What does God say about gender and sex-change?

During my lifetime, our society has quickly turned away from God’s view of many issues. When I was young, a gay person would be embarrassed to come out of the closet. In recent times, our society has been convinced that homosexuality is a good thing and should be celebrated. In 2015, same-sex marriages were legalized. Today, television programs, commercials, and the media celebrate homosexuality.

When I was young, pretending you were a girl was a joke. If you could get a long-haired wig, you could make most anyone laugh. A few years ago, I was in the Washington DC area and saw a bearded man waiting at the bus stop … wearing a white wedding dress. I didn’t laugh. Instead, I wondered what the man was doing. Today, society tells us that sex (male and female) are not the same as gender. You can choose to be transgender, nonbinary, genderfluid, genderqueer, agender, or any number of other descriptions. In other words, we are being told that you can be whatever you feel like regardless of your biological sex.

When it comes to conversations like these, it is good to stop and think. You might ask yourself several important questions:

1. What does God say about this?
2. Why are people doing this?
3. How should I respond to unbiblical ideas?

In this message, I will attempt to answer each of these questions.

  1. What does God say about this?

    a. God created only two genders (Gen. 1-2; Matt. 19:4).

    Despite the call for multiple genders, the Bible tells us what God created. During the six days of creation, God created man and woman. He created them distinct but similar. He first made Adam and then noted that he needed a helper, so He created Eve, the first woman. By design, there are only male and female. After creating them, God said that this was good just as He had planned.

    This is verified in the New Testament by Jesus himself. While dealing with the Pharisees about the subject of divorce, Jesus asked them a question: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female”? With this question, Jesus made a point. God created only two genders, male and female. This is God’s design.

    What about intersex people?

    According to a Wikipedia source, about 0.02% of people are born with both male and female parts or characteristics. While these are rare, they do exist in different varieties and severity. They range from extra parts to slight mutations. Where did these medical disorders come from? Although God did create everything good, there are some mutations that have happened probably due to the fall. Or it may be that some other unknown reason. In these cases, the individual is still God’s creation and should live according to the sex most closely aligned with their biological makeup.

    b. God created sexual intimacy for a married man and woman (Gen. 2:24-25; Heb. 13:4; see also Eph. 5:22-33).

    Although the world has different ideas and often celebrates sexual activity in any form, the Bible clearly does not. After creating Adam and Eve, God made it clear that a monogamous, heterosexual relationship was his plan for sexual intimacy (Gen. 2:24-25). This is repeated in the New Testament in Hebrews 13:4. Marriage is honored by God but sexual activity outside of marriage will be judged by God.

    c. God is against sexual activity outside of marriage (Lev. 18:6-30; 1 Cor. 6:9).

    While this should be clear from the passages mentioned earlier, the Lord included definite prohibitions about sexual activity in both the Old and New Testaments. In Leviticus 18, he lists incest, adultery, bigamy, homosexuality, bestiality as a perversion of God’s gift of sex. This idea is repeated in the New Testament where fornication, adultery, being effeminate, or sodomy are listed (along with others) as sins that will keep someone from inheriting the kingdom of God.

    d. God is against sex change (Gen. 1:27, 31; Jer. 1:5) or cross-dressing (Deut. 22:5; 1 Cor. 6:9).

    While sex-change is not mentioned in the Bible, there are definite principles listed that show God’s displeasure with it. “Genesis 1:31 tells us that His creation was excellent in every way. To say that gender does not matter is to disagree with God’s design for creation and His proclamation that it was very good” (“What does the Bible say…”). Also, when God first spoke to Jeremiah, He told him that He had formed Jeremiah in the womb. This reveals that God is in control of who He wanted us to be, whether male or female.

    Someone who dresses as the opposite sex shows a dissatisfaction with God’s choice of his or her gender. God is not pleased with this as seen in Old Testament law. Men were not to wear women’s clothing and vice-versa. In the New Testament, God expressed His displeasure with men who acted effeminate (1 Cor. 6:9).

    “In the New Testament, the Greek word translated ‘effeminate’ means ‘soft and delicate.’ In First Corinthians 6:9, this word is listed separately from homosexuality, indicating that they are not synonymous. An ‘effeminate’ man in this verse is one who has rejected his masculinity and identifies as a female. He may or may not be sexually active, but he has chosen to live intentionally as a ‘soft and delicate’ person, rather than embrace His God-given identity as a man. He takes on the characteristics of a female and relates to other males much like women do” (“Is it wrong…”).

    This leads us to our next question.

  2. Why are people doing this?

    a. Some sinful choices may be a response to abuse.

    Did you know that sex trafficking is a reality in the US? Did you know that sexual abuse is a reality in the US? Those who are victims to these crimes are affected both physically and emotionally. The pain caused by these crimes often scar the individual for life. It may be that someone hurt by these actions may react by making choices that they otherwise would not have.

    b. Some sinful choices may be a response to peer-pressure.

    In some public schools, teachers are pushing gender change. Elementary children have been told that changing their gender and personal pronouns is a positive thing. “Nigel and Sally Rowe … raised concerns with their son’s Isle of Wight primary school after he came home ‘confused’ by the school’s transgender-affirming policies toward his male classmates who identified as girls” (“Christian parents…”).

    This has also happened in the US. “NBA legend Dwyane Wade has filed a petition with a California court to legally change the name and gender of his 15-year-old daughter Zaya” (“Name and Gender…”). I mention this because people look up to athletes and often mimic their choices. If Wade’s biological son can transition from being a boy to a girl and be accepted by society, others may be convinced that this is something they could do as well and still be accepted.

    c. Some choices may be made due to bullying or depression.

    We have all probably met people who were different—especially when we were in school. There was the boy who seemed effeminate instead of manly. And what happened to him? He was ridiculed and called names. This might lead that individual to mask his inclinations. But it often causes him to become bitter or depressed. If he is not careful, he may meet someone who will take advantage of the situation and lead him down the wrong path.

    d. Sinful choices are ultimately a response to God’s authority (Rom. 1:18-32).

    Ultimately, sexual sins are a result of bucking against what God has decreed as right and good. Whether it be fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or any other sexual sin, the Bible speaks to where these sinful choices come from. In Romans 1:18-32, we are told that when people suppress God’s truth, God’s wrath is revealed against them. Their thinking is darkened, their lusts increase, and aberrant behavior often takes place.

    Romans 1:26-27 – “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

    The sad truth is that sinful people often ruin their lives by fighting against God’s perfect ways. Instead of seeing the benefit of obeying God, they search for fulfillment in things that will never satisfy and that will eventually lead to their destruction.

  3. How should we respond to unbiblical ideas?

    a. We should know what the Bible says.

    It is easy for us to “be conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2). When the world says something is acceptable, some Christians are convinced that it is without knowing what God has declared about the subject. In order to have a transformed mind that thinks like God does about these issues, we need to study what He has revealed in the Bible. If our opinions are not confirmed by Scripture, they are merely opinions. This is important to remember. We are not to base our beliefs on how we grew up or what experiences we have had. Instead, we need to know what God says. He is the ultimate authority on any subject, and He knows what is best because He designed how things work.

    During this message, we have looked at what God thinks about this topic. Now what should we do?

    b. We should speak the truth.

    We Christians tend to be tight-lipped about sin for fear of offending sinners. While we don’t need to be unnecessarily offensive, we must remember that the truth needs to be revealed to people.

    John the Baptist spoke the truth about sin (Luke 3:7-20).

    John the Baptist called on people to repent of their sins … and named those sins. He addressed the sins of common people, tax collectors, soldiers, and even the king’s adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife. You might remember that John the Baptist was beheaded by the king, but he also made a big difference in many other people’s lives. The preaching of repentance prepared these people to receive Christ.

    Jesus spoke the truth about sin (Luke 4:23-29; John 4:17-18, 22).

    Jesus, the most loving Person who ever lived, was sometimes offensive to people. Although He loved them, He knew that their sinful hearts needed to be addressed before they could be helped. When addressing people in His home town, He addressed the common problem—unbelief. How was that received? Not very well. But He still spoke the truth they needed to hear. When speaking to the woman at the well, He addressed her immoral lifestyle and her false worship. How was that received? It appears that she became a believer in Jesus after this conversation.

    Instead of being afraid to offend people, maybe we should change our perspective. If we remembered that Satan is deceiving the world and dragging as many people as possible with him to the lake of fire, maybe we would be less afraid of offending those who need to be rescued. Keeping the truth to ourselves is not only cowardly but eventually harms those who need to hear the truth.

    c. We should be concerned.

    There are times when Christians choose to ignore the sins around them. While they recognize them, it is easier to avoid the subject and not say anything. But maybe we should be more concerned than before.

    Did you know that children are being invited to drag shows? Did you know that some public schools are keeping a student’s sex change decisions from their parents? Did you know that children are being given puberty blockers that mess up their system for the rest of their lives? Did you know that doubles mastectomies are being offered to underage girls who want to transition? Did you know that sex change surgeries are irreversible? Did you know that puberty blockers can have long term effects on growth, bone density, and infertility? Did you know that transgender people are more likely to commit suicide? (“Suicide…”) And did you realize that those who continue in this lifestyle are under God’s wrath?

    These things should concern us.

    d. We should lovingly lead sinners to Jesus (Eph. 4:14-15).

    While there is a time for bold preaching, this should also come from a loving heart. In Ephesians 4:14-15, Paul addressed this by pointing out a problem as well as the proper solution. The problem is that people can be easily deceived. He gave the illustration of a child who easily believes all he is told. To counter this, the Lord has provided ministry leaders (Eph. 4:11) to equip, edify, and strengthen our discernment. When we become mature believers, we should be “speaking the truth in love.”

    It is possible that our stand for the truth may be misunderstood. We may come off as uncaring and judgmental. However, in some ways, that may be unavoidable. God’s ways are often different than what the world wants to hear. For instance, most people like to hear that God loves them, but not why they will perish without Him (John 3:16). But let’s talk about the things that you can control. When you talk to people, can they tell that you are actually concerned about them? Do they see a loving individual who cares? Most people can see something about your demeanor by the way you talk and how you interact with them. Be sure that you remember to love those whom you talk to.

Conclusion

Since the beginning, sinful people have rebelled against God’s righteous standard. This has often led God to severely judge their behavior. By sending the Flood, God destroyed wicked minded people who refused to turn from their sin. By sending fire and brimstone from heaven, God destroyed the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their pride and homosexual behavior.

The Bible is filled with other stories about sexual temptation (Joseph, Samson, David, Amnon, etc.) and the results that followed. And from what Paul told the Corinthian church, it must have been a temptation to them as well. Has anything changed? No, the sins that tempted our ancestors are still prevalent and appealing to us today.

