Exodus, chapters 38-40

“Then he [Bezalel] made the basin of copper and its copper stand; he used the mirrors of the women who were organized to serve at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
~Exodus 38:8

Since ancient times, women have played an important role in supporting God’s earthly endeavors.
Here, we see not only that they were self-sacrificing, (for mirrors must have been hard to come by in the desert) but also that they were organized.
Being organized implies being submissive to someone giving instructions.
Nowadays, “the women proclaiming the good news are a large army.” (Ps. 68:11)
I am going to make a rough estimate here and say that 75-80% of the time you see Jehovah’s Witnesses preaching, they will be women.
This might be because women tend to be more social than men, or more inclined to be verbally expressive, or perhaps in many cultures it is still more typical for the mother to stay at home and watch the kids, which gives some women a certain degree of flexibility in their schedules.
When we meet to make arrangements to go out and visit people, it is important to do it in an organized manner.
We must take to heart the various instructions we receive during our regular weekly meetings and carry them out as closely as possible while still using common sense.
Although we do not make up a literal army, we have to be willing to take directions through God’s chain of command.
By doing so, the worldwide congregation as a whole works more efficiently and we receive God’s blessing.
“For God is a God not of disorder but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33)


The half shekel for each individual was half a shekel by the standard shekel of the holy place for every man who was among those registered from 20 years of age and up, amounting to 603,550.
~Exodus 38:26

Mosaic law is crystal clear when drawing the line between boy and man.
20 years of age is a constant used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures for when a man was to be registered in order that he may serve the nation.
In this context, we see that even if a young man was still living with his parents, he was expected to make his own monetary contribution toward the Tabernacle building project.
Christian parents make a genuine effort to ‘go on bringing [their children] up in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah,’ (Eph. 6:4).
Upon entering adulthood, every person must decide for him/herself whether or not they will continue in that path, building up their own personal relationship with God without relying on their parents to tell them what is right or wrong.
Young Christian adults who vow to serve God are expected to forge their own name in spiritual terms and make their own spiritual contributions instead of lazily living off of their parents’ good name and works.

 

Exodus, chapters 34-37

“Let all who are skilled* among you come and make everything that Jehovah has commanded.”
~Exodus 35:10

*skilled: wise of heart

Jehovah extended out an invitation to all his people to volunteer and take part in the privilege of building the tabernacle, which was to be the center of true worship for around 500 years.
Today, we live in a time of great spiritual growth and enlightenment.
Despite society’s moral decay, “the path of the righteous […] grows brighter and brighter until full daylight,” (Prov. 4:18).
Prophecies relating to the abundance and accessibility of God’s word are being fulfilled as we venture further into “the time of the end.” (Dan. 12:4; Matt. 24:14)
Jesus extended an invitation into the future to those now living to join in the ‘harvest work,’ so to speak, and spread his father’s message. (Matt. 9:37,38)
We may feel inept, unworthy, or too insignificant to partake in the fulfillment of these prophecies, but as the footnote explains, “skilled” literally means “wise of heart” in the original language. This understanding enables us to see ourselves from God’s point of view.
King Solomon, one of the wisest men to have lived, describes someone with a wise heart as a person who knows “the right time and procedure,” or who knows “both time and judgment,” (Eccl. 8:5 {New World Translation}; {Reference Bible}).
This implies letting ourselves be guided by God’s spirit as we strive to display qualities such as faith and patience. (Ps. 37:7; Gal. 5:22,23)
Regardless of our origins, Jehovah God is the one choosing us to draw close to him, (John 6:44).
If we pray to him for wisdom and other fine qualities, he grants them to us through his spirit and his word. (Ja. 1:5)
Therefor, anyone can come to be “skilled” or “wise of heart” if we use our gifts to serve him instead of serving self-centered goals.
God’s modern-day servants accept today’s equivalent of the invitation and selflessly set aside lucrative careers to volunteer where there is greater need of Bible ministers, to build more halls and branch offices for the growing organization, to humbly serve anonymously in those branch offices in the capacity of artists, translators or lesser-recognized fields, or as traveling overseers supervising and motivating over a dozen congregations at a time.
Jehovah is the one making us “skilled” and worthy, provided that we are willing to carry out his work.

