Friday, June 23, 2017

unlikely nourishment -- part 1

Gathering Manna -- Exodus 16:14-31
(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Exodus 17
mark this: 1 Corinthians 10:3-4
"They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ."
Like the accounts of Genesis, the importance of the stories in the first half of Exodus cannot be understated. These first 70 chapters are the very building blocks for the entire rest of the Bible. If we don't get them, that is like showing up in Algebra or Calculus class not knowing how to add or subtract. Good luck with that.
In the past few days, we've learned from Franklyn how Passover teaches us the power in the blood, how hyssop teaches us that faith is merely the applicator, how the crossing of the Red Sea, a type of baptism, teaches us about deliverance and redemption.
Today and tomorrow, we are going to take a quick look at another lesson from the simplest of elements: bread and water.
It has been quite a whirlwind for the people of Israel since this fellow Moses showed up, claiming to have met with God. But God has backed up Moses' claims--in the plagues upon Egypt, in the final plague that lead to their exit, in the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, in the miraculous crossing of the Sea. But strangely enough, instead of being forever grateful, we find the Israelites grumbling against God and Moses.
First they whined about the lack of fresh water at Marah (1).
Then they complained about lack of food (2).
In today's passage they're back to bellyaching about water again.
Sadly, this pattern will continue for an entire generation.
But I want to focus not on all the griping, but rather on God's response. He takes these times to point His people, and ultimately us, to His Son. First the bread. God knows that His people have to eat, and so He develops an ingenious method: Manna. There's no better way to feed such a large group of wandering people.
What is it? Well, that's its name. We know what it looked like and even what it tasted like (3), but sadly the jar kept by Aaron is no longer available for a complete analysis. God took care of His people by raining down "bread from heaven (4)."
But this food, even though it was the "bread of angels (5)" could not ultimately satisfy. Instead, it points us to the ultimate Bread of Life, Jesus. He is our sustenance, both day after day, and for all eternity:
"I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 

This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." (John 6:48-51)
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(1) Exodus 15:22-24
(2) Exodus 16:1-3
(3) Exodus 16:31
(4) Exodus 16:4
(5) Psalm 78:25

Thursday, June 22, 2017

he's got your back -- part 2

The Word for today:
Exodus 15:22-16:36
mark this:
The LORD is a warrior;
Pharaoh's chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
 (Exodus 15:3-4)
Today, we Stand in the Rain, in awe, as we watch the LORD fight for our deliverance.
Yesterday we saw him fight the host of Egypt. Today we will watch as he -- the King of the Jews, pre-figured by David -- single-handedly fights the ruler of this world (pre-figured by Goliath) on Israel's behalf. Then he will shield a single sinner from her accusers. Finally, alone on a cross, he will fight to the death for the salvation of our souls.
***
They were between the devil and the deep Red Sea. But the Angel of God, the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, had their backs:
Then the Angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. (Exodus 14:19)
The Angel physically positioned himself between Israel and their demise, turning their darkest day into their shining hour:
The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. (14:19-20)
When the Angel fought, he fought alone. All of their "help," it seems, would only hinder his efforts:
"Don't be afraid. Just stand where you are and watch the LORD rescue you. The Egyptians that you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. You won't have to lift a finger in your defense!" (Exodus 14:13-14/NLT)
Later on, surrounded by three armies in the wilderness of Engedi, King Jehoshaphat would be told the same:
"Listen, King Jehoshaphat! Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid!
Don't be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel.
But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD's victory.
He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out there tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!" (2 Chronicles 20:15-17)
***
When King David stood alone -- in the Valley of Elah, to fight in Israel's stead -- it was but a picture of the day when the King of Kings would stand for all of us against evil's entire array -- against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Disdaining the armor of the world, he chose the full armor of God:
the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17; cf. 1 Sam. 17:38-39)
The only visible weapon he carried to the battle was a cross. They laughed him to scorn: Why, you might as well fight a giant with a slingshot!
You might as well, indeed. The principalities and powers could not perceive that his death would be their undoing; that his victory would be ours as well.
So he placed himself in harm's way, between death and the people, just as he had in Egypt, in Engedi, and in Elah.
***
He'd fought for all the people, against all the forces of evil, in Egypt and Engedi and Elah, at Gethsemane and Golgotha.
But, in his heart, when he fought alone, when he died alone,
he stood as shield (1) for you alone,
between a solitary sinner and her accusers (2), to deflect the rocks meant just for her.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

he's got your back -- part 1

The Word for today:
Exodus 14:1-15:21
mark this: Exodus 14:19
Then the Angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp.
and this: Exodus 15:3-4
The LORD is a warrior;
Pharaoh's chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
Today is the longest day of the year. I never miss it, but Daisy always did.
Two of the great passages in American literature have to do with the brightest and darkest days of the year.
In "The Great Gatsby," Daisy Buchanan notes an unrequited longing:
"Do you ever wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it!"
In "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," Robert Frost is drawn to the unfathomable:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year...
June 21 and December 21 are six months apart on the calendar. But for Israel, their darkest day and their brightest day were one and the same…
They were caught between the devil and the deep Red Sea. Pharaoh's matchless forces had pursued them to the edge of doom. Hemmed in, they could not advance or retreat. They were about to be slaughtered. But wait!
Then the Angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. (Exodus 14:19)
(An angel is a messenger or envoy, bringing God’s message and representing God to others. Jesus is the Angel of God in this sense: God didn’t send just another messenger, he sent the Messenger who is the Message--the Word of God Himself.)
The Angel physically positioned himself between Israel and their demise, turning their darkest day into their shining hour:
The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. (Exodus 14:19-20)
The Angel had their backs:
The LORD is a warrior;
Pharaoh's chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea. (Exodus 15:3-4)
It would not be the last time. Tomorrow we'll see him standing, alone, to defend the defenseless again and again.
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"When I see the blood, I will pass over." (part 2)

The Word for today:
Exodus 12:37-13:22
God and first-grade teachers know how human beings learn. You've noticed that books for little kids have lots of pictures in them, while college textbooks don't. In the same way, God placed the illustrations of the Old Testament before the explanations of the New Testament. He put the show before the tell.
The pictures of Passover and hyssop in Exodus 12 are the primary Old Testament illustrations of Jesus' cross and our faith. You and I may have a long way to go before we fully discern doctrinal dissertations, but we can learn "vicarious substitutionary atonement" from a fluffy little lamb; and we can learn to appropriate "providential propitiation" from a leafy little branch.
Yesterday we observed that the death angel passed over if the blood of the lamb had been applied to the door.
Today, we'll look at the applicator--a leafy hyssop branch, which is the Bible's clearest illustration of saving faith.
***
The classic picture of faith in the Bible is a hyssop branch. The people used it to daub the blood of a lamb on the doorposts:
Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. When I see the blood, I will pass over. (Exodus 12:13)
But it is essential to understand that it is the blood, not faith, that saves.
The problem with faith is that it can apply something other than the blood of Jesus. Let's suppose you took your hyssop branch and daubed whitewash over your door post.
That's what the Pharisees did. Over sinful hearts they painted a whitewash of their works. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs, full of dead men's bones (Matthew 23:27). The death angel saw no blood on their "thresholds," and did not pass over.
There are essentially three "faiths"--
1. Faith in nothing.
Make no mistake--faith in nothing is a faith, and it is held by many.
People who have this faith paint nothing on their doors. The death angel does not pass over.
2. Faith in a false something.
The Egyptians might have taken their hyssop and written the names of their many gods on their doors. The Pharisees, in the example above, thought they could cover up sin with their own good works. In neither case will the death angel pass over.
3. Faith in Jesus Christ.
This is the faith in evidence in Exodus 12. Heeding the word of the LORD, some took their hyssop and marked their doors with the blood of the lamb. The death angel saw the blood of the cross of Christ to come and passed over.
Of the three, only the third is what we call saving faith.
Listen carefully to Charles Spurgeon--a Brit from the 1800's, still known as "the Prince of Preachers":
"It is not thy hold on Christ that saves thee; it is Christ. It is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee; it is Christ. It is not even thy faith in Christ, though that be the instrument; it is Christ’s blood and merit."
***
Everyone has a hyssop branch. With it, you can paint nothing. Or you can paint something which is false and cannot save. Or you can paint the blood of Jesus.
Everyone has a hyssop branch. But God isn't looking for evidence of faith. He's looking for evidence of Jesus.
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Monday, June 19, 2017

