Day 31: The dwelling place of God

Exodus 25-26; Matthew 21:1-22

Exodus 25 is the first in a long account of what God told Moses while on the Mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. God begins by giving instructions on how to build the tabernacle – or tent. This is where God would dwell among the Israelites…

In many ways the tabernacle points back to the Garden of Eden. Both were the dwelling place of God. Each entrance was guarded by Cherubim. The flowers on the Golden Lamp Stand seem to reflect the images of the Garden of Eden.

But the tabernacle also points forward. All of the objects within the tabernacle were symbols in which Christ fulfilled. For example, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” and “I am the bread of life,” as a reflection of the Golden Lamp Stand and the Table of the Bread of Presence respectively.

In today’s reading from Matthew, Jesus entered Jerusalem on the Sunday before Passover (Thursday). This entrance marked the beginning of what many scholars call “Passion Week.” Jews traveled long distances to Jerusalem every year to celebrate the Passover and participate in the Feast of Unleavened Bread. One of Matthew’s main literary purposes of his gospel was to portray Jesus as “King.” Matthew quoted Zechariah that says “your King is coming…mounted on a donkey.” The people treated Jesus as a King as they shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Referring to Jesus as “the Son of David” revealed that the people thought he was the Promised King, the savior, the Messiah. 

The next morning, Jesus entered the temple with authority. He was showing that He was the King of a spiritual Kingdom. As he was overturning the tables of the money changers, he was figuratively overturning the spiritual leadership of the day. Regarding the children’s praise, The ESV Study Bible comments; “Jesus acknowledged the children’s praise and linked it to Ps. 8:2, which the religious leaders should have known applied such praise to God, thus confirming Jesus as the divine Messiah.”

This passage is thick with allusions to Jesus’ Kingship!

But consider this…

Both passages from today’s reading point forward to an unspecified time in the future when “the dwelling place of God [will be] with man (Rev. 21:3). The tabernacle is just a shadow of what God’s house will be like in the new earth! And in that day, Jesus will not be the suffering-servant-King, but the King of all Glory and Splendor. The glory of the King will be so bright, we will no longer need the sun! That day will come!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

Day 30: The ultimate Mediator

Exodus 22-24; Matthew 20:17-34

Exodus 22-23 continues with laws that will form the Book of the Covenant. Exodus 24 gives us a picture of Moses, the Mediator.

Moses mediates symbolically as he sprinkles the blood on both the altar and the people. The sacrificial blood is necessary for the sinful people to approach a Holy God. Moses stands between the altar of God and the people as the mediator of the Covenant.

But we also see Moses physically mediating for the people as he goes before the Lord’s presence on the mountain to receive the rest of the covenant regulations…

Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:17-18).

Before Moses ascended the mountain to stand alone before God, there is an amazing scene. It’s breathtaking…

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank (Exodus 24:9-11).

Can you imagine? Beholding God? And eating and drinking?

In today’s New Testament passage we see a different type of encounter with God… I wonder if the mother of John and James knew exactly who she was standing before when she made her bold request!

She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Matthew 20:21-22)

The cup Jesus was referring to was His death. Jesus goes on to say…

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).

It is in this verse that Jesus gives (in my opinion) the most clear message of the gospel. He came to give his life as a ransom for many. He becomes both the sacrifice and the mediator between God and man. Now that’s breathtaking. That’s the gospel!

Day 29: Mount Sinai

Exodus 19-21; Matthew 20:1-16

Seven weeks have passed since the people left Egypt, and in today’s passage, they arrive at Mt. Sinai. The rest of Exodus takes place here.

***This section of Exodus records what will later be referred to as the Book of the Covenant (24:7) and includes:

  1. the Ten Commandments (20:1–21);
  2. instructions on worship (20:22–26; 23:10–19);
  3. rules and principles for community life (21:1–23:9); and
  4. instructions for entering the land of Canaan (23:20–33).

“Covenant” is an important word in the Old Testament. It’s an old word that might have lost its impact over the years, but essentially, it means a sacred contract. God’s part of the covenant is His promise of His presence with His people. In the Old Testament, the covenant is based on “law.”

Even though the laws found in today’s reading seem reasonable, we know that they are impossible to obey perfectly. The purpose of God’s law is to set the standard for holiness. Because of sin, this standard can never be reached. But that’s where Jesus fits into the picture. He bridges the gap between God’s holy standard and our imperfection.

We see Jesus telling a parable in Matthew 20 to describe His Kingdom. This parable emphasizes God’s generosity as each worker receives more than he deserves… but it also reveals that entrance into the Kingdom is not earned, but rather, it is a gift.

Just think about the generosity of God from what we have read so far…

When Adam and Eve broke covenant with God, God’s rescue plan was set into motion…. A Savior would come through a people that He would set apart as His own. God preserved Noah, called Abraham and restated His covenant promise to Isaac and to Jacob. He used Joseph to bring His people to Egypt and after 400 years, God did not forget his promises – but rescued His people from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh. And now they stand before Mt. Sinai where they see lightning and smoke and they tremble with fear (19:16-19) at this AWESOME God that for some reason has chosen them.

And as God gave the covenant law, He knew that… just like Adam and Eve, they will break covenant. But his rescue plan will not fail. The promised Savior will come. And Jesus will usher in a New Covenant. A covenant based on grace instead of law. Jesus keeps covenant for us – so that we no longer have to tremble before Mt. Sinai but we worship before Mt. Zion!

For you have not come to …a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. …Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, …and to God, the judge of all, …and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 12:18-24).

Does this make the law meaningless to us?? By no means! The law reveals God’s holy character, and God’s Spirit writes the law on our hearts. Jesus fulfills all of the requirements of the Old Covenant so that we might be heirs of the new covenant of GRACE! That’s good news. That’s the gospel :-)

***Outline taken from ESV Study Bible notes

Day 28: Life in the Desert

Exodus 16-18; Matthew 19:16-30

Exodus 16 & 17 give us great insight into the way the Lord deals with us, his grumbling children :-)

The Israelites are in the desert. The desert is a hard place to be. It is an empty place – dry and lifeless. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you are familiar with the desert. God seems distant. It is a place of testing.

As we read these chapters in Exodus, we see a pattern develop… The people travel in the desert. The people grumble. God graciously provides either food or water. The people are satisfied and worship. And then the pattern repeats… They travel; they grumble; God provides; they worship.

God is increasing their faith as He tests them with difficult circumstances. We see this in the instructions regarding the manna…

“Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not” (Exodus 16:4).

It’s as if God is a patient parent training his young child to trust Him.

If you are in “the desert” in your spiritual life, it might be that God wants to stretch your faith. We know from His Word that He never leaves or forsakes you… but He loves you so much that He is willing to seem distant – so that as you persevere – your faith is strengthened.

Paul Miller expresses this concept much better than I can in his book, A Praying Life…

When God seems silent and our prayers go unanswered, the overwhelming temptation is to leave the story – to walk out of the desert and attempt to create a normal life. But when we persist in a spiritual vacuum, when we hang in there during the ambiguity, we get to know God. In fact, that is how intimacy grows in all close relationships (Miller, A Praying Life, pg. 192).

In Matthew 19, we see Jesus inviting the rich young man into a relationship with Him, but the man is unwilling to follow Jesus into the desert of ambiguity. You see… the desert is a scary place. Self-sufficiency is scarce in the desert. And as we face impossibilities, our eyes are forced heavenward, and the gospel becomes like manna and water to our souls… The gospel. The good news that even though we are unable to save ourselves, God is not just able to save us; He’s also willing.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:24-26).

That’s the gospel. That’s good news :-)

Day 27: Crossing the Red Sea

Exodus 13-15; Matthew 19:1-15

Today’s text is rich in detail. We learn about the faith of Joseph and the maturing leadership of Moses. God’s holiness is revealed as he calls Israel to consecrate all of the first born. We observe the weak, grumbling faith of the Israelites. And we are awestruck by the sheer power of God to control the Sea and destroy Pharaoh and his hosts.

If you skim to the end of today’s reading… past the crossing of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptians, and the beautiful praise Song of Moses to verses 15:22-27, you will read of the people grumbling against their faithful God.

The people had just witnessed the most amazing display of power as God parted the Red Sea. This was the dramatic finale to the orchestra of the 10 plagues – each designed to mock the Egyptians’ gods, and to clamor that the God of Israel is supreme over all. Can you imagine the elation, the absolute relief and happiness that the Israelite people must have felt in their deliverance? Their joy is expressed beautifully in verses 15:1-18. Hear just a few…

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them.

“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode (Exodus 15:11-13).

But after three days, only three days… The people’s faith is tested. They have no water and they come to Marah, where the water is bitter. The people grumble against Moses. Do they think God is that fickle? Do they think God would bend the waters of nature for a people just to let them die of thirst three days later? We know that God doesn’t let them die. He shows Moses how to make the water sweet and the people have their fill…

But I wonder…. Read these words of God spoken to the Israelites just three short days prior…

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14).

How would your life be different if you believed these words…I mean really believed these words? Who or what are the “Egyptians” in your life?

For me, it’s my daughter’s brain injury – and all the baggage that comes along with it. Will she ever walk again? Will she be able to read? Will she ever be independent? The uncertainty can drive me to panic. But. My faith in God’s goodness and faithfulness keeps my anxieties quiet. I choose to trust that God will work for my daughter. He will fight for her.  And I will pray and watch for the Lord’s salvation – for His work to unfold in her life.

Know that God works for you. That He is mighty to save and tender in his dealings with you. Amen? Amen.

Day 26: The Passover Lamb

Exodus 11-12; Matthew 18:7-35

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions (Genesis 15:13-14).

Today, we see God’s word to Abraham come true. After nine horrible plagues, God gives Moses instructions to prepare the people for the final plague. This is it. The people are to prepare a lamb, mark their doorposts with its blood and eat the lamb “girded with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste” (Exodus 11:11). It’s time to move. The blood of the lamb protected the people from God’s destroyer who came and killed the firstborn of each house without the blood. Many Egyptians died that night.

The Passover is riddled with symbolism. The symbols serve to remind the people and the coming generations of the Lord’s power and faithfulness in rescuing them from Egypt’s oppression. But the symbols serve a deeper purpose… They point forward to the Lamb of God, Jesus, who was sacrificed to rescue us from our sins.

Consider the detail found in the passage:

  • The Lamb
    Lamb will be without blemish (12:5)
    When to kill and eat the lamb (12:6;8)
    How to cook and eat the lamb (12:8-10)
    The lamb’s bones should remain unbroken (12:46).
  • The Blood
    Where and how to put the blood (12:7; 22)
    Protective work of the blood (12:13; 23)
  • The Bread
    Unleavened bread (12:8; 34)
  • The Feast
    A memorial of the Exodus (12:14-20)
    It is to be remembered from generation to generation (12:24-28).
  • Provision for the Foreigner
    Some Egyptians left with the Israelites (12:38).
    The foreigner must be circumcised to eat the Passover (12:43-44; 48-49).

God instituted the Feast of Unleavened Bread so that on the 14th day of the first month of every year, the Israelites would gather and commemorate the night that God’s destroyer “passed over” their families so that they could escape from Egypt in the darkness.

Instead of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we look forward to a later day when people from every tribe, people and language will worship together at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19). At that feast, the bread will have risen to its fullest and instead of haste, there will be an eternity to linger… in the presence of our Passover Lamb!

Day 25: The miracle that only Peter saw

Exodus 9-10; Matthew 17:24-18:6

Yesterday, we set the stage for my favorite of Jesus’ miracles. Today, we come to the miracle itself! Let’s look at it verse by verse…

When they came to Capernaum, (17:24)

Remember what the disciples had been arguing about on the way to Capernaum? Who was the greatest. They still expected Jesus to throw off his worn rags and overthrow Roman rule in strong military fashion, and then they would be the King’s right-hand men…

the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, (17:24-25)

Jesus spoke first. He knew what Peter was thinking before he even spoke….

saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? (17:25)

Jesus knew Peter’s heart – he knew of Peter’s dreams of glory and crowns that come with being a king…

From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. (17:25-26)

I can imagine Peter thinking (and fist pumping in his head…) “YEAH! The sons are free. We don’t have to pay the tax. You OWN that temple, Jesus! You are the King – and we are free from the tax! No go in and show them your GLORY!” And Jesus did show His glory – but not in the way Peter expected.

However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself” (17:27).

To paraphrase what Jesus said to Peter… “for the sake of the gospel, I will not offend that man in the temple – but you, Peter, know that I am Lord of Creation. To you, Peter, I will show that I have the power to control all of nature. To you, Peter, I will show that I am Lord of the rulers of the earth as I put their coin in the mouth of a fish. And you, Peter, need to know that I will lay it all down for the sake of the gospel and for the very man who works in the temple.”

If that weren’t clear enough to Peter… Jesus made his point crystal clear in the next verses. Only those with the humility of a child will be considered great in the Kingdom of God. The way of Jesus is service, humility and sacrifice. Are you willing to walk in the way of the Savior? Or will you be swept up in the strong current of the world – the way of power, wealth, fame and self-satisfaction?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves… [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:3; 6-8).

Day 24: Setting the stage

Exodus 7-8; Matthew 17

Today’s and tomorrow’s readings in Exodus are the detailed accounts of the first 9 plagues sent to the Egyptians by God. It is an amazing portrait of Pharaoh’s stubbornness and hardness of heart!

I’m devoting the next two days to Matthew, mainly because my absolute favorite of Jesus’ miracles occurs at the end of Matthew 17. Let’s set the stage for this amazing miracle :-)

Yesterday, we read Jesus’ first prediction of his death. If you remember, Peter would not accept it, and Jesus rebuked him sharply.

Matthew 17:1 says: “And after six days…” Just a few days later, Jesus asked three of his disciples to go up on a mountainside to pray. I imagine that Jesus was feeling pretty lonely. I’m sure he foreknew, but now he has experienced the reality that his closest companions – not only don’t understand the fact He has to die – but they will try to talk him out of doing it. It had to be such a lonely time… knowing that the rest of His time on earth would be surrounded by these men that just don’t understand. And it is this moment that God gave Jesus the gift of the Transfiguration.

Up on the mountain, Jesus was changed and the glory filled the night and Elijah and Moses were there. I wonder what they talked about… Matthew’s gospel doesn’t say, but Luke’s does :-)

And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:30-31).

His departure. They talked about His death. What a sweet gift of fellowship for Jesus! He needed the fellowship of heaven to encourage Him on this final leg of His time on earth.

So Jesus and His disciples made their way down the mountain, and what was Jesus confronted with? …The ineptitude of his disciples who couldn’t heal the epileptic boy. Even though he was weary, he healed the boy (Matthew 17:14-21). And then he turned to his disciples and predicted His death again (17:22-23)! Luke tells us that the disciples did not understand:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying (Luke 9:4-45).

Matthew 17:24 tells us that Jesus and his disciples made their way to their homebase of Capernaum. Mark’s gospel tells us details that none of the other gospels contain:

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest (Mark 9:34).

They were arguing over who was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom. Jesus had predicted his death, not once – but twice and they just didn’t understand that… before Jesus rises up to be the Lion of Judah, he has to be the sacrificial Lamb.

So this is the backdrop for my favorite miracle – but we’ll talk about that… tomorrow :-)

Day 23: Power in sacrifice

Exodus 4-6; Matthew 16

In Exodus 5, we see Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh. The meeting doesn’t go so well. This is our first glimpse of Pharaoh’s pride and contempt for Israelite’s God. Pharaoh shows the strength of his power by increasing the Israelites’ work load. And this causes the people to doubt God’s word.

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” (Genesis 6:6-8).

Here we see God’s promise… that “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God.” God will reiterate this promise to his people throughout the Old Testament. They expected a savior, a Messiah, to come and set up his kingdom on earth. Fast forward to today’s reading in Matthew. The disciples, believed Jesus to be the promised savior, the Messiah. Jesus asks them, who do you say that I am.

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

They expected Jesus to overthrow the oppressive Roman government and be ruler of the Earth. They had visions of royalty and earthly glory. The last thing they expected was for Jesus to die. But now that Jesus knows that his disciples understand his identity, he tries to help them understand his mission…

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:31).

Peter wants nothing to do with this talk from Jesus. He rebukes him, saying, “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus quickly puts Peter in his place and uses the opportunity to teach the disciples one critical law of His Kingdom…

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

Both of today’s readings contrast the ways of this world and the ways of God. Pharaoh’s might is nothing compared to the Lord’s power – and man’s desire for power and earthly acclaim is nothing compared to the sacrificial ways of the Savior!

Day 22: God is sufficient

Exodus 1-3; Matthew 15:21-39

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew (Exodus 2:23-25).

God saw, and God knew. And God set in motion his rescue plan. It involved a most unlikely hero. Just look at Moses’ qualifications…

  1. He should have been killed as an infant, but was saved by an Egyptian princess (2:5-6).
  2. Even though he was born Hebrew, he was raised as an Egyptian by Pharaoh’s daughter (2:10).
  3. He murdered an Egyptian for mistreating a Hebrew slave (2:11-12).
  4. He ran away to Midian because he was rejected by both the Hebrews and the Egyptians (2:13-15).
  5. He failed to circumcise his own son, and if not for the help of his wife, would have been killed by God (4:24-26).
  6. God called him to be his mouthpiece, but he was slow in speech and of tongue (4:10).

Moses was chosen so that it would be clear exactly who was sufficient to save the Israelites. God, alone, is sufficient to save.

And for the first time, we, along with Moses, learn God’s name… “I AM WHO I AM.”

There are so many conclusions we can make from this name… He is self-existent; He is eternal; He does not change… But I doubt Moses was thinking so deeply in that one moment… I think Moses learned that God was personal. That He had a name and He chose to share it with him… Even though Moses had done nothing to earn God’s favor, God chose him anyway.

Just as the Israelites could not save themselves, I am unable to save myself from the consequences of my sin. And even though I have done nothing to earn God’s favor, He gives it anyway. That’s good news! That’s the gospel.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).