Today’s Bible readings are from Exodus 40, John 19, Proverbs 16 and Philippians 3.
The Israelites erected “the tabernacle of the tent of meeting” on the first day of the first month, almost exactly one year after the Israelites left Egypt (vv. 2, 17). This was about nine months after Israel had arrived at Mt. Sinai (cf. 19:1).
Here “the tent of meeting” does not refer to the smaller tent that preceded the “tabernacle,” as it does in some places earlier in Exodus (especially in chapters 25 and 33), but to the “tabernacle” structure proper.
First, the text narrates God’s command to erect the tabernacle (vv. 1-15). Moses’ obedience to this command follows (vv. 16-33). Seven times in this chapter we read that Moses did exactly as (“according to all that” or “just as”) the LORD had commanded him (vv. 19, 21, 23, 25, 26, 29, 32; cf. Heb. 3:5).
John Stevenson points out…
The reason that the design of the Tabernacle was so important was because the earthly pattern reflected a heavenly reality.
- The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of a “true tabernacle which the Lord pitched” in contrast to the one erected by the Israelites in the Wilderness (Hebrews 8:2).
- The earthly Tabernacle was merely a copy and a shadow of the heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5).
- The earthly Tabernacle was a mere temporary symbol (Hebrews 9:8-9).
- Jesus did not enter into the physical Tabernacle which was a mere copy of the true one, “but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24).
When the tabernacle stood complete, God descended in “the cloud” that so “filled the tabernacle,” that neither Moses nor anyone else could enter it (vv. 34-39). The presence of the Lord continued to be with the people of Israel throughout their entire sojourn in the Wilderness (v. 38).
The Book of Exodus ends with great hope and trust in God. Though Israel was in the middle of a desolate desert, had fierce enemies in the Promised Land, and were weak and liable to sin and rebellion, God was with them. This gave them great cause for faith and confidence. (David Guzik)
The book of Exodus is the history of God’s people during the year between their deliverance from Egypt and the erection of the tabernacle at Mount Sinai. It begins with groaning and ends in glory, with God at work throughout. What situation has you groaning, that you need to have end in deliverance and glory?
God’s presence dwells gloriously in the work and walk of those who are willingly and diligently obedient, seeking the holiness of the Lord! As God graciously did wonderfully for the Israelites, he will also do wonderfully for you, according to his purposes!
John 19 continues Pilate’s examination (vv. 1-16) of Jesus, through the crucifixion (vv. 17-30 and burial (vv. 31-42) of Jesus.
Pilate incorrectly hoped that if he scourged (Gr. emastigosen) Jesus, this would satisfy the Jews (cf. vv. 4-6; Luke 23:16).
Thomas Constable says…
There were three forms of flogging (scourging) that the Romans administered. The lightest of these, the fustigatio, was a light whipping that only hooligans experienced. The second, the flagellatio, was a severe flogging that criminals who were guilty of more serious crimes received. The third, the verberatio, was the most brutal. The worst criminals, including those sentenced to crucifixion, underwent this scourging.
Evidently Jesus received the first or second of these floggings at this time, namely, before His sentencing. He received the third type after His sentencing (v. 16; cf. Matt. 27:26; Mark 15:15).
Scourging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt. In regard to crucifixion, the goal of the scourging was to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse and death. As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive the cross. (David Guzik)
Next, a crown of thorns was placed upon Jesus’ head.
The Roman soldiers viewed Jesus as a pretender to the throne of Israel, and despised Him as a loser. The Sanhedrin members would have been equally happy to see Jesus ridiculed—and beaten—for what they considered to be His fraudulence. The Jews who followed Jesus would have felt outraged and hurt by Jesus’ treatment. The believing reader sees the irony in the situation because Jesus really was the King of the Jews (cf. Isa. 50:6; 52:14—53:6). (Thomas Constable)
Although Pilate had found Jesus “not guilty” (vv. 4-5) and had Him scourged, the crowds were stirred up to call for His crucifixion.
The Jewish leaders’ objections to Jesus were both political and religious. Until now, they had been stressing the political implications of Jesus’ claims to Pilate. Sensing that they were not going to receive the desired sentence against Jesus with this approach, they shifted their emphasis to the religious claims that Jesus had made.
Actions speak louder than words. Funny — they wanted a Messiah to save them from the Romans, yet now they embrace Caesar as their king.
Actions speak louder than words. After declaring several times that he could find no guilt in Jesus, Pilate yields to the crowds and lets them kill an innocent man.
Although Pilate still was hesitant for several reasons, he ultimately released Jesus to be crucified.
