Let Your Spirit Come! (Numbers 11:16-30)

When we talk about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, most think about the New Testament, right? Something that happened after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus (Acts 2). Yet, God’s Spirit came upon certain individuals in the First Testament. Some of those we have already seen in our weekly Scripture readings.

  • Joseph was filled with the Spirit (Gen. 41:38)
  • Bezalel was filled with the Spirit (Ex. 31:3; 35:31)

As we continue reading through the Old Testament, we find it again and again.

  • Joshua was filled with the Spirit (Num. 27:18)
  • Balaam was filled with the Spirit (Num. 24:2)
  • Othniel was filled with the Spirit (Jdgs. 3:10)
  • Jephthah was filled with the Spirit (Jdgs. 11:29)
  • Samson was filled with the Spirit (Jdgs. 13:25)
  • King Saul was filled with the Spirit (I Sam. 10:10)
  • King David was filled with the Spirit (I Sam. 16:13)
  • Azariah was filled with the Spirit (II Chron. 15:1)
  • Daniel was filled with the Spirit (Dan. 4:8; 5:11-14; 6:3)

The Holy Spirit came upon some; it limited itself to certain ministries. Sometimes the Spirit would indwell someone and then leave. Numbers 11 is one of those Spirit-filled narratives.

The nation of Israel finally leaves Sinai and begins their journey into the wilderness. Before long, the people started complaining. Get used to it, they do this a lot! At the beginning of the chapter they are grumbling about their hardships (11:1-3), which could have been water, food, or the threat of violence. The author doesn’t say. A few verses later (11:4-15) they are complaining about the manna God sent each day. Despite being supernaturally fed, they whined. They wanted meat (I don’t know if I can blame them).

It must have been like driving through a desert with a bunch of ungrateful kids in the back seat, but on a much higher level. And the Father is ready to pull the car over!

The God of Israel wasn’t happy. The text says His anger burned (v. 1) and He was very angry (v. 10). Even Moses is provoked by these people and complains to Yahweh that he is not their parent. He does not want the responsibility. He cannot do this alone. No one was having a good time.

God tell Moses to bring a select group of 70 elders to the Tabernacle. Something fascinating was about to happen:

Numbers 11:17, Then I will come down and speak with you there. I will take some of the Spirit who is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you bear the burden of the people, so that you do not have to bear it by yourself. (emphasis mine)

Numbers 11:24, Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. He brought 70 men from the elders of the people and had them stand around the tent. Then the Lord descended in the cloud and spoke to him. He took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and placed the Spirit on the 70 elders. As the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they never did it again. (emphasis mine)

That’s right, the Holy Spirit, that was already dwelling in Moses when it came upon these 70 elders. Spirit-filled leaders were given to help Moses with these miserable people!

There are many things packed into this narrative that we are not going to explore, such as the significance of 70, stuffing the people with meat, a plague, etc. Instead, I want to zoom in on something else that happened.

Two of the selected 70 had not gone to the Tabernacle for this divine meeting. We are not told why, only that they received the filling of the Holy Spirit (11:26) while they remained in the camp. A young man came and reported that these two men were in the camp prophesying! Joshua was not happy about it. He tells Moses to stop them! (It reminds me of the narrative in Mark 9:38). This is when we find this beautiful statement by Moses:

Numbers 11:29, But Moses asked him, “Are you jealous on my account? If only all the LORD’s people were prophets and the LORD would place His Spirit on them!” (emphasis mine)

Moses longed for a different kind of community. Not one that was led by a few good leaders and laws, but by the Spirit of God! Moses isn’t finished with this idea. As he is bringing the Pentateuch to a close, he writes:

Deuteronomy 30:6, The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live. (emphasis mine)

Moses had just prophesied Israel’s future would be difficult (Deut. 29:16-29). Because they would violate God’s instructions, they would be taken into captivity in a foreign land (Deut. 28:36, 64-68). But now, he looks to a distant time when they would be redeemed and turn back to the Yahweh. When that day arrives they will be given a brand new heart that will love God with all their being and live.

In both of these narratives of Moses, we discover something big that was coming – the promise of a new humanity. A time when the Law would be written on the heart (Jer. 31:31-34). The prophets Joel and Ezekiel were given visions of this day, when the Spirit of God would be poured out on all humanity (Joel 2:28). A new heart and a new spirit will be given. Yahweh will place His Spirit within you (Ezk. 36:26-27). The result will be a community who carefully follows the ways of God.

That is the community Moses longed for in Numbers 11, and that is the community that begun at Pentecost (Acts 2). It would not only be made up of Jews, but also Gentiles (non-Jews) of every nation! Their inclusion was highlighted by the Holy Spirit being poured out on them (Acts 10:44-48). And like the 70 elders, these Gentiles were given a supernatural ability as a sign to others it was indeed the Spirit of God.

Israel now had 70 more Spirit-filled leaders among them, but it did not stop their complaining, rebellion and idolatry. They too needed the Spirit, and so does all humanity. As great as it would be to have Spirit filled leaders in the offices of our government and churches, what we really need is for the Holy Spirit to come upon all people. We don’t need greater moral laws in our world, as wonderful as that would be, we need the Law of God written on our hearts.

That is where true transformation happens.

*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Blog resource: The Pentateuch as Narrative by John H. Sailhamer

Make Leviticus Great Again – Part IV (Leviticus 14)

The last three blogs have weighed heavily on the Fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. However, the author shifts gears in Leviticus 14. He is still dealing with skin diseases but gives a hyperlink to Noah and the Flood. This section, in particular, deals with the laws of cleansing skin disease and a house infected. It could not heal the disease but it would make them ritually pure again to join the worshiping community. The procedure was the same for both (14:4-7; 49-53):

  • The priest takes two clean birds and slaughters one over flowing water in a clay pot.
  • The priest takes the living bird and dips it in the blood of the sacrificed bird with cedar-wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop (a type of plant), over the fresh water.
  • The person/house to be cleansed was sprinkled seven times with the sacrificed birds blood. Seven is a number of perfection in Scripture. It means complete purification.
  • The live bird is released in an open field.

That sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it?

I like birds and I’m not crazy about having animal blood sprinkled on me once, much less seven times. And I doubt any of us would want blood tossed around our homes.

This is a good time to remind you this was a completely different world in a completely different time in history. What seems strange to us would have been considered normal to them. Just because something is different does not make it wrong. Okay, we are back in it. 

One Hebrew word of interest, is fresh (חי) water (vv. 5, 51). It is a word that means, “life, living” (Lexham Theological Wordbook). It is the same word used to describe the living (חי) bird. It is in reference to water taken from a natural, flowing body of water. The King James Version uses the word running water.

