Tag Archives: Exodus

Little By Little

 

“Little by little…” Exodus 23:30

In the 23rd chapter of Exodus we find ourselves in the midst of Sinai and God’s communication of the law to Moses.  Among the prohibitions and remembrances of Sabbaths and festivals in this chapter is also the promise of the conquest of Canaan.  The full passage is below

27 I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

Historically, this promise was fulfilled to the children of the Wilderness Generation, who we may be reminded were afforded the blessing of entrance into Canaan because their parents fell under the wrath of God, due to their rebellion, and were thereby forbidden from entering the land themselves.  Their children, however, were allowed entrance into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua.

Using the Old Testament

As is the case with much of the Old Testament, whether we view it typologically as it points from itself (type) to events, persons, or places in the New Testament (antitype) or whether we see it as an example for our lives (see Hebrews 3 & 4), this passage is relevant and practical for us today.  Along these lines, there are seemingly many parallels between the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the Christian life, that extends beyond the concept of redemption, that from Egyptian slavery in the former and Sin slavery in the latter.  Here, in Exodus 23, we have painted for us, through the very real, historical working of God on behalf of the Israelites, a picture of sanctification in the Christian life.

To reiterate, historically God promised to drive out the pagan nations as He went ahead of the Israelites into Canaan.  However we must note a significant observation in this passage on God’s promise, namely that He promised to do so “little by little”.  Here we are given 2 negative reasons for the progressive nature of this pagan eradication, “lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you” and two positive reasons, “until you have increased and possess the land”.  God had promised to eliminate Israel’s enemies slowly, one by one, in order to avoid desolation of the land and the multiplication of beasts against them.  In our historical context, had God simply eradicated all of the pagan countries at once, allowing the Israelites full, unencumbered, and peaceful access to the land, there were two great dangers. 

Two Great Dangers

The first was desolation of the land.  In other  words, there was the danger of complacency on the part of the Israelites and failure to properly “tend” the land.  This points, at least conceptually, back to Adam in the garden.  There, remember, Adam was afforded the luxury of a land that produced effortlessly, yet he was unsatisfied and became complacent, ultimately failing to guard his wife and the garden.  Which brings us to the second great danger Israel would’ve faced should God have granted immediate eradication of their enemies, a failure to protect the land from being overrun by wild beasts.  With enemies eradicated for them, there was a great danger of complacency leading to a dry and desolate land and an influx of wild beasts.

As the Scriptures tell us, this promise was fulfilled and that by leaving the enemies to be eradicated one by one, the land was bountiful as it was promised in Deuteronomy 6:11 and then fulfilled in Joshua 24:11-13.

11 And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And I gave them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’

However, despite being given land, cities, vineyards, orchards, etc., opportunities afforded by the little by little eradication, Israel still rebelled and failed in their own garden experience, as did their father Adam.

Believer’s Sanctification

As little by little relates to our sanctification, consider the parallels of the pagan nations with our own enemy of indwelling sin.  This progress against the enemies that wage war within us is called sanctification and it too is little by little, or progressive.  Contrary to ideas of Wesleyan perfection, sanctification is not completed in this life.  If it were, consider the dangers of complacency that we would face should our enemies be eradicated all at once.  We would forget the necessity and power of grace working in our lives.  We would become more independent and less dependent upon the provision of God.  What need would we have for prayer, for the Scriptures, for fellowship with the brethren?  This complacency would expose us to the influx of greater enemies, predators for our very soul.

Similarly God has chosen not to expose us to all of our internal enemies at once, lest we collapse under the weight of them.  Instead, we may battle the Amorites of lust or the Hittites of pride.  Occasionally, by His grace, He may allow several enemies to coalesce against us for the purpose of greater dependency on His provisions of grace and greater efforts in the duty of warfare.

God in His wisdom and providence allows sanctification to be a process, little by little.  As such, we are in need of our daily bread and in need of daily deliverance from temptations.  He who began this good work in us will bring it to completion.  Total and utter dependence upon God is the substance of the Christian life, from beginning to the end.

 

Reading Plan Round-Up

 

How’s your New Year’s Bible reading  resolution going?

It’s February and a notoriously difficult month for those of us who are attempting to read through the Bible from cover to cover or for those of us who are spending a large amount of time reading the first 5 books of the Old Testament.

It may be a good time to review the post, “How to Fail at your New Year’s Reading Plan” to keep an eye out for those areas where failure is most often rooted.

Here I want to offer some additional encouragement to point out some of the obstacles that you may face and help you navigate through them efficiently.  One primary principle that will help in the majority of these sections is the macro-view, or looking at the forest instead of the trees.  What I mean by this is that it may help to look at these books, chapters, sections as a whole and ask, “What is the big idea being communicated through all of the intricate details?”

