Exodus 34

“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness …” (v6).  Moses asked to know God (33:13), and this was God’s self-revealing declaration.  He wanted the Israelites to know His character, giving them a solid reason to trust Him.  He had already rescued them from Egypt, and He promised to do more “marvels” on their behalf (v10); their part of the covenant was to follow and obey God exclusively (v14-28).

“I have made a covenant with you and with Israel” (v27).  Even when we don’t seek God, He comes searching for us, initiating His covenant of grace because of His great love.

Exodus 33

“Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (v11).  The Israelites were special because God chose to dwell among them (His original plan for all humans), yet His presence was mediated through sacrifices, Tabernacle worship, and Moses himself, who had a unique relationship with the Creator.  However, the Israelites could be cast off and “consumed” by God’s holiness if they persisted in sin (ch 34, 33:5).  Moses begged God for mercy, asking Him not to withdraw His presence (v15).

Exodus 32

“Make us gods who shall go before us” (v1).  Thinking that Moses, their leader who represented them before God, had died or disappeared on the mountain, the people begged Aaron to make them an image that represented God and made them feel more secure (v4-5).  But God had prohibited any image-making, because even a “feast to Yahweh” turned into something else entirely when people focused on the golden calf.  They forgot their holy, powerful, unseen God and acted like pagans (v6).

“These are your gods, o Israel!” (v4).  We don’t have to become trapped by false images and golden idols; the Father has freely revealed Himself to us through Jesus, the “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15).

Exodus 31

“Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations” (v13).  While the Israelites were getting ready to create the elaborate objects for the Tabernacle (1-11), God reminded them that keeping the Sabbath was at the heart of all their worship.  Weekly, they were commanded to stop their human efforts to be productive and instead to rest and remember that God was their Savior.

“That you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you” (v13).  Setting aside time for rest and worship breaks the idol of self-sufficiency, reminding us that God created us, saves us, sustains us, and makes us holy.

Luke 10:21-42

“But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (v29).  This lawyer wanted to know how to inherit eternal life, yet he didn’t want to obligate himself too much.  Loving God and neighbor was the recognized heart of the Law (v26), but the man wanted to narrow his duty to his “neighbor” to the fewest possible people.  Jesus told a story that turned the question around, asking instead “Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?” (v36).

“Go and do likewise” (v37).  Rather than putting other people into categories, Jesus calls us to focus on our task: to be a neighbor to all who need mercy.

Luke 10:1-20

“Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (v3).  Jesus sent out his disciples to preach about the kingdom of God, and he ordered them to “travel light” – without extra provisions, without weapons, vulnerable yet powerful, intent on their mission and undistracted (v4-10).  By the power of Jesus’ name alone, they healed the sick, cast out demons, and announced that God’s kingdom had arrived in Jesus himself.  The “wolves” could not stop the Message from spreading.

“I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (v18).  When we are sent in Jesus’ name and by his power, refusing ungodly methods or manipulations, God’s kingdom prevails in us and around us.

Psalm 16

“You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (v2).  God is not just one part of life, or a positive addition to other good things; instead, God is the source of Life, the source of good, and our highest authority.  Running after idols – anything that competes with God’s place in our hearts - means running away from Life, and it only brings sorrow (v4).  The psalmist chose obedience to God over all else: “The Lord is my chosen portion … I bless the Lord who gives me counsel” (v5-7).

“I have a beautiful inheritance … fullness of joy” (v6,11).  When we choose to follow Christ above all else, we will not be disappointed in the end.

Exodus 30

“When they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the Altar to serve there or offer gift offerings to GOD, they are to wash so they will not die” (v20).  The tabernacle’s activities involved all the senses: washing with water, smelling the incense, anointing with oil, seeing the brilliantly colored tapestries, and hearing the songs of thanksgiving.  While these were ways of teaching about and experiencing God, they were not “just colorful rituals”; without proper observance, sinful humans could die in God’s presence.

“So as to make atonement for your lives” (v16).  When we take sin seriously, we appreciate the atonement that Jesus made for us, once for all, by giving his own life in our place.

Exodus 29

“There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory” (v42).  While most ancient religions had symbolic rituals of worship, the One God, the Creator, promised to truly dwell among the Israelites.  Humans cannot casually approach His presence, so Aaron and his descendants needed to be “consecrated” (set apart as holy) by sacrifices and burnt offerings (v1).  This did not make the priests sinless, but it covered their guilt and allowed them to stand before God.

“I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God” (v45). Because He loves us, God does abandon us to the isolation of sin; He makes a way to come and live among us.  

Exodus 28

“So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place … before the LORD” (v29).  Because of sin, humanity lost the privilege of living in God’s holy presence, so Aaron and his descendants (with sacrifices and anointing) represented the people before the Lord.  Aaron entered the Holy Place with the names of Israel’s tribes engraved on precious stones, carried over his heart (v21). 

Rather than a human priest representing us, we now have a “hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.”  Jesus is our forever high priest, bearing us on his heart, bringing us into God’s presence (Hebrews 6:19-20).

Exodus 27

“You shall make the court of the tabernacle …” (v9).  The whole earth was supposed to be God’s dwelling place, in fellowship with humans who were in His image, but sin broke the communion between God and people.  The tabernacle (tent of worship) provided a way for God dwell with the Israelites, while preserving separateness due to sin.  Inside the large court was the altar (v1), where priests offered sacrifices that honored God, acknowledged human sin, and invited God’s mercy.

“A lamp may regularly be set up to burn” (v20).  The always-burning flame in the Holy Place symbolized God’s promise: despite our unworthiness, our holy God finds a way to be present with us.

Luke 9:18-62

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (v23).  As Jesus drew closer to his death, he began to share more explicitly about what it would mean to follow him.  The disciples had heard his teaching and seen his miracles, and now he explained that the key to it all was “the cross.”  Just as he would love the world and win victory by dying, those who would follow him would have to die to their old lives to receive a new one (v24).

“Follow me” (v59).  Daily, we turn away from ungodly ambitions, habits, and desires to follow Jesus into the new life he offers us.

Luke 9:1-17

“And he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (v2).  The disciples obeyed, “preaching the gospel and healing everywhere” (v6).  The cross and resurrection hadn’t happened yet; therefore, the disciples were sharing the good news that the presence and power of God had entered the world in Jesus Christ (and would soon be fully demonstrated by the cross).  Healing and casting out demons were signs that God’s power was active.  God was no longer distant; the Messiah had arrived.

“Now Herod the Tetrarch heard about all that was happening …” (v7).  When Jesus is present by the Spirit, God’s kingdom has broken into our world. People notice, and things change. 

Psalm 15

“O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” (v1).  The Israelites rejoiced over the fact that God had revealed what kind of person was “good” and met His approval.  That person does what is right, speaks truth even to himself, doesn’t lie about others and doesn’t betray friends (v2-3).  The righteous person despises evil and honors goodness, tells the truth even to his own cost, lives with integrity, and doesn’t make a profit off vulnerable people (v4-5).

God doesn’t leave us in the dark about His expectations. His ways are good, and when we reflect His goodness, we will “never be moved” (v5).

Exodus 25-26

“And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (25:8).  God’s whole plan of salvation was so that He could fulfill His original intention for humanity – that we would be His own people, dwelling together in fellowship.  While all the original rituals and sacrifices (and curtains and boundaries) marked humanity’s sin and God’s holiness, nevertheless, He made a way to live among the Israelites.  His sanctuary was full of precious wood, vividly colored and embroidered cloth, and gold (ch 25-26).

The beautiful tabernacle centered around God’s merciful presence (v34) demonstrated His original and final purpose: to make the whole earth His holy sanctuary and to live among His redeemed people (Rev 22). 

Exodus 24

"Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you” (v8).  The covenant God made with the Israelites was full of mercy and blessing (He rescued them and led them into the Promised Land); yet, it was also preparation for the better things to come.  Moses, Aaron and Israel’s leaders saw God’s spectacular presence up on the mountain, and they “ate and drank” with Him (v11), but the people had to stay below and watch the fire and cloud.

We no longer have to remain at a distance from the mountain.  Hebrews tells us that we have come to “the city of the living God … to Jesus, mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:22-4).

Exodus 23

"Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed” (v12).  The laws for living in the Promised Land were intended to bring peace to the community as they honored God.  While some of the rules were common-sense, others, like not working on the Sabbath and giving employees (and foreigners) the day off, were more radical.  

“Behold, I send an angel before you … to bring you to the place that I have prepared” (v20).  When we believe that God is with us and for us, we have the courage to obey.

Luke 8:16-56

“He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and they marveled …” (v25).  The disciples saw their Master Jesus verbally rebuke a raging storm, and it calmed down.  They reacted with both fear and amazement, realizing that Jesus was Lord over even “wind and water.”  When the townspeople saw that Jesus had freed a demon-possessed man, they also reacted with “great fear,” but rather worshipping, they begged Jesus to leave them (v37).

“Do not fear, only believe …” (v50).  Fear turns to trust when we open our hearts to Jesus; then we experience His great power not as judgment, but as mercy.

Luke 8:1-15

“ And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities …” (v2).  Luke tells us that along with the twelve disciples, several women accompanied Jesus.  These women had experienced healing and deliverance – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna – and supported Jesus and his disciples with their own money (v3).  Instead of being distracted by the “cares of the world” or wealth or pleasure, these women nurtured the seed of the gospel so that it bore much fruit (v14-15).

“And some fell into good soil” (v8).  The good news about Jesus is transformative and life-producing when, by faith, we arrange our lives so that it has room to grow.

Psalm 14

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God” (v2).  The psalmist said that God found “none who does good” (v3), because humanity in general has a bent toward sin and a tendency to ignore the existence of our Creator (v1).  As people detach from God, they treat each other badly, exploiting the poor without compassion (v1,4,6).  However, God does not abandon us to self-destruction (v6). 

“Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!” (v7).  God saves us from the evil “out there” and from the sin that dwells in our own hearts.