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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

December 20, 2017

Exodus  23:17-33

  1. Verses 17-19. On last week we discussed three feasts/festivals that the Lord required of the Hebrews to attend every year. The Passover (symbolizing Christ sacrifice), the Feast of Unleavened bread (accepting Jesus as your bread of life), and the Feast of First fruits (symbolizing our resurrection with Christ 1 Cor 15:23), then we have the Feast of Tabernacles (symbolizing our abiding in God Matthew 1:23). These feasts were all designed to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. All of the festivals were signs/shadows of things to come and fulfilled in Christ (Hebrews 10). On top of the specifics of each festival, God gives some additional rules to be maintained during all feasts.

    1. All men are required to show up. God commanded that the men come to the festivals to be reminded of God’s presence and provision in the lives of their families and communities. Women had the option, but the men were required to attend. I think it is interesting that the men have to be commanded to come. Probably because men would easily think of a reason not to come.

    2. Eliminate all yeast from the offerings. Yeast was a symbol of sin, so the absence of yeast was a picture of a sinless sacrifice. Yeast is used symbolically in the Bible to represent influence, usually negatively. Just as a little bit of yeast, works through and permeates dough, thereby producing a noticeable result (that is, the bread rises), so does influence, be it good or bad. In the Old Testament, there are 32 references to not using yeast in various religious practices. Symbolically, the removal of yeast from the bread shows the removal of sin from our life. This theme continues in Judges 6:19, 1 Samuel 28:24, and Ezekiel 45:21. Paul says that false teaching is like yeast (Galatians 5:9). Another negative connotation appears in Matthew 16:6-12, Mark 8:14-15, and Luke 12:1 where Jesus warns to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees (which Luke likens to hypocrisy) and also the Sadducees (per Matthew) and Herod (per Mark). A final reference to yeast is in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, where Paul uses yeast as a metaphor for boasting. Paul instructs that we are to get rid of bread with old yeast (representing malice and wickedness) and to use new bread without yeast (which represents sincerity and truth).

    3. The fat of the animal sacrifice must be burnt up/consumed by fire completely. This is a picture of God’s complete purging of sin. Fire is a cleansing agent that burns away all impurities. To leave the fat incompletely burned up would be a sign of an incomplete cleansing. God’s holiness is the reason for His being a consuming fire, and it bums up anything unholy. The holiness of God is that part of His nature that must separate Him from sinful man. In both Deuteronomy passages in which God is called a consuming fire, Moses is speaking first to warn the Israelites against idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:23-25) because God is a “jealous God” and will not share His glory with worthless idols. Idolatry provokes Him to a righteous anger which is justified when His holiness is disrespected. In Deuteronomy 9:3, Moses again refers to God as a consuming (or devouring) fire who would go ahead of the Israelites into the Promised Land, destroying and subduing their enemies before them. Here again we see God’s wrath against those who oppose Him depicted as fire that utterly consumes and destroys anything in His path.

    4. A reminder to bring the best/first fruits of the sacrifices to the festivals. This is a picture of faith and giving God the best. Giving God the first and the best was an act of faith hoping God would provide the rest you need. The festivals were designed to teach men how to trust God and lead their communities in faith.

    5. We are not sure why God forbids, the boiling of meat in milk, but we do know some of the local pagan religions practiced this. This could be a way for the Hebrews to differentiate their sacrifices from those of the pagans. Some scholars think it has something to do with the baby calf being boiled in that which was to give it life…the milk. We really don’t know for sure.

  2. Verses 20-21. This angel would serve to guide the people of Israel through their wilderness journey until He had finally brought them into the Promised Land of Canaan. This angel was no mere angel, He was the Angel of the Lord, an Old Testament manifestation of Christ Himself--note that the Lord declares, “My Name is in Him” (verse 21). The Angel of the Lord is seen as the pre-incarnate Christ. Christ without the earthly body, but in angelic form. Because this angel has been sent by God, and is in fact Christ the Lord, the people are instructed and warned, “Pay attention to him.” They must not disregard the Word of God as it was communicated by the Angel of the Lord nor may they treated Him with contempt. Furthermore, the people are instructed to obey Him. In other words, not only must they reverently listen to Him, they must respond to His instructions and commandments with faith and obedience. Finally, they are warned, “Do not provoke him.” That is to say, the people must not rebel against Him, rejecting His divine lordship over their lives. The reason the people are warned to obey Christ and not provoke Him is due to the fact that “he will not pardon your transgression” (verse 2l). The King James renders that verse “He will not forgive sins”, but a better translation is he won’t allow for compromise or deviation/transgression from God’s plan. “Transgression” has the meaning of willful, stubborn, determined and defiant disobedience without repentance--it is refusal to yield.

  3. Verses 22-30. God tells the people that the Angel of the Lord would lead them to the promise land and would defeat all of God’s enemies. God tells the people that He will cut off the peoples and to not partake in their wicked religious practices. We gain some understanding of what the pagan Canaanite worship entailed when we consider 2 Kings 21:1-9, 16-17, a passage that describes how the ungodly Israelite king, Manasseh, followed “the detestable practices of the nations” (who occupied the land of Canaan). Baal and Asherah were the chief god and goddess of a pagan fertility cult. Baal worship apparently had its origin in the belief that every tract of ground owed its productivity to a supernatural being, or baal, that dwelt there (Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, p.53). The pagan view was that nature was inhabited by spirits that had to be appeased (sometimes by infant sacrifices) and pleased (by sexual orgies) in order for it to yield its fruit. We are further informed that Manasseh “bowed down to all the starry host and worshiped them”--a reference to astrology, the belief that the life and circumstances of men are governed by the heavens, and the secrets of the future can be ascertained by the use of astrologers. There was also the practice of consulting mediums and wizards and the use of enchantments (incantations, charms, spells, etc.), all for the purpose of tapping into the supernatural and seeking to harness its power. All of these practices were satanic in nature and demonic. God forbids his people to partake in any of these practices. Full obedience to God’s commands would bring long life and many descendants. God also promises to handle all of the enemies of the Hebrews supernaturally. God even states that he will remove them little by little because the Hebrew people are not ready to handle the land by themselves. This is all a picture of how we need to allow God to remove our old ways so that our new ways can take over. God also knows that he cannot always take the old out too fast, because it might be too much for us to handle.

  4. Verses 31-33. The remaining verses deal with the idea that once the people settle in the land that God has prepared for them, they are to obey God and not bind themselves to the nations that serve other gods or serve other gods themselves. Serving false gods would always lead the people away from the commands of God.

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