Remember

Right after the passover God wants to make sure that the Israelites will remember what He did for all time.

Exodus 13

14 “And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery. 15 Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, so the Lord killed all the firstborn males throughout the land of Egypt, both people and animals. That is why I now sacrifice all the firstborn males to the Lord—except that the firstborn sons are always bought back.’ 16 This ceremony will be like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. It is a reminder that the power of the Lord’s mighty hand brought us out of Egypt.”

In our lives God has worked a lot, and maybe when you were less spiritually mature God did a work in your life and you forgot about it, well as you grow older maybe God will remind you of that time in your past that He has been with you.  As you grow you should realize that those times are important, and that you need to pass them on to help the faith of others.

Sometimes we need something to be so obvious and in our face, as a symbol on our hand in order to remember what God has done, and He understands that.

Then right after telling the Israelites to never forget about what He does for them and to pass it down for generations He leads them to the Red Sea and then leads them across it, which had to have been one of the most amazing events to see ever.

Exodus 14

19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

I’m sure this cements their faith in God….

Meanwhile in Mark 4 we see another example of God’s power over the water.

Mark 4

35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

The disciples would have known the story of the Exodus inside and out, and this showed them very clearly that God was working, and that Jesus must be serving God to have these abilities. Through the rest of the book, and in the other Gospels we see their lives changed by the message of God, and in the rest of the Exodus we will see how many of the Israelites receive God’s instructions, and I think Jesus summarizes the different responses we can have really well in Mark 4.

14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

The disciples will take a little while to catch on, but by their example that we see later in the New Testament we see that they were the good soil in this parable, and in Exodus we will start to see that many in the Israelite community represent the footpath or the rocky soil in this parable.  It is important for us to maintain our connection to other strong Christians and continue to read God’s word so that we can grow deep roots and weather the storms of life, so that we can be a good witness to others and keep the faith.

Chris Mattison

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 13-14 and Mark 4

The Exodus: Starting a new thing

We have been building up in the last couple of chapters to bigger and bigger plagues and displays of God’s might and power over the gods of Egypt, and finally we are coming to the climax of that story.  God is about to unleash his judgement on every firstborn in Egypt, but he will spare the people of Israel if they will sacrifice a lamb and put its blood around their doors.  

3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 

4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 

5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.

6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.

7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 

8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. (Exodus 12:3-8)

The meat of a lamb that you had taken care of for a week and that was cooked with bitter herbs and unleavened bread would not be a special feast that you would enjoy.  Emotionally this would be difficult, and the food would not taste that great.  This is to show the people of Israel that sacrifices and victories are not always joyous or exciting, but come at a personal cost.  For Moses it was seeing the Egyptians, the people he grew up with and who he cared for still, devastated and suffering.  This judgment was difficult for God as well since we know that he does not wish that any should perish, but he needed to show his people that the Egyptian gods they were following were powerless so that he could start to build them into his own people.

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. (Exodus 12:12-13)

God is starting to prepare the Israelites to be his people so that one day he can have Jesus, his son, die for all sins as the ultimate sacrificial lamb whose blood will cover our sins. They have a long ways to go before they are really the people of God, but we can skip ahead to Mark 3 and start to see another major change that is being initiated.

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. 2 Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

3 Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” 4 Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.

5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 6 At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus. (Mark 3:1-6)

This is very near the start of Jesus’ ministry and we see that he is running into a ruling group who have hard hearts and are therefore unable to follow God’s will.  Sadly this time it is the very teachers of the law that we will see Moses give later this week that are wanting to kill a Godly man.  

The biggest thing stopping God from working strongly in our lives is our own hard heart, and sometimes it can take a really major event in our lives to break down the walls that we set up around our heart, but I encourage you to take the first step and prayerfully listen to what God is trying to tell you.

I really enjoy the story of the Exodus and I hope you enjoy walking through this next chapter in the story of the Israelites and also in the early stages of Jesus’ ministry.  

