In the New Testament there is a listing(s) of spiritual gifts. Gifts given to the people of the body of Christ in order to strengthen the body and to help the people do the work of ministry. There are people who debate about how many “gifts” are actually represented in the list(s) and what it all means. It can be an interesting conversation sometimes trying to process through the information, but the conversation of the gifts of Spirit will oftentimes come back to the Old Testament. To Exodus 31. Why? “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.” Suddenly, there is a whole new discussion. Are there “gifts” of the Spirit that we don’t even know about? YHWH gave this man and others gifts to be able to do the work of building the tabernacle and all that was to be in it. They were given gifts of the Spirit for the building up of the people and the work of service, yet craftsmanship is not listed in the New Testament gifts. It certainly gives you pause to think.
I would so love to see the work that was done by these people. I can only imagine the beauty and craftsmanship of their work. To see the alter and the tabernacle. To smell the incense and the sacrifice. To hear the sounds of the work and the worship. What beauty. But, it is not a privilege that i will have on this side of eternity.
The other key aspect of this chapter is its focus on the Sabbath. Six days are for work, and one for rest. God takes that command very seriously, even when we don’t. We know that we should be taking a day of rest, but how often do we truly take a Sabbath? Aren’t we working around the house, or in the yard, or preparing for work, or some other “important” task. I know that many times i’m teaching a class on Sunday mornings. Monday through Friday i’m teaching college level psychology in the high-school. Wednesday through Saturday i’m working with boys and young men who have low IQ’s and behavioral problems. Add to that the time spent working around the house, and that i am working on this project almost every day, and it all adds up to working 7 days a week almost every day of the year. I know i’m not the only one who does this kind of thing. So if God’s word is so important, and He takes the Sabbath so seriously, why don’t we?
Yesterday was on the 10 commandments and the Israelite’s reaction to God, so i don’t know what i expected for chapter 21, but it certainly wasn’t this. To put things in perspective a little bit; there were originally no chapters and verse in the scriptures. They were added later on to help people study and reference the Bible better. As a result when the text was originally written, there was no real division between what was commanded in 20 and then in 21. So, God gave the people the 10 commandments / promises, then almost immediately we get into the topic that opens chapter 21: slavery!
Now i know that back in the day both supporters of and those opposed to slavery used the Bible to prove their point of view. Ultimately though, it was those who understood that God’s view of humanity being created in His image and his redemption bringing equality to all that overcame and was a driving force in especially Great Britain’s move to make slavery illegal. But when i started copying this chapter over it hit me. Almost immediately after giving the 10 commandments / promises God begins the rest of the law and legal instructions with rules about slavery? Isn’t that a huge piece of evidence that God is in SUPPORT of slavery? Doesn’t that justify that abominable practice?
I was really struggling through this idea and concept for a good chunk of my writing this morning. It was really bothering me. Then, as i was writing, struggling with this, and questioning God about it; He brought an answer to my mind. It’s not that He supported slavery. It’s that He knew slavery was going to occur no matter what. He set His 10 primary promises / commands then immediately He set the rules to protect those who would end up as slaves. It wasn’t an attempt to encourage the mistreatment of His creation. It was making it a priority to protect those least able to protect themselves.
The chapter continues by dealing with how to respond to murder / accidental deaths from other people as well as animals. Obviously this is a very important aspect of the law to deal with. This theme of protecting the innocent continues with the instruction that if two men are fighting and a pregnant woman is struck resulting in premature birth but no harm is done, then the husband may demand any fine he requests. If there is an injury it is an eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn, hand for hand, etc.
If we call ourselves Christians, are we protecting those less able to protect themselves? Do we live our lives taking responsibility for those around us?
I am not a Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew expert. I wish that i was, and someday i may become those, but today is not one of them. The nice thing is though that i have studied under people who are, and i have learned a great deal as a result.
One of the principles that i have learned from and really grasped into my life is a better understanding of this concept of “You shall”: “You shall have no other gods before me.” “You shall not make for yourself an idol…” “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God (YHWH-Elohim) in vain.” When you read those words, “You shall”, what does it mean to you? Chances are, if you are like most people, you see “You shall” as a command. It begins the 10 commandments and it is God telling us that we have to do something. While that is not incorrect, neither is that an accurate understanding.
This is one of those easily misunderstood things that once you have a grasp of it, can change your whole outlook on something. The words “You shall have” here is יהיה (hâyâh). Strong’s concordance says, “…to exist, that is, be or become, come to pass…”. So what does that mean for us? It means that this is not simply a command; it is a promise. This WILL come to pass! It is something that we are to do, but when we pursue and surrender to God, this is also a promise to/for us. So this promise is not just “Don’t have any other god’s before me!” It’s also, “Don’t worry, you won’t have any other gods before me.”
Isn’t that beautiful! It’s not only the 10 commands, but it’s also the 10 promises! That’s what our relationship is like with God. Yes, He gives us commands to follow! Yes, we have rules we have to obey; but as time goes by and we pursue Him, these are things that He promises us will no longer be rules and regulations, they will also be a part of who we are. They go from external instruction to internal drives and motivation. We have a promise! …that this is who we are to become! …and i love it!
There are still many times that i struggle and sin. There are still times that i mess up, screw up, and fail. I have struggled with the concept of repentance, and i need God’s help to get to that place. Part of these big 10 promises is learning to accept and acknowledge that we fail and we sin. Understand, i am not some expert in this. I am just as messed up and flawed in this as so many others. I need to repent of my sins and stand on these promises as who i am in the process of becoming. I need the prayer and help.
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.
They have come to the Mountain of God (Elohim). All that has happened in Egypt and in the wilderness has been in preparation for this. When Moses told Pharaoh to let the people go, it was to bring them to this; “We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD (YHWH) our God (Elohim) as He commands us.” So now here they are (three months later) at the foot of Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.
God is getting ready to speak with the people of Israel, so he first meets with Moses in order to get the people prepared to meet with Him. The people are given a few simple instructions before they come near to God. God instructs Moses to consecrate the people, they must wash their clothes, and the men must abstain from a woman for the three days. When they do come to the mountain of God, they must not touch the mountain. Anyone who does must be killed and their bodies not touched… this is obviously very serious.
The third day finally comes and Moses goes up Mount Sinai to meet with God, but YHWH wants to make sure that the people are not going to break through to see Him. So, He sends Moses back down to remind the people that they cannot touch the Mountain of God, and for Moses to bring Aaron back up with him.
So that naturally leads to the question, do we prepare to meet with God? When we go to spend time with YHWH, do we prepare ourselves? Do we understand that our God is the God of such Holiness, that any sin we bring into His presence is a foul stench in His nostrils? Are we preparing ourselves to meet with Him, or is He of such little regard to us that it doesn’t matter what kind of state we are in? The beautiful thing is that we do not need two days of preparation and abstaining from sexual intercourse in order to meet with Him. With the blood of Christ through repentance we are made clean. We are able to come into the presence of God cleaned from the inside. We are prepared through repentance and the blood.
When you come to God, do you come prepared? I know that repentance is something that i just do not do as i should, so that is something that i need to work on.
Rev. John Camiolo Jr.
Well, things changed as a result of God’s referendum to Pharaoh alright. God said, “Let my go!” Pharaoh said, “What? You want me to do what with your people? …you want me to make their work harder? OK, I can arrange that.”
Wow, this overarching concept and idea feels very familiar for some reason. The LORD gives a command to do something. In obedience it is carried out. Life gets harder, not easier as a result of the obedience. You would think that when the God of the universe instructs you to take a stand and obediently place yourself at risk before everyone, He would come through when you expect him to. But, that’s not necessarily how He works. Taking that step of faith sometimes means getting your toes run over by a steamroller.
The question is, knowing that that is the case, are we willing to be obedient? Are we willing to step out in faith? Are we being obedient to get something out of it, or is our obedience because He is LORD of our life? Can He trust us to obey even when it means more trouble for ourselves?
That’s a difficult problem for most of us Americans. Many times our outlook is; “What’s in it for me?” If we aren’t getting something out of it, we aren’t willing to put anything into it. God doesn’t work that way though. He’s not a direct “If…then…” God. “If you do this for Me, then I will do that for you.” If that’s what you are looking for in a god, then you are looking in the wrong place. Yes, God will bless you amazingly and abundantly when you obey Him. Yes, you will find peace in your life. Yes, you can trust Him, but you cannot count on Him to do what you want Him to do, or even anywhere close to when you want Him to do it. He works on His terms not ours. However, we are still responsible for obeying Him. The benefits will be amazing, but so will the troubles.
So what’s the LORD calling YOU to be obedient to today?