Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Pushing God to the Limits

Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.

And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.  (Exodus 4:18-31 ESV)

Moses appears to be obeying Yahweh now, parting with his father-in-law, taking Yahweh at His word that those who would prosecute Moses for that murder are gone, and taking the staff as God commanded him and heading out.  God explains to him more of His plan, especially that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart, which likely struck terror in Moses’ heart.  Pharaoh will resist Moses and Yahweh up to a threat to kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son.

It is at this point that I believe Moses tries his last resistance to going back.  He does not circumcise his son, thinking that this will disqualify him in God’s eyes to lead this mission.  But it does more than disqualify him, it nearly gets him killed as a disciplinary action of God.  His wife saves his life and brings him into compliance.

Then he meets Aaron at Mt. Sinai, makes him his spokesman, and has his initial meeting with the people of Israel and as hoped, they believe that I AM has sent him and they worship Yahweh.  The next step is to confront Pharaoh.

We must not presume that if we choose to disobey God He will simply put us on the shelf, safe out of harm’s way.  No loving parent would let his child continue in such rebellion without disciplining him.  God’s discipline always produces the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).

I distinctly remember sensing that God wanted me to start a men’s ministry at our church and I remember doing nothing about it.  God chose someone else, someone more obedient, and it ministered to many men.  I missed a blessing but I learned a lesson about obeying God.

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.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Getting Our Attention

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.  (Exodus 3:1-6 ESV)

When God wants to get our attention He does something unusual in our lives.  For Moses, now a shepherd of sheep in charge of another’s flock, the sight of bushes catching fire in the wilderness might not have been that uncommon, but when this bush would not stop burning, was not consumed by the flames, his curiosity was aroused and he altered his normal path.

It says that the Angel or Messenger of Yahweh appeared to him in a flame and then says God called to Moses out of the bush.  And so the Messenger of Yahweh and Yahweh are identical, leading us to realize that this is the pre-incarnate (before he took on human nature or flesh) Son of God serving at the Father’s behest to communicate to Moses.  His holy presence demands special honor from Moses.  It has made the very ground on which Moses is standing, holy.  Removing his shoes is a powerful symbol of respect.

Moses believes, as have so many to whom God appeared, that if he sees God he will die, so he averts his eyes. There is truth to this in that God’s unmitigated or veiled appearance would kill us simply because our bodies cannot take that kind of stimulation without shutting down.  But God would not purposely appear to us in a way we couldn’t handle, and here, appearing as a flame, He is veiled enough to not hurt Moses.

How is God seeking to get your attention?  Is He waking you earlier than you need to get up so you’ll spend some time with Him?  Is there conflict in your life that He wants you to come to Him about?  Has He sent someone to you to alter your normal way of life?  And in that situation are you acknowledging His holiness and “taking off your shoes?”

Russian Proverb;  “It is the same with men as with donkeys; whoever would hold them fast must get a very good grip on their ears!”

Ephesians 5:15-21 — Conversations with God

Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Lord, lately I have been paying more attention to my footing on stairs.  I’m not as young as I used to be and it seems I’ve had more close calls than in the past.  Paul is asking us to take more caution in the way we walk and to apply more wisdom to our lives because there are so many opportunities for evil that must be met with the light of Christ.

If I get foolish and lazy and don’t realize what God’s will is for each situation, then evil and darkness will have a victory.  If I allow myself to get intoxicated with wine or spirits, as if nothing is more important than my own pleasures, evil and darkness will win out.

But if I am intoxicated by You, Lord, and filled up to the full by the holy character of Your Holy Spirit, I will take every advantage to speak into the lives of others with spiritual words.  My heart will be full of joy in You.  I will be driven by an attitude of gratitude for everything You bring into my life.  And I will gladly submit to those fellow believers around me for the greater purpose of defeating darkness with light.

Give me a thirst for You that cannot be quenched except by more and more drafts of your Spirit.

Ephesians 2:4-7 — Conversations with God

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Father, this doesn’t explain why You have such great love for me that You would show me mercy, indeed, rich mercy, but I am so grateful.  Making me alive in Christ (spiritually resurrected to new life in connection with His resurrection) and raising me and seating me in the heavenlies in Christ (in connection with His ascension and magesterial enthronement) has been the greatest thing that ever happened to me.  Oh, that You would do this for everyone!

