Exodus, Chapter 18

Wednesday, June 24

Read

Exodus, Chapter 18

Reflect

How often we needlessly try to bear too heavy a burden by ourselves?  We engage in seemingly ceaseless activity until we are exhausted and discouraged. Our responsibilities seem endless and our resentments mount, but our energy and our focus are quickly depleted.

Jethro teaches Moses an important life lesson. We can share our burdens with God and with others in our community. We do not have to do it all ourselves.

Jesus offered these words, “Come to me all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus offers to share our burdens and with His help, our responsibilities become lighter and perhaps even a source of fulfillment and joy, for Jesus helps us see our daily tasks in a whole new light.     

We can also share our responsibilities with others in our community.  We do not have to do it all ourselves.  We can ask for help.  Others may have both the needed gifts and time and may be better suited for the tasks at hand. They may be delighted to feel useful and needed.  There is joy in partnering with other Christians.

As we pray about how God would have us fulfill our responsibilities and duties, our perspectives may change. God may enable us to see that tasks can be delayed until another season or even eliminated. The time for this project may not be today.

Respond

Prayerfully consider what responsibilities and tasks fail to bring you joy and seem too heavy to bear? Do you lack sufficient time or do you feel you lack the needed abilities?  Pray for guidance. Can you let them go uncompleted or delay the completion of these responsibilities without inflicting harm on yourself or others? Are there others you can consult or ask for help?  For those responsibilities that are clearly yours today, ask God to grant you a new perspective and allow God to share your “yoke”.

Pray

Gracious God, Thank you that we do not journey alone. You have promised to be with us always and never to abandon us.  You have given to each of Your children certain special gifts.  Help us to use the gifts and opportunities for service that You have given to us as You lead and guide us.  Help us also to affirm the gifts and abilities of our brothers and sisters by offering to them opportunities for service. Help us to see in our responsibilities a call to serve You and to be a blessing to others.  May we serve with humility, knowing that both the call to serve and our ability to fulfill the responsibilities of this call, are gifts from You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 17

Tuesday, June 23

Read

Exodus, Chapter 17

Reflect

Testing and Quarrelling

The Bible often reveals the God who is more real than our attempts at piety. Think of Jesus, shocking the most religious people of his day by associating with sinners and outcasts. Think of the LORD God, answering every complaint of the Israelites as they grumble through the wilderness.

This actually sounds something like Moses’ conversation with the LORD at a burning bush. With every word God speaks, Moses comes up with doubts, excuses, and hesitation. Each time, God answers Moses’ concerns and makes provision, so that he can fulfill his calling.

Here in the wilderness of Sin, it’s the turn of all the people to go at it with Moses, grumbling about their thirst, complaining about being brought out of Egypt. An exasperated Moses turns to the LORD, who answers their concerns and makes provision: “I will be standing there in front of you . . . water will come out, so that the people may drink.”

Apparently, God is not looking only for people who are perfectly composed, never complaining, always calm. Neither does God raise up as leaders only those who never get frustrated, never lose their cool. Rather, God reveals himself as faithful in provision and unyielding in love with people who lose their composure, start bickering, and want to quit.

In fact, this relationship between God and his people gets cemented exactly in such circumstances, in such places as the wilderness of Sin (ignore the name – it’s a coincidence). In Deuteronomy 8, Moses says that God led the Israelites in the wilderness “in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.” Only by such testing would they come to know that “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Grumbling doesn’t mean the end. Frustration doesn’t mean it’s quitting time. No, it’s proving time. It’s the time when God shows that he is reliable, and we show our trust in his promises. Keep walking. Keep praying, even if your prayers include complaints. God isn’t offended; God is giving us growth in faith.

Pray

Faithful God, thank you for reminding us of our own humanity, and of your righteousness. Spare us from false piety, or politeness, or pretense. Deliver us into real life, real relationship, real calling. Empower us to stick together with you, one another, and the world you are redeeming through Christ. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 16

