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Dive deeper into your knowledge of God's word. Study the Bible with help from these blog posts and other RightNow Media resources.

The “Boring” Part of Exodus

The intricate detail of God’s first home with the Israelites shows us the lengths to which God will go to be with his people.

For those brave enough to embark on a Bible reading plan, the gears grind to a screeching halt around the second half of Exodus.

The tabernacle furniture doesn’t grab us the way the liberation of God’s people from Egypt does.

Our eyes may glaze over at building materials and measurements, but the intricate detail of God’s first home with the Israelites and the description of how Israel is supposed to act with God in this new space shows us the lengths to which God will go to be with his people. This isn’t just Israel’s story—it’s our story too.

God makes the purpose of this portable worship complex clear to Moses in Exodus 25:8: “They are to make a sanctuary for me so that I may dwell among them” (emphasis added). God will “dwell”—sakan in Hebrew—in the tabernacle similarly to how he “settled”—sakan—on Mount Sinai to give the Law to Moses in Exodus 24:16.

What Moses experienced up on Mount Sinai—talking with God and seeing his glory—God now wants to make accessible, in part, to all his people in the camp. The mountain-top experience will come down to the people wandering in the wilderness. God doesn’t ask his people to climb up to meet with him—he stoops down to live with his people. Starting to sound familiar?

The Tabernacle Then

When God moves into our space and time, he changes everything. With the tabernacle, the space between God’s heavenly home and Israel’s earthly existence didn’t just get closer—the two places overlapped and became something new. This new space points back to God’s presence with humanity in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1–2—the original dwelling place of God and people. God will make his presence known, like he did with Adam and Eve, in this new space where heaven and earth collide—a heaven-and-earth space.

The Garden of Eden imagery shows up throughout the tabernacle instructions. The entrance to the tabernacle was a curtain of blue, purple, and crimson fabrics (Exodus 27:9, 16)—colors not naturally occurring in linens but apparent in nature. There are cherubim—the same angelic beings who prevented Adam and Eve from returning to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:24—worked into the design of the curtains. These colors and images of angels signified that those entering the tabernacle were stepping into an otherworldly place. Importantly, however, instead of preventing humanity’s meeting with God in the garden, cherubim welcomed the people into God’s presence.

Another literary parallel to the Garden of Eden involves the progressively ornate materials the closer one gets to the center. The materials used in the outer courtyard are bronze and silver (Exodus 27:1–8; 30:17–21), and the materials used inside the tent are gold (Exodus 25:10–40). But inside the tent, there’s an even more special place—the holy of holies with more gold objects (Exodus 25:10–22). This was the place where God would manifest his presence and meet with the people. The purposeful move from bronze to gold—from the courtyard to the holy of holies—parallels Genesis 2. The creation story moves from the land of Eden—the region God chose to plant a garden—to the actual garden itself and even further to the tree of life “in the middle of the garden” (Genesis 2:8–9). The closer to the center, the more concentrated the divine presence.

So what? What does it matter that the tabernacle reminds us of the Garden of Eden? What is God doing through Israel with the tabernacle?

Just like God created humanity to be with him and to multiply his rule over the earth, God was doing a new work of creation in and through the people of Israel. God was remaking humanity—and the world—through the people of Israel with the tabernacle. When we see the Garden of Eden imagery while reading the “boring” parts of Exodus, we are reminded of God’s initiative to be with his people and to have his people share his presence with the whole world.

The Tabernacle Now

We can be tempted to miss the flashbacks to the Garden of Eden in the tabernacle instructions. But we should not only notice that God moved toward his people in the past; we should also notice that God is still moving toward his people now in the newest heaven-and-earth space—the church.

The same God who ordered Israel to build these precise structures now lives continuously with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

We don’t have to build precise structures to meet with God like the Israelites. The mountain-top experience that came down to Israel’s wandering camp has now, in the presence of the Spirit, been made available for everyone who trusts Jesus.