Enough of the preliminary stuff. John Sailhamer shows the story of the Flood (Gen. 6-9) with the purification laws (Lev. 14).

  • The waters of the Flood were used to cleanse the land of every creature that had corrupted its way on earth (Gen. 6:12). The primary means of cleansing diseased flesh was water. It is used seven times in Leviticus 14 (vv. 5, 6, 8, 9, 50, 51, 52). There is a system of sevens found in the laws of this book.
  • The ark was plastered with pitch inside (מבית) and out (מחץ) (Gen. 6:14). The house was plastered with clay after the soiled material was removed inside (מבית) and taken outside (מחןץ) of the city (Lev. 14:41-42).
  • Noah waited at the door of the ark for seven days (Gen. 7:4, 10). The priest waited at the door of the house for seven days (Lev. 14:38).
  • Noah waited for the bird for two sets of sevens (Gen. 8:10, 12). The one to be cleansed waited for two series of sevens (Lev. 14:7-8).
  • Two birds were sent out of the ark and flew over the dry land (Gen. 8:7-9). The raven was an unclean bird (Lev. 11:15) and the dove was a clean bird. In Leviticus 14, two “clean birds” were taken. One was slaughtered “over water” and the other was released “over the face of the field.” The slain bird, a sin offering (14:52), takes away the uncleanness; the other bird goes free.
  • A sacrifice was offered at the conclusion (Gen. 6:20). A sacrifice was offered at the conclusion (Lev. 14:10, 21).
  • Noah offered a “clean animal” and a “clean bird” on the altar (Gen. 8:20). The one to be cleansed offered a male lamb (animal) and two doves (birds) on the altar (Lev. 14:21-22).

I would say that is a lot of “coincidences.” Trust me, it is intentional. But what does it mean?

The need for purification is the overall theme of Leviticus 14 and the Noahic Flood. Both are trying to bring an end to the spread of disease – corruption (Gen. 6:12) and skin disease (Lev. 14:2). Yet, despite the purification of the earth, sin remained (Gen. 9:20-25). Not matter how many people and homes were cleansed after a skin disease, people still needed to be purified.

Running, flowing, and even turbulent, water was important in both narratives. Both were agents to purify that which was corrupt. The same with the sacrifice of animals. Blood and water run through both narratives. The continual need for water purification and blood sacrifice never ended.

Jesus came to stop corruption and death to save humanity once and for all.

He passed through the waters to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:13-15). John’s baptism of repentance was to identify with the kingdom of God. By being immersed, Jesus identified with the people of this movement. The Messiah did not need to be baptized for forgiveness of sin, but by His coming death (sacrifice, offering) He took our punishment of sin/corruption so we could exchange it for His pure life. Blood and water.

The cleansing laws of Leviticus 14, could not heal someone of skin diseases, it could only make them clean once the disease was gone. But Jesus did something the law could not do, He healed those infected. In Mark 2, Jesus heals a man with a serious skin disease (v. 40) who had begged Him to make him clean. He is told to go to the priests so he could be declared pure based on Leviticus 14. The Messiah proved His power, not only to cleanse but to remove the disease that make one unclean!

And now, through the baptism of the Spirit and fire (Matt. 3:11), we are not only forgiven of our sins but we receive His Spirit in us (Acts 2:38). Living waters (Jn. 4:13-14)! The Spirit of God continues to purify as fire purifies precious metals. The Spirit continues to burn away those things in our lives that are unclean. Right after Paul say we are the Temple of the living God (II Cor. 6:16-18), he says:

II Corinthians 7:1, Therefore, dear friends, since we have such promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity the flesh and spirit, completing our sanctification in the fear of God. (emphasis mine)

It is a call to holiness.

Yes, that is the theme of the book of Leviticus and that is what the Son and the Spirit came to bring in our lives so we can come into the presence of the Father.

Blood and water.

*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Blog resources: The Pentateuch as Narrative by John H. Sailhamer

Make Leviticus Great Again – Part III (Leviticus 13)

The ritual impurity laws continues in Leviticus 13, and just as Part I and II, it is linked to the Fall in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3). I know it is difficult for the 21st Century Western culture to pick up these clues, because we have not been taught this way. This has not been an attempt by today’s preachers and teachers to deceive anyone. The idea is we must get into the mindset of ancient Jews.

How in the world are laws about skin diseases relevant to the Garden scene? This text speaks of the examination by the priests, being declared unclean and requirements of the impure.

  • They are to be separated from the community (13:4-5, 11, 26, 31,-33, 46, 50)
  • They must wear torn clothes (13:45), burn infected garments (13:52, 55-58), and in some cases washed and quarantine clothing (13:53-54)
  • They must not fix their hair (13:45)
  • They must cover their mouth and cry out “Unclean, unclean” (13:45)

It’s pretty radical imagery if you consider it. Imagine if you had to do just one of these multiple requirements. You would be humiliated at the least. It’s an absolutely shameful lifestyle. Bring that sense of shame into the gospels of Jesus and why it was such a big deal for a leper to be healed. Sit on that for a moment.

These last purity laws are about man (אדם – a-dam – v. 2) and his skin. It isn’t that women couldn’t be infected, but this is supposed to bring to mind the effects of Adam’s sin, which had to do with the skin. Let’s begin with what is said about Adam and Eve before the Fall.

Genesis 2:25, Both the man and his wife were naked (ערזם), yet felt no shame(emphasis mine)

So what happened after the Fall? The first thing stated…

Genesis 3:7, Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked (עיזם); so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. (emphasis mine)

Note: Naked in 2:25 (ערזם) is a different Hebrew word for naked than 3:7 (עיזם) and it used in a different way. The later is found in Deuteronomy 28:48, which speaks of those who have been punished for their lack of trust and obedience to Yahweh. The naked (Gen. 3:7; Deut. 28:48) are those under God’s judgment. It is used of shame.

  • Ezekiel 16:39, I will hand you over to them, and they will level your mounds and tear down your elevated places. They will strip off your clothes… (emphasis mine)
  • Ezekiel 23:29, They will treat you with hatred, take all you have worked for, and leave you stark naked(emphasis mine)

Soon after, Yahweh comes to the garden calling out to man (אדם – a-dam – 3:9), “Where are you?” Note the response of Adam.

