1 Corinthians 10 Exodus idolatry

Finishing strong

I enjoy mountain biking, but I hate being unfit (as I am). The other day, cycling with a friend, I had to stop half way through a route to get off my bike and sit down!

Steve Farrar wrote a very good book for men called: “Finishing Strong – Going the distance for your family”. Farrar points out the danger to men of messing up and not finishing the Christian life as faithful men, or as Paul described, as being “disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

We all want to finish strong as Christians. We all want to be effective, productive Christians. We don’t want to slip into sin and addiction. We don’t want to fall in the wilderness as the majority of Israelites did after the Exodus. As Christians, we can’t loose our salvation because God is faithful, but we can live in disobedience and suffer God’s discipline and withdrawal of blessing.

The Bible says that the Israelites all shared the same spiritual privileges, but still the majority did not enter the Promised Land and finish strong (1 Corinthians 10:1-5). Similarly, you may have enjoyed many spiritual blessings, been a member of a good church and even attended a great bible study, yet you may be in danger of slipping up half way. How do we prevent this from happening? The Bible uses the Israelites example as a warning to us to flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:7,14). Idolatry is the root cause of all sin. Idolatry is putting a created thing before the creator. Idolatry is the default position of our hearts. If you want to finish the Christian race strong, guard your heart against idolatry. We can idolize anything: food, sport, marriage, sex, status, money, and ourselves. Idolatry leads you to take your allegiance and worship away from Jesus, and to worship at the altar of a foreign god. If you worship the sex god, you will end up an adulterer or pornographer. If you worship the food good, you will end up obese.

What are you tempted to worship? Jesus, or something or someone else? The Bible goes on to say that God will not permit us to be tempted beyond what we can endure and God will provide a way through the trial in order that we, through persistent trust and obedience, may finish strong (1 Corinthians 10:12-13.)

High Priest Moses Tabernacle

Truths from the tent

Some sections of the Bible may seem boring* to us. Have you ever tried to read though the book of Exodus? You probably stopped reading in chapter 25 when you hit the orders and measurements for the construction of the tabernacle (tent of meeting). About 15 chapters are devoted to the making of the tabernacle! This is very significant if you consider that just one verse is spent on the creation of the universe (Genesis 1:1). Obviously the tabernacle must be extremely important. What does it teach us?

1. God is present with his people
The tent symbolised God’s presence with his people, whom he had rescued from slavery. Once the tent was constructed, Ex 40v34 tells us, “then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Whenever Israelites saw the tabernacle they were reminded that God was with them. The Israelites were also reminded that God is holy for they could not enter the tabernacle compound without a priest and an appropriate sacrifice. In the Most Holy Place stood the Ark of the Covenant which symbolised the very throne of God, where God is surrounded by the angels. The Most Holy Place was separated from the rest of the tabernacle and indeed, the rest of the world, by a heavy curtain, again symbolising the truth that God is awesomely holy and cannot be approached by sinful human beings. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place once a year to atone for the sins of the people by the suitable sacrifice.

John, when introducing Jesus in his biography of Jesus, writes that “the Word (Jesus) became flesh (human) and tabernacled amongst us “and then John writes, “we have seen his (Jesus) glory, the glory of the One and Only”. The Tabernacle pictured God’s presence with his people, while Jesus fulfils what the tabernacle pictured and is God with us. Jesus is our high priest.

2. God is portable
The people travelled with the tabernacle and the tabernacle travelled with the people. God presence is not fixed to one point or building, God’s presence is moveable! God is with you at church, at work and at home, if you are part of his people. We don’t go to church to be in God’s presence. Jesus promised to be with us as we go into all the world.

3. God is precise
Moses, as project manager of the Tabernacle Compound, received very detailed instructions and the tabernacle was built very precisely. Loads of attention to detail. God was saying: This is my house and I get to say how its built, I get to say who gets in, I get to say how they get in and with which sacrifice. In other words, you can’t just approach any way you want to. Same today: You get to approach God his way or not at all. It’s Jesus or nothing. Not Mohammed or Krishna, or your good life or you new enlightened spirituality. It’s not even through the ancestors. If we want to meet with the true God, we need to follow Jesus.

4. God’s presence instils passion
In Exch. 35 & 36 Moses asks for contributions from the people to fund and provide raw materials for the tabernacle and its furnishings. The people are moved to give generously and give more than is needed or expected. Moses ends up having to tell the people to stop giving. God’s people were excited and passionate about doing what they could. God was dwelling now in their midst and they wanted to see his name honoured. God’s people gave passionately, generously, fervently, excitedly, zealously and excitedly. I don’t know how that applies to you. But think about it.

* The whole Bile is inspired and useful to correct, teach, train and rebuke. But we realise some parts are more inspiring to read than others.

Bible Preaching Spiritual dancing Ten Commandments

Lessons from stone tablets (Why God didn’t use YouTube)

God commanded Moses in Exodus 34v1 to make two more tablets of stone on which he (God) would write his law on. The Ten Commandments engraved on the stone tablets give us some helpful insights into the nature of God’s whole revelation to us contained in the Bible.
a. Human mediators are involved
The law came to Israel via Moses, a human being. God did not bypass humans and write the law in the sky with neon lights. So too, the Bible contains God’s words through the words and writings of human authors; nevertheless it is God’s Word.
b. It is complete and sufficient
Exodus 32v15 says that the Ten Commandments were “engraved on both sides, front and back.” In other words, there was no more space to write. The Law was complete and sufficient for life and godliness at that time in world history. Likewise, the Bible also contains all things necessary for salvation and Christian living, and should not be added to or subtracted from.
c. Authoritative
In Exodus 34v1 God said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.” The Ten Commandments were not Moses’ words but GOD’s words. Similarly, the Bible is not the church’s word or the apostle Paul’s word or your pastor’s word, but God’s. It is because the Bible is God’s words that is has authority and must be obeyed. Our Sunday gatherings must therefore include an exposition of a passage in the Bible, not merely the pastor’s thoughts for the week ahead or the pastor’s “God-experiences” from the previous week.

d. Permanent

The Ten Commandments were engraved into the stone! They were not pencilled in or subject to alteration or change. God didn’t give the Israelites version 2.01 the following year. The Bible too is God’s permanent, unchanging, relevant, non-updatable message to us today. We are called to be faithful to the bible, not change the bible to suit our perceived needs.

e. God’s law comes through words

God wrote words for Moses. God did not do a drama or post a video on YouTube. Of course, drama and video may help to illustrate and explain the words, but can never replace the words. In the same way, the Bible comes to us in words to be read and studied and preached and listened to. We can never move on from the priority of a Word-based model of ministry. Explaining the Bible must take priority over drama, spiritual dancing and  video clips. (Although a good video clip may help at times. Not so sure about spiritual dancing!)