It is good to have a free day today. From the wonder of the plagues to the excitement of the Passover, from leaving slavery and Egypt behind, it had been a rich, full week. We have left the lush land of Goshen and traded it for the wilderness of the Sinai. We have looked on as God gave the Israelites a meal to remember what He had done for His people. This meal is the precursor to our meal of remembrance, Holy Communion. Throughout the week we have seen the power, majesty and might of the one true living God.
Once the Israelites left Egypt and began their journey to the promised land there were challenges. Water was scarce. The foods available to them in Egypt were no longer available. It was hot and dusty, and they began to question why Moses decided to drag them out of Egypt. The complaining began and never really stopped. God gave the Israelites a meal of remembrance because He knew that His people would soon forget what He had done. As they wandered it was clear the Israelites had forgotten the promises God had made to their ancestors and to them. At this point the promise of descendants was being fulfilled. Seventy Israelites went to Egypt...Jacob and his family. Scholars estimate upwards of two to three million Israelites left. God also promised land, a promised land that would be full of good things. In fact, it would be a land flowing with milk and honey. Wine and oil were common, everyday things. Milk and honey meant you were living the good life. Only people with means had milk and honey. God had promised His people the best. But at that time, in the wilderness, all the Israelites could think about was what they had left behind and what they did not have.
Instead of excitement for what was waiting for them, instead of looking forward, they were looking back. We do that sometimes as well. We think life was better when... You can fill in the blank. Imagine the roller coaster ride the first few days of wandering must have been. Even if they were looking forward to the promised land there was still a long journey to get there. Think about trips you have planned, the excitement of going somewhere. But the car ride seems interminable, and the initial excitement soon wears off. Being herded through the airport or other terminals is never ending. Once we arrive it is great but sometimes the trip getting there is arduous.
Remember God went before the Israelites in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He was always with them. But when they got to the shores of the Red Sea pharaoh changed his mind and he sent his whole army to bring them back to Egypt. Everything the Israelites knew about God melted away and they were terrified. Again, they blamed Moses for dragging them out of Egypt. And once again we see God's power, might and glory. The pillar of cloud moved behind them obscuring them from the Egyptians. God parted the Red Sea with a strong wing and the Israelites crossed over on dry ground. Once most of the Israelites had crossed, some of the Egyptian army realized God was showing his glory again. We read in Exodus 14:25, ”Let's get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” The entire Egyptian army was destroyed. The Lord prevailed and the Israelites were safe. But they were not anywhere near done complaining. Moses brought them out into the wilderness to starve them to death. And God provided manna and quail for them to eat...everyday...for 40 years.
When the Israelites reached Mt. Sinai, they again saw the glory of God. He descended upon the mountain in thunder, lightning, thick clouds, fire and billowing smoke. They heard very loud trumpet blasts. There was no mistaking the presence of God in their midst. God had come to make a covenant with His people. They had been gone from Egypt for three months. God gave His chosen people the Ten Commandments. These told the Israelites how they were to treat God and the way they were to treat others. First and foremost was the command to have no other gods besides the Lord. They were not to worship idols, or anything made by man. And taking the Lord’s name in vain was out of the question. There is great power in His name. These commandments were not just for the days of the Israelites. They are for us as well.
God was always with His people but now He wanted a place to dwell for Himself. This place would also serve as the place to worship Him. God gave Moses detailed instructions for the pieces that were to be used in that worship. Beginning tomorrow we will see priestly garments, garments that set those chosen specifically to serve the Lord apart from the rest of the congregation. We will also see the rest of the furnishings for worshiping the Lord. Worship brought the Israelites together before God as a family of faith. Worship today is no different. That is when we gather together as well.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W