Sunday, January 21, 2018

Stand still, be quiet

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus13-15

TO CHEW ON: "The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace (literally: be quiet)." Exodus 14:14

God had led the Israelites into a corner. With the sea in front of them and Pharaoh in pursuit they had three options: surrender to Pharaoh, fight, or trust God.

It's not surprising that the people hurled fear-laced sarcasm and bitter we-told-you-so blame at Moses: "Because there were no graves in Egypt have you taken us to die in the wilderness? Is this not the word we told you in Egypt saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness'" - Exodus 14:11-12.

But neither the Israelites nor the Egyptians had bargained on the intervention of a wonder-working God. Moses' reassuring "Do not be afraid, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord" was backed up with a string of miracles.

First God moved that GPS cloud (see this devo) between them and the enemy. It blocked the Egyptians' sight of Israel while it lit the Israeli side. Then God told Moses to stretch his rod over the sea. This brought up a strong wind and pushed back the waters, creating a path on which the people walked over to the other shore. After the Israelites were across and the Egyptians tried to follow, God caused catastrophe amongst them. Their chariot wheels loosened and when they tried to turn around, the water rushed back and they drowned.

Though our problems and challenges differ from the ones the Israelites faced, I wonder how many times we wouldn't do well to respond to them in the way God instructed Israel: "Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today .... The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace (be quiet)."

Sometimes God needs our grubby fingers off of our circumstances (circumstances that He has engineered - Exodus 14:1-4) so He can accomplish stuff in our lives and the lives of our opponents that will never happen if we try to fix the problem, stir up action, or keep something from happening.


PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to have the faith that trusts in You to act on my behalf. School me in the discipline of inaction, patience, waiting for Your solution to my dilemma. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 21

MORE: A mother's meddling fingers

The above is the story of a time when I had the chance to test out the truth of Exodus 14:14.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

One particular day

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 10-12

TO CHEW ON: "And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt." Exodus 12:41

Here was the fulfillment of what God had told Moses would happen (Exodus 3:8,10; 6:6; 7:4). It's comforting to read words like "… at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass." Israel's days of slavery in Egypt had a definite ending, a point in time when they were finished.

The Bible speaks of human activities in time as within God's knowledge and control. A phrase that is sometimes used to describe this is "the fullness of time." That's the title of one of the chains of verses in my Thompson Chain Bible. "The fullness of time" is defined as "God's appointed time when everything is ready" - NKJV Thompson Chain Bible, p. 1771.
Some fullness-of-time verses:

  • There was a definite moment in time when Joshua and the Israelites had followed all God's instructions to conquer Jericho "…and it happened" (Joshua 6:16, 20).
  • John the Baptist preached "The time is fulfilled" (Mark 1:15) just before Jesus arrived on the scene.
  • Paul explained Jesus' life on this earth in those terms: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son…" Galatians 4:4.
  • He also speaks of Jesus' return still to come "… which He will manifest in His own time" - 1 Timothy 6:15.

God doesn't have a fulness of time for only the big theological events of history, but also for our lives. David talks about this in Psalm 139:
"You comprehend my path and my lying down
And are acquainted with all my ways
You have hedged me behind and before
And laid Your hand on me

And in Your book they all are written.
The days fashioned for me,

When as yet there were none of them" - Psalm 139: 5, 15, 16 (emphasis added).

We can trust God with His "fullness of time" for us. Whatever trial we're in of sickness, difficult circumstances, money troubles, family issues, He knows and will help us through them until we come to the very day our trial will pass.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your knowledge of my times, and how You have brought me through hard stuff in the past. Help me to trust You to bring me through the things I face today. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 20

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Articulate creation

Fives in starfish, fruit core, flowers
 Creation's Fives 
(Photos & collage by V. Nesdoly)

TODAY'S SPECIAL:  Exodus 7-9 and Psalm 19

TO CHEW ON: "
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork." - Psalm 19:1


In this beautiful psalm, David points out two ways God reveals Himself—through NATURE (Psalm 19:1-6) and through HIS WORD (Psalm 19:7-14). Today let's focus on the NATURE message.