Our existence as the new tabernacle—the new meeting place—points toward the ultimate heaven-and-earth place—the renewed creation of Revelation 21–22. One day, God will completely fill the earth with his Spirit and live with us forever in an entirely renewed creation. Upon seeing a vision of God’s restorative plan, John exclaims, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them” (Revelation 21:1, 3).

The tabernacle in Exodus points us to the renewed creation—the ultimate heaven-and-earth space. And when we doze off reading about the different metals and linens, we can remind ourselves that behind those instructions stands a God who not only wants to be with his people but will stop at nothing to be with them.

Until we reach that ultimate “tabernacle,” Exodus reminds us that the same divine presence that was with Israel now exists in us—the church made up of diverse brothers and sisters trusting Jesus as we wander in the wilderness.

Mary: More Than Mother of God

While Mary serves the miraculous and cosmic role of birthing the Messiah, she is also a faithful witness of what it looks like to model Christ’s action of mediating.

Interest in Mary peaks during Christmas.

As we unpack our nativity scenes from eleven months of storage, placing Mary next to the manger is as normal as singing Christmas carols or watching Buddy the Elf eat gum off the subway railing.

For many of us, though, Mary never leaves the manger’s side. She goes back in storage with the wise men and reappears next year. While Mary serves the miraculous and cosmic role of birthing the Messiah, she is also a faithful witness of what it looks like to model Christ’s action of mediating between God and humanity—telling others what God is like and bringing him their concerns.

You may be thinking, “Wait, isn’t Jesus the only one who mediates between God and humanity?” And that instinct would be right. I’m not talking about mediating salvation between God and people—that’s something that only Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection has accomplished. What I am saying is that, like the prophets in the Old Testament standing as a go-between by proclaiming God’s message to the people and representing the people’s requests to God, Mary shows us how to occupy the space between God and the world as a light that points people to God.

Mary doesn’t supplant Jesus’s role as the ultimate mediator. But inside and outside of the Christmas story, Mary does show us how to obey our call to live as Christ’s body on earth, sharing who God is and advocating on behalf of others.

Mary Proclaims God’s Character

Before traveling to Bethlehem for Jesus’s birth, Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also miraculously pregnant. Elizabeth recognized Mary’s unique role as the “mother of [her] Lord” (Luke 1:43) and pointed toward Mary’s faith that God would “fulfill what he has spoken to her” (Luke 1:45).

In response, Mary launched into her famous speech magnifying God’s character—the Magnificat. These ten verses are more than Mary simply responding to her situation with gratitude. Mary shares God’s words not only with Elizabeth but also with us as readers thousands of years later.

Many commentators say Mary’s speech falls in the genre of prophecy. In essence, a prophet served as a mediator between God and people to provide the people with revelation of who God is. Mary comments on her own “humble condition” (Luke 1:48) and how God exalts the “lowly” (Luke 1:52), like herself. By describing herself in these terms, Mary speaks to those who may similarly feel overlooked or unimportant—much like how the people of Israel likely felt at the time of Jesus’s birth. Mary says that God has “helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever” (Luke 1:54–55) with Jesus’s birth announcement, reminding God’s people that he cares and acts on their behalf.

Through her speech, Mary stepped into the space between God and his people by proclaiming the good news that God’s “mercy is from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50) and that “he has scattered the proud . . . [and] toppled the mighty from their thrones” (Luke 1:51–52). She reminds us that God “has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:53). Her song reads like many of the psalms in the Old Testament that proclaim the character of God to people in desperate need.

Mary models how we should be little mediators of God’s presence on earth—declaring his good news to people who need to hear it.

Mary Intercedes on Behalf of Others

The beginning of Jesus’s public ministry provides a stage for Mary to stand as a type of mediator outside of the Christmas story. Before Jesus began teaching and demonstrating his identity as Israel’s Messiah, he and his disciples were invited to a wedding Mary also attended. As John writes in John 2:1–12, the wine for the wedding in Cana ran out and presented the host family with a problem.

