A King and A Tyrant

2 Kings 20-21

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These two short chapters make me very glad for the American political system. Before I talk about what makes our system so good, I need to talk about the system in place in the passage that we read. Chapter 20 marks the end of the reign of a good king, Hezekiah, who accomplished many good deeds in the name of God. He was an iconoclast, one who destroys religious images (as an aside, archaeological evidence confirms the iconoclasm of Hezekiah’s age, very cool). He also increased the size of the Judahite kingdom and made it into a power on par with that of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Of course, all of this was made possible by the God who went before them in battle. Of all the kings of Judah, Hezekiah can be counted among the best, and under the guidance of a king such as he, a monarchy isn’t such a bad deal.

But when your good king is replaced by a 12-year-old tyrant, things aren’t so good. Manasseh reversed all the progress that Hezekiah made toward ridding Israel of idols and images of foreign gods. Manasseh turned away from God and brought Judah down with him. This is the power of a king. If he is good, then he can accomplish great things! But if he is evil, then he can accomplish even worse things. Somehow, Manasseh survived for fifty-five years as the king of Judah. Being a murderous beast of a man can certainly turn people away from the idea of overthrowing you. Luckily for the people of Judah, his son Amon was a bit more of a weakling, giving his advisors the opportunity to assassinate him.

This is the problem with monarchies. Everyone loves a prosperous generation under a king who does good, but if you are unfortunate enough to have a bad king (and there were a lot of them in Judah and Israel’s history), then the only way to get back on the right track is to murder the guy. Luckily for the Judahites, the next in line to the throne was an 8-year-old boy who ended up becoming arguably the greatest king of Judah. I wish I could talk more about how impressive Josiah is, but our passage cuts off just before his reign begins.

To summarize: a good king is great, but a bad king can only end in bloodshed, in the form of his people’s lives or his own. God knew this when he told Samuel that establishing a kingship was a bad idea. But God let the people have what they wanted. John Locke, a 17th century political philosopher whose thoughts helped lay the groundwork for the American system, knew this and argued against it in his treatises. The American system is designed to move slow, to never be controlled by one person long enough to do lasting damage. In America, you don’t have to wait a generation just to see political reform. Maybe if you are terribly concerned with nominal tax rates and zoning laws, then you can be frustrated with the snail’s pace at which the American political system moves, but the great advantage that we have in America is the lack of despotism and regicide. This alone gives you great reason to be happy to be alive in 2020 and not in the 8th century B.C. Let us thank God that the founders of this country were men of God who believed that each person is endowed with the spark of the Divine which is the source of our authority over our own lives, thus freeing us from the whims of tyrants like Manasseh.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+20-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 32-33 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A New World

Isaiah 64-66

As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.

God called Jacob and He made the descendants of Jacob his Holy people. These are the ones who call on the name of the Lord. Yet today, there are those in Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Morocco, Malawi, Russia, Slovenia, Italy, Germany, France, America, Canada, Samoa, the Philippines and all over the world who know the name of the same God who called chose Jacob so many years ago. Even though they were his chosen people, God said, “Here I am, here I am” to a nation that was not called by his name (65:1). God has called Christians to the same promise that he called the Israelites. Indeed, He says “I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see My glory…I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations…and the islands far away—who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory” (66:19).

Eight hundred years later, God sent a sign by the name of Jesus. Jesus himself performed sign after sign, from healing the blind (John 9) to raising the dead (John 11). The final sign was being raised from the dead himself, but this was different from the sign that he performed by raising Lazarus, for Lazarus returned to the grave. Jesus never returned to the grave; to make sure there could be no confusion, Jesus was taken up into the sky in the presence of his followers (Luke 24). The fact that Jesus was taken up is key here because it signifies his resurrection to something new, just as Isaiah prophesied that the world will be transformed into something new.

