Remember

Exodus 28-29

Exodus 29 42b NIV

I’ve been a pastor for 35 years.  I’ve pastored local congregations.  I’ve served on the mission field in a different country.  I’ve served as a hospice chaplain with people who have been diagnosed with life ending diseases and as a hospital chaplain with people who are very sick, or having surgery, or recovering from surgery or recovering from pneumonia, or have attempted suicide or are struggling with mental health issues and need extra support.  I preach each week to people in the nursing home and those who are suffering from Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.  I’ve stood at the bedside and prayed with families whose loved one is about to die or who has already died.  I’ve prayed blessings over newborn babies and people over 100 and everywhere in between.

The one common need I find over and over again is the need of the person going through crisis to know that God is with them.  Everyone goes through challenges and difficulties, losses and pains in life.  It’s not a question of, “Will bad things happen?”  or even, “Why do bad things happen?”, it’s more a case of, “When bad things happen what resources do you have to draw from to help you get through it?”

As God’s people, Israel was being transformed from slaves to the people of God who were to be a light to all nations, they were going to face many challenges on that journey of transformation.  They had a desert to cross.  They had numerous enemies to face who all wanted to prevent them from reaching the promised land, and once they arrived in the land, there were enemies who wanted to take the land away from them and turn their hearts away from undivided loyalty to God.

To get through these challenges Israel needed regular assurance that God knew them and that God was with them.  If you’ve been a Christian for most of your life, it is likely that you know these things already.  You know that God knows you by name, that before He formed you in your mother’s womb he knew you.  You know Jesus’ promise that he will be with you always, to the end of the age, right?  There’s no way you would ever forget that God knows you and that Jesus is with you, right?  (More about that in a minute).

The people of Israel were spiritual babies.  They were just starting to learn about who this God is and to get used to the idea that God would stay with them and not abandon them.  They needed a lot of reminders.  So, in addition to having a tent of meeting constructed in their midst (see yesterday’s devotion) they needed to know that they had representatives who would go before God regularly on their behalf.  So God set aside a group of men who would serve as priests.  They had a special calling and were set apart or consecrated to do the work of a priest.

Today’s reading describes the various pieces of clothing that the priests wore and the purpose of each item- ephod, breast piece, robe, tunic, turban, urim and thummin, gold plate, sashes etc…  of all of these descriptions in Exodus 28 one in particular stands out: “Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord. (11-12).  So when the priest went before God, he went bearing the names of the sons or tribes of Israel.  This was a reminder that they were there on behalf of the entire people of God.  The message for the people was that the priests would bear on their bodies a constant reminder to God of His beloved people.

We might ask the question,” if God is perfect and all knowing, why would he need such a reminder? ” I would say that the reminder wasn’t for God as much as it was for the people to have the assurance that they were being constantly brought before God.  Prayer works the same way for us.  When someone prays to God  on our behalf, they aren’t exactly bringing new information to God’s attention.  God knows our needs before we ask.  One of the benefits of intercessory prayer is to remind us that we are not alone in the midst of our needs.  When I was first diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery and radiation lots of people were praying for me.  It brought me great comfort and encouragement to be reminded regularly that people were remembering me before God’s throne.

In Exodus 29 it provides a description of the rituals that were used to consecrate or set apart the priests for their duties of bringing the people before God.  Notice how the consecration involved sacrifices and blood.  In order for the priests to go before God on behalf of the people, their sin and guilt had to be covered over by blood.  In fact, every day, morning and night, a lamb was to be sacrificed to God. “For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you;  there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory.” (42-43)

This served as a constant reminder that God was holy and sinless, and that human beings are sinful and needed to be cleansed and forgiven of their guilt in order to come near to God’s presence.  As a result: “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.  They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” (45-46)  These daily sacrifices served as a constant assurance to God’s people that He was their God and that He was with them.

As Christians, we are not required to sacrifice a lamb day and night in order to be assured that God is with us.  Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  He, as the high priest and the sacrificial lamb, went into the most holy place with his own blood and offered a sacrifice that covers over all of our sins once and for all. (Once you read the book of Exodus, the book of Hebrews in the New Testament is much easier to understand… check it out).  When Jesus was first prophesied in Isaiah 7 it was said that he would be a sign that God is with us (Immanuel means God is with us).  In the name of Jesus we can be assured that God is with us – not because we are perfect or sinless, we are no more sinless than the nation of Israel was, but we have been made holy by the blood of Jesus.

