To Be Near God

Old Testament Reading: Numbers 28-30

Psalms Reading: Psalm 73

New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 10

What is the longest that you have prayed for something? A couple of days? A few weeks? Multiple months? Several years? Maybe a decade or two? 

For me, I prayed for something for over ten years. The words may not have been on my lips each day or recorded in my journal on a regular basis, but it was in my heart for a very long time. There were times when I looked around and wondered why God wasn’t answering this prayer. Why did he seem to be responding to others before me? Why did it appear that even nonbelievers were ‘living their best life’ and here I was, trudging along, waiting for God to do something.

Eventually, I saw an answer to my prayer. It didn’t come in a way that I anticipated, but God answered. Hallelujah! 

I find myself in another long-term praying situation. Every once in a while I see a glimpse of what I hope for, but it doesn’t last for long. It’s frustrating. At times I feel powerless because nothing I seem to do makes any difference. At other times, I am jealous of others who have what appears to be what I am asking God for. 

As I read Psalm 73, I identify some with the author in his observations that life just doesn’t seem fair. But I have come to realize that when I am looking at ANYTHING other than God, my perspective, my attitude, my desires, become skewed.

When I am intentionally seeking after God, my confidence in His plan and timing grows; my heart’s desires change, my thoughts are transformed. I become spiritually stronger and sustained when I stop comparing my life to the world and start trusting that God has bigger and greater plans in store for my future. 

So for now, I will lift up my hands and reach out to my Father who will take hold and provide all that is needed while I wait for an answer. And even if that answer doesn’t make sense, doesn’t seem fair or doesn’t match my timeline, I can trust that His way is better than my way and He alone is enough.

-Bethany Ligon

Reflection Questions

  1. What is the Psalmist’s attitude and focus in the first half of Psalm 73? What is his attitude and focus in the second half? What is the turning point? What are your favorite verses in this Psalm?
  2. When does life seem unfair to you? What is your typical response? Even when the situation remains the same, how can your attitude and focus change?
  3. What do you learn of God and His characteristics in today’s Bible reading?

I Am the LORD your God

Old Testament Reading: Numbers 14 & 15

Psalms Reading: Psalm 66

New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 3

Today’s reading in Numbers takes us back to the scene of the Israelite crimes of complaining, grumbling, and not trusting God. If you have been reading in Numbers at all this week, you will know we’ve seen plenty of these in action already, and Numbers 14-15 is full of plenty more. It is interesting to consider that it’s not like the Israelites’ negativities had been ignored or that they were serving them well up until now. It had been the complete opposite, and there had been plenty of consequences already. Smitten with a plague with quail still in their teeth, a fire sent down from the LORD, Miriam struck with a leprous disease, delayed travels in the desert, etc. Yet, the Israelites were at it again.

In verse 3 we see a phrase that I am guessing hits close to home.  “Why did the LORD…?”.

In this case, the Israelites weren’t asking, “If the LORD is real, why did he….” They knew he was real and didn’t doubt that. But, as believers in the LORD, like us, they struggled to trust Him when things were tough and when they couldn’t see what our sovereign God knows. They focused on their doubts, worries, discomforts, and did not humble themselves and rely on God who had told them what His plans were for them. Along the way, things were hard. It is a broken, imperfect world full of problems just like the desert wilderness. Sometimes they are beyond our control. Sometimes they are because of our attempts to control. Enemies are real. Plagues and diseases are still a thing. Sin is rampant. But, while problems can seem to prevent us from seeing anything else sometimes, even then, we have an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly loving Father taking care of us through it all.

 And so did the Israelites. Reading further in chapter 14 we see Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua seeking to follow God even through the difficulties, and encouraging others. We see the LORD forgiving when asked in verse 20, and eventually, some Israelites did get to the promised land! Canaan still had some problems as far as promised lands go, but the promised land awaiting us in the coming kingdom of God is one without tears, sickness, and sorrow. Nothing to grumble and complain about at all.

Let us trust God to know best since compared to Him . . .we know a lot less! I like the last verse in Numbers 15  to help facilitate trust, love, and honor toward God. Even in the hard stuff.

 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.”

(Numbers 15:41, NIV)

-Jennifer Hall

Reflection Questions

  1. Seriously consider your own negativity. In what situations, and toward whom, do you find your negativity festering or exploding? How is this affecting your relationship with others and with God? Spend some time talking to God about this problem and what you can do to improve.
  2. How has the Lord shown Himself – and His desire and supreme qualifications to be your God – in your life thus far? What has He brought you out of? (Numbers 15:41)? What has He brought you into? Trusting in Him, what is yet to come?
  3. What do you know about the Lord your God because of your reading in His Scriptures today?