  • Genesis 3:10, And he said, “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked (עיזם), so I hid.” (emphasis mine)

What have we said about repeated words? They are intended to make us take notice. The word naked is used three times in this scene (3:7, 10, 11). In Exodus 28:42, the people were commanded to make tunics (shorts) for the priests to cover their nakedness when they climbed to make sacrifice (Ex. 20:26). By doing this they would keep the priests from guilt and death! And this also links to the sin of Noah, when he exposed himself after getting drunk (Gen. 9:20-24). The Noahic narrative brings to mind Genesis 1-3, and will play a major part of my next blog. For now, take notice of the guilt and shame of Noah’s nakedness. As the Creator covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness with skins, it was two of the sons of Noah who covered their father’s nakedness.

Are you seeing the connections?

  • The horror of man (a-dam) learning he was naked and the horror of man (a-dam) learning he had a skin disease. Both are unclean before a holy God!
  • Once man (a-dam) and woman sinned they were banished from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23-24) and the presence of the Creator. So also, when man (a-dam) learned of their skin disease, they too were to live outside the camp (Lev. 13:46).
  • Leviticus also speaks about the contamination of the unclean person’s clothing (Lev. 13:52-54). So too, Adam and Eve tried to make clothing to cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:7), what appears to be unaccepted, as the Creator made them clothing out of the skin (עזר) of animals (Gen. 3:21). The same Hebrew for skin (עזר) diseases (Lev. 13).

The human skin demonstrates shame since the Fall of mankind and their need for cleansing and purification. We can make our feeble attempts to make right our sin and guilt, as Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together, but only God can cover our wrongs through sacrifice. Animals were only a temporary fix, but the promise in the Garden was one of the seed of woman (Gen. 3:15) who would come and crush the head of the snake. This is none other than Jesus Messiah (Heb. 10:3-10). The Savior has come! Only He will cleanse us of our sins and remove our guilt and shame. We can try to do it of our own works, but they will fail and be unacceptable (Eph. 2:1-10).

If you have not received this cleansing, your Creator is pursuing you. God does not want to leave us in our sin. The Father gave His one and unique Son (Jn. 3:16) to cloth us with His glory! It is interesting that baptism is used as a metaphor of clothing (Gal. 3:27).

Every week, our church partakes of the Lord’s Supper. It is a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus and the blessings we now share. We still fail and uncover our sinful desires, yet we continue to run to God in our shame. Our loving Savior is waiting with holy garments to cover our guilt and shame.

What a magnificent God!

*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Blog resources: The Pentateuch as Narrative by John H. Sailhamer; Adam and Israel by Seth D. Postell

Make Leviticus Great Again – Part II (Leviticus 12)

I want Leviticus to be great again, or at least interesting. This is probably the most dreaded book of the Bible. And I get it! I really do. On the surface it is monotonous, out of date and difficult for animal lovers. Right? But when we peel back the surface we discover some pretty amazing things.

Every year it seems a new translation is published and hailed as the best. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the efforts that have been made to give us God’s Word with a clearer understanding. And I also believe we need a fresh translation, every so often, to keep up with recent discoveries that give better understanding of ancient words and practices. The problem is versions can paint over some of the unusual words in order to make a sentence have a better flow.

For example, in my last blog we looked at the word consumed or destroyed (אבל), which was used of the fire of Yahweh that consumed the offering and ultimately Nadab and Abihu (9:23-24; 10:2). These words makes sense when applied with fire. However, the Hebrew also means “to eat” and is the most common word for eating a meal in Biblical Hebrew. By a closer examination, eating is the theme of chapters 9-11. So we lose something when we use a word that makes more sense to our 21st Century minds.

The same is true with Leviticus 12. On the surface this is about impurity laws for women who bear children. They need to do to be purified. You may even find this chapter disgusting. All the men are like, seriously, why do I need to read this? And the women pretty much feel the same way. But the real question is why would God put this in here among the things that make one ritualistically unclean?

As I have mentioned before, being unclean was not always the result of sinfulness. But why would a new mother be considered impure? She is following the Creators command to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).

As we peel back the layers of Leviticus 12, we find ourselves back in the Garden of Eden at the Fall. The language alludes to the curse of childbirth. Leviticus 11 pointed to the snake in the garden and the curse of death. Chapter 13 will also point to the curse, which I will write about in my next blog. Laws of ritual impurity were intended to remind the people of the contamination of God’s good creation. And this included the reproduction of humanity.

Leviticus 12:4, She must not touch any holy things or go into the sanctuary until completing her days of purification. (emphasis mine)

As long as she was impure, she could not join the worshiping community at the Tabernacle. The goal of creation was the same as the Mosaic covenant – the worship of Yahweh!  Just as Adam and Eve were cast out of the presence of the Creator in the Garden (Gen. 3:24-25), so was anyone considered unclean by God’s Law. They could not come before Yahweh in his sacred place. But the unclean mother could enjoy everyday life in the community. This law applied to the sanctuary of God.

We find an interesting word in the text. The Hebrew for becomes pregnant (12:2 – זרע) is not the usual word for a woman who gets pregnant. It is, however, the same word used in Genesis 1 for plants and fruit trees.

Genesis 1:11-12, Then God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing (זרע) plants and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.” And it was so. The earth produced vegetation: seed-bearing (זרע) plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed (זרע) in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. (emphasis mine)

This is the same word used in Leviticus 12:2. The Hebrew word means “to sow, be sown, yield seed. In its basic sense, to sow or spread seed. This verb commonly refers to planting crops by sowing or scattering seed.” (Lexham Theological Wordbook) The best translation of this word comes out of the King James Version – If a woman have conceived seed.

But why has the author chosen to use this word? Think about it for a moment. When the Creator was handing down the consequences of the Fall, what was said to the snake?

Genesis 3:15, I will put hostility between you and the woman,/ and between your seed (זרע) and her seed (זרע)./ He will strike your head,/ and you will strike his heel. (emphasis mine)

It is the same word used in Leviticus 12 and Genesis 1. When we put these together we discover seed multiplies according to their kinds (Gen. 1:11-12). Since the Fall, humanity has produced according to their kind. That is, Eve reproduced a seed that will fall like herself and her children produced seeds that will fall, etc. Everything we have read in the Pentateuch has illustrated this point. So Leviticus 12 points back to the Fall and why one is unclean.

Let’s pick back up with Genesis 3:15 for a moment, because we find a blessing amidst the curse. The Seed of woman will rise up and destroy the seed of the snake that produces children of sin/flesh (Rom. 9:8). This Seed, the Messiah, rose up and crushed the head of the snake!

I John 3:8-10, The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s work. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. This is how God’s children – and the Devil’s children – are made evident. (emphasis mine)

The ritual purification laws reminded Israel of their need for the Seed of woman, who would eventually arrive and purify the uncleanliness of the world. And not just Israel but all the nations as promised to their forefather Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3).