Here are some things Bible writers say we can learn about God through creation:

He is a wise and powerful provider
  • Job, speaking of God's wisdom and power in nature, challenges his listeners to learn about God from the beasts, the earth, and the sea creatures - Job 12:7-10.
  • Later in Job, Elihu praises God in a similar way, illustrating his point with a description of the water cycle - Job 36:24-33.
  • Jesus too points out this aspect of creation when He instructs, " 'Consider the lilies…' " drawing our attention to their care-less and beautiful existence -  Luke 12:27.

He is a judge
  • Psalm 50:6
  • Psalm 97:6.
One can easily see how people could get a judgment message from a sky that crackles with lightning, rattles with thunder, and drops hail and snow.

God is big. We are tiny
  • Isaiah describes God: "He sits above the circle of the earth"… while we are the "grasshoppers" on it - Isaiah 40:21,22.

In creation we have enough evidence to believe that there is a God and to know some things about Him.
  • Paul and Barnabas waste no time turning the attention of the crowd at Lystra—who want to crown them gods after Paul heals a man—to the God of creation whose witness, Paul says, is the rain and fruitful seasons - Acts 14:15-17.
  • Paul speaks clearly about creation's evidence of God in Romans 1:20: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."
I love how Paul says we can deduce things about God by what is "seen" and "the things that are made." Isn't it true! Our study of natural things—creatures, plants, elements, atoms, our own bodies—shows how wisely and creaatively God has designed them all. Design elements, that repeat across created things (like the five-pointed star shape in fish, flowers, and the core of fruits), show creation's unity—the signature of the same creator.

Man's observation of creation leaves him with no excuse before God

  • Paul, in answering his own question in Romans 10:14 ("How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?") says they actually have heard: "But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed." Then he quotes Scripture:  " 'Their sound has gone out to all the earth and their words to the end of the world' " - Romans 10:18. Who is Paul quoting here? Psalm 19:4 (part of our today's reading) that speaks of the fact of God's existence going  "... to the ends of the world." 

Let's look for God and enjoy Him in creation today!

PRAYER: Dear God, I am amazed at Your wisdom, creativity, care, and majesty evidenced in creation. Thank You, however, that you didn't leave us with only that, but also gave us Your Word and Yourself in Jesus. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 19

The Bible Project VIDEO: Heaven and Earth (Theme Series)



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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Zipporah spirit

Moses, Zipporah and her sisters
by James Tissot

Moses, Zipporah and her sisters by James Tissot
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 4-6

TO CHEW ON: "Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, 'Surely you are a husband of blood to me!'" Exodus 4:25


In a curious little side story we read of Moses, his wife Zipporah, and their two sons Gershom and Eliezer on their way to Egypt. But something serious happened to Moses along the way. He was at death's door, having apparently roused God's wrath. Zipporah remedied the situation by circumcising their son.

Male circumcision was the sign of God's covenant. We don't know why Moses omitted doing this when Eliezer was a baby (it was to be done at eight days old - Genesis 17:10-12). Herbert Lockyer, author of  All the Women of the Bible* suggests: "Zipporah as a woman of Midian, did not share the spiritual values of her notable husband who found himself acting against the sacred tradition of Israel. … To keep the peace, Moses compromised with his unbelieving wife and withheld circumcision, the sign of God's covenant, from Eliezer."

However, Zipporah was not gracious about this, as she exclaimed (in abhorrence, anger?) "You are a husband of blood!" It would seem at that point relations between them were so strained, Zipporah and the boys turned around and went home to dad (Jethro) while Moses traveled on alone.

Zipporah appears only one more time in the Bible when she, her sons, and father meet Moses during the Israelites' wanderings (Exodus 18:2-5). After that "She disappears without comment from the history of the Jewish people in which her husband figured so prominently. … Neither as the wife of her husband nor as the mother of her children did she leave behind her a legacy of spiritual riches" - Ibid.

