We are at day 40 in our journey! I think that calls for a celebration! Over and over in the Bible we will read of 40-day journeys and tests. Have we passed our test by reaching this mini-landmark together? YES! Reading the Bible, chronologically, in its entirety in a year’s time is a big deal and it is incredible that I have travelling buddies on this road with me. We are not alone on this journey. At the helm, we have our Lord, opening our eyes and building up our understanding on Him. When I am feeling weak, I have Him and each of you to lean on; when you are feeling weak, you have Him and myself to turn to. If you and a friend are on this journey together, you have one another when you’re just not feeling it. I have even received a dear note from a married couple who is on this journey with us, and I am sure that on days that one isn’t feeling encouraged or is confused, the other is there to help. All along, God is here. We are all a community, whether we share or comment or can put faces with names, and I am grateful to each of you who are travelling with me, it’s going to be an awesome ride!
Day 40 reading: Exodus, chapters 30-32
Again, we open our daily reading with the acacia wood, overlayed with pure gold. I think this is a particularly interesting repetition considering my Bible note from Day 37. (Just for quick recall: the wood is representative of Jesus’ humanity, and the gold represents His divinity.) I also love that the scripture (30:3) doesn’t just read that these pieces are to have a gold overlay, but a pure gold overlay. Pure gold, just as our Lord is purely divine.
I get excited when I read about a specific location where God tells Moses that this is “where I will meet you” (30:6, NIV). To meet with God, and to have direct instruction from Him for your special time with Him. I feel like we have a taste of what that feels like, though, don’t you? Sometimes, the Spirit just comes over you in such a strong way that there’s no denying His Presence. Then, other days when you’re doing all the “right” stuff, saying all the “right” things and are wondering where that feeling went? He’s still there, He’s always there, but sometimes we have a scheduled meeting time with Him (whether we know it was scheduled or not), and like Moses, have our time with our Lord. I relish those times so much. Wouldn’t you love to bottle that sensation up like it’s even tangible? I have exciting news: we can and we do! We’re already well on our way to having that meeting time with God be more and more tangible, and more and more powerful, by building up our foundation through His Word.
Sometimes I absolutely get the urge to stand directly on my Bible because I get so excited about this book holding so many of the keys to unlocking mystery after mystery of our heritage. (By the way, I would never actually stand on my Bible, but I will stand on the Word of God for the rest of my life.) We are all God’s children and our Father is loving and gracious to His children. So much of who we are leads back to this book, His inspired Word, and that is the tangible evidence that we are drawing nearer to our meetings with Him.
I want to take an informal poll here. You don’t even have to answer me, I just want you to think about this. When reading through the Bible, do you ever find yourself thinking, ‘They built altars to God 2,000 years ago, that would be kind of cool. I think I’ll build an altar to God.’ Do you? I do. Not necessarily a full-blown altar, but certainly some more sacredly cared-for spot. But I never have and I know that the reason I haven’t is that my biggest fear is that the altar would become for me the item of worship, and would become like an idol in that it would actually take away from God. Sometimes even good things and good intentions can turn out to be a bad plan.
As I was reading through today’s scripture passage, all the description of the incense and fragrances to be used for worship sounded so amazing that–even though I have always hated modern-day incense–I must admit that I began to think about bringing some of those fragrances into my home. Then I read it, the verse that stopped me in my tracks:
“Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the Lord.” (30:37, NIV)
Then, like a one-two punch:
“Whoever makes any like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from his people.” (30:38, NIV)
Times like these make me so glad I am on this journey (I know, I come up with a new reason to be glad I’m on this journey every day–but that’s a good thing, too!). This is a perfect example as to why knowing the Word is so critical to building His foundation in our lives. If we don’t know the whole story, and only bits and pieces, we may make some of these kinds of mistakes. We wouldn’t know better, but that doesn’t make it right in God’s eyes, does it?
A few years ago, a group of my girlfriends and I went to the Deeper Still convention in Oklahoma City, OK. The speakers for this incredible weekend of women’s worship were Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, and Priscilla Shirer. Well, apparently I have lived under a rock for the entirety of my life up to that point because I had never heard of Kay Arthur, but Beth Moore described Mrs. Arthur as the “matriarch of women’s Bible study,” so I must have missed something. Anyway, as soon as Kay Arthur (or Miss Kay, as Priscilla Shirer called her) began to speak, I was absolutely blown away! She’s amazing! Every word that came from her mouth was so wise and dead-on-the-mark. She said one thing, in particular, that really struck me and I will never forget it. She said (and I’m paraphrasing):
“I don’t want to stand before God in heaven and not know what His Word said.”