Earlier I asked the question: “There’s no way you would ever forget that God knows you and that Jesus is with you, right?”  That fact is, we all have times when we forget that God knows us and that Jesus is with us.  This is a danger when everything is going well in our lives- when we are busy enjoying the blessings that God gives us and are on a roll, we can get so caught up in enjoying the gifts that we forget to worship the one who gives them to us, God.  It is also a danger when things are tough and we are hurting and feel all alone or worry that God isn’t answering our prayers.  When we go through spiritual depression or the dark night of the soul we can forget that the Lord promised never to leave us.  We need constant reminders, in the good times and the bad times.  That’s why we need to gather regularly with other believers to find encouragement and strength, so we don’t forget.  That’s why we need to regularly break bread and drink the cup at communion, to help us remember.  You and I need ongoing reminders that God is with us, that God remembers us.  We need to know others are bringing our names before God in difficult times, and we need to remember to bring others before God during their difficult times.  We may not have to wear ephods and robes and rub lamb’s blood on us, but as Christians we are all priests and we all need to go before God regularly on behalf of each other and behalf of people in the world, in the name of Jesus.  Don’t forget to remember, God is with us and God will never forget you.

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+28-29&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Exodus 30-32 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)

Joseph Reveals Himself

Genesis 43-45

Genesis 45 7 NIV

I think that after one day you understand how this set of devotions will work. They are casual, informal and straight to the point. With that, let’s pick up where we left off.

 

It is interesting in verse 8, that Judah is the one to bear responsibility for retrieving food. Reuben is the first-born of Israel and would be the de facto leader of the brothers, yet it is Judah who shoulders the burden of protecting his half-brother Benjamin on the journey back to Egypt. In times when it seems like someone is meant to be a leader, there is actually a gap to be filled. There are times when a gap is created when a leader fails to step up. Men fail. That is what we do. But there is always someone to fill that gap, even if that person never thought they were suited for that position. Where can I fill the gaps?

 

The steward who greets the sons of Israel is only a side character in this story, yet he is performing the duties that Jesus later commanded all of us to take on. In verse 24, it says that the steward provided water to wash their feet. Jesus took it a step further and washed feet himself. This side character was more powerful than a servant, yet he still performed some duties of the servant. Jesus has more authority even than this steward, and yet he lowered himself even further than the steward. This is true humility. We need to be willing to serve and be the side character.

 

Joseph is really quite crafty. First he develops this plot that will ensure that he is able to see his younger brother. He accuses the sons of Israel of spying on the land and learns of his younger brothers existence and then threatens the brothers so that they must bring Benjamin with them if they ever return. Yet Joseph knows that they must return. Joseph controls all of the grain in the region. The brothers must return. He even returns their money to guarantee two things. One is that they will have the money to purchase more grain in the future. The other is to entrap them in another of his schemes, that he might pay them back for their injustice to him or that he might force them to leave Benjamin with him. This idea comes up again at the end of chapter 44. When his brothers do return, he treats them to a feast to the brothers great confusion (see verse 33). They thought they were under suspicion of being spies, yet here they are being treated to a feast by the man who is second only to the Pharaoh of the most powerful civilization on the planet. That is quite a turn of events. But Joseph is not done playing with them yet. He plants his personal belongings in Benjamin’s bag. This is starting to look like the diabolical plot of an evil mastermind. In doing this, he will be able to reduce his brothers to groveling at his feet and will have also created a scenario where his only brother Benjamin must stay in Egypt.

 

Fortunately, Joseph is not an evil mastermind. He is just a cunning brother who longs to be with his family. Verse 1 of chapter 45 reveals this. In the end, all of his scheming only resulted in prolonging his isolation from his family. If he had revealed himself the first time that his brothers had come for food, he may have experienced the same outcome where his father’s entire household would move to Goshen and live with him. But then again, Joseph must have been afraid when he first saw his brothers. Remember, the last time he saw them, they were busy throwing him into pits (don’t worry, there wasn’t any water in it) and selling him into slavery. If you were in Joseph’s situation and were half as cunning as him, would you have acted the same?

