Sunday, February 17, 2013

Outline of the Book of Numbers

The book of Numbers is so called because of the two numberings of the Israelites that took place at the beginning and end of their wanderings in the wilderness. The book covers a time period of approximately forty years, beginning at Sinai and ending with the final approach of the people to the Promised Land. In it we see a number of key events: rebellion by the people, a bad report brought by the spies, the exchange between Balak and Balaam, etc. There are also some hidden gems that speak to us of Christ; in particular, keep an eye out for the bronze snake (c.f. John 3:14-15) and the city of refuge (Ps. 91:2).

Chapters 1-4: The first census
The book of Numbers opens with the first census, taken by Moses while the Israelites were still camped at Sinai. Most people skip over this section, as it lists names and numbers of the various tribes and clans of the nation. But when you read it, think about the humble beginnings of the nation: from a family of just 70 people, God caused them to multiply so that each tribe could fill a sports stadium. We also see the divisions of the Levites and the number of people there. The three Levitical families were responsible for carrying different parts of the tabernacle, which we read about here. God had very specific rules for how they were to carry out their duties, and from this we can learn how we should act in respect of Him and His holiness.

Chapters 5-6: Laws concerning adultery and the Nazirite
In chapters 5 and 6 we see God giving Moses a couple of extra instructions, concerning the test for an unfaithful wife and the Nazirite vow. There are several people in the Bible who were Nazirites or took this kind of vow, including Samson (Judg. 13:7), Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11), and Paul (Acts 18:18 and Acts 21:24). Taking a Nazirite vow was an act of dedication to God, and could be for a fixed period of time or for life.

Chapters 7-8: Dedication of the Tabernacle and the Levites
Numbers 7 gives a list of all the offerings brought by the leader of each tribe over the twelve days that the tabernacle was dedicated. All the offerings are the same, and we see the dedication of the people in bringing them to God.
In chapter 8 we see the dedication of the Levites, whom God took in substitution for the firstborn of the nation, after the events of Ex. 32, where the Levites were the only tribe to take a stand for God’s righteousness.

Chapters 9-10: Moving on from Sinai
In chapters 9 and 10 the Israelites celebrate the Passover feast, and then break camp as the pillar of cloud lifts from the tabernacle and leads them on through the wilderness. This passage is quite descriptive of how they were led by the cloud, and demonstrates to us how we too should be obedient in following God’s leading in our lives. We also see the instructions God gave Moses to make two silver trumpets for summoning the people.

Chapters 11-12: Rebellion from the people
Just as everything seems to have been set in order, with the people united in dedicating the tabernacle and following the pillar of cloud, we see problems. We read how some people started complaining about the conditions and the food. So Moses goes to the Lord about it, and God provides quail for the people – but at a cost: those who complained, died of a plague before they could finish eating it. After this we see Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister, wanting their share of the leadership. Miriam is struck with leprosy, but Moses prays for her healing. Rebellion arises out of self-will – when we think that what we want is better and more important than what God wants. We can ask ourselves, would we have been satisfied with the manna God was miraculously providing, or would we have been joining those demanding to have other food?

Chapters 13-14: The spies explore the land of Canaan and incite the people to rebel
After these events, God instructs Moses to select a man from each tribe to go into the land of Canaan and explore it. They do so, and come back with some of the fruit – but also with a bad report about there being giants in the land. Although Joshua and Caleb pointed out that God would be on their side and give them victory, the people listened to the ten other spies and started talking about going back to Egypt. God is angry and threatens to strike them all down, but Moses intercedes. Instead, God declares that the nation would wander in the wilderness for forty years, until the whole generation of adults who complained had died.

Chapter 15: Offerings to be made in the land
In chapter 15 God describes some of the offerings that were to be made when the people did eventually enter the land. We can look at these as part of His promise that they would indeed be victorious.

