13. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by Lewis
Archives For May 2008
I have mentioned briefly in a couple of my recent sermons that it is striking that in the book of Exodus only Yahweh has armies. We usually think of the story of the Exodus and think of the Egyptian armies chasing down the rag-tag nation of Hebrews scrambling out of Egypt. But this is not at all how God tells the story. There are “armies” in the book of Exodus, but Pharaoh does not have any. Pharaoh has “strength” and “might” and “chariots” and “fortresses,” but strictly speaking, he has no “armies.” Pharaoh has no “hosts.” Only the Lord God has hosts. Israel is the army of Yahweh (Ex. 6:26, 7:4, 12:17, 12:41, 12:51). And these armies of Yahweh are not at all pictured as retreating or scrambling in any sense. In fact, they are the conquering army of God; they plunder the Egyptians as they leave the land. Israel is the victorious army of Yahweh fresh out of battle, marching home with the spoils of their enemies. The Israelites themselves do not realize this as they see Pharaoh’s men riding after them, but the story remembers them this way.
This becomes important later in Ex. 30 where God strongly discourages the act of taking a census of all the fighting men. He discourages it with a tax on every eligible fighting male counted in a census. If this tax is not paid as a ransom-price for the census, a plague will fall on the people. Of course this is exactly what happens in 2 Samuel 24 with David’s sinful census of the armies of Israel.
The word for army/armies is TZAVA/TZAVAOT, and it only shows up one more time in the book of Exodus in chapter 38. There the verse is translated in the New King James: “He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (38:8). The “serving women” are actually “hosts” who “wage war” at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. This is a wonderful conclusion to the story of the Exodus. The Bride-People of God are the armies of Yahweh while living in Goshen, heeding the voice of Moses, keeping the Passover, and so forth. These armies march out of the decimated lands of Egypt as conquering armies. While the Passover makes the point most clearly, we know from the beginning of the story that it is the prayers/cries of Israel that have come up to Yahweh and cause him to destroy the enemies of Israel and deliver them from bondage. Finally, the Passover is a feast, an act of worship and devotion to Yahweh God which brings about the final blow to the land of Egypt and Pharaoh as the Angel of Death passes through the land. Thus, it is worship which is the warfare of the Bride-Hosts of Yahweh in the beginning, and it is through worship at the tabernacle of meeting that the Women-Hosts “wage war” at the end of the story.
We cannot state this too strongly in the modern context: As far as God is concerned, only the Christian Church has armies. The U.S. may have fortresses, North Korea may have nukes, and the Afghans may have suicide bombers, but we are the armies of Yahweh. We are the hosts of God. There are no other armies on the field of battle.
Tovia continues to eat, sleep, and grow like a normal newborn baby. We’re so thankful for the first signs of what my dad calls “hockey thighs.” We have every expectation that she will soon be a certified pudge thanks to mom’s good milk and her hearty appetite.
This was nap time. And I assure you it only lasted for a few minutes like this.
Felicity continues to take her big sister duties very seriously.
Somehow, a week or so ago, I managed to graduate from seminary, and my son was fairly pleased with my uniform for the occasion.
The family in front of the Due West ARP Church’s cemetary. The cemetary has a number of Confederate Army soldiers and veterans buried there.
From the Left: Luke Brodine, Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, me, and (now) Dr. Terry Johnson.
Me and the kids.
You may know that there is an old custom in the Roman Catholic Church of saying Masses for the dead. It is believed and taught that because the Mass is a re-offering of the sacrifice of Jesus that it is in effect like the sacrifices of the OT that had to be offered over and over again for the forgiveness of sins. And since the Roman theology allows that people may be continue to be cleansed and forgiven even after death, they have taught that this meal (what they call the Mass) may be offered as a sacrifice for certain people who are not yet cleansed of all their sins. But this gets the Eucharist all wrong. This Lord’s Supper is a victory feast which shows forth the Lord’s death until he comes. This feast proclaims the death of death, it proclaims the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s body and blood, and it declares that this was accomplished some 2000 years ago. At the same time, as is the case with much distorted theology, there is an element of truth in what the Roman Church teaches. We do worship here on behalf of the world. What we do here is for the life of the world. In Revelation, John sees the worship of the saints and the angels accomplishing the judgments of God in the world. And therefore, when we worship here at this table, as we eat and drink and rejoice before the Lord, we do so for the cocaine addicts, for the prostitutes, for the homosexuals, for the abortion doctors, for the Muslim terrorists, and for all those who are lost, hopeless, and without the grace of God in their lives. We celebrate this meal as the great memorial of the only Atonement that does avail with God. And just as Moses saw the great sin of Israel and ascended to make atonement for the sins of Israel, so too we come out of the world each week, ascend into the presence of God and offer here the memorial of that Great Atoning work of Jesus for the sins of the world. We proclaim here the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness not only of our sins but for the sins of the world. We plead with God here to remember Jesus and save the world.
