Live it! Blog

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 00:00

Exodus 19:9-25

     The gap between the two mountains had a chasm that Troublesome Creek ran through. You could ford the creek when it was running low or you could build a bridge. The solution to the problem was to build a swinging bridge, suspended over the creek; that shuddered with every step. Those first steps of trust, stepping onto that swaying structure were the most difficult, yet this was THE WAY to reach the other side. Sin has created a chasm that has separated us from a Holy God. There is a gap that begins at my sin-filled heart that needs a “solution” to be able to draw near to God. 

    My white knuckles gripped the swinging sides of the bridge, with my heart jumping, at what seemed to be the perilous steps that were needed to cross the bridge. My fear was nothing compared to the Israelites fears and their encounter with God. They shuddered in their fear of the omnipotent God. God’s appearance at Mount Sinai emphasized God’s Holiness and separation from His chosen people. The combination of washing themselves and changing clothes (Exodus 19:10-11, 14-15), witnessing the storm (Exodus 19:16-19), and keeping their distance from Sinai, couldn’t help but impress the people with their own sinfulness and God’s majestic holiness. The gap between God and the Israelites was clear. They weren’t clean enough, they weren’t holy enough. Their sins separated them from a Holy God and they had to keep their distance. When have you felt like God was distant? How have you tried to bridge the gap between you and God?

    The structure of the Old Testament worship emphasized man’s sinfulness and God’s “otherness”. The emphasis was always to keep your distance. The Israelites experience at Mount Sinai underscored their separation and their sin. Attempts have been made to try and bridge this gap between God and man.  Physical structures have been built. People have tried to build the bridge of “good enough”. People have tried to develop their own methods to reach God, but without success. How have you seen man try to bridge the gap between God and man?

    Like the tenuous steps of the fearful on that swinging bridge, we have the opportunity to step into faith and draw near to God. James 4: 8 tells us, “Come near to God and he will come near to you…” God has bridged the distance between God and man, and sinner’s only need to put their faith in God’s bridge over the chasm between God and man. In the New Testament, the emphasis is on the nearness of God. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:14) In Hebrews we read, (“for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:19) 

    We can draw near to God through Jesus' sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection, unlike the Israelites who lived in a cloud, (Exodus 19:9), of separation. What steps will you take to draw near to the God of the Universe today? God’s bridge is secure and your footsteps can be confident, no white knuckles required.

lkb

Monday, 17 May 2021 00:00

Exodus 19:1-8; 1 Peter 2:1-12

Whether it’s being picked for the kickball team or selected from an orphanage, we all long to belong. We have been created for relationships—especially in a family. And there's perhaps no greater personal sorrow than to be left out, of not belonging. In today's world, where we're being forced into groups by others who think they know where we belong, it has become more and more difficult to feel that you belong. Somehow, we don't belong anywhere. 

Remember how special it made you feel to be chosen for the team? If you have been adopted, how often have your parents told you how special you are because you were chosen to belong to their family?  How special! But, even then, the knowledge that you were abandoned by your birth parents can be very hard to live with. 

Imagine how the people of Israel must have felt. Suddenly free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, they are wondering where they belong. There's a strange security even in being a slave—at least you belong somewhere and to someone. But God!

Two months after their dramatic exit from Egypt, the Israelite travelers set up camp in the Sinai desert and their leader is called up the mountain for a face-to-face with Yahweh! And what does God tell Moses? “Tell the people, ‘You are chosen’!” The Exodus account says, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vss. 5-6). 

In First Peter the apostle echoes this promise in a more personal way when he writes to us, God's New Testament family, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession” (2:9) What a reassuring statement! We belong to God! 

The question for us today is "Chosen for what?" Peter's answer is in the rest of verse 9 “. . . that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (NIV). The New Living Translation says, “As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God's people.” Now, you belong! Praise the Lord! 

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name” (John 15:16).

If you have been chosen, how are you showing the world God's glory?

jbd & gmd

Friday, 14 May 2021 08:58

Exodus 18:1-26

Moses was commissioned by God to lead Israel out of Egypt and into the land of promise. In preparation, he was trained in Egypt for 40 years as Pharaoh’s heir, and for the next 40 years, he was trained in the wilderness by the God of the universe. Wow! What great training - more than required for a Doctor of Ministry degree today. Clearly not a novice!

Yet Moses was being overworked, as observed by Jethro, his father-in-law: “The work is too heavy for you. You cannot handle it alone” (Ex 18:18). Jethro thought Moses needed relief, or assistants, or something.