Chris Mattison

Links to today’s Bible reading passages Exodus 11-12 and Mark 3

Darkness

Exodus 9-10

                In today’s reading the plagues continue:  livestock, boils, hail, locusts and darkness.  The plagues reap destruction on their food supplies and on their bodies.  God declares to Pharaoh His purpose for sending the plagues: “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16)

                Once again, Pharaoh continues his predictable response: plague comes, Pharaoh says he repents and will let them go, the plague is lifted, Pharaoh hardens his heart and refuses to let them go.

                All of the plagues are bad but the 9th plague is of particular interest: darkness.  In my younger days I sang with a choir and performed Handel’s Messiah.  I was given the privilege of singing the bass recitative: “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth…” (If you’ve never listened to it check it out: “For Behold…The people that walked in darkness”, Philippe Sly, Julian Wachner – YouTube )

                The next year I was in college at George Mason University and we sang Handel’s Israel in Egypt and I sang the bass recitative “He sent a thick darkness over the land, even darkness which might be felt.”  Nearly 40 years later I still have vivid memories of our first performance of this, I was battling strep throat and spent the whole day nursing my throat with honey, lemon and salt water so that I could sing my solo that night (check it out here: Israel in Egypt, HWV 54, Pt. II: Part II: He sent a thick darkness over all the land (Chorus) – YouTube)  In fact you might want to listen to the entire Oratorio Israel in Egypt by GF Handel.

                In both of these Handel works with the Biblical texts and colors them with the accompanying music.  You can almost feel the darkness.  What does three days of thick darkness feel like?  How disoriented would it be for an entire nation to be blanketed in darkness?

                Jesus later used darkness to get Saul/Paul’s attention.  Saul was blinded for three days (Acts 9:9)  until Ananias prayed over him and the scales fell from his eyes and his sight was restored.  Paul responded by literally “seeing the light”  and he become a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ.  He immediately got up and was baptized into Jesus Christ.

                What happened after Pharaoh came out of three days of darkness?  You guessed it, his heart was once again hardened.  It was harder than ever.  After 9 plagues, 9 times God gave him a chance to repent after seeing God’s power at work. 9 Times Pharaoh had the chance to proclaim God’s greatness to all the earth.  9 times Pharaoh hardened his heart.

            Psalm 103 reminds us that:

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.

                God balances His love and desire to see justice for the oppressed with his compassion and gracious love for the oppressor.  In the story God loves both His oppressed people Israel represented by Moses and He loves His children mired in pride and power who oppress his people, the Egyptians represented by Pharaoh.  God demonstrates His patience to Pharaoh by giving him 9 chances to repent.  God also demonstrates His love and faithfulness to Israel by limiting Pharaoh.

Peter later picks up this same theme in II Peter 3:9-10- “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”

God was patient with Pharaoh, “Love is patient”.  But God was also merciful to Israel, God’s love and patience have limits.  Pharaoh was about to discover the limits of God’s patience.   It would cost him and all of Egypt their firstborn sons.

                How will America and the world respond to our current “plague” the Covid-19 Pandemic?  Will we soften our hearts and repent and turn to God and forsake our sins and put our full faith and trust in God?  Or will we harden our hearts again?  How much longer will God be patient and give opportunities to repent?  When will God finally say- it’s time to fully and finally set my people and all of the earth free from this dreaded curse of sin and death?  It’s time to bring about the final judgment?

                I don’t know and you don’t know.  But learn the lesson from Pharaoh and don’t test the limits of God’s patience and mercy.  May the scales fall from our eyes, may the thick darkness of sin and unbelief that covers our land be lifted.

-Jeff Fletcher

Links to today’s Bible readingExodus 9-10 and Mark 2

Samson – Hero of Faith

Saturday – Judges 16-18

Judges Devotions-6

Weird people are my kind of people, and Samson definitely brings weird to a whole new level. We’ve seen Samson rip a lion apart with his bare hands, tie 300 burning foxes in pairs by their tails, and kill a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey.

God wanted Samson to follow through on his Nazirite vow, which involved abstaining from cutting his hair, drinking wine, and going near dead bodies (Numbers 6:1-8). In this way, Samson would be set apart from the rest of the world—sanctified and pure. However, he eats honey from a lion’s carcass, is tricked by Delilah into cutting his hair, and disappoints God in a dozen other ways. He’s hot-headed, prideful, and is obsessed with revenge; yet, in his weirdness and messiness, Samson is commended for his faith. He is mentioned in Hebrews 11, as a hero of great faith.