The closing words of Isaiah state that just as the new earth will endure, so will we. We will endure from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath. That is, we will continue living indefinitely. But the final verse takes a turn from the uplifting words that precede it; it promises destruction to God’s enemies, those who rebelled against him. It does leave you with a few questions though, what does it mean for their fire to never go out? It might point to an eternal suffering of those rebels as is believed by many Christians. I am not entirely sure, but asking questions that make you examine your own beliefs is important for growth. We must always be humble and accept that these prophecies are complex, and we may never fully understand them until the end has come.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+64-66&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 20-21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Better Things are Coming

Isaiah 59-63

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Isaiah 59 describes what it is like to be separated from God as we are now. Our sins are responsible for the barrier between us and God. Because of this barrier, there is sadness, there is depravity and there is a hope for something that cannot be attained. Everything in this world is touched by this separation. Our attempts at justice are a pale reflection of the true justice that God promises. In the American courts for example, there are instances where innocent men are punished, and guilty men go free. This is not justice, but it is the closest that we are able to get to it because of our human nature. We try to imitate true justice as well as we can, but we will always fall short. We even fall short in our pursuit of truth. Even when truth is proclaimed, there will be some who accept it and some who won’t. Truth is meant to have the power to convince anyone.

The following chapter speaks of what it will be like when that barrier is broken down, when God establishes His perfect kingdom. Everything that we love now, that brings us joy, will be replaced with something better. It says, “I will bring gold instead of bronze and silver instead of iron, bronze instead of wood and iron instead of stones.” If you had no possessions and someone asked you if you’d like $20, you would be excited and would gladly accept it. But if you knew that later someone was going to give you $1000, you would be grateful, but not nearly as excited. This is the way it is in God’s perfect kingdom. When thinking about the coming kingdom, we often lament the things that we will miss doing in our current lives if Jesus were to return today. “I can’t wait for the kingdom, but I’d like to finish college first.” Or, “I’d like to have children first.” There are so many things that we look forward to in this life, but here it says that the good things will be replaced with something better, and more than that, we will still have some of the good things that we already enjoy! It says that iron is replaced with silver, but also that stone is replaced with iron. When we think about our future in God’s kingdom, it can be hard to imagine, but we have to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and that he will give us something so much better than all of the good things we have now.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+59-63&version=NIV

Tomorrow we finish the book of Isaiah with chapters 64-66 as we continue working through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Let the Rains Fall

Isaiah 54-58

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There is an endless cycle of the outpouring of God’s word followed by Man’s obedience and satisfaction before Man disobeys and becomes dissatisfied. This can manifest itself over the course of generations, as is the case in the story of Noah. God is with Man in the Garden and Man knows God. Man is obedient but his obedience quickly turns to disobedience. Once God decides it is time to pour out His Word, He speaks to Noah and Noah listens. Then the cycle repeats. We see an obedient generation in the early kingdom of Israel under David which becomes disobedient in a matter of generations. The cycle can also be seen in the life of individuals. I was fed the Word from the time I was an infant; I grew up with it and accepted it. Then I became disobedient as I became a teen only to see God’s word in a whole new light and to be brought back to obedience and satisfaction in God. In fact, I have seen this cycle no less than three times in my own life. The cycle can be a minor affair, not having to represent a complete falling out with God but instead moments of spiritual hunger and moments of spiritual contentment.

Isaiah 55:8-11 is a wonderful metaphor for this cycle. We see that God’s word is like the rain, for it exists for a purpose; it exists to nurture the earth and to bear fruit. At times the rain can come as a veritable monsoon, as in the days of the early church when men were prophesying and speaking in tongues and the church was spreading like wildfire. It can come and it can go without warning, bringing with it the full force of a thunderstorm, forcing everyone to watch in awe. It can also come gently in the night and no one will hear it.