Chapters 16-18: The rebellion of Korah and reiteration of God’s selection of Aaron
In chapter 16 we see the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abihu, who were Levites but not priests. They were dissatisfied with the role they had been given and challenged Moses. So Moses called them to come to the Tent of Meeting, and God destroyed them by having the earth open up and swallow them alive. The others who had joined them were also destroyed by fire from the Lord. The people continued grumbling after this, and God sent a plague. Finally, God tells Moses to call all the leaders together to put their staffs in front of the presence of the Lord. God caused Aaron’s staff to bud, as a sign of His selection of Aaron as priest. Although God doesn’t necessarily deal with our rebellion in the same way today, we would be wise to take note of how such attitudes displease Him. We must learn to be satisfied with what He has given us to do, and not strive or complain because He hasn’t given us the ministry He may have given to someone else, even though we may feel that we are more qualified or experienced.
In chapter 18 God reiterates and gives additional instructions concerning the role and portion of the Levites within the nation. Understanding these aspects is important for understanding the events of the rest of the Old Testament, and how the Levites were to relate to the rest of the nation.

Chapter 19: Laws concerning the preparation of the water of cleansing
In Numbers 19 we see laws concerning how the water of cleansing was to be prepared and applied. This outward cleansing is symbolic of the inward cleansing of sin that each of us needs to receive from God. It is interesting to note that in the offering of the sacrifice, the priest becomes ceremonially unclean until evening – just as Jesus descended into Hades, being ‘unclean’ because He was bearing our sin at the time.

Chapters 20-21: Passing through Edom, Arad and Moab
In chapters 20-21 we see the Israelites nearing the end of their wanderings, and travelling through the regions of Edom, Arad, and Moab, approaching the Jordan from the south-east. In these two chapters we also see two major events which have great consequence and significance. The first is Moses striking the rock for the second time. (The first was in Ex. 17.) This was an act that caused God to put him in the penalty box, so that he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. This may seem a rather extreme move by God, but He had told Moses to speak to the rock, not to strike it. By striking it in anger, Moses firstly misrepresented God to the people, and secondly, broke God’s intended prophetic symbolism of the rock being Christ. At Christ’s first coming, He was struck and living water poured out. At His second coming, He will not be struck, but will be implored to provide salvation.
The second event worth noting is that of the erection of the bronze serpent. This was in response to a plague of snakes that God sent among the people. God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it up on a pole, so that everyone who looked at it would live. This is curious, because it seems to violate the second commandment not to make anything in a form of an animal or other created thing. Indeed, the children of Israel did fall into the trap of worshipping this bronze snake (see 1 Kin. 18:4). Bronze is a symbol of judgement; the snake is a symbol of sin. So the bronze snake lifted up on a pole represents sin being judged – a picture that Jesus uses of Himself, John 3:14-15.
Finally we see the defeat of Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Bashan. God had forbidden the Israelites to attack the Edomites or Moabites because of the blood relationship between their ancestors (Edom, or Esau, being the brother of Jacob, and Moab being the son of Lot, Abraham’s nephew). But there was no such relationship between the Israelites and Amorites, so they were free to conquer them.

Chapters 22-25: Balaam and Balak
In Num. 22-25 we are introduced to Balak, king of Moab, and Balaam, a prophet. Balak is concerned about the million-plus people wanting to pass through his land, so he summons Balaam and offers him money if he will curse the people. Initially Balaam declines, but when Balak insists, he goes. On the way we have the amusing story of how angels came and stood in his way, which he did not see but his donkey did. After the donkey avoided the angels three times, with Balaam beating her each time, God caused the donkey to speak (2 Pet. 2:15-16).
When Balaam arrives, Balak takes him to various mountains to see the people in the hope that Balaam will curse them. But as Balaam starts to speak, God puts words of blessing in his mouth. Four times this happens, and Balak sends him away – but not without one final piece of advice from Balaam, which we only discover through other passages of Scripture (Rev. 2:14). Balaam knew that God would bless Israel if they were obedient to Him. He reasoned, therefore, that if they could be enticed to sin, God would curse them. So he counselled Balak to have the young women of Moab tempt the men of Israel into sin. You can read about what happened in Num. 25.

