Moses has, with YHWH’s direction and doing, successfully brought the people of Isreal out of their bondage in the land of Egypt. He has brought them to Mount Sinai, the Lord’s / YHWH’s mountain, and brought them face to face with God / YHWH. From there, YHWH has given the people direction, understanding, and instruction. They have built a tabernacle for YHWH to go with them, and it is getting ready for the people to start heading out.
In the meantime, the people need to be prepared. They will be taking the promised land. They will be fighting battles and defeating nations of people who had allowed their sin to consume them to the point of their being vomited out by the land they live in. As such the men of Israel need to be aware of who they are, what they are capable of, and how many of them are going out to war. So God / YHWH calls them to do something simple. Number yourselves. Figure out how many there are who can fight and go to war. So every male 20 years old and older has to register by their families and tribes. They must make themselves known and be prepared for war.
So the leader of each tribe goes about getting their people registered. In the end, all the males 20 years old and up of the sons of Israel amounts to 603,550 men. Not counting women and children under the age of 20, and not even counting one of the tribes. The Levites have been set aside to serve the LORD / YHWH. As such, approximately 1/12th of the people aren’t even considered for the census That is a lot of people!
What’s amazing to me is that just over 500 years before this census occurred, God made a promise to 1 elderly man and his elderly, barren wife;
“Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
“I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” (Genesis 13:16)
So from 2 elderly and barren people and a promise from YHWH, around 500 years later is this huge, massive nation divided into 12 tribes with an army of over 600,000 men aged 20 and older with 1/12 of them not even involved in that number. Now that’s what I call fulfilling a promise!
What kind of promises has God / YHWH made in your life? Are they promises you are working to fulfill, or are you trusting completely in Him to do all the work and fulfill them for you? Think about it…
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 so glad that I do not have to do God’s work for Him. I am so glad that all He requires of me is obedience. I don’t think that i could handle the stress of the work that God does… that certainly is a silly statement isn’t it. The point is, God was the one who did the work of hardening and softening Pharaoh’s heart. God is the one who did the miracles in Pharaoh’s presence. God is the one who fulfilled His promises to the people of Israel. It wasn’t Moses, it had to be God, Himself.
There have been times in my life where God has told me what He was going to do in my life, and then i have attempted to make it happen on my own. One guess as to the result… yup! I failed miserably! Months later, God did it. You would think that after that i would learn my lesson. Nope, i continue trying to do YHWH’s work for Him.
One thing i did want to make sure that i touch on is vs. 2-3 “God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.” The word LORD is the Hebrew word יהוה which is JHWH / YHWH / JHVH / YHVH. This includes only consonants. Traditionally, with vowels this word has been pronounced as Jehovah. However, as time has gone by, there has been mounting evidence that there is a mix of words here. It is believed that while the consonants are natural to the word, the vowels are not. The vowels come from Adonai (אֲדֹנָי) meaning “my lord” making יהוה (YHVH) into יְהֹוָה (Yehovah). The concept here is that in the 10 commandments YHWH says not to use His name in vain. As such the priests who would read the law to the people would protect them from using His name in vain by not even saying the revered name of God out loud to them. So whenever they came to the word YHWH, the priests would say Adonai instead. As a result, over the millennia the true vowels to the name YHWH were lost.
Some would say that that is not the case, that those vowels are actually the correct vowels for the name, but even with a very limited understanding of the history and tendencies of the Israelite people and the legalism of the Pharisees of Jesus time, i’m much more inclined to go with the vast majority of scholars and say YHWH.
Either way, i find it interesting that YHWH first tells His true name not to Abraham, Isaac, & Israel, but rather to Moses and His people in Egypt.
What is it about promises? We make them. We take them. We keep them. We break them. How much do they really mean? What are they really worth?
For instance, God made a promise towards Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son. He fulfilled it, and at the time that He said that He would as well. Sarah finally received the fulfillment of God’s promise with the birth of Isaac. Hagar also had received, and receives again a promise that Ishmael would become a great nation. In this chapter God provides for her and Ishmael, taking a step towards the fulfillment of His promise towards them.
At the same time, other promises are, and are not made. Abimelech, seeing that God blesses everything that Abraham does comes to Abraham seeking a promise. He reminds Abraham of his kindness to him in regards to the incident with Sarah. Abimelech had been righteous in his actions and dealings, so God had prevented him from sinning by sleeping with Sarah and he acted righteously towards Abraham. So, knowing that God blesses all that Abraham does, he comes to Abraham seeking a promise that Abraham and his descendants will never deal falsely with Abimelech and his descendants. Together, Abraham and Abimelech make a covenant with each other that neither would deal falsely with the other. So the promise is made. At the end of the chapter, we see just who Abimelech is. He is a Philistine king.
We know, especially from Judges and Kings, that this promise is not kept. The Philistines are the primary antagonists to the Israelites in Judges and Kings. They attempt to make the Israelite people their slaves. They even steal the Arc of the Covenant. Their promise has no lasting value.
What’s more, is the promise that they didn’t make. They made a promise with Abraham, whom God was blessing, but they never pursued a promise with the God of Abraham. They were more focused on the things of the world that they ignored the very source of Abraham’s blessings. They never pursued the true God. That was a promise lost.
In looking at the promises and fulfillments; I suppose that the value of a promise is very much dependent upon who is making what promise, to whom, and why? What promises have we made, and to whom? Are we fulfilling our promises?