They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Mount Sinai & The Mount of Transfiguration

I continue to be fascinated by the fact that the whole Bible is really just one interwoven story. The Hebrew (Old) Testament continually surfaces in the stories in the gospels and conversely the stories in the gospels are foretold and prophesied throughout the Hebrew Testament. One unbelievable example of this is found in the similarities between Moses’ trip up Mount Sinai in Exodus 24 and Jesus’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17 (also found in Mark 9 and Luke 9). Let’s take a look at these two stories and see if possibly Jesus, the second Moses, was emulating and fulfilling what had happened to Moses himself during the Exodus. At this point it would be helpful if you took the time to read all accounts of both stories.

  1. In both stories the main characters go up on a high mountain with God
  2. In both stories three men go with the main character. Moses takes Joshua, Aaron and Hur and Jesus takes Peter, James and John.
  3. In both cases, a cloud covered the mountain.
  4. In Exodus 24:16, it says,”For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the 7th day the Lord called to Moses. In both Matthew and Mark, the gospel writers are careful to tell us that it was six days that Jesus took the disciples upon the mountain.
  5. In both stories nothing happened for six days and then on the seventh day, God spoke.
  6. In both stories God spoke from the cloud
  7. In both stories God’s glory appeared and changed or transfigured the appearance of the principal figures as they were spoken to by God. (See also Exodus 34:29-30)
  8. The Glory of God “settled” on both mountains (Exodus 24:16 and Mark 9:7)

The Hebrew word for settle is “shakan” (Strong’s 7931) and means, ”to settle temporarily or to tent, or abide in a temporary dwelling.” Is it possible that Peter realized that Jesus was reconstructing the Moses story? Is he thinking, “What can we do to bring shakan like the Moses story?” So he says, “Let’s build something temporary (like shakan) – let’s put up some tents to duplicate the Sinai experience.” In Hebrew, the word mishkan, a derivative of shakan is used to say tent or tabernacle. Shakan is also where we get the word Shekinah, to mean God’s glory, or the divine presence. Peter wasn’t just trying to think of something to do, he knew the story!

Luke adds a wonderful exclamation point in his account of the transfiguration. It says in Luke 9:31, ”They spoke of his departure”. The Greek word for departure is “Exodos” (Strong’s 1841) and when “Exodos” is used in the New Testament, it is almost always used in conjunction with the actual Exodus story. The use of this Greek word wonderfully links Jesus death and resurrection with God rescuing his people out of Egypt.

Further proof that Jesus was fulfilling his role as the second Moses is found in Deuteronomy 18:15, where God tells Moses that, ”He will raise up another Prophet that will be like me” and then says, ”Listen to Him.” These are the exact same words that God uses at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:5): ”This is my Son, Listen to Him.”

This comparison of Mt Sinai with the Mount of Transfiguration is just another convincing proof that the Bible is one long thread that is intricately and brilliantly woven together. We just have to look for the connections.

Pack Your Tambourine

Aaron’s sister Miriam was a prophet. She took a tambourine in her hand. All the women followed her. They played tambourines and danced. Miriam sang to them,
  “Sing to the Lord.
    He is greatly honored.
  He has thrown Pharaoh’s horses and their riders
    into the Red Sea.”
Exodus 15

One of the best devotions I have heard in a long time was given while we were in Egypt, reliving and tracing the Exodus story.  Scott Heare, a pastor from San Antonio, Texas, began the devotion time by telling a story that occurred when his wife was in labor with their second child. Expecting a normal delivery with no problems, the Heare’s were suddenly in deep trouble. Without warning, the baby’s heart beat dropped dramatically and the wife’s blood pressure skyrocketed. As the doctors and nurses scrambled to handle the situation, Scott began to fervently pray and ask God to intervene in their situation. Immediately, as he began to pray, God began to give him a peace, that despite the graveness of the situation, everything was going to turn out fine. Despite having some harrowing moments, the doctors were able to stabilize the situation and the Heare’s were able to rejoice with a normal, healthy baby. Scott then said that all of us have had or will have moments in our lives when our backs are up against the wall and the situation will look hopeless. In moments like these, our only hope is to turn to and rely on the God of Heaven to intervene on our behalf. When the crisis passes, then we can rejoice in God delivering us and bringing us out of our tough situation.

