February 10, 2009

"The Taste of Freedom" - Bible in a Year #06

In this study we’ll look at Israel’s first taste of freedom as a nation. There are three major themes: First, there is testing in the desert, then there are the tablets of stone that will be given by God and then there is the tabernacle of God’s presence which is to be built. The 10 Commandments were a foundation of Israel as a nation. Interestingly, they were also a part of the foundation of the USA as a nation.

The US Supreme Court building is covered with designs and decorations showing the 10 Commandments. As you enter the front you see Moses embracing the stone tablets as the central figure. On the doors of the Supreme Court the 10 Commandments are symbolically engraved, and inside the court they are displayed, etc.

Presently, however, the 10 Commandments are not embraced but outlawed from courtrooms and schools in the US. At the same time, however, witchcraft and paganism are promoted freely in schools. So one can ask “Why is there is special hatred for the God of the Bible?” and “Are the 10 Commandments still relevant today?” According to a 2008 New York Times article, The US has almost 25% of the world’s prison population. So it seems there may have been somewhat of an effect from removing any suggestions of God or morality from society. Comedian Jay Leno said: "With hurricanes, tornadoes, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, the coldest winter in many years, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance ?" We’ll look at the answers history and the Bible have shown.

Just to review: Israel entered Egypt as a family and they left as a nation. After about four hundred years in Egypt there were about 2.5 million people. After crossing through the Red Sea there is a lot of celebration and singing. I think they were mainly happy because they didn’t need to get visas for the trip! So they have their first taste of freedom. But freedom isn’t all it was chalked up to be, there are trials and tests. Through these, God starts to teach them some life lessons. God’s provision, God’s protection, God’s principles and God’s presence.

Testing in the Wilderness

Ch 16 First, they come to a wilderness area called sin. The Bible isn’t so subtle sometimes. They are starving in the desert and so they gripe and complain. God offers “Fresh manna anyone?” …“Fresh what?” That’s the actual translation of manna “What?” (16.31) – It looked like coriander seeds and tasted sweet like honey and was it was a food that came down from heaven. In Ukraine they named “Manka” from this, it seems. In the US it is called Cream of Wheat. Anyway, They were to gather only enough for each day in the morning.

Deut 8.3 shows the meaning of the manna – God allowed them to be humbled to learn “that man does not live by bread only but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” And so the idea is that they are to learn to trust God and depend on Him and His word each day.

In John 6.33-35, Jesus described Himself as our spiritual Manna. Knowing Jesus is the most fulfilling thing in life. Like food, we need the word each day to guide us and to nurture our spirits. Though I may not remember what I had for dinner a month ago, I know it nurtured my body. It’s the same with the word of God spiritually.

Ch 17 – Next there was provision of the divine mineral water. At Rephidim they thirsted and God supplied water miraculously from the rock---again this is a picture of Jesus (Jn 7.37-39) – The rock is hit once as a picture of Jesus’ death. The water that pours out is a picture of the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ death and ascension. The Holy Spirit satisfies our spirits. The mountain area was called Horeb but Moses renamed it Massah and Meribah mean “test” and “strife” because the Israelites had an attitude problem.

17.8 – Then there was divine protection against the Amalekites. It says Amalek and His army made an unprovoked attack. Moses realized the need for intercession and said he would stand on the mountain the next day with his staff raised up to God as Joseph chose men to fight in the valley below. (17.9) The next day was a fierce battle and each time Moses got tired and lowed his raised hand s Joshua would start to lose so Aaron and Hur, a military leader. After a victory, Moses calls the place “Jehovah Nissi” – “the Lord is my Banner” (17.15) what does it mean? In ancient battles, armies used banners to identify who they were fighting for…here it shows they showed that they were fighting for the Lord. – As a nation – they were under God’s banner. The unproved attack represents the fact that we are in a spiritual battle where intercession by prayer is our main weapon. Ephesians 6 shows that ultimately we don't wrestle against flesh and blood but against spiritual principalities. I Cor 15.57 says “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The victory is in Christ not in the amount of resources or other physical things.

