Leviticus 7-9 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has cleansed us to serve Him in the priesthood

The soon return of the Lord was a daily conversation in my home when I was young.  My mom would often go to a window, look up at the clouds and say, “One of these days we will see Jesus coming in the clouds, and we will rise to meet Him in the air.” When she said this, I imagined grabbing onto her skirt for all I was worth so that I could go with her.  Over time I learned that it would be my own blood-bought commitment to the Lord that would give me rise.  The same was true in Old Testament times – no one got a free ride into the presence of the Lord. 

@ Leviticus 8
The process for priestly ordination was lengthy and detailed.  Although Aaron the High Priest was from Levitical lineage, he was instructed by Moses to follow the process of cleansing for priestly duties.  His sons, also priests, were not exempt from this cleansing because of who their father was and what he had done.  They, too, were submitted to the same cleansing that would make them worthy instruments of service for God, “So Moses followed the Lord’s instructions, and the whole community assembled at the Tabernacle entrance.  Moses announced to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded us to do!’  Then he presented Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.” (4-6)

The Tabernacle was then anointed with oil throughout, and sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins for the priests and another for the congregation.  A third sacrifice was offered for the ordination of the priests, and in this ceremony, blood was applied to the right earlobe, the right thumb and the right big toe.  The ceremony had become very personal for Aaron and his sons at this point.

Scripture does not elaborate on the significance of this blood application, but most believe it speaks for itself.  The blood on the right earlobe was symbolic of the dedication of the priests to hear and listen to God’s Word.  The blood on the right thumb represented a willingness to do His work, and the blood applied to the right big toe was a commitment to walk in His ways and commands.  All priests were to follow this ordination process, even lefties like me, because it demonstrated total commitment to God.

With the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, this ritual is no longer necessary because we have a new High priest, the Lord Jesus.  Those who have had His blood applied to their lives are now part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6)   A whole new process is in place, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

By the personal acceptance of His sacrificial blood to our lives, we may now enter His Holy presence just as Aaron and his sons did, no need grabbing hold of another’s coattail. As part of His royal priesthood, we are qualified to serve Him with sincere hearts by listening to His Word, and fully trusting Him when doing His work and following His ways.  Sometimes we just don’t fully understand what His supreme sacrifice has accomplished in our lives.  We are His royal priests, and we have ministry to do!

Moving Forward: Ever mindful of my ministry role, I will keep my life cleansed and pure, listening to His voice, doing His work and following His ways. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 19-22

Exodus 37-40 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He stirs and moves the hearts of many to accomplish great feats 

@ Exodus 39
“And so at last the Tabernacle was finished.”(32)  Whew!  What a building project!  After detailed instructions from God regarding the building and furnishing of every part of the tabernacle, it was finished!

“So the people of Israel followed all of the Lord’s instructions to Moses.  Then Moses inspected all their work.  When he found it had been done just as the Lord had commanded, he blessed them.”(42-44)  Does it seem plausible that after months of defiance and disobedience, the Israelites would do anything just as the Lord had commanded?  Evidently, the Lord’s warning that His presence would not go with them into Canaan after the golden calf incident had made an impact.  Now, their obedience to His detailed instructions brought blessing from Moses.

How did this once stubborn, grumbling group of people ever accomplish such a feat as the building of the Tabernacle?  I remember the Sunday School song from long ago, “When we all pull together, together, together…how happy we’ll be.  For your work is my work and our work is God’s work…” I don’t mean to oversimplify this monumental task, but really, that’s how it got done!  They joined their efforts to God’s plan and the work began:

After the instructions were given, “The whole community of Israel left Moses and returned to their tents.  All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the Lord.  They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle…Their contributions were more than enough to complete the whole project.” (35:20-21;36:7)  So committed were they to the building project that they brought more than what was needed for the completion of the Tabernacle.  Hearts stirred, spirits moved.

Then the construction began.  Imagine the assembling of the curtains around the Tabernacle:  10 curtains of finely woven linen, embroidered with cherubim, each 42 feet long by 6 feet wide, joined together and 11 curtains of goat-hair cloth, each 45 feet long by 6 feet.  This involved teamwork!  As a seamstress, I couldn’t handle one curtain of that size by myself much less ten of them.  It took many hands weaving, embroidering, sewing and working together just to accomplish this one single detail of this elaborate master plan.  “When we all pull together, together…”

The lesson here is obvious to us.  It’s incredible what can be accomplished in our homes, workplace and churches when our hearts are stirred and our spirits are moved to give all that is needed, joining our efforts to His grand design to get the job done. Given the Israelites’ history of disobedience to God yet their ultimate success in building the Tabernacle, we should be able to accomplish just about anything if we put His mind to it and pull together. 

