EXODUS 31:1 – 33:23 and MATTHEW 22:1–22
After digesting all of the particulars required for the constructing of the tabernacle, God tells Moses that He has called a man by the name of Bezaleel who will be governed by wisdom, understanding and knowledge to accomplish the task. Can you imagine trying to build the exact specifications for the Ark and other pieces of furniture along with implementing exact measurements on every required item? Moses must have been greatly relieved to know that God had prepared such a person.
This could be likened to a spiritual helpmate. God prepared a Bezaleel to help accomplish what was in the heart of God. God may not be calling us to build a tabernacle with such exactitude but he does have a specific task for each of us to fulfil. In most cases we will need a help mate to fulfil our course via marriage. Likewise in ministry God knows the people needed to help accomplish His will. The name Bezaleel means “in the shadow and protection of God” He is a type of the Holy Spirit having 3 of the 7 Spirit anointings resting upon him (vs 3).
God also brings alongside another man to aid in the work by the name of Aholiab (vs 6). His name means “the tent of the Father”. An interesting meaning in light of the task he was given to do. The work prescribed to these two was an extensive one yet they were anointed and protected.
In verses 12-17 the subject of the Sabbath is again revisited. The constant repeating of this truth should suggest something to us. Perhaps, we should be re-visiting the true meaning of the Sabbath and see if we are appropriating its message. I do feel there is real meaning for the nation of Singapore regarding the Sabbath. Singapore as a nation has achieved much over the past 50 plus years. It is a testament to God’s faithfulness. At the same time it is a testament to good governance and a strong work ethic. There is a danger however in getting caught up in one’s success. There is a pace and current to life here that one can feel. It can be likened to a river that has a strong current. You are safe while on the shore but once you step into the water you quickly get swept into the stream. The nation is in a season where there is an acceleration of busyness; people are coming under greater stress and disillusionment.
The message of the Sabbath needs to be understood and brought to the forefront. We saw in an earlier commentary how a land was utilized for planting for 6 years but then rested from activity on the 7th. This would help ensure that the land would not get “tired “in being able to produce. The fruits of a year’s rest would result in a bumper harvest. We cannot overlook this thought of Sabbath due to its recurring emphasis. This needs to be applied to churches as well. The enemy is the one who is restless and we play into his area of strength when we push beyond God’s ordained boundaries.
The last verse (vs 31) is most significant. Moses is now receiving the Law on two tables of stones which were written by the finger of God. This is the culmination of the preparation that has been underway since God called Moses up the mountain. It is difficult trying to even think about what this must have been like. Moses as a priest is now receiving God’s Law from God Himself. His laws represent the greatest expression or understanding that we have of God. Jesus is known and revealed by the Word, He is the Word that was made flesh. God the heavenly Father is best expressed through the Law. Consider the following verse for a better perspective:
Mic 4:2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
This verse signifies that the Law is esteemed even more than the Word. The Father (Law) is the pre-eminent one, yet the godhead also consist of the Son (The Word) and the Holy Spirit. This is also why we put a high premium on the vision of Zion. It is the place the Lord has chosen for Himself to dwell in (Psa 132:12-13, Psa 87:1-3). Don’t you think that should be our goal as well?
We will soon discover a distinct contrast between two priests and their respective methods of leading. The parallels should not be too difficult to make between Moses and our day.
The focus now comes upon Aaron and the children of Israel who have been at the base of Mt. Sinai the past 40 days. Their mediator and primary priest (Moses) has not been with them. How was Israel, under Aaron faring during this period? The heart gets tested when confronted with a prolonged unexplained delay. What does one hold onto as an anchor during such times? Are the roots deep enough to hold steady in the midst of unrealized expectations? Is there a well, a resource that one can draw from? Are we strong enough to fight off attacks and agendas of the enemy due to being vulnerable? How did Aaron as priest manage this situation?
Moses, in the last chapter and verse was receiving the Law from God Himself. Moses would soon be leading a congregation of millions based on God’s pleasure, as expressed by His Law. He would take his cues from God and lead accordingly. He would know God in a greater way because of the relationship that had developed between God and himself.
