What we are reading this week (beginning Thursday, June 10, 2021):
• Exodus 21-27
• Jeremiah 5-11
• John 3-9
• Psalms 71-77
Notes on Exodus
Moses had ascended Mount Sinai back in chapter 19. God begins to give him the Law, which will forever be known as the Law of Moses. This exchange will extend throughout the week.
There are many very practical and fair commands given regarding servants (not slaves as we understand them today, but as bond-servants paying off debts through employment) and personal injuries in chapter 21; protection of property and social responsibility in chapter 22; justice and mercy in chapter 23. In chapter 23, the focus changes to the observances and festivals for the people. God commands festivals, along with food and drink and celebration. Key to all of them is the Sabbath, the weekly celebration (23.10-13). Even a seventh year is to be a sabbatical for the entire nation.
In chapter 24, God asks Moses to bring his brother Aaron, Aaron’s two sons, and seventy elders up on the mountain along with him, where they all encounter a brilliant, majestic revelation of the glory of the Lord. The covenant is confirmed to all of them. Moses writes it all down.
Throughout all of these chapters in the last half of Exodus, Moses is writing down what God told him while up on the mountaintop. In the construction of the tabernacle, articles of worship, and clothing, there is significance to the colors used, the materials needed, and often even the numbers used. The Lord certainly enjoys color! The look of all of these articles of worship, along with the curtains and clothing must have been quite a sight.
Though the tabernacle had specific colors in its design the Temple, which replaced it, did not have these colors as not part of the design. The Temple was adorned with gold. According to Hebrews 8.5, the articles of the tabernacle/Temple were to be exact copies of what already existed in heaven. Perhaps Moses was shown the actual items! There are a few articles of note that I would like to highlight: The ark of the covenant was the most important piece of furniture ever constructed (25.10-22). This is the place where the very presence of God would be present on this earth. It was going to be placed in the holy of holies, both in the temporary tabernacle, and eventually the Temple in Jerusalem hundreds of years later. The cover of the ark (21) would be called the mercy seat. The tabernacle (26.1-36) would be a portable temple until God would eventually give them the place where they were to build a permanent structure—which, of course, would be in Jerusalem. Everything about the tabernacle was designed for a massive amount of set-ups and take-downs, as well as rugged travel.
Notes on Jeremiah
Judah's sin had become so bad that “they did not know how to blush” (6.15)!
I am drawn to parallels between the words of rebuke that Jeremiah was issuing and the false prophets in America today. See 8.8; 11.12.
I like to reflect on 9.23-24. “This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord…’ ”
Like Isaiah, Jeremiah mocks those who create idols that are so feeble, they must be hammered down in order to keep from falling (10.3-4). BTW, some use these verses to claim that decorating Christmas trees is idolatry.
You are in bad shape when God says that he has officially shut off responses to any prayers on your behalf (11.14).
Notes on John
Nicodemus is such a great example, the epitome of the one who is trying so hard to be good, and yet has so much trouble comprehending what God is trying to say. But he has a good heart. I think he bears too much criticism for his response. When Jesus tells him that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again, he replies, “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Could it be that he was simply carrying on Jesus’ metaphor? Could it be that he was admitting how hard it is to see things in a new light when you have been in the same place for such a long time?
Great contrast between John 3 and John 4, as Jesus has a conversation with two individuals. Look at the differences. Add your own at the end if you think of any more.
John 3 : John 4 One is named (Nicodemus) : The other is never identified Jew : Gentile Man : Woman Met in Jerusalem (holy city) : Met in Samaria (“unholy”) Met at night : Met during the day “Righteous”: Sinner Private : Very public No response : Total repentance
Healing per Jesus came through faith from a number of directions. In chapter two, a son had been healed because of the faith of his father (46–54). In Mark 5.34, a woman was healed because of her own faith. Here in chapter five, the man is healed because of Jesus’ faith (verse 8). It appears that the man might not even have wanted his miracle. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed, the man didn’t give him a straight answer (verses 6–7; see also Luke 18.40-41). There seemed to be ongoing issues regarding this healing with this guy that were not positive (see verse 14–15).
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” The Jewish spiritual leaders of the day had their hopes set on how well they followed Old Testament Law (Old Testament Law, the Pentateuch, the Torah, the Law of Moses, and– in this case– even the name of Moses are all synonymous). Jesus said that Moses himself would be their accuser, and give them an F. There was no greater insult Jesus could throw at them than this. The feeding of the five thousand is in all four gospels, but only here does John unpack what Jesus was teaching them through this. Jesus himself is the manna that came down from heaven, and manna was symbolic of his life and ministry. He said he was the bread of life, and gave them bread. They foolishly asked him for a sign from heaven (6.30). He had just performed a mind-blowing miracle. What were they looking for? Following the events of this day, Jesus lost a lot of followers (66).
One of my very favorite stories in the Bible is found in between the cracks here in chapter 7. Temple guards are sent to arrest Jesus in verse 32. They come back empty-handed in 45. They didn’t arrest him, and said, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” I love it! The opening of chapter eight is about the woman caught in adultery. They asked Jesus if she should be stoned. This question is far more loaded that most people realize. Remember that at Jesus’ trial, they appealed to Rome to crucify him, because the Jews had no authority to put anyone to death. This made the event with the sinful woman far more complicated. “Do you, Jesus, follow the law of Moses here? Or do you set it aside because of the Romans?”
Jesus declared, “Before Abraham was born, I AM,” (8.58) clearly identifying himself as God. Skeptics today may argue the meaning of these words, but no one there who heard it the first time did. This claim to deity was the eventual charge that Jesus would be condemned for at his trial.
In 9.16, regarding Jesus, they asked: “How can a sinner perform such signs?” That is a really good question!
Notes on Psalms
We will cross the halfway point in the Book of Psalms this week at Psalm 75! Solomon’s only psalm is 72. He is asking for a blessing on the king (himself) but ends with praise directed to God.
Book III of Psalms begins with the 73rd psalm
Psalms (73-83) are attributed to Asaph, whom we believe is the same one that served in King David’s court. The last five psalms this week, as we enter Book III, were written by Asaph. He speaks of the same struggles as David, which are similar to our own. Like David, he finds the remedy in the presence of the Lord and remembering all he has done in the past.
I love the picture painted in 73.16-17: “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God…” Though regarding a specific situation, I find encouragement in the process of finding relief in the presence of the Lord.