Chapters 26-27: The second census
Numbers 26-27 gives the second census of the Israelites, just prior to entering the Promised Land. While this seems a list of dry numbers, we see the effect of the events of Num. 25 on the tribe of Simeon in particular, reducing their population to just over 22,000 men.
In ch. 27 we meet the daughters of Zelophehad. They came to Moses to enquire about how property might be distributed to them when the nation entered the land, since the Law had only made provision for property to be passed down through the males of a family. Zelophehad had five daughters and no sons, and the daughers feared that they would be left with nothing. God makes provision for them here, and they take it up in Num. 36.

Chapters 28-30: Laws concerning offerings and vows
In chapters 28-29 we are given additional details concerning the offerings that were to be made at the appointed times: the daily offerings, Sabbath offerings, new moon offerings, and offerings associated with each of the national feasts. These complement Lev. 23.
In chapter 30 God gives Moses commandments concerning the making and breaking of vows.

Chapters 31-32: Defeating Midian, land east of the Jordan
In ch. 31 God instructs Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites for how they had led the nation into sin (Num. 25). He sent the army into battle, and God gave them victory and great spoil. He protected their army so that no-one was missing, and the people gave an offering to God out of the spoil in gratitude.
In ch. 32 we see another potential problem arising, and one that would have ramifications throughout Israel’s history: the tribes of Reuben and Gad asked Moses’ permission to claim land on the east side of the Jordan river and not cross into the Promised Land. They asked this because they had large flocks and herds, but Moses was displeased, thinking they were shirking their responsibility and rebelling against the Lord. He warned them of how their forefathers’ rebellion against the Lord and rejection of the Promised Land at Kadesh Barnea had led to the whole nation being forced to wander in the wilderness for forty years. But the Reubenites and Gadites insisted this was not their intention. They agreed to cross into the Promised Land and help their fellow Israelites drive out the inhabitants of the land. Historically, however, these tribes were always the first to be attacked and taken into captivity by the Assyrians and later the Babylonians. God gave them their request, but one cannot help but think they would have received an even greater blessing had they entered the land.

Chapter 33: The stages in Israel’s journey
Numbers 33 gives a list of the stages in Israel’s journey. Some of these place names are familiar to us, and others are not. This demonstrates to us how God had faithfully led them all the way from Egypt to Canaan, although they had not always obeyed Him faithfully.

Chapters 34-36: Instructions for the land, including appointing cities of refuge
The final chapters of Numbers contain instructions concerning the overall boundaries of the land and how it was going to be assigned to the different tribes. We also see God’s commands concerning the cities of refuge: how they were to be appointed, and how they were to operate. The Levites were not to receive any tribal land as an inheritance, for their inheritance was to be God Himself (Deut. 10:9). However they were to be assigned cities throughout the land, so that they could teach the people God’s ways. Six of these cities – three on each side of the Jordan – were to be cities of refuge for someone guilty of manslaughter to flee so they could be safe from the next of kin, who took on the role of the avenger of blood. This is a beautiful picture of our security in Christ. The final chapter sees the implementation of the law made for Zelophehad’s daughters in ch. 27.

The book of Numbers thus leads us up to the point where Israel was about to enter the land. At this time, Moses took the opportunity to reiterate to the people the law of God in a number of sermons, which comprise the book of Deuteronomy.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Outline of the Book of Leviticus

The book of Leviticus is so-called because it describes the roles of the priests and Levites, among other laws that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. Many Christians tend to skim over the book, or neglect to read it altogether because they see it as irrelevant. Practically, it is, since we now come into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and not through keeping laws and offering sacrifices. But the book can teach us a lot about Jesus, if we will let it. Each of the different types of offerings reveal aspects about Him to us. Each of the feasts is prophetic of Him in some way. It is worth repeating Col. 2:17 – “These are a shadow of the things to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

