It must have been God’s will…

You may have heard someone tell you “It must have been God’s will” after something bad happened. While this may have been an attempt to encourage you or point you to stronger faith in the Lord, this is probably not the best thing to say after someone gets cancer or loses a loved one. Saying that something bad “must have been God’s will” paints God as an uncaring, unloving, spiteful person whose will only involves what is best for Him. Does that really describe who our God is?

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about God’s will.

  1. What was God’s will originally?

    Before we can look at how things are now, let’s look at what God’s will was from the beginning. This should show us something about God and what He truly desires.

    a. God’s wanted mankind to live in a perfect world (Gen. 1:28, 31).

    When God created the world and everything in it, he kept saying that it was good. “And God saw that it was good.” Then when He had created Adam and Eve, He put them in charge of the earth. They lived in a perfect world where “everything that He had made… was very good.” How wonderful that God’s will was for them to live in and to enjoy such a beautiful place.

    b. God’s wanted mankind to be ignorant of evil (Gen. 2:16-17).

    God knew that this paradise on earth would only stay good if man was ignorant about evil. So, he commanded them not to eat from the tree that would give them this knowledge. God’s will was for mankind to be ignorant of evil. He did this to protect them.

    c. God’s wanted mankind to know and please Him (Gen. 3:8; Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11).

    While the Bible never says that God was lonely and created mankind for companionship, we do know that He created us for a purpose. In Genesis 3:8, the Lord was walking in the garden. It seems like He was there to walk and talk with Adam and Eve. God created us for Himself (Col. 1:16) and receives glory from us (Rev. 4:11), but He also wants to know us and for us to know Him. This is beyond my comprehension, but it seems to be what He originally intended.

    So, was it God’s will that we live in a sin-cursed world full of pain, sadness, and death? The answer is no. God had a better desire for us. But much of God’s original will for mankind did not happen because of the influence of the serpent and the choice of Adam and Eve to sin. Their disobedience let to God’s original will being fulfilled for mankind.

    Please don’t get the idea that God had to come up with a Plan B. The Bible says that God had planned for our sin at the beginning. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). This shows us that God already had things in place to deal with our rejection of His original plan. God had already planned for what He knew would take place.

    God’s original will was rejected by mankind. Instead of living in a perfect, uncursed world, we experience hardships, sickness, and death. And yet the same loving God whose will was rejected by Adam and Eve still wants the best for us. He still has a will that includes us today. Let us take a look at that.

  2. What is God’s general will now?

    God has certain parts of His will that are generally applicable to all people or all believers. We could say that “in general” God desires these things. This is different than God’s specific will for individuals because these are broader in scope. So think of these statements as something that God desires for people in general.

    a. God’s will is for people to repent (2 Pet. 3:9).

    This statement in 2 Peter 3:9, shows us the heart of God. While some scoff at Jesus’ promised return because it has been so long, God has a reason for not sending Jesus back just yet. Peter tells us that God is being patient so that people will repent and not perish.

    God’s general will is that people would repent of their sins, trust in Jesus, and escape the lake of fire. “The words not wanting anyone to perish do not express a decree, as if God has willed everyone to be saved. … Instead those words describe God’s wishes or desires; He longs that all would saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4) but knows that many reject Him” (Gangel 876).

    1 Timothy 2:4 – “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

    It is not my purpose to talk about predestination, God’s sovereignty, and man’s responsibility at this point. My point is to show you that God’s will, His desire, is that sinful people understand the truth, repent of their sins, and be saved. This is His will and, sadly, there are many who do not want His will for their lives.

    Take a moment to think about how this should affect your life. When someone dies without repenting, should we say, “It must have been God’s will”? I don’t think this is a good way to respond. Since God’s will is that people repent of their sins, we should be motivated to help in accomplishing His will. We must tell people what God thinks about their sin so that they know to repent and trust in Christ. Otherwise, they may never know what God’s will is.

    b. God’s will is for believers to be set apart (1 Thess. 4:3-7).

    This next part of God’s general will involves believers. This isn’t to say that God doesn’t want all people to be holy. But that won’t happen until they have been born again. So, this part of God’s general will applies only to believers.

    In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, we see another part of God’s general will. This one involves the sanctification of believers. This is a word which is not commonly used outside of the church. It “can mean a state of being set apart from sin to God, or the process of becoming more dedicated to God. … He probably had in mind the progressive sanctification of his readers by which they were conformed to the image of Christ in daily experiences by proper responses to the Word and the Spirit of God” (Constable 701).

    What we learn here is that God wants us to stick out as different from the world. We who have been born again, should live holy lives that reflect the change God has made in us. That is His will. Paul’s focus in this statement is that God wants us to abstain from sexual immorality. With all the immorality being promoted in the world, believers are definitely set apart as different when they don’t practice the same lustful actions as the world. We don’t respond with “everybody is doing it” or “as long as they are both consenting.” Instead, we agree with the Scripture that God wants us to abstain from sexual immorality.

    Are you set apart for the Lord? Or are you still giving in to your sinful desires? As a Christian, you should be aware of God’s will in this matter. If you are interested in obeying God’s will for you, you will need to make some decisions. Choose to say no to sinful desires in thought, conversation, or actions and instead set yourself apart to be holy for Him.

    c. God’s will is for believers to love and obey Him (Mark 12:30; John 14:15).

    The third part of God’s general will involves our love and obedience to Him. In Mark 12:30, Jesus was answering a question from one of the Jewish scribes. The scribe had asked him which of God’s commands was of primary importance. Jesus pointed him to his need to love the Lord with his whole being. This is God’s will for us today. We ought to love God. And if we love Him, we ought to also obey Him.

    What would you think of someone who claimed to love God but continue to live in sin? I have heard people refer to so-and-so as someone who “loves the Lord.” What they mean is that the person has a strong emotional connection with God. They surely must be a Christian because they talk about God. Here we see that someone who loves God will show it by obeying Him.

    Do you love the Lord, today? Then show it by obeying His commands. As you obey Him, your actions will speak louder than your words to God and to the world.

    In the above comments, we have seen that God has a general will that should affect all of our lives. God wants people to repent. God wants believers to be set apart from sin. And God wants believers to love and obey Him. None of these are a surprise to any of us. We know these things. However, there are some things about God’s specific will for us that we don’t know.

  3. What is God’s specific will?

    If you regularly read your Bible, you are well aware of God’s general will for your life. But there are some things that are not covered by general statements of God’s will in the Bible. Whom should I marry? Which car should I buy? Should I invest in crypto currency? Should I take this job offer?

    During my first year of college, I was seeking the Lord’s will about what I should do with my life. I was studying graphic design but was often studying my Bible and praying to God. He was making a big difference in my life at the time. But then one day as I was reading my Bible, God used a passage of Scripture to make clear to me what I was to do. It was then that the Lord directed me to work in children’s ministries. And for over twenty years, the Lord used me in various ministries to children.

    When it comes to God’s specific will, there is some ambiguity. God doesn’t always give a Bible verse to answer your prayer. Sometimes, he uses a combination of Scripture, life experiences, and advice from godly people. But there are several principles which should be considered when thinking about God’s specific will for you.

    a. God’s specific will is based on His general will.

    This is an important point. If you are seeking God’s specific will for your life, you should keep in mind that His specific will not conflict with His general will. As you read the Scriptures, you will find certain things that God commands and principles that are not an option. We can’t overlook something God has commanded in general and think that His specific will be something different.

    For instance, when a young person is considering God’s specific will about marriage, there is a general principle in the New Testament that believers should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Cor. 7:39). This is God’s general will. It doesn’t give you your future spouse’s name, but it does tell you not to marry an unbeliever. If a young person were to ask for God’s specific will about marrying someone, an unbeliever should not be part of the question, because God’s will is already known about this.

    So, as you seek God’s specific will about something, be sure that you are not butting against God’s general will. If you already know God’s general will, then seek to obey that before asking Him to overrule what He has already made clear.

    b. God’s specific will is usually revealed to obedient believers (James 5:16b).

    In this passage, James is addressing the need to seek God when suffering, cheerful, and needing God’s forgiveness. He uses Elijah as an example of someone whose prayers were answered in a specific way. Elijah prayed fervently for God to bring rain after several years of drought. God answered Elijah’s prayer because he was a righteous man. God listens to the prayer of a believer who is living a righteous life. Why is this? Well, this goes back to one of the statements about God’s general will. If you love God, you will obey Him. If you love Him, you will set yourself apart from sin.

    Doesn’t this make sense? God, who knows our hearts, wants each of us to first show our love for Him by being obedient. Then, when He has our heart, He will lead us to the next step. Perhaps this is why you are struggling to find God’s specific will for your life. You are not following His general will and so are unable to see anything specific He has for your life. May I suggest that you take some time to look into your own life. If there is sin that you are clinging to, repent of that before expecting God to give your further direction.

    c. God’s specific will may include difficulties (1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Tim. 3:12).

    There are times when God’s specific will may include things that trouble us. In both of these Scripture passages, we see that suffering and persecution can be part of God’s will for your life. While we look forward to eternal life with the Lord apart from sin, sickness, and sadness someday, that isn’t God’s will for you today.

    Many of the original disciples faced extreme persecution. After Stephen was stoned to death, “a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). Later, James was killed by Herod (Acts 12:1-2) and Peter was imprisoned (12:5). But they didn’t shrink back from fulfilling God’s will for them. They kept speaking the gospel to as many people as they could. God’s will for them included suffering while they accomplished His specific will for their lives.

    While this may make you feel uncomfortable, consider what God’s purpose is for allowing troubles into your life. In 1 Peter 5:10, Peter tells us that suffering often perfects, establishes, strengthens, and settles us. In this we see a bit of God’s perfect will for each of us. While we may not enjoy suffering, God often uses those troubling experiences to make us stronger.

    Have you ever thought that you were out of God’s will because of the negative results that came from doing what you thought was His will? Maybe you spoke the gospel (God’s general will) to an individual (God’s specific will) whom you felt the Holy Spirit was leading you to talk to. But when you spoke to him or her, the result was not good. They became angry and rejected the truth. Was that experience evidence that God did not lead you to talk to that individual? Not necessarily. We are to expect persecution and suffering if we live godly lives and follow God’s commands.

    Now that I have written these statements about God’s specific will, I see that they are actually general statements. (1) God’s specific will will not conflict with his general will. (2) God will reveal His specific will to those who are obedient to His general will. (3) God’s specific will may include difficulties. With these statements in mind, let us consider how to find and respond to God’s specific will for your life.

  4. How should we seek and respond to God’s specific will?

    Most people would rather dispense with all of the principles about God’s will and get to the answer they desire. “Pastor, can you stop talking about principles and just tell me how to know what God wants me to do in my situation?” I understand. But let’s not forget the process. God has a general will and a specific will. We need to seek both.

    In this section, I would like to give your three principles about finding God’s specific will. We will also look at examples in the Bible of people who sought God’s specific will and found it.

    a. Search for God’s specific will.

    In the Old Testament, there are at least two examples of people who wanted to know God’s specific will and who found it.

    The first example is Abraham’s servant (Gen. 24:12-14). Abraham sent his servant back to his home country to find a suitable wife for Isaac. He made the servant promise that he wouldn’t choose a Canaanite bride. When the servant arrived, he asked the Lord to guide him to the right woman for Isaac. He asked God to make it clear by having the right woman offer him water for his camels. As you may recall, God listened to his request and had Rebekah speak this way to him. The rest is history.