Droughts can stretch on seemingly endlessly, but survival is still made possible by the preparations that we make during the rainy season. We store up food for ourselves so that we won’t go hungry. Droughts are tough. Some people don’t survive. Some are victims of their own inaction, unable to survive because they didn’t reap a harvest while it was available to them. Yet still others seem to be innocent, faithful in the harvest and responsible in the draught, but they fall victim to it nevertheless. It is possible that there was water nearby and all they had to do was search for it. Sometimes it requires the wisdom to move on from a place to survive a draught. After all, there is a reason that not many people live in the desert.  The draught is difficult to overcome but one thing is certain: the rain will come again.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+54-58&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Isaiah 59-63 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

I am He who says: Here I am.

Isaiah 49-53

Isaiah 58 9a NIV

I feel as though it would be a great disservice to pass over this portion of scripture and not comment on the incredible prophecies of and allusions to the Christ. So here is a comment: it is incredible. Please study this passage with a focus on the light it sheds on the history contained in the New Testament. Though I feel as though I should spend more time on this topic than those two sentences, my thoughts can’t help but be drawn to a seemingly simple, yet complex and culturally pervasive game known as “Peekaboo.”

Everyone has seen a parent play peekaboo with their infant child. They will hide behind their hands to the dismay of the child only to pop out with an exclamation of great joy from the same child. This game is not often given much thought, but it illustrates an important concept in developmental psychology known as object permanence. When an infant has yet to develop object permanence, they don’t know that an object still exists when it leaves their sight. Once they have grown and developed, they are able to understand the idea of “hiding,” and can tell that their mom or dad is still there hiding behind their hands even though they are out of the child’s sight.

Object permanence has parallel applications in all aspects of life. If you have never seen the ocean, you still know that it exists albeit with a lesser degree of knowledge than one who has been to the ocean, has seen the ocean, has been in the ocean and experienced the ocean personally. The act of knowing an object exists doesn’t extend just to objects that we can personally experience but also to those which we have no possible way of ever experiencing. We may know that the inner core of the earth is molten metal and that it is close to 10,000 °F even though we can’t see it, we can’t touch it and we may never be able to experience it in any direct way.

Of all the things that we cannot see and yet believe in, God is the one of whom we have the hardest time convincing ourselves. From the age of one, we begin to believe in things which we cannot see, which we cannot touch, which we have yet to experience. As we age and grow “wiser,” we begin to doubt that we cannot truly believe in something that we cannot experience. How foolish that is. If you have never been to the ocean, yet someone told you that it exists, would you not believe them? If a scientist told you that the inner core of the earth is 10,000 °F based on seismic and magnetic readings, would you not at least consider his claim plausible? Yet for some reason, when you tell yourself that God exists, there is a voice in the back of your head that says: “How can you believe in something you cannot see?” Again, I say: How foolish that is.

The Lord has displayed His holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. The oral history of our God, the written history of our God and finally the life and works of Jesus Christ and those who witnessed him are an incredible power, foreseen centuries beforehand and proclaimed in the ear of a man, Isaiah, and then to the world, should be enough to convince anyone of the things unseen if only they are mature enough to see it. If you cannot see it, do not take that as a sign of your lack of faith. Instead, pray that you would develop and grow and develop the ability to believe in the things that you can’t see. It is self-evident in our experience as humans that it is indeed an ability that needs to be developed, to believe in that which we cannot see. When you cannot see God, wait and watch, for he is the one who says: Here I am.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+49-53&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Isaiah 54-58 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

His Strength and Battle Plans

2 Kings 18:9-19:37 and Psalm 46, 80 & 135

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David was a small man compared to Goliath. Based on some Egyptian recordings, men of the time would stand around 5.5 feet tall. Now Goliath was either 6’9” or 9’9” depending on if you look at the Septuagint or the Masoretic texts. Either way, David was significantly smaller than the champion of the Philistines, yet God gave him the power to triumph over the giant. We have a few similar stories in the conquest of the Levant (the region where the Israelites were led to settle by God). When Joshua led Israel to defeat Jericho, there was no reason to believe that a small army could conquer such a well-fortified city, so God conquered for the Israelites. The defeat of king Og is another story of the Israelites conquest against a giant, and again, God conquered for the Israelites.

