Updated: Mar 31, 2022
Commands, Building Plans and a Lot of Wandering
Oh hey, short on time? No worries! I'd love to join you on your commute or daily walk/run, or shoot, even while you take care of that to-do list. We can't let these things get in the way of this friendship. It's just starting to get good! Click below to listen to the blogcast.
Quick recap from last week -
The last plague hits close to home for Pharaoh when his son is killed, and he allows the Israelites to leave. But soon, he has a change of heart (because God hardens his heart) and decides to go in eager pursuit of them and kill them.
The Israelites are traveling and come to the Red Sea. They came all this way for this?? They left Egypt just so they could be killed by Pharaoh's army here?
Once on the other side, Pharaoh's army is charging toward them, and Moses raises his staff over the waters again and the waters overwhelm and drown them.
Still got those walkin' shoes on? Good, because like the Israelites, we're not "there" yet.
Commands and Closeness
So this whole journey we see of the Israelites leaving Egypt is the exodus, or the mass departure of emigrants - meaning, they do not belong there. They belong somewhere else.
While on this journey to somewhere else (they don't know where this promised land is yet), God gives them some rules to follow. He gives rules not because He's "Zero fun, sir" but because He loves them so much and wants to protect them. In the same way a parent has rules for a toddler to train them in a way to help them grow and flourish and become who they were made to be, God gave the Israelites rules, too. We know these as The Ten Commandments.
You may know these as the "Thou shalt..." and "Thou shalt not" rules. And gosh, rules are hard to keep!
Yet, here's the thing we must remember, these rules were not meant as a set up. God wasn't giving us rules and setting us up so we would fail. Not at all. Instead, God was using these commands to show us our need for Him.
We need Him to help us. Without His power working in us, we can't live righteously and in relationship with God.
After these commands, God gives His people more guidance in the form of rules. It's all recorded in the book of Leviticus, which if you've ever tried reading through The Bible, this is the part where we say, "Well, I tried!" and close the book.
It's dense. It's tough.
And in giving all the laws, God also instructs His people to build something and gives very detailed instructions in how to build it.
He wants them to build a holy, temporary sanctuary where He can live with them. It will be called a Tabernacle. (Key word - temporary. We'll get to this more soon enough.)
In this, I am moved by God's consistency. Here, He is giving the Israelite laws to follow so they can live in relationship with Him, and now, we see Him inviting them into physical closeness with Him. He is a God of relationships!
God's presence dwelled in the most holy space in the tabernacle called the Ark of the Covenant. As the God of promise, He dwells in the Ark of the Covenant. It was also known as the Ark of the Testimony because it held the stone tablets with the law. Remember, a law given to us to reveal our need for Him.
When has any other god done this?! God Almighty is saying, I am for you and I am with you. Build this place according to My holy standards so I may dwell with you.
In your wandering, I am with you.
Ahh, tears come to my eyes as I settle and reflect on how He has made this truth known to me in my life. I pray as you spend time in prayer and reflection, He reveals this to you, too.
The Old Testament is story after story after story after story (you get the idea) of God's faithfulness. Of how He makes a promise and He never lets go.
We're moving right along through the Old Testament, but to get the full impact of today's reading, we need to take a quick look back to Genesis -
In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here... - Genesis 15:16
Even in the beginning, God tells Abraham his descendants will return to the promised land specifically in the fourth generation.
Timing is all in His control.
Maybe it's just me (although I bet it's not) - when waiting on God, I have a tendency to become impatient. Reminders of His perfect timing bring so much peace to my prone-to-wander, anxious thoughts.
So now, we're in Exodus 16-18 and we see the Israelites are wandering the wilderness for 40 years. One moment they're thankful for how God is providing for them, the next they're complaining this is all they have. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
For four decades!
Reminds me of the time our family drove from Texas to Disney Land... Fifteen and a half hours is a blink compared to 40 years, but that was us. Just to give you a visual, this was the '90s so we didn't have the built-in DVD players yet. We had the small TV with a DVD player. We'd lay down the middle row in the 'burb (we called our suburban "Sally") and lounge in the back playing card games and eating snacks... (I specifically remember Twizzlers and Jello Snack Packs and Sunny D. Hey sugar 'em up and maybe they'll stay quiet, right?) ...and watching movies while the tires spun steadily on I-40 West.
We were thankful and excited for where we were going and how our parents were providing for us one moment then complaining of being bored, tired, hungry, thirsty, stiff, and bored again the next.
Yeah, not that different from the Israelites...
Anyway, remember how we said The Bible can be hard to understand? Often, this is because it's not laid out in chronological order. We're in Exodus but the details of the Israelites' wandering is held in the book of Numbers. They're going from Mount Sinai to the edge of Canaan. Read through it and see if it reminds you of your last family road trip.
But maybe delay this if you have an upcoming road trip planned. Denial is bliss. ...Or something like that.
So this journey is characterized with LOTS of grumbling and complaining. And sin. Yet, God remains faithful because it was a covenant, not a contract, He made with Abraham. No matter what we do, God will keep His promise.
The first time they approach the promised land of Canaan (it's been about a year carrying the tabernacle), Moses sends 12 spies to get a lay of the land. The spies do this for forty days. (40 represents a time of testing in The Bible so we see this number repeated.)
While ten of the spies say the men are too big and powerful for the Israelites to overtake, Joshua and Caleb are the two who believe God is bigger. God is not happy about the doubt among the spies, and we see Moses urge God to be slow to anger and forgiving towards them.
So, let's be sure we catch this -
The Israelites could have entered the promised land in just 1 year, yet because of their disbelief, they were punished with one year for every day, which totals 40 years. Additionally, not everyone will be allowed to enter the promised land. Because of their trust in Him, God allows Joshua and Caleb to be two of those who get to enter.
Take 2. They try again a second time but are unable to enter. Recorded in the book of Deuteronomy are all the speeches Moses gives on the plains of Moab telling the people to remember God and His laws and urge them toward obedience.
The Lord our God said to us... “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites... See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.” - Deuteronomy 1:6-8
Moses is reminding them of the covenant God made and urging them to have faith as his time as their leader has come to an end.
Cliff hanger! Next week, we find out who takes Moses' place in leading the Israelites. Trying to fill Moses' shoes... With all the grumbles and complaints (before the concept of the complaint jar was invented), I can't imagine there were many lined up wanting to take this role.
Already can't wait for our time together next week. Talk soon!
May we find strength in the Word of God. May our joy for reading scripture grow as we intentionally choose to set aside time to spend reading it each day. May our peace overflow as the Word of God reads us and changes us from the inside out. Then, we will know rest this world can't give.
Remember how we said 5 minutes a day can change your day, your life and even your eternity? Well, here's what I'll be reading this week. I really hope you'll join me!
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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