Year A – Lent 3 – Exodus 17:1-7

Third Sunday in Lent
Exodus 17:1-7 – From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

Summary – This passage provides one example of God’s miraculous provision of water. The focus here is that God provided even in the midst of their faithlessness. In the Numbers 20 at the end of their 40 years is another event which is similar but the focus  is that Moses in anger struck the rock (who was Christ) twice. “And he said to them, ‘Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?’ 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them'” (Num. 20:10-12). In this place, as Psalm 95 notes, Moses called it Massah (“testing”) and Meribah (“quarreling”).

Insight – During Israel’s time in the wilderness (a forty-year Lent) we often see them being sustained by God’s miraculous power and yet grumbling. They were being led by a spectacular vision of cloud and fire, as well as getting bread literally from the sky (manna). God was their provider. Yet they are worried about water, as though God could give them deliverance from Pharaoh, bread like rain, but was utterly unable to quench their thirst. Now rock and water are very different. They are opposites. Men today can make mud into pure water. Men today with filters can turn the sewage into a sparkling beverage. But only God can bring forth water by striking a rock. Such is God’s power. Learning from their disobedience, rather than provoke God (“tempt”) with our rock-hearted unbelief, let us be refreshed with His thirst-quenching water.

Child Catechism -Why was God displeased with the people? Because they grumbled and tested the Lord.

Discussion  – Are there any “hard” things in your life that God just can’t do?

Prayer – Father in heaven, we are thanking You that You have given us both the Bread of Life and Living Water in the person and work of Jesus our Lord. We know that all the hard things of our lives are not hard for You. You can make hard rocks into liquid streams in the desert. Please do so in our hearts today, In the Name of Jesus our Rock, Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 8 – Exodus 24:12-18

Last Sunday after Epiphany
Exodus 24:12-18 – The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.’ So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, ‘Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.’ Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and nights.

Summary – In this passage in Exodus, we read of Moses going to the mountain of God to receive the Ten Commandments in tablets of stone. Moses had already spoken these commandments to people (ch. 20) and explained their application (ch. 20ff). Moses is now called into God’s presence to receive the actual tablets of stone for the instruction of the Israelites (v12). It is in this context that God reveals His plans for the tabernacle (Ex. 25:9), the place for the Israelites to worship and draw near to Yahweh. As the last verse in this passage explains Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights.

Insight – This is one of those extraordinary events which form the foundation of Israelite life. Moses receives direct revelation from God about two primary pillars: the Law and the Tabernacle. This Sunday in the Church Year is sometimes referred to as Transfiguration Sunday, because the readings are about Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain (e.g., Note the Epistle, 2 Peter 1:16ff and Matthew 17). The connection is going to the top of the mountain meet God. As is indicated in the beginning of the passage, the tablets of God as well as the tabernacle of God were for the instruction of the Israelites. Both of these pointed to something beyond themselves. Ultimately they pointed to Christ the “end of the law for righteousness” (Rom. 10:4) and the true Tabernacle who has come among us (John 1:14). Another connection is the 40 day theme which is very fitting as we approach the lenten season, remembering Christ’s wilderness fasting and temptations.

Catechism – How long did Moses stay on the mountain with God? 40 days and 40 nights.

Discussion – What are some other 40 day periods in the Bible? Which one do you think is the most significant?

Prayer – Lord our God, we thank you for revealing to us your word in the law of God and your purpose for drawing near to us in the tabernacle. We thank you that now we worship in spirit and truth as we approach You through the blood of Jesus Christ our Savior. Grant that we may ever be faithful to obey your word and draw near in your presence, in Christ’s name, Amen.

Year C – Transfiguration Sunday – Exodus 34:29-35

Ex 34:29–35 NRSV – Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34 but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.”

Summary – Consistent with the theme of Transfiguration, the passage tells of how Moses was transformed by being in God’s presence. In his case, he reflected with shining skin, the glory cloud of the Lord. God’s glory was in a small measure wearing off on him. The Israelites knew that he was becoming transfigured into a holy person. Moses veiled his face to accommodate their fears and to keep the focus of attention in their work together and not on Moses shining face. The response of the people, even Aaron and the rulers was that of fear. They were afraid because holiness of God was rubbing off on Moses.

