Now, a bit of a Biblical fast forward:
In the last section, we learned a lot about Abraham, the "Father" of the Jewish Nation. After the death of Abraham, his son, Isaac, and his wife, Rebekah, gave birth to two sons, Esau and Jacob. In sort of a "spoiler," God told the formerly barren Rebekah, that the normal blessing known as the birthright (a double portion of the inheritance which usually goes to the first born), would be switched (Gen 25:23). This is an interesting turn of events in and of itself, but, for the sake of moving on, we will keep going past this intrigue which involved deception, and even food fraud.
Jacob went on to have twelve sons which became the twelve Tribes of Israel (Gen 35:22-26). One of those sons, Joseph, was held in contempt by his brothers after he told them about a dream he had. In the dream, Joesph's brothers were bowing down in submission to him (Gen 37:5-11). This offended his brothers and they conspired to kill Joseph, but instead, ended up selling him as a slave to a camel caravan of Arabs that were headed for Egypt (Gen 37:18-28).
Now in Egypt after a series of misadventures, Joseph ended up being the second in command to Pharaoh and indeed, the dream that Joseph's had, came true (Gen 4:26).
The Jews in Egypt:
Joseph had a "long run" in Egypt and he fathered 70 children, but, after Joseph died, "There arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph (Exo 1:8)." The Israelites fertility rate was greater than the Egyptians and soon, the Jews outnumbered them and this was threating to the Egyptian leadership. So, the Egyptians not only started working them to death, they conspired to kill their newborn sons. (Exo 1:6-22.
During this tumultuous time, a baby boy was born to a husband and wife from the tribe of Levi. To save her son from the baby genocide now in progress, his mom put the baby into a little reed boat and set it adrift on the Nile River. Soon, boat and baby were discovered by one of Pharaoh's daughters who felt compassion in her heart, and she decided to keep the baby. She named him, Moses (Exo 2:1-10) and Moses grew up and was educated in the house of Pharaoh, with all the "perks."
Years passed, and Moses was now a grownup and one day, Moses witnessed an Egyptian abusing one of his Jewish brethren, and in a rash act, Moses killed the Egyptian. Realizing his mistake, he headed for the hills, actually, the desert of Midian (Exo 2:11-15). In Midian, he was taken in by a family and one day several years later while tending a flock, Moses had the famous "burning bush" event, where God gave him a mission, to take his brethren out of Egypt and away from all of its related bondage (Exo 3:1-10). Note: that God called Moses's brethren, "My people."
"Let My People Go"
Moses headed back to Egypt and Pharaoh was not impressed with Moses's plan, nor, would he relent even though a series of plagues ensued.
1. The plagues were in a progression, each one with the hope of changing Pharaoh's heart. Instead, the plagues exposed how much rebellion was in his heart.
2. The plagues were customized, mocking the gods of idols, that were worshiped in Egypt.
A Substitutionary Sacrifice - Protected by the Blood
The final plague upon Egypt, was the death of the firstborn. So the "death angel" would not effect them, the Children of Israel were given some very specific instructions. Each household was to take and kill a "lamb without blemish" and then take some of the blood of the lamb and paint it on the door-posts of their house. The lamb was to be roasted and eaten that night and those dining, were to be packed and ready to leave Egypt.
1. There was nothing magical about the blood, the participants were demonstrating trust in what God said, through their obedience to His instructions.
2. This event harkens forward to when John the Baptist referred to Jesus as: "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
Liberated from The Bondage of Egypt
Soon after the work of the "death angel" was completed, Pharaoh agreed to let the Jews leave. The Children of Israel headed out led by God in a cloud during the day, and a pillar of fire during the night. Eventually, they got to the shore on the other side of the Rea Sea while Pharaoh's army was destroyed in the midst of the sea. The Children of Israel were led to "The Mountain of God," where God gave Moses the Law and the instructions for building a dwelling place for God that would be in the middle of the encampment.
1. In 1998, I had the blessing in participating in a week long dive expedition at the Red Sea, artifacts were found. If you are interested in this, click on this link.
2. One sad fact when you study this actual account, is that although the Children of Israel were physically separated from the bondage of Egypt, some of Egypt crossed over the Red Sea in their hearts. The result was that it caused an entire generation to spend their live in the wilderness.
A Special People for God
God desired to have a special nation of people, a nation that would be unique and different from the others. One that would be a living example to the world of what it looks like when a nation is whole-heartily, living in a "eternal" relationship with the Living God.
Like any father, God loves His Children and He had demonstrated His love, by being their protection, provision, and physically, by being in their presence. Israel's part of the relationship was for them to trust and obey their God. Earlier, God had found the seeds of trust, in Abraham, and it seems that those "seeds" were passed on to the Children of Israel, but perhaps not to all of them. The set of rules that God established in the Ten Commandments, coupled with their long stay in the wilderness, would give time and circumstances to test whether or not, the "seeds of trust" would flourish and grow, or, wither and die, leading to rebellion against God.
Sadly, as a whole, the kind of trust and obedience that God was looking for was in short supply. Out of the perhaps 1.5 million people that had crossed the Red Sea, only two of that generation, Joshua and Caleb, made it to the promised land.(Num 26:65 and Num 32:10-11).
If you think of this world as being our time in the "wilderness," When it comes to eternal life, Jesus had this to say about the difficulty of crossing over to the promised land (Mat 7:13-14).
The 10 Commandments - it's "The Law"
Any functioning society needs rules and the nation of Israel was not an exception. But, I doubt if a functioning society was God's main interest in establishing the Ten Commandants. The Ten Commandments encompass God's concepts about relationship, love, respect, personal integrity, and sexual morality.