Galatians 3:16, Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ(emphasis mine)

Folks, “seed” language is found throughout the Scriptures. It is not a coincidence, anymore than a seed produces fruit. Fruit? Have you seen this analogy in Scripture? It is made of the same DNA. The language is everywhere. When we see it, especially when an author goes out of his way to use it, we are to sit up and take notice.

A friend of mine, Marilyn Yergler, wrote a blog some time back called “How Are Christians Like Seeds?”  She demonstrates how this principle isn’t completely lost on our culture. She writes, “We all have heard sermons about how a seed has to die before it can germinate and become a plant just as we have to die to our sins in baptism and rise up a new creature in Christ.”

Without the seed of woman we were doomed, unclean, impure. Thanks be to God for the gift of His Son!

*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Blog resources: The Pentateuch as Narrative by John H. Sailhamer; The Principle of the Seed by Bradford Scott; blog myramblings429.wordpress.com

Make Leviticus Great Again – Part 1 (Leviticus 9-11)

Are you still trying to make sense of Leviticus?

If you’re like most people you’re just trying to get through it. This is why I love my “job,” if you will, because I am able to dig into some places most cannot see from the surface and peel back its intent. If you have watched The Bible Project‘s video on Leviticus, you have discovered the brilliant organization of this book by its author.

I want to show you something I discovered in the midst of the ritual purity section. 

I know, exciting stuff!

Believe it or not, there is a link to Genesis 1-3. Leviticus 11 makes a shift from the ordination of priests to the purification of God’s people. You hear such words as clean and unclean. You discover animals that are good to eat and those that are detestable. I am sure you found it riveting… not! This is not an easy section to understand, but once you see what I’m about to show you, you won’t be able to unsee it.

Why are some animals clean and others unclean?

We are not told why certain animals were chosen as clean and others unclean. God made all the animals and called them good (Gen. 1:21, 25). Unclean animals were not some mutant creatures that evolved after the Fall. Even so, Leviticus 11 uses the same animal classifications found in Genesis 1:

  • Land animals (11:1-8; Gen. 1:24-25)
  • Aquatic animals (11:9-12; Gen. 1:20-21)
  • Birds/flying creatures (11:13-23; Gen. 1:20-21)
  • Small swarming creatures (11:41-44; Gen. 1:20)

So what’s the deal?

First of all, we need to understand becoming unclean was not always a result of sin. Sometimes you have to touch something dead (11:24-25). In the previous chapter, Moses called for two of Aaron’s nephews to carry out the bodies of Nadab and Abihu after they were killed (10:4). Touching dead bodies made them unclean, but this did not mean they sinned.

The same with women who were considered unclean after giving birth (12:1-8). They had not sinned! In fact, God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28). You can’t do that without pregnant women!

Let’s go further, Leviticus 11 is the follow up of chapters 9 and 10. The priestly ministry has been inaugurated (Lev. 9). Aaron (the high priest) and his sons have offered the required sacrifices. As a result, the approving presence of Yahweh was manifested.

Leviticus 9:23-24, The glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Fire came from the LORD and consumed (אבל) the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when the people saw it, they shouted and fell facedown on the ground. (emphasis mine)

This is when Hebrew gets fun. The word consumed (אבל) means “to eat, consume.” This verb is the most common word for eating a meal in Biblical Hebrew (Lexham Theological Wordbook).

Wait, what!? Through fire, Yahweh ATE the offering.

The next chapter is the tragedy of Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron. They offered an unauthorized, strange, illegitimate or polluted fire (10:1). We are not given any details except it was something God had not commanded.

But watch this:

Leviticus 10:2, Then fire came from the LORD and burned (אבל) them to death before the LORD. (emphasis mine)

The same Hebrew word (אבל), only this time the fire ATE the offerer rather than the offering. Immediately after this incident, Yahweh gives regulations on what the priest could eat or not eat from their sacrifices (10:12-15). The narrative records Moses’ anger toward Aaron’s two remaining sons (10:16-18) for not eating the sin offering in the area of the sanctuary (sacred place).

So chapter 11 continues the this theme of eating, more importantly, what should and should not be eaten. We go back to the Garden of Eden!

Genesis 3:2-3, The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.'” (emphasis mine)

Eve adds to the Creator’s original instruction (2:16-17), which said nothing about touching the forbidden fruit. This goes much deeper than, “Eve must have been thinking about touching it.” At least, that is the way I used to teach it. There are only two other places we find the commands not to eat (אכל) and not to touch (נגע) that are identical in Hebrew grammar – Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 (both refer to clean and unclean foods).

  • We may eat (11:2, 9, 21, 22)
  • Do not eat (11:4, 8, 11, 13, 41)
  • Do not touch (11:24, 26, 27, 29, 31, 36, 39)

And get this, the Garden narrative, the priestly offerings, Nadab and Abihu and the dietary laws are all linked to the presence and holiness of God (Gen. 2:22-24; Lev. 9:4-7, 23-24; 10:3, 10, 12, 17; 11:44-45).

The tempter in Eden is the snake (Gen. 3:1-7). After the Fall, the Creator brings down judgement on those who have harmed His good earth. As for the snake:

Genesis 3:14, Because you have done this,/ you are cursed more than any livestock/ and more than any wild animal./ You will move on your belly/ and eat dust all the days of your life. (emphasis mine)

Not only are snakes my least favorite animal, they are the most repulsive of all the unclean animals, and mentioned last in a long list of unclean animals. Coincidence? I think not.

Leviticus 11:42, Do not eat any of the creatures that… moves on its belly… for they are detestable(emphasis mine)

Leviticus 11:44, You must not defile yourselves by any swarming creature that crawls on the ground(emphasis mine)

Now let those passages permeate your mind as you return to the Garden one more time. Eve is getting her information about dietary laws from the last, detestable and unclean of the animal kingdom. Irony? By the way, it was bad advice. Humanity became unclean and were cast from the presence of the Creator. It is death (Gen. 2:17; 3:19), not life (Gen. 2:9; 3:24), that results. This is why Leviticus says death contaminates and keeps one out of the presence of a holy God (11:24-40). They must be made pure because God is life!

Jesus came bringing life and purify to fallen humanity. By His sacrificial death, we are made clean (Jn. 10:14-18). His healing ministry demonstrated His power to purify. While others became unclean by touching a dead body, Jesus turned death into life by raising the dead (Jn. 11:25, 43-44)!

And what about us Gentiles (non-Jews)? What Jesus did was so radical, Peter needed a vision three times and a direct encounter with the Holy Spirit before he could accept those he considered unclean (Acts 10). Even when Peter enters Cornelius’ home he says, “You know it is forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner. But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28-29) Do you remember the visions? Unclean animals, right out of Leviticus 11, brought down on a sheet as he is told to kill and eat. How could that be?

This was the good news of Jesus Messiah – He was killed (death) and raised again (life) so all who believe in Him will receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:39-43). And just as Israel was to go through purification rituals to be allowed back into the presence and holiness of God, through Jesus something greater occurred. We are not only allowed back into God’s presence, but His presence and holiness comes to reside IN us! A new and better covenant has arrived!

One final hyperlink.

I Peter 1:15-16, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy

Peter quotes from Leviticus 11:44-45. Many, myself included, have looked at this passage as a command to be morally pure. In fact, some have made legalistic lists to try and dictate what holiness is or is not. Moral purity is important in Leviticus (Lev. 18-22), but that is not the link Peter uses, this is from the ritual purity laws. When a Hebrew text is quoted in the New Testament, we must go to the Hebrew to discover its meaning. To be holy (קדוש היה) is a description of things that have been set apart and sacred. We are made holy when we are set apart by God or by our own devotion to God. Both are important part of our relationship (Lexham Theological Wordbook).

What’s the point?

We belong to God (Lev. 26:12; Heb. 8:10). Biblical holiness is about a unique relationship God has made. He longs to be with us. That is Garden of Eden stuff. It comes before moral purity. Before we are called to be good, we are called to be holy. Holiness not something that is reduced to a system of religious beliefs, but being united with God through the Spirit of Jesus. The Creator has come to dwell in us again. It is such a powerful union that God’s holiness is our own.

Take a moment to mediate on that thought. Let it move you to action. It may take you into a deep encounter with the Father as you go to Him in prayer. Maybe it moves you to repentance or praise. But don’t let it remain stale on pages of your Bible. These are words of life!

*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Blog resources: Adam as Israel by Seth D. Postell; The Pentateuch as Narrative by John H. Sailhamer; The Bible Project study on Leviticus at thebibleproject.com; Lexham Theological Wordbook by Douglas Mangum, Derek Brown, Rachel Klippenstein and Rebekah Hurst.

Is Leviticus Necessary?

As soon as you hear the word Leviticus you break out into a yawn. In my opinion, this is the book that causes many people’s yearly reading plan to crash and burn. If not, its the one that most people will either skip or skim through. I get it. Even the title is boring. Leviticus is the Latin word used for the Hebrew, meaning “pertaining to the Levitical priests.” Seriously, why is this even in here?

Once you peel back the blood, smoldering dead carcasses and what appears to be some very strange laws, you discover something very important. This book is about the holiness of God.

Leviticus 19:1-2, The LORD spoke to Moses: “Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.” (emphasis mine)

All twenty-seven chapters are dedicated to show Israel how to live with a holy God and fulfill their part of the covenant. When Moses first climbed Mount Sinai, the covenant was announced (Ex. 19) and Yahweh demanded obedience. But this was not about the LORD dominating His subjects as the Egyptian god (Pharaoh) had enslaved them. It’s purpose was to set Israel apart from the other nations and make them into a special people.

Exodus 19:5-6, “Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the people, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.” (emphasis mine)

Leviticus is a continuation the covenant commands first given (Ex. 20) to show Israel how to fulfill their covenant responsibilities.

Many do not know Leviticus contains more of the exact words of God than any other book in Scripture. Yahweh is a holy God and every generation and culture needs to be reminded of that fact. The narrative from my last blog gave a glimpse into the type of holiness that comes from God.

But there’s more.

Leviticus 11:44-45, “For I am Yahweh your God, so you must consecrate yourselves and be holy because I am holy… For I am Yahweh, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy.” (emphasis mine)

Violating any of the instructions of God would make one unclean and unable to enter into community worship. We may think this book is a waste of paper, but these rituals and priests were necessary to maintain the LORD’s presence among His people.

If nothing else, reading through Leviticus should bring a greater appreciate of the Messiah who came to be the last and greater High Priest and sacrifice for Israel and the nations. Leviticus pointed to Jesus and His kingdom. If you really want to understand its real power, read it along with the Book of Hebrews.

We may find this book monotonous and boring, but it is quoted and alluded to by Jesus and the New Testament writers. For example:

  • Jesus mentioned as one of the most important commands – love your neighbor (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39).
  • Paul uses Leviticus 18:5 to show why faith is necessary for Gentiles (non-Jews) to receive the blessing of Abraham by Christ (Gal. 3:10-18; esp. v. 12).
  • Leviticus 26:12 is quoted in II Corinthians 6:16 to say we are the Temple of God.
  • We already mentioned Leviticus 11:44-45, which Paul uses to say we are called to holiness (I Pet. 1:16), as also stated in Leviticus 19:2; 20:7).

And yes, Leviticus provides hyperlinks to Genesis 1-3 and even Noah’s ark. I will take the next couple of blogs to share those ideas. I realize this is a difficult book to go through. Also, the Levitical priesthood has been replaced by Jesus Messiah, as well as the animal sacrificial system. However, if you pay attention, you can discover hyperlinks and themes that are important for us today.

For a better overall understanding of Leviticus watch both of the Bible Project’s videos on the book.

*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Blog resources: The Pentateuch as Narrative by John H. Sailhamer; Easton’s Bible Dictionary;

The Glory of God! (Exodus 33:12-34:35)

What just occurred, at the base of God’s holy mountain, was corrupt (32:7), evil (32:22), sinful (32:30-34) or as Moses puts it, a great sin (32:21 – ESV). It is inexcusable, based on covenant laws of the day. The people should be destroyed for such an atrocity. Yet, the people are shown grace through the intervention of Moses (32:11-14). Even though they broke their part of the covenant, Yahweh will not. This was unheard of, but this God is not like the pagan gods of the nations.

When the dust finally settles, Moses revisits a moment with God at the burning bush (3:13-16). You know Moses is emotionally, physically, and even spiritually exhausted by what had just transpired. The people just learned God will not go with them to the Promised Land (33:3) despite sending His angel to go before them. Moses once again intercedes on their behalf to not only go with them, but to reveal more of Himself (33:12-23). He asks for something astounding!

Exodus 33:18, “Please show me your glory.”

Yahweh has already revealed His name (another way of referring to the person of God) at the burning bush, but Moses wanted more of God. In once sense, we wonder what more could he have asked. He was there for the plagues/signs in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna falling from the sky and water bursting forth from a rock.

Moses wanted to experience God’s glory on a personal level; he wanted to understand His ways. Moses is asking for something no human had known since before the Fall in the Garden of Eden. So, God gives Moses a demonstration of His presence. It was impossible for Moses, or any human, to see the face of the LORD, but God gives him all the glory he could handle without killing him.

  • Yahweh reveals His glory in a physical way, although veiled.
  • Yahweh reveals His glory by expressing His character… compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, rich in faithful love (hesed) and truth (32:6-7). These words are repeated throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 103:8, 17; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).

Moses saw and heard God’s glory and was transfigured/changed by it! He is brought to his knees in worship. His face radiated the glory of the LORD (34:29).

Moses, although he had found favor in the sight of God, was still a human-being. His heart was right, but he was incapable of dwelling in the unveiled presence of perfect holiness. He wanted something he wasn’t able to have. But Moses was given another opportunity hundreds of years later on another mountain. It is a hyperlink to our narrative.

Jesus, the radiance of God’s glory and exact expression of His nature (Heb. 1:3), is transfigured (Matt. 17:1-6). Here, on a mountain, Moses saw and heard Yahweh’s glory! Moses stairs into the face of God. This was an even greater event than his Mount Sinai experience. Do you see this?

If you are blown away by these narratives, what I am about to show you should bring you to your knees in worship to the Most High God. Followers of Jesus are given their own experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Messiah promised to make His home within His followers after His ascension (Jn. 14:18-23). He is sending God’s Spirit, among other things, to glorify Jesus (Jn. 16:14). The Holy Spirit IS the glory of God (I Pet. 4:14) that descended on Christ when He passed through the waters (Matt. 3:16) and then led Him into the wilderness (4:1). After Jesus’ ascension, He poured out the Spirit, the glory of God, into His disciples in a scene that becomes a hyperlink to Mount Sinai (Acts 2:1-4).

Acts 2:33, Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear(emphasis mine)

Jesus is glorified by the Father to a position of authority over all things, and the glory of God is poured out for all to see and hear through the Spirit of God! The gift of the Spirit descended on us too when we passed through the waters (Acts 2:38). We are still on our wilderness journey, yet God’s Spirit is leading us (Rom. 8:14) along the way. Not in a cloud or the unapproachable room of the Holy of Holies, but within us (Rom. 8:9). To capture the awesomeness of this reality, Paul writes:

II Corinthians 3:7-8, Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters or stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel were not able to look directly at Moses’ face because of the glory from his face – a fading [glory] – how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness overflows with even more glory(emphasis mine)

We stand back in amazement over the narrative of Yahweh passing by Moses to reveal a veiled portion of His glory. Even with that small amount, Moses’ face was glowing! But Paul says the New Covenant that has arrived brought an even greater glory – the Messiah and the Spirit – whose glory exceeds the giving of the stone tablets.

And get this, now we are the image and glory of God (I Cor. 11:7).

Humanity finds their way back to the Garden of Eden. We too share moments on the mount seeing and hearing the glory of God.

How?

What does that even mean?

As we cultivate the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and emulate Jesus in our lives (Gal. 2:20), others will see and hear God’s glory! But we are still in our incomplete form and can only provide mountain moments and not sustain it. We await the 2nd coming of Christ. At that moment, we will bear the image of the glorified body of our Savior, along with His character (I Cor. 15:49; I Jn. 3:2). The new creation, the new Eden, will emerge as God descends to dwell with new humanity. The glory of God has fully returned to the world. There will be no need for the sun as the brilliance of God’s glory will shine over all (Rev. 21:23).

We will finally see the face of God and His holy name will not merely be given to us, but it will be on us (Rev. 22:4).

*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.

*Blog resources: From Bondage to Liberty: The Gospel According to Moses by Anthony T. Selvaggi

The Golden Calf (Exodus 32)

The notorious golden calf incident. This was a BIG deal, especially in light of the events leading up to this narrative:

  • Israel has passed through the saving waters of the Red Sea and freed from the evil and enslavement of Egypt (Ex. 14-15) by power of Yahweh.
  • God makes a covenant with Israel and gives them His ten commandments/words of the covenant (Ex. 19-20), established by blood sacrifice and a covenant meal (Ex. 24).
  • God commissions the building of the Tabernacle, a type of the Garden of Eden, as the Creator will dwell in their midst (Ex. 25-31).

What happens is a hyperlink to the Fall (Gen. 3). The ink, if you will, wasn’t even dried on the stone tablets before Israel started breaking them. In fact, Moses is still on Mount Sinai while this was going on!

First of all, let’s figure out which commandment Israel has broken. Here are our options from the ten words:

  • Do not have other gods beside Me. (20:3)
  • Do not make an idol for yourselves, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth… (20:4)

You may be thinking, “What’s the difference?” Firstother gods, refers to worshiping many gods, such as the gods of Egypt, even if they also acknowledge Yahweh. The LORD  is a personal God (20:5) and will not be shared. Humans were made in His image (Gen. 1:26).  The second, refers to man made idols, even those that represent Yahweh. The point of the commands: The God of Israel was not like other gods and refused to be depicted like them.

The text reveals the answer:

Exodus 32:4-5, …then they said, “Israel, this is your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” When Aaron saw this, he build an altar before it; then he made an announcement: “There will be a festival to the LORD (Yahweh יהוה) tomorrow.”  (emphasis mine)

To say the LORD wasn’t happy is an understatement. Did you notice God refers to Israel as those you (Moses) brought out of Egypt? (v. 7) Sounds like a parent when their children do something wrong. “Did you hear what your child did?” What’s that about? God has distanced Himself from Israel because of their great sin (v. 30 ESV). This was the great consequence of the Fall in Eden (Gen. 3:24).

Before this incident, Yahweh called them My people (3:7; 5:1; 7:4, 16; 9:1, 17; 10:3-4). Now they are referred to as stiff-necked or stubborn people (v. 9). The ten words were not the only warnings they were given about idolatry (20:23; 23:13, 24-25, 32-33). It seemed they were not capable of carrying out their covenant with God, they had already broken their covenant (symbolized by Moses shattering the tablets). The LORD is ready to wipe them out and start over with Moses (v. 10). Does this sound familiar to an earlier narrative? Noah. It didn’t work then (Gen. 9:20-23), and it wouldn’t work now. In fact, if you will look at the account of Noah’s sin, it came after God made a covenant with him.

Incidentally, Israel was not destroyed (whew, close call), but it wasn’t because the people had repented, or the high priest (Aaron) made restitution for them, but the fact Moses appeals to Yahweh based on His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (vv. 13-14). Moses is acting as the high priest of God (vv. 11-14, 30-32). This becomes an important part of the narratives from here on out. Israel is just getting started and they will continually break their part of the covenant with God, yet He remains faithful even if they’re not. This is an important theme of the faithful love (hesed – חםד) of God (20:6) that continues to develop.

But there were serious consequences. Moses may have saved Israel, but he dealt harshly with them for their sinfulness vv. 25-28. And, like the Fall (Gen. 3), this narrative is a major turning point in the LORD’s dealing with His people.

  • After the tenth plague/sign of the death of the firstborn, God ordained the firstborn of Israel to be consecrated for God’s service (13:1-2). After the golden calf, the Levites replace the firstborn as priests (32:26-29).
  • Israel’s relationship with Yahweh has changed. The promise is made, as before (23:20, 23), God will send His angel before the people to guard them (33:2), but something is different – the LORD will not go with them (33:3). Once again stressing separation from their fall.
  • The tent of meeting, often referred to as the Tabernacle (27:21; 28:43), is set up far away from the camp (33:7). This was not the Tabernacle, as it had not yet been constructed (36:8-38), but it served in a similar way. This is the place Yahweh will meet with Moses on behalf of the people. Once again it stresses their distance from God. The people can only watching from a distance (33:8-11).
  • Before the golden calf, “the fall,” Yahweh came down and displayed His glory to Israel (24:16-17). Now, God’s glory is passed before Moses (33:14-23). The people could only see the glory of God from the glow left on Moses’ face (34:29-35).

The tragedy of sin and failure is seen from Genesis 3 throughout the rest of the Bible. Its consequences were far deeper than not inheriting the Promises Land. It was the separation from the holy and glorious God who had chosen them, saved them, blessed them and loved them in ways no other god could. Even so, what the people learned through the golden calf, is Yahweh still loves them and longs to redeem them.

How do you view your sinfulness?

Are we so worried about “not going to heaven/going to hell” or God “punishing” us, we fail to realize what is really going on? Our relationship changes with the One who saved us through the waters by destroying our enemy and delivering us from the slavery of sin. We break the covenant of Christ that had been established by His blood. We partake of the covenant meal, Communion, before Jesus in an unholy manner. We bring reproach upon the Tabernacle/Temple of God, our own selves, since we house the very presence of God’s Spirit.

Look up and see how far you have fallen. Repent! And know this, no matter how vile the sin, our God still loves us and pursues us in ways we can hardly imagine. He longs for us to be in His presence and glory! To be in relationship with Him!

What an amazing God!

*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Blog resources: The Pentateuch As Narrative by John H. Sailhamer

The Tabernacle of Eden (Exodus 19-31)

What happens in our reading (Exodus 19-28) had been a LONG time coming. Longer than the 430 years Israel had lived in Egypt (12:40-41). Longer than the time God first called Abraham.

Something big was about to happen.

Mount Sinai, a.k.a Horeb, has always been viewed as a special place for God to meet man. His people.  It was here the Angel of Yahweh appeared in a burning bush to call Moses to deliver His people from bondage (3:2-6). And it was at this mountain Moses was to bring Israel to worship God (3:12). This was the driving force of the 10 signs/plagues (5:1, 3; 7:16; 8:1, 20, 27-28; 9:1, 14; 10:3, 7-8, 24-26).

Once the people passed through the saving waters of the Red Sea, they journeyed to Sinai. When they arrived we are given a very important date (19:1-2) – days 48 and 49 since their exodus from Egypt and Passover. This puts Moses’ mountain summit with Yahweh on the 50th day. This became known as the Day of Pentecost (Greek term for 50th). So what? If you pay close attention to this section your jaw will drop when you get to Acts 2. No time for that now.

The first order of business on the Mount, make a covenant with Israel (19-24). Here are some important highlights:

  • Moses became the mediator between the Israel and the LORD (19:3).
  • If the people keep the covenant’s terms they will be blessed (19:5-6).
  • They agree and prepare to meet God at the foot of the mountain (19:7-19).
  • The LORD came down (19:20), gave the people the 10 words (a.k.a. commandments) of His covenant (20:1-17) and additional instructions (20:22-23:1).
  • The covenant was established (24:1-18) with blood sacrifice and a ceremonial meal shared with Moses, Aaron, his sons, 70 elders of Israel, and get this, Yahweh!

That is when things got really exciting – the building of the Tabernacle (25:1-31:18)! Everything has been moving toward this moment. Many will not see its significance, but that’s because our Western eyes only sees a big army tent with fancy furniture for the Jewish people. They saw Genesis 1-2.

The Tabernacle was a small step in restoring what was lost in the Fall. The Creator has come to dwell among His people (25:8). Don’t get me wrong, they are still fallen people. Yet, special measures were made for this holy God to dwell with His sinful people. Many people hate the Book of Leviticus, but all of these bloody, monotonous and detailed instructions were what made it possible for an unholy people to live among a holy God. It is the closest a people or nation has come since Adam and Eve were banished.

But the parallels between Creation and the Tabernacle are many:

  • The Creation account is structured around 7 acts of creation and each are marked by the words, Then God said (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26). The instruction to build the Tabernacle is divided into 7 acts, each beginning with the LORD spoke to Moses.(Ex. 25:1; 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1, 12). The Tabernacle is portrayed as a reconstruction of God’s good creation.
  • The Garden of Eden contained gold and jewels (2:12). The Tabernacle was made with gold and jewels (Ex. 25:3, 7).
  • The Garden of Eden was guarded by cherubim (Gen. 3:24), as was the Tabernacle (Ex. 25:18).
  • At the close of creation God rested on the 7th (Sabbath) day (Gen. 2:1-3). The last instruction for the Tabernacle was to observe the Sabbath day (Ex. 31:12-18).
  • In Creation, humanity was made in the image (pattern) of God (Gen. 1:26-27). The Tabernacle was made according to the pattern God had given Moses (Ex. 25:9).

This is all fascinating, but the Tabernacle had a much grander purpose – to reveal the coming Seed – Jesus Messiah. The One who will bring us into perfect fellowship with God and restore paradise lost (Rev. 21-22).

  • Jesus is depicted as God’s moveable Tabernacle (Jn. 1:14).
  • He is our High Priest (Heb. 3:1; 4:15-16) of a superior priesthood and a new and better covenant (Heb. 7-9).
  • God’s covenant laws are written on our hearts (Heb. 8:10), not stones (II Cor. 3:7).
  • No more bloody offerings, Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice (Heb. 9-10).
  • Through the Israel’s Seed we approach the mercy seat/throne of God! The Messiah became our mediator and moves us from the east into the sacred space of the Holy of Holies – the very presence of Yahweh! (Heb. 4:14-16) We are not at the foot of God’s holy mountain. We are on the outside of the Tabernacle, just happy to be in the proximity of the Creator. We are brought into the Holy of Holies.
  • God’s Spirit has created a new Tabernacle/Temple within us (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19)!

Does this not bring you to your knees? Can we go through the progression of these narratives without any emotion? Are we not in awe? Are we still asking questions like, “How much do I have to obey and still be saved?” Or make statements like, “I love God but I want to live my own life.” Only the hard of heart can come away from these narratives and be indifferent.

Let’s recap Israel’s story with our own:

  • God saved us when we passed through the waters (baptism)  – our greatest enemy was destroyed in the sea as we emerged on the other side no longer enslaved to sin and death (Rom. 6:4-14).
  • We have been brought to His holy mountain where Jesus Christ is our mediator of the new covenant (Heb. 9:15).
  • The meal of the new covenant is shared, not just with the elite like Moses, Aaron and the elders of Israel, but all of God’s children (Lk. 22:14-20). Do not miss the point: we share this covenant meal with one another and Christ!
  • We have returned to a partial renewing of the Garden of Eden. God comes down and dwells/Tabernacles within us (I Cor. 3:16) as we march toward the Promised Land – the new and greater Eden (Rev. 21-22).

Can you see our story within the Exodus narratives? We are meant to draw off of these to add life to things we hold sacred – baptism, Communion, the Spirit, etc. Sit back and allow them to run through your mind, over and over, as you continue to peel back the layers of this incredible story.

*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Blog resources: The Penteteuch as Narratives by John H. Sailhamer; Logos word studies.

Baptism in the Red Sea! (Exodus 14:1-15:21)

We have become so accustomed to the world of animated movie tricks, photoshop and graphic video games, we have lost the ability to be in awe of a large body of water dividing like a bad breakup. This narrative, by itself, should humble us before an all-powerful God. Forget everything you know about this story and allow your imagination to create the scene in your mind.

Exodus 14:21-22, Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on the right and their life. (emphasis mine)

In the great “Song of Moses,” or “Israel’s Song” as it is sometimes called (Ex. 15), we find a hymn of praise for the events in chapter 14. It is Hebrew poetry, meaning it describes, through word pictures, the narrative. It uses poetic license, if you will, to describe the great parting.

Exodus 15:8, The waters heaped up at the blast/ of Your nostrils;/ the currents stood firm like a dam./ The watery depths congealed in the/ heart of the sea. 

That’s pretty cool.

And we are only describing one scene amid many other things happening at the same time –

  • the pursuing Egyptian army in their war tanks (chariots);
  • the Israelites thrown into utter chaos;
  • the Angel of God standing in front of this novice Israelite army;
  • the massive cloud and fire keeping the Egyptian army at bay.

This is drama and suspense at its height, but I just want to peel back the layers of the waters so you can sit in wonder at our God and see the links to our own Red Sea moment.

The narrative takes us to Genesis 1-3.

I know, you’re thinking, “there is no way this story connects to that one.”

Just wait.

Yahweh tells Moses to lift up his staff and stretch it out over the waters (14:16). This is when the LORD drove the sea back with a powerful east wind (רוח). The Hebrew for word for wind is pronounced ROO-ahkh. It can be translated as “wind”, “breath” or “spirit.” It is the exact same word translated Spirit (רוח) in Genesis 1:2 – as in the Holy Spirit! And what was the Spirit doing? Hovering over the watery depths (תהוס), which refers to chaotic waters. The Spirit is God’s presence and power in creation. The ROO-ahkh is suspended over the chaos ready to create order and life. This is the moment before God made the heavens and the good earth. Before, the watery mass was uninhabitable. The Holy Spirit accomplished God’s work in creation and now through the parting of the Red Sea. Want a little more?

In the poetic psalm of praise, Yahweh is described as a warrior (15:3). And as you know, all great warriors have weapons. What was the LORD’s weapon of choice?

The waters.

Exodus 14:26-28, Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back on the Egyptians, on their chariots and horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal depth. While the Egyptians were trying to escape from it, the LORD threw them into the sea. The waters came back and covered the chariots and horsemen, the entire army of Pharaoh, that had gone after them into the sea, None of them survived. (emphasis mine)

Listen to the way the Hebrew poet described it:

Exodus 15:3-5, The LORD is a warrior;/ Yahweh is His name./ He threw Pharaoh’s chariots/ and his army into the sea;/ the elite of his officers/ were drowned in the Red Sea./ The floods covered them;/ they sank to the depths (תהוס) like a stone. (emphasis mine)

Did you catch that? The depths (תהוס) is the same word in Genesis 1:2 where the Spirit (רוח) was hovering. Keep going?

Exodus 15:8-10, The waters heaped up at the blast/ of Your nostrils;/ the currents stood firm like a dam./ The watery depths (תהוס) congealed in the/ heart of the sea./ The enemy said:/ “I will pursue, I will overtake,/ I will divide the spoil./ My desire will be gratified at their/ expense./ I will draw my sword;/ my hand will destroy them.”/ But You blew with Your breath (רוח),/ and the sea covered them./ They sank like lead/ in the mighty waters(emphasis mine)

The Hebrew poet uses imagery depicting the control of Yahweh over his creation! Once again, the Creator God sends His ROO-ahkh (רוח) to bring order amid chaos and life amidst death. Does this sound like another narrative from Genesis? The great flood!

Once again, God uses chaotic waters to destroy evil, save Noah and his family, and bring a renewed creation (Gen. 6-9). The LORD saved Israel from evil (14:30) as their future ancestor will crush the head of humanities greatest enemy (Gen. 3:15). Yahweh crushed the enemy with the Seed being preserved through the Flood and crossing the Red Sea.

Now let me peel back one last layer that should make our jaws drop.

I Corinthians 10:1-2, Now I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea(emphasis mine)

Paul uses a hyperlink to our story.

We read about the cloud (Ex. 14:19-20, 24) and the Israelites passing through the sea (14:29). As Israel’s salvation was symbolized by passing through the watery depths, so our salvation by immersion into Christ. We too have been brought through the chaotic waters to a new life. One that is no longer enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:4-7). We, like the Israelites, have been set free! Israel was finally freed from bondage when they passed through the waters. In the watery depths the enemy was defeated. And God’s ROO-ahkh, Spirit, hovering over the waters, brings new creation (Acts 2:38; I Cor. 5:17), remaking the world. This same Spirit goes with us through our wilderness journey as we march toward the Promised Land (Rom. 8:23-27).

There are so many more layers to peel back, but for now let’s sit here and be swept away by the depth of God’s Word.

*All Scripture is quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Resources for this blog: The Pentateuch As Narrative by John H. Sailhamer; The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible; Lexham English Bible; Faithlife Study Bible; Logos language program