Sunday, September 30, 2012

LXV - The Book of Joshua

The Book of Joshua

Human Author:  Unknown (Perhaps Joshua himself)
Place:                 Canaan
Main Topic:       Conquests and Division of the Land

We have concluded the five books of the Pentetauch (Law).  The Book of Joshua is the first of twelve Bible Books that we categorize as History.  There is so much to be learned by studying these twelve books.  Unfortunately there is much to be learned about what NOT to do as a society or nation.  I pray that I will be able to expound on these books in a meaningful and respectful fashion.  Studying these will alter your outlook on a few things, and yet strengthen your faith in God.

Moses died and was buried in an unmarked tomb in the land of Moab, just east of the Jordan River.  Joshua has been selected by God as the new leader of Israel.  God has prepared Joshua for this very difficult task of actually entering the Promised Land and driving out its current residents, after which he will assign the tribes their respective allotments of land on which they can begin settlement.  As I've read the Bible several times, I have noticed that God has encouraged Joshua more than He has any other individual mentioned in the entire Bible.  The phrase "Be strong and of good courage" (KJV) appears constantly throughout the telling of Joshua's reign as Israel's leader.  I do not see Joshua as weak in spirit, needing constant encouragement, but rather his assigned task was so demanding.  Remember the characteristics of the Israelite people as a group.  Also, remember that the nations occupying Canaan were well organized militarily.  Also keep in mind the Palistinians having been driven out of their land in 1948 and how hard a people will fight to keep their land.  Joshua's burden is great.  But he is equal to the task, not only because of his outstanding character, but also because of his experience.  Joshua led Israel in battle against the Amalekites at Rhephidim.  He was one of the faithful spies sent into Canaan from Kadesh-barnea.  He and Caleb were the only two men twenty years old and older who survived Israel's wandering n the wilderness.  And he had undergone years of training as Moses's understudy and servant.  Joshua wasn't Moses, but he was God's man, and that alone made him qualified.

In the first two verses of the book of Joshua, we see that the death of the great Moses triggers the "go ahead" to enter the Promised Land (after the 30 days of mourning).  In verse 4 the boundries are given.  {Obtaining a map of the Promised Land and the tribal allotments will help during the next month or two.  Easy to find.  Usually in the back of larger Bibles.  Thompson chain is a good one.}  Look at verse 5 closely.  It's a sermon in itself.  God tells Joshua that there will be noone able to stand against you all the days of your life.  That's a promise from God.  {I've said to myself during difficult times in my life "If God is for me, who can stand against me?"  Saying that to myself has comforted me sooo many times.  Try this some time, my dear children.  It helps.  I promise.  As in my life, there will be those situations in your life when "the deck is stacked against you".  Those are the times when saying this to yourself will indeed be of comfort.}  God makes three promises to Joshua (and God ALWAYS keeps His promises).  1) I will be with you  2) I will never leave you  3) I will never forsake you.  Verse 6 states the second part of Joshua's assignement.  After the land is conquered, then the tribal allotments will be established.  This task was given to Joshua.  In verse 7 God made one more demand on Joshua.  He must be faithful to God and obedient to His laws.  If Joshua was to be successful, he had to be a Godly leader.  As water never rises higher than its source, God's people will never rise above their leadership.  (This goes for secular people and their leaders also.)

Vs 10-11  -  Joshua commands the tribal leaders to instruct their people to prepare to cross the Jordan in three days.  In vss 12-16, Joshua turned to Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh to make sure they were going to honor their commitment to send their men over the Jordan to help the other tribes obtain their land.  They all pledged their support.  {This was good because Joshua didn't need to have to deal with them going back on their promise.  That would have disrupted the whole plan.}
Chapter 2  -  This chapter begins with Joshua dispatching two spies from their camp to assess Jericho and its ability to defend itself against invasion.  This is an interesting story.  The telling of this story is very abbreviated, but assumptions can be made safely.  We have to assume that the two spies were seen and the king in Jericho was told about them.  We are also to assume that Rahab the harlot drew them into her house to protect them, knowing she needed to make a deal for her safety and the safety of her family.  But she also told them something very important:  Fear of Israel's God had spread
throughout all of Canaan.  This was the most important piece of information they could bring back to Joshua.  In verse 2 she was approached by the king and lied to him about the two spies, all the while hiding them on the roof.  In verses 8-11, Rahab tells the spies about how she was aware of the specific miracles God had performed for the Israelites, and she was a believer in God's power and His care for Israel.  But her protection was conditional:  They must promise that Rahab and her family would be spared when Israel attacked Jericho.  The men agreed and instructed her to hang a red rope down from her house and it would not be bothered by the Israelites.  We are to assume that Rahab's house was part of the wall around Jericho, because when she lowerd the men down to make their escape, they were outside the gate and the wall.

At the end of this second chapter, the spies reported all good news to Joshua, especially the part about the Canaanites "melting with fear" of Israel.  Rahab's words had greatly strengthened the faith of the spies and they jubilantly reported, "The Lord has given the whole land into our hands."  They gave that report almost word-for-word as Rahab had told them.  A most remarkable expression of faith for a Canaanite prostitute, wouldn't you say?  Small wonder she became an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5), and is mentioned in the Hebrew "hall of fame" in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25.  God can use each of us if we are willing.

Next post  -  Israel enters the Promised Land

Saturday, September 29, 2012

LXIV - Deuteronomy 31-34 - Final Words of Moses

Moses's ministry was drawing to a close.  Soon Israel would enter and take possession of the Promised Land.  This will be the glorious culmination of their efforts and an end to their wilderness wandering, but this of course is overshadowed by the imminent death of their beloved leader Moses.  Also noteworthy is the fact that Moses was the oldest among them being 120 years old.  All the others of his generation were gone (except Joshua and Caleb, and they were still younger than Moses).  Furthermore, Moses was the only leader these people had ever known.

Moses knew that there would be doubts about Joshua's ability to lead.  This always happens with new leaders.  So Moses addresses this starting in verse 3.  After crossing the Jordan, Israel would face the most critical phase of the conquest.  Moses would not be with them.  Moses tells them that it is not he, but God who has lead them to military victory, and that God would continue to be with them.   God would do two things:  1) He would be with them and 2) He would destroy the nations that opposed them.  In this verse Moses reaffirms Joshua as their new leader.  Joshua must have been fairly well known.  He was Moses's understudy, plus he and Caleb drew much attention and notoriety as the two spies who were in descent of the majority reporting the situation as they returned from Canaan.  Also, Joshua had regularly accompanied Moses at the tabernacle in important situations. 

In verses 4 and 5, Moses again reminds them how God delivered them victory against the Amorite kings and He is prepared to lead them into battle again.  Moses uses the often used phrase from this point forward:  "Be strong and of good courage (KJV)".  These people and Joshua would frequently need encouragement as the task that lies before them is very challenging.  In verses 7 and 8 Moses brings Joshua before the people and again endorses him.  Also, encouragement is given twice again in these two verses.  In vss 9-13 Moses wrote down the law and ordered the Levites to place them in the Ark of the Covenant and read them aloud to the nation every seven years.

In the remaining verses of chapter 31, Moses foretells of Israel's rebellion and corruption which leads to their destruction as a nation.

Chapter 34 is mostly the song that Moses writes and teaches to the people.  Take a few moments and read this song.  It covers a wide range of time and activities.  Vs 48:  On that same day God told Moses to go up to the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab and view Canaan.    He told Moses these are his final days.

In chapter 33, Moses places a blessing on each of the twelve tribes individually.  This is not as detailed as the blessings previously stated, but Moses found it important to name each tribe individually in his last speech to them.
Chapter 34  -  Moses climbed Mount Nebo as God instructed him.  God gave Moses a special panoramic view of the land that God had chosen for His people.  He showed Moses the whole land, and the territories each tribe was to occupy.  This is the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Verse 5 tells of Moses's death.  How sad it is to read that this great man died.  It mentions in vs 6 that he was buried in Moab and noone knows where his grave is.  {This is a good thing.  If the exact spot was known, things could get out of hand to the point that the grave could actually become a worshipping site, which would be in direct conflict with God's wishes.}  Israel grieved for Moses thirty days.  Now Joshua was their new leader and verse 9 tells us that he was filled with the spirit of wisdom.

Verse 10 wraps up the book of Deuteronomy and the ministry of Moses, saying simply that "there has been no prophet, before Moses or since that has equaled Moses.  Verse 12:  "No one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel."

Next post:  The Book of Joshua

Thursday, September 27, 2012

LXIII - Deuteronomy 27-30 - Moses's Prophesy

In the last post we covered 15 chapters.  This post will cover only four chapters:  27 - 30.

Moses commanded that the devine blessings and curses of God's laws were to be stressed in chapters 27 and 28.  It's easy to summize that this was a solemn time for Moses.  He spoke of the future when Israel would enter the Promised Land, knowing that he could not join them.  He gathered the entire nation around him and this would be his "swan song" as Israel's leaders.