Scott then related the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, with the Egyptians breathing down their necks. From night to morning, the situation went from hopeless to a miraculous rescue at the hand of the God of Israel. The Israelites stood on the bank, with dead Egyptians lying on the shore, and praised God and sang and danced. Then Miriam pulled out a tambourine and began to lead the women in singing and dancing and praise to the Lord for what he had done for them.

What in the world was Miriam doing with a tambourine? When the Israelites left Egypt on Passover, they left in great haste. They just had time to grab a few necessary items and leave. They were headed out to the desert, a place that they had not been before, and the Egyptians were sure to follow. A tambourine, you would have thought, would have been pretty low on the list of priorities of things to take with you.

Miriam, though, packed her tambourine! She sensed that there would be time coming in the future where there would be occasion to rejoice and sing and dance! Although she didn’t know where she was going, or how it would turn out, she was counting on God to miraculously provide! We worship a God who provides a place to dance, even in the midst of the toughest circumstances. Wherever you go, whatever tough situation you find yourself in, God will be with you! Don’t forget to pack your tambourine!!

Adonai Nissi: The Lord, Our Banner

In Exodus 17:15, after the Israelites were victorious over the Amalekites at Rephidim, it says that Moses built an altar there and called it Adonai Nissi, or” the Lord is our banner”. I had heard this term before, when a pastor preached on the names of God, such as “Jireh” provider, “Rapha” our healer, and others. But, I never had a real clear picture of how the Lord could be a banner, until I went to Egypt.

Tenth Pylon

Tenth Pylon

First of all, “Nissi” means banner, standard, ensign, or marker. The flagpole and banner were very meaningful, even back in ancient civilization. As we began to study the Pharaoh’s at their temples, we learned that they used the flagpole to display their banners in front of every structure. They built huge, elaborate entrances to their temples and used the flagpoles to decorate the entrances. They would build a series of pylons along the front with an indentation every so often. In these recesses would go huge flagpoles, up to 100 feet high, with the banners of the king.

In fact, the hieroglyphic symbol for kingship or authority, god, and temple is the flag and flagpole. We saw this all over Egypt, carved into their stories in stone. They were saying, “He is our King, everything we do we do for Him.”

Later in the Exodus story, Numbers 21:8-9, Moses puts a snake on a pole, and it becomes like a banner.



Also, in Isaiah 11:1-10, especially verse 10 – “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples…”. Then Jesus says in John 3:14-15 – “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” As we have seen so often in studying the Exodus, it always ties back to Jesus. The banner that Moses lifts up becomes pictures of our Messiah 1500 years later.
The Lord Almighty, and his son Jesus are our banners, our ensigns, our standard and, everything we do, we do for them.

This was another great example to me that if you know the culture and history, the story was easier to understand. I now have a good mental picture of the Lord, being our banner. He is our king and we wave his banner high!

Spaghetti: The Bible Is One Long Thread

It has been exciting and a blessing to see how the Bible ties together so amazingly. It’s like a big long spaghetti noodle. When you pull it out of the bowl it just stays together all the way through. As we read and walk the Exodus story we begin to realize the common thread runs throughout all the major Bible stories.

In Genesis, God created man and woman so that He could fellowship with him. In Genesis 3, He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. But then sin entered the world ,first as individual sin, eating the fruit and Cain killing Abel. Then sin began to multiply and became institutional.

Construction of the Ark

Construction of the Ark

Moses discovered in basket (Rembrandt)

Moses discovered in basket (Rembrandt)

It continued to develop until it finally became a kingdom of evil and God has to do something. In Genesis 6:5, it says that the Lord saw how great man’s wickedness was and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was to do only evil all the time. So He sent the flood and destroyed all mankind. However, He saves a remnant of mankind in an Ark (Hebrew tebah – Strong’s 8392) to start over. The word tebah is only used two times in the Bible, once here and once to describe what Moses was put in, on the Nile.