Moses was up on the mountain for forty days and nights (24:18), and apparently the people got a little restless. This fall comes at the close of the “creation week” (ch. 25-31), and therefore we see that Israel, the son of Yahweh, the new Adam, is still much like his first father.
Literally, the people see that Moses “delayed with shame.” This seems to indicate that they were beginning to be embarrassed with how long it was taking him up there. They’re feeling insecure. Think about Saul and the sacrifice (1 Sam. 13:8ff). Israel puts distance between itself and Moses by referring to him as “this man,” and they say that they don’t know what happened to him (32:1).
This great apostasy that Israel commits is much like Adam’s in that it expressly breaks the covenant that God has made with Israel. The most obvious points of the breach are the first and second commandments against having any other gods before Yahweh and making carved images to bow down to and serve (cf. 20:2-4ff). We know that Aaron is a major player in this incident, but there are others involved as well: “They say, ‘This is your god, O Israel…” (32:4). Here the first commandment is breached, the carved image has an altar in front of it for worship and service (32:5), but this is clearly also a great sin against the name of Yahweh (third commandment) which God has repeatedly emphasized as being significant to the action of the Exodus (Ex. 6:3-6, 7:5, 10:1-2ff, 12:12, 15:3ff). Remember, it was Pharaoh who originally said that he did not know this “Yahweh God,” but the entire narrative is set up to show us who this God is and what his name means. Finally, the fact that a feast is declared is a breach of the fourth commandment. The Sabbath is the weekly feast to Yahweh who gives his people rest and joy. This pseudo-Sabbath is a feast to the gold calf and the gods he represents. Yahweh does not miss any of this (32:7-9). Literally, he says, “now let me have rest, that my wrath may burn hot against them…” (32:10). He wants to take a Sabbath and make an end them (32:10) which is sort of what he did when he finished creating (Gen. 2:1, Ex. 20:11). Yahweh has just finished speaking the instructions for the creation of a new world (ch. 25-31), but now because of Israel’s sin, he wants to make an end of it in a different way.
Moses “pleads” with Yahweh (32:11), but the word here is often used for being “weak or ill” (e.g. Gen. 48:1, Jdg. 16:7). It also has the same consonants as the word for the “cakes” of bread offered with many of the sacrifices (e.g. Ex. 29:2, 29, Lev. 2:4, 7:13). Moses’ prayer is “sacrificial” in so far as it is mediation of God’s fierce fiery-wrath. Moses’ prayer is almost entirely an appeal to Yahweh’s reputation (32:12-13). Moses appeals to what he has done, what the Egyptians will think, and his promises to the patriarchs. The fact that the camp is full of the noise of “singing” is striking since this is something that has not been explicitly mentioned since the Exodus. The word literally means “answer/respond,” but it is the same verb used here as describes Miriam singing their song of victory (15:21). Remember that Israel is picture throughout the Exodus narrative as the “armies” of Yahweh, and thus instead of fighting the battles of Yahweh, they have turned away and are singing the praises of this new god who brought Israel out of Egypt. Notice that Moses is able to plead with God on behalf of Israel and still burn with anger against them (32:10-11, 19).
Moses recognizes that Aaron is largely responsible for this great fall, and yet Aaron (like Adam) blames the bride (32:22-24). Aaron did not guard and restrain the people just as Adam failed to guard and restrain his wife in the garden (32:25). As Yahweh placed cherubim at the entrance of the garden with a flaming sword so too, Moses calls the faithful Levites to himself at the entrance of the camp with their swords, and they cut down about 3,000 of the people (32:26-28). The Levites are the new angelic guards of the sanctuary.
Moses calls the people to consecrate themselves because there has been a great battle between fathers, sons, and brothers (32:29). The judgment of the Levites is surely part of this, but the implication seems to be that the “great sin” of Israel is not merely against God but against their neighbors and families. There is also more going on because Moses calls upon them to literally “fill their hands” to the Lord (32:29). Remember that “filling the hands” was an integral part of the ordination rite of the priests (29:24), but literally the command to “ordain/consecrate” Aaron and his sons is to “fill their hands” (28:41, 29:9, 29, 33, 35). The ESV makes the connection most explicit by saying “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord…” This draws attention to the rest of the “hands” in this passage: the gold in the hands of Israel (32:4), the mighty hand of Yahweh (32:11), and the stone tablets cast out of the hands of Moses (32:19).
