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God’s Plan in A Nutshell

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Today’s Bible reading: Exodus 35:10-36:38; Matthew 27:32-66; Psalm 34:1-10; Proverbs 9:7-8

Today we see a great display of community and service for God in Exodus 25. In verse 10 we see that those who are gifted craftsmen were called to construct all the things that God had described to Moses. In verse 25 the women “who were skilled” in sewing prepared the threads and cloth. Notice that not everyone was called to do these things — only those who had the necessary skills. We don’t all have the same talents and gifts. God doesn’t expect those of us who can’t sing (like me) to be in the choir. But He does call us to use the talents He has given us for His service. If everyone in the Israelite camp would have tried to help to build the Tabernacle then other important tasks would have been neglected like taking care of the children or shepherding the animals.

God specifically chose two men, Bezalel and Uri, to lead the project of building the Tabernacle. Leadership is another talent that God has bestowed on some people. Bezalel was a “master at every craft” (Exodus 35:33) so it was likely that he was going to oversee all the people’s work. Both he and Uri had been given the “ability to teach their skills to others” (Exodus 35:34), which is another talent.

In Exodus 35:20 we read that the Israelites gave from their own possessions the materials needed to built the Tabernacle. But notice only those “whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved” did so. Again, God wasn’t calling on every individual to donate. He moved the hearts of those He wanted to donate and I’m sure they were only too happy to give. I can honestly say that it is very fulfilling to give to a worthwhile project. God has definitely given me the gift of giving and I enjoy donating to my church for its needs like building a children’s ministry, for example. But there are other skills and gifts that I do not have.

The bottom line is that all talents come from God. He has distributed some talents to all of us and He wants us to use them. How do you know what talent you have? I think that whatever you enjoy doing is your talent, even if you aren’t very good at it. If you like doing it you will get better over time. When we use the talents that God has given us, and enjoy doing so, we glorify God.

When was the last time you heard of a charity that had received so much in donations that they asked people to stop donating? I bet Exodus 35:5 was the last time in history. Obviously the people were pretty psyched up about this project and about God. When you are excited about God and the work that He has for you to do, you will not be bored or unhappy. You will look forward to each and every day.

More somber reading today in Matthew about Jesus’s crucifixion. Yesterday we saw Jesus whipped to remove the skin from His back, which was the first step in the execution process carried out by the Romans. Some victims would die from the whipping alone and never make it to the cross. They were the lucky ones.

The next step would be for the victim to carry his own cross through the city streets to the crucifixion site. Someone would walk ahead of the victim with a sign which had the victim’s crime written on it for all to see. Jesus was unable to carry the cross. At this point He had been awake for more than 24 hours. He had just been whipped but before that had been beaten twice, once by the Jewish religious leaders and once by the Romans. He was obviously too weak to carry the cross which would have weighed about 75 pounds so the Romans “forced” a man named Simon to carry it for Him.

Matthew’s description of Jesus on the cross is pretty brief. We’ll see more detailed information in the other gospels over the next few weeks. But notice that a couple of things happened which fulfilled prophecy from the Old Testament. Obviously one was that the person the Old Testament called the Messiah was crucified. But also that he was crucified between two other victims and the soldiers gambled for his clothes  (crucifixion victims were naked to add their shame and humiliation). All these things were foretold in the Old Testament and it is this type of 100% accurate prophecy that was very instrumental in my giving up my faith in atheism for faith in Jesus.

While Jesus hung on the cross He had to endure more mocking. In Matthew 27:42 some people ask a question that I used to ask myself (and I’m sure many atheists ask): “If Jesus was God why didn’t He come down from the cross?” The answer is actually quite simple. If He came down from the cross then how would any human being ever get to heaven? There would be no way. The only way for someone to get to heaven is to have their sins forgiven. And the only way to have your sins forgiven is to have someone else pay for them. But since the penalty for sin (even one drop) is eternity in hell, who can pay for someone else’s sins? No one. No one can pay for their own sins and someone else’s because none of us can spend two eternities in hell. We can only spend one. So God came up with a plan that was first identified in Genesis right after the sin of Adam and Eve. God’s plan in a nutshell:

He (God) would come to earth in a human body, live a perfect life, die a death that was undeserved, spend 3 days in hell as payment for the sins of everyone who would believe, and then rise from the dead to prove that payment had been made in full.

If Jesus (who was God) never went to the cross, or if He came down from the cross, then that payment would never have been made and you and I would be in deep trouble (to put it mildly).

At the moment Jesus died the curtain in the Jewish Temple that separated the most holy place from the rest of the Temple was torn in two to indicate that full access to God was now possible because sin had been paid for. Notice the other miracles that happened at the same time (Matthew 27:51-53).

At the end of our reading in Matthew we read that Pilate ordered Roman soldiers to guard the tomb of Jesus because they are concerned that Jesus’ disciples will come and steal the body. Of course they had no plans to do that because, as we’ve been reading, they never fully understood that these events were going to happen. By putting the Roman guards in front of the tomb, Pilate is actually helping to provide strong evidence for Christ’s resurrection which will happen in 3 days. Isn’t this exciting stuff?

Psalm 34 reminds those who are “helpless” to “take heart”. If that describes you then the best thing to do is to boast in the Lord (verse 2). Don’t focus on yourself and your limitations (or what you think your limitations are) or your circumstances. Instead focus on God and the great things He can do and wants to do in your life. The author of this Psalm is speaking from experience. In verse 4 and 6 we read that he prayed to God at a very desperate time and God responded. God “surrounds and defends” those who are near to Him. Keep yourself near to God. Those who trust in God will never be lacking in anything they need (verse 10).

Truly great advice in Proverbs 9 today. I think it helps explain why Jesus didn’t respond to the Jewish leaders, Romans, or mockers while He hung on the cross. Why bother? There is nothing to be gained by having a conversation with someone who makes fun. It would be just a waste of time because such people aren’t looking for wisdom. They are seeking to exalt themselves by putting others down as one of my favorite quotes says:

Insulting others is just an underhanded way of praising oneself

People who think like this don’t want to explore any other opinions so don’t bother with them. The sad thing is that they are missing out information that will help them, especially when they reject the Gospel. At some point hundreds of years from now they will be wishing that they spent more time listening and less time criticizing. But at that point it will be too late. But people who are wise, love to be corrected because it makes them more wise (Proverbs 9:8).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

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