Dirt Sabbath

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Exodus 23:10-19 For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest . . . (vv. 10-11) During university, I worked for an agricultural products company. My boss worked relentlessly, but dutifully observed a weekly Sabbath on Sundays. One Saturday night, however, he had a small amount of work left over and decided to complete it the next morning. Curiously, first thing Sunday morning, his truck broke …

Justice of the Heart

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Exodus 23:1-9 Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony . . . do not pervert justice . . . (v. 2 NIV) The Old Testament contains instructions regarding every area of human life. These instructions guide public action, but it starts with shaping private attitude. It rests on one guiding conviction: that the God who created and orders all things also presides over all things. Human beings are accountable to God for every act …

Altered Altars

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Exodus 20:22-25 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. (v. 25) The Lord repeatedly prohibits his people from manipulating the materials of true faith. These prohibitions protect against diminishing God’s glory. They also prevent fashioning a version of God that serves a human ambition or agenda. The Lord’s prohibition extends even to altars for the prescribed sacrifices. These are …

Do Not Be Afraid

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Exodus 20:1-21 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you . . .” (v. 20) Typically, when someone says, “Don’t worry,” we assume there must be some reason to worry, and we start worrying. After receiving the Ten Commandments directly from God, Moses tells the Israelites, “Do not fear.” The instruction seems ironic, because the people have at least two good reasons for …

Holy Mountain

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Exodus 19:1-7, 16-22 Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. (v. 21) Every December of my childhood our family gathered with our closest friends to celebrate Sinterklaas—the birthday of Saint Nicholas. We congregated in the living room and eagerly awaited the arrival of the saint. The door would finally burst open, and there he was with all his gifts and glory. The problem was that he …