Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bible Reading Reflection (Exodus 25-40)

I have always found most of this section of Exodus to be somewhat tedious.  I typically find myself just trying to get through reading the text and hurrying through it. 

As I meditate on this text, it occurs to me that this is exactly the opposite of how the Israelites would have treated these passages.  There are several sections that conclude with something like "Do this so that you will not die."  Several times, God was adamant that they make everything exactly like the plan that God showed Moses on the mountain.  God's blueprints for the construction of the sanctuary, its furniture, its utensils, the anointing oil, incense, the clothing of the priests, and even the ordination ceremony were to be followed according to God's instructions without any deviation. 

Part of what I have found tedious is the text seems redundant to me.  After giving such detailed instructions, the text gives a detailed account of the execution of those instructions.  It is almost as if I am reading those instructions a second time.  It is nearly a minute by minute account of how they made the sanctuary, its furniture, its utensils, the anointing oil, incense, the clothing of the priests, and even the ordination ceremony.  Why not simply say, "And they did as the Lord commanded?"  It seems redundant.

I am reminded that the New Testament says that the law is our schoolmaster intended to lead us to Christ.  The former things were written for our instruction.  What lesson am I supposed to get from this?  Did I read it too quickly? 

Perhaps the lesson has something to do with the people's attention to detail.  After all, this is God's sanctuary, not some other common place.  God wanted it made a certain way, and he wanted things to be done a certain way.  God gives few detailed explanations as to why each piece was to be done a certain way.  I am convinced they are not just arbitrary.  There is a reason.  Perhaps for his people, it was to teach them something about treating the holy God as holy.  Paul said to the Athenians that God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything.  All of these instructions are not for his benefit, but for our benefit.  What does it mean to honor God?  Part of it has to mean to honor his instructions with faithful obedience without deviation.  It means not rushing through reading his word, but to digest each part of it and put it into action.  To do otherwise is to dishonor him and not treat him as holy.

It occurs to me that God does not give such detailed instruction on building a physical sanctuary for Christians today.  However, the New Testament says that we, God's people, are his sanctuary.  God's sanctuary is made up of his people rather than wood, gold, and various materials.  God's instruction on how we as his people are to be formed, or rather transformed, in order to act as his sanctuary should be taken with the same level of attention as Israel gave to inanimate objects for the sanctuary.  Forming people is a bit messier that hammering out gold, silver, or bronze, but it is how we honor God and treat him as holy.  We ourselves become holy for the holy God.  For me, this means that I am devoted to God without reservation, even if it means I am out of step with my family, neighbors, and society. 

This reminds me of the children's song, "Trust and obey. . ."  This is how we treat God as holy.  We live in a time where there is a disdain for authority, rules, and boundaries.  The redefinition of morality, ethics, and other such things are a reflection of this.  Christians are not removed from this.  We live in the ocean of this culture.  But we belong to a different kingdom that is not of this world.  To simply go along with the current indiscriminately dishonors a holy God.

Lord, we are a mess.  You give clear instructions, and we seem to be very good at finding ways around them.  Please forgive us for not treating you as holy.  Thank you for your mercy and patience. 

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