I’m not a dog lover, but I love our dog, Darlin’. Her favorite thing to do is hang out and feel the feels with us. She never complains, even when we forget to feed her. She’s not particular who she’s with, and she doesn’t ask for much. She likes any kind of attention we give her…and she’s always glad to see us.
She might be one of the best examples of God’s love I know.
The Israelites are camped at the foot of Mt Sinai. The year is 1446 BC. Moses has had two visits with God on top of the mountain and gotten copies of the covenant and Ten Commandments. He’s also seen God’s design for the tabernacle and has given God’s instructions to Bezalel and Oliab, gifted craftsmen, to oversee its construction, Ex 19-36. (www.bible.ca/archeology/bible-archeology-exodus-route-travel-times-distances-days.htm)
These two chapters say they’ve made everything God’s commanded, down to the last almond blossom and cooking fork–the ark and its cover; the table and its dishes; the lampstand and its lamps; the altar of incense; the anointing oil; the altar of burnt offerings and utensils; the bronze basin; the courtyard with its curtains, posts, and bases; and the ornamented entrance curtain.
The amount of gold collected from the people to build it was 29 talents. According to Wikipedia, a talent of gold today is worth $1,400,116.00, so multiplied by 29 equals $40,603,364.00. This figure doesn’t include the value of the silver and bronze that was collected, or the jewels, fabrics, skins, woods, oils, and spices. When the Bible says the Israelites “plundered the Egyptians,” it wasn’t exaggerating, Ex 3:22.
Moses never told them how much to give or how often. The Bible says at least four times in the previous two chapters that those who were willing did the work, and that those who were willing gave the materials, and that the amount given was more than was needed. Moses eventually had to tell them to stop because they gave too much, Ex 35-36.
There are detailed instructions about how to make the things that went inside the tabernacle, as well as a careful accounting of the materials that were used to make them. God is specific about everything, down to using bronze to make the pegs that hold the tent’s roof-tarp in place because worship matters. Once everything is made, it’s all brought to Moses to see and approve, and then it’s all set up, “just as God commanded,” Ex 38:20; 39:42-43.
God’s people are capable of doing all the work and accounting for it, too. They may have been slaves back in Egypt making bricks, but they weren’t without skills or knowledge, Ex 36:1. I wonder how it would have felt to be spending time making this beautiful place for worshipping God after all of the back breaking work they’d done in Egypt.
I wonder how it felt to use these costly materials, too. Rather than mud and straw, they’re using gold, silver, bronze, hides of sea cows, ram skin leather, fine linen, acacia wood, exotic spices and fragrant woods. God brought them out of the poverty of slavery with all the finery of Egypt’s upper class in their hands, Ex 12:36.
It would have taken some getting used to, getting up and going to build a place of worship compared to making bricks in a slave filled brickyard. I wonder if some of the partying they did when they demanded that Aaron make them a golden calf had to do with copying the behavior of the wealthy class in Egypt, who were known for their excessive idol worship. Maybe calf worship made sense to them somehow, Ex 32.
But of course, it didn’t make sense to God. He’d just brought them out of Egypt amidst never before seen miracles and with staggering amounts of wealth and worldly goods. He gave them food and water along the way and his presence with them in cloud and fire. He provided for them and protected them and gave them everything they needed, despite their faithless complaints.
Once they get to Mt Sinai, the first instruction he gives them is to worship him only, “Thou shalt have no other gods.” Then God gives them further instructions for exactly how to worship him, and he gives them the task of building a place to do it–the tabernacle, Ex 20-31.
One thing is clear: God’s plan for his people is for them to worship him. It’s what both God and Moses said over and over was the reason God’s people needed to leave Egypt, “Let my people go that they may worship me.” I’ve assumed the reason to go was to get out of crummy working and living conditions. But God’s plan wasn’t just to set a nation of oppressed people free from the clutches of Pharaoh. It was to bring them out of their slavery and into worship, Ex 8:1.
Learning how to worship God and making the tabernacle wasn’t an add-on to keep people busy and entertained on this road trip to the promised land. Worship wasn’t just a way to fill up the Sabbath after a hard week once they get where they’re going, either.
Before any other system is set up for his people, God establishes worship. In fact, God sets up all the rest of their cultural institutions–civil, financial, judicial, educational, and even healthcare–to be overseen by the priests at the tabernacle (Leviticus, coming up next, explains how). All of life, as the Israelites knew it, flowed out of worship, because worshipping God is the reason for living.
God’s heart has always been to commune with his people in worship. It’s why he made the earth and put the first family on it. God loves nothing more than to hang out and communicate his love to us–and to be loved by us. That’s what communing with him is, and it happens when we worship.
I’ve gone to church all my life, but I don’t think I ever experienced communion with God in worship until I stayed at a friend’s house in New York in 2018. I had no idea I could be met by God in a way I could feel until I read a book by someone I knew, who talked to God like he was really in the room. With that idea in my head and my Bible in my lap and the warm wind from the lake caressing my face, I was awakened to God in a whole new way that’s never left.
I think I was born again in that place.
The book mentioned is Listening to Love by Jan Meyers.
For my experience in New York, see http://onetruelove.blog/2018/09/03/chautauqua/.
I love how the two Mary’s are up and at ’em at dawn on Sunday after Jesus’ death. They can’t sit around that morning, wondering if “it’s” happened as he said it would–his resurrection. If the religious leaders knew Jesus said he’d rise after three days, then these women who traveled with him did, too. They’ve got to find out if it’s true, Mt 27:62-66; 28:1.
They’ve got to find him.
Matthew includes a description of the angel who comes with a “violent earthquake” that morning. He looked like lightning and his clothes gleamed white and he rolled back the stone, “and sat on it.” [An odd detail to include unless it was true.] Mt 28:2-3.
He wasn’t opening the tomb for Jesus to get out. Jesus was already gone. He was opening the tomb to let everyone see that Jesus had risen as he’d said he would. He’s so terrifying to look at that the soldiers shake and “became like dead men,” but the women listen to him and do what he says. They see the empty tomb he points out, and they leave to tell the disciples that Jesus is up, Mt 28:4-7.
But Jesus suddenly appears to them, and they fall down at his feet and worship him, Mt 28:8-10. What a moment that must have been. All their fears fall away, and they’re consumed with relief and fresh belief, enjoying his presence and his love for them; offering their worship and their love back to him.
The disciples meet Jesus in Galilee, and they worship him, too, “but some doubted.” Jesus tells them he’s been given all authority everywhere, so he’s sending them to make disciples in every nation, and he says he’s with them always, to the very end, Mt 28:16-20.
“But some doubted.” Even in the face of their risen Lord and friend, they still struggle to believe in him. I like knowing that I can have real faith, and be entrusted with God’s words, and still struggle with doubts of God and Jesus, because sometimes I have them, too.
Jesus doesn’t set aside the doubting disciples in their service to him. This is good news, because who can have perfect faith? Doubts don’t necessarily mean unbelief. They can also mean imperfect faith. If even Jesus’ closest friends struggled to believe after his resurrection, surely others will, too.
I think of the religious haters and how they claimed that if Jesus would come down from the cross, they’d believe in him. But I don’t think they would’ve. When the soldiers report back to them at the temple, telling them about the angel and the stone and the empty tomb, they don’t believe. They bribe the soldiers to spread lies about how the disciples came in the night and stole Jesus’ body while they slept. If eye witnesses of an angel and empty tomb don’t make believers out of these bad guys, nothing else could, Mt 27:40; 28:11-15.
Faith doesn’t depend on proof or if all our questions find answers. That would make it science. Faith is something else all together. It comes from saying “yes” to a call, opening a door to a knock. It’s having a relationship–not comparing facts and weighing evidence.
I know Jesus is real because I’m convinced the Bible is true. But deeper down, I know he’s real because I experience his love in a relationship with him. I can’t make up this love that’s beyond me, outside me, bigger than I am. If I could, then I would be the source of it. But I don’t have love for anyone, much less for him, apart from his love for me. My love is a response to his. “We love because he first loved us,” 1 Jn 4:19.
There are compelling proofs of God. There are logical reasons to believe. The creation itself begs the question, “who made all this?” But the reason I believe is because of love. Love can’t exist without a Source. And the older I get, and the more I experience him, the more sure I am that looking for God’s love is my favorite work and play.
“Come my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.”
David says fearing God–and finding the good life–means:
–Cleaning up your mouth–no evil, no lies, v 13.
–Not doing evil, but doing good, v 14.
–Seeking peace and pursuing it, v 14.
I like short lists. I like checking off what I need to do and the feeling I get from having done it. This isn’t that kind of list, though. It’s more a “3 Goals for Your Entire Life” kind of list, a list that may never be checked off and done, but might be moved closer to overtime.
Do I ever really stop the evil my mouth speaks or my mind thinks? Will I ever be completely and only honest? I have to confess that I keep finding more and more ways my mouth speaks evil and lies. And the truth is, my mouth only says what’s in my heart. That’s the real problem.
But maybe this list is a way to check progress in our spiritual lives. Are we speaking evil less? Are we doing good more? Are we having more peace in our relationships?
Because when used like that, as a kind of progress report rather than as a to-done list, we can say, “Yeah, I’m growing. These things are becoming more true of me. I can see God’s work.”
My take away today is how important worship is for God and for me. Jesus’ followers fell down to worship when they saw him–it was their hearts’ first response of faith and love (Matthew). And it was the center of life for the Israelites (Exodus). Fearing God is part of worship. And it changes me. It cleans me up, and it leads me to peace with God and others (Psalms).
God’s great desire is to hang out and tell me how much he loves me, and for me to feel the joy of that and offer it back to him in worship. What’s not to love about this relationship?
I want to see you, God. I want your glory to grab me and put me on my face in love and wonder. Make worship the center of me.