What hope is there?

In Paul’s description of sins that will keep people from inheriting the kingdom of God, there is not room for many to stand. We all fall short of God’s glory and standard of righteousness. But Paul gave hope to sinful humanity by concluding with a hopeful thought.

1 Corinthians 6:11 – “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

Although our sinfulness against God is great, God provided a way by which we can be washed from our sin, set apart for His use, and made right with God. That is possible to those who repent and believe on Jesus. (1) Repent – God calls us to recognize and turn from our sin. Note that the topic today is homosexuality and sex-change but these are not the only sins listed in the Bible. We all need to recognize our own sin and turn from it whether it is this or another type. (2) Believe – God calls us to trust in Jesus who died to pay the awful price for our sins. Those who put their trust in Jesus will be washed clean from their sin, made right with God, and set apart for His service.

Some of you may have experienced this already. You can rejoice that what once described you is no longer true. I am thankful to God that He made that change in my life. What I once was, I no longer am. If you, too, are a sinner who needs to be changed by God, help is available for you today. If God has brought you to a place of repentance (a change of mind about your sin), then you are in a good place. Now, He calls on you to put your trust in what Jesus did for you on the cross. He took your place and paid for your sins to make you right with God. Will you turn to Him today?

Bibliography

“Christian parents win in court after school labeled 6-year-old son potentially ‘transphobic'” as viewed at https://www.foxnews.com/world/christian-parents-win-court-school-labeled-6-year-old-son-transphobic on 9/28/2022.

“Intersex” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex#cite_note-witchel-3 on 10/1/2022.

“Is it wrong for men to be effeminate or for women to be masculine?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=9360 on 10/1/2022.

“‘Name and Gender Legally Changed’: Dwyane Wade Helps 15-Year-Old Daughter Make Huge Life Decision” as viewed at https://www.essentiallysports.com/nba-basketball-news-name-and-gender-legally-changed-dwyane-wade-helps-15-year-old-daughter-make-huge-life-decision/ on 10/1/2022.

“Pubertal blockers for transgender and gender-diverse youth” as viewed at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gender-dysphoria/in-depth/pubertal-blockers/art-20459075 on 10/2/2022.

“Suicide and Suicidal Behavior among Transgender Persons” as viewed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5178031/ on 10/1/2022.

“What does the Bible say about getting a sex change?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=553 on 9/28/2022.

Definition of μαλακός, as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/malakos-0 on 10/1/2022.

Numbers 21 & John 3:14-16

During a recent prayer meeting, we prayed for various people who have not yet believed in Jesus. That got me to thinking about how we need to prepare ourselves to present the gospel. We know who to talk to you, but do we know what to say? Thankfully, the Bible has recorded examples from conversations Jesus had with people. In His meeting with Nicodemus, Jesus knew that the man was familiar with the Old Testament, so He used a story from the Book of Numbers to lead this man to believe in Him. What story was it? Turn to Numbers 21.

  1. The Bronze Serpent (Numbers 21:4-9)

    The incident recorded here is a record of both the ungrateful disbelief of the Israelites and the mercy of God. As we read through the narrative, look for both.

    a. The people sinned against God (4-5).

    The people had just had some difficult situations. First, some of their people were captured by a Canaanite king. After asking God for help, they were able to defeat the enemy and rescue the captives. Second, their journey around Edom was difficult. They became discouraged and lashed out against God. “Did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? We don’t have food or water and we hate the manna you have provided.”

    “Trying as their situation was, their encouragements far exceeded their discouragements; and so will it ever be found by the faithful, that in every condition of Providence they have more cause for thankfulness than for complaint” (Bush 311). Just a short time earlier, they had seen God give them the victory over their enemies and their captives were rescued. Couldn’t they rejoice in what God did, thank Him, and continue to trust in His provision for them in this wilderness area?

    The sin of the people here was complaining. It wasn’t just a mild case of discouragement with a plea for help. This was an anger against God which evidence their lack of faith. They boldly proclaimed their lack of faith in God. “You are not keeping your promise! You are trying to kill us! We don’t like what you have done!” In other words, they did not trust God or what he was doing.

    In the New Testament, Christians are instructed to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). When a believer is discouraged, disappointed, or is hurting, there is a temptation to do as the unbelieving Israelites did. But instead of giving in to this temptation, we who know and love the Lord should trust Him to provide for our need.

    b. God judged their sin (6).

    Their sinful reaction to their circumstances was noticed by God. He saw that they were not trusting Him and were rejecting His plan for their lives. So, He chose to punish their sinful attitude and words by sending poisonous snakes into the camp. Many of the complainers were bitten by these poisonous snakes and died. They had rejected God’s influence over their lives and so had His hand of protection removed from them.

    c. God provided a solution (7-8).

    After seeing the terrible punishment for their sin, the remaining people repented of their sin. What is repentance? Repentance is changing your mind about your sin so that it matched what God thinks about it. The people recognized that God was right, that they were wrong, and admitted it to Moses.

    This would be a good time to remind ourselves about God’s mercy. Solomon wisely said, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). Although they had sinned against God, their confession and repentance led them to seek God’s mercy.

    But the snakes were still in the camp. The people needed help. So, they asked Moses to pray that the Lord would remove the serpents from the camp. The Lord must have accepted their repentance, because when Moses prayed for them, He provided a solution to their problem. The Lord instructed Moses to make a replica of the fiery serpents and put it on a pole. He promised that everyone who had been bitten would live if they would look at it.

    Note that God did not promise to remove the snakes, or the pain, but He did promise that they would live.

    d. The people who looked did not die (9).

    Moses did as God prescribed. He made a bronze serpent and placed it on a pole just as God had instructed. The people who were bitten were to simply look at the bronze serpent to escape death. And that is exactly what happened. Every person who had been bitten by a snake lived after he looked at the bronze serpent.

    Was this a magical snake? No, the bronze serpent was not magical. It was God who healed the people when they believed His promise and looked at the snake. It was a “look of faith” (Merrill 239). This antidote was the opposite of the sin. The people had looked at their circumstances and stopped trusting the Lord. Now they had to make the choice to look where instructed and to trust the Lord for their deliverance.

    “I can well imagine some of the folk saying that this was just nonsense. They would want something else, something more tangible than just turning around to look at a serpent of brass. But, of course, if a man would not turn to look at the serpent of brass, he would die” (McGee 506).

    Summary: The people sinned by complaining against the Lord instead of trusting Him. When God punished them for their sin, many died. But when the remaining people chose to repent and to believe God, they were saved from imminent death. God chose to be merciful to these people.

    We could end the message at this point and purpose in our hearts to be more thankful. But if we stopped here, we would miss the point that Jesus made to Nicodemus. This event in the lives of the Israelites is an example of what God has done for us through His Son, Jesus. In fact, Jesus Himself refers to the bronze serpent when explaining His death to Nicodemus in John 3.

  2. The Son of Man (John 3:14-16)

    If you were talking to a Jewish man who knew the Bible well, what illustrations would you use from the Old Testament? When Jesus spoke to religious Nicodemus, He compared His coming death on the cross to the bronze serpent from Numbers 21. Let’s see how the bronze serpent helps us to better understand Jesus’ death on the cross.

    Jesus told Nicodemus that just as Moses lifted the bronze serpent on a pole, so the Son of Man would be lifted up. Who is this Son of Man? In Daniel 7:13-14, the Son of Man was the One to whom God the Father gave dominion over all the earth. Nicodemus would have the idea that the Son of Man would come as a conqueror instead of someone lifted up on a cross. So why the change of plans? It wasn’t a change of plans, but a detour that would take place before that prophecy would take place. And we should all be glad as it made a big difference for all of us.

    Now, what do we see in John 3:14-16?

    a. All have sinned against God.

    In both verses 15 and 16, Jesus tells Nicodemus that people were going to perish. Why was this? They were going to perish because they, like the complaining Israelites, were sinners. We see this clearly in other places in the New Testament.

    Romans 3:10 – “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
    Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

    The truth is that all people have both inherited a sinful nature from Adam and have chosen to sin against God. In another passage, the Bible continues the description of our sinful disposition.

    Ephesians 2:1-3 – “And you … who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

    These biblical statements are not very flattering, but they make it clear that we humans fall quite short of God’s righteous character. We are sinners by nature and by choice. But what of it? What is the result of our sin against God?

    b. God will judge everyone’s sin.

    Look again at the ending of verses 15 and 16. The word perish is mentioned in both verses. What does this word mean? The original word means “to destroy (an inanimate object), to kill (by taking a life), cause to lose (especially a life); to die or perish” (Mounce). The idea here is that sinful people are headed to destruction for their sin.

    But where will this destruction come from? The destruction will come from God Himself. You see, God has determined that “the wages of sin” is death. This death is not only the physical ending of life but also includes the eternal torment of the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15). This was originally planned for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), but it will be shared by all those who refuse to repent and believe Jesus.

    Take a moment and consider the seriousness of these thoughts. We have seen in the Bible that our sinfulness is offensive to God and will be judged by Him some day. Does that bother you? It should bother all of us. If, at this point, you are still holding on to your personal goodness, try comparing yourself to Jesus, the perfect Son of God. He never sinned at all. When accused and condemned to die, he forgave his enemies. This is the standard that God requires … and none of us has ever or can ever live up to that perfect standard. We are guilty and deserving of God’s judgment.

    If we are indeed sinful people who have displeased God with our thoughts, words, and actions, and if we are already judged by God and deserving of the lake of fire, what hope do we have?

    c. God provided a solution.

    Thankfully, God was willing to provide the solution for sinful people. Remember how the Lord provided the bronze serpent for the Israelites. It was placed on a pole for all to see and was their only hope. In a similar way, God allowed Jesus to be falsely accused, sentenced to death, and hung on a wooden cross for all to see. There on that cross, Jesus took the punishment for all of our sins on Himself. He became sin for us even though He never sinned. He took our place. This was God’s solution.

    d. All who believe will not perish.

    When the snake-bitten Israelites heard of God’s solution for their pain, they had the opportunity to look and live. In a similar way, God has promised that those who believe Jesus will not perish. Instead, they will have eternal life.

    Now what does it mean to believe in Jesus? I would imagine that there are many people who believe in Jesus in one way or another. They believe that Jesus was a historical person. They believe that He was a good man who cared for peoplek. But is this what believing in Jesus means? No, the Bible tells us that even the demons believe in God and tremble (James 2:19).