"When I see the blood, I will pass over." (part 1)

The Word for today:
Exodus 12: 1-36
I've learned more about the cross from Old Testament pictures than from New Testament explanations. That's why I don't know of a more important chapter in the Bible than Exodus 12.
The same goes for faith. What I know about faith I first learned from Old Testament portraits and illustrations.
I've subsequently added to my understanding by wrestling with New Testament explanations, but I remain convinced that until we understand Passover and hyssop, we won't understand how much grace and faith depend upon each other.
God and first-grade teachers know how human beings learn. You've noticed that books for little kids have lots of pictures in them, while college textbooks don't. In the same way, God placed the illustrations of the Old Testament before the explanations of the New Testament. He put the show before the tell.
That's why he placed pictures of Passover in Exodus 12, before we ever get to Romans and Galatians. And that's why he put hyssop ahead of Hebrews.
Over the next few days, we are going to look at Passover and hyssop. They are the primary Old Testament pictures of Jesus' cross and our faith. You and I may have a long way to go before we fully discern doctrinal dissertations, but we can learn "vicarious substitutionary atonement" from a fluffy little lamb; and we can learn to appropriate "providential propitiation" from a leafy little branch.
***
When I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:13)
The sacrificial lamb lived in the household for four days. It was observed over that time, inspected. There could be no flaw, no spot or blemish. The kids, no doubt, considered it their pet -- little Fluffy or Tuffy or Snowball. They were about to find out the cost of sin.
After four days their Father took the lamb, slit its throat, and the blood poured out into a basin on the floor at the door. Then a hyssop branch was taken and the blood was daubed on the posts and on the lintel--above the doorway.
The points of blood if connected form perpendicular lines--a cross. So when the death angel came through, he did not enter the threshold where the blood was applied:
When I see the blood, I will pass over.
They were not saved because they were the seed of Abraham (Matthew 3:9). God did not ask, 'Are you a child of Israel or a child of Egypt?' The Egyptians could have been saved. God is not going to ask what church we belonged to; He is going to see the blood--or not.
They were not saved because they were doing the best they could. God says, "When I see the blood."
They were not saved by their thoughts or feelings. When feelings go up and down, when fears and doubts pester us, they do not matter. All that matters is whether the blood is on the door.
Jesus shed his blood for every sinner:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son...
But the blood isn't effective--it isn't received--unless it is personally applied:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son....that whosoever believes in him would not perish. (John 3:16)
Jesus shed his blood for every sinner:
By grace you have been saved...
But the blood isn't effective--it isn't received--unless it is personally applied:
By grace you have been saved....through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)
All might have been saved. But all were not, for this house applied the blood, while that house did not.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the applicator--a leafy hyssop branch, which is the Bible's clearest illustration of saving faith.
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

the plagues of Egypt

(by Professor Dave)

