Holy Guacamole!

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.

-Exodus 35:29

Read Exodus 35:4-29

My 5 year old daughter has a little interjection that is extremely hilarious. In the sweetest little mixture of British and American accent her over-excited voice will sometimes interject, “Holy Guacamole!” She often says this when she is thrilled about doing something new, something exciting or something noteworthy.

It sounds funny to our ears, but perhaps it is one of the most profound statements on the idea of “holiness” or sanctification. Normally, when you hear the word “holy” what pops into your mind? A moral action? Moral behaviour? Moral dress code? Religious worship service?

Exodus 35:29 states that men and women brought “anything for the work of the LORD.” The word anything in Hebrew actually means anything. Yes, astonishing isn’t it—anything.

All our lives have an unhealthy divide between the sacred and the secular. Holiness is not necessarily about morality. In Hebrew it simply means to be separate, distinct or set apart. Often we define holiness negatively. We see it as being set apart from the world.

The theologian and pastor Jack Groblewski puts it this way, “Holiness is being separate from all that is not God and separate unto all that is God.”

There is a positive element to holiness. This is why Exodus and Leviticus go through painstaking detail to talk about holy sandals, holy tables, holy lampstands, etc. These objects are neither moral nor immoral. The difference between a holy sandal and an unholy one is not about its nature or virtue. It is all about what it is expressly dedicated to.

To understand what holiness actually means the best way to understand this is to look at Jesus prayer for us and for himself. “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:19). Can Jesus actually make himself more holy? By no means! It actually is impossible for God to sanctify himself, for he is already holy. Most translators are stuck with conundrum what was Jesus actually trying to say. As translators they returned to root meaning of holiness. In His high priestly prayer, Jesus says, “Today I consecrate myself, I dedicate myself to the task of redeeming the world.” Jesus set himself apart, so that you could have the opportunity to set yourself towards all that is God and apart from all that is not.

Today, dedicate yourself to all that is God. “Set your heart above… for your life is hidden in Christ.” Colossians 3:2-3

The Long Nose of the Lord

Exodus 34:6 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, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.

Read Exodus 34:1-35

Have you ever seen someone get so upset that their very nose turned red? Their anger is quickly kindled, their temper quickly flairs. Hebrew is a vivid and descriptive language. There is a passage in Genesis describing one such event. Most translations simply say “Jacob’s anger was kindled.” (Gen 30:2) Interestingly the Hebrew simply says, “his nose became hot.”

This often quoted passage is actually a little bit less familiar when we read it in Hebrew. We literally read about the Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious, having a long nose. God is not easily incensed. Our idea of wrath is an idea of a cranky man whose nostrils flair.

God indicates that it is actually very difficult to arouse his righteous indignation. He is slow to anger and rich in loyal love. God’s very nature in confirming his covenant with his people is a stunning blend of law and love. Despite their spiritual adultery at the foot of Mount Sinai, he can’t stop loving his bride. Moses comes down from the mountain and in a fit of rage destroys the two tablets containing the 10 commandments.

God, who is rich in love, demonstrates his forbearance. But like any jilted lover he a price has to be paid for the infidelity. This lover can either shame his bride, or suffer the outrageous shame of receiving back his unfaithful bride. God at the expense of everything gives up his very dignity to rescue the one he loves. He executes justice not against his bride, but for her and takes the shame she deserves.

On the cross we see this love in action. The God who by no means will clear the guilty, suffers the indignity of receiving back his unfaithful lover. The stunning beauty of law and love is that the God who by no means will clear the guilty will also show love for a thousand generations.

As you go about your business today, may the Long Nose of the Lord put a smile on your face as you realize how deeply loved you are.

Deepest Dreams

Ex 32:2 I will send an angel before you, … 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you,

Read Exodus 32:30-33:23

Years ago I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, this week I have had the privilege of re-reading this story with my 5 year old daughter. There is a telling moment when the crew of the Dawn Treader cast anchor on “the island where dreams come true.”

In this beloved tale by CS Lewis King Caspain and his crew discover an enchanted island. It appears to be truly magical; their dreams come true. At first glance this sounds like an amazing place. As their adventure on the island progresses the Narnians discover that actually getting their hearts desire may not be the best, most magical, or most desired outcome. Their deepest dreams become their worst nightmares.

This passage in Exodus seems to describe a very similar event. The people of Israel have longed for freedom. They have longed for the absence of rules and restrictions. They have longed for a God they could control. They ask for the Promised Land, but not the God of the Promised Land. Often in the Old Testament God’s arrival and presence is described as “the angel of the Lord.” In this instance God promises to send an angel (heb. malak) but not the angel of the Lord (heb. malak yhwh).

The people of Israel have asked for their hearts desire: life without the God of Israel. If you read verses 2 and 3 of this story, God does promise to give the people of Israel success. He will in fact even send an angel to go before them, but God himself refuses to go with them. God does not want to be used as a means to an end. The people of Israel longed for freedom more than they longed for God.

Just as Caspian discovered that getting his wildest dream was not what his heart actually needed, Moses and the people of Israel have recognize their need for a Redeemer. Receiving the Promised Land but not having God’s Presence becomes anything but the Promised Land. A land flowing with milk and honey without God’s presence is nothing more than a sticky and sour mess. It is God who makes the desert into a fair paradise. It is the presence of God that transforms any situation. The darkest night becomes the brightest day with dawning of the rays of his glory.

On the cross, Jesus experiences what none of us should have to experience. He hears those words that Israel heard, “I will not go up with you.” In this story of Exodus, Moses offers to potentially be cut off if it will redeem Israel. On Calvary Jesus, does not just potentially offer to be cut off but literally asks to be cut off that we should be redeemed.

Today reflect on your deepest longing. What is it? Or better said Who is it?

Dirt Under Your Nails

Exodus 31: 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.

Dirt Under Your Nails

Read Exodus 31:12-18

If you have ever had to do a posting, slabbing, or mowing job in your garden after a proper days worth of work you end up with dirt underneath your nails. For some this dirt under the nails is part of the price of beautiful garden. Plato once remarked that manual labour was not worthy of humans. In fact to manual labour was seen as dehumanizing. In the Greek world work was so demeaning that slaves were often considered nothing but living tools. The respectable thing was to do mental labour.

But this is not the story of the Bible, which begins in a garden and ends in a garden. Work in no way dehumanizes us. It is precisely what makes us human, as we are made in the image of God—A workman God. Work is not a way of proving our worth.

Tim Keller once commented that the God of the Bible at the moment of creation can be found to have dirt underneath His fingernails.

What happened to us to make us fall out of love with work? Work was no longer something to be enjoyed. It would now become the main source of getting significance in the world.

Regardless of whether it is manual or mental labour, at the end of a day do we have the deep sense of contentment that God had upon finishing his labour in creation? God tells Moses in this passage, that it is possible to work and have contentment.

Work is no longer a means to an end; an incessant striving for significance. Work is delight and refreshment. It is deep cosmic rest. It is the much-needed REM sleep that rejuvenates not only our bodies, but our souls. We no longer have to prove ourselves.

The Sabbath is declaration that Jesus’ words on the cross ring true, “It is finished!”

Bishop JC Ryle once remarked of resting in this assurance of Jesus’ completed work.  “Assurance goes far to set a child of God free. It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business. The great debt, a paid debt, the great disease, the healed disease, and the great works the finished work and all other business, disease, debts, and works are then by comparison small.”

Every Good Gift

Ex. 31:1   The LORD said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

Read Exodus 31:1-11

Growing up in the inner city of Madrid, whenever my father would have visitors we would get the unexpected treat of going to Toledo. It was a one hour drive outside of one of the most densely populated urban centres in the world to a medieval getaway. Escaping from the modern capital of Spain, I used to love walking down the very narrow streets of the ancient capital of Spain. It was a mesmerizing place which housed cathedrals, synagogues and minarets. Artisans on every corner practiced the ancient skill of “damascening.” The artist would take blackened steel, gold thread, gold sheet, razors, tweezers and hammer and begin an arduous and beautiful process of creating. Toledo was called the Jerusalem of the West. Skilled Jewish, Christian and Muslim artisans designed all sort of gold filigree; so it was with Bezalel, the gifted and creative hands behind the crafting of the Ark of the Covenant.

damasquinado 2

Whether you think of the artist, athlete, or artisan. Every single human being has a gift. When we use the word “gifted” it is often used to denote some talent or ability that makes an individual unique. The Ark of the Covenant is the deposit of God’s precious gift of truth, the 10 commandments. What is often missed out is the fact that God makes another deposit, not in a box but in a living being: Bezalel.

God deposits in Bezalel gifts of creativity. The book of James tells us that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”(James 1:17)

God has given each one of us good gifts to use to bless others. We often see gifted people as “others” or may even think that our gifts are inconsequential, but the Bible is very clear that we are all members of one another and need each other. It is when we do not acknowledge our need of others and their gifts and likewise the “God-givenness” of our gifts that we engage in cosmic plagiarism. Cosmic Plagiarism is simply not giving gratitude to the One who gave us our gifts to begin with. It is taking credit for someone else’s craftsmanship.

Today, let’s acknowledge the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift.

Scars tell stories

Ex. 28:15   “You shall make a breastpiece of judgment … 29 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, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD.

Read Exodus 28:1-30:38

I remember when I was a teenager taking my dog for walks in the park. On one of those days a large German shepherd came and attacked my dog.  Instinctively, I rushed to Fuzzy’s defence. Fuzzy was trying to defend himself and bit the first thing he could fix his teeth on, unfortunately, that was me. With a sharp kick I separated the German shepherd, who was twice the size of Fuzzy, from my dog. My dog was now safe, but I had 4 holes in my forearm from his canine teeth. From that day onward I would carry four holes in my left forearm. I would always remember that story and loving rescue. Scars tell stories. Scars bring to mind.

After receiving instruction on how to construct the tabernacle, God gives Moses three chapters’ worth of painstaking instruction on how to create the priestly garments for Aaron. The details are meticulous. We could easily miss the meanings of every single thread of the garments if we skipped past every verse. Let’s just take a small look at the “ephod” or breastplate that the priest was to wear. The priest is asked to wear 12 unique and precious stones. Each stone is to have one of the names for the twelve tribes of Israel. This breastplate is to symbolise the concept of bearing the tribes before YHWH already expressed in verse 12, whether the idea is bearing their guilt, or simply interceding for them in prayer.

Whenever the high priest went into the Holy of Holies, the very heart of the tabernacle and the center of God’s presence in the wilderness wanderings, he did not go in alone. He went in as the representative of his people. He would speak on their behalf to God and God would speak to Aaron on Israel’s behalf.

The writer of Hebrews shows us the deeper meaning of this text. “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, … he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”(Heb 9:11-12)

No longer are our names written on pieces of stone which may weather and fade.  Our names are written on the very palms of God’s hand.

Have you ever wondered why God being all powerful, chose to retain the scars of His crucifixion? The answer is he wanted to remember you. Scars tell stories.

Is. 49:15        
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
16Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

This One’s on Me

Ex. 25:1   The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.”

Read Exodus 25:1-27:21

One of life’s wonderful surprises is to be on the receiving end of generosity. Receiving generosity stirs in us affections. If we go out to dinner with friends and they offer to pay, we may be surprised. The greater the generosity the more we are overwhelmed. So it is with the people of Israel. There is a wonderful song that my family used to sing over Passover called, Dayeinu.  This word in Hebrew means “It would have been enough.” After every verse the words Dayeinu are sung. Let Dayeinu sink in:

If He had brought us out of Egypt. Dayeinu!
If He had executed justice upon the Egyptians. Dayeinu!
If He had executed justice upon their gods. Dayeinu!
If He had slain their first-born. Dayeinu!
If He had given to us their health and wealth. Dayeinu!
If He had split the sea for us. Dayeinu!
If He had led us through on dry land. Dayeinu!
 If He had drowned our oppressors. Dayeinu!
If He had provided for our needs in the wilderness for 40 years. Dayeinu!
If He had fed us manna. Dayeinu!
If He had given us Sabbath Rest. Dayeinu!
If He had led us to Mount Sinai. Dayeinu!
If He had given us the Torah. Dayeinu!
If He had brought us into the Land of Israel. Dayeinu!
If He built the Temple for us. Dayeinu!

This passage comes after Moses and the elders meet God on the mountain. Whilst on the mountain, God gives them the instructions and designs for building the tabernacle. The building project and “financial campaign” that Moses and the elders of Israel embark on is not predicated on a sense of debt or duty. They count it as the joyous overflow of worship to their Redeemer.

The more we understand Grace, the less we will be gripped by gild. Money will become just that: money. It will lose its subtle, yet divine-like status in our lives. The people of Israel’s hearts are moved to respond the overtures of Grace (Exodus 25:2).

How much more will we who know the full Exodus story. The Story of the Lamb who took our place be moved to generosity? Jesus’ generosity on the cross was overwhelming. He did not tithe his blood, but gave it all. So we are moved to care for the needs of others as God provided for our deepest need, the need of Redemption. We are moved to generosity, giving and tithing.

Let God’s Grace flood you with generosity in all you do today.

Dinner Party!

Exodus 24:8 “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” 9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 … they beheld God, and ate and drank.

Read Exodus 24:1-18

What is the oddest dinner party you have been to? Homeshot pheasant with an odd sauce made of Branston pickle and mayo? Strange dinner guests? Dinner parties can be a bore. Dinner parties can be extremely fun. It all depends on the company. It all depends on the food. What is the most enjoyable dinner party you have ever been to?

Here we find the best dinner party ever. It is dinner with God. Moses and the elders of Israel go up Mount Sinai and have go to a dinner party with God. The previous four chapters we have seen a mountain of fire and smoke. The people of Israel have been struck by the holiness of God – God’s otherness. Here we find a God who, though holy, is approachable.

Looking at nature we may find that there is a Creator, but natural revelation alone cannot tell us of an approachable God. Where do we get the idea of a God of love? Moses gives us the answer. It is the blood of the covenant. God pays the price grant us entrance into his banquet. He pays with his own life blood.

We can hear the invitation to dinner as Jesus says, “Take, eat; this is my body. Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt. 26:26–29)

Every time you celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  Remember it God reaffirming his oath of loyalty to you in blood. Jesus pays the steepest price to invite us to his banquet. Asy you take communion reaffirm your covenant with Him.

This week as eat, remember. You are invited to the greatest banquet ever. A banquet of eternal fellowship.

Driving Distracted

Ex. 23:20   “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.”

Read Exodus 23:20-33

The number of motorists who admit to taking calls and sending text messages while on the road has tripled in a year, rising from 8% to 28% and 11% to 31% respectively, according to the 2010 RAC Report on Motoring. Furthermore, over a third (39%) of UK motorists admit to being distracted by calls, texts and social media applications on their mobile phones while they are driving, according to new research figures released today by the RAC.

Driving while distracted is a dangerous thing. This passage we have just read is God’s promise to his people to go before them and prepare a place for them. Many commentators believe that Jesus quotes this passage in John 14:1-2 when he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

Just as in our daily driving, being distracted is mortally dangerous. Not being aware of the heaven is perhaps the most dangerous thing we could do in our lives. Heaven is our destination, but our distraction can make us forever miss it.

Often times in our daily life we may think that the idea of heaven is a distracting idea from the toils, preoccupations and cares of the present. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact it is not focusing on heaven that makes us “distracted drivers” in this life. Being heavenly-minded focuses our minds, efforts and energies to the rigorous demands of life. We will miss the signposts along the road if we are unaware of the destination.

CS Lewis put it this way, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” (Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 10).

We all are driving while distracted and do not even realise that we are.

Today put aside any distractions as you drive the road of life. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and forerunner of our faith.”(Heb 12:2) Our brother, our captain, our king has punched a whole through death and prepared the way for us. Let us drive focused.

Throw Your Doing Down

Ex. 23:12   “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.

Read Exodus 23:10-19

One of the biggest problems humans face is deep restlessness. Judith Shulevitz, famed New York Times columnist, described this deep restlessness and our need for deep peace this way:

“Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily, the way you might slip into bed at the end of a long day not only did drudgery give way to festivity, family gatherings and occasionally worship, but the machinery of self-censorship shut down, too, stilling the eternal inner murmur of self-reproach.”

When evening rolls around distracting situations vie for our attention. Often evenings can be such occasion.  The main theme of these laws, however, is not just looking at forced rest; rather it is concerned with inward peace in all situations. The approach of night, with its temptation to brood on past wrongs and present perils, only challenges us to make our faith explicit and to urge it on others, as a committal of our cause and ourselves to a faithful Creator.

The Holy Spirit, speaking through Moses, challenges us to see where we derive our sense vindication, righteousness or rest. Any other way of seeking vindication will only lead to disillusion, “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” (v.12) The writer of Hebrews challenges this very notion quoting this the creation story and the Sabbath Laws, Heb 4:10 “for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.”

But what is God’s rest? If Jesus is our righteousness then we don’t have to fight for our rights. If Jesus is our vindication we do not need to prove ourselves. It is this confidence in justification that leads to true, deep rest. It is Jesus who speaks to the restlessness of our life, “Peace, Be still.”

Sabbath Laws are not a primitive taboos, but deeply theological declarations. The glory of Israel’s faith is the belief that God preserves both man and beast (Ps. 36:6) and feeds the wild animals every day (Ps. 104:21). Christ tells us that God cares for the sparrows on the roof (Matt. 10:29) and feeds the ravens (Luke 12:24).

Jesus declares, “It is finished!”

Cast your deadly “doing” down—
Down at Jesus’ feet;
Stand in Him, in Him alone,
Gloriously complete.

(Hymn, “It is Finished” by James Proctor and Ira Sankey)