Exodus, chapters 30-33

“But now if you are willing, pardon their sin; if not, please wipe me out from your book that you have written.”
~Exodus 32:32

Moses is making reference to the “book of life,” a figurative book representing God’s memory of those who have passed away and whom he will one day resurrect (Rev. 3:5).
Shortly after Israel solemnly vowed to obey God, Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving instructions on how to institute pure worship (Exo. 24:3, 12).
Meanwhile, back at the camp, the people were growing restless.
They concluded something must have happened to Moses and asked his brother, Aaron, to make them a god- a tangible one that they could worship then and there (Exo. 32:1).
Aaron succumbed to the pressure and figured the gold idol he made was just as well a representation of Jehovah (Exo. 32:2-5).
Jehovah was furious and he explored the option of exterminating the nation in order to form a new nation stemming from Moses (Exo. 32:10).
Moses humbly appealed to God on behalf of his people, begging him to take other factors into account (Exo. 32:11-13).
Of course, Jehovah already knew he was going to give Israel the opportunity to repent time and again, but by planting the option of extermination, we can appreciate Moses’s self-sacrificing attitude and the great love he felt for those whom he led.
Moses was willing to be wiped out from existence because the extermination of his people would have signified he had failed them as a leader.
This leads me to ask myself: do I show similar concern for the welfare of those who have been commended to my spiritual tutelage?

Exodus, chapters 27-29

“You will put the U′rim and the Thum′mim into the breastpiece of judgment, and they must be over Aaron’s heart when he comes in before Jehovah, and Aaron must carry the means for making judgments of the Israelites over his heart before Jehovah constantly.”
~Exodus 28:30

What were the Urim and the Thummim?
This is a question I have struggled with on a personal level throughout half my life, so I decided to once again review the articles explaining it.
According to the glossary in the Revised New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, they were “objects used by the high priest in a manner similar to the use of lots to determine the divine will when questions of national importance needed an answer from Jehovah. The Urim and Thummim were put inside the high priest’s breastpiece when he entered the tabernacle.”
The reason I struggle with their use in Biblical times is that the Bible clearly condemns the practice of divination, that is, the practice of gaining secret knowledge of events through supernatural occult powers (Deut. 18:10).
What was the difference, then, between the Urim and Thummim and the practice of divination?
While divination was a practice originating in ancient Babylon and which relied upon the guidance of spirits other than God, the Urim and Thummim were only used by the High Priest when he entered the Most Holy (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. i).
The Most Holy was the section of the Tabernacle the High Priest had to enter in order to ask Jehovah about matters of national relevance.
Before the Bible was completed, Jehovah had several means of communicating his will to humans.
These means included angelic messengers and prophecies revealed through dreams or visions to specific prophets.
Another form of interpreting God’s will was by basing decisions on principles stated by God in the past, which is the way we make decisions today.
Yet another form of interpreting God’s will back then was by casting lots, as was the case when the Promised Land was divided among the 12 tribes of Israel. (Nu. 26:55,56)
The Urim and the Thummim appear to have been sacred lots used under prayer that provided a “Yes”, “No,” or “No Answer,” reply to questions. (1 Sam. 28:6)
They were not used as a means of gambling or for trivial matters.
Since the High Priest was in charge of these sacred objects, the Kings who later came about in Israel and Judah would need to rely on consulting the High Priest before making important decisions.
This kept the king from having too much power (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. ii).
Nowadays, God’s People use the Bible to guide their steps, studying it under the prayerful direction of his Holy Spirit in order to better understand its message.
For “all Scripture is […] beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, so that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16,17)

Exodus, chapters 23-26

If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has fallen under its load, you must not ignore it and leave. You must help him release the animal.
~Exodus 23:5

But the seventh year you should leave [the field] uncultivated and let it lie fallow, and the poor among your people will eat of it, and what they leave, the wild animals of the field will eat.
~Exodus 23:11

Six days you are to do your work; but on the seventh day, you are to cease from your labor, in order that your bull and your donkey may rest […]
~Exodus 23:12

You must not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
~Exodus 23:19

These verses are particularly moving as they highlight how Jehovah’s compassion extends to all living creatures.
His law protected even those who have no voice: animals.
Thus we humans are provided with some insight as to what he considers to be the ethical treatment of animals.
Though it is true that God put every living thing under the authority of humankind, he did not authorize us to abuse animals or expose them to cruel, anti-natural conditions, (Gen. 9:2,3).
This is why he prohibited the Israelites from boiling a goat in its own mother’s milk, for that milk was originally intended to nurture the goat, not kill it.
Truly, “the righteous one takes care of his domestic animals, even the mercy of the wicked is cruel,” (Prov. 12:10).

