Remember how Aaron led the people to sin, while his brother Moses was up on the mountain with the Lord? Remember how Moses came down from the mountain and in anger, he smashed the tablets—“These tables were God’s work; the words on them were written by God Himself” (Exodus 32:16 NLT) God had called Moses to come on the mountain and remain so He could give him “the tablets of stone on which… inscribed the instruction and commands so (Moses could) teach the people” (Exodus 24:12).
When you read about the tablets, you will note that God provided the tablets. “When the LORD finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, written by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18 NLT). Something changes. The people sin. The people surround Aaron and he asks for their gold to make a golden calf to worship.
Moses found out and broke the tablets and things are different. God tells Moses to chisel out the tablets. No longer does He provide the tablets. The Bible doesn’t say why God had Moses chisel out the tablets instead of providing the tablets like the first time. Many scholars believe it has something to do with repentance. Last time Moses was handed the tablets; this time the people would need to repent to receive tablets from the Lord. Today, consider what God is calling you to chisel out, how God is calling you to repentance.
“Then the LORD told Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones. I will write on them the same words that were on the tablets you smashed.’” – Exodus 34:1 [NLT]
In Hosea 8, we read that Ephraim had “multiplied altars for sin” (v. 11). They built altars, but they certainly were not worshiping God as He desired. The altars were “altars of sinning.” Oh how the things that could be useful for good can be used for evil just the same. What a great reminder to tread with caution. Thankfully, God has given us His Word so we know what is desired of us.
This verse translates in the NLT as, “Even though I gave them all My laws, they act as if those laws don’t apply to them.” The ESV translates this as a “strange thing.” Like it’s strange to apply the laws to them, like it’s foreign to them. Sadly, the people of this time period were far from God. They were led away. They were sinful, idolatrous people. It did not matter how many laws there are—they would be seen as foreign nonetheless.
For many people today, God’s Law is a strange thing. People are so far from understanding the Truth, they look at what God commands and see it as strange, difficult, demanding, and even unnecessary. People do not understand the reason for the Law. God blesses us with the Law. The Law is actually all about GRACE. It is through the Law that we realize we are sinners (Romans 3:20, 7:7). As a result, the Law leads us to Jesus Christ so that we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). Without the Law, we would not recognize our need for Jesus. We would not accept the grace of God. We would not be able to have the relationship for which we were created. To outsiders, the Law is a strange thing. To believers, the Law is a constant reminder that we fall short (Romans 3:23) and that we need a Savior. Knowing that He fulfilled the Law and that through Him we have life and life in abundance is a blessing! Today, remember the not-so-strange thing. More importantly, thank the Lord for His unending grace.
“Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing.” – Hosea 8:12 [ESV]
When I came home with the groceries, I was excited to have an extra set of hands, along with my kiddos, to carry in the bags. Of course, just after I yelled, “Don’t break the eggs,” the bag that contained the eggs and bread was knocked over. Despite the kids trying to stop the fall, they were not quick enough. One egg broke.
Days later, I went to get out some of the eggs. The eggs that were closest to the broken egg (which was long gone) were all stuck in the egg container. Despite trying to remove them from the carrier, some of them didn’t seem to budge. I ended up having to tear apart some of the carrier just to get them out. I’m frugal—what can I say? They weren’t broken; it was because of the nearby broken egg that we had this situation.
Just as the broken egg spilled out over some of the neighboring eggs, so our sin can spill out and impact the lives of those around us. Often we think that going against what God intends will only impact us, yet we are terribly wrong. Again and again in the Bible, we read about not being yoked with foreigners. Why do we read this so much? If we are closely connected with those who are not followers of God, we will find ourselves drawn away. We stick with who we are around. When we hang around long enough with a person, we find that we begin to carry the consequences of their sin. Today, ask the Spirit to reveal anything or anyone stuck to your life. Be open to what you are shown. Remember, there are times you are the broken egg, and times you are the egg next to the broken egg.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” – 1 Corinthians 15:33 [ESV]
“Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them.” – Joshua 23:6-7 [NASB]
“You are to be holy to Me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be Mine.” – Leviticus 20:26 [HCSB]
I love reading Nehemiah 8, and picturing all of the people gathered to listen to the Word of God. I find myself sometimes grieving over what I see around me. There are so many people who are not looking to hear God’s Word. Rather than attending church with ears to hear the Word, people often have ears closed. Many times I see people scrolling along on their phones or I see people with roaming eyes. I have even heard people having full on conversations during the message.
As Ezra read the Word of God to the people who assembled, they stood around hoping to understand. They continued to listen as “he read it aloud from daybreak till noon.” They “listened attentively to the Book of the Law.” When they heard what God’s Word said, they “lifted their hands,” and they “bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces on the ground.” The passion, the desire, the love for God’s Word is simply beautiful. I have seen this before. I have felt this many times. It is my prayer that you have this constant passion, this ever-present desire, this unending thirst for God’s Word.
We are so very blessed to have God’s Word within reach. There was a time when there were only scrolls, and not many were accessible to all. People would gather to hear. We now have shelves with various translations. What a difference!?! But the passion they had for the Word when it was not so accessible often times seems to be greater than anything I’ve ever seen. Have you wept over God’s Word? Have you sought it out with great desire? Have you clung to His Word? Have you found yourself spending the day meditating and chewing on His Truth? Today, ask the Spirit to light a fire in you so you regain passion for His Word.
“So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law…Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” -Nehemiah 8:2-3, 5-6 [NIV]
Rules and regulations are important and certainly needed. If we would not have rules, there would be no boundaries in the world. People could drive on any side of the road. There would be no need to stand in a line. These are only a few examples but it is easy to see things would be very different. Structure would disappear.
Even so, there are two things that are important to remember. We must remember that none of us keep all of the “rules.” We do not follow God’s Law. Read the Law of Moses. Read the Ten Commandments. It won’t take long to see that we fall short. In Romans 3, Paul is quick to profess that we all fall short. Accept it. Second, grace is above the Law. The love of Christ, the grace of God—with this we have salvation because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross.
In Colossians 2, we read of people who were trying to keep the Law. Though Christ fulfilled the Law, though we no longer live by the Law, people were still trying to submit to the Law. Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch. Do not. Do not. Living with these regulations enslaved the followers. No longer were these people living by grace; instead, these people were slaves of the Law. They were asked if they still belonged to the world. Why? Because those in the world follow the laws of the world, while those who belonged to Jesus lived by grace. By following the Law, they were basically saying that the blood of Christ wasn’t enough. You decide. Where do you belong? For me, I belong to Jesus.
“Why do you live as if you still belong to the world? [Why do you submit to rules and regulations? – as] Do not handle [this], Do not taste [that], Do not even touch [them].” – Colossians 2:20b-21 [AMP]
This morning I continued preparations for Saturday when my family will gather together for the annual Christmas party. I gave the dog a bath, washed the floors, got Christmas cards organized, and made a list of what needs done before Saturday morning. We always prepare for something that means a lot to us, and it is this preparation that I see in the Bible when we look at the Old Testament and the mentions again and again of Jesus.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:20 that God, before the foundation of the world, had already began preparations for the greatest Christmas gift we would ever receive—Jesus. We can see as we page through the Old Testament so many different ways that God prepared the way for what would happen the day Jesus would be born, and for what would happen afterward. In Luke 24:44, Jesus notes that the Old Testament books (the Law of Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms) were making reference to Him and must be fulfilled (Matthew 5:17). As so many people this month are celebrating the birth of Jesus, it is important to take a look at how much preparation went on beforehand to grasp a better understanding of the love God has for each one of us.
When we organize a party, build a house, start a business, work on a project, etc., we spend a lot of time on preparatory work. With something of such great value to us, we invest a great deal of effort and consideration to get it just right, as perfect as possible. God cares so very much for you. He is very big on details and has beautifully orchestrated everything from the foundation of the world to the plan He has for your life. He loves you so much that He has each hair on your head numbered (Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7). As you prepare for your Christmas gatherings this season, please do not lose sight of the love of God and His perfect plan that He has been working on since the foundation of the world. You fit into that plan. He has a purpose for your life and He wants to be a part of your life. Today is as good a day as any to accept what He has to offer—the greatest Christmas gift you’ll ever get.