Scripture Reading Challenge (#25)

I remember working for dad at his company as a teenage and my main job was to sweep the manufacturing floor. One time, dad came out and thought that my form was not productive and “showed me” the correct form for using a push broom. When he finished he said, “Got it?” With a smirk I replied, “Nope, can you do it again?” All I can remember was him smiling back and the rest of the workers laughing because I almost got him to sweep again for me. In our reading today, God is repeating a demonstration of fighting the battles for Israel. They did not trick him into doing it or complain so much that he wanted to teach them a lesson again. He did it because He already promised them He would. I am thankful when God repeatedly demonstrates His unbroken faithfulness to us.

Read Joshua 5:13-6:27

Jericho was a formidable opponent that awaited Israel on the other side of the Jordan River. For Israel, Jericho was a death match between former slaves and trained warriors. However, God’s plan was for the very walls that pro texted Jericho to become their own destruction. When Israel obeyed God, the Lord pushed the walls of Jericho down and Israel ran up the walls that were bridges into the city and overtook the city. They destroyed everything except one family that helped Israel and wanted to follow along with them. Rahab the harlot, who helped Israel’s spies would also become a key person in the lineage of Jesus. The remainder of the book of Joshua would account for Israel’s conquest of Canaan. They would overtake the middle, the north, and final the south. God truly gave this group of untrained former slaves the land. There is no other way of approach it.

What formidable object stands between you and God’s vision for your life? What do you fear? Why are you holding back in faith? The same God who parts waters and knocks down cities is the same God that we serve today. If we will obey the Lord, He will do glorious things. Again, we may not always understand what He is doing but He will do things beyond our capability.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#24)

Sometimes we just have to get our feet wet. Joshua was tasked as the new leader of Israel, to lead the people across the Jordan river and into the promised land. Everyone needed to be reassured that the Lord was still on their side. God was going to show Israel and all the dwellers of the new land (Canaan) His favor was still on Israel. He would drive out the resistance and fight their battles. But first, they need to cross the Jordan river when it was most likely overflowing its banks.

Read Joshua 3:1-4:24

I remember the first time people came to faith under my preaching. I knew that God had called me into ministry but it was encouraging when He validated that calling by producing fruit from it. God’s blessings reminds me that there is nothing special about me, it’s all about Him. Still, to know that the Lord is on our side is strength to our soul. What impossible task did the Lord call you too, only to reinforce your faith when He performed the task? The song still rings true, “Trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Scripture Reading Challenge (#23)

Transitions from one part of life to another is never easy. People are resistant to change and are quick to defend against change. Israel went through such a transition. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, an entire generation passed away. God raised up a new leader, Joshua, to take over where Moses left off. It is intimidating to follow someone who has already been successful. Even though Joshua has proven himself already, this new challenge of leading the people of God to the Promise Land was not for the faint of heart.

Read Joshua1:1-18

There is not much to be said about this passage except, be strong and of good courage. This admonition is repeated four times. Three times by the Lord to Joshua and one by the people to him. Encouragement goes a long way in providing a safe an open environment for leaders and followers to be morally courageous. We must continually check ourself to see if our critiques provide positive reinforcement or are simply negative and hurtful to others. In our local churches, we need to create opportunities for people to lead without fear of others in the community attacking their ideas. Sharing leadership encourages others to take responsibility and to think creatively, something a lot of pastors long from a congregation.

How long has it been since you offered a word of encouragement to someone struggling with life? Have you complimented someone for doing a good job or being their for you? Taking notice of others and offering a kind word at just the right time can impact someone for a lifetime. We need to build each other up more instead of tearing down. First Corinthians 5:11 reminds us, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, evan as also ye do.” Scripture tells us to do everything we can to build up the Kingdom. We do that by building each other up.

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 (#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.