It is incredible to think that not only did You rescue me from Your own well-deserved wrath but You are looking forward to showering me with Your riches because You have such grace and kindness toward me.  I do not deserve it, Father, but I sure want it.  I want to bask in Your love like the warm sun and receive Your healing kindness.  There is no one I’d rather be with than You.  I look forward to ages upon ages of relationship with You.

Ephesians 1:11-14 — Conversations with God

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ… In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Father, I have not worried or even dreamed about whether my dad will leave me an inheritance.  There’s no family land or home to hand down, no nest egg I am aware of.  You, God, have prospered me sufficiently that I have my own home and perhaps even some retirement money.  I know that in other cultures, however, obtaining the inheritance might be the difference between being a beggar on the streets or not.

I had no spiritual inheritance coming to me before You rescued me.  I was spiritually destitute and headed for a very dark eternity without You.  I was drifting and purposeless until You gave me life.  Now I have obtained the most glorious inheritance possible.  I am predestined by You to be an example of the praiseworthiness of Your glory.  I am unutterably rich in relationship with You and an owner of all that is Yours.  The immediacy of Your presence that I enjoy and experience now will only be heightened, deepened, and extended in the kingdom.

You have accomplished all this by merely willing it.  Amazing!

And You have added another blessing to me.  I think this counts as six now that Your apostle lists.  You have sealed me in Jesus with the promised Holy Spirit.  I listened to the message of truth, the good news that proclaimed my rescue by Jesus, and when I believed, the Holy Spirit entered into my life and like a signet ring or a regular sealed pressed into melted wax, He became the evidence that authenticated my rescue by Jesus.

He poured out Your love for me into my heart (Romans 5:3), bore witness with my spirit that I am Your child (Romans 8), gave me power to overcome sin (Romans 6,8; Galatians 5), and took up permanent residence in me (John 14; Romans 8).

Now He is the pledge or promise of my future inheritance because with Him in my life I am marked as belonging to You, Your own possession, and He will certainly complete the redeeming of my life.  I have been redeemed, made Your purchased possession, and I am being redeemed.  You are still winning over portions of my yet rebellious heart bit by bit.  And I will be redeemed entirely at the resurrection and coming kingdom, when all things are made new.

You deserve praise for this, God!

Setting Aside the Counterfeits (Theology for Living from Philippians)

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.  For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 3, verses 17-21)

One of Paul’s responsibilities, and a responsibility of all spiritual leaders, is to identify counterfeits to the true gospel.  Given the rebellious nature of human beings and the very active influence of Satan, there should be a high expectation of distortions to the message of life.  Paul leverages his own example of orthodox living and orthodox doctrine, then he begins to describe those in particular, the Judaizers, who are threatening all of Paul’s church plants.

Not everyone is agreed that these are “the enemies of the cross” to whom Paul is referring.  To some it looks like Paul is describing a group who seeks to push the limits of godly morality.  “Their god is their stomach” sounds to them like those who eat greedily. “Their glory is in their shame” sounds like taking pride in their willingness to push the boundaries ethically.

But in the context Paul has only identified one group of false teachers.  These appear to be people who teach the Jewish law as the standard of holiness and focus on the requirements of circumcision for males and kosher food laws for all.  With that in mind, “their god is their stomach” means their focus on keeping kosher has become their idol; “their glory is in their shame” means they rest confidence in circumcision as their badge of honor.  In all this “their mind is set on earthly things.”  What God designed as a picture of ultimate spiritual truths to be revealed when the new dispensation arrives, these false teachers are still clinging to and giving saving power to instead of looking at faith as the basis for salvation.

By way of contrast, Christianity, God’s new revelation in Christ contained in “new wine skins” (Matthew 9:17), is focused on heaven.  Though the Philippians might take pride in their Roman citizenship, the real reason to boast is their heavenly citizenship.  As citizens of heaven we need no longer be enslaved to earthly elements.  We are people of the last age, the age of the resurrection.  When Jesus comes He is going to resurrect us, make our bodies like His, with all the attributes of a body made suitable for the kingdom.

Focusing on the coming resurrection when Jesus returns to rule on earth helps us stay moored to the true gospel.  We are not trying to muster our own law obedience in order to earn God’s love.  We are operating in God’s already abundantly outpoured love.  We are depending on what Jesus can work in us (the willing and the doing of His good will, 2:13), something He is able to do as the resurrected one.  We are free from the earthly elements that so many have clung to as a means of earning God’s love.  We are in training to recognize the false so we may more readily embrace the true.