Jesus sermon while on the mount continues through chapter 6 and into 7. Here we get into more depth of life and ministry. Jesus begins to deal with what it means to serve and worship Him. Here we begin to see and get an understanding of what religion is, our purpose, and having a relationship with the Father.
From chapter 5 to 6 there is a transition from dealing with personal relationships to how we relate to the world and to God. Jesus criticizes the Pharisees and religious leaders because while they obey the letter of the law, they do so for personal and political gain. It’s not that they care for the poor and orphans. It’s that they desire to show the world that they are obeying the commands of God. Meanwhile Jesus is saying here not that doing those kinds of things is wrong, they’re not. In fact the pharisees are completely correct in giving to the poor and praying and fasting and everything else. The issue is not so much in what they do, rather it’s in how they do it.
Jesus the Christ seems to be saying here that why and how we do what we do may be even more important than our doing it. He tells the disciples that the pharisees have the action and obedience right, which was more than most, but at the same time He was very critical of them for how and why they were doing it:
Give to the poor, but do it in secret so you will have treasure in heaven.
Pray like this, but not in vain repetitions.
Forgive others so it may be forgiven you.
Make sure you fast, but don’t let others see or know you are fasting.
Don’t store up your treasures here on earth. Store them up in heaven where they have real value.
You can’t serve God / YHWH and wealth. You can either serve the maker or the tool.
Then last but certainly not least… Do not Worry! God / YHWH is in control. He provides all things for all. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will continue and be added. I honestly believe that this is one of the most accepted sins in the church. When we worry, we live by works and not by faith. We say, “We know You say You are in control, but I don’t really believe that. Not fully.” I know that this is something that I struggle with on a daily basis.
It becomes the responsibility of Aaron and his sons to serve the LORD; to come between the people and YHWH; to bring the people, their requests, their need for cleansing to the LORD. As such Aaron and his sons needed to have one foot on the earth, and the other in the doorway to heaven. How do you balance the impurity and sin that is so prevalent in the world with the awesome purity and Holiness of God? Talk about a difficult task; yet that is what Aaron and his sons are charged with doing.
The first steps in fulfilling that role are described here. Before anything else, Aaron and his sons need to be separated from the group and cleansed both physically and spiritually. They are responsible for being representatives / ambassadors / spokesmen of men to God. Therefore in coming into God’s presence they must be as close to clean and pure as humanly possible. So in this process, Moses is responsible to follow YHWH’s instruction and purify Aaron and his sons.
Could you imagine having the responsibility of being the one that stands between man and YHWH? Every day you must perform your duties and bring the sacrifices and offerings of the people before Him. Thus the process of being set apart for God is extremely important.
One thing of interest that i did note, in these first 25 verses of Exodus 29, is that in verse 22 it talks about taking the fat from the ram and from all of these different parts, and then it says, “and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination)“. When i was looking at this, i thought it was kind of weird that it said to take the fat from the kidneys, and the fat from the entrails, and the fat tail, etc. and then randomly talked about the right thigh because it is a ram of ordination.
It does seem kind of strange, but not so much when you refer back to Genesis 32:24-32. This passage in Genesis is where Jacob, who had been blessed and set apart by God, wrestles with God. God touches his thigh socket and he has a limp from then on, and the sons of Jacob do not touch the sinew of the thigh of the meat that they eat. It is an interesting parallel. I don’t know beyond a doubt that this is what this is referring to, but it sure does give you pause to think.
I’m beginning to understand more and more the qualities of a good pen. I have gone through probably 5 different pens already. Each of them has had a different work and feel to them. I started out with a three pack of Pilot’s Varsities. I had wanted to try out fountain pens for a while, but had never gotten around to it. They ran out of ink way too quickly, and the ink was so liquid that it would seep through the paper. On the other hand, writing with them was scratchy yet smooth, and the writing was bold and vibrant. That was a very good thing. Next i went on to an older gel pen that i had lying around. It was not nearly as bold or vibrant, but overall the flow was smooth and not at all scratchy. It was easy to write with, but the color definitely wasn’t strong enough. When that ran out, i moved on to a decent quality ball point. It was a bit more scratchy, the color was weaker, and writing with it was just a little bit more difficult, but overall it wasn’t overly uncomfortable to write with.
Now, I’m using what i can only describe as a cheap ball point pen that i picked up a while back. The pen stock seems to be decent quality (it advertises a small college), but the ink and writing process is horrible. At 32 i have hand and wrist problems that i suspect is from carpel tunnel ( i actually started noticing it at around 25). Ultimately, the rough working of this pen is definitely irritating it. The pen is not smooth at all. It requires heavy pressure to get a good line, and it is not really comfortable at all. I never really noticed just HOW different each pen is until i started on this project.
The Israelites had a different kind of body problem. While mine has to do with pain while writing or typing, the Israelites problem stems from much more important bodily factors. They were travelling through the wilderness and had no (or very little) food to eat. How does a man like Moses go about feeding a million plus people? The answer is that he can’t; so God has to do it. So what does God do? He provides them with bread from heaven. The instructions are simple. It shows up on the ground in the morning. Each person gathers what he needs for himself and their family for the day, and at the end of the day it needs to be eaten up. On the sixth day, gather enough for two days. Such a simple concept, yet the people just can’t seem to get a grip of it. Some try to hoard it. Others leave leftovers for the next day. Others don’t gather two days worth on the sixth day, and still others continue to complain.
It’s almost like this people have two things that they truly love; 1) complaining and 2) not listening. God is providing for their physical needs, yet it still just doesn’t seem to be enough. How about us? How do we react when God doesn’t supply what we are looking for?
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.
This is going to be a two-part chapter. I am finding that i can only copy out ~30+ verses in about an hour and a half, which is most of my time limitations for this project each day. So since this chapter is 67 verses, i have to split this one up into two days; vs. 1-34 today, and 35-67 tomorrow.
The time was coming and going. Abraham knew that he only had a limited time before his life would end. He still had some very important business to attend to. One of those things being; taking care to provide the proper wife for his son. So he sends his most trusted servant on a mission to return to his home and family and find the right bride for his son Isaac. It is a quest that his most faithful servant is sworn to fulfill. Not only that, but also the servant must never bring Isaac there. The maiden must come to him, or not at all.
This chapter contains two new names / titles for God, or it could possibly be considered one: “…the LORD (YHWH), the God (Elohim) of heaven (Shamaim) and the God (Elohim) of earth (Erets)…” This is the name to whom Abraham required his servant to swear that he would not get Isaac a wife from among the Canaanites.
The servant swears and goes, but is still concerned about the fulfillment of the promise, so he does the wise thing. He brings it before the God of his master. He wants to be sure that he finds the right person, so he asks God to bring the right girl to him. God, of course being who He is, is way ahead of the servant, brings Rebekah, and brings reassurance to the servant.
Rebekah shocks me in this passage. When he first sees her, Abrahams servant, rushes at her. “Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, ‘Please let me drink a little water from your jar.'” How would you and i respond to some strange dirty traveler running at us begging us to give them water? We might be a little freaked out. What does Rebekah do? She says “sure”, gives him water, and waters his camels as well. The servant rewards her by giving her a gold ring and two gold bracelets and then asks to be invited to stay the night. Wow, the cultural differences there!
How do we react to strangers and those in need? Jesus says, “those who do so for the least of these my children, do so for Me”. The letter to the Hebrews says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” The servant (purposelessly) feared the fulfillment of his promise to his master. Do we (purposelessly) fear assisting / entertaining the stranger because we’re surrounded by those who would feed us a negative report? Or have we sworn to help those in need?