Set Apart But Connected

Old Testament Reading: Numbers 7-9
Psalms Reading: Psalm 63
New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 16

Today’s Old Testament reading takes us to Numbers 7-9 where we see the LORD speaking to Moses laying out some specific plans he has for how they are to live, worship, and remember Him.  Around 70% of the Bible contains the Old Testament, and it seems that the more I study the Bible, I continue to be struck how much the Old Testament foundation is integral to appreciating things that come later in the New Testament.  I definitely find that to be the case in today’s chapters.

Starting in Numbers 7:1, we find Moses at work,

“When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the altar and all its utensils.”

So, we have a good “churchy” word here in bold, and while I undoubtedly could have spelled it in third grade (spelling bees were my thing back in the day!), I realized I wanted to research a little more because if you asked me to define it today, I’d  start with “kinda like. . .umm. . .”, and this word comes up a lot in this passage!

Consulting my exhaustive concordance and Bible dictionaries, I see that simply put,

consecrated = set apart

In Numbers 7 we see a tabernacle set apart, offerings to the LORD set apart, and in Numbers 8, Levite priests set apart. In Numbers 9 the trend continues with instruction to keep days set apart for Passover. Interestingly, these days are specifically remembering the time when the LORD set his people apart from the Egyptians.

The Old Testament stands apart from the New Testament separated by ~400 years of history. Yet, they are extremely connected. The Israelites were instructed to be set apart from the world that surrounded them, yet connected to the LORD. The being set apart idea doesn’t stop in Numbers or the Old Testament, but continues as instruction for all of us as followers of Christ today. In fact, the idea of a consecreated, set apart people continues until the very end of Revelation.

Our reading today ends in Numbers 9 with a beautiful picture of the LORD’s consecrated people being set apart and relying on His leading. How many people can say they followed a cloud that appeared like a fire by night, and if the cloud descended they stayed/camped, and if it ascended, they went out? This certainly wasn’t a practice of the world around them, and I don’t know anyone today who camps that way.  Instead, Numbers 9:15-23 shows a unique, called-out, set-apart experience of obedience to our sovereign LORD. One that required patience and was beyond their understanding (check out the casual mention of waiting for the cloud to move for a year in verse 22!). 

Wouldn’t our lives be so much better if we trusted God more, followed His leading, and invested our energies in being wholly His.  We would look set apart and we should look set apart, and we need the practice because one day it will be essential to be set apart when the Tabernacle described in Revelation comes on the scene!

“At the command of the LORD the sons of Israel would set out, and at the command of the LORD they would camp, as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle, they remained camped.”  (Numbers 9:18)

-Jennifer Hall

Reflection Questions

  1. Are you set apart from the world? If so, how? Do you think God would like to see you more set apart than you are now? What might that look like? What would it require?
  2. Are you connected to the LORD? If so, how? Do you think God would like to see you more connected to Him than you are now? What might that look like? What would it require?
  3. How do you see God in your reading of the Scriptures today? What would you have missed if you hadn’t read His words today?

Never Be Shaken

* New Testament Reading:  1 Corinthians 15
*Psalms Reading:  Psalm 62
Old Testament Reading:  Numbers 4-6

At first glance, the obvious place to focus today is 1 Corinthians 15 (The Resurrection Chapter).  It even says that it is of first importance – Christ died for our sins, he was buried, he was raised on the third day.  Our hope of eternal life in God’s kingdom is based on Jesus’ resurrection.  This chapter is a biggie and I really hope you read it and take to heart all God has to say here.  This chapter also has some wonderful verses that could be whole devotions individually. 

  • Verse 33 – Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
  • Verse 52b – For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 
  • Verse 58 – Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

But, Psalm 62 has personal meaning to me, so I want to focus today’s devotion here.  There was a time when I experienced the betrayal of a very close friend.  I knew bad things were said about me and lies were spread.  I desperately wanted to counter them; to defend myself and prove my character.  I wanted to prove them wrong, and in doing so, make sure others knew their wrongs (sounds like revenge to me).   I had the opportunity to have a few days of solitude at that time and God brought Psalm 62:7 to me, “My salvation and my honor depend on God”.  I was convicted that I didn’t have to defend myself.  God would defend my honor if needed, and He did.   I only needed to concern myself with what God thought of me, not other people.  That became a life verse for me over the next few years.

