Today’s Bible reading: Exodus 37-38:31; Matthew 28:1-20; Psalm 34:11-22; Proverbs 9:9-10
Our reading in Exodus today is pretty self-explanatory. The people build the Ark of the Covenant, the Table, the Lampstand, the Incense Altar, the Altar of Burnt Offering, the Washbasin, the Courtyard, and all the materials for the structure of the Tabernacle.
The Ark of the Covenant is the most holy of all these items. It was placed in the most holy part of the Tabernacle and later was placed in the similar part of the permanent Temple built in Jerusalem. Inside the Ark were the Ten Commandments (2 tablets of stone), a jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod that had budded. Here is a picture of what the Ark may have looked like:
It was above the wings of the cherubim that God would meet with the high priest once a year when the priest went into the most holy part of the Tabernacle/Temple.
What struck me when reading these verses was that the people built all the items to God’s exact specifications. They did not take any liberties with the dimensions of the items or the materials used to build them. In subsequent generations the people will fail to listen to God and do what He says. They will end up in less-than-ideal situations. Its always better to follow what God tells us to do. He is not telling us because He is a dictator. He is telling us because He loves us and can see our future. He has such a better life in store for us than we could ever provide for ourselves. That is why it is best to obey Him. But they word “obey” is such a hard word for us to swallow. None of us want to obey. We want to call the shots. We want “freedom”. I understand that. But the type of “freedom” we want comes at a cost. In the end we end up not being “free” at all. But God offers true freedom – freedom from the striving we go through to have our “false freedom”. In fact, all that striving actually puts us in bondage. The solution: relax and let God lead. He’s better at it than we are.
Isn’t it interesting that the bronze washbasin built in Exodus 38:8 was made from the mirrors donated by some women. Although mirrors certainly have useful function they are a symbol of vanity. In essence, these women were giving up their vanity to help build the Tabernacle.
The amount of gold alone used to build the Tabernacle (Exodus 38:24) would cost almost $6 million dollars today. The silver would cost over $3.5 million. This was the gold and silver that the Egyptians had given Israel when they ordered the Israelites out of Egypt. God blessed the people after being in slavery for centuries and then used what He gave them to glorify Himself. That is exactly how God works, even today.
After reading the heart-wrenching passages about Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion over the past two days in Matthew, we read the uplifting story of His resurrection today. Notice that a terrible and tragic event gives way to a wonderful event. God is the Master at turning the sins and failures of human being into joyous events. For example, after the terrible Holocaust came the birth of Israel. God continues to do this type of thing on a lesser-scale in the lives of everyday people all the time. I can’t tell you the number of people who I have met who were in bad situations (addictions, abusive relationships, restrictive countries, etc) who, because of those situations, came to know Jesus Christ and be saved. It happens all the time.
Notice that the stone was rolled away from the front of the tomb. As we will read about in Acts and other parts of the New Testament, the resurrected Jesus was not restricted by material barriers – He could walk through walls and such. Therefore, the stone was not rolled away to let Him out. It was rolled away to let us see in — so witnesses could see that He truly was not there.
Its interesting that the first people to receive the news of Jesus’s resurrection were women. The Bible takes a lot of heat because (some claim) that all the major players are men. That isn’t really true and these passages are a case-in-point. What a privilege it must have been for these women to be the first to discover the empty tomb and have the honor of telling everyone else what had happened.
In Matthew 28:9 the women meet Jesus on the road and worship Him. This is one of the many times where Jesus accepts worship from people (I’ve mentioned 1 or 2 before) and it shows, therefore, that He was God. If He wasn’t God then it would have been very wrong of Him to allow others to worship Him. Of course, if He weren’t God He would not have come back to life after dying, but that goes without saying. The disciples will meet the resurrected Jesus in Matthew 28:17 and will also worship Him.
The resurrection of Jesus was one more chance for the Jewish religious leaders to recognize Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. They could have admitted that they were wrong, as difficult as it would have been to do so. Jesus would have forgiven them – no sin is too big to be forgiven even the sin of killing God. But instead they clung to their pride. It was more important for them to be perceived as being right (even as now they knew they were wrong) and as such they probably ended up leading many people astray and away from heaven due to their made-up story. This is a great lesson for those of you who don’t believe in Jesus. Don’t believe what you hear from people who themselves don’t believe. They almost certainly don’t know what they are talking about. The only thing you do by agreeing with them is promote their ego. Very few people are willing to go out on a limb with their beliefs. They find comfort in having others believe the same things they do whether they are right or wrong. If you are a non-believer I urge you to go gather the facts for yourself. That is what I did 21 years ago as an atheist. I found information and evidence that I didn’t know existed and I changed my mind. As famous economist John Maynard Keynes said: “When the facts change, I change my mind”. That is a very wise way to live.
The resurrection of Jesus was very public. The evidence was right in front of them. There is only one reason not to believe it – pride. That is the same reason people make up all kinds of alternate stories today about what happened to Jesus’s body. But there is no way any of us, living over 2,000 years after the fact, can question the eye-witness accounts of what happened. I was very guilty of this type of thinking myself when I was an atheist until some people pointed out how arrogant it was of me to think that I knew more about what happened than the people who were there. I had no evidence to contest what has been recorded in the Bible. If you question the Biblical account of Jesus’s death and resurrection I hope that you will consider whether you have any valid reason to doubt what the Bible says. Spoiler alert: you don’t.
Matthew 28:16-20 is known as the Great Commission. In these passages Jesus instructs His disciples to “go” and spread the great news of salvation offered by God through Jesus. It is the main reason why Christians feel compelled to tell others how they can get to heaven. As annoying and stupid as I used to think Christians were, I am now one of them :). Although I don’t think I’ve done a very good job to this point of obeying what Jesus commands in these passages, I hope that the rest of my life can be spent teaching people this awesome news so that they, too, can have life in heaven for all eternity. This blog is just one way to do that.
Psalm 34:19 tells us that the righteous person will face trouble in life. Even though someone may be born-again and have a relationship with God, they will not be immune to hard times. God doesn’t promise us that life on this earth will be easy. In fact, as we have seen, God uses difficult circumstances to grow us and to glorify Himself. People don’t learn from their successes. We learn from our failures. We learn from difficulty, not from ease. But even though a righteous person will find herself in difficult situations, God will “come to the rescue each time”. How great is that? Not some times. Not a few times. But “each” time. God will never leave you alone if you belong to Him.
But notice that God does not give the same promise to unbelievers. They will be overtaken by calamities (Psalm 34:21). Anyone who hates God’s people will be punished. I used to be on that side of the fence, as I mentioned above. I’m glad I am not there any longer.
I really like Proverbs 9:9. Wise people love to learn. They don’t mind having someone else teach them because they will be even wiser. It takes humility to admit that you don’t know something and to allow someone else to teach you. But it is the wise way to live.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post