This story of Judah versus Assyria is really a story of David versus Goliath. Assyria was the ancient near east’s most powerful nation. The Assyrians turned Ninevah into a wealthy city and a center for culture and art. They also coerced all the surrounding nations into vassalage in order to fund these massive feats of architecture. This essentially means that the king of Assyria demanded large sums of gold and silver from the nearby kings in exchange for the “protection” of the Assyrians, which is a euphemism for, “Give me money or I’ll kill you and enslave all your people.” It’s a pretty good setup they’ve got going on. At the beginning of the passage you’ll see that Hezekiah is one of those kings who is a vassal to Sennacherib. Judah manages to cough up 10 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold. That’s a lot of money. Even with that generous donation, Assyria couldn’t leave Judah alone. Assyria lays siege to Jerusalem, mocks their God and insists that they will be forced to eat their own excrement if they stay on the side of God.

Choosing to stay on God’s side usually isn’t that difficult for me, but when the cost is eating your own filth, it certainly adds some weight to the decision.  Many kings of Judah and certainly most, if not all, of the kings of Israel would have submitted to Sennacherib’s will, but not Hezekiah. Isaiah tells Hezekiah that God will take care of everything, like he always does. Once again, God conquers for the Israelites.

We often want God to act through us, to perform some mighty feat of strength or wisdom with ourselves as the focus. However, God often chooses to do things without us so that we can know that the glory is his and his alone. We want to be like David, to be a man after God’s own heart, but also to be like David, a man who performed valiant feats. Let us remember that it is God’s will that will be done and not ours. We can build up fortresses for ourselves but they won’t save us. Our God is a mighty fortress, an ever present help in trouble. Nothing we create will ever be as effective a shield as Him.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+18%3A9-19%3A37%3B+Psalm+46%2C+80%2C+135&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Isaiah 49-53 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Maker of All Things – including Science

Isaiah 44-48

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In this short passage, there are three profound thoughts. Indeed, they are incredibly profound considering this text was written by a man who lived around 2500 years ago. The first is that God is uncreated, he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last. How can something be uncreated? Everything seems to be created. You yourself were formed in the womb against your own will, even before you had a conscious will. We create things every day by taking something with potential and turning it into something with value. We turn raw meat into an edible meal, turn wood into heat, turn metals into computers. But even those raw ingredients came from somewhere; the meat came from another animal, the wood came from another tree and the metal came from minerals in the Earth. The fact that something can be uncreated is completely antagonistic to our entire human experience. It may appear there is no reason to believe that there is such a thing as “uncreated,” yet Isaiah believes there is a reason. (It may help that he heard God say it Himself.) God mocks the gods of Babylon, Bel and Nebo who were also known as Marduk and Nabu, for being crafted by human hands. Even those who worshipped these gods knew that they were created since both Nabu and Marduk had parents. How can one who is created be anything close to a god? One who has a beginning cannot begin to come close to the power of one who is uncreated, one who IS the beginning. It is also interesting to realize that shortly after Isaiah’s time (relatively speaking, as it is nearly two centuries after the fact) Greek philosophers began to ponder questions of metaphysics and the meaning and even the existence of time. There were some who concluded that time does exist. More than that, they concluded past and future do not exist, but only the present. Two and a half millennia ago, God said, “I am the beginning and the end.” He is the past and the present. He always has been and always will be. In this day, quantum physics affirms the existence of a beginning. The expansion of the universe can be traced backward to a single point in time where it began. The beginning exists, therefore God exists.