    What is true faith? “A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair. …  We must personally and fully rely on the death of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must ‘sit in the chair’ of the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided. This is saving faith.”(Gotquestions)

Conclusion

We are left with two questions.

First, why would God be merciful to such sinful people? The complaining Israelites had rejected God and had become ungrateful for all that He had done for them. They didn’t deserve God’s mercy. We, sinful people, were no different. We were lying, proud, lustful, and selfish. We were rejecting God and his ways and walking away from Him. But He still chose to provide us the solution we needed. Why be merciful to such sinful people?

John 3:16 gives us the answer. God loved the world. His love is like none other. While we were sinners, God loved us and sent Jesus to take our place—not because we were worthy but just because He wanted to. To us, God’s love doesn’t make sense. We are used to loving people who love us back. To love one’s enemy doesn’t make sense. But that is where we are different than God. Whether we understand it or not, God loved us.

Second, what are you going to do about it? You must realize by now that you are a sinner who does not deserve God’s mercy. You also realize that you are deserving of God’s judgment. You know that God provided the solution by sending Jesus to die on the cross for your sins. Now will you accept that solution by turning from your sin and trusting completely in Jesus?

Bibliography

Bush, George, Notes on Numbers, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1976, orig. 1858, pp. 310-19.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol 1, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 506-07.

Merrill, Eugene H., “Numbers,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, p. 239.

“Question: What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=1616 on 9/24/2022.

“ἀπόλλυμι” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/apollymi?page=1 on 9/24/2022.

“What is the definition of faith?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=3289 on 9/24/2022.

Coming Destruction!

It seems that there is a new danger presented every so often. Global warming, the pandemic, a coming asteroid collision, and many other possible dangers have caught the imagination of the world and left them feeling anxious and fearful. The problem is that many of these things are out of the control of individuals and even governments of large countries. No amount of money or change can guarantee that we will survive the coming catastrophes. The end may be near. At least this is what is said.

This is the attitude that many in the world have about the possibility of world-wide calamities. But is this the way that we should respond to front page news? Or should we, as Christians, have a totally different perspective? In today’s message, we will contrast what the world says with what the Bible says.

  1. What the world says

    According to the world, there are many problems that could lead to the destruction of all that we know. Things that happened in the past, things that are currently happening, and things that could happen in the future ought to alarm us and move us to protect the world at any cost.

    a. Terrible things happened in the past.

    An asteroid supposedly killed off the dinosaurs.

    For those who subscribe to the theory of evolution, many ideas have been posed as to why dinosaurs no longer exist. One idea is that a large asteroid hit earth and caused all of the dinosaurs to die. While there is no proof for this hypothesis, people have accepted it as a viable hypothesis. Something killed off the dinosaurs.

    A volcanic eruption destroyed the people of Pompeii.

    “Pompeii, a flourishing resort city south of ancient Rome, was nestled along the coast of Italy in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano. Its most famous eruption took place in the year 79 A.D., when it buried the city of Pompeii under a thick carpet of volcanic ash. The dust “poured across the land” like a flood, one witness wrote, and shrouded the city in “a darkness…like the black of closed and unlighted rooms.” Two thousand people died, and the city was abandoned for almost as many years” (Pompeii).

    As you read reports about ancient cataclysms, you get the idea that there is no hope. If these things happened long ago, they could happen again.

    b. Terrible things are currently happening.

    Climate Change

    In the last twenty years, the concern about global warming (now called climate change) has received much attention. People like Al Gore have presented the idea that pollution from burning coal and oil has made an impact on the world. They say that failing to address these concerns could lead to higher temperatures worldwide and perhaps the destruction of the world.

    Pandemics

    In the past couple of years, the world was affected by a global pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 were real as many people died from the virus. However, government responses were sometimes drastic. But their response was deemed justifiable due to the possible danger of doing nothing. It was thought better to shut down schools, businesses, travel, and social interaction for the sake of saving lives.

    War with Ukraine

    The current Russian conflict with Ukraine is something that we hear about in the news quite often. “The Russo-Ukrainian War has been ongoing between Russia (alongside Russian separatists in Ukraine) and Ukraine since February 2014. Hostilities were initiated by Russia shortly after Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity and were focused on the political status of Crimea and the Donbas, which remain internationally recognized as part of Ukraine. Incursions into Ukrainian territory culminated in Russia’s annexation of Crimea” (Wikipedia). The continuing war against Russia seems to be a land grab by Russia and has led to the deaths of many soldiers and civilians. And with the US government supplying arms to Ukraine, there is always the possibility of starting WW3 if Russia and China take advantage of the situation.

    c. Terrible things may happen in the future.

    Recent report have talked about a number of possible catastrophes in the future. Did you know that the Andromeda galaxy may collide with the Milky Way galaxy in the future? Did you know that an asteroid may hit the earth? Did you know that the earth’s temperature may rise so much that we all could die? Did you know that Elon Musk is leading a movement to colonize Mars to get away from future problems?

    What has been the response to these things? When these reports are believed, people become anxious. An air of uncertainty fills their minds. And if some of these things are going to happen, how should we respond?

  2. What the Bible says

    When Christians hear about coming catastrophes, they should first respond by comparing what is reported to what God has revealed in the Bible. We read in the Bible that things happened in the past, are currently happening, and will happen in the future. However, our response to these possibilities or realities should be different than those who do not know the Lord.

    a. Terrible things happened in the past.

    The Great Flood

    According to Genesis 6-9, God sent a world encompassing Flood to destroy the world during Noah’s lifetime. God saw that the wickedness of man was great and his imaginations were always evil (Gen. 6:5) and so He decided to flood the earth and destroy all but Noah and his family. The evidence of the Flood is found throughout the world with even whale skeletons being found on mountains.

    Sodom and Gomorrah

    According to Genesis 13:13, the people of Sodom were exceedingly wicked. Although Abraham pleaded for mercy, the Lord destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from heaven (Gen. 19:24). Two angels led Lot and his daughters out of Sodom, but all who remained were destroyed. None escaped.

    Assyrian and Babylonian invasions

    The Bible records two invasions that took place in ancient history. The Assyrian empire conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC when these people had turned away from the Lord. Later, the Babylonian empire conquered the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 BC when they had turned away from the Lord. During these invasions, many people were killed, abused, or taken captive. People like Jonah, Habakkuk, and Daniel were affected by these invasions.

    As you think about the incredible destruction that took place in each of these situations, did you notice a current theme? All of these were a result of God’s judgment against sin. The Flood dealt with wicked people. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their sin. The Assyrian and Babylonian invasions were God’s judgment against His own people who had rejected Him.

    b. Terrible things are currently happening.

    Invasion of Ukraine

    When you hear about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, are you surprised? In some ways we may be surprised, but in another way we should not be. The Bible says that there will be “wars and rumors of wars … but the end is not yet” (Mark 13:7). The fact that leaders of countries are willing to sacrifice people’s lives to acquire land is terrible but something the Bible says will continue throughout history.

    Persecution of Christians

    The persecution of believers is something that has happened throughout history. It is currently happening most prominently in places like China and Muslim countries. Families are separated, people beaten and killed, atrocities take place—all because of their faith in Jesus. Does this surprise you? It should not. Jesus promised that His followers would be persecuted by unbelievers (Luke 21:12). Sadly, these things affect many believers today.

    c. Terrible things will happen in the future.

    While the world is concerned about coming catastrophes like asteroid collisions and climate change, the Bible warns about terrible events that will affect those who reject the Lord. After the Church is taken up (1 Thess. 4:13-18), God will pour out His wrath on the believing world during the Great Tribulation, the Battle of Armageddon, and eventually the final judgment of the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

Conclusion

What should be our response to these things?

First, we should take our concerns to the Lord. Habakkuk had some of these same concerns (Hab. 1:2-4). He thought that God was not aware or was ignoring the terrible things that were taking place in his country. God told him what he was going to do and that he needed to live by faith (Hab. 2:4). When Habakkuk finally came to terms with what God was doing, he had great peace (Hab. 3:17-19). Jesus said the same thing to his disciples in John 16:33. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” When a Christian experiences terrible things, he should not lose hope. He should turn to the Lord and trust Him. This is the only way to have peace.

Second, we should prepare the lost for the real danger. While our peaceful attitude amidst troubling times may be noted by unbelievers, it will not help them unless they know where that peace comes from. God has sent us into the world as His ambassadors so that sinful people can be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). At this moment, most people are unaware that they are at odds with God. They may even think that they are pretty good people. But sinful man is not on good terms with God. The coming judgment is evidence of that. So, their only hope is to repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus. Only then will they find the peace that passes all understanding.

Bibliography

“Pompeii” as viewed at https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/pompeii on 9/18/2022.

“Russo-Ukrainian War” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Ukrainian_War on 9/18/2022.

Exodus 33

Who is the most famous person you have known (not just met)? Perhaps you knew someone who later became a politician, preacher, athlete, or actor. But how well do you know that person? Do you really know them? If you grew up with the person, dated them, married them, worked with them, etc., you probably could tell us all some stories that would indicate how well you knew that person.

Do you know God? How well do you know Him? It all began when you were repented of your sin and put your faith in Jesus. Then God forgave your sins and made you a new creation. But since then, have you been getting to know the Lord? What do you know about Him? How would your description of God agree with what the Bible reveals? What stories could you tell about Him?

In Exodus 33, we learn something about Moses’ relationship with God. Since his initial conversation with God at the burning bush, Moses has gotten to know the Lord rather well. Yes, they had been through much together in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness. But their relationship was not just event based, it included talking and working together to accomplish the same goals. As we read through the chapter, you will see how well Moses knew the Lord … and yet He still wanted to know Him more.

  1. A sad message from God (Exodus 33:1-6)

    In verses 1-3, the Lord speaks to Moses about the people. He was still not happy with the stiff-necked nation of Israel. They had repeatedly shown their unbelief, unfaithfulness, and discontent. The Lord here tells Moses what He thought about the people and what He was going to do. Then in verses, 4-6, we will see how the people responded to what Moses told them.

    a. The message (1-3)

    The Lord told Moses to go to the Promised Land (1). He agreed with what Moses had said in chapter 32. He had promised the land to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so He would keep the promise. He would also send His Angel to drive out the inhabitants of the land (2). The land would have everything they needed, but the Lord would not go with them (3) because they were “a stiff-necked people.”