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+43-45&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Genesis 46-47 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Persevering

Genesis 38-40

Genesis 39 21 NIV

Today is sadly, at least for me, my last day of writing devotions for this week. I have been super blessed to do this. It really makes me work the text and find the spiritual implication of the scripture. I love studying God’s word like that. I hope you guys have been getting as much from the devotions as I have.

We are going to set up camp in Genesis 39 and talk some more about Joseph. Definitely read Genesis 39: 1. because it is awesome, 2. because it will fill in all the details that I miss. We are picking up the story with Joseph in Egypt thriving as a slave in Potiphar’s house. It says in verse 3 “His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed at his hands.”. Notice Joseph’s perseverance in this situation. He is sold into slavery by his own brothers and now adjusting to life as a slave he is still applying himself and trying. It is so rare to find perseverance like that anymore. I can only imagine Joseph’s mindset here but I feel like being a slave of one of Pharaoh’s officials and becoming his right-hand man would not be the worst job to have as a slave.

Joseph had gained Potiphar’s trust so completely that it says that he concerned himself with nothing but what food he ate. I wish I could say all my employers have trusted me like that but that totally wouldn’t be true. Unfortunately, the story is about to get a little more difficult for Joseph.

Potiphar’s wife had taken a liking to Joseph and tried to make him lie with her. I want to zoom in on Joseph’s response. He tells her no, that he wouldn’t do it. The reason he cites in verse 9 is that his master has held back nothing but her and, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”. He ultimately bases his choice on “I owe Potiphar” but “I couldn’t do this to God”. His morality, decisions and actions are guided by his devotion to God. God was the thing that guided everything for Joseph.

This heroic display of devotion to God wouldn’t be the last. In verse 10 it says that she asked him day after day to lie with her and Joseph refused. She seems to be determined because despite all of Joseph’s no’s, one day she got ahold of his garment and refused to let go. Joseph fled away to avoid the sin. She lied to the men of her household and Potiphar and told them he tried to rape her.

Joseph for this deed of righteousness and obedience was repaid with prison. For obedience through a testing and trial the immediate consequence of his amazing self-control was being sent to prison. Joseph must have felt like God’s whipping boy at that point. I would have felt like, “I was put on this Earth to be destroyed” if I were in Joseph’s shoes.

God rewards Joseph’s obedience and gives him favor with the prison keeper who puts him over all the other prisoners. God rewarded his obedience, suffering, righteousness, love, devotion, and endurance to and for Him. God didn’t abandon Joseph. Joseph went through many things much harder than probably any of us have ever or will ever go through. They were hard, made him uncomfortable, he suffered but he persevered. Pain, difficult things, sufferings are not the end of the world. Being comfortable in life is not the most important thing. Joseph’s happiness wasn’t his main concern. His love for God was paramount.

James 1.2-4 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James says to count it as joy when we encounter trials. As JOY. The trials, the suffering, the pain, the putting off of our desires, the obedience, the perseverance. James says it is making us perfect and complete. I want to be perfect and complete in what actually matters. The perfect and complete that James is talking about is in our love and devotion for God. I want to be perfect and complete in that.

In verse 12 James says that the man who endures under trial is blessed because he will receive the crown of life. We will receive the Crown of Life. Can you imagine Jesus placing a crown on your head at your judgement? Just imagine what that would feel like. The King placing the crown of life on your head.

Everything can wait. Think about what that would feel like.

In the next part of the verse it says that God has promised this to those who love Him. So let your perseverance, your suffering, your pain and obedience make that LOVE perfect and complete.

Dan Wall

 

Dan is a graduate of Atlanta Bible College and SUNY Maritime College. He recently completed an internship at Guthrie Grove Church of God and is hoping to become the pastor of a church one day, LORD willing. If you would like to contact him you can reach him via text or call at 631-576-5099 or via email danielaaronwall@gmail.com.

 

Today’s reading was Genesis 38-40 and can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+38-40&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Genesis 41-42 as we carry on with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Endure

Genesis 25-26

 

Genesis 26 29 NIV

Yesterday we looked at Abraham and how committed he was to God and didn’t hold anything back. Today our passage is Genesis ch.apters 25-26 but we are really going to hone in on Genesis 25.29-34. Hopefully all of us including myself can gain a different perspective on it. But first, story time….

