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098 - Let's Talk ... Altars?

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin
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June 20, 2022 3:44 am

098 - Let's Talk ... Altars?

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin

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June 20, 2022 3:44 am

Episode 098 - Let's Talk ... Altars? (11 June 2022) by A Production of Main Street Church of Brigham City

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You pick up your Bible and wonder, is there more here than meets the eye?

Is there something here for me? I mean, it's just words printed on paper, right? Well, it may look like just print on a page, but it's more than ink. Join us for the next half hour as we explore God's Word together, as we learn how to explore it on our own, as we ask God to meet us there in its pages. Welcome to More Than Ink. Hey, last week we looked at the Ten Commandments, or the Ten Words.

Now, is that enough to run an entire nation? Yeah, what about the finer details? Yeah, the finer details. In fact, they say the devil is in the details. So what are the details of the Ten Commandments?

Yeah, let's get specific about how those apply in practical community life. Well, we'll start working that out today on More Than Ink. Well, welcome to Saturday Morning. I'm Jim.

And I'm Dorothy. And you've found us at More Than Ink, and we're walking our way through the Bible, and specifically through the book of Exodus. Why don't you bring us up and tell us sort of where we are in the life of Israel at this point in Exodus.

Okay. Well, we've arrived at Sinai. We're out of Egypt. We've arrived at Sinai. And God has spoken the Ten Words through Moses.

He's given the Ten Commandments. And if you remember that at the end of chapter 20, it said, verse 18, And all the people perceived the thunder, and the lightning, and the flashes, and the sound, and the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. And when they saw it, they trembled, and they stood at a distance.

Right? So their response is, speak to us yourself, and we'll listen, but don't let God speak to us, lest we die. So they're afraid of the voice of God because of the thunder, and the lightning, and this is a God they can't control. Yep. This is a God who's making a big show of his meeting with Moses and people of Israel at Sinai.

Yeah. And Moses has gone up and come down from the mountain a number of times as he represents the people before God and brings God's Word back to them. So, but they have received the initial statement of the Ten Commandments.

That's what we did last time. Last time we were together, we looked at the Ten Commandments. And now there's kind of, at this point on in the life of Israel, especially right here for the next two to three chapters, we're going to expand on that law. That's maybe one way to look at it. What would the Ten Commandments look like if you put them in flesh?

Well, yeah, we're going to make deliberate applications to them. And actually the word in the beginning of chapter 21 is the mishpat, the rules, the ordinances, the things, the verdicts. The judgments. Right.

This is what happens when this happens. Yeah. So that's what we're going to do today and for next week and maybe the week after that, I think. We're going to look at these specific outworkings of the Ten Commandments. You can tie all these back to essences of the Ten Commandments. Or if you want to, you can tie them all the way back to that question they asked Jesus, what's the biggest commandment? Right.

To love the Lord your God and to love your neighbors yourself. So these all are included in that. But these are the specific outworkings. And I think you'll find some fascinating innovations in terms of justice. They definitely were innovations at the time in ancient culture, just based on that.

Well, yes, because there are some other law codes in existence from other nations that are very different. Yeah. And almost abusive. Yes.

God's justice has some amazing characteristics because God himself is just. Yes. And so that's kind of exciting to me as we begin to kind of work our way through this because people tend to think of this section as, oh, these are all the do nots. Don't do this. Don't do that.

Don't do that. But really, if you remember, the Ten Commandments follow the two categories. The first bunch of them talk about loving God and what that looks like. And then the second half of them talk about then what your love for God, how that impacts your love for people. Yep.

Yep. And so that's why Jesus could say the greatest two commandments are love God and love people. And the whole law and the prophets are summed up in that. Summed up in that. So we're going to get real specific about that.

So let's get specific. We're starting in at the end of chapter 20, verse 22, and he starts into the topic about altars of all things. Well, okay, so that's important because what's an altar? An altar is a place of worship. It's a place of sacrifice. It's a place of communing with the God that the altar represents.

Right? The holy condition of the one you come to worship. Yeah. And it's also implicitly a place of your admission of your failure.