In verses 1-6 we see the children of Israel becoming frustrated with the delay. It seems that they were giving up on Moses (vs 1). They then came to Aaron and demanded to make other gods that they could worship. Israel, under Aaron was about to break the first commandment. They were about to make other gods to worship at the same time Moses was receiving that very commandment regarding serving other gods on a table of stone.
In short we have two distinct congregations existing simultaneously. Moses established his ministry based on what God was expressing through His Law. Aaron was establishing his congregation based on the people’s demands. (The first seeker friendly church) Interestingly, they fashioned a god that resembled the gods of Egypt. Let’s remember that these people heard God’s thundering voice, they saw the mountain on fire and felt the quaking. Let’s also remember that they stated they would do whatever God would speak to them through Moses. Well it seems that those moments of terror and godly fear are distant memories seeing that they are employing gross idolatry. Whether they know it or not they are being tested as to whether they would qualify as priests. They were functioning from a serving God on our terms kind of relationship. Let’s get some further insight from the Book of Romans.
Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Rom 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Rom 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
There you have it! Is that not a picture of what we see in Exo 32? Notice above that it begins with unthankfulness. We have seen this earlier with Israel soon after their miraculous Exodus out of Egypt. When one is unthankful it affects the heart. It may be subtle at first but it can quickly develop into a heart that becomes desensitized, hardened and indifferent. This opens the door for things to come into our lives due to a void that needs to be filled.
As we read on in Exo 32 we see that the children of Israel followed through with the ritual of church. They made sacrifices and no doubt looked and played the part of typical church goer’s of their day. Afterwards they rose up to drink and play (Exo 32:6). Can you see the two different priests establishing their respective ministries on totally different benchmarks? Moses drew his leadership style and doctrine from God, based on his Law. Aaron, under the pressure of the people, established a congregation based on the people’s demands.
It does not appear that Israel is faring well in their testing for the priesthood. It cannot be stated enough that a similar proving is taking place today. How are we postured in this time of waiting for revival and a fresh move of God? As priests are we more concerned with people’s wants or do we look to stand firm upon God’s standards? Today, the church is being tested in the area of doctrine it upholds. In recent years we have witnessed a sad diminishing of good doctrine. The church is slowly allowing areas of compromise to creep within its ranks. It’s good to ask the question; are we more like Moses or like Aaron in this account? Perhaps we see ourselves as being like the children of Israel where we go about doing church on our terms. This portion of scripture is not meant to pick on Aaron. He came under intense pressure and he has not yet had the level of revelation that Moses did. He will soon have another opportunity to make his stand.
The anger of God is now front and centre as a result of Israel’s rebellion and idolatry. This is a dramatic moment because God is about to consume them. He tells Moses to leave Him alone in verse 11. Here we see Moses asserting his authority as a priest. He intervenes on behalf of sinful Israel, standing in the gap between God and the people. Moses was not being self-serving here he clearly was willing to lay his life on the line. The level of intimacy between Moses and the Lord was very high. God was making known to Moses what He was going to do. We also have another beautiful picture of what Christ fulfilled at Calvary. Christ, as our great high priest stood in the gap in our stead before God, His Father. Remember earlier when God spoke to Moses about being a god to Pharaoh (Exo 7:1)? It is here where we see Moses, as a type of Christ willingly standing in the gap for Israel. Moses pleaded with God to remember the covenant that was made with Abraham and to consider the reproach that would come to His name if followed through. Would have God judged Israel as he threatened if Moses did not intervene? The answer is yes.
We see in this account some keys to true intercession that will be required for our day. Moses was well versed in the covenant that God made with Abraham. Moses had an understanding of the ways of God, he knew His heart, and had a love and respect for His law. Nehemiah was very much the same way as he undertook the work of Restoration. How about us? Are we mired in the contemporary church scene, becoming increasingly desensitised to the realities taking place around us or are we seeking to press into God, redeeming and making the most of our time in the lead-up to the next move of God? Will we truly qualify as priests? The accounts of these chapters helps to give perspective as to which camp or congregation we find ourselves in.
