M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, March 14

Today’s readings are from Exodus 25, John 4, Proverbs 1 and 2 Corinthians 13.

Exodus 25 begins God’s instructions to Israel on building and furnishing the tabernacle.

Outline chart for Exodus 25-40, Charles Savelle

Thomas Constable points out:

Moses usually employed one of four different terms to describe the “tabernacle,” each of which emphasizes one of its purposes, though other names also appear:

  1. “Sanctuary” (25:8) means “place of holiness,” and stresses the transcendence of Israel’s God as an Exalted Being who is different from His people.  However, this verse also states that such a God would “dwell among” His people.
  2. “Tabernacle” (25:9) means “dwelling place,” and emphasizes God’s purpose of abiding near His people. T he tabernacle looked like the other nomads’ tents that the Israelites lived in.  They would have thought of it as “God’s tent” among their tents. It had furniture, just as their tents did.

“Just as they lived in tents, so God would condescend to ‘dwell’ in a tent.”

  1. “Tent of Meeting” (26:36; 29:42-43; 35:21) also stresses the immanence of God. God “met” with Moses and the Israelites in this tent.  The verb translated “meeting” means a deliberate prearranged rendezvous, rather than a casual accidental meeting.  Some scholars believe that the “tent of meeting” was a different structure different than the “tabernacle,” and that it was always outside the camp of Israel.
  2. “Tabernacle (or Tent) of Testimony” (38:21; Num. 9:15; 17:7, 8) indicates that the structure was the repository of the Law.  Moses sometimes referred to the ark of the covenant as the “ark of the testimony” (25:22), because it contained the “two tablets of the testimony” (31:18), on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments are the “testimony.”  They were the essential stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant, the “heart” of the relationship between God and His people.

God gives a specific plan for building the tabernacle.  Its layout, construction and furnishings are all very significant.

Tabernacle plan

It begins with collecting materials needed to build the tabernacle (25:1-9).

Item Symbolic Meaning References
Gold Deity 1 Cor 3:12, Rev 21:18-21
Silver Redemption Ex 36:2430:15
Brass/Bronze Judgement Ex 27:2Num 21:9Rev 1:15
Blue Heavens/Heavenly nature Ex 25:426:3128:31
Purple Kingly/Royalty John 19:2Rev 17:4
Scarlet Blood Sacrifice Lev 14:4Josh 2:18Isa 1:18
Fine Linen Righteousness Lev 6:10Rev 19:8
Goats/Rams Hair Atonement Gen 15:9Ex 12:5
Acacia Wood Jesus’ Humanity Ex 26:15Isa 53:2
Oil Holy Spirit Lev 14:16, Psa 47:7

The construction and furnishing of the tabernacle begins with the central piece, the ark of the covenant (25:10-22).

Tabernacle floor plan

Constable notes:

Note that the order in which Moses described the things associated with the tabernacle in the text, is not what one would normally expect.  For example, we would expect that after the description of the altar of burnt offerings, we would have a description of the laver.  The altar of burnt offerings was the major piece of furniture in the courtyard, and the first one the Israelite would meet as he entered the courtyard.  Then the laver was the second most prominent item, because it would catch the Israelite’s eye next.  It was also the object between the altar and the tabernacle.  However, instead, we read about the altar of burnt offerings, then the priestly vestments, then the consecration of Aaron, and then finally the laver.

This order is due to the two emphases in the revelation: First, Moses was describing things that primarily manifest God, and second, things dealing with His people’s fellowship with God.  So the author was first describing things in the “holy of holies (Most Holy Place)” where God dwelt, then things in the “Holy Place,” then finally things in the courtyard.  This order, therefore, focuses attention on the presence of Yahweh among His people, which was the most important feature of Israel’s life.  The tabernacle itself also reflects the importance of Yahweh’s presence at the center of His people.

Ark of the Covenant

The first item God told Moses to build was the ark, later called the Ark of the Covenant.  This was the most important single item associated with the tabernacle, modeled after the throne of God in heaven.   Acacia wood is harder and darker than oak. It is also very durable because wood-eating insects avoid it.   Imagine the ark to be about 3 3/4 feet long and 2 1/4 feet wide and high.