Monday, June 22

Read

Exodus, Chapter 16

Reflect

Send us back to Egypt!  I would prefer death as a slave rather than starving as a free person! Chapter 16 opens with the runaway Hebrew slaves grumbling and complaining about how uncomfortable the new and unfamiliar freedom is that God has given them. God’s response is not a strategic plan toward the Hebrews’ perpetual comfort. Nor is God’s response to abandon these ungrateful grumbling freed slaves. God responds by meeting their needs on a daily basis. Manna, bread from heaven, is the mysterious provision God offers the Hebrew people. They are invited to participate in that provision by receiving it daily. The Hebrews begin the practice of collecting manna every morning. Everyone has enough. When they try to save some for the next day, it grows maggots. Manna is teaching them to increase their dependence on and partnership with God. In addition to manna, God also responds with the Sabbath. Every seven days, they don’t have to work.  Every seven days they can do something that they were never able to do in Egypt, stop working. They are no longer slaves, they’re free.  Karl Barth defined freedom in this way, “A being is free insofar as it can limit itself.” There are those among the Hebrews who choose to go out and gather manna on the Sabbath day. They go out and work.  God’s grace is too much for them.  They want to remain enslaved by their own abilities, capacities, and fool themselves into thinking they can take credit for their own survival. During this pandemic, we want to go back to Egypt. How many times have you said, I just want things to go back to the way they were.  I’m uncomfortable and tired of this. The same way that God provides for the Hebrews, God also provides for us.  Every day there is manna.  Sometimes God even provides twice as much as we need. The practice of gathering manna is a practice of depending on God. Every single day gathering what God has provided.

Respond

What are you depending on right now?  Are you gathering daily?  Who or what are you depending on? What are you grumbling about?  What do you want to go back to?  What would moving forward with God into an unfamiliar freedom look like? What has quarantine caused you to stop doing?

Pray

Our father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Give us this day our daily bread, and give us the courage, wisdom, and patience to receive and gather it. Stir in our hearts and minds the new life and unfamiliar freedom you are calling us into.  In the name of the bread of heaven that was broken for our sake, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 15

Sunday, June 21st

Read

Exodus, Chapter 15

Reflect

One of the things I’ve missed the most during this time of social distancing and quarantine has been congregational singing.  Of course, I’m still singing in my car and around the house, but it just isn’t the same as a group of voices lifting praise to God together in the same room.  There’s something special about that.  The Biblical authors understood this.  Both Old and New Testaments are full of songs, prayers and poems meant to be sung by the gathered congregation.  One of the earliest we have is found here in Exodus 15.  The words sung by Moses, Miriam, and the Israelite nation as they cross the Red Sea and witness their Egyptians pursuers overcome by the waves, are songs of pure praise.  They are finally free, and what do they do before anything else?  Worship the God who delivered them.

You’ll notice this song is all about God’s strength and power, His faithfulness and goodness.  There is nothing here about how great the Israelites are, how much they had done because they did nothing really – except to trust and follow God.  Sometimes our worship can be too self-focused, but the truest worship is that which acknowledges the goodness and strength of God.  And singing is one of the most formative parts of worship together in community.  Even when we may not feel like singing about how wonderful God is, our brothers and sisters carry on the song and somehow our worship together shapes us and reminds us of who God is in the midst of our struggles.

Respond

Though we are still unable to gather together for worship in the sanctuary on Sundays, we know that we are called to continue to praise and thank our God.  How has your worship changed in the past few months?  Are there ways you may need to refocus on the object of worship (Jesus) rather than the subject of worship (you)?

Finally, I am always struck that in verse 20 we’re told that as Miriam began to lead the women in songs of praise, she took her tambourine and began to play.  I love that even in a hurried, secretive escape from slavery in Egypt when there wasn’t even time to bake leavened bread, Miriam chose to pack her tambourine.  It was not a luxury but a necessity as music and songs of praise were integral to her life and the life of her people.  So even in the midst of a global pandemic, even when we feel overwhelmed, fearful or uncertain, we too must follow Miriam’s lead and prioritize worship – true worship that focuses on Jesus and reorients us to the One who deserves all praise and honor.  So don’t forget your tambourine!

Pray

God of Deliverance, we admit that we can forget these stories of your great power and provision.  We can become too engrossed in our own personal bubbles and forget that the God of the universe, the God who parted the Red Sea and sent His Son to save us, is present with us now and at work in our world.  And you, O God, are worthy of all praise.  Draw us into that praise and give us words to sing (even if it’s a solo) so we might be reminded of our identity as your Beloved and be empowered to continue to serve you today and in the days to come.  In Christ, we pray. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 14

Saturday, June 20th

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Exodus, Chapter 14

Reflect

Passing through the Red Sea will become the event delivering the Israelites from slavery. The Psalmist will sing, “Who divided the Red Sea in two, for his steadfast love endures forever; and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for his steadfast love endures forever; but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:13-15). I remember watching Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments as a young boy mesmerized by the walls of water through which the Israelites walked and then amazed as the walls of water came crashing down on the Egyptian chariots. Passing through the chaos, God’s people reach safety because of the steadfast love of God. There is a baptismal liturgy that includes, “…the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters of the Red Sea and delivered us from slavery… the Holy Spirit hovers over these baptismal waters and delivers us from our sins.”

Respond

Listening to the media, one would think we live gripped with fear: fear of virus, of prejudice, of police, of financial ruin, of social gathering, of political leaders, and of rioters. We have passed through the baptismal waters and, because of God’s steadfast love, we have been delivered from the chaos of this world. “With the Lord on my side, I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).

Pray

Gracious loving heavenly Father, at times we feel like the waters are crashing down around us. Remind us that you know all that is good for us. Deliver us from our fears and rebellion so that Your steadfast love might flow through us through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 13:8-9

Friday, June 19th

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Exodus, Chapter 13:8-9

You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 It shall serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the Lord may be on your lips; for with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 

Reflect

Before God leads the Israelites out of Egypt, there is time given to how they will look back on God’s actions. The Israelites will tell their children about the day when God brought them out of their oppression. The Israelites will remember and recount God’s great redeeming actions. For people who profess faith in the God of Israel, the one whom Jesus called Father, this is always the task before us. We understand that it is our responsibility to recall God’s saving acts to our children, biological and other. We know that the primary influence of the faith of a young person is the faith of their parents. That has been well documented. During this season, when we cannot gather in our buildings, our homes have become our sanctuaries, Sunday school rooms, and our fellowship halls. In this season, we are all the more aware of our responsibility in proclaiming the transformation we have experienced through the gospel to those that God has entrusted us to care for in this world. May we seize the opportunity, each time we are asked, to testify of God’s saving grace.

Respond

Who has God entrusted you to testify to in your life? How often do you share what God has done for you? Do your children know your road from oppression to freedom? Consider God’s concern for how the Israelites would retell of these moments, and regard God’s liberating acts in your life with the same reverence. Testify.

Pray

To the one who liberates, we cry out to you. To the one who led the Israelites through the Red Sea, we follow you. To the one who calls us to testify, here we are, send us. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 12

Thursday, June 18th

Read

Exodus, Chapter 12

Reflect

God diverts His holy judgment away from His people. The people of God paint the blood of a slaughtered lamb over the doorframes of their houses. Death has already come to these houses. The holy and just wrath of God has been satisfied. They are to live and be set free. The question is, “Set free for what purpose?”

As one pastor writes, “That powerful picture helps us to grasp how the death of Jesus applies to us today. Christ died as the sacrifice for our sins. In His death, He absorbed the judgment for us. He bore the curse. He died your death.”

Christ’s blood has been sprinkled over us and over our lives. And it makes all the difference. Death has already come to our house. We have been delivered from our greatest enemy of sin and death.

Now let’s circle back to our initial question. Christ’s sacrifice, as it was for those ancient Hebrews, has a greater purpose than rescuing us from captivity. We are set free to worship Him, which is to say God wants a relationship of a certain kind with us—former slaves, no less! This is why God brings Israel out of Egypt (12:14). We are more alive than ever when we live to glorify Christ. Yes, Christ has rescued us from death! And YES, we are to live magnifying the living God who has redeemed us at the greatest cost!

Respond

Do you know you are more sinful than you imagine? Do you know God’s love for you in Christ is infinitely more than you could ever imagine?

Pray

Heavenly Father, only by the blood of Your Son shed on the Cross am I alive. Only because he has died the death that was due me, am I able to live into hope. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 11

Wednesday, June 17th

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Exodus, Chapter 11

Reflect

God is teaching. He is teaching the Egyptians and all the watching nations of the world who He is. God is showing His power and might through the fearsome plagues visited upon the Egyptians.  God is affirming that Moses is God’s spokesperson and Israel is under His protection.  Israel must be delivered from slavery and bondage to Egypt. God’s purposes will be achieved through a powerful display in the form of plagues that show God’s dominion over all of creation.  What will it take for the Pharaoh to listen and learn and surrender to God?

God is also teaching the Israelites.  He is defining Himself as a God of steadfast love and faithfulness. God loves Israel as His first born treasured child.  God wants Israel to trust Him to protect Israel and deliver the Israelites from slavery with abundant material possessions in the form of the silver and gold from the Egyptians own hands.  These material possessions will be used to provide for the Israelites in the months to come.  All that the Israelites need, God’s hand will provide.  The Israelites can step from slavery into a new life.

Will Israel step into freedom and journey through the desert without fear and grumbling over the hardships they face?  Will the Israelites encounter the difficulties and uncertainties of their journey without regret that they ever left Egypt?  Will they willingly listen to Moses as God’s chosen leader and spokesperson?  Will they be obedient to God’s commands as revealed to them by Moses?  No.  They will falter and fall down time and time again.

Human beings are all too often anxious and quick to fear and grumble over life’s challenges. It is difficult to listen to God and to surrender our wills to His. We struggle to trust Him to provide all that we need as we seek to live the life He created us to live. Isn’t it better to live in the security of slavery with three meals a day, then to risk a journey into the wilderness even if God promises to lead us to a far better place?

But God is faithful, merciful and kind, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God is willing to forgive and to help us begin again, step by step and day by day.  God has a plan for us and it is very good.

Respond

What fears and concerns weigh upon your heart and mind?  Study the scriptures for the many verses that encourage us to not be afraid, to place our trust in God, to pray to God with thanksgiving even as we place our supplications before God.  Claim God’s peace even as you seek His guidance.

Pray

Gracious God

Thank you for your gracious plan for our lives and for our world.  Help us to trust you more and to pray with thanksgiving and faith in Your goodness.  Grant us freedom from all that would make our hearts heavy and help us to find joy in the journey.  Show us what You are up to and use us to advance Your kingdom and share Your love with others.  Thank you, dear Lord.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 10

Tuesday, June 16th

Read

Exodus, Chapter 10

Reflect

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Do you remember that Hans Christian Andersen fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?  In it, two swindlers capitalize on the pride and insecurity of a king and his servants. They tell their lie so boldly that it seems more plausible than the truth. Such is the persistent power of falsehood.  In John 8:44, Jesus says that the devil is “the father of lies.” It’s a warning to everyone that much of life is spent sifting truth from falsehood.

Pharaoh lives a lie to such an extent that he comes to believe it himself. He acts as if he is a god. He refuses Moses’ appeals that the Israelites be allowed to worship their true God. This lie, like many others, is so offensive that it cannot be allowed to stand. So, God continues this plague-filled showdown with the pretender. God “hardens” Pharaoh’s heart, which you may take to mean, “God gives Pharaoh the guts to follow through on what he really believes.”  Pharaoh and his lie must be undressed and revealed for all its folly. Pharaoh must be defeated.

This event stands at the heart of Israel’s faith, and ours. The central confession Israel made after the Exodus was, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD is God, the LORD alone. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

Don’t think that each one of us isn’t tempted by other gods. Don’t imagine that there won’t be showdowns in which God is determined to defeat other pretenders to his throne – the throne within each human heart, and the throne of heaven and earth. Are we in such a moment? I can’t know for sure. I do know that God will accomplish what he intends, and that it will mean release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, the oppressed set free in mind, body, and spirit.

Pray

LORD God, in Jesus Christ you conquered sin and death, inaugurating a new age on earth. Give to us such confidence in your gracious rule that we hate what is evil and love what is good, returning no one evil for evil, but striving to outdo one another in showing honor, through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

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Exodus, Chapter 9

Monday, June 15th

Read

Exodus, Chapter 9

Reflect

Here’s the lie: some lives matter more than others. That’s the lie that Pharaoh tells himself throughout the plagues in Exodus 9. Verse 17 God says to Pharoah, “you are still exalting yourself against my people, and will not let them go.” Pharaoh isn’t’ just exalting the Egyptians over the Hebrews, he’s exalting himself and his will over God and God’s will. Again and again, God commands and Pharaoh disobeys. Pharaoh practices hardening his heart toward the Hebrews and God. In chapter 9 we see Moses’ habit of obedience right alongside Pharaoh’s habit of hardening his heart.  Pharaoh practices no empathy for the Hebrew people, no respect or recognition of their God, and stubbornly holds tightly to his way of doing things as well as his worldview. God offers us opportunities too just like Moses offers Pharaoh. God offers us chances to let the Hebrew people go. If we practice obedience to God’s will and make a habit of saying yes to God’s invitations, then we will not be led by our preferences, norms, or worldview. Instead, we will be led by the living God. We will join in Christ’s continuing ministry of reconciliation in the world. We will be ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven rather than citizens of this one. God will use us to destroy the lie that some lives matter more than others. Pharaoh’s practice of saying no to God forms a habit that’s hard for Pharaoh to break. Even when his heart softens for a moment, his habit of selfish disobedience hardens his heart again. We have choice to make. We can be like Moses and practice obedience or we can be like Pharaoh and practice hardening our hearts.

Respond

What has God been calling you to do again and again? Have you been practicing disobedience? Have you made a habit of hardening your heart toward God’s invitations to you? What would it look like to practice saying yes? What would it look like for you to make a habit of saying yes to God’s love, God’s call, and God’s grace for you and those around you?

Pray

Gracious and loving God, convict me with your grace when my heart is hard toward you.  Enliven me with a spirit of boldness when my heart is soft toward your call. Wake up my creativity and courage to recognize and participate in the freedom you have offered me and the world through your son my savior Jesus Christ. In whose saving name I pray. Amen.

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