I take this as a cautionary tale. We too can become infected with the Zipporah spirit that would resist spiritual expression, growth, and obedience in our husbands. Rather than doing that, let's support and encourage them in their biblical role as the head of the home (Ephesians 5:23).

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to uphold Your pattern in marriage and in supporting and encouraging my husband in spiritual things. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 18

The Bible Project VIDEO: Exodus 1-18 (Torah Series)




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All the Women of the Bible  by Herbert Lockyer, Zondervan, 1988, one of the Related Resources available for this passage on BibleGateway.com

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Excuses, excuses

Graphic: gerait / pixabay.com
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 1-3

TO CHEW ON: "But Moses said to God, 'Who am I that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?'" Exodus 3:11

In the Bible we meet many people who are not that different from us.

Today we read a discussion between God and Moses where God gives Moses the job to lead Israel out of Egypt but Moses counters God with excuses at every turn:

Moses: I'm nobody.
God: I will be with you - Exodus 3:11,12.

Moses: The people won't believe that You really sent me.
God: I'll give you supernatural signs - Exodus 4:1-9.

Moses
: I'm not a good speaker.
God: I'll be with your tongue - Exodus 4:10-12.

Moses wasn't the only Bible character to make excuses.
When God called Gideon to lead the people in opposing raiding Midianites:
Gideon: My family is small and insignificant.
God: Because I sent you, I will be with you - Judges 6:13-16.

When God called Jeremiah to be His prophet:
Jeremiah: I'm too young.
God: Don't say that; you shall go and you shall speak - Jeremiah 1:6,7.

When God sent Ananias to meet with Saul / Paul:
Ananias:  This job is too dangerous.
God: I know what I'm doing. My plan is way bigger than what you see - Acts 9:13-16.

The sobering thing is that God doesn't put up with excuses forever.
When Moses persisted in arguing with God, God appeared to lose patience and promised to send him a human helper, brother Aaron, who turned out to be a mixed blessing (Exodus 4:14).

As for people in Jesus' parables who had only excuses for the Master, most of them came to a bad end.

When the master returned and asked for an accounting of what his servants had done with what He had given them:
One-talent servant: I didn't do anything because I was afraid of you.
Master: You're lazy. You could have at least done something. Away with him! - Matthew 25:26-30

In the parable of those standing before the Son of Man as judge:
Those on the judge's left: You didn't come to us hungry, naked, sick or in prison.
Son of Man: I was there, as the hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned person you ignored. Away with you! - Matthew 25:41-46.

In the story of the Great Supper invitation, the master of the feast received these RSVPs:
Guest 1: I can't come; I'm too busy with my property.
Guest 2: I can't come; I'm too busy with my work.
Guest 3:
I can't come; I'm too busy with my family.
Master of the feast: Their invitations are cancelled.  Invite someone else - Luke 14:16-24.

You and I do well to ask ourselves, what is God asking us to do, and how are we responding? Let's take stock of our lives in this department and stop making excuses and get busy at what He's asking us to do, while we still have the opportunity.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to trust You for help instead of making excuses.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 17

The Bible Project VIDEO: Exodus 1-18 (Read Scripture Series)




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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Finishing well

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 48-50

TO CHEW ON: "'But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.'" Genesis 50:20

Joseph's brothers' reaction to him after their father's death reminds me of Jesus' wisdom when He said, "'For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you'" - Matthew 7:2 (NIV). The fact that these brothers feared Joseph would look for retribution after their father died speaks more about the condition of their own hearts and minds than Joseph's. They were obviously not accustomed to dealing with someone as guileless as he was.

Joseph for his part, though grieved, stuck with the conviction that he had expressed when he first revealed his identity to them (compare Genesis 45:7-8 and Genesis 50:20). He never did take revenge on those brothers. Unlike so many Bible characters, Joseph not only started and middled well, but he also ended well.

A sidebar article in my Bible sums up Joseph's life and suggests applications we can make for ours:

"The life of Joseph powerfully displays God's sovereign ability to bring to pass His destiny for an obedient individual. In his youth, Joseph received a vision of God's plan for his life. Shortly thereafter, it appeared that not only had the vision died, but that his life would be wasted away in slavery and prison. Nevertheless, Joseph remained faithful to God. That which had been meant for evil, God used to prepare and position His servant to realize the fulfillment of His vision for Joseph's life.


  • Ponder God's vision (Genesis 37:5-11). Do not share it prematurely but ask for His timing.
  • Expect God's favour in the sight of others (Genesis 39:4,21). God is able to make a way even when it seems impossible.
  • Remain faithful to God in all you do (Genesis 39:9). Do not compromise, especially when the vision is slow in coming.
  • Believe that God is sufficient (Genesis 41:14-57). He has given you the gifts you need to realize His purpose through you.
  • Trust in God's sovereign providence (Genesis 45:7; 50:20). He causes all thing to work for your good as you remain faithful to His calling and purpose for you."
by  Leslyn Musch, "Truth-In-Action through Genesis," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 74 (emphasis added).



PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the story of Joseph. Help me to trust Your sovereignty in my life in a similar way. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 16
 

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Sometimes the way leads down

Israel on the move - by James Tissot
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 46-47


TO CHEW ON: "'I will go down with you into Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again....'" - Genesis 46:4


It was moving time for Jacob. At last he had received the word that Joseph was alive and had in fact invited him and the clan to move to Egypt where food was plentiful. This was a momentous occasion. It meant uprooting many families. It meant arduous travel, and Jacob was old. It meant exposing his family to the idolatrous culture of Egypt.

When he got to Beersheba, where Abraham had called on God (Genesis 21:33) as had Isaac (Genesis 26:25), Jacob "offered sacrifices to God" - Genesis 46:1. Matthew Henry comments:

"He had an eye to God as the God of his father Isaac, that is, a God in covenant with him. He offered sacrifices:
1] By way of thanksgiving for the late blessed change of the face of his family, for the good news he had received concurring Joseph and for the hopes of seeing him.
2] By way of petition for the presence of God with him in his intended journey.
3] By way of consultation. The heathen consulted their oracles by sacrifice. Jacob would not go till he had asked God's leave" - Matthew Henry - Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 65.

God replied in a vision giving Jacob all the assurance he needed: "Fear not. I will make of you a great nation."

Note the directional words in what God said next: "I will go down with you into Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again." As well as Egypt seeming geographically down from Canaan, might their use signal to us God's awareness of one of Jacob's niggling concerns?

For by leaving Canaan for Egypt, Jacob was forsaking the land God had promised his family. He had, after all, made the trip back home from his father-in-law Laban's to inhabit it. Perhaps he was questioning, Will I slip out from under the shadow of God's protection by again leaving the land of promise? And would he ever get it back? In that nomadic culture, it wouldn't take long for the land to be inhabited by someone else. Leaving Canaan probably felt to Jacob like he was taking a step down, not up.

But down is sometimes how God directs. Matthew Henry again:

"Whatever low or darksome valley we are called into at any time, we may be confident, if God go down with us into it, that he will surely bring us up again. If he go with us down to death, he will surely bring us up again to glory" - Matthew Henry, p. 65.

The safest place to be is wherever God directs — even if it feels like down to us.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for being with me in the downs as well as the ups. Thank You for Your promise of being with me always (Psalm 139:7,8). Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 15

MORE: Valley of Humiliation

"Then he began to go forward; but Discretion, Piety, Charity, and Prudence would accompany him down to the foot of the hill. So they went on together, reiterating their former discourses, till they came to go down the hill.

Then said Christian, 'As it was difficult coming up, so, so far as I can see, it is dangerous going down.'

'Yes,' said Prudence, 'so it is; for it is a hard matter for a man to go down into the valley of Humiliation, as thou art now, and to catch no slip by the way.'

'Therefore,' said they, 'we are come out to accompany thee down the hill.'

So he began to go down, but very warily; yet he caught a slip or two.'

- John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress, "The Fourth Stage — the Valley of Humiliation" - Kindle Location 1091.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.





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