    The second example is Gideon (Jud. 6:36-40). Gideon was somewhat timid when the angel of the Lord told him he would save Israel from the Midianites. His current circumstances didn’t lead him to believe that God was with Israel. But when he finally started gathering soldiers for the army, he wanted to know if this was really God’s will. So, he asked God for a sign. First, he asked that the fleece be wet and the ground dry. But after God did this, he asked for the opposite. In both cases, God answered his request and convinced Gideon that he would use him to deliver Israel.

    There are times when we ridicule Gideon and people who ask for signs. But is that really fair? Abraham’s servant and Gideon both had a difficult task and went to the Lord for help in knowing what to do. They are good examples of believers who sought God’s specific will.

    In the New Testament, we are told to take our requests to the Lord instead of being anxious. In Philippians 4:6-7, we are told not to be anxious. Instead, we are to pray, make supplication, and thank God when we bring our requests to Him. Do you think that includes asking God about His specific will in our life circumstances? I think so. And when we do this, He will give us peace about our situation.

    b. Talk to God about His specific will.

    In most cases, we taught our children to listen and obey without backtalk. It seems best to have that same attitude when listening to God’s will. However, there are two instances where godly men asked God to change His will about something.

    The first example is Abraham (Gen. 18:16-33) when God had announced the coming judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham never doubted God’s justice. He knew that these cities were filled with wicked people. Earlier, when he had rescued Lot from the invading armies, he refused to accept any reward from the king of Sodom. He probably wanted nothing to do with these wicked people. But when Abraham perceived that God was going to destroy the city in which his nephew lives, he asked God to change His mind. He reasoned with God that righteous people would be destroyed along with the wicked. As you may recall, God listened to Abraham and promised not to destroy the city if there were 10 righteous people in it.

    The second example is Moses (Ex. 32:7-14). Remember when the Israelites made and worshiped a golden calf instead of the Lord. God was so angry that He said, “let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” With the nation’s destruction close at hand, Moses pleaded with the Lord to change His mind. He reasoned with God that the Egyptians would think He was a vindictive God for rescuing them from Egypt to kill them in the wilderness. The Lord listened to Moses and did not destroy the Israelites.

    In both situations, a godly believer knew what God’s specific will was but tried to change His mind. That seems like something you shouldn’t do, but they did it. And God was not angry with them for trying to change His mind. I think that God gave these examples to us so that we will talk with Him. He wants us to share our thoughts, plead with Him, and talk with Him. He wants to know how we are thinking about things. And despite the fact that He knows what is best, He stoops to listen to us. We should take advantage of that. Talk to the Lord about His specific will for you.

    c. Trust His specific will.

    The final thought about this is that we must eventually come to the place where we trust in God’s specific will for us. After seeking and talking with Him about it, we need to submit to His will.

    The first example is Habakkuk (Hab. 3:17-19). Habakkuk was a prophet who lives during a time where there was no justice. When he prayed to the Lord about it, he was probably expecting God to send a deliverer to remove the wicked and restore justice in the land. But God’s specific will about this situation was not what he expected. God told him that He would be sending a foreign army to destroy the nation. This bothered Habakkuk. How could a holy God use a wicked nation to punish Judah? God told Habakkuk that the just must live by faith. The prophet finally came to the point where he trusted the Lord despite what was going to happen.

    The second example is the Lord Jesus (Matt. 26:39). Have you ever considered that Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross? His prayer in the garden shows us how difficult his task was going to be. He wanted the Father to remove the responsibility from Him. But even so, He desired the Father’s will more than His own. He said, “not as I will, but as You will.” This was His way of saying, “I will trust that Your will is best.”

    In both situations, God’s will was something that was not desirable. Habakkuk’s country would be overrun by a brutal, invading army. Jesus’ body would be beaten and crucified, and He would take the punishment for the sins of the world. In neither situation were the participants enjoying what God had planned for them. But they both came to the place where they submitted to God’s will. They knew that He knew what was best and was doing what was best.

Conclusion

Are you currently seeking God’s will about a decision that is needing to be made? Are you struggling with what you already know to be God’s will? I imagine that all of us have been in both situations. But in the end we must all come to the same conclusion. God’s will is best. It might not always be what we want. It might not always be enjoyable. But His will is always best.

There are questions you may have about God’s will in your life right now. And those questions may never be answered in this lifetime. But let me ask you this question. Whatever may happen, can you trust what God does in your life? We won’t always understand. We won’t always know why. But we know that, in the end, God is good and will one day make all things right. We just need to trust Him.

Bibliography

Constable, Thomas A., “1 Thessalonians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1983, p. 701.

Gangel, Kenneth O., “2 Peter” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1983, p. 876.

“Why did God create us?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=1739 on 2/4/2023.

Unity & Separation

We believe that God desires unity within the Church (John 17:20-23; Eph. 4:1-6). We should strive for this unity because all believers are a part of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). However, because of differences of opinion, interpretation, and practice, unity is best accomplished by believers who share the same beliefs, convictions, and practices (Acts 15:36-41). We also believe that there are situations where unity is not possible or appropriate, and where God commands us to separate ourselves.

  1. Personal separation 
     
    We believe that all Christians should live in a way that reflects the change God has made in them (2 Cor. 5:17; Titus 2:11-14), that is holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:19-20), and that evidences a love for God instead of worldly desires and attitudes (1 John 2:15-17). This necessarily requires Christians to keep themselves from certain thoughts, conversations, and actions but it should not result in isolation from unbelievers (John 17:15; 1 Cor. 5:9-10).

  2. Separation from a disobedient brother 
     
    We believe that a Christian should lovingly confront another Christian who has sinned against him with a desire for his repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. If the sinning Christian does not repent, the next step is to involve other believers and, if necessary, to bring the matter before the local church (Matt. 18:15-17). If the sinning believer refuses to repent, he must be withdrawn from to show him the seriousness of his sin (2 Thess. 3:14-15) and to guard against his bad influence (1 Cor. 5:6-7). There may be situations when a believer’s sin is so egregious (1 Cor. 5:1, 11; 2 Thess. 3:6) that immediate separation is necessary.

  3. Ecclesiastical separation. 
     
    We believe that a relationship with other churches, organizations, or believers outside of the local church can be beneficial (Col. 4:12-15; Rom. 15:26). However, these relationships should be carefully examined before fellowship is offered (1 John 1:5-7). The local church should not cooperate in a spiritual endeavor with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1), false teachers (Rom. 16:17-18; 2 John 9-11), or believers who are worldly (1 John 2:15-17) or disobedient (2 Thess. 3:6). Such cooperation sends a mixed message about true faith (2 Cor. 6:14) and fellowship (1 Cor. 5:11-13).

Simple Sermons from Exodus

If you have ever preached through a long book of the Bible or have listened to a long series of sermons from a book of the Bible, you probably know both the benefit of the study and the relief when it is finally completed. It takes a lot of work, prayer, and thinking to go through such a study. At the beginning of 2022, I began preaching through the Book of Exodus at Calvary Baptist Church of Willard. The series has finally come to a conclusion in January of 2023.

I have compiled a list of links below to each sermon manuscript. They are written in outline form with full paragraphs with the hopes that they can easily be read and also used in the future. If you examine the links, you may notice that one is hand-written, that several chapters are not in the list (1-4, 20-23), and that some chapters are doubled up. If I am able to find the notes to the missing sermons, I may add them at a later date. However, I think I will rest for a while before attempting that.

May God be glorified by what was accomplished. And may God bless the congregation who so graciously received the sermons without complaint.

Exodus 5
Exodus 6
Exodus 7
Exodus 8
Exodus 9
Exodus 10

Exodus 11-12
Exodus 13
Exodus 14
Exodus 15
Exodus 15:22-27
Exodus 16
Exodus 17
Exodus 18
Exodus 19

Exodus 24
Exodus 25-27
Exodus 28
Exodus 29

Exodus 30-31
Exodus 32
Exodus 33
Exodus 34
Exodus 35
Exodus 36
Exodus 37
Exodus 38
Exodus 39
Exodus 40

Exodus 40

When we started our study of the Book of Exodus, we learned about the Israelite’s cruel slavery in Egypt. But we also saw how God raised up Moses to be their deliverer. After being rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, he grew up as a prince, but later fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian. When he was 80 years old, God called him out of Midian to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. After God sent ten plagues against the Egyptians, the stubborn Pharaoh let them go but later tried to recapture them at the Red Sea. God’s mighty works were displayed as the waters parted allowing the Israelites to cross over on dry land but later fell down and drowned the Egyptian army.

Time after time, the Lord showed his great power to the Israelites. But they continued to complain and ask to go back to Egypt. When Moses stayed on the mountain for 40 days, the Israelites convinced Aaron to make them a golden calf to worship and this made God want to destroy them and start over with Moses’ family. But Moses pleaded for mercy and led the people to choose to serve the Lord under the Ten Commandments and other of God’s laws. After this agreement was reached, God commanded them to build a tabernacle and its furnishings.

It has been a long journey through the Book of Exodus. Today we reach the last chapter which ends with the assembling of the tabernacle and its presentation to the Lord. The final chapter can be divided into three sections: (1) what God commanded (40:1-15), (2) what Moses did (40:16-33), and (3) how God responded (40:34-38). As we look through the chapter, let’s keep our eyes open for lessons God has for us.

  1. What God commanded (40:1-15)

    After all the articles had been made, the Lord instructed Moses to assemble the tabernacle. As with the instructions about building the tabernacle, God was very specific about when and how it was to be assembled.

    a. He commanded when to assemble the tabernacle (2a).

    The Lord told Moses to assemble the tabernacle on the first day of the first month. This gives us an idea of how long the Israelites had been in the wilderness and how long it took to build the tabernacle. How long do you think it took?

    “The tabernacle was erected (v. 1) about a year after the Exodus from Egypt: on the first day of the first month (v. 2), ‘in the second year’ (v. 17). The Exodus occurred on the 14th day of the first month (12:2, 6, 33-34). Since the people arrived at Sinai three months after the Exodus, they were at Sinai eight and one-half months. Part of that time (at least 80 days) Moses was on the mountain (40 days, 24:18; and another 40 days for the covenant renewal, 34:28). So perhaps about six and one-half months were involved in gathering the materials and constructing the tabernacle” (Hannah 161-62).

    b. He commanded how to assemble the tabernacle (2b-8).

    I recently hired a designer to make a logo for my work truck. After some failed attempts with other graphic designers, I was very specific with how the logo should be made. Because I was specific, the designer was able to make the logo exactly as I wanted. It pays to be detailed.

    God was careful to tell Moses exactly how the tabernacle was to be setup. He gave minute details about the constructions earlier, and now details of how things were to be setup.

    3 – the ark of the covenant partitioned off by a curtain
    4 – the golden table and lampstand
    5 – the golden altar of incense and the entrance screen
    6 – the altar of burnt offering outside the tabernacle
    7 – the laver between the altar and tabernacle
    8 – the court and its entrance screen

    c. He commanded to anoint the tabernacle and priests (9-15).

    God wanted the articles and priests to be anointed before service began. Anointing oil was used to sanctify thing and people for God’s service. You may remember that Samuel anointed Saul and then David to be kings. This was symbolic of setting them and, in the case of the tabernacle, the objects for God’s service.

    Do you consider yourself anointed for God’s service? I don’t mean to ask if you have had oil poured on your head, but if you have been set apart from the world to serve the one, true God.

    Romans 12:1-2“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

    God wants each believer to set himself or herself for His service. And doesn’t it make sense to do that? Shouldn’t we who have been set free from our sin, who have been forgiven by God, be willing to serve Him with the remainder of our lives? Yes, we should.