God starts over and makes a covenant with Noah. Once again sin starts as individual sins, but it multiplies into an evil kingdom at the Tower of Babel. At that time, the Bible says there were 70 nations (Genesis 10:2; note 14 from Japheth, 30 from Ham, 26 from Shem). God scattered them over all the earth as He cannot tolerate evil as a kingdom.

God starts over again with His plan to have a people for himself, with Abraham. Fast forward to Joseph and his experience in Egypt. In Genesis 46:27, it says that Joseph’s family numbered 70 in all. 70 nations grow out of Babel, and Joseph comes down as 70 nations.

God saves Moses with a tebah (ark) and uses him to start the process again of saving and starting over with His people. He sends them out on Passover, after killing the firstborn of the evil kingdom of Egypt that had been developed as a result of individual and corporate sin.

God continues to do the Exodus story when His son died on Passover, the day they left Egypt. He died as the Passover lamb. God is still doing the Exodus story today. Our culture is like Egypt.
The point is, the Bible repeats itself over and over with the Exodus story, with God wanting to have a people who are a royal priesthood, a holy nation. God is in the process constantly of redeeming His own.

Kingdom of Heaven Begins

Finger of God

Finger of God

The idea of the Kingdom of Heaven is born in the Hebrew Bible with the story of the Exodus. What is meant by the Kingdom of Heaven? It is a very important concept to get a hold of.

John the Baptizer came preaching in the Desert of Judea saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”. This phrase,” Kingdom of Heaven”, occurs 33 times just in Matthew. Jesus, in Matthew 4:17 began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” In almost every parable, He says the “Kingdom of Heaven” is like…

Paul, in Acts 28:31, says, “Boldly and without hindrance He preached the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. Mark and Luke use the phrase” Kingdom of God” to say the same thing. This phrase occurs over 30 times in Luke. In Luke 9:1 when Jesus sent the twelve out, He sent them to preach the” Kingdom of God”. In Matthew 10:7 Jesus tells His disciples, “As you go, preach this message, the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Although the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” doesn’t actually appear in the Hebrew Testament, it occurs 120 times in the New Testament. The Hebrew phrase is “Malchut Shamayim” which would have been a common phrase to their world. The phrase was used in a pious way to avoid using the actual name of God, which was commanded in Exodus 20. So you would think of a synonym for God. God was the God of Heaven, so use heaven as a synonym for His name. If you look it up, Jesus never used God’s name in the New Testament, He calls Him Father. In Luke and Acts the phrase Kingdom of God was used when they were writing to the Gentiles. Kingdom of God = Kingdom of Heaven.

Even though the expression” Kingdom of Heaven” or” Kingdom of God” does not actually occur in the Hebrew Testament, the one fundamental theological statement that is made in the O.T. is that God is the Ruling Lord, He is God, alone, and He alone is reigning on the throne of His kingdom. This is what is meant by the “Kingdom of God”. In Hebrew, the word translated kingdom (Malkuth) is a dynamic word signifying royal power, just as the English, kingdom, means the authority and power of a king. In the biblical tradition, the idea of the “Kingdom of God” is God’s exercise of His royal power (see David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11). To have a kingdom, you must have a king that is ruling and reigning over it.

The great example that serves as a pattern for the rest of the Bible, of God’s exercise of His sovereign power, is the Exodus. The events of God’s delivering His people out of the slavery of Egypt to the Promised Land were viewed by the Bible writers as the pattern for all His future acts of kingly power. Prophets looked for a second Exodus that would be greater than the first (see Isaiah 51:9-11 and Hosea 2:14-25), where the Kingdom of God would show up in power under the rule of His representative, the Messiah. The writings of the Essene community at Qumran showed that they believed the” Kingdom of God” was among them now.

