Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 17 March 2022:
Exodus 24:11 – And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.
“Corporate piety under the old covenant also included the covenant meal, the most important of which was eaten in Jerusalem at the Passover (Ex. 12)…. We will look at the idea of the covenant meal in general and the Lord’s Supper, which is the covenant meal of the New Testament church.
We speak of the covenant meal because food was an important part of covenant-making in the ancient Near East. Eating with other people was a significant event in ancient days, for only parties who were at peace could dine together. An illustration of this covenant meal and its attendant peace is seen in Genesis 31:51–54, where Laban and Jacob come to a truce and solemnize their pact with the breaking of bread.
Exodus 24:1–11 records an extraordinary covenant meal that is shared by the Lord and the elders of Israel. Having embraced God’s covenant, the elders of Israel are invited up on the mountain with Moses and the priests to see a vision of the Lord. We are not sure of what this vision actually entailed, but it was a glimpse of God’s glory, for the passage emphasizes what they saw at God’s feet, being unable to gaze at His face directly (vv. 9–10). It is likely that what the elders then ate in the presence of the Lord was the oxen of the peace offering (v. 5), burnt at the covenant-making ceremony (worshipers customarily ate the peace offering; see Lev. 3; 7:11–18).
In any case, that the meal was eaten at all demonstrates that God had made peace with these representatives of Israel and, therefore, the entire nation. Ordinarily, being in the divine presence would have resulted in the death of the sinner, for no unholy person can see the Lord’s face and live (Ex. 33:20). But when the Creator invites people into His presence, they are preserved, since it is His will to set them apart as holy and fit to stand before Him. He makes peace with His people before He calls them into His presence, so they need not fear destruction.
The peace with God that Israel enjoyed on the mountain lasted but a moment, and the history of the old covenant is one of war between the Lord and His unfaithful bride (Jer. 21:1–5; Hos. 1:2). A greater work would be done to secure eternal peace, commemorated by a greater meal that includes people from all nations (Isa. 25:6–8).” (Ligonier Ministries)
Acts 26:17-20 – “I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me…. that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”
The Bible is clear we are saved by faith, not by works or deeds – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9) However, the Bible is also clear that saving faith results in sanctification and the produce or fruit of good works – “deeds in keeping with their repentance.” As Ephesians 2 continues to state, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Our deeds are not the means to salvation but rather the evidence of our salvation, the natural result of salvation. Martin Luther said, because of our faith, we “freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, [and] love and praise the God who has shown [us] such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!”
Paul reminds us we are justified by faith, but we are also sanctified by faith as we progressively learn to step out in faith and obedience – “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) As the Father conforms us to the image of His Son, Jesus, He calls us to do many things that don’t make sense from the world’s point of view, and this takes faith, faith which is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but which we must employ. Certainly, Paul is a good example for us. Compelled by the love of Christ to spread the Gospel to as many as possible at all cost, his actions were baffling to most – “Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.’ …And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’” (Acts 26:24, 32)
How far are you willing to go in your faith to love God and others? “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) Are you ready to empty yourself, completely humble yourself, take up the form of a servant, take up your cross, and become obedient unto death? What did Jesus say? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Why was Paul so bold before those who could take his life? He had already died – “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) What about you?
- Hebrews 10:38 – “But my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 17 Mar 22: With full assurance of your salvation in Christ, ‘perform deeds in keeping with their repentance,’ while proclaiming Christ to as many as possible.