One of their first responsibilities (27:1-8) would be to display God's laws on engraved stones at Mount Ebal.  {If you look at a map of Israel, Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim are located right in the middle, a perfect place to display these laws.  This location was also very near Shechem which is where both Abraham and Jacob had built altars unto the Lord.}  Now in verses 15 - 26, bear in mind that this is not taking place, but rather Moses is giving instructions for this to happen under the leadership of the Levite priests after the whole nation crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land.  Read these verses.  There are twelve curses dramatically pronounced.  The Levites were to pronounce each curse, and in response, the people were to say "Amen".  As you read this list of curses you will recognize them to align themselves with the Ten Commandments in general, but not in strict order. 
Then, in the first fourteen verses in chapter 28, he shifts to the blessings God will bestow on them IF they would obey His commandments.  These blessings as stated almost mirrored in reverse to the curses.  To be "blessed" is to receive good things from the hand of God, not from the result of human skill.  It says in verse 3 that divine blessings would be experienced in both urban and rural life.  Those who live in either the hectic pace of the city or the quiet more leisurely pace of rural living would equally enjoy the blessings of God.  In verse 4 it speaks of prosperity in families and in the livestock.  The families would grow in numbers and in health.  The herds and the flocks would multiply, further prospering the families.  Verse 5 speaks of utensils and all items used in the home would be blessed in that all of the work done with them would be blessed enormously.  It mentions the kneading trough which means there would always be an abundance of food on the tables for the families.  Verse 6 covers the whole spectrum of life when it refers to "coming in and going out".
Note in vss 7 and 8 that God did not promised there would be no enemies, but He did promise there would be victory over them.  He said their enemies would approach Israel from one direction, but would scatter in seven directions.  This meant total defeat.  In vss 9 and 10, God would establish them as a holy people.  A nation feared and respected by all nations of the world.  And a nation that will bring all nations to a knowledge of God and His ultimate power as Creator.

Let's now look at 28:25-30.  This passage is a small part of a very large section dealing with the consequences of disobedience.  Vss 25,26 - Disobedience toward God would result in defeat at the hands of their enemies.  Instead of victory, the army that would go out united as one, would be splintered into seven fleeing segments.  Dead bodies that fell in battle would be left unburied and exposed.  Birds and beasts would devour their dead bodies without anyone to frighten them away.  This will show total humiliation in defeat.  Look at vss 27 and 28.  Physical and mental deseases would also result from their disobedience.  These skin deseases would be similar to those experienced by the Egyptians in the plagues of Exodus.  The word "boils" comes from the Greek word meaning "hot or inflamed".  And they would not heal.  Festering sores and the itch would be skin eruptions or abnormalities that were extremely painful and irritating, to the point of incapacitating the people, rendering them unable to function normally.  This is something you don't often see in the Scriptures:  In addition to these terrible skin afflictions there would be mental disorders.  These included madness, blindness, insanity, and confusion of the mind, all for which there would be no cure. 

In a recent post I mentioned chapter 20:5-7.  These verses listed military deferments, with which I was very impressed, as I had not noticed them in previous studies (the Bible is so massive, it's easy to miss things).  And I couldn't help notice that in 28:30, disobedience to God's commandments would cancel out all those deferments.  Interesting how complete and buttoned up the Bible is.

Skipping to chapter 29:  This gets off the curses and warnings, and goes into more positive parts of Moses's sermon, which will be more encouraging to his listeners.  29:5-6  -  Moses called to mind the stories of the wilderness wanderings.  Doubtless these had been shared with them many times by their parents or grandparents who actually live through this.  But it was necessary that they be reminded yet again that God had miraculously provided for all their needs.  Adequate colthing that would not wear out.  And although "normal" food was not provided, God sent manna and water which sustained them.  Vss 7-8 - Moses reminds them of how God lead them to victory over the Amorite kings Sihon and Og, both of whom had more powerful armies that Israel's.  So Moses starts to encourage them so they will enter the Promised Land with hope and courage.  Moses knew they needed this just like they needed to know the pitfalls of disobedience.

Now before I close this post, I wanted to get to chapter 30 because this is important.  The entirety of chapter 28 is somewhat depressing as Moses foretells what would happen if Israel disobeys God or (worse yet) disregards Him.  As you look at the sections of chapter 28 that describe the Israelites being brought into military defeat and ultimately into captivity, it paints a very grim picture.  But this is exactly what happened right before the 400 silent years between the Old and the New Testaments.  We'll see it all take place in our study, and Yes, it is sad, and Yes, they got what they asked for.  When God had Moses deliver those words of warnings, He said exactly what He meant, and meant exactly what He said.
HOWEVER, read carefully chapter 30: 1-10.  Verse 1 suggests that they will sometime indeed be scattered throughout the world as a result of their disobedience.  But in the following verses it says God will bring them back to the Promised Land.  Here's something to think about:  I submit that they were defeated, taken captive, and dispersed about 2500 years ago.  And God brought them back just 64 years ago.  Three years before I was born.  Amazing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

LXII - Deuteronomy 12-26 - Laws for Life in the Promised Land

In this book of Deuteronomy, we're studying a series of sermons that Moses is delivering to the nation Israel right before they enter the Promised Land.  Last week I concentrated on the perils of prosperity which were included in the five chapters we covered (7-11).  In today's post I hope to cover chapters 12-26, which touch on quite a few subjects, all of which we've looked at in previous books, but nonetheless deserve a review which the whole Book of Deuteronomy provides.  Since we've covered all of these parts of the Law in previous posts, I'll keep my comments to a minimum, but will be careful to list all of the topics, and reference the chapters and verses.
12:1-14  Moses instructs them to destroy all places of worship used by the Canaanites.  God detests idol worship and wants all evidense of it gone in the land He promised for His holy nation.  You will see mentioned throughout the Old Testiment the term "high places".  The pagan Canaanites made their worship centers on the highest places in their territories because they thought it would bring them closer to their gods.

12:15-25  This passage reminds them that the Levites will not be allotted any portion of land, therefore the Levites are to be taken care of by the enitre nation Israel.  The Levites were somewhat set aside and made holy as a tribe.  I spoke earlier how the Levites could see this as an advantage or a disadvantage, depending upon how each individual looked upon it.

12:26-32  God did not want Israel to worship Him in scattered places throughout the land.  Until the temple is built in Jerusalem, His place of worship will be wherever the Ark of the Covenant is located, which will be at various places in the Promised Land for many years.

13:1-18  In this passage, God forbids worship to be anything that is even remotely similar to the practices of the pagans.  Therefore certain reminders of how things are to be done are gone over.  Also in this passage, dreamers and scorcerers are dealt with (by death).  Also given the death penalty is anyone found inticing others to join in idol worship.  God is an absolutist about this.  He wants purity when it come to worship.

14:1-21  This passage deals with listing "clean" versus "unclean" foods.  This short passage makes this understanding a bit simpler.

14:22-29  Tithing is a very important part of worship.  This part of chapter 14 explains how tithing can be dealt with when one must carry a tenth of his livestock to the tabernacle, and it is a very long distance.  Since a perfectly unblemished animal could become blemished through injury on a long journey, it can be sold for its market value of silver, and the silver could be used to either tithe or to purchase substitute livestock at the place of worship.

15:1-11  God takes particular cautions against Israelites taking advantage of other Israelites.  He set up a system, explained in this chapter, which deals with the forgiveness of debt every seven years.  He also addresses attitudes toward the poor and how we must give generously and not of a grudging heart.  {Sound familiar?}

15:12-18  As with all societies there will be the poor, through a multitue of reasons.  As was the custom in many of the lands, when a person cannot pay his debt, he can become his debtor's servant.  This law states that no man is to be servant to another Israelite more than six years.  By the seventh year he is freed from the obligation of debt.

16:1-17  The three festivals are mentioned:  The Passover, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Tabernacles.  The Festival of Tabernacles is actually the Festival of Tents, mentioned later in the Old Testament.  I find that festival to be interesting and helpful to that or any society, as it reminds us of our humble beginnings.

16:18-20  Moses instructs them to establish judges from each tribe to administer justice concerning conflicts among its citizens.  A just God wants just judges.  Three specific requirements for the office was stated:  First they were to see that pure justice was rendered.  Secondly, they were not to show partiality (toward rich or poor).  And thirdly, they were not to accept bribes.

16:21 - 17:7  Worshiping other gods is mentioned and stressed yet again.  This is getting back to my earlier comments about the very first commandment that God etched into the tablets.

17:14-20  God makes it very clear about His opposition to Israel having a king.  But He also knows they are going to raise up a king for all the wrong reasons.  Here in this Scripture, God lays ground rules for what a king should be like.  (worth a few minutes of study)

18:14-22  God prefers a nation to be lead by a prophet appointed by God and one through whom God speaks.  This is far superior to the rule of a king.  Israel will learn this lesson the hard way soon enough.

20:1-20  This chapter deals with going to war.  Moses encourages them to not be afraid of defeat, as long as they are obedient to God.  Also interesting in the latter part of the chapters, it lists those who are excused (temporarily) from going into battle with the rest of Israel.  Very interesting.

21:10-14  Very interesting little passage about the marrying captive women.

21:18-21  I didn't catch this earlier, but these verses say that a disobedient and rebellious son is to be put to death by the men of the town.

22:1-12  These are some samples of simply respecting one's neighbors.

22:13-30  This section addresses the very difficult and touchy subject of marriage violations, with many "do's and don'ts" attached.
23:1-98  This focuses on exclusion from assembly, which automatically excludes all Ammonites and Moabites and their descendants up to the tenth generation.  But it says that the Edomites (Esau's descendants) can be included after the third generation.  I find that interesting.

23:9-14  Keeping the camp clean is the subject of this short passage.  Purity is important to God when it comes to so many things.

23:15 - 26:19  This rather long passage includes laws pertaining to miscellaneous subjects, anywhere from respecting slaves to fair business practices.  Noteworthy is the fact that a son cannot be put to death for his fathers sin, and a father cannot be put to death by his son's sin.  Plus this is the first mentioning of the "forty lashes, save one" in 25:3.  This is still a practiced limit to punishment in those countries that use this type of punitive action for its law breakers.