The next day, Moses declares that Israel has committed a great sin, but he will go up to Yahweh and seek to make atonement for them (32:30). He returns to the Lord and confesses their sins and offers to take their punishment for their sin (32:31-32). The Lord seems to reject this offer, relenting slightly, but nevertheless promising punishment for their sin (32:33-34). The final statement may be a summary of the judgment of the Levites or God may have actually struck them with a plague (32:35).
Conclusions and Applications
This is an enormous apostasy on the part of Israel. They have blatantly and flagrantly broken the covenant, but notice Moses’ response. He pleads for mercy and offers to take their place. This is the greatest kind of love, Jesus says, when a man lays his life down for his friends (Jn. 15:13). God has bestowed this kind of love upon us in the face of our blatant and flagrant sins, and we are called upon to offer the same sacrificial love.
Confessing sins is an ongoing duty for all of us when we blow it big and in the little things. Men, you are called upon to name your sins and confess them. And as covenant heads, learn to confess the sins of your households (e.g. Job 1:5), but as the priests and kings of our communities, we confess the sins of our people as well.
Lastly, the call to repentance is always a call to “ordination.” Your ordination was accomplished in your baptism, and we renew that ordination in worship. Here, we renew our cleansing with confession, we renew our faith and commitment in the Word, and we renew our communion in the Eucharist, and hands are placed upon us in the benediction.
What is in your hands? What are you filling your hands with?
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty and Gracious Lord, we give you thanks and praise that you have given us your Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, to consecrate our lives to you, and to empower us to serve in your kingdom. We ask that you would make us like the sons of Levi, that we would follow Jesus in his warfare against all sin and wickedness and at the same time, teach us to intercede for the wicked, for the erring, and for the lost. We ask that you would make us living sacrifices.
This year our federal government is issuing checks to most of the citizens of this country as an effort to stimulate the economy. Quite apart from questions of whether this is wise, or a real solution to any supposed challenges the economy may have, as Christians, we need to think about this in a Christian way. And in doing so, we must assert at least three things: First and foremost, we must insist that our full and complete allegiance is to King Jesus. We look to the Lord Jesus for our ultimate strength, for our ultimate stability, for our ultimate security, and for our ultimate prosperity. All attempts of the President, Congress, and the United States Federal Reserve to fill that calling are utterly idolatrous, and we repudiate such arrogance. Secondly, it must not escape our attention that there are repeated warnings regarding money and riches throughout Scripture. Money is the root of all kinds of evil. Modern American Evangelicals are in the stranglehold of greed and mammon. We must guard against any and all monetary idolatry, particularly when we are beset on all sides by bills and financial demands that seem overwhelming and sometimes impossible. The Triune God is our Savior, and we will not be cowed into groveling before the shrine of Mammon in any way. Money is never a real solution to real problems; in the hands of a wise man it is a tool and a means of blessing, but in the clutches of fools, it is a hangman’s noose and an aggressive cancer. But this leads to the last point: we are not Gnostics and there is nothing evil about money in itself. We are called to submit to our ruling authorities, and we are to do so with all thankfulness and gratitude. And this means that as the checks come in, we can and ought to say thank you, but we ought to do so with wisdom and discernment and as the citizens of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus. You cannot serve two masters; you cannot serve God and mammon. Jesus is the Lord of your bank account and your checkbook and your debit cards; therefore, show your allegiance to him there.
This meal is called the “Lord’s Supper” in 1 Corinthians 11, and that word “Lord’s” is only used one other time in the New Testament, and that’s in the phrase “Lord’s Day” when John was in the Spirit and saw the visions of Revelation. The word for “Lord’s” is just a possessive adjective like “your, my, his, her,” but in these cases it’s fairly unique. The Lord’s Supper, most literally, was the Last Supper. That was his meal that he gave to his disciples to celebrate. Likewise, the Lord’s Day, most literally, is the day of Resurrection, the day on which the new world erupted in time, the time in which a new day began. When Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper and gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, we are being invited to join into those original acts: the Last Supper as a new Passover Feast, a victory celebration of the Exodus, and a new first day of Creation, a new separation of light and darkness, a new Light to be Called Day, since Jesus came back from the nothingness of the grave alive. We enter into the victory feast on the victory day, and yet these are events and accomplishments that belong to the Lord. They are his. The victory belongs to the Lord. But this is the glory of being invited here. When the Lord invites us to his feast and to celebrate his day, he calls upon us to join him in them. In other words, Jesus invites us to be lords with him. This table is the Lord’s Supper and therefore it is for lords. This day is the Lord’s Day and therefore it is a day for lords. To be invited to share in the victory of the Lord is to be invited to be a lord with the Lord. This is the Lord’s feast on the Lord’s victory day, and it is spread for all the lords of the land. So come: eat, drink, and rejoice.
Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank you for creating us in your image to be the lords of this world. Almighty God, we thank you for Jesus who has come that we might have your image renewed and transfigured in us. Grant that through us, you might remake the world around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Today we finish the section of instructions for creating the new world of God in the tabernacle (Ex. 25-31). This section finishes the “creation week,” and it reminds us that worship is all about remaking the world.
Golden Altar of Incense (finishing Day 1)
The altar of incense is golden which means that it is associated with the Most Holy Place (30:3). It is place in the Holy Place directly in front of the veil of the Most Holy Place (30:6). And it is Most Holy just like the bronze altar (30:10 cf. 29:37). Nothing else goes on this altar except for “sweet incense” every morning (30:7) and once a year on the day of Atonement blood is smeared on its horns “to make atonement for it” (30:10). Chapters 25-30:10 are “day one” of this new creation. The tabernacle is the light of the new world; the tabernacle is what separates the Day of Israel from the Night of the nations.
Census and Atonement (Day 2)
“Day two” is the provision for the people to protect them from the plague when a census is taken (30:12). The obvious implication is that if they took a census without this “atonement offering” they would be struck by a plague. This word means “plague,” but it is the noun form a word that generally means “strike.” It is used to describe the plague of frogs and the plague of the firstborn, and later generally to the whole Exodus story. Remember that the story of the Exodus as a great battle between the “hosts” of Israel (Ex. 6:26, 7:4, 12:17, 41, 51) and the fortress-strength of Pharaoh (14:4, 9, 17, 24, 28). There, at the Passover, blood covered the armies of Israel. This ransom payment is the same for all males over 20, and therefore it is a matter of life. But this whole provision seems to have something to do with trusting the God of armies and not one’s armies. Remember David’s sinful census of the armies of Israel (2 Sam. 24). Remember that the second day of creation concerned the firmament that separated the waters above from the waters below, it has to do with how heaven and earth are joined and relate (cf. 2 Kgs. 6:8-17ff).
Laver of Cleansing (Day 3)
“Day three” of the original creation week was the gathering the waters together into one place to create dry ground and the seas. Here in the new world of the tabernacle we have the waters gathered into a miniature sea that stands between the altar and the tent (30:18). In the temple it is actually called the “sea” (e.g. 1 Kgs. 7:23). The priests are required to wash their hands and feet before going into the tent and before offering the sacrifices on the altar (30:20). This washing is required on pain of death (30:20-21). Perhaps this gives new significance to Jesus’ foot washing at the last supper. Jesus is preparing his disciples for sanctuary-service, and he commands them to go and do likewise (Jn. 13:3-17).
Oil of Anointing (Day 4)
On “day four” God made the great lights and placed them in the firmament. These great lights are rulers, and they are meant to symbolize God’s own glory and rule. Likewise, oil is associated with rule, and oil makes a man’s face bright and shine like the lights of heaven. This oil is used to anoint the tabernacle and all of its utensils and furniture (30:25-28). This is also the oil used to anoint Aaron and his sons (30:30). This oil is considered holy and may not be used for common purposes in Israel, and if anyone does so, he shall be “cut off from his people” (30:33).
Incense (Day 5)
“Day five” describes the incense that God requires the priests to offer before him. It is “most holy,” and this is related to the fact that it is offered “before the Testimony” (30:36). Like the oil, it is holy and may not be used for ordinary purposes in Israel. He who treats Yahweh’s incense as common will be “cut off from his people” (30:38). Throughout Scripture, incense is associated with prayer (e.g. Ps. 141:2); prayer ought to fill and permeate our lives. It ought to stick to us and in our clothes like a scent that is hard to shake. Throughout Scripture we see the presence of God surrounded by smoke and incense, and John sees incense rising to the throne of God with the prayers of the saints (e.g. Rev. 5:8, Rev. 8:3-4). This is why it has been common in the historic Christian church to use incense in worship both to beautify and to remind.
