February 13: The System
Exodus 30–32; John 5:31–47; Song of Solomon 4:4–8
Religion is a tough subject. Jesus staunchly opposed religion for religion’s sake, yet He was a Law-abiding Jew. He recognized the value of worship, community, and discipleship, but not the value of religious constraints: religion can bind someone in tradition and be used for oppression. This knowledge makes it hard to understand why God set up religious systems in the first place. Their purpose is confusing.
In Exodus 30–31, there are full descriptions of altars, taxes, basins, oils, incense, and the Sabbath. In the middle of this, we’re given a glimpse into what it’s all about in a scene where God places His Spirit upon two men so that they may honor Him with a creative craft. They will depict, in art, what it means to know God. Here we get a glimpse into the symbolic work at play. God is not building religion for religion’s sake—He is building systems to help people understand Him. They’re meant to be used for the purpose of knowing Him and nothing else.
Religion is exploited in the narrative in the next chapter, where an impatient Aaron (the man meant to lead God’s people to Him) promotes the worship of another god. (The golden calf was a symbol of Baal, the chief god of a neighboring people group.) Here we are given another glimpse into something deeper, but this situation is not God’s will. We see what happens when people become impatient: they build their own systems, reaching out to something that can’t actually help them.
And this is precisely what we do when we sin. We seek our own way, our own system, when instead we should be seeking God’s way and worshiping Him the way in which He has called us.
Jesus confronts this problem with religion. “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father! The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have put your hope! For if you had believed Moses, you would believe me, for that one wrote about me. But if you do not believe that one’s writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:45–47). These words would have cut to the core of a highly religious, first-century Jew. Imagine someone claiming that the very way they worshiped and their very book of teachings actually testifies against them. Imagine losing the court case because the authority you appeal to is actually revealing the errors of your ways.
Just a few lines earlier, Jesus provides His reasoning for this statement: “I do not accept glory from people, but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me” (John 5:41–42).
Jesus does not seek glory from a religious system—a system that both He and Paul acknowledge was failing because of people’s sinfulness and desires to exploit it. Instead,
He’s in the business of relationships. We all have our failing systems, and they’re revealed as we seek Jesus. And when they’re revealed, we must let God work within us and our communities to destroy those systems. A creative act that leads to better worship, discipleship, or community is desirable, but an act that inhibits it must be destroyed.
What systems have you and your worship community built that are keeping you from fully entering into relationship with Jesus?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Furthermore thou shalt make an Altar for sweet perfume, of Shittim wood thou shalt make it. The length thereof a cubit, and the breadth thereof a cubit, (it shall be foursqure) and the height thereof two cubits: the horns thereof shall be of the same. And thou shalt overlay it with fine gold, both the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and his horns: also thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about. Besides this thou shalt make under this crown two golden rings on either side: even on every side shalt thou make them, that they may be as places for the bars to bear it withal. The which bars thou shalt make of Shittim wood, and shalt cover them with gold. After thou shalt set it before the veil, that is near the Ark of the Testimony, before the Mercy seat that is upon the Testimony, where I will appoint with thee. And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps thereof, shall he burn it. Likewise at even, when Aaron setteth up the lamps thereof, he shall burn incense: this perfumes shall be perpetually before the Lord, throughout your generations. Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor offering, neither pour any drink offering thereon. And Aaron shall make reconciliation upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering in the days of reconciliation: once in the year shall he make reconciliation upon it throughout your generations: this is most holy unto the Lord. Afterward the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then they shall give every man a redemption of his life unto the Lord, when thou tellest them, that there be no plague among them when thou countest them. This shall every man give, that goeth into the number, half a shekel, after the shekel of the Sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs) the half shekel shall be an offering to the Lord. All that are numbered from twenty years old and above, shall give an offeirng to the Lord. The rich shall not pass, and the poor shall not diminish from half a shekel, when ye shall give an ofering unto the Lord, for the redemption of your lives. So thou shalt take the money of the redemption of the children of Israel, and shalt put it unto the use of the Tabernacle of the Congregation and the Altar, and shalt put water therein. For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands, and their feet thereat. When they go into the Tabernacle of the Congregation, or when they go unto the Altar to minister, and to make the perfume of the burnt offering to the Lord, they shall wash themselves with water, lest they die. So they shall wash their hands and their feet that they die not: and this shall be to them an ordinance forever, both unto him and to his seed throughout their generations. Also the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices: of the most pure myrrh five hundred shekels, of sweet cinnamon half so much, that is, two hundred and fifty, and of sweet calmus, two hundred, and fifty: Also of Cassia five hundred, after the shekel of the Sancturary, and of olive oil an Hin. So thou shalt make ot it the oil of holy ointment even a most precious ointment after the art of the Apothecary: this shall be the oil of holy ointment. And thou shalt anoint the Tabernacle of the Congregation therewith, and the Ark of the Testimony: Also the Table, and all the instruments thereof, and the Candlestick, with all the instruments thereof, and the altar of incense: And the altar of burn offering with all his instruments, and the laver and his foot. So thou shalt sanctify them, and they shall be most holy: all that shall touch them, shall be holy. Thou shalt also anoint Aaron and his sons, and shalt consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the Priest’s office. Moreover thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me, throughout your generations. None shall anoint man’s flesh therewith, neither shall ye make any composition like unto it: for it is holy, and shall be holy nto you. Whosoever shall make the like ointment, or whosoever shall put any of it upon a stranger, even he shall be cut off from his people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee these spices, pure myrrh and clear gum and galbanum, these odors with pur frankincense of each like weight: Then thou shalt make of them perfume composed after the art of the apothecary, mingled together, pure and holy. And thou shlat beat it to powder, and shalt put it before the Ark of the Testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will make appointment with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. And ye shall not make unto you any composition like this perfume, which thou shalt make: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. Whosoever shall make like unto that to smell thereto, even he shall be cut off from his people. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, Whom I have filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all workmanship: To find out curious works to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, Also in the art to set stones, and to carve in timber, and to work in all manner of workmanship. And behold, I have joined him wiht Aholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan, and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted, have I put wisdom to make all that I have commanded thee: That is, the Tabernacle of the Congregation, and the Ark of the Testimony, and the Mercy seat that shall be thereupon, with all instruments of the Tabernacle: Also the Table and the instruments thereof, and the pure Candlestick with all his instruments, and the Altar of perfume: Likewise the Altar of burnt offering with all his instruments, and the Laver with his foot: Also the garments of the ministration, and the holy garment of Aaron the Priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the Priest’s office, And the anointing oil, and sweet perfume for the Sanctuary according to all that I have commanded thee, shall they do. Afterward the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, and say, Notwithstanding keep e my Sabbaths: for it is a sign between me and you in your generations, that ye may know that I the Lord do sanctify you. Ye shall therefore keep the Sabbath: for it is holy unto you: he that defileth it, shall die the death: therefore whosoever worketh therein, the same person shall be even cut off from among his people. Six days shall men work, but in the seventh day is the Sabbath of the holy rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work int he Sabbath day, shall die the death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, that they may observe the rest throughout their generations for an everlasting Covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, and in the seventh day, he ceased and rested. Thus (when the Lord had made an end of communing with Moses upon mount Sinai) he gave him two Tables of the Testimony, even tables of stone, written with the finger of God. But when the people saw, that Moses tarried long ere he came down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together against Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods to go before us: for of this Moses (the man that brought us out of the land of Egypt) we know not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Pluck off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, adn bring them unto me. Then all the people plucked from themseles the golden earrings, which were in their ears, and they brought them unto Aaron. Who receieved them at their hands, and fashioned it with the graving tool, and made of it a molten calf: then they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt. When Aaron saw that, he made an Altar before it: and Aaron proclaimed, saying, Tomorrow shall be the holy day of the Lord. So they rose up the next day in the morning and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings: also the people sat them down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Then the Lord said unto Moses, Go get thee down: for thy people which thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt, hath corrupted their ways. They are soon turned out of the way, which I commanded them: for they have made them a molten calf, and have offered thereto, saying, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Again the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, for I will consume them: but I will make of thee a mighty people. But Moses prayed unto the Lord his God, and said, O Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt, with great power and with a mighty hand? Wherefore shall the Egyptians speak, and say, He hath brought them out maliciously for to slay the in the mountains, and to consume them from the earth? turn from thy fierce wrath, and change thy ind from this evil toward thy people. So Moses returned and went down from the mountain with the two Tables of teh Testimoy in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides, even on the one side and on the other were they written. And these Tables were the work of God, and this writing was the writing of God graven in the Tables. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people, as they shouted, and he sai dunto Moses, There is a noise of the war in the host. Who answered, It is not the noise of them that have the victory, nor the noise of them that are overcome: but I do hear the noise of singning. Now, as soon as he came near unto the host, he saw the calf and the dancing: so Moses’ wrath waxed hot,and he cast the Tables out of his hands, and brake them in pieces beneath the mountain. After, he took th calf, which they had made, and burned it in the fire, and ground it unto powder, and strowed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. Also Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? Then Aaron answered, Let not the wrath of my Lord wax fierce: Thou knowest this people, that they are even set on mischief. And they said unto me, Make us gods to go before us: for we know not what is become of this Moses (the man that brought us out of the land of Egypt). Then I said to them, Ye that have gold, pluck it off: and they brought it me, and I did cast it into the fire, aan dthereof came this calf. Moses therefore saw that ht epeople were naked (for Aaron had maade them naked unto their shame among their enemies) And Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who pertaineth to the Lord? let them come to me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves unto him. Then he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel: Put every man his sword by his side, go to and fro, fro mgate to gate, through the host, and lay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. So the chilren of Levi did as Moses had commanded: and there fell of the peole the same day about three thousand men. (For Moses had said, Consecrate your hands unto the Lord this day, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother, that there may be given you a blessig this day.) And when the morning came, Moses said unto the people, Ye have committed a grievous crime: but now I will go up to the Lord, if I may pacify him for your sin. Moses therefore went again unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made gods of gold. Therefore now if thou pardon their sin, thy mercy shall appear: but if thou wilt not, I pray thee, raise me out of thy book, which thou hast written. Then the Lord said to Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, I will put him out of my book. Go now therefore, bring the people unto the place which I commanded thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee, but yet in the day of my visitation I will visit their sin upon them. So the Lord plagued the people, because they caused Aaron to make the calf which he made. Exodus 30–32
- If I should bear witness of myself, my witness were not true. There is another that beareth witness of me, and I know that the witness, which he beareth of me, is true. Yet he sent unto John, and he bore witness unto the truth. But I receive not the record of man: neverthreless these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining candle: and ye would for a season have rejoiced in his light. But I have greater witness than the witness of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, beareth witness of me. Ye have not heard his voice at any time, neither have ye seen his shape. And his word have you not abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believed not. Search the Scriptures: for in them ye think to have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me. But ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not the praise of men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Fahter’s Name, and ye recieve me not: if another shall come in his own name, him will ye receive. How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh of God alone? Do not think that I will accuse you to my Fahter: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words. John 5:31–47
- Thy neck is as the tower of David built for defense: a thousand shields hang therein, and all the targets of the strong men. Thy two breasts areas two young roes tht are twins, and none is bare among them. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy talk is comel: thy temples are within thy locks as a piece of a pomegranate. .Thy neck is as the tower of David built for defense: a thousand shields hang therein, and all the targets of the strong men. Song of Solomon 4:4–8