Exodus, chapters 19-22

Exodus 21:21~
“However, if he survives for one or two days, he is not to be avenged, because he is someone bought with his owner’s money.”

From a modern perspective, it makes no sense that the law God handed down to the Israelites through the hand of Moses would regulate slavery rather than abolish it.
After all, hadn’t God just finished a series of spectacular miracles, some at a great cost to human life, with the purpose of freeing them from slavery?
Although that was part of the reason, the main reason God had freed them was to fulfill the promises he had made to Abraham, their ancestor, (Exo. 2:23-25).
The readings from the last two weeks have highlighted the lack of faith the Israelites demonstrated as a whole during the exodus process.
Therefor it is not surprising that a practice common to their times, unfair as it was, would be engrained into their culture; similar to the practice of having more than one wife, which most people in modern Western civilization find objectionable.
God’s purpose never was for slavery to exist, for 1,500 years later Peter arrived at the correct conclusion when he stated: “Now I truly understand that God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him,” (Acts 10:34,35).
It would take a very long time to adjust the erroneous thinking of the people of ancient Israel, and most Jews never accepted the new law as prescribed by Christ (Matt. 22:37-40).
In the mean time, God did set forth a set of rules to regulate forced labor.
The Hebrew word e′vedh can mean slave or servant, depending on the context,(Insight on the Scriptures, volume 2).
Hebrews sold into slavery were freed in the seventh year of their servitude, or in the year of the Jubilee, which occurred every 50 years, depending on which came first, and their master had to give them a parting gift for them to start a new life (Exo. 21:2; Deut. 15:13-15).
Female Hebrew slaves were to either become concubines to their masters or legal wives to their sons with all the inheritance rights therein, otherwise they were to be set free. They could not be sold to foreigners (Exo. 21:7-11).
Adult human trafficking of others was illegal and punishable by death (Exo. 21:16).
With that in mind, I will return to the text I cited at the beginning.
Did the law give less value to the life of a slave than to the life of a free person?
If a master injured his/her slave with a non-lethal instrument and the person took more than two days to die, that would indicate the master did not have murder as an intention.
Furthermore, the master would be at an economic loss if the slave did die.
That is why the law protected the master from being avenged if the slave died under these circumstances.
However, if the slave was maimed, he was to be set free (Exo. 21:26,27).
If the slave did die within two days, the master was to be put to death without fail, (Lev. 24:17).
It is not my intention to justify slavery under Mosaic Law. I believe the law came from Jehovah and it was applicable to that culture and time. If they heeded God’s law, their community would benefit and behave more justly than other nations were behaving at that particular point in time.
After all, Jehovah’s wisdom is unquestionable, having “made out of one man every nation of men to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he decreed the appointed times and the set limits of where men would dwell, so that they would seek God,” (Acts 17:26).

Exodus, chapters 15-18

Then Moses said to them: “Nobody should leave any of it until the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. When some men left some of it until the morning, it bred worms and stank, and Moses became indignant at them.

~Exodus 16:19,20

Then Moses said: “Eat it today, because today is a sabbath to Jehovah. Today you will not find it on the ground. You will pick it up for six days, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.” However, some of the people did go out to pick it up on the seventh day, but they found nothing.

~Exodus 16:25-27

It is surprising how careless some of the Israelites were when it came to obeying details.

Moses had demonstrated he was their God-appointed leader and yet, they still questioned his instructions.

Such unwilling attitudes could have disheartened Moses, who had risked his life to go back to Egypt and see them free across the Red Sea.

But Moses kept tending to them as he would have done to his sheep when he was a shepherd, refining his patience on a day-to-day basis.

Concentrating on the Israelites’ lack of faith, this teaches me that I should obey God’s instructions even when the details seem illogical from a human perspective.

Christ has appointed “gifts in men” to serve as shepherds in the congregation (Eph. 4:8).

“And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, to build up the body of the Christ,” (Eph. 4:11).

