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Four simple questions and four (perhaps) surprising answers regarding Colossians 3:10:

Put on the new self (the new man), which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

1) Who is the Creator referred to?

In context you'd think it was Christ, who is the Creator Image of God (Col 1:15-17)

2) What gets renewed?

The "new self" gets renewed.  It's not simply that we are renewed by getting a new self.  And it's not simply that we are given a new self.  We are given a new self and the new self is renewed.

3) How does renewal happen?

Knowledge.  Note all the knowledge language of the letter.  This is just from chapter 1:
"heard... word of truth... gospel... learned... understood... all its truth... knowledge... spiritual wisdom... understanding... increasing in knowledge... make the word of God fully known... Him we proclaim... teaching everyone with all wisdom."
We desperately and continually need gospel knowledge to be renewed.

4) What does our Creator look like (given that we're supposed to look like Him)?

He is compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forbearing, forgiving - in a word: He is love (v12-14).  We know that these character-traits originally belong to the Lord because a) it says "Forgive as the Lord forgave you" and b) these virtues are outlined in the context of our becoming like Him.

So we don't become forgiving, humble and meek because God will hold us to account and He's big and powerful.  We are forgiving, humble and meek because He is forgiving, humble and meek.  And He has demonstrated it at the cross.


Therefore as we appreciate and know the goodness of this good news our new selves are being renewed to look like Him - the compassionate and humble God.

Surprised by any of those answers?


If you ever say Amen it's usually a response to what someone else has said or prayed, right?

And it's usually after what they've said, right?

And only if it's really good do you repeat it: 'Amen, Amen!', right?

So it's an affirmation that someone else has just spoken truth (Amen is straight from the Hebrew for truth).

But when Jesus comes along, what does He do?  He gives Amens to His own sayings: 30 times in Matthew alone!  And in John's Gospel He gives a double-Amen to 25 of His own teachings!

e.g. Amen, Amen I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life (John 5:24)

What's Jesus doing by prefacing His teaching with 'Amen, Amen'?  Well let me put words to what this means.  Jesus is basically saying:

"You don't stand in judgement on my word.  I won't even wait for your Amen.  Your Amen could only ever be the faint echo of my own Amen!  You do not and cannot stand in judgement on my word.  Before you've even heard a syllable of it, I tell you on my own authority that this is truth.  This is the only authentication or approval these words ever could or should have - my own.  This is true because I say it, not because you have some vantage point from which to assess these words.  Let my Amen recalibrate everything you consider to be truth.  You must simply accept my words as the gold standard of truth because it is I who speak them.  In short: It doesn't matter what you think - this is the truth, deal with it!"

Who speaks like this?  Only God's Faithful and True Amen (Rev 3:14).

Imagine if our bible reading, our theology, our apologetics, our Christian obedience was shaped, not by whether we thought in all good conscience we could give our Amen to Christ?  What if we stopped trying to assess Christ's word with our Amens and instead simply received His Amen in glad submission?

May we hear His word in the Spirit in which it was spoken - as truth itself. (John 17:17)


4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. 5 For His anger is but for a moment, and His favour is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:4-5)

What is night time?  Verse 5 tells us: Judgement for sins and sorrow for suffering.

What is morning?  Verse 5 proclaims it: Grace for sinners and joy for sufferers.

When you're really going through the mill, morning can seem oppressive.  Not another day to face.  All you want to do is put your pillow over your head, pull the blankets up around your shoulders and snooze your way through the encroaching burdens.

But what is sunrise telling you?  Every morning it's proclaiming the gospel to you.  This darkness is only a passing shadow (as Samwise Gamgee would say).  The Light of the world triumphs.  And He chases away the gloom like the sun in all its brilliance.  Darkness cannot stand up to Him.  It must depart forever.

Every day He pledges cleansing from sin and the defeat of evil.  Far above and beyond you and your circumstances, the LORD God declares to the world that sin and suffering will be conquered by the Sun of righteousness.  Which means your sin and suffering will be conquered.  Grace and cleansing, joy and new life is more certain than the sunrise.

And if you can't feel the truth of that, that's ok.  Allow the sun simply to rise once more.  Allow it to pledge to you what you cannot imagine right now - all gloom and shadow and darkness will be swallowed up by the Light.

Joy comes in the morning.

When One rules over men in righteousness, when He rules in the fear of God, 4 He is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.'   (2 Sam 23:3-4)


Read Exodus 40

In verses 1-33, Moses' name is mentioned 12 times.  He is emphatically the one who completes the tabernacle: "Moses finished the work." (v33)  As far as the shadows of the old covenant go - Moses is the man.

Yet as the chapter concludes (v34-38), it's clear that Moses cannot even enter into this model of heaven and earth, this dwelling place of the Divine Glory.  The Cloud is too much for him.  This is the Cloud of God's Presence which accompanies the Angel (also known as the Glory) of the LORD (13:21f; 14:19f, 24; 16:10; 19:9, 16; 24:15f, 18; 33:9f; 34:5; 40:34ff).

Previously, Moses had entered into the Cloud of the Divine Glory on a few select occasions (19:20; 24:18; 33:9; 34:5) but only under certain conditions and only when invited.

Yet here verse 35 is clear - Moses cannot enter the tabernacle because the Cloud of Glory is tabernacling there.  In fact the next book of the bible (Leviticus) has to be written to set out how humanly impossible it is for man to dwell with the everlasting burning (Isaiah 33:14).  Men of dust cannot enter the Divine Glory.  The Divine Glory must enter men of dust.

He will tabernacle with Israel in flesh (John 1:14) - in their flesh even.  The Heavenly Man will take the humanity of the man of dust and transform it from within.  In this way the whole world would see His Glory.  And when He is torn down and rebuilt, He will be both a perfected Temple, inviting all nations in and an ascended High Priest, going into the Holy of Holies to carry us on His heart.

He ascends to fill the universe (Eph 4:11).  Now that He's on high, His word flows out, filling the earth with His glory, the nations streaming to the true Temple (Isaiah 2:1-5; Ezekiel 47).

In Exodus, only the High Priest's breastplate was 'Holy to the LORD.' (39:30)  But as the knowledge of the glory of the LORD fills the earth (Hab 2:14), there will be a time when even the most common articles will be 'Holy to the LORD' (Zech 14:20f).  This is the cosmic filling to which this cloud points.

In the meantime, the Israelites (Moses included) can only follow the tabernacling Glory (v36-38).  And only in the shadows of the Levitical law can they enter in vicariously through their high priest.  The law comes through Moses.  He sets up the shadows, he cannot establish the reality.  Grace and truth - hesed we'emet (34:6), the very Name and nature of the living God - comes through the LORD Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

And so at the end of Exodus we see the designs the LORD has on the whole of creation.  He will fill it in the end.  What a contrast to the book's beginning.

In the beginning we saw an enslaved and oppressed people, helpless and hopeless.  By the end we see these same helpless people laid hold of by a magnificent salvation.  They are freed, enriched, guided, cared for, brought to the Father and established as a kingdom and priests.  All this is through the grace and power of Christ alone and in spite of their own profound wickedness and sin.

So from the slavery and genocide of Egypt the LORD Jesus has created a people headed for the land of milk and honey, carrying with them the blueprint of the Father's own cosmic plans for redemption.  Jude was right in his summary of Exodus:

Jesus saved a people out of Egypt  (Jude 5)


Tom's the acceptable face of the All Souls Langham Place website and studying at a vicar factory in Oxford.  This post is a shaft of reflected glory!

Read Exodus 34

This is the second time Moses has gone up the Mountain of God and spent 40 days and forty nights with the Lord. It is the second time he has received the 10 words of God written on two stone tablets. It is the second time he has made the covenant between God and the people.

Why does it need to be done twice? What was wrong with the first time?

Please indulge me as I endeavour on a some-what allegorical journey.

The two descents of Moses represent the two descents of Christ from heaven.

The first time Christ comes, in the incarnation, he finds the people in faithlessness and sin. They are worshipping created gods [The Satanic Guardian Cherub, Ez 28:14, who has the face of a Bull], and have forgotten the Word of the Lord who gave them life, and birth as a people and nation (cf. John 1:10-11).

On seeing their faithlessness and evil, Christ burns with anger. Like Moses he smashes the covenant between the people and God. No longer can the people dwell with the living God, they must be cut off from his presence and blotted out of the book of life. Yet, moved with compassion and love for his people, Christ offers up himself to be cursed in their stead, “Alas, this people have sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin – but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” (Ex 32:32).

Thus, Christ dies, the people are saved from the curse of the Law, and The Golden Calf is destroyed.

We arrive at Exodus 34.

In Exodus 34:2-3, Moses ascends the Mountain of God. This time he is to ascend alone. This corresponds to the ascension of Christ to the throne room of the Father forty days after his resurrection from the dead. He is to come alone, as a representative of the human race, ready to make a new covenant between God and humankind.

When Moses reaches the top of the Mountain, two things happen. There is a great proclamation of the Lord’s greatness and character (Ex 34:6-8), and Moses, seeking acceptance and favour from God, puts in a request.

Likewise, when Christ ascended into heaven and entered through the gates of Zion, he was welcomed by songs of victory and praise, (cf. Ps 24:7-10, Rev 5:6-14). On approaching the throne of Heaven, Christ seeks the favour of his Father, and is warmly granted it. He then puts in a request with the Father, similar to that which Moses made: “O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

Why does Moses (and later Christ) request that the Lord go in the midst of the people? Two reasons: 1) The people are stiff-necked, and need to be liberated from their sinful hearts, and 2) in order that the people might become the inheritance of God.

I suggest here that this request from Moses corresponds to the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost after Christ ascended to the right-hand of the Father. In the absence of Christ from his people, he does not leave us alone, but gives us another counsellor. The Spirit brings both a softening and renewal of the heart to a “stiff necked” people, and He also possesses the Church to make her co-heirs with Christ, inheritors of all the nations and the New Creation.

In 34:10-16, the Lord promises a marvellous thing. He will drive out the wicked people and nations, and hand over the Promised Land to his people. [Note here, that it is the Lord himself, Christ, who drives out the nations from the Land. In Ex 23, it is the task of the Angel of the Lord to drive out the nations. Thus, Moses perceives no difference between Yahweh and the Angel who bears that same Name.]

This great promise of the Land and the deposit of the Holy Spirit, will surely keep the Church of Christ going as they travel through the wilderness.

Inheriting the Land is underpinned by three festivals (34:18-28, see Jackie Lam on Ex 23), reminding us again, that life in the New Creation is only made possible because of the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world, and the redemption of the First Born.

The chapter ends with the second descent of Moses (Ex 34:29-35). This time he comes in glory. His face is shining as he comes in the likeness of God. Alas, it is still only Moses, and not the triumphant return of Christ in all his splendour at the consummation of all things. So he veils his face as a reminder to the people that these things are still to come and not the reality themselves. The ministry of Moses is still external, written on tablets of stone, and must not be confused with the ministry of the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3 helpfully reminds us of these things. The glory of Moses is coming to an end, and so he veils his face to prevent the Israelites from getting too excited (2 Cor 3:13). Moses shone because he communed with Christ. He saw him face to face, and so became like him (1 John 3:2, 2 Cor 3:18). Like the Moon staring full faced at the Sun, becomes just like him bearing his image, so we too who look to Christ, bear his likeness.

This kind of glory does not come through the law but through the reality of that to which it testifies. In veiling his face, Moses condemns the people, and prevents them from seeing the reality. For “their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away” (2 Cor 3:14).

Moses knew that they needed to turn to Christ for the veil to be removed. As long as they turned to him (Moses and the Law) for their hope, the veil must remain.

Let’s not be like those Israelites who trusted in the shadows rather than the realities, but turn to Christ and eagerly await his second appearing.


The LORD is moving His people on from mount Sinai.  They now have the portable mountain - the tabernacle - and they must press on to the promised land (v1).

But who will go with them?  That's the key question.  And it's one that was actually settled back in chapter 23:

20 "See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. 21 Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. 22 If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. 23 My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land

The Angel would be the One through Whom the Father brings them in.  To have the Angel is to be brought into the land, to have forgiveness and the very gospel character (the Name) of God Most High.  To listen to the Angel is to listen to the Unseen LORD.

In chapter 23 the Father speaks of sending the Son as the way that He draws near and blesses the Israelites.  Now in Exodus 33, He speaks of sending His Son as the way to keep His distance from the Israelites:

2 I will send an angel before you... 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people... 5 You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you.

So which is it?  Does the Father save through the Son because that's how He draws near or is it because that's how He keeps His distance?  Well prior to the sin of chapter 32, the Father described the Angel's mediation in terms of closeness.  Now (v1-6), after the idolatry of chapter 32, the mediation is described as a response to sin.

But from 33:7 onwards we will return to the chapter 23 perspective - i.e. to have the Angel is to have the favour and blessing of God Most High, because the Name of the Unseen LORD is in the Visible LORD.

Verses 7-11 are a parenthesis, describing a common occurence.  Moses used to go and see the LORD face-to-face. This is incredible intimacy: "face to face as a man speaks with his friend." (v11)  Moses chooses to tell us of this regular blessing down at the foot of the mountain so we can contrast it with the events of v12 and following.

On top of the mountain Moses (very forgetfully) asks again who will go with the Israelites.  He's told "My Presence will go with you."  This is literally the word for "face."  Moses has just told us of his face-to-face enjoyment of the LORD in the tent of meeting and now the LORD on the mountain says His "Face" will go with Moses.  The Father is yet again pledging the help of His Son, His Angel, His Face - the LORD Jesus.  When Moses hears the Angel described as the Presence of the Unseen LORD he is satisfied:

"If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here." (v15)

Give me Jesus or give me death!  This is the sentiment of all who truly know the Father's Face.

Moses then asks a question reminiscent of Philip's in John 14:

Show me your glory (v18)

How will God Most High reveal His glory?   Well He will not show His face - for no-one can see Him and live (v20).  The LORD in the tent of meeting can be seen face to face, but the LORD on the mountain is known in a different way.  He is known through His name - the Name that is in His Angel.

It is a Name dripping with compassion and mercy (v19) - a Name that is seen when we look to the concrete and visible saving actions of the Son.

And as we will see in the next chapter, when that Name is pronounced, Moses recognizes immediately that the Name of God Most High is precisely what he has seen in the Visible LORD:

O Lord (Father), please let the Lord (Son) go in the midst of us

To have the Son is to have the Father after all.  Sin is a problem - it does cause estrangement.  There is indeed a sense in which the Father cannot dwell with His people because of their rebellion.  But precisely through the gracious salvation of the Angel, we are not finally estranged from God Most High, but rather brought near.

No-one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.  (1 John 2:23)


It was 3 days from the arrival at Sinai to law-giving. (19:11)

1 day later the blood of the covenant was sprinkled on the people (24:4)

6 days after that Moses enters the glory cloud on top of the mountain (24:16)

For 40 days Moses receives the instructions for the tabernacle (24:18)

So when Moses descends the mountain we have a kind of a Pentecost - a 50th day.

But it's a reverse-Pentecost.  The nations are repulsed (32:25).  3000 people die (v28), cf Acts 2:41).  And all because they didn't wait for the LORD (v1, cf Acts 1:4).

The people have always wanted (and needed) someone to go before them.  The Unseen LORD had promised His Divine Angel to fight at their head (23:20ff).  He was the One who had commissioned Moses (3:2) and brought them out of slavery (14:19) on eagles wings (19:4) to serve God Most High (3:12).  Moses and the elders have seen Him and eaten with Him (24:9ff).  Yet He obviously wasn't moving according to the people's timetable.  So in impatience they settle for counterfeits - a religious substitute for Christ.  (Notice the same sin again in 1 Samuel 8:20 - this time the Israelites seek a political substitute for Christ - one 'to go before them').

In contrast to the free and liberal giving for the tabernacle, Aaron demands offerings for his false gods (v2).  False religion is always compelled, true worship of the LORD is always free.

The plunder from the Egyptians (3:22; 12:36), instead of being pressed into the LORD's service, is made into a golden calf.  But this is idolatry no matter how much the LORD's name is invoked (v5).

Why a calf?  Well Psalm 106:19-20 clarifies that this is the calf of an ox.  Now when you put Ezekiel 1:10 and 10:14 together you see that cherubs are like oxen.  And we all know who the guardian cherub is (Ezekiel 28:14ff).  Here is worship of Satan!  Within a month of being sprinkled by the blood of the covenant and solemnly vowing to uphold it, while Moses is on the brooding fiery mountain with God Most High, here they are worshipping the devil.  Notice how "the LORD" is invoked in their Satan worship - a salutary lesson that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" is truly serving Him!

These people deserve the burning wrath of the LORD out of the heavens (v10; cf Gen 19:24).  But just as Moses had interceded for wicked Pharaoh (e.g. 8:8) now he intercedes for wicked Israel.  The LORD had called Israel "your people" (v7), Moses responds to the LORD - they are "your people" (v11) and implores the LORD to turn (shub) from wrath and have compassion (naham) (v12).  The LORD does indeed have compassion / is sorry but this is not the end of the matter.

Moses descends the mountain with the same burning anger as the LORD Himself (v19).

Through the priests he executes a judgement on the people - this is the Levites' ordination!  (v29) They have always been blood-thirsty men: "their swords are weapons of violence." (Gen 49:5)  When you came to a Levite to confess your sin, you were coming to a violent man with a sword.  As he plunged that sword into the animal substitute you would be left in no doubt that this blood-shed is precisely what you deserved.

But even after this blood-shed, Moses realises there's still a work of atonement to be performed:

I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin. (v30)

Here's what he offers to the Father:

Blot me out of the book you have written. (v32)

He doesn't offer the blood of goats or bulls, he doesn't offer the blood of the guilty.  He offers his own blood - the blood of the innocent, the blood of a Levite, the blood of the people's ruler.

Would Moses himself be the promised Lamb to be provided on the mountain to make atonement?  Genesis 22:1-14 has been promising just this atonement for centuries - the Lamb on the mountain as a burnt offering.  And Abraham is certainly on Moses' mind (v13).  Would Moses be the One to make atonement?

No.  God Most High declines Moses' offer.  Instead He reminds him of His Angel - the true leader of the people (v34).  The true Warrior and Commander at their head was indeed going before them.  They must continue to wait for Him and to trust in Him.

One day He would descend from the heavenlies, the Divine Angel and Saviour, an Intercessor for the people, a Priest in the order of Melchizedek, the Ruler of rulers and a true Innocent.  He would be handed over to death by Levites, killed by piercings and blotted out of the Father's book.  And right there in bloody sacrifice the true God is on show for the whole world.  Not a golden calf.  More of a bronze serpent.  But this is the real God.  Every other god is a counterfeit.



He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death."  (Matt 26:37-38)

He fell with His face to the ground and prayed.  (Matt 26:39)

"Abba, Father," He said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."  (Mark 14:36)

Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death  (Heb 5:7)

"My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." (Matt 26:42)

Perhaps no bible story has had more impact on me than the account of Jesus praying in Gethsemane.  It haunted my teenage years especially.  It said to me: 'This is what honouring God looks like.  This is the epitome of religious devotion - overwhelmed to complete prostration, loud cries and tears, commitment to the point of death.'

And I attempted to emulate this.  Not in practical, daily 'thy will be done' service - no, no!  Instead I would attempt to re-enact Gethsemane.  I'd sneak out of the house at night and find somewhere really scary - a forest in dead of night was best.  And I would literally fall on my face and ask God to take my life, to make me His servant, to do whatever He wished with me.  (Of course I imagined that His wishes would be awful, dark and painful).

Nonetheless Gethsemane had taught me that this was the way and so I'd try (unsuccessfully) to work myself up into some kind of hyper-serious state of emotional sincerity.  I was massively aware that I was falling short of offering the required... what?  devotion?  gravity?  sacrifice?  Whatever was needed, I was painfully aware of lacking it.  But I made my dramatic teenage offering and waited for the results.  But no angel came to comfort me.  No spiritul blessing was poured out.  No command from heaven.  Just an overwhelming sense that heaven was silent and my devotion was clearly not sufficient to rouse Him.

And, over time, my response to this was 'God doesn't want me, I don't want Him.'  I wandered from Him for years.  But it was Gethsemane that brought me back.  Because all of a sudden I saw what should have been most clear all along.  I'm not at the centre of Gethsemane! I'm sleeping with Peter, James and John.  I'm the weak, flesh-driven, good-for-nothing follower who cannot stay awake even for one hour.  But Christ!  He prays to the Father.  He intercedes for His worthless, pathetic friends.  He offers to drink their cup.

And suddenly it all fell into place.  Christianity was not about me burying my face in the dirt for Him.  He buried His face in the dirt for me.  It's not about me stooping low enough to be worthy.  It's about Him stooping lower still because I'm not.  I don't offer my life to a silent heaven.  The Man of heaven offers His life for a silent, sleeping, sinful me.

Gethsemane is good news.  There's so much more to be said.  But perhaps it's said best by my favourite preacher on this my favourite passage:  Click here for Mike Reeves on Gethsemane.  Well worth the free registration!  Check it out.

Or here's a men's breakfast talk I did on the subject.


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