Inside were a pot of manna (reminding them of God’s provision), Aaron’s rod which budded (reminding them of Moses as their God-appointed leader) and the tables of the covenant.

God would meet them at the “mercy seat,” the place of atonement, atop the ark.  In Romans 3:25, the Greek word for propitiation (hilasterion) is also used in the Septuagint (an early translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, read in the days of the New Testament) for the “mercy seat,” it might be said “Jesus is our mercy seat” – He is the place and the means of our redemption.

In vv. 23-30 Moses is shown the instructions for building the table of showbread.

Table of Shewbread

The priests placed twelve loaves (large pieces) of unleavened bread, called “the bread of the Presence,” in two rows or piles on this table, where they remained for seven days.  Evidently the bread was stacked in two piles, like pancakes.  The priests substituted twelve fresh loaves for the old bread each Sabbath (Lev. 24:5-8).  The term “bread of the Presence” (v. 30) means that these loaves lay before God’s presence in the tabernacle.  The Israelites did not offer this food for Yahweh to eat, as the pagans offered food to their gods. (Constable)

Next was the golden lampstand (25:31-40). This piece of furniture was probably similar in size to the table of showbread (v. 39).  It stood “opposite [that] table” (26:35) in the holy place, against the south (left) wall.  It weighed about 75 pounds (“a talent of pure gold”).  The tabernacle craftsmen fashioned it in the form of a stylized plant or tree, probably an almond tree.  It connoted life and fertility.


Like the showbread, the burning “lamps” may have symbolized both the character of God and the calling of Israel.

John 4 is Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well at Sychar.  Unlike others who skirted around Samaria, Jesus went right through it.  He had a mission.

Jesus broke through several social-cultural barriers here–talking to a hated Samaritan and a woman no less, who was of ill repute.  A good Jewish man did not speak in public to women he did not know.  A rabbi did not speak to any woman in public–not his mother, nor his wife.

Yet, she there was an emptiness in her life, signaled by multiple sexual partners.  Jesus peered deeper and touched a spiritual nerve.  She was looking for love but not in the right places.

Jesus offers spiritual water, something that would eternally satisfy, the presence of the Holy Spirit (4:13-14).

Even though she dodges and feints with personal disclosures and religious arguments, Jesus calls to her heart and reveals Himself as Messiah.  This is the only occasion before his trial that Jesus explicitly acknowledges that he is the Messiah — and he tells it to a woman, a Samaritan woman, an immoral Samaritan woman.

Nicodemus contrasts with the Samaritan woman in many ways. As John portrayed them in his narrative, they seem to typify Jews and non-Jews as well as the normal reactions of those groups to Jesus.

  Nicodemus The Samaritan Woman
Sex Male Female
Race Pure Jewish Mixed Gentile
Social status Highly respected, ruler, teacher Not respected, servant, learner
Place Jewish territory Samaritan territory
Time At night About noon
Condition Darkness Light
Setting Indoors Outdoors
Occasion Pre-planned Spontaneous
Subject New birth Living water
Initiator Nicodemus Jesus
Conversation Faded out Continued strong
Result Unbelief Belief
Consequence No witness to others Witness to others

When the disciples return with food, Jesus says “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (v. 32), then explains, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (v. 34).  In other words, this is what brings deepest satisfaction, to work alongside my Father.

Then Jesus points out to His disciples the potential of the harvest (likely because a large number of Samaritans were coming towards them).  The harvest is plentiful.  In Matthew’s gospel Jesus will later tell them to pray for laborers in the harvest.

So at the woman’s simple statement in v. 29, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Christ?” many Samaritans believed, due to her testimony (v. 39) and Christ’s teaching (v. 41).  They gave a clearer understanding of who Jesus was that many religious Jews, “we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (v. 42).

Jesus then went on to Galilee, to Capernaum.

The healing of the official’s son (4:46-54) completes a cycle in John’s Gospel. Jesus performed His first sign in Cana (2:1), and now He returned and did another miracle there (v. 46).  There is even a second reference to Capernaum (2:12; 4:46).