Moving Forward:  I respond to His stirring and moving in my heart and join my efforts with those of others to accomplish His plans for my home, my work and my church. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 5-9

Exodus 33-36 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He reveals Himself to us through His goodness

I have a friend who works for the FBI.  I’ve come to understand that most individuals who work for this part of our government are not involved in high-level espionage and intrigue like we see in the movies. However, when I ask him a government-sensitive question, the standing joke is, “I can tell you, but then I’ll have to kill you.”  Some things are just better off left alone.  This exchange is not so unlike a conversation that Moses shared with God in our reading today.  Fortunately, Moses made it out alive.

@ Exodus 33
“Go up to [Canaan] this land that flows with milk and honey.  But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people.  If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.”(3)  Of all the names that God could have called the Israelites at this point, stubborn and rebellious or stiff-necked seem rather tame after discovering their idolatrous dancing frenzy of worship to a golden calf.  Many other names come to mind for me, but then I remember how God viewed rebellion in I Samuel 15:23, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.”  Very apropos, indeed!

Because of their sin, God would not travel to Canaan with them. “When the people heard these stern words, they went into mourning and stopped wearing their jewelry and fine clothes…As [Moses] went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and hover…When the people saw the cloud…they would stand and bow down in front of their own tents.” (4,8,10)  Their repentance, humility and reverence captured God’s attention, and the appeal for mercy by Moses on their behalf captured His heart.  He forgave them and promised to go with them to Canaan.  He loved them!  He just couldn’t help Himself.

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (11)  Instead of the visions and dreams through which God had spoken to others in the past, God’s conversations with His friend Moses were more personal, more directed.   But Moses revealed that he wanted even more when he asked God to show him His glorious presence (18).  According to the original Hebrew, he wanted to see God’s significance or weight – His Glory, His Power, His Character – the whole deal!  Apparently, Moses had momentarily lost his mind!  What was he thinking?  He was thinking he wanted more!

God was so very kind to Moses in His response, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh…But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” (19-20)  But this warning was different than the bantering with my FBI friend.  Moses was not going to see the face of God because he just couldn’t handle it.  He would see the after, the weight, the more of God’s glory through His mighty acts to come.  Amazingly, Moses did see God many centuries later on the Mount of Transfiguration through his visit with the visible Christ, the glory of God.  More of God’s goodness!

@ Exodus 34
“The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out ‘Yahweh! The Lord!  The God of compassion and mercy!  I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.  I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.  I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty.’  Moses immediately threw himself on the ground and worshiped.” (6-8)  Like Moses, we can’t help but fall on our knees in worship when His Presence overwhelms our space. He reveals His very nature to us through His compassion > His mercy > His unfailing love > His faithfulness > His forgiveness > His justice.  In these moments, these glorious moments, we see the more of Him! 

Moving Forward:  Show me your glorious Presence, Lord.  I don’t deserve it, and I’m not certain I can bear it, but I join with Moses – Show me more! 

Tomorrow @ I Kings 1-4

Exodus 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He longs for us to know Him as our God. He desires to live with us.

@Exodus 29
“Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God.  I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them.  I am the Lord their God.” (45-46)  God wants relationship, plain and simple.  He wants to live with me, not just visit occasionally, or send cards and emails.  He wants to live with me – laugh at my bed head in the morning, hover over my devotional time, go to work with me, be the center of my other relationships and watch me drool in my sleep. Whether or not anyone else in the world wants to be with you or with me, we need to understand that He does!

Before Jesus came to die for our sins, there was a long, detailed process to follow in order for sinful man to fellowship with our magnificently Holy God.  These chapters in Exodus detail the purification, sanctification, ritual sacrifice, fragrant incense, anointing and much more that were required to secure relationship with Him.  Why all these instructions and details to follow? I’m sure there are many reasons that my mind doesn’t understand, but if God could not even look at Jesus on the cross as He bore our sin, how could He ever live with the Israelites in their sin?  Atonement for sins had to be made.  From verse 45, we understand that he wanted His people to know that He was their God.  He wasn’t just someone they happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  He wanted them to know Him through an intentional connect.

The death and resurrection of Jesus changed the process that God requires, but not the outcome He desires. Our Holy God is now able to live with us through our acceptance of the ultimate sacrifice of His Son.  However, I believe He still desires that we know He is our God, not just someone we happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  With our busy lives and commitments, it is easy to treat Him like a casual acquaintance rather than the One who lives with us, sleeps and wakes with us, the One with whom we are intimate.

What a heartbreaking moment for God – while sharing with Moses the very details of this intimacy, those He longed to live with were dancing around and worshiping a golden calf.  What was Aaron thinking? Every time I read this account, I am amazed that Aaron, a priest of the Most High God, wasn’t immediately toast.  Moses interceded to God for Aaron and the people, and God allowed His mercy to supersede His punishment.  “So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.” (32:14)

Fortunately for us, we have Someone interceding for us, “Because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  Hallelujah!  Mercy allows Him to live with us and also enables the intimacy with us He so desires.  When Someone wants us this much, how could we ever choose a substitute? 

Moving Forward:  My heart is full of His love for me today – His patient, merciful love.  I approach this day knowing that He is God and so thankful that I can spend the day with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 20-24

Exodus 17-20 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He considers us His special treasures

No visit to London is complete without a visit to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels of England, an interesting location for them to say the least.  The lower floors of the Tower display various methods of torture used in England’s history, and all I can say is that crime and punishment were taken very seriously in early England.  Help!

The Tower’s Jewel House, under seriously armed guard I might add, displays centuries of priceless crowns and jewels viewed by millions of people each year.  At first, I wondered why the royal family would take the risk to display their fortune, but when I considered the price I paid for my ticket to see the jewels, it all came together for me.  I appreciate, however, that they have chosen to display their treasure for the entire world to see.  And really, God has this same perspective about His special treasure. 

@ Exodus 17
Israel defeated the Amalekites!  What a great story from Israeli history.  The Amalekites were the evil descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau.  Although they were from the same bloodline as the Israelites, there was not a bond of brotherhood.  I call them evil because it was said of them that they killed purely for the pleasure of it, but their contest with the Israelites brought them no pleasure.  Due to Joshua’s leadership and to loyal staff who stood by Moses’ side, they were soundly defeated.

I’m always blessed when I read this excellent example of the role of under staff.  Moses climbed to the top of a hill to see the battle for himself, but it was equally crucial for the warriors to see their leader.  I can imagine looking up and seeing the silhouette of my leader holding high his staff over his head like a banner, Jehovah Nissi, the Lord is my banner.  Alongside him, I see his assistants, not jealous or lazy, not arguing or bored, but holding up their leader’s tired arms until the victory was won.  Oh, I like that!  Leadership has a heaviness to it that few understand, and those who support the leader ease the burden and enable the banner or standard to remain lifted until the victory is won. 

@ Exodus 19
“Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among the people on earth; for all the earth belongs to me.  And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.” (5-6)  What a tremendous message of promise from God that Moses delivered to the Israelites that day!  God’s own special treasure!  But God’s desire was not to hide His treasure in safekeeping as we sometimes do with our treasures.  No, God’s plan was for His treasure to be a testimony of His love and greatness for the whole world to see, drawing everyone to Him.

In every covenant or contract there always seems to be an if clause and God included His if clause, “Now, if you obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure.”(5)  God knew what it would take to make and keep this strong-willed nation worthy of such a covenant, and He gave Moses a list of practical guidelines laid out over the next several chapters for the Israelites to follow.  More instructions were revealed over time, each attempting to bring holiness to His treasure.  Of course, after centuries of resistance, God finally had enough and personally came to His people through His son Jesus Christ.  The if clause was no longer just a list of guidelines to follow, but it was now a personal Savior to accept and follow.

It humbles me to think that through my adoption into this family (Romans 8:15), God considers me His own special treasure as well.  This is cause to jump for joy and/or fall on my knees!  I am, however, ever mindful of the if clause.  While no longer required to follow the endless regiment of laws found in Exodus, I am duly challenged to a life of holiness as I follow Jesus.  Then I, too, will be a testimony of His love and greatness for the whole world to see, drawing everyone to Him – His treasure. 

Moving Forward: As His special treasure, I am compelled to support the leaders I serve, making certain our victory.  And as His treasure, I seek the brilliance of His holiness today in my life that I may draw many others to Him 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 5-9

Exodus 13-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Remember His power to deliver

Several years ago my uncle did a great favor for me, my siblings and cousins.  As a gift to our grandparents, he officially documented their passage through Ellis Island to the United States when they arrived from Italy over a century ago.  Because of this, I was able to visit Ellis Island a few years ago and view the record of their entrance and see their names inscribed on the American Immigrant Wall of Honor.  It was a touching moment for me as I remembered the courage of my young grandparents as they embarked on a journey of new discoveries that certainly affected the course of my life.  It’s good to understand and to remember our heritage. 

@ Exodus 13
“And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’  Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery.’” (13:14)  Immediately after the escape from Egypt, God gave Moses some instructions for the Israelites in light of their new-found freedom:  give your first-born sons to God because He spared their lives in the escape from Egypt and buy them back through the sacrifice of a young lamb or goat.  I would imagine the children in the future would want to know what that was all about.  It was about remembering, remembering all God had done, “This ceremony will be like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. It is a reminder that the power of the Lord’s mighty hand brought us out of Egypt.” (16).

This story causes me to wonder if I have adequately shared with my children the story of my deliverance from slavery, the slavery of sin, and the day the Lamb was sacrificed in my stead.  What happened that day to draw me to Him?  Where did it occur?  How did I feel?  Remembering…forever marking their hand or forehead in remembrance of His great power to deliver, and one day passing it on to their children and their children’s children along with their own stories of deliverance.

“The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and He provided light at night with a pillar of fire.” (21) A pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire to guide their every step!  Come on!  How could they go wrong?  But they did.  We may think that if we had visible guidance from God like this, we would never take a misstep. But then, we do have His guidance.  We hold in our hands the Bible, the tangible Word of God that brings guidance and direction through the work of the Holy Spirit to direct our lives and keep us on the right path. How could we go wrong?  But we can.

Just like the Israelites, we may take for granted the wonderful gift of His direction regardless of how it comes to us, or we may look for a new word, possibly a word with a face.  But for certain, remembering how He has directed His people in the past through the living Word of God and remembering how He has led us will help to keep us on the right path.

@ Exodus 14
As the 2 million Israelites stood wedged between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, panic ensued.  In verse 11 they cried, “Why did you make us leave Egypt? We said, ‘leave us alone!’”  Huh?  Had they already forgotten the miracle night of their escape?  “But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.’” (13)  And of course, He miraculously rescued them that day, split that sea wide open and they crossed on dry ground.

What wonderful words for us today!  Regardless of how tightly we are wedged between our challenges with no obvious way out, we can remember, “Don’t be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.” 

Moving Forward: Today I remember the story of my deliverance, retelling it to my children, and look to my pillar of cloud and fire for guidance – the Living Word.  Unafraid in my circumstances, I will just stand still and watch… 

Tomorrow @ II Samuel 1-4

Exodus 9-12 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Our merciful God offers us many opportunities to turn our hearts towards Him.

I’ve known some stubborn people in my life, but none the likes of Pharaoh. After the snake-swallowing event with Moses, I’m reasonably sure that I would have given in and let God’s people go! Bloody water, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness – obviously Pharaoh wanted to keep his cheap labor.

For a long time, I didn’t understand the scripture that said God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because this would definitely put Pharaoh at a disadvantage even if he had wanted to let God’s people go. However, I have come to understand that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God’s actions. I know many individuals who experience trouble in their lives because of their sins; and in blaming God for it, their hearts are hardened towards Him and His people. Jesus came to soften their stony hearts and bring healing and deliverance.

@ Exodus 12
The instructions the Lord gave to Moses regarding the Passover dinner preparations and the blood on the doorposts were detailed and non-negotiable. God was about to deliver from bondage all those who followed His instructions to the letter, and through their obedience, the sons of Israel were spared. “Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.”(30) With the death of his nation’s firstborn sons and the wailing of his people, stubborn Pharaoh finally acquiesced – Israel was free to leave.

The story of the Passover dinner paints an interesting picture. “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover.” (12:11) Dressed for dinner! How appropriate! With the wailing of the mourning Egyptians in earshot, the Israelites were told to dress for dinner and eat quickly as if ready to leave at any moment. And they did.

I view the church today in somewhat the same position. We are dressed for dinner with our lamps full, with His blood on our heart’s door and waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. We are expecting to leave at any moment! But within earshot, if we really listen, we hear the wailing. We hear the wailing of the lost souls of our world expressed in so many different ways, needing deliverance too.

The blood on the doorpost was only for the Israelites, but it was replaced at Calvary by the blood of the perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice, and this blood is for everyone! How can we ignore their wailing, their cries for help? Better we roll up the sleeves of our dinner dress, seek out the lost and bring them to the table. Maître d’? Table for….all!

Moving Forward: With a soft heart this day, I listen for the wail, the cry of the lost, and invite them to come and dine with me.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 26-31