The next post will pick up at chapter 27 and will address the consequences of obedience and disobedience.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

LXI - Beware of the Pitfalls of Prosperity

Deuteronomy 7 - 11

Brief reminder:  This book of Deuteronomy is a series of sermons given by Moses, emphasizing the important things he feels he needs to remind Israel about before they enter the Promised Land. 

Moses realizes he is not going to enter the Promised Land with them, but still feels at least partially responsible for their future actions. 

As you read the seventh chapter, pay particular attention to the first seven verses.  God names seven nations that Israel is commissioned to defeat in taking their Promised Land.  But understand God's words.  He says to utterly destroy these people.  Make no treaties with them.  Do not intermarry with them.  Show them no mercy.  They will corrupt you and your children.  {We'll see in our study that the Israelites did not obey this command from God and they will pay dearly for it.}
In the early verses of chapter 8, Moses gets stern in his warnings to these people.  He knows that human nature will lead these people to forget some basics.  He knows they will taste of prosperity.  {Prosperity, more than adversity, will test one's faith and will lead to dangerous compromises.  That is a great cautionary statement for all generations.}  In verse 1, Moses tells them that keeping their
oath to God and His commandments is a requirement in order to possess and keep the land.  In verse 2 Moses has them recall their forty years in the wilderness, and remind them that the hardships were tests of their faith and obedience.  Read again carefully vss 3-5.  It describes how God disciplines us, tempers us, prepares us for life, but all the while protecting us and providing our every need.

Skipping to vss 11-20  -  In vss 11-13 Moses continues to warn Israel of the dangers of properity.  With abundant food, housing rather than tents, growing flocks and herds, one tends to concentrate on his/her wealth and less on the Source of all that prosperity:  God.  {The Israelites in that society, and we in this society today are always inclined to give ourselves too much credit for what we have.  We are inclined to boast, and flaunt our possessions as trophies to our success.  I want my children and grandchildren to prosper because I want them to have everything good that this world has to offer.  But NOT to the point that they forget the Source.  I would rather them suffer financial adversity, and
that is very difficult for me to say.  I don't want to get too far off course, but I beseech you as my children and grandchildren to live within or below your means.  It will protect your attitudes about God and prosperity.  One last thought:  It is easy to live like a poor man when you don't have to.  It is when you have to that it gets difficult and unpleasant, and almost unbearable if you are unprepared.}

Moses gets more and more stern in his warnings in vss 17-20, keeping the subject of prosperity.  He ends this chapter with a destructive warning about how punishment awaits those who choose to be disobedient to God and His Commandments.

Interesting in chapter 9 how Moses tells Israel that it is not because of the righteousness of Israel that they are to utterly destroy the current occupants of the land, but rather because of the wickedness of the other people.  {That is a good thing to remember as we will follow Joshua through his conquests.   God knows the damage that a little bit of wickedness can cause to a great number of people.  God could have easily destroyed these wicked people before the Israelites even crossed the Jordan, but He chose to have Israel do it instead.}

In the remainder of chapters 9-11, Moses challenged Israel to learn from their past mistakes, especially the golden calf at the bottom of Mt. Siana, and further rebellion at Kadesh-barnea.  Remember this is a sermon, and although it seems that Moses sounds a bit redundant through this book of Deuteronomy, these "basics" are soooo important.  And Moses knows that these people are weak and inclined to forget, disobey, and rebel.

The next post will cover up to fifteen chapters as we continue this review what we've studied since Exodus.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

LX - The Book of Deuteronomy

The Book of Deuteronomy

Human Author:     Moses
Place:                     East Side of Jordan River; Across From Jerico
Main Subject:        Review of the Laws; Call to Obedience

Deuteronomy is the fifth and final book of what is known as the Pentetauch (The Law).  The word deuteronomy is derived from two Greek words, "deuteros" meaning second, and "nomos" meaning law.  So the meaning of the word "Deuteronomy" means The Second Giving of the Law.

In reading this book, you'll find it to be a series of sermons given by Moses.  Moses knows he is going to die soon, and feels compelled to go over everything one more time.  He knows that these Israelites are a "stiff necked" people who are inclined to disregard basics when times get tough.  He knows also that they are easily led astray.  It seems Moses is saying "Don't forget this, and Don't forget that" in one last sincere attempt to prepare these people for what lies before them.

The book of Deuteronomy includes three major addresses by Moses.  His first address majored upon Israel's History.  He wisely began with a review of Israel's past (Chapters1-3).  For forty years Israel had wandered, and most of the older generation had died in the wilderness.  Soon the new generation would begin to possess the Promised Land.  They needed to know how they had come to be in that place at that point in time.  So, as you read this book, bear in mind that these things Moses is talking about have already happened.  Therefore this book serves as a great review of all the events since Exodus.

In the fourth chapter Moses drew lessons from History and gave encouragement to Israel and warnings about God.  He then takes a moment and actually assigns Cities of Refuge for the three territories east of the Jordan River.  The city of Bezer for the Reubenites, Ramoth for the Gadites, and Bolan for the half tribe of Manasseh.  The cities of refuge for the territories west of the Jordan will be appointed later.

In chapter 5, Moses goes over the Ten Commandments again and expounds on them briefly.  Again, Moses is trying to get it all covered before he must depart.  He knows Joshua will be a capable replacement, but Moses still feels it necessary for the people to hear this from him one more time.

Adam, the sixth chapter contains those beautiful verses you chose to serve as a sub-title to this blog page.  Please suffer me a moment to expound on these verses, although I'll begin with verse 4.  This passage is commonly known among Jewish Bible students as the "Shema".  This Shema somewhat enshrines a brief confession of faith and the necessity of totally responding to God.  It is usually the very first Scripture taught to Jewish children and is recited twice a day by the orthodox Jews.  Every   synagogue service opens with its recitation.  In verse 4 the word "hear" is a command rather than an exhortation.  It calls for commitment.  It means "to hear with the intent to obey".  This was not to be taken lightly.  In the second half of verse 4, the basic truth of our faith is set forth:  The Lord our God is one Lord.  The word "Lord" (Lord, Yahweh, Jehovah) is the personal, distinctive name of God.  God had revealed its fuller meaning to Moses in the burning bush experience and on Mt. Sinai.  He, and He alone, was God, and He was unique  -  One of a kind.  Other nations had gods and plenty of them.  Egypt had over 2000 gods.  The Israelites were going to Canaan where every village or encampment had its own god.  But Israel was to worship only the One True God.  The Creator of everything.  It was the first commandment.  {Such a statement of monotheism does not conflict with the doctrine of the Trinity, which I expounded on in Genesis.  We'll address that in totality later in the Old and the New Testiments}
Verse 5  -  The word "love" was used in the ancient world to specify that attitude which was expected of a loyal subject to his king or ruler.  It was to be the love that expressed itself in faithful service.  This response to God was an act of will.  Man chose to respond to Him in love.  The word "heart" in the Old Testament referred to one's will.  As a deliberate act, one determined to love God (see Genesis about Jacob after he wrestled with God).  The word "soul" here referred to the total person.  One's love for God was to consume the entire being.  Love of God was not to be merely sentimentalism or something that comes and goes with moods, but was to be expressed in deeds.  Attitudes expressed themselves in acts.  The word "strength" indicates the strength by which one lived daily.  In that strength, love for God was to be demonstrated.

Verse 6  -  Two basic acts were to characterize those who loved the Lord.  The first was a commitment to live life daily in continuous awareness of God and the demands of God's word.  One's mind was to be fixed upon God and His word.  In so doing, one's life would become conformed to that word.

Verse 7  -   The second act was their commitment to share their faith, especially to their children.  The primary place to excersize this commitment was in the home, just like it is today.  One's own children and family are to serve as the first mission field.  NIV says "impress them on your children".  This means to inundate your children with references to God and His word.  Always talk about Him, so that your children will never question your own commitment.  Diligent teaching means all of life.  Every part of it.  Discussion of God and His statutes should be a part of every-day life.  That's what it means in this verse when it uses the terms:  sit, walk, lie down, and get up.

Verses 8-9  -  God's great truths were also to influence one's whole being.  They were to guide both the hand and the eye in all of their actions.  In later years "phylacteries" (little containers with Scripture in them) were literally worn on the body.  Some on the forehead.  {Many Pharisees wore these on their foreheads, in plain view.}  Also, these truths were to influence the atmosphere of the home.  In later years a small container called a "mezuzah" was fastened to the door frame of the house of an Israelite.  These commands in verses 8 and 9 were not intended to be taken literally, but rather symbolically, as a constant reminder of God and His expectations.  {But I really do think reminders are important, whatever a person might chose to have as one.  Especially in today's world, filled with distractions.}

Next post:  Reminders of the Past

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

LIX - Numbers Chapters 26 - 36

We finished the last post with the Israelite men having been seduced by the Midianite and the Moabite women.  God's anger was kindled and ran so hot that He took the lives of 24,000 Israelites before it was cooled by the righteous zeal of Phinehas.

I hope to cover the remaining eleven chapters of the Book of Numbers in today's post.  Much of the
Scripture will be covered quickly.  Again, I encourage that you read every chapter of every book, preferably prior to addressing the posts.

Chapter 26 finds the entire nation of Israel camped along the eastern shore of the Jordan river, ready to cross the Jordan and settle in the Promised Land.  Moses takes a second census prior to entering the Promised Land.  The purpose of this is to make sure the land is allotted fairly, which can only be done by allotting acreage approprate to the relative sizes of the tribes.  Note that in the first census there totaled 603,550 Israelite men over the age of twenty years in the ten whole tribes and the two half tribes.  Also, there were 22,000 Levites over a month old.  Here in the second census there were 601,730 men over twenty, and 23,000 Levites over a month old.  So during this fory years in the wilderness, the Levites gained in population and the rest lost some.  Remember, there have been battles with Canaanites and judgements by God.  24,000 were just recently killed as a result of sins commited with the Moabite women.  The Levites were not effected by either, with the exception of Korah.  The Levites never had to fight in any battles, therefore there would be no Levite casualties of war.