I grew up running. When I was in high school, I ran track and field. I ran the half mile, the mile and the two mile. I did that for a couple seasons but was pretty inconsistent. When I didn’t compete one season I didn’t run at all because who really likes running with no goal.  In college I had to run because I went to a military school. I had physical fitness tests that I had to pass. That sort of renewed my interest in running and I began to run more frequently. I had always dreamed of and put on my bucket list to run a marathon. When I was 26 I made my first attempt to train for a marathon. Training for a marathon requires a lot of commitment. You need to run 5-6 times a week for 16 weeks. Many of these runs during training are quite literally hours long and exhausting. You essentially make yourself a slave to your running program and do whatever it tells you to do. On my first attempt I fractured my ankle on the longest run of the program, three weeks before my race. It was terrible. I had invested 13 weeks of training into something that would never produce any fruit. I was literally right at the end of my program. All the runs in the program after this would have been easier than previous runs and I was easily on my way to completing a marathon before I stepped on that cracked sidewalk.

In Genesis 25.29-34 we have Isaac’s two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob was a quiet man who dwelled in tents. While Esau was a skillful hunter and a man of the field. Esau comes back in from the field and is starving. I feel like all of us have been there. Sometimes the last thing that you want to do when you come in the door after a long day is to cook yourself a meal and I think this is what Esau was feeling. It is hard for me not to empathize with Esau here. Rough day of hunting and he is exhausted and his younger brother has stew on. His brother takes advantage of his situation and asks him for his birthright in exchange for some wonderful stew. This feels super under handed and not a great way to treat your siblings or frankly anyone. We could cry “Where is the justice in this situation, God?” but I think a better attitude for this situation is to ask “What can I learn from this situation?” and I don’t mean how to exhort people’s birth rights.

I think that the lesson to be learned here is not from God’s perspective or Jacob’s but from Esau’s perspective. When Esau came in from a hard day out in the field and didn’t have any food, I’m sure he could probably get food from somewhere. Esau was right there at the end and at the very last second, he let his desires to satiate his hunger get in the way of what was good for him. If Esau had persevered for a little while longer, I imagine that he would have been able to find food somewhere and may have not even gone to bed hungry. Instead, he let something as inconsequential as some stew get in the way of him receiving his birthright.

In my case with the marathon it was an injury that stopped me. It’s too often that I end up quitting right before I get to the part where my efforts bear fruit. Too often just a little bit more effort and a little bit more endurance would give me the results of all my work. 2 Timothy 2.12 says, “If we endure with him, we will also reign with him.” We need to not lose sight of our hope and endure with him so we will reap the rewards of all that God wants to do in our lives. If we focus on this hope I believe that we will also be able to persevere with him until the end.

 

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+25-26&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Genesis 27-29 in the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Letting God be God

 Job 38-39

Job 38 33 35a CSB

The end of Job takes a dramatic turn as one more speaker steps in to answer Job’s question of why bad things happen to good people. For the previous 35 or so chapters, Job and his friends have tried to sort out this question based on their own understanding. In chapter 38, the only one whose opinion matters steps in to set the record straight. God speaks and asks of Job and his friends, “Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words? Get ready to answer Me like a man; when I question you, you will inform Me” (Job 38:2-3). God then begins to ask Job a series of questions about the earth and its creation. The question God begins with is “Where were you when I established the earth? Who fixed its dimensions? What supports its foundations?” (Job 38:4-6). To all of these questions, Job could only meekly respond, ‘God, you did. Only you could know.’

 

Too often in life, we can feel like we know what’s best for our lives. We have things all planned out, from where we are going to get lunch the next day to where we will go to college or get a job. When our plans don’t match up with our realities, we can begin to question God’s goodness. Because our lives don’t match up with the ‘good’ plans that we have created, we may think that God is not good. These chapters in Job reorient us to the deep truth that we need to cling to when faced with these discrepancies between our plans and life’s reality: We are not God. Job’s questions and those of his friends all centered around their actions and their righteousness. When God steps in, he redirects them to the real truth about their lives, the scriptures, and the universe as a whole. It all exists for the glory of God. In addition to this, all of creation was made by God. He knows the purpose behind what exists and what occurs. He is using all of these things to bring him glory.