These men have no personal gain by serving the congregation, other than the satisfaction of having done what is right.

They make arrangements for the well-being of our spiritual-family, knowing that God will provide means to see those arrangements to fulfillment.

These arrangements may not always make sense.

Some members of the congregation may criticize or even refuse to cooperate.

An attitude that constantly questions counsel given in accordance with Bible principles can prove detrimental to our own spirituality and eventually dishearten those who serve us.

Our love for God is tested in the details (Luke 16:10).

Exodus, chapters 11-14

Exodus 14:31~

Israel also saw the great power that Jehovah wielded against the Egyptians, and the people began to fear Jehovah and to put faith in Jehovah and in his servant Moses.

The reaction of many to the good news of Christ’s kingdom tends to be:

“I don’t need that. We already have a religion.”

Or:

“Take your message to someone who needs it.”

The above text mentions that it was not until the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea and had seen the Egyptians dead on the seashore that they began “to put faith in Jehovah.”

They had witnessed many miracles first hand, and they believed to have an acceptable form of worship.

But faith can always be stronger.

We shouldn’t passively assume we are good enough for God.

He promises to end suffering and transform this world into a paradise (Psalm 37:9-11; Rev. 21:4,5).

Although we may believe his word to a high degree, our faith has yet to grow until we see these promises materialize with our own eyes.

Faith is something we should actively build and not just take for granted.

“Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen. […] Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him,” (Heb. 11:1,6).

Exodus, chapters 7-10

Exodus 10:1,2~

Then Jehovah said to Moses: “Go in to Phar′aoh, for I have allowed his heart and the hearts of his servants to become unresponsive, so that I may display these signs of mine right before him […] and you will certainly know that I am Jehovah.”

God could have saved time and just sent the tenth plague to Pharaoh right at the start.

He already knew Pharaoh was going to be unwilling to cooperate.

At Exodus chapter 4, verse 21, Jehovah God warned Moses regarding what to expect in Egypt: “I will allow his heart to become obstinate, and he will not send the people away.”

But Jehovah did not decide Pharaoh’s fate for him. He gave him at least eleven chances to change his mind about letting his People walk free.

It was Pharaoh who sealed his own fate.

“When Phar′aoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had stopped, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he as well as his servants,” (Exo. 9:34).

This bit about Pharaoh ‘hardening his heart’ happened after the seventh plague.

Even in all his power, Jehovah God did not strip Pharaoh of free will.

Nor does he strip us of our own decision-making power.

There is much suffering in the world today.

Some may wonder why God doesn’t just wipe everything clean and start over.

But he is giving us time to get to know him and change our attitude toward him.

“Jehovah is not slow concerning his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance,” (2 Pet. 3:9).

Today is a good day to ask myself: Am I allowing my heart to become unresponsive to God’s messages?

Exodus, chapters 1-6

When she was no longer able to conceal him, she took a papyrus basket and coated it with bitumen and pitch and put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile River.

~Exodus 2:3

Moses’ mother, Jochebed, had no idea what would happen to her baby once she placed him in the water.

The instructions given to the Egyptians were clear: “You are to throw every newborn son of the Hebrews into the Nile River […]” (Exo. 1:22).

To go against Pharaoh’s orders back then would be today’s equivalent of committing a federal felony. Only Pharaoh was considered to be a god and so he had the power to execute people at will.

Still, Jochebed took her chances and concealed her baby boy for three months.

When she had done all she could, she commended him to Jehovah God and sent his sister to watch and see what would happen to him.

I try to imagine what they must have felt. Was it resignation? Fear? Firm faith? Or a mixture of all three?

Nowadays, it may happen that we are asked by an authority figure to do something inappropriate or unethical.

In those cases, it will be wise to follow Jochebed’s example and do what is right.

What happens after that may be a matter of circumstance, or if God sees it fit, He will intervene.

As we all know, in Moses’ case, things worked out, for Pharaoh’s daughter found him, felt compassion for him, and then hired his own mother to nurse him until he was old enough to be adopted by her and live among royalty.

“She named him Moses [meaning: ‘Drawn Out,’ that is, saved out of the water] and said: ‘It is because I have drawn him out of the water,’” (Exo. 2:10).

Little did they know that 80 years later, God would use Moses to intervene and save in a much greater manner.