Running out of wine at a celebration in Ancient Near Eastern culture was a social faux pas that would have brought enormous shame on the host family. Seeing this risk and interceding on behalf of the wedding party, Mary went to Jesus with a request without a question, “They don’t have any wine” (John 2:3).

Not only did Mary initiate stepping in as an in-between for the wedding party, but she also went straight to the person she knew could act, revealing her faith. She saw a need and entrusted it to the person who could meet that need.

While Jesus’s response appears harsh (his calling Mary “woman” isn’t derogatory or dismissive as he uses the same word when speaking tenderly to her on the cross in John 19:26), Jesus explained that he was hesitant because he had not begun to reveal his identity as Messiah—which Mary presumably knew—to everyone.

Instead of feeling rejected, Mary reaffirmed her faith in her son by telling the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do. Jesus may have chosen not to act and told the servants to stand by, but Mary accepted that possibility and left the decision in Jesus’s capable hands. In doing so, she communicated an important truth not only for the servants at the wedding but also for us reading the passage today—obey God regardless of what he calls you to do. Mary advocated for people who had nowhere else to go and instructed them on how they should respond to God’s command—much like how the church operates in the world today.

Follow Mary as She Follows Christ

Maybe it is appropriate that we think of Mary most often during the Christmas season. Christmas often calls us to act in mediatory ways.

This may be someone’s first Christmas alone, and they need to hear from you that God sees them. Perhaps this Christmas someone received bad news and needs you to advocate for them on your knees in prayer. By imitating Mary as she imitates Christ, we can be God’s ambassadors, channeling his overpowering love for them.

We cannot imitate Mary’s honored role in the incarnation, but we can replicate her faithful ministry by following Jesus as he mediates for us.


Resurrection Morning: A Thrill of Hope

You can’t have Easter without Christmas. The birth of our savior and his resurrection are inextricably linked.

You can’t have Easter without Christmas. The birth of our savior and his resurrection are inextricably linked.

Jesus’s resurrection, as “O Holy Night” says, is the breaking of a “new and glorious morn.” That hymn, in fact, bears great significance for us this Easter season. In its first few lines, we find incredible hope:

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear savior’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth. 

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

Jesus’s birth held the promise of a new hope for those who were there to see it. Joseph and Mary and the shepherds were certain of the significance of the child laying in that borrowed feeding trough (Luke 2:7). The “Savior . . . who is the Messiah, the Lord” was “born for [them]” (Luke 2:11, CSB). 

Thirty-three years later, the “new and glorious morn” was replaced with hopeless mourning. Jesus’s lifeless, broken body was being placed in a borrowed tomb, and the holiness of that first night was being called into question. The stars that shined so “brightly” at his coming were now dimmed with his apparent departure. The joy of the weary world gave way to deep, guttural groans of lament.

From Garden to Graveyard

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose to pluck a fruit that they weren’t yet allowed to harvest, and the thorny consequences of that first sin affect us to this day. With one ill-advised bite, the garden became a graveyard that spread death around the globe.


In John’s gospel, we first meet the resurrected Jesus in a graveyard outside the tomb he had once occupied. Mary, soaking the ground outside the tomb with her tears, hears the voice of someone behind her, presuming him to be the gardener. 


What’s a gardener doing in a graveyard before sunrise?

Mary’s assumption about the man in the garden, who we know is Jesus, points us to a deeper truth. Jesus, beginning with his death and resurrection, is turning a graveyard into a garden, undoing the curse of sin. He is inaugurating and cultivating the new creation. He is resurrecting this death-soaked world.

The world now has a reason to rejoice.

Hope Restored

We celebrate Easter because at the resurrection of Jesus—the new and better gardener—the world is in bloom again. We wear bright colors, sing resurrection hymns, and feast with family and friends because we carry with us the thrill of hope, for “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”


We couldn’t sing “O Holy Night” without the empty tomb of resurrection morning. The “night of our dear savior’s birth,” would be like any other night if not for the thrilling refrain: “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

So, rejoice weary world! For the “new and glorious morn” has come. The world is alive again. 