 

Second, God can provide things which cannot be created. While we marvel at our creations, modern technology, architecture and art, though impressive and beneficial to be sure, God creates things that we can only begin to understand. God creates light and darkness. He says he will give us treasures of darkness and riches from secret places. This probably makes me a little odd, but it makes me think about gravity and magnetism. Everyone knows about gravity and magnetism. We know that if you drop something, it will fall. If you place metal near a magnet, they will be attracted. Everyone knows this, yet it is still an incredible mystery. Why do things fall? Why are magnets magnetic? Now you can apply equations all day long and understand exactly how objects will move in certain environments, but no one can explain why matter has a gravitational field or why a magnet has a magnetic field. Wouldn’t it be quite inconvenient if the universe were set up such that gravity actually repelled all matter away from each other? Why do the equations even work? Why are the laws of physics constant? It would be rather chaotic if you were suddenly 100 pounds heavier or lighter from one day to the next based on a non-fixed gravitational constant. Yet someone decided to set up the universe in a way that would be useful for us. That’s a little bit too convenient to call it chance, if you ask me. That was a bit of a tangent, but it is related to God’s creation of light, which is an electro-magnetic wave. The interesting thing about light is that it is affected by gravity. Some guy called Einstein figured that out. Light can be bent through space if the gravitational forces are strong enough. There is a phrase from the Psalms (104:2) that says that God wraps himself in light. How could David have known that this is a physical possibility? Only that God created light, knows everything about it and revealed Himself to David. God promises in this portion of Isaiah to give us these treasures of darkness so that we may know that He is God, and that he calls our name. Knowing that we know hardly anything about light and gravity, even with all our technology and many years of study, convinces me of the intricacy of the universe and the necessity of a Master to tame it.

 

The last thought is the most important for us as Christians. At the beginning of chapter 44, God promises to pour out his spirit on the descendants of Jacob. We see this come to fruition some seven centuries later during Pentecost. God also promises to give us the choice to be heirs to this promise. He says that those who declare themselves as belonging to the Lord are included in this promise. This is our story as Christians. This is reiterated in Galatians 3, when it says that we get to share in the inheritance of Abraham through Christ and thereby receive the spirit of God.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+44-48&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 18:9-19:37 and Psalm 46 80,135 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

So Egypt Will Know

Exodus 7-9

Exodus 7 5 NIV

Moses does not believe that he can speak adequately, so what does God say? He does not tell Moses, “I am sorry. I picked the wrong man.” No. Instead He says, “I picked you for a reason. If you can not speak, then delegate that duty to Aaron.” God still says that He is going to speak through Moses, not Aaron. Once Aaron has received the words from Moses, then Aaron can speak them to Pharaoh. In fact, this is the way that religion is going to work for the rest of human history. God will pick a prophet, whether that prophet thinks he is capable or not, and will speak to the rest of humanity through that single person. God is also able to set up leadership through this prophet and the prophet can lead others and coordinate with them in order to achieve more and reach more people. This is what is established in the Levitical priesthood.

 

I recently heard an interesting interpretation on the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. I have usually not been able to define the phrase “hardened heart” when I read it. This interpretation however, defines the hardening of a heart as making a man brave. Under this interpretation, God did not force Pharaoh to refuse to listen. Pharaoh first chose to ignore the words of God. Then, when he became fearful because of the plagues, he was willing to let the Israelites go. It is at this point that God makes Pharaoh brave, allowing the Pharaoh to hold to his original decision not to let them go. I think this interpretation has some merit and is interesting at least.

 

Why did God choose the plagues that he chose? Why did he turn the Nile to blood? He could have turned it to mud or dried it up or anything. Why did he send a plague of frogs? Why not crocodiles or giant river snakes or something a little more intimidating? Why gnats? Gnats are just tiny little things, a nuisance at worst. Well God is the mastermind behind all of this, so He must have known what he was doing. Let’s try to think about all of these plagues in the context of Egypt. We know that Egypt is full of sorcerers who have a handful of tricks. We also know that the Egyptians were polytheistic and had many zoomorphic gods. Finally, we know that the Pharaoh had been oppressing the Egyptians with hard work and even worse, had slaughtered all of their baby boys.