  2. What Moses did (40:16-33)

    After hearing what God commanded, how do you think Moses responded?

    a. He obeyed God’s commands (16).

    Verse 16 is a simple statement but also one that says a lot. Moses did what God had commanded. “Seven times in this chapter Moses is said to have done exactly as the Lord commanded him (vv. 19, 21, 23, 25-26, 29, 32)” (Hannah 162). After meeting with God on the mountain, Moses knew how important obedience was to Him. The Israelites had almost been destroyed for the sinful golden calf incident. God’s ways are to be obeyed in the exact way that He commands and no other way.

    This is a good time to think about an application. God wants you to obey Him as well. He has not commanded you to build a tabernacle of gold and precious materials, but He has commanded you to live your life the way He says is best. That involves keeping yourself from sin, reading and obeying the Bible, talking to God on a regular basis, attending church services, and having a thankful heart. Are you being obedient?

    b. He assembled the inside of the tabernacle (17-28).

    In this section, Moses placed various articles inside the tabernacle in the exact locations prescribed by the Lord.

    17 – started on the first day of the year
    18 – the tabernacle structure was erected
    19 – the tent covered the tabernacle
    20 – the stone tablets were placed in the ark, the poles and mercy seat were seated
    21 – the ark was placed behind the veil
    22 – the golden table on the north side
    23 – the bread was put on the table
    24 – the lamp on the south side
    25 – the lamp was lit
    26 – the altar of incense in front of the veil
    27 – incense was burned
    28 – the screen covered the entrance

    c. He assembled the outside of the tabernacle (29-33).

    In this section, Moses puts in place all the exterior articles which were commanded by the Lord.

    29 – the brass altar outside the tabernacle, with burnt and grain offerings
    30-32 – the brass laver was filled with water for washing Moses, Aaron, and the priests
    33 – the courtyard fence was raised and the entrance screen

    God told Moses to build the tabernacle and then to assemble it on the first day of the year. Moses did exactly as God commanded. The tabernacle and all its pieces were put together, the priests and furnishings were anointed, and then they waited for God’s response.

  3. How God responded (34-38)

    How do you think God responded to Moses’ obedience? Was he pleased with the people? Had they done all that He had commanded them? Let us see.

    a. His glory filled the tabernacle (34-35).

    As Moses, Aaron, and the others finished their jobs, they were suddenly aware that God was there. The cloud in the sky that had led them so far now lowered itself and covered the newly-assembled tabernacle. It so permeated the tent and was so filled with God’s glory that Moses could not enter the tabernacle.

    What was the purpose of the tabernacle? You might think of the sacrifices, the ark of the covenant, or other things, but the major purpose was to provide a physical location for God to show His presence to the people.

    Exodus 29:45“So I will consecrate the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. I will also consecrate both Aaron and his sons to minister to Me as priests. I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.”

    “God’s promise (‘I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God,’ 29:45) was fulfilled as the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Hannah 162). This must have been an emotion-filled experience for those who had helped with the building project. The Lord Himself was filling the temple with His glory and was pleased with their work.

    b. He directed from the tabernacle (36-37).

    As in the past, the Lord used the cloud to show the Israelites when it was time to move to a new location. When the cloud was on the tabernacle, they knew it was time to unpack and settle down. But when the cloud was raised into the air, they knew it was time to pack up and go to a different location.

    c. He remained with them at the tabernacle (38).

    During the day, God showed His presence by a cloud, but at night, He used a fire to show His presence. The cloud and fire were evidence that God was still with His people and had not left them alone.

What a great feeling this must have been for God’s people. They could see clear evidence that God was with them. It reminds me of the song, “God Himself is with Us” by Gerhard Tersteegen.

God Himself is with us
Let us now adore Him
And with awe appear before Him
God is in His temple
All within keep silence
Prostrate lie with deepest reverence
Him alone God we own
Him our God and Savior
Praise His name forever

Do you feel that God is with you? Without a cloud or fire above the church building, you may wonder how we can know that He is with us. Just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus promised to give his followers the Holy Spirit to live within them. And this is exactly what has happened to every believer today. We who have repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus have been given the Holy Spirit. He is evidence that we have been born again and that God will keep His promises to us.

Conclusion

During Moses’ time, our holy God instructed the people to build the tabernacle, to offer sacrifices, and to obey His commands. Those who wanted to know and serve the Lord, followed His commands and found forgiveness of their sins and a new meaning to their lives. After completing the tabernacle, they saw the pillar of cloud and God’s glory filling the tabernacle. They knew that God was with them.

During our time, our holy God has replaced the tabernacle, sacrifices, and pillar of cloud with a new way to know and serve Him. God sent His Son to be the final sacrifice for sins. This He did on the cross where He paid for the sins of the world. Now all who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus find complete forgiveness and a new life in Him. Every true believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment they believe. In this way, God is with us all the time.

While we have enjoyed studying the details of the tabernacle and how God worked with the Old Testament believers, we should be thankful that it is no longer necessary. Jesus has paid it all and opened the way for a close relationship with God the Father. And every day, we can know Him, pray to Him, learn from Him, and represent Him to others we meet.

Bibliography

Hannah, John D., “Exodus” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, p. 161-62.

“God Himself is with Us (Tersteegen)” as viewed at http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/g/h/i/m/ghimself.htm on 1/28/2023.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. I, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 319.

Exodus 39

During our coming congregational meeting, we will probably discuss a number of projects regarding the church property. It has been difficult to find someone who will do the work. We have had some promises but nobody who would complete the jobs.

As we have been reading through the tabernacle building project, we find that Moses had a much different situation. The people gave too much for the project and he had to stop them from giving. Also, with God’s enablement, the workers were making beautiful artwork for the temple and its furnishings. As we come to the second to the last chapter in Exodus, we find that the construction has been completed and only the priestly garments were left to make.

  1. Priestly garments (Ex. 39:1-31)

    After reading about all the gold, silver, and brass, you might be excused for forgetting about the blue, purple, and scarlet thread which was collected. This thread had been used for several other items, but it was finally used for the holy garments that Aaron and his sons wore while ministering in the tabernacle. They were made exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses.

    a. The Ephod (39:2-7; 22-26)

    The ephod was a cloth vest or apron worn by the high priest. The description of its materials and composition is found in two sections: verses 2-7 and 22-26.

    How was it made?

    colorful thread (39:2) – If you were to buy yarn today, you would see some with alternating blue, purple, and scarlet. It mingles the colors back and forth. Or you could go to the patterned cloth department and find a striped or plaid cloth with these colors. Being a fan of plaid, I would like to think that this was the case for the tabernacle. But I am sure that the Lord had something even better—something that was a wonderful sight for His people.

    golden thread (39:3) – A commentator by the name of George Bush spent several pages confirming that this is the earliest mention of gold being interwoven with cloth in any ancient document. Some skeptics doubt that the ancient people of Moses’ time would have known how to do this. This is strange thinking when you consider the great artistry of the ancient Egyptians. In any event, they pounded gold into thin sheets and cut long golden threads from the sheet to weave into the ephod.

    fine linen (39:2-3) – The first mention of “fine linen” in the Bible is in Genesis 41:42. This is where Pharaoh honored Joseph by clothing him with fine linen and a gold chain for his neck. It was fine clothing for honored people. Another way to think about this is that when you go to a formal dinner, you are expected to wear nice, formal clothing like a suit for men and a dress for ladies. In this case, the high priest was to wear fine linen because of the holy duties he would perform for our holy God.

    shoulder straps (39:4) – The ephod seemed to be a two-piece garment which was attached at the shoulders by straps.

    intricately woven band (39:5) – While the ephod was held at the top by straps, the band seems to be a belt that wrapped around the mid section of the high priest. It was made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread and also fine linen.

    onyx stones (39:6) – “The shoulders of the ephod were ornamented with two onyx-stones mounted on gold, and … these stones were engraved with the names of twelve tribes—six in each stone” (Bush 287). “Any one at all acquainted with the arts is well aware that the engraving of precious stones demands no common measure of address, precision, and knowledge. There must be a considerable number of very fine and delicate tools, and great decision of hand and practice” (Bush 288).

    all of blue (39:22) – It appears that the high priest wore this blue robe under the ephod. After all of the colorful threads, this blue robe was a good contrast. It was made like a coat of mail (or a sweatshirt) with an opening for the head (Ex. 28:32) and a hem to keep it from tearing.

    pomegranates and bells (Ex. 39:25-26) – Along the bottom hem of the blue robe were decorative pomegranates and bells. These were alternated around the entire bottom of the robe.

    What was it for?

    beauty – The ephod and its robe were beautiful garments which would stand out to anyone who saw them. And that is one of the reasons God wanted them made this way.

    Exodus 28:2“And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.”

    God wanted the high priest to wear beautiful clothing to minister in His presence. As the representative of God to those who brought thank offerings and sin offerings, the people would see by these garments that they were coming into the presence of Almighty God who was worthy of the best they could bring.

    memorial – Remember how the names of the 12 tribes were written on the onyx stones on the shoulders of the ephod?

    Exodus 28:12b“So Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders as a memorial.”

    This was a memorial to the high priest (and perhaps to God as well) of the tribes that he represented at each sacrifice. As he donned that outfit each day, he would be reminded that they were the people whom God loved and wanted him to represent despite their sinfulness.

    b. The Breastplate (39:8-21)

    The breastplate was a square shaped cloth which was decorated with jewels and gold and which was worn by the high priest.

    How was it made?

    colorful thread (39:8) – The breastplate was made of artistically woven threads and fine linen. The colors were gold, blue, purple, and scarlet. I get the idea that this color combination was something the Israelites would have noted as spectacular—something like the colors worn by kings or emperors.

    square (39:9) – After making the breastplate cloth, it was folded in half to make a square that was a span wide and tall. A span is approximately half a cubit or 9 inches. So this breastplate was not like a Roman soldier’s body covering breastplate. It was a small square that would cover only the middle of the high priest’s chest.

    precious stones (39:10-14) – On the square of the breastplate were mounted four rows of precious stones, each row containing three.

    Row 1 – sardius, topaz, emerald
    Row 2 – turquoise, sapphire, diamond
    Row 3 – jacinth, agate, amethyst
    Row 4 – beryl, onyx, jasper

    Each stone was engraved with the name of one of the tribes of Israel. Can you imagine how hard that would be to engrave the names on those stones? Thankfully, God enabled the workers to accomplish this difficult task.

    chains and rings (39:15-21) – The exact location of the golden chains and rings is hard to understand. Whatever the case, the breastplate was attached by means of these golden rings to golden rings on the shoulders of the ephod by a blue cord. This held the breastplate securely to the ephod so that it would not come loose.

    What was it for?

    There were at least two reasons for the breastplate.

    judgment – While not mentioned in this chapter, an earlier description of the breastplate included a reason for it.

    Exodus 28:15 “You shall make the breastplate of judgment.”

