DAY 27 – Exodus 1 & 2; Leviticus 1
GOD SAW… GOD KNEW
Today we begin a new period in the “Bible Timeline” that we’re following – Egypt and Exodus. Exodus picks up right where we left off from Genesis. But the time period between these two is about 400 years. It’s kind of a curious thing for me to consider these periods of time. For those of us here in the United States of America, our country’s Declaration of Independence was over 244 years ago. So many treat that like it’s ancient history, when in reality, we our still in a relative youthful time as a nation. That should give all of us, leaders and citizens a bit more humility. . . Anyway, back to today’s scripture…
Exodus really quickly moves past Jacob and sons and the generations from them. Things have changed a great deal. The words “a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” sets the ominous tone. While the Egyptians did not worship or follow God – there had been a respect, a reverence for God as the Pharaoh of that era could see “the Lord was with Joseph” and recognized that the favor, the ability to interpret dreams, the insights that Joseph gained were all from the Lord. In that there was a welcome for the “Sons of Israel” who had made home in Egypt.
Things move from freedom to slavery when God is forgotten. (Again, something that all of us in 2021 as we look at “ancient history” should cause us to pause and have a little bit of humility) The Egyptians begin to view with suspicion, with anxiety the Jews who had been a part of their community for centuries and they go from welcomed guests to imprisoned servants whose sufferings go from harder work to infanticide of the males born in one of the first recorded attempts at “population control.”
Interestingly, throughout chapter 1 and 2 of Exodus, God was rarely mentioned. Perhaps it wasn’t just the Egyptians who forgot God? Perhaps the Israelites had grown a bit too comfortable with there homes, livelihoods and circumstances. Yet, very simply, beautifully at the end of the introduction of Moses, we hear the people crying out to God… we read God was mindful of his covenant… and we start to see why Moses was rescued, nurtured by his mother (and paid by the very Egyptians who would’ve killed the baby had they found him on their own!) – “God saw… God knew…”
As people who’ve prayed with Job, we can hear these words with a sense of awe, and wonder at God’s providence. In the midst of our trials and struggles, even when perhaps we’ve forgotten God, He sees, He knows, and will be attentive to our cries.
DAY 28 – Exodus 3; Leviticus 2& 3; Psalm 44
One of the things that stood out to me in re-reading and listening to Fr Mike’s audio of these scripture passages was what Moses and God say about themselves. As God is calling Moses into service, his response is “Who am I” and when Moses asks God for His name, His identity it’s the somewhat mysterious sounding “I Am.”
For Moses, his response can be interpreted as that of humility – overwhelmed in the presence of the Almighty. It can be an expression of gratitude at the thought of these miraculous things he’s seeing and experiencing and what he’s being asked to accomplish. It can be revealing fear, doubt – recognizing his need for assistance. He probably doesn’t realize how this question is something coming to the core of his being –Who am I – and Moses certainly couldn’t have anticipated God’s response of revealing His name as “I am.”
The interesting wordplay “I am” or “I am who I am” which theologians have reflected and expanded on for millennia offer all kinds of interesting perspectives without a definitive answer (no surprise there). But there’s a definitive tone to the name of our God. “I am” is outside of time, space – without beginning or end. And it naturally calls us to reflect on our relationship in light of Him.
The question of “identity” is one that every human being encounters, oftentimes numerous times throughout life. Some aspects are determined from birth (Son/daughter) – some come through commitments, vows and promises we make (husband/ wife – Priest/Religious). Sometimes those questions are answered by what others. Which can be a good or bad thing. An individual is called “Governor” “President” because they are elected and assume office… A person can suffer by insults and bullying to believe lies about themselves or their worth.
In this moment of encounter for Moses – as he asks “who am I” – Moses asks that question to the one who imagined him into existence,
who had a dream for him from the very moment of conception –
who has been protecting and guiding him as an infant up until this very moment.
The pieces of his very existence,
his inherit goodness as a creation of God,
the potential that he possesses and the opportunities that lie in front of him
are all possible and rooted to the Great I am. It’s one of the distinctive things that gives believers a sense of clarity into their very being.
As people struggle with questions of identity in our ever confusing and divisive day and age, we need to reflect on these truths. Recognizing that even more spectacularly, is that in Jesus Christ, The great I am draws us even more intimately close and calls us His beloved sons and daughters
DAY 29 – Exodus 4& 5; Leviticus 4; Psalm 45
You would think a burning bush would be enough to alleviate Moses fears or at least overwhelm him into accepting God’s call and commissioning. But even after God shows him the miraculous feats that Moses will be able to unleash in front of Pharaoh – Moses is still filled with doubts. His limitations (he’s believed to have a stutter) His self-doubt (I have never been an eloquent) – rises to a level unexpected – “send someone else.”
Yet God knows Moses better than Moses knows himself. He knows what he’s capable of. He knows what He’s doing. It’s a lesson that Moses has to ease into learning (which I suppose is still very true today for all of us).
A curious statement is where God reveals to Moses that He will “harden Pharaoh’s heart” in the face of these miraculous signs revealing God’s power, authority and command to “let my people go.” God tells Moses, after all the signs he will perform and the words he is to say that “I will harden his hear and he will not let the people go.” Seems pretty counter-productive, don’t you think? Why would God seemingly set Moses up for failure and Pharaoh for punishment?
There’s a couple of realities at work here. The first would be trying to understand how Pharaoh in the sight of these miraculous works of God in the hand of this most humble man would be unmoved. This is actually God revealing the gift of freedom. (Which remember Fr Mike saying that God wants the Israelites to be free not just for freedoms sake, but to worship Him). Well in this instance, God is basically giving Pharaoh what he wants.
He has ignored the history of the God of Jacob (the God of Joseph) and chose not to remember and respect Him as his predecessors did. Predecessors who while not Jews themselves showed awe and respect in the sight of God’s marevelous works (interpretation of dreams and guidance on how to navigate the meanings of those dreams). No this Pharaoh has ignored that history. Ignored the Jews cries. Mocked what was in their hearts (to worship God) Treated the “chosen people” as slaves. His heart has been hardened and so God will not pour his grace, his mercy, onto such a closed heart. Thereby confirming what Pharaoh had himself had done. Nothing Moses would have said or did, coming from the Almighty himself mattered to Pharaoh. And so in response, God has accepted this foolish judgment. (It’s why we believe in the existence of Hell – not that God wants to eagerly throw people there, but people choose to put themselves there… and God as being all powerful, all knowing – in a sense allows that by allowing that freedom in the first place).
Moses for his part, is not hardened in his heart. He’s scared. He’s still coming to know as God reveals himself so intimately more and more of who God is, and who God is calling Moses to be. He’s still uncertain, but listens to God’s Divine Directions. In the end, the change won’t come to Pharaoh – but to Moses and God’s very people.
DAY 30 – Exodus 6 & 7; Leviticus 5 Psalm 45
For most of us, we’re used to hearing or reading these passages in short excerpts and selections. One of the blessings of this daily dive into scripture is we get a fuller picture of, well everything. First we get a fuller picture of the humanity of so many heroes of our faith. I’m sure that when many hear the name Moses – the image of Charlton Heston raising his arms parting the Red Sea… a majestic, triumphant image. It might be striking to read his doubts, his fears, his anxieties to the part where God is continually having to reassure him to trust Him… to, as Fr. Mike said in his reflection – remember what God had done in the past with his ancestors, but to recognize that, “I AM” doing something new for you and with you.
We’re just beginning to hear about those miraculous feats that the Lord works through Moses and Aaron – which will grow increasingly more dramatic then staffs becoming serpents and a blood red Nile river. So before we let ourselves get lost in those, maybe today we can sit with that bigger message to Moses and hear the living Word of God speaking to us, of the importance in remembering our past, remembering what God has done for our ancestors – but also letting Him speak into our fears, anxieties, worries and to tell us how He continues to do something new.
This reflection reminded me of a poem that my pastor in High School had shared in one of his bulletin columns that I had cut out and now 30 years later (yikes) I still have. It goes:
I was regretting the past
and fearing the future
Suddenly my Lord was speaking
MY NAME IS I AM
He paused. I waited. He continued…
“When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets
it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I WAS
When you live in the future with its problems and fears
it is hard.
I am not there. My name is not I WILL BE
When you live in this moment
it is not hard because
I am here
My name is I am.
May each of us be blessed in hearing and reflecting on God’s living word today… and in that, be a blessing for one another.
DAY 31 – Exodus 8; Leviticus 6; Psalm 48
Frogs – of all the creatures in God’s creation, who would’ve imagined Frogs becoming a sign of God’s displeasure at the hardness of heart in Pharaoh and the source of such anxiety for the entire kingdom? If we were God, wouldn’t we imagine something like Lions, tigers and bears (oh my… sorry) coming in massive numbers to catch the attention of the Pharaoh? Yet amazingly its an abundance of these creatures turning up anywhere and everywhere to humble the tyrant to agree, to promise to let God’s people go if only the frogs were to disappear. It’s amazing to see how God knows his creation and creatures so intimately to imagine these slimy creatures could be so incredibly effective. The frogs must have gone from annoying, frustrating and finally infuriating the Pharaoh to in a moment of exasperation and desperation gives up. Fine, the Chosen People of God can go. When God hears Moses’ prayer, and the Frogs all die though – what happens? Pharaoh goes back on his word.
Interesting isn’t it? How Pharaoh kind of demonstrates how so many people treat their relationship with God? Praying in need or in crisis – making all kinds of promises – quickly forgetting about those promises once whatever trial has passed. The reality is that until someone’s heart is not hardened… until someone is desiring to be in relationship and communion with God, they will not see God’s presence and action, will not be moved by God. Instead they will continue trying to treat God like one of Pharaoh’s magicians who perform tricks under the orders of the man occupying the throne – rather then recognizing the only throne, the only one worthy to sit on it is God alone.
That’s ultimately what this battle is all about – who the people will serve and obey? Who is worthy of that service and obedience? The Lord is calling His people both in History as we read this story from thousands of years ago to present day as we hear God calling “ Let my people go, that they may serve me…” The freedom God desires is not the ability to do whatever it is we want (or someone else wants) but the freedom to serve God -by listening to His voice, following His direction, helping to build up His Kingdom.
Hence, today’s Psalm is worth revisiting. “… the Lord, the Most High, is awesome… God is king of all the earth! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne…He is Highly exalted!”
DAY 32 – Exodus 9 Leviticus 7 Psalm 49
MORE THAN JUST DEAD COWS –
Three more plagues – Death of livestock, Boils on the people, thunder and hail (killing more of the livestock) As we’ve been reading these last few days of the escalation of seemingly random yet devastating phenomenon they do seem somewhat odd to our ears. It’s pretty straightforward that God keeps commanding Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that Israelites are released, freed to serve the God, whose name is to “be declared throughout all the earth;” Pharaoh’s heart is hardened and he rejects these demands (or keeps going back on his word) and there’s yet another plague – that seems just as random and bizarre from frogs, to gnats to cows.
Why is Pharaoh so stubborn? Because not only is he losing these seemingly impossible battles – but it’s unraveling all that Pharaoh’s believed and put their hopes in. Each of these plagues is an assault on another false god that Egypt had worshipped. God was being merciful in trying to open their minds and recognizing that – wait, the Nile turning red was a judgment against their pagan god named Apis. The frogs raining down destroyed the illusory power of a fertility god they worshipped (to the point of frogs being seen as sacred creatures to the Ancient Egyptians) With each plague, the facades was eroding in awesome display.
Think about it, the Egyptians had grown to treat the Jews as property, as slaves – worth less than the frogs, and cattle who they saw as sacred beings. When God shows up, and very reasonably demands there freedom, tries to warn their leader and those warnings are dismissed or even mocked, eventually God’s mercy will run out. Pharaoh and his fellow Egyptians will have to deal with much more than just dead cows as we will read in the days to come.
The reflection for me is seeing how our world is moving into a pagan-secular culture. A rise of people putting their faith in all kinds of things and then using God as a punch line or to lay blame on hardly registers it is happening with such frequency. One politician recently when confronted about their decision making resulting in the deaths of elderly individuals dismissively said “Why did God do this? I don’t know” … yesterday on twitter, a clip of a young man drunk attempting to read scripture at a Catholic wedding went viral with more seeing it as hysterical rather than blasphemous.
In Jesus, God has become Man – Divine Mercy has a human face and drawn intimately closer to us. Jesus remains with us, humbly present in the Eucharist as we eat his real body and blood in the consecrated host. God is present in our lives, in our Church, in our world in a way these ancient Egyptians, even Moses could never have imagined. In that, the time for God sending prophets and plagues to get our attention has long ended. The victory was won on Easter Sunday.
But that doesn’t mean that people can’t be as foolish, blind and hard hearted as Pharaoh. And find themselves, ultimately, ravaged by disasters not from God summoning a plague, but of their own making.
DAY 33: Exodus 10 & 11 Leviticus 8 Psalm 50
The tension is reaching a fever pitch between Pharaoh and Moses with the escalations of the plagues. We know what’s coming, and reading and reflecting on this with almost a “cliffhanger” each day only heightens the drama and has us looking forward to what’s about to come. Which is why it’s good to take a pause from the action and reflect. We’ve highlighted the reason for the plagues, how the Lord God was making a point about the false gods of the Egyptians. We’ve had experts who have studied these texts for centuries explain that and Fr. Mike is doing a great job succinctly underlining it for us in the daily podcast.
But what is interesting is that Pharaoh’s innermost circle figured this out in realtime. It’s bad enough Pharaoh’s ego and arrogance kept him from dismissing Moses, dismissing the Lord God – hardening his heart and unleashing greater trials for his people (and to be honest, for Pharaoh himself) But those closest to him were trying to say – UHM PHARAOH – MAYBE YOUR HEART IS HARD BUT YOUR BRAIN IS STILL FUNCTIONING RIGHT? YOU CAN’T BE THIS BLIND AND STUPID. Well, I’m paraphrasing. Let’s check out the exact plea we heard today – let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God; do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined? (Exodus 10: 7) For these his trusted servants to be so blunt took courage to a leader who was almost a deity to the people himself. This was the third time they spoke up. In chapter 8 we hear how they pointed out after the plague of the gnats that “this is the finger of the God” (Exodus 8: 19) And in Chapter 9 they are said to fear “the word of the Lord.” (Exodus 9:20)
The point is that some of the Egyptians are coming to recognize the power and authority of the Lord God. Which is important before we get to the devastation of tomorrow. Because often people will again characterize this as“God of the Old Testament being so mean.” Yet the point of “The Chosen People” wasn’t to exclude anyone. Gods mission for “the Chosen People” is to reveal Himself through them – to invite the rest of the world into relationship with Him, ultimately included into God the Father’s family. But they need to want to be a part of that family. And just like Fr. Mike mentioned about the fact that the Jews being led into freedom isn’t an invitation for them to do what they want, but to serve the Lord God – the same is true for the Egyptians, and for you and I: we have to recognize the relationship is on God’s terms, not ours.
DAY 34 – Exodus 12 Leviticus 9 Psalm 114
DELIVERANCE & REMEMBRANCE
400+ years… The gap between Joseph and Moses… The time it took for the heart of Pharaoh to be hardened against the Jews. The time it took for the heart of the Jews to grow, at a minimum somewhat indifferent. The time it took for the “chosen people” to become enslaved – not only by the Egyptians, but as Fr. Mike had pointed out previously, but by the Egyptian way of life.
God’s promised freedom would not only be historic, it needed to be remembered as such – by a prescribed ritual, by the changing of the calendar (“this month shall be for you the beginning of months…”) So before we get to the final plague, we get this prelude on how it is to be marked “as an ordinance for ever.” This paschal meal is not meant to be like any other meal. It is to involve time, planning intentionality. An unblemished lamb – they needed to find only the best… Every aspect of the meal was meant to be an act of faith, of trust, of obedience… They were to be eating “in haste” because they were on journey – God was about to free them. And how will they be freed? First by being saved by the blood covering them from this last plague…
The evil of the Egyptians, the opportunities for them to experience God’s mercy was at an end. They had not heeded God’s call to free His people. They had mocked and dismissed those warnings, and plagues. They had killed the first born of the Jews. After all the oppression, abuse – Deliverance had come: The three days of darkness are followed by an even more terrifying fate – the joy and hope of their families, the death of the first born -from the Pharaoh to the captive in the dungeon is unleashed.
At that, finally the Pharaoh is humbled, even humiliated as he tells Moses “be gone, and bless me also…”
Over 600,000 leave in a journey that had been 430 years in the making. A night of deliverance. A night that was to be forever remembered. The could never imagine a night of greater importance. Yet, their journey was far from done. God’s deliverance was far from complete. And some centuries letter, while celebrating a Passover meal, God himself will once again change history, would ordain new rituals, would offer deliverance and tell us “do this in memory of me.”
DAY 35 Exodus 13 & 14; Leviticus 10 Psalm 53
TALE AS OLD AS TIME
I don’t know about you, but there is something about reading the crossing of the Red Sea having read Genesis and Exodus in succession like this that makes it that much more dramatic, doesn’t it? We know the story… We knew this scene was coming. Yet the build up, and taking time to get here really makes it stand out.
But a couple other things stood out for me. One is human nature – which full disclosure, hits close to home. The Israelites have just left Egypt after 10, count them 10 plagues which not only displayed the mighty hand, the power, the authority of the Lord God over all creation and his domination over all who would attempt to usurp his power. The Lord God did all of that to liberate the people, so that they would know most intimately and definitively that they were His people. They escape, they are being led by these mysterious pillars of cloud and fire. And what happens next. Human nature kicks in. First on Pharaoh who despite the fact that his arrogance has left him and his kingdom in practical ruins and abject grief. Yet he’s able to put that aside and return to the same tactic he’s done 10 times previously in going against God expecting different results.
For you and I, as we kind of sit in amazement at that, it’s a good reminder to us when we’re doing an Examination of our consciences and going to confession (hopefully we all will do that or if it’s been awhile, maybe consider doing that!) We recognize with humility how often we do the same thing. Hopefully not to the devastating lengths that Pharaoh does. But as we’re studying and reflecting on his falling into the same sinful pattern and with the distance from this particular event can recognize the utter stupidity of it, hopefully that helps convict us to see those areas in our own life where we struggle. This isn’t to make us feel terrible. Not trying to dish out some old fashioned Catholic guilt – because unlike Pharaoh we’re not enemies of God. We know He loves us. We are more than chosen people, in Jesus Christ we are His beloved Sons and Daughters. Which raises the love and mercy. But also should raise the expectations we have for ourselves.
Which brings me to the other thing that stood out. For the Israelites they too have just witnessed 10, count them 10 plagues visited on the Egyptians as God’s way of liberating them. And as soon as they hear Pharaoh’s armies are enroute after them they’re response? “GREAT IDEA MOSES – PERFECT we had to walk all this way to die here – you couldn’t leave well enough alone?” HUMAN NATURE KICKS IN AGAIN – even in the hearts of the “faithful” moving them from being faithful, being a believer into disbelief, into doubt and fear. How could they think the one who turned the Nile into blood red, who made the frogs, locusts, hail rain down on their enemies; who struck the first born of their oppressors had all of a sudden forgotten them? Set them up to be destroyed here?
For you and I, as we sit in amazement at this – it’s a good reminder that when we encounter difficult times or seasons (like, oh I don’t know, a GLOBAL PANDEMIC) do we believe the same God who brought us into existence out of nothing; who fashioned us and all creation in astonishing complexity that we simply take for granted (just think about how our body operates; or the rotations of the planets) – all of a sudden forgets us, abandons us when we face trials, setbacks, failures? I know I do sometimes. Its not something I’m proud of – not by a long stretch. But reflecting on how often human nature does indeed kick in, a tale as old as time, I’m comforted to hear Moses’ words – coming from the Lord God – FEAR NOT – STAND FIRM AND SEE THE SALVATION OF THE LORD, WHICH HE WILL WORK FOR YOU TODAY.
DAY 36 Exodus 15 & 16; Leviticus 11 Psalm 71
TESTED IN THE WILDERNESS
If I counted correctly, someone whines or complains at least 7 times in just about 14 verses. Experience will tell us that if it’s written down just one time, it was noteworthy to mention… 7 times in 14 lines, it’s probably not too hard to imagine a lot of people were at a minimum frustrated. It seems a lot has changed from the celebration in Chapter 15 of Exodus, where there is joy and celebration at the triumph they just experienced by God’s direction to now, a whole lot of “murmuring.”
While often times I’ve gotten lost in the negativity of the moment, it’s interesting that God doesn’t. He does not get angry or frustrated with the people. Moses seems a little bit testy with the people. But God does not. Instead, each time they encounter another obstacle that leaves them unnerved and they cry out, He attends to their needs. The water is bitter, God makes it sweet. They are in the wilderness and hungry he provides food from the heavens: manna, this mysterious bread from heaven in the morning- and quail in the evening – just enough to satisfy the hungers, the needs of each person.
Rather than looking at them as ungrateful people, perhaps something else is at work. God is transforming his people from Egyptian slaves into his own people – tried in the chaos and uncertainty of the wilderness, trained into being resilient and trusting in the God who does see, who knows, who cares for them. The people are learning to look to Him not simply for their next meal, but their very identity. An identity that is changing everything for them: the time of competition, storage houses is ended as they crossed the Red Sea. They aren’t to hoard, there are set times and boundaries for them to work and to rest. It’s a completely different existence for them freed from Pharaoh’s bondage of servitude. Yes, it’s disconcerting in these days, weeks and months – well centuries to be precise – since they were truly living as God’s Chosen People. Despite the seeming unreasonableness of the Jews complaints, God is patient and sees their innermost hearts, their greatest of potential.
That gives me tremendous comfort. That sometimes my whining and complaining… the moments of ingratitude or times when I fall into selfish, self-centered thoughts, foolishly believing I’m entitled or owed, our Loving Father sees these as growing pains, lapses that He will use to continue refashioning me into the Beloved Son He calls me to be. He has dreams, hopes for us to be children with whom he will be well pleased with.
DAY 37 Exodus 17 & 18; Leviticus 12 Psalm
WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE?
So just a few notes reflecting on today’s podcast first… to maybe expand and help clarify what Fr. Mike was discussing with the Levitus chapters and talking about what can sound very confusing about “unclean” – particularly in chapter 12 for a woman who has given birth. Part of what makes this so seemingly awkward to our ears is that in 2021, how many women experience the miracle of giving birth and are sent home from a hospital in a day or two? The idea of labelling this period as “unclean” is underscoring the sacredness of the moment. The notion that the wife was prevented from doing other things that would have been part of fulfilling their duties and obligations as a good Jewish woman – were removed. In a sense, the Leviticus ordinances were ordering that the only thing the Mother needed to focus on, was being a mother – and healing from the pains of child birth. That was just my slightly different take on this, but like Fr. Mike mentioned, we’ll have another 330 days or so that we’ll be delving into it again.
In lookng at Exodus today, the line “Who’s in charge here” is what came to mind. If you noticed – sometimes Moses seems to be taking liberties in not exactly telling the people what the Lord had said. You may have also noticed that when there’s murmurring – the people seem to be directing that at Moses and Aaron, not God… which Moses likes to point out (not that he’s throwing God under the bus in blaming Him, but pointing out that the Jews complaints are in fact complaints against the Lord…)
In the midst of all that, Moses’ father in law arrives. Having caught up now on all that has happened with the deliverance from Egypt up till this moment, Jethro says “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods…” And what does he do next? He helps Moses to clarify things for himself, for the people. God is very much in charge – and is interested in creating a people uniquely his own – and so yes, Moses has been called into this leadership, prophetic role. But it can’t all be his responsibility – lest he “wears himself out” as Jethro says, or possibly falls into some sense of becoming a Pharaoh himself – which perhaps the people were starting to wonder. (Maybe that’s why they complain against Moses… thinking that they blamed Pharaoh for the failure of their pagan gods?)
The Israelites have experienced a tremendous amount for them to still unpack. They knew they experienced genuine miraculous things. And, like Fr Mike mentioned, that some might want to “de-construct” or “de-mystify” these things (Oh it was just low tide, it was just a wind that parted the sea) for those crossing that sea even if it was something along those lines, they had reverence for the one who made the sea, and the winds in the first place. They knew that “the Lord is greater than all gods…” And they are coming to align themselves with letting Him be in charge… letting Him continue to guide and direct and lead them.
DAY 38 Exodus 19 & 20; Leviticus 13 Psalm 74
Listening to the litany of Leviticus Ch 13 – Skin Diseases reminded me of one of the pharmaceutical companies with a treatment for ointment when they start going through the list of disclaimers at the end as we watch idyllic scenes with upbeat music that’s supposed to distract us from the illness they’re combating. In any event, just a follow up to the post from the other day about Leviticus, this seems particularly awkward to hear such specificity in an illness. I would imagine it would be hard to do a deep dive in reflecting on it.
But even scriptures passages like this, somewhat bland and seemingly obsessed with one particular illness – leprosy is still God’s word alive and speaks on deeper levels. As I mentioned the other day, this book of Leviticus is kind of an extensive index interested in how to live the 10 commandments (which we hear for the first time in Exodus today). As Fr Mike pointed out, this is the beginning of the covenantal relationship between God and His people. As such, the importance on their part “to be His people” permeated the entirety of their lives. They knew the seriousness of it and wanted the reality of being God’s Chosen People to differentiate them from every other people. So the 10 commandments weren’t just a nice plaque to put on a wall or in the public square with basic guidelines. This was their identity. Being in God’s presence was something incredibly sacred, a privilege.
The disease, the decay was problematic because in some places in particular, it was a result of or a reminder of the reality of sin. It demonstrated the contamination of the world by the fallen state of humanity and nature since Eden. It was also highly contagious (similar to sin) It was something that needed to be contained. All the priests – of the Old Covenant – are able to do is to “contain it” – separate it from the rest of the people. There was no cure or other way of protecting people from it.
When we see that as an illustration of sin, the foreshadowing of Jesus in meeting a leper shows this to be one of the best “set ups” ever. In Matthew’s Gospel, when the Leper has been dismissed and ostracized by the Jewish priests, his cry to Jesus is “Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean…” We read that Jesus not only wills it, but touches the man. This whole chapter makes clear that there’s inspections, judgments, declarations – but no directions on how to clean a man of leprosy, and pretty clear instructions not to touch him – lest he become unclean himself.
It is just one way that Jesus will demonstrate His being the fulfillment of the entirety of the Old Testament.
DAY 39 – Exodus 21; Leviticus 14
REMEDY FOR A BROKEN WORLD
Of all the chapters, scriptures we’ve encountered so far, this one from Exodus will probably strike many as one of the most difficult to date. Hearing ordinances, rules and regulations for “slavery” – understandably is difficult to entertain – let alone that there’s even ordinances regarding the selling of family members. A couple of things: First – it’s probably a good time to remember the need to re-visit the 5 things to remember when reading the Bible that we discussed back in December. (It’s a pinned announcement if you have difficulty locating it) Second – slavery in these ancient civilizations were not in any way similar to the shame in our American history of slavery of African American men and women. We know that entire chapter is unjust, evil, and is a wound and stain that as a result, generations later we’re still feeling tension and pain from. Notice that in Verse 16, we read that a person who steals someone to sell them or for whatever reason is to be put to death. That means that according to the Old Testament, slave traders from our history would have been condemned to execution.
As awkward as it sounds, in the ancient world, slavery was a voluntary thing. It was obviously a “last resort” thing when someone had made some terrible decisions that left them in debt or bankrupt and unable to make restitution.
With that background and context, the often quoted (and mis quoted) vs. 24 comes to mind “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.” This chapter is dealing with very human issues and the reactions – the extreme reactions one can have to those issues. Yes original sin has left us as broken people. And our concepts of what is fair, right and just can get distorted to the point that “you took my eye, well I’m going to obliterate your entire family.”
As we continue through Exodus and Leviticus, we are hearing that God is “reshaping” his people. By entering into covenant with them, by giving the 10 Commandments, God has introduced a new order for His people. So this chapter is showing us the beginnings of how things are going to shift and change. We’re seeing the very introductions of compassion, mercy, temperance being introduced which would distinguish the Jewish people from every other culture. And eventually, will be the foundation for God to raise the standard from justice to sacrificial love where we’re moved from an eye for an eye to being told to turn the other cheek.
DAY 40 Exodus 22 Leviticus 15 Psalm 76
WHY THE DETAILS MATTER
How’s everybody doing out there? You hanging in there? Just to give a little background for these reflections, I try to read the scriptures earlier before the podcast drops and put my notes and thoughts together so that I’m not up super late and that the reflection is up early in the day for those early birds. When I turned to these Monday evening I kind of laughed to myself and said “oh boy…” It can get very easy for us to either get lost in all the details or the opposite reaction, to think none of these things matter.
Which is why it’s a blessing that we’re doing this on a daily basis and have a better “long view” of what we’re reading. By now (40 days!) We’re used to the importance of context…. We know the 5 tips before reading scripture and we’ve had an opportunity to dig a bit deeper into the context that these scriptures first appeared. We reflected on how the 10 commandments are the over-arching outline and now we’re reading those 10 commandments getting spelled out for a people who had lived under some extremes themselves and were being refashioned into God’s own people.
In Leviticus, this section definitely has a “TMI” quality to it. Not to belabor the points, the over-riding principles is that there’s a reverence for blood, which is symbolic of life and for reproductive organs as generative of life. This section is providing guidance for physical health for individuals as well as raising the dignity of sexual behaviors. For those who were kind of stunned when we read about multiple wives and concubines and so on in Genesis – here’s where that starts to get sorted out and the scriptures start to provide clarity to questions of sexual morality and a framework to live that out.
For the Exodus section, one of the things that stands out is how God’s justice is eternal. That the 10 commandments are meant to be corrective, restorative to every culture in every time and people. So here in 2021 where we’re arguing about economic issues, medical research, societal tensions, even the ethics of Artificial Intelligence, these 10 commandments given thousands of years ago to this one man in the wilderness with a recently rescued people from Egyptian slavery still is relevant. We can listen to God’s voice and reflect on His commands and find directions into what is right and just – as the ancients did with their very different issues and questions. As the crimes being itemized still sound random and the punishments extreme – to the people of that day and time, this was tempering some of their reactions – and was also introducing “fairness” to exact some restitution for those being wronged. Ultimately these laws did what was intended. With each successive generation, these rules, these laws, would result in a growing sense of reverence for God and one another. As we bemoan the collapse of those things in 2021, perhaps we look at stories about people arguing about whether the 10 commandments can/should be displayed in courtrooms or public squares with a slightly different perspective.
DAY 41 Exodus 23 Leviticus 16 Psalm 77
Continuing with Exodus today, we seem to hear some seemingly obvious commands – you shall not utter a false report…. you shall take no bribe… you shall not oppress a stranger. Sounds like pretty basic stuff there – yet again, we are reminded, God is separating His chosen people from the pagan world – first in how they are living and relating to one another… and then even more importantly, how they are living and relating to God.
When you think about it, how remarkable that one of the components of worshiping God involves rest. The whole notion of Sabbath forces intentionality. You had to work in anticipation of it, you needed to plan for it, prepare for it- not just once a week, once every 7 years was a “Sabbatical.”
There’s an interesting aspect to Sabbath rest though that isn’t often highlighted, (building on a point that Fr Mike made) that one of it’s purposes is to help the poor. We heard that the sabbath day is so “that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed” (Ex 23:12). So“that the poor of your people may eat” (Exodus 23:11) We see a foreshadowing here in the Old Testament, – when Jesus was criticized by people for healing on the Sabbath or doing good on the Sabbath, we can see why He got frustrated in those moments. Doing good for the poor was never breaking the sabbath command, but actually obeying it in it’s fullest sense.
All of this is meant to not just tame and train the people who have been set free, but also to provide balance in the lives of God’s people. Sabbath gives everyone an opportunity to rest – it forces us to resists that impulse to get another thing done, get ahead of someone else, start taking advantage of other people… This balance puts right order for every individual – with everyone and in that God is glorified.
DAY 42 Exodus 24 Leviticus 17 – 18 Psalm 78
THEY BEHELD GOD
So Fr Mike was pretty comprehensive about talking about the importance of Exodus 24 for us as Christians – particularly as Catholic Christians. In short, in order for us to understand the Old Testament, the Covenant, this chapter is of primary importance. And in order for us to understand the New Testament and the New Covenant, again, this chapter is so critically important. It will also come to feature a prominent role in a few weeks for us as Catholics during the season of Lent on the 2nd Sunday we always hear the narrative of the Transfiguration of Jesus – We see that being foreshadowed – where the presence, the divinity of God, this dramatic self-exposition on the part of God is revealed to mere mortals.
Which is why those three words They Beheld God stood out for me. You can almost hear the shock, the amazement on the part of these 70 elders of Israel, just a verse earlier it’s said “and they saw the God of Israel” (Exodus 24: 9) Up until now, the ancient Jews always believed that if they ever saw God, they would instantly die… They thought they would be overwhelmed by the divinity and result in instant death. (In fact, even pagans believed the same thing with regard to their false gods). It seemed inconceivable to them to be able to see God and live. That’s why so often up until this point, God is seen in mysterious figures, angelic beings.
But what makes this chapter, this moment so essential is the Jews recognize the depth of intimacy God is inviting them into in entering into covenant relationship with them. The vulnerability is completely on God’s end. There’s nothing that humanity could create or offer that doesn’t find it’s origin in Him. Yet, God places Himself into this most vulnerable of places to not overwhelm or annihilate us with His awesomeness – but even more incredibly and mysteriously – to enlarge our hearts.
As they beheld God, nothing could ever remain the same. That’s why the continued reading of Leviticus is a great coupling for these readings. The people need to change – their entire view of God’s creation is being reshaped now that they have beheld God.
The same remains true today. Even more spectacularly, God drew even closer in Jesus. The one act of salvation for all eternity on the Cross is mysteriously made present on our altars at every single Mass. Unlike our ancestors who “beheld” God – we Behold and even more amazingly take and receive Him. How could our vision, and we ourselves not be changed by such an encounter?
DAY 43 Exodus 25-26 Leviticus 19 Psalm 115 (1-56)
GOD’S BUILDING PLANS
One thought that stood out for me reading these texts today – with all the specificity in Exodus – God desires to dwell with humanity – but do we? Will the Chosen people reciprocate God’s love – and want Him in their midst? The whole issue with the “Fall” that we read about 40 days ago was humanity making a decision to listen to a serprent in the garden rather than the creator – so humanity’s track record from the outset hasn’t been great. And as mentioned yesterday – God is the one taking all the risk, all the vulnerability in entering into this covenant.
At the beginning of all God’s Building Plans in verse 8 we heard the Lord say let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. So in a real sense, this again is leaving the Lord at the mercy of the people. If they say yes, then consider something – God has set about a plan to include everyone. I’m sure it was a bit monotonous hearing all the different instructions being laid out. But this is a project to involve all the people – the rich to supply the gold… the laborers (how much wood was being required) the ones who are rare and unique (precious stones) as well as the ordinary (linens, bread) Each member is necessary – there is a role for everybody to fill. For God to dwell in their midst, He wants a collective effort.
Which is more than simply providing goods and materials. That’s what we encounter as we continue to reflect on Leviticus. What we’ve seen is that God has not just called the people Israel out of Egypt – redeemed them from slavery – now He’s calling them to further reemption by establishing how not to give into animalistic urges, disordered desires. In order for God to dwell in their midst, it’s not just a matter of them setting up a nice little place for Him to live in – to put Him in a box that they can feel they’ve “checked off” some demands required. He’s calling them to reverence for this presence. He’s calling them to Holiness.
Again, beautifully as Catholic Christians, we see a foreshadowing of something even more intimate and profound. St Paul will beautifully expand on it in several of his epistles how Jesus is seen as “the head” but that all of us make up the other “members” of the body. God doesn’t simply intend to “dwell in our midst” but to make us His dwelling and in union with Him.
DAY 44 Exodus 27 & 28 Leviticus 20 Psalm 119: 57-120
MARKED OUT FOR GOD
You probably didn’t imagine that you would be getting so much details into the burning of lamps, making of altars, clothing for priests. And these are probably not going to be sections of the bible you’re going to be returning to for lots of deep reflection, but one of the take aways for me is the importance the Lord makes that His presence, His action among His people be clearly marked out. That this is intended to stand out and be separate from what is common and ordinary. That yes, the priest is a fellow Israelite… but they are being entrusted with things that are not common to all Israelites. These representatives are tasked with perpetual duties (which such importance is put on the oil in the lamps to be burning at all times) but their main duties is to represent the people to God, represent God to the people. They are clothed with these uniforms not to highlight their personal importance, but the importance of their duties. These chapters are examples foreshadowing some aspects of the priesthood of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant.
Leviticus opens the door to some controversial discussions for many faithful people, particularly when we hear the prescriptions for capital punishment. I think Fr. Mike referred to this in Day 42 or 43’s podcast where he explained that we’re encountering three different kinds of laws in these sections: Moral, Ceremonial and Judicial. These categories were proposed by St. Thomas Aquinas and Jeff Cavens does a nice, succinct job in summarizing: Moral precepts remain valid as standards of conduct for all humanity. Ceremonial precepts (the animal sacrifices – festivals) are also foreshadowing things that we will find correlations in the New Testament (for example, as Fr. Mike pointed out that both Jews and Christians have a feast of “Pentecost” both celebrating 50 days after Passover or for us, the Paschal sacrifice that we celebrate at Easter) The judicial precepts – rules about how to punish certain offences – was meant for a particular time in Israel’s life as a nation. So when we put it back into historical context, as we’ve been following along for the last week or so, this is still the time of “taming and training” the People of God – introducing concepts of justice (as opposed to vengeance) proportionality (as opposed to vindictiveness) This judicial context was something that continued to evolve both in the written scriptures and the oral traditions that followed in the centuries that followed.
DAY 45 Exodus 29 Leviticus 21 Psalm 119: 121-176
The vestiture described yesterday was somewhat simple compared to chapter 29 of Exodus and hearing about “The Ordination of Priests.” Couldn’t help but notice different it was from what Fr Mike and I experienced at our ordinations – but that the common thing about both is that the ordination was to solidify that the man was set apart for God and the tasks He was entrusting to them.
Hearing these passages can sound like scripts from a horror film with these bloody sacrifices – so it’s good to note what’s the meaning – The first offering was a sin offering – the bull was bearing the sins of the priests and the people, which is why the animal was so thoroughly destroyed. The second offering was a sacrifice of atonement. With forgiveness having been secured, this acknowledged that the relationship between God and humanity was healed and that the priest was standing in right relationship with God (“a pleasing odor for the Lord” (Exodus 29: 25) The final offering was the offering of ordination. The first two offerings were not just limited to ordination rites, and were offered on other occasions for people other than priests. This final offering was meant as a Peace offering, a sign of their installation into the priesthood.
One of the things that stood out in the Leviticus reading, that echoed Fr. Mike’s needed reminder of the need to pray for priests -isn’t because we’re better or more deserving, but because of what we’ve been set apart to do… what God expects: “They shall be holy to their God, and not profane the name of their God; for they offer he offerings by fire to the Lord, the bread of their God, therefore they shall be holy.” (Leviticus 21: 6)
Personally, I know the tremendous anger, sadness, and assortment of emotions I’ve had at the horrific and scandalous examples of failures that have made headlines – and how often those same feelings have been turned inward (along with shame and guilt) when I’ve found myself on the other side of the confessional screen.
Fortunately, as we prepare for the season of Lent to begin this week, this reminder of the call to holiness for the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of all believers we have the good news of the Gospel. Which reminds us that we are covered in the blood, not of bulls and rams, but that of Jesus Christ. Who’s mercy and compassion is greater than the worst of those feelings – who’s blood is shed personally for each and everyone of us to bring forgiveness, redemption and the peace we long for.
DAY 46: Exodus 30-31; Leviticus 22; Psalm 115
TO GLORIFY AND GLORY IN
Yesterday (Sunday) I had three Masses in three different locations. The first was at the parish I was assigned at as a newly ordained priest, the second was the parish my Grandmother was baptized at and the third was here on campus with our students here on campus in our Student Center in the cafeteria where we are able to reserve space every Sunday evening. The varied locations and very different congregations proved to be an interesting background reading/listening to these scriptures.
In Exodus 30 – we hear a lot about different items that the Lord is directing his people to utilize – incense, altar, lavers of bronze… God is giving them instructions on how to replicate His glory. He is mindful of the need for us to be drawn into his presence in the midst of our world and daily lives. That hit me thinking about our Sunday Night Mass. Here’s a room where all kinds of varied programming takes place throughout the week, as well as ordinary, routine “dining” (at least in non-pandemic days) yet for an hour or so every week, it become a Sacred place. With just the procurement of a few items in proper order, students are on their knees in worship, there’s a reverence and beauty where we are able to encounter God Himself. Which is exactly what the Lord provides for our ancestors in this chapter of Exodus from thousands of years ago. God provides a way for His glory to be accessible to His people… a way for Him to be united with His people on their journey’s (which will prove more necessary as we move further along)
In Exodus 31 the line that stands out to me is right from the outset where the Lord speaks to Moses about how he has gifted this one individual with “the Spirit of God with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanshi, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver and bronze…” At the parishes I help at, both are spectacularly beautiful in very different ways. Our Lady of Lourdes has one of the largest mosaics in the Western Hemisphere beautifully depicting the Marian apparition in such incredible beauty… Holy Family is this amazing edifice of marble, stone, glass that as you drive into town and see it from a distance, your eye and heart is moved upward. There’s something transcendent about these local Churches – much as there is in the well known “wonders” like the Vatican or other majestic cathedrals in cities around our nation and the world. In them, we see how the glory of God is revealed in these creative wonders that rightly cause people to stop in their tracks and be moved.
It’s striking when I think back to debates that I’ve heard or even been a part of between Catholics and non-Catholics over some of what has been described as “extravagance” when it comes to art, architecture as somehow we’ve made religious figures “idols” while some of our separated brothers and sisters argue there worship is more “pure” in it’s simplicity. In short, these chapters from Exodus remind me of the fact that God is not limited to either/or. He can, and is glorified in the majestic awe-inspiring sites that are created through some of His own creatures. And He is also glorified in His people making a place and space for Him in the midst of their journeys.
The point is not to get into the either/or debate but look for both/and/ and then some more places, spaces that will cause us to offer the worship God deserves.
DAY 47: Exodus 32; Leviticus 23; Psalm 80
TAKE THE ISRAELITE OUT OF EGYPT, BUT…
Hopefully everyone’s been hanging in with the reading, because after a few days of some, shall we say less dramatic texts, we come to chapter 32 of Exodus. Could there be a better chapter for the day before Ash Wednesday/season of Lent? The day known as “Mardi Gras” where people fall into excesses where they “…eat and draink, and rose up to play” (Exodus 32: 6). It’s somewhat shocking, (at least from the comforts of our judgmental seats thousands of years removed from this episode) to imagine that the same people rescued by God, who witnessed the plagues, experienced liberation, miracles of the Red Sea parting – manna and quail providing food for the journey… all of the wonders in the wilderness as they were being fashioned into God’s own people, that after a delay, after their impatience got to them, they immediately long to return to slavery? They’re not expressing it exactly like that. But by creating the “golden calf” they’re appealing to the false gods of Egypt. Some scholars also point that this was “a feast” that would make the streets of New Orleans look like a kiddie party.
So many important lessons, not the least of which: God offers freedom. God created us for freedom. But Freedom is difficult. Freedom is challenging. Freedom doesn’t mean doing what we want – but (as St. John Paul II rightly pointed out) is the ability to do what we ought. Yet, we’re still lured by the tempters lies that makes us think somehow we’re missing something by not giving into those unchecked desires, un tamed passions and following our human impulses rather than following God’s commands.
What stands out to me is that, despite the massive failures on the part of so many – one notable change to reflect on is Moses. The man who argued with God that He should pick someone else; the one who doubted his own abilities – in the face of such blasphemy (just reading that line ‘these are your gods O Israel who brought you up out of the land of Egypt – I don’t know, maybe because we’ve been at this together for 47 days, but those words hurt even just reading them… can you imagine for God what that must have felt like?), where God provides him “an out” – the ability to start anew, divorced from this “stiff-necked people” – what happens? Moses intercedes for his people. God “relents” or rather, reveals the hard, difficult but still possible path of repentance, renunciation of their sinful ways, restoration and freedom once again.
I’m reading and reflecting prior to the podcast being dropped (with Ash Wednesday, things are a bit busier here so I’m trying to get to bed a bit earlier 🙂 ) So I’ll be curious to hear if this is just divine providence that these readings should be coming just as we’re preparing to start the Holy Season of Lent!
For me, this is a great point for my own examination of conscience in preparing to go to confession. How have I been “stiff necked?” How often do I choose not what God calls and asks me to do, but what is easier, more pleasurable, or acting like a little kid -simply because I want to (and worse when I couple that with the sin of presumption, God understands…)
May Moses’ example, his fire of love for God – his desire to “unstiffen” the necks of God’s people inspire us as we prepare for Lent. What idols exist in our lives that we need to burn, that can become the ashes of repentance for each of us?
DAY 48: Exodus 33-34; Leviticus 24 Psalm 81:
AFTER THE CALF
It hits me reading through Exodus, especially these chapters, how as Christians, after the love of Jesus Christ demonstrated on the Cross, how easy it is to presume God’s mercy. How often, even midway through committing a -sin we say “God understands.” God knows how weak I am… whatever it is, somehow we attempt to mitigate our responsibility for our free-will based, bad decision making. We have the cross of Jesus as our literal and figurative cover from God’s justifiable wrath for our arrogance and sin.
I write that not to lay layers of guilt out there for everyone on Ash Wednesday… (and I’m not excusing myself from this either… I’m remembering a weekend down the shore in college with my friends when going to Mass was dismissed with a “God will understand”/I’ll get to confession that is embarrassing to remember) But the reality is we have it easy. Especially when we look at what our ancestors experienced today. Here it is after the calf… punishments have been leveled, forgiveness offered and there was a sense of things being reconciled as we finished yesterday’s reading.
Yet today, there’s the reality that yes God has forgiven them, but things aren’t the same anymore. As I mentioned in a comment to someone’s question yesterday, sin has consequences. And the thing that has the Israelites “mourning” is that God is no longer journeying with them. The “tent” of meeting needs to be outside of the camp. The relationship has been hurt.
God has been hurt by His people.
Just reflecting on that, the weight of that reality just registers. Beautifully, we see Moses pleading for the people. He knows that their only chance at survival as a people is with God leading them on this journey to the land of milk and honey. Which God promises to do. Yet the Israelites are anxious. They know its conditional on their being faithful to the covenant and feared their survival as a nation would be in jeopardy if they failed again.
Which has been healed in Jesus. We don’t live with that fear – or shouldn’t live with that fear. Jesus’ death on the cross was the worst thing humanity could have ever done to God and God himself experienced that so on the other side of the tomb, the Resurrected Christ would constantly challenge us not just to experience forgiveness but reconciliation. In Jesus Christ we adopted as God’s beloved sons and daughters. Yes inherit in that is a risk that we will presume the benefits that come with that. In His love for us, He’s willing to risk that, hoping that eventually the intimacy of this relationship – something our ancestors longed for as they stood in the entryways of their tents – will finally strike us as way too precious to take for granted.
DAY 49: Exodus 35-36; Leviticus 25 Psalm 81:
LETS TRY THIS AGAIN
Did you notice that after God’s finger writes his commands again on new tables of stone, the covenant has been renewed, and Moses has emerged from this momentous encounter with the Lord …It sounds familiar. Like we’ve heard all this before.
We have… Exodus 35 picks off right where we left off before the unfortunate events of Chapters 32, 33, 34. The last thing before that was about the Sabbath.” And one of the first things that is re-established, what is of central importance in this “Covenant 2.0″ – the Sabbath.
Which reveals two things to me. First off, the Sabbath is obviously a big deal to God. This is more than just “a day off” – and more than just making time for prayer. Those things are integral to Sabbath. But we can oftentimes diminish the meaning of sabbath to those characteristics. Sabbath is a reminder of God’s dwelling among His people. Hence everything about it changes from the ordinary of day to day work, routines. When I flash back to growing up and Sunday Mass, CCD and then going to my grandparents for Sunday Dinner – there was indeed something sacred about the entirety of the day that made it seem outside of time. The continuity of that mandate across generations isn’t something that shouldn’t be glossed over or explained away as we’re often tempted to do in our “oh-so-enlightened” day and age. That there’s been a loss of any semblance of a Sabbath (not so long ago where there were “blue laws” to forbid stores opening on Sundays – now we have businesses open on every holiday) at a time where there’s a growth of “secularism” /rejection of any and all religion seems too coincidental, don’t you think? More on that on another time.
The other thing that hit me in this post-Ash Wednesday second day of Lent mood – is the reality that God picks up right where we left off. Or not to repeat myself, it’s almost as if the Golden Calf never happened. Which is precisely the point. Once we’ve confessed, repented, and been forgiven God does not remember our sins. Right relationship is restored… And things can proceed as they ought to. As difficult as it was to reflect on yesterday on the reality that God was hurt by His people, the mercy of God is quite awesome in that He doesn’t dwell in that, throw it back in our faces. That’s the depth of true, sincere love of God. Let that soak in everytime you see a crucifix and recognize He did that for you. You’re that worthy of His attention, His care, His love. The worst thing you ever did that still lingers in your heart and mind, when you sincerely repent of it and ask for forgiveness (commercial: go to confession) doesn’t linger in God’s heart and mind… He is able to let it go and move forward and Hopes we can as well.
DAY 50 – Exodus 37 – 38; Leviticus 26 Psalm 82
That’s the word that came to mind the last couple of days of reading: Laborious. A few fellow bible-study folks have remarked “these sections of Exodus makes for some pretty dry reading.” I asked a non-Catholic friend who I knew has been in bible study’s for some time and done a lot of them in the Old Testament how they handled Exodus – he said “easy, we kind of stopped after the 10 commandments.” There’s a (justifiable) temptation to “skip to the good parts.”
But there was something beautiful about reading the excruciating detail in Exodus. That on both God’s and Bezalel’s part – the excruciating detail. The care, the intentionality about this assignment. The attention given to God’s word, the precision in the execution of the crafting of it. Why is it that something evil like a Golden Calf and the drama associated with that tends to grab our attention – yet someone faithfully listening to God’s will and fulfilling it to the last cubit and a half is seen as boring?
I don’t have an answer for that – and don’t mis-interpret my thoughts here – these haven’t been the most exhilarating of readings for me either. But maybe it’s okay to admit that. Just like we had to accept hearing and reading some scandalous, wretched behavior in the midst of God’s story with us, why wouldn’t there also be some dry, monotonous details to navigate? God doesn’t always have to show up in a burning bush or his hand tracing words on stone tablets. There’s a considerable amount of time and space given to seemingly unimpressive laborious work.
And yet it’s that very work in which God will utilize in order to make a home with His people. For most of us where life rarely has something flashy, dramatic and important – where we can go through long periods where things seem anything but that – and it seems like a grind that is laborious, perhaps this is a reminder that God can be found in the ordinariness. It’s all part, we’re all part of His story. That’s what makes all of it, “the good part.”
DAY 51 – Exodus 39-40 Leviticus 27 Psalm 83
GOD WITH US, PART I
We come to the end of Exodus and Leviticus today! Congratulations!!! It’s been 25 days that at least for me have seen a lot longer than that. A lot has happened that you kind of need to take a step back and get the whole overview of Exodus in 3 parts.
Part 1 – God demolishes the “house of slavery” (Exodus 1-15) – The Israelites being in Egypt had gone from being a home to a prison…Joseph had been long forgotten by the Pharaoh who had succeeded generations later, as had been God and His promises to His people. God will save His people. They couldn’t have seen or predicted or imagined a way… but through the birth of a son, in a story miraculous and unprecedented, Moses is born to lead God’s people into freedom.
Part II – The People come to know God through His law as He purifies and tames and trains them in the wilderness (Exodus 16-18)
Part III – God makes His home with His people. (Exodus 19-40) – The glory of the Lord is so overwhelming at this completion, even Moses cannot enter into this tent.
Spoiler alert – this is far from God’s final destination, or the intimacy of God being with us would ultimately mean. This tabernacle/tent/altar will eventually lead to the temple… These structures would hold such sacred significance – (which we can begin to appreciate after excruciating detail) that it was hard for the Israelites to ever imagine their identity without them. Yet, as sacred as these God-ordered/designed places are, even they won’t survive or suffice as the definitive and final way of God being with us…
In Jesus – His glory doesn’t simply fill holy places. He makes us His temple to dwell in. Sit with that as you hear and read these final verses….God desires to make you His home.