    What does stiff-necked mean? “To be stiff-necked is to be obstinate and difficult to lead. The Bible often uses this figure of speech when describing the attitude of Israel toward God (e.g., Exodus 33:3; Deuteronomy 9:13; Nehemiah 9:16; Acts 7:51). The term was originally used to describe an ox that refused to be directed by the farmer’s ox goad. When a farmer harnessed a team of oxen to a plow, he directed them by poking them lightly with a sharp spike on the heels or the neck to make them pick up speed or turn. An ox that refused to be directed in such a way by the farmer was referred to as ‘stiff-necked.’ A stiff-necked animal (or person) refuses to turn the head in order to take a different path” (Gotquestions).

    When God wanted to lead them in certain ways, they refused to obey. “So perverse, stiff-necked, and rebellious had they proved, that they … forfeited the favor of such a presence” (Bush 227). In other words, God was removing His presence because they refused to be led by Him and His ways. “You don’t want to obey? Then I will remove Myself from your lives.”

    b. The response (4-6)

    When Moses took the news to the people, they responded with mourning (4). They “were distressed that God had said, I will not go with you. They were promised His protection and guidance by an angel, but not His personal presence” (Hannah 157). God’s message caused them to realize that their actions had caused God to remove His presence from their lives.

    The people also fully realized what God thought of them (5). God accurately described them as obstinate, stubborn, stiff-necked people. While they may have felt their attitudes were not that big of a problem, God did think so. He was holding Himself back so that He didn’t kill them right away.

    Moses told them that God was still deciding what to do with them. In the mean time, they were to take off their ornaments. What are ornaments? This is a word used to describe how we decorate our Christmas trees not ourselves. (Although, we did have a Christmas party at BIO where we wrapped a fellow student with tinsel and hung ornaments on him.) The ornaments were jewelry and things that would be worn when they dressed up (and also the jewelry used to create the golden calf). When the people understood what God wanted, they obeyed God (6) and removed their jewelry. “While disrobed of their festive garments and previous jewels, and clad in habit of penitents, God represented himself as deliberating how to act towards them” (Bush 228).

    Did God need time to settle down and think what He would do?

    “When God speaks of himself in this language, as if perplexed and wavering in his mind, it is not to be understood as intimating that such things actually exist; for ‘known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world;’ nor can any occasion possibly arise which he can be at a loss how to act” (Bush 228). Consider the following verses in Scripture.

    Hosea 6:4 – “O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away.”

    Jeremiah 3:19, 20 – “How can I put you among the children and give you a pleasant land, a beautiful heritage of the hosts of nations? … Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, says the Lord.”

    The point is that the Israelites did not deserve any mercy from God. They had rejected His commands and worshiped an idol instead of Him alone. How He would respond would likely be determined by how they responded. Would they repent of their sins and turn back to God?

  2. A meeting place outside the camp (Exodus 33:7-11)

    When you are wanting to talk with God, where do you go? Most people go to a private, secluded place to read the Bible and pray. This keeps distractions to a minimum and allows you to concentrate on your time with the Lord. In verses 7-11, we see that Moses had a similar idea. He placed a tent some distance away from the camping site of the Israelites where he could be alone to talk to God.

    a. The people sought the Lord at the tent (7).

    While many had turned from the Lord and had been executed after the golden calf incident, there were still some who wanted to seek after the Lord. When they saw the tent of meeting set outside of the camp, “it reminded the people that their sin was an alienating force in their relationship with God. … He was outside their community” (Hannah 157). They needed to repent and seek to be reconciled with the God Whom they had offended.

    b. The people respected Moses (8).

    Moses obviously had a tent to live in with his wife and family. However, when he “went to work,” he would walk from his family tent to the “tent of meeting.” Moses’ time with the Lord may have been at a notable time each day. I think this because the people rose and stood by their tent entrances as he walked by. This was their way of respecting the leader God had given them—the one who pleaded on their behalf on so many occasions.

    c. The people knew the Lord talked with Moses (9-11).

    How did they know that the Lord was speaking with Moses? They knew because the cloud (which represented God’s presence) would come down and stand next to the tent’s entrance. The descending cloud showed them that the Lord was meeting with Moses. You can see that this made an impression on the people as they rose and worshiped the Lord (not Moses) whenever it happened.

    There is an interesting phrase mentioned in verse 11. It says that “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face.” What exactly does this mean? Does God have a face? No, “‘face to face’ is a figurative expression suggesting openness and friendship” (Hannah 157). God was super close with Moses.

    Numbers 12:6-8 – “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he sees the form of the Lord.”

    So, the people were aware of this close relationship between the Lord and Moses. He knew the Lord as very few others have known Him. And He was the only one who could mediate for Israel with God. We shall see how that turned out in the next point.

    Extra: In verse 11b, we discover that Joshua stayed at the tent of meeting when Moses left. This seems fitting for someone who would later replace Moses as leader of God’s people. Why did he stay there? I don’t know. But could it be that he wanted to be near the Lord, get to know Him, and speak to Him like Moses did?

  3. A conversation with God (Exodus 33:12-23)

    If you could talk to God about any one thing today, what would it be? Would you bring up the war in Ukraine, the moral failures around us, or a health need in your family? In reality, Christians have the opportunity to talk to God about any number of topics. But for Moses, current events were on his mind. His earlier conversation with God had brought up some questions that were still pressing. In verses 12-23, he addresses three things that were on his mind.

    a. Show me your way (12-14).

    The Lord had instructed Moses to lead the people to the Promised Land, but Moses had some questions. (1) You have given me my marching orders, but You have not told me who will go with me. (2) You have also told me that I am close to You and have found grace in Your eyes, but I need to know Your way, know You, and know that you still consider these people to be your own.

    At first glance, it looks like Moses is wanting to know the Lord better. But the whole section seems to indicate that he wanted to know “the Lord’s intentions for His people” (Hannah 157). In other words, if I have been honored with a close relationship with You, please tell me what your plans are for the nation of Israel.

    In response to Moses’ prayer, the Lord promised Moses His presence and a future rest. Instead of leaving the stiff-necked people alone to enter the Promised Land, the Lord “changed His mind” and promised to go with them on their journey. He also promised to give them rest when the enemies had been removed from the land. This was God’s plan, His way.

    Sometimes, we want to know what the Lord will do. What is He planning for us and our church? This can be known only by praying and asking Him. Do you find yourself sitting and wondering what God is doing? Maybe, just maybe, it would be a good idea to talk with Him about it. Ask, like Moses, for the Lord to show you His way. Then thank Him for it and follow His direction to fulfill that plan.

    b. Show me your presence (15-17).

    Have you ever wondered if something someone promised you would actually be delivered? Maybe it was a handshake agreement with someone, a conversation with an employer, or a promise from an acquaintance. Although they have said they would do it, you ask them if they are really going to do as they promised. Why do we do this? We do it because people don’t always keep their promises.

    Moses seems to second guess the promise made to Him by the Lord in the previous verses. He wanted “confirmation that the Lord would indeed go with His people” (Hannah 157). Why did he do this? Perhaps he was remembering how angry the Lord had been with the people. The Lord had told Moses that He would not go with them because of their stiff-necked attitude toward Him.

    But before Moses finishes his question, He reminds the Lord that the only way he would know that he had found grace in God’s eyes (as with Noah) is if the Lord went with them. Without the Lord, the journey would be a waste, but with His presence they would be separated (different than) all other nations because of that one simple fact: God was with them.

    What makes you different from all other people today? What makes you different is that God Himself is with you. When those who know the Lord hear of impending disaster, they don’t lose hope; they go to God. When those who know the Lord listen to radio talk shows, they don’t lose hope; they go to God. His presence makes all the difference in our lives. What would it be like to not have His presence in your life today?

    In response to Moses’ request, the Lord promised to go with Israel for Moses’ sake. Note that he promised this because of the relationship that the Lord initiated. The Lord’s reasons were, “for you have found grace in my sight … I know you by name.” Because the Lord loved Moses and had created this close, first-name-basis relationship, He was willing to do as Moses requested.

    Never forget what the Lord has done for you. You were not rescued from your sin because you sought the Lord or because of your innate goodness. You were a sinner who enjoyed his sin and didn’t want the Lord.

    Ephesians 2:4-5 – “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

    Just as with Moses, our relationship with God was initiated by Him, not us. But that great relationship, which we enjoy so much, is filled with many blessings just because He loves us. Meditate on that fact today.

    c. Show me your glory (18-23).

    “Third, Moses asked to see the glory of God” (Hannah 157). It seems like such an odd request as this point. You would think that Moses would thank the Lord for His promises and then report back to the people. But Moses was so interested in the Lord, that He wanted to know Him more and more. He wanted to see the Lord in all of His glory.

    Have you ever felt so close to God during your Bible reading or prayer time, that you talked like this to God? I am not sure that I have. But there have been times when I have reveled in what the Lord has shown me in the Scriptures and when He has caused me to come to tears when praying. In times like these, we might be more interested in our relationship with the Lord than in going back into the world.

    How did the Lord respond? The Lord immediately answered Moses’ request, but not quite as was expected. He promised to pass by Moses in such a way that he would see His goodness, hear about His grace and compassion, and see His back as He passed by. But He told Moses that he could not see His face as nobody could see Him and still live.

    This passage is one that is hard to understand. The Bible tells us that, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24) and is invisible (Col. 1:15). “While God can appear in human form (or in other physical form) if He wants to, He is, in His essence, not a physical being” (Gotquestions). And yet, the Bible tells us that “God is light” (1 Jn. 1:5) and that the heavenly city will have “no need of the sun … for the glory of God [will illuminate] it” (Rev. 21:23). Somehow God is both spiritual and gloriously bright at the same time.

    So, how is it that God could be seen by Moses? This is what I think. Somehow, God is both Spirit and gloriously bright in appearance. In heaven, we will be able to see His glory in a way that we cannot now. In perhaps the way that the three disciples saw Jesus’ glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses was promised to see the brightness of God’s glory. Anything more than that is not something we will be able to understand.

    Extra: In the next chapter, we will see that Moses’ face had a shine to it after speaking with the Lord. The brightness of God’s glory reflected off of and adhered to Moses’ face somehow.

Conclusion

When you think about this chapter, what do you come away with?

You might be thinking about your own stubbornness. Like the Israelites, perhaps you have become stiff-necked or hard to be led by the Lord. Understand that the Lord does not want you to continue that way. Repent of your sin and begin to listening to Him again.

You might be thinking about seeking the Lord in a private place. Just as Moses and other like-minded people went outside the camp to seek the Lord, so you may be needing to set aside some time to talk with the Lord without distractions. Understand that the Lord wants you to seek Him. But you have to take the time to do it.

You might be wanting to know the Lord’s presence in your life. Perhaps you have allowed some things to get in between you and the Lord. If this is the case, it will be hard for you to feel that God is with you. Take the time to examine your own situation and understand what is keeping your from being close to the Lord. You will not regret it.

Whatever the case may be, I hope that you will turn to the Lord and grow in your relationship with Him.

Bibliography

Bush, George, Notes on Exodus, Vol. 2, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1976, orig. 1852, pp. 226-241.

“Did Moses see God?” as seen at www.gotquestions.org/did-Moses-see-God.html on 9/17/2022.

Hannah, John D., “Exodus” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, p. 157.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 303-306.

“What does the Bible say about being stiff-necked?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=24379 on 9/17/2022.

Exodus 32

Have you ever heard the statement, “Men are from Mars, and women from Venus”? The fact is that men and women are different in many ways. One man published a 200 page book entitled, “What Men Understand About Women.” All of the pages were blank. While we may not always understand each other, we have learned to live together and to appreciate the differences … or to turn down the hearing aid volume when necessary.

When it comes to the way that God thinks, there are times when we humans are unable to understand God’s ways. The Lord reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” However, the more we read the Bible and meditate on it, the more we begin to understand why God does what He does.

In Exodus 32, we will see three times when God’s ways were different than those He was dealing with. Let’s take a moment and look at what God showed His people.

  1. When God’s timing is different than our own (Exodus 32:1-14)

    If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you know that God’s timing is often different than our own. When we pray, we want the answer to be good and to happen immediately. But God has his own time table for when things should happen. This is something that the Israelites had not learned yet or submitted to.

    a. Impatient People (32:1-6)

    Moses had been on the mountain for 40 days. The Israelites became impatient and even wondered if Moses would ever come back. So they asked Aaron to make them gods to lead them forward.

    “In suggesting that Aaron make them gods, they were not asking for gods to replace Yahweh but for a visible, tangible object to follow. This explicitly violated the second commandment (20:4-6; cf. 20:23), which the people had already received from God verbally through Moses” (Hannah 155).

    Aaron told the people to bring him all their golden earrings. He then melted them and made a golden calf to represent the One who had brought them out of Egypt. Aaron also proclaimed a feast to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offering to the Lord.

    Why did the people request a statue to worship? If you recall, the people had been in Egypt for several hundred years. In Egypt, the natives worshiped a variety of gods and had statues all over the place. It was natural (but not right) for the Israelites to want something similar to what they had seen in Egypt. Instead of having simple faith in God, they wanted something to look at.

    The people, though, took advantage of the situation and turned the feast into a wild party. “Their activities led to revelry (cf. 1 Cor. 10:7; sahaq suggests immorality). This violated the seventh commandment (Ex. 20:14). Singing and dancing were included (32:18-19) and they were ‘running wild’ (v. 25). Immorality often accompanies idolatry (Rom. 1:22-24). Yet they were worshiping the true God!” (Hannah 155)

    Aaron should have stood up against them but instead he made the idol and then announced that it was this calf which had brought them out of Egypt. “His not taking this resolute stand, and in humble trust in God braving all consequences, but … yielding to their importunities, gave a kind of public and official sanction to the whole proceeding” (Bush 211).

    b. Angry God (32:7-10)

    While they were pleasing themselves, God was displeased. The Lord, who had done so much for the Israelites, was angry with their quick turn away from His ways. He viewed their actions not as acceptable worship to Him but a sinful replacement of Him.

    “Giving themselves up to licentious mirth, they thought only of the present moment. But here we learn how the matter was viewed on the mount. This ought in fact to have been their chief concern—not how they regarded it, but how it was looked upon from above” (Bush 214).

    The Israelites were so concerned with what they wanted to do in worship, that they disregarded what the Lord had told them He wanted. It’s kind of like a husband buying his wife a present of something she previously said she didn’t want. This ought to make us think twice about what we present as worship to the Lord. It is not what we desire but what He desires that is acceptable.

    He was so angry that He “refused to claim the people as His own or even to claim that He delivered them from Egypt” (Hannah 155) and was ready to destroy them all and make a new nation from Moses’ descendants.

    The Lord even told Moses to leave him alone. “Moses had not yet opened his mouth, but God foresaw” (Bush 215) what Moses was going to say on behalf of the Israelites. In other words, God was angry enough not to listen to even his trusted servant, Moses.

    c. Pleading Moses (32:11-14)

    If you were there hearing the Almighty God speak of destroying an entire nation, you might have hidden behind a rock in fear. But Moses didn’t do that. Instead, he pleaded with the Lord. He asked the Lord why he was so angry. He then reasoned with the Lord why He should destroy the nation so quickly.

    (1) If the Lord killed the people, the Egyptians would have a wrong picture of why God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. Instead of great love for them, it would look like the Lord only brought them out to kill them. That would be a bad look for the Lord’s reputation.

    (2) Next, he asked the Lord to relent from harming His people. He pointed out that the Lord had chosen these people as His own, and even if they were currently doing wrong, they were still His people.

    (3) Finally, Moses reminded the Lord of his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. To each of them, the Lord had promised to multiply their descendants and to give them the Promised Land.

    The end result was that the Lord relented and chose not to destroy the people. This brings up a deep question. Does God respond to our reasoning during prayer? This passage seems to indicate that the Lord does respond to our fervent prayers. Remember what James said in the New Testament? “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Somehow, God listens to our prayers despite Him already knowing what the best action is to take.

    Keep this in mind the next time you are talking with God. We often joke about Joanne’s prayer about a rock, but “if we would talk honestly and frankly to God, prayer meeting would be the most exciting meeting in the church. … When Moses prayed like that, it moved the arm of God” (McGee 301).

  2. When God’s justice is different than our own (Exodus 32:15-29)

    In this part of the chapter, we see how God had Moses respond to those who had rebelled. Their punishment was very severe as we will see, but it was exactly as God would have it.

    a. Angry Moses (32:15-20)

    Although Moses had pleaded on behalf of the people, he was very angry with them. When he saw the golden calf and the dancing people, he became so angry that he broke the two tablets of stone. “They had broken the covenant itself, and Moses as a sensible sign of the awful fact breaks the monumental tables in which it was inscribed” (Bush 219). When he was close enough, Moses took the calf, burned it, ground it to powder, and scattered it across the water. “By this action he demonstrated both the powerlessness of the calf-idol and God’s wrath” (Hannah 156). He also showed his great displeasure in what they had done.

    But was it really such a big deal? Today, we see religious people wearing religious jewelry, planting a religious statue in their yard, or placing a religious picture on their car? Isn’t this a good thing? No, from this passage, we see that God doesn’t want any graven image used to replace spiritual worship and devotion. It actually makes Him angry. Remember what Jesus said. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” God doesn’t want us to look an object to worship him. Instead, he wants hearts that are devoted to Him and show it by their loving obedience.

    b. Lying Aaron (32:21-24)

    When Moses confronted his brother about his sin, Aaron (1) deflected the guilt to the people. You know how sinful they are. He also (2) blamed their action on impatience due to Moses’ long absence. Aaron then (3) made up a story about the golden calf suddenly appearing after the gold was cast into the fire.

    Aaron had been left in charge of the people while Moses was on the mountain communing with God. But he failed miserably. And we learn later that the Lord was very angry with Aaron.

    Deut. 9:20 – “And the Lord was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.”

    He had the opportunity to stand up for the Lord, but he gave in to the people and attempted to accommodate them by merging idol worship with sacrifices to the Lord. This mixture of good and evil was not acceptable to God and Aaron should have known better and done better.

    c. Lethal Justice (32:25-29)

    The people had become wild and unrestrained. One translation says that they were naked. This “probably denotes a dissipated … disorderly state, in which the people had thrown off discipline and restraint and given themselves up to every excess of reveling and riot” (Bush 222). Whatever the case, they were uncontrolled and acting shamefully. Moses had to handle their apostasy from God with lethal justice. He called for those who were on the Lord’s side to kill those who “persisted in idolatry” (Hannah 156). The Levites did what they were told and about three thousand men were put to death for their rebellion against God’s clearly outlined covenant with them.

    “Those that were guilty were slain, and that cleaned up the camp pretty well. Many people are apt to say that this was brutal. Look at it this way. Was it better to cut out the cancer now and save the nation or let the cancer grow and destroy the nation? Think of the men, women, and children in the camp who were not guilty. If the men who had led Israel into idolatry had been allowed to live, the nation would never have entered into the Promised Land. That, of course, is what is happening in the church in many places. I see church after church lose its importance and influence and become useless because it allowed liberalism to creep in. We are soft and sentimental and silly. Sometimes we are even stupid in the way we handle evil” (McGee 302).

    While it seems strange to us today to hear of people being executed for rebellion against God, it was necessary to do this in the nation of Israel because of their direct, covenant relationship with the Lord. Allowing the rebels to continue to rebel against God and to lead others to follow would have been disastrous. They chose to disobey God’s clear instructions and were given the prescribed penalty.

    The other application is our understanding of eternal punishment. When we read about God’s plan to judge unbelievers to eternity in the Lake of Fire, we may cringe. It seems so severe. But as the penalty, so is the crime. Those who willfully reject the love extended to them by the Lord are guilty of a serious crime. And this rejection affects every part of their being. Inside they are saying, “I will run my own life and I don’t care what God wants.”

    God’s view of sin is different than our own. And his view of the appropriate punishment for sin is also different than our own. Instead of trying to argue about what God should do, we should submit to His will and seek his forgiveness so that we can escape the coming judgment.

  3. When God’s plan is different than our own (Exodus 32:30-35)

    As you can tell from the previous verses, Moses was appalled at what the rebels had done. They had so quickly backed out of the things they had promised to do! But as their leader, he wanted to plead with God for mercy. As he headed up the mountain, he thought of what he could say to the Lord.

    a. Mediating Moses (32:30-32)

    When he finally arrived, Moses divided his thoughts into two topics.

    He admitted their sin. First, Moses admitted to the Lord that the sin of the Israelites was very serious. They had made an idol of gold in direct opposition to what the Lord had commanded in the Ten Commandments. This was sin.

    “If you want to get along with God, you will have to agree with Him about sin. … Moses spelled out the sin before God. And, friends, when we confess our sin to God, we should spell it out. Tell God exactly what it is” (McGee 303).

    The New Testament instructs Christians to do this on a regular basis. It is not confession to a religious leader but a regular confession of our sins to God. Consider what is said in 1 John 1:8-10.

     If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

    What Moses did was a confession of the sins for the people. This is what Daniel did in his prayer to God (Dan. 9:5). But we must also remember to confess our own sins to God so that our relationship with Him can continue to be good.

    He stood with the sinners. Second, Moses offered to remove his name from God’s book if He would not forgive the people. What exactly was this book? “Some say this was the book of life (Rev. 20:15; 21:27) that lists believers names but, more likely, it was the census of the people” (Hannah 156) or “the custom of having the names of a community enrolled in a register, and whenever one died, or erasing his name from the number” (Bush 225). He wasn’t offering to give up his relationship with the Lord but was expressing “the wish rather to die than the witness the destruction of his people” (Bush 225). “Moses said, ‘I take my place with the people. I identify myself with them, and if You intend to blot them out, blot me out also'” (McGee 303).

    This is a good example of a leader who loved the people he was leading. Despite their constant complaining and their current disobedience to God, Moses loved them and wanted them to live and have the opportunity to repent and try again to be God’s people.

    b. Our Just God (32:33-35)

    The Lord patiently listened to Moses but was unwilling to punish Moses for the people’s sin. The Lord is good like that. He held the Israelites responsible for their own sin. Those who had sinned against the Lord would face His judgment. This He did by sending a plague on the people. Their judgment was complete.

    Does sin only affect sinners? There are times when the sin of an individual affects innocent people. Think of Achan and the 36 men who died because of his sin (Josh. 7). Sometimes sin affects those around us. But in the broad scheme of things, “God deals individually and personally with sin” (McGee 303). This was the case in this instance. Those who sinned were judged by God. Three thousand were put to death and others were judged by a plague.

    How did this affect the other people? When the rest of the people saw how God judged the rebels, how do you think they responded? They must have been awe struck with the seriousness of sin. God does care about the way He is worshiped. God does care about how we live our lives. God does want us to be devoted to Him. Let us learn the same lessons from this chapter.

Conclusion

This might be a good time to think about your own sin and God’s justice. If we were to stand before God and be evaluated by the way that we have thought, acted, and spoken during our lives, none of us would be able to look God in the eye. We all have sinned.

A Christian preacher recently told the story of a Jewish man who asked him,” Why do I need Jesus?” He responded by asking the man if he could ask him a couple of questions. The first was, “Do you believe that crimes should be punished?” The man was a lawyer and agreed to this need. The second question was, “Have you ever done anything wrong?” The man agreed again. The point was that all of us have sinned against God and deserve the punishment prescribed by God, which is eternity in the lake of fire. The only person who doesn’t deserve it is Jesus, the perfect Son of God. He willingly took the punishment for our sin when He bled and died on the cross. His payment for our sin was accepted by God as evidence by God raising Him from the dead after three days.

Why do you need Jesus? You and I need Jesus because we are sinners who will one day face God’s judgment. Either we can reject Him and face eternal punishment or accept what God has lovingly done for us through Jesus. Which will you choose?

Bibliography

Bush, George, Notes on Exodus, Vol. 2, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1976, orig. 1852, pp. 209-226.

Hannah, John D., “Exodus” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, pp. 155-57.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 1, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 300-303.

McGee on Liberalism Creeping into our Churches

“Liberalism has crept into our churches and we have allowed it to stay there unchecked. I can remember when I came before a church court to be examined for the ministry. A young fellow from a liberal seminary was also there to be examined. I have never seen anyone who knew so little theology and Bible as this boy, and what he did know he had all mixed up. It was clear that he had little knowledge and no faith. He could never even explain the great doctrines of the faith. In fact, one man very patiently said to him, ‘Well if you don’t believe it, at least you ought to know what you don’t believe!’ But he didn’t. Then one old man who knew this boy’s father, said, ‘This boy’s father was a great preacher in the past. He was sound in the faith and I know that one day this boy will come around and will get straightened out.’ It was not unanimous but the council accepted him. It made me sick at heart to be brought in at the same time with a fellow who did not believe anything at all.

The way this council handled the situation is not the way Moses would have handled it! He would not have drawn a sword and slain the fellow, but he would not have accepted him as a preacher. He would have given that boy a Bible and told him to go to Bible school, learn a little Bible, and then come back and he could be examined again and see if he was fit for the ministry. Because of similar actions by other councils, liberalism has come into the organized church and has taken over. You cannot compromise with sin.”

Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol 1., Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, p. 302.

Exodus 30-31

Have you noticed a change in the content of these chapters since we first began our study of Exodus. At the beginning, we learned about Moses and his upbringing in the palace. We learned about God choosing him to lead His people out of Egypt. We learned about the 10 Plagues, the Red Sea crossing, and numerous times when God provided for the people in the wilderness. But these last chapters have not had that same excitement. Will we ever get back to the exciting stories?

If we finish two chapters this time, we will soon read about the golden calf incident. That will be very interesting, but let’s not forget to see what God has for us in these two chapters. While they do not contain exciting stories, they do show us something about God and how he interacts with His people. This ought to be of interest to us.

As we look through these two chapters, we will cover several topics: (1) specific articles for the tabernacle, (2) gifted artisans for the tabernacle, and (3) rest for God’s people.

  1. Articles for the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:1-38)

    a. The altar of incense (30:1-10)

    This altar was 1½ by 1½ feet square and 3 feet tall. It was covered with gold and was carried by two gold plated poles which fit into the rings on its sides. It was placed outside the veil of the most holy place where the Lord would meet with the high priest.

    The high priest was to burn sweet incense on this small altar when he lit the lamps at twilight. Nothing else was to be offered on this alter. However, the high priest would put blood on the altar’s horns once per year to make atonement for the people (Lev. 16). So this altar was considered holy to the Lord.

    Do you remember Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father? “Luke 1:9 tells us that… He was serving at the altar of incense … and it was the time of prayer” (McGee 294). He was fulfilling his duty to offer this incense in the temple just as the Lord had commanded Moses more than 1000 years earlier.

    b. The ransom money (30:11-16)

    Whenever a census was taken, each man who was 20 years old and up was to give half a shekel as a ransom to the Lord. “This tax was considered a ransom (Ex. 30:12) because its payment guaranteed protection from plagues” (Hannah 154). The obedience of God’s people in this ransom payment would guarantee that the Lord would keep plagues away from them. We usually think of a ransom in a negative way. A bad person kidnaps a person and demands money for their release. In this case, the good Lord was guaranteeing his blessing if they would follow His commands.

    The amount was not based on how rich or poor the person was. All paid the same amount. The money collected was considered by God to be an atonement for the people and it was used for servicing the temple.

    How much was half a shekel worth? According to the BKCOT, a half shekel was 1/5th of an ounce of silver. As of 9/3/22, an ounce of silver was worth $17.79. So, a half shekel was worth approximately $3.56. If that was what was required by all, this was a very reasonable payment for rich and poor alike. And if there were still 600,000 fighting men, they would have raised $2,136,000 with a half shekel from each man.

    Do you ever get stuck thinking about how little your offering will do each Sunday? We look at the annual budget and wonder where the money will come from. But somehow it always comes through. The Lord provides for His work not just by individual gifts but by the gifts of all the people put together.

    c. The bronze laver (30:17-21)

    A bronze laver was to be positioned between the tabernacle and the altar where sacrifices were burned. It was filled with water and used by the high priest and the other priests to wash themselves before carrying out their duties. The Lord made it clear that the priests had to be cleansed before they could offer sacrifices or carry out any of their ministry duties. If they refused to clean themselves, they would be put to death.

    The point is that the Lord wanted his priests to minister before Him with clean, holy lives. “You cannot worship Him, serve Him, or be of use to Him unless you have been cleaned up” (McGee 296). This might be a good application for us today. The Lord wants us to serve Him but it is not acceptable to Him when we come with unclean lives. Christian, if you want to serve the Lord, first confess your sin to God and be cleansed (1 John 1:9). He will forgive you and prepare you for service.

    “God does not accept worship until it comes from a cleansed heart nor will He accept service except from a cleansed heart” (McGee 297).

    d. The anointing oil (30:22-33)

    The tabernacle and priests were to be anointed with a special oil which came from “12½ pounds of myrrh, 6¼ pounds of … cinnamon, 6¼ pounds of cane, 12½ pounds of cassia (from the fragrant bark of a tree), and about four quarts of olive oil” (Hannah 154). The cane “is said to scent the air with fragrance, even while growing” (Bush 200). The ingredients were mixed together in the exact amounts that would created a pleasant smell. But this type of anointing oil was limited in its use. No one outside of the tabernacle was to use it for any other purpose. Those who did would be sentenced to death.

    Besides deodorant, I do not use any special perfume or cologne. While I can appreciate the smell of perfume or cologne, it has to be used in the right amount. Too much can be obnoxious to anyone else in the room. But the right amount can be nice.

    e. The incense (30:34-38)

    Along with the anointing oil, Moses was to make incense (for the altar of incense) made from equal amounts of stacte, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense. “Stacte was a resinous gum that oozed from trees on Mount Gilead. … The onycha came from a species of shell fish that resembled a crab. The galbanum was taken from the leaves of a Syrian plant. These were blended with pure frankincense” (McGee 297). It was to be beaten into a fine powder and then burned inside the tabernacle just outside of the most holy place. But it was not to be used anywhere else but inside the tabernacle. Anyone who used it elsewhere would be sentenced to death.

    I wonder why the Lord wanted the sweet smelling incense and oil. Do you enjoy a lighted candle in your home? Apparently, they are very popular because certain malls have entire stores dedicated to candles of a variety of smells. The smell of vanilla, pumpkin spice, or apples adds a pleasant aroma to the room. Perhaps the Lord just wanted to make the duties of the priests enjoyable with these pleasant smells.

    Another thought is brought up by Bush. “It [incense] is one of the usages peculiar to palaces, and the houses of the wealthy and great, and as God in the character of Theocratic Ruler of Israel saw fit to be honored in modes analogous to those which were common in reference to eastern sovereigns” (191). In other words, the Lord is worthy of our best. We should treat him as well or better than the most honored people in our lives.

  2. Artisans for the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-11)

    Whenever the Lord wants to accomplish something, he usually uses a person to accomplish it. In the case of the tabernacle and its furnishings, the Lord enabled two specific men to make the various artwork and items for the tabernacle.

    a. Bezalel (31:1-5)

    Bezalel was from the tribe of Judah. The Holy Spirit filled him with the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to make the beautiful artwork and decorations in the tabernacle. He worked with gold, silver, bronze, jewels, and wood to make things just as the Lord had commanded.

    b. Aholiab (31:6-11)

    Aholiab was from the tribe of Dan. He was appointed by the Lord to assist Bezalel and other unnamed but gifted artisans who would help in the making of the tabernacle items. He and the others would make the tabernacle, ark, mercy seat, furniture, table, utensils, the lampstand, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering, the laver, the priests garments, and the oil and incense.

    ILLUS. Imagine if Bezalel and Aholiab had to make all of the items by themselves. It would have taken a very long time to complete. Thankfully, the Lord provided other gifted people to help with the work. This should be a good reminded for us. The present work of the Lord is not limited to a single person in the church but to all of us. The Lord has given each of us talents that should be used for His purposes.

  3. Rest for God’s People (Exodus 31:12-18)

    The Sabbath day is the 7th day of the week (Saturday). We know it as a day of rest, but what were the Lord’s intentions for this day?

    a. The Sabbath sanctified the Israelites (13).

    The Sabbath was a rest day given specifically to the Israelites. It was something that would sanctify (set apart) the Jewish people and remind them that the Lord had chosen them.

    Apparently, taking a day of rest was not something that the rest of the world was doing at that time. When the Israelites rested on Saturday, they would stand out as different than most other people.

    b. The Sabbath was mandatory for the Israelites (14-16).

    The Lord made it very clear that no work was to be done on the Sabbath day. They could work for six days straight, but the 7th day was meant for rest. This was such an important requirement to the Lord that anyone found working on the Sabbath was put to death.

    c. The Sabbath was meant for their good (17).

    While the Sabbath set apart the Israelites from other people and was mandatory for them, it was also meant for their good. The Lord stated that after creating the heavens and the earth in six days, he rested on the seventh and (note this) was refreshed. The Sabbath was meant to provide a time of refreshment for the Israelites.

    Sometimes Christians look at the laws in the Old Testament and complain that the Lord was too strict back then. But is that really the case? Could it not be that the Lord was looking out for the best interests of His people by keeping them from becoming overworked, grumpy, and greedy? While Christians are not commanded to keep the Sabbath day, it is still a good idea to rest at some point during the week so as to be refreshed as God was after Creation.

Conclusion

After receiving these instructions, Moses was also given a copy of the laws on two tablets of stone. Exodus 32:15-16 tells us that God’s writing was on both sides of each tablet. In this way, Moses would have all that God had commanded him and he would not have to remember the exact dimensions of each item. In the next chapter we will see what was happening in the camp while Moses and Joshua were on the mountain. But before we read about that, what have we learned here?

1. We have learned that each of us plays a part in our offerings to God. By ourselves, we may not have much to give, but together we can accomplish much for the Lord.

2. We have learned that God cannot use us in ministry unless we are clean. So it is important to confess our sins to God and receive His cleansing before attempting to serve Him.

3. We have learned that God enables us to do His work. While we may not have impressive college degrees or a resume that looks good, God can give us the abilities needed but we must be willing.

4. We have learned that God’s laws were also made for the good of His people. The Sabbath was given to set them apart but it was also given to refresh them after a long week of working.

Bibliography

Bush, George, Notes on Exodus, Volume 2, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1972, orig. 1852, pp. 190-208.

Hannah, John D., “Exodus” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, pp. 153-55.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. I, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 294-99.

What is the Best Bible commentary?

“Discernment is important in the study of the Word of God. … Often the question is asked of ministers, What is the best commentary on the Bible? This question would be open to much debate. But if the question Who is the best teacher of the Bible? is asked, there is one clear answer—the Holy Spirit.”

Pneumatology, Understanding and Living by the Holy Spirit, Adult Leader’s Guide, Arlington Heights IL: Regular Baptist Press, 2017, p. 45.

Ephesians 1:27-30

Last week, Sharon and I celebrated 27 years of being married. My boss told me that 25 is the silver anniversary. Apparently, the jewelry stores have convinced consumers that silver must be purchased to commemorate that many years together. I bought Sharon and rose, then we went out to a steak house in Sandusky, after which we walked around the mall and got our pictures taken in a photo booth. Not so exciting, but we enjoyed our time together.

Speaking of gifts, how long has it been since God saved you. For some of us it has been quite a few years. What should be given to each of us as a gift after so many years? As you read these verses at the end of the first chapter, you may be surprised at the gift that God gave to the Philippians. We will see that in the last two verses.

Before getting to the gifts of God, Paul gives the Philippian believers (and us) incentive to do two things for the Lord. The first is to live for Christ (27-28) and the second is to suffer for Christ (29-30).

  1. Live for Christ (27-28).

    What does it mean to live for Christ?

    “The words ‘conduct yourselves’ translate a political word which would mean much to the Philippian believers. Literally it means ‘live as citizens.’ Because Philippi was a Roman colony, the Christian inhabitants of the city would appreciate Paul’s use of that verb” (Lightner 652).

    Hendriksen uses this translation: “Only exercise your citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Hendriksen 80). No doubt, the Philippians were proud of their citizenship as Roman colonists. It was something that not all people had. Paul, then, wanted them to use their citizenship for the Lord’s purposes.

    We, Americans, have certain rights as citizens. We are free to practice religion, speak without government intervention, and protection from unlawful searches into our homes (among other things).

    How should we use our privileges as citizens in this country and around the world? How should we live our lives? Paul gives us four ways to live our lives.

    a. Be worthy of the gospel (27).

    What is the gospel?

    gospel – “It is the glad news of salvation which God addresses to a world lost in sin. Not what we must do but what God (in Christ) has done for us is the most prominent part of that news” (Hendriksen 81).

    Add to this the change of life that happens as a result of what God has done for us. He makes sinners into holy people dedicated to Him.

    How can we live worthy of the gospel?

    worthy – Living worthy of the gospel means that our lives reflect the change that God has made in us. This means not living in such a way that detracts from the gospel message. The way that we live at home, work, or play should always be worthy of the gospel message?

    b. Be worthy regardless of who is with you (27).

    In previous verses, Paul was unsure whether he would make it to Philippi because of his imprisonment. He hope he would but wasn’t sure. Nonetheless, he wanted the Philippian believers to live worthy of the gospel whether he was there or not. They needed to take the responsibility seriously no mater who was with them.

    Have you ever felt like living differently when you are alone than when you are with others? Sometimes pastors only see the best side of people. But should this be the case, or should we always live in a way that glorifies God? I think we know the answer.

    c. Be worthy while working together (27).

    While I was at Morrow Bible Church, someone told me that he liked individual sports better than team sports. He suggested that this gave better opportunity for one-on-one relationships and opportunities to share the gospel. While that can be true, there is much to be learned from working together as a team.

    Paul here “suggests a joint effort, like that of an athletic team” (Lightner 652) and exhorts them to do two things.

    stand fast – They were to stand fast like soldiers holding back the enemy from entering the castle. This reminds me of the children’s game Red Rover. The team is only as strong as its weakest link. But when others stand together with the other team members, they are fortified and helped to stand against the opposition.

    Christians should not give in to temptation but should stand fast in the truths of the Scriptures resting on the promises of God.

    striving together – They were to strive together for the faith of the gospel. This again is a team effort. The Church is not just a bunch of individuals doing things alone. It is a body of believers who work together for the spread of the gospel, the discipling of believers, and the glory of God.

    How are you working with others in this church to further God’s work? It may take a while to think through, but we need to consider what we can do together to further the gospel in our area.

    d. Be worthy without fear (28).

    Paul told the Philippian believers to live worthy lives without being terrified.

    terrified – “to frighten, startle, terrify. The metaphor is from a timid horse (Lightfoot). Perhaps an allusion to Cassius who at the battle of Philippi committed suicide at the fear of defeat” (Reinecker 548). Think also of King Saul.

    What would cause Christians to be terrified?

    If you consider some of the suffering that Paul faces and that other Christians have faced, there are plenty of terrifying events that could cause nightmares. But Paul wanted them to be undaunted by the events that could or had happened to him or them.

    adversaries – Paul had faced adversaries on Philippi who were fortune tellers, merchants, and city officials. But in Philippians 3:18-19, he describes enemies who once seemed like believers but had become “enemies of the cross of Christ.” The truth is that adversaries can come from a variety of sources.

    What would the results of their fearlessness be?

    When the Christian believers stood fast and worked together for the gospel, they would face opposition without fear. That is called intrepidity.

    intrepidity – “undaunted courage” (Hendriksen 89) “resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance” (Miriam Webster)

    This is the God-given ability to stand up against opposition whatever happens. Paul says that their response would show their opponents their own coming destruction and would give the believers assurance of their own salvation from God.

    How do we get this courage?

    that from God – “If intrepidity were merely a homemade article, a state of mind into which a person enters without divine assistance, it would prove nothing as to salvation. But… such fearlessness can and must be considered a gift of God, the product of his Spirit working in the heart” (Hendriksen 89-90).

    Summary: There is a lot that is expected of believers. (1) We are to be worthy of the gospel in our daily lives. (2) We are to be worthy regardless of who is with us. (3) We are to live worthy lives together with other believers. (4) We are to live worthy lives without fear.

    When you consider all of this, it would be easy to scream, “I can’t do it!” And you would be right. None of us can do these things in our own strength. But with God’s help we can. Will you trust Him to help you to live a life worthy of the gospel?

  2. Suffer for Christ (29-30).

    If you were asked what you enjoyed most about being a Christian, what would you say? You might mention peace with God, strength during tribulation, answered prayers, or God’s provision. But would you include suffering? Paul tells us here to be ready for suffering.

    a. Be ready to suffer as God’s will (29).

    It is a gift.

    Every college student knows the meaning of the word grant. When struggling to pay for their college tuition, needy students often apply for a government grant to pay for some or all of their bill. I know of a student at a Christian college who was given an anonymous gift to pay her school bill. When she wrote a thank you letter to the donor, he mentioned that no other person had ever written him a thank you letter. He later paid off her whole college education.

    The word used here is ἐχαρίσθη which means “to gratify; to bestow, in kindness, grant as a free favor” (Mounce). It is the idea of giving a gift without strings attached.

    Some examples of this word in the New Testament:

    Luke 7:21 – “And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.”

    Luke 7:42 – “And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

    Acts 27:24 – “saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’”

    1 Cor. 2:12 – “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”

    In each of these examples, the gift was given freely to someone. With that in mind, let’s look at the gifts Paul mentions in verse 29. One gift is suffering, but another is mentioned first.

    God’s grants to us the gift of faith.

    When we think of our faith, we often emphasize the word our. We have the idea that God was inactive until we flipped the switch and believed. This verses (among others) indicates that this was not the case. God granted us the ability to believe in Him.

    Compare the following verses:

    Eph. 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

    Philp. 1:29 – “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”

    “Whether or not one regards Eph. 2:8 as proof … that such faith is God’s gift, the conclusion is at any rate inescapable here in Phil. 1:29 faith — not only in its inception but also in its continued activity — is so regarded. It is one and the same time God’s gift and man’s responsibility” (Hendriksen 90).

