Exodus 28 moves from the physical building to the attire. It is dress code time for Aaron and the rest who will be serving in the Temple. God continues to call for skilled craftsmen – “those I have gifted” to do the work. He wants the clothing that will be worn to be exactly to His specifications – which are extremely detailed – and made from the finest of resources. No skimping here. God wants the priests dressed appropriately to enter His presence. He misses no detail as He gives instructions for the creation of “Breastpiece, Ephod, robe, woven tunic, turban, sash”. Don’t tell me that God doesn’t pay attention to the small stuff. All the more reason why we don’t need to sweat it – God has that covered too. He knows every detail and is in control of them all.
The instructions are not just for creating the clothing and accessories that are needed, but also how and when to wear them. God gives Aaron specific instructions to wear the “breastplate of judgement over his heart”. He is told to always have it on when he comes “into the presence of God”. About the Ephod – “Aaron has to wear it when he does his priestly work”. God has a dress code for Aaron and the boys when they serve him. Down to the what and how to wear it. There are expectations and rules here. God wants consistency and obedience. In the message – it even describes a few other pieces – “turban, tunic, underwear”. Now I never recall reading the word underwear before, but I have no doubt that God invented it and cares about us down to that level. He even gets specific there telling us that it should go from “waist to thigh”. God cares about everything. He is in the little stuff just as much as He is in the big stuff of our lives. The problem is we don’t even give Him a thought when we aren’t in trouble or need. We just do the rest all on our own. But God has a plan, He has an interest, and we need to be tuned in to Him 24/7, not just when we face a crisis or major decision. This chapter like the few before, should make it clear that God is into details and wants to be involved in every detail of our lives. He cares, He is interested, He has a plan. Are you willing to let Him in to the closets of your life? He already knows what is there. Don’t think for a minute you are hiding anything, no matter how small. God knows.
Exodus 27 continues the direction for how to build things. It is important to note that God doesn’t use the cheap stuff here as He instructs people how to build the temple and associated things. Gold, silver and bronze are the standard. Acacia wood to build with – not just any tree on the landscape. God wants things done well by skilled craftsmen but He also wants the materials to be the very best. God don’t make no junk. That is a little quote that I heard often growing up to describe the value of every person to Him. He creates us unique and in His image. But He also didn’t use no junk in His direction for building the temple. He is a God of creation and values that which is valuable.
The last verse really struck me in this chapter. God instructs “Aaron and his sons” to “keep this light burning from evening until morning”. That is no short order as it is a very daily requirement. But God seals that with this instruction: “this is to be a permanent practice down through the generations”. It makes me think about what permanent practices of daily activities God desires from me and you. What should I be doing every day? What does God expect to be daily in my life? And permanent? We aren’t so good with that, at least I am not. I don’t view a lot of things at all as permanent. And daily – well I try with a few things. But let’s face it, if I skip connecting with God a day or two, oh well. If I miss reading His Word I can always catch up right? If I fail to stop and pray, no big deal, He knows what I need anyway. Those are wrong answers to this whole area of being daily in our walk and creating permanent practices for the future generations. Have you considered that your kids are learning how to walk with God by watching you? Are you creating daily permanent practices that they will follow because you are doing them each and every day? God has really convicted me on this one. We have to be daily, we have to do things consistently and always. What is He asking you to do each and every day? What permanent practices does He have in mind for your life that will be handed down? Ponder it well!
Exodus 26 continues God’s instructions for construction. He is very specific down to the inch what should happen. The counts are exact and the directions very detailed. Don’t tell me that God is not interested in details. He always has been and always will be. He is paying attention to all the little things in our lives. He knows what is happening in our homes and businesses. He is not surprised.
