20200314 Parsha Ki Tisa – The Finger of God
The Parsha this week begins with a census where all the men over 20 were counted and taxed one half shekel as atonement for their souls. There are further instructions regarding the Mishkan and its furnishings.
Chapter 31 relates the commissioning of Oholiab and Bezalel who were to be in charge of everything concerning the construction of the Mishkan. The chapter conclude with Moses coming down off Mount Sinai with two tablets of stone. Verse 18 says that the tablets of stone were written by the finger of God.
Chapter 32 tells the story of the Golden calf, an extraordinary episode of failure. First, on the part of Aaron for his lack of leadership. And second, on the part of some of the Israelites who abandoned their moral compass to follow their baser instincts which devolved into idol worship and debauchery. Punishment quickly follows with the elimination of those who led and participated in this sad escapade.
Moses intervened to avoid the destruction of the entire nation of Israel. Even though they sinned greatly, God did not abandon His people Israel.
Israel was told to leave the region of Sinai. They had been there a year. It was time to move on. Moses was instructed to carve out new stone tablets upon which he, Moses wrote down the Ten Commandments. God renewed His covenant with Israel and declared their future victory in Canaan.
The Parsha ends with Moses coming down off the mountain after a miraculous time of fasting of both food and water for 40 days. His close encounter with God was evident, in that his face literally glowed so that he had to wear a veil over his face.
This morning, I want to jump back up to Chapter 31
Exodus 31:18 When He had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave the two tablets of the Testimony to Moses—tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.
The tablets of the Testimony were what we call the Ten Commandments or the Ten Words. Contrary to today’s interpretation, these were the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions.
What I would like to focus on is that these were written “by the finger of God”. His instructions to His people were so important that God felt that He, personally, should write them.
There are several other places in the Bible that speak of the finger of God, but this morning I want to discuss only three aspects of what is the finger of God.
I. The Finger of God – His Instruction
God is not the author of confusion. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:33 for God is not a God of confusion, but shalom.
He does not like chaos. He spoke into existence a world of order, where even the smallest particles, smaller than atoms behave in a predictable pattern. Ocean shores are generally fairly constant. We don’t have the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston beach one day and on 29th street in Lubbock the next only to retreat a hundred miles southeast of Corpus Christi. In a macro sense, the earth and all of God creation is neat and orderly. I know the sun will shine tomorrow and I can predict the next blood moon. God is a God of order.
For that reason, He gave us His instructions called Torah, so that we may know what His standard of holiness is. We know what He considers sin. Torah is an act of grace, because we are not judged by some nebulous concept that changes with the seasons. His word is constant, just as He is. We can know how we should act because God wrote it down for in with His own finger.
II. The Finger of God – Judgment
Another time we see directly the hand of God operating directly is found in the Book of Daniel. The grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar had ascended to the throne of Babylon and was hosting a party. He had ordered golden vessels stolen from the Temple to be brought so his guests could toast their gods and goddesses. In the middle of all the revelry a hand appeared.
Daniel 5:5 At that very moment, the fingers of a human hand emerged and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace opposite the lampstand, so that the king could see the back of the hand that was writing.
This passage does not say that it was the hand of God, but Belshazzar certainly reacted as if it was something terrifying. His legs gave out on him and he couldn’t stand.
Daniel was summoned and in his interpretation, he said that what Belshazzar saw was the hand of God.
Daniel 5:22-24 “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. (23) Instead you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. You had the vessels of His House brought before you, and you and your nobles, your consorts and your concubines have been drinking wine in them. You have praised the gods made of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. Yet you did not honor the God who holds in His hand your very breath and all your ways. (24) Therefore, the hand was sent from Him that wrote this inscription.
In this case the hand or finger of God was sent in judgment. We know that Belshazzar was killed that very night and his kingdom conquered by the Medes and Persians. This was an extraordinary display of God’s judgment. It is not seen very often but is devastating in its depth of destruction. If we look back at Exodus Chapter 8 when God sent lice to inflict Egypt, the Egyptian magicians marveled at the plague and acknowledged that it was the finger of God. It was something they could not create, augment or mitigate.
Some prognosticators and commentators are expressing the belief that this Coronavirus is some kind of judgment of mankind or it’s a sign of the end times. I don’t know if it is or not, but I believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a healing God who can protect His people from this virus.
To see a third time God’s finger in man’s affairs we have to go forward 500 years.
III. The Finger of God – His Mercy
John 8:2-11 At dawn, He came again into the Temple. All the people were coming to Him, and He sat down and began to teach them. (3) The Torah scholars and Pharisees bring in a woman who had been caught in adultery. After putting her in the middle, (4) they say to Yeshua, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of committing adultery. (5) In the Torah, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” (6) Now they were saying this to trap Him, so that they would have grounds to accuse Him. But Yeshua knelt down and started writing in the dirt with His finger. (7) When they kept asking Him, He stood up and said, “The sinless one among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (8) Then He knelt down again and continued writing on the ground. (9) Now when they heard, they began to leave, one by one, the oldest ones first, until Yeshua was left alone with the woman in the middle. (10) Straightening up, Yeshua said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” (11) “No one, Sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Yeshua said. “Go, and sin no more.”
A group of religious leaders opposed to the message and person of Yeshua attempted to set a theological trap for him. They brought to him a woman caught in the very act of adultery. They rightfully said that the penalty for adultery was death by stoning, but they didn’t get all of the elements of the trial correct. They didn’t bring the partner to her sin to Yeshua as was required by Torah. They didn’t hold a proper trial before the Beit Din. They wanted to see if Yeshua would say something that would contradict the law.
Instead, Yeshua, the Son of God bent down and with his finger started to write in the dust. We don’t know what he wrote. Was he writing out the law that addressed this situation, or as some have suggested, did he write the names of the woman’s accusers in one column and the sin of that accuser in another column? We can only speculate, but when Yeshua rose up he said, let him who is without sin cast the first stone. The law required the accuser to throw the first stone. But Yeshua turned it around on his antagonists. How could any of them cast the first stone? They would have had to declare that they had never sinned and that would be blaspheme. Perhaps they saw their name in the dust and horrified and shamed before their colleagues who could now see their own sins. We don’t know.
But we saw here the hand of God through Yeshua create the framework for mercy.
In the three examples I’ve given you this morning we saw God’s hand instructing us. His word is there for all to see if we would just follow it. The choice is ours. We can meet the finger of God in judgment telling us to depart I never knew you. Or we can see the finger of God beckoning to us.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and ‘you will find rest for your souls.’ (30) For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Are you burdened this morning? Does it feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulder? God’s hand of mercy is extended to you. He is inviting you to give Him your hurts, your fears, your failures. He will give you rest.