The rest of this Psalm also lifted me up at that time. 

Verses 1 & 2 brought me peace and hope.  My world had been shaken, but my faith and my standing with God was not. 

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Verse 8 gave me a place to vent, to question, to rant (I knew God could handle it). 

Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

God helped me walk a path that didn’t come naturally.  In doing so, He also revealed His goodness as He protected me from me – from seeking revenge hidden in the cover of defending myself.  Once God had my attention and knew that I was following His path, He also helped me to forgive.  I know that isn’t in this passage, but it is.  It’s in every passage.  The whole of Scripture is showing us how to be restored to a relationship with God.  That is found in Jesus.  In his death and resurrection.  He died for me.  He died for you.  Because we need forgiveness.  Therefore, we need to forgive. 

-Todd and Amy Blanchard

Reflection Questions

  1. Is there someone you need to forgive?  Is there someone you need to ask forgiveness from?  Make the choice to forgive today.  You may need to make that choice daily for a while but, I promise you, it is worth it. 
  2. If you need to find rest (verse 1), you may need to find a place where you can silence all of the noise, the voices, the distractions of life.  Rather than try to make sense of things, just believe.  Rather than trying to do, work, or act, be quiet and listen.  Rather than go your own way, choose to go God’s way. 
  3.  What character trait of God do you need to hold onto today? 

The Snail that Dissolves into Slime

New Testament Reading:  1 Corinthians 11
*Psalms Reading:  Psalm 58
Old Testament Reading:  Leviticus 23-24

It is not easy to watch the wicked – those who don’t know God or choose not to follow God – prosper.  Whether it’s wealth or power or fame, it can be very frustrating and disheartening.  It’s easy to think, “That’s not fair!”. 

In Psalm 58 David describes the rulers as wicked, having hands that deal out violence, lying from birth, and having venom.  He follows that by asking God to deal with them….and not very kindly.  Verses 6-9 are David asking God to “break the teeth in their mouths”, “when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted”, “let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime”, and that God would “sweep them away”.   At first, verse 10 seems to speak of enjoying seeing the rulers fall, “The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;  he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.”.  But it is not enjoyment, but rather an encouragement to the righteous to see God judge the wicked rulers.  An encouragement in that we can know that, even though they had the power in this life, God will judge them.  He ends this Psalm by encouraging the righteous, “Mankind will say, ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth’”

Don’t pray for bad things to happen to others.  Even those who make really, really bad choices.  Pray, rather, that God gives you the strength to stand firm.  Then you will be able to say, as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 11, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 

-Todd and Amy Blanchard

Reflection Questions

  1. Paul’s statement is a very confident one.  One I don’t feel comfortable making.  Maybe in some areas, but not overall.  What characteristics do you have that are good for others to imitate?  What areas might you need to more closely imitate Christ? 
  2. It’s easy to want bad things to happen to bad people.   It’s hard to wait for God’s vengeance to “give them what they deserve”.  Is there anyone you need to leave in God’s hands?  To trust in God’s timing and ability to judge rightly?  Pray that God will give you strength to trust He will take care of it.
  3. There were many parts of God’s character in today’s reading.  Which ones were you most drawn to?

Never Lost his Trust in God

Old Testament Reading: Leviticus 11 & 12
*Psalms Reading: Psalm 52
New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 5

For the Christian it is considered a “no brainer” that our trust is supposed to be found in God. But so often the stresses and worries of the world come against us, and we may forget that we serve a mighty God who cares deeply for us. 

Here in Psalm 52 we are shown a great contrast between David here and his enemy. David wrote this Psalm during the time when he was constantly on the run from Saul, who was chasing him down to kill him, out of jealousy. David lost many years of his life running from Saul but he never lost his trust in God. At this time David had amassed a group of strong men who were ready to fight for him, but Saul, having the armies of Israel behind him, had the greater strength. David had support from people who gave him food and supplies as he ran from place to place, but Saul had all the riches of Israel behind him. But the important thing is that David had God with him, and God had promised him the throne of Israel that Saul currently sat on. 

