Friday, July 26, 2013

Exodus 17 - Testing or Trusting

Where is God in the midst of this situation?  I know I have searched for God's hand in the middle of a trial.  The Israelites wandering in the Desert of Sin (interesting name) and found there was no water at their camp for the night. 

Something interesting happens here and I wonder if it has happened in our lives too. To blame God would be sacrilege, but to blame someone present in the midst of turmoil doesn't seem to have the same spiritual emphasis. The Israelites grumble against Moses. I know I am prone to grumble when I am tired and frustrated and things are not going as I planned. My poor husband usually hears the most of that grumbling. In truth, my circumstances whether pleasant or trying are ordered by God for his glory. 

In meeting with me for financial counsel, many people say everything was going well until some unexpected event occurred. They blame doctors, banks, anyone who may be related to the event but in truth God brought the trial for his own glory. We test The Lord when we don't look to Him in our trials or give credit to Him in our abundance. 

Moses, at God's direction, strikes the stone and water comes out. He names the place "testing" and "quarreling" because that was the place where they tested God saying He was not with them.  As if to emphasize His point to the people God allows the Amelekites to threaten the camp. Now they would really see if God was with them. 

Moses however looked to God as the Amelekites attacked the camp and held God's staff high like a banner on a hill overlooking Joshua and His army as the defeated the army. God promised that the Amelekites would be blotted out. Joshua was to see this promise of God and know His help comes from above. Moses modeled faith to the people and they saw how much God was with the nation. 

Notice that Moses in trusting God did not wait passively to see what The Lord might do; he was actively engaged in holding his staff interceding for his people. God honored this act of faith and blessed the people as they overcame the enemy. We too must be about engaging ourselves in the battle even as we look to God for our salvation. 

Our enemy may be a person or it may be the sin that is entrenched in our lives, but we can be sure that God is still at work and he cares for his people. If we will look to Him in trust and do our part in faith, there is no doubt God gets the glory and we are blessed to be a part of it. Whether we are in battle or suffering want, our God is more than sufficient to provide our solution - can we trust Him that much?  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Exodus 16 - Out of Comfort

Celebrations are done and the new routines of wilderness living are setting in for this million person march to the Promised Land. In the mundaneness of playing follow the leader-cloud, the people of Israel have time to reflect on what has happened.  Their life has changed completely. 

You would think they would be joyous at the deliverance they have experienced and be grateful to no longer serve under the harsh oppression they once endured, but their minds are working out what it means for their future. They are still learning to trust God and aren't sure of his live for them even after massive demonstrations. Would God allow them to suffer and die in the wilderness before they reach the Promised Land?  

Someone begins to think about their hunger. It would be good to eat now. Remember some of the good meals we had in Egypt?  Those were great. Do you think God might let us starve here?  What was the point of stirring up the Egyptians against us if we are just going to die here?  We might as well have died in Egypt and not prolonged the suffering. And so it goes. 

God had brought the people out of everything they had ever known so he could teach them a new way of living. They needed to learn that God was the source of all their provision and that He would care for them. God was teaching them that in the midst of turmoil and need, God sees and sustains His people. 

The people of Israel had a rather impersonal and distant relationship with God. They needed this wilderness experience to bring them out of their comfort so they could know God's love and grace in a tangible way. 

The Israelites' grumbling was more than just a statement of need; it was an expression of their discontentment with the deliverance they had received and a reflection of the distant relationship they had with their Redeemer.  They turned on Moses because he was God's representative to the people. As God's representative he graciously never returned their anger but interceded for the people. 

And so it is with us in our turmoil all too often. We can turn to God in the turmoil and apply our faith to the situation at hand and see that God is all sufficient to sustain us through the difficulty or we can, like the Israelites, turn on God complaining about our conditions; outlining to God how our plans are being thwarted and our expectations are not being met. 

It occurs to me in my own life that had I not encountered strife and conflict, that my relationship to God might still be distant and I might have no first hand knowledge of the grace of God in my life. I might have intellectually accepted my sinful state and my need for a Savior, but I might never have known how truly desperate my condition was or how much it cost God to redeem me. As I see God sustain me through trial I get a taste of sacrifice and the depths of God's love when I experience it personally. I am challenged to show that same love for others who need a dose of grace and mercy. We get to be Moses to the people we encounter, not returning anger but in love interceding.  

Moses was just a picture of Christ's love for us. We too have someone interceding for us. He knows our hearts and he demonstrated his love for us by assuming our place and bearing the penalty for our sin. Jesus, our deliverer still lives and acts to gain glory for God and working in the lives of His people. 

Whether our challenge is physical, emotional or financial, we grow in the grace of God and increase our faith as we see God move in the midst if the turmoil if life. We gain that peace that surpasses what circumstances warrant and we develop a tangible faith that allows us to know God more intimately. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Exodus 15 - Praise and Faith

Have you ever had an encounter that was so undeniably a "God thing" that you stood in amazement at how marvelous God is?  That's precisely the situation for the Israelites. They saw the hand of God protect them from their oppressors and fight for them - overcoming their enemy. 

Moses' song of praise just raises your spirit to consider all the wonderful things God did on behalf of His people. They considered not only the work of His hand but also the character of God. They speak of their dependence upon Him. 

Here are just a few of their praises:

The Lord is my strength v. 2 
He has become my salvation v. 2
The Lord is a warrior v. 3
Majestic in power v. 6
Greatness of majesty v. 7
Majestic in holiness v. 11
Awesome in glory v. 11
Unfailing love v. 13
Redeemer of people v. 13
In strength you guide v. 13
Nations tremble v. 14
Chiefs terrified v. 15
Leaders trembling v. 15
Your people planted on mountain of your inheritance v. 17
Lord reigns forever v. 28

They were thankful for God's provision and their faith was strengthened in the God of their fathers as they considered how gracious He has been. 

We should be a people of praise to God. He has done some marvelous things for us personally. We can look back on our history and detail what he has done for us. It renews us to face the trials of the day when we consider how God has sustained us in the past. 

The testimony of what God had done would become so well known that even the leaders of the nations they would pass through would tremble at the prospect of encountering God's people. They became the most powerful people on the planet not because of their military prowess, but because the God of Creation fights for them. 

It is important for us to take time to consider how God has helped us in the past, because it reminds us that His character doesn't change and that His power is all sufficient for the trials of our day. It reminds us to look up when we have conflict and turmoil. When we don't know how our story can possibly have a good outcome; we can consider again how we have a God if the impossible and trust in His unfailing love. 

Let's praise Him today for the ways He has provided for us. For His word, His Gospel, His redemption, His love, His provision for our needs. We have a song to sing.  Even though we may still have need, we can remember the past and the trials we have overcome by trusting in Him. We have great security when our life is in His care. What a Mighty God we serve!

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him!  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Exodus 14 - God of Impossible

Have you ever been in an impossible situation?  Sometimes the stress of events in our lives leaves us feeling frustrated. An unkindness or mistreatment can leave us feeling powerless. Perhaps your financial situation seems overwhelming and you feel you can never repay what you owe to others. Well, take heart - because this chapter of Exodus shows us that especially in impossible situations God is more than able to supply our need and gets greater glory because of it. 

In this chapter the hard heart of Pharaoh turns once again against the Israelites and they find themselves hemmed in against the Red Sea with the threat of annihilation coming from behind. They were following God's angel and they had a cloud pillar to guide their direction. 

Who's to blame?
Notice in the chapter that even though it was Pharaoh who is coming against them and God who has set up supernatural guidance for them, the first person to get the blame is Moses (Ex 14:11). Certainly it must be Moses who misunderstood God and has placed them in jeopardy. Why would God set them up for even more trouble? 

Our own first tendency when faced with difficulty is to look for someone to hold accountable. Someone must be responsible for the crime. If we don't see that we caused it ourselves we often turn on each other. 

God's Fight
In my own life, I know I have been way too quick to jump into a fight that is God's - to fight in my desire for justice. Moses redirects the people's attention to God and says "The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still". (Ex. 14:14) What wise words for us to apply to our own lives. If we would just make our primary focus be obedience and let God worry about the rest we would see God work in ways we never imagined. 

In the area of our finances, if we apply the direction provided to us in the Bible we would see God keep us in His care and provide for our needs in amazing ways. We cannot let the doubts of this world convince us to follow its ways. So many of us have fallen into the trap of debt by believing the lie that having our desires now is better than waiting. We forfeit our future to have token pleasures now. It is like the person who says, "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die". We indulge because we don't know for certain that we have a future and so we squander it today. Obedience and faith are two sides if the same coin; and God in this chapter challenged his people to follow Him and trust Him for the results. 

It was God who put them into this impossible situation so that only an act of God could save them and He would be renowned among all the nations as God fights their battle. 

Way of escape
If God has placed you in an impossible situation you can be sure that he will offer a way of escape as you continue to faithfully lean on Him. For the Israelites, He placed a hedge of protection between them and their enemy; he opened the sea and allowed the nation of more than a million people and their livestock and belongings to pass through. I think he must have quickened their steps as well. I understand that the narrowest crossing would have been at least 10 miles wide. Through the night, I could probably walk that on my own, but with one million in the crowd and livestock and all the belongings, it must have been a miracle beyond the parting of the water.  It took most of the night to pass through the sea, but God provided them light for their way; yet there was blackness for the Egyptians. It is much like the contrast between the worlds way and God's. 

No escape for Egyptian Army
Without a single arrow fired on the part of the Israelites they saw the defeat of the mightiest army in the planet. It says that not one survived. Ex. 14:28.  It is that way for the person who will not believe God and see their need for salvation. There is judgement that they cannot escape.  

God's people were finally free and they did nothing to cause it. God fought the battle and God got the glory. We get glimpses if it here on earth, but if we do not see our deliverance here, we will certainly enjoy the blessings stored up for us in Heaven. 

Hope for you
Dear Christian if you are in the midst of an impossible situation, know that God so loves you that He offers you this opportunity to see His hand reach down and to fight the battle.  In doing so He gains glory for Himself. Our responsibility is tie trust and obey. In the midst if the blackest dark, God sees. In the face of impossibility, God provides. I am reminded of what the angel told Mary in Luke 1:37, "For nothing is impossible with God."  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Exodus 13 - Remembrance

I don't understand what it is in our nature that hangs onto joy so loosely, quickly forgetting the blessings we have received, while clinging to bitterness so mightily that we might never let it free from our grasp. God must have known the nature of man when He instituted these practices of remembrance of His mighty power in delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt. 

I find great comfort when I  facing difficulty to go back to the Bible's historical record and consider how God responded to His people when they were faced with hardship. It also gives me courage to be a person of faith as they had been. So remembrance doesn't just honor the forefathers, it infuses us with strength for the moments we face. God knew we would need that help and so He instituted it and provided in advance of our need. 

Consider some qualities of the remembrance ceremonies God called Israel to practice:

Relevant:  the ceremonies were connected to the event. Consecration of the first born would be a reminder of how God slew the first born of Egypt on that terrifying night of death and how he saved the first born of Israel under the covering of blood. The festival of unleavened bread is a remembrance of the night when they were to leave the land quickly not leaving time for bread to rise. Sacrificing of first born male animal brings back the picture of the blood sacrifice offers to redeem their lives and how the first born in Egypt were killed. 

Repeated:  this remembrance was to be repeated. Each year they would celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They might not need the reinforcement just then, but regularly as they remembered the mighty acts of God they were preparing for the next event where their faith would be tried and they would depend on God's unchanging character and His love for the people. This was to teach new generations and to remind the old. 

Significant: these remembrances were not after thoughts. They were significant dedications required of the people. It wasn't just bowing your head at mealtime. It was yielding loved ones, your livelihood and your time. This was not a casual observance but a very solemn observation of Gods hand in redeeming His people.  

Redemption:  in verses 11-13 we see that God is establishing His story of redemption buying back of the first born through the blood sacrifice. This paints a picture of Jesus' finished work on the cross, but also of the future coming of The Lord to redeem His people out of the  world and establish His kingdom. It is not only a remembrance but also a foreshadow of the things to come. 

We would do well to establish remembrances of our own of the mighty work God has done in our lives. Can you remember when God did something amazing in your life?  Remember it and tell it over and over to future generations that they might know they have a God in Heaven who sees our struggles and remembers His people. 

If you are in a moment of time with hardships around you, consider all the ways God has sustained His people and the ways He has intervened in the Bible and in your own life. Cling to those stories and gain strength for you moment of need today. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Exodus 12 - Deliverance

When we are suffering, whether it be financial, physical or emotional need what we really want is relief. We want deliverance. Living in a fallen world we experience pain and suffering - because that is where we live. 

Egypt is an object lesson of the Bible. It represents the world and all it has to offer. It may sound pleasant at first, but step by step living worldly leaves us in bondage and suffering. It may have seemed like freedom at first, but one day you wake up under a mountain of debt or with ulcers and you realize you bought into a lie. 

There are some examples from this chapter, I believe we can apply to our lives if we want to move toward that promised land. 

A sacrifice is required.  Deliverance will require a sacrifice from someone. If it were easy and free there would be no need for consideration. God wanted the Israelites to know that it is the blood sacrifice that saves. For the Israelites it was a matter of life or death. Their deliverance came without any personal merit, but it would not come without a cost. Belonging to God will have costs along the way, but they are small compared with our reward. 

Absolute obedience is required. Too often we try to manufacture our own deliverance or compromise God's command. God give detailed instructions here to the families and they must be followed to benefit from the deliverance. Is it possible that we may want the blessing of God, but we want to maintain some worldly practices as well?  We need to be clear about our choice - God does not compromise with the world. 

Available to all. Ex 12:48-49 make it clear that the alien is invited to experience the deliverance and celebrate the annual remembrance each year alongside the Israelites. Furthermore it was to be a remembrance throughout the generations being taught to the children Ex 12:25-28. It is important that we pass on the lessons we have learned from God to our children and encourage them to keep the faith. 

It was supernatural.  The favor God gave to the Israelites that the Egyptians would bestow their remaining wealth on them as they left the country is evidence of a supernatural influence. They and their livestock were spared the devastation of the Angel of Death that visited all the firstborn that night. They were not prevented from leaving - they were urged to leave. Ex. 12:33. 

In God's time. Israel might have longed for deliverance 100 years or more prior to the time God ordained, but God had foreordained the time when he gave Abraham the promise of a legacy. In Ex. 12:41 you see that the deliverance was 430 years to the day when God lifted his people from under the curse of Egypt. God has a plan for us in each bit of suffering He allows to  come our way, but ultimately His plan is to demonstrate His power by delivering us from the power of the world and sin. 

Deliverance points to Jesus. In this passage we learn about the qualities of Jesus. In order for Him to be the sacrifice  that saves, He would need to be perfect, no bones broken, His blood covers us and spares us from eternal death. Jesus provides the unmerited favor giving us a Passover from the penalty for our sin. When God delivers there are pointers toward Jesus. We need to tell the world about this deliverance and how they can enjoy it too. 

The greatest deliverance we have is not the escape of any temporal discomfort but from the bondage of sin we were all born into. We can have real freedom and life abundant if we will turn from the world and turn toward The Lord. 
May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him today. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Exodus 11 - The Great Cost of Rebellion

In Chapter 11 of Exodus, the tensions were mounting between Pharaoh and The Lord. The final plague is reminiscent of the decree the former Pharaoh established against the Israelites to kill the baby boys. God's plague however would destroy all firstborn sons. Pharaoh's own son would die as would the first born throughout the land and the cattle as well. 

Even the people of Egypt saw how Pharaoh's stubbornness was bringing them to ruin and they were in favor of the Israelites and honored Moses. The people would willingly turn over their possessions of gold and silver so that the wealth of Egypt would leave with the Israelites. More often than not, sin will impact our finances. Our selfish living is costly. 

There is a high cost to pay when people refuse to give God honor in their lives. God waits for us to see our sin from His viewpoint and acknowledge it before Him. He wants us to turn from trying to make our own way independent of Him and to rely on His wisdom and obey His instructions. 

Pharaoh was stubborn alright. But we all have been in his shoes when we have chosen to sin rather than follow God's commands. Our pride, our selfishness, our greed take over our thinking and we attempt to direct our own destiny. 

I confess, I don't like to examine my sins before God. I would rather talk in generalities and ask God's forgiveness of my sin rather than list them in detail. I would rather ask God to create in me a clean heart rather than confessing the ugly nature of sin I have wrapped up in me. Even saved people who have put on Christ's righteousness still battle with their sin nature daily. 

There is a high cost to pay for going against God. God tells us that eternal punishment awaits those who stubbornly stand against Him when He has offered a way of escape. The escape hatch that all of us must take if we are to enjoy fellowship with God here and Heaven through eternity is Jesus. Jesus is the way - he took the punishment we deserved and fully paid the price for our sin. Our righteousness is found in relationship to him. We must confess that we have sinned and that we need God's provision of a Savior; otherwise the price is ours to pay. God gave his first born son not as a curse as with Pharaoh, but paying the high price of sin for us. The son had to die; sin is that dire. 

Pharaoh and all the people of Egypt paid a high price for going against God. So all the world would hear of God's provision for His own and would turn to Him and worship. God separated his own from the penalty. Notice in verse 7, God makes a distinction between his people and Egypt. The good news if the gospel us that even though you may deserve death as a result of your sin, you don't have to experience it. The price was paid and we are free from the bondage we were in! 

Egypt represents the influence of the world - a world that would ignore God and deceive itself into believing that sin does not have a price. Israel is representative of God's own people who receive blessing beyond any merit. They are God's special ones who escape the judgement against sin and have joy beyond what the world can know. 

Who's side will you select?  If you have sinned (we all have) confess that to God, accept the provision of forgiveness offered by Jesus and walk in the knowledge that you are God's special person protected and secure. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Exodus 10 - For God's People

Interesting that the plagues on Egypt were not only for God to reveal himself to the Egyptians, but also to send a message clear and strong to God's people as well. We read in Ex 10:1-2 that God performed the signs so the Israelites would tell future generations how harshly God dealt with the Egyptians and so they would know that God is Almighty. 

All this trouble had been heaped on the nation of Israel not because God had forgotten them or left them alone to suffer, but that they might might see such a powerful act of God against their oppressors that every generation to follow would know that God acts on behalf of his people. 

For 400 years Israel lived in among a nation that despised them. They slaved for oppressors and many innocents died because of their mistreatment.  I think about all the young boys who were killed under Pharaoh's decree at the time of Moses' birth. Not one was forgotten, though some passed into eternity before the great deliverance. 

Even today when God's people are in difficult situations we remember how mightily God saved his people from Egypt and we look for a miracle like that on our behalf. We remind God of his lovingkindness to Israel and ask on the basis of His in changing character that God hold us in his care. 

This deliverance is a picture of how God saves his people. No work of their own saved them. If the Israelites had stood up to fight the Egyptians they would have surely lost. But God acted in such a way that it was clear it was God's hand at work and even the Egyptians believed. They knew God was acting on behalf of his people and if they stood in God's way they would surely die. 

No matter what pestilence, oppression, or darkness befalls us, we have a God who is Almighty and who sees each act and keeps record. Our suffering does not escape the Lord's attention and whether it be for our correction (as in the case of Egypt) or to strengthen our faith (as in the case of Israel) God gets the glory and it is really His story being unfolded and not our own. We are honored to be players in this drama unfolding in our lives and we can be sure that God remembers his people kindly as he brings them through overwhelming adversity. 

In our financial affairs sometimes meeting all our obligations seems challenging if not impossible. We can know that even this can be used to display the mighty work of God. If our wrong choices created the problem, we should confess before God and get rid of any temptations that lead us to offend. If adversity is not of our own doing we can look to God for deliverance and He will unfold His story using the difficulties of your life. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Exodus 9 - God's Purpose

Pharaoh was a tough man. In spite of all the plagues, he stood his ground - choosing to lose his entire kingdom before he would yield to any other authority. Pharaoh was that sure he was right - or perhaps that stubborn. 

There was no doubt who Pharaoh's beef was with. Each plague was issued as God's word. Look in Exodus 9:1 - "then The Lord said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what The Lord says: "Let my people go, so that they may worship me." If you refuse....  Pharaoh knew he was dealing with God. The problem was he thought he WAS God. 

In this chapter was have plagues on livestock, boils and hail. But just before the hail God interrupts to explain His purpose to Pharaoh. Look at verses 13 -16. God reveals that these plagues were sent that Pharaoh and he Officials of Egypt would know there is a God in Heaven and that He is Almighty and there is none like God.  Pharaoh was a powerful enemy, but he could not stand under the opposition of Almighty God. 

Look at verse 15: God reminds Pharaoh that he could have wiped him out and killed him but he didn't because he wanted to reveal himself to Pharaoh and to the entire planet. It would take this level if drama to get Pharaoh's attention. Do you have drama in your life?  Is it possible that God has allowed this to come to you so that he can show you how powerful he is to you?  

God was at work in Pharaoh's life from the start. In verse 16, God tells Pharaoh he raised him up for this purpose. God was there throughout Pharaoh's formative years and was planning all along to use him to reveal Himself. I can see no goodness in Pharaoh revealed in this story, but this is God's story. God can use even (maybe especially) hard hearted individuals to accomplish His will. Is there someone in your life opposing God and making your way difficult?  Even these cannot help but be players in God's unfolding story to the world. They cannot stand against God and win.  

Look at Pharaoh's response in verse 27. Pharaoh acknowledges his sin and admits God is right and he and his people are wrong. That is what God waited for in Adam, it was what he wanted from the people in Noah's time and it is what he wants from us. God wants us to know our sins so we can see the wonder of God's redemption.  

Dear Christian if you are facing difficulties look for Gods unfolding story. God is still Almighty and He will bring glory to himself even in the midst if opposition. Look to your help which comes from above. God's story of redemption is being written for you. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.