Tag Archives: Exodus

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Exodus 36:6-7 – “Willing Service: More Than Enough”)

“Willing Service: More Than Enough”

Exodus 36:6-7, “And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.”

This morning, self-centeredness abounds. One of the universal failings of mankind is that we put self before all else, even though we can mightily convince ourselves that we have not. One of the things that a self-first mindset genders is an unwillingness to do anything that is not an absolute requirement. Even then, the performance is out of obligation rather than devotion. One of the hardest things for any devoted disciple of the cross to live up to is a willing heart of service that does the right thing guided by the right motivation. Since there are so many promised and realized blessings to be had in obedience, it is easy to slip into looking at the rewards of service rather than the true motivation of service, which is sole affection and devotion to the Almighty. As a minister, there can be times when our preaching meets with encouragement that can be used wrongfully. Whenever we are commended for our service, that can become an idol in our minds and hearts that clouds our service to God. Whenever we are looking at the results and rewards of the service as our end, we have lost our way in willing and faithful service to God. As I have heard it said throughout my days in the church, “Our purpose here should be to see how much we can put into it rather than how much we will get out of it.” God is faithful to bless us, but we devote our sight to how much we can do in it.

Much of the time during the journeys of the children of Israel in the Old Testament under Moses and later Joshua we point out all the ways in which Israel failed God. Time and time again, they murmured and complained even though God had been so good to them, and His presence dwelled with them perpetually. Much like the Apostle Peter these folks can become the handy “punching bag” for an illustration of what not to do. However, like Peter, there were times when they “got it right,” and this is one such time when they are to be commended for their service. Our study verses show a worthy example that is applicable to followers of Christ in our day, thousands of years removed from these people.

During this period, the children of Israel have come out of Egypt with a mighty hand. They have not yet received the Promised Land of blessing that God said Abraham’s seed would inherit. Moses has just received the law and the pattern of worship that the Lord has ordained should be followed. After returning with God’s law and pattern of worship, the congregation sets out to fashion everything as God had commanded. They had to construct the tabernacle, the furniture for the building, and all the alters and other constructs that would be needed. To do this, they had to give materials for the service, their time for the construction, and ultimately set their hearts to follow the order as God had established.

In our study verses, we see where this often stiff-necked and hard-hearted people actually performed admirably in their giving. They gave so much so willingly that Moses had to proclaim an end of giving for that season. The things given were sufficient and over and above. What a blessing for a people to give time, service, and supplies so that there was not room for everything! In a world where we constantly hear about deficits and other losses, they had a windfall of surplus for the Lord’s service here. People were that engaged and willing to go about doing the Lord’s work. One of the reasons that this success occurred is that they knew God Himself had ordained it. They saw His manifestation on the mount in fire, and they knew this God who had showed them so much said, “You will worship me this way.” Another reason they had this success is that though commanded to do so, they wanted to do it.

Willing service gets to one of the hallmark differences between God’s service and discipleship and every other form of group service. Oftentimes, religious activity is marked by either willing service or commanded service, but not both. When someone is commanded to do something, they may do it out of fear, duty, bribery, or some other form, but they perform it because it is required. When someone does something that is not commanded just because they want to, they really have liberty to do what they want, since there is no commandment for it. God’s service is the only one that joins the two together. He commands obedience, but He attaches willingness to it. (Isaiah 1:19-20) To simply do as commanded is not sufficient, but to want to do what is commanded yields sufficient for the work and more than enough.

Have you ever observed people do things in life that they enjoyed and things they had to do? Do they look the same while performing them? I remember Dad taking us to Disneyland when we were younger, and looking back, he might have preferred a root canal than to be at an amusement park for 2 whole days. It just was not his thing, but he knew that we enjoyed it and did it. However, he learned quickly that with wait times for rides, he could get a lot of Bible reading in. So, he started carrying a pocket Bible and reading it while we waited on roller coasters. The look on his face when we walked into the park or stepped on a ride was not nearly like the look on his face while standing there reading. He supremely enjoyed the reading, while he did the other to please his children.

God is not pleased when we help one another grudgingly. He is not pleased when we come to church with some sense of duty without the willing heart of love. He is pleased when we want to do what He has commanded. He is pleased when we help one another not to get something out of Him or others but just because we want to help our brethren in need. Oftentimes, I will hear people say, “I just don’t get anything out of that anymore.” Maybe the “that” is reading their Bible. Maybe it is going to church. Maybe it is their preacher. Whatever the object, a little investigation oftentimes yields the conclusion that long before their mouth declared their dissatisfaction with a thing, they lost the willing desire to engage. Maybe they kept at the activity for a season, but their heart was not in it.