Journey with Jesus

If you’re interested in learning more about the life of Jesus of Nazareth and the impact of his ministry, check out Journey with Jesus with Dr. Tony Evans, Chrystal Evans Hurst, and Priscilla Shirer.


Hope Has a Name

When God is the object of our hope, we wait in confident expectation. Why?

Many aspiring politicians hope to become president of the United States one day. But the vast majority of them, despite countless county fair hot dogs, late nights, and fundraising emails, will never sit in the Oval Office. Their desires and dreams are based on subjective possibilities beyond their control.


Across the pond, William, son of England’s Prince Charles, hopes to become king of the United Kingdom one day. As the grandson of the queen, the son of the heir apparent, and second in line to the monarchy, he is counting on over a thousand years of law and tradition to guarantee his eventual accession to the throne. It’s safe to say he confidently expects to be king one day.


Whose hope, the politician’s or the prince’s, more closely resembles yours? Like our political candidates, we often use hope to express a desire or wish for a possible outcome. Hope can seem vague and subjective, difficult to pinpoint. It can be a feeling, an impression, a wish—often felt with deep fervency. I really hope my team wins tonight. I sure hope Mom cooks my favorite meal. 


Feelings of hope brighten our countenances. But in the end, we’re still waiting for something we can’t guarantee will happen. William’s hope, however, is a confident expectation that his head will one day wear the crown. The law and his family tree are a sure foundation for his hope. 


When the writers of Scripture speak of hope in God, they use words of waiting, confidence, and trust. When God is the object of our hope, we wait in confident expectation. Why?


God has proven his reliability, trustworthiness, and power; therefore, our hope in him is well-deserved and sure.

God’s provision and redemptive acts are fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The power of biblical hope lies in its object—God’s faithful character and matchless power—rather than the fervency of our feelings.

The Bible speaks of God himself as our hope: 

Jeremiah, praying to God, “Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress” (Jeremiah 14:8) and “LORD, the hope of Israel” (17:13). 

Paul names Jesus: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope . . .” (1 Timothy 1:1).


Jesus’s victorious return: “. . . while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

The church is sometimes called “the hope of the world,” but any hope that we offer to the world comes from our savior. Jesus is the hope of the world, and he calls us to share his message of love, grace, and salvation. Because he is all-powerful and ever-faithful, we can look to the future not with dread but with joyful anticipation. We can endure disasters and conflicts and every disappointment with a sense of purpose. 


God’s word is true, and his gospel offers hope for each of us individually, for the church as a body, and for the world which hasn’t yet recognized its savior.

Hope for us.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).


Hope for the church.

“For this reason we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10).


Hope for the world.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in Christ’s triumphal procession and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14–15).

As the body of Christ set apart to bear his name, the church reflects the glorious likeness of our savior. He calls us to shine like stars in the world, proclaiming him in word and deed. The risen Jesus is our hope both now and eternally. 


More than even the law and a thousand years of tradition, more than aimless waiting or wishful thinking, we have reason to hope.


Hope has a name, and his name is Jesus. 


The Genealogy of Jesus

During this Advent season, let’s consider what Matthew is teaching us through the genealogy of Jesus.

Can we just skip the first seventeen verses of Matthew? The real story of Jesus starts when Joseph struggles with Mary’s news that she’s expecting a baby that isn’t his. At Christmastime, we want to read about dreams and angels and a baby’s birth, not a long list of “begats.” 


Actually, no. Biblical authors always write with purpose. During this Advent season, as we anticipate the second coming of Jesus by contemplating his first coming, let’s consider what Matthew is teaching us through the orderly genealogy. 

Including Jesus’s ancestry proves he was born specifically into the family of David. By tracing a direct line from David to Jeconiah to Joseph, Matthew demonstrates that Jesus was a legitimate son of David, qualified to become the future king of Israel. 

The names Matthew includes are also important to understanding Jesus. Readers can go back to the Old Testament to learn more about each ancestor mentioned. Careful readers will notice that among forty-two generations in Matthew’s list, five included the mother along with the father. We are meant to note those breaks in his pattern and explore why their stories might be significant. 

