Scripture Reading Challenge (#22)

One of the greatest strengths of the Bible is that difficult passages are not hidden. Our life is filled with complexity and God’s Scripture faces it with His grace and wisdom. I am thankful for that as it gives hope and guidance. If it some of it’s teachings are hard to understand and hard to accept. Our first chapter today is a difficult passage.

Read Exodus 32:1-34:35

Moses cares for the people. That’s the big lesson I gain from chapter 32. “But wait,” you say, “what is this about the Lord repenting.” Why would the Lord need to repent? This is one of those difficult areas. The people of Israel made a molten calf. Aaron’s response in 32:24 is comical, “They made me do it and gave me their gold. When I through it in the fire, a golden calf jumped back out.” This infuriated God and went against the grace He just showed by bringing them out of Egypt. However, after Moses’ pleading, God repented of the evil He thought to do. Notice, He didn’t ask for forgiveness, which is included in our understanding of repentance. In this sense, it means to change direction, to do something different. He was going to destroy them but through Moses pleading, God changed His mind. To me, this displays Moses growing love for the people. Notice also in 32:30-35, that Moses is so passionate for Israel that he was willing to have his name blotted out in their place. Moses has changed from not wanting to defend Israel in front of Pharoah, but now will plead with God for them. That’s a pastor’s heart. One who grows in love for His people that they will pray for God’s grace and favor upon the congregation and community regardless of self-cost.

Another major point in this passage, is God’s relationship with Moses. We see clearly 33:11, “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend.” This is wonderful to know that God, the Creator, will enter into a relationship with us beyond covenant partnership and into covenant friendship. God even rubs off onto Moses (33:18-23, 34:5-9 & 29-35). God has great love for us, and the more we are around the Lord, the more we are changed.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#21)

The Israelites and now camping with God in the wilderness.  The Lord is their neighbor, and not in the sense that there is a giant idol next door.  Instead, the very real presence of God is sitting outside as a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night.  God is no longer seen by one but now is seen by all.  He has proven to be extremely powerful, maybe all-powerful. The people need to know how to live with God.  He will now share with them how they ought to live.

Read Exodus 19:1-20:21

The Old Testament is often considered a works salvation.  Even in this passage, many will think it is a list of “do’s and do not’s” for earning God’s favor.  However, the Lord lets the people know that they already have grace, God’s unmerited favor.  Notice the grace in Exodus 19:4-6, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.  Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:  And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”  Again, in Exodus 20:2, before the Ten Commandments are given, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”  We are saved by grace and not by works, but we are saved to do good works.  The Ten Commandments are the embodiment of those good works.

The ten commandments are summarized in the New Testament and called the two great commandments: (1) To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and (2) love your neighbor as yourself.  The first four commandments are wrapped up in the first, and the final six are found in the second.  By doing those things which show our love to God and neighbor, we are living unto God as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

 

Scripture Reading Challenge (#20)

Some people just have a hard time believing.  No matter what God has done before, they still lack faith.  The Israelites had recently witnessed ten plagues the Lord placed on the Egyptians but still murmured and complained that God and Moses led them into the wilderness to die.  God will perform another miracle before their eyes in our passage.  The parting of the Red Sea.

Read Exodus 13:17-14:31

The Lord led the people out of Egypt to the Red Sea with a visible presence.  Exodus 13:21 explains, “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.”  That would be an awesome sight!  The beauty of this passage is that God will lead and protect His people.  The Lord leads His people by going before us and showing us the direction we must go.  As Psalm 23:2-3 reads, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  

However, there are times we lose sight of the Shepherd but still can trust, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Ps. 23:4-5).   For Israel, God moved from before their face to behind them.  Why?  He moved from the front to back to keep the enemy from jumping on them from behind.  We need to be more thankful of those times, that even when we can’t see God in front of us, to know that He is fighting our battles that are sneaking up on us.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#19)

Does your family have any traditions that are times of celebrations?  More than likely, you do.  It’s a way that we stay connected to our heritage.  There are some traditions that probably should be changed, but there are those traditions that are so rich in meaning that it would be detrimental to a groups history by bringing change.  To this day, Jews still observe Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread.  What is significant about this celebrations?  In our reading today, we will learn about the historical event that is still celebrated even now.

Read Exodus 12:1-42

Blood was shed almost immediately after The Fall of humanity to make a covering (Genesis 3:21).  From then, we begin to see sacrifices given to God.  The first time we see this happen, God would not accept the half-hearted harvest gift of Cain but received the firstlings of Abels animal sacrifice (Gen. 4:3-5).  Now, God commands that the blood of each family’s lamb be placed on their doorpost.  God would pass over each house with the blood applied and the meal observed but would take the life of each firstborn in the homes that did not follow the command.  The house that was covered was saved from wrath.  It is also interesting to note at this point that the word atonement means, “covering.”  When Christ atoned for our sins, he shed his blood, covered us with God’s grace and saves us from wrath.   What an incredible foreshadowing of things to come that God painted for us in the Old Testament.

God had Moses tell the people, “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s Passover” (Ex. 12:11).  It sounds like God means business.  I take this statement as two-fold.  First, God is telling the people that the judgment on Egypt and the deliverance of the Israelites will be so complete, that the people will be quickly ushered out of the country.  Secondly, it was an act of faith to take in the meal with their running shoes on.  Do we have such confidence in God’s Word?  God said he would deliver them and so they should be ready to go at the exact moment He says, “Go!”  Is your life ready for an immediate act of obedience?

The reason given for making an annual tradition of the Passover and Feast of the Unleavened Bread was for the children, future generations.  Sometimes, when we start to change a tradition, we hear someone say, “But, this is the way we have always done it.”  That statement demonstrates a low understanding about the purpose of traditions.  Traditions are not about preserving the old paths as an end to themselves.  Instead, traditions keep history as a way to teach future generations.  In this particular case, it was to show the children about God’s deliverance and favor on Israel.  How many other traditions do we currently have that are kept for the wrong purpose rather than teaching future generations about what God has done in the past?  Traditions can show us what God has done and can still perform today.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#18)

One of my favorite stories is the Chronicles of Narnia.  In The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the children are talking about the Christ-like figure, Aslan the Lion.  The conversation goes, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is certainly good, but he is not safe, at least for sin and wickedness to be around. The Lord is going to demonstrate in our reading His power and intolerance of sin and the evil in the hearts of men and women.   God will send ten plagues upon Egypt.  We will learn about the first nine in our passage today.

Read Exodus 6:28-11:10

What does it mean that God would harden Pharoah’s heart (Exodus 7:3)?  There are a variety of explanations based on how one understands God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.  However, it may be sufficient at this point in God’s story to note that this is ultimately above our pay grade, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Still, I would like to point out God’s dealings with people’s hearts in Romans 1:18-32.  A passage we have already visited.  You will notice that in the Romans passage, three times God says “God gave them over” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).  I believe this is similar to God hardening Pharoah’s heart.  Pharoah made a choice to live without Israel’s God and when confronted with another choice, kept going against God.  God gave Pharoah over to his desire to not listen, and he reaped the consequences of Godlessness.  In other words, Pharoah chooses where he wants to make to his bed, and God said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.”

The plagues demonstrate another aspect of God.  God is holy and loving.  They are not separate concepts.  Instead they are two sides of the same coin.  God’s holiness may seem harsh, but it is in His holiness that He is the only real source of Love.  As love, there is the aspect of the Lord appearing tough on those things that cast themselves against what God loves.  Through the plagues, we see judgment fall on those who are against God, but mercy on those who follow God.  Whether God’s action is seen as judgment or compassion is based on what side of redemption you are standing on.  From the side of the unredeemed, God’s actions produce conviction, fear, and at times bitterness.  However, from the viewpoint of the redeemed, all that came before was accompanied by God’s providential grace.  Providence is the grace that God sends before us to bring us to Him.  Thank God for His grace that goes before us to prepare the way.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#17)

What is your biggest fear?  For a lot of people, it is the fear of public speaking.  When God called Moses, his lack of ability to speak became a point of contention.  God wanted to use Moses to deliver his people but Moses, whether it was the real reason for his apprehension or a cover, used his lack of speaking ability to try and say no.  However, God reminds Moses who both of them are.   I find this to be one of the most encouraging Old Testament passages for preachers and teachers.  God will help us share His gospel if we are faithful to obey the calling of God in our life.

Read Exodus 3:1-4:17

To my wife, I am called husband.  My children call me daddy.  My parents call me son.  The people at the church I serve call me pastor Jeremy.  When I teach, I am professor Kamer.  The same person is behind all of these names, but each one denotes a different aspect of my life or activity that I am engaged in.  One name or title does not encompass everything about me, except maybe my full name, but that name only means something to you if you really know me.  God is the same way.  The Bible is filled with the different names used to reference the One True God of Israel (that’s one of the names).  Why so many names?  Each title typically focuses on a single attribute or group of God’s attributes.  There is one name, however, that seeks to encompass all of God’s essence.  It is used whenever you see the name “LORD” in all caps (if you see Lord not in all caps, it is the word Adonai, meaning master).  The Hebrew pronunciation here is “Yahweh.”

We have seen a general Hebrew word referring to God, “Elohim.”  It means God is powerful.  It refers to God’s power in creation and His greatness.  Still, because of its generic background (“El” could refer to any god), the use of it by the Israelites kept God distant and largely unknown.  Moses asked God “who shall I say sent me?”  God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.”  He told them, simply the one that is, the one who is self-existent.  The God who does not depend upon anything for existence is our God.  This is God’s personal name.  It is sometimes called God’s covenant name and notes a personal relationship.  It’s like me telling someone “they usually call me Professor Kamer, but you can call me Jeremy.”  My personal name is the name I use to sign.  It’s who I am.  Now, all of God’s people have entered into a truly intimate relationship with Him.  He knows us by name, and we know Him by name.

In the first chapter of Genesis, Moses referred to God as Elohim.  In the second chapter, where we see a more intimate creation of humanity, Moses uses both names, Yahweh Elohim, the LORD God.  Why would Moses in this repeat of man and women’s creation use the personal name of God?  Perhaps, he eventually connected the dots that this Yahweh now speaking with Him is the same Elohim that created the world and called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees.  God told him that he was the one that created man and could help Moses speak.  This creator God had given his personal name.  He was no longer distant, but God was near.  Nothing, in the mind of Moses, would show God closer to humanity than breathing life into the nostrils of man.  Wow!  What an amazing God we serve.  He is not far but near.  He is not a stranger, He is a personal friend of mine and can be yours too.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#16)

There seem to be evil men in every generation.  Pharaoh of Egypt, as we will read, committed terrible acts because of jealousy and fear of God’s people.  In the middle of these tragic events, God would raise up a deliverer.  The Story of the Bible now introduces us to Moses, the man God would use to set His people free from slavery and organize Israel’s societal and religious values.

Read Exodus 1:1-2:25

If the question has not come to mind yet, it indeed does at this point, “How can God allow such evil things to happen?”  There is never a simple answer to this type of question.  However, it adds to the integrity of the Bible.  Scripture does not sugar coat real life.  Reality can be dark and grim, and God uses His Word to shine the light and spread hope in the dark world.  I will say, that in my answer to the questions, typically starts with, God has already done something to answer evil, and it leads to his promise to vanquish it forever.  Romans 1:18-32, speaks of God’s wrath against ungodliness and wickedness in summary fashion.  Like I said, it’s not an easy answer, and there is more to it, but basically, God’s beginning judgment on sin (the ultimate cause of evil) is to allow it to run its course.  This passage marks three times that God gives people over to their wishes to not have him around.  God allows evil because humanity has rejected him, and a broken world is the result.  In the end, God promises to set all things right and the one who tempts us to sin, the devil, and those who utterly reject God, will be cast into an eternal lake of fire, while the faithful enjoy eternal bliss in a new heaven and earth.

Thankfully, God does not entirely leave this world alone.  In fact, Scripture teaches us that it is still the Holy Spirit that restrains evil incarnate from running rampant in this world (2 Thess. 2:7).  In the case of Moses, God heard the cries of the people and would send Moses to deliver them from Egypt.  It is tempting to read these Scriptures and think that God forgot them, after all, it does say God remember his covenant.  Haven’t we already discussed that God does not forget us?  One of the prophecies in Genesis foretold Israel’s 400 years of calamity in Egypt (Genesis 15:13).  We also have seen that God was preparing Moses and protecting his life well before we read of the people’s cry to God in the text today.  I think more of what is being said is that God was moving into a new phase of the plan of Salvation.  There are is no “plan B” with God.  Everything is “Plan Jesus Christ.”  When it states that God remembers the covenant, it seems that we see the next step taken in salvation history.  One big step closer to the time when God would send the Son and the world was ready.