The Spirit and the Artisans (Day 6)
Just as God breathed the breath of life into man on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 2:7), so too, the Spirit is given to Bezalel and Aholiab (31:4). This is the same Spirit of God that hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation (Gen. 1:1). The image of God in man includes the power and drive to create by the inspiration of the Spirit. This Spirit of creation is wisdom in their hearts (31:6).And this Spirit and the wisdom given to these artisans is for following the commands of Yahweh (31:6, 11, cf. Gal. 5:16ff). This is what true creativity is: it takes the pattern-commands of God and implements them in beautiful ways in the world.
Sabbath Reminder (Day 7)
As the first creation week ended with Sabbath, so too, God reminds Moses/Israel that this new world must include the original creation pattern. The Sabbath is a sign to Israel that they might know that it is Yahweh who sanctifies them (31:13). Israel is to guard this time just like they guard the other holy things of God, and the one who treats it commonly will be put to death and “cut off from his people” (31:14). The Sabbath observance is the covenant between God and his people (31:16). We rest as the Creator rests (31:17). The Sabbath is a call to live like God does. Create like God does but rest and rejoice in our labors like God does. God was “refreshed” when he rested, and he calls us to the same (31:17). To be refreshed is to be given the breath of life (cf. Gen. 2:7).
Conclusions & Applications
We labor in the world for the kingdom of God. We sell merchandise for the King. We raise and teach children for the King. We run businesses, wash dishes, take out garbage, and crunch numbers for the King. We need to think intentionally and strategically about this. And there are at least two possible errors to avoid: Because God is renewing and refashioning this world, it takes wisdom to understand which things stay and which things go. This is like cleaning out the basement: depending on your personality, you are probably tempted to throw everything out or save everything. But neither one will do.
Cultivate Sabbath living. An important part of making/re-making the world is through rest. Give the “breath of life” to your family on the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day should not be weighed down with too many activities, too many rules, and don’t treat it like it’s just another government holiday. The Sabbath is like your first day in a brand new world. What would you do?
You are lords of this world made new in Christ. In the OC God gave numerous explicit instructions for ruling the earth, but in the NC, you have been granted authority in Christ. This means that God gives you this world and cares what you think. How do you think it should go? What should Greenville look like in 20 years? 40 years? 500 years? You are the priests and kings of this city therefore live, pray, and rejoice in this fact.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, we thank you that the blood of Jesus was poured out to purchase all the nations of the earth. We thank you that this includes Greer and Greenville, South Carolina. We ask that you would teach us diligence and wisdom as we seek to rule wisely in this land that you are giving to your Son, King Jesus. Give us true Trinitarian wisdom.
Bound up in the being of the Triune God is a God who speaks. John says in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And it was through this Word that the worlds sprang into existence. Because we are made in the image and likeness of the Trinity we cannot help but imitate this. We speak words, and our words either create worlds of beauty, joy, and order, or else they are words the create worlds of heartache, confusion, and shame. Of course this is true of everyone to a degree, but in the Christian family, the Father sits in a unique place to create the world of his home. The words of a Father make and unmake the world of his family.
Often there are two extremes the men fall into and both are essentially Unitarian heresies; both deny the Trinity. There are the Deist Unitarians. Because God has not spoken, because there is no Word, no Trinity, their adherents cannot speak. These Unitarians find themselves distantly related to a world but refuse to speak, refuse to undertake the challenging work of creating a world of life and light and joy in their homes. They know it’s going to be hard, they might face opposition, and maybe they’ve been burned in the past. But not speaking, refusing to create is selfish, cowardly, and unfaithful to God’s commands.
Then there are the Muslim Unitarians. This Unitarian god has no Word, has no Trinity, and is mad about the whole deal. Husbands who act like Allah cannot incarnate their word, they cannot love with their words, they can only bark commands, make demands, and insist that their wills be carried out to perfection. But this is no less selfish, no less cowardly; this god refuses to love, this god cannot love. He refuses to risk his very life for the world. But we serve the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Fathers/Husbands, you are called upon to imitate this glorious community. Incarnate your words, live them, and let your words be words of love. Send your words into the world of your family and send them so that they can die for the life of your family. Send your words into the world so that they can save, heal, and resurrect. Because Jesus is the Word made flesh who dwelt among us, and God sent his Word into the World that we might have life in the Spirit.