How quickly we forget – and other lessons from Exodus 32

I had it all worked out in my head – what I would write about the Israelites’ disobedience and what it signified, what Aaron’s cowardice meant along with a paragraph or two showcasing his poor decision-making skills (methinks he could have used a life-coach), but as has happened so often since I began my journey through Exodus, instead my thoughts turned to this question: how is this applicable to me, today? Or, put another way, what lesson is there in this passage for me? And no, the lesson is not a history lesson on the misbehaviour of the Chosen People. Don’t get me wrong, history lessons are useful and all that (blah blah learn from the past to navigate the future blah blah), but this is so much more than just a history lesson. There are important relevant lessons to be learned here. Stay with me. Get comfy, this is a long one.

For the TL;DR crowd: 1. Remember what God has done for you and give Him the glory. 2. Judge not so that ye be judged not. 3. Prayer changes things. 4. Stand in the gap.

Lesson #1 –
How quickly we forget
I know I can’t be the only one who ‘forgets’ what God has done for me. I’m sure I’m not. As long as everything is hunky-dory I, for the most part, go about my merry way without thought of what I’ve been rescued and saved from. I’m not even talking about the unknown things like the car accident I didn’t even know would have happened if I’d left home a few minutes earlier, i mean real things that actually happened that I’m aware of: like the time I was almost attacked but somehow managed to scream so loud that neighbours heard and *gasp* came to my rescue. Or the time I almost died in labour. Both these incidences actually happened, and both times I can think of no explanation except the hand of God. There are many more such instances, some more and others less hectic, but I know you have your own examples of times when God came through and showed His power on your behalf. And yet, we forget. We say ‘what’s my name?’ and flick our lapels when the results come, completely forgetting the frantic prayers prayed in the hours and minutes leading up to the exam and while waiting for the results. My, how quickly we forget. I resolve to do better, to give God glory. What about you?

Lesson #2
Don’t judge
It seems Aaron was a coward, but was he really? Are you sure? After all, he proclaimed that the feast of the golden calf was a feast to the Lord. Could it be that rather than portraying cowardice he was just misguided? How often have I done things thinking the end justifies the means, and expected and hoped that my deeds would find favour? How often have I made excuses for my behaviour and wanted others to understand my rationalisations? Aaron thought it didn’t matter if there was a graven image before him as long as he said it was to the Lord. Tell me you’ve never done something you knew was dodgy but went ahead anyway because it was ‘for the Lord’. Treated someone badly or unkindly and used your bible to justify your behaviour? I used to know a certain young man who used to get fake doctor’s notes so he could attend church even when he was on call. He rationalized the lie thus: ‘God wants me to be in this ministry…’ I don’t know how God views such things, i believe it’s on a case by case basis but I do know this:  I have no way of knowing what is going on with someone else and so the best thing I can do is mind my own business and run my race as best as I can.

Lesson #3
Prayer changes things
What if I put it to you that God spared the Israelites because and only because Moses asked him to?

Exodus 32:10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

Moses didn’t let God alone, instead he interceded for the people and by him they were spared God’s wrath. Well, some were killed but you know what they say about bad company. The point is, God said ‘I will do this’ but Moses kinda plucked on His sleeve and said ‘please don’t’ – and He didn’t. So the big question is: did God lie or did He just change His mind? Can God change His mind? Calm down, take a deep breath. See, the thing is, God moves in response to prayer and in accordance with His laws. So, there was sin there and the reward for that sin was clear but instead Grace was extended by virtue of Moses’ intercession. Had Moses not prayed, things would have followed a different course and who’s to say what that story would look like? Point is, the prayer of one man changed the course of history. Think about that the next time you’re feeling ineffective. You know what the bible says about the fervent effective prayer of a righteous man.

