Daily Thoughts from Exodus: God Showing Off

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh.

Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. But which ones are to go?” Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” But he said to them, “The LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. No! Go, the men among you, and serve the LORD, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the LORD your God only to remove this death from me.” So he went out from Pharaoh and pleaded with the LORD. And the LORD turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.  (Exodus 10:1-20 ESV)

Up to this point the emphasis has been on Pharaoh coming to know who Yahweh is.  But now Yahweh tells Moses that He has hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that the full expression of His power and rescue might be known to Israel and the next generations of Israel.  Pharaoh is still in sight, of course, and Moses challenges him to humble himself before Yahweh.  Even Pharaoh’s advisors are urging him to let the “men” go and worship Yahweh, and Pharaoh seizes on this to try to limit Moses’ request for all the people to go into the wilderness to worship.

But when the locust plague comes, like God using a giant leaf-blower, wrangling all the locusts into one location, Egypt, Pharaoh’s tune changes and he begs Moses to end the plague with a promise of letting the people go.  But once the danger is gone, he recants his promise.  God has hardened his heart.  And God is surely also preventing Pharaoh from doing what we might expect such a powerful ruler to do, command his servants to slay Moses and Aaron.  Perhaps it is just enough fear of Moses as a holy man whose death could incur the wrath of his god that keeps Pharaoh from ridding himself of this snare of a man.

God does not always protect His servants in this way, as the martyrdom of many of His children can attest, even that of His own Son.  But as Jesus taught us, we are not to fear him who is able to destroy the body, but Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).

My lawn in Texas was true to the Texas tradition in that it had the biggest weeds in the country.  One, which had grown to over 4 ft. tall, was sure to be a tough one to uproot. To my surprise, the root was extremely small, just barely dug in to the earth. There are many whose appearance, good or bad, betray but a shallow root, whose outward show is due to reveal no solidarity.

Not so God’s showiness.  His showiness is the Alps, Yosemite, the ocean, and the surest foundation of His judgment, which shows off His justice.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Resistance Is Futile

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, behold, the hand of the LORD will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.”’” And the LORD set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.” And the next day the LORD did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died. And Pharaoh sent, and behold, not one of the livestock of Israel was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.” So they took soot from the kiln and stood before Pharaoh. And Moses threw it in the air, and it became boils breaking out in sores on man and beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils came upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians. But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go. Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.”’” Then whoever feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the LORD left his slaves and his livestock in the field.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt.” Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, was there no hail.

Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the LORD. The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.” (The flax and the barley were struck down, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the emmer were not struck down, for they are late in coming up.) So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and stretched out his hands to the LORD, and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured upon the earth. But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses.  (Exodus 9 ESV)

The plagues are told in more rapid fashion now as Pharaoh is unwilling to submit to Yahweh.  The goddesses Hathor (depicted often with the head of a cow), Isis (goddess of healing) and Nut (goddess of the sky) could not prevent Yahweh’s work.  First “all” the livestock (“the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks”) would die from a plague.  Here, “all” cannot mean every single one, because after this the plague of hail kills beasts left in the field.  It likely means some or many of each kind of livestock died.

When Pharaoh disobeys, Yahweh sends boils and even his magicians are afflicted so that they cannot remain in Pharaoh’s presence.  After this Moses goes into more detail about the coming hailstorm plague.  He predicts its severity and even gives a suggestion that those who know this is coming can save themselves and their herds by bringing them under cover, which some do.  The hail destroys people, animals and the flax crop.  At this Pharaoh seems to repent and Moses stops the storm, but immediately Pharaoh hardens his heart.

Moses knew this was coming.  “I know that you do not yet fear Yahweh Elohim,” he says.  Yahweh says through Moses, “for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”  God’s plans and purposes involve every living being on earth and even the most powerful among us is not exempt from God’s will.  If we submit to His will we are rescued, but if we resist we are punished.  Once again in these plagues God shows His favor to those who know Him.

Acts 7:51 – “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Protection from God’s Judgment

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.’” And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. Or else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants and your people, and into your houses. And the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.”’” And the LORD did so. There came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and into his servants’ houses. Throughout all the land of Egypt the land was ruined by the swarms of flies. 

