Today’s Bible reading: Exodus 30:11-31:18; Matthew 26:47-68; Psalm 32:1-11; Proverbs 8:27-32
God instructs Moses to take a census today and gives clear instructions on how it should be conducted. Each male twenty years old and older was to pay a “ransom” for himself at the time of the census. It is also commanded that everyone should give the same amount (Exodus 30:15).
The payment of a “ransom” denotes ownership. God owned all the people of Israel and He is teaching them that their redemption needs to be purchased. All these rituals and ceremonies implemented in the Old Testament were not enough to actually save anyone because they were done by human effort of sacrificing inanimate things and animals. These rituals were meant to train the people as to the reality of their situation (sinfulness; need for a savior). The One who could/would actually cleanse them from their sins would come later in the form of God in human body: Jesus.
Notice that each person had to pay their own ransom. Each person was responsible for himself. Notice too that the rich were not to pay more although they could because all lives are of equal value to God. Did you realize that you mean just as much to God as Donald Trump? Or Giselle? You do. And there is no amount of wealth or charitable giving that will save anyone. Some of the world’s most wealthy people died on the Titanic. Their money could not save them. That is what God is teaching here. We can’t buy our way to heaven with good works or self-sacrifice.
A couple of interesting side notes… in 2 Samuel we will read about King David taking a census the wrong way. He does not conduct it according to these instructions and a plague affects Israel just like God warned in these verses in Exodus. Also notice that the age of majority in Israel is 20 years old. Earlier in Matthew 17 we saw that only Peter (and Jesus) paid the temple tax and I commented that this was probably because he was the only one over 20 years old — the other disciples were probably teenagers. These verses in Exodus are where this tax originated.
God gives the recipe for a special incense in Exodus 31:34-38. Notice that God commands that this exact recipe not be duplicated for personal use. God wanted this aroma to be unique to the Tabernacle so that when people smelled it they would be reminded of God. I can just imagine some opportunistic entrepreneur in Israel selling a version of this incense to make money. But God didn’t want His image or importance to be watered down. I think this is an extremely important command. God is definitely watered down in our world today. He has been turned into a “concept” rather than being recognized for the reality that He is. God knows how dangerous this is for us – remember everything God commands is out of love and concern for us. If He becomes marginalized in our life then we will miss out on the great things He has in store for us like we read yesterday, including spending eternity with Him in Heaven.
Over the past couple of days I have been commenting on how many people would be needed to build the Tabernacle. In Exodus 31 we read about how the craftspeople got their skills – God gave these skills supernaturally (Exodus 31:3) When God wants something done He will provide the resources to achieve it.
By Exodus 31:12 God has given all the instructions to Moses for all that is to be done. He then gives one final command to obey the Sabbath. Just as God rested from His work of creation so too are the people to rest from their work of building the Tabernacle. I’m sure the people were very excited to be working for God but we all need a break. If not for physical recuperation then to manage our egos. When we are overworked and burnt out we reflect on what we are doing. Our work eclipses the work that God has done and is doing. We need a rest day to remind ourselves that its not about us. Its about God.
Jesus is arrested today in Matthew 26. This begins the end to the story of Jesus’ earthly life. But notice how all of this was described in the Scriptures, or what we call the Old Testament (Matthew 26:54, 56). These very events were prophesied hundreds of years before they actually took place. The very people who were arranging these events, Israel’s religious leaders, were supposed to know that these things were going to happen but they didn’t. Isn’t it ironic (and sad) that they are the ones to carry them out?
Notice that all these leaders were at the home of Caiaphas waiting for Jesus to be brought to them. Obviously they had plotted the arrest of Jesus. We read that essentially Jesus was put on trail inside this home. This was illegal according to Jewish law which stated that all trials had be public and had to be conducted in the daytime. Also a verdict of innocent was allowed at trial but a guilty verdict could only be given after 24 hours had passed to allow for a change of heart.
I couldn’t help but think that God Himself is sitting amongst these men allowing Himself to be mistreated for the sake of our (and their) salvation. Think about that keeping in mind that things are going to go from bad to worse for Jesus.
Notice too that these ringleaders could not find anyone to give even false testimony. This is a great statement on the life that Jesus has lead. How many of us can say that there isn’t even a single person who would lie against us? Probably none of us.
In the end Jesus is condemned for making a truthful statement that is twisted into being a modern day terrorist threat. But these religious leaders will take what they can get and they sentence Jesus to death.
I really like Proverbs 32. Its 11 verses are a condensed version of the life of a born-again sinner. Starting in verse 3 the author refuses to confess his sin and experiences God’s discipline. Then (verse 5) he stops trying to convince himself and others that he is not sinful. In response God forgave him. He then (verse 6) gives praise to God for what He has done and follows God’s path for him for the rest of his life (verses 8-10).
But back at the top of this passage we read a prologue of sorts in verses 1 and 2. Notice that the sin that the author confessed existed but God put it “out of sight”. Our sin exists. We know it. God knows it. But for those who are born-again those sins don’t count against us. God no longer looks at them. We have been “cleared of guilt” (verse 2). We are guilty, no question. Until the time that we are saved. Then our guilt is removed from us. That is salvation in a nutshell. It isn’t that we are good enough to please God. It is that God has been merciful and has declared us innocent even though we don’t deserve to be.
Notice how this is in contrast to what Jesus went through in our passage in Matthew today. He was innocent all along but was declared guilty by sinful men. God took it upon Himself to pay for our sins. This is the good news of Jesus Christ (who was God). He is innocent but is condemned. We are guilty and get to go free. All by the grace of God and nothing more.
If you have never accepted God’s offer to pay for your sins, please think about this. Its a free offer that comes with no strings attached. The alternative is that you pay for your sins when you die by spending eternity separated from God (we call that ‘hell’). But God loves you and wants you to be with Him for eternity in Heaven. The only way to make that happen is to accept God’s offer.
In Proverbs 8 “wisdom” is personified as being with God when the universe was created. This implies that what God did and what He created was “wise” and good.
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