Exodus – 18.13 – Moses sits as judge but there are too many people. – Hobab, His father in law, then suggests he delegates – 16.25. Two signs of a good leader: 1) can take advice 2) can delegate responsibility. Both require some humility.

The Tablets of Stone

Ch 19 - Next we come to Mt Sinai. Where exactly is Sinai? There is some debate. Many believe it is area in Egypt near Monastery St. Catherine. But many others believe it is in Saudi Arabia. The NT seems to prefer Arabia. Look at Galatians 4.25 “Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia…” The Abrahamic covenant was based on faith alone and promised unconditional blessings of God. But here there is a new dispensation; a new chapter unfolds in God’s plan of redemption. This age of the law is introduced with fire on the Mountain of Sinai. It reveals this aspect of God as “a consuming fire” to be honored with a “godly fear.” (Heb,12.28-29). This law is given to the Jews with conditions that He would bless them and protect them so long as they obeyed His ways. (Ex. 19.5). Exodus 20 lists the commands:

I Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
II Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
III Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
IV Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
V Honour thy father and thy mother.
VI Thou shalt not murder.
VII Thou shalt not commit adultery.
VIII Thou shalt not steal.
IX Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
X Thou shalt not covet.

The first four deal with our relationship to God, the last six, our relationship to people. Jesus summed them up into two laws. Mat 22.37-39. “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. And “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
Why did God give the law? Just to make up some rules? Deuteronomy 6:24 and 10:13 show
“The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees so that we might always prosper.” And to “Observe the Lord's decrees for your own good.” The laws are boundaries meant to protect. Sin isn’t bad because it’s forbidden, it’s forbidden because it’s bad, it brings death. What exactly is sin? It’s defined as breaking God’s law: “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” I Jn 3.4.

For us today, the law means different things for the believer and the unbeliever. For the unbeliever it is meant as a guide to Christ. Galatians 3.24,25 say “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” The law shows us what sin is, what God’s standard is and that we need forgiveness. But once we are in Christ, the law is simply a gauge to show us how we are doing. So it acts both as a guide and a gauge.

Next Aaron is ordained as a priest. (Ex 21.1) This is a sign of God’s amazing grace that God chose Aaron as priest knowing what Aaron would soon do. God knew he would blow it and sin greatly, as we’ll see next week. And then God invites Moses on a 40 day retreat. Exodus 24.12 says: “Now the LORD said to Moses, "Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction." (NASB) 40 days and nights is a long time. It seems God was preparing Moses as a teacher even as Jesus would spend a lot of personal time with His disciples. Moses doesn’t eat for 40 days. It doesn’t seem like an intentional fast but rather that God’s presence is so intense that Moses has completely forgotten about food. It has once been said that “motive is everything” Spending time alone with God gives us the proper understanding of obedience to God. It should be based upon love for God more than anything. In John 14.15, Jesus said “If you love me keep my commands.” James called it the “royal law” realizing it is an integral part of God’s kingdom. (Ja 2.8-12)

The Tabernacle of God’s Presence.

After spending 40 days with God, Moses realized the importance of God’s presence and God had given Moses very specific instructions on how t built a small portable temple, a tabernacle where God’s presence would be experienced. Ex 25.8-9 – “ And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.” This idea of a “pattern” shows the idea of a pattern of meaning. The tabernacle was a copy and a shadow of heavenly things (Heb8). The main goal of Israel’s redemption was that God may dwell among the people and the people may freely worship God. This points to the ultimate fellowship and worship we experience through Jesus Christ. Here are some examples:

1. The tabernacle was a place for God to dwell among His people. - Jesus came in the flesh and 'tabernacled' among men (Jn.1:14).
2. There was only one entrance to the tabernacle. - No man can come to the Father but by Him (John 14:6).
3. The ark had three main areas: the outer court, inner court and Holy of Holies. – We are made up each of body soul and spirit.
This list would be a study in itself. There are many more examples at this website link