David was able to stay strong in his faith because he had seen God help him against overwhelming odds again and again, the most notable time was when he took on the nine foot tall giant, Goliath all on his own. There were actually two times during David’s years of running, that we are told about, where David had the chance to rely on his own strength to defeat Saul. Once was when Saul went to relieve himself in a cave, not knowing that David was hiding in the cave. The other time, the Bible says that God caused the entire army that was with Saul to go into a deep sleep and David was able to sneak right up next to Saul. Both times the man who was with David encouraged him to kill Saul and take the throne. But each time David refused, saying that he would not harm the Lord’s anointed. It would have been so easy for David to trust in his own strength in that moment, and no longer have to keep running for his life, but just like when David faced Goliath, David put his trust in God and not in himself. And because David did trust God, he never had to draw his sword against Saul or anyone in his family. In one single battle, Saul and all of his sons were taken out by the Philistines. God provided David the throne without David having to shed blood. David’s faith in what probably seemed like the hopeless situation of being relentlessly chased down by King Saul, paid off in the end. Years later after David had become king, he penned another Psalm, in which he said, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” I hope and pray each day to have the kind of faith and trust in God like David had, and I hope you do as well.

-Jonny Smith

Reflection Questions

  1. Is there a time you have trusted in God through a tough situation? What was the result?
  2. What do you sometimes put your trust in instead? How does that work? Why?
  3. What has God shown about Himself in your reading today?

Trusting God

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 5 & 6
Psalms Reading: Psalm 31
New Testament Reading: Romans 1

In today’s reading in Exodus, Moses gives us yet more examples of how not to talk to God. In chapter 5, we witness the irreverent tone Moses uses with the God of the universe.

22 Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (NIV)

Maybe he needed another reminder that he was standing on holy ground. God then clearly lays out His plan to Moses for delivering the Israelites. He explains that He will use the force of His strong hand to make Pharaoh let the people go. 

Since Moses seems to forget He is conversing with Almighty God, God reminds him in chapter 6:

2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Lord, I did not make Myself known to them. 4 I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. 5 Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. (NASB 1995)

The NASB 1995 translation gives the following footnote concerning verse 3: Heb YHWH, usually rendered Lord.

Just think, Moses was privileged enough for God to utter His name to him! If this were a work of fiction and I had to write Moses’ response, I would want it to be a picture of Moses falling to his knees and begging for mercy for questioning God and not showing Him the praise and honor He is due. Unfortunately, even though God equips Moses with the very words he should say to the Israelites, Moses lets his fear of man overtake his fear of God. He becomes argumentative with God in verse 12 and 30 of Exodus chapter 6.

12 But Moses spoke before the Lord, saying, “Behold, the sons of Israel have not listened to me; how then will Pharaoh listen to me, for I am unskilled in speech?” (NASB 1995)

30 But Moses said before the Lord, “Behold, I am unskilled in speech; how then will Pharaoh listen to me?” (NASB 1995)

Moses’ fear was misplaced and showed a lack of trust in God and a lack of recognition of God’s might. He was more fearful of man at this moment and clearly didn’t trust God to come through for him. The Bible makes it clear that we must not let fear of man cause us to disobey God. Psalm 118:6 and Matthew 10:28 are great examples.

Psalm 118:

6 The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? (NASB 1995)

Matthew 10:

28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (NASB 1995)

In sharp contrast to Moses, David demonstrates his trust in God and a recognition of God’s lovingkindness in Psalm 31:

14 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,

I say, “You are my God.”

15 My times are in Your hand;

Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.

16 Make Your face to shine upon Your servant;

Save me in Your lovingkindness.


23 O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!

The Lord preserves the faithful

And fully recompenses the proud doer.

24 Be strong and let your heart take courage,

All you who hope in the Lord. (NASB 1995)

It certainly seemed that David knew God on a much more intimate level and actively praised His amazing attributes. The scriptures tell us he was a man after God’s own heart. For all the flaws David had, that is pretty special to be described in this way.

Acts 13

22 After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’

May our faith always be bigger than our fear. May we be more like David when it comes to relying on God and trusting His character. 

Romans chapter 1 has great words of admonition concerning what our faith should look like:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. How can you deepen your prayer life with God to have it look more like someone after God’s own heart?
  2. On most days, which is bigger: your fear or your faith? 
  3. What picture do you get of God in today’s reading?

