Exodus 36

Vs. 1, “So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.”  The Lord commanded and the people obeyed.  Bezaleel and Oholiab were specially gifted by God and appointed to do His work.  What a wonderful picture of how each of us in our talents can be used by God.  You may not be able to sing on the praise team.  You may not be able to preach with charisma.  You may not be able to lead a enriched bible study.  You may not be called to be in the mission field.  But, like Bezalel and Oholiab, you can use your practical talents to further His kingdom.  The building of the tabernacle would take around six months to construct.

Regarding application…Everyone Can Help.  Vs. 6, “Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more.”  I think one of the things that keep any endeavor from being successful is when we adopt the attitude: someone else will do it.  Sure, there is always someone else who will do it if you don’t.  But that means that someone can’t do what perhaps they would be most effective at.  We have far too many people in the church who don’t want to do anything.  Someone else will do it.  Brothers and sisters, it’s time to start lending a helping hand.  Tithe from your heart and give first to the Lord.  Give your time in your talents and gifts!

Genesis 43

Vs. 9, “I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.”  Time passed and the grain that had been brought back is now gone (vs. 2).  Yet, Israel still did not want to succumb to the request that Benjamin must come the second time.  Where Reuben had failed (Genesis 42:37), Judah had succeeded in convincing Israel to allow them to take Benjamin.  Our heart goes out to Israel as he struggles with letting his sons go back to Egypt (vs. 11-14).  Wisely, they take double the silver and come bearing gifts to try to make up for the possibility of retribution having unknowingly left with the first silver payment.  Realizing their dire circumstances (vs. 17-18), they go to Joseph’s steward to plead their case (vs. 19-22).  He comforts them, brings out Simeon and leads them to Joseph’s house.  And here is where Joseph’s dream as a teenager would be fulfilled (vs. 28).  And then one last event that would startle the brothers (vs. 33), they were seated according to their age (oldest to youngest).  They had never told the Egyptians their ages, so this was quite a shock to them!

Regarding application…Don’t be Afraid.  Vs. 23, “It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.”  Isn’t this wonderful?  In the midst of their overarching fear, God would bring someone in their life to encourage them.  Certainly, Joseph had quite a plan to reveal the truth.  But, I like how the steward helped in calming them.  There are going to be times in our lives when we are afraid.  Yet, in that fear, God has wonderful plans for us.  Our God is greater than the enemy!  This reminds me of when I have participated in a few “Ropes” programs.  The end goal is to help everyone see that God can help us triumph over our fears and get us safely across.  But, we don’t expect the participant to do it alone.  People cheer them on the obstacle course to help them realize they can overcome their fears.  We have been recipients of encouragement along the way.  And now we must remember that we too are encouragers to others.

Genesis 32

Vs. 3, “Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”  As Jacob set out back to the land of Canaan, what a wonderful gesture by our Lord to encourage him with the presence of Angels (vs. 1)!  Though Jacob had escaped the wrath of Laban, he now how to face the reality of Esau’s anger.  Would Esau still hold a grudge?  Jacob wisely comes offering peace and gifts after being gone for twenty years.   However, when Jacob heard Esau was coming with four hundred men, this brought great fear (vs. 6-7).  Jacob being the shrewd person he was, proceeds to divide up his family with safety in mind (vs. 8).  But I really like what Jacob does next: He prays (vs. 9-12).  Jacob would give a total of 550 of his best animals in hopes to appease his relationship with Esau (vs. 13-21).  The latter half of our chapter would end with Jacob receiving a new name: Israel (God strives, God rules, God heals, he strives against God) (vs. 22-31).

Regarding application…Wrestling with God.  Vs. 24, “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”  Question: What was the heart of the matter?  Jacob needed to surrender to the Lord.  The identity of the person who wrestled with Jacob (vs. 30) is believed by many theologians to be the preincarnate Christ.  Regardless of how you interpret, Jacob wrestled with God.  He wrestled with his faith.  He wrestled with his worries.  He wrestled for God’s blessing (vs. 26).  Jacob who was once known as the deceiver, is now known as one who wrestled with God.  He wrestled and now walks in faith with the Lord.  How interesting that he now has a limp for the rest of his life.  To some, this limp might be a sign of weakness.  But for Jacob, it was a mark of power and a reminder of his dependence upon the Lord!  Question: Are there any issues that you are wrestling with God about?  Take time to pray and depend upon Him!

Acts 2

Vs. 3, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”  Question: What is going on here?  The setting is in Jerusalem and Pentecost aka Feast of Weeks (Jewish harvest festival) is upon them.  Pentecost was 50 days after Passover and it recognized the barley harvest and how God continues to provide for His people.  How appropriate that Jesus was the Passover Lamb and now the Holy Spirit is given on the day of Pentecost.  It’s important to see the timing of God as many Jews would make their pilgrimage to the Holy City.  Jesus’ promise comes true in the form of the Holy spirit coming like a rushing wind (giving life) and tongues of fire (bringing judgment).  When the Spirit was given, the disciples began to speak in tongues (vs. 4).  Bear in mind, what was going on here in the first place.  There were Jews from many nations (vs. 5-12) and they were quite astonished to realize that these Jews from most of Galilee were speaking in their native dialect (vs. 12).  Some assumed they had been drunk (vs. 13).   While there are differing viewpoints on the topic of speaking in tongues, one thing I want to point out that nowhere in Scripture are we told that speaking in tongues (Acts 2, I Cor. 12, 14) must accompany the Spirit baptism we receive upon accepting Jesus.  We also see Peter stand up with courage and address the onlookers and subsequently thousands come to faith that day (vs. 14-41).  Peter applies the Old Testament prophecies to the person of Jesus and calls for all to repent and believe.  And then lastly, we come to a somewhat shocking yet beautiful picture of the genesis of the church (vs. 42-47).  They were spiritually filled and devoted to fellowship (Koinonia – Greek), remember Christ and prayer (vs. 42).  Some accuse the early church of looking like communism, however, the sharing of the early church was out of the “voluntary” goodness of heart and it was not something forced upon them.  It reminds us of what our churches should look like today!

Regarding application…Being Together.  Vs. 44, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.”  We live in a world that teaches us to be strong and independent.  You’ve heard of the adage, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”  But, here we are reminded of a completely different paradigm of thinking.  Here we see a community of believers just being together as one body.  Question: Is this possible in the churches today?  Absolutely!  But, it starts with leaders in the church paving the way.  It starts with members in the church “buying in” to being a community of believers.  God loves His churches.  We are not perfect.  But, I sure hope and pray we continue to strive to be a church like the early church.  Sometimes, I think we are too quick to assume that isn’t possible in this day of age.  In my years serving the church, I connect with vs. 46, as a powerful reminder of opening our homes to each other.  Many of my most cherished times as a church community is when we visit each others homes and just enjoy being together!