Lesson #4
You can stand in the gap
Closely related to the lesson above, lesson no.4 is something we really ought to remember about praying for others. You know, because what Exodus 32:11-13 shows is that we can and should have faith that God will move on others’ behalf if we pray for them, whether they are good people or not, because He does. Unsaved family and friends – pray for them. People who need healing, believers or not, pray for them. Stand in the gap for them. Be the bridge between them and Grace. Of course I know this easier said than done but the point is it can be done. The people you are praying for don’t need to know that you are doing – what do you want, a cookie? I always hate it when people say ‘I’ll pray for you’ when talking to nonbelievers. What are you trying to do, scare them? What? Why announce that? But I digress. Where was I? Standing in the gap isn’t just praying for others, it’s also about loving them enough to bear/share the consequences of their deeds, insofar as is possible. Difficult to swallow, huh? I know. But wasn’t Moses prepared to do that for the Israelites? And isn’t that what Jesus did for us? And aren’t we all about being Christ-like and WWJD?

I’m not a visual learner; please forgive the lack of pictures. Also, it’s 2.55am.
Be blessed.

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It’s called saving Grace for a reason

I’m a bit behind with uploading my posts but I’ll be caught up by Monday. Be blessed!

This week’s first reading brought to mind the impatience with which I always viewed any kind of sewing. We had a period called ‘fashion and fabrics’ at school, and I hated it with a passion. I eventually dropped the class but not without a bit of drama involving the teacher concerned and the principal.  My mother tried to teach me how to sew, by hand and by machine, and I just never got the hang of it, and to be honest i never saw the point. As an adult, i finally saw the light: I bought myself a sewing machine for my 32nd birthday and determined to learn how to make clothing. I made one skirt and one half of a dress – and then I started making excuses. What does this have to do with Exodus 26? Read on.

You can’t sew if you’re super lazy and like to cut corners. Me? Super lazy and cutting corners is my super-power. Cut corners sewing and you send up with a skirt that has a crooked hem and half of a dress that won’t go down past your shoulders nor up past your hips. Do not ask how I know this. When He was giving instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle God left no room for cutting corners. He didn’t say ‘Put clasps on the thing, just make it fit together.’ No. He gave a specific number of clasps and directions as to how everything was to be fitted together. He gave detailed, specific instructions. When God says 50, you don’t put 49 or 52 clasps and expect Him to understand. God is not in the business of understanding.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said (and heard others say) something along the lines of ‘I know God says X but …’ to explain a particular course of action. Human nature being what it is, we want God to bless us even when we deliberately disobey what we know to be His will because it’s too hard, or too inconvenient, or because it will attract negative attention. I’ve done that, and I know you have too. Well, brace yourself because God doesn’t understand, He doesn’t lower His standards, He doesn’t compromise.

What then shall we say about Grace, I hear you murmur? Grace isn’t an excuse to sin, but it’s a chance, a second/third/fiftieth chance, for you to do better, be better. Grace isn’t so you can wallow in your sin, Grace is so when you fall you can get up again, call on the Blood and do better. Grace is for you to have that relationship with the Father despite and in spite of your sinful nature. Grace is you not getting the punishment you deserve, not because the crime is no longer a crime but because the price has been paid and you don’t have to be a slave to sin a minute longer.

So, that God who gave such detailed, precise instructions for the Tabernacle -? He is the Ancient of Days, the Alpha and the Omega, the Unchanging and Unchangeable One, He who was, is, and forever will be – that God is the same God today. He doesn’t ‘understand’ or ‘compromise’, no: He offers Grace -sweet, amazing Grace- but it’s up to you to accept it. Or not.

My prayer is for spiritual understanding. Let those who have ears hear.

If God were to look into your heart right now, what do you think He’d find?

funny thing about this post, only two of the pics I uploaded pulled through. No matter how many times I tried to upload the others failed. What’s that about?

In reading the dry text of Exodus 25 I came to the realization that God tells us what He wants, when He wants it, how He wants it – and he doesn’t compromise.
There’s no bargaining with His statutes, no negotiations, no compromise. This is a very difficult thing, a very heavy thing indeed.
God spelt out exactly, down to the last cubit, how he wanted His ark. In detail. He didn’t say, oh you know just a squareish thingy with handles and oh by the way you can cover it with gold if you happen to have any lying around. Gold, by the way, that He made provision for even before the Hebrews left Egypt. Think that was a stroke of luck?

