There are a number of major themes that weave their way through the whole story of the Bible: covenant, kingdom, and temple, just to name a few. This last Sunday we looked at the theme of God’s presence in each of the sections of the story that we have covered thus far (Genesis 1-11, Genesis 12-50, and Exodus 1-18), and then how this idea of God’s presence comes into a bit of a sharper focus in Exodus 19-40.
Moses himself gives us an example of how important this idea of God’s presence with his covenant people is in one of his interactions with God. It happens immediately following the golden calf incident, which occurred while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving instructions from God regarding designs for his dwelling place, the tabernacle.
[And God said,] “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned.
And Moses said to God, “If your presence will not go with [us], do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us?…” (from Exodus 33)
Moses, and the people with him, cannot imagine life without the presence of God. And it is in interactions like this that we see how they are desperate to know and experience the presence of God (this is further displayed in his famous story of Moses pleading to see the glory of God, found in Exodus 34).
Exodus concludes with the desire for his presence being met: God has descended in glorious fashion from Mt. Sinai, into the Eden-like tabernacle that he had designed, and the people had built. What a marvelous turn of events from the “disastrous word” to the beauty of his glory among the people!
But then, in the last few verses of Exodus, comes this surprising problem:
“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting…” (Exodus 40:34-35a)
It appears that the presence of God brings its own set of challenges for the people of the covenant, who are sinful and fall short of what God requires. So how will they enter his presence? Moses is positively egging us on, to turn the page, and continue reading in the book of Leviticus.
If you would like to continue exploring this section of The Whole Story found in Exodus 19-40, the resources below are a great place to start:
- Review last week’s sermon on Exodus 19-40.
- Download the Exodus 19-40 study guide found here (scroll down the page a bit when you get there) to study as a family or in your community group.
- Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on Exodus 19-40.
- This coming Sunday, 04 February, we will be studying Leviticus. As we discover how God will solve the problem of sinful people living in his presence, a couple of important themes will surface. Watching the videos on Sacrifice and Atonement and Holiness from the Bible project will help you prepare as you read the story and come to the Sunday morning service.
I’d like to repeat a suggestion I made last week or keeping up on your bible reading as we make our way through The Whole Story sermon series. One of the best ways to do this is listening to the Bible. While you are on a commute, making dinner, shoveling the walk, or on a run, you can listen to the Bible reading that day. Yes, listening counts! My favorite website and app for that comes from ESV.org. Check it out.
As always, please feel free to email me with questions or ideas for The Whole Story. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, when we will begin the next chapter of the drama by studying Leviticus. Be sure to read it before you come!
Seeking Jesus, the point of The Whole Story, with you,
Pastor Matthew will be preaching on the book of Mark this coming Sunday, January 20. Here are some tips for your Bible reading that you received in last week’s Weekly Bible Reading email.
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