God initiates three annual celebrations in Exodus 23 today. The first was to commemorate the hasty exit the Israelites made from Egyptian captivity. It was called the Feast of Unleavened Bread because they did not have time to make bread with yeast before leaving Egypt. This feast took place in the Spring around the time of the barley harvest.The second celebration is the Feast of the Harvest which took place just seven weeks after the Feast of Unleavened Bread at around the time of the wheat harvest. The third celebration, the Feast of the Ingathering, took place at the very end of harvest season.
At each of these feasts the people were commanded to bring “the very best” from the recent harvest and offer it to God as a sacrifice. God doesn’t want us bringing Him less than our best, otherwise it really isn’t a sacrifice. By telling the people to do this God is trying to teach them that a sacrifice is needed to get into right standing with Him. A sacrifice of wheat, barley or even a lamb can never really do that. To achieve that goal God had to sacrifice His own son, Jesus. As we read the Old Testament we’ll see that everything God teaches the people to do points forward to Jesus.
Notice how God sends his “angel” ahead of the Israelites to “protect” them and “lead” them to “safety” for the place He had “prepared” for them. God has it all worked out. He has a plan and that plan is for the good of His people. He will not desert us on our journey but will be there, right by our side.
God is going to destroy the people who are currently in the land He is giving to the Israelites. I often wondered, and I know a lot of unbelievers wonder, how a loving God could destroy these people. The answer is quite simple. These people were not worshipping Him but were worshipping other gods. They didn’t recognize His authority over the earth at all. I find this situation eerily similar to the modern-day way of thinking that goes something like “It doesn’t matter which god I follow as long as follow some god to the best of my ability”. No. It doesn’t work that way. Worshipping Allah or Buddha or Haile Selassie doesn’t count. First of all, these are not real gods. Second, as we’ve seen and will continue to see as we read the Bible this year, salvation doesn’t come from doing something the right way. It comes through faith in Jesus Christ who is God. If worshipping any god was acceptable then there would be no reason for the God of the Bible to wipe out the Amorites, Perizzites, etc from land of Canaan.
Notice that God does not do all the work. He prepares the way for us but requires work on our part to achieve the goal He has set up for us. A life that follows God is not a lazy life. It is a life that learns about God through a relationship with Him and then acts in faith based on what we learn about Him.
So often I want God to take care of my problems right away. In my mind, faster is better. But God is always looking out for our best interests. He sees consequences that we don’t see, such as in Exodus 23:29.
Notice the boundaries of the nation of Israel are supposed to extend to the Euphrates River which is in modern-day Iraq. Up until now Israel has never occupied all this land. But someday, when Christ returns to rule the earth for 1,000 years then Israel will have these borders.
Twice in Exodus 24 the people claim that they will “do everything the Lord has commanded”. We are always eager to make such hyperbolic claims when we are all jacked up and excited about something and don’t take time to calculate just how much effort such a promise will take. Then we fade away and forget our vows or just get too lazy or distracted to honor them. This is what will happen to Israel in the coming years.
God wants us to be a part of what He is doing on earth. In Exodus 25 we see that we get to donate our time and talents for God’s purposes like making a lampstand out of pure gold (Exodus 25:39). In today’s dollars this 75-pound lamptand would cost $2,039, 232.
Jesus continues to talk about His second return to earth in Matthew 24 today. Considering that He is stating these things before He even left earth the first time I suspect that His disciples were really confused, especially since Jesus is actually describing two returns He will make to earth. The first one is commonly called The Rapture. This is when Christ descends from heaven but does not touch down on earth. Instead the believers who are living on earth will instantaneously leave earth and will meet Him in the sky to go back to heaven with Him. How cool will that be? Then, at a later date (about 7 years from The Rapture) Christ will return to earth where He will reign for 1,000 years. All of this information is described in more detail elsewhere in the Bible. We’ll see it as we keep reading through 2013.
Just like people were ignorant when God sent the flood in Noah’s day, so too will people be ignorant when all these terrible things Jesus describes in Matthew 24 begin to happen on earth. People will be left wondering what is going on… finding any reason they can do explain these phenomena. But since all believers will have left earth there will be no one to explain the truth.
In Matthew 24:36 Jesus tells us that no one, not even Him, knows when He is going to return. Whenever we hear anyone set a date for Christ’s return you can be sure that it is wrong. If Jesus is God then how can He not know? Apparently Jesus, who existed in heaven before taking on human-form, was not given full knowledge by God the Father while He (Jesus) was on earth. In other places in the Bible we read that Jesus hungry or sleepy. So we know that despite being God He still had to operate within the constraints of the human body in some respects.
Psalm 30 is a great poem giving glory to God for rescuing David from what appears to be a mess of his (David’s) own making. In verse 6 David says “When I was prosperous, I said ‘Nothing can stop me now!'”. Isn’t that just how we think? When things are going great in our lives we think they will always be that way. We don’t stop to plan for the inevitable day when things won’t be going so wonderfully. Just like Joseph told Pharaoh to save some of the harvest during the seven bountiful years because seven lean years were to follow, we also need to be similarly wise during the abundant seasons in our life.
Notice that subsequently David was “shattered” (verse 7 NLT). Obviously his good times didn’t last (they never do). He then turned back to God (we have a habit of ignoring God when things are going well in our life) who heard His prayer and rescued him from his troubles. God is never far off. He doesn’t want to see our lives fall apart. When they do it is because of poor decisions on our part.
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