Vs. 2, “take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name.” Notice that it is God who gave the people the Promised Land as their inheritance. It is only natural to respond with thanksgiving, so God instituted two rituals to have them present the best of their produce. They would benefit from an agriculturally rich land and these rituals would serve as an outward expression of their love and dependence upon the Lord. Rituals without understanding are pointless, that is why Moses would have them declare God’s hand of providence (vs. 5-9). In essence, they were sharing the testimony of not only their lives, but of their lives of their people. What a wonderful ritual that God instituted to have them bring another tithe three years later to care for Levites, alien, fatherless and widow (vs. 12-15). And lastly, we read Moses exhortation for complete commitment from all to honor the Lord and follow His commands (vs. 16-19).
Regarding application…We Are Treasured. Vs. 18, “And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.” Perhaps you have heard this phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” We were once sinners destined to death. Now we love the Lord with our heart and soul (vs. 16) and follow His ways. You are of high value to God. You are of high value to the church. Though this is a simple truth, I believe many of us don’t realize this. Question: Why is church involvement so slim? Because people undervalue themselves. Many Christians don’t live for the Lord because they have spiritual low self-esteem. They have forgotten their value. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we were bought at a price (I Corinthians 6:20). That price was the cross. Take time today to embrace who you are in the eyes of our Lord! You are loved and treasured!
Vs. 1, “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house.” In the first section of our chapter we come across the controversial topic of divorce (vs. 1-4). Bear in mind marriage is a covenant before God. Though God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), there were stipulations that did allow divorce to transpire. Though there are differing thoughts as to what was “displeasing”, most biblical scholars point out that it must have been either a sexually indecent act, but not full intercourse or a previous encounter before the marriage covenant. Jesus makes clear in Matthew 19:3-12 that God allowed divorce due to the hardening of our hearts. It is my belief that if both parties are willing, reconciliation should be sought if there has been adultery. In the next section (vs. 6-22), we come across more various laws concerning thoughtful action upon others. I love how a soldier was given a year to spend strengthening his marriage before he went back to the army (vs. 5)! There is a sadness that came upon me as I realized some of these laws were to counter against the sinful nature. Depriving people of their millstones (livelihood) (vs. 6), kidnapping others (vs. 7), treating people with dignity who owed money (vs. 10-15) must all have been made because a precedent had already been set. The death penalty should not passed onto a father or to a son as a alternative (vs. 16), for this is what pagan nations practiced. And lastly, the rich should always ensure that they are leaving portions for the poor in their land. Not only did it provide food for the poor, but it kept the rich from judgment upon them from God (vs. 17-22).
Regarding application…Don’t Forget. Vs. 22, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.” The Israelites had been rescued from dire circumstances and enslavement. Yet, over the years there was a tendency to begin taking for granted where they came from. While we don’t come from oppressive slavery, we were once enemies to the cross (Philippians 3:18). We were once slaves to sin (Roman 6:6). Now that we have been freed, let us not ever forget where we came from. God goodness and grace is something we now have the task to pass on to others. When I was young, I used to wait tables at a couple of restaurants. Now, that is hard work! I remember how many customers were rude and left no tip. I worked in a state (Indiana) that paid waiters/waitresses less than half the minimum wage because they figured you would get the rest of your pay by tips. Thankfully, most states don’t do that anymore. When I go to dine at a restaurant, I try to never forget how hard they work and what it felt like to be them. I always tip minimum 15% and more if it is great service! Just a small example of ensuring we treat others as we ourselves would wanted to be treated!
Vs. 1, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.” An estimated two years have transpired; Joseph and Mary are living in Bethlehem. Magi from the east have come to pay homage to the king of the Jews. It is believed these Magi (magicians, eastern wise men, astrologers) came from Babylon which is about 900 miles! We are not given the number of wise men, but they more than likely traveled in quite large groups. The tradition of three comes from the three types of gifts presented to Jesus (vs. 11). Question: How would they have known about this? The dispersed Jews certainly would have shared the story of Balaam (Numbers 24:17) and his prophecy of a star that will come out of Jacob. Herod felt quite pressured knowing that he was not the true rightful heir of the Jews, because he was only half-Jew. Herod the Great ruled Judea and had the favor of both Rome and the leading Jews. Yet, the baby Jesus was under the protection of His Father! How interesting that Jesus’ life parallels the Jewish history; Jesus would also travel down to Egypt, and would return back to the land of Canaan. The Holy Spirit guides Matthew in selecting OT scripture that reminds us (especially the Jews) that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies. The order to kill the baby boys two years and younger (vs. 16-18) would have been an estimated ten to thirty boys because Bethlehem was a very small town. Lastly we see, Jesus and family return to region of Galilee in the town of Nazareth (vs. 21-23).