 

So, when we begin to question God and ask why his plans don’t match our own, we can rest in the fact that God is God. He is sovereign and has a plan for our lives. Sometimes that plan can be painful, but ultimately, that is helping us to become mature and complete in our Christian walk (James 1). When we allow God to be God, it’s easier for us to fulfill our main purpose in life: living our lives to glorify him.
Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+38-39&version=CSB
Tomorrow’s reading will be the final chapters of Job – 40-42.  And then we will jump back into where we left off in the book of Genesis as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.  Let’s SeekGrowLove together!

Pursuit of a Righteous Life

Job 35-37

Job 35 3 CSB

Today, we read as Elihu continues to reason out why bad things happen to good people. In chapter 35, we read about a dangerous attitude: being righteous for the sake of what we can gain from God or others. The second that our circumstances turn negative, we can easily fall into the trap that Elihu explains in verses 2-9. In these verses, he says, “Do you think it is just when you say, ‘I am righteous before God?’ For you ask, “What does it profit you, and what benefit comes to me, if I do not sin?”

 

Even though we may not admit it, we may begin to think the same questions as Elihu and Job when we face difficult circumstances. Sometimes we think that we follow God for the benefits that we gain in this life. We feel that if we do the right things (we do not lie, cheat, steal, etc.) that we should have a good life with a good family, nice house, and steady paycheck. It is true that following the wisdom that we find in Proverbs and other books can lead to better life outcomes than following the path of the wicked. This being said, we were never promised an easy life full of worldly comforts. In fact, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that he should be pitied more than all other men if it’s only for this life that he is hoping for. Jesus said in John 16:33 that we will have suffering in this world. In Luke 6:20-23, Jesus even says that we are blessed when we mourn and face persecution and difficult times. When we choose to follow Jesus and pursue a righteous life, we are choosing a more difficult path.

 

When we think in terms of what we can gain in this life, it may seem like there is not much benefit in pursuing a righteous life. So why should we decide to live a righteous life and not sin? Elihu attempts to answer how our sin affects God and others in verses 6-9. He says, “Your wickedness affects a person like yourself, and your righteousness another human being. People cry out because of severe oppression; they shout for help because of the arm of the mighty.” When we sin, we not only are grieving God, but also we are hurting those around us. Yes, we may not always have an easy life, but ultimately, we are living a better life when we choose to live by the commands that God gives us.

 

If you are facing difficult circumstances, you may feel like giving up on God. It may seem like he is silent. You may feel like the sacrifices you’ve made for your faith are not resulting in the good things that you want from God. But, don’t give up on pursuing a righteous life! Your actions will lead to a better life for you and those around you and will guide more people to the kingdom.

Cayce Fletcher

You can read or listen to today’s passage here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+35-37&version=CSB

Tomorrow’s passage will be Job 38-39 as we follow the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Trusting in the Character of God

Job 32-34

Job 34 10b csb

We are deep into the book of Job, listening to Job’s friends who make pretty poor comforters as Job tries to process his grief. At the heart of all of these arguments which make up Job 3-42 is the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” We saw last week that Job had argued successfully that he had done nothing wrong; he was a righteous man. His friends though just couldn’t believe that God would allow bad things to happen to righteous people, unless it was as a form of discipline.

 

As we get into chapter 32, we hear from another one of Job’s friends. As with all of the other arguments, some of what he says is true and valid, while other parts are not. Elihu feels as though he has to speak because Job had “justified himself rather than God” (Job 32:2). He tells Job:

 

“It is impossible for God to do wrong,
And for the Almighty
To act unjustly
For He repays a person according to his deeds,
And He brings his ways on him.
Indeed, it is true that God
Does not act wickedly
And the Almighty does not
Pervert justice.”  (Job 34:10-12)

 

When we deal with difficult situations, we can be tempted to be like Job’s friends. We want to blame our situation on God disciplining us. When we feel we are righteous in our own eyes, we can begin to be bitter towards God and question his goodness and justice. We know that God is just and good. It’s so important not to lose sight of that fact as we deal with challenging situations. We need to rest in the character of God, rather than allow our circumstances to dictate what we believe about God’s character. The messy truth is that every good thing in our lives is a gift from God (James 1:17). When we receive these things, it’s not that we’ve gotten what we’ve earned. Instead, we have received grace upon grace. When we rest in God’s goodness and justice, we can face those hard days with more strength and peace, because we know that God is good despite what goes on around us.
Cayce Fletcher
You can read, or listen to, today’s passage at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+32-34&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s Bible passage will be Job 35-37.  Print a copy of the schedule and follow along on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan