(Exodus 34, John 13; Optional Psalm 58, Proverbs 15:15-19)
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EXODUS 34 – Even though they’ve so grievously sinned (see Ex 32:7ff), God responds to Moses’ intercession by re-writing the two tablets with the summary of His Law (replacing the tablets that Moses broke in his anger over how the people had broken God’s Law – see Ex 32:15-20), highlighting particularly relevant sections on true worship, and graciously re-affirming His covenant with Israel. The revelation of Yahweh’s glory and character to Moses (prepared for in Ex 33:18-23 and carried out in 34:5-7) is THE CORNERSTONE / FOUNDATION of Old Testament Theology (doctrine of God). It is repeatedly referred to and quoted. And all this just after heinous sin against God – how gracious and forgiving is our God!!
Ex 34:6-7 – In letting Moses see a glimpse of the glory of who Yahweh really is (see the preparation for this in Ex 33:18-23), God starts with His abundant mercy / grace / undeserved steadfast love. But then He’s very clear that His abundant grace / love / mercy is NOT at the expense or diminishing of His justice. This sets up a riddle that is not fully answered until Jesus gives His life on the cross as BOTH the ultimate display of undeserved faithful love / grace / mercy (Rom 5:8), but ALSO the ultimate display of God’s righteous wrath against sin and justice (meditate on Rom 3:21-28). Many today are puzzled by how God can be so HARSH. That’s NOT the wonderment in Scripture! The puzzle there is how can God be perfectly holy and just AND so gracious and forgiving on sinners like us?! And the answer, revealed in Jesus, is that for those who trust in Jesus God has already poured out His righteous wrath on His own Son IN OUR PLACE, so that He can show grace and favor toward us who believe in Jesus.
Ex 34:8-9 – When God displays some of His glory by revealing His character, Moses immediately appeals to the grace and mercy God has just revealed. He does NOT ask based on how deserving Israel is (they only DESERVED judgment, just like we all do), but based on how gracious God is and faithful as Covenant Keeper.
Ex 34:8-28 – God reaffirms His covenant with Israel, highlighting commands He’s already given about true worship (since they had just shown how little they understood about true worship).
Ex 34:11-17 – God wants there to be a RADICAL DIFFERENCE between His people and the rest of the world!
Ex 34:17 – They had just disobeyed this with the golden calf (the Hebrew here is the same as Ex 32:4)!
Ex 34:19-20 – A reminder that they ALL belong to God, and there must be either REDEMPTION (paying the price and being rescued from death) OR DEATH. See a similar reminder for us today in Jn 3:16-18, 36.
Ex 34:21 – Even in intense seasons of work like planting and harvesting, they were to set the work aside and REST.
Ex 34:23-24 – In my margin, I’ve written “S! Sovereignty of God over DESIRES / DECISIONS, not just actions!” Compare Gen 20:6 – Abimelech’s will was definitely INVOLVED in him not sinning, but God gives a rare behind-the-scenes look at the ULTIMATE reason Abimelech didn’t sin – God KEPT him from sinning. Our wills ARE meaningfully involved in decisions and actions (and we WILL be held accountable – NEVER ok to blame God for sin), but God can easily CHANGE our desires / decisions / actions (also see Prov 21:1, Ps 105:25 – though God still held them accountable, Jer 42:12, Ezra 6:22, Acts 16:14, 2 Chron 30:12 and many more).
Ex 34:28 – God normally uses MEANS. Normally He has ordained that we’ll work hard, prepare and eat food and drink water. But God is not CONSTRAINED by means! He supernaturally sustained Moses so that he didn’t need food or drink for this whole time of meeting with God. God Himself is enough!
Ex 34:29-35 – This reveals one reason Moses veiled his face – even the reflected glow of God’s glory was frightening to the people (v 30). But 2 Cor 3:13-14 reveals another reason – as glorious as this time with God was, it was a TEMPORARY experience that faded over time. But the experience of EVERY believer (not just a leader like Moses) in Jesus is a PERMANENT access to the transforming glory of God! Compare Ex 34:34-35 with 2 Cor 3:16-18!
JOHN 13 – In His last night with the apostles before His crucifixion, Jesus shows tender love for the very ones who will abandon Him and deny Him. Note the emphasis on His love for them (Jn 13:1, 34), and compare Eph 5:25-33. This was revolutionary in our marriage as I prayed for God’s help in leading in our marriage by applying this kind of sacrificial, serving love. If you’re NOT married (or your marriage is troubled), meditate on how loved Christians are by Jesus. Then go love other believers like this (see Jn 13:15)!
Jn 13:1, 3 – Notice how focused Jesus is on WHO He is in relation to God the Father and that He will soon be back with His Father in heaven. THAT is how He’s thinking as He serves in the lowest, most humbling, dirty job in the room. We’ll be helped in serving humbly and joyfully if we remember who WE are in our identity as belonging to God and that we’ll soon be back with Him – eternal perspective.
Jn 13:4 – Compare 1 Pet 5:5, where believers are commanded to clothe OURSELVES with humility toward one another. We know from Lk 22 why no one had done this important but gross job of washing dirty feet – they were yet again arguing over who was the greatest. And, since they walked everywhere in open-toed sandals on dusty streets where animals relieved themselves, this was the VERY LOWEST job. Only the lowest servant had to do this. Notice Peter’s very strong reaction in v 6-8.
Jn 13:7 – So much of the Christian life is like this!
Jn 13:8 – Of course Jesus’ response is referring even more to Him taking our uncleanness on Himself at the cross. His washing feet was symbolic of our need for cleansing.
Jn 13:10-11 – Jesus touched on two truths – 1) Those that trusted in Him were already cleansed overall, but just need regular touch-up cleansing for daily sins. 2) Not quite the whole group of Apostles WAS cleansed overall, because of the exception of Judas (also see Jn 6:70-71, 17:12 – Judas was NOT a true follower of Jesus, though the others couldn’t see that yet – see Jn 13:21-22).
Jn 13:10 – Huge implications for the daily life of a believer. We have once-for-all-time JUDICIAL forgiveness from God the moment we trust in Jesus. In this ultimate, overall meaning our sins are CLEANSED. But day to day we get dirtied by sin and should confess our sins (1 John 1:9) and appropriate FATHERLY forgiveness from our heavenly Father. Although a believer would still go to heaven if they die with unconfessed sin (and we all will, because we’re not even aware of all our sins), when we BECOME aware of our sin, we need to confess at as sin and make things right in a way that restores the sweetness of our relationship with our heavenly Father. If one of my kids sins against me, they’re still my child, but hopefully they’ll want to make things right between us relationally.
Jn 13:12-17 – Servant leadership does NOT mean forgetting who the leader truly is. Jesus has humbly served the very ones who will in a few hours run away (on those newly washed feet) and deny Him (see v 36-38). Then He sits down and teaches authoritatively as their Lord.
Jn 13:15 – Compare 1 Pet 5:2-3 about how pastors are to lead God’s flock by example, not by domineering with their authority. Jesus is NOT giving a command to start washing feet in our churches, because we don’t have ANY commands about that in the rest of the NT. [Contrast the Lord’s Supper which is further commanded and given specific instructions about in 1 Cor 11:23-31.] Jesus IS commanding that we be quick to serve even in the lowest, most gross and most humbling tasks. When trying to apply this as a young husband/father, I asked my wife Becky about her least favorite tasks. So it became my application goal to change as many of our kids’ diapers and clean as many toilets as I could.
Jn 13:17 – Bible study tip: blessing doesn’t mostly come from KNOWING a truth intellectually, but in APPLYING it to daily life!
Jn 13:27 – Jesus is sovereignly directing the details of His own sacrificial death.
Jn 13:34 – Commands to love one another are scattered through the OT law, so THAT’s not what’s new. What’s new is 1) the power to obey that comes from first being loved OURSELVES by Jesus. 2) The comparison of how FULLY to love – just as He loves us. And a key part of that love is that He loves us while we’re still sinners and completely undeserving of that love (compare Rom 5:8 and Jn 13:36-38).
Optional Psalm 58 – Though this Psalm may sound shocking to our modern ears, God HATES when rulers are unjust and WILL bring full and wrathful justice one day! Tremble at God’s righteous wrath poured out on His own Son when He took our sins on Him as the perfect Sacrifice. For ALL that turn to Jesus in faith (no matter how bloody or tyrannical they MAY have been – see the violent unsaved persecutor in Gal 1:13 amazed at his salvation even though “chief of sinners” in 1 Tim 1:15-16), Jesus Himself has taken their bloody punishment. But for all others, God WILL bring justice one day, and believers are given Psalms like this to give us God-inspired words to express our horror at tyranny and to call out to God for vengeance and justice, remembering that those things ultimately belong to HIM.
Optional Proverbs 15:15-19 – Although several Proverbs extol wealth gotten by honest hard work and careful self-discipline that can be used to help others, there are plenty like Pr 15:16-17 that remind us that there are many things more important than money.