Obedience in the Face of Fear

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 1 & 2
Psalms Reading: Psalm 29
New Testament Reading: Matthew 28

For me, the theme of today’s reading was obedience in the face of fear. If God is calling us, the only right answer is obedience. In yesterday’s reading of Matthew 28, we read about the agony Jesus experienced on the cross and how he alone had to bear the crushing weight of humanity’s sins. Jesus felt fear on the cross, but that did not stop him from responding with obedience to God’s plan. In Exodus 1 and 2 we learn that Israel is becoming a formidable threat to Egypt. Pharaoh tries to minimize this threat by ordering the Hebrew midwives to kill any newborn boys right after they are delivered. The Hebrew midwives would not hear of taking part in such an abomination. They were obedient to God’s laws and the result was victorious. In Exodus 1 we read,

20 So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. (NLT)

We read about more bravery in Exodus 2 when Moses’ mother kept the baby Moses hidden for three months. She then concocted a plan to place him in a basket among the river reeds. Moses’ sister Miriam hung out to see what would happen. As the story goes, Pharaoh’s daughter finds him and takes pity on him. I have to think Moses’ mother and sister had to have been afraid when they went to execute their plan, but they felt the fear and did it anyway. 

I think the acts of boldness of the Hebrew midwives and Moses’ mother and sister demonstrated that they must have had a healthy and reverential fear of God as David did. 

In the first two verses of Psalm 29, David highlights God’s splendor, glory, power and might.

1 Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings;

    honor the Lord for his glory and strength.

2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.

    Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. (NLT)

Following God often requires boldness and not letting our fears overshadow what God has called us to do. We have a special reminder in verse 11 of Psalm 29 that God equips us during hard times:

The Lord gives his people strength.

    The Lord blesses them with peace. (NLT)

If we trust in God’s goodness, we know that He has our best interest at heart and will supply us with the strength we need. Therefore, feel the fear and be obedient anyway.

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you struggle with being obedient to God’s calling? Do you feel fear overshadows doing the right thing? Pray to God to deepen your trust. As we learned in yesterday’s reading, it is important to trust in God’s timing and goodness— even in the face of fear.
  2. What do we learn about God and His character in our Bible reading today?

Crying Out to God

Old Testament Reading: Exodus Introduction Below
Psalms Reading: Psalm 28
New Testament Reading: Matthew 27

In today’s reading, I couldn’t help but see some parallels between David and Jesus. In both of these passages, we see a crying out to God in a time of true despair or suffering.  

In Psalm 28, we read David’s heartfelt words:

1 ​​To you, Lord, I call;

    you are my Rock,

    do not turn a deaf ear to me.

For if you remain silent,

    I will be like those who go down to the pit.

2 Hear my cry for mercy

    as I call to you for help,

as I lift up my hands

    toward your Most Holy Place.

The words, “For if you remain silent” stood out to me. Up until that point, David clearly felt that God had been silent. He wanted to be reminded that God was on his side and actively fighting for him. 

In Matthew 27:46, Jesus also cried out to God in distress:

46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). NIV

To me, that sentence contains some of the most poignant words in scripture. Jesus is truly taking on the weight of the world at this moment by bearing all of humanity’s sins. The weight of it must have been crushing. It must have felt so terribly dark and cold. In this case, he alone had to pay the price and it was not the plan for God to rescue him from death; however, we know how the story ends. We know God did not forsake him in the grave. We read in Acts 2:31: 

31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. (NIV)

When we are in the depths of despair or metaphorically running from danger, it can seem like God is silent and turning a deaf ear to us. However, His word assures us in Romans 8:28 that He is not turning His back to us. 

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

In the latter portion of Psalm 28, we read David’s recognition that God came through for him.  

6 Praise be to the Lord,

    for he has heard my cry for mercy.

7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;

    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.

My heart leaps for joy,

    and with my song I praise him. (NIV)

Notice the words from verse 7: “my heart trusts in him.” How do we cultivate trust in God? One of the best ways is to learn about Him through His word. His character radiates beautifully all throughout scripture. One aspect of God’s character that really spoke to me in today’s reading is His tenderness. In Psalm 28:9 we read: “Save your people! Bless Israel, your special possession. Lead them like a shepherd, and carry them in your arms forever.” (NLT)

Isaiah 40:11 gives us more insight into how He shepherds His flock: 

He tends his flock like a shepherd:

    He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

    he gently leads those that have young. (NIV)

God carries us close to His heart. Now that’s an amazing image! Where we are might feel very cold and alone in the moment, but God is there holding us close to His heart. Unlike Jesus on the cross, we never have to bear the weight of our burdens alone. He is working things out for the good for those who love Him. It might not look like how we imagined, but it will be beautiful in the long run. Trust His timing. Trust His goodness. 