Chapter 27 tells of the daughters of Zelophehad, a descendant of Manasseh.  These women had a valid point in that if a sole survivor was killed in battle, or any other good reason, then the direct female descendants wouild have no inheritance, thus no land on which to settle.  So, as explained in the first eleven verses of chapter 27, arrangements would be made so that there would be no innocent victims of the casualties of war.  In the remaining verses of chapter 27, God tells Moses that he doesn't have much longer to live, and must appoint Joshua as his successor.  But take note of verse 12.  For years Moses had anticipated entering the Promised Land.  His hopes to see that land was about to be realized.  The Lord told him to ascend Mount Abarim.  (This is an easy verse to miss because of the name of the mountain:  Mt. Abarim.  In Duet. 32:49 this specific mountain range that Moses ascended is re-named Mt. Nebo.)  From its lofty height Moses was given a sweeping, panoramic view of the Land.  God instructs them how to go about annointing Joshua as the new leader.  Joshua is a mighty man of valor and a faithful servant of God, and will prove himself worthy of filling the shoes of the great leader Moses.

Chapters 28 and 29 go through the offerings, as God tells Moses to remind the Israelites of all of them:

Daily Offerings
Sabbath Offerings
Monthly Offerings
The Passover
The Festival of Weeks
The Festival of Trumpets
The Day of Atonement
The Festival of Tabernacles

Chapter 30 is dedicated to the laws concerning taking vows.  It covers the importance of taking one's vow seriously to completion, but also details how vows can be overturned, and the hierarchy involved.

Chapter 31 tells of God's vengeance on the Midianites.  God tells Moses that defeating the Midianites in battle is the last thing Moses will do before he dies.  Moses then calls on the leaders of the tribes to gather a thousand warriors from each tribe, a total of twelve thousand men of war.  Moses sent these men out along with Phinehas, son of Eleazar the High Priest.  Vss 7--> they went and faught against Midian.  Among their victims were five Midian kings as named in verse 8.  It goes on to say that the Israelites killed all the men, burned their cities and camps, plundered their livestock and belongings, but took the women and children captive.  Moses (vs 15) questions this.  {So do I.  It was the women
who seduced the Israelite men into sexual promiscuity and idolatry.}  Moses intructs them to kill all but virgin women.  {It would be difficult to have young girls executed, but we'll find out that was probably what Moses should have done.}  Still in chapter 31, the Scripture tells of how the spoils were to be divided among the nation Israel.  All of the spoils were counted, item by item (vss 32-40 gives the exact numbers).  Half was to be given to the twelve thousand solders and their families.  The other half was to be distributed to the rest of Israel, after which each would tithe their portion.

Chapter 32 is interesting.  The camps of Rueben and Gad thought the land they were camped on east of the Jordan looked pretty good for their livestock.  The Jordan provided water.  The land was already cleared by the Moabites and the Midianites.  So the Ruebenites and the Gadites approached Moses and Eleazar with their request to stay on the east side of the Jordan.  To their surprise, Moses took a "you must be kidding" attitude.  Moses saw it as Rueben and Gad get help from all Israel to conquer this land, and the hard work was yet to be done when they crossed the Jordan.  Moses figured that the rest of the land would have to be conquered by only ten trivbes instead of twelve while Ruben and Gad are settled in peace on the east side of the river.  {Also, the Promised Land was all west of the Jordan.  Therefore one sixth of the nation would be outside the boundries of the land God had set aside for them.}  So Ruben and Gad regrouped and approached Moses with a compromise, promising to send all able bodied man over the Jordan to fight for the land along with their cousins, and would not bring them back to the east until all the Promised Land was conquered, if Moses would grant their request for the land east of the Jordan.  Moses agreed and added a half of the tribe of Manasseh to have the southern portion of that land out of respect for Makir's part in defeating the Amorites who were previously occupying that portion.  (Makir was a son of Manassah, grandson of Joseph.)

In chapter 33, vss 1-48, Moses recounts, step-by-step, Israel's journey from Egypt to the Jordan river in Canaan.  In the last seven verses of this chapter, God commands them to drive out ALL of the inhabitants of the Promised Land.  To destroy their idols and their places of worshipping their false gods.  God goes on to promise that any people left in the land "will become barbs in your eyes".

Chapter 34 states the boundries of the Promised Land.  {If you have a large Bible, turn to the back where there are usually maps.  Find the map of the tribal allotments, and you can more easily follow the boundries as they are stated in this chapter.}  Moses then appoints leaders from each tribe to be in charge of plotting out each tribal allotment.

Chapter 35 - Towns for the Levites

The Levites were not given land on which to settle, but rather towns in which to dwell.  {Being born a Levite can be looked upon as a positive or a negative, depending on one's point of view.  The negative is that they owned no land on which to settle and raise their families, therefore never having a place to call their own.  Also negative was that their life's work was already assigned them, leaving them almost no say in the matter.  The positive was that everything was provided for them (food, shelter, clothing, all of life's necessities).  Additionally, they never had to fight in any battles or
wars, thus they never had to fear the leading cause of death at that time:  war.}  Forty two towns were to be assigned to the Levites, along with ample pasture land surrounding each town.  In addition to the forty two, there were six more towns to be designated "Cities of Refuge".  {Per the law, when someone was killed, the closest male relative of the victim would be considered the "Avenger of Blood".  This avenger of blood would usually be a eldest brother or a first born son of the victim.  When someone committed a murder, accidental or otherwise, he would be hunted down and killed by the avenger of blood.  The "cities of refuge" were cities to which the accused could flee.  The avenger of blood was forbidden to pursue the accused inside a city of refuge.  While the accused was in the city of refuge, his family members could work toward proving his innocence.  If the man was found guilty, he was turned away from the city of refuge and given over to the avenger of blood.  If the man was found innocent, he was set free, and the avenger of blood was no longer obligated or legaly entitled to kill him.  In fact, if the avenger killed him after he was judged to be innocent, the avenger would then become the hunted fugitive because he had killed a man found innocent.  Make sense?  Hope so.}  These six cities were placed strategically so that anyone in Israel was within a relatively short distance from anywhere in the nation.

In chapter 36, the law pertaining to the daughters of Zelphehad was further visited.  The Scripture tells that widows or orphaned daughters must marry into their own tribe, and the remaning verses of the chapter explain why, with the principal objective being the protection of inherited land.

Next post  -  Deuteronomy

Sunday, September 16, 2012

LVIII - Numbers 22-25 - Balak, Balaam, and the Donkey

Israel has made its arduous journey through the wilderness.  Forty years has passed.  There are very few Israelites remaining that had begun the journey in Egypt with them.  They are now camped on the eastern edge of the Jordan River, right across from the fortified city of Jerico.  They can see the Promised Land from their camp.  But the importance of their location right now is that they are on land occupied by the Moabites, descendants of Lot. The Moabites were understandably frightened by the Israelites.  The Israelites have already defeated formidable armies who have attacked them without provocation.  And to further understand Moab's concern, try to envision what a camp of over two million people looks like, with all their livestock and belongings.  How many square miles would they have occupied?  In 22:5 Balak said, "they covered the face of the land".

Beginning in the 22nd chapter of Numbers, we're introduced to two characters:  Balek, king of the Moabites, who is clearly worried about the Israelites attacking him and his people.  And Balaam, an eminently successful diviner.  {I don't claim to understand a "diviner" who, by virtue of his profession, would be someone God has little patience with.  But God actually communicates with this diviner and communicates through him.}  Through desparation, Balak sent for Balaam because Balak was frightened and he didn't know what else to do.  Balak wanted Balaam to come and pronounce a curse on the Israelites.  Balak figured this would solve all of his problems.  He would have been
mistaken, but Balaam refused to do it anyway.  Balaam refused because God had spoken with him and warned him not to curse the Israelites.  God actually tells Balaam not to go back to Balak with the Moabite messangers, but Balaam felt pressed, so he agreed to go back with the second group of dignitaries, but warned that he would not do anything contrary to that which God instructed him to do.

In vss 21--> Balaam mounted his donkey and began his journey to visit Balak.  But on his way, God places a warrior angel in the donkey's path who was visible only to the donkey.  The first time the donkey saw the angel, it went off the road and onto a field.  Balaam was angered with the donkey and beat him for going off course.  Secondly, the angel (whom only the donkey could see) blocked a narrow walled path.  The donkey sqeezed between the angel and the wall, mashing Balaam's foot against the wall, angering Balaam further and he beat the donkey again.  It happened a third time and the donkey laid down beneath Balaam.  Balaam beat him again and God made the donkey speak and
appeal to its owner (vs 30).  At that time, Balaam's eyes ere opened to the angel, standing in the path, sword drawn. 

This story about Balak and Balaam continues on through chapter 24.  Balak shows Balaam the "horde" of Israelites.  Although Balaam understands Balak's concerns, he refused to curse the Israelites, but instead he blessed them, just as God had instructed him.  But Balak keeps showing him more and more Israelites, and Balaam still does not curse them.  This goes on seven times until they both went their separate ways.

God had always protected Israel from their enemies, and I believe He always will, but it's difficult to protect them from themselves.  Problems from within have destroyed nations upon nations.  {I see signs of this happening to the United States.}  There was not an army big enough or strong enough that could defeat the Israelites if they would remain obedient and dependant upon God.  In the first verse of chapter 25, the problem is clearly stated.  The Israelite men were attracted to the Moabite women and got involved with them sexually.  God was very clear in His warning against this very thing.  I'm not sure how much time had elapsed from when Israel encamped in Moabite territory to when this started taking place, but it seems to me like it was a relatively brief period of time.  In the first verse of the chapter, it tells of the engagement of sexual immorality, and in the second verse it tells of what God (through Moses) said it would lead to:  They joined the Moabites in idolatrous worship.  This is the very thing that God warned and warned and warned them about.  God's first of His Ten Commandments addresses this in no uncertain terms.  It says in verse 3, "The Lord's anger burned against them".  God calls for the guilty leaders to be punished by death.  In the past, when God was angered to the point of punishing by death, Moses would intercede in behalf of the guilty parties, but not this time.  Moses knew how rebelliously sinful this was.  And it was Moses who delivered all of God's warnings about this.  This sin was the epitome of a "transgression", an open, knowledgable, and defiant action against God and His Commandments.  This was a slap in God's face and Moses was not about to try to water it down into a lesser infraction.  God had Moses gather all the leaders of these transgressors and had the judges begin executing them.  This is one of the first times we see Baal mentioned.  Baal is the main god of the Canaanites.  This pagan god is detestable to our Lord and His followers.  We're going to learn a lot more about Baal as we continue our study.

In vss 6--> we see how the slaughter of these leaders was stopped.  Remember Aaron died and his son Eleazar took Aaron"s place as High Priest.  Eleazar had a son named Phinehas.  I give you this pretext so we can realize where Phinehas comes in.  While all this execution is taking place, an Israelite man named Zimri, a Simeonite, brings a Midianite woman named Kozbi into his tent to lie with her.  (This guy must be a real idiot.)  He did it in front of Moses and the whole assembly.  Phinehas was so outraged by the disrespect of Zimri and his Midianite girlfreind, that he took a spear, went into Zimri's tent, and thrust the spear through both of them.  At that point the executions were ended because God said that Phinehas so touched God's heart due to Phinehas's zeal for God's honor.  WOW.  What a testimony.

In verse 16 we see that God has called on Israel to kill the Midianites because of this.  {Moab and Midian were connected, as we saw not only with Barak and Balaam, but also they were both equally complicit in the corruption of the Israelite men.  One more comment before I close this post:  I've read and studied the Bible for years, plus I have been a student of human nature all of my life, and with that I have a caution for all of you young men and women:  I have come to the conclusion that
men's biggest weakness is sex.  Women's biggest weakness is materialism.  Christians beware.  The devil is a lion seeking whom he may devour.}

Nest post we'll pick up on Numbers 26.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

LVII - Numbers 15-21 - Wandering in the Wilderness

Remember in the last post that God had told them that none of the Israelites over the age of 20 would be allowed to enter the Promised Land except Joshua and Caleb.  Therefore this enitre nation, which were about 2 million and growing, were confined to the wilderness of Paran, which is located in the east central portion of the Sinai Peninsula.  They spent most of forty years wandering in that wilderness, following God's leading through the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.

In chapter 15, there are more details of laws given, mostly dealing with offerings according to certain sins committed.  It makes a definite distinction between unintentional sins and defiant sins.  The Scripture does not detail any offering to be sacrificed for the defiant sin, but rather the guilty person or persons were to be expelled from the camp.  Look at vss 32-36.  I keep mentioning the Sabboth because God keeps mentioning it.  A person disrespecting the Sabboth is to be put to death by the whole assembly.  {Of course this sounds harsh, but what we need to take from this is how seriously
God feels about His commandment concerning the Sabboth.

Chapter 16 shifts gears a bit and tells about a rebellion, or more appropriately termed, a "mutiny".  You will find this reading to be interesting.  Korah, who is a Levite, and two Ruebenites, Dathan and Abiram, gathered 250 men from all of Israel and challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron.  This rebellion was probably the most critical event in all the years of Israel's wandering in the wilderness.  As we look closely at this chapter, we'll discover that this rebellion is a result of jealousy.  Korah the Levite was jealous because most of the Levites were assigned menial duties while Moses and Aaron were given leadership authority and prestigious priestly duties.  {Also, I think that the Levites were
somewhat jealous that they were not to receive a portion of the Promised Land for them to settle on.  This may have been an underlying cause for unhappiness upon that whole tribe.}  On the other hand there is Dathan and Abiram who were Ruebenites.  The Ruebenites were not passed over, but they were not singled out either.  Rueben was Jacob's first born, which traditionally would have entitled Rueben to special entitlements.  But there were no special entitlements given to the Ruebenites and I believe this would have come up if the rebellion would have been successful.  In vs 15 it was one of the few times Moses became angry.  Moses was angry because Dathan and Abiram accused Moses and Aaron of self-seeking and self-exaltation.  God's anger was kindled as well, and was going to
destroy the whole assembly, but Moses fell facedown to the ground to plead for God's mercy on behalf of these people yet again.  But God was determined to punish the three ringleaders of the rebellion plus any of their followers.  Moses had the rebels separate themselves from the rest of the assembly.  All people who were on the side of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram stood with them in a show of unity and support.  All others who respected Moses and Aaron as God's chosen leaders were instructed to stand away from them.  When the separation was accomplished, God opened up the earth and all the rebels fell into the hole, which closed back up, concealing their very existance.

Chapter 17 gives the account of how God reaffirms His choice of leaders by making Aaron's staff to blossom and produce almonds on the end.  This is significant because it was that staff that was placed in the Ark of the Covenant along with the jar of manna and the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

Chapters 18 and 19 further detail the priestly duties concerning the Levites.  It gives further instructions concerning defilement and the cleansing processes, particularly dealing with the touching of a dead body.

Chapters 20 and 21 have so much in them.  The very first verse in chapter 20 tells of the death of Moses' sister Miriam after they had camped at Kadesh-barnea.  Kadish-barnea is located in the northeast region of the Sinai Peninsula, very close to the southern entrance to the Promised Land.  Although they were close to the Promised Land, they were still in wilderness and now they have run out of water.  The people complained to Moses, pressing the same buttons about how they should have stayed in Egypt where at least they had water.  Moses prayed to God about the situation concerning the lack of water.  In vss 6 and following, the Scripture tells about how God instructed Moses to gather the people around a particular rock.  When all the people gathered, Moses was to speak to the rock and water would gush out of it in front of all the people, and there would be plenty of water for all the people and their livestock.  But when the people gathered Moses did not speak to the rock, but rather he struck the rock twice with his staff.  The water came gushing out of the rock, but God was displeased with Moses for acting rashly instead of strictly obeying the instructions of God.  God's judgement for Moses' actions was that he and Aaron would not be able to enter the Promised Land.

Capter 20:14-->  If you look at a map of the middle east you can see that the Gulf of Suez makes up the western border of the Sinai Peninsula.  The Mediteranean Sea makes up the north border.  Finishing out the eastern border is the Gulf of Aqaba with an imaginary line up to the Dead Sea.  So from Kadish-barnea to Canaan was an easy northern journey along the Mediteranean Sea.  However, if the Israelites were to follow the coastline straight to Canaan, they would have to have crossed the land occupied by the Edomites (descendants of Esau).  Moses asked the Edomites if Israel could cross their land if they promised not to do any harm to the land.  The Edomites said "No".  This meant that Israel (all 2 million of them plus livestock and belongings) would have to go southeast about a hundred miles, then north about three hundred miles to go around the Edomites.  {The Edomites are going to pay for this later.}

The final verses of chapter 20 tells of Aaron's death and his son Eleazar being chosen as his successor as High Priest.

Chapter 21 starts off with a Canaanite king attacking Israel for no good reason and God blessed Israel with victory over these aggressors.  Vs 4-->  tells the story of the people getting disgruntled against God again.  God causes their camp to be infested with poisonous snakes.  The only way to avoid death from their bites was to look upon a bronz snake fashioned onto a pole.  Verse 10 tells of them approaching Moab, the home of the troubling Moabites.  {Remember Moab?  He was Lot's son.  Abraham rescued Lot from Sodom, but Lot still separated from Abraham and Lot's descendants settled in this area just east of the Jordon River and down along the east side of the Dead Sea.  This is very good land on which to settle.  God eventually gives this land to the tribes of Dan and Rueben.}  But we'll see in the next post that the Israelites are so massive that most of the Canaanite tribes are frightened of them.

Moses and the Israelites meet up with more trouble from kings who attack them, but God gives the Israelites victory each time.  After hundreds of miles and a generation of years, they end up on the east side of the Jordan river, right across from the fortified city of Jerico.

Our next post will find Israel camped at a place from which they can actually see the Promised Land.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

LVI - Numbers 10-14 - The Second Leg of the Journey

Numbers Chapters 10 - 14  -  The Second Leg of the Journey

The first leg of Israel's journey was from Egypt to Mount Sinai, where much time was spent in organizing them into a new nation, receiving God's laws, establishing a justice system, building the tabernacle, among other necessary steps before they could proceed. 

After almost a year at Sinai, Israel began the march to Paran, which is wilderness territory
in the north central part of the Sinai Peninsula.  But take note of the first ten verses in the tenth chapter.  God instructs the Israelites to make two trumpets.  The purpose of these trumpets are to communicate with the people and/or communicate with the their military.  Doesn't seem like a big deal, but that became the standard of on-field military communication for thousands of years to come.  Even as recently as World War I, the bugal was used in the fields of battle.

Beginning in the eleventh verse of the tenth chapter, they began to break camp.  But there was a certain order that God wanted them to travel.  It says Judah went first under their banner.  Every tribe had a banner (flag) which was important as an identification for everyone.  The order of travel was:

The Ark of the Covenant
The Tabernacle
The Holy Things of the Tabernacle

This order made the tabernacle and the people well protected and was to be maintained in all of Israel's travels until they reached the Promised Land.

Chapter 11  -  Occasional grumbling takes place in a large camp such as this one.  But this chapter indicates that the complaining became continuous, causing God's anger.  The principle complaint was about food.  They were tired of eating only manna.  And they started making that tired old comment about "if they were back in Egypt, things would be better".  God showed a lot of patience for this.  Again Moses mediates to God in behalf of the people, and actually persuades God to show mercy, and makes a good case as to why God should.  {This is soooo important to remember that God hears the prayer of a righteous man and can be persuaded.  How encouraging.}  Note in vss 10-17 that
Moses tells God how weary he is in dealing with these people and their complaning.  He actually says that the burden is too much for him.  In response, God has Moses gather seventy elders to help him.  Moses was weary with good reason.  Moses was so busy and he was the type of man that felt every burden in his heart that he was exposed to.  The Lord was going to bring quails for the people to eat, so much in fact, that the people would get sick of them.  Also, God blessed the seventy elders with the Holy Spirit that they prophesied.  (similar to New Testiment)  But in verse 25 it says that they did not prophesy again.  (this is such interesting reading)   In the last five verses of chapter 11 it tells of God bringing in the quails, to the point they were three feet deep throughout the camp, and how He deals harshly with the Israelites.

Chapter 12 tells a story, seemingly parenthetically.  Simply put, Aaron and Miriam were jealous of Moses and wanted to be powerful prophets with all the benefits like their brother Moses had.  Somehow they thought they were entitled. (notice in vs 3 what it says about Moses:  "more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth."  There is a reason this was interjected at this location in the Scripture.  Aaron and Miriam wanted the glory of being a spokesperson for God, and Moses didn't want to because he thought of himself as unworthy)  God stepped in and handled this situation Himself (not so good for Aaron and Miriam)  God called them to the meeting tent.  Read verses 6-8 to see what God says to them.  Then God made Miriam's skin leprous.  So who comes to Miriam's rescue?  Moses.  He begs God to heal her and God hears the prayer of a righteous man.

Chapter 13 is really good reading.  God has Moses to send a scouting party into the land of Canaan.  There was one scout from each tribe as named in vss 4-15.  Included are two of my favorites:  Joshua of Ephraim and Caleb of Judah.  Moses told the scouts to bring back information about the people who inhabited the land and how many there were, the land itself and its level of fertility, the military strengths of the Canaanites, the stability of the cities.  So the twelve spies went into the land of Canaan and were gone forty days.  They brought back to camp much information and broght some of the fruit of the land:  a cluster of grapes so large they had to carry it on poles, pomegranates and figs.  They told of the people who inhabited the land:  The descendants of Anak who were much larger people than the Israelites, the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites.  The Israelites were frightened as this report was given.  It sounded much too fortified for them to go in and seize the land.  It was the concensus among all the Iraelites and the scouts that they could not go to war against these people.  Then in verse 30 my man Caleb stood up and said "Let's go get our land.  We can do it."

In chapter 14 the people cried and made the old familiar comment that they would have been better off staying in Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites.  They even went so far as to begin selecting a leader to take them back to Egypt.  Then Joshua and Caleb stood up and told the people that God wants them to have that land and God will deliver it to Israel.  They said in verse 9, "Don't be afraid of them.  We will devour them.  We have the Lord."  But the people talked of stoning oshuJa and Caleb.  God tells Moses that He should destroy Israel, but Moses intercedes again, using the arguement that Israel would be a laughing stock in Egypt if that happened.  Please read the remainder of chapter 14.  It's very good reading as it tells that the Lord forbids the current generation of Israel to enter the Promised Land because of their rebellion.   Noone over the age of twenty would be allowed to enter the Promised Land except Joshua and Caleb.

Next post:  Chapters 15 - 21  -  Wandering in the Wilderness

Sunday, September 9, 2012

LV - Numbers - Preparing to Move to the Promised Land


Human Author:   Moses
Place:                    Mount Sinai to Borders of Canaan
Main Subjects:    Organization and Rebellion

I plan to slow down somewhat versus the rapid journey through Leviticus.  I'll cover fewer chapters in each posting than I did with Leviticus.  Numbers somewhat repeats the laws, but there is so much more than that in this book.  The name of the book is of course derived from the beginning chapters where a census is taken.  You will find Numbers to be much more interesting reading as Israel moves from Mount Sinai toward their destination, the Promised Land.  But what Israel encounters on the way and how they react will influence their future for generations to come.

Before Israel was prepared to leave Mt Sinai for the Promised Land, some organization was necessary.  So, God gave Moses intructions concerning the order of the tribes in the first two chapters.  As you read the first chapter, a meticulous census was to be taken per tribe.  {Throughout the next few books of the Bible, it is good to remind yourself that there are 11 tribes plus two half tribes as Joseph's was split between his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh.}  They counted the males who were age twenty years or older, except the tribe of Levi.  All the tribes totaled 603,550 males age twenty and older, but remember that this did not include the tribe of Levi.  The Levites would be commisioned to other matters.  {Can you imagine what was going through the minds of the Levites while the census was being taken?  It was common knowledge that land distribution according to tribes was one of the main purposes for grouping the tribes.}  But the main reasons for this particular accounting were for the positioning of the respective tribes as the journeyed and camped.  (Much military implications in this setup)

Chapter 2 explains how God assigned four tribes to encamp on each side of the tabernacle.  I don't see a particular pattern here but I haven't looked very hard.  At first I thought He would assign the oldest to the youngest, which would have been Rueben to Benjamin.  It may just be a measurement of equal strength on each side.  Imagine for a moment over two million people, more than three million head of livestock and all their belongings.  The tabernacle was in the center and all of the camp surrounded it in equal proportions.  Hard to picture what that camp looked like, but it was massive.  Also in this chapter it states the name of the tribal leaders who helped with the census.

Chapter 3 deals in detail with the Levites.  I don't want to get too tied up with this chapter, but I must give it its due.  The leaders of the tribe of Levi was of course Moses, Aaron, and Aaron's two remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar.  (Remember Nadab and Abihu died because of their disobedience and rebellious spirit.)  The Levites would be the tribe of priests.  Along with that distinction came the responsibilities of the tabernacle and everything associated with it.  God assigned sub-tribes specific duties in setting up and taking down portions of the tabernacle and the actual transport of it and its contents.  This seems like quite a responsibility and indeed it was, but the Levites were excused from all military obligations and were always given aid by the other tribes.  God encouraged all of the tribes to make certain the Levites were taken good care of while traveling.  Also different about the Levites was the way they were counted in the census.  All of the other tribes counted all males twenty years and older.  The Levites were counted two ways:  all the males a month or older and all males between the ages of 30 and 50.  These adult males between the ages of 30 and 50 were assigned responsibilties for moving and caring for the tabernacle and its furnishings.

Chapter 4 details the distribution of these responsibilities.  Chapter 5 deals with three subjects:

1)  Purity of the camp  -  All unclean persons were to dwell outside the camp to maintain purity within.  And as they travelled, they must keep separate from their respective tribes.
2)  Restitution for wrongs against other people  -  This involved confession of the sin causing the wrong-doing and restitution plus 20%, which is in keeping with the earlier stated Levitican Law.
3)  Infedelity  -  This dealt with determining the guilt or innocence of a woman accused of cheating on her husband.  {If it was a hesaid/shesaid situation, I would have thought the urim and thummim would have been used, but this chapter doesn't mention them.  Instead they used bitter water to make that determination as described in chapter 5.}

Chapter 6 describes the particulars of declaring oneself to be a Nazirite.  {We'll see later that the colorful character Sampson was a Nazirite.}  One would be declared or declare himself to be a Nazirite for either his entire life or a predetermined time period.  During this time there were restrictions, including never cutting one's hair, and never drinking strong drink.

Chapter 7 and 8 list the offering each tribe brought to the tabernale and the final setting up for worship.  This was done to dedicate and consecrate the temple, but what they probably didn't realize was that they were about to begin their journey north to the Promised Land.  Therefore, this worship service served also as a sendoff.

The 9th chapter tells of the Passover observance and in the last verses tells how God filled the tabernacle with His presence and further tells how the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night will tell the Israelites when to move and where to go.

The next post  -  The Second Leg of the Journey

Saturday, September 8, 2012

LIV - Leviticus Chapters 18-27 - Holiness and Righteousness

Leviticus Chapters 18-27

You might find this brief outline serving as an overview will help in studying this last part of Leviticus.  If you like outlines as a helpful tool, please let me know as I can use them more often.

1)   Laws Concerning Human Relations (18:1 - 20:27)
      A)  Laws concerning Sex Offences (18:1-30)
      B)  Laws Reflectin God's Holiness and All Areas of Life (19:1-37)
      C)  Laws Requiring the Death Penalty (20:127)

2)   Laws Concerning Details of Israel's Worship (21:1 - 24:23)
      A)  Acceptable Priestly Service (212:1 - 22:33)
      B)  The Holy Convocations
      C)  The Oil and Bread for the Tabernacle (24:1-9)
      D)  Clarifications in Response to Blasphamy (24:10-23)

3)  Laws Concerning Economic and Financial Responsiblities (25:1 - 27:34)
      A)  Two Special Years (25:1-22)
      B)  The Rights of the Poor (25:23-55)
      C)  Economic Consequences of Observing the Law (26:1-46)
      D)  Vows (27:1-25)
      E)  Firstlings (27:26-27)
      F)  Devoted Things (27:28-29)
      G)  Tithes (27:30-34)

God's demand for holiness and righteousness is pervasive throughout the study of His laws.  Many of the laws merely take it into further details so the people would know how to be holy and how to be righteous.  Again, these people were slaves under Egyptian rule.  The only "righteousness" they could possibly know is that which was learned from the Egyptians and each other, niether of which had any Godly guidelines to draw from.  I'll highlight just a few passages and verses.