    “It was called the ‘breastpiece of decision’ because the Urim and Thummim, which were associated with the breastpiece, were used to determine God’s will in various matters” (GotQuestions). When a judgment/decision needed to be made, the high priest could use these (which were kept behind the breastplate) to determine God’s will. These items are not explained in the Bible but were a part of the high priest’s outfit and God’s plan.

    memorial – As with the names engraved in the shoulder stones, the names engraved on the 12 stones were a constant reminder over the high priest’s heart of God’s love for Israel and the high priest’s responsibility to represent them to God. See Exodus 28:21, 29.

    c. The other clothing (39:27-31)

    What else was made?

    tunics (39:27) – Just what is a tunic? God made skin tunics for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21). Jacob gave a multi-colored tunic to his favorite son Joseph (Gen. 37:3). Nadab and Abihu were carried out by their tunics after they died (Lev. 10:5). And the tunic of the priests was worn with the linen trousers (Lev. 16:4). So, a tunic must have been a body-covering garment that could be worn in public. The tunics mentioned here were made of fine linen.

    turban (39:28) – This was the turban/mitre (KJV) for the high priest to wear which was made out of fine linen. My Indian friends still wear turbans today.

    exquisite linen hats (39:28) – These hats/bonnets (KJV) were made of fine linen as well, and were worn by the priests.

    short pants (39:28) – These short pants/breeches (KJV) were made of fine linen for the priests to wear under their robes.

    sash (39:29) – A sash to cross the chest was made of blue, purple, and scarlet woven together.

    golden plate (39:30-31) – The golden plate was engraved with the words “Holiness to the Lord.” It was tied to the high priest’s turban by a blue cord.

    What were they for?

    The beautiful garments were for ministry to God.

    These, like the high priest’s clothing, were made beautiful so that the priests recognized that they were ministering in God’s presence.

    Exodus 28:43“They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they come into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place, that they do not incur iniquity and die.”

    As you may recall, Nadab and Abihu were struck down by God when they tried to worship God in their own way (Lev. 10:1-3). What did God say about that?

    Leviticus 10:3“By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.”

    The holiness plate was for acceptance by the Lord.

    I have a ball cap that is embroidered with the words, “Jesus Saves.” It is a good reminder to me, whenever I wear it, that I am a representative of the Savior to those whom I meet. When the high priest wore the turban with the golden plate saying “Holiness to the Lord,” he would be reminded that he was coming into God’s holy presence and was the representative of holiness to those he ministered to and with. He could only be accepted by the Lord if he came in holiness.

    Exodus 28:38“So it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.”

    We ought to have the same mindset as we approach the Lord in prayer and worship. God is holy and we are not naturally so. Thankfully, we have been accepted by the Father through the perfect life and blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin. As you worship the Lord and pray, remember Who you are talking to and come to him in holiness.

    This concludes the description of the tabernacle, its furnishings, and the clothing used by the high priest and the other priests. We now move on to the presentation of these items to Moses.

  2. Completion of the work (Ex. 39:32-43)

    Solomon wrote that “the end of a thing is better than its beginning” (Eccl. 7:8). As the Israelites completed the work commanded by the Lord, they knew this to be true and probably breathed a sigh of relief when all was done. But they weren’t just trying to get it done. They were doing this for the Lord, as evidenced in the following verses.

    a. They did as they were told (32).

    After months of labor, the tabernacle and its furnishings were finished being made by Bezalel, Aholiab, and the other workers. How did the job turn out? There have been times when I have asked people to do work for me and I have been disappointed with the results. But in this case, the workers followed God’s instructions perfectly. They did exactly what He had told Moses.

    I think there is a lesson here. When we do God’s work, we need to do it His way. There are so many times when religious people try to do things their own way and it rarely turns out right. Remember how Saul disobeyed God’s command to destroy the Amalekites? He destroyed some but saved the king and the best of their livestock. He had an excuse but God was not impressed. Let us follow the example of these workers by doing God’s work in His way.

    b. They presented their work to Moses (33-41).

    In verses 33-41, we read about all the pieces and parts that the workers brought to show Moses. Each item is listed including the structure of the tabernacle, the furniture inside and out, the fencing, and the garments for the priests. They had made everything that God had commanded them to make.

    c. They were blessed for their obedience (42-43).

    Moses took some time to look over all the various parts of the tabernacle. He had been told by God how to make each item, but now he was seeing them in person. When he saw the items and recognized that the workers had followed God’s instructions just as he had received them, he was pleased. Moses blessed the people for the good job they had done.

    How sweet that moment must have been. I can just see Moses’ face beaming with pleasure and his voice saying, “Well done. May God bless you for the part you had in completing this tabernacle. Well done.” How appropriate for God’s leader to bless those who had done God’s will.

Conclusion

I recently heard that a sister church is working on a building project which includes upgrading their electrical service and installing air conditioning. I imagine that the congregation is looking forward to having the project completed. Until that time, they will probably pray, give, and work until it is finished. But when it is finished, they, like the Israelites in the wilderness, will be able to breathe a sigh of relief and thank God for what He has allowed them to accomplish.

That same sense of accomplishment is something that should mark our lives and ministries. Consider Paul’s mindset as he came to the close of his ministry.

2 Timothy 4:7-8“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Paul’s words should make us think about how we have lives our own lives. Can we say that we have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith? Or think about it a different way. Are you living your life the way that God has commanded? And when He returns, will He bless you for doing so or will you be ashamed? There is still time to turn around and work for the Lord. Let us be faithful day by day until the Lord returns.

Bibliography

Bush, George, Exodus Vol. 2, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1852, reprint 1976, pp. 285-90.

“Ephod.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ephod. Accessed 21 Jan. 2023.

Hannah, John D., “Exodus” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, p. 161.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. I, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 317-18.

“Span” in Internation Standard Bible Encyclopedia as viewed at https://www.internationalstandardbible.com/S/span.html on 1/21/2023

“What was the significance of the priestly garments?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=5666 on 1/21/2023.

The Lord’s Return

During OBF meetings, there are often resolutions that are passed dealing with current issues that the church is facing. We have addressed issues such as the biblical definition of marriage or gender. This is done to encourage people in our churches to know what the Bible says and to take a stand with God for biblical truth.

During a recent meeting, a pastor introduced a resolution about the Lord’s return. After hearing resolutions about contemporary issues, you might wonder why a resolution needed to be passed about something so clearly stated in Scripture. But try to remember when the last time we have talked about the Lord’s return. With so many topics in the Bible, it is easy to forget something that we know so well.

Today, we will be looking at the ideas in the resolution and what the Bible actually says about the subject.

  1. The Imminent Return of the Lord

    The word imminent means “about to happen” (Oxford). So when we call the Lord’s return imminent, we mean that it is going to happen at any moment. We don’t know when it will happen but expect that it could happen at any time… even right now. But is this what the Bible teaches?

    a. Teaching

    His Second Coming is at hand (Rev. 1:3).

    Do you remember what John said at the beginning of the Book of Revelation? He said that “the time is near.” Now you may recall that the book talks about what will happen at the end of time. It has not happened yet, but it is sure to happen in the future. The clock is ticking and it will happen sooner than later.

    There will be no time to prepare at His coming (Matt. 25:13).

    Jesus told a parable about the wise and foolish virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive for a wedding. Some had brought enough oil for their lamps while some had not. When the bridegroom’s arrival was announced, the foolish virgins asked for oil as their lamps were running out of oil. But the wise virgins told the foolish to go buy some oil because they did not have enough to spare. While the foolish were going to buy oil, the door was shut and they were unable to go to the wedding. Because they had not prepared themselves, they were not allowed to enter.

    Jesus concluded that we should always be ready because we don’t know when he will return. There will not be an announcement in the bulletin as to the day or time of His appearing. Instead, we are warned to be prepare now that we are ready when He appears.

    We need to be prepared by diligent watching (Luke 21:36).

    The teaching of Luke 21 may be difficult to understand. There is mention of the destruction of the temple, wars, commotions, earthquakes, famines, persecutions, betrayals, and the destruction of Jerusalem. Whether this prophecy has been fulfilled as of yet, I am not sure. However, the warnings in verses 34-36 are still valid.

    Jesus told his listeners that they should not let sinful pleasures such as carousing and drunkenness or even the daily cares of life keep them from being prepared for that coming Day. He told them to watch and pray. He did not tell them when it would happen but expected them to keep themselves ready for what was going to happen.

    We do not know when it will happen (Matt. 24:36-39).

    Jesus clearly said that His return would happen at a time that nobody would know. They would not know the day or the hour. It would be like the coming of the flood in Noah’s day. People were eating, drinking, and have weddings, until Noah entered the ark and the rain began to fall. Then those wicked people were swept away by the water unexpectedly.

    Luke 12:40 – “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

    b. Application

    Don’t be complacent!

    If Jesus is returning at any moment, every sinner ought to make sure he is ready. This begins with each of us making sure that we have been born again. If you have never turned from your sin to God, then you need to repent and place your trust in Jesus! This isn’t something to put off until you are old and settled in your ways. It is something to act on now. Get ready to meet Jesus!

    If Jesus is returning at any moment, every Christian ought to put away complacency and think about what His return would mean personally. Are you living a life that is pleasing to the Lord or have you become overly comfortable with life as it is. We need to ready ourselves for his appearing.

    Pray for and evangelize the lost.

    It seems that we know about the Lord’s return, but we are not acting like it could happen. I realize that a constant feeling of anxiousness is not what is needed, but we should make good use of our time while he delays. After sending out the 70 disciples, Jesus told them that the harvest was so great that they needed to… what? (Luke 10:2) They needed to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers. While we need to be speaking the gospel to the lost, we should also be praying for the Lord to send others.

  2. The Results of His Return

    I recently watched an early episode of Andy Griffith called “The Manhunt.” Barnie rushes over to tell Andy that something BIG is going to happen. He was so excited that he kept repeating that the BIG event was coming without saying what it was. You may feel that way to this point. When we talk about the Lords’ return, what exactly will happen? Let’s take a look at what the Bible tells us.

    a. Teaching

    He will first rapture the Church (1 Thess. 4:13-16).

    Paul used the end of chapter four to inform and encourage the Thessalonian believers. He told them that they didn’t need to be sorrowful when a believer died. They would not miss Jesus’ return but would be resurrected when the Lord descends from heaven, when the archangel shouts, and the trumpet of God sounds. Those believers who have died will be resurrected and then living believers will join them in the air to be with the Lord.

    He will eventually return to the earth (Rev. 19:11-20:6).

    Toward the end of the Book of Revelation, John reveals to us that Jesus will descend to the earth on a white horse and accompanied by a great army of heaven. No one will be able to stand before Him and all who rebel will be destroyed. There will be a great battle and Jesus wins. After that, Satan will be bound for 1,000 years and Jesus will reign over the entire earth. The first time Jesus came to earth was to save sinners. The second time will be to defeat rebels and to rule over the earth from the throne of David.

    Believers will receive their glorified bodies (1 Cor. 15:52-53).

    Another result of the return of Christ will be the change made in believers. We are told that we all will be changed. When the last trumpet sounds, God will change our bodies from physical, ailing, and aging bodies to new, incorruptible bodies. We who are now mortal will become immortal never to be sick, in pain, or distraught anymore. We will receive new bodies that are glorified and free from the troubles we have today.

    Believers will be forever with their Lord (1 Thess. 4:17).

    Do you remember when you got married? You probably stated certain vows to the person you married. And as you said those vows, you looked forward to spending the rest of your life with that person.

    One of the best part of our Lord’s return is that we will spend eternity with Him. Paul told the Thessalonians that after meeting the Lord in the air at the Rapture, that they would always be with the Lord. Knowing who Jesus is and what He has done for us makes that statement all the more precious. The One who loved us and gave Himself for us wants us to be with Him. And one day, He will appear to take us to spend eternity with Him.

    b. Applications

    Recognize that better times are coming (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

    There are times that are very difficult to endure. Some of you have gone through some difficult times recently. Each of us will face things like sickness, the death of a loved one, depression, rejection, and persecution. But as we daily seek His kingdom first, we don’t need to lose heart. We may feel terrible, but we can also recognize that the troubles we are going through are only temporary. Look to the future and trust that God’s promises are true. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.

    Purify yourself (1 John 3:2-3).