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so, for the offerings we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as he tells us.” So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you must not go very far away. Plead for me.” Then Moses said, “Behold, I am going out from you and I will plead with the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow. Only let not Pharaoh cheat again by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. And the LORD did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go.  (Exodus 8:16-32 ESV)

Geb was the Egyptian god over the dust of the earth and Khepri was the god of creation and rebirth, whose head was represented as the head of a fly.  Yahweh was showing that none of Egypt’s gods was His equal and it becomes apparent to Pharaoh’s magicians that this is the case when they cannot in any way duplicate Moses’ calling up of the gnats from the dust of the earth.  Despite trying to warn him Pharaoh hardens his heart yet again, forcing Moses to call up swarms of flies, giving further evidence of Yahweh’s favor on Israel by keeping them free of the plague.

Pharaoh tries to bargain with Yahweh and keep the people in the land but Moses not only shows the logistical problems with that but the obedience problem with that.  Yahweh has told them to do this.  Though Pharaoh indicates he won’t go back on his word this time, he does.  The plagues will be ramped up.

When God brings judgment on our foes He knows how to protect us in the midst of that judgment.  This is very important for understanding His outpouring of judgment yet future as depicted in Revelation.  Believers will likely feel the impact of those judgments indirectly, but they will be protected by God from the actual judgments, as Israel was in Egypt.  We don’t need to fear the judgments poured out by God.  We need to trust Him to take care of us during them.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Don’t Delay

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs. The Nile shall swarm with frogs that shall come up into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed and into the houses of your servants and your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your servants.”’”  And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. But the magicians did the same by their secret arts and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Plead with the LORD to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be cut off from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.” And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. The frogs shall go away from you and your houses and your servants and your people. They shall be left only in the Nile.” So Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the LORD about the frogs, as he had agreed with Pharaoh. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses. The frogs died out in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.  (Exodus 8:1-15 ESV)

Heqet…is an Egyptian goddess of fertility…represented in the form of a frog. To the Egyptians, the frog was an ancient symbol of fertility, related to the annual flooding of the Nile. (Wikipedia).  Who was God, Yahweh or Heqet?  Though the magicians of Egypt were able in a small way to duplicate Moses’ and Aaron’s calling up of frogs from the waters, Pharaoh obviously believed that their power was greater than his magicians and so he agreed to release the people to go worship Yahweh if Moses would remove the frogs.  He had had too much of his frog goddess.

Moses asks Pharaoh to set the time, and it is amazing that he chooses to wait a day, but Moses wants it to be clear that nothing happens to these frogs except at Yahweh’s command.  But once there is relief Pharaoh reneges on his promise, even as God predicted he would.  Pharaoh’s people suffer because of his hard heart, a common problem even to this day among leadership.

What are you putting off for a day?  What “respite” are you getting that hardens your heart to dealing with the problems  in your life?  Who is lord of your life, you or Yahweh?  You cannot duplicate the power of God.  Ask someone to pray for you that God’s power would release you from what you are putting off and then look for how He gives you His respite.

 

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

(2 Corinthians 6:2)

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: What Really Makes God Mad

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”  (Exodus 4:10-17 ESV)

God is not passive toward our disobedience and our wounded self-image is not an excuse for disobeying.

Moses has yet another reason why Yahweh shouldn’t send him to Egypt.  He is not eloquent, he says, but God says He is capable of using Moses’ slow tongue.  In fact, Yahweh takes all credit for making anyone deaf and mute or seeing or blind.  All our abilities or disabilities are from God, an obvious contradiction of the prosperity gospel.  In Moses’ case God promises to be with Moses’ mouth and teach him what to say.

Finally Moses just begs God not to send him and our patient God finds His anger catching fire.  Moses is on the edge with God and yet God makes one more concession to His reluctant servant.  Aaron can be Moses’ spokesman and in fact Aaron is on the way to visit Moses and is almost there.  He will be Moses’ prophet even as Moses is Yahweh’s prophet.  Moses must take Aaron and the staff God gave him and go.

Have you been hurt like Moses?  His first attempt at being a deliverer failed miserably and now he was gun shy.  He saw himself as inadequate, a feeling many of us can identify with.  Truth be told, we are inadequate to serve the Lord.  But He wants to make us adequate.  If we obey, He will equip.  If we follow, He will further.  If we try, He will bring success, His success, whatever He deems that to be.  But He won’t put up with our disobedience.  We won’t lose our relationship to Him, but we will be out of fellowship with Him and under His loving discipline.  And we will miss the joy of serving Him that He had in store for us.