That's right. Because you come to God, but you come flawed and failed in sin. And so you come and bring a sacrifice. So all that is wrapped up together when we speak about altars. It's all about worship, approaching God, having some recourse to our own failures with the sacrifices. So he gives us some rules. First off, the first thing I would think would be about murder.

It's not. It's about altars. Well, this is a revisiting of the Ten Commandments, right? So he's beginning to apply it. Because remember, the Ten Commandments begin, I'm the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me. So it makes sense then that when he begins to talk again with more detail, he would begin there.

Yep. Well, let's take a look at it. The law is about altars.

So you want to start reading for us? Chapter 20, verse 22. And the Lord said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the people of Israel, You have seen for yourselves that I've talked with you from heaven.

Right? They saw the thunder and the lightning. They saw it.

They had a close encounter. Yeah. So then he reiterates in verse 23, You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it. Yes. Yeah.

It's interesting. There is no temple at this point. There is no tabernacle, which is the portable temple. And yet we're talking about this place where you meet with God, this altar.

And so the rules for this, just a couple simple ones, actually. But I think they're actually pretty profound because now he talks about the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, which haven't even been defined yet. But again, they're what you do as a recourse to your failure and sin.

Okay. But remember that we are in Exodus, which is 400 years after Abraham's time. And Abraham understood burnt offering and sacrifice. So there's something anciently present in the heart of man that recognizes the necessity of an offering to the God to whom we owe. A sacrifice in when we come into the presence of God. In fact, I looked up that word altar in Hebrew. It actually means death or to kill. So it always has overshadowed to it the price, the sacrifice paid for your sins.

Yeah. And what do you make of that thing in verse 24? In every place where I cause my name to be remembered, that's where the altars are, I will come to you and bless you.

Isn't that fascinating? Well, isn't it amazing that it is over the altar, over the sacrifice that God says, this is a place of communing with me. There will be a sacrifice and I will bless you. God's intent is not to be angry with us. God's intent is to bless us and be with us. It's a fascinating marriage of those two ideas about this atoning sacrifice and the blessing of God's presence. Which when you know when you fast forward to the New Testament, that makes a whole lot of sense. Because when we approach God, we approach God very cognizant of the fact that Jesus died on our behalf. Well, actually, if you look back to Genesis, right, we see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob all building altars and naming them to commemorate a particular experience of the presence of God. And so you can look back in Genesis and look at those patriarchs and why they built altars, where did they build them and on what basis. So it was to commemorate an experience of the presence of God in that place.

Every place where my name is remembered. That's how he says. And God's name is, I am that I am. Right.

That's where Exodus started. Right. So what do you make of the fact that it can't be hewn stones? It can't be something manmade.

Yeah, that's interesting. It's got to be earth or stacked stones. Well, that immediately makes me think, you know, all the earth belongs to God. But if you set about carving a beautiful carved altar, then it kind of leans into becoming an image of something holy. Look how beautiful the altar is.

Look what I've made. Right. God doesn't want any part of that there.

Nothing like that at all. And don't make it high so you have to go up by steps. Right.

Because that indicates, like the Tower of Babel, we're going to go up to God. Yep. Right. So don't do that. It also, you know, this exposing your nakedness, we don't want to see a lot of flesh here. We don't want to see what your flesh.

Well, yeah, there's a lot of possible implications of that. Because he says you'll profane it, you'll make it common, you'll pollute it, you'll desecrate it, you'll make it unholy. You don't just come tripping blithely into the presence of God. You come respectfully by the way God has designated honoring His holiness. And also, you know, exposing the nakedness has with it that kind of sexual connotation.

Right? That impurity you come. Yeah, and you know, in the history of Israel, later on God does allow steps at the altars. But at the same time, He also says that the priests have to change their garb to sort of cover up the exposure of their flesh. Yeah, and actually Exodus is going to give us some instructions about that later on.

Okay, so that's a big deal. But what I find fascinating about this in the final assessment of the altars is, you know, if someone asks you what makes an altar, well it's not the handicraft or the coolness of it or if it's made out of fancy stones or carved things. It has nothing to do with the actual fineness of the structure.

Because we're talking about earth and stacked rocks. What makes it an altar to God is the place where His name is remembered. That's what makes it a place to God. Not anything fancy beyond that. So anything, in a sense, can be an altar if that's the place where you come to God and His name is remembered in that spot.

So that's altars. Well, let's push on. We've got a lot of other things to look at. Okay. Yeah, so we're jumping into chapter 21. We continue with this outworking of the law. Okay, but chapter 21 begins in a very interesting way because now it's going to get very specific about the applications of those ten commandments, right? That verse one says, now these are, the ESV says, the rules.

New American Standard says the ordinances. I mentioned this word earlier. The verdicts, the judgments, that which must be obeyed. This is the way it works and if this happens, if A happens, B will be the result. It sounds almost like an instruction to the judges. Well, it is.

So this is what you need to do. This is how you judge these things. Now, why is that important? Because all authority belongs to God. Justice is an attribute of God. God loves justice.

Right. And so His people need to understand what God's justice looks like, right? God's judgment is always right. And so I just make some observations here before we get into these that God's justice in these instructions is limited, it's measured, it's appropriate, right?

What is just and right according to the overstepping. And what strikes me as we get reading this is that in every case it is protective. It's protective. It's protective of the victims.

Through limitation and measured response. Yeah. So that you don't just say, well, He did that to me so I can take more from Him. Right, right.

Yeah, we'll see that demonstrated in the specifics on some of these. And interestingly enough, he starts into this section talking about laws pertaining to slaves. Slaves. Slaves. Yeah. Okay.

So does that rankle you? Because the first question that might arise in your mind is why does not God command against slavery? Why wasn't that the 11th commandment? Right. Thou shalt not have slaves. That's not there. Yeah. Well, slavery was just, it's a part of the worldwide experience. I mean, it's there.

But you also have to understand, you also have to understand that culturally slavery in Israel, now I'm not talking the rest of the world, but in Israel, as God will define it here, is not what we classically think of when we think of the African slavery that led to the slave trade to America and stuff like that. In fact, he'll hit on that a little bit here. This is a different kind of thing. And I might be stretching this here.

You can correct me on this. But in my understanding of slavery in Israel, it was always consensual, paying back a debt. Well, intended to be. Intended to be.

Yeah. Like if you were in extreme poverty, you could go into slavery to pay it back. A more accurate term would be a bond slave.

A bond slave. If you were in bankruptcy, you could pay it back, not with currency, but with time. With your time. By being their slave. If you did something against someone and they lost something as a result, you could use your time with them as restitution. So there were lots of situations that this was a way in which to kind of equalize and bring justice.

It wasn't about kidnapping people. Yeah. This is a way to control and regulate a practice that was common to all mankind.

Right. But if you think about it, it occurred to me that slavery is an idea, a presence, a human condition that's present all the way through the scriptures. You run into it in every book. It's a powerful and a useful image because what is a slave? A slave is one who has no will of his own. His will is completely subjected to his master. Yeah.

So this section is all about how to limit masters. Okay. But that becomes a very helpful concept in the New Testament, right, when Jesus says, hey, if you sin, you're a slave of sin. Yeah. Right? And Paul unpacks this idea of slavery spiritually in Romans 6 and in 1 Corinthians, you're not your own.

You're bought with a price. Right. Right.

So it's a very useful image. Yeah. So that may be one reason why God does not say don't have slaves. Right. Right.

Everyone is a slave to something or someone. Well here we go. Okay.

Let's talk about it. Chapter 21, verse 1. Now these are the rules or the judgments that you shall set before them. So when you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years and in the seventh he shall go free for nothing.

There's the Sabbath. Wow. And isn't that interesting? When we're talking about eternal slavery here, we're saying you basically use them for six years and then you've got to let them go. Your own people.

Your own people. Yeah. That's a change from what we think is standard slavery. And then, you know, I'll just leave it there, verse 3. Yeah.

Okay. You know, if he comes in single, he shall go out single. But if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. But if his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her masters and he shall go out alone.

It's an interesting wrinkle that we sort of don't like when we read it, you know. But if he comes in married and has children, well, when he's released, he goes out with his wife and children. They don't stay with him.

But if the master gives him a wife, which presumes that the master sort of has someone as a slave already, you know, in terms of that kind of property he can give them, it's still the master's property. This wife. Yeah, you know, that – Boy, that does not sit well with us. It does not sit well with us. Read on.

Read the rest of the story. However, however, there is a nice clause here, verse 5. But if the slave plainly says, I love my master, my wife, and my children, I will not go out free. He actually elects not to leave. If indeed he loves his master, then his master shall bring him to God and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl and he shall be his slave forever.

Okay, wait a second. So what he's saying is that if he not only loves his wife and his children, but he loves his master. I mean, he loves his master so much he says, I want to commit to you eternally, like for the rest of my life. Then they actually punch a hole in his ear as a son. Right, he's marked. Yeah, he's marked.

So that's exactly what happened. And he elects by his own choice not to be freed. To continue on as a servant of this master, who has brought him life in a sense, given him a wife, given him children, his whole benefit and livelihood is tied up with the well-being of this master. He wants to stay part of the household.

Wants to stay part of the household. In fact, later on in scriptures, you might see it every now and then when you read, you'll see an interesting phrase that goes out that says, my ears have been opened. And that actually is not just hearing, it actually means this.

It means that I have willingly subjected myself to work and exist for this master. That's what that's all about. Yeah, fascinating. Well, let's go on. Oh, press on.

Okay. Verse seven. So when a man sells his daughter as a slave. Wait, what?

What? She shall not go out as the male slave suit. Well, this was a kind of a way, if you think about dowries and marriage and stuff like that, this is how a woman could be kind of introduced into another family with the idea of marriage coming.

Well, that's going to become clear, but let's just read it. So if she does not please her master who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people since he has broken faith with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. And if he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing and her marital rights.

And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing without payment of money. Okay, so this is absolutely revolutionary at the time to talk about the rights of this woman who has been sold for a price into another family, but with the intention of being a wife. Being a wife, kind of a betrothal process.

Right. It is kind of a work version of dowry. So this really is not slavery as we tend to think of it in our American history. This is, listen to the rights that this woman has, right? She's not going to be cast out. She's not going to be sold off to another people who will treat her differently.

If he should take another wife, assuming that she has been sold to be a wife, he cannot diminish her food, her clothing or her marital rights. Gotta treat her well. This woman has rights in this family.

How about that? A female slave with rights. There was no other culture in the world that had this kind of legal regulation regarding female slaves. Yeah, and if he changes his mind about being married to her or one of his sons does not want to marry her, she's still highly protected. Right. And she's let free. She's let free.

She doesn't have to pay for her freedom. Right. Yeah, exactly. Wow. Yeah, that's astonishing.

That's really unheard of in ancient cultures. Well, let's move on. Verse 12. You know, I'm getting a feeling we're not going to finish this in this episode.

Well, just stop talking and start reading. Verse 12. Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.

But if he did not lie and wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which you may flee. Wow. That's protective.

Protective. If it happens accidentally, right? But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him even from my altar that he may die.

So this is what it looks like for someone who breaks that commandment, you shall not murder. Right. Right. Right. Yeah. And interesting enough, it introduces the idea of premeditation as an issue about the guilty. Right.

And that's part of our justice system as well. And that take him from my altar, that's just, that was usually a statement of refuge. Right. If someone was, if they went to the altar, they could kind of seek refuge.

But God had said, no, I will provide a place for you to flee if it all happened by accident. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Okay, verse 15, whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.

Well, that's what it looks like when you break the commandment about honoring your mother and your father. Right. Yeah. And you have to see the strikes not just hit them, it's like in verse 12, strikes a man so as he dies. So as he dies. So yeah. So we're, this is a serious kind of deal. 16, whoever steals a man and sells him and anyone found in possession of him shall be put to death.

Okay. There's the slavery we know. There's your classic African slavery.

You steal a person and then you sell them. I mean, that's not what we're talking about here in Israel, slavery at all. And it's guilty of capital punishment. Yeah, capital punishment, yeah. Because you have stolen that man's life. Yeah.

Yeah, he's stolen his life. 17, whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death. And when we say curse here, we're talking about threat of killing. You know, this is serious kind of stuff. You know, shall be put to death.

Honor your father and mother. So verse 18, when men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear, only he shall pay for the loss of his time and shall see him thoroughly healed. Okay, so it's not like he goes completely free, the one who started this fight and injured somebody else. But if he hits someone and lays him up for a while and he can't work his fields, well then what you have to do is you have to, you know, pay him back for the loss of his work time.

Okay, but the next one is really startling. Verse 20, when a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he's not to be avenged, for the slave is his money. So the lives of slaves were to be avenged. Yeah, yeah, they were protected.

Men or women. If the slave survives a day or two, it kind of hints at premeditation, you know, like if you just outraged, manslaughter kind of and lashed out at somebody. But if you premeditated, you're going to kill him on the first hit.

So this is kind of a statement of whether it was premeditated or not. Okay, the next one, again, we're seeing it's so protective of women. Look at this, verse 22, when men strive together and hit a pregnant woman so that her children come out, right, or in other words, she miscarries as a result of the blow. But there is no harm, no further harm to her. The one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm to the mother, then you shall pay, life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

That is a lot of detail regarding the injury of a woman who has been forced to miscarry at the abusive blow of another. That is an amazing thing, but it is a limited vengeance. Yeah, people many times don't understand this, this eye for an eye thing is a limitation. It says, if you lose an eye, you can only claim an eye.

You can't say, well, I lost my eye, so I'm going to destroy your whole village. Right. It's a vengeance.

It looks like a vengeance. And then we're going to see that if you strike your slave and he loses an eye, you've got to let him go. Yeah. That's a whole different thing. But the eye for eye idea is about limited retribution, isn't what it is.

It's not a reason to just bring vengeance and hell on somebody. But isn't it amazing that even here at the very earliest institution of the law, there is a recognition of the value of the baby that pregnant woman is carrying. Yeah. Yeah. If you hit a pregnant woman, verse 22.

And cause her to miscarriage. Yeah. Very big deal. Well, listen. We are like out of time. I think we're going to have to stop the list right here and come back next time and finish this list in chapter 21. But some final thoughts before we kind of go off and come back next week is the fact that these are, as you see them, these are all limitations.

Right. And they're limitations so that justice is served. And we have a God who is passionate about justice. And in fact, when we talk about end times events, what thrills most people is the fact that in end times events, God will complete bringing justice.

He'll make sure that the right things are done. And so we have a God of justice and a God who is establishing this new nation of Israel. And the only thing they've known about ethics and morality is the justice system of Egypt, which was actually kind of twisted in many respects. Slaves in Egypt could be mistreated. And they themselves experienced that. So he says, when there's someone who's working for you full time, you can't mistreat them like you did in Egypt. So the fascinating thing is one of the first thing he talks to Israel about when they come out is we're going to establish the nation. And I did take you from being slaves in Egypt. But now let's talk about slavery.

How it should be done well when someone works for you. Final thoughts? Well, I think we're out of time. I just wanted to read Micah 6-8. He's told you, oh man, what's good and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

And there it is. The complete statement of the law of God. To do justice.

Do what is just. And in the end, the nation of Israel will testify to the world who God is by this profoundly new justice system that respects the person and loves the person and doesn't do what the rest of the world does. It's a different place.

It's holy and set apart. So I'm Jim. And I'm Dorothy. And we're loving talking about this with you. And we'll come back to these laws next week as we continue to expand the Ten Commandments on More Than Ink. More Than Ink is a production of Main Street Church of Brigham City and is solely responsible for its content.

To contact us with your questions or comments, just go to our website, So that's lame, too.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-31 01:01:44 / 2023-03-31 01:14:10 / 12

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