Sunday, 2 February 2014

(34) February 3: Exodus 31-33 & Matthew 22:23-46

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note the grounds on which Moses pray to God.

To ponder:
We can be so fickle of faith. Just as the creation was completed by God’s Spirit and ended in Sabbath, God finishes speaking to Moses on the mountain (31v18) stating who he will equip by his Spirit to construct the tabernacle, and reaffirming the Sabbath. It is a perfect covenant “sign” because its pattern ensures weekly remembrance that Israel’s God is the true Creator, who has effectively promised to restore Eden. God equips us with his Spirit for building the church. And in Christ we daily experience something of the everlasting Sabbath “rest” to come (Matt 11v28). Finally, Moses is given the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments by the very “finger of God.” This affirms their importance.
            What of Israel during this 40 day “test”? They break the first commandment they actually heard God speak to them (20v1)! The irrationality of unbelief is seen in the request to “make” gods. It seems they want something tangible to worship like the nations. Aaron fashions the calf out of the very things God gave Israel from the Egyptians, but in an attempt to maintain the worship of God, proclaims “a festival to the LORD.” We may confess true faith, but it dishonours God unless conducted according to his word. The people’s hearts are revealed in their “revelry.”
            The impact is immediate: God now refers to Israel as Moses’ people, not his, threatening to destroy them and form a people through Moses’ offspring. Moses appeals first to God’s reputation before the nations and then to his promises, and God relents. When our prayers reflect a similar concern for his glory and word we can be confident her hears us.
            In anger Moses shatters the tablets and forces Israel to drink the crushed up calf. Aaron’s excuse echoes Adam blaming Eve: They made me do it! I put the gold in the fire and “out came this calf.” No such excuses wash with God. The Levites side with him. Their actions are hard to stomach, but display the seriousness of idolatry for the nation God dwells with so intimately. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6v23).
As so often, Moses’ prayer that God would forgive patterns Christ’s later work – from the cross and now from heaven. His sincere concern for the people also echoes Paul’s (Rom 9v1ff), in which he would lose his own salvation if God’s people could be saved. It’s a model to all Christian leaders.
God shows restraint in promising his angel will lead Israel into the land. But he will not go himself in order to protect Israel from his wrath (33v3, 5). His attitude to Moses is different. We’re told how God would speak with Moses “face to face” at a “tent of meeting” outside the camp (when constructed, the tabernacle will later be called the “tent of meeting” – 27v21). Moses asks for God to teach and favour him if “pleased” with him, and God promises his presence to Moses. This is the relationship Israel needs, and so Moses pleads for God’s presence with the nation knowing it will be futile to leave without it. Only this will set the nation apart. We can be reassured. Christ promises to be with us “even to the end of the age” (Matt 28v20).
Praying it home:
Praise God for his promise in Christ to be with and in us forever. Pray that he would teach and set you apart by his Holy Spirit.

Thinking further:
Christians differ on the extent to which the Sabbath should be kept today. However, as it was a “sign” only for the Mosaic covenant they generally agree it shouldn’t be kept in the rigid sense in which it was in Israel. Some argue the NT texts abrogating the Sabbath refer to festivals other than the weekly Sabbath (Col 2v16-17, Gal 4v9-11). They therefore apply most of its principles now to Sunday, ceasing from all work or normal leisure activities to devote the day to meeting with God’s people, deepening faith and doing good deeds. Others take the NT texts to do away with the idea of a weekly Sabbath and hold Sunday no different from any other day, stressing the call to live our whole lives in worship and service. Still others agree the Sabbath ‘law’ no longer applies, but teach the Sabbath ‘pattern’ of creation stands (Gen 2v2) and that a concern for Sabbath time is now written on the heart. So whilst not requiring absolute rest from work, where possible they seek to take a day a week for rest, corporate worship and enjoying the creation, whilst attempting to find regular time for these things throughout the week too. Whatever our view, Paul urges us to be gracious with those of different convictions (Rom 14v5-6).

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