-Kristy Cisneros

Kristy is married to Pastor Andy Cisneros who pastors Guthrie Grove Church in Pelzer, SC. This May they will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary! They are the proud parents of two awesome children: Brooke and Logan. 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you feel that you trust in God’s timing and goodness? If not or maybe not as much as you should, make it an intentional prayer that God will help you grow in these areas.
  2. How can you use this year’s Bible reading plan to grow further in your appreciation of God’s timing and goodness? Remember this year’s plan is focused on reading with a lens for understanding God’s character more richly.

And tomorrow we will begin reading in the book of Exodus for our Old Testament reading. So, here is our introduction to the book of Exodus…

Exodus Introduction

The book of Exodus continues the story from Genesis of God’s creating a nation of His own from the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  These people would be different from the rest of the people on Earth.  It tells of the oppression His people faced as slaves in Egypt.  It then tells how God raised up a deliverer (Moses), and miraculously rescued His people from slavery – to eventually bring them to the promised land.  

Many times throughout Exodus, we can recognize parallels to the way God rescued us from slavery to sin by raising up a deliverer (Jesus), so we can eventually inherit the Kingdom of God.

There are incredible parallels between God’s sparing the Israelites at Passover by the blood of a lamb, and the way we are spared death by the blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus).

The Israelites were figuratively baptized when the Red Sea parted so they could walk through on dry ground.

As if all this weren’t exciting enough, God, through Moses, led the people to Mount Sinai, where the people saw the mountain engulfed in flame, and heard the physical voice of God, as he gave them the 10 commandments.  (See a parallel of this to us in Hebrews 12: 18-29.)

The Israelites were so terrified they begged Moses to talk with God, and then bring word back to the people.  They thought they would die if they heard God speaking anymore.  God agreed that this was a good idea, and promised to later send a spokesman, raised up from among his brothers – like Moses, who would represent God to the people.  This was ultimately fulfilled by Jesus.

The rest of Exodus, as well as all of Leviticus, and part of Numbers, takes place at Mount Sinai – as God gave His laws to His people.  As you read, you’ll find out that His people had difficulty obeying God’s laws.  

In 1 Peter 2:9, we’re told that God has chosen us, just like he originally chose Abraham’s descendants.  And He expects us to be different – to declare the praises of God.  How well are you obeying?

-Steve Mattison

A Gross Chapter in History

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 37 & 38

Psalm Reading: Psalm 21

New Testament Reading: Matthew 20

Not everything in the Bible is what we would call “child-friendly”; there are numerous accounts of despicable things taking place at the hands of people who are supposed to be God’s chosen ones. Betrayal, murder, inappropriate relationships, and more; I guess you could say that the Bible isn’t designed to be a Disney sitcom, but instead, tells the story of real people in real situations. Unfortunately, thanks to sin in our world, those real situations are often bleak,
strange, and sometimes down-right gross. That’s what we find in Genesis 38, and I’ll warn you ahead of time, it is not for the faint of heart.

In this story, we have an account of Judah, the man who is later promised to have the Messiah come from his family line (Genesis 49:10), caught up in a dramatic sequence of events with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Unfortunately for Tamar, everyone she married, quickly died; even though we may not understand the cultural practices of a brother marrying his ex-sister-in-law to
preserve their family line, we can understand the grief, disappointment, and the feeling of guilt she must have been under. Even though it wasn’t her fault, it would be difficult not to blame yourself when this happens over and over again.

Skipping ahead and not going into all the gross details about her tricking Judah into giving her a son (what?!), we find out that Tamar finally does bear children and can breathe a sigh of relief. What isn’t immediately obvious to us in this story is how significant these children would later be in the biblical story. Her children are named Perez and Zerah (v. 29-30); and if you skip ahead to the New Testament in Matthew 1:3, Perez is found in the genealogy of Jesus himself! It is through this gross, bleak, and very strange story that God brings about the Savior of the world! This is just one example among many of what the entire book of Genesis is trying to communicate to us: “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Just like Judah and Tamar, God can turn our most difficult, strange, and sometimes gross situations into something wonderful and life-changing. Paul tells us in Romans 8:28 that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God”. How true this is: God can use anything in your life, no matter how dark and disappointing it may be, and turn it into something great, if you will simply love and trust Him with it.

-Talon Paul

Reflection Questions

  1. What do we learn of Er, Onan, Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38? What sins are they guilty of? We are not given all the details of what God is thinking, but from what we do know, why do you think some of these characters are struck dead and others become part of Jesus’ genealogy? (There might be a clue in verse 26)?
  2. What do we learn of God in our reading today? Does He take sin lightly? Does He only work with perfect people? What type of heart and actions is He looking for?
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