Moses had good reason to take his father-in-law’s advice seriously. (Of course, taking his mother-in-law’s advice might have been a different story, but we won’t go there!) Jethro would have been Moses’ senior, since his daughter, Zipporah, was Moses’ wife. Furthermore, Moses had lived in the land of Midian for many years and had likely developed a trusted relationship with Jethro. Most of all, Jethro was a Midianite priest, named Reuel – “friend of God” (Ex 2:16-18). Apparently, he was not a priest of a god of Midian, but rather of the Most High God. So Moses recognized Jethro as a wise counselor.

Here we see two leaders, well trained in their perspective roles, and Jethro felt comfortable voicing his concern to Moses about the long hours he was spending providing counsel to the Israelites. Moses’ daily life appeared burdensome. We don’t see him complaining, only Jethro observing – late hours and long lines of needy Israelites. 

At this point, Moses could have been an “independent snot” and said, “I’ve got this, thanks anyway.” His pride could have stood in the way. But what actually transpired was Moses’ humility in action. He accepted Jethro’s advice and benefitted. And Israel benefitted by getting more efficient counsel.

Now let’s step into today. Our church has many older people who are well-versed in the Word of God – and are friends of God. We also have many people who are well trained in their life’s calling.  Wouldn’t people in our church benefit from the Moses and Jethros in our church family sharing their wisdom and counsel?

The mentoring relationship concept has been introduced as a goal for our body by Pastor Bruce. Rhonda Raber has specifically suggested it for the women. The Discipleship Counseling ministry also exists to provide discipling, mentoring, and counsel. 

 

Life Application Questions

  • What challenges have we faced in our lives, and how have we found wisdom to deal with those challenges?
  • Might God be commissioning some of us to take on a ministry of encouragement and counsel to others in our church family?

~ jlh

Thursday, 13 May 2021 08:56

Exodus 17:1–16

Scripture never defends God. Occasionally there is an explanation—but not this time. At a first-time reading, no easy solution appears; but there is at least a firm hint which looks deeply into the grumbling souls of the people.

Documented in Exodus 17 a troubling event appears to focus on drinking water. However, more than water is involved. A Mt. Sinai-sized clue was obvious to the first hearers and readers of the story. As realtors sometimes say, “Location, location, and location.”

The named-clue-locations serve as spiritual interpretations, providing disciples in our day with more than map references. The names also provide clarifying insight into the events, as they were recorded by Moses. Our translation resources provide a precise picture beyond water. 

First to be identified is Massah, which in the language of Moses means testing. Then he names a second location Meribah, which means quarreling. Moses names the sites as more than merely un-watered places; they are times and locations carrying spiritual significance. 

There is a lack of water: life’s sustenance. At most times focusing on the water is completely legitimate. Water is essential for life. Don’t forget the hint. There is more going on here than a mere lack of water.

Life Applications

Has God used physical, mental or emotional obstacles as times when you suspect your faith was being tested?

If you are currently in a time of apparent spiritual testing, what is helping or hindering your faith? 

Do the New Testament words of 1 Peter 1:7-9 help you understand the Exodus passage?

Bible dictionaries/encyclopedias are tools that support our studies. Publishing companies including Baker Book House, Zondervan, InterVarsity Press, and Eerdmans provide solid selections. Members of the pastoral staff, ABF, and other small group leaders may have additional suggestions.

~ajs

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 00:00

Exodus 16

Have you ever been offered something and wondered, “Is this a gift from God or a test from God?”  

Believe it or not, I once had a relative offer to give me his cherry red Mercedes convertible.   No kidding!  I’ve accepted any number of hand-me-down vehicles in my life; however, I decided this one was a test from God, not a gift.  I politely refused.  

Some things can be both a gift and a test.  Such was the case with manna.

Manna was a gift—a gift that kept on giving for 40 years!  God provided food for his people.  In doing so, he revealed his glory.  

Manna was also a test of the people.  God told Moses, “I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”

The first test was this: take only what you need for today.  God was saying, “Trust me.  Trust that I will provide for you tomorrow, too.”  How did the people do?  We read: “However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.”  

The second test had to do with the Sabbath.  God had told them there would be no manna on the Sabbath.  The seventh day was set apart to rest and focus on God.  Nonetheless, “some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.”

The obedience of the people isn’t impressive.  God patiently teaches them that he is worthy of their trust.  Sadly, the people's focus was often on the manna and not on the One who miraculously provided it.  

Much later, this all repeated itself when Jesus arrived.  One evening Jesus miraculously multiplied bread and fishes, feeding over 5,000 people.  The next morning the crowd sought out Jesus again, hoping for breakfast.  The ensuing conversation turned to manna: “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31).  In other words, ”What are you going to give us, Jesus?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:32-35).

Jesus offered them something better than manna.  He offered them never ending life through faith in him.  This was a real gift.  But it was also a test.  Would they believe?  

“But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe” (John 6:36).

Jesus still makes us this offer.  It is both a gift and a test.  Will we receive the gift by putting our faith in Jesus and trusting him with our lives?

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