John’s account of Jesus’ first miracle in Cana (2:11) ended with a reference to the weak faith of the Jews that rested only on miracles (2:23-25). His account of Jesus’ second miracle in Cana (4:54) opens with a similar reference (4:45, 48).

The shaded portions show where the Gospel of John fits in the timeline of Jesus’ life.

Proverbs is a book of wisdom sayings, written mainly by Solomon.  The kingdom of Israel was at its highest pinnacle of glory.  The glory of the world was Israel and the glory of Israel was Jerusalem and the glory of Jerusalem was the Temple that Solomon had built.  It was one of the wonders of the ancient world.

The absolute quiet and prosperity of the reign of Solomon (the man of peace), as described in 1 Kings 4:20, would naturally be conducive to the growth of a sententious philosophy; whereas the constant wars and dangerous life of David had called forth the impassioned eloquence of the Psalms.

–Charles J. Ellicott (1819-1905)

What is a proverb?  A proverb is a concise, memorable staying about life.

Proverbs are statements that paint a small word picture of what life is like or should be like.  A proverb is a snapshot of life.  However, as with every snapshot, a proverb does not always represent what life always looks like.  One picture does not capture everything.  A good proverb, like a good snapshot, captures what is typical.

Richard Trench, commenting on proverbs in general, believed that a proverb always has four characteristics: shortness, sense, salt, and popularity.

For the most part, the Proverbs are given in the form of couplets. The clauses of these couplets are related in terms of parallelism. Most poetry in the Hebrew language was not made up of rhyming words, but of rhyming thoughts and ideas. There are three major types of parallelism used in the Proverbs.


Scriptural Example


Repetitious Parallelism (Synonymous) To know wisdom and instruction,

To discern the sayings of understanding. (Proverbs 1:2).

The first line makes a statement of truth; then the second line restates and reinforces the principle given in the first clause.
Contrastive Parallelism (Antithetic) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7).

The first line makes a statement of truth; then the second line gives a corollary – the same truth stated in opposite terms.
Completive Parallelism (Synthetic) The Lord has made everything for its own purpose,

Even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:4).

The first line makes a statement of truth. The second line then adds to the original thought, expanding it so that it brings out a new truth.

One thing to remember is that proverbs are not promises.  They are not guarantees, but express how things generally work in God’s moral universe.

The purpose of the book of Proverbs is to encourage a young man (“son”) to gain wisdom (1:2-5).  Wisdom is skillful living–gaining and putting God’s understanding into practice in our responsibilities, relationships and opportunities.  We gain wisdom first by “fearing God” (1:7) which I believe means that we take God seriously, deadly seriously.  We acknowledge that He exists, that He has the right to tell us how to live, that He watches how we live and will hold us accountable.

The first nine chapters of Proverbs are “wisdom poems” that urge the reader to pursue wisdom.  The main section of Proverbs—the concise, memorable statements of two or three lines—begins in 10:1.  Proverbs often seem to be mere observations about life, but their deeper meanings will reveal themselves if the following questions are kept in mind: (1) What virtue does this proverb commend? (2) What vice does it disapprove of? (3) What value does it affirm?

After the introduction Solomon begins to instruct his “son.”

Consider what God reveals here (1:8-8:32) in the three spheres of life dealt with in the book: the home, friendship, and the world.  In the home, the child must learn wisdom.  In friendship, the youth must apply wisdom.  In the world, the adult must demonstrate wisdom.

The first sphere is that of the home (cf. 1:8-9).  God did not teach the responsibility of the father and mother here, but took for granted that they would instruct their children.  The child needs to hear parental instruction to live in the fear of the Lord.

Young children cannot grasp abstract concepts.  For them God is incarnate in father and mother.  Fathers and mothers reflect the image of God to their children.  Both parents are necessary to reveal God to the child fully.  Children see some of God’s characteristics in the mother’s attitudes and actions (cf. Matt. 23:37).  They see other aspects of God’s character in the father.

Parents do not have to try to teach their young child systematic theology.  They just need to live in the fear of God themselves, and their child will learn what he or she needs to learn about God for that stage of their life—just by observing mom and dad.

For example, when small children see their parents loving one another, it prepares them to understand God’s love. This by no means is meant to exclude verbal instruction.  My point is that young children learn wisdom by observing their parents as well as by listening to them.  We all exert influence in two ways: with our words and with our works (actions).

The second sphere of life is friendship (cf. 1:10-19).  The day must come when the child, in the natural process of development, moves out into a wider circle of experience.

The Bible presents two duties that children have to their parents.  When the child’s sphere of life is his home, he is to obey his parents.  However, that duty does not continue forever.  When he moves into the larger sphere of life outside the home, his duty is to honor his parents.  This duty does continue forever.

When a child enters this second stage of life, guided at first by parental council, but then finally on its own, wisdom gives important instruction (cf. 1:10).  He should avoid certain friendships.  He should beware of people who seek to make friends with him because they have selfish interests and unscrupulous motives.  There are many warnings in Proverbs against people who are not true friends.  There is no more important stage in a young person’s development than when he or she begins to choose companions.

Then, and from then on, he or she must follow the wisdom that comes from the fear of the Lord.  The youth must submit to the Lord’s wisdom, having learned that in the home, to succeed in the larger arenas of life.  The choice of a mate is one of these companion decisions.  Parents should help their children with these values, and qualities to look for in a mate.

The third stage of life is the world, symbolized in Proverbs by the street, the gates, and the city (cf. 1:20-33; chs. 2—9).

In 1:8-19 a parent warns his son about false friendships.  Children need help in pursuing the right friendships.  Some friendships are dangerous and destructive.  These bad friendships attempt to encourage young people to leave behind their parents’ values.

The warning itself appears twice (vv. 10, 15).  A description of how the dangerous appeal will come (vv. 11-12) follows the first admonition to not heed it (v. 10).  Three reasons for ignoring it (vv. 16-18) follow the repetition of the warning (v. 15).  The final verse is a conclusion (v. 19; cf. Job 8:13).

1:20-33 gives wisdom’s first appeal.  Here we have wisdom personified (later we will encounter Dame Folly).  Wisdom calls out to the simple ones, the scorners (scoffers, mockers, NIV), and the fools (v. 22).  This section introduces the progression of foolishness.

Everyone begins as a simple child, naïve and open to every influence and suggestion.  Unless one listens to instruction, learns to fear God and gains prudence, he or she will become a fool, someone who cannot discern danger and continually gets in trouble.  If one doesn’t respond to discipline, then they become a scorner, someone who thinks they know everything and will no longer listen to instruction or respond positively to discipline.

The Choice

John Kitchen’s helpful chart shows the progression, either towards knowing God or rebelling against God.  This chart shows that we don’t get to either end in a single choice or short time.

But notice how the simple person and fool respond to God’s instruction:

24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof…

These verses point out four reasons that we typically reject reproof:

  1. stubborn willfulness (v. 24) “you refused to listen”
  2. insensitivity (v. 24) “no one paid attention”
  3. indifference (v. 25) “neglected” with an “I don’t care” attitude
  4. defensiveness (v. 25) “not want”

If they wouldn’t listen to God’s instructions, he would not hear their prayers when they fell into trouble.  They would “eat the fruit of their way.”

In 2 Corinthians 13 Paul tells the Corinthians to examine themselves before he comes to them.  He was preparing to come to them for the third time.  His apostolic authority was settled; was their faith secured?

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Perry Brown notes:

“The logic of Paul’s argument is compelling: If the Corinthians wanted proof of whether Paul’s ministry was from Christ, they must look at themselves, not him, because Paul had ministered the gospel to them (Acts 18:1-11; 1 Cor. 2:1-5).”

D. A. Carson has articulated what we know all too well, that “there are millions of professing believers in North America today (to say nothing of elsewhere) who at some point entered into a shallow commitment to Christianity, but who, if pushed, would be forced to admit they do not love holiness, do not pray, do not hate sin, do not walk humbly with God.  They stand in the same danger as the Corinthians; and Paul’s warning applies to them no less than to the Corinthian readers of this epistle” (178).

How do we examine ourselves?  I believe our primary assurances comes from God’s promises about our salvation (John 5:24; 10:28-30; Romans 8:1, 30, 38-39; 1 Peter 1:5), secondly through the testimony of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:17) and thirdly through our obedience (1 John).