Regarding application…A Right Response. Vs. 11, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” What a contrast when you compare the magi to the response of Herod and all of Jerusalem (vs. 3). Though Matthew’s gospel is targeted towards Jews, the ones who respond right are Gentiles. We don’t know the magi’s hearts when they bowed down to worship or if they even knew the ramifications of it. However, their response reminds all of us that Jesus is not only the king of the Jews, but came to save the whole world. Question: How do you respond when you come before the Lord? God’s response was to give His one and only Son (John 3:16). Let us consider how we respond. In a world that is often me-centric, it’s time to be a giver rather than a taker.
Vs. 3, “Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” This is one of the most intense chapters in the Bible! The Israelites are collectively rebelling against God (vs. 1-4) with no shame. Sadly, this is not the first time (vs. 22) of their rebellions. We see their hearts for they want to stone Joshua and Caleb (vs. 10) and they rebel against God anyways by going into the land of Canaan (vs. 40). Though God forgives (vs. 20), that doesn’t stop Him from the consequences of their sins (vs. 23). Ironically, God gives them what they ask for that they would rather die (vs. 2); be careful what you ask for! The ten spies (minus Caleb and Joshua) perish at the judgment of God (vs. 37). God grace is shown through preserving the Israelites by allowing the second generation to enter (vs. 29-31). Even in the midst of the judgment, we are reminded of God’s character (vs. 18) of being slow to anger and abounding in love!
Regarding application…Foolishness. Vs. 40, “Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the Lord promised. Surely we have sinned!” The Israelites didn’t obey God by going to into the land of Canaan with Him, but now they decide to go without Him. The Israelites acted foolishly, for they were not truly repentant. There are times we say, “Sorry” but do not truly mean it. The author of Hebrews cites that those who did not enter the Promised land did not have faith (Hebrews 4:2). Brothers and sisters, let us not be foolish. God has given us profound examples like this chapter to wake us up spiritually!
Vs. 1, “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.” Uh-oh, things were going so well, but now the Israelites begin to complain. It was not easy living out in the desert and now they began to dislike eating manna all the time (vs. 4-6). The Israelites complain, God gets angry and Moses wants to give up (vs. 10-15); for some reason this is actually comforting. God does not gloss over the tough times in life and we are given a front-row seat to trials. Earlier, when Moses was too stressed, it was Jethro (father-in-law) who suggested delegating the tasks to others (Exodus 18). Now we see God appoint seventy elders to help in assisting Moses (vs. 16-17) and with the Spirit enabled ability to prophecy. Though God sent quail in the past (Exodus 16), here we God sent quail in such gigantic proportions that the camp was filled with quail as tall as three high and a days walk in all directions (literally, billions to trillions of quail)! God provided a months of quail, however with grave consequences (vs. 33-34).
Regarding application…God is Omnipotent! Vs. 23, “The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” Certainly, the LORD God is using figure of speech to emphasize that He is all-powerful. Basically, it was nearly unbelievable for Moses to conceive that God would be able to provide such a large quantity of meat! How interesting that Moses would feel this way, for he witnessed extraordinary miracles from God in the ten plagues, the Red Sea, the Manna, the burning bush, the cloud, etc. Certainly, this is convicting for us today because we often do the same thing with God. We see obvious ways of God’s faithfulness, yet when we are troubled we doubt. This is why we have His word in our lives; it reminds us of the faithfulness and power of the Lord! Take heart and know God can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13)
Vs. 3, “And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Much is covered in this chapter, but a huge question looms. Question: Who are these two witnesses? The book of Revelation has strong differing opinions from biblical scholars. Some believe that John is approaching this particular chapter metaphorically, while others believe in a more literal approach. A wide belief over the centuries have been that the two witnesses are Moses (Law) and Elijah (Prophets). Their purpose is to display the power of God during this time of Tribulation. The antichrist will seemingly defeat them in the middle of the Tribulation, but God had different plans for them (vs. 7-14).
From an historical point of view, the purpose of trumpets were used to acknowledge the ascent of a king to the throne. This event looks to the future as God’s wrath will be poured out upon the evil that is in rebellion towards God. We see the ark of God’s covenant which symbolized God’s presence with His people.
Regarding application…Bearing Witness.Vs. 3, “And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” In the face of trial and persecution, they set the example for us. For Jesus Himself gave us the responsibility to bear witness to this world too (Acts 1:8). The two witnesses remind us that God will give us power. However, the temporal outcome looked grim. But God raised them up and He will raise us up too! Brothers and sisters, let us not grow weary in bearing witness about our Lord and Savior! What area in your life today can you share the love of Christ?
