The Golden Calf Incident: Rescued out of an idolatrous nation, the people seem to crave the tangible – an idol. You can take the Hebrew out of Egypt, but it is far more difficult to get the Egypt of the Hebrew. How does this apply to our own lives? How is the idol worship different in our culture? In our own hearts? How is it the same? Notice Moses’ intercession for Israel – it is based on God’s reputation and His promises.
The Tabernacle: Generosity among the people! Of course, it’s mostly what they took from Egypt, and there doesn’t seem to be a Starbuck’s nearby to purchase $6 coffee. Notice the beauty and the attention to detail. And notice how God provides talent to not just get the job done, but to get it done beautifully! Exodus 31:2, 6. This was undertaken exactly as God had commanded. God tells Moses several times to be careful to do it according to plan – because he was teaching lessons in every detail.
The Judgment of God: Exodus 34:12-13 reiterates that Israel is acting as agents of God’s wrath against idolatrous nations. Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 9:4-5, 18:12; Lev. 18:24-25, 20:23. So he warns them not to adopt the practices of the people in the land or the same thing will happen to them.
Moses’ face shown: Exodus 34:29, see also 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; Matthew 17:2. He had been in the presence of God. But with the Tabernacle erected, God’s presence came down in an even more significant way, as Moses could not enter the tent of meeting when the cloud came down upon it. Exodus 40:35.
Details of the sacrifices: This seems tedious, and it is. God is holy, and we cannot just prance into his presence and give him a high five. He is showing that fellowship with him is serious. Sin has a cost, and atonement must be made. Consider using some helps or a good study Bible to explore how each of these sacrifices speaks of Jesus Christ and His work.
Without blemish: Offerings must be without blemish – that is no defect. This is about sin and purity. Any defect is the result of sin – because of death and the curse. This looks forward to Jesus who did not sin. Anyone suggesting that Jesus sinned has a major problem explaining how is the Lamb of God – the atoning sacrifice for sins. Hebrews 4:15.
Judaizers: Those who add to God’s salvation plan of grace with works. Remember, Galatians! Paul gives his resume according to the flesh as a testimony – he was saved out of that life, and into the true gospel that he now preaches.
The ultimate prize: Paul considers relationship with Jesus Christ above everything. He counts everything as loss compared to it. He considers his life to share in the sufferings of Christ as if trying to earn the resurrection. He is clearly not teaching that we earn the resurrection, but how might it be helpful to this about that prize? What would you be willing to do to earn the resurrection? What would you be willing to endure? What would you be willing to give?
Leaving what is behind and reaching ahead: Forgetting – putting it out of mind. Present continuous. Straining – a strong word for reaching ahead. Also present continuous. This is a matter of focus, of mindset. This is a key theme of Philippians. See Philippians 1:12-18, 2:1-11, 4:4-9.
Examples: Paul holds up Jesus, Timothy, Epaphroditus, himself, and indeed anyone who walks in the right way. Philippians 3:17. He even warns them against the wrong examples 3:18-19; Philippians 3:2, 3:18-19;
Special Revelation and Inspiration: God has spoken – by prophets (Old Testament) and by Jesus (New Testament). There is nothing here about Him having “a word” for individuals other than the gift of prophecy which has been superseded by the New Testament.
Purpose: The recipients appear to be Jewish believers who are in danger of going back to the Jewish ways presumably due to pressure or persecution. The multiple warnings in the letter against falling away are some of the strongest warnings in scripture. If indeed, you turn back from the truth, were you ever really in it? So the letter is very much focused on how Jesus Christ is superior to everything in the Old Covenant. Consequently, the letter acts almost as a key helping us unlock some of the mysteries of things in the Old Covenant, showing us how they all pointed to Jesus Christ.
The Supremacy of Christ: Notice how Jesus Christ is compared to Moses, the angels, etc. and always shown to be greater. This book helps us understand the existence of many things in the Old Testament.
Salvation: Hebrews 2:9 shows a succinct statement of how we are saved. This is called penal substitutionary atonement.
Unbelief: Unbelief is a dangerous problem. Might it be the most dangerous? 3:12-19.
There are many good things in this to pray to God. Which is your favorite? Will you pray it today?
Verse 1 is a parallel pair of rhetorical questions. This is a good way to think about following God. If he is indeed our light, salvation, and stronghold, truly, whom shall we fear?