Basically, the main focus of the tabernacle was the Holy of Holies. The main focus there was the Ark of the Covenant. The main focus of the Ark was the sprinkling of the blood on the top of the ark. What was in the ark? One of the first things to be placed in the ark would be the10 commandments. This signified that Israel would not be able to keep the 10 commandments so that atonement for sin had to be made once a year on Yom Kippur. Jesus, ultimately would be the propitiation for all our sins. Hebrews 10.12 says “but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD.”


So what is this all about? What do these things mean together, the testing, the tablets and the tabernacle? What is God trying to show us? A key is to look at Exodus 19.5 “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:” God’s desire for Israel was to see Israel’s desire for Him. God saw Israel as a special treasure and He knew how it was possible to become a special treasure. God showed His provision, His protection and His presence were all that they needed and really all that they wanted. But as flawed humans, we so often don’t get it. We don’t understand what real significance and happiness are all about. We tend to see the law as punishment and not protection. Above all, the purpose of the law is to point us to the grace of Christ. John 1.17 says “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

We’re not to be justified by keeping the law. That brings only legalism and cannot bring salvation.(Gal 5:4 )Neither are we to throw out the law and live recklessly. The law is to be a gauge of sin, to help protect us from harming ourselves and others. But the main focus is in abiding in Christ. We are saved simply by trusting in Jesus Christ. When a jeweler wants to display a diamond, black velvet is placed behind it to reveal the brilliance of the diamond. It’s the same with God’s law and grace. The law is the black velvet behind the diamond revealing the glory of God’s grace. In this sense, the taste of freedom is available to everyone.

Why are the 10 commandments outlawed in the US, while witchcraft and paganism are freely promoted in the schools and in society? The double standard is obvious. There is a unique hatred for Christianity. This gives testimony to the fact that the 10 Commandments are still relevant. If these truths were just dead history, people would not hate them so. They still convict people of sin

America, like Israel, was founded on the basic principles of the 10 commandments. Like Israel, America once proclaimed “The Lord is my banner.” The words “In God We Trust” have not yet been taken off the money. Like Israel, the first building the colonists built was a temple. The Plymouth pilgrims built a meeting house that also served as a church. Like Israel, the moral laws of God were taught throughout the land. In 1777, the Continental Congress voted to spend $300,000 to purchase Bibles which were to be distributed throughout the 13 colonies! And in 1782, the United States Congress declared, “The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools." There is an urban legend that the US was not founded as a Christian nation. The wisdom of the 3 part government is even found in the Bible (Is 33.22). The US Congress still opens each session in prayer to God.

Proverbs 14.34 says “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.” Like Israel, America was exalted when she understood moral righteousness. America once was liked by most countries and now is disliked by most. Is there any connection? Psalms 33.12 states “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.” America is no longer “one nation under God” but is becoming “one nation opposed to God.” As America loses her religious freedom she is losing her political freedom.

The founding fathers warned that a free democracy could not exist without a moral foundation and we see things becoming chaotic. We see riots around the world because of corruption and the financial crisis. In 2006 President Bush authorized a new martial law act. If there is no internal self control there will be external control – a police state. And so we are reaping what we have been sowing, not just in America but around the world. In this sense, the taste of freedom may soon be all but forgotten.
I also just wanted to add that, in terms of the big picture, Obama's platform of "change" is a misnomer. His selections for his cabinet have shown his true colors (This refers to flags not skin color). Apparently, he had promised to bring new people in, possibly even African Americans, to high positions, but in fact, he has hired the seasoned New World Order dream team. Look at the list of Bilderberg, CFR, Trilateral Commission people he brought on board. The main goal of these people is to dump US sovereignty and bring about world government. The NWO beat goes on, without missing a beat, from Bush to Obama.

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