Vs. 4, “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.” It’s safe to say we live in a very sexually driven culture. The Israelites were instructed not to be sexually perverted like the nations around them. The LORD outlined sixteen very clear ways they were to not act like others, most of them under the category of incest. Even today, many nations have laws against incest relationships. And we also are reminded of the controversial topic of homosexuality (vs. 22). It’s important to remember that the act of the sexual sin is punished, not the weakness of having a tendency.
Regarding application…Controversy. Perhaps nothing can rival controversy more than the topic of sex. I’m not just alluding to the sex industry and subsequent opinions, but also the topic of sex in the church. One of the most noted controversies today is the topic of allowing people who act upon their homosexual tendencies to take the pulpit. No matter your opinion, scripture is clear on this topic of what is not acceptable to the Lord. Any of these sexual sins acted upon publicly even to this day would be unacceptable for the ordination of a pastor. Let’s not forget, we are all sinners saved by the grace of God. Only the Lord knows our hearts. Don’t forget the original intention of all of these laws; to keep God’s people holy! Let us live lives that don’t reflect the way the world lives.
Vs. 6, “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” The LORD instructs Moses to come back up the mountain. By His grace, we see the covenant renewed (vs. 10). Even though the LORD is compassionate and loving, He is also gives out consequences (vs. 7). Like the punishment of the second commandment (Exodus 20:5), the generation up to the fourth are affected because of sin. After Moses pleads with God to ensure His renewal of His promise, the LORD goes on to repeat for Moses’ sake some of the highlights of what we’ve been reading over the past couple of weeks (vs. 10-28). Moses stays up on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights and fasts (vs. 28). Then a peculiar things transpires, as Moses descends the mountain, his face his glowing the glory of God (vs. 29-35)
Regarding application…God’s Forgiveness. God gave the Israelites a second chance here at Mount Sinai. I would suspect that we would be simply shocked by the countless times God has given us “second” chances. There will be times when we mess up. There will be times when we doubt. There will be times when we are ignorant. God knows something we don’t…He knows everyone’s heart and mind. To the Israelites credit, after they sinned, the vast majority did in fact repent. Our interceder is not Moses today, but Jesus. Question: Are there a golden calf in your life today? Anything that you are idolizing? Take time to ask the Spirit of God to convict your heart and turn to Him in repentance. God is forgiving and faithful (I John 1:9).
Vs. 5, “For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.” While the LORD would spare the people, His presence to be with them was not guaranteed. This is quite a revelation and it shocked the people into mourning (vs. 4-6). Basically, they were totally taking God for granted. Meanwhile, Moses sets up a temporary tent of meeting with the LORD (for the tabernacle had not yet been built) (vs. 7-11). Once again, we see Moses’ personal relationship with the Lord and his plea to intercede on behalf of the sinful Israelites (vs. 12-17). When Moses boldly asks God to show him His glory (vs. 18), part of the reasoning might have been because He wanted to solidify the new promise that God had just given him. God lovingly obliged, but Moses could not see God and live, so he only was able to see the goodness of God from His back (vs. 19-23).
Regarding application…Pleasing God. Vs. 17, “And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Because God was pleased with Moses, He now promises His presence will go with the Israelites. Isn’t that amazing? When we live a life that pleases God, others are blessed because of it! When we fly in an airplane, the flight attendant always reminds us to put on our oxygen mask first before we can help another nearby. If we are going to make an impact on this world, the first thing we should do is ensure a healthy and vibrant relationship with the Lord! Notice how Moses nurtured his relationship with the Lord by meeting with Him (vs. 7-11). We do the very same thing when we setup our own meeting place with the Lord. Let us live a life that is pleasing to God!
Vs. 1, “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.” In this chapter, we see the specific instructions of the holy priesthood. Question: What was the purpose of the priests? They were the ones responsible to bringing sacrifices and offerings in the tabernacle/temple. Additionally, they served to bless God and help teach His word to others. Bear in mind, earlier we read that God promised Israel that they all would become a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). And in the New Testament, this thought affirms this priesthood for the church in Hebrews and Revelation. When we look at the descriptions of the garments the High Priest and the priests were to wear, notice the garments were made of the same material of the actual tabernacle (vs. 5). They were not made to draw attention to the priests, but really bring attention to their purpose. Out of the seven pieces of apparel, the ephod and breastpiece stand out among them. Both of these pieces would bear the names of the sons of Israel.
Regarding application…Sacred Garments. Vs. 2, “Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor.” God called His people to be set apart from the ways of this world. The ornate garments for the priests were to bring honor to them (vs. 2), but not just for themselves, but to honor the Lord! If the President Barak Obama came out to give his state of the union address in his pajama’s, that would not only bring shame to him, but it would bring ridicule from many others. When God gives us a responsibility, we are to ensure that honor is brought to His name. While God does look at the heart, that doesn’t excuse us from what we do on the outside.