Jesus said in Mark 1:14-15, that the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. This appears to mean that the time for waiting is over; God is now initiating the Second Exodus. When Jesus’ read the Isaiah 60 and 61 passages that predict the 2nd Exodus and the arrival of the Messiah, He says, “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. It’s here, the kingdom is here! So the concept of the” Kingdom of God’ is interwoven throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. But the concept of the “Kingdom of Heaven”, the place where it was born, where God first shows up in great kingly power to his people, is the Exodus, in Egypt. All the rest of the Bible is shaped by the Exodus. It is the pattern by which the rest of the Bible develops. What was the pattern?

Hathor & Osiris

Hathor & Osiris: gods of Egypt

The Kingdom of Heaven starts when God acts in great power and the finger of God shows up (Exodus 8:19, 31:18, and Psalms 8:3, Luke 11:20) – also similar phrase the “hand of the Lord”. Pharaoh’s magicians recognized these great powers as they saw the miracles of the plagues unfold. They told Pharaoh, this is just the finger of this God working, as if to say, what would happen if He put his back or legs into it. You better not mess with this God, He is all powerful.

After bringing the miraculous 10 plagues on the Egyptians and defeating the Egyptian gods, God leads his people out to a place where they camped at Pi Hahiroth. Here, He again acts in unbelievable power as the waters of the sea are parted and the Israelites walk through on dry ground. This leads to the 2nd step of the Kingdom, people call Him Lord. Exodus 14:31 says “And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in Him and in Moses his servant.”. They stood on the bank of the sea and danced and sang a song to God and called Him Lord. He is our God; we will follow Him, and not the old ones we used to follow in Egypt. “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord”, says chap 15 vs. 11. Think about that based on where they had just come from. The Lord will reign forever and ever says vs. 18. The children of Israel have finally decided who the King is! It’s not Pharaoh or the gods of Egypt who they were to serve.

What started as a night of great terror for the people turned into a great victory, by the finger of God. They came out of the water a different nation. Here, the nation of Israel was born, through wind (ruah) fire and water. The Red Sea became a birth canal through which they emerged as a new people. This is the first time a whole community of people called Him King. It is interesting to note here that the people were saved first and then believed. Our philosophy is that you believe first and then you are saved.

Immediately after this great miraculous saving experience God takes his people out into the harshest desert in the world. This is the third part of the Kingdom of Heaven story:

  1. The finger of God shows up and acts in great power
  2. People see and call Him Lord and King, and
  3. People obey the king.

God is saying you have called me King? Are you sure? Let me show you how to make me your king. Let me take you out to the desert. We’re going to leave the fertile place, the place with lots of water and food, and we’re going to go to a place where it’s hot and dry and you will have to count on me for your food and water. If you obey me in these circumstances I will make you a kingdom of priests.

Are you going to be willing to take on the yoke of obedience in your daily life? If you’re going to call me King and Lord, then you must go out and do my will. I want my will to be done. To call Him Lord we must be obedient to Him.

The Kingdom of Heaven is found in the desert. God did not let his children go the easy way. He led them into the most severe desert in the world, “to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger…to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”. Deut 8:2-4 (also read rest of Deut 8). The desert is the place where He gently and patiently takes us to teach us and demand from us, obedience. God’s desert plan is to put us in tough circumstances so we can see who we are and what we are doing here, and what is in our hearts. We can’t get away with just calling Him King; we have to make Him King, by being obedient, by actually serving Him and doing his will.

It seems, in the church today, we want to see the finger of God, and we want to see His great power displayed. We like calling Him Lord and King with our praise songs, but to submit to His will? We want very little to do with the obedience part. The Kingdom of Heaven shows up when people obey, it doesn’t come without obedience.

Exodus 19:4-6 says it perfectly: “‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ “. This conversation took place at Mt. Sinai and God was extending his covenant relationship to all the nation of Israel. This was an outgrowth of the covenant He had set up with Abraham in Genesis 15, 600 years earlier. “Now if you will” and “then I will” are covenant expressions. If what? If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then what? He will make us His treasured possession and we will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Israel was to be God’s kingdom (the people who acknowledge the fact that you are our King), and like priests we are to be wholly set apart to do his bidding, His will and His service. We are to be a holy nation – a nation that is set apart both individually and collectively as different, distinct people that are doing His will. We are to be set apart that much that we are like priests serving in God’s kingdom. We don’t call Him king, we make Him king.