Recently, I talked with a brother who had quit attending church, and when I asked him if there was something I could help him with, he said, “I had to quit cause I wasn’t being fed.” When I asked a few simple questions like “How were your prayers for the service?” “How about singing in service?” and things of that nature, he said, “Well I don’t really sing in church, and the preacher just seemed to be dry and saying the same things.” I encouraged him to go back and prepare his heart for the Lord’s service and fully engage while there. (I Chronicles 22:19) If we come to God’s service with the attitude to do as much as we can, there will be more than enough. Even if the task seems impossible, consider that God commands us to do the possible, and while performing it, He accomplishes the impossible. When He gave His disciples commands while feeding the multitude, He told them to do things they could. They made the men sit down in the grass, and then they distributed what He gave to the people. But, the impossible happened, because Christ was involved! Does the task seem insurmountable? Does everything seem to be going wrong in life? Do what He has commanded, and the impossible will be performed!

In recent years, I have heard far too much depressing talk from God’s people and sadly, too much doom and gloom from some of His ministers. Friends, take courage! God is still here, and when we willingly follow Him, we will have more than enough to do what we have been commanded by Him. The success of our performance in His service does not hinge on Him giving us all that we need or the ability to do it. Everything God commands us, He has already blessed us with the ability to perform, and all the supplies necessary have already been given by Him to use. The success of our engagement depends on how willing we are in our obedience and service. When these people gave gold and other things for the work, where did that come from? When they gave themselves and their time, where did that come from? Whether material supplies or our very lives, all that we are and all that we have belongs to Him. He has blessed us with it; therefore, He has supplied all that is necessary to serve Him acceptably in in Godly fear.

During this time of the calendar year, we normally focus on the coming year and make “resolutions” that oftentimes dissolve within the first month of a fresh year. Whether the resolution is losing weight, reading through the Bible, etc. we fall down on our commitment. The things dissolve when we lose the resolve to perform them. Spiritual drifting and waning comes when we lose our willingness in the performance of it. Then, we seem to be lacking and wonder, “What happened?” If there is any lack of supply or time, friends the fault lies with us. He has given us so much, we have sufficient for His service and more than enough. May we band together as these people did and be so willing and faithful that there is not time or room for it all. What grand days of service can be ours to enjoy when we say, “He said do it this way, so let’s get busy and do it.”

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Exodus 32:4)

Morning ThoughtsExodus 32:4, "And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."

This morning, there is so much to distract the child of God from his devotion and thoughts of Christ.  Recently, I read a report that more than 60% of people in this country spend more of their waking hours on their cell phone than any other activity.  Every day the distractions increase, become easier to engage in, and sweep up large chunks of our time.  More often than not, activities such as these are not intrinsically sinful, but the prolific occurrence of them makes them so.  In recent meditations and writings, I have been reminded once again that the greatest threat and enemy to a church or individual is idolatry.  When something takes an equal or higher position to our Lord, His kingdom, and His service, we have fallen prey and guilty once again to one of the most heinous offences before the Almighty.  As Scripture declares, idolatry revolves around a basic motivation: covetousness. (Colossians 3:5) Whenever we want something for ourselves more than doing for the Lord, we have idolized that person or thing that we covet after.  However, one of the utterly amazing things about idolatry is that by standing back a bit and viewing the scene objectively, idolatry is seen better for how it really is: completely and totally ridiculous.

In the passage our study verse resides in, we can look at many different circumstances that make our study verse seem all the more surreal.  However, by the end of the lesson, the surreal nature of it will take on a much more painful tone: injuring our own silly and prideful notions.  Moses is currently on top of Mt Sinai with the Lord receiving the 10 Commandments and other patterns of worship directly from the Lord.  He has been up there so long that the people's impatience grows into convincing Aaron to make them an idol, which he does in our verse.  By taking their gold, he makes a calf, and fashions it into – doubtless – a naturally good-looking piece of craftsmanship.  The sight of this craftsmanship incites the people to proclaim this non-living piece of metal a god that delivered them out of Egypt.

The more I consider this scene, the more I find that makes an objective observer's gaze both sad and amusing.  Let us take note of a few things in this scene that make their actions all the more foolish.  Simply because Moses had been gone up into the mount for a long time, they decided to choose a different path based on how they felt.  Their statement was that they did not know what had become of Moses (Verse 1), so they were going to do things that they felt were right.  Friends, that is always a dangerous road to start down, and consider how much they still had before them to prove to them they did not need to choose a path of their own making.  Though Moses was still in the mount, the mountain still had a cloud upon it denoting that the Lord was still in their midst.  This sight of the mountain was go great and terrible that even Moses himself feared, but the people even moreso. (Exodus 24:16, Hebrews 12:21)

Whether day or night, they always had a pillar of cloud or pillar of fire to guide them and show the Lord's presence with them. (Exodus 13:21) Therefore, no matter how many days and nights it took Moses on their mountain, they had every evidence necessary that God was still with them.  In fact, they were shown whether to stay camped or arise and move based on the pillar's movement or lack thereof.  So, if the cloud and fire had been stationary all the while that Moses was on Sinai, then they had no reason to even think that it was time to go anywhere.  Looking at the evidences that God had placed, one could reasonably say, "God was manifest all around them, above them, before, and beside them."  Truly, He had set great signs and wonders to show forth His glory in their midst so that it would seem impossible that someone in such a position could doubt, stray, or turn from the right path.

Have you ever run into the mindset (or had it yourself), "If I could see the things the Bible talks about, I wouldn't doubt, and my fears that I struggle with would be taken away."  I have encountered many people with that mindset, but interestingly, the people that did experience these things were guilty of the same doubts, fears, and stumblings that we have today.  Even with God evidently all around them, they still idolatrously ran after their own fallen and frail ways.  Lest we come down too harshly on these wayward people (though they justly deserve consternation for their actions), Paul clearly makes a point that we are very much like them. (I Corinthians 10:1-13) Though we should learn not to do many of the things that they did, we still are guilty of the same things with a similar set of circumstances.

One might protest here, "Preacher, I've never crafted a golden calf and called that my god that delivered me."  Nor have I.  However, idolatry comes in many forms, but every time, we have a set of manifest circumstances like they had that make our decisions seem even more foolish.  No, we do not see a mount that burns with fire and has a cloud of glory descend upon it like they saw on Sinai that day, nor do we have a pillar of cloud and fire that tells us when to move and when to stop.  However, consider what we do have all around us.  The Lord promised that He would continue the ordinances of the sun and moon by day and night. (Jeremiah 31:35-36) Every day that we live, the sun rises and sets during the day, while the moon continues as a light by night.  Why do these ordinances remain?  God commanded them so, and whether in the day or night, we have clear evidence that God still rules and reigns on His throne.  Just as they had the pillar by day and night, we have the firm promise that ordinances will be seen in heaven that declare to us that God is in our midst.

In looking at what we do have today as opposed to that day at Sinai, Paul describes much of what we have in our mountain (Zion) that supersedes Sinai in many respects. (Hebrews 12:18-24) While we do not see literal smoke and fire upon a literal mountain, our worship in Mount Zion shows more glory than they had then.  We do not have literal tables of stone written on by the finger of God like they did then, but our Book has more glory and sureness than they did then.  Our mountain has the glory of the Lord in the descending of the Holy Ghost (I Peter 1:12), and the Bible of God's word from which we preach was Divinely breathed into existence by God's inspiration.  Every time the Lord takes a mortal man and blesses him with power from the demonstration of the Holy Ghost and accompanies that power with assurance to the hearts and souls of the saints, we experience more glory and majesty than they had that day. (I Thessalonians 1:5)

What about falling into idolatry?  We so often put things before our eyes that end up commanding the lion's share of our time and attention.  Though we have daily reminders through the creation that God is still here and reigning as He promised, we forget Him often through our journeys of life.  Though He has blessed us with awesome power and majesty in the mountain of His church, we neglect so often to honour that glory with our presence, prayers, and/or energy.  We might find a reason not to be there, or when we get there, we might find a reason to worship and praise Him with little to no energy of service.  Is this any different than making a molten calf and calling it your god?  Not really.  Consider.

The result of making this idol was that the people ate, drank, and played before it (Verse 6).  It became a source of entertainment and fulfillment of fleshly pleasure for them, and should it have remained long enough, they would have followed it whithersoever it went.  So are the idols of today.  They become the source of people's entertainment and fulfillment of fleshly pleasure.  Whether it pertains to recreation of sports and leisure, occupation of job and moneymaking, or relationships of family or otherwise, each idol serves to source our entertainment and fulfill some fleshly longing.  Again, many of these idols are not intrinsically bad just as molten craftsmanship in that day was not synonymous with idolatry.  They become so when we attach levels of appreciation to them that no one or nothing deserves outside of God Almighty.

Friends, we have countless evidences in the creation that God still rules and reigns.  We have countless evidences in His church that He will meets with us in a place of glory.  No matter how impatient we may get over the circumstances we face, let us never give in to delusions of grandeur from self-centered thinking.  It leads to idolatry every time.  We will – as creatures – worship something.  It may be ourselves or our own worth, but we will worship something.  May we contain our worship to the One that truly delivered us from ourselves and the cruel mastery of Egypt's blackness.  He has not left us, and the evidences are tremendous.  Finally, when we read accounts like this one and think of how foolish these people appear, may we step back and observe our own paths.  To someone reading an account of our activities, how foolish would we look to them?  Let us adore Him for all that He has done, is doing, and will continue to do for all eternity.

In Hope,

Bro Philip