Exodus Terminus

Scripture Focus: Exodus 40:1-2, 33-38
1 Then the Lord said to Moses: 2 “Set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month.

33 …And so Moses finished the work. 34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

36 In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.

Reflection: Exodus Terminus
By Erin Newton

This chapter marks the end of an era and the dawn of a new life. Exodus has taken us on the journey of battered people through their healing and restoration. It has been a story of pain and suffering mixed with moments of joy and bewilderment. It has been everything except for easy.

Exodus began with the fall of God’s people from their favored position in Egypt. It ends with meeting God face to face.

The first sounds to break upon the book were the venomous commands to kill the seed of the people, the infant boys. The final sound is the voice of God promising access to his presence for all generations.

The pained and tortured voices of God’s enslaved children rose to the ears of God. “God of our fathers, deliver us!” Freed, dwelling together in the wilderness, God whispers tenderly to them, “Follow me.”

The sun rises on the banks of the Nile where one faithful mother placed the fate of her child in a basket, an ark upon the water. The sun sets in Exodus upon the family of Moses, washed in the water of purification, ready to meet God.

Exodus followed the life of a man, chosen by God to save the people from bondage. It ends with the picture of priests, ready to intercede on their behalf.

Salvation did not come without trial or tribulation. Exodus closes with the God who sends signs and wonders upon Egypt leading his people to new life.

The entire story held its breath on the precipice of the Red Sea, fearing all hope would be swallowed by the watery depths. The next book will open on the edge of the Promised Land.

Exodus is a fascinating story of an epic hero and triumphant people. It is a story of nature turned upside down at the voice of God. It is a story of faith persevering. It is a story of approaching God—and living.

When we read the story of Exodus, we see many echoes of the life of Christ. His life is threatened from birth to final death. He brings the enslaved people to freedom. He passed through the waters of baptism and the dark shroud of death.

As we enter this next week of Eastertide, marvel at the image of salvation in Exodus and the reality of the true salvation we have in Christ. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. — Isaiah 9.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Exodus 40(Listen 4:07)
Luke 22(Listen 7:58)

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Being Candid with God

Scripture Focus: Exodus 33:11-14
11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Reflection: Being Candid with God
By Erin Newton

Panim—that is the Hebrew word for face. It stands for our simple anatomical features. By our faces, we can be pinpointed out of a crowd. Faces are personal. Our faces reveal our innermost feelings. Faces can tell a story.

The word can also mean “presence.” When God said his Presence would go with Moses, he reassured Moses that he would be near. God’s attentive face was a sign of blessing.

So, what does it mean to talk to God panim to panim—face to face? At the end of this chapter, we know that it cannot mean literal conversations with God and Moses looking at one another. Such a sight would be a death sentence.

Face to face is intimacy. In English, we might call this a heart to heart, speaking in confidence, or straightforward dialogue. It is blunt and minces no words because it is a conversation between friends. Moses and God talked openly.

We often look at Moses as a rare hero in the Bible. He was special, unique, and gifted. He was the only person in the Exodus story that enjoyed the intimate relationship of being in God’s presence.

What do you say when you can speak freely before God?

You complain. Moses often referred to God’s people as “these people.” He got frustrated with their complaining, their lack of faith, and their disrespect.

You question the plan. Moses had no idea how God would help him accomplish this task. He said exactly what he was worried about.

You recall the truth about God’s love. Moses repeated the truth that God chose these people. He reminded God, and in doing so, preached to his own heart.

You ask God to fill in the gaps where you lack wisdom. Moses was well-educated and had the most intimate relationship with God. This relationship, however, did not mean he knew everything. He needed God’s guidance.

And through all of this, God was still pleased with Him. Moses’ frustration, anger, bitterness, doubt, questions—all of this was acceptable. God spoke to him as a friend.

Being honest and open with God should not be something we fear. Like Moses, we have constant access to the presence of God. We can speak plainly to him, face to face.

In days of doubt, deconstruction, or despair, speak to God as Moses did. Do not hesitate to pour out the darkest parts of your soul. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding, according to your word.
Let my supplication come before you; deliver me, according to your promise. — Psalm 119.169-170

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Exodus 33(Listen 3:49)
Luke 15(Listen 4:19)

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On Mount Sinai, God revealed more to Moses than he had revealed to any human since Adam and Eve.

His Presence, Our Beauty

Scripture Focus: Exodus 26:30, 33-34
30 “Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain…33 Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. 34 Put the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law in the Most Holy Place. 

Reflection: His Presence, Our Beauty
By Erin Newton

Amid the desert, the Tabernacle was an oasis of color. Blue, purple, red. Against the dull hues of brown rocks and sandy ground, there would be the shimmer of gold, silver, and bronze. Where God dwelt with his people, there would be beauty.

It’s easy to get lost in the detailed blueprint for the tabernacle. If we collect all the materials together, it is an array of beauty. There are acacia frames and wooden cross bars. Hooks and clasps in precious metals. Fine linen in jewel-toned colors of a sunset just before the darkness of night.

This is how God chose to be with his people—among the drab backdrop of a desert, he created a vibrant refuge. It is the extraordinary among the ordinary.

God dwelt with his people in the most inhospitable places. In a place without life, God would sustain them with food and water. Day after day after day. All the while, he traveled with them. He guided them. He dwelt with them. The Creator nestled among the created.

As time carried on, the presence of God moved to the permanent Temple. Surrounded by scenes of a garden—it was filled with palm trees and floral designs, cedar walls and golden details, images of the same winged creatures that guarded the entrance to Eden.

Then his presence moved among the people once again. Jesus tabernacled in the fabric of a human body with sunkissed skin of deep brown hues.

