Week 9: Worshiping God at Sinai
Weekly memory verse:
Deuteronomy 6:4–5 – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken (free download)
What are the decrees of God?
The decrees of God are his eternal purposes, whereby for his own glory he has ordained whatever comes to pass.
Day 41: Journey to Sinai
Reading: Exodus 17:1–16; 19:1–25
Chapter 17, Verse 7. Massah and Meribah. These names mean “testing” and “contending.”
Verse 8. Amalek. Amalek was the grandson of Esau, and these are his descendents.
Verse 9. Joshua. This is the first appearance of the man who would lead Israel into the Promised Land.
Chapter 19, Verse 1. Third new moon. Israel spent approximately 11 months at Sinai (cf. Numb. 10:11).
Verse 5. If. While the Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional, the promises of blessing made in the Mosaic Covenant were conditioned upon their obedience to his Law.
Verse 24. Priests. Since the Law had not yet been given, no official priesthood had been established. These must have been the family representatives that served a priestly function for each clan.
On their journey to Sinai, God visibly displayed to the Israelites that he would provide for them both materially and protection from their enemies by miraculously giving them water from a rock and by giving them an unlikely defeat over the Amalekites. God will always keep his promises and provide for his people. However, because of sin, even God’s people tremble when they enter his presence and must be cleansed of their sin to enjoy full communion with him.
- What do you think Moses’s use of his staff to accomplish many miracles signified?
- Why did God make such a big deal about consecrating the people before they approached his presence?
- Why couldn’t the people touch the mountain?
Day 42: Israel at Mount Sinai
Reading: Exodus 20:1–26; Deuteronomy 6
Exodus 20, Verse 5. Generations. God will not punish children for the sins of their parents (Deut 24:16), but nevertheless the consequences of sin are often felt for many generations.
Deuteronomy 6, Verse 4. Hear. This important Jewish confession of faith is known as the Shema (Hebrew for “hear”).
God promises to bless and care for his people, and he will do that unconditionally. However, the condition of the relationship between God and his people is dependent upon their obedience to what he commands. If they obey him, he will materially bless them; if they disobey, they will be punished. The essence of relationship with him, however is more than right beliefs and right actions; it is love for God.
- What do the Ten Commandments reveal about God?
- What is the difference between the first and second commandment?
- Why is loving God central to our relationship with him?
Day 43: The Golden Calf
Reading: Exodus 24:1–18; 32:1–35
Chapter 24, Verse 9. Saw God. Since God is a spirit and does not have a body like man, when these representatives of the people saw was actually a physical manifestation of his glory.
Chapter 32, Verse 1. Gods. This is the term Elohim, a generic name for deity. The Israelites were not actually asking to make an idol of a false god, but rather a visible representation of Yahweh himself (note that Aaron specifically calls the calf Yahweh in verse 5). They were attempting to worship Yahweh through a visible representation, something God had specifically forbidden in the second commandment.
Verse 4. Calf. This was a religious symbol borrowed from pagan religions that was intended to honor Yahweh by representing him as a powerful beast. This is a prime example of syncretism, the mixing of true worship with false.
Verse 6. Play. The pagan worship of Yahweh was accompanied by other typically pagan worship practices such as drunken, immoral rituals and celebration.
Verse 17. Noise. The music that accompanied the people’s pagan worship of Yahweh was so loud and chaotic that is sounded to Joshua like war.
Those who draw near to the presence of God through obedience to the means that he has provided are able to see him and communion with him. But those who attempt to worship him through means that he has not prescribed, especially through means borrowed from pagan worship, will be several punished. God expects worship on his terms and according to his commands.
- What did the fact that the Hebrew leaders ate and drank in God’s presence signify?
- What do you think motivated the people to worship Yahweh through means borrowed from pagan worship?
- Do you think God was too severe in his punishment of the people?
Day 44: Building the Tabernacle
Reading: Exodus 40:1–38
Verse 17. Second year. The Israelites built the tabernacle approximately one year after the Exodus from Egypt, while they were still at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
Verse 21. Ark. The Ark of the Covenant was a symbol of God’s presence and, indeed, where the visible glory of the Lord dwelt. It was placed in the Holy of Holies, which was separated from the Holy Place in the tabernacle by a veil. Only the High Priest ever entered the Holy of Holies, and that only one day per year on the
Day 45: Unauthorized Fire
Reading: Leviticus 10:1–11; Psalm 11
Leviticus 10, Verse 1. Unauthorized fire. Nadab and Abihu’s sin was not that they were worshiping a false god, nor that they were explicitly disobeying a clear prohibition from God, but rather that they were adding to worship something God “had not commanded them.”
Verse 6. Eleazar. One of Aaron’s younger sons who lived and would be later named as the head of the high priestly line (see Number 25:10–13).
Verse 8. Wine. Since it was likely drunkenness that led to Nadab and Abihu’s sin, Moses officially prohibits priest in tabernacle service from drinking alcohol.
Psalm 11, Verse 4. Temple. God’s temple is in heaven; the earthly tabernacle and temple were mere shadows of the real temple, meant to visually picture the spiritual realities of the heavenly sanctuary of God (see Hebrews 8:5).
The worship of God must be pure and according to his commandments. Any adding of unauthorized practices to worship, whether for good or sinister motives, are rejected by God. He wants to be set apart as holy, and this means he has the prerogative to instruct his people as to how he wants to be worshiped.
- Why did God so dramatically punish Nadab and Abihu for offering unauthorized fire to him?
- What does this incident teach about the negative effects of alcohol?
- What can we learn from the fact that the earthly sanctuary was a picture of the true, heavenly temple?