We now come to the place where the priesthood is determined. It was God’s intention that all would be kings and priests (Exo 19:6) but we are about to see that the majority failed to qualify. We have been given the same opportunity to become kings and priests to our day (Rev 1:6, 5:10). The question is whether we will qualify for this high calling. This needs to be understood because all will not qualify due to their choosing in not being whole-hearted for God. It also needs to be understood that not all believers will rule and reign with Christ during the millennium.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
The Lord through Moses cries out “Who is on the Lord’s side” (vs 26)? It is here where the qualification for the priesthood takes place. The ones who responded were Aaron and the sons of Levi. The fruit of making this decision at this time was the privilege of being able to minister unto the Lord as a priest. These qualified priests would have access to the Holy Place. Aaron and subsequent high priests that would come after him would have access to the Holy of Holies once a year on the Feast of Atonement.
Will there be a similar cry and declaration that will be put forth to the church in our day? If so, would we respond? It is a costly choice but one that can be easily made if preparation is in place ahead of time. We can do this by spending time with the Lord; allowing the Lord to have full access to our heart where we learn to love His Word and Ways. This choice may cost you close friends and perhaps even a congregation. Are you more concerned about pleasing God or pleasing man? This is the ultimate question and it is one each of us will be tested on. Lord, help to make us priests unto the most high God.
The Lord, even though he changed His mind about judging Israel, was still very agitated. He instructs Moses to move Israel on in their journey and that He will send His angel before them as mentioned in Exo 23. The people mourned and understood that they had sinned grievously before God. We also see the tabernacle taking shape as well as the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night as the means of their direction.
Moses was able to communicate with God even so much as being face to face with Him (vs 11). Moses, as a result of this level of communication with God, has a desire in now wanting to know the ways of God. This is critical because Moses needed to truly know God’s heart in undertaking this leadership role. He appealed to the Lord on the basis of hoping to have found favour and grace in His sight.
The level of relationship he had with God had a positive effect upon Joshua. What was Joshua doing in the midst of all this? He departed not out of the temple (vs 11). Joshua would be the next leader and he was already preparing himself many years prior to his assuming the leadership role. This is one of the best methods in the implementation of true succession; to set an example that others might emulate.
The Lord gave the assurance that he would go before them (vs 14). Moses had another desire bubbling up within him; it was to know His glory (vs 18). These are worthy desires and ones that pleased the Lord. We will see in the next chapter how God honoured that request. This helps us to realize that there are pursuits and desires that man has that do in fact please God. What do we truly desire from God? Solomon, when given this opportunity requested of God wisdom so that he would know how to lead a multitude of people. This pleased God.
David desired to bask in His presence all the days of his life (Psa 16:11). This was most pleasing to God. Moses asked of God for the privilege of knowing His ways and His glory (Exo 33:13, 18). This too was pleasing to God and Moses is soon to have his desire fulfilled. What are we asking of God for today? What really is in our heart? Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance (Psa 2:8). I believe God has a place set aside for us if we truly want to know Him; our own cleft of the rock, where He can reveal His name, His ways and His glory, which will prepare us for our respective great commission or our day.
As Jesus is nearing the cross He devotes His time in making distinctions within the kingdom itself. We need to give close heed to the message He is seeking to convey in the final days of His earthly ministry. The first story He shares is regarding the kingdom of heaven being likened to a king who prepared a marriage for His Son. There should be little difficulty drawing parallels to the wedding that God the Father is preparing for His Son (The bridegroom) with the church (the bride). The question is what is the primary message that Jesus is trying to put across? There are actually many messages here but let’s attempt to glean some of the key ones:
At the end of the age we have a few events that will be taking place. There will be the marriage feast of the lamb which will take place just prior to the 2nd coming. This parable seems to be directed more towards that event. This will be developed in future commentaries. There are many different interpretations that Bible commentators have on this and other related end time events. For now our focus is on the attitude of those who are being called. This is an invitation being sent out to people who are already believers, not the unsaved. The invitation to the marriage supper of the lamb is an extreme honor and privilege but far too many people are caught up in their own lives to give it any heed. This same story is elaborated upon in Luke 14 where various people are making excuses to not attend the marriage. On the surface their excuses may sound reasonable but when measured against what they are being called too it becomes clear where their priorities are. It really comes down to what is in our heart. If we are truly hungry for God we will make EVERY EXCUSE to participate in what He presents before us. The problem is people often make EVERY EXCUSE to not over commit to the things of God. It is a matter of priority which finds its base in the heart. What do we make EVERY EXCUSE to do?
