devotions written by Deborah Galyen
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (33:14). What Moses learned about God, he taught to the people of Israel. Moses had learned that without God’s actual presence, there was no hope, no matter what great Promised Land was ahead of them (v16). Moses spoke to God and left His presence with his face shining (ch 34), and he heard God’s voice. He saw God’s “goodness” pass by and still lived (33:22).
Through Moses’ witness, the Israelites learned that God was “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (34:6). They learned that nothing mattered more than His presence among them.
“Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold” (32:31). When Moses disappeared up on the mountain, the Israelites became anxious and fearful (32:1). They had not been out of Egypt for very long, and they did not personally know God the way Moses did. So, they fell back into what was familiar: idol worship. The golden calf represented “the Lord,” but it was an image created by humans that they could control (32:4-5).
New Testament believers were also tempted to fall back into idolatry and controlling their own lives. But what we have is so much better: “we are the temple of the living God” (II Cor 6:16).
“I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God” (29:45). This was God’s desire, yet because of humanity’s sin and God’s holiness, it took enormous effort to achieve. The covenant with Israel, with all its sacrifices (29:41), prepared the priests, the people and the tabernacle for God’s presence (30:29). The invisible God, Creator of the universe, loved His rebellious creation enough to give them this opportunity.
Other nations worshipped idols, but Israel worshipped the invisible God who wanted to dwell among people. God’s ultimate goal was not only to receive worship, but, through Christ, to even call us friends (John 15).
“So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place” (v28:29). The priests’ clothes were spectacular: gold, blue, purple and red embroidered linen, decorated with golden tassels and pomegranates, and on the chest, a vest of jewels engraved with the names of the 12 tribes. In this way, the priest “carried” the tribes into the God’s Holy Place.
Now, the beauty and refuge of God’s presence is available to all. Jesus, our High Priest, “enters into the inner place behind the curtain,” and He carries us on His heart (Hebrews 6:19).
“Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (v27-28). Jesus predicted His own death many times, though His followers resisted the idea. He said that the woman who anointed Him had done “a beautiful thing” (v10) in preparing His body for burial, and He told His disciples that His blood would be “poured out for many.” Still, His friends – and Jesus himself, briefly (v39) – hoped for some other way.
We still are often uncomfortable with the fact that Jesus, God’s Son, died for our sins. Yet Jesus’ death proclaims more than anything else how much He loves us.
“And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (v40). Like many of the “kingdom of God” parables, this one explains that the eternal destiny of men and women will be based on their response to Jesus and His witnesses. Jesus’ “brothers” in this case were the early believers who spread the gospel, and they were either welcomed or rejected (v35).
“Inherit the kingdom prepared for you” (v34). God’s kingdom is prepared for those who desire it – those who respond in joyful faith to the good news about Jesus.
“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence …” (v8-9). The psalmist was surrounded by enemies, feeling attacked, and he was frustrated by self-satisfied people who cared only for “this life” (v10-14). But God was his present refuge and his future hope, and he trusted that God would not disappoint him. He waited expectantly for rescue and salvation: “Wondrously show Your steadfast love, O Savior …” (v7).
“I shall behold Your face” (v15). Like the believers who saw beyond “the sufferings of this present time” (Rom 8), the psalmist trusted that fellowship with God was worth everything.
"You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you" (v1). The longer we walk with God, the more we recognize Him as the source of everything good in our lives. The psalmist had responded in faith to God’s love; the Lord was his “chosen portion” (v5). As a result, he received counsel from God (v7), helping him know right from wrong, and God was his refuge in a difficult world (v1). In God’s presence, the psalmist found both joy and security, “a beautiful inheritance” (v6).
When God is our foundation, no matter what happens, we won’t be shaken (v8). He shows us the path of life and offers “fullness of joy” (v11).
“And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (25:8). Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt so that they could worship God and be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (19:16). Israel’s ancestors had lived briefly in the Promised Land, but they had multiplied in slavery in Egypt, and their story demonstrated God’s saving power and mercy. The sanctuary, with its precious materials and symbols, was now the focus of God’s relationship with His people.
“That I may dwell in their midst.” Nothing was more important for God’s people – not their land or their army or their rulers. God’s presence among them was life itself.
“They beheld God, and ate and drank” (24:11). As part of the celebration of the giving of the Law, God invited Moses, Aaron, and Israel’s leaders to meet with Him on the mountain. Though they were ordinary, sinful men, God protected them, and they survived being in His holy presence. God asked Moses to go further on Sinai, amid clouds and fire, and Moses stayed 40 days and nights. Being in God’s presence was an extraordinary, terrifying gift.
No one can meet with God uninvited, but He takes the initiative. In Jesus, God set aside His glory and came into our world, covering our sins, so that we can enjoy His presence without fear.
“You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry” (-23). The detailed case-laws in Exodus do not describe an ideal society; they are rules for limiting the damage that humans do to each other. Rather than revenge-killing and escalating violence, these rules outlined “an eye for an eye” justice. However, the Israelites were reminded that God is the real Judge.
Government can keep order by punishing obvious crimes, but God calls us to a higher standard. In His name, we are called to protect the weakest in society, such as vulnerable women, the fatherless, and foreigners (v21-23).
"See that no one leads you astray” (v4). Jesus promised that He would return at the right time, a time known only by the Father (v36). He gave His disciples warnings and guidance about His coming, not so that they could pinpoint the date, but so that they would endure tribulation (v13), stay faithful, and be ready. Jesus knew that false messiahs and false teachings would arise to tempt people, and He wanted His disciples to “stay awake” (v42).
We don’t have to worry about when Jesus will return; we will see Him clearly (v27-30). Our job is to stay awake, being witnesses to His gospel of love and sacrifice until the end.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (v25). The Pharisees received harsh condemnation from Jesus because they set themselves up as examples. They didn’t embrace Greek and Roman culture; they taught Moses’ Law (v2). But they were so focused on religious obedience that they forgot about “justice and mercy and faithfulness” (v23).
Wrong focus and pride can cause us to lose perspective or grow cold, but keeping our eyes on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), helps us see what is most important.
“Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth in his heart” (v1-2). The psalmist’s question is another way of saying, “What kind of person pleases God?” In most human societies, people are celebrated who have achieved wealth, or celebrity status, or beauty, or power. But God cares about speaking truth in our hearts, treating neighbors and friends well, and dealing fairly and honestly with everyone (v2-5).
God calls us to live for His approval, doing what is right in His eyes, even if we never receive human recognition. In the end, He is the only judge who matters (Romans ).
March 23: Matthew 25 (03/23/2015)
March 22: Psalm 17 (03/22/2015)
March 21: Psalm 16 (03/21/2015)
March 20: Exodus 25-27 (03/20/2015)
March 19: Exodus 23-24 (03/19/2015)
March 18: Exodus 21-22 (03/18/2015)
March 17: Matthew 24 (03/17/2015)
March 16: Matthew 23 (03/16/2015)
March 15: Psalm 15 (03/15/2015)
March 14: Exodus 18-20 (03/14/2015)
March 13: Exodus 16-17 (03/13/2015)
March 12: Exodus 14-15 (03/12/2015)
March 11: Matthew 22 (03/11/2015)
March 10: Matthew 21 (03/10/2015)
March 9: Matthew 20 (03/09/2015)
March 8: Psalm 14 (03/08/2015)
March 7: Psalm 13 (03/07/2015)
March 6: Exodus 10-13 (03/06/2015)
March 5: Exodus 7-9 (03/05/2015)
March 4: Matthew 19 (03/04/2015)