalmists, perhaps most strikingly in Zechariah 4:1-14. The central statement there is, "'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). Oil is uniformly the symbol of the Holy Spirit of God. The elect light-bearers of the world are able to fulfill their function only by the Holy Spirit. He who declared, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12) was conceived by the Holy Spirit, full of the Spirit, anointed by the Spirit, did His works in the power of the Spirit, offered Himself through the Spirit, was raised from the dead by the Spirit, and took up His abode in His church by the Holy Spirit. So it is with His people, of whom He said, "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). "By one Spirit" we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ "were all baptized into one Body" (1 Corinthians 12:13). When we are filled with His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16), we will shine as lights in the world.

Exodus 28:41 "Anoint them, consecrate them, and sanctify them." These words indicate the method by which the priests were prepared to minister to God. Each one has its own particular value, and the three in sequence cover the whole ground of preparation. The first, anoint, quite simply describes putting sacred oil on the head (Exodus 29:7). The second, consecrate, is the translation of two Hebrew words meaning the filling of the open hand, which signifies equipping the anointed one to carry out his ministry. The third, sanctify, means literally to make clean, and refers to the spiritual and moral separation of the priest from all defilement. Thus all priestly ministry is made possible by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who provides the power and ensures the purity necessary for effective priestly ministry before God. The divinely arranged ritual of the Mosaic economy was intended to convey truths of fundamental importance. This ritual is done away in Christ because all the things it typifies are realized in and through Him. We who love Him are priests before the Lord because we have the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and so cleansing and power for our ministry.

Exodus 29:43 "The tent shall be sanctified by My glory." The tent or tabernacle of the Israelites was to be made according to divine pattern. That pattern was detailed, accurate, and in every smallest detail suggestive of holy facts and forces. Those preparing the tabernacle were devoted to the will of God. Nevertheless it needed sanctification, which came by the coming of God and the purifying splendor of His glory. Now ponder these opening words from John's Gospel: "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us—and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). By that Only Begotten Son, God sanctified a place of meeting between Himself and man. We may make our places of assembly beautiful, as we should; we may do all the work of preparation with true devotion, as we must; but neither the devotion of the doing nor the beauty of the deed has any sanctifying power. It is the glory of God, effective through His coming near, that sanctifies a place of meeting and so creates the possibility of our fellowship with Him wherever we may be.

Exodus 30:15 "The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than the half-shekel." The half-shekel was not a gift in the sense of a free-will offering. It was a recognition of redemption, a sign of atonement made and received. Here the rich and the poor stood upon a perfect equality. Nothing a man has can procure him access to God or exclude him; nothing a man lacks can exclude him or grant him access. Such access results from an atonement that God makes, not man. Therefore the ransom that an Israelite gave was to be of the same amount in every case, and it was given for the upkeep of the tabernacle whenever a census of the people was taken. Each half-shekel represented one person. It was not a gift from one's possessions but a symbol of the fact that the person represented by it was wholly the Lord's by virtue of the atonement He graciously provided. The necessity for this symbol is done away in Christ because the thing symbolized has been brought to fulfillment. Our numbering among the redeemed is a fact that motivates complete devotion to the Lord as a joyful obligation.

Exodus 31:3 "I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and all kinds of workmanship." This is a beautiful revelation of how God equips those He appoints to serve. The Israelites had been enslaved for centuries ("the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years," Exodus 12:40) so who among them would have developed the artistic skill necessary to construct the tabernacle according to the divine pattern? Therefore God called Bezalel and prepared him for his work. Each word used to describe that preparation has special significance. Wisdom is capacity; understanding suggests progress, the capacity acting in apprehension of the idea presented; knowledge is the attainment of skill resulting from this intelligent action of capacity. The result was "all kinds of workmanship" or doing everything according to the pattern given. All this resulted from a man being filled with the Spirit of God. This is perfect cooperation. The story is all the more valuable for most of us when realizing this is not priestly or prophetic work but that involving metals, wood, fabric, and stones, both common and precious. What matters is we do whatever work God has appointed for us, trusting that He will equip us well.

Exodus 32:11 "Your people, whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt." This was an appeal to God from Moses in an hour of grave peril. The Israelites, impatient with waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai, deliberately violated the Second Commandment. Their making a golden calf was not an attempt to substitute another god for the Lord, but was an idol meant to represent His likeness. Their choice of a calf suggests the service and sacrifice of an ox, a common symbol in the Middle East, but God hates being represented and worshiped as a thing. The anger of the Lord was stirred against the people and He threatened to destroy them. Then it was when Moses interceded for them. Notice the grounds of his plea. God said to Moses, "Your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves" (Exodus 32:7), but Moses essentially said, "These are Your people, whom You have brought out. Why give the Egyptians the occasion to blaspheme Your name by saying You meant harm against them by bringing them out? Remember Your promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! (Exodus 32:11-13). Moses, of course, felt pity for his people, but the deepest concern of his heart was a passion for the honor of God. Thus did the Lord lead His servant into fellowship with the deepest things of His own heart. Therefore his intercession prevailed.

Exodus 33:15 "If Your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here." This is the account of a very intimate and wonderful communion between God and Moses, for the Lord would "speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend" (Exodus 33:11). In that holy atmosphere of sacred intimacy, Moses was able to say all that was in his heart. He was concerned about the sins of his people and his responsibility to lead them well so he pleaded for a fuller knowledge of God's ways and of God Himself. He was afraid of their being sent onto the Promised Land without His presence because God recently said, "I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way" (Exodus 33:3). To Moses' plea God graciously promised, "My presence shall go with you and I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14). Moses recognized that it would be better for them all to perish in the wilderness than to attempt to possess the Promised Land without God's presence. This is a great truth. The very gifts of God are liable to curse us if we lose fellowship with the Giver. We may make the land of plenty the occasion of our poverty if we enter it without God. He alone understands us and can give us true possession of whatever He bestows upon us.

Exodus 34:28 "He was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water." This productive time with God on Mount Sinai was not a period of ecstasy in which Moses was separated from consciousness of mundane things. On the contrary, it was time when he saw the things of earth in their true light. He saw his people, understood their need, realized their weakness, and discovered deepest truths pertaining to their safety and strength. During that forty days and nights, Moses received the law for their government and the order for their worship of God. From that experience he returned, not as a dreamer, but as a man of affairs, directing his peoples' earthly lives according to the standards received on the mount. It seems the only thing he forgot was himself since "he did not eat bread or drink water." In that forgetfulness, however, he found himself, though all unconsciously. When he descended to men, he was not emaciated but strong and glorious in beauty, for his face shone with a brilliant radiance. High experiences of fellowship with God are often granted to His servants, and they always result in fresh power for service.

Exodus 35:21 "Everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing...brought the Lord's offering." When God provided a system of worship for His chosen people, He did so according to His own mind, heart, and will. There no detail was neglected, but in the smallest detail there was no triviality. This a psalmist realized when he wrote centuries later, "In His temple everything says Glory!" (Psalm 29:9). As we noted in Exodus 25:2, God chose to use His people to provide the earthly materials for carrying out His heavenly purposes. Here the matter is more fully stated. Two stages are marked: the stirring of the heart and of the will. When the heart is stirred, it is because the soul supremely desires something. If a man desires to worship God according to divine arrangement and gives to realize it, his gift is of value. It is possible, however, to desire and even to give when the will is not in harmony. Then giving is the discharge of duty. God asks for more than that. When our spirit is so in fellowship with God and His Word as to incline our will, giving will be a delight.

Exodus 36:6 "So the people were restrained from giving." It is almost impossible to read these words without a sense of surprise, so rarely has it been necessary to restrain God's people from giving to His work. And yet this is the natural result of the heart and will being stirred in the context of worship. Giving ceases to be calculating. Nothing is too precious to be given, no amount too great. Everything is poured out in glad and generous abandonment. When this is so, the work of God never languishes for lack of means. Why is there ever a lack of willingness to bring our offerings to God? Is it not always because the vision of the glory of the work is dim? If the enterprises of the Kingdom of God are clearly seen, there could hardly fail to be a perpetual stirring of the heart and an unceasing willingness of spirit to give. Why has the vision become dim? Ponder these answers from Jesus in one of His Kingdom parables: suffering, persecution, the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches (Matthew 13:21-22).

Exodus 37:9 "The faces of the cherubim were toward the mercy seat." Of the ranks and orders of the celestial beings we have no clear revelation, except for the fact that there is some kind of order. The term angels, meaning messengers, is applied to them all. We do not know exactly what the cherubim do, but the references to them in Scripture point to their direct association with the holiness of God. We first meet them in the Garden of Eden after human sin, guarding the way to the tree of life. Here in Exodus they are bending over, gazing at the mercy seat. This suggests the guardians of  divine holiness contemplating divine mercy, for in exercising His mercy God violates nothing of His holiness. Surely Peter was thinking of these gazing cherubim when writing of "the grace that would come," "the sufferings of the Messiah, and the glories to follow...things that angels long to look into" (1 Peter 1:10-12). The holy mercy of God is a subject worthy of careful consideration by beings of the highest intellect. What reverent, earnest, and persistent attention ought we then give it! We can never fathom its depths, scale its heights, or encompass its reaches but we can find in it great joy and gladness.

Exodus 38:8 "He made the laver of bronze...from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting." This practical basin was made from the bronze frames of mirrors donated by these women. The idea of service here is that of worship, for these are women who gathered by the tent of meeting to worship God. These mirrors were among the most precious possessions of these women and related to their personal adornment. Moreover, they once were used by Egyptian women in their acts of worship, for we are told several times in Exodus  that the Egyptians willingly gave such precious items to the Israelites before they left. Here then is a picture of Hebrew women renouncing what is precious for personal adornment and at the same time renouncing a false practice of worship. This is a testimony to their spiritual discernment that the truest adornment is found in true worship. It is highly significant that the bronze from the women's donated mirrors was made into a laver for the priests to get clean water to wash with before approaching the altar or entering the tabernacle. It is in the beauty of holiness that both men and women must worship.

Exodus 39:43 "Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them."  The phrase "just as the Lord had commanded" is repeated seven times in this chapter and seven times in the next chapter. It reminds us that God's work must always be done God's way. A perpetual temptation to the human mind is to endeavor to improve upon a divine plan. It is an utterly foolish conceit to imagine that can be done. "As for God, His way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30) is a truth of universal application. In His plan, every detail is absolutely and finally perfect in wisdom and in power. There can be no improvement. Whenever a man or woman interferes and changes, he or she is destroying that perfection. God has given us the pattern of His House, whether it be that of the individual soul or of the church as a whole. May it be said of us that we have done "just as the Lord had commanded."

Exodus 40:34 "The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." That was God's answer to man's obedience. Apart from that obedience there could have been no filling of the tabernacle with the divine glory. Apart from that filling, the tabernacle would have had no value. This coming of the glory of the Lord was a foreshadowing to when the Holy Spirit came to the church at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47), and when the same Spirit takes up His abode in the hearts of those who trust in Christ throughout the ages (John 14:16-23). Whatever building we erect for the worship and work of God, it lacks completion until it is consecrated by the coming of God's glory. If ever the hour comes when that glory departs, the structure is useless, however ornate and beautiful it may be. Such things cannot ensure the glory of the Lord's presence. On the other hand, however plain a structure may be, if the glory of the Lord is there, it is made beautiful indeed. It is by the presence of that glory that God's people are to be guided in their goings by day and comforted by night. In that glory is God's holiness and mercy, His government and grace, and everything characterized by love, light, and life. Nothing is worthwhile if the glory of God is missing; everything is fruitful where that glory is found.

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