Christian Themes in the Books of Moses

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 Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy – the first five books of the Bible are kind of a set called the Pentateuch which means “five books.” These books were written by Moses. These books have much to teach us about God and how we relate to Him. These lessons are taught through God’s relationship with early humanity, the fathers of Israel, and the nation of Israel itself. I see three main themes in the Pentateuch. They are: election, covenant, and worship.
    

 God’s sovereign election is glaringly obvious throughout the Pentateuch. A quick outline would go something like this: God chose Abraham out of all the people of the world, He chose Isaac instead of Ishmael, Jacob instead of Esau, and from Jacob he chose Judah as the Messianic tribe and Levi as the priestly tribe. Out of the tribe of Levi God chose the family of Aaron to be the priests among the Levites. All of these choices were made by God, without regard to human choice or morality. The people God chose were not all nice people. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were liars. Abraham and Jacob were polygamists. Jacob’s sons were unruly, sexually perverse, and vengeful. God’s choice is powerfully obvious in the Pentateuch.

     Covenant comes right on the heels of election. When God elects individuals, He brings them into the covenant. God first makes His covenant with Abram (Gen. 12). From there, God never violates or diminishes the covenant, but He does add to it throughout Abram’s life and reconfirms it with every generation. We see the power of God’s covenant as He is bound by His own word to bring Israel out of Egypt and establish them in Canaan (Gen. 15:12-16; Exod. 1-14). God establishes His covenant with Israel at Sinai (Exod. 20 ff.), and reveals the conditions, curses, and blessings of it throughout the remainder of the Pentateuch. Everything God does is on the basis of His covenants. Covenant is an indispensable theme in the Pentateuch.

     Worship is an important theme in the Pentateuch. This is obvious because there is an entire book dedicated to laws and ceremonies regarding Israel’s relationship with God – Leviticus. We see worship as early as Genesis 4 where Cain kills Abel (can anybody say “worship wars?”) over the issue of worship. Abram builds altars and worships God wherever he goes. Isaac also is a worshiper. We see Jacob first encountering God and worshiping Him on his way to Paddan-aram (Gen. 28:10-22). After the Red Sea crossing, Israel stands on the seashore and worships God (Exodus 15). God spends much of the latter part of Exodus giving the measurements and specifications of the tabernacle which would be the place of worship for Israel. Leviticus pertains to the ceremonial laws of Israel and the regulations of the priests. Again, this deals with worship. Worship is a huge theme in Numbers as well. We even see the wrath of God against the Israelites who worship Baal (Numbers 25). Deuteronomy serves as a repeating of the law of God with much mention of the subject of worship. As Moses ends his ministry and passes the mantle on to Joshua, he sings a song in the presence of Israel (Deuteronomy 32).

Perhaps the Pentateuch can be summed up thusly: God chose His people and brought them into His covenant blessing, and as a result they give Him worship. God has also chosen us who are born again to be His people. We are brought into the new covenant by Jesus Christ and we are called to worship our God and Savior. Much as changed in the past 4,000 years since God first chose the Israelites, but God’s nature and holiness have not. 

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Who Put The War in Worship?

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Have you ever seen a church divided over an issue? I think we can all agree that division and disunity is destructive to the life of any church. When I think about church division, my mind goes to the subject of worship. Why? Because there are few others issues that can incite such red-hot emotions as the issue of worship. This is nothing new. A quick survey of the Bible indicates this.
In Genesis chapter 4, we see the culmination of Adam’s sin in Genesis 3; the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. Have you ever noticed that the issue over which Cain killed Abel was worship? Cain and Abel both worshiped God in different ways. Abel was accepted while Cain was rejected. Rather than repent and change, Cain kills his brother in a jealous rage.
In 2 Samuel chapter 6, we see another worship war between David the king of Israel and his wife, Michal. The ark of the covenant is being brought back to Jerusalem to its rightful place in the tabernacle of God. It had been stolen by the Philistines several years before and although Israel had retrieved it, it had not been taken back to the tabernacle till now. This was a great day. God’s manifest presence is coming to the capital city of Israel. David, the king, is overjoyed and is offering sacrifices and dancing before God as the ark enters the city. His wife looks out a window and despises David for being so undignified. She then proceeds to criticize David for his act of worship. As a result, God curses Michal with barrenness for the rest of her life.
In Ezra chapter 3 we see the dedication of the new temple. The Israelites have returned from Babylonian captivity and rebuilt the temple. The new temple is not nearly as magnificent as the first temple. At the dedication of this new, smaller, less-extravagant temple; the music is played and the young people rejoice because they finally have a temple to worship in, while the older men who remembered the first temple before it was destroyed 70 years prior are weeping because this new temple isn’t as grand as the first one. While this isn’t a war necessarily, it does show how God’s people can be divided over worship.
 Jesus encountered the war concerning worship when he spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar in John chapter 4. “The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (John 4:19-20). The Samaritans were a people of mixed race and mixed religion. After the northern kingdom of Israel was captured by the Assyrians in 722 BC, the Israelites from that area intermarried with Gentiles from the region. They also mingled elements of the worship of God with pagan worship. The result was the people called the Samaritans. They had been taught to worship on Mt. Gerizim, where Israel had received blessing from God (Deut. 11:29). The Jews were right to worship in Jerusalem, and the Samaritans were not worshiping according to the Scripture. Jesus points this out when he says, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” Jesus goes on to point out that the true worshiper must worship in “spirit and truth” meaning that true worship must be with the whole heart (spirit) and based on the Bible (truth).
Why all the division about worship? It’s really simple: Satan hates worship. He hated it in Isaiah 14 where we see his rebellion against God. Satan loves to turn worship of God into war between believers. Why? Because worship brings the body to Christ together as one and focuses us on Jesus Christ, the head of the church. Jesus prayer to the Father for the church in John 17 was that we be one: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).
Worship is varied and diverse and not everyone worships the same. Jesus said that two things were necessary for worship. It must be in spirit – that is, from the heart; and it must be in truth – it must be biblical Don’t be a tool in Satan’s grip. Love God, love your brother, and don’t divide over that which ought to unite us – the worship of God.