    As we look forward to the return of Christ and the changed He will make in this world and in our lives, we should prepare ourselves. We should prepare to meet Him by purifying ourselves. This means that we should remove things from our lives that are impure. We should not allow ourselves to meditate on ungodly thoughts, imbibe things that are sinful, speak with unkindness, be lazy, complain, or any other sinful thing.

    Imagine yourself doing some sinful act when the Lord appears in the sky to rapture the church. How embarrassing that would be! But instead, think of what it would be like to be speaking with kindness, leading someone to the Lord, or serving someone when He appears. That will only happen if you prepare yourself and daily seek to remove sin from your life.

    Have the right mindset (Rev. 22:20).

    When John wrote the concluding words of the Book of Revelation, he said something interesting. He said, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” When I was younger, I always wanted the Lord to wait until I had gotten married. I also wanted to have children. Now I am looking forward to grandchildren. But there is a better thing to long for and that is the coming of the Lord Jesus. When He returns all things will be made right.

    We pray that more people will be saved. We pray that more Christians will take life seriously. We pray that the churches will be faithful. But even with all of those prayer requests, the best thing that could happen today would be the return of Christ.

  3. The Judgments that follow the Lord’s Return

    Hearing the sound of a trumpet can signal different things to different people. For the besieged citizens of a town, the trumpet would signal the arrival of the king who will rescue them from their enemies. For the enemy, that trumpet would signal the end of their rebellion. When we consider the trumpet sounding in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

    Jesus return for the Rapture of the Church (1 Thess. 4:13-18) will be preceded by a shout, the archangel’s voice, and the sounding of the trumpet of God. Those audible announcements will be taken differently by those who hear them. The saved will rejoice and be excited to join the Lord forever. But the lost (who may not know what the sounds mean) will eventually find out that judgments and destruction are about to follow.

    a. Teaching

    The beginning of judgments and destruction (1 Thess. 5:1-3; Rev. 16)

    Throughout the Bible, the Day of the Lord is described as a time of great judgment. Paul likened it to a thief coming in the night (1 Thess. 5:2), a time of promised peace but sudden destruction (5:3). Peter revealed that it would be a time of blood, fire, and smoke and that the appearance of the sun and moon would be darkened (Acts 2:19-20). This gives us the idea that it is a time of great destruction and judgment. Where do we read about such events?

    In the Book of Revelation, God reveals some of the things that will happen during the Great Tribulation. It will be a seven-year period where God judges the world. The first half will be somewhat peaceful, but the second half will be filled will the pouring out of God’s wrath on rebellious mankind. If we look at just the bowl judgments (Rev. 16), there will be the following judgments against sinful man:

    Bowl 1: Loathsome sores (Rev. 16:2) – Those who have the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image will be given terrible sores.

    Bowl 2: Sea turned to blood (Rev. 16:3) – The sea is turned to blood causing every living creature in it to die. Can you imagine what Lake Erie would look and smell like if it was instantly converted to a lake of blood? All of the fish and snakes and birds would die.

    Bowl 3: Rivers and springs turned to blood (Rev. 16:4-7) – For a period of time, the rivers and springs will continue to provide water for people. But God will later turn the rivers and springs into blood. This will mean that those who have shed the blood of believers will now have to drink blood to survive.

    Bowl 4: Sun scorching (Rev. 16:8-9) – God will cause the sun to scorch people with great heat. Surprisingly, the people who have rebelled against God will not repent of their sins and turn to Him despite these judgments against them.

    Bowl 5: Darkness (Rev. 16:10-11) – God will cause darkness to cover the kingdom of the beast. They will be in great pain and yet they will not turn to God for mercy. Instead, they blaspheme God and refuse to repent.

    Bowl 6: Euphrates River dried up (Rev. 16:12-16) – The Euphrates River is a large river which cannot easily be crossed. But God will cause it to dry up enabling kings and armies to cross over to gather at Armageddon.

    Bowl 7: Great Earthquake (Rev. 16:17-21) – Besides lightning and thunder, there will be a huge earthquake which will worse than any in history. Jerusalem will be split into three sections, island and mountains will disappear, and hail weighing 75 pounds will fall from the sky. And yet, men continue to blaspheme God instead of seeking His mercy.

    The eternal judgment of the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15)

    These verses reveal what will happen at the final judgment called The Great White Throne Judgment. This is a judgment for those who have rejected and sinned against God all their lives. They have never repented of their sin and have not been forgiven and given eternal life. Because of their sin, they will stand before God and receive their final judgment.

    Notice how encompassing this judgment is. It covers dead people whether they are of small or great reputation. Those who have been buried in the ground or who died at sea will also be included. Those in hell will be given a small respite from their torment to stand at this judgment. All of these people will be judged according to their works. This should not bring comfort to anyone who is still refusing to seek God because our good works (not to mention our sins) are considered by God to be like filthy rags.

    Why does God pull out a book of works to judge each person? He does this to show his justice toward sinners. The books contain the summary of their sinfulness before God and their continued rebellion against Him. But after hearing the evidence against them, the final verdict is found in the Book of Life. Anyone whose name is not found written in this book is cast into the lake of fire—a place of eternal torment for all who have rejected the Lord.

    b. Applications

    As we consider the terrible judgment and destruction that will be poured out on sinful mankind, there are two very specific applications for Christians.

    Let us be diligent in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15).

    Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. This includes three thoughts. First, we are to go into the world. This means that we must get out of our armchair and go to where people are. Second, we must preach the gospel. This involves speaking the truths of the gospel to those in the world. We are sinners who will one day face God’s wrath, but God made a way for sinners to be forgiven by sending Jesus to die in our place. Third, we must give this message to every person regardless of who they are. We must speak the gospel to those who are polite and nice as well as to the nasty and murderous.

    Let us be warning of the wrath that is to come (1 Thess. 1:10).

    As Christians, we need not be afraid of the wrath to come. Paul tells us that we have been delivered from that. But many in our communities have not yet been delivered. They have not hope and have no knowledge of how they can escape the coming judgment. How will they know if we don’t talk to them?

    In Romans 10:14-17, there are several questions that we should ask ourselves today:

    • How will sinners call on Jesus if they haven’t believed Him?
    • How will sinners believe in Jesus if they haven’t heard about Him?
    • How will sinners hear about Jesus without someone who speaks about Him?
    • How will someone speak to them about Jesus unless they are sent?

    These are questions that we should ask ourselves. Are we willing to speak to people about the reality of the coming judgment of God against sin? If we don’t warn them, then who will?

Conclusion

I realize that the things mentioned above are terrifying, but they are true. These things are written for two reasons. The first reason is that God wants sinful people to turn from their sin and to trust in Jesus. He is merciful and wants people to escape the coming judgment. But there is a limited amount of time for sinful people to turn to God. If Jesus were to return today, the chances of someone repenting and believing are much smaller. We have already seen how people during the Tribulation do not change their ways despite the terrible events they face. So, we ought to be motivated to speak to those who are lost so that they can find God’s mercy before the judgments come.

The second reason is that God wants Christians to find hope. At the end of time, after we have invested our lives in God’s service, after we have spoken to the friendly and unfriendly, and after we have been rejected or received, there is a time of rest and peace promised to all those who have been saved from the wrath to come. The Lord will wipe away all tears from our eyes and usher us into an eternity of bliss that is unlike anything we have every experienced here on earth.

Let me encourage you to set aside complacency and work until He appears. Until then, we have a job to do that will be filled with both sweat and tears, but there is a coming time of joy when we will be forever with the Lord. Let’s do our best to bring others with us into that sweet future place of joy and rest.

Philippians 2:17-30

During our time here, we have read several biographies of Christians during our Wednesday prayer meetings. The example of earlier Christians has been a blessing to us. Whether it was a missionary, evangelist, pastor, or king, we saw how the Lord used them as they dedicated their lives to be a living sacrifice for the Lord.

In this section of Philippians 2, Paul speaks about three specific people who were an example to the church at Philippi. Although the church already knew them well, he wanted them to be reminded of how the Lord was using these men in ministry and also to follow their example of service to the Lord.

  1. Paul (Phil. 2:17-18)

    a. Who was he?

    Paul was one of the founders of the church at Philippi. His time there had led to the conversions of several people who were now part of the local church. So, the people already looked up to him as a spiritual leader.

    It may seem strange for Paul to hold himself up as an example to the Philippians. But this was his job. In another place, he said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” So this was a good thing because Paul was following Christ and was a good example to follow.

    b. What do we learn about him here?

    He was being poured out like a drink offering (17).

    “The apostle knew that death as a martyr was a real possibility for him. Paul viewed himself as being poured out like a drink offering on behalf of the Philippians” (Lightner 656).

    “There was a drink offering which was to be added to the burnt offering and the meal offering. It was never added to the sin offering or the trespass offering. … They would bring in a skin of wine and just pour it on the sacrifice which was being consumed by fire. What happened? It would go up in steam and disappear. … [Paul] wanted his life to be a drink offering—just poured out to go up in steam. He wanted to be so consumed and obscured that all that is seen is just Jesus Christ. He wanted Christ to receive all the honor and glory” (McGee 307).

    Paul was not so concerned with his release that he asked them to constantly pray for him to be freed and not harmed. Instead, he was willing to give his life for the Lord.

    He wanted them to rejoice (18).

    It is hard to rejoice when going through difficult times. The death of a loved one is hard to take. In Paul’s situation, he thought that he was drawing near to the end. His life could be taken by the Roman government at any time. But if so, he wanted the Philippian church to rejoice, not that he was killed, but that his life had been used by God for the furtherance of the gospel and the spiritual edification of the churches.

  2. Timothy (Phil. 2:19-24)

    a. Who was he?

    Read Acts 16:1-5. In these verses, we see that Timothy was someone in whose life God had already been working before he met Paul. But after they met, he became an important part of the missionary team and later pastored several different churches. If you want to learn more about Timothy, read through Paul’s letters to him in 1-2 Timothy. They give an insight into his life, ministry, and specific needs.

    b. What do we learn about him here?

    Timothy was going to be sent to check on their spiritual welfare (19).

    There have been times when I have had to ask the police to do a “welfare check” on an employee when I couldn’t reach them by phone. This is a service provided by the police to make sure that someone is not sick or hurt. It has proven to be a valuable tool to someone who has employees working in multiple states.

    Paul sent Timothy to do a spiritual welfare check on the church at Philippi.

    “The concern Paul demonstrated in sending Timothy was an example for the Philippians and all believers to follow. Not only did Paul give them the gospel and lead them to Christ, but he also wanted to be sure they were growing spiritually. His genuine interest in them continued” (Lightner 657).

    Timothy would care for them (20-21).

    But Paul didn’t just want to know how they were doing. He wanted to send someone who would care for them and help them with their walk with the Lord. “Paul had no one else in Rome who was like him. Timothy’s interest in their welfare was unexcelled. He was an excellent example of one who was selfless, more concerned about others than himself” (Lightner 657). Timothy, unlike many others, would care for their souls.

    Timothy had good character (22-24).

    “The Philippians knew Timothy, so they knew that what the apostle said about him was true. From the start, when he worked with Paul in Philippi, Timothy was faithful (cf. Acts 16)” (Lightner 657). As Timothy worked with Paul, the two became a great team. It was like a father and son working together.

    But notice something in verses 23-24. Paul had not yet sent Timothy. His desire was to send Timothy soon, but he seemed to be waiting on something to happen before doing so. Perhaps he was waiting for his legal matters to be concluded because he mentioned that he was trusting the Lord to send him shortly.

    While Paul waited on sending Timothy, he chose to send another man to minister to them right away.

