February 23

February 23.

Moses & the Red Sea — Moses’ faith at the Passover & crossing the Red Sea.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 13

Reading 2: Exodus 14

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:24-29

If you thought yesterday’s reading of the Passover and the death of all the firstborn was dramatic, today’s reading is perhaps even more dramatic!

God leads the Israelites on a circuitous path, bringing them to the exact spot where He knows He can get them across the Red Sea on dry land. At the same time the meandering will trick the Egyptians into chasing after them so that God can demonstrate that He is more powerful than the world superpower of the day, and that His people are protected while His enemies are defeated.

So God takes them around the wilderness to the Red Sea (likely the Gulf of Aqaba; see here), and then arranges miraculous circumstances to both bring the Israelites across the Sea, AND drown all the Egyptian Army in the same water!

What you are going through today may seem overwhelming, but God will both deliver you and do away with your enemies, if you will walk by faith and trust Him.

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 22

February 22.

Moses & the Passover — The origin of the Passover Lamb & Jesus our Passover Lamb.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 11

Reading 2: Exodus 12

Reading 3: 1 Corinthians 5:7

Today, God carefully completes the work He has been doing, to liberate every one of His people from slavery. The instructions for the Passover focus on the death of a young animal brought into the family and then killed. This death is necessary for the family to be saved as God passes over the nation and kills all the firstborn of families not submitting to God in this way.

Is God a bloodthirsty God? No; there is nothing in these instructions that suggests the blood and death is necessary to satisfy some thirst for vengeance in God. Rather, God has been very patient with Pharaoh, giving him multiple opportunities to obey and comply. Also, God is using this night of powerful liberation as a symbol to pre-figure what He is going to do in the future, as Jesus becomes our Passover Lamb. For the Israelites it cost them a valuable member of their flocks. For God it cost Him His only Son.

There are multiple symbolic messages in these chapters, and another is the exclusion of yeast. Anyone who has baked knows that yeast starts small but has a large effect, getting into the whole loaf and causing it to puff up with carbon dioxide, just as a little selfishness can puff up a person into a proud and stubborn resister of God. That is what happened to Pharaoh, it is also what happened to satan, and Paul writes to the Corinthians warning them to avoid such things happening to them.

We can celebrate today, that God is willing to go to such lengths to set us free from sin and pride, bringing us out into the promise of relationship with Him.

Have a great day!

Mark.

 

February 21

February 21.

Moses & the Miracles — God reveals Himself through miracles & plagues.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 7

Reading 2: Exodus 8

Reading 3: Psalm 105:23-38

We said yesterday that we were entering a power struggle, and today the power is unleashed full-force! God’s power is seen clearly and increasingly, yet Pharaoh refuses to give in. This is not just an example of stubborn refusal – the Egyptians believed the Pharaoh was a god and so this was his pride versus God Almighty!

Interestingly, there is also the power of magic and sorcery at play in this story. Occult powers can counterfeit some of God’s works, giving the appearance of power, but you see by the end of chapter 8 that the magicians and sorcerers concede that God’s power is greater.

Notice also how God sends Moses and Aaron to work together – Aaron obeying Moses and doing great and powerful things, to demonstrate and model the relationship God wants with us all – we do what He says, and He works through us for our blessing.

Power is a stubborn task-master, and Pharaoh still has some resistance left yet. We will see more next time.

Have a great day, and remember to do what God says!

Mark.

February 20

February 20.

Moses & Pharaoh — God’s message to Pharaoh & Pharaoh’s arrogant rejection.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 5

Reading 2: Exodus 6:1-13

Reading 3: Nehemiah 9:9-10

So the power struggle begins; the most powerful man on the earth and his nation, against God Almighty and His chosen nation.

As you read today, notice how Pharaoh’s responses reveal his heart, and ponder how power has corrupted him. He sounds a lot like satan in his proud ranting.

Also notice how God is patient with Moses, despite his misgivings, and leads Moses to lead the people. With the increasing burden the people don’t want to listen or obey any more, but God will not be thwarted.

This episode became a song or chant used by the Levites (the worship team) in the time of Nehemiah many centuries later after the rebuilding of Jerusalem. They led the people to sing: “You saw the misery of our ancestors in Egypt, and you heard their cries from beside the Red Sea. You displayed miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, his officials, and all his people, for you knew how arrogantly they were treating our ancestors. You have a glorious reputation that has never been forgotten.”

When God wins the victory, He does so FOR His people, and DESPITE His people, and THROUGH His people. But most of all it is for His glory.

Consider the ways God has proved Himself in your life, and give Him the glory today!

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 19

February 19.

Moses & the Burning Bush — God calls Moses & Moses gives various excuses.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 3

Reading 2: Exodus 4

Reading 3: Acts 7:30-36

Today’s reading is a contrast to some of the earlier chapters. For example, Exodus 1 covered a span of many years, and Exodus 2 covered more than 40 years, from the birth of Moses to his fleeing to Midian. Today’s chapters, recording how God starts His plan for rescuing the nation of Israel from slavery, take place over just a short time, when Moses is 80 years old.

There is another contrast with earlier stories too. We have seen how Abram fearlessly leaves his country and goes where God tells him. We have seen how Joseph consistently works diligently and rejects sinful temptations until God releases him into his destiny. But today we see a man who is used by God despite great insecurity and uncertainty. Moses tries every argument he can find to get God to use someone else!

From our viewpoint we can see how Moses was perfectly prepared for the task ahead. He knows Egyptian customs from personal experience, and he has spent forty years dealing with stubborn animals in the wilderness! But from Moses’ perspective the task ahead of him was more than he could handle. After several powerful encounters with God, he is persuaded and goes!

Have you ever felt unqualified and ill-equipped for the task God has given you? Today’s story teaches us that God wins the fight over who knows best!

Have a great day!

Mark.

 

February 18

Pause and Reflect:

Before we go far into the story of Moses, the start of a whole new chapter in God’s Story, let’s pause and reflect on several themes we have seen in recent days.

Blessing: How can you see God’s theme of blessing flowing into your life as it did through the Patriarchs?

Faith: Is there a step of faith that would characterize your calling, just as steps of faith were significant markers in the lives  we have read about so far?

Obedience: Faith is expressed in obedience, releasing blessing. How have you seen that principle in our readings recently, and how can you apply the same pattern to your present circumstances?

Have a Great Day!

Mark.

February 17

February 17.

Moses & his Childhood — The faith of Moses’ parents & Moses flees Egypt.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 2

Reading 2: Acts 7:17-29

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:23-26

The exiled Israelites have become a nation enslaved by fear and earthly power, but God is preparing a plan for His covenant to be fulfilled. That plan starts small (we have seen, and will continue to see, that God’s biggest plans have the smallest beginnings). A baby in a basket in the River Nile becomes a prince in Egypt, and learns all their ways and customs. What faith Moses’ parents displayed to trust God with their son, and it was that faith which opened the door to God’s plan.

As we read the rest of the chapter, and the explanations in Acts 7 and Hebrews 11, we see how faith continues to be the thread in this story, just as it was for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. That’s because this story is part of God’s One Story – to form a people of faith who will be His in eternity.

Early in Moses’ story we see a young man who thinks he can demonstrate God’s priorities in his own strength and with his own wisdom (that is also a pattern which is becoming familiar in the stories we have read). But God takes him into a desert place where his priorities and his faith can be formed and refocused. And while that is happening, the suffering of the Hebrews increases, preparing them for what God is about to do.

In our lives we often see such a cycle: immaturity leads to hardship and suffering, which helps us to learn and grow closer to God, whose plan is served by the lessons we learn. And in the end God’s plan wins, whatever the ungodly circumstances around it!

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 16

February 16.

The Midwives’ Dilemma — When should people disobey the government?

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 1

Reading 2: Acts 4:18-20

Reading 3: Acts 5:26-32

Today we move into the second book of the Old Testament, Exodus, and the focus shifts from the family of Jacob (Israel) to the nation of Israel. Jacob brought 11 sons with him from Canaan to Egypt during the famine. Their families, along with the family of Joseph, grow numerous, causing fear to the Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

Fear mixed with earthly power always causes injustice. Notice that none of that evil trinity is found in God – He is just, loving, and all-powerful. The injustice in this case is the order to the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys (this being a male-dominated society). In this ancient echo of the Christian pro-life movement, the midwives chose to obey God (the Giver of Life) rather than Pharaoh (the giver of orders). When government mandates death, it is God’s heart that we choose life.

This is reflected in the two additional readings today, when the leaders of the early church choose to obey God when forced by the authorities to choose. When earthly authority insists we go against God’s instructions, it is our duty to disobey government rather than God.

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 15

February 15.

Joseph & his Death — The fear of Joseph’s brothers vs. the forgiveness of Joseph.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 50

Reading 2: Ephesians 4:31-32

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:22

You may have noticed that our supplemental readings have often taken us to the Hall of Faith chapter of Hebrews, where many giants of faith are honored. Today is no exception. As we reach the end of the book of Genesis, with the death of the last patriarch, we see Joseph’s lifelong walk of faith ending well. For a start, all the top people in Egypt travel with Joseph to bury Jacob in Canaan – what a send-off!

On their return, Joseph’s brothers are afraid that it was only Jacob who was keeping Joseph from inflicting revenge on them; but instead Joseph makes a statement that has been repeated by many wronged believers since then: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” What a testimony to Joseph’s faith! A faith formed through many trials.

And then, years later, Joseph knows his time on this earth is short, and his faith comes through even more strongly when he says “Soon I will die, but God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. When God comes to help you and lead you back, you must take my bones with you.”

Consider this for a moment – let’s not simply read it and think “Oh yes, I know that happened.” To brush over the statement in that way would be to miss the strength of Joseph’s faith. The famine that brought them together in Egypt is over, and Joseph is still the chief ruler under Pharaoh. The family (now several generations) are comfortably living in Egypt. It seems that God has brought them to a place where they can be comfortable and thrive. That must be God’s will, right? WRONG! God has already promised, generations earlier, that the land of Canaan will be the one He gives to His chosen people as an inheritance. This promise was written deeply in Joseph’s heart, and he wants to be part of it, even though his life has been lived almost entirely in Egypt. So he asks them to take his bones back when God leads them back to The Land.

The Hebrews Hall of Faith describes it this way: “It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.”

Apply that same faith to your own life for a moment: how has God been faithful to you even through hardships and injustice? Has God blessed you in a place you don’t really belong? What about God’s promise of a Kingdom without end – are you longing more for that than for the place of comfort you presently enjoy? This world is not our home. We may die here, but Jesus will take us back where we belong, if we have faith in Him.

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 14

February 14.

Jacob & the Blessings — Jacob passes on God’s blessing before he dies.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 48

Reading 2: Genesis 49:29-33

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:20-21

In the patriarchal system, great worth is bestowed by blessing from father to son(s) and we have seen the significance of this blessing in earlier stories (especially Jacob and Esau). Now the old deceiver (Jacob), who valued the birthright and the blessing more than his godless brother Esau, is ready to die and blesses his favorite son Joseph, and his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, adopting them as his own.

Interestingly, Jacob deliberately reverses their order, placing Ephraim first, while blessing them both. And the writer to the Hebrews tells us that all this was by faith – in other words trusting God was the source of the actions, and the blessings that followed.

Which bring us to consider our own experiences again. Have you ever been favored more than someone else? Whether you deserved that or not, it was God’s guidance behind the favoring. Now consider the opposite case – someone is favored more highly than you, undeservedly; how would you respond? A lesson for us from this story is that God wants to bless, and even when He does not bless according to our priorities or sense of fairness, He still blesses!

May He bless you today!

Have a great day.

Mark.