The next phase of this parable sees the servants going forth into the highway and byways to call as many to this feast as would come. This is a picture of the last great harvest. We can also link verses 9-11 to the parable of the wheat and tares (Math 13:25-30). You will have all kinds of people coming into the kingdom in the last days. The nets will be full. Still, we know from the parable of the wheat and tares that in this harvest both good and bad will grow together for a time. There will then come a time when the tares will be removed or separated from the wheat.
My thought is that there will be the need for effective teaching during this period. It is not enough to just bring in a huge amount of fish. Remember the nets that broke in Luke 5 after a huge harvesting of fish (Luke 5:6)? The harvest that is coming will be a significant one. The account in John 21 of another intake or harvesting of fish is different from the one in Luke 5. The nets did not break; they were able to hold those 153 great fish (John 21:11). Yes, we all long for revival but are we prepared for all that will be involved? I feel the primary message involving these two accounts is the need for good teaching. We do not want to harvest a large intake of fish and then not be able to hold them. John had a ministry of mending nets and it is this ministry quality which will be needed for the upcoming harvest.
We will see that not everyone will respond to sound doctrine but we must be prepared to teach and be prepared to be tested. We want to qualify to be a partaker of the wedding feast and we want to have the covering or garment that is required. The point I am looking to make is that not all believers will participate in the marriage supper of the lamb. In verse 12 we see a man at the wedding but he does not have a wedding garment. What does this mean? We have seen in our study of Exodus how there were to be certain garments that would be worn by priests. One could not enter the holy place unless they were a priest which included an exchange of garments when coming in from the outer court to the holy place. Paul refers to 10 garments that we can put on in our lives as believers (Col 3:12-14). Each of these garments reflects attributes of Christ and each one comes at a price. The Lord ends this parable by making a familiar statement. “Many are called but few are chosen” (vs 14). Perhaps this man at the wedding assumed that he qualified to be there. Perhaps he represents one who was given an invitation earlier but refused and decided to come at a time of his choosing and on his terms. We need to be reminded on how the children of Israel sought to go into the land of their inheritance the day after they forfeited their opportunity when God spoke to them (Num 14:44). When God speaks we must have an ability to respond accordingly. We must never presume upon the presence of God.
“Today if you hear His voice”. (Psa 95:7)
We now see a noticeable alliance coming together of those who oppose Jesus. (vs 23 onwards) These groups now share common ground in seeing the Lord as a threat to their position. They were losing ground and influence with the people and they recognized the need to do whatever it would take to discredit Him. You see this throughout Biblical history.
Daniel became a threat to the leaders surrounding the king so they devised a plan that would cause Daniel to break a law they were going to enact (Daniel 6:1-9). They were going to trap Daniel in accordance to his daily prayer of consecration. They knew Daniel would break this new law and in so doing would suffer the consequence of death. This is the extreme that the enemy will go to in seeking to thwart those who are pressing on in God.
You see this today in the political arena. Political parties who generally oppose each other will unite when they see another political voice arising. If this voice gains the ascendancy it will neutralize the power and influence of these parties. If this new voice gains in popularity and general support of the populace it will result in irrelevancy to the status quo political landscape. The same can be true in the church context. Jesus was a contrarian voice but His message was resonating with the masses. The Pharisees, Herodian’s, Scribes and others were losing their grip on the people. Groups that had been foes are now rallying together to stop this threat. In their eyes, Jesus had to be discredited and it had to be done in a way that would convince the people. Jesus would later give them their needed ammunition but for the moment answers this group with wisdom regarding the question they were asking.