  3. Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30)

    a. Who was he?

    From the verses we have read, it seems that Epaphroditus was a member of the church at Philippi. McGee says that he was “the pastor of the church in Philippi” (308). Whatever the case, he seemed to be a ministry-minded individual who had gone to Rome to minister to Paul’s needs while he was under house arrest.

    “It is uncertain whether Epaphroditus was still with Paul at Rome when Paul wrote Philippians or whether Epaphroditus had already left to return to Philippi. Traditionally Epaphroditus has been viewed as the bearer of this letter to the Philippians. He is mentioned only here and in 4:18” (Lightner 657).

    Philippians 4:18 – “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”

    Epaphroditus was someone sent by the church at Philippi to be a blessing to Paul. That mission had been fulfilled.

    b. What do we learn about him here?

    Epaphroditus was being sent back to them (25).

    It seems that Timothy was not available to be sent at the moment, so Paul decided to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi to minister to them. This was a selfless action because Paul considered Epaphroditus to be a brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, messenger, and minister. In other words, Epaphroditus was a big help to Paul while he was imprisoned. But Paul saw the need to send him back to Philippi for the good of the people in the church there.

    Epaphroditus had been very sick (26-27).

    “Whatever illness Epaphroditus suffered was serious because he almost died (Phil. 2:27, 30). There is no indication that Paul had the ability to heal him or that he tried to do so. Neither is there any hint that Epaphroditus was sick because of being out of God’s will” (Lightner 658).

    Why didn’t Paul heal him? “He was so sick he almost died! … Paul and the other apostles had ‘sign gifts’ because they did not have what we have today, a New Testament. … When he went into a new territory with his message, what was his authority? He had no authority except sign gifts, which included the gift of healing” (McGee 309). So Paul did not have the ability to heal all people at any time; it was limited to being used as a sign when he was presenting the gospel in new territories.

    News of Ephaphroditus’ sickness got back to the church in Philippi and they were concerned. But when Epaphroditus heard that they were concerned for him, he felt worse! This is the sign of a true minister. He was someone more concerned about the needs of others than his own.

    Paul “loved and needed Epaphroditus, so Epaphroditus’ death would have brought Paul additional heaviness” (Lightner 658). The church at Philippi also loved him and would have been greatly affected by his death. Thankfully, God spared his life and allowed him to recover from this sickness.

    Epaphroditus was an example to them (28-30).

    Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi to be an encouragement to those who had been praying for him while sick. His return to his home church would have been a time of rejoicing. But Paul had one more thing to say about him.

    They were to hold him in high esteem for what he had done for the apostle Paul. He willingly faced the possibility of death to be a blessing to Paul. And his time with Paul had been an encouragement to him.

Conclusion

This passage has two applications.

  1. We need to recognize the godly examples God has placed in our lives.

    Over the years, each of us has had a number of people who have been a spiritual example to us. It may have been a Christian in the church, a pastor or his wife, a missionary, or someone in your own family. As you look back on these examples to you, thank God for how He used that person in your life.
  2. We need to seek to be a godly example ourselves.

Tonight, we have seen the examples of Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus. They each were an example to the church at Philippi. But who will be godly examples in our church? Who will be a godly example in your home? The only person you have control over is yourself. Will you choose to be an example of a godly person to those around you?

Bibliography

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, pp. 656-658.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 307-10.

Exodus 38

In the last chapter, we saw how Bezalel and his crew designed and built the interior furniture of the tabernacle. They made the gold pated ark of the covenant with its mercy seat, the table of showbread, the golden lampstand, the altar of incense, and the anointing oil and incense.

Our study of the tabernacle today resumes with its external features, a list of the people in charge of its construction, and an inventory of what was given to build it. While the building of the tabernacle is not extremely exciting reading for someone without building experience, it is nonetheless helpful because it reminds us of why God instituted the tabernacle, what He wanted to accomplish, and what He would later accomplish through Jesus.

  1. The External Parts of the Tabernacle (Ex. 38:1-20)

    We have previously looked at the articles inside the tabernacle. Now, we look at the items that are found outside of it. It may help for you to visualize yourself as a penitent Israelite coming to the tabernacle to offer a sacrifice for his sins. What would you find inside the tall fence which surrounded the courtyard?

    a. Altar of Burnt Offering (Ex. 38:1-7)

    When someone entered the courtyard at the eastern entrance, the first item they would see would be the large bronze altar.

    How was it made?

    “Built from acacia wood and overlaid with bronze, it measured 7.5 feet square by 4.5 feet high. At each of the altar’s four corners was a horn-like projection, made of one piece with the altar. All of the utensils of the altar were made of bronze as well. The instructions God gave for the brazen altar also included a grating or network of bronze probably placed within the hollow center of the altar to hold the wood and sacrifice as it was being burnt. Two poles used for carrying the altar were overlaid with bronze and inserted into bronze rings at the altar’s corners (Exodus 27:1–8)” (Gotquestions).

    The altar was built of such a size to accommodate large offerings such as a bull. But it was also small enough to be portable. This is why bronze rings were built into the sides and bronze poles were placed into them.

    What was it for?

    It was for sacrifices. The bronze altar was “where the sin question was settled. The sinner would come to the gate and stand there as a sinner. The priest would lead him into the inner court. The sinner would put his right hand upon the head of the animal he had brought—whether it be lamb, goat, or ox. Then the animal was slain and the priest would offer it on the altar” (McGee 314).

    It was for substitution. “The brazen altar—where Israel’s priests offered substitutionary animal sacrifices for the sins of the people—vividly illustrated the basics of atonement for sin. Only by blood sacrifice was sin atoned. The brazen altar, ever ablaze and covered in blood, always stood open to accept the guilt of any Hebrew person who wished to come near to God. There the guilty sinner would offer another life, an innocent one, in his stead” (Gotquestions).

    Is it still necessary?

    In the past, this was what God required of His people. It must have been a sobering event as the person making the offering considered the price of his sins. The only way that their sins could be forgiven and their relationship be made right with God was to bring a blood sacrifice to the altar year after year. An animal had to die for the individual’s sins. However, this was not meant to be continued after Jesus came.

    Do you remember what John the Baptist said about Jesus? He said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Somehow he knew that Jesus was the final offering for sin. This revelation by John the Baptist came true when Jesus willing allowed Himself to be crucified at Calvary where He took the punishment for the sins of the world once and for all. Now all who repent of their sin and place their faith in what Jesus did will be forgiven by God forever.

    b. Bronze Laver (Ex. 38:8)

    Between the bronze altar and the tabernacle entrance was the bronze laver, an large metal bowl filled with water.

    How was it made?

    The laver of bronze was as you would assume made of bronze. If you are not a metallurgist, you might appreciate this explanation:

    “Copper, brass, and bronze are part of a category of metals known as ‘red metals’, which are characterized by their reddish tint. While copper is a pure metal, brass and bronze are copper alloys (brass is a combination of copper and zinc; bronze is a combination of copper and tin). All three of these metals demonstrate unique combinations of properties that make them ideal for use in metal sheets” (Sequoia).

    As the Bible does not mention wood, the laver and its base must have been made completely of bronze. That would take a lot of metal. Thankfully, the women who ministered near the entrance of the tabernacle donated their polished bronze mirrors to be melted down for this purpose. “It is not improbable that [these women] followed the example of the Egyptian women who took their mirrors with them when they went to the temples. Moses may have required them for the laver, in order to put a stop to a practice of which he did not approve” (Bush 280).

    What was it for?

    You can read Exodus 30:17-21 to find out God’s purpose for the bronze laver. It “was for Aaron and his sons (the priests) to wash their hands and feet before they entered the tabernacle, ‘so that they will not die’ (Exodus 30:20). The priests also had to wash their hands and their feet before they approached the altar with a food offering (verse 21). God declared that this was to be a statute forever to them. The washing of the priests was to be observed by Aaron and his descendants in all ages, as long as their priesthood lasted. God wanted His people to understand the importance of purity” (Gotquestions).

    By this we see that God wanted the priests to cleanse themselves before doing the work of the tabernacle. Purity was something that was important to God.

    Is it still necessary?

    The bronze laver was necessary in the past. The ancient Israelites and their priests were sinful people who needed to be cleansed before coming into God’s presence. “The Levitical priests had to continually wash to ready themselves for the presence of Holy God… . When Christ died, His people were cleansed once for all time by His blood shed on the cross. We no longer need a ritualistic washing with water to come before God, because Christ has ‘provided purification for sins’ (Hebrews 1:3). Now we can ‘approach the throne of grace with confidence’ (Hebrews 4:16), being sure that we are acceptable to Him because we are spiritually clean” (Gotquestions).

    It is true that Jesus has cleansed us from our sins. This allows us to have access to God’s presence. However, this doesn’t mean that we should no longer keep ourselves pure for the Lord. We are still told to “be holy for I am holy.” The ritual cleansing of the bronze altar is no longer necessary, but we should still strive to live holy lives for God.

    c. Court of the Tabernacle (Ex. 38:9-20)

    The activities completed at the bronze laver and altar were not meant for spectators. Instead, God intended these to be private matters between Him, the priests, and the individual who came to Him. So, a courtyard was marked off by a covered fence.

    How was it made?

    It is interesting to see that the fence around the tabernacle has a longer description than the altar or laver. For whatever reason, 12 verses are given to its description. The area encompassed by the fence was 150 feet wide from east to west and 75 feet from north to south. The curtains of the fence were 7½ feet tall.

    “The court walls consisted of linen curtains attached by [silver] hooks to a series of pillars. The pillars were supported on the bottom by bronze sockets and possibly held in place with rope that attached to bronze rings. The gate, always facing east, was about thirty feet of blue, purple, and scarlet woven into a curtain of linen” (Gotquestions).

    I must say that the bronze sockets must have been wonderful bases for each fence post/pillar. Our church parking lot entrance is marked by two orange traffic cones which are constantly being knocked over by the wind. Having a heavy bronze base would keep the courtyard posts from being blown over or accidentally knocked over.

    What was it for?

    The linen fence that roped off the court of the tabernacle was designed to make worship personal between God and the individual. Think about it. Would you invite others to go with you to confess your sins to God and to seek His forgiveness? This kind of action is best done alone. The fencing around the tabernacle court would eliminate the distractions that would take away from the solemnity of the occasion.

    While not exactly the same, this does remind me of what Jesus said about prayer.

    Matthew 6:6 – “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

    The idea there was that private prayer is less likely to be something that is done for show. Personal prayer should be done with the least distractions. And confession of sin should be the same. This is probably why the tabernacle courtyard was covered.

  2. The Inventory of Material Used (Ex. 38:21-31)

    The remainder of the chapter gives us a listing of both the people involved with the construction and the materials collected for it.

    a. People involved (Ex. 38:21-23)

    The names mentioned are mostly familiar. Moses was the one to whom God had given the instructions. So he told the people what to do. Ithamar (Aaron’s youngest son) was tasked with “an inventory of the materials contributed” (Hannah 161). This was an important job similar to a church treasurer. Next are mentioned the names of Bezalel and Aholiab who were put in charge of designing and overseeing the construction of the tabernacle. We have seen earlier that they were not the only two who built these things (Ex. 31:6). They were the designers and overseers who made sure things were done according to God’s instructions.

    b. Materials given (Ex. 38:24-31)

    How much wealth was given by God’s people to complete the tabernacle and its furnishings? You might be surprised. “The materials included a little over a ton of gold (38:24), almost four tons of silver (vv. 25-28), and about two and one-half tons of bronze (vv. 29-31; cf. NIV marg.)” (Hannah 161). That is a large amount of wealth!

    “It may perhaps be difficult for some to imagine how the Israelites should have been possessed of so much wealth in the desert. But it is to be recollected that they had come out of Egypt with great spoil, which was no doubt very much augmented by what they obtained from the dead bodies of their enemies, cast upon the shores of the Red Sea” (Bush 284). And it may be that they continued trading with various people they met along the way. Whatever the case may be, they willingly gave to the project and there was more than enough to complete it.

Conclusion

Reading through the construction of the tabernacle may seem like an unnecessary project for Christians today. We no longer need a tabernacle with a bronze altar, laver, and a 7½ foot fence around it. However, what is written in this chapter is the inspired record of what God wanted for believers before Jesus came. And what is written here is designed to help us somehow.

Romans 15:4 – “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

As mentioned earlier, the bronze altar reminds us of our need for a perfect sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. The bronze laver reminds us of our need to be holy as we come into God’s presence. The fence around the tabernacle courtyard reminds us that our interactions with God should be personal and not for show. And all of this should remind us of what Jesus did for us through His perfect life, his substitutionary death on the cross, and His present work as our high priest. As we look at how God worked in the past, we will better see what God did through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And that (as the Scriptures say) gives us hope.

Bibliography

Bush, George, Exodus Vol. 2, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1852, reprint 1976, pp. 279-85.

Hannah, John D., “Exodus” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, p. 160-61.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. I, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 314-17.

“Metal Alloy Comparison Guide: Copper, Brass, and Bronze” as viewed at https://www.sequoia-brass-copper.com/blog/metal-alloy-comparison-guide/#:~:text=Copper%2C%20brass%2C%20and%20bronze%20are,combination%20of%20copper%20and%20tin) on 1/7/2023.

“What was the brazen altar?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=48838 on 1/7/2023.

“What was the significance of the bronze laver?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=21372 on 1/7/2023.

“What was the tabernacle of Moses?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=2545 on 1/7/2023.

“Such were some of you…” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Sometimes when I am driving I like to listen to an audiobook. I have listened to audio books about Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, and others by Jules Verne. Some of these books are so good that I can listen to them again and again. When the boys were younger, we read a Robin Hood book that made us laugh and cry. It is soooo good. Then there are the Jules Verne novels that I never grow tired of, or some of the 100 year old Tom Swift adventures, like The House on Wheels. I highly recommend them.

I think that Christians have some favorite parts of the Bible as well. No matter how many times you read them, they still affect you emotionally. One such passage is 1 Corinthins 6:9-11. This is one of my personal favorites. I would imagine that most of you are familiar with this wonderful passage. We love to read these verses and think about what God has done in our lives. But you may be surprised to learn that these verses were not necessarily written to encourage the Corinthian believers. They were instead written by Paul to prick their consciences about some unacceptable behaviors.

  1. Questionable Activity (1 Corinthians 6:1-6)

    As you may recall, the Corinthian church was involved in a number of problematic activities. Paul had to address these issues so that the people would start living the way the Lord intended. However, as he did this, he chose to ask questions so that the Corinthian believers think about what they were doing.

    a. Are you taking a Christian brother to a secular court? (1)

    Apparently, there were some disagreements between the brothers in the church at Corinth. What those disagreements were we don’t know. But Paul took it seriously. He began his question with, “How dare you?” A dare is what you do when you are unexpected to do something. You take the dare and do it to the surprise of everyone who sees you doing it. Paul was asking how they would dare to do such a thing.

    How could you dare to take a Christian brother to court? That is what non-believers do. They fight and get picky about the smallest things. But “those related by faith needed to settle their disputes like brothers, not adversaries (cf. Gen. 13:7-9)” (Lowery 515). Work things out!

    The next part of the question involves going before the unrighteous. Paul was asking how they could go before an unrighteous judge to settle matters with a Christian brother. It almost sounds like Paul thought that all judges were bad. That is not the case. Instead, he is showing the difference between those who have been made righteous by faith in Christ and those who have not been (see Hodge 93). A matter between two Christians is best dealt with inside the church because other Christians understand the spiritual ramifications that are involved. “No secular judge or jury is equipped to make spiritual decisions, because they do not comprehend spiritual principles” (McGee 28).

    Is it always wrong to go to a secular court?

    No, it is not wrong to go to court when necessary. “Paul himself appealed to Caesar. It was, therefore, no sin in his eyes to seek justice from a heathen judge, when it could not otherwise be obtained. But it was a sin and a disgrace in his estimation for Christians to appeal to heathen magistrates to settle disputes among themselves” (Hodge 94).

    b. Do you realize that Christians will one day be judges? (2-3)

    Paul next asked whether the Corinthian believes were ignorant of their future position in God’s kingdom. Did they realize that they would be given places of administration and judgment in the kingdom?

    Christians will judge the world.

    In several places, it appears that Christians will be part of the justice system in the future kingdom. Not only will Jesus be enthroned as king, during the millennial kingdom, but believers will somehow be part of the judicial system.

    2 Tim. 2:12 – “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.

    Matt. 19:28 – “So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

    Rev. 2:26 – “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations”

    These verses back up what Paul was saying to the Corinthian believers. We Christians will be judges in God’s future kingdom. “If then, asks the apostle, such a destiny as this awaits you, are ye unfit to decide the smallest matters?” (Hodge 95).

    Christians will judge angels.

    Paul also adds angels to the list of being to be judged by believers during the kingdom. “Not only men, but fallen angels are to stand before that tribunal on which Christ and his church shall sit in judgment” (Hodge 95). While Christians are not listed in the following verses, the judgment of fallen angels is mentioned in several instances.

    2 Peter 2:4 – “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”

    Jude 6 – “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”

    This is a revelation to us. We believers will be given the job of administering judgment to the world but also to angels. This only further underscores Paul’s point. “Since they were going to judge supernatural beings (the fallen angels, 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), surely they should handle mundane matters satisfactorily” (Lowery 515).

    c. Do you think unbelievers should be judging you? (4)

    Paul’s next question has to do with those being chosen to judge their disagreements. Here is what I think he is saying. If we are going to judge people and angels in the future, should you turn to those who have nothing to do with the church to handle your problems. With this explanation, those least esteemed by the church are “‘men who have no standing’ in the church, that is, non-Christians” (Lowery 515). Why would you lower yourself to be judged by someone who has not even believed the truth about Jesus?

    Think about this for a moment. With all the wickedness that the “unrighteous” are involved with, why would a Christian go to an unbeliever to solve a problem with a fellow believer, a Christian brother or sister? It doesn’t make sense and yet that was what the Corinthian believers were doing.

    d. Are there no wise men among you? (5-6)

    Paul was shaming the Corinthian believers for acting this way. They should have been ashamed of their actions. But to this point they weren’t. Remember that these were the same believers who were unwilling to confront a man who was committing immorality with his father’s wife. They should have known (and done) better.

    Wasn’t there a wise man among them?

    Paul wondered why they couldn’t find a capable person in the church to help them figure out their disagreements. “Of course, not every Christian is a capable judge, but Paul is saying, ‘I speak to your shame, isn’t there a wise man among you?’ When you go to a secular court, you are saying that none of the saints are capable of judging” (McGee 29).

    I think that wisdom is needed before you share a problem with just anyone. Not every believer is wise enough to give good advice and so not everyone should be asked to help with a disagreement. But in a church of any size, there ought to be someone to whom God has granted wisdom. This is the person you should go to for help.

  2. Proposed Solutions (1 Corinthians 6:7-8)

    After addressing their questionable actions, Paul continues with two questions that would have normally provided the solution to their problem. But all along he knew that the problem would have to be addressed at a deeper level.

    a. Why don’t you just take the wrong done against you? (7)

    If someone were to call you a failure, you would not be happy. Who do you think you are calling me a failure? And yet that is what Paul said to the Corinthian believers. You have completely failed by going to a secular court to handle problems between believers.

    He then asks why the Christians were not willing to “take the hit” and live with it. In other words, he was asking why they didn’t just ignore what happened. Was it such a big deal that they couldn’t let it go? Couldn’t they allow themselves to be mistreated? Couldn’t they allow the other person to cheat them without making it a big deal? “Mundane loss was preferrable to the spiritual loss which the lawsuits produced” (Lowery 515).

    Now this isn’t a blanket approval for people doing wrong and always turning the other cheek when sinned against. “That this is not to be regarded as a general rule of Christian conduct is plain, because, under the old dispensation, God appointed judges for the administration of justice…” (Hodge 97). God desires that we do right and will judge our sin. And there are times when sin needs to be carefully confronted in another Christian’s lives. But there are other times when we need to overlook wrongs done against us without making a big deal of it.

    But in this case, the problem was bigger than that.

    b. Why don’t you examine your own actions? (8)

    In verse 8, Paul reveals that the people couldn’t let things go because they were, in fact, the ones doing the wrong to others. They were wronging and cheating other Christians and needed to be confronted themselves. That is what Paul was doing here. He confronted their own sinfulness and called on them to repent of their sinful actions.

  3. Somber Reflections (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

    While these verses are favorites of many Christians, they were not designed to encourage the original readers. Instead, Paul was comparing their actions with people who were not Christians. He wanted them to consider what God had done in their lives and then for them to live like God intended.

    a. Your behavior is unacceptable (9-10).

    Don’t you know? This is the phrase that Paul keeps repeating. The actions of the Corinthian believers revealed that they either didn’t know or they were acting like they didn’t know. So what was the spiritual truth that they Corinthian believers were ignorant of? They were ignorant of the fact that unbelievers who practice sinful behavior will not be part of God’s kingdom.

    He then gives a long list of sins that the unrighteous commit: fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, sodomy, theft, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, and extortion. Paul told them that they were deceived if they thought this kind of behavior was acceptable to God or allowed in His kingdom.

    “It is evident that among the members of the Corinthian church, there were some who retained their pagan notion of religion, and who professed Christianity as a system of doctrine and as a form of worship, but not as a rule of life” (Hodge 98).

    Paul said all of that to make them think. Is your behavior giving evidence that you will be part of God’s kingdom? At this point, their behavior was pointing to their old way of life. This was not good.

    b. Your behavior should reflect what God has done in your life (11).

    Thankfully, Paul had not given up hope on the Christians in Corinth. He noted that some of them had been like that in the past. “Some (but not all) the Corinthians Christians had been guilty of the sins listed in verses 9-10, but God had intervened” (Lowery 516). Thankfully, God had brought these sinful people to faith and repentance and had changed their lives. He then explains what God did for them.

    washed – “Their sins, considered as filth, had been washed away; considered as pollution, they had been purged or purified” (Hodge 99). Never look back at your past sins as if they are a small thing. Next to God’s holiness, we were very dirty and sinful. We could not stand in God’s presence due to our sinfulness. And yet He chose to wash and cleanse us from our sin.

    sanctified – Once we were cleansed of our sins, God sanctified us. We, who were once filthy in God’s eyes, were set apart and “devoted to the service of God” (Hodge 100). That is a wonderful thought when you consider where we came from. How could God use us even after cleansing us from our sin?

    justified – The reason we can be accepted by God is that we have been justified by faith in Jesus. “…To justify in Scripture always means to pronounce righteous, or to declare just in the sight of the law… clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and on that account accepted as righteous in the sight of God” (Hodge 100). We have never been worthy of being called just because of our sins. But Jesus, who died in our place, is completely righteous. When we put our faith in the fact that Jesus died in our place, God applies Jesus’ perfect righteousness to our account and we are from then on considered justified—without sin.

    All of these statements are true about every believer because of the Lord Jesus and because of the work of the Holy Spirit who worked in us. With that in mind, believers should feel “indebted for the great change which they had experienced; for their washing, sanctification, and justification, to Christ and to the Holy Ghost” (Hodge 101). And we should be careful not to “relapse into [our] former state of pollution and condemnation.” (Hodge 100-01).

Conclusion

When I was a young man, someone came to my house to pick me up for a church event. Apparently, I had not shaved for a while because the man asked me if I had shaved with a banana. That was his humorous way of telling me I needed to shave. His question made me think the next time it was time to go out. The questions Paul asked in this chapter were not humorous. But they were meant to produce the same result. When he asked them, he wanted to know if the Corinthian believers were thinking about the results of their sinful actions.

Perhaps we need to be asked a few questions as well. Are your thoughts, words, and actions showing the way you used to be, or are they showing what God has caused you to become? When you are alone with your thoughts, are they controlled by the Spirit of God? When you speak to others, is it apparent that you have been born again? When you take action, do others notice the change God has made in your life?

We are starting a new year today. And it may be that the Spirit of God had pricked at your conscience today. As the Spirit reveals to you any sin that you are holding onto, ask yourself the question, Am I living like someone who has been washed, sanctified, and justified, or like someone who will be excluded from God’s kingdom. Then choose to live the way God intended.

Bibliography

Hodge, Charles, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1974, orig. 1857, pp. 92-101.

Lowery, David K., “1 Corinthians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, pp. 515-16.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 26-29.

Christmas Angels & Shepherds – Luke 2:8-20

While reading various commentaries, I came across the idea that Matthew tells the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective while Luke tells it from Mary’s. In Matthew 1, Joseph was trying to figure out what to do after finding out that Mary was pregnant. It was then that an angel appeared to him in a dream to explain God’s plan. In Luke 1, Mary was surprised by the visit of an angel who announced that she would be the mother of Jesus.

When we come to Luke 2:8-20, we find two other perspectives. They are the perspectives of the angels and shepherds. With an attempt to organize our thoughts, we will first look at the Message given by the angel (2:8-12), and then the Response to that message (2:13-20).

  1. The Message (Luke 2:8-12)

    If you grew up going to Sunday School, you may have memorized portions of this chapter at some point in your life. When our children were in elementary school, they learned Matthew 1:1-20. I can still remember them quoting it at Christmas time during the school program.

    The reason they memorized this passage was because of the wonderful message it talks about. However, before we read about the message, we should take a look at the people to whom the message was given.

    a. Who received the message? (Luke 2:8)

    In the same area where Jesus was born, there were some shepherds who were out in the fields with their sheep at night. At this time, “‘shepherds were despised people. They were suspected of not being very careful to distinguish ‘mine’ and ‘thine’; for this reason, too, they were debarred from giving evidence in court’ (Strack-Billerbeck, in loc.)” (Geldenhuys 115).

    You kind of get the idea that shepherds were the blue collar, uneducated people who were from the wrong side of the tracks. People didn’t have much respect for shepherds, but this didn’t stop God from sending the angel to them. “To shepherds—not to priests and rulers,—to shepherds—not to Scribes and Pharisees, an angel appeared… . The things of God are often hid from the great and noble, and revealed to the poor” (Ryle 56).

    “The question is still asked skeptically as to why these shepherds should have been selected for the angel’s announcement. The answer is as simple to the believer as it ever was: because God found them the kind of people to whom he could communicate such news” (Lenski 127). As we will later see from their response to the message, these shepherds were people who recognized the Lord and who would rejoice at what God had done.

    b. Who gave the message? (Luke 2:9)

    We are not told the name of the angelic messenger. What we are told is that it was an angel of the Lord who arrived with the glory of the Lord all around him. Remember how Moses’ face shone after spending time with the Lord? This was the case with this angel of the Lord. Having come from the presence of the Lord, he was still reflecting the glory of God.

    Imagine being one of the shepherds at this point. All is dark except for the small fire. The stars are visible in the dark sky. All is quiet and uneventful when suddenly this angel appears with all the brightness of God’s glory! This severely frightened each one of them. They probably fell on their faces and wondered what was going on.

    c. What was the message? (Luke 2:10-12)

    Thankfully, the angel was aware of their fear as he told them that they shouldn’t be afraid. His message was not one to cause fear but rejoicing! The angel “states first the effect and then the cause, first the joy and then the birth that produces the joy” (Lenski 129). In other words, he told them that something wonderful was going to make them joyful before even announcing what it was.

    As the shepherds slowly raised their faces from the ground, they looked through squinted eyes at the angel and listened. What was it that would replace their fear with joy and bring joy to all people?

    A Savior has been born.

    The angel announced to the shepherds what Joseph had been told earlier. This was not a Savior from foreign rule; He was a Savior from sin.

    Matt. 1:21 – “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

    “The spiritual darkness which had covered the earth for four thousand years, was about to be rolled away. The way to pardon and peace with God was about to be thrown open to all mankind” (Ryle 56-7). Thankfully, Jesus came to save us from our sins and their dire consequences.

    He is Christ the Lord.

    When we read these titles, they often go in one ear and out the other because we see them so often. But to the shepherds, this would have pointed out something special about this child. He was not just a Savior, but would be the Christ and the Lord. Christ is the Greek equivalent of Messiah and Lord is who God is. The shepherds would have understood these titles as descriptions of who He was. Jesus was the promised Messiah and He would also be God.

    He is in a manger.

    What the angel said next must have surprised the shepherds. The angel announced that the shepherds would find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. “‘The sign’ is the very feature about this babe which the shepherds would least expect after the high titles they have heard from the angel. That is, however, what makes this feature ‘the sign'” (Lenski 132).

    The message was that the child born in Bethlehem was the Savior, Messiah, and Lord. He was the One whom they had been looking for all those years since the original prophecies in the Books of Isaiah and Micah. However, we mustn’t stop at just the facts. We need to apply who Jesus is to our own needs.

    All of us have need of what Jesus came to be. We all need a Savior because all of us are sinners. The Bible says that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. It also says that the wages of our sins is death. So all of us, despite our best efforts, have no ability to save ourselves from the penalty of our sins. Thankfully, God sent His Son to become a baby who would grow up, teach the truth, and eventually save us from our sins by dying on the cross. This is the joyful message that the angel proclaimed to the shepherds.

    Now, how did they respond?

  2. The Response (Luke 2:13-20)

    In this section, we will look at the response of three groups. Surprisingly, perhaps to us, is the fact that the shepherds were not the first to respond.

    a. How did the angels respond? (Luke 2:13-14)

    While the shepherds were considering how to respond to the angel’s message, a “host of angels appeared suddenly around the one angel who had made the announcement. … Thousands of angels appeared and filled the expanse of the sky.” (Lenski 133).

    Their response is recorded almost like a poem or the words of a song. Whether they only spoke or their praise included singing, I don’t know. But the content of their statement says a lot.

    Glory to God in the highest – The angels, who had watched the sinfulness of man and also the great love of God, gave the highest glory to God for what had happened. They could think of no other person deserving of the highest praise.

    Peace on earth – The angels, who were close to God, knew what kind of peace was needed on earth. While Jesus will eventually reign on the earth and produce a wonderful peace, I don’t think that is what they were talking about. They were talking about peace between God and man through Jesus (Col. 1:20).

    Goodwill to men – The angels saw, in Jesus’ birth, God’s favor being extended toward men. This goodwill is something that is offered by God, but only received by faith. Without God’s gift of Jesus that day, that favor would not be available to all.

    One more note: Do you wonder why the angels were rejoicing about something that didn’t affect them? Here and in Luke 15:7, we find that those in heaven rejoice when someone repents and is saved.

    Luke 15:7 – “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

    Apparently, the angels have gotten to know God so well that they rejoice in what God has done for mankind. That makes me feel good. The angels are rejoicing at God’s goodwill toward all who believe.

    b. How did the shepherds respond? (Luke 2:15-18, 20)

    After giving praise to God for these things, the angels returned to heaven from where they had come. I can imagine that the shepherds were staring after them until all was dark again. Now what? How would they respond?

    They believed the message (15).

    Not one but all of the shepherds began suggesting the same thing. Let’s go see this thing that has come to pass. There was no doubt in their voices. They believed what God had revealed to them through the angel’s message. “Such an attitude contrasts sharply with that of the religious leaders who knew where the Baby was to be born but did not take the time or the effort to confirm it for themselves (Matt. 2:5)” (Martin 208).

    They visited the child (16).

    The shepherds got up and ran. Well, it says they came with haste, which means that they moved quickly. I don’t know how old they were or how quickly they could run, but they traveled as quickly as possible. “We … do not know whether they reached the Child the same night or only the following morning and whether they found Him at once or first had to search about for a long time” (Geldenhuys 113). But they finally found the baby just as the angel had told them.

    “After some search they found what the angel had told them, Mary, Joseph, and, strange to say, ‘the babe lying in the manger.’ … ‘Lying in the manger’ was only the sign, and this sign verified the truth of all that the angel had said about this child, and all that the host of angels had sung about his birth” (Lenski 137).

    They told others about it (17-18).

    After seeing the baby just as the angel had promised, the shepherds told everyone they met. Their story became widely known throughout the area. People were amazed by what the shepherds told them. Could it be true? Had a Savior been born? Was this the promised Messiah?

    They praised God (20).

    The shepherds didn’t care what others thought about their experience. They knew it was true. And this caused them to glorify and praise God for all that they had seen and heard. As they returned to their flocks in the fields, they couldn’t stop praising God for what He had chosen to reveal to them.

    c. How did Mary respond? (Luke 2:19)

    She pondered what happened. “The idea … is that of throwing things together, comparing, letting one explain and add to another” (Lenski 138). Mary had heard from Gabriel (Luke 1:28-37). She had also heard from Joseph what the angel told him in a dream (Matt. 1:20-21). Now she hears what the shepherds had heard from the angels. All of this must have been overwhelming to consider.

    “Was Mary, then, a perfect being who immediately, perfectly and permanently grasped the full significance of the angels’ tidings, the supernatural conception, and so forth?” (Geldenhuys 114) I would say, no. She was a normal human being who had to think through things and react to them just like we all do. Thankfully, she believed what God said, and was used by God to be the mother of the promised Savior.

Conclusion

Today we have looked at the joyful message given to the shepherds by the angel. The message was that a Savior had been born who was Christ the Lord. The responses to this message were wonderful. The angels praised God for extending His favor to mankind. The shepherds rejoiced that the message was given to them and that the Savior had been born. And, finally, Mary responded by thinking about all that had been said.

I wonder how you will respond today? You have heard the story of Jesus’ birth and why He came. But how will you respond? If you have already believed, you may have a big smile on your face as you consider all that Jesus has done for you. I hope that you will not keep it to yourself, but that you will share it with others regardless of their response. The Savior has come for all of us!

If you have not yet believed, let me encourage you to ponder what you have heard today. Think about why the announcement of Jesus’ birth and why He came. Think about the joyful response of the angels and shepherds. And think about your own need for a Savior. Might I suggest that you reread the Christmas story for yourself and continue reading through the Gospel of Luke to find out more about Jesus. I hope that someday soon, you will believe and find the same joy that the angels and shepherds had.

Bibliography

Geldenhuys, Norval, The Gospel of Luke, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, reprint. 1983, pp. 110-15.

Lenski, R. C. H., The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, Columbus: Wartburg, 1946, reprint 1951, p. 127-

Martin, John A., “Luke” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 208.

Ryle, J. C., Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume Two Luke, Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint 1977, pp. 55-61.