For example, if you’ve finished Genesis and moved into Exodus, you’re likely to encounter some difficulty in the later chapters of Exodus, particularly as they relate to the instructions given to Moses for building the tabernacle and its appurtenances in chapters 26-40.  One way to approach this is to pair this up with the New Testament, particularly Hebrews, to see the purpose of the OT tabernacle, ordinances, and priesthood were to point to their greater fulfillment in Christ.

Second, you may note the intrinsic details of these chapters and meditate on the gifts that God bestowed upon His people to construct and fabricate all that He commanded.

Third, you may want to meditate on the fact that if God went to such extremes to construct this earthly tabernacle, how much more amazing is the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ, the True Tabernacle?

Finally, understanding these chapters are descriptions of how God is ordering the worship of Himself, meditate on how God has ordered the worship of Himself under the New Covenant.  Has he just giving it up to Christian liberty?  Has He left us to our own devices to worship Him how we see fit?  Certainly if God was this prescriptive in the Old Covenant, there must be something for us to glean for our worship today.

A second obstacle may come from the book of Leviticus with its detailed descriptions of sacrifices and offerings.  This post on the correlation of Leviticus with Hebrews may be a helpful tool to navigate these chapters.  From the macro-view, highlight how often Leviticus (and Numbers) uses the phrase “the Lord spoke” or “the Lord said”.  What does this say about a God who speaks? (See also Hebrews 1:1)  What does it communicate about Moses?  Second, Leviticus is particularly concerned with the Principle of Separation, namely the clean from unclean, holy from unholy, and the sacred from profane.  Let this impact how you read and understand the necessity of all of these sacrifices and be overwhelmed at the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the EXTREME amount of blood and detailed sacrifices, and then let that carry you into worship of THE Sacrifice, THE Lamb without blemish, THE final sacrifice, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The third obstacle will most likely be the book of Numbers.  This is a difficult book for me.  There are genealogies, complaining, wilderness wanderings, sacrifices, rebellions, complaining, narratives, law, grace, prophecy, complaining, censuses, and more complaining.  One macro-view for reading Numbers is to dwell on the Wilderness, the reason why they are wandering, the oft “from one wilderness to the next”, how this is downstream from Adam and Eve’s exile, how this is upstream from Christ’s wilderness (See Matthew 4:1-11), and how the Church today may be in the wilderness like the Church of old (See Acts 7:38 and Hebrews 3&4).

Finally, if you’re looking for more help,  there is an excellent video series published by the folks at The Bible Project.  Below are two on the book of Numbers, but every book is available and provides and excellent big picture overview, much like an introduction.

An Old New Year, Part 2

 

The Book of Exodus in many ways lays the foundation for the nation of Israel and much of the remaineder of the Old Testament as God reveals His plan of redemption that culminates in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  The Israelite exodus from Egypt typifies the believer’s exodus from bondage and slavery to sin.  The former was marked by the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn, from which a household may be delivered if it followed the Lord’s instructions and spread the blood of a spotless lamb over the lintels of the doorway, likewise typifying the deliverance that would come by way of the shed blood of the Lamb of God.

This Passover event is inaugurated in Exodus 12.  In reading this passage, I was again struck by a detail that has so often been overlooked.  At the opening of the chapter where God outlines the instructions for instituting the Lord’s Passover, we see the following,

“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.” Exodus 12:1-6

Notice the time period given by the Lord:

“It shall be the first month of the year for you.”

As in An Old New Year Part 1, we again have a significant time marker.  While in that post the New Year was slightly ambiguous and general, here we see a more narrow date given, namely the establishment of the Jewish calendar commensurate with the Exodus from Egypt.

Later in chapter 13 verse 4 we read, “Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out.”  Abib (called Nissan now) is the first month on the Jewish calendar, equivalent to the March/April time frame of the Gregorian calendar.

So is this date significant?  What is God trying to communicate by tying this New Year to the Exodus and subsequently the celebration of Passover?

As in the New Year given to Noah, which signified a new creation or the beginning of a new humanity, if you will, this date memorializing the inauguration of the nation of Israel follows suit.  As Noah functioned as another Adam, again in a typological sense, Israel appears on the scene as another Adam (Exodus 4:22-23). Like the first Adam, the nation of Israel will be placed in the garden of God, given covenant obligations, and like Adam will fail (Hosea 6), anticipating once again the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, who will in every way fulfill the promises of God and succeed where those who preceded Him failed.

This brief meditation on one verse read in a yearly reading plan demonstrates how valuable all of God’s Word is, even those things that on the surface seem insignificant.  It also shows that we needn’t feel like we can only profit from familiar passages that “tell us what to do”.  There is profit everywhere, on every page, in every verse, to be had, if we only slow down and listen to what the Word of God is saying.