Amen, Miss Kay!
Friends, I don’t want that, either. This foundation, even though some of the books we have studied so far are a bit tedious at times, are critical to our understanding of the greater picture. I don’t think God wants us to just read the really interesting and really moving parts of the Bible. I think He wants us to know what’s in there, front-to-back, so that if we make an error in judgement (like trying to replicate the incense formula God spoke of in today’s reading), we will know it’s an error.
My next informal poll involves the Sabbath and keeping it holy. In my family, Sunday’s are more relaxing days that the rest of the days of the week, but I would not go so far as to say they are restful. Just today, though, I was watching an intriguing show done by National Geographic on the times of Jesus Christ, and one of the specific topics that was covered in the episode I watched was about the Sabbath and keeping it holy. It focused primarily on ways the Jewish people still today truly do no work, and prepare the entire week ahead to insure that the Sabbath (in this case from Friday evening at sun-down, until Saturday evening at sun-down) is kept completely as a day of rest. No food is prepared on the Sabbath, nothing is cleaned, nothing is fixed. This applied even to the candles being lit at the beginning of the Sabbath period and not replaced or re-lit when they either burnt down to the base or blew out, or to lighting a wood burning stove, but when the fire goes out or grew cold, it was not to be stoked, re-lit, or adjusted in any way. It was particularly interesting for me to read today of all days, on the heels of reading this passage of scripture in Exodus this morning.
The Lord said to Moses:
“Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come a a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.” (31:14-17, NIV)
Is anyone else guilty of reading this particular biblical rule and thinking, ‘Yeah, but the Lord doesn’t know how much laundry I have to get done on the weekends or about Sunday afternoon baseball games.’ He doesn’t? HE DOES!
This past weekend, I walked past my husband as he was cooking dinner and I was carrying another laundry basket full from the dryer to the dining room table where I fold, hang, and sort, and I said, “So much for our day of rest.” This was at 5 o’clock. Practically bedtime and we, literally, hadn’t stopped going going going since we woke up for church that morning. Rest just wasn’t happening. It was more relaxing than every other day of the week, but still no where near what God called us to do in our observance of the Sabbath.
All of this thought about time and rest, altars and incense, brings me to an odd occurrence in our reading today. While Moses is up on Mount Sinai, the people (and, apparently, Aaron, as well) became impatient. So much so that Aaron took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (32:4, NIV)
Are you kidding me? Wait, let me rephrase that: ARE YOU KIDDING ME? All of these people are at the base of this mountain, waiting and waiting, BUT seeing that the Lord’s physical presence is still there at the top of the mountain with Moses, and there they all are building a golden calf to worship.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.” (32:7, NIV)
Don’t you know, even the one and only all-knowing God is saddened when we replace Him with things that seem more important to us at the time? Beginning today, I am going to amp-up my efforts to make His time all about Him. Sometimes, we catch ourselves when we are allowing stuff and schedules to take His place in our lives, and sometimes He has to step in with His mighty hand and knock us down a few notches to get us to listen.
Picture the scene with me here: The Israelites are feasting and celebrating, sacrificing and worshiping to a golden calf, and in the middle of it all, Moses comes down the mountain with the two tablets in hand, ready to share the true Word of God with the people. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. (32:15-16, NIV)
And when we realize what stupid stuff we have done, and all the ways we have sinned against the Lord, replacing Him with our own ambitions and worldly stuff, doesn’t our anger rage just like Moses’ did against the Israelites? I get so angry with myself sometimes, when I’ve done something particularly idiotic. It’s always, ‘I knew better.’ Although I don’t have false hopes that I will never sin again once this year of reading and studying as passed, I do know that the more I allow the Lord to have all of me, all the time, the less inclined I will be to doing the things that I know not to do, and the more inclined I will be to give Him all.
We are only human, with human sin natures, but this journey is beginning on the right foot and the road ahead leads to Him for an eternity. Here’s to a beautiful journey!
Make it a great day,
Day 41 reading: Exodus, chapters 33-35