Judges 1-2

Watch the Bible Project Overview first. It’s good to note the point of this story. I used to think Bible characters were all cool role models. Sunday school flannel graph versions of them only ever highlighted their moments of obedience. When Paul says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction,” (1 Corinthians 10:11) he means example of what not to do. Jesus is our only true good example.

God saves, gives His Spirit, and uses us in spite of ourselves, because He loves us and wants to redeem us, making us conduits of blessing. This is not what happens in Judges. No one is blessed. Many don’t make it out alive.

But the LORD never abandons His people.

“When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them.” ‭‭(2:18‬)

He says “I will never break my covenant with you.” (2:1) Thank God, His promises are dependent on His character and not our own.

-Bethany 

Exodus 39-40

“Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted.” 40:36

What a beautiful ending to an incredible book. We read along as the Israelites went from slavery in Egypt, to impatient wanderers in the wilderness, watched Moses mediate their position with God and finally, here we are at the end of their pilgrimage.

What part of the story are you in?

Are you still enslaved in sin? The rescuer has already come, the Pharaoh of slavery has already been defeated.

Are you wandering the wilderness? Every day is hard and unexpected. You’re struggling to follow along, depending on the spiritual strength of the leaders around you. You feast on the daily manna, desperate for God’s provision in this season of unknowns.

Are you working on building the Temple? Up to your elbows in good, hard work that drains all your resources. Some days it feels daunting, like maybe you’ll never finish. You don’t feel qualified enough for this, but every day you’re amazed at the progress you make working alongside God’s builders.

Or are you in a season of waiting? Your life seems still. Your hard work complete. You pull the curtains back and peer out the window, seeing if the cloud of God’s presence is leading you elsewhere? Be all in, wherever you are, until he starts leading you elsewhere.

Whatever part of the journey you’re on, the Israelites have really taught us a lot. Let’s learn from them and be obedient, patient followers who trust him. He always has a plan, he always provides and he always rescues. Even if it feels like you’re wandering around in circles in the dessert.

 

-Carly

Exodus 37-38

“Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height.” (37:1)

There’s no way Bezalel could know the significance of the piece he was crafting. He couldn’t have known that one day it would give all the Philistines tumors (1 Samuel 5), or that Uzzah would be struck down dead for touching it (2 Samuel 6:7), or that it would melt Nazi faces (Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark). It was about to be possessed by the Holy Creator God.

No one would ever be audacious enough to suggest the ark was powerful because of Bezalel. I’m sure some of you have never heard his name before. So why, when we witness the power of God through the work of a simple person, do we give that person glory?

Think about it. Some pastor has a really successful church. What happens? He gets a book deal and a podcast and everyone tries to make their ark with exactly the same demensions. The method and the man become the source of power to be replicated. 

I’ve spent a lot of my time in YWAM helping with marketing, and recruiting for our Discipleship Training Schools. I’ve worked my booty off and it’s really discouraging when each quarter our school size is still small. Then it’s back to the drawing board, what are we doing wrong? I’ve spent a lot of this time stewing in the corner occasionally barking, “you can’t schmooze someone into following God. You can’t build something and run around like the priests of Baal, cutting ourselves, asking God to bring down the fire.” (1 Kings 22). But somehow I still find myself making 50 phone calls a day and hoping something sticks.

A theme of this year, for me, has been humility and obedience. I am convinced these are the only methods we need. What did Bezalel do? He followed instructions. This is the only “philosophy of ministry” I will ever need. And if, someday, God erupts in some revival situation, I’ll be as surprised as anyone else. He is the only one who builds eternal things. He is the reason for “ministry”. It can never be numbers. It can never be perceived success.

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes‬ ‭12:13‬)

Crown Him with many crowns! Let’s be like Bezalel. Let’s build a place for God’s glory, by His design and instruction, and never attempt to steal His glory (unless we’d like our Nazi faces melted off).

-Bethany 

Exodus 35-36

“All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the Lord. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of its rituals, and for the sacred garments.” 35:21

What a beautiful picture of God’s people coming together, offering what they have and working as a community. 

There is no stopping someone whose heart is stirred by the Spirit. I’ve seen people hand over the keys to a car, give large checks of money, walk away from high-paying jobs, give away their prized possession and leave places they love, all in the name of the Lord. 

When is a time God has stirred you to do something? It’s an undeniable feeling that propels you to do something you’d never find yourself doing without him prompting you. 

If you have a relationship with God, and you haven’t experienced that, something’s up. Usually for me, this means I’m not putting myself in a position where I can be informed. I’m not praying or connecting spiritually, I haven’t attended church or am in general distancing myself from God’s people. 

It can be intimidating to engage in God’s work, and maybe you’re even dreading what he’ll ask you to do or hand over. But when we are submitting our lives to God in obedience, there is nothing more fulfilling or rewarding. Nothing! I love imagining the Israelites staggering back to get a look at all their hard work. The large curtains sewn. The perfectly carved gold posts. Enough gifts for the sanctuary that Moses started turning them away! 

If everyone gave away their resources and gifting this generously, I don’t think there would ever be any needs unmet.

Is God stirring your heart towards something? 

Are you making yourself available for opportunities within your community? Are you informed? 

You don’t have to aggressively hunt down opportunities to serve God. Simply engaging with people will present them. This means checking in, asking “anything I can do to help?” with a genuine heart. Leaving space in your day to hear from God. Allowing room for quietness so you’ll notice when he’s pulling you towards something. 

I hope one day to be like the Israelites, offering so much of myself that all the needs in my community are met. Stepping back to admire all our hard work and sacrifice coming together to complete God’s plans and bring him glory. 
-Carly 

Exodus 33-34

“Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” ‭(33:13-15‬)

Please read every word of these chapters. This is an incredible moment in history, a pivotal moment in God’s story with mankind. There are hundreds of sermons which have started with these chapters: Moses speaking with God as a friend. God showing Moses His glory. The restating of the covenant. Moses veiling his face from the people. The LORD revealing His hallmark attributes (gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, etc). It’s hard to pick which incredible promise to focus on! 

So I’ll choose this. Moses had gotten to know God, since his encounter at the bush, and had become certain of one thing: I’m not going anywhere without you. 

The LORD is all powerful, greatly to be feared and praised, but for whatever reason, He loves His people, desires to be with them, and communicate with them. He responds to Moses’ prayers. They are somehow friends! And no matter how mad/annoyed we all are after the calf incident, I’m not going anywhere without you. 

He knows there’s more to know about God. Infinitely more! He is the complex person of whom every person alive bears the image. He could complete His tasks and fulfill His incredible promises through an angel delegate, but I’m not going anywhere without you. 

The people of Israel might be satisfied with a mediator. They may be too caught up in their brokenness to want a closer look at their creator, but the God of Abraham, the Great I AM has turned out to be deeply beautiful, full of love, justice, goodness, grace, holiness and I’m not going anywhere without you. 

Do you see Him? Do you feel Him? Can you hear Him? Is there any substitute for Who His Is? A golden calf may seem more approachable, an angel may seem powerful enough, but HE IS THE WHITE HOT REAL DEAL. I’m not going anywhere without you. 

-Bethany 

Exodus 31-32

“When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. ‘Come on,’ they said, ‘make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.’ ” 

Ooooh, Israelites. So foolish, so small-minded, distrusting, anxiety-prone and impatient. And so relatable! 

Everyone peels off their gold jewelry and hands it over to Aaron so he can melt it down and create a three-dimensional god for themselves. I wonder if this is the same jewelry mentioned in chapter 12. God favored the Israelites and prompted the Egyptians to hand over their wealth to them on their way out of town. 

Did God’s people take something he gifted them and worship it instead of him? 

We do this too. In moments when we can’t see him, when we haven’t heard from him in a while and we desire something tangible, we scrape up something to worship. Aaron fails them as a leader here. He doesn’t comfort the people, point out their impatience or remind them of God’s history with them so far. He disobeys God and gives them something temporary and manmade, instead of extending them God’s hope. 

What’s your gold calf? What’s something in your life that God gave you, that you reach for instead of him? 

Notice here how Moses advocates for the people. He calls upon God to be true to his promise, rather than true only to his justice. We are fickle, failing people in need of a middle man, mediating on our behalf to our God. 

As we near the end of Exodus, start reflecting on this story. How does it line up with the gospel? What does it say about spiritual slavery? What have you learned about Jesus from Moses? 
-Carly

Exodus 29-30

Consecration is the word of the day: It is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service. The word literally means “association with the sacred”.

Aaron and his sons get consecrated in this passage, to be made “holy” (set apart) ministers of the LORD. This happens all through physical acts: washing, anointing, dressing, etc. They become physically qualified.

Because, you know, meanwhile, as Moses is receiving this very instruction for Aaron and his sons, Aaron is down the mountain melting everyone’s gold into an idol. Not a lot about Aaron’s heart has been addressed, yet.

“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”‭‭ (Hebrews‬ ‭9:13-14‬)

We live on the other side of this. Christ had made our cleansing thorough. Our hearts of stone have been exchanged for hearts of flesh. He has purchased us with His blood, we are His. Quite associated with the sacred.

Ask the Lord, today, what it means to be His, and thank Him for the great lengths He went to make it so.

-Bethany