The Word for today: Exodus 10, 11

There are some people who question God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, as if somehow God was preventing him from believing in God. This, however, stems from a misunderstanding of what the word “hardening” really means. The Hebrew word for hardening is להתקשחות which carries the idea of “strengthening in resolve.” In other words, God was not causing Pharaoh to reject God. He was, in fact, strengthening Pharaoh’s own resolve to reject the God of the Hebrews. Remember that Pharaoh believed that he, himself, was the most powerful god in Egypt.
If we look back in Exodus 8:15, we see that Pharaoh hardened his own heart after the plague of frogs was removed. By the time we come to Exodus 10:1, Pharaoh and his servants had seen enough to be convinced of the power of the God of the Hebrews, and if God hadn’t strengthened his resolve in preventing the people from leaving, Pharaoh likely would have let the people go simply because of all of the destruction which had already taken place in Egypt. But God wasn’t finished with the work which He intended to accomplished, and Pharaoh and his servants’ hearts were hardened. God’s intent was that all of Israel and the generations to come would be able to look back on what was done in Egypt and know for a certainty that He is the LORD. Through the plagues which God performed in Egypt, God not only showed that He was more powerful than Pharaoh, but He also demonstrated that He was more powerful than any of the gods of Egypt.
John J. Davis, an author of Old Testament Studies, has written a book entitled Moses and the Gods of Egypt: Studies in Exodus, in which he gives details of the plagues of Egypt and how they were directed against the many gods of Egypt. (1) For example, the Nile River was considered sacred, as the source of life for all of Egypt, and had many gods associated with it. Some of those gods included KhnumHapi, and Osiris.(2) When God used Moses and Aaron to change the water into blood, He demonstrated that the true source of life is in the blood, and at the same time defiled the Nile as a source of life. The Bible teaches that the fish died and the river stank (Exodus 7:15-21). That which had been looked upon and worshipped by the Egyptians had suddenly become death and a source of loathing. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty different gods worshipped in Egypt during the time of Moses. (3) God dealt with them severely through the plagues upon Egypt. The gods of Egypt had no power, but the God of the Hebrews was and is all powerful.
Pharaoh himself is the last god of Egypt with whom God dealt. The people of Egypt believed in divine rule, and that Pharaoh was the god who ruled over them. The divine succession was to be passed down through the first born of Pharaoh household. That succession was ended with the death of Pharaoh’s first born, and Pharaoh and all the gods of Egypt could do nothing against the hand of the God of the Hebrews. God not only proved that he rules in the lives of those who trust in him, but He has control over the lives of those who reject Him as well. We indeed serve an Awesome God.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Davis, John J., Moses and the Gods of Egypt: Studies in Exodus (Grand Rapids Michigan: Baker Book House, 1971, 4th printing 1976).
(2) Ibid: page 94.
(3) Ibid: page 86.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

"That they may know that I am the LORD."

The Word for today:
Exodus 9
Yesterday, Pastor Joe wrote about the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. It was a clear and forceful explanation of "the classic conundrum between God's sovereignty and man's free will."
Today, I'm going to talk about the hardening of different hearts. We'll leave Pharaoh in Egypt, while we talk about the hardening (and softening) of hearts that are nearer and dearer -- my heart and yours…
***
Throughout his life, Pharaoh had been told he was a god. So God set out to re-educate him:
Then I will harden Pharaoh's heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.  (Exodus 14:1-4)
Today's culture suggests that we are gods -- that we can take it upon ourselves to define right and wrong; that we can take issues of life and death into our own hands. God is no respecter of persons, so the lessons he taught Pharaoh will be taught to us. Stay tuned.
In order to reveal what was in Pharaoh's heart, God forced Pharaoh's hand. Pharaoh wanted to appear benevolent, but God made Pharaoh's heart firm enough to reveal what was in it. God solidified the decision that Pharaoh had already made.
We are experts at fooling ourselves, but God hardens our hearts so we can't fool ourselves any more. Every person will be forced to reveal -- at judgment -- what is really in his heart. When we come into His presence there will be no camouflage and no double dealing.
A close reading reveals that Pharaoh started out with a hard heart (Exodus 5:2), so the plagues "hardened" the heart of Pharaoh like the sun hardens clay, while at the same time the plagues caused multitudes to soften their attitudes towards God, like the sun melts wax.
***
God hardened the heart of Jesus Christ, who set his face like flint for Jerusalem (1). In the same way, those of us who have decided to follow Jesus are undergoing solidification -- hearts hardening into the heart of the Lion of Judah.
The Word of God is continuously hardening hearts, for better or for worse. Those who will not be saved are getting 'dead-er' each day (from death to death--2 Cor. 2:16). Those who are being saved are becoming more steadfast in the faith, day by day, as the Word of God hardens their resolve to live like Christ.
The Christian should desire, even pray, that his heart is increasingly "hardened" in the same sense that Daniel purposed in his heart (Dan. 1:8) to live a life which pleased God.
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(1) see Isaiah 50:7 and Luke 9:5
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