 

God could have just dried up all of the water in the Nile and it would have had the same effect. All the fish would die and begin to rot and stink. There would be no water to drink. Yet God chose blood. This relates to what I said yesterday about turning people by degrees. God is starting with a plague that the Egyptians think is mere magic. The same thing occurs for the frogs, but the magicians can not create gnats. There is definitely some symbolism to blood in the Nile, possibly referring to the Pharaoh’s slaughter of the newborns. I also think it has to do with the significance of the river to Egypt. That river was a large part of the economy for them, they relied on it. So God took it away. Man should rely on God because he is the source of life. Even at this point in history, people knew that blood is an essential part of life and thought that a person’s life was in their blood. Thus, by turning the river to blood, God is saying, “I give life and I take away life.”

 

The plague of frogs is a weird one for me. The way it is described makes it sound like an inconvenience; they are just everywhere. One commentator I read said that this was poking fun at the Egyptians gods Hapi and Heqt. God was directly challenging the gods of Egypt.

 

The gnats are particularly nasty. Have you ever been out on a run in the summer when all of a sudden your mouth is full of gnats? Maybe that is just me. It is one of the most unpleasant experiences. Now have you ever been in a dry, dusty field running around and kicking up dirt? That is also quite unpleasant. It gets tough to breath. One time I was in a situation like this and I had to keep blowing my nose until it stopped coming out black. Now replace the dust in this field with gnats. That is a nightmare.

 

I am going to stop there and ask that you ask yourself these questions and see if you can come up with an answer. Why flies? Why livestock? Why boils? Why hail? God has every tool imaginable at his disposal, yet He deems these to be the best plagues for this situation. Why is that?

 

 

Thanks everyone for starting this plan and sticking to it! If you started from the beginning, great job making it this far and if you are just joining, I hope that you are able to find a routine of your own or hop in with this one. There is nothing better for the mind than to focus on God’s word daily.

 

Thanks for reading,

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+7-9&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 10-12 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Called – & Equipped & Planned – by God

Exodus 4-6

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Anytime God asks a question, you should be thinking to yourself, “Why would God need to ask that question if he already knows the answer?” Here, Moses doubts that he has any ability to convince anyone that he had spoken with God. Then God asks him this leading question as if Moses should have known that he already had everything that he needed to fulfill the duty that God called him to. When you are given a task by God, you had better believe that he has already equipped you for the job. The staff is already in your hand.

 

The method that Moses is given of turning his staff into a snake is an interesting one. The Egyptians sorcerers already have tricks like this; they can perform a similar feat. God always has a plan and he knows the hearts of his audience. He knows that when Moses’ staff turns into a snake, no one will be surprised because they have already seen sorcerers perform the same feat. Then why would God use this method? This is simply the first of many signs to come that will change the hearts of the audience by degrees. This is the same method that Socrates extolls as the tool of a great rhetorician. The great rhetorician will not attempt to change a man’s mind by presenting him with facts. On the contrary, he will use his knowledge of the man’s heart and what is familiar to the man, even if it is false. In this way, you can slowly turn the man’s thinking towards your position by degrees, small increments. This is how I see the signs that Moses performs before Pharaoh and all of Egypt. In other times throughout the Bible, prophets perform different signs and these signs are more suited to the people of that time and region. If Elijah had performed the signs that Moses performed, he may not have been a successful prophet because the signs of Moses are too different compared to what his community was used to experiencing. If this is the case, what kind of signs might God use in our modern age?

 

Yesterday we saw some of the ignorance and incompetence of the Pharaoh, and again we see it today. When he takes the straw away from the Israelites and demands the same quota, he is acting as a bad leader. There are leaders like this who still exist today, be it our teachers or our bosses. The bad leader sees the failures of his subordinates and reprimands them by increasing their workload or taking away resources which he sees as a crutch. Doing this only makes their productivity decrease. The good leader sees the shortcomings of his subordinates and reinforces them in their areas of need so that they can be productive and produce good results. I don’t see Pharaoh’s action in this case to be cruel, merely foolish; he sincerely does not know how to lead people.