Insight – Have you ever seen a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis? It was once a caterpillar crawling on the ground but then through miracle of metamorphosis. Now it flies with vivid and artistically colored wings as light as a feather. The gospel promises us that we shall also be changed when we see Jesus. The temporary change in Moses appearance is a taste of this great change when we will have a resurrection body and all inclinations to sin and misery have been glorified out of us. In the mean time we have to keep crawling in hope, by faith, and with love.

Catechism – How did Moses speak to God? Face to face.

Discussion – What things in your physical limitations now would you like to overcome in the resurrection? What matters of your sinful heart would you like to overcome?

Prayer – Holy God, mighty and immortal,
you are beyond our knowing,
yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ,
whose compassion illumines the world.
Transform us into the likeness of the love of Christ,
who renewed our humanity so that we may share in his divinity,
the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


March 18, 2012 Year B – Fourth Sunday in Lent

John 3:14-21  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Insight:  Implicitly, I think we are being reminded of God’s omnipresence… and how this is good to know if we are pursuing the right things and with a right motive.  Those things are clearly seen and even delighting the one who knows and sees all [see Proverbs 15:8-9].  We are not perfect, but we believe and love the light, our Savior.  We are also not condemned; Yet we can still love the darkness of sin and disobedience.  John uses light and dark a lot in all his writings.  A key theme of John, and also a key idea about our Lent season, is that we want to practice doing what is true by walking in the light rather than in the dark.

Child Catechism:  In whom must be believe to have eternal life?  The only Son of God.

Discussion:  Do you find obedience harder when nobody else is watching?   What might be some reasons John uses the language of darkness for evil deeds and light for Christ?

Father,  you love this world and far too often this world loves only darkness,

Thank you for your Son, and may your Spirit lead us in his light, Amen.

[mac west]

Year B – Epiphany 4 – Deut 18.15-20

Deuteronomy 18:15-20  The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.  This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.”  Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.  Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.  But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.”

Summary:  Deuteronomy is to Moses what Ecclesiastes is to Solomon.  This book contains the words of Moses at the end of his life.  He often looks back on the mighty works God performed for Israel and the lessons they learned from them.  But he also looks forward in hope for the future when he will not be there, but when God will continue to faithfully care for His covenant people.  This is one of those passages.  God promises to raise up another prophet when Moses is gone.  He will be like Moses, a brother to them, and will continue to speak God’s Word in a way they can hear and understand.  God would judge those who refused to hear and obey his words.  They were to judge those who counterfeited them.
Insight: When he was asked about Tim Tebow’s prayerful quaterbacking, Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists, said, “The universe has a trillion stars. Ninety-five percent of it is dark matter.  It’s hubris [foolish pride] to think the Creator of all that wants the Broncos to win a football game.”  To an unbeliever, the universe is a vast expanse of cold silence – mostly dark matter.  But this is a lie.  To paraphrase Francis Schaeffer, “God is there and He has NOT been silent!”  God has gone to great lengths to speak to His People.  His Word has always been a priority.  It is the food by which He faithfully feeds those who fear Him; He doesn’t forget His covenant.  In the context, Joshua was that prophet to Israel … a lesser Moses.  But this passage points beyond the first Joshua to another Who would come as the Greater Moses.  He would not only bring the Word as one having authority, He would be the Word made flesh.  During Epiphany, we celebrate God Who ‘told the gospel word to the nations who’d not heard.’  In Christ, we who begged for the crumbs from the table have been brought to the feast of the Word as sons.
Children’s Catechism:  How did God promise to speak His word to Israel after Moses died? By sending another prophet.
Discussion:  In what ways does God speak to His people today?  Are there prophets that tell the future today?
Prayer:  Kind Father, You have exalted above all things Your holy name and Word.  Thank you for giving that Word as a gift to feed us by His death.  Cause our hearts to burn in love of Your Word and to be enlarged to return our gifts to You and to the nations, for Your glory, in the name of Your Son, our Lord, the Word made flesh. Amen.