Chapters 1-7: The offerings
The book of Leviticus starts off with God’s instructions to Moses concerning the various types of offerings that were to be made in different situations. They are not all the same and the differences point to different aspects about Jesus Christ. This is not the place to go into detail, but I will give a summary.
Ch. 1 – the burnt offering. Used to symbolise one’s dedication to God. The entire animal was burned on the altar.
Ch. 2 – the grain offering. Often accompanied other offerings. Part of the offering was burned, the rest was given to the priests.
Ch. 3 – the fellowship offering. Used when someone wished to fellowship with God. Part of the offering was burned, part was given to the priests, and the rest was given to the person to eat.
Ch. 4-5:13 – the sin offering, broken down by priests, leaders, and common people. A penalty for unintentionally sinning with regards to the civil laws God had given the Israelites.
Ch. 5:14-6:7 – the guilt offering. A penalty for unintentionally sinning with regards to the ceremonial laws God had given.
In ch. 6:8-7 each of the offerings are repeated, this time dictating how the offering is to be presented by the priests. If nothing else, this section shows us that God is serious about how His people are to worship Him.

Chapters 8-10: Events concerning Aaron and his sons
In ch. 8-10 we have the only narrative section of the book. Three events are recorded: the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests, where Moses made sacrifices and anointed Aaron (ch. 8), the beginning of Aaron’s ministry as high priest, where he was making sacrifices for himself and for the people (ch. 9), and the death of Aaron’s two eldest sons for offering ‘unauthorised fire’ before the Lord (ch. 10).

Chapters 11-15: Laws concerning purification
The next section of the book concerns the general topic of purification. This includes the laws concerning which animals were clean and unclean (ch. 11), purification rites after a woman gave birth (ch. 12), instructions concerning skin diseases (including leprosy) and mildew, and the purification rites associated with them (ch. 13-14), instructions concerning bodily discharges and the purification rites (ch. 15). The instructions concerning ceremonial cleansing from leprosy are interesting to consider, since leprosy was incurable at the time. These laws were written but never acted upon, until the day Jesus cleansed a leper and told him, “See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them” (Mark 1:44). Leprosy is a picture of sin, from which we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ.

Chapter 16: The priest’s role on the Day of Atonement
The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is one of the seven annual feasts of Israel, but is arguably the most important. There are a number of aspects about the Day of Atonement that speak to us of our own atonement by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. On the Day of Atonement we see the offering of one goat and the bearing of sins on the scapegoat. The Day of Atonement was the day when the high priest atoned for the sin of the people and the nation committed over the past year. It was also the only day when he was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. These things speak to us of how Christ carried our sins upon Himself, though He was innocent, how He made a sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins once and for all, and how He entered into the presence of God (Heb. 9:12).

Chapters 17-19: Laws concerning forbidden things
In Lev. 17-19 we see a number of laws concerning things that were forbidden: eating blood (Lev. 17), forbidden sexual relations (Lev. 18), and various laws that were intended to distinguish the people of Israel from the other nations around them (Lev. 19). Although many of these are written as ‘Thou shalt not...’, we can see God’s intent behind them: to obey these laws out of our respect for God and our respect for our fellow man (the second commandment, see Lev. 19:18 and Matt. 22:35-40).

Chapter 20: Punishments
Lev. 20 gives punishments for certain sins, which for many of them was death. This is a reminder to us of Rom. 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Chapters 21-22: Laws concerning priests
In chapters 21-22 we return to laws specifically for the priests: how they were to live and conduct themselves. The Levites had been set apart for God after the events of Ex. 32. Because they had been set apart as an example to the people, and had a special role to teach the Israelites the things of God, there were additional laws that they were expected to keep, additional responsibilities, and additional blessings for obedience. This is the same for us as Christians: there are certain things that although we have liberty in Christ to engage in them, for the good of those we are setting an example for, we must set them aside. Lev. 22 specifically addresses regulations concerning the animals brought for sacrfiice. They must be without spot and without blemish – that is, without birth defects and without injuries. This is a picture of Jesus: He did not inherit Adam’s sin nature from birth, and He did not commit any sin Himself. Thus He was an acceptable sacrifice to God on our behalf.