But the Commandments do something else. They demonstrate to us that we have broken God's Law (sinned). The Law is like a mirror that men look into, seeing that they need to shave. The mirror does not shave us, it effectually shows us that there is a problem. Like the mirror, God's Law shows us that we have failed in the perfection God wants for us (Mat 5:48). Fortunately for us, God knew that we would "blow it" so there is a provision for those interested in becoming "right" (or righteous) in God's eyes.
"Come, make us make gods that shall go before us." In this sad event detailed in Exodus 32, the Children of Israel willingly broke the third commandment by making a "graven image," a golden calf to worship.
And, in one of the most comical moments in scripture, Aaron, Moses' brother, said "And I said to them, "Whoever has any gold, let them break it off." So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out."
A miracle? Really Aaron?
In this calf incident, just like any father dealing with disobedient children, God showed Moses what He was feeling when He said, "I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them and I will make of you a great nation." Exodus 32:9-10
Moses pleaded with God reminding Him of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In reality, God was reminding Moses of His promises and showing Moses just how forgiving He is.
After dealing "hands on" with the mess, Moses hiked back up the mountain and said to God, "Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." God replied " Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book." An amazing offer for sure, but one problem with this is that Moses was not perfect, after all, he had murdered someone in a fit of anger while in Egypt.
This passage is interesting, Moses the leader, is taking the blame and expecting to loose his salvation for the sake of the Children of Israel. God's reply was that at least for now, the guilty will be responsible for their own sin. But, a day would come yet future, when a blameless and perfect man, Jesus, would offer Himself to atone for the sins of others just as the scriptures foretold in (Isa 52 and Isa 53).
In this event, Moses becomes a "type" of Jesus.
The Tabernacle was a portable building for God's presence to dwell in while the Children of Israel were "on the road." The construction details were laid out by God to Moses, while Moses was on the Mountain of the God (Exo 25). The following, is an excerpt from a special narrative I wrote which presents God's Plan of Salvation, through a series of news articles from a fictitious period newspaper, the "Jerusalem Herald Times." If you would like to read some more like this, click here.
An Interview with Moses about The Tabernacle
For the first time ever, Moses has agreed to a news conference to discuss what the Tabernacle is all about. After greeting the press, Moses started explaining the function and layout of the Tabernacle. As you all know, tabernacle means "dwelling place", so, this is the dwelling place of God, where we visit Him. It is a delicate and exact process; God was very specific on His instructions. Sacrifices and offerings must be done according to free will, not coerced. The sacrificial animals must be perfect, without spot or blemish.
Before the innocent animal is killed, the owner's hands are placed on the head of the animal signifying that the animal offered on his behalf will cover (atone for) his sin, making it right between God and him. There is only one way into the Tabernacle, where the Spirit of the Living God dwells, through the gate. Inside, is a bronze alter stoked with a wood fire where pieces of the animals are burned, as an offering to the Lord. The blood is drained and sprinkled around the alter. Because there are so many people presenting sacrifices, the work of the priests goes on day and night. Yes, it is bloody and a lot of work, but, this is what we need to obediently observe until God provides us another way."
A knowledgeable un-identified priest commented, "Even though a lot of what God has prescribed here makes no sense to us, by doing it we show we acknowledge and revere Him, and we are obedient to His directions, instead of trusting in idols like our heathen neighbors. Of course, the physical,visible, presence of God in the form of a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, helps us to take this all seriously. "Moses explained that the sacrifice of the perfect animals provides a temporary covering for sin, sort of like when God provided the appropriate coverings for Adam and Eve in the garden.
Moses further said that "it would be nice if everyone could keep the 10 Commandments perfectly, but the reality is that mankind is sinful by nature, and that sin separates us from God. He added, "God is perfectly just and sin cannot be in His presence, therefore, He cannot ignore or take a pass on mankind's sin; it has to be pardoned."
The price of rebellion (sin) must be paid, in this case, by an innocent animal. With all of this bloody killing it is easy to see that sin comes at a great cost, and God alone, specifies the terms for our salvation. Behind the alter of incense, is a heavy curtain which is the entrance to the Most Holy Place. The only item inside (other than God's presence) is the Ark of the Covenant which contains the 10 commandments. On top of the Ark is a golden lid called the Mercy Seat. Only after a lot of preparation and only once a year does the High Priest go inside to sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat, to atone for all the people." Moses wrapped up his verbal tour by saying that "God is teaching us that He is perfectly Holy, and we are not, but for now, this is the only way we can have fellowship with Him."
Perspective: The tabernacle is an object lesson on the exactness of God and the importance of following His directions; particularly, when the subject is our sin. If we are to have a relationship with our Holy God, we must trust his provision for salvation and follow His precise Instructions. With our advantage of history, we can see that this tabernacle system and later the temple, looked forward to the coming of Jesus. Jesus the perfect sacrifice, whom the John the Baptist would declare as he presented Jesus as: "the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world."
We saw God "calling out " a people that He would call His own. We see God teaching the Children of Israel about His ways, and instituting His laws. The Children of Israel had some interesting advantages, they saw the supernatural works of the Lord on a regular basis, even the visible presence of the Lord in there camp. Did this supernatural insight help them to believe and trust God? Sadly not.
Because of their unbelief and open rebellion toward God, instead of just journeying into the "promised land," God's people would follow their God in the wilderness for 40 years, until the the whole generation of rebellious adults, had died. During this time, God would still continue to be their protection, provision and in their presence. They will face many tests along the way, sort of like the experiences we have during our lives.