“You may do today exactly what Pilate did. He is simply an example of a man who lacks decision of character, who does not possess the courage of his convictions, who tries to compromise with wrong, who disobeys conscience through fear of personal loss.” (Charles Erdman)
Archaeologists discovered in 1968 the remains of a man crucified in Jesus’ era. The study of the remains revealed that the victim was nailed to the cross in a sitting position, both legs over sideways, with the nail penetrating the sides of both feet just below the heel. The arms were stretched out, each stabbed by a nail in the forearm. Dr. Nico Hass, Hebrew University anatomy professor described it as “a compulsive position, a difficult and unnatural posture,” meant to increase the agony of the sufferer. (Tenney and others)
According to Dr. William Edwards in the Journal of the American Medical Association, death from crucifixion could come from many sources: acute shock from blood loss, being too exhausted to breathe any longer, dehydration, stress-induced heart attack, or congestive heart failure leading to a cardiac rupture. If the victim did not die quickly enough, the legs were broken, and the victim was soon unable to breathe and died of suffocation.
The unique material in John’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion includes the controversy about the superscription over Jesus’ cross (vv. 19-22) and several references to the fulfillment of prophecy (vv. 24, 28-29; cf. vv. 36-37). John was also the only Gospel writer to record Jesus’ care for His mother (vv. 25-27), His sixth cry before His death (v. 30), and the piercing of His side (v. 34).
The inscription on Jesus’s Cross was “in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.” These were the three great languages of the ancient world and they stood for three great nations. In the economy of God every nation has something to teach the world, and these three stood for three great contributions to the world and to world history. Greece taught the world beauty of form and of thought; Rome taught the world law and good government; the Hebrews taught the world religion and the worship of the true God. The consummation of all these things is seen in Jesus. In him was the supreme beauty and the highest thought of God. In him was the law of God and the kingdom of God. In him was the very image of God. All the world’s seekings and strivings found their consummation in him. It was symbolic that the three great languages of the world should call him king.
The chart below is from Thomas Constable:
JESUS’ WORDS ON THE CROSS
|“Father, forgive them.”||23:34|
|“Today you shall be with me in paradise.”||23:43|
|“Woman, behold your son,” and “Behold, your mother.”||19:26-27|
|“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”||27:46||15:34|
|“It is finished.”||19:30|
|“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”||27:50||23:46|
Jesus’ final word (tetelestai in the ancient Greek) is the cry of a winner. Jesus had finished the eternal purpose of the cross. It stands today as a finished work, the foundation of all Christian peace and faith, paying in full the debt we righteously owe to God. (David Guzik)
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” — one of the most poignant, moving hymns ever sung. It was written by Isaac Watts and first published in Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707. Charles Wesley reportedly said he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one. HERE it is sung by Kathryn Scott, with pictures of “the whole realm of nature” by C. E. Price.
Zechariah 12:10 (NIV)
Mourning for the One They Pierced
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
A Roman period tomb with a rolling stone, discovered near Mount Carmel in Israel.
David Guzik comments on the importance of the tomb:
In God’s plan this burial of Jesus was so important that it is said to be one of the essential components of the gospel itself (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We can consider many reasons for this.
· This burial fulfilled the Scripture. Isaiah 53:9 says, And they made His grave with the wicked; so that meant the Messiah would be buried in a grave – and He was.
· This burial fulfilled the promise, the prediction of Jesus. Jesus said that He, like Jonah, would be buried away for three days (Matthew 12:40), and so it had to be fulfilled.
· This burial demonstrated that Jesus was truly dead; it was proof of the glory of the coming resurrection. No one could tell Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus that Jesus did not really die.
· This burial was important because burial spices and preparations protected His holy body from decay; as it was said in Psalm 16:10: You will not allow Your Holy One to see decay.
· This burial gave both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus a way to proclaim their relationship with Jesus; it called them out of their state of secret discipleship.
· This burial and the days of Jesus in the tomb tested the faith and devotion of the disciples; it made them die a certain kind of death for those days they knew Jesus lay in the tomb.
· This burial and the days of Jesus in the tomb were ways to prove that at the cross Jesus defeated not only sin, but also death. The burial and the empty tomb show that Jesus conquered sin and death.
· The days in the tomb were important because there was important work for Jesus to do during that time in the tomb. 1 Peter 3:20 tells us that Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison; though there isn’t as much explanation on all this as we would like to have, it seems that as the body of Jesus lay lifeless in the tomb, His Spirit went to Hades, the abode of the dead. There He led the faithful dead to heaven, in light of His then-completed work on the cross. He also preached a message of judgment and coming condemnation to the evil spirits that were imprisoned in the depths.
· This burial was another great and final connection of the Son of God with the humility of man. There was a transaction aspect to the great work of Jesus on the cross; but there was so much more. There is also a radical identification aspect; where Jesus connects with you in every way possible, and He invites you to connect with Him. He was buried with us, in the humiliation of utter humanness. We are buried with Him – spiritually by faith, ceremonially by baptism. He identified with us; we by faith identify with Him.