Why do we think God would be so specific about an inanimate object and be less so about what He requires from us? We have seen God give commandments and precepts in the preceding chapters – again, very specific. My thinking is that this God isn’t about to let anything slide. This is not the kind of god to whom you can ‘explain’ your shortcomings. He’s not here for that, as modern-day lingo would put it. This is one big, scary God.

This is the same God who, knowing full well that you could never meet his standard, allowed for a blood sacrifice so that you could still stand before Him, and not only stand, but call him Abba while you’re there. To skip a lot of theology – OT sacrifices of animals foreshadowing Christ on the Cross- this God gave His Son that you might have eternal life. -But He is still who He is and He still doesn’t compromise. He still wants what He wants, in the way He wants it, when He wants it. In other words, He is still God and nothing you do or say to justify your disobedience will move Him.

– but he looks at the heart

I hear you exclaim. Yes indeed He does, and you know as well as I do that your heart is deceitful above all else.

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For example: you know deep down that you’re to dress modestly whatever that looks like and yet here you are, dolled-up to the nines with all your albeit lovely bits either hanging out and tightly encased in some material that leaves little to the imagination. You lie say to yourself – it doesn’t matter what I wear because God looks at the heart. Uhm, what is in your heart exactly?

You know you want the thrill that comes from noting his eyes stray to your cleavage, or from walking away and then looking back over your shoulder to find him admiring your backside. You know you want, nay crave that attention, and you know it’s because you’ve got that ache deep inside you that you try, over and over and always unsuccessfully, to magic away with illicit sex, or improper relationships, or drugs, or drink, or the quest for yet another degree, or a higher salary -or whatever your poison is. That is what is in your heart, and that is what motivates your actions. I see you.

Am I saying it’s wrong to want to be admired, to want to look good, attractive even? Honestly this issue of what is appropriate dress and even if there is such a thing as appropriate dress is too long to be dealt with today and isn’t even the point of this post.

I know you got lost there, keep up now:
The point I’m making is this: just because you justify your actions by saying God looks at the heart knowing full well that the last thing you want is for God to really look at your heart, doesn’t make your actions justifiable before God and it doesn’t mean God understands. What God understands is obedience and you availing yourself of the Grace that is given to you, not you deliberately and knowingly sinning, talkin’ bout ‘God understands my weaknesses’…
Come on now, stop with that mess.
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I’m talking to the girl in the mirror…

Things that stood out for me in today’s reading of Exodus:
Being a foreigner where I live, the verses regarding treatment of foreigners of course stood out to me (Exodus 22:21-24): South Africa has high crime levels, and high rates of single parenthood – many women are widowed by death and by the justice system, and many many children are being raised by single mothers. I found myself wondering if this isn’t a judgment in part for how the nation treats foreigners, the recent (and not so recent) xenophobic and criminal attacks being topical.
I wondered how far into time the benefits and curses laid out in the old testament reach – and then God convicted me: if I think S.A’s problems are due even partly to ill treatment of sojourners, how much of my struggle is because of my own actions that directly contradict old testament teaching?  How’s that for another reminder that I need to stay in my lane?

Regarding a nation’s treatment of foreigners and the conduct of sojourners in foreign lands, i am reminded of these verses also in the old testament:

Jeremiah 29 is a letter to the exiles in Babylon and part of it reads thus: 

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

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To apply or not to apply, that is the question, hmm?

How often do I intentionally pray for South Africa’s peace and prosperity? With reference to the rest of the passage, do i always make restitution when i borrow something and lose or damage it? Do I treat strangers, visitors, widows and orphans well?  How would i do if my actions were graded using the Exodus standard?

It became clear to me that it is easy to see the failings in others while ignoring the same in ourselves. It is easy to hold others to a higher standard of behavior than we hold for ourselves. The whole log vs speck thing? Jesus wasn’t playing. If I say I live ‘under Grace’ and these precepts no longer apply to me, then I must agree that that same Grace is extended to others.

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I can see clearly now the plank is gone...

I was humbled by today’s reading. I get what the new testament meant about the Law pointing out sin and I am once more reminded of just how great God’s love is that He gave His only son to die for my sin, and that He extends Grace to me, continuously. Thank you Father, thank you Jesus.

Stay In Your Lane: how God told me to do just that

If you open your Bible trusting God to speak to you, He does. And what He says, not to mention how he says it, just might surprise you.

I am often fascinated by how we all respond to Old Testament rules: some we ignore completely and others we blow out of all proportion. Before I started this journey I thought GMG would be much like a group study and I was looking forward to asking all kinds of questions and sharing knowledge with other believers. GMG of course is not like that, as it’s about fellowship while reading the Bible for yourself and communing with God via the SOAKs, rather than a theological, formal study of the Word. I’m glad for the format, for the accountability and the shares. It’s exactly what I needed without knowing I needed it.

I have always found the Old Testament (the Pentateuch in particular, I barely know the rest of the OT) to be difficult as it always made me wonder if I was really living according to God’s laws or if the NT had made me a lazy excuse-wielding believer, well-versed in “christianese”, using “grace” as an excuse to not follow the rules. Having never really prayerfully read through the OT for myself, except a few verses here and there in church, systematically reading through Exodus is a real blessing indeed and strangely I am receiving more insight into the Word and deepening my relationship with God in ways i never thought possible. This would likely not have happened in a bible-study class, where I would have been relying on someone else’s interpretation of Scripture. This is not to negate formal bible study and/or the use of commentaries, but merely to say it’s amazing what God can do if we truly trust Him. I trust Him to reveal His word to me, to give me insight and understanding and to lead me to commentaries if need be – and He always does just that.

So – Exodus 21.
The chapter opens with the rules for dealing with slaves and my immediate thought was – God condones slavery?!? *shock! horror!* I’d always understood Bible-sanctioned slavery to be practised only in cases of war prisoners and yet here God was talking specifically about Hebrew slaves! How could this be? Why would the Chosen people make slaves of their own? I needed help to understand this and so I turned to Google, after a quick prayer. Most of the commentaries I read glossed over the issue – not surprisingly, after all the Atlantic Slave Trade is still a very sensitive and political issue – and I was about to give up hope of finding a useful detailed commentary on the subject when it hit me: God cared about the well-being of slaves, period. He had rules for how they were to be treated, and frankly it’s none of my business. Yep, I said it.

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I could embark on a study of slavery or bond-servantship or whatever you want to call it, as it was practiced in that era and in the Bible, but beyond a kind of ‘general interest’ kind of exercise, would focusing on this, right now, serve me? Would it bring me closer to God? Would it give me insight into His plans for me? Was it something I felt God leading me to pursue? I had to answer no to all these questions.
God revealed to me, through my reading of Exodus 21 at around 3am, that the issue of slaves and slavery in the Bible, no matter how interesting it is to me personally, is not one I should expend energy on right now. In other words, the extremely clear message for me from Exodus 21 is: stay in your lane.

This is a very timely message for me. I’m still in ‘new year mode’- making some much needed changes and it’s a challenge to remember to be about my own business and let other people do them. I tend to be very controlling of the people around me and I’m learning the importance of not offering advice unless it’s asked for, and really just not butting into other people’s lives no matter how good my intentions. I need to stay in my lane for real. You know it’s about to get real when God Himself tells you mind your own business and not worry about things that are not your concern. You miss out on the good things in your own life because you’re so busy about someone else’s life, or too busy with things that shouldn’t even be a part of your life anymore.

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You see, every time you open your Bible trusting God to speak to you, He does. He just doesn’t always say what you expect in the way you expect.