Chapter 23: The feasts of Israel
In chapter 23 we are introduced to the seven annual feasts of Israel as directed by God: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks (also called Shavout, or Pentecost in the New Testament), Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles. Each of these are a remembrance of some event in Israel’s history, and each is prophetic of an event in the future. (This will be the subject of another post.)

Chapter 24: The shewbread, and a blasphemer
In the first part of chapter 24 God gives rules concerning the shewbread that was to be placed on the table in the tabernacle. In the second part we see God’s stipulations concerning a man who blasphemed God with a curse in the hearing of the people. Here we also see the introduction of the ‘eye for an eye’ law – which was not intended to be the requirement, but rather the maximum allowable penalty. In other words, the punishment had to fit the crime.

Chapter 25: The Sabbath year and the Year of Jubilee
In chapter 25 God gives instructions concerning the Sabbath year. Just as the people were to work for six days and then rest on the Sabbath day, the land was to be worked for six years and then allowed to lie fallow for the Sabbath year. God would ensure that the harvest in the sixth year was more than enough for the people to live during the Sabbath year. However, the people failed to keep this law, and God cites it as the reason why they were taken into captivity (see 2 Chr. 36:21).
In addition to the Sabbath year, every 50th year (the year after every seventh Sabbath year) was to be a Year of Jubilee. During this time all debts were to be cancelled, all slaves were to be set free, and all land was to be returned to its original owner. This speaks to us prophetically of the time when Christ will return to establish His kingdom and put everything right – as Peter calls it, “the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21).

Chapter 26: Rewards for obedience and punishments for disobedience
As the book of Leviticus draws to a close, God reminds the people why they should keep His laws. He promises them rewards for obedience, and punishments for disobedience. Knowing the sinful tendencies of mankind, the section on punishments is longer and more detailed than the section on rewards. This chapter reminds us that the Mosaic covenant was conditional. In Christ, we are now under the new covenant, but there are still rewards to be gained in heaven for acting in obedience with the right motives.

Chapter 27: Laws concerning redemption
The final chapter of the book concerns laws about redemption. When we read them, it may seem like a list of instructions for an accountant. These redemption laws concern the redemption of those things that were dedicated to God in a vow. God makes the provision for a person to change their mind, for instance, if they were caught up in the hype of the moment. God will not force anyone to keep a vow that was made rashly, although it is better not to make a vow at all than to go back on your word.

I hope this overview is helpful to you as you read the book of Leviticus. It is one of those books that can seem dry at times, especially if you have arrived at it after the flowing narrative of Genesis and Exodus. But if you are willing to dig a little deeper, and to ask, ‘What is this teaching me about Jesus?’ then it can become a great treasure trove of insight.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Outline of the Book of Exodus

The book of Exodus is so-called because it describes the exodus of the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. In the book we see some of the great miracles that God performed on behalf of His people, which are mentioned throughout the rest of the Bible: the plagues of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the giving of manna and water from the rock, and the continual rebellion by the children of Israel. We are introduced to Moses, who is a key figure throughout the Bible. We see the giving of the law and the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, and God’s instructions concerning the tabernacle. The first part of the book is narrative and quite easy to read; the second part starts to catalogue some of the laws given by God to the nation of Israel. While many of these may seem irrelevant to us, we can find great treasure in them if we remember Col. 2:17 – “These are a shadow of the things to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

Chapter 1: Slavery in Egypt
Following on from the end of Genesis, where Joseph the son of Jacob (Israel) had been second-in-command under Pharaoh, several generations passed and the family of Jacob, who had gone down into Egypt as seventy people, multiplied into hundreds of thousands. Then a new king arose in Egypt, who did not know the history of these people. Feeling threatened by them, he made them slaves.

Chapter 2: The birth of Moses
God saw the suffering of His people, and appointed Moses to be their leader. In Exodus 2 we see the circumstances surrounding Moses’ birth: how Pharaoh had decreed that all baby boys born to the Hebrews were to be killed, how Moses’ mother put him in a basket in the reeds by the Nile river, how Pharaoh’s daughter found him and adopted him as her own son. Moses is a remarkable figure. He grew up in the palace of Pharaoh, no doubt receiving an excellent education in that society. He became a prominent official, and when he was older, he tried to go to the rescue of one of his fellow Hebrews, but was shunned by them. Fearing for his life, he fled to the desert of Midian, where he lived with Reuel and his daughters for several years.

Chapters 3-4: The calling of Moses
In chapter 3 we see God calling Moses to be Israel’s leader. We have the famous incident of the burning bush that was not consumed. Incidentally, this is a picture of grace: a thorn bush (a symbol of the curse, or sin) being burned (in judgement) but not being destroyed. Here we also see God pronounce His name as ‘I AM’ (Ex. 3:14).
Moses knows he is talking with God, but he begins to make excuses about why he isn’t the man for the job. ‘What if they don’t listen to me?’ he says. God gives him the power to work miracles as proof of his commission. Finally Moses says, ‘O Lord, please send someone else. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ You can feel God getting exasperated with this man, and suggests that Moses’ brother Aaron would go with him to be his spokesman.

Chapters 5-6: Moses returns to Egypt
In chapter 5, Moses returns to Egypt and he and Aaron go to speak with Pharaoh about releasing the Israelites. But Pharaoh refuses, and makes their work even harder: up to this point, they had been given straw with which to make bricks. But now, he ordered that they gather their own straw as well. The people rightly complain, and again God has to encourage Moses to keep going with what He has called him to do.
In the second part of chapter 6, we are given the genealogy of Moses and Aaron. We discover they are from the tribe of Levi, from the line of Kohath. This will become important later when Aaron is made high priest of the nation and the Levites as a tribe are set aside to serve God.

Chapters 7-11: The ten plagues
Once Moses returns from Midian to Egypt, God brought ten plagues of judgement upon Egypt. This is remembered throughout the rest of the Bible and certain plagues are referred to individually (e.g. Ps. 78:44-51, Rev. 11:6). No two plagues are alike, although they do follow patterns and progressions: involving Moses’ rod, Aaron’s rod, Moses warning Pharoah or not, the plague affecting all the people or just the Egyptians, etc. After each plague we read how Pharaoh hardened his heart (and for the later stages, how God hardened his heart even further). The ten plagues culminate in the death of the firstborn, which God had told Moses would happen before He sent any of the plagues (Ex. 4:21-23). It is interesting to note that each of the plagues affects a certain thing that was considered a god or divine in Egyptian society at the time.

Chapters 12-13: The Passover
In chapter 12 God gives Moses specific instructions concerning the Passover: the last meal the Israelites were to have in Egypt. This would go on to become an important remembrance for the Israelites through all generations even to today with the Passover feast, but it also has significance for us as Christians, as the Passover lamb is symbolic of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 5:7). The Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a lamb, cook and eat it, and smear its blood on the doorframes of their houses. If they did this, God promised that the angel of death would pass over their houses. That night, the angel of death slew every firstborn male in every house that did not have blood on the doorframes. This was the tenth plague, after which Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and commanded them to leave Egypt.

Chapters 14-15: Crossing the Red Sea
Crossing the Red Sea was one of God’s greatest miracles, remembered throughout the Old Testament. The Israelites had left Egypt and were being led by the pillar of cloud and fire. The Egyptian army pursued them. God parted the Red Sea and enabled the Israelites to cross over, while the cloud kept the Egyptians from reaching them. Once the Israelites had crossed, the cloud lifted and the Egyptians started to pursue them. God instructed Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea, and it flowed back in so that the Egyptians were destroyed. So began the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness.

Chapters 16-18: The start of the journey
It took two years for the Israelites to reach Mount Sinai. A few events from during that time are recorded in chapters 16-18, namely how the people complained about food and God gave them manna and quail to eat, how the people coplained about water and God opened the rock for water to flow out, how the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites (an event that would be remembered in Deut. 25:17-19), and how Moses’ father-in-law came to visit him and gave him advice on how to lead the people.

Chapters 19-24: The giving of the law at Mount Sinai
In Exodus 19 we see Moses and the children of Israel arrive at Mount Sinai. This would be a turning point in the nation’s history, for it was here that God gave them the Law as His covenant with them through Moses (hence, the Mosaic covenant). This was not an unconditional covenant like that made with Abraham, which depended solely on God’s faithfulness. The blessings promised by God to the Israelites under the Mosaic covenant were conditional upon them keeping His Law.
The giving of the Law starts with the well-known Ten Commandments (Ex. 20). Other civil laws follow, concerning servants, recompense for injuries and damage to property, social responsibilities, justice, the Sabbath and festivals. In Ex. 24 God confirms the covenant by having Moses read the Law to the people and sprinkle them with sacrificial blood. When we read through these laws, the words of Jesus come to mind about the two greatest commandments that sum up all the others: firstly, to love God supremely, and secondly, to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Chapters 25-31: Instructions about the tabernacle
After this we see Moses return to the top of Mount Sinai, where God gives him instructions concerning the tabernacle and the items to be placed within it. There is a lot of detail given in these chapters concerning the measurements and the materials for these items. But rather than skimming over it (or neglecting to read it altogether), there are things we can learn and notice. The author of Hebrews alerts us to this: “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and a shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain’” (Heb. 8:5). Apparently, God didn’t just tell Moses what to make, but He showed him. These items reflect items that are in heaven, in God’s throne room. And each item relates to Jesus Christ: the altar of sacrifice (Christ our sacrifice), the bronze laver for washing (Christ who cleanses us), the table of shewbread (Christ the bread of life, John 6:48), the menorah/lampstand (Christ the light of the world, John 9:5), the golden altar of incense (Christ our intercessor), the ark of the covenant (Christ who kept the Law perfectly), the mercy seat (Christ who atones for us).
God also gives Moses instructions about the priestly garments and the consecration ceremony for the priests, namely Aaron and his sons. He also tells Moses about Bezalel and Oholiab, two men He had given skill to make everything that was required.

Chapters 32-34: The golden calf, etc.
Following the glorious topic of the sanctuary to be built for God, Moses comes down the mountain to find the Israelites falling into their worst sin yet: worshipping a golden calf idol. Moses was filled with righteous anger and breaks the two tablets of stone that God had given him, with the Ten Commandments written on them. After atonement had been made for the people, God instructs Moses to bring new tablets to the mountain to replace the ones that were broken. In this section we also read about how Moses’ face would glow after he had been with the Lord, and his desire to see God’s glory.

Chapters 35-40: Constructing the tabernacle
The final chapters of the book of Exodus (ch. 35-40) are quite similar to ch. 25-31. There, we saw God giving instructions to Moses concerning the construction of the tabernacle; here, we see the work carried out and completed. It was all done exactly as God prescribed, and when it was completed and set up, the glory of God came and dwelt there. The tabernacle layout was incorporated into the temple later on in Israel’s history, once they came into the Promised Land and Jerusalem was established as the capital under David and Solomon.

Exodus is a book of struggle and accomplishment, of failure and mercy, of promise and hope for the future. At the start of the book, Israel was in Egypt as an extended family; at the end of the book, they are a nation being led to their homeland. We are introduced to the key figures of Moses, Aaron, and Joshua. We see God’s miraculous hand, the giving of the Law and the establishment of the priesthood. Throughout the book we see events and symbols pointing to Jesus Christ. If you find it hard going when you are reading, just try putting Jesus in the centre of it.