Jesus was buried in a tomb in a garden, and Tasker says:
“The fall of the first Adam took place in a garden; and it was in a garden that the second Adam redeemed mankind from the consequences of Adam’s transgression.” (Tasker)
Proverbs 16 emphasizes God’s sovereignty in the following verses:
1 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
“The response of human beings cannot escape divine dominion. Human beings are totally dependent upon him, even though they are at the same time morally responsible agents. The Old Testament thinkers did not attempt to solve that conundrum, which later theologians explored under the theme of freedom of will. The ancients expressed the dilemma, that they must have seen (pace Whybray), but they lived with it [cf. Deut. 30:15-19].” (Murphy, pp. 119-120)
A somewhat obscure proverb which recognizes that man has to exercise his own reason in making his plans, but that he is dependent on the Lord for the answer of the tongue. Dr. Perowne’s interpretation is most likely the correct one. He says: “The implied moral of the proverb is, If we cannot do the less without God, do not attempt to do the greater without Him.” (G. Campbell Morgan)
3 Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
“God is in no sense obligated to do what we want—divine freedom is the central theme of these sayings [about dependence on God]—but we have no hope at all of seeing our plans take shape unless we depend on Him for grace and guidance.” (David Hubbard)
4 The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.
“The general meaning is that there are ultimately no loose ends in God’s world: everything will be put to some use and matched with its proper fate. It does not mean that God is the author of evil.” (Derek Kidner)
“The free actions of men create no situation by which God would be surprised and compelled to something which was not originally intended by Himself. That is what the above proverb says: the wicked also has his place in God’s order of the world.” (Franz Delitzsch)
9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
“People frequently think they are having their own way, when in reality the Lord is leading them with ‘bit and bridle,’ through strange paths, for their discipline and blessing at last [cf. Jer. 10:23].” (Harry Ironside)
“A man may plan his road to the last detail, but he cannot implement his planning, unless it coincides with Yahweh’s plan for him.” (Bruce Waltke)
“A man can and does devise his own way under the direction of his heart. If desire be evil, the way devised is evil. If desire be good, the way devised is good. But that is not all the truth about life. This is also true: ‘Jehovah directeth his steps’… That is to say that no man can step outside the government of God, no man can devise a way that enables him to escape from God.” (G. Campbell Morgan)
This is true with both good and bad plans. “The point is the contrast between what we actually plan and what actually happens—God determines that. As Paul later said, God is able to do abundantly more than we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).” (Allen Ross)
“As rational agents we think, consult, act freely. We are dependent agents, and the Lord exercises his own power in permitting, overruling, or furthering our actions. Thus man proposes, and God disposes.” ( Charles Bridges)
There is a phrase in Jewish oral tradition that says, “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.” The idea was that if a disciple walked behind his rabbi on the dusty roads, he would get covered in his dust. In other words, you were following him so closely, to be so much like him, that you were glorified to be covered with the dust he left behind. That is how close a disciple wanted to be to his rabbi. That is how the Lord can establish our steps.
33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
“There is no such thing as chance; God determines how things will turn out. He controls how thrown dice turn up.” (Thomas Constable)
We can see this clearly in the story of Jonah, especially where the sailors cast lots to determine who was responsible for the storm (Jonah 1:7; cf. Lev. 16:8; Num. 26:55; Josh. 7:16-18; 18:10; 1 Sam. 14:41; Acts 1:26). The Book of Esther also records the casting of lots, which turned out in favor of the Jews in spite of Haman’s plot.
Waltke connected Proverbs 16:33 back to 16:32: “Ultimately, the Lord, not the disciple’s self possession alone, rules his destiny, as illustrated by ‘the lot.
In Philippians 3 Paul is careful to explain to the Philippians to “put no confidence in the flesh.” In other words, do not lean on your own good behavior. “The flesh” can either a positive force encouraging us to obey God, or a negative force inclining us towards disobedience. Either way it is dangerous. One way is morality, the other is immorality. Both damn us.
Paul identifies several “trophies” of his past life when he was trying (as hard as he could) to be good before God through his own efforts (his flesh moving him to obey God). David Guzik describes well all these trophies…
Paul first lists four things that were his possessions by birth.
- Paul was circumcised the eighth day in accordance with Leviticus 12:3. Check.
- Paul was of the stock of Israel, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and an heir to God’s covenant with them. Check.
- Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, a distinguished tribe. Benjamin was distinguished by the fact that it gave Israel her first king, Saul (1 Samuel 9:1-2). It was the tribe that aligned itself with faithful Judah when Israel divided into two nations at the time of Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:21). It was also the tribe that had Jerusalem in its boundaries (Judges 1:21). Check.
- Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. This contrasts him with the Jews who embraced Greek culture as it spread through the Mediterranean. In that time, many Jews became ashamed of their Jewishness and tried to live and act as much like Greeks as they could, sometimes even to the point of having their circumcision cosmetically restored or hidden so they could enjoy the Roman public baths without being noticed as Jews. Check plus.
Paul lists three things that were his by personal choice and conviction.
- Concerning the law, a Pharisee: This tells us that among an elite people (the Jews), he was of an elite sect (the Pharisees), who were noted for their scrupulous devotion to the law of God. “There were not very many Pharisees, never more than six thousand, but they were the spiritual athletes of Judaism. Their very name means The Separated Ones. They had separated themselves off from all common life and from all common tasks in order to make it the one aim of their lives to keep every smallest detail of the Law” (Barclay). The concern that Pharisees had for keeping the law is reflected in passages like Matthew 23:23.
- Concerning zeal, persecuting the church: Paul was not merely an intellectual opponent of perceived heresies, he was an active fighter against them – even in his blindness to God. Paul’s observation that the Jews of his day have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2) was of course true of his own life before God confronted him on the road to Damascus.
- Concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless: This shows that Paul achieved the standard of righteousness which was accepted among the men of his day – though this standard fell short of God’s holy standard. By man’s interpretation of the law, there were those who were deceived into thinking that they really were blameless, like the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23).
If he were in school, his teacher would have given him an A+. If in Sunday school, his teacher would have been him seven gold stars.
In summary, if anyone could lay claim to pleasing God by law-keeping and the works of the flesh, it was Paul. He was far more qualified than his legalizing opponents were to make such a claim.
But what did Paul do? He threw all those trophies to his excellent goodness in the trash heap.
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Paul had learned that the only thing that mattered was Jesus Christ. Paul wanted Christ more than all the notoriety he would gain for his excellent goodness. All Paul wanted was to “be found in him,” just like Martin Luther when he discovered that righteousness was not something he had to gain, but a gift that was given to him in Christ.
To be united to Christ, to be “in Christ” was the most significant matter to Paul. For it is in Christ that we have a “righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
“While Christ did not consider God-likeness to accrue to his own advantage, but ‘made himself nothing,’ so Paul now considers his former ‘gain’ as ‘loss’ for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. As Christ was ‘found’ in ‘human likeness,’ Paul is now ‘found in Christ,’ knowing whom means to be ‘conformed’ (echoing the morphe of a slave, 2:7) to his death (2:8). Finally, as Christ’s humiliation was followed by God’s ‘glorious’ vindication of him, so present ‘suffering’ for Christ’s sake will be followed by ‘glory’ in the form of resurrection. As he has appealed to the Philippians to do, Paul thus exemplifies Christ’s ‘mindset,’ embracing suffering and death. This is what it means ‘to know Christ,’ to be ‘found in him’ by means of his gift of righteousness; and as he was raised and exalted to the highest place, so Paul and the Philippian believers, because they are now ‘conformed to Christ’ in his death, will also be ‘conformed’ to his glory.” (Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, p. 315).
Now, having received that gift of righteousness, Paul puts as much effort into attaining the “high call” of God as an Olympic athlete would. He will still striving for that “perfection.” We are all still a work in progress.
“Just as a little child is a perfect human being, but still is far from perfect in all his development as man, so the true child of God is also perfect in all parts, although not yet perfect in all the stages of his development in faith.” (Muller)
Paul tells us to stay focused–“this one thing I do” and give it all we’ve got “straining forward” so that we can reach that goal.
Notice also that we lay hold of the prize “because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (v. 12).
I think the prize is to know and become like Christ. Thus in this context the prize is “the full and complete gaining of Christ, for whose sake everything else has been counted loss.” O’Brien concludes,
“The greatest reward is to know fully, and so to be in perfect fellowship with, the one who had apprehended him on the Damascus road. And this prize Paul wants his readers also to grasp.”
Paul calls the Philippians to imitate him, instead of others (vv. 15-20). Can you ask someone (your disciples) to imitate you?
There were “enemies of the cross” for whom Paul wept.
“I never read that the apostle wept when he was persecuted. Though they ploughed his back with furrows, I do believe that never a tear was seen to gush from his eye while the soldiers scourged him. Though he was cast into prison, we read of his singing, never of his groaning. I do not believe he ever wept on account of any sufferings or dangers to which he himself was exposed for Christ’s sake. I call this an extraordinary sorrow, because the man who wept was no soft piece of sentiment, and seldom shed a tear even under grievous trials.” (Spurgeon)
But he rejoiced in the prospects of those who genuinely believed in Jesus Christ (3:20-21). Their citizenship is in heaven. Their prince will come for them. And they will be given new bodies.