 

When God speaks to Moses again, he says that he has heard the groaning of the Israelites. What is incredible about that is that well before he heard their groaning, he had a plan in place to save them. He took the evil of the murder of all baby boys and turned it into good by allowing Moses to live. He allowed Moses to grow in knowledge by being raised as an Egyptian. Then He met with Moses to show him the way to deliver his people. This plan was set into motion before the Israelites even knew they needed saving. That is the power of a God who does not operate on our time. By the time we realize that we are in trouble, God has already been working to get us out of it.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+4-6&version=NIV

Can you believe we are about 1/12 of the way through the Bible already!  (Genesis and Job are big books!)  The Bible has 1,189 chapters in all – which means on average reading 99 chapters a month to complete the Bible in a year.  Well Done!  And, if you haven’t been reading every day – February is a great time to get started!

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Exodus 7-9 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God’s Deliverance Begins – Again

Exodus 1-3

Exodus 2 3 NIV

I had fun with today’s reading; I laughed out loud numerous times. I’m going to try to recreate some of the internal dialogue that was playing out in my head as I read it. Enjoy.

 

“We need to be shrewd with these Israelites. What should we do? I have a brilliant idea! Let’s enslave them.” – The new Pharaoh, probably.

Shrewd: having or showing sharp powers of judgment; astute.

I’m not sure the new king really knows what shrewd means. I suppose he was astute in his observation that the Israelites are more powerful than he, yet he is not displaying great judgement in putting shackles on the people who got to their current position thanks to a very shrewd man named Joseph. As Egypt will soon find out, God is great at providing the Israelites with shrewd men who are capable of delivering them at just the right time.

 

“Murder all the baby boys. Do it for king and country, why else? What’s that? It’s immoral to kill babies? Why would you possibly think that?” – Also the new Pharaoh, probably.

The midwives are smart enough to lie to the king and tell him that they aren’t responsible for the lives of these children (as if a person could be considered “responsible” for someone else continuing to live). They claim that the women giving birth are just so skilled at it that they do not need the assistance of a midwife. That is quite a longshot. When is the last time you heard of someone giving birth to a child without the assistance of a professional? Yet the king is dull enough to buy it. He sincerely believes that these women have no concept of morality other than to obey the edicts of their government. The midwives feared God over their government and followed the commands of morality and God instead of the king.

 

The mother of Moses saves him because she thinks he is beautiful. When is the last time a mother did not think their baby was beautiful? Every mother in this time must have been like her, attempting to hide their baby boys after seeing how beautiful they were. After all, the king made it the family’s duty to kill their own children. Moses’ mother was shrewd. She put him in a basket and set him out in the Nile, intending for him to survive. This sounds insane knowing what lurks in the Nile. She created the basket so that he would be protected, it was waterproofed with pitch. She placed it among the reeds so that it wouldn’t wash away. Finally, she had Miriam, Moses’ sister watch over the basket from a distance. His mother was certainly crafty. I believe she knew exactly what would happen next, otherwise she would not have done it. When Moses is found, his own mother is hired to raise him. That is the work of divine providence and the craftiness of Moses’ mother.

 

As a side note, the midrash states that Miriam had a significant role in leading Israel alongside Moses and Aaron after the Exodus. https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/miriam-midrash-and-aggadah

 

The bloodlust of Levi comes out in Moses when he kills the Egyptian.

 

The burning bush seems unique at this point in the story. In the past, God had interacted with people by sending messengers. Abraham speaks with God before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jacob wrestles with God. Now we have Moses talking to God in a bush. It is a little different but this begins to be the pattern from here on out. We soon get the pillar of fire and cloud (which appears over the tent whenever Moses speaks with God), and the mountain covered in cloud when Moses receives the law. Later God identifies himself in a new way. He gives himself a name “I AM WHO I AM” or “I AM THAT I AM” which is the translation of the Hebrew YHWH. Up until this point, He has always identified Himself as “The God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” This encounter seems to be a turning point in the human story. From now on, a large group of people is going to interact with God in a personal way, they will address Him by name and they will be in close contact with Him.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+1-3&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 4-6 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan