Category Archives: Old Testament

Sunday with John – Access

John 7
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him[Jesus]. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Every day of this Festival there was a ritual water drawing that reminded people how important God’s provision of access to good water had been to their history with Him and that His provision for the survival of their ordinary daily lives still depended on that access.  The “hope” of this week was that God might choose this water offering as a means of access to the Messianic age.  The Festival water was drawn each day from the Pool of Siloam, known as the “well of salvation,” and poured into a bowl that drained onto the altar.a  “On the last and greatest day of the Festival Jesus compared Himself to that water…“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”  That made Jesus a problem the Pharisees couldn’t ignore. Some remembered Isaiah’s promise when like water poured “…on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants [44:3]…and they were talking!  Some saw beyond the ritual of that poured water flowing through that bowl onto the altar of God for exactly what it was; Jesus was the bowl that promised access to the future Spirit of God.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus’s time of physical accessibility to them is short.  God has sent Him and He is returning to that certain and exclusive place.  That place is a destination even thirsty and curious people will not be able to find without Jesus.

What does it say about people?
What thirsty people need is a willingness to accept the water…and drink! 

Is there truth here for me?
I think Jesus could add “I am the bowl” to His identity statements.  Jesus is the “bowl” that directs the living water drawn from God’s own heart to the Holy Spirit. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:25-27 NIV

a Water Libation Ceremony

 

Sunday with John – The Eighth Day

John 7: 14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning,[this man knows his letters] when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The theme of the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths was expectation and restoration.  This could be the very week the Messianic Kingdom would be established!  It was an annual feast that required Jewish men to make the pilgrimage into Jerusalem. Jesus has chosen to wait until the middle of the feast to go.  He’s chosen to emphasize it’s His singular identity with God that is His authority to speak, not the size of his entourage. He’s chosen this Feast to give the people who are most conflicted about His purposes and His power a recognizable connection to the symbols of this week of ceremony.  Jesus has chosen to reveal a hard truth to people who’ve come expecting this very week they might become part of the Messianic Kingdom by telling them; “…none of you keeps the law.”

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.  Malachi 3:1 1  

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God has given Jesus the authority to speak on His behalf.  Jesus’s presence is to affirm that His identity is the purpose of this feast.  He challenges their own purposes in attending the Feast.  “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will,” and then He challenges their response “he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” Jesus has no illusions about the intent of these people “Why do you seek to kill me?” 

What does it say about people?
The nature of the human heart is to assume the best about their own behavior; “Who is seeking to kill you?” and the worst about authority that challenges it “You have a demon!”  Wisdom from a good pastor:  “we judge ourselves by our intent, and other’s by their behavior.”  But an even wiser Pastor says “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”  [This man knows his letters]…“and in him there is no falsehood!”

Is there truth here for me?
There are parts of this ceremonial Feast that sound very familiar to me:[a]
– At the appropriate time pilgrims would wave a palm branch [part of a lulav] before the Lord in a spirit of thankfulness. [Remember Palm Sunday?]
– Water drawn every day from the pool of Siloam.  [Remember where blind eyes were restored?]  A priest spoke these words as he drew that special water out “Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”  [Remember what Jesus said about water and thirst?] Then that water was mixed together with a a drink offering of wine. The mixture of the water and wine at the altar symbolized the life and joy associated with the Holy Spirit. [Remember this wine is my blood?]
– Each afternoon there was a ceremony of “light” to symbolize two realities; the Light of all Lights to fill the Temple with the presence of God, and the Great Light who would soon come and bring light to those who were spiritually dead and dwelling in darkness. [Remember I am the Light of the world?]
– The Eighth Day —“Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  John 7:37-39.                                                                                 [Remember where all these promises are made real today?]

[a] https://israelmyglory.org/article/the-feast-of-tabernacles-in-the-days-of-jesus/

Exodus [The Road Out] – The Promise

Exodus 40:
33 Then he [Moses] hung the curtains forming the courtyard around the Tabernacle and the altar. And he set up the curtain at the entrance of the courtyard. So at last Moses finished the work.
34 Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.
35 Moses could no longer enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.
36 Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it.
37 But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted.
38 The cloud of the Lord hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys. NLT

The tabernacle is being set up for the first time. God has given Moses all the plans for the tabernacle that are recorded in Exodus.  They have been skillfully created with precise and lavish detail.  At this moment of completion, though, the tabernacle is still only an elaborate tent…waiting for that “cloud” cover.

That cloud had first appeared behind the people of Israel as they fled, like a barrier of fog to confuse the Egyptian army.  Then the cloud was ahead of them leading by day and night toward an unseen promise. Those are two very significant aspects of that cloud they would always remember.  The cloud HAD protected their back as they fled from the enemy and the cloud was NOW actively leading them to freedom.  That moment in time when Moses hangs that final curtain at the entrance, and that cloud settles “down over” the tabernacle foreshadowing something that would FOREVER change the history of their future, as well as ours.

Long before the cross, there was the Exodus where one final curtain and the “glory of the Lord” changed an elaborate tent into a tabernacle of promise.  The place where God began to reveal His precise and lavish plan of restoration for living and walking among His people once again… Jesus!

Exodus [The Road Out] – Three Curtains

Exodus 40 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Set up the Tabernacle on the first day of the new year.  3 Place the Ark of the Covenant inside, and install the inner curtain to enclose the Ark within the Most Holy Place. 4 Then bring in the table, and arrange the utensils on it. And bring in the lampstand, and set up the lamps. 5 “Place the gold incense altar in front of the Ark of the Covenant. Then hang the curtain at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 6 Place the altar of burnt offering in front of the Tabernacle entrance. 7 Set the washbasin between the Tabernacle and the altar, and fill it with water. 8 Then set up the courtyard around the outside of the tent, and hang the curtain for the courtyard entrance.  NLT

Each of those three curtains: the entrance to the courtyard, the entrance to the Tabernacle within, and finally the entrance into the Holy of Holies – were designed to reveal God’s identity to people caught in the wilderness.  The purpose of each curtain was to make them physically aware of the separation between the wilderness of man and the Holiness of God.  The people’s words often proclaimed their desire to worship God and do all that He asked, but in reality they needed physical reminders it wasn’t their words that separated them from the presence of God but their actions, and so he gave them three curtains. The first curtain was at the entrance gate to the courtyard.
#1 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

They had to physically pass through that first curtain, with their offering, into a courtyard filled with visceral reminders of sin.  Sin that required a substitute of blood for God’s forgiveness. In that first-step place they would “see” the second barrier; the curtain before the Holy Place that only priests could enter.
#2 for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. 1 Peter 2:9

An finally, beyond their sight, but not their imagination was the last curtain. The curtain that hid the presence of God from them.  A presence so fearful that even the high priest entered with a rope tied about him so he could be pulled out in case he would be struck down because the blood of their sacrifices did not please God; the last barrier to forgiveness.
#3 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Mark 15:37-38
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.  Hebrews 10:19-20

Exodus [The Road Out] — The Rock

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “I pray thee, show me thy glory.” 19 And he[the Lord] said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live.”

“Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee”

21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand upon the rock; 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

The old hymn, Rock of Ages, is what inspired my painting.  God chose to reveal the truth of His moral code, written from His heart on a surface physically made by His own hand.  Can you imagine the Lord of all Creation busily speaking every perfect thing into reality; and yet purposefully carving broken fissures and clefts into that solid, immovable mass of rock and calling it “good?” 

We don’t have those stone tablets but we still have the ten truths for life that were on them.  Can you imagine the permanence of God’s message as much more than two [or four] lost tablets but a message from the stone itself?  Those Words have never been lost!  Instead they have become a good and perfect place to hide as the Lord of all Creation passes by to reveal Himself amid the broken fissures and clefts. It’s a very different solid, permanent and immovable place of safety from which to witness the Glory we cannot bear to see — THE Rock.

Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Isaiah 26:4

 

Exodus [The Road Out] – Jesus

Exodus 32:7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; RSV

It’s easy to see how obvious the idolatry of THOSE people is.  How in the world could they miss that the golden calf looked just like the idol the Egyptians worshipped? These are the same people who’d repeatedly sworn to Moses that whatever God told them to do, they would do.  These are the people who knew they were to serve God on this mountain.  These are the people who were willing to settle for making the Glory of God into their own image.

Imagine the heartbreak Moses must have felt as he began his journey down the mountain after being told by the Lord “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.”    Therein lies the lesson of how waiting, suspicion and impatience can so easily become the sin that corrupts the mind first and then the heart.  This golden calf was made from the willing offering of the people’s treasure.  Their treasure was what they chose to worship as the god that brought them out of Egypt even though only one day before that idol hadn’t even existed.  

The challenge of my mind and heart as a descendant of THOSE people, who’s inherited this sad and shameful moment as part of my history, is to find the thread that connects those truths to the truth of the Sovereign and Eternal Glory of God revealed in Jesus for believers today. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[as a sin offering] he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8

“Fallen people are capable of great sacrifices,
but not out of love for God.”
 John Piper

Exodus [The Road Out] – The Blood

Exodus 24:1-8

He [The Lord] said
Come —
Aaron, Nadab, and Abhiu, and seventy of the elders
and worship afar off.
Moses alone shall come near
and the people shall not come up with him.
Moses came and told
all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances.
The people answered with one voice
“All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Moses wrote all the words of the Lord,
and built an altar at the foot of the mountain.
He sent young men of the people of Israel,
who offered burnt offerings
and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord.
Moses took half of the blood,
he threw against the altar.
He took the book of the covenant,
and read it in the hearing of the people.
They said,
“All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”
Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people
and said,
“Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord
has made with you in accordance with all these words.” RSV

The contrast between the Lord’s instruction for some to come and worship “afar off” but that Moses alone should “come near” was the thing that caught my attention.  That separation is such a different idea than what we understand when Jesus says “Come to me ALL who are weary…”   My modern-day heart is looking for clues from this episode of “back to the future”  because I recognize that contrast still exists.  “Afar off” was the trigger phrase that reminded me these people are homeless, weary prodigals,  people who want, even need, to worship but they are lost in the circumstances of life. This is the Word of the Lord, and He’s the only one who knows the future.

Moses took half of the blood,
he threw against the altar.
Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people
and said,
“Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord
has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

The unpleasant visceral images of Moses’s application of that long-ago gory, blood sacrifice as part of worship have done their work in reminding me there are two important truths about blood sacrifice that have forever changed the future for ALL prodigals and I see the reality of them for today.  Jesus IS the Blood of Sacrifice that identifies both the PLACE of worship and the the PEOPLE who  worship there.

Exodus [The Road Out] – Direct Access

Exodus 19:1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 And when they set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain. 3 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to  the children of Israel.”

This is my poetic representation of God’s word using verbatim phrases from this portion of Exodus 19 with the goal of seeing the place God is creating for Jesus.  I have the advantage of hindsight and knowing the reality of God’s desire is to make a place for Himself within the people of His own heart.  Moses hoped the Instructions God gave him to give to the people he’d led to this mountain would become a convenient working arrangement between them, but God had something greater in mind.  He intended those Ten Words to become the promise of direct priestly access. 

The third new moon after
the land of Egypt,
they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
There Israel encamped before the mountain.
Moses went up to God.
The Lord called to him
saying, Thus you shall say –
You have seen what I did
how I bore you on eagles’ wings
and brought you to myself.
Now therefore,
if you will obey my voice
and keep my covenant,
you shall be my own possession among all peoples
you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. RSV

It’s taken three months to get to this place of wilderness at the foot of the Mountain of God. “The word conventionally translated ‘wilderness’ is not a sandy desert, but grazing country, not settled by man.”a  Some scholars believe God has brought Moses back to the same place of the burning bush where He first spoke audibly to Moses.  Now Moses has heard the voice of God for a second time and been given the Ten Commands from God that are meant to offer tired, hungry, irritable and lost people a place of worship where they will finally have direct access to God within their memory, their mind and their heart.  Come, Lord Jesus!

aEnduring Word commentary

Exodus [The Road Out] – Remember!

Exodus 13:3 And Moses said to the people, “Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place; no leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 This day you are to go forth, in the month of Abib. 5 And when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jeb′usites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month…9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt…18 But God led the people round by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle…

Remember…
“by strength of hand the Lord brought you out.”
Remember…

 

Memory of the Lord walking with us is still “the road out” of bondage!  The Israelites began their journey with the promise of an oasis, a land flowing with milk and honey.  But between their bondage in Egypt and that land of freedom lay a vast wilderness with other less obvious adversaries they would have to conquer.  Remember, their battle wasn’t just with an Egyptian army, a sea, a lack of water, unfamiliar food, dietary restrictions and years in a vast wilderness, but with themselves.  The Lord’s plan was to equip their memory by His faithful presence for an ongoing battle against the unrelenting, hidden influences of the other enemies that must be met and overcome along the way: the Hittites, broken and fearful, the Amorites, bitter, broken and babbling and the wicked Hivites. “And the Lord went before them” leading them by day and by night.  Remember!

Wednesday with John – The Revelation

John 2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for thy house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he spoke of the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.  23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; 24 but Jesus did not trust himself to them, 25 because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man. RSV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus confronts the “legal” preparations, obligations and rationalizations for the Passover market that has made the Temple a place of diversion instead of a place to prepare yourself for true Worship.  The focus of worship must be changed from a place to a person.  “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” Revelation 21:22 ESV

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus, “the Lamb,”  is fully man so he knows how easily our minds, heart and souls can be diverted.  Jesus is “the Almighty” too, so His heart is determined we must NOT get away with allowing even the legal props of faith to divert us from true Worship.

What does it say about people?
People love ritual!  And preparation really is essential to worship.  The first Sign of Jesus was the wine…and the disciples believed.  This Sign of Jesus’s anger is going to be the memory prompt of their belief in what they have learned and remembered about the truth of walking, and working with Jesus.  

Is there truth here for me?
These words of John reveal how different my experience with Jesus is to that show-stopping action of His anger in the Temple.  But life with “the Lord God Almighty AND the Lamb”  is the challenge Jesus and John have made me aware of today.  It’s made me consider two unique truths: Jesus, the Lamb, is determined to love me AND Jesus, the Lord God the Almighty, sometimes has to whip up my conscience with guilt to remind me I don’t want to make His “Father’s house a house of trade.”

Do you not know that you are God’s temple
and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
I Corinthians 3:16