In the 18th chapter, God places forth His commandments concerning sexual activity, pretexted in verse 3 by referencing the Egyptians and Canaanites as examples of what NOT to do.  Look over this list of "don'ts" in chapter 18.  You will notice that God is particularly forbidding concerning a few things by the words He uses when listing them.  As an example, to have sex with a woman and her daughter is "wickedness".  A man having sex with another man is "detestable".  A man or a woman having sex with an animal is a "perversion".  And (we'll get to more of this later) sacrificing your children to the god Molek was particularly displeasing to God.  Molek was a Canaanite god who would be satisfied only by child sacrifice.

In chapter 19, vss 9 and 10, God deals with our attitudes toward the poor.  God forbids that the Israelites harvest the corners of their fields and also forbids the gleaning of the fields.  "Gleaning" is going back over the feilds during the harvest to get what you missed the first time.  God wants this left for the poor, so they will have something to eat if they have no land from which to get food.  An example of this law put into action is the story of Ruth and Boaz.  {This part of the Law always reminds me of what Jesus said when His desciples said that the oil used to anoint His head could have
been sold and the money used to buy food for the poor.  Jesus said that the poor would always exist, but Jesus is with them but for a short time.  In a world created by God, and especially in the Promised Land, one must wonder why there would always be the poor.  In a land flowing with milk and honey, why would one assume there were going to be any poor people at all.  I could spend pages upon pages on this subject, but for now, I'll suffice to say that throughout the History of civiliztion there
have always been poor people, and based upon the Scripture, there always will be.}  But regardless of the reasons for the poor, or how many poor there might be, we must have the right attitude toward those in need and/or less priviledged than we are.  But we also must realize that God provided for the poor in a way that was not demeaning.  They had to work for their provender.  Before I get off of chapter 19, I must mention God's laws concering doing "business" with each other.  Three types of dishonesty were prohibited:  1) to take something that belongs to someone else.  2) to lie in order to take unfair advantage.  and 3) to cheat in business such as using false weights to measure out the proper portion of material sold (vss 35,36).  He goes on to mention also that a laborer is to be paid every day, as many workers needed to buy food and/or provender everyday because their wages were so low.  To hold one's wages may have forced him to borrow money to provide for his family which would cost him interest.  This practice could possibly swallow a good man up into slavery.

Chapter 20 begins with God's warning abut sacrificing children to the god Molek.  Chapter 20 goes on to tell the punishments which will be administered for particular sins.

Chapter 21 and 22 deal with the priests and the requirements placed on them and all the priests that follow.  There was so much for these priests to learn and monitor.  Being a priest and performing his job functions properly would have to have been exhausting, especially at first when all the people must be taught.

Chapter 23 is somewhat interesting reading, as it tells of each of the holy days to be observed:

The Sabboth
The Passover
The Feast of Unleaved Bread
The Offering of Firstfruits
The Festival of Weeks
The Day of Atonement
The Festival of Tabernacles

Beginning at chapter 24:10, the Scripture tells about the punishment of a blasphemer.  To blaspheme is to verbally disrespect God.  One thing of interest is that all the people were to participate in the stoning death of the blasphemer because the blasphemer hurts the whole tribe or region and can possibly poison minds against God.

Chapter 25 speaks of something not spoken of often any more:  The Year of Jubilee.  This is an amazing requirement set forth by God.  We'll get into this more as we study the Old Testiment.  As for the fields, six days we are to work, and the seventh day we are to do no work.  For six years we are to plant and harvest the fields, and on the seventh year we are to allow the fields rest.  After this series of seven years is accomplished seven times (49 years), then comes the fiftieth year, designated the "Year of Jubilee".  God promised that He would make each sixth year double in land yield and He would make the forty eighth year triple in yield.  But the Year of Jubilee was more than that.  Not only would the Year of Jubilee be the second straight year of ret for the land, also during the year of Jubilee, all land and property was given back to its origial owners.  All slaves are freed (if they chose to be).  All land is at rest and all things economic begins anew.  Isn't that something?!  This chapter 27 is worth reading closely.

Chapter 26 tells in detail the rewards for obedience and the punishments for disobedience.

Chapter 27 deals with vows and dedicating things.  Verse 30 is noteworthy as it speaks of tithing, making certain that there is no mistaking God's attitude toward the BEST being dedicated to Him.  The last verse in the Book of Leviticus says that this concludes the laws given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Next post:  The Book of Numbers

Thursday, September 6, 2012

LIII - Leviticus 11-17 - Provisions for Cleansing

Leviticus Chapters 11-17

The first five chapters of today's post deals with those things that make an Israelite unclean and the intructions to cleans oneself when these situations occur.  The discernment between "clean or unclean" was important to an Israelite.  To be unclean separated one from God and his fellow man.  The possibility of becoming defiled by uncleanness and being unable to participate in the corporate worship of God kept one constantly aware of God and His demands on one's life.  Through these regulations, God taught important priciples.  Remember the time period in the History of civilization and these will become both less demanding and less punitive in your mind.

In Leviticus 11:1 - 16:33 the empasis is on cleansing.  Four broad areas are specified in which cleansing must take place after defilement:

1)  The Contamination of Certain Animals
2)  Childbirth
3)  Leprosy
4)  Bodily Discharge

The Scripture deals with animals to such detail as to even specify which animals can be eaten and which ones cannot.  Simply put, any animal can be eaten if it has a split hoof and chews a cud.  For example, cattle have split hooves and chew cuds, therefore they are clean to eat.  On the other hand, a camel and a rabbit both chew a cud, but do not have split hooves, therefore neither of them are to be eaten.  A pig has a split hoof but does not chew a cud, therefore it is not to be eaten either.  It goes on to say which sea cretures are clean and which are not.  Simply put, all fish can be eaten, but all things that crawl on the bottom of the ocean cannot (lobster, shrimp; etc).  It then lists the birds that are not to be eaten (eagles, buzzards, and many more as listed in chapter 11, which also lists unclean insects.  Also, you should note that noone is to eat carcasses of any kind.  {A carcass is a dead animal that was not butchered for food, but was killed some other way or for some other reason.}  The Scripture also borbids the drinking of an animal's blood, noted in chapter 17.  As you read this chapter you will soon discover what an abomination to God this must be.

There is no nice way to say this, but defilemant took place in one of life's most cherished experiences.  Cleansing after a woman delivers a child is specified in detail in chapter 12.

Leporsy was a feared desease.  It still is in many parts of the world.  So serious was leprosy that any open sore or skin discoloration was automatically placed under the same scrutiny as leprosy.  Chapters 13 and 14 go into painstakingly lengthy detail of dealing with potential skin deseases, then the rituals of cleansing.  The infected person goes through these steps knowing that even after all the steps are taken that the priest can still declare the person unclean and they would have to live in isolation for the rest of their lives.  It was believed that molds (in houses, fabric, etc) were causes of many of the skin deseases, therefore these molds are addressed in the Scripture in chapters 13 and 14.

In chapter 15, bodily discharges are discussed and how one is to be cleansed from being in contact with them.  These bodily discharges covered everything from the discharge from an open wound to urination.

I was going to cover much more Scripture in this post, but I must pause and take some time with chapter 16, which deals with atonement and The Day of Atonement.  We are Christians.  Atonement is no small issue with us.  And niether is it with God.  Remember back in Genesis:  God created man so He could enjoy the fellowship that we can offer Him.  Without atonement we are not able to have that status.  This Scripture from the beginning points right at Jesus the Messiah; the Christ; our Savior and Redeemer.  On of the values of studying the Levitican Law is to realize that man could not do it.  In spite of all our sincere effort to live by God's standards, we're just not capable.  God had to provide a way for atonement in such a way that did not comprimise His original standards to which we must live.

Chapter 16  -  The Day of Atonement was a significant observance in ancient Israel.  The Jewish Rabbis called it "The Day", which took place once a year.  Note in the Scripture that only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, but even he was limited to that one day a year.  This day was a day that dealt with the forgiveness of ALL sins committed by  ALL the people for the entire year.  Before the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, he must  make atonement for his own personal sins in order to make himself presentable to God as a representative of the rest of the people.  This
required a cleansing process as described.  Two goats and one ram (all unblemished) were to be presented for the atonement sacrifice.  One goat was to be sacrificed unto God, and the other gaot was to be used as a "scapegoat", which was to carry the sins of the people on himself.  Which goat was which was determined by (remember these?) the Urim and Thummim.  The Urim and the
Thummim were two stones.  Tradition has it that when the priest could not make a decision based on any prescribed standards, he would reach into a container with the two stones and blindly choose on.  God said He would see to it that the correct stone would be pulled out by the priest.  This was the method used to chose the scapegoat.  The scapegoat would be taken out of the camp, so far that he could not possibly find his way back.  And with that scapegoat went all of Israel's sins.  Then the sacrifice of the remaining goat was made in the more traditional manner.

I've taught out of this chapter before and have chosen this time to mention about the fact that not all sins are of equal severity in the sight of God.  The only thing in common is that all sins must be atoned for.  I must revert temporarily to the King James, which uses three words for sin: Sins, Iniquities, and Transgressions.  To sin is to miss the mark, more specificly to fall short of the mark, as in shooting an arrow at a target.  To sin is to fall short of living up to the standards set forth by
God Himself.  These sins include sins of thought, of word, and of deed, committed by commission and by omission.  We all commit these sins and as frequently as every day. 

Iniquities or iniquitous behavior is an act or acts committed with absolute contempt for moral standards or common decency toward our fellow man.  These iniquities almost always leave a path of victims, whether they are members of one's own family, neighbors, or complete strangers.  Iniquities are committed with disregard to God and His laws. 

Transgressions, on the other hand, are acts committed in direct rebellion against God and His laws.  Imagine the risk one must take in even thinking about committing a transgression or a series of transgressions.  This is really flirting with disaster.  We'll get into these more later, but as you ponder these three words and their definitions, you might begin to get a bit concerned for our modern society.

We'll try to wrap up Leviticus in the next post.

Monday, September 3, 2012

LII - Leviticus

We've read and studied Genesis and Exodus.  Much going on in those books.  Both enlightening and interesting to study.  Those books were the first two of the five books of the Bible referred to as the Pentateuch "Books of Law".  Now we're going to read and study the last three books of the Pentateuch:  Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Geographically, Genesis started in the Garden of Eden and ended in Egypt.  Exodus begins in Egypt and ends at Mount Sinai on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, which is where Leviticus begins.  Throughout these next three books, the Israelites will wonder through the wilderness and by the end of Deuteronomy, they will be encamped on the plains of Moab, ready to cross the Jordan River to possess the Promised Land, under the capable leadership of Joshua.

Throughout the entire Pentateuch, Moses makes a huge impact on the development of the nation Israel.  The very origins of the nation may be traced back to Moses's influence.  Israel's worship, laws, government, and thought were marked by his contributions and stellar leadership.  Few men could claim such influence on a nation or the world as Moses.

I want to be careful not to misrepresent myself with this next comment because I would never be found disrespecting the Scriptures.  As interesting as our reading has been to date, this next section is much less exciting, but nonetheless necessary reading for a complete understanding of God's Word.  As the Scripture says, "Don't be weary in well doing".  I plan to cover much broader brush strokes in the next few postings, so I encourage you to try to stay ahead in your reading.  For instance, this post will cover the first ten chapters of Leviticus. 

      Human Author:  Moses
      Place:                 Sinai and Canaan
      Main Subject      Law and Sacrifice

Leviticus Chapters 1-10

In Leviticus Moses sought to convey God's laws to Israel.  In the beginning parts of Leviticus there will be specified five altar offerings, whereby the people could approach God in worship.  These offerings as explained below are only required situationally.  But the Day of Atonement would be observed as a holy ceremony annually, regardless of circumstances.
The Five Altar Offerings (1:1 - 7:38)

1)   The Burnt Offering.  The burnt offering (1:1-17) is the first of the five altar offerings to be specified.  Its positon as first indicates its importance.  It was an offering made to God for atonement of sins of all kinds, because they were, as we are, all sinners and in need of atonement.  This burnt offering was to be consumed totally in fire.  This offering signified the worshiper's personal commitment to God.

2)   The Grain Offering.  This offering primarily consisted of grains, cereals, or bread.  Often it included the firstfruits of the harvest.  This offering signified the loyal service or stewardship of the worshiper.  Even labor in the field was a service to God.

3)  The Fellowship Offerings.  These offerings brought joy and happiness to worship.  The offerings (note the plural) signified both fellowship with God and one's fellow man.  Choice parts of the sacrificed animal were offered to God on His altar.  Some went for the priests' welfare and the rest was eaten by the worshiper himself.

4)  The Sin Offering.  God provided forgiveness for unintentional sins one might commit against his fellow man.  This happens all the time, mostly due to accidents.  In the 4th and 5th chapters it explains that in this offering, there can be as little as a bit of fine flour.  It is mentioned that this requirement is not to punish the poor, especially when it pertains to unintensional sins.
5)  The Guilt Offering.  This offering was specified for incidents when loss or injury was caused.  The offender was to make amends by restoring the loss with an additional 20%.  Such an offence was against both the offender's neighbor and God.  Therefore an offering identical to the sin offering was to be offered to God.  Thus this offering signified the necessity to make restitution.  It reminded Israel and us today that a proper relationship with God includes social obligations.

The Priests' Duties  -  6:8 - 10:20

These verses detail the preparation of the priests and their duties in presiding over all of the offerings coming to the tabernacle.  These priests must become experts because it will take a while for the people to learn all that which is required of them pertaining to offerings.  Note in chapter 8 how Moses cleanses and conscrates the priests in a ceremony to qualifiy them to be the priests in the tabernacle.

In the beginning of chapter 10 it tells of two of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, who disrespected their commission by making some of their own rules.  So God killed them with fire.  Moses told Aaron about their deeds and punshment and in verse 3 it says, "Aaron remained silent".  {The slain sons of Aaron just might have sensed their positions to be that of much power, excersizing dominion over many possessions.  This attitude would have been an abomination to God.  These priestly duties are very serious and the level of responsibility is sobering.  There would be no room for selfish greed in these holy appointments.}  This left Aaron and his other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar as priests.  In verse 8 God told Aaron that he and his sons were not to drink alcoholic beverages while performing their duties, as they needed a clear mind to concentrate on the duties of priest.  Among these duties included discerning spiritually between that which was holy and profane; and between clean and unclean objects.  They were also to teach the Word of God and be alert to the spiritual needs of the citizenry.  {As we will see in the coming books, the Levites were chosen as the priestly tribe, which excused them from most duties in the nation Israel.  But this was in no way an easy life for the Levites.  The demand on their schedules and responsibilities was great.}

We'll pick up at the 11th chapter next post. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

LI - Exodus - The Tabernacle Built

Exodus Chapters 35-40  -  The Tabernacle Built

We now come to the ending of the book of Exodus.  Many things have taken place in this book.  As you have looked at the list of "Think on These Things", you have already given this book the review you need.

God prepared and called Moses to deliver the Hebrew slaves from Egypt.  Great plagues fell on Egypt.  God lead His people out through the Red Sea.  God guided them through various trials through the wilderness and on to Mount Sinai.  They entered a covenant and received the law.  There at the foot of Mount Sinai they broke the covenant, but found forgiveness.  And from there, they shall build a tabernacle and move north toward the Promised Land.

Today's post concerns the building of the tabernacle and the coming of God's glory in it.  In much of this passage, the Bible passages repeat, word for word, from chapters 25 to 31.  In those previous chapters, God was giving Moses specific instructions.  In the chapters in this post, however, it tells of the actual building of the tabernacle taking place.  If you try to compare the two passages you will find that the Israelites followed God's instructions to perfection.  The tabernacle was extremely important.  So important was it that the Author devoted eleven out of the forty chapters to the tabernacle, which, considering all that was covered in this book, that is quite a share.

This passage starts out in chapter 35 by a reminder (no surprise) to "Keep the Sabboth".  Notice that in verse 2 it says to keep the seventh day "holy".  Make a mental note that this word is used throughout the Scripture, and it means the same thing each time:  To set apart; to be different than all others.  The next set of verses tells that an offering was taken up.  Many times it was stressed that it was to be given willingly and of a free will.  Also, as a part of giving an offering, all skilled laborers were asked to donate their skills in building the tabernacle.  All the skilled men stepped forward to build the tabernacle, its furnishings, and its utensils.  All the skilled women would spin fine linen and goat's hair {properly spun goat's hair is today called mohair, a rare and expensive fabric}.

Vs 20 says that after Moses called for the offering, all the people went back to their tents,
withdrawing from Moses.  {I wonder what went through Moses's mine when they left.  Would the people respond?  If they do respond, would they bring enough of everything to build the tabernacle in accordance with God's specifications? What if either of these answers was "No'?}  Moses didn't have to wait long for his answer:  The people brought in the materials in such numbers that Moses (in 36:6,7) had to say, "No more.  We have enough".  {I don't think any religious leader has had that problem before or since.  Ever wonder what accomplishments our churches could make if all their members tithed properly?  I have.  It's not even imaginable.}  You may have noticed in vss 27 and 28 of chapter 35 that the tribal leaders brought onyx and other precious gems, plus olive oil and incense.  These were the most valuable of all the materials brought.  This seems to suggest one of two things.  Either these leaders were a bit more wealthy, or they were expected to set an example.
This entire passage almost mirrors God's instructions to Moses about:

Gathering the materials through a free-will offering
Material specifics
Recruiting Bezalel and Oholiab
The tabernacle
The Ark
The Table
The Lampstand
The Altar of Incense
The Altar of Burnt Offering
The Basin
The Courtyard
The Priestly Garments (Ephod and Breastplate)

Also noteworthy is the fact that the lampstand alone used 75 pounds of gold.  The total weight of gold used was almost 2200 pounds, 8000 pounds of silver, and 5250 pounds of bronze.

In the latter part of chapter 39, Moses inspected all the work.  It had been done with excellence and to the proper specifications, and Moses blessed the people.  If you noticed in this chapter, Moses set everything up himself, which was a big job, but also a priviledge.

Then in the last verses in the book of Exodus, it tells how God entered the tabernacle.  His presence in the tabernacle was indicated by the cloud that settled on it.  In keeping with God's original instructions, Moses could not enter the tabernacle, only Aaron the High Priest.  From that point forward, the cloud over the tabernacle would guide Israel's travels.  When the cloud lifted off the tabernacle, the people would break camp and follow it.  When the cloud settled, they were to set up camp at that location.  So, through the cloud God would guide them three ways:  When to go,
when not to go, and what direction to go.  They might not have known exactly where they were going, but they always knew that God was with them.

Next Post:  Leviticus