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (Hebrews 11:32-34).

Samson’s life ended with one act of great faith. After losing his hair, the source of his God-given strength, Samson was captured by the Philistines. They gouged out his eyes and threw him in prison. Since Samson was the Philistine’s public enemy number one, they ridiculed him in the temple for their own entertainment. On that day, Samson made one final request to God:

“Then Samson prayed to the Lord, ‘Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes’” (Judges 16:28).

God used Samson’s physical weakness and his obsession for revenge, turning it into strength. With a surge of God’s power, Samson pushed on the pillars of the temple, crushing the temple and all the Philistines in it. Samson was messy, but God used him to bring the Israelites closer to liberation from the Philistines. We, like Samson, are never too messy to be used by God.

In fact, when we believe we are too messy to be used by God, it’s God’s power we underestimate, not our own. He wants to transform your messiness for his glory. Will you be transparent in giving God the glory as he transforms your mess? What weaknesses of yours can you surrender to God to be redeemed as strengths? What messy people in your life, the same people God sees value in, are you avoiding?

Mackenzie McClain

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=judges+16-18&version=NIV

Thank you, Mackenzie for your writing this week!  Tomorrow, as we start a new week, Bethany Ligon will discuss the final chapters of Judges for us, and then take us into Ruth and 1 Samuel during the rest of the week.  Keep Reading – Seeking – Growing & Loving!  We have a great God!

2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Remember

Joshua 1-4

 

The message I took out of the first four chapters of Joshua is especially timely.  We are living in unprecedented times.  Not unprecedented in history, but certainly within our own lifetimes.  Obviously, I am speaking of the coronavirus epidemic.  No one knows how long the effects of this will last, or when things will get back to “normal” But do not fear.  God is still on His throne.

 

After forty years of wandering in the desert, God finally allows His people to enter into the promised land behind the leadership of Joshua. The pivotal moment is when the Lord held back the flood-swollen waters of the Jordan river, allowing the tribes of Israel to cross over on dry land.  Of course, this bookends the forty years in the wilderness after escaping Egypt by similarly crossing the parted waters of the Red Sea on dry land.

 

But after this crossing, God instructs Joshua to have each tribe take a rock from the middle of the river, and stack them up on the side of the river they were crossing onto.

 

Joshua chapter 4, verses 20-24 say, “And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their parents, “What do these stones mean?” tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.’ ”

 

Our Heavenly Father knows that we are a forgetful people.  I am an expert at it.  But certain things are worth remembering.  Like when God has rescued His people, fulfilled promises, or performed miracles.  God instructed people to remember certain events throughout history.  Thankfully, we have the history of such events at our fingertips in His word.  We know that He has fulfilled every promise that has come to pass, and so we should have confidence that the Godly promises that have not come to pass will also be fulfilled.

 

But what about events that are not written down in the Bible?  What about events in our own lives?  Has God ever demonstrated His power and love to you personally?  Think about such events, and how they can serve as our own monuments for us to hold onto and recount that God is there with us. If God has delivered you through difficult times before, have confidence that He will do so again.

 

Finally, remember that no matter what the future holds, no one can take away the promise of the future Kingdom that we will have a part in.  Nothing that ever happens on earth will take that promise away, and today, and every day going forward, God is in control.

 

For you parents, remember that this is a great time to model real faith to our children.  It is easiest to show faith in God when everything is going great.  But how will you model your faith and trust in God during these difficult times?  That is what matters most.

 

I have added some verses of encouragement below (starting with one from today’s reading), and then after that, a link to a youtube playlist I created that has songs of encouragement.

 

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

 

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

 

Isaiah 40:31

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

2 Timothy 1:7

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

 

 

Greg Landry

 

Welcome to the Books of History in our

Today’s passage, Joshua 1-4 can be read or listened to at

 

 

God’s Promises are Not Empty Words

Deuteronomy 17-20

Deut 20 3 4 NIV

We’re going to continue our study of Deuteronomy today by looking at a principle that, although given specifically to the Israelites, also has application today.

Let’s look in chapter 20.

“When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.  When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army.  He shall say: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies.  Do not be faint-hearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them.  For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

Promises in Action

First, it’s kind of cool to see examples of God’s people claiming this promise and God doing exactly what he promised. (Because frankly, more often than not, we see disobedience, don’t we?)  In 2 Chronicles 32, Assyria invades Judah and Hezekiah does all the typical stuff to prepare for war.  He consults his military advisors, makes some strategic moves, has weapons and shields made.  Then he addresses the soldiers with these words;

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him.  With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.”

Want to know what God did?

“And the LORD sent an angel who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace.”

Moses’ successor, Joshua, also reminded God’s people of this very promise before his death in Joshua 23.

“…the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised.”

God will fight for you

Wondering how this principle applies to us today?  After all, I don’t know about you, but our church doesn’t have its own military battalion.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 that our battles are against the “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  He further encourages us to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

Whatever you are battling today, God will fight for you.

Even if you are out-manned, out gunned, or have every reason to run….don’t.

Be like Hezekiah—consult advisors, make a plan, do what you can do.  And then remember,

“The LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+17-20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy  21-23 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

Susan lives in balmy Minnesota with her favorite person, Greg, and (except for this year) their two sons.  She teaches, tutors and writes.  You can find her blog, The Sparrow’s Home, online at thesparrowshome.com  Some of Susan’s favorite words include grace, kindness, and authenticity.  Also snuggling.

Our God

Numbers 8-10 cain

Have you ever thought about your life as a sacrifice to God? When I see how the Levites were cleansed and given before God as a wave offering in verse 13, it makes me want to be the same way before God. Imagine being born into the tribe of Levi and knowing what your purpose is. Your purpose was to grow up, study the job of your calling, study the scriptures, live a righteous life, and eventually serve God for 25 years. But really, how different are any of our lives from that? Can we not have the same basic path? Can we not come to faith, prepare ourselves through study, serve God in our lives, and present ourselves as offerings before God? People give their lives to all sorts of things. Many people choose to make their lives about the pursuit of a career, the growing of a family, the building of a legacy, etc. As the book of Ecclesiastes teaches, life’s meaning comes from following God and keeping His commandments. There is nothing else that we can pursue which gives us meaning and when I read how the Levites were given into the service of God I am reminded of this. I’m not saying everyone must be a pastor or anything like that because serving the LORD comes in many fashions, but we all need to put our life before God as a wave offering. Nothing sounds more appealing to me than being purified before the LORD and serving Him as we see in 8:21. Through Christ, we can all be purified and serve God with the entirety of our lives.

As we move into chapter 9, there is a question that comes up about observing Passover and being unclean. We find the answer in verse 9:10-14.  To me, there is a personal aspect that comes out of the beginning of this chapter. I see real people seeking to live out God’s word. These people wanted so badly to correctly follow God that they asked questions about seeking the desire of God. I think there is a lesson to be learned from the attitude of these followers: be open and real with God in all things. Open up and ask questions, seek His desire, and listen to His response. Today, I think we should learn to posture ourselves more like this before God. He is real and willing to interact with His people and give us wisdom. Sometimes we think that the time for God to interact with His people has passed, even if we don’t believe that, sometimes we act like that is the truth.

Verses 15-16 are an awesome manifestation of God among His people. His presence was continuous around the Tabernacle. Try to imagine the scene in your head. Imagine you are camping with the Israelites. In the middle of the night you walk out of your tent and in the distance, there is the warm glow, looking like fire, surrounding the Tabernacle in the distance. Have you ever seen a big fire from a distance? The warm glow that casts against the clouds in the sky. Imagine that scene every night, knowing that God is here, living among you, watching over you, and showing you His power. Don’t be so fast to read over verses, use your imagination and try to put yourself in the landscape. Imagine the smells, sights, and sounds that would have been observed by the people in the book. This practice brings the Bible to life for us, especially in the book of Numbers, where there are a lot of mind blowing events that take place. Numbers is a hot bed for God’s power manifested like no other time in history. Take your time reading these words and putting yourself in the shoes of the people. It would have been an awesome time to be alive and to witness God working in miraculous ways.

Another point we see in chapter 9 is just how literally God leads His people through the wilderness. When He moved, they moved. God still wants to lead His people today. It might not be a cloud of smoke or fire, literally leading us to the place we need to go, but through prayer and faith He can lead us to great places He has prepared for us. We should be people like those in 9:23. “At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out; they kept the LORD’s charge, according to the command of the LORD through Moses.” When God moves, we should move. When God stays, we should stay. He is leading us to things prepared for us that we can’t see or imagine, but if we follow faithfully, we will be glad we did.

Here’s an intriguing thought. Let’s say you had no modern-day technology – how would you communicate and organize roughly 2.5 million people? Seems like an overwhelming task to me. The system that God put into place at the beginning of chapter 10 is genius. I’m not surprised God came up with such a good system, but none the less, I’m impressed by the simplicity and effectiveness. Now that all the pieces are in place, the tabernacle, the camp organization, the communication system, and the leading system, it is the time to set out for the promise land. The first move was from Sinai to Paran and took three days (10:11-13, 33). We see the organization it took to move millions of people across the desert in verses 14-28. Then come some of the coolest words in the book of Numbers “35 Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, ‘Rise up, O Lord! And let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.’ 36 When it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O Lord, To the myriad thousands of Israel.’” The protection of the LORD went before them and watched over them in their journey, clearing the path of any obstacles that would stop them from reaching the promise land. God is for His people. I can’t explain how these verses make me feel, but I know that it’s awesome. I love seeing how God extends His arm to deal in the lives of His people. Even though seeing a cloud move might be more obvious, God still extends His arm to deal in the lives of His people today. Take some time to think about the prayers you have prayed. How have they been answered? This is God working in your life. I have seen people changed and situations work out in unusual ways. At some point, you have to stop saying things are coincidence and say that God is working in His people. The same powerful God we see in Numbers is the same God who deals with us today. Don’t forget, the God who liberated millions of people from Egypt is the same God who seeks your heart.

Josiah Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+8-10&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 11-13 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Growing in Trust

Exodus 13-15

Exodus 13 21 NIV

Sometimes, when a person makes a major purchase, like buying a new car or a new house they come down with a phenomenon known as “buyer’s remorse.”  Buyers remorse happens when you second guess that decision.  Yes, you like that new car and all.  You could think about how wonderful it would be when you drive it down the highway.  But when that first car payment comes due and you see how much of your paycheck goes out every month… and will continue to go out for the next 4 or 5 or 6 years, you can have buyer’s remorse.  It can be even worse when you realize that that dream house you’ve always wanted requires 1/4 of your paycheck every month and will for the next 30 years.  Yikes!  Buyers remorse has to do with regretting that important decision.

After the 10 plagues, the last of which included the death of his firstborn son, Pharaoh was so devastated that he let the Israelite slaves leave.  He wanted to be rid of them.  Their God had displayed His power and Pharaoh’s hubris was finally knocked down.  But like a boxer in a ring who has been knocked senseless by a much stronger opponent, Pharaoh still manages to get back up on his feet and try again.  He realizes that he’s suddenly lost a significant part of his workforce.  600,000-able bodied men were gone.  Who was going to build Pharaoh’s cities and pyramids and harvest their crops?  Pharaoh has buyer’s remorse.  He wants to get those slaves back.  So he assembles his army, the most powerful army in the world, and sends out the chariots and soldiers to chase down the Israelites traveling by foot.

Meanwhile, God is making his visible presence known to Israel.  He’s leading them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  This was important.  God’s people were no doubt very disoriented.  They were leaving a place that was known and familiar to them.  For over 400 years they had been living in Egypt.  They were now going to a land which they had never been.  They may have heard stories from their parents and grandparents about this land, but chances are that after 400 years, it had all but been forgotten in Israel’s memory.  They had no idea where they were going.  So they needed some visible assurance that God really was with them.  So he made Himself visible.  I’m sure that this brought some comfort to the traveling Israelites… until they heard the sound of Pharaoh’s army, with it’s galloping hoofbeats bearing down upon them.  As they looked forward to their escape route, there was nothing but the vast sea before them, and behind, the most powerful army in the world.

In despair they cried out to Moses- “why did you bring us out here to die, weren’t there enough graves in Egypt to hold our bodies?”  The sarcasm would be funny if the stakes weren’t so high.  These people truly were terrified.  Yes, they could see that God was leading them- his tangible, visible presence was right there… and yes, God had performed 10 great signs in Egypt.  But they were still scared.

It is normal to get scared when scary things are about to happen to you.  It would take the nation of Israel a long time before they would begin to really trust God in all things.

I’m a baseball fan.  Over the last 8-9 years I’ve watched the Washington Nationals play a lot of baseball.  They have been a very good team for years, but unfortunately, too many times that great team fell apart during the playoffs.  Every time they were in a do or die situation in the playoffs, they lost that deciding game and were eliminated from the playoffs.  This happened over and over again.  So when the 2019 playoffs started, and the Nationals played the Milwaukee Brewers in the one game wild-card play off and they were behind by 3 runs, I started thinking “Oh no, not again!  We’re gonna lose once again.”  But they didn’t!  They came back and beat the Brewers.   Wow!  It was different.  After all these years they won a playoff series.  But then they played the mighty Dodgers.  Once again they go behind 2 games to 1 and were facing an elimination game.  They were behind and it was getting late in the game, and then miraculously, they tied it up and went into extra innings, and then Howie Kendrick hit a 10th inning grand slam and the Nationals won another series.  They moved on to the next round, where they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in 4 games.  By this time I was becoming a believer.  So much that when they played the Houston Astros in the World Series and got down three games to two and were facing elimination, I suddenly wasn’t worried any more.  I had become a believer.  I just knew that they would come back and win… and they did.

So Israel can be excused for fearing Pharaoh’s army and believing that the worst was was about to happen.  But once again, God showed up in a powerful way, the seas were parted and Israel went through on dry land, and Pharaoh’s army was drowned in the sea as they gave chase.

How many times does God need to show up before we begin to trust?  For me, it only took a few come from behind wins for be to begin believing in the Nationals and placing my confidence in their ability to come back and win.  It would take quite a few more wins before Israel would finally come to fully trust God.  What will it take for you to fully trust God?  Israel’s story is, in many ways our story too.  We can read these stories and have our faith strengthened to help us keep trusting God even in the middle of hard times.  God is with us and God has the power to display His ultimate victory over the forces of evil.

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+13-15&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Exodus 16-18 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Light Dawns on the Dark Night of the Soul

Exodus 10-12

Exodus 10 1 2 NIV

As we go through life, there are times when it seems like God is very active and involved in our day to day lives and we sense God’s love, nearness and active interest in our lives.  However, if we are honest, there are other times when life seems to just move along and God doesn’t seem to be saying much or doing much on our behalf.  The technical term for this awareness of God’s absence is called “the dark night of the soul.”  Many growing Christians have and do experience times of God’s apparent absence in our lives.

As we read through the Bible it becomes apparent that there are times when God gets actively involved with His people.  God was there in creation, making the earth, making the plants and trees, making the animals, making Adam from dirt and Eve from Adam’s rib.  God was there in Eden talking openly and directly with Adam and Eve.  God was there asking Cain about his brother Abel.  But then we don’t hear much from God.  We know that people like Enoch “walked with God”, but we’re told very little about what God is up to for hundreds of years, as the population of earth increases and also the sin of humanity increases.  There is a long period of God’s apparent absence from history until the days of Noah when God appears to Noah and tells him to build the Ark because a flood is coming.

After the flood there appears to be more years of silence, until the Tower of Babel gets built and God comes down and confuses people’s language.  Then there is more silence from God until he calls Abraham.  And so on and so on…There are intermittent times where God is active and involved and times when God seems silent throughout the book of Genesis.

At the end of Genesis God saves Abraham’s family from famine by bringing them down to Egypt.  At first, all is well as Joseph, Abraham’s great grandson is the second most powerful man in all of Egypt.  But Joseph eventually dies, and he is no longer able to protect his family from the powerful Pharaoh, and eventually the descendants of Abraham are enslaved by the Egyptians.  This lasts for a period of roughly 400 years.  During that 400 years it seems that God is once again silent.

During that time Israel is growing from a few hundred people, to millions of people.  Millions of men, woman and children living in bondage in a foreign land.  Perhaps stories about God and their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were passed along by word of mouth, but we might imagine that so many years of silence may have left the nation of Israel in a permanent Dark Night of the Soul.  But then… out of the darkness and silence, Moses is born and becomes a member of the Egyptian royal family.  God is at work, but he’s not quite ready to make himself fully known to Israel.  Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to the wilderness and it seems that the darkness continues and the voice of God remains silent…until God appears to Moses in the burning bush and tells him to go back to Egypt.

In Exodus 10-12 the time has come for God to make himself known to His people… and to Egypt. Exodus 10:1-2 – “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.”

Here, God tells Moses that He’s about to make his presence known in a powerful way.  God’s about to show up, the darkness is ending, the silence is over.  And show up He does!  God shows up in a profound and powerful display of his power and might.  Bear in mind, Egypt was, at the time, the most powerful empire in the whole world.  Pharaoh was the most powerful person in the whole world.  Pharaoh had been exerting his power in a ruthless way over God’s chosen people for hundreds of years.  Lord Acton once said “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  In the United States we live under a Constitutional system that intentionally balances power among three different branches of government- Executive, Legislative and Judicial.  This is to prevent any one person from having too much or absolute power.  These lessons were learned after observing thousands of years of kingdoms.  Pharaohs and other absolute monarchs have historically used their power in destructive and unjust ways.  And with such unmatched power comes hubris.

The Poet Percy Bysshe Shelly captures the hubris in his powerful poem Ozymandias:

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Pharaoh, like Ozymandias in the poem, was filled with hubris over his unmatched power.  He believed himself to be king of kings.  He needed to be taught a lesson in humility by the true King of Kings.  God showed up.  Ten plagues later and all of Egypt was brought to their knees.  Meanwhile, the people of God began to see first hand just how great and powerful their King, the true God, YHWH really was.  That story has been told for thousands of years, and today, the people of Israel continue to sit down and eat bread without yeast and drink wine and remember the Passover and how powerful their God really is.

Sometimes, God seems to be silent, but make no mistake, God is still there and God is still powerful and in the end, God will show himself to be greater than all human opposition.  May you know the true God.

Jeff Fletcher

Unimaginable

Ephesians 3

3

Once upon a time there was a custodian, Clarence. He spent his days throwing away trash kids had neglected and mopping up spilt chocolate milk in the cafeteria at my high school. His life wasn’t flashy or glamorous.

During lunch one day, Nicolas, a student at my school, lost a ring that held a lot of significance and asked Clarence to keep an eye out for it. After finding it, Clarence returned it to Nicolas with a smile. This small act of kindness was the beginning of a friendship between Clarence and Nicolas. This friendship was contagious, as the whole student body began to hold Clarence in high esteem. His thoughtfulness and passion for the students shined in everything he did, so much so that he was elected by the students as grand marshal of the homecoming parade.

Clarence, the custodian, changed the culture of my school, and he lived happily ever after. The end.

I imagine that there were days Clarence felt undervalued and overlooked, wishing to be in someone else’s shoes. I, too, often find myself wishing for different circumstances. I want to do big things for God, but my sphere of influence feels so limited. Reading today’s chapter, I was encouraged that God can do big things through me right where I’m at.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.(Ephesians 3:20-21)

Immeasurably more. Those are two of my favorite words in the Bible because it means that all God’s power is beyond my understanding. God isn’t limited to the box we often put Him in. No matter where you’re at, God can do immeasurably more through you as long as you trust Him completely. Whether you spend your days mopping puddles or preaching to thousands, God can do more through you than you could ever imagine.

There’s no need to wish to be somebody else. Believe in the immeasurably more God has in store for you.

 

-Mackenzie McClain

 

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