Posts tagged ‘Exodus’

When God Won’t Meet With You

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The book of Exodus ends with a theological tragedy. Throughout the book, God has been powerfully present among His people – when He rescued them from Egypt by sending plagues on Egypt, when He went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, when He led them through the Red Sea, when He fed them manna from heaven, and when He gave them the Ten Commandments. On the heels of all this, God gives to Moses instructions on how to build the tabernacle, which is also called the Tent of Meeting. The purpose of the Tent of Meeting is explicit in its name – it is a place to meet with God. But when it is completed, something startling and unsettling occurs:

The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34-35)

Upon its completion, the Tent of Meeting is immediately closed for, well, meeting. Moses cannot go into the tent. This is how the book of Exodus ends.

The book of Exodus, then, ends with a crisis. Israel’s sins – among which have been grumbling and idolatry – have separated her from God. God’s dream and desire that He “might dwell among them” (Exodus 29:46) seems lost.

But then, the book of Leviticus opens:

The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. (Leviticus 1:1)

Just when it seems like Israel has been cut off from God, He speaks. He reaches out. And what follows in Leviticus is a set of instructions on how Israel might interact with Him. God has not given up His hope of being with them:

I will put My dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people. (Leviticus 26:11-12)  

Have you ever felt cut off from God? Have you ever felt like you cannot dwell with Him or like He will not dwell with you? Have your prayers ever gone unanswered? Has God ever felt distant? Each time you feel like you’re stuck at the end of Exodus, Leviticus is waiting. God will speak. God will reach out. He wants to be with you. Don’t believe me? Just look at Jesus.

September 26, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

What’s So Great About God?

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In Hebrew, the name “Micah” means “Who is like the Lord?”

In the Old Testament, the prophet Micah concludes the book that bears his name with the question his name asks:

Who is a God like You? (Micah 7:18)

Right before he asks this question, Micah speaks of God’s unmatched power on behalf of Israel:

“As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them My wonders.” Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will put their hands over their mouths and their ears will become deaf. They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens; they will turn in fear to the LORD our God and will be afraid of you. (Micah 7:15-17)

Just as God dazzled the world when He rescued the people of Israel out from under their slavery to the world’s preeminent superpower at that time – Egypt – God will do so again during Micah’s day when, again, He rescues His people out from under their oppression under the likes of the Assyrians and Babylonians.

But this unlimited and unmatched power is not what makes Micah’s God unique. It is not just that Micah’s God can “beat up” on other nations’ gods.

Instead, what makes Micah’s God truly unequaled is something other than His power:

Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)

What makes God matchless, according to Micah, is His mercy. All other religions and gods find their foundations in merit – you do your best, and the gods will perhaps sweep in and do the rest. But Micah reminds us that even when we do our worst, God, though He may discipline us, ultimately takes our worst and hurls it down into the deepest ocean trench and, in exchange, gives us His compassion.

Power, then, is not what foundationally makes God, God. Mercy is. Yes, we should fear God’s judgment on our sin. But we can actually see God’s mercy for our sin. Because “we do see Jesus” (Hebrews 2:9). And there is no one like Him – One who would die for our sin.

March 14, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Breaking Down Brexit

London.jpg

It was a shocker of an outcome. British voters backed Brexit.

In a move that sent markets stumbling and the pound tumbling, Britons voted to leave the European Union 52% to 48%.  The fallout from the exit was nearly immediate as David Cameron stepped down as Britain’s Prime Minister, saying:

I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the EU. I made clear the referendum was about this, and this alone, not the future of any single politician, including myself.  But the British people made a different decision to take a different path. As such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.[1]

In support of Brexit was Boris Johnson, a member of Parliament and the former mayor of London, who explained:

In the end this question is about the people…it is about the very principles of our democracy…I think the electorate have searched in their hearts and answered as honestly as they can.  They have decided that it is time to vote to take back control from an EU that has become too remote, too opaque and not accountable enough to the people it is meant to serve.[2]

Back here in the United States, the Obama administration had announced its support for Great Britain remaining in the EU and expressed disappointment at the vote while still pledging its ongoing support for the UK.

As with many things of this nature, there were probably good reasons for Great Britain to stay in the EU and good reasons for it to leave.  On the one hand, fraternal cooperation between nations who support each other in their humanity and not just in their nationality is good.  On the other hand, a governing body as large and as political as the EU is simply too inherently prone to corruption to exercise its power without problems and concerns.