What do the five women in Jesus’s family tree teach us about what God values?

Tamar: Righteousness

“Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar . . .” (Matthew 1:3)

How do you preach a family-friendly sermon about an abandoned daughter-in-law (Tamar) who seduced her father-in-law (Judah) and was declared righteous for doing it? It’s difficult, but knowing the tradition of Levirate Law helps: Judah was morally bound to provide a husband for Tamar after his two oldest sons died, but he refused. Tamar later pursued the justice owed to her by tricking (a very willing) Judah into sleeping with her. Though ready to condemn her apparent immorality, when Judah realized what had happened he admitted, “She is more righteous than I” (Genesis 38:26, NIV). She birthed twin sons, one of whom became a forefather to David and eventually Jesus. The woman often labeled “prostitute” was actually pursuing righteousness—and God blessed Israel through her.

Rahab: Courage

“Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab . . .” (Matthew 1:5)

The Canaanite prostitute had heard about the nation of Israel, and their mighty God, long before they prepared to overrun her city of Jericho (Joshua 2). When she realized Israelite spies were in her inn, she hid them from her own authorities and proclaimed her allegiance to Yahweh, “for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below” (Joshua 2:11). Turning her back on her own people and choosing God took guts. Rahab went from the ultimate outsider—an immoral foreigner—to becoming a leading insider, accepted as a faithful member of Judah. She eventually married their leader and became a noteworthy link in the Messianic line. Her courage and faith demonstrate for all of us that God restores the repentant and welcomes all who call on his name. 

Ruth: Loyalty

“Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth” (Matthew 1:5)

Another foreigner grafted into Jesus’s heritage, Ruth came to faith through grief. A Moabite woman, she married an Israelite man who died within ten years, leaving her childless. But her devotion to her grieving mother-in-law, Naomi, reflected the unconditional loving-kindness of Israel’s God whom she pledged to serve. Ruth is, above all, loyal, just as Yahweh is. She, too, married into the leading family of Judah and became a critical link in the long line to the savior.

The Wife of Uriah: Forgiveness and Faithfulness

“David fathered Solomon by Uriah’s wife . . .” (Matthew 1:6)

By avoiding her first name and instead referencing her by her murdered husband’s name (2 Samuel 11), Matthew highlights Bathsheba as a victim. The reference isn’t so much about her as it is about David’s actions toward her. Having abused his power as king and taken her to his bed, then murdering her husband after a failed attempt to cover up the resulting pregnancy, David is the sinner in this story. In his parable to David (2 Samuel 12:1–14), the prophet Nathan confronts him with his guilt, prompting David’s confession that he indeed had sinned. But God chose to fulfill his covenant with David despite David’s evil behavior, because he is a faithful God. Even our worst sins will not discourage him from his purposes. What about Bathsheba? God raised her up through her son Solomon, who became king after David thanks in part to her advocacy (1 Kings 1:15–35). By God’s grace she survived heartbreak and grew into a woman of strength and influence.

Mary, Mother of Jesus: Obedience and Trust 

“. . . Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.” (Matthew 1:16)

The culmination of Jesus’s genealogy centers on his mother, Mary. The rest of chapter one (vv 18–25) assures readers that Mary’s child comes from God himself, that Jesus is the long-promised Emmanuel that Isaiah predicted (Isaiah 7:14). We can explore Mary’s point of view in Luke 2, where we see her willing submission to God’s challenging but amazing call on her life. She was Jesus’s first disciple, believing in him from the very beginning and faithful to stand with him through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. 

The Advent season gives us time to reflect on the first coming of our savior and the longing that God’s people felt as they waited for him. But he did come! Jesus was born—Emmanuel, “God with us”—as part of an extended family whom God worked through to bless the world. As we anticipate his second coming, Jesus’s family line can teach us much about how he wants us to live: faithful, obedient, loyal, courageous, repentant, forgiving.

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