Upon the cross, the jewel-toned hues were seen once more. Blue and purple bruises marred his beaten body. Scarlet red blood dripped from his head, hands, feet, and side. His body, disfigured with the vibrant colors of royalty, hung on a cross in the most humble of deaths.

The dark night and shadowed tomb would not hold his presence. As promised, he took up residence in the hearts of every believer. Like the bright golden tongues of fire, the Spirit fell upon the people. He came to dwell again in a lonely place, bringing life and beauty to our souls.

And so, he has remained, in the hearts of every one of us.

He brings life to our mortal bodies. He clothes us in the rich hues of his grace. Among the prism of colors God brings to his people, he clothes us in white—the full intensity of all colors all at once. His presence is our crowning beauty.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another… — Psalm 90.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Exodus 26 (Listen 4:18)
Luke 8(Listen 8:09)

Read more about Of Temples and Gardens
The Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, and other biblical Temples mimic and recreate the imagery of Eden’s garden.

Read more about From The Most Holy Place
The same Spirit that makes the most holy place holy has been sent to “tabernacle” within us.

Bread and Oil

Scripture Focus: Exodus 25.23, 30
23 “Make a table of acacia wood—two cubits long, a cubit wide and a cubit and a half high. 24 Overlay it with pure gold and make a gold molding around it…30 Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times. 

Exodus 27.20-21
20 “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.

Reflection: Bread and Oil
By John Tillman

Every ordinance and ornamentation in the Tabernacle, and in the Temples that followed it, were weighty not just with gold but with symbolism.

We will focus on two—oil and bread. The oil and the bread are both, in their own way, symbols of God’s presence.

The lampstands and the oil were instrumental in shining out the light of God’s presence into the courtyard. Isaiah and John both tell us that, eventually in Heaven, the Lord will be our “everlasting light” and no lamps will be needed for there will be no more night. (Isaiah 60.19-20; Revelation 22.5

Like Israel, we aren’t there yet. We live in the shadowy now, where night is always coming and shadows grow long. We live in a world that needs light.

The bread is symbolic of God as the source of life. Jesus was likely thinking of this bread when he said that he was the bread of life, the true manna from heaven. (John 6.57-58) Many disciples left Jesus because of this difficult teaching, but Peter recognized and explained that it was Jesus’ teachings, the words that he gave them, that were life.

For the priests and the people, bread represented that God’s words were the sustenance of life that the community needed. As Jesus would say to Satan in the desert, we live by words from the mouth of God. The lamps, faithfully tended and lit each evening, represented that God’s light was with them in the darkness. 

In the Tabernacle and the Temples, only priests could eat the bread or tend the lamps. But Jesus tore down the curtains and barriers. We are each a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are all priests serving under Jesus, our high priest. 

The bread and the oil remind us that we have a responsibility to to partake of the wisdom of God so we may shine in the darkness. 

We are both eligible to stand in the light and responsible to shine it.
We are eligible to partake in the bread and to waft its fragrance to others and invite them in.

We must keep our lamps lit, faithfully bringing the oil.
We must partake in the bread that is true life, the word of God.

We need to make Jesus’ words our food. He is the true bread of life. 

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6.68)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us. — Psalm 67.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Exodus 25 (Listen 4:20)
Luke 7 (Listen 7:14)

Read more about Manna or the Man?
What are our motives for pursuing Jesus? Do we want the man or just the manna?

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King on the Mountain, King on the Cross

Scripture Focus: Exodus 20.18-23
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” 
20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” 
21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. 

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. 

Luke 23.38-43
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. 
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 

Reflection: King on the Mountain, King on the Cross
By John Tillman

God presents himself to the former slaves as a glorious heavenly king.

There are many linguistic similarities between ancient vassal treaties between kings and subjects and the covenant language given to Moses. God tends to speak to us using language we are familiar with. 

Moses calls this a test. Will the people be faithful to this king? Will they trust God? Will they become God’s “firstborn son” that he calls them to become? (Exodus 4.22) The desert experience and hundreds of years of judges and kings would prove that Israel would fail to live up to the covenant until God sent the true “firstborn son” to fulfill the covenant. 

Israel fell into sin in the desert. Jesus would resist sin in the desert. Everything that Israel had lost or failed to do, Jesus would accomplish, including being a light to the Gentile nations.

When Jesus was on the cross, Pilate wrote “King of the Jews” and placed the sign over Christ’s head. The religious leaders objected to this. They did not want this naked, abused, bleeding man to be called their king. They wanted the intimidating king from the mountain, not the homeless carpenter from Nazareth.

If only their eyes could be opened and ours as well. The king on the mountain and king on the cross are the same king. 

The king from the exalted mountain, was exalted on the cross.
The king on the mountain demanded righteousness. The king on the cross provided it.
The king on the mountain made it a holy place by his presence. The king on the cross made it a holy altar by his blood.

Our God is a king, unlike other kings. 
Israel expected a king fitted for war. He came fitted to serve. 
They expected a king observing their laws. He came pointing out their sins.
They expected a king to cast out the Romans. He cast out the moneychangers.
They expected a king to banish the cursed outcasts and sinners. He brought them in and blessed them.
This is the kind of kingdom God is building because it is the only kind of kingdom we could be allowed into, sinners that we are.

The days of peering at God on a distant mountain top are over. Now, Jesus calls us close to his cross that he may save us and take us into his kingdom. (Hebrews 12.18-24)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O god of hosts, show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Exodus 20 (Listen 3:21)
Luke 2(Listen 6:11)

Read more about Unveiled
Seeing the glory of God can be discomforting. But Moses and Israel hadn’t seen anything yet…

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