In summary, we have grossly under stressed obedience. The Lord’s people should be a people who are called to and driven by obedience. We want to make our king dance like He made us dance. We should want to do everything in our power to make Him king. Obedience is always the response to grace. How else could we respond to what He’s done for us? We must walk as Jesus walked, must do what He says. I hope I can catch the importance of this in my life so His kingdom will come to me right now where I am, not just someday in heaven.

Thoughts at the Red Sea

Shore of the Red Sea

Shore of the Red Sea

After spending the previous evening reliving the “night of watching” on the banks of the Red Sea, we went the next morning to another Red Sea location to film the story of the Israelites coming out of the water. There, it was brought home to me again, that they didn’t know the ending of the story like we did when they stepped in between those two walls of water. The story says that the Egyptians rode into the Sea after them. Will they come out on the other side also? Ex 14:30 says the Egyptians were laying dead on the shore, so they must have gotten pretty close in their pursuit. How would the Hebrew have people felt? What kind of power is this? Ex 14:31 says “when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses his servant.” They got it! YHWH is God! And they broke out in song in chapter 15 “I will sing to YHWH (not other gods) “He has become my salvation.” He divided sea, this is my God! I’ll leave everything behind, no more Egypt and their gods. The parallels of crossing the Red Sea with our salvation are amazing. Calvary is our Exodus and the Red Sear our baptism. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, it was a birth canal through which a new people were born. The water is the grace part of salvation. We had to make a commitment by following Him and stepping in the water, but it was all God that took us through to the other side. The Israelites were saved by grace, just like we are – God took them out. At some point in our salvation experience we had to say, this is my God! I believe Him, I know Him now”, just like the Israelites did.

Celebrating the Crossing

Celebrating the Crossing

The people praised Him there on the banks of the Sea. The Hebrew can be translated not only to mean to “give credit” but also “oasis” or pleasant place to live” and can be translated “This is my God; I will be the place He lives”. The concept of us being God’s temple was already here at the Red Sea. The Israelites were saying, we can’t offer much, but if you want us, we give you our all! They danced for joy because Pharaoh was right behind them ready to wipe them out and YHWH saved them. Can you see why they would be so overwhelmed that they would jump for joy and sing?

A Jew will tell you that this is where the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven began. God acted in great power, like a king and his people called him King. To have a kingdom, you must have a king and his subjects.

If you continue to follow the parallels, being saved was not the end of the story, it was merely the beginning. If the water was the grace, then the desert is the response. We are not going to get to stand on the bank forever. Now comes the obedience part. God says, I not only want you to call me Lord, I want you to make me Lord by the way you live your life. I am going to show you what it means to make me Lord. Jesus said, “your kingdom come, your will be done.” We didn’t have to do the will of the father to get across the sea; we just had to make a commitment (that’s the grace part). Now let’s go out into the desert and let me start shaping you into what I want you to become. That’s the obedience part. He doesn’t want you to just tell him. The language He wants is obedience – now make me Lord, by the way you live. Obedience is never a burden, it is never legalism; rather, it is pleasing to God. Would you marry someone who only loved you because of what they got from you? When He takes us out of bondage and saves us by his grace, we have to leave all of Egypt behind. We must leave all the other gods, no matter how big. We can’t still have Egypt in our soul, we must leave it. God gets the Egypt out of us by taking us to the desert. We shouldn’t look at the desert as a disaster, but as a honeymoon where we get to know God and his provision for us. Be careful about how far you take grace. God did it all; He brought us out of bondage and put us on the banks of the Red Sea. But his salvation didn’t stop there, it started there. Now we have to go to the desert of life with Him and let Him shape us. We are working out our salvation.

Philippians 2:12b-13: “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”