God’s Judgment Events – The Judgment at Death

There are several judgment events promised in Scripture:

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, ESV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10, ESV)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:31-33, ESV)

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15, ESV)

The first judgment we must face is when we die (Hebrews 9:27).  Jesus depicts one such experience for two men, Lazarus and the rich man he begged from (Luke 16).

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31, ESV)

It appears from this passage and others that when we die there is a separation made.  Those who know the Lord and trust in Him are assigned a place of rest and peace.  Our bodies are dead (“asleep” in Christian parlance), but our spirits are now with Jesus (see, Are My Husband and Father in Heaven Yet?).  Before Jesus took Paradise to heaven, this is where Lazarus was carried by the angels (see, Did Jesus not go to heaven immediately upon death on the cross? and, Did Jesus visit Hell?).  The rich man, on the other hand, went to a place of torment called Hades.  This is the Greek term equivalent to the Old Testament term Sheol.  It is a holding place for those who do not know the Lord until the final judgment (Revelation 20).

Do we actually make an appearance before God to receive our placement orders upon death?  We are not told.  But there is a judgment that has occurred that has determined that we either did indeed trust in Christ for our rescue or did not.  Hebrews 9:27, quoted above, seems to indicate that there are no exceptions.  No one’s ghost hangs around waiting for resolution of some earthly issue.  No one gets to come back and have a do-over.  If you did not embrace Christ in this life you have no chance to do so in the life to come.

For further reading:

What is Purgatory?

Learning to Love (Theology for Living from Philippians)

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 1, verses 9-11)

When great men and women of the faith pray, we should listen.  Paul was not a flippant pray-er.  In fact, we can learn a lot about the theme of any of his given letters from what he is reporting that he prays for them.  In this particular prayer we learn much of the theological underpinning for Paul’s remarks in the rest of the letter.  He begins outlining his themes for the letter right here in what he is praying.  There are three main concepts Paul alludes to here:

A crucial part of Christian love is knowledge.  We will discover that the Philippians, in their love for Paul, had a desperate urge to send him money to help with his expenses (see 4:10-20).  And we can read between the lines in 1:12 that their deep but erroneous concern was that Paul’s imprisonment had served to defeat the gospel.  So though Paul assures them that God sees (or should we say, “smells”) their gift as a fragrant and acceptable sacrifice, he must correct the motive for which it was sent.  Their love was lacking knowledge and depth of insight.  We need a knowledge of God’s truth in order to correctly direct our love.

We see this principle in many areas.  There are those who love their children but use disciplinary tactics that actually do more harm than good.  There are ways we seek to help the poor that though motivated by love end up not being very helpful but rather keep them entrenched in poverty.  We may counsel those we love but use unwise counseling approaches and hinder their healing.  We may seek to cure a loved one’s wound by following an old wives tale that actually causes more wounding.  Love, to be most loving, needs knowledge!

How well love chooses to act will be measured at the judgment.  It is best for us to be pure and blameless on the day of Christ.  This day of Christ is equivalent to the Day of the Lord in Old Testament passages.  It is a time of God’s judgment that results in an outpouring of His wrath on those who have stayed in rebellion but results in blessing for those who have been submissive and faithful.  Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 5 about this time of judgment for believers.  It is not a time of determining if we have done enough to merit God’s forgiveness and eternal life.  We have that only on the merit of Jesus Himself.  Rather, it is a time to determine what rewards or lack thereof we will enjoy in the kingdom.

God is concerned about how well you and I love, with what knowledge we come to the task, and how sincerely.  That He will judge our efforts in the last day shows how serious He is that we get it.  Love is the standard for God’s holiness and ours.  Paul will apply this standard to the Philippian conflict in the remainder of this letter.

We are not competent to love.  Paul’s prayer is that we might be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.  Only Jesus can really enable us to love.  Learning how to love should be our lifelong obsession because it is God’s passionate desire for our lives.  We must understand that the gospel includes in it not only the rescue from sin’s guilt but also from sin’s stain on our souls.  The gospel promises to deliver us from hell and from our sinful selves.  We must learn to depend on Jesus to bear the fruit of love in our lives.

The Philippians had much to learn about love and the unity it creates among fallen human beings.  So do we.  Paul’s letter continues to teach us exactly what we need to know.