As we are closing up on the end of the book of Leviticus, God / YHWH paints a picture of what the rest of the Old Testament / Covenant will look like. It is a peek into the future of Israelite people, and a picture of both the good and the bad. I just wish that it wasn’t SO bad. Ultimately though, we begin to see the picture of the peoples relationship to God. We get a feel for just how much the people will turn away, and how that turning away will affect their relationship with YHWH and their own futures.
YHWH starts off with a command. “‘You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or… You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the LORD (YHWH).” It’s simple really. Don’t worship idols / false gods, and keep His Sabbaths and reverence His sanctuary. How difficult can that be. Apparently that can be very difficult because it does not take long (a single generation after Joshua) for all of it to begin to fall apart.
Are we any different? Have we changed any from this in the thousands of years since it was written, or are we still going from generation to generation following the ways and directions of our culture over what God’s word says? This is the picture of the Old Testament, the entire 49 books. Yet, this is also the picture of today. Instead of pursuing God / YHWH, we are pursuing education and technology and financial stability and comfortable homes. Instead of keeping His Sabbaths and revering His sanctuary, we are keeping ourselves as busy as we possibly can with all of our “responsibilities”. We are too busy trying to stay busy, that we push away the very purpose of our lives. In the end, what does that bring us? …exhaustion, sickness, loss, anger, frustration, being overwhelmed, seeing the work that we have built coming to nothing?
Our pursuit needs to be not a pursuit of what’s the best, brightest, and shiniest. It needs to be a pursuit of YHWH first and foremost. We need to not make the same old mistakes that the Old Testament Israelites made. We must pursue YHWH.
John J. Camiolo Jr.
What would you do if God spoke to you on a personal level? How would you respond if God came to you, speaking to you through a burning bush that was never consumed? MercyMe in their song I can Only Imagine poses these questions;
Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence,
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Halelluja,
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine!
So what does Moses do in this situation? Well, he says, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?…” In spite of seeing the Glory of God and coming into His presence, Moses doubts and makes excuses! Here he is speaking to God, and all he can do is give reasons why he can’t do what God is telling him he will do! Moses says, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent… for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” God’s response? “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
So God comes to Moses in a piece of His glory, and all Moses can do is make excuses? I’m not surprised that God’s anger burned against him! I think mine would too.
It’s easy to turn around and be shocked and confused by how Moses could act this way. It’s easy to blame Moses for his reaction, but don’t we do the same thing? Doesn’t God come to us day after day? Don’t we have the ability to meet and talk with God as a man talks with his friend? Doesn’t God talk to us daily through His Word, the Bible, and His Holy Spirit? And how do we respond? “Oh, those commands don’t apply to me.” “That’s old testament law and doesn’t apply today.” “That’s just my imagination / conscience and not God trying to tell me something.” “If i go and talk to that person about God, they will just think that i’m a Bible thumper.” “Oh, I’ll let someone else do that.” “I know God wants me to love everyone, and tell them that He loves them, but i just don’t like them and i need to show them God’s love before i can tell them. So i need to wait until his Holy Spirit works in my heart and changes how i feel about them and towards them before i go and talk to them.”
So what are your excuses? I’ve already told you some of mine. What excuses and idols are you putting before God as “reasons” why you can’t do what He calls you to do?
Well, everything begins changing for Joseph at this point. He has been a slave in his master’s house. Then he was put into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he remained faithful and did an amazing job while being a prisoner. He worked for the chief of the prison and helped out those who were placed there. Even then he was ignored and forgotten. It has been two years since he helped out the chief cup-bearer and chief baker through their dream interpretations. Now everything changes rather quickly.
Pharaoh has a pair of bad dreams, and no one can tell him what they mean. Finally the cup-bearer comes forward and says, “there was this young Hebrew man who told me my dream.” So Pharaoh sends for him and Joseph tells him that the interpretations come from the God who gave him the dreams, so tell them to Joseph and he will see what he can tell him. All that hard work and faithfulness pays off, God answers, and Joseph is about to have a life change.
How long are we willing to wait for God? Do we get frustrated and just give up when things just don’t go our way? Do we feel abandoned when instead of blessing us, it seems like God just puts us through more and more trials? Do we feel like it doesn’t really matter whether we do the right thing or not because either way we are getting screwed? Just because it takes time for the seed to grow, sprout, bud, flower, and come to fruition doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a plan for us. It just means, that His timing is much different from ours.
The fruition of his faithfulness, hard work, and honesty in the face of great trials leads him to this very moment and time… and what happens in the second half of this chapter; tomorrow.
It is chapters like this that make the Bible that much more real. We see the sons of Jacob as real people. They come alive with both their good and bad features. The story is not just told of the warriors of old who battled great serpents and monsters and creatures of the deep: who then went on to live perfect little lives playing heroes and growing prosperous as a shining light for all to see and desire to be like.
These are real men who are dealing with real problems. Sometimes they do the right thing. Sometimes they do the wrong thing, and sometimes they do nothing when they should be doing something.
They don’t always make the right choices, and when they don’t sometimes it can have a huge lasting impact on their lives and the lives of the people around them for generations. Ultimately, we see all things working together for good to all according to God’s purpose. He can take the worst, and make the best.
The impact of what happens here, the total annihilation of a city-state by the work of these two men, affects them for over a thousand years to come. It’s amazing how in one small (or not so small) choice there are waves of repercussions spreading out throughout time.
Do we take the time to consider how our actions will affect us and those around us for the next week; for the next month; for the next year; for the next hundred years? What kind of an example are we setting to our children / families / future generations? Does it even matter?
Jacob is sent away to marry from Rebekah’s family. He is given a proper blessing by his father, and instructed not to marry from the Canaanites around him. I remember in Sunday School always being taught that Esau heard about this and ran off to marry a Canaanite woman to spite his father and mother. I have also brought that presupposition into my previous readings; so i didn’t pay that much attention.
However, that doesn’t really seem to be the case. The passage says, “So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac; and Esau went to Ishmael and married” (NASB). So Esau did not turn away, he simply attempted to fulfill his father’s wishes the only way he reasonably knew how. He did not marry from the Canaanites, he married from his uncle Ishmael, just as Jacob was sent to marry from his uncle Laban. It’s not hugely significant, but it’s one of the things that i have never really caught in the many times that i was just reading the passage through.
This chapter contains some interesting theological situations. For instance, what is described here is a ladder or staircase from earth to heaven. It is a connection point: a point at which heaven and earth almost touch each other. It’s a point at which those in heaven have access to earth and those on earth have access to heaven. Being a dream, I don’t know the extent to which this “stairway to heaven” is literal or figurative, but it does give you reason to pause and wonder how this occurs and how many other of these “stairways” might exist throughout the world. I also don’t know how important this “stairway to heaven” is overall, but it is a unique feature of this chapter.
What IS more important though, is Jacob’s reaction to the situation. Instead of ignoring the “dream”, or running away, or trying to rationalize it away, he comes to realization. He was amazed, and he was afraid, and he was in awe of the situation and where he was; “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Beautiful isn’t it? So Jacob turns around, sets up his pillow-rock as a pillar, pours oil over it, and calls the place Bethel or House of God. Then he makes a vow to God that if He will be with him and take care of him, then Jacob will give a tithe (tenth) to God.
What is our reaction to God when He does something amazing? What do we do when He shows up? Do we run away, or try to ignore it, or rationalize it away, or try to justify ourselves; or do we fall in awe and wonder? Do we, trembling, acknowledge God and make His truth a reality in our lives? Do we pursue that God that we have had a personal experience with? Do we take God’s truth into our very being and let it change who we are as a person? Our reaction tells us who we really are.
John J. Camiolo Jr.