    While we want to focus on what we did when we were saved, we should bow our heads and be thankful that the Lord convicted us of our sin, showed us the truth of the gospel, and brought us to the place where we would believe. God gave us all of this.

    God grants to us the gift of suffering.

    Once again, we see that God has granted not only the ability to believe but also the opportunity to suffer for Jesus’ sake. “Suffering for Christ was not to be considered accidental or divine punishment” (Lightner 652). When other believers have faced suffering, God knew about it and even had a hand in it for his divine purposes. Think of Job, Jesus, and the disciples. God used their suffering to accomplish His purposes.

    So should we dance and shout and be looking for suffering?

    “Now suffering is not a privilege in itself. One should not court suffering. But suffering in behalf of Christ, in the interest of him and his gospel is different. Such suffering is indeed a blessing, a gracious privilege (Acts 5:41)” (Hendriksen 90).

    When suffering comes into your life, and it is as a result of standing firm for the Lord and working together for the gospel, be reminded that this is part of God’s will for you. Accept it and consider it an honor to suffer for the Lord who died for you.

    b. Be ready to suffer as others have (30).

    Who else had suffered?

    They had seen Paul’s suffering at the beginning and had heard of his present suffering. “In Philippi Paul had been … slandered, mobbed, stripped, flogged, thrown into a dungeon, his feet locked in gruesome stocks” (Hendriksen 91). And at the present time, he was in prison because of his stand for Christ.

    Paul’s example of suffering for Christ was something that these early believers would eventually face. This must have been a fearful proposition as Paul had been mistreated while in Philippi for only a few days. They lived in Philippi and would have to face it in their own home town.

    Where would the suffering come from?

    “The Philippians, vexed in a variety of ways by idol-and-emperor-worshippers, legalistic Judaists, paganistic sensualists, quarreling church-members, all of these the result of Satanic influence, were engaged in the same conflict. The conflict is the same because at bottom the arch-enemy is the same!” (Hendriksen 91)

    Remember that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). This might help us to not hate the people involved but to hate the wicked one who stirs them up.

    Consider how the early church responded to suffering.

    Matt. 5:11-12 – “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

    Acts 5:41 – “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

    Suffering, though allowed by God, is many times a result of the enemy’s plans. He wants to destroy the work of God in us and in those we are trying to reach for Christ. As you face this suffering for the Lord, recognize that other have endured it and been faithful. Then trust the Lord for the strength to endure.

Conclusion

These four verses are filled with truths that may not be easy to handle. We are to live for the Lord. We are to suffer for the Lord. Are you willing to do both? With God’s help and the example of faithful Christians of the past, we can do it. And some day, our faithfulness to the Lord on earth will be rewarded in heaven.

Bibliography

Chafer, Lewis Sperry, “Suffering,” Systematic Theology Doctrinal Summarization, Binghamton: Vail-Ballou Press, 1948, pp. 297-300.

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp. 80-92.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 652.

Mounce, Bill, χαρίζομαι, as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/charizomai on 9/4/2022.

Mounce, Bill, πολιτεύομαι , as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/politeuomai on 8/28/2022.

Moule, H. C. G., The Epistle to the Philippians, Cambridge: The University Press, 1889, pp. 59-60.

Rienecker, Fritz and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976, p. 548.

Exodus 29

Sometimes when we sing old hymns the words are hard to understand. For instance, do you remember the hymn that includes “Here I raise my Ebenezer”? This would seem quite odd if you knew someone by that name. The writer of that hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, was referring to 1 Samuel 7:12 where Samuel erected a monument and called it Ebenezer to show that the Lord had enabled Israel to defeat the Philistines. So, the hymn writer was trying to make a symbolic statement that God had done something for him.

Another old hymn that may not be understood is “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus” by Robert Lowry. The third verses says, “Nothing can for sin atone: nothing but the blood of Jesus. Naught of good that I have done: nothing but the blood of Jesus.” We understand the general meaning but if you were asked to give a definition of atone or atonement, what would you say? In the song it has something to do with sin and the blood of Jesus, but what does it mean?

  1. Definition of Atonement

    Do a search of the word “atonement” in the Bible and you will find that it is mentioned 89 times in the Old Testament (NKJV). In the New Testament, it is mentioned only once in Romans 5:11 (KJV) and is translated “reconciliation” by the NKJV. Being that it is mentioned so many times, it must be an important concept for us to understand. What is atonement?

    Atonement is a blood payment made to God to restore the relationship between Him and us. Atonement was necessary because we humans are sinful. That sin gets in the way of a good relationship with God. In our chapter today, we will see that sins were atoned by the blood and death of an animal sacrifice. However, in the New Testament, our sins are atoned by the blood and death of Jesus.

    As we look at Exodus 29, keep in mind that these blood sacrifices were a means to make our relationship right with God because of our continued sinfulness. But don’t forget that Jesus is our once-for-all sacrifice for sins. First, we will study the atonement in the Old Testament. Second, we will see our atonement by Jesus in the New Testament.

  2. Old Testament Atonement

    The more I read in Exodus, the more I see the importance of what God was saying. He was readying the people to having Him live among them. Being that they were sinful people who complained and disobeyed again and again, they needed to see the importance of being holy because God is holy. With that in mind, the preparations prescribed to Moses by God were very important. Without them. the people would not be allowed to be in God’s presence.

    Notice verses 1 and 45-46. The priests were to be made holy for serving the Lord. And the people were to be holy to receive God into their dwelling place. In order for this to take place, they needed an atonement.

    a. It was a holy occasion (Ex. 29:4-9).

    The ministry of the priests was not something to be taken lightly. Though Aaron and his sons had been chosen to serve as priests, they were still unholy people who needed atonement. So God said that they should be washed and clothed with the priestly outfits from Exodus 28.

    b. It was a transfer of guilt (Ex. 29:10,15,19; Lev. 1:4).

    Notice that three times during these ceremonies, Aaron and his sons were to place their hands on the head of the sacrificial animal. Why did they do this?

    “By the ceremony of putting their hands upon the head of the victim was signified, (1.) that the offerer had need of a sacrifice to atone for his sins; (2.) that he symbolically transferred his sins to the victim; (3.) that he confided in faith and hope that although he deserved himself to die, yet the death of the animal, which he thus devoted to God, would be accepted as an expiation for his sins, so as to avert from him the punishment which they had righteously incurred” (Bush 179).

    In other words, “when a sinner came up to the altar and put his hands on the head of the animal he had brought, it meant that the animal was taking his place” (McGee 293).

    This idea is explained further by Leviticus 1:4. There the person offering a burnt sacrifice was to put his hand on the head of the animal “and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.” The animal would die instead of the sinful person who offered it to God.

    c. It was a payment for sin (Ex. 29:12,16,36).

    In each of these verses, we see that the blood of the animal was offered, poured, sprinkled, or something similar. The blood was what God prescribed and accepted as an atonement for sin (Ex. 29:36). Without the blood, they could not approach God or have a relationship with him.

    Do you remember when Cain and Abel brought different offerings to the Lord. We aren’t given many details except that Cain didn’t bring a blood sacrifice. You would be right to say that the law had not been given yet. But many OT saints offered sacrifices to God before the law including Abel, Noah, and Job. So, the Lord must have given them instructions at some point. With that in mind, I wonder if Cain was not accepted for bringing produce instead of a blood sacrifice.

    d. It was a means to fellowship with the Lord (Ex. 29:45-46).

    The Lord stated his purpose for all these instructions in the last two verses in Exodus 29. He was going to live among the Israelite nation. He wanted them to know that He was the Lord their God and what He had done for them.

    Isn’t that a wonderful thought? The Lord wanted to live among the people and for them to know Him. The Lord is not some distant being that wants to be left alone and is disinterested in people. He wanted the people to know Him but He also wanted them to approach Him in holiness. This is why he prescribed the means of atonement to cover their sins and bring them together.

  3. New Testament Atonement

    Now that we have seen atonement in the Old Testament, how does this affect our understanding of what took place in the New Testament? God is still holy and man is still sinful. What atonement could be made to cause sinful man to be good enough to be reconciled with God?

    a. Romans 5:8-10

    In these verses, we are reminded that God showed his love to sinful us. He demonstrated this love by sending Jesus to die for us. Jesus is our substitute who died instead of us. Because Jesus died for us, we are justified (considered without sin), we have escaped God’s wrath (no future judgment in the lake of fire), and we are reconciled to God (our relationship with him is no longer affected by our sin).

    b. 2 Corinthians 5:21

    What do we see here?

    • He (God) was involved in the process of making us right with Him.
    • Jesus was the One who didn’t know sin (meaning He never sinned).
    • Jesus became sin for us (meaning He took the responsibility for our sin when He died on the cross). This reminds me of the person putting his hand on the head of the sacrificial animal to transfer his guilt to the sacrifice.
    • In Him, we can become righteous (meaning we sinful people can become right with God through what Jesus did).
    • It doesn’t say anything about what we do (meaning that we don’t need to try to be good enough because we are simply trusting in what Jesus did for us). We must simply believe.

Conclusion

The more we look at the Old Testament law, the more clear it is that the Lord has not changed. In the Old Testament, the Lord was holy and the people were sinful. But He wanted to have a relationship with them. So, He provided a means to atone for their sins. Once the guilt of their sin was transferred to the animal, it took their place and died so that their sins could be forgiven and the relationship made right with God.

In the New Testament, the Lord is still holy and we are still sinful. But God still wants to have a relationship with us. So, He provided a means to atone for our sins. He transferred the guilt for our sins to His Son, Jesus, who took our place and died so that our sins could be forgiven and the relationship made right with God.

I have a question for each of us to ponder. Have you been made right with God? The atonement for your sins has already been paid. God did this for you because you could do nothing. Have you transferred the guilt of your sin to Jesus and put your faith in His blood which was shed for you? If not, will you trust Him today?

Bibliography

Bush, George, Notes on Exodus, Minneapolis: James & Klock, reprint 1976, orig. 1852, pp. 173-89.

Hannah, John D., “Exodus”, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, pp. 152-53.

Mackintosh, C. H., Notes on the Pentateuch Genesis to Deuteronomy, Neptune: Loizeaux, 1972, pp. 256-57. (This one was not very helpful.)

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee Vol 1. Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 292-93.

“What does Here I Raise my Ebenezer mean in the familiar hymn?” as viewed at https://housetohouse.com/what-does-here-i-raise-my-ebenezer-mean-in-the-familiar-hymn on 8/27/2022.