It is important to note that God calls for “skilled craftsman” to do the work. Another aspect of God’s character is that He appreciates skill and quality. Sometimes our nature is to give God less than the best isn’t it? We give God the left overs in life. Left over money, left over time, left over energy…..if there is anything left we feel it is ok to give it to God. But God desires the first of all we are given. And that involves our talents and skills along with our money and time. God wants us to use the gifts He has given us to matter in His Kingdom. They are given first for Kingdom business, then for other things. We miss that some days. We think God gifted us so we can feel good about ourselves. Or that it is for our own enjoyment and benefit. Not exactly the purpose. God gives us gifts so we can serve – first Him and then others – and then we can enjoy for ourselves. Not the other way around. How do you spend your skills and talents? Do they go to serve God first? Or does He just get the leftovers?
Exodus 25 begins the instruction of how to build God’s temple. But before it starts, God sets forth a very important set of instructions. He says: “Tell the Israelites that they are to set aside offerings for me”. Did you catch that? He doesn’t say to ask them to think about and consider giving to God. It is expected and directed. We are to set aside offering for God. Period. It is not an option. Why do we think we can mess around with this whole area. It is so clear in many places. God expects us to give back. He does make this statement as well, which tells me that the motive is also important: “Receive the offerings from everyone who is willing to give”. I don’t think that giving or tithing is optional, but I do think that the attitude and motive needs to be correct as we do give. God wants us to be willing givers. He wants us to recognize that everything we have is from Him, and that it is not a bad thing to tithe, it is a privilege to give God back a portion of what He gives to us. He doesn’t ask for all of it, although He certainly could as it is all His. He simply asks for an offering or tithe – a portion. There is no reason we should be stingy or have a poor attitude about giving God what is already His. Are you a cheerful giver? That is what scripture tells us we need to be.
This chapter also begins the instructions for the temple. First comes the instruction for the ark of the covenant. It is referred to as the “Chest” and is designed to hold the “Testimony” that God gave the Israelites. This is a pretty sacred stuff and this is a major part of the journey that the Israelites will be going on as we continue through scripture. Next comes instructions on how to build the “Table” and the rules for keeping bread on it. The chapter wraps up with the plans for the “Lampstand”. The materials God calls for to create these things are very detailed and not the cheap stuff. “Use a 75 pound brick of pure gold” tells me that God wasn’t sparing anything in what He wanted created. But since God owns it all anyway, why not. It is His and He certainly deserves all being used for His honor and glory. The reality is that God cares about the details, and we will see that over and over as we go through the building of His temple. How much more does He care about the details of your life and mine. He is into the little things. He cares about all of it. Never think that anything you are thinking about is too small for God. He cares….
Exodus 24 continues the story of Moses and God’s commandments. God tells him to “climb the mountain” – he with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and 70 of the elders. That is quite a bunch of folks. Remember Moses a few chapters ago. It was him and him. He was leading and running the show by himself. He had Aaron to help with speaking, Joshua to lead the troops, but basically it was a three man band. Now he has a batch of men who are climbing the mountain with him. What a change since Jethro gave him counsel and he followed it. Moses goes and “wrote it all down”. Is this the first time we see journaling happening? All journaling is really involved writing things down. Things God gives to us, things we observe through reading the scriptures, prayers and worship – just capturing that on paper or electronically. It is an important thing to help us remember. Moses took the “Book of the Covenant and read it”. He didn’t keep the information to himself, he shared it with all the people. Of course, they give the standard response of “everything God said, we’ll do”. Ever heard that before? Ever said that? Of course part of the purpose of the law is to show us we cannot possibly do that and we need a savior. But they listen and try to commit to perfection.
The chapter goes on to again talk about the batch of men that Moses takes with him up the mountain. They didn’t actually go to the same place that Moses was, right in God’s presence, but they were with him for the climb. We need folks like that in our life. They come along side us and help us keep moving onward and upward. The Message calls them “pillar-leaders”. I love that picture. We need pillars of godly people surrounding us on every side but they have to be more than just someone taking up space and standing idly by as we work to serve God. They have to be leaders as well, to push us forward toward the goal of reaching God. What a perfect description of what God calls us to be in so many ways. Wives are called to be “helpmeets” for their husbands. We are called to “go and make disciples”. “The first shall be last”. Scripture is full of illustrations of how we are to come along side and support, but also to come along side and serve and lead. Who are the pillar-leaders in your life? And equally as important is who fills that role in your life? Are you coming alongside someone who is climbing toward God to help them and enable them to reach Him? And are you letting some folks fill that role for you? As is always the case, God invented the body of Christ for a reason and this is yet another one. We need to be, and find, pillar-leaders in our lives. Moses was there for 40 days and 40 nights. No trivial meeting with God this time.
Exodus 23 is a chapter of do’s and don’ts. It starts that way and continue to run that way for most of the chapter. There are some interesting lessons here. “Don’t go along with the crowd” is one that stands out to me. So often we think that if we are just going along with everyone else, we will be safe even if they are all wrong. My parents always used to ask me when I used the everyone is doing it line, would you follow them if they jumped off a cliff? Well of course that sort of defeated my argument, but it was a good try. God calls us to be willing and able to stand alone when we are faced with a choice among a group. Just because the group is doing something is not a ticket that gives us the right to proceed and disobey. The very quick example that popped into my head has to do with speeding. I have had the conversation more than once with my bride, that when I am keeping up with the flow of traffic and speeding, that really isn’t an excuse. She reminds me of that and if an officer pulls me over he will too. Of course God already knows I am disobeying the posted speed signs (not suggestions), and that going with the flow is not an excuse. Do you ever just go with the flow? Drink that extra drink that puts you over the top because everyone is doing it? Get involved in other stuff because the buddies are? It doesn’t play well with God. We have to be willing to stand alone.
The writer reminds us that work is for six day and rest the seventh. Somewhere we have heard that before haven’t we? God created in six – we should be able to get the things done we need to in that many as well. He tells us to “listen carefully to everything I tell you”. Hmmm – not just what we want to hear – everything. I sort of have a selective hearing policy with my bride and even more so with God. You can’t be talking to me God. It must be for someone else who needs to hear it. Ever feel that way? God’s truth is directed straight at you and me. It is not something we select or opt to listen to. That doesn’t give us any excuse. The old “I didn’t hear what you were saying…or didn’t think it was for me” trick won’t play with God. When He speaks we best listen to all of what He says. Some of that speaking is through His written word. We better listen to all that too! He also tells us to “serve your God”. Now that is a role reversal. Too often we think that God is all about serving us. On call, 24/7/365 ready to come at our beckon call. Right? Isn’t that how we treat God sometimes. But it isn’t the design. We were created to serve him, not the other way around. How is your serve?
Exodus 22 is a whole lot more rules for people to live by. What it really points out is the need for personal accountability. There is punishment listed for a number of things that can happen between people. God is not about ignoring wrongs or allowing things to go unpunished. When people make mistakes, there is a price to pay. Today though, culture wants us to believe that someone other than ourselves is responsible for those choices. There is a desire to push it off on another. God’s laws don’t read that way in my Bible. It doesn’t say things like “if someone else made you do it you are off the hook”. These chapters on God’s laws are filled with a whole lot of “if – then” statements. If we do this then the punishment will be that. Obedience is not without consequences when we choose not to live that way. God can’t just look the other way and ignore what He has given to us as direction and commands. We have to get our act together and walk with Him. That is the only choice that He desires.
This chapter is very clear that even then there was a sacred place for marriage and sex. God has some strong rules here about how there was a price “if a man seduces a virgin”. Sex is God’s design and He has some pretty straight rules around it. It is a vital component of a healthy marriage, yet too often people think it can be expanded in a whole lot of ways that never were God’s intent. God pays attention to how we treat it. That includes pornography, bad movies, magazines – and I am speaking primarily to men here but not exclusively – God will hold us accountable for how we address this part of our lives. Too many of us think we can cross the line because it doesn’t hurt anyone. Right? Pictures and videos really don’t matter. Not what God says. Not how God feels. The message from Exodus is that sin has a price. Disobedience comes with a cost. God holds sex and marriage sacred. Don’t mess around with it. There is a price to pay and one that will cost you a lot more than you imagine!