When our Bible study focuses intently on each passage, one after another, we may find it difficult to step back and see how they fit together. But we must remember the Bible is a work of literature. It was not written to be scrutinized in bites; it was written to be devoured in gobbles. We should remember to read the Bible as we’d read any other book: moving through it at a reasonable pace and recognizing ongoing themes, climax, resolution, and character development. When we hit milestones in the text, we should take the opportunity to survey where we’ve been and how it fits together.
So, now that we’ve seen the breaking and repairing of Yahweh’s covenant with Israel, it’s a good time to catch our breath. From this point in Exodus, we’ll see the detailed obedience of the people in constructing a tent for Yahweh. But where have we been so far?
Let me list the main points I’ve proposed for each passage in this section:
- Exodus 32:1-35: God has a superior solution to our most troubling trouble. He can make a way to bring us back to him.
- Exodus 33:1-23: Full atonement = forgiveness + reconciliation.
- Exodus 34:1-28: The glory of Yahweh’s new covenant lies in total restoration and a more intimate relationship than ever before.
- Exodus 34:29-35: Yahweh’s new and repaired covenant is far more glorious than was the first covenant, before there was any need of repair—but only if it’s here to stay.
In addition, my overview of the whole book led me to this overall main point:
Who is Yahweh, and why should you obey him? He is the God who 1) demolishes the house of slavery (Ex 1-15), 2) prepares to rebuild (Ex 16-18), and 3) builds his house in the midst of his people (Ex 19-40).
The main idea of Act I (Ex 1:1-15:21) was that Yahweh demolishes the house of slavery. He does this in two parts:
- He trains up a qualified mediator to deliver (Ex 1:1-7:7).
- He delivers his people from their enemies into a frightful joy (Ex 7:8-15:21).
The main idea of Act II (Ex 15:22-18:27) was that Yahweh prepares the house of his people by showing them they need his law to know him.
Now in Act III, Yahweh builds his house in the midst of his people. We’ve already covered two parts:
- In Part 1 (Ex 19:1-24:18), God prepares the conditions for a perfect paradise with his people, where they can draw near to him through the blood of a substitute.
- In Part 2 (Ex 25:1-31:18), God delivers blueprints for a tent, so he can re-create heaven on earth by living among his people.
Pull It Together
Now what do these things show us about the flow of thought in chapters 32-34? We are in between the tabernacle’s instructions and the tabernacle’s construction. In giving the tabernacle instructions, how does God build his house?
- Act I describes God’s deliverance of his people. Act II shows how God prepares them for a covenant relationship with him. Act III now constructs that covenant relationship.
- Part 1: Exodus 19-24 opens the gates of paradise by drawing the people close through the blood of a substitute and endowing them with a utopian vision.
- Part 2: Exodus 25-31 recreates heaven on earth, proposing a place where God will dwell with his people, through a series of building plans.
- Part 3: Exodus 32-34 now shows us what happens when a righteous God tries to live with a sinful people.
- Exodus 32:1-35 shows that sin remains alive and well, even in a redeemed people, but it suggests there still might be a way to make the relationship work.
- Exodus 33:1-23 describes the formula for repair; forgiveness is not enough without reconciliation.
- Exodus 34:1-28 proves it is possible to find such reconciliation and draw closer to Yahweh than ever before.
- Exodus 34:29-35 illustrates the glorious implications of such complete reconciliation, while leaving us wishing it wouldn’t fade but be settled once and for all.
These chapters show us that our relationship with God involves more than a legal transaction, such that he is only obligated to take us back after he redeems us. This relationship with God involves an intimate connection and a deep friendship unlike anything we’ve experienced. And believe it or not, this relationship—after we sinned and rebelled and were brought back—is better than what we had with him at first. Our delight and satisfaction can be no greater than when we get more of him.
Act I: Yahweh demolishes the house of slavery (Ex 1-15).
Introduction: Nobody can prevent Yahweh from keeping his promises, but we’re not sure how he’ll do it (Ex 1).
Part 1: Yahweh appoints a mediator and ensures he is fully qualified and trained for the task of deliverance (Ex 2:1-7:7).
Part 2: Yahweh delivers a deserved destruction to his enemies and a frightful joy to his people (Ex 7:8-15:21).
Act II: Yahweh prepares to rebuild by exposing how deeply his people need his law to know him (Ex 16-18).
Act III: Yahweh builds his house in the midst of his people (Ex 19-40).
Part 1: Yahweh architects a perfect paradise for the community of his people, so he can bring them near through the blood of a substitute (Ex 19-24).
Part 2: Yahweh explains how his people can re-create this paradise on earth (Ex 25-31).
Part 3: Yahweh hands them something more glorious than paradise; he hands them more of himself (Ex 32-34).
Gaze Upon Jesus
Like a shot of dopamine to the brain’s pleasure centers, this section stimulates our deepest joys and leaves us desperate for more. If only it could be so. If only we could see his glory (John 1:14). If only we could be with him forever (John 14:3, 1 Thess 4:17). If only we could have assurance that he will never again move out (Heb 13:5-6). If only we, too, could become partakers in the divine nature (2 Pet 1:3-4). If only we could be not only saved but also reconciled (Rom 5:10-11). If only we could build a place to live with God (Rev 21:2-4), be his people (Rev 21:7), see the light of his face, and worship him alone (Rev 22:1-5)—forever (2 Cor 3:16-18).
Dare I say it may, in fact, be so (Heb 1:1-4)?
Head: Understand your greatest need is not for more blessing or more forgiveness. What you need is more of the Lord.
Heart: Do you expect anything else to satisfy you?
Hands: Seek him. Love him. Abide in his word so you can abide in him (John 8:31-32). Rejoice in what Jesus has made possible. Praise him for his merciful inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1 Pet 1:3-4).
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