More than the Music: Revelation Song

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            A song that we use regularly in worship at Reed Springs is the “Revelation Song” written by Jennie Lee Riddle. Our worship leader, RonnieMcDowell, does a great job of leading the church in corporate worship with biblical, theologically rich songs such as this one. “Revelation Song” really does a good job of communicating the proper attitude of worship. It is a hymn and an enthronement song. An enthronement song is one that celebrates the reign of God as Lord of the nations. It has all the correct elements: a call to worship, description of God’s attributes, and a conclusion of praise.

        
           “Revelation Song” is very solid with biblical theology. Since it is taken straight from chapters four and five of Revelation, it is imbued with colorful imagery but conveys a very definite message. It begins with Jesus’ sacrificial death as the Lamb of God and then immediately ties His sacrifice to the Old Testament sacrificial system by mentioning the “mercy-seat.” This indicates that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and is the Messiah spoken of in Isaiah 53.

“Revelation Song” also highlights the deity of Christ many times in its lyrics. All of the second verse lists characteristics of Yahweh and assigns them to Christ. You see an interchange in the two worship songs of chapter 4 which speaks to Yahweh and chapter 5 which speaks to Christ as if the two are synonymous (because they are). Verse three of the song mentions that Jesus’ name is breath and living water. The image of living water comes from many Old Testament passages that speak of Yahweh (Isaiah 12:3; Eze 47:9; Zec 14:8), which Jesus assigns to Himself multiple times (John 4:10; 8:37). The idea of His name being breath carries with it the images of special creation when God “breathed” into man the breath of life (Genesis 2:7) and it is through the name of Jesus that the dead may live again (John 11:25, 26).
            The chorus is especially expressive of the deity of Christ in that in takes the formula of “Holy, holy, holy” first mentioned by the seraphim in Isaiah 6:3 and repeated in Revelation 4:8 by the four beasts and directs it to the subject of this hymn, Jesus. It is also in the chorus that the author is singing along with creation as unto the Creator. This hymn is theologically rich and filled with doctrine and truth. You can see a performance of “Revelation Song” by Ronnie McDowell here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUScAciJImo

The Sermon We’ve All Been Dreading

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It’s Sunday morning. You eat breakfast, get ready, and go to church. You are excited. The music is great. You open your bulletin and underline a few upcoming events you are interested in. You place your offering in the plate and then… “open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 5…” How do you respond? With excitement? Joy? Anxiety? Fear? Dread? I have heard from more than one Christian that they always “got more out of” the singing part of service than the preaching. This is not reflective of the words of Peter, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). What is it about preaching that is off-putting and sometimes dreadful even to professing Christians?

I don’t think that all people feel this way all the time. I know of several Christians who love to hear a sermon preached. I have dear saints in my church that regularly tell me they enjoy my preaching, and I believe they are sincere. I think it has mostly to do with the condition of the hearer’s heart. Jesus told the religious leaders in Jerusalem, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word” (John 8:43, ESV). Jesus’ audience in this instance could not bear to hear Jesus’ words because they were unsaved. Their hearts were dead to God and His Word. I think this is true in many cases today. When we see people that have a fearful aversion to the Word of God and preaching, it should alarm us because the true sheep hear the voice of the shepherd (John 10:25-27).
It is understandable that those who aren’t Christians feel this way toward the Bible, but why do professing Christians sometimes distance themselves from God’s Word and God’s preachers? I think this is due to our fallen, sinful nature. It isn’t so much that every sermon is a scathing rebuke of our lifestyle, as it is we fear the scouring presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We know that the message of God uncovers sin and calls us to respond with repentance. When the preacher opens his mouth to speak, we sometimes cringe knowing that we are exposing ourselves to the sharp, double-bladed sword of Truth. Even a born-again believer who is not in the will of God, can at times dread a powerful sermon, but this should not be the normal attitude of a Christian. A true believer should be eager to hear God’s Word, and not take a defensive or fearful attitude towards it. Before we head to church Sunday, let’s prepare our hearts to receive God’s Word so we can say with the psalmist: How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103, ESV).