Regardless of how you may personally feel about the Brexit vote, it is important that we, as Christians, pray for the British people.  This much is certain:  this vote has launched that country into turmoil.  The price of gold has surged as jittery investors clamor to find safe financial havens.  British millennials are also broadly upset with the vote, with one millennial tweeting, “A generation given everything…have voted to strip my generation’s future.”[3]  According to one poll, 64% of Britons ages 25 to 29 wanted to stay in the EU.  It was the older Britons who carried Brexit to victory.  But even in the wake of victory, the United Kingdom is still divided.

Ultimately, Brexit can serve as a reminder that no human coalition or government, no matter how seemingly strong, is impenetrable or eternal.  Every earthly kingdom eventually fails and falls.  This is why our hope can never be in nations, international unions, or leaders.  Our hope must finally be in the Lord.

After the Egyptians free the Israelites from the shackles of their slavery to them, and after God miraculously parts the Red Sea so the Israelites can escape the Egyptian army when the Egyptian Pharaoh changes his mind about releasing the Israelites, and after God causes the wheels of the Egyptian chariots to fall off as they pursue the Israelites into the parted Red Sea (cf. Exodus 14:25), and after God swallows up the Egyptians in the Red Sea by causing its waters to fall back on them, Exodus 14:31 says, “When the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in Him.”

Eventually, the wheels of every kingdom fall off.  Brexit is just the latest example.  Thus, if we trust only in human kingdoms and powers, we will be left with nothing but fear when these kingdoms collapse.  This is why we must put our trust in the Lord.  For when we trust in Him, we can move through even a time of international uncertainty knowing that one kingdom – God’s Kingdom – can never be shaken.  In the words of Martin Luther:

The Word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

___________________________________

[1] Heather Stewart, Rowena Mason, and Rajeev Syal, “David Cameron resigns after UK votes to leave European Union,” The Guardian (6.24.2016).

[2] Kate McCann and Laura Hughes, “EU referendum live: Boris Johnson hails ‘glorious opportunity’ of Brexit as David Cameron resigns,” The Telegraph (6.24.2016).

[3] Ivana Kottasova, “British Millennials: You’ve stolen our future,” CNN Money (6.24.20216).

June 27, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment

The Exodus Belongs To Jesus

“The Israelites Leaving Egypt” by David Roberts (1830)

One of the things for which I am deeply grateful is the hard work of New Testament textual scholars who search out and study ancient copies of biblical manuscripts, comparing and contrasting their little differences, in order to try to discern what the oldest, best, and, hopefully, original reading of a biblical text may have been.  The standard for wading through the myriad of texts out there for pastors and scholars alike is the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.  Your English Bible, if it is of recent translation, is more than likely based on this Greek text.

When I was in seminary, Nestle-Aland’s Greek New Testament was on its twenty-seventh edition.  Recently, the twenty-eighth addition hit the presses.  And though there are many notable changes and improvements, one change rises above the rest.  It is in Jude 5.  The NIV translates the verse this way:  “I want to remind you that the Lord delivered His people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.”  Here, Jude hearkens back to God’s rescue of His people out of Egypt as well as their unfortunate subsequent destruction because of their rebellion.  He references the exodus to warn his readers against those “who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4).

Interestingly, there has been a fair amount of dispute over the text of Jude 5.  The NIV translates it according to the preferred reading of Nestle-Aland’s twenty-seventh edition.  But the twenty-eighth edition makes an important change:  “I want to remind you that Jesus delivered His people out of Egypt.”  Rather than having “the Lord,” a title for God generically, deliver His people out of Egypt as the NIV translates it, the twenty-eighth edition of Nestle-Aland says this verse should read that it was Jesus specifically who led the people out of Egypt.  Bruce Metzger, a world renowned textual scholar, notes that “critical principles seem to require the adoption of ‘Jesus,’ which admittedly is the best attested reading among Greek and versional witnesses.”[1]

The change from “the Lord” to “Jesus” is of inestimable significance, for it gives us an important window into the way first century Christians understood God’s work in Christ.  Christ was no one new when He was born in Bethlehem; rather, He was older than creation itself.  Indeed, He was active in creation itself (cf. John 1:1-3).  And He has been active throughout the course of redemptive history, long before His incarnation.

Thus, wherever there is rescue, wherever there is salvation, wherever there is freedom, wherever there is hope – be that in the Old Testament or in the New Testament – there is Christ.  Christ is present and active throughout all of Scripture.  Christ led the charge out of slavery in Egypt for the Israelites and He leads the charge out of slavery in sin for us.  Jude 5 says so.


[1] Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the New Testament, 3rd ed. (New York:  United Bible Societies, 1971), 726.

November 26, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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