Notice how they try to flatter Him in verse 16. You teach the way of God, you are a man of Truth etc. These statements of course were true but Jesus discerned their motive of heart. Herein is another truth that must be grasped. The antichrist will be a man who will flatter to obtain a following. Daniel gives insight into a man that will give a vivid picture of the future man of sin.
Dan 11:32 “And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”
The human heart is vulnerable to flattery. In these last days we must be discerning. There will be many who seek to join hands in a work or ministry initiative. Their intentions may seem noble and well-intended but it masks an underlying intent to infiltrate and destroy (Ezra 4). The gift of discernment may be the most precious of gifts due to its ability to reveal the source of a person or issue. Jesus, in this account easily reads their hearts and knows they have no regard for truth or His reputation as a teacher. They were trying to trap Him. The ability to discern is clearly contingent on our knowing and loving the truth. Jesus, as the Son of man, discerned the enemy at every turn. He would respond too many of His attacks by stating “It is Written”. He would respond too many of his accusers by quoting the Word of God. Isaiah spoke prophetically concerning the Son of man who would be born some 700 years later.
“Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” (Isa 7:15)
Jesus now engages in a discourse with the Sadducees. They held to a doctrine that did not subscribe to a resurrection. The question they ask Jesus relates to their belief. It centered on marriage. They quoted scripture where Moses stated about a brother marrying the wife of a deceased brother in a cycle of 7 times. They then ask as to which brother would end up having her to wife. Jesus actually seems to answer this group respectfully by saying they err regarding the scriptures. He states that in the resurrection there will not be marrying as we do on earth today. He then goes back to the covenantal declaration made to Abraham regarding His promise. By doing this I feel the Lord is trying to lift their eyes or of those who were privy to this conversation, to the bigger picture. We often view God solely through the lens of day to day circumstances, forgetting that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
There is an old charismatic chorus that come to mind as I write this. The song is titled “Lift us up into the greatness of God” A portion of the song has this line: …out of the narrowness of self, into thy heights and thy depths, lift us up into the greatness of God.” Jesus is presenting the bigger picture making clear that eternity will be different from what we know here on earth. I do believe however that we will be with saved loved ones in the resurrection, but there will be differences seeing that we have glorified bodies.
We now have a Pharisee, a lawyer who asks Jesus a question regarding which is the greatest commandment in the law. His answer is brilliant because He is able to narrow down all of the laws and commandments to just two. Love God with all your heart, love your neighbor likewise. If you meditate on that response you find that it’s true, it fulfils all of the commandments. This is so contrary to our world today where you see new laws being enacted daily. We must understand the Law that is given by the true Lawgiver.
It is tax time in the USA and I heard a report recently as to the many changes in the tax code in the past year alone. Many accountants cannot even keep up or understand it. Forgive my political rant however it helps to shed light on this truth. The final portion of this chapter is a follow up (In my opinion) to the previous discussion about the question surrounding the resurrection. I get the impression that Jesus wanted to reinforce what he shared earlier and He does this by asking a question.
What do you think of Christ? Whose son is He? The group answered and said David. Jesus then uses scripture from Psa 110 to further make his point. In doing this he was validating their answer but He was also making the point by asking How can Christ be the Lord of David and yet the son of David? He is again attempting to lift their eyes higher to look at things outside the lens of circumstances. I also feel He was trying to provoke them that they were actually having this conversation with the Son of David or at least to show them that it could be possible. This response silenced them and they dared not ask any other questions. This whole discourse is worthy of meditation because it is profound. The ones trying to trick Jesus were seeking to be clever, even to the point of using scripture. Jesus, knowing their heart was able to turn this episode into a teachable moment by turning the tables on them. Jesus used scripture and used this opportunity to present more about Himself. May God help us to have such a resident abiding and understanding of His Word within us so that we will have a similar ability to be wise and discerning for our day.