Joshua 20-21, Jeremiah 42, Psalms 84-86

Read Joshua 20-21, Jeremiah 42, Psalms 84-86 today. This devotional is about Psalm 84.

Psalm 84 provides us with a great passage to help us prepare to worship together this morning. In this song, the Psalmist described the joy he felt when he thought about coming to the Lord’s tabernacle to worship. Remember that in the Old Testament. the tabernacle and then the temple were the places where God’s presence was promised to be. God is spirit and everywhere present in the fullness of his being, but in order to unite Israel spiritually and keep her worship from being polluted by pagan gods and ideas, God designated a central altar and sanctuary to be the place of worship. He promised to make that tent (the Tabernacle) and later that house (the Temple) his “dwelling place” on earth.

As the Psalmist thought about approaching the tabernacle to worship, he spoke of “how lovely” that place was (v. 1). We’ve read already this year about the careful planning and high quality materials that went into building God’s tabernacle. In a few months, we’ll read about Solomon’s elaborate, ornate preparations for the temple. Both of these places of worship were truly magnificent structures, the best humanity at that time could give to the one and only God.

But the Psalmist was not drawn to that place because of its appearance. According to verse 2, it was the opportunity to be with God that sparked his desire to go there: “…my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” The opportunity to give to God, to sing to him in worship, and to hear from his word made this songwriter sing with excitement.

Notice verse 3: “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” These words make me wonder; as the Psalmist walked toward the tabernacle or even within its courts, maybe, he looked up in the trees and saw birds that had made their nests there. “What lucky ducks!” he may have thought, “to make your home in the sanctified place of the Lord! You fall asleep at night and rise each morning in God’s presence. Your days are filled with the smells of burnt offerings and incense offerings, with the sounds of singing and the public reading of scripture. What could be better than to live in such a place if you love God and desire to worship him.” Accordingly verse 4 goes on to say, “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” And, later in verse 10, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” For a believer, there is no better place to be than where the Lord is.

These days, we have the promise of God that he is with us always, that he hears our prayers and is exalted in our worship anywhere we offer them to him.

Still, though, the Bible says that there is a special presence of the Lord within his church when she gathers. First Timothy 3:15 says, “…God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Note that the church is not the building where we meet, it is the people who have joined together to be the local expression of the body of Christ. The Lord’s presence is with us as we gather to worship, whether in Ypsilanti, Michigan or…, I don’t know… say, Dayton Ohio or Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Given this truth, don’t you want to be there when we gather for worship today?

I thank the Lord for the time we’ll have as we come and worship. Be there and join with us to experience the joy of God’s people and be blessed by him. God’s favor falls on us like the light of the son when we worship him and live obediently to his word (vv. 11-12), so come and receive it with the rest of your family in Christ.

Deuteronomy 12, Jeremiah 5, Proverbs 14:19-35

Read Deuteronomy 12, Jeremiah 5, and Proverbs 14:19-35 today. This devotional is about Deuteronomy 12.

People have a tendency to borrow cultural items from different people around them. Other nations like American movies and we like Chinese food and Germon cars, for example. Moses was concerned that God’s people would start to assimilate religious elements from the false religions of the nations around them after they entered the land. This chapter reminds Israel to worship the way God commanded without mixing their worship with the practices of false gods (vv. 4-8, 29-31). But notice that in the middle of this chapter, Moses commanded the people to bring their offerings to the tabernacle (v. 11) and, while worshipping the Lord there, they were to “…rejoice before the Lord your God—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants” (v. 12). This language reminds us that worshipping the Lord is not supposed to be something that is unpleasant. It isn’t something we dutifully do because it is good for us, like eating vegetables instead of steak. Instead, God designed us for worship and, when we come alive to him by his grace, we rejoice in the worship of the Lord. In our context as Christians, that would meaning singing with joy, learning and receiving his word with joy, praying and giving thanks with joy, fellowshipping around the word with good friends in joy, as well as serving and giving to the Lord’s work in joy.

Certainly there are churches and ministries that try to manufacture joy by being more entertaining or trendy than churches like us. That’s a danger we should watch out for. But we also should be careful not to equate genuine worship with an attitude that is so solemn and serious that “joy” never enters the picture. Solemnity and seriousness are part of worship but so is joy, rejoicing, sanctified laughter, godly friendship, and feasting together.

Most of the time the difference between joyful worship and unpleasant worship comes down to the state of our hearts. When we are preoccupied with the problems and things of this life, we may not be very excited or joyful when we worship together or separately. Certainly sin changes what is important to us and prevents us from wholeheartedly entering into the worship of the Lord.

So how have you felt about worship on Sundays lately? How are these devotionals for you? Is your time of prayer something dry and difficult or is it life-giving and hopeful? If your personal worship or coming together in worship as a church is not something that you rejoice in lately, why not? Are you asking God to change your heart so that you can rejoice in your worship of him?

Exodus 40, Song of Songs 4, Luke 18

Read Exodus 40, Song of Songs 4, and Luke 18 today. This devotional is about Exodus 40.

At long last the tabernacle was completed as well as all the items that were needed to make it useful for worshipping God. The Lord ordered Moses to set it all up (vv. 1-8), set it apart with anointing oil (vv. 9-11), and anoint Aaron and his sons for their ministry in it (vv. 12-15). The rest of the chapter details how Moses obeyed these commands (vv. 16-33) and how the Lord blessed this tent with his presence and communicated his will through that presence (vv. 34-38).

God had promised his presence would go before Israel and give them rest in the promised land (Ex 33:14). That promise was now visually fulfilled through the cloud that inhabited the tabernacle  (40:34-38). So, on one hand, the tabernacle demonstrated God’s presence with his people.

On the other hand, there is an emphasis in this chapter on the importance of keeping the people separate from the presence of God in the tabernacle. The word “holy” means to set apart, to make special by separating something for a particular use. Each anointing of the tabernacle and its furnishings and instruments was done to set it apart as holy for the Lord’s service (vv. 9-10). The strongest indication of God’s separation was the “shielding curtain” (v. 21a) that “shielded the ark of the covenant law” (v. 21b). What was is shielded from? Everyone. Nobody was allowed near the ark which represented God’s presence. It was kept in the most holy place and only the high priest could enter and then only once a year. So, while God was truly present among his people, his holiness still kept them from direct contact and fellowship with him.

This is why the gospel writers took note of how the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross. The curtain that was torn was the one between the most holy place and the rest of the temple. When it was torn at the death of Christ, it was a direct, visual symbol that the separation between God and man was now over. God did not lower his standards and allow people into his presence. Instead, in Christ, we are declared to be holy because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.

Through Christ we have access to God that people before Christ never had. God invites us to know and love him, to contemplate his greatness and worship him in holiness because our Lord Jesus Christ gave us access by his death.

Have you approached him yet today?

Exodus 40, Proverbs 16, Psalm 88

Today we’re reading Exodus 40, Proverbs 16, and Psalm 88.

This devotional is about Exodus 40.

At long last the tabernacle was completed as well as all the items that were needed to make it useful for worshipping God. The Lord ordered Moses to set it all up (vv. 1-8), set it apart with anointing oil (vv. 9-11), and anoint Aaron and his sons for their ministry in it (vv. 12-15). The rest of the chapter details how Moses obeyed these commands (vv. 16-33) and how the Lord blessed this tent with his presence and communicated his will through that presence (vv. 34-38).

God had promised his presence would go before Israel and give them rest in the promised land (Ex 33:14). That promise was now visually fulfilled through the cloud that inhabited the tabernacle. So, on one hand, the tabernacle demonstrated God’s presence with his people.

On the other hand, there is an emphasis in this chapter on the importance of keeping the people separate from the presence of God in the tabernacle. The word “holy” means to set apart, to make special by separating something for a particular use. Each anointing of the tabernacle and its furnishings and instruments was done to set it apart as holy for the Lord’s service (vv. 9-10). The strongest indication of God’s separation was the “shielding curtain” (v. 21a) that “shielded the ark of the covenant law” (v. 21b). What was is shielded from? Everyone. Nobody was allowed near the ark which represented God’s presence. It was kept in the most holy place and only the high priest could enter and then only once a year. So, while God was truly present among his people, his holiness still kept them from direct contact and fellowship with him.

This is why the gospel writers took note of how the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross. The curtain that was torn was the one between the most holy place and the rest of the temple. When it was torn at the death of Christ, it was a direct, visual symbol that the separation between God and man was now over. God did not lower his standards and allow people into his presence. Instead, in Christ, we are declared to be holy because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.

Through Christ we have access to God that people before Christ never had. God invites us to know and love him, to contemplate his greatness and worship him in holiness because our Lord Jesus Christ gave us access by his death.

As we prepare to remember the Lord’s death tomorrow in our Good Friday service at 6:30 p.m., keep in mind what God has done for us in Christ. Through him we have direct access to God and can approach him at any time in prayer without fear.

Have you approached him yet today?

Exodus 40, John 19, Proverbs 16, Philippians 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 40, John 19, Proverbs 16, Philippians 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Exodus 40.

After months of collecting materials donated from the people of Israel and watching the skilled, Spirit-filled artisans craft the Tabernacle and all the tools and garments associated with it, the time came to put the puzzle pieces together. In verses 1-15, God gave instructions for how Moses was to assemble it all. Everything was to be done in order (vv. 1-8), then consecrated in a special ceremony to the Lord (vv. 9-15, including Aaron & his sons, vv. 12-15). Verse 16 told us that “Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him,” but then verses 17-33 detailed step-by-step that Moses did what the Lord commanded him. These verses even go into more detail than the instructions; for instance: 

  • Verse 2 says quite simply: “Set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month.”
  • But verses 17-19 say, “So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. When Moses set up the tabernacle, he put the bases in place, erected the frames, inserted the crossbars and set up the posts. 19 Then he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering over the tent, as the Lord commanded him.”

Likewise:

  • Verse 3 says, “Place the ark of the covenant law in it and shield the ark with the curtain.”
  • Verses 20-21 say, “He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him.” 

Each of these sections describing Moses’ obedience ends with, “…as the Lord commanded him.” (v. 19, 23, 25, 27, 29, and 32). When Moses finished this work (v. 33), then “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (v. 34). In fact, “Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (v. 35). The book of Exodus concludes with these verses from our chapter today: “So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” For those who knew the Lord by faith, this must have been an incredibly comforting and awe-inspiring thing. Here is the visible presence of God not only “with us” but leading us from place to place to the Promised Land. My heart longs for this kind of visible expression of God’s presence and favor. Although we have the seal of the Holy Spirit (Eph 3:13-14) and the witness of the Spirit with our spirit (Rom 8:16), we have to wait for eternity to experience God’s presence in such a tangible way (see Rev. 21:22-22:5). It will be worth waiting for, however, because our experience will be like Moses’ who saw God face to face (compare Ex 33:11 & 34:33-35 with Rev 22:4). 

And, even in our other passages today, we have the confidence of God’s leading—not in a cloud by day and fire by night but in Providence: 

  • Proverbs 16:3-4: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster.
  • Proverbs 16:9: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” 
  • Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

Until the day when we are with Christ for eternity, we should pursue knowing and following him daily as Paul described in our reading from Philippians 3:7-14. When we follow him in faith, we will someday reach “the prize for which God has called me [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14).

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.